Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Suicide: a big issue

Following the tragic death of Robin Williams, suicide has caught the public's attention, especially because of the sensational news coverage, about which Mary Hamilton had some trenchant criticisms (htp: Anna Raccoon). Hamilton showed how the reportage contravened the Samaritans' media guidelines, which aim to prevent the ripple of self-destructive behaviour that can come after a high-profile case.

A somewhat more responsible follow-up came in this weekend's Mail On Sunday, in which Fifi Geldof revealed her own history of depression and substance abuse. Although her difficulties appear to date from her parents' divorce, Geldof says, "Depression just exists. It doesn’t have to be for a reason." She also says that she never seriously considered suicide, because "there are people that would hurt. And quite frankly there’s been enough death in our family. It’s not something I would do to them." And several times, she refers to putting on a mask, so that even her father would not know what she was going through.

The Samaritans' guidance echoes that first point: "There is no simple explanation for why someone chooses to die by suicide and it is rarely due to one particular factor." And the second point is corroborated by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which lists some protective factors:

  • "Receiving effective mental health care
  • Positive connections to family, peers, community, and social institutions such as marriage and religion that foster resilience
  • The skills and ability to solve problems"
But as the Samaritans observe, "effective mental healthcare" is often not sought or provided:

"Most people who make suicide attempts or who die by suicide are not in contact with healthcare services in the month before their attempt or death. Only half of all people who die by suicide have ever been in contact with specialist mental health services.

"The medical and/or psychiatric conditions that could lead a person to take their own life are potentially treatable."

The third thing, the mask, is a challenge. I had a friend in a different town who had been showing signs of depression, yet when a mutual friend bumped into him one day and put him on the mobile to me, he seemed far brighter, perfectly normal even - and that was the last time we spoke. It happens to the roughest and toughest, too, as ex-SAS soldier Andy McNab recounts in "Seven Troop" - McNab contrasts the British Special Forces' lack of access to/ fear of accepting mental health care at that time with the US Army's, where counselling for these high-stress performers is routine and not seen as some kind of admission of failure or weakness. The problems of stigma and hiding rather than seeking help, are addressed in this heartfelt and disturbing article on TIP News.

Mental health issues are far more important than one might gather from TV news and drama programmes. The risk of being murdered in the UK is around 1 in 100,000 per annum, whereas suicide is about 12 times more common*. In the United States, the murder rate is higher - about 4.8 per 100,000 population - but still dwarfed by the suicide rate, which is very similar to Britain's. In Japan, one of the safest countries in the world in terms of violent crime, the contrast is even starker: 0.3 for murder, but 21.4 for suicide.

It's well known that suicide is more common among males than females, and the rate also varies with age, but there are surprising regional variations too. In small communities blips in the absolute figures make more of a difference to percentages, and stigma may also affect statistical reporting. That said, it would seem that far and away the worst risk for suicide is in Greenland (83 per 100,000), followed by Lithuania (31) and South Korea (28.1).

Contrariwise, and still bearing in mind the statistical caveats, we see that other nations can have a very high murder rate and yet be relatively unaffected by suicide - e.g. Haiti at 10.2 for murder, but apparently no recorded self-murder. However, for 70 out of 110 countries reporting in both categories, suicide is as big a problem as murder, often far bigger.

Perhaps these two categories could be taken as, respectively, very crude indicators of good social order, and (shall we say) good or healthy psychological order. At any rate, the World Health Organisation has said (in 2012) suicide prevention is "a priority condition globally... suicide is a major problem and... it is preventable... The lack of resources – human or financial – can no longer remain an acceptable justification for not developing or implementing a national suicide prevention strategy."

What are we doing about it in the UK?

Scotland chose to tackle this issue quite some time ago, and has seen significant progress:

"Since 2002 – when the target was originally set as part of the Choose Life strategy and action plan – we have seen an 18% reduction in the suicide rate across Scotland."

England followed - ten years later - with its "Preventing suicide in England: A cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives" - and produced its follow-up report a year on, here.

Better late than never.

______________________________

* (but the ONS suggests the figure is 8 in 100,000 instead - see page 3 here).


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Carswell on Tomorrow's News



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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sponsored narratives

Almost all public narratives are sponsored. For centuries life was dominated by narratives sponsored by religious and political elites, although the word sponsored is perhaps a little mild for those rough and ready days.

The only other narratives must have been private local narratives conducted in the home, in the fields or the alehouse away from censorious ears. Mostly forgotten now.

These days the situation is much the same. Virtually every public narrative is politically or commercially sponsored although that particular dividing line has become blurred. Sponsored religious narratives are less common than they were. Sponsored academic narratives may or may not have political or commercial backers, but this is a complex area.

Sponsored narratives aren't necessarily false or even misleading, but sponsorship casts a shadow over their veracity. It corrodes the altruistic possibilities of human discourse, inserts covert sympathies, manipulates emotions and loyalties, inserts the levers of power into the very heart of our language. 

Sponsoring a narrative isn't purely a financial matter though. Money certainly comes into it, because publicity comes into it, but so do the endless subtleties of social caution and that ingrained fear of new ideas we all know too well. Above that we have the advisory phone call, the discreet lunch, the country house party, the raised eyebrow, the nudge, the wink and the old school tie. 

