Friday, October 28, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Mercedes Sosa, by JD

 Haydée Mercedes Sosa (1935 – 2009) was an Argentine singer who was popular throughout Latin America and many countries outside the region. With her roots in Argentine folk music, Sosa became one of the preeminent exponents of El nuevo cancionero. She gave voice to songs written by many Latin American songwriters. Her music made people hail her as the "voice of the voiceless ones".
Note: The song Alfonsina y El Mar is about the Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni and how she committed suicide by drowning rather than face life suffering from breast cancer.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Saturday, October 22, 2022

WEEKENDER: It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world 2 - by Wiggia

My lack of items in the last two weeks is attributed to a combination of Windows update and Firefox going potty. One or the other, or maybe both, I will never know, has removed access to files, stopped my ability to download anything, and if by nefarious means I did manage to download a program or replacement I was not able to install it, so at great cost I have a new computer. The other one was old if still working, so I am up and running? Again.

So much passes through as news these days that keeping up becomes an Olympic sport, and the current government, if that term can still be used, have exceeded all expectations in the ridiculous and stupid category; if there were gold medals in those categories there would be a run on the yellow stuff, there is simply not enough to go round. So I wont go over ground that is constantly shifting - sink hole, anyone? - but will just make a small comment on the Conservative party's choice of Chancellor (or is it PM by proxy?) in his first speech on the tax u-turns.

One he didn’t u-turn on was the stamp duty reduction; can’t upset the parties biggest donors can we, have to keep house prices up and any cost so the DM can still add to any story that x was guilty but can be seen here in leafy ***** standing outside his 5 bedroomed detached Victorian Villa currently worth 2 zillion pounds.

They never learn. After the disastrous Ponzi scheme that resulted in the 2008 crash, banks governments lenders still want to lend to those cannot pay. Already those same lenders are revising their lending terms because of interest rate rises; well well well there’s a surprise, they have used years of low interest rates to promote house buying in the belief they would never rise again, or they didn’t care. What was normal in years gone by is now unthinkable but happening anyway.

House purchase has become like governments, reliant on low or zero interest rates. Unlimited fiat money can only ever be paid for with low interest rates, but inflation has blown that out of the water and we now have debt servicing out of control.

They still don’t get it. This morning a government spokesman, MP, was talking about the imminent drop in house prices as a bad thing! As if the constant above inflation rate of house prices has been a good thing. It won’t be interest rate rises that will lead to repossessions this time, that currently is well below those days of 16%, but a combination of energy rises and general cost of living as well will do it.

On the other hand government policies have denied those who saved all their lives of any return on said savings coupled with the lowest state pension in Europe, and again under threat of removal of the ‘promised ‘ triple lock; this sector has been to put it crudely crapped on from a great height.

Hunt, where did he come from? His failure as health minister and three failed businesses hardly makes him an obvious choice for Chancellor at this or any other time. He stated that ‘the public would not mind paying extra tax to fund the NHS’; oh yes they would, not a penny more without root and branch reform first.

On the other hand it is comforting to know the IMF will be in safe hands next year. I can’t think of a better person to run it coming as she does from one of the 10 most corrupt countries in the world; along with Saudi Arabia heading up the UN's human rights committee it is a win-win for us all.

Currently we pay for an NHS that in many areas is non existent with no sign of anytime soon if ever of improving; plus many including my good self have had to pay again, as three years from diagnosis to operation for a new hip would have seen me in a wheelchair long before I went under the knife. Seven million on the waiting list and rising and a care home crisis beyond the pale with the government decision to sack 40,000 care home staff who refused the jab - a major hurdle to overcome if it ever can be. Oh wait, all these fit young asylum seekers we are told by the various charities are ready to work rather that laze around in five star hotels will plug the gap, all is well again.

In the case of the sacked care home staff, no one has been able to explain why (or not wanted to) the nurses and others in the NHS got a last minute reprieve from the same fate; or were the care home staff considered fodder for the ideology of the vaccines vis a vis the mainstream staff who were ready to sue?

It is interesting in a morose way to ask why we have such difficulty either returning these illegal, and they are so by definition, migrants, and our seeming inability to refuse them asylum despite so many destroying their documents which leaves them presumably stateless with no country to return them to. You can’t be fleeing from torture, war and threat of murder if you won’t say where you have come from, or is that naive?

