Please drink, gamble and fornicate responsibly

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The UK is NOT in the European Union

The Prime Minister has, despite his previous clear manifesto commitment, decided for us that there should not be a referendum on our membership of the European Union. He further claims to "completely understand" those who want us to leave it.

He does not understand.

We are not in the EU now.

It is unfortunate, but as the Bible shows, hardly without precedent, that opposition to the current unlawful state of affairs should begin with voices crying out in the desert. One such voice is Albert Burgess, whose website "A Case For Treason" calls for the arraignment of those in our political class who have agreed to make us subject to European law, regulation and institutions. He is calling for citizens (British subjects) to make official complaints to the police, requiring them to bring charges of sedition, treason etc.

Doubtless this will not succeed in the near future and he will be written off as a crank; but his case is founded on fact and logic and as Thoreau reportedly said, "Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one." But look how long it took William Wilberforce to carry the anti-slavery vote in Parliament, and hope.

At the core of Burgess' case is his reading of the British Constitution, which is that rule requires the consent not only of the monarch and political representatives but also of the people themselves using their own voices. Like the US Constitution, this is something that cannot be countermanded by any court or statute; it lies outside and above Parliamentary law.

Nor, I (and doubtless Burgess) would argue, can it be simply be buried in a political party's manifesto; an issue of such tremendous importance cannot validly be muddled up in pork-barrel politics. Voting for a political representative in Parliament is completely different from deciding the manner in which we are to be governed, and in any case our current electoral process effectively disenfranchises millions of us.

To join with other nations in a supranational political entity, in defiance of the settlement of 1688/9, would be a monumental constitutional change requiring the express consent of the people. This has never been given, nor, according to Burgess, can it be imposed except after the successful invasion of our land by a foreign power.

Since we have never had the EU membership question put to us, even the slightest transfer of sovereignty to that entity is ultra vires and has no force in law.

We are not now in the European Union, and I ask everyone who reads this, if they agree, to say so to others at every appropriate opportunity.

ADDENDUM

The Talking Clock blog urges us to support Mr Douglas Carswell's Bill to repeal the 1972 Act that claimed to makes us members of the European Union. I comment:

I plan to write to Mr Carswell to ask him to withdraw his proposed Bill, on two (related) grounds: 


1. Parliament had no power to pass the 1972 Act. Without the express consent of the people, this constitutional change could not have taken place and therefore never did. The Act is ultra vires.


2. Therefore, there is no point in repealing an Act that has no force in law. There is no such Act. It falls, and so does everything (all subsequent Acts, regulations, directives etc) that depends on it or in any way arises from it.


Logically, Mr Carswell would do better to submit for consideration a Bill to arrange a referendum for the UK to JOIN the EU, since we are not now members. This would confirm to us all that he shares our view that we are not now in the EU, and also that to join would require the consent of the people in propria persona.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Problem-Solving

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has recently released a report on the impending shortage of people trained in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. They note that mathematics courses are a bottleneck in this process. In a brilliant example of problem-solving, they have squarely fixed the blame on mathematics teachers, and decided that the cure is to have mathematics courses developed and taught by faculty in ‘mathematics-intensive’ disciplines instead. As I have said on numerous forums, the study of mathematics has been honed, pruned and refined for 2,500 years. I would suggest that we might be doing something right. Perhaps, as some good educational and cognitive psychology studies suggest, ability in mathematics is a fairly rare talent, but nonetheless essential for the training of good scientists?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Speculators will starve the poor

This report highlights an issue for me: how to preserve the value of my savings without hurting other people?

Agricultural funds are, I think, a step too far, though the returns will of course attract other investors.

INVESTMENT DISCLOSURE: Mostly in cash (and index-linked National Savings Certificates), but now planning to build up some reserves of physical gold via regular saving.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Speculators will starve the poor

This report highlights an issue for me: how to preserve the value of my savings without hurting other people?

Agricultural funds are, I think, a step too far, though the returns will of course attract other investors.

UK credit card lending down 28% in last 12 months


INVESTMENT DISCLOSURE: None. Still in cash (and index-linked National Savings Certificates), and missing all those day-trading opportunities.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content.

