Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Saturday, November 29, 2014

If you are innocent, you have everything to fear

A man is accused of attempted rape. He immediately offers to provide DNA samples to clear himself. This is rejected. Without that evidence, and because of "a disputed identity parade and a weakened alibi", he is found guilty.

His recommended prison sentence ("tariff") is seven years.

He continues to protest his innocence. He applies to the Criminal Cases Review Commission - twice - and is turned down both times.

In 2009, 13 years after the incident, DNA tests are finally run on the victim's blouse. The DNA is from a different man.

It takes another three and a half years to quash the conviction and release the prisoner. By this time, he has served an additional ten years over and above his tariff, because of his refusal to admit guilt..

"The Criminal Cases Review Commission's chairman... has apologised for the early inaction on the part of his body and... police has just re-opened the investigation into the attempted rape."

The ex-prisoner is driven to the station and given less than £50, with nowhere to sleep.

He applies for compensation for the loss of 17 years of his liberty. The "justice" minister refuses.

And now he is pursued for the £2,500 legal costs incurred in refusing him.


For more, read this week's Private Eye (# 1380, p.31), or this online article which is the source of the quotes in the above.


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

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday

Bloggers fighting over a Wittgenstein post
source

As you must know, the madness of Black Friday is upon us so bloggers are suffering from a frantic demand for stories. Many of our usual suppliers of words, phrases and quotes had run out of stock by nine o'clock.

In desperation we tried "Dodgy" Dave Cameron - Cheapest Words In Town but it was no dice. Only a few dribbles from his back catalogue were available.

As for "Fast Eddy" Miliband he seems to be all at sea. Nothing original on offer and his prices have to be seen to be believed.

By midday we resorted to asking Lord Prescott for a quote or two, but all he came back with was "I don't talk to you bluggers."

Ah well - normal service will be resumed as soon as the madness dies down. Meanwhile why not pop out for a spot of shopping?

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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, November 27, 2014

Crouching Koala, Hidden Dragon

By Daley & Riley

Australia has signed a wonderful trade agreement with China. It will "open up billions of dollars in new markets for Australian exporters."

Except that increasingly, the assets producing these exports will be owned by the country they're going to. Oz is going the same way as the UK: quisling politicians and businessmen are selling off not just the family silver but, bit by bit, the estate itself.



Veteran comedians Clarke and Dawe are not fooled. That doesn't help

farmlandgrab.org tells us how mighty concerns are buying up the world's agricultural resources, while internet wits comment daily, wryly and helplessly, like birds in a cage on the back of a cart. If you're lucky, you can make a living out of protest, that's all.

Businessmen, they drink my wine
plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line
know what any of it is worth


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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, November 26, 2014

MasterBoozer

Masterchef: a programme about cooking, timed to go out after you've eaten, for a nation that eats too much already.
But why do this just for food?

How about MasterBoozer, a late-night post-takeaway programme for the inebriated?

"I'm really disappointed, Roy. You've got a good barley wine, but you need to take it to a new level at this stage of the competition. You could whang a quadruple scotch in... or add some warm beer and gin fer a classic Dog's Nose... like the one 've gorrere..." CRASH!

"Leave'm, 'll be alrigh. Ye', Malibu'n'Absolut's a good 'ltern... ative...mm? Wha'?"...

Crowdfunding for this project via Indigogo and Kickstarter... eventually... jus' pour myself a refill...


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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, November 24, 2014

Has the C dropped off?

As the catastrophic climate narrative slumps inelegantly beneath a prolonged lack of warming, where does it leave us? Bearing in mind that it is not easy to come up with a higher authority than the climate – not even Vivienne Westwood on a good day.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the C has come tumbling off CAGW, or Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming as it used to be known before options were quietly widened via the weasel word change.

So apart from a dwindling band of doomsday hopefuls we are presumably left with AGW. Even that seems to be quietly mutating to ACC – Anthropogenic Climate Change. Ho hum, I suppose even a furtive and long overdue change of emphasis is probably welcome.

Where this takes us I’m not sure but I’m pretty sure we aren’t due for a bout of institutional honesty and the sweet strains of mea culpa issuing from the BBC, Guardian, IPCC, Defra, Greepeace, Al Gore, Ed Davey, Ed Miliband, Lord Deben and a host of middle class poseurs of the green persuasion.

It is more likely that the new narrative will be stitched to the old as seamlessly as a dodgy temperature graph. The new narrative will imply that ACC is what was meant all along and AGW will turn up eventually and meanwhile every single weather outlier will be the weirdest weather since the last weird weather and anyone who says otherwise is some kind of flat-earth far-right nutcase denier in the pay of Big Oil...

...or whatever.

The irony is that most climate sceptics probably have no great problem with ACC because we could be affecting the climate in a number of ways from land usage to atmospheric nitrogen or sulphur pollution to airborne particulates. Most sceptics also think CO2 may have a minor effect, but nothing remotely like the calamity proclaimed for so long by the swivel-eyed activists.

The debate may even lurch towards something delightfully rational, where uncertainty is given its rightful place in the science...

...no I’m not holding my breath for that one.