As Mark Steyn so succinctly puts it ‘we live in a blizzard of lies’ whether it be the efficacy of masks,  lock downs or so called vaccines or the real reason we cannot say no to the huge numbers that have come to this country: 10 million officially, in the last twenty years.

Mind you it should help the travel trade as long as flying is still permitted, as a staycation will soon be impossible with the hotels full of migrants, and now we are, or Serco is on our behalf, leasing properties to put up the same; that should help those on the council house waiting lists.

Coming our way soon………..


It really is a growth business now, £2.2 billion of tax payers money to Serco alone. These contracts have guaranteed built in 5k maintenance element to them which makes them attractive to landlords, nowhere else would they get contracts like these.

Outside of all this it was good of Let's Go Brandon, who managed in his muddled way whilst eating an ice cream, easily digestible hospital food for the infirm, to tell us our tax plans are not good. His of course are marvellous as is the USA's debt mountain; good to know though we are all in it together, or that is what we are told!

A final thought from the comments…

‘Just step back a moment and consider that the Conservative Party have, in the past week, fired a Chancellor for wanting to cut taxes and a Home Secretary for wanting to cut immigration.‘

Good job we don’t have a Foreign Secretary who wants to cut aid…

Friday, October 21, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Jazz Samba (Stan Getz / Charlie Byrd), by JD

I have been lost in nostalgia for 1962. Sixty years ago when I was newly escaped from school and into the grown up world of work and a whole world of new experiences. The past really is/was a different country when 45rpm vinyl records cost six shillings and eight pence, three for one pound. Imagine that! 

Among the new joys were being introduced to 'modern' jazz as opposed to the radio/TV favourites of Kenny Ball and Aker Bilk who played a sanitised version of 'trad' jazz.

And so one of the first jazz records I bought was Jazz Samba by Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz. I suppose jazz plus samba could be described as a 'fusion' record but that name came much later. Byrd had already made a record with samba influences so this was a further experimentation on his part. Getz was a well established tenor sax player who had been one of the 'four brothers' in Woody Herman's band.
Listening again to this record is still a pleasure and a blessed relief in a world gone mad.

1: "Desafinado" (Antônio Carlos Jobim, Newton Mendonça) — 5:51
2: "Samba Dees Days" (Charlie Byrd) — 3:34
3: "O Pato" (Jayme Silva, Neuza Teixeira) — 2:31
4: "Samba Triste" (Baden Powell, Billy Blanco) — 4:47
5: "Samba de Uma Nota Só" (Antônio Carlos Jobim, Newton Mendonça) — 6:11
6: "É Luxo Só" (Ary Barroso) — 3:40
7: "Bahia" (aka 'Baia') (Ary Barroso) — 6:38


[00:00:00] - Track 1
[00:05:49] - Track 2
[00:09:21] - Track 3
[00:11:24] - Track 4
[00:16:14] - Track 5
[00:22:27] - Track 6
[00:26:06] - Track 7


Stan Getz – tenor saxophone
Charlie Byrd – guitar
Gene Byrd – guitar, bass
Keter Betts – double bass
Buddy Deppenschmidt – drums, percussion
Bill Reichenbach Sr. – drums, percussion

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Financial and war disaster: we must get a grip

From my Substack column - why not join for FREE updates?

The disaster protocol in Western democracies has several stages:
  1. ignore warnings about bad actors who threaten the public weal
  2. witness the disaster and express surprise
  3. take action to ‘make sure’ it ‘can never happen again’
Bill Clinton added a fourth in 1999:

       4. undo (3) so we can have a rerun of the calamity

He may not have drafted the new Act, but he signed it into law. Please don’t tell me he was too stupid to understand what he was doing.

I’ll come back to the Great Financial Crisis in a moment.

Now, in the UK, we have Liz Truss as PM. For how long, we don’t know, but she has already scored an entitlement to an annual pension worth half her salary. This applies to all PMs and ‘senior office holders’ no matter how short their service - including Kwasi Kwarteng, Chancellor for only 38 days. George Galloway calls Truss ‘thick as mince in a bottle’; well, we should all be so stupid.

Being a dim bulb is almost the least of our worries, as we will find out when the bright and slick ex-Goldman Sachs globalist Rishi Sunak takes the reins. He’s been pumping ads on Facebook for months like an Alan Sugar apprentice tasked with demonstrating PR skills. He wants the job so badly that it should disqualify him.

