Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Three Bears, Italian-American style

The manual-typewritten text below was given to a Brooklyn-raised member of the family nearly fifty years ago. It's based on a 1960/61 recording by Lou Monte (or vice versa?), now available on YouTube, as you see - but you may enjoy the challenge of deciphering it yourself before listening!



Di Tri Berrese

Uana appona taim uas tri berres: mamma berre, papa berre, e beibi berre. Live inne contri nire foresta. NAISE AUS. No mugheggia. Uanna dei papa, mamma, e beibi go bice, orie e furghetta locche di dorra.

Bai enne bai commese Goldilocchese. Sci garra nattingha tu du batte meiche troble. Sci puscia olle fudde daon di maute; no live cromma. Den sci gos appesterrese enne slipse in olle beddse.

Bai enne bai commese omme di tri berres, olle sannbrone enne send inne scius. Dei garra no fudde; dei garra no beddse. En uara dei goine due to Goldilocchese? Tro erre aure inne strit? Colle pulissemenne?

Fatta Cienze!

Dei uas Italien Berres, enne dei slippe ona florre.

Goldilocchese stei derre tri uicase; itte aute ausenomma en guista bicose dei esch erre tu meiche di beddse sci sei "go to elle," enne runne omme craine tu erre mamma, tellenerre uat sanimabicese di tri berres uer.

Uatisuse? Uara iu goine du? --- Go compleine sittiolle ?


READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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, May 28, 2014

Harness your own wind

From dutchnews.nl

Engineering and Technology Magazine (link may require registration) reports on a new Dutch design for domestic wind turbines.

A super-efficient and completely soundless wind turbine developed by a Dutch company aims to enable every household to generate its own wind energy.

Officially unveiled today, the shell-shaped Liam F1 Urban Wind Turbine offers much better efficiency compared with conventional designs. Its shape, modelled after the perfectly logarithmic spiral of a Nautilus shell, allows the turbine to always position itself at the best angle towards the direction of the wind, achieving efficiency which is about 80 per cent of what is theoretically possible.

With an average speed of wind of about 5m/s, the turbine generates about 1,500 kilowatt-hours of energy – about half of the consumption of a regular household. The Archimedes, the company behind the Liam F1 Urban Wind Turbine, believes that in combination with efficient solar panels, the turbine can make every household completely energy self-sustainable.


READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Getting rid of Clegg?

Mike Smithson over at politicalbetting.com thinks serious money has been spent on a recent ICM poll designed to put pressure on Nick Clegg.

Hopefully later today ICM will release the detailed data [*] from the private polling that’s splashed by the Guardian this morning. The broad message of what’s been leaked is that the party stands to do worse in four key seats that it already holds without a change of leader.

The choice of pollster is interesting. ICM has over the years tended to show the most favourable position for the Lib Dems.

What struck me are not just the numbers but the fact that serious money is being spent on the effort to try to get Clegg out.

Constituency surveys like this are just about the most complex and expensive political polling that you can do. They can only be carried out by phone and the bill for this job will have been tens of thousands of pounds. It also takes time and planning. It is not the sort of thing that could have been commissioned last week.

[*] my link

Well it is easy enough to believe that powerful Lib Dem insiders want to be rid of Clegg well before next year's general election. As for the wider picture, I wonder if we are seeing the demise of the Lib Dems.

Without an obviously unique Lib Dem selling point, three mainstream parties may be one too many. The success of UKIP clearly highlights the lack of political choice in UK politics and the Lib Dems may pay the price. Dire he may be, but I suspect the problem runs deeper than Clegg's unappealing political persona.

READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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, May 25, 2014

Splits, knives and growing up

A few days ago my wife and I both happened to mention a game called splits which we both played as youngsters in the fifties and early sixties. For those who never played splits, this is how it went.

It had to be played on grass for reasons which will soon become obvious. Two of us stood facing each other with our feet together. One had a knife, preferably a small sheath knife, but a penknife or even a table knife would do as long as mum didn’t catch us taking it.

The one with the knife threw it into the grass by the other’s feet. The blade had to stick into the ground cleanly to count as a good throw. The non-thrower then had to remove the knife from the ground and put their foot on the spot where the knife had been. Then it was their turn to throw.

The aim of the game was to throw the knife far enough away from the other’s foot that he or she couldn’t reach it – hence the name splits. However with too long a throw there was less chance of the knife sticking in the ground properly, so getting the distance right was essential.

Another rule allowed you to throw the knife between the other’s feet. If it stuck into the ground cleanly between the feet, you were allowed to bring your own feet together again.

