The FTSE’s faulty and the Dow is down

I don’t claim to be an expert when in comes to economics; in fact, all that FTSE and Dow Jones stuff is just meaningless numbers to me, and I expect it’s the same for many other people. However, the recent economic turmoil in China is rather worrying, not least because of some striking similarities to the run up to the 1929 Wall Street crash. Firstly, back in the 1920s a huge number of rural Americans emigrated to the cities, in the hope of finding a more prosperous life in the ever growing industrial sector. The same thing has happened in China over the last decade or so. Secondly, during the latter part of the 1920s the American economy grew at an amazing rate, and hundreds of thousands of Americans bought stocks and shares. It’s been the same in China recently. Thirdly, in the 1920s these small, inexperienced investors borrowed heavily to buy more stock, thinking that the boom would continue indefinitely and they couldn’t lose. It’s been a similar story in China. This kind of speculative borrowing to buy stock is known as ‘margin trading’. By August 1929, brokers were routinely lending small investors more than two-thirds of the face value of the stocks they were buying. Over $8.5 billion was out on loan, more than the entire amount of currency circulating in the US at the time. Today, in China, when you open a stock market account chances are it’ll have a margin facility built in. Margin lending is a huge business. Upwards of 90 million households are in the Chinese stock market, most of them buried under margin debt. Among them, they hold about 258 million trading accounts (here).

So, for our inexperienced investor everything is hunky dory, as long as the market continues to expand at a fast rate – an ever growing bubble. However, as soon as there’s a slow down, and the price of stock falls, it will trigger what’s known as a ‘margin call'; ie, the margin lender asks for their money back, money lent on the original higher price of the stock. For many small investors, the only way to get that cash is to sell some of their shares. Of course, a lot of margin calls causes a lot of selling, forcing prices down even more; and that triggers still more selling, forcing down prices further still, etc, until: CRASH! That’s what happened in Wall Street in 1929, and although there were other factors involved, most economists agree that it was the myriad of small investors that were the primary cause of the crash. That said, I’m not going to speculate about what might happen in China in the weeks and months ahead (I’ll just say that the gun is loaded and the hammer is cocked).

The 1929 Wall Street crash led to the worldwide 1930s Great Depression. Some countries, those with a mostly agricultural economy, were barely effected (such as France, Spain and Ireland). It was the industrialised nations that got hit the hardest, countries like Britain, Italy, Germany (and we all know what happened in Germany!) and of course the USA. In Britain the government’s reaction to the Great Depression was exactly the same as it now is to the 2008 crash: austerity. At the time of the Wall Street crash a minority Labour government headed by Ramsay MacDonald was in power. Under pressure from its Liberal allies, as well as the Conservative opposition, the Labour government appointed a committee to review the state of public finances. The ensuing report urged public sector wage cuts and large cuts in public spending (notably in benefit payments to the unemployed) to avoid incurring a budget deficit. The sense was that the deficit was dangerous and had to be reduced. In 1931 an election was held which resulted in a Conservative landslide victory, although a National Government was formed with Ramsay MacDonald still at the helm. This Conservative dominated government immediately instituted a further round of cuts in public spending and wages. Public sector wages and unemployment pay were cut by up to 15%, and income tax was raised from 22.5% to 25%. The pay cuts did not go down well, however, and resulted in a mutiny in the Royal Navy. It’s notable that 3 million people emigrated from the UK during the 1930s, seeking a better life.

On the other side of the Pond things panned out a little differently. Herbert Hoover was president when the crash happened. Hoover, a Republican, reacted to the economic downturn by raising tax rates and initiating a large public works program, including the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Hoover also raised trade tariffs, in an attempt to encourage the purchase of American-made products. However, Canada, France and many other nations retaliated by raising tariffs on imports from the US. The result was to contract international trade, and prolong the Depression. To make matters worse, in the early 1930s there was a persistant drought in America’s agricultural heartland. Businesses and families defaulted in record numbers and more than 5,000 banks went bust. Hundreds of thousands of Americans found themselves homeless, and began congregating in shanty towns, dubbed ‘Hoovervilles’. By early 1933 the unemployment rate hit 25%. That same year, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democrats came to power.
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Bombs and Cherry Blossoms

Born in Tokyo in 1909, Midori Naka was a well-known stage actress of the Shingeki style. In early 1945, Naka became lead actress in the Sakura-tai (Japanese for ‘Cherry Blossom Unit’), a newly formed mobile theater group. Later that year the Sakura-tai troupe moved to Hiroshima, with the intention of spending the season there. The nine members of the troupe rented a house in central Hiroshima with members of another theater group. On the morning of 6th August 1945 there were seventeen people in the house, which was just 650 metres from ground zero of the atomic bomb. Thirteen of them were killed instantly. Midori Naka and three others survived, Naka by jumping in the nearby river to escape the heat and flames. She floated downstream and was fished out by some soldiers.

