Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Category: honesty

MMQQ6

Base jumping; political honesty; recycling bodies; political English and sleep; fake news in ancient times; economising on answers.   Next regular posting scheduled for 16-5-2018.

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A long and interesting phone call this week from our highly esteemed former colleague (Dr) Montgomery Skew.  This fragment  verbatim, as Monty has privileged access to the spooks’ interview recording devices and he kindly let me have a print-out to send you.

I find it hard to avoid supposing I must have been dreaming, but I don’t think I was.  I think I really did hear our Minister for Unaided Cliff Descent Strategy vaunting his case for the ‘shut your eyes and jump’ approach on the grounds   that after Brexit ‘we’ would be able to trade with exciting hitherto under-explored  countries (such as Brazil, cited by name) which contain vast remote regions harbouring who knows what treasures, all now to be available post-Brexit to British merchants boldly exploiting new lands.  (See portfolio of maps hand-drawn for British schools by Jacob Rees-Mogg, available from HMSO.)  (How it came about that the Yanks and other nations of the world had not yet noticed these exciting prospects did not achieve explanation in the tv clip).  The treasures could include such items as hitherto unknown herbs gathered in the depths of the tropical forests, offering cures for leprosy or German measles or Spanish flu or Hungarian planipedia, or ‘magic’ scaffolding (ideal for constructing invisible border posts).  Perhaps he’s right, and maybe they could find a cure for early onset adult male stupidity, a common disorder of cabinet ministers, as well.  But shouldn’t there be a little evidence for all this ?  Shouldn’t there be shots of the minister in dark glasses sidling into the side entrances of anonymous skyscrapers in Africa, weighed down by bulging briefcases and surrounded by armed guards; shouldn’t there at least be rumours of secret deals in the Caribbean under way about which we ‘cannot yet give public information for fear of creating a fever  of speculation’ on the markets?  What about hush-hush private flights to ‘undisclosed destinations’ or better still those sovereign bases on Cyprus?  Glorious opportunities there for interesting cross-border trade, in and out of the EU, very shrewd bankers readily available, and good connections Middle East and in all directions.  Silence is an unnerving sound when you’re supposed to be in the middle of a market place.

 †  at this point I rejected a note from the subediting computer:  ‘rocks’ a better word than ‘grounds’

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Linguistic WARNING.  You should be aware that this woman, Theresa May, may be dangerous for your understanding of the English language and cause linguistic damage or even partial breakdown.  For instance the Guradian newspaper has recorded her describing ‘full alignment’ (ie having the same tariffs on imports as some other trading group) as ‘sharing the same policy goals’.  But if you are British please remember that for legal reasons you are not allowed to believe that British prime ministers could ever be dishonest or deceitful, even unintentionally, while in office.

(Constitutional lawyers are questioning this special status of a prime minister, as amounting to discrimination against other ministers, who have shown that they are prepared to boldly and openly disregard facts live to camera on television.)

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(With permission from a letter to the Georgian Gentlefolk’s Gazette)

It disturbs me to hear that the government is considering a law to establish a presumption of consent to donation of body parts from those who have died, unless permission is explicitly withheld.  As it stands this would amount to nationalisation of the bodies of the dead, marginally less repugnant than in other cases of nationalisation given that consent can be denied by those who make timely arrangements (but would it be necessary to have the certification tattooed on the body?).  It has the advantage of setting a precedent, for if we are allowed to opt out of national uniformity on this issue, it would be inconsistent not to allow opting out in, for example, the matter of income tax.  However, I have an immediate objection on different grounds.  Surely if dead bodies are to be, in the popular term, ‘recycled’ then on both moral and practical economic grounds a free market would be the fairest distribution system, with relatives of the deceased or the rightful owner selling organs to those prepared to pay the highest price.  This could perhaps depend on the urgency of the purchaser, but I trust we could rely on communities to join together in raising a high sum for a worthy candidate if he or she is not personally able to meet the price required.  Groups who had a particular regard for some former member might wish  to arrange competitive bidding to achieve an especially high price as a demonstration of their respect for the deceased, and effective publicity for such sales would enhance the effect.  And of course by no means every portion of the departed will be of mere practical utility to those left behind.  One can envisage those who had a special bond of amity or sympathy for a former colleague seeking to preserve that link in a very real sense by bidding for some suitable portion of anatomy, an index finger perhaps –  the ring finger, why not? – or the scalp maybe, to be embalmed and mounted in a tasteful ceramic decoration as a memento of the former friend or set in a brooch with a suitable accompaniment of gems, while the sum raised by the sale could be directed either to reduction of an outstanding tax bill, or go to some charitable purpose in the friend’s name.

