Monday, 29 June 2009

Post#132 The Power of Seven

Have you read Tristram Shandy, Laurence Stern's roller-coaster of a novel? If you have you may recall the conversation between Dr Slop and Uncle Toby on the significance of the number seven: the seven sacraments, the seven days of the week, the seven deadly sins, the seven wonders of the world, the seven planets and the seven plagues.

Is there magic in the number seven? Perhaps there is. I've certainly been told that seventh children have extraordinary powers, though I've been unable to verify this, never having met a seventh child. :-)

Friday, 26 June 2009

Post#131 The Great Kings and The Grech Who Stole Ute-Gate

In the past week mayhem and havoc have been wracking several parts of the world, as usual. The most vivid image from the reportage is of the beautiful young woman dying on a Teheran street. This alone should be evidence enough to the people of any country that they are up the infamous creek.

Iran/Persia, call it how you please, was regarded once as the home of a great civilisation. That was three thousand years ago. Of course, that type of greatness wasn't about democracy and the value of human life wasn't significant in measuring the worth of ancient states. If someone had said "human rights" to one of the Great Kings of Persia the hearer would have been bewildered...until it occurred to him that it must describe his proprietory rights over the human inhabitants of his kingdom; in a similar vein to "water rights", "land rights" and "tribute rights". Among the "human rights" of the Great King would have been the right to dispose of human life as he pleased. In that sense, depending upon one's perception of it, no progress has been made in Iran or the traditional standards have been maintained. I have no special insight into what the average Achmed in the streets of Iran desires in his innermost heart, but I don't think the majority of his type would mind a departure from this ancient custom. The crowds who are demonstrating are being played for fools by the "reformer" candidate and his sponsors, but their desire for freedom is no less genuine. What a precious jewel a genuine electoral franchise must seem to them; the right to cast a vote and have it honestly counted. An aspiration to die for...

And what was the great news here in the Magic Islands of Australia this past week? The dispute about the ute. Our Prime Minister has been accused of helping a car dealer of his acquaintance to
obtain special access to the application process for financial assistance. The car-dealer has made a gift of a utility sedan to the PM and is alleged to have received special favour as quid pro quo. In the course of this tiresome saga a wriggling, writhing bureaucrat was trawled up in the net of a Senate committee hearing. Godwin Grech (pronounced "Gretch" apparently) gave a very good impersonation of Woody Allen doing his neurotic nerd schtick and appeared to have given the Coalition some ammo to use against the Government. It has all gone wrong for the boys in Conservative blue, with Grech now appearing to be securely in the clutches of the Federal Police for forging the "incriminating" evidence. I won't dwell on this story in particular..the details can be Googled easily enough if anyone wants to search "Rudd, Grant, ute, Grech". The story is known as "Ute-gate" and the collapse of the scandal upon its proponents is well-addressed in many sources.

What I'm most interested by is the triviality of the matters that a mature democracy is occupying its public fora with. The wars we are engaged in are not remotely won, the economic crisis is not past, the serious administrative challenges that confront government have not all been resolved. The media (yeah, let's blame them) find it easier to cover these scandal yarns than to grapple with the complex matters, but does the average Adam in our street really want to hear it? When I heard Malcolm Turnbull call for Rudd's resignation over Ute-gate I thought, "Oh for the love of...." I think the triteness of these tactics and the triviality of the confected "issues" play a large role in why fewer people are voting, despite the statutory requirement to do so. The "draft dodgers" who don't register and the enrolled electors who abstain would amaze those Iranians who are getting their heads kicked in for sake of having a real vote. But could they keep a revolutionary fire burning after 100 years of this sort of performance?

Well, let poesie have a try where prose is puzzled:

Godwin Grech, the woeful wretch,
Gave Malcolm Turnbull cause to kvetch.

But when the forgery was found
Malcolm's glee was quickly drowned.

The people wonder what's to boot
In all this yarn about a ute.

