Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant


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


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

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


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

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

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


Our political consultant explains (No. 311)

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


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


Can Kim Trump Mueller?

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


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

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

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


Greetings to all for the 17th



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.



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

Our financial adviser reports

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

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


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


Bad business

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


‘The bubble reputation’

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


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

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

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

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

(v)  Statecraft                                           (vi)  Obscenity

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


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

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

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


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


Advances in technology (noted by the Editor)

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

      Try searching for what you want

      This page does not exist


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For next posting see note at end

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

Dear Editor

Road building program =                      more cars

Urban regeneration  =                           more cars

Upgrading infrastructure =                   more cars

Increasing prosperity =                         more cars

Technical progress =                             more cars

Economic investment =                        more cars

Public/private partnership for transport =  more cars

Speculation by hedge funds =              more cars

Yours in dismay



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


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


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


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

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


Traffic of effluence

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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



Renaming issue deferred to 31-10-2017


I believe I belong to a minority group.  I found a message from Microsoft on my computer saying my version of Windows was not genuine so I sat in front of my computer, debit card ready to buy a genuine  version.  I’m told this is not altogether usual in the country where I live..  After 30+ minutes, I gave up, unable to find comprehensible instructions on how to do it..  This scenario has since been repeated three times except the time wasted was longer.  The reasons seem related to the difficulties of Rosa (whose letter was mentioned in the posting submitted 30th September), so I’ll start by quoting her account of one bad session.  Rosa is not stupid.  (She got a first, in psychology, in the days when a first was a first.)  But for twenty years she had hardly even seen a computer, helping her husband run a mountain farm in Wales.  A year ago the marriage ended.  On getting divorced she moved to remotest Australia (on a fifteen-month contract to study ‘Coriolis effects in sand dune formation’).  Friends assured her that thanks to modern computer communication and the social media she’d still be close to her social circle and in regular contact through the computer which she was allocated for her reports on latest developments in sand dunes.  Those friends were wrong.  Rosa now is close to a serious nervous breakdown.  After an interview which ‘went wrong’ she was invited to check in to a facility in Ceduna.  Her biggest problem is not the isolation, nor the temperatures, nor the behaviour of the neighbours, nor even alarming beasts in the natural environment. She is ‘on the edge’ because of computerese. Her own  description of one recent episode, the only time, she says, she managed to make herself take notes after a battle with the electronic alien:

I turned the ****** thing on and straight away this message came up.  It said ‘Email hack: Hyperlink your selected text  by pressing [Ctrl+K] then posting a link’.  So someone’s been hacking my e-mail (?).  But has that left a virus in the bloody machine?  This Hyperlink is a way to wipe out that virus? If it’s not for that, what is it?  But that doesn’t tell me what selected text I have to do something to (nor how to do it either).  Anyway that’s crap because I haven’t even got any text to be selected, because I haven’t even been able to get started yet.  Or is this how to get started?  Or is it just an option?  If it is and I try it what happens?  If I don’t do anything, will it just start in normal mode, and how long would I have to wait.  Anyway whats the difference between a hyperlink and an ordinary link?  I guess it must be a way of joining two – whats?  And what sort of join?  Suppose I find a way to ‘hyperlink’ something and do it and don’t like the result can I change it?  Will I be prosecuted if something I do interferes with somebody else’s files?  Also, how do you post a link (if you have worked out what that is); is ordinary post alright or does it have to be e-mail (or does it have to not be e-mail?  Also who would you post it to?  No clue.  Just guessing, I think a link must be an address like you put in that bar at the top but am I supposed to find it, or invent it?  If ‘find it’, where?  (And in that case how can I post it?)  Or do I have to invent it?  ******** ******

I don’t claim to have had so much trouble, but have had plenty of chances to make notes of my own on the war between human and computer over the years.  (E.g. 1-13 below.)  I’ve been writing (under various names) and editing books since 1990, always using computers (and standard English, and by the way my career included three years leading a major semantics course in one of the world’s leading universities).  Over the years I have watched, amazed, the inability of the average computer, despite all its vaunted computational intelligence, to reach halfway decent understandability in natural English, the language most widely attempted around the world.  This is no clash between two different languages.  Computerese is not a language, but what is properly called a jargon, based on existing language but with a high proportion of words for items or processes or relations belonging to a field of special activities, which express ideas or items which didn’t exist before those special activities started.  Sharing the new words makes their users feel part of a special group superior to people who don’t know them.(a little like Russian aristocrats speaking French before 1917) (and cf Linux).  All this is more or less normally human.  However, ‘computer stuff’ has got so big so fast affecting so many aspects of normal life, that many people want, and some need, to know how to play with these meanings (and perhaps do profitable business with them).  This is where things get awkward.  There are various reasons why potential customers may not understand the new items.  (1) They may be too stupid to understand the processes or items they refer to.  (Explanation popular with some geeks.)  (2) Because the field has got so big so fast specialists on different sites may use quite different words for essentially the same thing.  Or (obviously less often) the converse. Those two factors apply whether you are borrowing or inventing new terms.  But don’t leave it to the users to guess.  Don’t forget the default assumption of most readers will be that the word means what it looks like in ordinary English.  E.g. I’m wondering if Microsoft thinks ‘resolve’ means ‘pay’.  This is not its normal use in normal English.  (3) Much that appears on screen has to be made as short as possible.  Don’t overdo it.

