Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Pie Squared

Forget Brexit, forget Trump, please please forget Bercow, Blair and others, let us pay attention to the important matters, those which most of us can understand and identify with. Football, of course.

Chewing over the implications of the TV coverage of the Sutton United v Arsenal FA Cup replay last night, there is to be a full investigation of the how's and why's of the United's reserve goalkeeper's decision to eat a pie while sitting on the bench.

Those of you who are mad enough to watch sport on TV will be aware from all the advert's, between parts of the games and around all the stadium, never mind the logo's on shirts, shorts, vests etc. that betting and gambling are integral to what is going on.

It is alleged that the urge to eat by the player wasn't because he was getting peckish as the night wore on but that odds were being offered as to whether he might tuck into something during the match and when. Well, I suppose it was better than the football.

He is, let us say, on the large size. Had he begun to choke on a bit of gristle I am glad I would not have to give him mouth to mouth resuscitation. But if someone did, I wonder what odds might have been offered for success or failure.

I might have had a bet on that one.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Voting And Boating

There is the by-election for Stoke Central on Thursday which is of current interest for all the wrong reasons. A few days ago BBC4 repeated the programme Love And Betrayal in India. The White Mughals about a Scotsman of the East India Company, James Kirkpatrick, becoming more Indian than Scots and Muslim in faith.

How might these connect is obscure. One reason is that contemporary with Kirkpatrick were men from the local Sneyd land owning family in Stoke and area, who were active in the Company military and connected at the highest levels to the Governors General in Calcutta.

More to the point was that they were involved with the Royal Asiatic Society and those with a real and close interest in the literature, languages and cultures of the sub Continent.

On Thursday in Stoke one major issue is which way the Muslim vote there might swing. There is a report that they are advised to vote Labour or face discipline from within their faith.

That Stoke, so long a stronghold for Labour, may now have to rely on that vote as opposed to what is left of the old working class, who are now voting for others is striking. It has lessons for the rest of the UK including Scotland, which is said to have a population of 5.3 million.

The SNP, hoping to have a win in the next referendum, at present has open doors policy. With an estimated 350 million people in the sub Continent being Muslim, if zero point two per cent of those see the social and welfare policies of Scotland being advantageous and move in whatever Scotland will be it will no longer be Scots, many of whom will have moved on.

If in England, the Labour party is shifting to a reliance on the Muslim vote in urban areas, this will reinforce those at present in favour of a UK open doors policy. But there are other faiths. So who might come? In India there are a billion and more. If many of them were to move will they join the Muslim vote, or would they vote for anything but Muslim?

We should add those from other continents, Africa, China, the Middle East where friendly bombing creates more friends to come, the Far East and other places.

If Australia gets much hotter and our cousins return where we will we fit them in?

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Wedding Daze

The institution of marriage is on the decline as recent generations make other arrangements they regard as more suited to their lifestyle. But we should not think it was all easy long ago.

The Find My Past website has picked out from Press Reports some choice specimens where things went wrong from day one.

Banns Blunder from the Hartlepool Daily Mail, 2 June 1936

 Bumbling Best Man from the Nottingham Evening Post, 28 May 1933

Extreme Safe Keeping from the Nottingham Evening Post 20 July 1904

 The Old Ball And Chain from the South Wales Daily News 8 July1895

 In It For The Long Stretch from the Western Daily Express 16 April 1930

 The Show Must Go On from the Merthyr Telegraph 21 February 1879

There must have been more, many more. The picture at the top is "Call To Arms" by Leighton.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Off With His Euro

As the UK staggers towards one new form of contact with Europe or another there are no certainties only uncertainty. Whatever it is it will not be the same as in the past, because that is over and one of the main problems is that too few recognise it.

This article says the Euro is done for and it is by Tuomas Malinen of Finland a nation which may be first into the boats. It comes from Mish Talk via The Automatic Earth. Also it has turned up in Zero Hedge. It is with a deep sigh I read these articles.

Long long ago I was with some Swiss Bankers who seemed to think that the Euro was the Noble Idea whose day had come. Politely, I expressed the view that there were basic flaws, time would tell and literally don't bank on it.

