Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Ever-Elongating Minsky Moment

There’s just no second-guessing the cold hard uncertainty of life is there?

From Wikipedia: “The financial crisis of 2007 to the present was triggered by a liquidity shortfall in the United States banking system The collapse of the housing bubble, which peaked in the U.S. in 2006, caused the values of securitities tied to real estate pricing to plummet thereafter, damaging financial institutions globally."

I seem to remember that last year it was only “the financial crisis of 2007 - 2009.”

These economists! Just grasping through the mist for any substantial thing, can somebody, anybody, explain to me intelligibly whether Paul McCulley was advocating, mocking or merely predicting when he said “"There is room for the Fed to create a bubble in housing prices, if necessary, to sustain American hedonism”?

And Paul Krugman, NYT in 2002?

One economist who truly did have the wit to see what to many of us non “masters-of-the-universe” was horrifyingly obvious, namely that what goes up must come down, and that perpetual growth is as impossible as perpetual motion, was Ann Pettifor:

“There were some unkind comments on my column of August 29 2006. In it, I argued that last summer's fall in house sales in Florida and California were canaries in the deep vast coal mine of US credit; that the impact of a credit/debt crisis in the US would have a much greater impact on us all, than the crisis in Lebanon ..."

"The scale of the crisis is beginning to be grasped. However, deniers are still at work, spreading disinformation, delusions and, in some cases, downright lies about the real state of the international financial system. "

But if I may venture to disagree with Pettifor, it seems to me that the full scale of the crisis has NOT been grasped.

There is no going back to business as usual. You can try, but it won't work.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Christmas By Order

Believe or don't believe, religion is a perennially useful tool and front for whatever it is that you are pushing.

Same old same old.

Here's one:

"Any council that does not keep the word Christmas in the annual celebrations and opts for winter festival, out of the politically-correct appeasement of others to the detriment of our traditions, will have their town visited by the ??? throughout the following year."

"The average cost to the council is £500,000 when the ??? demonstrates at any given location and it is hoped this will be avoided by your council keeping the word Christmas alive."

And here's another:

"Shoppers want to see Christmas lights, Christmas trees, carol services and nativity scenes, and councils should not hesitate in supporting them."

"We should actively celebrate the Christian basis of Christmas, and not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christianity and the importance of the birth of Christ."

"The war on Christmas is over, and the likes of Winterval, [and other alternative names for Christmas festivities] Winter Lights and Luminous deserve to be in the dustbin of history."

Spot the difference.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Something for Nothing Society

My dear, what has happened to the landed gentry of today? In the fondly remembered past, word that a few damned hooligans, poachers or homosexualists were on the loose would bring forth his lordship, calling for his gun to sort the the perishers out pronto.

Sadly matters are not what they used to be, and now, it seems, the master of the gloriously, but alas no longer aptly named Shotover Estate is reduced to importuning local council taxpayers to erect fencing to make it harder to penetrate his … (that’s enough penetration, ed.)

Has the wretched man no aunts he can draft in?


“ … it still needs all the old public institutions, like ballsy newspapers and brave MPs …”

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Why are children in comfortable suburbs getting rickets?

Simple: their parents, despite having plenty of money, and no doubt decades of “education” funded at public expense behind them, are still ignorant about the basics of life.

They are ignorant about what is a healthy diet.

They are ignorant as to what is healthy behaviour.

1998 - 2008 - today - always the same story.

Muesli-belt Mummies, government interventionists and health fascists -


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Managing the Descent

When you have vertigo it's best to get your feet back on the ground. You'll feel a lot better for it.

Dr Mathis Wackernagel  of ecological footprint fame on Post Growth blog: 
"Our current palliative economic therapies have compromised our economies’ potential to deliver in the future. These investments have not helped us access cheap, abundant resources (which no longer exist), but have brought us more deeply into “peak everything.”

