UK

Danger! EU Demolition in Progress

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Published on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on February 22, 2016

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It’s getting harder all the time to distract oneself from how threadbare the fabric of our societies is becoming. No matter how much you avert your eyes it is all but impossible not to notice things unravelling around you. This is happening on every level, from the local to the international, manifesting itself in a multitude of ways.  Just as a fractal pattern has both the macrocosm in the microcosm, and the microcosm in the macrocosm, we are seeing signs of collapse small and large all around us.

 
 
At the micro level I could mention the town in which I live. In the past year we’ve seen a couple of big box retailers close down at one end of the scale, and quite a few small independents as well, some of which have been trading for decades. Streets have so many boarded up shop-fronts that the local council has taken to plastering them with posters showing images from happier times. Homelessness has spiked too, as has drug and alcohol abuse. The police station hasn’t officially closed down, but try getting hold of an officer when you need one – as I did when some drunken youth vandalised my car. The building is still there but instead of it being open there is a phone beside the front door that you must use to report a crime.
 
Aside from the police and the shops closing, public toilets are closed virtually all of the time, and the Post Office too is soon to close down, having been privatised and now asset stripped. The council is being forced to raise its taxation rates by 4% this year to cover the shortfall caused by spiralling costs and diminished funding from central government. Clinics and charities are being squeezed out of existence and the local council tried (and failed) to privatise the town’s midsummer festival.
 
My wife works in the care sector. The stories I get to hear will make you never want to be dependent on the state in your old age. If you can’t rely on your kids to look after you in your dotage it might be wise to keep a bottle of whisky and a revolver in your bottom drawer. Or maybe you'd rather die of thirst lying in your own mess because the 19-year-old unqualified carer who works for minimum wage is too busy checking Facebook on her phone to hear you pressing the emergency button by the bed.
 
Food banks are popping up. Schools are cancelling the more costly trips due to a lack of pupils being able to afford them, and local councils are cutting down trees in public places as they are ‘costly to maintain'. Streets are lined with weeds.  
 
This might sound like a laundry list of woes, but despite it all there is still a reasonably solid façade of normality. Potholes in the road get fixed, people are still buying shiny new cars and householders do up their homes. The county council is still pressing ahead with its plans to install super-fast broadband that will ‘connect us to the world’ as if we weren’t already, and the newspapers continue to repeat that the economy is recovering, that everyone who wants a job now has one, and that generally speaking things are pretty good and getting better all the time. Children’s TV programmes are still talking about us all going off to live on Mars at some point in the future, Richard Branson has unveiled a new spaceship and true believers are still talking earnestly about self-driving robot cars that are fuelled by water.
 
All well and good if you are not paying attention, but on another level it is also getting harder to ignore the cracks that are appearing around us. And crack-ups don’t get much larger than the EU. The UK prime minister David Cameron recently announced there would be a referendum on whether Britain should remain a part of the EU aka ‘Brexit’. This has had the effect of a starting gun being fired in the race to win votes for the respective ‘In’ and ‘Out’ campaigns. If the ‘ins’ win then the UK will remain within the EU, albeit still on the periphery and with various half-measures in place to ward off unwelcome EU policies. If the ‘outs’ win then the UK will be out of Europe and millions of lawyers can expect to look forward to years of lucrative work as we try to disentangle ourselves from the biggest bureaucratic mess the world will have ever seen.
 
Even though it is early days, a basic and simplistic narrative has emerged in the debate. It goes something like this:
 
From the INs: “The EU brings us peace and prosperity. It has eliminated borders, improved the environment and lifted consumer standards. We would be X b/million (insert random number from your favoured think tank) pounds worse off if we left. It protects us from Russia and ISIS and the Brexiters are nothing but a bunch of right-wing racist Neanderthals who want to steal the EU’s (benign) power and use it against us.”
 
From the OUTs: “The EU is undemocratic and nobody should have the right to decide our national policies – especially immigration. It is run by unelected technocrats who are paid a fortune to make up silly laws. The European Court of Human Rights is the go-to place for Islamic terrorists and paedophiles who should be tried (and hopefully hung) in Britain.”
 
That might be a bit simplistic, but that’s the kind of level of debate that is going around at the moment. Everybody is talking about whether the EU is a good thing or not to be part of, but nobody is asking whether it can exist at all for much longer. I would argue that it cannot. The EU, at heart, is a vast trading bloc of half a billion people. Its very existence is predicated on capitalism, acquisitive expansion and favourable trade deals at the expense of the third world. It runs on cheap energy – the kind of energy that will not be readily available for much longer, and when the inevitably huge financial unwind picks up pace it will severely curtail European access to capital markets and energy. The EU might be rich but it is only rich because of historically unfair trading conditions that have impoverished half the world. And it has very few viable energy sources that would keep it in the manner to which it is accustomed.
 
The EU has always contained the seeds of its own destruction. By regarding monetary union as an inevitability (an inevitability that has steamrollered democracy in the process) it would logically reach a point where the weaker member states would not be able to keep pace with the stronger ones. By flooding the southern periphery nations with cash – and then asking for it back with interest – the EU looks from the outside to be a self-cannibalising monster. Peace in Europe? Let’s see how long that lasts. There are many in Greece, Spain and Portugal who see ‘the EU’ as Germany in disguise.
 
Pro-EU liberals tend to regard the continent in terms of what consumer benefits they can extract from it. To be ‘pro Europe’ is to retain one’s right to fly to Barcelona for the weekend on Easyjet and enjoy tapas on Las Ramblas. They warn that this kind of easy living won’t be possible if we leave the EU.
 
 
If the EU were to quit the EU it probably wouldn’t be a death blow. Britain has a vastly over-inflated sense of its own importance in world affairs and the reality is that the EU might barely notice our exit. A far bigger existential threat to the EU comes in the form of the immigration crisis, which it is already at war itself over. So far, only a tiny number of refugees have arrived in Europe and yet people are already whipped into a frenzy of fear and anguish. In 2015 around a million beaten-down desperate people fled war, drought and economic collapse, to arrive on the shores of Europe – many of them drowning along the way. A million sounds like a lot of people until you remember that there are already half a billion people living here in an area of 1.7 million square miles. If the refugees were spread out equally they would have nearly two square miles each. Lebanon, by contrast, has some two million refugees – and Lebanon is a country you could lose under a crumb on a world map. A Belgian minster's response to the EU's refugee ‘crisis’; tell Greeks to push them back into the sea. There’s your liberal EU for you.
 
 
This is also the same organisation that is trying frantically to get a secret trade deal ratified that would hand over yet more power to trans national corporations and take it away from nation states. If TTIP goes through we can kiss goodbye to basic rights and freedoms, such as being able to choose whether our kids eat genetically modified food or can be told that smoking is bad for them.
 
By now you’re probably thinking that I’ll be ticking the ‘Out’ box on my voting slip on June 23rd. I will be, but its more or less irrelevant as the EU cannot last much longer anyway. This point of view, alas, will not go down well with many people. To be a ‘Brexiter’ is conflated with being a pig-headed xenophobe who refuses to regard social justice issues as the most important battle in human history. The ‘debate’ is far too tribal in any case. The arguments of the ‘Ins’ are confusing and make no sense to me. They talk about democracy yet want to give it away, and they celebrate diversity but at the same time think a ‘one size fits all’ mindset will deliver that.
 
The irony of being called anti-European is that I am ardently pro-European. I’ve lived in four different EU countries, travelled all over and am married to an Italian Dane. Europe, to me, is the most diverse place in the world and has an amazing spread of history and culture. My ideal life would involve spending several months each year travelling around Europe in a camper van and getting to know it in an even more intimate manner. The EU is not Europe; it’s an abstract concept masking a faceless undemocratic organisation that funnels wealth from one place to another and keeps its modesty intact behind a fig leaf of supposed liberalism.
 
It doesn’t have to be that way. We could still have a Europe united around some core values other than money and power and capitalism. How about a Europe focused on an emerging eco consciousness? Or what about remaking it as a loose cooperative of bio-regions? Or perhaps, at the very least, we could all agree on a shared constitution founded on liberty, equality and fraternity. Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has suggested something along those lines, setting up a pan-European umbrella group called DiEM25 that aims to shake things up ‘gently, compassionately but firmly.’ Perhaps there could be more debate about what kind of Europe would be better suited to weathering the coming financial, ecological and energy shocks without causing so much collateral damage to both itself and other nations.
 
Until that happens we’ll just have to stand back and watch the fireworks. Big institutions like the EU are like skyscrapers; they don’t come crashing down to the ground without taking out plenty of other nearby buildings and the EU is like the leaning tower of Pisa on steroids.  Big things are an artefact of the age of oil – the future is necessarily smaller and more local. The best course of action is to stop arguing over whether it is best to be stood on top of the creaking tower it or beside it, and simply get the hell out of the way before it goes over. 

Collapse Cafe 10/4/2015: UK Special Edition

gc2When Does the Sun Set on Britain?

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Our discussion with Norman Pagett and Jason Heppenstall on issues focused on the UK as the collapse of industrial civilization progresses

Also, don't forget to take the Energy Survey!  We are going to hold it open an extra week because links to the survey were broken when  I launched the Survey.  They have since been fixed.

The Future of Energy Survey

Britain: Hope, Glory & Bollocks

broken-britain2gc2Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on October 5, 2015

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The myth of 21st Century entrepreneurial Britain

Liam Halligan – one of the few hacks at the Torynaff I’m still prepared to read – offers a piece today in which he quite rightly argues that Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn is at his best deconstructing the Tory Party’s utterly mendacious version of how the British economy is faring. But in the midst of such wise thoughts, he drops a clanger like this: (my emphasis)

‘With the relatively moderate Hilary Benn having just been ousted, there’s now a pro-Corbyn majority on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee. Corbynites are wresting control of the party machine from the more sensible centre-Left

Liam thinks the soft Left more sensible because it buys into the ‘reality’ of the Thatcher economic sea change; and he adds this bubble-dwelling nonsense: ‘the UK today is by no means a place where people “take what they’re given”. The British, on the contrary, tend to go to work each morning, earn their money, often start businesses and strive to improve the lot of themselves and their families. Enterprise and self-reliance are central to this country’s identity, hard-wired into us.’

That isn’t true of the British and it never was; it was only ever true of a tiny band of post-agrarian aristocrats nouveaux in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the independent shopkeeper about whom Napoleon Bonaparte was so hopelessly wrong. The central myth of Thatcherism is that Britain is choc-a-bloc with folks just gagging to be the next Alan Sugar. Today, all the famous entrepreneurial and innovative corporate names from our industrial revolution are gone forever – either sold to unpleasant multinationals or rendered sclerotic by third-rate, third-generation management. If you can see any new mega-groups emerging from a standing start in vehicles, technology, media, banking, energy and all the other controlling interests in 21st century UK life, then you have better eyesight and foresight than I.

The overwhelming majority of Britons today take what they are given because they have no choice, or – even worse – zero discernment about what really matters in life.

The statistics are there for anyone to see: those at the very bottom of society have made a 1.0-2.5% gain in funds, those from the old skilled working class have lost 13% in the last ten years alone, a minority of merchant and retail independents have found lucrative niches selling to the Daft Rich ( but most others have gone to the wall), the old have gone backwards on almost every real measure, and corporations have vastly increased their power. Those individuals ripping off the old public sector and milking the capital research base of former nationalised giants and contemporary multinationals have rocketed into the standard 3 – 5% who spend more on lunch each day than most of those at the bottom get in monthly salary.

Britain’s tiny top slither of 1% shovers and makers have accumulated as much wealth as the poorest 55% of the population. Household wealth in the south-east has risen five times as fast as the rest of the country. Five billionaire families control the same wealth as 20% of the population. The bottom 50% of the country’s citizens own just 9% of the wealth.

Above all, the blindingly obvious piece of history that gives the lie to Halligan’s silly assertions is that Britain was the first nation in the world whose mass workforce of employees (not Grant Shapps clones) organised to create democratically elected socialist administrations with genuine power. France and Australia may offer historians the first Commune and the first socialist Prime Minister, but by 1924 Britain had a minority Labour Government – and the work of Attlee’s 1946-51 team created a State welfare and health system that became the envy of the world.

What has given Britain its stability since Cromwellian and Restoration times is a unique feature: the ability to learn – via various Reform Acts and Rule of Law continuity – how to avoid the mistakes of both revolution and privilege. From 1640 until 1979, it worked to the citizens’ advantage better than in any previous Empire or Commonwealth. Since then we have lost this.

The reality of such loss is apparent in the myriad symptoms we see in today’s far from United Kingdom: wealth inequality, extreme views about gender and equality ‘correction’, acceptance of socially irresponsible profit, the rise and rise of the unapologetic greedy arsehole, alignment with a blatantly fascist EU, wholesale abandonment of the Rule of Law, flagrant perversions of equality before the Law, tabloid cruelty, and above all the headlong rush towards sociopathic corporatocracy.

The only defence the repressed in society can fall back upon now is media-distracted apathy and the revival of extreme Left ideology that failed before. It failed for the same reason that extreme Right ideology will fail in the immediate-term future: denialism about the realities of Man the social animal – his frailties, wiring, bigotries, fears and preference for family life over corporate and State denialism.

I confess to tiring of writing about this. And I absolutely despair when a Conservative Conference tweeter tries to tell us that Britain is Great because there are no French Rolling Stones or German Beatles.

