Tuesday 31 July 2018

Wet Or Dry?

This is another post from the past that is repeated. Quote:

Watching weeping weather forecasters glumly forecasting rain seems a strange way to start thinking about drought but someone has to. One item around the press this week that caught the eye was about the study of tree ring data on ancient trees in the Americas coupled with scientific analysis of the implications.

The thesis is that over the last 2000 years or so in those areas as well as the usual variations in weather patterns over periods and climatic shifts there have been four “mega-droughts” whose effects have been catastrophic both for the environments and the populations within them.

The suggestion is that such droughts led to the collapse of the Maya societies and other changes. The Maya had built up highly complex urban based cultures with agricultural systems organised to produce surpluses to sustain them. In other places less complicated but still well organised groups have simply disappeared. The end of a number of ancient societies might have involved water problems.

In recent history there have been enough droughts of one kind or another across the world to warn us of what can happen. During The Raj in India and during the period earlier of British takeover droughts occurred which impacted on large areas of the Sub-Continent. We have seen major droughts in Africa and even in the USA in the 1930’s in the mid West there were serious problems, notably in Oklahoma.

Very often, and almost inevitably in some cases the situation becomes chaotic in the real sense of the word. Governments and administrations simply cannot cope with the extent and complexity of the problems arising.  Not only is there instability but society can descend into war bands intent on self interest.

For the populations affected death and disease take large numbers, those that can get out do, those that survive scrape by at the lowest levels in shattered lands. In the centuries past with substantially fewer people and much lower proportions in urbanised surroundings the effects were bad enough.

What could happen in the coming years of the 21st century if shifting weather patterns alone, irrespective of all the theories of climate change, cause major long term droughts in areas with large populations is difficult to contemplate. It is not possible to predict precisely where, how big and how complicated it could be.

What might have happened in the UK if the 1976 hot spell had gone on for several years?  We were having problems after only a few dry months.  Even now when some event causes disruption to water supplies it can provoke a local crisis. Is anyone taking a serious look at what could happen either within the UK or in parts of the world with large populations if the water supplies simply dried up?

In the meantime in the City of London, the dealers at the trading desks whoop and holler when a natural disaster occurs somewhere that might affect the supplies of essential commodities, with a disregard for the needs of the mass of the people.

If the taps run dry it will be the masses who will be looking for water and the money to buy it.


Pray for rain to the deity above.

Saturday 28 July 2018

Open The Box

There has been some discussion recently about The Constitution again and the various measures needed to deal with the faults and make it more responsive and responsible. This from July 2009 is about voting systems.


“Political Science” is a field of study that is short on science and long on politics.  The relevant philosophies that intrude on the subject may veer unsteadily between the two. Often there is a lot of history involved, sometimes from historians, often not.

This again depends on the mind set, field of study and thinking processes of the writer. A number of politicians on the Left of British politics have written theses at one time or another under this broad heading.  Although classified as “political science” they would be better shelved under Fiction or Comedy.

The question of voting systems has long been one of the parts that is left to the more “nerdish” students and academics involved. It is all very “techie” and complicated with obscure jargon, terms and labels and the rest. I have not seen a “Voting For Dummies” in the local bookshops but it will not be long before one is available, at a price.

In voting systems, as with computer software and techno’ kit often the worst thing you can do it to go for the alleged upgrade or improvement or bolt on thingy that is said to deal with an immediate problem. The trouble with quick fixes is that they are rarely quick and the fix does not last for long, because then you have more trouble than when you started.

The whole question of “to AV or not to AV” is yet another quick fix.  The British Constitution has had a huge number of such since the late muddle Major years and following under blagger Blair and blunder Brown. In computer terms like those still on Windows 95 it is time to find another operating system.

The basic system no longer functions in terms of modern demands nor will it ever and the notion of a tinkered change to the voting system such as AV or similar device will not deal with the essential problems of how we are governed.

Our major problem as in so many fields is that in Britain we are carrying far too much baggage from the past in the way we direct our thinking to the issues of the present and the future.

