Friday, 17 August 2018

A Run For Your Money

Tonight, Friday, it is said that the main prize in the Euromillions lottery will amount to over £89 million pounds.

For personal reasons known only to the credit check companies, the county courts, sundry bailiffs and persons seeking me at previous addresses, I could do with a slice of the action.

So I will pledge my new trainers as security for a modest loan from a payday loan company that advertises on the net. The cash from this will be used to justify another, rather larger loan from a high street bank.

Then I shall create a new financial instrument called Trainer Bonds and launch these around the financial networks. By dint of high leverage and rapid deployment of monies plus setting up a chain of companies in offshore locations funelling funds through other centres the sums available will become very large.

So large that I will be able to outsource the calculations I need to one of the world's major computer facilities. This will enable me to be able to buy one ticket of every possible number in the Euromillions draw. This means I win. However, there appear to be one or two slight problems.

One is that the interest and charges on all the financial transactions and loans will exceed the prize money by a great deal. The other is that the capital debt cannot be repaid in any way.  In short, Trainer Bonds will have become a “toxic” part of the world’s financial system.

All is not lost, because having put the world in peril of systemic financial collapse causing the end of civilisation as we know it, but more important causing inconvenience and embarrassment to all the world’s elites, I will need bailing out.

The Fed, the Bank Of England, the EU, the Eurozone, the IMF and the rest will have to come up with a package to sort it all out. With any luck they will have to allow me to keep the prize money in order to prevent any further activity on my part.

Then I will be able to afford the new pair of trainers I need, but was unable to get because I maxed out my credit card.

Pure fantasy, of course, nothing like this could happen in real life.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Counting Down And Up

As the year 2018 begins to wind its way to its weary end, will we, won't we have a General Election, or perhaps the return of Corporal Punishment and the rest, there are predictions to be made for next year, 2019 and the doom mongers are winding up the clock.

David Olosuga in The Guardian has run a think piece to warn us of what is to come if history repeats itself or rather belches up more bad news in the shape of disturbances, revolts and trouble for us all as the strains and differences among us become more violent. He turns to the years 1819 and 1919.

He cites the Massacre of Peterloo in 1819 when the working classes went to a meeting at St. Peters' Fields by Manchester on a holiday to hear speeches by reformers wanting them to have the franchise and major political reforms.

The local magistrates holed up in an inn took fright after having a few jars and decided to send in the militia to move them on. The militia, being amateur weekend soldiers and more to the point were of the local ruling class made a mess of it. How much the regular cavalry were involved is a question for debate.

There were deaths and it made the media of its day and again arguably finally set in motion the movement to the great reforms of later decades. My initial thinking on this arose from seeing the film "Fame Is The Spur" of the late 1940's based on the Howard Spring book which took the side of the reformers.

This was in the belief that should any of my lot have been there being but humble, well not quite, workers they would have been among the mass of the people. Sadly, research has come up with one certain person present. It seems that mine was one of the officers of the Militia with a brother-in-law who was with James Skinner at the founding of the regiment Skinners' Horse in India with Arthur Wellesley, later Tory Duke of Wellington.

Which brings me to 1919 and what happened in Liverpool and Glasgow, Royal Naval ships were sent to the former and tanks to the latter as major demonstrations erupted in both cities as the after effects of World War 1 hit their economies. What is interesting about the Liverpool one is that one of the Kings Liverpool Regiment Pals Battalions had been sent to Murmansk and Archangel in support of the White Russians in the aftermath of the revolution of 1917.

It does not take much imagination to think how this went down in Liverpool a City that had given so much to King and Country only for the government to renege on its release promises to troops to assist the Tsar. It delivered a popular cause in the hands of communists and hard left interests.

But there was more to it than that. WW1 and the submarine war had meant that most of the old steamships of 1914 had gone and had been replaced by much bigger, faster merchant ships with modern engines etc. That meant the volume of imports needed a lot fewer ships and in design etc. needed far fewer dock workers to deal with them. Also, many of the old docks were too small for them so they went elsewhere and to add to the pressures fewer and modern shipbuilding yards.

What will be the issues of 2019 that will have their riots etc., where will they be and what will be the consequences? The past tells us that the actual causes may well not be predictable. We might assume in the UK that it will be London, but looking around that could be badly wrong. As for results, who knows?

