Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Category: political promises

May b-

I am going to stick to my sabbatical with no less determination and sincerity than Theresa May doubtless felt when she signed the agreement in December 2017 – remember? –  which seemed at the time to be binding and which aimed at dealing well and clearly with the Irish border question among other issues.  But I don’t see why my own holiday should get in the way of expressions of opinion which arrive when someone else does the work.  Last night there was a bit of clatter just as I started to listen to ‘Folk songs of western Mongolia’ (Some amazing ‘double throat’ tracks on that, you should try them.)  When I investigated I found someone had lobbed a brick up to the balcony, with this rather odd message wrapped round it, which I have translated into English, omitting expletives and smoothing out some of the coarser expressions, and this is how it goes:

(a) May made her Brussels trip, aiming at a change in the wording of that ‘deal’.

(b) Either this change of wording would change the legal basis of the deal, or it would not.

(c) If it was going to change the legal basis, then either she realised that, or she didn’t.

(e) If she didn’t, it doesn’t say much for her ability to grasp political realities, but

(f) if she did realise it, then either she thought she could put something devious past the EU side (who had sung out long and loud that they won’t change the legal basis of the deal), thus treating the collective brains of 27 European governments as significantly less clever than herself, which looks like a spectacularly insulting tactic unless it comes off, which looks remarkably unlikely,

or

(g) she was aiming at getting the EU to agree in darkened rooms to a change of wording which would look like a change of the legal basis, so she could then sell it to her Tory party supporters, and assorted others, who might not notice that in reality it isn’t ; with that, if she succeeded, she might be closer to a realistic goal but – would you buy it?

MMQQ2

Part I Sober Survey  Part II Yuletide Quiz  :  MMQQ3 scheduled 16-01-2018

A poll has reported that, despite the appalling helpings of tasteless and precision-free verbal fudge served up in Brussels earlier this month, 64% of independent analysts consider it likely that the UK economic system and indeed constitutional apparatus will collapse on about 29th  March 2019 if government policies and practices continue on their present path.  Accordingly means need urgently to be found to maintain government authority and revenues so as to keep at least minimal control over the population and activities of these islands.  However, there is room for guarded optimism.  Ideas for new developments are said to be flooding into government departments every day and in some cases meeting warm encouragement.  One project likely to win approval at an early date aims to eliminate the hugely burdensome cost of defending the realm by outsourcing both army and navy, under contracts carefully designed after scrupulous background checks by Whitehall’s world-renowned negotiators, to approved private groups who will implement delivery with the cost-savings and enhanced efficiency typically found in the private sector.  Naturally under the new relationships there is no good reason why the personnel of the partnering companies should be required to concentrate their activities exclusively on defense of the UK; on the contrary they will be encouraged to improve their expertise and return on investment by engaging in joint activities with other military forces where these can be approved by the newly independent post-Brexit British government.  A number of organisations able to demonstrate a high level of competence in those areas have already thrown their hats into the ring.  Given current developments in the Middle East, London is unofficially confident of a large and continuing inflow of funds to the government’s coffers.  These plans have been run before the high commands of both services and ministers assure us that senior officers are whole-heartedly favourable to such reforms.

The case of the British airforce is somewhat different, however.  An insider, speaking off the record says she believes that the government would wish to keep control of the RAF and some personnel, as well as of certain well-placed airfields, to form the basis of a dynamic new national transport system taking advantage of cutting edge advances in transport management using computers and new high-speed telecommunications (such as those which are going to make the new Irish border frictionless) so as to make Britain the first country in the world where transport of goods and persons is based primarily on air travel.  The network will operate under a new joint taskforce set up by the government provisionally to be called ‘Aria-OK UK’, which will concentrate initially on headhunting top level managerial talent from the private sector.  The government, she says, takes the view that for far too long innovation has been lacking in the British approach to transport.  Nations relying on ‘19th century’ style surface travel for their national networks will lose out commercially and in terms of prestige to countries where travellers can take it for granted that – for example – on the day of their ‘weekly shop’ they may choose to be whisked in premium-class comfort from one end of the country to the other, in less time than it takes to push a trolley round their chosen  supermarket.   The new air network will of course be open to private ventures, and with suitable calibration of schedules and positioning of government services to citizens (e.g. with all HMRC business handled in a brand-new time-saving one-stop super HQ in Aberdeen) the result should be an enormous increase in traffic on favourite routes, and keen competition between different carriers will inevitably drive down fares to levels everyone will be able to afford.  Meanwhile enormous sums will be saved by reducing costs on road maintenance, and by radical reduction of the old-fashioned and unnecessarily complex rail network.  In addition, large areas of railway property can be sold off to provide land for building much needed houses.   (With careful presentation it should further be possible to use some of the rolling stock no longer needed on the tracks to serve as new housing units themselves, thus making it possible to achieve targets for new housing units promised under government plans faster than ever before.)

