Saturday, March 30, 2013

John Ward calls for debt default via democratic election

Reposted from John Ward's blog, at his open invitation...
 
 
Why electing defaulters to power is the only way left
 
Friday having seen the enthusiastic support of De Nederlandsche Bank President Klaas Knot for Djisselbloem’s plan to pick the pockets of every despositor in Europe, there are now hardly any major nations still in the closet when it comes to Global Looting.

On Thursday, Canadian bloggers cottoned on to the plans of their government via the annual budget statement. On pages 144 and 145 of “Economic Action Plan 2013″ (already submitted to the Canadian House of Commons), it openly proposes ‘to implement a ‘bail-in’ regime for systemically important banks’ there.

The second wave of evidence about what’s coming I referred to yesterday: the banks hastily sending out acres of fly-shit to their customers to blame any future disappearance of money-substances from their accounts. The general line of defence being offering by these creeps is “ve are only obeyink orders”. The first one out of the blocks appears to have been Santander. Yesterday, the one from HSBC started landing on Slogger doormats. Guess what? The wording and headings are exactly the same as the Santander mailshots.

In short, the entire operation is being coordinated and run by the Treasury. Any chance of Ed Miliband – our friend in tough times – asking a PMQ about this next Wednesday? Don’t hold your breath. Our MPs these days simply do as they’re told, or what they want – whichever is the easiest and most profitable route at the time.

What we are seeing come to pass at the moment is what those previously nutwhack sites from three years ago were screaming at a deaf audience: in the end, they’ll confiscate our money to bail out the lunatics. But where will it end?

There’s a Radio 4 audio clip of Michael Winner at his best in the BBC archives, grumbling two decades ago about how restaurants steal from their customers. Winner says:

“I called a waiter over and said look, you’ve added an obligatory 15% service charge to the bill and a cover charge of 10%. Now my credit-card slip has arrive and you’ve left a blank space so I can add a further gratuity on top. Should I just undress so you can have my clothes as well?”

Bizarrely, we now have to ask ourselves the same about Djisselbloem Plan…and where it will end. After all, there’s plenty to go at.

For example, behind the guise of us “all being in this together”, George Osborne could painlessly announce an emergency Budget in the UK, and slap a 5% levy on all houses valued over £250,000.

“The rich must help depress house prices so the young can get on the bandwagon” the Squeaky Draper would allege. If nothing else, this would please Vince Cable, who has been demanding a ‘mansion tax’ for two years already. Note the use of ‘mansion’ there, to suggest ‘a tiny minority of the rich’. But it wouldn’t be of course: a good 60% of all houses in London are now worth over half a million, and the average British house price is currently about £160,000. So at least 40% of property owning Brits would have to cough up £10,000.

How they’d raise it is another matter – which is why thus far the emphasis has been on theft via a willing intermediary. There, the government takes what it already knows you’ve got available….without taxpayers having to bother the poor banks for a loan, they too having no money either, allegedly. The increasingly vicious nature of this circle is mind-blowing.

But such complications about property are seen by Treasury nomenklatura (and their accountancy advisers) as merely obstacles needing some creative thought applied to their removal. One said to me earlier this week, “It would actually be remarkably simple: the tax would be declared, payable with interest on the sale of the house. It would simply be a disguised way of bringing the Stamp Duty further downmarket”. Easy when you know how innit?

The problem for the Brussels-am-Berlin rapists in Greece was that they were (and still are) forced to demand tax monies from those who haven’t got any left. When one gets to the same stage of madness as Louis XVI, it’s time for a rethink. Cyprus was it, and this is now – quite clearly – going to be the future for all of us. But care must be taken not to turn a depression into a slump, so direct takes on future purchases have to be avoided: even the FinMin mobsters can grasp that much.

So the next stop could be property. But how much further could they go after that? I would say “not much”…because again, it is a classic case of taxing the sans coulottes and raising the price of their bread: you don’t collect any tax, and it results in Bastille-storming. Greece is, I would say, very close to this stage now, as is Italy. I suspect that only Tsipras and Grillo can stop it. Who might come after them, however, doesn’t bear thinking about.

For what it’s worth, here’s my two-pennorth: I suspect that what we’ll get is banks being ‘rescued’ worldwide, the quicker to empty them of SME and private deposits. It would be Communist seizure spun as national necessity.

Take the situation with Britain’s RBS. The Treasury has been trying to flog it for eighteen months without any success, and its CEO Stephen Hester has tried to rape his SME customers but been caught, stupid boy. Along the way, to save its subsidiaries the bank has had to inflict several ‘glitches’ to avoid paying some £80 billion by a certain date. But the situation inside the bank remains as dire as ever.

The official date suggest that ‘the taxpayer’ already owns 82% of the Royal Bank of Skullduggery, which is of course bollocks because all we own is a ginormous debt. The Establishment owns and runs it as a means of trying the fleece the taxpayer. But it would be a matter of two days work to nationalise (“save”) the bank completely, and then enact a Laika-style assets freeze. The rules having been changed already (see mailshots previously spotted) the Treasury would simply say to everyone – “the rich” – with monies over £100,000 in the bank that they they were no longer insured. Money is then printed by Carney the Canuck in Threadneedle Street to amortise the RBS debt into a ‘Bad Bank’, and the rest goes into the freezer….aka Her Majesty’s Government. What’s left – smaller savers and investment banking – is then given to another disaster like HBOS, thus making their balance sheet look better. Sorted. Until HBOS goes tits-up.

Of course, in the end you run out of things to nationalise rationalise. A wannabe popular Labour administration could dash in to stop electricity, water, gas and local councils ‘profiteering’ at the citizenry’s expense….an election winner if ever there was one. This gives you a free hand to put up all the prices and hand them straight over to the HMRC. But then you run out of things to improve, save, rescue and freeze. Inflation goes up and economic growth goes down. So ergo the tax take falls. What then?

It isn’t going to work.

The answer is that there is no “what” to happen “then”. The strategy is so obviously doomed, it cannot possibly get that far. Once the wealthy have all the ‘glitz bricks’ property and the gold, the global system will ban gold sales to the public. FDR did it, this mob wouldn’t hesitate to. For real people, there will be nowhere to invest, no way out of being levied, and in the end, nowhere to work.
But this still has no, zilch, zero and f**k all chance of monetising the debts, derivatives and other insurance calls sitting out there in the ether. What the Eunatics are doing today – and the other leeches will do the day after tomorrow – is a pointless waste of time, a last few yards along which to kick the battered can before it finally rolls over the cliff, has a string attached to it, and they all promise that hanging onto the string is the only way, and thus represents our socio-patriotic duty.

Wake up Dumbos, it isn’t going to work.

You’ve tried taxes, you’ve tried austerity, you’ve tried levies, you’ve tried asset freezes, and you’ll try every sneaky-snakey trick in your little black book: but it isn’t going to be enough. More and more money will go to Asia, more and more worthless fiat money will be printed, more and more debt will accrue in the West, and then one day when nothing is being produced and bond markets, stock markets and commodity markets are going through the floor, we will end up with what I identified years ago as Indeflation – inflated Sovereign demands, deflated goods value, and zero demand.

