Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Total control zone

From Google Earth - Kaechon Gulag No 14 - School for Child Prisoners

Asahi Shimbun has a piece on Shin Dong-hyuk, a North Korean defector who was born in Camp 14, a political prison in Kaechon, 80 kilometers north of Pyongyang.

He said the camp was like a town. It had a population of several tens of thousands of prisoners who worked on a farm, a coal mine, a cement factory, a sewing factory and other facilities there.

Camp 14 is also a “total control zone” prison, the harshest category for such facilities in North Korea. Inmates of these prisons are not allowed out of the camp for their entire lives.


His story is horrendous and quite impossible for most of us living our comfortable lives to imagine. In particular, indoctrination can do the vilest things to people.

When he was 13, something happened to his brother that prompted him and his mother to plan to break out of the camp. Shin happened to overhear their plot, and he knew that he would be shot if he did not alert the prison wardens. So he did.

His mother and brother were executed in front of Shin and his father.

“Back then, I believed that tipping them off was the right thing to do,” Shin said. “Otherwise, I would have been killed.”

After escaping from North Korea, however, he fully realized the consequences of his action. He says he is still in agony over the decision.


All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Imitation

The child looked about him, watching with keen impressionable eyes what the grown-ups were doing and how they were spending the morning. Not a single detail escaped the child’s searching attention: the picture of his home life was being indelibly stamped on his memory; his pliable mind was nurtured on the examples before him, unconsciously planning his own life after the pattern of the life around him.

Ivan Goncharov – Oblamov (1859)

The greater part of life is imitation. We have other names for it such as learning, reasoning and intelligence, but at the core of it all lies imitation. Sometimes we are almost original but the opportunity is given to us only rarely. Free will may be real enough, but is far from being the norm.

How could things possibly be otherwise? Life would be chaotic...

Hmm...

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

27 June 2003

At the height of the row between the BBC and Downing Street over the "sexed-up" briefing that served as a pretext for UK involvement in the invasion of Iraq, there was an incident which made me feel as though the scales had fallen from my eyes.

Jon Snow was anchoring Channel 4 News and five minutes into his programme, in strode the Prime Minister's communications manager and simply took over. I saw this live and can't forget it - I can give you a Youtube recording (below) and Channel 4's own clip, but none of these shows him striding in masterfully, in seeming rage and indignation; nor the grateful, fraternal handshake Snow gave him at the conclusion of the interview. That was the moment when I thought, "They're all in it together."



Yes, questions were asked - but not ones that Campbell couldn't have been expected to prepare for. What really mattered was the man's exhibition of raw power, instantly subverting a national news schedule to serve his own agenda of red-faced, blustering self-justification, drilling the messages into the newsman's desk with his long and bony finger, interrupting Snow with a raised palm as the latter (or a Paxman) might do to a lesser interviewee. And then - away into the night goes The Shadow! What a man!

Channel 4 may have congratulated themselves on a coup - look at the excitement behind the scenes! - but to me, as an appalled viewer, the coup wasn't theirs. If Snow had ordered him out of the studio immediately (oh Lord, if only!), I could have believed in journalistic independence; as it was, he surrendered the dance floor and let Campbell do Night Fever all over it.

According to the Guardian article the next day, Channel 4 had actually asked Campbell for an interview and been refused 15 minutes before transmission. So did Blair's enforcer change his mind, or had he wrong-footed the programme-makers in order to make an extra-dramatic, swishy entrance?

35Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
36Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.

And a decade later, we're still waiting to find out the whole, the real, truth about the events leading to the tragedy we helped foment in Iraq.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What to do about the poor?

John Ward has an appalled look at the underclass and, though naturally a humane man, is leaning in the direction of abortion and sterilisation. I say:

