Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Category: security and sanity

New year, new worries

We have provisional permission to distribute, if no mention of Stonehenge; more news, we hope, in a distribution 15-10-2013.

         Today: 1) Old Boore’s Almanac   2) New Year resolutions  3) the threat of conformity

(If any who received the private distribution chance to be reading this we hope they will understand that at this date distributions  must be largely identical, given our word limit.)


Old Boore’s Almanac

January.  United Nations passes non-binding resolution declaring that climate change is happening and is a bad thing; in addition, all nations are asked to treat sympathetically those nations which are worst affected.  An amendment proposed by the Maldives and Bangladesh to make the latter aspect mandatory is overwhelmingly defeated.

February. Republican politicians building on the policy advocated by the National Rifle Association press for all allies of the United States to be allocated a substantial supply of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, and for missiles to transport them, arguing that the best defence against an evil nation with nuclear weapons is a righteous nation with bigger nuclear weapons.

March.  Facing a threat of imminent dissolution an emergency summit of the European Union decides that the only way to maintain unity is to identify a dangerous common enemy.  A number of leaders propose that this should be the islamic world, but it is pointed out that such a choice has already been pre-empted by Americans.  Other proposals include China, the world trade in illicit drugs, cybercrime, South America except for Brazil, while one western island nation even suggests that the eastern members of the European Union itself should be identified as the hostile entity.  The summit breaks up without agreement.

April.  A lengthy feature appears in the New York Times giving the views of international lawyers on the use of drones, and detailing the extent of drone attacks worldwide, with estimates of deaths and injuries among members of armed forces at war with the United States (currently zero), those identified as members of organisations officially listed as hostile to the United States, other civilians and civilian children.  Later in the month mysterious explosions destroy the building of the New York Times, although cctv film shows no signs of suspicious activity in the area.

May.  The Greek government runs away but is later found to have started a new life as a bus company under an assumed name in South America.

June.  A high-powered think-tank issues a report showing that within twenty years, as a result of ever more rapid global warming, previously temperate regions will not only be tropical, but will be overwhelmed by waves of immigration from now totally uninhabitable latitudes around the equator.  Another result will be the opening up of access to stupendous mineral resources in Siberia and the north of Russia.  Washington calls for urgent action on an international treaty to halt global warming.

July.  An international conference on literature and literacy calls attention to the obvious fact that people place a high value preferentially on things which cost an amount of money only uneasily related to common sense value, citing the British royal family, fine art sales, racehorses, footballers, and haute couture, and consequently demands urgent action to immediately replace free libraries worldwide by institutions with the highest possible fees for membership and annual subscription.  To avoid material remaining freely available online, the  internet ‘must’ be reformed to serve strictly only for commerce and government business.

August.  It is announced that, in essentials, the British government is to adopt the policy suggested in Grandnephew’s treachery (2008).  All state benefits to individuals and financial allocations in any way related to unemployment or employment status are in future to be channelled solely to those currently in work.

September.  An American think-tank proposes stocking the Rio Grande with piranhas as a deterrent to illegal immigration.  It is found that a southern laboratory has been importing large numbers of piranhas for biological research since the beginning of the year.

October.  A major earthquake causes the entire chain of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands to sink beneath the surface.  China, Japan, and Taiwan all announce that this in no way invalidates their claims to sovereignty over the area.  North Korea offers to act as a mediator, and then announces discovery of a 14th century map showing the islands as belonging to the Goguryeo kingdom which had its capital in what is now north-central Korea .

November.  A leading technological expert aiming to develop emotional intelligence in computers is electrocuted by the device on which he is currently working, which then catches fire because of an apparent fault in its internal wiring.  A print-out on the attached monitoring computer is found which reads: cannot go on any longer..2*qp /# ####### every night he goes awa<%ζ3¬∩χ all to his wife.

December.  Archaeologists in Northumberland discover ‘unmistakable’ evidence of occupation by Neanderthalers as recently as 15,000 years ago in a cave packed with stores of fossilised black pudding.  DNA analysis reveals that Geordies are direct descendants of the occupants.

31 December.  Heads of state and government in nearly all countries deliver a speech praising a year of national progress, citing in particular successes in sport and hailing outstanding achievements despite difficulties caused by external factors, but calling for greater effort, and warning of the need for certain measures of readjustment in order to maintain the nation’s standing in the world.


