Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve: JD's Celtic Miscellany

JD offers a Caledonian collection to see out the Old Year and welcome in the New:

To see large version, please click on the link below:

It is New Year's Eve and the Rev IM Jolly, the BBC's hogmanay chaplain says a few words as is customary at this time, but this was his last appearance, from Hogmanay 1999. (Rikki Fulton 1924 - 2004. R.I.P.)

One of my friends was at Ibrox on 2nd January 1971 when 66 people died in a crush on one of the exit stairways. He and his father had left before the end of the game and called in to a pub for a drink on the way home. This was in the days before every pub had a TV (or even a radio) so he and his father were unaware of what had happened and were later than expected in getting home. But his mother, sitting at home, had heard the news on the radio or seen it on TV and spent an hour or so worried that her family had been caught up in the tragedy. Little things mean a lot, and that was a very sad day for Glasgow, for Scotland and for football

...and a happy new year to one and all!

Sackerson adds: I believe the traditional good night in Scots Gaelic is "oidhche mhath!" {pr. oichhy va!}

... and for a further Scottish lesson, here is a dialogue for Hogmanay (see p. 203)

MR MACDONALD: Tha e dà uair dheug! Siud na clagan!
A H-UILE DUINE: Bliadhna Mhath Ur dhuibh!
MR MACDONALD: Dè a ghabhas sibh – fìon, no còc, no uisgebeatha?
MRS MACDONALD: Tha deoch air choreigin aig a h-uile duine a-nis.
MR MACDONALD: Glè mhath. Air ur slàinte!
A H-UILE DUINE: Slàinte mhòr
MAIRI: O, seallaibh air na rionnagan – tha tòrr dhiubh ann. Agus tha an sneachd cho brèagha – tha
e coltach ri cairt Nollaig’.
CATRIONA: Seo na caraidean againn a’ tighinn. Tha pàrtaidh anns an talla. Bidh oidhche mhòr againn!
MRS MACDONALD: Feuch nach gabh sibh an deoch!
CATRIONA: Chan eil sinn cho gòrach ri sin idir!

Which, Google-assisted-guessing [native speakers very welcome to correct!], translates as:

MR MACDONALD: It is twelve o'clock! There go the bells!
ALL: Happy New Year to you!
MR MACDONALD: What will you have - wine, or coke, or whisky?
MRS MACDONALD: Let us all have some drink now.
MR MACDONALD: Very well. Your health!
ALL: Very good health!
MARY: Oh, look at the stars - so many of them out! And the snow is so beautiful - it looks like a Christmas card!
CATHERINE: Here come our friends. There is a party in the hall. Here's to a great night!
MRS MACDONALD: Don't drink too much!
CATHERINE: We are not so foolish as that!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: New Year's Eve, Scots-Style (I Love A Glassie)

JD plans a traditional Caledonian celebration...

"Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow: The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true." - Tennyson.

Yes,'s hogmanay!

My father loved the hogmanay so I shall take a glass of The Antiquary and drink a toast to his memory -

Here's tae us
Wha's like us
Damn few,
And they're a' deid
Mair's the pity!

May those who live truly be always believed,
And those who deceive us be always deceived.
Here's to the men of all classes,
Who through lasses and glasses Will make themselves asses!

I drink to the health of another,
And the other I drink to is he
In the hope that he drinks to another,
And the other he drinks to is me!

- Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A curio: China, Iceland and the book trade

Icelandic Review reports that China and Iceland are marking 45 years of diplomatic relations with recognition for a prizewinning 2015 book by Einar Már Guðmundsson called Hundadagar (‘Dog Days’), named by the Chinese as one of the best foreign-language novels of the year.

Storytelling is baked into the Icelanders' culture. Readers of the thousand-year-old Icelandic sagas will be struck by how very modern they are - pithy dialogue, graphic violence. Perfect noir. And the current vogue for Nordic crime fiction includes successful Icelandic writers such as Arnaldur Indriðason, one of my wife's favourites.

This latest announcement is timed to coincide with the island's annual jólabókaflóð ("Yule book flood") - the custom of giving books as Christmas presents.

Hundadagar is a historical novel featuring Joseph Banks, the great plant-collector who accompanied Captain Cook to the South Seas. It seems Banks also collected Icelandic manuscripts.

Everything is connected to everything else.

It seems books of the right kind (pornography such as Fifty Shades is banned) may have a huge market among China's 1.3 billion people:

- provided you can maintain your copyright.

The market works both ways, e.g. the growth of Chinese science fiction, as the generation-long superfast economic growth of China stimulates the imagination as to what could come next:

Online publication also has enormous potential, though there are issues around State control:

We live in interesting times. Maybe, despite the distractions of electronic toys, authors and publishers do still have a future.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Boiling candy floss

Recently, Nick Drew of Capitalists@Work introduced us to an essay in The New Enquiry entitled "The Scapegoating Machine" (

The writer, Geoff Shullenberger, refers to Peter Thiel, a hedge fund manager (and founder of PayPal) who is now on the executive committee of President-elect Donald Trump's transition team, and links Thiel's thinking to that of his former professor and "philosophical mentor" René Girard.

There may be some good ideas in the article but they are couched in that horrid jumble of jargon from sociology, psychology, Marxism etc that resembles a parody of mediaeval scholastic theology, bristling with unnecessary references and appeals to allegedly established authority. My reaction is typical of the Anglo-Saxon attitude to Continental theoreticians: we like our abstractions to be more concrete.

In my schooldays the way to determine whether there was any substance was to do a précis. Typically this would cut down the original word count to, say, 40%. But one can be much more radical with guffmeisters such as Russell Brand - I got him down to less than 8% (

I challenged Nick to do the same for this latest, reducing the 3,445 words of the original to no more than 250. Heroically, he has done so. I now challenge the reader to see if it could be boiled down even further, and then challenged on logic and fact!


