The intellectual President

Good news from Ireland, it would seem that the Labour party candidate (note to brit’s: that’s an actual labour workers-of-the-world-unite-type party not Tories wt red ties as in the UK) Micheal D. Higgins is almost certain to be elected President of Ireland.

This for me is a bit of a welcome surprise. You see while personally I reckoned Michael D. Higgins would make an excellent president of the country (whose role is largely ceremonial, like the queen except without the Corgie’s or all the royal pomp), his campaign suffered from one glaring flaw – he frequently called himself “an intellectual”. Worse still, he wrote down in his CV “lecturer” and “poet” as his job titles! On the TV debates while Sean “Brown envelopes” Gallagher and Martin “bomber” McGuinness were arguing over who was the biggest crook, Micheal D was composing poetry about the existential nature of the body politic.

What had me worried until today was that recent elections have not been kind to intellectuals. Look at Bush v’s Gore in the 2000’s. Bush, who was so thick that he could barely spell his own name, and narrowly avoided a couple of Darwin award nominations (notably in his first year being nearly killed by a pretzel), nearly won that election before being given the job by the supreme court. By contrast Gore was so smart he single handily solved Global Warming, invented the internet and cured cancer simultaneously (okay I’m exaggerating a little 😉 ). Indeed looking at the poll numbers its clear than many in Fine Gael and Fianna Fail (both right wing parties) must have cross party lines to vote for Micheal D. Higgins. So a tip of the hat to my fellow Irish for being so sensible….

….And a wag of my finger at the 243,030 who voted for Martin left-IRA-in-1974-&-just-obeying-orders-before-then Mc Guinness. Do you really want him as the country’s president? He’d be installing a mortar firing range in the Phoenix Park, the Yanks would want to put him through a metal detector before letting him in the White House, and he’d need to fit a special set of two letter boxes to the Aras, one for the letter bombs and the other for the brown envelopes. Its bad enough with his Gerriness the Baron of Northstead in Leinster house, but McGuinness would have been a step too far.

But I can forgive many of those voting for Mc Guinness, as I know that for many it was a protest vote against the failings of the political system. He was always there as a spoiler candidate. What is truly inexcusable is 51,220 who voted for Dana! For those not from the Emerald Isle thinking, I’ve heard that name before, no its not this Dana but the crazy other one. What is her claim to fame? She won the eurovision song contest (I swear I ain’t making this up!) and went to America and came back a religious nut job who makes Bachmann sound like a whinny pro-choice liberal. How can so many people in Ireland be that dumb? She’s essentially the Irish equivalent of the Westboro Baptist church, in that she shows up anywhere that she can draw publicity to herself and her lunatic cause. Consequently if there was a referendum giving everyone the right to breath she’d nominate herself in charge of the “no breathing” campaign.

But in the end we’ve got the best candidate for the job. Of course this “Intellectual” business could be a bit of a problem if Perry or Bachmann win the next US election, as there’s a not to serious risk that you put Michael D in the same room with them, he’ll either talk them into becoming socialists or read them some of his poetry until they gnaw they’re own legs off. Needless to say he won’t be doing much “bunga, bunga” if we send him to Italy!

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The case against a English pull out of the EU

I know I’m a little behind the times here, but last week, there was of course an attempt by several Tories, who’ve clearly been reading the Daily Mail a little too often (tip to Cameron, insist everyone in the Party should not read it anymore!), to try to force a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. It was of course roundly defeated as anyone whose vaguely sane, even those like Cameron who are sceptical of the EU recognises that a British pull out would be an utter disaster for the country. But it is worrying when you here various opinion polls by the right wing media claiming as many of 70% of Brits want to leave the EU (of course it has to be remembered that this 70% of Express/Mail/Telegraph readership). But just to get the message across loud and clear let us explore the consequences for an English withdrawal from the EU.

Firstly you will note my use of the “E word”. Haven’t I forgotten about Scotland and Wales you say? Well no, its just you’re assuming that Wales and Scotland are still part of the UK and its likely they will not be. Both these regions have the most to loose from a UK withdrawal from the EU. Euro scepticism is at its strongest in England and relatively low levels in Scotland and Wales. Given the profound implications of a UK withdrawal from the EU would have on them, they would be well within their rights (and of course the nationalist parties in these regions will certainly insist on this) to demand a supplementary question on the ballot paper asking that if England withdraws from the EU that they can choose to stay in by gaining independence (rather than being dragged kicking and screaming out of the EU by England).

As I’ve pointed out in my prior post, the scales are largely balanced against Scottish independence, but excessive or unwarranted interference by Westminster in Scottish affairs could easily swing things in the nationalist favour. So the first casualty of a UK pull out could well be the United Kingdom itself (so it should really be the English Independence Party EIP rather than UKIP).

The second casualty will be the “special relationship” with America. What many forget is that the EU was originally an Anglo-American idea, a sort of “United States of Europe” (as Churchill put it). To the Americans a unified Europe won’t be fight world wars against each other, would act as bastion against communist expansion and most importantly mean they won’t have to learn all those funny European languages and the names of all those countries 😉 . Post-war a good deal of the reason why the Americans have continued this “special relationship” is because they saw the UK as their ally within the EU. Obviously if the UK is no longer in the club, then one has to question whether it is any longer in America’s best interest to maintain this relationship, rather than try to foster better links with the remaining EU countries, or pick another EU member to be their best buddy. Obviously I’m not suggesting they’ll break off relations with Britain (and take they’re Trident missiles back!) or anything like that, but they will certainly be spending more time schmoozing actual EU member states rather than wasting time with the British and inevitably the “special relationship” will then suffer or disappear.

And note that if that sounds far fetched, consider the consequences of Britain’s decision not to join the Euro – best thing that ever happened to Ireland!…or was it the worst thing? Sceptical (and hostile) though America always was towards the Euro, many American multinationals wanted a foothold in what was (and still is) the world’s largest collective economy. With Ireland now the only English speaking nation in the Eurozone, many of these companies choose to base their EU headquarters in Dublin, spurring onwards the Celtic Tiger…to the point where our economy overheated mind! But the fact is, there is a substantial element of the British/US axis that is based purely on the fact that the UK is in the EU. If England leaves the EU altogether, these same International financers will also leave and take their money with them, probably to Ireland or Scotland (if it’s now independent).

