Sunday, August 28, 2022
Saturday, August 27, 2022
‘Both Ecotricity and Good Energy source enough renewable electricity to match their customers’ usage though this tends to mean that their costs are higher and as a result their tariffs are more expensive.‘
“This is the problem… If you empower all these independent people, you’re screwed… We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did.”
“... we could be in a very different place… it could have been shorter. Different. Quicker. There were often times the officials would do a “pre-meeting”, decide what they wanted to push through, then ram it through in the main meeting with the PM/ministers.”
“Mr Sunak recalled the moment when Prof Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College London presented their Report 9, which claimed Covid casualties could reach 500,000 if no action was taken but would be reduced to 20,000 with a lockdown.”
Friday, August 26, 2022
Monday, August 22, 2022
Sunday, August 21, 2022
We then stopped off in this bar/restaurant http://www.cuevasdelvino.com/CuevasVino4.html for a small refreshment, after first visiting the cuevas which were filled with very large barrels full of vino.
And so, time for more vino and tapas. In this bar we had what can only be described as an instant hot-dog. A sausage cooked inside a large baguette, rather like a sausage roll but with dough instead of pastry.
Saturday, August 20, 2022
It was while browsing a nursery catalogue and observing how plants of all types have gone up in price alongside everything else as a result of last two years in lockdown, and now add on the rising energy costs, that an article came up that linked with something I saw in one nursery listing.
“Thus the Dutch, who developed many of the techniques of modern finance, created a market for tulip bulbs, which were durable goods. Short selling was banned by an edict of 1610, which was reiterated or strengthened in 1621 and 1630, and again in 1636. Short sellers were not prosecuted under these edicts, but futures contracts were deemed unenforceable, so traders could repudiate deals if faced with a loss."
“Tulip mania reached its peak during the winter of 1636–37, when contracts were changing hands five times. No deliveries were ever made to fulfill any of these contracts, because in February 1637, tulip bulb contract prices collapsed abruptly and the trade of tulips ground to a halt."
Friday, August 19, 2022
Wednesday, August 17, 2022
The cost may be too high, if it entails the general breakdown of public trust and support for the State. This is especially important in a nation historically founded on a deep mistrust of arbitrary executive power, on the even-handed administration of law and the regular revalidation of government by the people’s express will.
The modern state has acquired almost limitless resources and the citizen is correspondingly far weaker and more vulnerable. Even an individual with substantial private means can have difficulty in seeking a legal remedy against official wrongdoing. For years, Trump had to defend himself against what now seem false allegations of conspiracy with Russia, yet his case against certain FBI officials said to be involved in the frameup was thrown out just this 22 July, on the grounds that they were protected from personal liability by the 1988 Westfall Act, which indemnifies Federal employees carrying out duties in their official capacity.
Was it with a similar sense of impunity that those working behind the scenes selected federal magistrate Bruce Reinhart, who recused himself on June 22 from overseeing a Trump lawsuit against Hillary, to issue the warrant for the search of Mar-a-Lago; and included in the search party some FBI agents who are said to have been personally involved in the ‘Russiagate’ affair?
Appearances matter and ‘the optics’ are bad in this case. In suspicious eyes it seems plausible that the justice system has strayed from impartiality, so confident in its invulnerability that it can afford to be careless in its choice of servants. People are beginning to ask themselves, ‘If they can do these things to him, is anybody safe?’
Has the Leviathan become too big?
If the US intelligence community were set up as a separate State of the Union, it would be a sizeable one. Its annual budget is $85.6 billion, which ranks it parallel with the GDP of Idaho and above that of ten other US States; and more than the GDP of two-thirds of the world’s countries.
Leaving aside that part - about a quarter - of the overall Intelligence budget that is allotted to military and foreign intelligence, the FBI consumes some 17% of the (domestic) National Intelligence budget. Its Director, Christopher Wray, lists many serious ‘Key Threats and Challenges’ in his $10.7 billion request for 2023.
Yet, how do we do a cost-benefit analysis?
Say we looked only to save lives (though the FBI seeks to do much more.) A 2003 study set the value of a statistical life (VSL) in the US at a median $7 million, which adjusting for inflation is around $10.5 million today. How many lives does the FBI save each year, but how many more could more be saved per dollar spent, by e.g. national safety regulations, medical interventions, guidance on food and drink?