You will I’m sure all be bored by this by now, but as I have been saying since Spring 2009, debt forgiveness is the only way out.

The current asylum inmates will never do that: never never never. Be they BamBers promoting their euro, Wall Street running Washington, Beijing exporting crap and owed trillions by its buyers, globalist bankers, multinational producers, politicians, tax accountants or corporate lawyers, they will never relent. They can’t: if they do, the problems will be horrendous but soluble. Their downside is that there will no longer be any place in it for them.

While we still have the democratic electoral power to do so, the one and only way now to force debt forgiveness globally is for we, the People, to elect politicians who promise to default on all debt the day after they are elected. Yes, I know this will evoke a crisis via immediate capital flight from that country, but they’re just going to have to live with it. The alternative is, as I’ve tried to outline above, an unthinkable can-strewn road heading towards mass lemming impressions.

The first country to do this, I imagine, will be Italy. Greece may well be next, but I think Spain could still beat them to it. Without doubt, the nation that can do it with the least pain is France – given its relatively sparse population sitting on a huge amount of food-producing land. For Britain – dependent on services and hugely overpopulated – it would the the end.

But once such things happen, the game really will be up for mercantilist globalism. ‘Siege economies’ need be no such thing: self-sufficiency by nation – with judicious trade in surpluses – remains the best way forward: and the only way to avoid a cataclysmic thermo-nuclear conflict in the end.

Too many visitors to this site see me as ‘doom-mongering’, but they rarely leave anything in the way of rationally argued support for their opinion. My prediction is very simple:

1. Global Looting is coming and it will be self-defeating.
2. The people at the top are mad and stupid.
3. They will not countenance debt forgiveness, so they must be replaced by those who will.
4. The mercantilist model of global economics and Friedmanite econo-fiscal ideas are a busted flush.
5. Self-sufficient Sovereigns trading in surpluses represent the best future for the human race.
Tell me why I’m wrong – with the facts to support it – and I’ll happily listen. For me, it’s Page One sanity compared to what we have now. Over to you.

And for the rest of us who know the self-styled élite will wind up killing us all given half a chance, I’m making a special appeal for you to forward and repost this essay in as many places as possible. Hits are of absolutely no importance to me beyond the raising global awareness of the need to do something before it’s too late. Thanks.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

John Ward calls for debt default via democratic election

Reposted from John Ward's blog, at his open invitation...
Why electing defaulters to power is the only way left
Friday having seen the enthusiastic support of De Nederlandsche Bank President Klaas Knot for Djisselbloem’s plan to pick the pockets of every despositor in Europe, there are now hardly any major nations still in the closet when it comes to Global Looting.

On Thursday, Canadian bloggers cottoned on to the plans of their government via the annual budget statement. On pages 144 and 145 of “Economic Action Plan 2013″ (already submitted to the Canadian House of Commons), it openly proposes ‘to implement a ‘bail-in’ regime for systemically important banks’ there.

The second wave of evidence about what’s coming I referred to yesterday: the banks hastily sending out acres of fly-shit to their customers to blame any future disappearance of money-substances from their accounts. The general line of defence being offering by these creeps is “ve are only obeyink orders”. The first one out of the blocks appears to have been Santander. Yesterday, the one from HSBC started landing on Slogger doormats. Guess what? The wording and headings are exactly the same as the Santander mailshots.

In short, the entire operation is being coordinated and run by the Treasury. Any chance of Ed Miliband – our friend in tough times – asking a PMQ about this next Wednesday? Don’t hold your breath. Our MPs these days simply do as they’re told, or what they want – whichever is the easiest and most profitable route at the time.

What we are seeing come to pass at the moment is what those previously nutwhack sites from three years ago were screaming at a deaf audience: in the end, they’ll confiscate our money to bail out the lunatics. But where will it end?

There’s a Radio 4 audio clip of Michael Winner at his best in the BBC archives, grumbling two decades ago about how restaurants steal from their customers. Winner says:

“I called a waiter over and said look, you’ve added an obligatory 15% service charge to the bill and a cover charge of 10%. Now my credit-card slip has arrive and you’ve left a blank space so I can add a further gratuity on top. Should I just undress so you can have my clothes as well?”

Bizarrely, we now have to ask ourselves the same about Djisselbloem Plan…and where it will end. After all, there’s plenty to go at.

For example, behind the guise of us “all being in this together”, George Osborne could painlessly announce an emergency Budget in the UK, and slap a 5% levy on all houses valued over £250,000.

“The rich must help depress house prices so the young can get on the bandwagon” the Squeaky Draper would allege. If nothing else, this would please Vince Cable, who has been demanding a ‘mansion tax’ for two years already. Note the use of ‘mansion’ there, to suggest ‘a tiny minority of the rich’. But it wouldn’t be of course: a good 60% of all houses in London are now worth over half a million, and the average British house price is currently about £160,000. So at least 40% of property owning Brits would have to cough up £10,000.

How they’d raise it is another matter – which is why thus far the emphasis has been on theft via a willing intermediary. There, the government takes what it already knows you’ve got available….without taxpayers having to bother the poor banks for a loan, they too having no money either, allegedly. The increasingly vicious nature of this circle is mind-blowing.

But such complications about property are seen by Treasury nomenklatura (and their accountancy advisers) as merely obstacles needing some creative thought applied to their removal. One said to me earlier this week, “It would actually be remarkably simple: the tax would be declared, payable with interest on the sale of the house. It would simply be a disguised way of bringing the Stamp Duty further downmarket”. Easy when you know how innit?

The problem for the Brussels-am-Berlin rapists in Greece was that they were (and still are) forced to demand tax monies from those who haven’t got any left. When one gets to the same stage of madness as Louis XVI, it’s time for a rethink. Cyprus was it, and this is now – quite clearly – going to be the future for all of us. But care must be taken not to turn a depression into a slump, so direct takes on future purchases have to be avoided: even the FinMin mobsters can grasp that much.

So the next stop could be property. But how much further could they go after that? I would say “not much”…because again, it is a classic case of taxing the sans coulottes and raising the price of their bread: you don’t collect any tax, and it results in Bastille-storming. Greece is, I would say, very close to this stage now, as is Italy. I suspect that only Tsipras and Grillo can stop it. Who might come after them, however, doesn’t bear thinking about.

For what it’s worth, here’s my two-pennorth: I suspect that what we’ll get is banks being ‘rescued’ worldwide, the quicker to empty them of SME and private deposits. It would be Communist seizure spun as national necessity.

Take the situation with Britain’s RBS. The Treasury has been trying to flog it for eighteen months without any success, and its CEO Stephen Hester has tried to rape his SME customers but been caught, stupid boy. Along the way, to save its subsidiaries the bank has had to inflict several ‘glitches’ to avoid paying some £80 billion by a certain date. But the situation inside the bank remains as dire as ever.

