Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Category: readers’ letters

Er – Human Nature?

Late news

A clerical error has resulted in twenty Syrian refugees who had hoped for asylum in Denmark actually landing in Australia.  As its contribution to dealing with the migration crisis, rather than receiving any refugees Britain offered instead in 2015 to maintain the European Office for Registration of Unqualified Migrants, building on its decade-long experience in excluding would-be asylum seekers or returning them to the third-world countries from which they had escaped.  Work in the Office  actually started only last Thursday, owing to difficulties earlier in completing the private finance initiative scheme set-up to equip the headquarters chosen (De Labremont Court Mansion in Sussex) with the facilities needed to house staff and to ensure efficient and secure long-distance communication.  Among the first group to be handled were twenty refugees who had succeeded late last year in passing through Germany but were refused permission to cross into Denmark, and were therefore to be returned, initially to Austria.  But the telex giving the necessary instructions was misread, and as a result these migrants were put on a flight from Frankfurt to Sydney.  The Australian High Court has ruled that since they had neither intended nor wished to travel to Australia, and were under the control of a lawfully recognised international agency they cannot be expelled (although they can receive treatment such as would make it likely that they ask to leave the country).

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Linguistic corner   ‘Patriotism’ is an uplifting or intoxicating feel of hatred or contempt rendered justifiable (according to the patriot) by the fact that it is not directed at one’s own people.   Fegan’s Criminal Dictionary

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A guest writes.  (The contributor, a former broadcaster, wishes to remain anonymous)

Somewhere in the dark and furtive beginnings of regular television broadcasting in Britain sixty and more years ago a chubby, curly-haired youth bounced into a Programmes Provisional Advisory committee meeting (his well-connected step-mother having fixed up the opportunity for him) in Broadcasting House.  (The meeting was unusual since in those days what primarily took place in Broadcasting House was broadcasting, whereas now of course the rooms and corridors are filled with the unceasing hum of innumerable intricate internecine managerial intrigues).  If we could translate his twentieth century words into New British they would be “Television is a visual medium.  Viewers want to see our programs.  They want to see things happening.  They want movement, they want life.  They don’t want a news reader droning on at them with the news, centre-screen and stony-faced like a Chinese idol.  They don’t want to see two heads simply using words to pass thoughts to and fro.  They want action.”   And so on, in the way now only too familiar to those watching a newcomer on the make.

            Not very perceptive, the somnolent middle-aged group round the table mistook his self-promotion (which actually reproduced a presentation by a fellow-student he had witnessed on the media studies course at Wyclaw State U) and took it to be originality.  To a man, they had a firm instinctive distrust of originality, and so to get rid of him as fast as possible they passed a unanimous motion asking him to draft a plan for presentation training, for all those who had to appear in front of camera.  He did not draft such a plan, but his girlfriend did.  And that is why to this day BBC news reporters wave their arms like mediaeval conjurors, or advance stealthily towards the camera as if hoping to spring on it and kill it, or wander in a wide meaningless circle across the landscape while delivering their report.  The words do not matter; the essence is in the movement.  Presentation is the thing, content a mere sideshow.  (Thatcher would have approved.)  It has always been harder to do this sort of thing with studio interviews and news presenters.  Of course they can, and are, frequently interrupted with clips (showing wherever possible attractive young women, or if not available then ‘celebrities’), and many studios have been set up with a slowly revolving panorama behind the speakers.  But change there too is at last under way as older customs and older controllers lose their grip.  Unexplained people will make brief irruptions into the studio.  Interviewers will mix gin and tonic for their interviewees on set.  The panoramas will come to life, first in realistic and then in more exciting fashion.  For instance, birds will flit across the scene behind the presenters in a most plausible and motionful way.  Jackdaws will be spliced in frequently since they like to do aerobatics and pirouette where crows would simply fly from one side of the screen to the other with no more éclat than an MP delivering official policy.  Viewers of the older generation will have to surrender.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  If presentation is going to take over they’ll just have to give up expecting thought and meanings and news and reportage, and if they must get real information they must hunt for it on the net (and a hard game that will be!)  But the television screen will be the scene of constant unpredictable activity.  Explosions – real or faked – in the panorama, sunrise at interestingly different times of day.  Let’s have the special effects guys really earning their money – how about a flock of pterodactyls flapping over Waterloo Station?  Cameras will zoom in without warning on bank raids, again real or faked.  (Does it matter?  The viewers will watch in their millions).  Scenes of personal violence, real or faked here too, some from outside the studio, some in.  Let’s have a vulture perching on the newsreader’s shoulder.  A monkey shown trying to operate one of the cameras.  And more, and more, ever less coherent, less interesting, less humane.  Society and history move on, and those who cannot keep up must sit unprotesting on their park bench and watch as the others pass on out of view.