Misrule Britannia

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Pubished on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on June 1, 2015

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When I moved back to the UK two years ago after living abroad for a while, nobody could accuse me of not knowing what I was getting into. For quite some time pundits in the collapsosphere have been calling out the UK as one of the riskiest countries in which to live, right up there with Japan. Not only do we have a nation that is heavily over-populated with respect to its resource base, but one which hosts one of the world's major world financial viper pits. It's a nation where Arab playboys drive gold-plated Ferraris around the gentrified streets of London while snot-nosed urchins everywhere else go to school without eating breakfast. It's a nation where an unelected old lady in a £300 million hat recently sat on a throne and managed to keep a straight face while announcing her government's plans to slash money for the poor. Basically it's a nation engaged in a war of attrition between those with wealth and those without.
 
 
 
But something in the air has changed since the recent election in which David Cameron's Tories won a majority in the House of Commons. Within days – unshackled for their former collation with the moderating hand of the Liberal Democrats –  there were announcements of plans to walk away from human rights treaties, to impose a 'snoopers charter' of surveillance, to further slash welfare spending, push through the TTIP 'trade' agreement, ramp up fracking, bring back fox hunting with hounds. The Left have been howling in pain ever since.
 
Although all this was to be expected of the 'nasty party' the one thing that nobody seems to be talking about is how the nation itself will manage to survive as a modern state given the, ahem, challenges it faces. The three main immediate challenges, as I see it, come from the realms of finance, energy and politics. Failings in each one of them alone could prove disastrous, but it seems as if we will get to witness all three calamities occur simultaneously. 
 
Let's take finance first. 
 
I've been trying to get to the bottom of what the UK's debt/deficit position is. Mention 'the deficit' and most people emit a strangled howl of indignation. "Don't you know the deficit is a tissue of lies fabricated by the right wing who want to impose Dickensian conditions on the poor?" they ask. Granted, it doesn't seem fair to cut the benefits of society's most needy while simultaneously heaping more money up at the other end of the spectrum, but that wasn't the question. That's simply what failing states do – the more powerful grab what they can at the expense of the less powerful. It's all there in the history books. The next act usually involves pitchforks. 
 
But this time is different, they argue. Money can now be created by magic, and all we need to do is do whatever it is that those clever folks at the Bank of England (or Bitcoin) do to create more of it using their computers. And, bingo, then we can simply spend it on 'making things great again'. The country can continue to produce 'services' again, everybody will have a decent standard of living once more and we will be back on track to that future of driverless cars, space missions and living to 150.
 
 
 
 
Money might not seem important if you think it isn't important, but that doesn't alter the fact that throughout modern history there has not been a time when money is not considered important. Especially to creditors, of which the UK has a lot. So, in a kind of back of the envelope way, I decided to try and get a grip on how much debt the government owes. It seems that the total debt is about £1.5 trillion, and the annual deficit is running at about £107 billion – or over £2 billion a week. At that rate the proposed 'austerity' of £12 billion will thus be used up in six weeks. This doesn't matter, according to the economists in the mainstream media, because Britain's economy is doing so well that the annual deficit will be wiped out by rising tax receipts in a couple of years. 
Yet tax receipts from oil and gas have fallen by about 75% since 2008, and will probably drop to zero when North Sea oil and gas stops flowing completely in a couple of years' time (still no mention of this in the media…). And tax receipts are falling as a) more people are in lower-paid jobs and/or falsely counted as employed because they have been forced to declare themselves self-employed b) the larger companies have had their corporation taxes cut and can avoid paying tax entirely if they have savvy accountants.
 
 
 
VAT receipts are flat as most consumers have maxed out their credit cards and run out of spending power. The only way they can rise is if people take on EVEN MORE personal debt – which a lot have actually been doing (currently average personal debt is running at an all-time record of 172% of income, according to a PwC report). But personal debt needs to be repaid one day, and with falling real incomes and plenty of hidden stealth inflation (e.g. food items getting smaller, durable goods getting shoddier, hidden charges becoming more unavoidable etc.) that will become more difficult.
 
Moneyweek's take on the debt situation
 
Future projections of the debt/deficit all presuppose a 'healthy' and growing economy. This seems very unlikely IMO given that a financial 'accident' is likely to happen at any moment. And all the while the structural deficit grows larger as the population ages, annuities reach maturity and the bill for the NHS soars. In this context GDP figures don't really mean anything useful: the economy might be improving but it's not the economy that most people ordinarily live in. Plus, any downgrade of the economy by ratings agencies caused by – say – a fracture of the UK, or a severe credit event, will have a knock-on effect on the government's ability to borrow cheaply  and we will simply end up paying the interest on the national credit card, while the capital debts piles up. The interest on this debt alone already costs us £55 billion a year and that's with interest rates at near zero.
 
All in all, it's difficult not to conclude that the UK is insolvent. But, in any case, perhaps that doesn't matter because this brings me onto the political aspect of the crisis: perhaps there soon won't even be a UK (after all, what do you call a bunch of small countries that are not united?). Since Scotland got royally shafted in their Independence referendum they replied by booting out practically every MP from a Westminster party and instead elected Scottish National Party members to speak up for them. The upshot of this is that David Cameron wants to press ahead with swingeing austerity measures (which, looking at the dire financial figures will actually have to be FAR worse than most people imagine) – but the Scots say they won't accept it north of the border. It's difficult to imagine all of us in England and Wales living in Third World conditions while the Scots keep handing out brown envelopes of cash to their citizens, and people accepting that as fair.
 
 
 
So, sooner or later, Scotland may well get independence, which means that others might want to follow suit. All of a sudden everyone seems to be talking about breaking up. UKIP and most Tories want us to break away from the EU, Scotland, as previously mentioned, will probably go for a messy divorce (and take a large chunk of GDP with them as they leave), London may want to declare itself a 'city state', northern England might want to join Scotland in getting away from the southerners – even Cornwall is starting to get a bit itchy. 
 
Given that the UK's finances are one big Ponzi scheme (what does the country actually produce these days that has a physical presence?) any political rupture could bring down the house of cards. Parliament, in any case, is almost paralysed as the Tories actually only won by a slim majority and will have trouble passing any contentious legislation. Who knows, perhaps even faraway Greece could provide enough turmoil to shatter the status quo should its amputation from the EU cause death judders. There's a simmering tension and people are already angry enough … what happens when they get even angrier?
 
 
 
Finally, we have the energy conundrum. I've been saying now for at least two years that my guess is that we will see some kind of restriction on the sale of oil and/or petrol in the UK in 2016. I still have 18 months left to see if my prediction will come true, but at the rate things are going it seems like it has a good chance of doing so. As previously noted, North Sea oil is facing a precipitous decline. That decline is accelerating in step with the lower oil price, as new projects are not begun and old ones are mothballed due to high costs. Hundreds of oil workers have been laid off in Aberdeen (and the Scots think they can avoid austerity by using their oil money …).
 
Not to worry, old chap, says the media. Don't you know that we'll be getting LNG from America soon, and fracked gas from beneath our very own land?
 
That's the standard response, whenever energy shortages are mentioned, which is rarely. Of course, it's quite ludicrous that either of these schemes will ever happen in the real world. To unlock the British shale gas they would need to turn huge areas of the country into industrial wastelands – huge areas that currently have millions of people (many of them wealthy) living on them. This, in a country where planning and conservation laws are so tight it's a major achievement just to put up a sign lest it spoil the character of the area. And let's not forget that millions of people are implacably opposed to fracking – to the point where they would be willing to lay down their lives to halt the drillers. Heck, this must be the only country in the world to employ magical defence against frackers (it's working, so far). 
 
Let's add ISIS into the mix. At the rate things are going in the Middle East, if things carry on as they are in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, there could be a major conflagration. It's not hard to imagine oil installations set on fire and the price of crude heading up to $200. This, ironically, is one way the fracking industry and the North Sea could avoid immediate bankruptcy. Not that anyone would be able to afford to fill up their cars any more …
 
So where, exactly, will the UK get its energy from in the future? There are a lot of cars and trucks here. There are millions of shops and offices and ports and sports grounds and malls that all need lavish amounts of energy to keep functioning. It gets cold here in winter and old people are already dying from exposure inside their own homes – what will happen to them all as the inevitable energy crisis begins to bite?
 
 
 
So, as nice as it would be to get a bag of popcorn and watch this spectacle unfold from afar, I find myself up there on the stage. Still, not to worry, as we say …
 

HEADING FOR DISASTER

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on May 18, 2015

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HEADING FOR DISASTER: A FAILING BRITISH ECONOMY, AN UNREPAYABLE DEBT, & AN UNREPENTANT POLITICAL CLASS

GEORGE, THERE ARE GOING TO BE TEARS WELL BEFORE BEDTIME

oscuntPrecisely as the right-wing Institute for Fiscal studies predicted before the Election, George Osborne is now under pressure (from the Institute of Directors) to “slash spending”. The IoD has gone one on from “cut”: perhaps next time the verb will be “decimate”. And then “obliterate”.

Note that few if any of the IoD’s members will suffer a jot from the cuts. Also note that the IoD is specifically ruling out tax rises….which would, of course, hit most of their members very hard indeed.

The Chancellor has promised yet another budget in the summer (we might just as well make them quarterly and have done with it) and has said it will be “a budget for working people”. This is another little weasel phrase invented by the Aussie spin doctor Lynton Crosby; what it means is “people in a full-time contractual private sector job”. As only 22% of us are these days, it isn’t going to be terribly good news for the unemployed, the State retired, or indeed the NHS: get out of that, Jeremy Hunt.

I think a few more people need to take time out here and study what exactly is going on rather more fully. In a nutshell, it is this: because the ConDem coalition spectacularly failed over the last five years to (a) wipe out the UK deficit (b) diversify the UK economy out of financial services and (c) gain new export contracts beyond the EU, those people out of jobs as a result of that failure, or on benefits, or ill will be asked to cough up. The business organisation members who aided in this abject failure, however, won’t be asked to cough up. They’ll just see their salaries and bonuses continuing to go up.

So, Government screws up and business acts as its accomplice; labour force, the ill and the poor foot the bill.

Sorry to repeat the question for the 50th time, but you see so far I haven’t had an answer. As a neoliberal economy is based on eternal consumption and a ready supply of credit, how are lower incomes and dried-up banks going to produce more consumption?

They can’t, period. But still the financial press calls the UK’s Q1 slowdown ‘disappointing’ (to whom – idiots?) and still the talk of China being ‘back on course’ gets blown off course every time data emerges from Beijing….a deceleration rate of 5.2% YOY being the latest one last Friday.

Look around at the overall situation and think: until very recently we had a situation where people were paying governments to borrow money off them. Banks are still offering ‘savers’ virtually no interest on their savings. There isn’t a Western economy booming anywhere: not one. But not a single Western bourse is reflecting that fact: not one. Every week another lunatic (usually German) insists that the eurozone is turning the corner. No it isn’t: it’s in the ER room with severe brain damage being kept alive by experimental drugs.

A 2% rise in interest rates – just 2% people – would move US debt management expenditure from 2 in 5 of all tax dollars to $2.50. In 1976, the UK’s deficit to gdp ratio was 6%…but we had to call in the IMF to avoid insolvency – because interest rates were a staggering 14.25% average during the year.

The latest UK projected deficit in 2015 is 4.8%. BUT that’s with near-zero interest rates. Just a rise of 1.5% would would take our deficit higher than it was when we nearly went bust under Labour. An even remotely normal level at 4% would double it. At that point, bond yields would go into orbit around Saturn.

When the Conservatives came to power in 2010, the national debt was £900bn. It’s closer to £1.6trillion today…80% higher in five years.

No matter what any politician tries to tell you, our current woefully negative trading account means that the UK National Debt is as unrepayable as that of Greece. The big difference being that we have far, far more to lose than they do.

There is no way further spending cuts can have any effect on that, because the welfare and health bills for government aren’t the real problem. The real problem is an unreformed economy ludicrously overdependent on financial services, and a Conservative administration with almost no commercial experience in its ranks to switch to high-margin manufacturing and retraining of the workforce to make stuff.

The money saved by Osborne was a minute part of even the deficit reduction. In relation to the debt, the best analogy I can offer you is that more expenditure cuts now would be like putting one pipette into the Pacific in an effort to stem rising sea levels. The idea that austerity on the one hand is part of the cure for long-term British commercial and business failure is obscenely infantile.

The Conservatives know this, but don’t know what to do except take away our right to resist. The Labour Party doesn’t even understand it in the first place. Nigel Farage probably gave up on this piece after paragraph six. And Nicola Sturgeon cares not for any of it just so long as she gets independence for the Scots.

That is the depth of our political crisis in 2015. Only a drastic change in socio-economic culture, education and our Constitutional processes can even begin to change it.

Vote for the POP

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on May 6, 2015

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Lloyds of London after its refit following a POP victory

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I normally avoid talking about politics, but seeing as there is an election here in two days and everyone else is talking about nothing else, well …

All indications are that there won't be an overall winner after voting takes place on May 7th. The Conservatives seem to have managed to convince voters that the jerry-rigged GDP figures are real and that an economic recovery is underway (it is, if you're in the top echelons) and are hammering home the message that Labour would ruin everything if they got into power. The Labour Party are being forced to dance to the same tune, having sold themselves out under Blair and Brown, and are a sad caricature what they once stood for i.e. a fair deal for the working classes.

In the middle we have the probable king-makers the Liberal Democrats – who are also a sad parody of what they once stood for – making all three main parties more or less the same in their untrammelled pursuit of economic growth, jobs, opportunities yadda yadda yadda.

Then we have the other potential king-makers the Scottish National Party, who are not just popular in Scotland but also south of the border. Now that the penny has dropped that they were suckered by Westminster during the recent referendum to quit the UK, most Scots have dropped the Labour party quicker than a flaming caber.