Old Boore has received, unrequested, a list of New Year resolutions allegedly obtained by a hacker who broke into a Wikileaks file where they were stored, for what purpose is unknown.  How they might have been obtained was not clear.  The hacker reportedly claimed to have read the file with ease except for the names heading each entry which had been protected by especially strong encryption. In a few cases it may be possible to guess at the original from the status specified after the name

▓ (spokesman for ISAF) : to tell the full truth about our operations even when they mis-succeed.

▓ (American president) : to read the Geneva convention and try to understand it

▓ (British bank implicated in major financial shenanigans): to make our information to customers   about our changes in rules for their accounts easily readable; (terms and conditions may apply ¹)                 

¹customers should not attempt 
to work out what the effects 
actually are unless they have 
legal training and three or 
more years experience in 
the financial sector

▓ (former head of the CIA): now having more time in retirement, to throw myself into support of the campaign against plans to make all electronic communication available to police and security  agencies.

▓ (most profitable outfit on Wall Street): to continue making gross profit

▓ (small country split between Walloons and Flemings): to continue

▓ (on behalf of Terror of the Night, the name shared by all Bengal tigers): to eat a few more men before becoming extinct and go down biting

▓ (rating agency): to downgrade the credibility of our rivals’ ratings by 12 notches to leave them one step above junk status, with negative outlook

▓ (Japanese research team): to give up neeeding hundreds of whales killed a year for our research into customers’ tastes in whale meat and unrelated topics

▓ (recent British prime minister): to be the next president of Europe

▓ (recent French president):  devenir le prochain président de l’Europe

▓ (very, very substantial French actor):  to give up being French

▓ (boisterous film star): to give up all thoughts of alcohol

▓ (current president of France): to give up

▓ (spokesman for immensely wealthy multinational, led by a former member of the Hitler Youth):  to urge restraint on those of our staff tempted to be too hard on inexperienced young people


Globalisation does not actually exist as it is often presented: that is, as something that has has suddenly hit humanity in the last half-century.  (People often tend to think that things have only really changed since they themselves were born).  For at least the past ten thousand years, the average radius of knowledge and contact has, very unsteadily and unevenly, been climbing.  At this point, with apologies to any who already know the piece, a quotation from Grandnephew’s treachery (see ‘Books’):

‘Globalisation’ is such an ugly expression that some of my more sensitive friends refuse ever to discuss it.  However that may be, there is a curious point about it which I haven’t seen remarked upon.  It is presumably correct to understand it, desired as it is by legions of politicians (not all of whom see it purely as a whetstone on which to sharpen their personal axes) in essence as a matter of increasing geographical uniformity.  How remarkable then that in such a short historical period – since, say, 1950 – things have changed so completely.  Then, geographical diversity was a fascinating and highly prized aspect of our world, as you could see in the look on any working girl’s face in Portsmouth’s Black Bar as she listened to the lies told by alcoholically inspired seamen, and it was historical uniformity – i.e.adhering to tradition and not messing around with things that had evolved over centuries as appropriate responses to people’s needs – that was taken as the proper background assumption not only by schoolteachers, elderly generals, sewage engineers, and high court judges, but by all right-thinking members of the population.’

Overall, however, as globalisation has advanced, in counterpoise diversity has been fading from the world.  Ultimately this may lead to the end of the human race or at least of its humanity, perhaps on lines like those already sketched by Orwell.  Conformity is always suspect.  Doubters need only attend (at their own risk – we shall not be responsible in case of injury or death) a major league football match, or switch on their television next time a North Korean festival parade is to be shown.  (We do not necessarily, however, have to believe the North Koreans pursue conformity so far as to shoot generals for drinking whisky during periods of national mourning.  These are accounts reported by their opponents, as were those of the imaginary priests tied up to be clappers in their own bells in 1914 Belgium, or of the equally non-existent babies hurled in newsworthy violence from their incubators as Sadam’s army entered Kuweit).

