Saturday, September 29, 2018

Friday, September 28, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Salad Days, by JD

Before he made the "Star Wars" series of films, the director George Lucas made a few low budget films. One of them turned out to be the best film he ever made - "American Graffiti" and in 1995, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The film is set in 1962 and is to a certain extent autobiographical in that it reflects Lucas' own teenage years in Modesto, California. The story line is in reality incosequential because the film is a study of the cruising and rock and roll cultures popular among the post–World War II baby boom generation. The film is a series of vignettes, telling the story of a group of teenagers and their adventures over a single night, that night being the last day of summer. The following day would see one of the principal characters leaving town to start college. The series of vignettes is set against a soundtrack of 41 popular songs of the period with the voice of radio DJ, Wolfman Jack, hovering in the background. Each of the songs reflects the story line as it unfolds which gives an operatic quality to the film, a teenage opera in fact.

It is 45 years since the film was released and I remember it well; looking at the clips it dawned on me that 1962 was a pivotal year. It was the end of an age of innocence and optimism, it was when the 'American Dream' died.

In 1963 JFK was murdered and then the country sank into the quagmire of Vietnam. Everything changed, nothing would ever be the same again.

Lucas was aware of the change of mood because the film ends with stills of the four main characters and captions telling of their subsequent fates.

But the music, ah the music. It was innocent, it was optimistic but above all it was singalong melodic and beautifully nostalgic for an oldie like me!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Killing Killing Eve

Killing Eve, an eight-part TV series made for BBC America, is successful and has been widely praised - even by Peter Hitchens*, who thereby persuaded me to have a look.

But I wonder if it is not obscene.

The 1959 Obscene Publications Act, later updated in the Broadcasting Act 1990 to include broadcast matter, makes the issue one of whether a publication is likely to "deprave and corrupt."

The test was explained - yet not fully clarified - in an 1868 case: "the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall."

Note that it does not have to have this effect on everyone who accesses the material, merely those who are susceptible.

What concerns me is not only the extreme violence, though there is an incident in the first episode I would pay money to be able to forget entirely. It is the complete lack of empathy and even sadistic joy shown by the murderess, smilingly observing the suffering of her dying victims.

We are a simian species, and "monkey see, monkey do."

Film director Stanley Kubrick withdrew his 1971 film "A Clockwork Orange" from British cinemas in 1973 following a murder in Bletchley that seems to have had some connection. Kubrick denied art's power to influence behaviour: "people cannot be made to do things which are at odds with their natures." But the question remains, can art influence someone who has that potential, to actualise it?

I have read - and perhaps my source, which I can't remember, was wrong - that one purpose of the ancient Games in Rome was to keep encouraging violent tendencies and lack of empathy in the Roman people so that they could continue to be the fearsomely cruel and warlike masters of the known world.

Even a libertarian is likely to draw the line at allowing freedoms that harm others. And if some susceptible person in my neighbourhood watches this kind of material and could be influenced to unleash his demon on me or mine, I have a legitimate interest in questioning the licensing of material likely to deprave.

In the UK case where Lewis Daynes murdered Breck Brednar, a boy he had groomed on the Internet, the boys had spent time playing violent video games online together, and Daynes was also ­said to have been "obsessed with videos of terrorist beheadings." Not all imagination leads to action, but don't many actions begin in imagination?

The first episode of Killing Eve is supposed to have been seen by over 5 million people in the UK so far (live or streamed afterwards). The wider the audience, the greater the chances that someone on the edge will see it and do - something.

Killing Eve is most skilfully acted and directed, with high production values. But if its effect is obscene, then the better it is made, the worse it offends.

* "I didn't expect or even want to like the new BBC series Killing Eve, starring Jodie Comer, pictured, as a distractingly beautiful embodiment of pure evil.

"The trailers put me off. But the programme itself is an unexpected joy, looking and sounding witty, refusing to treat viewers as idiots, and, actually, a lot better than the overrated Bodyguard." 


