Friday, October 03, 2008

Words Fail Me ...

Welsh AM Adam Price. Give me David Pryce any day.

What I actually suggest is that this touring ‘home nations’ occasional side is superseded by a standing European team which would play a series every two years, alternately home and away, against a Southern Hemisphere XV: a sort of Ryder Cup for rugby. I have to confess that my motivation for this is half sporting, half identity-politics. For me, it’s difficult to identify fully with a Lions side which even with the name change in 2001 is something of a (crooked line-out) throw back to a by-gone imperial age ...
This kind of posturing really gets on my wick. This son of Rhys is AM for Carmarthen East, a constituency which, like all of South-West Wales, is being transformed by English refugees moving along the conduit of the M4. Culturally, linguistically, demographically, the area is being changed - becoming less and less Welsh.

This guy is supposed to be a nationalist. One who doesn't care about what happens to his people or their land, but thinks its really important that the Lions shouldn't be 'British'.

And if you can't identify with this (no matter that I'd like to see more Welsh players) then I don't think you actually love rugby.

(via Sam Tarran)

Greece - it's a rising tide of diversity


About 80,000 migrants have traveled to Greece this year and decided to stay illegally, according to the authorities, who say the country can no longer handle the task of guarding the European Union's southeast flank.

While initial problems with the flood of migrants from Africa and the Middle East who are desperate to enter Europe centered on the Aegean islands, migrants are now wreaking havoc in the capital.

The historic center of Athens has been riven by several street battles in recent months, involving what the police characterize as rival groups, often involved in dealing drugs, from Afghanistan, Iraq and war-torn African countries wielding swords, axes and machetes.

After 11 people were hurt in one such brawl in late August, the police began 24-hour patrolling of the area. Store owners and residents are leaving the busy central shopping and restaurant district.

According to a residents' group, dozens of people renting in the area have left their homes in the past year, and several stores have closed, chiefly small but long-established neighborhood conveniences like bakeries, hardware stores or delicatessens.

Hmmm. How could this come about ?

Georgiadis said that Greece supported the stricter line on immigration being promoted by the bloc's French presidency. "There will not be another wave of legalization of immigrants in Greece in the near future," Georgiadis said, referring to the three programs that have granted work and residence permits to some 500,000 migrants, most of them undocumented foreigners - at least half from Albania - since 1997.

Well, you legalised the previous half-million - just like Boris Johnson's policy director Anthony Browne now wants to in the UK - and you're surprised you get more ?

The unrest in Athens has triggered a backlash from the far-right party Laos, whose popularity has jumped to 5.4 percent in opinion polls from 3.5 percent when it entered Parliament a year ago.

"The city center has been taken hostage by gangs of illegal immigrants with knives - isn't it about time we asked ourselves if we have too many of them?" a Laos legislator, Antonis Georgiadis, said during a recent television debate. He is not related to the immigration official.

Although some on the Greek left have warned against demonizing migrants, the Athens prefect, Yiannis Sgouros, who belongs to the main opposition Socialist party, Pasok, refers to an "explosive problem" in the heart of the capital, where thousands of migrants living in cheap hotels and derelict houses struggle to find work.

"Illegal immigrants are becoming pawns to local drug barons and are forming gangs," Sgouros wrote last week in a letter to Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis. He added: "Something has to change or the area will become an arena for race clashes and gang wars."

I suppose it might. But if the British experience is anything to go by, most of the natives will have fled the capital by then.

These I Have Loved

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

(Piano by D.H. Lawrence

My earliest childhood memories are of my mother's beautiful soprano singing as she moved about the house. She sang all the time when she was on her own - songs like the Faery Song from Rutland Boughton's now-forgotten opera The Immortal Hour or "This is my lovely day" from Bless the Bride - big tunes with big notes to hit and to hold. At Christmas she'd sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" to Walford Davies' beautiful tune "Wengen". "Again, again !" and we'd sit entranced by the words, the music and the voice.

She'd sing classics from Gershwin to Eartha Kitt, but it was the sad songs like "Annie doesn't live here anymore" that really got to me.

Since then most of my favourite voices have been female.

