Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Sunday, January 31, 2016

100 years ago - Zeppelin raid on Derby

source

My mother once persuaded my aunt to write down her childhood experience of a Zeppelin raid on Derby in 1916. I originally posted the story some years ago, but more details are available in this Maxwell Craven article plus a BBC item

These articles fix the raid as occurring during the early hours of February 1st 1916. Decades later my aunt's memory put it a few weeks later, but as the raid took place one hundred years ago tonight, perhaps her story is worth another post. She was eight years old at the time of the raid and this is what she wrote...

There were no air raid sirens as such in the First World War. When there was an alert, a local factory’s maroon sounded. In Derby they were called ‘Bulls’. I don’t know why unless the sound was similar to that of a bull roaring! We quite often heard them but nothing happened until one night in February 1916.  I think it was the sixteenth but am not quite certain of the exact date. [see above note on exact date] Oddly enough, we hadn’t ourselves heard it that night. The sole form of heating in our three bedroom terraced house was the fire in the living room, so it was here we congregated and children playing noisy games perhaps drowned out the noise from outside.

We were always early in bed, half past seven in the winter. The maroons usually blasted out their warning at around seven o’clock. Dark green blinds covered every window, curtains were drawn over them to stop any chink of light from showing outside. We weren’t allowed to have the gas mantle in our bedroom lighted, went to bed by candlelight. My mother would come upstairs, see we were all tucked up in bed and when she went back downstairs, the candlestick went with her.

Our bedrooms, extending over the entry, was large, ample room for two double beds as well as other furniture. Two girls in one bed, two in the other. It must have been around eleven o’clock that we were awakened by our mother shaking us by the shoulder.

‘Come on,’ her request not loud but urgent. ‘Get up, the Germans have come.’ Her words and anxious face, lighted candle in one hand, the other shielding the flame, roused us quickly enough.

I dragged some blankets from the bed. My burden, flip flopping round my ankles almost tripped me on my descent of the steep narrow stairs. My eldest sister stood at the top of the cellar steps, shepherded us down. My mother carried the youngest. Swathed in blankets, for a time I became stuck behind the door, but my eldest sister hauled me out, took possession of my wrappings. I negotiated the steps down the cellar much more easily than I had those from the bedroom to the ground floor.

My dad, in peace time an accountant with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, was home on leave. Like so many others, he’d enlisted on the outbreak of war. After only a short training, was in France in the trenches, up to his waist in water. A far cry from a warm, dry office. He developed enteric fever, was ill in Boulogne hospital for weeks. The upshot was that he spent the remainder of the war in the Treasury Department in Whitehall. Still on a soldier’s pay of course! It did mean though that he got home a bit more often and was safer though there were some bad air raids on London. I never heard him speak of them – in those days the horrors were kept away from young ears.

He was a handsome man, tall and broad and we were in awe of him. That night he’d pulled on trousers over his nightshirt and in the cellar directed operations. We’d all settled down when to my surprise a further influx! With much shuffling and whispering, muted telling off and some pushing and pulling the big family from next door trooped down the cellar steps and arranged themselves judiciously in our underground shelter.

Our street, a cul-de-sac ended in a high brick wall. On the other side lay the main railway line. Our neighbours lived in the very end house, in extremely close proximity to the line. The railways were a lifeline then, not only for troops, goods and coal, but also communications. Derby an important junction, might be the target of an enemy bomb. Our neighbours would be safer with us. It did make a crowd but being so close together we were warmer. And so we sat, the adults talking in low voices for maybe an hour when Dad held up his hand.

‘Quiet, I think I hear something.’

‘It’s a Zep,’ came an excited whisper – one of the boys from next door.

To me the menacing drone sounded like an irregular drumbeat. Everyone froze except for my dad who stole up the cellar steps. We could hear through the cellar grate, his footsteps on the blue brick pavement of the street. Rejoining us, he made no comment. Catching the eye of my mother, he nodded. Then he bowed his head, uttered the words of the Lord’s Prayer and as he came to the end we quietly chorused ‘Amen’.

We stayed where we were, the sound of the Zeppelin faded. Perhaps half an hour later it came back again. An almighty crash, the ground trembled beneath our feet. Broken glass tinkled somewhere at hand.

We were all frightened. Birds, bees and butterflies we naturally were used to but not flying monsters intent on our destruction. For several minutes we were all too shaken to say anything and then everyone seemed to talk at once, making vague suggestions.

I don’t know if the factory did sound an all clear. I have a faint memory of a long clear whistle and all of us trailing up the cellar steps and into the living room. A strange time to be up, at half past three in the morning we should have been asleep in our beds. Dad poked the remnants of the fire into a bit of a blaze, added a few pieces of coal and we young ones sat on the pegged hearthrug, glad of the warmth. My mother set about making her panacea for all ills, large jugs of cocoa sweetened with treacle and soon everyone was sipping the reviving drink.

The neighbours returned home. Dad, feeling a draught went out into the passage to investigate and found a gaping hole in the fanlight over the front door. On the floor lay an ugly piece of shrapnel – six inches long, about one inch thick and two inches wide with a jagged edge. Yet another unprecedented episode of that never to be forgotten night. We went to bed and despite the trials and tribulations we’d undergone, slept soundly – due to Mam’s cocoa perhaps?

