Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Shelf Stacking For Beginners

As we begin the run up to the next General Election, which may or may not be in 2015, apart from the trivia much of the argument is around Health, Welfare and Employment with some Barnum and Bailey events in finance, the media and policing.

Meanwhile the world is changing and we are reluctant to notice or even to work out why or to what effect.  The science or roulette wheel of economic theory is not telling us much and if it can no longer explain the recent past then it is unlikely to make much sense of the future.

Today’s “Naked Capitalism” features an article in the New York Times Magazine in which Adam Davidson discusses the actual basic structure of the labour market past and present.

NC suggests that the article indicates a favourable view of the economics of exploitation as they apply to the labour market in the USA.  But it could just as well apply to Europe

What it means is that the future for the bulk of the working population is becoming increasingly bleak.  This means an impact on the development of the economy in adverse ways, more or less a self reinforcing system of decline.

It is a little long but not much and clearly written.

It might explain why so many people now spend so much of their disposable income on lotteries and in gambling.  Those who watch football on satellite TV will be all too aware of the relentless marketing of the betting companies and agencies.

Life has always been a lottery, but we had a brief time in the late 20th Century when for many people it was not like this.

Which brings me to the theory of what will happen in a polity where there are too many young men with too little to do and too little a future to work for or hope for.

Around the world we are already beginning to see.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Trains Of Thought

This is a quick and easy post today.  Ian Martin in the “Guardian” today proposed that the capital of England should be Tamworth.

But you heard it here first:

As the question of the capital of England arises from the possibility of separation from Scotland that the train is the named passenger service “The Royal Scot” express from Glasgow to London is a touch of irony.

The picture is of Tamworth Low Level station on the London Euston to the North line of the old LNWR.  The railway line crossing above it is the old Midland Railway Derby to Birmingham line. 

These both became LMS in 1923.  However, the locomotive is marked for British Railways, so it is after 1948.

The locomotive is an unrebuilt (old boilers) one of the “Royal Scot” class.  So if the locomotive shown is 46100 “Royal Scot” then the picture is set between 1948 and 1950.

I must get out more.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Stick 'Em Up

On a flight from Miami to Nassau I had an aisle seat; the window seat was taken by a fridge freezer.  At least it was were clean, quiet, did not need the arm rests and had not drunk so much as to need trips to the lavatory.

Even better was that a number of other seats were similarly occupied by high priced electrical goods which together with their owners meant the usual scramble for the exit at the end of the flight did not take place. 

The reason for all this was that it paid the owners to fly the goods passenger from Miami, bought tax free, to avoid the local sales taxes in NassauNassau in The Bahamas is a tax haven but this did not mean zero taxes.  It meant very little taxation on income or accrued wealth but it did mean hefty sales taxes. 

This policy not only hit the tourists but all the middling and lower income people who had neither high pay nor wealth.  Yards from many houses of the rich were the shanties and lean-to’s of the poor.

Down the decades I have seen many and various ways and means of avoiding tax or the administrative burden of accounting.  In the 1940’s there was extensive barter, a good deal of pilfering and many ways and means of trying to beat the system. 

One of the more serious side effects in the 1950’s was not only creative accounting in business but providing facilities, expenses and services to employees in lieu of pay.  So a lot of money went into unproductive spending instead of renewal, development or modernising production methods or rewarding employees.

This went on into the 1970’s one way or another.  In the 1960’s and later I was certainly arranging my mortgages to minimise tax and car expenses and other “perks” became a significant part of real income.  The distortions across the economy became worse and worse.

Now one of my family in the USA is about to cross the State line to reduce the tax liabilities.  He is not alone, unseen and unnoticed a lot of others seem to be doing the same one way or another as State taxes bear down harder as the revenues shrink because of the property crisis and its effects on property tax.

So avoiding and evading taxes is not new, it has been going on since time immemorial.  It is possible that one of the many causes of the collapse of the Roman Empire may have been the shrinkage in its tax base arising from the increasing levels of poverty created by wars and Imperial demands and the concentration of the ownership of land.

Now it has all become worse with the almost industrialisation of tax avoidance and evasion.  Given that now finance is almost a primary economic function instead of tertiary because it operates on the economics of extraction together with such tax arrangements it may have gone beyond the point of no return. 

There is little hope for the 160 taxmen of Germany as they try to bring virtue to Greece.  Very likely they would do better to help sort out the developing mess in Germany.  Across the world sovereign states are finding that taxes are harder to get from those with the most incomes and wealth.

One of the interesting quirks in all this is the situation now in the USA.  The State of Delaware for some time has operated a tax policy favourable to the wealthy and corporations but other States are getting into the act. 

