Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Burnham To Dunce Inane

The annual performance of The Scottish Play has now taken place at Manchester Central Station that was. Things did not run according to the timetable. Also, this year we had a dearth of Scottish performers for the lead parts. Ed made an unconvincing Macbeth making sure all the blood was on other hands.

David could not make up his mind whether he was Duncan or Banquo’s Ghost. Either way he may choose to disappear in a cloud of eco friendly carbon dioxide.

Harriet might have been expected to be more convincing as Lady Macbeth but seemed to be auditioning for Titania, Queen of the Fairies in another play. As for the three witches, at one time Labour had a marvellous choice of candidates.

This year I felt that Darling , Johnson and Straw would have to do the parts as transgender social outcasts. Interesting, but not good to watch.

The BBC, frantic for a pretty Labour face to give the spiel without upsetting too many people let Andy Burnham have a large chunk of their news bulletin. As an Everton supporter whose team are bottom of The Premiership and looking bad he may not have been the best choice.

Anyhow, he did try to make us weep for all the dire hardships he and his fellow candidates for the Labour leadership have suffered for the last few weeks. My little heart bled for them.

Burnham predictably went banging on about the NHS and what disasters awaiting the old. This caused my twitch to start up. He represents Leigh in Lancashire. A relation of mine had his father land in Leigh Hospital a decade ago. The man was diagnosed with dementia.

The family had no discussion with any doctor and indeed were denied access to one but were simply instructed by a junior local government official that he was going to put into a care home and his property sold.

The family went to the Court of Protection, see Anna Raccoon’s blogs, to try to sort out the alternatives. Unluckily the relation landed in hospital in an emergency and while he was there the official forced the father, near blind and stone deaf as well as suffering dementia to sign documents authorising the sale of his property.

The Court of Protection did nothing, but we now know that they would not challenge politicians.

As well as selling the property at well under value over the family’s heads the relevant local authority took a large chunk of money as administration fees. This was Wigan, who once had Hazel Blears as one of the legal officers. Of course she will have had absolutely nothing to do with devising these procedures.

Curiously, some of those involved in the buying and selling were attached to local Labour Parties. Gosh golly, and you would have thought they would have been much too busy coining it in from Pathfinder and other Labour redevelopment wheezes.

Meanwhile, Andy told the BBC that the Coalition had produced a “White Paper from nowhere.” about the NHS. This is unlikely unless the Three Witches had been at work for the Tories as well as Labour. Perhaps Andy is clueless about where they come from normally.

Perhaps Andy is clueless because when he was in charge of Health the civil servants might actually have been thinking beyond the next sound bite or appointment at the hairdressers for the colouring and styling.

Perhaps Andy is clueless because he sees the NHS as just a big jobs and property racket for the various members and funders of his party.

Perhaps Andy is clueless because nobody told him that there was something called The Treasury that might be looking for different ways of funding services and that was always going to include Health.

On the other hand, perhaps he really is just totally clueless.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Threading Needles And Jumping Beans

In 1961 the year the Berlin Wall went up and “West Side Story” and “La Dolce Vita” hit the screens, Viv Nicholson of Castleford in Yorkshire won the pools for the huge amount of £152,000 (say 40 detached houses in Tunbridge Wells) and declared she would “Spend, spend, spend”.

For this she was excoriated by the press and from pulpits. Sound and moral men told her to save, exercise due economy and to invest wisely to gain a reliable income and by doing so set a good example to her class and community.

Evidently she was a lady ahead of her time. Today she would be regarded as a potential member of the board of the Bank of England and Charles Bean, the Deputy Governor would be praising her economic wisdom and sense of moral purpose. Vince The Mince and Ed The Red would be hanging on her every word.

Avoiding all the very obvious jokes about Mr. Bean I understand he has told us all to loosen up on spending, take on extra credit, forget saving or run down those you have and for that matter draw down on capital perhaps by extending mortgages or going in for some fancy equity release caper. All that is missing is a big poster with the little children looking up at a pensive father and asking “What did you do in the Great Recession, Daddy?”

Perhaps I should take Mr. Bean to a quiet room, play calming music (not Mozart or Beethoven, they both died broke) and explain things to him gently in a soft voice and gentle manner. Then I might clobber him with the shillelagh I keep to welcome door to door salesmen and debt collectors just to make sure he gets the message.

Firstly, my income has suffered steady deterioration in the last few years almost entirely due to the relevant indexes being fiddled to understate real price rises for the bulk of the population.

Also, the way in which major financial entities now govern how companies operate to achieve very high and ever increasing rates of return on their highly leveraged investments has impacted in all sorts of ways on many of our basic expenses. Mr. Bean and his little friends gave up the idea of regulation without realising how they would impair basic consumer spending and saving.

Secondly, despite not taking foreign or indeed any holidays recently my savings have also depreciated in real terms because interest rates governed by the Bank have not reflected the realities of the markets. The interest on any credit etc. that do relate to market conditions are still way too high for any rational man to take them on.

Indeed, I have been on my own personal tax avoidance scheme and refusal to obey the advice of my masters. We have simply stopped spending on almost all goods that carry VAT or not absolutely essential to basic functioning. Also, we have cut our activities and therefore car and out and about expenses quite radically.

We can manage quite well without all the heavily advertised consumer stuff that people are urged to fill up their supermarket trolleys with. Yes we spend more time doing things that most people no longer do, like eating leftovers and preparing foods by hand rather than buying packaged versions.

Economies and activity that were routine for earlier generations but forgotten now have been reinstated. Threading needles and not throwing away is now something we are doing a lot more often.

Sorry, Mr. Bean, no can do. We are already closer to the margins than we want to be. If things go badly for us there will be no help from a shattered state machinery. If I were fool enough to do as he suggests then I would in the same sort of trouble that so many have endured.

It was precisely the spending and credit ideas that he is recommending that have broken so many families, ruined so many others, caused so many repossessions, have put people into debt slavery for the rest of their lifetimes and reduced so many pensioners to penury.

If he really wants to know what could happen he should ask Viv or at least take a look at her web site. Is this his vision for Britain’s future?

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Middle England Or Middle Earth?

Ed The Red it seems wishes to retrieve the support of Middle England for Labour. So forget Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the old Labour heartlands where the working class has all but gone. The people who matter are in the marginal seats in England. They are those on the edge of prosperity who are extra sensitive to changes in the structure of their income and holdings.

Is this just an appeal to New Labour and his present paymasters or is it for real? They have lost their grip on all those high paid high pension entitlements in the machinery of state and its associates and they want them back, fast. Others want their hands on power again because as time moves on others will soon replace them.

