Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Month: May, 2016

Editor-shaped Space Empty

Maud here.  We’ve been abandoned by the Editor.  At least we think he’s off on holiday, but we had absolutely no warning till Wednesday morning when he wasn’t here.  We – that’s me and Karela – just found a note on the door, saying he’d had an urgent call and was going on the early boat.  Actually he must have left by that time.  Meantime it  said we have to fill in here, and call Monty and Berthold to see if they have anything to send over, and we could trying finding out where the Mad Doc is at present, otherwise it’s up to us what gets posted.  Then Friday morning we had a call from Heathrow (at least that’s where he said he was).  He wouldn’t say where he was going, just that he had to meet an old friend, but he sounded quite cheerful, even though we worked out he must have arrived in Britain too late to lay in a big stock of legal highs which is what we suspect he was after.  Eddy also mentioned  he’d had an excited SMS from Manos who is still in Germany and still believes he has a real chance of saving the world from global war (I think that must be a mistake for ‘global warming’ but with him you can never be sure) with his idea of genetically modified grass.  Eddy said if he had time he’d send a WhatsApp about some notice they were all handed at the inner entry gate at the airport, and he did so here it is, to prove he wasn’t lying (again) which we thought first off he was.  (Sorry, Eddy, we mean making things up.)  Here it is:

First-class passengers may now take their places in the Libor Laureate Lounge.  All other passengers must proceed in a quiet and orderly fashion to the disrobing rooms.  Remember to take your fingerprints with you, if you do not you will have to return to the Departures entry point and start your application to enter Departures again.  Anyone who has recently been in contact with anything that might be or might resemble a psychoactive substance, other than alcohol, (see lists on left and facing walls) must instead go immediately to the security detection facility and await their turn to be tested.

Anyway it seems it really is up to us now, plus Simon if he comes in, which is probably more likely now that Eddy is away.  We’ve had a rummage through all the drawers that weren’t locked, and even pulled stuff out of the bin, but haven’t found all that much.  Apart from handwritten scrawls which we couldn’t read and crumpled balls of paper here it is:  (but we did also find some used envelopes, with stamps on from Georgia, three of those, one each from Armenia, Tanzania, and Bolivia, but that one was probably from Dr Philipp)

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Linguistic corner

Favourite phrases of the 45% or so of the world’s population that connects to the internet every day: ‘We all’; ‘everybody’; ‘100 times a day’; ‘all the time’; and indeed ‘every day’.  What is it about too much time spent looking at the garbage that fills most electronic screens most of the time, which causes enfeeblement of awareness of the condition of the real world around us?

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Linguistic corner (As you see there were two of these) : A ‘remarck’ is an observation which explains some historical event in terms of realpolitik

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Question of the week : As humanity licks the last scraps of civilisation from the bottom of the jar, haven’t we about reached the year in which some attention-seeking American university department arranges with a zoo to bring up a human child as a chimp?

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(a loose sheet with no heading, handwriting of Editor)

From obit of Frau Honecker, E.Gmn ‘education’ minister.  Education to include socialism principles practice.  ‘purpose of education’ to bring kids up practising socialists.  Odd, like mirror current views capitalist theory, Tories.  How ‘our’ gov’t (whoever) is (nobly and properly) run, civic education, in UK ‘British values’.  Purpose education (acc. to EU commissner!) ‘to fit for job market’.  Well, well.

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Late news

The government proposals to privatise crime are being put on hold after, it is reported, strenuous opposition from members of the ruling party   (Where?)

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One reason they take his side so readily is that he has the air of a white-collar criminal, who had been thrown into chokey for physical assault, now just out under provisional licence.

(We don’t know who this is supposed to be but we can guess.  M and K.)

