Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Category: greed

Difficile est satiram scribere

The magnificent grotesques  It is breathtakingly strange that well-educated members of the élite over in the UK, secure in their mutual assurances of sanity and intelligence, do not notice a towering inconsistency between on the one hand their assertions that Brexit ‘must proceed’ because ‘the people’ of their country voted to leave the EU (actually about one in three of the adult electorate) and on the other hand their own insistence that the terms of leaving should be decided not by the people (which ‘would tie the government’s hands’) but by the few dozen individuals who sit around the cabinet table in Downing Street (or more exactly by a minority among those individuals, who believe that firm governance means carrying on with policies which looked as if they might have been worth a punt two or three years ago, despite mountainous evidence to the contrary now crowding the horizon).

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The Cassandra File   Did crews in the sea-battles of earlier centuries who saw fire-ships bearing down on them simply go ‘tsk!’ and carry on with routine tasks?   The first of these two pieces is, verbatim, an extract from Obiter Ficta (isbn 974-85468-0-2) first published in 2004:

‘It is absurd to expect commercial companies to act ethically.  The essence of their nature is to make profits…if anyone is to tie a few ethical balls and chains onto them – as they certainly should – then that is to be done by governments, and if the latter keep mum…that is because they, the government, want to evade ethical responsibility…  Why however do those who at least grasp that businesses, as such, exist to make money, persist in putting this as ‘serving the interests of their shareholders’ when manifestly it is nothing of the sort?  The interests served are naturally those of the directors and the managers of the firm.’

            The second piece is, verbatim, extracted from Private Eye of 6 April 2018:

‘Profits rise, so do bonuses.  Losses arise, but bonuses are still paid…The short-term interests of senior managers/employees increasingly trump those of the shareholder owners…Deutsche Bank lost €735m last year, yet its bonus pool quadrupled to €2.2bn.  Dividends paid totalled just €227m.’

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Rigor mentis Two constant features distinguishing the English from other European peoples for centuries have been their readiness to devise systems of rules for all aspects of national and domestic life, together with an unfailing capacity to apply them illogically, inequitably, and unjustly.  In 1478 Thomas of Credianton (today’s Crediton) wrote ‘This folk hath wondrous crafte in the devising of all manner of rules and a marvellous wit in waylaying the good that they might do.’  Which other European land could have set out a written code of conduct for the nation’s ruler, duly signed by him, as early as 1215?  The same almost instinctive urge to establish rules and constraints persists to the present day throughout the population, as in the provisions which rule that state officials have the right to raid private homes for – among other instances (and I assure readers I am not making these up) – a search for foreign bees, a survey of the seal population, and checking to discover whether offences related to stage hypnotism have been committed.  It has long been suspected that this strange national urge to regulate has some elusive basis in a malfunction of the metabolic system, possibly resulting from an ancient DNA mutation  and the term rigor mentis has been adopted to name it.  However, very recently there have been certain indications that rigor mentis may in fact be a contagious ailment.  Incidents that seem hard to explain in other ways have occurred in other countries.  For example, Le Monde reported that on 14th June of this year a force of 20 officials including police descended on the harbour front market at Marseille, interviewing and in one case temporarily detaining fishmongers there (one of whom had his entire stock seized) who were charged with not having on their stalls a display giving the name of the fish they had for sale – in Latin.

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Late news

As the deadlines loom and the cryogenic-preservation-lines are checked to see if they are still fit for purpose, rumours are circulating of a brilliant solution to the Irish border conundrum, provisionally to be made public after one further cabinet meeting to settle the principal issue (i.e. presentation).  ‘In a spirit of friendly compromise to ensure the best possible outcome for all concerned’ the UK government is to confirm that it will neither set up nor request any frontier posts along the border, thus allowing completely frictionless trade in the island.  As a generous additional measure the prime minister is to arrange for the UK Border Agency to establish ‘Traveller Assistance Posts’ at all crossing points, at which a wide range of services will be provided, many at low or minimal costs, including high quality restaurant facilities, free internet connexions, traffic updates and advice on safe routes taking into account predicted weather conditions (recommended), insurance for onward travel (obligatory), and free vehicle checks (compulsory for safety reasons),

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Lost and found (Editor’s report)

