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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Some thoughts from the next generation ...

The Postulant responded to an email from the Monk with the following rather perceptive observations in her reply. In my opinion she makes some extremely valid points. Perhaps some politician - one of that class she mentions below - might take some time out of their busy schedule to answer her on some of these points ...
I won't hold my breath though. She begins by answering my question regarding a "national strike" I had heard a passing reference to ...
Yes to the strike - I have no idea what it's about. It could be solidarity with teachers etc, whose pensions are being rewritten to match the private sector. There was a documentary last night on BBC Four I think, which asked where all of the taxpayers' money has really gone over the last few decades - PFI featured heavily. Some of the banks that we've bailed out have also been sold off recently - and mysteriously the debt has stayed on the government's books, rather than been sold off with the banks in question. I saw a wry comment from a nurse friend on twitter last night - she asked what the world would be like if the banks' remuneration packages had been monitored as closely or discussed as openly as public sector workers' pay is.  
At the risk of sounding as grumpy as you often do on your blog :P ...basically every government we've had since the introduction of stock market trading has ensured that they're alright and to hell with everyone else - when the stock markets have done well, they've taken credit for it and when the stock markets go bad, they blame the previous government. The colour of their ties makes no difference. The stock markets are cyclical because most things involving humanity are cyclical. There's no great mystery to the way that bubbles boost stock prices and then burst - it's easy to see them building up, much like seismologists can see a potential volcanic eruption. Nobody looks because it's not in their best interest to do anything other than play along. At some point we might have to find another way of trading or creating value - what form it would take is anybody's guess, but I'm not in the camp that thinks we should return to bartering or living in caves! I just think we are on the cusp of another phase - yes, stock markets serve a useful purpose in capitalising new companies, but the artificial growth in value of shares, which then slump, has been a millstone around our collective necks since the South Sea Bubble. Now that computers can trade for us, faster than any human trader and with even less judgement, the problem is getting worse. All of our pensions rely on this model working - and it isn't working - and the booms and busts are getting closer together...  
When my brother and I wandered around IKEA in October, we wondered how much longer the consumer society that we've grown up with will last - it isn't sustainable for much longer. We saw items in there that were being sold for less than the cost of the fuel to manufacture and transport them across Europe to the store. And I totally agree with you about the Gegeners - they're totally clueless about the position we're in. Or if they do realise how unsustainable the population is, they probably think it's justifiable to cull other human beings, or dictate how who's allowed children and in what quantities. They have that sort of nasty mindset that comes with thinking you're right all the time. I will be interested to see where we end up - I don't think our retirement will look anything like previous generations' did!   
Er... I should stop there, shouldn't I? 
No, my dear, someone has to see through the charade and the lies that is the daily fare of the news media, the politics and the stock in trade of the self serving "civil" service.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A sad day for the Fire Services ...

I have received the following from the Friends of the London Fire Brigade Museum.


Friends of the London Fire Brigade Museum FLFBM.com
 The Committee along with several members of the Friends attended the Fire Authority meeting on Thursday 24th November.  At this meeting the Authority finalised its proposed budget before submitting it to the Mayor for his approval.
 The budget once again included the closure of the present museum and this was agreed.  However we were heartened to hear that unanimously members from all parties were keen to both retain the collection intact and to explore ways of creating a long term solution that retains this vital piece of our heritage and we are keen to build on this.
 We will be taking up the deputy Commissioners offer of discussions to help in this process and look forward to having a role in the current, interim and medium term storage arrangements and in developing suitable a suitable governance model for a new museum.
 The requirements for closure will need to be in accordance to the requirements set down by the national bodies for accredited museums and this includes offering those who have donated items to reclaim them.  We intend to keep these individuals informed and to notify them when the new museum is safely secured.
This is a very bad decision by the politicians. It will save very little money, it loses them a great deal of goodwill and possibly worst of all, it breaks up one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of fire service history in the world. All to save what amounts, in the LFEPA budgets, to pennies. As someone who donated several items to the museum some years ago, I shall await developments.

One thing politicians of all stripes seem to be ignorant of, is the fact that once you destroy something like this, it is impossible to rebuild or replace it. The third verse of Kipling's magnificent, and precient, poem "Recessional,"  -

Far-called our navies melt away— 
On dune and headland sinks the fire— 
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday 
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!  
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet, 
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Once something is gone, it is gone for good.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Available at last ...

