Dogs, Marx, Slaves and Tax

It is a while since I put any personal news up, so here is a bit of a catch up.


Our English Setter, Perdita, is settling in well. I have been trying to take for an hour’s walk on the beach whenever I can.  She likes that. She also likes Weetbix in the mornings, and playing with the fish. What she does not like is shoes in pairs; she sees it as her job to separate them whenever she can, so there are odd shoes now everywhere around the house and garden.

We have also adopted – by default – a Red Wattlebird. She (?) flew into one of our windows a couple of weeks ago and pretty much knocked herself out. For while, she was pretty emaciated, but since we have been giving her honey, she has been looking a lot healthier.  I suspect we are not her only family.  She has flown into the house several times when she thinks the service is slack outside, but we discourage that firmly.  It is quite cute, however, when she follows me around the garden. Except when she lands on my head, usually without warning, from behind.

I have been on a diet. Basic drift is as little as possible of fat or carbohydrate, but OK to eat protein ad nausiam. I am now getting seriously bored of fish sticks (those rather synthetic Japanese objects that used to be called crabsticks, notwithstanding the absence of any crab in them).  So far, I have lost a stone.  I could alternatively have lost a similar amount of weight by hacking off my own legs below the knee with a mattock, which would have been about as much fun.

I have finished Mien Kampf, albeit with a fair bit it of skim-reading through the parts that are even more tedious than the rest, such as a long diatribe as to how important the trades unions were to his grand plan. There are a few percipient comments, such as his remark (which has turned out – the best part of century later – to have a ring of truth about it) that France could never regain her former greatness as long as Germany was united and strong. But overall, reading it was not worth the time it took. My next task was to read the Communist Party Manifesto, but I fear that I gave up after a few pages, merely demonstrating to myself that Marx and Engels churned out even more tedious half-baked tripe than Hitler. It is remarkable that these Socialists worked up enough popular support to cause so much damage in the 20th century.

Hugh Bicheno

Much more interesting was Hugh Bicheno’s book Rebels and Redcoats, about the first American Civil War. It is a welcome antidote to the Foundation Myth stuff that Americans tend to trot out, about how the Founding Fathers were supposed to be good, honest, freedom-loving philanthropists. A more accurate picture is that they were a bunch of racist, dishonest crooks, and that they won only because of massive support from France, then desperate to find a way of wounding the British Empire (indeed, Bicheno suggests that the financial burden of the war on Bourbon France was so immense as to precipitate the French Revolution).  A key issue in the whole thing was obviously that of the American colonists’ slavery of the Africans and genocide of the American Indians, each of which was threatened by British influence (the vast majority of both African slaves and native Indians were unsurprisingly on the Loyalist side). As it turned out, one of the key impacts of the War was that slavery was prolonged in the USA (as it became) for another half a century after it was abolished throughout the British Empire (if you still think the Patriots were anti-slavery, see if you can correctly identify how many of the first 10 US Presidents kept slaves. Answer below).

But Bicheno raises an interesting speculative point. If it had not been for the War, Bicheno suggests, the Americans would have continued to exert huge political influence in London, and it is perfectly possible that the very wealthy and powerful slavers in America would have been able to have prevented William Wilberforce’s efforts in the British Parliament to abolish slavery around the British Empire. And if he is right about that, then ironically, the War did have the effect of freeing many slaves, not in the United States of course, but around the rest of the British Empire, such as in the West Indies, since the effect of American Independence is that the British Parliament was able to pass the abolition legislation without American interference.

Bicheno’s book is a follow up to Brigadier Professor Richard Holmes’s television series on the topic. Holmes died last year, which is a loss. His book on Wellington was quite brilliant; I enjoyed that hugely a while ago. Later, I read his book on Churchill, which was less fun, since it illuminated the point that Churchill was, despite his greatness, a deeply unattractive person.