Even Marxism soon became a sponsored narrative after the Russian revolution. Many fell for it and quite a few wormed their way into UK governments. As working conditions improved, socialism morphed into just another sponsored narrative. Sponsored by unions, powerful bureaucracies, charities and well funded pressure groups. Eventually sponsored by government itself - all governments of whichever political hue.

So perhaps we who immerse ourselves in the fascinating possibilities of unsponsored narratives are not likely to achieve much apart from a few pinpricks. The reason is obvious enough – it’s why narratives are sponsored in the first place - to ensure that most people only encounter them.

For example the BBC only broadcasts sponsored narratives. I’m sure this accounts for its servile treatment of the Royal Family and why it still broadcasts shows such as Songs of Praise. In spite of the BBC’s left-leaning political sympathies, vague sympathy for the monarchy and the C of E are still sponsored narratives. On the whole, republicanism and atheism are not.

For the same reason, the BBC was bound to broadcast the orthodox global warming message simply because this is so obviously the sponsored narrative. In comparison with Big Green, climate scepticism is an unsponsored narrative, although there are hints that energy policy debacles may yet change all that.

UKIP too has problems with sponsored narratives. The supposed racism of UKIP voters is clearly a sponsored narrative, as is the fruitcake meme. UKIP will have to do something about that, most likely by avoiding genuinely radical reform. In other words, by avoiding unsponsored narratives and by easing its way towards more sponsored narratives. UKIP will have to become mainstream in order to become mainstream

Sponsored narratives are fact of life. We’ll never get away from them.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

The day I met the Queen

Actually, as far as I know I’ve never met the Queen unless she goes around in disguise. In which case she could be the woman with the ugly dog but I don’t think so. Yet what if I did meet her unexpectedly in an informal setting?

Imagine a gentrified provisions shop out in the country somewhere. Instead of driving past we stop for a little smackerel of something. While we’re mulling over a tempting cheese counter, in walks this little old lady in a headscarf. By the way, speaking of cheese, never buy Stinking Bishop – it’s outstandingly unpleasant.

To continue. Something tells me the headscarfed one is Her Royalness, so what do I do? Now as I’ve never met the Queen, I’m not primed with the peasant’s section of the royal protocol manual (73rd edition), such as no high fives and no backslapping bonhomie.

However, even without the manual I’m sure I’d dredge up some kind of appropriate behaviour. I’d be suitably polite and deferential of course - and not just because the big chap next to her might have a machine pistol tucked into the waistband of his trousers.

The point I’m making with this absurdly improbable scenario is that I’d still manage to dredge up certain behaviours I’d never actually used before. So if I’ve never used them before, where did they come from?

Lots of places obviously – TV for example, but maybe the most interesting answer has to do with our repertoire of behaviours. We’re pretty good at adapting to circumstances, even those we’ve never come across before. As we all know, we only need a degree of similarity to something we’ve already encountered and off we jolly well go.

We do exactly the same thing when our beliefs are challenged. It doesn’t matter how good an argument might be. If it challenges our belief we can dredge up something to meet the challenge and send any would-be challenger packing. Always.

We all know this but many folk still seem to assume that belief is somehow a matter of rational choice. Supposedly we weigh our options using reason as our trusty guide. Absolutely ludicrous notion but there we are. Take a look around if you don't believe me. No, belief is a fixed repertoire of behaviours, a standard way responding to certain verbal or written challenges.

I imagine those challenges are mostly blogging or chatting in the pub or office, but the point is the same. Belief is part of our repertoire of behaviours, essentially no different to my repertoire of possible reactions to meeting the Queen.

It’s only when we understand this that we introduce the possibility of scepticism, that strange ability which seems to bring free will within reach. For habitual sceptics, the response to many challenges is not wholly automatic. Beliefs can be challenged. 

Not many and not easily, but the possibility isn’t completely closed.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Pottery Cottage murders

Not far from yesterday's Beeley Moor walk is Eastmoor, where the Pottery Cottage murders took place in 1977.

The Glasgow Herald April 28th 1977

Four shots were fired by police marksmen at an escaped rapist, William Hughes, before he stopped a frenzied axe attack on his hostage Mrs Gill Moran, and collapsed dead an inquest was told yesterday.

The shootings occurred after a car chase through Derbyshire and Cheshire, which ended when Hughes crashed at a police roadblock.

The Chesterfield inquest was on Hughes who escaped while being taken from Leicester Prison to Chesterfield Court. And on Richard Moran aged 36, his daughter, Sarah, and Mrs Moran's parents, Mr Arthur Minton, aged 72, and Mrs Amy Minton, aged 70.

The four members of the family were found by police in their home at Pottery Cottage, Eastmoor, where they had been killed by Hughes...

...Hughes suddenly cried, "Your time is up" and raised an axe above his head. Inspector Pell said he fired at Hughes's heat [sic] but Hughes began to attack Mrs Moran. Two more shots did not stop Hughes. Detective Constable Nicholls then fired one shot and Hughes collapsed. 

The jury returned unanimous verdicts of murder in the case of the Morans and the Mintons, and justifiable homicide in the case of Hughes.

So given the tragic circumstances, as good a result as could have been expected - Billy Hughes shot dead. Had he survived he could still be alive today as capital punishment was long gone.  

