Thursday 30 April 2009

Putting Pensions In The Pot

Evening Standard 29 April 2009 - Section
“Darling Hints At Pension Cuts In The Public Sector”

Before his expected grilling by the Treasury select committee, Mr Darling faced severe criticism of his new 50p rate for those earning more than £150,000 a year, as he answered questions at the Institute of Directors’s annual convention.

He said he had no choice because of tumbling tax revenues caused by the near-collapse of the banking sector and the recession generally.

When asked about concern among businessmen that their private pensions were being slashed while the public sector was getting generous terms, Mr Darling suggested reforms were being lined up.

He signalled that although current teachers, nurses and police would hold onto their pension deals, future employees may be a target for cuts to make the country’s books balance. “There has to be equity where people are employed in the public or private sector,” he said. “It comes down to a sense of fairness. You have also got to be fair to existing scheme members whether you are in the private or public sector — people build up an expectation — you’ve got to have regard to that.

“But as I said, looking ahead over the next few years, we have to make sure that we live within our means. You do need to take sensible decisions, whether it’s pensions or anything else. You just need to be fair when you do these things.”

Although some changes have been made to public sector pensions, any move to unveil radical reform is sure to meet angry protests from trade unions.

Demetrius to Martin Wolf of the Financial Times 27 May 2003 – Last Part
(Note RIP is Retired Idle Parasite)

HMG (the government) are not going to do much about this. Firstly if you get a tame researcher to comb out the careers of many of the Labour members of the government and the House of Commons, you will find a good many who were employed one way or another in the public sector, and who have built up their own handsome entitlements additional to their parliamentary benefits.

Look closer, and amongst their families there is a remarkable proportion also at work in the public sector. For the Tories, it is more complicated. They need to win votes and outbid the Liberal Democrats, and the RIP’s, unlike the young clubbers, are still inclined to cast a vote, and will change their mind at the shake of a subsidy. There are few politicians now without a second or third home, and with other properties in their portfolio, it all helps to push up the prices, of course.

And now there is a fourth item to enrage the RIP, it is the cost of Council Tax and the worry about the effects of the coming revaluation. The pensions element in this is barely mentioned, being lost in the welter of allegations and initiatives.

There could be worse to come, there is a fifth out there, the Kraken about to wake. It is a budget deficit and state financial imbroglio so large that the Chancellor will have to legislate to suspend the automatic inflation proofing of state pensions, and to embargo the similar provisions for public sector pensions.

Have a piece on file on this one, because people will be really excited. If the government has to sell the BBC as well, it could be all a lot more entertaining than the programmes.

Demetrius to the “Ecologist” Competition Entry January 2007
Final Paragraph

Our world is urbanised and becomes more and more dependent on very complicated means of distribution based on monetary systems and means of finance that are a chimera. This is the Grand Illusion, that all is financially the best in the best of all the monetary worlds. It is just as vulnerable as any tectonic plate, sun burst, or weather system, and is different in that it can collapse in the short period rather than the long. What could happen might be a reversion to a previous world, perhaps another nasty form of tribal warfare on our unwelcoming planet, or to bands of a few hunter gatherers striving for survival in one or other territory? The one certainty is Chaos and in that event Catastrophe may be the saving hope. If Geophysics fails to get us first, and we are left to our own devices, one major systemic financial failure might be enough to do it. The consequences will not be foreseeable, will not smell nice, and almost certainly will be contaminated. So our future will be a past, only one that is more dangerous and more difficult, because in our time we have expended already all our alms for oblivion.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

We Know Where You Live

This blog seems to have a thing about pigs. There was a post on Three Naughty Pigs in March, relating to Global Justice, and in February a post on the Economic Theory Of The Day, expounding the Das Fleigen-Schwein Theory that all governments base their economic policies on the assumption that their pet pigs will fly, a belief that is invariably wrong.

Now it has all become very serious indeed. It was predicted, of course, because after the North Carolina swine epidemic of 1998 scientists have known about the rate of mutation of viruses, and the risks inherent in modern intensive factory farming, most of all in poor and overcrowded conditions across the USA and in many other countries.