UK credit card lending down 28% in last 12 months


INVESTMENT DISCLOSURE: None. Still in cash (and index-linked National Savings Certificates), and missing all those day-trading opportunities.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Much ado about nothing: Hayward Gallery's "Invisible" exhibition

And so yesterday we walked through a warm and busy London to the South Bank, where, after sharing a doughy cheese pierogi off the real food street market, we ascended bloodstained concrete stairs to the Hayward Gallery.


The exhibition is entitled "Invisible: Art about the Unseen, 1957 -2012". We paid, were given tickets after reminding the counter clerk (was this a foretaste of the installation?) and gave them to the attendant at the door, who said something we didn't catch, so we asked him to repeat it. It was "Can you see me?" with what I suppose he hoped was an appropriately ironic smirk; I guess we should have replied, "Yes, but we can't hear you."

In we went, noting an avertissement that warned visitors that some might have difficulty reading the labels. Which were printed in white, on transparent plastic sheets, against white walls. Not that there were that many exhibits; now call me middle-browed, but if I'm offered nothing I want a lot of it for my money. In keeping, the gallery was sparsely attended, though one woman was making up for it by gazing very intensely at an empty section of wall. My wife speculates that she might have lost her glasses and thought she was looking at something. Or perhaps she was merely entering into the spirit of the thing (or the nothing).

The first item I inspected with any care was a press cutting from 1959, about Yves Klein's stunt "Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle." Klein sold tickets in exchange for shreds of gold leaf (20 grams for the first exhibition - rising later to 80 grams, such are the effects of inflation). If the buyer opted to convert these into an immaterial experience, he burned his ticket (at least he got one first time of asking, I assume) and the artist threw half the gold into the river Seine; otherwise Klein kept the lot. So the artist got something tangible and conventionally valuable, whatever happened. Gallic cunning? But it's possible, of course, that I may be doing Klein an injustice, for in 1980 one of his pieces was discovered quite by accident in an Italian convent, having been anonymously deposited there in 1961 as a votive offering by the artist, who prayed for success and the increasing beauty of his works.

I do suspect that French philosophy is basically for impressing French chicks. It worked with Simone de Beauvoir, for one; and years ago in Paris, my beloved and I were watching TV and caught an interview with Serge Gainsbourg (conducted by Jane Birkin, as I recall) where he was acting the literary lion à la française - unshaven, Gauloised, possibly well-oiled as we used to say, and spouting un grand tas de testicules about la vie, l'amour etc. Fortunately we were well-oiled too, and understood him as drunks do each other. French women know that their role is to serve the gorgeous peacock; one remembers H E Bates' "A Breath of French Air", where muscular Adonises play ball on the beach, admired by mousy-looking girls with what the Irish call streely hair.

Maybe, as with Sartre in 1943, the concept of nothingness (or for others, the numinous) is a reaction to a time when you were supposed to join one team or the other, with no standing on the sidelines (it's getting like that again now, I sense). À bas les salauds, and all that; spit in the eye of those "assured of certain certainties"; let the spirit off the leash of Reason. 

Having said that, Sartre seems to have been able to redirect his gaze to concrete matters when it suited him, as witness the controversy over his stepping into a Jewish professor's job when it became forcibly vacant under the Nazis; and in the 1968 Paris student riots, he suddenly abandoned his fundamental stance on existentialism and became able to believe in collective freedom, at least for a while. Perhaps his volte-face and surrender to the authority of Marxism is the core of surreal rebellion. As a paper already cited says, "Hysterical questioning is critical of power (“Why have you done this? This is not just!”), but beneath it all is a provocation to the father figure to appear and to interpellate more successfully."

Back to the matter in hand. There was other stuff here, including Robert Barry's Energy Field (AM 130 KHz) from 1968 (a wooden box with a battery and coil), and a room with a couple of air coolers (my wife said she found these things very welcome after a sauna). One room was a blackout (pictured below; fortunately I captured another visitor, so I got both ground and figure, the essentials of all Western art).

