Monday 30 November 2015

The Filthy Fifth

A few days ago BBC2 screened a two part series fronted by Mark Urban on the part played by the Fifth Royal Tanks of The Royal Tank Regiment.  Among the first armoured troops to go to North Africa they were part of an elite who went on to be in the Normandy Landings in 1944 and then to northern Germany at the very end in 1945 (picture above in Hamburg).

In the desert smartness was a low priority because of other needs and demands.  Given the conditions, the nickname "The Filthy Fifth" reflects typical squaddie humour of the period.  It may come as a surprise to some that the men of that time in the services had their own ideas about a lot of things.

The Regimental March is the old song "My Boy Willie" and words I recall were "It wasn't the Yanks who won the war, it was my boy Willie, never been in a tank before.......".  It is a fine tune to march to, been there, done that, a few years after the war with a divisional parade.

It was a squadron of The Filthy Filth who were there to march to it, then one of the units in the 7th Armoured Division (Desert Rats) stationed in Northern Germany as Cold War Warriors.  They had joined the Division before El Alamein and were with it until the end, the Division being disbanded in 1958.

The two programmes in the series are mercifully quite straight forward avoiding all the usual bank crash wallop favoured by documentary makers these days.  The horrors are the realities of tank warfare and there was more than enough of that in the various campaigns involving 5RTR.

One part that was discomforting to say the least was at the very beginning in the first years of the war.  The regiment, like all the other tank units, was equipped with tanks that were grossly inadequate, under powered, under gunned, unsafe and unreliable.  If Willie had not been given American tanks later we would not have had an armoured force left to fight.

How was it that the mighty intellectuals of the civil service, the generals of the high command, presumably the intelligence services and not least the politicians, were unaware of the capability of the German tanks and anti-tank artillery?  If they were aware why did the Army finish up with tanks that were a liability?  Later there were better tanks and guns, but still inferior to the German.

Even the tanks that were produced it seems were poorly made, more being lost in breakdowns often than were destroyed by enemy action.  Was it simply bad workmanship and if so how was it in the chain of production that such unreliable products were sent out for men to die in?

This is before you have the outlandish tactics at first adopted by a general staff who did not understand armoured warfare.  What were pseudo cavalry charges must have made easy targets for the superior power of the German guns.

It seems that for the first British tanks to have a chance of knocking out a German one, they had to get a to a couple of tanks length for their shells to impact on the German armour.  Typically, it was the men who were blamed and not the failures of supply or command.

What worries me is looking at the government of the present and for that matter the opposition, the situation today seems to be just as bad, if not a great deal worse.

We are being given cheap propaganda, lies a plenty, seriously substandard services and no effective planning for the future in a dangerous and demanding world.

As in 1940 and 1941 we could have to pay a heavy price for this.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Physics For Beginners

Einstein was trying to explain how easy it was to have slippers that were square to equal his balance.

This was mistranslated, unluckily, by an academic unfamiliar with his accent and thought to be a theory.


There has been endless trouble since.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Red Sails In The Sunset

When the Shadow Chancellor, John MacDonnell was flinging words and Red Books around the Speaker's table it came from someone who as a teenager admired Mao Zedong as an epitome of socialism and has clung on to him ever since.

Mao died an old man in 1976, had learned his socialism from reading Marx and Lenin in the 1920's and then developed his ideas embodied in the Red Books, the bibles of The Left in the UK of the period say 1960 to 1990.

It is a great pity that MacDonnell has kept his reading and understanding to these limited sources.  Had he known much of Ramsay Macdonald and his works there is a lot of interest there.

For example his major work "The Socialist Movement" of 1911 has this to say in Chapter 6, pages 147 to 149, on The Class War:


The idea of the class war no longer represents the motive forces organising Socialism and forming the Socialist movement.

Those who still use it are like those more backward religious communities which express their theologies in the terms used before there was a science of geology.


Perhaps John should change his researchers and special advisers.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Thanksgiving Identity And Diversity

When those in the USA who celebrate Thanksgiving Day tuck into their turkey we will have eaten pork.  The new settlers may have needed to eat what they could, back in England the population would have depended on pork for its basic meat protein.  Which brings me to the question of a sense of identity.