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(This item is printed on the sort of lined paper Berthold uses, so it is probably from him)

Trivial examples and genera l truths

First the trivial example: country after country is closing down its colourful street markets.  They are being closed down because they do not look respectable and orderly, and they ‘present a bad image to tourists’.  This is a useful indicator of the intelligence level of the average government, which can be expressed as a question: ‘Do they suppose that tourists go to visit their country because it has no street markets and its streets are respectable and orderly?’  The general truth is of course that lack of intelligence is no bar to success in politics.  Manifestations of this truth range up and down the scale from relatively harmless to devastating, and the same variability exists in the scale of another general truth.  On the 6th August, the way that the anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima is marked will be an example from fairly low on the scale for this truth.  It consists in the fact that so few will be made aware, in reports on the anniversary, of a fact relevant to the original 1945 event itself.  Solemn ceremonies will be noted, solemn declarations will be made.  A very few may be reminded that it was stated that the bombing was a demonstration, to avoid the casualties to invading forces if the war was to continue; but the enormously more important fact, hard up to the devastating end of this general truth, is that the demonstration took place at 9.15 am local time on that day.  The implications are fairly obvious.  The general truth of course is that the human race is not fit to rule either the planet or itself.

 Special note (from us)

Do read the MD column in Private Eye (copy 13th to 26th May).  Especially you readers in Britain.  Since you all need Sats tests from age 7 upwards to show you’re able to make your proper contribution to the economic progress of your country, how about IQ tests before  your MPs can become a government minister (or for people before they can become an MP)?

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Take care all! Maud and Dr Karela

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By no other name any sweeter

1.Nameless in Basingstoke

2. King Arthur’s Round Table

3. Who shall be the scapegoat?

Difficulties have emerged with the British government’s Onomatic system, introduced six months ago in partnership with Hugh G Megasystems inc., to ‘bring greater efficiency and immediacy into the business of nominal update’ (that is, changing one’s name).  By some oversight the wish of a private citizen to do this has not yet been made illegal.  The aim stated was to allow those who needed for whatever reason to change their names to do so at minimal cost (to the government; and with all the inconvenience of following the byzantine regulations left to the citizen), at the same time ensuring by means of a grossly intrusive question sheet that as many details as possible on as many citizens as possible would be entered into governmental and EU archives, to serve as legal ammunition if at any future point the citizen has a difference of opinion with the authorities.   Also, with a truly professional disregard of the fact that procedures planned by a committee of experts normally function to produce unpredicted problems in practice, the new system makes it difficult to change a name a second time.  In some as yet unexplained way this restriction, it is said, enhances ‘security’.  In accord with new ‘default’ policies it is no longer possible to change one’s name in the traditional way by deed poll.  Unfortunately one middle-aged inhabitant of Basingstoke, who was inexperienced in the use of computers, but tired of being teased for years about his original family name of Onions, decided to take the risk.  However, his first attempt somehow led to him being called Next, and he therefore had to attempt a second change.  He successfully avoided becoming Code (unlike two other users of the system) but through taking excessive care not to fall into any of the other pitfalls, he found a week later (having struggled with his computer an hour or so each evening until he developed a headache) that he had finished the process and had no computer option except to click on the button ‘finish’  – yet doing that left the choice of new name posted on screen as a blank.  (When he realised this he took a hammer and smashed his computer.)   A government spokesman confirms that he is now officially nameless, but insists that since he has engaged with Onomatic twice he cannot go through the process again even if he wanted to.  (He now refuses to touch a keyboard.)  While friends are generally sympathetic no one has been able so far to offer any practical help except for a lawyer who suggested that he might be able to claim to be the intended recipient if he came across a cheque signed but not completely filled in.  A ministry representative thought it might now be impossible for him obtain a new driving licence, or to be treated under the NHS, but there was no reason for him to fail to pay income tax, or to complete other official business since he still bore the relevant reference numbers.

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Berthold writes.  I had been musing on the UK government’s attempts to make rules for ‘psychoactive substances’ (actually almost everything we eat down to coffee and lettuce, but by some bizarre reasoning not, according to said government, including alcohol – now why ever could that be?) when I came across this from a book of  Sayings of the Fifteenth Century : ‘This folk of Briteyne hath great craft in the devysing of riwles, but the wit of an old henne in the dealings that depart thereafter

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Question of the week : Why was the great Table of the knights of King Arthur round?

