Saturday, 31 October 2015

Trick Or Treat?

When I asked the question "How should I dress up to spread fear, terror and horror among the neighbours on Halloween?"  The answer was to do nothing, just stay as I am.

The first time I came across the Halloween thing was in the film "Meet Me In St Louis", a 1944 musical set in St. Louis, USA, at the time of the 1904 World Exhibition there, see Wikipedia.  It struck me as daft then and my opinion has not altered.

I know now that there has been a long tradition of days or nights of misrule in many countries it is just that this one is the product of several borrowings taken over by commercial and media marketing men.

The cartoon above has nothing to do with this but it seemed to make sense in terms of the title to this item.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Flying Low

It is possible that the debate about the HS2 and similar railway projects may now be entirely the wrong debate.  Because it has become the "old" in terms of technology and ideas.

The new is the concept of the Hyperloop which offers carriage at far higher speeds and does achieve real time savings.

We have been here before with British railways.  Pioneers of the steam age we had substantial sunk costs in the steam system.  Either diesel or electric involved major new investment and dealing with truculent trade unions.

So when the Rationalisation of 1923 occurred with its large scale mergers instead of looking to the future they continued largely with the past.  There were patches of electrified line, but largely local and not high speed.  Nationalisation in 1947 was slow to begin change.

New rail/advanced lines assume that in the future we will have an economy in which large numbers of people can afford to travel or want to.

Perhaps we may no longer need to.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Braking News

It is suggested that George Osborne is to resign as Chancellor of the Exchequer as a result of the mishandling of Tax Credit changes.

He will leave the House of Commons to take up a post with his family firm, Osborne and Little, supervising their accounts in tax havens.  Wayne Rooney, a popular local man, is tipped to replace him by experts in the bar at The Tatton Arms.

His replacement as Chancellor will be Ms. Camila Batmanghelidjh, the former chief of Kids' Company who has wide experience in giving money to the poor or those said to be poor by the BBC, such as some of its senior executives.

In a move to overcome constitutional difficulties, the Chancellor will no longer be required to be a member of the House of Commons but will become the Leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords.

The Prime Minister, as First Lord of the Treasury, will answer for that department in the House of Commons.  When he feels like it.

Accordingly, Camila is to become Lady Batman of Leake in North Yorkshire.  This elevation will be celebrated locally by a service of thanks in the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

YouGov polls indicate an increase in support for the Conservatives.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

History Like It Wasn't

Lucy Worsley has been tripping lightly and brightly on our TV screens for several years now.  Like an engaging, concerned but rather bossy elder sister she has fronted a few programmes to do with history, her chosen and professional special trade, see her Wikipedia page and other net information.

The trouble is that on TV there has been a relentless shift in many programmes, including documentaries to lard them with features that are entertainment, personal interest or sensational.  It has become clear that Lucy has moved with the times.

Her latest threesome, that is programmes, has been about Romance with a hint of sex since 1700.  Heavily skewed to the upper classes and their literature along with the high fashion and the rest, the peasants were off camera and not to be seen or heard of.

In programmes like this often the detail of history becomes an option and one not taken, along with all the complications that were in the life of those times. Sometimes the result is not only misleading but the reverse of the truth.

In the third and last of her romantic journey through time, Lucy told us that because before the 20th the aristocracy did not pay income tax or inheritance tax they just raked in the rents and spent them, the implication being that they did not pay tax at all.

This is simply not merely an error but an untruth.  The history of British taxation is very complicated and because of the difficulties usually avoided by historians.  There is only so much time and the history of tax needs a very great deal.

So it is not going to be attempted here.  As well as central government taxes and duties, excise and customs duties there were a raft of local taxes and obligations, effectively a charge.  In the 19th Century and before a great deal of what is now central was local including the then "welfare" costs of the time.

There is also the complication of religion.  The aristocracy had many obligations and charges related to the Church of England.  Now we do not regard that as a tax more as an option.  But then it was regarded as tax to help fund the state church.

When Lloyd George came along after 1908, a dissenting congregation Liberal out to dish the Tories by destroying one of their financial bases, he targeted the landowners and aristo's.  Income taxes were made more specific and racked up and a hefty Inheritance tax imposed.

