Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Month: November, 2012

Money porn

1) Money porn   2) airy assertions   3) late news   4) money-grubbing advertisement     re posting schedule see the third item

In a push to squeeze yet more profit out of this venture, or –  as bankers in the boardroom would say –  to ensure adequate resources on the balance sheet to provide a secure basis for future investment (what the bankers say later in the lap-dancing club is ‘Going steady on bonuses this year, but expenses, allowances and options – wah hey!’ ) this journal is to launch a glossy week-end supplement.  It will be constructed according to a carefully researched formula devised by our friends at Extreme Profits Limited.  (An unfortunate name, I always feel, but they’ve done sterling work for us in the past – even better work in dollars and renminbi recently but there are still a few legal problems to be ironed out there.)  Issued on Thursdays to get ahead of the competitors coming sluggishly out at the usual time, the supplement is to be based around nine or ten themes: fashion, with a dash or two of soft porn; cooking (naturally using the most refined ingredients, obtainable in all top-class specialist groceries in leading capital cities); gadgets – mostly black and shiny chromium of course but always one or two with strident colours in chunky plastic; collectibles, for instance old master paintings or Imari vases; a diary column (A hard woman’s week perhaps?); fashionable exhibitions; travel; personal transport, not cars because they are handled just everywhere though we might occasionally look at a Lamborghini, so transport really means the yacht and private jet scene; finally it goes without saying that the  supplement will itself have a supplement on ultra-high-end property.  No sport, probably; golf or racing to get a page or two somewhere.  The other 90% of the magazine will obviously be adverts.  A guaranteed winner, yet when we first started toying with the idea we received a strange anonymous letter, found in the dobermann’s basket by the front door.  We suspected an inside job at once – and all staff should note that investigations have begun – since the animal had not eaten it, although perhaps it had only arrived there after 10 o’clock that morning, at which hour the beast had formed a close attachment to a man delivering vegetables at the back of the building.  The letter attacked us for ‘pandering to the idle rich with a lifestyle that belongs to 0.0005% of the planet’s resources’. (I suppose she – somehow we assumed this to be the correct pronoun – meant ‘inhabitants’, since the resources we’re aiming at would be a much higher proportion of what the planet has to offer.) This was outright impudence since she had completely mistaken the spirit in which we are undertaking the enterprise – not flattery, nor envy, let alone approval;  just plain monetary greed.  The failure of judgment continued throughout the letter.  She asserted that we could not possibly make a profit, for two reasons, and she hoped we would make a thumping loss.  First, we’d have to pay a fortune to the people who write the sort of stuff we were planning.  Well that is where our friend with the green ink was wrong.  We will not be employing any writers at all.  Writers are not necessary.  Instead we shall have a pool of ad-girls, at one tenth of the cost, who will call on all the firms selling high-end luxury retail and sweet-talk them into placing expensive adverts with us.  (What the girls get up to in their private life is strictly none of our business.)  The firms will supply the writing.  They will want to supply it.  For instance the gallery hoping to pack them in for the exhibition will send page after page of background and reproductions of the work of the artist, and life history of the artist, and photo of live-in partner, and more.  Likewise the outfit selling the collectibles, and the travel firms, and so on.  The cooking column will come courtesy of the publishers who are about to bring out the cookery book that will be puffed at the bottom of the piece.  The only thing that might not sort itself out that way is the diary column, but there all we have to do is hunt around for syndications, and pick the cheapest that serves the purpose.  And her second reason for anticipating a smooth flow of red ink onto our financial statements?  ‘Only horrid people who have no feeling for the poor and starving of the world, and people who dream about living that heartless selfish life of luxury would want to read your rotten supplement.’

   My dear, you have hit the nail on the head.  Precisely the target audience we had in mind, and we look forward to huge sales and enormous profits.

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anniversary

Tomorrow is the 229th anniversary of the first manned flight with an untethered free-flying hydrogen balloon, made by two Frenchmen near Paris.   More significant, though, was the flight powered by hot air ten days earlier by Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes.  This remains the first known, and almost certainly the first actual, manned flight, thus beating the Wright brothers by a little over 120 years.  Their publicists frequently claim that the balloonists’ performances do not really count because they were not flying in a device heavier than air.  This is arrant nonsense.  The balloon was both large and heavy.  The latter’s publicists then say that what matters is the gravity potential of the vehicle once other factors, such as the heating of the air, have been taken into account.  But precisely the same applies to the plywood and cloth, or metal, constructions favoured later; if they really were, all factors taken into account, burdened with a positive gravity potential, they would not stay up.  The Wrights, however, had the advantage of a rapidly spinning publicity machine, which was also able to overlook the fact that they were several years later than both Ader and Langley.