One is Wyoming and the capital, Cheyenne, has become a secrecy jurisdiction allegedly worse than that of Somalia.  There was once a TV series called “Cheyenne” in the 1950’s and 1960’s set in the Wild West days not long after the Civil War when these territories operated by survival of the fittest expressed in the law of the gun. 

It was every man for himself.  For a hundred or so years now Wyoming has had the rule of law and what passes for civilisation these days.  But it is all going, the Marshall, the Sheriff and the “goodies” have gone into derivatives trading and the “baddies” into Mergers and Acquisition. 

The earlier peoples, the Mescalero’s on the other hand have become personal financial advisers whilst the Cheyenne are running pension funds.

So make sure your Colt 45 is oiled and your Winchester rifle clean in the barrel.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Support Your Local Drunk Tank

This is an appeal on behalf of a disregarded minority who daily face prejudice and relentless criticism and insults from others.  How they have come to this fate is of their own doing but more often or not they have been urged on by people who pretend to be their friends but prey on their goodwill mercilessly.

The consequences are a collapse of their esteem which leads to a variety of personal problems.  Many sleep rough, indeed some very rough.  Others drive without care and then blame people who support and help them.  Consequently, they live a life of begging and pleading for others to pay for their weakest habits.

Characteristically, few have any real experience of the world or of proper work.  They spend their lives amongst closed hermetic groups who fantasise about ruling the world and entertain wild beliefs concerning their powers and authority.  Their minds are closed to reality and truth and they are unable to adhere to social norms.

Inevitably, heavy drinking alongside other exotic substances, for example lobster thermidor and haute cuisine become the staples of their lives as they struggle to come to terms with the daily round.  The lack of routine or normal disciplines in this makes matters worse.

They are a cost to society but the government has concluded that the best and most effective way of dealing with them to shelter them while they come to terms with their conditions is to house them, as comfortably as possible, in an institution where gradually they might be introduced to normality.

These are known popularly as “drunk tanks”, but despite that demeaning term look on them as hotels for those impaired members of our community.  Remember it is these people who are our future.  Also remember that you elected them.

Give generously; actually you have no option to so stop complaining.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Retreat From Abundance

Another difficult week, why is everything so complicated?  The way that time evaporates when you first address what may have been once a simple thing is alarming, especially when time is now something to be treasured.

But it all seems to be a developing shambles.  The Greeks had a myth for it with Sisyphus (Wikipedia) which seems to be what the future looks like for them.  It means to have an endless uphill struggle with no respite.

What is not recognised because the idea is so unpopular is that having gone uphill for so long the West is heading downhill with gathering pace.  The Retreat From Abundance is under way compounded by the increasing gap between those that have and those that have not.

The question is what kind of retreat will it be?  Is it a retreat to The Lines Of Torres Vedras?  Is it a Retreat From Mons?  Or is it a Retreat From Moscow.  The diagram above is one of the first major statistical representations of figures in charts and vividly shows the collapse in the French Army fleeing Moscow and the Russian Winter.

In 1812 Napoleon marched an Army of half a million men against Russia, quite why I have never really understood.  The French often relied for supplies of food and forage etc. by living off the land they occupied.  This may have seemed economic but unluckily left large numbers of angry locals behind them.

The Russians gave ground and then more ground and even left Moscow to the French.  The consequence was that when winter came the French were not prepared and a scorched earth policy had left them badly short of supplies.  The Army that had invaded Russia was reduced to a few straggling thousands barely alive.

The Retreat From Mons was another matter in August and September 1914.  After encountering the full weight of a well equipped and larger German Army the British and French had to retreat to a more tenable defensive position and hope to hold the line and prevent either the loss of Paris or a breakthrough in the north.

It was touch and go and for the troops on the ground a desperate business compounded by all the difficulties of communication and decision.  “The biggest shambles since Mons” was a common way of describing foul ups and unholy messes for a long time.  But the British and French just about held on and managed to stop the German advance.

Much less known these days is the 1810 retreat to the Lines Of Torres Vedras in PortugalWellington, having won at Talavera realised that he did not have enough troops or support to hold the French and retreated to prepared positions to sit out the winter, regroup and build up strength and supplies.

The French were left in territory to which a scorched earth policy had been applied and needing for forage widely across country to stay alive again running into trouble with the local population.  When Wellington moved out, his command of ground and ability to out march the French and critically the supply chain he created meant he could reclaim the Peninsula from the French.

So which are we in for in the coming year or two?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Work? What's That?

When retirement loomed out of the mist it was not so much a case of how sorry they were to see me go but more take the money and run.  Seekers after truth and telling it how it was were no longer in demand and shooting the messenger had become integral to the organisational strategy model.

Amongst the pearls of advice given was one that gave me pause for thought.  It was “don’t do nowt jobs” which broadly covered a great deal of voluntary work and activities that entailed commitment with little or no financial reward.  You would be taken for granted if not actually exploited.

