For next posting see note at end
This issue: Reader’s letters; Tech news; Linguistic corner; Sale of Scotland; Traffic; Question; Plaudit; A resistible ‘correction’.
Reader’s letter (translated from German by Baron Philipp – see endnote – and describing itself as anonymous although signed J.G.) What the hell is going on in big power relations at present? Anyone with the intelligence of a New Caledonian crow who pays even the slightest attention to stuff on the media beyond the ‘sports news’ (i.e. football managers conjuring tedium out of platitudes) and ‘celebrity’ gossip (e.g. poor Charles has no hope of sitting on that throne unless he starts a crash programme of celebrity island stunts and ‘daring’ Chippendale-style shows on prime time tv), anyone, in fact, who is even able to read cannot avoid seeing that international big power competition now takes two main forms, often largely independent of each other and indeed sometimes operating out of sync within any one country. One is old-style military violence with bullets, bombs, tanks and missiles; the other, still alas in an appalling infancy, is learning fast ever more fiendish ways to tweak the circuits of other nations’ financial, administrative and electoral networks to ever more damaging effect. In both these modes of confrontation exponents don unnatural personalities, assert and maybe honestly believe that once ‘our’ side overcomes ‘them’ (working with the terrible flaw incorporated into the design when the mammal was developed) everything will be tickety-boo from then on, and all will be peace and prosperity under the winners (by definition ‘our’ side) with trouble-free continuation of climate change and exploitation of the Earth’s resources. To put it delicately, that risks species extinction, of the human species (and others). Unfortunately, whoever you are, there is absolutely nothing that you can do to prevent matters proceeding along this path all the way to Armageddon or the final devastating solar flare. So it is purely as a matter of interest to ask why the west is making such vehement efforts to rouse the populations to hostility towards the Soviet Union (apologies – I mean Russia), and more particularly why they are playing up the traditional military violence approach? Now, the Reds are doubtless devising exotic new ways to reshape the back alleys of cyberspace that the west has not yet thought of, and of course, like all good citizens I know our side would never stoop to anything underhand, however much of a self-imposed handicap that might be. But please can we have a little realism about our officially held views. The military violence threat in 2017 (in Europe in particular) carries all the conviction of a ‘living dodo discovery’, even if you leave entirely out of account the west’s massive dissuasive capacities. Evidence is visible all around like smartphones in the underground and has been for decades. Just look at a map showing positions of western forces and Soviet forces in Europe in 1989 and today. So if you want to put your case shouldn’t it be a little more convincing? There are various reasons why people may loudly insist on their stated position. If you are Theresa May, you believe that it conveys an impression of strength to the dimmer elements of the electorate; others, not only in Washington, work on the principle that if you make a big enough noise about one thing the populace will stop thinking about other less convenient things. Many politicians from long before Goebbels have thought that if you shout something often enough loud enough people will start to believe it; a few seem to suppose it can actually become true (Editor; was he thinking of Brexit here?). It is only a few scoundrelly reactionaries who take loud shouting as a sign that you’re being economical with the truth (but they’re often right). So please – if you have that urge to paint an interesting picture – a little realism (unless you are actually trying to weaken ‘our’ case. ?)
Tech news A Californian start-up is threatened with being wound-up just three months after it had been valued for a possible takeover at $450mn. The company manufactures nanochips to be implanted in the cheeks of air hostesses, hotel staff and others in the greeting industry, such as politicians in the election season. The nanochips are designed to stimulate the muscles required to produce a smile even when this has to override contrary signals from the brain. The signal can be set to run continuously facilitating a smile every three seconds or operated automatically by a timing device, but more usually it is under the control of a local supervisor.
Linguistic corner ideomass; once let that word escape into the wild and you’ll have a huge job to recapture it, even throwing all your thought police into it. It ought to mean the value or effectiveness of a given idea, however acquired; but in practice is most often measured by the total number of tweets or retweets recorded as supporting this or that currently fashionable sentiment.
