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Friday, November 30, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Led Zeppelin - with a twist, by JD

A lot of Led Zeppelin fans worship Jimmy Page and regard him as a deity. On the other hand there are a great many people who think he is the devil incarnate. They are both wrong of course. Page was an excellent and very reliable session musician in the 1960s and subsequently joined The Yardbirds alongside Jeff Beck after Eric Clapton had departed. It is not mentioned in his Wiki entry but he knew that he needed to learn music notation which would help his songwriting, and so that is what he did but it also helped him to write music that has lasted to this day and a lot of his music lends itself very well to orchestration.

A lot of classical musicians could see how the songs were structured and how they could be transcribed for large or small ensembles. This is a selection from the many available on YouTube. I have included two versions of Kashmir to show how the same tune can be interpreted in very different ways; the first by Ghislaine Valdivia being very dramatic and rhythmic and the second being more lyrical.

Good music is always a nourishment for the soul!













Thursday, November 29, 2018

Russia's New Arctic Seaport: Another Cover Story?

RT.com tells us that a new port is to be built at a little settlement called Indiga, on the shores of the Barents Sea.

Adapted from Google Maps

The story is that it will be needed for exporting coal, and will need a rail link between there and Surgut in western Siberia:

 "The annual cargo turnover is set to reach 70 million tons, 50 million tons of which will account for coal shipments, extracted from Russia’s biggest coal mining area in the Kuznetsk Basin, located in southwestern Siberia."

https://www.reddit.com/r/russia/comments/70szu9/russias_coal_reserves_and_production_by_region/

This begs the question, why put all that effort into new northbound rail and port construction, when the Trans-Siberian Railway runs in the area, connecting East to West?


In fact there are already discussions going on between Russia and Japan for using the Trans-Siberian route for freight transport, possibly all the way from Moscow to Vladivostock, saving up to 40% in costs compared with current sea and air routes (see RT story from 20 August this year.) The city of Leninsk-Kuznetsky is somewhere within striking distance of that railway.

Surgut is rather further north. But it is a leading oil and gas town and the first RT article says that Indiga was to have been used for exporting liquefied gas. Rosneft didn't get the permit - but is this a possible comeback, for them or some crony of the Red King?

There may be wider issues. The Arctic Ocean is expected to be largely ice-free in another couple of decades; Russia is going to get her all-year-round ocean port after all.

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/featured-images/will-arctic-be-free-summer-sea-ice-30-years

That will be useful for exports.

Or imports? There is a tussle going on for control of mineral resources in the ocean. Using international law, Russia is trying to claim that its continental shelf gives it rights up to the North Pole.

Or is there a longer-term plan relating to the Eurasian Union (a sort of Eastern EU)? This has been cooking for five years. In which case the theme is not so much East-West trade as Russian-centred North-South trade:

https://en.paperblog.com/trans-asian-corridor-of-development-russia-s-super-canal-to-unite-eurasia-734226/

Maybe Arctic military/naval potential, too.

I suggested back in 2014 that the Russian leadership may have been using the Olympic developments at Sochi (etc.) to bolster its defence capabilities there. Having taken the Crimea, they now see the Black Sea as essentially their pond; and unfortunately the Ukraine appears to be trying the Russians' resolve (though at whose instigation is anybody's guess. (UPDATE DEC 1, 2018: there may be a clue here - US "classified Contingency Operations" - https://off-guardian.org/2018/11/30/us-military-contractor-is-hiring-personnel-to-support-classified-contingency-operations-in-ukraine/)

Unlike our British Government, which appears to be unable to think further ahead than the next Party Conference, the Russians may have an Oriental capacity for playing the long game and covering their intentions.

So, coal to the Arctic? Doesn't quite seem to explain it all.

__________________________________________________

https://www.rt.com/business/445042-arctic-route-port-mega-project/
https://www.reddit.com/r/russia/comments/70szu9/russias_coal_reserves_and_production_by_region/
https://www.rt.com/business/436358-trans-siberia-cargo-transportation/
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-03-02/surgut-cited-as-best-russia-oil-with-28-billion-secret-energy
https://www.climate.gov/news-features/featured-images/will-arctic-be-free-summer-sea-ice-30-years
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/17/arctic-exploitation-battleground
https://www.economist.com/international/2014/12/17/frozen-conflict
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territorial_claims_in_the_Arctic
https://en.paperblog.com/trans-asian-corridor-of-development-russia-s-super-canal-to-unite-eurasia-734226/
https://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.com/2014/03/from-sochi-to-sevastopol.html
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/28/russia-deploy-missiles-crimea-ukraine-tensions

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Estate Agents: A Cut Above - Or Not? by Wiggia

Gavin & Stacey meets a typical Estate Agent from The_landlord on Vimeo.


Those who know me will be very aware that I have been trying to move house for some time, "some" being a very elastic word in this context.

This time round we have been unfortunate on two separate occasions. On the first sale we simply could not find a suitable property within the time frame our buyer was prepared to wait; and on the second, having found a property, we were lied to about a certain item that was only revealed in its true light after the searches and money was spent, so again back to square one and we lost another buyer, c'est la vie. It all fits in well with our moving horrors of the past but that has been covered in a post some time ago.

This is about estate agents. Over the years we have dealt with and put our trust (an increasingly diluted trust, over time) in a variety of agents, all of whom suggested only they could sell your house at the highest price in the shortest time span with the utmost efficiency. The vast majority have  failed miserably on all counts and have on occasions been responsible to driving me to drink, not that I need much of a push in that direction.

People reading this who simply put their house on the market and sell and move with no problems are always amazed when discussing moving house with myself  and in their eyes you can see that look of “He must have been part of the problem,” such are the stories I can tell. But that is not true, though I do believe I carry the burden of all things bad in the house-moving world, a sort of cross to bear on behalf of all vendors.

But this is not not about any personal tribulations, well only partly. It is about a certain aspect of estate agents that seems to be set in stone, the stereotype who inhabits these high street offices, the same sort of stereotype depicted as a car salesman on the Fast Show by Swiss Tony - far from being a rare species they abound in car showrooms as they do in estate agencies, I have met those as well !

Our latest toe-dipping into the house-moving arena has meant we have changed agents more than once, not necessarily because we actually believed it would make any difference but because if a property does not sell within a set period or there is a problem they all stop working for you and start working for themselves, i.e. offload your property at any price as it clutters their books and makes them look inefficient and that would never do.