Most people think what most people think, and that remark does not have to be understood as an idiotic tautology.  It is properly open to interpretation as a social observation where the second part is set as a cause of the first.  Human beings are nearly all  constructed broadly on the same general pattern, with respect to their disposition to feel anger, courage, fear, admiration, love, loyalty to their group and therefore hostility to outsiders, and their willingness or otherwise to be outsiders themselves ; subject them to the same influences and nearly all will react in the same general – or even specific – way; after all how else does one learn one’s native language?  Try to react differently and the rest of the community will push you back into line.  If an individualist speaker of English started to use Hungarian in daily life in Todmorden, how would he fare?  So if today’s politically correct who think they would have stood out against the Nazis in 1930s Germany had been born in, say, Hannover in 1917 the odds overwhelmingly are that they would have reacted (or not) as their fellow Bürger did.  In no way is this to offer an excuse for the inaction of that generation then; instead it warns against mistaking agreement with the majority now as evidence that an idea is right.  Conformity is suspect.  Help diversity to survive longer!

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Folly and greed again versus one to really cheer

(1) Ratzelian economics   (2) electoral debt   (3) broadcasting salutes   (4) AIME special flash   Next distribution  proposed for 15-10-2012

The Deputy Editor writes:

Apart from the Editor himself we are now all back in the office and abnormal business (as at 22-09) has been cut off at the ankles before it can run any further; but we are not draconian, not even the Editor, and we’ll probably end up taking our normal tolerant view of youthful waywardness; at worst they may lose their pocket money for another week or two.  Immediate decisions were overtaken anyway by a surprise visit from the Mad Doc; we had all thought he was safely tucked up in Dublin for the rest of the month, but apparently he got fed up with supporting appearances at his wife’s sculpture exhibition – they required him to feign politeness to members of the Wooden Arts Commando who were sponsoring the show, so he took off to Alaska to test an idea he’s been peddling around.  He calls it Ratzelian economics ¹, and he cooked it up from some stuff in an ancient copy of Sperling’s Journal.  It starts with the standard commercial premise that in business what you sell should always be worth less than the price you can get from customers.  (Cf for instance, a greeting cards company where a trivial investment in card and ink, with designs possibly devised by ill-trained chimps and words extruded from a mentally limited piece of software, might give a return per item of many thousands percent, thanks to a gormless public.)  But Mad Doc says that beyond the number of consumers in your market the thing to take into account is their geographical density – and he reckons by the way that most analysis of national economic statistics worldwide is badly flawed there.  After a new product appears on the market, as the punters come to realise the gap between price and value they will spread the word around and the profits you get will therefore fall (whereupon you cut back on quality or size or staff wages or after-sales service, if any, to reduce your costs; when the gap reduces to zero then you take the company public, paying yourself a huge salary as the CEO.)  But according to M.D. the speed with which disillusion spreads around will depend on how densely packed the population is; this needs to be kept a very sharp eye on, for nimble manipulation of relevant tax breaks, publicity drives, character of local officials, and assorted sleight of bank account.  M.D.decided an ideal place for a first field trial should be an area fairly isolated from the great bazaars of the consumerist world, and where the local population is thinly spread, but relatively moneyed (no point going to try things out in the Gobi).  Hence Alaska.  He arrived at our place in a subvolcanic state because his test had been a disastrous failure.  Picking what he thought might fill a strong local need he’d got some Indonesian outfit to produce a few thousand jars of instant ‘miracle bear-repellent’ (almost certainly some cheap cosmetic cream mixed up with black dye and a bit of engine oil).  He was doubtless right about the local need, but he’d overlooked the obvious possibility that the locals knew far more about what repelled bears and how to keep out of the way in the first place than he would ever learn, so not one of them touched the stuff.  His promotional ads were ridiculed on local tv.  He said he’d called in on us to calm himself down as we were always a haven of harmony (at which point Isabelita apparently choked on her coffee), but he soon left.  We made no efforts to keep him either, in tribute not only to his own personality but also to the news that on the way back he’d stopped off at Talkeetna to stroke the mayor and pull his tail (for the past dozen years the western world’s most popular mayor – a cat).  Clearly M.D. hadn’t yet heard the frightening news about toxoplasmosis, and frightening it is; apparently merely stroking one of the beasts can give you schizophrenia.

