Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Category: war

MMQQ3

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.)

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(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.

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(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?

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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

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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.]

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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.

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Mysteries of biology (no.114.)  Why is it that the human is the only mammal that (all too often) thinks it can sing?

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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.

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footnote This is not fake news.  See S.I.Hayakawa Language in Thought and Action

MMQQ 1

For next posting see note at end

This issue: Reader’s letters; Tech news; Linguistic corner; Sale of Scotland; Traffic; Question; Plaudit; A resistible ‘correction’.

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Reader’s letter (translated from German by Baron Philipp – see endnote – and describing itself as anonymous although signed J.G.What the hell is going on in big power relations at present?  Anyone with the intelligence of a New Caledonian crow who pays even the slightest attention to stuff on the media beyond the ‘sports news’ (i.e. football managers conjuring tedium out of platitudes) and ‘celebrity’ gossip (e.g. poor Charles has no hope of sitting on that throne unless he starts a crash programme of celebrity island stunts and ‘daring’ Chippendale-style shows on prime time tv), anyone, in fact, who is even able to read cannot avoid seeing that international big power competition now takes two main forms, often largely independent of each other and indeed sometimes operating out of sync within any one country.  One is old-style military violence with bullets, bombs, tanks and missiles; the other, still alas in an appalling infancy, is learning fast ever more fiendish ways to tweak the circuits of other nations’ financial, administrative and electoral networks to ever more damaging effect.  In both these modes of confrontation exponents don unnatural personalities, assert and maybe honestly believe that once ‘our’ side overcomes ‘them’ (working with the terrible flaw incorporated into the design when the mammal was developed) everything will be tickety-boo from then on, and all will be peace and prosperity under the winners (by definition ‘our’ side) with trouble-free continuation of climate change and exploitation of the Earth’s resources. To put it delicately, that risks species extinction, of the human species (and others).  Unfortunately, whoever you are, there is absolutely nothing that you can do to prevent matters proceeding along this path all the way to Armageddon or the final devastating solar flare.  So it is purely as a matter of interest to ask why the west is making such vehement efforts to rouse the populations to hostility towards the Soviet Union (apologies – I mean Russia), and more particularly why they are playing up the traditional military violence approach?  Now, the Reds are doubtless devising exotic new ways to reshape the back alleys of cyberspace that the west has not yet thought of, and of course, like all good citizens I know our side would never stoop to anything underhand, however much of a self-imposed handicap that might be.  But please can we have a little realism about our officially held views.  The military violence threat in 2017 (in Europe in particular) carries all the conviction of a ‘living dodo discovery’, even if you leave entirely out of account the west’s massive dissuasive capacities.  Evidence is visible all around like smartphones in the underground and has been for decades.  Just look at a map showing positions of western forces and Soviet forces in Europe in 1989 and today.  So if you want to put your case shouldn’t it be a little more convincing?  There are various reasons why people may loudly insist on their stated position.  If you are Theresa May, you believe that it conveys an impression of strength to the dimmer elements of the electorate; others, not only in Washington, work on the principle that if you make a big enough noise about one thing the populace will stop thinking about other less convenient things. Many politicians from long before Goebbels have thought that if you shout something often enough loud enough people will start to believe it; a few seem to suppose it can actually become true (Editor; was he thinking of Brexit here?).  It is only a few scoundrelly reactionaries who take loud shouting as a sign that you’re being economical with the truth (but they’re often right).  So please – if you have that urge to paint an interesting picture – a little realism (unless you are actually trying to weaken ‘our’ case.   ?)

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Tech news  A Californian start-up is threatened with being wound-up just three months after it had been valued for a possible takeover at $450mn.  The company manufactures nanochips to be implanted in the cheeks of air hostesses, hotel staff and others in the greeting industry, such as politicians in the election season.  The nanochips are designed to stimulate the muscles required to produce a smile even when this has to override contrary signals from the brain.  The signal can be set to run continuously facilitating a smile every three seconds or operated  automatically by a timing device, but more usually it is under the control of a local supervisor.

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Linguistic corner ideomass; once let that word escape into the wild and you’ll have a huge job to recapture it, even throwing all your thought police into it.  It ought to mean the value or effectiveness of a given idea, however acquired;  but in practice is most often measured by the total number of tweets or retweets recorded as supporting this or that currently fashionable sentiment.