This followed major changes in local taxation arising from the extensive reforms of local government and essential utilities.  It was understandable that the landowners objected strongly, it was in effect to them a "double whammy" given the range of outgoings already in place.

Then World War One in 1914 with its huge costs and subsequent expansion of central government in the 1920's and later meant there was going to be no relief to the landowners already trapped in economic decline with the depression in agriculture.

One complication which the expert historians do take account of is that the key income from land was rents.  But these had to be negotiated in terms of what the tenant could pay realistically and had to take account of local taxation levels arising.

This effect was not taxation as such but was indirectly affected by what levels of local tax and other obligations were entailed in the tenancies etc.  And for a long period rentals were on the way down.

One image problem of the time and later, the antics of the Prince of Wales set and their hanger's on were taken to be the model of the upper classes when out in the sticks and on the land it was a very different story for most of them.

Perhaps Lucy should try reading some real history rather than romances.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Stalin Is Living In Southwark

As the Labour Party continues with its changes of people in various posts there has been comment that some, notably Seamus Milne, one of our elitist Left Wing, are said to be Stalinist.  On the other hand there are times when I wonder about Cameron and Osborne.

You may not have heard of Yakov Malik, middle name Alexandrovich, see above, he is one of the forgotten men of the Cold War period.  There is a brief article on him in Wikipedia that does not say much considering that he was a major figure in his time.

This clip from the Herald Tribune of 1973 paints the picture in a way.  But some of us remember and from the 1950's when he served as Ambassador to the UK, 1953 to 1960, succeeding Andrei Gromyko.  This was the period when we were entertained with tales of Burgess and Maclean and Philby was keeping his head down.

When in London he did not often emerge from his lair carrying his club to beat the capitalists with and when he did he picked his venues.  Preferably with an audience receptive to his world views and perceptions of international affairs.

One full dress occasion was at the London School of Economics with a beaming Ralph Miliband at his right hand and Eric Hobsbawn to his left. Harry Pollitt was skulking on the front row with Jack Dash.  I was at the back in the low company of disbelievers.

As a hood spotter, the Soviet's and more recently Russians, were easy to mark.  Down the decades I enjoyed giving them a beaming smile murmuring "Tovarich" as I pass if only to give them a fit of the vapours.  At the LSE they were jumpy, somebody might ask an awkward question but they had to keep their hands to themselves.

As his talk went on, at first it we thought it was simply a rehash of the old story, but then he moved onto other matters, what was he going to come up with?  Macmillan, only recently Prime  Minister seemed to be losing ground against Hugh Gaitskell.

The CND were going strong and it was clear that the end of Empire was in sight. In general there was a feeling to put the past behind us and to try to enjoy the present.  We now had an NHS and a welfare state and were prepared to settle for what we had, but there were many who looked East and thought they saw the future.

In the USA, Eisenhower was well into his second term and the jockeying for succession had begun.  There were the Civil Rights troubles, strident anti-communism and an economy in rapid change.  The Americans seemed to be in too many minds about too many matters.

Malik then made his statement. The USSR he said would overtake the USA in terms of economic production during the coming decade and would become the indisputable leader of world trade and finance.  It was already the leader in space and science.  It would go on to lead in manufacturing, technology, unity and culture.  The USA would be relegated to an also ran declining nation.

This was music to the ears of most of his audience.  They were looking to the East for the future.  Stalin had gone and was seen as a world hero in the defeat of Germany.  The truth about his regime was yet to emerge. The new Soviet Union would be the model for the world and they wanted Britain to be part of it.

Malik, or his hoods, did not have to worry about the questions.  The ones who were to be answered had already been picked to ensure a carefully structured and convincing session.  Miliband, so anxious to please, made the mistake of pointing to the person before they put their hands up.

I was not eligible for the reception that followed in the Senior Common Room, but before I left, I did recommend to the hoods that if they wanted to see a really good farce, to try the Whitehall Theatre.  Running at the time was the play "Simple Spymen", see Wikipedia.

It seems strange that after so long it appears that in the new Labour set up the farce goes on.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Suck It And See

There are a number of pop songs from the past that have sugar either in their titles or the lyrics.  But sugar is now on the "bad" list with celebrity cooks and others demanding taxes in order to combat the dangers of obesity, now common rather than rare.

