Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

MMQQ7 – Flying Fish

Schedule for next regular posting 16 June

Krill    Scientists (who else would it be?) recently discovered that vast swarms of tiny shrimps, with a collective biomass which dwarfs anything that migrating wildebeest or North American bison could ever put into play, are pulsating deep below the surface of the world’s polar oceans.  They flick their tails in such enormous numbers that they have a detectible impact on ocean currents. Scientists believe there is a genuine possibility that a change in their ancestral migrations could lead to a major change in the circulation of oceanic currents, diverting the Gulf Stream for instance, so as to no longer bring mild Caribbean waters flowing to Europe in the winter.  There have been various reactions around the globe.   Representatives of the Munster Winter Sports Association are already in Colorado for discussions about establishing a chain of Irish ski resorts if, as the scientists believe possible, an abrupt halt to the North Atlantic Circulation results in Alpine winters for the Southwest of Ireland.  Whitehall has already received a proposal from a retired British admiral for attempts to ‘train’ the shoals so as to control their movements, on the basis that if a flying goose can bring down an airliner then a marine phenomenon as big as this might cause serious problems to a Russian nuclear submarine.   (The scientists commented that it might be easier to train shrimps than retired admirals, or the dolphins they’d made attempts with earlier.  The dolphins had quickly spotted that the backpacks that were strapped onto their backs were only too likely to have unpleasant effects for themselves whatever else might happen.) (The ‘dolphins’ which patrol up and down the coast of Gaza with a regularity which has attracted the admiration of border security agencies around the world are in fact tiger sharks.  Theresa May is said to have instructed an ad hoc team to investigate whether similar recruits could be incorporated into her programme to control ‘free’ movement after Brexit.)  Meanwhile several fleets of Dutch fishermen are already more than halfway to the poles, followed by support vessels dwarfing mere Med cruise liners, bearing fishing gear that could bring up the Albert Hall if it was down there.                 Tweets from Donald Trump this morning initially declared the existence of these massive swarms to be a dangerous threat to the peaceful passage of shipping in the Gulf, and he blamed Iran for stoking up regional tensions.  It emerged later that the president had confused the Gulf referred to when talking about the ‘Gulf Stream’ with the different Gulf which some of us who took geography in school  have always called the ‘Persian Gulf’ (though according to others it has, even more always, been called the Arabian Gulf.)

——————–

Today’s Voice of Protest (This posting’s contrary voice is that of Professor Sid Karaosmanoglu, Associate Professor of Domestic Sanitation for Block 43 and the ground floor of Block 45 in the City Campus of Bognor Sophia.)  ‘As I see it, all those Windrush people did very well out of our country while they were here, shouldn’t be grumbling.  Besides they weren’t mostly proper British, anyway.  Very few out of them all really hated foreigners, far as I could see.’

             We are interested to hear that in his spare time (every day after 6pm,  and weekends except for alternate Saturdays) Professor Sid is a keen advocate of gender equality.  In particular he feels it is unfair that most major beauty contests still refuse to admit male candidates, including himself.

————————

Serious stuff   Let me state categorically again that the inhabitants of the UK did NOT vote to leave the EU.  The claim that they did is paired with bizarre twists of the notion of democracy.  Somewhere about the generation of John Stuart Mill, theorists safely detached from close proximity to the conditions of most of the population, purveyed an idea that democracy entailed dealing with a problem (e.g. ‘who shall run the country and how?’) by collecting ideas from all and sundry, setting them before all those who would be affected by the various possible answers, corralling those answers into explicit formulations, and letting the assembled company have simple votes on which would be accepted.  This is a neat way to run your local badminton club, so long as it has no over-ebullient members.  It was distant from the way government was actually run even then, when ‘democracy’ meant a daring revolutionary proposal, that all adult males (provided they were not in prison or members of an unfavoured minority)(race didn’t even come into it ) should be allowed to vote once, every few years, on which small oligarchy should hold power up to and including decisions to send the populace to war, in the next few years.  From small acorns mighty oaks!  Now a population of millions has the virtually useless right to form itself, once every few years, into groups of tens of thousands, which each choose one representative, who can proceed to a second stage where six hundred or so such representatives can decide which tiny group among themselves will actually get their hands on the controls, including decisions to go to war, for the next handful of years.  All this, observed by a moderately rational visitor from an alien star system will (or perhaps, if we but knew, does) have him, her or it gibbering at the various moons whizzing round the night sky.  It doesn’t stop there.  Since hundreds of different issues will face the nation at the time of the ‘election’ and there is only one voting day it cannot in practice be anything more than a popularity poll, and since, throughout, 98% of the electorate have no better chance to assess the candidates than seeing them walking on stage or addressing a carefully managed television audience, or reading – as most do not – the claims and assertions made in the course of hugely expensive and carefully crafted campaigns of political advertising (sorry – I nearly wrote ‘information’ there) the whole shebang has as much similarity to consulting the population on their considered views on the whole range of issues to come up in the next five or six years as Theresa May’s acceptance speech outside No. 10 has to her practice in office (and in earlier years, we now learn).

            The biggest mystery is how great swathes of the population seem to think they believe (sic) that something like the theory is approximately similar to what does happen.  Actually if there are any ways that ideas and desires among the population have any influence on the governing elite, the holding of democratic elections is most certainly not one of them.  Just look at some of those who get into high positions.  (I’d suggest dinner parties in Hampstead, or sharing rooms when fresh out of university or getting born in a well-placed family would all be many times more effective.)  Perhaps someone will defend the system on the grounds that there should be a place for farce in politics.  Certainly it has had  some outlandish political effects.  Macron is acclaimed as the French president now leading Europe.  The elegant French variation on democratic election got him there with a final vote of only about 42.5% of the French electorate, even though he ended up facing a single opponent, who was one of the most unpopular politicians in the country.  As for the Brexit referendum it is recorded in black and white that ‘Leave’ attracted about one third, only, of the adult electorate, voting (as should now be obvious to even those determined to take a view unclouded by objectivity) about a sealed prospectus, with only one factor identified out of many dozens heavily relevant.  But never mind, Britain is a good, respectable, democratic country, so that’s all right then.

—————————

Speculative investment  Experts specialising in intellectual property say that they are seeing manufacturers of their products increasingly shifting their interest to the ‘tried and tested’ side of the market.  Why waste time and money developing new projects when you can simply make a few tweaks to something that has already proved its worth with a public lobotomised by the constant barrage of consumerism, mount a high-powered promotional campaign for your ‘fantastic’ ‘all-new’ whatever-it-is, and carry on adding to the bonus package of your CEO and his board?  But analysts are puzzled by a continuing weakness in the imagination sector.  While certain niche products are holding steady, for instance Japanese manga, the sector as a whole has been in decline since the beginning of the year.  This is despite the  steady flow of new products of this type arriving on the market, with all the promotional publicity you could want (and then a lot more to make sure), about wonderful advances, boasting that – with smartphones for instance – the latest new model has 8% higher pixel density than anything seen before, or it has a ‘uniquely’ curving carapace modelled on ancient Greek pillars on Syros, or it can project a laughing zombie sitting cross-legged front centre of the picture when you let someone use it for a selfie if you don’t tell them how to turn that feature off.  Every week brings new  ‘fantastic ways to lose weight and enhance your endurance while eating three wonderful health-giving meals a day’.  One analyst has suggested that for so long each new idea has so regularly been ‘even more exciting’ than the one before, that customers have come to regard ‘even more exciting’ as equivalent to ‘much the same as the sort of stuff we already know about so let’s just go out for a  pizza tonight’.  (Known to some as the Musk effect.)  Last month for instance, Lui Phoo of the Taiwan Institute of Phrenology announced she had found a way to turn divorced French retirées into animal rights activists, but nobody turned up to the press conference she had arranged.   Willie Storey, a farmer (and footballer) of Cumberland believes that success in sheepdog trials is partly down to telepathy between master (or mistress) and dog, and wants to find out if this discovery can be put to any less practical use, but his appeals for investigators have fallen on deaf ears.  An Illinois student is still appealing for crowdfunding to support him writing a dictionary of the world’s best ideas that nobody has ever yet had.  ($118-50c in 13 months so far.)  At present the decline looks set to continue given the great volume of increasingly poor quality imagination and outright fake imagination, flowing onto the net, simply reproducing effects or images or plotlines taken from Hollywood movies or American novels, or directly from news reports, even though this practice can cause problems of its own.  A well-known author last year lifted what he thought was a news report to put in his collection of fifty one-page stories which won him a ‘New Writing’ award.  It turned out that the ‘news report’ had been run up by a journalist in a hurry to fill a column, reworking a tale she found in a 1935 book, ‘Bedtime Stories for Billy’.  The author is now being sued for plagiarism.

——————–

Apology (Editor writes.) I am fed up with the irritating whines that  news outlets usually give you: ‘My remarks were taken out of context; and there wasn’t really anything wrong anyway, but if there was it wasn’t my fault, and I remember anyway back in 2015 you did something slightly similar which was much, much worse so let’s concentrate on  that then!’  By comparison with that sort of crap one might almost respect – no, not really – the bare-faced effrontery of what might be called  the papal gambit.  Two or three popes ago one of them, the one who used to be in the SS, upset large chunks of such of the world’s population as pay any attention to him, by some outrageous remark, and when asked to apologise announced that he was sorry that those who had heard him had got themselves in a lather about it.  Enough of these fraudsters: We sincerely apologise to Lady Margaret Hall for our mistaken report that LMH had any hand in the education of Theresa May.  Our fault for not checking.

——————–

Isn’t it time we heard the report from the OPCW, the initial report that is, not the one to come out about Douma?  Or didn’t it come out the way that Theresa wanted?  And by the way, isn’t it time there was a message from the Skriepal woman (not just a message from the Met saying they were speaking on her behalf.  British procedures are supposed to be a bit above the level of small Third-world dictatorships.)

——————–

Mahathir back after fourteen years taking it easy.  If it really is Mahathir.  But how could he have teeth like that at 92?  Or is it a body-double?  If it is really Mahathir, a worrying thought looms – Bersluconi is only 81.

——————–

Advertisements

We keep telling you

MMQQ Supplement 2

Next regular posting scheduled 16 May

Once again there’s been an e-mail saying this journal doesn’t keep up with current events.  This is outrageous.  Even if you only look at the ones we are allowed to publish, I’d back some of our stuff to stand elbow to elbow with what comes out of Chatham House or RUSI.  (But it’s still a pity my attempt to sign the Official Secrets Act with disappearing ink was thwarted.)  In our honourable tradition, so often flouted now by politicians across the western world, of giving tangible evidence for claims placed before the public, try this.  It was first posted in 2010.