From Luddites Gazette

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Late news: a number of governments and senior politicians have lodged complaints with CENSOR (the Committee for the eradication of negative or seditious online reports) about Luddites Gazette, asserting  that it has not shown adequate respect for authority and distinguished public figures.  The editor and staff have been summoned to Geneva to a hearing with power to order ‘appropriate’ penalties (which will cause them problems, since as luddites they refuse to use any form of transport with more mechanical complexity than the bicycle) and their fine journal has been ordered to stop publication immediately.  As distributors of some of their articles we have been issued with an order suspending all postings by Cold Salad until 5 January 2013, when a definitive decision will be taken on whether we can resume activities and if so on what terms.  However, the suspension starts with effect only from tomorrow, 1-12-2012, and we have managed to obtain our first paying advertisement, to launch a fighting fund to defend our right to publish.  (Contributions from readers can continue to be made through the usual channels.)  Check on 5 January to see if we are still here!

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honor hominesque honesti floreant

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A Luddites Gazette special

Stonehenge still off limits.  We shall challenge government’s right to restrict access to public domain.  (Further information as available.)      Our readers having complained that Luddites Gazette has not been getting a fair share in the distributions, all items below are randomly selected from that esteemed organ:

1) Tasers not used   2) Social network bunkum   3) Arabian enigma   4) Strategy enigma   5) Hollande   6) used news       New distribution pencilled for 30-11-2012

1) Local news

At 2 am 11 November an 84-year-old man in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, was woken by two men entering his bedroom.  (This authentic story can be checked with reputable news sources for the area.)  The men were carrying a hammer, a metal pole, and a knife.  The 84-year-old man leaped out of bed and tackled the man with the knife, managed to seize it, and then drove both intruders out, losing only his wallet.

Q: How did the 84-year-old man know they were not police making a search?

Ans: Because they did not taser him.

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2) Opinion (Leah Menshevik, Eastbourne)

It is the purest hand-stuffed baloney to claim that social networks will bring a great advance towards democracy.  First, the crucial factor in sending a message or a clip proliferating through the social networks is the level of its interest quotient or power to rouse strong emotions; nothing to do with factual accuracy.  Second, use of the social networks is not evenly distributed through the population.  The devices are predominantly held by the young.  Even if only through lack of experience the young sometimes get led into troublesome misjudgements (cf membership in sects).  Third, another way that the distribution of users is skewed is towards city-dwellers.  In many nations views and wishes in cities are quite different from those of the country dwellers.  It is very likely there was some rigging of the election that put Ahmadinejad back as Iranian president, but according to polls beforehand (and common sense, in the case of those who had been paying reasonable attention to Iranian politics for more than a week or two) not nearly enough to invalidate his claim to have won.  It was the well-educated urban young who believed that the election had been simply stolen.  It may well be that in the election of Putin as Russian president there were some voting irregularities.  (Personally I think a shot of a soldier helping an old woman to fill in her voting form falls a long way short of demonstrating widespread military manipulation of the election.)  By the way, is there ever an election even in the cleanest countries which does not have some voting irregularities?  In the Russian case the evidence of opinion polls, for those who bothered to know of their existence, showed rural support for Putin on a scale easily enough for him to win.  ‘Ah, but the election was unfair, because of manipulation of the media by the group in power before the election.’  Perfectly true, but the usual understanding is that the election result has to be based on the votes cast on the day of the election.  Show me a country anywhere in the world where the party in power takes scrupulous care to present the opposition’s photo-opportunities as beautifully as their own.

            Finally, even though the well-educated urban young do get to grips with domestic technology faster than ruling bureaucracies ¹, the governments are going to catch up, and they have the means and the motive to undertake massive misreporting and misinformation through the social networks when they finally cotton on.  So much for democracy after that!  The networks can open the door to democracy if it happens that the ‘authorities’ are useless at faking, and that the complaints of the networkers happen to match those of the non-young, the non-urban, and the non-skilled who do not use the net (estimated in the UK in 2011 at around 14% of the population).  But there is another door.  That one opens the way to coups by urban mobs.

¹ military technology is quite another matter; ruling bureaucracies do not get to grips with that ever, leaving it in the hands of the generals

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3) Behind the news

  It is not necessarily astonishing that Saudi Arabia should have just placed an order for twenty large transport aircraft.  Admittedly, one does not foresee oil exports going by air on any large scale but perhaps some market has just discovered that it has a large appetite for sand – maybe to fill the sandbags to deal with the ever worsening floods in Asia.