The next day we learned that every window in every house in the street running parallel with ours had been broken and some damage had been done to roofs. There were tramlines in that street, two trams on their way to the tram sheds when the alarm sounded. The drivers stopped, the conductors with their long poles pulled the trolley poles away from the overhead lines to put the lights out.

Drivers and conductors heard the Zeppelin, heard it move away and decided to attach the trolley poles again to the overhead lines as they were anxious to get back to the tram sheds. However, apparently the Zep, after flying as far as Burton-on-Trent decided to return. The supposition was that the target had been the railway station and the two trams resembled from the air a lighted train.

Many stories were bandied about, one being that the Zep had picked up the trail of a train. The fire box had to be opened to keep the fire stoked up which must have made a steam engine not difficult to find from the air.

The driver of one late train was supposed to stop at Derby station, but aware that a Zep was in the area and afraid of the damage that could be done should he become the target for a bomb, the houses close together, many accommodating big families, he drove straight through open country. Actually to Chaddesden sidings about two miles the other side of Derby. We were told later that the driver’s nerves were so shaken by the terrors of that night he never drove another train again. I can’t verify the truth of that though – it was hearsay. Months later my oldest sister told me that some men, six I believe, had been killed. They’d been engaged in repair work at the sidings. Mam never mentioned these fatalities. As I said before, horrors were kept away from young ears.

We were told innumerable tales of personal experiences such as that of a spinster lady who lived across the street with her father and two nieces. The lady took her nieces down the cellar but her father refused to join them.

‘Clara,’ he said, ‘no German is driving me into the cellar.’

The words were hardly out of his mouth when a huge piece of shrapnel, shattering the window pane, cannoned into the wall above his head. Unhurt, he was covered in plaster and dust. Chortling, he still wouldn’t take refuge down the cellar.

The field at the bottom of our garden ran at the back of most of the houses on our side of the street and along the backs of the houses on the main road at right angles to us. Mr Scott the grocer who kept the corner shop, stabled his horse in this field. I don’t know whether the horse would be outside in February, certainly neither horse nor stable were damaged.

Only my older sister and I went to school on the morning following the air raid. Our younger sister still asleep, my mother wouldn’t disturb her. We saw the pavements in Bateman Street covered in glass and slates, broken windows, holes in roofs. Pupils seemed thin on the ground when we went into the hall for assembly. Miss Johnson the headmistress said as usual ‘good morning girls’ and we replied ‘good morning Miss Johnson’.

‘Some of us have had a disturbed night,’ she said, ‘but I notice that two girls from the worst hit area have come to school. Others with less excuse have stayed away.’ Making this observation, her eyes rested on my sister and I. Nudging each other we blushed, thrilled that our presence had been both noticed and commented on.

Our hymn that morning was of course ‘Fight the Good Fight’. I don’t believe the Zeppelins ever got so far inland again. At any rate I don’t recall spending another night in the cellar. Once was enough.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

A kick in the araboolies

So (to begin in the fashionable way), I was observing a lad having a post-tantrum sulk out of class, and to be a little less obvious I picked up a book and pretended to read.

It was (and I'd never heard of it) "The Araboolies Of Liberty Street".


"You need a new DPF filter, mate!" (Pic source)


Published in 1989, Sam Swope's tale for tots promotes racial/cultural tolerance.

The Araboolies are a multicoloured family; even their individual members change hue regularly. Their house is a gaudy exception to the uniform Fifties-style US suburban residential zone of ticky-tacky dwellings and flowerless rectangular front lawns.

And General Pinch hates them. Like all military men, he is a stupid, choleric, fun-hating racist. He wants the Araboolies out, and he's prepared to tell the army (who "don't think, they only obey orders") to deport them.

I trust it won't spoil the tension of this story for you if I reveal that the tables are turned by a clever trick. The local residents all doll up their houses, leaving the Pinches' one as the exception, which the moronic soldiers dutifully tow away to nowhere.

Liberalism is good, though paradoxically (as I argued a few days ago) it is only made possible by limits. How far can we go in dealing with people whose opinions we don't like?

In the story, the Araboolies are playing a ball game outside; the ball crashes through General Pinch's window and bashes him in the stomach, sending him flying backwards. How we are supposed to laugh! Had it been written for older readers, perhaps he'd have got it lower down.

The children who had this kind of thing read to them grew up and went to college. Now they want to ban speeches by the feminist Germaine Greer and  pull down Cecil Rhodes' statue in order to erase Horrible History.

I don't know about America, but I grew up in a country that was tolerant without needing propaganda for infants. My teachers and classmates never teased me for wearing lederhosen to primary school in the Fifties. Despite having a Germanic forename,  I wasn't victimised for my European heritage in the Sixties - the occasional greeting of "'Itler" was only in jest, in the piss-taking and welcoming way of the British.

That was because my education was about learning things other than opinions.

Opinions are the hardest things to fight against. They grow like weeds in the mind. Facts, logic, experiences are what we need, and debate, always debate.


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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, January 25, 2016

Globalism and its threat to liberty

Individual liberty is not an absolute; it exists in a social context. Reasonable limits on behaviour are established by some combination of external compulsion and learned self-restraint.

