Old Friends…..

I am shutting down my other blog…but would like to preserve some of the posts, so apologies to those who have read this before – although in terms of the Eurozone it still seems decidedly relevant!

all mARCH 13 235 July 23, 2012
Sunday morning in Costa Rica.

A warm hazy morning with a slight breeze lifting the humidity as I sit on my balcony listening t0 the Test Match Special team describing the annihilation of the England cricket team at the hands of the South Africans.

As Jacques Kallis thumps a ball from Ravi Bopari to the boundary yet again, I see on the laptop that Bradley Wiggins has won the Tour de France and led his compatriot Mark Cavendish into a fourth sprint victory on the final stage in the heart of Paris…..and turning to the French newspapers see with no surprise that while the journalists are fair, the comments on the victory articles are sour and jealous.

The voice of France.

But not the only one as, turning to the politics reporting I find with delight that old friends have made their reappearance.

Sarkozy? Chirac? Mitterand?

No! Much more interesting….

pumping_shadoks2
The Shadoks. Birds with vestigial wings, long legs and big clumsy feet. Heroes (?) of a television series.

They were a cult in the years in which I first stayed in one place in France long enough to watch television….and even then those series were repeats of the early stuff which I think came out in the 1970s.

They lived on a two dimensional planet from which it was easy to slip off into the void and their aim was to colonise the more stable Terra, inhabited only by retired dinosaurs and an obnoxious insect…but their plans went always awry.

Harmless enough you might think…sort of a French version of The Clangers….but it roused passions, even on second and third repeats, because it was felt that the Shadoks were being used to represent the French people by their creator, Jacques Rouxel.

And the image presented was not to the taste of all.

The Shadocks were ruthless….and stupid.

So stupid that all of which they were capable was blind obedience to orders: whereas the other group in the series, also seeking to move from an unstable planet, the Gibis, were presented as intelligent and cooperative, capable, efficient and peace loving.

They even got along with the obnoxious insect.

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Rumour had it that these Gibis – whose collective brain was housed in their hats – were meant to represent the British!

Outrage!

The delight in the Shadoks rested in their perversion of those qualities on which French culture prided itself….logic and mathematics.

What was the nature of a colander?

Anything could be a colander which had an exterior, an interior and some holes.

The holes were not very important.

It didn’t matter how many holes there were, or if you reduced the number of holes by a half, or even if there were no holes at all.

QED…. that the notion of a colander was independent of the notion of a hole and vice versa.

In the same vein, there were three types of colander…

One which let through neither noodles nor water.

One which let through both.

One which sometimes let through one or the other and sometimes did not.

A colander which did not let through water or noodles was a saucepan.

A saucepan without a handle was a bus,

A bus which did not move was a saucepan (slang term for an old banger).

The use of language too was subversive with its twisting of common phrases and proverbs….

Everything which is not clearly authorised is strictly prohibited….

If it is hurting, it’s good for you….

Why do something the easy way if you can make it difficult…

If you don’t know where you’re going you have to get there as soon as possible….

The only way the poor Shadoks could escape to the stability of Terra was by building a rocket…..but the fuel was a substance floating in the air and their leaders told them that the only way to succeed in trapping the fuel was by pumping…..and so the Shadoks pumped.

shadock4_s

And pumped.

And were told that it was only by pumping that they would get somewhere….and if they didn’t get anywhere at least they hadn’t done any harm….after all, better to pump even if nothing happened than that something worse happened if you did not pump.

So why have the Shadoks…under the radar for so long…emerged in the political columns of Le Figaro?

Because the German ambassador must be a fan…he was expounding on the problems of the eurozone recently and delivered himself of the well known Shadokism…

If there is not a solution, it is because there is not a problem…..

shadock3_s
Which led the author of the article, Jean-Pierre Robin, to consider the attempts to control and master the crisis in terms of the two dimensional world of the Shadoks.

In which context the phrases cited above may take on a new resonance.