No, it’s her motives that concern me. I was curious when Truss’ first Chancellor cut the basic rate of income tax by one per cent: how much was that going to help poor people pay their hugely inflated energy bills? The five per cent cut to the top rate was bad optics at this time of growing hardship, of course; but the real puzzle was the complete removal of the ceiling on bankers’ bonuses - with which Jeremy Hunt will proceed. ‘What was all that about?’ as the saying goes.

I understood when I saw this information and analysis from Peter Oborne:

Truss isn’t working for the British people. She acts for the super-rich, the hedge fund managers and property developer types who party at 5 Hertford Street in Mayfair, London. This is where she held a ‘Fizz with Liz’ event last October (2021), paid for by Mark Birley, son of Lady Annabel Goldsmith’s first husband and attended by around a dozen Tory MPs.

The Mayfair millionaires do not require critical intelligence and moral probity in their servants, far from it. Oborne says they funnel money, not directly to the Conservative Party (which would have to be made public) but to ‘think tanks’ that then come up with policy proposals to suit their sponsors. They boasted, says Oborne, that they had ‘made Kwasi Kawarteng’s Budget for him’ - and, he says, KK went to one of their events straight after delivering his speech to the Commons.

This is the class that caused the incalculable damage of the GFC - estimates vary widely but run into the trillions. Beneath the financial cost is the human cost in the health and very lives of ordinary people.

But they can’t help themselves. C P Snow wrote of the ‘corridors of power’; these are the labradors of power, with no off-switch for their appetite. Someone has to discipline them.

In 1933 FDR allowed some banks to fail, regulated others and introduced legislation to separate deposit-takers from the casino-gambling of investment bankers. This time, when the GFC hit, there was no strong President to cleanse the stables.

Instead, the people responsible for the chaos were bailed out with unlimited cash. The clever-clogs guys at Goldman Sachs even counted the bail money as additional turnover and paid big bonuses on the strength of it.

Came the hour, came Barack Obama, and it is a tragedy that with the great popular support he initially enjoyed he could not or would not deal with the offenders. Their sense of entitlement has now grown into a kind of megalomania.

A fantasy moment: these rich are assembled at the Guildhall, London for the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet. Full of good food and wines, they watch the PM rise to make a speech. He or she smiles and tells them that mobile communications have been jammed, the doors locked and they are all under arrest for financial terrorism. They are to be held in Belmarsh under the same conditions as Julian Assange, awaiting trial at which they will appear in cages like the Mafia whom the Italians so bravely prosecuted. They will receive swift, no-nonsense judgment from someone like Judge Judy Sheindlin, with no possibility of appeal. The innocent will be released and handsomely compensated for their inconvenience; the others will be heavily fined and incarcerated for a very long time.

Of course, in real life there will be no deus ex machina to resolve our difficulties.

Nevertheless, something has to happen. Perhaps it will be debt forgiveness or default, but we cannot let our governments be the playthings (or over-indulgent uncles) of global money-shufflers.

Oborne raises another worry: like demented Joe Biden, Truss has a finger on the nuclear button. We cannot afford the process outlined at the start of this post; Stage Three may not be a possibility.

There has to be action instead of disaster, not following it.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Back into the EU? I think not!

From my Substack column - why not join for FREE updates?

The Army Rumour website is discussing the appointment of Jeremy Hunt as British Chancellor: Some there seem to think Brexit was a mistake and that the Tories will shoehorn us back in and what a good idea.

I reply:

It was the Tories who got us into 'Europe' in the first place, starting with Macmillan and completed by Heath.

But the background was how the US threw money into Europe (having abandoned the Morgenthau proposals to break the Germans down into rural earth-scratchers) after abruptly shutting off vital financial support to us in September 1945. That's why Macmillan wanted to catch up the Frogs and Krauts; the effects on Britain's industry and economy of joining the EU's card game are here for us to see.

Now, the Tories are split between patriots, wet-finger-in-the-air types like BoJo, and globalists (= supporters of the American Empire.)

The Labour Party has been split for sixty years and more over the EU issue. See Hugh Gaitskell's speech to the Labour Party Conference in October 1962, warning against the enthusiasm for membership of the Common Market.

