Much unpleasantness after Manos played that deplorable practical joke on Monty 15-10-2016. (Karela quite innocent throughout.) Sorted now, but from today onwards Manos is no longer in the loop. More about all that later, perhaps. Next scheduled: 15-11-2016
- ‘Treaties’ 2. The semantic vacuum
- Farewell to Manos 4. Etc
Linguistic corner (but serious) Do not let the b*stards get away with calling NAFTA, TTIP, TPP, and CETA ‘treaties’. A treaty, as the word has been properly understood and used for centuries, is an agreement reached after negotiation between the governments of two states. But these arrangements (mocking the people suffering under capitalism by their capital letters) are what should technically be called ‘stitch-ups’; that is they are bargains cooked up between members of plutocratic élites who have more in common with the élites on the other side(s) than any of them do with the ordinary average citizen of the states which they are trying to hogtie into these deals. Deals fixed up in the darkness of a secrecy like that chosen by thieves and coup plotters. Even elected members of parliaments of the states to be used for these manoeuvres were excluded from what was going on. Who arrogated to themselves – surely illegally – the authority to exclude them? (Why did those excluded put up with it?) When some eventually got admission to the room where the negotiations were recorded, they were too late to start a proper campaign for enquiry into the conditions under which the whole shabby business was proceeding, and they would have been too late even if they had been allowed to make copies, use cameras, or take personal notes – but in any case they were not! How were the organisers allowed to get away with it? And why would they want to if there was nothing objectionable or improper in what they were doing? Doesn’t that tell you all you need to know about the nature of these machinations? As far as the historical records will go – unless a mighty spanner is somehow forced between the wheels of the tumbrils bearing individual rights to the place of execution – the conspiratorial business does not even have the traditional half-justification ‘History is written by the victors’. Here the course of history is being rigged in advance by small groups who may very possibly be anticipating that they will do well if events take the direction they are planning. ‘But,’ they will cry, if they are ever put in the dock ‘our evidence showed that the plans would increase the prosperity of all the countries concerned’. Are we supposed to believe that increasing the prosperity of a country is more important than maintaining a tolerable condition of life for the majority of its population? Where do you find the prosperity of the country? You don’t find it in the shop doorways of dark sidestreets where the homeless spend their nights, nor in the threadbare pockets or the defective fridges or half-empty cupboards of the 37% of the population (figures for the UK 2016!) in households where someone has a job and which yet have so little money left over after paying taxes, rent and food for the month that they cannot put together even £20 pounds for anything else. (Oh and how much does it take to buy a new fridge when the old one cannot be repaired any longer?) And what do you think happens when even that level of existence becomes unreachable, when the business for which they work turns out to have been run into the ground and when the coffer is opened to inspect the pension fund it turns out to be practically empty. What does it mean to a family, when they have had to rely on that employment to stay in a place to live, and to have food to eat? Do those people say to each other “No problem, my dear, you can stay in our place in the country, and after the weekend I’ll call up Charlie who can get our Rupert a job as a director of human resources at his company when he finishes university in the spring. And anyway, there’s a council in the West country where a friend of mine is looking for someone to fill a six-month consultancy, only £2,000 a day, I’m afraid but it’ll keep us going perfectly well and give me time to call on some of our other old chums.” No, if you want to find the wealth and prosperity of almost any country picked at random you should head straight towards bank accounts in the West Indies, or those fabulously expensive yacht havens in the Mediterranean, or the offices of publicity-shy investment agencies in New York, or London, or Switzerland. Or the immaculate corridors where the peoples’ well-paid democratic representatives ply their trade.