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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, November 23, 2014

VIPaedophilia and the trutholith

Fossilised dino-dung (pic source)

Why read autobiographies or newspapers? In most cases, we get the truth when it no longer stinks and has no viable DNA to connect it to current life. Jurassic Park explodes only if somebody turns off the electric fence - as when  the enigmatic Matthew Parris outed Peter Mandelson on Newsnight (27.10.1998).

Even then, the response is spin, cover-up and emergency relationship repair:

Mandelson spinning for himself: “I had been outed by the News of the World some ten years before in 1987 and had long since got over it and got through it."

"The BBC memo said: “Under no circumstances whatsoever should allegations about the private life of Peter Mandelson be repeated or referred to on any broadcast.”...

Paxman's letter: "I'm sorry that Matthew Parris mentioned your name on `Newsnight' last night. In the heat of the moment, he rather caught me out, and I tried to brush over things as soon as possible afterwards."...

The gay intelligence network will have known this - and much more about many more - far longer; it's when it hits the mainstream that it's news. Mandelson may have tried to present it as old hat, but on Newsnight it was certainly news, as evidenced by the urgent reactions.

The law and public attitudes have changed with respect to homosexuality; but not to child abuse. So in an effort to protect VIPs we have, claims John Ward, been treated to a deluge of distraction, including celeb show trials, and, if pushed, reluctant admissions regarding VIP deadies.

Yet there is enough DNA in the story to permit contagion - who still alive did what, knew what and when? Like Watergate, the cover-up could be what destroys the Establishment. An explosive in a sealed container is far more lethal.

The Mail on Sunday - with its over 4 million readers - is now lifting the lid, with yesterday's piece by Guy Adams, which includes allegations of a crime that will not stale: murder.

Some material is based on the investigative website Exaro. No wonder there are moves to "regulate" the Net. (And so much for Private Eye's sustained attempt to tar the internet community - its rivals - with the brush of their illiterate and ill-informed fringe - "From The Messageboards", started in 2008. PE itself was the amateur blog of the Sixties, cut and Gloyed together in Willie Rushton's bedroom.)

That "regulation" in the old days came officially as the D-Notice - now broadened from specific prohibitions to standing "guidance" in five areas, the last of which is: "DA-Notice 05: United Kingdom Security & Intelligence Special Services." Aka, to the cynic, not only anything potentially dangerous but also anything embarrassing.

And now even the cover-up is covered-up, as The Guardian reports (htp: Michael Krieger):

"Two newspaper executives have told the Observer that their publications were issued with D-notices – warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security – when they sought to report on allegations of a powerful group of men engaging in child sex abuse in 1984. [...]

"Now it has emerged that these claims are impossible to verify or discount because the D-notice archives for that period “are not complete”.

"Officials running the D-notice system, which works closely with MI5 and MI6 and the Ministry of Defence, said that files “going back beyond 20 years are not complete because files are reviewed and correspondence of a routine nature with no historical significance destroyed”.

"No historical significance.".. nice.

Understanding English: "a shred of evidence"

Actually, historical context is important. Watergate came at a time when, among other things, the Vietnam War had changed attitudes to power and authority. And the fallout from the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 (which has its roots in recklessly loose monetary policy dating back at least as far as the early 1970s and particularly in the "Conservative" 1980s and 1990s) - a fallout which hasn't yet had anything close to its full devastating effect, and one I constantly wonder how to avoid - means that we are in a mood once again to take on the Establishment.

We still wait for the findings of the Chilcot enquiry, while Tony Blair trots about the Middle East in the guise of peacemaker; but he is young and healthy enough to live to see the truth extracted live from the hermetic amber of official records.

And while there is some legal hemming and hawing about the prosecution for old cases of child abuse - see the Parliamentary briefing paper "Limitation period in sexual abuse case
Standard Note:  SN/HA/4209" - liability for murder has no end date.


Will there be an explosion? And what will the the aftermath for the rest of us, if the Establishment is in disarray?


 
A Mills Bomb (pic source)

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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, November 22, 2014

The mendacity of institutions

It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentional lying that there is so much falsehood in the world.
Samuel Johnson quoted in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Memories of my younger days suggest that institutions had more integrity than is the case today. The Post Office, the BBC, the AA, the police, the local council and even the government may have been stuffy and somewhat inefficient, but were not generally regarded as mendacious.

Today institutions have changed for the worse – they tell lies. Usually lies of omission, Johnson's carelessness perhaps, but still lies. I could be looking back through rose-tinted spectacles of course, but I’m not too sentimental, I don’t actually want to go back to driving an Austin A40. In any case, there is a reasonable explanation for the mendacity of modern institutions and that’s public relations.

A few decades ago, institutions may have had their press office to deal with newspaper reporters and even a rare visit by a chap from the BBC, but they were much less inclined to put out a message so dripping with positive spin that it may as well be a barefaced lie.

Modern institutions have their off-days, but are far more inclined to defend the indefensible, if necessary for years. They are far more inclined to put out press releases which don’t even tell half the story, manufacture stories from nothing and generally exaggerate, misinform and mislead.

That would be bad enough, but all this positive spin promotes institutional mendacity. That in turn promotes mendacity among employees. It attracts those who are more inclined towards shading the truth, influences career progression, seeps into the culture, infecting everyone without the integrity to resist.