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Science news   It is reported that the expansion of the human biomass is still proceeding in line with the gradual rise in world equity prices on the stock markets, and with experts still arguing as to why there has seemed to be the surprisingly close correlation between them over the past 150 years which, broadly, continues to hold good despite the droughts now affecting a number of places around the globe, and the imminent economic crashes in the formerly acclaimed BRIC nations (which by the way, just go to show how reliable economic pundits are).  World-wide the percentage of men who are obese stands at a new record, hailed by food-manufacturers and private fee-charging hospitals alike, with a figure of 13% of the adult male population.  An odd statistical feature, however, is that six of the seven leading nations in this exciting contest are English-speaking, and here the number of adult males reaching the obesity level hits 20% a proportion more than 50% higher than the world average.  Scientists in many countries are urging the establishment of research programmes to discover whether speaking English has a beneficial effect on weight gain, or whether a high body-mass index produces a tendency to speak English.

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Karela asks:

Instead of ladling money into artificial intelligence, how about putting some into human intelligence, or better human civilisation?

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Forthcoming news

A number of worried citizens and delighted right-wing politicians have been commenting in recent months on the wide horizons opened up for racial discrimination by recent advances in DNA research.  It appears that the chance of two different human being found to share precisely the same pattern of DNA is certainly lower than one in a hundred million.  This makes it possible for even a brother and sister to despise each other, by each choosing different elements of the genome as the crucial aspects of their genetic make-up which should count as the desirable norm.

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A reader’s letter

Thank you for that sarky bit you had in your last post spoofing the hypocritic tosh this Tory government insults us with.  That’s assuming it wasn’t really one of their announcements?  By the way if that Maud you’ve got as an intern is the Maud Timoshenko came second in the shot put at the Dublin Student Games, you’ve really done yourselves a good turn there.  Good brain, nice strong girl.  What about a signed photograph?

Jim Golightly-Porter

Thank you for the plaudit for our intern, and also your kind offer of a photograph, but we receive plenty of photographs as it is, mostly selfies sent in by readers who somehow imagine that their face, or more often full body shot, may persuade us to reveal our private e-mail addresses to anyone who writes in.  Few are signed, and anyway they are normally binned on receipt, but we do have one (18 inches by 30) which was needed until yesterday to block a hole in a front window that arose when we had the Fine Gael hockey team here last year.  As it happens it is signed by a prominent member of the Tory cabinet and we shall be glad to send it to you in Grimsby.

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 Saying of the week    When you go to see a play in a theatre you are traditionally supposed to offer a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’.  However, when you go to the Cinesumma Superplusplex to see the latest Hollywood movie what you need is a willing suspension of dislike.

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Thought for the day   The pantomime horse is loved by all but it does not win the Derby

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Note on democracy   In the election which put the present British government in office, those registering a vote were 66.1% of those eligible to do so.  Out of this number the Conservative party received only 36.9%.  Time for some reflexion on the decent conduct of political affairs.

 

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Southern discomfort

1) Australia: now you see it, now you won’t   2) the oz mark   3) Readers’ letters (tea ceremony, Trooping the Colour, cannibalism).    Still no Stonehenge here – sorry!, Not this time because Australia has jumped the queue but because we have run into a litle spat with an organisation claiming control over all new Stonehenge Theories; we aim to straighten them out and report without delay.  Next distribution pencilled for 20-11-2012 

 

Opinion piece (by Josephine Uitrijder, Athens, Greece)

Australia scores rather better than some other countries in its policy towards the unfortunates of the human race.  It proposes to admit on humanitarian grounds, in principle and the future (i.e. a government promise), 20,000 people a year, e.g. accredited refugees in camps in other countries.  However that is not the whole story.