——————–

It is still hard to find an economist who sees globalisation as a bad thing, even if it would be unnecessarily cynical to point out that economics tends to be written by members of a class that does well out of it.  But there are two hugely important factors involved in economic activity.  Putting it crudely, one of them is money and the other is the people who do the work.  It seems to be pretty well taken for granted that free circulation of money is a good thing, and an essential element of the business, which will lead to increasing prosperity of the world’s population, (or at least of the populations of rich countries, or more exactly yet, of the better-off sections of the populations of rich countries).  This is considered to be the same thing as progress.  Yet in country after country, the idea that the same kind of freedom should apply to people is seen as unacceptable.  It is not at all clear that the unacceptability is soundly based on economic self-interest.  In America many employers would be eager to recruit more staff and get more business done.  One might have thought that the population at large would be glad to see more workers arrive to do the necessary menial jobs – garbage collection, low-grade building work, and so on – which they do not want to do themselves at any price.  Yet a giant wall is being built on the southern frontier, and draconian laws are being prepared to capture and punish those who have somehow managed to gain entry without official permission.  Hundreds drown each year in the Mediterranean because they cannot lawfully enter the European Union.  The EU itself is established on a premiss of ‘free movement’ of all citizens within its boundaries, but –  linguisticism darkens the debate – even for those whose starting point is within the EU this is only free movement of those who can establish themselves in recognised employment or show other evidence of having enough (unspecified) resources.  In every continent the ‘trafficking’ of people is an appalling disgrace, and is even sometimes mentioned by governments and ‘authorities’  as a problem.

            Thus, when neither proclaimed political principles, nor economic self-interest – and obviously not common humanity – can explain why people are denied the freedom granted to money, the conclusion…. is what?

(Answer (2018): democracy is eating civilisation away; it is a system allowing the most privileged and influential to gerrymander things to their own further advantage)

——————–

Or try this, equally topical as things are at present, and in fact not an editorial contribution of our own, but an example of the better kind of correspondence we receive from time to time.

3 July 2017

Some have unkindly, and inaccurately, described Theresa May as Hillary Clinton translated into British.  Theresa got where she did by her own efforts, not significantly aided by serried banks of supporters, and she did get to the top job.  But she is a paradigm example of the outstanding lieutenant who should not have been promoted  captain.  Given a post (Minister of the Interior) where cunning politicians like to see an able and efficient rival, since there is a good chance its demands may leave them exhausted, she held it for six years but still succeeded to the top job.  She also was not afraid to speak truth to the dangerous, that is the police and the elderly grandees of her own party.  But Theresa’s efficiency is her weakness.  She identifies issues and their parameters, the problems and their solutions, and systematically works out the ways to deal with them.  Efficiency, in this mode, is what in junior posts is described as ticking boxes.  To tick a box appropriately you have to identify it, and that identification tends to fill up the foreground of the attention, blocking the chance of taking into account other circumstances that might be related, might be important. and might change.  This kind of efficiency is the enemy of the imagination of the gifted and successful leader.  In the case of the holder of a demanding post it also inevitably leads to a risky dependence on outlines and options and information and position papers passed upwards from offices which individually will very probably have less competence and less complete awareness of what is needed.  The procedures for supplying that material will soon enough become standard and by that fact will be invested with a spurious aura of reliability and authority, even when the material is the outcome of an overworked inexperienced subordinate team.  And what will the result be when the time comes to take the sum of this prodigious labour and to ask others from an opposing camp to accept the carefully measured and firmly based conclusions of one’s own side?  Will one meet them with a mind ready to hear different views and values and to recognise aspects of the situation that had not shown themselves before, a mind able at once to see a way to build a stronger structure by combining the familiar with the new?  Or will that strenuous preparation of meticulous plans to cover every factor foreseen have led to unquestioning trust in one’s own side’s right to stay true to its decisions, adherence to its predetermined principles and to insistence that one’s own position is the only one possible, lead in fact to the last step on the path to failure?   (The Hon. J. Q. de H., Suva.)

——————–

And although this is yet another re-posting, it certainly should be included since it too remains  disgracefully topical. (from 15-5-16)

Readers over the age of 7¾ will long have realised, I trust, that various kinds of arguments are put to us from time to time to persuade us to publish some item or other.  I feel free though to express my amazement at the flexibility of the backbones in some news organisations that we have dealings with, unless, that is, their bleatings of approval for government actions simply show their callow credulity.  For instance, a few days ago the British media were full of ‘good news’ brought to them by express donkey from No.10 rejoicing that the noble British government had done a ‘U-turn’ on its scandalous, and thoroughly dishonourable rejection of a parliamentary proposal to admit refugee children, many with good and valid links to Britain, who were living without family or any other adult support in Europe, and in some cases without adequate food or shelter, but who had been denied entry.  (On what grounds can any moral being refuse help to a child in such circumstances?  On what grounds?  On grounds of invincible – and also, looking at the broad economic picture, entirely pointless – selfishness.  Pure and unadulterated selfishness, therefore.)  So in what did the trumpery ‘U-turn’ actually consist?  The government had merely withdrawn the declaration of its refusal, and announced that it was ‘in talks’ with ‘various organisations’ ‘to see what arrangements could be made’.  What is the level of political IQ that can think that it sees there a good deed?  There are frequently other such devious plays on the gullibility of lackadaisical media outlets in today’s benighted journalistic circus, relying on governments to deliver prepacked ‘news’ and social networks to deliver unhinged views which can be ladled out, without benefit of sub-editing, to anyone who might still be listening (and is this a recipe for commercial survival?)

——————–

Since this supplement is being prepared anyway, I will, with his permission, add unedited comments sent in by our long-time colleague Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems, now a para-academic in London:

Goodness knows what Lady Margaret Hall was teaching back in the 1970s.  Whatever it was it doesn’t seem to have done Theresa much good.  The woman seems incapable of normal intelligent thought.  She has swallowed whole this notion of her being a second Thatcher, an ambition which itself shows deplorable lack of insight.  Thatcher only got away with it, because the men in Thatcher’s cabinet were so confused by the idea of being ordered around by a woman that they let her get away with things that would have been career-ending for any of them.  And once she had cottoned on to an idea or policy she was incapable of adapting to the idea that it might be a mistake. Some inspired spin-doctor called this ‘steadfast leadership’.  Little-known fact (as passed on by a former academic at Somerville):  Thatcher left after being told her mind might be better suited to politics than academia.  May follows this model with even less adaptability.  Once she’s learned what she’s supposed to say about some idea or policy she’ll carry on repeating it robotically even if every fact in the situation changes through 180 degrees.  She really should face up to the fact the  ‘British people’ did not vote for Brexit.  About one third of the adult electorate, only, voted for it.  As for her approach to negotiation, she seems to have only one tactic, great quantities of ill-defined but agreeable-sounding verbiage, making complimentary but entirely irrelevant comments about the other side, spinning things out until deadlines get near, so that through boredom or exhaustion the opposition will stop making objections; then adding in a casual throwaway style at the end “in all relevant sectors”, “to cover all likely developments”, “so far as is possible” and “which is in accord with the agreements we’ve already reached” (whether this has the slightest link to truth or not), or – if she gets caught out – “Oh, I know I signed that last December, but I thought that was just a goodwill gesture to get things moving along nicely.  But it’s too late now, isn’t it – we’ll have to let it go through, it would be so much trouble if we had to start all over again.”

            There are two things wrong with this sort of approach.  In the short term it may, sometimes, cut the mustard, but long-term your opponents will get tougher and tougher, and you’ll pay the price many times over.  The other thing is that it relies heavily on the belief that the opposition’s mental equipment is significantly inferior to your own.  I do not think this is a wise strategy for the present British government.

MMQQ6

Base jumping; political honesty; recycling bodies; political English and sleep; fake news in ancient times; economising on answers.   Next regular posting scheduled for 16-5-2018.

——————–

A long and interesting phone call this week from our highly esteemed former colleague (Dr) Montgomery Skew.  This fragment  verbatim, as Monty has privileged access to the spooks’ interview recording devices and he kindly let me have a print-out to send you.

I find it hard to avoid supposing I must have been dreaming, but I don’t think I was.  I think I really did hear our Minister for Unaided Cliff Descent Strategy vaunting his case for the ‘shut your eyes and jump’ approach on the grounds   that after Brexit ‘we’ would be able to trade with exciting hitherto under-explored  countries (such as Brazil, cited by name) which contain vast remote regions harbouring who knows what treasures, all now to be available post-Brexit to British merchants boldly exploiting new lands.  (See portfolio of maps hand-drawn for British schools by Jacob Rees-Mogg, available from HMSO.)  (How it came about that the Yanks and other nations of the world had not yet noticed these exciting prospects did not achieve explanation in the tv clip).  The treasures could include such items as hitherto unknown herbs gathered in the depths of the tropical forests, offering cures for leprosy or German measles or Spanish flu or Hungarian planipedia, or ‘magic’ scaffolding (ideal for constructing invisible border posts).  Perhaps he’s right, and maybe they could find a cure for early onset adult male stupidity, a common disorder of cabinet ministers, as well.  But shouldn’t there be a little evidence for all this ?  Shouldn’t there be shots of the minister in dark glasses sidling into the side entrances of anonymous skyscrapers in Africa, weighed down by bulging briefcases and surrounded by armed guards; shouldn’t there at least be rumours of secret deals in the Caribbean under way about which we ‘cannot yet give public information for fear of creating a fever  of speculation’ on the markets?  What about hush-hush private flights to ‘undisclosed destinations’ or better still those sovereign bases on Cyprus?  Glorious opportunities there for interesting cross-border trade, in and out of the EU, very shrewd bankers readily available, and good connections Middle East and in all directions.  Silence is an unnerving sound when you’re supposed to be in the middle of a market place.

 †  at this point I rejected a note from the subediting computer:  ‘rocks’ a better word than ‘grounds’

——————–

Linguistic WARNING.  You should be aware that this woman, Theresa May, may be dangerous for your understanding of the English language and cause linguistic damage or even partial breakdown.  For instance the Guradian newspaper has recorded her describing ‘full alignment’ (ie having the same tariffs on imports as some other trading group) as ‘sharing the same policy goals’.  But if you are British please remember that for legal reasons you are not allowed to believe that British prime ministers could ever be dishonest or deceitful, even unintentionally, while in office.

(Constitutional lawyers are questioning this special status of a prime minister, as amounting to discrimination against other ministers, who have shown that they are prepared to boldly and openly disregard facts live to camera on television.)

——————–

(With permission from a letter to the Georgian Gentlefolk’s Gazette)

It disturbs me to hear that the government is considering a law to establish a presumption of consent to donation of body parts from those who have died, unless permission is explicitly withheld.  As it stands this would amount to nationalisation of the bodies of the dead, marginally less repugnant than in other cases of nationalisation given that consent can be denied by those who make timely arrangements (but would it be necessary to have the certification tattooed on the body?).  It has the advantage of setting a precedent, for if we are allowed to opt out of national uniformity on this issue, it would be inconsistent not to allow opting out in, for example, the matter of income tax.  However, I have an immediate objection on different grounds.  Surely if dead bodies are to be, in the popular term, ‘recycled’ then on both moral and practical economic grounds a free market would be the fairest distribution system, with relatives of the deceased or the rightful owner selling organs to those prepared to pay the highest price.  This could perhaps depend on the urgency of the purchaser, but I trust we could rely on communities to join together in raising a high sum for a worthy candidate if he or she is not personally able to meet the price required.  Groups who had a particular regard for some former member might wish  to arrange competitive bidding to achieve an especially high price as a demonstration of their respect for the deceased, and effective publicity for such sales would enhance the effect.  And of course by no means every portion of the departed will be of mere practical utility to those left behind.  One can envisage those who had a special bond of amity or sympathy for a former colleague seeking to preserve that link in a very real sense by bidding for some suitable portion of anatomy, an index finger perhaps –  the ring finger, why not? – or the scalp maybe, to be embalmed and mounted in a tasteful ceramic decoration as a memento of the former friend or set in a brooch with a suitable accompaniment of gems, while the sum raised by the sale could be directed either to reduction of an outstanding tax bill, or go to some charitable purpose in the friend’s name.