 

Then there was a wide upper gallery. This space spoke to me: it said, 'You paid fourteen quid for this." And finally, something for the kids: Jeppe Hein's Invisible Labyrinth. You know, like those inlaid floor mazes found in some theme parks and gardens, only here you had to memorise the routes.

Good art (like radio plays) makes you do some of the work, and there's no shortage of clever people stropping their intellects on this one:


Of course, reviewers don't pay to get in, and on the whole, nor would we have, if we'd known what was in store. But surely every show must have a closing number, and to play you out here's the orchestral version of John Cage's 4' 33'' so you can have something to hum as you leave:



Coincidentally, the show we saw after, "Yes, Prime Minister" at the Trafalgar Studios (Whitehall Theatre as was), also featured a nothing, this time the Prime Minister, described in the play as "a vacuum". It was funny and beautifully acted, but edgier and darker than the old TV programmes - as with Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring, we scent in the artist's work a storm coming to us in real life.

A shame then that five minutes down the road from there we have a PM who is the human equivalent of a German beach towel, merely keeping the place for a real person to come later. Like Jim Hacker, we now see Cam thrashing about with a handful of Blairite eye-catching initiatives to divert attention from his failure to achieve anything*. As we passed the now-gated entrance to Downing Street I said, make the most of it, you've got twelve months.

*... and, sadly for him, draw attention to his own "housing benefit".

Hayward Gallery: "Invisible" exhibition (2012)

And so yesterday we walked through a warm and busy London to the South Bank, where, after sharing a doughy cheese pierogi off the real food street market, we ascended bloodstained concrete stairs to the Hayward Gallery.



The exhibition is entitled "Invisible: Art about the Unseen, 1957 -2012". We paid, were given tickets after reminding the counter clerk (was this a foretaste of the installation?) and gave them to the attendant at the door, who said something we didn't catch, so we asked him to repeat it. It was "Can you see me?" with what I suppose he hoped was an appropriately ironic smirk; I guess we should have replied, "Yes, but we can't hear you."

In we went, noting an avertissement that warned visitors that some might have difficulty reading the labels. Which were printed in white, on transparent plastic sheets, against white walls. Not that there were that many exhibits; now call me middle-browed, but if I'm offered nothing I want a lot of it for my money. In keeping, the gallery was sparsely attended, though one woman was making up for it by gazing very intensely at an empty section of wall. My wife speculates that she might have lost her glasses and thought she was looking at something. Or perhaps she was merely entering into the spirit of the thing (or the nothing).

The first item I inspected with any care was a press cutting from 1959, about Yves Klein's stunt "Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle." Klein sold tickets in exchange for shreds of gold leaf (20 grams for the first exhibition - rising later to 80 grams, such are the effects of inflation). If the buyer opted to convert these into an immaterial experience, he burned his ticket (at least he got one first time of asking, I assume) and the artist threw half the gold into the river Seine; otherwise Klein kept the lot. So the artist got something tangible and conventionally valuable, whatever happened. Gallic cunning? But it's possible, of course, that I may be doing Klein an injustice, for in 1980 one of his pieces was discovered quite by accident in an Italian convent, having been anonymously deposited there in 1961 as a votive offering by the artist, who prayed for success and the increasing beauty of his works.

I do suspect that French philosophy is basically for impressing French chicks. It worked with Simone de Beauvoir, for one; and years ago in Paris, my beloved and I were watching TV and caught an interview with Serge Gainsbourg (conducted by Jane Birkin, as I recall) where he was acting the literary lion à la française - unshaven, Gauloised, possibly well-oiled as we used to say, and spouting un grand tas de testicules about la vie, l'amour etc. Fortunately we were well-oiled too, and understood him as drunks do each other. French women know that their role is to serve the gorgeous peacock; one remembers H E Bates' "A Breath of French Air", where muscular Adonises play ball on the beach, admired by mousy-looking girls with what the Irish call streely hair.

Maybe, as with Sartre in 1943, the concept of nothingness (or for others, the numinous) is a reaction to a time when you were supposed to join one team or the other, with no standing on the sidelines (it's getting like that again now, I sense). À bas les salauds, and all that; spit in the eye of those "assured of certain certainties"; let the spirit off the leash of Reason. 