A few days later, and due no doubt to the fact that she was a famous actress, Naka was able to get a seat on one of the few trains that were then traveling to Tokyo. Suffering from extreme nausea, and with her hair falling out, Naka voluntarily became a patient in the hospital of Tokyo University, where she was given repeated blood transfusions in an attempt to save her life. She died on 24th August 1945. Midori Naka was the first person in the world to have radiation poisoning listed as an official cause of death. She also provided the first live testimony of the Hiroshima bombing to be widely publicised in the Japanese media.

The first western journalist to reach Hiroshima after the bomb was Wilfred Burchett, who worked for the Daily Express. On 5th September 1945, Burchett filed a report which said: “In Hiroshima, 30 days after the first atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly – people who were uninjured in the cataclysm – from an unknown something which I can only describe as the atomic plague.”

Once the Americans had occupied Japan, all things Hiroshima and Nagasaki became state secrets. Even today, most of the film footage taken in the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombs has never been released. The Americans were more than happy to let the world know about the destructive power of the Bomb, but not the reality of it, particularly with regard to radiation. They feared international condemnation and charges of crimes against humanity. General Thomas Farrell, Deputy Commander of the Manhattan Project and head of the medical section, said at a press conference in Tokyo on 6th September: “In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, here at the beginning of September, anyone liable to die has already died and no one is suffering from atomic radiation”.
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Cousins in Cornwall

Here in France we rent out the main part of the house as a holiday gite. It’s big, four bedrooms, all en-suite, and with a double sofabed in the office the house can comfortably sleep twelve people. This means we generally get large family groups staying here, which includes lots of children. I am reminded of my own family holidays when I was a child, but of course it’s a lot different with children now. The gite is in a very rural part of France, and all around there are fields, woods and lakes. Back in the day, us kids would have been out exploring, building a den in the woods, swimming in the lakes and all that kind of stuff. Nowadays the kids don’t leave the house, unless they’re accompanied by their parents. They’re not allowed to go off and explore the countryside on their own (and this area is totally safe; there’s no crime. We often not only leave the doors unlocked at night, sometimes they’re left wide open).

So, there are now generations coming into adulthood who have never experienced the much freer childhood that earlier generations such as mine had. What effect will this have on society..? Well, at the risk of sounding like an old git (I’m 51), the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that all this mollycoddling has made younger generations much more passive and accepting of authority. Earlier this year we had some of the family in the UK come over to stay for a week or so, which included a couple in their early 20s. Both are in full time work, and one was on a zero hours contract. They often work weekends and Bank holidays on the same flat rate; no time and a half or double time. Due to astronomical rents they can’t afford somewhere to live and both are still at home with their parents. When I suggested that they should organise a union and/or get out on the streets and protest they looked at me as though I were mad.

But getting back to the family holidays I had during my childhood, they often took place in Cornwall. We’d rent a big, old holiday house, usually rather dilapidated, and aunties, uncles and cousins would all pile in. There was rarely, if ever a tv set, not that there was much to watch, because back then there were only three channels, and they were only on from late afternoon to late evening. We’d drive down from London. There was no motorway then and the journey took two days. The stop-over would usually be a hotel in Dorset, which was a big adventure for us kids. The following photograph was taken in 1970, when I was six years old. It shows the pathway leading down to King Arthurs’ castle in Tintagel, Cornwall. You’ll notice that there are no parents around (they were probably in the pub).

1970 Cornwall holiday with cousins

From left to right: my cousin Gary, cousin Andrew, cousin Ronnie, in front of Ronnie is my sister Sue, holding a monkey (Sue is 18 months older than me), cousin Lorraine, in front of Lorraine is my cousin Tracy, and on the right is me, with a parrot on my head. I’m actually the youngest person in this photograph, and even at the tender age of six it was apparent that I would grow into a big, strapping lad.

