Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Difficile est satiram scribere

The magnificent grotesques  It is breathtakingly strange that well-educated members of the élite over in the UK, secure in their mutual assurances of sanity and intelligence, do not notice a towering inconsistency between on the one hand their assertions that Brexit ‘must proceed’ because ‘the people’ of their country voted to leave the EU (actually about one in three of the adult electorate) and on the other hand their own insistence that the terms of leaving should be decided not by the people (which ‘would tie the government’s hands’) but by the few dozen individuals who sit around the cabinet table in Downing Street (or more exactly by a minority among those individuals, who believe that firm governance means carrying on with policies which looked as if they might have been worth a punt two or three years ago, despite mountainous evidence to the contrary now crowding the horizon).

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The Cassandra File   Did crews in the sea-battles of earlier centuries who saw fire-ships bearing down on them simply go ‘tsk!’ and carry on with routine tasks?   The first of these two pieces is, verbatim, an extract from Obiter Ficta (isbn 974-85468-0-2) first published in 2004:

‘It is absurd to expect commercial companies to act ethically.  The essence of their nature is to make profits…if anyone is to tie a few ethical balls and chains onto them – as they certainly should – then that is to be done by governments, and if the latter keep mum…that is because they, the government, want to evade ethical responsibility…  Why however do those who at least grasp that businesses, as such, exist to make money, persist in putting this as ‘serving the interests of their shareholders’ when manifestly it is nothing of the sort?  The interests served are naturally those of the directors and the managers of the firm.’

            The second piece is, verbatim, extracted from 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.’

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Rigor mentis Two constant features distinguishing the English from other European peoples for centuries have been their readiness to devise systems of rules for all aspects of national and domestic life, together with an unfailing capacity to apply them illogically, inequitably, and unjustly.  In 1478 Thomas of Credianton (today’s Crediton) wrote ‘This folk hath wondrous crafte in the devising of all manner of rules and a marvellous wit in waylaying the good that they might do.’  Which other European land could have set out a written code of conduct for the nation’s ruler, duly signed by him, as early as 1215?  The same almost instinctive urge to establish rules and constraints persists to the present day throughout the population, as in the provisions which rule that state officials have the right to raid private homes for – among other instances (and I assure readers I am not making these up) – a search for foreign bees, a survey of the seal population, and checking to discover whether offences related to stage hypnotism have been committed.  It has long been suspected that this strange national urge to regulate has some elusive basis in a malfunction of the metabolic system, possibly resulting from an ancient DNA mutation  and the term rigor mentis has been adopted to name it.  However, very recently there have been certain indications that rigor mentis may in fact be a contagious ailment.  Incidents that seem hard to explain in other ways have occurred in other countries.  For example, Le Monde reported that on 14th June of this year a force of 20 officials including police descended on the harbour front market at Marseille, interviewing and in one case temporarily detaining fishmongers there (one of whom had his entire stock seized) who were charged with not having on their stalls a display giving the name of the fish they had for sale – in Latin.

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Late news

As the deadlines loom and the cryogenic-preservation-lines are checked to see if they are still fit for purpose, rumours are circulating of a brilliant solution to the Irish border conundrum, provisionally to be made public after one further cabinet meeting to settle the principal issue (i.e. presentation).  ‘In a spirit of friendly compromise to ensure the best possible outcome for all concerned’ the UK government is to confirm that it will neither set up nor request any frontier posts along the border, thus allowing completely frictionless trade in the island.  As a generous additional measure the prime minister is to arrange for the UK Border Agency to establish ‘Traveller Assistance Posts’ at all crossing points, at which a wide range of services will be provided, many at low or minimal costs, including high quality restaurant facilities, free internet connexions, traffic updates and advice on safe routes taking into account predicted weather conditions (recommended), insurance for onward travel (obligatory), and free vehicle checks (compulsory for safety reasons),

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Lost and found (Editor’s report)