As may these…..

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In a parody of probablility theory, if something has only a million to one chance of succeeding the sooner you try the 999,999 attempts doomed to failure the better….

While remembering that to finance the said attempts, there are less malcontents if you always hit the same targets…

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And that our self proclaimed leaders have a similar capability to the leaders of the Shadoks….

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Who speak so intelligently that they fail to understand what they are saying.

Acknowledgements.

Le Figaro July 22nd 2012. Article by Jean-Pierre Robin ‘Quand les Shadocks eclairent les paradoxes de la zone euro.’

The first illustration comes from this article.

Wikipedia on the Shadoks…the French version.

http://www.archimedes-lab.org/shadoks/shadoks.html for the other illustrations.

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Where Are Whelks When You Need Them……?

lucia-sector-barrio-chino-lunes_LNCIMA20130917_0148_5 It is the rainy season here….it comes every year….it is not a one off event.
This photograph from the Costa Rican newspaper ‘La Nacion’ shows a flooded street in San Jose, the nation’s capital.
Tut, you might think. Isn’t it about time the council got round to doing something about this?
Upgrading?

Well, the council had got round to upgrading the street in question…the whole area was disrupted for months recently while they messed around with the old Paseo des los Estudiantes to turn it into – Barrio Chino.

ww. skyscrapercity.com
ww. skyscrapercity.com
Most of the old shops are gone, forced out by high rents and shortage of customers thanks to lack of access.
Pardonable while works were underway…unpardonable when cars were banned even from loading and unloading.
My favourite pawn shop is feeling the pinch….the shops either side have gone already.

And what do we have in its place?
Tawdry shops offering prime junk from the factories of China…knick knacks, decorations for Christmas – yes, already – and restaurants where the menu is only in Chinese script and the dose of monosodium glutamate is enough to turn you dizzy.

China Town as in London’s Soho it is not.

But I digress.
When upgrading, the street was laid with patterns of differing coloured paving…most attractive..but underneath the paving there was something missing.

Drains. Proper ones. Fit to cope with the annual rainy season.

When I was growing up drains were only mentioned in connection with houses – as in were the drains working properly – or with London’s Great Stink of 1858. It was taken for granted that towns had drains and that those drains worked.

Clearly when planning Barrio Chino great attention was paid to street furniture…but not much to drains. The council insist that they exist…they might as well not.

The council official responsible for drains – existent or not – states that it is all the fault of:

A. Cars driving too fast through rainwater on Avenida 4 thus sending ripples of water into Barrio Chino.
Good try sir!

and/or

B. A drainage outlet from a neighbouring barrio, blocking the drainage of Barrio Chino.
I know that medieval Europe had the habit of hanging animals found to be guilty of causing human death and begin to wonder if we shall see council officials solemnly stringing up drain pipes from the neighbouring barrio at the junction of Barrio Chino with Avenida 4 in a sort of municipal auto da fe.

They would not have been able to do this until just recently, as at all interjunctions high domes had been built in the centre, buses and trucks tilting sideways to negotiate them, faces peering in alarmed fashion from the windows.
The domes have since been removed.
Presumably someone who matters had bust his car’s suspension on one of them.

But help is at hand!

A Study will be made…another pernicious habit picked up from the European Union no doubt….and a solution will be found for the summer of 2014.
It has not been stated whether this will be part of the summer beginning in December 2013 and running until May 2014 or the summer beginning in December 2014 in which case those making the study will have had the advantage of being prepared by taking a look at the rainy season of 2014 falling between the two.
Just don’t drive too fast along Avenida 4 next year or you’ll drown the experts and the whole thing will have to begin again.

The results of the study will no doubt be some solace to those who frequent the Parque Central across from the Cathedral where large rats…flushed out from the flooded drains which are their normal habitat…have moved uphill and are enjoying al fresco lunches on the food waste thrown out by local restaurants.
If the Muni doesn’t do something soon they’ll acquire squatters’ rights.