Friday, September 21, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Sam Amidon, by JD

The BBC Proms may be over but they continue to provide a rich source of music, sometimes in ways that were not quite intended. There was one prom given over to Jacob Collier who is apparently a rising star of the music world. But his hyperactive performance, running around the stage like an excitable toddler, trying to play every instrument in reach, was underwhelming to say the least. His attempt at playing a version of a song by the pop group The Police was even worse than the original; no mean achievement.

The redeeming feature of the night were his guest artists of whom Sam Amidon was outstanding. He is a folk singer in the American tradition but he draws on many influences to modify his style of folk music and give it an individual twist.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Brexit and free trade: between the devil and the deep blue sea

The EU has forgotten its mission, and we haven't worked out ours.

The European Union began as a common market, gradually abolishing tariffs internally while agreeing on external tariffs, so economically it was about the Four Freedoms (goods and services, capital and labour) among its members and protectionism in their collective relations with the rest of the world.

This would work so long as the members were largely similar. When the European Economic Community was first formed in 1957, its members were the Benelux countries plus France, Germany and Italy: a contiguous grouping of modern industrial nations. They could realistically aim for freedom of movement without risking potentially destabilising levels of migration. Having said that, Southern Italy lagged behind in its economic development and there was a long history of migration from there to northern Italian cities and abroad to the USA; yet otherwise, there were not such stark inequalities as to threaten chaotic mass population flows.

But the EU and its antecedents were not merely or even principally about establishing a trading bloc, and as its membership grew so did the tensions between its disparate objectives. For example, the founders of the EU aimed to prevent another war in continental Europe, yet the EU has interfered in the now-divided Ukraine in a way that threatens a direct confrontation between major global military powers. Also, the ambition to steer the EU into becoming a single nation via (among other things) fiscal union led the EU to welcome Greece into the Eurozone despite disqualifications that Goldman Sachs helped the Greeks to disguise and the EU's leadership pretended not to see; with distressing consequences for the Greek nation. Again, though the underlying philosophy of the EU is socialist, the admission of countries with far lower systems of wages and prices opened the way for economic competition that depressed the wages and conditions of the working classes of the more advanced EU members - a process both warned about by the late Sir James Goldsmith in 1994 at the time of the GATT talks and also now admitted  in a recent publication widely misreported as contradicting such claims:“Some evidence that migration reduces employment and raises unemployment of some groups (e.g. the young and less well-educated)… Some evidence that migration has reduced earnings growth for the lower-paid… Evidence that migration, especially lower-skilled, has reduced the prices of [i.e.wages earned in] personal services… Evidence that migration has raised house prices, more in areas where housebuilding is more restricted.”

Enlargement was not the initiative of the EU only; other nations had to decide whether it was in their interest to apply for membership. In this context it is worth noting that the British Prime Minister who decided that this was the future for the UK was not Harold Wilson or Ted Heath but Heath's former boss, Harold Macmillan, who had set Heath on to explore the constitutional implications of membership. Lord Kilmuir replied to Heath in  December 1960 (see end of linked document) warning of the many difficulties involved.

By the way, it has been said that the British electorate were not told, later, in 1975, of the concomitant loss of sovereignty. Not so; but there was an orchestrated campaign to bury the bad news in verbiage and drown it in talk of "FOOD and MONEY and JOBS."

Yet the then PM decided to go ahead: "On 26 July 1961, Harold Macmillan, the UK prime minister, informally told the Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, that his government had finally come to a decision to join the EEC as a full member. With respect to this hotly-debated issue, Macmillan wrote that: 'after weighing all the considerations we have reached the conclusion that the right course for us is to seek to enter into negotiations with the Six'." 

In turn this threatened Ireland's existing economic arrangements with the UK: "In brief, Ireland exported agricultural products to the UK without restrictions and exported industrial products under a preferential arrangement; in turn, the UK had recourse to cheap agricultural goods and a market for its industrial goods. Of course, if such an agreement was to continue indefinitely, Ireland would have been economically protected, though at the same time, it would also still be in a position of acute, even reinforced, dependence. However, the prospect of losing these arrangements, first to EFTA and now to the EEC, had a remarkably sobering effect upon Irish policy-makers." In the event, Ireland and the UK joined at the same time in 1973, thus getting round the hard-border problem of its day.