He laid his finger on the tension in the socialist movement between international brotherhood and promoting the interests of working people at home; a tension that has never been adequately resolved and which has been clouded over with dreamy rhetoric from bloviators on both sides of the Commons debating chamber.

As for our influence in the EU - please Noel Coward, I have only so many ribs. Now if we chose to become the 51st US State, *then* we might have some influence.

We've been a damn sight poorer than we are today. I remember no fridge and an outside lavvy, but we managed. It's not about money; even now we live like kings and queens compared to past ages. If you want to see what life was like in the East End of London before the ‘damn socialists’ interfered, read Jack London’s 1903 book The People of the Abyss (free online here: ) - this, in the heart of the world’s then richest and mightiest Empire. Every home should have a copy.

There's a hill to climb but it can be climbed, and I don't think re-entering the undemocratic EU would do us any favours. Surely we're not the only ones to feel that way: people in Italy, Greece and Hungary would be glad to exit, Macron has just pledged not to get involved in a nuclear fracas in Ukraine just to please NATO, even the Germans are tempted to look east and may feel more like it as they freeze this winter thanks to the bombing of NS1+2 by No One At All (because the Swedes won't say who.)

Does anybody else still believe in this country and its people? Or is that too Blimpish? I’m proud to be a Little Englander, i.e. an anti-imperialist. Our greatness is not in wealth but in freedom and sovereign self-government.

Friday, October 14, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Sir John Tavener, by JD

 Sir John Tavener (1944 - 2013)

Tavener was an English composer of sacred music who came to the attention of the wider public for his 'Song For Athene' which was sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. Before then he had been well known among 'avant garde' musicians. He had come to the attention of the Beatles via Ringo and was signed to Apple Records in 1970.

I have included his biggest selling piece, The Protecting Veil which is 45 minutes long; much needed tranquility in this insane world. It was commissioned by the BBC for the 1989 Proms.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Ah'm a-geddin' nervous

From my Substack column - why not join for FREE updates?

President Biden’s lunatic scriptwriters gave him the line about facing Armageddon and then apparently his handlers ‘walked back’ the tough talk because of the reaction.

But nobody told NATO.

NATO forces are to proceed with their annual nuclear-weapons exercise next week, entitled ‘Steadfast Noon.’ It’s said they have 100 atomic bombs in five European countries, each of which has a potential explosive capacity much more than 20 times that of ‘Little Boy’ which obliterated Hiroshima in 1945.

The Daily Mail uses this moment to publish another virulent piece by Ian Birrell about Putin’s appointment of General Sergei Surovikin, tasked with handling the escalating war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile the ultra-rich are having luxury bunkers built for them so they can - as they think - safely sit out the suffering of the rest of us. Russell Brand satirises this notion of invulnerability:

Is there still a place for Melinda in Bill’s underground castle?

I guess there are really good bunkers below the CIA’s headquarters, and the Pentagon, and various sites in Washington. Will they be recruiting nubile totty to help re-breed the human race? How diverse will the neo-Lebensborn program be?

And what are we supposed to do? How many victims of assault think ’this can’t be happening’?

Why, if I weren’t so rational and modern, I might believe that Satan existed.

Sunday, October 09, 2022

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: The Devil's Wheel, by JD

 Teufelsrad München Oktoberfest

Last week YouTube had a recommendation in its sidebar, a Teufelsrad or Devil's Wheel at this year's Oktoberfest -

I had never seen anything like this before. Why had I never heard of it? 

Looking at it more closely it seemed to be a cleverly designed and executed piece of German engineering. It could also be an example of the famous German sense of humour! 

A search revealed a brief story in Wiki and these 'wheels' have been used at Oktoberfest since 1913.

One of the links in the Wiki article led me to this Human Roulette Wheel at Steeplechase Park, Coney Island, early 1900s:

Now if I were fifty years younger and if I had consumed a stein or three, I might............ do as I'm doing now and enjoy the entertainment from behind the barriers which is also the safest way to enjoy San Fermin!

Saturday, October 08, 2022

WEEKENDER: The Housing Market, by Wiggia

The news that interest rates are going up has spooked the housing market. In truth it never takes much to do that as much of the property wealth accumulated is built on not-so-firm foundations, but has become over the years the base of much that the ordinary working man has accumulated in capital assets, in effect replacing ever poorer pension returns. 