Most older kids seemed to have at least a penknife in the fifties. They were used for harmless games like splits, carving initials on trees or school desks, sharpening pencils and other important functions. In my world it was part of growing up on a council estate and we did not see knives as street weapons.

No doubt there were accidents and possibly a few tragedies, but our role models were mum and dad and clean-cut heroes on black and white TV such as the Lone Ranger. Role models presumably strong enough for us to be trusted with knives, and tacitly allowed to play games such as splits.

READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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, May 22, 2014

European Elections - splitting the UKIP vote?

Loki, the trickster of Nordic mythology (pic)

Odd how many Eurosceptic parties have appeared on the voting paper for the West Midlands. The Harmony Party is 2014-registered. Hmm.

Remember the "Literal Democrats", "Conversative Party" and "Labor Party" from the 1990s, resulting in an Act to stem the confusion? The first of these split the Liberal vote in 1994 and let in a Conservative.

We've all heard now of the Tories getting into bed with The Guardian to feed anti-UKIP stories into the public perception; but is there any other jiggery-pokery going on?


READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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, May 21, 2014

Is Clegg off to the EU?

Nick Clegg seems to be using every opportunity to hone his EU credentials.

Having begun this European election campaign by challenging the UKIP leader to debate whether Britain should stay in or get out of the EU, he is ending it by insisting that being pro-Europe was the best way to be pro-British.

In a speech in Oxford, he attacked those he called "false patriots", saying:

"Ukip. Conservative backbenchers. Isolationists. They are not thinking about Britain's interests. They shroud their narrow nationalism in the language of patriotism. They mask their hostility towards Europe as British bulldog spirit. But these are false patriots. The isolation they offer is a breach of our history, of our great British tradition of engagement, and of our enlightened national self-interest. If the forces of insularity and chauvinism get their way they will ensure that Britain no longer benefits from the political and economic advances in Europe that we have shaped. And they will hand the keys to running our European continent to the Germans, the French and others, while we retreat back across the English Channel."


It seems to me that this is not genuine political campaigning so much as preparing the ground for defeat. Lining up his next job.

Clegg is rallying the troops of course, but only where the rallying cry suits his personal circumstances. He's preparing for failure. He isn't saying what Lib Dem MEPs would do for the UK, because the answer to that is nothing.

No doubt this is the kind of thing the Lib Dem faithful wish to hear from their leader, but as ever with Clegg, the focus is tightly trained on his own situation.

Here are my credentials. I'm on your side. Always have been, always will be. I'll fight tooth and nail for the EU.  

From a suitably prestigious office over at your place.  

READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Climate, CO2 and cooling

A very interesting and detailed take on climate change is to be found in this fascinating post by E M Smith, aka blogger The Chiefio. Written back in December 2012, it is long and detailed but well worth reading. This brief post is merely my take on his ideas.

Firstly the role of CO2.

Most people interested in the climate change debate will know that CO2 in the stratosphere is thought to have a cooling effect as opposed to its supposed warming effect in the troposphere. The cooling effect of CO2 may also be causing the stratosphere itself to cool.

One key finding was the importance of the impact of CO2-induced temperature change on stratospheric ozone in estimating temperature trends. The decreased stratospheric temperatures due to a CO2 increase slowed stratospheric ozone destruction; the higher ozone concentrations caused heating that slightly offsets CO2-induced cooling.

Although simple physics suggests CO2 could act as a so-called greenhouse gas in the troposphere, it doesn’t tell us the magnitude of any resultant warming. A possible warming effect may be swamped by other processes – the physics doesn’t tell us. Many have tried to torture the data into telling them what they want to hear, but so far none have succeeded.

Yet many climate sceptics and all orthodox global warming proponents agree that increasing atmospheric CO2 should cause some detectable warming in the troposphere. Put simply, both groups think CO2 must slow down radiative surface cooling because of its capacity to absorb outgoing infrared radiation.

The crucial difference in views between the two sides is how much warming we should expect - the so-called climate sensitivity to CO2. Yet the current global temperature standstill shows both views to be wrong. Climate sensitivity to CO2 appears to be as near zero as makes no difference.

So instead of bodging the thing with ad hoc hypotheses why not assume that heat transfer in the troposphere is primarily driven by convection, evaporation and condensation? Hardly a radical assumption given our knowledge of weather. There are many other factors to consider such as clouds, El Niño, volcanic activity and ocean heat capacity, but to avoid an impenetrable fog of complexity we first have to stand back and look at broad possibilities.

