Are they related? I don't know but I think we should be told.
And then someone should tell David!
This is really a postscript to my earlier post in which I went along with a forecast of the demise of President Obama at the next election because an inflationary tsunami is about to engulf America. Each day I receive a market news letter from Interactive Investor and this morning they were quoting a Reuters report which spells misery for Americans and political disaster for Obama - if not outright impeachment!
U.S. Fed's spigot pumps up markets in April
Reuters Saturday 30 April 2011 01:36
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global markets closed out a week to remember on Friday as Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's pledge to keep cheap money flowing through the economy pushed the Nasdaq to a 10-year high, and gold and silver broke records. Commodity investments were especially hot. The Reuters-Jefferies CRB index <.CRB>, which includes everything from oil to silver, has risen eight straight months through April in its longest winning streak since 2003. Silver alone shot up 27 percent.
Newsletters - Interactive Investor [email@example.com]
The people of America face a straight choice, they either continue to lay in the bath with all the taps running until the water overflows and ruins the house, or they turn the taps off which will result in a long, shivering chill until they dry themselves.
When it comes to our Muslim immigrant population all we ever hear about are the fanatical scallywags and mouth-breathers who attempt from time to time to blow our arms and legs off, or, lacking suicidal courage, those who think of ever better ways of insulting their new homeland. Of course, these things must be reported but they never tell the whole story.
Today, a friend of mine who lives in a very pleasant suburb just outside a town heavily populated with Muslims tells me he was invited to his Muslim neighbour's house for an outdoor, late luncheon party - a sort of private, Muslim street-party, if you like. There were some 30 guests present and my friend and his companion were the only Europeans - and the only ones drinking alcohol! My friend reports that everyone there was entranced with the day, delighted for the young couple concerned and more than happy to celebrate what they all recognised as a very special occasion.
In an age of 24-hour news, and almost always bad news, it is useful once in a while to be reminded that not all is lost and that amongst the sturm und drang there are interludes of harmony and goodwill. (Oh God, much more of this and I shall start being nice about Cameron!)
Some random thoughts on today's celebration of the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
First, the Met Office did not disappoint by surprising us all with an accurate weather forecast. Yesterday it was forecasting stormy rain showers and it turned out to be a beautiful spring day. The quicker we flog it off for a tenner the better.
Secondly, my congratulations and thanks to the police and security services. Whatever the scallywags were planning seems to have been well and truly discouraged, or, nipped (nicked, perhaps?) in the bud. The Met and MI5 had a huge responsibility and they discharged it excellently.
Thirdly, I was able to indulge my taste for irony at the sight of a Lancaster bomber being cheered as it flew over the crowds below. In its day this was a monstrous deliverer of death and destruction; today it is a rather quaint museum piece. Oh, tempora!
Fourthly, and not very originally because several commentators have repeated the thought, I do think this young couple will guarantee the monarchy for another century. They seem, almost effortlessly, to possess that tricky ability to walk the narrow line between formality and informality. They seem to have all the best of modernity without ditching cherished custom. That she comes from parents who have, by their own efforts, built up a successful business is not a guarantee of future happiness but it does provide an excellent foundation for her and her new royal husband in the strange, almost make-believe world she will now inhabit. I wish them well, not only for themselves but for the sake of my country as well. The monarchy is one of the stronger pillars of a society in which many of the others are distinctly crumbling.
Obama could learn something from the insouciance of the dear old 'Duke of Boot' of yesteryear. When threatened by a hack with disclosure of one of his (many) affairs he haughtily replied, "Publish and be damned!" Obama has a thinner skin and far less confidence which is demonstrated by his ducking and diving over the vexatious question of his birth certificate. First, he produced a short version which from a legal standpoint was worthless and had no standing. Then, under pressure from 'The Donald' (of all people!) he finally releases the 'real thing' which, up to now, nobody, including the newly elected governor of Hawaii, had been able to find. My first thought on hearing the news was a memory of those old John Bull printing kits we used to receive as Xmas gifts decades ago when we were children - now why would I think of those, I wonder? Needless to say within hours of the release American bloggers were on the case with minute analysis of this document.
Perhaps the most detailed, and certainly to an untechnological twit like me the most apparently forensic, analysis comes from some cove who calls himself 'BigFurHat' on a site called I Own the World - oh come on, he is American! Anyway, he is also apparently tremendously experienced and knowledgeable on photocopying, photo-shopping, scanning and all that malarky. He reckons this document smells worse than one of Sarah's hanging mooses, and so do most of his commenters. Of course, truth doesn't enter the discussion because in this particular matter it is now irrelevant; it is the fact that great swathes of the American population, and not just the conspiracy nuts, simply do not believe a word Obama says, and they certainly do not accept anything that comes off his photocopying machine!
Additional: One commenter on the linked site offered this three-tiered comment which was mildly amusing:
“I am not a crook” – Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon
“I did not have sex with that woman….Ms Lewinsky” – Bill Clinton
“I was born in Hawaii” – BO
As I sit here straddling the fence - yes, quite comfortable, thank you for asking - I thought I would bring you a corrective to my previous warning that, Jimmy Carter apart, it has been 125 years since a Democrat incumbent has lost the presidency. Jeffrey Lord in The American Spectator is the bearer of, well not good 'news' exactly, more like a deeply pleasurable forecast - politically, Obama is dead man walking! He bases his absolute prediction on three things - milk, celery and fuel:
Milk. A gallon of skim. At the local Giant [store] in Central Pennsylvania:
January 11, 2011: $3.20
February 28, 2011: $3.24
March 6, 2011: $3.34
April 23. 2011: $3.48
That, he explains for the mathematically-challenged, like me, is a 28% increase in 102 days. Then there's celery - ghastly stuff in my opinion and I wouldn't give you a dud dollar for a single stick but:
Same sized bag. Same store.
January 11, 2011: $1.99 a bag.
March 6, 2011: $2.49 a bag.
A rise of 50 cents in 54 days.
As for fuel, it is best summed up in an internet 'funny' that has done the rounds 'over here' as well as 'over there' in which the price windows at the pumps for the three different grades of fuel have been replaced by the initials: "LOL", "WTF" and "OMG".
What all this means is that real, hurtful inflation is up and running in the States and it is beginning, as it usually does, with basic household items which immediately hit the family purse all over the States. It will not go unnoticed by people, it will get worse over the next 18 months, and 'there will be blood', and the blood will be Obama's which will be spilled over the floors of every polling booth. Needless to say, the American media being, on the whole, as utterly useless as ours, they will continue to chunter along on the Democrat party railway line into oblivion as they sing "Toot, toot, Tootsie, goodbye", just as they did when Jimmy Carter was their liberal favourite. Actually, reminding myself of the lyric, perhaps this might sound better coming from Obama who, unlike Al Jolson, will not have to bother with blacking-up. If he's not too sure of the words he can always use a teleprompter:
Toot, Toot, Tootsie goodbye,
Toot, Toot, Tootsie don't cry.
The choo-choo train that takes me away from you,
no words can tell how sad it makes me.
Kiss me, Tootsie, and then
I'll do it over again.
Watch for the mail,
I'll never fail,
if you don't get a letter
then you'll know I'm in jail.
Toot, Toot, Tootsie don't cry,
Toot, Toot, Tootsie goodbye!
The only question worth asking now is, who is the next Ronnie Reagan?
Actually, there is another more footling question to be asked and I can answer it loudly and clearly, yes, I am off the fence and I, too, predict a Republican in the White House next year. But in the meantime, pity poor America!
That was the question posed by Machiavelli to his 'student prince' and its ramifications remain as complex and controversial - and pertinent - today as they were 500 years ago. I raise the question again because Walter Russel Meade has done so on his Stratblog site in an interesting essay on Machiavelli's teachings then and now.
Machiavelli had no doubts that a prince should be feared, not least because 'The People's' love was always transitory, and in foreign relations the love of fellow princes was, for all intents and purposes, non-existent:
The ruler, Machiavelli tells us, must not just learn to do good; he must learn to do evil — and learn to do it well. It is better, he tells us, to be feared than to be loved. A ruler must not be afraid to commit atrocities — but he must commit them at the right time so that they will serve their intended purpose. It is wise to break promises to the weak, and often necessary for a successful ruler to lie. It is useless to think of wars as just or unjust — it is only necessary to know when wars can bring success.
This, as Meade points out, goes absolutely against the grain of classical and Christian teaching:
Machiavelli has been a scandal for almost 500 years — a shocking contradiction at the heart of the western canon. A long moral and philosophical tradition going back to the ancient Hebrews and Greeks insists on the opposite: that to do good is to do well. God will bless those who deal justly and punish those who mistreat their fellow beings. Since Aristotle tutored Alexander of Macedon, the wise have counseled the great to be good.
