Next to a weather map of England:
Sunny outlook in many areas but a deep depression over Heathrow as a shower drifts in from South Africa
In The Sun: We Love it - naturally.
Last night I went to that internationally famous centre of artistic excellence - er, Yeovil Cineworld and I was, to use the jargon, quite blown away! A truly wondrous, magical, marvelous evening. Ah, I hear you ask, was it a film? Was it a play? No - it was both! (Get a grip, Duff, and just tell them what you saw!)
OK, last night I went to the Cineworld complex and saw a filmed live performance of London Assurance. It was sensationally brilliant, not just the production itself which was a master-class in comic acting, but in the superb melding of film and stage. Unlike the disasterous David Tennant Hamlet in which they took the original production and then filmed it in a new location, this was filmed in situ at the National Theatre during the penultimate evening performance before a live audience. 'Ain't never gonna work', I hear you mutter because I said much the same thing myself - and thus, the astronomically long list of Things I Have Been Wrong About grew another inch. The filming had obviously been carefully planned and rehearsed but this was a live performance and so very occasionally the camera and the actors became slightly out of synch but oddly enough that actually added to the immediacy of it all. It was better than sitting in the front row of the stalls because you actually felt at times as though you were on stage with the actors. You could count the sweat drops on Simon Russell Beale's brow!
I don't know who thought of this idea but he, or she, is a genius. These transmissions now go to most of the English-speaking world - especially 'over there' - and I do urge you all to go to http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/45462/home/nt-live-homepage.html and find out if there is a cinema near you which has signed up show them.
Of course, London Assurance was a good, if lucky, choice for me to try out this experiment. It is a play of little or no intellectual merit but has the outstanding advantage of making you nearly fall out of your chair laughing, especially when it has the likes of Simon Russell Beale - still my most admired actor - and Fiona Shaw, although I must add that there simply was not a poor performance from anyone. Comic acting is hideously difficult but this cast, all of them, showed how it should be done. In an aside to the audience, Beale wonders, rhetorically, if "anyone here is a peasant?" and then holds the pause long enough to slowly raise his eyes to the cheap seats in the upper gallery, another slight pause until the penny dropped, and then the audience fell about.
I really do urge you all to go to the website and check out if there is a cinema near you which is signed up for these transmissions, and if so, book early for the next show. There is a Hamlet on its way and also The Cherry Orchard. Not to be missed.
As a very keen supporter of blood sports, and the bloodier the better, I can hardly wait for this fight-to-the-death to take place. 'Little Georgie' Monbiot, of whom I wrote approvingly when he joined in the condemnation of the HAFs at East Anglia University despite him being a mega-HAF himself, is being threatened with legal action by Dr. Richard North who has taken extreme offence at a post written by 'little Georgie' concerning some obscure argument over how much, if any, of the Brazilian/Amazonian rain forest will disappear if it stops raining for five minutes - or something like that. Watch this space - this one should run and run!
Thanks to 'Bishop Hill' for pointing me in the right direction.
In an exchange with 'Shuggy' a few days ago he was bridling at criticisms of our 'edukashun servis' and condemning the Tories'* new ideas as being an effort to turn our schools into supermarkets. I pointed out that supermarkets were something of a miracle in that they offered fresh produce from all over the world 364 days of the year, that they were clean and staffed by people who had been trained to be polite and helpful and who dealt with any complaints promptly and often generously. I asked 'Shuggy' if that was a description that fitted in any respect the reputation of our 'edukashun servis'. He claimed that I had impugned his, er, 'professional reputation' and banned me whilst maintaining that there was nothing too much wrong with our teachers.
I read this yesterday:
Sir Michael Rake, chairman of the telecoms giant, said the firm had received 26,000 applications for 170 places on its apprenticeship scheme starting this autumn.
But 6,000 - nearly a quarter - were not even worthy of consideration.
'They were unable to complete the form because they could not spell, put it together or read properly - completely illiterate,' said Sir Michael. [...]
Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Tesco's director of corporate and legal affairs and one of the most powerful women in British business, condemned a lack of discipline at school as she complained that growing numbers of British school-leavers have 'attitude problems' and believe the world 'owes them a living'.
Meanwhile Sir Stuart Rose, the Marks and Spencer boss, said too many school-leavers 'cannot do reading..cannot do arithmetic..cannot do writing'.
I sent this extract to a post of his in which he told us that his school term was about to end and that he had been playing videos to the few youngsters who bothered to turn up! The video was Groundhog Day, a film that passed me by but not, I think, generally recognised as a masterpiece of film-making. In view of the remarks by these captains of industry I asked him gently whether he maintained his disparaging attitude to supermarkets as compared to our 'edukashun servis' and also whther he could let us know exactly how long his summer holiday would be. After deleting my comment this is the response offered by this great pedagogue:
Duff, the reactionary blogger who admires the art work of Adolf Hitler has learning difficulties. It's sad but but he really needs to seek remedial education from someone who is a) interested in his particular problem and is b) getting paid for it. Neither of these apply to me so he is cordially invited - again - to fuck right off. He seems to imagine, for example, that it is the job of a history teacher in a secondary school to teach people to read and write.
If so, you could buy the entire English football team and, on a B.O.G.O.F basis, you could also take the Football Association lock, stock and leaky barrel plus all their frightfully smart blazers.
Oh alright, then, 10 bob, anyone?
Several keen observers (= dandruff-ridden hacks with nothing better to write about) have remarked how grey and thin 'The One' is looking these days. According to those dreadful mischief-makers over at 'IHTM' this has nothing to do with the massive problems He wrestles with on the golf course, you know, the economy gurgling down the toilet, BP oil washing up in Chicago, his generals in Afghanistan treating Him like a joke, His swing, and so on; no, no, it's His wife who is giving Him hell on a daily basis. According to a wire-tap heard at 'Blago's trial, He is constantly hen-pecked. Well, be fair, would y0u give her an argument?
I was struck by the clever idea of the Greek government to flog off some of their Mediterranean islands as a means of raising money. Of course, you would have to be a right mug to buy one, I mean, would you even buy a used-car from the Greek government? However, it nudged me into thinking that perhaps 'Dave 'n' George' could apply the idea over here. I tried to think of what I would happily sell off and instantly I thought of Liverpool! Such bliss to be parted from those whining, self-pitying, nasally-blocked oafs and oafettes. However, then I thought it would be chance to actually earn some dosh from all those Celts instead of constantly paying for them and getting nothing but abuse for my troubles. Then, when you think about, who really needs the north of England, when its not full of 'scousers' its full of 'Yorkies' - and - now I've got going, I would actually give Birmingham and its 'Brummies' away for nothing. I think I would probably hang on to East Anglia even if it is flat and terminally boring, and even if the people who live there do have the unfortunate characteristic of looking suspiciously like each other. I would use it as my Siberia in which I would dump all my opponents for, er, re-education. I would have to hang on to the south-east because I just know those Frogs would try and send all their unwanted immigrants through that wretched tunnel. However that would leave London and the God's little acres in the south-west around which I would build electrified fences and machine-gun posts . . .
Oh God, I think this heat is getting to me, I'll just go back to the darkened bedroom and have a little rest . . .
I guarantee this will not be bettered this year:
In the week Chris Huhne left his wife for a younger woman, his expenses reveal he claimed money for servicing an old boiler.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1289304/New-figures-expenses-MPs-claimed-10m-months.html#ixzz0rnnM6LTz
It is a delicious irony that when the tipper truck filled with ordure was finally emptied yesterday during the budget speech most of it seems to have fallen on the il-Lib-non-Dems. The Tories had nothing to lose; if they had forced single mums out of their council flats at the points of bayonets everyone would have shrugged and said it was just the Tories being Tories. Similarly, when everyone blames Labour for spending money like a one-eyed psychotic (ooops, I've just remembered!) then again we all shrug and mutter no change there, then. Hitherto, the il-Lib-non-Dems have always hidden away in no man's land whilst the shot and shell passed overhead, but not today. Happily, they are getting it in the neck from all quarters, and the irony arises from the fact that they find themselves in this uncomfortable position because what they have been agitating about for years has finally come to pass, a hung parliament with them holding the balance. What a wise man it was who first said be careful of what you wish for!
Well, to "tell truth and shame the Devil" it's me that's gone mad. The Globe Theatre are about to open their productions of the two parts of Henry IV. On various Sundays (and other days, for all I know) they will play Part I in the afternoon and Part II in the evening. They are, of course, one play divided in two for convenience and whenever it is possible they should be played or viewed together. Harold Bloom(*), a distinguished American critic and Shakespeare expert, said that just two characters stood head and shoulders above the great gallery of personalities that Shakespeare had conjured from his imagination - Hamlet and Falstaff. I was lucky enough to play the fat rogue in Part II but how I wish I could have played him all the way through in a combined production. Ah well, as Frank sang it, "Regrets, I have a few"!