Having said that, Sartre seems to have been able to redirect his gaze to concrete matters when it suited him, as witness the controversy over his stepping into a Jewish professor's job when it became forcibly vacant under the Nazis; and in the 1968 Paris student riots, he suddenly abandoned his fundamental stance on existentialism and became able to believe in collective freedom, at least for a while. Perhaps his volte-face and surrender to the authority of Marxism is the core of surreal rebellion. As a paper already cited says, "Hysterical questioning is critical of power (“Why have you done this? This is not just!”), but beneath it all is a provocation to the father figure to appear and to interpellate more successfully."
 
Back to the matter in hand. There was other stuff here, including Robert Barry's Energy Field (AM 130 KHz) from 1968 (a wooden box with a battery and coil), and a room with a couple of air coolers (my wife said she found these things very welcome after a sauna). One room was a blackout (pictured below; fortunately I captured another visitor, so I got both ground and figure, the essentials of all Western art).

 

Then there was a wide upper gallery. This space spoke to me: it said, 'You paid fourteen quid for this." And finally, something for the kids: Jeppe Hein's Invisible Labyrinth. You know, like those inlaid floor mazes found in some theme parks and gardens, only here you had to memorise the routes.

Good art (like radio plays) makes you do some of the work, and there's no shortage of clever people stropping their intellects on this one:


Of course, reviewers don't pay to get in, and on the whole, nor would we have, if we'd known what was in store. But surely every show must have a closing number, and to play you out here's the orchestral version of John Cage's 4' 33'' so you can have something to hum as you leave:



Coincidentally, the show we saw after, "Yes, Prime Minister" at the Trafalgar Studios (Whitehall Theatre as was), also featured a nothing, this time the Prime Minister, described in the play as "a vacuum". It was funny and beautifully acted, but edgier and darker than the old TV programmes - as with Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring, we scent in the artist's work a storm coming to us in real life.

A shame then that five minutes down the road from there we have a PM who is the human equivalent of a German beach towel, merely keeping the place for a real person to come later. Like Jim Hacker, we now see Cam thrashing about with a handful of Blairite eye-catching initiatives to divert attention from his failure to achieve anything*. As we passed the now-gated entrance to Downing Street I said, make the most of it, you've got twelve months.
 
*... and, sadly for him, draw attention to his own "housing benefit".

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

NHS - spiralling out of control




Utterly horrible. And not only confined to the elderly - a youngish friend who had an infection / fever would have died from lack of hydration had her husband not come in gangbusters, taking names and generally making it clear what would happen to them (legally) if they didn't get a line in her NOW.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The System, Part 2: There really is a class war, and the Right knows it

Yesterday, I attempted a jokey and simplified graphic to illustrate the result of "free trade" - the initial response from James Higham has been very sniffy, something to do with hats I gather (though he seems to have no similar objection to barrels or Chinese junks). Apparently it shows I'm a Leftist, even though I've never voted for Labour - or anything further left, before you ask. Or perhaps he's merely provoking me to greater effort, despite the sense that so many bloggers are getting now, of how they are wasting their time when they could instead "sport with Amaryllis in the shade ." Nevertheless...

The "System" graphic (see sidebar) is, of course, much too simple - where is the Federal Reserve, where are the bankers (NOT the banks) who make (extract*) money at every turn, including and especially when they receive government bailouts and organise the purchase of government securities?

But a striking aspect of this cartoon update of what is, in effect, a class war is that the conflict was identified and described in class terms by speakers for what one might loosely call the Right, 18 years ago. They anticipated our present economic crisis and the resulting social instability and they did not at all welcome the prospect, as I shall show. I'm not generally fond of embedding long videos, because I like to skim and scan for essential points, but I'd like to share a couple here and having watched them in full myself I recommend them to you. Neither of the speakers makes reference to the other, but in relation to GATT and untrammelled free trade generally they are saying the same prophetic things.