A five minute in depth research gives a wide variety of figures for the number of people said to be descended from those early settlers.  The higher ones look most improbable, a try at a figure would take time and would depend on key estimates which may well not be reliable.

Despite this, it is likely that there are many people out there who are descended and are not aware of it and they may well be the majority.  On the other hand, those that do know will have other ancestors who will be very many and various.

Given that Thanksgiving is supposed to suggest a sense of American identity among many of the population this raises more questions than it answers.

Back here in Olde England many feel that our present elite are engaged in an assault on any sense of identity for the British and are anxious to have us be diverse.  The latest spat is the item on the three sets of remains of the "first Londoners" who have varied origins.

This has been dealt with in the web sites of "Is The BBC Biased" and "Biased BBC".  The most obvious comment is that three or four is far too small a statistical sample to be a basis for any kind of generalisation especially out of one location.

Apart from the blinding obvious that if you have a new settlement founded by incomers then necessarily they will all be migrants there are other matters.  Moreover, as a port and landing place, often a location for armed groups and then a centre of government whatever was going on in the sticks and other places London would have been relatively "diverse".

It may have been the first larger group of housing etc. on that patch but in the few thousand years before that there must have been a scatter of people, perhaps small in number, in the area from time to time.  The chances of finding remains of them under say Camden and Kings Cross are slight.

In the period in which I grew up a major source of a sense of identity was religious.  This might relate to geography in some cases and the part of the Atlantic Isles of origin.  Often the sense might be localised to your town, with the "British" or "Irish" "Scots" "Welsh" or "English" parallel.  It was never entirely clear, just the muddle we went along with, more or less.

On the other hand at one stage there was the notion of "Empire" that demanded our loyalty and then after World War 2 we were encouraged to somehow take on board a vague Internationalism where we were all brothers and sisters.

For many this did not work well, they preferred class or political party and in any case we were becoming bombarded with media and business to take on other roles.

Ford and other motoring companies invited us to be loyal to their brand and products, yes I was once Cortina Man, and the marketing boys (not many girls) tried their best to persuade us to build a sense of identity around their offerings even down to toothpaste.

If people asked who am I or what am I the media and the marketing people were all too anxious to instruct them. The pop music business has been frantic to have people identifying with a particular subset or performers.

This reached its apogee several years ago when in a contest for Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party, all ten candidates swore their oath of loyalty to the group "One Direction".

Some therefore turn to history to work out who they are and what they may be, but this may be no help, it could make it more difficult.  If you find out a lot it might make it almost impossible and intricate if different faiths, different occupations and place in the class structure matches that of the past.  There are going to be people you would rather not see there.

In the USA it was the many chances and convolutions of the history of the 17th to 19th Century for it to become a continent wide, English speaking (then) entity in its present form.  If a few battles and wars in Europe had different results we could have had a patchwork of contending states that differed strongly from each other and had different ideas about identity.  Oh, well not quite like that of the present.

This piece of music for me expresses the spirit of Thanksgiving if you have 25 minutes to spare to relax and just let it come to you.  With five minutes left the vision cuts but the music continues.  The shot replacing the vision is from the Martha Graham dance production, see Wikipedia.

As for identity and diversity, perhaps it might be best just to give up and stick to football.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Climate Syria And Sense

HRH Prince Charles thinks that it is climate change in the shape of drought that is the root of the problems with Syria.  Many will agree with him in that it seems so obvious.

But what if there wasn't a drought?  If so, what are the problems and how did they arise?

This long and detailed article in "Energy Matters" by Roger Andrews takes a close look at the situation in the last few years in Syria in relation to agriculture and its production.

This extract is from half way:

And if drought wasn’t the cause what was? There have been two historic contributors. First was Syria’s skyrocketing population, which more than quadrupled from 4.7 million to 22.1 million between 1961 and 2012.

Second was Syria’s government, which in an attempt to keep up with population growth encouraged rapid development of irrigated croplands beginning in the 1980s (according to FAO data Syria’s irrigated cropland increased by 70%, from 693,000 to 1,180,000 hectares, between 1990 and 1995 alone, which explains the large increase in wheat production over this period seen in Figure 7).