Anyway, my madness had barely started when I booked for a full Sunday at The Globe in order to see both because the very next day I received an e-mail advert from the Old Vic informing me that their next programme was about to begin with productions of All's Well That Ends Well and The Tempest. I have only ever seen one production of All's Well but several of The Tempest, Shakespeare's last play in which, I am convinced even if some experts are not, that in the final speech of the play Shakespeare, consciously or unconsciously, bids us farewell (sorry for the underline):
Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
The words are supposedly Prospero's, the powerful magus, but no-one will convince me that they are not also the words of the greatest conjuror of words the world has ever known becoming aware, even if subconsciously, that he had finally said everything of importance that needed to be said. I come close to tears just reading them.
Anyway, if you haven't already guessed, I'm booked in to see both of those plays and the 'Henries' on the Saturday/Sunday of one weekend!
(*) Oh dear, I referred to him as "the late Harold Bloom", corrected now thanks to my commenter, Ortega.
No, honestly, I promise, this really will be the last time I use that silly alliterative 'joke' on Oliver Kamm's name, and you can believe it because at the end of the month his blog is going to fall under Mr. Murdoch's campaign to make web-users pay for any content from his titles. I don't blame Mr. Murdoch for trying but as a consumer, obviously, I look for bargains and you cannot get a better bargain than 'free'! It will be fascinating to see if his gamble pays off because the other MSM tycoons will be watching carefully. I suppose it will depend on the trade-off between falling advertising revenue from a smaller readership, and direct payments from readers.
However, one thing is for sure, I shall miss Oliver's blog very much indeed. I disagree with him on many matters but I always respected highly the scholarship which he could deploy in support of whatever argument he was putting forward. Perhaps most of all I will miss his ability to execute (I use the word advisedly) a coldly detached evisceration of the more foolish or malignant of his opponents. I suspect that tonight they will be throwing a party at the despicable Media Lens site.
Although, actually, 'Bishop Hill' lives in Scotland but even so his latest post says so very much abour our poor, benighted country. The 'Bish' is also the author of The Hockey Stick Illusion which has enjoyed global success and thus pressed a dagger into the hearts of all those wretched HAFs. I know it's pure idleness on my part to reprint someone else's post but, dammit, the sun's shining and we only get one week of it these days so I'm off to my postage stamp-sized patio to expose myself to the neighbours - not a pretty sight but I think the old ladies enjoy it - well, I see their net curtains twitching!
Today was the school fete. I was on carparking duty. Health and Safety has decreed that someone wearing a high-vis jacket must be in attendance at the carpark throughout the event. For the first hour, I was that person.
The fete began at 1pm. By the time I arrived at the carpark at 12:59, it was just about full, parents having proven remarkably adept at parking their cars without my assistance. This is perhaps not surprising as most of them use the carpark on a daily basis when they are on the school run.
Over the next hour I waved a few latecomers away and sat in the sunshine reading the newspaper. My high-vis jacket was quite useful as a cushion. I must have turned away about ten cars, most of which were subsequently parked in the road outside the carpark. I wasn't sure if my remit extended to the street so I left them to do this unassisted. They too seemed to manage quite well without me.
Later I went down to the fete itself. The tents had red and white tape tied to the guy ropes. This is apparently a rule laid down by Health and Safety. The scones were unbuttered, since this is not permitted by Health and Safety either. There were no sandwiches,since these apparently pose an unacceptable risk to the public.
The risk assessment had concluded that a tug of war is too dangerous so we didn't do that this year. I was reminded of the school sports day last week when parents were asked if anyone had safety concerns over their children taking part in the three-legged race. Apparently Health and Safety will be angry if this question isn't asked.
Strange day really.
He does write well, nice short clear sentences, so unlike the Baroque monstrosities I produce. Incidentally, my title for this piece of post-thievery came from what passes for my memory so I checked it on Google and came across a book written by Vernon Coleman (never heard of him till now) which looks as though it might be worth a read.
Anyway, must go and look for my sun tan lotion . . .
Four eminent Victorian statesmen gathered at midday on Monday, June 14th, 1895. [...]
It was an odd quartet, socially and politically. The Marquess of Salisbury and the Duke of Devonshire were peers; Arthur Balfour and Joseph Chamberlain were commoners. Salisbury and Balfour were members of the same distinguished family, the Cecils, whose forebears has served at the elbow of Queen Elizabeth I. The modern Cecils, uncle and nephew, were the leaders of the Conservative Party, which would have pre-eminent place in the new government. Devonshire and Chamberlain were Liberals who, on the tormenting issue of Home Rule for Ireland, had resigned from the leadership of the Liberal Party. [...]
Lord Salisbury, naturally, would become Prime Minister. This was the Queen's decision and none of the men in Salisbury's drawing room questioned Her Majesty's choice. [...]
The other peer in the Arlington Street drawing room, Spencer Compton Cavendish, eigth Duke of Devonshire, would have preferred to have been somewhere else. [...] Most of his life had been spent serving in government while he wished he were watching his horses race. [...] Twice he had been offered and declined the premiership.
Arthur Balfour, at forty seven the youngest of Lord Salisbury's guests, was heir to his uncle's political estate. [...] Balfour's manner in the House could be deceiving. Lolling on the Government Bench, he permitted himself to slide lower and lower, "as if, " said an observer in the Gallery, "to discover how nearly he could sit on his shoulder blades." From this horizontal posture, he could rise up suddenly to intervene in debate. So great was Balfour's charm and so intricate the dialectic of his arguments that most members even across the aisle delighted in him. "Balfour," said one of them, "was one of the rare men who make public life respectable." [...]
Joseph Chamberlain was fifty-nine in 1895. He had not attended Oxford or Cambridge or a public school. He had gone to work at sixteen and had made enough money to retire from business at thirty-four and go into politics as a Radical Liberal. [...] In Parliament and on podiums around the country, he was the voice of the shopkeeper, the middle class, and the Nonconformist. He sat with a marquess, a duke and Arthur Balfour because his passion and eloquence had won him the allegiance of dozens of members of Parliament and hundreds of thousands of British voters. Salisbury had no choice but to invite Chamberlain into his Cabinet - the Liberal Unionists would be the margin of his majority over the Liberals and the Irish - but all four men were keenly aware of the differences that separated them. Chamberlain was the future, they were the past.
What an extraordinary quartet. Both the peers turned down chances to become Prime Minister - what a comparison to the ambitious little rats of today who would take bites out of each other for a chance to get themselves inside No. 10.
Anyway, the stage is set, the curtain is about to go up and 'Splendid Isolation' is about to be torn down and Britain forced to involve itself in European affairs.
Quotations from Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War by Robert K. Massie - positively the best history book I have ever read!
It's very odd but I was thinking about Norman Macrae the other day and wondering what had become of him, whether he was still alive or passed on. He was for very many years the deputy editor of The Economist, not that I have ever been a regular reader, but he also had a regular column in The Sunday Times and in that he was for me a 'must read' until he retired many years ago. One phrase of his has stuck in my memory for decades. He was writing of state education, I think, and the fact that (yet another) government was about to shovel even more money in that direction and he summed up his opposition to it by writing something like, 'don't throw more money at it, throw more competition!' How right he was. You can read his obit here.
My hare-brained scheme to run a rolling news service on the Battle of Waterloo proved to be rather more tricky than I had first thought, and I apologise if it was somewhat less than professional. Also, it was far more time consuming than I had thought and so certain other topics went by the board. One of them was my increasing unease at Obama's demand that BP set up a $20bn fund to be administered by a man whom we were told was independent but who turns out to be a glove-puppet in the Obama polit-bureau. To be honest, I wasn't too sure how to voice my misgivings but happily Robert Eugene Simmons Jr. in the American Thinker has summed it all up and I shall rely on him.
The title to his essay says it all: "An Oil Spill Is Not a Licence to Suspend the Rule of Law". This fund has been set up with absolutely no rules and without Congressional oversight. It has become, in effect, a pot of gold for Obama's 'Central Committee' to dispense as it see fit. Simmons asks, pertinently:
Imagine you are a fisherman with a claim to 6 million in damages from the fund, but the government only wants to pay you 2 million. [...]In America, we have a court system set up to provide rules of evidence, assess actual damages, estimate punitive damages, evaluate claims of complainants, and assign settlements or verdicts to those damaged. If you have a problem with the ruling, you can appeal that ruling. When you go to court, you will have to prove actual damages, not just imagined ones, and the defendant will have the ability to refute your claims. When millions of people filed for damages due to leaking silicone breast implants, the system worked. When millions filed for claims due to asbestos exposure, the system worked. The system is designed to be fair, impartial, and above all, apolitical. However, in the case of BP, the system was summarily replaced with a single pay czar with sole discretion over 20 billion dollars. In this case, the government can't even claim the commerce clause of the Constitution as legal basis because the commerce clause, even misinterpreted as it is, applies only to the legislature, not the executive branch.
