Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Bill Whittle got it wrong about Hillary Clinton

... slightly. And anyway, that's not the point.
He analyses a series of lies by Mrs Clinton relating to her off-site storage of classified information on not one, but many insecure devices, and then quotes the law:
"... the simple admission that she did not turn in all of her work-related documents – for whatever reason -- was an open admission that she was in violation of U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 101, Section 2071, Paragraph a: which in fact is a felony. And of course, if you’re running for President, a felony looks bad on the resume."
Here is the paragraph to which he refers:
"(a) Whoever willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys, or attempts to do so, or, with intent to do so takes and carries away any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other thing, filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."
But that crack about a résumé is wide of the mark. What Mr Whittle should have quoted is the next paragraph (emphasis mine):
"(b) Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States. As used in this subsection, the term “office” does not include the office held by any person as a retired officer of the Armed Forces of the United States."
So, if this is proved against Mrs Clinton, no application is needed or wanted.
I'm not American and if I were I should have a hard time choosing between Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump, for different reasons. However, in my view Trump is a symptom and Clinton part of the malaise. The USA and the UK, as well as other Western countries, are in a systemic crisis foreseen long ago by the late Sir James Goldsmith:
The theatre of the Presidential candidates' debate may make good emo-TV, but the underlying issue of untrammelled "free trade" and its socio-economic effects has its own narrative, irrespective of the Godzilla-versus-x franchise. It seems from reports of last night's set-to that Mrs Clinton is for it and Mr Trump, like President Coolidge's preacher re sin, is "agin' it".
It's still possible, of course, that the egregious Mr Trump could win the national vote and lose the Presidency, thanks to the workings of the Electoral College - he wouldn't be the first.
Time for the real democracy that you and I love so much. Perhaps, if we little Brits could have a referendum on EU membership, Americans  could have one on TPP, TiSA and all the rest? After all, the EU is just a scale model of globalism. And then, like us, you could have the fun of watching whoever takes the leadership try to get out of the plebiscite's result - or be thwarted and subverted in attempts to honour it.
I was getting ready to go down the Ecuadorian Embassy behind Harrod's and ask for asylum - move over, Julian Assange - but June 23rd took me by surprise. In Churchill's words after Alamein: "We have victory - a remarkable and definite victory. A bright gleam has caught the helmets of our soldiers."
Cling on to hope, and remember it's not about them, it's about you.

Why we need to lose 50 MPs

It's the desperate overcrowding:

(Pic source)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Let's call it a cat

As we waited for a traffic light on upper Broadway, I saw a sporting extra headlined with the score of the game. The green sheet was more real than the afternoon itself--succinct, condensed and clear:



There it was--not like the afternoon, muddled, uncertain, patchy and scrappy to the end, but nicely mounted now in the setting of the past:


Achievement was a curious thing, I thought. Dolly was largely responsible for that. I wondered if all things that screamed in the headlines were simply arbitrary accents. As if people should ask, "What does it look like?"

"It looks most like a cat."

"Well, then, let's call it a cat."

My mind, brightened by the lights and the cheerful tumult, suddenly grasped the fact that all achievement was a placing of emphasis--a molding of the confusion of life into form.

F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Bowl (1928)

An unusually long quote but the context is important - an American football game - muddled, uncertain, patchy and scrappy to the end, but nicely mounted now in the setting of the past. And here again is the conclusion Fitzgerald's character draws from all the tidying up so that everything is nicely mounted.

My mind, brightened by the lights and the cheerful tumult, suddenly grasped the fact that all achievement was a placing of emphasis--a molding of the confusion of life into form.

Not particularly easy to generalise as an insight into the essentially artificial nature of achievement because there are obvious caveats. Eliminating hunger globally would be more than a mere placing of emphasis. So expanding Fitzgerald’s observation to wider achievements is not so easy. As well as the caveats it requires a kind of lateral cynicism, a willingness and even a desire to step away from the social clamour and focus on the artificial aspects of achievement. Perhaps it is also easy to see such an attitude as overdone, as envy or misanthropy taken too far.

And yet... and yet all achievement is a placing of emphasis because it must be. We have to define what counts as achievement and what does not, even if we are eliminating hunger or aiming to cure cancer. We have to emphasise the necessary qualities of achievement before it counts as achievement, even if that emphasis is perfectly obvious to the entire world.