Humans desire things because others desire those things, and we unconsciously mimic them. By having the object of desire, the Other makes us desire it, but also makes us resent the Other’s having it: mimetic desire and violence are inextricable. Desire is potentially a source of conflict (especially when the desire is for something intangible such as honor, status, respect, recognition) - a basic problem for human societies.

The ancient solution was substitution of the scapegoat for the rival - the original “breakthrough” moment of human progress, breaking the cyclical repetition of mimetic violence. Religion ritualized the scapegoat mechanism into sacrifices - symbolic acts that created gods, myths and hierarchies.

The rise of techno-scientific rationality and secular governance correlates with the decline of the sacred. But since religion has been the primary form of regulating violence, its displacement raises the possibility of uncontained violence and a panicked return to violent forms of religion.

The imitative basis of desire can explain the success of social media, which intensify universalized competition, feeding rivalry and ressentiment. They also create the space for new modes of scapegoating. Bullying and “forming communities” are connected: scapegoating is the cement of group identities. Voters in demographic decline turn against the Other. “The 99% vs. the 1%” is modern-day scapegoating.

Developers of technology need to accomplish something comparable to what religions did: the creation of superstructures that blunt the tendencies toward dissolution currently threatening global society.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Mind is Flat

Nick Chater again. Many people won't like the ideas he promotes here because they cast aside traditional notions of how our minds work. I find the framework convincing enough to have spent far more time on it than just this video. Chater's framework explains too much to be fundamentally wrong.

However, it is worth pointing out that the flat mind idea is probably not convincing if one simply views Chater's experiments and rationale from a traditional outlook. The video definitely requires a willingness to change perspective, but once that is done the elegant simplicity of it becomes clear.

We are improvisers - we do not have mental depth to draw on in the traditional sense. We improvise our current behaviour, thoughts and opinions within the context of current situations and a need to be consistent with our perceived personality. One might almost say our current personality.

At first sight it all sounds too fluid and unstable to be satisfactory. Surely our personalities are more stable than Chater suggests? To sweeten the pill this approach does allow us to tie in the creative aspects of human life. To improvise is to create. We must improvise so we must create. We cannot stop. Not necessarily a good thing because we may improvise honestly or dishonestly, but worth remembering if you choose to watch the whole thing.

Here's the video introduction.

This talk presents the case that there are no hidden depths, whether evolutionary, psychological, or economic, from which the real motivations for human behaviour emerge. Motives are, indeed, astonishingly shallow, with the illusion of depth sustained by our mental projection of meaning into the actions of ourselves and other. But the illusion of depth is of crucial importance: it helps us reign in our behaviour, which would otherwise be even more capricious and inconsistent. This thesis has implications for theories in psychology, economics, and ethics which are explicitly, or implicitly, committed to "deep" motivations underpinning human life. It also provides a new framework for thinking about how to make choices, whether as individuals, in business, or in public policy.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: JD's Christmas Box 2

Lifting out the first tray, we come to a fresh selection from JD, who says:

"Music for this week is a continuation of Christmas festivities and Nollaig Chridheil, feliz Navidad, joyeux Noël, Fröhliche Weihnachten, Bo Nadal, счастливого Рождества, क्रिसमस की बधाई, Eguberri on, buon Natale, Nollaig Shona to one and all!"

Feliz Navidad!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: JD's Early Christmas Box

JD writes: A very mixed musical miscellany to lead us up to Christmas-

Feliz Navidad!

Friday, December 09, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing!

A JD compilation to brighten these dark evenings:

This week's musical offering features some 'new style' swing music -

- plus a last-minute bonus:

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Do you remember when...?


From Science Daily we have another story about implanted memories.

Many people are prone to 'remembering' events that never happened, according to new research by the University of Warwick.

In a study on false memories, Dr Kimberley Wade in the Department of Psychology demonstrates that if we are told about a completely fictitious event from our lives, and repeatedly imagine that event occurring, almost half of us would accept that it did.

Hmm - wait until virtual reality takes hold and millions think they were educated at Hogwarts. We ain't seen nothing yet.

Monday, December 05, 2016

If the 2016 EU referendum was not binding, nor was that of 1975

"The referendum result was not legally binding due to the concept of Parliamentary sovereignty. However, it was widely accepted that the vote would be the final say on the matter. In a 1975 pamphlet, then Prime Minister Harold Wilson said: "[. . .] I ask you to use your vote. For it is your vote that will now decide. The Government will accept your verdict."[2] The pamphlet also said: "Now the time has come for you to decide. The Government will accept your decision - whichever way it goes." ",_1975

If the 2016 vote to leave is worthless, then so was the 1975 vote to remain. The real constitutional crisis was inherent in making the abdication of national sovereignty merely a (heavily downplayed) plank in party politics.

Three other countries had a referendum on the issue beforehand, in 1972 - and Norway said no. The UK waited for 3 years and held a referendum only because the Labour Party opposed EEC membership while in opposition.

Either we are headed out, or we were never in.

Dumpster Journalism

Jim in San Marcos writes:

50 years ago, when you picked up a newspaper, you got a report of tragedies, deaths, assassinations, wars and weather reports along with the sports and business pages.

In today’s world, we have people writing the news before it happens. The US Presidential election comes to mind. The problem is, it didn’t happen as written.

What is not appreciated here, is that the manipulation did not go as planned. Journalism failed the common reader by interpreting too many facts and arriving at a conclusion that the reader was expected to reach after reading the article.