One in the UK is having been told by conventional wisdom of the past to rejoice over the benefits of our two party system.  This was part of our great history.  Once we had Whigs and Tories, then after 1832, Liberals and Conservatives emerged only for the Labour party to supplant the Liberals by 1945. It was never as simple as that and in any case the franchise had changed utterly as had the whole structure of Parliament and Government.

By the mid 20th Century we had developed a Civil Service that was relatively incorrupt and reliable and had established a network of local authorities that was more or less effective, although often in a ramshackle and unpredictable way.

It was not perfect but it was not evil or exploitative or vicious or beholden to dogmatic extremes. Also it provided the foundations for Whitehall to do a job that attempted to relate to the real tasks in hand.

What do we have at present? A parliament that little reflects the electorate and along with government is no longer the culmination or peak of political or personal ambition. Nearly all of them use it as a stepping stone to further riches or celebrity. Would Blair have become a property magnate, friend of the plutocrats and jet set political and financial fixer had he not been Prime Minister?

It was in the 1960’s under the statistician Harold Wilson and Lt. Col Edward Heath of the Honourable Artillery Company, and Chief Whip, when it was finally fully realised that to target marginal constituencies was one key way to win an election, especially a closely contested one, as many were at this time. The old big world grandstanding was always there but the real money was thrown at where it really mattered politically and has been ever since.

It is our fixation that one way or another the voting systems should be based on the notion of constituencies that has been at the base of so many of the major fault lines in the UK government. Originally, the House of Commons had been drawn from the Knights of the Shire and the Burghers of the few Chartered Boroughs to advise the Lords and Monarch and to agree taxation.

After 1832 there was a series of revisions based on the 19th century view or urbanised and rural community that resulted later in the First Past The Post election based on single member constituencies in a Parliament controlled and dominated by the House of Commons.

In commercial and industrial terms this has had the effect of concentrating attention and influence on economic activities of the immediate past and not the future or what is needed after radical change occurs.

This has had a disastrous impact on the two major parties.  The Labour Party became dependent on and controlled by a limited number of industrial and political interests in its “heartlands” and a similar effect was in the Conservative Party.

The switching in marginal constituencies ensured those members came and went.  This limited those who led to those who were lucky enough to picked in a heartland base.

All those who supported a party in the heartland of another were ignored and this led to gross imbalances in representation and policy. At one time the Civil Service and local government networks provided a balance but in the last decades these have been both corrupted and almost destroyed in real effectiveness or as neutral entities in the business of governing and administering.

The situation now is that the smallest area for providing a base of election to the House of Commons should have not less than twenty Members of the House of Commons which might have a total membership of between 350 or 450 but no more.

If there is to be a Second Chamber to replace the crony Lords then it should be half that number and elected from the same base area on the same form of franchise.

The voting system should be one close to those of other countries where those parties with major support will have a representation close to their total votes.  For small parties a minimum might be necessary but not high enough to deter some minorities of one sort or another having at least one or two voices.

Precisely which form of this kind of voting system would be best is one for the experts but one preferably that is not too complex or liable to distortions.

We might then begin to relate to reality but just how we fix a shattered Civil Service and an off the rails local government I do not know.


Time to think.

Thursday 26 July 2018

Hot From The Press

The latest heat wave is being compared to that of 1976 for the most part, possibly because there are many people from that period to be able to comment and compare. One that is less remembered because you need to be older is that of 1955.

The picture above is said to be of office girls at the Holborn Oasis outdoor pool in central London. I have my doubts. The pool in those days would have show girls and dancers there from the many theatres close by. Office girls and nurses had strict hours and short breaks during the day.

Students, notably ex-servicemen, fleeing the serious discussions of female students about academic stuff, would hasten there for ordinary conversations. They might also learn about contemporary and other culture, for example the exact steps for male partners in a can can routine.

In 1955 itself, I was in Germany, where the heat was at roasting level. Luckily, my unit had a few old India hands and veterans of the Desert War. The G1, Chief of Staff to the General, had served with Skinner's Horse both up the Khyber and in the desert.

So as soon as the heat was on we were all into shirt sleeve order, compulsory water drinking, regular breaks and a very different timetable, sometimes working at midnight but resting at midday. The German's thought we were mad.