Next the tropopause.

The tropopause lies between the troposphere and the stratosphere. Smith sees understanding the nature of the tropopause as a key to understanding how global heat transfer from the surface occurs in two distinct bands in two distinct ways.

The troposphere where heat transfer is primarily driven by convection and water vapour.
The stratosphere where heat transfer is primarily radiative.

Of particular interest is how the height of the tropopause is influenced by the amount of heat which has to be transported from troposphere to stratosphere. As a result, the tropopause is higher at the equator than it is at the poles.


Source 

Even if CO2 does warm the troposphere by an amount we can’t yet measure, the heat may be transferred upwards via convection, condensation and evaporation - not radiation.



Stratospheric cooling rates: The picture shows how water, cabon dioxide and ozone contribute to longwave cooling in the stratosphere. Colours from blue through red, yellow and to green show increasing cooling, grey areas show warming of the stratosphere. The tropopause is shown as dotted line (the troposphere below and the stratosphere above). For CO2 it is obvious that there is no cooling in the troposphere, but a strong cooling effect in the stratosphere. Ozone, on the other hand, cools the upper stratosphere but warms the lower stratosphere. Figure from: Clough and Iacono, JGR, 1995; adapted from the SPARC Website. 

Note the above picture of stratospheric cooling rates. The red bit in the bottom left below the tropopause (dotted line)  is heat being dumped into the stratosphere by water vapour. The narrow pale blue band to the right of that and also below the tropopause – that’s CO2 doing nothing much.

Above the troposphere, convective heat transport ends, radiative processes take over and CO2 plus ozone are kept busy radiating excess heat into space. Those are the two colourful elongated oval shapes.

I’m not suggesting Smith's overall schema is what actually happens because nobody has that sorted, but I like his style. Climate conjectures are all vulnerable in one way or another, because that's the nature of the beast, but even in outline these ideas feel coherent to me. They do not seem to violate any scientific laws and fit well with observation.

READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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, May 19, 2014

Leo Abse's attack on Tony Blair

"The Man Behind The Smile: Tony Blair And The Politics Of Perversion"


In 1972: Tony Blair and Alan Collenette, Richmond, West London

1996: two years after Blair became leader, a year before his landslide electoral victory and triumphal entry into Downing Street. Veteran Welsh MP Leo Abse, Old Labour and proud of it, gives TB a working over with fists of Freudian analysis.

There is an old Chinese philosophical saying: "man is greater than anything that comes out of him." I find elaborate schematics of the human soul unconvincing. The insights of psychologists are illuminating and suggestive, but I don't think you can tie them all together with threads into a neat bundle. There's lots of ends of speculation poking out of it. For example, the foetus hears its mother's heartbeat, but that isn't necessarily why we respond to the rhythms of rock music, for we have heartbeats of our own.

I think it was Karl Popper who observed that much of psychoanalysis was unfalsifiable. Yes, Leo Blair had a debilitating stroke, but we don't know what the son read into his father's mute gaze. Yes, TB's mother was reportedly unassuming and the "cement" of the family, but no, we don't know that tending to her disabled husband's needs starved her son of affection; nor that "cement" should be read as cold and hard, rather than binding. One can certainly postulate that intimations of mortality galvanized Blair, but then he said that himself.

Explaining a public figure like TB is an even bigger challenge, because policy and presentation are at least as much about other people as one's own personal history. The vagueness of Blair's manifesto may be, as Abse suggests, to do with an immature reluctance to accept one's own aggressive impulses and enter into combat with opponents; but it may have more to do with making the broadest possible appeal to a public that wants pain-free answers.

As early as the 1960s, there was concern about how presentation had trumped policy in American politics - see Joe McGinniss' book "The Selling Of The President 1968." Then there's Robert Redford's 1972 film "The Candidate", in which the challenger's successful strategy is to get the incumbent to commit to policy statements, losing a percentage of the voters each time, without doing the same himself, so when he wins, the new President is lost:



Blair's "consensus by diktat" approach to his Party must have been a contrast to the divisions among the Conservatives, and the emphasis on youth helped to make Labour's opponents seem old and out of touch. Did Blair like Jagger? Wilson made much of the Beatles. Abse should have swung his bow round and loosed his penetrating shafts at an electorate infantilised by dreamlike media and by a government that promises to do all for us because it takes everything from us.