Yet Moors murderer Ian Brady is still alive, the man and his grotesque crimes still festering on in the public memory. In my view this is a worse outcome than in the Hughes case. How can that be? 

I think there are cases where certain crimes are so appalling that they must be given a decent burial. I know the arguments, we all know them, but there are cases where the only thing to do is consign them to the past. 

One cannot do that for surviving friends and relatives, but the crime itself can consigned to the dismal history of human wickedness. If that means burying the perpetrator then so be it. 

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The road to Sheffield

Had a fine walk across Beeley Moor today. We reached the moor via the adjoining and delightfully named Gibbet Moor above Chatsworth. Imagine trudging across high moorland on a bitter November afternoon only to have a moorland gibbet cheer you on your way.

Beeley moor is like that even though the gibbets are long gone. At least I think they are. The moor is attractive in summer but even then there is something a little grim about the place. An extraordinarily atmospheric area even on a clear day. I love it.

Today the heather was out in force and the views excellent with very good visibility. Not easily captured on a photograph though - the superb expanse of it under a vast sky.




The moor is steeped in history from Hob Hurst's House to a number of old guide stoops such as this one directing travellers towards Sheffield. 

These stone guideposts, or 'stoops', were set at intersections of packhorse routes, were required by an Act of 1697. Beeley Moor is particularly rich in examples. They fell into disuse in the second half of the 18th Century as Turnpike roads superseded the old packhorse routes.


Is that a local hand I wonder - with three fingers?

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Scotland and secession

1. Why is the pound such an issue? If Blair had had his way we'd all be in the Euro now.

2. Why worry about Scotland's dysfunctional economy? The UK as a whole is dysfunctional. It runs chiefly on debt it has no intention to repay, plus a system of helping City swindlers to thieve from the people and then taxing them to support the low paid and unemployed whose misery they have helped to create. If we're all off to Hell in a handcart, at least we can allow the Scots their own cart.

3. Perhaps the plan post independence is to slash benefits and build a Scots Sangatte by the border with England.



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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why we need packaging

Outside


Inside


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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bomb the Ban

From Wikipedia. Sort of.

We saw a group of fancy dress hippies today but they didn't quite look the part. 

Crikey I've added a link to the word "hippies" just in case.

But their clothes weren't quite right, they weren't quite right and there wasn't a hint of that round-shouldered scraggy look I still remember so well. The main giveaway was their CND flag. 

It was upside down.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

A sense of community

From Wikipedia

Here's an interesting quote many folk will have come across at one time or another.

He could not see, it was not born in him to see, that the highest good of the community as it stands is no longer the highest good of even the average individual. He thought that, because the community represents millions of people, therefore it must be millions of times more important than any individual, forgetting that the community is an abstraction from the many, and is not the many themselves. 

Now when the statement of the abstract good for the community has become a formula lacking in all inspiration or value to the average intelligence, then the “common good” becomes a general nuisance, representing the vulgar, conservative materialism at a low level.
D.H. Lawrence - The Rainbow (1915)

Such a common word isn't it? Community. What could be nicer than to be part of a community? Yet a community binds us together in a way which may be benign or oppressive, but is too often merely political. 

Community. A community facility. A community resource. A community organiser. Wasn't Obama a community organiser? Or maybe a community organizer. Sounds grim to me. Not a job I'd relish. 

Unfortunately Lawrence was right. The idea of community has become a formula lacking in all inspiration or value to the average intelligence.

We've forgotten that bit haven't we - the inspiration? We've sucked the human juice out of a useful notion and made it dull, mechanical and more than a little unhealthy.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Climate and the bourgeoisie

An early low-carbon bourgeois
From Wikipedia

To my mind the orthodox climate narrative is obviously political, not a scientific discovery about the future. Equally obvious - it was designed for maximum bourgeois appeal. So what is the attraction of such a superficially alarming narrative?

As we all know, the orthodox climate narrative is wrapped around an apparent threat to bourgeois comforts via drought, floods, rising sea levels and many other catastrophes. Sounds scary, but the mitigation part of the narrative holds out a juicy promise of unlimited future comforts via sustainable energy.

Admittedly one would have to be gullible to swallow the sustainable energy guff, but that is what feed-in tariffs are for - to create a misleading sense of familiarity with wind and solar. Familiarity is half the battle. Add in a green badge for saving the planet and the job’s mostly done.

Saving the planet by developing clean, everlasting energy sources. What else offers more appeal to the bourgeois sense of entitlement? What else offers such balm to the uneasy modern conscience?

The up-front demands are minimal. A spot of recycling, some curly light bulbs and a Toyota Prius on the drive. No neighbour can beat it for quietly sanctimonious swank.

Not only that, but the potential rewards are enormous – nothing less than a life of permanent comfort. Because it’s sustainable isn’t it? That’s the carrot. Beneath the sanctimonious shroud-waving, the climate narrative has a deeply selfish appeal – deferred gratification on a humongous scale.

No wonder the Guardian and the BBC push it with such sanctimonious relish. No wonder they react with such swivel-eyed malice towards anyone who might threaten the dream.

Many climate sceptics seem both angry and confused at the casual dumping of scientific integrity by the climate narrative. I think this is because the rewards so covertly offered to the climate faithful are hugely underestimated. Apart from five centuries of scientific progress the sacrifice is not excessive for those able to afford their energy bills without undue stress. Yet the supposed gains are disproportionately colossal.