Lady Anthelmina Strych-Corker  (Port Nargent)

——————–

Governmental English

This office apologises to all those working in the NHS for having mistakenly used the correct spelling of the minister’s name in a recent piece which touched on the achievements of the UK Ministry of Health.  The Ministry’s astounding capacity for imaginative official statements soars ever higher exactly as funding for the service and those working on the front line dealing with actual patients does not.  The minister J.Hunt termed the pay ‘deal’ recently agreed (‘agreed’ as in ‘imposed’) ‘incredibly well-deserved’.  Masterly sleight of tongue.  Leaves the dozing proportion of the British electorate (currently 65% and increasing in direct proportion to the annual increase in the use of social media) thinking “Oh, good.  At last the British government is starting (?) to reward some of those who actually do the work that keeps the country going.  Note to the dozing:  ‘incredibly well-deserved’ DOES NOT EQUAL the phrase ‘incredibly good’; it tends in the exactly opposite direction even when it is pronounced with a confident and ingratiating smile.  That is before you get to what the ‘deal’ actually was.  It proposes an increase of 2% per annum.  The current rate of inflation has been reported to us (optimistically?) as 2·3%.  Therefore the working staff have accepted a ‘deal’ which promises to leave them losing pay in real terms for the next three years.  By the way, we have not been able to find reliable figures for the likely increase of the Minister’s ‘package’ over the next three years, but are reasonably certain it is not less than £120,000 per annum, if he continues in the same position.  This is how a modern western country with electoral democracy arranges efficient management of the national budget, ensuring that inadequate money does not go to valuable members of the population who need or deserve it.  (Sic)

——————–

The Baron Philipp is back in his fiscal paradise after an exciting but rewarding trip round such areas as are still alleged to be safe for tourism in the Middle East and adjacent areas, and has sent us this: ‘Marvellous trip, no serious trouble.  Our party was shot up twice but as we were travelling in armoured minivans there was no serious inconvenience except for a couple of guards who got hit.   Magnificent ancient sites, very glad to have been there, especially the Krac des Chevaliers, before our friends and allies bomb the shit out of them, as our transatlantic colleagues put it, repeatedly.  (Incidentally pals in the embassies expect the bombing at an early date, having seen the Mueller enquiry circling in a way which suggests it is coming in to land.)  Astonishing mix of people on the tour, from rednecks out of the deep south ticking off the ‘Forty sights you must not miss’ (and in Cyprus I heard one telling her companion “This is sump’n else to do with all that nood statue stuff”) to elderly scholars from my own Heimatland with impeccable English, knowing Shakespeare better than I do.  One of the latter told me of a newly unearthed papyrus (definitely antedating Zenodotus) which proves Sophocles was peddling an entirely bogus story in the famous drama – the fellow never killed his father, nor did he marry his mother, probably never went to Colonus either.  What happened really was a brisk frogmarch into exile after court officials discovered his father had been pillaging all the public funds for years, and funnelling the proceeds into secret hiding places in Ionia.  Palace advisors appalled, city facing ruin and invasion if news got out; urgent consultations; deputation to give ultimatum to king.  That encounter not a success:  “A king is not to be commanded by his minions.  Throw these impudent fools in prison for execution tomorrow” or something of the sort.  Further urgent consultations with the palace guard, which decided on the traditional approach in such cases.  They hired a couple of Persian assassins (they blamed bad things on Persians even in those days but in this instance it happened to be true) to kill the king in a faked chariot accident, the queen was given poison, and the court poet ordered to run up a version of the story on entirely original lines which they set out, reasoning correctly that if it was seriously and improbably lurid most people would accept it as the truth (just as they do today).  The ex-crown-prince got off lightly, was immediately taken under no-nonsense escort to the fiefdom of a minor chieftain in Thrace, where he was established in a modest estate and informed he would be hunted down by the chieftain’s men and summarily executed – they added persuasive details – if he ever attempted to leave.    He was allowed a small annual pension, but it was only paid for three years, because a young official, who later became the next Treasurer back at home base, produced a rule that to receive the money he must prove he was truly the son of the king, which of course he could not do because he did not dare to leave Thrace.  Wonderful!  They certainly knew how to deal with financial crookery in those days.  According to the papyrus he lived on there until he was carried off by an eagle at the age of 112.’

———————————————

From the records, for interest  

An enquiry to the Economist, following its publication of the usual sort of article in 2008:

Sir,

There were all too many contentious points in your editorial ‘Barbarians at the vault’ (17th May) so may I just pose you one question?  What important difference divides your assertion, ‘Financiers are rightly rewarded for taking risks, which by their nature cannot be entirely managed away or anticipated’, and  the following proposition: ‘Gamblers are rightly rewarded for placing bets, which by their nature cannot be guaranteed to win’?

       My answer would be that gamblers on the whole are using their own money.

(No response to that enquiry emerged from the magazine.)

WE KEEP ON TELLING YOU

Special motoring supplement!

WE KEEP ON TELLING YOU

This journal with its forerunners has a top-class record for warning, sometimes years in advance, about looming problems, such as French president Hollande, (and offering carefully crafted proposals for dealing with them).  Yet another issue is now showing faintly in the background on the touch screens of the world’s millennials – the ever increasing damage done to human life and civilisation by the private motor vehicle.  (Given well documented recent research you should very likely add ‘insect and bird life’ to that charge sheet.)  The piece below was first published exactly ten years ago, and please note also the fourth piece.

 

Let us wonder if the principal cause of traffic problems is the existence of roads.  (To keep things simple, we shall restrict ourselves to the black core of traffic problems, those involving machines made mainly out of metal, powered by a motor, and moving on wheels.)  Do not take this in the weak-kneed sense of ‘more roads give more and worse traffic problems’, even though that is undoubtedly true (and it has been shown often and conclusively that it is not just a matter of both resulting from a simple rise in the population).  Bypassing that,  the version we are dealing with here is more stark: ‘if there were no roads there would be no traffic problems’.  (This too can be misunderstood, as a mere definitional matter, along the lines of that old favourite of Aunt Minnie the marriage guidance counsellor: ‘we could do away with divorce if only we abolished marriage’).  This time take it seriously.  No side-stepping by imagining that the urgent human desire to be somewhere that one is not (and soon) has been neatly removed from the human design, although we may allow for it to receive some sedative shots.

      The problems

{1} as seen exclusively by the principal traffic victim, the car owner:

        (i) expense of money in buying

        (ii) expense of time and money in maintaining and repairing

        (iii) expense of emotional stability, resulting from damage to and by,

             from theft or risk of theft of, and from dealing with service staff,

             mechanics, and with official associated paperwork;

{2} as viewed both by the car user and everyone else on the road :

         (iv) delays, danger and worse to life, limb, and mental stability;

{3} as watched aghast by the population at large including those above :

        (v) most of the preceding plus filth in the air, and gargantuan

            expense on construction and maintenance of the road system.

      Please now imagine that benevolent aliens foreseeing the possible course of development had for some inscrutable reason decided to help this inept and irascible planet, and had descended in 1850, in time to avoid the inventiveness about to be unleashed by the Great Exhibition, and had abolished all roads, establishing a strict and terribly effective framework to ensure they would never be built again.  What now could be done for all the millions who felt (and feel today) compelled to rush from A to B every morning, passing and here and there colliding with roughly equal numbers having a deep-rooted desire to speed from B towards A, not to mention the yet greater number of journeys which do not fall into such a monotonic rhythm?

      We can at once state confidently that it is unlikely that motor vehicles would ever have been developed.  Given the characteristics of the early forms through which the motor car had to pass to reach its ‘mature’ types, it is highly doubtful whether even Heath Robinson would ever have thought one up without the convenient existence of roads.  Railways of course were there already and no doubt would have been expanded hugely even if we admit that while they can act as a kind of vascular system for a nation, for good reasons they will not go on to provide the capillaries.  Travel by river and canal would have been seen as a valuable resource to be cherished and greatly developed.  Bicycles would scarcely have been affected.  They do not need roads, as the prosperous manufacturers of mountain bikes reflect happily.

      But a more important answer is that a large number of such journeys –  in all probability, the huge majority – would never have been thought necessary.  For example, it would be taken for granted that employees would normally be sought locally, and in other cases would move to live locally.  Cantankerous relatives living fifty miles away would not even be expecting to be visited with a small gift once a month.  Family outings for pleasure would naturally take the form of visits to the nearest museum, or  bracing walks up the nearest mountain, rather than a drive of two hours and three traffic jams to some dismal theme park.  In the shops one would buy fruit and vegetables grown in the surrounding countryside as they came into season, not brought in refrigerated trucks from an airport with a cargo link to some other hemisphere.  Children would be accompanied to school on foot, or, in the case of those whose muscles developed sufficiently, there would be in the true sense a school run.

      What, however, of those journeys that might still be supposed necessary?  Part of the answer is of course that many of them would not actually exist.  Who would need to be rushed to hospital with a broken leg when the traffic accident which caused the fracture could never have taken place, nor indeed any untoward events at all involving the inside or outside of a motor vehicle?  And first aid might be able to handle most of the very rare cases of one pedestrian run over by another.  But beyond that, let us take the example of a hugely important business meeting at which mighty tycoons meet in file-to-file combat to decide who shall buy out the other and strip the assets.  Nobody could doubt for a moment that the equivalent of what we call ‘video-conferencing’ would have been developed to a level far more magnificent than we have reached yet.  Television would have been invented fifty years earlier.  The communication is needed, but not the travel.

      These improvements, however, are mere bagatelles compared to the glorious flowering that can be envisaged of human ability to deal with travel aerially.  The desirability of such developments is immediately obvious.  To name but two aspects, the amount of space free for movement in the air is multiplied hugely, by whatever quantity can be assigned to the height that vehicles can reach, and the directions in which one can move are unconstrained by such elements as buildings, trees, monuments, or watercourses so frequently inconvenient for the earthbound motorist.  As things have actually proceeded, moreover, gigantic sums have been spent finding ways of making quite limited use of the vertical dimension for vehicles, even while maintaining the terrestrial nature of roads, with tunnels, bridges, and underpasses, and it is scarcely conceivable that a sum, in all likelihood far smaller, could not have achieved far better results if it had been applied instead to developing new aerial types of vehicle.

      The benefits from the non-existence of roads are so great that they are not easy to grasp.  It is not merely a matter of money, but nevertheless reflect on the scarcely believable expense of money along with deranged ingenuity (as well as, at times, hatred of the natural landscape) that has built, improved, extended, and maintained with loving care roads, since the year 1850.  It is a sum up there with some of the astronomical figures, and calculated by one group at well over two quadrillion pounds – thousands of times the total that has been thrown at the development of space travel by all the world’s nations combined. Some believe it is even comparable with the sums spent on killing and maiming civilians and destroying assets in warfare.

      We have already touched also on the vast increase that would result in the capacity of the population for physical exercise with obvious general benefits, and more than that there would be a prodigious advantage from the reduction of pollution.  In the absence of the motor car, motor fuel would not have been needed, nor its additive, lead, which is straightforwardly known to be a serious toxin which accumulates in the human body, especially damaging to children.  It has been established fairly reliably that the amount of lead in the bloodstream of the average human being alive today is some hundreds of times higher than 150 years ago.  And lead is of course by no means the only poison spewed from exhaust pipes.