The third casualty will be the Commonwealth. If you think about, why in their right mind do the Aussies and Canadians want an elderly German lady who lives thousands of miles away as their sovereign? Why does India want anything to do with its ex-colonial masters? The simple reason why is because the Commonwealth wedges that European trade door open for them and their nations goods. It also make travelling to the EU that little bit easier. Obviously if the UK isn’t in the EU anymore the question will be asked by many why exactly are with in this club? And already many in Australia are questioning the wisdom of the commonwealth. The economic and strategic consequences for Britain of a loss of or breakup of the commonwealth would be quite significant.

Also, as David Cameron knows, it’s better to be in the room than outside it. As the expression goes keep you’re friends close, you’re enemies even closer. One of the things that is really worrying him right now is the fact that the Eurozone countries seem to be forming their own little private members club, within the EU. But at least the UK has some input into any decisions on the EU sovereign debt crisis bailout. If Britain was no longer in the EU, then it can no longer influence nor veto EU policy. Indeed it would learn about EU policy via BBC news rather than by attending summit meetings. Take the financial transaction tax on the table right now. No way that’s going ahead with Britain in the EU , although I have to say that I think its a great idea (but I accept the Tories, i.e. the Eurosceptics, don’t agree with me). With Britain outside…its a strong possibility. And the EU could well make it a condition of doing business in the eurozone that other countries must abide by this FT tax too (or face a 10% punitive tax on all transactions). This would have a very serious impact on the city of London, probably crippling it.

In another example take the Eurofighter. This is basically a taxpayer funded British welfare to work scheme. But with Britain out of the EU the temptation for the Germans and Italians to cancel their orders (buying or licence building Rafale’s or Gripen’s instead) and dump the whole sorry mess on the British taxpayer will be too much for Berlin and Rome to resist. What’s that you say? It will mean 10,000 British jobs going? What’s the German for tough tity! Another example, there is talk about harmonising energy supplies across Europe and having a pan-European energy and climate change policy. Its worth noting that the UK is already dependant, to a limited degree, on French electricity (from nuclear power stations, further note that the owner and likely builder of Nuclear reactors in Britain is a French state owned company) and Russian gas (that reaches the country via European pipelines). Once the UK is no longer in the EU it will be beholden to the risk that important decisions on these matters will be taken that will drastically effect the countries energy supply (read keeping the lights on) that it will be unable to influence or veto in any way. If Scotland leaves too (taking the oil and most of the UK’s hydroelectric and wind energy capacity with them) then basically Britain will permanently find itself a large net importer of energy, at the mercy of international events and decision taken by neighbouring governments.

The UKIP lot will often try to extradite themselves from these obvious dilemma’s by saying oh, we’ll just sign a free trade agreement with the EU. And what makes you think Brussels will agree to a free trade agreement with Britain? It will have nothing to gain from that. At the very least the UK would have to agree to keep on its books much EU law and trading standards as a condition of such a free trade agreement (which from the eurosceptics point of view would largely defeat the purpose of withdrawal in the first place!). And the EU certainly won’t entertain British “interference” in any matter that it now considers as internal EU issue, even if the decision ultimately impacts on Britain (did the EU invite Iceland or Switzerland to the recent economic summit?).

Of course the irony is that many of the things the tabloids frequently blame the EU for, Metrification, Health and Safety culture, the Human rights act, Romanian gypsies and Asylum seekers are of course not the fault of the EU. No, in many cases it is as a consequence of legalisation passed by British parliaments, and in some cases by the conservative party! While the EU may, for example, be in favour of Metrification, Merkel has never put a gun to queen’s head and said “sell beer in half litre glasses or the Corgie’s get it”. This policy has been largely driven by sucessive British governments since the 1960’s (i.e. before the UK even joined the EU in the 1970’s!) for a variety of unrelated reasons.

Pulling out of the EU would not necessarily mean that any of these problems listed above would go away. Actually some of them could get worse. Would the French now make any effort to keep Asylum seekers out of Britain if England’s no longer an EU country? I suspect they’ll start providing free shuttle busses for them from Marseilles to Calais! It’s been generally the contradictory decisions of British judges and a lack of a UK constitution that has got Britain tided up in knots with the Human rights act. Again, without the EU it’s possible this situation will get worse not better. Remember that for Labour and the Lib dems plus many smaller parties the Human rights act is a red line issue; they will not go into coalition (and will walk out of any) government that touches it (of course the same equally goes for EU membership). As soon as the conservatives are out of power they’ll re-impose it. Elf ‘n’Safety is largely a consequence of the more mercenary and litigious nature of modern day British society, again a lack of a British constitution and SAPS (Save Ass Policy Schemes) rather than anything to do with the EU, so no joy here either.

So the end result of a pull out is a probable break up of the UK, a cooling of the relations (and trade) with America, a loss of influence in the commonwealth and a general reducing of Britain….sorry! England’s standing in the world. There would inevitably be economic repercussions and those would largely be negative, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of jobs lost sort of stuff. Consider that trade with the EU countries represents 60% of UK’s trade (compared to 16% with the US), representing 3.2 million jobs, or 12% of the entire UK GDP (from a UK government report, supported by academic source here).

This of course raises the question, in the event of a withdrawal, as too how long before Britain has to think about re-applying for EU membership. I’m reminded of this cartoon from the Simpson’s, where Mr Burns has two doors into his office, one for new applicants to work at the plant….and a dog flat for “re-applicants” to crawl through (so he can say “well look who’s came crawling back”). I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the French will be pushing for something similar in the event of an English withdrawal. Certainly the EU is being a lot stricter these days about membership (the clubhouse is getting kind of full!) and it’s highly unlikely that England would be allowed back in under conditions as generous as it currently enjoys. There are a host of laws that without Britain in the room to veto that would get passed and inevitably the UK would now have to take on these laws as a condition for re-entry, plus a couple of other nasties (such as tax harmonisation) which the Germans and French often bring up (when they’re in a “lets yank the brit’s chain” sort of mood!)

Consequently if your pro-European one has to argue that it’s better to be inside the EU and trying to reform it (you will note I have never once suggested that everything is rosy in the EU garden) than outside sulking. And if you’re anti-EU you have an even stronger incentive to be in the EU, as who knows what the Eurocrats will get up!