I teach their children. Your observations - and I share your worries - raise philosophical and econo-political questions.
1. Before advocating abortion and sterilisation, consider whether we are nothing more than temporary forms of matter with the capacity for pleasure and pain. If a grain of sand is a nothing then there are no Arabian sands, since a zillion times nothing is nothing. This kind of thinking allowed Stalin to murder millions of people for the good of... er...
2. Peter Hitchens (who makes a living by stating what fifty years ago would have been unpublishable because it would have been thought too bleedin' obvious) is quite right that the middle class, by giving themselves ever-greater license in terms of substance abuse and sexual mores, have ruined the working class who do not have the same resources to recover from the concomitant pitfalls.
3. Much of the moral decay is also owing to a deteriorating economy and the shockingly cynical callousness shown towards the working class even by the Labour Party. What happened to the Rover works at Longbridge, Birmingham in the runup to the 2000 General Election is a damning reason why I can never see the modern LP as the friend of the workers.
4. As John Mortimer has Rumpole observe, the woes of the underclass provide much lucrative employment for their superiors, so the rot has spread much further than is immediately visible.The political class has signally failed the country as a whole.
5. The temporary beneficiaries of this state of affairs are the upper strata, who have created (as in e.g. the EU) a transnational governing class that is suborning the news media and any other form of supervision and governance that might restrict their endless self-enrichment. Their intermarriage (or interfornication) is, I suggest, leading to the surreptitious re-creation of a full-blown aristocracy - Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube (“Let others wage wars: you, fortunate Austria, marry”). The TV commentators dine with the ministers and money-men, but neglected to bring a long spoon. Soon they will wear the livery of their true masters, and the more attractive or better-connected among their children shall refresh the bloodline of the new global ruling class. "Notting Hill and Islington, you have stolen my land away."
6. Part of the process is economic globalisation. Sir James Goldsmith warned us all in 1983 at the time of GATT, and now that the talks have stalled, see (those who matter in) the US pushing on via the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
7. And to distract (one of the central themes of your blog) from this dreadful scheme we are encouraged to click our tongues at what is now the benefit class, people who once were the hewers of wood and drawers of water and have been abandoned and exploited at every turn, latterly to scare the lower middle class into submission (in the vain hope that they will not be next). We are enjoined to moralise at the unfortunate victims of our own actions:
“If it were indeed the case that bad nourishment, little education, lack of air and sunshine, unhealthy housing conditions, and overwork produce better people than are produced by good nourishment, open air, adequate education and housing, and a reasonable amount of leisure, the whole case for economic reconstruction would collapse, and we could rejoice that such a large percentage of the population enjoys the conditions that make for virtue.” - Bertrand Russell, "Unpopular Essays"
8. A heavy reckoning is coming, and not just for the current poor.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Central England Temperatures

As we all know, the Central England Temperature (CET) record is the world's oldest continuous surface temperature record, going back to 1659, although to put it mildly the early data has a number of defects. It can be downloaded from the Met Office here.

In an idle moment and as I live in central England, I downloaded the data  aiming to play around with various ways of presenting it. For example, the Met Office shows each monthly mean temperature as a difference from the 1961-1990 mean (fig 1) which brings out the recent warm spell very well.

fig 1
Only data from 1772 is used by the Met Office, as in Parker et al. (1992). By the way, the Parker paper highlights rather well the complexities and the adjustments made in compiling a long historical temperature record. It certainly isn't a list of thermometer readings.

However, if you simply plot the temperatures rather than the 1961-1990 differences (fig 2), the graph is rather more innocuous. After all, it's worth remembering that we experience daily and seasonal temperature changes far larger than those we are supposed to be alarmed about. 

fig 2
I see nothing wrong with either format. I'd use the Met Office approach if I had a reason to emphasise the recent warming spell. However, if I was wondering whether to move north to escape catastrophic warming, then I might use the simple temperature graph in fig 2.

fig 3
The graph above (fig 3) is the CET data from 1979 - the satellite era. Just for fun I've fitted a second order polynomial which appears to show that the CET temperature has peaked, albeit a very shallow peak. I don't yet see it as a trend though, but it is worth noting how easy it is to present the data in many different ways depending at least in part on your agenda. 

fig 4

For example,  the temperature record from 2006 plotted the Met Office way (fig 4) seems to show a rapid cooling trend. Maybe so, but as nobody knows where it will go in 2014, let alone the longer term, what conclusion do we draw from that? Don't try to build an agenda on temporary trends in cyclic phenomena is my conclusion - at the moment.

Finally, the month of June from 1659 to 2013 (fig 5) shows a flat linear trend over the entire three and a half centuries - h/t to sunshinehours for that oddity.

fig 5

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Rubbish! Incompetent UK Government blames EU

Pics: Guardian, Telegraph
"When rubbish piled up for weeks in 1979, it was a crisis; now it's an EU policy." That was my starting thought, after all the MSM (and Conservative Home) complaints about fortnightly municipal waste collections.

Not so. EU regulation in this area is about reducing landfill and packaging waste, especially rotting organic waste. To incentivise change, a landfill tax was introduced by the Conservatives in 1996, at two different rates. Currently the standard rate is £2.50 per tonne, but "active" (organic) waste is charged at £72 per tonne, rising this April to at least £80.