Our island has a mini-auditorium, little used except by Kevin who thinks he plays the harmonica and occasionally ‘jams’ there with anyone else who shares that opinion and has some sort of instrument they can bring along to join in.  But it’s quiet normally and I sometimes go in there to work.  Last week I found an A4 sheet on the floor with the typed text copied out below, starting with stage direction to ‘Pete’ (who I happen to know is actually Selenia Gove-Grimsdyke); clearly linked to a scheme got up by two of our island’s three political activists, namely putting on a TEDium talk-show next month to celebrate World Political Analysis Day.  My kind-hearted nature makes me feel they ought to be discouraged, by force if necessary.  The text, as mistyped:

[Pete, speaking from lecturn, stage left. under spotlight.   Spotlight: Govrenment reform]

            “To help out on missunderstanding, in our performance tonight this phrase does not mean improvments in the goverment of your country, which-ever that maybe…..”

[At this  point enter Votebot from trapdoor (Jeremy disguise as robot), stage centre: Votebot makes black power salute for soldarity then orates, voice like robot, very loud] : Just get real, you halfwits!  Think!  Why do govrenments exist!  They are there to propetuate the interest of those in power.  True!  keep thinking!!  Do govenments ever have elctions which would really change things? When their not sure about there 100%  control over the poppulation under them – See! they call it, ‘their people’ even though UN has ruled for abolition of slavery – then they pick and choose and invent ‘policies’ and ‘promises’ to see which combo gives them best guaranty they will stay on top. One example out of millions all over our planet: that old London crap called ‘we will build more houses for the people to live in’, comes out in its wheel-chair every election since they invented prefabs in the 1945.   How often you get a real change when they have an election? (About once a centery some goverment gets it wrong, like Najib Razak who right now wondering what hit him).  Goes without saying of course, I am speaking about real changes of government, not the sort of Blairite crap which promises you  a different group got in but in actual factessentials leaves a  priveleged click – a click which it turns out has just the same kind of gangs congratulating them selves and giving themselves bonusses for leading the companies where the poor bleading workers do all the work over the edge of the cliff but the bosses get off alright into theyre holiday homes in the Bahmmas, should be called the Obahmmas, and sometimes the actual same people, with their wives and kids and cronies they play tenis with and eat posh dinners with and old Sir Tom Cobbley and all, and they still run the show with their chums and squeeze all the juisce and money they can get out of the neolibberal set-up which gives all the perques to themselves and their mates, just like the fuedal system worked beautifully for your average baron while the villains slaved away in the mud trying to make enuogh mud for themselves and theyre familie to live on.

[Votebot now at mega volume, striding electronicaly across stage like a poncey self-obsesed CEO, beating cyberchest, and flashes of light from cyber skeleton (if Julien at the Palais électrique really can

(end of sheet)

Regular posting scheduled for 16 July

Less for more and more for less

Scheduled next 1-10-2016

Maud left five days ago, with our sincere thanks for livening up this place much longer than originally planned, and our equally sincere wishes for success in her world tour with the sumo girls.  We hope to welcome another intern soon but of course the supply of young talent willing to come over to work for nothing on our island for a month or two is not huge. 

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Saying of the week: Planning is the antidote to imagination (Old municipal proverb)

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Someone sent us this anonymously, photocopy of a loose single sheet of paper.  From what?