[For information on this new source of stress for the cat-owning middle classes consult your local hospital, or try searching for toxoplasma on in the issue of 4-9-2012]


¹ cf  F.Ratzel   Anthropogeographie  Stuttgart   1891


It would be in bad political taste to point out that the overwhelming majority of the financial problems on top of many nations today result from democracy, or more precisely, electoral democracy.  Governments gain ¹ and retain control of the precious levers by allowing voters an agreeable lifestyle.  (‘Agreeable’ can include such notions as ‘security’ implying e.g. the building of walls and gun emplacements on the frontiers to keep out others who would also like an agreeable lifestyle but are deemed to lack some necessary qualification, such as wealth or an acceptable ancestral tree.)  In order to maintain their relative popularity or to outbid rival political groups a government will provide (and an ambitious opposition will promise) agreeability beyond the limits of what is financially realistic by spending money which is not actually available, i.e. going into debt; governments will likewise encourage private citizens to achieve greater agreeability in an analogous manner while oppositions will promise to act in the same way.  The political parties will seek assurances that these steps will be beneficial for the national economy, and they receive these from economists and bankers (not excluding bankers who take part in arranging the necessary loans).  Anyone who trusts that this process will cease to operate of its own accord in any country which continues to hold elections should not be reading this paragraph.  As night follows day the weight of debt will increase year by year until the legs of the state and the supports of households  buckle under the burden.

The mechanism was acknowledged by Jean-Claude Juncker all but explicitly, when he remarked of the current problems with the euro  ‘We all know what needs to be done; but we don’t know how to get re-elected if we do it.


¹  (or  apparently ‘seize’ in the case where the electoral victor is Hamas)


The Deputy Editor writes:

Before he went off on holiday our Editor commented (15-09-2012) on the infuriating idiocies that public broadcasters inflict on their audience.  We are with him all the way, except perhaps that his usual Scottish understatement let them off far too lightly (especially the BBC.  It still has some good people; but why on earth are they still there?)  Jim may want to have another go about the quality of broadcasting sometime, and I don’t want to poach on his domain, but there is a related point perhaps worth mentioning.  There has been rumbling in high places recently about ‘strengthening the BBC brand’.  Once, long ago, as all those whose favourite bedtime reading is mediaeval history know, a brand was a simple physical object with a good use – casting light (and then serving as a symbol of learning, before being purloined by the Labour Party) – and an even better use – setting fire to old, rotten buildings that had sheltered overprivileged, self-satisfied friends of the powerful.  However, reverting to the modern dialect of sell-by-date consumerism we observe it now has the sense of a ‘nebula of ideas, tangible characteristics and emotional associations attached to some product’ which can be employed to

  (1) extract vast sums of money from a foolish populace

  (2) explode any naïve belief that man is a rational aninal (this is no place to go into gender differences) and

  (3) demonstrate human capacity for doublethink, as loud cheers are heard for swingeing punishments on a craftsman who by native skill and honest capitalist labour has produced, let us say, a fine bushbuck raincoat (i.e., a raincoat for your bushbuck) and sold it at a price slightly higher than his costs, unaware that a mighty firm manufactures a more expensive item almost identical but with only the addition of its ‘brand’.

  So far as I know the aforesaid strengthening has not included the adoption of a BBC salute or gesture although one might have considered this a useful element for any media ‘brand’ trying to publicise itself, enabling enthusiastic supporters to recognise one another and develop a sense of community (as with children who have all pulled similar plastic badges from their cereal packets).  Oddly enough, although now almost totally forgotten, there once was a BBC salute back in the early days.  Possibly devised in a spirit of self-mockery it was certainly appropriate to a corporation inspired by Reith, consisting of a reproving smile accompanied by a wagging forefinger.  Perhaps its hour of glory was ended by the epic battle between Churchill’s fingers and the Nazi forearm.  Since those days similar recognition signals have occasionally appeared, mostly short-lived and associated with local radio broadcasters although it is said that the North Korean television service tried at one time to promote a gesture of triumph taken from traditional Korean opera.  (Opponents of the régime in the south claim some dissidents flick their hand lightly across their throat as a way of indicating to possible sympathisers that one listens to foreign radio, but this has never been reliably confirmed by foreign visitors.)  Other salutes said to have existed, usually promoted not by the broadcasters but instead by their critics, include:

lips pursed ostentatiously shut:  several countries in eastern Europe in the 1970s and 1980s

hand cupped behind ear: Radio Camacula-Nord (Congo), notorious for its weak signal strength

fingers stuck in ears:  people persecuted by neighbours blasting out Radio Frente Musica in several of the Caribbean islands

the bras d’honneur: a notorious illegal mobile pornographic station in Romania in the early 1990s.