Even more important is that there appears to be no guidelines laid down as to where the money should go or on what basis. Obama and his apparatchiks believe that part of the answer to this disaster is alternative energy, a field in which, I have read elsewhere, Al Gore and George Soros have large investments! Simmons imagines the following scenario is more than likely:
The end result of this BP oil cleanup fund is more likely to be fisherman without political connections being left hanging in the wind while their politically connected allies get big payouts. Money will go to alternative energy projects, well-connected businesses, and political interests while the actual people hurt by the spill are left out. Of course, we won't know that, because Feinberg will use "privacy" arguments to make sure the payouts are not public.
Go figure, as they say in Chicago!
And, moreover, it is a non-post about non-people who, it is alleged, took part in a non-event last night in South Africa. It is not so much that the non-event last night did not take place but that it never had an existence in the first place. It would have ceased to be if it had ever had any existence in the first place - which it didn't! The entire thing was a phantasmagoria and must not be spoken of or alluded to in any way, shape or form. Let me put this into words you will all understand - it never happened, people, so shut the, er, whatever up and let's all move along!
So, what shall we talk about? I know, how do you rate our chances in the Girl's Netball Championships next year . . .?
From Wellington's HQ: I have never witnessed such a sight in all my life! For over an hour something close to 8,000 French cavalry swept up and over the ridge and surrounded nearly two dozen British and Allied infantry squares. The brave French horsemen tried, and tried, and tried again to break the squares but to no avail, they held firm. As and when able, the Duke moved from square to square encouraging his men by his presence. Finally, the enemy withdrew leaving behind a carnage of dead and dying horses and men who just an hour before had made such a pretty and brave spectacle as they advanced. The Duke is now busy organising his infantry ready for the next threat.
From the Emperor's HQ: It is now evening and the Emperor finds himself, not for the first time in his career, in an exceedingly tight spot. The cavalry attack ordered and led by Marshal Ney has failed. The Prussian pressure at the village of Plancenoit, just behind the right flank of the French army, is so severe that the Emperor has been forced to commit not only his normal reserve but also the Young Guard. The battle for this village is ferocious and it has changed hands several times.
But now, the crisis is reached. Grouchy's Corps is nowhere to be seen, D' Erlon's Corps on our right is finished as a fighting force, Reille's Corps on our left has been dissipated on fruitless attacks against Hougoumont and the reserves have been committed to holding off the Prussians. At this moment of utmost peril the Emperor turns to his saviours in battles past - the Imperial Guard, the Middle and Old divisions. In a dramatic scene, he personally led forward these divisions and directed them towards the British right flank which had thwarted the cavalry earlier. With bands playing the most formidable troops in Europe, troops who had never lost a battle, slowly advanced across the valley and began to mount the opposite slope. Your reporter went with them to witness at first hand. There was nothing to be seen as we approached the crest and we began to believe that perhaps the British had called it a day after the punishment they must have taken from the cavalry. Finally we reached the top and all we could see apart from the detritus of earlier fights, was the tall, waving corn in the fields - when suddenly, from out of these seemingly empty fields there stood up, like so many jack-in-the- boxes, line after line of British infantry. With great deliberation and at point blank range they opened fire with volley after volley and in our massed ranks men fell in their hundreds. A British regiment on our left actually wheeled round in order to fire into our exposed flank. There was an almost palpable pause - a beat - a hesitation - and then, unbelievably, the mighty French Imperial Guard turned about and marched away!
At around 8.00 o'clock on the evening of the 18th July 1815 the battle was lost. The great gamble of the hundred days had come to an end and the Napoleonic era was finally over.
From French HQ: Some alarm has been reported by troops stationed on the right flank who have reported columns advancing from the east. The Emperor has sent word that they are Grouchy's troops and not Prussians as was first feared. However, I have heard from a source that when the noise of the opening barrage was heard at Grouchy's HQ and he was urged to march to the sound of the guns, he refused on the grounds that his specific orders were to find and pin the Prussians to the north. This appears to be a repetition of the day before yesterday when d' Erlon's Corps marched hither and thither and never fired a shot in anger!
In the meantime, Marshal Ney has returned in some agitation from directing the assault on La Haie Sainte, which has finally been taken, and is reporting that the British are attempting to escape north from the battlefield using the same sly tactics they used to escape from Quatre Bras. He has ordered the cavalry to concentrate at the bottom of the valley between Hougoumont, where the fighting is still raging, and the main road. He intends to charge them up the hill to sweep away the British right flank before they, too, escape. Meanwhile, the Emperor has been heard expressing some dis-satisfaction with Gen. Reille for allowing his subordinate (and the Emperor's brother) to commit virtually the entire Corps into the battle for Hougoumont which the Emperor had only required to be screened not taken.
FLASH NEWS from French HQ: The Emperor has ordered the reserve over to his right flank because it is now clear that they are indeed Prussians who approaching.
From Wellington's HQ: La Haie Sainte, gallantly held by allied troops has finally fallen but the Duke's centre remains secure - for the moment. The Duke has ridden over Hougoumont to release a handful of troops to its defence but is now aware that French cavalry is massing in the valley with the aim, it appears, of attacking the British infantry which form his right flank. With the utmost calm he has suggested to the formation commanders that their troops form square because, alas, following the abortive charge earlier, there are no longer any British cavalry to protect them from the French. As viewed from the crest of the ridge one is forced to admire the spectacle - thousands of French cavalrymen in all their many different but splendid uniforms, breast-plates twinkling in the sun, plumes shaking this way and that, they make a brave sight as they slowly walk their horses up the slope, although they are taking some considerable damage from our brave gunners who only leave their guns to run back into the safety of the squares at the very last moment. We, too, have ridden into a square in company with the Duke who appears incredibly phlegmatic at this massive approaching threat. However, good news has arrived confirming that the dark lines of approaching troops away to the east are indeed the Prussians and they appear to be coming in behind Bonaparte's right flank, a manouvre which could prove fatal to his army's existence. The great question is, though, will the Prussians arrive in time, and/or, will we be able to stand when this great wave of cavalry assaults us?
From Prussian HQ: By a miracle of organisation worked by Marshal Blucher's highly efficient and resourceful Chief of Staff, Count von Gneisenau, the retreating Prussian army has been quickly reformed and redirected towards the west in support of the Allied army. The efficiency of this new Prussian staff system is worth closer examination and I am grateful to a Col. Clausewitz who explained some of the almost revolutionary ideas behind this new theory of conducting warfare. In any event, the troops are on their way and should come in behind the French right flank.
Indeed, but you might well lose several other things, too, like your liberty or your life, if you are not ultra-careful. 15 years ago Marco Morales was downright careless when, sitting pretty at the top of a corrupt construction company paying off huge wedges to the Mayor Daley adminstration, he helped a friend score a kilo of heroin. Unfortunately, the 'friend' turned out to be an FBI informant investigating another case altogether so Morales was arrested and charged. Fear and trembling replaced the normal fear and loathing at City Hall who sent some heavy hints to Morales that he should keep very, very 'schtum' concerning the city contracts and pay-offs with which he was involved - or else! Thus warned, Morales, who for some reason unknown was permitted to drive himself to prison having been found guilty on the drug charge, instead drove himself to Mexico where he remained until recently. Thus removed from the possibility of facing a Federal grand jury, surprise, surprise, Morales junior took over the firm and was instantly showered with hefty contracts by Mayor Daley's administration. Shocking, shocking, but hell, this was all 15 years ago and there's been a hellava lot a' blood under the bridge since then, so no-one cares any more. Anyway, in the same Federal court building all the crowds were hanging round ex-Governor Blagojevich's trial and just down the corridor the former Police Chief was denying using torture on suspects back in the, er, good ol' days!
Amazing really, how the slim, elegant Barack Hussein Obama managed to step lightly through all the filth without so much as dirtying his shoes. The man's a miracle!
From our reporter with the Duke of Wellington: Shortly before midday, considerable gunfire was heard in the vicinity of Hougoumont, the large chateau/farm house forward of the Allies' right wing. The Duke road over to investigate and on being told that French troops were pushing through the woods and orchard to the south of the farm he quickly issued orders for a howitzer battery to open fire with exploding shells filled with musket balls which, I am told, will have made life exceedingly uncomfortable, not to say, downright unhealthy for the soldiers sheltering below. However at around one o'clock the most tremendous artillery barrage opened up from the French right wing and the Duke, with a few short commands, departed along the ridge line in time to see what appeared to be an entire French Corps forming up east of the main road.