Back to the stereotypes. They seem to fall into three main categories:
  • The branch manager. He will normally be a bit more normal in dress, decent chinos, polished shoes, or a reasonably smart suit and the obligatory BMW or Merc, rarely will any other car do for a first visit. A theme repeated at all levels of estate agency is gravitas, the appearance of success over ability. Strangely the few women encountered at this level have all been fairly normal and for some strange reason they rarely arrive in the BMW or the Merc. This of course is a generalisation: the exceptions have been a couple of the younger ones who manage to display somewhat more than average cleavage or wear very tight skirts - to be fair, I don’t mind these diversions if they take my mind off the whole sordid saga of selling my house, even for a very brief moment !
  • The negotiator. This is the level where the stereotype really kicks in. The men, mostly young go-getters, dress in a variety of obvious agency outfits, from the ludicrous winkle picker shoes that would have been out of place even in the Sixties so extreme are some, to the tight trousers that exaggerate the shoes. The waistcoat sans jacket is de rigeur here as well and a head of hair that is either of the Poldark variety or the other extreme, the polished shaven pate. Some also have now forsaken the leather document folder and taken to the ‘man bag’ - nice.
  • The office manager. This one rarely comes into play. A sort of overseer, they usually talk total bollox when covering up the mistakes of the negotiators and will put you on hold a lot whilst they try and find an answer the negotiator can give for their cock-up, or alternatively say they are out of office and will phone back later with an answer. Very often the phone call never comes and you repeat the action the following day at least once. I have some time for the office managers as they sit watching this charade from a lofty position, knowing it is them that will face the ire of the client;but not always - the last agents we were with were all snake oil sellers from branch manager down.


The women, or girls as many are, do display a lot of clothes that are totally unsuitable for inspecting loft voids or guiding people around gardens in inclement weather, and the patter is missing with most of them compared to the men. They are more of a decorative add-on in the viewing area compared to the men and again they seem to mainly get the downgrades in the car stakes: the Mini reigns supreme in this area, emblazoned with the company logo. Maybe that is why the men won't be seen in one, knowing how despised estate agents are.

Another aspect of those employed, especially amongst women, is the name: a Mary or Joan just will not cut it. Lavinia, Antoinella... my current one I will not embarrass by revealing but I have never met a ‘real’ person with the same name even in these enlightened times. And if you can can combine an exotic forename with a double-barrelled surname you are made. The industry must have cornered the market in double-barrelled personnel. It obviously adds gravitas to the agency and our current agent has two on the books at this one branch which must generate extra points in the one-up stakes. Needless to say our exotically named negotiator has a double-barrelled surname, I wouldn’t have it any other way; sadly she is deficient in every other department and uses right-on phrases like scattering confetti - they are so numerous that I cannot remember a single sentence she has uttered without one. The fact she cannot remember a single relevant fact about our property is neither here nor there; she really has only attribute, a very nice bum, but that sadly is not going to sell my house.

It is often said that estate agency is a career option when you don’t have a career. After all no qualifications are needed yet you will be ‘helping’ people make the biggest and most expensive decision in their life and are dealing with sellers with properties that are a lifetime's accumulation of their wealth and savings. Both parties deserve more than a polyester suit chasing his commission at all costs.

The commission side of the business is one of the huge disadvantages of estate agents. Someone who makes a career out of selling unsuitable property to naive and new buyers so his commission racks up regardless is a first rate slimeball but they still exist.

"Why not go online and bypass the high street agent?" is the obvious response. There is no doubt that this side of the business will grow and prosper but not all is shiny gold. Two things should make anyone contemplating this route think hard: firstly, with most you pay up front, no sale and you lose your money; secondly, the prices advertised are not normally the finished deal - photos are often extra, newspaper placement (if you want it) is extra, and several other add-ons mean that overall you don't make the attractive savings you expected at first. Plus you do all the viewings. Nevertheless this will be the future, though you can guarantee that the day online outfits become the norm, having ousted the high street agent, the fees will go up: never expect a good deal from an agent.

Mind you, despite all the agents that promise to accompany the prospective buyers as part of the deal you will find that after the first couple the agents will start to phone the day before and say they are short-handed or have got their timings wrong or some such rubbish and could you do the viewing? Why? Because the most popular days for viewing are weekends and the agents or most of them still live in the "open only on Saturday morning" world and either don’t have enough staff to carry out their obligation or simply never intended to.

Do the different agents work in different ways? They will say they do but the bottom line comes first and there is rarely a fag paper between them. The posh up-market ones claim to sell the better homes and there is something in that as buyers, not knowing how they work, see the posh offices with Doris at the computer and think "this is more like it"; but the only reason they have a posh office and Doris is they charge more.

By now you will realise I am more than slightly cynical about the whole agency business. Anecdotally I could fill pages with stories of failure and misrepresentation and I imagine so could many others.

The posh agents are as mendacious as the chains. We had a good example last year, having signed the papers on a deal that included photos by a professional photographer and been shown the glossy brochures to prove it. The appointed day came for the picture taking and the manager turned up. I said "Where’s the photographer?" and he replied, "Didn’t I say? I do all the photographs !" Now he could have been a very good photographer, but he wasn’t.

We had a posh agent some years back that did nothing for three months and provided no viewers. They then phoned and suggested we lower the price, the usual first line of change when they have had no joy despite their having expertly priced the house in the first place. We dumped them and went with a local branch of a chain known at the time in Essex as Bastard Thieves because it rhymed  with the same. Contrary to expectations they never stopped phoning and sending people round and they sold at an agreeable price, one of the few good agents we have had and from an unlikely source, so they do exist. How do you find one? You tell me.

There are one or two other wheezes you will come across. If things are slack you will be sent buyers who can’t afford your property to make it look like you have chance of selling when there is none. You also may get an almost immediate viewer who is a cash buyer and is in a hurry to buy; mostly these are not real buyers, they are rent-a-viewer and an offer from these has never transpired. You will also get viewers sent who have not even got their property for sale but you have distinctly stated you don’t want anyone who is not at least on the market, so they don’t tell you.

Estate agents are still not regulated other than associations run by - you guessed it - estate agents, and if anything goes wrong unless it is fraud they are very difficult to pursue for damages. Not to be regulated when dealing with with what is for most people their entire worldly goods harks back to a time when the devil took the hindmost, yet for years proposals have been put forward and then diluted or binned. They are almost a protected species.

We had a very good example in the family years ago of what would be blatant fraud in most businesses. An aunt left with a property after divorce wanted to sell and move to a flat because of her advancing years. This was in the boom of the eighties, and the property was on a private road within walking distance of Virginia Water station, one of the prime property areas in the South-East. She got no viewers and was extremely naive and I only got to hear when it was too late, otherwise we would have purchased the place as we had sold at the same time. The agent got her to drop the price in a rising market, and it did sell - to a builder friend of the agent. There was nothing anyone could do about it, and that was as good a reason to detest estate agents as any I can think of.

Now just having shown round a couple who have viewed for the third time and having been told that the nameless one couldn’t make it, the same nameless one who told the couple she would meet them here, I am even more convinced her bum really is her only asset.