The first is a talk by Dr John Coleman (whose website is here); the occasion is not explicit but from the content and tenor of his remarks I think he is addressing a broadly Republican-supporting audience in New Mexico in 1994, at the time of the GATT talks. Think of this 100 minutes as an investment, saving you the trouble and expense of reading his several books, as much of his material appears to be summarised in this tour through Conspiracy Central: Guelphs, the Black Nobility of Venice, the coming New World Order etc. In the final 5 minutes, he predicts that the US economic system will collapse and destroy the American middle class, and the varied and extensive banking system will concentrate into five majors. I'm reluctant to accept the alleged motives of the alleged secret players, and think that short-sighted greed and venality are more plausible drivers of the process, but the end result is the same, with or without the comic-book villains.



Next is an interview (also in 1994) with billionaire Sir James Goldsmith, where he correctly sees that GATT will (as he says) tip the balance between labour and capital sharply in favour of the latter, and that it will cause social disruption in Western societies.



Goldsmith, like Dr Coleman, was emphatically anti-Communist and spent his cancer-riddled last energies campaigning for a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU; he describes himself in this interview as pro-free trade; but he is very clear on the destructive effects of putting our workforce in direct competition with foreign workers whose labour is dramatically cheaper in currency-adjusted terms. (Since then, we have seen the Chinese manipulate their currency so that this price advantage is maintained, whereas according to the idealised system described by classical economists the renminbi would rise against the dollar, certain US exports would be encouraged, certain Chinese exports discouraged and there would eventually be a new equilibrium).

The canal analogy I used in my graphic has two functions: first, it suggests that the removal of all barriers to international trade triggers financial flows and economic developments at a rate that neither side can properly cope with. Second, it illustrates a system that is indeed intended to foster trade, but with a series of control points (lock gates) that manage the rate of change.

Time is the key. Given more time to adjust, capital and labour in the West would be reallocated to relatively more competitive enterprises; education and training could mutate to support the required new skill sets. But certain individuals saw an opportunity to make massive personal fortunes by helping to dislocate the society that nurtured them, with the result that the West is experiencing growing disparities of income and wealth, as well as national accounts that can't achieve a balance, and the development of a kleptocratic and tyrannical overclass in government.

Well, it it so now, despite the best efforts of the Jeremiahs and Cassandras. Perfectly ordinary, stable, hard-working people that I meet as a financial adviser are saying, unprompted, that their government doesn't care for them, even that we are headed for a revolution. Some of it is jokey (a taxi driver I know wants to start a new political party called Dilligif, after the Oz saying "Do I look like I give a f***", to show we care as little for them as they do for us); some, less so.

And it wasn't just the Left then, or now, that was saying it.

* Jesse's discussion of Acemoglu and Robinson's "Why Nations Fail" is enlightening, with its polarised pair of terms "extractive" and "inclusive". 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Time must have a stop: was there actually NO "Big Bang"?


"A fool may ask a question which forty wise men cannot answer."

I have a question about the supposed origin of the universe, and perhaps you may be the forty-first wise man (or woman):

Time slows down in the neighbourhood of massive objects. There is no object more massive than the entire Universe, when (some 14 billion years ago) it is supposed to have been compressed into a space smaller than the nail on my little finger. In that case, seen from our present frame of reference, was time then effectively at a stop? In which case, is the Big Bang effectively separated from us by an infinite duration, and therefore did not happen?

Another correspondent tells me, "Good question. Before Planck time, there isn't even matter, and energy doesn't experience time."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Punt that pint! The beer vending machine you HAVE to assault



hat-tip: Dick Puddlecote

London Metals Exchange: another one bites the dust

Founded in 1877 but with 16th century roots in Gresham's original Royal Exchange, the London Metals Exchange has just been sold to the Chinese.

Ironically, the LME is the last "open outcry" market in Europe. Apart from a few brave individuals like Brian Haw (whom Parliament, to its everlasting disgrace, attempted to outlaw), and the Occupy London protestors against which the City, major newspapers and that refuge of the poor and oppressed the Church orchestrated a campaign of condemnation and legal action, we hear very little open outcry against our negligent, incompetent, venal, corrupt, secretive, dictatorial and treacherous overclass. A class that has sold its soul to the money men, who have sold the freehold and seed corn of our economy in the name of "free trade" that is progressively costing our freedom and is only beneficial to the trader. It does not take a conspiracy theorist to see a pattern in the invitees to Bilderberg 2012.