So it is with sadness that in the world today “nowt jobs” are not simply confined to the outer shores of community or voluntary effort but internships and the rest that pay little or nothing have become key types of staffing at the bottom end across the board in politics and finance.

It is a cruel business with a great many serious consequences, too many to go into here.  Another is the practice of appointing people to jobs theoretically part time but in fact mean that you work five days but get paid for two or the like. 

If you are really strapped for money and need anything this is an easy one to fall for if you are told you could be upgraded, say later in the century.

Then there are all the jobs which are paid but with not much in the way of visible product.  There are a great many of these in the public sector.  Essentially people “busy doing nothing, working the whole day through, all trying to find lots of things not to do” in the words of the old song.

Apart from that there is the debate about subsidised jobs.  Governments have been done this one way or another for centuries.  In the glory days of British liners how many ships had the Royal Mail money and service and Empire personnel as the staple of their passenger lists?

During the 20th Century there is a long list of major industries which depended either heavily or in part on government money at one stage or another.  How many cases are there where the industry was developed with state money, had a period of being in profit and then went into a long drawn out agony of state funded decline?

So the “Workfare” caper needs to be seen in that context.  It has its own features.  One is that there are so many people now around in their late teens or early 20’s who have never done a hand’s turn of work and for whom employment is an alien and disturbing world where people tell you what to do and expect you to do it.

That is never the way it was for them at home school or later, perhaps even in a university where the tutors would sign off copies of Wikipedia entries as original work for the relevant qualification.  In a more robust age rather than all the euphemisms for their inabilities they would be described as “useless so and so’s”.

The major difficulty is that any state scheme these days comes with a phenomenal amount of paperwork, liabilities and responsibilities.  It is no longer a case of giving someone a shovel and saying move that coal from there to there and you will be paid by the hour if you work hard.

What is the great irony is that when I were a lad almost any job in a shop was desirable at any level.  You were indoors, sometimes with heating even, it was cleaner than most work and you were not covered in filth at the end of it. 

It may not have paid much but that was the deal.  Critically, at the end of a temporary or part time job you had experience and with luck a reference or someone to put in a word for you.

Today to see the relatively light, limited and often easy work being asked of people drawing benefits being described as “slavery” is ludicrous.

They don’t know the half of it.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Base New World

Now that the Chinese love fest in Dublin and district has come to an end, the question remains, what did they want? Was it peat for their gardens? Was it the agriculture in that they have been buying into land world wide?

Was it to recreate Dublin as a Chinese money laundry for their European operations? This is a lot of effort by China for a little country with big debts and going nowhere.

Historically, when The Republic became “independent”, long on rhetoric and religion but short on economics they kept with the Sterling Area and the pound. Within a decade the cracks started to open up in that system with the Irish getting the worst of it as Britain went bust with wars and the loss of Empire.

Eventually, The Republic signed up for Europe with no other option really on the table and then once it had made some space for itself and a currency of its own signed up for the Euro. Now the Euro has gone bust.

Out there amongst the pessimists and the stormy petrels of the financial world there is talk of the Chinese model now becoming unsustainable to the point of being vulnerable to Something Happening. Will Ireland be signed up snugly with China just in time for the bust there to come in as predicted.

Scotland, where at one time the nationalists were proclaiming the Irish Tiger as the model to follow, now have to look for others. Norway is a favourite because of their Sovereign Wealth Fund, a nice idea at the time. But what is the fund invested in? Other government stocks, say like Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal?

With the Russian navy having a good look at Scapa Flow for reasons we can only imagine and nobody is telling there is another puzzle. There could be all that scrap metal that independence would make available. There may have been another quiet deal done already on a Rent A Navy basis.

The Russians could offer “protection”. As the Scots have been brushing up on their Mandarin to join the queue at the cash point of the Chinese economy they are being reminded of their proximity to the Baltic and a past trading and economic world forgotten.

India already has the UK steel industry more or less in its grip and an important role in London, so of the four BRIC countries that leaves only Brazil. If we need their support for the Falklands then this will come at a price. What else might they want? Assuming it is not instant coffee the chances are that it is financial.

The Brazilian elite, like nearly all the others, has their key assets and major fortunes tucked away in tax havens, possibly with a disproportionate amount in UK connected ones and their links to The City.

Just how important this money is to the slushing of funds round our financial institutions, helped along by Bank of England easing is not known to most of us, only a select few.

The Great British and Irish Boot Sale has begun and they are queuing at the gates for miles, or in The Republic, kilometres.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Carry On Molly Bloom

A busy and messy day with little time for higher thoughts. Down at the farm the man told us he was getting fed up with phone calls from accountants looking for work. Either there is a shortage of work for them these days or there is a surplus of accountants, or both.

He is busy enough though and the broad beans under the covers are looking good. He told us what the arrangements for fresh asparagus from the field will be in the season. So we are praying for rain, not too much but certainly not too little.

