Friday, 29 January 2016

Who Rules The World?

Looking at global wealth, trade and work raises the question of who actually rules the world and are progenitors of, or party or crucial to the real decisions that are made and how they are implemented and by whom?

We are aware that our Parliament and Civil Service is now at best a bit player in the great scheme of things.  There is the EU but this as is the UK subject to a range of international bodies.  When the chips are down in the great poker games of power it is the world big boys who deal the cards.

Douglas Carswell says re Cameron and Europe "But what about the businesses that want Britain to stay? That's true: there's Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Bank of  America - the bankers who brought us the last financial crisis, and are now trying to buy the referendum. There's the super-rich elites David Cameron was trying so hard to impress at Davos  Are these really people who have Britain's best interests at heart?"

Who are the key players at this level?  It is not as though they are a secret cabal, it is that our main stream media does not give them much if any attention.  It notices some of our leading figures and the celebrities, the footballers, the headline grabbers and the exhibitionists but not the people who really matter.

One such person is Peter Sutherland and there is a full Wikipedia article on him making clear the extent of his interests and it is not difficult to understand his involvement and influence.  Ask Tony and Cherie Blair for example.  For more about two aspects of his current work there are links:

I recall that at the LSE there was once an Environmental group concerned with the impact of population and the implications of the degradation of many of the Earth's resources.  Whether or not it was a coincidence the group disbanded not long after his arrival.  Moreover, the LSE seems to have narrowed its perspectives in a number of ways that fit in with the Sutherland thinking.

There is his role at the top of Goldman Sachs.  Looking at his time there, who else was dealing with it at the time, what it was involved in etc. would take a very long post to cover.  So what exactly is he?

He is one of the Arch Priests of Globalisation, for him it is the inevitable future, it is necessary and resistance is useless.  As an example migration means open doors, mass movements and the means to bring to an end the narrow nationalisms of the past and the structures, cultures and ways of life of recent centuries that impede global transformation.

He attended a school run by the Society of Jesus in Dublin, one of the intellectual cutting edges of Catholicism. How far he retains that faith is not known, but I recall being told that once a Jesuit, always a Jesuit in the mental structure and thinking.

I avoided the Jesuits as a youngster, but did know the Dominicans.  There are differences between the Orders and debates in the past between them have sometimes been fiery, in the literal sense.  I have no doubt that in past centuries I would have been toast.

He went onto University College, Dublin, a decent place according to family members.  Then he made a career in politics and business and moved quickly up the ladder into an international career.

What of the Sutherland name?  Long before I knew of him I had been looking for Sutherlands of the past, the family of a forebear in the early 19th Century in Glasgow then Greenock but from Lybster, up in Caithness.

Chasing names at the Public Records Office prior to the National Archive, I studied the Highland Fencible Corps, see Wikipedia, of the late 1790's.

A number of these regiments were raised at a time of war to replace the regular army at home for internal security and to deal with the added conflict in Ireland.  Some of them were sent to Ireland to put down rebellion and had Caithness recruits.

Among the Fencibles were Catholics so Scottish Catholics were putting down rebellion in Ireland to serve their King and Country.  I have a sneaking suspicion that if by wild chance Peter's forebear was one of these; some of the Fencibles did not go home, it is not something on his CV.

Similarly, if the James Sutherland of Caithness who served on HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar was one of his that might not quite match his personal sense of identity.

But to return to globalisation and Goldman Sachs, if you wonder why some of the intractable problems and massive changes taking place arise, you need to look no further than Peter and his friends and allies.

But it is no good praying for help.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

A Trillion Here Or There

The BBC1 programme on The Trillion Pound Island about the Grand Cayman, still on I Player, if interested, was one that was very irritating.

Noisy, an severe attack of "presenteritis", a yapping posh bloke, meeting very important people who said little, flirting with sting rays who might have helped by stinging him, and condescending to the viewer and the lower orders, missed all the real targets.

It managed to make the business of tax avoidance glamorous and desirable while leaving us to think that all we have to do is abolish them to get the money to stave off austerity and avoid all the very difficult issues and decisions that need to be made for our futures.

One minor clip may me wince, heroically going up to the window of a large office block in the middle of town he fled crying "there is a big room full of desks, they are all empty" giving us the impression that the Kraken had been in town.

