Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Category: immigrants

Examination Paper CID4U

Next regular posting scheduled for 16th  August

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES DECONSTRUCTED     CID4U

This examination is scheduled to last ten (10) minutes

Read each question carefully before answering and then write your answer on both sides of the paper provided.  Cheating is permitted but must be cleared with the supervising examiner in advance 

1. Is the increased proportion of testosterone allegedly discovered in the metabolic system of western men by comparison with forty years ago the result of changes in diet, changes in the visual environment on screen and off, of doping to accompany ‘sporting’ activity, or of input self-administered by males afflicted by self-doubt after listening to preposterous lies told by male work colleagues?

2. Cui bono?  This was the favourite question of Cicero (ancient Rome’s answer, 2,000 years in advance, to Jeremy Corbyn, except that he wrote much better Latin).  Strangely this phrase is completely ambiguous.  One of its meanings is “What’s the point?” but the other one, which Cicero claimed was what he meant when he ued it is considered more respectable, and quotable, and is equivalent to “Who got the benefit from it?” when discussing mysterious unpleasant events such as political murders where there was no eye witness (or no one with any intention of coming forward as such).  Caruana Galizia’s explosive exit in Malta is only one of several prominent cases in recent times where this question might be put to work.

3. Question for Tony Blair (to receive if you ever find him at a public meeting where he is bold enough to take questions): ‘On your travels do you ever get the chance to visit the families of British soldiers killed in Iraq?’

4. If we conclude that quantum mechanics shows that assertions which are fiercely counter-intuitive (e.g. cats being simultaneously both alive and dead) are correct, might we not reasonably conclude that there is a high level of fallibility about the mental processes by which human beings reach conclusions ?

[p.s. surely any Ph.D student in physics could cope with that premiss by just assuming an extra dimension or two]

5. Given (a) the great predominance (or should that be ‘predomination’) of the male gender in those holding positions from which appointments to lucrative, fashionable, or prestigious jobs are made (e.g. M.P., broadcasting bigwig, CEO, theatrical panjandrum, or director of think tank) and (b) the surge of agreement across ‘developed’ nations that gender inequality should be ‘tackled’, there is likely to be (a) a substantial increase in the number of new female appointments to lucrative etc jobs, and (b) a high chance that those appointments will be of attractive young women.  Is this likely to result in increasing the disadvantage of older, less attractive women who may well need the job more?  (Answer: ‘Yes’)

6. How long does a family have to live in a country before they cease to be immigrants?  Twenty years?  Fifty years?  A hundred and fifty years?  And does the length of time depend on any factors other than their length of residence, such as complexion or how much money they have?  (Answer: ‘YES, and YES!’)

7. It is claimed that an important aspect of human intelligence is the ability to learn things from just two or three encounters.  Are there any public-spirited psychologists or sociologists researching into ways to develop a human ability to dis-learn, from ideally just six or seven, or anyway as few encounters as possible (with particular reference to the tendency to invade foreign countries, especially but not exclusively in the Middle East?   (Oh, and Afghanistan.)  And if not, why not?

8. Can you place the following government responses in the standard chronological order of appearance after a disaster inescapably and obviously caused largely by government incompetence or dishonesty or both combined?

(1) Blaming the victims   (2) Congratulating the survivors on their resilience   (3) Promising that the government will take all necessary measures to ensure that such a disaster never happens again  (4) Announcing the launch of an enquiry (to report back ‘early next year’)   (5) Assuring that their thoughts and hearts and profound sympathy go out to those affected and their families (6) Showing how it resulted directly from the policies of the previous government  (7) Guaranteeing that survivors will receive prompt and adequate compensation, where appropriate (on presentation to the committee to be set up in Newcastle upon Tyne to review claims of the evidence of harm or loss, provided that they submit such evidence within six weeks, and can attach satisfactory proof confirmed by a solicitor or barrister that they were at the relevant time properly registered inhabitants of the locality so sadly stricken).

9. How long will it be after the first robot newsreader delivers her initial news presentation (because she will certainly be female) on a public news channel, before some inadequate gets himself 15 minutes of attention in the twittersphere by announcing that he has tweeted ‘her’ a proposal of marriage?

10. Simon (the one who said the fuss over colour of UK passports should be solved now that the UK is supposed to be a diverse society, whatever that means, by making them every colour of the rainbow plus brown, black and white) asks why windmills which have their blades vertically aligned only have them on one side of the structure holding them up.  If he’s right about that, why is it?  Wouldn’t you get twice the power if there were blades on each side?

11. You wouldn’t ask barefoot passers-by for advice on how to make shoes.  Then why expect government to pay any attention to an oppressed underclass (variously known as ‘the poor’, ‘Labour voters outside London’, ‘the oiks’, or ‘the bottom 30%) on how to run the country?  (Sorry Kropotkin!)

12. Which tends to come first, domination over other nations and identifiable minorities, or callous barbarity?

 

 

 

 

WE KEEP ON TELLING YOU

Special motoring supplement!

WE KEEP ON TELLING YOU

This journal with its forerunners has a top-class record for warning, sometimes years in advance, about looming problems, such as French president Hollande, (and offering carefully crafted proposals for dealing with them).  Yet another issue is now showing faintly in the background on the touch screens of the world’s millennials – the ever increasing damage done to human life and civilisation by the private motor vehicle.  (Given well documented recent research you should very likely add ‘insect and bird life’ to that charge sheet.)  The piece below was first published exactly ten years ago, and please note also the fourth piece.

