Saturday, 30 March 2013

Something Different For Easter

As it is Easter there is not a lot of time, only a search for something nice for the season of flowers, spring and the return of summer.  Meanwhile the heating is full on and the snow flakes are coming down.

This is one picked up from Smithsonian dot com, the web site of the august Smithsomian Institution of learning in the USA, hat tip to “Archeologica”. 

Under the headings of “Past Imperfect” and “The Vengeance of Ivar The Boneless” it discusses the question of the ritual of the Blood Eagle, alleged to be a regular feature of Viking celebrations.

As well as dealing with this gruesome practice it is a longish item, academic and a useful survey of the history of the Viking period and the differing schools of thought about what sort of people they were and how they occupied their time.

If it is thought that these actions and motives might apply only to the distant past, the second comment argues “Let’s try it on Congress.  They’re certainly available and eminently expendable.”

I like the word “eminently” this context.

Friday, 29 March 2013

What's The Game Plan?

Short and to the point today.  The picture above reminds us that the Chinese were playing football in 1609, pity they never got around to drawing up some rules.

At the moment it is all about Cyprus and what is happening there.  Around the web, notably in Zero Hedge and Money and Markets there is more attention to the wider implications for Europe.

This is along the lines that if your bank balance or savings can evaporate in one place, given that the banks are so interconnected then they can disappear in another.

But in Project Syndicate an article points to another, rather bigger and more dangerous even, that might go bad:

Where it will end, if it does end, is an interesting question.  For the UK we must put our trust in…….

Oh dear.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Going Shopping?

One of the key sets of figures that turn up in the main media is that of retail sales, however defined.  This is because one of the economic drivers is how much people spend, where and on what. 

Figures that are going up are regarded as good because it means more activity.  Those that are going down are bad because this indicates decreasing money flows.

Whether or not the consumption is useful, necessary or wasteful or ornamental is not a consideration.  Fashion is said to be a driver but where the need to buy essentials turns into purely changing for the sake of change as in the latest designs and models etc. is not clear or marked.  Often the media presents any fashion change as by definition a necessity.

But retailing itself has not remained the same by any means.  In my time there have been three radical shifts.  After 1939 for a number of years there was a severe reduction in retailing because the money and effort were needed for other things. 

It was not until the 1950’s that this began to unwind to the extent that there was much greater freedom in what people did with their money and the marketing men were keen to persuade them to spend it.  But then there was little credit for pure consumption reasons and restricted disposable income because of the cost of basics.

In the UK one factor in what retailers existed and to what purpose was Retail Price Maintenance which meant that very many things would cost exactly the same whether you bought it in the small shop round the corner, or at a nearby shopping centre or went “up town” to the department stores and posher shops. 

This kept huge numbers of small retailers in business in both town and country.  Also it enabled a wide range of smaller specialist shops to exist alongside the chains and major stores.

When this was abolished by Edward Heath, President of the Board of Trade in the Douglas-Home administration of 1963-1964 this unleashed real price competition in which the larger retail groups and major stores were at an advantage. 

This along with the growth of supermarkets and car ownership etc., allowing greater consumer mobility over the next couple of decades saw the progressive and extensive decline of the small local retailer sector. 

Retailing by the 1980’s was a different world to that of the 1950’s in many ways.  By then the concentration of shopping into bigger entities and the new shopping malls was on the way to provide the bulk of retailing in this period.

Now we are in the throes of another major change in retailing provision.  It is occurring rapidly as the internet and other communication systems have developed.  Quite how much the figures of today make sense in terms of those of the past is a matter for real doubt. 

Also how far changes in the nature of employment, patterns of earning, attitude to spending and critically saving may stay the same or change is entirely unpredictable.  At the moment theoretically it is not rational to save given current rates of interest and the unreliability of the financial services.

But there are other ways of saving and some odd things seem to be happening.  Why in this time of serious money problems do the prices of art works and antiques seem to be rocketing in so many sectors? 

Also, patterns of spending will change as age profiles alter.  If migration either internal or external affects people in their attitude to what and how they consume different then this will change.  Also, could the public suddenly tire of “fashion”?

There are then perceptions of risk among those with disposable money and how they see their short term and long term futures.  There is a lot that could happen here and the way the world is going old assumptions could turn out to be hopelessly wrong.

If at the same time as there is another revolution in how and where we shop suing the net or other types of retailers along with changing patterns of distribution systems then our present fixation with the month by month sales figures may turn out to be a false trail.

We would all help ourselves by rediscovering what is really meant by “consumption” and “investment”. 

As for personal investment I wonder what’s running at Kempton Park next Tuesday?

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Drought Warning

Apparently, the Higgs Bosun discovery is not entirely good news.  There are reports that the implications include the unwelcome idea that the Universe is inherently unstable. 

