Saturday, 29 August 2015

Happy Holiday?

As it is a holiday weekend, it is the time to put on a link to an article that is short and to the point, but deals with complicated matters, the nub of which is that humanity as we know it is doomed.

All with no mention of asteroids, comets, solar storms, warming or cooling or geophysical bye-blows by unhappy passing deities.

It is all down to us and our greedy and rapacious financial ways and demands.  This article from Our Finite World by Gail Tverberg, hat tip Some Assembly Required, spells it out in a convincing manner that will get all our twitches going.

Enjoy, while you can.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Follow The Leader

There are many and various ways one can show adherence to political leaders and their causes.

Some are more demanding than others, and some easier.

If it is Jeremy Corbyn that takes your fancy, here is a low cost and simple way to show your loyalty.

Fair Trade, organic and hard wearing, they are also available in navy.  I will skip the obvious joke.

Socks, on the other hand, are a matter of choice.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Blast From The Past

It slipped my mind a few weeks ago, but is now recalled.  In May it was the 60th Anniversary of a famous event which shaped all our lives, one way or another.  Yet while some may remember it is now forgotten, but perhaps it is time to recall it with the events in Eastern Europe.

It was the signing of the Warsaw Pact in May 1955 and the foundation of the Warsaw Pact Organisation comprising the USSR, very much in charge, and its major satellite nations.  See Wikipedia etc.  It was meant to be the counter to NATO created a few years earlier and seen by the East as a threat rather than a defensive alliance.

The Pact collapsed when the USSR imploded and is now history, up to a point.  President Putin may have other ideas, especially with the EU trying to take over the territories to the Urals with NATO said to be in tow.

1955 is a long time ago.  The two pictures above are a May Day parade in Red Square at the time of Soviet troops, and one from March 1955 of a typical British squaddie in NATO's key defense formation in the field a short distance away from the East German border.

You may wonder about the potential effectiveness of NATO if things did get serious.  It is not entirely surprising that it was not long before the UK abandoned National Service and the West relied on the nuclear deterrent.

The question is, are things any better today?

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Time For Reflection

Tonight I will be paying full attention to and concentrating the force of what is left of my mind on the Capital One Cup match, Barnsley v Everton.  These are two football grounds at which I have had the pleasure of being in the Directors' Box with the local good and the great.

It was a long time ago.  Barnsley F.C., as you might expect, was the one with more class. The tea was strong, quality leaf brewed with proper milk and sugar.  After the game a good range of drinks was provided freely by a Minister of the Crown.  In those happier days we had real Peoples Quantitative Easing.

At Everton F.C., for the uninitiated in Liverpool near the Anfield Cemetery and Stanley Park, it was the cheap new tea bags, powdered milk and strong saccharine pills with a stiff mark up on the drinks you had to buy later.  The local politicians huddled together in a corner to do some confidential plotting and fixing away from intrusive media and other nosy people with inconvenient ideas about public interest.

One urgent matter was stopping any idea of allowing container shipping into the Mersey to protect the jobs of the dockers.  Then there were the next districts of good Victorian housing to be flattened to give work to the most generous property developers.  Also, how to squeeze more business rates to avoid putting up council house rents.   All of these vital to keeping Liverpool great.

I was younger than these groups of men, the movers and shakers of that period and born generally in the first third of the 20th Century.  Their basic ideas, beliefs, experience, prejudices and reactions etc. reflected their age and how their world had been.  But now in the 1970's the world around them had changed radically and the pace of it was increasing.

Most did not realise what was happening, almost all did not understand the drivers of that change and what it might or might not lead to.  So too often, conditioned by their thinking they opted to take directions that were the "might not" with bad results.  This was not confined to the old industrial areas it was prevalent in others as well.

Essentially, this happened again as the next generation took over another where those at the top in politics and government operated with ideas related to a past that was disappearing at a time when the number of new challenges was increasing.  The "new" that was supposed to be was too often an already discredited system imposed on an increasingly alien present.

