Monday, 3 August 2015

Blanking The Screen




In our modern world an oft told tale is one of problems with the computer.  Not just the little things we have at home which cannot tolerate updates and unlucky errors but the bigger ones on which so much of our lives now depend.

Recently, the disturbing and nasty business of the Post Office computer system whose internal glitches resulting from revisions and trying to marry new functions with old systems etc. resulted in a slaughter of innocents among the postmasters of small offices who had problems with the accounts.

There is some feeling in this because lately I had problems with an august and high status organisation using a service which sent its payments to I think one of the outer galaxies.  As one of my few talents is being a deleted nuisance who knows how to look for a weakness it was dealt with.

But only eventually and after something of a slogging match.  The poor postmasters who went to gaol on the basis of what is alleged to be false evidence and refusal to produce information, as well as those bankrupted and suffering heavy losses had few to listen or to help.  Then there is the suicide.

Also, they could not get at the essential information.  The Post Office claims that they investigated and found no problems and the government have accepted this and retailed it as the most convenient answer, given the potential for damages.

"Private Eye" to its credit has been nagging away for some time but the other media has not.  But if this conduct is now almost the norm and the effect of cut price software from crony contracts, corruption, poor maintenance, lack of will to pay the price of new robust systems and do it properly is the stream of breakdowns, costly blunders which others pay for, and the rest, then we need to be wary.

Because there is a big one out there waiting to happen.  If it does all that has gone before will be small fry as we all roast in the fires of the collapse of payments, transactions, savings and the lot.  This is a little long but not much and very easy to understand.

Perhaps at the supermarket, when the ATM finally does get repaired, I might tap in my pass code and bring the world to an end.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

France - A Failed State





With all the noise about the continuing crisis at Calais, there is one matter that should concern all.  The Calais Dover rail and sea links are one of the crucial trade and communications junctions in both European and World trade.

Yet the French authorities, they cannot be called government, have failed to cope with a small number of disorganised but determined individuals either each alone or in groups.  They have been given literally the run around by them.  Their answer is to blame anybody and everybody else.

This is the standard response of the incompetent and foolish who have either made major blunders or who lack the capability and intellect to deal with even relatively simple problems.  One possible reason is that the French pay too much attention to intellectuals and too little to the practical application of mind over matter.

To all intents and purposes and looking over the full range of activity France has become a failed state that cannot see its own failure or begin to understand why it has happened.  So its leaders puff and posture and engage in the sorry dirty and corrupt politics that has been its downfall.

To fully examine this would take a big book covering many fields that might begin with the time of King Louis XIV and take in three centuries of history.  In journal or blog form it could run to one of those very long items that you might just put off reading.  So this is short and blunt.

There was a time when France could claim to exercise leadership in both Europe and the World in many respects and it was common for many in America, Britain and many other places to see Paris as the place to go to inform the mind and see the future.  Now it is just another tourist dump with low grade government and financial facilities located there as a legacy of the past.

In 1789 the French revolted against an entrenched monarchy and elite that was European in scope and connections.  The French saw themselves as prisoners in their own country and serfs to rulers who were unaccountable and held them in contempt.

In 2015 France has allowed itself to be governed by an entrenched political and administrative class and controlled by a European intellectual elite that is unaccountable and dictates the rules and styles of life.

It is a pensioner of the EU, its agriculture depends on vast subsidies, its industry on state contracts and its investment on state spending fuelled by debt that is out of control.

In many ranges of human thought and activity at one time France was among the leaders of the world in science, the arts, literature and other fields.  This is no longer the case.  There are still a number of able and notable people but the French are now rarely leaders they are mostly followers and in some cases are a long way behind.

It is not that France is trapped in its longer past.  That is long since gone and is history.  It has allowed itself to be taken over by a creature of its own creation, the EU.  It assumed that because of history and its central role it could always be the final authority in the EU.

But then the EU expanded and in doing so distributed power to others who looked elsewhere for leadership.  The Euro was introduced and the Germans put the War behind them and took over the reins of power having the money and political direction to do so.

By promoting the expansion of the EU and the Euro and the rest of the control systems as well France has fallen into the trap of its own making.  Intended to curb other major states and notably Britain, France is now subsidiary to others and paying the price.

It's internal politics have long been corrupt and a severe hindrance to good government.  If anything Europe has worsened this to the point where it is so extensive and necessary for function that France's major decisions depend on it.

So there is employment protection that almost guarantees unemployment.  A benefits system for the least deserving.  And administration that does not administer and a legal system that protects crime and criminals.  Then there is all the debt and to whom it is owed.

It has long been a joke about France that how can you govern a country with 400 Cheeses and 1000 variations of these, all distinctive and with strict rules of production.

