Thursday 31 May 2012

How To Lose Power

As well as all the trouble about money, breakdowns in the economy and the exercise of power there is another nasty problem beyond the Euro.

It seems that the Germans are facing serious problems with their supply of electricity.  The risks of major outages causing extensive disruption are becoming high and it is not just Germany that is involved.

An article in the Oil Drum site, “German Power Grids Becoming Increasingly Strained” discusses the issue in around 3000 words.  It is worth checking out if only as a fast read.


On 4 November 2006 a German 380 kV line had to be temporarily disconnected. Due to insufficient coordination of protection systems a circuit tripped and started cascading outages.

The result was that the continental grid in Europe was divided into three islands and about 17 GW load was shed. The case demonstrates how a local event in Germany can turn into a widespread European disturbance.


The link is:

There have been suggestions that in parts of the USA the grids are becoming out dated and need substantial renewal.  Also, it is possible that the new locations from which the power or its source originates would require major upgrades to the grid connections.

With major outages in the UK also being forecast, what would a series of events like this occurring in both Britain and Germany at the same time do?

We could all learn to use much less.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

The Day It All Began To Go Wrong

The web still amazes, information that might never have accessed or would have taken months to discover and beg or borrow a copy can just pop up or there is someone that knows.

The date is Thursday 5th May 1955 when in Europe the Federal Republic of Germany, the West, formed in 1949 under Allied tutelage became a sovereign state, member of NATO and was admitted, more or less, to the family of nations, although with strictly limited military capacity.

In July 1945 units from the 7th Armoured Division, shoulder flash the Desert Rat had paraded in Berlin as the representatives of the British Army before the Allied leaders, Churchill personally commended them.  In May 1955 because of Berlin’s different status surrounded by the Soviet controlled Eastern Zone there was no parading.

In fact the ending of the British Army of Occupation and the others was all quite low key and officially little was made of it.  The 7th Armoured Division General Staff had other ideas and paraded at their own headquarters in Verden with detachments from the various units if the Division.

This was not quite as low key as it seems, not only was The Royal Dragoons, now part of the Blues and Royals Household Cavalry there but also the Fourth Hussars, whose Colonel in Chief was Sir Winston Churchill who had been Prime Minister until 7th April 1955.

Just after 1945 there had been some debate about what was to be done about Germany.  One extreme idea from some in the USA was that it should be “pastoralised”, meaning that it more or less should be all farmland.

Another was that it should revert to the pre 1871 collection of separate small states and forbidden to reunite.  Each of these states would have a foreign supervisor to control it.

These ideas were scuppered by the Cold War, the Iron Curtain and the hostility between the West and the Soviet Union and its client states.  Something of a united Germany was necessary as a bulwark although dependent on NATO forces. 

But from 5th May 1955 day Western Germany was free to purse its own economic policies and was not involved to any great extent in all the world affairs that demanded that the UK and others commit huge efforts and military involvement, all at a cost.

After all, it was politics and power around the world that matters, not economics.  So by nearly twenty years later the UK was scrambling to be admitted to the newly developed European Common Market on almost any terms because of the disastrous state of its economy and its consequential inability to govern.

As the Common Market developed with France and Germany at the centre, despite all our claims and posturing to be at “the heart of Europe” the growth and capability of the newly founded German economy, largely free of the international burdens and any of the fall out from Empire endured by France and the UK.

This led to the foundation of the European Monetary System (EMS) in 1979 and as far as money matters were concerned the Germans were very much at the centre and if not in control could not be controlled.

The politicians wanted to drive on to a Federal Europe.  After the reuniting of East and West Germany stresses developed, notably because Italy in particular and others had not been minding their monetary affairs wisely, the EMS blew fuses in 1992.  One effect was to cause long term damage to the credibility of the UK Conservative party.

The upshot of this was the political decision to create a single money system.  So the Euro came into being on 1st January 1999 with German and the European Central Bank very much at the helm.  Whilst the Goldilocks economy, pumped up by vast credit expansion, lasted, all was well. 

Germany only needed to have a light hand on the tiller and the EU could go on with the charade of ever increasing spending and commitments and mutual back scratching because the money always flowed according to the whims of the governments.