The Great Independence Game

It was perhaps inevitable that the SNP would let the victory in the local elections go to their heads. The thing is that their mantra of “independence, independence, independence” now seems to have spread to the media. I was driving around a lot this weekend and had to turn off the radio as I got sick of them going on and on about independence :lalala:, change the record guys! )-o

But still it does raise some interesting questions. For starters the SNP now seems to be contemplating more than one independence option. There’s Devo Max (when I first heard that on BBC Scotland I thought it was some new soft drink they were promoting :))) which would see the devolution of considerably more power to Holyrood but Scotland still part of the union. Then there’s Independence lite (independence for slimmer’s? Alex Salmond I assume might need to consider that one ;D ) which would see Scotland as a sovereign independent state but with an open border and still using the pound (or real fucking money as its called by Scots who go south) as currency. And there was me thinking independence was a matter of everyone going south to the border, mooning the English and saying “now get yous to fuck” before putting up a fence, guarded by specially trained killer haggis :D.

My take on this is that while I’m minded to support independence, it certainly has worked in Ireland’s favour, it has to been at the right time, in the right circumstances and on the right conditions. I’m not convinced yet that those have been met. I’m reminded for example of Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight rubbing it in Nicola Sturgeon’s face (different engagement here but still worth watching), the fact that the bulk of what ship building remains on the Clyde (her constituency!) is for ships of the Royal Navy. Will the Brit’s still be wanting to build ships in what is now a foreign country post independence? If so why Scotland? There are plenty of other shipyards in mainland Europe who could offer a much better deal.

I would certainly see some benefit in some more devolved power, notably on the issue of energy. And I bring that one up largely because Scotland at least seems to have some sort of an energy policy while Westminster doesn’t seem to have a clue. But I reckon these SNP lot have just watched Braveheart or Highlander once too often. And yes I know I voted for them (partially) but I also stated that voting for them did not necessarily translate into a vote for Scottish independence. In the middle of one of the worst economic crises in world history is about the worst time to even think about such a move.

Indeed the whole reason why “Devo Lite” or “Independent Max” (sorry I got those mixed up didn’t I :>> ) is precisely because the SNP knows that the bulk of Scots are not convinced. If they can’t get full independence then they know they’ll have to settle for something a little more subdued.

Of course if there’s one thing that could swing things in the SNP’s favour it is ironically enough, the Tory’s. The litmus test for independence is can Westminster keep its nose out of matters that are clearly Scottish affairs. If the answer is no, then devolution isn’t working so independence has to be considered. It was the consequence of Ireland being dragged into World War I and a heavy handed over-reaction by the British authorities to the Easter Rising that convinced Ireland that “Home Rule” (the 1910’s term for Devolution) wasn’t going to work as Westminster couldn’t resist the temptation to meddle in Irish affairs and pushed the nation towards full independence. Similarly the Tory’s need to realise that the biggest threat to the union right now is them and the more reactionary elements in their party, not Alex Salmond.

And all the indicators I see are that there is a real danger of this happening. In the immediate wake of the SNP victory I heard a couple of things on Sky and in the Telegraph that all but confirmed my worst fears. These Tory’s talked about how, oh, great! Leave then whose stopping you! you go out that door don’t think we’ll be letting you back in! Besides, the Scot’s can’t just break away like that, why if you look at this piece of goat skin here in paragraph three you’ll see King William IV says we’re BFF’s (unless they present him with a invisible pink unicorn), and why we’d need to hold a referendum down in England too (rather than Scotland dumping the English, the English might want to dump the Scots’ first), and transfer Scotland’s share of the debts to them, and keep the oil (naturally we found it don’t you know!), and we’d have to have a lengthy period of negotiation about it all (who gets to keep the cat and everything), but I’ve got cricket on Thursdays and oh, you’re just going to mess things up now! Think of the children (Wales?)!

All I’ve heard from the anti-independence lot is a lot of childish nonsense, exactly what the SNP want the Tory’s to keep on saying. What the Tory’s doing seem to realise is that such talk could easily stir many Scots towards voting in favour of independence. I suspect Alex danced a wee jig after the election. The best time for Scotland to try for indepedence, as the SNP see it, is when the Tories are in charge down south, as they’ll inevitably piss people off north of the border. The call on Cameron to pre-emit the SNP by initiating a referendum himself (which has been talked about) sounds to me like a really bad idea. I can all but guarantee that this would likely backfire, badly!

I also don’t think the Tory’s seem to realise that there are two golden rules of history. “Power is rarely given, its usually taken“. While it would be important to achieve an amicable divorce, in the event of a Yes vote (unlikely though that is), there will be a limit to Scottish patience on this. Beyond a certain point Holyrood will basically tell Westminster to feck off, hold a second snap referendum on what they consider should be the terms of independence and with the will of the people behind them, implement that unilaterally. If Westminster has a problem with that, they can go whistle dixie.

And while we’re talking about it, the door swings both ways here. If Scotland has to take on its share of the UK debt, then surely that entitles Scotland to its share of what that debt was run up paying for. Shouldn’t Scotland not also get 1/8 of the Royal navy, including a 1/8 of the Trident submarine fleet plus nukes (while Scotland may not want to hang on to these I’m quite sure the Chinese or Russians would pay top dollar for a Vanguard class sub!), 1/8 of the air force and 1/8 of all overseas territories? Speaking of nukes surely Scotland would also be entitled to a copy of all the intellectual property (i.e. the nuclear blueprints!) they represent? Also, the high unemployment and virtual welfare colonies that are parts of Glasgow are largely a fault of Tory polices that were generally opposed by Scottish politicians. Similarly the banking crisis is a fault of spiv’s and speculators in London. Is it fair that Scotland should inherit a debt run up by Westminster implementing policies that they opposed?

The second rule of world history that the English forget is that “possession is nine tenths of ownership“. The bulk of the oil and natural gas from the North Sea is landed in Scotland. It will be very easy for the Scots to take control of that regardless of what any law says down in England. All Alex Salmond will have to do is engineer some plausible excuse to turn off the taps (despatching the Elf ‘n’ Safety mob comes to mind, there’s nothing that they can’t find fault with and get declared a safety hazard) wait about 15 seconds for the phone to ring, its Cameron conceding (much like in this film) that the oil is in fact Scottish, now could you please turn the taps back on! The oil companies :> incidentally, so long as the Scots respect the current status quo for existing fields, will inevitably throw in they’re lot with Holyrood. They’ll fight tooth and nail against independence, but if it happens anyway, they’ll back the wining horse. It’s exactly what they’ve done throughout history in other parts of the world. Whatever guarantees they get to putter in they’re sandbox and keep making billions.