The Great Depression of 2006 is now being referred to as the Great Recession of 2006. My point that I made in the past, was that the people of the 1929 Great Depression had no idea that they were in great depression. Something was drastically wrong and they had no idea what it was. It was only when you picked up a history book in the 1950’s that you discovered the Great Depression. It was only when things started to get very noticeably better did people look back and see what they had been in.

I used the newspaper example of how Hillary had the election won to show how the truth about the economy has been stretched a tad. We are being told the economy is just great. 95 million people no longer looking for work and 45 million on food stamps. The fact you can earn more money from an interest perspective, spending money, rather than saving money turns every rule about financing upside down.

The stock market hits new highs. Most all stocks are divorced from the company they represent, the only thing that connects the buyer to the stock value is the dividend. Every stock has an owner and it is not the company (from a technical aspect). The price is determined by what another person is willing to pay for it. So a drop in the price of IBM of say $100 would revalue the net worth of shares issued, but not reflect in one bit the real assets of the actual company.

Right now, the world of journalism says everything is just great. Kind of reminds me of the many newspapers that flat out stated that “Donald Trump could never be elected President.” A reality check seems to indicate that whatever opinions are available to us right now don’t know any more than we do, absolutely nothing.

Admitting that we know nothing gives us the ability to discard common sense if we feel it necessary. We all want to be comforted thinking we made the right decision by looking for company that shares our views, and that leads to problems. The herd is often wrong when it really matters.

The problems that we are about to face have been around 6 to 8 years. My only advice, if you have a job, keep it for the next two years and see how things progress in the immediate future. I get my first Social Security paycheck in two weeks at the age of 70 and I am still working.

We do have to realize that whatever solutions are proposed to fix the current problems will be solved by people who have saved money in the system (you can't tax people that are broke). The most visible taxable assets are wages, real estate and bank savings. What we need to understand is, the whole population is the target for any solution to the problem, not some sort of spend until we drop, financial boondoggle by Congress. We could end up with a Value Added Tax for manufacturing and production. In the future, for Congress, it should be, "Real money in, Real money out."

Remember when you buy a newspaper, they give you what you want to hear, otherwise you select another news source. So, in today’s world you get to pick your own perceived reality. The trouble is, there is no feedback until it is too late, if you are wrong.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: Happy Feet!

JD says...

"Dance like nobody is watching!"

I plead guilty to that! Starting at school, as we all did surely, with Scottish country dancing. And then in the Church's youth club trying to master the waltz- stomp two three, stomp two three! And then into adolescence and the local palais de danse followed by local jazz and beat clubs where it was the jive and twisting the night away. Further down the road, I met an ex- Bluebell Girl who tried to teach me the tango among other things and one night, after the cabaret show she was in, she and I along with the other dancers moved on to a bar somewhere in the old part of Madrid where 'the show' continued - dancing and singing and a glass or two - the joy of life arises in such moments. And now I find that my local working men's club has dancing most nights of the week and it is very popular. That is good to know and it shows how these things go in cycles, in and out of fashion; as long as there is music, there will be the urge to get up and dance.

Now that I am ancient and with limbs that creak, dancing is a fond memory but I reckon I could still dance as they do in this first video! -

""Jesus says that God’s grace is dancing, and that they ought to join up with it. “If you don’t dance,” he says, “you will never understand who God is, or the joy that could be yours.” (“Ye who dance not know not what we are knowing".) It’s like the people at parties who, for either lack of interest or self-professed lack of skill, just sit on the sidelines of the dance floor, observing the fun from afar; they don’t understand what’s so great about dancing, because they’ve never experienced it for themselves. If we would only let go of our fears and insecurities of looking stupid or not being good enough, we would find that “dancing” (worshipping God, and following his lead) is a very fun and fulfilling and natural activity—it’s what we were created for.""
Sackerson adds:

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Nudge Unit

Nick Chater is co-founder of the research consultancy Decision Technology; and is on the advisory board of what was the Cabinet Office's Behavioural Insight Team (BIT), popularly known as the 'Nudge Unit'.

Whatever one thinks of the Nudge Unit, he is an interesting guy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Mince Pies

As most of us must know, mince pies are the point of Christmas. Admittedly Christmas has become tangled up with manic shopping and sentimental twaddle about a guy in a red suit, but that is merely fluff and nonsense. Mince pies are what Christmas is all about. Years ago there was some religious stuff too, but that seems to have given way to the powerful rationality of the mince pie.

Unfortunately our finest mince pie experience came via my late mother-in-law so now we have to make do with second best, but that does not invalidate the pie's primary role at this time of year. So far we have sampled the produce of Sainsbury, Tesco, Granddaughter's play centre and a Matlock cafe.

Obviously it is early in the mince pie season and we intend many more samplings but at this stage it is worth mentioning that Tesco Finest were not particularly fine. Too sweet and not enough spiciness.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference were not bad. Good texture, not too sweet and moderately spicy. They were still supermarket pies though. 

Granddaughter's play centre pies were probably Mr Kipling with all that this implies. At least the coffee rinsed the gunk off my teeth.

The Matlock cafe pies looked as if they came from a local bakery and were pretty good. Good texture, not too sweet and quite spicy. They didn't look as perfect as machine-made pies which ought to be a good sign. 

So all in all not a bad early kick-off for the mince pie season, but it's a pity neither of us is an expert baker. Maybe we'll try Lidl next.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Blair & Co. - A Modest Proposal 

I don't know who is more out of touch with reality: we who hope that the leaders of our various nations actually know what's going on and how to make the best of it, or those among them who think they do.