It could be said that estate agents are an easy target for stereotyping and so be it as they conform regardless of ridicule. That is why if you get a good one you should stick with them: they are a rare breed, one that is actually working for you the person who pays them rather than working for themselves and a quick commission.

Update: the very nice bum showed a prospective couple round the house. Phoning the following day she almost squealed with delight that an offer had been made. "Not enough," I said so she went back. In the next phone call she was at her most breathy-voiced and successful-sounding: "An offer you can’t refuse," and so it was; well, it was what we wanted. "Only one thing: the prospective buyers have sold their place but the house they were buying before you fell through so they want you to move out by Christmas in exchange for the good price."

It was difficult at that stage not to use obscene language but I managed not to. My answer was: "If they want us to move out they will have to pay for our costs of renting, double-moving and storage, with a bit on top for the bloody inconvenience at our age."

Nice Bum goes back to the prospective buyers but returns with not enough, but pleads with us as it is a good sale. "For you and the buyer," I said, "but not us. Why can’t they rent? My wife is struggling with ever worsening arthritic knees and more. I am getting too old for all the upheaval twice over. Let them rent." Once again she goes off to convey our position.

The following day again a breathless successful voice on the phone: "Yes, they will rent, but want you to pay their storage and extra costs, plus they want to start the sale process straight away with an exchange date pencilled in," despite the fact we have not yet found a house.

"I think not," I say; big sigh at the other end. "No way am I paying their costs on anything. They lost a property: not my problem, and if the sales process starts and we don’t find something we will have to move out; and if they agree to a normal sale we will be liable if we accept their offer as they want to cover your finder's fee come what may."

This puzzles Nice Bum: "What do you want? This is normal now."

"It might be for you," I say, "but not me. All I want is an offer on the table whilst we look around and as soon as we find something we accept the offer, straight forward, no strings."

By this time NB is in despair, as the bottom (!) line is all about selling, not looking after her client. This goes against the grain. Despair is setting in. Once again she goes back.

The next day NB is despondent: the prospective buyers will look elsewhere unless we agree.

"Elsewhere it is, then."

Silence.

"I really don’t know what you want." says a very down NB.

"I think you do," I respond, and with that we return to square one.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The EU leaders are clever-stupid

Someone has posted a quotation on Facebook saying:

"The United Kingdom built its power around two principles: keeping the British Isles united and the European continent divided. Today it is about to succeed in the opposite."

Too neat, I think.

The EU member nations are divided too, which is why the EU is determined to make an example of us. I can hardly believe the incompetence of negotiators on the UK side, especially Mrs May since she seems to have taken on the role herself despite being on her third Brexit Secretary.

And tensions within the EU will not be resolved no matter what the EU does to us. In fact if they push us too hard they will give even more motivation to Italy, Hungary et al. to do their own thing.

It's the combination of wiliness and mule-headedness on the part of the EU leadership that is stoking the crisis.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Anti-Brexit Spin Puts Mail Newspapers In A Tailspin?

All newspapers appear to be losing readers - but the Mail most of all. Here is the latest I can find:


Data source: Press Gazette (The right-hand column is mine.) 
To put it into perspective, if you multiply the daily sales by six and add the Sunday edition, the Mail's weekly loss totals 1,019,198 - more than the entire current sales of the Guardian/Observer (979,801).

Why so large? In part, possibly because of Mr George Carron Greig's editorship since he took over the DM from Paul Dacre. The new line on Brexit, vilifying those who are trying to see the result of the Referendum put into practice, will have repelled many readers.

As Dacre warned in the Spectator:

"Support for Brexit is in the DNA of both the Daily Mail and, more pertinently, its readers. Any move to reverse this would be editorial and commercial suicide."

Further, it is my impression (and do please correct me if I am wrong) that Greig's Mail on Sunday was (still is?) supportive of Scottish independence-while-simultaneously-remaining-in-the-EU. This oxymoronic nationalism is a strange confection also espoused by the otherwise penetrative intelligence of Craig Murray and I can only understand it in terms of an almost gibbering atavistic hatred of the English. Or maybe something akin to that expatriate sentimentalism that causes New Yorkers to drink Guinness on St Patrick's Day, even if they're not of Irish descent.

Odd, you may think, that Lambeth-born, Eton-and-Oxford educated "Geordie" Greig might (if I interpret him rightly) take this stance towards bonny Scotland; but his father served valiantly in the Scots Guards during WWII and it's just possible that there may be family tradition at work here.

Which is why I recently wrote him a letter explaining the reason for cancelling my subscription, and concluding:

"May I also say how illogical it seems for a Scot to desire independence for his country within a profoundly undemocratic and micromanaging European Union, moreover a Union determined to become a single nation in which Scotland’s fate is to be a negligible backwater; and how contradictory it seems for him to wish this peculiar freedom for his country while doing his best to deny genuine self-government to the rest of the United Kingdom."

If I'm wrong about him, then perhaps I've made a fool of myself - not such a big task, really. But if I'm right, then I look forward to a Stuka-like further nosedive in Mail readership.

P.S. Bad Maths!

The total actual losses in sales should have been calculated by reference to the levels of a year before. But that would support my general point even more re DM/MoS readership haemorrhage vs current readership of the Guardian/Observer.
________________________________________________________________

https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/national-newspaper-online-abcs-metro-sees-lowest-circulation-drop-as-industry-wide-decline-continues/
https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/06/paul-dacres-diary-the-daily-mail-will-commit-editorial-suicide-if-it-turns-against-brexit/
https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geordie_Greig
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carron_Greig
https://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.com/2018/11/boycott-daily-mail.html

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Radical Marketing & Mau-Mauing The Track-Catchers

I followed up a political link to another site and as usual there were ads interrupting the flow of reading, all the way through.

So I clicked on "ad choices" and found there were 113 companies assuming the right to track my online path and target tailored ads at me, unless I specifically forbade it - which as far as I can, I have done, now.

I sometimes read columnists who complain that they get lots of ads for penis extensions and so on. What do they surf the Net for in their free time?

But for fun, I thought I'd do a few teasing Google searches myself:

"How can I make my penis smaller?"

"How can I cure my sex addiction?"

"How can I become less handsome?"

I'll let you know how I get on.

Any further suggestions for search sentences? Will you try something similar yourself - e.g. lots of questions about broccoli?

Here's the first non-financial one I noticed on Tim Newman's blog, since the searches a few minutes ago. On the site it's a gif and the girl appears to be rocking back and forth a bit, hands out of sight; not exactly what I asked Doctor Google for. Still, they're doing their best, I suppose:

Found on http://www.desertsun.co.uk/blog/ 24.11.18

Weekend Wonders: at the edge of the Universe

https://www.space.com/18502-farthest-galaxy-discovery-hubble-photos.html

Friday, November 23, 2018

EU: Staying On Board Is Not Playing Safe

Photograph of the derailed locomotive

Faced with the truly awful draft Withdrawal Agreement that the Prime Minister seems determined to push onto us, some are saying "See, why don't we just stay in?"

