WARNING! this posting may contain favourable references to Vladimir Putin. I have done my best to weed them out – just this morning I threw one out which described him as telling rather fewer barefaced lies than some other well-known national leaders (named), and another which blatantly failed to maintain that he won re-election only by cunning manipulation of the Russian electoral system with the help of North Korean hackers, without which as every right-thinking westerner knows he would have got under 20% of the votes, with 60% going to Sobchak. (Memo to self: check Faux for those figures.) But someone – Twitter? dark websters? George Soros? undercover Russian moles in Washington? – keeps putting the wretched messages up when the computer is catching its breath after a brisk ten minutes of typo production. AND another one just in this minute as I write! “Trump call to bring Putin into G8: only good thing he’s said all year. Just because you have problems with someone is why you should talk to them. Least bad move of Brits losing empire – talked peace with ex-terrorists. Even Churchill said it: ‘jaw-jaw is better than war, war.” Time out, I think, for my morning ten-minute blank screen thought-free sanity break (prescribed by Dr. Zee Hubris III of New Exeter University’s Institute of the Gymnastic Brain).
The shock news for neonazis world wide (though we don’t have any reliable figures on how many were hoping that Hitler was still alive somewhere in South America and preparing an allegedly well funded return) is that definitive evidence was provided last month through Agence France Presse of their former leader’s demise, in the shape of authenticated fragments of the late Herr Schickelgruber, including enough to indicate that his death was caused by a shot to the head. Enough, also and interestingly, to allow in principle a DNA analysis. Rumours have already begun to circulate, some of which may have unpredictable political ramifications. For instance one magazine with a small circulation in Lower Saxony (until last month – it reports that it is now having to arrange massive extra print runs and hiring 24-hour security patrols) claimed that DNA analysis has already been carried out and showed that Hitler was of mixed ancestry with a major input from West Africa. Another source alleges that the material was actually made available to experts in a centre specialising in gene therapy some months ago, for undisclosed purposes. There is as yet no reliable evidence for the claims that the institute where they worked has had to be closed down, with many of the staff needing hospital treatment following injuries received during attacks by swarms of aggressive white mice, some of which are said to have escaped and been observed in large organised groups as far away as 40 kilometres. More credence is being placed on the reports that a well-respected university archaeological department has confirmed that it is applying to have access to an authenticated version of the DNA with a view to seeing if it will cast light on Europe’s first recorded major battle. This battle, which involved many hundreds of casualties, took place somewhat over 5,000 years ago, and few inhabitants of the EU will be surprised to hear that it was fought in north-eastern Germany (at Tollense) but so far there is complete uncertainty as to which tribes were involved (if indeed it was not a domestic dispute which, as they so often do, spiralled out of control.) A different and less problematic development, obeying modern norms of acceptable practice, has been a burst of energetic attempts to monetise the discovery. A number of groups are already busy selling print-outs of Hitler’s DNA (popular with students as wall charts apparently); such a project could the more easily bring profit since there is no obvious reason why the representation on the charts should be genuine, and little risk of breach of copyright even if it is.
Amazing news this past week: the claim of success in a project that could have short-circuited the threat of yet another war in the Balkans. As everybody knows, the region which under Yugoslavia was called Macedonia, is next to a part of northern Greece which under Greece (of course) is called Macedonia. The members of homo sapiens (sic) who live in either place have for 27 years maintained a situation of admirably determined hostility. The EU handed the northern Macedonia the short straw at the start by refusing to agree to that nation joining the EU or Nato unless it stopped calling itself Macedonia, despite the fact it was a separate nation calling itself Macedonia, while the Greek Macedonia was only a province, and despite the fact that EU and Nato, and the UN, were actually eager to enfold Macedonia (the independent one) in their warm and wholly altruistic embraces. With resolute patriotic indignation Macedonia refused to stop calling itself Macedonia in the decades which followed, and scorned weaselly proposals from unprincipled bodies, like the UN, to ask the Macedonians (in Greece) to call the Macedonians (in Macedonia) ‘Macedonians of the North’ or something of the sort – up until 12th of this month when the Balkans were thunderstruck to hear that agreement had been reached to let the Macedonians use the name ‘Northern Macedonia’, and thus induce regional instability by becoming eligible to join the EU, Nato, conferences to deplore global warming, and all manner of freeby-generating organisations. However, normality returned within 24 hours. Senior politicians in Macedonia (in Greece) launched heavy attacks on the proposal, and at the same time the president of Macedonia (the other one) denounced the idea as something he could never agree to. The threat of unsettling stability has been removed. Some heard the EU breathe a sigh of relief.
