Friday, October 24, 2008

[blogspot lame] posting only at fifty percent power

For non-blogspot blogs, you might not be aware that for some days, Blogger has been partially down.

The trouble is that one can only post from the edit html mode, which is fine by me as I do that anyway but it has also restricted resizing of images and viewing in compose mode. Blogger's strange configuration also denies justifying text, whilst allowing italics.

Thus you were hit in the moosh by that large Palin photo in the last post and the tools are not currently operational to resize her downwards.

The situation is still not dire enough to revert to the Wordpress Nourishing Obscurity but if anything happens to Blogspot Nourishing Obscurity, that's where this blog will have gone.

[vice presidents] always the millstones

Always have been, always will be [at least until the face of politics as we know it is reconfigured 2009-12].

Remember Spiro Agnew? Remember Dan "Potatoe" Quayle?

So what's new with Biden and Palin, heartbeats away from the presidency of the "free" world?

[free enterprise] and living within our means

This post is about human behaviour. Bearwatch opens with:

Karl Denninger explains why he believes we are now in dire crisis. If the insolvent continue to be bailed out with money that the government itself must borrow from elsewhere, the American government's own credit will be destroyed.

This article, about gold, states that there are zero one ounce gold bars in North America at wholesale [at this time] but that every Central Bank on the planet lists gold bullion on their balance sheet as an “official reserve asset”.

There is apparently trading in gold going on between big players at prices way over the odds and it is being held by CBs as a hedge but none is available to Jo Public. Worse are the lies created by people who should know better than to explain this away.

Alan Greenspan

But the opposition to the gold standard in any form-from a growing number of welfare-state advocates-was prompted by a much subtler insight: the realization that the gold standard is incompatible with chronic deficit spending (the hallmark of the welfare state).

Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth [but gold] stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists' antagonism towards the gold standard.

Stop and draw breath.

The government and the big finance have thrown paper money, whose only value is the government's word, into the economy at vastly greater book value than the solid assets in the country. In other words, the country is living almost entirely on credit.

Anyone knows that the way to act is to severely curtail such rash action and yet what are the people who have engineered this doing? They have their snouts in the trough, quangos being but one manifestation of it, completely at odds with how the rest of the society is suffering and what's more - not giving a damn.

The excesses are obscene.

This is the third great crime against humanity, along with making obscene profits from this collusion and corruption, the first crime being the knowledge that this was coming, the complicity, together with the feigned incompetence and the second crime - that these people, who should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, are in fact increasing their wealth and personal security as we read.

The fourth crime is the whole panoply of anti-people legislation which not only criminalizes the citizen but prevents him from trading his way out of trouble and leaves the whole family at severe personal risk of losing all it has built up over time.

The difference between this time round and 1929-1945 is that this time there is a collective consciousness, thank goodness, a slow dawning of understanding, of who is actually to blame.

I think it is a measure of how worried the criminals are that they are surrounding themselves with these defences so vehemently. This time round, the people know and that is a very frightening prospect.

Waiting to pounce on the new Weimar Republic are the state socialists who would use strongarm tactics and messianic solutions to what is actually very simple - cut a swathe through over-regulation to free up enterprise for the small businessman, let him trade his way out and allow prices to once again find a true market value.

That's the way out, not the artificial solution to the artificial crisis which will be propounded in 2009-11.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

[blogfocus thursday] seven classic lines

Liz Hinds: I don't think a new computer should have surrogate anythings. My tin-opener has also gone missing.

Morgan Hen
: Our heritage is more than just a couple of "celebrity " names such as Caerphili Castle, or even Cardiff.

Guthrum: Lets face it if you were not in this photo of neo-medievalists you are not going anywhere in the next ten years in terms of influence.

Calum Carr: For some reason, a few minutes ago, these lyrics popped into my head. A very rare occurrence this: swear words often float in but not lyrics.

Dave Cole
: To that end, I very much support the idea of introducing A Bill for the more effective prevention of unicorns.

Charon QC
: Don’t mess with a Rothschild….

Tiberius Gracchus
: Spurius Maelius had, according to Livy, attempted to use food as a weapon to bring down the Roman Republic.

[new venture] overcoming the negative climate

Despite the last two posts, I'd say it's necessary to keep a bright outlook however much it's stacked against us.

To this end, I've just explored, in a neighbouring town with the council officers, the idea of setting up a venture selling from a booth. The product is not a major consideration [to me although it was vital to him] as long as it's something people would walk across the carpark from the supermarket to avail themselves of.

An example might be a dry cleaning pick up point or power tool hire - let's leave the product for the moment and concentrate on the process. To do that it would cost £30 a day, each and every trading day and you'd nominate maybe four trading days in the week. Electricity usage is another cost before stock.