Our island has a mini-auditorium, little used except by Kevin who thinks he plays the harmonica and occasionally ‘jams’ there with anyone else who shares that opinion and has some sort of instrument they can bring along to join in.  But it’s quiet normally and I sometimes go in there to work.  Last week I found an A4 sheet on the floor with the typed text copied out below, starting with stage direction to ‘Pete’ (who I happen to know is actually Selenia Gove-Grimsdyke); clearly linked to a scheme got up by two of our island’s three political activists, namely putting on a TEDium talk-show next month to celebrate World Political Analysis Day.  My kind-hearted nature makes me feel they ought to be discouraged, by force if necessary.  The text, as mistyped:

[Pete, speaking from lecturn, stage left. under spotlight.   Spotlight: Govrenment reform]

            “To help out on missunderstanding, in our performance tonight this phrase does not mean improvments in the goverment of your country, which-ever that maybe…..”

[At this  point enter Votebot from trapdoor (Jeremy disguise as robot), stage centre: Votebot makes black power salute for soldarity then orates, voice like robot, very loud] : Just get real, you halfwits!  Think!  Why do govrenments exist!  They are there to propetuate the interest of those in power.  True!  keep thinking!!  Do govenments ever have elctions which would really change things? When their not sure about there 100%  control over the poppulation under them – See! they call it, ‘their people’ even though UN has ruled for abolition of slavery – then they pick and choose and invent ‘policies’ and ‘promises’ to see which combo gives them best guaranty they will stay on top. One example out of millions all over our planet: that old London crap called ‘we will build more houses for the people to live in’, comes out in its wheel-chair every election since they invented prefabs in the 1945.   How often you get a real change when they have an election? (About once a centery some goverment gets it wrong, like Najib Razak who right now wondering what hit him).  Goes without saying of course, I am speaking about real changes of government, not the sort of Blairite crap which promises you  a different group got in but in actual factessentials leaves a  priveleged click – a click which it turns out has just the same kind of gangs congratulating them selves and giving themselves bonusses for leading the companies where the poor bleading workers do all the work over the edge of the cliff but the bosses get off alright into theyre holiday homes in the Bahmmas, should be called the Obahmmas, and sometimes the actual same people, with their wives and kids and cronies they play tenis with and eat posh dinners with and old Sir Tom Cobbley and all, and they still run the show with their chums and squeeze all the juisce and money they can get out of the neolibberal set-up which gives all the perques to themselves and their mates, just like the fuedal system worked beautifully for your average baron while the villains slaved away in the mud trying to make enuogh mud for themselves and theyre familie to live on.

[Votebot now at mega volume, striding electronicaly across stage like a poncey self-obsesed CEO, beating cyberchest, and flashes of light from cyber skeleton (if Julien at the Palais électrique really can

(end of sheet)

Regular posting scheduled for 16 July

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MMQQ 8

WARNING! this posting may contain favourable references to Vladimir Putin. I have done my best to weed them out – just this morning I threw one out which described him as telling rather fewer barefaced  lies than some other well-known national leaders (named), and another which blatantly failed to maintain that he won re-election only by cunning manipulation of the Russian electoral system with the help of North Korean hackers, without which as every right-thinking westerner knows he would have got under 20% of the votes, with 60% going to Sobchak. (Memo to self: check Faux for those figures.)  But someone – Twitter? dark websters? George Soros? undercover Russian moles in Washington? – keeps putting the wretched messages up when the computer is catching its breath after a brisk ten minutes of typo production.  AND another one just in this minute as I write!  “Trump call to bring Putin into G8: only good thing he’s said all year.  Just because you have problems with someone is why you should talk to them.  Least bad move of Brits losing empire – talked peace with ex-terrorists.  Even Churchill said it: ‘jaw-jaw is better than war, war.”  Time out, I think, for my morning ten-minute blank screen thought-free sanity break (prescribed by Dr. Zee Hubris III of New Exeter University’s Institute of the Gymnastic Brain).