That is a dangerous illusion. The word "remain" seems to imply staying as you are, avoiding the risks of the unknown; and in life, often a change of course overestimates reward and underestimates risks and costs, which is why 80% of new businesses fail.

But with the EU, Remain is not the option to stay safely on the platform: it is a decision to stay on the train.

And where is that train going? It is now going where it was originally supposed to go.

In the 1920s Jean Monnet began to lay his plans for a supranational organisation that would make military conflict between France and Germany impossible; first, by controlling coal and steel - the basic materials of modern industrial war-slaughter - and then by acquiring more "competences" (a code-word for "powers", used with other deceptive terms to soften the resistance from national governments and peoples.)

It is not only Britain that resisted. Despite Community discussions on military policy, France wanted to develop her own nuclear bomb; and despite attempts to harmonise agricultural policy, France wanted to protect French farming, which after WWII still employed a quarter of her working population and where the too-rapid introduction of efficiencies could have resulted in major civil disorder. De Gaulle vetoed British entry until the EC agreed the Common Agricultural Policy that used most of the Community's financial resources to sustain small French farmers. So France got what she wanted.

Britain could only get in once the CAP deal was unalterable - and the impact on farming and fishing (the incompetence of the negotiators on our side is staggering - fishing had hardly been considered!) was profound. This is not to mention the effects on our other industries, including coal and steel.

Remain supporters sometimes delight in pointing out that Margaret Thatcher herself was a Europeanist, forgetting that in earlier years she, like many others, saw the European project as essentially a trading bloc. She was prepared for Britain to play its part and fought for a rebate to make the arrangements less unfair towards us; in other words, she was trying to make the system work.

And that was reasonable, for by the early 1980s the EEC train had long been stationary at the halt of inter-governmentalism: negotiated multinational settlements.

But then, with a lurch, the train set off again. As Booker and North's magnificent study "The Great Deception" shows, in 1983 a plan was put together to unite Europe into a single nation. Monnet's dream, of which he was despairing by the end of his long life, was to come true after all. The Italian Communist Altiero Spinelli had a team draft a treaty to establish the European Union that was passed by the Parliament on 14 February 1984. There were two stages: first, the Single European Act, which was signed in 1986 and moved towards the establishment of a single market by 1992; and then the Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1992 and setting the destination of European economic and monetary union, the foundation of a new supranational State.

Maastricht was the "dolorous stroke" for British sovereignty, and recognised as such by Parliamentarians who were otherwise strongly opposed to each other:
  • Margaret Thatcher wrote to Bill Cash MP on 17 March 1993 to say "I understand that it is being suggested in some quarters that I would have agreed to the Maastricht Treaty. May I make it clear that I would NOT have done so. In my view it is contrary to British interests and damaging to our Parliamentary Democracy." 
  • Tony Benn MP, in the Third Reading debate in Parliament on 20 May 1993 (starting 6.35 p.m.), said "I have often wondered whether, when we lost democracy in Britain, it would be to the red army, the Militant Tendency or Oswald Mosley, but in fact we ourselves have given it up. The House has agreed to abandon its responsibility to hold to account those who make our laws. We have given it all up." For him it was - said dramatically but without exaggeration - "my last speech in a free Parliament."
The Maastricht Treaty was further amended over the years in Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon, each time extending the powers of the EU. Despite the British Labour Party's 1995 manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on the European Constitution, when it came down to it the Labour Government defeated a vote in Parliament to do just that.

So the express continues on its journey towards nationhood, and not only by the establishment of a Central Bank and centralised budgetary control over member States. Two days after attending the centenary commemoration of the ending of the First World War, Frau Merkel was in the European Parliament, once again urging the setting-up of a European military "intervention unit" and saying that "we have to work on a vision to establish a real European army one day."

And it's not just the loss of British Parliamentary sovereignty that is at issue. We have little enough control over our own politicians, but at least we were able to make PM David Cameron change his mind over bombing Syria. Our history has caused us to develop constitutional restraints on the Executive - restraints it sometimes tries to circumvent by "Henry VIII" enabling clauses and the use of Orders in Council. Even if we cannot always bell the cat, we have a political culture of healthy distrust towards our rulers.

The EU Constitution, on the other hand, is designed specifically to overcome popular resistance to unification, so that its "Parliament" is little more than a talking-shop where many members merely sign in and straightaway pull their wheelie suitcases back towards the taxi rank.



Many of the EU's political leaders have had their attitudes to power shaped in a very different political culture - think of Frau Merkel in East Germany, Donald Tusk in Communist Poland. More even than our own political elite, these people tend towards the bureaucratic and authoritarian. So not only has our country joined a larger organisation (thus further diminishing the citizens' voice), but this new and still evolving superstate centralises decisions almost as though it were run by an Emperor and his court. Who will restrain it if it decides sometime - as empires always have done - to make war? To invade, to expand, to silence critics, to crush rebellion?

To stay is not "to stay as we are." Paradoxically, to leave the EU is our best chance of holding on to an imperfect status quo.

FRIDAY MUSIC: The Chapman Stick, by JD

What is a Chapman Stick? It is a new musical instrument, invented by Emmett Chapman and is a sort of cross between a guitar and a piano. The strings on a guitar are plucked and the strings on a piano are struck with hammers so the stick is basically a guitar which is played by the fingers striking or tapping the strings above the frets. Quite simple really and guitarists often use it as a technique. But the stick has ten strings or twelve where the guitar has six. You can read more here -

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapman_Stick

New to me and I first came across one when I found a Rachel Flowers video of her trying one for the first time so I decided to explore some more and the videos here are a selection of what I have found.













Thursday, November 22, 2018

Brexit For Dummies

                                                                                                                            Sackerson

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Boycott the Daily Mail !

Here is a letter I am sending today:

Mr Geordie Greig, Editor, Daily Mail
Northcliffe House
2 Derry Street
Kensington
London W8 5TT

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Dear Mr Greig

Why I am cancelling my subscription to your newspaper

I have today instructed your marketing department to cancel my Direct Debit for the daily and Sunday editions of the Mail.

I have been a subscriber for a very long time but I cannot support your otherwise entertaining and informative publication while, presumably under your direction, it mounts a biased and vituperative campaign against those who are working to see the result of the EU Referendum carried out.

May I also say how illogical it seems for a Scot to desire independence for his country within a profoundly undemocratic and micromanaging European Union, moreover a Union determined to become a single nation in which Scotland’s fate is to be a negligible backwater; and how contradictory it seems for him to wish this peculiar freedom for his country while doing his best to deny genuine self-government to the rest of the United Kingdom.