He watched imperturbably as the Fench columns massed and then began to advance up the slopes towards our troops who were lined up a hundred yards behind the crest. I confess that at this moment your reporter was exceedingly anxious but as the French forced their way through the hedge that ran along the lane at the top of the ridge and attempted to regain their order on the far side the hitherto unseen British infantry in immaculate lines loosed off a volley at point blank range. The French columns shuddered and went down in their hundreds. The British immediately followed up their volleys with an advance with their bayonets. The French hesitated and at that moment the most extraordinary sight your correspondent has ever witnessed took place before his eyes. Suddenly from the rear echelons of the Allied army there appeared the massed ranks of British heavy cavalry including the magnificent Life Guards and Scots Greys. That made up the minds of the French infantry in a trice and they quickly turned about and made off down the slope back towards their own lines chased by our gallant cavalrymen who exacted a terrible toll upon their exposed backs as they went. Alas, a source from Cavalry HQ informs me that perhaps it was not the wisest thing for the cavalrymen to have done and very shortly it became clear why. Our brave horsemen having ridden across the sodden valley now found themselves on the other side with blown horses, at which point, the French cavalry attacked them!
Meanwhile, a terrific fight is going on in the centre for the farmhouse, La Haie Sainte, which has been such a nuisance to the French as they try to advance. The figure of Marshal Ney, himself, can be seen personally directing his soldiers as the vicious hand-to-hand fighting goes this way and that. Throughout, however, the Duke remains calm and, indeed, finds time to ride over again to the flank facing Hougoumont and to despatch another handfull of troops to ensure that there are just sufficient inside its walls to hold out.
LATE NEWS: Reports are coming in that lines of troops have been spotted way over in the east heading towards the battlefield, although whether they are Prussian or French re-enforcements is not yet clear.
President Obama reminds me of a very unfortunate 'Tom' from my regiment who, whilst living in a tented encampment on the Isle of Sylt and taking a dump one morning whilst sitting on the single bar of wood which constituted the 'seat', found himself literally in the shit because the bar broke. At least he could plead accident as he emerged covered in you know what, but what's Obama's excuse - he voluntarily dived in and then splashed about?
I remarked some time ago that I was looking forward to the Blagojevich trial - he being the former Governor of Illinois currently facing corruption charges - because this was the very self-same deep trench latrine from which Obama emerged. Even if he manages to escape direct contamination from this trial, the mere description of what passes for day-to-day politics in Illinois is enough to besmirch everyone associated with it.
I urge you all to take the few minutes needed to read John Kass from the Chicago Tribune - it is an education. Yes, we all suspect that much of American politics is riddled with corruption but when you read the sordid details of the reality even hardened cynics like me are shocked.
I am grateful for the link to my e-pal, Alan Sullivan, who is fighting his own personal battle with enormous courage to an end which he knows is inevitable.
From our correspondent with the Allied army: A sight to make speech superfluous, indeed, so dry is one's mouth that speech is nigh impossible. At dawn the rain finally ceased and cold, soaked troops gradually appeared trying to dry their tunics and equipment and scavange for food. The battlefield is surprisingly small, only some 3,000 metres in length, although it is known that the Duke has considerable forces well to the west in case the Emperor attempts some surprise from that direction which would threaten his route to the ports were they needed. Both armies face each other across a shallow valley which runs due east and west. The valley is bisected down the middle, south to north, by the main road which eventually leads directly to Brussels. The allied army is drawn up on the northern ridge but, as is the Duke's habit learned in Spain, almost all of his troops are stationed just behind the ridge line in order to avoid the ravages of the French artillery. In another innovation learned in Spain, the Duke has mixed his formations so that the experienced and the inexperienced stand together. The bulk of the Duke's forces are to the right of the dividing road which is in line with his instinctive desire to ensure that in extremis he can move more easily to the west. There are two features to his front by which the Duke means to take advantage. Some 200 metres down the road leading to the French lines there is a small farmhouse on the right of the road called La Haie Sainte, and this has been filled with troops to act as a fortified strongpoint. Similarly, over on the Duke's right, but well forward of the ridge line, is a large chateau farmhouse called Hougoumont with walled gardens. Any advance by the French on to the Duke's right wing needs must deal with this obstacle first. Now we wait for the Emperor to strike. According to sources close to the Duke, he is content to wait, indeed, the longer the better so that there is sufficient time for Marshal Blucher to keep his promise and appear from the east striking at Napoleon's flank.
From our correspondent with the Emperor's HQ: At last the rain has stopped! it is early morning and the Emperor's soldiers are still marching in from the south and being deployed along the southern ridge of this east/west valley. The Emperor, himself, has taken station at a small inn called La Belle Alliance which lies on the main road to Brussles which divides the battle field. One aspect of his deployment is already clear - he has massed his guns to the right of centre in front of Gen. d' Erlon's Corps. To the left of the road he has stationed Gen. Reille's Corps which faces the large Chateau Hougoumont currently occupied by Allied forces. One of Gen. Reille's divisions has the honour of being commanded by the Emperor's brother, Prince Jerome. As is the Emperor's custom, he has a reserve to the rear, and stationed well back and out of sight, all three divisions of the Imperial Guard - the Young Guard, the Middle Guard and the Old Guard. There is some irritation that the British appear to be hiding behind the ridge line but in any event the Emperor has forbidden the guns to fire until the ground has dried sufficiently to ensure the canon balls are able to ricochet and are not swallowed by the soaked ground. Thus, we wait ... and wait.
What an unlovely sight it was yesterday watching those despicable American politicians playing to their audience as they ranted and raved at the weasel-faced CEO of BP who, I suspect, is facing a large dry-cleaning bill for his suit which must have been covered in spittle from the foam-flecked lips of his interrogators. It reminded me of those old black and white news-reels of show trials in Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union in which defendants were harangued and bullied by prosecutors desperately playing up to their master's wishes. No doubt Rahm Emanuel and Obama were nodding and smiling and high-fiving as they watched back in the White House.
I have very little sympathy for Tony Hayward, the BP boss, for the simple reason that he was captain of the ship when it hit the rocks so he must take the responsibility. Some of his quoted comments over the last few weeks have been crass beyond belief. However, I doubt that he personally knew much of what was going on in that particular well, it being one of hundreds that BP operate. It is the equivalent of asking a general commanding an army what was going on in a particular battalion HQ. It was quite obvious to me that Hayward was, in the current jargon, well 'lawyered-up', and I for one don't blame him. The Obama administration, with malice aforethought, have already threatened criminal proceedings. In such circumstances, any lawyer will tell his client to say absolutely nothing. That, of course, provided the excuse for the jabbering monkeys on the committee to act all outraged at his apparent stonewalling as they carefully kept one eye on their electorate and the other on the grand panjandrums in the White House. The whole spectacle was sickening and degrading and an oil-stained smear across the face of American politics and justice. I have frequently criticised the use of judicial enquiries in Britain but having seen the snarling, ugly face of their American equivalent I shall henceforth remain silent.
The slippery English managed to escape from the Q. Bras position and were aided by an tremendous thunderstorm with heavy rain in which the French troops were bogged down. Sources hint that the Emperor was furious with Marshal Ney for failing to take the crucial cross-roads yesterday, and for failing to pin Wellington's forces today. He has brought with him from the battlefield at Ligny an entire Corps and the divisions of the Imperial Guard. He has left one Corps with Gen. Grouchy with orders to pursue the Prussians fiercely because it has now been confirmed that they retreated north in line with Wellington, not east as had been thought, or at least, hoped.
The Emperor is bringing up his army as fast as possible because, to his inexpressible joy, it looks as though the British have decided to make a stand of it in a small valley south of Brussels. There is a large forest behind them which will make escape difficult tomorrow when, as the Emperor confidently expects, he defeats the 'great' Duke of Wellington, a soldier for whom he has little or no respect. The troops are marching in through the rain and the mud to take up their positions ready for the forthcoming battle.
Sorry, sorry, sorry, I know I promised absolutely faithfully never again to indulge my childishness in alliteratve 'jokes' on Oliver Kamm's name but it just slipped past my finger tips when I wasn't looking at the keyboard. Anyway, when he's in a good mood ( a rare occurrence) he is a card and in his post, provoked by an article by Daniel Finkelstein, on who was the worst minister in the last 13 years he concedes that Ms. 'Red' Dawn Primarolo was a highly fancied contender but in the end he plumps for that political 'luvvie' and utter dimwit, Ms. Glenda Jackson:
I'll be suggesting my own favoured candidates for the title of worst Labour minister, but I'll conclude this post with a contender of real class: Glenda Jackson. If you recall this, then either your range of interests could do with expansion or your name is Daniel Finkelstein, but Ms Jackson was a Transport minister in Tony Blair's first term. In that capacity, she launched a "car-free day" - on the second day of an all-out tube strike.
Oh my giddy aunt, you couldn't make it up!
From our correspondent attached to Prussian HQ: Yesterday afternoon and evening, and continuing into the night, the Prussian army fought a ferocious battle with the Emperor's forces but, alas, even their courage could not prevail and the late arrival of the fearsome French Imperial Guard finally broke their resolve and the battle was lost. Worse news was to follow when the elderly Marshal Blucher was ridden down by French cavalry and apparently lost. There was heated discussions amongst the staff as to which direction the Prussian army should take in its efforts to escape before the morning but, praise the Lord, at the last moment the gallant Blucher was found, bruised and shaken but still very much in command. He brusquely stopped all talk of retreating east and on the basis that he had pledged his word to remain in support of the Duke of Wellington the orders were given for the Prussians to move north.
