The English

The Day JFK was Shot …

Posted on September 5, 2019. Filed under: The English |

Monochrome portrait of Aldous Huxley sitting on a table, facing slightly downwards.
Monochrome head-and-left-shoulder photo portrait of 50-year-old Lewis
John F. Kennedy, White House color photo portrait.jpg

The Championship Trophy for Badly Timed Death, goes to a pair of British writers. Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, died the same day as C. S. Lewis, who wrote the Chronicles of Narniaseries.

Unfortunately for both of their legacies, that day was November 22, 1963, just as John Kennedy’s motorcade passed the Texas School Book Depository.

Huxley, at least, made it interesting: At his request, his wife shot him up with LSD a couple of hours before the end – and he tripped his way out of this world.

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Stephen Hawking Goes at 76 …

Posted on March 14, 2018. Filed under: Personalities, The English |

From The Guardian                  

It began with Albert Einstein. Where Isaac Newton had thought gravity was an attraction borne by the fields of massive objects, Einstein said mass curved space itself.

By his reckoning, the planets of the solar system circled the sun not because of some unseen force, but simply because they followed the curvature of space.

The late John Wheeler, US Physicist,  once summarised the theory with characteristic simplicity: “Matter tells space how to curve …

Hawking was never one to think small. His goal was a complete understanding of the universe. So while others pondered the creation of black holes in space, Hawking applied the same thinking to the cosmos itself.

He joined forces with Roger Penrose , the Oxford mathematician, and showed that if you played time backwards and rewound the story of the universe, the opening scene was a singularity.

It meant that the universe, with all of its warming stars and turning planets, including Earth with all its lives, loves and heartbreaks, came from a dot far smaller than this full stop    . ………………………………


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Tax Havens n Tax Avoidance …

Posted on November 9, 2017. Filed under: Business, The English |

Offshore tax havens: How do they work? What can be done about them? Can they ever be legitimately used? Exactly how big is the problem? And what can governments actually do about it? – Ben Chu

Another massive leak of information from a tax haven law firm – dubbed the Paradise Papers – has shone a spotlight on the questionable ways in which wealthy individuals and big companies structure their finances.

But how do tax havens actually work? Can they ever be legitimately used? Exactly how big is the problem? And what can governments actually do about it? How do tax havens actually work?

One of the primary methods is corporate profit-shifting. This is where a multinational company registers its headquarters in a low -corporation tax jurisdiction and then books its profits there, rather than in the Country in which it actually makes its sales.

This is what firms such as Google and Facebook have been doing in order to lower their global corporation tax bills. But what about personal taxes?

An individual could simply become a resident of a low-tax country in order to pay a lower rate of tax on their income. This is what racing drivers and globe-trotting sportspeople generally do.

But there are also ways in which individuals can remain living in a non-tax haven, such as the UK, and still benefit from tax havens. If an individual keeps their assets in a Trust in an offshore tax haven they can legally avoid paying capital gains in the country in which they are resident.

What is a trust? This is where an individual puts their assets “in trust” to be managed by nominally independent third parties (or “trustees”) for the benefit of named beneficiaries, which can include the individual who put the assets into trust in the first place.

The income can be paid out by the third parties to the beneficiaries regularly, or sporadically, depending on the decisions made by the third parties.

Once it is received by the beneficiaries, the income is subject to income tax. But while it is in the trust the assets are not subject to capital gains and the income on the investments is not taxed.

A major tax advantage is that the beneficiary of a trust is also not subject to inheritance tax on the value of the assets when the person who put the assets into trust for them dies. So who are these trustees?

They can be local officials in the tax haven, or partners in a local law firm, or accountancy firm, appointed by the individual who put their assets into trust.

Given the likelihood of those trustees being influenced by the previous owner of the assets when it comes to income disbursements the scope for abuse of the arrangement is obvious. But aren’t there legitimate uses of tax havens?

Historically, mutual investment funds, which attract investors from around the world, have registered themselves offshore to avoid the risk of double taxation of their surpluses.

This isn’t necessarily a problem so long as the beneficiaries of the fund do pay income tax on the money they receive from the fund in their home country.