Suggestions to offer your computer programmer with TLC: whether borrowing from existing language or inventing, don’t try too hard to sound impressive, or cutesy; try not to borrow from a local slang or dialect (e.g. econospeak) which may be unknown to 80% of your potential customers. (Remember the nation with the largest number of fluent English speakers is India with 400 million and still counting.)  Don’t abbreviate beyond intelligibility (an issue which interacts hugely with the others)Try to stay in touch with real language well written.  (Jane Austen would actually be more use than certain exhibitionist smart-arse modern novelists.)

            None of all this matters too much if those in difficulty can get help, which can all too seldom be done through computer help files.  But it’s often quite easy if you can add human help.  (I’ve attended eight computer courses since 1990; every time the only useful aspect was that I was able to put specific questions to experts face-to-face and get comprehensible answers.)  To be fair to computers which have recently left me baffled, my own case is unusual.  I moved some years ago to a city in a country with a good supply of people prepared to do computer business, a smaller proportion who can do so with competence, and a great shortage of people able to explain clearly what they are doing in language that I can understand.)

1]  Back in the early days it started with quite simple attempts by Computers and their  programmes to unhorse greenhorn computer users.  E.g. Computer: ‘Disable BIOS memory’.  Self: ‘Why? What is it? How can it be disabled? What happens if it doesn’t get disabled?’  Etc.  Later things got more serious.


2]  Computer: ‘an event was unable to involve any of the subscribers’ (re attempt to download incoming file.).  Self: ‘What was that ‘event’?  Why wasn’t I invited, or if I was why didn’t I receive the invitation?  Is my computer going to do anything about it?   ‘Why should I care if those subscribers stayed stumm?  Who are they anyway?  How much do they pay and what do they get in return?  Is it legal?


3]  There seem to be many recondite possibilities after clicking a ‘Contact us’ lozenge on the site of a popular operating system.  Finding yourself in an unproductive repeating loop is one, and encountering what seems surreal irrelevance is another.  Two examples of the latter (and I am not making these up):

     A} ‘The preceding expression [sic, no expression visible on screen] assigns ranks 1 through 4 to four different titles, and assigns rank 5 to all others.  When you perform the sort [what sort?], assume that the Employees table [?] refers to more than 50 different’

            Message apparently cut short there

     B}  ‘Please do not read this sentence.  Please ignore the previous sentence’  [sic as given here]


4]  Computer: ‘Do you want to save this file?’ Self clicks to say ‘yes’.  Result: steady black information-free screen, no indication as to what, if anything, to do next.  Perhaps part of an early attempt at a zen operating system?


5]  Incoming message after expected progression fails: ‘Audit your server permissions’

            Reaction level (1) Why?

            Reaction level (2) How?  and Who/What?  I.e. Who is my server?  How do I find her, him or it?  And, if I can find them, would those be his, her, or its permissions to my computer to do things, or for persons or programmes unknown to do things to my computer?  What do I do if it, she or he refuses to play ball and negotiate about the distribution of permissions?  Residual worry, since ‘Audit’ seems unlikely to mean ‘audit’ in any sense hitherto known to the English language (we are after all dealing with computer ‘science’ – some might say ‘the secret code system of a private dialect only distantly related to English’) the same probably goes for ‘permissions’.  What might that mean?  Payment of subscription?   Passwords for locked files?  Anti-virus security measures?


6]  After printing a good deal of material, and having changed neither the equipment nor the configuration , Self is informed by the computer that it had no driver for the printer being used.  Computer reported Windows online as declaring that it could not find a compatible driver.  On the website of the printer’s manufacturer Self found the driver needed.   Then tried to return to the document to be printed.  Programme now slammed in Self’s face, giving message ‘locked for use by another user’  (Other user non-existent.) Yet Self somehow succeeded in returning to document, tried to print it.  Failure. Printer still marked ‘no driver’.


7]  Self asks Computer to uninstall a programme; Computer silently declines; instead updates a different programme


8]  Computer: ‘the procedure entry point GetLogicalProcessorInformation could not be located in the dynamic link library’.  Self, thinking:  What is a link library?  What makes it dynamic (if it really is)?  What is a procedure entry point (maybe just an entry point?)  If Computer cannot get in that way why doesn’t  it try a different entry point?  (To Computer) Why were you trying to go there anyway?  (Suspicion that something here is not as dynamic as it’s cracked up to be.)


9]  Message from anti-virus site:  ‘Choose the program you want to open this file’ {14 to choose from;  Self has no idea which of them might work, which should be avoided like the plague, and what in any case might happen next.  No instructions or help offered.}  Perhaps by chance the choice succeeds, produces message ‘Instructions on how to proceed by e-mail.’  E-mail from the site does indeed arrive but consists solely of two (why?) copies of the last receipt for money paid to the company.