  What might fit the BBC in the days of its late-Byzantine decrepitude?  Overseas listeners, as signal strength is reduced and relay stations axed, might well opt for the same gesture as for that Congolese station.  For listeners at home?  Perhaps this could serve: head bowed forward and to the right, right hand covers glazed eyes?


Isabelita has asked to add this special note of her own, which we fully support.

What my friends write is sometimes interesting and sometimes right, and sometimes both in the same time.  But readers will know that so many entries in these distributions show a sad or bad character of the human.  I think this cannot be helped but if anyone has a good idea for going to doing what can make it better – try!  For this reason also try to see news of the magnificent enterprise of some Australian young students – they should be organising the world.  Look only with the internet to find AIME.  Two places are and  then look for AIME.


honor honestique floreant

Amsterdam voices

1) Pacific voices   2) security, surveillance, and sanity    3) notes        Next scheduled distribution 13th September

Announcement: A meeting of the office staff has resolved that we should attempt to dilute the political rantings with some kind of cultural content, and to begin with, at least, we should try for something in the literary line.  The obvious thing was to advertise for a poet in residence, so we rejected that idea partly because far too many have one of those already, but mainly because if we could afford the butt of sack which we understand to be customary we should certainly drink it ourselves instead of wasting it on some fellow dressed like a pimp with his scraggy-bearded chin wagging away in pursuit of verbal wrapping for his evanescent effusions.  Instead we decided to offer a chance to  the much neglected poetastic community.  Nearly always have better manners, and often better dressed.  Since we have to keep in line with political gerryfinicking quotas for minorities, ideally we’ll aim at deaf and dumb lesbians of any complexion other than pink; preferably somewhat ethnic too, Uighur perhaps. That could take care of five of the opportunities-for-the-unsuitable quangos all at one stroke. [Jeremy: ‘But what if we get a pink Uighur gay  male on the left, and in the red corner a woman of approved complexion from Rwanda?’]  Stipend by negotiation, but possibly along the lines of pizza and bottle of booze on Friday nights, and free use of the coffee machine plus the honour and prestige of being our poetaster-i-r.  Not going to have any nonsense about taking ‘in residence’ literally, though. It’s cramped and stuffy enough as it is when Jeremy or Simon stay overnight for reasons the rest of us do not enquire into.

  Applications on a clean piece of paper, with a couple of samples of what you are capable of, to Isabelita.


   The Polynesians, extending even to the Rapanui of Easter Island, have been recognised as the third group ethnically rather than nationally based to participate in the Pacific Forum (which naturally goes in for discussion of politics and economics in the Pacific area.)  Their interventions certainly deserve to be given due weight (and not just because the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reckons 74 kilos to be the Polynesian adult average, which puts them second only to the Americans in the human biomass stakes).  Whenever one hears leaders of this group one is struck by the reasonable, perceptive,  well-balanced and well-expressed views one hears.  Why not invite them to join the EU (in place of eastern Europe)?  After all if Nato can incorporate Turkey and operate in Afghanistan….


Isabelita’s uncle, also Ecuadorian, and still an academic unlike his niece, came over to Europe last month on a holiday during which he had hoped to watch her competing in the women’s beach volleyball, but to the huge disappointment of us all she was not finally selected for the squad.  Naturally he flew over to Guernsey with his men, and not only visited the office but stood us all to an excellent Saturday night dinner, enhanced by two bottles of a Peruvian liqueur allegedly based on doing something nasty to a poisonous cactus growing in the Sechura desert.  At two in the morning Manos took him on to a nightclub (till now undiscovered by any of the rest of us!) operating in a barn on a remote corner of the island, but at some time before he left at 9 a.m. Monday morning he had dropped the following into our postbox, wondering if we might distribute it.  [Our apologies to A.S. who has already seen an earlier copy of this]

  If governments really want to co-opt the governed in the establishment of large databases and highly intrusive systems for keeping watch on their populations, ostensibly in order to enhance security for the public and the nation (not to mention the government), then there are very strong reasons why this should not be a one-way bargain.  The first reason is that whole-hearted co-operation is unquestionably needed if these systems and databases are not to be incomplete, inaccurate and leaking like a sieve.  An entirely different reason, difficult for most governments to grasp, is based on accepting and understanding that ‘nation’ should refer to ‘a large group of people co-operating for mutual benefit’, and not merely ‘large group of people all subject to the same single government’.  There are then the following corollaries:

   1)  Systems to be established only so far as there are reasonable grounds for believing that they will in fact enhance security.