There is not much doubt that despite the screechings of Left-wing, conspiracy advocates, most western democratic leaders lean towards being loved rather than feared, and in their foreign relations they bend over backwards not to be nasty even to the enemies of their own countries. But it must be admitted that it takes an extraordinary man to swallow Machiavelli whole and act out his principles because they go so violently against the Christian tradition we have adopted for nearly 2,000 years. Nor, judging by recent European history, do the 'Machiavellians' come out of it too well. Certainly Bismarck succeeded in creating a united German empire which, had his rule continued, would have been a monument to successful Machiavellism, but that old enemy, Time, intervened and the old man was forced out and his mighty Prussian fortress was handed down to lesser men with disasterous results.
There is a tendency amongst what I might call the smart-talking, controversialist set, of whom, alas, I am a part-time member, to simply take Machiavelli's irrefutable logic and base our entire judgment of current affairs on it. That is a mistake, I think, and Meade provides at least one reason why:
The Prince he [Machiavelli] sought was a man who would use whatever means it took to liberate and unify Italy, but the goal of that longed-for Prince was not his own power and glory.
In other words, Machiavelli was a man of his own special time and circumstances. The president of the United States, or the prime minister of Britain, are not concerned with freeing their countries or uniting the English-speaking world, their nations are already fully-formed and they have a very different set of problems to deal with. This leads on to a further question whose answer is likely to provoke caution amongst the thoughtful: would you wish to be ruled over by a man who has eschewed all virtue? Those who lived under the 20th century's arch-Machiavellians, Hitler and Stalin, are perhaps better qualified to provide an answer.
This brings me to my own particular thoughts on the matter. I draw a distinction between what our leaders do at home and what they do abroad. For all its faults, I like a system of government in which I can be a tiny part of a peaceful action, voting, which will dismiss the men who lead me when I and others think it is right. However, I do not preclude them from being as ruthless and vindictive and false and treacherous and dishonest as they like when it comes to dealing with foreigners - only provided that what they do actually works to our benefit. There-in, of course, lies an enormous can of worms and for all the implacable logic of Machiavelli's philosophy, in the end it all comes down to judgment, and in the very end, only history decides.
Read Meade's essay, it's worth it.
During this prenatural summer that we have all, well, us Brits that is, been enjoying, I read a 1995 book by John le Carré called Our Game. I kept trying not to read it, in fact, I was hoping that my increasingly short, short-term memory would come to my rescue and I would put it down and forget where but, such is the nature of, er, nature, that of course I kept remembering - dammit! Actually, that isn't quite true because whilst I remained somewhere between irritated and furious with it I couldn't help wondering quite how it was going to end and that, I suppose, is an example of the thriller novelist's trade craft - as opposed, in this case, to his espionage trade craft.
The story is told through the 'hero', a middle-aged, middle ranking, MI6 officer who has been laid-off following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This man, Tim Cranmer, is independently wealthy, an Old Wykehamist and a toff to his fingertips in the very highest sense of the word. His junior at school and Oxbridge whom he subsequently recruited as a double agent to run against the Russians has disappeared taking Cranmer's beautiful young mistress with him. Given the delicate nature of the work the two men did the authorities, that is the police and MI6, are quick to become suspicious but, and le Carré describes this beautifully probably from his own experience, the two organisations conduct their investigations seperately and secretly from each other - naturally, old boy!
So far so good but it was the characters themselves who began to make me fidget and snort with contempt and derision. Cranmer is obviously very shrewd and a step ahead of almost everyone else but he has fallen for this dipstick woman on whom he lavishes attention and gifts and all of his stunted love. Similarly, his 'Joe' (to use the trade vernacular) whom he has known since childhood and who worked for him for nearly 20 years as a double agent, has also captured Cranmer's heart even if he is as much of an exasperating dipstick as the girl. The fact that both of them disappear together leaving Cranmer bereft is of no surprise to anyone except Cranmer himself.
Well, there's none so blind as middle-aged men who have fallen for a younger woman, and in British, public school society, childhood friendships become a sort of, if not an actual, love affair. But from the outside looking in, which is the position of the reader, one really does lose patience with the three of them. The story line disappears into the depths of the Caucasus whose myriad tribes and races make Afghanistan society look simple. Le Carré tries very hard to convince us that his, or his hero's, particular tribe of choice is made up of splendid, idealistic types dying for a noble cause but it left me coldly disbelieving and unmoved.
And yet . . . and yet . . . not only could I not lose the bloody book, I couldn't not finish it, either, and I am normally ruthless in discarding books which fail to please. So I suppose, in an odd sort of way this is a sort of 'corker'. And that, as you will have recognised, is the sort of elliptical, now-you-see-it-now-you-don't review which is entirely consistent with le Carré's own style. Read it if you dare!
I am grateful to IHTM - again - for providing this YouTube video of a young Congressman whose progress, if such it turns out to be, deserves our attention. As IHTM point out, irrespective of whether or not you agree with his political philosophy, he is at least capable of delivering a speech without notes or a teleprompter, in stark contrast to his current Commander-in-Chief who, everyone insists, is a genuine, Ivy League intellectual but who can't pass wind without a teleprompter! Congressman Paul Ryan, for it is he, can also be seen and heard here discussing his alternative budget for America. There now seems to be a plethora of American politicians prepared to come out and speak the truth in an effort to get the American public to face up to the financial cataclysm that is fast approaching. I sense, or perhaps 'hope' is a better word, from this great distance that a fairly large proportion of the electorate are prepared to listen. If, and it's a whopping big 'if', the GOP choose wisely in selecting a truth-telling contender for 2012 then the American public will have no excuses if they return the 'Spender-in-Chief' and thereby reap the whirlwind.
(By the way, not a word of this to MDS, I still adore her, really I do, but she's a bit handy with a rifle and I wouldn't want her to be upset!)
I know, I know, from time to time I have printed these sorts of embarrassing howlers before but, honestly, each time I come across them I simply cannot refrain. It's like passing a crippled beggar, the instinct to give him a quick kick is nigh on irresistible! So here are 15 more absolutely definite and authoritive forecasts for the future made on Earth Day 1970:
“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”• George Wald, Harvard Biologist
“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.”
• Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist
“By… some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
• Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University
“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”
• Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day
“Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
• Life Magazine, January 1970
“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
“At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.” • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
“Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
“We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the nonrenewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones.” • Martin Litton, Sierra Club director
“By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’” • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
“Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.” • New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day
“Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.” • Sen. Gaylord Nelson
“We have about five more years at the outside to do something.”
• Kenneth Watt, ecologist
“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
Oh dear, what an embarrassment that last quote must be for Kenneth Watt, the well known dip stick ecological forecaster, if, that is, he is capable of feeling embarrassment. And how embarrassing is it to all those HAFs who, since that was written, have been so busy telling us that the world is getting warmer? Finally, in the future will you be able to face any doom-laden expert without shouting, "Show us your willy"? Regular readers will not be surprised to know that I nicked all those quotes from those rascals at IHTM.
I never manage to listen to all of Classic FM's output over the Easter weekend when they play their listener's favourite 300 pieces of music as voted for in a poll. I was not surprised that the 'Rach 2' piano concerto was the winner but I was surprised that it had actually missed the top spot for the last few years. It is tremendously Romantic - with a capital 'R' - what I call 'knickers off music' which always earns me a sneer from the 'Memsahib'. Naturally, there were some nonsenses like placing Gershwin's rich, complex and superb piano concerto at #287 whilst placing his Rhapsody in Blue, an excellent 'sketch' but nowhere near the depth of his full concerto, at #22! Similarly, Shostakovitch has his tremendous 5th symphony at #159 pipped by his Jazz Suite at #134 and, quelle horreur, no mention of his magnificent, and arguably greatest, 10th symphony. Nor, now I check the listings, even a whisper of any of his terrific string quartets.
Ah well, the people have spoken!
Enoch Powell remains an enigma, not so much because of any inherent mysteries contained within himself but because of the smoke and noise and obfuscation that immediately arises on any mention of his name. Careful readers will have spotted the question mark at the end of my title and would be right to infer a slight element of doubt on my part provoked mostly by my ignorance of the full details of Mr. Powell's career and even greater ignorance on the virtues of any of his contemporaries who similarly failed to reach the top of the greasy political pole. However, I can say without hesitation that he made a huge impression on me in the '70s and '80s, an impression which was re-inforced as I attempted to teach myself the basics of economic philosophy in order better to understand the great divide between Keynes (as practiced by socialists) and the Austrian school of Friedrich Hayek and his disciples at Chicago Univerity. It was clear that when Mrs. Thatcher put into practice the monetarist philosophy which Powell espoused, both he and she were right and those 365 economist 'experts' were wrong.
My admiration stems mainly from his ability to think, and to think deeply based on known facts and thereby to draw logical conclusions however deeply repugnant it was to his romantic feelings. (His mixture of ultra-rationalism and fervent romanticism, I find very human and touching.) Thus, prior to, and during, WWII he was an intense defender of the British empire and everything it stood for at its best. Indeed, so pro-empire was he that it led to a deep and bitter detestation of America and all it stood for when it became clear to him that one of their war aims was the dismemberment of the very empire that Powell loved. However, after the war and the grant of independence to India, Powell took a hard look at the condition of post-war Britain and, facing up to the unpleasant but obvious weaknesses, he eschewed an 'east of Suez' policy on our part and demanded that we act according to our current strengths and return to being a regional power only. Yet here we are today with callow youths in power over us still playing with our soldiers as though they were toys in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya. When will we ever shake ourselves out of this delusional state?