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Sale of Scotland  On his flying visit Baron von Hollenberg told us that active moves to sell Scotland are being considered in not one but several quarters.  There is said to be vigorous interest, but predictably there seems widespread divergence of views on who pays the bill and who receives the cash, and also, though to a lesser extent, on the status of Scotland after any successful sale.  Naturally there is considerable enthusiasm in Scotland herself, though a difficulty is that the Scots seem to generally assume that after sale the nation would control her own destiny, and that is not likely to be easily agreed with any purchaser unless that purchaser succeeds in persuading the present management, Whitehall, to that effect.  Some pundits believe that Whitehall’s negotiating skills could allow this to happen, but others are uncertain.  Enthusiasm for a sale is even higher in England, especially in view of the oncoming government budget crisis; a sale if concluded in time could forestall a possible appeal, not yet revealed to the public, to the IMF for help (and rescue the career of the unfortunate Chancellor).  However other parties too may enter the fray.  The EU is said to be considering an offer to purchase at a price of €1 but on extraordinarily generous terms, accepting Scotland in lieu of the remaining sum owed to Whitehall for Brexit (estimated at €90bn) and allowing Scotland thereafter to function as a fully independent state under the tutelage of and paying dues set by an ad hoc committee headed by Jeroen Dijsselbloem.  Even further afield, there were enquiries from, among others, a major real estate investor in the US, though it is understood these came to nothing once it was made clear to him that even after a successful purchase it would not be feasible to relocate Scotland to a North American site (tentatively identified as ‘Kilt Country’ in Nevada).

As Editor I must declare that this journal will watch any such development like a hawk, as we may have already established certain moral rights in such a process.  Note, for example this posting from 15 January 2012:

Some have suggested that one solution to current difficulties would be to sell Greece to the Chinese.  However this is not possible since Greece is a sovereign nation.  Scotland, however, offers no such obstacle and London is the obvious recipient of the proceeds.  (There is little doubt that the Chinese would snap up the chance to acquire a large warehousing and manufacturing site located conveniently in the North Atlantic between the American and European markets, where the workforce have an aversion to wasting money that rivals that of the Chinese masses, and where, moreover, there would be some obvious immediate savings in costs, eg abolishing at a stroke all the expensive apparatus of a government and elections with competing parties.)  If, however, the Chinese are too busy with their acquisitions in Africa, there may still be a chance of turning a useful profit by offloading Scotland to a management buyout, if those at present running the place can parlay their traditional claim of prudent handling of money into enough external investment into the venture.

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Reader’s letter from D.P.V of Kingsteignton, evidently reacting to our piece last time about urban congestion (complete letter, as received):

Dear Editor

Road building program =                      more cars

Urban regeneration  =                           more cars

Upgrading infrastructure =                   more cars

Increasing prosperity =                         more cars

Technical progress =                             more cars

Economic investment =                        more cars

Public/private partnership for transport =  more cars

Speculation by hedge funds =              more cars

Yours in dismay

D.P.V.

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Question of the posting : Would it be correct to assume that all inhabitants of the USA who campaign for the expulsion of immigrants are always themselves native Americans?  Answer: Not quite – it would be politically correct, but a counterfactual assumption.

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Plaudit of the posting Let us praise the admirable boldness – or is it reality-defying imagination? – of those senior academic administrators who threaten that if an ignorant rabble continues to complain about the size of their ‘compensation’ (Ed: are you sure this is the right word?)  they will be lost to the country since they will emigrate to some other more generous state which will welcome them as they impress the astounded élites of that new host nation with their Vice-Chancelling skills at more elevated salary levels.

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No correction (on lie detection)  Two querulous malcontents attempted to find fault with one of the items in the previous posting, and the Editor does accept (following the insistence of our patroness, without whom this journal would not have its head above financial water) that reducing the number of words posted to below 2,000 led to a slight lack of clarity.  The intention was to state that current results from human assessment are likely to be improved thanks to advances based on refinement of techniques for extracting data from visual images.  Every tech-savvy schoolkid can manage mere facial recognition now (with interesting results on the number of last-minute bookings on flights to countries having no extradition agreements with nations in Europe) but these advances promise tabloid-headline speculations about the emotional and physical reactions of certain highly respected politicians presenting the prizes at Girls’ Schools swimming galas.)

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Editorial note: As scheduled, Baron Philipp picked me up from Back Field and a couple of hours later we crossed the southern English coast, with the Baron (piloting the craft himself) supremely indifferent about the risk of being greeted by a posse of tax inspectors.  “If they know I’m coming they won’t be there.  If they’re there they’ll learn who I am.  Five minutes, settled!” Indeed two hours later he and Lady W had everything wrapped up between them.  Total agreement that the Purple Parakeet in Shepton Mallet was the best place for lunch, and total agreement all round about journal practice.  Crisis not my fault,  Lack of interns and permanent staff a natural result of geography and meteorology; balanced by great benefit of being outside social media banality and most official and covert censorship zones. London contributors excellent but irregular. A few changes desirable, given that attention span and background knowledge of modern readers comparable with capacity of adolescent grasshopper. I should steer to greater percentage of small ‘faits divers’ and cut down on pieces with 500+ words. And adopt new title.  Support for further year promised.   Most welcome; the two of them represent almost the whole of our practical support, despite all the congratulatory e-mails and messages of goodwill.  Perhaps the journal’s best day ever, though I have reservations about the new title.  The first half, MM (Mid-monthly) needs no quibble, but I prefer to keep the QQ as initials until I’ve had more time to think about that.

Future postings scheduled for the 16th of each month except 15th for February