Of course I know there are lots of English who say “get on with it” or “great we can get rid of those soap shy work dodging Scot’s benefit scroungers – result!” Actually, these people need to realise that Scottish independence would have serious implications for Britain. Firstly, it won’t be the United Kingdom anymore (as well, you’re not united!) so you’d be faced with the problem of what to call the place? Greater England? (might piss off the Welsh), Lesser Britain, or Kingdom Wednesday? My personal favourite “Little Britain or New Improved England (wt 20% less dour, tight, grumblers!) :DD. Either way I vote for this as the new national anthem ;).

But seriously, the removal of Scotland would mean the loss of the oil industry and Scotland’s energy industry (including most of the UK’s hydroelectric and wind power capacity) as well as a significant quantity of its manufacturing industry, leaving behind a lopsided top heavy English economy even more beholden to finance in London than currently (of course Scotland would wind up with the reverse, an economy too heavily slanted towards energy and manufacturing with a small financial services industry). And again the loss of the oil means a loss of the oil revenues and the issue of energy isn’t just about money, its about control. All the money in the world is of little benefit when the lights go out and without Scotland it will be practically impossible for Britain to avoid being heavily dependant on energy imports from abroad…although a good deal of that “abroad” will of course be North of the border or Ireland!

Also there’s the issue of the EU, Britain would lose all the Scottish seats in the EU, and its influence over EU affairs would be decreased. If the SNP ultimately join the Euro (would be silly now, but probably a good idea later on when the current crisis has blown over) then the pressure on Britain to do the same will be significant, especially as a Britain with an economy 10-20% smaller will now be more vulnerable to speculative attacks on its currency without Scotland (or the oil). And of course there will inevitably be a lot of Euro notes in unofficial circulation (as is the case in Northern Ireland which also shares a land border with a Eurozone country).

There are also the strategic matters to consider. Why do you think those trident subs operate out of their not-so-secret base in Faslane? It’s because it’s a nice sheltered port relatively close to their patrol area in the North Atlantic. If the subs had to come from Barrow-in-Furness instead, it would take them longer leaving them vulnerable to enemy attack (increasing the risk that they’d be knocked out before firing a shot). The ability of the Royal Air force to protect the subs would be greatly reduced (if not eliminated altogether) as with those Northern Scotland airbases gone the current Tornado fleet simply does not have the range (thought this could be solved by getting some decent maritime patrol aircraft…now where are those Nimrod’s stored…oh, wait the Tories cut them up!). Personally I would argue that Britain’s (don’t laugh) independent nuclear deterrent would now lack a good deal in the credibility department, if it doesn’t do so already. And those Carriers being built, you do realise that the only dry dock big enough to take them in the UK is in Rosyth? What happens if one of them hits a mine or something and needs to be patched up? Perhaps the 1/8 of the navy the scots should get should be the two Carriers! And least you think I’m going a little far here, why is it you think that the British were so keen on hanging on to Ireland back in 1920? Hint, it has nothing to do with a love of potatoes or Guinness and everything to do with Ireland’s ports and airstrips. There’s a lot of very good reasons why the-powers-that-be in Whitehall have a coronary at the mention of the word “independence” 88|.

So while I’m not expressing unwavering support nor opposition to independence, I would say that both sides need to think very carefully about their future actions. The SNP need to come up with a good enough reason for independence other than quotes from Braveheart :##. They also need to explain why independence now is so important and why it won’t be better to wait a few years until the current economic crises are a little closer to resolution. And the Tory’s need to realise that there are a host of good reasons why David C goes white at the mention of the topic. And also that the Tory’s need to be on best behaviour here as if there’s anything that could swing things the SNP’s favour its unwanted interference in this matter from them!

Occupy London & St Pauls – The Devil wears luminous yellow

You know I hate it when I’m proved right, especially when it turns out to be something I said in jest. You all may have heard the story about St Paul’s cathedral being closed for the first time since the Nazi bombing by a load of protestors camped outside. While the media, the Murdoch lot in particular, were quick to throw Godwin’s law out the window and draw the Nazi link to protestors “shutting down the cathedral” (Hang’em all!) they failed to report the real reason for the church closing, a tyranny that stalks our land and makes a group of fluffy tree huggers, or indeed jack boot wearing fascists seem tame in comparison. That tyranny is Health and Safety man.

You see one of those things that the Elf & Safety lot get carried away about is fire exits. I mean what if the church caught fire and full of people (well if it was the bankers I suspect we’d bar the door and start roosting marshmallows 😉 ). So these H&S lot demand multiple fire exits (what if Zombies were stalking the earth at the time of the fire and cut off one of the exits!) and outside the entrance fire escape paths are need for the crowd too move away to a designated “muster zone”. The shear size of Saint Paul’s means that the size of its escape paths are quite large as they have to accommodate thousands of people moving within a few minutes, even thought there’s scarcely anyone other than a few tourists in the building these days, with maybe a few parishioners on Sundays. The H&S logic is that if the building caught fire and with the protestors camped outside those fleeing the building and running in fear of their life’s from the flames might be too polite to shove past the protestors or climb over the tents or that the hippies might be too stoned or stupid to clear out of the way of a burning building, and consequently everyone would burn to death. Common sense is not something the H&S lot welcome, indeed in order to become a Health and Safety inspector one is subjected to intense electric shock therapy in order to drill such nonsense out of you.

In my last post I joked about how if Jesus came back he’d been pilloried not by Beelzebub or Richard Dawkins, or the gays, nor the Muslims (actually the Koran mentions Jesus), no his greatest enemy would be conker banning, grave stone knocking over devil in a high visibility jacket (the real devil wears luminous yellow and safety goggles). While the police eventually fecked off and left the protestors alone after the Bishops asked them too (I mentioned the principle of sanctuary in my previous post), Health and Safety man answers to no one. His dictates, regardless of how illogical and utterly stupid they are, ultimately supersede all law, even god’s law and divine providence and of course the democratic will of the people. Consequently the headline in the Sun should read “Health and Safety Nazi’s shut down St Paul’s for first time since their pals shut it down in 1940”.

Some of the activists are trying to pin the blame for this action on Dave C or Boris “Bullington” Johnson. Actually I suspect for once their both in the clear. There are hundreds of these H&S killjoys loose in the city of London. Much like sharks can smell a drop of blood a mile away these H&S lot are attracted to the sweet smell of joy, happiness, pride or overall well being and they will immediately make haste to the location to see that it is stamped out at once. Most H&S inspectors ultimately go a bit loony in their old age, seeing danger (Basically people having fun) everywhere. They often die when, fearful of injuries they might sustain in a fall, they insist on being rapped up in Styrofoam until they suffocate.