It suits the powers that be and the building industry to keep kicking the can down the road as long as possible as a collapse will end whatever government is in power and in the case of the Conservatives take away their biggest donors all in one hit. 

So almost since I can remember there have been endless boosters and financial support mechanisms invented to keep the train on the rails, and to a degree very successful it has been, but at a cost. 

The days of thrift have been replaced by ever increasing borrowing. How did we arrive at this? If we go back to the time when we purchased our first house, the procedure was quite simple: you approached a building society, told them what you earned, they told you on that basis what you could borrow, and you would open an account with them and prove you could repay the agreed amount by saving with them for two years. You knew where you stood financially as interest rates were pretty static and even if your wife had a decent job that would only give you a better chance of securing a mortgage, it would not increase the amount you could borrow. The borrowing at that time 1967 was two and a half times earnings; we saved for the two year period and purchased our first house. 

How times have changed; and they started to change in the Seventies with larger multiples of earnings partly to boost the mid seventies housing stagnation, but as with all fixes they became the permanent model. This multiple earnings rate continued to increase with every hiccup that the housing market encountered, up to the disaster of ‘89 when we had the only real slump in house prices along with borrowing rates that meant negative equity became a reality. One would have thought that period would have had a return-to-reality effect on the market, but no, by now we were well into the BMW on the drive period when young couples were not satisfied with just getting a house, they wanted the instant nice car and all the rooms fitted out and no real halt to their lifestyle outside of this. Who can blame them, when schemes such as low deposits and fixed low interest rates for a number of years made it all possible?

Meanwhile the multiple years earnings ratio continued to rise, one’s partners earnings added to the total and today six or seven times annual earnings to borrowing ratio is not unusual. Add to that the low interest rates that have become the norm since 2008 and many would think this is housebuying Nirvana with no end. 

The reality is somewhat different. With the rise in rates now happening the warning signs are out for a correction in prices. What is guaranteed is that the Conservative party in particular, who rely for a large portion of their votes on the house owner sector, will do all they can to stop the collapse happening; what is left that they can salvage from the magic money tree has yet to be announced or provided. 

The overlying problem with the housing market is that years of gifting first time buyers schemes to get them to buy houses has simply pushed up prices, in effect creating a Ponzi scheme. Every time easier money is provided prices go up as sellers know more money is available; the same with the lower deposits that free up more buyer'  money and other similar schemes. It has happened every time these schemes or fixed rates or as now ‘lifetime mortgages’ have been introduced. Surely we have run out of incentives that only push up prices, yet while whoever is in power facilitates all these measures prices will continue to rise. 

No one wants a housing crash. We saw the damage in the late eighties / early nineties when as an aside few could sell their houses because so many were tied down to mortgages they could not or barely afford for properties that had lost a fair chunk of their value. 

Having said that there was no help at that time yet already we hear cries of ‘the government must do something’; not really the government but the taxpayer of course. 

With many mortgage offers being withdrawn and interest rates reaching around 6% one could say the market is returning to something like normal, the sort of level that prevailed for years before 2008. Surely that, with a corresponding drop in house prices, can only be a good thing. 

Many will say this is the free market in action, but that would be being economical with the truth as governments have a vested interest in keeping the housing market going along nicely even at the ridiculous current prices. They take a lot of money from transactions for doing absolutely nothing, display faux concern about getting everyone on the housing ladder and at the same time placate the building industry who donate so much to the Party. 

You will also note the government's efforts to get houses built and sold does not include raising the build quality to a standard enjoyed elsewhere in Europe, or the size of the properties built, or the dire architecture. That I have covered in previous articles, yet it is part of the overall poor picture of where the housing market has ended. Perhaps at the very least price stagnation for a prolonged period would be the easiest way to bring back some common sense to the whole sector. 

The last couple of years have been a fantasy land with the housing market seemingly in another world to everything else. The pent up demand created by Covid ran its course long ago or it should have, but the signs are there. Looking locally, houses are no longer selling as fast as they were put up for sale, in fact many are sticking and 'reduced' signs have reappeared. Maybe, just maybe, this is a sign that some sanity is coming back to the market along with the withdrawal of those fixed low rate mortgages. 

Those who say the housing market has only ever gone up have obviously not lived long enough to remember ‘75 and ‘89 ‘90. Yes it did all recover but many got their fingers burnt big-time then. Governments need to stay out of the game and lenders need to stop being so greedy - but will they?

