Telling it straight : Tribute : Fake views from Brussels : Is Macron real? : Historical note : The battle against immigration : Appeal.
Next posting can now be re-scheduled for original date 1 August 2017
Warning: this posting may contain references to persons you would prefer not to read about
If there is one thing wrong with J.Corbyn’s leadership it is that he keeps believing in a decent level of intelligence and honesty in interactions with interviewers and critics. For instance dealing with public security, having said clearly and firmly he opposes all forms of political violence, and specifically ‘all bombing’, he is then asked if he condemns the IRA’s use of bombs. Can it be that the interviewer does not know the meaning of the word ‘all’? Or feels that the British Isles needs a distinction between good bombs and bad bombs? Or is hoping somehow to trap Corbyn into a verbal structure which might allow a misinterpretation his opponents would hope to see goose-stepping in bold 72 point type across the next day’s front pages (or equivalent)? Terms such as ‘shameful’ and ‘disgusting’ are overused in politics; I’m told, so choosing very slowly and carefully I shall say, instead, that the way most of the media have cynically trashed Corbyn with personal insults and fraudulent twists of the full hand of policies he offers is vile and contemptible. To his detractors the benefits of a policy are apparently unimportant beside their own triumph when he could not quote to the exact figure how much it might cost in 2018. And the Labour spokesmen trying to put the other 99 views (that’s democracy isn’t it?) are good people but mind-numbingly useless, unable to stop themselves mouthing clichés which need close scrutiny before you can distinguish them from the Blairisms which did so much to ruin the life prospects of so many outside London. ‘It is essential to adopt policies which will attract investment in the nation’s infrastructure.’ Oh, incisive! Original! Passionate! Convincing!. Hah! And yet their task is so easy: Ditch the manifesto down the nearest toilet, get a big sheet of cardboard and just write in very big letters
‘You’ve had a Tory government for 6 years. You hear them tell you how well they can manage things. Just look at the cost of living, and then at the state of (1) the NHS (2) the railways (3) the roads (4) gas, petrol, water (5) the cities and public safety; and then find out how much public money, your money (tax isn’t just income tax, you realise?) – is being poured into them with such rotten results.’
(And ponder: at the time of the recent Turkish referendum even the EU briefly poked its head above that parapet which normally blocks a clear view of what is going on outside bureaucracy, and remarked that it had not been a fair campaign. How about asking them for a view on this British election campaign?)
In memoriam Rhodri Morgan. Honest, humane, clever, funny. You’ll be lucky if you see another like him in the next fifty years.
Our new intern Edward’s first contribution. (Fortunately he knows about computers. I’ve been careful for years how I connect it up because somebody once told me that if I put the plug in the other way up all the programmes would run backwards.)
May’s reasons for calling the election? Tory HQ assures us it was to get a strong hand in Brexit negotiations. I was in my club in London last week, and that story brought appreciative chuckles from some of the oldest members who recalled how in the 450s prosperous cities of western Europe had often saved themselves by warning Attila and his Huns that their inhabitants were firmly united in their opposition to being sacked and plundered. The lessons of history are woven out of strands of fairy gossamer. Another current instance is peace in Europe. In the past few months Brexit has transmuted from a small ludicrously shaped cloud, menacingly black but far away on the political horizon, to a terrifying dark portal with Lasciate ogni speranza painted over the top by a Luxembourgeois tax advisor. Sinister forms engaged upon strange businesses are dimly perceived within. This naturally brought a risk that public trust in the wise, strong and stable management of the authorities could break down, and one result has been the sight of large numbers of men of reassuring appearance and manner emerging onto the screen from the hospitality rooms of various media broadcasting organisations, to allege as hard as they can go that Europe has had peace for 70 years thanks to the European Union. (Actually the European Economic Community only really got going in the 1970s, so it’s serious cheating to claim more than about 45 years at best, but let’s not quibble about that.) They belong to the professionally reassuring classes who govern all respectable democracies (unless attacked by an outbreak of populism). They are often called ‘experts’. Experts in what subjects is obscure, however. Obviously not history of the Balkans (and perhaps the Hungarian uprising of 1956 slipped past their consciousness without stopping to say hello.) But they are fully able to assure us that these decades of peace (more or less) result from the existence of the EU. Only an irresponsible sceptic would suggest the diametrically opposite view, that the continued existence of the EU (XXL/one-size-fits-nobody bureaucracy) was, on the contrary, made possible by the peace which was there because Europe in the 1940s and 1950s knew what war could be like (my own family taking a bad hit), and because many talked about those terrible experiences to the next, half-listening generation. Peace because Europe was exhausted, and because Europeans were frightened it could start again, and because they were told that if a war did start the Reds would take over (or if you were living on the other side, ‘the capitalists will take over’.) [They have actually, but not through military means. So why the hell are we all running a scare campaign about the military threat from Russia? Just look at where ‘Allied’ troops and Russian forces are now, and where they were in 1989.] Peace because the interests and energies and spare money (for those who have any) of the next generation have been diverted into small electronic toys purveying trivia and pornography and the chance to troll unsuspecting innocents, at the touch of a couple of buttons, or into ‘sport’ or into what is bafflingly described as entertainment. On the other hand, take a look at East Asia. They have by now had pretty close to international peace all things considered (by normal geopolitical standards admittedly, and not commenting on their internal politics) for not 45 but near 70 years. ‘Ah, but what about North Korea?’ Well if, unlike nearly everybody else, you try looking at the actual records for the past 45 or even 70 years you’ll find that far less international military violence on the well established European pattern has started from North Korea than – at random – from France, or the UK. North Korea may be going to cut loose any day now but hasn’t actually been involved in serious international warfare since 1953. The nations of East Asia haven’t had a regional union complete with a wonder-working Brussels to help them. So what else has been going on round there for 70 years? Why, red China!