They took the view I was a relic of the past who had ancient prejudice or too much of the wine we had enjoyed. Especially, my view that when the Euro went down, it could well take the EU with it.

There are reports that Greece is considering the option of moving to the US Dollar for its basic currency. In 1975 when the Onassis family yacht was moored at St. Tropez and hosting one of President Chirac's family there was a group of US Marines in town along with Kirk Douglas.

Buddy can you spare a dime, as the local urchins asked.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Shout Out Loud

It is just one of those things, perhaps age as well as inclination, that when a parade of luvvies and the rich and ripe of media and the arts etc. parade to heap scorn and hate on someone, one wonders if those at the receiving end are as bad as they are made out to be and indeed may deserve a smidgeon of sympathy.

So is Theresa May really a good egg and unlucky enough to be stuck with the job of sorting out the mess we have been left with? Is Donald Trump perhaps a scatty elderly gent who basically has all our interests at heart, but is not very good at dressing his ideas with the usual excuses?

Is it that these days in fact we have too much media and as a result an overload of excitable publicity seekers, who live or fail by their coverage and the viewers, link clickers and others they attract. The rule is the more extreme the railings and wailing the better they will do. And they have to do well or they are gone and forgotten in a week or two.

Just as many of the female participants in the media bun fights try to be the least dressed, those whose age or condition does not allow them to take part in this contest have to come up with something which will get the cameras, the reporters etc. interested. Given that almost if not all of them are on tax wheezes remember that at the end of the line, we the undeserving poor are paying for it.

In my working life I was someone who had to come up with the figures. This presented a dilemma. If the figures looked grim then it was likely I would carry the can on the shoot the messenger principle of governance. So should I make the figures look good and hope I would land another job soon enough to avoid the fall out that would inevitably follow?

Given that the job market was tight that left the option of fudge, bodge, hope that something would happen in time to get round it, or dress up the whole thing so that when it turned bad the blame could fairly and squarely be laid elsewhere and on someone else. Preferably, someone or some organisation up or over there somewhere, anywhere.

Which is the way that most of our government, and for that matter almost all governments seem to operate these days. The ordinary elector or taxpayer has this filtered down to him or her via the media that is around and in the digital world that media feeds on all the other media to be had. The result is confusion for all that worsens year by year.

So the noise increases and the ones who shout the loudest are the only ones we hear. 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Hunt The Speaker

The interest and excitement caused by Mr. Speaker of our House of Commons, John Bercow's verbal assault on President Truman, oops, Trump, continues unabated. As these days Parliament is televised (drama, documentary, news, comedy?) it is my view that John Boy is bidding for a BAFTA (British Academy of Film And Television Arts) award at the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow.

There he will be not only allowed but expected to join in the tirade of complaints about The President, who I suspect will not only enjoy it but be delighted that the cacophony will give him ample opportunities for the publicity he needs to get his message across, a gift, if not from heaven, but allowing him to give the celebrities hell.

The question of what might be going on in John's mind and what makes him the uppish, loud, posturing type he seems to be is interesting. He was born in 1963 which puts his teenage years between 1976 and 1983. This was the great age of Punk, Wikipedia and other sites have ample information about all this.

It is said that many adults never really lose some or all of the ideas, beliefs, attitudes or behaviour they adopt during these years. So it is possible that John can be explained as one of the many chaps who never quite grew up, or adjusted to adult society. If, like so many, he was attached to Punk then all is explained.

There is another possibility. John went to the University of Essex, one of the new universities of the 1960's, located at Colchester. This was the town in the time of Ancient Rome in which the Emperor Claudius was proclaimed a God. Rather later it was famed for being home to one of the hardest military prisons in the world.

Take your pick as to which might be a key influence. There is another one that we might consider. In 1975 Malcolm Bradbury published a book, "The History Man" based in 1972 about an ultra Marxist academic Howard Kirk, at a new English university, who both engaged the permissive society whole heartedly and had dedicated himself to The Revolution to come. The book went to BBC TV in 1985.

John, of course is a Tory, up to a point. His career has had its twists and turns and at times have had people wondering if he might switch to Labour, that is if it was worth his while.

One of the unknowns is how far the fact that he grew up in North London close to the heartland of Margaret Thatcher's constituency. Could the role of his family or John himself locally have helped him to get the nod when selected for the Buckingham constituency?