Can we not find a better use
For the right to speak
Without they shoot?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Post#130 Reading Clive James

A few weeks ago, while watching part of a poetry season being screened by the BBC in England, I came across Clive James, a writer and a broadcaster, being interviewed on the American poet, E. E. Cummings, while reading some of his own poetry. I was so impressed by what he was saying that I wrote a piece on my Ana the Imp blog, headed Serendipity: Discovering Clive James.

As part of the process of exploration I acquired one of his books, Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of my Time. It’s a series of essays on all sorts of people, artists, poets, musicians, writers, politicians, all sorts of people; some noble, some who have made significant contributions to human understanding; others, well, vile. As I said in Serendipity, I never thought to find Anna Akhmatova and Josef Goebbels between the same covers!

When I say essays I should make it clear that while each piece is headed by the name of the individual involved, with some biographical details by way of introduction, what follows is really subtle, as the author explores thoughts within thoughts and themes within themes, most often on the basis of a preliminary quotation. As much as anything it’s an odyssey through the James’own life, with dissertations on the things and the people that have moved or influenced him in one way or another. It’s impressive; the range of his thought is impressive. His maze-like mind reminded me of my own; of the way I think and the way I deconstruct, disassemble and reassemble ideas!

At one point James describes himself as a product of the Australian educational system. He was born in 1939, so he’s clearly talking about the style of teaching going back, oh, some fifty years. I really hope, without too much exaggeration, that if Clive James is a typical product that the Australian educational system has not changed too much. Sadly, given my cultural pessimism, I suspect that this is not at all the case. :-))

Post#129 It's Glow-ball War, Ming!! (Ian Plimer's Attack on Climate Change Believers)

Ian Plimer's recently-published work, Heaven and Earth. Global warming: the missing science, has struck the first significant blow for the skeptics in Australia in a long while..perhaps just the first significant blow ever...I can't remember any skeptical Australian writing on the topic attracting the attention that has been given to this work.

There was a flurry of mobilisation from those who felt called-upon to defend the honour of "climate scientists" and a very interesting attack article appeared in the Weekend Australian. I'm reproducing it here in full because it struck me as a very effective piece of polemical writing, whatever else may be said about it:

"No science in Plimer's primer
Michael Ashley May 09, 2009

Article from: The Australian

Heaven and Earth by Ian Plimer (Connor Court, 503pp, $39.95)

ONE of the peculiar things about being an astronomer is that you receive, from time to time, monographs on topics such as "a new theory of the electric universe", or "Einstein was wrong", or "the moon landings were a hoax".

The writings are always earnest, often involve conspiracy theories and are scientifically worthless.One such document that arrived last week was Ian Plimer's Heaven and Earth. What makes this case unusual is that Plimer is a professor -- of mining geology -- at the University of Adelaide. If the subject were anything less serious than the future habitability of the planet Earth, I wouldn't go to the trouble of writing this review.

Plimer sets out to refute the scientific consensus that human emissions of CO2 have changed the climate. He states in his acknowledgments that the book evolved from a dinner in London with three young lawyers who believed the consensus. As Plimer writes: "Although these three had more than adequate intellectual material to destroy the popular paradigm, they had neither the scientific knowledge nor the scientific training to pull it apart stitch by stitch. This was done at dinner."

This is a remarkable claim. If Plimer is right and he is able to show that the work of literally thousands of oceanographers, solar physicists, biologists, atmospheric scientists, geologists, and snow and ice researchers during the past 100 years is fundamentally flawed, then it would rank as one of the greatest discoveries of the century and would almost certainly earn him a Nobel prize. This is the scale of Plimer's claim.

Before reading any further, I examined Plimer's publication list on the University of Adelaide website to see what he has published in refereed journals. There are a scant 17 such papers since 1994, two as first author with the titles "Manganoan garnet rocks associated with the Broken Hill Pb-Zn-Ag orebody" and "Kasolite from the British Empire Mine". Absolutely nothing on climate science.