The plusses include that it does not involve huge overheads to set up, it can start gradually and new stock can be bought from takings and diversifying will also follow that. Advertising would be in the weekly local rag.

Hard work but it could be done if there was a positive climate.

There's not. For a start, the council has started charging for 8-6 carparking and this has apparently halved the shopper numbers. Now people are tearing in, getting everything from the supermarket [which has diversified its product range accordingly] and getting out before their 50p is up.

This has killed browsing in the shopping centre and while rentals go up, takings have gone down and businesses are going to the wall. The notion that the council relax its iron grip just a little does not seem to sway it one bit. It's of no consequence to them who goes to the wall or that half the stalls are empty.

It used to be impossible to get stall space apparently and the place was packed. Not now.

So, unless you have a product which would cause people to come to you and then pop over to the supermarket for the other things, it's not worth the effort. You'd need to be taking minimum £350 a week in sales to be able to expand even slightly.

This now brings us to the business climate at a recessionary time. At such a time, logic dictates that regulations are freed up, greed is reduced and small business is allowed to breathe. It's the only way to trade out of the recession. The most immediate people to do this are the councillors.

Will they do it?

The question of why not is tied up into what I believe [and others also] that there is a thrust to remove uninvested wealth from the individual [including the sole trader], in favour of larger corporations offering a diversified range of products, including what you were hoping to sell.

The only possible way to overcome this huge barrier, this climate inimicable to enterprise, seems to me to be to offer a product which has low unit cost, is wanted by the targeted shoppers, mainly pensioners and would sell in sufficient numbers. The old problem, isn't it?

Could this succeed?

[what to do] stay silent, do nothing

All right, I'm not going to wait till tomorrow morning. Let's do this now.

My angle on all of this [and please read it if you have just a few minutes] is very much where the chutzpah came from. I mean - from where did the people doing this get the idea that they were safe to do it?

Look at the bailouts - they were quite secure that they could cry poor and be bailed out. How could they be sure that there would be no reaction beyond blog words in the U.S. and UK? Look at the way they put small business at risk and then held out their own lifebuoy.

I want to concentrate on people - you and me. The reason many won't accept what is happening is:

1. Any posts run here and on other blogs, daring to suggest some giant plan which is now coming to fruition have been labelled "conspiracy theory", one of the most moronic epithets I've ever seen. One only has to utter those two magic words and the person exposing the thing is immediately marginalized and a sort of false common sense takes its place - that could never be so, could it? Knowing nods all round.

2. No one wants to believe bad news, especially from less than respectable sources. Everyone wants their news to be "trustworthy", meaning from the MSM or talking heads on "reliable channels". It takes a hell of a lot of evidence to show the average punter that this reliance is so much bunkum.

When the silent majority do wake up, it's usually too late and even when they do wish to react, they cannot because:

1. There is no mechanism for reaction. Can you storm parliament [and let it be recorded that I am in no way advocating this]? Can you find Brown, Bush and cronies and physically remove them? You have no recourse, no mechanism. So you sit back helplessly and watch it all happen before your eyes, getting angrier and angrier and determined to "throw the bstds out" at the next election, little realizing that that makes not the slightest difference.

2. There is a defensive mechanism now kicking in, which is three pronged:

a. You're too weary and demoralized anyway through the vicissitudes of your current life to lift a finger, to pull the communication cord and anyway, with whom does the cord communicate?

b. You're too scared to do anything because of family, current job, benefits and so on - you have mouths to feed. Better to keep the head down, as was the case in Soviet Russia, say nothing and do nothing.

c. You're far too busy - working longer and longer for less and less in real terms [look at supermarket prices] or else you have been compromised by the offer of a secure job or monetary reward. You can't be blamed for that in one way - it's finely calculated.

I'm certain there will be an artificially induced recovery first to show people that the "doom and gloom" kooks were off the planet in their forecasts and for them to be forever marginalized for having ever dragged the economy down. There will be talk of "the only thing to fear is fear itself", that "happy days are here again" and that doomsayers are the real enemy of recovery. It will be turned back onto blogs such as this.

This is the major crisis facing the western world now - what the hell to do about the inevitable three card trick. Is there any solution then? Well, to trade our way out of trouble against the odds is a possibility but you can't even set up a company any more in order to do this. It's all tied up. There are other non-revolutionary solutions but that is in a post in the next few days.

In an effort to keep comments in one place, I'll not open them on this post but ask you to comment, if you would, on the previous one, which is part of the same topic.

[eu] more sleight of hand in basel and brussels

There comes a point where the non-economist bloggers and readers need to stop one moment and look at the fine print, hopefully set out in such a way as to retain our attention.