10]  On trying to open a dowload, presented with choice between ‘Open Inside’ and ‘ Open Outside’  No indication of whether one choice is ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong’.  No indication  of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ relative to what.  Nor of benefits or penalties imposed by Computer depending on choice made.


11]  Computer informs Self it is to undertake programme compatibility procedure.  This is only slightly irritating – if  a conductor says he must check everyone’s ticket before the train sets off for  the next station you may sigh but accept..  (But Self got no reason why it might be needed.)  Trouble sets in at next step, with arrival of message ‘The program requires additional permissions’.  To do what?  From whom?  How does one get permissions?


12]  From Microsoft: ‘Move this window onto the display you want to calibrate’  Easy to understand –  if you already know what it means.  This tends to keep expertise satisfactorily in-house.  (Presumably it spreads from to person by direct demonstration of what is actually done, these words being mere verbal accompaniment,.like background music in a film.  But if you don’t happen to have a competent and comprehensible demonstrator within hailing distance it’s as meaningful as  e.g. ‘Trace the foreside onto the pattern by disconnecting  the interstices.’


13]  Presumably this bit got put in as light relief in the battle against the ‘outsiders’ still resisting on the human side of the human/computer war.  Message on screen: ‘cannot open this document’.  Waited uncertain what to do next for about 40 seconds.  Then, (probably giggling to itself ‘Only joking’) it opened spontaneously with no additional move or input.


Thirteen seems about the right number of examples to offer in this sort of context.  But on account of its elegant artistry let’s throw in this finely crafted sequence:

(0) ‘Computer is not secure – you have a problem’

(1) ‘To fix the problem you should update now’

(2) Self clicks to update

(3) Computer:‘No updates possible’  (And a sound like stifled mocking laughter)


What is real education worth?

Next regular posting for 31-10-2017; but nb supplementary post 3-10-2017


Editorial notes: (1) Urgent need of an intern continues.  (See ad in previous posting).  May have to warn Lady W and Chinese friends of risk of journal suspending publication.  Cannot expect a man of my seniority to do all my own office business.  (2) In the short term, glad to welcome another piece from tried-and-trusted Berthold, as well as an unexpected gift (unfortunately useless so far) from Simon’s mother, returned from trip to Belgium.  She had bought a device, advertised as a ‘boorebot’ said to automatically produce ‘Thoughts of the Day’ by the yard (or in her case by the metre).  The package explicitly claimed a link to our hugely respected patroness Lady W who was of course the founder of Old Boore’s Almanac© (and is still a sea-swimmer in her nineties) though I have yet to learn if they had been authorised to do so.  In the instructions it said all you have to do is set it up as if you want it to produce ‘tweets’.  I did that with the help of Kevin from the police station (who moonlights as a computer repair man), and it’s obvious to me something is not working as it should even if Kevin swears what it extrudes could be taken as perfectly normal ‘tweets’.  As a possible guide to anyone contemplating purchase of such engines, here are five ‘Thoughts’ which I got from a recent run, once I’d switched it from French to English.  To me they’re not unpleasant  enough to be tweets though they do suggest mental derangement (attempted poetry?).  But actually I’m not sure they’re any worse than some of the stuff in the mainstream press (which admittedly sets the bar about ankle-high)

In Arcady where lies the autumn crocodile

Celestial infancies dream indefatigable tangents

Friends of the semicolon unite

Tyre treads smirk at Fiona’s thimble

Whence the rosy footprints on my cake?

The marvels coming at us from the cutting edge of high tech progress are indeed things of wonder.  GPS implants in your very own body, free!  Free government tracking services ‘in case you get lost’ (but legal action or well placed friends may be necessary to get access to the data yourself).  In the UK, free portrait of you in a natural setting, courtesy of the police service.  Refrigerators which order fresh supplies of food and drink whether you want them or not.  Driverless cars which can convey you without effort to a place of their choice.  True, most stuff like that could be achieved by any housemaid with a couple of weeks of the right training after flying in from eastern Europe.)  But the results of tech wizardry don’t stop there – e.g. free information on 38 new video games similar to the one you bought your least favourite nephew three weeks ago.  Current contact details and helpful reminders of your passport data distributed to all your friends and others with need to know, free of charge, by a whole variety of organisations working with the internet. Privacy protocols so efficiently enforced they can lock you out of your own account.  As for the things you can find out by searching on the net, the mind boggles, wondering (a) who else might be finding them (b) whether anyone else knows that you are finding them, and (c) whether the programme to delete your search history really works.  

 These musings were prompted partly by Berthold’s piece (below) but mainly by a tear-stained letter received the day before through the cleft-stick post from one of our occasional correspondents, Rosa Tweedell fn.  That letter together with various other notes gathered over the years have been put together into a one-off supplementary posting on computerspeak, to appear 3-10-2017, which also gives a proposal for naming this journal.


 fn currently living at 3, The Old Paddock, Toraha Creek (population 3 adults 5 children) Kevin told me when I happened to mention our need of an intern.  Aged  49, divorced, two children, currently employed on temporary contract, no right to remain in Australia after 31-12-2018, passport number PQZ 67068N992, Health Security number W428559/O/67, member of Trotskyite group 1987-89, no other criminal record.  Facsimile of her signature held at QIRS3 Canberra.