Checking out the Irish Times today apparently the Republic is being told that Americans want them to stay in the EU at all costs because this is the only real way they will get inward investment.

As I suspect it is the kind of “investment” that helped get them into all that trouble in the first place this may not be good advice. And they thought the American’s were supposed to be their friends?

More interesting was Ireland’s connection with an earlier form of the EU, the Roman Empire. There is a slightly long but very interesting article about the Roman presence and influence in Ireland which is now beginning to emerge.


I have long thought that if the Romans were up and down the Irish Sea in all forms of vessels, mining in North Wales, had a heavy presence in Wales and moreover one of their major bases was at Chester they must have had continuing contact and trade with people in Ireland.

The article explains that they did not have a military or administrative presence because for what they wanted they did not need to. They could get it without all that trouble. The cost benefit of sticking to trade was clear.

The corollary of this is it might explain why the Roman activity in Scotland was so much less that to the South. There has been already been the suggestion that Hadrian’s Wall was as much as a series of trading posts as it was a deterrent to marauding tribes.

To a great extent this is mirrored across the general boundaries of the Empire in a number of places. Inevitably, sometimes ambitious Emperors or generals might want to try more but usually found out the hard way that it did not pay.

As for Ireland the obvious reason may be is that it is a large area of land and if the population was relatively small and arable agriculture limited then major grain supplies were not to be had.

Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Cameron's Are Coming, Oh Cripes, Oh Cripes!

David Cameron’s jaunt to the North may have reminded some more of Boswell and Johnson’s trip, one way or another, but it brought to mind the encounter between Archibald Cameron and Bonnie Prince Charlie at Loch Nan Uamh in 1745.

This Cameron was sent to persuade the Prince, landing with few troops and less money about the futility of it all and please would he go back to France to enjoy a more reliable supply of brandy. Instead the Prince persuaded him.

David almost did an Archibald in that he did not so much persuade Alex Salmond of the error of his ways but he made an offer of more devolution in the hope that Salmond could not refuse, or if he did, the Scottish electorate.

In short instead of a Scotland detached from Westminster politics but not a lot else he was offering the continuance of the Westminster and its close links with the City of London at a price of more “empowerment” whatever that is.

The line was that Cameron was all in favour in any case of giving back power to the people all over the United Kingdom in many matters. But it is not clear that power to the people is in the agenda of the Scottish National Party if only because it might let Scottish Labour be even more loose than it is now.

Another more serious consideration about such downward devolution in a separated Scotland is what might happen in the Highlands increasingly populated by English benefits asylum seekers and second home owners. Beyond there are the Orkneys and at higher risk are The Shetlands.

Which of them, I ask, wishes to restore both the County of Clackmannan and the Third Lanark football club? Perhaps the latter could ground share with Rangers FC now under the rule of financial vultures?

What Cameron has to offer isn’t much beyond this, only more of less or less of more, it is not clear which. My worry is that he will chuck in the HST link to Heathrow and the West End of London thinking this might do the trick.

Bonnie Prince Charlie unluckily was a fervent Unionist and a man with a religious mission. One of the great “ifs” is had he stopped at the Border, consolidated and kept his religion to himself whether he might have recreated a Scottish Kingdom and ended the Union.

A canny marriage to the right sort of Scottish girl of one of the major families with a decent sized brood of children and who knows what might then have happened?

A few tactical marriages of daughters might well have put Scotland at the heart of Europe. Say King Louis XVI of France instead of him marrying Marie Antoinette?

There might never have been a Napoleon, Monarchy may have ruled OK and David Cameron might have inherited a croft to work.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Nessun Dorma

It is the early hours of the morning as I surface and head towards the kitchen. It is not hunger or other personal twitches or needs that have woken me. The wind has changed and sound is coming from the town centre.

Seventy years ago in these parts I might have mistaken it for a Messerschmitt 109 that would soon be gone, one way or another but this noise will be with me now for the rest of the night boding ill for both sleep and temper.

It is contractors in the town centre digging up a road. For months now they have been digging up and refilling one after another as the various services try to outdo each other in being the biggest boys on the block. In some cases no sooner have they left one street than another turns up to do something else.

The reason we have the sound it that it is uphill and less than a mile away and as usual there is a large team using more than one pneumatic drill at a time, given wind and conditions then a large area will be affected.

The Council appears to have decreed that now any road works in the town centre, broadly defined will be done at night. A large yellow board tells me that they will be on the road past where we live in ten days time for a week or so.

So whilst the councillors prattle on about creating a “living town centre” they are making it impossible for anyone to sleep in. What they really mean is turning over  most properties to become boozers and clubs to keep the High Street in tatters.