The complacency of the traders and their agents in politics is astounding. Martin Hutchinson was warning of the future decline of the City back in 2007, and around the same time a smirking financier at an Oxford college reunion was assuring us that we'd be cheating foreigners for a long time to come.

How many bricks can you take out of the bottom course of your house before the structure caves in? We don't have leaders; we have Destructors.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Controversy continues over Chinese foreign farm purchases

Further to my recent post on this subject, here's a WSJ article about resistance from New Zealand farmers to the purchase of 16 farms there.

According to Wiki, Crafar Farms was NZ's largest family-owned dairy concern until a crash in milk prices forced it into receivership. The receivers had two goes at getting official clearance to sell to Chinese businesses and got the okay in April this year.

Other farmers are worrying that it's the thin end of the wedge and cash-rich foreign buyers may now start to flood in, snapping up land at prices the locals can't match and ultimately turning Kiwis into tenant farmers. Australians share their concerns - though at least one business commentator there is blowing the free trade trumpet and warning of international tension if it's unheeded.

It's an issue here, too: last month saw a £50m deal between the UK and China, to sell pork products, which is OK in itself, but indicative of the potentially vast demand from the Chinese, so our food may not stay cheap for much longer.

The Daily Telegraph, reporting on this year's Hay Festival, included an interview (see 18:00) with Conor Woodman, author of Unfair Trade - How Big Business Exploits the World’s Poor and Why It Doesn’t Have To.  The title is self-explanatory, and the issue is becoming live for us here; as Woodman says, "What concerns me more than monopolies is Chinese investments in parts of the developing world where they are buying up land, fishing, mineral and mining rights. The Chinese have been going round buying up the world and we ought to be concerned by that."

On the one hand, there's land-grabbing going on inside China, where speculators are illegally seizing and converting precious agricultural land to building projects; and on the other, Chinese business is purchasing blocks of food-producing land around the world, including the South-East of England.

Don't expect our negligent, venal and treacherous ruling class to do much about it. Daily Mail business expert Alex Brummer's new book, "Britain for Sale: British Companies in Foreign Hands - The Hidden Threat to Our Economy" shows how, unlike our foreign counterparts, the UK has long been happy to sell off key British enterprises; flogging the very ground we stand on is only an extension of that process.

Savers between a rock and a hard place

The stock market is thoroughly corrupt;  physical assets, especially those purchased with the assistance of debt, are overpriced; and the bond market looks like a mantrap.  Yet even now there are economic commentators who are not in favour of protecting cash against inflation.

If sound money is not to be, then it seems to me that unless one is part of the elite battening on the financial system, sucking out wealth faster than it is diminished by inflation, impoverishment is certain.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Drugs: just say no to antidepressants



"The cost to the NHS of treating depression [includes] £230m for antidepressant drugs" - Nigel Morris, The Independent, 30 December 2011

"The prime purpose of prescribing antidepressants is to enable doctors to avoid being blamed for patients' suicides." - Dr Robert Lefever, Daily Mail, 8 June 2012

Protecting savers from inflation - an email to my MP

Request for Parliamentary question re NS&I index-linked savings certificates

Dear Mr Xxxx

As one of your constituents, I should be grateful if you would ask questions in Parliament re the Government's intentions in respect of preserving our life savings against the ravages of inflation. This is especially a matter of concern because of continuing enormous financial support for the banking system, here and in other countries (latterly Spain) that seems destined to burst out as high inflation at some future point.

I note that Mr Cameron's private secretary has written recently to all members of the Cabinet saying, among other things:

"The Prime Minister wants to ensure that the Government as a whole is giving the highest priority to addressing the cost of living."

(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2157018/Cameron-summits-quads-secrets-save-EU.html)

If this is so, why did National Savings & Investments withdraw Index-Linked Savings Certificates from sale on 19 July 2010, when they had previously been continuously available since 1975, a year in which RPI was 24.2%? Is this an indication that the Government expects RPI to be even worse than that figure in the intermediate future?

And why were these Certificates, somewhat grudgingly reintroduced (5-year term only) on 12 May 2011, withdrawn again on 7 September? Why are they not available now?