Tough one. Black SUVs and squads of agents with high-powered firearms are so much more dramatic, visually. But what do they achieve, other than to remind the little man - even a Trump - how small he is? Why go in so mob-handed - or at all?
As to impartiality, why by contrast was Hillary’s off-workingplace storage of classified information glossed over as mere carelessness?
As to timing, why now? Is it because the dust and noise raised by this Eliot Ness-style gangbusting raid may help give Trump’s political opponents some advantage in the runup to this autumn’s mid-term elections?
And what exactly was included in the 15 boxes of documents removed - surely not anything relevant to Trump’s lawsuit against Mrs Clinton, or against government agencies that made false claims about him? Did the FBI indulge itself in what is known as a ‘fishing expedition’ in the hunt for something, anything to help convict him of some felony, or at least serve to charge him pro tempore until the ballots are cast? Is the process the punishment, for a disruptor, a maverick, a challenger to a corrupt status quo (even granting that he himself is a cheating, brass-necked blowhard)?
Optics: so important, yet not so easy to manage. For every one rubbing his hands in glee at Trump’s discomfiture, there is another dreading what the State is becoming.
In the information age, there is already widespread concern over the government’s mass surveillance of its citizens, with all the implications for controlling us collectively and individually. Experience has shown that these cyberspying powers are apt to be misused:
Section 215 [of the PATRIOT Act] at the time authorized the FBI to obtain [telephone] records, but in this case, the FBI obtained nothing: the records instead went to the NSA, which was not mentioned in the statute. The statute said any records obtained had to be handled pursuant to FBI guidelines; they were not, and instead were handled pursuant to NSA guidelines…The State has powerful civil pals in the Silicon Valley giants (note how Mr Zuckerberg has renamed Facebook’s parent company ‘Meta’, brazenly advertising its use of metadata to discover our connections to everything and everyone we know.) Further, already every social media conversation can be monitored, ‘corrected’ by ‘fact-checkers’, drowned in assertive counter-propaganda or just plain censored. Even talk in the domestic setting can be spied on by ‘smart speakers.’
How do we avoid the world of Franz Kafka (how reluctant they were to release the affidavit that triggered the search warrant!), of ‘Minority Report’, of a Chinese-style social credit system? Is liberty only the freedom to be ‘good’?
Opening up the ex-President’s house has opened a can of worms for us all.
Monday, August 15, 2022
Lessons from history
Sunday, August 14, 2022
Saturday, August 13, 2022
This was taken at Ardingly reservoir in 2011, showing that capacity was inadequate even before the drought we have this year.
“The National Grid has said that it is worried that we will fall short of power as early as December. This is partly because of our reliance on green power and partly due to gas problems. The grid had put what few remaining coal-fired stations we have on stand by. But these shortages are basically of our own making, we have closed down coal-fired stations and replaced them with intermittent wind turbines and solar panels. We have run down nuclear power stations and not replaced them. We have decided not to frack the huge volumes of gas we have under our feet and import more of it as we have run down our North Sea resources. We have closed down our gas storage facility. We have partially relied on inter-connectors to France, but they have been importing from us as their nuclear stations have problems. So now put what little coal plant we have left on standby, but we have closed down all our mines and will have to import the coal. This whole policy is mad, we need to frack, mine coal and build small modular nuclear power stations today.“
“Water leakage rates in the South are about 25 per cent. So of the total water supplied only 75 per cent is available. Commercial and agriculture use 90 per cent of that water. This leaves 10 per cent for domestic customers. A hosepipe ban saves only 10 per cent of that water or 0.75 per cent of the water supplied.My thanks to Mr Armistead of Hampshire also for pointing out that in 1976, there was talk of building a national water grid to bring water from the North to the South. Naturally, nothing happened.”
Friday, August 12, 2022
"Manu Chao helped begin the Latin alternative movement way back in the '80s -- although it had no name then -- and in his later work he cut a cross-cultural swath across styles and geographic boundaries. Chao was born on June 21, 1961, in Paris to Spanish parents -- his father, Ramon Chao, a respected writer, comes from Galicia, his mother Bilbao. Growing up bilingual, he was also influenced by the punk scene across the English Channel that happened while he was still in his teens."