Moving on to our present times, the same has happened yet again.  We can look back in history to other periods and see time and time again when ruling groups seriously misread their presents because of their notions of the past.  It is arguable that many of wars, disasters and disruptions are owed to little understanding and less sense of ruling groups.

But a particular disadvantage of the present and one that does impose the past on current thinking is the amount and variety of visual and other archive material that affects present policy.  Generations of the past were able to shake off more of their past because it was so little available.  We can relive the ideas and notions of half a century ago at the flick of a switch.

In fact our present seems so saddled with that past that our rulers and most of us cannot even begin to think in terms of the present.  This is because the present that the media offers us is a shoddy limited one of sensation and instant news.  As the preconceptions of this are governed by the visual past we cannot see the present.

If this is the case then the price we will pay will be a heavy one.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Nessun Dorma None Shall Sleep

For some time it has been one of the mantras of our Prime Ministers, other politicians and persons high in government and commerce to proclaim that "Britain is open for business".  As a result we have agreed to the sell offs of major sectors of our economy, private and public, to foreign ownership.

The late former Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan once said of some of this that "It is selling the family silver", but he was talking only of sales within the UK of largely then public sector assets.  He was said to be a Conservative, although where we would place him now is not so certain.

More recently it is not just the family silver that has gone.  By one means or another we have mortgaged the property in deals we can never repay, pawned many of our possessions, sold others at rock bottom prices to anyone willing to pay a big enough bribe to those in power and in the know and sold our children into debt slavery.

Among those from abroad who have managed to either stack away a lot of loot or to have imaginative financial systems making money that does not exist but people, notably politicians, are willing to accept are Chinese agencies.

Our ancestors may have been reluctant to Kow Tow to the old Emperors of China but our lords and masters have been happy to fling themselves to the floor when the Chinese money men arrive with wonderful promises of riches and fortunes.

China has indeed made astonishing changes in the most recent decades in the way it has urbanised and transformed the economy.  There are problems, notably the air pollution in the cities which is beginning to spread around the planet, but the chief one has been that the finance and control has been opaque and complex beyond understanding.

For a little time now the doomsters have been suggesting that all was not as well as it seemed to be and the vast structures of finance, critically involved in the large structures of urban growth, do not have the firm foundations that should be there.  One recent choice example is in The Bahamas, one of the many in the area of the Caribbean which has seen inflows of Chinese money.

In March the Mail had a big story about the mega resort being built in The Bahamas coming in at £3 billion plus.  It is the Baha Mar project at Cable Beach, New Providence, a place where I have toasted the toes a time or two.  The Bahamas now has a population of near 400,000, up from around 100,000 in 1960.

It has had minimal industry, little agriculture and the economy is highly dependent on tourism and financial services as an early tax haven.  The capital, Nassau, is a short flight from Miami, which is of great help to all those flights of American money of one sort or another.

The scale and nature of it at Cable Beach is here in all the purple prose the Mail could muster in a major piece of puff, failing to mention that there were serious problems.  I wonder who paid who for this one?

The latest Nassau item from the "Tribune" in the Bahamas gives an insight in the present situation at Baha Mar.  If interested it is worth scanning the comments for some local feeling.  What has been happening is that a key agency in the project has gone bankrupt, Chinese contractors are involved and there is now a flurry of legal cases in the USA.

There are many uncertainties and gaps in the system.  There seem to be issues over who owes which land, who owes who money and what contract applies to what part of the project.  The detail is mystifying and obscure and may take years to sort out if ever.

But in the scale of it, this is simply one project of many around the world that depends on Chinese money.  At present the UK government are bent on handing over vast sums of money for the Hinckley Point nuclear project that involves a French reactor that does not work properly, par for the course.

Does anyone know how much of our economy now is crucially linked and reliant on Chinese money?   Because if they do not and the present problems worsen to any degree we are in very real trouble.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Lenin Hitler Henry Hook London And Liverpool

The item below was first posted on Thursday 1st October, 2009, but I think it might have a second outing.