ON THE RUN has been released. Currently available from the publisher, Abbott Press it will shortly also be on the Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other book seller listsings. It is in Hard Cover, Paperback and eBook formats. This one has had a long gestation, I completed it a little over a year ago and have done several revisions, then the publisher wanted some more tweeks ...

I hope readers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating the story.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Looks may be deceptive ...

From Forbes Magazine ...


Gingham Dress And Threadbare suit 
A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston, and walked timidly without an appointment into the Harvard University President's outer office. 
The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country  hicks had no business at Harvard & probably didn't even deserve to be in Cambridge.
"We'd like to see the president," the man said softly. "He'll be busy all day," the secretary snapped   "We'll wait," the lady replied. 
For hours the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away. They didn't, and the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted. 
"Maybe if you see them for a few minutes, they'll leave," she said to him!
He sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn't have the time to spend with them, and he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office.  
The president, stern faced and with dignity, strutted toward the couple.The lady told him, "We had a son who attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus."
The president wasn't touched. He was shocked.  
"Madam," he said, gruffly, "we can't put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery.""Oh, no," the lady explained quickly. "We don't want to erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard."  
The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed, "A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical buildings here at Harvard."  
For a moment the lady was silent.  
The President was pleased. Maybe he could get rid of them now.  
The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, "Is that all it costs to start a university? Why don't we just start our own?"  
Her husband nodded. 
The President's face wilted in confusion and bewilderment. 
Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford got up and walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California where they established the university that bears their name, Stanford University, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.  
You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who they think can do nothing for them.  
A TRUE STORY By Malcolm Forbes, publisher of Forbes MagazineNote : Stanford made his fortune in railways 
"People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did.But people will never forget how you made them FEEL".

Saturday, 26 November 2011

"Gegeners ..."

In German, the word means to be "against" something, and it covers a range of "protest" activities from anti-atomic power through the full spectrum of "anti-anything" campaigning. I find it a very interesting mindset in a rather frustrated manner, since those who lead these campaigns show a similar tendency toward being able to see only their own campaign, rights, facts, arguments and points of view as being valid. I have previously noted this approach among other groups, both the extreme religious types and the atheist/secularist converts who seem to spend an inordinate amount of time recycling their own often very selective arguments for their particular position.

This thought was prompted recently by the reports on the latest bout of campaigning against the Stuttgart 21 Project, a scheme intended to improve the railway access and connections to the city of Stuttgart. It is a huge project and as with all major projects, it has both its merits and its demerits and not a few highly technical problems to overcome. Stuttgart is the capital of Baden-Wurtemburg and it is also the home of the Mercedes Benz manufacturing empire. Its railway connection was conceived and built in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and rebuilt to the same plan after WW2. So why does it need redesigning?

Put simply, the initial design made the city a terminus. Trains can enter and leave, but there is no "through" service. Anything going into Stuttgart must first back out again and then join the mainline to everywhere else. The Stuttgart 21 Project is intended to fix that, increase rail traffic to the city and improve the whole scheme by putting most of the new work below ground. It will cost an enormous amount to do it, but it is seen by Deutchebahn and both the Federal Government and the State Government as an investment which will ensure the city continues to be attractive for commerce and for tourism. So, what's not to like?

The "S21 Gegeners" maintain the whole project is too big, to costly and too disruptive. They seem to fall into two main camps, those who don't want anything to change at all and those who will accept a smaller and less ambitious project. The latter seem to be in a minority from what I read. The Rail company, the designers, the politicians and even the technical experts have held consultations, briefings, enquiries and even been hauled through the courts. Concessions have been made, some of the "Gegeners" biggest objections have been taken on board and changes made to the scheme - but still they keep hammering away, now complaining about the cost of the project which is escalating with each delay they are causing ...

It is evident that for the hardcore "Gegener" the campaign has become a case of no compromise. They accept nothing anybody from the pro side says, everything is immediately called into question or brushed aside as "inadequate" or "irrelevant" or even simply flatly denied. There is, for these folk, no "middle ground" no matter how detailed the report or the technical assessments, they always know someone who can refute, challenge or raise more questions. I watched in amazement this morning as the spokesperson for this campaign to stop S 21 blithely argued that the costs were "running out of control" but then denied that his campaign and the delays they were causing had anything to do with it.

