Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Month: June, 2016

The Corbyn Case

 

Montgomery Skew

It is sometimes amusing mental exercise to try to gauge the levels of intelligent argument and of principled conduct in the political class that governs the country where you live, whether that class has one member or hundreds.  (Any claim that the class could number thousands or even in fantastically implausible cases the whole adult population should be put back into the proper obscurity that is found between the covers of textbooks on democracy.)  Warning: this form of exercise can be interesting but may leave you with a bad case of depression.

   As I write calls continue for Jeremy Corbyn to resign as leader of the British Labour Party.  The callers accuse him of ‘weak leadership’.  The calls are broadly justified but in a way almost diametrically opposite to that alleged by the callers.  It is said that Corbyn should have engaged more vigorously on behalf of the campaign calling for Britain to leave the EU; had he done so, it is said, Labour Party supporters might have voted in sufficient numbers to keep Britain in the EU.

    The idea that a party leader should have energised his followers to vote to stay in can only be coherently held (if at all) by people who themselves were (and in the nature of the case probably still are) committed partisans of remaining in the EU  This is coherently possible for those who believe that the side they favour is right even when this conflicts with democratic principles.  However, many in the Labour Party believe themselves to be staunch supporters of democracy.  A principle of democracy agreed very widely (but perhaps not in the Labour Party) is to accept the result of a popular vote even when it conflicts with one’s own preferences.  A referendum won by more than 1,250,000 is by democratic principle the right result.  In such circumstances, the question of whether a different electoral turn-out would have produced a different result is, in constitutional terms, irrelevant.

   Leaving questions of principle aside, the complaint about Corbyn’s campaigning rests on an assumption that if more Labour supporters had turned out, then the proportion of the vote in favour of remaining in the EU would have been higher.  But there is evidence in bucketfuls that the mass of Labour voters (who on the whole have a tendency not to live in affluent circumstances, or enjoy incomes, opportunities, and dinner table conversations such as those enjoyed by Members of Parliament and other inhabitants of London) by a large margin wanted Britain out of the EU.  Consequently more Labour voters would have meant an even bigger majority in favour of leaving.  (Naturally this would have left committed ‘remainers’ even more furious and convinced, on the basis of the information acquired at those dinner table conversations, that the result reached had been ‘wrong’, and consequently even more eager to find some way to reverse the decision.)

   Corbyn allowed  himself to be persuaded, by partisans of ‘in’ who in all likelihood believed genuinely that their side would win and that Labour would be damaged by association with a losing cause, to support the ‘remain’ campaign, even though this was contrary to the views of most of his Labour supporters and probably against his own inclinations.  Thus his mistake was precisely to go out and speak on behalf of the campaign to keep Britain in Europe.

   [A footnote:  the petition calling for a second referendum to decide whether or not to accept the result of the first referendum was discovered to have signatures of, among others, 39,000 inhabitants of a non-British microstate which in fact has a population of 800.]

Thought change

Since the newsmongers of Europe have organised the biggest flashmob promotion of comment ever yet seen (‘50 opinions, all different,when you spend just five minutes on our website’,  ‘buy today’s copy of the Daily Lyre and you get 780, yes 780 column inches of reports on Cameron’s catastrophe’ etc, etc, ad lib’) we have found for our fortunate readers just these two short items:

(1) (translated from the Bairisch patois spoken by a powerfully built man wearing a mean and massive pair of lederhosen)  ‘Hearty thanks.  Britain lodged in the throat of Europe like a great chunk of French cheese for 40 years.  Gone at last! Raise the flags!  Assemble in marching order!’

(2)  Distinguished constitutional expert Giscard Spengler is proposing an innovative reform to the currently accepted principles of democracy which he will submit to the UN: Every referendum to be followed by a second referendum to decide whether or not to accept the results of the first referendum; the electorate for the second to consist either of all those who voted in the first one, or (to be decided by the General Assembly) all those who did not vote in the first.

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non-Brexit news: ‘Tim Peake for top award?’

Astronaut Tim Peake is a hot tip to be Z-list celeb of the year, following his successful return to Earth.  A leading newspaper editor said, despondently, “This story had all the world-wide appeal and the gut-wrenching significance of a piece of coloured tinsel paper.  And that’s how it is, we had no choice – we knew where it would happen and when it would happen, there were communication channels already in place, so we didn’t have to pay for those, and it ticked one of the ‘even if they don’t understand it, people always think they are interested in…’ boxes (the one marked [spaceflight!])  The only way we may have fallen a bit short is not bringing in an expert to tell about how he actually saw ‘evidence that there could really be little green men out there.’ ”

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non-Brexit Question of the posting : Can anyone tell us why the average westerner is shocked by the notion of taking a knife and fork to a dead dog, but enjoys giving the same attention to a deceased pig?