Sale of Scotland On his flying visit Baron von Hollenberg told us that active moves to sell Scotland are being considered in not one but several quarters. There is said to be vigorous interest, but predictably there seems widespread divergence of views on who pays the bill and who receives the cash, and also, though to a lesser extent, on the status of Scotland after any successful sale. Naturally there is considerable enthusiasm in Scotland herself, though a difficulty is that the Scots seem to generally assume that after sale the nation would control her own destiny, and that is not likely to be easily agreed with any purchaser unless that purchaser succeeds in persuading the present management, Whitehall, to that effect. Some pundits believe that Whitehall’s negotiating skills could allow this to happen, but others are uncertain. Enthusiasm for a sale is even higher in England, especially in view of the oncoming government budget crisis; a sale if concluded in time could forestall a possible appeal, not yet revealed to the public, to the IMF for help (and rescue the career of the unfortunate Chancellor). However other parties too may enter the fray. The EU is said to be considering an offer to purchase at a price of €1 but on extraordinarily generous terms, accepting Scotland in lieu of the remaining sum owed to Whitehall for Brexit (estimated at €90bn) and allowing Scotland thereafter to function as a fully independent state under the tutelage of and paying dues set by an ad hoc committee headed by Jeroen Dijsselbloem. Even further afield, there were enquiries from, among others, a major real estate investor in the US, though it is understood these came to nothing once it was made clear to him that even after a successful purchase it would not be feasible to relocate Scotland to a North American site (tentatively identified as ‘Kilt Country’ in Nevada).
As Editor I must declare that this journal will watch any such development like a hawk, as we may have already established certain moral rights in such a process. Note, for example this posting from 15 January 2012:
Some have suggested that one solution to current difficulties would be to sell Greece to the Chinese. However this is not possible since Greece is a sovereign nation. Scotland, however, offers no such obstacle and London is the obvious recipient of the proceeds. (There is little doubt that the Chinese would snap up the chance to acquire a large warehousing and manufacturing site located conveniently in the North Atlantic between the American and European markets, where the workforce have an aversion to wasting money that rivals that of the Chinese masses, and where, moreover, there would be some obvious immediate savings in costs, eg abolishing at a stroke all the expensive apparatus of a government and elections with competing parties.) If, however, the Chinese are too busy with their acquisitions in Africa, there may still be a chance of turning a useful profit by offloading Scotland to a management buyout, if those at present running the place can parlay their traditional claim of prudent handling of money into enough external investment into the venture.
Reader’s letter from D.P.V of Kingsteignton, evidently reacting to our piece last time about urban congestion (complete letter, as received):
Road building program = more cars
Urban regeneration = more cars
Upgrading infrastructure = more cars
Increasing prosperity = more cars
Technical progress = more cars
Economic investment = more cars
Public/private partnership for transport = more cars
Speculation by hedge funds = more cars
Yours in dismay
Question of the posting : Would it be correct to assume that all inhabitants of the USA who campaign for the expulsion of immigrants are always themselves native Americans? Answer: Not quite – it would be politically correct, but a counterfactual assumption.
Plaudit of the posting Let us praise the admirable boldness – or is it reality-defying imagination? – of those senior academic administrators who threaten that if an ignorant rabble continues to complain about the size of their ‘compensation’ (Ed: are you sure this is the right word?) they will be lost to the country since they will emigrate to some other more generous state which will welcome them as they impress the astounded élites of that new host nation with their Vice-Chancelling skills at more elevated salary levels.
No correction (on lie detection) Two querulous malcontents attempted to find fault with one of the items in the previous posting, and the Editor does accept (following the insistence of our patroness, without whom this journal would not have its head above financial water) that reducing the number of words posted to below 2,000 led to a slight lack of clarity. The intention was to state that current results from human assessment are likely to be improved thanks to advances based on refinement of techniques for extracting data from visual images. Every tech-savvy schoolkid can manage mere facial recognition now (with interesting results on the number of last-minute bookings on flights to countries having no extradition agreements with nations in Europe) but these advances promise tabloid-headline speculations about the emotional and physical reactions of certain highly respected politicians presenting the prizes at Girls’ Schools swimming galas.)
Editorial note: As scheduled, Baron Philipp picked me up from Back Field and a couple of hours later we crossed the southern English coast, with the Baron (piloting the craft himself) supremely indifferent about the risk of being greeted by a posse of tax inspectors. “If they know I’m coming they won’t be there. If they’re there they’ll learn who I am. Five minutes, settled!” Indeed two hours later he and Lady W had everything wrapped up between them. Total agreement that the Purple Parakeet in Shepton Mallet was the best place for lunch, and total agreement all round about journal practice. Crisis not my fault, Lack of interns and permanent staff a natural result of geography and meteorology; balanced by great benefit of being outside social media banality and most official and covert censorship zones. London contributors excellent but irregular. A few changes desirable, given that attention span and background knowledge of modern readers comparable with capacity of adolescent grasshopper. I should steer to greater percentage of small ‘faits divers’ and cut down on pieces with 500+ words. And adopt new title. Support for further year promised. Most welcome; the two of them represent almost the whole of our practical support, despite all the congratulatory e-mails and messages of goodwill. Perhaps the journal’s best day ever, though I have reservations about the new title. The first half, MM (Mid-monthly) needs no quibble, but I prefer to keep the QQ as initials until I’ve had more time to think about that.
Future postings scheduled for the 16th of each month except 15th for February