Lady Anthelmina Strych-Corker  (Port Nargent)

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Governmental English

This office apologises to all those working in the NHS for having mistakenly used the correct spelling of the minister’s name in a recent piece which touched on the achievements of the UK Ministry of Health.  The Ministry’s astounding capacity for imaginative official statements soars ever higher exactly as funding for the service and those working on the front line dealing with actual patients does not.  The minister J.Hunt termed the pay ‘deal’ recently agreed (‘agreed’ as in ‘imposed’) ‘incredibly well-deserved’.  Masterly sleight of tongue.  Leaves the dozing proportion of the British electorate (currently 65% and increasing in direct proportion to the annual increase in the use of social media) thinking “Oh, good.  At last the British government is starting (?) to reward some of those who actually do the work that keeps the country going.  Note to the dozing:  ‘incredibly well-deserved’ DOES NOT EQUAL the phrase ‘incredibly good’; it tends in the exactly opposite direction even when it is pronounced with a confident and ingratiating smile.  That is before you get to what the ‘deal’ actually was.  It proposes an increase of 2% per annum.  The current rate of inflation has been reported to us (optimistically?) as 2·3%.  Therefore the working staff have accepted a ‘deal’ which promises to leave them losing pay in real terms for the next three years.  By the way, we have not been able to find reliable figures for the likely increase of the Minister’s ‘package’ over the next three years, but are reasonably certain it is not less than £120,000 per annum, if he continues in the same position.  This is how a modern western country with electoral democracy arranges efficient management of the national budget, ensuring that inadequate money does not go to valuable members of the population who need or deserve it.  (Sic)

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The Baron Philipp is back in his fiscal paradise after an exciting but rewarding trip round such areas as are still alleged to be safe for tourism in the Middle East and adjacent areas, and has sent us this: ‘Marvellous trip, no serious trouble.  Our party was shot up twice but as we were travelling in armoured minivans there was no serious inconvenience except for a couple of guards who got hit.   Magnificent ancient sites, very glad to have been there, especially the Krac des Chevaliers, before our friends and allies bomb the shit out of them, as our transatlantic colleagues put it, repeatedly.  (Incidentally pals in the embassies expect the bombing at an early date, having seen the Mueller enquiry circling in a way which suggests it is coming in to land.)  Astonishing mix of people on the tour, from rednecks out of the deep south ticking off the ‘Forty sights you must not miss’ (and in Cyprus I heard one telling her companion “This is sump’n else to do with all that nood statue stuff”) to elderly scholars from my own Heimatland with impeccable English, knowing Shakespeare better than I do.  One of the latter told me of a newly unearthed papyrus (definitely antedating Zenodotus) which proves Sophocles was peddling an entirely bogus story in the famous drama – the fellow never killed his father, nor did he marry his mother, probably never went to Colonus either.  What happened really was a brisk frogmarch into exile after court officials discovered his father had been pillaging all the public funds for years, and funnelling the proceeds into secret hiding places in Ionia.  Palace advisors appalled, city facing ruin and invasion if news got out; urgent consultations; deputation to give ultimatum to king.  That encounter not a success:  “A king is not to be commanded by his minions.  Throw these impudent fools in prison for execution tomorrow” or something of the sort.  Further urgent consultations with the palace guard, which decided on the traditional approach in such cases.  They hired a couple of Persian assassins (they blamed bad things on Persians even in those days but in this instance it happened to be true) to kill the king in a faked chariot accident, the queen was given poison, and the court poet ordered to run up a version of the story on entirely original lines which they set out, reasoning correctly that if it was seriously and improbably lurid most people would accept it as the truth (just as they do today).  The ex-crown-prince got off lightly, was immediately taken under no-nonsense escort to the fiefdom of a minor chieftain in Thrace, where he was established in a modest estate and informed he would be hunted down by the chieftain’s men and summarily executed – they added persuasive details – if he ever attempted to leave.    He was allowed a small annual pension, but it was only paid for three years, because a young official, who later became the next Treasurer back at home base, produced a rule that to receive the money he must prove he was truly the son of the king, which of course he could not do because he did not dare to leave Thrace.  Wonderful!  They certainly knew how to deal with financial crookery in those days.  According to the papyrus he lived on there until he was carried off by an eagle at the age of 112.’

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From the records, for interest  

An enquiry to the Economist, following its publication of the usual sort of article in 2008:

Sir,

There were all too many contentious points in your editorial ‘Barbarians at the vault’ (17th May) so may I just pose you one question?  What important difference divides your assertion, ‘Financiers are rightly rewarded for taking risks, which by their nature cannot be entirely managed away or anticipated’, and  the following proposition: ‘Gamblers are rightly rewarded for placing bets, which by their nature cannot be guaranteed to win’?