The official date suggest that ‘the taxpayer’ already owns 82% of the Royal Bank of Skullduggery, which is of course bollocks because all we own is a ginormous debt. The Establishment owns and runs it as a means of trying the fleece the taxpayer. But it would be a matter of two days work to nationalise (“save”) the bank completely, and then enact a Laika-style assets freeze. The rules having been changed already (see mailshots previously spotted) the Treasury would simply say to everyone – “the rich” – with monies over £100,000 in the bank that they they were no longer insured. Money is then printed by Carney the Canuck in Threadneedle Street to amortise the RBS debt into a ‘Bad Bank’, and the rest goes into the freezer….aka Her Majesty’s Government. What’s left – smaller savers and investment banking – is then given to another disaster like HBOS, thus making their balance sheet look better. Sorted. Until HBOS goes tits-up.

Of course, in the end you run out of things to nationalise rationalise. A wannabe popular Labour administration could dash in to stop electricity, water, gas and local councils ‘profiteering’ at the citizenry’s expense….an election winner if ever there was one. This gives you a free hand to put up all the prices and hand them straight over to the HMRC. But then you run out of things to improve, save, rescue and freeze. Inflation goes up and economic growth goes down. So ergo the tax take falls. What then?

It isn’t going to work.

The answer is that there is no “what” to happen “then”. The strategy is so obviously doomed, it cannot possibly get that far. Once the wealthy have all the ‘glitz bricks’ property and the gold, the global system will ban gold sales to the public. FDR did it, this mob wouldn’t hesitate to. For real people, there will be nowhere to invest, no way out of being levied, and in the end, nowhere to work.
But this still has no, zilch, zero and f**k all chance of monetising the debts, derivatives and other insurance calls sitting out there in the ether. What the Eunatics are doing today – and the other leeches will do the day after tomorrow – is a pointless waste of time, a last few yards along which to kick the battered can before it finally rolls over the cliff, has a string attached to it, and they all promise that hanging onto the string is the only way, and thus represents our socio-patriotic duty.

Wake up Dumbos, it isn’t going to work.

You’ve tried taxes, you’ve tried austerity, you’ve tried levies, you’ve tried asset freezes, and you’ll try every sneaky-snakey trick in your little black book: but it isn’t going to be enough. More and more money will go to Asia, more and more worthless fiat money will be printed, more and more debt will accrue in the West, and then one day when nothing is being produced and bond markets, stock markets and commodity markets are going through the floor, we will end up with what I identified years ago as Indeflation – inflated Sovereign demands, deflated goods value, and zero demand.

You will I’m sure all be bored by this by now, but as I have been saying since Spring 2009, debt forgiveness is the only way out.

The current asylum inmates will never do that: never never never. Be they BamBers promoting their euro, Wall Street running Washington, Beijing exporting crap and owed trillions by its buyers, globalist bankers, multinational producers, politicians, tax accountants or corporate lawyers, they will never relent. They can’t: if they do, the problems will be horrendous but soluble. Their downside is that there will no longer be any place in it for them.

While we still have the democratic electoral power to do so, the one and only way now to force debt forgiveness globally is for we, the People, to elect politicians who promise to default on all debt the day after they are elected. Yes, I know this will evoke a crisis via immediate capital flight from that country, but they’re just going to have to live with it. The alternative is, as I’ve tried to outline above, an unthinkable can-strewn road heading towards mass lemming impressions.

The first country to do this, I imagine, will be Italy. Greece may well be next, but I think Spain could still beat them to it. Without doubt, the nation that can do it with the least pain is France – given its relatively sparse population sitting on a huge amount of food-producing land. For Britain – dependent on services and hugely overpopulated – it would the the end.

But once such things happen, the game really will be up for mercantilist globalism. ‘Siege economies’ need be no such thing: self-sufficiency by nation – with judicious trade in surpluses – remains the best way forward: and the only way to avoid a cataclysmic thermo-nuclear conflict in the end.

Too many visitors to this site see me as ‘doom-mongering’, but they rarely leave anything in the way of rationally argued support for their opinion. My prediction is very simple:

1. Global Looting is coming and it will be self-defeating.
2. The people at the top are mad and stupid.
3. They will not countenance debt forgiveness, so they must be replaced by those who will.
4. The mercantilist model of global economics and Friedmanite econo-fiscal ideas are a busted flush.
5. Self-sufficient Sovereigns trading in surpluses represent the best future for the human race.
Tell me why I’m wrong – with the facts to support it – and I’ll happily listen. For me, it’s Page One sanity compared to what we have now. Over to you.

And for the rest of us who know the self-styled élite will wind up killing us all given half a chance, I’m making a special appeal for you to forward and repost this essay in as many places as possible. Hits are of absolutely no importance to me beyond the raising global awareness of the need to do something before it’s too late. Thanks.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Cyprus bank disaster: small victims, big contagion risk

If past history is anything to go by, Cyprus' really big depositors and alleged crooks and money launderers will have got wind of the coming changes and shifted before the Argentina-style "corralito". I should certainly not like to be a Cypriot banker or politician trying to explain to a Russian mafioso why his money has gone.

Now the Daily Telegraph, quoting Reuters, explains the new arrangements. Depositors in Laiki Bank "stand to lose up to 80pc of their money" and those with the Bank of Cyprus "will receive shares in the lender worth 37.5pc of any savings over €100,000, while the rest may never be paid back... Of the 62.5pc of uninsured deposits not converted to bank shares, about 40pc will continue to accrue interest but will not be repaid unless the bank does well, while the final 22.5pc will cease to attract interest."

That Telegraph headline, though: "Big depositors..." Let's illustrate "big" with a little hypothetical situation. Assume you've been dutifully caring for a loved relative who has recently passed on, leaving you her flat in Streatham (SW16), where I used to live. The average sold price for a residence in one of the streets there is £247,362 according to NetHousePrices. That would convert to 293,064.

So you decide it's time for your place in the sun in your declining years. You sell your house, swapping it for a place in Cyprus, and the proceeds of Aunty's flat are banked to create an income.

And now... only 100,000 (34%) is accessible. Of the rest, 72,400 has become "bank shares" (shares in an all-but-bankrupt enterprise, so don't expect dividends), €72,400 is inaccessible AND earning no interest, and €48,266 is inaccessible but interest-earning.

Assuming that any interest at all is being paid (how? from what profits?), in the above example only €148,266 is earning it. That is, only 50.6% of your original capital is yielding any income (however derisory).

You have also lost control of 66% of your capital, and may turn out to have lost the lion's share of that portion altogether. Quite possibly all your shares are worth is some part of the buildings, fixtures and fittings of the bank branches, assuming they haven't been looted and burned. For I cannot see how anyone in their right mind would deposit another cent in these banks, or how they could be persuaded not to get everything they can out of their accounts, as fast as humanly possible.

I think these banks are dead, if still twitching.

The question of contagion remains - will those in charge stop a Europe-wide series of bank runs? I'm no longer even sure about keeping what we have in sterling in a British bank. And I'm constitutionally sanguine and cautious.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bank of England "loses" 20 years of data

Until recently, BoE data for M4 was available online going back as early as 1963. Now the series starts at 1982. Why? Is this to avoid a potentially embarrassing examination of the connexion between M4 growth and price inflation in the 1970s?