During yesterday evening we could hear the sounds of a great battle to the east and our hopes and prayers were with the great Marshal Blucher and his gallant Prussian soldiers, but alas, as dawn broke over Quatre Bras news began to filter through that the Prussians had been defeated. If this is confirmed the Duke will be forced to retreat but the direction in which he goes is a moot point. If the Prussians withdraw east, which would be the sensible thing for them to do then the Duke will be minded to go west back towards the coastal ports because he would not wish to go down in history as a general who lost an entire British army on the continent. Also, he is bedevilled by the French-speaking Walloon formations in his army who only a year ago were fighting for the Emperor. Will they remain steady?
Latest news: Sources close to the Duke indicate that he is intending to move north in order to screen Brussels. Apparently Marshal Blucher gave his word that come what may he would remain in parallel with the allies so as to provide mutual support and the Duke is minded to trust the Marshal's good word. Apparently he is intending to gradually thin out the British and Allied troops and send them north in such a discreet manner that Ney will be unaware of it until the majority have escaped. Not the least of the Duke's worries is that the Emperor might suddenly swoop in on his left flank thus pinning him at Quatre Bras.
In addition, I have been informed that the Duke already has a defensive position picked out in a valley just south of Brussels. Apparently he and his staff noticed the defensive qualities of this place very many months ago and earmarked it for exactly this purpose should the need arrive. England must be grateful to have such a perceptive general to lead its army.
Today the Emperor 0f France has won a great victory. During the day the right wing of his army advancing under the command of Gen. Grouchy found the Prussian army drawn up for battle by the village of Ligny. Immediately on receipt of the news the Emperor set off at speed accompanied by the three divisions of the Imperial Guard. The battle opened immediately with a pulverising barrage by the French artillery which caused grievous losses amongst the Prussian formations drawn up on the opposite bank of the River Ligny. This was followed by an assault from the French infantry who were, nevertheless, surprised by the fierce resistance they met particularly in the small hamlets which provided strong outposts for their Prussian opponents.
Your correspondent was lucky to be in close company with the Emperor who, as the battle swung first this way then another, became increasingly irritated that Marshal Ney on the left wing had failed to appear down the road from Quatre Bras. Finally, in total exasperation, he ignored the chain of command and sent a direct order to the commander of Ney's support Corps, Gen d' Erlons, ordering him to ignore all previous orders from Ney and instead to move east across country with all speed to support the Emperor's final assault on the weakening Prussians. Gen. d' Erlons obeyed and in due course appeared on the flank of the French forces - but then, inexplicably, he turned about and marched off back to the west. Sources indicate that he had received another summons from his immediate superior, Marshal Ney, who urgently required his Corps in order to effect the capture of the cross-roads at Quatre Bras. The Emperor, for a moment, was dumbfounded by the appearance, and then the swift disappearance, of this crucial Corps of troops. However, in a decisive move he ordered forward his beloved Imperial Guard who swept into the weakened but stubborn Prussian lines and swept them from the battle field. As night falls, efforts are being made to ascertain in which direction the Prussians are retreating. Early indications confirm the expectation that they will go east back down their lines of communication leaving the British to do as best they may on their own.
Additional news from our correspondent attached to Marshal Ney's HQ: The Marshal was taken by surprise to find that instead of a tiny outpost at the cross-roads the numbers had been increased overnight. He immediately began to call forward more formations who were strung out down the road back to Charleroi but as they appeared and went into action so too did more British and Netherlanders appearing from the north and the west. The Marshal was beset by urgent summonses from the Emperor to take Quatre Bras and move swiftly east down the road to come in behind the Prussians but the defence was simply too strong. The Marshal, who had been sending a stream of orders to Gen. d' Erlons to speed up as his troops which were urgently needed, was sent into what sources describe as an incandescent rage when he learned that the Emperor had ordered d' Erlons to turn east. He immediately despatched another courier telling d' Erlons to come back - or else! Unfortunately by the time d' Erlons did reach Quatre Bras night was falling and the unhappy French had to contemplate the fact that 20,000 men, horses and guns had spent the entire day wandering about the countryside without firing a shot in anger! The Marshal is now organising his troops for another assault in the morning.
"Franken"? Was is das? Well, according to that doyen of the BBC, John Humphries, the 'franken' might be the name of the new currency to be adopted by the richer northern nations of Europe when the time comes for the 'Med-crips' to be booted out for their inability to repay their loans:
Stuermer [an advisor to Helmut Kohl at the birth of the euro] saw problems at the time and said so. That, he told me, 'landed me in the dog house'. now, he claims - with some justification - that he was right. he sees three possible outcomes. one is that the rich countries keep propping up the poorer ones by guaranteeing to continue bailing them out (albeit at the risk of stoking inflation).
The other is that the Euro is abandoned and the North sets up its own currency. It might be called the Franken or the Gildea or possibly even the Euro.
The third is that Greece and the other weak members of the Eurozone overcome their problems and push through the reforms that are needed to pay back their debts.
That, he said, would take a miracle. He summed it up like this: 'We are talking about two catastrophes and one miracle - and the miracle is the most unlikely outcome.'
Well, I have been telling you for ages that the whole thing was a New Frankish Empire in disguise so calling their currency a 'franken' is entirely appropriate. The only problem is that like so many of us who have owned and run empires before, the Germans and their French poodles, are finding out that it is an exceedingly expensive hobby and that colonies, by and large, are a dead loss!
Very early this morning I attended Gen. Wellington and his staff as they made their way with considerable rapidity due south to the obscure but vitally important cross-roads at Quatre Bras. It is now clear that the General takes seriously the threat posed by Bonaparte's incursion. It appears that during the night it was learned that the Prussian army was determined to make a stand in the vicinity of Ligny and therefore it became imperative that the Anglo-Allied army lend support by concentrating to the west on the line of the lateral east-west road. Thus, as we rode south from Brussels we passed innumerable British regiments moving at their highest marching speed on the road to Quatre Bras.
The fact that we still have a hold on this vital cross-roads is due to the diligence, but 'il-discipline' of a Netherlands officer who ignored the order for outposts to concentrate on their HQs overnight. Apparently his scouts had seen Marshal Ney's French forces approaching before nightfall and he realised that were he to obey orders and withdraw, the road to Brussels would be wide open.
General Wellington observed the steady trickle of Allied troops into the area of the cross-roads before moving off to the east to meet with Marshal Blucher at his chosen site in the valley formed bytwo streams, the Ligny and its confluence with the Sombreffe. Both commanders agreed that whatever happened they would remain in mutual support of each other and not allow themselves to be pushed apart, thus denying Bonaparte any opportunity to destroy them seperately. Before leaving, Gen. Wellington suggested with considerable tact that the Marshal might prefer to move his massed formations to the reverse side of the valley slope to avoid the attention of French artillery. The gallant Marshal declined the idea, telling Gen. Wellington that Prussian troops preferred to see what was attacking them. With those pleasantries concluded we rode back to Quatre Bras where early French advances had been repulsed - but only with difficulty - as we awaited more re-inforcements from the north and the west.
However, even as we waited, and even as the trickle of arriving allied regiments became a steady stream, we became aware of the French forces under the redoubtable Marshal Ney, massing in even greater numbers in readiness for yet another assault.
Which roughly translates as 'Ready for Anything' and is the motto of the Parachute Regiment whose critics, from Lord Saville downwards, suppose that 'Ready for Murder' would be a better translation! Let me make clear from the outset that I accept that a handful of Paras in Londonderry in 1972 almost certainly committed a crime and that they should face the consequences. I add that rider "almost certainly" because, begging Lord Saville's pardon, it will take a judge and jury in a court of law to make the final decision and I suspect that out of that handful of potential culprits only one or two will actually ever face trial and actually there is a high probability that in the end none of them will. Even if some do, I will be amazed if, given the political circumstances, they spend even a day in jail. Having made that clear I would like to add some comments all of which pertain to the matter but none of which alter the main conclusion that it is highly likely that some Paras were guilty of a crime.
It is important to understand the ethos of the Parachute Regiment. Many young men volunteer for the Paras but very few pass the selection course which is designed to find out who amongst the intake possesses two characteristics. First, stamina, by which I mean mind over matter, so that when every muscle in your body is screaming stop! - you carry on. Failure to do so results in instant dismissal with a chorus of jeers and taunts to send the failure on his miserable way. The second characteristic they are searching for is aggression. Part of the selection course is 'milling' in which you are paired off with someone roughly (and I do mean 'roughly') your own weight and size and given some very worn and thin boxing gloves and then you go on the gym mats for one minute where you are expected to stand toe to toe and slug it out. It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, all that counts is that you do not duck and dive and evade, and if you are knocked down that you instantly get up and carry on. This is not to say that all Paras go round perpetually looking for a fight - although some do - only that if trouble looms they are likely to re-act with instinctive and therefore instantaneous aggression - because that is exactly and precisely why they were chosen. These two characteristics explain why in the Falklands when virtually every vehicle had been sunk on a transport ship the Paras (and the Marine Commandos) were able to put enormous weights of equipment on their backs and manpack the lot over some of the roughest ground you could ever wish to avoid. It is also why they were able to press home assaults on Goose Green and Mt. Longdon.