But Ireland's difficulties did not end there. She joined the Eurozone in 1999, prompting an influx of money that not only filled the pubs for Sunday lunches but also inflated the housing market; and the fallout from the property-related Global Financial Crisis less than a decade later broke her two biggest banks, despite the Irish Government's underwriting their losses. In the interests of monetary conservatism the European Central bank then required Eire to repay the €31 billion of failed emergency support, financing the operation with a huge loan from the ECB. The still-ongoing process of withdrawing such a large amount of money from circulation (over €10,000 per registered voter, ignoring the "money multiplier" effect) plus paying the interest, has crippled Ireland's economy with deflation.

In short, the inconsistent aims of the EU have led to difficulties that no-one would have wished; difficulties compounded by an organisational structure designed to foster "ever-closer union" at the cost of suppressing democratic feedback; a structure reminiscent of the 1871 Wilhelmine Constitution of Germany, as I said some time ago, and which similarly has the potential to provoke social unrest, and the defiance and possibly even secession of some member states.

Resistance to Britain's membership of the EU came from the patriots of the British Left as well as from those of the Right. Coldly glared at by Ted Heath, Peter Shore delivered a stirring pre-Referendum speech to the Oxford Union in 1975, speaking not only of the deliberate and unwarranted undermining of national confidence but also of our deteriorating trade and financial balance as a consequence of having joined. Whether or not the imbalance (e.g. in the coal and steel markets) was deliberately planned by the EU, as some allege, the accumulated losses plus the financial support we contributed to the Union have cost us dearly, not merely in money but in domestically-owned productive capacity.

Over 40 years ago, Peter Shore referred ironically to misconceptions of our "tottering about" the world stage, but it is now a moot point whether we can indeed stand on our own two feet any more. Much of our manufacturing, even of our infrastructure, is multinational- or foreign-owned, as Alex Brummer detailed five years ago in his book "Britain For Sale." We have lost so many levers of our economic power and it will be a major battle to recover them, to rebuild. Do we have the stomach for the fight?

Some in the pro-Brexit camp offer as an alternative to EU serfdom, the freedom to trade globally. Now if this means without any carefully-considered system of tariffs and mutually beneficial trade agreements, it could be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. We could, for example, import cheaper food from the Third World; but what would that mean for what is left of our farming and fishing industries?

When De Gaulle was President of France, he opposed Britain's entry into the EU partly because he saw us as a Trojan horse for American exports to Europe. This was the protectionist face of the EU and up to a point that is justifiable.

If tariffs are merely a wall, then they risk a trade war - and if President Trump overplays that hand that is what he may get from China. But what if agreements on tariffs and trade were not the free-for-all sought by GATT, but designed as a kind of braking and steering system? In a globalised economy there is so much risk of lurching about and crashing that something has to be done to slow the rate of change. If import duties are calibrated to give the domestic labour force a fighting chance, then there is the possibility of all of us raising our game; otherwise, all we face here is abject defeat.

We have an over-large population in the UK, one that we cannot adequately feed from our own land and shores, and one whose prospects of gainful employment is undermined by the Internet and robotics as much as by faraway foreign labour that is paid a tenth of our hourly rate. We need a national plan for increasing our ability to survive in a world that is becoming more chaotic and in which energy is becoming more expensive.

Getting free from the gear-grinding, self-wrecking machine of the EU is not the end of the story, but the very beginning.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

BREXIT: The Left Has Forgotten Its Business

In response to an avowedly left-wing blogger on the tenth anniversary of the Lehman-led Crash:

I was with you all the way until you started on the because-Brexit riff.

Surely you are aware that Cameron promised a referendum because (a) he didn't think he'd have to make good on it, since he expected to lead another coalition government and (b) he thought it would finally expose and shut up a vocal minority of fruitcakes and loons in check shirts and corduroy trousers - below-stairs people.