Now there is another breakdown and all is uncertain.  But if any state in Europe is to have the final say and assume control of the economies of the Euro Zone then it will be Germany.  Possibly the first Target For Tonight will be the financial sector notably the problems perceived by the failures of control and laxity of the City of London.

Meanwhile the remnants of the British Army will soon be repatriated from Germany.  Amongst them will be the 7th Armoured Brigade who retained the right to use of the Desert Rat after the disbandment of the Division in the late 1950’s. 

Will they parade when they leave or will they just skulk off to the ferries?  Will they then be disbanded because there is nowhere for them to go in the UK?

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Beware Of Greeks Bearing Bonds

The 2010 diagram above originates with the International Monetary Fund, the IMF, then via Thomson Reuters and Tax Research into Richard Murphy today’s posting on that site.  It tries to show that the problem of Greece is complicated.

In the meantime we have governments, international bodies, the EU and leading states attempting to deal with a situation that is developing and becoming more complex than their thinking and functioning powers can keep up with.

In short it is truly chaotic.  Additionally, around all those many financial entities, expressed as political jurisdictions there is a great deal of money movement and the rest that is simply not known nor accounted for.

But it is not the political entities that are controlling all that money and money denominated instruments of financial trading of many kinds.  It is a range of financial corporations few of whom know what they are doing only why.  That is to survive at least and at best extract fortunes for the few.

It is easy to lose sight of the detail (or the fine print) and as in all things it is often these that matter, as your insurance company will remind you when you make a claim that is turned down.

The Slog has picked up on one today and has discussed it in a typical wordy post that at least tries to ask the questions even if the answers are far from clear.  This is because the UK Treasury has just suddenly and without discussion or publicity of any kind, revoked a 72 year old restriction on trading in negotiable bonds.

In short, a restriction that applied to 21 former enemies (so few?), largely in Europe that affected a number of monetary instruments no longer applies.  That this was not done in the last fifty years is an interesting question.  The main question is why now and in the middle of a growing crisis that is out control?

It has occurred also at a time when the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has been severely criticized for suggesting that if large numbers of Greeks head this way with any form of money they can lay there hands on, they should be spurned entry.

There is the other question of where they might go.  There are already numbers of Greeks with us, notably in East London, with or without tickets for their local Olympic Games in a few weeks.  If many more turn up with a lot of money to use then the existing London property bubble may go fit to burst.

The politicians can only chatter and try to dominate the media and allocate blame.  They cannot do much; the doing will be done by the financial interests and their associates.  Other doing will be by Greeks voting with their feet.

Apparently, the Olympic Torch relay today went to the top of Mount Snowdon.  That must be an omen of some kind.  As the Oracle at Delphi is no help these days perhaps the torch should be redirected to the Shrine of St. Winifred at Holywell in Flintshire.

According to Wikipedia she is the “unofficially adopted” patron saint of payrolls and payroll clerks and may be prayed to for guarding against unwanted advances.

It is about the only thing that could work.

Monday 28 May 2012

First Rate At Lloyds

So Lloyds is said to be preparing for a further crisis with the Euro and possible extreme conditions.

If this story is correct then they may well need to:

Here we go again, happy as can be, all good pals and jolly good company.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Expelling The Moneychangers

Holy Moses!  Today it is Pentecost and time for contemplation.  Today, a message arrived in the inbox from someone I know in New Hampshire

The Nashua Telegraph, a local paper that carries more real news than most of our UK media, ran this story about the Vatican Bank caper.

It is a parable for our times.  He suggested that the Vatican Bank needs a good Compliance Officer to sort things out and knows just the person to do it. 

Also, that person would make an excellent Cardinal who can tell the difference between dogma and doctored accounts.

The only snag is that there seems to be a technical problem of status that would debar her.  Surely, the EU must have a Directive or law to forbid this?

So tonight perhaps the bootleg recording of the BBC Prom of Sir Simon Rattle with the National Youth Orchestra on 11 August 2002 doing Mahler’s 8th, with the hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus”.  It was a wonderful performance.

On his way into the Royal Albert Hall he encountered us outside.  “You know, you Prommers are all mad.”  He said, having done time in the Arena.  “It takes one to know one” was my reply.  After all, beneath the style, he remains a Scouser.