       My answer would be that gamblers on the whole are using their own money.

(No response to that enquiry emerged from the magazine.)

World’s truth reserves nearly empty

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

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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?)

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In memoriam Rhodri Morgan.  Honest, humane, clever, funny.  You’ll be lucky if you see another like him in the next fifty years.

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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!

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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).

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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.

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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’.

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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?)

 

Suspended service

It is with regret, particularly at this time when governments of the world are lining up to promise that they will soon announce pledges to supply aid to the people of Syria (while not neglecting other important issues such as reform of the labour markets, and the needs of the world’s financial system), that we must declare this journal suspended until further notice, as a result of repetitive strain injury

We can incidentally state categorically that we have not been ‘warned off’ as a consequence of the appearance of anti-semitic comments.  No such remarks have been made at any point in the appearance of this journal, as can easily be verified by anyone who wishes to do so.

It may be that service will be resumed at some point, but in its absence we wish great success to all who are making efforts, even on a local scale, towards humanity, justice, truth, and fair play.

Parthian shots

1) Osama Bin Laden’s photograph   2) efficient communication   3) morphology and the islamic world          4) prediction            Future distributions, if any: see special announcement at the end

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The deputy editor writes: our editor left two weeks ago, asserting that the stress of business in this office forced him to book in for a week at what he decided to call a ‘meditation centre’.  It now seems he has extended his visit to Cebu, reasons unknown, but yesterday Andrew, an old friend of his since the days in Sun City (when Jim still had a full set of toes), dropped in to the office bringing this short piece together with a note from Jim insisting on it going into the next distribution, i.e. this one.   (I personally disclaim responsibility for allowing such a farrago of hypothesis onto our site):

‘That photo of Bin Laden, keeps turning up in the prints and online as well, but there are some very odd points about it.  First off, it was obviously not taken when a helicopter had just landed outside and heavily armed soldiers were crashing through the doorway.  But this was the only time when he was in that room in company with any of his opponents.  On the other hand, he was not in the habit of holding open house, so this snapshot could only have been taken by a friend or a servant, yet nobody who fell under those headings would have been trying to make him look feeble or despondent which pretty clearly was the intention of the photographer, who therefore would have had to be on the ‘other side’.  But as I’ve said none of those on that side were close enough to take such a photo, even supposing that he would sit quietly to let them take it.  That’s all supposing it really is Bin Laden anyway.  A view of an elderly Asian, heavily bundled up, three-quarters view from behind?!  As for the claim that the man in the photograph was watching a soap opera, how could we know since we’re not shown what he’s looking at.  How could anyone know, except trusted supporters, who wouldn’t be trying to take a photo showing him like a poverty-stricken elderly refugee with nothing better to do than sit on the floor watching television.  And if some of his friends had been taking photographs to make him look bad, do we say the execution squad was lucky to pick this one up, or unlucky that they couldn’t find a better one?

            When will guys realise that the more lies you put into a case, the weaker you make it?’

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Opinion piece (Julitta Pulversie)

Is this really the era of communication, with Flitter, Facetube, and Inked-up, all competing for a place in the frontal lobes of victims of screenfever (as well as hundreds of antisocial networks and a number of outright nasties, a.k.a. ‘governments’)?  It has to be admitted that the marvels of modern technology have dramatically changed possibilities: it is now possible to sit at one’s desk and with a single click send a message off to destinations all around the world so that not one, but many thousands, both private individuals and commercial companies, may all fail to answer it.  In other words we have to refine previous notions, and distinguish between old-fashioned communication which (along with correspondence) is a bilateral business, and on the other hand modern economical, time-saving, one-way communication.  Unofficial leaks from the headquarters of a  leading organisation guarding the security of electronic data transmission report that the percentage of unanswered communications has reached a new all-time high.  An initial message, known as the αcom (pronounced ‘alpha-com’), is counted as answered if a βcom, a reply, makes a return journey between the same two communication points within 72 hours.  On Thursday last the overall percentage of βcoms neasured against the αcoms fell to a new low of 8.1% – even when identifiable spam was excluded from the αcom total.  That is, about 11 out of every 12 non-spam messages sent was unanswered, thus providing the world’s information transmission system with enormous savings in time and money.