What is not referred to so much with this health issue is that in recent decades many and various artificial sweeteners have been created that some say have the effect of making people want to eat more than they should of less healthy foods.

There may be more to that and worse if this link to Zero Hedge and the questions about endocrine disrupting chemicals argue.  It is not just sugar it is other things we have allowed into our diets.

A very firm view is that of Kathy Gyngell in the "Conservative Woman" blog who argues that home cooking, now a lost art, is the answer.  Given that most of the eateries that have replaced the butchers, fishmongers, grocers, greengrocers etc, filling our town centre, depend on processed food, even the alleged "ethnic" ones, she may have a point.

But if we do accept that there is a sugar problem however and if the price might rise to curtail demand then perhaps some lateral thinking on related matters might be considered. Douglas Carswell, love him or hate him, once a backbench Tory, now in UKIP, always ready to have a go, has directed our attention to this issue.

This post on his blog tells us that the EU are out to destroy our cane sugar processing industry in favour of the those who produce beet sugar.  What he does not mention are the wider implications.

It is already known that some territories in the Caribbean are in a bad way, notably Jamaica.  If the West Indies cane sugar producers are made to suffer for the sake of French farmers it will be worse.

One way we could help Jamaica and others is not just to oppose the EU plans and the subsidies to the beet farmers, but to direct taxes etc. against beet sugar specifically to help the cane sugar producers and to support our own industry.

The UK itself is involved in growing beet sugar but if farmers could be nudged into growing other foods it might be all to the good.  The political problem is that there will not be many votes to be won and it entails difficult debate and flying in the faces of some of best funded lobbyists.

It is likely that the Labour Party will accuse the government of stealing the kiddies sweets. All in all, a nasty taste in the mouth, but these days that could be all the preservatives and flavourings never mind the E numbers.

Christmas is coming.

Agincourt 1415

There is a great deal of comment referring to the Battle of Agincourt where some of my lot did for the French 600 years ago.  Later we lost the war under another King.  I have been there and have done a lot of reading.

The one aspect that does strike me and is argued by some historians is that the command structure of the French was absent without leave.  What is less argued is just how good the command structure of the English Army was.

One advantage of genealogy is that you have to look at who was who, who they were related to and connected with and also what they had been up to during their lives.  The picture above is of Thomas, Lord Camoys and his wife Elizabeth Mortimer.

He commanded the Left Wing of the Army, but his Knight of the Pennant (Chief of Staff) was Sir Thomas of Hoo, a capable and experienced hard case.  One of the Captains of Archers, perhaps the key one, was one of his chief tenants.

Going round the Knights and Captains, you are seeing a lot of very experienced and indeed ruthless men who know each other and have a clear idea of the chain of command and what needs to be done.  The French did not.

It is a lesson of history we too often forget and at a price.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Tick Tock

We humans in the relatively short period of our stay on this planet have been obliged to share it with many other forms of life.  The relationship has sometimes been happy for us, they have fed us one way or another.

There have been unhappy cases where the various bugs, bacteria, viruses and microbes remind us that we may think ourselves supreme but this is not the case. This link from Phys Org reminds us of one of the better known ones.

It is not simple but very complicated and ever changing.  The next plague is just the next bug bus to come along, except the bugs are more reliable than the buses.  A bug can get into one thing that is carried by another to be picked up by a human later.

When we came to live in our present home and met the neighbours I mentioned to one that it was nice to have busy grey squirrels around, it was very green and all that.

Alas, he was a naturalist who knew his nature.  I was told firmly but kindly because of my evident lack of nature that grey squirrels were rodents with habits in common with others.

Also, they were driving out the red squirrels native to our land.  This is a debate that I will not go into here.

If it was hard for me to expel all the Beatrix Potter and like ideas from my head it is much harder for many others.  Squirrel Nutkin, being red, might be another thing, but his Grey and intrusive cousins are quite another.

Recently, however, a group of University of Glasgow researchers took a detailed look at the grey squirrels to see what they might be host to.

This is what they have found that they could be an agent for carrying Lyme Disease via the ticks and mite they collect as well as the nuts. This is a serious and dangerous disease which starts with a small bite from an infected tick.