Health and Safety has not so much gone mad, it’s gone crazy. As I revealed awhile a go they’ve closed down many remote bothies (again fire escapes), they were responsible for much of the chaos in recent winters by stopping people doing their jobs (bus, lorry and gritter drivers or teachers), and getting one teacher fired for daring to defy them and apply “common sense”. That scary headline in the Express last winter (saying the snow was going to kill 60,000 people, came from these H&S “experts”). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we should rename “Health and Safety” as “Blame allocation” or Save Ass Policy Scheme…or SAPS for short ;D!

Never mind the EU, we should be petitioning parliament for the right to opt out from Health and Safety law. If people want to take a few minor “risks”, so long as you know what you’re getting yourself into, we’re all adults and should be allowed to decide what we feel constitutes a risk and what does not.

Indeed it is slighty ironic that the bankers down the road can take absurd risks with the countries finanical future, with everyone complaining loudly if anyone takes about bringing in the slightest wiff of regulation to manage this risk. But you can shut down a Cathedral with no questions asks due to the loony dictate of some H&S SAPS!

The Colonel’s secret recipe – After Gaddafi

At the beginning of this conflict Gaddafi had mentioned that he had something of a rat problem, so I can only assume that was what he was up to when he was captured in a sewer pipe :). It is to say the least an inglorious end, but then again it generally is for dictators who hang on for too long. Look at the fate of Mussolini, strung up by his ankles in a Milan street, or Hitler his body burnt in a shell crater in Berlin (as his thousand Reich fell apart around him).

Of course it would have been better if he’d gone on trail in the Hague. But, as with Bin Laden, there are a variety of very good reasons why he never was going to make it that appointment in the Hague. Many of the NTC were former members of the Gaddafi regime and would rather not have him fingering them as accomplices. Also Gaddafi’s biggest accomplice in recent years was the West itself. As I mentioned in a past post it is clear that his intelligence agency was on first names basis with MI6 and the CIA and directly co-operating with the so-called “Extraordinary Rendition” policy of Bush. The west also sold him weapons, including ironically enough the very tanks and SPC’s he was sending towards Benghazi, that the French airforce destroyed in the opening air strike (further irony, Gaddafi had been negotiating at the time to purchase those very same Rafale jets for his airforce!).

So did he die of his wounds as is the official story? Was he lynched by rebel fighters? Did the CIA/MI6 do him in? Indeed it seems a bit coincidental that his convoy would be disabled like that by a random airstrike . Did the NTC have him killed, as one of there own generals was killed a few weeks back? We’ll probably never know. Suffice to say there’s enough material here to keep the conspiracy theorist going for quite sometime.

What is important is the message that this sends to other tyrants worldwide. I suspect many of them will have been shaken by pictures of Gaddafi being dragged through the streets of Misrata and will wonder whether they are next. As Kennedy put it:

“Those regimes that make democratic change impossible, merely make will make violent revolution inevitable”

Hopefully this thought will make some of them, notably the regimes in Syria, Yemen or Bahrain think twice now. How do they want to exit the stage, exile in Saudi Arabia with a big slush fund, on trial on a hospital bed like Pinochet or Mubarak, tossed into a bottomless pit by your former intern, or left dangling from a lamp post in Misrata with ghoulish pictures or videos of you’re demise rendered instant Youtube hits. The choice is yours!

As for Libya maybe it is for the best, distasteful as this whole episode is (and the circumstances surrounding his death), to simply move on. As I’ve mentioned before the country needs to get back on its feet. The guns need to be given up, the police put on the street, hospitals and schools need to reopen, the people need to return home and get back to work. In short the shutters need to go up on the country as a whole and the “open for business under new management” sign needs to be put outside.

What we don’t want to see happening is an extension of this civil war with one faction or tribe fighting another or a breakup of the country altogether. Libya now has a brief window of opportunity to consolidate on Gaddafi’s downfall and build a democratic and very prosperous nation. In addition to its oil wealth the country is ideally placed to take advantage of future advances in solar energy technology. If Libya can succeed in this task thus, the implications for Europe, Africa and the Muslim world will be hugely significant. But this window of opportunity is brief and will not last for long. If elections aren’t held, and if things cannot be normalised (hospitals opened, power turned back on, schools opened) before the euphoria of victory passes, there is a danger of renewed conflict firing up again. So it’s essential the Libyans now focus on turning things around quickly and working together.

Significantly the Libyans might well achieve what the Bush administration failed to do, win the peace. Indeed I’d advice them to hire Bush or Cheney as an advisor and do exactly the opposite of everything they said!

I have to finish by saying its perhaps a good time to be hearing this song again:

Local Currencies – is there a better way?

I came across an interesting article the other day about an American town called Great Barrington that has begun issuing its own currency, called Berkshares. They are traded at a rate of 1 BerkShare to 90 U.S. cents, meaning as the face dollar value is utilised by supporting businesses, to an effective 10% discount in price for anyone using them.

Indeed the Berkshare is but one of several local currencies in circulation worldwide.
Such currencies have the advantage that the encourage people to spend their money in local businesses, which ensures that as much of the local wealth as possible stays within the community, rather than leaving it for places unknown (which in the case of the major corporations means it disappearing into the accounts of offshore tax havens).

Indeed even within the US the Ithaca Hour has been around for a lot longer than the Berkshare. The Ithaca Hour also introduces the concept of a “time currency” in that you are paid or pay for things in the form of time rather than capital. In that 1 IH equals 1 hour’s labour, or $10 a current prices.

Another more radical idea was explored as part of the Worgl experiment during the great depression. Here the Mayor negotiated a loan from a credit union and printed the town’s own banknotes. These were guaranteed against the national currency though you could only get 98% of their value if you exchanged them. Every month the notes were stamped and lost 1% of their value so cost you to keep the money rather than spending it. This was important at the time because the thing you want to try and discourage in an economic downturn is the instinct of people to hoard cash (but of course if everyone hoards cash or pays off their credit cards then the economy would collapse, because nobody would be spending!). The experiment was considered (by some critics) to be a major success that was only stopped by the Austrian national bank worried it was loosing control of the nation’s currency.