Lenin, Hitler, Liverpool, London, & Rorke’s Drift

An item has been for sale online, said to be an etching made in 1910 of Lenin and Hitler playing chess together in a room in Vienna in the house of a mutual friend.  Perhaps, what worries me is the etching.  This is skilled, expensive, and takes time and trouble.  Anyone recording this event would have been more likely to make a quick sketch of one sort or another.

Also, there must have been many more interesting people in Vienna playing chess or talking together at the time.  Hitler was an unsuccessful artist, just turned 20, and going nowhere.  Lenin was just another middle aged political thinker and activist on the run from Tsarist Russia, ageing and seemingly with no real future.

The other tale about the travels of Adolf that had attention in the past is the one about his supposed visit to Liverpool between November 1912 and April 1913.  Based on a suspect memoir by his sister-in-law, Bridget (born Dowling), whose husband Alois Hitler, listed as Anton in the 1911 England Census; step brother of The Fuhrer, was working as a waiter in Liverpool at the time.  It became the plot of an imaginative and readable novel by Beryl Bainbridge that was became an interesting TV item.

As ever the myth overtook the truth.  Detailed research in Vienna suggests that such a visit was never made, and that Bridget was making up an Irish whimsy later in life to help sell the copies of her life story.  It is a great pity, in 1913 both my parents and their hordes of families were roaming the streets in which Alois and Bridget Hitler lived and worked.  I could have come up with all sorts of wild fantasies.

A much better prospect for men who might have met and talked is a pairing that many would feel very unlikely.  It is Lenin and Hook, one of the 13 men who won the Victoria Cross at Rorke’s Drift in 1879 when just over 100 men held off and defeated a Zulu Impi with a force of up to 4,500.  They were certainly in the same place at the same time and for a year, and with interests in common.

In April 1902 Lenin, born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, was in London under the name of Jacob Richter, to avoid the attentions of the Paris agents of the Okhrana, the Tsarist Secret Police of Imperial Russia, and he stayed until May 1903.  At the British Museum he was issued with ticket number A72453 to give him access to the Library with its vast resources of books, and he spent a great deal of time there researching and writing.

One minor speculation is where he preferred to sit, perhaps seats G7, H9, R7, R8, but the favourite is L13 because of its nearness to the reference shelves.  Of the many attendants around, one would have stood out.

Alfred Henry Hook, who had dropped the Alfred early in life, known as Harry, was by then around 50, and perhaps already affected by the TB that was to end his life in 1905.  He had been employed there since the 1880’s.  After earning his VC in 1879, and with permanent injuries he had bought out, and in 1881 was working as a groom to a General Practitioner in Monmouth named George Owen Willis.

Not long after he was employed at the British Museum as an attendant, and signed up additionally with the Royal Fusiliers, The London Regiment, 1st Volunteer Battalion as an instructor, rising to be Sergeant.  The Volunteers were the predecessors of the Territorial Army, and often functioned as feeder units to the regular Army.

There are reasons for Lenin to check Hook out.  One was that as a figure of authority he was more likely than most to be asked his opinion about this “Mr. Richter” if the Special Branch had been alerted by the Okhrana and were seeking information.  The logic would have been to test the possibility.  Intellectually, however, would anyone with such an enquiring mind and intelligence of Lenin, miss the opportunity to have an occasional conversation with a man of this experience?

It would not have been difficult, because Hook was temperance, and as busy men both may well have used one of the cheap tea rooms in the vicinity before going on to meetings, as Lenin  would, or the Drill Hall, as Hook would.  Even fifty years later, it was surprising who you could bump into when going into a Bloomsbury tearoom for a quick cuppa and a sandwich.

Imagine, a foreigner with little income, but with a trained legal mind, high academic qualifications, and a great breadth of knowledge, asking plain reasonable questions to an older man to help him towards an understanding of this or that in the news in Britain.  The end of the war in South Africa, a new Prime Minister, the crowning of the new King, the British in Somaliland and West Africa, the troubles of agriculture in the Atlantic Isles and more.