Institutions were always an important part of our culture. The BBC, the police with their whistles, bicycles and truncheons, the local council and the local bank. Again it’s worth wiping those rose-tinted spectacles in case they are misted up with nostalgia for a more honest past, but I don’t think it is all nostalgia.

The mendacity of institutions is genuine and most of it seems to be down to PR. How are we supposed to build a culture on lying?

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dreaming of Boris

source

Fortunately I never dream of Boris Johnson, but the other day I had a kind of surreal daydream while musing on the various nutters determined to rule our lives. Maybe their nuttiness is infectious.

In my daydream, Boris was on a local bus so I sat next to him. I had to - there was nowhere else to sit. Some seats were occupied by glossy young people with iPads. All the remaining seats were cordoned off with some kind of red tape, so I “chose” the one by Boris.

‘Blimey, don’t take any notice of that – just treat it as a cheeky little nudge,’ Boris chuckled, pointing a pink finger at the tape. ‘It’s all Cameron’s idea, this nudging caper,’ he added. ‘I took it into my noddle to push it too its logical conclusion but it’s only a harmless jape to put you chaps at your ease.’

‘You chaps?’ I asked but Boris was off on another tack.

‘I’ve been busy today - buying some tremendously attractive and very reasonably priced oven-to-table ware,’ he went on as we drove by Denby pottery, ignoring a crowded bus stop. ‘Back at base they insist I should get out more if I’m to move on... not that I am moving on or have any ambitions in other directions beyond mayor of London which is of course my proudest.... proudest thingy.’

He gazed out of the bus window, suddenly listless. ‘So here I am not moving on... on a bus,’ he added after a few moments of silent contemplation. He mussed up his hair which had fallen into place as it so inconveniently does.

‘But why come here?’ I asked. ‘Why a bus - and why oven to table ware - specifically? What’s the policy angle on stoneware pottery?’

‘Oh I don’t know, I don’t use it myself. It was something to do during my tour of the North, part of the connecting with people idea I thought of in bed... in my bed I hasten to add.’ He laughed and wobbled.

‘This isn’t the North,’ I pointed out.

‘Isn’t – umm – isn’t your whippet allowed on the bus?’ Boris bent down to peer under our seat.

‘My whippet?’

‘You must know what a whippet is,’ Boris replied, his voice somewhat strained from bending down. ‘Skinny little dogs – run like blazes. Usually fed on tripe I believe.’

‘We don’t all have whippets and this is the Midlands, not the North,’ I informed him. I had to address his broad back because he was still peering under our seat.

‘Well this is North enough for me,’ he said, returning to a vertical posture, pink-faced after his prolonged underseat examination. ‘I’m not venturing beyond the tree line in a bus.’ He laughed again.

We said nothing for a while as the bus trundled on its way, passing bus stop after bus stop. Boris seemed worried, but I didn’t have enough sympathy to offer him. Anyway, one of the iPad crew was rolling up the tape so I assumed this phase of Boris’ connecting with people idea was fizzling out.

‘This is my stop,’ I said as we trundled through the outskirts of Derby.

‘Before you go...’ Boris grabbed my arm. ‘Why don’t people realise I’m just a regular guy with some terrific ideas who would always to his damndest for them... in the event of... well under changed circumstances... whatever they may be.’

‘Think about mendacious hairstyles and move on from there,’ I replied.

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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, November 20, 2014

Morning jumble: fatties and druggies

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1eZkywvh2E

Cost of obesity 'greater than war, violence and terrorism' - Daily Telegraph.

Suggested eye-catching initiatives:

- minimum pricing for pizzas
- every chip should bear a laser-printed health warning

Little people, behave yourselves.

They should have only organic chicken breast and estate-bottled Chablis, like us.

Does the Prime Minister take "sugar"? Did he ever? Boris the Punter's Friend did. Somebody in Westminster still does. Hooray for the New Cocalition!

Let's draw a little white line under this and move on...

If I don't see you down Annie's Bar, I'll be in the Westminster Arms. Cheers!









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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, November 17, 2014

Armistice Day

A World War One National Kitchen
source

This is another chapter from my aunt's memoirs where she describes Armistice Day as she saw it from the back streets of Derby in 1918 when she was ten years old.

November 11th 1918
It was a raw November morning, just like any other day. Little did we think as we scrambled out of bed, hurtled downstairs to wash and dress in front of the kitchen fire, that it was going to be one of the most important days of our lives.

Dressed, we sat down to a dish of porridge followed by dry toast. The porridge was sweetened with treacle which we held above the bowl on a spoon, and dribbling it made patterns on the creamy surface.

The treacle was different from both the Golden Syrup we buy today and the tinned thick black stuff. It was, being neither one nor the other, an in-between of the two. Golden brown, runny, certainly not sickly. We’d take an empty jam jar to our corner grocer’s shop and a pound jar was filled from a barrel for fourpence halfpenny.

I loved to watch the treacle sluggishly flow when the tap was turned on. Mr Scott the grocer always caught the last little drop on his finger as he turned off the tap, and licking it would smack his lips. How lucky he was, I wished I were a shop lady!

Off to school and at mid-morning out as usual into the playground. We were puzzled as to why the teacher hadn’t come outside to ring the bell signalling the end of our break when a girl said to me,

‘Look, Sir Thomas Roe’s flag is flying.’