 team’s efforts (not least in Africa – congratulations!).The mystery to me is how it all still goes on like one of those light display projected onto some architectural monument or other.  Public opinion, that sleep-walking ape, whoops at the pretty colours and doesn’t even notice there’s anything behind them.  Never mind the rich pickings for firework manufacturers, condom distributors, and all those who produce chemicals with interesting effects on the human body, what better set-up could you imagine for arranging major financial deals out of sight of the tax snoopers of the world, than fixing them up behind the razmatazz of the most publicised two-week celebrethon in the calendar, all run in full view of all the world’s nations and news media?  Of course some of the big players know pretty well what goes on but they have their own reasons for not noticing, and anyway not a few of them are at it themselves one way or another but they don’t care so long as they can collect a bagful of medals and take them back as proof that Southern Ruritania leads the world (in ways left  conveniently unspecified) and the whole nation should rejoice and line up to support the glorious South Ruritanian government.  Sooner or later some of the snoopers are going to start asking questions about what else goes on so full marks to our leaders for helping to distract  attention this time round by their contribution to the great doping scandal, which with luck pushes back the evil day a few years.  Meanwhile as B says, the thing is to milk the golden goose for all it’s worth.  But the boys feel the Olympics are still a long way short of maximal profitability for all concerned.   Our leader reckons the single key factor is the golden medal business.  Nothing else gets headlines like that in all media back home wherever home is, and it doesn’t matter a dog turd if the medals are for competitive knitting.  He thinks an obvious move would be to increase the number of nations attending (already well in excess of those recognised by the UN), provided of course the new member nations prove they are able and willing to support the Olympic movement in all its many highly expensive activities!  For example, each Australian state could be recognised, athletically, as a separate country.  This would open up especially rich prospects when applied to the US.  But even before that there’s plenty of scope for souping things up a bit with the set-up we’ve got.  For instance, the number of gold medals could be hugely increased if other sports are made to follow the example of those, like boxing, which divide their competitions into many categories according to weight of the athlete, or subdivisions by type, as with swimming, breaststroke, free style or butterfly.  So there could be eg a ‘100 metres-running- backwards’ as well as the usual unimaginative 10 second version.  Other similar moves easily fixed, for instance, separate high jump competitions for those less than 1m 55 tall in the case of men, or 1m 45 for women.  Another one would be harpooning (i.e. underwater javelin).  And since we’re in the pool, how about three-legged swimming races?  Hours of fun!  And didn’t some lunatic a few years ago suggest distance races could be run on  figure-of-eight tracks as well as ordinary ones, would add a new element of skill for the runners and interest for spectators, and imagine the headlines if the leader gets knocked down at the crossover point by a runner half a lap behind him. And another lorryload of gold medals, if they’d get serious about inviting new sporting interests to send teams, which could include fishing, pole-dancing (after all beach volleyball is in there already), sheep-dog trials, bull-fighting, and all that stuff gladiators used to do in ancient Rome.

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Question of the week: Why are so many enthusiastic for the ‘hot-housing’ of athletic talent, to bring honour to their country, when they oppose ‘hot-housing’ of academic talent?  And what about the arts?  And music?

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Page 3 of a mailshot ‘The alpha male reader’s guide to the investment opportunity of the century’.

(The cover was burnt doing something illegal with it.)

 Our consultancy’s white-hot determination to do what only a few highly skilled experts realise is now necessary is a mood last seen when the Roman Empire was collapsing under the onslaught of refugees and asylum-seekers from the wrong side of the Rhine.  Now it  is on the threshold of a dramatic comeback for the sharp-eyed few who see that extremist times call for extreme solutions.  Don’t think small!  We’re not talking about asset-stripping the odd company here or there, running it into the ground and taking the boodle.  That’s just the timid sort of stuff they played at in the 1980s.  Think on the national scale.  Straws in the wind?  One of the British rail companies (which thanks to a Conservative initiative now all offer options for profitable investment in the transport needs of the British working classes) has shown how decisive action can deal effectively with major problems which have been allowed to linger on hamstringing a huge area for years, reducing returns to shareholders and annoying employers by delivering their workforces late.  This company abolished at a stroke hundreds of train services on its network; somewhat over 220 to be precise.  Once abolished, they no longer cause trouble.  No train, no punctuality failure (or horological discrepancy as they like to call it).  No train, no overcrowding to be grumbled about to MPs.  No train, no staff or running costs.  The workforces will adjust to it, they have to.  And now the NHS is experimenting with the same promising approach.  Despite constant efforts to make staff improve productivity and accept efficiency reforms, and despite the contributions made by thousands of highly skilled management personnel, many branches of the National Health Service have proved themselves unable to do their job properly, and they run their finances so badly they are crippled with debt.  Solution?  Close the  hospital or the troublesome parts of it.  Don’t be intimidated just because the sign at the entrance says ‘Accident and Emergency’.    But what is wrong with these first tentative steps is they don’t even go halfway.  You have an empty hospital?  Sell it, prices for office accommodation are still buoyant, and conversion to hotel use, in the right areas, is worth a look for the clever investor.  Similarly for second-hand rolling stock, unused station buildings, and, especially, massive landholdings.  But even this is chickenfeed.  What we want is a determined no-holds-barred campaign to close down and sell off not merely the NHS but all non-profitable sectors of national activity where still supported directly or indirectly by government funds, e.g. the road system, all National Parks, all parts of the coastline not yet privatised, museums and care homes for the elderly in general, the Civil Service likewise, prisons, the judicial system, the army, navy and air force, the House of Lords, the Royal family, and of course government itself.  If there is one economic fact more extraordinary than the abysmally low productivity of most households in OECD countries, it is that so few realise the inhabitants of the UK are sitting on one of the richest collection of assets in the world, and that so little has been done to realise its worth and put it to practical use.  The opportunities are mouth-watering.  Join us today!  Apply as specified on front of brochure.

