Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Tales Of The Unexpected

You may already be bored with the Wikileaks fuss. Had you rummaged around diplomatic documents of the 19th century you would not find much different. In 1882 over the Egypt crisis the Foreign Office were saying very different things to different people. Look where that got us.

What is more to the point is the nature and scope of the decline of the USA, why and the situation is. If you have time to spare this one says a great deal that you do not hear about in the media.


Also, there is the ongoing debate about migration. The UK position at the moment on the whole is misinformed, subject to too much dialectic and too little thought.

The whole business of demographics, migration, population change and DNA is far more complex than we think and was so in the past.

One migration tale is that of Roman Legions who were said to have left their descendants in a corner of north eastern China.

This article takes a more complicated and wider view. The story is a nice one but the truth may be a lot more difficult. The article is not long and clearly written.


What lies behind all the movement etc. is not simply shifts of power or economic migration of the modern type. There have been geophysical and climatic causes, famines, epidemics and the growth and decline of population groups.

Why should these two be linked? Because the USA could be at the start of a real migration crisis; both from within its borders and from outside.

As the science of genetics progresses it can investigate DNA in greater depths to discover more about human development.

Apparently, in Iceland they have detected in a small number of people a trace of American First Nation ancestry which cannot be Inuit, estimated as occurring about 1000 years ago.

Could Thorfinn Skullsplitter be related to Geronimo? Do I recognize some of the faces in the picture above?

Monday, 29 November 2010

Defining Allergy & Toxicity


The Reaction to Allergy and Toxicity Scale (RATS) is a scale of one to five of the severity and impact of a physical and neural reaction to any substance or combination of substances.

The scale is a broad indicative measure of relative effect. It is not diagnostic and at the margins of the central three parts of the scale the distinctions may be variable or not clear cut.

The intention of the scale is to enable both those affected and those involved in any treatment to have a common perception of the degree and extent of the problem.

Also where an individual has reactions to more than one substance either separately or concurrently it will help to estimate a simple differentiation of effect between one substance or another.

The RATS Scale is:


Extreme (RATS 5)

This is a reaction that is potentially terminal within a short period of time or induces a collapse with loss of consciousness or brain or muscular control. It includes anaphylactic shock or coma or toxic shock.

It will require immediate emergency treatment and probably hospital admission.

A person vulnerable to this level of reaction will have restrictions, safeguards and monitoring at a constant and high level.

It will be critical to determine both the cause of shock and the extent of other issues and vulnerabilities.

Severe (RATS 4)

This may begin in many cases with a lesser form of shock but may arise from either persistent or cumulative reactions. It is when the condition is debilitating with some loss of bodily or neurological function that may be recurrent or chronic.

The impact on function and management of life will be extensive and will require continuing monitoring and safeguards to prevent the risk of a RATS 5 attack.

It will require testing of a number of substances and possibilities to determine any immediate cause of shock and to ascertain whether more than one substance may be involved in the nature of the vulnerability.

Serious (RATS 3)

The impact and extent of the reactions will require continuing medical intervention, treatment and monitoring.

The nature of the reactions will have adverse effects on the individual’s ability to control their environment and in the making of life choices.

Commonly, at this level it will be necessary to impose restrictions, safeguards and active avoidance procedures and measures.

Impairment of mental and physical functions will be evident and disruption of life management.

Moderate (RATS 2)

The reactions will cause marked effects and have more than nuisance value. They will be more evident and medical advice should be sought on the actual and potential causes to try to avoid the risks of increasing severity of reaction.

They will require specific treatment and may be continuing in effect.

Mild (RATS 1)

The reactions will be noticeable and a source of either discomfort or minor medical issues.

They will not be such as to disrupt or to badly impact on life choices or activities but need an awareness of their risks.

In many cases minor medical treatments will be needed or helpful together with an awareness of possible causes.


There is a great deal of information about allergy and the many reactions that can occur. This can be helpful and confusing at the same time.

An issue is that the word “allergy” is used extensively for many types and levels of reaction and as a colloquial descriptive word for any effect and sometimes opinion.

Attempts are made to distinguish reactions by the use of words such as “intolerance” and “sensitivity”, which can be useful to assist recognition in terms of the Mild Level 1 RATS effect but are too wide in their meaning to deal with severity.

The issue of “toxic” effects is less recognised and may be difficult to define without
Immunological analysis but the word can be used in broad terms especially at RATS
Levels 4 and 5, Severe and Extreme.

Possibly “toxic” is more applicable to effects that are immediate and powerful.

There are two matters that interconnect. The first is that allergy, medically, is one set of reactions and toxicity is another. However there may be areas of uncertainty and overlap. The other is the difficulty of assessing cause and effect.

One real and major problem is that most ordinary science is concerned only with a linear approach to research or investigation; that is the search for a single cause with an identifiable single effect.

This dominates the handling of cases and treatment. But allergy and toxicity issues are likely to be far more complicated.

Reactions may have complex causes and in turn particular causes might have complex effects. Medical services at present cannot cope with complexity and are reluctant to admit them.

Dealing with any complexity requires rigorous monitoring, assessment and analysis normally over a period of time. What appears to be a cause may only be a means for another cause to take effect notably in post viral reactions.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Wackyleaks - Presidential Briefing


The Office of the Decahedron
Presidential Intelligence Security Survey
10 January 2009

Mr. President,

In the last three days we have received 4,892 telephone calls from 10 Downing Street in London, England which have been of PISS interest. We judge that the present lead political figure in the United Kingdom (you will know it as Britain or England), Mr. Gorgon Brown is keen to meet you early in your term of office.

He is the head of the English Labour Party and currently termed Prime Minister as that party holds a majority in Parliament (a primitive form of Congress that has limited function). This means he runs the country, but is not Head of State, who is The Queen, this will be explained in full later.

He is from the Scotland part of England of which London is the capital. The Scotlanders take pride in being different. From the USA point of view this is bad news. They make whiskey having stolen the recipe from Tennessee before we were able to establish intellectual property.

London does not take its name from the London’s you know in Texas, Ohio or Kentucky but a case has been made that it is the other way round. It would be wise if you were to concede on this point in any negotiation.

There are a number of matters outstanding in the USA connection to the UK that do need attention. There is the war in Afghanistan, also Iraq in respect of which the USA’s earnings ratio on capital invested are in dispute, maybe Iran and a few other places. Given present UK policy they could start a new war anytime anywhere.

There are trade disputes, the collapse of world trade, the financial crisis which began in London (Goldman Sachs will brief you on this) and our mutually hopeless levels of debt but the chief matter for Brawn will be to be seen to be a good friend in as many photo shots as possible because he is facing election by 2010 at the latest.

That being the case he will concede almost anything for a good media response. You do not need to spend a lot of time on this; our photoshop operators will cover most of the ground. He has claimed to save the world but we do not need to involve in this either because of the potential downsides.

There are a lot of them. There is strong evidence provided by Google that anything that is either approved or supported by Broun will suffer disaster or catastrophe within a limited period. The list is astonishing. The most striking feature of this and an indication of his personal capability is that his attention to detail is overkill in the fullest meaning of the term.

As with most other world leaders you must expect him to be evasive, untruthful bad tempered and prone to hissy fits without warning. We recommend that you just smile and speak softly and a punchbag will be made available for private use in your office afterwards.

So his communication skills are not good. These have been taken in hand by the Dowager Duchess of Kinnock, Glenys, who was once a teacher of remedial children and therefore fully qualified to assist British politicians in simple tasks, like claiming expenses.

