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Scrapbook for March 2018

Posted on UTC 2018-03-01 02:01.

25.03.2018 – The cloud of unknowing

In the Skripal case the cloud of unknowing has been steadily drifting outwards like mustard gas rolling across no man's land. Every day we read of more twists in this already completely twisted story:

  • Seemingly as an afterthought, the car that brought the Skripals home from the airport was seized the other day – however, the driver of that vehicle is alive and well and has shown no symptoms.
  • The park bench on which Skripals were found has now also been uprooted and transported away by people wearing lime-green bin-bags.
  • The poison was in Yulia's luggage; the poison was in the fresh-air vents of the Skripal's car; the poison was on the door handles of their car. Could it be that the UK has not given Russia a sample of the poison because it doesn't have any to give?
  • The 'hero' policeman who took poorly has now been discharged from hospital but will be 'affected for the rest of his life' – we cannot be told what happened to him or what is wrong with him or what will be wrong with him in the future because of 'medical confidentiality'; on the other hand, the paramedics who dealt with the Skripals are alive and well etc. etc.
  • We have no information about the Skripal's symptoms so we cannot distinguish between the effects of a nerve agent and a British Airways sandwich; the medical authorities have just now received High Court permission to take a blood sample from the victims.
  • The UK Foreign Secretary told the world that the attack on the Skripals was ordered by Vladimir Putin personally, then doubled down and compared President Putin to Adolf Hitler.

According to the Times and the Mail, it also turns out now that anyone who disagrees with the government line on the Skripal case is spreading 'disinformation':

‘We have seen the Russian state deploy an extensive disinformation campaign around the Salisbury incident,’ a British official told the Times.

'Disinformation'! The 'British official' is subtly and not without irony using a term originally coined by Soviet propagandists. If anything, though, the disinformation is coming from the UK, not Russia.

We are given as little evidence by this anonymous briefing as we were for the poisoning itself. You can read the following as many times as you like but you will be no wiser about these 'bots', 'suspect posts' and 'suspect accounts'. Almost every sentence here is incomprehensible. It is a masterly piece of disinformation.

The so-called ‘bot’ accounts on sites such as Twitter numbered an estimated 2,800, and their messages were interacted with 75million times.

The automated accounts are computer programs which can post on social media hundreds of times a day.

Monitoring reports prepared for the British government found there was a 70 per cent chance the suspect accounts were bots.

More than one in four of the suspect posts identified by UK officials were created by just six accounts.

Although it is difficult to identify whether an online account is a bot or controlled by a real human operator, the government analysts are thought to have determined many are bots based on who they follow online and how many times they post.

Figures of Speech and many other sites will continue to spread disinformation on this topic until the May government pulls itself together and stops lying to us all.

16.03.2018 – Nerve gas: you ask, we answer.

  • Who was the target? Sergei Skripal? Yulia Skripal? Both of them? Someone else we don't know about? Don't know.
  • If the object was to assassinate someone, why do it like this, in just about the most spectacular and messiest way imaginable? No idea.
  • What was the weapon? A nerve agent? So we are told.
  • How was it administered? No idea.
  • Where was it administered? No idea.
  • Precisely when was it administered? No idea.
  • Where was it made? No idea.
  • Who made it? No idea.
  • Where did it come from? No idea.
  • Who carried out the attack on the ground? No idea.
  • For whose benefit? No idea.

So now that we have cast-iron proof, let's ramp up a cold-war conflict between the United Kingdom and Russia.

Only someone exceptionally dim could come up with this response. It wasn't, was it? Dim Theresa, who spent her six years as Home Secretary picking fights and losing them?

It takes a world-class idiot to drive rational people to agree with Jeremy Corbyn and Vladimir Putin.

10.03.2018 – The cheque's in the post

Joseph von Westphalen

Joseph von Westphalen Image: ©abendzeitung-muenchen.de

Joseph von Westphalen (1945-), the witty German writer and satirist, published the last article in his Flaneur series for the Munich Abendzeitung on 27  June 2014. After 325 articles, one every Saturday, the newspaper dispensed with his services. Admittedly, during his long literary career he has become a legend in his time for his cavalier treatment of deadlines.