It is also worrying that the Government's 2011 Budget Plan (as given in Red Book Annexe B, page 90 - http://www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/documents/digitalasset/dg_196165.pdf) says "National Savings and Investments (NS&I) is expected to make a contribution to net finance of £2 billion."

Is this a sign that the Government is purely concerned about targets for government borrowing and not at all exercised about the protection of HMG's subjects' money savings, which in many cases have been built up slowly and with difficulty over many years. Why should simple savers have to accept risks to the real value of their deferred spending, as though they were speculators?

Is the Prime Minister's leaked pronouncement a misleading dog-whistle to the electorate, or is he really willing to put our money where his mouth is?

Protecting savers from inflation - an email to my MP

Request for Parliamentary question re NS&I index-linked savings certificates

Dear Mr Xxxx

As one of your constituents, I should be grateful if you would ask questions in Parliament re the Government's intentions in respect of preserving our life savings against the ravages of inflation. This is especially a matter of concern because of continuing enormous financial support for the banking system, here and in other countries (latterly Spain) that seems destined to burst out as high inflation at some future point.

I note that Mr Cameron's private secretary has written recently to all members of the Cabinet saying, among other things:

"The Prime Minister wants to ensure that the Government as a whole is giving the highest priority to addressing the cost of living."

(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2157018/Cameron-summits-quads-secrets-save-EU.html)

If this is so, why did National Savings & Investments withdraw Index-Linked Savings Certificates from sale on 19 July 2010, when they had previously been continuously available since 1975, a year in which RPI was 24.2%? Is this an indication that the Government expects RPI to be even worse than that figure in the intermediate future?

And why were these Certificates, somewhat grudgingly reintroduced (5-year term only) on 12 May 2011, withdrawn again on 7 September? Why are they not available now?

It is also worrying that the Government's 2011 Budget Plan (as given in Red Book Annexe B, page 90 - http://www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/documents/digitalasset/dg_196165.pdf) says "National Savings and Investments (NS&I) is expected to make a contribution to net finance of £2 billion."

Is this a sign that the Government is purely concerned about targets for government borrowing and not at all exercised about the protection of HMG's subjects' money savings, which in many cases have been built up slowly and with difficulty over many years. Why should simple savers have to accept risks to the real value of their deferred spending, as though they were speculators?

Is the Prime Minister's leaked pronouncement a misleading dog-whistle to the electorate, or is he really willing to put our money where his mouth is?

INVESTMENT DISCLOSURE: None. Still in cash (and index-linked National Savings Certificates), and missing all those day-trading opportunities.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content.

Insatiable beaver

"South Park" creator Trey Parker's first film:

Friday, June 08, 2012

Watch out! Phony mobile roaming charges can cost you THOUSANDS!

A bad experience recounted by Henry Curteis of The Tap blog: a bill of £4,000 for emails to a switched-off mobile phone.

I've had pay-as-you-go for years, not just because I'm a low user but as a protection against those telephone scams that instantly charge you hundreds when you hit "reply".

"Basket of currencies" a solution for Zimbabwe

According to this blog, stocks in the shops have improved since they have started to accept currency from the USA, South Africa and Botswana. Though there is a problem with small change...

New Olympic sport: pole dancing

Drop the louche allure and put on the whites, and this'd challenge the men on the pommel horse:


To all college students everywhere

How true!

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/laundry.png

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

China's foreign farmland acquisitions

Back in March (Broad Oak Blog), I argued that the USA's future is not so bleak, when you consider her natural resources, especially farmland:


You can see that China's ratio is very low, and what with an expanding population, an improving diet, the grabbing of rural land by corrupt regional officials for speculative building projects, growing air and water pollution etc the demand for farmland is intensifying.

And China is doing something about it. In January, its Hong-Kong based Phoenix Weekly publication announced that 8,000 square kilometers of foreign arable land have been acquired so far, some recently in Australia (where cattlemen are arguing that the latest 400 sq mile project won't work) and New Zealand. As with all tussles over limited resources, this is bound to be controversial, so the next step is attempts to avoid scrutiny of the process.