 

Let us wonder if the principal cause of traffic problems is the existence of roads.  (To keep things simple, we shall restrict ourselves to the black core of traffic problems, those involving machines made mainly out of metal, powered by a motor, and moving on wheels.)  Do not take this in the weak-kneed sense of ‘more roads give more and worse traffic problems’, even though that is undoubtedly true (and it has been shown often and conclusively that it is not just a matter of both resulting from a simple rise in the population).  Bypassing that,  the version we are dealing with here is more stark: ‘if there were no roads there would be no traffic problems’.  (This too can be misunderstood, as a mere definitional matter, along the lines of that old favourite of Aunt Minnie the marriage guidance counsellor: ‘we could do away with divorce if only we abolished marriage’).  This time take it seriously.  No side-stepping by imagining that the urgent human desire to be somewhere that one is not (and soon) has been neatly removed from the human design, although we may allow for it to receive some sedative shots.

      The problems

{1} as seen exclusively by the principal traffic victim, the car owner:

        (i) expense of money in buying

        (ii) expense of time and money in maintaining and repairing

        (iii) expense of emotional stability, resulting from damage to and by,

             from theft or risk of theft of, and from dealing with service staff,

             mechanics, and with official associated paperwork;

{2} as viewed both by the car user and everyone else on the road :

         (iv) delays, danger and worse to life, limb, and mental stability;

{3} as watched aghast by the population at large including those above :

        (v) most of the preceding plus filth in the air, and gargantuan

            expense on construction and maintenance of the road system.

      Please now imagine that benevolent aliens foreseeing the possible course of development had for some inscrutable reason decided to help this inept and irascible planet, and had descended in 1850, in time to avoid the inventiveness about to be unleashed by the Great Exhibition, and had abolished all roads, establishing a strict and terribly effective framework to ensure they would never be built again.  What now could be done for all the millions who felt (and feel today) compelled to rush from A to B every morning, passing and here and there colliding with roughly equal numbers having a deep-rooted desire to speed from B towards A, not to mention the yet greater number of journeys which do not fall into such a monotonic rhythm?

      We can at once state confidently that it is unlikely that motor vehicles would ever have been developed.  Given the characteristics of the early forms through which the motor car had to pass to reach its ‘mature’ types, it is highly doubtful whether even Heath Robinson would ever have thought one up without the convenient existence of roads.  Railways of course were there already and no doubt would have been expanded hugely even if we admit that while they can act as a kind of vascular system for a nation, for good reasons they will not go on to provide the capillaries.  Travel by river and canal would have been seen as a valuable resource to be cherished and greatly developed.  Bicycles would scarcely have been affected.  They do not need roads, as the prosperous manufacturers of mountain bikes reflect happily.

      But a more important answer is that a large number of such journeys –  in all probability, the huge majority – would never have been thought necessary.  For example, it would be taken for granted that employees would normally be sought locally, and in other cases would move to live locally.  Cantankerous relatives living fifty miles away would not even be expecting to be visited with a small gift once a month.  Family outings for pleasure would naturally take the form of visits to the nearest museum, or  bracing walks up the nearest mountain, rather than a drive of two hours and three traffic jams to some dismal theme park.  In the shops one would buy fruit and vegetables grown in the surrounding countryside as they came into season, not brought in refrigerated trucks from an airport with a cargo link to some other hemisphere.  Children would be accompanied to school on foot, or, in the case of those whose muscles developed sufficiently, there would be in the true sense a school run.

      What, however, of those journeys that might still be supposed necessary?  Part of the answer is of course that many of them would not actually exist.  Who would need to be rushed to hospital with a broken leg when the traffic accident which caused the fracture could never have taken place, nor indeed any untoward events at all involving the inside or outside of a motor vehicle?  And first aid might be able to handle most of the very rare cases of one pedestrian run over by another.  But beyond that, let us take the example of a hugely important business meeting at which mighty tycoons meet in file-to-file combat to decide who shall buy out the other and strip the assets.  Nobody could doubt for a moment that the equivalent of what we call ‘video-conferencing’ would have been developed to a level far more magnificent than we have reached yet.  Television would have been invented fifty years earlier.  The communication is needed, but not the travel.

      These improvements, however, are mere bagatelles compared to the glorious flowering that can be envisaged of human ability to deal with travel aerially.  The desirability of such developments is immediately obvious.  To name but two aspects, the amount of space free for movement in the air is multiplied hugely, by whatever quantity can be assigned to the height that vehicles can reach, and the directions in which one can move are unconstrained by such elements as buildings, trees, monuments, or watercourses so frequently inconvenient for the earthbound motorist.  As things have actually proceeded, moreover, gigantic sums have been spent finding ways of making quite limited use of the vertical dimension for vehicles, even while maintaining the terrestrial nature of roads, with tunnels, bridges, and underpasses, and it is scarcely conceivable that a sum, in all likelihood far smaller, could not have achieved far better results if it had been applied instead to developing new aerial types of vehicle.

      The benefits from the non-existence of roads are so great that they are not easy to grasp.  It is not merely a matter of money, but nevertheless reflect on the scarcely believable expense of money along with deranged ingenuity (as well as, at times, hatred of the natural landscape) that has built, improved, extended, and maintained with loving care roads, since the year 1850.  It is a sum up there with some of the astronomical figures, and calculated by one group at well over two quadrillion pounds – thousands of times the total that has been thrown at the development of space travel by all the world’s nations combined. Some believe it is even comparable with the sums spent on killing and maiming civilians and destroying assets in warfare.