These too have noise problems often so bad that they shake the buildings for a little distance around. Some of these are listed and it is questionable how much stress they can take. The council has never heard of “collapse dynamics”. They may find out soon if the cracks on one 17th Century building widen much.

Traffic issues during the day are cited as one reason. What this means is that the Council is unwilling to pay the cost of appropriate diversion signing and the rest and the local police have long given up any attempt to deal with traffic flows.

Another reason may be that none of the Councillors nor the senior officers live anywhere near the town centre. So to hell with those who do. That some of these people live over their work or are amongst key services matters not.

By the time the Councillors have surfaced to do their work the contractors have gone home and they do not return until after the Councillors have left. They do what they have to do and draw their expenses and leave the town centre area to the diggers and shakers.

Anyone who does complain gets the usual run around and if they do make any contact simply have a blithe soul spinning the usual garbage and PR speak. There does not appear to be anyone actually in charge, it is always someone else or worse still an “Agency”.

Is it like this in other places or worse?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

We'll All Pull Together

With President Obama of the USA meeting Vice President Xi Jinping of China today to discuss matters of mutual interest, such as mutual political survival, it was a case of the bust now shaking hands with the bust future. The figures for the US Debt it seems will reach levels beyond the reach of mere mathematics.

In the meantime China is discovering that property markets and banks do not always go well together, especially if too much credit is flung around and too much fiat currency is pumped out to keep the show on the road. China may discover that it needs all the wealth it has built up recently.

If that is the case it will have less to lend and less to buy into financially embarrassed European countries. The UK has displayed its solidarity with Europe with the ratings agencies looking doubtful about its immediate prospects. Quite what this will lead to is not certain. But it is unlikely to be good news.

In Spain a village where the inhabitants were backward and mistrusting they have brought out the old pesetas they kept out of distaste of a new currency. Now they look almost at the cutting edge of monetary thinking and theory.

I recall Portugal in the mid 1970’s, months after the collapse of the regime of Salazar and his successors. It was a desperately poor country with extensive hardship. Will the Euro crisis now lead to a collapse of constitutional government and a reversion to the more traditional authoritarianism? Bring back the yoked oxen.

Don’t mention all those wars, civil and other wise in progress. The amount of explosives, ammunition and general hardware in use should at least give a much needed boost to the armaments industry. It may account for all the flying visits by UK politicians to here and there putting in a word for our chaps.

One historian, his name forgotten, my apologies, has come up with a theory that if one is looking to see where trouble has occurred in history there is very often present a surplus of young men without any employment or prospects.

If at the same time for religious or demographic reasons they are not matched by an equivalent number of unattached ladies available for company and to give favours then the men tend to get out of hand. They do not necessarily need much excuse either political or religious but one or both come in very handy to justify all the mayhem.

To complicate our thinking there are those pointing out that it is not so much money that matters but energy, its sources and uses. Money is simply a means to an end and that can only be achieved in the modern world by the ability to buy or the possession of energy.

If you are muddled then so am I, but what is frightening is that we may be a lot less muddled than all those people in the capitals and financial markets telling us what to do and why.

Luckily, I still have a few pesetas left from long ago, hasta la vista!

Monday, 13 February 2012

What's Up Doc?

The essential difficulty with the National Health Service is rather like that of caring for grandma in your own home. Whatever you want to do, hope to do, intend to do or have to do she is always there to complicate matters.

So all the complaining about how Cameron and the Coalition should have put the NHS on the back burner while they tackled other major issues is nonsense. The NHS is so big, so complicated and so challenged by changing demographics never mind developments in the science and technology of medicine that it cannot be given a lower priority for attention and decision.

It is a very long while ago since the 1970’s and there was the local Area Health Authority which had to be attended. There similar tensions then. These were compounded by Westminster coming up with “initiatives” and “programmes” to paper over the most obvious cracks.

These came with funding for the now but not later which the politicians wanted to grab at. The mutterings of the financial man about who this might impact on future budgets were brushed aside; as were the reservations of the medical people about how these highly spun things fitted what were foreseeable added demands.

In the meantime at Westminster there were elections to be fought and personal reputations at stake. Survive at Health and you might make one of the choicer offices of state. Get a shed load of bad publicity and off you went, if you were lucky The Lords, if not to Brussels.

Our current Health minister, Lansley was always on a loser. The serial wreckage inflicted by the Private Finance Initiatives, lumpen reorganisations and the application of the fetich of modern finance and business models of the previous government were bad enough.

That the gross misspending had made it all much worse is almost impossible to sort out. Whether the ideas embodied in the present legislation will do much good is a question.

Just how far are the ideas that lie behind the assumptions out of date or no longer tenable by the time of the third decade of the 21st Century? Just how much will any government be able to spend? Who will it be spent on?