I looked up and there on the big house across the way, the Union Jack fluttered high on its pole. There wasn’t much breeze but enough to move it gently.

We became aware just then that all the teachers had trooped outside, headed by the headmistress. We all stood and stared and though there was hardly any need, she put her hand up for silence. In a voice which trembled slightly she announced,

‘Children, I have to tell you the good, the wonderful news. The war is over. An armistice has been signed. You can all go home and tell your mothers and you need not come back to school this afternoon.’

An excited buzz started. She raised her hand again, telling us that we must first say the Lord’s Prayer and then sing the National Anthem. So we stood, first humbly with heads bent, then poured our hearts out in ‘God Save the King’.

We scampered into school for hats and coats and our feet barely touched the ground on our way home. Mam was in the scullery stirring a large pan of soup when my sisters and I burst in.

‘Well,’ she said after the news had sunk in, ‘as it’s a special day I will treat you to a dinner at the National Kitchen.’

We could hardly believe our ears! Lizzie, one of the girls from next door joined us and we set off, feeling as if we were on our way to Buckingham Palace. The National Kitchen was attached to a factory not far away and I should imagine served also as a canteen for the workers, though I didn’t know that then. It was a big, bare place and we must have been early as very few people were inside.

We had to go to a counter to collect our dinner, the cost of the meal with pudding to follow being sixpence each. There was beef, potatoes and peas, spotted dick and thin custard. The beef was eatable but it was a good thing we had strong teeth. The potatoes, plain boiled, were a bit watery, the gravy thin and anaemic, the peas like bullets, practically uneatable. There was a sudden burst of laughter from my elder sister and Lizzie.

‘What are they laughing at?’ I whispered to my younger sister. I was overawed at eating in a public place.

‘I don’t know,’ she whispered back, ‘but I heard Lizzie say something about the peas and a good blow-off would almost certainly shoot the cat.’

It took a few minutes to sink in and when it did, my face went scarlet. Furtively I looked over my shoulder. Was anyone near enough to have heard?

The spotted dick was nowhere near as good as Mam’s and after getting a jug of celery soup for her (we’d taken a large jug as Mam suffered with her stomach, but they only half filled it for sixpence) we walked back home. It was the first time I had ever eaten ‘out’ and I have never forgotten such a momentous occasion but I certainly didn’t think much of it at the time.

As the days passed, the lamplighter came back – the biggest joy of all. One night in bed my sister suddenly burst out laughing and when I asked her to tell the joke, she spluttered,

‘I was just remembering Lizzie and those peas.’

‘Oh yes,’ I answered innocently, ‘how did the poor cat get on?’ With that we both guffawed and Mam put her head round the bedroom door with a stern warning about being fit for school in the morning.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Atmosphere

Crich church from Crich Stand


We went for a short walk through Crich Chase today. Cold, very misty and damp. Muddy underfoot as well, yet deliciously atmospheric.

Quiet too. Heavy mist seems to do that - damp down sounds to shut out the rest of the world. There was still enough colour to enjoy though, enough leaves on the trees to glimpse the fading glories of autumn.

The pic shows Crich church viewed through the mist from Crich Stand. I had to use the zoom and balance the camera on my flask but it gives some idea of how atmospheric it was.

A little while later a light breeze cleared away the mist and showed us another grey day without the atmospheric charm. Good while it lasted. This is a pic of Cromford canal on the way back. Even in the lightest of breezes those leaves were falling like confetti.


Cromford canal

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

What matters?

source

Culture is what matters in the broader scheme of life, not politics or economics. Cultural needs are what we want politics and economics to address, but too often it gets lost in the mass forgetting that is modern life.

When we grapple with issues from immigration to drug laws, from care of the elderly to house prices, the things we want and need are cultural. What we usually get is a turgid mix of politics, economics and posturing - and narrative of course. Always narrative.

The trouble with cultures is that they change too slowly for the impatient rhetoric of social and political activists, too slowly for big business, too slowly for global bureaucrats. So culture comes in last as a political issue fit for the masses.

Take these two extracts from Wikipedia's view of culture. Firstly we have Cicero's cultivation of the soul.

Culture (/ˈkʌltʃər/, from Latin: cultura, lit. "cultivation") is a concept based on a term first used in classical antiquity by the Romanorator Cicero: "cultura animi" (cultivation of the soul).

Next we have a more modern version where the soul has mysteriously disappeared. Not that I believe in the reality of my soul, but it's a pretty good metaphor for something within me that I feel entitled to value. I'm not too keen on its apparent disappearance.

In the 20th century, "culture" emerged as a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of human phenomena that cannot be directly attributed to genetic inheritance. Specifically, the term "culture" in American anthropology had two meanings:

  1. the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols, and to act imaginatively and creatively; and
  2. the distinct ways that people, who live differently, classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively.

I suppose that what I really want to do is to preserve whatever old goodnesses there may be in the world. I am not in the least ashamed of being old-fashioned. There’s nothing whatever that even you could say that will make me ashamed of being old-fashioned.
Ford Madox Ford - The New Humpty Dumpty (1912)

No doubt many of us agree with Ford in that we wish to preserve whatever old goodnesses there may be in the world, but possibly not at the expense of being thought old-fashioned. Unfortunately, any well-established and valued culture is bound to be old-fashioned. It’s in the nature of the thing.