Even John Stuart Mill recognised this:

"It is not because men’s desires are strong that they act ill; it is because their consciences are weak. [...]

"In some early states of society, [the strong desires and impulses of individuals] might be, and were, too much ahead of the power which society then possessed of disciplining and controlling them. There has been a time when the element of spontaneity and individuality was in excess, and the social principle had a hard struggle with it. The difficulty then was to induce men of strong bodies or minds to pay obedience to any rules which required them to control their impulses.

"To overcome this difficulty, law and discipline, like the Popes struggling against the Emperors, asserted a power over the whole man, claiming to control all his life in order to control his character-which society had not found any other sufficient means of binding.

"But society has now fairly got the better of individuality; and the danger which threatens human nature is not the excess, but the deficiency, of personal impulses and preferences."

- "On Liberty" (1859), Chapter 3.

The slogans of individual freedom are used by rich and powerful persons and corporations to justify knocking down all obstacles - tax, law, regulation, restrictions on the international movement of capital and people - to their own advancement.

In the wake of their activities come economic uncertainty and cultural confusion, out of which arises growing social unrest which the governing power in each country or region is challenged to contain.

When the populace feels its collective identity crumbling, the State feels obliged to compensate for the weakening of individual psychological constraints by an increase in spying, legislation, police and armed forces.

If the "men of strong minds" cannot be persuaded or compelled to accept certain bounds to their impulses, their liberty will depend upon the progressive subjection of the majority.

The nation-state is not a restriction on liberty but that which gives liberty its form, just as the sonnet is not a cage for words, but its house and organising framework. "To enter in these bonds, is to be free," said John Donne; like life itself, freedom is a paradox, a balance of contradictory forces.


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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, January 24, 2016

Trillion Dollar Drain - is it about bail-ins?

Yesterday I commented on Hugo Salinas Price's observation that Central Bank assets have declined by a trillion dollars in 17 months. I thought it might be caused by big money trying to get away from a potential dose of inflation as governments try to print their way out of obligations.

Of course, buying government bonds wouldn't help with that. How silly of  me to forget.

But what it would help with, is avoiding a giant cash-grab by banks as they start collapsing.

Ever since the law case Carr v. Carr (1811) it has been clearly established - but still not generally known by most people - that bank deposits are not simply left for safekeeping. [This was re-discussed in 2010 in the wake of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, e.g. here in the Daily Telegraph.] Revisiting this issue in the courts in 1816, the judge Sir William Grant ruled that "money paid into a banker's becomes immediately a part of his general assets; and he is merely a debtor for the amount."

"Depositors" go without dividends and recently have received no or little interest to boot. In the optimistic dreamworld of the common man, it's worth it for the sake of security - but he does not enjoy preferential/secured creditor status, either. Yet he goes on happily, relying on some vague notion that he'll be made whole if something goes wrong.

But I warned in 2007 that at that time in the UK only the first £2,000 was 100% guaranteed and any excess over £35,000 had no protection at all. This was later raised (in line with an EU directive) to €100,000, translated (roughly) into British £85,000 - and from 1 January 2016 it has been reduced to £75,000 as the Euro sank. [It's a moot question: which is more nearly broke, the EU or the UK? and how will that impact relative currency values? One wonders what the maximum UK depositor compensation will be in the near future.]

In the US, the security for depositors depends on the FDIC, which Tyler Durden explained last May is in no financial condition to weather a storm, having a reserve ratio of merely 1.01% in 2014.

This is of little concern to the average American - less than half the population has anything more than $1,000 in savings and a fifth have no bank account at all. A couple of years ago a survey found a similar picture in the UK.

But ultra-high net worth (UHNW - assets > $10 million) individuals have something to worry about if the banking system turns turtle:

"UHNW households held more than $10 trillion (about 7 percent) of global private wealth in 2014, a slight increase over 2013, and will be the fastest-growing segment through 2019 [..] At a projected CAGR of just over 14 percent over the next five years, private wealth held by the UHNW segment will grow to an estimated $20 trillion in 2019," says Boston Consulting Group.

It would not be surprising if in the context of shrinking global demand and (for now) low inflation wealthy individuals were looking to bonds as a safe haven.

Let's ignore bond holding by corporations, pension fund and other fund managers, and national governments. The missing trillion dollars that exercises Hugo Salinas Price is less than 10% of UHNW household assets.

What a great time to be a bond salesman!


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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Trillion Dollar Drain

General Midwinter's invasion force sinks through the Baltic sea ice - a still from "Billion Dollar Brain" (1967)

Billionaire businessman and precious metal advocate Hugo Salinas Price notes that exactly one trillion dollars has disappeared from global Central Bank reserves since August 2014.

He comments:

"The fall in International Reserves is a clear indicator of a world-wide economic slump, which will become a severe depression... World liquidation has set in. The Piper must be paid. Growth is gone. This will be story in this epic year 2016."

- and asks, who bought that $ trillion-worth of assets?

I look forward to some expert opinion enlightening me.

Is this a sign that the super-rich and the offshore "dark pools" are offloading their cash for something safer? If so, is that an indication that they expect inflation as governments try to pay their obligations with debased currency?

Alternatively, has there been a secret write-off of unpayable debt?

Or did somebody at Bloomberg just hit the wrong key when updating the figures?