But the EU now rules that powdered milk can be used.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Games A' Foot





There is no shortage of "news" of all kinds and for the average world watcher it seems that the rate of earth spin is increasing rapidly.  In the USA, President Obama has reverted to every politicians last hope, doing personal tours to other places to boost the image.  But he is a lucky man, the Republican opposition seems to be doing all it can to help the Democrats.

But which Democrat?  Many have assumed that as it was Mrs. Clinton who ran the shop when Bill was on his travels and following his own interests she might as well have a shot at the President job herself.  Now there is talk of Obama going for a third term.

This sorry tale of Washington DC will not be enough to put them off because by the time it happens they will be home and dry and draining off the proceeds into all those personal accounts that people of this kind keep these days.  In any case there are other things to occupy the voters.

Gawping at the TV tells us that leading soccer teams from Europe are abroad, some in the USA and some in China.  For once I was actually sorry for the players.  At Zangchou (there are many spellings but this was the one at the side of the pitch) where Real Madrid played Inter Milan not only was the heat hitting 40 C but it was very humid and the air quality bad.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, PSG St. Germaine, a French side with few Frenchmen met Chelsea, an English side with few English, for another dogfight which had much snapping at heels and fouls galore.  The conditions were not as bad as the other but it was still a hot and bothered game.

Yet in a few days these teams will be launching on busy seasons with many demands.  The media and TV coverage will be as great as ever and about as informative as much of our political.  There will be big story after big story but all lacking in key information and all short of any certainty as to success and failure.

In football necessarily many more will fail than succeed.  This is the way the money goes.  In politics once the idea was that those engaged would enable many more winners than losers, if only to get the votes.  But the tangle they are in because of the incessant political versions of fouling and malpractice means we are in a world where there are far more losers than winners.

This is bad news for the stability of states and nations which will find their populations becoming more wayward and intractable.  When you add to that what is happening in the banking and financial systems these are about as reliable and sensible, if not less, than what goes on in football transfers and money flows.

As many of the newly wealthy players and those who pay for them and finance them are at present up to the hilt in the many property booms around the world there is a delicate balance between success and failure as on the pitch which is mirrored in our politics.

In China the markets have just taken a big tumble and whether the government can pump enough back into them to restore them is a real question.  In America the question is when are rates of interest going to approach reality again and become a necessary condition of the markets.

For both easy money and pump priming and all the rest has gone on for seven years now to keep all the games going, in politics as well as soccer.  China is said to have played a form of football centuries age, see picture above, and then lost the art much as they are losing the arts of finance.

Someone once had a theory about seven year cycles, that also was a long time ago so we have forgotten.

We may soon remember and the real games will begin.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The House Of Leers





Peering at newspaper reports on screen tells me that a Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords has been caught if not red handed then red bra' wearing exploring the outer reaches of the permissive society; and at his age too.

He holds a number of responsible posts and by the rich irony that always occurs in these matters he has been Chairman of the Parliamentary Privileges and Conduct Committee.  His name is Sewel which inevitably means an "r" replacing the "l".

Because of technical complexities he remains a member of the House, entitled to what they are allowed and how long this will be the case is something that few if any know.

What is shocking to me is that I am not surprised.  The scale of dirty doings and fiddling revealed in both Houses of Parliament has been a rich source of media material despite their frantic attempts if not to stop it then at least to stop any information going public.

One of the many reasons why the "Great" has been lost to Britain is that our attachment to an unwritten constitution, once our pride, has meant an unwillingness to tackle major problems.  One is the way we deal with legislation and part of that is the House of Lords.

It was in 1909, the year of the Liberal "People's Budget", that Lloyd George complained about 500 unelected persons selected by birth having the final and crucial say in many matters.  The budget was turned down by a vote of 350 to 75, meaning 425 voting.

Since then and after 1911 there have been Acts of Parliament making adjustments, but the essence of the old Lords lives on.  This is for the simple reason that many earlier peerages were given on grounds of convenience, political needs, perks for a job and favouritism.

Our present Life Peerages, with us in the last half century are no different in many cases.  They are still appointed and it was very soon after their inception that Harold Wilson was handing them out, one might say almost willy-nilly.

The Attlee government that might have done the job of major reform in the late 1940's was shackled by the weight of work from their social and economic policies at home and the large scale efforts abroad.  They managed a minor reform but could not find the time that a major one involved.

Moreover, there were disputes about whether a Second Chamber was needed, what it would actually do and how it might be elected. These crucial matters are still at the heart of the debate as to what is to be done with The Lords.

Meanwhile the size and the cost of all this goes up and up as the numbers increase.  When a party comes to power it needs to up its followers in The Lords to get business done.  So when there is a change of party another draft of Doolittles is ennobled.

There is a point at which all this can become a joke and given where The Lords is and who are appointed the risk of bad jokes and accumulating worse jokes increases exponentially as the numbers people say.

