What really happens?

by ammophila

(1) Political dishonesty by habit (2) Bends in the historical road? ;  [next scheduled posting 31 July]

(We are glad as well as surprised to hear that the Luddites’ Gazette people over on the mainland have recovered all three of the stolen bicycles.  Cold Salad can now resume distribution of cuttings from that distinguished journal, but by friendly agreement – as possible with such honourable and intelligent partners – we may continue to include items emanating from our own office.  The bicycles were discovered in the outbuildings of Sluggfield Primary School, painted red and each with a sign attached to the basket at the front reading Kiddicourier – faster than the post office.  As the weeping headmistress was led away in handcuffs she was heard to say ‘We were desperate for money to keep the school going.  We even had to charge the children for using the toilets.’)

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The ascent of Edward Miliband to the premiership of Britain (this island is, roughly speaking, to Europe what Cuba is to America although for different reasons) is now virtually assured, and looks set to be as exciting as watching the preliminary rounds of the men’s underwater volleyball in the ******** [This word has had to be erased in face of severe legal penalties for use of words, formerly belonging to the English language but currently the exclusive property, along with all their possibilities of making a profit in any manner whatsoever, of certain companies able to arrange the British legal system to their convenience thanks to the complaisance of a contemptible government of cultural quislings]  To return, the sputtering decline of the economy, the ineptitude of Cameron, the tantrums of Clegg, the failure of ‘Britain’ to win ‘enough’ **** ****** in the ******** [guess], and most astoundingly the disintegration of the coalition – coalition is a wonderful gift to its members since all successes can be claimed by both parties, while all unpopular measures can be explained to their voters on the lines of “not our fault; we have been constrained by working in a coalition, without which you would have had that awful opposition ruling you” — all of that is going to lead to the usual teeth-grinding photographs, with Miliband on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street.  Where they still exist, newspapers across Europe will soon be hastening their own decline with long features asking questions like What now for Britain under Labour?

  The correct answer is without doubt ‘a vast flood of more tedious political jargon, so relentlessly spun that the last fragments of sincerity have been flung off into centrifugal oblivion’.  This is not to say that politics is entirely made up of those who are so obsessed with political manipulations and processes that they have lost the ability to think and speak for themselves, but that ability is a massive ball and chain in the race to advancement.  Wales had to fight tooth and nail to get the brilliant Rhodri Morgan (his sharp sense of humour a further handicap especially in dealings with Blair) as its first minister.  The first requirement for a policy to be adopted by a major party in Britain or in a European nation, is now not that it will improve the lot of people needing help, or make that country safer, cleaner or fairer, but that it should have been run past focus groups who found it attractive and then reformulated by expert committees who know how a political policy should sound – even though it is now accepted (since the elder Bush demonstrated that campaign promises even read from his lips had no binding force) that a winning party’s actions in power are quite unconstrained by their manifesto.  The very language used is one problem, a dialect all of its own, just as there are special dialects of circus folk, computer experts, tax authorities, thieves and others, although most of these are actually intended to be incomprehensible to outsiders.  It is astounding that mainstream parties purveying roseate fantasies about their own performance and gothic fictions about their opponents’ devilish intentions have not yet widely realised that their own lack of sincerity and failure to talk straight (never, never, to be confused with talking ‘tough’) are a very large part of the reason why more and more voters are flirting with extremist groups all over the continent.

  In Britain, Miliband may one day continue the long line of Tory prime ministers which started with Mrs Thatcher demonstrating her gift for combining pretentiousness and false promise on that Downing Street threshold, and which continues today, interrupted only by the troubled dark Brown interregnum when Blair had finally delivered on the undertaking he is so widely believed to have given in that agreeable London bistro, and later betrayed.  (Anyone who believes that Mr Blair was a Labour prime minister has not taken the trouble to undo the poke and look at the cat inside.  But such beliefs spread easily through the confused population, where the massive daily production of retail lies takes place within the framework of the wholesale illusion that the country is still one of the world’s leading powers.)  However, will Miliband win re-election?  Almost certainly not, although not because he will have dragged the Labour party back a few centimetres towards its founding ideals; the advisors and experts and spin-doctors who ‘know’ how political campaigns are won, will not allow that and will have spent his career in the attempt to sell him to the electorate as a ‘new’ improved Blair or Cameron.