What fascinates me - and frustrates me - with this mindset is that it is evident in a whole bunch of "campaigning" activities. Greenpeace, Fiends of the Earth, "Stop the Cuts," secularisation - they all know all the faults with the "other" side, they can chant their own sides demands and they know their arguments for their standpoint the way someone of deep religious conviction knows their credo - but there is a blanket refusal to consider the impact of their demands or the costs and consequences.

My question, I guess, is what causes it? Is it that people are unable, despite their much vaunted and often vigorously asserted, "rationalisation"of major events and ideas to actually consider things from an objective point of view and not from a predetermined standpoint? Or is it that they are afraid to? That they just don't like change and are determined to hold it back at all cost no matter the consequences? Is it that, having taken a particular position on something they are afraid to change their thinking when presented with new and perhaps more reliable information? Could it be that, for some at least, "the campaign" becomes their sole raison detre for existing? There are certainly many of that ilk among the "Green" campaigners I have encountered. Likewise among those who campaign over safety, rights, freedom and a host of other matters. One gets a distinct impression that the mindset is governed by the tenet, "Don't confuse me with facts. My mind is made up."

An interesting challenge I suspect for some psychological researcher at some point. There is probably some very good explanation for this refusal to weigh and consider both sides of an argument, but I confess it eludes me ...

Oh dear ....    

Friday, 25 November 2011

Headlines

Currently three topics are dominating the German headlines - the exposure and capture of a neo-Nazi terror gang; the €uro crisis; and the ongoing protests over the Stuttgart Bahnhof restructuring and the atomic waste storage facility in Gorleben.

The arrest of members of the neo-Nazi group (two committed suicide when trapped after robbing a bank) has started a tremendous debate over the issue of "right-extremists" and there is a great deal of soul searching being done over this group which has, it transpires, been active for over 10 years. The Secret Service (Ferfassungsdienst) in several of the Federal States apparently knew of their activities and were monitoring them, but failed to share this with the relevant State Police forces. Justifiably there is anger over this in all quarters and now there are calls for the parent political party, the NPD (National Socialist Party) to be banned outright. As ever, the Left are the most vocal in demanding a ban, conveniently ignoring the fact that Germany also has a problem with "Links extremismus"groups, the most notorious of which was the Red Army Faction (Bader-Meinhof Gang), but there are still others at large, though not as active and there is also the threat of Al Qaeda groups and members. Bans usually mean driving groups like these deeper underground and making it even more difficult to track, monitor and deal with them. This seems to have been realised here, though the debate continues.

The €uro crisis concerns everyone, probably the Germans more than anyone else. Older people here remember their parents talking about the collapse of the Mark in the Weimar Republic and the consequences. They also remember clearly the struggle in the post-war years as the country and the economy was slowly rebuilt. They entered the €uro cautiously and their economic rectitude has been worthwhile. Their banks, on the whole, survived the scandal of 2008 very nicely, the majority without any bailouts. Currently, the Chancellor is fighting her corner with the usual Keynesian economists who got us into this mess in the first place and who now want to sell €urobonds and print more money. Germany knows all to well what happens to a currency once the presses start printing more banknotes than the economy can sustain in value. Currently, Germany has a 1.8% interest on borrowing rate on the world exchange as opposed to something akin to 34% for Greece. The €urobond idea would see Germany paying a higher rate for their loans so that France, Spain, Greece et al pay the same as Germany - and Mrs Merkel knows the German people won't be happy bunnies if that happens!

The third item is worthy of a post on its own as anyone watching these protest groups soon comes to realise that for many it is almost a religious dogma. "We are against (insert activity of choice)" and no amount of debate, exchange of information, even inspection of facilities will change that stance. We are against it and it doesn't matter what you say, we will not change or position. This seems to be a human condition, one that is visible in many different things and in many different societies. For those of this mindset there is no "middle ground" and no compromise. For them it is their way or nothing.