He then spent millions of public money to urge Remain, and brought over that poseur Obama to add his thumb to the scales. And when Cameron saw the result, he left, because it looked too much like hard work and Etonians do not labour.

Since then Theresa May has played a blinder, busting a gut to make sure that anything like a meaningful Brexit doesn't happen.


Because the EU is a model village of globalism, which has kept down workers' wages and hugely benefited the traders and large businesses you so rightly criticise. Why do you think that practically everywhere in England and Wales except for the rich South-East had a clear majority for Leave? Frank Field made the class-economic issue clear in a clip still circulating on the Internet, before the vote. And the late Sir James Goldsmith forecast the potential for growing inequality and social unrest, way back in 1994 when the GATT talks were on:

And then there's the matter of democracy. The more you look at the EU the more you will see how it is part of a move towards global managerialism and the silencing of the ordinary person. The sneerocracy acts as though it thinks the commoners should never have been allowed a vote in the first place.

I simply do not understand why the Left - not the I'm-all-right-jack Blairites - has not run up its flag for democracy and the interests of the working class.

Friday, September 14, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: The Ayoub Sisters, by JD

During a brief review which the Beeb showed of Proms in the Park, I saw the Ayoub Sisters performing on Glasgow Green playing 'Misirlou'. It was enough to make me find out more about them because they were excellent.

Sarah and Laura Ayoub were both born in Glasgow to Egyptian parents. They were classically trained, Sarah on cello and Laura on violin and Laura currently uses a 1810 J.Gagliano violin which is kindly loaned to her by Florian Leonhard, the London based violin maker and restorer.

 They began their musical adventure as youngsters playing in a ceilidh band. Further information can be found here -

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Road To Damascus - Stopping Military Adventurism in Syria

Peter Hitchens is asking us to write to our MPs to avert war.

I have emailed mine, anyone else want to do the same?

Here is my effort, please feel free to copy/adapt if you think it of any use:

Would you be willing to ask a question at PMQs about false flag attacks in Syria?

I read recently that America was warning the Syrian Government that if there is another use of chemical weapons there then a military response will be launched.
Sample article:

This has been interpreted by some as an encouragement to IS and other rebel forces to stage or fake one so as to give the US a pretext for an attack on Syrian government forces and installations, so effectively helping terrorists. It is alleged that this has happened before:

A US Senator is now claiming that MI6 are involved in planning something like this for the near future.

Can you please seek a clear and unequivocal assurance from HMG that if a chemical weapons use happens or is alleged, the UK will send a team to obtain conclusive forensic proof of its use and the identity/affiliation of the perpetrators, before making any statement in support of further US intervention in Syria or offering any assistance from HM Armed Forces?

By coincidence, yesterday I came upon an extended illustrated BBC blogpiece by the documentary-maker Adam Curtis (essentially a plan of his programme):

The aggressive incompetence of the very divided UK intelligence community is certainly not limited to offloading a full pistol magazine into the face of a terrified Brazilian electrician. Reading Curtis, the scales fall from our eyes with the clatter of spent shells.

And now, as we see above, it is alleged that MI6 are helping lay the groundwork for another US air attack on Syria.

MI6 has form in this kind of caper - remember that two of their officers were found with a bunch of SAS men in Libya as the West started boiling the pot there:

And then there is the long history of governments exploiting foreign factions and forces for short-term advantage and as often as not, long-term disaster. Think of the King of Leinster inviting the Normans (not "the Saxon foe across the water") into Wexford in 1169; the Germans smuggling 50 million gold marks plus Lenin into Russia to help foment revolution there, so German divisions could be transferred to the Western Front in WWI; the British encouragement of Islamic revivalism in the Middle East in the early 20th century, to push back against Communist influence; and so on and on.

A propos, like many others I used to think that the Allies hanged the German High Command at Nuremberg for their atrocities against Jews and others. No: it was for "Crimes against peace", as in:

i. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
ii Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

Will we at some point try neoconservative hawks, or shamefacedly and posthumously pardon Nazis?