McDonnell of Liverpool for Prime Minister?

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Naming Of Names

The pictures are of two brothers. The Rev. Gerald Wellesley and Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley. If Gerald Valerian Wellesley had gone into the Army and his brother Arthur had gone into the Church, what might have been the futures of India and Britain?

In previous centuries families had come and gone with the wars, conflicts and ups and downs of life. The landed classes were adept at removing each other. This made way for those who became rich, merchants and such, who bought into land.

If they then picked the right sides in politics, had enough heirs and made enough marriages to the daughters of families of high rank they could rise into the highest levels.

The marriage agreements might entail the lower order family taking the name of a higher order female. So the Colley family became at first Wesley and then amended to Wellesley.

Why has no TV company run a series about these Wellesley brothers and their sister? They were a remarkable group. Gerald was born 7 December, 1770 and died 24 October 1848.

He was the son of Garret Colley Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington and Anne Wesley, Countess of Mornington and was husband to Emily Maude Cadogan.

His brothers and sister were:

Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley of Norragh.
William Wellesley - Pole, 3rd Earl of Mornington.
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
Henry Wellesley, 1st Baron Cowley.
Lady Anne Smith.

Were Gerald's sermons about hellfire and brimstone? As delivered by Arthur?

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Double Trouble

The delightful pictures above are two stalwarts of our politics who have both done time as Foreign Secretary among other things.

The first as many will know is Boris Johnson of the present. The second is George Brown of the mid 20th Century in the time of Harold Wilson of the Labour Party.

To explain all this would take a lot of words. But is it possible that Boris of the now is the Conservative equivalent of George of Labour of the past?

Looking at the pictures and their dates could they be related?

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

The Present Is The Past

Another from the archive, 20 November 2009, a little amended to bring it up to date. It is how the EU has come resemble Europe when under the rule of the Habsburg dynasty. Some things do not change much. Quote:

Well, after all that, we are now agreed that basically, taking everything into consideration, and looking at all the options the Habsburgs were right. It is now admitted by our leaders in Europe, not all of them elected, that after about six hundred years, all those wars of ideologies, wealth and empire seeking, dynastic disputes, and sundry fighting between other groups with particular agendas were a waste of time, men and money.

If only those misguided people our forebears trusted with power in the past had just let the Habsburgs, their Emperors, Princes, Dukes and the rest get on with running the show, religion, trade, and everything we could all have lived happily ever after.

Perhaps Jean Claude Juncker and Theresa May do not much resemble King Philip II of Spain, and Queen Mary Tudor of England who married at Winchester in July 1554 (above), but they are the best Europe can do for the time being. Tony and Cherie Blair would have been a little too Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.

I will skip the complicated history of the Habsburgs, it is all there on the web and Wikipedia serves for starters.  Nor do I suggest that the various descendants of Habsburg’s line scattered about the world should be elevated to high positions in Europe.

They seem to be a sociable lot, but their heritage has meant exclusion from politics.  They could almost claim to be an ethnic group who have suffered social and political isolation and apply for the relevant grants from Brussels.

The point is that the Habsburgs, Holy Roman Emperors and all that, not only ruled much of Europe and beyond, but in the parts they did not have direct rule, exercised a profound influence over what went on.  Moreover, many went in for micro management to an astonishing degree, complaining that they were slaves to their peoples.

We can also ignore their foibles and eccentricities, difficulties in personal relationships, and consequences of genetic inbreeding. They are minor compared to those of many of the current European and UK leaders, and as for the UK we can substitute “political” for “genetic”. The effects of that are infinitely more serious and damaging to the business of ruling than the odd twitching of the DNA.

The Europe of the Habsburgs was a sprawling regime with its many parts rarely functioning in connection with the others.  It was a massive tax and wealth gathering entity which spent vast sums on prestige projects, personal palaces, and in enforcing the doctrines of which they and only they determined and defined.

It was multi layered to a bewildering and complicated degree. Most of the time of its functionaries was spend in working out who they were and what they were supposed to be doing.  If they found that out, then someone higher up would confound it, and it will all start again.

Public decrees would be made, laws and regulations issued, but how they came to be or why would be shrouded in deep secrecy, and only the powerful or the proximate would be party to any of it.