This concept of “local currencies” is actually not a new idea but more of a revival of a much older principle; that of having lots of small local currencies in different regions or cities. It was normal for most of the middle ages for individual towns and baronies to have they’re own individual gold or silver coins (usually stamped with the local sovereign/Duke/Barons face). The various Bracteates of the Holy Roman Empire being a good example. One could utilise such currency freely within said area or visit a local money changer and have you’re coins from one region exchanged for those of the region you were in (based on their weight) for this service the money changer would charge a fee (which would be mild in the case of coins the money changer could easily exchange again or exorbitant fees in the case of ones he couldn’t, the coins of an enemy nation for example). Again the goal was to encourage as much local business activity as possible and keep as much of the local wealth within the community while still stimulating trade. That said, it should be noted that rulers motivation here was often related to increasing local trade so that they could increase their share of tax revenue! But the idea is still sound.

One decisive factor, and the point were various Libertarian fantasies about local currencies part company with reality, is the fact that you need something to tie all these local currencies together as well as acting as a fall back in the case of serious economic problems. In the past the feudal system (which ultimately meant the sharp end of lances! |-|) provided the backbone to support the whole system. Currently the Dollar (in America) and the Euro (in Europe) are providing the bedrock on which these currencies rely. Long term that means that such local currencies are tied to the fate of these currencies (and if you’ve been following recent events, that mightn’t be such a good idea! See my comments here and here).

Also, local currencies are prone to the same techniques used by currency speculators to prey on smaller currencies. The only thing stopping them going after Berkshares is the mere $800,000 in circulation not to mention the risk of pitch forks and banjo’s too said speculators ;D. However, if say New York were to adopt a local currency, they’d be all over it like Frat boys on a drunken cheerleader. So to be sustainable such local currencies would need to be supported by a strong national or international currency. Alternatively we could tie these local currencies to something redeemable, such as gold or silver, although that creates its own problems.

Perhaps another “globalist” solution is the idea of having four sets of currencies (see ecology of money), as proposed by economist Richard Douthwaite:
– An International Currency for international trade
– A series of national currencies for trade within individual nations
– Various user controlled currencies and
– A store-of value currency for savings and investments

Crucially the international currency would be linked to CO2 emissions or better yet linked to energy consumption, enabling its use to discourage the use of fossil fuels and encourage sustainable economic growth. The National exchange currencies would be used for buying and selling within a country, but cannot be used for storing savings. This allows the national authorities to simply print more money to match increased trade or restrict supply when the economy is overheating, without the negative effects that this behaviour would normally have on savings (as no savings would be held in these currencies).

The user controlled currencies would consist of a variety of Local Exchange Trading schemes (LETS), the aforementioned “time dollars” and a variety of other trading mechanisms. The store of value currency would be only available in fixed quantities. So if for example more shares are traded the need for this currency rises, as does its value which serves as a brake and prevents unsustainable growth. The goal of these currencies would be to keep international development going, but within the limits of what the planet can actually support, encourage economic activity to be as local as possible (where possible) and prevent unsustainable bubbles building.

My take on these ideas is that it’s this “thinking outside of the standard economic box” that’s most important. This is something we need to do more of. The current economic system is broke and we need to explore all possible options if we’re going to fix it. Economists need to realise that money isn’t everything, especially when it comes to economics. Money is only a mechanism for us to trade our good and labour from one person (or company or country) to another. Nothing more, nothing less. In theory we could get rid of all currencies altogether and there would still be an economy. After all we all need to eat, sleep, heat our homes and get around. The sole purpose currency and money serves is to facilitate such transactions. Economists fail to understand that money markets merely reflect economic reality, while they believe that they can create economic reality. As recent events have shown, while one can manipulate the markets and fool ones self into thinking you’ve defied the laws of economic gravity, unfortunately those same economic laws are as absolute as the laws actual laws of gravity themselves.

Doctor and the (Euro) Sceptics

Finally after a week or two of speculation and having the PM repeatedly expressing his “confidence” in his defence secretary (note to ministers when a PM repeatedly states his confidence in you what he’s actually saying is “piss off and resign before I have to sack you”), Liam “Doctor” Fox has resigned from his post as defence secretary. His downfall was his close links to his buddy and best man Adam “BFF” Werritty.

In some respects, if you look at the situation from the point of view of an upper class twit you can understand why he’d want to drag his friend around the world with him. After all there’s all that cognac and champagne has to be drunk and it’s very hard to enjoy a good game of kick the beggar by yourself. So it’s understandable why he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. Of course given that the MoD happens to control procurement on some rather important bits of kit (tents, uniforms, submarines, trident missiles, assault rifles, the usual) the fact that he was paling around with a lobbyist was ultimately unacceptable. The MoD has to be seen to be whiter than white, even thought, as I’ve pointed out here its far from that.

That said, his best matey might now be a serious spot of bother. His toff chums being furious with him and going to prison sort of bother. But I’m quite sure it will turn out that he and the judge have cousins at Eton who are chum’s and he’ll get off scot free, what, what!

More significant is fall out from “the Doctors” down fall. The Euro-sceptics are in a right tissy as they fear that “the balance” of the cabinet is now too left wing and has a pro-Europe agenda…and when exactly did David, Osborne and “Porky” Pickles resign? I think I can sum up the above article as follows BBBBAAAAAAAAARRRGGGHHH!

“Doctor” Fox you see was to the right of the conservatives…to the right of the conservatives? Wha like BNP?…no more like Tea Party whom he had links too (see here) that’s why the wicked witch of Lincolnshire (Maggie) showed up at his birthday a few weeks ago. No doubt these sceptics will soon be concocting elaborate conspiracy theories with Werritty as some sort of German agent or something. Unfortunately, as anyone whose ever read the comments page on the Telegraph or Fail will know most of these sceptics would regard anything less than a British land invasion of France as being a “pro-European” policy. I think that secretly many of them wanted “the Doctor” in the job just in case David when all bleeding heart on them (he did go through that whole ice caps are melting / hug a hoodie phase remember) and they had to launch a coup to remove him from power before he made gay marriage compulsory.

His resignation also creates problems for the MoD which now has its 7th defence secretary in 14 years. Its becoming the post where politicians go to die. Also this constant changing of secretary is making long term planning in the MoD difficult. The MoD’s finances are in a mess, largely because of a lack of coherent planning by Whitehall, casing point ordering two Carriers which the country apparently now can no longer afford to maintain and ordering inappropriate STOL aircraft to operate off them (Bird and Fortune have a nice sketch about that here). And of course carriers aren’t much use in a war against Afgan rebels who are 800 miles inland.