Oh well, these things happen.  Personally, most of us prefer the erratic course of the meaning and all that of life to be attributable to something more admirable than unreliable particles.

On the car park I was bent over getting stuff out of the back seat.  Through the windows came the sunshine making the head warm.  However, my rear end was stuck out in an ENE direction taking the full blast of icy wind from Siberia.

Global Warming and Global Cooling all in one in its way.

The weather experts say this is because of a “blocking high” stuck over this end of Europe.  Apparently, this also means in the complications of it all that the Jet Stream is shifted southward which explains our current weather conditions, it will be cold and staying cold for a little while to come.

During my working life what was not wanted over the colder six months was such a weather system because it meant fog and other issues.  If it was a period that involved a lot of running about it did not make life any easier.

But “blocking highs” can happen during the summer months as well.  Normally, this is greeted with joy by all the sun lovers and especially the weather forecasters who know if they stand there and say how lovely it is going to be for days and days and days they might get nominated for an award.

Personally, very hot weather when at work was not as bad as winter weather could be but still a nuisance.  Leisure or beach gear is one thing.  Suits, ties and stiff collars were quite another in an overheated car or even hotter room.  In those days men who used fragrances or deodorants where I worked were deeply suspect.

During the 1970’s one series of “blocking highs” occurred during 1975 and 1976.  The winter was not exactly bad, but miserable and there was little rain.  But during the summer of 1976 there was not just a “heat wave” but a very long, hot and very dry spell

See Wikipedia for “1976 United Kingdom Heat Wave”.  It really was a blaster and water supplies began to reach the point when they could run out.  There were certainly severe shortages in parts.  As ever, the water companies were slow to impose restrictions.

Since then we seem to be using rather more water per head for various reasons.  Despite the fact that our reserves seem to have been restored recently it may not take too long if such a weather system persists for us to run into trouble again.

Indeed now you might be feeling the cold, but soon many might be complaining about the heat.  For investors, should one go long on bottled water?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

When The Captains And Kings Depart

Once again avoiding the political and financial turmoil for the sake of another debate on what is right and what is not right it seems that members of the Plantagenet Alliance are thinking of mounting a legal action with the intention of having the remains of King Richard III reburied at York Minster.

They are all people who claim to have members of his close family in their ancestry, although not direct descendants.  There are none known but you never know if some dedicated antiquarian may not come up with one after long hard go at records, much as Patrick Montague-Smith stumbled on proof of ancestry of the Carew of Beddington family in an obscure entry in The Pipe Rolls.

The University of Leicester, responsible for both the archaeology and the DNA testing are bound by the terms of the license and agreement made with the authorities, which was to have any remains reburied at Leicester Cathedral, only yards away from the original resting place. 

This apparently is in line with established practice in archaeology where the original site may have major disadvantages or just be impractical, like having an office block built on top of it.  But if it were not to be Leicester, then there are other potential options for various reasons.

Then if the Plantagenet Alliance is making its legal claim on the basis of the need for the family to be consulted before licences are given and agreements made there are some serious basic problems.  One is that the Plantagenet Alliance, however scholarly or praiseworthy its activities are represents a small lobby group in this matter.

The total number of potential family who are around at present is very large indeed.  The University of Leicester suggests a figure of tens of thousands from the siblings alone.  Should wider family be taken into account, cousins etc. then the figures are huge.  If the benchmark were descent from Lionel of Antwerp, son of King Edward III and direct forebear of King Richard III then they would be even larger.

Consultation on this basis would be international and vast.  With the internet it might be possible to have a shot, but then verification of the right to claim would add too greatly in terms of cost and time. 

Another matter is that it is York Minster that is suggested on the grounds that he grew up in and was identified as a Yorkshire magnate.  The Minster is a major religious centre but not a Royal burial place. 

Richard was born at Fotheringhay Castle.  It is now a ruin but the local Parish Church of St. Mary and All Saints does have the tombs of his immediate family and it would certainly be appropriate for him to be laid to his final rest there.  However if a Cathedral is necessary then Peterborough Cathedral is the closest. 

This is where Catharine of Aragon, firstly wife of Prince Arthur and secondly on his death the first wife and Queen of King Henry VIII is buried.  However it would be a twisted logic for King Richard III being buried adjacent to the daughter-in-law of the man who defeated him at Bosworth, King Henry VII.

For many the major alternative is Westminster Abbey with it many Kings and Queens or perhaps St. Georges Chapel at Windsor.  But there are Roman Catholics who suggest that an Anglican Church is not appropriate and a suitable Roman Catholic one be sought, although where is another question.

In that case in Leicester the obvious choice, quite near to the old Greyfriars where he was originally buried, would be the Holy Cross Priory Church, which is a Priory of the Dominican Order.  A catafalque, as above at Roskilde, would make an excellent shrine for the faithful.  Any other Catholic church, including Westminster Cathedral does not seem quite right.