But as we liked to point out to them, we had won the desert war while their casualties for heat stroke were a great deal higher than ours. Also, after June 1944 in the warmer period in Europe we had water when they did not.

So now in the 21st Century, it is back to the old routine in a way. And counting the cost, all those fans going. Have a nice day.

Monday 23 July 2018

It's Curious About Privacy

As the government security services struggle to catch up with Google, other web providers, sundry fraudsters, hackers, credit companies, social networking sites and the eighteen year old who has problems with making personal relationships now in charge of the UK nuclear arsenal there has been something of a fuss about “privacy”, whatever that is.

Going back to the past, I do not recall my parents having much in the way of privacy.  It would not take much to work out what the newsagent, milkman, window cleaner, grocer, butcher etc. thought about us.

Add to that the local copper, who if he did not know everybody, knew exactly who to ask.  Then there were the employers, teachers, for the church goers the minister and a few others with incidental information of one sort or another.

As for that lady in number 23, what she did not know about anyone in the street wasn’t worth knowing.  The few who had telephones would have been easy to tap and not many people had much mail and most of that was easily identifiable.

In short, we may have had something of a private life but it was no way similar to that which most people expect today.  Inevitably, some people managed to hide more than others and in some communities keeping track of those on the move was difficult, but not impossible.

We all had to work, to shop and to pay rent or for a minority a mortgage.  Then, anyone with bank accounts and any financial matters to attend to had to tell people who they were and what they were doing.  No faking the figures or fictions then.

In the time before mobiles, computer links and the rest phones were routinely tapped.  One person I knew who lived close to a Minister for Defence and was within the circle of contacts was aware of this, all those clunks on the line and accepted it as part of ordinary life.

It could be quite fun for him.  If the phone was playing up a call to someone who was “sensitive” would have the GPO van round within the hour to sort out the street box for whatever caused the trouble.  His service was superb.

In the era of the Second World War and later The Cold War inevitably the ways and means of keeping a check on people grew and could take in a great many people.  For those of us with military experience many were aware of other issues.

When I think of what the security services were capable of then, almost sixty years ago with the kit they had at the time, that so much more is possible today is no surprise.  But there is more to go at and it all much more complicated.

But if you wind back to the longer past, then you realise that in previous centuries the notion of “privacy” that we entertain would have seemed not simply foreign but neither attainable nor desirable.

One way or another we were all answerable to God and therefore those who represented him on Earth in both Church and State.  Also, you were either a servant or served someone as an employee or you had servants and employees yourself.  Quite often you were both servant and employer.

So between all this, the neighbours very close indeed and the warp and weft of families and extended family there wasn’t privacy to be had.  The first time you had privacy was in the shroud.  At one time it was possible to become a hermit or an anchorite, but even then someone had to supply the food and your privacy was actually a prison.

It may seem odd to suggest freedom might lie not in privacy but in the lack of it and where you have real choice of who to engage with and what to participate in.  It is possible that the more people who know about you then the less that is known.

Our current notions of “privacy” in the developed world arise out of the ideas of individualism, the fragmentation of relationships, family and other and the ability conferred by modern technology and feeding systems for us to detach from others and the need for mutual support.

At one time, if you wanted to know the salary of a public official and the expenses to which they were entitled it was quite easy to find.  Official documents were there to be seen if you wanted to take the trouble.

The idea of senior local government officers (now “managers”) having personal pay, benefits and expenses arrangements on a confidential basis as “privacy” as well as commercial connections also deemed “confidential” was wholly alien.

One problem today is that what might be called very personal lives have been muddled up with a much wider definition of our activities.  The media have not helped by declaring the personal aspects of celebrities to be more important than other features of their lives, like how they avoid or evade tax.

Then to introduce the element of “class”.  But in the world of today it does seem that those who can afford to buy or acquire privacy can stay almost wholly detached from the rest of us.

So you and I and most of us are going to have no privacy at all in reality and in the end are paying for it. On the other hand those who govern us and control our lives can remove their affairs from any public scrutiny.