In the meantime the school near my house in San Jose is facing foreclosure.
Yes, you did read that correctly. A school is facing foreclosure for not paying its municipal taxes for the last goodness knows how long and the Muni is getting tough.

Why hasn’t it paid its municipal taxes?
Because the San Jose Board of Education – body responsible – hasn’t coughed up.
Its administration budget seems to have disappeared down the plughole…probably single handedly responsible for flooding Barrio Chino.

Who appoints the San Jose Board of Education?

The Muni. The San Jose council.

We are coming up to Presidential elections next year. The mayor of San Jose…who has now stood down in order to concentrate on his campaign…is a candidate.

I suggest that, as a preliminary to the elections, all potential candidates are asked to undertake a fitness for purpose task.

There are two methods known to me, but the first, organising a piss up in a brewery, is out. Brewing is a state monopoly.

This leaves the second.

Running a whelk stall.

But there are no whelks in Costa Rica.

So no doubt the mayor will be elected President…all for the lack of a whelk.

Rise Up Like a Lion

leo monolulu 004

Our house in San Jose was burgled in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Our 99 year old neighbour telephoned us and then the police. She has a sense of priorities.

The police in Costa Rica are not an homogeneous force….the grunts on the ground are the Fuerza Publica (the Public Force)…known to our friends as the Fuerza Floja (the Floppy Force) whose role is to arrive on the scene, and make an inspection.
Normally they neither arrive nor make an inspection…there are exceptions of course, but generally they are useless.
Reminds me of our local Gendarmerie in France where someone had hung a notice on the gate to their offices reading ‘Do Not Disturb’.
So the Fuerza Floja didn’t come and didn’t inspect.

My husband answered the telephone and I saw a metamorphosis.
He is a pensioner…has been ill for years…but he rose up like a lion.
No, I was not to go…..it would upset me. He would deal with it.
He is an old fashioned man – very protective.

He called Danilo and they went to the house.
The bars protecting the house had been sawn through – the burglars invisible from the street.
Things thrown about, shit everywhere….the defilement of intrusion.

While Danilo started on repairs, Leo got to work.
He contacted the specialist police, the OIJ (like the CID), who were both efficient and sympathetic.
Every line was followed up…fingerprints, DNA and the Muni’s surveillance cameras which were, of course, not loaded.
So much for our local taxes.

He had the bars replaced and security lights and razor wire installed that very day.
Expats, immigrants, call them what you will tend to moan that you can’t get Costa Ricans to do anything in a hurry – but these chaps came out and set to work at once.
Perhaps it helps that they too use the local taxi drivers’ caff where we go for lunch.
The lady serving at the caff offered to clean the house and came round when she had finished work.
For added security she offered the services of one of her sons as night watchman complete with machete and two pit bulls.
I’ve met his dogs – nice animals unless startled, at which point you need to make a getaway at the speed of light if you don’t want your trousers shredded in unusual places.

He obtained estimates for the major repairs which will be carried out on Monday.

Flushed with his success he stopped off at the market and arrived home laden with vegetables, cheese and bacon, calling for beer.
He was a new man – or more accurately, the man he was before illness struck him.
Smiling, happy, confident.
Yes, the burglary was a nuisance…but not the end of the world.
Nothing he couldn’t deal with.

Leo may not have eaten of the prey and drunk the blood of the slain (Numbers 23:24), much though he would have wished to do so – but I am so proud of him.

September 11th…1973…..2001…..2013

On September 11th 2001 the first news I had of the destruction of the World Trade Centre came from the two young men employed by my Turkish builder.

They were cock a hoop!

America had been attacked!

Their boss brought them down to earth immediately…the people killed and injured in that attack weren’t, for the greater part, involved in the governing of America or determining its policies…they were ordinary people, secretaries, cooks, cleaners, security guards….people like them, like their families.