Doh, the building is full of new computing systems and the one time clerks etc. are all gone and part of the lost middle classes.

A large intelligent security man who had my every sympathy asked him what he was doing but did not get much sense.  Instead of talking to high up's like the Governor, a British Government stooge, and the Prime Minister, and mostly very rich people he might have asked others such as those in Britain affected by all this and the actual menial low wage people on the island.

Tesco was mentioned, so what about one of its suppliers who have been unable to extract payments?  Barclays, also, how about one of the many business borrowers who have been ruined?  Manchester United, so here am I, after a life time antipathy, feeling for their fans who can no longer afford to go to games.  But who were not mentioned?

HSBC, does the B now stand for "Bent"?  Deutsche Bank, forecast to cause the next big crash and owner of a huge number of UK freeholds of leasehold properties and stinging them rotten?  UBS, well I never.  Last but far from least Goldman Sachs, the Vampire Squid itself, allegedly.

The tax haven history, inevitably, is a long and complicated story.  You need to know about Lord Cameron Cobbold and Sir George Bolton of the Bank of England in the 50's and 60's.  This was a high tax age and in foreign affairs the American's were in charge and the Caribbean was in their back yard.

These were people who regarded themselves as New Age "Merchant Adventurers" destined to restore British leadership in world trade and finance and most of all prestige and the primacy of the City of London in economic and financial affairs.

Well, we know what happened next.  Another matter is what is the "now" exactly?  Both The City and the world of finance and banking is very different from what is was and is still changing and not just because of events in the last decade.  Looking at Switzerland, for example, once home to a network of private banks, they are now down to a handful in number with recent failures.

The programme did mention that Grand Cayman was still marked by the legacy of Hurricane Ivan of 2004 when it was one of the hardest hit places, low lying it was swamped by high seas.  The hurricane seasons have been quieter recently, but there is always that risk.  The Islands are close to the Grand Cayman Trench, with its several dormant/extinct (?) volcanoes.

But it will not need a major geophysical event to cause big trouble.  The real problems lie in the whirring high powered computers in the office blocks that dominate the landscape.

And not even the polite security man can do anything about it.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Is Anybody There?

When we came to this town one reason was the shopping was convenient.  There was plenty of choice in the town centre and around.  Now it is much changed and what might have been routine shopping is very different.

Many places were put out of business by the new big stores that the Council grovelled to have built but now the big boy chains are also closing stores.  So shopping is now not so much the exercise of rational choice as the hurly burly of an overcrowded mega shed or finding, something, anything on the web.

This sad story comes from America where Walmart having achieved monopoly status in many communities is now pulling out because profits are down and they have gone into overstretch.  So big that was supposed to be better has turned out for the worse.  Over in the UK, Tesco, once alleged to be customer friendly has become distinctly one to approach with care.

Then there are the telephones. Here we learn that Currys, PC World and Vodaphone, all taken over are to be turned into one shop stores and that means a lot of shops must go.  One interesting phone question is who you are with, is it who you think it is?

This was sent to me as an illustration:

1995: BT & Securicor create Cellnet.
1999: BT buy out Securicor and rebrands as BT Cellnet
2002: BT Cellnet spun off from BT & renamed as O2
2005: O2 sold to Telephonica for £18bn
2014: BT in talks to buy EE
2015: O2 sold to Hutchison Whampoa Limited (owners of 3) for £10.25bn pending regulatory approval.
2016: Sale of EE to BT for £12.5bn approved by Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Approval of sale of O2 to Hutchison Whampoa Limited, which is in the hands off Brussels, still pending.

There are times when I feel that we are all back in the jungle.  The trouble is that now we are the prey and the predators are big and getting bigger.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Burns Night Revised

An unintended consequence of revisions to benefits policy is that those who enjoy multi partner marriages will now be better off.  Burns Night is upon us, so every true Scot, if there are any left, will find a reason to eat and drink.  Of course, time and tide move on so the past is no guide.

It is a question that if the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians had embraced polygamy in Scotland after the Reformation, his life might have been much less complicated and difficult.