Many other sectors of international trade will also see creative British initiatives racing ahead and every encouragement must also be given to those commercial activities of the government which will not be adversely affected by Brexit, for instance production of bombs and missiles (obviously exported only to approved countries and exclusively for defensive purposes, since  Britain continues to uphold the high moral standards she has maintained for decades in e.g. her administration of Iraq, as a founding member of the League of Nations; consult relevant histories)  Officials have been tasked with summarising options and data which would not normally fall under the Chancellor’s remit with a view to restoring national income to usable levels.  Possible projects already under review vary widely in both potential size and complexity.  One idea put forward is said to be that ‘Britain should ‘harvest’ those living in the country without a legal right to do so.’  At present they are simply held in  a detention centre and deported as quickly as possible to whatever destination seems practicable, but an alternative scheme would see them required to work on public projects or such other tasks as are deemed suitable.  Under this generous reform they would be allowed to reside much longer in the UK, staying in their detention centre as long as needed to work off the costs of their living expenses in the UK together with a sum to make good the inevitable deterioration of the centre itself during their occupation of it, plus the costs of their transport to the country deemed to be their home as well as the cost of their initial capture.  (Any reference to these sums as ransom money would of course be a criminal offence.)

Britain is already a well-known tourist destination and, there too, many opportunities are waiting to be seized.  Foreign visitors are often attracted by the chance to view historic sites with their own eyes, and often willing to pay handsomely to participate in re-enactments of historic events.  More than twenty groups are already calling for government support for activities in this field.  Herewith merely the identifying titles of the first five such applications currently being circulated:

Working 19th century telegraph office;  working 18th century prison (Newgate)(model);  working 17th century bawdy house;  17th century execution of Guy Fawkes (simulated and with plastic body double, no participant injured in enactment); working 18th century lunatic asylum.

(Editor: That one caught my eye for personal reasons.  The promoters called it the new Bedlam project and I suspect it may have very good prospects of getting government support since they suggest reopening one of the former mental hospitals – very fine buildings some of them – and charging visitors hefty fees for staying there with real patients, so it’s bound to offer yet another way to cut back on social benefits.  Charmed, though, to see that the dear old Warneford is still in business.  Visits almost completely useless from the point of view of therapy but wandering through the beautiful grounds was less stressful than wandering by the hour in strange patterns round the College’s front quad to the entertainment of some of the more boorish of fellow undergraduates, and certainly better than experiencing the electrochemical manipulations darkly alleged (perhaps quite falsely?) to go on at Littlemore.) (But perhaps that’s enough of Part I; time now perhaps to pass on to the second part.)

Our Yuletide Quiz (prepared in collaboration with Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems and Montgomery Skew)

Q1   Had none of her supporters gesticulating noisily in the media about Theresa’s ‘triumph’ in Brussels ever noticed that ‘sufficient progress’ was never properly defined?

It clearly did not mean complete agreement on all points, and  nothing like that came out of Brussels on the 8th, yet Juncker allowed the shift to phase 2.  Evidently therefore it depended on the EU throughout, and the EU’s decision might just as well have been made weeks before (and possibly had been).  So why leave it to a theatrical flurry of night flights in the last week?  Anything to do with pulling a ball of wool across the floor to tease a kitten?

Q2    Which government department’s handbook of ‘Guidance for authorised visitors’ contains the following extract?