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I was alerted to the above by Karela’s hoots of derisive laughter.  At first I laughed too.  Then it struck me – the rail company and the hospital events really are happening; it did all really start from the asset-strippers in the 1980s, and look at what enlightened capitalism has brought us to now. Humans evidently have a talent for producing disaster, whether they start from naked greed with added stupidity as above, or from grand programmes of social reform.  Karela and I have written a joint note taking one particular case where we can see what went wrong, and how it could be (but won’t be) stopped short of disaster.

Editorial note:  Let’s just comment on the British National Health Service as an example.  It  was set up after World War II, for two big reasons.  First, if you have any sort of nation, with large populations banding together for the common good, in the very front rank of the common good stands health of the inhabitants.  Some might call that a moral reason..  But there’s also a simple practical reason which even capitalist extremists should approve.  How can you screw the best profit out of your population if they’re suffering from rickets, or tuberculosis, or massive malnutrition?  Now, at the start the National Health Service in your country was well-funded by the government and the service was free to users.  Since those years costs have gone up for a plethora of reasons, which you can easily call to mind.  For any normal business, you’d say costs have gone up so our prices must go up (for that reason and to make sure we can pay the CEO a ‘competitive package’ to stop him emigrating to work in Switzerland or Monaco).  But the National Health Service is not a normal business.  It was set up to provide a free service to the population for very compelling moral and practical reasons.  Those reasons have not altered.  If therefore change is needed, in this case the change must be to increase financial support from the government as is needed to keep the service as it should be. And what better target for the massive investment economists say we need?

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Politically correct news: The League for Opposition to Offensive Notions and Speech is asking future editors and directors dealing with As You Like It to ensure that the ‘lover and his lass’ song is amended to make it clear that the lying in the grass alluded to should only have followed the explicit expression of ‘a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonny yes’.

 

 

A sadly understated economic law

Editorial note: I have decided to overrule the fad among my young contributors for using an initial or sobriquet instead of their full name.  From this date forward please note that writers must give a real name, even if it is not their own, and also at least a figment of an address.  I must also very definitely dissociate myself from the view expressed in the following item.