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Colours Of Venus


A palette of colours from Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" (1485-86) in homage to David Everitt-Carlson's ITOMB Project (2011- ). The hues are from the goddess' hair, body and the surrounding air.

A ghost

My wife does voluntary work at the city hospital on a Wednesday, in the Bereavement Office. One of the employees there told her yesterday about a conversation she'd had with a doctor on site, a couple of weeks ago.

The new hospital - which looks like three packets of those mints with a hole, side by side, and is the type to win a design award while being less fit for purpose than what it replaced - is connected to the old one by an aerial corridor. The doctor received a crash call - a drop-everything-and-run emergency - and as he was running through this bridge he met a woman coming the other way who asked him directions to the mortuary. He said he couldn't stop but when he got to the ward the patient, the woman he'd spoken to, had died.

The most interesting thing about this story is how you and I react to it. It's certainly true that my wife told it to me this morning, and that she knows the woman who told it to her; and I have no reason to doubt that the woman did speak to a doctor who related his experience to her.

But we fit new experiences into the framework of our old ones, so some will say urban myth, others that it was a lie or a delusion, others will say of course there are ghosts. We think we're being rational when we're merely explaining things by reference to our world view.

Thomas Kuhn said that major changes in science are not brought about by falsification, even though the received wisdom may be fundamentally wrong. If we say there no black swans and are then shown one, we can answer that it's not really a swan. What causes the revolution in thinking is a phenomenon that cannot be explained using the existing theoretical structure.

Perhaps there are also personal revolutions that we resist as long as possible.

Are we explaining, or trying to explain away?

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

App -etite control...

See how New Girl in New York used new technology to get a new shape, on World Voices here.

USA: Dieting in a nutshell


We are all individual and how we lose weight successfully will be different for everyone. In the past I have tried many different diets and read many books on how to lose weight. However, for me, it came down to calorie counting and keeping a food diary.

I thought my diet was pretty healthy, but once I started writing down everything I ate each day and worked out my calorie consumption, I discovered I was completely underestimating my intake.

I downloaded this great app onto my iPod called 'MyNetDiary' which was key to my food tracking and calorie counting. It allows you to input your details and then calculates how many calories you can eat each day in order to lose weight in a healthy way. It contains a huge database of foods, and remembers your favourite things, which makes it very easy to use. The barcode scanner allows you to add new foods and the recipe builder is a great way to work out how many calories are in your meals. I found it invaluable and continue to use it everyday to help maintain my current weight.

Living in New York, or anywhere you have access to an abundance of restaurants, makes it very tempting to eat out or get take away. It is also pretty cheap to eat here, add to that my tiny kitchen, I became very lazy when it came to cooking at home. However, I invested in some decent cook books and took the time to make my own meals. It turns out I love cooking and, with practice, have become quite competent in the kitchen. I cook dinner 6 nights a week now and when we do go out I really appreciate and enjoy the experience. By cooking at home I know exactly what I am eating and how it was prepared. I weigh everything and ensure I control my portion sizes.

I have always exercised, but as I was eating too much it wasn't having much of an impact on my weight loss. Although exercise was a key part of my weight loss, it was as basic fact that I was putting in more than I was working out! I want to discuss exercise in more detail as it is such an important part of a healthy life style, so look our for upcoming posts.

Finally, I didn't deprive myself of anything. I didn't cut out any food groups and made sure that I ate a healthy well-balanced diet. If I really wanted chocolate I would have a small piece and I often enjoyed a glass on wine with my dinner. If I stopped myself eating chocolate I would constantly think about it, but knowing that I could have a small piece now and again stopped me obsessing about it.

The weight came off steadily and I lost about a pound a week. I hit a plateau that took a while to beat, more about that later, but eventually I made it down to my goal weight.

So, there you have it, that's what worked for me and enabled me to lose weight. I would love to hear your stories and how you lost/are losing weight, so please let me know how you are getting on!
 
This piece by New Girl in New York originally appeared here; her other blog is here. All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A box full of love

Read Dani's post on World Voices here.

Philippines: Talking boxes


It's now a month ago since we shipped a “balikbayan box" for my family in the Philippines. It took some time too bcoz I made a mistake of having it a little over the 30 kgs. limit that Telepost  refused to handle the shipment and referred us to RAL, where we found out it will cost me more than the total cost of the contents! Left with no other cheaper choice, I had to remove 10kgs. worth of items.  The box contained stuff I had been collecting for months and it is intended for my not so big yet widely extended family.

My husband being Danish find it bizarre as to why should I be sending a box with just some ordinary things. I told him unless you’re a Filipino or chosen to become a Filipino on your way of thinking,  you can never "understand"  the Filipino family ties. I know that they can buy some of the stuff in the box also in the Philippines but that is not the point. It's that gesture of sending your love and thoughts that you remember them even you’re here, a thousand miles away, then the ordinary things becomes extra-ordinary. For them, a bar of soap from abroad is different from a bar of soap from a local store. I tell you, they will rather keep it in their cabinets instead of using it and sometimes they will even show it off to others.
In my Filipino family, we know each other up to the third and fourth cousins even the so called long- distant relatives bcoz its like a tradition that we have to know who are our family and I remember when I was small we were always get to be introduced to a relative every time they come for a visit with our Lola Diding telling us a story how come we are relatives. Bcoz of this upbringing, I am able to maintain a close relationship with immediate relatives like my first and second cousins from both my mother and my father's side. This year we are expecting a new addition to the family. A second cousin from my mother side (her father and my mother are first cousins) is to have a baby in the spring. So that makes that baby and my son, Milton third cousins! When we get to travel to the Philippines again, it's expected of me to visit if possible all family members, even those who had passed away and say hello.

My husband's Danish family is relatively small compared to mine. The first time I went to Denmark for Christmas in 2009,   i expected to meet his “family”. And I indeed  met his parents and the only sister along with her husband and 2 kids. But I was wondering where are the others. So I asked about his cousins, uncles and aunties, etc. I was surprised to know they also live in Denmark but only the parents have a regular contact with the tita's and tito's.  As a new member of the family I wanted to know more about them. Typical Danish family, only few children. But it was quite interesting to know that a couple of the family members are successful public personalities. His first cousin, whose mother is his father's sister, is a writer who published a number of books. Another cousin, whose father is his mother's brother, is a successful nurse and public figure whose name you can read on a posted curricular in every daycare bulletin board in the city of Nuuk. My husband said they only met a few times and that was a very long, long time ago so they hardly knew each other.  It's not uncommon in Denmark where people value their independence a lot. Danes are somewhat perceived to be private and reserved, if you're a foreigner like me you'll find it frustrating sometimes when it comes to communication especially  if you hardly understand  what they are talking about especially when if they think your balikbayan box is a weird idea in spite of a lengthy explanation!
If you who  are reading this entry is wondering what a balikbayan box is, Wikipedia defines it like this:

A balikbayan box (literally, "Repatriate box") is a ubiquitous, corrugated box containing any number of small items sent by an overseas Filipino known as a "balikbayan". Though often shipped by freight forwarders specializing in balikbayan boxes by sea, such boxes can be brought by Filipinos returning to the Philippines by air.
These boxes might contain nearly anything that can fit and that the sender thinks the recipient would like, regardless of whether those items can be bought cheaply in the Philippines, such as non-perishable food, toiletries, household items, electronics, toys, designer clothing, or items hard to find in the Philippines.