Gustav Mahler, I believe, had his vision of Europe, but preferred to keep his cash reserves in Maria Theresa Thaler’s.  What he would have made of the Vatican being involved in financial malpractices, the gifts that from the Spirit flow, we shall never know.

Perhaps he would have written something based on Machiavelli or Dante instead.

Friday 25 May 2012

Singing For Your Supper

The real issue facing Europe and causing the most acrimony is of course the Eurovision song contest which is to blast the ears and boggle the eyes tomorrow night, Saturday, asteroids and ancient prophesies willing.

Azerbaijan is the country that is hosting it and Baku the location.  The choice was made by the performers from that country winning last year, so the complaints about it are met by “rules are rules” responses.

Our fair nation is being represented by one of my contemporaries, yes he is that old, Arnold Dorsey, stage name Engelbert Humperdinck who might have been the oldest ever contestant but has been upstaged by some Russian ladies of even greater age.

The hot money is on the Russian Dancing Great Grannies.  So whether there will more protests next year is an open question.  But given the shady behind doors fixes and betting plans it might by anyone.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has taken an interest, not as a break from the usual stuff, but because its government, financing and human interest issues give it cause to raise questions about both the nature of regime and its closeness to people in London.

Although based in California where he has spent much of his life Arnold also had a pad, a big one, at Kirby Muxloe by Leicester, once a decidedly posh place to live.  The people who lived there when Arnold was a lad were the sort who owned cars, had full china tea sets and read newspapers with a lot of big words in them.

It was a place to aspire to if you climbed the greasy, or greased pole of local life and commerce and like most of the villages and communities of the Shire had a long and complicated history.

During the time of the Wars of the Roses in the 15th Century it was the hands of the Hastings family.  These were one of the most prominent families in the Midlands and it was at Kirby that William Hastings began to build a major new home, above.

Unluckily, he was one of the losers in the vicious infighting that occurred during the reign of King Richard III, losing his head at the Tower of London in 1483 and the castle remained unfinished. 

The King lost his life a few miles down the road at the Battle of Bosworth Field of 1485.  When his remains were being conveyed into Leicester over the back of a horse the head was banged against the parapet on entering into Leicester along the road from Kirby.

Let us hope that Arnold keeps his head and makes it back to California or Kirby in one piece.  He might even get a booking to appear with the Great Grannies in Moscow.

Thursday 24 May 2012

The Future Is Private Not Public

An intriguing combination of items came up in today’s rattling around the web.  The more things change the more they remain the same.  Both are quite short but in terms of time between very long, one being the Neolithic, the other current nonsense,

The first attempts to explain what will happen in East London once the circus has ended and the caravans departed from the Olympics “village”.  It seems that there is to be a major property development which will amount to a private new town.

It will not operate under any of our present arrangements for local government or other similar inconveniences which raises the question of who it is for and who will be the financial operators.  Guess what?  There are no clear answers and nobody appears to be in charge.

The second is that recent research suggests that the causewayed enclosures that were constructed during the Neolithic period did not take hundreds or thousands of years to be built.  Indeed, it is argued that it took only 75 years or so for them to spread across the Atlantic Isles.

What is a source of wonder is when you calculate how much work had to be done and what was involved then just what was the size of the population then and who were these people?

This is a Europe we know little or nothing about, notably who the people were, what or who they worshipped, how they communicated or what their social organisation was. 

But to build on this scale and with this rapidity, organise food supplies to maintain the population and to know the heavens as they seem to have done suggests a very able, intelligent population connected with others over a wide area.

What happened to them?  Perhaps, in the future when the diggers find the remains of a 21st Century transformation of the Atlantic Isles from one form of political organisation to a collection of privately owned fiefdoms into which a servile population had been herded they might wonder why.

We may know the answers to that but those in the future may not.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

This Is Not Looking Good

At the end of the next football season it will be sixty years since Liverpool were relegated from the then Division One to Division Two in 1952-1953.  To add insult to injury they were replaced by Everton who had been relegated a couple of seasons before.  The other side that went down was Middlesbrough replaced by Leicester City.

The previous season, 1951-1952 Liverpool had finished at half way after showing some promise but which tailed off in the later half.  Those of us with memories of that unhappy time will be uncomfortably aware that we could be in for a repeat.