I found a number of articles which explained things clearly and this one underlines why the Basel II directive helped trigger the crisis. Basically, Basel II concerned the amount of capital reserves required by all banks across the EU, in order to officially trade:

In June 2004, the Basel committee agreed updated rules - Basel II. These had to be applied in the EU and in July 2004, the Commission set out proposals for a new Capital Requirements Directive (CRD) which would apply Basel II to all banks, CIs and investment firms in the EU.

The problem was, these new rules created a situation which was:

1. more risk sensitive;
2. costs to smaller banks and consequently to small-company growth, where the EU lags other regions, and;
3. moral hazard concerns in that risks are partly passed to insurers and banks, unlike insurers have potential last resort support from central banks.

To reiterate, should any sort of sharp downturn arise [remember this was promulgated in June 2004 and had to have been worked out long before then] then the banks [and ultimately major corporations] had CB fallback but everyone else, particularly small business, would go to the wall.

Now my question is whether this was sheer bad luck that 2008 saw precisely such a crisis or was something anticipated? Moving on, there is the question of the EU's own accounts which failed audit for the 14th year in a row.

This beggars belief. Open Europe says:

Speaking to MEPs, [Siim] Kallas, [the EU Commissioner for audit], admitted that there were “real and unquestioned” weaknesses in 17 areas including research policy, the European refugee fund, structural funds, external actions and rural development.

For the Common Agricultural Policy - which amounted to 12.4 bn euros in 2007 - the auditors found that rural development expenditure, was “particularly prone to errors” because of the complexity of rules for complying with the programme.

So, in the light of this, the EU blithely went out spending and to fund it, the UK partly pays by the weak pound against the Euro. What sort of things are they spending on?

* The European Parliament has stepped up efforts to legalise the use of the European flag and hymn as official Union symbols - something that was removed from the EU Constitution.

* European finance ministers backed plans to hike public lending to credit-starved small and mid-sized firms.

At the same time, the EU has stepped up the move towards greater "transparency and ethics", whilst at the same time, placed greater restrictions on lobbyists and anyone trying to find out what they've been up to. This is being handled by the same Siim Kallas.

On top of this, funds continue to be pumped in, on EU terms, into the UK regions, for example the West Midlands, through the Structural Funds, together with the Common Purpose management structure [more than enough articles on this on both this site and in the blogosphere].

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

[thought for the day] wednesday evening

Not a bad article on links here.

By this I mean incoming hyperlinks. Unfortunately, there are a number of truisms attached to links:

1. Everyone would like to have a perceived "higher" blogger link to him/her. Some of these "higher beings" will shove you in the sidebar and that's your lot, mate. You'd have to do something pretty spectacular or else have your writing take his fancy enough or rescue his daughter from a raging river or whatever, to score an occasional mention within a post.

On the other hand, he's more than happy for you to link to one of his posts. The more the merrier. The only benefit in visiting him, apart from the erudition you gain, is to leave a linked comment and make it fairly intelligent or witty. That will get you some attention from fellow commenters.

Generally speaking, he is not going to visit you, not because he is nasty or arrogant but because he has a full life of action and has just enough time to blog and visit a handful of the "in crowd".

2. You will be linked to by the growing circle of fellow bloggers of about your stature and this is like any community in that your contacts do increase all the while, the longer you go on and the more consistent you are. You're only as good as your content, your nature as a blogger and whether it coincides with what the visitor is interested in at the time.

3. Bloggers are interested in other people reading their posts. They're not as good at visiting others beyond a small circle of like-minded fellow bloggers and often plead that they have enough trouble just getting posts up without having to do the rounds. A member of a blog group of note once even wrote, on the forum, "If you think I'm going to sit at my computer visiting other people, well, I'm afraid I'm not going to ."

His notion was that he would run aggregators to himself and all traffic would be inwards. There are many tricks on the web to increase traffic and so he probably scores a good two to three times the stats I do but it's actually a very boring blog.

4. Some wiser heads than mine once told me not to worry about stats because firstly, most people read you on feeds anyway and that never registers. Secondly, the google searches will progressively make up a higher percentage of your stats as you go along [they're the bulk of mine] and as your topics of interest are more free-ranging.

Another wise head said that you can tell the blogger who is fixated by stats and it does affect the quality of the posts. The best bloggers are those who don't give a damn about it and say what they think, backing it up as they go. You have to know your stuff - no substitute for that. Well, there is one other way - to post nubile women all the time - that generates a certain type of traffic.

But does it get you linked to?

5. People will link to your post only if it is of interest and this is a hit and miss affair. The bloggers who maintain that they only post for themselves - I'm not totally sure how tongue in cheek they are about that. Of course we damn well want to be read and sometimes even commented on.

6. Sometimes we visit another blogger's site we admire and link and link and then he just ignores us and links to his same usual four or five. I'm guilty of this, most bloggers are. The only way round it is to run a policy of trying to spread your links, not artificially but if that blogger really does have something half decent to say. No blogger is perfect though and whilst the ignoring of a hopeful fellow blogger is hurtful, it is not deliberate.