  Australia is a wonderful country, certainly.  It takes pride in its people being tough, energetic, prepared to stick at a job and get it done.  Still has a triple A rating with the agencies, so you can see they’re not running the sort of society that discourages people who can make money.  Takes pride in the bravery of the soldiers who have fought for their country (and at the government’s suggestion, in other people’s wars, too) right from that trouble with the Boers onward.

  So what happens when some foreigner works three jobs for a year to earn $5,000 – or even double that – to pay for a three-month journey in wretched conditions where her or his life will repeatedly be at risk in order to reach Australia and ask for refugee status without waiting for accredited status?  To put together even $5,000 in a country where the average wage – if you can get work – is between $1 and $2 a day shows talent well above the world average.  To risk and endure the journey shows courage and determination in bucketfuls.  So when these travellers arrive they are met at the quayside or down on the beach by a welcoming party including at least one government minister and half a dozen employers who knock up the sort of magnificent meal you can get in Oz, hand out congratulations and tell them they are the sort of people Australia welcomes with both arms and offers of employment?  No.  They don’t actually make land at all.  They are intercepted at sea, and under present rules (resulting from another Gillard boomerang-promise travelling at 180° back from its original trajectory) get towed without the option another couple of thousand sea-miles to morale-busting hutments on Nauru or Manas where current information suggests they may be kept for five years or more while their case is considered.  Sounds to me pretty much like imprisonment as a punishment for what can’t be a crime if they haven’t even reached Oz, and into the bargain it sounds as though the Australian government is asking its navy to do something which in other waters might be called piracy.  (On top of that the proposed treatment probably breaks the UN convention on the treatment of refugees.)  True, it may be a bit better than the life they have escaped from –  did I mention a high proportion of them are making the trip not just for a bit of extra cash but because they want to escape brutal, insanitary imprisonment, torture, realistic death threats and the experience of having family members murdered in the places they want to leave behind them.  To be fair, I’m sure the Oz government look with a kindly eye on the desire to set off on their journey; they just don’t want these tough, resourceful battlers to slot in Australia as the destination.

  An odd thing is that you’d expect the government to be glad  of  a few incomers to fill up some of that vast loneliness in the centre and north.  Population density 2.6 inabitants per km².  Indonesia, sprawling above them like a planetary octopus, has 450 million people, many of them looking for opportunities.  Java (1,064 per km²) four times as densely packed as Britain (and see how they feel about immigrants).  That must be why America has 250 Marines stationed at Darwin.  The story about putting 250 Marines there to check emerging superpower China’s presumed territorial ambitions makes as much sense as, say, dropping bombs on the cities of Iraq because one of your cities has been attacked from Afghanistan.  (Hongkong on the southern underbelly of China is more than 4,000 kilometres from Darwin on the northern tip of Oz; and China heavily outnumbers 250 Marines.)  Can’t we please at least have some honesty about our realpolitik?

  Of course, no country can cope easily with absolute floods of immigrants.  Maybe  12,000 or 13,000 irregular arrivals this year is quite a lot, or would be if by year’s end they were all going to be let in, which they aren’t.  Let’s see what the Oz population is; about 22.5 million.  So, goodness! that would mean as many as two of these immigrants for every 3,600 of the population already there.  No wonder the latter are disturbed!  And they do know a lot about the problems of immigration; after all, nearly all of them are descended from parents, grandparents or ancestors who immigrated within the last 150 years.

From Luddites Gazette

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footnote: Congratulations, Australia, on getting that seat UN Security Council seat, though really it would have saved an awful lot of money if the Security Council had just given the US an extra vote.