It was a time when the owners were in dispute, there was disarray in management and in the dressing room and the club, despite the level of its support did not have the cash to rebuild a team that had enjoyed success since the end of the War.

This season after the turn of the year Liverpool’s form was that of a relegation team and it was only that enough points had been gained earlier to keep them up at the half way level.  If they begin next season in this way they may not recover. 

Their luck in the Carling Cup means that they have a place in the lesser European contest but as too many clubs have discovered the fixture and injury complications from the many games these involve, not exactly big crowd games, could seriously impair what needs to be done in The Premiership.

Next years Premiership has all the signs of being highly competitive with a number of well funded teams able to take care of themselves.  It would be very easy for Liverpool in their current state to be locked into the grim struggle as one of four or five teams desperate to retain their place.

Sixty years ago they were not scoring enough goals.  This season has been much the same and has meant dropping points against sides in games they should have been taking the maximum points from.

The lower divisions of the football league are littered with teams that were once great names, even in the Conference there are some to be found that at one time enjoyed a time at the highest level.

In the next few seasons it is inevitable that some teams now in the Premiership will drop down to lower levels to join all those clubs of the past whose ageing fans cling on to either their own memories or those of their parents or grandparents.

Often in the past such falls have been down to bad management, disagreements between owners and over optimism about the accounts.  All these are in place at Liverpool who in addition have the modern curse of the cloud of agents, financial advisers, lawyers and consultants taking much of the money and increasing the levels of debt.

From “The Political Economy Of Football” an item “Talking To The Lawyers” taken from “The Lawyer” of 22 May “Heading Skills” dealing with the legal in and outs of several Premiership Clubs.  This is the item on Liverpool.


Liverpool FC

When things are going well at a football club, as it is for Manchester City’s Simon Cliff, it can be a dream job for a sports-loving lawyer.

Two years ago, when The Lawyer spoke to Liverpool general counsel Natalie Wignall (22 March 2010), this was undoubtedly the case. But if two years is a long time in football, sometimes so is a day.

Between The Lawyer arranging to speak to Wignall last week and the actual interview the following day, manager and club legend ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish had left the club and Wignall was tied up in negotiations.

It has been a tumultuous season for Wignall and her beloved Reds, with several executive departures creating a climate of uncertainty.

Liverpool’s director of football Damien Comolli left last month, followed quickly by club sports science head Dr Peter Brukner and goalkeeping coach John Achterberg.

There has been speculation that the club’s owner, the US-based Fenway Sports Group, was unhappy with the way the Luis Suarez race claim case was handled by its legal advisers.

Wignall supported McCormicks senior partner and sport, media and entertainment specialist Peter McCormick, along with club secretary Zoe Ward, when Liverpool striker Suarez was found guilty by an FA commission for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.

But the club was then roundly condemned for its stance in support of Suarez after he was banned for eight games.

Wignall previously told The Lawyer that the in-house legal role was her “dream job”. She has been at the club during a testing time, with legal wrangles on and off the field, including the international dispute over the club’s ownership (, 8 March 2012).

The ongoing action has brought work to a number of the North West city’s law firms.
“I have to pinch myself when I come in to work every day,” the born-and-bred Scouser, who lives within walking distance of Liverpool’s Melwood training ground, told The Lawyer in 2010. “It’s just the best job in the world.”

She conceded that the intense scrutiny of the club can be difficult to deal with.

“It’s the extent to which everything you do is in the public eye,” she says. “It’s just not like any other business where you might win and lose big contracts, but either way you get on with it. Here the performances on the pitch affect the business so much more.”


In the media we are constantly told that the English Premiership is the market leader in the world with huge revenues to come from all those foreigners daft enough to be persuaded to show loyalty to the brands in question.  We are told that this is all “good for growth” and national pride and all that.

With most of the Premiership now in foreign ownership, most of the leading players from further shores, most of the huge debts owed to global financial interests and most of the revenue going into players off shore accounts it would be a sector of the economy that would be closed down if it were not still capable of being able to part fools from their money.

Or the Premiership may simply be one of the world’s most obvious money laundries.  I do hope George Osborne enjoyed his works outing to Munich with the Chelsea people.  Perhaps he learned some lessons in debt management there.