      Finally, perhaps more important than any of this, the wars that have been fought to control sources of oil (whatever the specious claims advanced suggesting other motives) would have been fought for different reasons, and would have been very much fewer and the appalling human destruction that has accompanied them would have been vastly less.

      A case to answer.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

By co-incidence, in recovering the above item another piece of that same date turned up, about another issue also now causing increasing dismay, but in this case on moral rather than environmental grounds. 

Details have been leaked of the new ‘compatibility’ test.  It is to be taken by all those arriving in the country for any purpose whatever except if holding a passport of one of the five countries on the list of ‘approved’ governments.  It will consist of three parts, a check for a suitable level of ability in an approved dialect of the English language, appropriate personal presentation (including evidence of access to and use of a sufficient range of British-style clothing and acceptable patterns of hairstyle and facial hair), and a satisfactory set of responses to questions about social attitudes (the latter element to be extended to a written examination, taken in the airport at the cost of the arriving visitor, should the immigration police deem this necessary).

      A spokesman denied that the plans incorporated any aspects of racism.  He explained that the test was merely a further step in the government’s ongoing programme aimed at deepening and confirming social harmony and at eliminating any risk of unpleasant experiences involving overseas citizens due to their foreign appearance or possible foreign behaviour.  The spokesman did not deny that at some future date the test’s reach might be extended to cover all those currently living in the country who could not provide reliable evidence of having been born here.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  

Both pieces above appeared March 2008, in Grandnephew’s Treachery by ‘Les Cousins’

——————–

‘Si vis pacem para bellum’.  Sane remark in itself (cf Montgomery Skew’s comment on cold war, this journal 15-1-2018; and incidentally does Kim Jong-Un read Latin?).  But gerere non est parare, and the Final Disaster will arrive when someone gets the calculations wrong.  Those organisations for international peace around the world which have not yet been mocked into silence and despair will warmly approve Madam May’s denunciation of activity across international boundaries to take violent action against individuals.  We personally heard her use the word ‘despicable’ and believe she described such action as wicked.  It is rumoured she is to make a personal appeal to M.Trump asking him to put an immediate end to any use of armed drones to attack people on the ground where this would involve crossing international frontiers.

——————–

(Editor’s note).  Setting up the first item above it almost occurred to me to wonder if there is a deliberate policy in the UK and elsewhere to allow road maintenance to become, soonest, a quaint old-fashioned tradition.  Goals: to reduce balance of payments deficits, free up manpower resources for necessary construction and re-construction work (perhaps even including tower blocks), to reduce calls on national mental health services, tackle obesity and improve the physical health of their populations, to dramatically cut the number of transport accidents, and to halve the level of air pollution.  But then I reflected that another result would be an enormous increase in the number of people having to buy ridiculously expensive train tickets.

——————–

British headline a few days ago: ‘Queen to start marathon’.  What a wonderful trouper!  Ninety-one and still ready to go.  Be interesting to see how far she gets round the course.  Maybe back in before Paul Ryan?!

——————–

 

MMQQ5

Next post scheduled for 16th April.  NB special motor supplement 01-04-2018

———————————————————————————————

From Analytica Petri, our Island’s leading centre for geopolitical analysis.

We have run short on those pills that boost intelligence with a dose of ideological certainty, so all we would say with moderate confidence about the Salisbury incident is that there are at least five groups, not all Russian, among whom there could be one or more potential assassins of a former Russian intelligence agent.  However, given that some pundits appear to hail these events primarily as evidence  that Corbyn is unfit to be the British prime minister and that things have been going wrong ever since Blair stopped being p.m, it seems not everyone is working hard to produce a clear and unbiassed account of what happened.  At the same time, with various major elements of their national life (NHS, educational system, transport ‘system’) falling apart, and a disunited cabinet still unable to get the EU to believe three impossible things before breakfast, it is hard to imagine anything more welcome than a chance to summon the nation to unite under the government’s command.  Three days ago the favourite cliché in the news media was ‘Many questions remain to be answered’.  This was misleading.  In fact many questions remained to be asked (and still do).  This is not least a consequence of the revolution in media practice.  These days journalists are trained to put two and two together and make three, even when seven and a half or some fascinating irrational number is waving at them from outside the window – it’s quicker and less expensive that way.  This is not to say everything is neatly sorted out and wrapped up already.  For instance the police believe the house the fellow lived in was a leading centre of contamination.  But is it supposed that foreign agents crept through the suburban roads of Salisbury at dead of night, silently broke in through the kitchen window and planted the poison under the floorboards without disturbing anyone?  Yet the alternative – kept a phial or two of the stuff at home just in case it might ever come in useful – seems equally unlikely.  And one might wonder why the young lady said to be his daughter claimed in Moscow to work in Pepsico, whereas enquirers in Moscow were told she was unknown to the firm.  However, while speculation can be fun, it is also usually pointless.  After all there’s not much chance of finding out before 2076 what Harold Wilson was up to on his frequent visits to the Soviet Union.  (Selling Gannex raincoats!?) (Beside Wilson, Corbyn looks like a model of the security-conscious professional).  What is not speculation is that Theresa must be weeping into her pillow with joy.  What better free gift in an age of us-and-them international relations than a chance to lead our side against them, with or without concrete evidence.  Unlike most, she still remembers that Thatcher’s poll ratings were heading toward defeat in 1982, until that fool Galtieri started a war her troops would win.  There’s more than one irony here.  Ask who else is singing cheerfully to himself as he leads his nation towards an imminent election.  And ‘Farewell desperately needed post-Brexit Russian trade deal’?  But reflect, even if the affair has very disagreeable aspects for some involved, a truly bellicose reaction from Theresa may actually slightly improve humanity’s chance of surviving past 2030.  (See Montgomery Skew’s letter in MMQQ3 (15-01-2018), in particular the last sentence of that long paragraph.)

——————–

The old order changeth (yet cometh the hour cometh the punter)

This item arrived in the office by paper mail, evidently misadressed.  Since  vegetable post is now known to be the least insecure form of communication short of using sign language inside a windowless room swept ‘clean’ by security experts, we deduce it was of high importance to the sender whoever he may be and I therefore offer a short fairly harmless extract so that if he reads this (I suspect he may well be on our list) he may realise what has happened and take whatever action is needed.  The rest of the message has been safely burnt.

When I was a young lad, my grandfather told me how those serving there as officials of what was then the Colonial Office used to relax from the strain of their duties by turning up at one of the elegant and discreet residences in the Corniche (where you met Fifi), for an hour or two, thereafter smoking two or three pipes before sleeping it off and waking up fresh as a daisy mid-morning the next day.  How things change!  A friend of mine recently returned from that same fragment of former empire, having done a  tour to suck up to various representatives of the local would-be plutocracy, advising them on how to sidestep government rules about corruption and how to approach who about what in London.  He tells me the Corniche is certainly still in business but has gone high-tech, turned into a condo/office block, plate glass, stainless steel secretaries and all that.  One of the latter made me put my fingerprints on a screen, which then scrolled through a list of menu options, which explicitly excluded smoking in any format.  All somewhat confusing, he says.  He was shepherded up to a 21st floor room which contained a bed, a smell like a dentist’s and a sort of helmet with dozens of metal buttons and a great fat lead connecting his cranium, once helmeted, to a computer in the corner of the room, and beside the bed a screen on which his option was displayed, which was ‘3 (three) hours of joie de vivre, and dreams type 2 (lechery)’ he boldly told me, and in smaller letters in the corner of the screen where he just had time to read it, ‘terms and conditions apply

——————–

Our political consultant explains (No. 311)

Throughout her career Theresa has maintained a grim determination to think and speak political like a native.  (Political is a language with some peculiarities.  For instance it only has only a negative future tense.  You can say “We shall never agree to such a move.”  But the nearest approach you could make to a positive future statement would be something like “We remain firmly committed to the goal of….” –  tax reduction or whatever it might be, or much more likely won’t be.)  Yet she has never quite succeeded in losing touch completely with reality, and she could see all too clearly that Brexit was sailing full steam ahead to economic disaster, probably to be followed by the extinction of the Conservative party.  Nevertheless, Cameron’s catastrophe (the referendum, not the attack on Libya) had put her in Number 10 Downing Street.  As a more or less closet remainer and as a woman among Tories she felt liable to be jettisoned at the least sign of weakness.  Hence, ‘Brexit means Brexit’ (you can bet her advisers thought that was a smart idea), hence ‘strong and stable’, hence her refusal to say anything sensible to the EU negotiators, hence the insistence that there was to be no backsliding towards sanity.  But when someone shouts that loud and that long that X will come to pass you know they are doing it because there’s strong opposition with a good chance of stopping X in its tracks..

——————–

Nature tip of the month:  Fallen nestlings seldom survive.  If they don’t slowly starve they risk their struggles attracting a nocturnal cat.  Neither of those fates are agreeable.  Dip some cotton wool in alcohol and drip it into their beaks.  There is a smidgeon of a chance it will stimulate their system enough to get them through the crisis if other factors are favourable.  If not, at least they will pass out in a happy blur.

——————–

Can Kim Trump Mueller?

Why do you suppose Trump has suddenly become keen to meet Kim face-to-face, without preconditions, at an early date?  Anything to do with the accelerating progress of the Mueller investigations, and the hugely distracting effect of a peace-making (but non-binding) photo-op before the excited cameras of the world?

——————–

More important than you might think ‘Systemic failure’ should be carefully distinguished from the much more common ‘systematic failure’, which is usually a matter of security.  For instance one element in an electrically powered system will be designed to fail, to avoid risk of fire, if the system  is exposed to an excessive power load.  Although usage varies, that can be described as a systematic failure.  A ‘systemic failure’ does not necessarily involve fraud, dishonesty or scandal, and may not even be consciously designed or established, though some believe ‘accidental’ cases count as failures in the functioning of the neo-capitalist system.  Chains of organisations appear where each one lays down the regulations for the next, or is responsible for supervising its activities or is required to ensure that only fit and proper persons are employed, or subcontracts some of its own duties to it; or (in the reverse direction) a group or company may be the legal record-holder for another, or may own the buildings belonging to the preceding one, or certify that health and safety standards have been adhered to, or administer some of its predecessor’s activities, or adjudicate in disputes in that sector of the economy.  Such chains of interacting, or interfering, groups can include six or more organisations, each involved in one way or another with all the rest, directly or indirectly.  The nature of the interactions may surprise; thus a group aiming to stage a festival of simulated hara-kiri in Bordeaux was amazed to learn that an early stage in the process involved an investor in Sierra Leone promising to set up a centre for vaccination against yellow fever.

            Advantages for participants can be truly stupendous, even before government bodies, such as the Health and Efficiency Executive for the Northwestern Peninsula, join in with their often unusual specifications.  Each successive body either charges a fee for the services it claims to provide for the next in line, or treats its own ‘product’ (e.g. licences to carry out monthly surveys of edible waterfowl) as objects of sale to be bought by anyone who wants to pursue the activities of the following organisation (e.g. construction of wooden platforms in municipal parks to allow owners of licensed drones to launch their vehicles without annoyance to others).  If a right to perform Highland dancing at week-ends is fed in at one end of such a chain, what may emerge – apparently from a quite different chain, many months later – may be, e.g., fibrous cladding for rabbit hutches (originally produced by two brothers in Kildare, but now with the necessary approval for export to the UK).  Each organisation has of course its own salaried administrators, with its head receiving a properly managerial package.  In rare cases, where the same tangible objects are  concerned throughout, e.g. exotic oriental foodstuffs fashionable with Guardian readers and needing various certifications, the price differential between the points at which they enter a chain, and where they emerge in real life can involve a factor well into double figures.