The curious fact, though, is that the issue might have been settled years ago, if sensible arrangements had been made for mass testing of the DNA of the two populations. According to eminent historians the two regions became depopulated during the incessant wars and Völkerwanderungen after Justinian’s time and were re-settled mainly by Avars, Bulgars, Serbs and other Slavic peoples, so that none of the present populations (Greeks included, though you had better not mention that to them) can fairly claim any real link to the Macedonians of Alexander the Great, or to his legacy, and therefore they had no proper basis for hostility in the matter. Whether this would have resulted in a delightful period of peace and tranquillity over the past 27 years is of course another question.
Difficile est satiram scribere
The British National Health Service is in the news again, for the usual reason. On reasonable and independent estimates it has in recent years faced hugely increasing gaps between expenses and funding in nearly all sectors (except revenue collection from those, such as doctors and patients, who need to park in hospital car parks, and in nurses’ pay which in real terms has been dropping disgracefully, a circumstance possibly connected with the increasing shortages of nursing staff, and the sharp decline in applications from overseas to join the NHS). One would have imagined that British governments might have made efforts to maintain standards of care for the population, if only to get more work out of them, but one might be mistaken. And this is not an unavoidable accident that has crept up on UK governments. The following is, verbatim, from one of Berthold’s despatches in 2015: it was at the time intended satirically. But can you call something satire when it matches observable data so closely? …. ‘This legislation is to be followed up by a wide raft of measures to be introduced by the Ministry of Health. The overall aim will be to progressively downgrade both the range of services provided by the National Health Service, and the treatments available within each of those. In addition there will be a number of new charges for medical and related care, and increases in the levels of existing fees. At the same time there are to be drastic cuts in the numbers of staff employed in all areas. The overall strategy is to promote deterioration in the National Health Service so as to stimulate members of the public to take better care of their own health, and to learn to pay proper and full attention to the avoidance of accidents at work and in the home. The government is confident that this imaginative and unconventional approach to reform when combined with further exploration of the possibilities offered by co-operation with private investment will produce immensely more satisfying results.’
Personal view The dead and those with life-changing injuries from Grenfell should be remembered with career-changing penalties for those responsible. (Yes ‘responsible’ is as sharply defined as a cumulus cloud; but if you check you will see the cloud really is there.) (J.N.N. Manchester)
Personal view T. May comes closer than any other well-known politician in the past century to fitting the description which the alcoholically inspired Aneurin Bevan fastened on Stafford Cripps back in the 1940s, of being ‘a desiccated calculating machine’ (a term used in the middle ages for ‘computer’). (And yes they had austerity in those days too, though you ought to bear in mind they had had a world war; they weren’t doing austerity just to set society up in a pattern which members of the governing class felt comfortable with.) (D.C.McNaught, Lisbon)
Editor’s note: I am getting off-piste, having to do so much of this stuff single-handed, with only occasional notes from Berthold and even rarer contributions from the Baron Philipp, and Monty in London (who is showing a kindly streak in his personality which I had never spotted before, working all hours trying to force-feed some basics about rational thought and constitutional proprieties into the May government. I hope he fails because if they proceed along the same path, a Brexit calamity of historic proportions is going to lead to the extinction of a party which once in the long ago was a model of what guided democracy in a country with traditions of fair play could achieve in its better moments, but which has now become a contemptible bandwagon, crammed with all manner of unsavoury characters jostling in a struggle to peel off all the carriage’s remaining gold leaf to stuff it in their already well-stuffed pockets, or to tear out any parts of the bodywork they can lever off with a view to profitable private sale, hurling insults and obvious untruths at all and sundry as they pass.