When it comes to off-shore trusts, some argue that they are necessary to safeguard the privacy of beneficiaries. There are some circumstances where one can imagine this is a legitimate argument.

Yet the problem is that privacy can be so easily abused to facilitate illegal personal tax evasion and other crimes such as money-laundering. How big is the problem?

Corporate tax avoidance is significant. At the end of 2016 the Giant US Technology Companies alone were estimated by Moody’s Investors Service to have $1.84 trillion (£1.4 trillion) of cash held offshore.

This is essentially profits that Firms such as Apple, Microsoft and Google registered outside the US, and most of which is piled up in tax havens. But personal tax avoidance is bigger.

The calculations of the Economist Gabriel Zucman – analysing discrepancies in Countries’ National Accounts – suggest that around $7.6 trillion, or 8 per cent of global wealth, is held offshore.

That’s up 25 per cent over the past five years. Not all of that money will be held off-shore in order to dodge tax in a morally questionable way. But it’s fair to assume that a large proportion of it is.

The Tax Justice Network Campaign Group estimates that Corporate Tax Avoidance costs Governments $500 bn a year, while personal tax avoidance costs $200 bn a year.

Didn’t David Cameron promise to clamp down on all of this? The previous Prime Minister did implement a series of “automatic exchange of information” Agreements between the UK and the tax authorities of various tax havens designed to prevent the possibility of evasion.

But campaign groups say that this effort was a lot less impressive as a crackdown than the fanfare suggested. And the new system hinges on an unrealistic level of cooperation from law firms and accountants in tax havens.

Cameron also actually fought a proposal from the European Union that there should be public transparency over the beneficiaries of offshore trusts. The previous government’s “diverted profits tax”, designed to curb corporate tax avoidance by the likes of Google, was also grossly over-sold by ministers as a viable solution to multinational profit shifting.

So what needs to be done? On corporation tax avoidance, there are broadly two potential solutions. One would be for governments around the world to collaborate and agree to tax a multinational’s profits on the basis of a fair international formula, based on their sales, investments and employee numbers in various countries.

This would effectively shut down tax havens, where no substantive economic corporate activity actually takes place.

The other solution is for governments to unilaterally tax a multinational’s revenues, while making allowance for its local costs, investments and exports. This was something that US Republicans were pressing for earlier this year, although the plan has now been ditched.

And on personal tax? Here a major part of the solution is to go down the route that David Cameron blocked: to demand full and public transparency on the beneficiaries of offshore trusts. Acting in concert, the Governments of the EU could bring serious pressure on many tax havens to comply.

Many tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda are also British Crown Dependencies, giving the UK Government itself considerable leverage if it chose to exert it.

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Macaulay’s Best …

Posted on October 25, 2017. Filed under: Books, Great Writing, Personalities, The English |

Lays of Ancient Rome, a series of very popular poems about heroic episodes in Roman history which Macaulay composed in India and published in 1842.

The most famous of them, Horatius, concerns the heroism of Horatius Cocles. It contains the oft-quoted lines:

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?”

PS As a rival you might enjoy

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Re Drinking …

Posted on September 30, 2017. Filed under: The English |

There is an old Pub in Marble Arch, London, which used to have a gallows adjacent to it. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a fair trial, of course) to be hung.

The horse-drawn dray, carting the prisoner, was accompanied by an armed guard, who would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the prisoner if he would like ‘ONE LAST DRINK’.If he said YES, it was referred to as *ONE FOR THE ROAD.If he declined, that prisoner was ON THE WAGGON

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Churchill n AlanBrooke …

Posted on May 25, 2017. Filed under: Personalities, The English |

Gen Brooke commanded II Corps in the British Expeditionary Force and had a pessimistic view of the Allies’ chances of countering a German offensive. He was sceptical of the quality and determination of the French Army. This appeared to be justified when on a visit to some French formations he was shocked to see unshaven men, unkempt horses and dirty vehicles.

After Dunkirk,in his first conversation with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Brooke insisted that all British forces should be withdrawn from France. Churchill objected but was soon convinced by Brooke.