It is argued that the upsurge of oil prices a few years ago hit the farmers hard both in pumping the water they needed and getting the crops to market.  In short many went broke at a time when other pressures were increasing.

So in the last fifty years there has been a huge increase in population.  The Government attempted to increase the primary resource of food to keep up with it but were unable to increase the secondary and tertiary sectors enough to provide for employment and wealth for the growing population.

Events beyond their control meant that food became short as well.  Then the complex situation led to a collapse in which the latent bodies of extremists took advantage with outside support.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Suez Crisis Mark 2?

For those of us with memories of Empire, our own and others, why Britain is so anxious to send the might of our RAF, or at least the few old aircraft we can manage, into action in Syria is a puzzle.  Syria was strictly a French patch and had been for a long time.

This merry song  from the past, "Partant Pour La Syrie" is a reminder.  It was the unofficial "hymn" of the Second Empire of Napoleon III, aka Louis Napoleon, 1808-1873, elected President of the Second Republic 1848-1852, self appointed Emperor, 1852-1870 when busted by the Prussians, and died in Chislehurst, Kent.

His only son, also Louis Napoleon, died in South Africa in 1879, in action against the Zulu's having attached himself to the British Army to gain the military experience he felt necessary to attempt a future coup in a divided and fractious Third Republic.  He is buried with his father and mother in the Imperial Crypt at St. Michael's Abbey, Farnborough.

The 1919 Versailles Treaty after World War One, made it clear who was who in the Middle East and in the interest of everlasting peace France was allocated spheres in the Middle East, confirming Syria among them.  This is a century ago and a lot has happened since then.  Until the end of World War II, Britain and France were rivals in the Middle East.

The end of that war and the creation of The Fourth Republic brought the realisation that they were going have to work together at least and preferably agree if they were to retain any real power or influence.  The demands of the USA and the activities of the Soviet Union were a threat but there was increasing unrest in the Middle East and Iran for many reasons, not least the creation of Israel.

The emergence of Gamal Abdel Nasser as dictator in Egypt and bidding to be leader of the Arab world became a sudden and real challenge.  "Something had to be done" was agreed between France and England with talks and ideas of plans and this was spurred on by the nationalisation of the Suez Canal in 1956.

There are full Wikipedia pages on The Suez Crisis, Operation Musketeer and General Hugh Stockwell, the general commanding the Anglo-French forces if you want the full picture.  I have my own vivid memories of that period.  Essentially, the alliance cooked up a military intervention intended to take over in Egypt.  The trouble was what was best militarily did not suit the politicians so Stockwell  had to put up with key strategic decisions being made by them.

The troops did well enough in spite of the difficulties but it was something of a botch job.  But that was less than the half of it.  When they went in the world reaction was adverse and serious.  So much so that given a pending Presidential election, the USA ratted on them.  I know that it had been well aware of what was up, stood aloof and then cried shock horror when it happened.

In the summer of 1956 Stockwell turned up at our HQ to talk to our GOC then Major-General John Winthrop (Shan) Hackett.  He had commanded 4 Para Brigade at Arnhem in 1944 and was a, maybe the, leading Parachute expert around at the time and a friend of Field Marshal Montgomery.  It was a private conversation with no notes taken.

He appeared at the door of the office I was working in under the impression it was the General's.  I explained to him in the kind way I had of dealing with generals who did not know their right from their left that it was the other side of the staircase and produced the very Top Secret file on Operation Musketeer for them.

My own reading of it had been a source of wonder in that knowing something of the history and geography of the area it did not make entire sense in terms of a number of issues.  At the end of the meeting  when exiting Stockwell was heard to say "It's a bxxxxrs muddle but we'll have to make the best of it."

Around three weeks later the G3(Int) and I were packed off with a squadron of signals, a company of The Cameronians and a squadron of The Royals to kick up signals traffic on the banks of the Elbe.  I now know, rather later, that this was probably a caper for GCHQ checking out the Soviet's in East Germany.

You will understand from all this that when Cameron et al talk about going forth into Syria and the rest, I am a little nervous and an old twitch starts up.  It is whether or not the result may be another set of blunders and unintended consequences that could be very damaging.