So what is John, a north London dealer in this and that? An ageing Punk? A Howard Kirk who strayed into politics and another party?

Or does he see himself as an Emperor Claudius?

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Singing For Their Supper

The SNP members of The House of Commons are reported to have been humming a tune at one point during the Brexit business before The House. Sadly it was not the "Humming Chorus" from Puccini's "Madama Butterfly". This is when she is waiting for her American lover to come as his ship is back in port and she has had a son by him.

It ends badly of course, opera's often do, because he has come to tell her he has married another and worse he wants the child she bore him. His name is Pinkerton, a good old Scottish name, said to come from a Townland by Dunbar.

The tune hummed by the Scots in The House was the choral last movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony which has been taken by EU Brussels to be the anthem of the Union; the SNP could not manage the words, which are German.

It is a wonderful uplifting piece of music which we have heard many times, not least when standing in the Arena at the Royal Albert Hall. When Brussels decided to take it perhaps while realising that it was a great tune known to many they were not fully conversant of the actual history etc. behind it.

This too is probably beyond the SNP members and one is only sorry that they did not have the wit or imagination to hum something Scottish. "Will Ye No Come Back Again" would have been a good option.

If vocal and referring to President Trump we might have had "Donald Where's Your Trousers", a much loved song now little heard.

The great pity is that Brussels did not commission at some point an anthem that was new, modern and in keeping with the Europe of our time. The obvious man to ask was Pierre Boulez, a composer of authority, who once declared that any musician not conversant with Dodecaphonic music was useless.

His works in the form of electronics, total serialism and controlled chance would have allowed Brussels to insist on a Europe of new music issued from a limited groups of experts in these advanced forms.

It would have been very different but probably far more in accord with SNP policy than any of that old Beethoven, a jobbing composer from the backwoods of Germany earning his crust in the Vienna of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Habsburgs.

We could have had the barking of seals in the bass to refer to the EU fisheries policy. A soft lowing in the contralto would give us the cattle and milk matter. Hiccups in the tenor, the support for wine, castrato's for veal, the sopranos for poultry with baritone's chanting extracts from key regulations. At the very end all would sing loudly on one note for a full hour.

Brussels might then have issued regulations dictating which songs were top of the pops etc. and they would have allowed the new EU anthem a permanent place at Number One.

But we are stuck with the "Ode to Joy" the words from a poem by Friedrich Schiller, known to his friends as "Fritz". In that period of rising nationalism in Europe it was a call for Germans to have their own state of Germany.

It could have been worse, Merkel might well have gone for "Prussian Glory".

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Clarifying The Mud

Let's get this straight. There is a housing crisis and every effort and a lot of government, that is taxpayers, money will be needed to deal with and soon because it is getting worse. Yes, there are a great many unoccupied properties and second homes. But not much can be done about those because of technical matters.

Homes are needed for our new citizens, who we want because we have a lot of older people who do not work and we either give them money or they have saved up some, that is in theory. The new will pay the taxes, that is if they pay any or much because of the technical nature of modern employment contracts, to support the old, or some of them.

In the last few years some of these older people have played the property market as well as having a lot of the unoccupied property. But another reason why we need these new citizens is because they have skills and work experience and will fill the jobs that are going begging at the moment. Whether the jobs will exist later as the jobs market changes rapidly is a question but that is another technical problem.

Young people are especially affected by the lack of housing and the cost of it. In recent decades we have demanded that they have a good education in order to get good jobs so they can for decent housing. That has meant for very many a university education that a lot of them have borrowed money from the government for.

As many cannot get high paid jobs for technical reasons, the loans last a long while. Also those that do and take on big mortgages have to delay repayment. The government now cannot wait and have sold off the theoretical assets to the money men. It is possible that somebody will be at the wrong end of this and it is unlikely to be the government or the money men.

It has been a good thing to keep our young people in education for so long because it certainly improves the unemployment figures by removing them from the job market. Also the creation of a large number of jobs in the university and college education industry, government supported, has created a voracious demand for more and more.