In July 1940 Brooke took over command of  Home Forces to counter any invasion. Contrary to his predecessor, who favoured a static coastal defence, Brooke focused on developing a mobile reserve which was to swiftly counterattack the enemy forces before they became established. A light line of defence on the coast was to assure that the landings were delayed as much as possible.

Brooke believed that the lack of a unified command of the three services was “a grave danger” to the defence of the country. Despite this, and the fact that the available forces never reached the numbers he thought were required, Brooke considered the situation far from “helpless” in case the Germans invaded.

“We should certainly have a desperate struggle and the future might well have hung in the balance, but I certainly felt that given a fair share of the fortunes of war we should certainly succeed in finally defending these shores”, he wrote after the war. But in the end, the German invasion plan was never taken beyond the preliminary assembly of forces.

In December 1941 Brooke became Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) and member the Chiefs of Staff Committee and in March 1942 its Chairman. For the remainder of the Second World War, Brooke was the foremost military adviser to Winston Churchill.

As CIGS, Brooke was the functional head of the British Army, and as chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, which he dominated by force of intellect and personality, he took the leading military part in the overall strategic direction of the British war effort.

His relationship with his Civilian boss was a turbulent one. He describes Churchill as a “genius mixed with an astonishing lack of vision – he is quite the most difficult man to work with that I have ever struck but I should not have missed the chance of working with him for anything on earth! “

Churchill on his part said about Brooke: “When I thump the table and push my face towards him what does he do? Thumps the table harder and glares back at me. I know these Brookes – stiff-necked Ulstermen and there’s no one worse to deal with than that!” 

It has been claimed that part of Churchill’s greatness was that he appointed Brooke as CIGS and kept him for the whole war.

A general complaint from Brooke was that Churchill often advocated diversion of forces where the CIGS preferred concentration. Brooke was particularly annoyed by Churchill’s idea of capturing the northern tip of Sumatra.

But in some cases Brooke did not see the political dimension of strategy as the Prime Minister did. The CIGS was sceptical about the British intervention in the Greek Civil War in late 1944, believing this was an operation which would drain troops from the central front in Germany. But at this stage the war was practically won and Churchill saw the possibility of preventing Greece from becoming a communist state.

 The most serious clash between the Prime Minister and the Chiefs of Staff, was regarding the British preparations for final stages of the Pacific War. Brooke and the rest of the Chiefs of Staff wanted to build up the forces in Australia while Churchill preferred to use India as a base for the British effort. It was an issue over which the Chiefs of Staff were prepared to resign, but in the end a compromise was reached

Despite their many disagreements Brooke and Churchill held an affection for each other. After one fierce clash Churchill told his chief of staff and military adviser, Sir Hastings Ismay, that he did not think he could continue to work any longer with Brooke because “he hates me. I can see hatred looking from his eyes.”

Brooke responded to Ismay: “Hate him? I don’t hate him. I love him. But the first time I tell him that I agree with him when I don’t will be the time to get rid of me, for then I can be no more use to him.” When Churchill was told this he murmured, ”Dear Brookie.”.

The partnership between Brooke and Churchill was a very successful one and led Britain to victory. According to historian Max Hastings, their partnership “created the most efficient machine for the higher direction of the war possessed by any combatant nation, even if its judgments were sometimes flawed and its ability to enforce its wishes increasingly constrained”.

Brooke’s diary entry for 10 September 1944 is particularly revealing of his ambivalent relationship with Churchill: ...”And the wonderful thing is that 3/4 of the population of the world imagine that Churchill is one of the Strategists of History, a second Marlborough, and the other 1/4 have no idea what a public menace he is and has been throughout this war! It is far better that the world should never know, and never suspect the feet of clay of this otherwise superhuman being. Without him England was lost for a certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again…… Never have I admired and despised a man simultaneously to the same extent. Never have such opposite extremes been combined in the same human being.

The Alanbrooke diaries also give sharp opinions on several of the top Allied leaders. The Americans Eisenhower and Marshall, for example, are described as poor strategists and Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander as unintelligent. Among the few individuals of whom Brooke seems to have kept consistently positive opinions, from a military standpoint, were General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Field Marshal Sir John Dill, and Joseph Stalin.