Up until I left home, it was just the music - heard on radio - that would hit me; I'd know nothing at all about the performers. As a child, the girlie groups - Chiffons, Shirelles, Ronettes. In my early teens, when boys tend to go for the shouty rather than the introspective, I loved Grace Slick's (W) voice on the early Jefferson Airplane singles. Airplane fans were few and far between in my school year - I never did find any others.

A project on radio aerials in the physics lab in the summer term, tuning our hand-built receiver , 'Stop ! Leave it there a minute ! Who is that voice ?'' the voice belonging to a Melanie Safka.

"We were so close, there was no room,
We bled inside each others wounds,
We all had caught the same disease
And we all sang the songs of peace"
What was she on about ? We didn't have a clue, but did it matter ? The voice ! The voice !

Wandering across a cricket field and hearing Maddy Prior singing "The Blacksmith" - would you believe released as a single - drifting from a car window. Voice like a synthesiser, push the slider and up (or down) goes the note. I'd never heard anyone hit such long, pure notes with so little vibrato.

And Sandy Denny (W)- the musical love of my life, along with Vaughan Williams. Hearing 'The Sea' at a sixth form party was the start. Try this beautiful performance of 'Banks of the Nile' - still meaningful today, as our young men head for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Off to college and a world of new people and new music. Nico, beautiful, doomed and mad as a fish. Another Anglo-Saxon princess with a harmonium, folkie Helen Watson of Muckram Wakes. Janis Joplin, dead before I discovered her shouty splendour - this manic, Violet-Elizabeth having a breakdown performance shows you where Robert Plant got half his vocal mannerisms. The glorious Scots folk singer Ray Fisher - I can see I'll have to get "Pride of Glencoe" or "Mill O'Tifty's Annie" onto Youtube.

Another woman with a voice like a synthesiser, strangely detached and slightly soulless but still beautiful - Karen Carpenter. Which leads me onto another weakness of mine - music that's slush, but lovely slush - in which the 70s and early 80s seem peculiarly rich - Starland Vocal Band, Captain and Tennille, Catherine Howe, Marshall Hain's "Coming Home", even (whisper it) the mighty Dollar.

Then the mid-late 70s, the disco and reggae queens ! The Lovers Rock anthems of Carroll Thompson and Louisa Mark, Chic, Evelyns King, and Thomas, the divine Donna . Another slightly detached but compelling vocal - Ingrid Mansfield-Allman on "Southern Freeez". The punks didn't have any real divas - sorry, Souxsie, although I was always rather fond of Poly Styrene - but the new wave that followed had a number of wonderful little-girl voices - Blatt of And The Native Hipsters, Clare Grogan of Alterered Images, Alison Statton of Young Marble Giants, Jane. I discovered country music - Patsy Cline and Kitty Wells.

And I kept finding classics, floating up somehow through whatever was current - Doris Day singing "You're My Thrill", Peggy Lee "The Folks Who Live On The Hill", Nina Simone's "Since I Fell For You", Dionne Warwick's Bacharach and David Songbook.

Vashti Bunyan, long before she was re-released - tapes copied and copied again. Julianne Regan (W), who's singing on All About Eve's "Martha's Harbour" comes as close to the feel of a Sandy Denny vocal as you can get.

And it continues. While my life revolves now round children rather than music, let me just credit Portishead's "Glory Box" (what does she mean ?), Olive's "You're Not Alone", the Sneaker Pimps' (unpleasant name, great singing) "Six Underground".

There are - and will be - more - this post being a bit of a work in progress.

Now old age is creeping up, I'm starting to explore some of those operatic vibratos I despised so much in comparison to Maddy Prior thirty-five year back. I can't find a decent version of "O Had I Jubal's Lyre" on the web, but cop Leontyne Price's "Care Selve". To think I had to be nearly 50 before I discovered Handel.

Let's leave you with one my mother would have loved if she'd known it. While I think Frederica von Stade's is the classic, this version of Canteloube's La Delaissado, by the late Netania Davrath, is pretty gorgeous. Enjoy.

Rod vs Rachel - the gift that keeps on giving

The former Mrs Liddle takes another crack at her ex ...

But when it came to choosing a date, Rod prevaricated and told the vicar that we couldn't get married that summer because much of the countryside was shut because of an outbreak of foot and mouth.