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In the still continued absence of our Editor we are very happy that Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems has sent in this piece, all the more so since, in response to government urging us to use  bicycles for travel in London and to his University’s increase of car parking fees for staff to £3,150 per annum he sold his car and took his old Raleigh bike up to London from his mother’s home in Dorking.  He reports that his physical health is greatly improved but he now has a severe stress condition requiring twice-weekly consultations, having been repeatedly threatened with violence by motorists and suffered minor injuries when various unpleasant items and substances were thrown at him.

There is a curious imbalance in the public concern about surveillance.  Undeniably it raises issues, in particular one raised by Juvenal about 2000 years ago and which as far as I know has remained above ground ever since: ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’   I would write more at this point but there is a tiny pixel in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen as I look at it right now, which my Detectorex device tells me is not actually a pixel at all, but a nanoscale full colour video camera analysing my brain patterns through remote-sensing technology to see whether I am thinking about anything which might help to provide information to be used in blackmail against me whenever the need may arise, and I object to this sort of thing on principle.  So I shall speculate on a piece of abstract philosophy to see if it will switch itself off through sheer boredom.  My goodness! It seems to have worked!  But the really strange thing – I don’t know how they manage to finagle matters so they turn out like this – is that all the fuss and attention goes to the minor matter of whether someone is watching us.  It seems to me it is really quite a lot more important to know not what we are providing to them (whoever from time to time they may be) but what they are providing to us, and I don’t mean the repulsive ‘easy-listening’ muzak which seems to be thought appropriate to accompany anything from old newsreel about World War II to a  programme ostensibly about Easter Island petroglyphs but complete with obligatory palm trees, blue ocean, and languorous polynesian girls.  Who knows what is coming across?  In the old days subliminal advertising was a matter of inserting an image or slogan, pretty much the sort of thing that got done at the kitchen sink with a roll of film and a pair of scissors, with a view to splicing a picture of, say, a naked woman opening a box of expensive branded chocolates, to be projected on a cinema screen for a twentieth of a second or so, the idea being (I think) to persuade cinema goers to buy that brand of chocolate.  But in the decades since then there have been fantastic developments in technology.  I’m told it is possible to transmit the entire contents of the Encyclopaedia Economica Erigena to a man halfway up a mountain in the Himalaya in a fiftieth of a femtosecond.  (What he does with it then I do not know.)  We can cause the panes of glass in an embassy window to vibrate in such a way as to persuade spies for another nation who are also watching to believe a dramatic conversation took place in what was actually an empty room.  Psychology has also made dramatic advances.  Police forces in several countries are experimenting with what appear to be perfectly normal megaphones but which are equipped with adjustable electronic filters capable of modifying the sound so as to instil crowds with a feeling of trustful obedience or, if the case so requires, a desire to smash parked cars thus rendering themselves easy meat for the waiting special militia, or any of a gamut of reactions in between.  Are we really to suppose that in this field, so rich with possible advantages for governments carrying out successful improper or illicit research, there have been no further technical developments dealing with mass communication going from those owning the transmitters to those slumped before their screens?  Surely the technical means have been discovered to surreptitiously insert implausible opinions in favour of views which the government (that is, elected politicians, or in certain cases, the president or close members of his family, or in other certain cases, the cartel of tycoons and multinationals actually running the country) has decided to be in the interests of the population for whose safety, happiness and well-being they (or he, or it) are always ready to pay lip service.  Perhaps far more persuasive and effective messages and commands are being passed every hour, with far greater effect than in the bad old days of yore.  Do powerful sequences of images milliseconds long and a few milliseconds apart, flash across the world’s screens below our level of awareness, steadily working to establish a secure belief in a need, for example, to work ever harder for rulers and against the evil inhabitants of some neighbouring land which the government [for identity see above] has decided would be an agreeable addition to its investments.

            If such things are going on, part of the process would undoubtedly involve efforts to broadcast especially material which could be appealing to the greatest number and addictive in itself, obviously in the main friendly and helpful to governments [see above again for identity] and where at the same time the subliminal messages could be given free rein.  In a self-perpetuating way the material would also contain extensive subliminal incitement to watch precisely that sort of material.  Could there be any link to the increasing proportion of human time spent exploring the (anti)social media?  A twin development would see news programmes manipulated so as to reduce the risk of citizens learning about ideas and possibilities not favoured by those in power, the aim being to reduce the interest level of news broadcasts so as to diminish the number of people likely to watch them.  Are there any signs of such a decline?