This is just a part of the serial collapse of effective government at the centre.  Blair and Brown messed about the constitution by a series of one off decisions.  They were not the first.

We have foreign bodies invading our legal and regulatory systems at will.  We have large numbers of people in both Houses who do not know what they are doing.

And we have a House of Lords who can only warrant media coverage by doing what comes unnaturally.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

It's All In The Mind





On the web there are sites that should be avoided at all costs because they lead you on to others that persons of a nervous disposition will find raise terrors in the mind and memory.

I ought to have known better which is why I woke in the night shaking, clammy and in terror. Yes, the ghost of Edward Heath, some time Tory Prime Minister, was walking and he was there because I had been reading online speeches of Margaret Thatcher from the period 1970 to 1974.

The darkest fear that entered the mind was the idea that David Cameron is Edward Heath returned cackling and wringing his hands as he leads us to another 1970's doom.

This decade is now being freely mentioned because the contest for Leader of the Labour Party has the lefties scrapping with the neo-libs with old Soc Dem's wondering where to go and new brands of sundry ideas floating around the mix.

But the troubles of the 1970's were not just our home grown Left.  Heath, Barber and Maudling left such a mess behind them in 1974 that the Tories went for their equivalent of Mother Teresa, another tough cookie.

But for Margaret Hilda Thatcher charity began at Grantham.  In order to win votes she had to bash The Left and in order to stay Leader she also had to bash the Heath Men.  They were as bad if not worse when it came to economics and discipline.  She left problems behind her in turn.

All this is ancient history.  Because we are beguiled by all the archive screen footage we are prone to think it is an era close to us.  Our ancestors over a hundred years ago did not have this, they could not avoid the reality of rapid change.  But even they could not imagine where it might or would lead.

A very great deal has changed in many ways since then, not just in our small scattered set of islands off the coast of Europe but almost everywhere so any ideas from the past are tested against what is the present and seem to be failing.

When testing the ideas of the now against what we think might be they seem likely to fail and against the what will be probably are bound to.  We don't know where we are going, who goes with us is open to question and where we finish up is anybody's guess.

We have political parties that tell us what they intend to do not mentioning that apparently we now have in the order of 14,000 obligations to international organisations to take into account.  The conflicts between some of them never mind our intentions can be impossible to resolve.

The fiasco this month over the crucial route from Dover to Calais is a vivid illustration of both the idiocy and incapacity of our rulers.  There are two issues here.  One is the rights of trade unions, in this case French, the other is the migration issue.

That they have collided in Calais and that the French cannot deal with either without it conflicting with one absolute obligation against another is at the root of the problems.  But this is relatively small scale and immediate.

It is also happening on a larger scale and unfolding over a period of time in a way that escapes media notice.  No set of ideas from either the present or the past can deal with them.  So when we try to apply those ideas it is making matters worse.

The idea that those expensive people in their offices and institutions are essentially dreamers and demagogues hell bent on a future that will not happen as they wish or hope is not one that is comforting in a dangerous world.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Der Fliegende Shyster





Much is made in the media of the pragmatic, careful and well organised, honest Germans having to support the profligate, corrupt and evasive Greeks and being criticised for their wish to keep the accounts right.

This long read from Bloomberg sent to me by one of the family might disabuse you of these ideas.

You might just have the impression that the Greeks are being made to pay for the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport which perhaps tells the real story of German financial management.

In the grand opera "Der Fliegende Hollander", Saturday night on RTE Lyric FM Sky 0165 radio, the soprano and the tenor get to heaven.

Sadly, Ms. Merkel and Mr. Tsipras could be going the other way.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

2020 Could Jeremy Corbyn Be Prime Minister?





By all those who know about these things and inform and advise us of what is to be and might be, it is said that if Jeremy Corbyn were to be voted into Leadership of the Labour Party it could be decades before they next gain office.

Let me see now.

1921, David Lloyd George is the man for the future in the new age of the Liberal Party, the Tories will never see office again.

1938, the Conservatives ought to get rid of that back bencher Churchill, he really is a liability, you can rely on Neville Chamberlain, a safe pair of hands.

1944, it is impossible to see Clement Attlee as a Prime Minister, he should be replaced as soon as possible by Herbert Morrison.

1958, Harold Macmillan will never win an election, the age of the old grouse moor aristocrat is dead, he is no match for the intellect and power of Hugh Gaitskell.

1963, Harold Wilson? Couldn't win a game of snap, Labour should have voted in George Brown.

1978, Good grief, what are the Tories doing!  Does anybody think that Thatcher the handbag snatcher could beat steady reliable Jim Callaghan?

1991, John Major, couldn't manage a grocer's shop.  Neil Kinnock will run rings round him.

2006, the Tories will never win another election, Labour holds all the cards and now has all the men.

Anyone taking bets?