Next up is UKIP – the United Kingdom Independence Party – lead by the charismatic rogue Nigel Farage – the mere mention of whose name can have most liberals frothing at the mouth and screaming 'fascist'. UKIP seem to be getting a lot of support from the disenfranchised who have been manipulated by the right wing media into thinking that waves of immigrants are bleeding the country dry. UKIPpers tend to be ruddy faced, beer-loving folks who 'aren't afraid to speak the truth'.

And finally, traditionally in last place (if mentioned at all), is the Green Party. In a blind survey of policies people picked the Green's policies as being best. If the election was decided purely on policy then the Green's would win it. Alas, we have an unfair system, which means they will only get a seat or two in parliament, even if they do get up to 10% of the vote. I've always voted Green – I even have an election poster up in my window (along with lots of other Green posters in the centre of Penzance where I live) – as all the other parties have psychopathic policies, in my humble opinion. For some reason I was picked to attend a lunch with the leader Natalie Bennett, a couple of months back. I can report that she is entirely unlike most other politicians, and actually seems to have her head screwed on.

Still, the Greens are probably only enjoying their modest current success because they have become by default the only left wing party there is. They have many good policies, but it's somewhat dismaying to see them pledge to build half a million new houses in a country that's already way over-built. Last week, I noticed, Natalie Bennett put a link on social media to an article pointing out that up to a fifth of all species on Earth faces imminent extinction. She immediately faced angry and hostile comments from Green supporters telling her to 'get a grip' and 'talk about real issues such as jobs'. So it goes, a paler shade of green.

At least they are the only party that has mentioned environmental issues in this election.

Incidentally, the local Liberal Democrat MP rang my doorbell last week and harangued me for displaying said Green Party poster. "They're all hypocrites who take skiing holidays in Canada," was what he said. He went on to portray himself as a true guardian of all that is green and good. "Why," I asked him "did he vote in favour of fracking in the House of Commons?" He was a bit stumped by this but hastily explained that fracking is "kind of like geothermal" which somehow makes it 'green'.

So, the bottom line is that there probably won't be an overall winner as such. Coalition horse trading will probably go on for a while. The bottom bottom line is that we are entering into a period of political paralysis symptomatic of the peaking of energy supplies and the ongoing deflation of the (real) economy. Cheap oil gave everyone a few decades to be happy. Elaborate political structures could be created and everyone seemed to get their share of the cake. Sure, there was a bit of moaning about this or that government or party, but generally everyone got to chow down on the benefits of a techno consumer economy awash in credit and fiat money.

But that model is now broken. Anyone with any wealth in this country now knows that the only way they can hold onto it is by throwing those less well off under the bus. That's why, when I drive around some of the nearby villages here, all the tacky and ugly houses have Conservative placards stuck in the lawns next to their fake Chinese lions. These people see a massive and bloated welfare state (in Cornwall, the second poorest region in western Europe, four out of five families are on benefits) that needs to be cut back down to size. They see the cash-sucking National Health System as a threat that needs to be neutralised and they want the 'scroungers' to be taught a lesson and forced to work.

On the other team, Labour supporters want a continuation of welfare provision – even if, confusingly, their party also seems intent on austerity policies and clamping down on immigration.

So, we have gridlock. We'll be the new Greece before too long. Won't that be fun? To that end I've decided to form my own political party – the Peak Oil Party (tongue firmly in cheek).

The POP's slogan will be:

'Vote for us for a slightly less worse future than the others will give you'.

Its main policies include:

– All remaining North Sea oil reserves will be dedicated to building a national renewable energy sector
– Car journeys to be rationed to one day a week per driver
– All chemical pesticides and herbicides to be phased out over a ten year period
– All immigration controls will be lifted – people will be free to come or leave as they please (many will choose to leave)
– All able-bodied unemployed people to be recruited to a Land Army or face starvation
– All people working in the finance industry to be recruited to the Land Army. The City of London to be converted into a large-scale vertical agriculture experimentation zone
– All workers will be given two minutes to describe their job to selected panels of six-year-olds. If, after that, a majority on the panel do not understand the function of your job it will be liquidated and you will be placed in the Land Army. Bribery with sweets/toys will be punishable by permanent job allocation of Gong Farmer
– Defence budget to be cut by 90%, including a phase out of nuclear weapons
– All gold bullion held by the Bank of England to be sold to China or swapped for solar panels and bicycles
– The Royal Family and all their possessions to be sold to America or exchanged for cattle feed and LNG
– All corporate farms, grouse shooting moors, golf courses and stately homes to be nationalised with 50% given over to intensive organic agriculture and 50% allowed to revert back to wilderness
– All airports to be shut down after the last corporate jet has fled the country
– Everyone who successfully completes three years in the Land Army having amassed a variety of agricultural skills to be freely given an acre of arable land, a bicycle, a cow and a sum of money with which to build a dwelling of their own design
– After a stabilisation period of ten years all forms of national politics to be liquidated. Great Britain to be renamed The Britlands and broken up into small autonomous bio-regions not worth invading

Who knows, if I can raise a deposit in the next two days POP might be in with a chance. On the other hand …

Why NATO Is Terrified of Russia

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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naryshkin-nato-oust-states.si.si

Originally published in RT on May 1, 2015

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The twin-pronged attack – oil price war/raid on the ruble – aimed at destroying the Russian economy and place it into a form of Western natural resource vassalage has failed.

Natural resources were also essentially the reason for reducing Iran to a Western vassalage. That never had anything to do with Tehran developing a nuclear weapon, which was banned by both the leader of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

The ‘New Great Game’ in Eurasia was always about control of the Eurasian land mass. Minor setbacks to the American elite project do not mean the game will be restricted to a mere “war of attrition”. Rather the contrary.

All about PGS

In Ukraine, the Kremlin has been more than explicit there are two definitive red lines. Ukraine won’t join NATO. And Moscow won’t allow the popular republics of Donetsk and Lugansk to be crushed.

We are coming closer to a potentially explosive deadline – when EU sanctions expire in July. An EU in turmoil but still enslaved to NATO – see the pathetic “Dragoon Ride” convoy from the Baltics to Poland or the “Atlantic Resolve” NATO show-off exercise – may decide to expand them, and even try to exclude Russia from SWIFT.

Only fools believe Washington is going to risk American lives over Ukraine or even Poland. Yet let’s plan a few steps ahead. If it ever comes to the unthinkable – a war between NATO and Russia in Ukraine – Russian defense circles are sure of conventional and nuclear superiority on sea and land. And the Pentagon knows it. Russia would reduce NATO forces to smithereens in a matter of hours. And then would come Washington’s stark choice: accept ignominious defeat or escalate to tactical nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon knows that Russia has the air and missile defense capabilities to counter anything embedded in the US Prompt Global Strike (PGS). Simultaneously though, Moscow is saying it would rather not use these capabilities.

Major General Kirill Makarov, Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces’ deputy chief, has been very clear about the PGS threat. Moscow’s December 2014 new military doctrine qualifies PGS as well as NATO’s current military buildup as the top two security threats to Russia.

Unlike non-stop Pentagon/NATO bragging/demonizing, what Russian defense circles don’t need to advertise is how they are now a couple of generations ahead of the US in their advanced weaponry.

The bottom line is that while the Pentagon was mired in the Afghanistan and Iraq quagmires, they completely missed Russia’s technological jump ahead. The same applies to China’s ability to hit US satellites and thus pulverize American ICBM satellite guidance systems.

The current privileged scenario is Russia playing for time until it has totally sealed Russia’s air space to American ICBMs, stealth aircraft and cruise missiles – via the S-500 system.

This has not escaped the attention of the British Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) – as it gamed sometime ago whether Washington might launch a first strike against Russia.According to the JIC, Washington might go rogue if “a) an extreme government were to take over in the United States, b) and there was increased lack of confidence by the United States in some if not all of her Western allies owing to political developments in their countries, c) and there was some sudden advance in the USA in the sphere of weapons, etc. that the counsels of impatience may get the upper hand.”

US ‘Think Tankland’ spinning that Russian military planners should take advantage of their superiority to launch a first strike nuclear attack against the US is bogus; the Russian doctrine is eminently defensive.

Yet that does not exclude Washington doing the unthinkable the next time the Pentagon thinks of itself to be in the position Russia is now in.

SWIFT changes

The whole game used to be about who ruled the waves – the geopolitical gift the US inherited from Great Britain. Control of the seas meant the US inheriting five empires; Japan, Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands. All those massive US carrier task forces patrolling the oceans to guarantee “free trade” – as the hegemonic propaganda machine goes – could be turned against China in a flash. It’s a mechanism similar to the carefully choreographed “leading from behind” financial op to simultaneously crash the ruble/launch an oil war and thus smash Russia into submission.

Washington’s master plan remains deceptively simple; to “neutralize” China by Japan, and Russia by Germany, with the US backing its two anchors, Germany and Japan. Russia is the de facto only BRICS nation blocking the master plan.

This was the case until Beijing launched the New Silk Road(s), which essentially mean the linking of all Eurasia into a “win-win” trade/commerce bonanza on high-speed rail, and in the process diverting freight tonnage overland and away from the seas.

So NATO’s non-stop Russia demonizing is in fact quaint. Think about NATO picking a fight against the constantly evolving, complex Russia-China strategic partnership. And in a not so remote future, as I indicated here, Germany, Russia and China have what it takes to be the essential pillars of a fully integrated Eurasia.

As it stands, the key shadow play is Moscow and Beijing silently preparing their own SWIFT system while Russia prepares to seal its air space with S-500s. Western Ukraine is doomed; leave it to the austerity-ravaged EU – which, by the way, doesn’t want it. And all this while the same EU tries to handicap the US commercially with a rigged euro that still doesn’t allow it to penetrate more US markets.

As for an irrelevant NATO, all it can do is cry, cry, cry.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Seneca again: The collapse of the UK fishing industry

Off the keyboard of Ugo Bardi

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Published on Resource Crisis on January 6, 2014

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Image from a 2010 article by Thurstan, Brockington, and Roberts. It describes the cycle of the UK fishing industry, which collapsed because of overfishing in the late 1970s.

The two graphs above (from a 2010 article by Thurstan et al.) speak by themselves. We have here a real life example of the overexploitation of natural resources; that is, of the tendency of people of destroying their own sources of wealth. Other classic examples can be found with the 19th century whaling industry and with the Canadian cod fishery.

Overexploitation typically generates the “Hubbert curve,” the name given to a bell-shaped production cycle best known for the case of crude oil, but affecting all the resources which can be exploited faster than they can reform by natural processes. This behavior can be explained by means of mathematical models, but, qualitatively, it is the result of the falling profits generated by the diminishing resource stock. In the long run, lower profits discourage investments and the result is a general production decline. A particular case of this mechanism is when the industry initially reacts to diminishing returns by aggressively increasing the amount of capital invested. In this case, the stocks of the resource are depleted very fast and the result is a crash of the production rate; we still have a bell shaped curve, but skewed forward. The rapid decline that occurs after the peak is what I called the “Seneca Cliff.”

There are several historical examples of the Seneca cliff; in the case of fisheries, it is especially evident in the case of the Canadian cod fishery and for the Caspian Sturgeon; but it is evident also in the case of the UK fishing industry. Note, in the figure above, the steep decline of the landings of the late 1970s, it is significantly steeper than the growth of the left side of the curve. This is the essence of the Seneca mechanism. And we can see very well what causes it: the start of the decline in production corresponds to a rapid growth of investments. The result is the increase of what the authors of the paper call “fishing power” – an estimate of the efficiency and size of the fishing fleet.

The results were disastrous; a textbook example of how to “push the levers in the wrong directions“, that is, of a case when the attempt to solve a problem worsens it considerably. In this case, the more efficient the fishing fleet was, the more rapidly the fish stock was destroyed. This is a classic mechanism for falling down the Seneca cliff: the more efficient you are at exploiting a non renewable (or slowly renewable) resource, the faster you deplete it. And the faster you get into trouble.

This case, as others, is such a staggering disaster that one wonders how it was possible at all. How could it be that nobody in the fishing industry or in the government realized what was happening? In their article on this subject, Thurstan and his colleagues don’t comment on this point, but we can cite an article by Hamilton et al. on the Canadian Atlantic Cod fishery, where they say “Some say they saw trouble coming, but felt powerless to halt it.That seems to be not describing not just the fishing industry, but our entire civilization.

Learning to Live Fearlessly

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on November  27, 2014

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RE, over at the Doomstead Diner, was asking the other day “Where have all the doomers gone?” He pointed out that some commentators have gone silent, others post far less often than they used to (guilty) and the doom-stars, Orlov, Kunstler et al., are mostly repeating over and over on a weekly basis what they have been saying for years.

So what’s going on? It’s not as if our predicament of looming financial collapse, ecological drawdown, resource wars etc. etc. has gone away. Perhaps, it’s down to exhaustion and the realisation that the folks who want to hear about it are all now singing along in the choir and those that don’t (but will find out anyway) all have their heads buried so deeply in the sand that only the tips of their toes remain poking up above the beach. On the other hand when you have the likes of our own prime minister jumping on the doom bandwagon and saying that ‘Red lights are flashing on the dashboard‘ then maybe it’s time to realise that maybe, just maybe, the message is becoming less ignorable.

