Saturday, 22 November 2014

Bashing More Than Metal

In the disputes about climate change it is often claimed that past social and economic collapses can be attributed to this.

As the science involved in much of the research is complex and continually evolving, fresh examinations can lead to revisions of both history and perspective.

One relatively recent population shock is the ending of the Bronze Age when the world turned and climate change in the same period appeared to be the major reason.

New recent studies at the University of Bradford, hat tip to Archaeologica, have led to a different view. It wasn't the weather, it was us, or rather our ancestors, that were the problem.


"According to Professor Armit, social and economic stress is more likely to be the cause of the sudden and widespread fall in numbers. Communities producing bronze needed to trade over very large distances to obtain copper and tin.

Control of these networks enabled the growth of complex, hierarchical societies dominated by a warrior elite. As iron production took over, these networks collapsed, leading to widespread conflict and social collapse.

It may be these unstable social conditions, rather than climate change, that led to the population collapse at the end of the Bronze Age."


There is something strangely familiar about all this.

Friday, 21 November 2014

White Vans Rule The Road

It is time to admit to a deep prejudice which causes me to make discriminatory and sometimes offensive remarks about my fellow men, mostly, few women are in this category.

It is people who drive white vans and cause me problems or worries.  The most common is those who drive a foot or two behind my back bumper and who flash lights and blast their horns.

My reason for obeying the road signs is not simply because my usual passenger offers directive advice on the subject but what happens if I get speeding tickets in terms of points on licence with the effect then on insurance charges or at worst loss of the use of my license.

There are other inconveniences they cause.  One is shooting the red at traffic lights, especially at junctions without clear vision of the other roads.

Another is  fast inside overtaking in complex traffic systems.  Yet another is parking on a narrow road in such a way as to cause long tailbacks or creating dangerous situations.

The most likely to incite a reaction is cutting up in busy traffic or weaving about the road when communicating on phones or checking satellite directions.

Yes, I know I should be tolerant and accept that these are the folkways and mores of a population group who are on our roads to promote economic growth and provide the services needed by our communities.

So when Emily Thornberry, busted from being Shadow Attorney General for Tweeting allegedly snobbish comments about this group, takes flak, there is a sneaking sympathy in spite of her being a senior figure in the Labour Party.  If she has been carved up a few times on the road I can understand her taking a shot.

What we seem to forget is that a good many white van drivers these days are in fact self employed and as such are under different forms of incentive and working conditions to many ordinary workers in distribution in the past.

The flying of the flags of the Cross of St. George at the driver's house pictured by Ms. Thornberry may be that he is a football supporter.  Perhaps she should do penance by turning up at Wembley now and again.

Now that really would teach her a lesson.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Well, I'll Be Fracked

The debate over the nature and impact of fracking is one to be wary of given the complicated science and other things, notably costs, prices and general economic impact.

This article in E Science caught the eye in that it admits that a variety of chemicals are involved.

What is striking is the claim that many of them are more or less the same as in the products in your kitchen, bathroom and for that matter the fridge and freezer.

What I really want to know is whether, down below, are vast reserves of cheap ice cream?

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

What If The SNP.......

After the 2015 General Election the arithmetic of the membership of the House of Commons may be complicated.  How many members any party might have is uncertain.   Quite what this or that party will do is a matter of guessing games or tentative assumptions.

At the moment the question relating to the Scottish National Party is what will Alec Salmond do next?  He might, he might not contest this Parliamentary seat or that. What others need to think about is what happens if the SNP do achieve the numbers currently suggested.

They might go onto the Opposition Benches to vote according to their policies.  They might have some working agreement with others in Opposition.  On the other hand they might be part of a new Coalition in order to extract demands and money.

But what happens if they decide not to turn up at Westminster but just form a conclave in Edinburgh as a Scottish Government in waiting?  Has anyone thought this one through yet?

It would remove at a stroke the issue about Scots voting on English matters at the same time as evading responsibility for any unpopular decisions that have to be made.