The removal of so many from the ordinary jobs market had done much to create the demand for new citizens to do the jobs that might otherwise not have been done, many in the property industry. Student housing and new citizen housing is largely in our urban areas where the major shortages are.

These are fueling the rising prices and costs that are needed to attract all that investment from our older people in property as they need the profits because they do not have long term pension security.

Unluckily, because of technical problems, the new housing cannot be built by serious reconstruction or building large blocks in the relevant urban areas. Much will have to be built on land in the countryside or where for some reasons patches can be had.

However, the rapid build of new property today creates new jobs not only in the immediate construction but evidently many more in the later repair and maintenance industry because of the low quality of the work and need to build fast.

This will mean further costs to add to the substantial ones, for energy supplies and infrastructure, but these are not included in the figures for technical reasons.

Also an obvious need is to decant all the older not working people from their under occupied properties in urban areas  to places where they will be out of sight and hopefully mind. But this too is beset by technical issues.

I hope I have made this clear.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Keeping Count

In the latest, 6th February, item on Bank Underground from the Bank of England, Silvia Miranda-Agrippino discusses "The surprise in monetary surprises, a tale of two shocks."

It seeks to explain why the markets jump about after announcements where the content is not entirely expected.

The full article is here and not very long but a little intricate in its content, having some serious math's. It concludes:


The empirical identification of monetary policy shocks requires isolating exogenous shifts in the policy instrument that are not due to the endogenous response of policy to the economic outlook.

We argue that while market surprises successfully capture the component of policy unexpected by market participants, they map into the shocks only under the (restrictive) assumption that markets can correctly and immediately disentangle the systematic component of policy from any observable policy action.

We develop a new measure for monetary policy shocks that is orthogonal to the central banks own forecasts and unpredictable by past information.

This measure allows us to recover impulse response functions with the ‘right’ signs, even in small and informationally deficient VARs.


So now you know.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Keeping Going?

Several years ago in November 2009, I picked up this article from the then The Oil Drum headed "Dr. Albert Bartlett's Laws of Sustainability". This is a long one at around 2000 words, but more or less saying we are running into real trouble. They are part of Al Bartlett's contribution to the anthology “The Future of Sustainability” by Marco Keiner, published in 2006.


The Laws that follow are offered to define the term sustainability." In some cases these statements are accompanied by corollaries that are identified by capital letters. They all apply for populations and rates of consumption of goods and resources of the sizes and scales found in the world in 2005, and may not be applicable for small numbers of people or to groups in primitive tribal situations.

These Laws are believed to hold rigorously.  The list is but a single compilation, and hence may be incomplete. Readers are invited to communicate with the author in regard to items that should or should not be in this list.

First Law: Population growth and / or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.

A) A population growth rate less than or equal to zero and declining rates of consumption of resources are a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for a sustainable society.

B) Unsustainability will be the certain result of any program of "development," that does not plan the achievement of zero (or a period of negative) growth of populations and of rates of consumption of resources. This is true even if the program is said to be “sustainable.”

C) The research and regulation programs of governmental agencies that are charged with protecting the environment and promoting "sustainability" are, in the long run, irrelevant, unless these programs address vigorously and quantitatively the concept of carrying capacities and unless the programs study in depth the demographic causes and consequences of environmental problems.

D) Societies, or sectors of a society, that depend on population growth or growth in their rates of consumption of resources, are unsustainable.

E) Persons who advocate population growth and / or growth in the rates of consumption of resources are advocating unsustainability.

F) Persons who suggest that sustainability can be achieved without stopping population growth are misleading themselves and others.

G) Persons whose actions directly or indirectly cause increases in population or in the rates of consumption of resources are moving society away from sustainability.

H) The term "Sustainable Growth" is an oxymoron.

I) In terms of population sizes and rates of resource consumption, “The only smart growth is no growth.” (Hammond, 1999)

Second Law:

In a society with a growing population and / or growing rates of consumption of resources, the larger the population, and / or the larger the rates of consumption of resources, the more difficult it will be to transform the society to the condition of sustainability.

Third Law: The response time of populations to changes in the human fertility rate is the average length of a human life, or approximately 70 years. (Bartlett and Lytwak 1995) [This is called "population momentum."]

A) A nation can achieve zero population growth if:

a) the fertility rate is maintained at the replacement level for 70 years, and

b) there is no net migration during the 70 years.