Ridiculous, of course, and probably I should have realised then that something was seriously wrong.

In retrospect, I should have been firmer with him, read him the riot act. But Rod has a very powerful personality - that's part of his attraction - and I'm not great at confrontation.
She's learning fast, though.

I decided I would have it out with the vicar who married Rod to someone else. I explained I was upset that he had married my ex-husband in his church.

'The breakdown of any marriage is very painful,' he told me. 'I have experience of it myself.'

'But she broke us up,' I complained. 'As far as I'm concerned, they are two parishioners who came to me to be married and I could see no reason not to. The wedding is legal,' he said.

He sounded very cold and matter-of-fact. I told him that if he had bothered to look Rod up on the internet it would have taken him two minutes to find out the truth.

'I don't Google,' he replied disdainfully.

I asked him if he would have conducted the ceremony if he had been aware of the facts. He replied that he didn't sit in judgment of others.
'So God doesn't mind if we sleep with other people's husbands?' I cried in distress.

He told me that he didn't think there was any point in carrying on the conversation.

It has to be said that Alicia is rather fetching. You can see that a man might be tempted. I wonder if she's related to Rosa or the late Walter ? I presume not, as they're Catholics. Rod would have needed an annulment Henry VIII-style to get a Catholic wedding, and with two kids already he'd probably have got the same dusty answer that Henry got. You never can tell though - the Church moves in mysterious ways.

More on the Wod'n'Alicia saga here, here, here and here.

Child Poverty ?

You may have noticed lately the publicity of the Campaign To End Child Poverty, a coalition of tax-payer funded organisations conducting a political campaign aimed at getting taxpayers to stump up more cash to relieve said evil. One of the greatest achievements of the UK "left", if I can dignify it with that term, is that they've managed to get the taxpayer to pay for so much of their political work over the years.

As child poverty is measured on a relative basis (beware - most of the wikipedia stuff on the subject is pretty poor), you could abolish it tomorrow by reducing the incomes of those earning more. No child starves in the UK, or goes to school with cardboard in their shoes, unless the parents are just plain bad. Absolute poverty is pretty much non-existent - probably 80% of the world's population would consider UK 'poverty' to be unimaginable luxury.

80% of the population of Mirpur or Bangladesh would also consider it a pretty good deal. I invite you to take a look at child poverty by constituency or the BBC map of same.

Do we se a pattern here ? Ladywood, Bethnal Green, Bradford ?

I wrote a while back :

You can also use the bottom graph - male/female employment ratios for working age people - as an approximate proxy for childrearing. Pakistani/Bangladeshi women of working age are characterised as 'economically inactive' i.e. they're raising kids, not trying for that Senior Co-Ordinator role. What did Sayyid Qutb say again ?

"(if) she prefers ... using her ability for material productivity rather than the training of human beings, because material production is considered to be more important, more valuable and more honourable than the development of human character, then such a civilisation is ‘backward’ from the human point of view ..."
A combination of low wages and high numbers of children, as any father of four can tell you, means relative poverty compared to those in low-child, two-earner families. The statistical spearhead of the child poverty campaign are the large numbers of Muslim parents who consider the development of human character more important than material production. And I mean parents in the plural. Most of the native children in poverty will be the children of single mothers.

Another thing. These children are not culturally poor. They know who they are (not to mention who they're not) and where they come from, what's right and what's wrong. They're taught from an early age the great texts of their religion - in classical Arabic at that. Compared to their relatives in Sylhet they're physically rich - compared to their fellow poverty sufferers in the smack-ridden disaster zones of the Valleys or the estates of Ayrshire they're culturally rich too.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Damn Fool ...

At last. The very wonderful (and sadly deceased) Exuma on Youtube, with the equally wonderful "Damn Fool" . Now if only someone would post Marsha Hunt's "Oh No ! Not the Beast Day !"

July 24, 2002

Scott Adams saw it all ...