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DNA (1)

The shock news for neonazis world wide (though we don’t have any reliable figures on how many were hoping  that Hitler was still alive somewhere in South America  and preparing an allegedly well funded return) is that definitive evidence was provided last month through Agence France Presse of their former leader’s demise, in the shape of authenticated fragments of the late Herr Schickelgruber, including enough to indicate that his death was caused by a shot to the head.  Enough, also and interestingly, to allow in principle a DNA analysis.  Rumours have already begun to circulate, some of which may have unpredictable political ramifications.  For instance one magazine with a small circulation in Lower Saxony (until last month – it reports that it is now having to arrange massive extra print runs and hiring 24-hour security patrols) claimed that DNA analysis has already been carried out and showed that Hitler was of mixed ancestry with a major input from West  Africa.  Another source alleges that the material was actually made available to experts in a centre specialising in gene therapy some months ago, for undisclosed purposes.  There is as yet no reliable evidence for the claims that the institute where they worked has had to be closed down, with many of the staff needing hospital treatment following injuries received during attacks by swarms of aggressive white mice, some of which are said to have escaped and been observed in large organised groups as far away as 40 kilometres.  More credence is being placed on the reports that a well-respected university archaeological department has confirmed that it is applying to have access to an authenticated version of the DNA with a view to seeing if it will cast light on Europe’s first recorded major battle.  This battle, which involved many hundreds of casualties, took place somewhat over 5,000 years ago, and few inhabitants of the EU will be surprised to hear that it was fought in north-eastern Germany (at Tollense) but so far there is complete uncertainty as to which tribes were involved (if indeed it was not a domestic dispute which, as they so often do, spiralled out of control.)  A different and less problematic development, obeying modern norms of acceptable practice, has been a burst of energetic attempts to monetise the discovery.  A number of groups are already busy selling print-outs of Hitler’s DNA (popular with students as wall charts apparently); such a project could the more easily bring profit since there is no obvious reason why the representation on the charts should be genuine, and little risk of breach of copyright even if it is.

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DNA (2)

Amazing news this past week: the claim of success in a project that could have short-circuited the threat of yet another war in the Balkans.  As everybody knows, the region which under Yugoslavia was called Macedonia, is next to a part of northern Greece which under Greece (of course) is called Macedonia.  The members of homo sapiens (sic) who live in either place have for 27 years maintained a situation of admirably determined hostility.  The EU handed the northern Macedonia the short straw at the start by refusing to agree to that nation joining the EU or Nato unless it stopped calling itself Macedonia, despite the fact it was a separate nation calling itself Macedonia, while the Greek Macedonia was only a province, and despite the fact that EU and Nato, and the UN, were actually eager to enfold Macedonia (the independent one) in their warm and wholly altruistic embraces.  With resolute  patriotic indignation Macedonia refused to stop calling itself Macedonia in the decades which followed, and scorned weaselly proposals from unprincipled bodies, like the UN, to ask the Macedonians (in Greece) to call the Macedonians (in Macedonia) ‘Macedonians of the North’ or something of the sort – up until 12th of this month when the Balkans were thunderstruck to hear that agreement had been reached to let the Macedonians use the name ‘Northern Macedonia’, and thus induce regional instability by becoming eligible to join the EU, Nato, conferences to deplore global warming, and all manner of freeby-generating organisations.  However, normality returned within 24 hours.  Senior politicians in Macedonia (in Greece) launched heavy attacks on the proposal, and at the same time the president of Macedonia (the other one) denounced the idea as something he could never agree to.  The threat of unsettling stability has been removed.  Some heard the EU breathe a sigh of relief.

            The curious fact, though, is that the issue might have been settled years ago, if sensible arrangements had been made for mass testing of the DNA of the two populations.  According to eminent historians the two regions became depopulated during the incessant wars and Völkerwanderungen after Justinian’s time and were re-settled mainly by Avars, Bulgars, Serbs and other Slavic peoples, so that none of the present populations (Greeks included, though you had better not mention that to them) can fairly claim any real link to the Macedonians of Alexander the Great, or to his legacy, and therefore they had no proper basis for hostility in the matter.  Whether this would have resulted in a delightful period of peace and tranquillity over the past 27 years is of course another question.