   ‘If one of the inmates experiences a loss of self-control during the exercise period despite the sedative tablets, and attempts to stab those around him with a sharpened kitchen knife, there is no need for visitors to be alarmed.  Calm will instantly be restored with a couple of tranquillising rounds fired by one of the supervisory snipers.’

Q3   You are the ruler of a modern oligarchical state.  Given the wide availability of firearms in your country you are constantly worried by the fear of assassination, and therefore attempt to rule with some moderation and reasonable economic success (your state is not signed up to the IMF), as well as arranging many carefully staged photo-ops.  When an important programme runs into difficulty you are faced with a choice: either announce the policy is failing and will be reversed, or continue with the programme while lying to your subjects that success is clearly visible on the horizon.  Which choice will be less damaging (a) for you, and (b) for the population?

(Editor: surely we should have had a supplementary question here, namely ‘What is the probability of any national leader ever adopting the first option?’)

Q4   (Ed: I asked our patroness to disallow this question on the grounds that it is not properly connected to the premiss.  I was overruled.)

It is well-known that the average university lecture on Kant’s philosophy (as recorded in the MIT 2007 Survey of effectiveness of painful stimuli in retention of verbal material in first-year undergraduates) scored 2.38% on the Heftig-Schnurrbart Lästigkeit Index of boredom.  Three outstanding performers on the British football managers scene scored between 7% and 11.5% in recent interviews.  Nevertheless they are all far below the rating of a European golf tournament’s final round this autumn which official observers on an unannounced visit from the Mental Health Observation Society scored at 83%

  Can you explain why anyone ever agrees to pay to watch two or more men using wooden or metal sticks to knock small white balls into holes in the grass?

Q5   Did Theresa May, alone and unaided, come to the belief that she and Davis were so much cleverer than European politicians, that they would be able to bamboozle the EU with ease?  Or did someone with a rare gift for misjudgment (perhaps someone linked to her ‘strong and stable’ election sampaign?) tell her that once she’d had an amicable lunch on the Monday and declared a triumph, then the Irish and any other objectors – notably the DUP – could be fobbed off with a charitable smile and told it was a fait accompli?

Q6  It is well-known that the best place to hide guilt is very often the broad daylight of a public square. Supposing then that those who rule a country (i.e. the rich and well-connected who concern themselves with that country – obviously elections don’t have much to do with it) decided to extend their control over the population by inserting unsuspected and undetected subliminal propaganda for those rulers into the apparently meaningless muzak that pollutes most public spaces in most cities, how would things look different from the way they look today?  Could have been at it for years, I’d say  Indeed, now think….

(Please get some good technicians analysing some random samples a.s.a.p.)

Green – the colour of unripe governments

  1. Intern wanted               
  2. Irish border        
  3. The Guradian
  4. Political boomerangs
  5. Spermatozoa fairly straight

       Next posting scheduled for 1-10-2017


Wanted as soon as possible: new intern for this site.  Residence on the island is not necessary, and no suitable accommodation is available (and in case some might think they could rough it in picturesque squalor the dog basket was thrown out long ago).  The post is unpaid.  It follows that no office duties are asked for.  We want someone capable of independent thought and imagination, but also able to write good English (or French) and to keep reasonable control on schedules and deadlines.  Ability to translate Microsoft jargon into comprehensible English would be a prime asset.  This is a chance to put things out with your own byline.  Any age, any colour, any gender, any ethnic group.  Apply in the usual way (or direct).  Berthold F-C at the University will probably be willing to give some unbiassed advice.