So what is he saying? It is the old myopic meanderings of one of sons of the London Mediocracy now elevated by his own kind to lead the party of that class? He has had almost nothing to do with ordinary people or ordinary workers in the whole of his life and neither did his parents. They were recent academic migrants so there is a total absence of family history in the Atlantic Isles in his background.

Corpus Christi at Oxford would not have provided much, nor would LSE in the period he was there, nor would his career before election in 2005. Were he to be a man of huge and encompassing intellect or someone of outstanding contribution to one thing or another, business, academia or the military it might be an explanation. But he is none of things.

It seems that he has political skills superior to those of his contemporaries in the Labour Party. This, given their recent record, is hardly a major achievement. We had a Prime Minister like that after 1997 and look what happened there. That one knew little about anything and understood less except where the money was for him. I fear it looks like more of the same.

What Middle England are we talking about? It is claimed now that only one per cent has more wealth than ninety per cent of our population. The figures are very complicated but it seems to be near the truth. This leaves nine per cent, who are assumed to be prosperous but not so rich as the plundercrats at the top. It is from this group that so many of the London Mediocracy come from. They are certainly a lot better off than the great majority of most of the poorer lot below.

Amongst this lower ninety per cent, there will be a proportion of people who are “comfortable” with a decent disposable income and limited debt. So Middle England therefore means that group of people, substantially in the south east or in areas outside urban centres, where many of the marginal constituencies are. It also means control of London.

These are the areas where the Middle England of fable lies. Is it beginning to be more of a fiction than a political fact? Increasingly these are now a minority as more and more feel the pinch and lower their expectations of being ever free from debt or having any margin of savings. They are also older and as this is the case disappearing ever more rapidly with the arrival of the grim reaper, the costly carers, or the depletion of savings and reduction in real incomes.

What few seem to understand is that the extraction of so much wealth and income from the UK has reached a level where it has now impacted not only on those at the bottom but those in the middling reaches as well. This has occurred in the USA and is happening in the West generally. It is simple to understand, look at all the bills you are paying and follow the money.

We have a wreck of an economy, a wreck of a constitution and almost everywhere you look it is complicated, chaotic and hugely vulnerable to even minor disruptions. I regret that an early 1990’s Masters degree in mathematical economics from the LSE, a touch of political philosophy from Corpus Christi and a few back room political skills honed in student politics and through media contacts are not enough.

Worse still, as you look amongst the ranks of all the political parties, all you see is the same with a few exceptions.

Middle England? More like Middle Earth nowadays, but then Tolkien who was at Merton along the street from Corpus Christi, did see service in some real life.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Milibands, Militants and Miners

London School of Economics late 1950’s.

Ralph Miliband is on the academic staff and is well known for his fervid left wing socialism and its mission in the Labour Party.

In “The Three Tuns” student bar the rugby club have arrived back, most of them Welsh, already well on the way and going at full throttle.


My old man’s a Miliband,
A Miliband!!!
A Miliband,
A very fine Miliband is he –e - e,

All day he stuffs Tories,
Stuffs Tories!!!
Stuffs Tories,
And then he comes home,
And stuffs me.

Singing, hey jig a jig,


Not many people know that.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Pakistan, Flooding, Energy And The Future

This long post was taken today from The Oil Drum and is by “Heading Out” and deals with matters of energy in Pakistan. Because coal reserves are there it does not mean they will be made use of. The Roman Empire never got round to large scale coal mining. Amongst other issues, but not in the article, is the many millions who are displaced now and without land. Where will they be going?


Yesterday and this morning I spent my time helping clear up the damage from a storm that hit our town over the summer. We were away, and several trees were left with limbs torn, damaged and in some cases dangling. So, I used the chance to get some of the other trees pruned of dead wood, and to generally clean up around the yard.

Now I am left with a reasonable amount of kindling and firewood, to help heat the house over the winter. We have a tile stove, and so the effort is a little more to cut the wood to the shorter lengths, but the work is justified.

The trees remain, and will continue to grow. But other parts of the world are not as fortunate. Judith Curry has written of the facility with which commentators have cited the recent flooding in Pakistan as being due to global warming, when there is a significant case that it could, more correctly, be blamed on inept water and agricultural practice, with a little regional politics thrown in.

Unfortunately the problems that she describes illustrate the problems of a country where the pressures of a growing population have sought short-term answers to long-term problems.

For example:

Illegal logging supported by the Taliban in the northwest province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has felled as much as 70% of the forest in some districts. The lack of trees, combined with overgrazing by livestock, reduces the soil’s ability to hold water and leads to soil erosion. Flash flooding in the northern, mountainous areas then sends silt downstream, reducing the amount of water the river channel can hold.

There are a substantial number of barrages (dams) on the Indus River that support irrigation and hydropower. The flood occurred when the rising river bed (owing to the huge silt deposition in the upstream areas) was trapped by the Taunsa barrage, obstructing the water flow.

These heavy silt loads were then transported through western tributaries of the Indus River. Construction of protective levees and dykes has also contributed to raising the riverbed and the sedimentation of upstream areas; moreover, the rising riverbed levels have rendered protective levees ineffective.

In 1951 Pakistan held a population of 34 million people. This had increased to 144 million in 2001, and is currently estimated at over 170 million. It is thus now the sixth most populous of nations. The average consumption of 500KWh is a fifth of the global average of 2,500 KWh. Of that thermally generated energy currently produces around 63% of the power, while hydro has produced around 32% (6,500 MW).

However, as noted above, the lakes behind the high dams are sedimenting rapidly, as deforestation increases the bearing load of the streams. It is estimated that 20% of the live storage capacity is already gone. Yet, because of its geography, there is a potential for more than doubling the amount of power available to Pakistan from hydro-electricity generation.

It has the advantage of being indigenous, in a country that already faces considerable expense in importing energy. There is one project, the Neelum-Jelham scheme, in Kashmir, currently in progress, though it is controversial.

Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project is located near Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. It aims to dig a tunnel and divert water of Neelam River from Nauseri, about 41 KM East of Muzzafrabad.

A Powerhouse will be constructed at Chatter Kalas, 22 Km South of Muzaffarabad; and after passing through the turbines the water will be released in Jhelum River, about 4 Km South of Chatter Kalas. Once completed, the Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project will produce 969 MW of electricity annually at the cost of US $2.16 billion.

