Bexit? Sure, why not? It is bound to be the solution to all problems, since none are homemade in Britain. rright?


Here is one prophecy.

The United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

Thereafter Scotland achieves sovereignty and leaves the United Kingdom to join the European Union.

Not to be left behind, Wales does the same.

Northern Ireland? Surely it would be next.

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The result will be Little England.

But not for long, because the rustbelt in the north will consider seceding, so as to join the European Union.

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It will then be Littler England. And a new flag will have to be designed.

What do socialism and the Republican Party have in common? Read on.

In 'Murdoch’s Organ' (aka ‘The Australian’ newspaper) of 5 April one KImberly Strassel mentioned Ripon Wisconsin as the birthplace of the Republican Party in the context of the forthcoming Republican primary election there pitting Donald Trump against all comers.

The little white school house in Ripon Wisconsin is the symbolic birthplace of the Republican Party because in about 1852 the Free Soil Party was first organised there, and it morphed into the Republican Party in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was its nominee for president, and the eventual winner.

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The Whig Party was slowing imploding in parallel with the rise of the Republicans. The Whigs had elected presidents, but had not succeeded in electing its foremost figure and greatest statesman, Henry Clay, whose frequently quoted remark ‘I’d rather be right than president’ proved all too prescient. Clay was the great compromiser whose compromises for a generation staved off civil war and with his death one of the legs of the table of compromise was lost and the war followed.

These days to call someone a compromiser is a dire insult. One must be consistent and uncompromising to win the adulation of the addled minds of the media.

The Whigs had never supposed slavery was a major issue and the Democratic Party, that genetic issue of Thomas Jefferson, himself a slave holder and more importantly a worshipper of states’ rights above all else, had scrupulously avoided the subject. The one church Jefferson honoured was the state house. Andrew Jackson that other founder of the Democractic Party did not mince words about states rights, he simply declared the slaves inhuman.

The Free Soil movement opposed the extension of slavery in the new western states, starting in the north west with Wisconsin because it feared slave labor would labor. The short lived Free Soil Party was born in the little White School house and there is more.

Three of the five signatures on the minutes of the first meeting in the Little White School House came from individuals who had been socialists!

Gasp! Shock! Horror!

Yes, an Associationist Fourier community inspired by French utopian socialist Charles Fourier had flourished in what is now Fond du Lac county at Ceresco just east of Ripon for a few years and as it was winding down some of its members aligned themselves with the rising tide of Free Soil. Associationism was a version of Fourier’s phalanx scripted for American ears by Albert Brisbane and promoted, by among others, Horace Greeley. It was Karl Marx who labeled Fourier a utopian socialist, well Frederick Engels, in fact, but few acolytes notice the distinction.

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Ergo the seed of the Republican Party bears the original sin of S O C I A L I S M. Not a fact to be found on the Republican National Committee’s website. Not even a fact to be found in Ripon where it is reported that the early records were destroyed in a fire. But a fact that can be confirmed in the Library of Congress where other records survive.

I wondered how anyone knows of the Party’s history since the Republican National Committee has been stripping history from its web site to comply with the worldview of its Tea Party rump these last few years. To be sure the Ripon Society still exists but it is a shadow of its former self. The list of Ripon Republicans (= by definition liberal, some avant le mot) is impressive for their achievements and noteworthy for their near eradication from the GOP’s official history: Herbert Hoover, George Norris, Thomas Dewey, Arthur Vandenberg, John Lindsay, Wendell Wilkie, Earl Warren, Margaret Chase Smith, Henry Cabot Lodge, Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Spector, Nancy Johnson, Christine Whitman, and Harold Stassen. Few, if any, of these giants would be acceptable to a party that nominates Donald Trump for high office. These days the Ripon Society celebrates the likes of Dennis Hastert, mudslinger extraordinaire and one-time wrestling coach.

A liberal Republican (1) was an internationalist who worked with international organisations like the United Nations and preferred multilateral action to unilateral, (2) who worked with trade unions to strength the society, and (3) and advanced civil rights for all. See how many Republicans would say that today.