Local authorities' failure to meet recycling targets results in heavy expenditure on landfill tax, so to save money they have threatened to cut down on household collection frequency, and the Government compensated them to maintain the weekly service.

Germany and Austria manage recycling rates of over 60%, compared with the UK's 39% so it can be done; our national government is paying councils not to pull their finger out. Unless we want to disappear under a swelling mountain of garbage, we need to do something, whether or not we're told to do so by some supranational body.

Pic: European Environment Agency

I'm agin our membership of the EU because, among other reasons, I believe in democracy - and on constitutional grounds, I say we're not in the EU anyway, since we never gave our informed consent. But in the case under discussion, it suits Parliament to blame the EU for its own weakness in dealing with recalcitrant councils, whereas in other cases our Government pretends to make decisions that have already been handed down to them by Europe.

Getting out of - or as I'd prefer to say, confirming that we're not in - the EU is only the first step. The next is to clear out the Augean stables in Westminster and institute more open, responsive, responsible and competent government.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Freedom and survival

This week saw the death of Hiroo Onada, a WWII Japanese soldier who continued his guerilla war in the Philippines until 1974. Although he killed 30 indigenous people over these years, most of us must have respect for a man fighting on alone for so long.

Except he wasn't on his own for most of that time, as the Daily Mail reveals: "Three other soldiers were with him at the end of the war. One emerged from the jungle in 1950 and the other two died, one in a 1972 clash with local troops."

Lone survival is a familiar motif in films, not so much in real life. In some tribal cultures, the punishment for major crimes such as murder was not execution, but simply shunning. Without the material and psychological support of their community, most individuals would die. Even Alexander Selkirk, the inspiration for Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, nearly broke his back hunting game.

The multiple challenges facing us - economic, environmental etc - feed the fantasies of doomsters and individualists. But if and when a whole society collapses, the disaster crushes all, not just the weak and ill-prepared - where were the rich Mayans to be found after their civilisation fell? Not drinking chocolate in some comfortable enclave among the ruins.

However, apocalypse is another hackneyed cinematic motif. As energy resources dwindle and become more expensive, it's more likely, argues John Michael Greer, that we shall see a series of economic resets, rather in the way that the coals burning in a hearth fire suddenly shuffle a bit closer together from time to time. That's something for which we can prepare, he says, and lists a number of technologies that would go towards making a sustainable local economy.

So far, so good. Yet even a cooperating community has to consider external threats. Aldous Huxley's 1962 novel "Island" depicts a society that is orderly and designed for the happiness of all, using a combination of accommodative social mores, neo-Buddhist wisdom and side-effect-free psychotropic drugs. It is overthrown when foreign oil companies move in...

"Island" is an imagined resolution of the potential disharmonies at two of what I have called the "Three Levels Of Freedom" - the conflicting or self-destructive drives within the individual, and the relationship of the individual with the group. The tragic ending is caused by a conflict at the third level, one group (the islanders) versus another (the greedy and powerful outsiders).

Worries about various potential dislocations in the global trading system are leading commentators such as Charles Hugh Smith to consider how to increase local resilience, as for example in Thursday's post, "A Thought Experiment In American Autarky". Here he is thinking on a national level, but the deeper the crisis, the greater the possibility that even countrywide arrangements could break down. Empires and nations have fractured before, as Germany did in the Middle Ages.

Most likely to survive, perhaps, are communities large enough to provide themselves with all the necessities of life (and sufficient diversity to stave off the problems of inbreeding), but protected from outside disruption by remoteness or difficult terrain. That reduces the threat of Level Three conflict, especially as technological deterioration in the long term makes it harder to wage war over long distances and great obstacles.

But material goods are not enough. There is also what one might term social wealth - shared ethical and cultural values that promote harmony and mutual support. Otherwise there will be unnecessary suffering and tensions that could tear the community apart - as Norman Cohn demonstrates with multiple horrific examples in his famous work about medieval uprisings, "The Pursuit Of The Millennium". Cohn's thesis is that the ground for revolution was prepared by want and insecurity, especially among the growing proletariat in urban areas.

