Ok, I am willing to disclose that ‘MM’ stands for ‘Mid-monthly’. I don’t want to say more than that except that I didn’t choose the beastly name.
The start to the year has been quite agreeable. Cards from quite a lot of readers, and a colourful backpack made with llama’s wool from Isabelita, a personal visit (about to end) from Berthold, who brought his bike, evidently not realising how steep the island’s roads are (and who has given us a couple of contributions while he’s here), and a long letter from Monty although he obviously couldn’t come in person; but there are a couple of extracts from it below. We even had an evening when Simon came round, although we have hardly seen him here since his mother ran away. Anyway to business –
(i) If at first you don’t succeed…? (ii) A friend in fiend’s clothing
(iii) Which women’s rights? (iv) The Tories march on
(v) Statecraft (vi) Obscenity
Playing it again, Uncle Sam? A few weeks ago under the leadership of America an oil blockade was established against North Korea with the idea of crippling that country’s industry to make it agree to open negotiations about its military progress. North Korea denounced the blockade as a declaration of war even though it was not put into words as such. Not changing the subject, a fact now little known, in the west, is that the Pacific War which later became the eastern wing of World War 2 did not start in 1941. It really got going with the Japanese invasions of China in the 1930s. In December 1941 Japan began major military operations against America, bombing Pearl Harbour. (Historical note: earlier in 1941 an oil blockade against Japan, virtually certain to cripple Japanese industry, was established under the leadership of America.)
(From the e-mail from Monty) (The Russian enigma)
I hear you have been puzzled as to why we and our colleagues in other right-thinking countries have been ramping up the pressure, as the so-called ‘popular press’ and its online outlets put it, on Russia. I would have thought it was effing obvious to anyone with your background even if you’re now out of the game, not that you were ever in it properly. Even the dimmest member of that tiny minority of the populace who actually pay any attention to the news these days will spot there is something wrong with the idea that 300 of the poor bloody infantry doing route marches in Estonia would slow down the Russian steamroller by more than a minute or two if it ever started to clank into action. Not that that is remotely likely to happen. The situation of mutual hostility, in public, is entirely agreeable to friend Putin in Moscow (or on the Sotchi Riviera) – handsomely reinforces his image as the valiant defender of Mother Russia against the hordes of capitalist decadence. Both sides benefit enormously – difficulties can be blamed on the constraints of ‘the international situation’, and it can be made clear to troublemakers, in any way that seems convenient to government, that they ‘risk playing into the hands of the other side’; so governments can concentrate on keeping their own show tight and businesslike while developing the bread and circuses to the extent they deem advisable. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. From, let’s say about 1948, western Eurasia has had the longest spell without major international violence (so long as you leave the Balkans out of account, as you should because as everyone knows they are a law – exactly the wrong word in this case – unto themselves) since records were notches in wooden tally sticks. Of course you don’t need to bruit the arrangment abroad too much – I suggest you just put it in that blog of yours if you want to keep it quiet (sorry, old man, only joking, I think, but you’re not a household name, you know). Things got a little wobbly in 1990 when despite James Baker’s best efforts some of the hawks in Washington had a mighty adrenaline rush, but Moscow handled it with exemplary calm, along with the fact that they did have genuine economic problems to go with the political upheavals. Then of course attention got switched away to the Middle East anyway – poor Avril Glaspie – thanks to the ever increasing thirst for oil. Right now it again looks as if some of the wilder spirits in Washington are pushing too hard; it had always been understood that Ukraine was not to be in play. Nonetheless as of January 2018 you may still argue that a cold war is the best defence against a hot war.
If you want to really find out what’s going on you don’t look at what’s on public show and all over the news media, you have to look at the next layer underneath, as here, and by co-incidence I got another example of the principle when I was over in Washington last month. I was asking about Trump’s chances of serving a full term, in the White House I mean, not in the ‘pen’, and one and all said he was as good as a bolted fixture in the Oval Office. Reason? He’s the best defence they have against a presidential Pence.
(Berthold) It’s very odd, isn’t it, that while the campaign to put a higher proportion of women into prominent positions in public life is no doubt progressing well there seems to be a strange shortage of good candidates who are over 40, or overweight, or flat-chested, or have bad dress sense, or move awkwardly. Who do you suppose makes the appointments to these positions?
