Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Should we keep up the fight against drugs?

I've been pleasantly surprised to have a civilised discussion with someone on Facebook. He makes the points that the ban hasn't worked and illegal drugs aren't controlled for quality; if legalised they can be controlled and the tax used for education and medical treatment; drugs have always been around and shouldn't be in the hands of ruthless dealers who will sell to anybody; we should legalise, regulate, educate and tax.

Fair points, well made.

I reply:

"The PTB have quietly abandoned any serious attempt to tackle the trade over the last 40+ years, partly because they, their pals and sons and daughters indulged themselves, so we don't know what might have happened if they'd got a grip instead.

"And drugs used to be taken in a socially controlled context - e.g. the old men past work sitting under the Tree of Idleness in Kyrenia. Even here not so long ago, pub landlords were supposed to manage drunkenness.

"It's not just the physical harm aspect - alcohol is plenty bad too - though the way drugs get to us also involves harm (perhaps a phial of victim blood should be attached to every baggie, as a reminder?) - it's that with young people, it's like tying their legs together at the start of the hundred-yard dash, so that if and when they're ready to start a career they're years behind their contemporaries. There's lots of youngsters struggling against it - I've known at least one teenage Asian lad (re)turn to Islam in an attempt to get himself off what he called "bud, Bu-ddha"; unfortunately the meditation disc he was given to listen to segued into a Jew-hatred harangue once the trance was well on...

"But there's big money to be made in this, as well as tax, so I expect it can't be stopped.

"People cite Prohibition in the US as though it was a failure - it wasn't (and it didn't forbid drinking alcohol - only commercialising it.). It was repealed because the Depression had set in and the government needed money, plus the brewers and their workers saw an opportunity to better their fortunes."

And now that our government is strapped for cash, here we go. Please, not Mr Branson, though.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Grasping the nettle: sentencing for knife crime

I had given up hope of finding this - prompted by a reference in a reader's letter to The Spectator some years ago, I think - but Billy Connolly mentions Lord Carmont's action in his new autobiography.

Cruel to be kind? Needed again, now?

Note that Carmont gave fair warning before he started.

The judge who stopped knife crime

Lord Carmont rocked the underworld of Glasgow in the Fifties when he began handing out long sentences for knife crime. Judges should follow his example now, says ADAM EDWARDS

RUTHLESS: Carmont imposed lengthy sentences on those who used blades

ONE terrible fact leapt out of the crime figures published by the Government last week: a knife attack takes place in Britain once every four minutes on average. There were 129,840 violent attacks involving a knife last year – more than 350 a day. The stark numbers bring shock and surprise – surprise that the Government has little idea what to do about them.

But a dip into fairly recent British history suggests the solution to the knife-crime epidemic is obvious.

Back in the Fifties, Glasgow was in the grip of razor gangs when Lord John Carmont, one of its leading judges, decided to do something about it.

The hawk-faced adjudicator, who died more than 40 years ago, was ruthless in his determination to rid the city of its stabbers and slashers. His answer to the wave of knifings was simply to give long jail terms to anyone caught carrying an open “cut-throat” razor.

His tough stance became known as “copping a Carmont”. From 1952, he became so notorious for punitive sentences that even today the French language still contains the phrase “faire un carmont”. The message quickly reached the gangs and carrying razors fell out of fashion. He “rocked the underworld of Glasgow”, wrote a contemporary, and stopped knife crime in its tracks.

“When I was a teenager in Glasgow, I remember the sporadic terror wreaked in the city centre’s dance halls by gangs intent on recreational violence,” says Charlie Gordon, Labour member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow Cathcart. “It took exemplary sentences issued by Lord Carmont to stop a razor-slashing culture that was growing in the city.”

Born in 1880 to a distinguished Catholic family, John Carmont was educated both in France and at the beautiful Abbey School in Fort Augustus in the Scottish Highlands. Called to the bar in 1906, he saw active service during the First World War both in the ranks and as an officer in the Black Watch.

He took silk in 1924 and established himself as one of the most formidable characters in the Scottish judiciary. He had an unusually retentive memory, could quote verbatim from legal texts and was admired for his sturdy independence of mind.

Though his sentences were harsh, he was personally “the gentlest and kindliest of men”, notes his 1965 obituary, adding that his sentences were “the logical outcome of his sense of priorities which demanded that the public was entitled to protection from the anti-social activities of the lawless”. Would that all judges had such views now.

With the constituency of Glasgow East voting in a by-election today, it is significant that the retiring MP, Labour’s David Marshall, has also spoken of the impact of Carmont’s crackdown.