Think about it, if you can find some privacy to do it.

Friday 20 July 2018

Burning French Toast

On the evidence of yesterday the Tour de France mountain stages, notably that of Alpe D'Huez are turning the race into a lottery where it is not the cycling that matters but the survival. Nibali, a leading contender was knocked off his cycle during the run in and Froome was slapped and spat on. Probably, there were others.

It seemed as though some effort had been made for control in that the last 5 kilometres had spectator rails, but alas the mob with the loonies, exhibitionists and thugs had simply moved downhill. Why the French seem reluctant to restrict entry to those areas is a question.

The bigger question is whether the Tour should any longer use these traditional routes and opt for different ones where control of access and roads clear for racing and not dodging the spectators is there to make it a real race and not a media, advertising set of stunts.

The Tour is changed in other ways. The hi-tech radio etc. instant communication means that the riders do not necessarily make the key decisions. They are being made by Team Managers although might be ignored by one of the big names, up to a point.

An effect of this is that commentators now spend a good time of time speculating on the team directions and tactical instructions rather than what is happening on the road. One major effect is that this is differs greatly now from the past, more regulated more governed by other things.

On Monday 22 July 2013 I did a post "Le Tour De Frantic" about how things had changed. They are more changed now and it is less than a Tour than a lottery whose results are determined by the men in the control vehicles, occasionally the mob on the roads and the sprints in the last kilometre.

When it is the scenery I am watching and not the race perhaps it is time to try another channel and another sport.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Picking At The Past

The long running BBC series "Who Do You Think You Are"  is on BBC1, the popular channel, and the tales are personal interest in families and not academic studies into social, military or other history. They hire a few academics to give a veneer of history but what is surprising is not what they tell us but what they do not.

The latest programme about Lee Mack, or Lee Gordon McKillop, was in my own territory in that the main item was about The Kings Liverpool Regiment in World War One and the second one took us to Ballina in County Mayo in Ireland. His great grandfather William was among the first to sign up for the Liverpool Pals of the Kings Liverpool Regiment in the 17th Battalion.

The McKillop part concentrated on the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 and the role of the 17th and then his being part of a concert party, The Optimists, who performed as well as being soldiers in the line. After that the story of the 17th becomes hazy. The records are difficult to explore. But between 1916 and 1918 the 17th was twice much reduced in numbers.

What happened to William? A guess is that he may have been injured at some stage, or gassed, because he was said to be out by early 1918? Or was he? It might have been interesting because the 17th was part of the Murmansk Expedition of 1918 to northern Russia when the allies intervened with a force to try to keep Russia fighting Germany by supporting the White Russians against the Reds.

It failed, the Tsar and his family were murdered and some argue that the Expedition was in part responsible for causing the Bolsheviks to go on a killing campaign to remove all opposition. This I suspect, is not something the BBC would want to see in a family personal interest programme.

There was something else in the family that was skipped. William's father was born in the West Indies, in Tobago around 1869. If you want a detailed item then go to this LSE thesis of 1995 on Tobago in that period.

To add to it Tobago was hit be a major hurricane in 1847 which led to major economic changes. So it is not certain what these McKillop's might have been doing. Usually, a West Indian ancestor would be featured, but not it seems one perhaps of Scottish origin.

Lee is an entertainer with a large audience but when the second item took us to Ballina in County Mayo, Ireland, for one of the maternal line name Farrell or O'Farrell or variant it was to a period parallel when this leading figure was active, even down to running a shebeen.  The book is by Andrew Lamb and titled "Leslie Stuart. Composer Of Floradora" and the link is to page 46.

Leslie Stuart was the professional name, he was born, like Lee in Southport and again like Lee made his name in the theatre etc. world of his time. Born Thomas Augustine Barrett his parents were from Ballina and he did not forget it. Then it was Liverpool, Manchester, London and New York. Moreover, in his time Leslie was one of the leading composers and impresarios in his field.

To have an entertainer with family from Ballina, there at the same time as the Barrett's, there were a number of those families, and one of the leading lights of musical theatre in his time and fail to make the connection is astonishing. How much "research" do they actually do?