The USA Lyme Disease Association has a great deal on the subject and there are many other links.  It is not something that can easily be cured.  For many it seems to linger for very long and become almost permanent.  This posits another risk.

That the ill health afterwards may be Lyme Disease but the damage done to other body systems could leave those affected vulnerable to other problems that might not be easily detected or diagnosed.

In the UK the obvious questions are those concerning the National Health Service.  Was this one ever considered in all those planning and strategy meetings?

It is not the first time that a serious health issue has arisen with little warning and less knowledge about how to deal with it.

Keep an eye on the bite if bitten is the only advice I can give.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Addiction For Beginners

The Opium Of The Politicians

The Opium Of The Powerful

The Opium Of The Propertied

The Opium Of The Poor

The Opium Of The People

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Family Gatherings

Rumbling away in the media there is comment on what is the future for pensions and pensioners in the light of changes to come in taxation and the arrangements for people with pension "pots".  There is a good deal of opinion and not much data.

One attempt to improve the discussion comes from the "Bank Underground" blog by Philip Bunn and Alice Pugh who come to the following conclusion:


In contrast to some of the headlines surrounding the recent reforms, results from the NMG survey suggest that greater pension freedom is likely to have only a small impact on household spending.

There could be a larger impact on property investment, but many of these households could have invested in property anyway.  And for those relying on obtaining a buy-to-let mortgage, some of their aspirations may prove to be unrealistic.


Whether their view is optimistic or pessimistic depends on what you think about where money should be going in the immediate future.

Along with these matters have been the usual murmurings about the options for those in the pensions age group related to property matters and care provision.  If it is messy now it will be in the future.

It could get worse if you wait for the main item on this clip from Monty Python.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Kicking For Touch

A little time ago say over half a century when I was to be found at times on the rugby pitch one of my things was doing the kicking.  One aspect of this I did not like and that was taking a kick in the last minute or so to win or lose the game.  When this happens today my natural sympathy is with the kicker.

It is a pity that the current Rugby World Cup that promised so much has now had finishes and issues in games that have led to acrid debate and among many of the fans anger, rightly or wrongly.  I cannot say because I wasn't watching, modern rugby passes me by and there are other things to do.

One reason I do not watch is that the rules have become so complicated it is difficult to work out what is going on and why.  When there are ongoing mauls and bump and grind I wonder how it is that all those expert committees have come up with rules that cause this and incidentally create situations where there is endless scope for dispute and misinterpretation.

My view is that it is high time to look at these rules and to try to return the game to those times in the past when it was more open, tackling cleaner and safer and mauling could be curtailed.  Keep it simple and as easily understood as possible.

It is possible that the complaints around at present about the level and kind of injuries in schools rugby and the risks inherent in the game in its present form may be attributed to the same problem.  In the past I do not recall the level of injuries that appear to be the case today.

As a blog that goes in for irony there is that this much trumpeted World Cup in England has finished up with semi-finals without a home country, in which England was an also-ran and has become an arena for insult and protest.  The picture above is January 1954, England v All Blacks, I was there.

Kathleen Ferrier had a song for it, but then her father was born near Aintree Racecourse.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Beat The Drums

There has been a deal of grim reading around the web this week on the worlds finance, business and economics.  The Automatic Earth and Zero Hedge have not been pulling their punches.  Meanwhile back in the UK we seem to be happy in our own little la la lands.

The President of The Peoples' Republic of China, Mr. Xi Jinping and his wife, Madame Peng Liyuan are due to arrive shortly to be greeted by The Royal Family and our political leaders.

Mr. Corbyn is claimed to be asking about Human Rights, Messrs. Cameron and Osborne are anxious to be promised lots of loot to go nuclear and possibly a number of estate agents will have a good week.  The SNP will be giving a standing ovation.

In the meantime up North we are closing down steel making plants.  Hello China, goodbye British steel because the world markets are now dominated by what goes on in China.  For a long time now it has all been go and expansion and the UK, once the coloniser is now a colony in many respects.

There is another view on China today and in the future that is shared by others.  This from Quartz says essentially, that it is all  changing now and we do not know what is going to happen. We have had around thirty years of a growing China and its wealth that is coming to a halt.

What we do know is that one of the key services our government offers to overseas clients is financial operations of several kinds for anyone who wants them.  We are still a world centre for this and our institutions are flush with money moving through British and British related accounts.