Ironically, the trigger for insurrection was often an individual who had overcome his internal conflicts - achieving Level One freedom - and so could act without moral inhibitions. If one accepts the Freudian tripartite division of the psyche, such people had extinguished their superego and as full-blown psychopaths could lead their fellows in a merry, lethal dance toward ultimate calamity. (A major modern example would be Chairman Mao who, we see in a chilling 2005 biography, defeated his father's authority when a boy by threatening suicide, and one of whose early poems looked within himself and saw a mighty rushing power like a great storm, unstoppable.) So society has a stake in the mental and spiritual health of all its members, as well as their material well-being.

The long-term survival of humanity, and its prospects for reasonable contentment, requires vigilant and equitable balancing at all levels, from the mental stability of individuals, to whatever is the accepted "social contract" in society, to careful international diplomacy and robust economic arrangements. The struggle for freedom and happiness is not a solitary quest but a multi-player, multi-dimensional one; none of the Three Levels can be ignored.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Disconnect

(Click to achieve enlightenment)
The image of Tianmen Square's giant TVs broadcasting the sunrise to relieve the smoggy gloom struck me as a metaphor for much more than China's industry and environment.

If we tore our eyes and ears away from the agenda-infested media, what conclusions would we draw from our own experience? What plans of action would we form?

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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, January 17, 2014

Curry on climate

Worth reading  is Judith Curry's statement to the Committee on Environment and Public Works of the United States Senate - Hearing on “Review of the President’s Climate Action Plan” 16 January 2014.

For example :-

The premise of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan is that there is an overwhelming judgment of science that anthropogenic global warming is already producing devastating impacts, which is summarized by this statement from the President’s Second Inaugural Address:

Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.

This premise is not strongly supported by the scientific evidence:

• the science of climate change is not settled, and evidence reported by the IPCC AR5 weakens the case for human factors dominating climate change in the 20th and early 21st centuries 

• with the 15+ year hiatus in global warming, there is growing appreciation for the importance of natural climate variability 

• the IPCC AR5 and SREX find little evidence that supports an increase in most extreme weather events that can be attributed to humans, and weather extremes in the U.S. were generally worse in the 1930’s and 1950’s than in recent decades.

Not only is more research needed to clarify the sensitivity of climate to carbon dioxide and understand the limitations of climate models, but more research is needed on solar variability, sun-climate connections, natural internal climate variability and the climate dynamics of extreme weather events.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Alice puts her foot down

From Wikipedia

Alice is driving along the main road through the Derbyshire village of Wessington. It is a quiet time of day and she notices that she is well above the speed limit. Alice slows down and luckily there are no unwelcome consequences such as a speeding ticket.

Fragmented reality is the reality we live in, a world where most common events are left unexplained because life moves on and we have no time to work out the explanation. Even so, is it possible for Alice to explain why she broke the speed limit in a pleasant little place like Wessington?

Where should she begin? Should she begin with a sociological, psychological, political, legal, modern or old-fashioned view about motorists who break speed limits?

Presumably she will not favour all these points of view – but is there a leading candidate? To make Alice’s problem a little more difficult, let us concoct a list of ideas she might consider if she decides to look at this question from every possible point of view she can think of.

  • Alice may get an emotional buzz from driving fast.
  • Her psychological state – she may be anxious to get home.
  • Her knowledge of Wessington – it may be a place she doesn’t know.
  • Road layout and road sign visibility. Alice may not see the speed limit signs.
  • Body maps and memories located in specific areas of her brain and specific neurological events may explain her behaviour in broad neurological terms.
  • Complex biochemical processes in Alice’s brain may explain her speeding in terms of the molecular structure of her central nervous system.
  • Alice's actions may involve trillions of electrons in the relevant areas of her brain.

Obviously as we go down this list, we soon leave behind the real world of Wessington, motorists and common sense.

There are some broadly usable ideas at the top of the list and scientific theory lurks at the bottom, but we do not have a way to knit them together and it seems unlikely that we ever could. Real life is left behind well before we reach ludicrous notions of electrons in Alice’s brain.

So which is best – top down or bottom up? Rigid determinism seems to suggest that everything from electrons in Alice's brain to her foot on the accelerator are all part of a coherent whole.

Rigid determinism is impossible to prove in real life situations though. So does anyone actually believe it?

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sherlock

Sherlock and Watson - from the BBC

Last night we watched an episode of Sherlock. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s a BBC version of Sherlock Holmes set in the bonkers world of TV drama and a magically deluded version of the present. Not a hansom cab to be seen.

Sherlock is played by Benedict Cumberbatch who makes a good Holmes at times, but is wasted here. Dr Watson is played a rather wooden chap I’ve seen somewhere before and Moriarty by a guy who comes across as a little boy pretending to be insane.