            There are no figures available for any exact comparison with thirty or forty years ago but research by the British Post Office (shortly to be converted into a retail chain specialising in stationery and office equipment, dropping the time-wasting transmission of personal mail though still open to logistics contracts for bulk delivery of advertising material) has suggested that personal correspondence back in those days was predominantly a two-way affair, even if a longer timespan had to be allowed for replies since transmission was in those days physical not electronic.  The estimate was that in the early 1980s about 11 letters out of 12 would be answered within two weeks.

            We need a new term for this more careful concept of messages hurtling through cyberspace like missiles ¹   on their way to points from which nothing will return.  ‘One-way communication’ is far too wordy.  Perhaps, bearing in mind the reputation, justified or not, of the famous triangle, we can call them ‘Bermudan messages’; and the activity of the optimists sitting at keyboards or prodding touch-screens to send them off in their millions will therefore be ‘Bermuding’.

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¹ Jeremy wishes to add a note that, according to his personal research, with some servers a more accurate phrase might be ‘faster than a fairly fit carrier pigeon’

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Linguistic corner (contributed by Svetlana Helgasdottir, docent in the Freie Universität Neasden)  The western news media are flushed and breathing hard with reports of islamists taking control of territories all over northern Africa.  Unless I am much mistaken this is a striking change from just a decade ago when those nations were known to have a moslem population (or in the case of very elderly journalists ‘a mohammedan people’).  The suffix ‘-ist’ has had a patchy career.  It was borrowed originally from the Greeks (who would probably like to claim it back or even better to have a large sum to cover unpaid fees for its use) but at first served simply to refer to someone regularly associated with an activity indicated by the first part of the word to which it was attached: harpist, pianist, artist, optimist, physicist.  Often there are groups of people who specialise in those activities, and so naturally ‘-ist’ was also used when the emphasis was on the group or some shared characteristic of the group rather than the activity itself: communist, socialist, impressionist, monarchist.  (This is language at work, not a mathematical system, so of course what we find are family resemblances among different uses of a suffix, no exact criteria.)   From this point it is not at all surprising that it became especially common with political groupings.  As geopolitics became more complex over the past two centuries the number of recognisable political groups increased, and their sheer number together with the fatal tribal impulse in human nature guaranteed most of them would be viewed with disfavour by any randomly selected citizen – ‘our side’ against the rest.  From the point of view of the European voting classes, colonies which wanted their freedom were full of nationalists.  The proletariats, who obediently thought as their country’s leaders instructed them, deplored the influence of marxists.  ‘Communist’ which started out as simply a designation for people subscribing to a particular social theory soon acquired this new nuance (and hasn’t it raced ahead on that route since!) 

            Given the way that history actually developed (egged on by a popular press and populist  politicians) it was entirely to be expected that the suffix would soon be used when with the implication not merely ‘on the other side, and disliked’ but ‘on the other side doing evil stuff’; thus the predominant use of anarchist, extremist, terrorist, and more recently fascist and Maoist (but let’s be kind and exclude dentist from this group)We now have a suffix with various nuances: on the other side, doing evil stuff, member of a group, attachment to a particular idea or theory, or a particular activity.  As already said this is not a mathematical system and one still finds the suffix where one or more of these ideas is not required; for instance, arsonists are not normally considered to gather together in groups.  (Also of course where a name for members of the other side was already well established there was no need to import the suffix;  Democrats continue to speak of Republicans, not Republicists, though perhaps both groups may feel that, as politicians, there is one ‘other side’ group they are are opposed to, namely the lobbyists?)  But where all those shades of meaning are felt to be present, ‘-ist’ is now definitely the favoured suffix.  There is now little danger of encountering anarcheers, extremians, or terrorites.

            So it is interesting to see the political groups in northern Africa who have a moslem allegiance referred to frequently as islamist in news reports, instead of the previously normal islamic or moslem, even when speaking of groups not engaging in violence.  Now whether the change was actually engineered by forces with axes to grind, or whether it has been promoted after appearing spontaneously is not the point.  What is a factor to be taken into account is the nuance usually carried along with the suffix.  It is then worth noticing that the islamic groups currently holding power in Egypt, put there by two successive free elections which each gave them around 65% of the vote are now widely referred to as an islamist government, while it is those opposed to them who have formed a clear majority of those rioting and throwing stones in Tahrir Square.