A great deal of it is money laundering for criminals, embezzlers, tax evaders, drugs cartels etc.  You name it, Britain is doing it via the City and its dependencies.  There was a time when the words Chinese and Laundry were always together in the literal sense.

Now it is all changed and we are doing the dirty washing.  Now thrive the launderers.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Asking Wrong Questions

As the chatter about Scottish "Independence" goes on, the blithe assumption that it is all about separating from England and the other parts.  It isn't because if that does happen then how and by what means Scotland relates to the rest of the world has to be sorted out and this asks other questions.

So the real issue for those who might be allowed to vote in Scotland in reality is which group or network or federation or confederation out there in the world it wishes to become a member of.  This is complicated for a number of reasons. One is that leaving the UK means that many of the existing ties will take on a new role.

Clearly some of these choices will be more desirable or needed than others, so if they can be reduced to a handful of the obvious ones, then the vote ought to be for which set of linkages Scotland will become a part of in the future.  This would be better than simply saying goodbye UK but where do we go from here?

Because then the decision as to what world or European grouping Scotland would then become a part of is likely to be determined by a small group of political chiefs who will relate to or be under the influence of entities whose interests may not be the same as those of ordinary Scots.

The diagram above, that has been around the net for a little time looks simple but it is very complicated and difficult.  Because in the globalised world of today and communications, corporations and international interests there is no such thing as independence for anybody anywhere.

If we were talking about mature democracies of well informed voters and responsible politicians (stop giggling at the back) there would be a document spelling out the several main choices with information about their central features.  It would have to be accepted that this could mean that none achieve a majority vote.

So there would not be just one vote with an abbreviated hit or miss question, there would be a series of votes.  They would be either by gradual elimination or then limited to those options with the larger following.  This might then end with a vote between the two largest left.

Even then, there is the problem that the vote might be very narrow which may not really solve anything.  The other part of this problem is how far one side or the other or any of the differing groups are honest about what they really want for the future.

One suggestion is that Scotland might consider becoming the 51st State of the USA.  This would give them two Senators in the Senate and perhaps six or seven in the House of Representatives.  They could ally themselves to those States who are keen on States Rights.  But Scotland might be given the status of an equivalent of Puerto Rico.

It might be one of the achievements of President Hillary Rodham Clinton's second term.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Playing Legal Games

It is reported that in the High Court a judgement has been handed down to the effect that the card game Bridge, cannot be regarded as a sport because it is not physical.  The English Bridge Union went to law against Sport England because the definition mattered when it came to government grants and lottery money.

The idea of Bridge being a subsidised sport or activity in the name of British prestige etc. is fascinating.  It tells us how times have changed.  But maybe the Bridge players will find willing sponsors, Formula One motor racing is getting very boring these days.

It can be physical in many ways.  The footsie messages and tapping under the table, the dealing, stacking and shuffling the cards, the use of hands and other things were integral to winning and losing.

Imagine if televised, and I suspect that if Bridge was done on any of the Sky Sports Channels the decision would not have been the same.  The hushed commentator would be saying, Smith has just touched his left nostril with the fourth finger of the right hand.  This might mean a low club lead is imminent.

Go back to the mid 19th Century however and trawl the local papers and some of the national ones.  Sport was not as we know  now.  It was hunting, shooting and fishing.

Long reports would tell of the meets, who was out with which, what was hunted and killed.  Was Bay Middleton out with Turner Macan and The Oakley, with perhaps the Empress Elizabeth of Austria and The Prince of Wales following?

For shooting, the reports were as long and as fawning.  If one of the leading shots gunned down a couple of hundred of our feathered friends he could be sure of being regarded as an admired sportsman.  For high class fishing a trawler load of a catch could get you a headline.

Our favoured sports of today were then games or pastimes.  All very well for the lower orders and those who could not make it in accepted sports.  But many did become major sports although it took time to be recognised as such.

In the early 1950's when I first saw synchronised swimming and was told that there where hopes for it as an Olympic Sport, it was thought by many then that the idea was quite batty.  When we relaxed in a public house and played a few games of darts we never dreamed the rise of this to be one of the featured sports of our times with large crowds, big money and full TV coverage.