And just to recap, here is that message in cut-out-and-keep form:

 

We live in a debt-fuelled, techno-narcissitic, ecologically unsustainable world and in an economic system that channels the remaining wealth upwards. The system, which worked well enough for most people in times of an expanding energy supply without too many competing claims is now shifting into reverse gear and causing itself to self-cannibalise. Economic and political injustice is growing ever sharper and more noticeable — despite all the happy talk of economic recovery. Growth is an illusion, contraction is a reality, and things are getting worse. Prepare yourself for the inevitable and try to gain some control over the essentials of your life. Grow stuff, tread lightly on the earth, appreciate what you have and try to enjoy the ride.

 

Here in the UK more families than ever are having to rely on food banks handing out packages of food just so they can make it through the week. Who’d ever even heard of a food bank five years ago? There’s one near where I live, and in the news agents across the road from it the newspapers on display contain articles detailing which stores to head to on your weekend Christmas shopping splurge in New York, or which island in the Maldives is perfect for some winter sun. They might as well be talking about vacations on Venus. Some of their other pages contain stories about megacities being planned for the bottom of the sea, personal robots that can fly and deliver Amazon packages, cars that run on seawater and 3D printed houses on the Moon. It’s all just around the corner.

But the propaganda gets less believable by the day. I can’t personally recall talking with anyone in the last few years who says things are going well for them financially. In fact most people just seem to be grinding along from month to month with hardly any money, maybe getting into debt a bit more and shopping at the discount food stores which have swept the country. They are not thinking about buying flying robots. Others are stuck in the painful situation of having a head full of business ideas but no way to make them happen because they have no cash, no credit rating and no time. Each month that passes makes those hopes and dreams seem just that little bit more unrealistic and an understanding begins to form in their minds that a new kind of reality has descended and this new reality doesn’t promise anything like what the old reality did.

But at least there is still a safety net to catch us when we fall, right? There’s still a free health system which is one of the best in the world, right? I got to test this out recently when I developed a deep tooth ache that wouldn’t go away. The only surgery in town that could see me was a nearby clinic that boasted ‘German dentists’, whatever that might imply. They examined me and noted an abscess below a wisdom tooth and advised that I have it removed asap. They made me fill out a medical questionnaire which seemed less interested with my dental health than how I ‘felt about my smile’, presumably to prey on hidden insecurities and lure me into spending a fortune in order to make me look like Donny Osmond (a full finance package was on offer).

But to fix my wisdom tooth they wanted several hundred pounds off me. I told them straight off that I couldn’t afford it and wanted to know what my options were. They have to do this, by law, I’m told. I was (glumly) referred to an NHS specialist and, within a couple of months after a course of antibiotics and painkillers I found myself at the local hospital where a man called Mohammed wrenched out my bad wisdom tooth with some pliers. It was all very professional and pain-free and didn’t cost me a penny. My respect for the foot soldiers of the NHS grows with each encounter.

But how long can we rely on these systems to function? With the total amount of debt owed by the UK now astronomically high (government, company and private) and not showing any sign of slowing down soon, when will the breaking point be? Already we are beginning to see warning signs of massive problems ahead, with some saying that the health service will run out of the cash needed to sustain itself either this year or next:

Millions to suffer as NHS is About to run out of Cash

“The King’s Fund’s report warns: “On its current trajectory, the health and social care system in England is rapidly heading towards a major crisis.” … it is now a question of when, not if, the NHS runs out of money.”

And then consider the immense problems faced by district and city councils, such as Newcastle. These behemoths are being bled dry by central government, with all the accusations of politics being thrown in (the ones gushing blood the fastest are the ones with populations least likely to vote Tory). It’s worth reading this whole article to get an understanding of what is in store, not just in Newcastle, but everywhere:

Is saving Newcastle Mission Impossible?

“In fact, the city’s predicament already seemed impossible. The council cut £37m from its spending in 2013-14, and another £38m is set to follow this year. Then, according to current projections, there will be further annual cuts of £40m, £30m,and £20m. Over a third of the money the council once spent must go, so Newcastle is in the midst of a dire squeeze on funding for children’s centres, youth services, rubbish collection, parks, aid for homeless people, swimming pools, museums, and the arts. Back in 2011, Forbes said, when he and his colleagues had first confronted the depth and breadth of what they faced, a lot of them lapsed into silence. “People went white,” he told me. “They literally went white, at the prospect of it. There was a sense of disbelief about what it all meant, and the scale of cuts we would have to make.””

It’s probably important to note here that cuts will soon start to affect council’s statutory requirements. All councils have a basic requirement to offer some kind of food and shelter, to protect children from violent parents and so on. These are the kind of programmes that are for the chopping board next and the effect on our society will be profound. It doesn’t matter what the fake manipulated GDP number is if the streets are full of starving waifs rummaging through trash looking for something to eat. Of course, individuals and other organisations will step in and try to fill the gap by providing people with some basic level of subsistence. Churches will become popular again and ‘giving to charity’ will not mean texting a number to a giant bureaucracy during a telethon, but giving a bag of food to a hard-up neighbour. The majority will find themselves cut off, disenfranchised and with no safety net. The age of entitlement will be over for most, to be replaced by the age of broken promises.

I have a friend who works for the council in child care. She tells me that when the new system of universal credit kicks in then all hell will break loose. She warns of mass malnutrition, suicides and homelessness — and she’s not even the excitable type. For now, this system is being held off by IT failures, but when it is rolled out across the country, maybe within the next year or two, it will be like a chainsaw through whatever safety net currently exists. It will be brutal, she says.

Everywhere I look, and in so many different places, I see the effect of service cuts and the new intermediaries stepping into the ever narrowing gaps between flows of money. Just off the top of my head I could say that the council in the town where I live (Penzance) has run out of money for killing the weeds that sprout up between paving stones — result being that the streets have now grown green beards; the school my children attend is forever asking for small amounts of money to cover trips and events and is now almost begging parents for cash; the county council has been ordered to find millions in savings from its planning department — result is anecdotes of planning officials levying ‘unusual’ charges and insisting on applications being resubmitted and for the application fee to be repaid in full.

The list goes on of penny-pinching savings leading to shoddier services, crappier jobs and a growing sense of unease.

My wife works for a private community care firm. Her job is to travel around to visit (mostly) lonely old people and make sure they are okay. She gets minimum wage and is on a zero hour contract. She was just awarded an annual pay increase of 0.6%, which is actually a pay cut in real terms, but that’s standard practice in the sector. Her every move is now monitored by a smart phone she has to carry, and she is so overworked that there is barely enough time to make ‘clients’ (as they are known) a cup of tea. There are no benefits, and no holiday pay. You don’t even want to know the sad stories I hear about the loneliness some of these old folks experience.

Here’s a tip if you have kids: treat them nicely so that they may one day return the favour. And don’t go and encourage them to go and live some place far away.

Here’s another anecdote. Last week I even took our old leaky toilet to the local municipal dump — sorry, recycling centre — and was told that I would have to pay a £1.75 fee to dispose of it ‘because we now charge for rubble’. I pointed out that it wasn’t rubble, that it was a porcelain toilet bowl and the guy in the fluorescent jacket told me that ‘it will be rubble when it gets smashed up.’ Nice logic. My broken toilet could almost be a metaphor for modern life.

Perhaps that’s why fly-tipping is now all the rage (with local councils being forced — for now — to clear up the mess at great public expense). This mess appeared overnight in Essex and is a mile long.

So that’s modern Britain, writhing in the discomfort of a thousand cuts. But people around here at this end of Cornwall are long used to being squeezed. That’s one of the reasons I moved here — people are less likely to freak out so much when things get tough, I reason. Some of them. Most of the large ‘period’ homes here are owned by outsiders, property investors and holiday home owners, and any attempt to tax these people or make them pay in any way for the damage they are causing to local communities is met with howls of protest about ‘scaring away the tourists’, ‘biting the hand that feeds us’ and so on. That leaves anyone who grew up here two options: either get out and move somewhere with careers, or stay here working in the service sector for minimum wages and living in a caravan or a euphemistically-named ‘affordable home’.

There’s a woman living nearby who sometimes busks with a cello. I’ve seen her a couple of times in the street. When I read an article on the Dark Mountain Project blog about a young woman who lives in a tin-roofed shed because ‘all the houses have been hoovered up by the rich’ it took me a while to connect the dots and realise it was indeed the same person. Catrina Davies, I then found out, has written a book entitled The Ribbons are for Fearlessness. I bought the book and read it. It took me only a day because it was a real page turner. In the book she details living with no money at the Youth Hostel near Land’s End, and how the sudden death of her friend led her to set out for Norway, virtually penniless, in a battered old yellow van. She travels alone, with her grief, her fear and her cello as a way of making money busking the streets of Europe. It’s a hell of an adventure, and she meets a girl at the Nordcap (Europe’s most northerly cape) who teaches her a thing or two about the universe and gives her some ribbons ‘for fearlessness’. She goes on to travel all the way down to Portugal, learning to surf and how to live a full and authentic life in a manner that we are conditioned by our society to believe is impossible.

And, in a sense, that’s what we’ll all have to learn to do: learn to live fearlessly. Because when I see news stories that state the average family of four needs to make £40,600 a year to live an okay lifestyle I think: what do they spend all of that money on? Most people I know make a lot less than that, and our family makes and lives off about a third of that amount. True, I don’t have a mortgage or an evil landlord standing over me, because I’ve been through all that and I savour every moment of not being a debt slave. I try to impress this message onto my children because I know they’ll likely never have what I had, namely a free university education, a couple of decades of rising incomes, a property ladder with an affordable first rung and a cushy office job where I got paid buckets of cash for fiddling with spreadsheets. They will likely get none of these things and society is going to be contorted into a lot of new and unfamiliar shapes as they come of age.

So, to go back to the beginning, why are less people talking about doom? Maybe it’s a bit like someone at a garden party — let’s call her Sally — who keeps telling everyone a rain storm is coming and they all just look up at the blue sky and say ‘impossible’ and get back to chatting about Top Gear by the pool. But she knows the storm is coming — she can tell by the clouds on the horizon, the rustling of the leaves in the trees and the way the neighbourhood cats have all disappeared. She remembers past storms. She tries to tell the other guests, but they are in no mood to listen — they’re too busy applying sun cream and turning the pork chops on the barbie. “Didn’t you hear to weather forecast?” they say. “There’s no chance of rain.” Eventually, somewhat shunned and a little hoarse, she decides not to go on about it too much. After a while she makes her excuses and goes home to bring her washing in so it won’t get wet. In the meantime the sky has darkened and the first few drops of rain are hitting the hot metal grill and making sizzling noises. The guests look at each other nervously and one or two think to themselves “Maybe she was right about the rain, but it’ll just be a passing shower.” The party is in full swing by now and everyone thinks they will stay dry because everyone else is standing out there with them, and anyway it never rains at Steve’s parties. They decide collectively not to notice the rain, laughing it off. The fat man turning the chops secretly believes he can control the weather by holding his mouth in a certain way. Meanwhile a deep rumble of thunder rolls across the horizon and Sally gazes out at her garden through the window from the comfort of her home, surrounded by cats.

Turmoil in Hong Kong, Terrorism in Xinjiang: America’s Covert War on China

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on October 21, 2014

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October 21 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – China is facing increasing pressure along two fronts. In its western province of Xinjiang, terrorists have been stepping up destabilization and separatist activities.

In China’s southeast Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, protests have disrupted normality in the dense urban streets, with protest leaders seeking to directly confront Beijing while dividing and destabilizing both Hong Kong society and attempting to “infect” the mainland.

What is more troubling is the greater geopolitical agenda driving both of these seemingly “internal” conflicts – and that they both lead back to a single source beyond China’s borders. With the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) now implicated in receiving, training, and employing terrorists from China’s Xinjiang province, and considering the fact that ISIS is the result of an intentional, engineered proxy war the US and its allies are waging in the Middle East, along with the fact that the unrest in Hong Kong is also traced back to Washington and London, presents a narrative of an ongoing confrontation between East and West being fought on the battlefield of fourth generation warfare.

ISIS: Washington’s Global Expeditionary Force 

If one was asked to name a global-spanning military and intelligence operation opposed to Syria, Iran, Russia, and China, they might say the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the US Government – and they would be right. But they could also easily answer by saying the “Islamic State” or ISIS/ISIL as it is also known. This is especially true after revelations surfaced that US-backed Uyghur separatists in China’s western-most province of Xinjiang have joined ISIS for training with intentions of leading an armed rebellion against Beijing upon their return.

Reuters in their article, “China militants getting IS ‘training’,” would claim:

Chinese militants from the western region of Xinjiang have fled from the country to get “terrorist training” from Islamic State group fighters for attacks at home, state media reported on Monday.

The report was the first time state-run media had linked militants from Xinjiang, home to ethnic minority Uighur Muslims, to militants of the Islamic State group of radical Sunni Muslims.

China’s government has blamed a surge of violence over the past year on Islamist militants from Xinjiang who China says are fighting for an independent state called East Turkestan.

However, it isn’t just China’s government that claims militants in Xinjiang seek to carve out an independent state in western China – the militants themselves have stated as much, and the United States government fully backs their agenda to do so. Indeed, first and foremost in backing the Xinjiang Uyghur separatists is the United States through the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED). For China, the Western region referred to as “Xinjiang/East Turkistan” has its own webpage on NED’s site covering the various fronts funded by the US which include:

International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation $187,918To advance the human rights of ethnic Uyghur women and children. The Foundation will maintain an English- and Uyghur-language website and advocate on the human rights situation of Uyghur women and children.

International Uyghur PEN Club $45,000To promote freedom of expression for Uyghurs. The International Uyghur PEN Club will maintain a website providing information about banned writings and the work and status of persecuted poets, historians, journalists, and others. Uyghur PEN will also conduct international advocacy campaigns on behalf of imprisoned writers.