If the bill is simply yesterday’s soufflĂ© presented at the behest of a government department over run with consultants, lobbyists and commercial interests then little or nothing has changed. We will just stumble from one chaotic form to another.

With a Coalition Cabinet infested by a Liberal Democrat party already running for cover, a spectacular lack of awareness or reliable information in the media, the protectionist stance of the existing professional bodies and a public whose understanding and information is very limited there are all the signs of yet another grim and costly debacle in a major public responsibility.

Like having grandma to stay we may be arriving at a situation where there are no answers and our NHS becomes something of a continuing major liability nagging away, wrecking the budget, impossible to deal with and to which there seems no end.

So what do we do with the extra grandma’s and grandpa’s never mind the many others who were never planned for? Did we ever expect extensive liver problems amongst so many younger people?

Is your knee beginning to play up?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Trivial Pursuits

Those of who recall Kenny Dalglish as a player will know that often he would come from apparently nowhere to make his strike and turn the game. Another talent he has is to say as little as possible for the most part and leave it to the action.

This makes his silence in the business of Suarez instructive and the way in which it was handled. Sometimes what is not said or done matters more that what is. It is a stark contrast to the arm waving, shouting and attention seeking approach of others.

It is possible that Dalglish and the other Liverpool interests are constrained by other issues. Manchester United players have been known to run to lawyers for super injunctions at the hint of a Chinese whisper.

These, as we know, can prevent any comments or statements by others and moreover the existence of any mention of such an injunction may not be mentioned in the media or elsewhere.

As the Football Association proceedings are not courts of law, simply internal disciplinary committees, they will be bound by them as much as another group of persons. If one side also is bound by this form of legally imposed silence then there is not much to be done about it.

All this is wild speculation on my part and purely personal opinion. All I know is the occasional lip reading of footballers in action on TV screens and the very occasional voice picked up on sound, usually bleeped or missed out from replays.

What I am clear about is that in most Premiership games there is ample insult and obscenity between players, often knowingly provocative and sometimes extreme in nature. The difference is that a racial comment is one thing but the other types another however vile they may be.

The upshot is that in the game the latter kind has become almost routine and conventional and disregarded for disciplinary action unless used against referees in a limited number of circumstances.

Yet amongst some peoples and cultures that which we regard as racist can be considered the lesser of the insults motor mouthed out by some players. It should not be too difficult to think of one or two.

It is curious that a player subjected to an insult that is amongst the worst in his culture or religion cannot claim “racism” in the UK and moreover were he to attempt to bring a case in his defence on this basis he is silenced by the UK courts.

We may not have heard the last about all this, because it was a Manchester United player’s lawyers who applied the Principle of Delivery to internet traffic in relation to his case. All this is without a hacker in sight and of course Liverpool fans are not up to that kind of thing are they?

This Principle can be applied in other cases if there is due cause. If some people have been careless in their social networking sites thinking they are protected they could be in for a nasty shock.

Someone could just ghost in and strike.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

How To Get Nothing Done

Yesterday, it was a meeting. Luckily, one free of all the usual meetings problems, contending factions, power struggles, point scoring, rubbishing other peoples’ ideas etc. We were just trying to sort out a few things in a mess we had been left with and wondering what to do next.

On retirement it was my sworn ambition to avoid meetings at all costs, avoid ones involving budgets especially and anything to do with personnel matters or any of the usual administrative baggage. Been there, done that, goodbye and no regrets as one went off into the sunset.

Despite considerable success over a number of years in achieving this ambition force of circumstances has meant that some contribution is necessary. If it was bad before in many ways it was nowhere near as bad as it is now.

The basic problem was the law and regulations etc. with which we were faced. At one time decades ago a lotl of this was clear to read, decently structured on the whole and understandable for those who paid close attention. Legal cases and decisions were not quite the same but with effort some sense could be made of them.

Not anymore it isn’t. We were faced with badly written law, confusing structure, garbage text, inbuilt assumptions out of date when the drafting of it began and enough loose ends to make a Fair Isle pullover.

This means unintended consequences, risks and the potential for compensation claims. Even the expert drafted in could only say maybe this or maybe that and that a lot of it eventually would depend on decisions in courts and tribunals.

But we do not want to do this, least of all to be the first in to the fray. We are old, tired, short of brass, risk averse and I for one look forward to watching football matches with the sound off in order to concentrate on the lip reading. We compete to see who spots the most naughty words or obscene insults.

This is being selfish. The poor “ess oh dees” that work for a living have to face this sort of goings on every day. Consider that at any time across the land there are tens of thousands of staff employed by large organisations consulting thick books of guidance and advice.

Also, there are endless bad scene meeting going on thrashing out what you can do and cannot do. There are endless committees meeting time and time again to draft and redraft all the explanation and guidance.

Down amongst the small fry of the economy whilst many may simply avoid all this and take the risks, others cannot and face night after night of paperwork and compiling figures and information for the vast machinery of government.

