Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Friends And Neighbours?

The news that a pub called "The Saxon Shore" in Herne Bay down in Kent is at the centre of a row because it used the Union Jack instead of the flag of St. George on 23 April, St. George's Day, is another cobblestone on the road to the Scottish Referendum.

The whole issue is now into the realm of a Neverland of fantasy, imaginative storytelling and a world far removed from reality.  Alex Salmond decided to reprise his role as the Tinker Bell fairy of politics by venturing south to Carlisle while David Cameron was off somewhere being a less than convincing Peter Pan.

For those uncertain of the meaning of Neverland, Tinker and Peter go to Wikipedia.  All this was once the stuff of childhood in the days when we all needed to be removed from reality as often as possible.  Those days may be about to return.

After decades of stoking up resentments, picking fights and indulging in quasi racism against anything English and taking as his model the dynastic and tribal atrocities of the past Salmond has suddenly turned coat.

He now proclaims, mindful of the marginal voters, that all will be well on the divorce and we will be a happy couple, friends and neighbours, living in the same social housing in a sharing new relationship.

The Union was born in 1603 in a political and economic shambles with the accession of King James VI of Scotland to the throne of England during a plague epidemic; the previous monarchs of England having slaughtered many of the other possible candidates.

A century of upheaval and strife in Europe and Britain led in 1707 to the union of the parliaments with the Scottish elite essentially buying into the expanding English empire, renamed British.  Again it was a time of political and economic shambles.  Broadly, it was religion, money and Empire that kept the show on the road.

If anyone thinks that this separation or divorce is going to be friendly, easy and all done and dusted in a couple of years or so then it will not.  There are all the makings of a long, nasty, dispute ridden, costly and dangerous continuing political crisis.

This is not because it is a purely local matter.  It is of interest to too many others with interests and with a stake in the eventual outcomes.  To expect to be free of outside interference or complications is to be both naive and very stupid.

To add to that it will all happen in an uncertain world riddled with economic and financial weaknesses as well many locales at risk of flaring up into violence and conflict.  Because we are now prisoners in a globalised world where the money flows are out of our control.

Our politicians would all do a lot better to tell us what could be coming and the costs.  This is because we are not just going into one Neverland, there are too many parallel ones.  The EU is one, the United Nations another and there are many of them that we are connected to.

What happens if we cannot borrow our way out of the consequences?  Will we find ourselves being ruled directly by Commissioners from Brussels, or the UN and the cohorts of the IMF?

Monday, 21 April 2014

Young Dogs And Old Tricks?

This blog is dated as composed on 8 May 2010.  The extent to which it was right or wrong is left to you.


The present uncertainties arise for a number of reasons.  Our new crop of youthful members of parliament has grown up since the late 1980’s.  There are some remnant old stagers around as well as those on the Left who burble incessantly about Mrs. Thatcher.  This seems to be their modern fetish in line with the worship of antique pop groups. 

Back in the 1950’s I do not recall us wittering on about Ramsay Macdonald or paying good money for 1920’s ballroom dancing melodies.  As for dancing the Charleston, I mean my Dad did that and well who wants to do that kind of thing?

For all of her media dominance and thrust of her personality, Mrs. Thatcher still presided over a party of many parts.  It was a coalition of one kind, unluckily because of the electoral system with some bits missing that should have been there. 

Old Labour always was a coalition where the Methodists traded uneasily with the Marxists, never mind the rivalries of the many trade unions. 

Nowadays, but not then, you will find the boilermakers in with the collective of sex workers and a bundle of local government personnel and shop workers as in the GMB, yes dear reader, I am a member of that union, it is a long and strange tale.

Under John Major the old Tory party began to disintegrate and despite the efforts of its publicity people is still fragmented.  The difficulty now is that under the Great Leader concept of party management the old checks and balances have gone and it is very messy. 

New Labour has abandoned its traditional base to build up a client base by huge spending in the public sector.  It has created a new middle class who are not so much consulted as directed by media and modern management techniques and whipped along by bonus payments and target setting. 

The BBC is a case in point.  The dictatorial nature of Old Labour originates amongst the extreme Left groups that so many of them belonged to whose intellectual inspiration was East Germany.  The Liberal Democrat’s began as a coalition of sorts, essentially the dissatisfied meeting the disorientated. 

Bits that might have remained have dropped off, as Greens and such, but they have become a raggle taggle bunch of camp followers who can see only Europe as the future and Britain as an off shore base for good intentions for the world who will take no notice.