[Government interruption under Correct Information decree dns31b): recent flooding in several countries is merely part of a natural fluctuation in the planetary climate and absolutely in no way connected with any notion of so-called  global warming and even more definitely not linked to any global warming produced by human activity such as ill-informed critics suggest will follow our decision to withdraw development funds from research into renewable sources of energy, and instead to invest massively in shale oil and fracking so that transport and energy production may carry on in precisely the ways which we have used so long to achieve successful economic development.  Without them the whole framework of our economy would have to be redesigned.]

Right, if we may resume.  The twenty large transport aircraft are themselves not so remarkable, but the other part of the order was for five refuelling aircraft.  That suggests long flights over territory where one will not be able or not allowed to refuel, which does not these days apply to many civilian cargo journeys.  Those unfamiliar with maps of the Middle East may leap nervously to the conclusion that the project is an invasion of Iran, but that would be mistaken.  No need for refuelling there, only a short hop across the Gulf.  So clearly they are not needed for an invasion of Iran by Saudi Arabia.

            But if not that, what?  Has anyone any suggestions?

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4) Thought for the day

An eye for an eye is one thing (though people with a highly developed awareness of the way to deal with other humans know only too well that this is usually among the worse ways to deal with a problem and in fact very often aggravates the problem instead of solving it.)  But when an eye lost is thought to be compensated by an eye, and another eye, together with an arm, and two legs, and also the eyes of a wife, and the lives of a neighbour and the neighbour’s children …  But we’ll leave airy matters like justice and humanity to others, and just ask here whether that sort of approach to a problem is likely to be effective.

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5) From our readers’ letters

One hates to kick a man when he is down, so I shall simply remark that some men are born with a natural air of authority (which of course is quite a different question from whether they can be entrusted with exercising it) and carry it round with them through success and setbacks alike.  Romney lacked it and lost.  Conrad Black emerged from a prison term looking ready to lead a continent to victory.  But poor François Hollande.  Probably the first French president with a natural air of ineptitude.

Augustus de Courtmond, Québec

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6)  Editorial Several years ago the BBC was forced into major cost-cutting measures in order to maintain its standards (‘the highest in the world!’) of broadcasting and to offer salaries that would encourage first-class staff (‘outstanding in their field!’) to work at the BBC to produce high-quality programmes (‘for which it is justly famous!’) in addition of course to its own ‘public service’ announcements squeezed into large cracks between thin programmes to inform the world how good the BBC (‘the world’s leading broadcaster!’) is.  The latter type of production is not inexpensive as well as taking a great deal of staff time, and so it was decided then to save money in the future by trying as far as possible to buy only second-hand news.  This of course brings a considerable saving on the budget, especially when the news, as with most science items for example, is more than a month  old.  (There is not a simple link between the age of news and its cost, however.  For instance recent reports on the sinking of the Titanic one hundred years ago were said to have needed several committee meetings and according to one source even a week-end conference in Barcelona to get its budget approved, although this has been denied.)  Since then salaries, for those staff who have been lucky enough to remain on the payroll, have of course increased substantially along with production costs and other miscellaneous expenses, but the world will be thankful that financial disaster is still being staved off.  This is largely  because the BBC has again changed its practice in news purchase.  Formerly, after of course using free government press releases, it dealt mostly with established news vendors (it is many years since it maintained a large enough overseas corps of its own), but now it is willing to accept items from almost any source provided that the cost is considered acceptable.  It is rumoured that sometimes for reasons of their own outside organisations have been willing actually to pay for some item to be included in news programmes, but it has not been possible to confirm this.  Individuals often appear willing to contribute newzak or blurred actuality shots taken on mobile phones entirely free of charge.  But this policy has its risks.  Major news vendors can usually be trusted to check the validity of their items with some care.  Individuals and less reputable companies may not; some may even knowingly offer false stories or misleading pictures either for profit or from some more noble ulterior motive.  Before long the BBC risks being overwhelmed by callers, angry, honest, malicious, gullible, or careless according to the circumstances, offering material appearing to show, for instance, that a controversial politician has been photographed trousering a fat brown envelope, or that some well-known public figure has a cupboard in his attic containing a bunch of angry skeletons hammering to be let out.  Even as those words are wrtten, reports come of columns of lawyers and police, heavily armed with affidavits and warrants, advancing on the BBC from several directions.

            Can the BBC continue to rely on an audience for news programmes composed almost wholly of two constituent parts: those who listen without attention, and those who have given up even bothering to switch its newscasts on?