Staying with sporting achievement - suppose the rules of soccer were to be changed. Smaller or bigger pitches, a different number of players, changes to the scoring, kick-ins instead of throw-ins, no offside rule. Whatever we do we have to say how the game is to be won or lost, we have to define the achievement of winning by a placing of emphasis. As we all know the emphasis on winning has become so overblown that even the idea of football as a sporting contest seems naive. The emphasis has shifted.

A more tricky example might be Jeremy Corbyn winning the general election for Labour in 2020. That would certainly be a remarkable achievement by conventional standards, yet the man probably doesn’t expect to win. His notion of achievement may be centred around a different placing of emphasis, shifting the Labour party towards the more totalitarian politics he and his supporters favour.

The internet is a remarkable achievement by conventional standards, but again we could step aside so that this too becomes a placing of emphasis. The power of almost instant global communication is emphasised over a range of more sedate alternatives such as talking, doing and taking part. This does not imply that the internet is a malign influence. It merely reminds us that popular emphasis is merely that – emphasis - and that one achievement often precludes another. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: Mood Blue

JD writes:

"Can blue men sing the whites?"

That's a very good question. In the late fifties and early sixties many of the British musicians who were part of the 'beat boom' were greatly influenced by America's blues singers and soul singers and this influenced the way the music developed. Some of the more pompous music journalists at the time were scornful of these 'white' boys trying to sing in the style of their idols saying that they were not 'authentic' whatever that means. In response to such silly journalism and possibly agreeing with them, you never quite know with Vivian Stanshall, The Bonzo Dog Band recorded a song called "Can blue men sing the whites?" Very whimsical and very British, of course.

But there are indeed not a few 'blue' men and women who really can sing blues or R&B with great feeling and 'soul' At least three of these singers here earned the respect of, and were fully endorsed by, the very singers they were trying to emulate!

Joe Cocker - Ray Charles said Cocker had one of the best voices he had ever heard.

Ottillie Patterson

Christine Perfect

Bonnie Bramlett was from 1963 to 1966 an 'Ikette', a backing singer for Ike and Tina Turner. She wrote this song with Leon Russell. It was originally recorded as 'Groupie' (with rather more explicit lyrics)

Miller Anderson

And three from Sir George Ivan "Van" Morrison, OBE

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Spurious signals

One of the pleasures of modern language is the invention of particularly apt, powerfully descriptive phrases such as ‘virtue signalling’. This seems to be a recent one. According to Google Trends it first appeared as a blip in 2009 then rose from obscurity in 2015. In spite of claims by James Bartholomew it probably originated within signalling theory. Google Ngram Viewer isn’t aware of it at all.

Virtue signalling is the expression or promotion of viewpoints that are especially valued within a social group, especially when this is done primarily to enhance the social standing of the speaker. For example, expressing a hatred of the conservative newspaper Daily Mail might be an example of virtue signalling on the British left. The term is chiefly used by commentators to criticize the platitudinous and empty or superficial support of socially progressive views on social media, but has also been used to describe analogous behaviour in other groups, such as pro-gun rights grandstanding among the American right, and by signalling theorists to discuss conspicuous piety among the religious faithful as well as agnostics and atheists.

A real stonker of a phrase, it is extraordinarily powerful as a concise term for vast swathes of unedifying human behaviour. Yet the idea of signalling is hardly new - Strindberg saw it in art.

...for my art was incapable of expressing a single idea; at the most it could represent the body in a position expressing an emotion accompanying a thought—or, in other words, express a thought at third hand. It is like signalling, meaningless to all who cannot read the signals. I only see a red flag, but the soldier sees the word of command: Advance!
August Strindberg – The Red Room (1879)

In which case and given that it is now so obvious that virtue signalling is a vital aspect of human behaviour, what prevented us from describing it in such a powerfully accessible way before? Perhaps it is because, as we well know, forceful phrases soon become overused, lose their vigour and slip off into the land of cliché.

Which would be handy for those who rely on virtue signalling because it cuts so deeply into the social fabric. It exposes the manipulative mechanisms of power, the screen behind which personal interests hide.