On which note I will stop for the moment. Perhaps tomorrow will provide the inspiration to ponder that a little more.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Investing in the Future

My old school is Selborne College, East London, South Africa. It was and is, one of the top public schools (as opposed to a fee paying "Private" school which is what Eton, Harrow or any of the "Public" Schools in the UK would be called in SA) in the country, and I'm not just saying that because I went there. I will also confess that I was never one of their star pupils or sportsmen. I sort of muddled all the way through - to the frustration of most of the Masters I think - and finally wandered off with some "education" and no idea what to do with it. Years later one of my favourite Masters (he taught me history and drama and his wife taught English) told me that I was one of his most frustrating pupils. In his words, he and the other teachers could "see an intelligence lurking in there, but couldn't seem to get it to switch on" - and yet I always somehow scrapeda passing grade despite their being convinced I wouldn't...

Sort of explained all those reports that said "can do better, if he applied himself to the studies." OK, so they did actually manage to at least teach me to listen, observe and think, all of which have stood me in very good stead through my subsequent career.

So why am I rambling on about all this? The school has launched an appeal. It needs to raise ZAR25 million to secure its future. The money is needed to upgrade facilities, extend some buildings to provide new facilities and buy new equipment such as computers. The Old "Boys" Association has kick-started the Appeal with a donation of ZAR500,000 and will, no doubt, be contributing more over the next three years. Under the title of "Selborne Legacy Project" the money will be managed by Trustees as it is collected and I would like to add my own appeal to anyone reading this. Please support them if you can. Follow the link on their website to the donations page and make a donation.

It doesn't matter how small, every Rand, Pound, Dollar or whatever counts!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Electronic Filing

Would be wonderful if you could easily access them. Would be even better if you could find the discs you originally stored them on, and then, once you've found the device that allows you to 'read' the old 3.25 inch 'floppy' (which isn't), if the Word version you are currently using, could open them ...

There is a large degree of frustration in constantly getting an "error' message that says the file is 'blocked.' There is an even greater degree of frustration when the Microslosh provided advice on dealing with the problem, doesn't actually solve it. The problem, of course, is Microsloshes habit of changing the Operating System every time they bring out a new version of something. These files were originally created on my very first laptop running on Windows 95. Since then there have been several new versions of the Word for Windows system, though, to be fair, I could still read these files on the last version of that I had on my Windblows operated PC. But not, it seems on Word for Mac ...

Fortunately, the information is not a matter of life or death, just a favour for a friend, so I will now have to dig out my last laptop using Windblows and see what I can do on that to access and convert the files to a format everthing else can read.

So much for "Electronic Backup."

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Interesting History ...

Today is the 48th anniversary of the shooting of President John F Kennedy, the first Roman Catholic President of the US of A whose election, as I recall, was greeted with almost as much hype as that of the present incumbent. It is often said that his assassination is one of the world events that remain firmly in a person's mind and I can certainly say, in this case, it is true. I was at school. It was a maths class and it was interrupted with the announcement.

A teacher came in, told our class master, who told us, then returned to the lesson. That was it. As we weren't in the US it was shocking to hear that a head of state had been deliberately killed, but it apparently didn't affect us - so we just went on with our school  work.

I remember it was on the news that night on the radio (South Africa didn't get television until the mid 1970s) and it was a week or more before any of us saw it on the Movietone News in the cinema. By then, of course, a great deal more had happened, including the killing of the accused gunman. I was astonished recently to learn that, at the time of this assassination, killing a US President wasn't a "Federal Crime" and the whole affair was, technically, the jurisdiction of the Dallas Police Department and no one else.

One can only wonder whether anything would have been different if JFK had not died. Would Vietnam have escalated the way it did? Perhaps not, since L B Johnson appears to have made that his "Cuba crisis" stand. On the other hand, there are a whole slew of very good social programmes that the US owes to LBJ and not to Kennedy. JFK made the promises, LBJ delivered them.

History certainly has a number of interesting "what ifs" attached ...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Dealing with Bureaucracy ...

Aargh! Or, as another blogger has titled her blog - Ack! Thbbbbbt!

In order to get the money from a small "paid up" policy now maturing in South Africa I am having to leap through more flaming bureaucratic hoops than I ever imagined possible. Even if I succeed in getting all the "proof" they demand to show that I did, in fact, emigrate more than twenty years ago, they will still only allow the money to be paid into an account in South Africa...