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prediction (after our note in the previous distribution about Leah Menshevik’s shrewd prediction, two readers have written in to comment that our own record is good enough to justify including a prediction with each distribution.  As stated in the announcement below, the journal may not be able to provide a regular feature on these lines.  Nevertheless here at least we can offer one, borrowed with permission from The Tale of Esmond Maguire pt 3 (§ 137):

            Oscar tells me that the way things are going in neurology, it will one day be possible to have elections that are truly and deeply democratic, where not merely are numbers counted, but strength of support is measured individually for each elector with respect to each candidate.  Of course, those same advances will make it unlikely that any régime, once in power, will ever find itself inclined to hold the elections.

honor hominesque honesti floreant

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announcement: The trouble with CENSOR (see earlier distributions) continues, even though we did no more than reprint items from Luddites Gazette (now indefinitely forbidden publication since they were unable to reach the appeals tribunal within the time limit set).  A final decision about our service is to be handed down on 1st April, and we have been given a temporary ban for the intervening period.  However, as often with authoritarian bodies, they have combined injustice with incompetence, and the ban was ordered for the whole of the month of March; they apparently thought this would include our next distribution scheduled for the first of that month.  So we are bringing the distribution forward by one day.  For prospects in the longer term check this site on 2nd April.

New year, new worries

We have provisional permission to distribute, if no mention of Stonehenge; more news, we hope, in a distribution 15-10-2013.

         Today: 1) Old Boore’s Almanac   2) New Year resolutions  3) the threat of conformity

(If any who received the private distribution chance to be reading this we hope they will understand that at this date distributions  must be largely identical, given our word limit.)

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Old Boore’s Almanac

January.  United Nations passes non-binding resolution declaring that climate change is happening and is a bad thing; in addition, all nations are asked to treat sympathetically those nations which are worst affected.  An amendment proposed by the Maldives and Bangladesh to make the latter aspect mandatory is overwhelmingly defeated.

February. Republican politicians building on the policy advocated by the National Rifle Association press for all allies of the United States to be allocated a substantial supply of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, and for missiles to transport them, arguing that the best defence against an evil nation with nuclear weapons is a righteous nation with bigger nuclear weapons.

March.  Facing a threat of imminent dissolution an emergency summit of the European Union decides that the only way to maintain unity is to identify a dangerous common enemy.  A number of leaders propose that this should be the islamic world, but it is pointed out that such a choice has already been pre-empted by Americans.  Other proposals include China, the world trade in illicit drugs, cybercrime, South America except for Brazil, while one western island nation even suggests that the eastern members of the European Union itself should be identified as the hostile entity.  The summit breaks up without agreement.

April.  A lengthy feature appears in the New York Times giving the views of international lawyers on the use of drones, and detailing the extent of drone attacks worldwide, with estimates of deaths and injuries among members of armed forces at war with the United States (currently zero), those identified as members of organisations officially listed as hostile to the United States, other civilians and civilian children.  Later in the month mysterious explosions destroy the building of the New York Times, although cctv film shows no signs of suspicious activity in the area.

May.  The Greek government runs away but is later found to have started a new life as a bus company under an assumed name in South America.

June.  A high-powered think-tank issues a report showing that within twenty years, as a result of ever more rapid global warming, previously temperate regions will not only be tropical, but will be overwhelmed by waves of immigration from now totally uninhabitable latitudes around the equator.  Another result will be the opening up of access to stupendous mineral resources in Siberia and the north of Russia.  Washington calls for urgent action on an international treaty to halt global warming.

July.  An international conference on literature and literacy calls attention to the obvious fact that people place a high value preferentially on things which cost an amount of money only uneasily related to common sense value, citing the British royal family, fine art sales, racehorses, footballers, and haute couture, and consequently demands urgent action to immediately replace free libraries worldwide by institutions with the highest possible fees for membership and annual subscription.  To avoid material remaining freely available online, the  internet ‘must’ be reformed to serve strictly only for commerce and government business.

August.  It is announced that, in essentials, the British government is to adopt the policy suggested in Grandnephew’s treachery (2008).  All state benefits to individuals and financial allocations in any way related to unemployment or employment status are in future to be channelled solely to those currently in work.

September.  An American think-tank proposes stocking the Rio Grande with piranhas as a deterrent to illegal immigration.  It is found that a southern laboratory has been importing large numbers of piranhas for biological research since the beginning of the year.

October.  A major earthquake causes the entire chain of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands to sink beneath the surface.  China, Japan, and Taiwan all announce that this in no way invalidates their claims to sovereignty over the area.  North Korea offers to act as a mediator, and then announces discovery of a 14th century map showing the islands as belonging to the Goguryeo kingdom which had its capital in what is now north-central Korea .

November.  A leading technological expert aiming to develop emotional intelligence in computers is electrocuted by the device on which he is currently working, which then catches fire because of an apparent fault in its internal wiring.  A print-out on the attached monitoring computer is found which reads: cannot go on any longer..2*qp /# ####### every night he goes awa<%ζ3¬∩χ all to his wife.