But with Government and Pharma’ and Chemicals devoted to treatments and cures, with expensive programmes and expenditures, and not to causes or prevention, sooner or later something was going to get loose somewhere. What could not be predicted was just where and just when. Books have been written, talks have been given, but still in the USA, the pig population has gone from 53 to 65 millions in forty years, but the hog farmers down from one million to 65 thousand. Much the same has happened elsewhere, and in the UK.

So for long the Quango’s, Agnecies, NGO’s, lobbyists and companies have been blessed with funds, their shareholders and executives being as happy, well, as pigs rolling in (cough cough) now the (cough cough) has hit the air conditioning. The politicians rush smirking to the TV to claim the wonders of their planning procedures, and men of science, LO!, Sir Hugh Pennington, Lord High Shampoo Sniffer himself! assures us that all will be well, if we take enough petro-chemical based medication.

Unluckily, the dead will not be able to appear on the talk shows, nor will few of the people more seriously affected one way or another by the shambles that is likely to result. We have been told that tourism on the back of the cheaper pound will restore the economy. Not if the mortuaries begin to fill it up it won't. On that subect during the long Millennium holiday they did fill up and the deceased were literally piling up in the cold stores. A big rise in the death rate will impact on the property market. The spinning is already getting more serious by the minute. In the meantime the Ludwig Von Mises site cheerfully discusses the validity of secession by individual states of the USA, 90% of the English want to be rid of the Scots, Iceland wants to join the EU, possibly the day before the Euro system collapses, and around the world a lot of the more recently created nations are looking shaky.

So what is the big deal in the markets? Well, it is said there could be a bull market that will kick start the property market and expansion of credit. They say it will be in government bonds according to many economists and the FT. If you believe that you should try going on a diet of pork chops and bacon butties.

Sunday 26 April 2009

Play Up Play Up And Play The Game

It can happen that there is a time in the match when the realisation comes that the game is lost, and the cause is hopeless. You are going to be beaten, and the only question is by how many. If you are taking a hammering, then how do you react and to what purpose?

A team in this position can easily slip into a continuing dispute of recrimination and carelessness, concentrating only on avoiding individual blame, and trying to ensure that other team members will be the ones humiliated and scorned. If this occurs then the defeat will be bad, the score against you very high, and the bitterness of the memory will live on for a very long while.

Another response is to just begin to go through the motions. If defeat is certain, then why really bother? You will be only wasting energy and risking injury. In this case things might get a little petty, much time will be wasted, and in some cases there might be an inclination to indulge in some nasty vindictive play.

It is possible, whether by team spirit, or leadership, or sheer contrariness to refuse to accept the inevitable, and to dig in, keep at it, and try to finish at least with some dignity intact. You might even upset the odds, Agincourt comes to mind. Probably you will still lose, but then you put it down to experience, and next time round it will be all very different.

So as far as the UK political economy is concerned, there’s a breathless hush in the close tonight, so will it be Vitai Lampada, or will it be the Retreat From Moscow?

Thursday 23 April 2009

Les Fleurs Du Mal

More on the way we live. Slinking through town, trying to avoid the many charity collectors, I saw someone from up the road leaving a florists shop. She was one of a couple who bought at the top of the market and had spent a lot of borrowed money on improvements. The front garden was turned into hard standing for the three cars, his, hers, and the big one for the dogs. At the back what did not go under the decking became a barbecue picnic area where they spend happy hours carbonising organic sausages and hand made burgers.

She had bought some flowers, probably farmed in central Africa on irrigated land owned by a company based in the Cayman Islands, purchased from a government agency funded by British development funds and staffed by former peasant tribes dispossessed by law. The flowers will have been conveyed by air freight operating on a just in time distribution system associated with a major trucking firm. As she was leaving, the florist gave the lady’s flowers a good going over with a spray can of fragrances that looked suspiciously like a male deodorant.

The florist continued to spray the outside flowers, and then went inside to give all the stock the same treatment. Not that it was needed because there were a number of air fresheners dotted about. Taking my life in my hands and putting my head through the door, I asked her about the flowers, then about the spray. It seems that despite the flowers being developed for a scent much stronger that in the past, it is not enough, and lasts but days, not weeks. The customers now want flowers that smell strong until the last leaf has withered on the stem. So she sprays them. An antibacterial is in the mix, and in the air freshener, it seems the customers don’t like the idea of bacteria on or near flowers.