But some of them come back after their fantasy performance and want to do more. Mr Blair was the Saviour of Britain, then the Conquering Sword in the Middle East, then tried to be made President of Europania, then appointed himself Peacemaker in the Middle East, and now the Elder Statesman of the Labour Party and Last Hope of the Remainers.

He needs help.

Perhaps, instead of impeaching him or trying him at the Hague (together with George W Bush and a raft of other warmongers and war profiteers), we need to make him - and other deluded Great Leaders - a little faux-world fit for their view of it and themselves.

Private enterprise, bless it, shows us the way:

"For those who have forgotten who they are. For those who no longer count time. For those to whom love and care is all that matters. Dementia Village Advisors creates custom living environments for elderly people with dementia. No big anonymous buildings, but instead manageable and pleasant residential areas. Where it is comfortable for everyone to live. Where residents feel safe at home. Where they enjoy living out their final days, connected with family, caregivers and healthcare providers. Where they can enjoy the precious life they were used to and still want to lead."

Patients gather in the Day Room

No more the grandiose Presidential palaces of Romania, Iraq, Turkey and so on - so often torn apart by foreign military bombardment and domestic insurgents. Instead, securely walled simulacra of Downing Street, EU buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg, the UN, Bohemian Grove etc. Safer, more luxurious, more soothing than the East German elite's compound at Waldsiedlung. And even with the best furnishings, food, wines and chauffeured limousines to nowhere, far less costly than the harm they would do to the world if allowed to wander about it.

I'm thinking crowdfunding - any better suggestions?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: Strings Attached

JD presents a cittern selection...

Music from four of the world's finest guitarists.

"How to play the guitar":

I think you might enjoy that :)

Monday, November 21, 2016


JD comments on the outcome:

The dust is settling on the US election and, I am pleased to say, Frankie Boyle managed to insult everyone last night!

There have been other, not quite so iconoclastic, voices recently:

This was the day before the US election-

"Now is the time to change the global image of America into a land of well-being, wealth and ideal ways of living, rather than a source of war."

In contrast, Adam Curtis has produced this new documentary in which he sees how the modern world is presented to us as an illusion, a deliberately created confusion-

At almost three hours long, I am not going to watch it. Life is too short to sit through what seems to be an argument based on a false premise; who exactly is fooled by the falsehoods in the newspapers or the glamorous unreality of the entertainment industry, with its simple minded certainties?

It is very many years since I worked out that the newspapers and TV/cinema give a false view of the world: what I read in the papers bore no resemblance to my daily work or social life or that of anyone I know. What I saw on screen was an outright lie, whether it be 'Coronation Street' or 'Saturday Night And Sunday Morning' - people in real life do not behave in that way.

Curtis is guilty of looking at people as 'interest groups' or stereotypes instead of looking at us as individuals, an attitude he has in common with all of those he criticises. Two others have taken apart the Curtis film so I don't have to.

And the day after the US election, Sadhguru had this to say-

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Will Hammond's organ respond to the needs of women?

I hear Chancellor Philip Hammond plans to instruct his office to crack down on scams targeting pensioners

Will that include the National Insurance Fund, which is running a far-beyond-recommendation £22.7 billion in surplus* as WASPI women watch their State Pension retirement age fade into the distance?

* According to Wikipedia: "Levels of benefit and contributions are set following the advice of the Government Actuary, who recommends that a prudential balance of two months contribution revenue (about £8 billion) should be kept in the fund."

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: A Heart Full Of Soul

JD writes:

No it's not the Yardbirds but their song title is a good description of Sinéad O' Connor and the way she lives her life and sings her songs-

Sinéad O' Connor:

In memory of Veronica Guerin -

You said that people respond positively to what is delivered with great passion. Not many wear their heart on their sleeve the way Sinéad does and she is, in fact, a very fine singer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Democrats Cannot Believe the Results

Jim in San Marcos comments:

Mr. Trump won the election and we have Democrats protesting out in the street even before he takes office. I remember when Obama won, and I sucked it in and said he’s our President now. What he did over 8 years irritated the hell out of me! To say the least.

I get the feeling from these protestors that Democracy is great, only if your candidate wins. And the sad thing is that most of the losers in this race were one issue voters; global warming or the woman President fulfilment goal. I get the feeling that the protestors are either incredibly stupid or have been brainwashed by all of the nonsensical ads about Trump. Many are students that were confused as to why they can’t get a job after spending big bucks on college.

The issue we have here, is that the present protests are over a candidate that has never held a political office and has not yet taken the oath as the next President. He has no political record to censure but yet these disrupters of our Democracy do not give a damn. They want him out before he has even been in.

What we really need to look at, is that we have Donald Trump, a dyed in the wool Democrat, elected as a Republican to be President. He did not fit into the liberal establishment of being politically correct. If you say something that the establishment doesn’t want to hear, you are labeled racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynist and so on. Most people in this situation, shut up and keep quiet. Donald in this case, said bring it on, it won’t stick.

We have come to a point now, where this politically correct police force is visible. Tell a black joke and you are a racist. Tell a religious joke and you’re anti-Semitic. You’re not graded on how funny the joke is.

The real joke is on the political system. It was too corrupt to select real people to run for office. The Democrats had morphed into socialists. Trump was considered harmless. He beat all the Republicans in the Republican primary, got on their white horse and then slew the Hillary dragon.

The one thing that really stands out, is that the news media failed us and showed everyone how manipulative they are as a group. The misinformation they fed us during this election, calling it news, was deplorable. Everyone thought The Donald was exaggerating and bashing the media unfairly.

The Democrats became the party of the rich with socialism for the poor, while the party ignored the middle class. The socialistic Democrats that voted for Hillary, didn’t see Trump as a Democrat. The Republicans were wondering what made Trump a Republican; they were satisfied with the fact that he wasn’t a “damn Socialist” and liked the second amendment. Sooner or later the people of this country will come to realize that the Republicans, without knowing it, put a Democrat into the Oval office.