To meet the needs of the population Pakistan has steadily increased oil imports (to about 400,000 bd). It does have natural gas resources, and has seen these rise to almost 4 billion cu ft/day, in the same period. However it has, increasingly, also had to import coal to meet its growing needs. And yet the country has a large coal resource.

Pakistan coal reserves are estimated at 175 billion tons which according to the Vice-Chancellor (VC) of Punjab University, Professor Dr Mujahid Kamran equal 618 billion barrels of crude oil. According to the most reliable analytical reports Saudi Arabian crude oil reserves are estimated at around 260 billion barrels. At 60 Dollars per barrel this equates to 3708 Billion Dollars or approx. 4 Trillion Dollars (at current prices).

At future prices these reserves will be worth 8 or 24 Trillion Dollars. This is enough money to build the most modern infrastructure, the best roads, the best hospitals, the best education, the best universities, the best hi-speed rail system and the best public transportation system on the planet.

On the other side of India, there is a planned collaboration between India and Bangladesh to jointly build a 1320 MW coal-fired power plant in Khulna, the land being proposed as Bangladesh’s equity investment.

It is planned that the Khulna plant would use high-quality coal imported through the sea from countries like Indonesia or Australia. The government is not considering import of Indian coal as it is generally low in quality and comparatively more environmentally harmful.

Bangladesh opened its first coal mine in April 2003 and has yet to develop it extensively, though there have already been strong protests over the planned opening of the Phulbari surface mine.

I bring these matters up, because I anticipate that, with the tightening of oil supplies, and the resulting increases in the price of imported energy, that countries will have to rely more on the resources that they find within their own borders.

Pakistan, India and Bangladesh will likely be among those nations that will, likely because they have no other viable economic choice, move to an increased reliance on coal-fired power.

The reserves are there nationally, even if, for now, the world price for coal is low enough, because of the large size of other national deposits, that they may not be mined. But, in time, they will be. Because, as with places like Haiti, and Lebanon, once the trees are gone they will likely not come back for a very long time.


Just to remind you, we have severe energy problems imminent in the UK and no serious policy remotely able to deal with them.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Banks Do Not Furnish A Room

In the past I have complained about how banks have changed. Gone are the polite formalities of the past and the careful noting of detail by persons who know they are in a good job with a pension to look forward to.

Now they are like the amusement arcades of the past with rows of blinking machines happy to take your money but not to give you what you hoped for. The staff are pushy people trying to sell me all sorts of stuff I do not want or need. They are on commission with no pensions or job security.

My parents and regimental sergeant majors used to warn me of other dangers. To be approached by eager young ladies smelling strongly of cheap perfume offering services you would be well advised to refuse is disconcerting. Especially when you know the result could be a nasty red rash at the bottom of the accounts.

The latest communication I have had from the bank was intriguing. It is almost a metaphor for kind of general national financial problems that Vinnie The Bank Crusher is on about.

It tells me that the balance in my savings account is zero. I suspect I am not alone in having this problem. It might be related to the other pieces of information.

One is that the rate of interest on such savings is 0.05%. I am surprised only by the fact that I am not paying the bank to take care of the zero account. The other is that if I went into debit then the rate of interest they would charge would be 19.90%

We are urged by Keynesians to borrow to spend so that we can earn enough to spend more and to borrow more. According to my Keynes there was something called savings that came into all the equations.

Saving meant investment and if wise this created activity that enabled consumptions and savings. If savings were too much this was a distortion. If too little and borrowing too much this was a worse distortion.

Just like the mirrors in the old amusement arcades.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Goodbye Ice, Hello Trouble

Michael Panzner, one of the select few who called the recent financial crash has a blog “When Giants Fall” taken from his book on An Economic Road Map For The End Of The American Era. This latest post is about what might be in the Arctic.

For some reason it did not cheer me up.


September 18, 2010 - Big Changes Up North

One key theme of this blog (and my book of the same name) is that mankind will have to contend with a growing number of resource constraints, including diminishing availability of essential commodities like water, food, and energy.

This will encourage governments, businesses, and other interested parties to seek out and secure other avenues for obtaining these resources, including in those parts of the world (and beyond) that had once been seen as impractical or off-limits for a variety of reasons.

In a Wall Street Journal excerpt, "Unfreezing Arctic Assets," from his forthcoming book, The World in 2050, Laurence C. Smith discusses how these and other factors are set to bring big changes to a part of the world that likely hasn't changed all that much over the course of the past several centuries.

A bloc of countries above the 45th parallel is poised to dominate the next century. Welcome to the New North.

Imagine the Arctic in 2050 as a frigid version of Nevada—an empty landscape dotted with gleaming boom towns. Gas pipelines fan across the tundra, fueling fast-growing cities to the south like Calgary and Moscow, the coveted destinations for millions of global immigrants. It's a busy web for global commerce, as the world's ships advance each summer as the seasonal sea ice retreats, or even briefly disappears.

Much of the planet's northern quarter of latitude, including the Arctic, is poised to undergo tremendous transformation over the next century. As a booming population increases the demand for the Earth's natural resources, and as lands closer to the equator face the prospect of rising water demand, droughts and other likely changes, the prominence of northern countries will rise along with their projected milder winters.

If Florida coasts become uninsurable and California enters a long-term drought, might people consider moving to Minnesota or Alberta? Will Spaniards eye Sweden?

Might Russia one day, its population falling and needful of immigrants, decide a smarter alternative to resurrecting old Soviet plans for a 1,600-mile Siberia-Aral canal is to simply invite former Kazakh and Uzbek cotton farmers to abandon their dusty fields and resettle Siberia, to work in the gas fields?

European explorers first started pressing north five centuries ago, searching for an alternate passage to the Orient. By the 19th and early 20th centuries, urban donors around the world were funding expeditions to the Northwest Passage and North Pole.

Fears of Japanese invasion and communist ideology opened up the region as military spending poured in during World War II. During the Cold War, American and Russian forces played cat-and-mouse war games there with spy planes and nuclear-armed subs.

Today, scientists studying oil and gas potential—and how shrinking summer sea ice might make it easier to access offshore deposits—are convincing governments and investors that the region has rising strategic value.

Private companies have snapped up Canada's northernmost railroad and port of Churchill, bought $2.8 billion in Arctic offshore energy leases, and begun developing specialized tanker ships and platforms for offshore drilling in icy environments.

This year, Russia and Norway resolved a four-decade-long boundary dispute in the Arctic Ocean, which could pave the way to more offshore development. Canada, Norway and Russia are bolstering their militaries with ice-strengthened patrol ships, frigates, attack submarines and fighter jets.

Click here to read the rest.


