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PostUK Elections, June 8th: May's Strategy (John Heelan, UK, 04/19/17 4:22 am)
I agree with both Timothy Ashby's political analysis and JE's comment about PM May making a smart political move. Maybe it is also a good PR move as well.
Labour is busted flush, infiltrated by Trotskyist Momentum activists at local constituency and union branch levels. Corbyn increasingly appears to be a nonentity leading a front bench of nonentities. There is a danger that Blair and his acolytes (Miliband the Younger, Mandelson and "Please let me be a President of Somewhere Blair" himself) will reappear, inevitably dividing the Labour Party even further and providing a better chance of May winning a landslide.
The Liberal Democrats are invisible despite "Look-at-me-Mum" shouting from the political sidelines. The Scottish National Party believes its own propaganda and appears to be more concerned with bolstering the "legacy" of its leaders, although there is a backlash with demands for a second Scottish Independence Referendum being matched by an English Referendum to eject an Independent Scotland from the UK. UKIP is in disarray and might well lose its sponsor (Nigel Jones's views would be welcome here).
From the political viewpoint, Theresa May's actions will scare MPs against Brexit, with potential deselection by those constituency areas that voted for Brexit. It shoots a warning salvo across the bows of the unelected House of Lords that is meddling in Brexit for political reasons. (In my opinion,I would welcome the 2017 Tory Manifesto planning to make the House of Lords subject to elections and not just the result of prime-ministerial appointments.) A landslide mandate would enable May to walk away from interminable and frustrating EU negotiations, and thus cause some shivers in the unelected EU institutions and the carpet-bagging passengers on the EU "gravy train."
There are some hopes for the future when one looks at the up-and-comers like Hilary Benn (Labour) and Jacob Rees-Mogg (Tory), who unfortunately tends to prove the truth of his sobriquet "Jacob Really-Smug." However there is a dearth of the next generation of talented politicians in the UK Parliament.
From a PR point of view, I have mentioned before that we Brits like to have a strong Mary Poppins-esque female leader whose skirts we can hide behind when things get tough. Past such revered leaders have been Boudica, whose statue is directly outside Parliament, and Margaret Thatcher. Now Theresa May is projecting a similar image.
In conclusion, from my viewpoint, the PM's decision makes good sense. There is a Brit phrase, "From the sublime to the gor-blimey!" that is currently working itself out on the Isle of Wight as a microcosm of the Brexit saga. The local district council has been taken over by the Conservatives (subject to an election on 4 May), while at the Parish Council level (also subject to the 4 May election that could well change the membership of that Council) has experienced quasi-revolutionary unrest by parishioners disputing the decisions of that Council tell of some buildings in the village, putting out of business a local fisherman as well as a tree surgeon to fund what has been termed "a vanity project" for the Council itself.
(We live in a rural village that earns some of its income from the fishing industry as well as being surrounded by hundreds of trees.)
So local and national politics will be of absorbing interest to me for the next couple of months!
JE comments: Excellent analysis, Tocayo John. Mary Poppins, "Look at me Mum," and Gorblimey: what more could we want? One little thing perhaps: Do I understand correctly that the English may hold a referendum to expel Scotland from the UK? Is there any precedent in history of such a thing? Call it anti-annexationism, unrevanchism, or plain old Empire-shrinking.
Instead of the UK, will we someday be talking simply about the...K?
Might England Eject Scotland from the UK? Belgian Congo
(John Heelan, UK
04/21/17 3:39 AM)
John E asked me on April 19th: "Do I understand correctly that the English may hold a referendum to expel Scotland from the UK?"
Not yet, but in England there is a noticeable groundswell of antipathy against the Scottish National Party in general and specifically against the machinations of its leader, Nicola Sturgeon (aka "Wee Krankie") and Angus Robertson MP (the SNP Leader in Westminster).