This infographic from Demonocracy shows what a trillion dollars in (100-dollar bills) looks like, compared to a football field (it's still only 6% of the US debt ceiling):

(Pic source)


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Friday, January 22, 2016

Inspiration

"This was not the first, nor was it to be the last, time that I had taken over a situation that was not going too well. I knew the feeling of unease that comes at first at such times, a sinking of the heart as the gloomy facts crowd in; then the glow of exhilaration as the brain grapples with problem after problem; lastly the tingling of the nerves and the lightening of the spirit, as the urge to get out and tackle the job gets hold."

- Field Marshal Viscount Slim, "Defeat Into Victory"


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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wind power in hot water

source

In Sweden a helicopter sprays hot water on iced-up wind turbine blades. 

Glaciated rotor blades are the scourge of wind turbine owners in cold climates. Alpine Helicopter in Constance has developed a new way to kick-start production when the ice forces the turbines stop: a helicopter that sprays hot water.

It takes us about 1.5 hours to process a sharp occurrence of icing wind turbines, says CEO Mats Widgren.

The water is heated over night using a truck equipped with a 260 kW oil burner. When morning dawns are 44 cubic meters of the 60-degree water in the tanks, and the helicopter can start running in the shuttle to the icy wind turbine.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Is the world reverting?

Perhaps democracy never really had a hope. Voters don’t do anywhere near enough political analysis to make it work. Depressing surveys such as this one even suggest that voters know how little they know as they cast their vote. From the beginning the romance of democracy was usurped by political parties who understand the low information voter only too well. So they make it easy for us by selling a political brand instead of something concrete or radical. We might ask for more. 

Inevitably voting for a brand was never enough to keep alive the charade of democratic accountability. Now we reap the consequences. We are reverting to the old ways, to the days of a remote elite, an aristocracy based on nepotism, armies of functionaries, cosy deals with business elites and millions of graded sinecures for the faithful.

Our evolving aristocratic world is not a world of kings, queens and ancient titles because the new brand has to be differentiated from the old - obviously. So fewer top hats and conspicuous displays of wealth and power because the visual clues must be kept to a minimum. Aristocratic life is also far more complex than it was in the old days, with many more grades of membership. Yet the rise of new style courts, courtiers and functionaries has become too obvious to ignore. The EU is one such court, Westminster another.

As well an evolving global elite, our new world teems with millions of functionaries and servants whose lives depend not on the votes they cast but on the developing patterns of power which constitute the new world order. The ultimate shape of a global aristocracy may be a matter of conjecture, but the omens are not good. We are not naturally benign when it comes to dealing with outsiders. 

An emerging global aristocracy also raises a question about Cameron’s EU referendum. It seems to be the only move we in the UK have left to put a stick in the global elite wheel. Not a very big stick though. A Poohstick perhaps?

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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, January 17, 2016

Trident: the "sore thumb" problem



Joking apart, Jeremy Corbyn's objections to nuclear Trident submarines, and his suggestion of non-nuclear missile loads, have some point.

As Ken Livingstone (I know, but bear with me) said on this week's Radio 4 "Any Questions?", the sea is no longer a cloak of invisibility. As David Connett reported in The Independent's Boxing Day issue:

"... a revolution in underwater drones, as well as advances in sonar, satellite and other anti-submarine warfare systems, mean that even totally silent submarines are likely to become detectable. Some sensor technologies can detect large submerged objects by monitoring small movements of surface water."

Defence expert Bryan Clark foresees a change in role, whereby big, manned subs will operate from further back and smaller, drone subs will be deployed up front:

"Submarines will increasingly need to shift from being front-line tactical platforms like aircraft to being host and coordination platforms like aircraft carriers. Large UUVs and other deployed systems that are smaller and less detectable will increasingly be used instead of manned submarines for tactical missions such as coastal intelligence gathering, land attack, or anti-ship missions."

There is indeed scope for serious discussion of Trident, and not just in Labour Party circles.


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Archbishop of Canterbury "to move Christmas"

We understand that Where's-God?-Welby (Eton, Cambridge and Cantuar) has extended his plans to rationalise Christian festivals.

A secret discussion document leaked to Broad Oak Magazine builds on his proposal to make Easter a fixed-date feast with a scheme to combine it with Christmas.

"You are statistically more likely to have a white Easter than a white Christmas," explains the paper, quoting a BBC webpost from 2010. "So why not do a two-for-one and get it all over with in springtime?"

Time-slots under consideration include April 5, so that Christmas and end-of-tax-year sales figures can be published simultaneously (to be known as "The Annunciation") and alternatively, February 29 (offering the productivity advantages of three celebration-free years).

"The birth of Santa has a deep personal meaning for me," comments the prelate, "as I used to work for an Elf."


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Krazy Korbyn on Trident

All right, so maybe some of you agree with Jezza that we should stop our steel industry disappearing. But just read this treacherous b*st*rd on giving up our nuclear protection:

"Trident is a waste of money... Modern Russia... has no interest in attacking us or any conceivable reason for doing so... Trident is useless against [the encroachments of the EU] ... mass migration... the IRA (to whom we surrendered, despite being a nuclear power) and Islamic State.
 