Now, before I am accused of attacking the man and not the argument, let me point out that scientists regard peer-reviewed journal publications as fundamental for advancing science. They allow ideas to be exchanged, tested, improved on and, quite frequently, discarded. If Plimer can do what he claims, and can prove that human emissions of CO2 have no effect on the climate, then he owes it to the scientific community and, in fact, humanity, to publish his arguments in a refereed journal.

Perhaps we will find a stitch-by-stitch demolition of climate science in his book, as promised? No such luck. The arguments that Plimer advances in the 503 pages and 2311 footnotes in Heaven and Earth are nonsense. The book is largely a collection of contrarian ideas and conspiracy theories that are rife in the blogosphere. The writing is rambling and repetitive; the arguments flawed and illogical.

He recycles a graph, without attribution, from Martin Durkin's Great Global Warming Swindle documentary, neglecting even to make the changes that Durkin made following an outcry over the fact that the past two decades of temperature measurements had been mysteriously deleted.
Plimer claims that scientists such as himself, who do not agree with the consensus, are labelled deniers, "yet their scientific doubts are not addressed". Nothing could be further from the truth. All of Plimer's arguments have been addressed ad nauseam by patient climate scientists on websites or in the literature.

To appreciate the errors in Plimer's book you don't have to be a climate scientist. For example, take the measurement of the global average CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. This is obviously important, so scientists measure it with great care at many locations across the world.
Precision measurements have been made daily since 1958 at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, a mountain-top site with a clear airflow unaffected by local pollution. The data is in excellent agreement with ice cores from several sites in Antarctica and Greenland. Thousands of scientific papers have been written on the topic, hundreds of scientists are involved from many independent research groups.

Plimer, however, writes that a simple home experiment indoors can show that in a week, CO2 can vary by 75 parts per million by volume, equal to about 40 years' worth of change at the present rate. He thinks this "rings alarm bells" on the veracity of the Mauna Loa data, which shows a smoothly rising concentration.

While it is undoubtedly true that if you measure CO2 in your home it could vary by large amounts from day to day -- depending, for example, on whether you have the windows open or closed, or how many people are in the house at the time -- this is not the right way to measure a global average. That's why scientists go to mountain-tops or Antarctica or to the isolated Cape Grimm on the Tasmanian coast rather than measuring CO2 in their living rooms.

Incredible as it may seem, this quality of argument is typical of the book. While the text is annotated profusely with footnotes and refers to papers in the top journals, thus giving it the veneer of scholarship, it is often the case that the cited articles do not support the text. Plimer repeatedly veers off to the climate sceptic's journal of choice, the bottom-tier Energy and Environment, to advance all manner of absurd theories: for example, that CO2 concentrations actually have fallen since 1942.

Plimer believes "global warming" occurring on Mars, Triton, Jupiter and Pluto proves human emissions of CO2 don't affect Earth's climate. He believes that once CO2 levels reached 200ppmv (about half of today's value) the CO2 had absorbed almost all the infrared energy it could, and further increases will not have much effect. He believes global warming does not lead to biological stress. He believes volcanoes emit significant quantities of chlorofluorocarbons. He believes the sun formed on the collapsed core of a supernova. All these ideas are so wrong as to be laughable: they do not offer an "alternative scientific perspective".

Plimer probably didn't expect an astronomer to review his book. I couldn't help noticing on page120 an almost word-for-word reproduction of the abstract from a well-known loony paper entitled "The Sun is a plasma diffuser that sorts atoms by mass". This paper argues that the sun isn't composed of 98 per cent hydrogen and helium, as astronomers have confirmed through a century of observation and theory, but is instead similar in composition to a meteorite.
It is hard to understate the depth of scientific ignorance that the inclusion of this information demonstrates. It is comparable to a biologist claiming that plants obtain energy from magnetism rather than photosynthesis.