The Suez Crisis was a game changer in which we had to accept and deal with a very different world and one where we were not welcome in many places for many reasons.  Now ISIS etc. are indeed a very nasty group and despite small numbers have been able to cause extensive problems.

So where are the money, the backup and the arms coming from?  We are proposing to strike at the districts in which ISIS do have power and that must mean both civilian casualties and perhaps a protracted campaign.  We really need to hit hard the supporters.  But these are people who trade with us and own much of our property.

We need them because of the level of our debts and liabilities, let alone the inevitable cries to "do something".  There are choices here that are very difficult and complex ones and if we are serious about checking and stopping ISIS it is going to take a lot more than bombs.  Because these forms of extremism have always been latent in the Middle East.

Now they have been armed (French guns?) and financed putting down these groups will be well removed from our ideas of human rights and fair play.  Similarly, dealing with those sent into Europe to commit terrorist acts will be difficult.  It is a mess, Stockwell in 1956 used the term current then, what we might say now is not the same.

But the mess is a lot bigger and more complicated than we are allowed to think.  Emperor Louis Napoleon III was involved with Britain in the shambles of the Crimean War in which neither party appreciated the importance of basic logistics.

There were errors in Italian Reunification; then the fiasco of The Second Mexican Expire, see Wikipedia and the painting "The Execution of Maximilian" by Eduard Manet in the National Gallery, followed by rapid defeat in the Franco-Prussian War again with bad logistics.

Perhaps on his way to a long weekend in the Cotswolds, David Cameron might take time out for reflection at The Imperial Crypt.

Monday 23 November 2015

Going To The Cinema

Apparently, a cinema advertisement relating to Christmas refers to the Christian prayer "Our Father" but may be pulled because it will cause offence.

In case you missed it:

Pater Noster,
qui es in caelis,
sanctificetur nomen tuum.
Adveniat regnum tuum.
Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra.
Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie,
et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.
Et ne nos inducas in tentationem,
sed libera nos a malo.

I am led to understand that there may be variations in translation so the Latin might be welcome.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Happy Shopping Day

Next Friday, we are to have what is called "Black Friday" a day on which it has been proclaimed by the media that real bargains not only may be had but should be had.  We shall watch the breathless reports and extensive coverage and enjoy ourselves at the madness of crowds.

Quite how and why this major addition to the marking of the birth of the Christian Christ Child occurred is lost in the mists of the late 20th Century marketing strategies of major retail chains.  It is one of those alleged "ripple" effects, if one starts all must follow.

We have already accepted Christmas trees, lights and booking for lunches before the feasts of All Soul's and All Saints and many have been persuaded that a time of the year with minimum daylight and dodgy weather is just right to travel across the land and indeed continents so it is not a surprise.

This year the fun may be more muted.  The recent atrocities and tragedies will give us a great deal of pause for thought and what we do.  But there are other things.  In many places, the figures for government finances are not adding up.  In the UK Chancellor Osborne has some explaining to do about why the petty cash box is always empty.

In the European Union, Frau Merkel is coming to the point where she reminds us of the Peter The Hermit of 1096 (see The Peasants Crusade) and her helpmeet Juncker the Nicholas of Cologne of the Crusades of 1212.  In short, it is all going to end in tears.

The USA is in the early stages of next Presidential election.  Too often these phases in US politics and government are times when bad decisions are made and worse actions taken.  It is argued that a major reason why the US took so long to recover from the 1930's crash was precisely this and we could be in for a repeat.

Elsewhere the big beasts of economics have their troubles.  The news out of China is increasingly bad, Russia is at war, Japan is fiddling the figures yet again and India has major uncertainties.  There are no safe predictions.

And Santa Claus is banned from Europe on Health and Safety grounds and the problems of emissions from his motive power.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Dirty Washing

When people are predicting future politics and who will be in power it is wise to be careful.  Certainly, many in the media are having a good time with The Labour Follies.  With Ken Livingstone embarked on one of his charm offensives on the subject of mental health and the real world having caught up with Jeremy Corbyn and his ilk it seems to be looking good for Cameron and friends.

Cameron is becoming something of a worry.  He plays the role of a quasi-celebrity looking for the quick and easy media take on any situation.  But in his approach to the ISIS problem and the French situation he reminds me too much of Sergeant Lejaune in the film "Beau Geste", "biting head off snakes" is a typical Lejaune moment.