            If these gloomy ruminations are justified, how might we tell? Ah, there’s the rub.  Nevertheless, reflect that even as the human population increases (except, alas, in Syria), and the number of technical means for casting one’s opinions before the  herds grows, at the same time the diversity of public views on almost any major issue tends to shrink, into a smaller and smaller number of propositions packaged together not by mutual consistency but by having been asserted (not necessarily on a single occastion) by a well-known designer or tennis-player or filmstar or top model or by some other ‘leader of opinion’.  And if you survey the printed and spoken words scattered around the nation’s collective consciousness, how would you judge what you see?

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A little grim, Berthold?  But never mind, thanks for this piece. 

Take care all!  Maud and Dr Karela

With friends and allies like these…

We have received a message from Monty Skew, currently in Monaco.  Due to what we regard as its insulting nature we shall not post it here and only add that we will not tolerate being addressed as ‘you girlies’, but as professionals we shall nonetheless issue the piece which it accompanied:

With the eyes of the world looking at France through a lens shaped like a football, it seems to have escaped general notice that the country has turned her politics into a branch of circus entertainment.  In earlier times of chaos there was a detectible hankering for a return to some kind of ancien régime, a good example being the return to power of de Gaulle in 1959.  But now what she needs is a return to any sort of régime at all.  To begin with, the problem was the election of Hollande as president.  (An earlier cousin of this site pointed out before his election that this was a major blunder on the part of the electorate given that he was not Martine Aubry, who was clearly the best candidate available for the job, but who lost the chance to compete, being a woman.  So much for égalité.)  It is a sort of poetic justice that the next president will be a woman, all the many other contenders having wrestled one another to political exhaustion (so much for fraternité), leaving Marine Le Pen out on her own, benefitting with another dollop of poetic justice – or in this case some would say ‘poetic injustice’ – from the decision by all the self-alleging democratic contenders to exclude her from the political battlefield as too right-wing for decent politicians to tangle with.  Hollande thinks that he is still the President (as in fact he still is in the strictest constitutional terms) which has led him to try the usual ploys of useless and failed national leaders, military interventions abroad (provided that the abroad concerned is not too strong militarily), announcements to the nation that the situation is improving (‘ça va mieux’ despite unemployment now being hundreds of thousands higher than when he was elected), and ‘toughness’ at home, notably by manipulating into law without parliamentary approval a measure to help employers wanting to dismiss employees, a measure which has naturally caused massive strikes and continuing protests, which despite the associated chaos still have 60% support from the public of this reputedly democratic country.  He has now compounded the error by letting the government consider the possibility of banning public protest (so much for liberté).  Earlier, he had naturally tried the tactic of shifting ministers around, but this backfired on Hollande when he brought in Manuel Valls (a Spaniard until his twenties) to be his prime minister since the latter soon usurped the position of prospective next President with ratings far superior to those of Hollande, until as the chaos grew worse the move backfired on Valls in his turn whose prospects of winning power are now wilting like the chances of Hollande getting back the favours of the lady he used to visit disguised in a motorcycle helmet until his liaison was discovered whereupon he ungallantly assured the nation that he was putting her aside and would be staying in his office.  Meanwhile  strange characters roam the land.  One Mélenchon, with good ideas and intentions but less political nous (transliterated from the Greek, not untranslated from the French) than Charles I of England tells the French things most of them do not wish to hear.  One Macron walks the highways and the byways and the fish markets smiling on all he meets and holding himself out to be the reincarnation of Tony Blair telling those who listen that he has answers to the nation’s travails which he heard from the mouths of Goldman Sachs.  And now  plagues of barbarians have arrived to stage nightly street battles, giving the French police all the chances they could wish to show that they can stage  street battles better than any of them.  Ce n’est pas magnifique, mais du moins ce n’est pas la guerre.