Seth Pecksniff is alive and well. These days he recycles his Waitrose wine bottles, pops his old trousers in the charity bag and drives a Toyota Prius on mileage allowance.

The attempt has been made, and wrongly, to make a class of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie is simply the contented portion of the people. The bourgeois is the man who now has time to sit down. A chair is not a caste. But through a desire to sit down too soon, one may arrest the very march of the human race.

Victor Hugo - Les Misérables (1862)

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Putin vs the EU - stunning quote

"His wealth and position are built on the wealth of his people: socialism’s power by contrast is derived from wealth destruction, which explains much of the political divide."

Read Alasdair Macleod's five-star essay on Ukraine here.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beneath the social construction

Beneath the social construction, that complicated marvel of a structure, there are excavations of all sorts. There is the religious mine, the philosophical mine, the economic mine, the revolutionary mine. 

Such and such a pick-axe with the idea, such a pick with ciphers. Such another with wrath. People hail and answer each other from one catacomb to another. Utopias travel about underground, in the pipes. There they branch out in every direction. They sometimes meet, and fraternize there. 

Jean-Jacques lends his pick to Diogenes, who lends him his lantern. Sometimes they enter into combat there. Calvin seizes Socinius by the hair. But nothing arrests nor interrupts the tension of all these energies toward the goal, and the vast, simultaneous activity, which goes and comes, mounts, descends, and mounts again in these obscurities, and which immense unknown swarming slowly transforms the top and the bottom and the inside and the outside. 

Society hardly even suspects this digging which leaves its surface intact and changes its bowels. There are as many different subterranean stages as there are varying works, as there are extractions. What emerges from these deep excavations? The future.

Victor Hugo - Les Misérables (1862)

I like this quote. Social change is the result of a kind of disjointed undermining. Even the miners have little idea of consequences, however fanatically they dig away down there.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The power game

Source

Clean Technica reports on the Westermost Rough offshore wind farm.

The United Kingdom celebrated the installation of its first 6 MW wind turbine over the weekend, having erected the first of 35 Siemens 6 MW turbines at the Westermost Rough offshore wind farm in the North Sea.

The Westermost Rough offshore wind farm is a joint venture between DONG Energy and its partners Marubeni Corporation and the UK Green Investment Bank.


Is that this Marubeni Corporation?

Marubeni Corporation, a Japanese trading company involved in the handling of products and provision of services in a broad range of sectors around the world, including power generation, entered a plea of guilty today for its participation in a scheme to pay bribes to high-ranking government officials in Indonesia to secure a lucrative power project.


And this Marubeni Corporation?

In January 2012, Marubeni Corporation agreed to pay a US$54.6 million criminal penalty to settle multiple US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) charges relating to its work as an agent for the TSKJ joint venture. The TSKJ joint venture comprising Technip, Snamprogetti Netherlands, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) and JGC Corporation hired Marubeni to bribe lower-level Nigerian government officials to help it obtain and retain contracts to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island in Nigeria. TSKJ paid Marubeni US$51 million which was intended, in part, to be used to bribe Nigerian government officials.

Of course I am not implying or suggesting that there is anything questionable about Marubeni Corporation or the Westermost Rough project.

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It's the lawlessness plus the militarization of police - together

First, two pics from the link below:

  missouri-looting-APboston_police

Then the link: http://armstrongeconomics.com/2014/08/11/protests-turn-to-free-for-all/

Additional material, via Barry Ritholtz:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/08/turning-policemen-into-soldiers-the-culmination-of-a-long-trend/376052/

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/08/americas-weaponized-police-force-could-benefit-from-one-more-weapon-cameras/376063/

Then you might look at this link on police exceeding their legitimate authority:

Rogue policeman who tried to get DNA sample from young girl to prove she was daughter of kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch is sentenced to prison

 ... which might tie in with this:

The missing children ... which is getting a little tangential to the main theme of this article.

Sackerson asks us to look at the second pic above, more so than the first.  Sorry, methinks both must be viewed in conjunction in order to make sense of what's going on.

Whilst I'm with him on the second and will write on it below, the issue of the top pic and the lawlessness the society has fallen into due to corrupt politicians, left-captured judiciary which condones criminals but incarcerates the minor, especially non-PC, offender and the overall weakening of the institutions of society, actually ties in with the increasing militarization of the police.

In old left-right terms, there's one of each issue in this tale, which raises the question, if both left and right are concerned, then what are we concerned about and the answer to that is the State.

And as has been shown in posts passim, almost ad infinitum, the State is not only encroaching but the hidden group behind it - I hesitate to call it a ruling class - is going down the same path as near the end of the Weimar Republic.