Three months after that last article, he reappeared on its comments thread to add his final words. He closed with the following mini-dialogue, which all working writers should commit to heart:

— Question: 'What do you think about the war in Ukraine?'

— My answer: 'Don't know.'

— Question: 'What kind of an ignorant answer is that? You disappoint me!'

— My answer: 'Give me 500 Euro, then I'll sit down for six hours and write out what I think about the war in Ukraine. Then we will both know. Before that, not.'

Thoughts are free. That's true. But not free.

Frage: "Was denken Sie über den Krieg in der Ukraine?" - Meine Antwort: "Weiß nicht." - Frage: "Was ist denn das für eine ignorante Antwort? Sie enttäuschen mich!" - Meine Antwort: "Geben Sie mir 500 Euro, dann setze ich mich 6 Stunden hin und schreibe auf, was ich über den Ukrainekrieg denke. Dann wissen wir es beide. Vorher nicht." Gedanken sind frei. Stimmt. Aber nicht gratis.

Our readers will not miss the irony that this seeming champion of paid writing was still submitting free comments to his own pieces three months after the cheques stopped coming and will draw their own conclusions from that fact.

11.03.2018 – Amelia Earhart

If we believe the latest reports, the aviatrix Amelia Earhart (1897-1937?) died on Gardner Island in the Pacific. She and her navigator Fred Noonan (1893-1937?) disappeared during a round-the-world flight attempt.

Some bones were found in 1940, sent to Fiji, measured and then 'lost'. A new analysis of the measurements suggests that they may indeed be Earhart's.

Perhaps. But at least we have an excuse to reproduce Howard Chandler Christy's (1872-1952) stunning portrait of her. It is no wonder that Christy was probably the most popular portraitist of his day.

Howard Chandler Christy, Amelia Earhart, 1933

Howard Chandler Christy, Amelia Earhart, 1933, created for the cover of Town and Country magazine, 1 February 1933. Image: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery / The Seligman Family Foundation, San Francisco, California. [Click to open a larger image in a new tab, 1976x3000px.]

04.03.2018 – Persil Man

It was all a terrible misunderstanding, it seems. The geneticist Susan Walsh at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis says we simply don't know Cuprinol Man's skin colour, as that fount of information the Daily Mail now tells us:

Dr Walsh believes that the tests can't prove Cheddar Man's skin colour and that his DNA may have degraded over the past 10,000 years.

Speaking to New Scientist, she said: 'It’s not a simple statement of "this person was dark-skinned".

'It is his most probable profile, based on current research.'

After such weasel words we can only conclude that Cuprinol Man was in fact a specimen of the well-known Persil Man who, without any consideration of racial sensitivity, had blacked up and was mimicking an immigrant. The bashed in head suggests he got his just deserts for this outrageous racist behaviour.

04.03.2018 – Dog-bites-man

Prodded awake to do my duty and announce that in Germany two-thirds of the SPD has voted for the party to participate in the Grand Coalition.

The man-bites-dog news would have been if the SPD had rejected this opportunity to have six ministerial posts plus associated underlings and dogsbodies. The party's current polling numbers are awful: the comrades may as well enjoy a few years whilst they are circling the drain.

Let's not be too blasé. This complete electoral cock-up and all the jamko-coko-groko shenanigans in Germany have now crowned the AfD as the official opposition in parliament. Just think about that: two years ago something to scrape off your shoe, today a robust parliamentary opposition party. A party of patriotism, fiscal responsibility and social conservatism in the German Federal Parliament. The last time that happened was probably 1980.

A time may even come when other parliamentarians start being respectful to them and mainstream journalists finally drop the lazy '[extreme] right-wing' epithet that is rolled out whenever the AfD is mentioned. In 1980 the phrase for exactly the same thing was 'prudent conservative'.

Indeed, a time may even come when the FDP realises that in the Venn diagram of German politics they have so much in common with the AfD that, if they jump over their own shadow, they have between them a chance of imposing some economic order on this mad government.