Right from the very beginning Powell saw the rise and rise of the European Union, or what I call 'the New Frankish Empire', for the deeply undemocratic danger to Britain that it was, is and always will be. Unlike so many of the political poltroons who inhabit Westminster, Powell was prepared to put principle before career by leaving the Tory party and, according to Wiki, said this in 1974:
Powell said the issue of British membership of the EEC was one where "if there be a conflict between the call of country and that of party, the call of country must come first":
"Curiously, it so happens that the question 'Who governs Britain?' which at the moment is being frivolously posed, might be taken, in real earnest, as the title of what I have to say. This is the first and last election at which the British people will be given the opportunity to decide whether their country is to remain a democratic nation, governed by the will of its own electorate expressed in its own Parliament, or whether it will become one province in a new European superstate under institutions which know nothing of the political rights and liberties that we have so long taken for granted."
But, of course, because we have all fallen prey to the hysteria of what I call 'the Church of Latter-day Whig Hysterics', Powell will be forever condemned for his (in)famous 1968 speech in Birmingham. The Telegraph reprinted it in its entirety and it is worth reading. It is a fascinating mixture of high rhetoric of the sort you would expect from a man who was one of the leading classical scholars of his day, and the low cunning you would expect from any politician. One thing, however, is now beyond debate - Powell was absolutely and deadly accurate.
Metaphorically, I raise my hat in his memory.
ADDITIONAL: Apologies for my torpor during this amazing period of Mediterranean weather. My British readers, I know, will understand that such manna from heaven must be seized and enjoyed - whilst it lasts. Now, as the temperature begins to cool we must await, with our usual resigned stoicism, the bill which no doubt will be presented from on high in the form of extreme cold, heavy rain and gale force winds. It was ever thus in this, our septic Isle! Anyway, the good news is, if that is what it is, that normal service (heh, heh, heh!) has now resumed at D&N.
I always keep half an eye on the list of site addresses whose owners (or visitors?), according to Typepad, visit me. The other day I came across an oddly named address which turned out to be the site of a man dedicated (mostly) to English language. What he was doing here at D&N, given the generally atrocious standard of English, God only knows, but I returned the favour by visiting his site called Verbum Sapienti which, of course, I instantly translated - oh alright then, if you're going to be picky! - Google instantly translated as 'Word to the Wise'. The somewhat shy owner simply signs himself as David but my first impression is that his site is worth book-marking.
Indeed, visiting his site provided me with a Christmas present at Easter because he linked to a site run by the tremendously erudite David Crystal, arguably one of the most emminent of Shakespearean scholars around today as well as being an expert on the King James bible and other ancient manuscripts. David Crystal and his son (I think) wrote one of the very best Shakespearean glossaries available. If you are reading Will's works, or, even more essentially, if you are directing or acting in one of them, the Crystal glossary is an absolute necessity! However, what gave me the very greatest pleasure was a link to a recording by Ben Crystal reciting the opening speech of Richard III in Old Pronounciation (OP), that is, the words are spoken, as nearly as they can work out, in the same accent as Will's men at the original Globe 400 years ago. I remember that other doyen of Shakespearean scholars, John Barton, remarking that Shakespeare spoken in an American accent was closer to the original than the British received-English of today and if you listen to that recording you will hear why.
So there you are, you ungrateful wretches, even on this scorching day, the never-tiring publisher of D&N provides you with, not one, but two, corking sites:
April showers? Do me a favour! I'm watering my rolling acres titchy garden every evening and already the 'Jobsworths' in the water departments are warning that the end of the world is nigh due to drought. Being easily fooled, and forgetting that "Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May", I have already planted some bedding plants, and you can take that as a dead cert for vicious frosts in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, wilting in the heat, I find the effort of climbing the stairs to my eyrie and then attempting to use my computer for anything more meaningful than to e-mail the 'Memsahib' downstairs asking her to send up another glass of chilled white wine, more than I can cope withal. (Won't happen, of course, but it's my snarky way of reminding her some husbands are treated with a little TLC.)
So, blogging in this heat is difficult even though various topics are acting like a pebble in my shoe and will continue to irritate me until I find the energy to emulate those Arab chappies and take my shoe off and bang a few topics with it. Happily today, my 'Speccie' arrived and Rod Liddle (no link yet) has acted as my catalyst on one particular topic. His target is the idiocy of the Law Courts in general and judges in particular - an endless and ageless subject. His particular moan concerns the sentencing of Derek Bird, arguably the most incompetent racist in a field of retards. This prat stole a copy of the Koran and then proceeded to set fire to it in a public place. Well, actually, he tried to set fire to it but not being the brightest spark in the world his matches failed to fire the book up and he was forced to pause, purchase a cigarette lighter, and then continue with the second act of the biggest farce ever to grace Cumbria. For this, some 'Cocklecarrot' with, arguably, even less brain cells than Bird, himself, sentenced him to 70 days in prison. So far, not a squeak from our beloved bird-watcher (geddit?), and Minister of Justice, Mr.Kenneth Clarke MP.
Meanwhile, an equally retarded Muslim, Emdadur Choudry, who merely by breathing stands as an insult to Islam, was up in court for setting fire to poppies on Armistice Day and shouting insults concerning British soldiers. Next November 11th he should try that in Colchester, now the home of my old regiment, and see how he gets on! Anyway, this prize prat drew a fine of £50.
Those two examples of potential pebbles in your shoes - Christ! they do irritate after a while - come from Mr. Liddle but allow me to give you two of my own. I cannot remember the details and I fear for my blood pressure if I look them up but a couple of weeks ago two men were sentenced on the same day for two different murders. One was a husband who, with cold and deliberate malefaction, 'offed' his wife and then, in an effort to hide his crime, proceeded to dismember her limb by limb. The other man who by coincidence was sentenced almost simultaneously was some black, brain-dead, low-life 'gangsta' who fired a gun into a chip-shop and killed a perfectly innocent bystander, a young, attractive and, apparently, very intelligent young woman. Now, two seperate 'Cocklecarrots' gave one man 22 years and the other 32 years. I can't quite remember which one received which sentence and it matters not a jot or tittle (to quote a phrase beloved of m' learned friends) because what, in the name of all that is sensible, is the difference between these two heinous crimes? Given current legislation, why didn't they both get 50 years minimum? Or better still, why don't the rotten carcasses who rot interminably upon the green benches of Parliament do something useful and change the law so that such villains are hanged by the neck until they be dead?
It's too hot today for deep, analytical and intellectual blogging - sorry did you say something? - so I am cheating by delving into my file entitled "Blog Feeder". As I skim around the net engaged in fundamental research/wasting my time to avoid household jobs (take your pick, mine or the Memsahib's), I come across items which I have neither the energy or the time to expand upon so I tuck them away for future reference. This one comes from Don Boudreaux at the ever-excellent Cafe Hayek and is over a month old. I reproduce his entire post here but with my added emphasis:
"When the Soviet authorities during the 1940s exhibited the 1940 movie The Grapes of Wrath as evidence of how miserable the poor were in capitalist America, it backfired. What amazed the Soviet audiences was that the Joad family fled starvation by car."
This passage – with original emphasis – is from page 54 of Deirdre McCloskey’s monumental and path-breaking 2010 book Bourgeois Dignity. Read it. Twice. Even thrice.
To rub salt, not extracted by slave labour, into the insensitive hides of old Lefties, Boudreaux reminds us of past history with the ironic heading to his post:
And Yet the Western Left then Celebrated the Glories of the U.S.S.R.
Indeed they did, to their everlasting shame - if they ever had any!
I suppose if I was forced to I might spend 13 nano-seconds wondering where the worst, festering hell-hole in the world is situated but this little story - suitable for those, like me, with little minds - settles the matter once and for all: I give you - the Playboy Mansion whirlpool!
Now come on, chaps, set aside for the moment the boobs, the legs, the blondes, and just ask yourself whether you would really care to share a bath with that randy, old 'wrinkler' who runs the place? Similarly, give a thought to the fat, rich greasers who have been in that pool before you and, if you can bear it, dwell for a moment on what they were getting up to. See what I mean? You'd be better off in the Okefenokee swamp!
On the other hand, let's not be too hasty . . .
. . . one should, in all fairness, er, test the waters, so to speak, and if you all absolutely insist, well, in the interests of the strictly accurate frontline reporting for which this blog is rightly famous, well, with modest reluctance, I'll give it a go. However, for the moment, the strain of Googling, and goggling, through all those Bunny pictures to find a suitable example for my refined readership has quite exhausted me and I might have to take to my bed for several hours rest. You see, that's the sort of selfless service you get here at D&N.