In office New Labour took advantage of its position by the process of “creative destruction” which has been very effective on the destructive side but very bad on the creative.  They have certainly created unsustainable debt and expenditure levels but not much else. 

The only people with whom they have compromised are the money men and the big spenders.  For the rest of it they have steam rollered Parliament, dismantled the old civil service, the Foreign Office cannot even be civil to The Pope, and have created a web of entities and activities too big either to control or to co-ordinate.

In short none of the three major parties has any real experience of the nature of discussion, manner or management of a real coalition situation and of their members few have either grown up or been obliged to conduct any serious business or work in negotiation to achieve the results needed. 

It is quite literally like putting not so much the lunatics in charge of the asylum as the predatory animal packs in charge of the zoo.

Historically, at different times and in different places similar situations have arisen before and the results are not happy ones.  In some cases the political entities just disintegrate as a whole, in others one form or another of absolute government occurs, perhaps after a period of bloodshed and misery. 

Occasionally, the state concerned just staggers on from one disaster to another.  Lastly and all too often the state goes off the map as it is taken over by outsiders in one form or another.

Is anyone taking bets?


Will this be a winner or loser?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

What's In The Papers?

In the past, even recent, the trade of history writing was done by people who accessed old records and writings and then presented their findings in varying ways.

There were those who stuck to what was there in the documents some trying to allow for faults and any unreliability.  There were those who used this information for analysis on a limited scale.  The there were those who had grand theories and ideas about the sweep of history.

One reason we had to rely on them was the sheer time, effort and trouble that goes into the research.  This could be immense if trying to disentangle scattered papers or if it meant long and worrying trawls through piles of it.

With increasing digitisation of records it is now possible to do some things very quickly and at the touch of a keyboard.  One area that I find fascinating is in the digitised newspapers where with a little skill you can call up vast amounts of reports very easily.

Chasing events and names not just through a limited number of London based national papers but around what comes up from local sources is proving fascinating.  The perspective of major events seen through local eyes is one aspect but the coverage of local interests takes us into the detail of a world that has gone.

Looking for a name from the past revealed surprises.  The assumption was that he was someone of minor interest.  To find him alongside the great and the good and part of his local elite, aristocrats and all.  But one way to look at what was going on is to go down the lists of names to see who was where doing what.

A choice example was the Salisbury Infirmary or Hospital.  Established and based on entirely voluntary contributions its local board attempted to provide medical services in a district that was thought to be of too small a population to support such a facility.  The board and associated committees were not simply local businessmen or such.  Those involved included British aristocrats, gentry, local businessmen and the branches of many mutual organisations for the working class.  

In the late 1930's it was clear that the need to expand was there but against this was an increasing and worrying deficit.  So in came one of the Royal Family, Princess Alice of Gloucester, wife of Prince Henry, third son of King George V, for a state visit in 1937.

There was a huge turnout of everybody who was anything with public and major ceremonial, crowds lining the streets, troops on parade and the whole bang shoot.   A nice touch was when posies where given to the Princess on behalf of the mutual societies they were presented all by girls named Alice.

Following through into 1939 what was striking were the many reports of activity and preparation for war at local level in several ways early in the year.  Whatever was going on at national level the local authorities were doing a great deal to be ready and on their own initiative.

Near 80 years on this kind of melding of national figures, local figures and the people across the country is not just unthinkable today but impossible.  The dead hand of centralisation and big government allied to big media has crushed the life and meaning of local affairs and government.

It is only by seeing directly into the past that we understand how much has been lost never to be regained.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Wandering Thoughts

There are a number of blogs that often do a set of links either as a main feature or as an adjunct.

Today is a day when the old mental faculties want a rest, so this device is being used.  Do not seek to find a common meaning or message.

I once impressed a group of politicians by telling them I had been selected as a random sample for my opinion.

Another bubble another bust is what Zero Hedge is telling us about the US housing market and there are the signs of slippage there that resemble the 2005 situation.

An issue forgotten at peril from the LSE is about the complexity involved in being a member of key international organisations now vital to the function of a modern state.  It may not be enough for Scotland to send blue stained serial killers wielding claymores to murder those in the way.  The one I liked was having to set up a Patents Office from scratch.

My brain hurts is a medical one suggesting that in another complex system, the human body, gut problems may be very much involved in what goes on in the mind.

The Class War is not over from a fellow blogger puts me in my place but the Monty Python clip is worth the time.