OK, that's one way of making sure you don't have a currency haemorrhage I guess, but as they don't have or are not able to supply me with copies of some of the certificates I had to file to leave SA in the first place, how the heck am I supposed to do it twenty-three years on?

I love bureaucrats. I do. I really do. I just want to see them all dangling from lamp posts or swimming with over excited sharks ...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

An uncomfortable truth ...

I have seen this before,but, as we stand at the beginning of the Christian Year (First Sunday in Advent is the start of the Liturgical Calendar) it is worth considering what this says. Whether you are a church goer, or not, atheist or something else, the point being made is that if you take discipline and morality out of society, you really should't be surprised when bad things start to happen around you ...
Apparently the White House referred to Christmas Trees as Holiday Trees for the first time this year which prompted CBS presenter, Ben Stein, to present this piece which I would like to share with you. I think it applies just as much to many countries as it does to America .. 
The following was written  by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday  Morning   Commentary. 
My confession: 
I am a Jew, and every  single one of my ancestors was Jewish.  And it does not bother me  even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled  trees, Christmas trees.  I don't feel threatened.  I don't feel  discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees. 
It doesn't bother me a  bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me.  I don't think they are  slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto.  In fact, I kind  of like it.  It shows that we are all brothers and sisters  celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that  there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach  house inMalibu .  If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me  as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.
I don't like getting  pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting  pushed around for being Christians.  I think people who believe in  God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.  I have no  idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist  country.  I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it  being shoved down my throat.
Or maybe I can put it  another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship  celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God ?  I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too.  But  there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from  and where the America we knew went to. 
In light of the many  jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little  different:  This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's  intended to get you thinking.
Billy Graham's daughter  was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could  God let something like this happen?' (regarding Hurricane Katrina)..   Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.  She  said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for  years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our  government and to get out of our lives.  And being the gentleman He  is, I believe He has calmly backed out.  How can we expect God to  give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us  alone?'
In light of recent  events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.  I think it  started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a  few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we  said OK.  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in  school.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal,  and love your neighbor as yourself.  And we said OK.
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock  said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their  little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem  (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide).  We said an expert should know  what he's talking about.  And we said okay.
Now we're asking  ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right  from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their  classmates, and themselves.
Probably, if we think  about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out..  I think it has  a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'
Funny how simple it is  for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to  hell.  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question  what the Bible says.  Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail  and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages  regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.  Funny how  lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace,  but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and  workplace.
Are you laughing  yet?
Funny how when you  forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list  because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you  for sending it.
Funny how we can be more  worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of  us.
Pass it on if you think it has merit.
If not, then just discard  it.... no one will know you did.  But, if you discard this thought  process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is  in. 
My Best Regards,   Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein
Feel free to copy it and paste it into an email if you think it should be shared.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

In or out?

As I noted the other day in this post, democracy is perceived in different ways by different people and at different times. Thus, for the anti-EU factions in the UK, the changes of government in the countries at the heart of the €uro crisis is "undemocratic" and one is given the impression that the democratically elected parliaments have been overthrown and unelected governors imposed. Yet, all that has happened is the unpopular and incompetent minority governments have been replaced, in Greece by a new coalition of sitting (elected!) MPs and in the other, by a new coalition, again composed of elected members already 'sitting' in the legislature. No different in fact to what happened when Mr Blair "retired" and handed over the reigns of power to Mr Brown without "consulting" the electorate.

I find myself amazed at some of the statments being made by presumably intelligent people. I have read in some blogs the assertion that "German Militarism" is once more a threat to the "freedom of Europe," that the whole EU is a "German plan to seize control of Europe" and many other similar, equally silly statements. For one thing present day Germany is far from "militaristic." In fact it is probably less "militaristic" than France or the UK. It has just slashed its Armed Forces, scrapping an entire class of modern frigates in the navy, entire regiments in the army and entire squadrons in the airforce. Having scrapped National Service, they are now struggling to recruit people for the services and, quite frankly, their focus is on protecting their own economy.