"We do not even control Trident, relying on the USA for so much of its technology and maintenance that we could never use it without American approval. How independent is that?

"Trident... will probably end up more than £100 billion, at a time when we are heavily in debt already. If there were any obvious or even remote use for it, then maybe this could be justified. But there isn’t. We could easily maintain a small arsenal of H-bombs or nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, just in case, for far less.

"It is not just bearded pacifists who doubt its use. Senior civil servants, serious military experts, senior officers in all branches, privately and in some cases publicly reckon it is simply not worth the money."

Bang to rights, let's lock the b*gg*r up -

oh sh*t sh*t sh*t it's not Corbyn it's Peter Hitchens, sorry. Still, we've got him on the IRA, haven't we - damn, no, that was Blair and the Yanks...

I'll have him on something yet, talk amongst yourselves while I keep looking...


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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Krazy Korbyn Korner

Wacko scruffmeister Jeremy Corbyn has come up with another honkeroo of a daft idea: helping the steel industry! Yes, it's true multiple exclamation marks emoticonfest ffs lol.

He is to speak at the Fabian Conference today, saying among other things that the Tories’ “laissez-faire attitude to the steel industry could let a downturn become a death spiral”.

As the BBC website said last October, "Many argue that this is not just a crisis for the steel sector, but one affecting UK manufacturing in general, which accounts for roughly 10% of UK economic output."

And now Jezza wants to do something about it.

What a b*st*rd.


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Friday, January 15, 2016

"Settled science"


"Chinese symbols for interrogative, questioning, curious, inquiring, uncertainty,
hesitation, misgiving, distrust, skepticism, interrogation, question, query, inquiry, doubt."
 
Beware of unanimity:

"R[abbi] Kahana said: If the Sanhedrin unanimously* find [the accused] guilty, he is acquitted. Why? — Because we have learned by tradition that sentence must be postponed till the morrow in hope of finding new points in favour of the defence."

- from the "Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin", Folio 17a.  According to Wikipedia, this Talmud from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) was composed of "documents compiled over the period of Late Antiquity (3rd to 5th centuries)."

*(Usually the Sanhedrin was composed of 23 judges.)

A recent law paper by Ephraim Glatt argues the relevance of this to modern jurisprudence, pointing out the difficulties and drawbacks of attempting to get a unanimous jury verdict.

But a statistics paper out this month discussed here (hat-tip to Anna Raccoon) also argues that beyond a certain level of corroboration (e.g. in a police line-up of suspects) there is an increasing risk of false positives.

Perhaps more of us would be persuaded by the claims of "warmists" if climate "experts" had more dissenting voices? Similarly, Matthew Parris in last week's Spectator said he would be more likely to vote for Prime Ministerial motions on such matters as Europe, Iraq and Syria if we had "leaders with the intellectual self-confidence to ask us for no more than a modest two cheers for a halfway decent case."

As the old saying goes, "“Ask two Jews, get three opinions.”

More light, less heat?


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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Paralysis, action (and obstruction)

Two parables of initiative and leadership, and one of selfishness versus the general good:

World War Two: the Chindits are behind Japanese lines in the Burmese jungle in the lead-up to the battle of Imphal. The Gurkha column is turning right, towards a road they must cross. The Brigade commander, Jack Masters*, reaches the turn:

"I glanced up, and saw, straight ahead of me, a hundred feet distant, four soldiers [...] I realised that the four soldiers were Japanese. They were staring at me. I moved behind a tree, called the nearest officer, Baines, pointed out the Japanese, and told him to kill them. When he had done that he was to keep the huts under observation until the rear of the force got well past the spot. Baines, too, stared at the Japanese. 'My God, so they are,' he said. The Japanese kept staring. 'Get going!' I snapped. The Brigade Defence Platoon ran down the ridge, firing. Two Japanese ran away, two were killed. They were all armed. Ten minutes later, we crossed the road, unmolested.

"This incident, at an unmarked place on a vague map, still baffles me. What were those Japanese doing there, staring at us as we marched by? Why had no one in front of me seen them? It was inexplicable..."

3 September 1666: John Evelyn** witnesses the Great Fire of London. Oddly, as the flames spread, no-one makes any rational move...

"The Conflagration was so universal, and the people so astonish'd, that from the beginning (I know not by what desponding or fate), they hardly stirr'd to quench it, so as there was nothing heard or seene but crying out & lamentation, & running about like distracted creatures, without at all attempting to save even their goods; such a strange consternation there was upon them..."

Then the King takes charge:
 
"It pleased his Majestie to command me among the rest to looke after the quenching of fetter-lane end, to preserve (if possible) that part of Holborn, while the rest of the Gent: took their several posts, some at one part, some at another, for now they began to bestirr themselves, & not till now, who 'til now had stood as men interdict, with their hands a crosse, & began to consider that nothing was like to put a stop, but the blowing up of so many houses as might make a <wider> gap, than any had yet ben made by the ordinary method of pulling them down with Engines: This some stout Seamen propos'd early enought to have saved the whole Citty: but some tenacious and avaritious Men, Aldermen &c. would not permitt, because their houses must have ben <of> the first..."