In the election sometime in the next year Bruno will be opposed by the Preservative Party led by a David Kamerad, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal. They will fail because he is a no hoper and will be replaced.

Our analysts suggest that the only member of his party likely to command strong support and respect by late 2010 will be an Ann Noreen Widdecombe. We are working on this.

In any dealings with this rogue state and its leaders it is imperative that you continue taking the PISS.

Respectfully, Sir,

Homer Simpson,
Executive Director.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Leading Labour From The Front

Perhaps all is not quite lost. Through the letter box this morning along with a lot of other strange communications, people wanting their bills paid and such, came a flyer for the Irish Lotto, £172 million a year is said to be for the taking. If you have the right numbers, that is. So our £7 billion will be going to a good cause.

This will be largely to help people who had the wrong numbers in their particular games of Bankers Lotto. Unluckily, I am instructed by HMRC that the amount of taxes I will be paying this year means that I cannot afford to invest in the Irish Lotto as the Banker’s one is short in Ireland by £172 billion, or thereabouts, nobody really knows, we will find out, or perhaps not.

The address given for returning the card is Exchange Buildings in Liverpool. At one time there was a fine terminus station there for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and I made many journeys in and out of Liverpool. Liverpool Exchange was also the name of Bessie Braddock’s constituency, a prominent Labour backbencher of the 1950’s and one of the ruling family in Labour’s local elite of the period.

She was a formidable lady and as the picture shows, where she is staging a mock bit of fisticuffs with Frankie Vaughan, a top singer of the day, she led with the right. However, in Liverpool it was well known that you had to watch out for her left hook. See Wikipedia for an interesting entry, not only for the reference to Winston Churchill but the fact that she gave Peter Carter-Ruck his start in libel actions.

One of Liverpool’s leading boxers in her period was Nel Tarleton who did lead with the left. He was British and Empire Featherweight Champion and allegedly was never knocked out despite well over 100 contests. Nel contended for the World title against Freddie Miller in 1934 and 1935, losing on points on both occasions.

My father was one of his key sparring partners at the time. Fighting under the name “Butcher Bill”, nothing like a touch of class in the family, he could lead with either right or left and switch without warning. It made him difficult to “read” or beat and even in his 70’s was very fast. During trade union problems in the 1960’s some big TGWU “heavies” made the mistake of trying it on. The ambulance men couldn’t stop laughing.

What would Bessie make of Blair, Brown’s or Miliband’s Labour Party? Not much, I suspect. Her socialism was a world away and on a different intellectual basis from theirs. My opinion is that Bessie had a lot more political nous for her people and for that matter a sharper and better brain, honed in debate with people who were both well read in history and aware of the realities of life.

And she knew how to fight.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

A Chinese Junk Economy

In New Providence in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas by Nassau is Paradise Island. It is where the Atlantis complex is situated and is now an over built and under resourced tourist development that occasionally makes the headlines when this or that celebrity does something to attract the media.

Nassau is a place where there are a lot of casinos and offices of a great many banks. These days it can be difficult to tell which is which. At least in the casino you might have a chance of winning, not much perhaps, but better than your chances with any of the banks.

It is about a hundred miles from the coast of Florida and there are flights to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and other places described as regular. However, nothing is regular at Nassau airport, unless you know the right porter. A good many of the big cruise ships call for people to wander about looking for expensive souvenirs and places to lose money quickly and easily.

On Channel 4 TV is a short fiction series “Any Human Heart” which in the next episode may be the part where the major figure, Logan Mountstewart, is there working in intelligence and keeping tabs on the erratic and unwise Duke and Duchess of Windsor who were there during the War. It suggests a corrupt and near criminal society bent on personal gain.

That was a long time ago and things have changed, one way or another. Basically, it became an American playground and despite being a former British colony latterly has based its currency on the dollar and in independence has been an off shore tax haven largely linked to American interests.

According to an article in the Nassau Guardian times have changed again. The Chinese have arrived big time as a consequence of complicated deals and have begun to call the shots through a major new development.


The Baha Mar project for several hotels and casinos on Paradise Island has a number of items on the web for added information.

Back in 1962 when Soviet Russia tried to establish itself in Cuba it provoked a major crisis which might have led to World War Three had it all gone wrong. Today with China holding a great deal of the USA’s international debt there has been no complaint about their arrival in the Caribbean. Their interest is unlikely to stop at Paradise Island.

Whether this is the first time the Chinese have been on the American East Coast is the subject of a lively debate over the claims about an expedition of 1421 by the Chinese navy. There is www dot 1421 dot tv on the one hand and www dot 1421exposed dot com on the other. By the 18th century it had become a base for extensive pirate activity.

More recently it is the arrival of large numbers of Haitians that have changed the shape of the Bahamas and this is likely to continue. It has impacted on the labour market and might explain why the Bahamas government need to grasp at any form of new employment. The interest of the Chinese government could literally be a life saver in many respects.

In the time of the British, the island was called Hog Island and the name was changed to Paradise Island to make it more tourist friendly.

Perhaps the ghosts of the hogs and pirates of old have not really gone away.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Back To Square One

If you want to do some serious brain stretching the Oil Drum has just posted a selection of its choicer items between 2005 and 2010.

There are a lot of them covering a great deal of ground. Those that deal with Collapse Dynamics and such are amongst my favourites.

The link to the full list is:


But amongst the many interesting items one that caught my eye was from February 2008 by Louis de Sousa titled “Olduvai revisited 2008” and is about the Olduvai Gorge Theory.

Ever one to try a new theory I took a look and it was the sort of inspiring cheery item to make my day.

The specific link is:


It suggests that as humanity seems to have originated somewhere around the Olduvai Gorge a very long while ago it is possible we are all headed back there but possibly quite soon.

So what shall we sing around the camp fire? “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Ireland, The Old Old Story

The news that George (or Gideon) Osborne hopes to contribute a large figure to the Irish bailout prompted one Wikipedia using journalist to discover that he is the heir to the Baronetcies of Ballintaylor and Ballylemon in Ireland. The Irish Ascendancy is an obscure area of study now, left to genealogists who have given up hope.

But I like to play “Hunt The Nesbitt”. It is amazing how often one turns up related to the most unexpected connections. But as our urban fox knows from chasing the squirrels they can be hard to find. You just have to chase here and there.

So rooting around George’s ancestry and its wider connections I was seeing all the familiar names of Irish politicians, lawyers and military men of the 18th Century and the bell went ping when the name of Frederick Trench turned up. This meant the Eyre’s as well as others and he was the man who knew and was related to Nesbitt’s.

He was executor to the large will of Cairncross Nesbitt of Aughamore in County Longford, a man whose Nesbitt connections were extensive. They include Arnold Nesbitt, a man I have written about before, who was central to the financial and economic collapse of 1772 and after.

So Irish bailouts and financial disasters are in George’s genes.

One news feature on the BBC has been a presenter interviewing plaintive students about their job prospects outside Trinity College, Dublin. They talk vaguely of going to places where jobs are even fewer than they are in Dublin. Perhaps they might have read economics and management but not history.

The Dr. Jeremy Taylor at the head of this blog was Chancellor of Trinity in the 1660’s after the Restoration and the aphorism quoted could apply to bankers as much as princes or modern politicians. He had a sharp eye for human frailty and hubris. There had been enough to witness in the previous thirty years to 1660.

Ireland was broke at the time. King Charles I had been a financial disaster and the Commonwealth had failed to do better. Matters did not improve much over the next three decades and more after 1660, the Atlantic Isles generally staggering from one financial crisis to the next with the monarchy propped up initially by French subsidies.