So with a kind of furtive inevitability the modern state drives welfare wedges between generations, between young and old between parents and children. The state needs to wipe its citizens clean, create Locke's tabula rasa to be written on by the official needs of the moment.

The state, global bureaucracies and global business need each generation to forget what previous generations knew until we end up with a culturally cleansed generation fit for global citizenship. One which knows nothing of the past and even less of a world beyond the narratives. One with no culture.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Winchester

Alfred the Great
Winchester is a city with many fine architectural buildings.  As you enter the city a huge statue of Alfred the Great looms overhead looking out over the Guildhall and Abbey Gardens towards the city centre.

Winchester Cathedral nave

The Cathedral has a prominent position within the city. The New Minster was built close to the Old Minster whose foundation lines can today still be seen marked out in brick on the grassy green next to the Cathedral (New Minster). From the outside the Cathedral is relatively modest but as I stepped through the door the immense size and beauty of it took my breath away. On further exploration the Cathedral’s secrets reveal themselves. Some of these are the 14th century font made of Tournai marble, the mortuary chests holding remains of pre-conquest Wessex monarchs, the memorial to St Swithun and the pilgrim steps where pilgrims filed to reach the Shrine of St Swithun before crawling through the still visible ‘holy hole’ that allowed them closer access to the holy relics of St Swithun.

The Cathedral is home to the Winchester Bible which is a fine example of 12th century illumination. Sadly I wasn’t able to see it on my visit as the Triforium Gallery in which it is housed is now closed for several months for refurbishment.
The Cathedral’s Norman crypt often floods. In the crypt is a statue by Antony Gormly, entitled ‘Sound II’. It was designed to stand in water.
Cheyney Court
Not to be missed is the adjacent Cathedral close with its interesting buildings; the Deanery fronted by a 13th century vaulted porch; the Norman Chapter house ruins; Pilgrims’ Hall and School, Priory Stables (now part of Pilgrims’ School) and the most striking of the buildings, the 16th century Cheyney Court. Joined to Cheyney court is the 16th century Priory Gate, above which is a tiny room originally intended for the Cathedral’s organist.
Just outside Priory Gate is Kingsgate, one of two remaining medieval gates into the city. On top of the gate is the small church of St Swithun upon Kingsgate, a rare example of a church located above the gates of a city. Hidden away nearby is a Victorian post box still in use today. Opposite the post box is the Wykeham Arms which is furnished with old desks and memorabilia from the nearby Winchester College.
I recommend taking a guided tour around the college. The knowledgeable guide told us about the history and traditions of the college and its connection with the wider history of the area. The guide also pointed out many interesting architectural features that are hidden within the college. Not far from the college is the residence of the Bishop of Winchester, which is all that remains of the 17th century New Bishop’s Palace. The ruins of the first Bishop’s palace (Wolvesy) are situated next to the current Bishop’s residence.
The Pentice
More architectural gems can be found in Winchester High Street, where old and new buildings stand side by side; the 15th century Butter Cross, the Old Guildhall (now Lloyds bank), The Pentice (an attractive walkway that was created in the 16th century when upper floors of the timber framed houses were extended). It is in this street that you will find the quaintly named God Begot house which stands on the site of the ancient manor of God Begot.
At the top of High Street stands Westgate, the second of the two fortified gateways that once formed part of the city wall is now a museum.
The Great Hall
Just behind the gate is Henry III’s Great Hall.  It dates from 1235 and it is all that remains of Winchester Castle.  The Great hall has breath-taking proportions as does ‘King Arthur’s Table’ which is mounted on the wall at one end of the hall. The table was probably created around 1290 for a tournament to celebrate the wedding of one of Edward I’s daughters.  Just outside the hall is a reconstructed medieval garden based on illustrations from a 14thcentury manuscript. The steps from the garden lead to Peninsula Barracks, the home of five of Winchesters military museums; The Adjudant General’s Corps, the Light Infantry, the Gurkhas, The King’s Royal Hussars and the Royal Green Jackets. The museum of the Royal Hampshire Regiment can be found nearby.
Another of Winchesters museums, the City Museum, is located in ‘The Square’ which overlooks the Cathedral. The museum illustrates the history of Winchester and has a fine example of a 2nd century Roman mosaic pavement and 4th century wall paintings. The square is also a good place to dine whilst overlooking the cathedral and its grounds.  Nestling away between offices and shops in the square is the tiny 15th century church of St Lawrence. Easily missed, this is the church that each new Bishop comes to for private prayer before his enthronement in the cathedral.
Time did not permit me to walk along the water meadows to St Cross with its hospital that has provided sheltered accommodation for elderly gentlemen since it was founded in 1136 along with its 800 year old tradition of the ‘Wayfarers Dole’. Maybe next time…
For more information:

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bloated with malnutrition

An example of malnutrition
from the BBC

If too many mince pies, too much turkey, roast spuds, stuffing and all the trimmings followed by Christmas pud and lashings of cream are a little too much for you this festive season, then you may be comforted to know that your bloated feeling is a temporary bout of malnutrition.