This meant that as you went down through the levels of administration, matters became slower and slower, and more uncertain. Nobody quite knew what decisions might be made and when, unless, of course, they paid good money to find out and obtain the right result.

There was a proliferation of senior, high paying, posts to satisfy the many clients of the state, and as many of the highest gathered so many of them to themselves, then there was extensive delegation to much cheaper and junior officials whose only hope of survival was to extract as much income and as quickly as possible.

The Empire had a monopoly of policing and military matters that were closely combined and under the instruction of the doctrinal and legal administrative classes, so that rebellion was prevented, and any reformers or opposition would be classed as rebellion or heresy and dealt with accordingly.

At the highest levels it was necessary to have connections and background that were absolutely correct. Without the sixteen quarterings of the right families you could neither be admitted to nor held worthy of rule.

Then it was ancestral because that was held to the test of rightness or wrongness. Today there are other tests of political correctness that amount to the same thing. They are boxes that contain the right configurations of display, beliefs, and membership.

Nobody really knew where the money went, and accounting was simply an exercise in writing fiction. Who was supposed to getting the money was one thing. Who really benefited was quite another, sometimes completely random in effect, and at others going to people who had abused every office they held.

There were some political jurisdictions which held out against the Habsburg system, but in the 21st Century by the more effective methods of modern communications and means of propaganda they have been suborned and defeated.

For almost a century Europe was freed of the last of the Habsburg heritage. But it has been too difficult to shake them off. They may not be back in person, but their political tradition has triumphed.  Their system is back, bigger and better than ever and we are all now subject.

At least we will not have dynastic or other wars. Well, not for a year or two.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Bang Goes The Weather

There is a lot of hot weather in various parts of the world. It is put down to global warming or other things. But it is a long while since we have had a really big volcanic eruption. This refers to 1816 but there was another in 1883.

Perhaps we are overdue for a big one to cool things down?

Michael Sullivan - NPR Morning Edition, October 22, 2007

The biggest volcanic eruption ever recorded in human history took place nearly 200 years ago on Sumbawa, an island in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago.  The volcano is called Tambora, and according to University of Rhode Island volcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson, the eruption is one of the most overlooked in recorded history.

Tambora's explosion was 10 times bigger than Krakatoa and more than 100 times bigger than Vesuvius or Mount St. Helens. Approximately 100,000 died in its shadow.  "The eruption went up about 43 kilometers into the atmosphere. That is about 30 miles — much higher than any airplane fly[ing] today — and emitting a volume that is about 100 cubic kilometers of molten rock in the form of ash and pumice," Sigurdsson says. "That volume is by far the largest volume of any volcanic eruption in life on earth."

Global Cooling

But it was the enormous cloud of gas — some 400 million tons of it — released by the eruption that produced the "year without summer."  When the gas reacted with water vapor in the atmosphere, it formed tiny little droplets of sulfuric acid that became suspended in the stratosphere, creating a veil over the Earth, Sigurdsson says.
This veil of gas acted like a mirror, bouncing radiation back into space and decreasing the amount of heat that reached the Earth's surface, causing global cooling, he says.  Of course, no one knew that at the time, and few people know about it even now. It wasn't until the early '80s, Sigurdsson says, that he caught the Tambora bug. In that decade, researchers taking core samples in Greenland's ice made an amazing discovery.

"You drill down through the ice, and you can count the rings just like in a tree. And people started doing research on the layers, and they found there was a whacking great sulfur concentration at one particular layer: 1816," Sigurdsson says.   "That was first evidence that Tambora had global reach … and that it was unstudied," he says, adding, "We needed to get much more info on what really happened here."

The Year Without Summer

The year after Tambora erupted, Europe was trying to cope with the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.  There was a mass demobilization of soldiers flooding into the labor market.
Patrick Webb, a dean at Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science, describes the socio-political climate after the wars.  "You had economies disrupted, infrastructure damaged, governments in limbo," Webb says. "And so the conditions were already ripe for something to go wrong."  And something did go wrong in 1816, known as "the year without summer." Temperatures dropped, crops failed and people starved.