Will Gazprom buy BP? I think I will have a slug of scotch but no ice.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Preaching By Numbers

The Pope is in Edinburgh, hopefully to preach an Anathema against Satan’s followers and familiars in the shape of the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland part of HBOS.

It was they who led the innocent fishermen of Iceland into dread temptation in gaming at the tables of the moneylenders near The Temple in London. Remember, St. Peter The Apostle, predecessor to all the Popes, was a fisherman.

Also, they led the naïve innocents of Colonial Wall Street into sin by the facilities they granted to evade regulation of credit risks in funnelling credits to and fro and causing them to commit the sins of pride as they lorded it over the trusting and uninformed backwoodsmen of Washington DC.

In the meantime, Governor “Merv The Swerve” King of the Bank of England has been in the Old Catholic redoubt of Manchester to admit his “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” to the assembled peoples of the TUC. Not quite all, since Bob Crow and his RMT congregation walked out, perhaps in sympathy will all the railway passengers they have caused to walk recently.

The Trade Unions today sometimes remind me of the Holy Orders and lay brotherhoods of the Middle Ages. Theoretically there to do good and to bring the words of the faith, although with different prophets, they can impact on the overall economy in adverse ways that they deny.

At present there are no flagellants but there are extremes who sometimes demonstrate the strength of their faith in the holy places of London and throw themselves on the weapons of the Metropolitan Police.

For Mervyn and Benedict there is an intriguing comparison. It was the sale of Indulgences (hedges against hell) in the 16th Century that triggered the Reformation in Germany. The sales were to provide funding for a spectacular property venture, St. Peter’s in Rome, that had gone financially badly wrong. You paid your money and you got an easy ride to Heaven for eternity.

More recently, as Mervyn admits, we all came to believe in eternal credit and consumer joy on earth as the money merry go round speeded up for reasons almost nobody could fathom but came to believe in with even greater fervour than the peoples of the Middle Ages had believed in Heaven and Hell.

Like the Christians of the first three or four centuries, there was an oppressed minority who huddled together secretly to doubt the existing gods and to question the existence of rich elites and their imperial arrogance. The early Christians, however, might be martyred, more recent doubters have only had to put up with character assassination.

There is a common message that the two can give us and that is that the world has changed utterly. Easy credit and easy living are no more and new empires now rule our world and not the governments we elect and nor the faiths in which we worship. I include secularism as a “faith” because it has its own prophets of doom and reasons for being that are somewhat beyond rationality.

It is probably Mervyn that could try to get over the simple proposition that who controls the supply of money controls everything. I believe that it was Meyer Amchel Rothschild, 1743-1812 who said “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes its laws”. In the UK between 1997 and 2010 the government handed over the creation of credit and effectively the money supply to the financial interests who paid their party and personal bills.

“Globalism”, that is the creation of major international entities not bound to any state and paying taxes where they want to or not at all that are now governing much of what we do. Pope Benedict, leader of a global religion is as much in their thrall as anybody else. He might care to read up on the 1891 Encyclical “Rerum Novarum” titled “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labour” issued by Pope Leo XIII

I quote: “They are reminded that, according to natural reason and Christian philosophy, working for gain is creditable, not shameful, to a man, since it enables him to earn an honorable livelihood; but to misuse men as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers, that is truly shameful and inhuman.”

But I am not hopeful, His Holiness Mervyn might be asked about the money and where it is but what we will get is “Toxic Debt? ‘onest guv, it weren’t me, nobody told me and I don’t know nuffing” more or less that is. Governor Benedict of The Vatican Bank, if asked could well reply “The accounts are one of the greater mysteries of the faith.”

Perhaps the two of them could meet up at Airdsmoss for a chat.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Popes, Politicians, Property, Power And Professional Football

Did you know that there could have been a Pope who was a Scouser and an Everton supporter? I doubt if he would have charged premium concert rates for the faithful to attend his ceremonies because he was decidedly a man of the people.

Cardinal William Godfrey died in 1963 six months before Pope John XXIII as Archbishop of Westminster after distinguished service in Rome and in the Papal Diplomatic service.. Had he been given only a short time more in this vale of tears he might have become Pope. Born and bred in Liverpool he is now a forgotten man.

The media in the last few days have been filled with the lapse from virtue and chastity of a professional footballer, once an Everton player, who has committed the greater sin of playing for Manchester United.

He was pulled from their squad for the game at Everton because at Goodison Park he might have subjected to rude and enquiring remarks. Apparently he has become allergic to Scouse humour and unlike Godfrey has turned on the city of his birth.

It seems a long way and a long time from Godfrey to this unhappy business but it can be connected. However, there is a much greater scandal surrounding the Everton ground and nothing to do with the football or the club. It is about property and greed on a scale that defies understanding and about which there has been a deathly silence in the media.

Even “Private Eye” which has lately pilloried the CDC ran away from it. I smell big fat politicians and lawyers and even bigger super injunctions. There have been huge fortunes to be made and too many of the big boys in Westminster, The City and Mayfair in on the act.

Any local politicians with consciences who might have opposed it faced the whole weight of power, spin and character assassination as well as their seats had they kept on trying. Around them swam the small fry of the local Lib Dem’s who strangely would have preferred a Lab/Lib Dem coalition.

It is all to do with the “Pathfinder” redevelopment schemes and particular kinds of property. A number of areas in Liverpool had houses which were leasehold and where the freeholder was Liverpool Corporation.

This went back to the years of the late 19th and early 20th Century when the City burst out of own lands, bought land in the Hundred of West Derby to allow builders to put up houses for rent or sale on leases.

In some areas the annual freehold rent was ten shillings, a lot in 1900 but by some time in the 1980’s not worth the cost of collecting. As a consequence of rent controls and time expiry of the leases many of the original landlords sold out. As time went by with sales and resales and inheritances a lot of residents were not aware of the implications of their holding.

Perhaps they should have been. But even many who used agents or solicitors were not made aware and nor did Liverpool Council bother to tell anyone what was what. So by the 1990’s a lot of people had recent mortgages or other major debt secured on their property. This was about to revert ownership to the freeholder. Also, a number of others who inherited were simply not aware of their situation.

Even worse was the plight of the elderly. Many were refused benefits because they were alleged to own property which after the due date for reversion, again not informed by the Council, they certainly did not. Even before the date of reversion the property by then would have had no value.

Also, many were denied support and services by the Liverpool Council Social Services on the grounds that they owned assets which by then had actually reverted to the Council.