It was only after the cousin and her husband of Taylor’s son-in-law, Archbishop Francis Marsh of Dublin, that is Queen Mary II and King William III brought in European financial experts in the shape of the Dutch, Huguenots, Flemings and Sephardic Jews to sort out the city and the Exchequer with the help of a few Scots that some sort of order began to be established.

The 18th Century had its ups and downs and the Scots-Irish and others found their way to London to join the fun. Population began to increase rapidly and a basis for wealth increase beyond slavery was founded. From then on it was London and not Europe that had the job of avoiding total economic collapse.

It was a very near thing at times until the 1840’s, as that famous Irishman Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, observed in 1825, they were three days away from barter. But in the 1840’s a major collapse occurred in which a spiral of famine, the collapse of credit, hunger and death led to another direction in economic affairs.

Between then and 1922 the Agricultural Depression that began in the 1870’s combined with the serial bungling of London governments too concerned with The City and too ignorant of the developing needs led to the Irish breakaway.

This may have been independence of a sort, but it was never financial or economic because the Irish punt was tied to the pound until 1979. The UK crash of 1976 and after was one too many. In the 1950’s and 1960’s I saw that much of Ireland was still desperately poor.

This meant that all the ups and downs of sterling, errors and miscalculations of London governments between 1922 and 1979 impacted on the Irish economy both directly and indirectly. In my view Ireland should have broken the link at least in September 1949 when the UK devalued the pound against the dollar by 30%.

For twenty years after 1979 to 1999, managing its own currency and benefiting from European subsidies together with general economic growth and with oil now cheap, Ireland began to prosper. It was uneven but they were going in the right direction.

Then in 1999, leaned on heavily by the Brussels mafia they entered the Euro system and surrendered control of their monetary and financial policies. To compound the errors the government allowed Ireland to become entangled with the web of tax havens centred on the Wall Street-City of London nexus that allowed credit to run totally out of control.

The two did not mix. At first Ireland more than others had a runaway boom and then a runaway disaster. It has meant a surrender to Europe almost taking it back to the 1660’s. What must be worse is a smiling son of the Ascendancy now based in London offering to help, with conditions, of course.

May I recommend reading Dr. Jeremy Taylor? In his “Holy Dying” Chapter 1 he discusses how Man is a Bubble and in “Holy Living” Chapter 2 he deals with fancies of vanity, sudden advancement and great fortunes but the need for humility.

The earlier Osborne’s would have had copies on their bookshelves.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Young One Returns Then Retreats

The Lord Young fiasco had my hackles rising. It may be that Dave had to put up with this person or that person for the sake of having them under supervision inside rather than causing trouble outside (see Lyndon Johnson’s famous analogy).

It may be an error of judgement to appoint him made to pay off old favours. Some of us remember Lord Young in the 1980’s. The memories are the stuff of nightmares. Indeed he brought solutions to Mrs. Thatcher rather than problems. The trouble is that they were the wrong ones and often disastrously costly at that.

There have been politicians down the ages who have made policy on the hoof if only to keep the critics and rebellious peasants quiet. The consequences were rarely good. Young came up with populist wheezes that looked good in the media and could be used to bury or at least disguise bad news.

He certainly made a place and a name for himself by doing so. But he created a template for later governments that turned almost the whole business into one unending media stunt. His way of working led to all the introverted secretive spin doctor short termism and slapdash legislation and financing of the present.

I have not forgotten that “wonder scheme” that gave our region £15,000 a year for a special whizz bang project as an offer none could refuse. The on costs around the region to sort and apply it came to £100,000+ a year that continued after the five year period of the scheme ended.

In several authorities his solutions seriously disrupted existing plans for reorganisation and efficiency improvements. When similar schemes were inflicted on the NHS they really did distort the patterns of medical treatment. Zeus knows how many lives were lost. Never mind the opportunities for real progress.

The essential problem was, as always, London centrism of the media and some urban areas. It meant the issues that arose there amongst the chattering classes and the wild lefties led to bad lurches in policy. After the rebalancing of the earlier part of the 1980’s it was a long hard slog to sort things out and put in place real needed development.

Across much of the country, this is what was being attempted but time after time was side swiped and damaged by the budgetary impact of these stunts. Most of the spending was in virtually fixed commitments. Efficiency, progress and improvement depended on relentless attention to detail and grinding the work out to direct better the part that was left. So the impact of Young driven disasters was all the greater.

What is utterly barmy about Young’s blathering is that he is saying to the electorate that in effect the Gordon Brown regime was progressive and good for us all. If indeed we have never had it so good then it is to Brown we owe it all to and not these new clever LibDem chaps or for that matter Major or Thatcher.

Quite which economy he is living in I cannot be sure but it is not the same one as my neighbours, the town I am in, my family and most of my connections. Again that is another problem of our times, a cocooned media financial elite utterly clueless about the damage they are doing.

Yet again, who need enemies with friends like this?

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Peak Of The Week

Perhaps I ought to have a regular feature “Peak of the Week” in which yet another tipping point in the human consumption of primary resources may have been reached.

The latest one would be the matter of coal production and consumption in China. One of the critical factors in the growth of the Chinese economy in recent decades has been the rapid increase in coal production to fuel power, chemicals and the general economy.

China is now one of the major producers of goods and equipment in the world. With its financial policy of manipulating the currency exchanges to maintain an advantage in the terms of trade it has run a large balance of payments surplus for some time.

It is this surplus that has enabled it to prop up the finances of the USA by buying in so much of its debt and giving it a grip on US policy making and economic management.

The article in question, also quoting the Wall Street Journal is:


It is long, complicated and packed with diagrams and figures. But the baseline is that if China cannot continue to produce ever more coal and if to maintain production will mean both running down reserves and much higher costs then what?

What may mean is that it becomes impossible either to sustain the past rates of growth or the relevant economic and financial policies or much else. This could emerge sooner than most people think.

I see the weather is turning cold next week.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Irish Question

As “Burning Our Money” has used a picture from the past for his comment today, I have followed his example, although possibly with less taste.

For those with a sharp eye the hills in the picture are likely to be those of the Wicklow Hills where so many of the more splendid residences of the rich and powerful of Ireland are to be found.

If you were to replace the “Doctors” in the picture with the word “Bankers”, I wonder what the answer of the elderly lady might be?

This may be an Irish joke, but I fear the laugh may be on us and not them.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

It Is Not All Bad News

As a relief to all the ongoing troubles of the world, at last there is some good news. It seems that one of the great issues of our time, that many people have bother when drinking wine has been addressed.

It should boost the happiness index, but will the reduction in GDP arising from a fall in the demand for tissues and medications have an adverse effect on the economy?

Who cares?


Physorg, November 17, 2010

Low-allergenic wines could stifle sniffles and sneezes in millions of wine drinkers

Scientists have identified a mysterious culprit that threatens headaches, stuffy noses, skin rash and other allergy symptoms when more than 500 million people worldwide drink wine.

The discovery could help winemakers in developing the first low allergenic vintages, reds and whites with less potential to trigger allergy symptoms, they say. The new study appears in ACS' monthly Journal of Proteome Research.

Giuseppe Palmisano and colleagues note growing concern about the potential of certain ingredients in red and white to cause allergy-like symptoms that range from stuffed up noses to headaches to difficulty breathing.

So-called wine allergies occur in an estimated 8 percent of people worldwide. Only 1 percent of those involve sulfites, sulfur-containing substances that winemakers add to wine to prevent spoilage and also occur naturally.

But the wine components that trigger allergies in the remaining 7 percent are unclear. Studies suggest that glycoproteins, proteins coated with sugars produced naturally as grapes ferment, may be a culprit.