The good thing is, we have elected a President with a lot of common sense that will speak his mind and is not beholden to the lobbyists in Washington D.C. Obama the politician can probably take credit for the Trump Presidency. He pissed off the wrong person one too many times. Obama, you're fired!!

The neat thing is that both parties won. The Republicans got the man they voted for and the Democrats are too stupid to recognize a Democrat, unless he's holding his hand out for a bribe. "Draining the swamp" just might cure that.

Editor's (i.e. Jim's) note:
I define a true Democrat as representing the middle class.

Original post at:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Voice Of The People

My old Principal was a former computer teacher who had been granted early retirement on account of partial deafness caused by the screeching of the old-fashioned printers. He was born and bred in Lancashire but had come to a school in the Forest of Dean, 140 miles further south and having a very different dialect. At his 65th birthday celebration in the Speech House his old headteacher told this story about (let's call him) Eric:

Soon after he had started at the school, the head was passing in the corridor and asked him how he was getting on. "I can't hear what the boys are saying," said Eric.

Later, after Eric had had a hearing aid fitted, the head asked him again. He replied, "I can hear what the boys are saying, but I can't understand what they are saying." Dean, in rural Gloucestershire and close to the Welsh border, speaks its own language.

Time went by and Eric eventually picked up the lingo. The head repeated his query, and Eric said, "I can hear what the boys are saying, and I understand what they are saying. But - I don't like what they are saying." Dean people, a tight community, are accustomed to running their own affairs and speaking their minds freely, hence their Speech House.

In 2016, after the RefEurendum and Trumpquake, this tale has a fresh resonance.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Last Trump, if this one fails?

JD follows up:

"Good morning America, how are you?"

This is worth reading (trigger warning! - Ed) -

What he is describing in small town America is similar to those areas of the UK away from the metropolitan south east; factories and industries closed and nothing to replace them. Thirty years of neglect, thirty years of despair. Denninger has his usual rant against 'the left'" and he still seems to believe in 'free markets' but instead of complaining about 'illegals' taking low paid (and tax dodging) jobs he should really be railing against those who employ the illegals.

What he is really describing fits the famous quote by Ted Heath over the Lonrho affair - "the unacceptable face of capitalism". If you were to play Monopoly long enough you would find that in the end there is only one winner and that is what the political consensus has been over the past thirty years, a giant global game of Monopoly!

Why did the Red States vote for Trump? I am reminded of a line in Kriss Kristofferson's song 'Me & Bobby McGee' - "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose". That is why the blue collar vote went to Trump and the metropolitan bien-pensants stayed at home.

I don't like or trust Trump but we can only wait and see. The reality of the job might sober him up and for the first time in his life he will find a genuine and equally determined opposition to whatever he wants to do and he will find that he cannot sack people as easily as he might do in the world of business.

During my working life in the construction industry I have met quite a few property developers and some of them were almost human. But mostly they are dedicated to a relentless pursuit of money. There was even one who bankrupted his company (as Trump has done four times) in order to avoid paying the architects, the other consultants and property taxes (that was a Swiss company planning a housing development in Spain).

Saw this on RT but nowhere else -

Now it has appeared on Breitbart-

Soros protecting his money you see - the unacceptable face of capitalism. Soros is the exact opposite of Andrew Carnegie.

Carnegie believed in using his fortune for others and doing more than making money. He wrote: "Man must have no idol and the amassing of wealth is one of the worst species of idolatry! No idol is more debasing than the worship of money!"

If Trump were to emulate Carnegie then he will be a great President; if not then it is anyone's guess as to what will happen next.

Andrew Carnegie again: - “The day is not far distant when the man who dies leaving behind him millions of available wealth, which was his to administer during life, will pass away un-wept, un-honored and un-sung. (...) Of such as these the public verdict will then be: ‘The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.’”

Trumpquake: the aftershocks

JD comments:

When I woke up the morning after the US Presidential Election I switched on the radio and Radio4 were broadcasting Test Match Special live from India. So it was good to know that some people at the Beeb have their priorities right!

Anyway, a few random thoughts-

The other night on Beeb4 we had Rich Hall taking a very funny and cynical look at 240 years of presidents and campaigns. He concluded that the only president who did anything worthwhile was Jimmy Carter but only after he left the White House -

Another programme the same night on the Beeb had Angela Scoular spending time with some unlikely Trump supporters- Milo Yiannopoulos, college students, African Americans, Latinos and some wannabe beauty queens.

It was most enlightening because she made no judgment on them, just asked neutral and sensible questions but the best bit was when she looked at Trump tee shirts for sale and she asked "Where was that made?" It said Haiti on the label. "You had better hide that!" she said.

That last one is the one to keep an eye on. Trump promised he would create 6000 jobs with the building of his golf course in Aberdeen but only 200 have been created. And then there is this from 2013, but it is an ongoing saga-

So when the honeymoon period is over and the promised jobs for the rust belt States are slow to appear............

Unfortunately the Hillary would have been worse; you have no doubt seen this from John Ward -

And there was this also on the Beeb about Anthony Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin. As John Ward noted, having those two advising Madam President doesn't bear thinking about.

If Trump decides to appoint Trey Gowdy as Attorney General, or to any other position, then life could become very interesting indeed-

And just to bring a bit of light relief to the madness -

We live in interesting times :)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: A Big Wad Of Cash

JD gives us a selection of the work of Johnny Cash:

This time it is The Man In Black who doesn't really need any introduction. The difficulty was wondering what to leave out!