The florist then started to cough, took out a packet and popped a pill, then gave her mouth and throat a good go with an inhaler. Enquiring if it was hay fever, she told me that her doctor had diagnosed asthma with a chest infection, and had been on antibiotics for over a year. Especially as she now had IBS. Eager to avoid any more medical revelations, I withdrew, muttering polite phrases. But I was anxious to be out. I had recognised the air freshener and knew its antibacterial. Not only is it a biocide, capable of taking out all the bodily bacteria in the stomach and the gut, bad, good, or critical to function, but it acts as an effective spermicide as well.

As I went past the window of the shop, I saw the big notice put up to bring in the passing trade. It said “Say It With Flowers”.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Counting Them Out And Counting Them Back

It is sometimes in the idle moments that you learn things. I spend a lot of time in idleness, so I can claim to be a man of learning. With our modern railway stock the art of train spotting is no longer much fun, it is more interesting to wander up to the motorway and lean over the bridge watching the truckers tangle with teenagers out of control, many waving their arms to the beat of the music, mingled with peering pensioners unable to admit that they cannot see quite as well as they used to. It gives me my fix of Schadenfreude on the cheap.

Sometimes we have to drive along the motorway ourselves, and when it the turn of my CEO to take the wheel; we share to keep up our skills; I can do the truck spotting up close. For anyone wanting to show off as an inveterate know-all you need to be able to identify the country and district of origin of every vehicle you encounter, truck or car. It is not difficult these days, and on a boring run, can be set to a plainsong chant just for fun, and to drown out the heavy bass from passing teenagers.

What I have noticed in the last eighteen months or so is the radical shift the balance of numbers between trucks from different countries. This morning, I ran a check on a thirty mile stretch, and the results were intriguing. There were more Hungarian trucks than British, and a lot more Polish ones than Hungarians. In fact the German and Polish were about equal, with the Dutch and Belgians each having a good number of trucks. There were others from across the Balkans, several from Bulgaria, and quite a few from the smaller nations in Eastern Europe. Inevitably, Spain was well represented with a few from France, but not many at all from Italy and Switzerland. Overall; the British were in a small minority, and amongst the lesser nations.

So what? Well, this road is the main route to the Channel Ports, and these trucks indicate the flow of trade and movement that is occurring. So what is happening to the British, and might this be an indicator of what is going on in the private sector of the economy? We already know that the private sector is feeling the worst of the pain, but if the trade with the EU is being affected on this scale then the situation could be deteriorating rapidly. I hope I am wrong, and that the British truckers were in a place that I might expect them to be, that is off the motorway, and having a decent cuppa and full fry up in a decent transport café. The trouble is there do not seem to be any such café’s left round here any more.

Monday 20 April 2009

Budget 2009-2010 For Our House

Mr. Speaker, and I do hope all your family and friends enjoyed the fact finding trip to Dubai, it is just the right time of year. Prime Minister, congratulations on your wonderful world tour of salvation, Fifth Horseman indeed, and of course, our Home Secretary, we are all looking forward to seeing the videos of your waterboarding holiday in Florida, Members of the House, if you could just leave filling out your expenses forms for a few minutes, I will now present my Budget for 2009-2010.

At first sight the figures may look optimistic, 5% up on pension income, bargains to be had at the bankruptcy and home repossession sales, and significant cuts in the prices of illegal substances thanks to the noble work of NATO and our American allies in Afghanistan. Unluckily, there have been other pressures, due to the improvidence and mismanagement of foreigners. These have forced interest rates down for savers in ordinary accounts, meaning a substantial loss of income from this source, greater than the sum realised from pension after tax.

Council tax is up by only six per cent, but there are a raft of added costs. The issue of the national bus pass could have given benefit, unluckily there are no longer any bus routes functioning close to my home. As the taxi tokens have been withdrawn as an option, this means the cost of going to and from the local hospital, and other facilities has now greatly increased. As are rail fares, and a range of other costs associated with any form of movement. The sharp increases in water rates add to the costs of natural movement, despite our economising on bathing and washing up.