This is the working economy; then there are all the voluntary and charitable organisations who have to do much the same. They almost cannot move now without shifting more paperwork than a 19th Century navvy shifted earth.

No wonder the economy is sluggish, people cannot move for all the rubbish law and regulation. The sheer effort of trying make and implements decisions must take up most of the initiative and direction of business and government.

And it is getting worse.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Another Boom Another Bust

For those of us who go round just looking for trouble there is enough going on at the moment to keep us happy in the main media. The big freeze is stretching the gas supplies to the limit, our government almost in collapse, Syria, earthquakes, elections already going wrong, Iran and more Iran, Greece and terrorism.

On that last point it is just as well the Human Rights Act and our present benefits system wasn’t in place in 1945, because if Himmler, Goebbels and families had made it to Mayfair and claimed asylum they would be housed and drawing full support.

Moreover, had Britain attempted to return them to Germany for trial then the government would have been over ruled on the grounds that there was evidence to the effect that troops of the 11th Armoured Division had roughed up some of the former German guards at the Belsen-Bergen Concentration Camp after they had been caught stealing food intended for the inmates.

Back to the present, however, there were a couple of links today that suggest that all is far from well and could be markers for serious global financial problems. The first is to do with the Baltic Dry Index in Zero Hedge. Usually, if that goes bad and shipping is then laid up to any great extent, run for cover.


The second is in Oil Drum and is a long discussion on the arcane issues of pricing shale oil and supply. This is a difficult area that not many understand, least of all civil servants and politicians. The nub of the argument is that there has been an investment boom with vast sums poured in but market prices are less than production and financial costs.


It this commentator is right then there could be a bad bust in a sensitive and critical market. Again, run for cover, elbowing those fleeing the Baltic Dry Index out of the way as you go.

If my cold does not go away then expect a major volcanic eruption.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Herding Cattle Or Herding Cats?

When working through local parish records in Doncaster’s Library many years ago one of the sadder entries was simply “Scottish Drover, name unknown”. The old drove roads now may be present highways but as often as not are just paths across the hills and fields, their history almost forgotten.

Across the Atlantic Islands for some time there has been precious little restriction on the movement of people or goods despite the attempts to foist either ancient tribalism or recent faux nationalism on one group or another. For a while the appreciation of the practical inconveniences and problems of division have overcome other considerations.

The issue of population movement and migration is one of the several key and complicated issues that could arise in the event of Scotland detaching itself from Westminster in political separatism. It is not simply a question of what may or may not happen at the land border, it is more than that.

There are some bits and pieces of history left over to raise questions. If Scotland has a model of intended population structure and therefore an immigration policy that departs either to a greater or lesser extent from that of the other parts of the Atlantic Isles, it all becomes very intricate and difficult to manage.

There is the Isle of Man, so who does Kelly belong to? There is Northern Ireland, there is the Republic of Ireland which has a number of residual benefits in the UK, there is Wales and as well as Man a number of Crown Dependencies to take account of. This is quite apart from who in England might want to claim Scottish citizenship.

I assume the man from Alloway who I sat next to on a train, currently resident in Dover for work purposes might have that status. But if Scotland stays in the EU and England leaves, he might decide to commute to Dover from Calais to retain his rights in Scotland.

If Northern Ireland opts to retain the English connection but the Republic remains in the EU it is possible that different migration and citizenship rules might well then favour those from Bantry above those from Ballymoney. You need to know your Ireland to appreciate that one.

This game could go on and on working its way through all the variables and all the possibilities for confusion and complication. Scotland may well have its place amongst the nations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal but just who would its nationals be?

Would they include the hordes of silver haired human rights claimants from England wanting the better benefits currently scrambling to find themselves a tartan from great great grandmother from Greenock? Or those English who can afford the second residence in their children’s names for university education purposes?

The idea of a fenced, lit, land mined border with guards sweeping up pensioners for the migrant hostel in an extension to Barlinnie is an interesting one, who knows?

The crucial question is what kind of population model and structure is the SNP talking about and what kind of migration policy? Is it a Bahamas style one? Is it a Dubai style one? Is it a Norwegian one? Is it a Hong Kong model? Given its model what kind of population structure should Scotland be looking to have by 2050?

At present there is only the silence of Scottish Drover.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Greece, Past Collapses

Still coughing, so another something borrowed, but not blue, from 24 January 2006 as reported on the BBC News, History section. It may be bad in Greece, but at least not this bad.


Typhoid 'caused fall of Athens', the Athenian empire was brought to its knees by typhoid fever, a Greek team of archaeologists has suggested.

A University of Athens team analysed DNA from dental pulp found in a burial pit dating back to 430 BC and linked it to the organism that causes typhoid. Scientists have long debated the cause of the plague that ended Athenian dominance of the classical world.