From the ever-vigilant BBC we are reminded that obesity is also a form of malnutrition.

Dr Haddad, a senior research fellow for the International Food Policy Research Institute, highlighted three areas that the report focused on.

"The first thing we did was to say that we were not just going to focus on undernutrition, which is closely related to hunger, but also overnutrition and obesity," he explained. "Malnutrition just means bad nutrition."

It makes a kind of sense I suppose because as Dr Haddad says, malnutrition is merely bad nutrition, but surely it was useful as a word for not having enough to eat. The NHS seems to prefer that usage. From oxforddictionaries.com. 

Definition of malnutrition in English:
NOUN

[MASS NOUN]

Lack of proper nutrition, caused by not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right things, or being unable to use the food that one does eat:over 40,000 children die every day from malnutrition and disease.


Well words shift and evolve I suppose and no harm is done once people become familiar with new usage. However, further down the BBC piece we gain a hint of the bureaucratic wheels grinding away, constantly seeking to expand the the Sacred Remit.

Dr Haddad explained: "One of the big messages is that just because globally we are off-track, do not get discouraged because there is some very significant progress being made by very significant countries, such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India.

"This is fantastic and if those countries are joined by some other countries then we can easily be back on to achieving global targets."

However, he lamented the quality of the available data: "We say that the state of the data regarding nutrition is terrible.

"We could only find three countries where we could actually find data that properly showed how much was being spent on nutrition.

"Accountability in the nutrition sector is weak because the data is not very good. It is not about naming and shaming, it is about what needs to be done in order to improve accountability."


What is meant by accountability here I wonder?

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

P*ss off says China



We have yet another climate fudge where a sensible leader manages to tell a silly leader to p*ss off without the BBC noticing.

China and the US have unveiled new pledges on greenhouse gas emissions, as the leaders of the two countries met for talks in Beijing.

US President Barack Obama said the move was "historic", as he set a new goal of reducing US levels between 26%-28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels.

China did not set a specific target, but said emissions would peak by 2030.

Wednesday's pledge is the first time it has agreed to set a ceiling, albeit an undefined one, on overall emissions.


An undefined ceiling eh? Hmm... let's see... is that similar to no ceiling?

I think it is.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Comic books ARE real life

"All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music," said Walter Pater; but all life aspires to the condition of comic books.

When I put away childish things, I foolishly put away the Daleks, Brainiac, the Joker, Ming the Merciless... They are real, and so is our battle against them. It's the losers, hampered by empathy, versus the worldly winners who lack it. The victory is in the resisting. As James Michie said:

Now I look at the war as a sportsman. It's a matter of choosing
The decentest way of losing.
Heads or tails, losers or winners,
We all lose, we're all damned sinners.
And I'd rather be with the poor cold people at the wall that's shot
Than the bloody guilty devils in the firing-line, in Hell and keeping hot.'



(Pic source)


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Monday, November 10, 2014

Catalonia: a case to answer

2.25 million Catalans voted in an independence "opinion poll" yesterday, and over 80% said both yes to becoming an autonomous state, and yes to being fully sovereign (breaking from Spain altogether).

That makes about 1.8 million for secession, out of a total of 5.4 million registered voters living in Catalonia. A third of all voters.

A 42% turnout is impressive, bearing in mind this was an unofficial poll organised by 40,000 volunteers - the UK's 2005 General Election turnout was only 61%.

But even if absolutely everyone voted in an official Catalonian referendum and two-thirds said no, that would still leave a deep division. I can't see that sticking your fingers in your ears is a viable strategy for Madrid.

Devo max for Catalonia?


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Sunday, November 09, 2014

Equity collapse: two views make a market

John Hussman thinks the stockmarket is due for at least a 50% drop. If he's right, that would be the third time since the start of the year 2000 (lows in 2003 and 2009).



On the other hand, Barry Ritholtz shows that the S&P 500 has (with a blip or two including 1929-1933) shown a rising tendency since the year 1900.

As to the latter, I'd like to see:

(a) a correlation with some reasonably fair measure of inflation (can of worms, no doubt); and
(b) a correlation with the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels

Will it keep up? Who knows? As Keynes said, in the long run we're all dead. I guess we should enjoy the unique era of mass wealth and comfort (in the West, for most, relative to past ages) while it lasts, however long it does.

But - speaking for myself only - I wouldn't put all my eggs in one basket, and certainly not on the stockmarket at these QE/HFT/derivative-pumped valuations.

(Pic source)

Your view may be different - and the correct one.


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Spanish sovereign debt and JPM

James Higham writes (also on Orphans of Liberty):

A couple of money men I know said, in 2010, that the big issue at that time was sovereign debt and China is cited as one of the main players.

I wrote years ago about Peabody and how there was an induced grain crisis in America in the mid-1800s, out of which the eventual JPM did very well indeed and JPM is a topic upon which many on left and right do agree.

Our site’s JD wrote to someone who knows money, asking:

I don’t understand money as I wrote a few years ago here-
http://www.nourishingobscurity.com/2012/01/money/
But I was reading this today-

http://www.elmundo.es/economia/2014/11/07/545bf1f2268e3e634d8b4586.html

I can’t find any English report on this so far but it looks as though JPM are telling their clients not to buy Spanish debt. (I have never understood how or why anyone would want to ‘buy’ a debt, presumably these are the famous ‘junk bonds’ which were at the root of the recent financial problems?)