But this may not be the only King seeking a final resting place.  Faversham Abbey is another long gone religious establishment.  It was the burial place of King Stephen, and his wife Matilda.  Above it there are playing fields and now moves to start a major dig there.

Where’s the spade?

Monday, 25 March 2013

Thinking Of Moving?

Ever since the hominids emerged from the dust they have been moving about.  We are now beginning to realise that these movements could be over long distances.  Also, at one time journeys over water were thought to be highly limited because of the technical and other problems posed.

It is now being argued that the scale of movement and ability to cross different forms of terrain and negotiate the use of both waterways and the sea were a lot greater than assumed.  Our distant ancestors were cleverer than we thought.  They were also very tough and enduring.

The why’s and wherefore’s of all this are very complicated.  We can assume that the needs for foods and water were paramount but it may be that the need for certain plants and natural deposits could also play a part. 

What is still a matter of debate is how long it took a group to take and extract from its immediate environment most of its food sources etc. and therefore have to move on elsewhere.

There are the problems of contending with other forms of predatory and feeding life and when the human population is growing continually having to contest territory and claims to resources as they collided in their travels.

At some stage farming began and with it more settled locations and communities that developed different structures and thought systems.  Small communities became larger and more complex and greater structures emerged often with a warrior come priestly elite to defend and control their territory.

In our recent history; that is since the last major Ice Age, there has been a huge increase in human population, especially in the last brief period of a couple of hundred years. 

Civilisations and empires, not necessarily the same thing, have risen and fallen; there have been incessant wars, conflicts and troubles with associated human movement.

With modern transport and communications it is now possible to move people on a world scale that would have been impossible in the even near past.  To assume that this can be done without some problems does not fit either the history of movement or the immediate and long term effects. 

This given the pressure on existing resources, food supplies and financial structures will have implications far beyond those assumed in the mid 20th Century or earlier.  You have only to look at the size, complexity and demands of the growing mega-urban areas to see this.

During our period of Empire it was a matter of pride that the Atlantic Isles, with a relatively small population could both assert global power and export so many of its people, remember the scale of emigration from England was just as much as from other parts.  Now this past has come back to haunt us.

The populations of the Atlantic Isles in the past were a group of minorities collected into one nation state.  As this dissolves, destroyed by the centralised political and financial powers that created it, we are only a collection of small minorities in world terms. 

The last UK government decided that inward migration of multi-million assorted peoples would suit its political interests.  Not only did this add many more minorities, divergent rather than diverse, into the mix, there are now some parts of the Atlantic Isles where those deriving from the 1700-1950 population period of occupation are in the minority.  These are mostly in highly urbanised areas.

Again, with the prospect of human movement increasing well beyond the existing millions the governments of very many countries as well as those of the Atlantic Isles are going to have to face up to the consequences, both human and political.  These are going to be challenging and difficult to control.

Currently, we have a breakdown of administration in London, problems in Dublin and Edinburgh at present is an unknown quantity.  Cardiff is another issue. 

Amongst all the other questions is what happens if one part of the Atlantic Isles attempts to run a population and migration policy different from any of the others.  This suggests strict border controls in one form or another.

For example, will Scotland fence off England or vice versa?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Bells, The Bells!

More briefly, this is the second post on religion, this time a bigger Church but a shorter post.  In Paris at the Cathedral of Notre Dame the towers now have a set of new bells replacing those of the past.

The history of all this is complicated but is covered in the section on Bells in the Wikipedia article “ Notre Dame de Paris”.  It is a tale of revolution, removals, rebuilding in part and “restoration”.  What you see or hear is not what was seen or heard in the long past.

The original bells were cast in tune, but how far time meant that this remained is not known.  What is, according to the reports, was that the more recent bells have not. 

The reason for this is unclear.  It may have been that a cut price job was done.  More likely is that in the France of the 19th Century the endemic corruption and inefficiency of the state made it very difficult to do anything much properly.

For most people Notre Dame means Quasimodo, the hunchback and Esmeralda the Gypsy girl he loved and tried to protect made famous in film.  Victor Hugo’s story, published in 1831 is set in 1482 during The Feast of Fools so refers to a particular period when France was then the major and richest power in Europe

Also, it is a time when the old bells were both major features of the sound world of Old Paris and still in tune.  They marked the passing of the time as well as being a call to faith.  The state was the monarchy and divinely blessed by The Church.

There was then a stratified society of an elite class, the aristocracy with below them a small middle and merchant class and then the peasantry and rest.  These could be troublesome, notably in Paris where the lowest could become the mob.