Uyghur American Association $280,000To raise awareness of Uyghur human rights issues. UAA’s Uyghur Human Rights Project will research, document, and bring to international attention, independent and accurate information about human rights violations affecting the Turkic populations of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

World Uyghur Congress $185,000To enhance the ability of Uyghur prodemocracy groups and leaders to implement effective human rights and democracy campaigns. The World Uyghur Congress will organize a conference for pro-democracy Uyghur groups and leaders on interethnic issues and conduct advocacy work on Uyghur human rights.


ISIS Conveniently Targets Washington’s Adversaries WorldwideThe next step Washington appears to be taking in China is an attempts to enhance the menace of terrorists in Xinjiang. In addition to assisting US attempts to destabilize territory in China, ISIS has also threatened to launch a campaign against another US enemy – Russia – this in addition to already directly fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon, the governments of Syria and Iraq, and with ISIS claiming to be behind attacks in Egypt against the military-led government that ousted the West’s Muslim Brotherhood proxies.
With both Russia and China now in ISIS’ sights, the global public must begin asking questions as to how and why ISIS just so happens to be arraying itself against all of Washington’s enemies, by-passing all of its allies including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, and where exactly they are getting the weapons, cash, intelligence, logistical, and administrative capabilities to do so.So suspicious is ISIS’ appearance, agenda, and actions, many across the world have long-ago concluded they are simply the latest creation of the US and other Western-aligned intelligence agencies, just as Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood was before them, So loud has this narrative become, establishment newspapers like the New York Times have begun writing columns to tamp down what they are calling “conspiracy theories.”The New York Times would report in a piece titled, “Suspicions Run Deep in Iraq That C.I.A. and the Islamic State Are United,” that:

The United States has conducted an escalating campaign of deadly airstrikes against the extremists of the Islamic State for more than a month. But that appears to have done little to tamp down the conspiracy theories still circulating from the streets of Baghdad to the highest levels of Iraqi government that the C.I.A. is secretly behind the same extremists that it is now attacking.

The New York Times dismisses these claims, despite reporting for the past 4 years on the CIA’s presence along the Turkish-Syrian border dumping weapons and cash into the very hotbeds of extremism and terrorism ISIS rose from. Upon closer examination, not only are these claims plausible, they are documented fact.

As far back as 2007, Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran journalist Seymour Hersh would warn of the creation of just such a terror group in his 9-page report in the New Yorker titled, “The Redirection Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” He stated that (emphasis added):

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

That “by-product” is ISIS. It is through America’s own premeditated conspiracy to plunge not only Syria, but the entire region and now potentially Russia and even China into genocidal sectarian bloodshed that gave intentional rise to ISIS. The creation of ISIS and its use as a proxy mercenary force for Western designs is once again revealed in ISIS’ otherwise irrational declaration of war on Russia first, and now China.

America Opens Second Front in Hong Kong

It was in April of 2014 that two co-organizers of the so-called “Occupy Central” protests now ongoing in Hong Kong, would sit in Washington DC giving a talk hosted by the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED). There, Martin Lee and Anson Chan set the stage for the impending “Occupy Central” demonstrations, introducing soon-to-be famous “characters” like US-cultivated “activist” Joshua Wong, as well as repeating, verbatim, the agenda, talking points, and slogans now flooding the airwaves and headlines regarding Hong Kong’s unrest.

While the US attempts to peel off Xinjiang province by brute force, it is using a more subtle and insidious method in Hong Kong. During Lee and Chan’s talk in DC earlier this year, a representative from the Council on Foreign Relations would literally proclaim it was hoped that ongoing movements in Hong Kong would “infect” mainland China. Indeed, while militancy and terrorism is being sown in China’s west, sedition, political instability, and social divisions are being cultivated in China’s east.


America’s Long War With China  

The adversarial nature of Washington’s posture toward Beijing has become increasingly obvious as tensions are intentionally ratcheted up in the South China Sea between US proxies and mainland China, as well as in Hong Kong. This is simply the latest in a much longer proxy war waged against Beijing since as early as the Vietnam War, with the so-called “Pentagon Papers” released in 1969 revealing the conflict as simply one part of a greater strategy aimed at containing and controlling China. While the US would ultimately lose the Vietnam War and any chance of using the Vietnamese as a proxy force against Beijing, the long war against Beijing would continue elsewhere.

This containment strategy would be updated and detailed in the 2006 Strategic Studies Institute report “String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power across the Asian Littoral” where it outlines China’s efforts to secure its oil lifeline from the Middle East to its shores in the South China Sea as well as means by which the US can maintain American hegemony throughout the Indian and Pacific Ocean. The premise is that, should Western foreign policy fail to entice China into participating in the “international system” as responsible stakeholders, an increasingly confrontational posture must be taken to contain the rising nation.

This includes funding, arming, and backing terrorists and proxy regimes from Africa, across the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and even within China’s territory itself. Documented support of these movements not only include Xinjiang separatists and the leaders of “Occupy Central” in Hong Kong, but also militants and separatists in Baluchistan, Pakistan where the West seeks to disrupt a newly christened Chinese port and pipeline, as well as the machete wielding supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar’s Rakhine state – yet another site the Chinese hope to establish a logistical hub.It is not a coincidence that ISIS is standing in for and fulfilling America’s deepest imperial aspirations from North Africa, across the Middle East, and now inching toward the borders of the West’s two largest competitors, Russia and China. Nor is it a coincidence that “Occupy Central” protesters are parroting verbatim talking points scripted in Washington earlier this year. It is no coincidence that the US State Department’s NED is found involved in every hotspot of instability and conflict both within China’s borders and beyond them. It is a documented conspiracy that is now increasingly seeing the light truth cast upon it. Whether or not that is enough to end the unnecessary barbarism and bloodshed that has resulted from the West’s hegemonic aspirations remains to be seen.
Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

Entire “Occupy Central” Protest Scripted in Washington

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on October 5, 2014

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Protest co-organizer Martin Lee sets stage, introduces “Occupy Central” characters in April 2014 talk before US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy.

October 5, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – LD) – The slogans, leaders, and agenda of the “Occupy Central” movement are supposedly the manifestations of Hong Kong’s desire for “total democracy,” “universal suffrage,” and “freedom.” In reality, the leaders of “Occupy Central” are verified to be directly backed, funded, and directed by the US State Department, its National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and its subsidiary, the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

Despite admitting this overwhelming evidence, many “Occupy Central” supporters still insist the protests are genuine and now some propose that the “Occupy Central” leadership does not truly represent the people of Hong Kong. While the leadership of “Occupy Central” indeed in no way represent the people of Hong Kong, the fact still remains that the protest itself was prearranged at least as early as April 2014, revealed by “Occupy Central” co-organizers Martin Lee and Anson Chan before NED in Washington DC.

The talk titled, “Why Democracy in Hong Kong Matters,” spanned an hour, with NED regional vice president Louisa Greve leading the duo through a full introduction of the “Occupy Central” movement, its characters, agenda, demands, and talking points. Anson Chan – Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary under British rule – in particular, with her perfect British accent, insisted repeatedly that the issue was China’s apparent backtracking on “deals” made with the UK over the handover of Hong Kong in the late 1990’s.

Lee, as well as members of the audience, repeatedly stated that Hong Kong’s role was to “infect” mainland China with its Western-style institutions, laws, and interests. Lee also repeatedly appealed to Washington specifically to ensure they remained committed to defending American interests in Hong Kong.

Both Lee and Chan would also state that since China appears to be concerned over global perception of how it rules its people, this could be exploited to excise from Beijing concessions over Hong Kong’s governance. This included mention of previous protests, including those led by “activist” Joshua Wong and his suspicious “Scholarism” organization that has been tracked since at least 2012 by the US State Department’s NDI. And of course, future destabilization was submitted as a viable solution to bending Beijing toward Western concessions.

For those able to listen to the entire 1 hour interview as well as questions and answers, the entire “Occupy Central” narrative is laid bare, verbatim, in Washington DC months before demonstrations began in the streets of Hong Kong. For a supposed “pro-democracy” protest seeking self-governance and self-determination and denouncing “interference” from Beijing, that their leaders are funded by foreign interests, and the plans for “Occupy Central” laid in a foreign capital is ironic at best – utter and very intentional deceit at worst.

Democracy indeed assumes self-governance and self determination. If the US State Department is colluding with, funding, and directing the politicians and protest leaders behind “Occupy Central,” the people of Hong Kong are governing and determining nothing – Washington and Wall Street are. Martin Lee and collaborator Anson Chan complain about Beijing dictating policy in Hong Kong, while they sit together in a room full of foreign interests who would dictate Hong Kong’s governance instead.

Laid bare is “Occupy Central’s” true agenda. It is not about having Hong Kong vote for who they desire to see in power, it is about getting the foreign-backed political cabal behind “Occupy Central” into power, and disarming Beijing of any means to prevent what is for all intents and purposes the “soft” recolonization of Hong Kong, and a further attempt to divide and destabilize China as a whole.

Vote YES! on Scottish Independence

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on September 11, 2014

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Vote YES On Scottish Independence – Scotland Finally Has A Chance To Get Free From The British

Scottish FlagScottish voters finally have the opportunity to fulfill William Wallace’s dream of a Scotland that is free and independent of England forever.  All they have to do is vote yes next week.  Without a doubt, a divorce from the British would be quite messy, and life would probably be more comfortable in the short-term if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom.  But hopefully the people of Scotland are looking beyond short-term concerns.  Today, the United Kingdom is a horribly repressive Big Brother police state that is dominated by bureaucratic control freaks.  You can hardly even sneeze without violating some kind of law, rule or regulation.  And the London banking establishment is at the very heart of the debt-based global financial system which is enslaving so much of the planet.  Scotland finally has a chance to get free from all of this.  All it is going to take is a yes vote on Scottish independence.

It looks like it is going to be an incredibly close vote.  Recent polls show that the result could go either way.  Needless to say, this is causing the British establishment to freak out quite a bit.

For example, a couple of large banks have attempted to sway the vote during this past week by publicly declaring that they will have to move to England if the vote for Scottish independence is successful…

The Royal Bank of Scotland announced Thursday that it is making contingency plans to move its legal incorporation to England in the event of a “yes” vote. In addition, Lloyds Banking Group said it had made arrangements to establish “new legal entities” in England should voters in Scotland decide to sever ties with Britain.

And there have been lots of other warnings of “economic disaster” for Scotland if it does not remain part of the United Kingdom

Standard Life, the pensions company, disclosed that it was planning to move part of its business to England to protect its customers, while BP and Shell backed expert predictions that North Sea oil will have all but run out by 2050. It also emerged that nearly $2-billion has flowed out of U.K. equity funds in the past two months amid heightened uncertainty over what separation would mean for the economy.

Honestly, it is probably true that there would be some short-term economic disruptions for Scotland.

But in the long run the Scottish would probably be in quite good shape considering how much of the North Sea oil they would own.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent Bloomberg article

The discovery of North Sea riches in the 1970s planted the seed of modern-day Scottish nationalism as supporters of independence cried “It’s our oil!”

Four decades later, nothing will be more important to the economic future of Scotland than the oil industry should the country vote to end the 307-year union with the rest of the U.K.

Reserves of oil and gas would be split, possibly along the so-called median line, already used to allocate fishing rights. The division would hand the Scots about 96 percent of annual oil production and 47 percent of the gas, according to estimates for 2012 by the University of Aberdeen’s Alex Kemp and Linda Stephen cited by the Scottish government.

What most British politicians won’t tell you is that it would probably be the British that would suffer the most economically in the short-term and in the long-term.

In fact, if there is a yes vote for Scottish independence it is being projected that the value of the British pound will fall substantially and we could see a “negative shock” in British financial markets…

Adam Memon, the head of economic research at the Centre for Policy Studies, said: “The principal immediate threat would be to sterling and the stability of the financial markets. The recent selloff is a mere warning of what may come if the Scots actually do vote for independence.”

Threadneedle Investments said: “Given the constitutional and economic uncertainties attached to a potential break-up of the UK, a vote for independence would be likely to deliver a negative shock to UK financial assets and lead to meaningful currency weakness.”

And actually, the Scottish are not going nearly far enough with this vote for independence.  For example, according to Yes Scotland a newly-independent Scottish government would continue to have allegiance to the Queen…

The Scottish Government’s proposal is that the Queen remains Head of State in Scotland, in the same way as she is currently Head of State in independent nations such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

This would be the position for as long as the people of Scotland wished our country to remain a monarchy.

Speaking as an American, let me say that getting rid of the British monarchy has worked out exceptionally well for us.

Hopefully the Scottish people will make a similar decision sooner rather than later.

If Scotland does indeed end up voting for independence, it could give momentum to similar movements all over Europe.

Just this week, hundreds of thousands of Catalans took to the streets in Barcelona to demand the right to vote on independence from Spain…

Thousands of Catalans have rallied in Barcelona, Spain, demanding the right to hold a referendum on independence.

Participants, waving Catalan flags and wearing the flag’s red and yellow colours, stood in a V-shape formation, indicating their desire for a vote.

Protesters were energised by Scotland’s forthcoming independence referendum – and many also waved the Scottish flag.

The regional government has called a referendum for 9 November. The Spanish government says the vote is illegal.

Could we end up seeing a number of new nations emerging from the chaos that is about to engulf Europe?

This is clearly not what the establishment wants.  In fact, George Soros says that “this is the worst possible time” for Scottish independence.