Advances in technology (noted by the Editor)
Following the path supposedly leading to ‘support’, which indeed I was looking for, on a microsoft website I was led (18-11-2017) to a screen containing, only, two lines both written in the same apparently serious and sober typeface, with the following words:
Try searching for what you want
This page does not exist
Extracted from ‘The Triumphant Tories’ vol.XIV (sectn. 9,082) Punching above your weight
… In 1940 Winston Churchill united the British people and took on the fight against Nazi Germany, leading the struggle through the years that followed until he finally won victory in 1945
… In 2003 Mr Blair boldly brushing aside questions about treason and international law (and disuniting the nation) gallantly led, or at least sent, the forces of his sovereign (including more than 400 British personnel who would not survive the engagement) into Iraq to face the might of Saddam Hussein and the terrible threat posed by the bastions holding weapons of mass destruction, (stealth weapons, invisible and impossible to detect by normal means), throughout that country
… In 2018 Theresa May calls on the nation to unite under her leadership by joining a resolute campaign to end once and for all the use of plastic packaging in small and medium-sized retail enterprises.
[Footnote to the above item: Actually Churchill did not win the war (in Europe). He stopped it being lost in 1940, but Russia won it. Churchill kept it going when it could have been ended, at the cost of tens of thousands more casualties to innocent civilians, and large numbers of ‘allied’ troops, by insisting on unconditional surrender. If you don’t believe that, just pick up any reasonably thorough reasonably honest history book.]
Saying of the month (from one of the leading figures to be in Davos this month) Taking a careful look at the presidents and heads of state of just about all the democratic countries in the west, I’d say it’s about time we gave hereditary absolute monarchy another chance.
Mysteries of biology (no.114.) Why is it that the human is the only mammal that (all too often) thinks it can sing?
Shithole (Jointly written by Berthold Featherstonehaugh-Cheems and the Editor) An American genius who comes with his own guarantee of stability has been reported as saying that America doesn’t want migrants from shithole countries. Assuming, despite his allegations to the contrary, those reports to be right you might have hoped for a world-wide roar of disapproval. In fact you got one, but for the wrong reasons as the world’s media plunged predictably for the most immediately visible ‘outrage’ button, to be pressed when a ‘double-plus’ word seems to be linked to a ‘double-minus’ idea in the same sentence . (This is a faulty reflex wrongly installed in the great majority of humans, and can only be re-programmed with the utmost difficulty; in 1939 Cambridge, Massachusetts made it illegal to own, hold, or carry in that city any book, magazine or map containing the words ‘Lenin’ or ‘Leningrad’. footnote ) There are three valid options for outrage here. Berthold spent three weeks of his vacation last year as a volunteer in one of the countries that may have been in the mind of the genius (if clear enough) and he says that the description ‘shit-hole’ (Ed. surely this should be the approved spelling?) is not always literally appropriate but certainly gives a realistic impression of the conditions of life of 30% to 40% of the population of the country he was in. Public services including healthcare miserably inadequate, corruption, poverty, squalor, and crime with a constant risk of violence against those unable to defend themselves (not least against the police). That is the first valid reason for outrage, but the people entitled to express it are too worn-down by the struggle for existence to have enough physical resources left. The ones who expressed the outrage at the recent remarks are not infrequently members of the ruling élite or at least hangers on, with comfortable life-styles, well-paid positions (and in many countries it’s better not to inquire into the source of the money), and possibly representing their country abroad. The second option arises when you consider how those deplorable conditions have arisen – in many cases through the wrong sort of contacts, and the wrong sort of contracts, with ‘colonial powers’ and similar who are largely unconcerned if matters continue in the same state. (Eight years since the great earthquake in Haiti and still wretched conditions; yet a few dozen miles away is a nation oversupplied with billionaires, with the means over a golfing week-end to put everything right and go down in history as big-hearted saviours of the country). The third outrage is that with a few honourable exceptions the ‘developed’ nations do not merely tolerate these injustices continuing, they add to them, skilfully extracting natural resources on favourable terms (favourable, that is, to those already prospering) and enticing away those with talents and training that could help their own people to climb up to a better, cleaner, healthier life, so that they can instead ‘top up gaps’ in the public services or the IT industries of the developed world.
footnote This is not fake news. See S.I.Hayakawa Language in Thought and Action