However, in circumstances like Londonderry in 1972, those very characteristics made them the worst choice of troops to be sent in to a delicate and dangerous situation in which the IRA were seeking every means to win a propaganda victory even if, or particularly if, it would be achieved over the dead bodies of their own people. The city was a war zone and I use that phrase advisedly. The IRA had established no-go areas and just three days before two policemen had been murdered. I question the intelligence, and in some cases the motives, of those who took part in the so-called 'civil rights peace demo' that day. Anyone with more than three brain cells would have known that it was likely to be extremely dangerous. In the end, the IRA achieved their aims and hopes.
On my last visit to France we called into the museum and the empty remains of the village of Oradour where, in 1944, 642 inhabitants were slaughtered in cold blood by an SS regiment. Today, the 'stupids' and their malignant string-pullers, like Bernadette Devlin McAliskey in The Guardian, claim that the whole thing was engineered by the British state in pursuit of a policy of ruthless oppression of the Irish people. Eh? Only 14 dead? And only a handful of soldiers implicated? Alas, when it comes to mass murder the British army obviously has lessons to learn from our German counterparts.
ADDITIONAL: I have just read Max Hastings' article on the subject. He was in Londonderry on the day and apart from being a trained reporter he is also a very distinguished historian. He encapsulates teh whole wretched business better than anyone. Well worth a read.
ADDITIONAL: Sorry, I have just read another article, this time by Gen. Sir Michael Rose who, unlike Hastings, actually was present during the fighting. He lay in a gutter with a Para who was firing up at a balcony in a block of flats opposite and Rose saw a man running along carrying a rifle. In addition, he saw bullets striking the wall behind him in retaliation. Again, worth a read.
I've told you my guilty secret, haven't I? Well, of course, it wouldn't be a secret in that case, silly old sod that I am, but I refer to my 'bookaholism'. When my leaning tower of Pisa-like pile of waiting-to-be-read books was actually taller than me I at last faced up to myself and admitted that I had a problem. This, according to my mentor at BA (Bookaholics Anonymous), is the essential first step towards a cure and he then went on to give me the rest of the 10-step plan. Mind you, I'm not too convinced this is going to work because although we meet once a week and one by one stand up and confess to being bookaholics, after that we all sit around and, er, read books!
Anyway, matters have now reached a crisis state because try as I might to leave off buying and reading new books whilst my waiting pile leans ever more threateningly, I have now started re-reading old books! I mean, how am I ever going to reduce the stack if I keep finding previously read books I just have to read again? I think I mentioned some time ago that I was re-reading The Rules of the Game by Andrew Gordon which is the definitive history of that complex battle of 'ifs, buts and maybes' that took place off Jutland in 1916. I reached part way in but then realised that I needed to set the very specific details of Gordon's book into a more general view of the period and that was all the excuse I needed to turn - again - to probably the very best history book I have ever read - Dreadnought by Robert Massie. I took it with me to France and - horror of horrors - I lost it at Bristol airport whilst struggling with all the paper work - thus leaving me with nothing else to do during 10 days of rain in a foreign country except to talk to my wife!
Anyway, good old 'abebooks' found me a second-hand copy in much better nick than my original and so I am happily lost in that incredible dance macabre that began (if in history you can ever point to an exact beginning) with the rise of Bismarck and the subsequent rise of Prussia which ended in the mud, blood and tears of Flanders but also, for some, in the cold, heaving seas off Jutland. Massie tells it superbly and brings this gallery of - I was going to say heroes and rogues but of course that would not be accurate, they were all simply human - to vivid life. In particular, damn it, Lord Salisbury. I curse because, naturally, I have a biography of him to hand which I read years ago and now I am sorely tempted to re-read that!
Where will it all end, I ask? Anyway, I intend to share a few highlights of Massie's book with you over coming weeks just to give you the delicious flavour of the thing.
Last night Bonaparte took the allies by surprise by launching a 'blitzkrieg' into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands aiming at the key border city of Charleroi. This was obviously a carefully and secretly prepared stroke aimed at smashing into the hinge that joins the army of Prussia and the Anglo-Allied army under Wellington. If it succeeds it will force the two armies apart as they fall back along their lines of communication, the Prussians to the east and the British to the west. By holding the central position Bonaparte will seize any chance to destroy one or either of his opponents piecemeal whilst holding the other at bay. In any event, the road to Brussels will be open and the city will be ripe for taking. Such an outstanding success in this arena will give the slow moving armies of Austria and Russia reason to hesitate before advancing further.
During the night, Prussian outposts were driven from the border areas and as this report was being composed French troops have forced their way through Charleroi and appear to be dividing into two wings. According to a Prussian communique issued from Marshal Blucher's HQ, a large right wing force, believed to be under the command of General Grouchy, is moving slowly north east towards the cross roads at Ligny. Meanwhile, Netherland scouts report a similar force moving north west towards the cross roads at Quatre Bras. These two cross roads are linked by a main east-west road which, if they are both taken, will allow Bonaparte to re-enforce either wing. Refugees from Charleroi indicate that Bonapart remains in the city with his Imperial Guard divisions.
Meanwhile in Brussels, arrangements for the Duchess of Richmond's ball continue apace and a full report is expected from our fashion correspondent!
Further despatches will be sent as our intrepid reporters cover this developing story.
Like several observers, all of them better informed than me, I am not surprised at Liam Fox's decision to, in effect, sack Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, along with his civilian counterpart, Sir 'Bill' Jeffrey, the 'Permanent Toady' at the Defence Department. Neither of them were fit for purpose and if you ask me how I know I shall tell you that the reason is plain - they are still there! If either man had an millimetre of steel in his backbone they would have foregone their expected honours and resigned long ago during the charade that was Labour's defence policy.
However, whilst it was fair enough for Fox to 'wing them' both in advance I cannot understand why he would keep this pair of lame ducks until October and, in particular, why he would leave them in charge of the Defence review! The only Machiavellian reason I can think of is that Fox,who has been shadowing defence matters for years and is, one would hope, well informed, has decided to reduce the RAF to a branch of the army and thinks that such a policy will be swallowed more easily by the Biggles-types if the fatal dose is administered by an airman.
An excellent newspaper, the Euro-WSJ, and I make no apologies for quoting from yet another story from today's edition. This one has you groaning with anguish and even feeling pity for American diplomats and politicians. I confess, it passed me by but apparently Jordan has discovered quite respectable amounts of uranium in its desert - before I take the story further I thought it worthwhile copying this fascinating diagram giving the main sources for uranium in the world:
As a result of its find, and also its fright and worry as a nation that depends utterly on imported oil when the price of oil shot up three years ago, the government took a decision to switch to nuclear energy. It has opened talks with the USA to buy their technology in the building of nuclear power stations. Thus, they have emptied the bucket of poo straight into Obama's lap! He is happy to sell them the technology but only on the basis that the Jordanians agree to buy their nuclear fuel ready-made on the open market and not build sites capable of producing it for themselves - as the Iranians are doing - and thus allowing some future Jordanian government to produce nuclear elements for military use. The Jordanians are standing firm on the not unreasonable grounds that if they have the uranium to hand it would be a nonsense to import the finished product. However, the USA has the whip hand over certain essential technical parts of nuclear power station construction without which the Jordanians will be stymied. In fact, an agreement was almost reached in the dying days of 'Dubya's adminstration but they were too busy cutting a deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who were happy to buy their nuclear rods from the open market because they, of course, have no uranium of their own. However, to add complication to complexity, the Americans are hamstrung by the fact that the UAE has a get-out clause to the effect that if another Arab state gets a better deal than they have then they will be free to make such arrangements as they see fit. So, as it stands there is an intractable impasse whilst the usual suspects - France, Russia, South Korea and the Chinese - sniff around. Meanwhile Israel views the whole matter closely with a beady and suspicious eye.
Still, never mind, we can all relax knowing that The Greatest Wisest Most Humane Statesman in the History of the World has the problem in hand, er, when he doesn't have a nine iron in it, that is. And one would wish to draw a delicate veil across the policy, enforced by 'The Wise One', that precludes any sort of civilan nuclear energy inside America whilst keeping busy flogging it to everyone else!