Celebrity culture, mainstream journalism, drama, political allegiances, the EU, the UN, major charities, environmental drama, major sporting events and international businesses all lean heavily on virtue signalling. They cannot say so or folk might expect some genuine virtues instead of being caught up in the nonsense themselves. We can’t have that can we?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dangerous Gaslight

"I told you to put that cigarette out, but would you listen?"
We've all heard the music, but has anyone seen the film?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Corbyn: if that's fair coverage, I'm one of these

Phrase here, images adapted from here and here

I don't support Mr Corbyn. I don't even vote Labour, yet, though I may if this sort of thing carries on. It's all a bit like Trump: the Establishment is in hysteria at the appearance of a not-business-as-usual candidate.

Judge the OTT language in this tidbit from the Mail on Sunday (pp 12-13):

"Secret... wipe out... plot... savage new purge... stranglehold..."

Oddly, the side article by Simon Walters about Mark Sandell's "Hard-Left plot" to unseat MP Peter Kyle is not available online, as far as I can see.

Now if the Middle East millions killed and made homeless with the help of Mr Blair and Mr Cameron are a success story for centrists, it is difficult to imagine what extremism must be like. Elsewhere (page 27) is a whinge by John Woodcock MP, who complains of being on a "hit list" but who voted for airstrikes in Syria - perhaps he should moderate his language so that real "hitting" can be seen in a true light.

And Dan Hodges! The picture editor had the nerve to repeat the photo online, but here's the truly awful eye-catcher in the print edition (p. 39):

Mr Hodges has his own wordmark; "Incendiary. Incisive. In the corridors of power". Some modern journalists are so far up themselves that they can see through their own back teeth. Incendiary, yes. Insane, perhaps, if he cannot tell the difference between a wet Labour MP and Ivan Denisovich; or between Stalin, as is implied here, and Hitler, as below.

Let's now turn to a nasty, desperate, unjustifiable piece of innuendo, a touchstone for MSM discussion of radical Labour. On the same double page as the first article there is a smear: A heard B say something nasty about Holocaust ovens to C, and although it has nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn, it is made to sort of appear that it does:

Hard copy - Mail On Sunday 18.09.2016, pp 12-13
  1. The remark was made not at a Labour meeting, but at the Proms!
  2. The alleged offender was not a Labour politician or wonk, but Dr Leslie Jones, the deputy editor of a right-wing magazine called The Quarterly Review
  3. The alleged victim was Henrietta Foster, a BBC journalist, who is not Jewish, not related to Michael Foster (of whom more below) and not involved in the Foster-related Twitterspit/spat with Mr Bright. However she had appeared in a film, questioning the son of a Nazi, and is writing a book about Hungarian Jews. At a previous reception, she had previously told Dr Jones to "**** off" - because the latter had voted to leave the EU!
  4. The alleged witness was Martin Bright, a former Observer journalist and former worker for Tony Blair's Faith Foundation, therefore dubbed in the headline as "Blair aide", i.e. not.
  5. Michael Foster - not involved in the incident - is or was a donor to the Labour Party, is Jewish, and compared Jeremy Corbyn's leadership group to the Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA), because (so I understand) Mr Foster supports the State of Israel and wishes it to continue in the Middle East; I also understand that Jewishness and "Zionism" are not the same thing and that there are Jews who are also not "Zionists" [for example, please see the True Torah Jews website, run by Orthodox Jews]
  6. On an unrelated matter, Mr Bright criticised the suspension of Mr Foster from the Labour Party some days ago and some people said supposedly nasty things to the former on Twitter, such as (a) Mr Foster encourages anti-Semitic sentiment by his actions [? support for Israel and/or intemperate language classing non-Zionists as Nazis] and (b) the suspension was a good decision and Mr Corbyn should also remove other activists for Mr Foster's chosen cause. Looking closely at the "tweets", I cannot see anything actionable in terms of anti-Semitism, but perhaps I do not see things as a lawyer can. Also, though the tweeters are described as "Corbynista", the article does not show that they are members of the Labour Party, Labour voters or indeed that they are Corbyn supporters rather than false-flag trolls. Not, of course that the twittling has anything to do with this particular bit of nonsense, anyway.
So, a person who is politically on the opposite side from Labour is abominably rude to another person who was previously abominably rude to himself because of a completely unrelated issue, and is overheard by a third person who was not, pace the headline, politically a "Blair aide" but an ex-worker for one the ex-PM's private organisations. The offensive exchange was not to do with a suspended Labour Party donor or political differences over the State of Israel. Mr Corbyn and his Parliamentary colleagues and co-workers were not involved in any way.