Regular readers will know that I have bored long and hard on the brilliance of the American TV series The Wire. It is an indication of my semi-education that it never occurred to me to liken its progenitors, David Simon and Ed Burns, to Charles Dickens. That's the sort of connection only properly educated people can make; people like Bill Moyers, for example, who does so at the Guernicamag site in the course of an excellent interview with David Simon. (However, I would absolve Simon and Burns of the dreadful sentimentality which afflicts Dickens.) I can best sum up David Simon by saying that he should have been memorialised by one of Norman Rockwell's paintings! By which I mean that he is an American idealist/realist. That needs an explanation so let me put it thus: Simon looks at America from the bottom up with a beady and realistic eye . . . and yet, and yet . . . because he's American he has not (yet) entirely lost that eternal optimism which marks the difference between them 'over there' and us 'over here'.
His description of the under-class, the drug trade and the indifference of those able to avoid it is spot on, with my emphasis added:
You know, a guy coming out of addiction at thirty, thirty-five, because it often takes to that age, he often got into addiction with a string of problems, some of which were interpersonal and personal, and some of which were systemic. These really are the excess people in America. Our economy doesn’t need them—we don’t need 10 or 15 percent of our population. And certainly the ones who are undereducated, who have been ill-served by the inner-city school system, who have been unprepared for the technocracy of the modern economy, we pretend to need them. We pretend to educate the kids. We pretend that we’re actually including them in the American ideal, but we’re not. And they’re not foolish. They get it. They understand that the only viable economic base in their neighborhoods is this multibillion-dollar drug trade.
If you're a Brit simply delete 'America' and insert 'Britain' because it's the 'same old same old'. In the post below I touched, with some fastidious distaste on the subject of African corruption. What a humbug I am! We share a moral and intellectual corruption with America to match the venality of Africa, as the grimly observant David Simon points out:
One of the themes of The Wire really was that statistics will always lie. Statistics can be made to say anything. You show me anything that depicts institutional progress in America: school test scores, crime stats, arrest reports, anything that a politician can run on, anything that somebody can get a promotion on, and as soon as you invent that statistical category, fifty people in that institution will be at work trying to figure out a way to make it look as if progress is actually occurring when actually no progress is. I mean, our entire economic structure fell behind the idea that these mortgage-backed securities were actually valuable, and they had absolutely no value. They were toxic. And yet they were being traded and being hurled about, because somebody could make some short-term profit. In the same way that a police commissioner or a deputy commissioner can get promoted, and a major can become a colonel, and an assistant school superintendent can become a school superintendent, if they make it look like the kids are learning and that they’re solving crime. That was a front-row seat for me as a reporter, getting to figure out how once they got done with them the crime stats actually didn’t represent anything.
There-in, described with exactitude, is every Chief Constable, every Head of Education, every Chief of Social Services, you have ever heard or seen on your media of choice. They are all, every single one of them, with absolutely no exceptions that I, personally, have ever come across - fucking lying liar shitbags of the first order!
As I indicated above, David Simon is, alongside his realism, an idealist. He yearns for honest men - and women - and because he is an American he has not yet given up hope of them arising. As a ragged, bagged and shagged Englishman, I did so years ago.
Please read the interview, it is excellent and touches on matters fundamental in both our societies. And if you have never seen The Wire go and buy the DVD set from Amazon - that's an order!
(Apologies for my somewhat violent language, like Aufidious, "I was moved with all".)
I try not to think about Africa too much because where-ever you look, from north to south, east to west, the entire continent is a bloody, festering midden. Thus, reading a review of three books on the subject by Rian Malan at the Book Forum site was a duty call rather than a pleasure. For the rest of the world, Africa is like having an alcoholic, drug-hooked, shambolic failure in the family. No matter how hard you try to improve or help or advise there is no stopping the slide downhill to disaster.
The first book is, apparently, aimed with devastating accuracy at the preposterous 'reign' of President Mbeke which turned South Africa into the corruption centre of the world, not least because there is so much inherent wealth in the place ripe for plucking by almost every politician and government employee in the land. The second book concentrates on Zimbabwe and to be frank I would rather stab my eyes out than read even more of the epic tragedy of that benighted land. There is only one question I would like to have answered and that is whether any of those sanctimonious Lefties who agitated against the rule of the white man in Rhodesia (as it was then) ever entertain even the tiniest of doubts over their past actions? I think I know the answer but, according to Malan's review of the third book, one of them, Stephen Chan, has been forced, albeit kicking and struggling like one of Mugabe's political prisoners, to face up to the reality of previous idiocy and current criminality.
'Cry the beloved country'? Not likely today, there are no tears left!
There isn't much to be cheerful about as Cameron, having lost the last election miserably (he 'lost' because he failed to win!) now leads his stumble-bum government into a seemingly never-ending accumulation of mishaps, cock-ups and about turns. However, the only shaft of sunshine through the gloom does at least provide us all with some blissful happiness because it lights up the catastrophic car crash that is the il-Lib-non-Dem party. For decades now those holier-than-thou preachers and praters behaved like a little collection of nicely brought up children huddled in a school playground whilst all those rough Labour and Tory boys bashed each other to bits. The nicely brought up children refused to take part; no,no, they cried, we'd get bloody noses, our clothes might be torn and we might get dirty if we fall over. Thus, they stood apart, unsullied, and anyone with any daft idea which the rough boys would instantly recognise as impractical and useless could find a place with the Lib Dems because they were a sort of sump, open to any ideas at all, none of which were ever questioned or tested - because they all knew they would never be in government!
But then that big girlie, 'Nicola' Clegg, fell for that old Etonian rotter, Dave 'I'd Twirl my Moustachios if I Had Any' Cameron. Inevitably, 'Nicola' burst into tears when the harsh reality of realising that in government you cannot put off taking decisions, you cannot be all things to all men, your fatuous ideas are put to the test - and most of them fail. Worst of all, the herd of dim-dumb cattle who have followed you blindly are now thrown into a panic as they are forced into the dark, frightening jungle and away from the sublime open pasture lands of idealism. Even worse, that Great Executioner, public opinion, having sussed out the fact that the whole job-lot of you are a bunch of complete tossers, is already sharpening his axe and practicing his swing.
'It would take a heart of stone not to burst into laughter'!
ADDITIONAL: Talking of daft, fringe political parties, if you have nothing better to do, try Anna Raccoon's site for a tale of tears and woe that arose from her membership of the LPUK (Libertarian Party United Kingdom). It is a long story and the comments thread is even longer, and to be honest, having caught the drift I did not read the whole thing. I am slightly surprised at Ms. Raccoon's naiveté in joining this (or any other) political party, particular when it is fairly obvious from the off that they are all more or less bonkers!
Alas and alack, the 2012 American presidential election campaign has already begun - and it's only April 2011! So, don't blame me if I write about it from time to time but I promise to try and keep it to a minimum. However, this morning I was taken by a piece at Breibart's news site in which the master himself, Andrew Breitbart, names his dream team. As I know very little of either of them I thought I would investigate. The first is Congressman Alan West, hitherto, a total unknown to me. A quick read of his Wiki bio certainly indicates an interesting character. First of all he's both black and a Republican which, whilst not unknown, is still rare and at least indicates a mind open to ideas outside the orthodoxies. His family are intimately connected to the US army, his father having served in WWII and his brother in Vietnam. He, himself, commanded artillery units in Kuwait and then subsequently in Iraq. During an 'incident' in Iraq his interrogation techniques were, perhaps, a tad over-enthusiastic and in the end he decided to retire gracefully from the army. The information he was trying to extract concerned a possible ambush of his own men and subsequently West said that "If it's about the lives of my soldiers at stake, I'd go through hell with a gasoline can". Sounds like a good officer - not that that makes him automatically a good politician. However, he does sound as though he loves his own country which is far from a given with many Democrats.
The other half of Breitbart's dream ticket is Congresswoman Michele Bachman. She is a tax lawyer by trade, a job description which would normally have me reaching for my bag of garlic as, simultaneously, I made the sign of the cross! Brought up in a solidly Democrat family, like Alan West, she showed very early sign of independent thinking beginning with her instinctive dislike of Gore Vidal and his political ideas - anyone who dislikes Gore Vidal is alright in my view and already I want this woman to have my babies. Unfortunately I may be too late because according to her Wiki bio she already has five children and, putting her Christian principles to practical use, she has also fostered 23 others. Her record speaks for itself and, apart from her over-reliance on the theory of Intelligent Design, she seems absolutely rock solid on the main issues.
Oh dear, I do hope that MDS (My Darling Sarah) is not reading this because she might take it as an indication of my waning love for her and she's just too damn good with a rifle for me to cross her. It seems to me that the Republicans, for a change, have a wealth of talent from which to choose but on the other hand you can never under-estimate their ability to pick a pair of duds.
STOP PRESS ADDITIONAL: No sooner did I write that load of old, know-nothing twaddle than I went downstairs to find this week's Spectator waiting for me and containing an article by Richard Littlejohn (no link yet) who maintains stoutly that the GOP have no chance at the next election and that they will simply choose a pair of lightweights to go in and lose gracefully to the indomitable Obama. He even points the finger at Mrs. Bachman as one of those almost certain to be thrashed. According to him, 'MDS', like other Republican hopefuls, will not run but save herself for 2016. Given that, Carter excepted, it has been 125 years since a Democrat incumbent has been defeated one must grant him a point. Even so, hanging around all those Yank conservative sites has resulted in me catching some of that American 'can-do' stuff and I still think? hope? fervently, desperately wish? that Obama looses.