Yours faithfully...

Cc: Mr Paul Dacre; The Bruges Group

Friday, November 16, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Mellifluous Melly, by JD

Many years ago I saw George Melly with John Chilton's Feetwarmers. One of the most entertaining and enjoyable shows I've seen. Melly was a showman through and through with his immaculately tailored eccentric elegance and his outrageous humour. They don't make 'em like that any more, sad to say.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Melly

(The final video here is from the TV show 'This Is Your Life'- unfortunately the last ten minutes or so are missing.)















Thursday, November 15, 2018

Capitalism or Socialism: a false dichotomy? Open thread

"So much of our history since the mid nineteenth century has been about the people with money and power doing their best to push socialism into extremes so as to make themselves the only possible choice."

Right or wrong?

Defenestrate the trollop!

A new book has been widely reported. It lists 600 English words that are in danger of falling out of common usage.

I think I have found a use for two of them already; the British Cabinet, the 1922 Committee, the Labour Party, the House of Commons and the electorate at large may find them most apt at the moment:

"Defenestrate the trollop!"

Placards under construction now.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6388837/Gadzook-Writer-says-600-endangered-words-including-conk.html

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Imperialism never died, by James Higham

With all the wonderful political capital afforded by the "Russian menace" in America and "the U.S. menace" America, let alone China, it's as well to remember that imperialism never died - it's been going on in the modern era since at least the 1700s.

The French in the New World of America, the Spanish, the French sniffing around Australia and beaten to it by the British in 1788, the Dutch there also on the other coast a century earlier, the Chinese ten years ago in Africa - it's going on the whole time, as the Germans can attest.

In my time in Russia, the British were "known" over there for using the British Council for its purposes and I was caught up in the wash in 2008 when the BC was expelled from Vladivostock.  

And so it goes on and on.  Exxon in Sakhalin is another example.

This one below is from the heart of "the enemy", the European Council on Foreign Relations and I'd say it's par for the course:

https://www.ecfr.eu/amp-article/commentary_russias_hired_guns_in_africa
The murder of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic in July 2018 raised new concerns about Russia’s presence in Africa. Because the reporters were investigating the activities of Russian private military contractors (PMCs), there has been widespread speculation that they were killed at the behest of a Russian state determined to expand its presence on the continent. This explanation is plausible: after years of irrelevance in resource-rich but politically unstable central Africa, the Kremlin has heavily relied on PMCs – a cost-effective and efficient tool for hybrid confrontation – in making its return to the region.
Putin publicly supported the creation of mercenary groups in 2012 but, officially, they remain illegal in Russia. Although the Kremlin refuses to acknowledge their existence, PMCs have become an essential tool of Russian foreign policy. This has been apparent in both the Ukraine conflict and the Syrian civil war. By employing irregular armed groups, Moscow has gained the luxury of plausible deniability: the ability to simultaneous be and not be party to a conflict, thereby escaping public accountability for casualties of war. The Kremlin’s response to the decimation of a Wagner Group unit in Syria in early 2018 provides a good example of this.
I could equally write of the US and NATO in the Ukraine through their puppet Poroshenko - let's be evenhanded here. And now we have the spectre of the EU Army:


It rather undermines talk of the nationalism versus patriotism which Macron went on about on the 11th at the Arc de Triomphe, surrounded by flags and the military.  It's not my intention to get into party politics in this post, only to point out that nationalism and imperialism has never died and all the EU is is a new artificial nation, not unlike Belgium, its headquarters.

Sackerson sends these two links which delve into this matter of the Merkel Army:



Sackers' further comments:

Or does [Frau Merkel] mean merely to start it off as that until the EU is a full nation and can indeed boast its own national armed forces?

Monday, November 12, 2018

(Global Cooling X) (Global Warming X) (Climate Change X) Climate Variability, by JD



A new report from the Met Office states that "The hottest day of each year in the most recent decade was on average 1.4F (0.8C) warmer than each year's hottest days in the period 1961-1990."
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6344601/Climate-change-sees-nights-temperatures-dont-drop-68F-before.html

My immediate thought was "Why 1961-1990?" Why not 1861-1890? Or even 1061-1090? An interesting choice of comparative dates because oldies like me remember the 1960s. That was when I escaped from school and entered the grown up world of work. The weather has always been a favourite topic of conversation in this country but in the 60s it was especially so because, then as now, there was a big scare story about the changing climate. In those days it was all about the start of a new 'ice age' rather than global warming. The very long and severe winter of 62/63 seemed to confirm those fears. I remember it well because that was the winter I was learning to drive. In a Mini, which was not ideal when there are huge snowdrifts on either side of the roads!

I don't know how much time the climate 'experts' spend in their offices and how much time they spend out on field trips to look at or for evidence of their theories. In my own working life I have spent at least half of my time out of doors either on construction sites or in fabrication yards building oil rigs. So to flesh out the bare bones of the story in the above video I shall relate a few tales of what I have experienced regarding climate and/or nature as it is in reality. Anecdotal and in no way 'scientific' but their will be thousands who could tell similar stories.

It wasn't just my working life where I spent time out of doors. Unlike today, back in the 'bad' old days much of childhood was spent playing outside and family holidays were also outdoor affairs, weather permitting. So to start off, a 'climate change' tale from a childhood holiday in Eyemouth. There was a line marked along one of the sea front houses showing the water level during flooding in 1953. I remember my father pointing it out and showing the description written on the plaque alongside. The line was above my head as I stood next to it and I just could not comprehend, among other things, how the sea could flood or how a high tide could be so high. High tides and storms are a regular hazard for towns and villages on either side of the North Sea going as far back as 1881.
Global warming? Climate change? No such thing in those days, it was nature giving a demonstration of its awesome power.

My first venture working overseas found me in Dubai. To say that the climate there came as a shock is an understatement! Not just the heat but the humidity, over 90% in the evenings. But you sort of get used to it after a while and gradually settle into a routine which consists of eternal sunshine during the day and a steam room in the evenings. One day the sunshine became rather less bright and gradually the sky darkened and turned brown as a swarm of locusts surrounded everything. There must have been millions of them flying through on their way to who knows where. My office at that time was one of the portakabins in the fabrication yard and it sounded as though we were in a hailstorm as these insects banged their heads on the roof and walls. Some even found their way inside and crawled around in their confusion seeking an exit. They were effectively giant brown grasshoppers about four inches long. Eventually the swarm (plague?) passed and they all disappeared including the ones inside our office who seemed to 'know' how to rejoin the main body as if linked by invisble threads. They did not all depart because more than a few had flown into the generators and fried themselves. Their bodies were quickly scooped up and eaten by the locals working in the yard! If it's good enough for John the baptist.......