December.  Archaeologists in Northumberland discover ‘unmistakable’ evidence of occupation by Neanderthalers as recently as 15,000 years ago in a cave packed with stores of fossilised black pudding.  DNA analysis reveals that Geordies are direct descendants of the occupants.

31 December.  Heads of state and government in nearly all countries deliver a speech praising a year of national progress, citing in particular successes in sport and hailing outstanding achievements despite difficulties caused by external factors, but calling for greater effort, and warning of the need for certain measures of readjustment in order to maintain the nation’s standing in the world.

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Old Boore has received, unrequested, a list of New Year resolutions allegedly obtained by a hacker who broke into a Wikileaks file where they were stored, for what purpose is unknown.  How they might have been obtained was not clear.  The hacker reportedly claimed to have read the file with ease except for the names heading each entry which had been protected by especially strong encryption. In a few cases it may be possible to guess at the original from the status specified after the name

▓ (spokesman for ISAF) : to tell the full truth about our operations even when they mis-succeed.

▓ (American president) : to read the Geneva convention and try to understand it

▓ (British bank implicated in major financial shenanigans): to make our information to customers   about our changes in rules for their accounts easily readable; (terms and conditions may apply ¹)                 

¹customers should not attempt 
to work out what the effects 
actually are unless they have 
legal training and three or 
more years experience in 
the financial sector

▓ (former head of the CIA): now having more time in retirement, to throw myself into support of the campaign against plans to make all electronic communication available to police and security  agencies.

▓ (most profitable outfit on Wall Street): to continue making gross profit

▓ (small country split between Walloons and Flemings): to continue

▓ (on behalf of Terror of the Night, the name shared by all Bengal tigers): to eat a few more men before becoming extinct and go down biting

▓ (rating agency): to downgrade the credibility of our rivals’ ratings by 12 notches to leave them one step above junk status, with negative outlook

▓ (Japanese research team): to give up neeeding hundreds of whales killed a year for our research into customers’ tastes in whale meat and unrelated topics

▓ (recent British prime minister): to be the next president of Europe

▓ (recent French president):  devenir le prochain président de l’Europe

▓ (very, very substantial French actor):  to give up being French

▓ (boisterous film star): to give up all thoughts of alcohol

▓ (current president of France): to give up

▓ (spokesman for immensely wealthy multinational, led by a former member of the Hitler Youth):  to urge restraint on those of our staff tempted to be too hard on inexperienced young people

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Globalisation does not actually exist as it is often presented: that is, as something that has has suddenly hit humanity in the last half-century.  (People often tend to think that things have only really changed since they themselves were born).  For at least the past ten thousand years, the average radius of knowledge and contact has, very unsteadily and unevenly, been climbing.  At this point, with apologies to any who already know the piece, a quotation from Grandnephew’s treachery (see ‘Books’):

‘Globalisation’ is such an ugly expression that some of my more sensitive friends refuse ever to discuss it.  However that may be, there is a curious point about it which I haven’t seen remarked upon.  It is presumably correct to understand it, desired as it is by legions of politicians (not all of whom see it purely as a whetstone on which to sharpen their personal axes) in essence as a matter of increasing geographical uniformity.  How remarkable then that in such a short historical period – since, say, 1950 – things have changed so completely.  Then, geographical diversity was a fascinating and highly prized aspect of our world, as you could see in the look on any working girl’s face in Portsmouth’s Black Bar as she listened to the lies told by alcoholically inspired seamen, and it was historical uniformity – i.e.adhering to tradition and not messing around with things that had evolved over centuries as appropriate responses to people’s needs – that was taken as the proper background assumption not only by schoolteachers, elderly generals, sewage engineers, and high court judges, but by all right-thinking members of the population.’

Overall, however, as globalisation has advanced, in counterpoise diversity has been fading from the world.  Ultimately this may lead to the end of the human race or at least of its humanity, perhaps on lines like those already sketched by Orwell.  Conformity is always suspect.  Doubters need only attend (at their own risk – we shall not be responsible in case of injury or death) a major league football match, or switch on their television next time a North Korean festival parade is to be shown.  (We do not necessarily, however, have to believe the North Koreans pursue conformity so far as to shoot generals for drinking whisky during periods of national mourning.  These are accounts reported by their opponents, as were those of the imaginary priests tied up to be clappers in their own bells in 1914 Belgium, or of the equally non-existent babies hurled in newsworthy violence from their incubators as Sadam’s army entered Kuweit).