They took his point…..felt for the victims and their families….. sobered down…but when news of the attack on the Pentagon came in they cheered up again.

Surely that’s a legitimate target! That’s military!

Now these two young men, sunny, kind and helpful, good sons and brothers, were hardly fundamentalists.

They were Turks, brought up in the secular state founded by Kemal Ataturk after the downfall of the Ottoman empire…and would describe themselves as Muslims in the same way that most English people would put down Cof E if asked about religion, while actually being what used to be described as wheelbarrow Christians – attending church for christenings, marriages and burials.

The imam of their mosque was not a backwoodsman from Bangladesh, but a man keen to help his ‘flock’ find their feet in France while preserving their own culture….the emphasis was on making the most of the new life in a different land.

So why were these two decent young men so delighted that America had been attacked?

We talked about it in the succeeding days.
They were as about as political as they were fundamentalist….all politicians were crooked, all governments cheated their peoples…that was about the limit of it…..so why the delight?

What it came down to was their view of America as a bully state…..imposing its will on other countries, exploiting the poor and helpless, while secure from attack itself.
Thus the delight.
Some one had struck back.

I remembered another September 11th…that of 1973.

The day that a free Chile awoke to the bombardments of the American backed fascists mounting a coup d’etat against the government of Salvador Allende.

No one could say that the Allende government was perfect…far from it, though it would have had more chance of succeeding if the ‘middle ground’ Christian Democrats had stayed with it as a moderating force rather than taking to opposition….but it was Chile’s government and it was not for America to back the coup, as Kissinger admitted that they did.

Over the years, America’s meddling in the affairs of sovereign states to support its commercial empire has been responsible for appalling levels of repression, of poverty, of lack of education, of torture and death.
It’s backing of Bin Laden in Afghanistan gave him the money and influence to start a movement to free the Islamic ‘Holy Land’ from the contamination of the American presence.
Successive American governments have sown the wind…and the whirlwind has struck us all.

None of this is the ‘fault’ of the people in the World Trade Centre….they, like all of us, had no way of controlling their government.
Had you asked them if they wanted to see people kept in poverty and threatened with gaol or death for resistance as a result of their country’s politics then they would surely have said ‘no’.
As we would, I hope, say ‘no’.

The problem, it seems to me, is that there is no longer a workable link between people and their governments.
The governing ‘caste’ is self perpetuating and its interests and values are not those of the people.
The ‘differing’ parties are but different faces of the same phenomenon, whose rule is ‘validated’ by elections.
In exchange for freedom and decision making this caste has given the people ‘purchasing power’….a vicious illusion of freedom of choice, masking the very real lack of actual power.

It strikes me that the best memorial to those who have died in New York and in succeeding terrorist attacks throughout the world would be for people to lift their heads from the mire in which they have been kept by the ruling castes of our ‘democracies’.
To start to examine the reality of their situation as a preliminary to action to restore power to its rightful holders…

The people.

In 2001, as ‘planes crashed and towers crumbled, some of those about to die were able to leave last messages for their families.

In 1973, as the bombs fell and troops invaded his palace, President Allende left a last message to the people of Chile……

Liberty does not die.

But if we want to keep its candle flame bright we have to take responsibility…to be aware of what governments do in our name…..to question and to act.

Here is an article by John Pilger, published in ‘The Guardian’ on Tuesday September 10th 2013 19.15 BST, which gives an analysis worth attention:

‘On my wall is the Daily Express front page of September 5 1945 and the words: “I write this as a warning to the world.” So began Wilfred Burchett’s report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.

Almost every day now, he is vindicated. The intrinsic criminality of the atomic bombing is borne out in the US National Archives and by the subsequent decades of militarism camouflaged as democracy. The Syria psychodrama exemplifies this. Yet again we are held hostage by the prospect of a terrorism whose nature and history even the most liberal critics still deny. The great unmentionable is that humanity’s most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.