Appeal: do you have any old newspapers or magazines at home?  Spare five minutes to cut out anything you think might fit into a BBC newscast and send to ‘BBC, Broadcasting House, London’.  Every little helps.

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honor hominesque honesti floreant

Southern discomfort

1) Australia: now you see it, now you won’t   2) the oz mark   3) Readers’ letters (tea ceremony, Trooping the Colour, cannibalism).    Still no Stonehenge here – sorry!, Not this time because Australia has jumped the queue but because we have run into a litle spat with an organisation claiming control over all new Stonehenge Theories; we aim to straighten them out and report without delay.  Next distribution pencilled for 20-11-2012 

 

Opinion piece (by Josephine Uitrijder, Athens, Greece)

Australia scores rather better than some other countries in its policy towards the unfortunates of the human race.  It proposes to admit on humanitarian grounds, in principle and the future (i.e. a government promise), 20,000 people a year, e.g. accredited refugees in camps in other countries.  However that is not the whole story.

  Australia is a wonderful country, certainly.  It takes pride in its people being tough, energetic, prepared to stick at a job and get it done.  Still has a triple A rating with the agencies, so you can see they’re not running the sort of society that discourages people who can make money.  Takes pride in the bravery of the soldiers who have fought for their country (and at the government’s suggestion, in other people’s wars, too) right from that trouble with the Boers onward.

  So what happens when some foreigner works three jobs for a year to earn $5,000 – or even double that – to pay for a three-month journey in wretched conditions where her or his life will repeatedly be at risk in order to reach Australia and ask for refugee status without waiting for accredited status?  To put together even $5,000 in a country where the average wage – if you can get work – is between $1 and $2 a day shows talent well above the world average.  To risk and endure the journey shows courage and determination in bucketfuls.  So when these travellers arrive they are met at the quayside or down on the beach by a welcoming party including at least one government minister and half a dozen employers who knock up the sort of magnificent meal you can get in Oz, hand out congratulations and tell them they are the sort of people Australia welcomes with both arms and offers of employment?  No.  They don’t actually make land at all.  They are intercepted at sea, and under present rules (resulting from another Gillard boomerang-promise travelling at 180° back from its original trajectory) get towed without the option another couple of thousand sea-miles to morale-busting hutments on Nauru or Manas where current information suggests they may be kept for five years or more while their case is considered.  Sounds to me pretty much like imprisonment as a punishment for what can’t be a crime if they haven’t even reached Oz, and into the bargain it sounds as though the Australian government is asking its navy to do something which in other waters might be called piracy.  (On top of that the proposed treatment probably breaks the UN convention on the treatment of refugees.)  True, it may be a bit better than the life they have escaped from –  did I mention a high proportion of them are making the trip not just for a bit of extra cash but because they want to escape brutal, insanitary imprisonment, torture, realistic death threats and the experience of having family members murdered in the places they want to leave behind them.  To be fair, I’m sure the Oz government look with a kindly eye on the desire to set off on their journey; they just don’t want these tough, resourceful battlers to slot in Australia as the destination.

  An odd thing is that you’d expect the government to be glad  of  a few incomers to fill up some of that vast loneliness in the centre and north.  Population density 2.6 inabitants per km².  Indonesia, sprawling above them like a planetary octopus, has 450 million people, many of them looking for opportunities.  Java (1,064 per km²) four times as densely packed as Britain (and see how they feel about immigrants).  That must be why America has 250 Marines stationed at Darwin.  The story about putting 250 Marines there to check emerging superpower China’s presumed territorial ambitions makes as much sense as, say, dropping bombs on the cities of Iraq because one of your cities has been attacked from Afghanistan.  (Hongkong on the southern underbelly of China is more than 4,000 kilometres from Darwin on the northern tip of Oz; and China heavily outnumbers 250 Marines.)  Can’t we please at least have some honesty about our realpolitik?

  Of course, no country can cope easily with absolute floods of immigrants.  Maybe  12,000 or 13,000 irregular arrivals this year is quite a lot, or would be if by year’s end they were all going to be let in, which they aren’t.  Let’s see what the Oz population is; about 22.5 million.  So, goodness! that would mean as many as two of these immigrants for every 3,600 of the population already there.  No wonder the latter are disturbed!  And they do know a lot about the problems of immigration; after all, nearly all of them are descended from parents, grandparents or ancestors who immigrated within the last 150 years.

From Luddites Gazette

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footnote: Congratulations, Australia, on getting that seat UN Security Council seat, though really it would have saved an awful lot of money if the Security Council had just given the US an extra vote.