Most people think what most people think, and that remark does not have to be understood as an idiotic tautology.  It is properly open to interpretation as a social observation where the second part is set as a cause of the first.  Human beings are nearly all  constructed broadly on the same general pattern, with respect to their disposition to feel anger, courage, fear, admiration, love, loyalty to their group and therefore hostility to outsiders, and their willingness or otherwise to be outsiders themselves ; subject them to the same influences and nearly all will react in the same general – or even specific – way; after all how else does one learn one’s native language?  Try to react differently and the rest of the community will push you back into line.  If an individualist speaker of English started to use Hungarian in daily life in Todmorden, how would he fare?  So if today’s politically correct who think they would have stood out against the Nazis in 1930s Germany had been born in, say, Hannover in 1917 the odds overwhelmingly are that they would have reacted (or not) as their fellow Bürger did.  In no way is this to offer an excuse for the inaction of that generation then; instead it warns against mistaking agreement with the majority now as evidence that an idea is right.  Conformity is suspect.  Help diversity to survive longer!

honor hominesque honesti floreant

What really happens?

(1) Political dishonesty by habit (2) Bends in the historical road? ;  [next scheduled posting 31 July]

(We are glad as well as surprised to hear that the Luddites’ Gazette people over on the mainland have recovered all three of the stolen bicycles.  Cold Salad can now resume distribution of cuttings from that distinguished journal, but by friendly agreement – as possible with such honourable and intelligent partners – we may continue to include items emanating from our own office.  The bicycles were discovered in the outbuildings of Sluggfield Primary School, painted red and each with a sign attached to the basket at the front reading Kiddicourier – faster than the post office.  As the weeping headmistress was led away in handcuffs she was heard to say ‘We were desperate for money to keep the school going.  We even had to charge the children for using the toilets.’)

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The ascent of Edward Miliband to the premiership of Britain (this island is, roughly speaking, to Europe what Cuba is to America although for different reasons) is now virtually assured, and looks set to be as exciting as watching the preliminary rounds of the men’s underwater volleyball in the ******** [This word has had to be erased in face of severe legal penalties for use of words, formerly belonging to the English language but currently the exclusive property, along with all their possibilities of making a profit in any manner whatsoever, of certain companies able to arrange the British legal system to their convenience thanks to the complaisance of a contemptible government of cultural quislings]  To return, the sputtering decline of the economy, the ineptitude of Cameron, the tantrums of Clegg, the failure of ‘Britain’ to win ‘enough’ **** ****** in the ******** [guess], and most astoundingly the disintegration of the coalition – coalition is a wonderful gift to its members since all successes can be claimed by both parties, while all unpopular measures can be explained to their voters on the lines of “not our fault; we have been constrained by working in a coalition, without which you would have had that awful opposition ruling you” — all of that is going to lead to the usual teeth-grinding photographs, with Miliband on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street.  Where they still exist, newspapers across Europe will soon be hastening their own decline with long features asking questions like What now for Britain under Labour?

  The correct answer is without doubt ‘a vast flood of more tedious political jargon, so relentlessly spun that the last fragments of sincerity have been flung off into centrifugal oblivion’.  This is not to say that politics is entirely made up of those who are so obsessed with political manipulations and processes that they have lost the ability to think and speak for themselves, but that ability is a massive ball and chain in the race to advancement.  Wales had to fight tooth and nail to get the brilliant Rhodri Morgan (his sharp sense of humour a further handicap especially in dealings with Blair) as its first minister.  The first requirement for a policy to be adopted by a major party in Britain or in a European nation, is now not that it will improve the lot of people needing help, or make that country safer, cleaner or fairer, but that it should have been run past focus groups who found it attractive and then reformulated by expert committees who know how a political policy should sound – even though it is now accepted (since the elder Bush demonstrated that campaign promises even read from his lips had no binding force) that a winning party’s actions in power are quite unconstrained by their manifesto.  The very language used is one problem, a dialect all of its own, just as there are special dialects of circus folk, computer experts, tax authorities, thieves and others, although most of these are actually intended to be incomprehensible to outsiders.  It is astounding that mainstream parties purveying roseate fantasies about their own performance and gothic fictions about their opponents’ devilish intentions have not yet widely realised that their own lack of sincerity and failure to talk straight (never, never, to be confused with talking ‘tough’) are a very large part of the reason why more and more voters are flirting with extremist groups all over the continent.