            However, money is not the main advantage.  The real prize even if it is not the result of deliberate design is the superb protection provided when things go wrong.  A chain as described delivers ever-diminishing responsibility in one direction, and ever-diminishing real control in the other, so that after a disaster, whether natural or man-made, industrial or marine or financial, it will easily be impossible to pin decisive guilt at any one point, and therefore unjust to raise questions of punishment or compensation, even where tens of thousands have perished and where individuals acting on their own account might face career-threatening penalties, or even a term in prison.  Neo-capitalists around the world are considering a conference in 2020 to explore further possibilities in the peristructural economy.

——————–

Greetings to all for the 17th

MMQQ4

Unwearable tech                                              How to make money

How to get really rich                                     Correction (‘Tony’ Blair)

Cheating                                                           Double standards 

16th March for next posting
By reading this post you agree to send two much needed $100 bills to the editorial staff 

Unwearable tech  A spokescreen at the UK Ministry of Defence yesterday declined to comment repeatedly after crowds of enquirers had gathered, to ask about rumours that British Service personnel have been ordered to avoid wearing Union Jack underpants or panties or bras (in the case of female personnel).  However, two newspapers have claimed that a hacker discovered evidence that underwear produced in China but destined for western markets may contain high-tech microminiaturised tracking devices, which would make it possible to follow the movements of wearers from up to five miles away.  It is thought that Chinese agents supposed the Union Jack design would be preferentially purchased by or even specifically distributed to members of the armed forces, and that they would be able to follow journeys undertaken by persons of interest.  Possibly connected with this news, a notice has recently been seen at a number of military headquarters instructing members of the armed forces that if they receive unsolicited underwear through the post they should immediately drop the material into a bucket of water and then hand that in at the nearest depot of the Royal Military Police, where it will be checked, and if ‘clean’ returned to the original destinee.

——————–

OUR NEW FINANCIAL SUPPLEMENT

How to make money  An astonishing chance to become rich has attracted puzzlingly little attention in the world’s media (possibly because the journalists who have heard about it are working hard not to share the news).   American president Trump has banned the import to that country of solar panels.  This is in line with a determination to cut his nation’s trade deficit, especially so far as China is concerned.  (According to some sources China is the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels.)  The result according to economists, and possibly also in real life, is expected to be a dramatic drop in the price of solar panels due to an enormous glut of unsold product.  Where can you lay hands on this supply?  At discount stores and car boot sales all over China.  What can you do with the stuff?  It is not known what the journalists are hoping to do with their supplies but this office has exciting plans, provided Elon Musk has not yet cornered the market.  ROOF THE SAHARA with solar panels!  Cool the temperature underneath by up to 10 degrees throughout the year, instal greenhouses underneath and use some of the petawatts of electricity generated to pump up water from the rainforests of tropical Africa, become the world’s biggest producer of hydroponic vegetables, earn the lifelong gratitude of the inhabitants, win the Nobel Peace Prize (actually we’re not quite sure yet about that last couple of parts of the project) and be hailed by the UN as Environmental Champion of the decade.  And get extremely rich.  Start crowdfunding now!

Our financial adviser reports

Two readers have written in asking virtually the same question.  (One asks ‘My friends tell me that ethical investment is the hot thing in the money business, which I assume means getting hold of a medical company and squeezing it to get all the goodness out.  Which country offers the best opportunities?’; the other asks ‘How can I get rich?’)

The way to achieve true wealth is obviously to acquire the largest assets available at the lowest price possible, either because the seller is dim-witted or ill-advised (possibly by you), as with Russia’s sale of Alaska, or because you are able to determine the price (ideally at zero as in the acquisition of North America by immigrants from Europe, or the British takeover of Australia.)  For those with sufficient bargaining power (in whatever form) the best asset class has aways been natural resources, and you should aim for as large an initial holding as your leverage possibilities will allow, in resources such as coal, oil, forests, fish, the indigenous population of whichever territory appears to be within reach and so on.  One of the very few planetary resources which has not yet been satisfyingly monetised is the jet stream, or more properly the jet streams.  (There are two in each hemisphere.)  These cannot be mined in any ordinary sense, but they do constitute a prodigious source of energy.  If you happen to control a country over which one of the jet streams passes, then you can quite easily develop it as a massive source of income by passing a law declaring that when passing over your country it must obey environmental directives and pay taxes as set by yourself.  (This is merely an updated version of the toll, one of the major features of economic life throughout the middle ages.)  If however you are not in this fortunate position you can still hope for a substantial revenue stream by adopting a quite different strategy.  Simply set up a company, of which you will be the sole manager, but with competent advertising and sales staff and let it be known that you are working on a project to monetise the jet stream ‘within the next three years’.  It will be easy to find experts who will dazzle investors lacking scientific grasp (and/or common sense) and who will play up the fantastic amounts of energy theoretically available while downplaying the fact that you have no practical prospects of deriving profits from them by normal physical or stratospherical principles.  You almost certainly will in fact experience an initial influx of capital from wealthy individuals who ‘want to get in early’ and you should very carefully use this to develop the brand, build stylish company headquarters, and to network so far as possible with celebrities, no matter how irrelevant the basis for their celebrity.  Your financial success from this point on will depend simply on the effectiveness of your publicity campaign.

———————

Correction  (‘Tony’ Blair )  [ Journal Headquarters reports]  Not for the first time we have to rebut an attempted correction.  Two readers apparently thought they could score a point off us by writing in with the information that ‘Tony’ Blair (in MMQQ3, The triumphant Tories) was (according to the official record) a Labour prime minister.  We assure them that his appearance in that guise was deliberate.  Readers unfamiliar with sarcasm and satire may like to consult von Wilpert’s article Ironie in his Sachwörterbuch der Literatur.  Those of a literal turn of mind may be glad of an assurance that Adolf  Hitler was not in practice a sozialist, Stalin was not in practice a communist, and the Queen of England is not in practice the ruler of the country and supreme commander of that nation’s military forces.  Similarly Father Christmas does not have any children.  (Astrophysicists tell us much the same goes for old Father Time.)

——————–

Bad business

One of the threatening black linings on the silvery cloud that is the currently blooming British economy is the fact that for years and years there has been no significant increase in productivity, for example with more bombs per worker emerging from the production lines each year (but of course strictly for export only to states guaranteeing they will not be used for offensive purposes in countries with civilian populations).  This has puzzled many pundits who effortlessly fail to notice that wages in real terms have, depending on the sector, either been stationary or falling for more than ten years.  This can hardly fail to depress the economy, but just as with capital, you have to put energy into a market to get more energy out.  However, there are at last signs of increasing productivity just where it is needed – in the younger generation.  (No point trying to boost the productivity of pensioners.)  There has been an encouraging rise in cheating productivity in exams in England 2017, admittedly from a low base.  (Up from 0.011%  to 0.015%.)   This is seen as a highly welcome indicator that social trends are changing in the direction increasingly necessary as the British people launch themselves into the struggle to win ‘best possible trade deals’ (indeed ‘such stuff as dreams are made on’)  to make up for the imminent collapse – thanks to Brexit – of all those sectors of the economy so far keeping the national nose above water.  There is, however, an important caveat.  It needs to be pointed out that modern technology in the cheating industry is advancing steadily, and those British figures refer to cheating detected.  Bear in mind therefore RVR, the ‘reporting village recalibration.’  In the closing months and weeks of the Vietnam War, American headquarters buoyantly reported encouraging steady reductions in the number of reports about Vietcong guerilla activity in the villages around Saigon.  It was realised only shortly before the end that this had been because the Vietcong guerillas had taken over those villages and failed to send in any reports about their activities to American HQ.

——————————————–

‘The bubble reputation’

Some questions could be put to the British establishment’s public face about the Oxfam disgrace.  Do they believe that the deplorable conduct of some staff is typical of Oxfam as a whole?  If not, do they realise that cutting Oxfam’s funds will result in harm to children, women and men who have been getting vital support which needs to continue?  Do they feel it is right to allow harm to be caused to some because others in their group have behaved illegally or morally or both? That is dangerously close to collective punishment, and there it should be pointed out that some of those who would suffer were themselves victims of the original misconduct.  But it would be interesting to get their answer to a question of a different sort.  Do they think that there should be similarly strong and firm action against other large organisations active in the UK, whose ranks have included individuals who have behaved illegally or immorally or both, in some cases for many years, the National Health Service, for instance?  Are there football associations or teams which should prepare for investigation?  In particular are there likely to be any punitive moves against that big organisation headed by a man in Rome who wears a white dress, and within which deplorable conduct, by some, goes back decades?

MMQQ3

Ok, I am willing to disclose that ‘MM’ stands for ‘Mid-monthly’.  I don’t want to say more than that except that I didn’t choose the beastly name.

The start to the year has been quite agreeable.  Cards from quite a lot of readers, and a colourful backpack made with llama’s wool from Isabelita, a personal visit (about to end) from Berthold, who brought his bike, evidently not realising how steep the island’s roads  are (and who has given us a couple of contributions while he’s here), and a long letter from Monty although he obviously couldn’t come in person; but there are a couple of extracts from it below.  We even had an evening when Simon came round, although we have hardly seen him here since his mother ran away.  Anyway to business –

(i)  If at first you don’t succeed…?         (ii)  A friend in fiend’s clothing

(iii)  Which women’s rights?                  (iv)  The Tories march on

(v)  Statecraft                                           (vi)  Obscenity

Playing it again, Uncle Sam?  A few weeks ago under the leadership of America an oil blockade was established against North Korea with the idea of crippling that country’s industry to make  it agree to open negotiations about its military progress.  North Korea denounced the blockade as a declaration of war even though it was not put into words as such.  Not changing the subject, a fact now little known, in the west, is  that the Pacific War which later became the eastern wing of World War 2 did not start in 1941.  It really got going with the Japanese invasions of China in the 1930s.  In December 1941 Japan began major military operations against America, bombing Pearl Harbour.  (Historical note: earlier in 1941 an oil blockade against Japan, virtually certain to cripple Japanese industry, was established under the leadership of America.)

——————–

(From the e-mail from Monty)   (The Russian enigma)

I hear you have been puzzled as to why we and our colleagues in other right-thinking countries have been ramping up the pressure, as the so-called ‘popular press’ and its online outlets put it, on Russia.  I would have thought it was effing obvious to anyone with your background even if you’re now out of the game, not that you were ever in it properly.  Even the dimmest member of that tiny minority of the populace who actually pay any attention to the news these days will spot there is something wrong with the idea that 300 of the poor bloody infantry doing route marches in Estonia would slow down the Russian steamroller by more than a minute or two if it ever started to clank into action.  Not that that is remotely likely to happen.  The situation of mutual hostility, in public, is entirely agreeable to friend Putin in Moscow (or on the Sotchi Riviera) – handsomely reinforces his image as the valiant defender of Mother Russia against the hordes of capitalist decadence.  Both sides benefit enormously – difficulties can be blamed on the constraints of ‘the international situation’, and it can be made clear to troublemakers, in any way that seems convenient to government, that they ‘risk playing into the hands of the other side’; so governments can concentrate on keeping their own show tight and businesslike while developing the bread and circuses to the extent they deem advisable.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  From, let’s say about 1948, western Eurasia has had the longest spell without major international violence (so long as you leave the Balkans out of account, as you should because as everyone knows they are a law – exactly the wrong word in this case – unto themselves) since records were notches in wooden tally sticks.  Of course you don’t need to bruit the arrangment abroad too much – I suggest you just put it in that blog of yours if you want to keep it quiet (sorry, old man, only joking, I think, but you’re not a household name, you know). Things got a little wobbly in 1990 when despite James Baker’s best efforts some of the hawks in Washington had a mighty adrenaline rush, but Moscow handled it with exemplary calm, along with the fact that they did have genuine economic problems to go with the political upheavals.  Then of course attention got switched away to the Middle East anyway – poor Avril Glaspie –  thanks to the ever increasing thirst for oil.  Right now it again looks as if some of the wilder spirits in Washington are pushing too hard; it had always been understood that Ukraine was not to be in play.  Nonetheless as of January 2018 you may still argue that a cold war is the best defence against a hot war.