It was years later that I discovered the Arabic word for locust is daba or dibi (hence the names Dubai and Abu Dhabi) so the swarm or plague has obviously been a regular feature for centuries. That event was not really climate related but it does demonstrate the wonders of the natural world and how little we really know about seasonal rhythms.

Perhaps the most spectacular demonstration of nature's power is lightning. I have been struck by lightning four times! Not directly of course or I would not be writing this. I have flown into Bilbao airport twice and on both occasions the plane was hit by lightning just as it was landing, maybe 100 feet or so above the runway. This is apparently a regular occurrence at Bilbao airport. Nothing untoward happened, the energy in the strike was discharged safely to earth. On another occasion I was travelling from home to London when the plane was hit by lightning but this time we were about half an hour into the flight and at cruising altitude. There was a sort of 'whoosh' sound and then the interior of the cabin quickly became warmer before slowly returning to normal. The Captain then came on the PA to explain what had happened and very laconically said in his very distinct Scots brogue "ach, nae bother" or words to that effect! An aircraft is basically a Faraday cage and the electrical energy is dispersed around the fuselage before being discharged back into the clouds at the tail or some other exit point. It is known that a commercial aircraft will be struck by lightning at least once per year and are designed to cope with it.

The fourth event was one Sunday at the racecourse in Madrid. There was a sudden downpour and very heavy it was along with a thunderstorm. And then an almighty crack of thunder in a brightly illuminated sky which meant we were directly underneath. All the lights went out, all the beer pumps stopped, all the coffee machines likewise. All electrical circuitry was blown. Except the TV screens of the Tote! They obviously had a UPS system installed, a clever box of tricks which immediately switches to a battery if the supply is interrupted.

And so for the first time I had first hand, empirical evidence of what our climate can do to us. We may think we can control nature and we can to a certain extent but we cannot counter the sheer magnitude of the energy of something like that or anything else nature can do.

The physicist David Bohm calculated that there is "more energy in one cubic centimetre of space than is contained in all the matter of the known universe." https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/204523.Wholeness_and_the_Implicate_Order
The implication of that concept is virtually impossible to fully understand and yet, it seems to me that the climate scientists are confident that they understand and can deal with anything, given time. Reminds me of the mad scientists in the third part of Gulliver's Travels.

I have saved the 'best' till last mainly because it was my most recent experience. While I was working in Chile on a power station project there was an earthquake. This happened late one evening and I knew what it was as I had been reading that morning about the earthquake design requirements for the building. My apartment block began to sway from side to side, at first slowly but then with increased frequency until I could see the chairs on the balcony dancing and the chandelier in the living room was swinging violently and was actually hitting the ceiling. And then it subsided and all returned to normal. Was it alarming? Well at one point I thought "perhaps I ought to panic?" But I didn't because, as I say, I had been reading about earthquakes that morning. The following day on site one of the locals explained to me that they would get two types of quake; one in which the earth moved laterally and one where the earth would move violently up and down. The first was alarming but did not often cause any damage, the second type on the other hand was the one that destroyed buildings. So what we had that night was an 'oscillate earthquake' I think that is the correct term. According to the TV news it had lasted 90 seconds and seismometers in Buenos Aires had picked it up, in fact it had been felt by people in Buenos Aires which is on the other side of the continent. My apartment overlooked Valparaiso Bay on the Pacific.

After that event I know that terra firma is nowhere near as firm as we like to believe! I think the climate scientists ought to get out more and stop relying on books and theories and computer forecasts. The truth is that the 'experts' do not know anything about our climate, or at the very least their understanding is minimal.

The main 'cheerleaders' for man-made climate change are concentrated in metropolitan areas or other large cities. Something which will never occur to them is that a city tends to generate its own climate, it exists in its own micro-climate. This can be easily demonstrated by travelling a short distance to a rural area and the difference in temperature will be significantly lower away from the the city. It would take another post to explain the details as well as my own observations of the phenomenon so this will give a few brief ideas-
https://equipobonsai.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/environment-and-architecture-hassan-fathy/

There have been two events in history which, if they happened again, would invalidate all of the computer models which suggest that somehow mankind is altering the climate:

It is known that there was a major volcanic eruption in 1257 (the actual date is unclear,) Evidence from core samples, from examination of tree rings and from written records and chronicles at the time all point to a huge cloud of ash in the atmosphere surrounding the earth such that there was a 'year without sun' or possibly more than one year. The effects on food production can only be imagined, but it certainly was not beneficial. "When large scale volcanic eruptions inject aerosols into the atmosphere, they can form stratospheric veils, which reduce the amount of light reaching the surface. That reduces the temperatures on much of the Earth and can cause problems in agriculture including famine." I have seen reports that our climate scientists have suggested erecting in space something similar to shield the earth from the sun. They are mad but they do not know they are mad!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1257_Samalas_eruption

In 1859 there was a Coronal Mass Ejection from the sun, a solar flare in other words. What that did was to release a burst of electromagnetic energy which swept over the earth causing damage to the newly installed electric telegraph systems in Europe and the US. If such an event happened today the consequence for our heavy reliance on electricity for just about everything would be catastrophic.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

One man who studies solar activity from which he prepares weather forecasts is Piers Corbyn, brother of Jeremy Corbyn. This is what he writes about the effects (or more accurately the non effect) of CO2 on our atmosphere and our climate:

"The world is not warming and has not been doing so for 18 years. Even under fraudulent UN-MetO-NOAA manipulated data the world is not warming. ALL the alarmist predictions of CO2 warmism have failed.

"See http://www.weatheraction.com/docs/WANews14No11.pdf and links in Article about BBC-MetO charlatan John Hammond's Science Denialist claims, in WeatherAction blog http://bit.ly/1xKYPrJ (sec3)

"FACT  Changing CO2 has no effect. EVEN the Models used by the Met Office and UN's Climate Committee (the IPCC) show CO2 levels have no effect on the Jet Stream or extremes which come from the Wild Jet stream changes which they fail to predict.  It is meteorological fact that the recent very wild weather extremes and contrasts follow from wild Jet Stream behavior. THAT Wild Jet Stream (Mini-Ice-Age) behavior was and is regularly predicted by Piers Corbyn's Solar-Lunar approach and is nothing to do with CO2. See http://www.weatheraction.com/docs/WANews14No06.pdf & Piers' video http://bit.ly/QS0k34
The claim that these extremes are driven by CO2 /man made Climate Change is a lie for which there is no evidence or scientific paper which demonstrates a link in the real world."
http://weatheraction.com/

And so, in spite of the anecdotal and expert (real experts) evidence, the climate scientists and the politicians continue to believe in the false god of 'climate change' and press ahead with their mad schemes which will 'fix' a non-existent problem. Such hubris!

"..but man, proud man,
Dress'd in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd—
His glassy essence—like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep."