Also, to park my elderly car outside my flat will entail a new large road charge, and the extra charges for collecting rubbish add to costs as do all the bin liners of different colours available only from council offices at ten times the price of their equivalents in ordinary retailers. A range of retail prices has gone up by rather more than inflation, food, health goods, petrol, insurances, and more, especially power costs for our home. During the last winter, we had memories of those wonderful days in 1947 and 1963 when it was bitterly cold and the fuel supplies ran out.

The property management services company of my flats and the associated freehold company have all racked up charges one way and another by ten per cent, and will not be paying out on any claims on the buildings insurance at any time in the future. All the contractors they employ are substantially increasing their charges because they now have to pay administration fees to the property company. It is unlucky that the foreign owners of this offshore company have fallen on hard times, in that the crash in commercial property and left them with highly leveraged debts that were hedged against the income stream afforded by our service charges. Before they took over, we were entirely free from debt, but now apparently I am liable through this company for a sum about the same as the Gross Domestic Product of Iceland, where all the freehold and other property assets are alleged to be held.

This is a concern, because the National Geographic Channel has informed me that the Laki Fissure is about to erupt again causing devastation over the whole of the Northern Hemisphere. I have thought about moving into social housing, but apparently the rents on these are going up even more than my charges, and the cost of maintaining Rottweiler dogs for our personal security would be an added burden.

Consequently, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker are you awake? Thank you Sergeant At Arms, there have to be some adjustments. I have cancelled delivery of all newspapers and journals. Sadly, because so many others have been obliged to do so our local newsagents is to shut, leaving the supermarket five miles down the motorway the nearest outlet. We have substantially reduced our contributions to charities, membership of local and other societies. We have not had a holiday now for some years, so there is no scope there, and we are wearing out our old clothing. Footwear is still a problem, but we are trying to harden our soles in case in the event of having to go barefoot. As we are now unable to either consume much or save, we cannot help the economy.

Thanks to the wonderful and stylish new hospital buildings and opened by a junior minister of the Department of Health, unluckily the Primary Care Trust has fallen into insolvency because of the Private Finance Initiative financing. This has not only halved the number of beds available, but most of those remaining have been infected by either bubonic plague or some more dangerous infection. The outsourcing of some medical services and closure of others now mean extensive travel around most of England for basic treatments.

Quite why the blood tests can only be done in Banbury on the same day as the X Rays in Brighton, before the specialist in Birmingham can see me is a puzzle, but I have been assured that this new bookings choice, together with modern management dependent on computer services based in Ulan Bator is giving me a far superior service to that at my old local hospital just along the road before it became a depot for storing NHS office equipment. At least the NHS is free, apart from the several charges that seem to be needed, and all the little extras so necessary to treatments and of course, the travel costs. It is just as well I no longer pay national insurance, because then it would be even more free, or so I have been told, but I have yet to work this one out.

We have tried to do our patriotic duty by our Queen and Country and have actively sought credit from the usual sources, only to be met by ridicule and contumely by all those financial institutions kept going by the taxes we pay. Moreover, this may be the last year when we can present any budget at all. Any further increase in the inflation of general costs, or for that matter much in the way of added burdens and we shall be hopelessly and completely broke.

We look forward to hearing the government’s proposals of how they intend to help the millions of bankrupt poor in future years, as opposed to helping their friends in the financial elite who have suffered some marginal losses in their overall wealth. Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I gather you do not use your official lodgings all that much, any chance of lending us the key now and again so we can have a bath, and a warm evening watching the telly on wide screen digital?