Many elderly people died early from lack of care, malnutrition, cold and poverty in these districts. It was only when in come cases properties could not be sold and the boarding went up that the truth began to dawn on the people. Even then the Council refused information and support.

So please if we are having enquiries into a number of plainly bad events from the last decade can we have one into the “Pathfinder” schemes in Liverpool and other places? Exactly what has happened? What gross failures in practice and policy have been made? What deals have been done? Where had all the money gone and to whom? If this money has gone out to tax havens can we know who what why when and where?

A great deal of this, of course, has been shielded from enquiry and investigation by the right of privacy of the politicians and financiers concerned, especially relating to their money interests. Our footballer might well wish he had gone into property and politics rather than the rough and tumble of football with all its perils.

What a pity some of the very active Human Rights lawyers of London could not tear themselves away from the legal aid and plight of murderers and terrorists in the metropolis who wish to remain there and perhaps go to Liverpool to help the ethnically cleansed older communities, all those ruined by the local Council and the families so badly damaged by this scandal.

What did one person comment about one of these lawyers? “She’s for Human Rights for everyone but Scousers”. Untrue, perhaps but they had a point.

There was one man who did his best. An RC Parish Priest in Crosby, North Liverpool now deceased, whose Aunt once attended the Seafield Convent Grammar School did try to mitigate some of the damage. He was put to rest in Ford Cemetery with his parents and many of his family.

The cemetery, a major resting place for many Liverpool RC families now is badly run down little cared for because so many of those families are long dispersed, thanks to things like the “Pathfinder” scheme.

What a pity that some of the richer and better connected of the former residents of that area could not either give some of their riches or their time to restoring it to the standard of respect it deserves.

Indeed there are ugly rumours, which might have no basis in fact but which say a good deal about attitudes that the intention is to clear the site and perhaps remove the remains to a nearby disused quarry to satisfy the financial demands and intentions of London property interests.

In the picture above from 1901, William Godfrey is on the second row of boys up, sitting and third along. The teacher of the class, standing, with the Head seated in front of him, was the grandfather of the Crosby priest and with the same name.

It was this teacher, William Godfrey having lost his father weeks before his birth, who gave him the basics of Latin and faith before he left for the College at Ushaw. One of the uncles of the teacher’s wife was a Rooney.

If only The Pope knew……………..

Friday, 10 September 2010

All Our Futures

The suggestion that the UK should ban all deep sea drilling for oil has some interesting political implications, as well as financial ones.

As in all primary extractive industries the deeper you go into more intricate geology the more problems arise and the greater the essential risks.

This one could run and run, just like an oil blow out.


Gulf oil disaster not unique to BP and will 'happen again' – Ecologist - 9th September, 2010

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill was the result of a 'dangerous and risky' industry and not unique to BP, activists warned this week as the UK prepares to open up more of its waters to offshore energy companies.

The worst spill in US history occured after an explosion on a BP offshore oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven workers were killed in the blast while the spill continued for 87 days, leaking more than 200 million tonnes of crude oil into the sea.

In an internal investigation, released this week, BP attempted to spread the blame amongst other contractors working on the rig. A tactic Greenpeace and others say is aimed at reducing its sole vulnerability to future legal actions being brought by US fishermen and other businesses who have suffered as a result of the spill.

The spill has already cost the company £5 billion in clean-up and compensation claims.

Despite the investigation highlighting risky practices in the deepwater drilling sector, activists say the oil industry is attempting to keep the focus on BP.

'The industry is keen to make it sound like BPs problem,' explained Adam Ma'anit, an analyst at PLATFORM London. 'But this report shows the complexity of deepwater drilling and its vulnerability, accidents are happening all the time it is a ticking timebomb.

'How many more crisis need to happen before government wakes up to its responsibilities. What happened to BP is not unique, it is a dangerous industry and government needs to stop pretending otherwise,' he said.

BP's outgoing chief executive Tony Hayward is due to appear before MPs next week to give evidence about the risks of deepwater drilling in UK waters.

However, Greenpeace say the UK should not wait any longer before introducing an immediate ban on all deep water drilling. Tzeporah Berman, head of Greenpeace International's Energy Campaign, said oil companies could not be trusted to put the environment and safety ahead of the pursuit of profit.


I saw some figures that while in around 1930 the energy cost of producing 100 barrels of oil was one barrel of oil, nowadays it is ten and rising.

Something somewhere is going to have to give.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Fancy A Pint?

Around the web and elsewhere there has been a good deal of comment on the continuing fall in the number of pubs as well as other changes which seems to be leading to a time when the British Pub as we have known it is no more.

The pub was once an integral part of my “lifestyle”, often I have told a licensee that I have been thrown out of better pubs than this. We have been life members of CAMRA for many a year.

But going to the pub is now a rare event and we have more or less abandoned “going out” to one for an evening or even a lunch. The reasons are complicated and have little to do with the health issue, i.e. tobacco, which is blamed by many on the web and elsewhere for the recent sharp falls in numbers.

This may well be a factor but there are many others. One reason is the prices. Our income has not kept pace with inflation and the cost has risen quite rapidly. Given a wet cold night, the choice between going out and opening a bottle at home with a DVD to watch on a wide screen high quality sound system is a real one.

The other issue is the going out. All the old style corner locals have now gone so there is no chance of slipping out down the road for a quick one or two. It means going into town to the pricey drinking halls full of yelling teenagers or using the car. It the car then enter the breath testing and the consequences of being over the limit even slightly.

Whoops goes the car insurance with a black mark on other things. The real danger here is the many gung ho and none insured or licensed drivers in our vicinity. The prang rate is high and so is the chance of being tested.

Nearly all pubs now have become dependent on their catering for revenue. They do not want some old geezer and spouse taking up a whole table sipping away at a pint or two. Not when there could be customers looking to eat and to spend a lot more.

Too many times have I looked up to see a sniffy young waitress asking when I was going to eat. The reply “When I’m hungry” often ended up with someone coming to have a quiet word.

The catering aspect connects to another problem. In the last say 20 years there has been a huge expansion of eating places of all sorts in both town and country. These are in direct competition with the pubs. As both essentially depend on the same food manufacturing preparation and distribution systems it is simply a choice on the style of place you want to be in.

Then alas, there are the kids. On the continent there does not seem to be much bother with families out together. In the UK the babies always seem to have that enraged howl that indicates that they do not like where they are. All too often there are the feral kids running wild, yelling and screaming and knocking drinks over and the rest while the parents argue.

For us the provision of loud TV’s and sound systems in many places is a distinct issue. Whatever is on it is the level and often badly amplified sound that it very hard to take. At anything over 70 dcb for us it is impossible. Fine we may be marginal customers but it is at the margins that profits matter.