 Trying to get to the end of a recognised scale of measurement is almost as challenging as trying to get to the right place on the platform to have a chance of a seat when you board a Southern Region train in the UK. Over more than a hundred years now, huge amounts of money and effort have gone into attempts to approach absolute zero, or to achieve a perfect vacuum. But it is not only the physical sciences which investigate such matters. Puzzlingly the British average moral pressure level has fallen steeply since 1940, and despite the crises of refugees fleeing terrifying conditions in the Middle East is now closer to a moral vacuum than at any time since 1840. However, in a less alarming field of investigation, semantic scientists are cock-a-hoop, confident they have discovered the closest thing yet to a semantic vacuum on earth. Previous research had suggested Fabian Society meetings, computer ‘Help’ files, or catalogues of modern art exhibitions as promising venues where meaning-free text might be found. However, despite exciting prospects (notable contributions from the Whitechapel Gallery and Tate Modern, and above all New York commercial galleries) no researcher until last Thursday had succeeded in discovering a source rated lower than 2·3% on the Barroso scale (named after Jose Barroso in honour of his long struggle against meaninglessness while heading the EU.) However Bognor Sophia University in Wales has now proudly published a claim for a reading closer to absolute zero than ever before. Measurements are made using a sample text of 500 words, which remains available to respondents while they take the test. After reading this they are asked to answer a questionnaire usually comprising 40 questions obviously related to the text, which is submitted to at least 30 respondents. They are told ‘Most of the questions can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or left blank’. However in fact the questions will have been carefully designed by experts so that not one can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the basis of the text provided. (For instance the text may contain a sentence ‘The sinkhole opened up last Monday’ and a question might be ‘Did the sinkhole open up on Monday morning?’) So the fewer the questions left blank, the more the evidence that a respondent has, in the words of Professor Keri Popper, ‘failed to establish a semantic rapport with the text’. If a respondent hands in a questionnaire with every question answered that is accepted as evidence that, as far as concerns that respondent, the text was essentially meaningless. By taking an average over all respondents, investigators arrive at the index of how meaningful the text was for that audience. The new meaningfulness figure of just 1·2% was obtained with a composite text compiled from television interviews with a number of football managers and well-known players discussing preparations and prospects for forthcoming soccer fixtures. Sour-minded critics have objected that this procedure measures the amount of meaning derived from material, rather than the meaning which is actually in it. But Bognor Sophia’s Dean for Outreach retorted that in most transmission of meaning between humans it is the former which matters and that is what should be assessed. ‘After all, if you want to test a lifejacket what you need is real tests in real situations, not calculations based on a fully competent swimmer in a brand-new jacket in a swimming pool.’
 We shall be saying farewell to Manos as a regular contributor based, theoretically, in this office. The appearance of considerable wealth when he most recently arrived on the island with two dozen of Corton Charlemagne stashed away in a luxurious yacht was not misleading, even though it turned out that the yacht itself was only a long-term loan from one of the cross-national aristocratic businessmen in whose company (or companies) he now spends much of his time,.despite the fact that he proudly claims not to have done more than half a day’s work in the past six months. It will be remembered he went to Germany to see if any company engaged in molecular biology could be interested in his proposal to combat climate change by tweaking the genome of grass so that worldwide it would function with white chlorophyll (‘leukophyll’), thus reflecting a huge proportion of radiation received from the sun). He got a better reception than we had expected from our experience with his earlier get-very-rich-quick schemes (well known to longtime readers of this journal). It emerged that the leader of the team deputed to discuss the project with him was Greek, and born in the same town where Manos passed his boyhood half a generation later. They rapidly became excellent friends, and already in March while negotiations on leukophyll were still in preliminary stages, Manos had been taken onto the board of a company where his new friend was the president, receiving a golden ‘hello!’ package as well as a re-location expenses notwithstanding the fact that in so far as anywhere was home base for him, it was and continued to be the island where this journal is regularly born. He joined this first company in March (backdated to January for tax reasons) but following a ‘reshaping’ of the parent company he left in May, receiving a munificent compensation package. Almost immediately he was headhunted to be deputy general manager of the Greek subsidiary of Gowlze Andoghers in July with special responsibility for East Asia, receiving a generous expenses package to cover his costs for relocating to Hong Kong (although so far he has remained in south-west France, since all except essential current operations are on hold pending the probable takeover by US giant Polla Chremata Pasi; this move will probably require his unit and all its activities to be relocated to the US with of course lavish removal allowances). Other ventures are also apparently possible. He has spoken somewhat enigmatically of ‘not doing damn fool mistakes made in green business’, if we understood him correctly. We are glad that success has now come his way, even if not directly because of his many talents, and warm-hearted good nature, and wish him well for all his future operations far away from our island.
(Extract from e-mail from Isabelita)
In Ecuador we are charmed by your Yanqui geographical capacities – North Atlantic stretching from Canada to Kabul! Jens Soltenberg is doubtless a very clever man as you say, but we are puzzled. He says they are putting powerful military forces in Eastern Europe near Russia not to provoke trouble but to be prevent trouble by showing they are well-armed and frightening. But is this not the same idea which the American Rifle Association gives for its policies in America which many people think work exactly the other way?
(With apologies to George Orwell) Britain no longer to be called ‘Airstrip 1’, but instead, from now on, ‘Departure Lounge 1’