On another recent topic, I suggest that WAISers also read the 1904 report to the UK Parliament by Roger Casement (then a Consul in the Congo) about the treatment of the Congolese by the owner of the Congo, King Leopold of Belgium.
JE comments: I think I've "plugged" this book before on WAIS, but regarding Belgium's inhumanity as a colonizer in Congo, see King Leopold's Ghost, by Adam Hochschild. It's a painful but gripping read. Some even saw Germany's brutality in 1914 as divine punishment against the Belgians. The whole text is now available free in a PDF:
Vargas Llosa's "The Dream of the Celt"
(Patrick Mears, Germany
04/21/17 3:15 PM)
In response to John Heelan (21 April), one should also read The Dream of the Celt, by Peruvian Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa. It is a biography, more or less, of Sir Roger Casement, one of the many heroes of the Easter Rising, who was executed by the British after Casement's capture in 1916 on Banna Strand on Ireland's Dingle Peninsula.
Here is a link to the review of Vargas Llosa's work in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jun/08/dream-celt-mario-vargas-llosa-review .
JE comments: I haven't gotten around to reading Vargas Llosa's El sueño del celta (2010, the same year MVLl won the Nobel). Must do so--shame on me. Vargas Llosa may be the finest novelist alive, especially in the genre of historical fiction.
Roger Casement, Congo, and "The Dream of the Celt"
(John Heelan, UK
04/24/17 9:50 AM)
Patrick Mears (21 April) is right to point up Vargas Llosa's The Dream of the Celt--a quasi-biography of Roger Casement--as a record of the iniquities inflicted by the Belgian King Leopold and his supporters on his Congolese subjects. The following excerpt from Wiki provides a flavour, as well as a warning that even civilised people can succumb to "Man's Inhumanity to Man," as has been observed frequently in places like 1930s Germany, 1970s Cambodia, and 1990s Rwanda.
"Today I began the return to Boma. I had planned to remain on the Upper Congo for a couple of weeks longer. But, in truth, I have more than enough material to show what is taking place here. I am afraid that if I continue to examine the depths to which human infamy and shamefulness can descend I will simply not be able to write my Report. I am on the shores of madness. A normal human being cannot submerge himself for so many months in this hell without losing his mind, without succumbing to some mental derangement. Sleepless, some nights, I feel it happening to me. Something is breaking in my mind. I live in constant anguish. If I keep brushing elbows with what goes on here I too will find myself laying the lash, chopping off hands, and murdering Congo natives between lunch and dinner without feeling the slightest pangs of conscience or loss of appetite; for this is what happens to Europeans in this God-forsaken country." [pp. 108-109]
JE comments: Hoschschild's King Leopold's Ghost describes in great detail the Belgian practice of chopping off the hands of Congolese who fell behind on their tribute. Can there be a more chilling example of Walter Benjamin's maxim, that "there is no document of civilization that is not also a document of barbarism"?
History, Fiction, Historical Fiction; from Gary Moore
(John Eipper, USA
04/25/17 3:09 AM)
Gary Moore writes:
Re: John Heelan April 24, presenting as documentation of the Belgian Congo
atrocities a quote from Mario Vargas Llosa's The Dream of the Celt:
Google books classes this work as fiction. How is this documentation?
Moreover, the quote is standard cant about losing one's mind amid the storm,
something real dissenters in such circumstances seldom seem to do--though
the novelists have been discovering it since The Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim.
How do Vargas Llosa's talent and imagination relate to what did or did not
happen in the Congo?
Stephen Crane wrote Red Badge of Courage without
ever seeing a war, and ex-Sgt. Major Ambrose Bierce seethed about that,
but did anybody cite Crane as documentation? Naive question.
Isn't the important thing the entertainment?
JE comments: Vargas Llosa bases his historical novels on extensive documentation, but does that make them "documentation" in and of themselves? Gary Moore forces us to reflect on the wider problem of historical fiction. Seen from the opposite angle, consider Hayden White's claim about the "narrativity" of history itself--meaning, history contains literary (fictional) elements.