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From our senior contributor Montgomery Skew

Let us give credit to the soaring imagination of the May government which has effortlessly tossed a solution to the Irish border problem into the lap of the open-mouthed EU negotiators.  Government representatives are predicting, with gritted teeth (behind a fake smile of confidence), that following Britain’s triumphal exit from the fetters of union with Europe, trade and traffic between Northern Ireland and the Republic will be able to  proceed as smoothly as before and ever more profitably.  This on the basis of masterful decisions made to take advantage of possibilities hitherto undreamt of in the efficient organisation of commerce.  Major businesses concerned with trade across the reinvigorated yet somehow frictionless frontier will register all the vehicles they will use, and pre-pay all tariffs and other charges required by British and European rules but will do so online through deductions from designated accounts.  They will inform the authorities in advance of their intention to make a shipment on each occasion, giving details of its date and contents, and thus do away with delays for inspection at the frontier, while the payment will already have been fully dealt with before the cargo reaches its destination (provided there is no computer glitch or interruption to the internet service).  Automatic number-plate recognition technology will have securely confirmed passage of the vehicle (provided there has been no unplanned problem with the transit and no jiggery-pokery with switching of plates).  Smaller local firms and their drivers will also have to be registered but will be allowed to cross without online notification and without deduction of any charges whatever.  (The unlikely event of an unauthorised driver using a locally registered vehicle to carry goods of his own choice across the ‘invisible’ frontier is to be dealt with by using facial recognition technology; drivers of all local vehicles will wind down their windows and show their faces to a camera at a pre-arranged point as they drive past.)  Officials conceded that an even more unlikely event, of an authorised driver carrying illegal substances or unauthorised persons such as refugees or escaping convicts over the frontier might in principle need to be considered at some future point, but believe that such incidents would be very rare.  They remain confident that with new advances in heat-seeking technology and other promising scientific developments this eventuality could be dealt with without difficulty, and they assure those interested that as a whole this ‘high tech’ plan for a frictionless border will satisfactorily meet all conceivable regulatory requirements (and crossing the border by any other means, such as walking across the fields by night or swimming a few miles through coastal waters towing a laden surfboard, would be made a criminal offence).  Thus virtually at a stroke the British government has discovered the way to put an end to the age-old, worldwide crime of smuggling.  London is doubtless already preparing a package demonstrating the UK’s superior know-how when it comes to sociopolitical governance, to be made available on very reasonable terms to governments around the world, possibly as part of a two-part offering also setting out the ‘Hinkley Model’, a compilation of advice on how to develop safe, cheap and non-polluting nuclear power.

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The Editor writes: In one of the more remote regions on my Mediterranean holiday I was reduced to reading old copies of the Guardian.  Always sad when a onetime sprightly defender of justice and fair play enters on the irreversible decline, All the effort they evidently put in on getting rid of the typos and the overbalancing ultra-left tirades seems to have been effort subtracted from the business of clearly presenting orderly thought to readers, in proper English (along with maintaining a sharp understanding of the world as seen outside the one-way glass bubble of London politics).  Herewith a short representative paragraph from August.  I make no criticism of DiNicolantonio or MacGregor, only of the journalistic presentation.  It should not be necessary to have to go to original sources for what a newspaper is purporting to expound.

DiNicolantonio also claims that we lose too much salt 1 when we exercise or sweat in heatwaves.  MacGregor says that is not so 2.  “There was a very good experiment 3 with the SAS, parachuted into a desert 4 which found they needed quite a low 5 salt intake.  If you have a higher 6 salt intake it is more dangerous.  They had to carry more water with them because of thirst. 7” he said.

 [1] ‘too much’ for what?

[2] ‘Not so’.  I.e. salt is lost but no threat to life?  Or no loss of efficiency?  Short-term or long-term?

[3]  ‘Very good’ I.e ‘very efficiently conducted’?  Or ‘strongly favourable to the lower-salt case’?

[4]  ‘A desert’.  Which one, under what meteorological conditions, to undertake what activity?  Very variable factors with enormous influence on the results to be expected.

[5]  ‘Quite a low’.  By comparison with what might be expected in those conditions? (See footnotes 2 and 4 combined)

[6]  ‘More dangerous’ than what?  And by the standard of normal human use?  Or referring to SAS in the unidentified desert?

[7]  Relation to previous statement obscure.  Extra water to deal with thirst unconnected with salt loss?  But in that case how does this thirst factor interact with the need for salt intake?