- WS, Measure For Measure

Saturday, November 10, 2018

It’s Free, by Wiggia

A short everyday story: last year after Christmas the long-serving Christmas tree had passed into the distinctly tatty phase and bits were dropping off. Time for it go to that place in the sky that is occupied by retired Christmas trees. The wife says we will have to get another one for next year and I said with luck we will not be here.

Of course, we are still here. The local independent garden centre has a loyalty card - who hasn't? - and I mainly use it when I buy compost, they do a good range and you get a further discount and I use a lot of the stuff here in my far too large garden and dozens of giant pots accumulated over time.

The GC sent a mail out saying they were holding a special open evening for card holders, today 4 till 8, and as with all garden centres they are doing a special meal at a very good price, plus you get a free mince pie when you go in ! The evening has 25% off all Christmas decs so the wife cottons on and a date in the diary is marked.



Not having been to this bun fight I said we go at four, get what we want and get out, mission accomplished. They do by the way have a excellent section for Christmas decs etc, as good as I have seen anywhere, so off we go.

As we arrive there are cars blocking the entrance and the road trying to get in plus the usual numpty who having got just inside the gate is looking for an empty space there and then and to hell with the traffic tailing down the road. I nearly turned round and went home, but the wife insists we go in so we do; there is not a parking space anywhere at four ! But they have a retail village round the back with its own car park so I make for that and lo and behold we are in luck: it still had a few spaces empty.

Back into the garden centre, where at the entrance to the main building is this enormous queue. Again I want to go home but as we have come this far in we go, me under duress. The queue is on one side and we went straight past and in. Once inside the reason for the queue was obvious: it was for the free mince pie. There were two people giving out the mince pies on the showing of your loyalty card and there were two platters piled to the sky with the crusty objects. Everywhere you went people were eating bloody mince pies, it is amazing what the offer of something free, even as mundane as a mince pie, does to the general public psyche. Mayhem!





The place was packed and before the wife got sidetracked inspecting gnomes and furry animals for the tree. I suggested we get the tree and the lights plus any "essentials " and get out. Reluctantly she agreed as she was already edging down the colour co-ordinated aisles of Christmas decs.

You will need a trolley for the tree I was told, but there is no way you can manoeuvre a trolley through this madness, so I got an assistant, got the tree and took it to the exit and left it there till we returned with the "extras". A basket was needed and the lights went in and a garland she wanted.
"Can we go now as the tills have not started to get busy?" "While I am here," she said, "we might as well have a look for a few baubles for the tree as I want to replace some old ones." Old ones are replaced on a yearly basis so they are not really old, but she gets great pleasure from the decorating and I succumb.

By now every spare inch of space is taken up by seemingly endless hordes of people eating mince pies, huge waves of small and excited children get under your feet and they drop mince pies or part of them everywhere; older people meet old friends and block the aisles as they chat without the slightest suspicion that the aisles are blocked by their complete disregard of what is going on round them. And still they come. Without seeing it creep up behind me I am nearly rammed by a mobility scooter - how the hell did he get this far? The basket on the front is empty but I detect traces of mince pie down his front. You would think that they would all be laden with Christmas decs, but no, today garden centres are for coffee buns and meals, plus of course mince pies, so they just amble about all getting in each other's way.



I put my soft foot down and suggest she has got what was "essential" and I suggest we leave before it gets really busy. Reluctantly she agrees and I make a short cut through the plant area thus avoiding the pie-eating throng. We reach the tills, I pick up my awaiting tree and glory be there is a till that is empty. "That was lucky," I say and the assistant says "It is, in another half hour as last year the queues are into the main retail area." "We could have stayed a bit longer," says the wife; one look was my answer.

We paid, saving over £55 with my accumulated card points plus the 25%.  I go and get the car and bring it back to load up. We exit easily and pass the entrance that is now blocking the road for a hundred yards. "Thank Christ for that," I say. "But we could have stayed a bit longer." I did not reply and drove home rather like the Sixt adverts, a bit smug, but also rather sad: for in my haste I did not get my mince pie as was my right - after all, they were free.

Weekend Wonders: Metamorphosis

Friday, November 09, 2018

After Brexit: civil rights

A major theme in the almost haphazard evolution of the British Constitution is the restraint of executive power. By contrast, the carefully designed constitution of the EU is about unification, at any cost. This is why the UK's entry into what is now the EU was a marriage doomed from the outset.

As North and Booker's book "The Great Deception" makes clear, the roots of the EU go back to the 1920s and the desire of visionaries like Jean Monnet to establish a supranational body that would once and for all end the deadly rivalry of France and Germany. Who could oppose such an aim?

But which aim? There were not one, but two in the preceding paragraph.

As so often in life, aim is translated into method, and the method becomes the new - often fatally modified - aim. If Peace requires a Unifying Power, anything that is a threat to Unity or to Power must be suppressed.

Also, since the functions of the new super-government are reified in institutions, struggling for control of the latter - and for the status and perquisites gained by servicing them - becomes an end in itself, even for those who still sincerely believe in the ultimate goal (if they can remember what it was.) As with many of our own British party political organisations and charities, Idealism and Ambition are near-inseparable stablemates.

Almost inevitably then, the EU has become a well-upholstered gentlemen's fight club for politicians and bureaucrats, with a faux-democratic structure that allows a voice but almost no power to the common citizenry, and a dangerously ill-engineered economic machine grinding down its peripheral member States; all costs deemed worth paying for a Millennium that is forever just around the corner.

The bloody history of Britain has taught us to adopt a more skeptical and pragmatic attitude. "Rulers," said Coleridge, nine years into the French Revolution, "are much the same in all ages & under all forms of government: they are as bad as they dare to be."(1)

If only we had more power, cry the leaders; if only you knew how to use it better, cry the people.

For look what powers the leaders give themselves, and how they use them:

22 August 1485: Henry Tudor defeats King Richard III on the field of Bosworth, and makes himself King Henry VII - with effect from the day before! The backdating allows him to prosecute for treason anybody who fought on Richard's side. It is ten years before Henry feels sufficiently secure on his throne to permit this bloodthirsty abuse of power to be ruled out by the Treason Act of 1495 (still in force today.)(2)

The penalties for treason used to be mandatory, gruesome and irreversible, so trial was carefully fenced round with procedure. This was administratively inconvenient in May 1940 when one wanted to kill not only traitors but German spies and saboteurs, who did not owe allegiance to the Crown. So a new offence of "treachery" was invented. The Home Secretary, Sir John Anderson, explained: "... the Treason Acts might not be applicable to persons who are not normally resident within the King's jurisdiction; and moreover the Treason Acts are antiquated, excessively cumbrous and invested with a dignity and ceremonial that seems to us wholly inappropriate to the sort of case with which we are dealing here."(3)

The new 1940 Treachery Act was rushed through Parliament in a fortnight.