It is of course the money that matters, ask any golfer.  Table tennis was an interesting case.  Lawn tennis has made it into being a sport with a great deal of following, but table tennis has not.  It has many players, quite physical but without that edge on TV.  This is a game where there is no doubt about the skill and fitness needed at the higher levels.

But returning to the past, the shooters were often not too fussy about the birds that they shot.  I note that in the High Court the judge was a Mr. Justice Dove.

Pass me the double barrelled Carson.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Going Round In Circles

Came the devolution and there was to be a new dawn, a new politics, a better more open and cleaner world and all that if you believed the spin.  In Holyrood new work and duties and a new party in control were going to make it all much better.

Tell me the old old story however seems to be the one on the hymn sheet as the politicians there go into their special promised land.  But in this from Spinwatch it is the corporations and their lobbyists who are making the promises and the politicians who join them in making the gains.

It was ever thus.  When in the middle of the High Street in Ayr my ancestor finished slaughtering a sheep and spotting a small boy who looked hungry he softened.  Giving him the stomach and assorted internal organs he said to him, "Gie this to your mammy to make something to fill ye."

Much good it did him in the poem written later there is no mention of the crucial role of the Fleshers or recognition of their valuable contribution to the community.  But at least the Corporation built the Fleshers a nice new abattoir to work in.  Perhaps the boy's father had a word with the Elders.

It reduces our politics to a type of high rolling Lobby Lud game, see Wikipedia.

"You have a contract to give and I claim my billion or so pounds."

Monday, 12 October 2015

Corbyn's Royal Problem

In August 1979 the IRA murdered Lord Louis Mountbatten, then a 79 year old man, along with many others in a series of atrocities.  He was one of the Royal Family, loved, respected and admired by them for his record as a naval officer and in politics and government.

In February 1952 Her Majesty suddenly became Queen.  She had been given some preparation for this, better than many others, but was still just a young mother.  Mountbatten was one of the small group of people who helped her in the transition to Head of State.

His particular contribution was to advise her on how to handle the endless paper work and understand the questions and issues that arose.  In particular how to deal with all the many and various people she would meet in the course of her official duties.

Lord Hardinge was there to advise and assist on all matters relating to the Court and protocol, others for technical matters.  But it was Mountbatten who was the key to handling the politicians etc and public business as well as all the foreign dignitaries.

Jeremy Corbyn in 1979 was a local councillor at Haringey, a London Borough, one of those floating Left Wingers who had taken advantage of the recent reorganisations of local government which had the unintended consequence of enabling local politicians to live on their expenses and allowances.

That is, so long as they kept the groups who supported them happy.  Haringey at that time had a reputation amongst those in the trade as being a good place to avoid at all costs.  Not only were there extremists but it was highly politicised and, I quote, "the biggest shambles since Mons".

Corbyn had nothing to do with anything the extremists did.  He was simply one of the loose chatterati of the time who served as running dogs to some of the groups.  These included Irish elements who would have had contacts with the IRA.  Never in a month of Sundays would they have allowed unreliable mouthy local politicians near their operations.

But when Corbyn does meet The Queen the memory of Mountbatten will be there, as well as those of a large number of other people whose occasions of violent death that she will remember but Corbyn has forgotten.  Corbyn has the problem that whatever he said at the time and since about the murder will be known to The Queen.  But that leads to the other problem.

For 63 years Her Majesty has been one of the best informed and briefed Heads of State in the world.  Also, she does not need to remember it all because she has an archive and staff with the ability to inform her if not in minutes then within hours.  Other material and information can be sought at will.

Also, there is her other life experience.  She was trained to drive and maintain trucks.  She has deep knowledge and ability in the world of horses and the country.  There have been royal estates to manage.  She has met and talked to most of the world's leaders in her time and she has visited many places.  Again, in this public work there has been the briefings and information backup.

And she is a bright and perceptive lady.  She does not miss much and if you do want to argue with her you will need to be sure of your case and the facts or she could politely and carefully shred you.  Perhaps, like Mrs. Thatcher, Jeremy might be best sticking to the facts and getting out fast.

Or has he already chickened out?

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Where Is It All Going?

Around the world there are many who are puzzled about why the demographics do not fit with demand or spending or wage levels or labour needs.  There are many and various explanations.  One favourite is that it is hard to predict what changes will happen or how quickly they proceed.