Hence the questions are not: do we want growth, nor how much growth is desirable? Rather they become: What will be the consequences of a resource-imposed “end of growth?” How can economies cope with non-linearities such as unexpected contractions? How can we avoid uneven contractions that would lead to social unrest? How can economies be stable, resilient and prosperous in a peak everything world?"

Read more ...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Bee a Love

That indefatigable Councillor, busy bee Philip Booth brings us melittological wordplay and an opportunity to vote for a project to turn Gloucester into a beacon for bees.

Voting starts tomorrow evening.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Feeling a Bit Peaky

Type peak oil into Google search and you’ll get the following drop-down list:

Peak oil news
Peak oil debunked
Peal oil myth
Peak oil theory
Peak oil

So there’s obviously plenty of people still out there in denial of resource depletion, clinging resolutely to their cosy blanket even as it is shrinking and disintegrating.

Not the guys at The Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security though - what a bunch of hippies!

Here’s 3 minutes of Philip Dilley, Chairman of Arup, at the introduction to the Peak Oil Task Force launch earlier this year.  Now “The Taskforce warns that more urgent action is needed from Government to address the threat of peak oil following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It urges the UK Coalition Government to take action to reduce the impact of the oil crunch by 2015.” They have brought out a new briefing note about the implications of deep-water drilling for oil now that we are, supposedly, getting towards the end of easily and cheaply available supplies.

But I'm sure they're just imagining it, so don't worry.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The New DDT

The cause or causes, proximate or ultimate, of the ongoing problem of Colony Collapse Disorder are still contested, but a toxicologist ought to have a useful insight into the matter. So the fact that Dr Henk Tennekes has weighed the evidence and considers that neonicotinoid pesticides are to blame, has to be taken seriously. You'd hope. Their use has already been suspended in several countries, with positive results for domestic bee populations

His recent book on the subject is comfortingly titled "The Systemic Insecticides: a Disaster in the Making" and it also has a website. Echoes of Rachel Carson.

It's also not looking good for the British Bee Keeping Association. People are starting to ask awkward questions.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tories Do It With Money

The Yorkshire Ranter and Matthew Turner uncover “a strange and contradictory mix of complexity and simplicity” amongst everyday Tory folk, while Land Matters blog sets Richard Murphy pondering the tax haven based landlords of Millbank Tower.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Civilians More Dangerous than Armed Opposition

Prior to his attendance at the G20 conference in client state South Korea, US President Obama was in Indonesia proclaiming that country as “an example to the world”.

Oh really?

Not according to those less intimate with power than Barack Hussein. People like the civilian population of Indonesia.

So when Obama says: “as president, I’m here to focus not on the past, but on the future—the Comprehensive Partnership that we’re building between the United States and Indonesia” remember that actually “part of that relationship involves the renewed support of Kopassus, which has been denied since the armed forces burned then-Indonesian-occupied East Timor to the ground in 1999, killing more than 1,400 Timorese.”

Journalist Allan Nairn reports on his blog: “Secret documents have leaked from inside Kopassus, Indonesia's red berets, which say that Indonesia's US-backed security forces engage in "murder [and] abduction" and show that Kopassus targets churches in West Papua and defines civilian dissidents as the "enemy."

“The documents include a Kopassus enemies list headed by Papua's top Baptist minister and describe a covert network of surveillance, infiltration and disruption of Papuan institutions.”

In the Indonesian security forces view, "civilians are much more dangerous than armed opposition."

So if this is Obama’s idea of a good example to the world then we are in for a very nasty future. However the likelihood is that, like the membership of the G20 our leaders’ words are just doublespeak to cover a hideous reality with pretty speeches, and that what they say and do is governed by a cynicism as pure as poison, as Naomi Klein explained over the origins of the G20:

“[T]hey … wrote on the back of the manilla envelope a list of countries. And by Paul Martin’s admission, those countries were not simply the twenty top economies of the world, the biggest GDPs. They were also the countries that were most strategic to the United States. So Larry Summers would make a decision that obviously Iran wouldn’t be in, but Saudi Arabia would be. And so, Saudi Arabia is in. Thailand, it made sense to include Thailand, because it had actually been the Thai economy, which, two years earlier, had set off the Asian economic crisis, but Thailand wasn’t as important to the US strategically as Indonesia, so Indonesia was in and not Thailand. So what you see from this story is that the creation of the G20 was an absolutely top-down decision, two powerful men deciding together to do this, making, you know, an invitation-only list.”