In a speech on law and order, he told the Commons: “I feel sorry for the police. I give them my full support and they do splendid work but much of what they do is to some extent negated by the courts, which let down the law-abiding citizens of this country and its police force. If the courts were to make an example of some criminals, particularly those who commit acts of violence, crime would rapidly decrease.

“I cite an example from 40 or 50 years ago. Lord Carmont sentenced a few razor-slashers in Glasgow to 20 years’ imprisonment at a time when 20 years meant precisely that. Overnight, razor-slashing ceased.”

In fact, a standard Carmont sentence was one decade behind bars rather than two but Mr Marshall was on the right lines.

In the first half of the 20th century, Glasgow had an unenviable reputation for violence. The city took the brunt of the Depression in the Thirties with very high unemployment, substandard housing and poor levels of health.

The worst of the suffering was in the run-down district known as the Gorbals where, according to the writer Colin MacFarlane who was born there: “Human waste ran down the tenement stairs and filth, violence, crime, rats, poverty and drunkenness abounded.” A novel No Mean City by Alexander McArthur was published in 1935 about slum life in the Gorbals. Its anti-hero was “razor king” Johnnie Stark. The book was so grim that many libraries refused to stock it.

Glasgow and knives were inextricably linked in the public’s mind. The nickname for a slashing, for example, was known in some quarters as “a Glasgow smile”.

“By the early Fifties every gangster carried an open razor,” according to Danny Grant, a former policeman whose beat included Glasgow’s toughest districts.

When Lord Carmont, by then a senior high court judge, saw how many of Glasgow’s criminals were being sent to his court for knife crimes, he knew that the city was in the grip of a violent crime epidemic which had to be stopped.

“Carmont stated that in future anyone appearing in front of him who had been found in possession of an open razor would be sent to prison for 10 years,” says Grant. Back then, a 10-year sentence meant 10 years behind bars.

Carmont’s reputation for being tough was already well known to Glasgow criminals, as his treatment of John Ramensky attests.

Ramensky was the best-known safe blower in Scottish history, as famous for his prison breaks as for his crimes. During the Second World War, he was recruited by the military to blow up enemy buildings and steal important documents. He won the Military Medal and had been given a free pardon.

Shortly after the war, at the age of 50, Ramensky appeared before Carmont after being caught blowing a safe. He made an impassioned plea for clemency and cited his war record. He pleaded with Carmont that he had undergone more than his share of suffering. “Give me a chance, as only good can result from it,” he said in mitigation. But Carmont sentenced him to 10 years with the cold remark that “any sentence of less than 10 years would be useless”.

AS SOON as Carmont had decided to solve the blade problem, he was merciless. In one court sitting he passed sentences of up to 10 years on eight men – 52 years in all – simply for carrying razors and knives.

Those sentences had an immediate effect. For a brief period in Glasgow’s history, razors and knives vanished from its streets.

Today the plea for tougher sentences for knife crime echoes across the country.

In 2006, Charlie Gordon moved an amendment to the Criminal Justice Act going through the Scottish Parliament calling for mandatory jail sentences for possessing knives. His amendment failed.

But now he has renewed his call for automatic jail sentences for knife possession. “This is an idea whose time has come,” he said.

It is time for all MPs and judges to take note of the views of the public. It is time a new generation of violent hooligans got to know the meaning of “copping a Carmont”.

Friday, January 18, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Robert Crumb, by JD


Robert Crumb. Where to start? In his own words, he was born weird. So that is as good a place as any. He was and is a prolific artist and in the sixties became a favourite of the 'counterculture' with his cartoon images in comics and album covers etc. His most famous creations were Mr Natural and Fritz the Cat. But he was also a musician of sorts with a taste for old style 20s music. I would describe him as a radical traditionalist!

Below is a selection of his music and a wonderful cartoon of Mr Natural.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

UPDATED: who DID NOT VOTE on yesterday's EU Withdrawal Bill?

(Post rewritten following further investigation!)

This morning the Daily Express had a shouty headline:

DEMOCRACY BETRAYED: Did YOUR MP ignore your Brexit vote? Find out here

I had a look myself. At first I thought 8 MPs had played hooky, but not so...