Friday, October 07, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Mavis Staples, by JD

The general consensus is that Aretha Franklin was the 'queen of soul' She was very good but nowhere near as good as Mavis Staples, but that is just my opinion for what it is worth.

Mavis rose to fame as a member of her family's band The Staple Singers (she is the last surviving member of that band). During her time in the group, she recorded the hit singles "I'll Take You There" and "Let's Do It Again". In 1969, Staples released her self-titled debut solo album.

Staples was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, named one of the '100 Greatest Singers of all Time' by Rolling Stone in 2008; and enrolled in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2018, as a member of The Staple Singers.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Nordstream, Russia and the US

Why were the Nordstream pipelines sabotaged? Cui bono?

Russia? Maybe, but I think not.

I’ve seen one theory kited that it was part of a grand plan by Russia to weaken Germany severely, thereby destabilising the EU and making its constituent territories vulnerable to conquest. On the other hand, the countries that have previously suffered Soviet rule would be extremely resistant to reliving a similar experience; I should imagine that Poland, for one, would fight almost to the last citizen.

Besides, if we are to believe Hillary Clinton, Putin is a right-wing nationalist, not a Communist. He has a stated interest in defending the rights of ethnic Russians who found themselves stranded in foreign countries following the collapse of the USSR, but even in the Baltic States they are a minority - about a quarter of the population in Estonia and Latvia, only 4.5% in Lithuania.

However, a 2014 survey of Russian citizens (possibly instigated by Putin) expressed concern about discrimination against Russians in these three states, which has worsened recently: there and in Poland, there have been reports of destruction of Russian monuments, and symbolic gestures of this kind can be a precursor to more direct persecution. Topping the list of victimised Russian expat communities was Ukraine.

One wonders whether the US would have waited eight years before military action to defend American citizens abroad who were under sustained attack with shot and shell. Even so, it seems obligatory for everyone in the West to say clearly and repeatedly that Putin’s intervention was foolish, criminal, inexcusable etc; instead of inevitable, however deplorable.

Is Putin a nasty piece of work? Would a sheep last long as the leader of a wolfpack? Even Ivan the Terrible seems to have started out fairly reasonable until the boyars poisoned his beloved wife. But if you think Putin is bad, consider who (or what junta) might replace him if he is overthrown. Let’s try to be realistic, not moralistic.

Russia has less than half the population of the United States and about double the land area. It is reasonable to suppose that she has her work cut out to hold on to what she has, especially facing a hugely populous China in the east, keen for lebensraum and envious of the wood, water and mineral resources of Mother Russia. Tibet has been abandoned by the British to China and its fate; Beijing is also eyeing disputed territory in northern India.

An alternative reading of Putin’s strategic aims as far as his Western borders are concerned, is that they are twofold:
  1. Putin needs to be seen by his support base, his voters, to defend Russians, their culture and religion. A leader who fails to act on behalf of the 25 million ethnic Russians living in the 14 non-Russian republics is not much of a leader. Mixed in with that is an element of hurt national pride following the fall of the Soviet Union; if that seems trivial, think how the humiliation of Germany after WWI helped the rise of an emotionally stunted loudmouth who ruined Europe and killed tens of millions of Russians.
  2. More practically, the bulk of Russia’s population lives in the western part and the trade routes along the Volga and Don are vital internally and also as a connection with foreign countries to Russia’s south and east. The Volga runs into the Caspian Sea which is bordered by Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan as well as Russia itself.
The Volga is linked to the Don by the Volga-Don Canal, but 15 years ago, the President of Kazakhstan proposed a new Eurasia Canal, which if it is ever built will run directly from the Caspian to the Azov Sea, considerably shortening the waterway route and boosting trade.

The Don flows into the Azov and thence to the Black Sea, whose shores Russia shares with the EU’s Bulgaria and Romania, as well as Georgia, Moldova, Turkey - and Ukraine.

Ukraine’s maritime borders on the Azov and Black Seas are therefore strategically vital. If an enemy occupies these areas he threatens Russian naval and commercial shipping. There is a reason, I think, why the neo-Nazi ‘Azov’ Battalion is so named.

