A pot-pourri of chocolate, oysters, empty deserts, and a time-travelling marathon

Mr Tony Abbott, former prime minister of Australia, has urged Britain to take a ‘tough line’ with would-be immigrants from the catastrophic events in the Middle East. This is not the first occasion on which he appears to have been misinformed. The British government has indicated that it will accept 20,000 refugees from Syria – these to be people already refugees outside Syria in camps in other countries. This is the very same technique that can be used when distributing chocolates to nephews and nieces at holiday time and discovering that one child has been overlooked; one remedies the deficiency by taking two chocolates from the allocations for all the other children and using them to make up one new bundle. There is however one difference between the practice of the technique in the two cases. In the former case it is a matter of the difference between destitution in exile or worse, and a half-way civilised existence.  (Come, come, you surely do not expect this government to offer anything really helpful except to those too wealthy to need it!) The 20,000 are only to be received (if at all) ‘over the next five years’ (which given the obviously entirely unplanned delays entirely predictable means the process, of discovering that some or most do not after all have the necessary documentation, having left it in Syria, may start some time, if at all, after 2020). The number, even if by some unforeseen failure in discoordination they all arrive, amounts to rather fewer than one for every 3,000 of the current population. Most of the current population could at that rate pass a decade and never meet a single one of them. (Ireland which is under no obligation to receive any at all is taking a proportion fifteen times as many.)

It seems unnecessary for Mr Abbott to urge Britain to take a tough line. Or perhaps he means that Britain should copy the extraordinary example Australia set when he was prime minister, sending out naval vessels to take control of other vessels encountered on the high seas and by force to take those on board to a place where they certainly did not wish to go. Some may regard this as kidnapping or false imprisonment, but there seems to be a better case for describing it as piracy. (We can add that conditions at the destination are so deplorable that journalists are excluded.)

The Abbott view of immigrants is in fact puzzling given that the 23 million Australians mostly living a comfortable life are to be found in a space of seven and a half million square kilometres, at an average density of about three humans per square kilometre. In the upper two thirds of the country as one looks at a map, that density must be down to around one per km2. Noticing that countries not very much further up the map have very much larger populations, many of whom would be extremely glad to have a style of life like that of the average Aussie, one might have expected that any competent prime minister of the country while in power would have done all he could to fill those empty spaces with as many immigrants (often well-qualified educationally, all provably determined and resourceful, and with good reason to be profoundly grateful to a government that would rescue them from terrible conditions, even if insisting that they agreed to reside in specified areas of their new home for a number of years) as possible.

We must at least concede, however, that Mr Abbott has some experience in the matter of migration from which to offer support for the British government’s less appealing instincts. He is himself an immigrant, so he appears to be an advocate of kicking ladders after use. As a child he was taken to Australia, not however to escape torture or death in a civil war but as an economic migrant. More significantly he speaks from among a population of 23 million, of whom approximately 98% are descended from immigrants who arrived within the past 200 years. A little used but perfectly feasible classification of mass migrations would establish two types: those where the incoming population settles, broadly speaking, alongside the previous inhabitants of the territory, which seems to have been largely true of the Visigoths by contrast with the Vandals, and also of ancestors of the large number of those now living in France whose family names suggest earlier familiarity with eastern Europe (and whose record in the matter of kicking ladders seems relatively honourable), as against, on the other hand, those which involve disappearance of the indigenous peoples, as with the western European invasions of North America, Central America, South America and Australia. In the latter case in particular, the disappearance was greatly advanced by massacres of the original residents, believed to have accounted for more than a hundred thousand. (Cf the book Why weren’t we told? by Henry Reynolds, published by Viking.) (Asking the minister George Brandis in person for his opinion is not recommended.)


Isabelita, alas, is writing a book on the biochemistry of oyster consumption with an early deadline and hence only coming in occasionally. Understandable, since when she was with us before she not only contributed some of the best ideas, but in practice did 90% of all the administrative work. On her last visit she did leave us a couple of short notes, herewith. It may be relevant to the first of these that she is entitled to Israeli nationality although she has not chosen to take up that option.

1.) Can anyone explain why a state so efficiently organised can apparently not find the money to instal much needed closed circuit television surveillance, at areas where trouble is likely to occur as in all the recent cases where Palestinians have been shot dead after reportedly attacking or threatening security personnel with knives? How can the security services defend themselves without such evidence?

2.) I see another of my political formulae showing itself in the topic of the China one-child-only policy. This is the way it comes (direct from the media).

China does this (one-child-policy). The West does not. Therefore it is either wrong or peculiar. China has stopped doing this. So China has made a good move.

In reality I think it is foolish. Already in the world people are worried and they are right about the employments which will disappear, with robots and printing in three dimensions, with always new materials. In twenty years the big problem with employment will be too many people with no capacity to earn money, but the economies will be strong because of the machines. Good for Japan, but not good for the countries like Britain in the West which think they will have many more people.



Paul Ryan to be Speaker of the House of Representatives? ‘Paul Ryan’? Isn’t that the chap who thought he would help along his campaign to be Vice President four years ago by claiming that his best time for the marathon was a bit under three hours – ‘two something…’? It turned out that actually his only time for a marathon was within a few seconds of four hours and one minute. Now we do not blame him in this matter for lying. As Jean-Claude J observed,when things get difficult ‘we lie’. (He was speaking as a senior member of the EU commission). But we criticise Mr Ryan for remarkably poor judgment. A marathon is a major event in the life of almost anyone who has run one, most especially if it is the only one. One remembers, to the second, the time recorded. And the time will be recorded – athletics officials tend to fill in the time when not ensuring all known rules (and in some instances others of their own invention) are obeyed at sports events by compiling, collating, and comparing sports records. The difference between a little under three hours and a little over four hours will have as much chance of passing unnoticed as an American warship sailing five miles off the coast of an island occupied by vigilant personnel of the Chinese Navy because, as Ed Hillary put it, ‘it’s there’.

            Which may remind us as it happens of Mrs Clinton’s famed airport landing under fire – very definitely unrecorded fire.