However, scientists knew little about the structure and function of these substances in wine.

Their analysis of Italian Chardonnay uncovered 28 glycoproteins, some identified for the first time.

The scientists found that many of the grape glycoproteins had structures similar to known allergens, including proteins that trigger allergic reactions to ragweed and latex.

The discovery opens to door to development of wine-making processes that minimize formation of the culprit glycoproteins and offer consumers low-allergenic wines.

More information: "Glycoproteomic profile in wine: a 'sweet' molecular renaissance",

Journal of Proteome Research.

Provided by American Chemical Society (news : web)


The question now is should these wines have a cork, a plastic bung or a metal screw cap. The debate begins.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Big Green Mama's And Big Business

There are things you do not expect in life. One was I did not ever think I would take a look now and again at something titled Big Green Mamas. And no, it is not that kind of site. But stranger things have happened. Anyhow it makes a change from Disused Railway Stations.

The post you may be interested in is below and relates to Procter and Gamble and their legal and PR machinery in action. P&G are a mega international company with ambitions to control the market for personal and household products and brook no complaints or opposition.

It seems that the fact that they damage my skin, cause me to have lung problems as well as other very nasty effects does not allow me to imply that they might not be safe for other people; whatever other people may say to me.

Moreover, if I am searching for products that are safe their makers will not be allowed to claim this because it indirectly implies that P&G stuff is unsafe rubbish and more or less distilled or crystallized sump oil ramped up with toxic propellants, colourants, addictive synthetic chemicals and who knows what.

In my purely personal opinion such allegations are wholly and entirely false and defamatory against a commercial organization motivated only by love, joy and the happiness of all nations.


Please make up your own mind.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Minstrel Boy To The Royal Wedding Has Gone

Turning on the box at lunch time to see whether the rolling debt crises were becoming worse or better I was greeted by PM Dave rubbing his hands and telling of a joyful Cabinet banging the tables. For a fleeting moment of hope I thought we had been expelled by the EU for whinging and arguing too much.

Alas, it was something else, which according to several sources will enable HMG to bury enough bad news to keep them all happy, at least for a few days. It was the announcement about the Royal nuptials to come. As I avoid much comment, if any, on the Royal Family, I will simply say congratulations and hope it all goes well.

It would be easy to be churlish and use the news as an opportunity to exercise the vocabulary but as The Royals are a soft target I will not. In any case I have had trouble enough in the past. In December 1947 the neighbours complained when I organised a noisy football match in the street. In July 1981 others complained about me mowing the lawn during the high point of the service.

Elsewhere on TV the BBC is flogging a series about the Idea of Civilisation and the nature of ruling classes. Whilst the archaeologists and others are turning up more ancient and many more ruins, some under the seas, others in unexpected places the BBC series is giving us The Greeks. I wonder if the vagaries of Greek finances now are so different from the alleged civilisation of ancient Greece.

The difference may be that they left it in writing and what is more transmitted most of it the The Romans who left both legacies in stone and in writing for later peoples to read, study and sadly try to copy. The British Empire often seems like an uncertain elite aping and attempting to repeat on a larger scale what it thought a classical Romano-Greek civilisation was like.

Meanwhile in Ireland we may well see another version of an earlier bail out and set of financial and governmental relations. Just as the ruling European elite of the late 12th Century decided to put affairs in Ireland to rights, by the methods of the time, Dublin, Waterford and Wexford will soon have Euro offices running the show.

Back then one of the major figures was Raymond le Gros (also Reimund etc.) one of the Fitzgerald family, son of William Fitz Gerald of Carew and Maria de Montgomery. He like his peers had an ambition to seize land and become a great magnate. Fat cats are nothing new. The Carew arms, said to derive from the Montgomery by marriage, are above, only they are lions rather than cats.

Lions have larger appetite than cats so if history is any guide, Ireland may have cause to worry. Poor old Scotland was landed with some of the Montgomery’s when the King became so fed up of their antics in The Welsh Marches that he packed them off north along with many of their more disloyal and violent followers, such as the de Brus family. Then look at what happened.

The debate about what Ireland should do in the present crisis is being argued all around the web by many expert and thoughtful commentators. My view is that Ireland should default, leave the Euro and try to establish a functioning economy on its own terms. Otherwise, it will be again a playground for ambitious European politicians for a century to come.

History does not repeat itself, but human beings do.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Europe, A Brief History

If you have about five minutes to spare have a look at this Youtube clip which shows 1000 years of European History as a changing map.
This was seen on the Economic Road Map web site from the USA via Infectious Greed asking the question whether or not we could be due for another major upheaval and rewriting the map of Europe.
I wonder just how much territory will soon be named Gazprom.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


Civilians in uniform, the 4th Liverpool Pals, 20th Battalion, The Kings Liverpool Regiment, November 1914.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Football Follies

What on earth is Dave The Suave doing cosying up to the Soccer industry? As a business model alone it is an investment to avoid at all costs unless you are in either money laundering or the provision of personal services.

Could someone please supply him with two lists. One should be of the once great clubs now down and out. The other should be the present clubs in the top leagues whose finances are questionable.

Then perhaps there might be a file of clippings about some of those chaps too many politicians scramble to stand at the side of for photo opportunities. It would not go well with protestations about family values or traditional qualities that he and others burble about in their bids for votes.

At No. 10 Downing Street it seems there is a panic to help England (why England, why not Scotland or Wales or one or other of the Irelands or the Isle of Man or Guernsey?) secure the right to stage the 2018 World Cup. Lundy perhaps?

This is an event that has around 80 games of football of which about half a dozen will be interesting or watchable for the benefit of TV companies, assorted sponsors and an international elite hoping to extract both prestige and pockets full of money.

Despite austerity the taxpayer directly and indirectly (especially if the BBC is involved) will be making a hefty contribution. As a TV enterprise they will do this despite being able now to watch any of the games either on TV or computer from anywhere in the world at any time.

Whilst a number of spectators will be at the games, mostly thinly attended, they will be a minority who can afford it or who are freeloading at the expense of us all.

Simon Jenkins in the “Guardian” (this is a new one me agreeing with it) objects to the BBC being put under pressure to “pull” a programme scheduled before the voting on the decisions for 2018 that suggests that a lot of dodgy dealing has taken place.

It is thought that the Football Association was urged by 10 Downing Street to try to stop the potential embarrassment of FIFA with the risk of England losing the vote. It would not be good for Dave to turn up there waving the flag only to be a loser.

Possibly the BBC is up to something linking Dave to a body that works in even more mysterious ways than the International Olympics Committee, the body that has demanded and obtained Zil lanes and special traffic controls for its members.

Here is the Big Idea. In the modern TV saturated easy transport world what is the point of The World Cup at all now? Just as cricket in international terms has become more or less a continuing league system why doesn’t some TV company organise a World League with promotion and relegation.

Say 8 teams to a division with one up and one down and make the whole thing a properly run commercial entity without all this secret elite goings on?

Can you hear me Rupert? And can you have a word in Dave’s ear?

Friday, 12 November 2010

Debt, Delusion And Daftness

Who needs enemies with friends like these? Last night, Thursday 11th, I tuned into the C4 Durkin programme on the £4.8 trillion debt I and my family owe to anyone and everyone hoping for a real and full explanation of what it all means and how it has come about.

There was certainly some of that. The £4.8 figure was put across as well as the wide eyed ignorance of Members of Parliament who did not know the difference between Deficit and Debt. Where on earth where all their Nannies?

Did they not tell them that if you spend all the pocket money on sweeties and then borrow to buy more then sooner or later there would be no sweeties to be had?