Perhaps given the changes that have occurred and those which will happen it is time to revise some of the details of the festival to allow for both the present and the future.  The first issue is, of course, the haggis.  That which was the pride of my ancestral fleshers of Ayr must go.

Vegetarian Haggis was recommended by the Wee Guardian of Faringdon Road, London, last year. It should meet most, if not all, the requirements of the various diets allowed to the peoples of Scotland and beyond.

After all London is no longer a British city and all the Scots that once were there are no longer owning up to their origins.  The tatties should be boiled down to a mush that can be eaten with the fingers but it may be best to replace them by a nice dressed salad.

Then there is all the other business of The Night.  There are regiments of the Indian Army who have fine bagpipers should there be not enough Scot's these days and using a laptop and the web would be a step too far. Also, Skinner of Skinner's Horse was of Scots origin.

For the poetry, perhaps instead of the well worn Burns there could be extracts from The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi (various spellings), preferably the part Turner Macan edition of the 1820's in the original Persian published in Calcutta.

This could be along with tales from the Arabic version of the Arabian Nights picked up by Macan during his travels in Egypt and later used by Richard Burton, the explorer.  Macan is an ancestor of the present Earl of Home and his wife, Harriet, had a Nesbitt grandmother, so that's alright then.

Of course there would be no alcohol, perhaps coconut milk laced with strong spices or some fruity soda water or even hot cocoa.  It would make a change.  Here's to the future!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Making Modern Myths

You do not need me to repeat the message that in terms of world politics, economics, finance and our futures among the top critical factors are energy and to a great extent that means oil.

Today in "Energy Matters", Euan Mearns has a long hard essay on the subject of "The Myth Of US Self Sufficiency In Crude Oil", link below but the conclusion is here:



Contrary to general belief, and mis-information by the media the US is far away from being “energy independent” in terms of crude oil imports.

Maybe some may find the above analysis statistical hair-splitting but the narrative of US energy independence has shaped public opinion to such an extent that prudence has given way to complacency.

There is a danger that wrong geo-strategic views are formed, especially in the context of evolving and worsening conflicts in the Middle East.

It is not clear why the media are spreading confusing, incorrect or even wrong facts on oil supplies.

Is it lack of time to check statistics, is it parroting of what others have repeated many times, or is there a deliberate attempt to embellish things. Perhaps just wishful thinking?

And where is the responsibility of the media? Oil is not about entertainment but the lifeblood of our economy. And last not least, biased or ignorant reporting leads to wrong decisions to build new oil-dependent infrastructure.


In the second half of this quote he says the media is failing badly to do the basic job.  But it is not just in energy that this is a problem.

As I look round much of the media I see time and again matters where facts are not checked for, proper research not done, quick and hasty opinions are expressed to suit whoever has to be pleased and sometimes the public is being actively misled.

All too often the reporter, sometimes deemed "expert" does not know what they are talking about.  While often simply a nuisance and tiresome, sometimes it can be dangerous.

If you do have time and want to see the article this is the link.  If "Energy Matters" is right or nearly right and the media, the politicians, the public and indeed administration are wrong and badly wrong then it will not be good.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Iconoclasts Rule OK

There has been an ongoing discussion about removing statues and memorials to persons of the past whose views are not in accord with those of larger or smaller groups of people of the present.

It is claimed that any group or even person who feels offended should have the right of removal.

There is one person, famous in his day, who has been held in esteem by many and has statues put up in his honour in great places to promote his ideas and persuade people of their worth.

But there are aspects to his work that should make us think.

He was central to the foundation of an organisation known as The Society for the Suppression of vice which became of high standing and a major influence on policy in its time.

Their purposes included:

The hounding and gaoling of sex workers.
Abolishing and penalising the enjoyment of alcohol.
Tough laws against atheists and other non-believers.
The banning of all non-Christian publications.
Banning the innocent amusements of gambling.
Stopping contraception and the teaching of human biology to the lower classes.

Among other similar idea's being highly restrictive of diversity in religion, belief and our modern norms of society.

For many it must be intolerable that a man not just holding views of this kind but promoting them widely should now be respected or celebrated.

Take down the statues of William Wilberforce.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Thinking Capped

Today there was a lot to do, so I thought something light and not too demanding might be the thing.  Then I recalled some sites left aside in the last few days and had a look, big mistake.