Donald Pittenger, the Art Contrarian, provides an interesting insight into the work of Norman Rockwell, paying particular attention to his skills as a colourist.
And the preceding post on his site tells you all about 'pusher' aircraft. What are they? Well, nip over to his place and take a look - fascinating stuff.
The vigilant hacks (and hackers) who constantly report into the never-resting engine-room of the D&N newsroom have managed to lay hands on page#1 of an early but original draft-copy of 'Field Marshal' Cameron's speech today:
Good morning. I am here today to explain how much my your government is on your side in so many of the things that worry and concern you. Let us start with all those bloody nig-nogs immigrants who have had the temerity to take up so many of those grotty useful jobs which might have gone to our own yobs and yobettes bright young people if they were not all so busy picking up their dole money striving to advance into further education. Let me tell you now, loudly and clearly, that I am against immigration and I will keep telling you this until after the local election. In fact, as a sign of this government's determination I will tell you all the same thing again before the next general election until everyone is convinced of our sincerity.
Also, I wish to take this opportunity to emphasise that interference from Brussels is going too far but there's fuck all we can do about it and this government will take a very strong stand against the outrageous proposition that convicts prisoners thieves perverts the temporarily restrained should be given a vote. I shall lead the way in protesting vigorously as we do what we are told uphold ancient British rights and prerogatives.
I intend to drive my government to even greater efforts in carrying out a long overdue re-think on the National Health Service. This will definitely be a re-think because what we thought last week has had to be ditched because of that tosser Lansley needs to be refined using the very best brains in Briton. You may rest assured that when we produce our plan just before the next election it will contain promise shed-loads of dosh details of the very latest ways of ensuring that no-one ever dies, no, really, not ever, you have my absolute promise on that one.
Overseas our courageous airmen, the bravest of the brave, continue to drop bombs on people from 30,000 feet because it's too dodgy to come down any lower we must protect the people of Libya from Gaddafi's planes dropping bombs on people. In Afghanistan our courageous troops, the bravest of the brave, er well, excluding the airmen in Libya who are also the bravest of the brave, of course, continue to die or get their arms and legs blown off fight courageously as they support the local opium trade the democratically purchased elected government of that bazaar bandit President Hamid Karzai.
We love you, 'Dave', just keep up the good work!
Me? A hypocrite? How dare you? Look, I know that from time to time I have hurled some ruderies at little 'Georgie Moonbat' but I am a tolerant man always prepared to give people the benefit of the doubt and ready to extend the hand of friendship even to a Left-wing pillock a tribune of the people like little Georgie. Especially when he puts his boot into the likes of Helen Caldicott, a loony lady of ultra-Left wing dottiness and, even worse, an Australian - need I say more? This woman's anti-nuclear fervour is of such high voltage proportions she almost glows in the dark! Anyway, little Georgie, totally unafraid of the great, hulking, Aussie amazon has executed as neat a slice 'n' dice operation on her as you could wish to read - and you really should wish to read it! With forensic skill he exposes her complete lack of creditable sources to support the claims she makes against the nuclear industry and the supposed effects of the well-known accidents which have occurred in recent times. Now, if he could do a similar hatchet job on 'Huhne the Lesbian Straightener' then I might even consider buying The Guardian. (Ooops, steady on, but I only said "consider".)
Well, a man may dream, may he not? Actually, Andrew Alexander in The Mail is hardly what I would call a dreamer, more of a hard-headed realist, I think. Today he points to the swelling absurdity of the attempts by the leadership of the 'New Frankish Empire' to keep bailing out the lifeboats in which the PIGs try more or less desperately to remain afloat. He raises a point which I had not considered before and which might, in the end, prove to be critical. It's based on the old adage that if you owe the bank £1,000 you have a problem but if you owe the bank £1 billion then they have a problem. Germany is, in effect, the main bank which has been lending the PIGs zillions of euros. Needless to say, the credit rating of the PIGs has melted faster than ice cream in hell but now eyes will begin to turn on Germany itself because all they possess in return for their largesse are various bits of paper written in Portugese, Irish and Greek! So, suggests Alexander, it is only a matter of time before the bond dealers will take into account the fact that Germany is owed a fortune by people unlikely ever to repay it. He suggests, quite rightly in my opinion, that the time may be approaching when the PIGs will have to be cast loose on the high seas of international finance by dropping them out of the euro and allowing them to float on their own currencies once again. This will leave the bond-holders, including Germany (and us because Cameron is too 'frit' to pull us out of it) holding worthless paper - and that does not include the shock effect on sundry British banks (again) whose own holdings of PIG debt is not known.
Talking of debt and the interest payable on it, I have been amused at a typical example of Labour List (and Labour party) sleight of hand in claiming that debt interest is lower than in John Major's time. It is true, if you shake the statistical kalaidoscope one way (using your Left hand) but Pete Hoskin at The Coffee House takes a more realistic look at the patterns and points out the realities. But whatever conclusion you come to, he is surely right to republish this telling graph which puts debt interest payments right next to actual budgets so that you can see at a glance exactly what a weight of dead money it is.
The next time you see some 'useless idiot', particularly if he or she is anything to do with education, prattling on about "Stop the cuts!", show them that graph and ask them how they like paying money-lenders more than the entire education budget?
I have borrowed, oh, alright then, nicked, this picture of Lord Nelson because, frankly, I needed something to fill the space. You see, I haven't very much to say about this particular news story because the estimable (but ferocious, so watch it!) Anna Raccoon has said it all - and very much better than any precis by me. So having nicked her picture I simply dare not nick her story - go and read it and ask yourself why we should not insist that this lady be made an Admiral of the Fleet, instantly?
A bit rushed at the moment but I spotted an odd little story on the BBC News site which is going to form the basis of a programme tonight on Radio4 at 21.00 hours, to be repeated tomorrow at 16.30 hours. It concerns the tragic life of Fritz Haber. Fritz who? you may well ask, as did I. He was a German Jew born in 1868 and was thus swept up in the creation of the German 'empire' and all the patriotic hullabaloo that swept Germany into the cataclysm of WWI. As a Jew he was determined to out-German the Germans by being even more patriotic and in pursuit of this aim he converted to Christianity. He was a brilliant chemist and in 1909 he developed the first man-made fertiliser:
The fertiliser went on to be used on a large scale, bringing about a huge increase in crop yields, and practically banishing the fear of famine in large parts of the world.
So, "a great step for Mankind" but then that old devil, irony, stepped in to do his mischief. WWI broke out and Haber in conjuction with another scientist developed poison gas which wreaked such havoc on the Western Front. His wife, distressed by his military work, committed suicide. After the war, he conducted research into pesticide gases and some time later irony put the boot in really hard because Haber's research led the Germans into the Zyklon process which allowed the Nazis to gas millions - including Haber's extended family! He, himself, felt the first effects of the new Nazi attitude to Jews, irrespective of their loyal patriotism, and after a short voluntary exile he died of a heart attack in 1934.
Am I alone in thinking there is the makings of a really good play about this man's life? Tom Stoppard! Where are you?
I have just finished Gregg Hurwitz's book, You're Next, and I'm utterly knackered. I have now realised that one of the most important elements to a really good thriller is that the villains must be enormously creepy and vile as well as all-powerful. This tale has two of the most ghastly 'baddies' you could ever wish to avoid on a sunny day let alone a dark night. The hero is a man from a tough background who has bettered himself and is now married with a daughter. Suddenly, out of nowhere, for no (apparent) reason, someone wants hims and his family dead. From that point on it's hang on tight because the action never stops, hence my state of nervous exhaustion. Terrific stuff, a real corker!
The last few days have been rather busy for me and so I have been unable to keep close tabs on the budget battle in Washington in which 'L/Cpl' Obama and his gang of irregulars from the Democrat party have been trying their best to hold off the determined assault of 'Brig' Boehner and his Republican Tea Party. Who gives a 'you-know-what' you may ask? I am not unsympathetic but I would remind you that what happens 'over there' is, or should be, of great interest to us 'over here'. They sneeze, we go down with 'flu! As it happens, they are about to go down with a raging fever if their government's finances are not pulled back from Cloud Cuckoo-land from whence 'Obanomics' was invented - one has to ask, what the hell was he smoking at the time? Thus, the outcome of the battle of the American budget, and the prospects of its follow up, the campaign on debt limits, are of critical importance to us in the UK.