It is always possible to steal the money. The programme did set out to show that reducing the value of money and so real debt liability by inflation was a form of theft. Also that holding interest rates down to a level that eroded the real value of savings was a way of stealing from the responsible to reward to irresponsible.

But it did not follow this through. There was another opportunity lost when Durkin was using a running bath to demonstrate how debt rose and how the “cuts” were not cuts but simply an inadequate means of limiting debt growth.

As major areas of our debt are the unfunded pension schemes of many public sector workers that are hopelessly in deficit on current arrangements perhaps this was a scary situation too far and too sensitive.

Having made some useful points and introduced a number of real issues the programme then ran off the rails. It was the familiar British weakness of running abroad to seek the answer to the current great question. Call it the Holy Grail Syndrome or the Magic Potion Solution if you like.

It was Hong Kong that was put before us as the answer to all our problems. Eh? The former colony we gained in The Opium Wars? What is Hong Kong now? It is a fiefdom of a highly authoritarian communist regime that has embarked on headlong expansion which incidentally hugely increases the rate of resource depletion on the planet. Sweeties today and not tomorrow, in short.

The mega growth of Hong Kong in the last generation was put down to the wit and wisdom of a former colonial financial secretary, John Cowperthwaite, who during the 1960’s and later insisted on a particular low tax and low public spending regime that is said to be the basis of its current prosperity and wealth.

However, that much of this arose from sweat shop labour during a period when the financial authorities in the West had gone in for a massive debt driven consumer boom, run down their own industries to stoke up financial services and with governments fiddling their own and all their agencies accounts to deny debt was not mentioned.

Nor were the tax haven activities sucking in money and wealth from abroad at the expense of Western taxpayers. Hong Kong is an integral part of the merry go round that has reduced so much of Africa to poverty, evaporated so much real wealth and has funded criminal activities across the world.

We were shown pretty pictures of the bright lights, the shopping and fashion quarters and were the money was being spent. We were not shown the real slums or for that matter the forced labour camps of so much of industrial China. There was no hint of just how unsustainable all this will prove to be in the foreseeable future.

In the UK we have to accept what our real problems are, realise that our problems are not the same as others and deal with them in our terms and for the well being of our own peoples. This is hard work. It is difficult.

It is much more media friendly to be galloping about claiming to have found the answer here or there or in this or that place than saying to people this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me.

If Durkin had given the last part of the programme to rubbing our noses in our own dirt and telling how we, and we alone, were going to have to sort it out then he will have done a service. All he did however, whilst making some points, was leave us all thinking the answer was out there somewhere.

One thing for sure, it isn’t in Hong Kong.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Health Care

Above is a diagram of the USA Health Care System. You will see that it is all much simpler and no doubt more efficient than our own either now or in the foreseeable future. Has anyone the time or patience to do one for England or for other parts of the UK? A months holiday in the padded cell of their choice to the winners.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

How Many Ways To Kill A Cat?

In the 1950’s when motoring became possible for all buying new cars in the face of current credit restrictions was very difficult. Consequently many bought cars that were old. Often an ancient heap was the only choice a student of the period might be able to afford.

Mine, a 1934 Austin 7, had a worn clutch, shiny tyre treads, brakes that might or might not work, unreliable steering and gears that were not synchromesh. This meant as well as all the other operations you had to “double declutch” on every gear change.

The lights also were prone to fail so I kept a couple of cycle lamps and wire to fix them to the front whenever needed. The MOT tests introduced in the 1960’s brought this age of the freedom of the road to an end with a clamour of complaint.

There were a number of similar vehicles in the area, some better, some worse but in our innocence we called them “accidents waiting to happen”. For many we did not have to wait long. I sold mine when reliable transport was needed and I “invested” in a Vespa 125 Scooter. It was much more restricted but at least functional.

Looking around our public services, systems of government, legislation and all the procedures and guidelines, I see again a great many accidents waiting to happen and it seems that most of them are happening at once. For the tax system see the 10 November item The Anatomy of a Service Delivery Disaster on:


Whatever you may think about The Coalition or the policies or personalities of those at the head and their performance it is difficult not to believe that they are on a loser. Given the nature of the political class we are afflicted with it is possible that their personal interests and ambitions will ensure that we are all the losers

There are too many major problems and unpleasant consequences in train for them, or anyone, to cope with. The row over university fees, costs, provision and future is a classic of its kind. The mess is so bad that possibly it can never be fixed.

It has been coming a long while largely because key decisions that should have been made in the last fifty years never were. There are too many to list here, make your own, but if on the back of an envelope make it an A3 one.

The reality has been that when an academic hullaballoo starts over financing or expansion governments have thrown money in the direction of the loudest noises.

I have argued before that it is possible to have situations where “There is no right decision” only a choice between inconvenient or unpleasant alternatives. It would be possible to go into a long and intricate debate about the history of the present crisis in higher education and all the injustices of how one generation has benefited at the cost of another.

It will not be any use and in fact would simply obscure what the problems of the immediate present are never mind those of the several possible futures that we might or perhaps not enjoy. The latter seems the more likely.

One crucial blunder has been to allow a university system to develop whose institutions, with few exceptions, depend on immediate revenue funding from the state, sponsors with their own agendas and student fees.

As the liabilities both for the institutions and the potential students now seem to greatly exceed revenue or realisable assets we have the serious potential for a “crash” situation.

During the financial troubles at the turn of the 1830’s in 1831 Benjamin Fitt of the Priory Farm, Selborne, Hampshire (see Gilbert White “The Natural History of Selborne") issued a summons against the President and Fellows of Magdalen College of Oxford to have them gaoled at Winchester over issues concerning leases and rents. The year before his family connections and their friends had burned down their local workhouse.

Schrodinger of The Cat question of quantum indeterminacy was a Fellow at Magdalen for a time.

So in 2010 does Captain Swing ride again or is it just another academic car crash?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

C4 "Dispatches" Sweatshops, Serfdom And Snorting

The C4 “Dispatches” last night, Monday 8th, dealing with sweatshops and serf labour in Leicester took the lid of a very nasty business that has been running for some time.

We had all the usual spin from the bosses and financiers about their deep ignorance of where the profits were coming from and how and all the paperwork they had saying that all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

In my purely personal opinion I do not believe them, I do not believe their Press and Public Relations advisers, I do not believe their lawyers and above all I do not believe either their associated directors and all the executives and managers they employ.

Moreover, in my purely personal opinion, I do believe that the Leicester M.P’s were aware of what was going on where and why. I do believe that the local leading politicians and their connections were aware of the situation.

I do believe that too many of these people were gaining too much personally from the way these businesses were conducted.

To add another touch to the issue of belief and disbelief, I believe that throughout the fashion industry and the associated celebrity culture the great majority of those involved are well aware of how the money was being made and the conditions.

Literally for every snort a serf works for a week and still may not be paid. The effect has been to put very many into debt slavery, a condition that few of them are likely to escape.

It has to be said that this problem has been building up for some time. It is very likely it existed in a lesser form before 1997 and the pre-conditions were there for it to turn really bad. Since 1997 it has gone wholly out of control for the benefit of all the usual suspects.

There was one error in the programme I did identify. It was the community worker who used the word “slavery” to indicate his opinion. He said it was as bad as employment conditions were in Leicester 100 years ago. He was wrong. It is much worse and the nastiness is a great deal worse.

There is a grim irony. The particular sweatshop shown was located in the former Imperial Typewriter Works an award winning factory built in the 1930’s and regarded as a model its kind put up by a company that had a deserved high reputation for its treatment of and facilities for workers.