There is another factor that seems to be ignored, picked up from the Automatic Earth via the World Economic Forum and from Project Syndicate.  John Kay, an academic of some standing says that a great deal of what goes on and has gone on in the financial sector so loving embraced by world politicians is essentially embezzlement.

That is we have stolen from the future.  The key matter in the "bezzle" is that whereas the thief enjoys the proceeds as he or she takes the money in, the ultimate loser does not realise what has happened for some time.  And when it is clear it is often difficult to work out who has taken what.

In the period between the take and the realisation that the money has gone who knows where, there is an idyllic phase when the money is theoretical and the punters play the system for all that it is worth.  Booms, bubbles and rising GNP and the rest tell us that the world is good and we are getting the best.

In our modern world a crucial difference to the past is the nature, power and extent of computer power and its impact on all parts of the financial system.  The sums of money have become bigger, far more mobile and easier to hide.

So while they are there in theory and so many of our transactions tell us that it is all happening we have lost count of what is and what isn't.  When what isn't becomes the norm and we believe all our own fictions then it can and will go wrong.

Meanwhile at the Royal Mint a gold sovereign (in theory £1) will set you back £500.  What you might get for it in the future is an open question.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Klopp's Last Take

As puns go the heading above is wince making, but it will have to do.  Largely because of what goes on in professional football these days defies rationality even more than 1950's high culture did.

It appears that Jurgen Klopp, a boy who done good in steering foreign teams to major prizes is the latest to come and probably soon go with a big pay off, at Liverpool.  Once the club would just go North of The Border for success but no longer.

This will depend partly whether the spectators in The Kop like him or not and even more whether he can at last put Liverpool back on top and rake in the loot for whoever owns the club these days.

One of the ways we have down time in the evening is to play restful music on the radio or stereo and put up the football on TV flicking around the channels to play our favourite game.

It is called "Spot The Manager".  When there is not much happening on the pitch the cameras might show managers and the task is to name him and guess who he is and the club he is managing.

Harder still, is to name and date the other clubs he has managed and the dates.  Given the whirligig of hiring and firing of recent years this is quite a challenge.  It makes a good test of how the neurones are doing these days.

Then there are the faces behind the manager and some intriguing cases turn up in strange places.  How did how get to be there and why?  When did that happen?  There are great mysteries in life.  This is not one of them but it will have to do.

But it was a twitch in the neurones at the back that brought up "Krapps Last Tape", a surreal radio cum stage play of the 1950's esoteric age.  There is a long Wikipedia article which you will not read in full.

Samuel Beckett was the author and highly praised for his insight and challenging work.  Little was rational and less was clear.  His world was a strange inexplicable place where nothing made sense or ever would.

Just like football in fact, which makes it counterpoint to Mozart.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

If It Quacks Like A Duck

Earlier this year, for better or worse, the electorate put the Conservative Party into government with David Cameron as Prime Minister.  Ordinary people, like myself, assumed that this was the deal.

But within weeks of swearing the oath, appointing a Cabinet and making key decisions, suddenly, having taken on the job Cameron announces that he is not going to see it out.

Rather like the plumber who removes the toilet seat but then fails to return after lunch to install the new one but says he has been called away to do another job.

In the Guardian today, Simon Jenkins says this is the worst mistake he has made, there are currently plenty of choices.  I would go further and say it is the worst mistake any political leader can make and agree with him that we are now landed with an administration where the major objective for those at the top is to position themselves for the changeover.

Look around the world and imagine the implications of any of the major leaders elected for a term and then saying, well, it's very hard work so I will be bunking off early to chillax on my private wealth and accrued earnings and payoff.

So we have a lame duck Prime Minister with a lame excuse for taking early retirement at a time when the UK is facing serious challenges across almost the whole field of its activity.  He is presiding over a Cabinet, many of whom will be candidates to succeed him.

Additionally, and this is very serious, we are stuck with George Osborne as a Chancellor that Cameron cannot move or get rid of.  George in the meantime is cooking the books to make sure he will be top of the candidate list cum 2018.

Governments of the past that had duff Chancellors they were stuck with all ended badly.

If you are going to go Mr. Cameron, then the sooner the better.