      We have already touched also on the vast increase that would result in the capacity of the population for physical exercise with obvious general benefits, and more than that there would be a prodigious advantage from the reduction of pollution.  In the absence of the motor car, motor fuel would not have been needed, nor its additive, lead, which is straightforwardly known to be a serious toxin which accumulates in the human body, especially damaging to children.  It has been established fairly reliably that the amount of lead in the bloodstream of the average human being alive today is some hundreds of times higher than 150 years ago.  And lead is of course by no means the only poison spewed from exhaust pipes.

      Finally, perhaps more important than any of this, the wars that have been fought to control sources of oil (whatever the specious claims advanced suggesting other motives) would have been fought for different reasons, and would have been very much fewer and the appalling human destruction that has accompanied them would have been vastly less.

      A case to answer.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

By co-incidence, in recovering the above item another piece of that same date turned up, about another issue also now causing increasing dismay, but in this case on moral rather than environmental grounds. 

Details have been leaked of the new ‘compatibility’ test.  It is to be taken by all those arriving in the country for any purpose whatever except if holding a passport of one of the five countries on the list of ‘approved’ governments.  It will consist of three parts, a check for a suitable level of ability in an approved dialect of the English language, appropriate personal presentation (including evidence of access to and use of a sufficient range of British-style clothing and acceptable patterns of hairstyle and facial hair), and a satisfactory set of responses to questions about social attitudes (the latter element to be extended to a written examination, taken in the airport at the cost of the arriving visitor, should the immigration police deem this necessary).

      A spokesman denied that the plans incorporated any aspects of racism.  He explained that the test was merely a further step in the government’s ongoing programme aimed at deepening and confirming social harmony and at eliminating any risk of unpleasant experiences involving overseas citizens due to their foreign appearance or possible foreign behaviour.  The spokesman did not deny that at some future date the test’s reach might be extended to cover all those currently living in the country who could not provide reliable evidence of having been born here.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  

Both pieces above appeared March 2008, in Grandnephew’s Treachery by ‘Les Cousins’

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‘Si vis pacem para bellum’.  Sane remark in itself (cf Montgomery Skew’s comment on cold war, this journal 15-1-2018; and incidentally does Kim Jong-Un read Latin?).  But gerere non est parare, and the Final Disaster will arrive when someone gets the calculations wrong.  Those organisations for international peace around the world which have not yet been mocked into silence and despair will warmly approve Madam May’s denunciation of activity across international boundaries to take violent action against individuals.  We personally heard her use the word ‘despicable’ and believe she described such action as wicked.  It is rumoured she is to make a personal appeal to M.Trump asking him to put an immediate end to any use of armed drones to attack people on the ground where this would involve crossing international frontiers.

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(Editor’s note).  Setting up the first item above it almost occurred to me to wonder if there is a deliberate policy in the UK and elsewhere to allow road maintenance to become, soonest, a quaint old-fashioned tradition.  Goals: to reduce balance of payments deficits, free up manpower resources for necessary construction and re-construction work (perhaps even including tower blocks), to reduce calls on national mental health services, tackle obesity and improve the physical health of their populations, to dramatically cut the number of transport accidents, and to halve the level of air pollution.  But then I reflected that another result would be an enormous increase in the number of people having to buy ridiculously expensive train tickets.

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British headline a few days ago: ‘Queen to start marathon’.  What a wonderful trouper!  Ninety-one and still ready to go.  Be interesting to see how far she gets round the course.  Maybe back in before Paul Ryan?!

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MMQQ4

Unwearable tech                                              How to make money

How to get really rich                                     Correction (‘Tony’ Blair)

Cheating                                                           Double standards 

16th March for next posting
By reading this post you agree to send two much needed $100 bills to the editorial staff 

Unwearable tech  A spokescreen at the UK Ministry of Defence yesterday declined to comment repeatedly after crowds of enquirers had gathered, to ask about rumours that British Service personnel have been ordered to avoid wearing Union Jack underpants or panties or bras (in the case of female personnel).  However, two newspapers have claimed that a hacker discovered evidence that underwear produced in China but destined for western markets may contain high-tech microminiaturised tracking devices, which would make it possible to follow the movements of wearers from up to five miles away.  It is thought that Chinese agents supposed the Union Jack design would be preferentially purchased by or even specifically distributed to members of the armed forces, and that they would be able to follow journeys undertaken by persons of interest.  Possibly connected with this news, a notice has recently been seen at a number of military headquarters instructing members of the armed forces that if they receive unsolicited underwear through the post they should immediately drop the material into a bucket of water and then hand that in at the nearest depot of the Royal Military Police, where it will be checked, and if ‘clean’ returned to the original destinee.

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OUR NEW FINANCIAL SUPPLEMENT

How to make money  An astonishing chance to become rich has attracted puzzlingly little attention in the world’s media (possibly because the journalists who have heard about it are working hard not to share the news).   American president Trump has banned the import to that country of solar panels.  This is in line with a determination to cut his nation’s trade deficit, especially so far as China is concerned.  (According to some sources China is the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels.)  The result according to economists, and possibly also in real life, is expected to be a dramatic drop in the price of solar panels due to an enormous glut of unsold product.  Where can you lay hands on this supply?  At discount stores and car boot sales all over China.  What can you do with the stuff?  It is not known what the journalists are hoping to do with their supplies but this office has exciting plans, provided Elon Musk has not yet cornered the market.  ROOF THE SAHARA with solar panels!  Cool the temperature underneath by up to 10 degrees throughout the year, instal greenhouses underneath and use some of the petawatts of electricity generated to pump up water from the rainforests of tropical Africa, become the world’s biggest producer of hydroponic vegetables, earn the lifelong gratitude of the inhabitants, win the Nobel Peace Prize (actually we’re not quite sure yet about that last couple of parts of the project) and be hailed by the UN as Environmental Champion of the decade.  And get extremely rich.  Start crowdfunding now!