This is a very reasonable question.  A round table is fine if you have a small number of guests as it gives a good chance to every one of them to try out their talent at social enterprise above or below the table on all the others, if they dare.  (Hosts should bear this in mind when preparing invitation lists.)  But King Arthur’s table was no boutique tea-shoppe object.  We know this not because we have seen the table shown to tourists in Winchester, since that is a fourteenth century fake (though it suggests that six hundred years ago they already had a sharp nose for what would pull the bored and gullible tourist in) but simply because of the number of knights who were seated round it.  We shouldn’t imagine that meetings of the Round Table were like modern democratically run municipal committee sessions.  These were serious warriors equipped with the most lethal gear available in those days to inflict physical harm on other humans (as extolled in maudlin ballads composed by court minstrels) .  There is no way any of these warriors with their testosterone-powered battle rage could have tolerated being in the bottom half of a longitudinal table.   This immediately decided the shape (and the urgent need to keep a bit of space between each one and his two neighbours decided the size).

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A reader’s letter (from Volodya Jenkins, Toulouse)

It is easy to see that the human species adds to its many other terrible inadequacies a deeply embedded assumption that the natural order of a society has the shape of a pyramid, on much the same pattern as in a pack of wolves.  (By the way, is there any truth in the rumour that scientists are discovering increasing numbers of packs where the leader is, if I may so put it, a lady wolf?  Yet another sinister effect of global warming perhaps acting on mammalian endocrine systems?) The assumption certainly does not lead to a perfect society, though as I often saw in my years in West Africa, it generally works even  less well when half-witted Western politicians throw dollops of democracy into the mechanism. (In the final years before my retirement it was my task to officially record the numbers killed and injured in elections in those nations.)  However, I only wish to note here an oddity which shows itself when a human society is arranged around some sporting activity.  In sport, experience shows repeatedly that those engaged will organise themselves into tiers.  There will of course be an ‘inner guard’ who believe they are the ‘élite’, the officials who enjoy writing rules, supervising events, issuing prohibitions, fixing penalties, orating, and standing in front at ceremonies, occasionally also seen plumbing the depths of vacuous platitude on television interviews.  They are thus something like the Praetorian Guard (and in many cases may be equally corrupt) which surrounded the emperors of the later Roman Empire.  But there will also be a single individual who for most purposes is recognised as the leader, even if not so called.  Yet from one sport to another there is no agreement on the position of this leader, as we see when a team has done badly enough for long enough that a scapegoat is needed, who is of course that leader.  In America, in both ‘football’ and baseball when a team fails, it is the coach who is dismissed.  In European football it is normally the manager, though as money tightens its grip on society’s neck it has in some recent cases been the owner of the club.  In other sports there are captains of two sorts.  In golf (if indeed that can count as a sport) it is a non-playing captain, that is Head of Public Relations, who leaves his or her post.  In cricket, it is the playing captain who has been out on the field facing the ferocity of the Old Trafford rainstorms who has to go.  In the interests of stability and job security it might be better for clubs to ignore all those and instead to buy a couple of dozen tailor’s dummies, who could be designated as official club ‘leaders’, maybe dressed in some colourful uniform, and discarded one after the other as bad results accumulate over the decades.  But the scapegoat leader does seem to be a specifically human phenomenon.  Contrast horse-racing.  It could be argued that in horse-racing either the jockey or the owner of the horse is actually the leader.  Either can be, and often is, reported in the media as having ‘won’ the Grand Plexiglass Tankard or whatever it is,  no matter what efforts the horse put in.  But if disaster strikes and a horse falls at the last fence, it is the horse and not the jockey, nor the head of the stables, let alone the owner, who is put down.