The O'Ferrall surname is one of the leading ones in the area in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The BBC item was a sorry story about a lady left with a child but not a husband who later left for the USA. They were an ordinary family but in the large extended families of that time there were many of humble status who generations back had ancestors of the upper orders.

As the series goes on it will be fascinating to see what they will miss out in the others to come.

Saturday 14 July 2018

The Scramble For Europe

The six part series about African civilisations run on BBC4 from the PBS channel in the last part of six dealt with the carve up of Africa by European powers in the 19th and into the 20th Century. At one stage, the newly created German Empire, called a conference at Berlin in 1884 of the key 16 European states involved.

There is a part of Africa in all of us according to this recent study reported in Science Daily but in the late 19th Century the ideas about humanity by the theorists gave substance to the rulers of Europe adding parts of Africa to their domains. Otto Von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany, did not want this to trigger wars and conflicts between European states for the riches to be had.

But in 1888 his Kaiser Wilhelm I died, his successor Frederick lasted only three months before dying so Kaiser Wilhelm II ruled. He dumped Bismarck in 1890 and set out to change the course of history on his own terms and by 1914 and after a series of crises a major European war broke out.

The term for all this was the Scramble for Africa, not unique in that in the continent down the millennia there had been many wars, empire building, wealth taking and political and economic flux and ways of life and civilisations almost forgotten.

With the Europeans it began with the Portuguese and it was not long before others followed. They began with trading posts, which became towns, which then had rich merchants who needed defending and used both local and mercenary troops from Europe. At the same time they became parts of local townships and capitals.

It was not long before these became involved in internal conflicts to their own advantage and soon enough the outsiders came to take control of some areas and in others had indirect rule by the power and influence they exerted on the local rulers. These often welcomed the outsiders as essential to their economic and social futures.

More Europeans came in to settle and Africa became a subject continent with few exceptions and the structure of its society, institutions etc. became more European and less African to the point where the old was almost or completely lost.

But remove this to the late 20th and new 21st Century and change the pattern from Europeans taking over to others taking over Europe, perhaps from Africa but also from other places. Then follow the money and who has effective economic control. Not least look at the patterns of movement and settlement occurring In Europe.

Where do our finance, investment funds and other sources of infrastructure investment and other key areas come from? Who is dictating the key financial decisions and on what basis? Who provides our energy? Who do our politicians run to for advice, decisions or to sort out their many messes and conflicts?

Like the Africans of the past the Europeans of the present are seeing a Scramble for Europe and who can tell where it will end and who will control which parts of Europe by the mid 21st Century?

Thursday 12 July 2018

Sir Henry Newbolt Revisited

There's halitosis on the pitch tonight, the linesman's jamming and the ref' got tight. Punch up, punch up and to hell with the game. The World Cup Final promises to be another grim struggle of alpha male domination. There are better ways of spending the time.

At least we will be spared all the flannel of our historic problems with the French. The battle scene from Laurence Olivier's "King Henry V" is on Youtube if you like all that sort of thing. Rather like a Saturday night on the High Street but more organised.

As in many things the game we have now is removed from its origins in this country. The 1863 idea of making rules worked for a while but is falling into disuse. Perhaps we might look for the historic alternatives.

The Chinese, as ever, seem to have been there a millennia before in the game of Cuju, see Wikipedia and picture above. Probably, there are still places in China some locals play a kind of equivalent.

Is it now time for an entrepreneur to copyright rules, put some money into it and see how much the TV satellite providers come up with?

It might have made a better alternative to the World Cup than blokes chasing each other on bicycles. 

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Have A Nice Blog

There have been several blogs recently that have gone off the radar and I suspect more to follow.  There will be many reasons for this.  Some will decide to get a life or rather another one, others have finally run out of time, others will have had ultimatums from spouse/partner or other family or creditors or the boss.

There will be a few who feel that they have said enough and have little more to add. One group will be those who became so enraged about the  government that they are at a loss to know how to direct their feelings.  A reason for this is the new lot have barely begun their work and we need to see what will be what.