UPDATE (16.09.18):

Mr Hitchens has repeated his call in his MoS column today. I fear that the plan is to arrange the false-flag attack before Parliament reopens so as to prevent opposition to Western acts of war on Syria.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

"Yet all shall be forgot": Brazil museum fire


The tribes have gone; the archaeological evidence has gone and their voices have gone; soon enough the memory of them will have gone.

Perhaps some scraps can be recovered, if the public helps:

I don’t think enough people really understand yet exactly how horrific this fire was. This was a loss to our world and species.

This is the kind of fire we think of thousands of years later as the deepest of tragedy. On the scale of the Library of Alexandria. It’s worse than that really. The Library of Alexandria kept copies of books in other locations so historically very little was lost in individual fires over the centuries.

This? We lost so goddamn much in one night.

If you want to help… if you have ANY vacation photos, videos, anything documenting the contents of the museum: You may in fact be the sole owner of a slice of humanity’s soul.

Please send a copy to:


Saturday, September 08, 2018

UK POLITICS: What We Did After Our Holidays

Political coincidences...

PM Theresa May's woeful weakness in EU negotiations has had the Tory membership enraged all summer and calling for her to go, so suddenly...

Our intelligence services have named two Russians who are definitely responsible for the Skripal poisonings, probably, you'll see, trust us, usual suspects etc...

Vigorous, thrusting young Jeremy Hunt announces approval for the NHS to use a massively expensive new drug treatment for child leukaemia, isn't it time he got an even bigger job?...

The Daily Mail print edition splashes a really important front-page story - "man has sex with woman", something like that - about Boris Johnson, once and future contender for the Premiership...

"The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript
Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn."
- T S Eliot

Mathematics - the crumbling foundation of US wealth and security, by Paddington

Let's start with a simple syllogism:

Modern society requires cheap energy and lots of technology to function.

Technology relies on basic science.

Mathematics is the language of science.

Civilization requires large numbers of technicians to maintain our technology, engineers to solve problems and develop new technology, and scientists to do both basic and applied research to develop new ideas.

Most of the higher-paying jobs now require higher levels of both Mathematics and applied technology.

Therefore, it is good for society as a whole, and the individuals concerned, if we improve Mathematics education.

Our politicians have gotten the gist of this logic several times in my life, beginning in 1957 with the Sputnik scare. Most of the American public saw the resultant Space Race as a matter of US pride. Those able to think knew that the USSR had the one-sided capacity to launch missiles at the US. What was presented as a bold exploration venture was an exercise in self-preservation.

Today, the fear is on the vulnerability of our many computer-based systems. It is just as real a danger as nuclear war, but not quite as obvious. The attitude seems to be that, “if it breaks, somebody else will fix it.”

There is also the small matter of repeated studies showing that success in any higher education is directly correlated with performance in College-level Mathematics.

This awareness led to several rounds of attempts at Mathematics teaching reform, at least four of which happened in my career as a Mathematics professor. I was even involved in a couple of them, trying to do the right thing.

We had the 'New Math' of the late 1960's, which attempted to put the subject on a firm theoretical footing. Next was the 'lean and lively Calculus' movement in the early 1990's, to have students learn 'deeper', using more graphical methods and less Algebra. Then came project-based teaching, which had students working in groups to 'learn' Science, Mathematics and English. Most recently, we have had the push for 'flipped' classrooms, in which students watch videos to teach the lessons, then sit in the classroom while the teacher helps them solve problems.

All of these reforms shared a few features:

The instigators were energetic, enthusiastic, honest and delightful, and were absolutely convinced that they held 'the answer'.

Every such approach wanted to use technology, starting in the 90's with graphing calculators, followed by laptops. Later it was computer Algebra systems.

Every approach ignored human nature.

Each approach showed initial gains, in what is known by Psychologists as 'The Novelty Effect'
( ).

Each reform had an obvious flaw built into it.

The New Math failed in large part because the teachers didn't understand what they were teaching.

The graphical/Algebra-light Calculus left students able to generate (sometimes) correct answers, with no understanding of where they came from, and no ability to interpret them. In extreme cases that I experienced with some top students, they could no longer tell the difference between subtraction and division.