John Kerry’s farce and Barack Obama’s pirouettes are temporary. Russia’s peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy. With al-Qaida now among its allies, and US-armed coupmasters secure in Cairo, the US intends to crush the last independent states in the Middle East: Syria first, then Iran. “This operation [in Syria],” said the former French foreign minister Roland Dumas in June, “goes way back. It was prepared, pre-conceived and planned.”

When the public is “psychologically scarred”, as the Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Rugman described the British people’s overwhelming hostility to an attack on Syria, suppressing the truth is made urgent. Whether or not Bashar al-Assad or the “rebels” used gas in the suburbs of Damascus, it is the US, not Syria, that is the world’s most prolific user of these terrible weapons.

In 1970 the Senate reported: “The US has dumped on Vietnam a quantity of toxic chemical (dioxin) amounting to six pounds per head of population.” This was Operation Hades, later renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand – the source of what Vietnamese doctors call a “cycle of foetal catastrophe”. I have seen generations of children with their familiar, monstrous deformities. John Kerry, with his own blood-soaked war record, will remember them. I have seen them in Iraq too, where the US used depleted uranium and white phosphorus, as did the Israelis in Gaza. No Obama “red line” for them. No showdown psychodrama for them.

The sterile repetitive debate about whether “we” should “take action” against selected dictators (ie cheer on the US and its acolytes in yet another aerial killing spree) is part of our brainwashing. Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law and UN special rapporteur on Palestine, describes it as “a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence”. This “is so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable”.

It is the biggest lie: the product of “liberal realists” in Anglo-American politics, scholarship and media who ordain themselves as the world’s crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. Stripping humanity from the study of nations and congealing it with jargon that serves western power designs, they mark “failed”, “rogue” or “evil” states for “humanitarian intervention”.

An attack on Syria or Iran or any other US “demon” would draw on a fashionable variant, “Responsibility to Protect”, or R2P – whose lectern-trotting zealot is the former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, co-chair of a “global centre” based in New York. Evans and his generously funded lobbyists play a vital propaganda role in urging the “international community” to attack countries where “the security council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time”.

Evans has form. He appeared in my 1994 film Death of a Nation, which revealed the scale of genocide in East Timor. Canberra’s smiling man is raising his champagne glass in a toast to his Indonesian equivalent as they fly over East Timor in an Australian aircraft, having signed a treaty to pirate the oil and gas of the stricken country where the tyrant Suharto killed or starved a third of the population.

Under the “weak” Obama, militarism has risen perhaps as never before. With not a single tank on the White House lawn, a military coup has taken place in Washington. In 2008, while his liberal devotees dried their eyes, Obama accepted the entire Pentagon of his predecessor, George Bush: its wars and war crimes. As the constitution is replaced by an emerging police state, those who destroyed Iraq with shock and awe, piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libya to a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration. Behind their beribboned facade, more former US soldiers are killing themselves than are dying on battlefields. Last year 6,500 veterans took their own lives. Put out more flags.

The historian Norman Pollack calls this “liberal fascism”: “For goose-steppers substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.” Every Tuesday the “humanitarian” Obama personally oversees a worldwide terror network of drones that “bugsplat” people, their rescuers and mourners. In the west’s comfort zones, the first black leader of the land of slavery still feels good, as if his very existence represents a social advance, regardless of his trail of blood. This obeisance to a symbol has all but destroyed the US anti-war movement – Obama’s singular achievement.

In Britain, the distractions of the fakery of image and identity politics have not quite succeeded. A stirring has begun, though people of conscience should hurry. The judges at Nuremberg were succinct: “Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity.” The ordinary people of Syria, and countless others, and our own self-respect, deserve nothing less now.’

Americans who may chance to read this may not like it…may feel offended. I hope not: if we are to restore values we once held then we have to take back power from those who hold it – not just the politicians, but those who control and pay them.

The Great Generation went to war to overthrow tyranny…..not to perpetuate it.