On the other hand the MoD has a reputation for extremely wasteful practices. Having squadies stationed in badly insulated barracks where the heating has to be kept on all day, excessive use of fuel, spending thousands of pounds on kit that could be bought for a fraction of that at B&Q, etc. So this constant changing of leadership amounts to Seagull management (a new boss comes in, makes lots of noise, craps on everybody, then flies back out to sea) with the Admirals (the UK has more admirals than ships in the Royal Navy these days!) and Generals to putter in their sand box much too often. While I’ll admit to being no fan of the military, so long as we have a large military it is imperative that spending is brought under control and that means getting value for money, but still ensuring the military has kit relevant to what they actually need to do the job.

London Protest – Police out of control?

As you may have heard there was a series of worldwide protests against Capitalist Greed in many cities including London. I would have been there myself but was travelling unfortunately. However, what caught my ear was the story regarding the police clearing people from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. Have the police never heard of the principle of Church Sanctuary? This is a millennia old tradition that regards churches and other Holy sites as the house of god. And it seems god doesn’t like PC plod wandering around his house dressed up in riot gear/body armour, with pepper spray, cuffs and Tasers hanging from his belt, walloping hippies over the head while shouting obscenities (Maybe Phelps should be outside with a “God hates Cops” sign?). And no, this isn’t something that you heard about in a Highlander film, it’s a real historical principle. It was not unheard of for criminals in the Middle Ages to run into the nearest church and take advantage of the sanctuary the church offered from arrest (I bet the medieval version of the Daily Mail kept on going on and on about that one and those liberal, criminal loving, bleeding heart, priest, next think you know they’ll be wanting a human rights act!). It should be noted that many other religions (Islam, Judaism, Hinduism… in fact pretty much all religions aside from Scientology and Evangelical Christians!) hold similar rules that regard churches as sacred places beyond the jurisdiction of any office of state.

While the Arch Bishop urged the protestors to remain peaceful, during his sermon this morning, he made clear that he very much prefer for the coppers to get lost and I don’t know maybe go find some real criminals to arrest (like you know drug dealers, thieving bankers, Bullington club members, Murdoch, etc.)

So the coppers now reckon they are not only above the nation’s law, but above god’s laws too. This country badly needs a proper written constitution as this would sort this matter out. On the one hand it would restrict the powers of the police and limit the ability of governments to pass silly draconian knee jerk laws to placate the tabloids (anti-social behaviour orders being a start). On the other hand it would establish the limits of the human rights act on British law, unlike the current situation where its left up to judges , or where fearful that judges might rule against them, people have to act in the most absurd ways (as I discuss in this post).

But what are the consequences for the police if they refuse to push off. Well in the Middle ages it would be a matter of instant excommunication BOTH for the coppers in question and they’re ultimate commander…that would be Boris! I’d love to see the look on his face when the goatskin bound edict from the archbishop arrives! Of course I’m quite sure if that happened plod would just ignore it and issue ASBO the Archbishop.

In fact Jesus Christ could come back, start his second coming in London and the chances are that within the hour he’d be Tasered, Pepper sprayed and clubbed by the coppers and issued with a ASBO and a visit from the Health and Safety executive for holding an unofficial gathering. He starts doing his feeding of the 5,000 and they’d do him for violation of Food standards and raising the dead he’d be collared for unlicensed medical practice. Indeed I’m pretty sure that at the end of his first day he’d have broken the cross over his knee said feck this and gone off and joined the Hari Krishna’s.

How to solve a problem like Sarah Palin

This week Sarah “death-panel-wheres-his-birth-certificate-paling-around-wt-terrorists-don’t-retreat-reload-in-my-crosshairs” Palin confirmed that she was not running for the office of president (thank god for that! :D). Apparently according to her official statement, after much “prayer” (even god told her she didn’t stand a snowballs chance) and thought (that must have been painful for her!) she decided not to run.

Actually this was not surprising, since the Gifford shooting incident (see my take on that here), where she compounded her own errors with her silly “blood libel” gaffe her campaign for president has been effectively DOA. As I pointed out before this mirrors the downfall of Randolph Hearst’s political ambitions when he stirred up a crowd of crazies and someone took a shot at a rival politician. There was also the disaster that was her appearance on Glenn Beck where she had another, “Sarah Palin” moment and was unable to name any of the founding fathers other than George Washington :no:. If she walks away from a Glenn Beck interview looking like a douche bag what would John Steward or Larry King or Katy Couric make of her (casserole? Pastrami?).

Probably the most damning indictment of Sarah Palin however, has been the former staffers of the John Mc Cain campaign. They firmly blame her for the failure of McCain to get elected in 2008 and many seem guilty and so foolishly putting somebody as crazy as her :crazy: that close to the nuclear briefcase. To drop a few quotes (source The Times, when a Murdoch rag attacks you, then you’re goose is cooked):

“You guys have a lot of work to do” Steve Schmidt, Mr McCain’s campaign chief “She doesn’t know anything”

“Palin couldn’t explain why North Korea and South Korea were separate nations. She didn’t know what the Federal reserve did. Asked who attacked America on 9/11, she suggested several times that it was Saddam Hussein. Asked to identify the enemy that her son would be fighting in Iraq, she drew a blank. Later, on the plane, Palin said to her team: ‘I wish I’d paid more attention to this stuff'”

an urgent SOS was sent to McCain headquarters… “They began discussing a new and threatening possibility: that Palin was mentally unstable.”

Also in the last few weeks various stories have begun to circulate suggesting that she wasn’t all apple pie and moose hunting. These stories allege that she may have taken drugs, had numerous illicit affairs (worse one of those with a College professor! To her base most of whom can barely read and write, that’s equivalent of Ted Haggard getting off with a rent boy…oh! wait that actually happened!), tried to get to first base with her step son and that her husband is looking to divorce her.

I would note that quite a few of these rumours seem to be originating from a recently published book about her called “The Rogue”. You’ll also note that one of my sources is the Daily Mail (i.e. yes, hardly the most reliable news source in the world! Indeed the very fact they’re talking about it leads me to doubt the accuracy of these stories). However, clearly if this early in the campaign she’s under this level of a barrage you can imagine what would happen if she’d actually declared. Indeed that Daily Mail article is worth reading (here it is again, I like the line “…that she once snorted cocaine off a 55 gallon oil drum while snowmobiling with friends and had illicit affairs with a top NBA star and one of her husband’s business partners…”) because it looks to me like the Daily Fail had a sizeable portfolio of dirt on Sarah that the planned to drip out in bite sized chunks over the course of the next few months, but after she announced she wasn’t running they clearly decided to blurt it all out at once in one massive brain fart. The fact that even a right wing paper like the Mail can be against her should tell you something. Also the polls consistently showed the majority of republicans (those not looking for Obama’s death panels/birth cert) 70% of them in fact did not want her to run. She would have stood no chance of getting the nomination and even less of a one of actually winning the election.