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Book review : The fashionable economist Nemone Credat (a contemporary of Karela at the London School of Geographic and Political Studies) has published a new book (pretty much an old book actually but incorporating some eye-catching shots of her in impressive locations and extremely stylish gear, pages 3, 17, 31, 39 and 82, with pp.108-116 as a pull-out colour supplement) promoting her idea of corruption as a necessary requirement for maximising economic growth; as she puts it, corruption is ‘the oil which maximizes the efficiency of the world economic engine’.  Corruption in all its forms, cartels, nepotism, cronyism, insider trading, free trade pacts and other political stitch-ups, allows investors to take risks which would not be justified according to officially approved criteria, thus opening the way to the rich rewards that go to those who know how to get in early and to the parts other punters cannot reach, so as to invest in ventures that conventional moneymen pass by, rewards which can subsequently serve as the springboard for further economic prosperity in the territories concerned.  The task for governments is therefore not to ‘crack down’ on corruption, but to arrange for discreet management of regulation, with, in the foreground, a few flamboyant or protracted  investigations to distract public attention from less skilfully organised activities and to provide evidence to the international community that the appointed regulators are still at work.  Several South American countries and two major financial centres in Europe are cited with particular approval, although at a lower level a number of British municipal authorities win high praise

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Plaudit of the week : As he grew older he suffered increasingly from that fear of encountering unfamiliar opinions which used to drive so many to subscribe to the Daily Telegraph (from a biography of Horatio Bottomley).

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European news : There continues to be much criticism of the recently introduced EU regulations dealing with domestic pets, on a number of scores such as the exclusion of budgerigars from the list of acceptable household pets, to mark EU disapproval of Australian policy with regard to immigrants.  Nevertheless the Commissioner has announced that it is the intention to follow up those measures with fresh regulations establishing compulsory fitness tests for domestic pets.  These will be designed for the benefit of both pets and owners (here designated the ‘responsible hosts’), and also for others who may be affected by the presence of such animals in the neighbourhood.  For instance, cats must be able to enter and leave through standard-sized cat-flaps, thus making it illegal for a responsible host to tolerate obesity in these animals, while dogs must be unable to leap a three foot high fence, for the protection of the environment and those living in the vicinity.

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As an experiment I am, with Dr Karela’s approval, offering a competition.  Most of us are familiar with anagrams, where the letters of one word can be rearranged so as to make another word or phrase.  In the early nineteenth century James Whortleberry and Nephew of Shepton Mallet tried to develop a form of lighting, based on magnesium filings, superior to what was available before the widespread adoption of gas lighting, and advertised their product as the ‘clean powder that’s better than candlepower’.  An anatax, however, is when two phrases can change places and still leave two sentences that make sense, like these:

   It’s time to stretch my legs and take the dog for a walk

   It’s time to stretch the dog and take my legs for a walk

   he married his childhood sweetheart and ten years later discovered it had been a mistake

   he married a mistake and ten years later discovered it had been his childhood sweetheart

A special prize for the best anatax sent in before the end of June.  (A copy of the satirical trilogy The tale of Esmond Maguire, normal price 18 euros.)

Maud Timoshenko

Rights, but more often wrongs

Our Editor is still whereabouts unknown, but our activity hasn’t stopped. Trigger warning! Readers embarrassed by honesty may prefer to avoid the following paragraph.

            We have to accept that honesty is a rare policy today, widely mocked even outside business circles, but we think these quaint old customs deserve an effort to save them from total extinction.  So here goes.  We thought Simon might now appear in the office from time to time, and we were right.  He came as usual with his adopted mother, and we find we owe her an apology.  It turns out she is much the richer of the two of them, which disposes pretty thoroughly of the theory (from Manos and the Editor) that she got herself adopted as his mother for financial reasons.  Second, we were wrong in taking her conversation-free presence when here to be the normal French superiority complex when confronted with other Europeans.  Main reason is that she doesn’t speak much English (or Croat).  But a typical callous member of the one percent she is not.  She brought in a copy of an open letter published in Le Monde on the 8th of June, and asked us to post it.  It was signed by dozens of prominent French personalities from many backgrounds strongly denouncing their government’s ruthless attempts to make life more comfortable and prosperous for the middle and upper classes by reducing the quality of life for those who do the work, in particular by making it easier for members (or heads) of the latter type of household to be thrown out of work.  This is called ‘Labour market reform’.  We got the letter translated by the retired busker in Dead Cat Lane Mews who used to plague the streets of Montréal and an extract appears as section 3 below.

Dr Karela and Maud

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  1. MISCELLANY

From Notes in the Bulletin of the Toynbee Historical Foundation (Vol.xciv p.418)

It is curious yet perhaps not surprising that one of the most prolific areas for finding skeletons and other evidence of violent battles and brutal group conflicts, dating back more than 6,000 years, is in the Alsatian border area between France and Germany.  However, there is no plausible record of football being played in this region earlier than about 500 years before the present

Linguistic corner : International humanitarian relief is the term describing the feeling of governments when they find a way to avoid having to fulfil their promises of aid after a natural or man-made disaster.  Fegans’ Criminal Dictionary: Political Supplement

Verb sap : It is a mistake to believe that it is only in business that nepotism and cronyism are vital forces helping the fortunate and privileged to get further ahead (or as they would mostly put it, to help society to make progress).  Look at the succession of great Italian artists 14th to 17th centuries.