Berthold Featherstone-Haugh Cheems writes:

Yet another ‘curriculum event’ at the Institute last Thursday to Sunday.  Just another, I suppose, in the ‘outreach’ category; that is, institutions reaching out to see if they can touch the wallets of the gullible masses who believe that going into a building with a high ceiling and uniformed porters, then listening to a man with horn-rimmed glasses and glossolalia who is introduced as a ‘leading expert on’ (almost anything), and finally buying a copy of his book on the way out will add a few microns to their intellectual stature.  I went up the outside fire escape to avoid any risk of being swept into the auditorium by the educational tide, but as I struggled past the lifts I heard this closely argued exchange, verbatim: “Every kid should learn how computers work.”  “Yeah, every kid should learn how computers work”.

  Why, for goodness’ sake?  The answer to the question, cut back to the bare essence, is invariably along the lines of “Well, there’s a lot of computer stuff about”  (though the answer is almost always expressed at much greater length, and almost never with as much naked clarity as that.).  This is an even feebler piece of reasoning, if we can call it reasoning, than post hoc ergo propter hoc.  Its disastrous prevalence in modern life is such that it needs a name.  (How about Proof by social media?)  The distortions of society in which it plays a part – electoral democracy is but one – are so serious it is a wonder to see it considered to have any relevance to school curricula: ‘There’s a lot of ‘X’ about’ so we should thrust courses about ‘X’ into anyone who can be ordered or tricked into receiving them’?  Bunkum.  Would you like to try it out with other subjects?  ‘There’s a lot of pornography about’.  If heads of school take that approach how are they going to deal with the mobs of parents howling for morality (however incongruously in many cases) at the gates.  (Anyway as my mother used to tell me, you don’t need courses on pornography if your imagination is in good working order, and if it isn’t, merely puttering along like an electric bicycle, why let anyone stir up trouble for you?)  ‘There’s a lot of weather about’.  Are we going to have courses on meteorology for Third Year students?  “Aha!” the professional objector will say, “That’s different.  There’s nothing much we could do about the weather even if every schoolchild learned all about it, so there’s no point having the courses.”  Actually I think one of the premises may have collapsed there (foundations washed away by a storm surge perhaps).  The word coming out of good class meteorology centres round the world is that we have been doing a great deal to modify the weather over the past 40 years, and the sooner victims of the recent hurricanes get some top-class American lawyers writing letters to various governments demanding compensation in trillions, the better for a great many of the unconsidered ‘little people’.  But I don’t intend to be dogmatic about this.  In some subject areas the right course of the right length presented in the right way could do some good, and that could include courses about girls – there are after all a lot of girls about – presented in such boys-only schools as still blot the educational landscape.  What is obvious to all except those who put on mental blinkers with their underpants in the morning is that the overlap between what is currently taught intentionally in schools and what most students want to learn may be small but it is still far larger than the overlap between either of those great areas of human confusion and the sort of learning which for all but 2% or 3% of them will actually be useful to themselves or society at large if they make it through to adult life (maybe even to paid employment).  This more or less completely rules out of the curriculum courses about how computers work, just as it rules out courses on how cars and their engines work.  What a curriculum could reasonably offer in those fields would be courses on how you can, cannot and should or should not use those devices if or when they do work.  (To lob up an easy one, which a few schools might actually keep out of their wicket: how many students are challenged to get a car out of deep mud on a moor in a rainstorm?)  But these subjects will of course only take a small fraction of the time allowed to schooling.  Specialists will learn their special skills in the best possible place, on the job.  For all the rest, let there be a realistic reappraisal discarding government-sponsored idealism, and genuinely helping them deal with the lives they may face in years to come.  I borrow, with full permission and minor adaptations, the suggestions of an excellent friend of mine fn:  ‘What is needed is a curriculum which will see you armed for situations in life which could cause real physical, psychological, or financial harm, not mere cut fingers or e-mails lacking musical animation or gender-based embarrassment.  School should teach what to do faced with an aggressive drunk or a resistant tax inspector, how to recognise a plain clothes policeman, what records to keep and what records to burn, judging the best reaction when your car is hijacked, how to make one’s excuses and leave (if caught in that kind of situation), recognition of rabies in dogs, cats, bats and travelling salesmen, how to identify oneself as harmless to soldiers of a foreign army temporarily occupying your country to restore democracy, and how to retain one’s dignity, and legal advantage, on finding one’s  spouse in bed with a stranger.’


fn  (Les Cousins, writing in 2008)


Gone but not forgotten

A former leader on the European political scene, Muammar Qadhafi, speaking in Rome on migration 30th August 2010  “We do not know what the reaction of white christian Europeans will be, faced with this flood of hungry, uneducated Africans.”  Well we have a much clearer idea now.