Last night’s plot was something to do with an all-powerful blackmailer who supposedly has the dirt on every important person in the country. Which rather confirms something we all know anyway, but that's by the by. The blackmailer was played by a neatly bearded chap with rimless spectacles and the subtle, spine-tingling menace of a meringue.

At one point, Dr Watson’s wife Mary is dressed in paramilitary black and about to shoot the blackmailing villain with her silenced pistol, but Sherlock intervenes so she shoots him instead. As you do. In a lucid moment she appears to know Holmes is the good guy but shoots him anyway.

The reason why Mary might make this superficially lamentable error was too boring and improbable to follow. She turns out to be some kind of ex-CIA assassin so my theory is this: Mary is very short-sighted and forgetful, so at the critical moment she simply loses her bearings and shoots the wrong fellow. Happens all the time.

At least it explains why the CIA might have wished to get rid of her. Judging by her performance last night, even St Obama would be in considerable danger with her around.

How Mary gains entrance to the blackmailer's almost impregnable hi-tech lair is a minor mystery too. Sherlock goes to all the trouble and incongruity of seducing the blackmailer's assistant, while Mary apparently uses the tradesman’s entrance which Sherlock overlooks in the sheer complexity of his thinking.

Sherlock’s delightfully aloof brother Mycroft appears, sneers and disappears throughout. He's rather good at sneering too – it's almost worth watching for that alone.

Mycroft Holmes - from the BBC
In my view, the BBC should go the whole hog and give Sherlock the ability to fly like Superman. Maybe a bionic eye and a bionic ear would add to the drama. The eye and ear could be designed and fitted by Dr Watson and Mary at a top secret MI5 research lab in Hinckley.

Mary would need a quick visit to Specsavers first though. Maybe the gun could be put in a safe place too.

This would bring Sherlock closer to his real mentors such as Batman and Superman. After all, right at the end we are told that boy wonder Moriarty has taken control of all electronic displays in order to broadcast his evil leer to the whole country. Petrifying stuff, but didn’t Lex Luthor try that?

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Your car is spying on you!

"... the black box in your car is indeed recording everything and because of the GPS installed in your car, the manufacturer knows when a driver has ever been speeding and where. Car manufacturers can tell if you were speeding in a brand new car when you are supposed to not exceed certain limits for warranty purposes. All of this info is recorded. Police want access claiming they need this info to determine what happened in an accident. There is nothing that is ever private at anytime."

- Martin Armstrong

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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Climate blogs

What's the collective noun for climate blogs?

Whatever it is and in case you haven't come across it, ScottishSceptic has created uClimate.com, a site listing about 100 - although I haven't counted them - sceptic and non-sceptic climate blogs with the first few lines of their latest posts. As a preliminary to this work he posted a ranking list of blogs here.

He also has an interesting post which tries to assess the motivations and outlook of the two sides. It doesn't fit me too well, although I agree with those who see a significant political influence in the climate debate.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Stonerz

(Click to expand your consciousness)
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Sunday, January 05, 2014

Introducing "Split Endz", the cartoon with broader appeal!

(Click to enlarge)

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Factoid: Brits need more governing than Americans

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/congressional-gridlock-expected-worsen-article-1.1566718
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/primary/2013
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population
All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Food poverty and the need for consumer education

The poorest 10% in the UK have significantly less money than they used to, but could still eat healthily. That's one message in DEFRA's 2012 Food Statistics Pocketbook:


As their income dropped, people in this group spent 26% less than before on carcase (fresh) meat, 25% less on fruit and 15% less on vegetables (p.28).


The Eatwell plate may not be right - some claim dietary starch is a factor leading to obesity and diabetes - and libertarians may object to what they see as nannying by the State. Those objections aside, surely there is room for more public education on how to use limited financial resources to best effect?

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Vote for John Ward!