            If you want to really find out what’s going on you don’t look at what’s on public show and all over the news media, you have to look at the next layer underneath, as here, and by co-incidence I got another example of the principle when I was over in Washington last month.  I was asking about Trump’s chances of serving a full term, in the White House I mean, not in the ‘pen’, and one and all said he was as good as a bolted fixture in the Oval Office.  Reason?  He’s the best defence they have against a presidential Pence.

——————–

(Berthold)  It’s very odd, isn’t it, that while the campaign to put a higher proportion of women into prominent positions in public life is no doubt progressing well there seems to be a strange shortage of good candidates who are over 40, or overweight, or flat-chested, or have bad dress sense, or move awkwardly.  Who do you suppose makes the appointments to these positions?

——————–

Advances in technology (noted by the Editor)

Following the path supposedly leading to ‘support’, which indeed I was looking for, on a microsoft website I was led (18-11-2017) to a screen containing, only, two lines both written in the same apparently serious and sober typeface, with the following words:

      Try searching for what you want

      This page does not exist

——————–

Extracted from ‘The Triumphant Tories’ vol.XIV (sectn. 9,082)  Punching above your weight

… In 1940 Winston Churchill united the British people and took on the fight against Nazi Germany, leading the struggle through the years that followed until he finally won victory in 1945

…  In 2003 Mr Blair boldly brushing aside questions about treason and international law (and disuniting the nation) gallantly led, or at least sent, the forces of his sovereign (including more than 400 British personnel who would not survive the engagement) into Iraq to face the might of Saddam Hussein and the terrible threat posed by the bastions holding weapons of mass destruction, (stealth weapons, invisible and impossible to detect by normal means),  throughout that country

…  In 2018 Theresa May calls on the nation to unite under her leadership by joining a resolute campaign to end once and for all the use of plastic packaging in small and medium-sized retail  enterprises.

[Footnote to the above item: Actually Churchill did not win the war (in Europe).  He stopped it being lost in 1940, but Russia won it.  Churchill kept it going when it could have been ended,  at the cost of tens of thousands more casualties to innocent civilians, and large numbers of ‘allied’ troops, by insisting on unconditional surrender.  If you don’t believe that, just pick up any reasonably thorough reasonably honest history book.]

——————–

Saying of the month (from one of the leading figures to be in Davos this month) Taking a careful look at the presidents and heads of state of just about all the democratic countries in the west, I’d say it’s about time we gave hereditary absolute monarchy another chance.

——————–

Mysteries of biology (no.114.)  Why is it that the human is the only mammal that (all too often) thinks it can sing?

——————–

Shithole (Jointly written by Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems and the Editor) An American genius who comes with his own guarantee of stability has been reported as saying that America doesn’t want migrants from shithole countries.  Assuming, despite his allegations to the contrary, those reports to be right you might have hoped for a world-wide roar of disapproval.  In fact you got one, but for the wrong reasons as the world’s media plunged predictably for the most immediately visible ‘outrage’ button, to be pressed when a ‘double-plus’ word seems to be linked to a ‘double-minus’ idea in the same sentence .  (This is a faulty reflex wrongly installed in the great majority of humans, and can only be re-programmed with the utmost difficulty; in 1939 Cambridge, Massachusetts made it illegal to own, hold, or carry in that city any book, magazine or map containing the words ‘Lenin’ or ‘Leningrad’. footnote )  There are three valid options for outrage here.   Berthold spent three weeks of his vacation last year as a volunteer in one of the countries that may have been in the mind of the genius  (if clear enough) and he says that the description ‘shit-hole’ (Ed. surely this should be the approved spelling?) is not always literally appropriate but certainly gives a realistic impression of the conditions of life of 30% to 40% of the population of the country he was in.  Public services including healthcare miserably inadequate, corruption, poverty, squalor, and crime with a constant risk of violence against those unable to defend themselves (not least against the police). That is the first valid reason for outrage, but the people entitled to express it are too worn-down by the struggle for existence to have enough physical resources left.  The ones who expressed the outrage at the recent remarks are not infrequently members of the ruling élite or at least hangers on, with comfortable life-styles, well-paid positions (and in many countries it’s better not to inquire into the source of the money), and possibly representing their country abroad.  The second option arises when you consider how those deplorable conditions have arisen – in many cases through the wrong sort of contacts, and the wrong sort of contracts, with ‘colonial powers’ and similar who are largely unconcerned if matters continue in the same state.  (Eight years since the great earthquake in Haiti and still wretched conditions; yet a few dozen miles away is a nation oversupplied with billionaires, with the means over a golfing week-end to put everything right and go down in history as big-hearted saviours of the country).  The third outrage is that with a few honourable exceptions the ‘developed’ nations do not merely tolerate these injustices continuing, they add to them, skilfully extracting natural resources on favourable terms (favourable, that is, to those already prospering) and enticing away those with talents and training that could help their own people to climb up to a better, cleaner, healthier life, so that they can instead ‘top up gaps’ in the public services or the IT industries of the developed world.

——————–

footnote This is not fake news.  See S.I.Hayakawa Language in Thought and Action

MMQQ2

Part I Sober Survey  Part II Yuletide Quiz  :  MMQQ3 scheduled 16-01-2018

A poll has reported that, despite the appalling helpings of tasteless and precision-free verbal fudge served up in Brussels earlier this month, 64% of independent analysts consider it likely that the UK economic system and indeed constitutional apparatus will collapse on about 29th  March 2019 if government policies and practices continue on their present path.  Accordingly means need urgently to be found to maintain government authority and revenues so as to keep at least minimal control over the population and activities of these islands.  However, there is room for guarded optimism.  Ideas for new developments are said to be flooding into government departments every day and in some cases meeting warm encouragement.  One project likely to win approval at an early date aims to eliminate the hugely burdensome cost of defending the realm by outsourcing both army and navy, under contracts carefully designed after scrupulous background checks by Whitehall’s world-renowned negotiators, to approved private groups who will implement delivery with the cost-savings and enhanced efficiency typically found in the private sector.  Naturally under the new relationships there is no good reason why the personnel of the partnering companies should be required to concentrate their activities exclusively on defense of the UK; on the contrary they will be encouraged to improve their expertise and return on investment by engaging in joint activities with other military forces where these can be approved by the newly independent post-Brexit British government.  A number of organisations able to demonstrate a high level of competence in those areas have already thrown their hats into the ring.  Given current developments in the Middle East, London is unofficially confident of a large and continuing inflow of funds to the government’s coffers.  These plans have been run before the high commands of both services and ministers assure us that senior officers are whole-heartedly favourable to such reforms.

The case of the British airforce is somewhat different, however.  An insider, speaking off the record says she believes that the government would wish to keep control of the RAF and some personnel, as well as of certain well-placed airfields, to form the basis of a dynamic new national transport system taking advantage of cutting edge advances in transport management using computers and new high-speed telecommunications (such as those which are going to make the new Irish border frictionless) so as to make Britain the first country in the world where transport of goods and persons is based primarily on air travel.  The network will operate under a new joint taskforce set up by the government provisionally to be called ‘Aria-OK UK’, which will concentrate initially on headhunting top level managerial talent from the private sector.  The government, she says, takes the view that for far too long innovation has been lacking in the British approach to transport.  Nations relying on ‘19th century’ style surface travel for their national networks will lose out commercially and in terms of prestige to countries where travellers can take it for granted that – for example – on the day of their ‘weekly shop’ they may choose to be whisked in premium-class comfort from one end of the country to the other, in less time than it takes to push a trolley round their chosen  supermarket.   The new air network will of course be open to private ventures, and with suitable calibration of schedules and positioning of government services to citizens (e.g. with all HMRC business handled in a brand-new time-saving one-stop super HQ in Aberdeen) the result should be an enormous increase in traffic on favourite routes, and keen competition between different carriers will inevitably drive down fares to levels everyone will be able to afford.  Meanwhile enormous sums will be saved by reducing costs on road maintenance, and by radical reduction of the old-fashioned and unnecessarily complex rail network.  In addition, large areas of railway property can be sold off to provide land for building much needed houses.   (With careful presentation it should further be possible to use some of the rolling stock no longer needed on the tracks to serve as new housing units themselves, thus making it possible to achieve targets for new housing units promised under government plans faster than ever before.)

Many other sectors of international trade will also see creative British initiatives racing ahead and every encouragement must also be given to those commercial activities of the government which will not be adversely affected by Brexit, for instance production of bombs and missiles (obviously exported only to approved countries and exclusively for defensive purposes, since  Britain continues to uphold the high moral standards she has maintained for decades in e.g. her administration of Iraq, as a founding member of the League of Nations; consult relevant histories)  Officials have been tasked with summarising options and data which would not normally fall under the Chancellor’s remit with a view to restoring national income to usable levels.  Possible projects already under review vary widely in both potential size and complexity.  One idea put forward is said to be that ‘Britain should ‘harvest’ those living in the country without a legal right to do so.’  At present they are simply held in  a detention centre and deported as quickly as possible to whatever destination seems practicable, but an alternative scheme would see them required to work on public projects or such other tasks as are deemed suitable.  Under this generous reform they would be allowed to reside much longer in the UK, staying in their detention centre as long as needed to work off the costs of their living expenses in the UK together with a sum to make good the inevitable deterioration of the centre itself during their occupation of it, plus the costs of their transport to the country deemed to be their home as well as the cost of their initial capture.  (Any reference to these sums as ransom money would of course be a criminal offence.)

Britain is already a well-known tourist destination and, there too, many opportunities are waiting to be seized.  Foreign visitors are often attracted by the chance to view historic sites with their own eyes, and often willing to pay handsomely to participate in re-enactments of historic events.  More than twenty groups are already calling for government support for activities in this field.  Herewith merely the identifying titles of the first five such applications currently being circulated:

Working 19th century telegraph office;  working 18th century prison (Newgate)(model);  working 17th century bawdy house;  17th century execution of Guy Fawkes (simulated and with plastic body double, no participant injured in enactment); working 18th century lunatic asylum.

(Editor: That one caught my eye for personal reasons.  The promoters called it the new Bedlam project and I suspect it may have very good prospects of getting government support since they suggest reopening one of the former mental hospitals – very fine buildings some of them – and charging visitors hefty fees for staying there with real patients, so it’s bound to offer yet another way to cut back on social benefits.  Charmed, though, to see that the dear old Warneford is still in business.  Visits almost completely useless from the point of view of therapy but wandering through the beautiful grounds was less stressful than wandering by the hour in strange patterns round the College’s front quad to the entertainment of some of the more boorish of fellow undergraduates, and certainly better than experiencing the electrochemical manipulations darkly alleged (perhaps quite falsely?) to go on at Littlemore.) (But perhaps that’s enough of Part I; time now perhaps to pass on to the second part.)