That alone is a really good reason to vote yes.

Personally, I am rooting for the Scottish people on this one.  I truly hope that they are finally able to win their freedom.

The people of Scotland have been pushed around by the British for centuries.

Now they finally have a chance to stand up to the tyranny of London.

They finally have a chance to get free.

Let us hope that they take it.

Scottish Secession: Transition from Global to Local?

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on September 10, 2014

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OPINION: The World is going local – and the Scots are merely a symptom of that

The reversion to nationalism is a staging post on the way back to living communities

Ed Miliband tweeted two hours ago to say ‘On the #indyref campaign trail today with the simple message: stay with us.’ He being a Suprastateist Socialist, it is highly significant that the Labour leader made a plea completely devoid of the one thing Scottish waverers would most like to know about voting No: why?

The Big State social democratic Left has always used communication in this way: pleas bordering on commands, with an enormous act of faith required to give any credence to the message. It produced slogans like ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’, ‘You know it makes sense’, and ‘I’m backing Britain’…but they all beg the same question: why?

All the Cameron/Miliband/Clegg trio can see is the need for immediate-term damage limitation. Such is the reaction of those who never grasp the payback of a longer-term view. And yet – even more depressing – there isn’t a glimmer anywhere in the UK Überbau right now of any insight asking “I wonder what’s really going on here?”

In the last 97 years, we have seen the formation of two suprastates, the collapse of a former global colonial power, and then collapse and distress in thosee suprastates. I refer time-respectively to the Soviet Union, the British Empire, the Soviet Union again – and now, the European Union.

When the British Empire dissolved itself after the Second World War, initial member delight at being free morphed rapidly into a deconstruction of the unreal entities created by the colonial power: India, Nigeria, and so on.

When the USSR collapsed, initial delight at being free morphed rapidly into a deconstruction of the unreal vassals nurtured by the Communists: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and so on.

Now that the artificially joined United Kingdom’s collapse has spread from 1916 Eire to 2014 Caledonia, initial Scottish delight at being free will – I do not doubt – morph into the emergence of Cornwallian and Welsh claims….if the Welsh can successfully withdraw from their dependence culture.

And when the ramifications of a fascist Brussels, a crooked Frankfurt, globalist fanaticism and an egomaniacal Berlin finally sit too heavily one day on the three-legged chair called the European Union, its members too will rediscover the divisions within: Belgium, Spain, and so on.

But the trouble with short-term historical events is that (a) they don’t happen in an ordered way to neatly mirror a  long-term change, and (b) the leaders living through them – almost without exception – simply do not grasp WTF is going on. In such a context of unenvisaged change, those In Power jerk at the knee in order to protect the power they had hitherto imagined to be unassailable.

None of this has been made any easier by the emergence of an aggressive but anxious China, the post-USSR mafia-anarchy of Putin’s energy-obsessive Russia, the newly declining American energy-fixated commercial Empire, an AIDS-riddled Africa, and the rise of two religious throwbacks: one travelling chaotically under the title of Islamic Jihadism, and the other trading insidiously under the utterly false flag of capitalist neoliberalism.

But like the ill-fated Martin Luther King (albeit on a comparatively minute and obscenely privileged scale) I do have a dream. A hope that, in the fullness of time, all these tributaries of history will give way to a raging river of reaction: that is, the return of Homo sapiens to manageable pack sizes – and the realisation that family and community are respectively the building blocks and mortar of tranquil fulfilment and material progress.

I think that what we’re seeing at the moment is the second stage of an anti-globalist reaction…ironically made possible by the arrival of that very internet most people see as the secret agent of a horrible New World Order. For the internet makes it possible for a community in Hungary to seek out and give mutual satisfaction to a community in Dorset, Ohio, Queensland, Ossetia or the Yucatan peninsular.

The Bigwigs in Whitehall wish to present the #indyref in Scotland as a potential Sword of Damocles. It certainly does have two incredibly sharp edges: but it is no more than the kitchen knife inadvertantly cutting a finger in the preparation of truly sustaining (and sustainable) meals.

We have been sold political, economic, social, cultural and constitutional garbage for some 50 years. Whatever the Scots do in the end, their desire to go it alone is a symptom of change…and very probably, a catalyst for more of it.

Scottish Secession

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on September 8, 2014

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Desperate times create strange bedfellows

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Why George Osborne desperately needs a No-Vote

Having saved the World in 2008, Gordon Brown is stepping in to save the UK in 2014. He is embarking, with full Government support, on a 30-stop tub thumping tour of Scotland to try and persuade his countrymen that they’re better off staying with the Cameron Highlanders. It’s a shrewd move by Number Ten: people will think, “if it wasn’t for the Union, we’d have this clown in our politics”. There should be a clear majority for the ‘No’ campaign come next Friday.

While encouraging their near neighbours to stay under the post-Glencoe Massacre yoke, the English themselves meanwhile are increasingly keen to break away from the European Union. With the Germans running economic strategy and the Italians in charge of the money, there are plenty of grounds for secession enthusiasm. But Camerlot continues to insist that we are better staying in so we can reform the EU from top to toe. When asked by Andrew Marr at the weekend what made him think this to be even possible let alone likely, the Chancellor George Osborne was forced to fall back on the fact that one of the many new EC Presidents is Polish, and they’ve said they’ll support us.

While I have no doubt that the gallant Poles will, as ever, poke their lances into the Berlin-am-Brussels tanks and give them a damn good thrashing with gleaming swords, The Draper is stretching even British gullibility to the limit with that one. But then, he has created a virtual economic recovery based on QE, banks and bollocks, and even Marr was referring casually to the economy as “in recovery”. The question is, whether the Great Treasury Three-Card Trick can hold until next May. The threats to George here are:

1. Rising interest rates and/or a UK banking failure

2. A stock market collapse

3. Somebody noticing that the manufacturing sector is no bigger than it was in 2010

4. The collapse of the eurozone as a market for British goods

5. The collapse of the World economy as a market for British goods

6. Scotland voting Yes to secession from the UK.

As a man who relishes having his bum a millimetre above the ocean waves in a Force 9 wind, this kind of thing is nothing new for Mr Osborne. What must be concerning some of his colleagues, however, is that all of the above now seem to be on the cards sooner or later.

As the Brits long ago lost the ability or inclination to add up, we can dismiss Number 3 there are most unlikely in the medium term. But Ossie has RBS, markets pumped up by QE, flatlining Europe and Italy talking openly of leaving the euro, the stuttering Chinese slowdown, and now an opinion poll so worrying that they’ve had to Mrs Brown out of the attic in order to scare the living crap out of the kilted ones.

Of these, I suspect a Scottish Yes vote is what Little Squeaky fears most. While Scotland ‘got’ £16.5bn more in UK public spending than it contributed to total UK revenues in 2009-10, this is no longer true, and the Chancellor knows it: Scotland now pays more in tax per head than the rest of the UK. Out of just under £560 billion of public spending in 2012-13, England accounts for £456bn – with just £54bn spent on the Scots.

In short, Scottish secession would give Camerlot a bigger austerity problem than the one they already have.

In the light of this, the Two Gentlemen of Downing Street have chosen big stick and fat carrot: no sharing the Pound under any circumstances, but far more Westminster investment in Scotland. There are three problems with this panicky response: a shrinkage in the Sterling Area may well play very badly for the Pound; investment in Scotland has traditionally been, beyond oil, something of a black hole; and such promises mean more spending, which will further create pressure on the Pound.

As I keep saying, a cheap Pound gives you a head start in exports….briefly. Then, when the time comes to buy the next round of raw materials and food, it bites you in the backside. Also a steep fall in the currency could set off a panic.

Slightly off the radar but also a possibility, Mr Osborne insisted on the Marr Show that we already spend 2% of gdp on defence – a level NATO demanded from all its members last week. This is true for 2013 (it was actually 2.3%) but not going forward: defence cuts by the Government and a rise in UK gdp mean that in 2014 we will spend 1.8% of it making weapons, and equipping the armed forces with technology that occasionally works.

It would take only a worsening Ukrainian situation and/or a Jihadist atrocity inside Britain to blow that way off course. Suddenly, George Osborne is going to have to find in the region of £125bn if he is to keep his word. As he tends to keep his word locked away and out of sight, this won’t cause the Chancellor any insomnia: but it will make him a sitting duck during an election campaign.

My own money is (literally) still on stock market collapses in the short-term and rising rates longer term: these – along with falling tax revenues during a slump – will eventually reduce our gdp and increase our borrowing costs. Then Britain will be revealed for what it really is: bankrupt, and 78% dependent on meaningless paper.

But in the immediate term, watch out for the shuffling of nervous bottoms at Westminster if the next Poll shows an increase in the Yes margin.

It’s SHOWTIME!

Off the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 8, 2014

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A Rant on Ukraine, NATO, Russia, Scotch Independence and the Petrodollar

Snippet:

…Back over to the Russia-NATO Battle for all the Marbles in Ukraine, where the Saker recently reported that the Separatists were on the verge of taking Mariupol, which would be a huge strategic victory since the city sits smack dab on the land route between Mother Russia and recently annexed Crimea. Apparently something like 40,000 Ukie troops went to the Great Beyond in this battle.

The Clowns & Jokers in Brussels are not taking this lying down, Nosirree Bob! After doing some ineffectual blustering around a Golf Course in the UK surrounded by wire fencing and 9000 Halliburton Mercs, they now have whipped out the Heavy Artillery of dropping down more financial sanctions, this time on the Ruskie Energy Big Boys of Gazprom, Rosneft and Transneft. Inother words, all the Ruskie companies that supply them with 30% of their energy are now not gonna get paid.

Just how long do you think Vlad the Impaler will keep the Gas flowing through Ukraine to Krautland if the Krauts aren’t gonna pay for it? If I was Vlad, I would shut the valves tomorrow…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Russian Tanks in Ukraine?

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on August 15, 2014

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Consider the source…

August 15, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – Denying civilians admittedly needed aid constitutes, in the West’s own terms, a crime against humanity. While in Syria attempts by the West to openly arm and equip known terrorist organizations within Syrian territory included a mandate from the UN that allowed supplies to flow without the approval of the Syrian government. Those “aided,” are now clearly the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) running rampant on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border.In Ukraine, precisely the opposite is happening. The regime in Kiev is openly raising armies of Nazi militants to go east and mass murder Ukrainians. Referring to Russian-speaking Ukrainians as “subhumans,” the NATO-backed regime is clearly attempting region-wide genocide. Humanitarian aid from Russia, opened for inspection and coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has been blatantly denied  entry into eastern Ukraine after baseless accusations have been made by both Kiev and their NATO backers that it constituted a “Trojan horse.”

To further poison attempts to relieve desperate civilian populations surrounded by literal Nazis in eastern Ukraine, British propaganda outlets from the BBC, to the Guardian and Telegraph are claiming columns of Russian armor have been seen moving into Ukraine. Of course, their articles only provide photographic evidence of the armor inside of Russia, but none proving it crossed the border.

When considering the constant deluge of anti-Russian propaganda in support of literal, flag-waving Nazis and fascists occupying Kiev and mass murdering populations in eastern Ukraine, one must consider the source.

Pedophiles, Pages for Hire, and Outright Lies 

British propaganda, like its newer but equally deceitful American counterparts, has exhausted its legitimacy and panders to shrinking audiences. Desperately trying to maintain control over the global narrative, everything from cognitive infiltration of newer forms of alternative media, to fabricating entire audiences to manufacture popularity has been used to propagate the agenda of special interests occupying Wall Street and the City of London.

The credibility of British propaganda in particular can be gauged through the examination of some of its most prominent networks – the Guardian and the BBC.

The Guardian’s recent article, “Russian military vehicles enter Ukraine as aid convoy stops short of border,” includes familiar fabrications that have been seen in other conflicts around the globe. It was the Guardian in November of 2012 that claimed the Syrian government “shut down” the Internet, despite all evidence pointing to NATO and its terrorist proxies. The Guardian would write in its article, “Syria shuts off internet access across the country,” that:

Syrian officials shut down nationwide internet access on Thursday and closed Damascus airport as rebels mounted offensives nearby and tried to advance on the capital from four directions. Phone networks were also crippled in much of the country, causing fear and confusion on both sides and fuelling claims that a new rebel push was gaining momentum. 

With absolutely no evidence, and even with claims by the Syrian government itself denying involvement, the Guardian shamelessly accused Damascus of cutting off the Internet, thus fueling a propaganda campaign designed to make the government in Damascus appear overbearing, tyrannical, and despotic, while attempting to create panic with a “rebels are making gains” narrative.

Image: The BBC disingenuously posted pictures of dead bodies from Iraq in its propaganda stampede regarding the alleged “Houla massacre.” While at the time such a massacre was claimed to be so brutal, the “Syrian rebels” surely could not have been capable of it, it is now revealed that these “rebels” are the ISIS terrorists now openly carrying out identical massacres on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi borders. 

It was clear at the time that it was not the Syrian government, and since then, revelations published within the pages of the Guardian itself, admit that it was the NSA, not the Syrian government, behind the outage. Shamelessly admitting the truth, with no apology to readers for misleading them, those behind British propaganda understand that the damage has already been done in the timely business of public lying.