Whilst the left, through its organs Scientific American, MSNBC, the Cato Institute, the Atlantic and others zeroes in on the militarization, the right's American Thinker zeroes in on something different:
  http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2014/08/obamas_call_to_calm_in_ferguson.html#ixzz3AoT6K1QF
The president’s interest is, or should be, the health of our nation, and the totality of its people, to include the people of Ferguson inclusively, but not exclusively. He should adamantly reinforce his support for the “rule of law”, for either we have justice (true justice, premised on findings, not emotion), or we have chaos and anarchy.
National Review Online makes a good point:

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/385656/grossly-exaggerated-militarization-police-critique-ferguson-rich-lowry
It was ridiculous and wrong for police snipers to train their weapons on peaceful protestors in Ferguson. But, when you get right down to it, the militarization of police has had basically nothing to do with events there, even though the Left and parts of the Right have wanted to make that the main issue.
It's too convenient that this over-militarization, as opposed to its bobby on the beat function, should coincide with all this rank lawlessness.  It's almost an invitation to FEMA and the days of the new heavy-handed police reaction.  Well maybe not new - you'll recall the miners' strikes. NRO again:
So now Governor Nixon is calling in the National Guard, or in other words, “militarizing” the response. What Ferguson needs is the restoration of basic order, and the absence of it has never been the fault of the police, but of a small, lawless fringe of protestors bent on mayhem.
See, we swing left, we swing right and never really look at BOTH sides of the issue together.

We don't focus on the real culprits who even condone the lawlessness, whilst militarizing the police. And as that article says, Ferguson is only one small part of the issue which has been going on for quite some time.

But the point is, all these new threats are conveniently arising, in order for the stormtrooper reaction.  ISIS for a start is a faux-Islamist group - see Operation Cyclone for background.

Let's not go too left-field but there still is the little matter of the Patriot Act quickly following the "convenient" 911. We've also seen the innocuous FEMA holding camps with the inturned barbed wire tops of fences which are explained away as training barracks and whatever.

Trouble is, the left will bring that up and the right poo-poohs it, then the right will bring up the failure of police to act on the lawless and feckless in Ferguson and the left will say no, no, it's all the police's fault, ignoring how this lawlessness is spreading and threatening ordinary people.

Thus both sides fail to agree - we can't even agree on which photo is more important - and thus we fail to combine to stop the whole phenomenon of the game of these people I call Them, for want of a better term.

In other words, the power behind the politicians who both appoint the pollies and run them from behind the scenes.  In the case of Cameron, one of them can be named immediately - Barosso.  If you need another name - Sutherland.

This is where the issue is.  If you go through those links, the pattern is not only clear, it's worldwide.  Australia is also doing these things, and Canada.


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Monday, August 18, 2014

How to be overweight

After a recent visit to a Little Chef, I've been wondering just how easy or difficult it is to be grossly overweight. I'm sure keen weight watchers know the answer to this already, but how many extra calories do you need to put on the pounds and keep them there?

exercise.com has a calculator which I'll assume is reliable, so I began with a BBC report taken from the ONS which says the average English male in 2010 was 38 years old, 5ft 9in tall and weighed 13.16 stone.

Okay, so the calculator says he should consume from 2090 to 2700 calories per day to maintain that weight depending on how sedentary he is. Let's take to 2400 calories for someone who is mostly standing.


Next I doubled the average guy's weight from 13.16 stone to 26.32 stone. That sounds pretty hefty to me. Going back to the calculator our not so average Englishman should consume from 3100 to 4000 calories per day to maintain his new weight, again depending on how sedentary he is. Let's take to 3550 calories for someone who is mostly standing - although that may have become less probable.


So to maintain double the average weight, our average Englishman needs an extra 1150 calories. That's not much more than a Medium Italian pizza from Pizza Hut

From the same source, the average woman in England weighed 11 stone and was 5ft 3in tall. Let's assume she's also 38 years old. So to maintain double her average weight, our average Englishwoman needs an extra 960 calories. 

To my considerable surprise, maintaining a such a huge weight as 26 stone possibly isn't that difficult. It only seems to be a pizza a day. Doesn't seem enough to me but I'm not an expert on these matters. I've never had a weight problem but I do enjoy pizza.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

[Insert name of hottie] for PM!

Now that Jan Moir has established the sexual basis for choosing political leaders and policies, we have to turn from "turnip" Salmond to the question of who will lead our country from 2015. Even though they're still a minority in the Commons, surely we're ready for a woman again.

Clearly the pressure to increase the squad of Cameron Cuties has anticipated this important development in public attitudes, but selection solely on gender lines is inadequate. Looks are what counts:

Homage and apologies to The Sun newspaper

Of course, not everyone can become a Prime Minister, but the runners-up could be given seats in the House of Phwoards as consolation prizes (unless Peter Hitchens succeeds in getting it abolished). How about Tracey Ermine for Lord Speaker?

Image: Saatchi Gallery

I'm looking forward to next year's General Erection.


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Has a celebrity moved into YOUR area?

Not the Mail on Sunday

Our FREE detector will tell you how many kilometres to the nearest entertainer. Then simply log on to celebwitchhunt.co.uk, enter the details and we'll tell the police, tip-off the media for the raid and write letters of complaint about the subsequent coverage to the BBC's governors.


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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Vote with your gonads!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2726381/JAN-MOIR-Salmond-s-fatal-flaw-We-women-think-s-got-charm-turnip.html

Write the rest of the article yourselves.


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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Is your money safe in the bank? - revisited

John Ward reports that some South African bank savers are now having their accounts raided to shore up a different bank, African Bank Investments Ltd. Even more disturbingly, the example he quotes is of a customer whose SA bank is part of the international Barclays group, so the link stretches back to the UK itself.