Mad, or cunning? The smile of a politician may be that of a pervert afraid of his own violence; or it could be to disarm you while being perfectly aware of his aggression - here is Chris Mullin's diary for September 13, 2001:

"To London on the 18.47. David Miliband was on the train. He is in a similar situation to the one I was in when I was first selected - enemies occupy every office in his constituency party, although in his case it is nothing personal.

"He says The Man - who was once in a similar situation in Sedgefield - advised him 'to go around smiling at everyone and get other people to shoot them'. Advice that The Man seems to have applied throughout his career."

But in 1996, there are elements of the coming Labour government that Abse correctly identifies as sources of trouble: the Wilson-style "kitchen cabinet" of four powerful men, the increased power of Brown's Treasury, the failure to think things through (despite protestations of "joined-up thinking") that led to the graceless Baroness Jay curtly dismissing the hereditary peerage without having a generally agreed alternative, the continuing obsession with presentation (endlessly "making sure", "shaking up", "rolling out").

It was all Bakunin, the impulse to destroy justified as a creative urge. It was rock, but it spilled out of the concert hall. Think of Lindsay Anderson's 1968 "If...": moral outrage at finding the pickled foetus in its school jar, but then mortaring and machine-gunning the assembly at Speech Day. Think of the 1970 film (based on 1968) "The Strawberry Statement", students destroying the academics' lifetimes' work and screwing among the filing cabinets. Or "Zabriskie Point". The Paris Riots of 1968. The revolutionaries who took over the Establishment, cannabis fumes rolling down the BBC's corridors.Tariq Ali, Jerry Rubin, Timothy Leary. Fun. Millenarian madness. The once-a-generation collective testosterone tension that explodes into war, civil war or rebellion. It wasn't just Blair, it was a whole culture ready to take on its parents, who had had enough of real, bloody conflict in their lifetime and who were dazed at the reaction from well-fed youngsters with money in their pockets. A culture ready for a Leader. "Don't trust anyone over 30", said Jack Weinberg.

Assisted by biased reportage, the public saw a divided, dithering and venal Conservative Party. Time for a change. Blair was on the boat when the tide turned.

READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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, May 18, 2014

Does the Conservative Party defend the Union? Does it want to?


Despite its name, the Conservative and Unionist Party has reasons to permit the breakup of the United Kingdom.

In Scotland and Wales, the Labour Party has a strong and enduring dominance. It would benefit the Tories greatly in Parliament if these became independent countries; and Northern Ireland is an idiosyncratic electoral landscape, an irrelevance as far as the two major Westminster parties are concerned, except in straitened political times when their (and other minority) votes must be courted.

The shifting balance between Labour and Conservative means that minor parties can wield disproportionate influence. Leo Abse's 1996 book on Tony Blair reminds us that in the late 1970s a weak Labour government gave nationalists the go-ahead on devolution in exchange for their support; only Abse's "reasoned amendment" led to the requirement for referenda beforehand. This was profound long-term change made for fleeting party political reasons.

None of Northern Ireland's 18 MPs belongs to any of the Big Three, so aside from their ability to lobby they merely serve to raise the bar for an overall majority in the House, from 317 seats to 326. Changing demographics in the Province suggest that, ever so slowly, Northern Ireland is moving to a closer relationship with the South.

Without Scotland, the Conservatives would have had an 11-seat margin in 2010 (306/591); without Ireland also, it would have been 20 seats; and had Wales too been independent, the Tories would have had a comfortable 32-seat margin in an English Parliament.

Wales and Scotland are effectively Labour fiefdoms (and I suspect that if Scotland does secede, there may be a winnowing of Salmond's currently strong faction in the Scottish Parliament: what's the point of a nationalist who has finally got what he wants? The SNP will have to rebrand itself as a second socialist party). Northern Ireland is drifting away into a different future.

But even in England, the Conservative Party has no guaranteed dominance, and its seats are much more liable to swings than Labour's. In 2010, the 50 constituencies with the biggest winner's vote margin over the runner-up were all Labour. Conversely, in the 50 seats with the narrowest margins, 38 were Conservative, of which 17 are expected to switch to Labour next time and 1 to a minority candidate; 1 is and is expected to remain in Labour hands; and the remaining 11 were Liberal, of which 6 may go to the Tories and 1 to Labour. The Tories have to work far harder, and make more concessions, than the Labour Party. Only a long period of incompetent or tyrannical rule under Labour could propel the Conservatives to victory as in 1979.