The 634 MPs who did part in the vote are listed here by They Work For You:

That leaves 16 who didn't:

The Speaker, John Bercow, who is expected to remain neutral

Four Deputy Speakers, who are also expected to remain neutral:

Paul Flynn (Lab)
Sir Lindsay Hoyle (Lab)
Dame Eleanor Laing (Con)
Dame Rosie Winterton (Lab)

Four Tellers for the division (two from each of the major two parties, for balance, so not counted):

Iain Stewart (Con)
Wendy Morton (Con)
Vicky Foxcroft (Lab)
Nick Smith (Lab)

And seven Sinn Fein MPs who do not take their seats in Parliament, on principle:

Órfhlaith Begley
Mickey Brady
Michelle Gildernew
Chris Hazzard
Elisha McCallion
Paul Maskey
Francie Molloy

... so nobody failed to vote without good reason.

It's not often the whole House participates in a division.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Britain's Tragic Waste of Talent

Thus (wryly) John Birch, giving a reader response in The Conservative Woman:

"Allowing and even encouraging (by lack of effective punishment) crime to take place at the levels that it is today makes me highly suspicious. Has anyone ever read a study on the positive effect of crime on the economy? After all the huge number of people necessary to clear up behind criminals, all those middle-class jobs in the prison service, judiciary, probation, welfare, hospitals, paramedics. They all create turnover in the economy in one way or another linked to crime. Then we have security services, cctv, locksmiths, insurance companies, all those replacements for items stolen. And so it goes on. It makes me wonder if going soft on crime is being used to boost the economy."

John Mortimer's fictional barrister Horace Rumpole often reflects how the Timson family of criminals keeps him in claret - and indirectly, also helps employ judges and all the rest.

But what might all those resources have been used for instead, if crimes were severely reduced?

And what could we do with all the first-class brains engaged in the complexities of taxation and its avoidance?

And the geniuses using their mathematical nous to play in the great casinos of stocks and bonds?

The waste! The opportunities!

Monday, January 14, 2019

This Man Dahna Pub, Right? 'E Knows More Than The B****ing Experts!

Through the door, the usual circulars - and an unusual circular:

Tim Wetherspoon makes his case against the scare stories about food prices post-Brexit, but unlike the usual news media he follows this double page with six third-party articles about the in/out issues, three from each side. How different!

https://www.jdwetherspoon.com/tims-viewpoint - click on "The EU Debate and the Circle of Deceit"

But what I'd like to focus on here are two points from above, on the flawed expertise of the experts:

Wetherspoon is substantially correct, though he overlooks retention of the costs of collection:

But how can the experts not know this?

Fabrice Montagné is the Chief UK and Senior European Economist at Barclays Investment Bank. Previously he worked at the French Treasury, then at FFR (the French Pensions Reserve Fund, managing funds for public authorities), and then the Dutch Central Bank.

Mark Brumby has a degree in "Economics Macro & Micro Trends" from Cambridge and is the Principal of Langton Capital. According to his profile on LinkedIn he "has occupied positions in both corporate finance and in fund management when he ran the US$100m Global Leisure Fund for Banque Pictet in Geneva. He returned to the UK in 2002 in order to co-found Oriel Securities and has since worked at Blue Oar Securities before founding Langton Capital in 2010."

Anyone else for a subscription to Wetherspoon News?

How Modern Social Media Communication Works

The techniques are only a couple of thousand years old, or more:

"But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death."

In the market place, a voice over your shoulder. You turn, but the speaker has moved on, to repeat his message.

You can do it to smash an individual, as Google allegedly did to James Damore; or public figures like Farage, Trump etc; or issues like Brexit.

There they are, the voices in but not of the crowd, supplying the insults, insinuations, cartoons, factoids, distraction issues for "Facebook simple"... and the coaches and placards, the knots of "representative" people on St Stephen's Green, the agents provocateurs...

On Saturday my wife and I were shopping, and on the pavement was a stand with two people asking passers-by to write on a Post-It and stick it on a board to "have our say" as to "What Should We Do About Brexit?"

I said to the nice lady, "Leave, obviously" and the shutters came down behind her eyes and her mouth repeated my words in puzzlement. If I'd bothered to write a notelet for this primary-school exercise, would it have stayed long on the board?

But if you sow division and confusion, that is half the battle.

Democracy can be managed.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Tribute To Frank Sinatra, by Wiggia

                                               FRANCIS ALBERT SINATRA

                                                              1915 – 1998

So much has been written about Sinatra that anything I put on paper seems superfluous,  yet twenty years have gone by since his passing and with time it matters not how famous or influential you were in life, it soon becomes forgotten, only revived when something related is mentioned or discussed.

Sinatra was quite simply the greatest songsmith of his and subsequent generations. We can all have favourites in music, mine was always Mel Torme, but that in no way diminishes the effect Sinatra had on music during his lifetime.