Plimer has done an enormous disservice to science, and the dedicated scientists who are trying to understand climate and the influence of humans, by publishing this book. It is not "merely" atmospheric scientists that would have to be wrong for Plimer to be right. It would require a rewriting of biology, geology, physics, oceanography, astronomy and statistics. Plimer's book deserves to languish on the shelves along with similar pseudo-science such as the writings of Immanuel Velikovsky and Erich von Daniken.

Michael Ashley is professor of astrophysics at the University of NSW."

Now I'm mighty eager to read Plimer's book to see whether that attack sticks! When searching for Ashley's article I discovered a blog which takes an opposing view, Australian Climate Madness. Here is a link to the particular post about Ashley's article. The comments to that piece are an interesting slice of all the usual postures on this. As I said in an earlier post:

"Global warming? Who knows. The majority of us are sitting back bemusedly watching the savants/high priests hurling incantations and curses at each other. Who to believe? Most of us think there's something funny with the weather but, then, everybody always has. If we wait for those guys to agree before we act we'll wait till the heat death of the Universe. So what to do? Forget about global warming. Yes, forget it! What is the argument about really? More to the point, (and leaving aside whether it's real) why are people prepared to pay money to some stooge to gainsay global warming? After all, funding for scientific research is always damned hard to come by, unless there's a military/industrial payoff for someone. So, cui bono, when the stooge causes someone to waiver on believing in GW? The only visible beneficiaries are the carbon-fuel industries. Here's my simple answer to it all: Forget GW and talk about how we unhook from carbon-based fuels. We're going to have to one day; they're finite. The sooner we do it the better. That way, what's left can be used for materials, rather than put up the chimney. If there really is such a thing as global warming and cutting out carbon fuels ameliorates it, that'll be a nice bonus for the future generations."

That was my second post and I wouldn't change a word of it. I can't grapple with the teched-up scientific types or the statistically-empowered lobbyists but I do know when a stalemate is in evidence. My response is pragmatic agnosticism. I expanded further on my skepticism about the global warming issue in this post. Since then I've thought of a few more wrinkles in the issue:

1. One of the experimental platforms left on the moon by the Apollo missions was a laser reflector which allows very precise measurements be made of the distance between Earth and the moon. The results over the past 40 years have shown that the moon is receding from Earth at 3 centimetres a year. A trivium per annum, but multiply it over hundreds of years and think about the fact that the increased radius, multiplied by Pi, is added to the circumference of the moon's orbit. I don't know enough about orbital mechanics and gravitational equations to say whether this means the moon takes longer to orbit Earth, does it in the same time (but faster) , reduces the moon's tidal effect, the intensity of light reflected from the moon to Earth or any other damn thing...but it must be having some effect on Earth's environment.

2. I saw a documentary about a guy who discovered a rise in surface temperatures in the USA coinciding with the period of aircraft grounding after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Apparently the vapours and particulate pollution caused by the massive air traffic in that country were shielding the surface from solar radiation. This "global dimming" effect would be very difficult to quantify and to assess in terms of its relative effects on strata in the atmosphere. If it's cooling the surface layer by absorbing radiant energy, perhaps it's also warming the upper atmosphere by reradiating it at night. It could be either a net cooling or heating effect. (Sheesh.)

3. Apparently the Sun is progressively becoming brighter...I have a distinct feeling that this has an effect on the Earth's climate...

The foregoing 3 paragraphs are risibly superficial analysis. No argument there. Now I could stuff this section full of links and study the subject up to the best of my layman's ability but that really isn't germane to what I'm trying to convey. The fact remains that we really are in the hands of the incessantly disputing "experts". The real issue is how we, the laypersons, perceive this whole question and the answer's going to have to be from a position of ignorance. We can't learn enough about climatology to make our own analysis.