Talking of Americans, it looks like Mitt Romney might be the next American President. I wonder if his name is connected to New Romney, the small town in Kent where I used to go for holidays because my grandmother Molly lived nearby, at Littlestone.  New Romney is called New Romney because it was new when it was settled in 1080.  It later became one of the Cinque Ports set up in around 1155 to provide ships and defence of the coastline before the creation of the Royal Navy by Henry VII in 1496.  The thing about the Port of New Romney is that it is now about a mile away from the sea, not so much because of changes in the amount of water in the world’s oceans, but because the land thereabouts – Romney Marsh – goes up and down;  mostly up. I used to like it there – there was a big nuclear power station just along the beach, at Dungeness, and fishing shacks on the shingle.

It seems that Romney Marsh is not the only place going up and down.  The conventional wisdom is that the sea has been rising by about 2 mm per year over the last century. The rate of change varies a fair bit, apparently pretty much in sync with solar activity.  But 2mm per year seems to be a pretty steady average.

Figure 1. Japanese sea level records. Two records marked “Japan” are from the citation above. They are averages of long-term records since 1906 (4 sites, blue line), and shorter-term records since 1960 (16 sites, red line). Satellite records (green, 1993-2010) are from the University of Colorado interactive wizard. Wajima records (purple, 1930-2010) are from the PSMSL.

But Japan is an exception; there, despite some recent rise over the last 20 years (now levelled off), Japanese sea levels are lower that they were in 1950 (as so often, I am indebted to WUWT for tipping me off to this piece of research). Which means that Japan has been going up in the world.  Which is nice for them. Eventually, they will end up with a bit more room.  They will probably use it to build some more factories to make fish sticks.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s bank balance is presumably going down, because he does seem to be spending prodigious amounts of his vast wealth on getting elected. Still, his 2010 tax return suggests that he and his wife apparently pay just 13.9% of their income on tax, so that would leave him a fair bit left over.  It is hard to feel that that is appropriate, even if it is legal. I am with those who say that 20 times a floor-sweepers wage is as much as anyone should earn: we now live in a world in which this multiplier has blown out to many times that.  I know, of course, of the argument that for any country or state, taxing very high income earners is pointless, because the big earners will just move somewhere else.  But it is hard to see the downside in a United Nations tax on the very rich – people earning more than around $1 million a year – not only to provide some cash for the beleaguered national economies, but also to discourage companies from paying such absurd salaries.  Not that we should hold our breath on this one: the corridors of international power are full of the very rich.


The answer is that 8 of the first 10 US Presidents kept slaves. See

Unless, of course, you live in the fantasy world of Al Gore, who wrote in his book Earth in the Balance:

From the beginning, our leadership of the world community has been based on much more than military and economic strength. The American drive to correct injustice – from the abolition of slavery to women’s suffrage – has constantly renewed our moral authority to lead.

Thereby rather overlooking that the USA was the last country in the Western World to abolish slavery, bar only Brazil. And while we are on the subject of historicity, Gore was not right about the women’s suffrage either:  the US Federal law lagging behind (in rough chronological order) Sweden, Corsica, Pitcairn Islands, Australia, Finland, United Kingdom, Canada,  New Zealand, Cook Islands, New Hebrides, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Armenia,  Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Uruguay,  Austria, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Luxembourg, Netherlands. So it can hardly be said that the USA, much as we love it, has led the world community on either of these issues.



Filed under Climate, History, News from at home, Politics

4 responses to “Dogs, Marx, Slaves and Tax

  1. Ron Kerr

    Your dog is very smart. She is seeking to match shoes with the dozens of single socks we have in our house that have become separated by our German Shepherd.

  2. Michael Dixon

    If Japan’s sea levels are lower, and Australia’s have been creeping up, I think we have all missed the obvious question:

    Can I now sail downhill all the way from Sydney to Tokyo? Sensible analysis is absent from our local edition of the Global Warming Weekly ( Sydney Morning Herald). I smell a conspiracy, and will dig out the tinfoil helmet from the back of the wardrobe.

  3. Don’t be silly, Michael. Its the land that is changing, not the sea.
    So if if you want to get from Tokyo to Sydney (not the other way around) you would need to set up a Flying Fox. That should work just fine.

  4. Neville Quist

    It is indeed interesting that the first 8 leaders of the US kept slaves and it is only now possible and acceptable in Australia that our political Matriach is afforded the luxury of keeping an in-house hairdresser

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