By the way GOP stands for Grand Old Party, which was a moniker the Republicans embraced as a nickname after the American Civil War in parallel with Union Army veterans who styled themselves the Grand Army of the Republic or GAR in post war celebrations and reunions. The segue was from GAR to GOP.

It was a morning on the Sydney Opera House Quay at the Dendy Cinema Theatre where Jim Kitay and I went to see the antics of the Marx Brothers, Julius, Leonard, and Arthur, and so on. Neither Karl, Milton, nor Herbert are in this one.

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It is feature length at 93 minutes, cut from the original release of 98 minutes, and it is a big production, i.e., a large cast, and some set-pieces worthy of Busby Berkeley. Old troupers like Margaret Dumont and Sig Ruman liven things up. The screen play is by that stalwart of the typewriter, George Kaufman. It is scored at 8.1 on the IMDB. That is impressive.

Among the outstanding scenes are the crowded stateroom on the steamship and the aerial acrobatics in the theatre. There is also a good deal of ‘Il Trovatore’ sung by Kitty Carlisle and Allan Jones. Ms Carlisle continued to sing well into her 90s, says the fount Wikipedia.

Otis B. Driftwood, now there is name with which to conjure, reminds me of some scholars I have known. Always on the prowl for easy takings and completely irresponsible.

These things are best seen on the wide screen without distractions, but if that is not an option, turn the lights down and cue it up on the idiot box. These idiots always have something to offer.

An elderly man in Pozan Poland is found murdered. The more closely the investigating officer, Mariej Bartol, examines the scene the odder it looks. The victim is posed, naked, and almost seems to be smiling despite the strangulation.  Then there are the Latin mottoes found on the flower vase, inside the bow of a pair of glasses.  Enough to set one to thinking.

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Then a second man is found, also posed, also with a few Latin mottoes discretely tucked around the scene.  

We get quite a bit of the personal life of our hero, and his mother is some character.  But it is laid on with a sledge hammer.

Our hero seems to have been born dumb and misses the obvious a few times.  

On the other hand the officers he works with are well drawn, and there is much to'ing and fro'ing in and around Poznan in a wet spring.  It has some sense of place.  

Then there is the Latin scholar he recruits through his mother's contacts to make sense of the tags.  She is a firecracker from go to whoa, and our hero suffers a rush to blood to his first friend, making him even more slow-witted than usual.  

I read it on the Kindle and it was not easy.  There were odd font characters, broken lines, run-on paragraphs, spelling errors, and more. The translator into English seems to be a Pole, and I guess that explains the syntax errors and the unfathomable idioms which may make sense in Polish but do not in English. Maybe the translator once worked for Jimmie Carter. (Either you get it, or you don't.)

Jodelka.jpg Joanna Jodelka

Before trying another one of these I would want some reassurance that editorial improvements had been made. On Amazon the paperback is $0.08 which is less than the Kindle version. Not sure what to make of that.

It is a double whammy, a lousy presentation and badly translated.  It was too much like reading student essays. There were students of my acquaintance who thought that if the work they submitted was incomprehensible, then the instructor — moi — could not fail it. WRONG! They would then challenge me on the ground that their paper was…, yes, incomprehensible, and since I did not therefore comprehend it, I could not honestly fail it. Imagine the time I spend in such conversations. Now it is easy to see why retirement has its attractions.

For what is worth and to balance the books, I had more than one similar conversation with a Ph.D.-bearing lecturers who asserted, no evidence required, that their lousy teaching stimulated students to learn for themselves. This was no argument about the meaning of lousy teaching, they admitted it and celebrated it. Needless to say these individuals all prospered. What did I say about retirement?

Or, Margo's adventures through the money glass.  Reluctantly, Margo goes to the wedding of her niece, and the fun begins in Hollywood.  The spoiled bride bolts, and the vampire mother of the bride makes Margo an offer she of near bankruptcy cannot refuse and a black AMEX card!  She throws in the keys to a red MG and the groom!   Who knew such cards existed? Not us plebs.

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Off they go down Route 66 meeting all kinds of people, some of the most memorable at the Lesbian dance contest in Palm Springs, others with whom they exchange insults over breakfast, a kindly woman who presses a marriage manual on Margo, and Boone who seems destined to be in recovery from head injuries. He should have stuck to football.