Electoral Calculus is predicting a slaughter of the Liberals next year, with a loss of two-thirds of their current seats. If the UK fragments, the English tug-o'-war between Labour and Tory under "first past the post" looks likely to shut out minor parties much as in American politics; and as in the USA, the tussle is on common ground, though here the political territory is more redistributionist than there.

The Tories are doomed. They can remain a party only in name, if at all. They may slow their decay by jettisoning unprofitable (to them) parts of the Kingdom (as the EU keenly desires), but their ultimate future in a ruined economy is in some form of rapprochement with the socialists. Meanwhile their bandit-cronies strip-mine what's left while they can and sock it away abroad. Like Blair, like Clegg, Cameron will be a Lord Jim when the storm-tossed ship of state heads for the rocks.
.

READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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.

Tipping point

Source: http://www.justintarte.com/2012/10/leadership-and-your-tipping-point.html

"When looked at objectively each merger or take over is a loss of economic activity. This becomes painfully clear when we have a look at the unemployment rates of some countries...

"The pillar Prosperity of a society is about to fall again. History has shown that the fall of the pillar Prosperity always results in a revolution. Because of the high level of unemployment after the second industrial revolution many societies initiated a new transition, the creation of a war economy. This type of economy flourished especially in the period 1940 – 1945.

"Now, societies will have to make a choice for a new transition to be started."

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/05/current-problems-associated-end-third-industrial-revolution.html


READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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, May 17, 2014

Gogol on German competition

A shoemaker, indeed? 'As drunk as a shoemaker,' says the proverb. I know what you were like, my friend. If you wish, I will tell you your whole history. 

You were apprenticed to a German, who fed you and your fellows at a common table, thrashed you with a strap, kept you indoors whenever you had made a mistake, and spoke of you in uncomplimentary terms to his wife and friends. 

At length, when your apprenticeship was over, you said to yourself, 'I am going to set up on my own account, and not just to scrape together a kopeck here and a kopeck there, as the Germans do, but to grow rich quick.' 

Hence you took a shop at a high rent, bespoke a few orders, and set to work to buy up some rotten leather out of which you could make, on each pair of boots, a double profit. But those boots split within a fortnight, and brought down upon your head dire showers of maledictions; with the result that gradually your shop grew empty of customers, and you fell to roaming the streets and exclaiming, 'The world is a very poor place indeed! A Russian cannot make a living for German competition.'

Nikolai Gogol - Dead Souls (1842)

READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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, May 15, 2014

Blair - 20:20 hindsight?

 
(Source: Daily Mail)

1972: Tony Blair and his friend pose (and preen, as good-looking English guys could in those days) outside the Vineyard Congregationalist Church in Richmond, west London. They played rock music in the crypt, and even then he went 100% at whatever he took on:

‘Guys, guys.’ Tony called us together after one show. ‘We’re OK and everything but we could be so much better if we rehearsed!’

No '70s laid-back amateurishness for him, then.

John Rentoul's sympathetic biography of Tony Blair "whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning" (Independent newspaper) notes the future PM's avoidance of drugs, ability to persuade people to help, scrupulous honesty (leaving a note when the band's van scraped the paint off a Jaguar) and sincere, but unhokey, developing interest in religion.

And yet...



From "Tony Blair: Prime Minister" by John Rentoul
He didn't let lack of experience stop him. Here he is in his pre-Oxford gap year:
 

And here is the natural marketer, albeit with an amusingly obvious inducement:


- a forerunner of his penchant for "eye-catching initiatives" that aren't so great on closer analysis.

But the photograph haunts me. Two posers, but the one on the left is the one you look at. And the quality of that grin - not amusement, but somehow thrown at the spectator. What are that hand and hip doing? Is it the will to power, perhaps, combined with the desire for celebrity and adulation - Narcissus in early bloom?

Classical tragedy is based on a great man a with fatal flaw. Could we have foreseen where his egotism misled him into unjust (and it's said, illegal) war?

I have ordered Leo Abse's psychologising book on Blair - the original 1996 edition, to see whether Abse does more than simply vent his detestation of the new Labour leader and can predict the future problems, as well as his decade in the limelight of British politics.


READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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, May 14, 2014

Knowing that every vote makes a difference, makes a difference

I've previously noted the unfairness of the UK electoral voting system in Scotland, which gives Labour an unearned majority there:

(Data: BBC)

But the system in the Scottish Parliament works far better. Each person gets two votes, one local and one party-list-based regional. In aggregate, here is what happened in 2011:

Data: Wikipedia

... bang on for Labour, slightly generous for the SNP. Not a bad hybrid, either: voting first for a local candidate, and then for a party, rather than combining the two and effectively voting for a Prime Minister (with all the personality-cult garbage that brings in its wake).