As for wishing to deprive anyone of their "democracy" I'd suggest that those making the charge should get a reality check. The German government operates and has done for as long as I can remember, on a coalition system. Everything the Chancellor does has first been fought over, argued and eventually voted on by the Bundestag. Then, sometimes, things still have to get the approval of the Landestags. There are 17 of those and they don't always do as the Bundestag recommends - far from it.

Yes, the proposals on the table at the moment is for a central committee which would determine the spending and borrowing levels for the member states. Yes, that takes control away from the member governments of their economies, but, frankly, if the peoples of those states want the stability of a solid currency, they have to surrender that control. No one is compelling them - if they want out, they probably still have the printing plates for their original currencies. The problem they would face, of course, is the value of that currency when they re-issue it. It could be just so much monopoly money ...

Does anyone accuse the USA of having "robbed" its constituent States of their democracy because Washington DC determines the spending and borrowing limits? No, and it is worth remembering that the US Dollar also went through a tramatic start up.

Frankly I think the UK news media, the vociferous anti-EU-ers and and the government of the UK have to step back, stop throwing their toys out of the pram and decide whether they want to be a part of a larger Europe, or vanish into obscurity all on their own. I rather think Scotland will take its own route in that event and remain a part of the EU and other parts may take the same decision. The UK is a Great Power because it has a nuclear deterent, it no longer has the armed forces that could fight a major war, in fact I suspect that the Falklands, if invaded now, would be left to the invaders with no more than some "diplomatic exchanges" in the UN.

The real problem for the UK media and others, as I see it, is that the rest of Europe has made plain that they will not be dictated to by a single member which consistently refuses to follow the same rules they demand everyone else should. There is a LOT wrong in the EU, not least the unelected Commission appointed by the Council of Ministers - who claim this is legitimate because THEY are elected. By some measures that is democratic...

It does seem to me to come down to a single issue. The UK has to make a decision, to stay in the EU or to withdraw. Personally I will be sad to see the latter because I do believe that the UKs best interests lie in being a part of Europe, but that certainly isn't helped by the utter lack of understanding of so  much of Europe's history, or of the manner in which so many government's function.

It is a very complex issue, but it isn't helped by the likes of Nigel Farage slinging mud and refusing to work with people to achieve what we would all like to see, a strong Europe, democratic, and able to show the world a fair dispensation for all its people. That won't happen if the mudslinging and wrecking continues.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Cool Cat ...


We have a new "cat" in our garden. He looks slightly appealing to me, probably wondering why he's been left outside in all the cold and damp. Seriously though, he's there to protect our rose bush which didn't really appreciate the heavy snow last year. Bet we don't get any this year - and "Cool Cat" will wonder why we did this to him after all ...

Actually he makes me feel quite guilty ...

Uncollected tax...

It has emerged that the Greek taxpayers owe their government €60 billion in unpaid tax... That is just unbelievable in itself, but even more amazing is the fact that the Greek government has made no effort to collect it.

No wonder they are an economic basket case. €60 billion uncollected tax, with the most generous social security handouts in Europe - paid for it seems by massive borrowing and the taxpayers of every other EU country. The new government of "national unity" (Contrary to some of the reportage I have seen from UK based news sources, consisting of sitting MPs elected to the Greek Parliament and not unelected apparatchiks from Brussels as the media have implied) would do well to collect the outstanding tax immediately and pay off some of their debt.

Frankly, the more I think about this the more I need to go and lie down with a damp towel on my forehead. Even the German news services seem to be stunned by this revelation ...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Memorials

While Remembrance Sunday tends to be very high profile and well marked in the UK, as you would expect it is a very much lower key affair in Germany. Understandably I think, but we should not lose sight of the fact that both the wars fought in the first half of the 20th Century began with a political assassination in Sarajevo. Then it escalated because a whole slew of family alliances, political alliances and ambitions all came together to drag Europe and then the world into a war. Even though he is often accused of being a warmonger, it is worth noting that the Kaiser sent a batch of urgent telegrams to King George V, the French and to the Tsar inviting them to stay out of "the Austrian/Serb squabble." If they would refrain from mobilising, he would not mobilise his forces.