The Wanderer’s Return

thisamericangirl.com

Before we go any further…..these are calves…agreed? Small, appealing manageable creatures….

My return has not been a resounding success.

It was not a good idea to leave Spain with mother on Sunday, travel all day, settle her in, cook a meal, pack and leave at 2.00 am on Monday for the airport.

London Heathrow Terminal 4 was not a good idea either.
Very few service staff in the forecourse and an insistence that the clients use ‘print it yourself’ check in slips.
By the time I had fathomed where to slide in my passport and which way up and had discovered that to swipe a bank card you need to move it in and out of a slot I was in an ill humour…the situation not improved by the multiplicity of staff within the tape bound snake toward the actual check in who seemed to want to see the already swiped passport, and ask damnfool questions about where exactly I was resident.

Once past security the shopping area was fine if you’re a fool who likes to be parted from your money but otherwise distinctly useless….and again overstaffed with ladies in mauve who were quite capable of telling you where to find expensive rubbish and not so hot on telling you where to find the decidedly scarce destination indicators.

It had not been a good idea not to bring sandwiches.
The Caviar House and Prunier stand was just setting up for the day, their staff wearing those absurb black hats that these days denote catering staff whose management has ideas above the quality of their product.
Dining Street resembled a cross between a dilapidated Wimpy and something left over from the Olympics publicity team.
And as for Costa and the poncily named Apostrophe…forget it. One look at the stuff being loaded onto the shelves and the hungriest would renounce eating something that looked as though it had been flung together by primary school children inadequately trained in finger painting.

Not to speak of the prices.
You could easily slim if you had to live in the post security area of Terminal 4.

The flight was fine…if you like being in the middle seat with no way to turn on your reading light when every last idiot in a window seat has pulled down their window blind in order to watch crap on the laughingly called entertainment system.
No other seat with a working reading light available.

Breaking my glasses and losing the important lens was not too hot either.
I had to spend four hours on the connecting flight staring at the map that shows how slowly the plane is approaching the destination and then crowning disaster, picked up the wrong case at the baggage claim.

It was the same colour, it had the same purple through baggage tag….but it was not mine.
A working pair of glasses might have avoided that…

The airline were on the ‘phone as I hit the front door.

I returned, and discovered how easy it would be to blow up the airport.

The airline office is behind the check in desks. Without a question, without control, I toddled in to hand in the bag and to retrieve my own.
Yes, there are security cameras, but there is nothing whatsoever to stop you from dropping into the loo, depositing a bomb in the waste bin and toddling on your merry way again.
Oddly enough, the other party had not claimed the missing case….mine had been discovered forlornly on the caroussel….so goodness only knows what that was about.

I returned home. I had supper. I went to bed.
As I switched on the light there was a noise as if of a herd of elephants bellowing.
Underneath my window.

What the blazes is that?

Ah.

That reply, so small in itself but so pregnant with meaning.

You remember I told you I’d bought some calves?

Yes, I did remember the project being mentioned.

Well, that’s them.

After a night of bellowing and banging about below, morning brought enlightenment.
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Five seven month old Brahma crosses, weighing some 200 kilos apiece, testicles still very much attached and missing their mothers.

So far one has escaped via the stream, chased the new neighbour’s horse, charged through his corral upsetting the fire over which he was cooking his mid day soup and returned via the drive taking with him a stand of ornamental gingers.

The new neighbour, far from complaining, helped in the recapture.
It brightened up his day apparently as he is currently living in a horsebox having been thrown out by his wife for losing the contents of his lorry while boozing instead of coming straight home from the feria…and lunch at ours was better than lunch at his.

The Men are busy strengthening the pen….and the sheep are adjusting to the new normality.
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I’m not sure that I am though perhaps it is as well that I have returned as apparently the neighbour has opened negotiations with a view to moving into our currently unused pig pen as providing better shelter in the rainy season…..