Oceanic news : Researchers at the Cabo Verde Institute for Mid-Ocean Ecology claim that in a dramatic break-through they have been able to understand the language of dolphins, but they are refusing to reveal what dolphins say to one another on the grounds that they are things which humans would rather not know.

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  1. From a letter from Dr Philipp von Hollenberg

Is our Editor still absent from his duties?  I must say I am very surprised that he should have given no word as to what he is up to.  Has our lady protectress not heard from him?  It seems unlikely he would be writing for Newsworth International but we should not judge before we know the facts.

   I am off soon to that beautiful spot on the coast of Cape Province where the railway runs along the beach (and where one of Kipling’s strangest stories begins), but before leaving South America I made one more trip to Bariloche, my favourite place for snow.  Much still as it has long been and still not spoiled by too many visitors.  Had a long conversation one evening, in German of course, with an impressive old fellow who must have been able to give me three decades at least.  He insisted on raising the obvious issue, and assured me he had been regular Wehrmacht, and had photos to back it up, including one of him, must have been around 1940, in a group around Kesselring no less.  Startlingly well-informed about current European politics, and told me about this trick your Teresa May has pulled off (I know she is not your Home Secretary constitutionally speaking, but you must admit you are de facto subject to London) over the ‘privacy clause’ in the mass surveillance powers the government is granting to itself, to fight crime, and to resist insubordination on the part of difficult elements in the population, and of course to help the Tory party win the next election.  Calling the whole package a ‘snoopers’ charter’ was a brilliant move on the part of its promoters, making it sound about as trifling an issue as twitching aside the net curtains to watch neighbours unloading shopping from their car.  But the best is presenting a ‘concession’  – when they realised that even the Tory party had profound misgivings over the proposals (but then maybe the Tory members have more secrets they want to hide than the jobsworths of the Labour party).  This ‘concession’ is in fact no more than an undertaking that the heavy Stasi-like powers are only to be used when less intrusive traditional spying (e.g. getting a warrant from a helpful pillar of the judicial system to let you listen to the phone calls of the criminal, or victim – are we still permitted to remember the maxim not guilty till proven guilty?) could be used instead.  With the greatest clarity this concession means that the special heavy powers will not be used when the government does not need them!  It is hard to know which should be causing the greater emotion – hilarity at the barefaced manipulations to which a government can descend, or despair at the ease with which they can get these past the enfeebled perceptions of the public and even political observers….

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  1. Mme Marie-Louise de Belpech-Chauny draws your attention to the letter about the moves towards aligning workers’ rights more closely with serfdom in France, signed by Christophe Bonneuil, Geneviève Azam and many others, published by Le Monde 8-6-2016, from which the following is an extract :

The proposed reform is one of a long sequence of ‘structural reforms’ advocated by the business lobby and the European bureaucracy.  This sequence has undermined the rights of ordinary workers without resulting in the appearance of the increased employment promised, and has increased inequality and fear of what the future will bring for those who do not have substantial wealth at their disposal.  Different opinion polls all agree that public opinion is very strongly of the view that the current ‘reform’ promotes the interest of business, or more exactly of business owners, at the expense of ordinary workers, and that the government should withdraw this unjust project.  Hence the virulence of the news media, largely controlled by the richest in the nation.  When the privileged classes continue to accumulate wealth without ceasing and without shame (outrageous dividends and salaries for business bosses, tax evasion organised by the banks, and so on), connived at by the state, when ordinary people see a future for themselves and their children filled only with social insecurity in an environment where natural resources have been pillaged, this framework of deliberately planned  injustice produces violence and violations in the form of campaign promises flouted and government policies designed by the employers’ federation or taken direct from the extreme right wing.  Cynical violations sponsored by the state!

