Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Until August 1914, a sensible law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police. . .
* * *
Substantial householders were occasionally called on for jury service. Otherwise, only those helped the state who wished to do so. The Englishman paid taxes on a modest scale. . .or rather less than 8 per cent. of the national income. The state intervened to prevent the citizen from eating adulterated food or contracting certain infectious diseases. It imposed safety rules in factories, and prevented women, and adult males in some industries, from working excessive hours. . .Expenditure on the social services had roughly doubled since the Liberals took office in 1905. Still broadly speaking, the state acted only to help those who could not help themselves. It left the adult citizen alone.
(A.J.P. Taylor, English History, 1914-1945, (Ed. Sir. George Clark, Oxford Univ. Press, paperback, 1992) at 1.
Monday, May 25, 2009
When you go home,
Tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrow,
We gave our today.
Inscription, British War Memorial, Kohima, India. (attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds, Times Literary Supplement [London], 4 July 1918).
Friday, May 22, 2009
. . .Lately, a professor explained, students and faculty had begun quietly approaching him. "Everything's on the hush-hush," said the professor, a senior member of the faculty. "But they're looking for support. . ."What did those who had approached him fear?"They're afraid for their careers," the professor said, now serious. "These are young people I'm talking about. they don't want to become known as opponents of this administration. They [sic] way things are going, they figure, this new pattern we're seeing, with the government ordering businesspeople around, could become a permanent way of life."
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Bankrupt companies making 39 mpg autos. Are we nuts?
Thursday, May 14, 2009
The Times article, citing a research department of Lloyds, reports some 735 vessels now sitting idle there. Truly an immense fleet: some of these vessels displace almost 300,000 tons. For comparison purposes, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier displaces approximately 100,000 tons at full load. “To go out in a small boat along Singapore’s coast now is to feel like a mouse tiptoeing through an endless heard of slumbering elephants,” Mr. Bradsher writes. No doubt the Ghost Fleet is truly awesome to look at, but it is also terrifying, as it is a visible symptom of the utter collapse of world trade.
The normal business of this cargo fleet is the carriage of raw materials from all over the world to the factories of Asia (particularly China). The ships then turn right round, and then move the produce of all these factories to the markets of Europe and North America.
But the ships – each with crews, maintenance expenses, berthing contracts, fueling and victualling contracts, insurance policies and miles of ledgers and lists of other associated expenses – are all just sitting. America and Europe are not buying right now. There is no need for raw materials at the factories, no cargo moving to the docks. Chinese exports, reports the Times, fell 22.8 percent in April from the same period in 2008. Philippine exports fell 30.9 percent in March from the same period a year ago.
Think on those idle ships, their crews, the factories and business they serve, and all affected by the collapse of that trade. Contracts are going unfulfilled, wages are being stretched and unpaid, millions of people have lost, or are losing, their livelihoods – maybe (eventually) including us both, dear reader. That’s not the worst of it, either: the ramifications of those idle ships and shops haven’t even begun to work through the world nervous system.
The Malacca Ghost Fleet is more than economic disaster for millions of people – it’s going to be a political nightmare of the first order, as the destituted demand that their leaders produce quick solutions and easy answers – neither of which will be forthcoming. The tide of fear and populist rage that’s building is going to be terrible, likely sweeping away governments and bringing chaos all over the globe. The Ghost Fleet is warning us that a tsunami is coming.