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Monty has also kindly passed us a piece from another inhabitant of Whitehall (an EU citizen) who wishes to remain anonymous

Even though I have no political commentator’s licence valid for the UK   and no moral or passport-certified right to be personally concerned (for which I give fervent thanks), the UK is a constantly bubbling source (like that mud volcano in Indonesia) of unconscious political comedy, richly endowed with thinktank support teams able to believe almost any political nonsense so long as it is their political nonsense, while elbowing contradictory facts aside.  If all the energy put into GDP (Gross Domestic Pontification) could somehow be converted into electricity the UK’s future could be bright.  But perhaps some of them are feeling the strain; as there has been a noticeable increase in the proportion of labour-saving boomerang policies recently.  Boomerang policies and promises are simply pulled out of storage and thrown at the populace when there is no other immediately obvious issue that can be worked up into a scandal or crisis.  Unlike other political projectiles, for instance replies to parliamentary questions, they normally spend an appreciable time spinning around in the public arena, attracting attention and perhaps – if launched by a skilled performer – inflicting some damage on a chosen target, before returning and being locked securely away, ready for use at the next suitable opportunity.  Of course some of them crash and are trampled under foot never to return but there are two other outcomes: first, promises which come back unbroken and can cause significant injury to the career of clumsy politicians not agile enough to catch them in time. or at least to get out of the way.  But, occasionally, a truly talented operator may be able to seize one, quickly wipe off the metaphorical blood and bird feathers and launch it in a fresh direction of his or her choosing to perform impressive aerobatics over the (possibly) enthralled crowds watching.  Naturally a certain amount depends on the material and construction of the policy itself, and most Departments have teams constantly engaged in experiments to see what designs and what ballistic techniques might produce the most spectacular results.  One fine example of a boomerang policy is the proposal to cut net immigration to Britain.  This was originally launched by Tories though from time to time other hands have seized it in attempts to provide their own aerial entertainment.  But of course the most famous example is the promise of ‘a major house-building programme to build new affordable homes in sufficient numbers’ which has been spinning over the heads of the electorate in one manoeuvre or another at almost every election season since far back in the previous century.

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   obtainable from the British Library, 96 Euston Road; submit a sample of at least twenty thousand words of recent work together with the fee of £540 and a full waiver of relevant copyright

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Spermatozoa, fairly straight

Several reports from different parts of the world have all noted massive reductions over the past 40 years in human production of healthy sperm with astonishingly large declines of up to 60% or even more.  The situation as earlier reported varied geographically, with very big reductions in North America, Europe, and Australia, but not in Asia, Africa, and South America.  Predictably social media spawned speculation about ‘white races’, though if you take a really careful look at the social and ethnic data you would probably be on surer ground if you claimed a correlation between speaking English and the decline in sperm count.  However this is in fact a red (or ‘white’ ?) herring since the decline has been even more impressive in China where there is good evidence based on data from army recruits.  There, studies show a decline in healthy sperm of between 80% and 70% between 2001 and 2015.  There’s also been a giddying decline in Iran, where (as many outside America will know) it is only a relatively small (and privileged) layer of the population with whom archetypal ‘white nationalists’ would consent to feel comfortable, if they ever met one of them.  However over similar time periods, there have been dramatic increases worldwide in the incidence of asthma – e.g. in Canada an increase greater than threefold between 1979 and 2004 – and also in the incidence of allergies.  In France (where by the way the ratio of good quality sperm reportedly dropped by – not ‘to’ – 60% in 40 years) there has a doubling of asthma in less than thirty years and, reportedly, a ten-fold increase in children’s allergies.  Researchers have indicated a variety of possible causes including obesity, ‘modern lifestyle’ (so vague as to be more or less useless); air pollution, lack of exercise, plastic (especially bisphenol A) in the environment, and exposure of immature minds to pornography (plus of course global warming).  Very puzzlingly the lists of suggestions nearly always omit another factor which co-incides rather strikingly as far as broad chronology is concerned: greatly increased exposure to electromagnetic radiation generated by human sources, which started to become significant around 1960, and has become more intense in the past two decades.  An authoritative book on the effects of electromagnetism on biological systems published some years ago by a highly respected scientist, has the title Crosscurrents (O.Becker, published 1990, isbn 0-87477-536-1).  It is up to readers whether they want to find out more.  But perhaps it is rather early yet to start investing heavily in companies aiming to produce electric cars for all by 2040.