With all these great performers they learnt their craft the hard way, the details of that and more are far too long to include or do justice to here but this link fills in all the details:


Certain details show the way forward, starting when Frank was singing for his supper and started to take elocution lessons: for a boy with scant education and little schooling that was a big move, but it was his tutor John Quinlan who was the first to notice his remarkable vocal range.

It was the Swing era that launched Sinatra on the big stage with bandleaders Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. Dorsey had a big influence on Sinatra who admired his trombone playing and tried to model his breathing on the seamless style Dorsey had when playing. He left Dorsey in ‘42 when he had become bigger than the band and then the bobby-soxers period erupted every time he appeared on stage as a solo artist.

Now with Columbia records, his output was curtailed by a Musicians Union strike 42-43 but in ‘44 he more than made up for with a huge laying down of tracks including Put Your Dreams away, his theme tune for the time. This enormous output became known as his Columbia years.

Axel Stordahl left Dorsey at the same time and became Sinatra's chief arranger during these Columbia years and the numbers such as These Foolish Things, You Go To My Head, and  That Old Feeling defined the era.

His success continued until 1948 but his style was not evolving, and the first suggestions of his association with organised crime garnered negative press. His workaholic style - up to a hundred songs a day - had taken a toll on his voice and depression set in. His divorce from his first wife Nancy and his stormy affair with Ava Gardner added to the downward effect. To many he was washed up, finished; even his record company didn't help, getting him to record some banal songs. His record contract was not renewed in ‘52, his TV show was cancelled and he was dropped by his agency !

Yet he still managed to record some great songs during this time including this one……

During all this time Sinatra had been acting in films. I am not the only one who during that period thought he was a very good actor in the right films and he was. The passage below is a cut and paste on his film career, I shall stick to the music in my subsequent comments.

“Sinatra appeared in several films throughout the 1940s, the best among them being the musicals in which he costarred with dancer Gene Kelly. Of these, Anchors Aweigh (1945) and Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949) are pleasant diversions, whereas On the Town (1949) ranks among the greatest of film musicals. It was acting, rather than music, that precipitated Sinatra’s comeback in 1953. He pleaded with Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn for the role of the scrappy, tragic soldier, Maggio, in From Here to Eternity (1953), and he agreed to work for scale. His performance was universally praised and earned him an Oscar for best supporting actor. Sinatra went on to become one of the top film stars of the 1950s and ’60s, and he delivered fine performances in quality films such as Suddenly (1954), Young at Heart (1954), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955; Academy Award nomination for best actor), Guys and Dolls (1955), The Joker Is Wild (1957), Pal Joey (1957), and Some Came Running (1958). The political thriller The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is perhaps Sinatra’s greatest film and features his best performance. With the possible exception of Bing Crosby, no other American entertainer achieved such a level of respect and popularity as both singer and actor. Although it is said that Sinatra stopped taking films seriously after The Manchurian Candidate, owing to his ongoing frustration with the tedious filmmaking process, his motion-picture résumé remains impressive. In later years, he was memorable in The Detective (1968), and in his final starring vehicle, The First Deadly Sin (1980). “

In 1953 Sinatra signed with Capitol Records and an era started that many consider to be his most fruitful, nine years of probably his most important body of work. Many of his albums were on a single theme and called concept albums: his first with Billy May, Come Fly With Me  1958 and  Come Dance With Me 1959 are the stand-out ones.

But it was the two decade long association with Nelson Riddle, whom Sinatra said was the greatest arranger he worked with, that produced at least three albums considered by most to be masterpieces: In the Wee Small hours 1953, Songs for Swinging Lovers 1956 and Only the Lonely 1958 all are musts for any serious collector of modern music.

Sinatra also collaborated with others beside Nelson Riddle. He sang with all of the best of the era - Basie et al. This, The Best is Yet to Come with Basie shows all the skills Sinatra had at his disposal, tonal range, timing, projection, diction etc a masterclass that today's singers in the main could only dream of.

It wasn’t all ‘smooch,’ far from it: this upbeat Day in Day Out was typical of his racier numbers this from 1967 with a slightly Latin flavour.

His “Rat Pack Years” mainly while doing the rooms in Las Vegas had a free-for-all style, not surprising considering his company with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis junior plus to a lesser extent Shirley McClaine, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. It was an act based on comic boozy fun, mostly ad-libbed and very successful. A good example of the period is this number, not at the Sands where most of this act was performed but in St Louis with the added attraction of Johnny Carson thrown in:

Sinatra founded his own label Reprise Records in 1960 whilst still on contract with Capitol until ‘62; Capitol allowed the two to run until their contract ran out.