Their reasoning is that were Podemos to reach a position of power in Spain then a lot of the debt would be cancelled. Podemos are preparing an audit which will decide which debts are legitimate and which are not and the latter will be written off.

JPM in their analysis also consider the bizarre situation that PP(right wing) and PSOE(left wing) could form a coalition after the next election to prevent Podemos forming a government. I have seen elsewhere that polls suggest that if an election were called tomorrow Podemos would win!

So my question is – what are the implications of a Debt Jubilee, the Biblical idea that all debts should be written off after seven years? (Not just in Spain but everywhere) And who would lose by such a Debt Jubilee? Not me for sure, I have no debts. Rarely use a credit card and pay cash for whatever I need.

A commenter, The Hickory Wind, who lives in Spain, stepped in to observe:

I’m late to the party as usual, but anyway…

Simon Harris’s original piece is interesting and informative to anyone who doesn’t know much about Spanish politics, but those who do will recognise that he has swallowed uncritically a bit too much of the propaganda. There were two points I would have made to him, but the second annoyed me so much that I didn’t bother.

Firstly, the historical case has very little to do with the modern politcal reality, or with the justice of the cause. Even if the history is properly understood and correctly interpreted, what once was can tell you little about what should be now. It’s not that he does it badly, just that it isn’t particularly relevant.

The second point, the one that made me switch off, was when he described the Popular Party as extreme right. This sis a serious falsehood for someone who is claiming to inform a distant public of an important local matter, and he must surely know that it is false. The PP is partially and indirected descended from some remnants of the old Falange, in much the same way that the Socialist party is descended from a Trotskyist Socialist Workers party (they still have it in their name), but one is mainstream centre right and the other centre left, and they have been throughout their periods of government in democracy. For someone who claims to be an experienced commentator on Catalan affairs to suggest otherwise is little short of a direct lie.

I enjoyed your reply, but you underestimate the historical strength of Catalan identity, although it is true that it has been deliberately whipped up in recent years by politicians who used it to gain a power base, and have now painted themselves into a corner. It is only partly based on language. There is also a sense of a different historical path, which is not entirely correct, but identity is not about truth, and a sense that many of the other regions of Spain (especially Galicia, Extremadura and Andalucia, are completely foreign to them, in their people and their culture, as well as their history.

Incidentally you are wrong to dismiss the Catalan language as just a dialect of Spanish. Although it is easy enough for a Spanish speaker to understand and to learn, it belongs to the Gallic family of Romance languages, which split from the Iberian group 1,000 years ago, and it has a rich literature and tradition of its own dating back to the middle ages. Anecdotally, some of the books that inspired Don Quijote’s madness were Occitan tales of chivalry, still extant.

I think I have droned on enough now, so thank you for your patience

Which gets away a bit on the question of Spanish debt itself but sets the overall scene and on that basis, its inclusion here is argued. Thus, the other party in this collusion of three bloggers, Sackerson, had this piece up at his place, about corruption in Spain, which still does not get us any closer to the issue of JPM’s advice.

This reply from Sackerson is in no way personal advice but touches on the general world situation as he sees it:

There are, I understand, hedge funds speculating in sovereign debt. There’s a City adage “two views make a market” and if they can buy bonds cheaply and guess right then they make a fortune if the government honours its obligation – I understand buying British bonds during and after Waterloo was the foundation of the British Rothschild fortune.

One twist I read about recently was a fund buying sovereign debt that was to be defaulted (partly or wholly) and then using international law to enforce it in full. We are in a time when the rich are making law to suit themselves.

Of course, the speculators could be wrong, but if you’ve previously made a personal fortune in bonuses who cares if the firm goes down? This appears to be the story of the banks.

Goldman Sachs were caught some time ago giving advice one way to their smaller investors and the other way to large and favoured clients. I stopped reading the financial press when none of them foresaw the great financial crisis.

The world is interlinked with finance, debt and speculation. The total value of derivatives – side bets to you and me – appears to dwarf the GDP of the world:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_(finance)#Size_of_market

I am no longer sure what money actually represents, since it’s backed and limited by nothing at all.

The point has been made – by Australian economist Steve Keen, among others – that instead of bailing out banks, the money should have been given to the people to bail them out, because with less debt they would spend more and create jobs for each other.

A debt jubilee sounds great; except that pensions use government bonds to shore up their guarantees to pensioners. And what would happen to house prices if, say there were no mortgages any more? It’s like trying to predict the outcome of a massive barroom fight.

I found this from JPM to its private clients [pdf]

… which seems to confirm that advice JD read that they gave.

Pause for a moment and note that we are divided by language so much. For example, on the Amanda Knox issue, the reason America believed one thing was that their sources were all from one camp, in the English language. However, those reading italian had an entirely different view. Ditto with the bin Laden SEAL killing. Those reading Arabic have an entirely different view to those reading only English.

There’s a piece of advice in that – to really know what’s going on, accepting that the MSM globally is in captcha, to know other languages or to access machine translations is most helpful. Going to a Spanish blogger on these things and getting a machine translation does often given a different perspective.