Behind all this is the looming presence of the Pubcorps with their private equity masters that are looking for a high rate of return on investment and want to churn their portfolios to maximise share values. This is bad news for the publicans who have been under the cosh and there have been ugly stories about the way they have been treated and exploited.

It is worse news for the customer as the number of pubs atrophies and the whole system becomes almost a given pattern of food outlets geared to selling the latest factory products based on the latest TV series. I ate better in the British Restaurants of the 1940’s.

If you look at the pub pictured you can just about make out the original part of the building and where the attached forge would have been. Back in the 18th Century it was run by a blacksmith publican whose name and DNA were the same as mine.

Lost, lost, lost.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Bloggers, Quo Vadis?

There have been several blogs recently that have gone off the radar and I suspect more to follow. There will be many reasons for this. Some will decide to get a life or rather another one, others have finally run out of time, others will have had ultimatums from spouse/partner or other family or creditors or the boss. There will be a few who feel that they have said enough and have little more to add.

One group will be those who became so enraged about the last government that now the chase is over and the prey is taken they are at a loss to know how to direct their feelings. A reason for this is the Coalition have barely begun yet to begin their work and we need to see what will be what.

This may account for the attention paid to the more stupid errors of judgement and past sins of some.

Broadly bloggers seem to fall into three major groups with a largish fringe. There are the professionals for whom the end of the dead tree press is nigh and who wish to be at the commanding heights of the blogosphere. Others are representative of one organisation or established grouping or another and whose output reflects this.

Then there is the broad range of general bloggers and blogs which may be from a base of an organisation but open to wide debate or individual in scope. The fringe is just that, a random and disorganised collection of individuals and groups who want to have their say and hope someone is listening.

Amongst the professionals and those who need to have a high rate of posting there is always the danger of misreading the runes or making bad mistakes. There are those with an angle sometimes difficult to estimate but often blatant.

You just have to use some common sense and attempt a little basic analysis to make your own judgement as to their reliability or strength of argument.

There is nothing much new about this kind of thing. If you look in Wikipedia at “The Thomason Collection of Civil War Tracts” you will see that in the 17th Century all our ancestor bloggers were alive and active.

I have spent many happy hours wending my way through this material. It has more depth, is largely better informed and frankly in many ways more entertaining than much of the 21st Century blogs.

It is fascinating to see just how Archbishop James Ussher arrived at his views on the delicate theological matter of just how old the earth was. Nowadays on the basis of more recent science most of us, but far from all, especially in the USA, believe that he was wrong.

So who was he? He had been busted from his See by the Civil War, pitched up as Lecturer at Lincoln’s Inn, was bad at it because his teeth had fallen out and then roped in by Oliver Cromwell to stop the row about the age of the earth causing mutiny and friction amongst the members of the Eastern Association.

Ussher could almost be a template for the blogger of modern times. In the 18th Century the printed debates were almost as active and in the press there would be well informed parallel comment.

The most famous is Junius of the “Public Advertiser” who is now thought to have been Sir Philip Francis. If he was I suspect he was using feeds from others, notably Jeremy Sneyd, friend of Sheridan and who was connected to the Johnson circle.

Then there is Cobbett and others like him. Dickens in the 19th Century started out as “Boz”, almost a classic blogger style operator, although wordy by 21st Century Standards. Many of the 19th Century writers were predecessors to the blogs in the shape of their writing and opinions.

During all these periods there were ups and downs, more activity and less activity and a wide range of opinion and coming and going. So not much changes; only the means of communication.

What has happened was that in the mid to late 20th Century a great deal of the printed word and media fell into the hands of smaller, more powerful and concentrated groups, substantially commanded from the centres of power.

Now the web and the ability to write, to communicate and to research has become so much easier and literally anyone can join in and they do. If the representatives of the past media establishment do not like it they should remind themselves that their position has been only an historical accident. What is happening now is in many ways a reversion to the past.

The one issue that does worry me is that a good many of the professional and the representative bloggers are simply not looking at many of the serious sources of information. There is a huge amount of solid information that needs looking at and deserves using in informed comment.

This is the difference between many bloggers and their equivalents of the past. They were normally better informed for their time and able to handle complicated ideas and information. The present knockabout business is not enough in the world we are in.

Although, if the Coalition goes wrong I will be joining the knockers soon enough.

Monday, 6 September 2010

At Last Some Good News

Something to cheer me up:


Increase in Cambodia's Vultures Gives Hope to Imperiled Scavengers
ScienceDaily (Sep. 3, 2010) — Science News

While vultures across Asia teeter on the brink of extinction, the vultures of Cambodia are increasing in number, providing a beacon of hope for these threatened scavengers, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other members of the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project.

Researchers report that record numbers of vultures have been counted in Cambodia's annual vulture census, with 296 birds of three species found at multiple sites across the Northern and Eastern Plains of Cambodia by the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project, a partnership of conservationists led by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The record count means that Cambodia is home to the only increasing population of vultures in Asia. Specifically, the census indicates that the country's population of white-rumped vultures is increasing; populations of red-headed and slender billed vultures were found to be stable.

All three of Cambodia's vulture species are listed as "Critically Endangered" by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

Vulture populations in Southeast Asia are primarily threatened by the declining number of large herbivores in the region, but have been largely unaffected by a far greater threat to Asia's vultures: the veterinary drug diclofenac.

Widely used as an anti-inflammatory drug for cattle in South Asia, diclofenac is toxic to vultures, causing death through renal failure and visceral gout to birds that feed on the cattle carcasses and has led to global population declines higher than 99 percent in some vulture species.

The census success follows a record breeding season for vultures in Cambodia. This year, a total of 36 vulture chicks fledged from colonies across the north and east of the country, an increase from last year's total of 19 chicks.

Vulture conservation efforts in Cambodia are the result of a number of activities promoted by the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project. For instance, vulture nests are protected by local community members who are paid a small fee for their support.

This ensures that vulture nesting success is greatly improved and also benefits local community members who often have few other sources of income during the dry season, which coincides with the vulture breeding season. Vulture food sources are supplemented by 'vulture restaurants,' feeding stations that also give visitors the opportunity to see these huge birds up close.

"By protecting nests and supplementing food supplies, we are saving some of the world's largest and most charismatic birds," stated Dr. Hugo Rainey, WCS technical advisor to the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project. "Nowhere else in Asia do vultures have such a promising future."