He still worked with his original arrangers but new blood was brought in: Neil Hefti, Don Costa and Johnny Mandel injected new ideas to Sinatra's work.

Several hit singles were generated during the Reprise years including Strangers in the Night (1966) That's Life (1967) and My Way (1969), plus two of his best albums: September of My Years (1965) and the collaboration album Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobin (1967).

This is Wave with Jobin, a dip into Bossa Nova by Sinatra.

By 1969 another generation had taken over the music world and Sinatra said ‘They are not writing songs for me any more’. In ‘71 he announced his retirement only to start recording again in ‘73. In his last years he “only” produced seven albums but many were his most poignant, culminating with his last Duets 11 in ‘94.

His voice was suffering in these later years, more coarse, largely through his life of cigarettes and drink, but he compensated and could still deliver.

Here he is with Ella, these were the days when ability and talent actually mattered; sadly, as with those wonderful big bands, now all history:

Despite no more recording and failing health Sinatra did not retire, he performed at hundreds of live concerts all over the world. I am ashamed to say I lost the chance to see him live at the end of his career at the Docklands arena after a mix up with dates. To live through the Sinatra years and enjoy the decades of great songs with great composers and arrangers and then miss the last chance to see him live has always grated.

Still, the sound is there for many more years. He like his contemporaries were supremely talented and above all professionals, a golden era. Fittingly the last number is That’s Life:

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Policing: Grasp The Nettle

David Clarke (htp: Churchmouse Campanologist) is a former Sheriff for Milwaukee and argues for much stronger policing in urban ghettoes. A black man, he has little patience with what he sees as the liberal approach:

The Right Approach to Solving Gun Violence

It’s a swing and a miss to target guns. Instead, we should target violent career criminals and their anti-social behavior. We shouldn’t take politically correct policy advice from the same leftists that have failed to deter crime.

Rather, there are a handful of new approaches we should take to make America safe. We must identify repeat perpetrators by their long rap sheets. Send out teams of officers to arrest everyone out on outstanding felony warrants. Arrest probation and parole offenders for the slightest violation of their probation or parole. Follow-up with quality debriefings by investigators to determine the associates of perpetrators and the vehicles they own. Prosecute offenders and keep them locked up for the longest period allowed by law, keeping neighborhoods safe. Set high bail and stop liberal programs like community corrections and second chances for repeat offenders. Send felons who use a gun in commission of a crime to the Department of Justice for prosecution because federal guidelines for sentencing are longer and more certain. Stop accepting plea bargains in exchange for weak sentences. The reality is that these policy alternatives are effective crime control tools...

If mayors and police commanders are unwilling to come up with a strategy such as the one I propose – improving the quality of life in crime-ridden neighborhoods through proven tactics – then they should prepare for another violent summer. One in which blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately victimized by crime and violence.


Far from being racist, vigorous policing in such areas would protect the innocent poor, who have just as much right to live in an orderly society as the financially better-off. It would also protect the life chances of young men at risk of straying, if they could see that a life of petty and violent crime is a non-starter.

Research suggests that crime prevention measures more than pay for themselves, if the effort is systematic and sustained. e.g. Table 1 here:
- https://whatworks.college.police.uk/Research/Documents/Economic_Analysis_brief-FINAL.pdf

Peter Hitchens has long argued for a return to foot patrols rather than reactive policing - remember J.B Morton's definition: "FLYING SQUAD: A special contingent of police whose business is to arrive at the scene of a crime shortly after the departure of all those connected with it."

Time to grasp the nettle?

Friday, January 11, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Fame's Fame, by JD

Georgie Fame was part of the sixties 'beat' boom and had a number one hit in 1965 with "Yeh Yeh!" After his first hit records he recorded with Alan Price and then continued with a solo career. More or less forgotten, he was and is vastly underrated but he is one of the best musicians this country has produced in the rock/blues/jazz genre.

Here is a brief overview from Wiki and among the videos below is an interview about his time playing in the Flamingo Club in London.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Managed economy, or blowup?

"And so the system broke down, the Empire collapsed, and a long sullen silence settled down over a billion hungry worlds, disturbed only by the pen scratchings of scholars as they labored into the night over smug little treatises on the value of a planned political economy."

- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (what a genius he was!)

But is there a distinction to be made between a planned economy and a managed one?

Left to its own devices, big-money capitalism will tend to consolidate, shut out competition and reap the excessive benefits of monopoly, as Ms Hearn shows here:

Naturally, because organisations develop a life-instinct of their own, they will resist anything that tries to limit them. So part of their budgets will be to influence politicians and the news media in their favour. Look how the EU and its fellow travellers in the UK managed the news in 1975 - the mystery to me is why there was anything like a fair hearing for both sides in 2016.