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Late News : the Brazuelan government proposals to privatise crime are being put on hold after, it is reported, strenuous opposition from members of the ruling party

 

British kittens and other organisms

1] The threat to Britain’s pets

2] Journalists unable to see past other side of goldfish bowl

3] Science: How to save the planet with grass (no, not that sort)

4] Linguistic corner

Brexit: Britain’s kittens could die

Senior scientists representing the Royal Association of Biological Institutes in England and Scotland (RABIES) have issued an urgent appeal to all citizens to vote for the In-siders in the forthcoming referendum.  They warn that a national vote to leave could threaten the health and even lead to the deaths of thousands of kittens, lambs, and puppies of many breeds, as well as of similar wild mammals such as rabbits and squirrels. It is clear that Brexit would mean a major realignment of British international trade leading to a vast increase in air traffic over the North Atlantic on routes to both North and South America.  Further, it is well established that aviation is one of the major causes of air pollution, specifically the pollution involving very small particles, and we know that the latter present serious risks to health, not only in respect of respiratory illnesses and problems of the cardiovascular system but also of other vector-borne diseases, and even neuropsychiatric problems.  The prevailing directions of winds in these latitudes mean that the British Isles will be severely affected by the increase in such pollution.  The effects on living organisms are especially damaging during the stages of early development, and young of the species we have cited are exceptionally vulnerable because of the very high proportion of fur and wool to body weight, allowing such particles to accumulate to high levels, thus causing the creature concerned to involuntarily turn its immediate environment into a serious danger to itself.  We appeal to all voters to be very much aware of this threat to the life of so many of Britain’s best loved young creatures, and therefore to cast their vote resolutely against the Out-siders on 23rd June. (for more information contact info@independentadvice.ref/23-06/gov.uk)

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Readers over the age of 7¾ will long have realised, I trust, that various kinds of arguments are put to us from time to time to persuade us to publish some item or other.  I feel free though to express my amazement at the flexibility of the backbones in some news organisations that we have dealings with, unless, that is, their bleatings of approval for government actions simply show their callow credulity.  For instance, a few days ago the British media were full of ‘good news’ brought to them by express donkey from No.10 rejoicing that the noble British government had done a ‘U-turn’ on its scandalous, and thoroughly dishonourable rejection of a parliamentary proposal to admit refugee children, many with good and valid links to Britain, who were living without family or any other adult support in Europe, and in some cases without adequate food or shelter, but who had been denied entry.  (On what grounds can any moral being refuse help to a child in such circumstances?  On what grounds?  On grounds of invincible – and also, looking at the broad economic picture, entirely pointless – selfishness.  Pure and unadulterated selfishness, therefore.  See the final item in the posting 17th April.)  So in what did the trumpery ‘U-turn’ actually consist?  The government had merely withdrawn the declaration of its refusal, and announced that it was ‘in talks’ with ‘various organisations’ ‘to see what arrangements could be made’.  What is the level of political IQ that can think that it sees there a good deed?  There are frequently other such devious plays on the gullibility of lackadaisical media outlets in today’s benighted journalistic circus, relying on governments to deliver prepacked ‘news’ and social networks to deliver unhinged views which can be ladled out, without benefit of sub-editing, to anyone who might still be listening (and is this a recipe for commercial survival?)  To be fair, though, [Why? (Meta-editor)] sometimes events further up towards the thinking end of the supply chain are manipulated so as to push innocent young journos into the leap which takes them to an entirely mistaken conclusion.  For example, that allegedly eavesdropped conversation which had the Queen (our much respected head of state in this island too) criticising some of the Chinese officials for improper behaviour (a damned sight closer to proper than some of what we see on the other side of the big pond by the way, but that’s irrelevant), was far more likely carefully staged so as to let Peking know, without telling them formally, that the behaviour was misappreciated and that London still has certain aspects, admittedly few and clearly in process of fossilisation, of sovereignty.