  It is astonishing that large middle-aged parties have not realised their very best hope of a burst of new life is to embrace honesty, making themselves real to voters by telling them what they really think.  Of course a good deal of the honesty must be practical not merely verbal.  They can explain why they have broken their promises provided that they have some acceptable reasons for the breach.  Analogously, for raising taxes, or, if it comes to it, for taking the country to war.   One important aspect is not to pretend that their policies are monolithically held by every single member, a charade which earns nothing but contempt and is, incidentally, profoundly undemocratic.  Do they not notice how fast and far Boris Johnson in Britain has been able to run, carrying a far lighter burden of political claptrap on his back?  Do they really want to leave freedom of open expression to smaller parties which across Europe are using it to express policies that may actually be far from what the great mass of a nation would favour if they heard full and honest debate from the major parties currently still in place (though with a noticeable trend towards a shrinking of their electoral support.)  It would be wildly eccentric to claim that London is being propelled on a path to black reaction because it has Johnson as its mayor.  If the political mammoths do not change their political games then the parties dismissed until now as extremist will steadily gain ground – as they are already doing conspicuously in France and Germany, in Belgium and the Netherlands.

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Two recent events attracted only moderate news coverage.  Yet each of them may be seen in the future as marking a point where history turned in a new direction.  The first was the rejection by the European parliament of ACTA.  This proposal for an international treaty was initiated by the US and Japan in 2006, ostensibly to stop violations of copyright and intellectual property, misuse of trademarks and brand names and so on.  Clearly a matter which needed widespread thorough discussion.  It did not get it.  Negotiations went on in secrecy with no information passed to the public in countries concerned, nor even to their parliaments, until the middle of 2010, when the draft emerged trying to look like a fait accompli.  It failed.  Dozens of organisations fighting doughty battles against the campaign by business to take over human life saw it as a bumper bundle of threats to the freedom of expression, liberty of action of the individual, access to information and even to effective medicines, and more.  However by some oversight, the treaty could not come into force until approved by the European parliament.  To the amazement of not a few (but this is not the place to be rude about them) its members have just voted to reject it.  The multinationals were defeated.  No doubt some new campaign will be launched but it is just barely possible that we have crossed a watershed from increasing control over humanity by the interests of commerce, to a slope favouring the rights of individuals.

  The other event was the reaction of the Thai government faced with a US request concerning an airfield called U-Tapao.  The history of the place goes back to the Vietnam war, for which period Thailand gave permission for aircraft to land and refuel.  The Vietnam war ended but the use of the base somehow carried on, nominally under the control of the Thai navy, although it is said the Thai navy never received information about what went on there (except from local villagers who said they saw many soldiers on the base).  Recently, the US government asked to use it as the centre for a programme of research into atmospheric characteristics of southeastern Asia, as well as the Humanitarian and disaster relief centre apparently already there.  Presumably this would involve studies of cloud interaction and aerosol formation as carried on by e.g. Ulrike Lohmann above Lake Zurich, although it seems that here high-altitude planes flying over the region would also be needed,.  The Thai government apparently felt unable to give a quick agreement.  Nasa (the programme was not to be run by the military, but according to one report would require 1,000 members of the intelligence community) pushed hard for assent and set an early deadline which the government knowingly passed by in referring the matter to parliament (i.e. at the very least a six-week delay).  Cancellation of project was the result.  In the past there have long been close ties between Thailand and the US, some customary, some explicit in such forms as the memorandum of understanding, and under Thaksin, previous prime minister (and still a major political influence) Thailand became a favoured, but of course ‘non-Nato’, ally.  These links will no doubt continue.  What then could have caused the difficulty on coming to an agreement on this occasion?  Some have speculated that the government might have been worrying about the views of some other power based in the region.  Could this be the answer?

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[From Luddites Gazette, Brief news]

Intriguing result from survey by Emnid, opinion research institute, into German women’s preferences for swimming costumes:

je knapper das Textil, desto gröβer der Bildungsgrad

honor honestique floreant

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