Note from Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems I see I used the word ‘hurricane’ in my little article.  I should like to point out to those whose ‘modern’ schooling has left them trying to work out pronunciations from the spelling that the proper pronunciation of this word is ‘hurrikun’, not ‘hurri-cane’.  And by the way my name – please note – is properly pronounced ‘Fanshaw-Cheems’.


Challenge of the week. Which country was recently described by a delegate at the UN General Assembly as the most heavily armed kindergarten on the planet?


A small far away country of which they know little?  A recent UN report (and they’re supposed to be the ones with high moral standards) said that the Saudi bombing campaign to restore democracty in Yemen was having little effect on the ground; it also included the estimate that 10,000 civilians had been killed.


North Korea vs Donald Trump  It would be wiser not to place bets on the imminent demise of either leader in this argument.  See Berthold’s piece on the Express Exit tactic, the ‘XX play’, posted 8-5-2016


Green – the colour of unripe governments

  1. Intern wanted               
  2. Irish border        
  3. The Guradian
  4. Political boomerangs
  5. Spermatozoa fairly straight

       Next posting scheduled for 1-10-2017

Wanted as soon as possible: new intern for this site.  Residence on the island is not necessary, and no suitable accommodation is available (and in case some might think they could rough it in picturesque squalor the dog basket was thrown out long ago).  The post is unpaid.  It follows that no office duties are asked for.  We want someone capable of independent thought and imagination, but also able to write good English (or French) and to keep reasonable control on schedules and deadlines.  Ability to translate Microsoft jargon into comprehensible English would be a prime asset.  This is a chance to put things out with your own byline.  Any age, any colour, any gender, any ethnic group.  Apply in the usual way (or direct).  Berthold F-C at the University will probably be willing to give some unbiassed advice.


From our senior contributor Montgomery Skew

Let us give credit to the soaring imagination of the May government which has effortlessly tossed a solution to the Irish border problem into the lap of the open-mouthed EU negotiators.  Government representatives are predicting, with gritted teeth (behind a fake smile of confidence), that following Britain’s triumphal exit from the fetters of union with Europe, trade and traffic between Northern Ireland and the Republic will be able to  proceed as smoothly as before and ever more profitably.  This on the basis of masterful decisions made to take advantage of possibilities hitherto undreamt of in the efficient organisation of commerce.  Major businesses concerned with trade across the reinvigorated yet somehow frictionless frontier will register all the vehicles they will use, and pre-pay all tariffs and other charges required by British and European rules but will do so online through deductions from designated accounts.  They will inform the authorities in advance of their intention to make a shipment on each occasion, giving details of its date and contents, and thus do away with delays for inspection at the frontier, while the payment will already have been fully dealt with before the cargo reaches its destination (provided there is no computer glitch or interruption to the internet service).  Automatic number-plate recognition technology will have securely confirmed passage of the vehicle (provided there has been no unplanned problem with the transit and no jiggery-pokery with switching of plates).  Smaller local firms and their drivers will also have to be registered but will be allowed to cross without online notification and without deduction of any charges whatever.  (The unlikely event of an unauthorised driver using a locally registered vehicle to carry goods of his own choice across the ‘invisible’ frontier is to be dealt with by using facial recognition technology; drivers of all local vehicles will wind down their windows and show their faces to a camera at a pre-arranged point as they drive past.)  Officials conceded that an even more unlikely event, of an authorised driver carrying illegal substances or unauthorised persons such as refugees or escaping convicts over the frontier might in principle need to be considered at some future point, but believe that such incidents would be very rare.  They remain confident that with new advances in heat-seeking technology and other promising scientific developments this eventuality could be dealt with without difficulty, and they assure those interested that as a whole this ‘high tech’ plan for a frictionless border will satisfactorily meet all conceivable regulatory requirements (and crossing the border by any other means, such as walking across the fields by night or swimming a few miles through coastal waters towing a laden surfboard, would be made a criminal offence).  Thus virtually at a stroke the British government has discovered the way to put an end to the age-old, worldwide crime of smuggling.  London is doubtless already preparing a package demonstrating the UK’s superior know-how when it comes to sociopolitical governance, to be made available on very reasonable terms to governments around the world, possibly as part of a two-part offering also setting out the ‘Hinkley Model’, a compilation of advice on how to develop safe, cheap and non-polluting nuclear power.


The Editor writes: In one of the more remote regions on my Mediterranean holiday I was reduced to reading old copies of the Guardian.  Always sad when a onetime sprightly defender of justice and fair play enters on the irreversible decline, All the effort they evidently put in on getting rid of the typos and the overbalancing ultra-left tirades seems to have been effort subtracted from the business of clearly presenting orderly thought to readers, in proper English (along with maintaining a sharp understanding of the world as seen outside the one-way glass bubble of London politics).  Herewith a short representative paragraph from August.  I make no criticism of DiNicolantonio or MacGregor, only of the journalistic presentation.  It should not be necessary to have to go to original sources for what a newspaper is purporting to expound.