Our "balikbayan box" will need another month of journey (it takes 2 months for a shipment of this kind to arrive from Greenland to the Philippines). It may not cost that much but it means a lot to them that will receive it.
Like it’s said, we can choose or even buy our friends but there's only one family and it's priceless.

This post first appeared on Dani's blog here. All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fiji: Democracy cancelled

Read about Fiji's descent into outright tyranny on World Voices here.

Fiji: Democracy cancelled

Read about Fiji's descent into outright tyranny on World Voices here.

Fiji: Tyranny as political checks and balances are torn up

 
From the open forum blog on Fiji Today:
  
The Bainimarama/Khaiyum Constitution (ADACIP)

Professor Wadan Narsey

22 March 2012

The Bainimarama/Khaiyum Constitution (BKC) is the final stage of a “successful” coup.

If elections are held in 2014 and an elected Government comes into place, the international community may be relieved to see a cosmetic end to the most painful chapter in Fiji’s modern history.

But we need to remember, the Bainimarama Regime has never abided by

* any Constitution or any Oath of Office that any of them have ever taken,
* any promise or commitment made to Fiji or the international community, or
* any ruling by the judiciary which goes against them.

In 2006, Bainimarama and the RFMF, removed the constitutionally elected prime minister and made himself Prime Minister.

He promised elections by 2009 but broke that promise and has now ruled for more than six years.

The Regime’s Charter, allegedly approved by three quarters of Fiji’s adults, stated the 1997 Constitution would be supreme, but when the Appeal Court judgment went against them in 2009, Bainimarama abrogated the 1997 Constitution.

In 2011, the Regime appointed its own Ghai Constitution Commission (stacked with Regime supporters) to consult widely and write a Constitution which abided by all the Regime’s non-negotiable principles (which they did) AND which would be vetted by the Constituent Assembly AND the Chief Justice’s Tribunal.

But with Ghai Draft not completely to the Regime’s liking, both the Commission and the Draft Constitution, were flippantly trashed.

I wrote then (http://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/trashing-the-ghai-constitution-the-positives-14-january-2013/

Over the next six months, meticulous comparisons between the Regime’s Constitution and the Ghai Draft Constitution- what exactly is changed, added and left out – will reveal more facts to Fiji and the world, about the Regime’s “real Roadmap”.

I also noted that Fiji people could

“watch with deep interest (and remember) who exactly are the “people’s representatives” who will turn up to rubber-stamp the Military Regime’s Constitution. There is a definitely a new ball game in town.”

Well, no need for Fiji people to tire their eyes any further: the Regime has moved the goal-posts again, and there won’t be any Constituent Assembly.

Why not? Bainimarama alleges the political parties were fiddling their registrations (and the sun was shining). Right.
Bainimarama has decreed: “You, the people of Fiji” will now be the Constituent Assembly. Right.

So the people of Fiji can personally write or talk to the Regime (with their names, addresses, phone numbers etc.) and the Regime will take on board your comments. Right.

Bainimarama promises “we will finalize the Constitution to have it ready for implementation no later than the 12th of April this year”.

So even the pliant President won’t be required to assent to the Constitution, but “We”? Right.

There is a new ball game in town and the Baimarama/Khaiyum Team is winning.

As the purchase and arrival of the Airbus shows, it is incredibly easy for Regime spin doctors to get Fiji’s population people to sing and dance, cry with pride at being a Fijian and “owning” their own airplane (even if it is on mortgage, and the only difference is the new colors inside and outside the plane).

Out of sight and out of mind are Fiji’s

* lost billion dollars of income over the last six years
* increasing mountains of public debt
* creaking and leaking FNPF pension fund
* mounting unemployment
* falling real incomes (except for the military),
* increasing poverty
* record rates of suicides and attempted suicides, and
* unbelievably sordid violence against women, children and even babies.

Our people, no doubt orchestrated again by the Fiji Sun and Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, will soon sing and dance over the new Constitution, promising racial equality, with one man, one vote. Right.

The rest here, is merely for the record.

What’s different in the BKC?

The Ghai Draft Constitution did not grant immunity for abuse of human rights; it granted immunity only to those who took an oath renouncing their support of illegal regimes; and it allowed citizens to go to court with their grievances and for damages.

The BKC grants total and unconditional immunity from 2000 to the 2014 elections, with no exceptions, no legal challenges allowed, or recourse for damages for anyone injured by those granted immunity.

People are still not understanding that the immunity being granted is not from 2006, but from 2000 “under the Limitation of Liability for Prescribed Political Events Decree 2010″ (section 153 (1)).

Gone is the Ghai requirement (to discourage future coups) that all members of the security forces (army, police and prisons) must be explicitly required to not obey unlawful orders from their superiors. So, without that provision, the security forces can continue to follow unlawful orders, with total impunity, as they have done for the past six years, and do more coups when they feel like it. So look forward to ADACIP (no prizes for guessing the two meanings of this acronym).

Gone is the requirement that Regime Decrees must be modified in order to be consistent with the new constitution and its fundamental human rights, and that legal proceedings terminated by decree, must be “revived and may be proceeded with under this Constitution”. The Ghai Draft Constitution even listed those decrees that had to be changed.

No more. The BKC states that all decrees and promulgations will continue in force. No legal challenges will be tolerated. No legal cases will be resuscitated (so forget the Burness pensioner case).

In the Brave New World of the BKC, no future Parliament will EVER be allowed to change any of the entrenched provisions such as the unconditional immunity and restriction of rights to go to court. Right.

There is no longer any role for the Tribunal to be appointed by the Chief Justice to “approve” the BKC.

The Chief Justice can now say with a straight face (as he did a few days ago) that the judiciary must objectively and impartially apply the law as it is, and not be part of the law-making process. Right. (we will all practice amnesia over the events of 2006 and the immunity provisions for the judiciary in the BKC).

The BKC not only imposes interesting limitations on, but grants interesting discretion, to the judiciary.

112(4) also states that “a judicial officer is protected from civil or criminal action for anything said or done, or omitted to be done, in the performance of a judicial function”.

The Attorney General, in addition to many other powers, is also granted powers to “intervene in proceedings before the High Court” (40(7)).

Also gone is the requirement that the Regime would have had to give way to a caretaker government six months before the 2014 elections. Right.

Other interesting differences

Those with the time and energy can go through the BKC and the Ghai Draft and see what’s been added and what’s been deleted.

That relating to the media may be read here, in Marc Edge’s commentary:
http://fijimediawars.blogspot.co.nz/

There is the usual great rhetoric on basic human rights such as

* freedom of expression, publication and media
* freedom of assembly
* freedom of association
* freedom of employment relations
* freedom of movement and residence
* freedom of religion (the Catholic Church in Fiji like to might read Section 22 (6))

BUT, for each of these rights, the BKC devotes even more space on the limitations of these rights.