Unfortunately the Tsar, possibly because he hadn't thought through the implications, ignored the plea and told his generals to mobilise. As a result the dominoes began to tumble, one after another, setting in train the mobilisations which became the mud of the various battlefield theaters,  and slaughter of the flower of European youth. For some it was certainly about patriotism, for others it was simply duty and for many it was a way to escape menial and degrading lives and futures.

Given that the first war ended without a clear winner, despite the propaganda from the winning side, the second was made inevitable by the draconian conditions imposed in the 'peace.' As Churchill has written, the terms imposed at the end of the first war, made the second inevitable. It paved the way for the spread and growth of ideologies that have left a terrible legacy. Russia alone lost almost 15 million men, and the German nation bled almost to death with the loss of over 8 million in 1939 - 45 and the losses in WW1 were much higher on all sides.

I am reminded of this regularly as I take a walk past the little Friedhof in Watzhahn. It is a small village now, it was even smaller in 1914 and not much bigger in 1939. The Albus family and the Debus families still live here, others have gone, their sons and fathers remembered only on the memorial below.


The fresh wreath is laid every year, quietly and without fuss, by the Village committee chairman and the families whose uncles, fathers and grandfathers names are recorded. Propaganda is a wonderful thing, it enables us to avoid looking to closely at how these things happen, what gives rise to the ideologies that drive them and at the suffering that arises on all sides.

Certainly I think, as I look at the names on this memorial for 1939 - 1945, I find myself thinking that D-Day also represented the liberation of the German people from the clutches of a tyrant. Sadly, it left others, almost as bad, in power for another 50 years.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Something a little different ...

I'm fed up with politics, politicians and political commentators, so here is something totally different for a change -

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Democracy - a question of meaning ...

From Wikipedia:
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal (and more or less direct) participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law.[1] It can also encompass social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.
To most of us, the above is what we think is the way things work in any "democracy" but, is it?


In most "democratic" countries (and quite a few the "West" consider undemocratic) this generally means we get to vote every few years to determine who sits in a parliament, council chamber or some other "house" of representation and run a country, city, province or county on our behalf. If you live in a country where it is "one man; one vote" and a "first past the post is elected" system there is a complication if your candidate isn't elected. It also means that a "tribal" vote for a particular party can make it impossible to change a government. This was the case in South Africa from 1948 to 1994, the distribution of constituencies meant that there was a permanent majority for the Nationalist Party, the architects of Apartheid. If you lived in a Nationalist Constituency and didn't vote for them, your vote scarcely mattered.


The big question has to be, is this really democracy? Was the "democracy" practiced by communist dictatorships any better? Did the voter really have an "equal say in the decisions that affect their lives?" Simplistically - no. The ruling party usually has enough seats to overrule any objection from anyone in opposition. OK, so this is called "majority" rule, but it is a bit of steamroller as far as anyone dissenting is concerned, especially if you have no hope of reversing whatever the decision was because you can't change the government. It gets worse where the elected "Members" of the legislature claim that their "House" is also "sovereign" and that this means they don't have to consult the electorate on anything, no matter how large an issue it might be, between elections.


Personally I don't believe that any of these systems is really democratic. Why? Because most of them contain the single flaw - the electorate really only have a say over who "represents" them and not over what the collected "representatives" can and can't enact which impacts on their electorate.


As I remarked yesterday, much fuss has been made in certain quarters about the fact that the Greek and Italian governments have been changed without an election. It is claimed that this is undemocratic, but my impression from the news channels in those two countries is that the people are overjoyed at the change. Berlusconi owned almost all the newspapers and TV stations and, as the media invariably exert a huge influence in any election, could, conceivably, have swung enough voters to hang on in power - despite having almost single-handedly destroyed the Italian economy. The Italians are quite happy that, at last, he has been forced from office.


The Greeks present another side of the coin. They elected the Papandreou government and its predecessor, both in thrall to the communist controlled Trade Unions and both far left socialist in their policies. Cue very generous social welfare, health care, civil service pay and a free spending programme for everyone - plus a lack of tax policing and collection leading to massive tax evasion. The Unions are against the cuts, the government has little choice since their loans are now due for payment and those who do pay their taxes are now feeling the pinch. A change of government is welcomed by most there as well, but, yes, there is a price to pay.