All might have been well if Ukraine had remained non-aligned, or even agreed to regionalisation as per the Minsk proposals; but the application - recently repeated by Zelensky - to join the EU and NATO lit a match between Putin’s toes.

Surely it is reasonable to say that Putin has more to gain from peace and economic development than from the waste and bloodshed of war. Russia built Nordstream 1 to bypass potential interference from Ukraine (where major gas lines transit and two spurs cross in the Donbas, and which charges heavily for allowing their use), Belarus and possibly other third parties.

Germany has enjoyed economic advantage because the US and NATO have largely provided her military protection, but also from a long-term contract with Russia for cheaply priced gas. These are two factors in why Germany is (or was, until now) such an economic powerhouse and major sponsor of the EU. The second pipeline was to expand capacity. Germany and Russia as trade partners: win-win.

Germany has been persuaded to support Ukraine, but given the foregoing context, reluctantly one imagines. Now whether the story about broken Nordstream 1 pumps is or isn’t true, the sanctions against Russia prevent Siemens fixing them and at the same time certification of Nordstream 2 has been blocked. These are problems, but temporary ones, and could be used by both sides as levers in negotiations, with the prospect that an agreement might be reached and business as usual resume.

Not now, after the explosions; and not for a long time to come, if ever. The blow is devastating: US shipments of liquid natural gas - heavily priced and twice as CO2-producing as piped gas - can only satisfy some 10 per cent of Germany’s needs, and even then only when suitable port and processing facilities have been developed to receive them. The new Baltic pipe, owned by Poland and Norway, is said to be able to provide only another 10 per cent or so.

That’s assuming it all goes to Germany. The competition for gas energy supplies is going to become a sort of game of musical chairs, with the shortages inflating prices internationally. Even the UK could be facing cutouts.

This stands to ruin not only German industry but her agriculture - her imports of fertiliser are already dropping. Stand by for widespread food shortages and supply chain disruption all round.

So, cui bono; who benefits?

In 2019 the Rand Corporation stated baldly, ‘the United States is currently locked in a great-power competition with Russia.’ Turning Ukraine into a Vietnam soaks Russia’s resources and hampers her ambition to create a Eurasian EU using the trade routes along the Volga and Don and between the Caspian, Azov and Black Seas. And if Russia were to fall like Iraq, just imagine the feeding frenzy.

Will crippling Germany work as some allege is the intention, i.e. to cancel the possibility of Germany making a separate peace with Putin? These clever-clever plans have a habit of going wrong. In fact look at the trouble the CIA has sometimes caused for the US as well as its targets: the Gulf of Tonkin, the Bay of Pigs, Iran-Contra, the Gary Powers/U2 ‘just one more overflight’ messup that halted the growing rapprochement with Russia under Khrushchev and drove Moscow into the arms of its hawks.

Is it really so important to be a dog in the manger, to stop other countries and blocs becoming more prosperous? If so, why did the West feed the Chinese dragon and immiserate its own peoples?

To reverse the quotation from Hamlet, ‘Though this be method, yet there is madness in't.’

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Tory Party consternation

The new British Prime Minister and Chancellor faced an early setback on Monday, when a planned cut to the top rate of income tax (45%) was reversed.

Levied on incomes above £150,000 p.a., the cut would have cost ‘only’ £2 billion, but didn’t look good at a time when the general populace is hard hit by inflation - especially in energy bills - and the prospect of recession (or worse.)

This is the week of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham and PoliticsJOE interviewed some members for their reactions:

As it happens, I was pretty much next door then, attending some of the talks arranged by the Bruges Group at the Birmingham & Midland Institute.

The atmosphere at the BMI was interesting - I saw little groups of what looked like politicos on stair landings having discussions; not panic, but definitely an air of concern.

Similarly some of the speakers at the Bruges Group sessions - I am thinking in particular of respected economist Tim Congdon - had barely restrained passion in their voices. The 1 p.m. slot - ‘Getting Brexit Done and Overcoming the Economic Crisis’ - was notable for all the things that should be done as opposed to what is being done. There is a sense that we have been overtaken by events and at a particularly bad time, with an untested new leadership and (symbolically, but it matters) the recent loss of the Queen who so long represented stability and continuity for our country.

Having said that, Sir Bill Cash MP noted that the border-trade troublemaking by the EU in Northern Ireland is in the process of being addressed via the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, now going through the House of Lords, and said there would be trouble if the Lords try to block it. Tim Congdon reminded us of how much our membership of the EU had been costing us annually; now we have the liberty to rearrange our affairs without expensive and harmful interference from Brussels.