Our financial adviser reports

Two readers have written in asking virtually the same question.  (One asks ‘My friends tell me that ethical investment is the hot thing in the money business, which I assume means getting hold of a medical company and squeezing it to get all the goodness out.  Which country offers the best opportunities?’; the other asks ‘How can I get rich?’)

The way to achieve true wealth is obviously to acquire the largest assets available at the lowest price possible, either because the seller is dim-witted or ill-advised (possibly by you), as with Russia’s sale of Alaska, or because you are able to determine the price (ideally at zero as in the acquisition of North America by immigrants from Europe, or the British takeover of Australia.)  For those with sufficient bargaining power (in whatever form) the best asset class has aways been natural resources, and you should aim for as large an initial holding as your leverage possibilities will allow, in resources such as coal, oil, forests, fish, the indigenous population of whichever territory appears to be within reach and so on.  One of the very few planetary resources which has not yet been satisfyingly monetised is the jet stream, or more properly the jet streams.  (There are two in each hemisphere.)  These cannot be mined in any ordinary sense, but they do constitute a prodigious source of energy.  If you happen to control a country over which one of the jet streams passes, then you can quite easily develop it as a massive source of income by passing a law declaring that when passing over your country it must obey environmental directives and pay taxes as set by yourself.  (This is merely an updated version of the toll, one of the major features of economic life throughout the middle ages.)  If however you are not in this fortunate position you can still hope for a substantial revenue stream by adopting a quite different strategy.  Simply set up a company, of which you will be the sole manager, but with competent advertising and sales staff and let it be known that you are working on a project to monetise the jet stream ‘within the next three years’.  It will be easy to find experts who will dazzle investors lacking scientific grasp (and/or common sense) and who will play up the fantastic amounts of energy theoretically available while downplaying the fact that you have no practical prospects of deriving profits from them by normal physical or stratospherical principles.  You almost certainly will in fact experience an initial influx of capital from wealthy individuals who ‘want to get in early’ and you should very carefully use this to develop the brand, build stylish company headquarters, and to network so far as possible with celebrities, no matter how irrelevant the basis for their celebrity.  Your financial success from this point on will depend simply on the effectiveness of your publicity campaign.

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Correction  (‘Tony’ Blair )  [ Journal Headquarters reports]  Not for the first time we have to rebut an attempted correction.  Two readers apparently thought they could score a point off us by writing in with the information that ‘Tony’ Blair (in MMQQ3, The triumphant Tories) was (according to the official record) a Labour prime minister.  We assure them that his appearance in that guise was deliberate.  Readers unfamiliar with sarcasm and satire may like to consult von Wilpert’s article Ironie in his Sachwörterbuch der Literatur.  Those of a literal turn of mind may be glad of an assurance that Adolf  Hitler was not in practice a sozialist, Stalin was not in practice a communist, and the Queen of England is not in practice the ruler of the country and supreme commander of that nation’s military forces.  Similarly Father Christmas does not have any children.  (Astrophysicists tell us much the same goes for old Father Time.)

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Bad business

One of the threatening black linings on the silvery cloud that is the currently blooming British economy is the fact that for years and years there has been no significant increase in productivity, for example with more bombs per worker emerging from the production lines each year (but of course strictly for export only to states guaranteeing they will not be used for offensive purposes in countries with civilian populations).  This has puzzled many pundits who effortlessly fail to notice that wages in real terms have, depending on the sector, either been stationary or falling for more than ten years.  This can hardly fail to depress the economy, but just as with capital, you have to put energy into a market to get more energy out.  However, there are at last signs of increasing productivity just where it is needed – in the younger generation.  (No point trying to boost the productivity of pensioners.)  There has been an encouraging rise in cheating productivity in exams in England 2017, admittedly from a low base.  (Up from 0.011%  to 0.015%.)   This is seen as a highly welcome indicator that social trends are changing in the direction increasingly necessary as the British people launch themselves into the struggle to win ‘best possible trade deals’ (indeed ‘such stuff as dreams are made on’)  to make up for the imminent collapse – thanks to Brexit – of all those sectors of the economy so far keeping the national nose above water.  There is, however, an important caveat.  It needs to be pointed out that modern technology in the cheating industry is advancing steadily, and those British figures refer to cheating detected.  Bear in mind therefore RVR, the ‘reporting village recalibration.’  In the closing months and weeks of the Vietnam War, American headquarters buoyantly reported encouraging steady reductions in the number of reports about Vietcong guerilla activity in the villages around Saigon.  It was realised only shortly before the end that this had been because the Vietcong guerillas had taken over those villages and failed to send in any reports about their activities to American HQ.

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‘The bubble reputation’

Some questions could be put to the British establishment’s public face about the Oxfam disgrace.  Do they believe that the deplorable conduct of some staff is typical of Oxfam as a whole?  If not, do they realise that cutting Oxfam’s funds will result in harm to children, women and men who have been getting vital support which needs to continue?  Do they feel it is right to allow harm to be caused to some because others in their group have behaved illegally or morally or both? That is dangerously close to collective punishment, and there it should be pointed out that some of those who would suffer were themselves victims of the original misconduct.  But it would be interesting to get their answer to a question of a different sort.  Do they think that there should be similarly strong and firm action against other large organisations active in the UK, whose ranks have included individuals who have behaved illegally or immorally or both, in some cases for many years, the National Health Service, for instance?  Are there football associations or teams which should prepare for investigation?  In particular are there likely to be any punitive moves against that big organisation headed by a man in Rome who wears a white dress, and within which deplorable conduct, by some, goes back decades?