Broadly bloggers seem to fall into three major groups with a largish fringe.  There are the professionals for whom the end of the dead tree press is nigh and who wish to be at the commanding heights of the blogosphere.  Others are representative of one organisation or established grouping or another and whose output reflects this.

Then there is the broad range of general bloggers and blogs which may be from a base of an organisation but open to wide debate or individual in scope.  The fringe is just that, a random collection of individuals and groups who want to have their say and hope someone agrees.

Among the professionals and those who need to have a high rate of posting there is always the danger of misreading the runes or making bad mistakes.  There are those with an angle sometimes difficult to estimate but often blatant.

There is nothing much new about this kind of thing.  If you look in Wikipedia at “The Thomason Collection of Civil War Tracts” you will see that in the 17th Century all our ancestor bloggers were alive and active. 

I have spent many happy hours wending my way through this material. It has more depth, is largely better informed and frankly in many ways more entertaining than much of the 21st Century blogs.

It is fascinating to see just how Archbishop James Ussher arrived at his views on the delicate theological matter of just how old the earth was. Nowadays on the basis of more recent science most of us, but far from all, especially in the USA, believe that he was wrong.

So who was he?  He had been busted from his See by the 17th Century Civil War, pitched up as Lecturer at Lincoln’s Inn, was bad at it because his teeth had fallen out and then roped in by Oliver Cromwell to stop the row about the age of the earth causing mutiny and friction among the members of the Eastern Association.

Ussher could almost be a template for the blogger of modern times. In the 18th Century the printed debates were almost as active and in the press there would be well informed parallel comment.

The most famous is Junius of the “Public Advertiser” who is now thought to have been Sir Philip Francis. If he was I suspect he was using feeds from others, notably Jeremy Sneyd, friend of Sheridan and who was connected to the Johnson circle.

Then there is Cobbett and others like him. Dickens in the 19th Century started out as “Boz”, almost a classic blogger style operator, although wordy by 21st Century Standards. Many of the 19th Century writers were predecessors to the blogs in the shape of their writing and opinions.

During all these periods there were ups and downs, more activity and less activity and a wide range of opinion and coming and going. So not much changes; only the means of communication.

What has happened was that in the mid to late 20th Century a great deal of the printed word and media fell into the hands of smaller, more powerful and concentrated groups, substantially commanded from the centres of power.

Now the web and the ability to write, to communicate and to research has become so much easier and literally anyone can join in and they do.  If the representatives of the past media establishment do not like it they should remind themselves that their position has been only an historical accident. What is happening now is in many ways a reversion to the past.

The one issue that does worry me is that a good many of the professional and the representative bloggers are simply not looking at many of the serious sources of information. There is a huge amount of solid information that needs looking at and deserves using in informed comment.

This is the difference between many bloggers and their equivalents of the past.  They were normally better informed for their time and able to handle complicated ideas and information.  The present knockabout business is not enough in the world we are in.

Saturday 7 July 2018

Football Fantasy

Given the extensive coverage of the Russian World Cup perhaps it is high time GDPR, Privacy, Inhuman Rites and all that were applied to football  This would be along the lines of the following.

An unspecified team to play against another team from a far away country later in the week has been announced.  Following an appeal against the team manager granted by telephone call to a High Court judge by the distraught WAG of a man who has not been selected, an injunction has been granted.

This is on the grounds of privacy to avoid hurting his feelings and his prospects of a highly profitable imminent media rights agreement.

The manager would not comment save to say it would make life easier in the after match analysis.  The spokesman for the football authority concerned said “Who reads the programmes anyway?”

Goalkeeper - Mr. X.

Defenders - Mr. X. Mr. X. Mr. X. Mr. X.

Midfielders - Mr. X. Mr. X. Mr. X. Mr. X.

Forwards - Mr. X. Mr. X.

Substitutes - Mr. X. Mr. X. Mr. X. Mr. X. Mr. X. Mr. X. Mr. X.

Spectators will be blindfolded and assisted to their seats.

Representatives of the media will not be permitted to name players nor give any description that might allow identification.

The referee and officials will not be permitted to point to players or to record their names or any decision.