In November 1946 it was visited by the King-Emperor George VI who still was ruler of a vast empire then including the Sub Continent of India. See the Pathe clip, although the factory shown is another one.


My photograph above shows HM The King at an assembly bench at the Imperial Typewriters. You can see it was a well laid out, airy room. There were also canteen medical and recreational facilities. The wages compared well and there was a real pride in the firm. The London offices were on Kingsway at Imperial House.

The sports fields were a couple of miles away with several pitches, tennis and athletics facilities and decent changing rooms. Their Chess team ruled the roost in the County and beyond, largely because of Polish recruits. When a Grand Master came for a simultaneous match with the local chess elite the Imperial men were rarely beaten.

The modern sweatshop in the building had none of these things, the fire exits were blocked, no ventilation or facilities of any kind, it was in the basement and it was filthy by any standard.

Built originally purely for storage of engineering parts during the early 1940’s it was used as a key local air raid shelter because of the strength of the structure. When the C4 film started it gave me a nasty jolt, because I recognised it all too well having spent too many unhappy hours there.

There were lighter moments, such as the practice fire drill that owed more to Buster Keaton than to the intentions. As for the Pathe clip, if you watch it I was on Spinney Hill Park with “Tebbs” Lloyd-Johnson (Google him) who then lived overlooking the park as the King and Queen went through.

He was around more than 100 years ago along with many others I knew and later worked with. He had moved to a growing city which had a rich culture and opportunity. Many economic migrants arrived in the early 20th Century because it was a good place to work and live.

The Luftwaffe did not get the building and the company, it was the UK government and the economic planners that did followed by the asset strippers of the early 1970’s. It went very badly wrong and turned nasty in the 1960’s when the firm like so many other Leicester firms hit the skids.

Twenty odd years of having their profits and revenues creamed off and ambitions frustrated did for them. As a one time prosperous town, like most of the Midlands Leicester was treated as the cash cow for subsidies and development expenditure elsewhere and many firms, such as Wolsey suffered as well deprived of the ability to compete fairly or effectively.

Meanwhile down in London the celebrities that the sweatshops fund preen and parade and those who run an industry based on this sit in judgement on government, are lauded for their riches and incidentally remove most of their wealth to tax havens.

Welcome to British Freedom 2010 Style, the Land of Lost Content.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Pain On The Train

Amongst the many murky financial dealings of the last government the rail business is almost in a class of its own. As taxpayers we have been paying heavily for the privilege of having services provided by theoretically either commercial companies or substantially state owned agencies answerable to nobody except their financial advisers who have reaped rich dividends.

As passengers we have been living in a mysterious wonderland of guess the fare and find the service that has become increasingly complicated and also loaded against us. Get on the train without a ticket because the ticket office is not open and the machine won’t work and be hammered with penal fares.

Get off or on at a station that shortens your journey and also get hammered. Get on a train at the wrong time because that at the right time has been cancelled, guess what? Be on a train that is rerouted on a different line because a time target must be met or be dumped on an unmanned station late at night in the wilderness and find you own way home.

One of the best ones I saw was a train that finished up stranded in a power station siding because of some sort of mix up which left passengers several hours late in the early hours of the morning with all the respective parties denying liability.

The weird world of Network Rail is a subject much covered elsewhere with the boss of a government department (basically) able to retire young to a highland estate. The renewal of rolling stock has been an incredible giveaway to foreign firms. That many do not fit platforms here or there has not been a problem.

The companies were released from the obligations of Health and Safety over passenger accidents and the reporting and inspection of incidents relieved of the necessities of truth or on site examination.

Now tucked away in the back of the media we hear that HS1 the much trumpeted new High Speed service in the South East has been sold off fast to a Canadian outfit. The details are not clear but it seems that the UK end of the new high speed lines has been quickly dumped by the government.

On previous posts you learned that I am not entirely surprised that things did not go according to plan, but then I have only been travelling these seventy years or more around several countries and have actually done some railway work.

It is simple really. People pay money to travel by train and it is and always has been a significant cost to anyone on average or the ordinary run of wages.

On the new South Eastern HS1 service there are two main branches. The run from Ashford in Kent to London does save a good deal of time, but at a cost. The time taken from Dover and Ramsgate to Ashford was only a little quicker.

On the other line beginning at Faversham after Strood an HS1 journey to St. Pancras takes 34 minutes, exactly half the time of a stopping Charing Cross train.

However, if anyone works or wants to go to say the West End, Covent Garden area or close to London Bridge or Blackfriars then the half hour saved by HS1 is lost in going to any of those districts.

I know because I have done it. The times I did were because of weekend engineering works on the usual lines that were not convenient. Also as Underground stations go, Kings Cross St. Pancras is a good one to avoid.

What will happen now on HS1 is not known. What we do know is that South Eastern Railways lost a lot on the service and their takings are down also on other services.

The reductions and messing about with timetables to enable them to avoid any increase in staff numbers for the HS1 has increased car use and led to numbers of commuters moving house to other services. I doubt that if any of those reductions will be reinstated or any improvements made.

At present around the country a lot of the existing companies are looking hard at their accounts, potential liabilities and services. If there are reductions in the non ring fenced rail subsidies then it is likely that that fares are going to go up a lot more than inflation and trimming, reduction and some closure of services is likely.

What therefore is the governments Big Idea? Yes, indeedy, around £30 billion for an HS2 new line for the relatively short runs in England covered already by competing services. £30 bilion is of course the starting offer. A person who has actually read some rail history knows that almost invariably the start figure is laughably short of the final cost.

But we have a media fixated on Big Ideas. Together with big finance, big government, and big debt loadings what we get is big mistakes and even bigger bills for the taxpayer to pick up. What is hard for all these to cope with is the ability to look at the detail and get down to the detail.

This is no longer the way we work. It is not “sexy” or “big deal” or wow wow “Prestige” with the big “”P”. It is just hard work, co-ordination, real planning and a concern with real service.

Take London to Birmingham for example. In 1922 the fast morning train from Paddington to Snow Hill took two hours. The equivalent London and North Western train took two hours and eighteen minutes to New Street, the delay caused by the need to take off coaches for Northampton at Blisworth.

Today the New Street trains by Virgin are rather faster and the Chiltern Line trains from Marylebone to Snow Hill around the same as 1922 but stopping many more times. It would be possible to speed up either or both and to link them to the HS1 and Eurostar tracks at St. Pancras and all for a lot less than £30 billion.

If you wanted to go north also the routes are there on existing tracks. There are many possibilities and believe it or not there is the “Big Idea”. It is to have a system of electrified rail links on a standardised traction basis covering the whole UK. This will link not only all major urban areas but airports and seaports as well.

It is the big decision Labour flunked in its period of office from 1945, again in the 60’s and the 70’s. The Blown Labour government (Bl + own) handed the railways over to the financial sharks.

Can the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats finally wake up to what is needed, scrap the HS2 and get down to the detail and the basics?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Life's A Blast

There has been another volcano up recently, Merapi in Indonesia. The authorities there suggest it could be continuing for some time. What has been mentioned but little reported is the sundry other rumblings at around 120 volcanoes in the vicinity.

Despite all the major advances in chemistry and technology volcano watching is still a very difficult business. These added twitches may mean something little or big or nothing at all. We know that eruptions can cause unexpected major problems, as happened earlier this year with a minor Icelandic one, but we have not had one that is a real belter for a little time.

There are a number of theories about the end of the Neanderthals, a humanoid species parallel to our own which died out some tens of thousands of years ago. A case has been put forward for one major cause to be a series of large eruptions in the Caucasus around 40,000 years ago which changed the ecosystem of the north on which they depended.