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New punctuation mark.  A structural survey of the United Nations building, ordered  after hurricane Sandy flooded New York, has revealed that three subordinate organisations of the UN have been working in the basement for several years, their existence entirely forgotten by all officials working (or at least with an office place) in the levels above ground, although this apparently has not interfered with their ability to draw funds as needed from previously established UN accounts.   The largest of the three  is PEURP (the Project to Establish a Universal Register of Punctuation) with a total staff of 1,198.  PEURP has issued a defiant statement claiming that throughout it has been vigorously pursuing important programmes to enhance the efficiency of channels of communication both internationally and for individual emergent nations where the concept of punctuation is often largely unknown.  As evidence it cited a proposal about to be published for a new punctuation mark.  In addition to the existing full stop or period, the exclamation mark, to indicate heightened interest, the question mark, to show that the preceding phrase or sentence was a request for information, and the semicolon (for advanced or exhibitionist writers) there should also be an oz mark with this full form for use on scrolls, public buildings, etc.

which for convenience can be represented in ordinary writing by the schematic form III̥  obviously carrying the same meaning.

    This signals that the writer is aware that his ¹ preceding sentence is confused or unreliable, as  e.g. when an Australian Treasurer announces that

   …the government is still on track  to deliver a budget surplus in 2013  III̥

or a Federal Agriculture Minister speaking of a report on the brutal slaughtering of much-loved Australian sheep exported for sale abroad declares he is

   looking forward to seeing that report III̥

   The oz mark is proposed of course for worldwide use in all ordinary human languages, by those reporting as well as original writers; thus, to take a random example, it could be used if a Greek government minister were to claim

   Greece has come to a satisfactory arrangement with her creditors III̥

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¹ we are sure that on this occasion feminists will accept the use of the male pronoun to cover both sexes (and now that we see how that expression has turned out we hope they will tolerate the latter phrase too).

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the Deputy Editor writes:  Charming as she is, Isabelita sometimes leads the editors to wonder who is actually running this outfit.  Nevertheless we have agreed to allow some space to readers’ letters.  She spoke of the ‘great success’ of the effort by Jeremy and Simon back in September (an outrageous piece of post-adolescent impudence in my opinion).  We at first thought we would call the section ‘Blatter’ which as younger readers who have undergone a modern education will not know is a word meaning ‘prate’ or ‘emit more verbiage than sense’.  However, this would coincide with a name which we strongly feel should pursue its own distinctive path through the media untangled with our reputation, so instead we chose ‘Words in my Wind’ as an appropriate heading [urgent note; before publication correct typo.  Should be ‘Mind’, not ‘Wind’Given the flatulent verbiage which has sometimes clogged the letter box and poisoned the dog (it’ll eat anything when it’s hungry) we obviously must impose a limit.  Nothing so crude as an arithmetical limit, 140 words or some nonsense like that.  The allowance will be one properly constructed sentence (and no fooling about with parataxis).  Editors’ decision final.  Plenty of scope for the properly literate to set forth a reasoned argument, while those who have problems achieving verbal coherence will find their contributions satisfactorily pruned or altogether excluded.  So here we put our first two toes in the water:

(1) (a thoughtful contribution from our old friend Sayid Nebsamin over in Weymouth):

As the great behemoths of alimentary commerce pursue their researches into fresh ways of making profit and in particular develop the plan to ensure that in future meat sold in supermarkets will come from huge vats where cells based on various more or less delicious parts of animals that once existed but have long passed away are made to proliferate in their trillions before being processed into adequate simulacra of the joints and cuts that are familiar today, those who anticipate a new and just possibly cheaper range of gustatory delights should reflect that sooner or later some brash entrepreneur will doubtless load the initial line of one of his vats with cells from a human being, thus not only taking another step on the downward path from civilisation to a society with degraded and barbarous standards but also putting those who purchase and consume the product at risk of being  charged with cannibalism.

(2) (from Maisie Kowalski in ChichesterAs Maisie has followed the normally correct rules of English grammar we have allowed this  sentence.  However, most readers will of course remember that the correct name of the British observance is in fact ‘The Trooping the Colour’.)

   The Trooping of the Colour is Britain’s answer to the Japanese tea ceremony.

Very profound, Maisie.  You mean both are quintessentially embedded in the soul of their nation so that foreigners have no hope of understanding them?  Or they are both extraordinarily complicated ways of doing something quite simple which probably does not need to be done at all?  Or each is a good measure of the cultural level of the country’s leaders perhaps?

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honor hominesque honesti floreant