So who will the new bells in tune be representing?  Do they celebrate a new form of monarchical type and aristocratic rule, also European in scope in purpose?  Are they there to tell us what to believe and how and to mark our days?

Or are they to announce the rule of the mob and maybe the Quasimodo’s of our time?

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Sheep May Not Safely Graze

Two churches are in the news this weekend although there is quite a difference between them, ignoring Rome and Canterbury.  Both in their way have a message for our times.  The first is St. Peter and St. Paul’s at East Sutton, Kent and the other the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, which will be another post. 

East Sutton is a small village one would have thought far from media interest.  But at the end of the 19th Century one of its more prominent residents was John Corlett, a newspaperman, proprietor of “The Sporting Times”, more popularly called “The Pink ‘Un”.  Also, the village was the country home of the respected Filmer family, baronets once significant political figures.

It is in the news because Vicky Pryce has been sent there, to HMP East Sutton at the old house to serve out her sentence having been found guilty of perverting the course of justice.  Her trials were something of a debacle.  According to “Private Eye” this week, between her lawyers and the Sunday Times contact for whom she was a source she was shopped and sunk.

Long before the village was best known as the location of a property once called The Pleasure House.  In the 1890’s this had housed the local vicar and his family but later was the location for Alice Keppel to meet with King Edward VII for some of their extra marital assignations.

They lived in a happier time when the press was more circumspect in dealing with the Royal Family and in the UK were rarely if ever pursued by posses of photographers looking for a fast but revealing shot.  If only because the camera’s of the period were heavy and slow.

East Sutton church has a relatively ordinary set of memorial inscriptions but there is one close to the entrance of the main churchyard which tells onlookers to gaze upon the graves with respect because they will be joining the occupants soon enough.  This may not have been noticed by the photographers who have congregated there because it overlooks East Sutton Park or HMP East Sutton. 

There has been a row between Professor Greenslade, Emeritus Blogger to The Guardian, no less and the British Press Photographer’s Association, over the intrusion of the photographers at East Sutton and their behaviour, he says they are paparazzi they say, honest Guv’ we are just doing our job:

The Park has advantages over the usual urban prison but is not a “cushy number”.  There is proper full time work to be done with real plants and animals because the farm has to supply a number of local outlets with reliable and good quality products, meats, salads, vegetables and garden plants. 

But the photographers had better be careful.  Not only is there The Curse of East Sutton as on the memorial they have treated with scant respect, it may be soon that it is the time and season on the farm for those learning the traditional trades in husbandry to get out the butcher’s cleavers, the shears and the big secateurs.

They could find out what the word “bullocks” really means.  Now that would make a good story; never mind the pictures.

Friday, 22 March 2013

More Wandering About

In the 1950’s a couple of my former school mates found themselves in Cyprus in the military.  Both regarded the spell as the least enjoyable two years of their lives and swore never to return.  What will happen next there is becoming difficult to work out and all I can do is stick to Zero Hedge and hope this is good enough.

As the row on privacy and Government regulation of the press rumbles on The Economist, a journal I have read for sixty odd years makes its displeasure clear about what is being proposed, elsewhere in the real world, privacy is no great matter. 

The supermarket we have to use for a few items has mailed me with a personalized effort which clearly shows where we shop, at what times and by an analysis of the spending what sort of meal we would like on Easter day with the recommended wine.

There is one thing that they have not picked up on yet, however.  We have ceased to use their lavatory paper for reasons I do not wish to divulge on grounds of privacy. 

But it will be only a matter of time before they offer me personalized rolls or at least by looking at my age profile make suggestions about texture and capability.

The trouble is that as the post below indicates, the techies are always ahead of the game when it comes to security and privacy.

Another false dawn is all the spin, spout and shout about budgets etc. in the UK, the USA, the EU and the rest of the world.  What really matters is what the money men are going to do and how. 

When Mark Carney takes over at the Bank of England we are promised a very new strategy and attack on the economic problems.  This could be the economic equivalent of the 1st July 1916 when in the Battle of the Somme after nearly two years mostly on the back foot, the British Army attacked in the hope of pushing the Germans out of France.

At least there has been some entertainment.  The Daily Mail today had a piece about the life and larks of Sir Winston Churchill in the first decade of the 20th Century when a young man about town. 

He comes across as perhaps a model for the character of Bingo Little (see Wikipedia) in Wodehouse’s stories about Jeeves and Wooster.

This is not Churchill as we know him.  More to the point a short while ago I posted on Leslie Stuart, (see Wikipedia) born Thomas Barrett, of humble origins who made it to the top in show business at the time.  In the same decade he was making a great deal of money and spending even more.

One interest that Leslie and Winston had in common and it seems at the same time and in the same places was entertaining chorus girls and not stinting on the champagne.  Leslie was unlucky falling into bankruptcy and divorce. Winston on the other hand was bankrolled by press barons and married well.