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Difficile est satiram scribere

The British National Health Service is in the news again, for the usual reason.  On reasonable and independent estimates it has in recent years faced hugely increasing gaps between expenses and funding in nearly all sectors (except revenue collection from those, such as doctors and patients, who need to park in hospital car parks, and in nurses’ pay which in real terms has been dropping disgracefully, a circumstance possibly connected with the increasing shortages of nursing staff, and the sharp decline in applications from overseas to join the NHS).  One would have imagined that British governments might have made efforts to maintain standards of care for the population, if only to get more work out of them, but one might be mistaken.  And this is not an unavoidable accident that has crept up on UK governments.  The following is, verbatim, from one of Berthold’s despatches in 2015: it was at the time intended satirically.  But can you call something satire when it matches observable data so closely?    …. ‘This legislation is to be followed up by a wide raft of measures to be introduced by the Ministry of Health.  The overall aim will be to progressively downgrade both the range of services provided by the National Health Service, and the treatments available within each of those.  In addition there will be a number of new charges for medical and related care, and increases in the levels of existing fees.  At the same time there are to be drastic cuts in the numbers of staff employed in all areas.  The overall strategy is to promote deterioration in the National Health Service so as to stimulate members of the public to take better care of their own health, and to learn to pay proper and full attention to the avoidance of accidents at work and in the home.  The government is confident that this imaginative and unconventional approach to reform when combined with further exploration of the possibilities offered by co-operation with private investment will produce immensely more satisfying results.’

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Personal view The dead and those with life-changing injuries from Grenfell should be remembered with career-changing penalties for those responsible. (Yes ‘responsible’ is as sharply defined as a cumulus cloud; but if you check you will see the cloud really is there.)    (J.N.N. Manchester)

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Personal view  T. May comes closer than any other well-known politician in the past century to fitting the description which the alcoholically inspired Aneurin Bevan fastened on Stafford Cripps back in the 1940s, of being ‘a desiccated calculating machine’ (a term used in the middle ages for ‘computer’).  (And yes they had austerity in those days too, though you ought to bear in mind they had had a world war; they weren’t doing austerity just to set society up in a pattern which members of the governing class felt comfortable with.) (D.C.McNaught, Lisbon)

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Editor’s note: I am getting off-piste, having to do so much of this stuff single-handed, with only occasional notes from Berthold and even rarer contributions from the Baron Philipp, and Monty in London (who is showing a kindly streak in his personality which I had never spotted before, working all hours trying to force-feed some basics about rational thought and constitutional proprieties into the May government.  I hope he fails because if they proceed along the same path, a Brexit calamity of historic proportions is going to  lead to the extinction of a party which once in the long ago was a model of what guided democracy in a country with traditions of fair play could achieve in its better moments, but which has now become a contemptible bandwagon, crammed with all manner of unsavoury characters jostling in a struggle to peel off all the carriage’s remaining gold leaf to stuff it in their already well-stuffed pockets, or to tear out any parts of the bodywork they can lever off with a view to profitable private sale, hurling insults and obvious untruths at all and sundry as they pass.

 

Examination Paper CID4U

Next regular posting scheduled for 16th  August

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES DECONSTRUCTED     CID4U

This examination is scheduled to last ten (10) minutes

Read each question carefully before answering and then write your answer on both sides of the paper provided.  Cheating is permitted but must be cleared with the supervising examiner in advance 

1. Is the increased proportion of testosterone allegedly discovered in the metabolic system of western men by comparison with forty years ago the result of changes in diet, changes in the visual environment on screen and off, of doping to accompany ‘sporting’ activity, or of input self-administered by males afflicted by self-doubt after listening to preposterous lies told by male work colleagues?

2. Cui bono?  This was the favourite question of Cicero (ancient Rome’s answer, 2,000 years in advance, to Jeremy Corbyn, except that he wrote much better Latin).  Strangely this phrase is completely ambiguous.  One of its meanings is “What’s the point?” but the other one, which Cicero claimed was what he meant when he ued it is considered more respectable, and quotable, and is equivalent to “Who got the benefit from it?” when discussing mysterious unpleasant events such as political murders where there was no eye witness (or no one with any intention of coming forward as such).  Caruana Galizia’s explosive exit in Malta is only one of several prominent cases in recent times where this question might be put to work.