With the elimination of the Upper House, there is a total lack of checks and balances to Parliament.

Once a Bill is passed, no one, not even the President has the right to dissent, or even ask for a reconsideration. The Bill will be “deemed to be assented to” within 7 days.

All public service officers will be “under contract”.

Civil servants must retire at 55, unlike the Chief Justice (who must retire at 75) or High Court judges (who must retire at the age of 70 but be eligible to be promoted) or Commissioners of Police and Corrections and the Commander of the RFMF (for whom there is no retirement age).

Constitutional lawyers are going to have a field day.

Who is the BKC for?

The Oaths and Affirmations at the end of the BKC document states that Prime Ministers, Ministers, Parliamentarians, and judicial officers must all swear allegiance to the Constitution.

Except the Oath and Affirmation for the next President. An interesting faux pas?

With Commodore Bainimarama declaring that he will stand for elections as Prime Minister, who is in their plan for President? Some might think that it will be Superman.

But a real international PR scoop and yet another “first” for the Regime and Fiji, might be an Indo-Fijian AND woman President? No prizes for guessing who THAT might be.

Is the Constituent Assembly Dead?

The Regime refuses to call a Constituent Assembly.

But nothing stops the people of Fiji from calling their own People’s Constituent Assembly.

All the social, political, religious organizations and concerned individuals who want to, can have a two day meeting to discuss what is in the BKC; agree wherever they can on common concerns and positions.

They can publish their communique through an advertisement in the media and as an open letter to Commodore Bainimarama. They have nothing to fear: all this is allowed by the BKC.

Fiji people have so far meekly accepted being herded here and there, like sheep through the corrals of Animal Farm.

But they could announce, as in Merry Olde England: the Constituent Assembly is dead. Long live the People’s Constituent Assembly!

Plus an associated legal comment:

A legal comment by Fiji’s Shortest ever Resident Magistrate
 
March 23, 2013


I have only looked over the document (the new draft Constitution) for ten minutes but what I have seen scares and shocks me. The findings below relate only to the judiciary and the rule of law.

It is a hallmark of any democracy that power is not concentrated in to a few sets of hands. That is the reason we have parliaments in the first place.

Here are my initial observations (my suggestions for an easy remedy are italicised):

Point 1.

The Chief Justice becomes acting President in the absence of the President. (s 87) (Parliament should choose a Vice President [semi –retired senior public figure] selected with 50% of support from the house.)

Point 2.

The PM can request the CJ to establish a tribunal to remove the President (s88 (3)
(The two person tribunal should be recommended to parliament by the AG. Parliament may then make a motion in its own right, to dismiss the president [ requiring a 75% majority]after allowing the President to show cause before the parliament. This should be a function of the parliament and not the PM and CJ)

Point 3.

Only the president can remove the CJ (s110 (2)
(The two person tribunal to investigate and recommend the dismissal of the CJ should be established by the AG. Parliament may then make a motion to move the President to dismiss the CJ [requiring a 75% majority]after allowing the CJ to show cause before the parliament.)

Point 4.

The quorum of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) IS the Chief Justice, and two others. S103(2)
(The quorum should be larger and more diverse. The current proposal is a dangerous precedent.)

Point 5.

The president acting on the advice of the JSC, can establish a two person tribunal to remove a judicial officer (other than the CJ or PCA). S111(3)
(The two person tribunal should be established by the AG acting on the advice of the JSC. Parliament may then make a motion to dismiss [requiring a 75% majority]after allowing the judicial officer to show cause before the parliament.)

Point 6.

The Solicitor General is appointed on the recommendation of the JSC after consultation with the AG ( s115 (3)
(The recommendation of appointment of an SG should be made by the AG to parliament requiring 50% of support from the house. This should be at arms-length from the JSC )

Point 6.

The Solicitor General can be removed from office on the recommendation of the JSC. (s115 (7) as per s111)
(The recommendation for removal of an SG should be made by the AG to parliament. Parliament may then make a motion for the President to dismiss the SG after allowing the SG to show cause. This should be at arms-length from the JSC. )


Point 7.

The Director of Public prosecutions is appointed on the recommendation of the JSC after consultation with the AG ( s116 (3)
(The recommendation should be made by the AG to parliament requiring 50% of support from the house. This should be at arms-length from the JSC )

Point 8.

The Director of Public Prosecutions can be removed from office on the recommendation of the JSC. (s115 (7)
(The recommendation of removal of the DPP should be made by the AG to parliament. Parliament may then make a motion for the President to dismiss the DPP after allowing the DPP to show cause. This should be at arms-length from the JSC. )

Point 9.

The JSC has authority over all public servants employed in the Judicial Department. S 107
(Judicial Department employees are not judicial officers. They should be dealt with by the Public Service Commission. This is another dangerous and unwarranted precedent.)

Point 10.

FICAC is a stand alone commission of inquiry and not related to the judiciary it should be a chapter in its own right within the constitution. S 114

The Commissioner is appointed by the President on the advice of the Attorney General. (s114(3)
(The Commissioner should be appointed by Parliament on the advice of the AG with 50% support of the House).

Point 11.

Section 114(5) allows the FICAC to conduct criminal proceedings.

This is an extremely dangerous precedent. (The FICAC should not be able to commence criminal proceedings in its own right. It is a commission of inquiry, an INVESTIGATOR NOT A PROSECUTOR. It is not a court of law.
The FICAC as with any standing commission of inquiry. It should conduct investigations (similar to a police service) and then refer its finding to the DPP.)

Point 12.

Under s114(7) the FICAC is subject to the authority of the courts.

(This is hard to interpret. The FICAC should ONLY be answerable to parliament not subject to the authority of the courts, except insofar as they require the courts to approve the exercising of its coercive powers. )


The Nail In the Coffin !

Point 13.

All current judicial officers (including the Solicitor General and Director of Public Prosecutions) will continue in office after the elections ?(s118)

I recall a conversation I had in Sydney with Mr Gates in March 2012. I would swear to the truth of this conversation if I was placed under oath:

I said (words to the effect): If I accept the position (Head of the Legal Practitioners Unit) what happens after the elections. We may all be put up against a wall and shot.

He said (words to the effect): Don’t worry about that. I will ensure that all existing contracts will be honoured by any new government.

How did he know that? You decide for yourselves. (see s118)


SUMMARY
The JSC will hold powers that should be held by parliament alone.
The Chief Justice will continue to be the most powerful man in Fiji, despite potentially committing serious crimes against the justice system. The CJ will be president from time to time. The PM can request the CJ to remove the President? Only the President can remove the CJ?

The Chief Justice controls the hiring and firing of all judicial officers including the Solicitor General and the Director of Public Prosecutions. The DPP and SG cannot be independent under these provisions. They are under the direct and indirect control of the Chief Justice (as Chairman of the JSC).

Each judicial officer is under the control of the Chief Justice (as Chairman of the JSC). They cannot be seen to be independent. They must be under parliamentary control for independence to be achieved.

