Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas crackers: twelve thoughts about work to enjoy over the holidays



When Sigmund Freud was asked how we can achieve happiness he said two things were necessary: the ability to love and the ability to work.

According to the internet this quotation appears nowhere in Freud’s published work but, even if he did not say it, it is close to things that he did say and, in any case, it is very true. Here are some more thoughts I like on the subject of work.


I don't like work no man does but I like what is in the work the chance to find yourself. Your own reality for yourself not for others what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.

Joseph Conrad


They are not only idle who do nothing, but they are idle also who might be better employed.

Socrates
 

Work hard, do the best you can, don't ever lose faith in yourself and take no notice of what other people say about you.

Noel Coward

Choose a job that you love, and you will never work a day in your life.

Confucius

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.

William James

Things can be done. The people in life who get them done are the ones who know that, and the ones who don't are the rest.

Tony Hawks

A clumsy right hand cannot be trained into a skillful right hand by taking thought, by wishing it were less clumsy, or even by avoiding clumsiness. It can become skillful only by exercise in practical achievements, and the incentive to the achievement must be more deeply felt than the discouragement at the hitherto existent clumsiness.

Alfred Adler

There is no such thing as talent. There is pressure.

Alfred Adler


All happiness depends on courage and work.

Honoré de Balzac


Those who have some means think that the most important thing in the world is love. The poor know that it is money.

Gerald Brenan


I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

Douglas Adams

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Victor Ponta gives up his doctorate

As Metternich said when he heard of Talleyrand's death, 


"What did he mean by that?"

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Things that seem strange to a foreigner about the Romanian presidential election


Why were the opinion polls in the Romanian election so very wrong, with one exception giving Victor Ponta
the PSD (Social Democratic Party) candidate a very healthy lead throughout? 

I have not heard any convincing explanation. Presumably, people are reluctant to say that they are going to vote against the PSD. I wonder if this is in case this information is used against them in some way. The PSD is the reinvented Communist Party, after all. But are there better explanations?

The one rogue poll was published by CCSCC two days before the vote and showed the candidates exactly equal. It was dismissed by almost everyone because it was a telephone poll from a no-name company. That poll was nowhere near the final result, but it was a lot closer than the rest of the polls.

Why did Gabriela Firea attempt to claim moral superiority for Victor Ponta over Klaus Iohannis just because he didn’t have children? Klaus Iohannis, by the way, is a Protestant who is deeply religious, according to his childhood friends, didn't plagiarise his doctoral thesis and didn't leave his pregnant wife for another woman.

Why were Mircea Geoana and Marian Vanghelie expelled from the PSD, rather than the people who were responsible for losing the election - Victor Ponta, Liviu Dragnea, the campaign organiser, and Adrian Nastase? (Nastase's friends, it is said, did not get out the vote because he wanted to get even with Mr Ponta for allowing him to be sent to gaol the second time.) 


In an old-fashioned Western the baddies always start fighting among themselves at the end of the film. It's like that after the PSD lose elections too. 

As Mircea Geoana said,

I lost the presidential election by a very few votes and I got expelled from the party. This guy lost by a lot of votes and I got expelled from the party again.
Mr. Vanghelie was expelled, even though he commands a faithful following of gypsy voters and is very rich. He is considered (fairly accurately) to be a semi-literate buffoon and could be described as the Romanian gypsy equivalent of Tony Blair's deputy, John Prescott. I am told Mr. Vanghelie was expelled 
because he has a big mouth
and so he certainly has, but this should have been a reason for  keeping him in the team. Instead he has been telling us all sorts of things the PSD doesn't want us to know. (I am sure it is not by chance that evidence of corruption is surfacing in the papers about Mr. Vanghelie exactly now.)

Actually, I know the reason why Messrs. Geoana and Vanghelie were expelled, in very rough terms. It was because they were a danger to Victor Ponta. I am told Mr. Geoana compounded his fault by telling Mr. Ponta after the result was known,


At least I believed I was president for a night.

However Mr Ponta's action makes him look weak, not strong (rather like Harold Macmillan's Night of the Long Knives). And those who live by the sword die by the sword.