Sunday 19 April 2009

Wembley - Its Deja Vu All Over Again

Arsene Wenger of Arsenal has joined the long list of those complaining about the poor quality of the pitch at the New Wembley. He should worry.
1923, the first FA Cup Final, West Ham United v Bolton Wanderers, cockles v tripe. Pay on entry, and no controls over numbers, so too many were admitted. After bringing in the police, some on horses and imposing positive policing (now much out of fashion), the crowd were driven back to the touch lines, and the game was played. That the pitch was not at its best was not a problem, by this stage of the season most grounds had little grass, and a lot of mud.
After the Empire Exhibition, there was then the issue of how to make the new stadium pay. No league club wanted to move in, too expensive by half then, the Rugger chaps were not going to give up Twickenham, and the few international matches would not provide enough revenue. Also, the charges for other games, schools football, and ladies hockey would go nowhere near meeting the bills. So the bread and butter income became the dog track. In 1948 the London Olympics gave it a spasm of fame, and bringing the Rugby League finals there added to it. But the pitch was always, well, not very good, but as typical standards were so low, who cared?
Cup finals were a strange event then. All the fuss was far removed from any other game. There was a stand in the middle where a man waved his arms conducting community singing, songs that you would never sing anywhere else in public out of a sense of foolishness and shame, the culmination of which was the dirge "Abide With Me". I think because it had been King George V's favourite hymn (this says a lot), and we were supposed to love tradition.
The World Cup was in 1966, and at this time some thought was being given to the grass. The dog track eventually disappeared. The trouble then was other big events, pop concerts, and notoriously horse jumping, including some events not long before cup finals. In this new age, managers of teams had found a voice, and some thought the pitch was a horror. I was at Wembley a few times around then, and there was certainly grass, although seemingly laid only the day before by a man, his dog, and a lad.
Now we have a New Wembley, a show piece of the nation and our latest government, at vast expense, going on for £1 billion all costs included. Not just the Cup Final, but the Semi Finals as well, to help pay off at least some of the interest charges on the debts. How is it that the Brit's when building any major project of national standing, make such a muck of it? The Atlantic Isles are covered with grasses, lawns, and utterly splendid swards of the stuff. These days even the humbles of League sides can keep a decent pitch surface throughout the season.
But not at Wembley. 86 years on and the pitch looks cuts up as badly as if a horde of fans, police, and horses have been running around on it. Worse, oh far worse, is that a Frenchman is telling us how to grow grass. To add to the insult, a Dutchman trying to be polite (it never works) tells us, well, on the whole, there is grass, but we should be encouraged by the fact that there are worse pitches in Africa. So England 0 Sahara Sandsurfers 5.

Saturday 18 April 2009

Back To Mercantilism Part 2

In the news in recent days are reports that China is considering the reorganisation and expansion of its Navy. What was it I said on Wednesday 4 March on "The Mercantilist System - Back To The Future"? Despite all the economic difficulties its government feel it is now the time to add to its military and space capabilities with more firepower and political clout on the seaways. Historically, we have been here before and too many times. Indeed the Chinese have been here before, in the early years of the 1400's, when not only did they create a huge seagoing force, but they sent it out to establish their presence where nobody else had been before. If Gavin Menzies is correct in 1421 (see the web site of that date) the Chinese discovered America.

But then with a change of regime, the new Emperor simply closed down, and withdrew China to its internal affairs, and policing its land borders. Why is debated, my guess is that the money ran out and the economy had been badly damaged by the scale of the venture. Soviet Russia in the 1960's puffed up by success in space, aware that the size of its Army scared the West, and with all the economic figures on green (alas all faked and manipulated) decided on a major naval expansion. It is my belief that it was this that eventually broke the back of the Soviet economy when all the statistical fakery could no longer be sustained, and the Afghans had hurt the Army, to add to all the burdens of the budgets.

In the past a few other nations have found naval expansion and the rest an expensive business. We in the UK were very proud of our navy, we were told to be, and many of us had family in the business. But it cost us a great deal, distorted the economy and all too often our naval reach, coupled with political arrogance, took us into places we would have done better to avoid.

There is an old Chinese curse, "May you have an interesting life." With a big navy and even bigger commitments, the Chinese may have cause to remember it.

Friday 17 April 2009

California Here We Come

Seventy years ago, during another severe depression, the dispossessed of many parts of the USA and others were fleeing for their futures to California, their bright hope of prosperity and work. The State has grown mightily since, and become home to major activities whose influence has changed the world as we see it. Now, however, it is another story. It may be that the movement may need to be the other way, but where they will all go and to what purpose is unknown.

Whilst we in the UK concentrate on squalid stories of internecine squabbling between the spinners and bloggers, the London Mediocracy at its very worst, there are things out there in the world that utterly escape our attention. There are too many to list, and it is all too complicated to readily assimilate. We rail on about being a world power, and our leaders ramble on about the infinite joys of globalisation, code for supporting the broken City brokers until the very last gasp, but we do not know what is happening. For us in the UK, the USA begins at The White House, and ends at the Beltway.