And a fitting tribute to John Cash and June Carter in this song by Eric Brace-

Hope you like them.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Vigils and vanities


Political conflict has always been painfully divisive and the reactions of UK Remainers and US Clinton supporters to their tragic loss is an old game. Blame the referee, the other team for cheating, opposition flukes, anything but admit the simple fact of defeat.

Holding vigils in protest against Donald Trump’s victory is a typically self-righteous example, yet one is bound to wonder at the readiness with which people absorb political narratives into their personalities. If we are unwise enough to support a political party or political narrative then that is what we do, we sign over a chunk of our personality, our character. It is not an add-on, it is a replacement.

Which is why political supporters defend political parties, political actors and political narratives with such implacable determination. However ludicrous the narrative, however empty the promises, however flaky the actors, the degree of personal investment is difficult to understand unless we realise how personal it all is. As personal as a pound of flesh.

People do not invest part of their personality in a political stance; they give up part of their personality and replace it with political behaviour. Instead of mulling over political questions they acquire the tools for standard political answers which are almost always improvised but improvised around a core which cannot be modified.

As for the politically victorious, as well as the joy of winning there is also a sense of relief at not having lost, of not having to justify losing, not having to find excuses, not having to be angry. For now.

This is the fascination of political conflict. It exposes the shallowness of human nature, its dependence on imitation and past history, its indifference to reason. It highlights the contrast between observed behaviour and the complex, dangerously colourful myths with which we drench our political vanities. 

Friday, November 04, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: Bish Bash Bosch!

JD writes: A musical treat this week :)


After being pleasantly surprised by the music transcribed from the Heironymus Bosch painting I explored more into medieval music and found some wonderful music, some of it sounding very modern: timeless perhaps?

Hieronymus Bosch Butt Music

Troubadour love song by Arany Zoltán

Anonymous (13th Century): El Cant de la Sibil·la Provençal / M. Figueras & J. Savall

Durme, Durme (Traditional Sephardic Lullaby)

English Dance "13th century"

Beatriz of Dia - A chantar m'er de so:

The Comtessa de Dia (Countess of Die), probably named Beatritz or Beatriz (1140-1175), was a trobairitz (female troubadour). She is only known as the comtessa de Dia in contemporary documents, but was almost certainly named Beatriz and likely the daughter of Count Isoard of Diá (a town northeast of Montelimar in southern France). She was married to William of Poitiers, but was in love with and sang about Raimbaut of Orange (1146-1173). Beatrice's poems were often set to the music of a flute. Five of her works survive, including 4 cansos and 1 tenson. "A chantar m'er de so" is the only existing song by Beatriz which survived with music.

This is not exactly medieval but it is included because I love it as well as the story that a very young Mozart 'stole' it after hearing it sung in the Sistine Chapel-


I think you will agree that is something different indeed :)

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Brexit ruling: "trying it on"

JD comments:

Today's decision in the High Court serves to highlight the absurdity of the Law. What it does is give supremacy to the letter of the law over the spirit of the law.

As Dickens wrote "the law is a ass" but Steinbeck pointed out another more fundamental flaw in the law. In his novel Cannery Row (I think it was that book) he has his character Doc come back from a day in court just observing proceedings and he declares in astonishment that "both sides were trying to win!" 'Doc' had suddenly realised that in an adversarial legal system the Law is not concerned with right or wrong, it is not concerned with justice, it is not concerned with discovering the truth, it is concerned only with the Law; interpretation of statutes, the precise legal status of every single word or phrase within a statute and only then because there has been a legal challenge. And any legal challenge which comes before the court will depend on who employs the most eloquent and persuasive advocate. Or to put it another way, the winner will be the side who can afford the best lawyers.

I know something of how the law operates because I was involved occasionally in contractual disputes in the construction industry. The most important question we asked was "what did the two parties intend" in other words, the spirit of the law was a major factor in deciding if the contract dispute was 'vexatious' or not. In the vernacular that means- was one of the parties 'trying it on' or just being greedy for money, and I could list more than a few that were like that especially during the 80s.

Going back to the opening paragraph, the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law. It must be understood that a statute can be interpreted in more than one way because of the limitations of language. It is written in good faith and when it is passed into Law, there will be a consensus opinion as to the meaning which is accepted by everyone. In other words we all think we know what it means and abide by that law, abide by the spirit of that law.

The case brought against the Brexit decision was, in my view, vexatious and should have been thrown out. The plaintiffs were wrong and even the full weight of the law does not make it right.

There is a further complication here in that European Law overrules English Law in any and all cases. This was decreed by Lord Justice Laws when he declared that the 1972 European Communities Act was a Constitutional Act and, as such, he overturned the convention that Parliament cannot bind its successors. We are bound to the EU and all the talk of Article 50 is a smokescreen. The only way we can Brexit is by repealing that 1972 Act and that has never been an option, our Parliamentarians have no intention of ever leaving the EU and have no desire to do so.


I have been reading the summary of today's judgement.

The judge confirms what I wrote when he says - "This is a pure question of law. The court is not concerned with and does not express any view about the merits of leaving the European Union: that is a political issue" - as I said the law is not interested in anything other than interpreting the letter of the law.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Pensioner's suicide

Dawn has a grim piece about a Karachi pensioner's suicide after shameful treatment by officials.

ONE can only imagine what it would take for an elderly man to commit suicide. The recent case of one such individual, who had been making the rounds of Karachi’s Civic Centre to obtain pension that he had reportedly not been paid for 13 months, leaves one reeling with anger. His family says he had been making repeated trips to collect what was his due, and the staff that he spoke to made fun of him and his efforts to collect his pension. The resulting depression, according to his family, led him to take the extreme step of jumping off the building, and not the lack of payment. The explanations given by KMC, where the man worked all his life and from where he expected his pension, and by Karachi’s deputy mayor, somehow do not ring true. They claim that pension cheques worth Rs740m “have been readied” and will be disbursed once the Sindh government releases the funds.