(big company life does reflect Dilbert cartoons rather well. In my employee days we were once given a pep-talk by a motivational speaker. At one point she told us to 'work smarter, not harder' and looked offended by the gale of laughter this advice provoked. She obviously didn't read Dilbert)

What Other People Think

Kipling :

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
David Warren :

As one of my more knowing correspondents put it: "Wall Street loves money but hates free markets, because free markets distribute economic benefits to those who earn them, rather than to those best able to seize them."

The capitalist investment bankers stand accused, rightly, of having invented brilliant kiting schemes -- ultimately to deliver credit to customers who hadn't earned it. Their "greed" is irrelevant -- everyone is trying to make money. The point is that the schemes themselves were basically unsound. The lesson is that when home ownership is considered a "right" instead of a privilege, it is not only the housing market that goes bottom up.
The great Kirk Elder :

As I write, the Dow Jones index on Wall Street is plunging at the speed of an Apollo re-entry vehicle, and a conservative Congressman is warning that the rescue plan advocated by the political establishment represents "the slippery slope to socialism". Would that it were so. Such a fate might imply a degree of economic planning, albeit with the side effect that the supermarkets would run short of fresh vegetables while being overstocked with tractor tyres and shoes comprising two left feet.
It's at moments like this that I am grateful that my savings are stored in jamjars in the airing cupboard, behind my wellington boots.

The Public Sociologist :

Academics, armchair economists, libertarians and House Republicans are the only ones who take the "principles" of neoliberalism seriously. Governments here and across the Atlantic only stick with it in as far as it entrenches the rule of capital. And the way the government has handled the nationalisation of Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley and waived competition rules regards Lloyds-TSB and HBOS are entirely consistent with this. The state absorbs the the bad debts and liabilities, while it facilitates a transfer of assets to the private sector. As Vince Cable, the LibDem deputy leader observed in February, "Northern Rock’s ‘assets’ include unsecured debts, such as portions of mortgages in excess of the value of the properties concerned. In other words, the rubbish."

While sections of finance capital goes under, the government has and will continue to maintain the strength of finance capital as a whole. Whatever Tories and their ilk may think, nationalisation of this character is nothing to do with socialism. It's asset-stripping by another name.
He has a point. We get the debts they can't value, Santander get those nice cash deposits.

The problem for most UK banks seems to be that their lending isn't covered by their deposits. You'd think that to encourage more saving you'd raise interest rates. I see that the world and his wife are calling for immediate interest rate cuts - as happened after the dot-com crash. Let's start the merry-go-round again ...

All things are moving at the same time. We have very low savings ratios in this country - spending is seen as a good thing, it keeps the money circulating at an appropriate velocity. Low interest rates encourage "investment" - true. They also encourage asset inflation - which is why we've seen a massive transfer of the housing stock to the wealthy over the last 15 years - while inflation as measured by Gordon Brown has been "low". Trickle-down didn't quite work as planned - instead of those City bonuses and ever-increasing director salaries going into luxury yachts and slate bathrooms, creating employment on the Hamble and in Bethesda, large chunks of it went on forcing up property prices, and making it near-impossible for a first-time buyer to afford property. Thirty years back a poor Laban paid £10,000 for a two-bedroom cottage - with roses round the door - in a country village. He was earning £3,000 pa - bad money even in 1978. There's not a cat in hell's chance that someone on £15-20,000 could afford that house now.

So the money whirls round, we get and spend, the economy booms for twenty years. Trouble is, a percentage of the cash flies off to China and Saudi Arabia, because we import so much more than we export. It's a bit like those penny cascade machines at the arcade - some of those 2p bits fall into a bucket marked "offshore".

We don't save much, while other people do. So as this process continues, we think we're rich - while all the time we're growing relatively poorer compared to, say, China, Singapore, Saudi. Because the money flowing out is balanced by money coming back in - foreigners investing in government and corporate bonds and shares, we end up with what's left of our industry being owned by others. Our current account deficit is terrifyingly large, worse than the US given the size of our economy. How long can this process continue before we're wholly owned, the pound collapses (revealing our true poverty), or both ?

To some extent the same things are happening in the US, although their much stronger Christian culture, while in decline, will postpone any collapse until well after ours. Who knows, our fate may act as a warning and example. (It's scary to see the glee with which the assembled Guardianistas greet the prospect of America's decline and China's rise. They ring the bells, but within their lifetime they'll be wringing their hands).