The USA is Federal, or was. There is talk in Texas and Vermont about secession. In the first case it means losing the Bush family, which is a popular idea, leading many to believe that the sooner the better. In the latter, it would be pity, because it is a scenic homely place, and who wants to lose a State to Canada? But there are other States in trouble, and a great many of them, in short, they have run out of cash.

California, being so large and important will serve to stand for them all. Moreover, with a celebrity film star Governor, and whole communities full of other celebrities, what could possibly go wrong? The answer is everything and all at once. This very rich territory, whose economy is rather bigger than most nations, has a State Government that is broke, and badly so, and unable to print its own money or to balance its books either now or in the future. The same goes for almost all the counties, the townships, the cities. They are all looking down the barrel, only unlike the cartoon characters they will not end up just looking silly, but looking defunct.

The uncertainties abound in local industry and commerce. As for agriculture, so much depends on irrigation, and the water is running short. The water issue could impact on everything. It is also one of the major oil consumers in the world, more or less a petro-chemical state, and deeply vulnerable to any problems there. Last, and far from least, as the TV documentaries keep insisting, the geophysical threats are greater than in most parts of the world. As for global warming, or cooling, take your pick, they are both bad news.

It is the United States of America, our trouble is we only consider the United bit, we forget the States, and it is them, remember each having more self determination than any EU nation state, and nearly all the States are in real trouble. In the past there have been State defaults, so are some more in prospect? California, here we go? It will not be much use for Congress to be singing “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window”, because they will all get bitten, and so will we in the UK.

Thursday 16 April 2009

UK PLC - This Company Is Now In Default

There are usually indications that a company is in trouble, for those who are either aware or expert enough to understand them. The first is often a continuing failure to deliver its promised goods or services either on time, or at all. Another is persistent difficulties in its systems for management and control, together with continuing budgetary issues. Amongst these are decreases in revenue in parallel with increases in costs, and little evidence of the information on or the ability to estimate real costs, or to function within prescribed limits. One possible sign is large increases in pay for senior people, together with churning of the stock options, that do not relate either to performance or market norms.

A more worrying issue is uncertainty or obscurity in relation to the sources of funding and capital, both short term and long term. Are the publishing borrowing figures, true, or is there a lot “off balance sheet” or disguised, for example delayed payments to suppliers, or for funding its activities? More difficult to judge is what is happening in the flows of loans and monies around its subsidiaries and to what purpose, most of all is if a good deal of this is off shore, one way or another.

If, for example, a company has a subsidiary devoted to giving credit to its customers, but it emerges the company is forced to lend large sums to it to keep it going, this is a bad sign. If the company then requires its subsidiary to lend some of this back again to the company to help balance its books, then this is very bad. It means that the fuses in the financial system have started to blow.

If further to that the company engages in frantic marketing activity that seems to make little commercial sense, this will mean that all is far from well. If it announces a series of grandiose projects that will tie up large amounts of capital and revenues, say in 2012, as evidence of its confidence for the future it is time to sell the stocks and shares and run away as fast as you can.

So, now, what about UK PLC, where we are all stockholders whether we like it or not? Time for the Classics and The Fall Of Rome, conjugate, Busto, Bustas, Bustat, Bustamus, Bustatus, Bustant, or I am bust, you are bust, he is bust, we are bust, you are bust, everyone is bust.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Who Pays The Piper And The Price?

In the mail this morning the update on a savings account. We do not have a great deal, but it all counts, especially with the rises in our living costs. So what is the interest, given that nothing has been drawn out or added in that period? November - £28.58; December - £16.51; January - £11.41; February - £8.79; March - £3.80.

One of the key costs are the service charges on our flat. The property management services concerned have been racking them up at around 10% p.a. now for a little while, as well as failing to do repairs, or pay out on claims on buildings insurance from their inhouse insurance company. They do not inform the insured about the details of their policies, nor do they explain why claims are being refused, and it seems that third party cover has disappeared.

The company and its linked entities in family trusts, is a subsidiary of a major property conglomerate, one that has been very active in speculations, possibly using the income streams from service charges as collateral. They have done a good deal of business with RBS, now government owned, and linked with Kaupthing, the failed Icelandic company. The government, allegedly, are helping to bail out Iceland.