One does not hear much talk about the trickle-down theory of wealth these days but the assumptions behind it still seem to be holding up well.  The idea, roughly speaking, is that if you get a stratum of serious wealth in any given area then its members will, to put it crudely, spend their money in diverse ways thus spreading wealth through the community.  They will buy goods, engage services, and start businesses.  They will buy cars and pianos, employ butlers and drivers, and establish media companies.  Then the shopkeepers and the butlers and drivers and the editors will have more money than they ever had before, and in their turn they will spend more on the things they want, need and like.  And so on all the way down the economic slope.  As in all the most comforting fairy tales, it leaves everyone better off.  Therefore we should always fight for rich people and rich companies to have the lowest possible taxes, to help the whole wonderful process to work (and it is said some governments even hand out free grants under the name of privatisations to promising candidates to make sure they have enough wealth to keep things going).  But all this is rather abstract stuff.  Let’s try to envisage a practical example.  Let’s take a large group of bankers fleeing their native country somewhere in Asia perhaps, to save their lives and wealth after a leftish government has somehow got elected.  They decide to settle together on the pleasant island of Arbyesse in the Bay of Bolivia, which up to now has maintained a moderate prosperity on the basis of fishing, tourism, and the manufacture  and sale of artefacts attributed to the first bronze age settlers.  The first thing that happens is that they buy the finest houses on the market for their families, equip them with the most modern computer systems, and furnish them with exquisite period furniture bought after whirlwind shopping expeditions to Paris and Hongkong.   You will notice at once that the latter two forms of expenditure do nothing for the local economy, but for now let us pass over that point.  After that they set up a new bank employing some dozens of local staff, some formerly unemployed but most of them attracted by the higher pay from their previous jobs in various local businesses.  The bankers also establish firms dealing in financial investment and advice, facilitating of course dealings with their own previous contacts in other countries.  The purchases continue, notably including two private yachts but also a number of expensive cars (which naturally have to be bought from overseas firms).    They are careful to adopt a low profile in local life though some do offer support for one respectable local party, obviously well-favoured by the population since it wins the next three elections in a row.  Investors and friends of the bankers overseas see Arbyesse as a stable, investible target and pile in.  Hotels are built and infrastructure projects take shape.  So the economy after a few years achieves substantial growth.  Local construction companies (in which the bankers have invested heavily) have done well, as has the airport (foreign-owned).  There is a new ‘Omnimercato supermart’ with 60,000 different kinds of items, on the site of the old vegetable market, which still exists but has moved to a convenient site near the lagoon south of the capital.  Shopkeepers, and owners of other small businesses like the smith who turned his hand to making ornamental ironwork drive respectable cars.  But one night a young trainee accountant, cycling home after a celebratory dinner with some friends in El treinta de julio, a beachside café, noticed several down-and-outs sleeping in doorways, something he had never seen as a child.  He thought about it when he got home, and these thoughts led him by chance to realising that though he seemed to be earning quite reasonable pay, somehow he and his wife still could not afford to buy a number of desirable additions to their home, and had to be very careful with their monthly expenses.  She commented that it was much the same for most of her friends, while her aunt, though married to the man who had successfully turned his small taberna into an upmarket wine-bar specialising in imported wines, was always ready to deplore the drain on her purse when she went to the Omnimercato, and to denounce her husband who insisted they must save one more year for the bathroom suite she had set her heart on.  The accountant, Federigo, became curious and he found it quite easy to get information, sometimes in detail, about the assets of other inhabitants.  It seemed that typical members of the uppermost stratum had assets that would compare quite favourably with those of wealthy individuals in advanced countries.  The next level, senior managers in the construction companies for example, were also quite well off.  But as one went down the scale it seemed that the level of wealth diminished, not just individually but when all citizens of that level of the economy were added together.  He also tried to find comparative data on incomes.  This was harder since the tax authorities were rather more conscious of confidentiality than the private branches of the wealth system.  Nonetheless it seemed that a similar variation existed there.  The most striking thing was that in both cases it appeared that the figure dropped to zero before one reached the lowest band of the population.

            Perhaps foolishly, he started talking about his findings in company.  He was frankly puzzled as to why the ‘ever more vibrantly pulsing economy’ (to quote from the Trombón del Amanecer) pulsed so feebly in its lower depths.  Most who heard him did not share this reaction; they simply regarded it as a natural aspect of human existence.  However, he was finally offered the reason, at a gathering over a few beers one evening with some friends as the rain lashed down on the same beach-side café, the night before he was arrested.  Once again he plaintively voiced his puzzlement and once again saw the same resentful but apathetic impotence.  As often, one of them muttered about ‘all this money around.  Not much filtering down to us.  The only thing that filters down to us is higher prices’.  This time, however, the amiable Irish beachcomber in the corner, a regular customer over many years but one who rarely spoke, added an unexpected coda.  “It’s just what you should expect, you know.  The economists don’t like to talk about it much, but it is an economic law.  ‘Prices rise to meet the money available to pay them’ .”

Brandon Fitzhenry

Chicago

Money porn

1) Money porn   2) airy assertions   3) late news   4) money-grubbing advertisement     re posting schedule see the third item