The parrot and the monkey belonged to a photographer who hanged around at the top of the path and charged tourists for photos. That parrot was a vicious creature and would later take a chunk out of my cousin Ronnie’s shoulder. Ah, happy days…

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Buesseler and Blanch

On this 70th anniversary of atomic bombs being dropped on two heavily populated Japanese cities, it’s rather depressing that Japan is restarting its nuclear reactors, which have all been shut down since the Fukushima disaster began more than four years ago (here). Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that a large majority of Japanese are against these restarts, because despite the secrecy law that was passed in 2013, which effectively makes it a criminal offence to say anything bad about Fukushima, most Japanese are aware of what’s going on. The same can’t be said for the rest of the world, where there’s an almost total media black out of all things Fukushima. However, the media have been reporting the massive and totally unprecedented wildlife die-offs in the Pacific, but they do so without ever mentioning Fukushima or radiation; after all, three nuclear reactors that have been in complete and ongoing meltdown for more than four years now, that are spewing thousands of tons of radioactive water into the Pacific every single day, can’t possibly have anything to do with the wildlife die-offs, right?

The death of the Pacific Ocean is happening, and the authorities can’t ignore it, because it’s effecting the livelihood of lots of people on the west coast of North America (which is downwind and downstream of Fukushima). As it’s got progressively worse over the last four years, people in the region want something done about it (here). The response of the American and Canadian governments has been to send so-called ‘experts’ into small communities in the Pacific northwest, to hold town hall-type meetings and try to reassure the locals. Unlike the mainstream media, the government representatives at these meetings do openly talk about Fukushima and radiation. Here’s an example from last month, in Nome, an excerpt from a presentation given by Gay Sheffield, a marine biologist from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

The complete presentation can be found here.

You’ll notice that Gay Sheffield says in this excerpt that she’s not an expert on radiation, and the seals she tested were only ‘slightly radioactive’. It’s a similar scenario with other government representatives who do the same PR routine, people like Jay Cullen from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and Ken Buesseler from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Buesseler describes his operation as ‘crowd funded research'; ie, although he is actually funded by the US Government he charges citizens 600 bucks a pop for them to send him samples of sea water, which he tests for radiation. Now and again he finds some radiation, but it’s ‘nothing to worry about’ (here).
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Phat Bollard

Phat Bollard were formed in 2010 in Calstock, Cornwall. They describe themselves as a folk group, although I would say they also got a punk edge and have some similarities to The Pogues. Phat Bollard travel all over the UK, busking in city centers and occasionally doing pub gigs and folk festivals. Earlier this year, in the run-up to the general election, a mobile phone recording of their song Millionaires went viral on social media. Here’s Phat Bollard, back in April, performing it in Bath city center:

Tom Robinson, who hosts a show on BBC Radio 6, wanted to give the Millionaires song airplay, but of course the BBC would never allow it with the swear words it contains. Robinson asked Phat Bollard if they would change the lyrics from “I don’t give a fuck about you” to “I don’t give a toss about you”, and they agreed to do so (here).
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Down the Rabbit Hole

I would guess that most people outside of the UK won’t have much interest in the Labour Party leadership contest. Normally, most people who live in the UK wouldn’t have much interest, either. In 2015, though, the leadership contest has been ignited by one Jeremy Corbyn, a last minute candidate who is putting forth real policies that the majority of the British public agree with, such as renationalising the railways and utility companies (my post about it here), this, as opposed to the other three muppets who are standing for the leadership, none of whom seem to have any real policies, other than being pro-austerity, and none of whom seem capable of giving a straight answer to a straight question. The mainstream media have launched a huge character assassination campaign against Corbyn (the Guardian have been particularly bad in this respect), prophesying all sorts of doom and gloom if Corbyn becomes leader of the Labour Party. It’s been a sort of re-run of the ‘project fear’ campaign during last year’s Scottish referendum. What the media never do is actually address the anti-austerity policies that Corbyn is putting forward, or his popularity, nor do they put Corbyn into any kind of context with regard to Podemos in Spain or Syriza in Greece.

Likewise with the Westminster child sex abuse scandal. The media report it (they could hardly do otherwise with constant allegations being made on the internet), but never in any depth, and there’s no discussions about the huge ramifications it could have on British society. A good example of this is the recent allegations against Ted Heath. We have a former British prime minister who is alleged to have sexually abused children. It’s reported by the media, but there’s no indepth analysis; nothing about who knew what was going on; nothing about the role of the spooks and the police in it all, etc.