But like any political leader deeply involved in many matters it is always a risk if you take your eye off what the servants may be up downstairs.  These matters come under the heading of "events" that can see off any leader, or party trying to retain power.  Just ask John Major.

There are the goings on at Conservative Central Office which look if  not messy then a source of real trouble within the party as the big wigs start passing off the responsibility and the blame to anyone they can get away with accusing.  But these are the people within who if not enemies are the friends you really should not be mixing with.

These may be the loose cannons within.  But in a system of modern government that tries to be both centralised and out sourced you will have people who are real trouble and for whom you cannot avoid taking some of the blame.  Because if you have a major public service that is run as a bucket shop and it goes badly wrong then the trouble can be endless.

This glaring example is one.  The story from The Mail features a financier Guy Hands whose holdings now include the Four Seasons Health Care Group which is in deep trouble.  This firm has 470 Care Homes with 20,000 beds and is part of the usual off shore mix of companies with Private Equity involved.  It may be "private" but in essence is a public service entity and the buck stops in Downing Street.

A good deal could be said about what is going on here and it is not alone in the way the elderly and infirm provision is dealt with these days but what did catch the eye was the use of the word "industry" to describe its nature.  "Industry"?  This may well be the way that the financiers and their accountants and consultants see it in terms of money flows.

But is it the word that central and local government politicians and officials use as well?  They may use "service" or such, but if they hand over the running to others do they know what they are doing?  We are told that private provision of this kind is "efficient" and "cost saving", but when the costs include what seem to be massive surpluses for financial and personal reasons who is paying and how?

It is not that public service provision is perfect by any means.  A little over forty years ago I was told one horror story by a Social Services Director in a local authority.  It seemed that in one large Labour dominated town the Queen Bee of the local Big Man (use your skill and judgement) deigned to visit a care home and was displeased.

They were using large expensive heavy duty washing machines and in her view only needed the much cheaper Hoovermatics.  Worse was that they were using expensive hospital style sheets when the thin cheap ones would do as well and they did not need changing more than once a week.  Her husband duly forced through the changes.

You may imagine the consequences in the care homes.  It was not long before the Medical Officers of Health threatened to close them all.  But the Labour Party would not give way on the type of machine.  So homes were filled with churning Hoovermatics.  But these needed extra staff in constant attendance to deal with them.  These were ladies on longer part time hours without permanent contracts.

Came the 1974 Labour Government to power along with a nice new 1975 Employment Act the ladies suddenly had permanent status and with full retirement pension rights.  All this had huge effects on the budget for care homes at a time of cuts and austerity.  The collateral damage on other services was severe.

In 1979 however the local Labour Party were proudly claiming that despite all the serious difficulties they had managed major spending increases in care homes.

This was all a long while ago, but compared to the people we have now in government and the media those people were amateurs.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Fortress Europe

Having been instructed by a passing virus that they are in ultimate control the world has turned in many ways.

The Independent today reminds us of the French Empire of the past and its "heritage" in particular the history of Algeria.  19th Century History and European Imperialism was one subject of study and in the 21st Century too many have forgotten that past.

The time when I became a little closer to this was forty or so years during the 1970's when travelling around France.  As well as some obvious holiday spots a good deal of time was spent inland notably using the many cheap, basic but clean local municipal camp sites in ordinary towns and villages.

A small number of places for unknown reasons had communities of Pieds' Noir, the name given to French Algerians who had left Algeria as a consequence of the bitter Civil War that led to Algerian independence in the early 1960's.  The word was that you have to be careful with them, they were very touchy.

However, on some camp sites, the cheapest and quietest, you might come across tented Harki's, the Muslim Algerians who had supported the French regime and then forced to flee.  They were distinct and certainly separate and unwanted by the locals.  We wondered where they would go in the winter.

We had no trouble.  It was not difficult to make arrangements.  A decade before I had to work with devout Muslims and had learned what to do and not to do.  Also, after a brief stay we would be off somewhere else.  Had I been a resident of the town it would not have been so easy.

Now in France the children of their children have been joined by many others from across the Middle East and they are connected to many others perhaps of their families but also communities across Europe.  Their vision of history for the most part has been given to them by men shaped in a way we could never have foretold.