This turned up on the Bank of England Underground site dealing with "Extracting Insight From Complexity" which to say the least is testing.  At the end it contemplates running the economy from a bank of monitors in Star Trek style.

So I wonder about all those journalists and pundits who are now in a high fever of excitement about what is happening in the markets, trade, politics and the rest.  There is a sneaking suspicion that they are not entirely up to this kind of thing.

This is the abstract, quote:

The financial system is complex and highly interconnected.  Indeed, interactions between agents are key to its functioning.  But these interconnections have the potential to turn small shocks into systemic crises.

Understanding the complex nature of these interconnections is important, but can also be difficult. In this post we introduce new tools designed to analyse the financial network and help analysts build a better understanding of risks posed by interconnectedness.
I think I will go for a quiet lie down before tea.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Trump Card

Like him or not, Mr. Donald Trump is taking the prize for publicity in the Primary early stages of selection for the Republican Party candidacy in the coming Presidential Election.

At the moment he seems to have the knack of turning the bad into, if not good, then a means of projecting himself.

But this has  tickled the memory of a long ago story that was made into a very watchable and entertaining film.  It is "The Card" by Arnold Bennett, born in Hanley, one of the Five Towns now Stoke on Trent, nine years before my maternal grandmother.

It tells of Edward Henry Machin, known as "Denry" who rises from poverty to local greatness as a result of the imaginative reworking of documents, crafty schemes, an eye for the main chance and above all knowing how to get the right publicity.

Grandmother recommended the Bennett novels as good reading for me, in particular "The Card", perhaps to encourage me to rise to greater heights than expected by ordinary means. There are times when I think she was probably right.

It is possible, just possible, that if Donald keeps up the Denry strategy he might emulate him.  So the Primary election results soon from Iowa and especially New Hampshire could be very interesting.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Sail Away

If you take a walk along the Regent's Canal in Islington, in some places it is scenic, others it is not.  There are quite a few boats on it, some providing living quarters for the local proletariat, whose Member of Parliament is Jeremy Corbyn.  His musings on matters maritime have made the headlines.

Just as old coal barges are now snug homes his vision is that the Trident missile submarines can be converted to new underwater coal barges to help the reopened coal mines of Scotland to export to Islington, although I doubt they will use the canal.

As a result of the last Labour Government's ideas about big boats we will have two large aircraft carriers without aircraft.  Between these and disarmed Trident vessels they will cost more than the rest of the navy put together, what is left of it.

But think of the jobs it will save and the skills retained from the past and not least the Trade Unions that represent them and pay for the upkeep of The Labour Party.  But why stop there when there are wider fields to conquer?

Restore the manual typewriter is my demand.  Recreating offices with all that paperwork will give a huge boost to both employment and GDP.  A boom in new offices for all those filing cabinets and all the people to make use of them will transform both the property market and the labour market.

Giving away free manual typewriters will spur a transformation of our culture.  It will release millions from the tyranny of computers, dodgy software and the endless long hours of work in social media and exchanging information.

The benefits accruing will mean a new generation of boats, oops ships, for our Royal Navy as in the picture above, underwater surface vessels that are propelled by steam turbine, or even oars persons.

All together now, "Sons of the sea, bobbing up and down like this.......".

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Changing Places

You may recall that this one has suggested that it was not entirely a good idea to write off the Labour Party, Corbyn and all, because elections are often lost by governments rather than won by the opposition.

With the Conservative Party it has managed to cut its own throat in the past and clearly has the capacity to do it in the near future.  One reason is Europe.

Exit, Flexit, Brexit, is there anyone who get's it?  The debate is becoming very rough and ready.

Peter J North sticks the boot in to Fraser Nelson of The Spectator.  Mr. North's style is usually vigorous but in this case may have its reasons.  His point is that a lot of what is alleged to be EU is not, it is international agencies.

Christopher Booker in The Telegraph is among his links trying to make this clear today, the 17th January.   The diagram above is the briefest of summaries in all this.

They are trying to make it simple for us to understand.  It is in fact much worse.  During the Scottish Referendum London was saying that there are around 14,000 treaties, agreements and obligations that we are bound by internationally.

