Stereotypes are so much easier: In a very careful, detailed, scientific and rigorous piece of research - not! - The Mail reports that Brits do have stiff upper lips and Americans are more optimistic and amorous than us. This is based on a survey by someone or other which also 'shows' that Brits are tightwads - I put that down to the Jock influence (another stereotype) - but Americans are free spenders. Pheeeew, thank the Lord for that, life is so much easier if people comply with their stereotype, I simply can't be doing with 'peace 'n' love' Germans, charming 'Frogs', Chinese who are even minutely less than inscrutable and Italians who fail to make a pass at my wife. Actually, this story touches upon a somewhat deeper subject which keeps niggling at the back of my mind, that is, the question of boundaries. When does an individual item, or group of items, gradually, or perhaps suddenly, take on the characteristics of the whole thing? I have been meaning to blog on this abstruse subject but it requires great thought and consideration and so, hey, I didn't want to break with my personal sterotype!
Will the USA collapse from the inside out? No, of course it won't, er, it won't, will it? I ask because whilst we have seen various big-ish cities in California go broke the next one over the cliff is Detroit in Michigan. As Bloomberg reports:
Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s plan to suspend payments on $2 billion of
Detroit’s debt threatens a basic tenet of the $3.7 trillion municipal market:
that states and cities will raise taxes as high as needed to avoid default.
The city lacks the means to maintain law enforcement and even street lighting. If wages and pensions go by the board how long will it be before the people 'do a Brazil' and come out on the streets? Jest askin'?
From frying pan to fire: So that upstanding defender of freedom and democracy, Mr. Edward Snowden, late of the CIA/NSA, after delivering an underhand blow against his own country has now decided to flee to that haven of personal liberty and civil polity, er, Venezuela via, of course, Russia and Cuba. It says so much about him.
The new (Chinese) kid on the block: A fascinating article in The Spectator (where else?) by Owen Matthews. It concerns a very discreet meeting which took place at Green Templeton College in Oxford and if I provide you with just some of the names of those attending it will, I fancy, tickle your curiosity:
General Huang Baifu, head of the Chinese delegation, is a former chief of
China’s military intelligence. But he was in Oxford in his civilian role as a
fellow of the China Institute of Strategic Studies. Similarly General Doron
Avital, former commander of Israel’s Special Forces and ex-chairman of the
Knesset’s Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, attended as a private
According to Mr. Matthews this sort of meeting is described in current diplomatic jargon as "‘track three’ — talks about talks via non-diplomatic channels". Yeeees, quite! Anyway, this and other surreptitious meetings are a sign that China has decided that it needs to take a more direct interest in Middle East affairs particularly so as to avoid outright warfare between Israel and Iran which is only a matter of time unless circumstances can be changed. China, unlike America, is heavily dependent on Middle East oil, especially Iranian oil, and would be severely hampered if supplies were interrupted. The Americans have lost any imperative to become involved, as the Israelis now know, and apparently the Iranians are only about a year away from completing their nuclear weapon programme. Watch this space - or better still, read Mr. Matthew's fascinating article.
But do they really, really want him? I return again to that famous freedom fighter, or something beginning with 'f', Mr. Edward Snowden, now apparently on his way to that ancient bastion of civil rights, Ecuador. Sky and Fox are both getting very excited about it all and the obvious fact that China and Russia have cocked a snook at the USA - and they're surprised? - but neither of them have wondered just exactly how much does the American government want this reprobate back in the USA giving evidence in a public trial under the manipulative control of a Left-wing defence attorney of the worst snarling dog variety? As much as a hole in the head, I would guess. But perhaps Obama will do one of the few things he is good at and 'drone' him!
Printers - heh! I was rather amused at this passage in James Gleik's excellent book The Information in which he desribes the travails of 18th century mathematicians trying to draw up comprehensive but accurate tables of logarithms:
Errors arose from mistakes in carrying. Errors arose from the inversion of digits, sometimes by the computers themselves and sometimes by the printer. Printers were liable to transpose digits in succesive lines of type. What a mysterious, fallible thing the human mind seemed to be! All these errors, one commenter mused, "would afford a curious subject of metaphysical speculation respecting the operation of the faculty of memory." Human computers had no future, he saw: "It is only by the mechanical fabrication of tables that such errors can be rendered impossible."
Obviously he had yet to learn the first rule of mechanical computers - shit in, shit out! But what took my attention was the dig at the printers. This reminded me of the invaluable aid their constant errors have contributed to the study of Shakespeare's texts. Read any forward to an Arden Edition of a Shakespeare play and you will find an alphabet of printers, A to F and onwards, all of whom made not just random mistakes but the same mistakes over and over, thus unintentionally aiding the tricky science of pinning dates and circumstances to the first printing of Shakespeare's texts. It's all a bit like my habit of constantly inverting 'teh' - bugger, there I go again!
Here endeth my rumblings for the day!