Liverpool may survive at the top, but don’t bet on it or ask one of the teams of lawyers to advise you.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Telling Fortunes

Thin posts this week, up to a point; but for today if others are saying a lot it is worth pointing to them.

The first item is a site that normally wants to see the markets doing well and things on the up.  So they tend to be optimistic about finding some good news somewhere to encourage investments. 

The item is a longish one, but does say a lot from an American standpoint.  It means that what some of us thought possible, that the 2007-2008 Crash was just the beginning may well turn out to be the case.

The second is about the Clinton’s and power, or rather not being in power and the profits to be had from it.  Tellingly, the last Act of Bill Clinton’s Presidency was to sign off a bill deregulating derivative trading.

Whatever has happened to other people it seems that he has made a good living since.  You may make your own list of UK politicians who have been doing very well since they left office.

If there is to be another period when the world economy wicket gets sticky and we return to the breathless hush in the close with last man in the two obvious periods in the immediate future seem to be early June or then late July into August.

In the meantime the North Anatolian Fault has been “bracketed” both to the East and to the West by earthquakes on either side of the suggested site of the long predicted next big one.

And the hurricane season seems to be starting early.

Monday 21 May 2012

Happy Days

"Wow, just look at that Euro endonegous growth curve!"

Perhaps its the way you tell them.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Five Year Planning For The Past

On Friday, 18 May, Fraser Nelson in “The Spectator” had an article “No Time To Tinker” about government policy on the economy.  One part of it dealt with the notion of Five Year Plans, as below:


3. There's no shame in Osborne thinking again. I can understand why the Chancellor repeated Brown's policy of publishing a five-year spending plan: the markets wanted a credible deficit reduction plan, and Osborne has certainly given them one.

But no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. There is no indignity in adapting to changing circumstances, nor in changing direction. Osborne badly needs to. Because he's on a road to nowhere.

I once asked Black Swan author Nassim Taleb what he thought of five-year Budget plans. 'Bullshit,' he replied with a smile. 'Look at past five-year plans, how many have worked?

It's like someone getting married eight times, each time thinking "this time it's for love."' I asked him how long should governments draw their budgets for. 'One year at a time,' he said. 'The error margin for five years is monstrous.'


How the idea of “Five Year Plans” came to be I am not sure but in my mind it is indelibly associated with the former Soviet Union and its many capital projects.  “The Plan” or rather the figures within it had to be applied often almost regardless of the situation developing on the ground. 

It is arguable that the devotion of the USSR to statistics and plans of this kind meant in effect that Gosplan (see Wikipedia) came to be the dominant force and in the end the source of so many errors, inefficiencies and unintended consequences that it was central not just to economic planning but to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Given the present uncertain, highly mobile state of the world, the rapidity of change and the fragility of international markets and political confusion in almost every major state over the last decade, the notion of Five Year Plans is almost a collective madness or a dogma destined to destroy those who believe in it.

In order to plan a train journey I need reliable information.  So I consult timetables.  How many times in the last decade the actual services on the day have been at odds with the timetable or I have had to make last minute significant adjustments to both timings and routing is not known.  What I do know is that the number is a large one.

Economic data is a lot more complicated, difficult to collect and sift with any certainty of reliability or truth or firm analysis.  As it is the past, perhaps months old, it cannot be the present and predicating a future in an economy, national or global that is in constant flux is at best a high class guessing game.

All too clearly, all the fine plans, intentions and certainties for the future of 2005 and 2006 have evaporated.  The Treasury’s plans fell apart, other countries plans fell apart and now the Euro may fall apart and for that matter the current dollar zone is likely to as well given the leverages of the major US finance corporations.

It is not going to suddenly get better and all that information flowing about is no more reliable than at any other period.  In any case the US Congress has decided to make major economies in the collection of basic statistics which will add immensely to the confusion.

Yet our Parliament and key machinery of government are still devoted to the idea that we can proceed safely and wisely on the basis of planning for a period of five years, with the implications that these will roll on forward into the next and then the next.  Perhaps they think it is what we want to hear.

Can anyone in Whitehall come up with a five year plan based on Chaos Theory?

Saturday 19 May 2012

Look For The Silver Lining

Another brief post; if only as a relief from all the long, very serious and complicated ones being read on the web at present.