Almost exactly seven years ago, and over a year before the global banking crisis of 2008/9 hit us, I warned British readers that protection for their savings was limited. At that time (August 2007), you were guaranteed 100% of the first 2,000 in your account, and only 90% of the next £33,000. So the maximum compensation in the case of a bank wipeout, even if you had millions, was £31,700.

Now, and as a result of the crisis (and more importantly, to prevent a system-destroying general run on the banks) the "guarantee" has been increased to 100% of the first £85,000 per person (see FSCS here). That's per bank group, so if you have more than one bank account make sure they're not part of the same group.

But why is a guarantee needed in the first place? Surely the money you have deposited is yours, same as if you'd asked them to look after your house deeds.

Not at all. Here is the law as explained by Toby Baxendale on The Cobden Centre website in 2010:

The Current State of the Law


The key case is Carr v Carr 1811 (reported in Merivale (541 n) 1815 – 17). A testator in making his bequest said “whatever debts might be due to him…at the time of his death”, the key question in this case being whether “a cash balance due to him on his banker’s account” passed by this bequest. The Master of the Rolls, Sir William Grant held that it did. He reasoned that it was not a depositum; a sealed bag of money could be, but this generally deposited money could not possibly have an ‘earmark’. Grant concluded on this point, “when money is paid into a banker’s, he always opens a debtor and creditor account with the payor. The banker employs the money himself, and is liable merely to answer the drafts of his customers to that amount.” For the legal scholars among you, Vaisey v Reynolds 1828 and Parker v Merchant 1843 both affirmed this position.

In Davaynes v Noble 1816 it was argued in front of Grant that a banker is a bailee rather than a debtor. Rejecting that argument, Grant said “money paid into a banker’s becomes immediately a part of his general assets; and he is merely a debtor for the amount.”

In Sims v Bond 1833 the Chief Justice of the Queens Bench Division affirmed in judgement “sums which are paid to the credit of a customer with a banker, though usually called deposits, are, in truth, loans by the customer to the banker.”

The House of Lords, then the highest court in the land, had its say on the matter in Foley v Hill and Others 1848, duly reported in the Clerk’s Reports, House of Lords 1847-66 (pages 28 and 36-7). In summary, the appellant in 1829 opened a bank account with the respondent bankers. Two further deposits we added in 1830 and in 1831 interest was still added. In 1838 the appellant brought proceedings against the respondent bankers seeking recovery of both the principle and interest. The counsel cleverly tried to argue that it was the duty of the respondent bankers to keep all the accounts up to date at all times and thus there was more to this relationship than that of debtor and creditor.

The Lord Chancellor Cottenham said the following in judgement

Money, when paid into a bank, ceases altogether to be the money of the principal; it is by then the money of the banker, who is bound to return an equivalent by paying a similar sum to that deposited with him when he is asked for it. The money paid into a banker’s is money known by the principal to be placed there for the purpose of being under the control of the banker; it is then the banker’s money; he is known to deal with it as his own; he makes what profit of it he can, which profit he retains to himself, paying back only the principal, according to the custom of bankers in some places, or the principal and a small rate of interest, according to the custom of bankers in other places. The money placed in custody of a banker is, to all intents and purposes, the money of the banker, to do with it as he pleases; he is guilty of no breach of trust in employing it; he is not answerable to the principal if he puts it into jeopardy, if he engages in a hazardous speculation; he is not bound to keep it or deal with it as the property of his principal; but he is, of course, answerable for the amount, because he has contracted, having received that money, to repay to the principal, when demanded, a sum equivalent to that paid into his hands.
That has been the subject of discussion in various cases, and that has been established to be the relative situation of banker and customer. That being established to be the relative situations of banker and customer, the banker is not an agent or factor, but he is a debtor.

Thus the settled position of the law is that when you deposit, the bank becomes the owner of the money deposited and you become a creditor to the bank.

We have now established that you shouldn't have more than £85,000 in any group of banks.

Strictly speaking, it's not the government's guarantee, it's the FSCS's: "The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) is backed by government" (my italics). The FSCS runs a fund and pays claims out of money it levies on UK financial institutions. In a bad - not the worst possible - situation it can borrow from the Treasury, and has done so, as this official attempt to reassure us says:

What if a giant goes bust? Is there enough cash?

The FSCS has paid out more than £26bn and helped more than 4.5m people since 2001. We are funded by the industry, but the FSCS can borrow money from the Treasury if the compensation costs of a major failure are more than the industry can meet. That is what happened when banks failed in 2008.

So consumers can be reassured the FSCS will always have the money to pay compensation. No-one has ever lost a penny of protected deposits and no-one ever will.

What about "bail-ins", like the case referred to by John Ward above?

For example, in the event of a building society's insolvency, depositors' claims used to rank below other unsecured creditors and so were more likely than the latter to be required to accept something other than their money back. This is now changing:

"...the BRRD has been agreed and will require us to introduce a slightly different form of depositor preference. It will require a two tier preference, where:
  • eligible deposits from natural persons and SMEs have a higher priority ranking in insolvency than the claims of ordinary unsecured creditors
  • covered deposits have a higher priority ranking in insolvency than the part of eligible deposits from natural persons and SMEs that exceed the coverage limit
Covered deposits are defined as those that are protected by the FSCS, up to its limit of £85,000. Eligible deposits are defined as those which qualify for FSCS protection, without any limit on the amount (and deposits from such natural persons and SMEs that are made through foreign branches of EU institutions). Following these changes, if an individual had £100,000 deposited at a building society that is a member of the FSCS, £85,000 would be a “covered deposit” and have a higher priority ranking than the remaining £15,000 which in turn would have a higher ranking than ordinary unsecured creditors.