In a push to squeeze yet more profit out of this venture, or –  as bankers in the boardroom would say –  to ensure adequate resources on the balance sheet to provide a secure basis for future investment (what the bankers say later in the lap-dancing club is ‘Going steady on bonuses this year, but expenses, allowances and options – wah hey!’ ) this journal is to launch a glossy week-end supplement.  It will be constructed according to a carefully researched formula devised by our friends at Extreme Profits Limited.  (An unfortunate name, I always feel, but they’ve done sterling work for us in the past – even better work in dollars and renminbi recently but there are still a few legal problems to be ironed out there.)  Issued on Thursdays to get ahead of the competitors coming sluggishly out at the usual time, the supplement is to be based around nine or ten themes: fashion, with a dash or two of soft porn; cooking (naturally using the most refined ingredients, obtainable in all top-class specialist groceries in leading capital cities); gadgets – mostly black and shiny chromium of course but always one or two with strident colours in chunky plastic; collectibles, for instance old master paintings or Imari vases; a diary column (A hard woman’s week perhaps?); fashionable exhibitions; travel; personal transport, not cars because they are handled just everywhere though we might occasionally look at a Lamborghini, so transport really means the yacht and private jet scene; finally it goes without saying that the  supplement will itself have a supplement on ultra-high-end property.  No sport, probably; golf or racing to get a page or two somewhere.  The other 90% of the magazine will obviously be adverts.  A guaranteed winner, yet when we first started toying with the idea we received a strange anonymous letter, found in the dobermann’s basket by the front door.  We suspected an inside job at once – and all staff should note that investigations have begun – since the animal had not eaten it, although perhaps it had only arrived there after 10 o’clock that morning, at which hour the beast had formed a close attachment to a man delivering vegetables at the back of the building.  The letter attacked us for ‘pandering to the idle rich with a lifestyle that belongs to 0.0005% of the planet’s resources’. (I suppose she – somehow we assumed this to be the correct pronoun – meant ‘inhabitants’, since the resources we’re aiming at would be a much higher proportion of what the planet has to offer.) This was outright impudence since she had completely mistaken the spirit in which we are undertaking the enterprise – not flattery, nor envy, let alone approval;  just plain monetary greed.  The failure of judgment continued throughout the letter.  She asserted that we could not possibly make a profit, for two reasons, and she hoped we would make a thumping loss.  First, we’d have to pay a fortune to the people who write the sort of stuff we were planning.  Well that is where our friend with the green ink was wrong.  We will not be employing any writers at all.  Writers are not necessary.  Instead we shall have a pool of ad-girls, at one tenth of the cost, who will call on all the firms selling high-end luxury retail and sweet-talk them into placing expensive adverts with us.  (What the girls get up to in their private life is strictly none of our business.)  The firms will supply the writing.  They will want to supply it.  For instance the gallery hoping to pack them in for the exhibition will send page after page of background and reproductions of the work of the artist, and life history of the artist, and photo of live-in partner, and more.  Likewise the outfit selling the collectibles, and the travel firms, and so on.  The cooking column will come courtesy of the publishers who are about to bring out the cookery book that will be puffed at the bottom of the piece.  The only thing that might not sort itself out that way is the diary column, but there all we have to do is hunt around for syndications, and pick the cheapest that serves the purpose.  And her second reason for anticipating a smooth flow of red ink onto our financial statements?  ‘Only horrid people who have no feeling for the poor and starving of the world, and people who dream about living that heartless selfish life of luxury would want to read your rotten supplement.’

   My dear, you have hit the nail on the head.  Precisely the target audience we had in mind, and we look forward to huge sales and enormous profits.

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anniversary

Tomorrow is the 229th anniversary of the first manned flight with an untethered free-flying hydrogen balloon, made by two Frenchmen near Paris.   More significant, though, was the flight powered by hot air ten days earlier by Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes.  This remains the first known, and almost certainly the first actual, manned flight, thus beating the Wright brothers by a little over 120 years.  Their publicists frequently claim that the balloonists’ performances do not really count because they were not flying in a device heavier than air.  This is arrant nonsense.  The balloon was both large and heavy.  The latter’s publicists then say that what matters is the gravity potential of the vehicle once other factors, such as the heating of the air, have been taken into account.  But precisely the same applies to the plywood and cloth, or metal, constructions favoured later; if they really were, all factors taken into account, burdened with a positive gravity potential, they would not stay up.  The Wrights, however, had the advantage of a rapidly spinning publicity machine, which was also able to overlook the fact that they were several years later than both Ader and Langley.

From Luddites Gazette

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Late news: a number of governments and senior politicians have lodged complaints with CENSOR (the Committee for the eradication of negative or seditious online reports) about Luddites Gazette, asserting  that it has not shown adequate respect for authority and distinguished public figures.  The editor and staff have been summoned to Geneva to a hearing with power to order ‘appropriate’ penalties (which will cause them problems, since as luddites they refuse to use any form of transport with more mechanical complexity than the bicycle) and their fine journal has been ordered to stop publication immediately.  As distributors of some of their articles we have been issued with an order suspending all postings by Cold Salad until 5 January 2013, when a definitive decision will be taken on whether we can resume activities and if so on what terms.  However, the suspension starts with effect only from tomorrow, 1-12-2012, and we have managed to obtain our first paying advertisement, to launch a fighting fund to defend our right to publish.  (Contributions from readers can continue to be made through the usual channels.)  Check on 5 January to see if we are still here!

