May 2011

The early part of my May reading was consumed by the 97-year-old Chapman Pincher’s epic and astonishing Treachery, which for some reason was published in the USA a couple of years before its recent appearance in the UK. Pincher makes a devastating case – though based on circumstantial evidence – that Roger Hollis, the head of MI5, was indeed the Soviet spy, Elli, controlled by the GRU, and identified vaguely by Igor Gouzenko, the Soviet defector in Canada. Hollis had been semi-cleared by internal investigations, but the biographical entry in the DNB (and later republished in the ODNB) by his mentor, Dick White (who headed MI5 and MI6) is very equivocal about Hollis’s guilt or innocence. Last year, I had contacted the editors of the ODNB, suggesting, in addition to identifying suitable candidates who merited an entry in the work, that Hollis’s name should now be cleared. This recommendation was based on my reading of Christopher Andrew’s Defending the Realm, which claimed that inspection of Soviet archives had shown that the spy Leo Long was in fact ‘Elli’. On taking a fresh look at the ODNB a couple of weeks ago, I was pleased to see that Ewen Montagu (of Operation Mincemeat, and one of my recommendations) now had an entry, but also noticed that an addendum to Hollis’s entry had been made, echoing my recommendations from last year. It used the authority of Yuri Modin and Christopher Andrew, but illogically implied that since someone other than Hollis (John Cairncross) had been shown to be the Fifth Man, Hollis therefore could not have been a spy! I thus had to write to the Editors again, retracting my previous advice, and pointing out that Elli was handled by the GRU, not the KGB, who handled the Cambridge 5. (Those two organizations did not communicate closely!)  I alerted the editors to Pincher’s new book, but have not yet had the favour of an acknowledgment or reply. Maybe they are fed up with meddling amateurs such as me, but I believe they have an obligation to correct the record, and several entries could benefit from refreshment, and more objectivity. Meanwhile, I am eagerly waiting to read reviews of Pincher’s book from the UK press.     (May 31, 2011)

I took some time out to write an article critiquing a ‘progressive’ idea for taxation, after reading a preposterous letter published in the New York Times (see Eating the Seed Corn) . I should be grateful for feedback on this: I am not a professional economist (thank goodness!), but that fact may well have been a help rather than a hindrance, given some of the articles I have read from professional economists during the past year. I may, however, have overlooked some obvious and relevant perspectives or facts that those many tax accountants and economists among my regular readers may be able to point out for me

I have added Commonplace entries for April (Commonplace 2011), a new batch of Hyberbolic Contrasts (Hyperbolic Contrasts – Examples), as well as a few choice references to Rolls-Royces (Rolls Royces) (May 1, 2011)

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