The family trusts appear to be offshore, and the owners are amongst the adored business men of the financial media, in part due to their celebrity lifestyle, and maybe to the invitations to party on one or other of their yachts. Sadly, things are not as they were in the world of property, but at least their major bank is being bailed out with taxpayer money, and if they really get into trouble, no doubt some of their political friends close to government will find ways and means of helping them keep their trusts in being and their yachts afloat.

Unlike many of my neighbours, I do not have to rely on my savings alone to keep me going, but I wonder what is going to happen to all those who do. So when the evictions begin of the disabled and demented in large numbers, just what might the government do, and where will it put them?

Tuesday 14 April 2009

If A Disaster Can Occur It Will Occur

Recently there has been a good deal of concern about MP's, the way the House of Commons works, and the related function of the House of Lords. John Redwood, today 14 April, has a long item on what might be done to redress grievances. But it is not simply the House of Commons. There is a systemic failure in the machinery of government in the UK as a whole.
It has happened before in history, and usually in association with prolonged economic difficulties. There have been times when damaging internal wars have been avoided, although often at the cost of engaging in foreign ones, but the risk of some form of collapse of authority has occurred a number of times with near misses. New Labour because of its blundering ideologies, dictatorial methods, and incompetence is taking us close to the brink.

Sunday 12 April 2009

Easter Bunny

Hat tip to Calculated Risk. This was a construction project site in San Diego, USA, now just a store for building frames etc. But it has become a safe haven for rabbits. A sort of multi-storey breeding lot. But, please, please, do not tell anyone in the UK Government about this, or the whole of rural England will be covered with multi-storey steel rabbit havens in the name of economic growth, leverage, and prestige environmental initiatives.

Friday 10 April 2009

Easter Again

Blackpool. 55 years ago I was on a rugby club tour of the area for Easter. If you were there then you could not remember. Then TV was still new, and something only them with a bit of spare could afford. So to the cinema and variety halls we had to go. The films we wanted were big time colour Hollywood star epics and musicals, and there were some to be had. But there were State quotas to protect the British Film Industry. So we often had to accept and pay to see under rehearsed, low production value, badly scripted, condescending stuff, and for the masses it was deemed enough to rip off the variety turns, clean up their acts a bit, make sure they were sober, and the cinemas would be full. The variety halls were still there but only just.

George Formby was one of the most popular turns on the Halls, and even allowed on TV on the rare occasions that ordinary variety strayed onto the screen. Normally, programmes involving singing etc. were done in cocktail and posh night club sets, despite the ugly fact that most of the real ones were run by gangsters. Well, it was the BBC. At least his films had a few laughs, if only the lady starlets he was paired with did not have such crystal accents.

On this youtube of one of Formby's best, is archive film of Blackpool made in the first decade of the 2oth Century. More or less filming it as it was in those years of innocence before 1914. What is sobering is that it is now longer since I was in Blackpool than it was between then and this film being shot. Indeed there might be some people on the film who I knew, or who were moaning about the younger generation they encountered in the 1950's.

And they had much to complain about, but that is another story...............

Wednesday 8 April 2009

The New Global Order

We are being assured that with a New Global Order, to be master minded by those who ended the old one, all will be well, and there will be honey still for tea.
Having avoided political parties and organisations etc. for as long as humanly possible, I think I will now join the Flat Earth Society. It will make a lot more sense.

Monday 6 April 2009

The Way We Live - It Stinks

In recent years many celebrities have produced own brand fragrances, or have endorsed a wide range of personal and household products. There has been barely a whisper of criticism; indeed they are usually greeted by fawning attention and adulation from the media and politicians. Suddenly, one, the intelligent and talented actress, Gwyneth Paltrow, ventures the thought that it might be possible for some of these products to be not quite what they should be, and for many people detrimental to their long term health.

There is a howl of rage, she is vilified and insulted by Pennington, a leading scentific Quangocrat with political connections. UK Cancer Research, a charity owing much to government support, mutter reservations, and the tone of the reporting is adverse. Pennington indeed, sometimes wheeled out by the government as the senior scientist, says that shampoo's are "perfectly safe", and indeed implies that you can drink the stuff.

