If plan A doesn’t work try politics, or vice versa
I think we did ourselves a good turn when we agreed to accept Maud as an intern. She has an unusual capacity to look at situations as they really are (see item 2) rather than simply categorising them and then clicking on the ‘everybody knows’ button so as to slot in the conventional view, thus saving time and losing touch with reality as is now normal in this hi-speed, tech-savvy dawn where we are ‘all’ multi-connected to the latest lies and misrepresentations circulating in the media. If Maud keeps going as she has begun we might offer her another month, and perhaps even think about giving her a salary. Meanwhile Karela, still pursuing her hunt through the historic archives of the journal and its sister publications, has been turning up quite a bundle of interesting stuff including item number (3) which looks as though it may be coming from a government near you any day now. The historical perspective comes into (4) as well, sent in by, presumably, one of our oldest readers. Monty and Simon in ill-matched co-ordination also make entirely characteristic contributions.
As for the first piece, I really don’t know what has got into Berthold. I fear he may bring us another visit from the men in khaki and green, though he looks and sounds so impeccably boring he’s a valuable front man if they do appear again. He writes:
As Obama’s term of office trickles uselessly away, this may be the right time to remind our audience that it was the British newspaper the Gruadian that played a crucial part in enabling him to chop logic and look good on photo ops for those eight years (not to mention sending out drones to kill Asian opponents and their civilian neighbours in defiance of the Geneva Convention, and thus recruit massively to the ranks of America’s enemies). The 2008 campaign saw Obama win 53% of the vote and McCain 46%. It is widely considered that two major factors were involved in Obama’s success: McCain’s eccentric rejection of Condoleeza Rice as Vice-presidential candidate, and the vigorously pronounced unpopularity of George Bush the incumbent President. Had either of those factors been removed then the election might well have turned out the other way. What is interesting, therefore, is that the Guardain had a high claim to have won Bush his ‘knife-edge’ re-election in the campaign of 2004 (though some would prefer to describe that as his first and only election, given the shenanigans that went on in 2000). That journal spotted that under the peculiar Electoral College system for electing the President, Ohio was likely to be a ‘swing’ state. Further, within Ohio one particular electoral district was likely to be a ‘swing’ district tipping the result for the whole state one way or the other. The paper organised a campaign for its readers to write letters to citizens of that district urging them to vote not for Bush but for his opponent Kerry. The letter-writing campaign from Britain had exactly the result that any half-competent sixth-form student of politics could have predicted (and at the time many perhaps did). American voters enraged at British interference in their election ran a counter-campaign, and the electoral district duly tipped to Bush, which ensured that all of Ohio’s votes went to Bush and that did in fact win him the election. (So much for that attempt to manipulate the social media.)
(2) Maud writes
I have noticed a mistake which turns up so frequently in political speeches I wonder if it is somehow physically contagious. It is the very simple matter of getting things ‘the wrong way round’, which you might have hoped ceased to baffle children somewhere about the age of graduating from kindergarten. A prize specimen which has been annoying us ever since the date of the Brexit vote was announced is the assertion that the existence of the EU (not to mention its gelatinous spread) is what has kept peace, of a sort, in Europe for the past 70 years. But in fact it is the peace (from economic exhaustion, and memory of the horrors of war) which has allowed European states to become immovably attached (in very much the same way that pieces of iron scrap lying together in the open air will rust into a single rigid block) and in that way to continue to exist as a composite but now indivisible (and insufferable) unit .
(3) Karela writes. It is not a surprise that so many talk now about security. A very confusing subject. For example, security for who, ordinary people or presidents and governments? Security against what? Against only terrorism, or against famine, and transport accidents, and against illnesses that can be cured if enough effort and money is made? But what is right and what is needed will not be important. There will be more and more rules even if needed or not needed. And when I was looking in old papers I found these words, with a date 4th November 1993, though I think it did not publish until 2004. This I think is right and maybe it will now come even quite sooner than that writer, certainly Irish, thought:
It looks to me as if two lines of what is called, gullibly or cynically, progress are converging to give a thought-provoking result. The first is the widespread desire of governments to ‘wire-up’ their populations to every available means of communication (whether the citizens want it or not, whether it is reliable or not, and whether the governments understand it or not); this line receives a strong impetus also from governments’ rapidly increasing desire to know where all their subjects are all the time – in fact the two strands to this first line should very possibly be ranked in the other order. The second line is technological advance in making devices which do the same sort of thing as something which already exists, but which are much smaller, and this too is strengthened by a parallel trend, which is the discovery of more and more ways in which the rejection capabilities of human physiology can be overcome or bypassed. The outcome at some near future point would, or will, be the compulsory implantation of nanotelephones and miniature locating devices in everybody’s head, arm, or buttocks.
(4) A reader (‘Exul’) writes from Oshawa
I observe increasing resort among Europe’s politicians to the cynical device of making promises for a date at which the politician concerned can be damned sure not to have to make good on the promise. One blatant recent example was Cameron’s warm-hearted offer for Britain to assist the suffering Syrian refugees by taking in some 20,000 of them (out of the three million or so who have succeeded in escaping from that horror – formerly very like a pleasant part of Europe somehow in the wrong place, except for the fearsome police) – but only by the year 2020. Similarly with the roseate figments of Osborne’s financial imagination for the time when his party will certainly have lost office. But this is not a trick the Tories thought up just last autumn. They have been at it since at least 1954, when then Chancellor Butler asserted that the British standard of living would double within the next 25 years. Or so it is recorded in some books. What I can remember, however, is that he added ‘provided that the country keeps the Conservative party in power’.
(5) Louise brought Simon into the office two days ago. (Her personal presence apparently made the Loyal Lifelogging Loop unnecessary.) She explained that she would never bother to read our ‘charabia’ herself, but that her recently acquired son has told her he is not being exhibited in these columns as readily as he thinks appropriate. In response to her strongly expressed request (and not overlooking the bottle of Ch.Pétrus) we accepted the following posting by Simon about a net-surfing session he recently enjoyed. (This posting subedited by Monty).
Scientists in convincing white coats believe that eating artichokes can be bad for your health – if you are a smoker. A survey has discovered that artichoke eaters are 20% more likely to rate their chances of giving up smoking as ‘not good’ or ‘poor’.