Even more interesting is the difference between how the two votes were cast:
 
Data: Wikipedia

In the regional contest, when it was no longer simply First Past The Post, and the vote was more likely to be taken into account even if one chose a minority candidate, the voting share for small parties leapt from 1% to 12%. Knowing that every vote makes a difference, makes a difference.

Electoral Calculus predicts that in next year's UK General Election, even under FPTP, UKIP may get over 14% of votes cast - and NO seats - so goodness knows what the voter behaviour would be under some form of proportional representation. Perhaps this month's European Parliament elections will give us a clue, and the differences between those results and GE 2015 could be worked up into some yardstick of democratic deficit.

Not, of course, that the EU Parliament decides anything, as Pat Condell points out in this splendid rant (htp: James Higham):



- which leads me to wonder why on Earth Alex Salmond would wish Scotland, if and when divorced from the rest of the UK, to remain in the European Union (or rather, join, legally speaking, not that the EU has much respect for law if it gets in the way of power).

I've already suggested that Scotland might do better to join forces with Norway and Iceland, maybe even Denmark (which, you'll recall, was expected to vote against the Lisbon Treaty and so the government cancelled the referendum and went ahead anyway). With North Sea fishing and oil, and firm Icelandic-style treatment of banksters, plus the energy and technical creativity of its people, a Kalmar-Union-plus might just work. Rather that than tie your jollyboat to a sinking megavessel like the EU.

One more question: should Scotland get independence, will the Scot Nats have outlived their usefulness? And has the shrewd Salmond already planned for that? Salmond the EU Commissioner? Salmond for EU President?


READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty at home in Jackson, Mississippi (pic source)

From "Why I Live At The P.O.":

It wasn't five minutes before Uncle Rondo suddenly appeared in the hall in one of Stella-Rondo's flesh-colored kimonos, all cut on the bias, like something Mr. Whitaker probably thought was gorgeous.

"Uncle Rondo!" I says. "I didn't know who that was! Where are you going?"

"Sister," he says, "get out of my way, I'm poisoned."

"If you're poisoned stay away from Papa-Daddy," I says. "Keep out of the hammock. Papa-Daddy will certainly beat you on the head if you come within forty miles of him. He thinks I deliberately said he ought to cut off his beard after he got me the P.O., and I've told him and told him and told him, and he acts like he just don't hear me. Papa-Daddy must of gone stone deaf.'

"He picked a fine day to do it then," says Uncle Rondo, and before you could say "Jack Robinson" flew out in the yard.

What he'd really done, he'd drunk another bottle of that prescription. He does it every single Fourth of July as sure as shooting, and it's horribly expensive.

_________________________

- Part of Eudora Welty's collection "A Curtain Of Green" (1941)
 
What brings this to mind is Brain Pickings' republication of her unsolicited (and unsuccessful) letter of application to New Yorker magazine at the age of 23:


March 15, 1933

Gentlemen,

I suppose you’d be more interested in even a sleight-o’-hand trick than you’d be in an application for a position with your magazine, but as usual you can’t have the thing you want most.

I am 23 years old, six weeks on the loose in N.Y. However, I was a New Yorker for a whole year in 1930–31 while attending advertising classes in Columbia’s School of Business. Actually I am a southerner, from Mississippi, the nation’s most backward state. Ramifications include Walter H. Page, who, unluckily for me, is no longer connected with Doubleday-Page, which is no longer Doubleday-Page, even. I have a B.A.(’29) from the University of Wisconsin, where I majored in English without a care in the world. For the last eighteen months I was languishing in my own office in a radio station in Jackson, Miss., writing continuities, dramas, mule feed advertisements, santa claus talks, and life insurance playlets; now I have given that up.

As to what I might do for you — I have seen an untoward amount of picture galleries and 15¢ movies lately, and could review them with my old prosperous detachment, I think; in fact, I recently coined a general word for Matisse’s pictures after seeing his latest at the Marie Harriman: concubineapple. That shows you how my mind works — quick, and away from the point. I read simply voraciously, and can drum up an opinion afterwards.

Since I have bought an India print, and a large number of phonograph records from a Mr. Nussbaum who picks them up, and a Cezanne Bathers one inch long (that shows you I read e. e. cummings I hope), I am anxious to have an apartment, not to mention a small portable phonograph. How I would like to work for you! A little paragraph each morning — a little paragraph each night, if you can’t hire me from daylight to dark, although I would work like a slave. I can also draw like Mr. Thurber, in case he goes off the deep end. I have studied flower painting.