MMQQ 1

For next posting see note at end

This issue: Reader’s letters; Tech news; Linguistic corner; Sale of Scotland; Traffic; Question; Plaudit; A resistible ‘correction’.

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Reader’s letter (translated from German by Baron Philipp – see endnote – and describing itself as anonymous although signed J.G.What the hell is going on in big power relations at present?  Anyone with the intelligence of a New Caledonian crow who pays even the slightest attention to stuff on the media beyond the ‘sports news’ (i.e. football managers conjuring tedium out of platitudes) and ‘celebrity’ gossip (e.g. poor Charles has no hope of sitting on that throne unless he starts a crash programme of celebrity island stunts and ‘daring’ Chippendale-style shows on prime time tv), anyone, in fact, who is even able to read cannot avoid seeing that international big power competition now takes two main forms, often largely independent of each other and indeed sometimes operating out of sync within any one country.  One is old-style military violence with bullets, bombs, tanks and missiles; the other, still alas in an appalling infancy, is learning fast ever more fiendish ways to tweak the circuits of other nations’ financial, administrative and electoral networks to ever more damaging effect.  In both these modes of confrontation exponents don unnatural personalities, assert and maybe honestly believe that once ‘our’ side overcomes ‘them’ (working with the terrible flaw incorporated into the design when the mammal was developed) everything will be tickety-boo from then on, and all will be peace and prosperity under the winners (by definition ‘our’ side) with trouble-free continuation of climate change and exploitation of the Earth’s resources. To put it delicately, that risks species extinction, of the human species (and others).  Unfortunately, whoever you are, there is absolutely nothing that you can do to prevent matters proceeding along this path all the way to Armageddon or the final devastating solar flare.  So it is purely as a matter of interest to ask why the west is making such vehement efforts to rouse the populations to hostility towards the Soviet Union (apologies – I mean Russia), and more particularly why they are playing up the traditional military violence approach?  Now, the Reds are doubtless devising exotic new ways to reshape the back alleys of cyberspace that the west has not yet thought of, and of course, like all good citizens I know our side would never stoop to anything underhand, however much of a self-imposed handicap that might be.  But please can we have a little realism about our officially held views.  The military violence threat in 2017 (in Europe in particular) carries all the conviction of a ‘living dodo discovery’, even if you leave entirely out of account the west’s massive dissuasive capacities.  Evidence is visible all around like smartphones in the underground and has been for decades.  Just look at a map showing positions of western forces and Soviet forces in Europe in 1989 and today.  So if you want to put your case shouldn’t it be a little more convincing?  There are various reasons why people may loudly insist on their stated position.  If you are Theresa May, you believe that it conveys an impression of strength to the dimmer elements of the electorate; others, not only in Washington, work on the principle that if you make a big enough noise about one thing the populace will stop thinking about other less convenient things. Many politicians from long before Goebbels have thought that if you shout something often enough loud enough people will start to believe it; a few seem to suppose it can actually become true (Editor; was he thinking of Brexit here?).  It is only a few scoundrelly reactionaries who take loud shouting as a sign that you’re being economical with the truth (but they’re often right).  So please – if you have that urge to paint an interesting picture – a little realism (unless you are actually trying to weaken ‘our’ case.   ?)

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Tech news  A Californian start-up is threatened with being wound-up just three months after it had been valued for a possible takeover at $450mn.  The company manufactures nanochips to be implanted in the cheeks of air hostesses, hotel staff and others in the greeting industry, such as politicians in the election season.  The nanochips are designed to stimulate the muscles required to produce a smile even when this has to override contrary signals from the brain.  The signal can be set to run continuously facilitating a smile every three seconds or operated  automatically by a timing device, but more usually it is under the control of a local supervisor.

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Linguistic corner ideomass; once let that word escape into the wild and you’ll have a huge job to recapture it, even throwing all your thought police into it.  It ought to mean the value or effectiveness of a given idea, however acquired;  but in practice is most often measured by the total number of tweets or retweets recorded as supporting this or that currently fashionable sentiment.

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Sale of Scotland  On his flying visit Baron von Hollenberg told us that active moves to sell Scotland are being considered in not one but several quarters.  There is said to be vigorous interest, but predictably there seems widespread divergence of views on who pays the bill and who receives the cash, and also, though to a lesser extent, on the status of Scotland after any successful sale.  Naturally there is considerable enthusiasm in Scotland herself, though a difficulty is that the Scots seem to generally assume that after sale the nation would control her own destiny, and that is not likely to be easily agreed with any purchaser unless that purchaser succeeds in persuading the present management, Whitehall, to that effect.  Some pundits believe that Whitehall’s negotiating skills could allow this to happen, but others are uncertain.  Enthusiasm for a sale is even higher in England, especially in view of the oncoming government budget crisis; a sale if concluded in time could forestall a possible appeal, not yet revealed to the public, to the IMF for help (and rescue the career of the unfortunate Chancellor).  However other parties too may enter the fray.  The EU is said to be considering an offer to purchase at a price of €1 but on extraordinarily generous terms, accepting Scotland in lieu of the remaining sum owed to Whitehall for Brexit (estimated at €90bn) and allowing Scotland thereafter to function as a fully independent state under the tutelage of and paying dues set by an ad hoc committee headed by Jeroen Dijsselbloem.  Even further afield, there were enquiries from, among others, a major real estate investor in the US, though it is understood these came to nothing once it was made clear to him that even after a successful purchase it would not be feasible to relocate Scotland to a North American site (tentatively identified as ‘Kilt Country’ in Nevada).