While conservationists can point to recent successes in the conservation of Cambodia's vultures, they also warn of the rising threat of agricultural pesticides to the birds.

Since December 2008, more than 20 vultures are known to have died from consuming domestic animals that had been poisoned accidentally by the inappropriate use of pesticides. This practice may also present a risk to human health.

Song Chansocheat, Ministry of Environment and WCS Vulture Project Manager, commented that "Cambodia is the only Asian country where diclofenac is rarely used and vulture populations are managed. We have been monitoring vultures since 2004 and there have been increasing numbers of poisoned birds recently.

Educating people about the risk to wildlife and people from incorrect use of poisons is important."

"Cambodia has become a critical source site for vultures, one that we need to protect as a means of saving these ecologically valuable birds," said Joe Walston, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Asia Program.


Watch the birdie.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Democracy Of The Damned

The matter of voting has been part of the week’s business. This morning I was dazed by the idea that I might have a vote in the Labour leadership election. When at work it was necessary to join things and one small group has been swept up into the GMB where I now march arm in arm with the Boilermakers and Sex Workers Collective.

I suspect they will be even less happy than I am.

The union asks me to vote. But which of The Flatulent Five should I vote for? The Famous Five of Enid Blyton number four humans and one dog. I never read her books, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler being preferred.

However, the GMB suggest Ed Miliband as the man of the moment, the one who I make out to be the dog in question. Something of a Schnauzer, little and uncontrollable, yelps all the time, has a nasty bite, but is vulnerable to a flying kick.

There is something more important, however, and that is the local Electoral Register. It was so simple, pick up the document that came through the door, go online and click for the postal vote, all done nice and easy. But far too easy.

If you have a single member constituency based system whatever the voting procedure then there will be marginal constituencies won and lost by only a few votes. I will skip the long analysis of this. But at the beginning of the 1950’s around twenty tight votes could turn the election.

By the end of the 1950’s it had gone out to about 40, then in the 1960’s returned to being a small number. It was then that the critical nature of a small minority of seats was fully realised and we have had the struggle to control those often at the expense, in the literal term, of everybody else.

There are other ways of jiggling the system of course. One long established has been to make decisions on housing allocations and planning. Another has been to vary the size and nature of constituencies. Quite why the Isle of Wight electorate should be five times larger than that of the Western Isles is a real question.

However, in the past, because of tight local control and knowledge by and large the actual business of voting was relatively reliable and honest. Now it is becoming dangerously open to manipulation and fraud. With the constituency system, you do not need to operate in all of them, only the ones where the swing is critical.

There has been disquiet and complaints recently about events, falsification, impersonation, and above all manipulating the postal votes in some areas. If this becomes more extensive as the temptations increase it could mean that the electoral system we have is no longer an asset but a liability.

When the Government looks at issues of voting this is only a subsidiary issue. The main issue is the integrity of the system as a whole and indeed whether the constituency based form can now be trusted to deliver anything remotely like a democratic and representative result.

Ask yourself which groups have the money, the clout, the organisation and the intent to warp the system in their own interests? I can suggest the drug dealers. You might consider the more unscrupulous corporate interests, foreign agencies or other power groups that now infest our political system. They do not need to attack the whole, only a small and vulnerable minority of seats.

Consider, that in an electorate of 40,000,000 only 500,000 may be the ones that matter at the margins. Cheap at the price.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

No Navy No Nation

Away from the excitements of the media other things are happening and there are critical issues on which our future might depend. One is what kind of Royal Navy we should have and what its function should be.

In the past Naval issues were at the forefront of political debate. In recent years we have lost sight of them and could pay a heavy price. This is a long piece taken from the LSE website who sourced it from the Journal of the Royal United Services Institute.


Britain’s trade depends on the sea. In the coming public expenditure cuts we cannot afford to ‘sign off’ from maritime security and naval defence

The Defence review is occurring at a time of extreme financial pressure at home and considerable military risk in Afghanistan. Gwyn Prins and Sir Jeremy Blackham argue that geopolitics prescribe a primarily maritime framework for the Strategic Defence Review.

The core strategic challenges remain naval ones, yet the Royal Navy has become dangerously weak. Urgent steps must be taken to reverse this trend before it is too late.

The Royal Navy is and remains the principal guardian of the silent principles of UK’s national security, namely preserving the country’s wealth, prosperity and peace, and the free trade global system on which all that depends. However, the Royal Navy is losing coherence.

The inexorable downward momentum in the commissioning rate of new surface warships has resulted in a rapidly ageing surface fleet and a reduction of overall fleet utility.

Defenders of the status quo base their arguments on two strong assumptions. The first is that in a globalised and increasingly interdependent world, the powers of multilateral institutions and of supranational jurisdictions will and should wax, as those of the nation state wane
The second premises is that the utility of ‘hard power’ is being swiftly eclipsed by that of ‘soft power’, such as development aid. This stance has been given material expression in consistent year-on-year real money increases in the budget of the Department for International Development, at the expense of the chronic underfunding of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Indeed, the defence budget is in deep trouble. Bernard Gray claims that the real costs of the defence equipment programme are currently £30billion above the present allocated budget in the next ten year period. On top of this, much of the current equipment inventory is being badly over-used and is consequently in increasingly poor repair.

The nation is at war in Afghanistan and elsewhere, while a peacetime mentality prevails and Whitehall’s strategic analysis fails to properly understand the risk environment that we are obliged to inhabit.

In practice, globalisation is about the growing interdependence of nations and global regions, but with decreasingly adequate policing of the global commons. Multilateral institutions such as the UN and the EU have been weakened and eroded and they often now act merely as forums within which nations battle nakedly for their national interests.

What is needed is a ‘strategic identity review’ and the application of Palmerstonian principles to our alliances in order to ensure that we possess coherent, independent core capabilities to nourish them and to allow them to protect us in return.

The national institution which should translate the national will into this coherent force structure is the Ministry of Defence. In fact the MoD is deeply tribal and, as presently constituted, is simply incapable of solving the major issues of the defence programme.

The chiefs of staff are the prime guardians of their own service interests and are seen as such by their personnel, strongly encouraging inter-service rivalry. However, it is an act of self harm for any service to denigrate, and thereby lose, the assistance it needs from the others. It is essential that a full capability approach be taken to the defence programme. Only this will harness capabilities correctly to the full spectrum of first-order national security tasks.

We live now in a time in which wars touch few people directly. Yet, as Trotsky famously remarked, and 9/11 aptly demonstrated: ‘You may not be interested in war, but War is interested in you’.