Our Yuletide Quiz (prepared in collaboration with Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems and Montgomery Skew)

Q1   Had none of her supporters gesticulating noisily in the media about Theresa’s ‘triumph’ in Brussels ever noticed that ‘sufficient progress’ was never properly defined?

It clearly did not mean complete agreement on all points, and  nothing like that came out of Brussels on the 8th, yet Juncker allowed the shift to phase 2.  Evidently therefore it depended on the EU throughout, and the EU’s decision might just as well have been made weeks before (and possibly had been).  So why leave it to a theatrical flurry of night flights in the last week?  Anything to do with pulling a ball of wool across the floor to tease a kitten?

Q2    Which government department’s handbook of ‘Guidance for authorised visitors’ contains the following extract?

   ‘If one of the inmates experiences a loss of self-control during the exercise period despite the sedative tablets, and attempts to stab those around him with a sharpened kitchen knife, there is no need for visitors to be alarmed.  Calm will instantly be restored with a couple of tranquillising rounds fired by one of the supervisory snipers.’

Q3   You are the ruler of a modern oligarchical state.  Given the wide availability of firearms in your country you are constantly worried by the fear of assassination, and therefore attempt to rule with some moderation and reasonable economic success (your state is not signed up to the IMF), as well as arranging many carefully staged photo-ops.  When an important programme runs into difficulty you are faced with a choice: either announce the policy is failing and will be reversed, or continue with the programme while lying to your subjects that success is clearly visible on the horizon.  Which choice will be less damaging (a) for you, and (b) for the population?

(Editor: surely we should have had a supplementary question here, namely ‘What is the probability of any national leader ever adopting the first option?’)

Q4   (Ed: I asked our patroness to disallow this question on the grounds that it is not properly connected to the premiss.  I was overruled.)

It is well-known that the average university lecture on Kant’s philosophy (as recorded in the MIT 2007 Survey of effectiveness of painful stimuli in retention of verbal material in first-year undergraduates) scored 2.38% on the Heftig-Schnurrbart Lästigkeit Index of boredom.  Three outstanding performers on the British football managers scene scored between 7% and 11.5% in recent interviews.  Nevertheless they are all far below the rating of a European golf tournament’s final round this autumn which official observers on an unannounced visit from the Mental Health Observation Society scored at 83%

  Can you explain why anyone ever agrees to pay to watch two or more men using wooden or metal sticks to knock small white balls into holes in the grass?

Q5   Did Theresa May, alone and unaided, come to the belief that she and Davis were so much cleverer than European politicians, that they would be able to bamboozle the EU with ease?  Or did someone with a rare gift for misjudgment (perhaps someone linked to her ‘strong and stable’ election sampaign?) tell her that once she’d had an amicable lunch on the Monday and declared a triumph, then the Irish and any other objectors – notably the DUP – could be fobbed off with a charitable smile and told it was a fait accompli?

Q6  It is well-known that the best place to hide guilt is very often the broad daylight of a public square. Supposing then that those who rule a country (i.e. the rich and well-connected who concern themselves with that country – obviously elections don’t have much to do with it) decided to extend their control over the population by inserting unsuspected and undetected subliminal propaganda for those rulers into the apparently meaningless muzak that pollutes most public spaces in most cities, how would things look different from the way they look today?  Could have been at it for years, I’d say  Indeed, now think….

(Please get some good technicians analysing some random samples a.s.a.p.)

MMQQ 1

For next posting see note at end

This issue: Reader’s letters; Tech news; Linguistic corner; Sale of Scotland; Traffic; Question; Plaudit; A resistible ‘correction’.

——————–

Reader’s letter (translated from German by Baron Philipp – see endnote – and describing itself as anonymous although signed J.G.What the hell is going on in big power relations at present?  Anyone with the intelligence of a New Caledonian crow who pays even the slightest attention to stuff on the media beyond the ‘sports news’ (i.e. football managers conjuring tedium out of platitudes) and ‘celebrity’ gossip (e.g. poor Charles has no hope of sitting on that throne unless he starts a crash programme of celebrity island stunts and ‘daring’ Chippendale-style shows on prime time tv), anyone, in fact, who is even able to read cannot avoid seeing that international big power competition now takes two main forms, often largely independent of each other and indeed sometimes operating out of sync within any one country.  One is old-style military violence with bullets, bombs, tanks and missiles; the other, still alas in an appalling infancy, is learning fast ever more fiendish ways to tweak the circuits of other nations’ financial, administrative and electoral networks to ever more damaging effect.  In both these modes of confrontation exponents don unnatural personalities, assert and maybe honestly believe that once ‘our’ side overcomes ‘them’ (working with the terrible flaw incorporated into the design when the mammal was developed) everything will be tickety-boo from then on, and all will be peace and prosperity under the winners (by definition ‘our’ side) with trouble-free continuation of climate change and exploitation of the Earth’s resources. To put it delicately, that risks species extinction, of the human species (and others).  Unfortunately, whoever you are, there is absolutely nothing that you can do to prevent matters proceeding along this path all the way to Armageddon or the final devastating solar flare.  So it is purely as a matter of interest to ask why the west is making such vehement efforts to rouse the populations to hostility towards the Soviet Union (apologies – I mean Russia), and more particularly why they are playing up the traditional military violence approach?  Now, the Reds are doubtless devising exotic new ways to reshape the back alleys of cyberspace that the west has not yet thought of, and of course, like all good citizens I know our side would never stoop to anything underhand, however much of a self-imposed handicap that might be.  But please can we have a little realism about our officially held views.  The military violence threat in 2017 (in Europe in particular) carries all the conviction of a ‘living dodo discovery’, even if you leave entirely out of account the west’s massive dissuasive capacities.  Evidence is visible all around like smartphones in the underground and has been for decades.  Just look at a map showing positions of western forces and Soviet forces in Europe in 1989 and today.  So if you want to put your case shouldn’t it be a little more convincing?  There are various reasons why people may loudly insist on their stated position.  If you are Theresa May, you believe that it conveys an impression of strength to the dimmer elements of the electorate; others, not only in Washington, work on the principle that if you make a big enough noise about one thing the populace will stop thinking about other less convenient things. Many politicians from long before Goebbels have thought that if you shout something often enough loud enough people will start to believe it; a few seem to suppose it can actually become true (Editor; was he thinking of Brexit here?).  It is only a few scoundrelly reactionaries who take loud shouting as a sign that you’re being economical with the truth (but they’re often right).  So please – if you have that urge to paint an interesting picture – a little realism (unless you are actually trying to weaken ‘our’ case.   ?)

——————–

Tech news  A Californian start-up is threatened with being wound-up just three months after it had been valued for a possible takeover at $450mn.  The company manufactures nanochips to be implanted in the cheeks of air hostesses, hotel staff and others in the greeting industry, such as politicians in the election season.  The nanochips are designed to stimulate the muscles required to produce a smile even when this has to override contrary signals from the brain.  The signal can be set to run continuously facilitating a smile every three seconds or operated  automatically by a timing device, but more usually it is under the control of a local supervisor.

——————–

Linguistic corner ideomass; once let that word escape into the wild and you’ll have a huge job to recapture it, even throwing all your thought police into it.  It ought to mean the value or effectiveness of a given idea, however acquired;  but in practice is most often measured by the total number of tweets or retweets recorded as supporting this or that currently fashionable sentiment.

——————–

Sale of Scotland  On his flying visit Baron von Hollenberg told us that active moves to sell Scotland are being considered in not one but several quarters.  There is said to be vigorous interest, but predictably there seems widespread divergence of views on who pays the bill and who receives the cash, and also, though to a lesser extent, on the status of Scotland after any successful sale.  Naturally there is considerable enthusiasm in Scotland herself, though a difficulty is that the Scots seem to generally assume that after sale the nation would control her own destiny, and that is not likely to be easily agreed with any purchaser unless that purchaser succeeds in persuading the present management, Whitehall, to that effect.  Some pundits believe that Whitehall’s negotiating skills could allow this to happen, but others are uncertain.  Enthusiasm for a sale is even higher in England, especially in view of the oncoming government budget crisis; a sale if concluded in time could forestall a possible appeal, not yet revealed to the public, to the IMF for help (and rescue the career of the unfortunate Chancellor).  However other parties too may enter the fray.  The EU is said to be considering an offer to purchase at a price of €1 but on extraordinarily generous terms, accepting Scotland in lieu of the remaining sum owed to Whitehall for Brexit (estimated at €90bn) and allowing Scotland thereafter to function as a fully independent state under the tutelage of and paying dues set by an ad hoc committee headed by Jeroen Dijsselbloem.  Even further afield, there were enquiries from, among others, a major real estate investor in the US, though it is understood these came to nothing once it was made clear to him that even after a successful purchase it would not be feasible to relocate Scotland to a North American site (tentatively identified as ‘Kilt Country’ in Nevada).

As Editor I must declare that this journal will watch any such development like a hawk, as we may have already established certain moral rights in such a process.  Note, for example this posting from 15 January 2012:

Some have suggested that one solution to current difficulties would be to sell Greece to the Chinese.  However this is not possible since Greece is a sovereign nation.  Scotland, however, offers no such obstacle and London is the obvious recipient of the proceeds.  (There is little doubt that the Chinese would snap up the chance to acquire a large warehousing and manufacturing site located conveniently in the North Atlantic between the American and European markets, where the workforce have an aversion to wasting money that rivals that of the Chinese masses, and where, moreover, there would be some obvious immediate savings in costs, eg abolishing at a stroke all the expensive apparatus of a government and elections with competing parties.)  If, however, the Chinese are too busy with their acquisitions in Africa, there may still be a chance of turning a useful profit by offloading Scotland to a management buyout, if those at present running the place can parlay their traditional claim of prudent handling of money into enough external investment into the venture.

 ——————–

Reader’s letter from D.P.V of Kingsteignton, evidently reacting to our piece last time about urban congestion (complete letter, as received):

Dear Editor

Road building program =                      more cars

Urban regeneration  =                           more cars

Upgrading infrastructure =                   more cars

Increasing prosperity =                         more cars

Technical progress =                             more cars

Economic investment =                        more cars

Public/private partnership for transport =  more cars

Speculation by hedge funds =              more cars

Yours in dismay

D.P.V.

——————–

Question of the posting : Would it be correct to assume that all inhabitants of the USA who campaign for the expulsion of immigrants are always themselves native Americans?  Answer: Not quite – it would be politically correct, but a counterfactual assumption.

——————–

Plaudit of the posting Let us praise the admirable boldness – or is it reality-defying imagination? – of those senior academic administrators who threaten that if an ignorant rabble continues to complain about the size of their ‘compensation’ (Ed: are you sure this is the right word?)  they will be lost to the country since they will emigrate to some other more generous state which will welcome them as they impress the astounded élites of that new host nation with their Vice-Chancelling skills at more elevated salary levels.