In contrast to a more “minor” incident like baselessly accusing Syria of cutting the Internet or Russia of “invading” eastern Ukraine, all of the major British publications and broadcasters participated in the lead up to the US-UK invasion of Iraq on the patently false pretense of Baghdad possessing chemical weapons. Other notorious lies involved the “Houla Massacre,” and alleged e-mails “leaked” from the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

And while a torrent of easily verified lies pour forth from British propaganda, there is another factor to consider when weighing the objectivity and integrity of the British media. The BBC, aside from serial lies including selling the invasion of Iraq on false pretenses, paid-for documentaries, and using intentionally deceptive photographs from separate, past conflicts to depict current events, is at the center of an immense pedophile ring emanating from one of its own broadcasters it harbored and covered up for over many years, and into the highest levels of political power in British society.

Serial child-rapist Jimmy Savile, a long-time employee of the BBC, was protected by the organization despite many admitting “everyone knew” of his pedophilia. In the London Evening Standard’s article, “BBC accused of ‘cover-up’ as evidence from Savile inquiry is heavily censored,” it was reported that:

The BBC was today accused of a “cover-up” over the Jimmy Savile scandal after it published heavily censored evidence from a probe into the affair.

More than 3,000 pages of transcripts, including bitter recriminations by senior BBC staff about the dropped Newsnight investigation into the paedophile, contained significant portions of blacked-out passages.

The transcripts are based on the evidence of 19 people, including Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman, director of global news Peter Horrocks, former BBC director-general George Entwistle and BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten, who were interviewed as part of the probe.

Indeed, the BBC, while not lying about the world beyond its newsroom, is busy covering up improprieties and horrific crimes within its newsroom. The “integrity” and “objectivity” of the BBC, the Guardian, and in fact, newsrooms on both sides of the Atlantic parroting the false narratives emanating from London and Wall Street, is non-existent on any perceivable level.

So when the Guardian or the BBC claims Russian tanks are moving into Ukraine, and the Russian government is not saying as much, nor is any evidence – photographic or otherwise – presented to back up such accusations, all that we are left with is the credibility, integrity, and reputation of those making the claims – credibility, integrity, and reputation that is without doubt non-existent.

Calamity in the UK

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on May 6, 2013

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A question arose in my mind earlier when I was reading the summary of a new report with the catchy title “Sustainability and place: How emerging mega-trends of the 21st century will affect humans and nature at the landscape level“. This report basically takes a stab at where, and where is not, likely to be a good place to live … in the US. It’s an interesting read for doomsters, and it takes account of factors such as sea level rise, drought and social unrest.

I’d love to see a similar study done for Europe. As long-time readers will know, it’s something of a hobby of mine to hazard guesses about which places are going to be hit harder than others. My own guess is that the UK—a country I have voluntarily chosen to move back to after 13 years away—is going to be hit pretty hard. This is, after all, the country where the news headlines on the eve of the biggest East-West confrontation of the century featured the shocking news that Prince Harry was seen twerking at a wedding in Memphis ‘surrounded by southern belles’.

How are people going to react to news that could be said to have a more relevant bearing on them? Such as ‘Britain to run out of petrol next Wednesday’ or ‘Fires and lynchings in City of London rage for a fourth night’.

I certainly don’t want to be around any of the giant conurbations stuffed to the gunwales with disaffected, radicalised, unemployed youths when the food trucks stop rolling, the sewage systems back up and the taps run dry. I know that the current government is trying to avoid such a scenario by welcoming anyone with money into the country so that they can help inflate a number of bubbles for people to look at and pretend they are wealthy, but I’m not at all sure that such a strategy can last forever. Bear in mind that there are about 65 million people living here (in the early days of the British empire, that figure was five million, which explains all the stately homes), and the whole shebang is funded on exponentially growing debt—something that neither the right or the left will admit to. All this is going on while the political/financial elites are selling off everything that isn’t nailed down and robbing future generations of a stable future.

What’s more, it’s hard not to notice that a lot of people hate each other. I mean REALLY hate. All you have to do is show a picture of UKIP leader Nigel Farage or Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson to an audience of liberals and you’ll spark off a Two Minutes Hate. By the same token, show a picture of a wind turbine or a badger to an audience of right-wingers and you’d better get your umbrella out or face being drenched with bile. Have we always been like this?

And then there’s the self-hate thing. Does any other nation hate itself as much as the English do? Just read the comments below any politics/finance/society article in the Guardian or Telegraph or any of the other usual suspects and you’ll see what I mean. If ‘we’ are not wailing about how everything is being ruined, then we are wailing about everyone else ruining everything for us. Perhaps it just comes with the territory.

Luckily I live about as far away from all this as possible without falling into the sea, and all the fuss about the Prince Harries and Jeremy Clarksons seem a long, long way from here. I’m not a nationalist, a royalist, a jihadist or any other ist and I’m pretty comfortable being a white bloke, even though I have occasionally been told that this is something to be ashamed of. Furthermore, and happily for me, I live in Cornwall, whose people were only last week granted National Minority status, causing much jubilation among Cornish folk and much non-plussed ‘so whats?’ from resident emmets. This is seen by some as a first step towards a regional assembly, followed by autonomy and eventual nationhood (Cornwall being one of the Celtic nations, the others being Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Brittany).

“But that can’t be so!” wailed a good many English, who look down on their Cornish cousins. “Don’t you know that Cornwall is dirt poor and can only survive by having us buy up all their quaint cottages for holiday homes?” they say.

Yep, it’s true. To an extent. Cornwall is officially one of the poorest places in the whole of Europe (ranking alongside Lithuania), with London being the wealthiest. But it hasn’t always been that way—go back to the Bronze Age and this was one of the richest areas to be found anywhere. The source of those riches arose from tin, which was traded with the Greeks to make bronze for their weapons. Furthermore, the land was enriched by the application of seaweed something that is not in short supply here—making it quite a fertile bit of land. Could it be that way again? It’s mild climate makes it the best place for growing things … not least hemp, which was a prime product back in the days when it was legal. What about those mines that tunnel everywhere underneath the land? They are unprofitable in the age of oil, but what about after the age of oil? And the shipping possibilities? There is already one sail-powered cargo boat operating between Cornwall and the Caribbean – there may be more in years to come. It’s intriguing to think of what could be.

Anyway, getting back to that report, one of the conclusions was that if you want to avoid the worst effects of the collapse into scarcity-industrialism the best thing you can do is move to somewhere that is already used to missing out on the technologically obsessed turbo charged capitalist euphoria that is so fashionable these days. These areas tend to have rich land that has yet to be concreted over, and the locals are already expert in getting by with whatever resources they have to hand because they’ve been led to fend for themselves. Indeed most of the people I count as friends these days have good honest dirt under their fingernails, brew their own cider and probably don’t even know what a twerking prince looks like. So pick your area wisely.

Smoke Signals

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on February 13, 2014

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Disturbing signs and worrying whispers about two big UK financial institutions. Jesse Norman, Conservative MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire and a member of the Commons Treasury select committee, has been on Channel 4 pushing the usual RBS line about “yes these charges [of defrauding SMEs] are serious, but do they stand up?”. Even Mr Norman had to admit that the new charges “look bad, and yes, this is the third set of charges against the bank” – to be a little more accurate about it, the bank currently faces some 1700 law suits from allegedly defrauded SMEs. However, my interest in the RBS saga is not if or indeed how the crimes were committed, but why.

I’m obviously aware that senior bankers these days have the ethics of a viper, but just about every stunt pulled by Stephen Hester while he was CEO suggested desperation: we have had glitches, “mistakes”, and thinly disguised client property theft that were obviously going to be found out in the end. While he was doing this, Mr Hester was very much the Treasury’s favourite man: but then Osborne abruptly elbowed him out. We’ve never been given a credible reason why.

Now it seems RBS is going to be downgraded by Moody’s. Citing ‘concerns over the UK lender’s capital strength’, one can only assume that the abrupt profits warning in January involving ‘billions of Pounds in extra charges to cover the cost of past misconduct’ didn’t exactly endear them to the ratings agency. The truly hysterical part of all this, of course, is that neither the TSC nor the CEO of RBS seem able to gather evidence, but they do seem about to set aside “billions of Pounds” to address misconduct. These two assertions must represent about the best case of cognitive dissonance in financial history.

The fact is that RBS is 81% owned by us (well, not really us – these days, as you know, we’re merely creditors to be subordinated on a whim and a dare) and two Governments have now scoured the planet in search of a mug who might be unhinged enough to buy it. Nobody has bitten. It is, I suspect, entirely possible that RBS might involuntarily decide the outcome of the 2015 UK General Election. My view on RBS is increasingly that it is a case of when, not if.

Sadly, although in now way a basket case, also hoving into view on the potential exposure radar is the mutual bank Nationwide. I’ve heard so many tidbits, rumours and tuts about Big N over the last month, that as a customer sorry creditor myself, I’m now getting the wobbles. In some ways, the lender – it has an 82% share of the UK mortgage market – is a potential victim of its own dominance.

On the face of it, Nationwide is doing extremely well. Its most recent interim financial results (for the half year ended 30 September 2013) showed a 155% increase in underlying profit to £332 million, and a 25% increase in total underlying income to £1.39 billion. Total statutory profit was £270 million. So then: growing in size with comparatively healthy margins.

The problem for them (as by far the biggest UK housing lender) is that the UK housing market is ridiculously over-valued. And it is estimated that, in 2013/14 half year alone, Nationwide got over 30,000 first time buyers onto the property ladder: the very ones most likely to default in a housing bust. To be exact, those numbers were up 52% YOY – more than one in five of all first time buyer mortgages in the UK….and 16% of all cases advanced under the first phase of Osborne the Cunning’s Help to Buy scam sorry scheme.

I wouldn’t call that such a great idea, personally: nice of them to show willing – but it may come back to bite them.

Further – as is so often the case with lending – we are dealing with millions in income and profit, but billions in lending. Sorry to remind everyone about this, but there are a thousand millions in a billion. So although the lender’s assets are a hundred times more than its lending income, in the financial year 2012/13 Nationwide’s mortgage lending rose 17% to £21.5bn.

Nationwide has assets of around £193.3 billion…well over half of all the assets in the UK mutual lending sector. So as lending is only 11% of assets, everything’s fine, isn’t it? Er, not necessarily. We have to ask not what the assets total is, but also what the assets are…and what proportion of them are liquid.

In the September 2013 results, the lender’s core liquidity ratio was….11%. Now, remember that (a) a lot of debt is counted as an asset, (b) It’s loan to deposit ratio rose to 115.4% last year, and (c) Nationwide also faces substantial future levy payments.

Chief Executive Graham Beale writes, “To the extent that property prices have now stabilised, we expect to be less exposed to the requirement for additional provisions on impaired cases.” In short, bad debt is getting less likely.

I beg to differ. I think it’s getting more likely, I think we are going to get a bust either later this year or early next, and I think borrowers’ rates will rise early next year.

Very notably, Bank of England Governor Carney obviously agrees. I base that judgement on the fact that he has (1) devised a stress test to assess ability to survive a housing bust (2) given Nationwide a high profile in that test (3) scotched ideas of an early rate change and (4) made it clear in private that he thinks HtB is going to overheat an already over-valued market.

Mark Carney is a prudent man. He has looked at the Nationwide’s unique exposure to a bust, and he is worried.

Do we have a serial banker killer on our hands? That’s not a serious question, but the death toll keeps on rising. Harvard graduate Ryan Henry Crane, 37, used to work for JP Morgan. Another of its London-based employees committed suicide by jumping from the top floor of its Canary Wharf building two weeks ago. Crane, although young, was a high-flier: an Executive Director of JPM’s Global Program Trading desk, which has been central to the bank’s stunning record of infinitessimal trading boo-boos over time.

What most hacks don’t seem to have spotted is that Crane actually shuffled off the coil ten days ago. Yet no details were released at the time, and as yet what the bloke did after leaving the Pirate remains a mystery. Stay tuned.

Is China exporting its small-retail sector? It seems the UK isn’t the only place bending over backwards to let Chinese citizens immigrate. Since 2007, 400,000 Chinese have arrived in South Africa. The intriguing things here are first, almost all of them are from one province – Fujian – and second, they have set up (spread evenly throughout SA) some 12,000 shops.

Retired professor Colin McCarthy observes,  “All the evidence indicates that the project to set up such an extensive network of Chinese shops, all following the same pattern and targeting the same market, was well researched, well planned, well organised and well financed”.

In neighboring Namibia (where I saw the evidence of influx for myself four years ago) there were just 1,000 Chinese immigrants in 2005. Today there are upwards of 50,000. And again, they have established mainly small retail businesses – particularly in clothing and jewellery. In the industrial area of northern Windhoek, China City, a wholesale and retail centre; and Oshikango, on the border with Angola has seen hugely expanding Chinese retail: the town had 22 Chinese-owned shops 2004, 75 by 2006, and 213 by 2012.

In Athens, where the Chinese have invested heavily in Piraeus harbour, the range and volume of Chinese shops selling Chinese goods is also readily apparent.

The CPR lost 9.34 million citizens to emigration last year, and the numbers are increasing. But most of these are individuals in search of a better life: their biggest destinations are the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand…and Beijing is worried about the consequent brain drain. The retail expansion abroad, say commentators in Asia, South Africa and Greece, looks coordinated and Government-planned.

Certainly something is afoot, because the US security services are monitoring the trend: 2009 U.S. embassy cables released by Wikileaks illustrated the degree of concern.

It’s an interesting model of imperialism. But small shopkeepers are very rarely keen supporters of communism: it could be that Beijing is happy to see the back of them. Either way, it’s one to watch I think.

Ruled by Goons

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on October 17, 2013

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Okay, so I don’t normally dip my toe into the foul and fetid waters of politics, after all one Endless Growth party looks like the next to me and it’s been hard to tell the difference most of my adult life. But times seem to be changing because it is becoming increasingly clear that here in the UK we are RULED BY GOONS!