At last, a party political manifesto I could get behind:

  • Mutualise the NHS and all social weal services
  • Replace Whitehall with mutualised administration
  • Disallow all additional Sir Humphrey pension emoluments after 2006
  • Stop immigration dead now
  • Start retraining our over-educated, under-equipped workforce
  • Stop building boxes and start growing food
  • Leave the EU, let Scotland bugger off if it wants to
  • Stop all rises and bonuses at taxpayer-owned banks
  • Make any form of bank bailin illegal
  • Purge the police force of crooks
  • Stop non-taxpayers from owning media titles
  • Sanitise Westminster’s money-lobbying forever
  • Come down hard on multinational tax avoidance
  • Introduce compulsory uniformed Social Service for every child without exception from age 12-14
  • Put respect for others at the centre of education.
All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

From sad to glad

(Pic source)

Coming to the South Hams last week, we passed Dartington Primary School again. This time it had some marquees up and I wondered what the event was; it turns out that owing to alleged design faults, the cutting-edge eco-architecture is leaking rainwater into the school buildings, so that they have had to be supplemented with temporary structures.

Rather than laugh at the Greens, let's just see this as merely a teething problem. I thought back in 2009 that the school was forward-looking and I could imagine the children enjoying the light-welcoming environment. The Mail article linked above says they're enjoying the enforced change in routine, too.

Natural light is not only helping the school run on a "carbon-neutral" basis, it's good for preventing seasonal depression (SAD), an issue raised in the Mail yesterday ("Workers who see no natural light all winter").

Energy is getting expensive already, and eventually fossil fuels will become scarce (will the next generation see the end of gas?). Other resources may last hundreds of years yet, but unless you're hoping the human race will die out soon, it makes sense to prepare for the long term.

And there are further reasons to consider localism and resilience: the world may not always be so interconnected and relatively peaceful and co-operative. Totnes ( only two miles away) bought into the "transition town" movement early.

There's been some attempt to do the same for Birmingham, but it seems largely to have fizzled out.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Awakening


MotionElements Stock Footage

In a recent post, the billionaire Hugo Salinas Price considers how much time we spend in a world of illusions. What happens when the communal fictions break down?

When the money supply has broken free from limitation (such as precious metals - he advocates a return to silver-based currency), it will multiply until the dream breaks - and with it will go many of the other social constructs that keep us relatively safe and well-fed.

"... the National Debt of the US is entirely imaginary. It cannot and will not ever be repaid, and will grow numerically up to the point at which reality finally dissolves the bewitched imagination which holds the population in thrall...

"The storm will force the men and women of the world, who have lived so unquestioningly in their highly imaginary world, to wake up and find, to their astonishment dismay and anger, that they have lost their jobs, that they have no savings and that their pension funds are gone or have been confiscated. Their indignation will be forgotten as sheer terror sets in. The Department of Homeland Security has been given a supply of more than one billion hollow-point bullets for good reason."

We are connected to each other across the world and in abstract and technology-dependent ways that make the whole system increasingly liable to disruption. We have become detached from the resources and skills that would help us survive in our immediate environment.

This is why one of Charles Hugh Smith's major themes is the need to avoid debt and conventional forms of investment in the future (such as a college degree), and instead build up local connections and a wide stock of useful social and practical skills.

Sadly, I'm not sure how easily this (undoubtedly wise) scheme can be adopted by the urban masses, especially in overcrowded countries like the United Kingdom, whose ratio of arable land to population is one-fifth that of the USA's.

CHS is based in Hawaii, a fertile Pacific archipelago 2,500 miles west of mainland USA and almost 4,000 miles east of Japan. The majority of its food is imported, but official attention has now turned to the need for greater food security - see this 2012 Hawaii State planning document (pdf). Good luck, CHS - though you'll need it a bit less than we do.

 All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.

Know your place

For whatever a man imagines that he cannot do, he imagines it necessarily, and by that very imagination he is so disposed that in truth he cannot do what he imagines he cannot do.

For so long as he imagines that he cannot do this or that, so long is he determined not to do it: and consequently, so long it is impossible to him that he should do it.

However, if we pay attention to these things, which depend solely on opinion, we shall be able to conceive that a man should under-estimate himself.
Benedict Spinoza – Ethics

I’ve played around with this quote for years because it gets right to the heart of a key aspect of Spinoza’s philosophy.

By imagination, he means dubious notions and images we absorb from the outside world without having examined them effectively – or even without having examined them at all.

He wrote long before modern ideas of psychological conditioning, but here he is effectively saying that our abilities as well as our thinking can be conditioned by the outside world.

If we absorb the notion that we can’t do something without taking the trouble to analyse why not, then we simply can’t do it and that’s that. Not a particularly remarkable conclusion for our times, but remarkable enough for his I suspect.

Many of us do underestimate ourselves and I suspect we should always try to notice the fact and analyse why it may be so. Was the underestimate fed to us by external circumstances?

Do you know your place?

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. 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.