In the project-based models, students rarely learn anything significant, but get the impression that they have learned everything. That makes them ready for management, not so much for productive work.

The flipped classroom model ignores human nature. We learn by mimicry, for the most part. In teaching martial arts, I have noticed that, if you give verbal instructions, and do something else with your body to demonstrate, most students will attempt to do what you did, not what you said. Except for the most talented, people learn Mathematics in that way, by watching a teacher solve a problem, then solving several just like it, with numbers changed, then having more of the concept explained.

Every single reform ended up with worse results than when we began. Even more depressing is the fact that, instead of returning to the original ideas, the system just tried the next new model. When I started teaching in 1978, students either mastered their Algebra in Calculus I, or they failed. Now, the bad Arithmetic and Algebra has penetrated as far as Differential Equations (Calculus IV in some systems), because the bad habits are just so ingrained. I once had 2/3 of a class of Honors Calculus III end up with the equation '2x=3', then write 'x=3-2', so 'x=1'. And these were the select of their year.

Meanwhile, the Asian systems are churning out Engineers, while we busily criticize their education systems as not 'inspiring creativity'. There is some justification for this, and many in Asia agree. Students there are taught by rote, and not allowed to stand out. On the other hand, the successful have actually learned something. By contrast, I have met many students who have been labeled as 'creative' who consistently generate ideas and solutions which are as practical as oars on a spaceship.

There is a way to generate more people with talent in Mathematics and the subjects which rely on it: Select them at say age 12, and put them together in special schools. It reduces bullying, and their natural competition will drive them to succeed.

Friday, September 07, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: How Tango Took Off, by JD

"The tango is a direct expression of something that poets have often tried to state in words: the belief that a fight may be a celebration. " 
“El Tango es la directa expresión de lo que comúnmente los poetas han tratado de definir en palabras como: la creencia de que la lucha puede ser un festejo”
- Jorge Luis Borges.

Tonight, Sept 7th, on BBC4 is the first ever Tango Prom. It is to be a celebration of the music and dance which came out of the low life bars and brothels of Buenos Aires.

In reality the tango began in Montevideo - Tango is a rhythm that has its roots in the poor areas of Montevideo around 1880. Then it was extended to other areas and countries. As Borges said: "...tango is African-Montevidean [Uruguayan], tango has black curls in its roots..." He quoted Rossi, that sustained that "...tango, that argentine people call argentine tango, is the son of the Montevidean milonga and the grandson of the habanera. It was born in the San Felipe Academy [Montevideo], a Montevidean warehouse used for public dances, among gangsters and black people; then it emigrated to underworld areas of Buenos Aires and fooled around in Palermo's rooms..." This also implies that different forms of dance were originated in the neighborhoods of Montevideo, Uruguay in the last part of the 19th century and in the early 20th century that was particular from that area and different from Buenos Aires. It consists of a variety of styles that developed in different regions of Argentina and Uruguay. -

I listened to the concert on Radio 3 on Tuesday night and it is a chronological presentation of the evolution of the styles of tango down the years including a little known side-track into Finnish Tango which proved to be one of the highlights of the show. The final number is the well known tune La Cumparsita (you will know it as soon as you hear it!) which was written by Gerardo Matos Rodríguez in Montevideo in 1919. Montevideo has a Tango Museum as does Buenos Aires.

I am looking forward to seeing the Tango Prom, it is difficult to see the dancers on the radio!

Meanwhile here is a selection, some of whom are featured in the Prom and some not. There was a comment beneath one of the videos I looked at which said-

1. Carlos Gardel
2. Astor Piazzola
3. Gotan Project

Can't argue with that assessment: Gardel was the first tango 'superstar' who added song to the music and dance, Piazzola revolutionised the music with his Nuevo Tango in the 1950s and wasn't immediately popular, the Gotan Project has brought the form right up to date for the 21st century by adding electronic/techno to the music but without losing the essential 'duende'!-

"hay milonga de amor
hay temblor de Gotan
este tango es para vos"

THE SELMAYR SCANDAL: Straight and Crooked Law

'I'm a very qualified lawyer, that's why I feel very confident. The European Commission has broken no laws.' That was Mr Selmayr's response when doorstepped by the Daily Mail about his controversial nine-minute double promotion on 21 February this year, first to deputy Secretary-General of the European Commission, then to Secretary-General.