As I indicated at the beginning I have not been able to follow the ins and outs in detail but the outcome seems to me to be reasonably good. The Republican Ultras are disappointed in Boehner's failure to get everything they wanted which merely indicates their political immaturity. The Senate and the White House are Democrat owned - for the moment - and there was never a chance of the Republicans getting everything they wanted. Boehner, it seems to me, was dead right to drop the specific attacks against Federal funding of sundry Left-wing groups, like NPR, in return for bigger and better general cuts across the government budget. That sort of needling and score-settling which goes down well with Right-wing hot-heads does not go down well with independent voters upon whom the Republican candidate in 2012 will depend for success. The Dems would have screamed long and repetitiously that the GOP was using budget measures for vindictive, personal purposes. Now, however, the Republicans can claim the moral high ground. They have cut $39 billion which was roughly two thirds of what the House had passed originally but they have forced a weak-willed and dim-witted president who originally said, in effect, not a dollar off so long as I'm in the White House, to shift his stance, because now he's $39 billion off! Of course, all this is a piss in the ocean when set against the great tsunami of Democrat spending that has engulfed America but it shows the American people the way the Republicans intend to move. And they are watching carefully, I think, if the vote for the crucial vacancy on the Wisconsin Supreme Court is anything to go by. A tiny indication, I grant you, but the State of Wisconsin is a Democrat/Trade Union stronghold as the recent riots have indicated, so for them, using all the power and money of their political machine, to fail to nail a Left-leaning Judge onto the bench must have them deeply worried. This would normally be a very low turnout election but enough non-Dems and non-unionists decided to get out and vote and that bodes ill for the Left-wing grip in one State, at least.
But above and beyond all these skirmishes, Boehner and his party will have, or they damned well should have, their eyes firmly fixed on the Summer and Autumn of 2012. Everything must be subsumed to the one strategic aim of removing Obama from office. The Ultras will have to learn patience!
Well, you know the rest, and when it comes to Mother Russia hardly anything ever changes. Thus, my surprise was nil verging on nought when I read in the WSJ that there has been a 'handbags at dawn' kerfuffle between Russia and Poland over the memorial plaque at the site of last year's aircraft crash which killed, amongst others, the president of Poland. The original plaque made mention of the fact that the Polish party were on their way to a commemoration of the Katyn massacre in which some 20,000 or so Polish army officers were murdered by Russians - another fact. This particular plaque was quietly removed and another put in its place which deleted all mention of Katyn and what occurred there. Still, nice to know that in a seemingly ever-changing world some things remain the same and Russian carelessness with facts, especially those unfavourable to them, remains as obdurate as ever.
Well, of course, I don't mean it, all I am try to do is warn you that it contains an article which will wring from you much wailing and gnashing of teeth. It is written by Matt Cavanagh, a former special advisor on Afghanistan from 2005 to 2010, and it has the ring of bitter truth about it. Alas, no link as yet, so you will need to go out and buy a copy - and thereby help my favourite magazine remain in business!
First of all I think it is important to realise that history shows that very, very, few commanders go into a new campaign with the correct operational procedures all worked out. With the exception of some of the pre-WWII German generals the only one I can think of who was close to it was Lord Jellicoe. Most generals go into war with completely the wrong approach but the best of them learn, and learn fast. Alas, this has not occurred in the British army during the current Afghan campaign according to Mr. Cavanagh.
He complains, rightly in my opinion (and please do remember I was once a corporal!), that whilst it was difficult to extend regimental tours longer than six months because of family strains, the notion that brigade HQs should change at the same time so that the same regiments and HQs always worked together was a nonsense. He quotes some wise words from a Col. Vann on the Vietnam war:
We don't have 12 year's experience in Vietnam, we have one year's experience twelve times.
So what, I ask, have the various British general's been reading and studying for the last 30 years as they worked their way up the greasy pole, and what the hell do they teach them at Sandhurst and at Staff College? Twice a year, regular as clockwork, entire brigades came and, just as they were beginning to learn something useful, they went. And the likes of Gen. Dannatt sat watching this fiasco until it was time to take his seat in the House of Lords. Indeed, to be fair to Des Browne, the ineffectual Labour Minister of Defence, he applied pressure to the Chiefs of Staff to address this probelm of short-term thinking and experience but they, led by 'Dumb' Dannatt, refused.
Cavanagh makes clear that the Americans who took over from the Brits in the killing grounds of Sangin with their usual 'gung ho, we'll show the Brits how its done' attitude have faired no better. They mounted a huge offensive with giant resources but took double the casualties. Naturally, as is their way, the Taliban drifted into the background, especially during the winter period which gave the impression the Americans were winning but now they are poised to return. As Cavanagh writes:
And there are already signs that the Americans in Sangin are moving on to the next stage - where they start to wonder whether they have truly retaken the momentum, or simply increased their footprint and activity to no obvious strategic effect. They start to realise that their more aggressive approach is not only difficult and dangerous, but counter-productive, as civilain casualties and damage to property alienate the local population.
Given my preceding post perhaps it is time to ask 'Field Marshal' Haig Cameron to rethink his rethink!
It is reported that that 'Field Marshal' Cameron is 'thinking again' about the defence cuts. He is already 'thinking again' about his plans for the NHS. Might I suggest that he thinks again about wasting his time and my money bombing Libya? Perhaps he might go one step further and 'think again' about being our prime minister, a job which, increasingly, looks quite beyond his pathetic abilities.
An interesting article in The New Journal a few days ago by Matthew Dowd, a commentator hitherto unknown to me but whose bio' indicates that, politically speaking, he has swung on both sides of the street, so to speak. He offers a useful and, to Republicans, a salutary reminder that with only one exception in the last 120 years a Democrat president has always won re-election. The exception, of course, was the ineffectual Jimmy Carter.
According to Dowd, three absolutely essential factors must be present during 2012 as the election approaches in order definitely to see Obama replaced:
First, the economy in 2012 has to be either stagnant or in decline in the 10 or so key electoral states (especially the ones in the Midwest) as he heads into the election. This would mean that the economy is creating very few net jobs in 2012 and that prices (including food and gas) are still rising.
Economic forecasting is a mug's game, or an economist's game - same difference, and my ill-informed prognosis is that the American printing presses will be on overtime as they deluge the nation in dollar bills to keep the sinking balloon in the air for another 18 months. Whether that will be entirely possible with a hostile Congress, and with the world's bond dealers watching cynically from the sidelines (because none of them are buying US bonds these days) is the great bet of the decade.
Second, no new major international crisis arises that causes people to rally behind Obama because of his competent handling of it. And I emphasize the words “new,” “major,” and “competent.” Afghanistan and Iraq devolving again into a problem will not help Obama, and actually may hurt him because our country has basically moved on from the situation in both places.
Judged by his handling of the Libyan pantomime, Obama seems very reluctant to be involved in anything too drastic overseas. In this instance, he did the bare minimum to keep his 'allies' happy, and by 'allies' I do not mean the French and the Brits, but those three witches he surrounds himself with at the State Department, the UN and his National Security department!
Third, a Republican nominee has to emerge who is charismatic; is a very good communicator; is in touch with the country’s economic and social needs; and is a new brand of GOP leader whom many younger voters can connect with. Think of what it took in 1980 to defeat the Democratic incumbent—Ronald Reagan and crises galore.
From 'over here' the GOP seem to have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to candidates but my guess is that they were as surprised as anyone at a WSJ/NBC poll of Republican primary voters today which placed Mr. Donald Trump in second place! Anyway, the Republicans are going to be engaging in some vicious infighting over the next year as they try to sort out a possible winner from the losers. In the meantime, Obama has already begun his re-election campaign, so one can guess exactly how much time he is going to spare for actually running the country.
I think one factor which will help the GOP is the dawning realisation amongst many Americans that Obama, now that the 'newness' has worn off, is an A1 crasher of the first order. He could bore for America at the Olympics. The metronomic delivery of his empty speeches, with his head going right to left and back again in time to the autocue as though he had a ventriloquist's arm up the back of his jacket, is likely to send America into a deep doze. However, Matthew Dowd sums it up, thus:
Two of these factors—the economy and an international crisis—are basically out of the GOP’s hands (in many ways, they are out of the Obama campaign’s control as well). Republicans should only be concerned with nominating the candidate who can give them a shot at winning if the two other factors are in place. And note that I didn’t add longtime political office-holding to the qualifications. Experience is nice, but it isn’t necessary in this environment.
The last two sentences are somewhat cryptic, who can he mean, 'My Darling Sarah', or 'The Donald', as I believe he is referred to at times?
Well, of course, this blog prides itself on honesty and courtesy - sorry, didn't quite catch that - and so, given the grave nature of the story but bearing in mind that I did not know the lady in question, I think a small bow of the head is appropriate whilst I try manfully to stifle my ill-mannered sniggers. I had better explain.
A few days ago The Daily Mail reported that a former director of the National(ised) Health Service had died. Well, there's no avoiding the grim reaper even if you are a bigwig in the NHS but, alas and alack, this poor lady went up to that 'Great Socialist Waiting Room in the Sky' earlier than she needed to courtesy of - yes, you guessed - the NHS:
A former NHS director died after waiting for nine months for an operation - at her own hospital.
Margaret Hutchon, a former mayor, had been waiting since last June for a follow-up stomach operation at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex.
But her appointments to go under the knife were cancelled four times and she barely regained consciousness.