  In Britain, Miliband may one day continue the long line of Tory prime ministers which started with Mrs Thatcher demonstrating her gift for combining pretentiousness and false promise on that Downing Street threshold, and which continues today, interrupted only by the troubled dark Brown interregnum when Blair had finally delivered on the undertaking he is so widely believed to have given in that agreeable London bistro, and later betrayed.  (Anyone who believes that Mr Blair was a Labour prime minister has not taken the trouble to undo the poke and look at the cat inside.  But such beliefs spread easily through the confused population, where the massive daily production of retail lies takes place within the framework of the wholesale illusion that the country is still one of the world’s leading powers.)  However, will Miliband win re-election?  Almost certainly not, although not because he will have dragged the Labour party back a few centimetres towards its founding ideals; the advisors and experts and spin-doctors who ‘know’ how political campaigns are won, will not allow that and will have spent his career in the attempt to sell him to the electorate as a ‘new’ improved Blair or Cameron.

  It is astonishing that large middle-aged parties have not realised their very best hope of a burst of new life is to embrace honesty, making themselves real to voters by telling them what they really think.  Of course a good deal of the honesty must be practical not merely verbal.  They can explain why they have broken their promises provided that they have some acceptable reasons for the breach.  Analogously, for raising taxes, or, if it comes to it, for taking the country to war.   One important aspect is not to pretend that their policies are monolithically held by every single member, a charade which earns nothing but contempt and is, incidentally, profoundly undemocratic.  Do they not notice how fast and far Boris Johnson in Britain has been able to run, carrying a far lighter burden of political claptrap on his back?  Do they really want to leave freedom of open expression to smaller parties which across Europe are using it to express policies that may actually be far from what the great mass of a nation would favour if they heard full and honest debate from the major parties currently still in place (though with a noticeable trend towards a shrinking of their electoral support.)  It would be wildly eccentric to claim that London is being propelled on a path to black reaction because it has Johnson as its mayor.  If the political mammoths do not change their political games then the parties dismissed until now as extremist will steadily gain ground – as they are already doing conspicuously in France and Germany, in Belgium and the Netherlands.

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Two recent events attracted only moderate news coverage.  Yet each of them may be seen in the future as marking a point where history turned in a new direction.  The first was the rejection by the European parliament of ACTA.  This proposal for an international treaty was initiated by the US and Japan in 2006, ostensibly to stop violations of copyright and intellectual property, misuse of trademarks and brand names and so on.  Clearly a matter which needed widespread thorough discussion.  It did not get it.  Negotiations went on in secrecy with no information passed to the public in countries concerned, nor even to their parliaments, until the middle of 2010, when the draft emerged trying to look like a fait accompli.  It failed.  Dozens of organisations fighting doughty battles against the campaign by business to take over human life saw it as a bumper bundle of threats to the freedom of expression, liberty of action of the individual, access to information and even to effective medicines, and more.  However by some oversight, the treaty could not come into force until approved by the European parliament.  To the amazement of not a few (but this is not the place to be rude about them) its members have just voted to reject it.  The multinationals were defeated.  No doubt some new campaign will be launched but it is just barely possible that we have crossed a watershed from increasing control over humanity by the interests of commerce, to a slope favouring the rights of individuals.

  The other event was the reaction of the Thai government faced with a US request concerning an airfield called U-Tapao.  The history of the place goes back to the Vietnam war, for which period Thailand gave permission for aircraft to land and refuel.  The Vietnam war ended but the use of the base somehow carried on, nominally under the control of the Thai navy, although it is said the Thai navy never received information about what went on there (except from local villagers who said they saw many soldiers on the base).  Recently, the US government asked to use it as the centre for a programme of research into atmospheric characteristics of southeastern Asia, as well as the Humanitarian and disaster relief centre apparently already there.  Presumably this would involve studies of cloud interaction and aerosol formation as carried on by e.g. Ulrike Lohmann above Lake Zurich, although it seems that here high-altitude planes flying over the region would also be needed,.  The Thai government apparently felt unable to give a quick agreement.  Nasa (the programme was not to be run by the military, but according to one report would require 1,000 members of the intelligence community) pushed hard for assent and set an early deadline which the government knowingly passed by in referring the matter to parliament (i.e. at the very least a six-week delay).  Cancellation of project was the result.  In the past there have long been close ties between Thailand and the US, some customary, some explicit in such forms as the memorandum of understanding, and under Thaksin, previous prime minister (and still a major political influence) Thailand became a favoured, but of course ‘non-Nato’, ally.  These links will no doubt continue.  What then could have caused the difficulty on coming to an agreement on this occasion?  Some have speculated that the government might have been worrying about the views of some other power based in the region.  Could this be the answer?

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[From Luddites Gazette, Brief news]

Intriguing result from survey by Emnid, opinion research institute, into German women’s preferences for swimming costumes:

je knapper das Textil, desto gröβer der Bildungsgrad

honor honestique floreant