Nowhere is this media zombieism more apparent than with the slow-mo horror flick that is Fukushima. If you want to understand just how tightly controlled the media are, look no further than Fukushima. The latest on the absolutely heartbreaking death of the Pacific Ocean is that huge numbers of salmon are diseased and dying, and more whales are washing up dead on the beaches of California. These news reports attribute the wildlife die-offs to various things, most often a ‘mysterious disease’, yet they never mention the fact that on the coast of Japan there are three nuclear reactors in complete and ongoing meltdown, and every single day thousands of tons of radioactive water is being discharged into the Pacific Ocean, and it’s been going on for more than four years now and will continue indefinitely, and it might, just might, be the reason why the Pacific Ocean is dying.

The following is the latter part of last week’s Popeye Radio podcast, Down The Rabbit Hole. Co-host Christina Consolo (aka RadChick) is joined by Leuren Moret & Laurens Battis, and they are discussing what the corporate controlled media refuses to tell you…

The complete podcast can be found here.

My previous post about the death of the Pacific Ocean can be found here.

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Ignacy Paderewski

Born in 1860, Ignacy Paderewski was a pianist, composer and politician who went on to become the first prime minister of Poland. He was also a noted linguist and spoke seven languages fluently. Paderewski became the music superstar of his day and performed all over the world to adoring audiences. He crossed the Atlantic more than thirty times and gave 1500 concerts in the United States, performing in every state and drawing the largest crowds in history, this at a time when the solo recital was still in its infancy. Here’s the man himself, in 1937, playing Chopin’s Polonaise in A Flat. Paderewski is about 77 years old in this clip and you can no longer see his earlier distinctive trademark: his long red hair…

Paderewski was born to Polish parents in the village of Kuryłówka, in what is now the Ukraine. His father managed large land estates. His mother died several months after Paderewski was born and he was brought up by distant relatives. Paderewski had an interest in music from early childhood. In 1872, at the age of 12, he went to the Warsaw Conservatorium. After graduating, in 1880 Paderewski married Antonina Korsakówna. Soon afterwards their first son was born. However, within a year it was discovered that the child had an incurable disease. Tragically, Antonina died shortly after the child. Following this, Paderewski threw himself into his music and in 1881 he went to Berlin to study music composition and then later he moved to Vienna, where he was a pupil of Theodor Leschetizky. It was in Vienna that he made his musical debut in 1887. He soon gained great popularity and his subsequent appearances in Paris in 1889 and in London in 1890 were major successes. Paderewski was also a noted composer. Here he is playing one of his own pieces, Caprice

When Paderewski toured in the USA he used his own private railroad cars and travelled with several pianos and his pet parrot, whose name has been lost to history. Entire towns would go out to meet Paderewski and escort him to the concert hall, or would just come to see his train pass by. Hoardes of people would come in from outlying towns to hear him play. Perhaps his most popular composition was Minuet in G, which at the time became required practice for all children learning the piano…
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Port Simpson to Prince Rupert

In June, Dana Durnford arrived home after spending 160 days on the ocean, an epic voyage which he calls the ‘Expedition for Life’. Dana lives on the Sunshine Coast, the mainland and chain of islands that stretches for a hundred miles or so north of Vancouver, in western Canada. The Expedition for Life has been entirely crowd funded and the story behind it all is quite amazing (you can find my previous post about it here). Dana describes himself as an ‘elderly cripple’. He used to work as a commercial diver and a bad accident left him invalided. During this latest stage of the Expedition for Life, Dana has been on his own, except for his dog Zoey, up in the far north coastal waters of British Columbia. This included the winter months, which meant that he had to face subzero temperatures and frequent storms. Dana is documenting the damage that the Fukushima nuclear disaster has caused to the tidal zone (the west coast of North America is directly downwind and downstream from Japan). You can find the photos and videos on his web site, The Nuclear Proctologist.

Next week Dana is going on the third and final leg of the Expedition for Life, and he’s trying to crowd source the money for it. So far he’s got 800 bucks, which is enough for the fuel to get him out there, but not enough to get him back again. He’s going anyway. Here’s an excerpt from a video he put out yesterday…

The complete video can be found here.
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A Very British Coup

In recent posts I’ve talked about how the media have become a complete joke (here), in fact the media are corporate controlled, and corporations put money/profit above everything else, which means that the agenda with respect to politics is firmly right wing. I called the 2015 UK general election a corporate coup d’etat, because the electorate were not offered any real choice with regard to the large political parties, and almost the entire mainstream media were screaming for David Cameron and the Conservative party, who are firmly in the pockets of the corporates. Despite the barrage of spin and propaganda the Tories were only able to muster 25% of the eligible vote on a turnout of 66%. On the UK’s first past the post voting system this was enough to give the Conservatives a slim majority in Parliament.