Curiously, these two men were not quite so far apart as they might have believed and I do not mean in terms of which particular girl or girls whose company may have delighted them.

Trawling around the primary sources, it appears though from decidedly humble origins one of Stuart’s/Barrett’s relations by marriage was from a family where some had gone down but one part had decidedly gone up.  They were connected to the family of one of Churchill’s forlorn female hopes.

But another had been one of the leading huntsmen of his day riding the same country and with the same packs as Bay Middleton (see Wikipedia), now alleged to be the real father of Clementine Hozier, the eventual wife of Sir Winston.

Which brings us back to the beginning.  Between 1924 and 1929 Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Conservative Government that had declared that its mission was to clear up the mess in the economy but failed. 

A major reason was putting too much trust in and following the advice of Montague Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England.  The Great Crash that followed, involving Wall Street, European funny money and the rest is one of the dark periods of history. 

At the time, one of relatively recent acquisitions of Empire was Cyprus where we were then busy building up our army and naval bases.

That’s the trouble with wandering you finish up back where you started from.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wandering Thinking

There is too much going on out there to pull together.  That is to us who go on about chaos, complexity and uncertainty we are all living in Snafuland, if you know where that is.  If you don’t you might be better off, or not, or maybe.

The third link of the four below, the LSE one on where the UK state is going ends by saying:


The government is currently making big choices about the shape of the state as well as about its size. On current plans, we are moving ever more rapidly towards a state focused on welfare and particularly on health and on pensions.

As the population ages, this focus on health and pensions will become still more evident. However, whether spending a diminishing fraction of national income on other public services is a sustainable choice is an open question.


So the question is what may be the answers to the open question.  Along with all this is the row about “Freedom Of The Press” which begs the question freedom to do what?  EU Referendum points out that this valued freedom is little deserved. 

One major and crucial area of UK activity is our agriculture.  There have been things going on in Brussels which have been barely mentioned never mind reported on there which will impact significantly on the whole future of farming and food supply in the UK.

Out there has been the ongoing crisis of Cyprus, now more complicated with the potential intervention of the Russian’s and Gazprom.  If Russia does get its hands on the rights to the fuel resources of Cyprus then The Great Game has been well and truly lost. 

This article however is about bank deposits and how we are all fools in our beliefs about it.  Sorrowfully, he comes to the view that the EU may be right and not just the shareholders but the depositors must expect to take the hit instead of the taxpayers.  It is longish but provoking.

Below, this longish one from the LSE, as stated, is about just where are we going with the UK public finances.  The suggestion is not where we think or will be good for us.

All the above is as of now, but there is the future.  Peter Sutherland is still very much around and has the status of one of the High Priests of the Left.  Whatever the Labour Party may say publicly today, it is Sutherland and his associates who may be determining the future.

In this short case he is clear that mass migration is a fact of life and we might as well sit back and enjoy it because it is claimed to be the necessity of development.  The numbers he suggests are probable for the near future are very much higher than the relatively trivial ones we have been arguing about recently.

Where any of this leaves us in relation to the vaudeville routines of today in Parliament is anybodies guess.

The trouble is we could all be wrong.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

What Might Have Happened

Press Internet Sundry Sources OFFice,
Harold Laski Towers,
Clare Market,

31st September, 2007.

Dear Mr. Demetrius O’Blimey,

I regret that a number of issues have been drawn to our attention relating to comments and other material that have been posted on a web site in your name.  To the best of our knowledge and belief we understand that you are both the writer and publisher from an analysis of the content and advice from a secure source.

There has been a formal complaint from HM Treasury regarding your item on Endogenous Growth Theory in the construction of Budgetary financial strategy under the heading “Dumping The Wrong Stuff In The Wrong Bog”. 

You will appreciate that the critical management basis for addressing the nation’s finances is a key area that is regarded as confidential to the whole process and is better that it should not be questioned publicly because of the effects of international markets. 

The Chancellor in particular has objected to your thesis that he is barmy, boozed or brain dead.  There is no evidence for this and it is an uninformed opinion that this Office regards as potentially actionable under the terms of the Act.

The Office of the Prime Minister has raised objections to your view on the deployment of British troops in Iraq under the heading “The Wrong Men In The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time” and suggesting that they were sent there on the basis of false intelligence and the deliberate misleading of the public.

This Office considers that your periods of serving in an armoured formation, knowing leading Iragi’s in the 1960’s, and academic studies on the modern history of the Middle East are not sufficient to allow you to make public comments in this form of publication and we must ask that any other matter you intend to publish has to be submitted to this Office for formal clearance.

Additionally, the partner of our Prime Minister, a lady who is a distinguished member of the legal profession and key adviser in many areas objects to being referred to as a “Scouser”.  This is considered by the Office to be a serious invasion of privacy and additionally ethnically discriminatory. 