As Editor I must declare that this journal will watch any such development like a hawk, as we may have already established certain moral rights in such a process.  Note, for example this posting from 15 January 2012:

Some have suggested that one solution to current difficulties would be to sell Greece to the Chinese.  However this is not possible since Greece is a sovereign nation.  Scotland, however, offers no such obstacle and London is the obvious recipient of the proceeds.  (There is little doubt that the Chinese would snap up the chance to acquire a large warehousing and manufacturing site located conveniently in the North Atlantic between the American and European markets, where the workforce have an aversion to wasting money that rivals that of the Chinese masses, and where, moreover, there would be some obvious immediate savings in costs, eg abolishing at a stroke all the expensive apparatus of a government and elections with competing parties.)  If, however, the Chinese are too busy with their acquisitions in Africa, there may still be a chance of turning a useful profit by offloading Scotland to a management buyout, if those at present running the place can parlay their traditional claim of prudent handling of money into enough external investment into the venture.

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Reader’s letter from D.P.V of Kingsteignton, evidently reacting to our piece last time about urban congestion (complete letter, as received):

Dear Editor

Road building program =                      more cars

Urban regeneration  =                           more cars

Upgrading infrastructure =                   more cars

Increasing prosperity =                         more cars

Technical progress =                             more cars

Economic investment =                        more cars

Public/private partnership for transport =  more cars

Speculation by hedge funds =              more cars

Yours in dismay

D.P.V.

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Question of the posting : Would it be correct to assume that all inhabitants of the USA who campaign for the expulsion of immigrants are always themselves native Americans?  Answer: Not quite – it would be politically correct, but a counterfactual assumption.

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Plaudit of the posting Let us praise the admirable boldness – or is it reality-defying imagination? – of those senior academic administrators who threaten that if an ignorant rabble continues to complain about the size of their ‘compensation’ (Ed: are you sure this is the right word?)  they will be lost to the country since they will emigrate to some other more generous state which will welcome them as they impress the astounded élites of that new host nation with their Vice-Chancelling skills at more elevated salary levels.

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No correction (on lie detection)  Two querulous malcontents attempted to find fault with one of the items in the previous posting, and the Editor does accept (following the insistence of our patroness, without whom this journal would not have its head above financial water) that reducing the number of words posted to below 2,000 led to a slight lack of clarity.  The intention was to state that current results from human assessment are likely to be improved thanks to advances based on refinement of techniques for extracting data from visual images.  Every tech-savvy schoolkid can manage mere facial recognition now (with interesting results on the number of last-minute bookings on flights to countries having no extradition agreements with nations in Europe) but these advances promise tabloid-headline speculations about the emotional and physical reactions of certain highly respected politicians presenting the prizes at Girls’ Schools swimming galas.)

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Editorial note: As scheduled, Baron Philipp picked me up from Back Field and a couple of hours later we crossed the southern English coast, with the Baron (piloting the craft himself) supremely indifferent about the risk of being greeted by a posse of tax inspectors.  “If they know I’m coming they won’t be there.  If they’re there they’ll learn who I am.  Five minutes, settled!” Indeed two hours later he and Lady W had everything wrapped up between them.  Total agreement that the Purple Parakeet in Shepton Mallet was the best place for lunch, and total agreement all round about journal practice.  Crisis not my fault,  Lack of interns and permanent staff a natural result of geography and meteorology; balanced by great benefit of being outside social media banality and most official and covert censorship zones. London contributors excellent but irregular. A few changes desirable, given that attention span and background knowledge of modern readers comparable with capacity of adolescent grasshopper. I should steer to greater percentage of small ‘faits divers’ and cut down on pieces with 500+ words. And adopt new title.  Support for further year promised.   Most welcome; the two of them represent almost the whole of our practical support, despite all the congratulatory e-mails and messages of goodwill.  Perhaps the journal’s best day ever, though I have reservations about the new title.  The first half, MM (Mid-monthly) needs no quibble, but I prefer to keep the QQ as initials until I’ve had more time to think about that.

Future postings scheduled for the 16th of each month except 15th for February

 

Self-interest

Monty Skew writes:

The next President?  Absolutely straightforward except for the complications.  If Clinton picks Sanders for her Veep (which she should because he has huge support from a large block of idealistic voters who would vote for a ticket with him but won’t vote gladly for anyone else) she will win.

    But she won’t pick Sanders because she is an old Washington professional who knows how these things are done.  Therefore she will pick an obscure middle-ranking middle-aged (but well-dressed) male politician nobody has ever heard of.  And anyway…

    …if she does pick Sanders, (which she should because….[etc]) he will turn her down as incompatible with his burning desire to bring a new spirit of honesty and justice to American politics.

   If she picks a woman?  Just check how women have fared when they got near a presidential campaign in the US, from Ferraro onwards (nothing to do with personal merit by the way).  Even Hillary’s judgement can’t be that dumb.

    Therefore it depends who Trump picks.  If he picks a man he will lose.  If he picks a competent woman who is ideologically incompatible with him (Carly, why ever?!  Just two more days could have been enough!), he will win.

    Just one thought though.  Suppose Bernie is just so ornery different that he decides to run as an independent Vice-candidate?  ‘Run’ may be the wrong word – he could walk it.