The judge will be available in a hospitality suite to give injunctions, guidance and committals for contempt of court as necessary.

No result of the game or associated games will be announced until the formal appeal is heard in court sometime late in 2021.

Thursday 5 July 2018

Plunder And Modernity

Is the old baggage of theories and “isms” we have collected down the years out of date and now impedes real discussion and awareness of what is going on out there? The problem is finding new words and a structure of ideas that does and can be understood and to reduce matters to the simplest possible.

It is that the world is ruled by a changing group of people who have gained control over the financial systems, scarce resources, communications and means of distribution. They are above the law, can control politics and their interests extend into almost every home and location in the world from which they extract increasing amounts of wealth.

Much of the developed world is collapsing into debt slavery and much of the undeveloped world is already there. There are two possible words, Plundercrats or Lootocrats with Plunderocracy and Lootocracy as the group options. The second comes a little too close to the old Plutocrats associated with past “ism’s”.

The first is a little clumsier but is more accurate as it more or less describes their mode of operations.  I am settling for Plundercrats. It arises from the debate about whether the Vikings were raiders or traders. Over their period they seem to have been both and the two went together. They were not the only ones at that time.

If you look at history in the longer period and over wider territories than Europe and the Mediterranean there have been times when there have been many types of mobile armed groups with predatory intentions and purpose who have plagued others and have taken what they wanted.

What made The Vikings different was that they arrived suddenly by deep sea voyages and did not trouble too much about who they attacked. The churches and monasteries were not sacred as far as they were concerned if there was plunder or loot to be had.

To reduce all the political structures of history to their basic form essentially you have four organisational layers (who says I am not up to date?) above the base farming, working and trading elements in a society.

You have War Bands, roughly a boat load of Vikings or Saxons and the like. Above them you might often have a War Lord who is recognised as senior and sometimes controlling of a number of War Bands, maybe by consent, maybe by force.

Above the category of War Lord there is Overlord who can command the loyalty and support of a number of War Lords.  Then it is possible to have a superior lord who commands, and/or controls and is recognised by Overlords and other Warlords as their superior.

To put it into old fashioned European terms an Emperor or major King might be a superior lord, other Kings with sundry Dukes, Princes as Overlords, and then ranks of Warlords and War Bands below them.

This system covers one or another most complex political systems in history.  If you scratch below the surface of either ancient or modern supposedly representative systems you can find the same basic structure. They might have stopped cutting throats and all the rest but the idea is control and supremacy.

The key to this is that these are in continual flux and do not remain static.  Groups can rise or fall with either astonishing rapidity or over several generations. One situation can change form and then change again and again.

What is it all about?  Essentially just like the aggressive Viking raiders, plunder, loot and money taking to enable the gathering of wealth to trade in desired goods and to create status.

Also, the more of it you take the greater the chances of ascending the ladder of lordship, so long as you can keep it and your followers together. During our human history the various grades of lords have rarely cared too much about what happens to those below them and the collateral damage.

All these war band leaders and their lords are Plundercrats or Lootocrats and they are with us today in the shape of the globalised financial, oil and business communities.  They have now escaped the control of the military lords; indeed they pay and command them.

This is done through their political agents and stewards, sometimes theoretically representative, often dictatorial who depend on their funding and support for the access to media and the bands of followers they lead.

Unluckily, their greed and rapacity has done so much damage that in the vast urban areas and their helot populations new groups of predator War Bands are springing up.

They are going out of control and will soon either contest the local Plundercrat leadership or by operating as independent entities that are impossible to control these War Bands will reduce the major economic bases to extreme forms of poverty.

The Plundercrats will then form or recruit their personal War Bands and retreat into heavily fortified communities, sometimes having to pay ransoms or forfeits to any better equipped War Band that might turn up asking for cash, as did the old Vikings.

I saw this big fast boat down at the coast that is there for the taking. If around thirty to forty blokes with time on their hands and all the right kit would like to come along we could have an interesting trip.

Should we start at Marbella and move on to Monaco? Call it our own personal Human Rights Campaign.