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National Social Parties Inc

You’ll know what’s on the schedule!  You’ll know they’re going to have fun with a bright modern fun-filled session in purpose built surroundings!  All parties take place in our specially built PartiPallis (next to Leviathon-3 Supermart on the President Nixon Outer Bypass).  All parties last exactly 1 hour and fifty minutes to allow five minutes for arrival and departure.  (Warning: children who arrive more than five minutes late will not be admitted for security reasons.)  All parties will follow a schedule carefully worked out in consultation with Birthday Kid’s  parents (two schedules are available = show followed by food and food followed by show).  All parties include 10 minutes free usage of Megatrillian Multiplay fantasy machine prior to show.  (Parents will be required to separately purchase the insurance policy, price $9-50, which is included in price of ticket.)  All parties will provide suitable background music, courtesy of downloads from current top internet songs (parents to retain full legal responsibility for downloads).  Delicious meals (vegetarian-style cheeseburgers with french fries, topped off with yummy chocolated ice cream) brought in by the caterer of your choice (choice from nation’s top two favorite restaurant chains).  Fully trained uniformed supervisers, who will ensure each child wins exactly one prize.  Modern fully equipped rest area where children with physical display control deficit will be encouraged to lie down under the supervision of a fully trained rest co-ordinator who will place in the child-size medically designed relaxation facilitator to ensure they do not take further part in the activities before simple medical tests show it is safe for them to do so.

            Bookings must be at least six weeks in advance, and made in person between 10 am and 6pm at the PartiPallis Administration on the forms provided.  They must be accompanied by a booking fee of $35 and by a non-refundable deposit against damage of $250.  Parties begin at 10am 12 noon 2pm 4pm 6pm or 8pm.  Tickets $60 per child.  Parents not admitted during party but may watch from viewing room (admission $25).  Contact info@partipallis.urss.com or call +6653181

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honor hominesque honesti floreant

A gibbous supplement

1) Thought crime in France?  2) democracy limping  3) plutocracy  4) Welsh head lice

Editorial  (From Luddites’ Gazette )

It is only in autocracies that one has much hope of seeing electoral promises fulfilled.  This is partly because autocrats are in a position to see that the subject population does the fulfilling, and even if it turns out that they do a poor job of it, the autocrat can order his statistical minions to announce (with details as required) an outstanding success (the very same phrase as it happens that is currently in favour to describe military retreats).  Moreover the autocrat is going to win the election anyway and therefore can afford to keep promises to a minimum, filling out the campaign with threats if that is his personal taste.  In democracies of course the position is quite different.  Here, promises are the main means by which elections are won, except for a few countries where the primacy goes to money, but even there one sees no significant barrier to the tidal wave of promises.  By an alethic principle somewhat like the economic law of supply and demand, the greater the number of promises made, the smaller the chance of any randomly selected one of them being carried out.  (In an earlier era, policies could also play a part; some fix the point at which promises finally achieved clear predominance as the moment in the presidential election of 1988 when, George Bush, soon to be the victor, said “Read my lips: no new taxes”).

  It is unusual then to see the winner in a more or less democratic country pressing ahead rapidly to make good on a campaign promise as François Hollande has done, not allowing himself to be distracted by his own plans for raising taxes or decisions on how to react to the imminent disappearance of  the French car industry.  Whether we should praise him, however, is not entirely clear.  The promise which he is intent on fulfilling has been described as the introduction of a thought crime into the French legal system.  Perhaps this is a little unfair.  What he seeks to do is not to have some particular thought ruled as illegal, but only to make it illegal in France (pays de liberté,… etc) to express that thought.  Even when the rapid onslaught of neuroscience on human dignity makes it possible in the near future to discover in great detail the thoughts passing through a human brain – perhaps even to discover them at a distance, as when, for instance, the brain is passing through an airport ‘security’ gate – the thought in question would still be allowed – in law.  (There must be some doubt, however, whether any record of it, if only to demonstrate that such thoughts are still freely permitted, could be legal.)  So all that Hollande seeks to do is merely to use the legal system to suppress one particular aspect of free speech, specifically any statement that Armenians were not victims in a genocidal attack carried out by Turks in 1915.  His proposal can of course be considered quite independently of what the effects might be on relations between the states of Turkey and Armenia, and even more on those Armenians still living in Turkey, just as the International Criminal Court (Luis Moreno Ocampo as its prosecutor) issued an indictment for genocide against Omar Bashir, despite the worries that the population in Darfur might then be subjected to even worse pressures than before (worries which reportedly were justified).  We should acknowledge that Hollande has precedents for his proposed move, both in Turkey itself where the legislation on how one may speak about the state is vague enough to be used in precisely the same way, and in Germany where denial of the well-established killings on a huge scale during World War 2 of people selected on the basis of their ethnic origin is forbidden (although strangely it appears that this does not apply in the case of the Roma – but this may have something to do with the fact that to this day they are widely regarded as uncitizens not worth legal protection in large swathes of eastern Europe.)