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Berthold takes up the torch

It is unsurprising my colleague writes of the Vice-Presidency.  Once the easy reportage that comes with the presidential primaries is finished, the automatic reaction of political hacks is to keep the ball rolling smoothly with long insight-free articles about possible candidates for V-P.   Interesting topics like ‘Why does the vote have to be on a three-legged race?’ or ‘How can we avoid finishing up with V-Ps who have to be thrown out of the White House on grounds of bribery, corruption and tax fraud?’ seem to be a bit too hard for them.  Once the V-P is in office, anyway, he will be just a figurehead sitting in comfort on the poop (for American readers I should explain that this is a nautical expression), unless he is Dick Cheney (allegedly the only self-appointed Vice-President).  It wildly overstates the case to speak of a V-P being just a breath away from the Oval Office.  The life-expectancy of American Presidents in office has historically been better than the average for men of their age, despite the repeated evidence of an unconscious national urge to speed up the input of fresh ideas and policies at the top political level by means of the input of lethal weaponry.  In fact, quite generally being a head of state is one of the best life assurance policies one could have (as opposed to life insurance, which of course pays out on death of the insured).  Although it is not often publicly mentioned there is a well-established international agreement about this.  It is not actually a law but unlike all other international agreements it is almost never broken.  When difficulties arise between states all means to resolve them up to and including war are in practice accepted as understandable and often eagerly urged on by rabble-rousers with axes to grind.  There is one step forbidden, however.  Governments must not dispose of the difficulties by assassinating the head of the opposing state.  This  move is known as the Express Exit , often referred to in intelligence services as the XX  play.  The reasons why the prohibition is almost universally accepted are obvious.  Hitler is the last national leader who is reasonably believed to have broken the rule, having personally ordered the poisoning of Boris of Bulgaria in 1943.  In the reverse geopolitical direction Churchill explicitly ruled out any such action to get rid of Hitler.  The XX taboo is perhaps part of the reason for the carefree smile regularly seen in photographs of Kim Jong-Un.  The names of  Qaddafi and Arafat have been raised as possibly the subjects, or objects, of recent breaches of the rule, but there is at present no general public agreement among specialists as to whether there was actual direct involvement of the hostile governments in their deaths.

            Some enthusiasts believe that the XX taboo  should be respected and acknowledged as one of the few visible fragments showing that humanity aspires to a framework of international law.  Relatives of the hundreds of thousands killed in the Syrian civil war and surviving amputees from that conflict disagree.

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Editorial comment

Mention of Berthold taking up the torch brings to mind the recent arrival of the so-called Olympic torch (apparently for most of its journey it is in reality a small portable gas-powered firelighter) in Brazil, delayed for ninety minutes until an official could be found to authorise the airport’s financial office to waive the usual fee to pay import duty.  The most puzzling feature of its travels before reaching Brazil was why there were any such travels at all.  If for instance the French government took one of the many locks of Napoleon’s hair which they possess by virtue of their responsibility for the nation’s museums, and enclosed it in a small metal canister, sending it on a similar journey, would hundreds turn out to see it pass each town on the route?  Somewhere between starting and ending that question I notice that my potential answer changed from a supercilious negative to a dismayed positive.  But what possible benefit could there be for the spectators?  What disorder of the human set of metabolic and psychological motives?  And is there a link with the baffling impulse that drives crowds of men into remote country areas where they can stand for hours watching other men, with almost none of whom they have any personal link, trying to use sticks of various kinds to knock  small balls into a hole in the grass? Perhaps some university that feels it suffers from a publicity deficit might like to try arranging for various receptacles said to contain curios of one sort or another (‘pen that signed the death warrant of Dr Crippen’, ‘toe of carnivorous frog’, ‘coin dropped from alien spacecraft’) to be despatched on locally advertised ‘celebratory circuits’ through forty or fifty towns and villages in a number of different countries, possibly selected on the basis of assumed differences in their scepticism quotients, to see what crowds would assemble, and in what frame of mind.  If nothing else, the experiment could yield valuable information for any who subsequently have to engage in diplomatic or ‘free trade’ negotiations with the countries concerned.

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Beyond selfishness: A joint statement

With one exception we the undersigned are all migrants, now living in a jurisdiction other than the one where we were born and brought up.  The exception, our intern, is the daughter of migrants and all four of her grandparents were also migrants.  Three of us also have personal links to Australia.  We unite to express our disgust and contempt for the Australian government’s attitude to would-be immigrants.  We see it as a shameful disinterment of the xenophobia and racial prejudice which for so many years produced the ‘whites only’ policy.  Now, there is a case for asking the Australian government to up its game for the sake of its own self-interest.  Maybe memories in Aussie politics are too short to remember how well the country has done out of Vietnamese immigration.  But common sense ought to tell this government that the arrival of a few thousands or tens of thousands could be a very good move for a nation of 23 millions inhabiting a very thinly populated country, in a region where not so far away there are many hundreds of millions living at levels of subsistence far below what most Australians would indignantly reject.  However, we believe there are minimal moral standards to be met first, before we go into the cost-benefit analysis.  Any half-informed inhabitant of Canberra must know about the oppression, imprisonment, and deprivation, on a massive scale, in the countries from which these determined, resourceful and tough migrants (many of them well educated) escape, and might well consider these are just the kind of people Australia needs – just the kind of people in fact that it believes many of its recent immigrants (two and three and four generations back and mostly from countries they didn’t need to emigrate from) to have been.  When an individual middle-class family refuses to share any of its good fortune with others less fortunate, most will say they are mean-mindedly failing the standards we expect from civilised human beings and shamefully selfish.  When a country – the ‘Lucky Country’ – as fortunate and rich as Australia, with all its resources, arrests desperate would-be immigrants on the high seas outside territorial waters, forcibly takes them to places they do not wish to go, and detains them there indefinitely without legal charge in abominable conditions, then you have not merely what appear to be serious crimes requiring urgent investigation, but also the reason why here we have headed our statement Beyond selfishness.   We call on the Australian government to live up to its claimed ideals and return to civilised standards immediately.

Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems; Dr Karela Hangshaw; Costas Pheidakis; Montgomery Skew; Maud Timoshenko; the Editor

 

Australian conversations

The delayed letter from Dr von Hollenberg has now arrived and is posted below.  If or when we learn anything about the intruder who inserted the forged posting ‘Warnings’ and what his game was details will be posted promptly.

Australian rules football could become the world’s favourite spectator sport if only some way could be found to explain to outsiders what the rules are (if indeed there are any rules). This great lacuna in social connectivity does not stop most Australian conversations running aground sooner or later on football or at least some topic connected with sport, where they remain stuck fast, the engines still running but without further progress. (Australian conversations about sport are not much like the parallel phenomena in Europe because they concentrate very largely on the players and actual play. But in England, for example, the majority of the talk especially in the pseudo-conversations which take up so much time in ‘sports’ broadcasts, will be about money, money spent, money paid, money earned (or at least gained) or about what we might call celebrity issues, that is who has got divorced from whom, or has got a new sponsorship deal, or is the star of an eight-page pull-out supplement in the media; or about legal matters, a suspension for breaching political correctness or a libel suit for insulting an important official; or else simple vaporous opinions of coaches or managers or pundits invoking such ill-defined notions as grit or ‘hunger’ and treated with a ludicrous degree of respect.) The other peculiar feature of Australian conversations in my admittedly limited experience is that they pay so little attention to the issue of their own link to immigration which is surprising in a country where well over 90% of the population either is descended entirely or in part from parents or grandparents who were immigrants, or is itself immigrant and born abroad. (I see no reason to suppress the fact that my own grandmother reached Sydney in 1902 where she settled on Spectacle Island with my greatgrandfather who was attached to what would later become the Royal Australian Navy). Of course this is not to say that immigration is a topic absent from Australian conversations, but in defiance of statistics it has a rather peculiar restriction, since the mention nearly always refers only to those who have arrived (especially if from continents other than Europe) within the last twenty or thirty years, or who hope to be going to arrive, since they find this a preferable prospect to remaining in countries where their homes may be smashed to pieces any day or they themselves may be killed or maimed any day by military explosives directed at them, or randomly dropped in their vicinity or deliberately dropped on the offchance that they themselves might be enemies of those ordering the bombardment. For some of these would-be immigrants one or all of these experiences with the sole exception of their own individual extinction has already happened. In some of the countries which the immigrants leave the mere fact of criticising the rulers, however justifiably, can and does result in critics being imprisoned, tortured and killed. Some of the would-be immigrants have been brave enough to speak up for their compatriots and for human rights, in full awareness of what happens after such criticism. Now since it is common for people holding high positions in Australian public life to praise this country and its people for their high standards (referring to moral principles rather than life-style, you understand) you can expect of course that those who leave such terrors behind them and endure the hardships of the highly dangerous journeys leading them to Australia will receive the warm and enthusiastic welcome which such tough, resourceful and principled examples to the human race deserve. One can expect it as much as you like but it is not what happens. As this journal pointed out last year, boats have been seized on the high seas and their passengers carried off without the choice, to a destination they do not want. In what way, if at all, does this not constitute a combination of piracy and kidnapping? To make it worse, conditions at that destination are deplorable and so far as I know, to this day even tame journalists from sources supporting the government are denied entry. To make it almost inexplicable, the proportion between the number of would-be immigrants and the population of Australia is such that even if every last one of the former succeeded in arriving where they do wish to go they would be a virtually invisible minority (but a minority which once integrated could make an enormously beneficial contribution to the cultural and economic life of the country just as have done the Vietnamese who arrived earlier.) However, rational considerations may not take us very far. Is there a deliberate unwillingness here to share the advantages of a privileged lifestyle, as mostly in Europe? Or is it a half-deliberate ignorance of evil things happening out of plain sight? We should hope not, but then we may be driven back to an unwelcome conclusion. The disposition to shun those of the same kind who are, however, not same enough is embedded deep. We see it in highly articulate politicians in Europe; we see it when a flock of blackbirds mobs and expels a luckless albino. So it is not surprising that there is such a startling restriction on the sort of immigration that can be admitted to polite Australian conversation, even while year by year palaeoanthropology piles up the evidence that the real original inhabitants are more autochthonous than we had ever guessed.

I had originally intended to include with my offering a few footnotes, of the sort which this journal includes from time to time. But having found myself ending the above on a serious note – I think that actually a truly savage denunciation is needed – all except perhaps the following seemed indecently flippant.

Linguistic corner Among the new lexical confetti showered on one another by the prattlers of social media is the item tl;dr often intended to be insulting. This is claimed to correspond to the sequence of real English ‘too long; I did not read it’ as would probably have been uttered by most modern editors if the manuscript of War and Peace had been submitted to them. It therefore has two meanings: (1) the person uttering it has lost, or never had, the ability to grasp the essence of a text by skimming through it; or (2) the person uttering it is in a job with demands which they are not fully able to deal with.