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New punctuation mark.  A structural survey of the United Nations building, ordered  after hurricane Sandy flooded New York, has revealed that three subordinate organisations of the UN have been working in the basement for several years, their existence entirely forgotten by all officials working (or at least with an office place) in the levels above ground, although this apparently has not interfered with their ability to draw funds as needed from previously established UN accounts.   The largest of the three  is PEURP (the Project to Establish a Universal Register of Punctuation) with a total staff of 1,198.  PEURP has issued a defiant statement claiming that throughout it has been vigorously pursuing important programmes to enhance the efficiency of channels of communication both internationally and for individual emergent nations where the concept of punctuation is often largely unknown.  As evidence it cited a proposal about to be published for a new punctuation mark.  In addition to the existing full stop or period, the exclamation mark, to indicate heightened interest, the question mark, to show that the preceding phrase or sentence was a request for information, and the semicolon (for advanced or exhibitionist writers) there should also be an oz mark with this full form for use on scrolls, public buildings, etc.

which for convenience can be represented in ordinary writing by the schematic form III̥  obviously carrying the same meaning.

    This signals that the writer is aware that his ¹ preceding sentence is confused or unreliable, as  e.g. when an Australian Treasurer announces that

   …the government is still on track  to deliver a budget surplus in 2013  III̥

or a Federal Agriculture Minister speaking of a report on the brutal slaughtering of much-loved Australian sheep exported for sale abroad declares he is

   looking forward to seeing that report III̥

   The oz mark is proposed of course for worldwide use in all ordinary human languages, by those reporting as well as original writers; thus, to take a random example, it could be used if a Greek government minister were to claim

   Greece has come to a satisfactory arrangement with her creditors III̥

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¹ we are sure that on this occasion feminists will accept the use of the male pronoun to cover both sexes (and now that we see how that expression has turned out we hope they will tolerate the latter phrase too).

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the Deputy Editor writes:  Charming as she is, Isabelita sometimes leads the editors to wonder who is actually running this outfit.  Nevertheless we have agreed to allow some space to readers’ letters.  She spoke of the ‘great success’ of the effort by Jeremy and Simon back in September (an outrageous piece of post-adolescent impudence in my opinion).  We at first thought we would call the section ‘Blatter’ which as younger readers who have undergone a modern education will not know is a word meaning ‘prate’ or ‘emit more verbiage than sense’.  However, this would coincide with a name which we strongly feel should pursue its own distinctive path through the media untangled with our reputation, so instead we chose ‘Words in my Wind’ as an appropriate heading [urgent note; before publication correct typo.  Should be ‘Mind’, not ‘Wind’Given the flatulent verbiage which has sometimes clogged the letter box and poisoned the dog (it’ll eat anything when it’s hungry) we obviously must impose a limit.  Nothing so crude as an arithmetical limit, 140 words or some nonsense like that.  The allowance will be one properly constructed sentence (and no fooling about with parataxis).  Editors’ decision final.  Plenty of scope for the properly literate to set forth a reasoned argument, while those who have problems achieving verbal coherence will find their contributions satisfactorily pruned or altogether excluded.  So here we put our first two toes in the water:

(1) (a thoughtful contribution from our old friend Sayid Nebsamin over in Weymouth):

As the great behemoths of alimentary commerce pursue their researches into fresh ways of making profit and in particular develop the plan to ensure that in future meat sold in supermarkets will come from huge vats where cells based on various more or less delicious parts of animals that once existed but have long passed away are made to proliferate in their trillions before being processed into adequate simulacra of the joints and cuts that are familiar today, those who anticipate a new and just possibly cheaper range of gustatory delights should reflect that sooner or later some brash entrepreneur will doubtless load the initial line of one of his vats with cells from a human being, thus not only taking another step on the downward path from civilisation to a society with degraded and barbarous standards but also putting those who purchase and consume the product at risk of being  charged with cannibalism.

(2) (from Maisie Kowalski in ChichesterAs Maisie has followed the normally correct rules of English grammar we have allowed this  sentence.  However, most readers will of course remember that the correct name of the British observance is in fact ‘The Trooping the Colour’.)

   The Trooping of the Colour is Britain’s answer to the Japanese tea ceremony.

Very profound, Maisie.  You mean both are quintessentially embedded in the soul of their nation so that foreigners have no hope of understanding them?  Or they are both extraordinarily complicated ways of doing something quite simple which probably does not need to be done at all?  Or each is a good measure of the cultural level of the country’s leaders perhaps?

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honor hominesque honesti floreant