Somehow, the cat must be belled.

Quite how the US managed to do this in the "Progressive Age" I don't know exactly, though I imagine responsiveness to the people via the machinery of democracy had something to do with it. Hence the introduction of antitrust laws.

But I suppose a lot of work goes in to "managing democracy" these days; perhaps bought tongues and internet trolling will prevent a recurrence of mass antitrust understanding and sentiment.

And the battle continues, not only within countries but between them: fast- moving globalist capital versus captive local populations.

Just as the immigration question is not one of "nobody in" versus "everybody in", perhaps there is a position to hold between no-imports protectionism and unconditional "free trade."

Some of us are so focused on the EU membership question that we are forgetting the same issue is writ much larger in the world as a whole. It must be possible to allow the Third World to rise without destabilising the social fabrics of the developed nations.

To use an analogy, if you have a car, it does not only stop or go, it has a steering wheel and brakes.

I should have thought that the British Labour Party would have understood this - I think it used to, but as an organisation with its intrinsic desire to survive and thrive it decided some time ago to extend its pseudopodia towards the prosperous middle classes, and despite the appointment of a Left leader has not adequately developed its analysis and reformulated its objectives.

Absent a coherent political and economic platform, things are coming to a head:

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Four Factors for Life Success

(Htp: https://fritz-aviewfromthebeach.blogspot.com/2019/01/google-gets-down-with-deuteronomy.html)

Starting c. 6:52 in this clip, Professor Jordan Peterson names four factors that taken together are good predictors of life success:

  • IQ, or general cognitive ability
  • Conscientiousness (or "grit")
  • Freedom from negative emotion (aka "low autoeroticism")
  • Openness to experience

I read long ago that IQ (as measured) can be increased by doing more problem-solving, and is also influenced by early mental stimulation; though presumably there is some limit. Perhaps it is is more easily crushed than developed?

I should think that conscientiousness and openness to experience can also be systematically encouraged.

But all of these won't result in much happiness if negative feelings about oneself are not tackled. Where do they start - nature or nurture? - and how if at all can they be corrected? Otherwise, even if the other traits are pronounced, we have the equivalent of a high-performance car steered by a crazy driver.

I read that efforts to boost self-esteem tend to result in narcissism; so are they pointless, or just the wrong kind of intervention?

UPDATE (8 Jan 18, htp "JD"):

Peterson offers answers to the emotional side:

"Peterson draws on reams of studies to show that fundamental changes to personal habits such as sleep and exercise schedules can dramatically improve serotonin levels, thereby increasing the chance of personal success and fulfilment. From there he draws in stories from world mythology and religious texts to show that humans derive great meaning from overcoming psychological and social obstacles."


Monday, January 07, 2019

I Have Never Heard So Much Sense Talked In Such A Short Time

JD emails me - and I just have to share:

A comment at The Slog posted a video by Mark Blyth but it was 'explained' by some American TV show host. Don't know if you saw it but I found the original:

Blyth thinks it is about more than the EU and he explains "it is a revolt against technocracy."

By a bit of synchronicity I had pulled off the bookshelf the other day Fritz Schumacher's book called "Good Work" published in 1980. It is a collection of lectures he gave during the 1970s and one of the things he emphasises in those lectures is exactly what Blyth has figured out, the problem of the economic system is that it is built around technical 'improvements' which are all designed, albeit unwittingly, to reinforce the economic system. Instead of 'trickle down' we get a further increase in 'trickle up' so the majority continue to get poorer and the 1% continue to get richer.

At the end of the video he mentions the Hamptons on Long Island. A very astute man is Professor Blyth!


I wonder if it is because Mark Blyth is Scottish that he thinks independently?

"The man o' independent mind 
He looks an' laughs at a' that."
- Robert Burns

Blyth is following traditional wisdom, as was Dr Schumacher in his books. And so too was the late John Michell in all of his books and magazine articles-

"The big idea of today is that human beings are unreliable and should be replaced by computers"
John Michell; The Oldie magazine, October 2005.

See also -

"What began as a way of duplicating human skill on a greater scale will end by replacing skill altogether in order to produce goods regardless of any human intervention. As a necessary part of the process any call for the control of machines, however desirable in human terms, is bound to seem illogical since it amounts to the destruction of the system for generating the wealth needed to perpetuate the consumption that underpins the social fabric."