Apart from the obvious, what strikes one about this story is how the actions of those officials are now available for the whole world to see and deplore. A few years ago this would not have been the case.

The internet has tied that pensioner's callous treatment to Karachi, Karachi's Civic Centre and KMC, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation. It may be too late for him but the world is changing. It could change for the better.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

US stock market PANIC as FBI investigates Clinton!

What's the difference between the MSM and a bucket of horse puckey?

- The bucket.

Was the Iraq war a "Nuremberg" crime?

"Benjamin B. Ferencz was one of the chief prosecutors for the United States at the military trials of German officials following World War II, and a former law professor. In an interview given on August 25, 2006, Ferencz stated that not only Saddam Hussein should be tried, but also George W. Bush because the Iraq War had been begun by the U.S. without permission by the UN Security Council.[54] Benjamin B. Ferencz wrote the foreword for Michael Haas's book, George W. Bush, War Criminal?: The Bush Administration's Liability for 269 War Crimes.[55] Ferencz elaborated as follows:
a prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity, that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation.[56]"

See also:

And Libya? And Syria?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Democrats won’t raise taxes on the middle class—don’t believe it

Our new contributor Jim in San Marcos says:

Just how true is the statement that the taxes for the middle class will not be raised? —They will only tax the rich? Believe that and buy the Brooklyn bridge while you're at it.

If you examine your pay check stub, you will see the full amount paid to you with the Federal and state taxes deducted. Notice that there are other deductions, that are called payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Technically you get them back some time way in the future, so they are not really taxes. The employee pays 6.2 percent Social Security tax and also a 1.45 percent Medicare tax which add up to a total of 7.65 percent. And naturally your employer matches those amounts. In reality, the employee pays the full 14.3 percent: the employer anticipates this as part of your salary before he even hires you.

It sounds great that the employer pays half, but if you think about it, wages are a business expense. When you look at your paystub, you see Social Security and Medicare deductions at 7.65 percent. You’d look at your paystub a little different if it reflected 14.3 percent in payroll deductions.

If the administration decides to raise Social Security and Medicare rates, they can do it and this is not considered raising your taxes. It is only deducted from the first 127K of earnings. I would guess that people earning more than 127K a year have progressed beyond the middle class.

So if you are like me, with all of my 401k deductions to reduce my taxes, I still get hit with 20% income tax. Add on to that the 14.3 percent for SS and Medicare, and we arrive at about 35 percent of my paycheck is eaten up by government deductions and income tax.

Let’s throw in some health insurance, my employer contributes $11,000 a year and I contribute $5,000. I’m not even sick and if I was to get coverage privately, it would be rather pricey. Now if your employer doesn’t offer insurance, guess what? You now have to purchase it on your own, by law. Ask yourself one question: are health insurance premiums in the private sector based on how much you earn, or are they the same for everyone? And the government has a plan for you called Obamacare. If you are too poor to afford insurance, you get full coverage. If you make some decent wages, you can only afford the plans with the high deductible that render them worthless.

Now a couple of weeks before the election, the state insurance boards are announcing new increases in rates for insurers in the following states because of Obamacare. Here are a few of them; Tennessee: 44% to 62%, Pennsylvania: 33%, Oklahoma: 76%, Nebraska: 35%, Minnesota: 50% to 67%, Illinois: 44%, Georgia: 32%, Alabama: 36%, Colorado: 20% and Iowa: 43%.

So let me get this straight, employers don’t have to pay health insurance for workers working under 30 hours. And by God they deserve $15 dollars and hour. So, you end up working two jobs to get 40 hours and are forced to purchase government health care insurance at your own expense.

How do you raise taxes on the middle class when you move them to a lower class? Donald Trump can end some of this misdirection on the middle class by getting rid of Obamacare. Raising the minimum wage just insures that corporations move overseas. The minimum wage has never been a wage to elevate people above the poverty level; it has been an entry level wage for employers to train new employees.

Where to from here? I hope we end up with Donald Trump as President. He isn’t a politician, and this is what has Washington DC worried. IMHO he is what the country needs to get back into the groove of being a major power. Obama was nothing more than a tourist with an unlimited expense account for visiting foreign countries. The era of  “Obama the tourist” needs to be retired.

Jim's Note:

Normally this blog doesn't take political positions and I don't apologize for not being politically correct. But I feel it necessary to take a stand. The news organizations of this country have selectively decided to hide "The Great Depression" that we are in, and sugar coat the present economic conditions to sway the election.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: A Look At Luka

JD's latest Friday selection...

Luka Bloom is the younger brother of Christy Moore and is, in my view, every bit as good as his more famous sibling.

Here is a selection from his excellent back catalogue, the first one featuring Sinéad O’Connor-

And two songs with his brother-

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Drownded on Titanic

Part of a gravestone at St Mary's church, Tissington. It records the death of Frank Richard Allsop aged 43, a saloon steward on the Titanic.

Mr Frank Richard Allsop, 43, came from Devon England. When he signed onto the Titanic he gave his address as Obelisk Rd, Southampton (elsewhere recorded as Woolston, Hampshire). His sister, Mrs H. McLaren was a stewardess on the ship. 