Hook was a countryman by birth, one of the many who joined the Army for employment and training.  As for Empire, Hook had experienced the full reality of it at the end of his bayonet, and had been involved with many men since who had seen its further shores.  He would have been able to make informed and incisive comments about the South African War of 1899-1902 and the business in Nigeria.

It is speculation, and no more, but what might Lenin have learned from Hook? Lenin at the time was interested in agrarian issues, colonisation, political structures, and the extent of financial interests.

In military terms, it would have been organisation, discipline, tactics, the ability of a small well trained group with the motivation and leadership to withstand and overcome what was in theory a vastly superior force.  In 1914 the Old Contemptibles, the  small regular British army, stopped the might of the German Kaiser’s Imperial Army by its rifle skills, discipline, and bayonets.

To understand Hook you need to forget the film “Zulu” and totally clear it from your mind.  It is “Hollywood History”, not as bad or idiotic as most, but certainly with many adjustments to the facts and in particular the portrayal of personalities.

Hook of the film is a travesty, as are other characters, notably Dalton, but to a lesser extent Chard and Bromhead, both highly professional soldiers who at the end of the battle shared a bottle of beer found in a burned out wagon.

Hook was a sober, capable man, probably with a Forest of Dean accent, literate and able to communicate well enough.  He would have been a good man to talk to.  I believe he always remained a country man, because he returned to his home village, Churcham in Gloucestershire, to die.  There is no statue to him anywhere; he has only a simple grave in a country churchyard.

If they did meet and talk a time or two, it might have been this quality and a direct sense of purpose that may have impressed Lenin most of all.


What is intriguing is that that while Hook may have known Lenin, earlier in the 1881 Census he is living in Monmouth as a groom to George Owen Willis.  On that same day Karl Marx has for his next door neighbour Edwin Willis, the famed builder of organs.

All people that on earth do dwell.......

Friday, 21 August 2015

Flying High

As the race for Leader of the Labour Party closes to the line the four candidates are torn between traditional codes of unity, see the picture above, and the need to be different to make their claim.  This has led to disputes and ill feeling.

It is always very sad when people who were close in their views and ideas as youngsters become different people in advancing age and bitterly opposed to each other and their beliefs.  Yes, I am talking about Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn.

As teenagers they were both fans of the leading left pop group of the Soviet Union, "Kosygin And The Commissars".  Who can ever forget their smash hits, "We All Live In A Nuclear Submarine" and "I Ain't Got No Electrification" that made it to number one in the Gulag charts?

Perhaps it is the pigeon issue that has torn them apart. It was during the era of Blair and before that reformists changed the face of Britain by declaring pigeons a feral health risk.  Once Britons used to fling their food happily and some even go hungry to help the flapping friends get fat and breed and do more breeding.

Nosy scientists claiming that with the pigeons came other things, insects and microbes in plenty.  But humans have always had fleas and things, why should pigeons pay the price for intrusive hygiene?  Then there are the green issues.  Natural is good.

According to figures available twenty five pigeons can deliver a ton of droppings a year, a form of Green Quantitative Easing, so if an average household can maintain a flock of a hundred on the roof there are four free tons of rich fertiliser to nurture our plant life and vigorous communities of other life.

So when Jeremy wants to set the pigeons free to be welcomed by all he is living the ultimate dream.  That is we will have all the fertiliser we want at will and in quantities that will allow us to give freely of it to others.  Newcomers to our land can be given pigeons on arrival and help to raise the tonnage.

Indeed there may be a little added maintenance and repair costs to our gutters, roofs and other things.  But these purely incidental costs will help stimulate economic growth and provide work for lower paid labour.  For a truly socialist economy pigeon droppings can only be a win win feature, nationalised and with their own Five Year Plan.

Ignore the pessimists who talk of disease.  Pigeons do not smoke and drink alcohol; this means they are healthy.  In any event a few transmitted aches, pains and septic flea bites are a small price to pay and will help to increase spending on the NHS which is something we all want.

There is a different view expressed here in two minutes on Youtube by Tom Lehrer a little time ago if you want to be serious about it.