Selmayr is almost certainly right correct, but I shall come to his point later.

Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld  - featured in Daily Mail and Daily Express online editions - may splutter -

- but it merely shows that many who work inside the EU system do not understand how it operates, and to what end. They think that the EU stands for justice, brotherhood, democracy, openness and so on and expect its governance to reflect their illusions. One day it may; but not now.

The European Union is about power - not because its intentions are evil, but because it is trying to bind together very different countries into a single State. Such a project cannot succeed in a factious democracy. So in the European Union directives and legislation come from above and their Parliament is largely a talking shop and rubber stamping operation.

In some ways it is like Germany in 1871. Prussia - the permanent leader of the federation - centred power on the Kaiser, with the aristocratic Herrenhaus naturally inclined to support him. Representation in the lower chamber or Landtag was skewed towards economic power: one-third of seats went to representatives of the very richest and another to the middle-class; the last third gave a feeble voice to the masses - 82.6% of the population in 1849. Bills were proposed by the Kaiser - or, if it suited his purposes, not proposed; but certainly not by the commoners. The Constitution of Germany was, said Wilhelm Liebknecht, "eine fürstliche Versicherungsanstalt gegen die Demokratie" - a princely company providing insurance against democracy.

The EU manages its people in a similarly autocratic manner, and the chart below shows the flows of its power - and the source of its proposals:

As with Newton's Third Law, antidemocratic force creates democratic reaction. The semi-suppression of the people fostered the development of the German Social Democrats; when the old German order fell apart in 1918 the new Weimar Constitution addressed the unfairness of the voting arrangements with a system of proportional representation. It was a disastrous solution: little could be decided among the squabbling factions, so that by 1933 the Chancellor could seize control in an "emergency" - tragically undefined by the Constitution and therefore open to his own judgment.

We are now seeing similar tensions between centre and periphery in the EU. If matters cannot be rectified within the system, it will ultimately face extra-systemic reactions and possibly end in tyranny, as the organisation seeks to preserve its existence.

Martin Selmayr is a lawyer; in German, a "Rechtsanwalt" - an authority, a manager, an advocate in law. The German for law is "Gerecht", its root "recht" or in English, "right." The soul of law is a sense of what is right (whose opposite is "wrong", a word rooted in the notion of twisting, like other "wr-" formations - wrist, wring, wry etc).

But law is also law as arbitrarily issued by the ruler ("le Roi re veult"), law that is written down and codified, law as procedure. So, technically, Selmayr's promotions by Junker (ratified by Commissioners attentive to their own advantage) were allowable within the letter of the EU's law; but not right, not straight.

Yet those rules have been fashioned for a purpose, one quite alien to the British sense of what is right, and also (it seems) coming as a surprise to some others in the EU who have misunderstood the destination to which they are heading. It is a rough and crooked road, leading to the termination of government by (and possibly one day, also of government for) the people.

Whereas the EU Constitution, like Prussia's, was designed to give power to the executive, the British Constitution - learning from centuries of bloody internal conflict - has evolved to restrain it. This is why we should leave the Union and should never have joined it in the first place: there is a total incompatibility between our respective political philosophies and habits.

Did Macmillan, Heath and the other conspirators who manoeuvred us into this federation not understand?

Thursday, September 06, 2018

One nation?

I'd like to suggest a topic, word it how you will: does the Labour Party actually work for the interests of the labouring person?

A genuine question - is there a plan for a thriving British economy rather than getting votes for benefits (and soft jobs for professional pols)?

Can Labour get away from the infighting and present a manifesto that is a credible alternative to the globalism foisted on us by both Conservatives and New Labour? Democratic and therefore not EU, and aiming at a sustainable economy, increased self-sufficiency in essential food and power, as the world heads for a long slump and peak cheap energy has passed?