But by golly the link had to be made, even if it didn't exist. The fake tear-out visual says "Corbyn purges top Jewish donor over MoS article... and reignites race row". It is a moot question whether Jews are a race or a religion; also, exactly what either has to do with a political/nationalist issue called "Zionism"; but this tangential scrap is used to complete a papier-mâché parody of Mr Corbyn and his leadership of the Labour Party.

I assume drink had been taken on all sides, but I begin to wonder about the reporter and editor also!

The article is piffle, and so utterly misleading as to remind one of the term "doublethink". Not surprising, when you consider that the MoS' editor is Geordie Greig, a Scot who campaigned in the MoS for the independence of Scotland and against independence for the UK, and continues to do so now. A bovinely stubborn and logically incoherent Mr Greig; an oxymoron, perhaps.

In the oo-er-perhaps-we-need-to-amend-it-a-bit online avatar of the same article, the body text and tear-out are the same, but the headline is changed, and bullet points added. In an egregious (e-Greig-ious?) piece of weaselspeak, the word "separate" is newly introduced in order to admit in passing that two connected things are not connected:

Holocaust film-maker is told to 'get back in the oven' by literary magazine editor as witness reveals separate anti-Semitic abuse by Corbynistas 

  • Dr Leslie Jones, editor of the Quarterly Review Magazine, launched rant
  • She told BBC's Henrietta Foster to 'get back in oven' at Proms reception
  • Witness Martin Bright said he has been targeted with anti-Semitic abuse
  • He criticised Labour Party for suspending Jewish donor Michael Foster 

Online, there is also a lovely photograph of the fashionably tieless and unshaven Mr Bright, adding nothing to the core matter but contributing to that all-important visual miasma of victimhood and social justice, for those who find words difficult to read and interpret.

And, presumably realizing that they may be open to a counterattack because of their possibly libellous implications of anti-semitism (a hate crime) against Mr Corbyn, the editors have now included a video clip of Mr Corbyn condemning it. This is the Youtube link, though it seems it's the same as the one accessed through the Mail:

The MoS: for the deranged, by the deranged. I wouldn't get it at all, except for the column by Peter Hitchens who, by the way, though he supports Israel and does not support Mr Corbyn, respects him. I think the MoS would sometimes like to get rid of Mr Hitchens, too - it did for a while, last year:


Milo's sweetly preening video here rejoices in Trump's humiliation of the biased and manipulative mainstream media. As he says (2:19), "Here's what no journalist in America seems to understand: everyone hates you!"

Not just in the USA, dear Milo.

Art on Sunday: JD on "Dysphoria" by Lizzie Rowe

"Dysphoria", by Lizzie Rowe

I first saw this painting two or three years ago. It is hanging in The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. The reproductions of it on the net are poor and do not reflect the subtlety of the colours nor the depth nor the mysterious shadowy details upper left. The paint is very thickly applied over most of the surface, especially the whites of the dress which seem to have been almost plastered onto the surface.

A very interesting picture, very visceral and with layers of unknown meanings within it. When I then walked forward to read the label, I was rather surprised to see the name Lizzie Rowe. Surprised because I had previously seen some of her paintings in The Biscuit Factory and they did not engage me at all. I was more impressed by other paintings by Paul Harvey (one of The Stuckists) on display in the same show.

I have not met Lizzie Rowe but I know several people who have and who know her extremely well. On her web page she and others make no secret of the artist's journey from married heterosexual man (and father) to transgendered woman. Knowing the story, or most of it from those who know her, it is obvious that the change was traumatic and very difficult psychologically and this is reflected in part in her paintings. One hundred years from now such biographical details will be but a footnote of little consequence, it is the paintings themselves which are, or should be, the focus of attention.

I went back this morning to have another look at the painting just to see if it still evoked the same response in me. It does. The thickness of the paint is a very striking feature of it. The white semi-circle looks as though it has been applied directly from the tube. The record player, the TV and the ironing board on the right are more vibrant than in the reproductions and the strange ambiguity of the top left is even more mysterious than I remember. Thickly applied paint may suggest a slapdash approach but, in fact, it is very carefully done and the various details are clearly defined.