There is no telling where I may apply, if you turn me down; I realize this will not phase you, but consider my other alternative: the U of N.C. offers for $12.00 to let me dance in Vachel Lindsay’s Congo. I congo on. I rest my case, repeating that I am a hard worker.

Truly yours,

Eudora Welty
_______________________

Truly she was "a good gift".


READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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, May 12, 2014

Who owns your money?

From The Guardian

"No man in the country is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel in his stores. The Inland Revenue is not slow, and quite rightly, to take every advantage which is open to it under the Taxing Statutes for the purposes of depleting the taxpayer's pocket. And the taxpayer is in like manner entitled to be astute to prevent, so far as he honestly can, the depletion of his means by the Inland Revenue."

- Lord Clyde (Ayrshire Pullman Motor Services v Inland Revenue, 1929)

This is not tax evasion, but tax avoidance, and Barlow has earned his corn honestly and, as far as I know, without cheating or hurting anyone. It's not his fault that, like Henry VIII, our governments in recent years have been completely useless at managing their finances.

What Lord Clyde would have thought of the Inland Revenue getting clearance to shovel money directly out of your bank account on the merest (even pretended) suspicion that you might owe them something, I can't say.

But as Martin Armstrong observes, that fires the starting-pistol for the race to get your money away from any jurisdiction that thinks it can make free with your property. Governments should not give themselves carefully-fuzzy powers to do what they will: "carte blanche" was the instrument of Dumas' wicked Cardinal Richelieu.

Nor is this the revolutionary French National Assembly, where the mob brings down whomever it wants on a whim. Whipping up public indignation is a very dangerous and two-edged sword.

And remember that the American Revolution was about "no taxation without representation" - the tea dumped into Boston Harbour was a Trojan horse attempt to get the colonists to concede the principle by purchasing a product that had been taxed at source.

You could argue - and I do - that our current electoral system is so dysfunctional as to be just such a form of non-representation.*

These appear to be desperate times.
____________________

*No, that doesn't mean don't pay your taxes. But the sense of disenfranchisement feeds potentially dangerous resentment. Power carelessly exercised creates its own opposition.

The system's increasingly urgent search for extra money to keep going, the increasing difficulty ordinary people find in making a living and saving money, plus the erosion of civil liberties and general over-bossiness, are making some people stressed and reactionary. The EU debate (for example) involves such issues. Norman Cohn's "The Pursuit of the Millennium" shows that when societies are under great stress, they are vulnerable to manias. I think we see some of this on the Net.


READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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.

Safe seats, inequity, democratic crisis

http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/homepage.html

Data from the 2010 General Election - not a good one for Labour - shows that the 50 safest Parliamentary seats in the UK (% of winner over second highest candidate) are all Labour.

Of these 50, the runner-up in 27 constituencies was not Conservative or Liberal, but UKIP.

UKIP are predicted to get 14.44% of votes cast in 2015, compared with 9.1% for the Liberals; and 0 seats, compared with the Liberals' predicted 19.

Tony Benn warned that when turnout dropped below 50%, we would be in trouble. In 2010, four constituencies did this, and a fifth just managed to reach 50%.

We are overdue another Reform Act.

Data from Electoral Calculus: http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/homepage.html


READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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, May 11, 2014

Wheat Belly

A few years ago, we walked the Cumbria Way with a group of friends. We covered eighty five miles over six days and on returning home I found I'd gained six pounds in weight. How do you walk eighty five miles and gain six pounds? Well maybe one way is to begin each day with a breakfast like this. This was Keswick as I recall.




The extra pounds soon disappeared once we'd returned home because although I like my food, I dislike overeating, the bloated feeling that comes afterwards.

I was reminded of this by a No Tricks Zone post The Greatest Nutritional And Pharmaceutical Swindle Of All Time…High Grain, Low Fat Diets Are Killing Us By The Millions.

There are two videos in the post, the first being an interview with Dr William Davis, author of the book Wheat Belly. From the Amazon book description:-

Every day, over 200 million Americans consume food products made of wheat. As a result, over 100 million of them experience some form of adverse health effect, ranging from minor rashes and high blood sugar to the unattractive stomach bulges that preventive cardiologist William Davis calls "wheat bellies." According to Davis, that excess fat has nothing to do with gluttony, sloth, or too much butter: It's due to the whole grain wraps we eat for lunch. After witnessing over 2,000 patients regain their health after giving up wheat, Davis reached the disturbing conclusion that wheat is the single largest contributor to the nationwide obesity epidemic - and its elimination is key to dramatic weight loss and optimal health. 


There isn't a huge amount of wheat in that Keswick breakfast, but I followed it by toast and marmalade, so lots of wheat and sugar. Is wheat so damaging, or is it all those cheap calories it delivers?

After all, if we move to any reasonably balanced diet which calorie for calorie is more expensive, wouldn't we tend to reduce our calorie intake? Would that generate similar health benefits?

READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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.

Will Straw's Saga (2)

Source: Huffington Post

Making friends with the elves

"The people of Heathdaele[1] are fickle[2]," said Jóhann. “Their speaker Jakob[3] is of the Íhaldsflokknum[4], but those who study such things think he will be ousted at next year’s Althing[5]. Our Party, Verkamannaflokksins[6], is expected to lead by 40 farms[7] and become the new government at Kirkjan Vestur[8]. If you succeed in seizing Heathdaele, you will be seen as helping in the victory and your ship will be launched on a favourable tide.”
“How can I achieve this?” asked Vilhelm, whose father’s analysis had made him more eager than ever.

“The people of this country have no understanding,” replied the other. “If they had, they would have hanged most of the inhabitants of Kirkjan Vestur long ago. But they have no brains. Appeal to their hearts; in other words, befriend them. Say you like the things they like, especially their elves."
"I know nothing of elves," replied Vilhelm, "but I am willing to learn. Should I go to Elf School?[9] "

“I am saddened that your memory is so poor!” retorted his father. “I have just told you that you do not govern by knowing things, but by knowing your fellows. There are thirteen kinds of Huldufólk[10] and only a fool would waste his time studying them. “
“Is that because they do not exist?” asked Vilhelm, chastened by his father’s reproof.

“They certainly do exist[11],” said Jóhann, “but they do not vote.”
 “Then why are they important?” asked his son.

“The Spring is a season of celebration,” came the reply. “Your neighbours dress like dark elves, dance and drink ale. You will gain their affection if you share their company, however briefly. But you must do this in a careful way. Some will try to pretend that the dancers’ appearance is a mockery and shows that your neighbours have bad feelings about elves. You will prevent criticism by saying immediately that it is a tradition and those who do not like the dancers do not like the common people.”
Vilhelm followed this suggestion, and all went well. But that was not the end of the matter. The local speaker Jakob tried to take the wind from his rival’s sail by naming a Heathdaele ale as his choice for the tavern in Kirkjan Vestur. The ale came with a picture of the dancers as dark elves.

“You watch,” said Jóhann to his son, “this will not turn out as he hopes. In the first place, he is making his gesture away from the people he wishes to impress. Secondly, there are many more malicious tongues in that town than here, and they are far sharper. He has forgotten to dull their edges as you did.”
So it turned out. The gossips made it seem as though the dancers were elf-haters, and so the picture had to be changed[12]. When the farmers at Heathdaele heard, they were doubly offended, both for the implied slander and for their speaker’s failure to defend their good nature, on which they prided themselves. Their response was to drink so much of the ale at the festival that it won the prize.[13]

"From the Burnley and Pendle Citizen)

“By this time next year, all the details will have been forgotten,” said Jóhann to Vilhelm. “The people have even worse memory than you. But the heart remembers what is essential.”
“All this, over elves and ale?” asked Vilhelm.

“This is chess played with feelings,” replied his father. “Every move counts.”
(Wikipedia)


[1] Rossendale (and Darwen)
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rossendale_and_Darwen_(UK_Parliament_constituency)
[3] http://www.debretts.com/people-of-today/profile/26895/James-Jacob-Gilchrist-(Jake)-BERRY
[4] Conservative Party
[5] See swing prediction here: http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/gainloss.html
[6] Labour Party
[7] http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/homepage.html
[8] West Minster
[9] Álfaskólinn - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_Elf_School
[10] “Secret People” - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hulduf%C3%B3lk
[11] http://www.elfmuseum.com/?q=contemporarytales
[12] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2619267/Race-fear-Commons-Parliamentary-PC-brigade-refuses-let-bar-sell-ale-featuring-black-faced-Morris-dancers-cause-offence.html
[13] http://www.burnleycitizen.co.uk/news/11199803.Britannia_Coconutters_have_last_laugh_as_controversial_ale_a_hit_at_beer_festival/


READER: PLEASE CLICK THE REACTION BELOW - THANKS!

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.