DiNicolantonio also claims that we lose too much salt 1 when we exercise or sweat in heatwaves.  MacGregor says that is not so 2.  “There was a very good experiment 3 with the SAS, parachuted into a desert 4 which found they needed quite a low 5 salt intake.  If you have a higher 6 salt intake it is more dangerous.  They had to carry more water with them because of thirst. 7” he said.

 [1] ‘too much’ for what?

[2] ‘Not so’.  I.e. salt is lost but no threat to life?  Or no loss of efficiency?  Short-term or long-term?

[3]  ‘Very good’ I.e ‘very efficiently conducted’?  Or ‘strongly favourable to the lower-salt case’?

[4]  ‘A desert’.  Which one, under what meteorological conditions, to undertake what activity?  Very variable factors with enormous influence on the results to be expected.

[5]  ‘Quite a low’.  By comparison with what might be expected in those conditions? (See footnotes 2 and 4 combined)

[6]  ‘More dangerous’ than what?  And by the standard of normal human use?  Or referring to SAS in the unidentified desert?

[7]  Relation to previous statement obscure.  Extra water to deal with thirst unconnected with salt loss?  But in that case how does this thirst factor interact with the need for salt intake?


Monty has also kindly passed us a piece from another inhabitant of Whitehall (an EU citizen) who wishes to remain anonymous

Even though I have no political commentator’s licence valid for the UK   and no moral or passport-certified right to be personally concerned (for which I give fervent thanks), the UK is a constantly bubbling source (like that mud volcano in Indonesia) of unconscious political comedy, richly endowed with thinktank support teams able to believe almost any political nonsense so long as it is their political nonsense, while elbowing contradictory facts aside.  If all the energy put into GDP (Gross Domestic Pontification) could somehow be converted into electricity the UK’s future could be bright.  But perhaps some of them are feeling the strain; as there has been a noticeable increase in the proportion of labour-saving boomerang policies recently.  Boomerang policies and promises are simply pulled out of storage and thrown at the populace when there is no other immediately obvious issue that can be worked up into a scandal or crisis.  Unlike other political projectiles, for instance replies to parliamentary questions, they normally spend an appreciable time spinning around in the public arena, attracting attention and perhaps – if launched by a skilled performer – inflicting some damage on a chosen target, before returning and being locked securely away, ready for use at the next suitable opportunity.  Of course some of them crash and are trampled under foot never to return but there are two other outcomes: first, promises which come back unbroken and can cause significant injury to the career of clumsy politicians not agile enough to catch them in time. or at least to get out of the way.  But, occasionally, a truly talented operator may be able to seize one, quickly wipe off the metaphorical blood and bird feathers and launch it in a fresh direction of his or her choosing to perform impressive aerobatics over the (possibly) enthralled crowds watching.  Naturally a certain amount depends on the material and construction of the policy itself, and most Departments have teams constantly engaged in experiments to see what designs and what ballistic techniques might produce the most spectacular results.  One fine example of a boomerang policy is the proposal to cut net immigration to Britain.  This was originally launched by Tories though from time to time other hands have seized it in attempts to provide their own aerial entertainment.  But of course the most famous example is the promise of ‘a major house-building programme to build new affordable homes in sufficient numbers’ which has been spinning over the heads of the electorate in one manoeuvre or another at almost every election season since far back in the previous century.


   obtainable from the British Library, 96 Euston Road; submit a sample of at least twenty thousand words of recent work together with the fee of £540 and a full waiver of relevant copyright


Spermatozoa, fairly straight

Several reports from different parts of the world have all noted massive reductions over the past 40 years in human production of healthy sperm with astonishingly large declines of up to 60% or even more.  The situation as earlier reported varied geographically, with very big reductions in North America, Europe, and Australia, but not in Asia, Africa, and South America.  Predictably social media spawned speculation about ‘white races’, though if you take a really careful look at the social and ethnic data you would probably be on surer ground if you claimed a correlation between speaking English and the decline in sperm count.  However this is in fact a red (or ‘white’ ?) herring since the decline has been even more impressive in China where there is good evidence based on data from army recruits.  There, studies show a decline in healthy sperm of between 80% and 70% between 2001 and 2015.  There’s also been a giddying decline in Iran, where (as many outside America will know) it is only a relatively small (and privileged) layer of the population with whom archetypal ‘white nationalists’ would consent to feel comfortable, if they ever met one of them.  However over similar time periods, there have been dramatic increases worldwide in the incidence of asthma – e.g. in Canada an increase greater than threefold between 1979 and 2004 – and also in the incidence of allergies.  In France (where by the way the ratio of good quality sperm reportedly dropped by – not ‘to’ – 60% in 40 years) there has a doubling of asthma in less than thirty years and, reportedly, a ten-fold increase in children’s allergies.  Researchers have indicated a variety of possible causes including obesity, ‘modern lifestyle’ (so vague as to be more or less useless); air pollution, lack of exercise, plastic (especially bisphenol A) in the environment, and exposure of immature minds to pornography (plus of course global warming).  Very puzzlingly the lists of suggestions nearly always omit another factor which co-incides rather strikingly as far as broad chronology is concerned: greatly increased exposure to electromagnetic radiation generated by human sources, which started to become significant around 1960, and has become more intense in the past two decades.  An authoritative book on the effects of electromagnetism on biological systems published some years ago by a highly respected scientist, has the title Crosscurrents (O.Becker, published 1990, isbn 0-87477-536-1).  It is up to readers whether they want to find out more.  But perhaps it is rather early yet to start investing heavily in companies aiming to produce electric cars for all by 2040.