There is a remarkable truth. We are being solicited for votes, menaced with new taxation regimes; all founded upon a premise which most of us have no hope of verifying. This is a modern form of religious proselytisation. The high priests of doomsday science and their skeptical nemeses perform their incantations and conjurings and we must decide with our limited analytical resources whether to believe them.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Post#128 Ramsay Street, or Thoughts on Gordon the Gormless

I see that that boorish and foul-mouthed cook, Gordon Ramsay, has been shooting of his f*****g mouth in Australia. Not wise, I feel sure; definitely not wise, especially as it even attracted the disapprobation of the esteemed Kevin Rudd.

I’m sure people know that there are some brands that have a very short shelf-life; such is with Gordon the Gormless, a man with little charm and less talent. I would really hope that people in Australia, not reluctant to express an opinion themselves in-how shall I say?-the earthiest of terms, do not take the Great Gormless as just another ‘whinging pom.’ He’s not; he’s a useless whinging pom, something altogether different!

Please, guys and gals of Oz, don’t be taken in by this man. You may think that while his remarks about and to Tracy Grimshaw were completely over the top, he is at least excused by his talent. Talent, what talent? I would not go near any of the restaurants and bistros he runs in London; none of my friends would and none of my family would. You may not have heard of this but he runs a back street kitchen here, which ships ready-made meals to his various establishments; meals made with cheap ingredients and then marked up some 600%. Yea, that’s right, 600%! Gordon the Gormless is not worth the energy of your contempt.

Look, I know this is an awful cheek, but would you mind keeping him? I feel sure that you will be able to find some use for him, even if it’s only as bait for crocodiles! :-))

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Post#127 "Corruption? Of course there's corruption!" (Is corruption always so bad?)

Sooo, Stasi, you askeeng mi about corrarption. Vayry goood! I talk beeg about corrarption - of course, in Australia, we have a high standard of corruption which has a venerable antecedence. The story of corruption in these islands begins with the arrival of...well I'm not sure about that. I was going to say "The First Fleet of 1788" but it occurred to me that the fate of the Batavia was a fine example of rampant corruption. Then again...I'm adopting a Eurocentric posture...there must have been indigenous corruption before foreigners worked their magic on the place.

Aboriginal culture has been invested with an artificial regularity by the distance in time from which we perceive it. The existence of politics, economics and the corruption that accompanies them was as much a part of aboriginal Australian life as it was in any other part of the world. If it wasn't, then the aborigines must have been the only branch of humanity to live just like the plastic diorama figures in museums. Bob the Builder or Thomas the Tank Engine would have spicier lives. I can imagine an ambitious man of the tribe inviting an elder to a private rendezvous and offering him him some delicacies..."I've got some nice kangaroo tails here for you, uncle. Now about that fellow I need cursed...."

Corruption comes in many forms, but most of it falls into these categories:

1. Stealing from the entity that you have an obligation to; tickling the till, rorting allowances, pilfering materials/equipment.

2. Requiring a payment to do your lawful duty; you require a gift from someone to do what you're paid to do for them already.

3. Receiving a payment to do something unlawful; just about anything you can think of.

4. Using influence or authority to prefer your own interest or that of another; "fixing" tenders, giving "mates' rates", "jobs for the boys/girls".

The first and fourth categories are those which politicians prefer. The difficulty is that the disclosure of the corruption and the ensuing rituals of media torture and dismissal are good fooder for journalists but don't necessarily advance the national interest. Joel Fitzgibbon has just been driven from office without anyone actually proving that he wasn't doing a passable job as Minister for Defence. I can believe that he was tageted by vested interests in the defence bureaucracy because he was goring their oxen. He would not be the first; Defence has a well-earned reputation for bastardry. On the larger world stage, Bill Clinton lost moral and international political authority for a sex scandal which had no bearing upon great matters of state. While the scandal raged, Osama bin Laden was taking care of business. Would victory over the despots have been achieved more readily if every grubby detail of the private lives of Allied generals and politicians had been broadcast during World War II? Not likely. Abraham Lincoln denied that he said it but approved the sentiment of an anecdote that quoted him as responding to complaints about U. S. Grant's alleged boozing by saying, "Find out what sort of whisky he drinks and send a case of it to every general."