And at the same time, the British cultural collapse is almost complete, mass immigration is transforming the country into an interesting patchwork of ethnic groups, with all the potential for conflict which that implies, the natives are still merrily aborting their descendants, the group with the highest fertility has also the strongest, most militant and most cohesive culture, education's still pretty shot, the underclass, native and otherwise, shows no sign of diminishing in size or in its range of pathologies. We haven't got the money to pay our soldiers properly, so we increasingly offshore the military. Didn't a chap called Vortigern try that one ?

Will the options for my children be "fight or flight" ?

It's a pretty impressive feat, to have transformed what in 1945 was the third most powerful nation on earth, renowned for its stability and civility, into one with the most tremendous basket-case potential (oh alright, compared to large chunks of Africa it's not - but is that the benchmark ?). Just take away the religion, and all else follows in its natural, horrible and inevitable sequence.

"Events, dear boy, events"

Thus, apocryphally, Harold MacMillan, when asked what could blow a government off course.

But they can have the opposite effect. I'm remembering another Prime Minister suffering economic difficulties, with high unemployment, high inflation, and record low poll ratings. Mrs Thatcher (for it is she) looked doomed against her smooth young public-school opponent, Michael Foot ;-)

Don't mock. By 1982 Mrs T was so far behind in the polls that even Footy only had to avoid clangers to stay well ahead. The next election was his to lose, not Thatcher's to win.

Then General Galtieri invaded the Falklands. The fact that the trigger for the invasion was a penny-pinching act of her own government (the announcement by Defence Secretary John Nott of the proposed withdrawal of the only British naval vessel in the South Atlantic, HMS Endurance) was forgotten. Her response to the invasion, and the success of the task force, sent her popularity soaring.

Three weeks ago Gordon Brown was the most despised man in Britain. The Right hated him for his gargantuan waste, the abolition of the 10p tax band, his destruction of private pensions, his utter uselessness. The Left hated him for PFI (as did some of the Right), ID cards, the abolition of the 10p tax band, bankrolling Iraq and Afghanistan (although not with a big enough wad to give our soldiers decent kit), his utter uselessness. Everyone else hated him for his utter uselessness. Everything he touched turned to dross.

Then the Great Economic Disaster of 2008 struck as a whole cloud of securitised-debt chickens came fluttering home to roost. But it's done Gordy a lot of favours - despite the fact that GB, as Chancellor for ten years, is implicated up to his neck in whatever dodgy debt fantasies the City's accountants dreamed up to keep the bottom line looking good. Who was in charge of regulation ? Who prided himself on the 'light touch' of the FSA ? Who was the guy who knew it all ?

Nonetheless :

a) a lot of the lefties have stopped lambasting him to focus attention on their old enemies, the bloated plutocrats. This may not last.

b) said lefties are suddenly chipper at the sight of Big Capital calling for state intervention and the perceived collapse of capitalism. Just when they'd pretty much given up on any such thing happening.

c) conversely, the free-marketers are depressed to a greater or lesser extent. The American disaster has dampened their ardour. To be fair, this has been a Big Week. Tectonic plates have shifted, and the deregulated - or specifically, credit deregulated model of capitalism looks fatally compromised. Good. Doesn't of course, do anything about the long-term, structural disasters - education, demography, welfare dependency - which, more than any amount of creative asset pricing, spells our decline.

d) being 'the man in charge' at a time of crisis will always mean that people tend to rally round you. Bush may need (a Democratic) Congress - Brown has still a tame PLP, with a hefty majority, to do his bidding.

e) the Tory Conference has been overwhelmed in the news by the financial hurricane. In vain Mr Cameron offers to help the Government. As seen above, Gordon don't need Dave's help. The expected 'conference bounce', when the Leader is all over the news bulletins for a week, may not materialise.

f) having something to worry about other than what two public-school bullies (I'm trying to put myself in his Oxfords) will be throwing at him each Wednesday can't but do him some good.

Of course, I still want him out asap. But what will the man being beaten up by Somali youths on the top floor of the Clapham omnibus think ?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

*Sigh* (again)

What was it Peter Hitchens said ? The criminal justice system now enforces 'the letter of a bureaucratic law rather then the spirit of an agreed and respected moral code'.