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Leukophyll

Manos (officially known to bureaucracy as ‘Costas’, to answer queries we have had since ‘Beyond selfishness’ in the previous posting) may this time be on to something more promising than any of his previous get-very-very-rich-quick schemes.  He is currently in Germany hoping to meet some big names in the field of molecular biology.  We are slightly worried that we may lose him.  His idea is very simple and does seem within the range of current technology.  He has read of the experiments involving transplantation of a gene into an organism that does not have it until interfered with by scientists, thus producing for instance green earthworms (adopted as their icon by the EELV ecologists in France, and welcomed world-wide by parents of infants who need buy no night-light for their bedroom since the child emits a gentle glow without need for any extra power supply.)  He has read that the onward gallop of global warming is going to trample many underfoot – within the lifetime of people who were already born before the end of World War I, and that, among the many ideas to counteract it proposed by scientists, certain women’s groups, charlatans, and others, are projects to reflect much of the solar energy back into space.  (The women, following displeasing experiences on Mediterranean holidays, join in because they believe that solar energy tends to raise male testosterone levels.)  At an earlier and less rational point in his new career in ‘normal’ Europe, Costas suggested whitewashing Russia (very much in the interests of the West, by the way, but that’s another matter).  He   reasons that with the tools now available to science it should be the work of an afternoon or two to tweak the genome of the main plants found in the world’s grasslands so that the chlorophyll is white (and hence to be renamed ‘leukophyll’), therefore reflecting a greater proportion of solar energy back into space.  Another couple of tweaks and you can turn the grasses with this genetic modification into dominant species that will take over half the land surface of the Earth in half a decade.  Problem solved for the next century or so.

Editorial note: we assure readers that the implication that Greece is not a normal European country in this piece should be taken to mean that the Hellenic nation and people are well above usual European standards (for what little that’s worth).

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Linguistic corner

The European Partnership for Linguistic Reform, a semi-independent offshoot of the EC, which last month added Czech to its list of officially recognised dialects for Cork, in Ireland, and La Coruña in Spain, has declared English to be European language of the year for 2018 (which will involve all citizens of member states being required to learn at least 15 words of English during the course of the year).  It has also announced the following phrases of the year for 2017: ‘Wirtschaftsfortschritt’ (German), ‘economic unrecovery’ (English), and ‘dérapage économique’ (French).

 

 

 

 

Self-interest

Monty Skew writes:

The next President?  Absolutely straightforward except for the complications.  If Clinton picks Sanders for her Veep (which she should because he has huge support from a large block of idealistic voters who would vote for a ticket with him but won’t vote gladly for anyone else) she will win.

    But she won’t pick Sanders because she is an old Washington professional who knows how these things are done.  Therefore she will pick an obscure middle-ranking middle-aged (but well-dressed) male politician nobody has ever heard of.  And anyway…

    …if she does pick Sanders, (which she should because….[etc]) he will turn her down as incompatible with his burning desire to bring a new spirit of honesty and justice to American politics.

   If she picks a woman?  Just check how women have fared when they got near a presidential campaign in the US, from Ferraro onwards (nothing to do with personal merit by the way).  Even Hillary’s judgement can’t be that dumb.

    Therefore it depends who Trump picks.  If he picks a man he will lose.  If he picks a competent woman who is ideologically incompatible with him (Carly, why ever?!  Just two more days could have been enough!), he will win.

    Just one thought though.  Suppose Bernie is just so ornery different that he decides to run as an independent Vice-candidate?  ‘Run’ may be the wrong word – he could walk it.

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Berthold takes up the torch

It is unsurprising my colleague writes of the Vice-Presidency.  Once the easy reportage that comes with the presidential primaries is finished, the automatic reaction of political hacks is to keep the ball rolling smoothly with long insight-free articles about possible candidates for V-P.   Interesting topics like ‘Why does the vote have to be on a three-legged race?’ or ‘How can we avoid finishing up with V-Ps who have to be thrown out of the White House on grounds of bribery, corruption and tax fraud?’ seem to be a bit too hard for them.  Once the V-P is in office, anyway, he will be just a figurehead sitting in comfort on the poop (for American readers I should explain that this is a nautical expression), unless he is Dick Cheney (allegedly the only self-appointed Vice-President).  It wildly overstates the case to speak of a V-P being just a breath away from the Oval Office.  The life-expectancy of American Presidents in office has historically been better than the average for men of their age, despite the repeated evidence of an unconscious national urge to speed up the input of fresh ideas and policies at the top political level by means of the input of lethal weaponry.  In fact, quite generally being a head of state is one of the best life assurance policies one could have (as opposed to life insurance, which of course pays out on death of the insured).  Although it is not often publicly mentioned there is a well-established international agreement about this.  It is not actually a law but unlike all other international agreements it is almost never broken.  When difficulties arise between states all means to resolve them up to and including war are in practice accepted as understandable and often eagerly urged on by rabble-rousers with axes to grind.  There is one step forbidden, however.  Governments must not dispose of the difficulties by assassinating the head of the opposing state.  This  move is known as the Express Exit , often referred to in intelligence services as the XX  play.  The reasons why the prohibition is almost universally accepted are obvious.  Hitler is the last national leader who is reasonably believed to have broken the rule, having personally ordered the poisoning of Boris of Bulgaria in 1943.  In the reverse geopolitical direction Churchill explicitly ruled out any such action to get rid of Hitler.  The XX taboo is perhaps part of the reason for the carefree smile regularly seen in photographs of Kim Jong-Un.  The names of  Qaddafi and Arafat have been raised as possibly the subjects, or objects, of recent breaches of the rule, but there is at present no general public agreement among specialists as to whether there was actual direct involvement of the hostile governments in their deaths.