More on the Indonesian rulers’ exemplary way with citizens and environment is to be seen on this video of Heather Rogers, author of “Green Gone Wrong”, talking about the destruction of the forest and indigenous communities in the pursuit of oil-palm for agrofuels.

And I know I’m not the only one smelling a rat over international aid being ring-fenced. Don’t try and kid us this is from the goodness of our leaders hearts (do they have any of either?) Overseas ‘aid’, especially post-911, is all about covering the securocrats as they keep on helping themselves in a rapidly shrinking world where ‘national security’ equates to little more than their own selfish interests. Like the absolutists they replaced with their bourgeois revolutions, l’etat c’est moi is their cry.

Cabinet Ministers of the Future

Demonstrations have a proven track record as rite of passage for many recent Ministers of State, including at least one in the current Government.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A Deconstructionist Self-Deconstructs

Don’t you hate philosophy? There’s nothing like a spot of epistemological relativism, to take an example, for confusing the issue is there? It all seems like wading around in a grey goo of incomprehensibilty. So, if you’re the sort of person who enjoyed the Sokal Hoax, then you’ll have loved Bruno Latour's brave auto da fe on constructionism.

Unless you’re a climate conspiracist or a 911 Troofer of course.

"Fancy that? An artificially maintained scientific controversy to favor a “brown backlash” as Paul Ehrlich would say. Do you see why I am worried? I myself have spent sometimes in the past trying to show the “lack of scientific certainty” inherent in the construction of facts. I too made it a “primary issue.” But I did not exactly aim at fooling the public by obscuring the certainty of a closed argument–or did I? After all, I have been accused of just that sin. Still, I’d like to believe that, on the contrary, I intended to emancipate the public from a prematurely naturalized objectified fact. Was I foolishly mistaken? Have things changed so fast?"

Guilty Consciences

It’s the politicians that are protesting too much. Now why would that be?

Cory Hazlehurst at Liberal Conspiracy or at his own blog, Paperback Rioter, on the reaction of the political classes to the Woolas affair.

Stuart Jeffery on Tory politicos hypocritically knee-jerking about behaviour at student demo. Funny how it’s all 'high jinks' when Hoorays like them do it for fun, but 'criminal destructiveness' when ordinary people feel desperately driven to similar acts.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Long Reckoning

From Opium Wars to Currency Wars.

What do you do when uppity natives won’t buy your goods?

Keep pushing opium at their population until they become addicts and start coughing up the dough you need?

Threaten them with a gunboat?

Sadly can’t be done in these days of political correctness. Besides which, they have more blood and treasure than we do.

Send your best Hong and his gang wearing poppy flowers, just to remind the Yellow Peril who’s boss? Flood your economy with quantitative easing, and then administer a stiff warning to the blighters for the 'tidal wave of money'?

Or how about a cap on their exports? Not at all protectionist.

No? Oh well, back to the drawing board. Let’s just hope they don’t cut up rough and hold it all against us, eh?


Bryony Rosa claims in response to the video from Asif Khan:

"I was very near the front of the protest, and i'm pretty sure these weren't students. They all happened to come dressed in balaclavas, the police stood by and watched them do what they were doing, and there was even a middle-aged woman outside the offices before it all started with a megaphone saying that "this is the tory offices, you should stay here and protest!"."

Update on the Mash-up. Lots of face, lots of camera, centre of attention ftw!