The facts that you were born in a Workhouse in Liverpool, have hundreds of relatives in that vicinity and could be very distantly related are not relevant.  Your item “It Takes One To Know One” has been withdrawn on the instructions of this Office.

There are a number of other complaints from companies engaged in the City of London and connected places to the effect that your claims of economic difficulties that will arise will be largely due to reckless trading, dishonesty, theft and fraud are wholly unjustifiable. 

This Office considers that these represent a flagrant and prejudiced attitude to a sector of the economy that is providing sustainable long term economic growth which will deliver rising prosperity and a secure future for us all.  Any further suggestions of wrong doing or deficient work in this sector are now forbidden under the terms of the Act.

Any breach of the requirements of this letter could lead to prosecution and possible imprisonment should a guilty verdict be found.  The specialist courts set up to deal with these cases on a confidential basis will make their judgement accordingly.

You will appreciate that it is our duty to protect the public and people from assaults on their confidence in the machinery of government and the valuable work of those engaged in the tasks of managing our futures.

Yours faithfully,

Signature unreadable.

Monday, 18 March 2013

News And No News

With Nike footing Manchester United’s finances and apparently Qatar wrapping up control of Marks and Spencer’s and the new High Speed Train 2 project being built by foreigners for foreign finance and of foreign control, with alas British taxpayers, those that cannot escape, paying for it, the colonisation of England continues.

In the meantime the great question is who will determine how we get to know which celebrity or other famous person has trouble keeping their primeval instincts in check, who is fiddling the books, who is defrauding who, where the good and great keep their money, taken from us, and how and who is actually in control of our system of government.

The markets are not happy at the moment with it all going South in shades of red.  The cause is Cyprus in hock to the EU, over bought, over borrowed and over the debt limits.  All we need is for Zeus to be in a bad mood again and decide that it is high time that the Santorini Caldera had another airing. 

The last one was in the Bronze Age and did for several ancient civilisations.  In our time with all the advantages of globalisation and immediate connections we could go back to The Stone Age very quickly.  In that case all the present news is no news.  Life would become much simpler and for around 98% of us much shorter.

It may be just one of those temporary phases that come round or right themselves or that some group of great powers manage to contain.  But there has been five years of this and then some time building up to it.  My whinging began in 2005 based on long standing doubts.

This roughly covers the same sort of time span that the diplomatic problems of the first decade needed to culminate in World War One.  Also, it covers a similar time span to the one between the Weimar Hyperinflation of 1923 and then to collapse of the Credit Anstalt in Vienna, the fuse that blew the 1931 collapse.

For entirely personal and selfish reasons it would be better to do without another bad crash, much as one enjoys a good shadenfreude now and again.  A marginal triple dip recession may not mean too much other than political embarrassment. 

As a great deal of our “growth” recently has been digital figures being passed around the computers of financial back offices some peoples output figures may go down but the real economy might continue or indeed be improved.  Probably, we might all eventually benefit from the reduction in digital numbers.

The trouble is all those international bodies and agencies whose existence is largely predicated in terms of digital money, information and effort.  By one of those sad turns of events these are ones particularly involved in our systems of government.  The centralisation of this and its capture, regulatory and personal means we have a peculiarly detached and special form of elite.

This has happened before in human history, one example of a detached governance ruled by mysterious persons owing their beliefs to strange and other worldly gods was that of the Minoans.  Their civilisation; based on bulls (or were they really aurochs?) and their worship came to a bad end when Santorini last went up.

Just as our recent bull market may crash if matters in the Eastern Mediterranean cannot be resolved and the fall out puts Europe into an Economic Winter.

Anyone for bull leaping?

Sunday, 17 March 2013

How And How Not To Be Busy

Yesterday, Saturday, we found ourselves close to one of the BBC’s leading political reporters.  Out of deference to Lord Leveson, his best friend Hugh Grant and other followers it would be wise to not to mention the occasion or identity. 

In any case I do not want him turning up with a camera crew at my place to deride my view expressed in 1951 that Clement Davies and the then Liberal Party might be the better electoral option.  That one went very badly wrong.

The occasion was one where jealousy, deceit, politics, oppression, religion, torture, violence against women, murder, treachery and violent deaths were being enjoyed by all.  It must have been a relaxation and relief for him as a break from life in the Westminster Village and possibly truer to real life these days.

After returning and remembering there were rugby internationals, the TV was switched on to more thud and blunder.  Wales were winning and in a way that reminded me of the long, over thirty year period, when England failed to win in Cardiff.

There were times when they might have won.  One I recall was that when two points up and in the dying seconds of the game one of the England centre’s wandered offside directly in front of the posts.  He gave away a penalty and the game. 