            Some enthusiasts believe that the XX taboo  should be respected and acknowledged as one of the few visible fragments showing that humanity aspires to a framework of international law.  Relatives of the hundreds of thousands killed in the Syrian civil war and surviving amputees from that conflict disagree.

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Editorial comment

Mention of Berthold taking up the torch brings to mind the recent arrival of the so-called Olympic torch (apparently for most of its journey it is in reality a small portable gas-powered firelighter) in Brazil, delayed for ninety minutes until an official could be found to authorise the airport’s financial office to waive the usual fee to pay import duty.  The most puzzling feature of its travels before reaching Brazil was why there were any such travels at all.  If for instance the French government took one of the many locks of Napoleon’s hair which they possess by virtue of their responsibility for the nation’s museums, and enclosed it in a small metal canister, sending it on a similar journey, would hundreds turn out to see it pass each town on the route?  Somewhere between starting and ending that question I notice that my potential answer changed from a supercilious negative to a dismayed positive.  But what possible benefit could there be for the spectators?  What disorder of the human set of metabolic and psychological motives?  And is there a link with the baffling impulse that drives crowds of men into remote country areas where they can stand for hours watching other men, with almost none of whom they have any personal link, trying to use sticks of various kinds to knock  small balls into a hole in the grass? Perhaps some university that feels it suffers from a publicity deficit might like to try arranging for various receptacles said to contain curios of one sort or another (‘pen that signed the death warrant of Dr Crippen’, ‘toe of carnivorous frog’, ‘coin dropped from alien spacecraft’) to be despatched on locally advertised ‘celebratory circuits’ through forty or fifty towns and villages in a number of different countries, possibly selected on the basis of assumed differences in their scepticism quotients, to see what crowds would assemble, and in what frame of mind.  If nothing else, the experiment could yield valuable information for any who subsequently have to engage in diplomatic or ‘free trade’ negotiations with the countries concerned.

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Beyond selfishness: A joint statement

With one exception we the undersigned are all migrants, now living in a jurisdiction other than the one where we were born and brought up.  The exception, our intern, is the daughter of migrants and all four of her grandparents were also migrants.  Three of us also have personal links to Australia.  We unite to express our disgust and contempt for the Australian government’s attitude to would-be immigrants.  We see it as a shameful disinterment of the xenophobia and racial prejudice which for so many years produced the ‘whites only’ policy.  Now, there is a case for asking the Australian government to up its game for the sake of its own self-interest.  Maybe memories in Aussie politics are too short to remember how well the country has done out of Vietnamese immigration.  But common sense ought to tell this government that the arrival of a few thousands or tens of thousands could be a very good move for a nation of 23 millions inhabiting a very thinly populated country, in a region where not so far away there are many hundreds of millions living at levels of subsistence far below what most Australians would indignantly reject.  However, we believe there are minimal moral standards to be met first, before we go into the cost-benefit analysis.  Any half-informed inhabitant of Canberra must know about the oppression, imprisonment, and deprivation, on a massive scale, in the countries from which these determined, resourceful and tough migrants (many of them well educated) escape, and might well consider these are just the kind of people Australia needs – just the kind of people in fact that it believes many of its recent immigrants (two and three and four generations back and mostly from countries they didn’t need to emigrate from) to have been.  When an individual middle-class family refuses to share any of its good fortune with others less fortunate, most will say they are mean-mindedly failing the standards we expect from civilised human beings and shamefully selfish.  When a country – the ‘Lucky Country’ – as fortunate and rich as Australia, with all its resources, arrests desperate would-be immigrants on the high seas outside territorial waters, forcibly takes them to places they do not wish to go, and detains them there indefinitely without legal charge in abominable conditions, then you have not merely what appear to be serious crimes requiring urgent investigation, but also the reason why here we have headed our statement Beyond selfishness.   We call on the Australian government to live up to its claimed ideals and return to civilised standards immediately.

Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems; Dr Karela Hangshaw; Costas Pheidakis; Montgomery Skew; Maud Timoshenko; the Editor

 

Foul Play

In view of the serious content of the longest item in this posting it was felt right to place it last

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[1]  Monty Skew writes

It has been suggested that Cameron’s handling of the Panama Papers was not in the least an inept bungle, but a cunning tactic (devised by his Aussie political engineer?) to show him apparently in difficulty yet finally leaving him looking like a political version of the soldier triumphing on an army assault course – a rough, tough and testing passage but one where in the end he makes it successfully to the finish line.  In Cameron’s case the finish line was a media consensus that, well, after all, his involvements were actually quite legal (given the present state of the law).  But more importantly the real aim of all this was to shroud in public forgetfulness the much more serious issue, namely the memory of all the political parties staring down into a £4.4 billion pound black hole which has opened up in the government’s management of the economy as a result of a failed attempt to leap ahead too far in the reintroduction of de facto slavery for the bottom 20% of the population (on which, see also item [4] below).  By the time some trouble-making journo wakes the populace up again, the solution already in preparation will be a fait accompli.  The basic idea is to screw £2.2 billion (which by skilful presentation will be revealed to be really equal to £4.4 billion) out of the business sector.  No need for alarm within the CBI since the readies will be coming from abroad and how those sources cope with the increased cost of their activities is up to them; they will presumably use the traditional method, claiming it as a necessary expense to be set against tax, which means that the tax receipts in those jurisdictions will have to be bulked up in other ways, so that in the end the contribution will in fact come from the populations of those countries.  What the fixers plan is to extend the notion of sponsorship to embrace the various Departments of the UK government.  Thus, it has been amicably settled already that the Department of Health will in future be known as the ‘Yummy Scrummyburger Department of Health’ for, allegedly, £450 million over five years. (The option of ‘Department of Yummy Scrummyburger Health’ was rejected by the British negotiators on the score of grammatical infelicity).  The Department of Education is to be the ‘Investissements Pédagogiques Department of Education’, and it is said that the Ministry of Defence will become the Sun Tzu Four Gold Star Britain Army Force (since the negotiators weren’t about to quibble with the Chinese about grammatical niceties).  To show his commitment to this project the P.M. himself will be involved, demonstrating at the same time his deep sympathy with the North of England by undertaking that he will chair all his future cabinet meetings dressed in the full replica kit of Liverpool Football Club.

            Rumours which cannot at present be confirmed suggest that these moves may represent only a first phase in reform aimed at improvement of the budgetary position, and at some future date there will be a wholesale privatisation of any parts of the British governmental system still under the control of London.

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[2]  At the insistence of Louise we include the following, by Simon

It is not surprising that the forthcoming elections in the Alpha Centauri system have so far attracted little attention on Earth, since they have to compete for space in the media with pictures of tightrope-walking kittens, and analyses of just why Beouncy’s legs are so devastatingly beautiful.   But news freshly arrived by laser beam to NSA [sic, not NASA] on Mars from whence it has been forwarded by genetically highly modified pigeon post is likely to change all that.  Quite simply, it brings word that both alien parties on the largest planet have pledged to abolish the human race except for a select list of 171 women zookeepers.  The remote-sensing A.Centauri surveillance probes, working in close conjunction with the NSA, were able to show that the brains of these women had a normal anterior cortex in the region dealing with the sense of justice and fair play for other sentient beings, the region which is so inexplicably absent or terribly atrophied in all other human specimens.