Unfortunately there are plenty of right wing nuts (a “Gallery of Ghouls” as Al-Jazeera puts it) in the tea party to take over her mantle. From Michelle “Batshit Crazy” Bachmann :crazy:, whose husband teaches people how not to be gay (here’s her hiding behind a bush at a gay rights rally). Then there’s Rich “invade Mexico” Perry (or did he mean Poland? :>>). See crazy v’s stupid here in Slate for more on these two “dumb WASP‘s”. Or how about Ron “drown-big-government-in-the-bath-and-let-kids-die-by-the-side-of-the-road-turn-USA-into–Somalia” Paul. The choice is your’s :wave:!

One has to wonder if one of the Tea Party winning the nomination might actually be a good thing. Obama stands a much better chance against a nut job than against someone sensible, although there is the worrying wait for the rest of us and the tiny risk that they might actually win (in which case a co-ordinated nuclear strike from the entire world against the US would seem sensible ;D)

Scrapheap challenges – metal theft and peak resources

Interesting article from the Beeb here regarding the growing trend of metal thefts. Everything that’s not bolted to the floor is being pinched by opportunistic thieves (who are generally white and British not all immigrants as the Daily Mail would have you believe). Indeed its getting to the stage where the thieves are undoing the bolts and nicking them also! The tops of church roofs have been stolen, theft of cable is fast becoming the number one source of delay for UK train services and increasingly councils are replacing public art works with fibre glass or even concrete copies to prevent them being nicked. Indeed I’d argue its only a matter of time before that infamous Wall Street bull disappears some night, which would be a sort of ironic sign of the times (alternatively they could always just electrify monuments with 10,000 volts! After the first idiot gets fried, don’t even remove him, leave em there as a warning to the rest!).

So what’s driving this trend? Well obviously the recession for starters. More unemployment, more crime and a lot of metal thief’s seem to be just as I said opportunistic amateur criminals (or extraordinary recyclers as I’m sure they regard it!). Also the massive rise in metals prices recently has spurned this crime onwards. I’m surprised that a serious loss of life (a train being derailed, major gas explosion, etc.) hasn’t occurred yet, but its probably inevitable that if this keeps up that it will.

The irony is of course that we could easily solve the current issue of metal theft in the UK or at least knock it back considerably. Require all scrap metal dealers to operate “cash free” (i.e. payments by direct transfer into banks). That would mean that if PC plod shows up at a scrap yard, spot a load of BT cable, they’ll be able to trace the cable back to the guys who stole it. While scrap metal dealers will understandably be aghast at the idea (not least because some are profiting quite handsomely from this metal thieving but also because accurate accounting means the Inland Revenue hitting them with higher taxes). It should be noted that many other companies already operate sans-cash, notably many car rental dealerships. There’s no reason why it can’t be done. Also the penalties (both in terms of jail time and fines imposed) for metal theft need to start to reflect the seriousness of the crime. Someone convicted of stealing overhead train line cables and causing £50,000 in damages, should be getting a sentence that reflects the fact he caused £50,000 in criminal damage (rather than a sentence related to the stealing £50 of cable) and put at risk the lives of hundreds of people.

Pushing the limits
But why are metal prices so high? The Limits to Growth and peak oil camp would say its because we’re starting to push up against the buffers of global metals and energy sources. The consumption of any finite resource will often follow a bell shaped curve and they argue we’re somewhere towards the top of that curve for many resources. This has made it harder and harder to grow supplies of these resources which, with the Asian economies still booming, has caused prices to soar.

However, as I point out in this article here, the analysis of the LtG brigade is a little simplistic as it ignores the principles of supply and demand. Higher metal prices encourages recycling of metals (which again is basically what these criminals are doing by nicking the stuff) as well as making previously uneconomic grades of ore viable, increasing the supply of said resource. So we’re in the mists of a transitional phase right now and once supplies grow a bit, or economic growth falls in Asia, we’ll probably see a metals glut and all those who invested too heavily in gold may well see the bubble burst. This is the main basis of the counter argument to LtG or Cornucopian theory (named after the horn of plenty of Greek legend).

However, as I also discussed in my prior post, Cornucopian theory is equally simplistic, if not seriously flawed. All the recyling in the world will not grow our finite supply of materials, it only improves the efficiency of our use of said materials. In a world with an expanding population and so-called “third world” economies rapidly industrialising we need to drastically increase supplies of many key materials. But we cannot simply extract any resource out of the ground at any arbitrary rate we choose. There are a host of practical and technical reasons which limit the amount we can extract in any given time period. Mining of lower grades of ore means the costs can rise considerably (more dumper trucks, diggers, a bigger processing plant, more staff to run it all, higher use of energy and chemical feedstocks, etc.), the efficiency of the process decreases, more overburden needs to be shifted, more pollution is caused and the whole process consumes much more energy. And while we can up our recycling rates for copper we cannot recycle oil after its been burnt. Furthermore energy, particularly oil, is so crucial to industry, mining in particular (what do you think all that mining equipment runs on!), that any slow down in oil production will have an immediate knock on effect in many other industries. Even wind energy costs have pushed up slightly recently, while nuclear energy costs (both construction costs and uranium costs) have soared.

Conventional oil production has been flat since 2006 (its possible they’re now in a state of decline already) and only a modest increase in unconventional sources (tar sands, gas shales) has occurred since then. If conventional sources peak it would require a enormous rise in unconventional sources just to offset depletion (i.e. running to stand still nevermind expanding output). Obviously this makes the business of mining and mineral extract much more expensive to perform and limits our wriggle room in terms of using lower grade ores to increase supply. If as many experts fear we are shortly to exceed or are have already exceeded peak oil (i.e. all sources both conventional and unconventional peak soon) then these trends will only worsen as time goes on.

Ultimately the Limits to Growth supporters will be proved right one day, that’s a mathematical certainty (as resources are finite), it’s a matter of timing that’s the issue. The price of commodities is only a reflection of current market conditions and an ultimate constriction on supplies mightn’t be the cause of current high prices. But I won’t advise betting against the LtG theorists in the long term because like I said it’s only a matter of time (weeks, years, decades who knows) before the inevitable happens.

Something to think about next time you throw a load of recyclable cans into the rubbish.