We anticipate that the Directive will come into force by May 2014. The transposition deadline is 1 January 2015."

The Government's general guiding principle is to reassure depositors that they won't be fleeced in a crisis:

"Section 60B [of the Banking Act] requires the Treasury, when making these regulations, to have regard to the desirability of “ensuring that pre-resolution shareholders and creditors of a bank do not receive less favourable treatment than they would have received had the bank entered insolvency immediately before the coming into effect of the initial instrument” (the first instrument made by the Bank in the resolution)."

Why are they doing this? Well, here's Oz comedy pair Clarke and Dawe on the effect of the Cyprus bank bail-in:




Still:

(a) I don't see anything that limits the power of the FSCS and others to alter or suspend their guarantees, if they feel they have to;
(b) a leading barrister has given his views (in 2011 on CityWire) on the potential case against the FSCS's fund-raising powers;
(c) the Emergency Powers Act of 1920 allows the Privy Council to do pretty much whatever it likes in the short run, if it determines that there is an emergency*;
(d) anything can happen, and in a very bad situation some of those things could be beyond the Government's power to control;
(e) theft by inflation is always a threat, and despite a long campaign by me my MP has so far refused to stand up at Prime Minister's Question Time and ask when the Government is going to restore National Savings Index-Linked Certificates.

Where does the Cabinet hold their own families' cash? Be useful to keep that under observation, maybe. It might not just be the Russians or tax-dodgers who want to shift money out of the UK, and Europe in general. And why is the Chinese government encouraging its citizens to hold gold?

_________________________
UPDATE: *I'm a bit behind the curve here - we now have what seems a much further-reaching and potentially sinister provision: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Contingencies_Act_2004

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Where's Cameron? Our Camcam guide...

As ISIS tortures and slaughters its way through the Arab Street, where is David Cameron?

Is he still on his beach holiday here (Cascais, Portugal)?

Google Maps
If so, maybe Cam will fleetingly appear on the webcam at Praia do Guincho:
A still taken from the webcam this evening - live feed here
... or will he be taking his second summer holiday soon at Rock (again)?

Google Maps
All the webcams at Rock appear to have been (re)moved or are currently inoperative... weird, huh? And there's not one in Witney, either (the Oxfordshire mansion we're paying for through his MP's expenses, not to mention the 7p for his bulldog clip)...
 
But hey, it's like, so not likely to be 10 Downing Street, though:

Google Maps
- but if it is, you may see him flit through here, past the plebs:
 
Still taken this evening from Google's Downing Street webcam
Do let us know if you catch the Prime Minister at his job - or Parliament at theirs.


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Monday, August 11, 2014

Population density and house size

By Sackerson.

James Higham reproduces a graphic from Amfortas re house size in selected countries:


... which got me thinking.

I looked up the ratio of arable land per person (average of 2009-11), and then added Amfortas' statistics:


As you see, the smaller the amount of arable land per capita, the smaller the house - except for Australia, which is still a young country in terms of immigration and development, and also has limited water resources.

Taking it one step further, I divided the house size by the arable land per person:
 

We now have two outliers, Australia and the UK. The real story here, I think: Britain is far too crowded and dependent on imported food.


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Puritans

Extirpation with fire and sword (pic source)"A woodcut in a broadside of 1643 shows the Puritan nightmare, a body politic mde up of half papist and half cavalier"

As ISIS tears through the Middle East like a virulent disease, we're waking up to the meddling ignorance of our governments who thought they could play chess with pieces they didn't understand. In fact, one way and another they have helped train and fund this terrorist horde, as Washington's Blog explains.

I think of Al-Qaeda and the like as seventeenth-century Puritans: no booze, fags, gambling, music, dancing, sex... there is no escape into ecstasy but through self-righteousness and bloodshed.

Where some people are mistaken is in thinking all Muslims are like this. They're not, any more than all Christians in England were Cromwell's holy thugs.

What we want to watch out for is excitable young men being groomed for testosterone-fuelled massacre. I've seen the tip of that iceberg myself, or rather, heard it.

Working with a project for 15-year-olds years ago, I met one very nice Asian lad (not clever, but much better than me at cleaning the project's fish tank) who wanted to get off his addiction to cannabis, "bud" or "Bud-dha" as he put it. Needing a core in his life to strengthen himself against temptation, he got religion and so started to take his Islam more seriously, praying five times a day.

To help his meditation, he had a bootleg CD of devotional song, which was exquisitely beautiful. A few minutes in, just as we were relaxing and opening our minds, the overlay came: propaganda against the Jews, timing phrases to match the slow, seductive tempo of the prayerful voice still pouring out its hymn.

I told the directors of the project, and got a don't-be-silly response. But there will be, must be, others, sitting in their bedrooms, listening to similar material and starting to surf the Net for more that confirms their world-view and reassures them that they too can have an important role to play in their god's plan for the world.