UpUpdate: And yes, Donal Blaney, CEO of that spectacular 'Conservative madrassa' YBF is well up for it, with plenty of bluster.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

International Diplomacy Failing Again

As long as the modern nation state has been conjured in the imagination of politicians there have been failures of diplomacy between these nations, with dire outcome. So what now that international negotiations on climate change and on biodiversity are crashing, if not yet burning?

Is global governance still-born?

These buggers couldn’t agree on what price to sell their grandmother for.

Controlling the Assault: On- and Offline

In the modern Risk Society where traditional forms of support and authority such as the family, trades unions, religious belief and the like are often crumbling away, while anthropogenic risks and impacts are increasing, we are all under continual assault - mental and physical - often with little or no back-up other than our own resources. Danah Boyd has been talking with some young women in the US to find how they cope with the threats that Facebook brings along with its more widely promoted promises of benefit:

“ [T]hese girls live in high-risk situations. Their lives aren’t easy and they’re just trying to have fun. But they want to have fun with as little trouble as possible. They don’t want people in their business but they’re fully aware that people are nosy. They’re very guarded in general; getting them to open up even a teensy bit during the interview was hard enough. Given the schools that they’re at, they’ve probably seen far more trouble than they’re letting on. Some of it was obvious in their stories. Accounts of fights breaking out in classes, stories of classes where teachers simply have no control over what goes on in the room and have given up teaching, discussions of moving from school to school to school. These girls have limited literacy but their street smarts are strong. And Facebook is another street where you’ve got to always be watching your back.”

Monday, 8 November 2010

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Zombie Flavour

Zombies are everywhere. They're taking over Bristol - from this to this in just two years. Work, buy, consume die and then, if you’re lucky enough to be a zombie, start over again.

Yet more zombies; with philosophical zombies, zombie economics, zombie banks, zombie computers, zombies as metaphor ...

See the happy zombie,
He doesn't give a damn,
I wish I was a zombie,
My god, perhaps I am!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Greedy Giants

As government debates when to pay its contractors, many of them in turn are trying to calculate what they can get away with.

The IgNobel prize must go to megacorp Serco who wrote to their suppliers for money, not-so-subtly pointing out that:

"Like the Government, we are looking to determine who our real partners are that we can rely upon. Your response will no doubt indicate your commitment to our partnership but will also be something I will seriously consider in our working relationship as Serco continues to grow."


November Nibbles

It doesn't take long to get good stuff growing in a garden or allotment if you're lucky enough to have access to one. At the moment we've still got plenty of apples, the last of the raspberries, and a few alpine strawberries, along with a windowsill of more or less ripe tomatoes. Some last carrots are still in the soil and beetroot will keep over the winter to be pulled when needed.

Just because broccoli isn't budding yet doesn't stop you cutting growing shoots for greens. Nasturtiums and cress for salad, as well as ever faithful parsley, chives, thyme and sage. Potatoes in storage alongside pumpkins. Hot and sweet peppers in greenhouse or polytunnel.

Need I point out that it all saves money, as well as being fresher and tastier than plastibles from the shop?

Not Nice

I’m almost dismayed, now the Tories are back in, and she’s back in oppositional form, to find I'm agreeing with Polly. Here’s this one, pointing out that Andrew Lansley “seems to have been bowled over by a toxic combination of Daily Mail anecdotes of dying patients desperate for a few more months of life and intense lobbying by a pharmaceutical industry that has campaigned long and hard against the one body that kept NHS drug costs under a modicum of control."

Just wait for the avalanche of astroturf that follows in the comments - and if these commenters aren’t getting paid for it then really, they are missing out.

On big Pharma, two former medical journal editors, Richard Smith of the BMJ, and Marcia Angell of the New England Journal of Medicine explain the bottom line now that health has been made into Big Business and An Industry rather than diinterested scientific enquiry:

"Publishing a drug company sponsored trial rather than, say, a study of changing the built environment to increase physical activity will bring both profit and an increased impact factor. How tempting."

“it is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published"