The extraordinary scene unfolded on Friday last week when 39-year-old Mr Gilbert was dragged out of the van in a busy shopping street in Witham, Essex. He was then escorted by Mr Cremer and another man around the corner to the police station. Slung around his neck on a piece of cardboard was the message: 'THIEF. I stole £845. Am on my way to police station.'

Mr Cremer, 41, who runs In House Flooring of Witham, said that Mr Gilbert had been at the company for six months and earned around £1,000 a week. He has been accused of taking a business cheque and making it out to himself. Mr Cremer was contacted by the Cash Converters company after the cheque apparently bounced.

Essex Police confirmed that five men were on bail in connection with the incident.

A spokesman said: 'A 39-year-old man from Colchester has been arrested on suspicion of theft. A 44-year-old man from Halstead and a 22- year-old man from Witham were arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment, assault and theft. On Saturday, a 41-year-old from Maldon and a 42-year-old from Colchester were also arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment. They have all been released on police bail until November 27.'

The spokesman added: ' It's important to remember that people are innocent until proven guilty.'

There was no answer yesterday at the flat Mr Gilbert shares with his girlfriend at a newly-built development near Colchester town centre.

Mr Cremer, who opened In House Flooring eight years ago and has six employees, said he was still waiting for police to return his van, which was seized after his arrest and contains his tools.

Plastic Washing Bags / Laundry Bags

You know the things. Large, heavy-duty plastic bags, with plastic carry handles. They come in bright primary colours and you use them - or we do - to transport wet washing from machine to line or tumble-dryer.

You used to be able to buy them in supermarkets at about a quid a throw - but they seem to have vanished from the shelves everywhere. Laundry baskets take up too much space - you can't fold them up when not in use as you can a bag. Ours are ageing, splitting, losing the handles.

Where have they all gone ? Anyone know who sells them these days ?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Can't Say They've Not Got Guts ..

As I understood it from the Guardian and points left, the evil Republicans were going to rob Joe Six-Pack in order that the Wall Street pirates could continue to clock up billions in bonuses - all taxpayer-funded.

"Hah ! They've been talking about standing on your own feet and 'let the market decide' for years ! Now THEIR industry's gone pearshaped they're screaming for Mummy State to kiss it better !"

Instead, it's the Democrats that want to rescue the fat cats while the Republicans, in what IMHO is a courageous and principled stand, find the thought of billion-dollar tax-funded bailouts just too much to stomach.

I said I thought it courageous and principled. Whether it's actually going to do more damage to poor Mr Six-Pack than fleecing him would do, I'm not qualified to say. Sound money and no bail-outs didn't exactly keep Joe in beer last time out.

In the 1920s, American consumers and businesses relied on cheap credit, the former to purchase consumer goods such as automobiles and furniture, and the latter for capital investment to increase production. This fueled strong short-term growth but created consumer and commercial debt. People and businesses who were deeply in debt when price deflation occurred or demand for their product decreased often risked default. Many drastically cut current spending to keep up time payments, thus lowering demand for new products. Businesses began to fail as construction work and factory orders plunged.

Massive layoffs occurred, resulting in US unemployment rates of over 25% by 1933. Banks which had financed this debt began to fail as debtors defaulted on debt and depositors attempted to withdraw their deposits en mass, triggering multiple bank runs. Government guarantees and Federal Reserve banking regulations to prevent such panics were ineffective or not used. Bank failures led to the loss of billions of dollars in assets.[citation needed] Outstanding debts became heavier, because prices and incomes fell by 20–50% but the debts remained at the same dollar amount. After the panic of 1929, and during the first 10 months of 1930, 744 US banks failed. (In all, 9,000 banks failed during the 1930s). By 1933, depositors had lost $140 billion in deposits.

Bank failures snowballed as desperate bankers called in loans which the borrowers did not have time or money to repay. With future profits looking poor, capital investment and construction slowed or completely ceased. In the face of bad loans and worsening future prospects, the surviving banks became even more conservative in their lending.