3. Question for Tony Blair (to receive if you ever find him at a public meeting where he is bold enough to take questions): ‘On your travels do you ever get the chance to visit the families of British soldiers killed in Iraq?’

4. If we conclude that quantum mechanics shows that assertions which are fiercely counter-intuitive (e.g. cats being simultaneously both alive and dead) are correct, might we not reasonably conclude that there is a high level of fallibility about the mental processes by which human beings reach conclusions ?

[p.s. surely any Ph.D student in physics could cope with that premiss by just assuming an extra dimension or two]

5. Given (a) the great predominance (or should that be ‘predomination’) of the male gender in those holding positions from which appointments to lucrative, fashionable, or prestigious jobs are made (e.g. M.P., broadcasting bigwig, CEO, theatrical panjandrum, or director of think tank) and (b) the surge of agreement across ‘developed’ nations that gender inequality should be ‘tackled’, there is likely to be (a) a substantial increase in the number of new female appointments to lucrative etc jobs, and (b) a high chance that those appointments will be of attractive young women.  Is this likely to result in increasing the disadvantage of older, less attractive women who may well need the job more?  (Answer: ‘Yes’)

6. How long does a family have to live in a country before they cease to be immigrants?  Twenty years?  Fifty years?  A hundred and fifty years?  And does the length of time depend on any factors other than their length of residence, such as complexion or how much money they have?  (Answer: ‘YES, and YES!’)

7. It is claimed that an important aspect of human intelligence is the ability to learn things from just two or three encounters.  Are there any public-spirited psychologists or sociologists researching into ways to develop a human ability to dis-learn, from ideally just six or seven, or anyway as few encounters as possible (with particular reference to the tendency to invade foreign countries, especially but not exclusively in the Middle East?   (Oh, and Afghanistan.)  And if not, why not?

8. Can you place the following government responses in the standard chronological order of appearance after a disaster inescapably and obviously caused largely by government incompetence or dishonesty or both combined?

(1) Blaming the victims   (2) Congratulating the survivors on their resilience   (3) Promising that the government will take all necessary measures to ensure that such a disaster never happens again  (4) Announcing the launch of an enquiry (to report back ‘early next year’)   (5) Assuring that their thoughts and hearts and profound sympathy go out to those affected and their families (6) Showing how it resulted directly from the policies of the previous government  (7) Guaranteeing that survivors will receive prompt and adequate compensation, where appropriate (on presentation to the committee to be set up in Newcastle upon Tyne to review claims of the evidence of harm or loss, provided that they submit such evidence within six weeks, and can attach satisfactory proof confirmed by a solicitor or barrister that they were at the relevant time properly registered inhabitants of the locality so sadly stricken).

9. How long will it be after the first robot newsreader delivers her initial news presentation (because she will certainly be female) on a public news channel, before some inadequate gets himself 15 minutes of attention in the twittersphere by announcing that he has tweeted ‘her’ a proposal of marriage?

10. Simon (the one who said the fuss over colour of UK passports should be solved now that the UK is supposed to be a diverse society, whatever that means, by making them every colour of the rainbow plus brown, black and white) asks why windmills which have their blades vertically aligned only have them on one side of the structure holding them up.  If he’s right about that, why is it?  Wouldn’t you get twice the power if there were blades on each side?

11. You wouldn’t ask barefoot passers-by for advice on how to make shoes.  Then why expect government to pay any attention to an oppressed underclass (variously known as ‘the poor’, ‘Labour voters outside London’, ‘the oiks’, or ‘the bottom 30%) on how to run the country?  (Sorry Kropotkin!)

12. Which tends to come first, domination over other nations and identifiable minorities, or callous barbarity?

 

 

 

 

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.)

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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?)

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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.

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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’

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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.)

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(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)

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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)

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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.’

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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’

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‘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.

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(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.

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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?!

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MMQQ5

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

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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.)

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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

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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..

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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‘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.)

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(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.

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(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?

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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

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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.]

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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.

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

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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.

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