The major financial press is not all that helpful. Bloomberg reports that Black Rock is buying Spanish short-term [early October, 2014] but that still doesn’t touch on sovereign debt.

Why should JPM advise that way when S&P had advised that it wasn’t all that bad, Spain’s sovereign debt as an investment, in May, 2014?

Not sure this Spanish govt advice is helpful. Nor this.

Perhaps this will help:

The European Central Bank bought covered bonds for the first time since President Mario Draghi unveiled an asset purchase program last month.

The ECB acquired short-dated French notes from Societe Generale SA (GLE) and BNP Paribas SA as well as Spanish securities from other lenders, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Draghi said he intends to expand the bank’s balance sheet by as much as 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) to stave off deflation in the euro area.

Policy makers are under pressure to take action as euro-area inflation slowed to 0.3 percent in September and the International Monetary Fund said the region has as much as a 40 percent chance of entering its third recession since 2008. Growth will reach 1.3 percent next year, slower than he 1.5 percent pace predicted in July, after a 0.8 percent gain this year, the IMF said Oct. 7.

“From today we will begin to know how aggressive the ECB will be in bidding for bonds,” said Agustin Martin, head of European credit research at Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA in London.

It’s blindingly obvious I’m no money man but am, I think, a reasonable political thinker. Podemos represents a cry for help from the Spanish and may be behind the Catalan call of ‘let’s get out of this mess now’. Whether their leadership has been promised funding upon Spanish break-up [don't forget the Muslim push into Spain as well, history revisited] is an unknown.

Podemos is left wing academic intellectual. As such, it is ignorant and it’s only solution is to nationalize. Not playing by the international money rules does seem attractive to many Spaniards – see their polls and is the leftwing alternative to what Nigel is doing over here.

The difference is that things still have to be financed over there, even nationalized, e.g. public sector salaries and a wildly freefall Spanish currency is not going to help with that – at least such a thing has not helped before [see Russia 1997/8, through which I lived in that country].

Nigel’s solution is to stay within capitalism but trade with other countries free of the EU toxicity. And the notion that Europe would cease trading with the UK is not borne out by stats on inwards and outwards movement of money – the UK is still attractive as an investment. Only the unelected “leadership” of the EU is trying to talk up the opposite.

Therefore, in the light of Podemos and the possibility of nationalization, JPM is ambivalent but cautious. Most major players say go short for now and see what happens.

Which still doesn’t answer the question of who owns Spain or will in the near future.
 

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Catalonia votes today!

The forcedly unofficial quasi-referendum on Catalonia's independence is due today (unless the Spanish government has found a way to stop it).

For background, see Simon Harris' piece here.


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Saturday, November 08, 2014

Save The News Quiz!

I am about to try listening to Radio 4's The News Quiz yet again - the triumph of hope over expectation, will I never learn? I'd be more sympathetic to some of the PC opinions if there was even the semblance of an alternative and the audience didn't appear to be composed of sycophants.

Will the celeb selection change if Labour is spannered at the next General Election, or if it romps home with a landslide majority?

What political earthquake would it take to have someone like the late Alan Coren on the panel? What wouldn't I give to hear the Sage of Cricklewood again, and to have a proper belly-laugh?


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Shock UK Poll Result: Greens in 6-point lead!

http://voteforpolicies.org.uk/

If manifestoes matter, check out the offers and make your choice:

http://voteforpolicies.org.uk/


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DIY Clickbait scaffolding

Bloggers! Not enough visitors? Tired of casting pearls of bitter wisdom before apathetic swine? Facebook can help! Here is a starterpack of teaser headlines garnered from today's FB offerings:

X Tells Y That Z. Y's Reply Is Priceless.

The Best X Ever. This Is Gold.

If You Think X, You Need To Read This.

What NOT To Say To X [in a Y situation). This Z Absolutely Nails It.

This X has the most amazing Y we've ever seen.

What Kind Of X Are You? [Metamorphic self-assessment questionnaire]

- Go get 'em, Floyd!


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Friday, November 07, 2014

Miliband vote debacle



As we all know, concerns about a leadership voting error are swirling around the Labour Party. The question being posed at the highest level is whether the ballot papers used for the 2010 leadership election were the official ones.

Izzy Shiftie, a Labour Party insider has provided us with a specimen of the the genuine ballot paper above. The question now facing the party is when and how to put right such an embarrassing mistake and who will carry the can. 

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Polar porkies?

From Wikipedia

An interesting post from polarbearscience suggests to this sceptical observer that we are still being dosed with propaganda when it comes to polar bears and climate change.

Activist polar bear biologist Andrew Derocher (University of Alberta) may have gone too far this time. In an interview with Yahoo News,Derocher is quoted as saying:

“When I first started here about 30 years ago the population was about 1,200 bears and now we’re down to about 800,” team member Andrew Derocher, a biology professor at the University of Alberta, said in a phone interview from the tundra outside Churchill.” [my bold]

There is no peer-reviewed research published anywhere that gives a population estimate of ~800 bears for Western Hudson Bay — so is this number quoted by Derocher based on some of his secret research that hasn’t been published or did he just make it up? 


Make it up? Sounds like normal service to me.

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