___________________________________________

 * "The Road Past Mandalay" by John Masters (Michael Joseph, 1961), pp. 212-213
** "The diary of John Evelyn" ed. Guy de la Bédoyère (The Boydell Press, 1995), pp. 154-155


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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cameron to extend culling program

Pilot cadger-culling schemes are to be extended into a nationwide drive to eradicate bovine TB, the Prime Minister announced today.

"Cattle-like total brainlessness, or bovine TB, is a serious threat to the economy," said Mr Cameron. "There is now little doubt that the cadger is the main vector."

Living closely together in overcrowded, flea-ridden rooms, cadgers are rarely seen in daytime.

A typical cadger family, enjoying unearned comfort

Instead, these dim, workshy creatures venture out at night, snuffling round alcohol outlets and fast-food takeaways, infecting others with their example of effortless entitlement. 

"The touching British affection for cadgers is miguided," said the premier. "If anyone deserves effortless entitlement, surely it should be those who vote for us, or give us jobs in the financial sector when we've finished playing at politics. My plan to redevelop Labour-voting housing estates will deal with the problem at its source."

Some commenters contend that Mr Cameron is intent on showing his effectiveness as a leader. Other observers say he's NFU.


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Monday, January 11, 2016

Cameron's giant plan for unaffordable housing

The Prime Minister has electrified the country with his pledge this week to "build the paupers out of London."

Responding to a long-standing demand for unaffordable housing, Mr Cameron said, "It is time to clear out the riff-raff. They've cluttered up the place for far too long."

"There's just too much money to be made," he added. "We have to make our capital safe for foreigners, and make their capital safe as well."

"To those who worry about diluted standards in a building boom, let me say that safety is our first concern. There is no Council or Parliamentary seat safer for the Conservatives than one where the absentee owners can't vote Labour and the tenants won't. High-priced flats are a win for them and a win for us."

His parting remark, "Let's see how John Healey likes that" is taken to refer to the shadow housing minister's mooted plan for a programme of new social housing.

We contacted a number of property developers known to make political donations to the Tories, but they were unable to comment as they all fainted from greed on hearing the news.


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Drunken robots



The biped robots shown after the quadruped door opening device - they look drunk to me. How does one make a robot drunk though? One of the marvels of technology I suppose.

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Saturday, January 09, 2016

Who is Shaun Connell? And the end of liberty

A friend reposts this picture on Facebook:



Plain common sense, isn't it?

Isn't it?

No. Unemployment is not a simple issue with simple answers. And there are systemic global issues of the kind the late Jimmy Goldsmith did his best to publicise at the time of the GATT talks in 1994.

The "Capitalism Institute" was set up by Shaun Connell, who describes himself on the Seeking Alpha investor website as "a 26-year-old retiree, enjoying some time to pursue passion projects after hustling with 18-20 hour workdays for years." He says a bit more about himself on his blog, "Stand Strong Finance."

One tries to find a little more on this paragon, e.g. on Vebidoo - snapshot here:


- but the first three links lead to "page not found" or similar.

Well, by his own account he worked hard for years (how many? Not as many as Jimmy Goldsmith, for sure) - though I wonder whether anyone actually works 20 hours in a day.

Fair play to him if it's true, though he's not the only person who works hard.

And he probably underestimates the degree to which good luck came his way. Or understates it - remember Josiah Bounderby in Dickens' "Hard Times"?

I have a theory that's been taking shape in my mind recently, about the historic end of Romanticism and popular democracy. It seems to me that we're headed backwards into the eighteenth century, a time when slave traders tried to claim insurance on heavily overloaded ships that sank and have the human cargo treated as goods for which compensation should be claimed. Indeed it surprised me - I am so naive - that English involvement in slavery ended not out of Christian compassion and conscience (though that was certainly the motivation of many activists including Wilberforce) - but because a Parliamentary deal was struck whereby the British State would buy out the plantation owners. The fortunes established by this deal continue to have beneficiaries to this day, including our present Prime Minister David Cameron.

The modern American right wing seems to include many who, dressed appropriately, would fit comfortably among the rhino-skinned plutocrats of 18th-century London clubland (why does Bilderberger Ken Clarke spring to mind?) And they look for propagandists like Connell, who argue for even softer tax and regulatory treatment of the super-rich and moralise at the ordinary people on whom they prey.

Liberty and a fair chance in life are not natural or inevitable. War and national insolvencies were what led to the French and American revolutions, otherwise Rousseau, Tom Paine, Robespierre and others would have been merely obscure footnotes in history.

We read much these days about inequality and how it will break the system. Nonsense. Injustice is eminently sustainable. As John Masters* commented from his 1941 visit to Iran:

"For centuries Persia has consisted of a small number of immensely rich and ruthless men and a large number on the edge of starvation. We were invaders, but the huge majority of the people only wished we would stay, and overturn the country's whole polity, so that they could breathe."

The great fortunes are being re-made; the aristocracy is re-forming (and co-opting such members of the currently-democratic political class and Fourth Estate as are willing to wear their livery); the gyre is turning again. The rough beasts are slouching towards Brussels and Washington for their rebirth.

___________________________

*The Road Past Mandalay, Michael Joseph, 1961

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Friday, January 08, 2016

Smoking gun: BBC news manipulation

How the BBC has taken it on itself to "make" the news

Please see "Pride's Purge" at https://tompride.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/bbc-producer-deletes-blog-where-he-admits-political-manipulation-before-pm-questions/ - found via Mike Harding on Facebook.