Science News It is reported that scientists working for a major commercial organisation in the US have isolated the integrity gene, and have begun experiments on how it can be disabled


Unfortunately, much of this is true

Next post (finagling and events permitting) : 1-9-2017

*News flash: Mystery hardware order

Earlier this year market analysts commented on a worldwide surge in shares of companies manufacturing physical ‘security’ equipment  (such as ‘smart’ razor wire able to  automatically launch preemptive strikes when approached, anywhere along its length, while summoning drones from headquarters).  But new reports describe contracts for hundreds of thousands of high specification combination locks controlled at distance by passwords which can change daily, placed with American manufacturers by the EU Commission, allegedly to allow these  to be fitted at all frontiers to frustrate any attempts by the UK to get back into the EU after March 2019.  A  high level official speaking on condition of the strictest anonymity said ”Ever since I took over from Barroso the UK has been a constant pain in the arse and we couldn’t be more glad to get rid of them.  The only reason we’re pretending we want them to stay is to get them to pay us a lot of money in the ‘divorce’ settlement.  Things are moving along so well at present that some more hot-headed young officials are urging us to set up similar scenarios with Poland and Hungary.  I categorically deny any personal involvement; but who do you suppose has been provoking eastern Europe’s right-wingers?”


(Obiter collecta) Fegan’s Guide to Social Organisation (in 218 parts: pt. 104)

Other things equal, a new law or regulation will tend to benefit the class (the U class) to which those who draft laws and regulations belong, and to limit the freedom of all others.  However, the disadvantage can often be reduced for a member of the non-U classes if he or she pays a tax or obtains a licence allowing them to retain some part of a freedom that would otherwise be lost.  The cost of such licences and the level of such taxes are set by members of the U class (who of course control the administration of the resulting government revenue).


Op Ed from ‘Jonas’: In times well within living memory ‘industry’ meant industry (as opposed to agriculture, fishing or ‘trade’; other occupations apart from the armed services counted as ‘niche’ activities, such as stockbroking, being a doctor, or working ‘in the City’.  Administration did not really count as an occupation at all; it was just something you did as part of your proper job. (Check out the startling changes in e.g. the running of (a) hospitals or (b) any randomly selected European Ministry of Defence, since 1945)  (Governments really need to wake up to the fact that a very large proportion indeed of a nation’s activity and resources is now spent on administrators whose only task, full-time, is to administer the work of other administrators.)  Nowadays of course most countries have ‘industries’ à gogo, including, a ‘leisure industry‘, ‘creative industries’ and a ‘tourist industry’ as well as a ‘hospitality industry’ and a ‘sex industry, with the latter three perhaps being the same thing but operating at different times of day.  (By the way, I’m not inventing these terms; I’ve met every one of them more than once, and not, as far as I could tell, intended satirically either.) (Has anyone spotted a ‘heavy industry industry’ yet?)  But since nowadays all of us except tramps, convicts and criminals not yet arrested are mere cogs in the great unthinking machine that is a modern business-oriented state mindlessly pursuing the ever retreating goal of screwing ever better figures for GDP out of the workforce, then let’s take the chance of making an annoying suggestion.  In most countries there is still one huge feral predatory ‘industry’ roaming the economic landscape which could be brought under government control and should be, if only for the sake of all the money that could then be squeezed out of it.  Any intelligent country should immediately nationalise the lobbying industry, and then regulate it AND TAX IT!


Market news Following the report that Ogglekook is to produce a new hypersmartphone that can transmit thoughts and images without users even needing to have the thoughts or see the images first, the company’s shares were last night reported to be making the fastest ever ascent without supplementary oxygen on the Wall of the New York Stock Exchange.


Five hundred or so are drowned each year in France, nearly all accidentally.  Not a high number set against a population of 68 million (if you only count those officially on government records, and try not to notice those sleeping rough – estimated at 80,000 in Paris alone last winter –  or living in derelict buildings to avoid the police charged with deporting desperate refugees back to ‘safe’ countries like Afghanistan and the squads just out for a bit of fun roughing up easy opponents; but 500 is a fairly high proportion of those exposed to recreational water.  So ‘authorities’ want to promote courses to teach all children how to swim.  Just think rationally now.  In fact most of those 500 might still be alive if they’d had a reasonable fear of the sea and open water in general instilled in them from childhood upwards.  O.k. you can call it ‘respect for the sea and open water’ if you like, but the point still carries significant weight.  Notice, if you haven’t, that the human is an animal with two legs for walking, running and kicking aggressors in the obvious target, not a creature with a sleek tail and assorted fins for convenient travel under water.  If without a programme of mass encouragement you’re getting 500 drowned in a year, it is virtually certain that teaching all children how to swim is going to increase the number of victims.  And would you want to apply this strategy elsewhere?  It seems quite possible that as things are some other recreational activities have even higher proportions of practitioners harmed, injured or killed.  Should the government introduce nationwide  instruction for children in rock-climbing?  Moto-cross?  Parcours/Parkur?  Or alcohol consumption?