During the 70 years the population continues to grow, but at declining rates until the growth finally stops after approximately 70 years.

B) If we want to make changes in the total fertility rates so as to stabilize the population by the mid - to late 21st century, we must make the necessary changes now.

C) The time horizon of political leaders is of the order of two to eight years.

D) It will be difficult to convince political leaders to act now to change course, when the full results of the change may not become apparent in the lifetimes of those leaders.

Fourth Law: The size of population that can be sustained (the carrying capacity) and the sustainable average standard of living of the population are inversely related to one another. (This must be true even though Cohen asserts that the numerical size of the carrying capacity of the Earth cannot be determined, (Cohen 1995))

A) The higher the standard of living one wishes to sustain, the more urgent it is to stop population growth.

B) Reductions in the rates of consumption of resources and reductions in the rates of production of pollution can shift the carrying capacity in the direction of sustaining a larger population.

Fifth Law: One cannot sustain a world in which some regions have high standards of living while others have low standards of living.

Sixth Law: All countries cannot simultaneously be net importers of carrying capacity.

A) World trade involves the exportation and importation of carrying capacity.

Seventh Law: A society that has to import people to do its daily work (“We can’t find locals who will do the work,”) is not sustainable.

Eighth Law: Sustainability requires that the size of the population be less than or equal to the carrying capacity of the ecosystem for the desired standard of living.

A) Sustainability requires an equilibrium between human society and dynamic but stable ecosystems.

B) Destruction of ecosystems tends to reduce the carrying capacity and / or the sustainable standard of living.

C) The rate of destruction of ecosystems increases as the rate of growth of the population increases.

D) Affluent countries, through world trade, destroy the ecosystems of less developed countries.

E) Population growth rates less than or equal to zero are necessary, but are not sufficient, conditions for halting the destruction of the environment. This is true locally and globally.

Ninth Law: ( The lesson of "The Tragedy of the Commons" ) (Hardin 1968): The benefits of population growth and of growth in the rates of consumption of resources accrue to a few; the costs of population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of resources are borne by all of society.

A) Individuals who benefit from growth will continue to exert strong pressures supporting and encouraging both population growth and growth in rates of consumption of resources.

B) The individuals who promote growth are motivated by the recognition that growth is good for them. In order to gain public support for their goals, they must convince people that population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of resources, are also good for society. [This is the Charles Wilson argument: if it is good for General Motors, it is good for the United States.] (Yates 1983

Tenth Law: Growth in the rate of consumption of a non-renewable resource, such as a fossil fuel, causes a dramatic decrease in the life-expectancy of the resource.

A) In a world of growing rates of consumption of resources, it is seriously misleading to state the life-expectancy of a non-renewable resource "at present rates of consumption," i.e., with no growth. More relevant than the life-expectancy of a resource is the expected date of the peak production of the resource, i.e. the peak of the Hubbert curve. (Hubbert 1972)

B) It is intellectually dishonest to advocate growth in the rate of consumption of non-renewable resources while, at the same time, reassuring people about how long the resources will last "at present rates of consumption.” (zero growth)

Eleventh Law: The time of expiration of non-renewable resources can be postponed, possibly for a very long time, by:

i ) technological improvements in the efficiency with which the resources are recovered and used
ii ) using the resources in accord with a program of "Sustained Availability," (Bartlett 1986)
iii ) recycling
iv ) the use of substitute resources.
Twelfth Law: When large efforts are made to improve the efficiency with which resources are used, the resulting savings are easily and completely wiped out by the added resources that are consumed as a consequence of modest increases in population.

A) When the efficiency of resource use is increased, the consequence often is that the "saved" resources are not put aside for the use of future generations, but instead are used immediately to encourage and support larger populations.

B) Humans have an enormous compulsion to find an immediate use for all available resources.

Thirteenth Law: The benefits of large efforts to preserve the environment are easily canceled by the added demands on the environment that result from small increases in human population.

Fourteenth Law: (Second Law of Thermodynamics) When rates of pollution exceed the natural cleansing capacity of the environment, it is easier to pollute than it is to clean up the environment.