Editors’ footnote.  The proposed ‘reform’ of the labour market is said (by those proposing it) to be ‘necessary’ for ‘economic prosperity’, but it is not clear how the latter term is to be understood.  There are no figures available for the ratio between working class, and middle and upper social classes, for those who might lose employment for two months or longer if these reforms were carried through.  However one estimate puts that ratio at greater than 103 to 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Editor-free Office

Interim Editor writes:  we are still in the awkward situation as of last week and have heard nothing more from the Editor in the meantime.  We have, however, been able to find another stash of items, unused as far as we know, which were in the chest labelled ‘shorts’.  We had not yet looked in that since we assumed it contained running shorts (possibly unwashed) which he stored in the office for his regular early morning jogging (regularly dragged into conversation too I might add.)  As we do not know when we may be properly staffed again we intend to release four or five of these items each posting.  We should also like to express our thanks to Berthold who has been kind enough to offer practical help, including negotiating with Lady W who has promised an allowance sufficient to cover expenses for the immediate future, and we are particularly grateful to Lady W for making this sum large enough to provide a modest stipend for Maud, the need for which had escaped our Editor. We are also grateful to Berthold for sending us a short item, posted second below.  Monty Skew has sent a message.  Since he maintains he strongly opposes unfair censorship we have decided to post it precisely as received, immediately below.

Hi girls!  Sorry to hear you’re still without your Editor.  Never mind, good experience for you, and anyway things could be worse – Manos might come back to help you.  At least you can be sure Eddy didn’t do a runner with the petty cash, I don’t think there can have been enough to be worth taking.  Sorry I can’t help out with any pieces currently, am doing a major op piece for Newsworth International  which could be significant career-wise so I’ll be out of your hair for the next week or maybe three.  If you need any practical help you should get in contact with Lady W.  She may be a bit of a dragon but she certainly wouldn’t want the site to collapse.  Meantime why don’t you clean the office and while you’re at it turn out all the drawers and cupboards?  You’re bound to find some old scraps you could polish up a bit.  Don’t forget to check the lower layers in the old dog basket (and spray with insecticide first – I’m told fleas can survive for years without a meal)..  Good luck!  Monty

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Berthold writes: The advisory committee on ‘vibrant and dynamic innovation’ for the privatised  postal services in the UK is reported as satisfied that its suggestions for maximising the efficiency and minimising the costs of the postal and courier services that the government is prepared to support over the next three years have been broadly welcomed.   Measures proposed include

        A computerisation scheme which must be used by all staff, with those unable to do so (estimated by consultants to be around 70%) to be made compulsorily redundant;

        establishment of a set of ‘postal standards’ for limits on size, weight, and shape of letters and packages handled, with significantly effective ‘surplus postage fees’ to be paid for offending articles before release of same to intended destinees, who must in any case collect from regional head offices; (annual increase in postal fees thereby is estimated at 19% in the first year though declining thereafter as remaining customers purchase envelopes and packing materials of approved design from post offices);

        the biggest single problem being the legally imposed rule of ‘universal service’ (i.e. deliveries to every part of the UK) the postal service will establish its own definition of ‘United Kingdom’ which will exclude Northern Ireland, Cornwall and all districts within twenty miles of the Scottish border or further north.

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Late news (London): The cache of bullets found last night in a consignment  of chewing gum at Gatwick was described as substantial, ‘sufficient to allow an american police force to kill one and a half black men’

(London) : It has been announced that imported passion fruit jam will be more expensive next year because of the abnormally high rainfall this year which has resulted in a shortage of passion in the producing countries.

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Business news : Our technical staff have learned that a South Korean company did not merely  receive, from an expert who had succeeded in crossing the border, the details of how North Korean television sets can be made to switch themselves back on after being turned off.  They are now co-operating with a well-known social media company to develop technology originally designed for facial recognition by security agencies, hoping to produce an ‘intelligent’ tv which not only switches itself on when someone sits in front of it, but determines if they are recognised as previous visitors, and which goes on to assess their facial expression and choose a channel accordingly from a predetermined list provided by the manufacturers

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Overheard (Changi airport transit lounge Dec.3rd 2002) : ‘He said on the face of it the decline in divorce rates is bad for business.  But as the Ambassador pointed out in fact it probably is simply a result of there having been fewer marriages in the previous ten or twelve  years.  So it may well be that over the continent as a whole marriage rates over the past eighteen months have actually been rising.  And this is good for business for anyone with an investment in high-value slaves, since those who want to buy into the market will find a smaller supply pool, and consequently it will push the price up, in other words the value of his investment.’

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The Arts (or Meteorology) : There seems to be something seriously wrong with the traditional picture of Wordsworth as a keen observer of the English natural scene around him, and the evidence has been staring readers in the face for nearly 200 years.  How on earth could anyone living in northwest England bring himself to write that phrase ‘lonely as a cloud’?