This may be an over estimate, but a large figure could be the case because of the extent of activity over many decades.  The Foreign and Commonwealth offices have kept themselves busy for a long time in making concessions to avoid media embarrassments.

We could find ourselves in the position of needing a revolution but if we don't do it then someone else certainly will.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Turn Of The Tide

Globalisation was supposed to bring us all untold benefits, we were told.  It would make us all richer, happier and create a stable world economy that we might all enjoy.  The basis is all this was to be trade and the freeing of the movement of money.

It has turned out that the money and its movement, shifts and devices became more important than anything else and the trade became not so much free but simple pieces on the world chessboard of money and largely directed by governments.

As I rambled round the web this week I came across the astonishing news that for the first time on record there were no cargo ships plying between Britain and America.  Allied to this it seems that the Baltic Dry Index which relates to freight rates has fallen to a low level.  Normally, this is bad news.

The means of moving freight large scale has changed a good deal over recent decades.  Today, far more goes by air.  The trade by sea is now largely done in container shipping in huge vessels working between a limited number of large entrepot ports.

All this has gone on almost unnoticed because we have long taken freight for granted.  All those programmes about steam railways deal with the passenger traffic.  The debate on London airports is dominated by talk about tourism and business needs.

How often do we hear government or politicians being anxious about the movement of freight, apart from when it snows or truck accidents block motorways or tunnels?  In the many and various forms of business media etc. how much attention is given to the movement of freight?

The wealth of the developed world in the last two centuries was largely built on the extent and nature of its trading in goods, foods and commodities. During the later part of the last century we began to disregard this and look on it as secondary to other interests.

In the UK much of our once basic industry has gone and we are now in deficit, and increasing rapidly, in manufactured goods.  The ones we are buying are coming less and less from America.  The trade with Europe exists, but given the loss of interest by the EU in the basic mechanics of trade and freight this will decline.

As the disruptions to economies, finance, trade and all else involved continue in the coming years it will be too late to try to build a real and effective trading future.  But we are told that somehow we can survive as a wealthy nation.

We will not and the question will then be how rapid and how bad will be the descent into poverty and subjection.

Try this for a blow of air the picture above is of the ship "Lady Lilford" that really did go to South Australia.  I have the Master's sea chest by me as I type.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

What's In The Pot?

Age shall not wither, but it will bring forward the question of your pension, if any.

The complexity of the matter is dealt with in the web site, Political Betting, by Andrew Meeks.  He has done his best to keep it brief and easy to read, but it still takes a longish, closely written article.

If you are looking forward to a pension or even backward to the choices still possible this is not for the nervous.

It may be no good asking for more.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Click And Watch

There is a lot of gloom and doom out there, just the thing to start a new year.

To cheer you up, with the collapse of the economy in Nigeria we could be welcoming very many from there in the near future.  It will give the other recent migrants some company.

Perhaps we should be hoping for a sharp, sustained and substantial rise in oil prices.  But this is not the point of this post.

You are being watched is what Bruce Schneirer is telling us today in "The Internet Of Things That Talks About You Behind Your Back".

It is not as simple as that.  We are being logged, analysed and archived for all sorts of commercial and other uses.

The extent goes far beyond what was once the stuff of spies and old fashioned intelligence agencies.

It is called cross tracking.
By the way, the sausages in your fridge need eating and its time you washed the bed sheets. 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Tuning Up The Past

As time begins to take more of the generation of pop music and culture favourites of the period 1965 to 1990, two things are happening.  One is that the main and legacy media will go into overdrive and the other that many will complain that other, often serious, news is obliterated.

But what is forgotten about the personalities of that period and the pre-eminence of their position is that in the 50's there was only one TV channel with limited hours, in the 60's two then three, but the third BBC2 doing little in the way of pop music and then only in 1984 did a fourth come on screen, but again then not heavily into pop music.

Essentially, there were just two TV channels covering pop music and not a great deal of it, so there were only the few rather than the many who could achieve fame and following and they owed it all either to ITV or the BBC or both, if they were lucky.  For the fortunate ones who made the "star" grade, they were then pushed and pandered to at the same time.

What might have happened if the politicians and the BBC and ITV monopolists had been defeated and multi-channel TV had become the norm by the end of the '60's?  Had there been several channels or more if some had been devoted to pop and other musical forms, e.g. jazz and folk channels, what would have been the result of competition?