The worst is if they decide to turn up only now and again for purely disruptive purposes.  If things turn out as bad as they might do and urgent and unpopular decisions have to be made might they block the Budget or try to trigger a collapse in market confidence in the UK?

What other areas of policy are there which could be a source of real problems?  Inevitably, there is the basic question of EU membership together with a raft of other EU matters.  It's budget and the many and various obligations causing grief at the present time.

Then there is the big nasty of migration.  The SNP at present seem to be for open borders.  Whether that can last is a real question.  Clearly if England want more and far tighter border controls there is scope for some ugly debate and trouble.

Where this might lead to who knows?  But it will be bitter and strong with all sort of implications.  My fantasy here is what might happen if Scotland welcomes large numbers from its former domain, the Sub Continent now comprising India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Ceylon.

We might yet see Skinner's Horse parading in Edinburgh for a future President of Scotland.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Horns Of A Dilemma

Trawling old newspapers for some bits of information saw an item from late in 1868 about Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, being taken out by a rampant stag while hunting in the Forest of Compiegne north of Paris.

Although unhorsed, he had only minor injuries, was able to remount and continue the hunt.  This was intriguing in that it was very close in date to fifty years later when The Armistice was signed in a railway carriage in the forest to bring World War One to an end.

But what if the stag had done for him?  There are many and various possibilities.  One in the period is that the political fall out and other matters may have meant that the Franco-Prussian War may not have occurred as it did.  Doubtless Germany may have come to be united, but it may have been at another time and on a different basis.

There were his two sons to succeed him, both very young, Albert Victor and George, whose upbringing and education may well have been different if Queen Victoria had taken charge.  Also a much greater role may have been played by his younger brothers. 

The next in line to Edward was Alfred, Duke of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, who died in 1900.  The next son was Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, who married Princess Louise of Prussia.  The next then was Leopold, Duke of Albany, who had haemophilia and died young.

It was Edward who came to be closely associated with France and popular in Paris because of his appreciation of its many and various delights.  It is argued that as King after 1901 he may have been a moving force in the shift of British foreign policy to support for and alliance with the French as opposed to our traditional dislike and opposition.

If either Alfred or Arthur had managed to strike up and maintain a level of friendship and closeness with Emperor Wilhelm of Germany, not only might the 1914 war have been different, it may not have happened at all.

If only it had been a bigger stag.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Moving Futures

As the sun of the world economy sinks slowly in the East there is an air of panic now in some quarters, notably those where either elections are due or they have realised, too late, that the mess from last time has not yet been cleared up.

There has been a good deal of discussion and anxiety about Japan is ceasing to be one of the engines of the world economy and is now simply trying to keep things on hold by large scale monetary activity that is unusual and risky.

But around the web it is not all doom and gloom.  There are those who hope for the best.  There are others who think that our world leaders can agree solutions and action.  But there are many who think all our times have come.

A more sanquine view is taken by Frances Coppola if you follow the link to her Pieria article which is longish and discursive.  It is still not good news for those who demand ever increasing growth or expansion.  It suggests that an ageing Japan might just be able to potter on.

But Japan's overall situation is not the same as others.  So this option is not available to all the high debt nations.  The people who do population point to nations with a growing number of old contrasting with those of growing numbers of young with little future. Their idea is to move the young to the ageing economies.

But why not send the old to where the young are?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Think About It

The above was in a newspaper of 1868 on a page full of reports about political riots, mining accidents and criminal activities. For some reason it appealed.

Among the reports was one mentioning Rupert Potter, a leading practising barrister of Lincoln's Inn being among the speakers at a meeting at The Adelphi discussing how to deal with criminals.  Human Rights were not on the agenda.

Rupert was the father of Beatrix Potter, the famed writer of children's books.  He was politically very active in the Liberal Party, notably close to John Bright.

Also, a neighbour in The Lakes was Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Baronet of Brayton, whose statue is on The Embankment in London, another senior Liberal who was a notable fox hunter.

Rupert was an excellent shot, often being out with the best on The Glorious Twelfth and active elsewhere.

I wonder if Beatrix became fed up with eating rabbit pie?