The original piece on the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/collegeofjournalism/entries/82a00c77-c0cc-4e79-99ca-25e9c21d01a7 has been deleted.

The cached copy is here http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:tCufUeYIpA4J:www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/collegeofjournalism/entries/82a00c77-c0cc-4e79-99ca-25e9c21d01a7+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk 

- and I reproduce the full piece below in case that, too, becomes an unpiece:

_________________________________________________________________________

Resignation! Making the news on the Daily Politics





is an output editor for the Daily and Sunday Politics series


Wednesday’s edition of BBC Two's Daily Politics was notable for a shadow front bench minister announcing his resignation on live television. We asked the programme’s output editor Andrew Alexander what went on behind the scenes.
 
An error occurred [i.e. video no longer available]

Wednesday is always an important day for the Daily Politics because we carry Prime Minister's Questions live, which brings with it our biggest audience of the week and, we hope, a decent story.

As I arrived at Millbank at 7am it was clear that Jeremy Corbyn's cabinet reshuffle, which had ended before 1am, was going to dominate at Westminster.

When the programme editor phoned in we agreed that in addition to covering other major stories, including the junior doctors' strike, fallout from the reshuffle was likely to continue throughout the morning and this was a story where we could make an impact.

When the producers arrived at 8am they began putting out texts and calls to Labour MPs we thought were likely to react strongly to the sacking of several shadow ministers for "disloyalty".

Just before 9am we learned from Laura Kuenssberg, who comes on the programme every Wednesday ahead of PMQs, that she was speaking to one junior shadow minister who was considering resigning. I wonder, mused our presenter Andrew Neil, if they would consider doing it live on the show?

The question was put to Laura, who thought it was a great idea. Considering it a long shot we carried on the usual work of building the show, and continued speaking to Labour MPs who were confirming reports of a string of shadow ministers considering their positions.

Within the hour we heard that Laura had sealed the deal: the shadow foreign minister Stephen Doughty would resign live in the studio.

Although he himself would probably acknowledge he isn't a household name, we knew his resignation just before PMQs would be a dramatic moment with big political impact. We took the presenters aside to brief them on the interview while our colleagues on the news desk arranged for a camera crew to film him and Laura arriving in the studio for the TV news packages.

There's always a bit of nervous energy in the studio and the gallery just before we go on air at 11.30am, but I'd say it was a notch higher than usual this week. By this point we weren’t worried about someone else getting the story as we had Stephen Doughty safely in our green room. Our only fear was that he might pull his punches when the moment came.

When it did, with about five minutes to go before PMQs, he was precise, measured and quietly devastating – telling Andrew that “I’ve just written to Jeremy Corbyn to resign from the front bench” and accusing Mr Corbyn’s team of “unpleasant operations” and telling “lies”.

As Andrew Neil handed from the studio to the Commons chamber we took a moment to watch the story ripple out across news outlets and social media. Within minutes we heard David Cameron refer to the resignation during his exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn.

During our regular debrief after coming off air at 1pm we agreed our job is always most enjoyable when a big story is breaking - but even more so when it’s breaking on the programme.
 

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Crisis? What crisis?



As Dave Barry said in 2002:

Q. But with the market down, isn't this a smart time to buy stocks?

A: Definitely. There has never been a better time!

Q. Which ones do you recommend?

A: I will sell you mine.


For a contrary opinion, please read James Altucher's latest: "Financial Fridays: The Stockmarket Is Bullshit."

In these paradoxical times, the opposite of the truth is also the truth. As Altucher often says, nobody knows anything. Including him, and he says that, too. Bullshit and chutzpah rule: he started a personal advice service when he was broke and friendless. Like many successful people, he has been - is - on a rollercoaster ride.

Problem, is, not everyone wants that.

Other problem is, we were fooled into expecting a steady alternative.

Out of the wreckage of the postwar world we climbed, and there were jobs and businesses aplenty. You could make money and save money. One client I had in the '90s explained: "I overcharged you, you overcharged me, we all did well. Now I undercut you and you undercut me."

Big business helped the developing world develop and made insane amounts of cash selling its products to Western lunkheads who had come to think the party was forever.

Then the party was extended by getting us into debt so we could carry on overspending. Then again, by getting the government to bail out the banks and to continue to issue bonds to support the unemployed, the underemployed and the low paid. Then the Left was happy to import poor people to teach us a cultural lesson, and the Right agreed because it helped businesses with their bottom line - continuing to externalise present and future costs of the operation to the State's account.

It'll go on, until it can't. Look up the Martingale system of betting. Meanwhile, enjoy the complimentary drinks.


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Thursday, January 07, 2016

The loneliness of the battlefield

June 1941: newly-appointed Major-General Bill Slim addresses the officers of 10th Indian Infantry Division in Iraq. The audience, like all in HM Armed Forces connoisseurs of bullshit, half-expect to go away as usual with "the impression that their general was a pompous old blatherskite."