Over that forty years we have been assured by our leaders that all would be well, that we would become happy, diverse and brothers and sisters in our secular, consumerist, media, celebrity world.  It has not happened and it is not going to happen.

I learned that much from the Harki's and Pieds' Noir of the camp sites and the poorer areas of the towns of France.

The picture above is Saumur, see Wikipedia, it had a very good camp site and swimming pool.  One of "my" old tanks is in the museum there.

Saturday 14 November 2015


No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee.

John Donne, 1572 to 1631

Friday 13 November 2015

Lese Majesty And Mr. Corbyn

Since his rise to the position of Leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Corbyn has attracted a good deal of flak over his apparent attitude to certain things that are expected.

They include bowing of the head and back and kneeling.  There may be an explanation of this that has little to do with politics or formal occasions.  Because I have the same problem, so do many people I know.

It is called old age and more specifically the various failings in the joints and bones, notably arthritis but other things that hurt and remind you when you move, or try to, as aches or pains or a stiffness that really hurts when you move.

Possibly, it is not something he wants to talk about or mention, like many of us creaking our way round.

I have this vision of Mr. Corbyn kneeling down then failing to rise and having to be heaved up by the Royals.

One can see the headlines, "Queen supports Labour".

Thursday 12 November 2015

Getting It Wrong In Housing?

The media and the current political debate about housing is one of the central features of domestic politics with the parties trying to outbid each other in persuading the electorate they are the ones to provide for the future.

So when I drive past some of the housing estates being built on the edges of our town, like many other places, the builders are busy and putting up the kind of houses we have known for many decades, but smaller.

Are they the right kind of houses and properties?  The demographics of the present, lifestyles and sources of current demand may mean that the kind of routine building of the past does not fit any more.

We are not alone in this, the same might apply in other states and in the USA.  This brief and perceptive article from the Boston Globe sets out the nature of the problem and points to a critical failure of understanding about what is needed in the 21st Century.

It will take a radical shift in planning, building and financing to bring what is needed into balance with what is being built.

Should we invite our Boston neighbours round for tea?

Connubial Bliss

Sometimes there are items out there on the web that you have to agree with.  Especially from the past.

This is one of them which should tell its own tale.

I did like it.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

The Migrations Are Just Beginning

It was always going to happen, that was the certainty.  What was not certain was the when, where, why, who and what.  Also, it was going to be the consequence of a long period in which views of the situation were muddled and agreeing about issues difficult.

Add to that it would be highly political.  The politicians would be looking for one short term fix after another when it was longer term and going to last.  As political it would be governed not just by short term voter reactions but by the assorted dogmas and beliefs of the politicians, the media and those they are attached to.

Key muddles of thinking began by faulty perceptions of the basics.  One is the concept of sustainability, which has come to mean what people say it means.  A couple of decades ago there was some attention being paid to this that suggested issues that were difficult and ran counter to cherished beliefs.  This meant that those looking at this were slapped down and forced to keep quiet.

The basis of their thinking  was about the way we humans were distributing ourselves around the planet and the implications indicated what the future might bring. This gave rise to the concept of the "footprint" that an urbanised area might have in relation to the rest of the world.

You looked at Earth and at the land surface.  From the total surface there were some deductions because either some parts could not support much human life or provide for them.  Then you might take an urbanised area, say Greater London and ask how much of the Earth's land area was involved in supporting it.  This would be the footprint.

London, it was argued had a large one and was already drawing on resources from many parts of Earth to keep going.  The happy idea that London depended only on the South East of England was a nonsense, in fact to exist in its then form it needed more than the whole UK.

England, with many urban areas depended on a disproportionate part of Earth to keep going.  If you then looked around Earth and tried to calculate how much spare capacity there was for the human race to draw on it was not very much and diminishing fast.

One reason was the rate of population growth in the 20th Century, especially in the second half.  Another was that because of developments in technology and money creation and transmission we had been awarding ourselves an advancing and richer lifestyle in some parts of the globe.  As the population grew we had managed to persuade ourselves into believing  we could all become richer.