Today, the assumption is that good order is a natural condition and can be taken for granted because ‘nothing happens’. But that ‘nothing happens’ is no accident, but is rather because of pre-emption and deterrence.

The free flow that makes globalised trade and the creation of prosperity possible depends prominently upon the presence of naval units at sea, unseen and silent and therefore easily forgotten. This is the classic operation of deterrence and this silent aspect of national security is of rising importance as the post-Second World War multilateral instruments fade.

The dependence of the West on the use of the sea for its survival and prosperity is a geopolitical fact of life. In particular the dependence of Britain on the secure use of the sea has significantly increased, in both commercial and military operations.

According to the Chamber of Shipping, 95 per cent of UK trade by volume and 90 per cent by value is carried by sea. In 2009 total direct employment in UK ports and at sea was over 100,000 people.

This is a very substantial industry and a vital one for the well-being of UK citizens. It is an industry that depends on good order at sea and therefore it needs and deserves protection against the increasingly threatening environment in which it must operate.

Of course, navies must fulfill a wide range of tasks. Since the end of the Second World War the contention of successive Navy Boards has been that, if a navy of ‘high’ capability is procured, ‘lower’ level tasks (diplomatic and constabulary) will automatically be covered by this ‘consequent capability – the argument of the ‘lesser included’ case.

This logic has been used to justify the failure to build new ships and as a case for reducing fleet numbers.

In fact, the evidence shows that the result of this strategy is the opposite of what it intends. The argument for the ‘lesser included’ case is subverted by the high end strategy. Because as well as failing to provide the numbers needed for the ubiquitous maritime security tasks, it also weakens the coherence of the power projection case.

The reduced rate of ship orders means that only sixteen new surface combatants will enter RN service between 2002 and 2031, and the number of significant vessels in the surface fleet will shrink appreciably, as the chart below shows.

This rate threatens the viability and skill base of the ship-building industry, plus the manpower base of the Royal Navy, as well as its capability and reach.

The average age of our Navy’s surface combatant ships will rise from fifteen years in 2012 to twenty-one years in 2021, with implications for sustainability, support, logistics, cost and viability. Moreover, it contrasts strikingly with countries as varied as Australia, China, India and Japan.

Such a programme effectively tells the world that Britain is signing off from serious maritime security and hence national security.

This picture is an alarming one. Rapid rebuilding of the general purpose fleet is essential for the present and likely core future strategic needs of the UK. Use of the sea demands presence along the sea routes.

Presence is the prerequisite for the silent deterrent messages that naval force alone can articulate. Presence demands numbers and we envisage an initial fleet total of around 25 surface combatants.

That is, in our judgment, the bare minimum needed for credible conventional deterrence, for power projection, or as a basis for surge construction in the events of another major war.

As Frederick the Great observed, ‘diplomacy without force is like music without instruments’.

This blog is a summary of an article first published in the published in the Journal of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on the 23rd of August, 2010.


The Blair-Brown years were a period when policy consisted of short term reactions governed by the media and the demands of the City of London. All those key issues which were complicated or difficult or which demanded serious long term thinking were set aside while they and their ministers played student politics with our futures.

The Royal Navy has been the key to our national security since the time of King Henry V. They threw it away and left the door unlocked.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Poetry Of Taxation

It is amazing what is out there in the web. We do not see much political poetry these days apart from the occasional outburst of verse around the blogs. It used to be very different when poets would reach for the inkpot and the steel nib pen at every great event.

In the 1880’s there was a major financial crisis which impacted severely on India causing retrenchment (cuts to you and me) at a time of rising prices. The rupee was declining rapidly seriously affecting many of the British in India.

The small estate in Hampshire and a place in local society they looked forward to on retirement was rapidly becoming a modest bungalow in Bagshot with an occasional evening at the Lodge.

Even worse was the re-introduction of Income Tax at no less than two per cent of income, a horror that few had thought possible. Rudyard Kipling had something to say about it all.

The part that connects to the present day is early when he is asking for a British bail out and what he has to say at the end of the poem about Prudence. Can it be possible that Gordon Brown looked to Kipling for inspiration?

Although the wording is florid to modern eyes he more or less covers the ground. Sir A—who the poem refers to is Auckland Colvin (Kal’vin), see Wikipedia. The title is a pun on “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” one of the major works of Persian literature.

Kipling would have known that this refers to Colvin’s uncle, Turner Macan, one of the leading scholars in Persian and Arabic literature. Boileaugunge refers to Ballygunge the part of Calcutta, then the capital of British India, where the British administrative class were based.

You don’t get this class of comment in the financial commentaries these days.

“The Rupaiyat of Omar Kal’vin”

[Allowing for the difference ’twixt prose
and rhymed exaggeration, this ought to
reproduce the sense of what Sir A—
told the nation sometime ago, when the
Government struck from our incomes
two per cent.]

NOW the New Year, reviving last Year’s Debt,
The Thoughtful Fisher casteth wide his Net;
So I with begging Dish and ready Tongue
Assail all Men for all that I can get.

Imports indeed are gone with all their Dues—
Lo! Salt a Lever that I dare not use,
Nor may I ask the Tillers in Bengal—
Surely my Kith and Kin will not refuse!

Pay—and I promise by the Dust of Spring,
Retrenchment. If my promises can bring
Comfort, Ye have Them now a thousandfold—
By Allah! I will promise Anything!

Indeed, indeed, Retrenchment oft before
I swore—but did I mean it when I swore?
And then, and then, We wandered to the Hills,
And so the Little Less became Much More.

Whether at Boileaugunge or Babylon,
I know not how the wretched Thing is done,
The Items of Receipt grow surely small;
The Items of Expense mount one by one.

I cannot help it. What have I to do
With One and Five, or Four, or Three, or Two?
Let Scribes spit Blood and Sulphur as they please,
Or Statesmen call me foolish—Heed not you.

Behold, I promise—Anything You will.
Behold, I greet you with an empty Till—
Ah! Fellow-Sinners, of your Charity
Seek not the Reason of the Dearth but fill.

For if I sinned and fell, where lies the Gain
Of Knowledge? Would it ease you of your Pain
To know the tangled Threads of Revenue,
I ravel deeper in a hopeless Skein?

“Who hath not Prudence”—what was it I said,
Of Her who paints her Eyes and tires Her Head,
And gibes and mocks the People in the Street,
And fawns upon them for Her thriftless Bread?

Accursed is She of Eve’s daughters—She
Hath cast off Prudence, and Her End shall be
Destruction . . . Brethren, of your Bounty grant
Some portion of your daily Bread to Me.