Cary Grant even puts in a cameo appearance,. This book has it all, and more!

Finding the bride, after all this, is anti-climatic.  She is a brat.

Margo's confession at the meeting set a new standard.  Indeed.  No spoiler here. Find out for yourself.

Along the way the imbecilic nature both of Hollywood and its audiences are noted.  

Margo is wrong about almost everything but soldiers on. She may be broke but it is not from a lack of effort.

It shifts gears from silly to serious and back several times but the mix is well judged.  

Jane-Lotter.jpg Jane Lotter

I was very disappointed to learn it is a once-off.

A little gem from Finland. A blind Lutheran priest takes on as an assistant a paroled murderer, Leila. Father Jaakob has a reputation as an intercessory, I.e., he prays for people and offers advice to those who write to him.  While no time period is given it looks like the 1950s.  He lives in a forest near a church on a lake.  Nature dominates the time and the day.

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His only contact with the outside world is the post and the postman.  The pastor has long since given up preaching because of blindness, and he lives for those letters.  

Leila is angry at the world and makes no effort to cooperate though she is glad to be out of the slammer. She is neither particularly bright nor attractive, and expects people to dislike her. They oblige in the person of the postman.

At first she thinks either the priest is shamming or is a fool. In time she comes to respect, if not share, his faith in a meaningful world.  Or so I surmise because the dialogue is like much from Finland, practical and not introspective.  And there is little of it.  Much is told by the camera.

She also realises that he needs her if he is to live - she reads the letters to him and he needs those letters, just as the writers need him.  And she also learns she owes not only her freedom to him, but more, too.  No spoiler. His previous letter-reader left for the city to take care of grandchildren.

For some reason never explained the letters dry up and that brings the needs of each to the forefront. Earlier she destroyed some of the letters and perhaps his consequent failure to respond to those, discouraged others from writing. It is not clear, nor need it be. Little of life is that, clear.

In fewer than eighty minute there is more about life in this film than the latest CGI-infected three hour Hollywood brain-buster.  

Klaus Haro director.jpg Klaus Hãro, the director.

It earned place on my list of Finnish movies along with

Leningrad Cowboys (1994)
The Man without a Past (2002)
Vares (2004)
The House of Branching Love (2009)
Rare Exports (2010)
Midsummer night's tango (2013)

Top marks must go to ‘Rare Exports.’

This krimi is a light-hearted romp through distant Devon. This book is second in series not first. My mistake.

Our hero, Sefton, is amanuensis to Morley, an H. G. Wells-type, in 1938. The know-it-all Morley is author of endless titles including a series on English counties.  Nice set up.

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They fetch up at a school where Morley has been invited by an old friend to give a lecture, and there they find strange doings.  Alex, the handsome and confident head teacher, has a plausible explanation for everything, but, still, Sefton has doubts.  He also is jealous of Alex's designs on Miriam, Morley's daughter, who drives the Lagonda on these excursions. She, for her part, seems to welcome these designs.

There is a death, claimed to be an accident, of one of the school boys. Animals disappear from a nearby farm. Strange noises in the night are reported.

Sefton is, of course, right, and for all his blather Morley is quick thinking and acting in the crisis.

That makes it sound better than it reads, I confess.  Many, very many, altogether too many of the pages of the first two-thirds of the book are given over to Morley expatiating on endless, irrelevant subjects. Exhausting.  Pointless. Did I say, tiresome. Morely is an expert on everything and has to prove it minute-by-minute.

At the outset I compared him to H.G. Wells because of that know-it-allness, and the endless list of his book titles, but he is not as pompous and self-important as I suppose Wells was. I say that because I suppose some of Wells's book have an autobiographical element, e.g., 'The New Machiavelli.'

The three principals are likeable, the set up is clever, and the place, Devon is different.  There is some mis-direction about those caves that keeps the suspense alive.  But Morley droning on, while Sefton mentally footnotes the drone to his list of publications, is deadening.

Samson Ian.jpg Ian Sansom

Loved his bad books library series set in Northern Ireland.  

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Thoughts on the canon of poltical theory and life.

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