The study in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases says a number of diseases were suspected as the cause. “ It sheds light on one of the most debated enigmas in medical history” said Dr Manolis Papagrigorakis.

These included bubonic plague, smallpox, anthrax and measles as suspected causes of the epidemic which spread across northern Africa to Egypt, Libya and Greece. Between 430 and 426 BC the plague killed almost a third of the Athenian population and its armed forces, along with the city's leader and mastermind of Athenian glory, Pericles.

The research team investigated DNA material in three randomly selected intact teeth found in the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos which dates back to the outbreak of the disease. All teeth were washed and the dental pulp removed was subjected to a series of DNA tests.

The results were compared with the DNA profiles of a seven disease-causing viruses and bacteria.  An ancient strain of the organism causing typhoid fever was found to be present in the dental pulp of all three dental samples.
Microbiological evidence

The team said in their research: "For an infectious disease to be considered as a likely cause of the Plague of Athens, it must, above all have existed at that time. "Infectious diarrhoeas and dysentery as described by the ancients imply that typhoid fever was an endemic problem in the ancient world."

The team added that it was the first time microbiological evidence associated with the plague had been analysed. Previously assumptions about the cause had been based on the narrations of a the 5th Century Greek historian Thucydides.

Earlier research rejected the idea that typhoid caused the plague because of the symptoms described by Thucydides did not fit with the modern day typhoid. But the researchers said inconsistencies maybe explained by the possible evolution of typhoid fever over time.

Lead author Dr Manolis Papagrigorakis said: "Studying historical aspects of infectious diseases can be a powerful tool for several disciplines to learn from." Dr Daniel Antoine, lecturer in bioarchaeology and dental anthropology at University College London's Institute of Archaeology, described the work on DNA as solid and said the results were very interesting.

However, he added: "It would be nice to have another lab repeat this work on a larger sample from a Greek site of the same period, before typhoid fever is attributed as the sole 'cause' of the plague, and thus eliminate the possibility of an isolated outbreak of typhoid fever."


Collapses can have many causes.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Digging For Victory Revived

As Sir Fred The Shred has become Mr. Fred The Stripped and I have a stinking cold and do not want to be long at the typeface this is a repeat post from Sunday 8 March 2009.

My only comment is that by choosing the name Sands to avoid defamation issues with Goodwin perhaps this reference to things being sunk without trace was not far off the mark.

It is based on the old Rob Wilton monologues which the late Michael Williams liked to revive in more recent years.


The day the bank bailouts broke out, the missus said to me, “So what are you going to do to save the economy?” “It isn’t up to me!” I said, “What can I do about it in any case?” “Well,” she said “you can make a start, and my hair needs cutting.”

So after we cut each other’s hair, normally free, gratis, and for nothing, this time we exchanged cheques for £1000 each. “There,” she said, “that’s a nice boost for the GDP” “But what do we do next?” I asked, and she had an answer for that, well she always does have an answer.

So we go down to at Thresher and Porbeagle Financial Services, Cookiecutter House and meet a gent’ called Fred Sands. Nice chap, the sort of Scottish burr in the voice you like to hear on the customer services helplines telling you there is nothing they can do to help, who makes us an offer we could not refuse.

They had only just set up after he had left his old firm to improve his prospects. Grabbing the cheques from our hands, he told us he could immediately lend us up to £100,000 to spend as we wanted, or to take part in a wonderful investment deal that had only turned up on his laptop that very morning, limited offer, closing in half an hour, so we had to make up our minds quick.

He wrote us a cheque on the spot for the £100,000, gave to us, and then snatched it back, saying it was now an asset and collateral for buying £5 million pounds worth of rented garages in Arizona, Beijing, and Moscow, and these would become the assets for investing in a lot of Hedge Funds, who would do a lot of other lending.

Because all the loans were assets, and not what my father told me, income was guaranteed at fifteen per cent, and the whole value would grow at least thirty per cent a year, so we could soon have our villa, yachts and all the rest, and even get invited to a Paris fashion show.

I tried to tell the missus that I was happy with our caravan at Bognor, but she would not listen, all it would cost us she said was trivial money, small change, for all the administrative fees and bonuses, and I should be grateful for everything.

Then she went into the back room with Fred and came out smiling in a way I hadn’t seen since she was a part time barmaid at “The Dragon’s Head”.

So we have now “kick started” the economy and Fred says with luck I could get a knighthood and the missus will then become a lady, at last. “It will all be worth it,” she said, “and Fred even gave me a tenner, for the service economy he called it.”

When I told my neighbour, Jim, he gave me a funny look, asked for his lawnmower back, and told me not to bother with Christmas Cards this year as he was a bit short.

Apologies to Rob Wilton and Michael Williams.


Ah well, time for an antiseptic.