EMacron. We know of no real evidence to support the rumour that the new French president is the result of 3-D printing (though one of our sources messaged back ‘Système politique français foutu. Voteraient quoi que ce soit pourvu que ce n’est pas pour Marine.’ We can note incidentally that the government printers Printapoly (see postings 10-7-16 and 1-9-16) have experienced unexpectedly poor sales performance, despite the guarantee that the ministers they printed would have an IQ of at least 100. In fact initial enquiries were strong, but it appears that the price has been pitched (necessarily given the costs) so high that it drastically reduces the pool of possible buyers (which is already greatly reduced since most potential clients – governments – either see a purchase as unnecessary because they can obviously do the job themselves or to be avoided at all costs in case it becomes obvious to all that they can’t).
Historical clip (in three parts)
(a) March 7 1965 3,500 US Marines landed in S.Vietnam. Ten years later US forces withdrew from the country. Nearly 60,000 US military personnel had been killed in that war and more than 150,000 injured. Estimates of Vietnamese casualties are between two and three million, more than half civilians. In 2017 Vietnam is prosperous (although explosives of many kinds still litter the terrain, and appallingly high numbers are suffering from the effects of toxic chemicals). Vietnam also now has good relations with most countries including the USA.
(b) For hundreds of years Afghanistan has been the scene of violent tribal conflicts, sometimes energetically involving neighbouring areas of central Asia. Invasions from outside the region, notably by the British Army, have been disastrous failures. So far, however, Afghanistan has given no sign of wishing to conquer the world, or even any significant amount of territory outside the central Afghan area.
(c) 26-5-17 President Trump wants 3,000 more troops to be sent to Afghanistan.
Reader’s contribution (Kevin Solmsen, Nairobi)
A friend, recently arrived from Britain, but wanting to remain anonymous claims he had to attend a highly secret awards ceremony last month in Britain’s Whitehall. A variety of awards were made including a special trophy for the most outstanding contribution to upholding British standards relating to aliens. This friend himself was considered ‘principal actor’ in denying asylum to 28 applicants, including two who had lost limbs in Middle East gaols, but he did not make it on to the podium. The overall winner, whose 149 excluded applicants included most daringly a final appeal rejected as ‘illegible’ because it had been written in ink of the wrong colour, had ruled that a 92-year-old man must be deported to the country where he was born (Cameroon, where his British parents had been medical missionaries) despite having lived in the UK since 1934 continuously except for British war service 1942 until 1945, during which he was twice mentioned in despatches. The highest award, he said, took the form of a silver replica of an open passport bearing a visa allowing residence for up to ten years overprinted with the word ‘Revoked’.
Appeal for information
Those without inherited wealth are constantly pestered nowadays to increase their contribution to the nation’s productivity (if only by sending their wife, husband or live-in elderly grandmother out to work, if by some failure in the system they have been spending more than 84 hours a week in the family home.) In the old days it would be the local baron who would be keeping the peasant noses to the grindstone (or, as it might be, the sheepdip) in the race to increase the GDP of the community (CEO the local baron). Prominent among the hustlers these days are the EU Commission. Is there a reader who can tell us if anyone measures the productivity of the EU commission? (And what might its members need to do to score well – give evidence of having attended an adequate quota of conferences on transport problems in the South of France, or led a satisfying number of study trips to the sort of exotic countries which seem to specialise in receiving them, in the sort of hotels that no doubt do so much to improve the development, and productivity, of their local populations?)