Brooke admired Stalin for his quick brain and grasp of military strategy. Otherwise he had no illusions about the man, describing Stalin thus: “He has got an unpleasantly cold, crafty, dead face, and whenever I look at him I can imagine his sending off people to their doom without ever turning a hair.”

After the war, the Brookes’ financial situation forced the couple to move into the gardener’s cottage of their former home, where they lived for the rest of their lives.

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Crusaders vs Islam …

Posted on January 31, 2017. Filed under: The English, Uncategorized |

Khalid Elhassan in Quora

Generally, the Muslim forces were lightly armed and armored, and thus faster and more mobile, while the Crusaders were more heavily armed and armored, which came at the cost of making them slower.

Tactically, the Muslims preferred wide open spaces, where their mobility and speed gave them an advantage in fighting at a standoff distance that enabled them to attrit and discomfit the Crusaders with projectile weapons at leisure, coupled with hit and run attacks against vulnerable parts of the Crusader armies, before swooping in for the kill once they judged their foes to have been sufficiently weakened – or, alternatively, retreat and live to fight another day if things weren’t going well.

The greatest Muslim victories usually came when they managed to stage a series of quick hit and run attacks against Crusader armies on their line of march over a few days, cutting off stragglers or units poorly deployed beyond the effective mutual protection of the rest of the army, severing them off from supplies and/or water, and otherwise weaken and frazzle them over an extended period of time, then finish them while they were reeling.

The Crusaders on the other hand preferred to come to grips at close quarters with their opponents as soon as possible, as their heavier arms and armor gave them a decided advantage in a melee. Even more so if it was still early in the campaign, while they and their horses were still fresh and full of vigor.

The greatest Crusader victories often came when they managed to pin a Muslim army against a natural terrain feature or obstacle that prevented or at least made it difficult to freely maneuver, and thus fixed them in place for a decisive cavalry charge by heavily armored Crusader knights.

There were exceptions, of course, but in broadest terms, it was contest between a military tradition emphasizing maneuver by light and highly mobile forces softening the enemy with hit and run tactics and attrition over an extended period before finally swooping in for the kill, vs a military tradition emphasizing a more immediate commitment to decisive battle.

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Those damned Upper Lip English …

Posted on January 9, 2017. Filed under: Books, The English |

“May I ask you a question, My Lord?”

“Go ahead, Carson ,” said His Lordship

“I am doing the crossword in The Times and found a word the exact meaning of which I am not too certain.”

“What word is that?” asked His Lordship.

“Aplomb,  My Lord”.

“Now that’s a difficult one to explain. I would say it is self-assurance or complete composure.”

“Thank  you, My Lord, but I’m still a little confused about it.”

“Let me give you an example to make it clearer. Do you remember a few months ago when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived to spend a weekend with us?”

“I remember the occasion very well, My Lord. It gave the staff and myself much pleasure to look after them.”

“Also,” continued the Earl of Grantham, “do you remember when Wills plucked a rose for Kate in the rose garden?”

“I was present on that occasion, My Lord, ministering to their needs”.

“While Will was plucking the rose, a thorn embedded itself in his thumb very deeply.”

“I witnessed the incident, My Lord, and saw the Duchess herself remove the thorn and bandage his thumb with her own dainty handkerchief.”

“That evening the hole the rose made in his thumb was very sore. Kate had to cut his venison for him, even though it was extremely tender.”

“Yes,  My Lord, I did see everything that transpired that evening.”

“And do you remember the next morning while you were pouring coffee for Her Ladyship, Kate inquired of Will in a loud voice, ‘Darling does your prick still throb?’

And you, Carson, did not spill one drop of coffee!  That, Carson, is complete composure, or aplomb.

  • The TV Serial  DOWN TOWN ABBEY ……….
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This Wonderful English Language …

Posted on December 24, 2016. Filed under: Guide Posts, Light plus Weighty, The English, Uncategorized |

C. N. Annadurai was a prominent Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, India,  known for his proficiency in English. Once at Yale University he was asked to mention a hundred words which did not have any of the letters –  A, B, C or D.

He promptly recited ‘One to Ninety Nine’ ………….. and then shouted ‘STOP’ – thus completing the one hundred words without any  of the Four Letters !