7. One way round this is the blog roundup - I do an occasional Blogfocus and others host theirs too. Another way is to join a blog group but these are only as good as the people within them visiting one another and sometimes linking. This is a worry with our group just now and I know with some other groups as well.

Maybe the bloggers who do best are the ones who like other people and are interested in them.

In the end, it really does come down to a paraphrasing of the old maxim:

Link unto others as you would have them link to you.

[sexiest bike on earth] which would you choose

All right - there are two candidates above. Which would you add to the list?

[dearieme] and the quest for a decent sized font

Blogger Deogolwulf once wrote:

Liverpool is to be European Capital of Culture in 2008. One must charitably suppose that it is culture in the anthropological sense...

to which Dearieme asked:

European Hubcapital of Culture?...

Who on earth is this Dearieme? Once, at Freedom and Whisky, the ubiquitous one opined:

Without the Scottish seats for Labour, an English Tory government might just seize the chance to declare that Scotland is the successor nation and that England has thereby left the EU.

Who on earth is this Dearieme? At Stumbling and Mumbling, he maintained:

Equality of opportunity': why must the left always talk in extreme, often belligerent, terms? Why must we have equality, why must this be maximised, that eliminated and t'other never happen again? How about just trying to move in a desired direction, with this improved, that ameliorated and t'other reduced in frequency?

Recently, DM complained that my font size was too small to decipher and I notice he has just left this at Deogolwulf's:

The font size on your post below was easier on my eyes.

Deogolwulf addressed the mystery commenter thusly:

By the way, dearieme, when retirement hits you, do you think you would consider turning your hand to blogging -- or would you have better things to do?

Dearieme answered ...

I have retired. Mostly. As for blogging - I suspect that it's more fun and less work just to drop in on a few of the best blogs. (Though I am excluded from a few by their using painfully small fonts. Silly asses.)

He almost let the cat out of the bag here:

"It struck Tocqueville that the men who stormed the National Assembly in 1848 were like actors": exactly the same thing struck me about the evenements of 1968 - I was a student too at the time, and the inauthenticity was obvious ...

... and gave himself away completely on his blogger profile.

From all this, Sherlock Higham concludes that Dearieme is most probably a retired academic, much given to research and other jolly activities and possibly inhabiting the Cambridge region to boot. Of course I might be wrong and this BookCrossing seems to underline that:

G'day! I'm a vegetarian, scorpio, Buddhist, 40ish librarian. When I'm not reading (which is not a lot of the time) I watch the cricket on telly, go bushwalking, play on the computer, go to work, and write a word or two of my novel. Am planning the biggest adventure of my life (second only to emigrating to Australia by boat as a kid) - a trek in Nepal! Tres tres excitement!

Of course, this might just be the man's alta-ego but it does seem to be supported by the photo album. Is it the same man? One aside is that DM favours the use of the inverted commas, sometimes unclosed - a speciality of his. Some other Deariemeisms:

* Was feminism "The Revolt of the Misses"?

* "in the long run we are all dead": and in some cases, sooner.

* Don't use anti-climax in poetry" we were taught at school.

* "Liam Byrne": whose brilliant idea was it to have Britishness advocated by a bloke with an Irish name?

* “the likes of Oxford and Cambridge universities - world-leaders in scientific research for four centuries”: oh come off it. You can’t know much about their history if you think that.

Actually, I'll just give you my own view of why the NHS was adopted as the State Religion in Britain. Sheer fluke: the NHS was set up coincidentally with the first time in history when physicians could cure you of much - the age of the arrival of antibiotics. All other arguments are so much bumfluff - it was mere chance.

Finally, all appears to be revealed at Pootergeek's, where Dearieme even gets a little hot under the collar:

It’s the hopeless, defeatist “Don’t try because you might not succeed”, combined with the refusal to analyse and learn from any failure and instead just to blame it on “them”. It’s the life-denying, joy-hating, fearful, self-abasing, sodding negativity of it all: drives me up the wall. Tossers!

One thing is for certain - the storehouse of his mind must be indeed vast:

Do you know the story of the poor sod that penicillin was tried on? His condition improved enormously but they were running out of penicillin so they desperately recovered it from his urine and kept recycling it in dwindling amounts until eventually the bacteria won and he relapsed and died.

The measure of a blog, so it seems, is if Dearieme deigns to grace it with a comment and like F Scott Fitzgerald finding himself a duck out of water in his screenwriting and novelistic ventures, perhaps the honourable DM wisely restricts himself to commenting, at least in this current persona.

[Yes, I know I promised Neil Clark next but I couldn't be fagged doing it.]