People allege that over a million fraudulent votes were cast by 'electoral tourists', people bussed from area to give multiple votes for the PSD candidate. The same thing was said in the election of 2004. I don't, of course, know the truth. Nor does anyone for sure. Why were no investigations made then or now? 

Readers who are not familiar with Romanian politics are, I hope, shocked to learn how the votes are rigged and manipulated here. Even so, what is much more shocking is that Romania is, on the whole, a much freer country than England, even though a less democratic one. Western Europe is becoming less free week by week. Romania will one day, I hope soon, get clean elections. She will never have clean politicians, but she will presumably in time have the same restrictions on freedom that, for example, the British and Dutch have.

Monday, 8 December 2014

There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in making money

Dr. Johnson said that 
“There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money.
Christopher Hollis said this was the most un-Christian remark imaginable (Hollis was the kind of Conservative politician I like) but I am coming round to siding with Dr Johnson. He was being deliberately paradoxical but he was usually right. 

I sympathise with Hollis but working hard is one of the most innocent ways of spending time. 

I always thought a knowledge of Dr Johnson and his best lines was the parole of educated men, to adapt what he said about knowledge of Latin and Greek. But a former master of a Cambridge college told me a few years ago that very few Cambridge undergraduates until recently read the 18th century authors. It reminds me of what Johnson said to Boswell: 
“Sir, they [his college friends] respected me for my literature, and yet it was not great but by comparison. Sir, it is amazing how little literature there is in the world.”
He of course was talking about the classics, not English writers.

I suppose Johnson's most famous joke is
"Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all"
but on whether he was right I cannot comment. I only ever heard one woman preach and she did so in Swedish, in Stockholm Cathedral. She was, or believed she was, a bishop - and what surprised me was that she was very beautiful. And a blonde. That I had not expected.
It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all"
also applies to my ironing a shirt, once every eight or ten years.

I really cannot see why people read Johnson less than Wilde. Johnson is better, in my judgment, and a better Christian - and his philosophy is manlier and more wholesome. He was also a staunch Tory and a great saint. Though he might have been disagreeable in real life, as opposed to in his writings and in the pages of Boswell. His table manners were appalling. He once spat out an entire roast potato that was too hot on to his plate and told the girl beside him
A fool would have swallowed that.
Fox told his nephew, Lord Holland, that he met Johnson only once and thought he was he was 
A very coarse man. He said 
Talk of pleasure, sir, the greatest pleasure is emission.
On the subject of his philosophy I am reminded of his old Oxford friend, Mr. Edwards, whom he met by chance in Fleet St and who told him
You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but, I don’t know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in.
But to Dr. Johnson stories there is no end, so I stop now. But if you want more, please click here.

If you haven't read Boswell's Johnson, dear reader, you have a great treat awaiting you. A book for a desert island.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Romania is the Orient dreaming that it is France


I am proud of a line I coined many years ago

Romania is the Orient dreaming that it is France
and repeated it to a British diplomat friend this week. His rejoinder was to quote a British diplomat in Paris who told him,
It's taken me years to see that France is the Middle East with a very thin veneer of civilisation. Paris is essentially Cairo.
It's good to know that we still have diplomats like that.  

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Gabi Firea thinks not having children is a deficiency - she is entitled to her opinion

One more comment on the Romanian presidential election.

Psychopaths have a very strong urge to reproduce but I'm certainly not saying Gabriela Firea is a psychopath. I'm simply saying that psychopaths feel this biological imperative for which there might be an evolutionary explanation. 

Gabi Firea was Victor Ponta's spokesman during the presidential election and earned a lot of disapproval for her remarks about the childlessness of Mr. Ponta's opponent, now the President-elect, Klaus Iohannis. She said,
“From my point of view, a person is complete when he raises a child from his first days up to maturity. A man living in a cold house, without hearing baby’s chatter, without seeing his first steps, his first grades, cannot feel all these things … You can adopt a child if you want to have a complete family … In all civilised countries, all aspirants to the presidency  belong to complete families, they are married with children and grandchildren..."

Asked by a journalist if having no children was a defect in a president, she said,

“Categorically.”
A particularly stupid remark, even in a particularly stupid PSD election campaign. Romanians want an efficient president, not one who has children. I wonder how many childless people were impressed. I wonder what the last PSD President, Ion Iliescu, made of it. He is childless, which cynics say is the reason why he famously did not steal from the country (unlike those around him). 