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[3]  Newspaper cutting sent by Doctor Philipp from his current address in southeast Asia

From July 17th it will be necessary to obtain a licence from the Ministry of the Interior if you wish to make remarks critical of the government, whether in print or any other written form, by broadcasting or other electronic means, orally, by semaphore, or by heliograph.  There will be no financial charge for such applications.  All applications will be assessed by the Committee for the Defence of Freedom (Office 105, 43rd Floor, 19 Freedom Avenue, KP; mark all applications: For the attention of the late Brigadier Ronnie Stonham)

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[4]  This item was prepared jointly by Karela and the Editor

‘Slavery’ is a word which has been used of an enormously wide range of conditions, from the civilised and cultured ease of Cicero’s amanuensis to the foulest inhumanity.  However, in the minds of many speakers of English, it has a very unusual connotation, of being assumed to refer to a safely distant past.  The Romans and the Greeks had slaves, true, but hadn’t William Wilberforce achieved the abolition of slavery in 1837?   However, by no means least in England, slavery exists now, and in the foulest forms.  It is utterly incomprehensible how a government, which prattles so easily about its fine principles, can act so faintly to deal with it.  To take just one form, the enforced captivity and subjection to sexual abuse of both women and boys, are there no laws in the UK concerning kidnapping?  Are there no laws about rape?  How could they possibly not be applicable in such cases?  Is there some grotesque loophole in the law which prevents those who aid and abet such activity being prosecuted?  Very similar outrage can and should be felt in other cases.  For instance (and still in the UK) there are gangs which bully weak people and strong people in weak positions into hard and harmful farmwork in sometimes terrible conditions for hours hugely exceeding any legal limits, and for no pay at all.  How is it that so little, and in the case of the governments so very little, is done?  Surely it cannot be that puzzling connotation, giving an illusion that such things were once a disgrace but there is no need for people today to take much action because it nearly all belongs to a distant past?  Some explanation is needed.  How on this earth (and in particular at present in France) can people consider themselves reformers because they propose financial penalties for those who pay money for the chance to abuse other human beings, as a change from penalising the person who undergoes the abuse.  (The apparent inability to distinguish between those who for their own reasons choose to accept such treatment and those who are forced to do so seriously damages the chances of help for the latter, but that is a different problem.)  Across the world, not least in so-called developed countries these shocking abuses continue, and are widely treated not as serious crimes which can rob victims of their health and years of life, but as problems on a par with badly maintained roads or bad behaviour at public ceremonies.  We can think of three reasons why the serious abuses are all but passed over in near silence.  Perhaps they are felt to be ‘just part of life’ (other people’s lives, that is) as barking dogs are often ignored since it is simply ‘in the nature of dogs to bark’); or the victims are just not important enough to be noticed –  they are little people, an insignificant proportion of the masses who have got left by the wayside – so long as they do not make too much protest; (then they would become trouble-makers, revolutionaries, or even criminals, according of course to laws which they had no part in framing and which were devised by people who had no comprehension of the wretchedness of the victims).  Or it may be that the topic of these abuses is so disagreeable that nice respectable people do not like to think, let alone talk, about them.  If any of these is taken as valid, that  reflects great discredit on human nature and a sadly minimal prospect of getting help for those who need it.

A footnote  A 2015 report of the OECD found that the UK had the worst standing of any European nation in respect of inequality of income.  It is high time that dictionary makers should make sure that their definition of slavery continues to include mention of being compelled to undertake work at others’ commands, but rigorously excludes any suggestion that receipt of a pay packet nullifies the status, given the many instances in Britain where the pay packet is ridiculously too small to provide the food, shelter, clothing, transport, and many other costs that have to be paid in order to keep the ‘employment’.