The answer to the current Euro crisis is quite simple.  It is to reinstate the Maria Theresa Thaler (see Wikipedia) as the basic currency of Europe, benchmarking a variety of other currencies against it.

Furthermore, fiat currency issue (paper money) should be one hundred per cent backed by reserves of the MTT and credit creation by banks and others limited to four times only of their holdings of the hard currency MTT reserve.

How could this policy be put across to the general public?  It could be called “Back To Basics”. 

There would need to be an appropriate regulatory regime in place in each country with an adequate criminal law to guard against counterfeiting, fraud and financial malpractice.

If we were to use the experiences of the past in these matters it might be difficult to know where to transport convicts to but I am sure somewhere could be found.

It might seem to be an outlandish suggestion but it could be better than the alternatives we face.

Friday 18 May 2012

Go Back To Start

Given the course of events, it is clear that what is happening in the Eurozone and other parts connected or adjacent to it is very like when my home computer begins glitching and twitching.

Whilst it might need a new operating system, world government or anarchy or tribal reversion or back to hunter gatherings perhaps we should see if the problems arise from any current programme in use.

We could try re-installing the Europe programme to begin again as above but the next time round do a better job on the settings and temporary governing files.

We may finish up with something like this in any case.  Looking at the most western areas if the current occupants of Ireland do all emigrate then the Scoti could return there allowing a welcome return of the Picts.

If we get automatic shut down when it does reboot then it might be similar, who knows?

The way things are going anything might be worth trying.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Back To The Past And Future

Last night, Wednesday, we went cinema world wide in full HD, well not quite.  It was a six camera live screening of a performance and we were behind and alongside cameras and very likely nowhere to be seen.  This would have been a great relief to those who paid up front to see something colourful and interesting.

Which they did, it was of a very high standard and because I was able to detect what was going out live from the back of a camera ahead of me, all those out there across the globe will have had their money’s worth and got what they paid for.

Thinking about the other screened live or recorded programmes or events we have attended down the years and contrasting with the present is intriguing.  There have been quite a number, but the question was how many are still in the archives and what about all the events that were not filmed?

From time to time on TV there are programmes dealing with the past that rely on archive footage of amateur film making.  It is clear that, although very expensive, it was possible at an early stage to film in colour and also in black on white.  The problem was sound recording for the most part.

But this was not impossible to achieve.  By the 1960’s technical advances had made it all much easier and far less costly for ordinary people, let alone others with funds.  But a great many of leading events are often only recorded by accident, in heavily cut news reels or by people with no official standing.

Yet in the Arts generally, never mind other sport and activities, there was a general reluctance to resort to film productions or events.  When I think about all the plays, music, dance and other major events that might have been put on film, there has been a huge loss of both history and record in these fields.

There are some archives, notably the BBC one, but this is an intractable one to find anything and involves penal charging.  The BBC often seems almost resolute not to have its lovely archive material exposed to the view of common people.

The result is that in documentaries or the study of something there are only scraps at memories, fading partial memories and written only information.  Yet the chance was there to record, store, maintain and renew it from one time to another.

Perhaps there were some people arguing that something should be done to create, maintain and enable an archive or archives on film but it may be not.  Why did it not occur to some group of far sighted people that this could and should be done?  It would not have been too difficult or too costly at least to do a basic film of record so that a particular production or event could be remembered as it was.

One can understand all the querulous carping about copyright, who was to do what and why it was to be done and who would be responsible.  But the technology was and could have been made available. 

It is not just that we have lost a way of understanding and appreciating the past, in a way we have lost a part of what we are and will be.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Losing The Picture

Looking around the media, the web and the rest it is quite clear that whilst there are a lot of able, highly intelligent, well informed and well connected people the pace of events and the complexity means that nobody can claim to have a full understanding of what is happening financially and politically.

By definition the politicians who are supposed to be making key decisions now work on a lot less information, data and analysis and need to be advised by people who do know more and have the ability to understand more fully.

The difficulty then is that if what the people who voted in or critically support those politicians do not like the advice and the implications then almost inevitably there is a desire to delay, attempt compromise where none is to be had or to evade making decisions at all.

Worse, is that if the channels to those politicians are controlled or policed by people with particular interests to serve then the distortions could be serious and damaging in the process of determining policy.  We have been here a few times in history, think of your own examples.