In a probably futile attempt to convince you that my eyes are not permanently fixed 'over there', I bring to your attention an item of news from 'just over there'. 'Plucky little Belgium' seems set on an amoeba-like division along nationalist-language lines between the French-speaking Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemish. This is hardly a 'Shlock-Horror' story because this ersatz 'nation' has always suffered inherent schizophrenia since its inception in 1830. Still, it is heartening to be reminded that at the very heart of the 'New Frankish Empire' where nationalism is severely frowned upon, at least, it is by the bigger states when they occasionally glance at the smaller ones, we find it alive and kicking. According to Charles Forelle in the Euro-WSJ, it is unlikely that a total rift will occur but a moderate, albeit vigorously nationalist Flemish party has just won a hefty number of seats in the election and the French-speaking Walloons will have to negotiate - and mean it or else!
Incidentally, apologies for my absence. We gave a summer drinks party on Sunday and preparations for it were not dis-similar in size and scope to those required for Operation Overlord so I have been somewhat distracted!
As you all know, this is a serious political boob blog that concerns itself with well rounded boobs ideas and which stands ready to fully support any of Sarah Palin's boobs plans which she deems necessary to enhance the body politic of America.
Her great virtue is her authenticity which means that, despite the wicked aspersions cast by those ratbags at 'IHTM', she will never leave you with a false impression. Indeed, her ability to lift and seperate clearly the twin points of her ideology is to be praised and admired, and I, for one, stand ready to take my share of the burden. God, I'm good!
Additional: Yes, I know, that was all pathetic and juvenile but there-in lies the great paradox, the older you get the more juvenile you become! Shakespeare understood:
The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.
I'm a glutton for punishment, or perhaps, I'm just an old-fashioned masochist! Either way I have taken, and enjoyed, a mild spanking from F. R. Dunn in the American Thinker. Not that it was delivered personally, you understand, but Dunn does have the knack of applying a cool and judicious intelligence to the over-excited warblings of people like me. Last week he provided a reality check to this Sestak business over which I had dreamed of Obama in an orange jump-suit and shackled to a Federal marshal being led off to jail. Ain't gonna happen, says Mr. Dunn, and I fear he is right even though I suspect there are more pebbles to be dislodged and in their panic you can never be sure the rascals will not do something even worse in their efforts to cover up and thus create a landslide.
Today, my medicine from Mr. Dunn is in the form of a well-argued antidote to my fond ravings to the effect that the Marxist revolutionaries who surround Obama will create conditions for national emergency measures which will allow them to postpone the November elections. Last night, Glenn Beck pointed out two things. First, as seen from the point of view of the extreme Left, they have reached the zenith of their ambitions. They have taken over, according to Beck, 70% of the American economy and nationalised the car industry and the provision of medical services. But that's it! From now on, from their point of view, it is downhill all the way. After November they're finished and in time - probably 2012 - a Republican president and Congress will be able to undo all their work, much as Maggie did in the '80s 'over here'. Secondly, Beck points to the deeply unholy alliance between what might be called the soppy Left politicians of the traditional Democrat party, and the hard Left, extreme activists who have infiltrated the party via their control of 'grassroots' organisations like ACORN and the massive SEIU union. This alliance is now falling apart. To provide but one example, in the Arkansas primary on Tuesday, Obama and Clinton (the trouser wearing one - oh, I forgot, they both wear trousers - Bill, then) both very publically supported one candidate whilst the other was supported by SEIU to the tune of $10 million! Remember, Andy Stern, the leader of SEIU is, according to White House records, the most frequent visitor there but I imagine the next few meetings will be a tad frosty given that now he has to explain to his suckers members exactly what he achieved with their money!
Another indication that relations are breaking down came this week when Nancy Pelosi was heckled and had things thrown at her at a public meeting. Right-wing 'tea-baggers', you might suppose, but you would be wrong. She was attacked by the Left. Now I ask you, how far Left do you have to be to be further left than Nancy Pelosi? The almost hysterical heckler was complaining that none of the things which she had been promised by the Democrat politicians had happened - and she wanted it - when did she want it? - NOW! So there is considerable angst amongst the hard Left and whilst F. R. Dunn points out, correctly, the almost impossibility of them attempting, let alone succeeding, in a coup attempt, nevertheless, I think he underestimates their stupidity and also the maniacal rage which erupts when these Lefties feel they have been betrayed. You only have to read the Leftie blogs 'over here' and the vituperative shenanigans that go on every time the SWP (or whatever they're calling themselves this week) splits yet again. Of course, 'over here' we're not really awfully good at bloody revolution, don'cha know, but 'over there' they tend to be given Colt .45s for their 10th birthday! Well, not really, but you know what I mean.
Actually, it is not the explosion of TNT that I worry about because the American system, as Dunn reminds us, is tremendously robust even, or perhaps especially, in the case of a presidential assassination. Much more dangerous, in my view, is the implosion of the dollar! Obama and gang are continuing to print and borrow money as though there was no tomorrow and sooner or later it will end in tears. When Americans lose their earnings, their savings, their possessions, their pensions, their future and their children's future - how will they re-act? No-one can be sure, let alone me, but for sure, the extreme Left will see in the confusion and chaos - opportunities, shall we say.
Well, here's something likely to have you shifting nervously in your seat. The ineffable Mark Steyn gives his views on the 'forgotten man' of the middle east - Turkey. I must confess that I, too, had fallen into the lazy habit of taking Turkey for granted. Yes, it's Muslim but, praise be to Allah, they are 'good' Muslims, I thought, until the other day when Turkey, a member of NATO, as Steyn reminds us, nearly went to war with Israel.
Since he [Kemal Ataturk] founded post-Ottoman Turkey in his own image nearly nine decades ago, the population has increased from 14 million to over 70 million. But that five-fold increase is not evenly distributed. The short version of Turkish demographics in the 20th century is that Rumelian Turkey — i.e., western, European, secular, Kemalist Turkey — has been outbred by Anatolian Turkey — i.e., eastern, rural, traditionalist, Islamic Turkey. Ataturk and most of his supporters were from Rumelia, and they imposed the modern Turkish republic on a reluctant Anatolia, where Ataturk’s distinction between the state and Islam was never accepted. Now they don’t have to accept it. The swelling population has spilled out of its rural hinterland and into the once solidly Kemalist cities.
Looking at the map you don't need to be a grand strategist to see instantly the geo-political dangers if Turkey turns hostile, and, just to ruin your supper completely, now consider the implications if the 80-year old Hosni Mubarak drops dead and the Muslim Brotherhood take over Egypt! In effect, the eastern Mediterranean and the oil routes to the gulf will be closed.
Finally, in an effort to ensure you have bad dreams tonight, remember that an alliance between Turkey and Iran will shift potential Iranian nuclear launch sites a couple of thousand miles nearer to Europe. The only definite ally we have in the area is 'plucky little Israel' and under the inspired leadership of 'The Wise One' in Washington, we are busy shitting all over it!
Now, as I was asking, sitting comfortably, are we?
The other day that old slyboots, 'Dearieme', attempted to provoke me into giving an opinion on what he called the 'footieboys', by which he meant, of course, the stirling chaps who wear the three lions of England so proudly on their shirts and who, even as I write, are busy shagging oops, sorry, boozing, no, no, I didn't mean that either, I meant training hard ready to win glory for their country. However, 'Dearieme', in attempting to elicit an opinion from me on this vital matter was fully aware that I had only just returned from France and had thus been deprived of the critical briefings provided for me by the Deep Intelligence & Analysis Branch of TOOORKSPOOORT'! However, I am now fully updated and I am able to pontificate with the sort of assurance seen and heard any night in any Saloon Bar in this 'septic isle'.
We won't win!
We will need a bit of luck even to get out of the opening group, and I may be rushed to hospital with severe shock if we actually reach the semi-finals, and I certainly will not live long enough ever to see us reach a final. Indeed, just the opposite, I foresee hideous embarrassment approaching at high speed from 'over there'! If, and it is more than possible, we fail to beat the Yanks on Saturday, or even, perish the thought, we actually lose to them, I may have to close this blog down. It's not that my e-pals from 'over there' would crow because, like so many Americans, they are immensely polite and gracious and I just know they would, in their usual friendly way, commisserate with me - and I couldn't bear it!
You may wonder why I harbour such doubts about the abilities of our fine young men and I will tell you the simple answer - they are over-sexed, over-paid and over-hyped - especially the latter! Mind you, that is not to say that I do not enjoy the regularity of the ritual through which we go every two years from European Cup to World Cup. It moves slowly and deliberately in the time-honoured tradition, much as Newton's great universal clock waxes and wanes the movement of the orbs. In the approach to the competition the media become more and more hysterical about the world-class abilities of 'our lads', then, as they fail miserably - again, they give them an almighty kicking, before once again beginning the build up to the next 'glorious failure'.
Yes, I know it's tedious but there is something comforting about the fact that in an uncertain world some things are forever!