Fifteenth Law: (Eric Sevareid's Law); The chief cause of problems is solutions. (Sevareid 1970). This law should be a central part of higher education, especially in engineering.

Sixteenth Law: Humans will always be dependent on agriculture. (This is the first of Malthus’ two postulata.)

A) Supermarkets alone are not sufficient.

B) The central task in sustainable agriculture is to preserve agricultural land. The agricultural land must be protected from losses due to things such as:
i ) Urbanization and development
ii ) Erosion
iii ) Poisoning by chemicals

Seventeenth Law: If, for whatever reason, humans fail to stop population growth and growth in the rates of consumption of resources, Nature will stop these growths.

A) By contemporary western standards, Nature's method of stopping growth is cruel and inhumane.

Glimpses of Nature's method of dealing with populations that have exceeded the carrying capacity of their lands can be seen each night on the television news reports from places where large populations are experiencing starvation and misery.

Eighteenth Law: In local situations within the U.S., creating jobs increases the number of people locally who are out of work.

Newly created jobs in a community temporarily lowers the unemployment rate (say from 5% to 4%), but then people move into the community to restore the unemployment rate to its earlier higher value (of 5%), but this is 5% of the larger population, so more individuals are out of work than before.

Nineteenth Law: Starving people don't care about sustainability.
If sustainability is to be achieved, the necessary leadership and resources must be supplied by people who are not starving.

Twentieth Law: The addition of the word "sustainable" to our vocabulary, to our reports, programs, and papers, to the names of our academic institutes and research programs, and to our community initiatives, is not sufficient to ensure that our society becomes sustainable.

Twenty-First Law: Extinction is forever.


The challenge of making the transition to a sustainable society is enormous, in part because of a major global effort to keep people from recognizing the centrality of population growth to the enormous problems of the U.S. and the world.

• On the global scale, we need to support family planning throughout the world, and we should generally restrict our foreign aid to those countries that make continued demonstrated progress in reducing population growth rates and sizes.

• The immediate task is to restore numeracy to the population programs in the local, national and global agendas.

• On the national scale, we can work for the selection of leaders who will recognize that population growth is the major problem in the U.S. and who will initiate a national dialog on the problem. With a lot of work at the grassroots, our system of representative government will respond.

• On the local and national levels, we must focus serious attention and large fiscal resources on the development of renewable energy sources.

• On the local and national levels, we need to work to improve social justice and equity.

• On the community level in the U.S., we should work to make growth pay for itself.


I think we might be in trouble. Anyone for an iceberg lettuce?

Friday, 3 February 2017

How Many Will We Need?

Just what skills and training are we going to need for the future?  This is high class guess work. It is also expensive if you are intending to run a vast State funded scheme to do it all.

It does not come cheap according to this article in The Engineer. Nor does it come easy. As our politicians and civil servants are more interested in numbers that look awesome rather than what the market will want or need there is scope for all the usual tricks.

Three million does seem a nice big figure, sound bite friendly and a good thing to shout at any meetings or conferences. If you look at the detail it may not be so good.

Then it might be useful to know what kind of structure we will have in the economy into the future.

That is by then whether we do have an economy over which we have any sort of control.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Join The Old Deplorables

It is said that during the hurly burly of the recent US Presidential elections the Clinton camp let slip a reference to many Trump supporters as people who were the "deplorables".

Essentially, this meant many ordinary Americans of the lower orders who did not like either the ways things had gone under Obama or the Democrats who wanted to succeed him.

In early August 1914 Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany referred to the British Expeditionary Force being sent to France to defend Belgium as a "contemptible little army".

Inevitably the British sense of humour labelled the men who served between 5 August and 22 November 1914 as the "Old Contemptibles". There is a memorial to them in Westminster Abbey.

They may have been few in number but their rate of fire was good enough to stop a German Army ten times their number. The picture above is the Liverpool Scottish battalion of the King's Liverpool Regiment parading through Tunbridge Wells on their way to The Front in 1914.

Many of the political and media boss class in the UK today, especially those of their leaders who style themselves as intellectual, share the Clinton concept of ordinary people. If anything they want those people out of the way.

Perhaps those of us so regarded might take an example from our gallant forebears.

Where can I join the "Old Deplorables"?