Most people these days might think that a goon is a kind of thug – and that would probably work here as well – but the definition I had in mind comes from the old radio comedy classic The Goon Show. So, according to the Urban Dictionary a goon can be a ‘stupid or oafish person’.

Yep, we’re being ruled by stupid or oafish people. You might think there are stupid and oafish people in Washington right now, but they are mere amateurs alongside our group of unintentional comedians. Seriously, slapstick would be a high art form in comparison to the high jinks our London lot get up to. Here’s a list of things they have got up to in the LAST WEEK. Yes, in just a week (or maybe slightly longer in some cases, but no more than two weeks), they have been hard at work putting on their cabaret show with the following list of performances:

[Drumroll]

1 – Top of any Goonshow list has to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. Yes, this former Oxford graduate, former member of the riotous male-only dining clique the Bullingdon Club (the entry requirements of which include burning a £50 note in the face of a homeless person) is still telling us that the British economy is growing and that the worst is behind us.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne before he grew up (left) and now

This week George was on a trip to China, trying to woo them. He met lots of Chinese students and businessmen and then told British people that we were to stop treating them like factory drones and show some respect. Oh, then he offered to waive the visa rules for ultra-rich Chinese businessmen and furthermore offered the Chinese the chance to run 100% of Britain’s future nuclear power stations.

As if the prospect of this was not scary enough, we were also told that we could soon be policed by foreign police forces – our own presumably being too expensive. So, we can imagine, when some Chinese tycoon decides to build a nuke down the end of my road, I can expect ex Red Army policemen to clobber me and any attempt to protest.

Other Osborne moments this week include the demolishing of his housing bubble inflator policy instrument ‘Help to Buy’ by the newly minted Nobel economist Robert Shiller. Read all about it via the Automatic Earth here.

2 – Second in the Goonshow hit parade is Envrionment Secretary Owen Paterson – the man charged with looking after the environment – saying that climate change was ‘not all bad‘. Yes, there are bright spots, according to him. It will be warmer, chuckle, and we won’t have to fly to Spain for holidays. What’s more, he said, not so many people will die of cold in the winter (see below) which, for some reason, he seems to think is the ‘leading cause of death for humans’ (?). He also revealed that some people take it all too seriously and should just try and relax a bit and have some fun.

3 – And Owen Paterson is in third place as well. The long protested-against badger cull has been proceeding now for some weeks, with many of the furry mammals beloved of Beatrix Potter and Queen’s Brian May having been forced to eat hot lead in order to appease the Tory-voting farming unions. Alas, when marksmen failed to notch up enough black and white corpses the ‘scientific cull’ was deemed a failure.

Who is to blame for this debacle?

The badgers themselves, of course. Mr Paterson says the creatures ‘moved the goalposts’ – presumably by resisting being genocided. Scientists all along had said that the cull was pointless and unscientific, but farmers wanted ‘something’ done about the spread of TB into their herds of cattle.

4 – In fourth place – although he usually deserves to be a lot higher up – is our leader and fellow Bullingdon Club goon Mr David Cameron. Mr ‘C3PO made out of Spam’ rattles off any number of jaw-droppers every time he opens his mouth, but what clangers has he come up with recently? Well, there’s that picture of him asleep on a bed with his secret red box that was posted on Instagram by his sister in law as she was getting dressed (!).

The man asleep in the background runs the UK. Or thinks he does.

Then there was the repeated claim that shale gas drilling is beneficial for the UK following the ‘amazing’ success story in the US.

And then there was the woeful privatisation of the Royal Mail overseen by his government this week – reminiscent of the lowest ‘greed is good’ days of the Thatcher era. The Royal Mail, which is approaching its 500th birthday, was sold off dirt cheap, with the lion’s share going to big City firms. Little investors were also eager to grab some shares and cash them in, and the Daily Goonagraph – sorry Telegraph – even had a moving share ticker as its headline, showing how much dosh ‘the little man’ was making minute by minute.

Today, fearing for their jobs (and rightly so), workers at the newly privatised organisation voted to go on strike.

Finally, still with Cameron, following today’s announcement by British Gas that it will raise its prices another 10% or so – even though many people now cannot afford to eat and heat their home – announced that people should ditch the company. Never mind that the, er, competitors will all follow suit and that his own government revealed that it is cutting money set aside to insulate poor people’s homes.

Let them eat snow flakes!

This fuel poverty message in Manchester gets the point across about energy firms in the UK

Oh, and one last thing, Mr C using his most threatening growly voice has said the Guardian newspaper should be ‘investigated’ for publishing NSA revelations. This follows on from the new press charter that is being put into place that will severely restrict what newspapers are allowed to say about our illustrious rulers. Here’s Private Eye’s (ever welcome) take on it all.

5 – In fifth place is the entire Foreign Office, who with perfect timing, announced that the UK is to become the ‘hub’ for drilling the bejesus out of the Arctic to get at all the oil and gas there. Yes, just days after 30 mostly British members of Greenpeace were arrested and slung into the Gulag by Russia for protesting against Arctic drilling, and only weeks after the IPCC reconfirmed that we are going to hell in a hand basket unless we stop burning fossil fuels the FO deems it a good time to make this bold claim to getting a ‘piece of the action’ up north. It’s great to know that the government is concerned about the climate.

6 – In sixth place is our favourite parliamentary clown Owen Paterson again. This time he really pushed the boat out by saying that opponents of all that nice genetically modified food stuff that his big business pals want to force upon the world are ‘wicked‘. Yes, that would make people who oppose GM food evil. They are apparently guilty of ‘killing millions of innocent children’! Well I never.

Owen Paterson conducting some experiments on genes in his home lab

7 – No list of Tory goons would be complete without London’s ‘Lord’ mayor Boris Johnson aka BoJo. He doesn’t have to do anything other than just continuing to exist to be included on any goon list, but here he is, saying that all English school children must now learn Mandarin rather than French. To force home this point, he flew over Hong Kong in a helicopter earlier today having being voted ‘England’s most patriotic politician’ – thus the Churchillain repose.

‘BoJo’ – apparently ‘England’s most patriotic politician’
Boris Johnson on fracking:

“The extraction process alone would generate tens of thousands of jobs in parts of the country that desperately need them. And above all, the burning of gas to generate electricity is much, much cleaner – and produces less CO2 – than burning coal. What, as they say, is not to like?
In their mad denunciations of fracking, the Greens and the eco-warriors betray the mindset of people who cannot bear a piece of unadulterated good news. Beware this new technology, they wail. Do not tamper with the corsets of Gaia! Don’t probe her loamy undergarments with so much as a finger — or else the goddess of the earth will erupt with seismic revenge. Dig out this shale gas, they warn, and our water will be poisoned and our children will be stunted and our cattle will be victims of terrible intestinal explosions.”

8 – In eighth place a joint award goes to 80% of the UK population who failed to notice any of the above because they have become obsessed with a) A TV programme about baking cakes, b) A TV programme about celebrities doing ballroom dancing and c) A TV programme which features a couple having sex in a box in front of an audience which is then analysed by a panel of ‘sexperts’.

Oh, and the football was on (England won).

Sex Box: takes voyeurism to a whole new level

Ever feel like the kids are in charge at the kindergarten?

Update

As George points out in his comment below, I forgot to include the Education Secretary Michael Gove.  No gallery of goons would be complete without the man who is pushing through such draconian – and frankly pointless – education reforms that teachers refer to him as the ‘school bully‘ and even went on strike against him yesterday.

And finally …

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who publicly told a woman who had been historically abused to “Adjust your medication,” after he refused to help her out.

Pickles: Adjust your medication

Okay … that’s enough (I know, I should have mentioned William Hague)!

Dumbstruck

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on July 9, 2013

Blackout Britain

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“Does Andy Murray winning Wimbledon mean that we are headed for the economic good times again?” asked pretty much every news outlet in Britain yesterday. We were even treated to an ebullient Jon Snow on Channel 4 News prancing around on London’s Primrose Hill in the summer evening sun asking bemused onlookers whether their consumer confidence had improved over the last 48 hours (to their credit they all looked baffled by the question, perhaps suggesting that those who live in the media-land bubble should get out more).
But the headlines keep coming thick and fast. Here in Britain we are told that a house price boom is on the way. But if that’s the case then who’s buying? It certainly isn’t the kind of people for which owning a house would be rather useful, say, young people starting up a family. Instead, demand seems to be driven by the increasingly ubiquitous buy-to-let landlords, keen to make a killing out of a desperate situation. Some of these ‘ordinary people’ have amassed hundreds – even thousands – of properties, which they let out to those unable to afford their own. One recently boasted that he ‘earned’ £35,000 a week, meaning he could go on and buy a few hundred more properties and become even wealthier.
Presumably some algorithm somewhere has decided that I might be a good BTL landlord as I keep receiving emails from companies wanting to make me rich. But given that so many people are now being forced into usually sub-standard accommodation, presided over by a rentier class indifferent to their plight I find myself wondering when the day will come when landlord killing becomes a fashionable sport again. Britain might be running out of money, but there are still plenty of lampposts and miles of rope.
Although, whenever I express sentiments like the one above I am inevitably accused of being gloomy, or depressive or, worst of all, boring. I have to say, it’s hardly a barrel of laughs pointing out repeatedly the emperor’s lack of clothing, and sometimes I’m tempted to just stop typing this stuff and get with the programme. You know, perhaps economics can be sentiment based – perhaps scientists will come up with that wonder fuel after all, and maybe those climate scientists who say it’s one minute to midnight really are just after a new research grant. Comforting thoughts indeed.
But then the fundamentals come screaming back at you and you can’t tie your tongue. Schadenfreude is a horrible word, and not just because it’s difficult to say (or spell). What makes it even worse is the fact that you can raise your voice as loud as you can, and even when you are proved repeatedly right, most people won’t accept the truth of what’s in front of their noses. That seemingly apparent truth is that the age of limits is upon us, not that you’d know it from the media and all the assorted ‘experts’ who are wheeled out of their ivory cubicles to pontificate on topics concerning the future.
We are apparently in an economic recovery. The US jobs market is booming, and Chinese people now all own at least one BMW.
Never mind the ‘fundamentals’, such as the velocity and supply of money – that is money in the ‘real’ economy away from QE. Here’s a chart put up by The Automatic Earth:
In this case it is looking at the US and that supposed ‘boom’ that they are having over there. Yes, there’s a boom going on alright as the chart shows – a boom in government credit creation that is being transferred more or less directly into the coffers of the biggest investment banks for them to sit on and do nothing with. This is money that current and future generations of Americans now owe the government. And the velocity of money – that is, the speed at which it travels around the economy from one hand to the next – is also experiencing a massive boom – if you turn the chart upside down.
But, hey, back in Britain again we will all soon be sitting in driverless cars designed by Google (never mind that the government is running out of money to fix the potholes in the roads). And the next big boom area is the fusion of biotech and robotics where ‘the line between human and robot will become blurred’. And by genetically engineering crops and handing over their ‘patents’ to corporations we ‘will cure world hunger’. Obama has vowed to ‘light up Africa’s darkness’ by electrifying the continent. Ten billion people on planet Earth is ‘not a problem’.
I don’t know about you but this maelstrom of voices is starting to make me dizzy. Perhaps I should just tune off and live in a cave, as an increasing number of people seem to be doing.
But what is really confounding is the sheer amount of misinformation out there that somehow possesses the almost magical ability to coalesce into ‘fact’. Perhaps it’s just a result of our over-complex society and will go away in due course. Thus, we are told that fracking gas in Britain will give us enough energy for 100 years. Fact. No argument. No dissent permitted.
Mention the very real limits which make this pipe dream unachievable and you are inevitably accused of being overly negative. But I can now see quite clearly how events are shaping up in Britain and how we will go down screaming and battling one another as the dead weight of entropy pulls us beneath the waves. The problem is, we are literally running out of the kind of energy flows we need to make a modern industrial economy tick over. North Sea oil and gas is dropping like a rock, wind and solar are frankly useless for anything other than small scale applications, nuclear is a giant sickly radioactive white elephant that is running out of current buns, and any other energy source that you care to think of is so riddled with problems that it beggars belief that people buy into it.
But, hey, seaweed will save the world, according to the Guardian.
But as the needle on Britain’s fuel gauge hovers ever closer to the orange area I wonder what the reaction from the population at large will be when the lights literally do go out – as we were warned would happen by 2015 by no less than the energy regulator Ofgem a couple of weeks ago. Will people say ‘Oh well, it was nice having fossil powered energy while it lasted but now I’ll just trade in my Ford Fiesta for a donkey, get a job as a day labourer on a farm and tell the kids that they’ll have an even harder time of it than me.” Or will they scream blue murder at the politicians and energy companies, march en masse through the streets and elect a wide-eyed militant loony who promises to ‘restore Britain’s glory’?
Predictably, the news about the increased risk of blackouts in 2015 was met with a barrage of denial by politicians and industrialists. “The lights will not be going out,” was the peeved response. There was a subtext to that response, of course, and the subtext was ‘Unless we let them go out by not fracking the life out of the country, letting the French and Chinese build a new generation of nuclear power station and opening up some of the coal mines that Maggie shut down because they were so hard to get the coal out of. Indeed all we have to do is try harder to keep the lights on – if we all join hands, scrunch up our eyes and shout at the top of our voices:
The lights are going to stay on! 
The lights are going to stay on!
We refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the laws of thermodynamics!
We are too clever to sit in the dark! 
Our way of life is not negotiable!
That should do the trick.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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