Hmmm. Food for thought there ... nonetheless, isn't American democracy wonderful ? Over here, Government initiatives are overturned by the courts. Over there, they're overturned by the votes of democratically elected representatives. We used to have something like that - it was called a Parliament.

The End Of Demutualisation

It's just about the lot, isn't it ? Any building societies left who demutualised and haven't either gone down the tubes or been swallowed up ?

Still, the managements at the time of demutualisation will have cleaned up. I'm not sure it's improved 'consumer choice' a great deal.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Not the bit about the ship.

A team of international archaeologists is working round the clock to rescue the wreck of what is thought to be a 16th Century Portuguese trading ship that lay undisturbed for hundreds of years off Namibia's Atlantic coast. Ivory tusk and a piece of cannon The shipwreck, uncovered in an area drained for diamond mining, has revealed a cargo of metal cannonballs, chunks of wooden hull, imprints of swords, copper ingots and elephant tusks. It was found in April when a crane driver from the diamond mining company Namdeb spotted some coins. The project manager of the rescue excavation, Webber Ndoro, described the find as the "the most exciting archaeological discovery on the African continent in the past 100 years". "This is perhaps the largest find in terms of artefacts from a shipwreck in this part of the world," he said.

The ship may have been unable to withstand the currents in the volatile seas off the Namibian shore. The area is also known as the Skeleton Coast and is associated with the skeletons of wrecked ships and past stories of sailors wandering through the barren landscape in search of food and water.

The bit about the mining.

The site is about 130km (80 miles) south of the Namibian harbour town Luderitz, in an area long sealed off for mining. The mines are established by sea-walling the ocean and dredging the dry seabed for diamonds. Pumps ensure the sea does not reclaim the land - an exercise that is costing thousands of dollars each week.

Bruno Werz, the archaeologist leading the excavations, said the shipwreck was particularly valuable because it had not been tampered with. "This collection has not been disturbed by human interference," he said, "we are very fortunate to have found an untouched wreck with all the material that was on site still here in one collection."
I must know more ...

Inside the forbidden zone is the city of Oranjemund, with its own food-producing farms and reservoirs. The vast mining area runs alongside the Atlantic Ocean. To enter into the mining area, one has to insert his plastic security badge into a slot in the wall and wait for a door to slide open automatically. The central computer, which opens and closes these passageways, tracks the comings and goings of everyone in the mining area. De Beers' helicopters constantly patrol overhead, and closely monitor the activities of the fishing craft that pass by in the ocean (even though the enormous waves would make landing a boat on the beach all but impossible). Behind the beach, a pack of Alsatian guard dogs patrol the no-man's-land between the two barbwire fences. And behind the barbwire fences is the Namib Desert, one of the most inhospitable areas on earth. It is made impenetrable by 1,000-foot-high sand dunes and 120 degree temperatures.

The extraordinary security procedures are considered necessary in Namibia because what is recovered from the 200 mile-long beach is not kimberlite ore but pure gem diamonds, which can be easily pocketed by anyone. In one small crevice in a rock outcropping, some 15,000 carats of sparkling diamonds were found on this beach some years ago.

The mine, if it can be called a mine, is actually the continental shelf of the Atlantic Ocean. To get at the richest lodes of diamonds, the ocean must be literally pushed back and held back long enough to dig out the diamonds. The mechanism for holding back the pounding surf is a ten-story high mound, which, 600 feet out in the ocean, runs parallel to the beach.

Standing on this sandy mound, I looked down into the "mine," which was actually the exposed floor of the ocean. It was an incredible sight; a full-scale battle between man and nature.

You can see some of the workings on Google Maps ... here ... and here. Old ones here. Can anyone spot any more of the current ones ?

That Global Zionist Conspiracy ...

It just gets more evil by the day ...

Think about it. It was lovely Linda who turned Paul on to vegetarianism. Then there was all that rolling about with seals with Heather. Now he has a Jewish girlfriend, the glamorous Nancy Shevell, he's suddenly playing concerts in Israel and 'finding out for myself what the situation is'.

Suspicious? I think so. Let us pray that I'm wrong.

(Mind, you, to think that you have to believe (as Susan does) that a Macca concert is A Good Thing, rather than (as Laban does) a crime against humanity).