At present around the world it seems that all of them have not simply “lost the picture” they do not know what they are looking at.  They want the picture to be a Renoir when at best it is a Jackson Pollock.  Not only that but it is one which Pollock created intuitively or according to whim.

Even then that picture is replaced by another one apparently quite different perhaps shifting more towards one fractal shape before morphing suddenly into another.  In short not just the politicians, or their advisers, but all the experts and commentators are behind the game.

Those who may be closer to any understanding in the present world crisis seem to be now reaching the point where they feel no understanding is to be had because by the time you have got the message out and circulated it has all moved on and fast.

But the public and people as a whole want simple answers and clear policies and most some sort of security and protection from economic storms and dangers.  Inevitably, the come to feel they are being lied to or the victims of conspiracies by “the other”.

This is how in the past dictatorships and authoritarian governments have arisen in states and polities where serious upheavals have occurred.  It seems to be happening around the world one way or another, including the UK and the USA.

So will Western Civilisation as we know it today begin its end in Greece which is where is it supposed to have begun? 

There was a twitch on the North Anatolian Fault Line yesterday; perhaps the ancient gods are awakening.

Monday 14 May 2012

Peering Into The Future

A mail plopped into the inbox about three of weeks ago.  It was an invitation to a reception at the House of Lords.  Preening myself I was about to compose an elegant reply of acceptance grateful at last that I had been recognised when native caution made me scroll down to the fine print.

There was a charge, no less than £55 a head.  As I need company in my travels that meant two.  Adding on rail fares, car parking and incidentals the figures were rising over £150 for the occasion.

There was also mention of those who the invitation had been directed to and this was not encouraging.  Essentially, it would be a pack of “has beens” meeting up with a few ennobled “yesterdays persons” for what appeared to be a last and spurious gasp of networking.

The chances on that if lucky there would be two or three more or less five minutes gabbing about current obsessions in which to deliver my message that forcing the nation back to a 1940’s diet of cabbage, potatoes and denial of personal transport would end the obesity crisis might have a hearing by persons of influence.

The rest of the session probably would mean trying to join a huddle of other “has beens” in which some sentient life might be found to exchange anecdotes that had become honed for delivery over many years.

The refreshments on offer were all too likely to be second rate nibbles, third rate wine, or if driving inorganic orange juice.  We would then stagger out into the night hoping only that by dropping the line “We were at the House of Lords talking to Lord Bunfight, you know he was…..” we might impress either neighbours or tradesmen.

Her Majesty was at the House of Lords last week promising to reform them again.  When this appears in the draft of her speech she must wonder if the Cabinet computer “paste” function in the word processor has become stuck because here it is again.

As many have observed at the moment there are better things to be spending our government’s and Parliament’s time on.  There is a great deal to do.  Especially, as in the proposals for reform it is far from clear what the House of Lords is supposed to be doing or why. 

It is usual in a nation’s constitution pay some attention to this kind of thing but that is not the way we do things in the UK any more.  But in many ways it is all a little sad when we look at history and the grandeur and state of the past.

The House of Lords began when the military equestrian elite were nobility, almost all of them descended from, related to or closely connected to the King.  Down the years it began to accommodate the wealthy land owners and a few others adding the bishops and top lawyers.

Through the 18th and 19th Centuries, inflation set in as political parties contended for control of this body that could veto most legislation proposed by the Commons, until more radical changes occurred during the 29th Century.

Now there is this numerically bloated body of place persons, hanger’s on, government appointees of expediency and redundant ministers swanning around looking for things to do.

One of them is being wheeled out to talk to hapless members of the public about this or that who are obliged to pay for the privilege and who can be “conned” into coming.  At least they come a lot cheaper than the current cost of contact facilities for members of the government and opposition front bench.

However, the market may be drying up, because a couple a days ago a mail arrived to tell me tickets are still available, perhaps if I hang on there may be a two for one offer.

If this is the British Constitution today then it is all very sad.

Friday 11 May 2012

See You Later Demonstrator

Two days after having posted on Brooksley Born and her stance on over the counter trading, notably in derivatives, JP Morgan have lost £2 billion on one of its trading desks, just like that.  As the boss of the man concerned earned £14 million last year, perhaps he was underpaid and need to moonlight at the expense of the day job.