But having congratulated them on their success in skirmishes so far, Slim makes practical recommendations for further improvements in tactics and training, and goes on to prepare them mentally for the harder fighting to come:

""... in the end every important battle develops to a point where there is no real control by senior commanders. Each soldier feels himself to be alone. Discipline may have got him to the place where he is, and discipline may hold him there - for a time. Co-operation with other men in the same situation can help him to move forward. Self-preservation will make him defend himself to the death, if there is no other way. But what makes him go on, alone, determined to break the will of the enemy opposite him, is morale. Pride in himself as an independent thinking man, who knows why he's there, and what he's doing. Absolute confidence that the best has been done for him, and that his fate is now in his own hands. The dominant feeling of the battle is loneliness, gentlemen, and morale, only morale, individual morale as a foundation under training and discipline, will bring victory."

"I went back to our camp in a thoughtful mood. Slim's sort of battle wouldn't be much of a lark, after all.""

- from John Masters' autobiography, "The Road Past Mandalay."


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It's official: kittens more important than liberty or drugs

The 65-year-old piece about a young cat on the Matterhorn has displaced "Liberty and drugs" on the all-time most-read list (left sidebar).

In related news, our attention span has dwindled from 12 seconds to 8 - one less than goldfish - thanks to smartphones.

Naturally, the class of people who read will continue to direct our lives. As Pantsov and Levine reveal, the Chinese Communist "Long March" of 1934-35 was, in Mao's case. the "Long Carry", as he was borne for thousands of miles on a litter in which he continued to absorb knowledge from books, so that he could eventually model his long and brutal reign on the worst and most effective aspects of the old Emperors.

Let's leave it all to the higher-ups to manage, shall we?

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a kitten.


- Old Possum's Book of Practical Distraction

Lol.


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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

What is it with slugs?

Yet again, last night, checking the kitchen before bed, my bare foot steps on something slimy. I have to evict the soggy-cigar thing with kitchen roll and wipe my foot repeatedly.

We now have a bunker-grade triple-glazed back door. How do they get in?

https://d861dk9kf78fl.cloudfront.net/CreatureComforts2_NewsThumb_Big.jpg


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Monday, January 04, 2016

The Yeomen Of The Guard

World War Two: the Household Cavalry prepares for combat...

At the general's final inspection before the division left England for war, he had asked one of the Yeomanry colonels whether everything was in order. The colonel replied, "Oh, I think so, George." The general gently pressed for details - ammunition? Vehicles? Non-coms' training? Gas-masks? The colonel scratched his head and said, "Dash it, I don't know about any of that, George... but we've got forty dozen of champagne, well crated, and the pack of foxhounds is in fine fettle."

- from John Masters' autobiography, "The Road Past Mandalay."


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Sunday, January 03, 2016

New poll - exercise your democratic right!

See right sidebar - answers by Twelfth Night, please.

UPDATE:

The question was: "It's another rainy bloody day. Do you..."

Put the world to rights on Blogger?
Watch Rhod Gilbert on Youtube?
Get your burnt-out car headlamp replaced?

Go shopping?
 
The winner - on a tiny poll - was the last. Personally, I found Rhod Gilbert far and away the best use of my time.

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Saturday, January 02, 2016

Could there one day be liberalisation in Islam as there was in Judaism?

Extract from the article on “The Muslim Enlightenment Movement of the early 2200s” from the International Enseculopedia (2416 edition)

“… The Almustaniri ("enlightened") main motivation and aim was the modernization of the Muslims, in accordance with the rationalistic and liberal ideals of the Western Enlightenment. Members of the movement sought to acquaint their people with European culture, have them adopt the vernacular language of their lands, and integrate them into larger society. They opposed Islamic reclusiveness and self-segregation, called upon to discard traditional dress in favour of the prevalent one, and preached patriotism and loyalty to the new centralized governments. They acted to weaken and limit the jurisdiction of traditional community institutions - the Sharia courts, empowered to rule on numerous civic matters, and the Council of Elders, which served as lay leadership. The Almustaniri perceived those as remnants of medieval discrimination. They criticised various traits of Muslim society, such as child marriage - traumatized memories from unions entered at the age of thirteen or fourteen are a common theme in Almustaniri literature - the use of anathema (laenatan) to enforce community will and the concentration on virtually only religious studies.
“As long as the Muslims lived in segregated communities, and as long as all social intercourse with their non-Muslim neighbours was limited, the imam was the most influential member of the Muslim community. In addition to being a religious scholar and "clergy", an imam also acted as a civil judge in all cases in which both parties were Muslims. Imams sometimes had other important administrative powers, together with the community elders. To become an imam was the highest aim of many Muslim boys, and the study of the Quran was the means of obtaining that coveted position, or one of many other important communal distinctions. Almustaniri followers advocated "coming out of ghetto," not just physically but also mentally and spiritually in order to assimilate among non-Muslim nations…”

Couldn't happen? The above paragraphs are only very slightly adapted from this article on the 18th Century Jewish Enlightenment or "Haskalah".

But surely the Wahhabite version of Islam currently tearing up the Middle East is too ferocious to ever permit liberalisation?

So was Judaism at one point. Have a look at the Bible, for example the Book of Numbers, Chapter 25. Here's a snippet:

"6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

"7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;

"8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly."


That (and other things) brought me up short when I was trying to read my way through the Bible as a child.

Things will change, over time, once the worst have been dealt with. One hopes. In any case, the headbangers do not represent the majority, even now.


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