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Healthy Puffing

One of the major problems in medicine is determining what is actually wrong with a patient. Our traditional system of going to a doctor, if you can find one, saying what you feel like and where relies on her or him working out what it might be.

If they think it is not serious then probably you will get a prescription for whatever and packed off ten minutes later. If this does not work and your repeated visits became a nuisance you will be sent for Hospital examination. If at first they suspect "serious" you might get there a lot earlier.

What happens next might be determined by how busy they are and whether you are still more or less functioning. It can be very hit and miss. The net result is that weeks, months, or even years down the line the real cause etc. might be determined and dealt with.

According to "The Engineer" we could now avoid a great deal of this coming and going, guesswork, tests that are the wrong kind or not very good or might not identify what is wrong. It also means that the time between detection and treatment is radically shortened which means better survival rates and less handicaps.

If this kind of equipment had been available in the past how many lives would have been changed for the good and how much agony avoided?

Sunday 1 July 2018

Watering No Flowers Again

Exactly eight years ago I had a post on water shortages.

This is it below:

A number of times in the past I have mentioned that one of the developing serious issues in the world is that of water supply and distribution.  In the UK we may think we do not have the problem but it would only take marginal shifts in several related areas of supply and demand to create one.  And it will be one with no easy or cheap answer.

Quote from “The Ecologist” of 29 June 2010:

Report lists top ten countries at risk of water shortages.

Sub-Saharan African countries top list of those with most vulnerable water supplies as report warns of 'looming crisis' in both Asia and Africa from pollution and depletion of natural water resources.

Depleting water supplies are increasing the risk of both internal and cross-border conflict as competition between industry, agriculture and consumers increases, according to an assessment of world most vulnerable countries.

The report from the analysts Maplecroft, says that the ten countries most at risk are: Somalia (1), Mauritania (2), Sudan (3), Niger (4), Iraq (5), Uzbekistan (6), Pakistan (7), Egypt (8), Turkmenistan (9) and Syria (10).

The ranking was based on an assessment of access to water, water demands and the reliance on external supplies with countries like Mauritania and Niger more than 90 per cent reliant on external water supplies.

Dam conflict.

Egypt, ranked eight by the report, is dependent on water from the Blue Nile, and is in the midst of an ongoing dispute with Ethiopia over the construction of the Gibe III dam in Ethiopia, which it claims will further deplete its water resources. The dam, which would be the largest in Africa, has also faced opposition from NGOs who claim it will devastate fisheries in neighbouring Kenya.

A separate report has highlighted the worsening problem of water scarcity in the Himalayan sub-region of India, Bangladesh, China and NepalAlthough none of these countries made Maplecroft's top ten list, the Indian-based Strategic Foresight Group (SFG) say they will have to cope with 275 billion cubic meters less water within 20 years - more than the total amount of water currently available in just one of the countries – Nepal.

It says that while global warming may take two centuries to seriously deplete the Himalayan glaciers, some impacts will be visible sooner. The Yellow River in China and the Ganges (with its tributaries) in India are expected to become seasonal rivers by the second half of this century.

The high water demands of agriculture in both India (where it accounts for 90 per cent of water usage) and China (where it accounts for 65 per cent of water) will lead to a drop in wheat and rice yields of between 30-50 per cent by 2050, according to the report. It said both countries would be forced to import 200-300 million tonnes of crops.

Water pollution.

In addition to natural depletion, the report also pointed out the increasing scarcity of water resources due to pollution. The Yellow River Conservancy Committee estimates 34 per cent of the river is unfit for drinking, aquaculture, and agriculture.

An estimated 30 per cent of the tributaries of Yangtze River are extremely polluted and in India, 50 per cent of the Yamuna River, the main tributary of the Ganges is extremely polluted.

Data for rivers in Bangladesh are not available, but a study published recently in the Lancet medical journal said up to 77 million people in Bangladesh had been exposed to toxic levels of arsenic from naturally contaminated groundwater supplies.

In total, SFG says that more than 30 per cent of the major Himalayan rivers are biologically dead and unfit for people or fish.


In the summer of 1976 a number of areas in the UK experienced shortages that caused substantial disruption.  If an accident can happen, it will.