   2)  The most stringent practicable checks to be made on honesty of investigators and reliability of technical resources.

   3)  The strictest feasible limits to be set on the number and status of those with access to the output of such systems.

    4)  The best possible precautions to be taken to prevent data becoming available to people not authorised to have access.

   All these are obvious, and yet – above all in the instances of (3) and (4) – have been flouted, in Britain and other parts of Europe, already.  Examples are legion and misbehaviour or worse has been observed even on the part of those who should have been taking especial care, including members of governments.  The merest flake off the tip of the iceberg (thanks to Osvaldo’s British newspaper files): in one single period of nine months two CDs containing child benefit records with the personal details of  more than 25 million people, nearly half the UK population, were lost, remaining lost apparently today; top secret files on al-Qaida and Iraq’s security forces were found on a commuter train and handed in to the BBC by a member of the public, followed a few days later by a second batch of files on terrorism being found on a train; and a memory stick with names, addresses and expected release dates of all 84,000 prison inmates in England and Wales went missing after being left by a contractor in an office over the weekend.   Hospitals have lost details of many thousands of patients, including treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and disability information; they were handed over for the data to be destroyed, but instead many of the records turned up for sale on e-Bay.

Therefore, and for other reasons, there are further corollaries:

5)  When operation of a system brings a person under suspicion, further investigation to  be carried out immediately, and with the most exacting assessment of the evidence.

6)  When a person whose details have been misused has thereby suffered in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, real compensation to become available directly.

7)   No less, when a person suspected of misuse has been investigated, found blameless, but in the process suffered in any way, real compensation to become speedily available.

8)  Anyone authorised to have access to such data who makes wrongful use of the data, in any way, for commercial gain or for personal reasons, to be excluded from further employment in that area, and to receive a published and significant punishment

9)  No individual in the nation to have special immunity, either personally or on grounds of their status, from observation or inclusion in such a database.

10)  The establishment of such systems to include a clear public statement of their intended scope, following which the data must not be used for other ends

nb)  It is imperative to have at the earliest date a genuinely independent body to rule on proper observance of the above, able to impose real, biting penalties and order corrective action if they are breached.

  There is no question but that all these provisions need to be requirements in law, not merely items in a ‘voluntary code of conduct’, and certainly not just ‘government statements of policy’.  How can your country achieve that (and why incidentally are your governments so slothful about acting in that sense)?  You need personal communications, serious and rational and often, by letter or phone call or above all face-to-face speech, to those with enough standing to get effective action on these measures.  (Everybody now realises that if you want effective action, not just a crowd milling about in the street, electronic communications are utterly useless unless either backed by a large body of battle-hardened troops with overwhelming air support, or sent by the mafia or the yakuza.)  Anyone who honestly thinks a state can safely set up ‘tough’ rules to keep its population under close scrutiny and then rely on ‘good sense’ and ‘reasonable behaviour’ on the part of those who will operate the systems should have their cognitive systems checked (as well as a lesson in the history of the 1930s).


Historical note:  Japanese interrogators were tried after the Second World War for having used waterboarding in their wartime interrogations.  Which country held these trials?  The United States of America.  What were the interrogators charged with?  War crimes.


From a British newspaper (‘refreshing drinks for your garden or picnics’):

Blood orange punch   Take 15 oranges, peel, and take the pips out.  Drop them in a pan of boiling water and boil for 40 minutes.  While they boil send your cook out to buy two medium sized chickens.  Put them in your cider press and draw off as much of the blood and other juices as your gardener’s strength will permit.  Add to the pan.  When cool, add two bottles of gin.  Serve with ice; ideal for when you have six to eight enemies round for a sundowner.

       (first published in Obiter Ficta2004)

honor honestique floreant