"Hundreds of thousands of people died. People were reduced to eating rats and fighting over roots," Webb says. "Most of these people were killed by epidemic disease, [such as] typhus and other things related to starvation. They simply couldn't find enough food."   In America, New Englanders saw snow well into the summer — the average temperature in July and August was 5 to 10 degrees below normal, according to Webb.

A Bad Vintage Year

Even the wine from 1816 was bad.  Alain Vauthier, who owns one of the oldest vineyards in Bordeaux, France, keeps a fair bit of wine from each vintage in the cellar. He has an impressive collection, which stretches back to the beginning of the 19th century, but there are only a few bottles from 1816. Vauthier says that's as it should be.

"It is not a good vintage," Vauthier says. "It is a bad time, bad weather, bad summer."  Daniel Lawton is the owner of Bordeaux's oldest wine brokerage house. His assessment of the 1816 vintage is even less charitable.  "Detestable, you understand? Horrible," Lawton says. "A quarter of the normal crop. Very difficult to make good wine. Just a terrible year." All of this was triggered by a volcanic eruption that happened on the other side of the world.

Reading the Layers of Earth

For more than two decades, Sigurdsson, the volcanologist, has been gathering information from the Indonesian island. His first trip to the volcano, Tambora, was in 1986, and his most recent trip was just a few months ago. His task is made easier, he says, by the scrupulous record keeping done by the earth itself. The layers of the soil on the island are not unlike the layers of ice in faraway Greenland.

"Each layer [is] like [a] page in [a] book. These layers are really a graphic representation of the eruption," Sigurdsson says. "They are drawing out for us, writing down for us, the history of the volcano. And they don't lie." While he was digging, Sigurdsson discovered something else: artifacts and remains carbonized when Tambora erupted. He calls his excavation site "The Lost Kingdom of Tambora" — a find he also refers to as "The Pompeii of the East."

"I have studied deposits in Pompeii and Herculaneum, from the great destruction of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. [It's] the same mode of destruction, the same mode of death. But [the] difference here [is] that the human remains are much more carbonized—almost entirely carbonized," Sigurdsson says.

"The bones are a piece of charcoal," he says. That tells scientists that it was a much bigger explosion — with much higher temperatures.  The explosion was hot enough to melt glass, and it happened so fast, Sigurdsson says, that people living on the island had no chance to escape. The carbonized remains of one woman recovered at the site confirm this.

"She is lying on her back with her hands outstretched. She is holding a machete or a big knife in one hand. There is a sarong over her shoulder. The sarong is totally carbonized, just like her bones," Sigurdsson says. "Her head is resting on the kitchen floor, just caught there instantly and blown over by the flow."

The Lessons of Tambora

All the big volcanic eruptions — Tambora, Krakatau, Pinatubo — have ended up cooling the Earth, causing temperatures to drop.
And that, Sigurdsson says, has some people thinking about replicating the Tambora effect in an effort to slow global warming.
"People have proposed that we induce artificial volcanoes by bringing sulfur up into the stratosphere to produce this effect," Sigurdsson says.But, he warns, "Do you want to counter one pollutant with another one? I don't think so. But that's been proposed."

Still, Sigurdsson thinks that lessons from eruptions like Tambora can be applied to models used to study global climate change.
Global warming is viewed by many as the most pressing, most dangerous threat. But Sigurdsson warns that catastrophic climate change might come from an unexpected, yet familiar, direction.
"Somewhere on the Earth, with[in] the next 1,000 years, there will be a comparable eruption. And we'd better be aware of the consequences," he says.

He notes that another giant volcanic blast would release large amounts of gases, creating interference in the atmosphere that could cause major disruptions in telecommunications and aviation.
Sigurdsson hopes to study and learn more about Tambora when he returns next year.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Open And Shut Case

Sometimes there are stories of the past in academic etc. and related publications that could almost be headline material for the tabloid press. They do use these in some cases. For example Mail Online borrows heavily from Science Daily for some of the shock horror content.

This from Forbes via Archaeology Today has a special teeth gritting effect. It is about the curse of the mummy, so favoured by writers of the past in some of the lurid tales about that happens when the academic who opens up the tomb has a close look at the remains within.

There is it seems a rational scientific explanation. So end of story, perhaps, that is. So next time you go digging for gold and silver from the graves of those long gone beware. Stick to the financial markets.