Later we put on the just acquired Van Cliburn CD of the only performance he ever gave in England, on the afternoon of Sunday 7th June 1959.  A celebrity occasion, but somehow I had got my hands on tickets and was there.  He was certainly good.

1959 was a year when I made it to Cardiff Arms Park for the Wales v England game.  The weather was filthy wet and it was a grim struggle hugging the touchlines and won by Wales late by a converted try, the only score.  But the memory made me think of costs.

As I was not playing because of injury then, a treat was called for.  So I bought a ticket on a special Pullman train from London Paddington to Cardiff and back with lunch and dinner on the train and a ticket for the match included.  It cost five guineas.  The ticket for the Cliburn concert was just under a pound.

When you think of the likely cost of trying to do the same today it comes as a shock to realised how devalued the currency has become if you look at real equivalents.  Also, because of other things whilst many prices have “fallen” in real times there are a lot where the real costs have been edging up.

The wonder is that so few of us realise the distortions and impact the changing values and structures of the financial system have had on the economy and society.  Has it all really been such “good news”?

One thing does seem to have happened and for all the advances we have less leisure and are a lot busier.  With a hat tip to one of The Young Ones who sent the link, this item is a half humorous, half serious, half provoking and half stimulating item:

Yes, I know you can’t have four halves, but you have to allow for inflation.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Privacy? You Are Giving It Away

The prospect of the Coalition collapsing not over Europe, the Budget, Defence, the National Health Service or any major responsibility but because of a rift about privacy and state control of the press and others really does suggest that our political elite are off their respective trolleys.

Long ago in the West End there was always a good selection of low farces with other higher grade comedy on offer in the theatres and around.  They allowed us all to realise and understand the relentless stupidity of our species and especially those who attempted to rule and control it.

Where have they gone?  Given the chaos in government and the unerring talent of both politicians and senior civil servants to make a botch even of the simplest tasks and routines the answer must be they have all moved down the road into places like Downing Street, the Palace of Westminster and the great offices of state.

One can understand the manic attention to “privacy” amongst the elite.  Given what we know about their management of personal finances, expenses claims, social habits and predilections and the rest there are questions in our mind.

So when the several gruesome elements amongst the “Hacked Off” groups, in panic that more of their stranger and rather anti-social activities will attract interest lobby furiously to see blanket regulation, restriction and control of the media it is a matter of seeking honour amongst thieves.

It has been pointed out in some parts of the web that the anxiety to put this in place is stimulated by the proposals of the EU to do the same in order to “thought police” any opposition or enquiry into any wrong doing, fraud and corruption. 

As this kind of activity is no longer at the margins of the EU but has moved to the central authority they are very anxious to shut criticism, enquiry and complaint well and truly up.  Equally, it is valid to suggest that the UK is now run by a bunch of crooks.

What is ironic about those who live and die by their status as a celebrity is that while they will court milk the media for all they can get out of it and almost demand and insist on attention, like certain politicians, as soon as the media ask awkward questions or suggest any criticism they want silence enforced.

There is an interesting item from the world of science on some of this and it is that when it comes to privacy we may well be our own worst enemies, see this Science Daily link:

In the past this blog has commented that our Western notions on this are strange.  We believe it is a “human right” when for most in the world it is impossible.  

Also, in our own past it was very difficult to have any such privacy and what is demanded today would have seemed almost inhuman, never mind anti-social, unless it was impelled by a special devotion, such as the Anchorite in the picture above.

There was once a Royal Naval submarine called HMS Anchorite, but I doubt if there was much privacy to be found there.

No man is an island.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A Tale Of Two Londons

This item is short but the link is large and the subject represents a big question. 

It is an article by Nicholas Shaxson in “Vanity Fair” on the subject of One Hyde Park, London, referred to before in this blog.  The interesting matters are who owns the apartments, how, that is financed and why, given the huge costs of purchase.

The article does not limit itself to the immediate situation but outlines the longer story behind it.  This is the kind of money coming into London that has driven the property bubble and the associated impact in the South East.

There has been a lot of fuss about the capping of housing benefits in London largely centered on the families being installed in expensive properties.  There has been much less interest or comment on who might own them and are raking in the profits.

What is more worrying is that the money and use of it are not secure.  It would not take too much for those who have it to suddenly change their minds and to try to cash in.  This could have the makings of a nasty financial crash.

For quite a while now our governments have been betting the economic house on keeping the London bubble going and continuing to attract a lot of the funny and criminal money sloshing around the world.

We could all finish up the losers.

Consider, are these the people you really want to trust with your life savings and perhaps your future pensions?