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
In 1911, when California held a referendum on the question of women’s suffrage, the writer Jack London surprised his wife Charmian by saying he had voted in favour, because:
"When the women get the ballot, they will vote for prohibition. It is the wives, and sisters, and mothers, and they only, who will drive the nails into the coffin of John Barleycorn.”In his 1913 book ‘John Barleycorn’ he claimed that few men were born addicts to alcohol; the real driver was its availability:
It is the accessibility of alcohol that has given me my taste for alcohol. I did not care for it. I used to laugh at it. Yet here I am, at the last, possessed with the drinker's desire. It took twenty years to implant that desire.Sure enough, the Constitutional amendments introducing Prohibition and granting women’s suffrage were passed within six months of each other, in 1920. Women did not vote directly for Prohibition - there was no referendum, though by 1918 fifteen States had already legalised the female franchise - but the two movements ran in parallel. Women have been ‘blamed’ for Prohibition, though perhaps ‘credited’ is a better term, seeing the practical benefits of the experiment.
London’s accessibility argument is borne out by British history. When the Government deregulated sales of gin in order to turn people away from importing brandy from the enemy, France, the result was an epidemic of drunkenness that forced the passing of the 1751 Gin Act to reduce the damage.
In 1830 there was a second deregulation, of beer houses, to draw people away from spirits; the consequence was another spate of intoxication:
A fortnight after the passage of that Act, Sydney Smith, renowned for his idealism, who, previously, had been a strong advocate of it, wrote: “Everybody is drunk. Those who are not sinking are sprawling. The sovereign people are in a beastly state.”Since then there have been various episodes of regulatory tightening and re-loosening of licensed hours and premises, from e.g. Sunday pub closures in Wales (1881) to the nationwide availability of 24-hour licenses (2005.)
Outlets have proliferated: today, I would be hard put to count all the places within a mile of our (suburban) house where I can buy alcohol; not just pubs and off-licenses but supermarkets, post offices, garages and convenience stores.
In our post-industrial country, the home is an increasingly important venue for consumption:
The main change in the structure of capital during this century has been the relative stagnation of industrial capital and the growth of the service sector of the economy. This trend, which has been most marked in the south of England, has had consequences for inner city working class areas: de-industrialisation, mobility of labour, and post-war rehousing policies have combined to dislocate the pattern of community based upon local work and extended families and associated cultural traditions...From ‘Alcohol, Youth, and the State’ by Nicholas Dorn (RKP, 1983)
Population has been decanted to the New Towns, and more generally, to the suburbs, where social life has focussed upon the nuclear family, and the home is increasingly regarded as a place of leisure, recreation and consumption. It is in this context that off-licence sales have become more important. The 1961 Licensing Act relaxed restrictions on the opening of off-licences, and the 1964 Licensing Act facilitated supermarket sales. By the late 1970s, most beer was still sold in public houses, but one third of all wine and half of spirits were consumed at home.
The State is conflicted on the subject: on the one hand there are the health and other costs of alcohol; but on the other there is the fact that the sales taxes represent something like 2% of total Government revenue (not counting the taxes and National Insurance Contributions provided by all those employed in the drinks industry.)
Whether it is to do with the 1961 and 1964 Acts or the general increase in prosperity, there has been a clear (re-)increase in alcohol consumption since the 1950s:
Males drink more than females, though the latter are catching up. On average, men in 2018 were drinking the equivalent of 17.8 litres of pure alcohol per year - in spirits terms, more than five 70-centilitre bottles a month. Bear in mind that around 20% of the adult population doesn’t drink at all (among the young, there may be a switch to drugs instead, especially when beer is retailing at close to £5 a pint in pubs) and according to this survey:
… the very heaviest drinkers – who make just 4% of the population - consume around 30% of all the alcohol sold in the UK.Even if the State decided to crack down on alcohol abuse, there are powerful commercial interests involved; strong enough to defy the Government, as they did in 1991 over Sunday trading restrictions.
Those who call for further controls over alcohol, tobacco, gambling and drugs will often be accused of ‘nannying’, though the State Nanny is one that has been making it easy for her charges to get the things that harm them, and who gets backhanders from the suppliers; a Satananny, if you will.
Libertarians dislike having anyone say no to them; the line starts behind me on that one, but let’s have no illusions about our supposed complete rationality and freedom of the will: there’s not that many Buddhas in the world. Jack London ended his 1913 book with a personal commitment to a more measured approach to alcohol:
No, I decided; I shall take my drink on occasion. With all the books on my shelves, with all the thoughts of the thinkers shaded by my particular temperament, I decided coolly and deliberately that I should continue to do what I had been trained to want to do. I would drink—but oh, more skilfully, more discreetly, than ever before.He didn’t live past 40.