It can be challenged, and I have done so in a local secondary school where a highly intelligent boy wanted to rag the khuffar male teacher in front of him. But we will have to be strong and firm in the defence of our civilisation.


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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Constitutional questions

The Arrival of William III.jpg
"The Arrival of William III" by Sir James Thornhill. Original uploader was
Raymond Palmer at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia;
transferred to Commons by User:Magnus Manske using CommonsHelper.
(Original text : South Wall of the Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College,
Greenwich [1]). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Email today from myself to Dr Andrew Blick, of the Constitution Society:

"Dear Dr Blick

Would you or anyone else from the Constitution Society be prepared to discuss the proposition that Britain's 1973 entry into the EEC was unconstitutional?

In particular, how do the 1689 Bill of Rights and the Monarch's Oath of Office bear on the issues?

(We leave aside for the moment the complications regarding the subsequent referendum of 1975, itself made questionable by the withholding from the public of intragovernmental legal and constitutional advice, and partisan misrepresentations to the public by the then Government, news media and other parties.)

Was our entry into the EEC in 1973 not ultra vires?

The debate must surely be more urgent as we face the consolidation of power in the EU by the introduction of majority voting in November.

Is there anybody who can provide authoritative comment?

P.S. Further, is it not the case that Magna Carta's significance since 1689 is purely symbolic, without any legal force whatever? King John may have agreed to bind "our heirs in perpetuity" (Clause 1 re the English Church), but did not the Revolution put the monarchy on an entirely new basis? MC may be our Pole Star, but not our pilot."

Dr Blick is on holiday, but I hope for a reply.


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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Magna Carta - the tree of freedom is plucked bare

Images adapted from: BBC, Saga's Cottage
 
We think of Magna Carta as a bulwark of English liberty against arbitrary State authority, and it was seen as that at the time:
 
 
309. In the Presbytery (the second brass from the south).
 
(Clare chevrons) Gilbertus de
Clare nomine primus
comes Glocestrie 6s et Hertfordie
5s Obijt 25o Octobris Anno dni 1230.
(pen) Magna carta et lex
caveat deinde rex (scroll).
 
Translation:
 
Gilbert de Clare, the first of that name, 6th Earl of Gloucester and 5th of Hertford, died 25th October A. D. 1230. Magna Carta and law, let the King henceforth beware.
 
That same inscription was quoted by Stanley Baldwin less than 80 years ago:
 
" "Magna Carta is the Law: Let the King look out."

So it has always been with tyrants among our own people: when the King was tyrant, let him look out. And it has always been the same, and will be the same, whether the tyrant be the Barons, whether the tyrant be the Church, whether he be demagogue or dictator — let them look out."
  • Speech at Westminster Hall (4 July 1935); published in This Torch of Freedom: Speeches and Addresses (1935), p. 4
Yet very little of Magna Carta remains in force, as A P Herbert pointed out in his humorous "Misleading Cases" piece from 16 February 1927, "Rex v. Haddock: Is Magna Carta Law?" Albert Haddock is trying to get out of (or have reduced) a parking fine, but the judge says:
 
"... it was argued before me that at least that portion of Chapter 29 still has effect which reads:
 
'Nor will we proceed against a freeman, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.'
 
But it was proved in evidence that in fact this method of condemning the freeman is the exception rather than the rule, and it was suggested that this portion of Magna Carta must be interpreted in the light of recent statutes, so that it reads:
 
'Nor will we proceed against a freeman, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land, or Government Departments, or Marketing Boards, or Impregnable Monopolies, or Trade Unions, or fussy Societies, or Licensing Magistrates, or officious policemen, or foolish regulations by a Clerk in the Home Office made and provided.'
 
The judge in that story also points out that notwithstanding Clause 40, the law is known for its delays - and expense:
 
"... much justice is sold at quite reasonable prices, and ... there are still many citizens who can afford to buy the more expensive brands."
 
What's left?
 
 
"Only three of the 63 clauses in the Magna Carta are still in law. One defends the freedom and rights of the English Church, another relates to the privileges enjoyed by the City of London and the third - the most famous - is generally held to have etablished the right to trial by jury.

Below are the full translations of the relevant clauses from the 1215 copy of the Magna Carta held at the British Library.

1. Clause 1: The liberties of the English Church

"First, that we have granted to God, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired.

"That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church's elections - a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it - and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity.

"To all free men of our Kingdom we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs."

2. Clause 13: The privileges of the City of London*

"The city of London shall enjoy all its ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and by water. We also will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall enjoy all their liberties and free customs."

3. Clauses 39 & 40: The right to trial by jury

"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

"To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled . nor will we proceed with force against him . except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. "  "

How few leaves are left on the tree of liberty! And if so many have been blown away already, what guarantee do we have that the rest may not fall?

If we love the idea of liberty, we shall have to re-assert it, and there are new aspects that we might wish to address in a modern version, particularly the endless spying by the State on its citizens.

That's if we can call the State to account any more. After all, we are not powerful barons, nor (it seems) is the Crown in Parliament fully sovereign.

The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta falls on 15 June 2015. Should we do something for that day?
__________________________________________________

*See Graham S McBain's "Liberties and Customs of the City of London – Are There any left?" (2013) - www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/ilr/article/download/28685/17142


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