A proper and transparent JSC should only have the function to investigate and make referrals to parliament in relation to judicial officers ( and not senior statutory positions such as the SG and DPP). It should not have the powers to dismiss any judicial officer which are rubber stamped by the president.

In a properly constituted democracy , the JSC has a the function of investigating a judicial officer and making recommendations to Parliament. It requires parliament to make an address and call the Judicial Officer before the House to show cause. (This has happened on only a few occasions in NSW over the last 100 years).

In a properly constituted democracy the offices of the DPP and Solicitor General should be independent and in no way under the control of the JSC (Chief Justice, PCA and one other).

The Current Chief Justice of Fiji

The Chief Justice is the person most responsible for the displacement of the rule of law in Fiji. He has also destroyed any semblance of the separation of powers doctrine. This did not have to be the case. The Prime Minister gave the Chief Justice free reign to destroy these institutions via decree. The actions of the Chief Justice permeate all aspects of Fiji’s governance.

In my respectful view, current judicial officers, including the Chief Justice, have potentially committed criminal offences, i.e. perverting the course of justice and abuses of power and process. These offences carry terms of imprisonment if guilt is proven. Mr William Marshall has already documented his findings by way of signed petition. If the allegations made by Mr Marshall were investigated and substantiated, the Attorney General and several judicial officers, would likely serve lengthy custodial sentences.

HOW can these Judicial/ legal persons remain with an incoming parliament?

HOW can they be properly investigated?

Under this draft, they cannot be removed or investigated by any incoming parliament. (A backup to the immunity provisions perhaps).

The Chief Justice has not only shielded himself and the Attorney General (and their accomplices) from potential criminal investigation and prosecution, the CJ has drafted a constitution that will allow him to continue to be the most powerful man in Fiji.

Support this Constitution if you want a neo colonial master. Do you want Mr Gates to be your president from time to time? Reject it outright if you want your new parliament to have proper functions, independence, transparency, accountability and powers, i.e. over the DPP, SG and other statutory bodies and commissions.

How will the DPP ever investigate and prosecute Gates. He appoints the DPP and he can terminate the DPP. Let judges judge. Have a constitution that gives the appropriate functions to Parliament and not to one man and two of his “rubber stamp” friends.

I still believe that many of the reforms that have been implemented by the Prime Minister are to be applauded. However, the destruction of the rule of law and judicial process that has been under the delegated power of Mr Gates, undermines these reforms.
The absence of the rule of law and proper structures of transparency and accountability, permeate all levels of Fiji life. This will continue under this proposed constitution. It will make any incoming parliament a toothless tiger. The Prime Minister has allowed the legal draftsman, under the guidance of Gates and the AG, to utterly destroy judicial, SG, and DPP independence.
The continuance of current decrees also continues the lack of independence of the entire legal profession in Fiji. The Chief Registrar has oversight and power over the Legal Profession (Legal Profession Decree 2009.) . The Chief Justice has complete control over the Chief Registrar. How much power can one man have?

I apologise if there are any errors in this report. This report was drafted in haste. I am prepared to provide a more comprehensive and refined report, if the exhortations contained herein do not fall on deaf ears. To those who see what I see, stay strong. The closer Fiji gets to the elections the further away democracy drifts. To those who do not see as I see, I respect you right to make your own choices. I am not attempting to sway opinion. I am merely giving you my initial observations as an independent observer and an advocate for the rule of law.

I do this in my own time at my own expense. I have NO vested interested. I remain banned for life from Fiji after my unlawful arrest and detention at Nadi in November 2012.

If you wish to make Mr Gates the most powerful man in Fiji, then so be it. If you want him to be your president from time to time, so be it.


Greg Bullard 24/3/13
Fiji’s Shortest ever Resident Magistrate (October 2012)

__________________________________________________

It is not too much to say that when the executive has taken over the legislature and the judiciary, the State has become fascist in nature. Effectively, the regime has given itself, the military and the judiciary complete retrospective amnesty and carte blanche for the future...

“And you have that letter of the cardinal?” said D’Artagnan.

“Here it is,” said Athos; and he took the invaluable paper from the pocket of his uniform. D’Artagnan unfolded it with one hand, whose trembling he did not even attempt to conceal, to read:

Dec. 3, 1627

It is by my order and for the good of the state that the bearer of this has done what he has done.

“Richelieu”

“In fact,” said Aramis, “it is an absolution according to rule.”

“That paper must be torn to pieces,” said D’Artagnan, who fancied he read in it his sentence of death.

“On the contrary,” said Athos, “it must be preserved carefully. I would not give up this paper if covered with as many gold pieces.”

Maintaining power simply by force and the corruption of political and judicial controls is as dangerous for the tyrant as for his unfortunate subjects, as Shakespeare's Scottish usurper reflects:

                                          ... But in these cases
We still have judgment here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor.This even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips.


I have recently compared President Bainimarama's predicament to holding a tiger by the tail; he appears to be persisting in his dangerous course.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cyprus: why so timid?

Now that the Cypriot government, at the behest of its European masters, seems about to confiscate a portion of depositors' money, the question arises: why stop there?

Why not take 100% to shore up bank reserves, compensate the former savers by making them the joint shareholders (one share per Euro forfeited), pay the banks' managements a monster bonus to extract all remaining capital value and sell the whole shebang to some large international banking concern for a dollar (to be divided among shareholders)?

Isn't that what is happening all around the West anyway, by degrees and by means of inflation and forced subventions from governments whose members have an eye to their future post-democratic employment selling their contact books to stateless plutocrats?

Why are the Cypriot pussycats so afraid of wetting their paws?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why become an American?

Read about one Englishman's decision to stand with the Land of the Free, on World Voices here.

Why become an American?

Read about one Englishman's decision to stand with the Land of the Free, on World Voices here.

USA: Taking the Oath


Email from America: 2

The article below was first published in the pages of the Record Courier of Ravenna, Ohio.
 
Why I became an American

Last Friday [April 18, 2008], after nearly 30 years as a British ex-patriate working in the USA, I became an American citizen.

You may wonder why it took me so long. My wife says it’s because I hate change; I like to think it’s because I want to make the right decision.

I thought about it seriously, because it’s saying goodbye as well as hello. I had to swear in front of a Federal judge that my father’s birthplace and my mother’s adopted country would no longer be ‘home’.

But thanks to my friends and family, I realize that this is the best ‘home’ I’ve ever had. Americans value the individual, even when his views, like mine, are unorthodox. Here, in my homestead in Northeast Ohio, surrounded by my friends and family, I fit in better than I ever did while growing up. And now, I belong.

There are things I miss about England, of course, but most of them are just memories: quiet pubs that served ‘warm’ beer; fish and chips wrapped in newspaper; the selective university system that gave me a great education. Now, those pubs and chip shops have become noisy night clubs and McDonalds, and as for college, I remember how brutal it was for those who couldn’t succeed immediately. Here in America, the system gives you a second chance.

Most of all, I miss the English bloody-mindedness, the determination to push back against stupid rules; but that is also mostly gone. As the British government tightens restrictions on personal freedom, few people protest, and the mechanisms to fight back just aren’t there. As my brother frequently reminds me, we in the U.S. have a written Constitution, and a legal system willing to support it and challenge the government on our behalf. In fact, we have the best of the English tradition right here, alive and feisty.