I ask the question because, after a long absence I inadvertantly found myself revisiting 'MacRatty's' site from which I was banned some time ago. I was not surprised to see that the same mixture of Caledonian bellicosity allied with smug self-righteousness was on display in a post critical of that mildest and most civil of men, Norman Geras. Whilst there, I noticed in the comments thread something from 'Shuggy', another Jock blogger given to heavy-fisted pronouncements delivered in the sort of tone that indicates that anyone disagreeing will be nutted! Anyway, I visited 'Shuggy's' blog and he, being a teacher by trade, was giving the new government a right good kicking for their education policy - you see, these Jock bloggers can really dish it out and normally I am happy to chuckle along and offer to hold their coats whilst they do so. Much of what 'Shuggy' wrote was worthy of consideration but some of it was pure, unadulterated 'teach-speak' nonsense and I told him so. Like the great, girlie Jessy he is, he 'squeamed and squeamed' something to the effect that I had impugned his, er, "professionalism" (oh please, do stop giggling, this is serious!), and whilst standing on a chair and clutching his skirts about him, he banned me! Like I say, these blogging bullies can dish it out but they just can't take it back in return.
Mind you, it has been some time since I was banned. Back in the day it was a regular occurrence and so it's nice to know I haven't entirely lost my touch!
Bad move, people! I mean both of you, Mr. Fox and Mr. Jew. Let's start with you, Mr. Fox. I mean you had a great audience out there, all of them on side and singing our PR tunes, you know, fox hunting bad, fox hunters even worse, that sort of thing. And then you go sneaking into a London house through an open door on a warm night, go up the stairs and start gnawing on two little, twin, 9-month old sweeties asleep in their cots. From now on, everybody, but everybody, is going to be thinking 'Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf'and it's no good you sayin' that you're not exactly the same as wolves, waddya think people are - educated? Do me a favour! This is going to take Max Clifford at his best to spin this one and, Godalmighty, just when the Tories are going to offer a free vote on f*x hunting - ya notice the way I didn't use the full 'f' word? I'm nice like that.
And as for you, Mr. Jew, what can I say? Yeah, yeah, and before you start I know those so-called aid ships would soon be carrying more ammo than a missile cruiser if you let 'em in without checking; and that the best joke since Hitler swallowed a cyanide pill instead of viagra is the idea that Turkey is a bastion of freedom and democracy, I mean, just ask the Kurds; but you gotta understand that the world is full of shmucks and most of them are anti-Semitic shmucks, especially the shmucks who keep sayin' there's a difference between bein' anti-Semitic and anti-Israel - like we all got the time to parse their every utterence when the rockets are flyin' over. Still an' all, you gotta be a bit careful when you blow away some of those shmucks - especially when they positively want you to blow them away on account of they get to those 72 virgins whilst they're still young enough to enjoy - ya know what I mean?
I tellya, this PR business gets me down sometimes . . .
Well, honestly, there are so many of them. Darling Sarah, of course, the next POTUS; and 'that woman' who, like a good Burgundy, just improves with age; Sister Wolf, who both tantalises me and terrifies me; 'Jeanie with the light brown hair' (a recent e-pal); the fearsome ladies over at Stroppybird who put up with me; the purse-lipped Susan Press (well she purses her lips at me, I'm sure) over at 'Grimmerupnorth'; and now, a new addition - Mrs. Gore who at last has had the incredible good sense to ditch that fat, old wind 'n' money-bags, Al. But I have left the best to last. The only real blonde in my harem - er, it is real isn't it? - oh, no, tell me it ain't so! I mean, of course, Ann Coulter, who like 'Sis' above, terrifies me but who also reduces me to helpless giggles with things like this:
The New York Times' Linda Greenhouse recently compared the Arizona law to Hitler's policies toward the Jews. You remember how Jews were constantly sneaking across the border into Nazi Germany?
And then, there is her summary of the Sestak story (see my post, two below) in which good ol' Bill has stepped up to the mark to declaim that he never had sex with that woman, oops, sorry, if she let him put it in he promised not to move, no, no, not that one, I mean, he only offered Rep. Sestak a non-paying job. Here is my lovely Ann with her take on the story:
After a 10-week investigation, the Obama White House concluded that Bill Clinton, acting on his own, offered Sestak a nonpaying, advisory job with the administration.
It sounds like something Bill would tell Hillary after sneaking back into the house in the wee hours of the morning. "Honest, honey, I wasn't out with a tawdry cocktail waitress. I was offering some guy I barely know a job at the Obama White House."
So yeah, I know it sounds fishy, but if Bill Clinton says this is how it happened, that's good enough for me. Why, Clinton hasn't lied under oath in front of a federal grand jury for more than a decade.
My emphasis - and my ouch!
However, my Super Woman does not confine herself to vicious knee-in-the-groin attacks on blubbery 'Bubbas' like Bill, she is more than willing to take on the rubbish at the top of the Republican party:
Republicans are playing the same raised-expectations game with the November elections. Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner is ludicrously predicting Republicans will pick up 100 seats in the House in November. Newt Gingrich puts the figure at an equally insane (and weirdly precise) 78. [...]
For more than half a century, the average midterm pickup for the party out of power has been 24 seats.
A salutary warning to people, like me, who are prone to allow our 'great expectations' to exceed reality. Thank you, my darling Ann, and I wonder, if you're not doing anything Saturday night, perhaps I could interest you in a fun night out at The Queen's Head - no, no, 'Queen's Head' doesn't mean that sort of thing 'over here' . . .
This is a direct cut and paste from a blogger not unknown to this fair site:
If Western nations, with all their technical know-how and enormous financial resources chose to prioritise sustainable development over growth then it wouldn't take more than a decade to achieve, is given sufficient priority. The same technology could then be shared with the developing countries in return for the natural resources required to produce them (a good example is the rare earth metals). The extent to which development can be decoupled from economic growth is debatable. Ecological Economic literature tends towards "not very much". However, by allowing developing countries to actually develop Western nations can not only benefit from fewer economic migrants and asylum seekers but those countries will also move towards stable populations more quickly.
So I hope I've persuaded you that I haven't forgottn about social justice. I'm quite happy to admit that my theory is utterly unrealistic due to the considerable cultural obstacles that stand in the way of sustainability- the ongoing geopolitical shitstorm, religious fuckwittism and corporate sociopathy. This is why I get so uptight about electoral reform. Nothing will happen unless a country- any country- leads by example and constructs a sustainable utopia revealing neoliberalism and neoclassical economics to be the sociopathic ideologies they are. For a time I thought that country could be the UK. Sadly, I've come to realise that that's just not going to happen. My money's on Latin America now. Costa Rica's doing pretty well, I think.
Ho hum, I'm drifting now so I'll give it a rest.
"Drifting"? Yes, I'd say that "drifting" is the right word. Who wrote that, you ask? Perhaps a 5th former from a remedial education college? No, no, you are quite wrong, it is the very best example of, er, thinking and writing produced by a recently qualified Doctor of Philosophy from one of our so-called 'universities', you know, the ones you pay for out of your taxes. Have you guessed now? Yes, of course, it is one of 'Little Willy's finest pieces of prose displaying the keen analytical power of his political, economic and social thinking.
'Little Willy' is putting his money on Costa Rica - although I am not sure if he is actually talking about the World Cup!
A bold and deliciously enticing prospect is forecast by Peter Ferrara in The American Spectator in which he reminds us of his much earlier prediction that Obama would be a one-term president but now he goes even further and suggests that Obama will not even last his full first term! There are, in his view, two likely endings to Obama's rule; first, he might resign because the wreckage of the Democrat party after the November elections will demand it, particularly as the freezing cold air whistles out of the grossly inflated financial balloon that has - just - kep the American economy above the waves so far.
However, a more exciting prospect is that Obama might be impeached because of the Sestak affair. For those not familiar with the wheat and chaff of daily politics 'over there', Rep. Sestak, formerly Admiral Sestak and now nominee 'Senator' Sestak, claims that he was offered a job in the administration by the White House if he would agree to stand down in the election and thus clear the way for Sen. Specter to stand unapposed. Specter was a Republican for decades but sensing the way the wind was blowing in his home state he switched sides on the bais that Obama would ease him back into the Senate - thus proving that there is no sucker like an old sucker!
The White House has consistently and loudly denied that any job offer was made to Sestak but he, an apparently typical old 'sea salt' insists that he is telling the truth. It is no wonder that the White House is desperately insisting that they made no job offer because, I am thrilled to tell you, it is a Federal offence:
The rumor is that Sestak, formerly an Admiral, was offered appointment as Secretary of the Navy. The problem is that a federal statute explicitly provides that it is a federal felony, punishable by up to one year in prison, to attempt to bribe a candidate with a federal job, or anything of value, to influence an election.
Oh my giddy aunt, the prospect of Obama 'cuffed, manacled and in an orange jump-suit is simply too much - I might actually die of cackling! Won't happen, of course, but a man can dream, can't he? Anyway, for this and other reasons Ferrara is convinced that Obama will not last out his first term so if you're feeling low give him a read and cheer yourselves up!