The next request was to  construct a sentence repeating ‘because’ three times contiguously.

After a moments thought, he says, “A sentence never ends with ‘because,’ because ‘because’ is a conjunction”.

Over to Messrs Shakespeare and Milton!



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Wellington – the Iron Duke …

Posted on November 30, 2016. Filed under: Personalities, The English, Uncategorized |

Arthur Wellesley participated in some 60 battles during his military career. He is famous for his adaptive defensive style of warfare, resulting in several victories against numerically superior forces while minimizing his own losses.  However many, perhaps most, of his battles were offensive -Argaum, Assaye, Oporto, Salamanca, Vitoria, Toulouse. But for most of the Peninsular War, where he earned his fame, his troops lacked the numbers for an attack. He is regarded as one of the greatest defensive commanders of all time and his tactics and battle plans are still studied in military academies around the world.

Wellington always rose early – he “couldn’t bear to lie awake in bed”.. Even when he returned to civilian life after 1815, he slept on his camp bed, reflecting his lack of regard for creature comforts.While on campaign, he seldom ate anything between breakfast and dinner. During the retreat to Portugal in 1811, he subsisted on “cold meat and bread” – to the despair of his staff who dined with him. He was, however, renowned for the quality of the wine which he drank and served, often drinking a bottle with his dinner – not a great quantity by the standards of his day.

He rarely showed emotion in public, and often appeared condescending to those less competent or less well-born than himself (which was nearly everyone). Once, just before the Battle of Salamanca, he was eating a chicken leg while observing the the French army. He spotted an over extension on the French left flank and realized that he could launch a successful attack there. He threw the drumstick in the air and shouted – “The French are lost!”

Military historian Charles Dalton recorded that, after a hard-fought battle in Spain, a young officer made the comment, “I am going to dine with Wellington tonight”, which was overheard by the Duke who retorted- “Give me at least the prefix of Mr. before my name!”. — “My Lord,” replied the officer, “we do not speak of Mr. Caesar or Mr. Alexander, so why should I speak of Mr. Wellington?”

His stern countenance and iron-handed discipline were renowned. He was said to disapprove of soldiers cheering as “too nearly an expression of opinion”.He cared for his men and refused to pursue the French after the battles of Porto and Salamanca, foreseeing an inevitable cost to his army in chasing a diminished enemy through rough terrain. The only time that he ever showed grief in public was after the storming of Badajoz – he cried at the sight of the British dead in the breaches.

In this context, his famous dispatch after the Battle of Vitoria, calling them the “scum of the earth,” can be seen to be fueled as much by disappointment at their breaking ranks as by anger. He expressed his grief openly the night after Waterloo before his personal physician, and later with his family; unwilling to be congratulated for his victory, he broke down in tears, his fighting spirit diminished by the high cost of the battle and great personal loss.

His valet, Holman, who resembled Napoleon, recalled how his master never spoke to servants unless he was obliged – preferring instead to write his orders on a note pad on his dressing table.

Wellington had a “vigorous sexual appetite” and many amorous liaisons during his marriage to Kitty. He enjoyed the company of intellectual and attractive women for many decades, particularly after the Battle of Waterloo and his subsequent Ambassadorial position in Paris. The British press lampooned this side of the national hero and when some one threatened to publish some thing, he is supposed to have thundered “Publish and be damned.”

In September 1805, Major-General Wellesley was newly returned from his campaigns in India and was not yet particularly well-known to the public. He reported to the office of the Secretary for War to request a new assignment. In the waiting room he met Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, already a legendary figure after his victories at the Nile and Copenhagen, who was briefly in England after months of chasing the French Toulon fleet to the West Indies and back.

Some 30 years later, Wellington recalled the conversation that Nelson began with him which he found -“almost all on his side in a style so vain and silly as to surprise and almost disgust me”.

Nelson left the room to inquire who the young general was and, on his return, switched to a very different tone, discussing the war, the state of the colonies, and the geopolitical situation as between equals.  On this second discussion, Wellington recalled, “I don’t know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more”.

This was the only time that the two men met. Nelson was killed at Trafalgar –  just seven weeks later.

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