  In a state run more or less on the basis of reasonable law reasonably applied, the right to free speech at least on historical and political matters is not worth much unless it embraces the right to say things which are unpopular.  If they are not merely unpopular but false then it falls to those who know better, not excluding  official bodies and the government, to put the record straight.  Proceeding in the opposite direction, simply cutting out any mention from the domain of permitted expression, is not only ethically wrong but obviously introduces a wedge that can later be used for the most unsavoury purposes, as in the Soviet Union to give just one of many examples.  If the topic excised from public mention is not false but merely unpopular with the government bringing in the law, then the decision is all the more disgraceful.

 In many parts of Europe increasing strength is seen in parties which want to exclude from their particular country behaviour, people, languages, and beliefs which they consider incompatible with their national patrimony.  Until now, such parties have been called extremist, but when the ruling party in France is seen advancing on the same road, what is the term to use – nationalist, socialist, opportunist ?  Unthinkable!  Time to propose a law to ban any such description.  Or not.

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Democracy through election of representatives in large communities rapidly shows itself – to those who are willing to see – as a thoroughly effective way of disregarding the interests of minorities (viz, at random, the Gypsies in Slovakia) (or those needing political asylum in a large offshore island a bit further to the left) and as a splendid mechanism for ensuring that important decisions are taken on the basis of short-term interests, the short-term interests in question being those of the party in power (to be specific, hanging on to it at the next election)….In addition, since the short-term interests just mentioned are frequently served by dubious deals with questionable characters, it is a right royal road to corruption,  The tricky question might be ‘how do we get somewhere better from where we are now’ and I certainly don’t believe that walking through the streets of a city getting photographed or clubbed by the police is going to help a great deal, much less associating with some malodorous scruffy bunch of anarchists, nor,  however, erupting in a tame newspaper, nor again signing up with any of the other parties (waiting their turn to enjoy the sweets of corruption).  Therefore – ?

(previously published in Obiter Ficta 2004)

The Deputy Editor comments:

   And the great developmental principle of trampling over the rights of small communities when they are in the way of a megaproject with megacontracts and opportunities for economic development (for some) is now upheld firmly not only when dams are built in China and giant highways are constructed in South America, but even in the self-proclaimed heartland of democracy in western Europe.

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The highly respected Michael Meacher cited some exceptionally interesting figures in May.  They deal specifically with Britain, but there is evidence that the situation they reflect is not very different from that in other advanced consumerist economies, such as the United States.  First, in the preceding three years the richest one thousand people, who amounted to 0.003% of the adult population, had increased their wealth by £155bn (thus easily more than enough to cover the whole of the country’s budget deficit, and to spare).  Second, even though the national economy had gone into a steep decline after 2008, that thousand of people had by May of this year arrived at a total of wealth that was ­greater than was theirs at the high point of the economy before the decline.  It is certain that Michael Meacher has a great deal more of such data, which he would probably be glad to provide through his office in the House of Commons, but the point of citing them here is for their relevance in considering what exactly is and should be the basis of the concept nation; our editorial committee trust that some of the conclusions which should be drawn are entirely obvious.  (Incidentally the figures given above appeared in a report in the Sunday Times, a periodical not normally believed to be in the business of fomenting red revolution.)

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News from far corners   (Luddites’ Gazette)

Five species have newly been added to the list of the world’s endangered species, including the Welsh head louse.  Dr Khadija Stumbles of South Hampshire Institute for Biological Statistics said that the increase in hygiene in recent years coupled with the Labour government’s reduction in the tax on fine-toothed head lice combs in 2001 had led to an alarming decline in numbers.  She estimated that in the major urban areas of South Wales the surviving population was now under 50 million.

honor honestique floreant