One of the trick ponies to keep the circus going was the use of statistics, notably GDP or Gross Domestic Product. This purports to measure real economic activity by measuring the relevant money flows through the various sectors of activity.  But this is all activity, at least the ones that can be counted.

But all resources are not the same.  There is the well known division of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary with perhaps the Quaternary added.  In that any economic activity can create jobs and money flows this might not seem to matter.

Also, politicians can be persuaded and persuade others that so long as the numbers can be massaged up then all will be well.  This in the UK at the moment means the dogma that immigration is necessary to keep the numbers going up to pay and provide the public services and other demands.

But what can happen when the rate and level of population increase in an area means that primary resources become scarcer there, for example food, water and energy and other areas are stressed.  If strife and failures in government add to the mix then movement will occur.  The competition for control of the scarce resources is likely to lead to violence and conflict.

If the footprints of all the urban areas of the world have now begun to exceed specifically the primary resources required it will impact on some areas sooner than others.  If in those areas they can no longer support secondary or tertiary economic activity at a level  to deal with the demands, which are rising ever more rapidly, increasing proportions of the population movement will migrate to other lands.

It is very complicated but it is possible that the present Middle Eastern situation is the first "crunch" in what might be a the future for many or most nation states if they survive as such.  Large outflows of population from one place to another will not just deliver more people, they are likely to deliver the same problems where they arrive in the surge of demand for basic resources and also services.

I was around when the movements of population occurred in the 1940's.  Then the world population was only a third of that today.  At the time the ideas of internationalism, free movement of people and the rest took hold for many, to the extent of becoming, as in the EU, a fixed belief.

But then we had the idea that for practical purposes the basic resources of the world were unlimited and we could deal with any of the transitory difficulties that might occur.  Now we have the strange situation of the priests of open borders and large scale migration being largely the same people as the priests of climate warming.

In the UK we were voting in a Labour Government who went in for rigorous controls of carbon emissions at the same time as bringing in numbers of migrants who greatly added to the demands for energy and other primary resources.  They bought the votes with spending and debt that added to the problems.  In my town the factories closed but we were given the joys of the night time economy and fast food outlets  to replace them staffed by many migrants.

Now we have a government who are shuffling about trying to keep us in an EU with its not just muddled but hopelessly contradictory policies in all these key areas of population and economic policy.  At the same time we are engaging with a China which has its own population issues and doubtless hoping to export people to help us with our economy.

Look at this display as an example. It could be that we are beginning to run out of resources and we are running out of time as well.  My view is that probably we are now too late.

Monday 9 November 2015

Birthday Greetings

Is Bryn Terfel really fifty today?  Surely, he is still a lad, at least at heart.

A happy birthday to him for all the pleasure he has given us.

This four minute link reminds us.  It is the Royal Opera "Tosca" end of Act One, and we were there.

I like to think of Scarpia as a role model, but that is another story.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Saturday 7 November 2015

Be Careful Very Careful

As the good ship "HMS Government" sails into the unknown regions of next week and next month many perils of the deep await it.

They are on all the maps, if the navigator knows how to look at them, and the risks are evident from the many wrecks of governments that have gone before them.

Some of the hazards are below water, but because the lookout cannot see them then they are assumed not to be there, despite all the evidence.  Some of them are all too evident, sticking up for all to see.  But because a course is plotted this is no reason to avoid them.

The care of the aged is one outcrop of rocks for which the ship of state is now headed.  This story from the Independent is about what is going on in money terms in this area of provision where the financial operators collide with social need.  This is not the first time and all the signs are of a major crisis in the making.

Do we really want our care homes and related facilities run by Hedge Funds engaged in high intensity trading volumes?  Why not the Hospices as well?  Could their rate of turnover could be calculated in algorithms to predict viability of funding turnover?

One can almost hear the phone call to the manager telling him that the termination rate needs improving and not to worry about the coroner, that can be fixed.  And hey, do these cost units really need feeding and liquids and by the way turn off the heating?

Then there is retirement housing.  That could be worked on to enable added activity in collateralised debt obligations.  But wait, it seems that most of the freeholds in this sector are owned ultimately by a major offshore trust in lien to Deutsche Bank.

Deutsche Bank is in control of much of our retirement housing?

Oh dear.