Linguistic corner (From our archives) Whatever it says in the dictionary ‘ideology’ in practice  consists of acquiring an idea which at first may have a certain meretricious charm, committing oneself to it, and then running away with it, with never a backward glance, leaping carefree over all barriers raised by common sense, and taking it with you into new and strange territory where the idea is no longer a desirable ‘compagnonne de route’, no longer even attractive, but an embarrassing liability, violently –  perhaps even dangerously – at odds with the landscape where you now find yourself.  Examples for UK  readers:  voting Conservative, listening to One Direction, supporting the English soccer team, leaving the EU.


**News flash :  Grenfell Tower fire, 14-06-2017.    British government announcement that there is to be a review of building regulations, 29-07-2017 [On account of its high public profile this newsflash has been brought to you by enhanced express delivery which can even override obligations to attend week-end tennis matches, agreeable dinner parties, and cruises on the river]


It is long since we’ve heard from Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems, once a regular  contributor to our reports, earlier a reliable member of the manipulators of tax avoidance for right-thinking citizens of southeastern England.)  I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that underneath the damp blanket stretched over his personality by a British upbringing there lurked, if not a crouching tiger, at least a performing flea, which under the tough editorial régime imposed on him here led to him developing intellectual muscles in unpredicted places.  He started to go off the rails (as his old companions would see it) and changed his job to take a post – heaven knows why – in one of the all too many universities of London (full of students, administrators, general riff-raff).  He became a keen cyclist, grew a beard which made  him look like Corbyn, and has been seen taking part in street demonstrations with some ‘unusual’ associates, among others a group of feminist survivalists based in the Cotswolds who believe men only grow a penis because they have been culturally conditioned to do so. This letter tells us on a recent visit to the Senate House he accidentally attended the wrong ‘briefing session’ addressed by a government minister and heard quite a lot before being hustled out during the final questions and answers.  It appears there is a complex government plan with inspiration drawn in part from the activities of Airbnb to radically change employment conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers.  Each day millions of workers join the harassed streams flowing as slowly as molten lava into city centres.  Yet at the same time great numbers are moving in the opposite direction.  As the economy has developed, more and more of national productivity takes place outside cities.  Outside the main conurbations there are many thousands of warehouses, factories, airports, storage depots, and ‘retail complexes’.  The government intends to require that – except in the case of those operating nightshifts – companies and individuals owning these enterprises must redesign the facilities (often extensive) so as to use the existing buildings, perhaps with some additions, to provide accommodation for the workforce employed within them (including the families).  In return the owners will be allowed to charge rentals for the accommodation.  The benefits will be enormous for all concerned, provided there are explicit legal contracts linking accommodation and employment.  Owners will be assured of a stable workforce, with minimal absenteeism and 100% punctuality.  In addition they could be allowed the option of setting up basic retail outlets to cater to the needs of the resident workers, and perhaps basic medical facilities (which could also quickly check on cases of malingering).  The workforce will be spared the stress and expense of daily transport and perhaps even of the need to purchase a vehicle, and might well enjoy lower housing costs than in city centres.  Basic shopping would be available a few steps from their new homes.  The wider region would benefit from the reduction in pollution, and stress on the transport system.  The nation would save on fuel costs, and a significant reduction in social benefit expenditure, as well as a partial solution to the housing crisis.

   It was only revealed that Berthold should not have been present when he asked the minister  if he did not feel that this was a reintroduction of slavery, or at least serfdom.  (The minister laughed and remarked he had never heard of a slave receiving a monthly pay packet with government taxes ready calculated and deducted, but it was at this point that the security guards were called in.)


The Editor writes: Personal note: I came back from my tour and found the place looking like a French Square after a Britain vs Russia football match.  Hadn’t even cleared up ….but I won’t waste description on details of the hooliganism, except to denounce the theft of the whole dozen of Château du Tertre and the last couple of Corton Charlemagne.  One interesting aspect, though, which my friends in the law and order branch are investigating further is a Philippine passport, probably fake, with the villain’s photo but a quite different name, found along with a pair of used underpants in the cupboard underneath the tv monitor. I’m not going to mess about nursing my wrath to keep it warm.  It will be quite hot enough if that scoundrel ever sets foot on this island again, though it’s unlikely he’ll risk it. If he does my friends have promised me he’ll be slung not gentlyinto the slammer on the most embarrassing charges that occur to them.  I admit a severe loss of trust in my ability to assess character by simply meeting a face and talking to it.   (Am still pretty confident I’m right about Macron, though, and I note that he’s already had the biggest drop in approval ratings of any incoming president since the Chirac débacle!)  Needed soonest: new intern!