We may not get booze and fags back into Pandora’s box, but maybe we can do more about the plague of gambling - so heavily advertised on TV at the moment - and think twice about liberalising drug laws.
Sunday, August 07, 2022
Three judges, sitting at the court of appeal in central London, ruled on Monday that the decision of a high court judge to reject the plea by the parents of Archie Battersbee for him to be allowed to die a “natural” death had been based on the child’s best interests.
... or should they just be sensible and listen to experts?
A British boy currently lies comatose in hospital; doctors say there is ‘no brain activity’ and a High Court judge has ruled that he can be taken off life support. Yet his mother says he has gripped her hand; she believes he is ‘still there’ and she will fight on.
Intensive care is very expensive and so there can be a financial element in medical professionals’ judgment that there is no point in continuing. They may or may not be right in this case; yet ‘miracles’ happen.
Lady Anne Glenconner’s autobiography ‘Lady In Waiting’ (chapters 14 & 15) gives reason to hope against hope. In 1987 she learned that her 19-year-old son Christopher had had a motorcycle accident (helmetless) in Belize; after emergency surgery he was flown to Miami in a deep coma. Fortunately she had bought travel insurance for him and he was taken on to London in a private plane, still unconscious and on life support.
After Christopher had been unresponsive for weeks in the Wellington Hospital a doctor with long experience in this field told Lady Anne:
‘Christopher will be a vegetable all his life. There is no hope of recovery for him. If I were you I would forget about him improving and get on with your life.’There are two kinds of explanation. One is to enable you to understand a phenomenon; the other is to explain it away, preferring it not to be real. I’m no preacher - I doubt everything; but this is what Lady Anne says and I believe she is being truthful:
Already religious, she had begun engaging with God and praying hard. At the point of giving up she heard of a Christian healer in Scotland, a Mrs Black, and got help from her by telephone. Then Mrs Black came down several times to work on Christopher in person. Lady Anne thought she could see tiny improvements, but she told Mrs Black she herself was exhausted. Back in Scotland, Mrs Black told her to prepare for a session next morning:
‘Suddenly, to my amazement, I felt as if champagne was flowing through my veins. I felt invigorated. It’s the only time in my life when anything like that has happened to me.’With renewed energy and commitment she sought out a doctor whose own son had been in a coma; he stressed the importance of doing things with the patient and engaging all five senses. Christopher would need to be stimulated ‘fifteen minutes in every hour every day for weeks.’
Lady Anne set up a rota with the help of friends, to use the doctor’s ‘coma kit’ - smells, music, singing, talking, reading aloud, brushing Christopher’s skin with different textures and temperatures.
‘We even persuaded the nurses to let us take Christopher out of bed [still wired up to many machines] and nurse him on the floor so I could cradle him: I was sure that if he could feel my heartbeat it would have a positive effect on him.’The breakthrough came when after Christopher had come off the ventilator a friend arrived with a baby’s bottle. A skeptical nurse let them try and eyes still closed, Christopher started to suck. Eventually, after four months in a coma, he woke up, and began rehabilitation.
If Lady Anne hadn’t accepted Mrs Black’s help, she would very likely have followed the hospital doctor’s advice and given up, sensibly.
There’s the choice.
Saturday, August 06, 2022
Our way of life changed, not necessarily all for the better as ‘free love’ via the contraceptive pill, came with certain problems but the earlier prudish approach to relationships was swept away in that decade. Women advanced their case more in the Sixties than all the decades before, equal pay after the Dagenham Ford strike was demanded and started to be accepted as the norm, even though the resistance to it stayed for years after.
People spoke to one another in the street down the pub. Today all you see is people glued to mobile phones. The art of dating has been lost as all go online to meet someone of the opposite sex, and same sex! - can’t think of a worse way to set out in the world with a new partner, it’s like colouring by numbers, you get a result but they are all the same.
"I am Kamala Harris. My pronouns are she and her, and I am a woman sitting at the table wearing a blue suit." Second in command of the most powerful nation on the planet. God help us.
|Tottenham Royal with the Dave Clark Five on stage, a regular haunt of mine during the Sixties. |
Many top bands played there as they did up the road at the Astoria Finsbury Park (later the Rainbow.)