What I do recall is that during that period and before, locally across the country there were many and various groups and singers, some of which were very good, who never got the call.  For The Beatles, for example, the role of Brian Epstein in working the system is recognised in getting them into the charmed circle.

Had there been a lot more TV on offer with a great deal more time for pop and related music, some specialising in pop music, some local and many channels always actively looking for wider choices, the whole scene would have been very different.

The "star" system that was imposed by the BBC and ITV could not have functioned and the press and other media could not have fed on the easy pickings it offered.

If the teenagers of that period had been given extensive choice and become used to competition and effectively making their own decisions what might have been the long term effect of this?

Take A Swiss Role

The recent flooding in the UK has sparked a great deal of debate about why it has been so bad.  The sight of leading politicians paddling about in their designer rubber boots burbling on about spending and doing something has been little short of pathetic.

One feature of this is the allegation that the relevant department, located next door to the National Union of Farmers, is unwilling to listen to other interests.  They have tied up Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and those before her.

But none of this is new either in the UK or elsewhere.  It might be as well that instead of arguing about what is happening in our back yard it could be useful to look at other places that have tried to address these problems.  Switzerland, for example, over a period of 200 years cut down much of its forests.

The challenge of biodiversity is discussed in this article in Swiss Info which refers to the experience of the Swiss and how they go about it.  Towards the end it mentions that 150 years ago the kind of flooding occurring in the valleys and flatlands forced them to deal in detail with the causes.

There must be something to learn here.  The picture above is Murren in the Bernese Oberland and the place to go if you want to visit the Schiltorn, we once enjoyed a ham and egg breakfast at the top.  The Eiger and the Jungfrau are near.

But it took the Swiss some time and their view is that there is a lot to be done in the future.  Our problem is that the people dealing with it in the UK are not looking further than the next government reshuffle.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Doffing The Mortar Board

Universities and such are not the same as when I were a lad.  Here in the UK there are many more of them.  Around them all, old and new there are a variety of forms of study and of ways and means of getting this or that qualification.

It was not simple then and it is a lot more complicated now.  But a question is arising about what they are becoming as we move on into the 21st Century. At one time we had the notion that in such places there would be many and various ideas and continuing debate about knowledge.

Along with all these changes have been radical changes in the way they are financed, how studies are paid for, who they are owed to and who might own the ideas.  In some senses they have been encouraged to become more business like and adopt methods and organisations derived from current management theory.

What is lost in all this?  It could be a great deal.  It might be that the ideas of university education, its purpose, what can be done and said and the way "research" is done, proposed and used could be very different from the past.

This article in Open Democracy on the subject of The Corporate University And Its Threat To Academic Freedom refers to one in New Zealand as an example of what is happening on a much larger scale.

It is longish and closely argued but when it suggests that public relations and conformity of ideas have become crucial to the function of many them, if that is the case, then what are universities for?

Are they becoming simply academic pipelines to produce, sort and allow an identikit population to service higher end management and control of the economy?

Friday, 8 January 2016

Germany Calling

In 1945 Cologne was called "the world's greatest heap of debris" as a result of bombing by the RAF and later fighting between the US and German armies.  It took some time for it to become a working town and in that period was not a safe place to be for anyone, along with many other places in Germany.

When I was last at the railway station in the mid 1980's things were different, it was just another town and by then a prosperous one priding itself on its culture and its return to some sort of normality.  It has now become a media flashpoint because of the attacks by groups of recent migrants on women.

But back in the 1940's and 1950's I recall that in general it was thought for women to be about alone or in small numbers at night was a risk in many places.  Prowlers or alcohol fuelled males after pub's closing times, ten or half past, could be around.  This was not new.

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt is one of forgotten figures of the late Victorian and early 20th Century.  A poet, philosopher and writer he was a fierce critic of Imperialism and government.  Also, he was a friend of Winston Churchill and had a long term relationship with the lady from Liverpool Catherine Skittles Walters who counted Edward, Prince of Wales among her admirers.