Hang on a bit squire, products made substantially from synthetic petro-chemicals, unregulated and untested, much of it imported from regimes with slave labour regimes, these are "perfectly safe"? Pennington it seems is an Aberdonian, a university chap. Aberdeen is a base for oil company work in the North Sea. The university gets a lot of help from the companies. No, no, it could not possibly be. Evidently, a coincidence, and there is not a shred of evidence. Just like whenever Pennington and his associates look for carcinogens or allergens in petro-chemical products for consumer use. Honest, guv, there ain't nuffin in the boot that shouldn't be there.

I have a problem, or rather more than one. One fabric conditioner brings me out in nice purple rash. Other stuff gives me the vapours. Some hair products make me a strawberry blonde. The blonde is my white hair, the ripe strawberry is the way the skin goes underneath. And so on and so on. I had to stop swimming because the toxic muck getting into the pools were sending the chlorine haywire. There are many others out there wondering what is doing the damage and few know because the NHS does not test, and nobody is saying, it is just take the pills or use the cream or both, and don't worry about the cough, its a nervous reaction.

It is about to become worse, and nasty, because Procter and Gamble and the rest have got hold of nanotechnology. With the particulates already employed in fragrances they last indefinitely, transfer from one thing to another several times, retain their potency almost permanently, and carry yards from the point of origin. When the nanotech, remember uncontrolled, unregulated, untested, with no information on immediate effects or long term implications, gets going you are all going to get your synthetic petro-chemicals whether you want them or not, and they are a lot more dangerous than the traffic emissions or tobacco that we take so much trouble about.

So Gwyneth seems like a voice of sweet reason, sense and sensibility. As for the scientists making the stuff, perhaps they have been having a few too many shampoo snifters.

Friday 3 April 2009

Diva's, Divinity, And A Night At The Opera

The Royal Opera and the The Royal Ballet are currently doing a double bill of "Dido And Aeneas" by Purcell, and "Acis And Galatea" by Handel. It is an interesting attempt to present two ancient pieces in a modern, multi art form. It may work or it may not. Buy the tickets and see for yourself.

The picture is not of the cast, and the ladies on show are not nymphs, but I suppose one or two could have ambitions to be Queenly in their living arrangements. They are the wives of the G20 political leaders wheeled out to do their duty by their economies and their creditors for a photocall at Covent Garden, The Royal Opera. I hope they were treated to some free fizz in the champagne bar.

It reminds me of the occasion when King George V entertained the King of Sweden by taking him to watch Verdi's "The Masked Ball", the plot of which concerned the assassination of a King of Sweden, but then, His Majesty had to rely on his advisers, knowing little about operas.

"Dido And Aeneas" is about the Queen of Carthage, swept off her feet by an adventurer displaced from his homeland, who then dies in misery when he is persuaded that the Gods need him to get going fast, or else. A wicked witch is at the root of the problems. It is a story of false hopes and deceptions.

"Acis And Galatea" is about a shepherd and a nymph who enjoy forbidden love, only to be destroyed by the arrival of a one eyed monster, Polyphemus, who turns up singing "No Joys Shall Last", and puts Acis into a terminal condition, permanent. Galatea, remembering she is divine turns Acis into an ever flowing fountain. It is supposed to be a happy ending.

HMS "Galatea" was an A Class Cruiser during World War II. In August 1941 Churchill and Roosevelt met aboard HMS "Prince of Wales" to sign the Atlantic Charter. In December 1941 HMS "Galatea" was sunk by a German submarine, and around the same time, of course, the HMS "Prince of Wales" was sunk by the Japanese. Also, on 7th December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour.

Nothing like a nice omen from the classics, is there now?

Wednesday 1 April 2009

The Economist Fantasy Theme Park

To mark the beginning of the new financial year, the "Economist" claimed to be opening a Theme Park where the general public can be treated to visions of Macroeconomics. It will be a fiscal fantasy land where people can revel in the joys of Malthus and Mises etc.
It is a little late, however, because we already have one. It is called The Treasury which for some time has been teaching us how Enronomics can save the world. The problem is that this particular fantasy island is becoming increasing expensive to gain admission to, and worse still, once in, it is impossible to get out.