Perhaps if Adrian Nastase, the PSD's failed presidential candidate in 2004, had not wanted to provide for his son he might have avoided going to gaol for corruption. But this is taking alternate history too far. Let's just say that childless politicians have their advantages.

I am no fan of Gabi. I have been no fan of the television presenter turned politician since she said back in 2002 or 2003 that calls from the Presidential office at the Cotroceni, ordering television companies not to run certain news stories, happened in President Emil Constantinescu's time as well as after Ion Iliescu regained the presidency. I never believed that.

But I am equally not a fan of the the National Council for Combating Discrimination. The National Council ruled during the election campaign that Gabi's remarks were "discriminatory" and breached Mr. Iohannis's "right to dignity" (what on earth is a right to dignity?) 


This is almost very funny, but it is not - it is in fact very disturbing. 

The Council is a deeply authoritarian and illiberal institution at the best of times, but when an unelected body seeks to curb free speech during an election campaign things are very bad indeed.

I don't like referring to a politician's lack of children in a political fight. Nor did Romanians. I didn't like it when people said the same thing about Condeleeza Rice. I didn't like it because it is irrelevant, has nothing to do with politics, is none of the public's business and may cause pain. But people are perfectly free to disagree with me and say that not being married or not having children does have a bearing on whether a man would make a good leader of his country. 
It is of incalculable importance that  people should be free to express this or any other opinion that is not defamatory or calculated to lead to what the Common Law calls a breach of the peace. 

None of this should even need saying, but it seems it does.

Here are some unmarried leaders, to refute Gabi's idea that in civilised countries presidents have children, though some of these do have children and not all of them lead particularly civilised countries. Pope Francis is one ruler whom the list omits.

Nastase was never angry with Traian Basescu; SOV says he deserved much longer in prison; Victor Ponta asks for pardon

Perhaps because it is Advent, in a very Christian spirit Sorin Ovidiu Vintu and Prime Minster Victor Ponta have publicly acknowledged their sins and former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase has said he holds no grudge against President Traian Basescu, whom Nastase must consider is responsible for his having gone to gaol. Nastase (I drop the 'Mr.' since he is a gaolbird) said yesterday:


"Angry? I was never angry with [Traian Basescu]. It's not about anger..... Life is very complicated." 

Read more here.


Sorin Ovidiu Vintu was very frank:
“If the state had caught me with everything I’ve done, I would have been in prison for life. The state has no idea what I’ve done and what I would have deserved to be imprisoned,” said Vantu in his interview for Adevarul. He added that the prosecutors invented some causes to arrest him. 

“I don’t claim that I shouldn’t have been in jail, I deserved it. Thank God, I got away cheap. And not only I. There are many people who you see today in business, politics, administration, who would deserve to serve tens of years in prison.”

More here.

And Victor Ponta has also caught the modern habit of apologising for his mistakes, as shown in this mea culpa delivered to his foe Dan Andronic, in an interview published yesterday in Evenimentul Zilei.


"Certainly I made ​​many mistakes but at 42 I have the ability to recognise them. Not only to recognise them but also to learn from them, regardless of the position that I have on the public stage! What are my regrets? It's a pretty long list, but everything I did wrong was human! I do not want anyone to endure the amount of negative energy, even the hatred, that was directed against me in the recent past. I think we all need to understand that hatred and passion leaves wounds that are very hard to heal. I would say that once again I apologise to those who were offended by my words and to those who supported me. I often used words that I wanted to be able to avoid. This I truly regret! "

I don't like politicians saying sorry, for some reason. It makes me distrust them more than if they didn't, though I prefer them to say sorry for their own mistakes rather than for the Amritsar massacre or the slave trade. But it somehow seems slippery to me - like that boy in an H.G. Well novel (which one?) who instead of standing and fighting asked for forgiveness.



Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Was Russian money behind the anti-fracking protests in Romania?

A very interesting story in the New York Times suggests that Russian money was behind the anti-fracking protests in Romania. It sounds extremely likely to me.

The Romanian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, announced three weeks ago that Romania does not have shale gas and so there was no need to argue over the issue. But Chevron is not so sure.