So, the lesson is clear, having friends in high places in the deeply caring Health Service availeth thee naught; you get treated like shit whoever you are - it's an old, well-established, socialist precept; crap for everyone irrespective of class or money. Now then, three quick choruses of The Marseillaise!
The sun is shining, I've finished giving the churchyard grass its first cut, and all is well with the world, well, my world at any rate. So, just to prove what a generous fellow I am, here is a nice Klee for you to enjoy:
And, you lucky people, here is another:
Aren't they gorgeous and don't they make you feel better just looking at them? Take that as a 'yes', shall I?
Well, I ask because if you saw a bunch of men and women reeling about, trying to stand on their heads, talking gibberish, saying one thing and doing another, you would have to consider the possibility that they were under the influence of some sort of exotic substance. I am compelled to raise the question today because last night I was less than enthralled to see 'Field Marshal' Cameron, metaphorically speaking, emptying buckets of dosh, £650 million to be precise, into the outstretched hands of a deeply ungrateful Pakistani government. I say 'ungrateful' because, of course, the Pakis blame us for all their woes and are encouraged in this nonsense by our own prime minister admitting that just about all the ills of the world are down to us, the Brits. All that remains open to him now in this wretched mea culpa idiocy is for him to do the Jews out of their prize claim to blame by admitting that that it was Brits who fixed the crucification of Jesus! The Pakis, of course, will take our money because it means they will be able to spend even more on their nuclear weaponry. In the meantime, 'Field Marshal' Cameron will be scratching about looking for some spare dosh for the redundency payments due to all the servicemen he has just laid off. And anyway, if we are going to suck up to anyone out there it should be India which is bigger, stronger, richer and a possible counter-threat to China. The Pakis are a basket-case nation full of people who detest us and us doling out a bit of baksheesh only increases their contempt for us - and I don't blame them!
Back home, the silver-haired greaser who has, allegedly, spent the last few years in opposition working out the details of how he intends to reform the NHS, had barely reached the end of his speech outlining his plans when, under the command of the 'Field Marshal', he did a smart about-turn of almost military precision and marched off in a totally new direction. As we used to say with a shrug in my army days, 'order, counter-order, dis-order'!
Then we have the ludicrous sight and sound of the deputy prime minister (yes, I know he's an il-Lib-non-Dem but that's no excuse) telling fathers that they must not do their best to advance their sons' interests in life. He must be smokin' as well as sniffin', I mean, what planet does he inhabit?! He inveighs against internships handed out via the old pals act, and then it transpires that he, himself, enjoyed not one, but two, internships as a result of his father putting in a good word to his old pals. On top of that, the il-Lib-non-Dem party, itself, was forced to announce, hurriedly, that henceforth all their interns would now be paid a wage.
Wise words from DD (no, no, not David Duff but I can understand your mistake; no, from David Davis) on the subject of the boy Gove's policy on schools. DD, like this DD, is the son of a single, working mother, who went to a Grammar School and has seen life from the bottom up. His views on education are worth studying:
The hard data shows that the post-war improvement in social mobility, and its subsequent decline, coincided exactly with the arrival, and then the destruction, of the grammar school system. This is the clearest example of the unintended consequence of a purportedly egalitarian policy we have seen in modern times.
One of the most wicked and destructive policies ever inflicted on this country arose from the three and a half malignant and stupid brain cells which inhabit the skull of Shirley Williams who was behind the destruction of the Grammar Schools. According to The Coffee House, Andrew Adonis and Stephen Pollard in their book A Class Act have exposed the mythology which lies behind the current government's intention to follow the destruction of the Grammar Schools by destroying the best universities:
Modern mythology has it that the number of privately educated children at Oxbridge is on a steadily declining path. And indeed it was — in the heyday of the state grammar schools in the 1960s. By 1969 only 38 per cent of places at Oxford were awarded to private educated children — a sharp reduction for the private schools even on their 1965 proportion. And yet in the 1990s, thanks to the destruction of the grammar schools and the consequent decamping to the private sector of many of the most able children, the figure now hovers around the 50 per cent mark.
I have remarked elsewhere on the head-banging folly of a foreign and strategic policy based on us fighting two campaigns thousands of miles away from Britain and from each other whilst simultaneously laying off servicemen because we are too broke to pay for them - not least because we hand over our cash to foreigners who hate us.
Damn and blast! I had hoped to string this post out for much longer because today I must give the churchyard grass its first cutting and I'm looking for an excuse to put it off but, quite honestly, I cannot write anymore on the subject of these idiotic poltroons who run our country today. They are imbeciles of catastrophic proportions. Fortunately, the sound of the mower will cover up my stream of foul language as I trudge up and down doing the Lord's work - and since he now owes me big time I think the least he could do is send down a bolt of lightning (or better still, half a dozen) in the direction of Westminster!
In my preceding post I mentioned my 'Blog Feeder' file into which I deposit any links which look interesting but which I have neither the time or the energy to carry on over here immediately. Checking it again tonight I came across this interesting post by the irrascible Richard North on the subject of one of his favourite bête noires - Europe. He maintains that in 1940 there was much talk of what, exactly and precisely, were the British war aims, a somewhat esoteric subject at the time because we were only just beating off the beastly Huns. According to North, there was much talk of a new united and integrated Europe when the war was over. Churchill was dead set against such an idea - although that sits rather oddly with his earlier offer of union with France, but then he was prone to romantic gestures. Anyway, Churchill insisted that our simple aim was the status quo. North reports that during a parliamentary debate in October 1940,
Richard Stokes [...] was the Labour MP for Ipswich, a Military Cross winner in the First World War (and bar) and soon to become an arch critic of the area bombing policy.
[Duff] Cooper [no relation and on behalf of the government], said Stokes, had enunciated what we were fighting against, but not what we were fighting for. "[It] is no use fighting for a negative object. You must have a positive one, and the sooner that [is] stated the better".
Richard North raises this in the context of his sustained opposition to current European integration but I think it goes further and deeper and today's events underline it. "What are we for?", should be the question on everyone's mind, by which I mean, what is the purpose of Great Britain today? Consider, if you will, that today we are engaged in two seperate military campaigns whilst in Westminster the 'Ministry of Defencelessness' hands out redundency notices to servicemen. This is the sort of political and strategic thinking you might expect at the Mad Hatter's teaparty! No-one, it seems to me and least of all 'Field Marshal' Cameron, has taken a long, searching and rigorous look at our aims, and our means to achieve those aims. Irrespective of party, the political class have swallowed the European idea whole, and all the feints and dodges at election time when the party leaders like to give the impression that they, and they alone, will stand up to Europe can be discounted as total horse manure! There is only one way out of this European morass and that is when it dies of complications due to its "internal contradictions" - to quote an oft'-used expression of old - and when it happens it will probably be due to 'internal combustion'!
Slight delays here, at Duff & Nonsense - what do you mean you never noticed! - because a few days ago I shuffled even further into the 21st century. I was taken to a shopping mall, or to be precise, the mother and father of all shopping malls (yeah, yeah, I know, they're bigger and better 'over there' but this was a biggie by Brit standards.) So, naturally, I did some shopping - well what the hell else are you going to do in a shopping mall? - and apart from some books (natch!) I bought one of those titchy-recorder-thingies, about the size of my thumb and which appears to have space for about 10,000 CDs. It's called an MP3, I think. Anyway the next few days were spent trying to move music from my CDs into my computer and from thence to this titchy-thingie. Well, I managed it - no, no, please, no applause, fantastic achievement on my part, I know, but still, modesty forbids and all that sort of thing. Anyway, now I wander about the house and the village with a pair of tiny pods rammed in my ears waving my arms furiously as I conduct the Berlin Philharmonic - very much better than old von Karajan whose timing I can only describe as woeful! The 'Memsahib' has one of those I-pod-thingies which 'SoD' gave her a couple of years ago and neither of us have managed to get it working. Encouraged by my brilliance with the titchy-thingie I had a go at hers but, alas, to no avail. All authors of instruction books on computer gadgetry have now entered my over-crowded list of those I wish to punch in the face. (I haven't yet told you about this new facet of my life but I am compiling a list of really irritating people who are not (yet!) deserving of death by firing squad but who very definitely do deserve a punch in the face. I intend to publish this list in due course.) Now, where was I? Oh yes, one up and one down, but anyway, this tinkering with modern computer technology reminded me of an article which I failed to read through first time and thus sent it packing into my 'Blog Feeder' file which is where I send stuff likely to be reproduced here - when I get around to it. This particular piece was published on 6th March and is worth reading in full.
In it, the author, Randall Parker, draws attention to some of the startling areas into which computerised robotics are poised to make inroads at the cost of many middle-class, middle-management jobs, starting with lawyers - so not all bad then!
Even lawyers are getting automated out of jobs. Back in 1978 legal discovery costs could run into the millions for large numbers of workers sifting thru documents.
When five television studios became entangled in a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against CBS, the cost was immense. As part of the obscure task of “discovery” — providing documents relevant to a lawsuit — the studios examined six million documents at a cost of more than $2.2 million, much of it to pay for a platoon of lawyers and paralegals who worked for months at high hourly rates.