Last night I was looking through a book called "What Painting Is" by James Elkins. This is one of the best books about painting that I have ever read.

Elkins says that painting is the act of 'smearing coloured mud onto paper or linen' and that is the cold analytical definition but '... it is also liquid thought.'

That is a very profound statement. He goes on to quote the painter Frank Auerbach who wrote, "As soon as I become consciously aware of what the paint is doing my involvement with the painting is weakened. Paint is at its most eloquent when it is a by-product of some corporeal, spatial, developing imaginative concept, a creative identification with the subject."

What he is trying to say there is that painting, or any creative activity, is not a product of the conscious mind but is an unconscious process. Just like walking - learning to walk requires great concentration and much effort but the more you do it the less you need to think about how you do it.

Elkins continues the theme of the difficulty of explaining the thought processes involved in creating a painting- "Things only get harder to articulate when the religious meanings come into focus, and it begins to appear that the studio work - the labour - really is about redemption."

That may sound grandiose but art and religion are inseparable. They have been intertwined since the dawn of time. There is no religion or belief system in history that does not have its artistic expression.

Elkins uses the word 'religious' but I would suggest that 'spiritual' would be a better word. As I said above, any creative activity is an unconscious process which is what Auerbach was suggesting. The artist or the craftsman, and to a lesser extent the artisan and the tradesman, is involved in a strange synthesis of hand/eye/brain with the thing being created. It involves a physical effort in the act of creation and often produces a spiritual elation. The mundane, secular world calls that 'job satisfaction' but that is to trivialise it with its hint of smug self-gratification. It is not that at all, it is the calm or 'inner peace' which is the result of deep concentration and, as Auerbach notes, identification with the subject.

In the painting, the figure at the centre is deep in concentration in the act of gathering together the pearls from the broken string and that gives a stillness to the picture; a moment of calm between the activity depicted on the right and the strange ethereal quality coming from the top left of the picture. Others may have a different interpretation but that is my own reading of it.

With the reference to religion made by Elkins, we reach a point where the modern secular world closes its mind. It is not the done thing to discuss religion. The case is closed - there is no ghost in the machine!

But art is a perfect link between science and religion, between the secular and the spiritual. As the painter, the late Iain Carstairs says-

'Art is that endeavour in which consciousness imposes an otherwise intangible element of itself onto matter in such a way that it can be decoded by others: it is an alchemy which maths can never analyse or create.'

And the physicist Richard Feynman had this to say-

"I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world. It’s difficult to describe because it’s an emotion.

"It’s analogous to the feeling one has in religion that has to do with a god that controls everything in the universe: there’s a generality aspect that you feel when you think about how things that appear so different and behave so differently are all run ‘behind the scenes’ by the same organization, the same physical laws. It’s an appreciation of the mathematical beauty of nature, of how she works inside; a realization that the phenomena we see result from the complexity of the inner workings between atoms; a feeling of how dramatic and wonderful it is.It’s a feeling of awe — of scientific awe — which I felt could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had that emotion. I could remind him, for a moment, of this feeling about the glories of the universe."

Art is the gateway to the world of spirit, to heaven. If you prefer a scientific explanation you could say it is the gateway to what the physicist David Bohm calls 'the implicate order' from which the material world flows and to which it returns.

"Vita brevis, ars longa."






Feynman quote from-

David Bohm (Wholeness & The Implicate Order)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

I, Prime Minister

How many people have died as a result of ACL Blair's falling-in with GW Bush's mysterious assault on Iraq? How many others in the Middle East, from DWD Cameron's overt and covert actions in the Middle East?

Thinking of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics* (and the many related potential conundrums he explored in his stories), I wonder how we might frame general principles for Prime Ministers.

Here is my first and likely heavily flawed attempt:
  1. A Prime Minister may not [on aggregate] injure a human being or, through inaction, [on aggregate] allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A Prime Minister must obey the law, Parliamentary conventions, the British Constitution and the outcome of British plebiscites except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A Prime Minister must protect the sovereignty, security and prosperity of the nation as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Any suggestions? And what Asimov-like plot twists could arise?
*Or four, as they later came to be: