An enigma : Financial mysteries :
News from very far down : Honest journal policy?
To start with a brief item one might have expected to be a lot longer, the official report on the crash of MH 17 is close to its official presentation. Years have been spent on examination of pieces of metal and signals recorded. That crime was unquestionably a tragedy and a disgrace, and at the same time an enigma. Forces on the ground were either Ukrainian or Russian or inhabitants of the Ukraine who identified with the Russian side. The victims in the great majority were Dutch. (The second largest contingent was Malaysian and the aircraft was en route to Kuala Lumpur.) Neither Ukrainians nor Russians (wherever domiciled and whatever their political views) had anything to gain from killing Dutch or Malaysian citizens. So who could ever have prepared such a plot? What could possibly have been their motive? The investigators apparently felt it was unnecessary to follow that line of investigation. Any suggestions?
Some years back, this journal mused that perhaps a major reason for the rapidly accelerating inflation of bonuses, ‘compensation packages‘, expense allowances, golden handshakes, and other money transfers clad in protective jargon was the hope that all the apparent activity would bamboozle ordinary citizens into believing the world economy had plenty of shock absorbers available, and would leave them holding that belief long enough for those who realised that the foundations consisted almost entirely of paper (beautifully printed, admittedly) to get a chance to convert as much as possible into real tangible assets before the game was up.
With this in mind, here are (a) and (b), two items that appeared in the public domain not very long ago; maybe interesting, not least the parts printed in bold type.
(a) (Private Eye of 6 April 2018)
‘Profits rise, so do bonuses. Losses arise, but bonuses are still paid…The short-term interests of senior managers/employees increasingly trump those of the shareholder owners…Deutsche Bank lost €735m last year, yet its bonus pool quadrupled to €2.2bn. Dividends paid totalled just €227m.’
(b) (9-7-2019)…reported that Deutsche Bank share price is down by more than 5%, and it is to undergo a drastic restructuring, with 18,000 employees (out of 91,500) losing their employment, many of whom had turned up at 9am on the Monday morning as specifically required, to learn that they were ordered to clear their office by 11 am of that day.
26th July. Speaking at a short ceremony yesterday, Satan saluted the Underworld Shipping Authority (CEO Feriman Charon) on its first day of operating the new Trans-stygian Hyperlink, making it possible to deal with millions of transiting souls in, quite literally, no time at all. Until very recently the newly departed had to wait for unpredictable aeons of time in immense ghostly crowds on the freezing river bank until the ancient wooden vessels returned out of the darkness from the other side. Now, however, thanks to innovative systems developed in the US for ultrafast surveillance and corrective treatment of massive data stores and the imaginative use of the ‘equate to most similar’ technique, souls arriving at the bank of the Styx and producing the required fee (of one obol or equivalent in any accepted currency) will now pass through a portal very similar to those found in modern airports, which will perform a comprehensive and instantaneous analysis to convert each soul into a data set to be ‘stamped’ with a unique identification code and simultaneously transmitted to a receiving station on the other side, which itself will immediately re-convert that data set into soul, provided of course that the analysis does not reveal any unacceptable irregularity in the data set. The whole process was designed in conjunction with relevant international supervisory bodies, although, as Satan added, in this case ‘body’ may not be an ideally chosen term.
At a question-and-answer session afterwards, specially invited guest, the new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, began by commenting that his own accession to 10 Downing Street had been hailed on all sides as a triumph for democracy after decades of unproductive disorder, and he asked that special tribute should be paid to the brilliant insight of pioneering Tory members of the British Parliament who had noticed the immense advantage to be gained by a cross-Channel transport enterprise if it could find a way to operate without the use of ships or aircraft or trucks or other vehicles. Johnson then announced that he looked forward to similarly imaginative thinking at last producing decisive answers to most problems currently plaguing the world economy, especially around the Irish border. At that moment, however, a large part of the river bank close to where he was standing collapsed and fell into the rushing waters. Johnson himself was left sprawling with his legs flailing wildly just above the icy torrent. After a struggle he was hauled up and Satan ordered the duty officers to lead him back to the tourbus, to take whatever measures seemed appropriate to ‘ease this guest’s return to normality’. As he was led away, one shocked spectator voiced the question in several minds – what would have happened to him if he had fallen in? “The same thing that happens with all those who ‘jump ship’,” Satan answered with a smile. “They get swept along by the river until they get stuck on some rock or in a crevice or under a rotten branch which itself has got jammed under a rock. Not pleasant. They don’t need food of course, nor any sort of covering, but they stay exactly where they get stuck, unable to do anything or react to anything, and with nobody to talk to. Full stop, that’s it. Until the end of the world.” As he spoke a visitor from the European Parliament group collapsed, doubtless affected by the accident, but after a pause Satan continued. “One curious feature may be surprising. Without exception those who jump ship always try to get back to the last point where they were on dry – well, dry-ish – land. Uselessly of course. This reflects yet another basic problem with the human design. They just will not leave a situation to work itself out naturally, even when it’s in their own best interests. Even when interfering with the environment plainly risks leaving things worse than before. They actually see this insane urge to divert the natural course of events as a virtue of their species, even when doing so is clearly going to harm others of their own kind, let alone innocent creatures of other types. An infuriating characteristic of the species. It plays havoc with the natural organic development of the event continuum. History shows quite enough disasters in the solar system alone, even without any human meddling. Does pure arrogance make them think they can run the galaxy better? You see the same mad trouble-making with added hypocrisy, when they have to organise large groups of their own kind. They devise preposterous social structures and call them constitutions or electoral processes, then run affairs with effortless dishonesty along lines entirely different from what they themselves prescribe. If there is some feature of their environment not shared with their neighbours, what is their standard response? War! They regard it as normal, even praiseworthy, to resort to war, even when that hurts and kills enormous numbers of their own kind. They see this as so natural that they even congratulate themselves for drawing up ‘Rules of War’, and then flout them as easily as one would brush away a mosquito. Just take an honest look at the historical record, from the era when they were prancing around with the other quadrupeds in East Africa, and then compare the current conditions of life of most of the billions of humans living in Asia and Africa; or if you prefer examine their current uses of all the inventions and in particular all the explosive chemicals they have learned to manipulate on their planet. Putting it bluntly they are one of the most straightforwardly nasty species that ever appeared in the galaxy. Microbes cause immense amounts of damage to other life forms, but evidently they don’t do that for the sake of amusement, nor even just out of curiosity to see what happens and what might be caused to happen, and much the same goes for just about all more complex species, from worms up to rats and antelopes, but the closer you get to the human the more the unpleasant traits can be detected. Perhaps we should run up a quick history of the species and then pass it round to other populations in the galaxy on how not to let semi-intelligent groups advance.” Satan paused, breathing deeply, and bowed to the listeners. “I apologise. Tact has never been my strong point. I realise I’m talking to an audience almost completely made up of humans, but you know as well as I do that you’re far from typical members of the species; otherwise you wouldn’t be here. But honestly your species could drive us demented with its self-satisfaction, incoherences, its ludicrously obvious dishonesty. However, it would perhaps be sensible to take a break now, if only to let myself calm down. The guards will show you the way to the lounges, and you are free to help yourselves to the refreshments. I must mention one thing though. Nothing you may have recorded on your smartphones will be preserved as you saw it. It won’t actually be wiped but it will be turned into something like a confusing dream involving some of what you have seen and other purely imaginary elements. Much the same as with your personal recollections. Now I look forward to seeing you all at the dinner. (All-vegetarian menu, of course.)”
This useless lily-livered journal does all it can to avoid giving offence despite the efforts of cunning correspondents to drag us into embarrassing speculations. We stoically refused to investigate the theory of a correlation between the number of days of cold weather experienced in a given country, and the annual per capita production of rational thought by its population, (though you can see where that idea could lead a racist politician like the one I’m not mentioning). We did not rally to support the well-known feminist – you’ll know who we’re referring to (Editor: ‘whom’ ?) when it was discovered that not merely had she followed the suggestion for women to take regular doses of testosterone in order to maintain a level of self-assertiveness sufficient to keep their image on the front pages, but she had on occasion dressed as a man with a false beard for the same reason. We headed to the hills when other news media published claims that keen interest in women’s football was a sure indicator of moral superiority (as measured on the Keir Hardie index (Editor: shouldn’t that be a ‘Keir Starmer Index’?), even as the same outlets also carried ‘scientific reports’ that a high score for watching women’s football (or any other pastime involving players with whom you have no personal, familial, financial, or social tie) is a most discouraging indicator concerning your capacity for independent thought.
But when one of our reports is wrong or incomplete, we’ll be honest. No ‘quoted out of context’ nonsense, nor the ‘but you’ve made stupider mistakes than we have’ gambit. Hence this reader’s letter:
Sir, You recently published a piece alluding fancifully to the actual incident when an overwrought Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at George Bush. There are two points that could benefit from emendation. In giving the journalist’s Arabic name using the western alphabet the form Muntadhar Al Zaidi might be preferred. Second, you do less than justice to Bush. While he did not intervene to prevent the arrest of the protestor, he actually came very close to the start of the ideal outcome you envisaged, remarking audibly ‘He only threw a shoe’. What a tragedy that Bush did not follow that initial reaction in the way you describe. Just one sentence away from changing history!
D.K.Dickson (by e-mail)