Just in time, seeing how the destruction of Nordstreams 1 and 2 seem set to plunge Germany into a slump and the EU itself into a possibly terminal turmoil.

As for the Chancellor’s U-turn, so far I haven’t heard a proposal to reverse the decision to remove the cap on bankers’ bonuses, something that the financial sector welcomed as according to them it would ‘attract talent.’ This, I take it, would be the sort of ‘talent’ that triggered the Global Financial Crisis, that made a fortune shorting the pound last week and at the same time cost the taxpayer £65 billion in support to pension funds that had played with bond-related derivatives. My term for these vultures and incompetents is The National Lootery.

For me the question is, are we headed back to the 1970s, or the 1930s?

Worse than the present crisis is the one we face if the Blair-style revolutionary Sir Keir Starmer is able to exploit the public’s disillusion with the Tories sufficiently to win a General Election and complete the destruction of the country. Repentant former Trotskyite Peter Hitchens says:
Sir Keir’s unregretted former membership of a weird revolutionary sect (the Pabloites) is known but not understood. If he wins the next Election, we will all discover what a full-on Red-Green government is like. Good luck with that, as the taxes squeeze and the lights go out and both houses of Parliament become neutered chambers of unopposed Leftists, anxious to tax you and tell you what to think.
As for PM Liz Truss, she has previously tried to channel Margaret Thatcher in her photo ops, but Mrs Thatcher was highly intelligent, extremely hard-working and lucky. I’m pinning my hopes on Truss being very lucky; doesn’t look like it, so far.

Sunday, October 02, 2022

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: Back to Mono 3, by JD

…some more B&W pictures, this time with a few stanzas of poetry for each picture.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune,
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,
Came stealing through the Dusk an Angel Shape
Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and
He bid me taste of it; and ’twas—the Grape!

And much as Wine has play’d the Infidel
And robb’d me of my Robe of Honour—well,
I often wonder what the Vintners buy
One half so precious as the Goods they sell.

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!

Saturday, October 01, 2022

Another stick-up from Microsoft !

From my Substack column - why not join for FREE updates?

For a long time, Bill Gates’s outfit was fixing things that weren’t broke. Then it moved to breaking things that were fixed.

Now it’s doing it again, demanding money that I can’t easily afford since my energy bills have just more than doubled.

We’re all used to frequent compulsory ‘updates’ that interrupt your work, slowing the computer. A few years ago MS announced they ‘would no longer support’ the edition of Windows I was using and I had to go get a new laptop with the latest sparkly version of his software. At least the HP notebook was a pretty teal colour.

Waal, a few days ago I tried opening a Word document. ‘Updating Office’…ooh! … ‘Error.’ Seems it’s something to do with needing Windows 11 and please check your machine to see if it’s powerful enough to download. Oh and there was a reference to my existing Office licence being part of a bulk buy and its replacement is going to cost £80 a year, if I’ve got that right. Until then, no Word, no Excel - not even for access to documents I previously created.

But, haha, I can still open them, because I haven’t yet scrapped/donated the old computer; the one that starts up much faster, opens documents way faster and doesn’t shove black oblongs onto the screen with notifications that I didn’t ask for.

The corporations are making you purchase everything twice and three times. In music, vinyl to CD to a Cloud subscription system that may, who knows, suddenly terminate. In motoring, petrol to diesel then omigod not polluting diesel then madly expensive rare-earth electric. When they’re not ‘upgrading’ they’re keeping profits rising by making the product worse - remember the confectioners’ plan to produce Toblerone bars with fewer ‘teeth’ or replace the raisins in Cadbury’s Fuit and Nut with cheaper sultanas?

I think we reached ‘peak quality’ some while ago. When the market is saturated all that’s left is to heist the customers.

This is why I buy physical books (mostly) and DVDs - so cheap these days, hardly more than the postage. No batteries, no abrupt termination of service; can share, swap, resell, gift. Private property! The foundation of liberal democracy!

Bill, you’ve got all the money a man could ever want; why the hell didn’t you just go fishing, have a beer with your buddies, spend more time with your wife and children?

It’s a madness, this power thing. Include me out. Leave my stuff alone.