It was some 75,000 years ago that a very big blast from Toba almost wiped out humanity, it is alleged. It reduced us to a few thousand people who developed habits of acquisitiveness and violence that ensured not just our survival but our conquest of other species and occasional collapses of societies and populations.

Santorini in the Eastern Mediterranean did for a number of civilisations around that part of the world around 3,500 years ago and triggering new forms of political organisation and method. The new techniques of deep sea investigation have found another potential big one deep down not far away.

In the Roman period we had Vesuvius, a modest one really. Again it seems that under the water nearby there is a potential bad one. After the Roman Empire retreated from Europe there was some kind of climatic severe disruption in the 6th Century with consequential disasters for humanity. There are various theories on this one, but one suggestion is a major Krakatoa event.

Also, the ending of the Medieval Warm Period in Europe with a number of disastrous effects has been suggested as the consequence of climatic disruption occurring after a series of eruptions in South America. More recently we have not long been made aware of the effects of the rupture in the Laki fissure in Iceland in the 1780’s.

This was followed by other eruptions around the world with a major one at Tambora in Indonesia in 1815. One way or another these led to major depopulation of the upland areas of the Atlantic Isles. The one that has been extensively featured in film etc. is the 1880’s Krakatoa blast that reminded us of our vulnerability.

At the moment there is glacial melt occurring in Iceland. This is being put down to a minor volcano which pops off without much effect every five to ten years. The worry is that it might be due to an after effect of the earlier eruption of this year. Experts think that one can lead to a bigger one not long later along the way. Perhaps, but if that triggers Laki again it is time to find out where you put the old gas masks.

There are other possibilities. The doomsday merchants point to lively activity up in the Aleutians, maybe associated with Kamchatka. This could be hefty. Also the mega chamber at Vanuatu is rumbling quietly away, but then it always does. Inevitably the Americans have to go bigger and better with the rising ground levels in Yellowstone giving the prospect of North America being covered by an ash cloud.

Back in 1939 one of my uncles found himself on HMS “Scott” sailing to Grenada after Kick ‘Em Jenny, an undersea one kicked in to everyone’s surprise. There was little known about these at the time. Since then many have been discovered, including some very big ones. Really deep down there are vents continually on the boil. They matter because they could affect sea warming and therefore climate.

Prediction in this field is a dangerous game. You can make yourself very unpopular and very foolish at the same time. But just don’t bet against a big one soon.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

That Squeak Is Getting Louder

One of the mantras trotted out by those who dislike any of the changes in progress in the UK is that if something might affect the “lifestyle” options we have then it is impossible to contemplate.

They seem blissfully unaware that we have had a five to ten year hiatus at least in addressing many very difficult and complex matters and in working out policies and making decisions to try to deal with what might happen either sooner or later.

Any of these is likely to impact to a greater or even greater degree on the lifestyle we have been conditioned into thinking is necessary and is there for the taking for all time. There is one major issue where it is possible that some change is imminent and it is very difficult to work just what, when and how.

It is the question of oil supplies and in particular whether “Peak Oil” is now or a very soon issue and what the implications are. On the Oil Drum site this week there was a post where an expert has tried to reduce the matter to its essence in terms of simple logic. It is set out below.

If oil supplies cannot increase at the same rate as population increase and the inherent demands for basic and other consumer products then something has to give. The suppliers may turn up the taps in the short term to profit but this will mean a bigger crash later.

On the other had if supplies are conserved and we try to eke them out in a way more related to key needs then the worse could be deferred for some time. As much of modern food supplies depend on petro-chemicals for large scale agricultural production including fertilisers, processing, distribution and packaging this matters.

What is flummoxing many experts is what will happen to oil prices. It is not clear and depends on overall consumer demand in many areas that are difficult to estimate. There are some pretty ideas that this or that will overcome the issue but the chances are that they will not be cheap or convenient or enough.

The author suggests that the essential problem is politicians and the way they both make decision and handle issues. As Washington DC in the USA is a key place in all this recent history of decision making there is far from encouraging. In the UK we do not like making decisions. In the EU it is almost impossible to make any rational decision.


Dr. James Schlesinger: "The Peak Oil Debate is Over" at ASPO-USA Conference
Posted by Gail the Actuary on November 1, 2010
Topic: Policy/Politics
Tags: aspo-usa, aspo-usa conference, james schlesinger [list all tags]

Dr. James Schlesinger gave one of the keynote talks at the recent ASPO-USA Conference. Dr. Schlesinger comes with a wealth of experience: He was the first Secretary of Energy, from 1977 - 1979.

Prior to that, he had been Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, US Secretary of Defense, and Director of Central Intelligence.

Thank your very much. Between us, I cannot emulate the erudition that was displayed at the last session.

But I am delighted to be here nonetheless, and I hope you share that. May I start with a bromide.

A resource which is finite is not inexhaustible. If you think that over, it should not be a revelation. That was a bromide; some people think a keynote should never rise above a bromide.

Some five years ago in Italy, I concluded a talk by saying that like the inhabitants of Pompeii, who ignored the neighboring volcano Vesuvius until it detonated, the world ignores peak oil at its peril.

Two years ago, in addressing ASPO, in Cork, Ireland, I argued that the "Peakists" had won the intellectual argument, except for some minor details about precise timing, but that, by and large, everyone recognized that there were limits on our capacity to increase the production of crude oil, as we have, steadily, since World War II.

That Peakists were no longer a beleaguered minority, that they had won, and that consequently, they should be gracious in victory.

There is an old Spiritual that is relevant here, the walls of those who doubted the peak, seemed to be impregnable. Nonetheless, you marched around the walls seven times, and then blew the trumpets, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

But acceptance by knowledgeable people is not enough.

The political order should respond. Nonetheless, our willingness, let alone our ability to do anything serious about the impending inability to increase oil output is still a long way off.

The political order responds to what the public believes today, not to what it may come to believe tomorrow. It is also resistant to any action that inflicts pain, or sacrifice, or those who vote.

The payoff in politics comes from reassurance, perhaps precluded by a rhetorical challenge. Still, the challenge is clear, in both logic, and in the evidence.

Let me start briefly with the logic:

First, if something cannot be sustained, eventually it will not be sustained. Ultimately, it will shrink.

Secondly, you cannot produce oil unless you first discover it, a contribution by Colin Campbell.

Third, a resource that is finite cannot continually have its production increased.

What is the evidence? First, we remain heavily dependent on supergiant and giant oil fields discovered in the 50s and 60s of the last century. (I might add, of the last millennium.)

Only rarely in recent decades have discoveries equaled production. Mostly, it has been one barrel discovered, for every three barrels produced.

Second, old super giants like Bergan in Kuwait and in Mexico have gone into decline earlier than had been anticipated, and going into decline have been Alaska, and the North Sea, Western Siberia, and the like.

Third, while it is not yet twilight in the desert, as you may have read, still, we are well into the afternoon, even in Saudi Arabia. Even the Ghawar oil field is increasingly hard to sustain.

Fourth, in 2004, we experienced our first demand-driven price spike, as opposed to the previous price spikes, driven by supply interruptions. We still operate at about the level of production capacity of 2004.

Next, given projected decline curves, running from 4% to 6%, and the projected increase in demand during the next quarter century, we shall require the new capacity equivalents of five Saudi Arabia’s.

Even the International Energy Agency, which previously had been sanguine, now suggests that we can no longer increase production of conventional oil in the course of this decade. Note that it is conventional oil. That is all that Hubbert talked about.

