Another mixed bag

1) Pussy trio  2) political promises  3) can smoking benefit health? 4) eliminating malaria carefully           Next distribution remains scheduled for 31st August


note to Daily Mail journalists in Great Britain: it has been discovered that two dietary supplements, Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Lipoic Acid produce greater activity and significant improvements in memory when administered to rodents.


Unpopular news: A public opinion poll in Russia taken before the verdict in the trial of the Pussy Riot trio found that two-thirds of those polled wanted the women to be sent to prison or to work camp.

Unpopular background, also little noted in western media: Their trial concerns a demonstration they made, which received much publicity in the west.  However this was their second, not their first, demonstration of the kind.  After the first no action was taken against them but they were asked not to do it again.

A consultant comments: Much harmful self-congratulatory fun can be had trying to impose one’s own view of how things should be run on other communities.  But at least those engaging in such an enterprise have more grasp on reality than those who simply assume that other communities do run on the same lines as their own


Editorial  (from Luddites’ Gazette)

As a child in the 1950s my father took me once to see the notorious Museum of Political Promises in Northern Italy.  The premises [I evade the wordplay lurking in ambush by the side of that sentence] were not attractive, set in a narrow gloomy valley between a pets’ cemetery and the crematorium of the local municipality.  The building itself was essentially no more than a large wooden hall containing piles of evidence of promises from twenty or more European countries, carefully stacked within intricately constructed racks devised originally for the records of Imperial China.  These allowed scholars to extract and replace any one document needed for examination without damaging any of the others.  In those days museums were not conceived as places to entertain casual visitors and although several spectacular promises were pointed out to us by a guide, including the actual paper bag on which Chamberlain drafted his ‘peace in our time’ remarks, we were not permitted to extract and marvel at any of them, which made our trip remarkably frustrating.  The whole place was filled with a strong pungent smell which one of the attendants told us was the consequence of treating all the documents except those that were already toxic with a preservative – all to no avail, since the whole place was burned to the ground in a possibly accidental fire just one month after Pella took over from de Gasperi.

  I have thought of that strange place several times recently, with elections recently completed in Russia, France and (to no advantage whatsoever) in Greece, and soon to come in America.  It is now many years since I regularly played Monopoly (and won) against young Nikki Sarkozy, at that time still clad in grey serge shorts, while my grandfather presided over a dinner table with presidents and prime ministers sitting jowl by elbow (some of them were indeed awfully uncouth in their table manners).  We later lost touch, but were I myself host to such occasions now then Nicolas might well be on the guest list.  Certainly not his successor.  Nicolas may be headstrong and unpredictable, but there you see a well-defined and vigorous character.  Hollande – did you ever see a man whose face and movements tried so hard – and let him down so badly – in the attempt to hide inner uncertainty and lack of command?  Tough as a young hedgehog.  A strategist in politics to set alongside ‘Crimean’ Raglan as a military commander [see note at end 1].  One of the clearest marks of his political inexperience – he never previously held any ministerial office, though between 2001 and 2008 he was mayor of Tulle, a town of some 15,000 known for the production of accordions – is that he has been trying to keep his campaign promises.  As one instance, the increased special allowance for children of school age is already being paid.  However, it is obvious that there is no point in making a campaign promise which you intend to keep, because you will only intend to keep it if your people have already checked the possibilities and found that it can be kept; in which case the opposition or at least its more intelligent components will already have done precisely the same.  The only campaign promises worth making are those that you do not intend to keep (provided, of course, that they look glamorous in the eyes of the electorate.)  When you break them you simply remark that the situation is no longer the same, though few will match the limpid elegance of the breach by Julia Gillard, leader of the Australian Labour party: ‘there will be no carbon tax’ during the election campaign (17-8-2010); ‘circumstances have changed’ as a carbon tax is introduced by her Labour government (1-7-2012).

1 Cf  N.F.Dixon   The psychology of military incompetence   Jonathan Cape   London   1976              (One of the funniest and most frightening books ever written by a psychologist; obligatory reading for anyone hoping to gather support for a military coup d’état)


Is the Gu Kailai who was seen on Chinese television walking into the court to be pronounced guilty the same Gu Kailai who was arrested in Chongqing and charged with murdering an Old Harrovian?  She looked remarkably different – younger, more like a countrywoman than a sophisticate, and plumper, none of which changes are universally observed in those kept in prison around the world.  Now it is not unknown in other parts of East Asia for a stand-in to take the rap in serious cases, in return for suitable compensation in one way or other, but in China, in a trial as widely scrutinised as this was, surely such a thing is inconceivable, apart from being of doubtful practical benefit to the guilty party.  Can anyone cast light on this puzzle?


A letter from Ms J.Borgia, who owns and manages a hostel in Castlebar for smokers released on parole from their prison sentences, (received yesterday along with a tax demand for instant payment of 1,000,009 euros from the Attorney General of an African country which as far as we can find out does not exist, and a pencilled note from the postman who is still complaining about intimidation by the guard dog despite being on the other side of the railings):

Madam,   In your piece (6-8-2012) about visual warnings on cigarette packets you seemed to accept the usual line that smoking should be banned because it is bad for health.  This overlooks the clear fact that a given element which is part of the cause of some harm may at the same time be part of the cause of much else.  Perhaps you will let me quote from a letter I wrote some years ago to the Ennis Contemplator: ‘we do not doubt that the cigarette smoke contains certain elements – hydrogen cyanide, for example – that are noxious.  However, if they are noxious to human beings it seems highly likely that they are also damaging to other organisms including some that are potentially dangerous to human health.’   One of the best known authorities on the effects of smoking, Dr Kenneth Denson, of the Thame Thrombosis and Haemostasis Research Foundation, who has published widely on the effects of smoking and given evidence to the parliamentary select committee on health, does not doubt the link between a tobacco habit and lung cancer, yet is on record as stating that smoking protects against Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer, cancer of the womb, pre-eclampsia, and Alzheimer’s.  He notes that a former holder of the greatest verified age for a man smoked until he died at 114.  It is a matter of common knowledge that Jeanne Calment smoked throughout adult life until medically advised to stop at the age of 117; she then died at 122.  Moreover, it appears that the proportion of medical staff who smoke may be above that in the general population.  Certainly without intending any discouragement of those who want to break the habit, never mind urging them to hasten out to support the tobacco companies, have a look at  Surely the total effect of smoking on community health needs more investigation.

Juniper Borgia


  An unconfirmed report claims that following Obama’s warning that use of chemical weapons, by the Syrian government, might be taken as a reason for American military intervention, the minister for education, Saleh Al Rashed commented in a telephone interview ‘chemical weapons don’t kill people; people (but not the Syrian government forces!) kill people.


Among campaigns almost universally considered to be ‘good causes’ are the search for a vaccine against malaria, the protection of tropical forests, and the preservation of the rights and culture of the world’s few remaining nomadic tribes.  It is rather awkward that there is a conflict within this trio.  The ‘primitive’ tribes and the tropical forests on the whole get on fairly well together.  The damage to the plants and trees by the tribes is an infinitesimal aspect of what goes on in the forests, and while there is an estimate (also known as a wild guess) that falling coconuts kill some two hundred people a year, a large number of the latter are probably tourists wandering within a mile or two from their resort hotel.  But if (or when) malaria is eliminated, quite apart from the fact that it will be followed by a surge in the world’s population, especially in areas still much exposed to other tropical diseases, there will be a major increase in the extraction of their resources from the forests, and a devastation, all but genocidal, of the way of life of the remaining forest tribes as settlers from outside move in.  Careful thought needed here.

honor honestique floreant