Self-interest

by ammophila

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

 

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