The world has radically changed due to advances in computer hardware and software. Computers now replace lots of legal brain power.
But that was in 1978. Now, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, “e-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost. In January, for example, Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, Calif., helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000.
Was the $100k the total cost? It is not clear. But an inflation calculator shows $2.2 million in 1978 is $7.4 million in 2011.
Another well-paid, professional job under imminent threat is that of radiology. Parker refers us to a paper written by Martin Ford in The Atlantic which reminds us that recognition software has now reached very sophisticated levels, and the job of the radiologist is to read and interpret patterns on a screen which have been placed there by yet another computer. Also, if computer interpretation needs to be checked then there is no absolute need to use an expensively trained western radiologist when their Indian counterparts are available at a tenth of the cost and the pictures can be transmitted in nano-seconds!
Returning to Parker at FuturePundit, he points to a fascinating experiment taking place in San Francisco in which Google are conducting tests using robotic cars. Apparently they have seven of them out on the streets and after a total of a thousand plus miles the only accident was when one was tail-ended by a 'stoopid' human whilst stopped at a traffic light.
Well, good luck to them all,but in the meantime, how the hell do I get the music off my computer and into the 'Memsahib's I-pod-thingie? No, thanks all the same but don't try and tell me. I'm visiting 'SoD' this weekend and he doesn't know it yet but he's getting the whole thing dumped in his lap. Well, as I keep reminding him, I am determined to be a burden!
Alas, more of my ruminations on the morality of killing which, as most of you will have guessed, is more for my benefit than yours being a method by which I can try and tidy up the ragbag that is my mind.
I think I established in my previous piece that morality stems from genetic provenance and that the establishment of societies has resulted in a general agreement that wanton killing must be disbarred by general censure and harsh punishment. Extreme pacifists will, of course, abjure killing for any reason at all but Leonard Read in his essay to which I drew your attention earlier, Conscience on the Battlefield, does allow it in certain circumstances. That is surely sensible because most of us would kill to defend kith and kin but, and it is a large 'but', once you open that door all sorts of other possibilities enter. For example, where does kith and kin end and tribe begin? And what is a nation but a tribe writ large? That is surely not a high moral hurdle to clear. If the tribe/nation perishes then chances are that you and yours will also perish, or at least, suffer mightily. History abounds with such examples - ask any Jew! So, if threats to the tribe/nation are likely to include death and destruction to you and yours then presumably counter-measures are permissable.
At this point, I would suggest, it is necessary to personalise the problem. For example, you might ask yourself whether, in the circs prevailing, you are prepared to blow the arms and legs off a baby? A question like that "concentrates the mind wonderfully"! Of course, you will not know the baby, nor, in this day and age, will you be likely to see it, or what's left of it. Indeed, you may be able to extend your personal defence by claiming that your role in parting the infant from its limbs was several stages away from pressing the button. Naturally I would not expect any of the intelligent readers of this blog to indulge in that sort of sloppy thinking. In war, if you are in, you are in, irrespective of the part you play.
At this point I find myself in agreement with Read when he insists that it is our duty, and from his Christian point of view, a sacred duty, to think long and hard before participating in war. Certainly in our western states where education (of a sort!) is available to all there can be no excuse for not attempting to weigh the pros and cons; and also, given our democratic system of governance, we should have the courage to question our leaders and even refuse to participate despite the personal costs involved. I happen to believe that both the 20th century world wars had to be fought but my admiration for the principled pacifists who refused is enormous.
There is one further, and more practical, point I would like to stress. War is inextricably entwined in human affairs. Despite the fervent wishes of the pacifists war was present in the past, it is here with us today and it will smash and bash its way into our future. It sits comfortably hand-in-hand with love and kindness as part and parcel of our nature. What a shrewd insight Shakespeare demonstrated in his magnificent play Troilus & Cressida when he deliberately avoided an ending. What he was saying, in effect, is that peace and war, love and hate, are all part of the great "wheel of fire" which is our existence and which never ceases in its constant turning.
I hope to return to the keyboard a little later today but in the meantime please go over to Ms. Raccoon's place and read the highly intelligent and pellucid words of 'Gildas the monk' on the increasingly thorny subject of hyper injunctions, their use and abuse. Well worth the time.
Something for you to play with in an idle moment from The PoliticalCompass site. A series of questions to which you can answer: strongly agree/agree/strongly disagree/disagree. The end result will place you on the 4-way spectrum between Authoritarian and Libertarian, and between Right and Left. My own result is shown below. Tell me where you ended up.
Thanks to IHTM for the tip.
Apparently, so I am informed by the editorial in this week's Speccie (no link yet), Prince William and Miss Middleton have enjoyed their respective 'stag 'n' hen' parties without the presence of those stalwarts of liberty and free expression, the dandruff-laden, greasy hacks of Fleet Street. There have been no juicy tidbits, no sneaky photographs, not even a tweet or two hundred. This is appalling, I mean, it's my right to know, innit? And there must have been some leary stories and if not you would have thought the hacks would have invented several by now. After all, I feel sure Prince Harry dressed himself up as Col. Gaddafi/Gadaffi/Ghadafi/Ghaddafi/Ghaddaffi (delete to taste) and surrounded himself with an unsuitable set of harem girls; and I just know that Miss Middleton would have had a male stripper upon whose muscular body her maids of honour would have been permitted to layer on some oil. And I cannot believe that a fight or three did not break out at both parties. Even so, not a word. Not a peep. Not a leak. Nothing. Does this young couple not realise what they are for? Titillation is the name of the game, we're entitled to it and we demand it. "Stop the titillation cuts" will be the cry from the mob who will assemble to demonstrate against this pair of royal goody-two-shoes on their wedding day!
An alarming thought has arisen in my mind! Perhaps they both enjoyed a civilised and pleasant evening, wining and dining in style in the company of old and discreet friends who provided good, intelligent conversation laced with wit and humour and perhaps, dread thought for Fleet Street, they do not care for throwing up in the toilet and snogging the waiters. If so, I cannot believe the royal family can last after such a blow to its public image. Personally, I blame Grandma!
I promised to return to the tricky subject raised by the late Leonard Read in his essay Conscience on the Battlefield which I posted on yesterday. Not being a great thinker I might have to take two or three bites at it but I would like to begin by pondering on the general subject of morality and from whence it draws its authority. Theists, in this respect at least, have it easy because they simply point to God. Non-theists, like me, then enjoy pointing out that there appear to be a plethora of Gods each with a slightly different take on morality and one is therefore left wondering who is, so to speak, the God of Gods? Theists, of course, then enjoy coming back with the undoubted fact that the concept of morality, albeit a tad fuzzy around the edges, does exist and so they, too, ask us upon what authority we base our sense of morality?
I would suggest that morality, and here I want to concentrate on the particular morality of killing, has arisen as part of the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest. The higher animals, or at least, those that have survived, do so on the basis of living in a 'society'. I use that in the widest possible sense of the word including, in the case of animals, herding and flocking and so forth. In other words, all the higher animals, even in a very loose way, still recognise their own kind and conduct themselves in a way which has proved successful over the generations particularly in regard to feeding and breeding, activities which are the most likely to cause dissension and trouble. Indeed, even the most ferocious animals, ruthless in their pursuit of prey, rarely kill each other unless there is good reason. A species which goes in for wanton killing would not survive for long. But even when there are good grounds for fighting, again, even the most ferocious rarely take the fight to the point of death, flight always being an option. Perhaps the greatest contribution made by Darwinists in recent years is the way oin which they have clarified the meaning of survival of the fittest which dummies like Adolph Hitler took to mean the strongest killing the weakest. The great truth that 'he who fights and runs away lives to breed another day' has finally been spelled out for all to understand.
Man is, for most intents and purposes, just another higher animal. Our societies frown on wanton killing because, of course, it is a personal danger but also because it is self-destructive to the whole notion of a society, and we are all aware, even if only dimly, that it is the 'invention' of society which has provided us with the benefits we enjoy. If society breaks down then we return to a state of savagery which is likely to bring about a rapid end not only to our own lives but also to our species. Thus, killing must be controlled and, at some time in our remote history, probably amongst the earliest tribes, custom (and common-sense) became codified and, lo, the first lawyer was created - Dread Thought! Ayn Rand might be a somewhat derided figure in these semi-socialist days but she was surely right in her analysis of the mutuality between priests and kings in our early times. It seems to be part of human nature to yearn for a higher authority and a king, who was instantly recognisable as just another human being, albeit an exalted one, was just not enough. At which point, enter the priest who claims to speak to, and on behalf of, an all-powerful, all-knowing entity called God. Between priest and king it was love at first sight, although, as we all know, love doesn't always last!
Anyway, to end this first rather amateurish effort, let me conclude by saying that I do believe morality, in the general sense, does exist and that it includes a particular morality over killing. I believe the authority for this derives from Darwinian principles of survival of the fittest. In my next try I will attempt to spell out my thoughts on how the morality of killing is applied to war and the individual.