But when it feels the necessity, the Executive in Britain can move a lot faster than that. On 24 August 1939 Parliament was recalled and on the same day passed previously-drafted emergency powers. A week later, Defence Regulation 18B was passed, suspending habeas corpus and allowing for the internment of suspected Nazi sympathisers.

Technically, Parliament's prior approval was not even essential: "It was originally intended that Code B would be imposed by an Order in Council, with retrospective indemnity being granted by an Act of Parliament should anyone dispute the actions of the authorities."(4) There it is again, the ability of the Executive to travel backwards in time to empower and protect itself.

Enter an inconvenient little man: Robert Liversidge(5). Born Jacob Perlsweig, the son of a Russian-Jewish rabbi émigré, he had made money in Canada, returned to England and changed his name. He joined the RAF in WWII but was rounded up with other suspects - an informer reporting him to MI5 as one of a group of "notorious Jew swindlers" - and interned on 26 April 1940.

But he didn't leave it there. He sued for false imprisonment and when reference was made to Code B applied to know the grounds for the order made in his case. The Crown refused to disclose and the case ended up with the Law Lords, who gave their final ruling - against him - in November 1941. Notwithstanding, Liversidge was released on this day, 9 November, 77 years ago.

Although Liversidge lost his case - and for the rest of his long life greatly resented the treatment he had received - it is memorable for the dissenting speech of one of the judges. As required by the Code, the Home Secretary claimed to have "reasonable cause to believe Jack Perlzweig alias Robert Liversidge to be a person of hostile associations." The other judges were happy to take the Home Secretary's assurance that he had such cause; Lord Atkin said that having thereby abdicated their responsibility to investigate and control the executive, they were being "more executive-minded than the executive." He went further, saying that in order to please the executive they were content to twist language out of shape:

"I know of only one authority which might justify the suggested method of construction. "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be the master, that's all." After all this long discussion the question is whether the words "If a man has" can mean "If a man thinks he has". I have an opinion that they cannot and the case should be decided accordingly."

Reviewing A.W.B. Simpson's "In the Highest Degree Odious: Detention Without Trial in Wartime Britain", Richard Posner of the University of Chicago Law School was inclined to take a sanguine view, comparing Britain's actions under conditions of extreme national peril somewhat favourably with the American approach to internment.(7)

Nevertheless, the watchdogs must be prepared to bark, for the same overweening tendency of the executive is alive today. Less than 10 years ago, a British Government Minister, Harriet Harman, was proposing to backdate law in order to deprive a bank executive, Fred Goodwin, of his pension, citing the "court of public opinion."(8) Whatever one may think of the man in this case, the blithe willingness to leap over legal defences is horrifying. As Robert Bolt's Sir Thomas More says, "This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast [...]  and if you cut them down [...] d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?"(9)

The EU is set up to allow centrally-issued policies and directives, but its impulse to dictatorship is not unique. And see how quickly civil liberties can be overridden by our Privy Council.

When - if - we escape the EU's rule, the work of establishing and maintaining freedom and justice in this country will scarcely have begun.
_______________________________________

(1) http://inamidst.com/coleridge/letters/letter238
(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treason_Act_1495
(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treachery_Act_1940
(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defence_Regulation_18B
(5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Liversidge
(6) https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Totalitarianism
(7) https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.co.uk/&httpsredir=1&article=4993&context=journal_articles
(8) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7917361.stm
(9) https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Robert_Bolt

FRIDAY MUSIC: Rachel Flowers, by JD

This is Rachel Flowers who is not just a musical prodigy, she is a miracle and you can read why here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Flowers

There are a lot of videos available but those featuring her playing guitar or flute are not of the best quality so what I have included are piano/organ/synthesiser only.

Just a note on the Steve Reich piece which may not be to everyone's taste. It is usually performed by two pianists and is rarely done by one individual playing two pianos because it is so difficult but she does it here with great aplomb!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_Phase

And a further note about the last video. A bit of hyperbole in the title there, she doesn't really bend the laws of physics but it is a stunning impromptu performance of Rachmaninoff.













Thursday, November 08, 2018

What is Jeremy Hunt doing with the White Helmets?

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Few people have to make the kind of moral choices that faced White Helmet Raed al-Saleh, who I was privileged to meet today. The White Helmets risked life and limb to save over 115,000 lives during the Syrian conflict, despite attacks at the hands of the Syrian regime and the Russian military. The UK is proud to stand behind them."

http://www.voltairenet.org/article203762.html

The Guardian (allegedly one of the media conduits for Intelligence propaganda - https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/04/where-they-tell-you-not-to-look/ ) has pooh-poohed the idea that the White Helmets are partisan, supporting IS terrorists:

"The Syrian volunteer rescue workers known as the White Helmets have become the target of an extraordinary disinformation campaign that positions them as an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organisation.

"The Guardian has uncovered how this counter-narrative is propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government (which provides military support to the Syrian regime)."

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/18/syria-white-helmets-conspiracy-theories

On the other hand, there is Eva Bartlett, a Canadian journalist who was on the ground in Syria when many Western journalists were filing their reports from well out of area, and according to her there are reasons to be concerned at the decision to take White Helmets into Canada and the UK:

"I have already outlined this chronology of investigations, refuting corporate media claims that voices critical of the White Helmets stem from Russian influence. Yet, slavish supporters of the White Helmets, continue to demonize anyone posing critical and needed questions on this group, generally labelling such people as “Russian bots”, “influenced by Russia”, or some variation of that, in an attempt to insist only people under the influence of Russia have been critical of the White Helmets."

- https://www.rt.com/op-ed/435670-white-helmets-canada-syria/
https://www.globalresearch.ca/how-the-mainstream-media-whitewashed-al-qaeda-and-the-white-helmets-in-syria/5624930

Does Hunt really know what he is doing?

Ever since Boris Johnson looked as though he was preparing to challenge Theresa May for the Premiership, Hunt has seemed to me to be backing onto the limelight. But in this case he could be playing with fire.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

War and inflation

The Daily Mail is currently reproducing back issues from the First World War.

Here's something I suddenly noticed:


Not a fluke:


http://inflation.iamkate.com/

The same newspaper now costs 70p - equivalent to 168 old (pre-decimal) pennies.

That's not particularly freakish: using the site linked above, the general rise in inflation between 1914 and now means £1 then was worth £109 today.

War's effect on inflation:

1914 - 1918: 51% increase.
1939 - 1945: 51 % increase.

The "oil shock" of the 1970s was war by another name:
1974 - 1978: 94% increase.

But inflation is not inevitable.

In 1800, midway through the Napoleonic wars, prices surged 36.5% - but actually fell again over the next 15 years.

In fact, between 1800 and 1900, prices fell overall by 11%.

Money used to be a good store of value, when we concentrated on trade and industry, not war.