Now that I’m an American, I will have to make some changes. I can’t say ‘you Americans’ any more; though I refuse to delete the ‘u’ in ‘colour’, or to stop pronouncing ‘garage’ the way I do. But I can still weigh in pounds and ounces, pump gas in gallons and measure height in feet and inches; which is more than my English brother can do.

And, I will finally be able to participate in that greatest of all American entertainments, a national election.

As for the future, I will always remember the Judge’s speech at our ceremony, where he quoted President Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”. I intend to do my best to honour that commitment.

Tim is a math professor in Ohio.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

USA: The Immigrant


Email from America: 1
 
This series of pieces is a humble homage to ‘Letters from America’ by the late, great Alistair Cooke, who took the Oath of Allegiance in 1941 and whose life’s mission thereafter was to present the American experience to the rest of the world.

I first visited the US in December 1977, and moved here in June 1978. Since then I have lived in Northern Ohio, part of what is called the ‘Midwest’. Looking at a map will go a long way to explaining our local thinking.  But Ohio is by many measures a very average state, which explains the media’s interest in us only every four years, during the national elections. What we see here is as average  'American' as it gets.

Much of my free time has been spent trying to understand this society, and after 35 years it’s still a work in progress. It’s not a coincidence that a leading satirical website is called The Onion, because our culture has many layers, and will bring tears to the eyes.
For all that, like Cooke and millions of other newcomers, I’ve made it my country. To the often ill-concealed pleasure of our national enemies and allies, we’re expert at flaunting our faults and divisions. I shall explore these in future posts, but I also hope to show you some of the virtues that our critics seem more reluctant to learn.

Tim is an English-born math professor and lecturer on gambling strategies.
All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy.

Animation: If wild animals ate fast food



htp: Scroblene, via A K Haart

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Securing Energy Supply (3): Geo-political Threats in War and Peace

We have considered the interruptions to our energy supplies that can arise from the 21st century problem of intermittency of wind-produced electricity, and from the more traditional local threats of strikes, protests and other nations’ willingness to interfere with cross-border trade on protectionist grounds. But we remarked that, however disruptive these have been and can be in future, they are mere nuisances compared to the prospect of strategic geo-political actions taken with the deliberate aim of depriving us of the energy upon which our civilisation has come to depend.

At the most apocalyptic and obvious end of the spectrum is war.

By the time of WW1, oil had become essential to industry and naval warfare and, unlike the equally vital coal, was frequently obtained via lengthy supply chains with shipping often a vital link. Thus, blockading Britain’s supplies of imported oil, as much as food and metal ores, was a major strategic goal of German war policy and, as later in WW2, they came close to succeeding with their Atlantic naval actions against British shipping.  As late as the end of 1943 - even with the USA having been in the war two years - the UK almost ran out of oil.  Both nations put in huge efforts to build up oil supply networks, including innovative operational techniques such as the PLUTO system under the Channel to sustain invasion operations in Normandy.
For Germany itself in WW2, accessing oil resources became a primary early goal, and its thrusts into the oilfields of Romania, and then towards the Caucasus, were undertaken for this purpose.  When the attempts to take Baku failed, it was forced to go to extreme lengths to develop synthetic fuels and lubricants.  Both Speer and Eisenhower asserted that Germany lost the war primarily because by 1944 it was unable effectively to fuel its armour and airforce. On the opposing side Russia undertook extraordinary efforts to maintain constant supplies of oil to its fronts at Leningrad and Stalingrad, under the heroic engineer Nikolai Konstantinovich Baibakov, the Soviet Union's last living Commissar.  

Control over energy supplies – or their destruction - was a central aspect in many other theatres of 20th century warfare, and would be again in future. Oil has been and remains at least one critical factor in Western military engagements in the Middle East; and China is acutely aware of its own dependence on imported energy. Self-sufficiency in oil is a long-standing American obsession.

There is a sense in which the vulnerability of energy supplies was not very interesting during the Cold War, when both sides were able to project vast destructive power at a distance. So what if the USA was well supplied with local oil ? These supplies were still vulnerable to Russian attack, and vice-versa, with large and totally static targets such as nuclear power plants and gas pipelines still more at risk. In such a scenario, ‘self-sufficiency’ is more of a logistical detail than a strategic guarantor of continuous energy supply.

But with the advent of ‘asymmetric warfare’ which is likely to characterise future conflicts, the whole question becomes altogether more interesting. If your major foes are unlikely to mount a direct physical assault on your domestic supply lines - either because they do not have the capability [Iran], or do not choose to conduct hostile operations in that manner [China], then keeping energy supplies local may very well offer significant advantages compared to the vulnerability of more extended, external lines of logistics which can be subject to a plethora of debilitating indirect actions and pin-prick attacks.  An act of unattributable piracy here, a small distant pipeline rupture there ... much more secure if your supplies originate close to home, and travel short distances across friendly territory.  We shall return to self-sufficiency in the next post in this series.

If war seems an extreme contingency for energy planning today (and you'll struggle to find much evidence of it being taken into account in current UK government energy thinking), then we surely cannot fail to give serious consideration to the great external political threats that have actually impacted on Western energy supplies in the past few decades.  At the less critical end of the spectrum has been the collateral disruption inflicted on European customers for Russian gas whenever their disputes with the Ukraine spilled over into actual interruption of supplies.  These short-lived but uncomfortable episodes have always happened in winter, and have seen serious short-term disruption for Eastern Europe and countries such as Italy, whose winter gas comes significantly or perhaps entirely from Russia, and whose strategic gas inventories are rapidly depleted.

While few imagine this is anything more sinister than a rather casual Russian attitude to the consequences for innocent bystanders, it has caused many nations to maintain higher gas inventories than would otherwise be necessary for operational reasons alone, and has been one of the reasons why countries like Poland are working hard to diversify their sources of gas (there are other reasons at work, too.  At the same time it is fair to point out that Russia has made, and continues actively to make large investments on pipelines that outflank the Ukrainian problem, first to the North and then to the South: they have no desire to be known as a politically unreliable supplier.)

By far the biggest political assault on the West's energy supplies was of course the OAPEC oil embargo, the 40th anniversary of which will be upon us soon.  Explicitly a hostile geo-political move, it was directed against selected Western countries - notably the USA and the Netherlands - in retaliation for the support given to Israel in the Yom Kippur war.  This disruption over several months (long after actual fighting had ceased) was colossal: and the economic effects damaging and long-lasting.  Of course, it also resulted in various large-scale initiatives at the global strategic level to prevent or counter such actions, which we shall consider in the next post.

So geo-political threats to security of energy supply falling short of outright war have been manifest in the past, including once on a truly strategic scale with immense consequences.  If these things have happened before - particularly when the Big One was triggered by volatility in the Middle East, which is hardly ever off the radar - then prudent politicians and planners must contemplate the possibility they could happen again.  And they do.

In part 4 we will consider the steps that can be taken to guard against threats to the security of our energy supply. 

[ Continues ]


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