Food prices and shortages are moving up from a Third World to a First World issue - see farmlandgrab.org for ongoing coverage from around the world. And if China should begin eyeing Russia's fertile soil? 

Then there's the world of professional investment - one of the longer running funds being the CF Eclectica Agriculture Fund. This is yet another area fraught with moral dilemma - making money for you and yours (or your clients), but at the price of soaring food costs and ultimately, starvation for many. If we make a fuss about "blood diamonds", how much more so should we raise objections to "blood farmland"?

Greed, and suffering. The sooner we move away from the over-financialised economy and back to sound money, making things and exchanging our surpluses, the better.

Post-it animation



Via Cartoon Brew.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Bilderberg Jubilee

Today marks the end of the 60th Bilderberg Conference.
The Alternative Action blog lists the attendees. Usefully, you can copy and paste into a spreadsheet and re-order, so that you can see how each country is represented.

Here's the GB contingent (I've added an indication of current or former interests in the right-hand column) - the two in red were the appointed "rapporteurs"for this conference:


Bearing in mind that Bilderberg is about European-North American dialogue and cooperation, do you think these people are the best to represent British interests here? Is there any voice you think should (or should not) have been included?

Or do you get the uneasy feeling that it's a convocation of cats to decide what to do about mice?

Fruity language from Balloon Head Cameron

"... a court sentenced Hosni Mubarak [...] to life in prison for his role in the killing of more than 800 protestors..." - ABC News

On radio news yesterday, it was alternatively "protestors" and "demonstrators". But if it had been "rioters"? The choice of terms can make such a difference.

Yet ex-spin doctor David Cameron, supposedly an expert on presentation, said yesterday that hostage-takers like those raided by the SAS in Afghanistan could "expect a swift and brutal end".

"Brutal"? That leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Well, English wasn't one of his A-level subjects, though presumably it was at 'O' level. Perhaps his judgment has been permanently clouded by his alleged school age cannabis consumption, for which he got 500 lines. Not white lines, obviously; though when I visited a friend in Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1970 he told me that the large Old Etonian contingent there was cliquey and very into cocaine, so one can only wonder where and when their predilection was allowed to develop.

Would you like to think like a Prime Minister? Play Fruit Ninja here!

Means and ends

1941: 

"A Hauptmann (captain) with the 73rd Infantry Division reflected that peace would come even to the Balkans with a New European Order ‘so that our children would experience no more war’."

- Quoted in Anthony Beevor's "The Second World War" (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2012)

There is always this regrettable thing to do, then the lasting good will come. But it can't:

"... our personal experience and the study of history make it abundantly clear that the means whereby we try to achieve something are at least as important as the end we wish to attain. Indeed, they are even more important. For the means employed inevitably determine  the nature of the result achieved, whereas, however good the end aimed at may be, its goodness is powerless to counteract the effects  of the bad means we use to reach it. Similarly, a reform may be in the highest degree desirable; but if the contexts in which that reform is effected are undesirable, the results will inevitably be disappointing. These are simple and obvious truths. Nevertheless they are almost universally neglected."

- Aldous Huxley, "Ends and Means" (Chatto & Windus, 1941)

The European Project, the wholesale reordering of the British constitution (Supreme Court, House of Lords, the coming sinister National Crime Agency and so on), the international assault on Iraq - all undertaken without truthfully informed democratic consent.

The alliance with Franco against Communism, the support of the Taliban against the Russians; all these clever, disastrous calculations balancing evils. Stalin teaming up with Hitler's National Socialists against the wicked West, then ten silent, shocked days in a forest cabin when Hitler turned on him.

Procedure matters, after all. We can't guarantee a successful end, but at least we can choose what means we employ.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Derby wager

The race is to start in five minutes. I'm rooting for Minimise Risk for a place; I think it's an appropriate name, like Party Politics in the 1992 Grand National.

Update: placed last, of course. Camelot wins - is this a favourable augur for the Conservative PM?

Dow 1,000 or less? Quote of the week (or century)

"If I am correct, I expect the Dow to be trading well under 1,000 by 2016. I am nailing that to my mast – and computer screen."

John Burford, Financial Trading Strategies website