"Such is the remorseless pressure of this process that it becomes, in due course, a sort of cannibalism, first of all destroying the machine minder through automation then in a further step destroying the machine by an economy based on the virtual reality of computerised information. At this stage the question of human needs hardly arises, having been displaced by the internal demands of the productive system itself. This 'system' possessing no vision of an end other than its own perpetuation, must eventually bring about its own destruction."

The above two paragraphs are copied more or less verbatim from Brian Keeble's book http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6623824-god-and-work

Beware the Ides of June 2040: Death of the Welfare State

Martin Armstrong is a financial analyst who believes in cycles. In a recent online post discussing the desire of government to convert us all to cashless payments, he says:

"Governments are going broke. They will not listen and instead, they are obsessed with just a solution for the next quarter. They lack any vision of the future and will NEVER [take] responsibility for their own mismanagement. Their single solution is to always raise taxes rather than reform. The more they press toward this cashless society the greater the economic implosion. What comes after the elimination of cash and the budgets are never balanced with institution starting to shift to private assets rather than government bonds that pay nothing and present huge risks, will be the default on social programs without the corresponding reduction in taxes. This all leads to the inevitable collapse of Western Society just as we witnessed the collapse of Communism in 1989.

"Our model is famous for forecasting the collapse of Communism and even the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989; 1989.857). The likelihood of Western Socialism surviving as some benevolent government will come to an end by 2041.457. The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests that culminated on June 4th, 1989 (1989.424). This means we should begin to see a sharp rise in civil unrest cyclically speaking beginning October 28th, 2020 going into the US Presidential elections."

This is a thing I fear, for the UK.
  • Taking the long view, we are overpopulated: research published some years ago on populationmatters.org estimated that we can only support around 17 million people from our own agricultural resources, using sustainable methods
  • We have lost much of the industrial base that multiplies labour power, allowing for high wages and a tax base that can support the "social programs" we have become used to since 1945, such as free education, health, help with housing, unemployment benefits, family and earned-income supplements
  • We have a high level of disguised un/under-employment
  • Social bonds are under strain and massive, expensive inputs from social workers, police, teachers etc are barely coping - at a time of bogus (debt-fuelled) prosperity
  • Public and private indebtedness continues to increase
  • At least half the Conservative Party wants us to stay in the EU, which has weakened our economy by acting as a scale model of globalism and undermining working-class prosperity with cheap imported/offshored labour; the other half wants out of the EU in favour of full-scale globalism, which may work on paper (looking only at GDP) for a while but exacerbate other problems including widening inequalities
  • Half the Labour Party wants to remain in the EU, under some illusion (against evidence) of the latter's benevolence; and has been happy to loosen controls on inward economic migration because it would "rub the Right's nose in diversity" (note the focus on political party, rather than consideration of what might benefit the country)
So far, I see only a handful of old Labourites (plus the recorded voices of some of their deceased comrades) who understand that we need to be free of the EU and at the same time resist the destructive forces of global cattle-raid capitalism (which some call corporatism so as to distinguish it from the long-term business-building capitalism that made us a rich economy.)

I am altruistic for selfish reasons: if our labouring classes can be employed at good wages and the Welfare State can be sustained, then I will be able to live and move around in my country in relative safety. 

If Armstrong (and Kondratieff, and others) are correct, though, we cannot hold back the tide of history. Note above that Armstrong predicts social unrest in the US in late 2020; another cycle-theorist, Charles Hugh Smith, forecasts a financial crisis in c. 2025. Time will tell.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Song Stylist: Nancy Wilson, by Wiggia

Outside of modern jazz I don’t put up music pieces on here as JD is the ‘man’ for that - his knowledge across the whole spectrum of music leaves me a long way behind in his wake.

With Nancy Wilson who recently died however I feel I am justified to write this. She came to prominence after meeting Julian “Cannonball” Adderley in 1959. When he suggested she could make it as a singer and should move to NY, she engaged Adderley's manager and after four weeks she had made it.

Born in Ohio in 1937 she was the youngest of six children born to working parents. From an early age as with so many of her contemporaries she was exposed to music brought home by her father. She was influenced by Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, Lionel Hampton's singer Jimmy Scott, Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown, LaVerne Baker and Little Esther among others.

She won a talent contest at fifteen whilst still at school and the prize was a twice weekly appearance on a local TV show. It was the beginning of a long and illustrious career spanning six decades.

She covered the whole gamut of music styles during those years: blues, jazz, R&B, pop and soul. She was the complete entertainer, with acting roles and her own TV shows.

It was after Adderley’s manager sent Capitol Records four demos including Guess Who I Saw Today that she was signed up in 1960. The single of that number was her first hit and four albums followed in two years with Capitol.