My vote for Vargas Llosa's best historical novel is The Feast of the Goat (2000), about the brutal dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. Part of the narrative takes place in Adrian--really. Did V Ll "get" this town right? Not exactly. Among other liberties, he talks about skiing in Adrian and it's flat here. Billiard-table flat.
I hope historical novelist Tim Ashby will join this discussion.
That's a fascinating piece on Bierce's Civil War. I did not know he saw so much combat.
Old Testament: Fact or Fiction? From Ric Mauricio
(John Eipper, USA
04/26/17 6:47 AM)
Ric Mauricio writes:
If only Adrian had a downhill ski run.
Here is a question for WAISers that someone had asked me and which I had no response that I could think of. How much of any historical book is true and how much is embellishment or exaggeration? The book in question is the Old Testament. While there are many archaeological findings that support much of the Jewish history put forth in the Old Testament, there are still questions.
For example, why is it that the probably the most important artifact of Jewish history, the tablets of the Ten Commandments or even the Ark of the Covenant that holds it, has never been uncovered? If you really wanted to end the discussion of whether or not Moses was in close contact with God, would this not settle the discussion?
The New Testament book that elicits the most discussions and movies and other books is Revelations. Yet I find that many Christians think that it was written by the disciple John, when in fact, it was written by an exiled mystic named John, who was shunned by your mainstream Christian. This guy was "out there." He wrote the book while exiled on the island of Patmos, which is well known for the existence of hallucinogenic mushrooms. So are his visions provided by God as the Church teaches or as a result of tripping out on those mushrooms? Fact or fiction?
Are there any Mormons among WAISers? I asked the lady in front of the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City the origin of the Book of Mormon. Her story was that the angel Moroni gave the golden book to Joseph Smith (I think it was Smith she referred to; this was awhile ago), and he went to the local Kinko's and copied it and gave it back to the angel. My response was: "Oh, like a library book." That didn't get a good look from her. Fact or fiction?
Today, in our digital world, we refer to "data fiction." This is nothing new. Wall Street has been feeding us "data fiction" since I discovered it at the beginning of my investing career. For example, mutual funds and stocks that have disappeared have had their performances expunged from databases, thus leaving us only the performances of the survivors. Since corporate accounting is my background, I can tell you that the question of how you want to make the financials look this quarter has been brought up many times. There has been many a Controller who has succumbed to pressures from upper management to stretch GAAP rules beyond the spirit of truthful accounting.
I once found an asset (a gas drilling rig) on the books that was bought, then sold for a loss, then leased from a third party. When I compared the serial numbers, I found that it as the same asset. I brought this to the attention of my CFO and two weeks later (I had gone on vacation), 3 top management personnel had to resign due to what I refer to as GasGate.
But how far back does "data fiction" go? From the beginning of time? Interesting that we have not found Noah's Ark. We know that much of the statistics put forth by the government is manipulated to illustrate how the government wants us to think. But how much of what we know about history is actually "data fiction?"
Is Adrian really flat? Fact or fiction?
JE comments: Now you've got me thinking, Ric. Adrian is demonstrably flat, but we do have a region a few miles from here called the Irish Hills. They roll a bit, but they're not quite hills. Certainly they are not Irish. As Linda Richman would say, discuss.
I don't know of any practicing Mormons in WAIS, but can someone tell us what supposedly happened to the gold plates found by Joseph Smith?
- Old Testament: Fact or Fiction? From Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 04/26/17 6:47 AM)
- History, Fiction, Historical Fiction; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 04/25/17 3:09 AM)
- Roger Casement, Congo, and "The Dream of the Celt" (John Heelan, UK 04/24/17 9:50 AM)
- Vargas Llosa's "The Dream of the Celt" (Patrick Mears, Germany 04/21/17 3:15 PM)