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Science News It is reported that scientists working for a major commercial organisation in the US have isolated the integrity gene, and have begun experiments on how it can be disabled

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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.)

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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.

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Editorial

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.

Campaign promises: the truth

Editor’s note: I don’t know what has been getting into Monty Skew lately.  It may be hard to keep a good man down, but it’s no easier doing the same to Mr Skew when he’s in such an excited state.  I confess it’s easier to give him his head, though I’m going to ask him to make sure he has a cold shower before he comes in, mornings.  Isabelita (with us again!) supports that move.

Monty Skew, political correspondent writes

            There has been a lot of twaddle talked lately about an evil said to be among us, namely the gap between what politicians say on the stump, and what they do when they have stuck the photo of their wife and kids on the ministerial desk (and the black lace undies for their mistress in the ministerial briefcase). This is a profound misunderstanding. The trouble with electoral democracy – quite apart from any particular troubles with particular (alleged) democracies – is the exact opposite to the failing normally attributed to it. The usual claim is that democracy leads inexorably to demagoguery, with ever cheaper politicians making ever more expensive promises to do what the electorate wants, in order to get into office.  And these promises in turn will lead inevitably to the economic ruin of the country.

            Pausing for thought here and taking a quick glance round some of the more adjacent supposed democracies I must concede that the point has a certain specious charm. But the deterioration in today’s politician (I put it down to the weakness in the ozone layer myself,the cosmic radiation having caused degeneration of their political backbone) is starting to turn an amusing ceremonial nicety – like the contorted wording that almost, but not quite, admits that the presidential candidate has experimented with forbidden chemicals – into a thoroughly inconvenient constitutional straitjacket. . The fact is that there is a structural requirement in representative democracy that politicians should lie in order to gain office. Among the very few to have recognised this in public is the late, but still admirable, Huey Long, Governor of Lousiana; when a deputation of citizens came in high indignation to ask why he was breaking his election promises he looked them straight in the eye and said, “I lied.” And this is how it should be.  Yet today, with the honourable, indeed laudable, exception of M.Juncker, this evident truth is suppressed.  The People are told that they are the sovereign authorities of a country, that the system is there to do their will; it is in this belief that they vote in elections, and yet it is perfectly obvious that when a government comes to power it will not do the will of The People. If its policies accurately reflected those of The People there would be no need to elect it in the first place – there is no need to elect a government to know that we are against murder and for the freedom to import grapefruit. The organisation of the details can be left in the hands of the civil service and the police and the judiciary, and the proof of this is that they are running things anyway. Therefore election of a government only ceases to be a hollow enterprise when the government is to introduce policies other than those favoured by The People. It is equally obvious that if the politicians openly stated in their campaigns that they were not going to act in accordance with the will of The People then they would not get elected; after all this would be contrary to the fundamental principle of democracy. Actually it is already accepted that this necessary gap between theory (technically known here as `morality’) and practice exists in the case of many non-contentious issues. Every member of the public wants lower taxes for example, and longer drinking hours; every government restricts the latter and raises taxes. We all react with an indulgent smile when the campaigning politician denies that such policies will be put in place if he or she wins a majority.

            Now it may be urged that I am talking nonsense; such generally agreed issues are the rarity, and the aim of democracy is to enable The People to choose between competing alternatives each of which is supported by a section of the populace. It is certainly true that elections consist of an amalgam largely composed of such issues, but this does not change the situation one whit. The truth deficit is required here every bit as much. It is immediately evident that a politician who told the truth on every issue would place herself or himself at an insurmountable disadvantage vis-à-vis the politician who steadfastly maintains a falsehood wherever it will bring out the votes. And since it would be a disgraceful abuse of the electoral process for a candidate to take part intending to lose, and thus to make useless the votes of her supporters, it follows at once that it is the duty of campaigning politicians to lie.

            All very straightforward, really.  As for the economic ruin of the country, that is irrelevant, since it is going to come to pass in any case.