Nancy never had a Number 1 but her albums (which ran to seventy) sold in large numbers throughout her career.

She won three Grammys: in 1965 for best R&B recording “How Glad I Am”, in 2005 for best jazz vocal album RSVP - rare songs, very personal - and in 2007 in the same category for “Turned to Blue”.

Her frequent television appearances resulted in her getting her own show, The Nancy Wilson show (1967-1968) for which she won an Emmy, appearing also in many TV shows from I Spy to Hawaii Five O, Police Story, and all the major shows such as the Danny Kaye, Andy Williams etc.

She was also a successful business woman and a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement; a very full and meaningful life.

Yet her singing career though known for the more ‘pop’ aspects really took off after the Adderley meeting and she returned to jazz in later life as seen above with her award winning albums.

Here the lovely Nancy is singing The Very Thought of You in 1964:

Another of her early hits, in fact the biggest one (You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am:

At Newport Jazz Festival 1987  “I Was Telling Him About You”:

This is with Adderley in ‘61 “Save Your Love For Me”, for many their favorite Nancy Wilson song:

Sorry about the lack of videos but I am sure the music makes amends.

“Here’s That Rainy Day”:

Another ‘made for Nancy’ number, “Don’t Let ME Be Lonely Tonight”:

This was always such an emotional number, love this one - “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”:

Whilst suffering a lot of ill health in later years Nancy was always the ultimate pro, her immaculate appearance never wavered, always a very smart lady. She will be sadly missed as the generation she and others represented are nearly all gone now.

To finish with, the Diva Orchestra in 2001:

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Weekend Wonders: The Outer Limits (Of Space)

Here is a diagram of the universe sorted by distance from us.
An expandable image is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe

By Pablo Carlos Budassi - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74584660

Light takes time to get to us, so the farther away an object us, the farther back in time we can see. 

The very earliest stage of the universe is invisible - photons could not get through the dense fog of subatomic particles. After c. 370,000 years, atoms began to form, so creating empty spaces that let photons start their long journey. We are still able to observe the radiation emitted at that time, because it has taken billions of years to reach us.

More on the early universe and cosmic background microwave radiation in these two short clips by Professor David Butler:

Is the Universe gradually disappearing?

Yes - and no.

The fabric of the Universe is expanding, so that the farther away an object is, the faster it will seem to be receding. (This is "on the whole" - some objects, such as the Andromeda galaxy, happen to be moving in our direction. But an otherwise "stationary" object will still be carried away by space-time expansion.)

The logic of this seems to be that with enough of this stretching, the farthest parts of the Universe will be going faster than the speed of light and so information from them can never reach us. In a sense, they will have torn free of our observable Universe and will cease to exist as far as we are concerned. An August 2018 article in Forbes magazine appears to be thinking on these lines:


But if Einstein is right, then no matter is rushing away from us at or above light-speed.

This is because of the way you add two speeds together.

For everyday purposes, two cars approaching each other, each travelling at 30 mph, are closing the gap at 60 mph...

... very, very nearly, but not quite! For in reality, there is a microscopic reduction in the total, which becomes much more significant as velocities get closer to light-speed. The formula is this:

u is the combined speed, as seen from our point of view
v is the speed of the first object
u' is the speed of the second object, as seen from v
c is the speed of light (and c2 is the speed of light times itself) 

So if we see a galaxy moving away from us at 60% of the speed of light (i.e. 0.6 C), and there is a quasar moving away from the galaxy in the same direction, also at 0.6 C (as seen from the galaxy), then (if you can do the math) Einstein's formula says the quasar is receding from ourselves not at a total of 1.2 C (20% faster than light) but at 15/17ths of C - i.e. lower than light-speed.

Therefore, a graph of celestial objects plotting distance against velocity would appear to be very nearly straight-line to start with (as per Hubble) but curving as the velocities approached C.

So information from the most distant reaches of the Universe can never be completely lost, but the frequencies will ultimately be lengthened to the point where we would have no means to detect them.

Like old soldiers, the remotest bits of the Universe don't die (leave us altogether); they just fade away.

Friday, January 04, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Fripp-ery, by JD

Something to start the year in style and wake us all up from our post festivities slumber, the Mad Genius known as Robert Fripp!

Founder member of the rock group King Crimson and the only one to be in all of its various incarnations, he describes himself as 'the glue holding it together'. But in the past fifty years he has explored the world of music and sound and has recorded many 'unusual' styles and types of music. What it all shares is that attention must be paid, it is not background music or music while you work; listen and enjoy something which is, dare I say it, transcendental!