Rather longer ago, March 2011, I was wondering if Cameron might not be headed for the modern equivalent of the Marconi Scandal of 1912 because of his cavalier approach to contacts and money movement. 

In this case it wasn’t the issue I had in mind, the Serious Fraud Office botched it, but it has emerged that he was much too close to people he needed to stay way clear of and whose capacity for causing embarrassment and disaster is unlimited.

Meanwhile, over the Channel, it appears that the new very egalitarian and deeply socialist President has useful property investments in Cannes.  All we need now is the accounts in Zug or Zurich into which the rents are paid.

His promises of heavy taxes on the rich have sparked great interest in those selling London property, in that a flood of French rich people is said to be heading for the border.  They will not be held in a modern version of Sangatte, however, it will be somewhere with better shops and wine merchants.

This supposes that these people have not already made arrangements to protect their wealth and incomes.  My information is that for many years the French elite have almost all taken the steps necessary to shield their wealth and have been fully protected by the privacy laws they enjoy.

The only reason they may be in London is to snap up property available at present prices knowing that we and France could be heading for rampant inflation soon from all the money being slushed into our financial systems to reduce the real liabilities of governments and their immediate allies.

Amongst them are institutions such as the Santander Bank.  It claims that the problems in Spain will not affect the British end because that is run by a separate company.  Does that means that there is no risk from systemic issues or just that the UK taxpayer will bail them out regardless?

The flood of news and figures is becoming more and more difficult to make sense of.  We have governments that cannot govern, civil services that lose money at a catastrophic rate, banks incapable of banking and educated workforces unable to find work that requires any sort of extended education.

One is almost driven to go out and demonstrate about something.  The difficulty is finding something which makes much sense to demonstrate about.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Sick As A Parrot

The sorrowful bird above is a recent birth to a well known family of Leipzig parrots.  Apparently, it has been rejected by its mother but has been taken to heart by the locals and with wider coverage.

A while ago there was an isolated polar bear cub called Knut who faced a similar predicament.  The trouble began when the cub got bigger and rather less cuddly.  The problem with the parrot is what economic doctrine the European Central Bank (the ECB) might teach him.

There has been a good deal of attention given to elections in Greece, France other places and the UK local elections.  Occasionally, the US Presidential Election intrudes on our screens, if only when the usual issues arise.

Almost nothing has been said about the elections in Germany.  These in the regions, or Bundeslander, the partly sovereign constituent states of the Federal Republic matter a deal and are pointers to the future and any potential policy changes there.

Shortly, the big one is about to go the polls, Nordrhein Westfalen, although opinion has it that whatever the changes in the balance of the parties, actual things may not change much given the imperatives governing German policy at the present.

These are that Germany is frantically trying to prop up the Euro system via the ECB.  This is not simply out of sincere belief in the EU but because some of its major banks could be in deep trouble if things go any more haywire.

In addition to the Big Banks and what happens in Frankfurt, the financial centre, there are a great many smaller banks, notably the Landesbanks that have not been as wise and careful as we expect German institutions to be.  Some of these are not in good shape and giving cause for concern.

The political issues at present in Germany mirror those in other countries in many parts and we will have to see what emerges.  But Germany is not the centralised state with an all powerful governing city. 

Thanks to British wisdom and guidance along with American beliefs in State Rights in 1955 the Federal Republic was founded as a decentralised entity with powerful regional and city authorities reflecting the history and traditions of Germany.  I was there.

However, the upshot is that ancient history can intrude on the present.  What we seem to have is a revival of The Schleswig Holstein question, see the many Wikipedia items on this.  This is because old minorities seem to be back in business:

In the mid 19th Century, notably in the 1860’s in the run up to the creation of the German Empire in 1871 this question was at the heart of the struggle.  It was very difficult as well as being very old.

Lord Palmerston, the British political leader and sometime Prime Minister once said:

“The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it.”

We have become so accustomed in the last 150 years to regard Germany as one nation, although divided between 1945 and 1990, we forget that for centuries it was a complex collection of more than 300 states of different kinds.

Perhaps the eagle of Brandenburg is about to be replaced by a sick parrot.