After the election, Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader, resigned and Harriet Harman took over as temporary leader pending a leadership election. The Parliamentary Labour Party then nominated three candidates for the leadership: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, all politically to the right of center and all firmly inside the Westminster bubble; ie, totally out of touch with the mood on the streets of Britain. The nominees were the same old same old that lost Labour the election. In an effort to counter this image some Labour MPs then nominated a fourth candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, whom I’m sure won’t mind me describing him as a ‘left wing dinosaur’ (amongst other things, Corbyn wants to renationalise the railways and set-up a public bank for the citizens – you can find Corbyn’s economic policy here).

Most of the MPs who nominated Corbyn thought that he didn’t have a hope in hell of winning the leadership, but then a poll came out which put Corbyn way ahead of the other contenders, and now the British Establishment are bricking themselves. The corporate controlled media have put out a tidal wave of propaganda (including the ersatz left wing Guardian and Mirror) prophesying all sorts of doom and gloom if Corbyn becomes leader of the Labour Party. It’s been a sort of re-run of the fear campaign during last year’s Scottish referendum. Perhaps most disgraceful of all, people in the Labour Party, including Tony Blair, are attacking Corbyn, saying that in no circumstances can he be allowed to become leader; but the fact is that Corbyn’s policies are very popular with the public (here) and there’s been a wave of support for him on the aforementioned streets of Britain. Here’s Chunky Mark, the ‘artist taxi driver’, getting excited about it all:


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Flora and Fauna and Fission

In my previous post I was banging on about a tv programme that was broadcast in Australia at the weekend. It was called Spies, Lords and Predators and was an expose of the Westminster child sex abuse scandal. The programme was made with the help of Exaro News who have been at the forefront of the investigation into the scandal. Amongst the revelations, the now deceased Lord Mountbatten, a cousin of the Queen, was named as being involved in the cover-up. Also, an unnamed high ranking member of the Labour party, who lost his seat in the May election, was said to be involved in child sex abuse very recently. Now, you’d think this would be all over the UK front pages, but there’s been barely a peep.

I use this as an example of just how tightly controlled the media are (if you believe that you live in a free and open society you’ve got another think coming). Of course another big thing that’s never discussed is the ongoing horror story that is Fukushima, which amongst other things is causing the death of the Pacific Ocean (here). A lot of people who are aware of what’s going on say that Fukushima is an ELE, an Extinction Level Event, which will eventually wipe out the human race. I suppose the reality is that no one really knows, because we’ve never been here before. For more than 4 years now there’s been three reactors in complete meltdown, pouring radiation into the environment (mostly the Pacific) 24/7, and it will continue indefinitely because we don’t have the technology to clean it up. Also, during the early days of the disaster at least two spent fuel pools went sky high. These pools contained massive radioactive inventories. To give some idea of the dose, within three years children in Japan started showing thyroid cancer (here). In most nuclear incidents the cancer doesn’t usually start kicking in until you reach the five year mark. We will be there next year, and when large numbers of people start getting ill, particularly in North America (which is downstream and downwind of Fukushima), I can’t see how the authorities will be able to continue the cover-up; and when the general public realise the sheer scale of Fukushima, and the fact that they’ve been lied to big time, it seems likely that there’ll be massive civil unrest.

Arnie Gundersen has had quite a high profile with regard to the Fukushima disaster. Gundersen is a nuclear engineer turned whistleblower, who, along with this wife Maggie, runs a non-profit organisation called Fairewinds Energy Education, the main purpose of which is to explain what’s going on at Fukushima. A lot of people in the anti-nuke movement call him Arnie ‘Gundershill’, saying that he often downplays the Fukushima disaster and thus must be secretely working for the nuke industry. I’ve always believed that Arnie is genuine (and he’s one of the few high profile people who actually is a nuclear engineer). When you’re talking about Fukushima, the difficult thing is to try and avoid making people panic. Well, Arnie has surprised a lot of people with a recent video in which he is brutally honest about the ramifications of Fukushima; although notice that he doesn’t mention the massive wildlife die-offs in the Pacific, or the human health effects which will start showing up on a wide scale in a year or so (I’ve never seen Arnie looking so haggard). Don’t panic

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