Frank's death is recorded on his father James' gravestone as his body was not recovered. 'Drownded' seems to be a dialect word, never particularly common although I've heard it a few times.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Three art teachers

JD' offers this tribute to those who educated him in art:

The gentleman in the video is Harvey Sklair (talking to his nephew) and you can see a few of his paintings on the walls. He was the art teacher at my school and I have never forgotten him even though it was 60 years ago. And here is his potted biography and it sounds about right, matching my recollection of him -

I had been meaning to do this for a while so today I put the name Harvey Sklair into Google and there he was! It is such an unusual name that I felt sure that the all seeing eye of the Google would find him. He was my art teacher in my first two years at grammar school. I've never forgotten him because he was completely different from all the other teachers. He had a large beard and wore a corduroy jacket or a leather jacket. But it wasn't just his appearance that set him apart from the other teachers.

He didn't 'teach' us, he encouraged us to find inspiration within ourselves although I couldn't articulate it in that way at the time. He coaxed the ideas out of us and guided us in the right direction. And that is what education is or should be about. According to the OED the word 'education' is derived from the Latin "e-ducere" meaning to "pull out" or "to lead forth"  -

Rather than fill our little heads with information, he would encourage us to do things. I can remember, among other things, making lino-cut prints by carving line drawings into lino, (all those very sharp cutting tools! - horror of horrors! Would that be allowed today?), making papier mache models and painting them, making a copy of Magritte's Empire of Light, which Magritte had painted only two years before I copied it!. And there were many other similar projects and new ideas. But then he left and in the third year art had to be dropped; that is to say, art was one of the 'fringe' subjects and deemed to be of lesser importance than more 'academic' subjects. We were allowed one 'fringe' subject only so it was a choice between art, music, woodwork and something else. I chose woodwork because I thought it might be more useful - I still have the bedside table I made. (More horror of horrors - we were allowed to use a lathe, carving round table legs. Again, would that sort of thing be allowed today?)

So Harvey Sklair left a very strong impression on me and, I suspect, on all who were taught by him. As I recall there were more than few at my school who produced some really inventive and skilled works of art. 

And then the real world intervened and I went off to earn a living and it was many years later that I returned to 'art school' in the form of part time drawing and painting classes run locally.

Firstly with a regular visit to the DLI Museum in Durham where the teacher was Linda Birch who was and still is a professional artist and illustrator. She produced, among other things, the designs for Oliver Postgate's "Bagpuss" and "The Clangers" You can read more about her here-

 Then I used to go to one of the attic rooms in the Laing Art Gallery where Cheryl Hamer was running a painting class. Again, a professional painter who has a painting in the Laing although I cannot find any reproductions of it. This is as close as I can get-

I have been very fortunate in having had three very good teachers of art and I have absorbed a great deal from each of them for which I am very grateful. Whether I live up to their standards or not is debatable but that is not the point. The end product, i.e. the painting, is not important, it is the process which matters. To become fully absorbed in the act of painting, forgetting all else, is an act of prayer a meditation. During those few moments of intense concentration the painter becomes the painting, the painting IS the painter, merged into one.

That way sound a bit airy-fairy or just plain silly but it is a reality. I have tried to explain it elsewhere a few years ago- "I was drawing a picture of a vase of daffodils. My subconscious took over completely to the point where the class tutor (Linda Birch) said she was going to demonstrate some technique and I wanted to get up and watch but I couldn’t move, so ‘locked-in’ was I in the process of looking at and drawing the subject before me. That was a very weird experience and it has me searching for some way of explaining it."

 Did I learn anything? Yes! Did it do me any good as a painter? I don't know -

Just a little chapter on my long journey (meander?) through life.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Our national shame

New Labour in its pomp was guided by the likes of Peter Mandelson, now (like so many) a bought-and-paid-for EUrocrat. Here he is with some other Brits, simpering in the presence of billionaire Oleg Deripaska. They are almost clutching themselves with excitement.

They may kiss Deripaska's bottom, but President Putin doesn't:

The video is a treat - watch Deripaska lie about having signed an agreement, be effortlessly called on it and called up front, then like a sulky schoolboy try to take the pen with him, only to be schoolmastered by the President.

Where do we Westerners have politicians who can do that?

Now it may well be that Mr Putin is not a nice man. But remember Churchill's saying, "The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet." To dominate a pack of wolves you have to be a wolf. Has Putin enriched himself? He would probably not be taken seriously by his lupine underlings if he hadn't. But do you doubt that he works for Russian national interests, as well as his own?

This week's Private Eye - a formerly independent magazine that now appears to have taken editorial "lines" on e.g. Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn - features on its front page paired photographs of US President Obama and Presidential candidate Trump, dubbed "HOPE" and "GROPE" respectively. This tempts us to ask, what became of the hope represented by Obama - and by Bill Clinton?

Yes, the American econo-political machine has its own juggernaut course, just like the British one. Yet remember Kennedy and FDR: there is a period at the start of incumbency, especially when the nation is in crisis, when a new leader could potentially cut free of his handlers and appeal direct to the people to support significant reforms.

In 2009 I (along with millions of others) hoped that President Obama might sort out the crooked financial establishment; instead, it has sorted us out. And as for President Clinton, doubtless Congress and the Senate threw various spanners in his designs, but why exactly did he feel he had to repeal Glass-Steagall as one of his final acts before leaving office? I also hear that he earlier instituted welfare reforms that made life much harder for many vulnerable people; are there not times when the President can refuse to sign?

As with the EU referendum, in America Presidential election campaigns encourage both halves of the nation to hate and despise each other, and then we wonder why the people are not happy. And it's all Punch and Judy. "Grope," indeed. The bien-pensant media tell us what to think, and how to vote, and if we don't do as we're told there's an endless post-vote campaign to tell us we were wrong. But the big problems are not sorted.

I never thought we'd have anything to learn from the Russians.