On the other hand, there is the slippery slope. There is a line in the Judaeo - Christian scriptures which tells us: "Thou shalt not bind the mouths of the kine that tread the grain." Of course, the kine may get the idea that eating the grain should take precedence over grinding it. Instead of just picking up the spillage, they might decide to tackle what's supposed to go under the millstone. The extent to which some people will abuse a privilege when they become disinhibited is a fair warning in this regard.

So there is the dilemma for the citizenry; making a gossip-feast of corrupt behaviour may keep the media wheels turning and provide taxi drivers with topics to pass time conversing about with passengers. It may also be at the price of crippling a leader engaged in competently performing necessary and difficult work. However, blind-eyeing it may also be a step on the path to disaster and it's usually not possible to foresee exactly where the path is leading in any particular situation. So, we are returned to square one. Exasperating as it is, we must suffer the repetitious disclosures because we can't really just let it pass. It's the melodrama that is confected around it that wears me out and which prompted this post on the subject. I just wish it was taken in stride and not offered to us as a wonder of the world. The title of this post is a quote from a former Police Commissioner of Western Australia, Brian Bull. If only the scandal-mongers would take his point and stop boring us to death with their excitement.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Post#126 All Votes Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than others

I thought I'd share this, Retarius. Please forgive the double post. :-)

OK, let’s begin with my fallback position and my lifeline: I don’t like the British National Party; I do not like its brand of politics; I do not like its racism and I do not like its ideology. I say this to avoid any misunderstanding arising from what I’m about to write, for I know how easy it is for misunderstandings to emerge. I would also suggest that this particular piece be read in tandem with The Resistible Rise of the BNP, which I wrote last week.

Anyway, I find it particularly amusing how certain political developments are received; for that reception usually tells me more about recipient than the object of their concern. Democracy is democracy, and all votes are important, all votes are meaningful in one way or another. But, oh no, they are not. Look at the pious statements, the expressions of shock and outrage, following in the wake of the BNP’s minor triumph in the European elections, allowing them to send two representatives to Europe. David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, a man whom I personally happen to admire, says that, “It sickens me and it should sicken everybody…it brings shame on us that these fascists, racist thugs should have been elected to the European Parliament.” Corporal Clegg of the Liberal Democrats says that the BNP, “…don’t provide any hope and any answers.” Paul Kenny, the General Secretary of the GMB union, said, “On D-Day, Britain sent an army to Europe to stop Nazis getting to Britain [Not exactly, Mr Kenny, but never mind!]….Britain is now sending Nazis to Europe.”

We have seen it all before, have we not, that democracy is a ‘good thing’ when it produces the results that we want. We, in the west, hold up democracy, with all of our cultural conceit and arrogance, as the panacea for the ills of the world, the ills, for example, of the Muslim world. For democracy, as Graham Greene’s Alden Pyle would have preached, is the ‘Third Force’, the new beginning, is it not? But give Muslims the vote then what do you get? Why, Hamas among the Palestinians, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad among the Iranians. The latter just happens to have much popular legitimacy as Barack Obama and a hell of a lot more than Joker Brown.

So, now Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons are off to Strasbourg, and the other politicians walk off the stage to demonstrate their self-righteous disapproval. Not many are prepared to face the simple fact that the corruption of our whole complacent political system is to blame; and by corruption I mean so much more than the expenses scandal.

Our prized national democracy is little better than an elected dictatorship, where a government is chosen often not just on a minority of the popular vote but on the basis of contests in key ‘swing constituencies’, where a fraction of the vote determines the eventual outcome. There are whole areas of the country that can safely be ignored, because we all know the vote there is, so to say, predetermined.