Or is it just a case of either:

(a) one lot popping in when the other pops out, like the little man and woman in the weather house?

(b) Tweedledum and Tweedledee ripping the country into two, instead of saving it?

Monday, September 03, 2018


Funny how buildings go on fire at times when no-one is supposed to be there - late at night, weekends... and especially school holidays -

Glasgow's School of Art, near midnight on Friday 15 June 2018:

Liverpool's Littlewoods Pools building, Sunday 2 September 2018:

Brazil's National Museum - same time as Liverpool:

There's now a database of fires in UK heritage buildings:

And then there are the textile warehouses that combust when there's a recession...

And in Birmingham (UK) a decade or two ago I seem to recall empty warehouses on the ring road that were listed buildings but stood in the way of some local authority development plan and - whoof! up they went in flames, nobody caught.

I suppose that if I composed a pamphlet titled "Arson for Fun and Profit" I'd be in trouble?

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Is Ukraine to be the new Guernica?

Pic: South China Morning Post

Last Friday (31.08.18) Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the "Donetsk People's Republic" (in eastern Ukraine) was killed in a bomb blast, along with his bodyguard. It is claimed that the killers, who are still being hunted, work for the Ukrainian security service.

Unlike in the western part of Ukraine, the population of Donetsk is predominantly Russian-speaking and/or of Russian descent. The breakaway state declared its independence four years ago, but so far has only been formally recognised by South Ossetia.

Under the 2015 Minsk II agreement, Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany brokered a ceasefire and progressive demilitarisation. But the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has now cancelled ongoing treaty negotiations, claiming that the assassination is "an open provocation aimed at hindering implementation of the Minsk agreements" and linking it to the recent increase in US sanctions against Russia (announced 8 August) in the wake of the Skripal poisoning case in Britain, which has been blamed on Russia (denied by the latter and not yet forensically proven.)

The Kiev administration has failed to implement Minsk II and last year the United States was saying that the US did not wish to be limited by the agreement and suggested that Kiev should seek an accommodation directly with Moscow. Now the US special envoy for Ukraine has said that Washington could increase arms supplies to Kiev to buttress the country’s naval and air defence forces.

There is some evidence to suggest that the Ukraine has become a testing ground for Western weaponry. A "Ukraine based" firm called LimpidArmor has just announced the extension of a battlefield sensor system from fighter planes to tank warfare:

"The Land Platform Modernization Kit uses four cameras positioned strategically around the tank to create a seamless display of the environment surrounding the vehicle. Crew members wearing the HoloLens headgear would then be able to look around their environment without being hampered by the tank’s heavy armor while also not having to potentially expose themselves to enemy fire."

Although run by a Ukrainian, Mikhail Grechukhin, and conducting its research and development in Kiev, LimpidArmor's headquarters are in Walnut Creek, California. And in March this year the Ukrainian Defence Minister said that the US' supply of anti-tank missiles "opened the door for closer military cooperation in the face of Russian aggression."

Anti-Russian rhetoric was a major feature of Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign in 2016, to the extent that Russians were getting nervous. When Trump won, it appeared to be a chance to normalise relations and shortly afterwards he was tweeting "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad!" But since then the US President has seemed to row back, perhaps in response to the sustained campaign by the Democrats to paint Russia as in collusion with Trump to get him his election victory.

Doubtless there is a deep geopolitical game being played, but aside from Mrs Clinton's disappointed hopes one has to wonder what the real motivation may be. Is it really a cold, then a hot war with Russia - now no longer a Communist country, thanks to its people who have every reason not to wish the return of the Reds?

Or is it to rehearse weapons and tactics for war - perhaps by proxy - against another, still Communist, mightier and clearly expansionist potential foe: China? If so, the increasing sophistication of China's defence capabilities ought to give the three-dimensional chess players of Washington pause for thought - see for example this article on the PRC's development of next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles.

Could the "military-industrial complex" (as Eisenhower called it) be endangering us with its hubris?