——————–

No correction (on lie detection)  Two querulous malcontents attempted to find fault with one of the items in the previous posting, and the Editor does accept (following the insistence of our patroness, without whom this journal would not have its head above financial water) that reducing the number of words posted to below 2,000 led to a slight lack of clarity.  The intention was to state that current results from human assessment are likely to be improved thanks to advances based on refinement of techniques for extracting data from visual images.  Every tech-savvy schoolkid can manage mere facial recognition now (with interesting results on the number of last-minute bookings on flights to countries having no extradition agreements with nations in Europe) but these advances promise tabloid-headline speculations about the emotional and physical reactions of certain highly respected politicians presenting the prizes at Girls’ Schools swimming galas.)

——————–

Editorial note: As scheduled, Baron Philipp picked me up from Back Field and a couple of hours later we crossed the southern English coast, with the Baron (piloting the craft himself) supremely indifferent about the risk of being greeted by a posse of tax inspectors.  “If they know I’m coming they won’t be there.  If they’re there they’ll learn who I am.  Five minutes, settled!” Indeed two hours later he and Lady W had everything wrapped up between them.  Total agreement that the Purple Parakeet in Shepton Mallet was the best place for lunch, and total agreement all round about journal practice.  Crisis not my fault,  Lack of interns and permanent staff a natural result of geography and meteorology; balanced by great benefit of being outside social media banality and most official and covert censorship zones. London contributors excellent but irregular. A few changes desirable, given that attention span and background knowledge of modern readers comparable with capacity of adolescent grasshopper. I should steer to greater percentage of small ‘faits divers’ and cut down on pieces with 500+ words. And adopt new title.  Support for further year promised.   Most welcome; the two of them represent almost the whole of our practical support, despite all the congratulatory e-mails and messages of goodwill.  Perhaps the journal’s best day ever, though I have reservations about the new title.  The first half, MM (Mid-monthly) needs no quibble, but I prefer to keep the QQ as initials until I’ve had more time to think about that.

Future postings scheduled for the 16th of each month except 15th for February

 

Traffic of effluence

 Please note: the next issue of this journal (re-named) is scheduled for mid-month, 16-11-2017.

More news from the redoubtable Monty Skew (one of the best-informed men in London) though he explains that with things increasingly fraught over there it is not the right time to offer this journal another of his scintillating appraisals.  However with his permission I quote the following. from his message.   

Some of the proposals in the now infamous little black books circulating in the corridors of powerlessness, inciting suggestions to be posted anonymously on what to do as national bankruptcy bears down, border  on the imaginative even if many are physiologically impossible .  You will understand I cannot go into e-mailed details at present, though as the government’s ‘authority’ slides ever further past the S-bend I may take the chance in a month or so, or after a prime ministerial resignation, whichever is the sooner.  But I happened to see Hunt (a.k.a ‘the man with the predictable nickname’) striding along Whitehall a couple of days ago bouncing as usual over impediments whether they were there or not.  I put his jaunty air down to his innate ebullience which as you know has often had major obstacles cowering behind their stethoscopes, but it is rumoured that he has a plan.  He is going to solve the NHS crises at a stroke, in effect by abolishing patients, or at least eliminating the surplus of patients over and above the quantity which the NHS can handle while remaining true to its admirable principles of free treatment of those in need (provided of course that they provide satisfactory evidence of holding British nationality.)  His plan has the simplicity of genius, and can be summed up as ‘one-out, one-in’.   It will hold good both for GP surgeries and NHS hospitals.  For instance if a would-be patient arrives at an A&E entry point when that ‘facility’ has already reached its manageable quota of patients he or she must wait their turn until another patient emerges, discharged (or possibly thrown out in the case of troublesome characters), thus keeping pressure on the dedicated staff inside to the level deemed acceptable by the authorities.  Among the scheme’s  other advantages it is anticipated that local businesses could establish ‘extramural’ amenities, manned by volunteers, providing refreshments and other services for those waiting outside, thus developing an additional revenue stream for hospitals…

——————–

Commentary. Kevin De Wong (Thessaloniki): In grandfather’s time the reasons for wanting to buy a car if you could were obvious.  Today, the fact that most city inhabitants still want one more car than their household already owns is striking evidence that societies change collective ideas (such as  hereditary enmity for at least one other nation) infinitely more slowly than the well-known supertanker can change direction.fn   It is obvious by now to all except most of the world’s urban population that the urge to buy a motor vehicle is not merely a major factor boosting GDP (as desired by governments) and personal debt (as ignored by citizens), but also good evidence of mental disorder (partly induced by raised levels of toxins in the bloodstream through living in a fog of air pollution).  Victims cannot form realistic estimates of (1) total cost of acquisition, including ‘optional extras’ e.g. spare tyre, licence fees, insurance costs, ‘special low-cost’ introductory membership of ‘prestigious’ car owners’ club, costs of celebratory night out ‘to give our new car a run’; (2) maintenance costs (continuing licence fees, continuing insurance, replacement tyres, visits to Auntie Maud ‘now we’ve got the car’, servicing, repairs, congestion charges, rapidly rising fees for membership of prestigious car owners’ club, penalties for traffic offences, cost of release from clamped vehicle pounds, medical expenses (after road rage incidents), costs of visits to distant prisons (in case of serious traffic offences); and (3) damage to mental health and family stability from everything covered by the above eighteen headings, plus worry about theft of vehicle or contents or parts, plus associated paperwork, demanded by ‘authorities’, all multiplied by incorrectly prepared paperwork to or from aforesaid ‘authorities’.  This leads to the dawning realisation, while stuck in the daily traffic jam, that changes in travel time were substantial, as anticipated, but negative.  You have here more than one ordinary problem with less than one realistic solution (short of extinction of the human race).  All this could be a serious drag on motor car sales.  But once it’s decided that the big problem with cars is the pollution then the obvious answer is to junk the polluting cars, speed to the showrooms, and shell out for an electric vehicle.  The manufacturers regretfully point out these will inevitably cost considerably more than corresponding vehicles currently marketed – but, you see, the big advantage is they are green (like many drivers) and emit zero pollution (unlike the power stations which produce the electricity.)  Somehow, though, I still have questions, such as who is going to generate the electricity, and how, and how much are they going to charge whom for it?  (Outsourcing production to, let’s say, Kalgovia where they have excellent coal-fired power stations does not necessarily lead to cheaper power in the UK.)  Moreover, at present the millions of transactions that keep society going depend on tens of thousands of people making individual journeys as required, not on a giant network vulnerable to lightning strikes at crucial points, or sabotage, or a solar flare, or machinations of some enemy state doing things on the internet that decent honest nations like our own never dream of doing (Ed: Why not?  Surely it’s their duty to get in first?).  If you want an example of how things are when a nationwide network fails, just look at Porto Rico many weeks now after the hurricane.  But let’s be fair.  (Editor’s note: Why?)  Let’s have that campaign to reduce air pollution, ban all petrol and diesel vehicles. Everything will now be hunky-dory, right?  Well, my careful  observations over the years reveal that when official action to deal with a problem finally rises from its comfortable armchair and sets to work there are just three possible outcomes: (1) progress, but not enough (though the consultants do pretty well);  (2) the problem gets worse;  (3) the problem is solved, but another one rises up in its place.  (Think ‘cane toad’.)  Meanwhile look carefully and you’ll see that we have failed to deal with any of the twenty-one car ownership headaches listed above.  (And I’d be prepared to bet air pollution is far from beaten.)  But now it becomes clear that what you really need to get to grips with is traffic congestion, too many people in cars in too little space.  Certainly, human beings tend to congregate in large groups, but it’s bizarre to assume that a city centre crowd exists because those in it set off that morning to be part of a crowd.  Some may have similar purposes, but that’s utterly different from having crowd membership as your goal.  Writers have long declared the human to be a social animal.  They should get out of the study and down to the beach.  Even on a busy day, the humans almost never aggregate into large groups.  They form parties of between two and about fifteen, normally well separated. (Compare the chimp; contrast the sea lion.)  In large herds humans have always been dangerous for other beasts (think ‘megafauna extinctions’, not to mention the dodo, et al, et al) and indeed for other humans.  (Cue photographs ad lib of close-combat warfare intercut with gigantic military parades.)  Even if large numbers do gather for a common purpose – a football match, perhaps – before long they find something to disagree about  (the fundamental flaw of the much vaunted parliamentary system).  Disagreement leads to quarrels, which given enough time and numbers end in war.  This age-old hostility to groups of ‘others’ is galvanised when thousands of motorists drive to the city for their separate purposes in cars sold to them as offering bird-like freedom, and find themselves blocked by the sheer numbers of other motor vehicles.  They slowly inch along past the overpriced idiocies of the consumerist state, not even allowed to simply leave their car and proceed on foot.  When at last they reach their destination, if they ever do, friends to be met have given up and left, all tickets to be bought have been sold, all restaurant tables are fully booked.  And as it gets dark muggers re-appear in the side alleys.

fn In the equally well-known and equally fatuous analogy the supertanker displaces a volume of seawater equivalent to ‘about 42,638,016½  Olympic swimming pools’.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We were onto this years ago.  From this outlet in an earlier format (‘Esmond Maguire’, isbn 978-616-90476-1-2 publ.2010 :

        Wouldn’t it be splendid if we could replace all the traffic in our cities by human beings moving about under their own steam?  ‘Aha,’ you cry ‘there is no obstacle of principle as things are now; look at the cyclists.  The reason it doesn’t happen’  you continue, ‘is because most people aren’t idiots enough to do it.’  But the reason they don’t want to do it is that all the other traffic is still there.  What if everybody was moving about completely unmotorised?  To which you are no doubt already objecting that this is ridiculous since journey times would be preposterously slow.  Ah, but would they?

        I have been reading ‘A complete history of the stilt’ put out by some professor working in his candle-lit cell, and it seems that while we think of stilts nowadays as just a turn in the circus, in the past they have been worn in all seriousness for practical use in many countries.  For instance, in the cold winters in the 1700s the Swedes used them with snowshoe attachments to cross country covered with lots of snowdrifts.  And in the Landes region of France right up to the 1950s the peasants used to travel about on stilts a yard and more high (the book has photographs to prove it), and the really good part is they were able to move as fast as a cantering horse (and without the associated smell) –  a damn sight faster than you can get round the centre of most cities these days.  Don’t forget, with all the motorised traffic out of the way you have the whole width of the road to play with.  Picture to yourself Oxford Street packed wall to wall with nine-foot high pedestrians whizzing up one side and down the other!  No disgusting air pollution and a wonderful attraction for tourists.

      I grant you would need somebody keeping things in order.  Stilted police!  Trained within an inch of their lives till they can do the tango on stilts, and there’s no reason why the unit should only consist of men. Think of it – ‘The police specialist stilt-mounted company presents an evening of tango at Covent Garden’ and what that would do for relations between the public and the police!  And during duty hours they’ll be mounted on stilts a foot longer than anyone else, to give them a view over the crowds and an extra burst of speed.  I’m going to send you the designs.

——————–

Tech note: At present lie detection by machines using electronic sensors is not as reliable as facial and kinesthetic diagnosis by experienced humans, which averages about 75%.  But reports suggest the latter may soon be combined with fresh advances in the first method.  Interesting questions may then arise when it is applied to people featured in historical newsreels, or – why not? –  up-to-date newsreels from the USA.

——————–

This journal has a fine record with predictions.  You may soon have a chance to see its current form, starting from this pair, published 14-12-2015:

Prediction of the week: When the Fed puts up interest rates, banks and bankers will become much richer; with rare exceptions, everyone else will become poorer

Guess of the week: When that happens, economic commentators will describe it as ‘baffling’ and ‘unexpected’.