The worst parts, the most neglected parts, are those huge fiefdoms of the Labour Party, particularly strong in the north of the country, ruled over by the modern version of the Robber Baron. I would go so far as to say that people in places like Humberside have effectively been ‘disenfranchised’, whether they vote or not, if that makes sense, in our Westminster elections. Oh, we would not have these Fascists in Europe if the elections were on the basis of good-old ‘first past the post’, say the jeremiads. No, we would not; but we would still have close on a million people with no effective voice.

The fact remains, as I said in my previous piece, that people are turning to the BNP precisely because their concerns over immigration, over their own position in society, over housing and over jobs, are simply being ignored. For God sake, forget the shock horror over the success of the BNP; look at its manifesto. What will you see? Why, it’s pure ‘Old Labour’, with a strong emphasis on nationalisation, high taxation, subsidy and protectionism. Yes, every vote for the BNP is an expression of disquiet over immigration policy. More than that, it’s the call of the marginalised and the dispossessed; it’s a call for the old left-wing certainties and shibboleths of the past. Now, there is a paradox upon which to take my leave!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Post#125 We Don't Do Corruption

I would be interested to know, Retarius, if you and your readers, those who are not English, of course, are picking up on the political scandal that is rocking the Mother of Parliaments, the one cantering on MPs expenses? I cannot imagine you have not but I understand just how insular news can be, so anyone who has not you can pick up a flavour of this in three of my Ana the Imp pieces, Two Cheers for the Telegraph, or the Ducks say Fuck! (24 May), Duck Soup (21 May), and The Crooks’ Parliament, or if this is Democracy Let it Die (16 May).

There is a lovely irony to this for, you see, we do not do corruption here. You might, the rest of the world might but, oh no, we don’t. At least we did not up till now. Poor innocents: we are making up for lost ground, and how we are making up! Most people are angry over the big stuff, like the claims for moat cleaning (yes, you read that correctly, moat cleaning!), large screen TVs, fraudulent mortgage claims and all sorts of consumer luxuries that have absolutely nothing to do with Parliamentary business. But what I find most irksome is the sheer pettiness of some of the claims, claims that reveal so much about the character of our representatives. Among the worst of these was a claim for a single Kit-Kat, watching a porno movie, a wreath for commemorative Sunday and money put in a church collection plate. Can you believe that, can you believe the mentality of people who think like that? If it wasn’t just so funny it would be tragic. :))

Post#124 Laughing in Spite of Oneself

Have you ever wondered about the nature of humour, why we find some things funny and others not? Let me put this another way: have you ever found something funny despite yourself, despite all of your ‘purer’ instincts. I know I have. So, here is my confession.

I did a little research on the subject of Josef Goebbels. Whatever one happens to think of this man-and I personally find him rather repulsive-he was a propagandist of genius. Shortly after he became Gauleiter of Berlin in 1928 he founded a paper, Der Angriff, which he used as a vehicle for his views and a tool of his methods. One of his targets was the Jewish police president of Berlin, a man by the name of Dr. Bernhard Weiss, constantly referred to in Der Angriff by the insulting name of ‘Isidor’.

Now, Goebbels was the kind of man best ignored, a man referred to by one of his own party comrades as a ‘poisonous dwarf’. But poor old Doctor Weiss, in many ways a prime example of a humourless Prussian bureaucrat, was forever running like a bull at Goebbels’ rag. He repeatedly took Der Angriff to court, and was repeatedly awarded damages and costs. In the meantime the circulation of the newspaper increased and increased.

On one particular occasion the paper’s cartoonist, who went by the pen name of Moljinr, produced an illustration showing Dr Weiss as a donkey. Once again Der Angriff was taken to court, and once again judgement was passed in favour of Weiss. The day following the headline in the paper was “Judge Agrees: Isidor Does Look like a Donkey.”

Yes, I laughed.