Something to sleep on tells us we are not alone in our basic wants and desires.

There is a cup of tea issue which needs resolving.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Is It Going To Rain?

Last winter it was fair to say that here in the UK we had an inundation.  We were assured that it was due to a curvy jet stream and this did not happen very often. 

Also, there are other stories of how it could happen, one being pollution in the Pacific doing things to temperatures and air flows.

Curvy Jet Steams are nothing new in an article in Science Daily and have happened before.  The article is longish and covers a good deal of research ground but tells us that weather shifts and associated climatic fluctuations are the norm.

The one dealt with around four thousand years ago is from a time before mankind really went into carbon making, we think.   

It may be if this was a time of population growth needing more land to cultivate more forests were burned but that may well have not been enough.

Which raises the awkward question that if indeed there are real changes on the way it may not be mankind it could be whatever else Earth has to throw at us.  What if the idea of change is right but the cause different to what we think?

Population depends on crops.  Crops depend on weather.  Weather depends on air flows and sea temperatures.  So are the air and sea affected by population or not?


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Picking Up The Bills

It was the duty day of the week today, the one where we have to do the shopping.  Looking at the bill my personal financial adviser aka fund manager aka forensic accountant concluded that it was a bad day at the office.

Inflation is said to be reduced and experts are going into panic at the perils of low inflation for the future of the economy but on the car park we were wondering why the cost of our routine purchasing is now so high and rising rapidly.

Looking at the media there are a raft of stories about sharp rises in property values, how rents are rocketing and all the things people claim they can no longer afford.  For those with cars to repair or care for costs are also well up.

The short answer is that the indexes are now restricted in scope and no longer reflect the broad sweep of expenditures.  As soon as the full reality of the obligations and needs of life are looked at then we do have inflation and it is not checked and it is doing the usual damage to the economy.

A reason why so many complain or have real concerns is that so many are living at the margins.  Effects of this are less voluntary "saving" and when straying across the margins the accumulation of increasing debt and interest liabilities.

Savings is a word with many meanings.  It might be long term aimed at a future pension.  It might be intended for future consumption.  But it might be needed either for essential replacements or future bills.  Sooner or later this or that will need repairs, new parts or stop working.

Low interest rates may do wonders for some people notably those in the businesses of borrowing big but for the kind of savings that are in effect future required expenditure many people are fighting a losing battle as prices rise inexorably and these days often more than income.

Because of the intensity of present consumption allied to the rapidity and uncertainty of money flows it is not balanced but delicately poised for many possible shifts and in directions we do not expect or plan for.

So don't believe a word of what they say.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Capten, Art Tha' Sleepin' There Below?

As someone increasingly detached from the world and indeed reality it is a strange place to live in.  It could be the other way round, reality is mine and it is the world that is becoming detached.

At the sight of this picture there was a small point of detail which made me think that global warming and the rise of sea levels had gone much further than I thought.

If you look at the rear of the vessel you will see the name Luxembourg.  The Principality is on the River Moselle, a big river, but nowhere near that big. 

So how was it that a formerly land locked state had suddenly become a port for huge sea going vessels?  Reading the item on the Tax Justice blog explained all.  Luxembourg has become a place for choice for the registration of ships.

Apparently, it occurred to Luxembourg that if they offered a cheap deal on this shipping lines would, if not sail, flock to them to get the legal bit done.  It would be a nice little earner for the state in these difficult times.

Once it was a matter of pride for ship owners to register in the ports and countries of their origin.  No longer, it is one of those bureaucratic formalities where cheapest is best, especially if some inconvenient matters can be avoided, like tax and legal liabilities.

It is a pity that ploys of this kind cannot be dealt with by the relevant governing authorities.  For example, if English football clubs could play only in the leagues in the state where the actual ownership of ultimate financial control was lodged it could transform world football.

The issue, however, it becoming serious.  In the developed west two blades of the economic scissors are at work.  One is that more and more assets are owned by others. 

The other is that many of those assets together with those owned theoretically by nationals of western states have ultimate ownership listed in the "off shore" entities we call tax havens, albeit that some, like Luxembourg, Andorra, Switzerland etc. are very much on shore.

In an era when predatory extractive finance has become paramount with increasing returns demanded from both working elements and the gaming sectors of operations the economic stresses require states to keep sloshing funny money into the system to keep it all afloat.

If it does not work then we will all sink together and the ships will have nowhere to go to.  Keep your eye on the Baltic Dry Index, one of the interesting economic markers.