When Gladstone's Cabinet was staggering into Egypt in the early 1880's on the excuse of bringing better government Blunt famously remarked that it was safer for a woman at night to walk the streets of Alexandria and Cairo than it was from King's Cross to The Strand.

If you know London, you will be aware that Faringdon Road is one of the major streets on that route.  In Blunt's time the district was a centre of the sex trade replete with slums and lodging houses for jobbing labourers.  It is now home to Guardian Newspapers, the beacon of what is thought proper by many today, so perhaps not much has changed.

In the Guardian today, Gaby Hinsliff excuses these events in Cologne and tells us that these young men are essential to Europe because they are needed to pay for all the pensioners we have with the ageing population.  It is the old saying that omits a few things that do not square with that.

One is that the way things have turned out is that the older generation is the one where most of the wealth is to be found.  Also, it has many on pensions which are funded, that is out of savings.  Add to that there seem to be quite a number of pensioners doing "little" jobs, largely because they are capable of it.

Also, in Europe and the UK around the equivalent of four to five age cohorts of young people have been removed from the labour market to feed the politically powerful education industries.  At the end of this some are unemployable.  Moving numbers of them into training in work might give better results.

But this is neither popular nor easy, just as putting back the age for pensions entitlement, an issue that has been ducked for decades because of the political problems. The Tories may be going for more apprenticeships etc. for the young but are making a mess of organisation and funding.

One answer from the Labour Party to help our young in the lower orders rise in status and wealth is to force the private education sector to open up their courses to all in, wait for it, drama, arts and the media.

I have a vision of old age pensioners being herded into local halls to watch hours of Samuel Beckett, say "Waiting For Godot", to remind them of who is paying their pensions.

As for the recently arrived young male migrants the great majority will not be on incomes that pay much tax, if any and if it is paid.  Even those, perhaps a small minority, actually paying national insurance, gives a minor take.  A good many are in cash in hand work and in any case see their duty as paying remittances to families back home.

The dark side of the events in Cologne and the smaller scale ones now endemic in many urban areas and the motives and beliefs of those involved, is that it is going to become much more common, almost a norm and our idea of a free for all society can be forgotten.  As Blunt was trying to say, there was a price to be paid and we would be unwilling to pay it.

Some whose views have been regarded as unwelcome have tried to point out that if there are surpluses of loose young males around of any kind whose ideas do not match what is thought right by others and they are beyond effective control then things will happen.

When they do the outcry is likely to be a blame game that misses the obvious.  Also, the chatter is going to be in terms of generalised thinking and any study of the detail and what happens at critical margins is ignored.

Last but not least are the worrying trends that suggest that the Western economies in their size and coming structure may no longer be delivering employment as in the past.  Not only fewer jobs but falling real earnings may become the norm.  Also, there will be a cull of the middle classes.

What the political effects of all this might be can only be guessed, but the past will be of little help.  We have sown the wind.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Random Connections

Today, 7 January, The Automatic Earth did not post a set of links but put up a single article titled "China, Oil And Markets: It's All One Story".  Not too long and readable in clear prose.

It is here and you may or may not agree.  If the writer is right or even only half right we are in for another rough ride and the drivers have lost control of the steering.

In the meantime one item of big news is the coming TV programme about the late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and the late Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, born Warfield.  The headline in The Mail said that the progamme suggests they were rivals for the affections of King Edward III or third.

He died in 1377, but Elizabeth was born in 1900 and Wallis in 1896.  I know that theories about people living many lives are in favour at present, but this seemed a little improbable.  But I was reminded that perhaps The Mail meant King Edward VIII or eighth, confirmed by a later change.

They both lived long lives in which near halves of which were a kind of detached existence from what might have been but apart from what was.  So we remember them mostly as old ladies with their respective eccentricities.  I think the programme is fiction and Edward's attentions elsewhere are well known.

Had King George VI lived thirty more years, we might remember Elizabeth as one of the great Queen Consorts of history.  Had Wallis been able to ditch Edward and later play a full part in the war effort she may have achieved another status altogether.

It depends how we see things and this article by Monica Threlfall asks questions about how youth unemployment is measured.  If she is right all those figures we are being given are open to question.  Given the serious doubts now about almost any official figures from anywhere it is difficult to know what to think.

Which takes us back to the article at the top of this post and what is happening in the markets.