Somewhat disingenuously, the debate has been turned on him, by talking about fuel liquids in general, throwing in tar sands, heavy oil, coal liquids, oil shale, and so on.

But clearly, large conventional oil production is increasingly no longer part of the future, unless there is a technological breakthrough, which Mr. Gilbert talked about just a few minutes ago, raising the ultimate recovery rate from existing fields, which at this moment we cannot expect.

Of course, there are uncertainties, which make timing predictions with regard to the peak risky: Iraq, which has been held back for a variety of reasons, may come along as one of those five new needed Saudi Arabia’s.

Offshore Brazil and offshore oil elsewhere are promising. Shale gas, which is apparently coming in abundance, but is not of course oil, may somewhat alleviate the pressures on liquid fuels.

But in general, we must expect to get along without what has been our critical energy source, in expanding the world's economy for more than half a century.

Can the political order face up to the challenge? There is no reason for optimism.

We are likely to see pseudo solutions, misleading alternatives, and sheer sloganeering: energy independence, getting off foreign oil, and the like. All of that sheer sloganeering we have seen to this point.

The political order, which abhors political risk, tends to rely on the Biblical prescription, "Sufficient unto the day, is the evil thereof."

Thank you very much.


So time and growth, like the oil, may be running out. And in Westminster all we have is the political kiddies shouting at each other about lifestyle choices.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Say It Without Flowers

On Thursday 23 May 2009 I posted on “Les Fleurs Du Mal” about flowers. Some of my comments may have seemed exaggerated. Today, however, it was good to see the subject being picked up again in http://newgatenews.blogspot.com/

Also, today in http://taxjustice.blogspot.com/ was an item concerned with the tax implications in this “globalised” trade. There will be the claims that the trade creates jobs but just how many and who really benefits?

Also, where is our “development” money going? Is it into the incomes and homes of the local population or into the accounts of the multinationals?


Taxjustice dot blogspot dot com - Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Kenya loses from flower firm tax tricks

From Kenya's Daily Nation:

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) says it is investigating some multinationals for abusive transfer mispricing. Among them, according to Mr John Njiraini, the KRA commissioner of domestic taxes in charge of the large taxpayers, are the country's three largest flower companies."We have seen cases of multinationals reporting losses in Kenyan subsidiaries while their parent firms are making huge profits. We are investigating whether they have abused their transfer pricing policies," Mr Njiraini, said.

The article, quoting TJN's Africa network, adds that there is a great problem with enforcing transfer pricing arrangements, and with the arrangements themselves:

Mr Njiraini says to be able to crack the abusive transfer pricing syndicate, Kenya requires experienced lawyers in the area as well as tax experts, who are not currently available. Some of the tax-avoidance methods are rampant because there is no legislation against them.

Recently, the OECD's Jeffrey Owens noted that an astonishingly low 0.1 percent of foreign development assistance is allocated to supporting revenue and customs in developing countries, even though tax revenues are a multiple of the value of foreign assistance: ten times as much, in Africa's case.

It is small wonder that African and other governments have such a hard time confronting the complexities of transfer pricing (and other) abuses by global multinationals.Regarding transfer pricing, the OECD's arm's length principle, which is used as the international standard, is all but unworkable -- although the ensuing complexity does create billions in profits for accountancy firms.

As Michael Durst, Michael Durst, a former director of the U.S. Internal Revenue Services's Advanced Transfer Pricing Program, notes:

"Experience to date is sufficient to demonstrate that the current system is based on faulty assumptions regarding the way multinational business is conducted, so that the system, no matter how hard one seeks to reform it, simply is not capable of functioning acceptably."

Time for some fresh thinking on transfer pricing, in the interests of the citizens of developing and developed countries.


When you pay your pounds for those apparently fresh supermarket flowers, stop for a moment to think about the markups down the line, the distribution costs, the running costs of installations where they are grown and then wonder how much the employees might earn.

Also, there is the interesting problem of how much water is used and how little clean water is left for the locals.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Ginger Rodents And Loose Tongues

Amongst the peoples of China in that country and around the world there is a twelve year cycle in which each year is designated by a special character. The Year of The Tiger, The Year of The Horse etc. It is believed that persons born in a year will have the particular characteristics attributed to it. One such year is The Year of The Rat.

Consequently Ms Harman in her throwaway remark to the Scottish Labour Party has not only managed to attempt to insult a red haired Scottish Lib Dem MP, Danny Alexander, but around eight to nine percent of people of Chinese origin and beliefs.

It becomes worse if you consider the peoples of the territories now on the borders of Afghanistan, Iran and to the north. At one time long ago, before the climatic ecozones moved, the Old Silk Road ran through the Kingdom of Khotan, now desert. They were governed by The Rat Kings and their peoples have had a long respect for that tradition.

So add in to those persons affronted a number of the mountain tribes of Afghanistan as well as all those in the East and elsewhere demand a respect for all other living creatures as well as man. There are rather a lot of them.

But to return to the United Kingdom and indeed Scotland there is a more recent Rat tradition. In January 1940 in Egypt the 7th Armoured Division of the British Army was formed and took as its divisional tac sign a common local life form, the Jerboa, a small rat with a serious bite and the capability of surviving in the harshest conditions.

The bite did matter, this was still before antibiotics became available and it could be lethal if it went septic. The Division went through the Desert Campaign, then into Italy, then withdrawn to be amongst the first to land in Normandy in June 1944. In July 1945 it represented the British Army in the Berlin Victory Parade.

Eventually, after a brief hiatus in the late 1940’s it disbanded in Northern Germany in 1958 but the tac sign was retained by the 7th Armoured Brigade throughout the following years. In Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade the 7th (Desert Rat) Armoured Brigade has provided troops for active service.

There were a lot of Scottish regiments and soldiers in the various corps elements at one time or another in the Division and later Brigade. Few of them I suspect will forget the time when they wore the Jerboa (Rat) insignia.

Whether their memories are happy or less than happy is another matter. There was one who took over ten years to complete his two years of service because of long periods of therapy in the nearest military prison. Many in their time would count the days and hours to “demob”.

The Rats above are the 1st Battalion The Cameronians, The Scottish Rifles in the mid 1950’s in training in Northern Germany. At the same time, 1st Battalion The Cameron Highlanders were just down the road. Because they were all very sensitive chaps it was not a good idea to either confuse them, or more important insult them.

Although these men and others of their time will now be over 70, they will have their children, grandchildren and in some cases great grandchildren, mostly ordinary people in ordinary jobs. These are the people in both Scotland and elsewhere who the Labour Party has betrayed and antagonised.

As for Mr. Alexander, I note that on 16th September last he was involved with Forces Veterans encouraging them to seek the assistance that was in place for them. Perhaps he might have come across a few Rats from the past. He has red hair.

So do a lot of my family in the maternal line. I understand that is due to the genes in that the determination of hair colour requires the switching on or off (I forget which) of a couple of genes in the process of early development. In short it could be regarded as ethnic.

Many of us are painfully aware of the visceral hatred many of the left wing London Mediocracy have for ordinary working class people in Britain, notably those in the Labour party who have depended so much on foreign money in their quest for power and property. But in all their laws about equality and the rest it cuts both ways.

Ms. Harman’s careless remarks betray a deep seated ethnic prejudice against persons of early tribal origins in the Atlantic Isles. Perhaps someone should complain to the Parliamentary Standards Committee who might suggest diversity training and therapy for her.

I understand that the number of Gaelic speakers is in decline. Ms. Harman might be compelled to attend courses in that language to encourage an interest in cultures and peoples who, it seems, are alien to her.