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Going Global Means Getting Austerity

The not so pretty picture above is of the Austerity locomotive designed by Southern Railways during WW2.  The huge demands of the global war effort on freight movement was beyond the capacity of its existing locomotives, 

Also the variety of types, their age and variety of those they had inherited from the past gave rise to many problems in keeping them on the tracks.  So the Southern Railway came up with a minimalist design stripped down to basic essentials, easy to repair and maintain.

During the 1940’s Austerity meant many things to many people and for the most part was ruthlessly enforced by a highly centralised government.  There was little that escaped the attention of the bureaucracy and the public were offered few choices and fewer luxuries.

Since the 1950’s, however, we have become persuaded that increasing prosperity should be the norm and we have now lifestyles where the level of consumption and the possessions of some of the poorer elements would have been considered the privileges of the better off or even wealthy then.

The world turns and times changed as do economies, monetary affairs, governments and their policies.  We still have big government but it is expected to be there to deliver not just our basic needs but all our various wants and desires.

But they can no longer do this and the politicians are reluctant to admit it, even if they understand how their power and ability to decide has been fatally eroded.  This in part is due to their own promising all things to all people.  The way they attempted to find the answers to all the problems was by signing up for Globalisation.

Oil Drum today had a post taken from Our Finite World which suggests that it cannot work; is not going to work and for many things it is going to get steadily worse.  If the writers of the article are correct the situation is that there is no going back.  The title of the post is “Twelve Reasons Why Globalisation Is A Huge Problem”.

It is a longish one with diagrams, but for a quick read just scroll down and take in the twelve sub headings in bold script.

Then think about our place in the world and where each of the developed nations stand in relation to this.  It may be that many will become “developing” nations only going in the direction of becoming steadily poorer.

This is the backdrop to the budgetary issues facing the USA, the big one and the UK its rather smaller spin off economy.  The EU is still living in la la land.  The answer they have had so far is to feed the monster with more and more money, but the monster may be about to spit it back.

Like the Austerity locomotive of the past it could be very ugly.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

History Depends On Who Writes It

In his blog, Raedwald today mentions the issue of History, what it is and might be taught to the young, which in turn relates to what we might regard as the necessary history of the Atlantic Isles.  In particular, he mentions the matter of Blair and others placing the Sheffield Knife Grinders strike ahead of Agincourt.

With a spouse who numbers Sheffield metal workers in her immediate ancestry, one has to be careful here, not least because it is possible that Sheffield metal might have been in use at Agincourt, in the hands of some of my family as well as a contingent from Yorkshire..

The Grinders in question are part of the story of the development of the Labour movement in the late 19th Century.  But this in turn is being selective because to pick out them and that movement in itself has a bias.  There was a lot going on around that time and it is all very complicated.

As this blog has mentioned already, possibly several times, one feature of our social history that has disappeared is the extent, power and influence of the Temperance Movement, which in turn had a substantial working class element in its leadership.  Another such change was the gradual Great Agricultural Depression which had a wide range of effects.

Other developments in this period which contributed hugely to what became the Atlantic Isles were in technology, science and medicine.  Some have a passing mention, for example telegraphy, but not others.  One is the invention of the condensing steam engine which meant a leap forward in the use and applications of steam power, notably in shipping and in the railways.

The basic problem is that History so often involves a reduction and simplification, sometimes with an agenda, sometimes told as a tale to suit either the audience or who is telling the tale.  Agincourt was not simply brave little England bashing France, it was an exploratory expedition designed to test French capabilities.

King Henry V was not just trying to create an identity for England, he was attempting to restore the long lost Angevin Empire of King Henry II with its vast territories in what is now France.  Had King Henry V lived a good deal longer he might have achieved this. 

Also, had the English not declined into the civil Wars of The Roses and managed to hold on both to the territories and to an effective alliance with Burgundy we might never have had the powerful and highly ambitious France of the 16th Century and later. 

The lesson of Agincourt is not just that a well organised small force can achieve a great deal, but that our notions of nationality can be subject to radical change in a short time.  Sometimes we do not see the other lessons of historical events because we either do not understand them or do not see the evidence.

One activity lately has been to make use of the vast archive material newly available online in subscription web sites.  Things that might never have been found, even with long and difficult research can just turn up leaving one astonished.  A feature of this is to connect people in unexpected ways which shed a different light on much of what went on in the past.

Hunting, or for that matter riding horses has never been a part of my life nor following hunts or even going to the races.  An example of what can happen is that I begin to wonder when looked at is how the British elite of the late 19th and early 20th Century functioned.  One way might be that you need to see who hunted with which pack, when and where and the culture of horse racing. 

This may seem unlikely but it is no more so than knife grinders in Sheffield sparking off associations of workers.  What reception would anybody get from suggesting that it might be useful if children in schools were taught the history of fox hunting, racing and the careers of the most notable huntsmen of the period?

See “Bay Middleton” in Wikipedia and there were others like him.