It is interesting to note that there is no universally accepted definition of democracy, which was invented in Greece, not as a means of "electing representatives" but as a way of getting people removed from office and even exiled from the city states. Perhaps that is a concept we should explore again!


"Majority" rule has, in recent times, been declared by various liberal thinkers as the only acceptable form of democracy, yet the same group are quite happy to impose "minority rights" giving minorities power to frustrate a majority wish expressed in a "democratic" manner. Personally I find it disturbing that a system that was totally unacceptable in Africa, is now imposed in the name of "fairness and justice" to "protect ethnic minorities" in a sort of reverse apartheid. "Minority rights" are important, but should they be able to overturn the rights of a majority? Those who argue they should are, ironically the same people who fought to have the apartheid regime isolated and driven from government.


The EU is promoted as a "democratic" institution, but how much influence do the individual voters actually have? The answer is very little, certainly in terms of the definition with which I started. We "elect" the Strasbourg Parliament, but that's about it. The Council of Ministers appoints the Commissioners who actually make the laws - and it is claimed that this is a "democratic" process because the Ministers are "elected" by the voters and therefore empowered to make these appointments ...


Democratic? In my view, marginally. Very marginally. Frankly, its corrupt.


Is Britain's much vaunted system any better? Roughly a third of the seats at present can be described as "tribal" (The correct term is "Safe" meaning one Party enjoys an unasailable majority in that constituency) and in reality only the "marginal" seats ever change hands. Add to that the "Whips" who enforce "Party Discipline" and make sure all their MPs vote as they are told to by "The Leader" and you have to wonder if your voice is ever heard at all.


The explanation (excuse) is that we live in a "Parliamentary Democracy" and that "Parliament is Sovereign" and therefore free to do as it pleases once elected. You, the voter, have given them your approval and proxy to rule you as they see fit. Is it really democratic? It is argued that we can change the government, but the UK system (and most of those modelled on it) really only offer a choice of two Parties and, if neither happens to represent your ideals or views - well, tough.


I suppose we are left with Sir Winston Churchill's famous line - "Democracy: The worst of all systems of government. Except for all the others."

Monday, 14 November 2011

Different points of view ...

I have watched and read with interest a number of different blogs, news items and newspapers in recent days all with different points of view on the €uro and the efforts to save it and prevent the debt crises in Greece, Italy and other southern European countries, from getting out of hand. Many of the British blogs and newspapers seem to be following the theme of "good riddance to the €uro, no body wants it," or "EU/Brussels/France/Germany have removed the democratic rights of Greece and Italy" or "Germany is trying to takeover Europe ..."

It is very interesting to note that there is a strong anti-German theme in many of these posts, most of which focus on the attempt to bail out the various governments whose profligate spending has precipitated the crisis. All the old propaganda is being paraded again. Germany wants to suppress democracy, Germany wants to control Europe, Germany wants ... Living in Germany I can only say that the Germans are themselves utterly bemused by all this.

As for those claiming that the Italians have been denied a "democratic right" that certainly isn't the impression one gets watching them celebrating Berlusconi's departure. Anyone would think, watching Italian, Swiss and German newscasts, that the Italians felt that his being forced to resign by the EU rescue deal was a good thing. Interestingly, this is not what is being reported (I can't watch BBC or UK Channels because they don't allow people outside the UK to do so!) in the UK according to the online newspapers. Is this just a different perspective, or is it a deliberate attempt to put a different spin on things?

An interesting question. But what is the motive behind it?

As far as I can see from the news reports and blogs I follow, it is all about forcing the UK Government to hold a Referendum on membership of the EU. It seems the bloggers and the media want to see the UK out of Europe, many with the fond idea that the former colonial and Dominion members of the Empire that form the Commonwealth will welcome them back with open arms and help form an anti-Europe trading bloc. Some might, but I suspect that a majority won't.

I also find the glee with which many of these reports contemplate the "failure of the €uro" disturbing. They seem to have no concept of how the money values work or what and who is likely to suffer most if it does - and it certainly won't be any of the political classes or the really wealthy. No, it will be the ordinary people, the workers, the Middle Classes who will suddenly find that everything they have worked for has collapsed around them. Do these reporters and "experts" ("x" is an unknown factor and a "spurt" is a drip under pressure) really want to see this happen?

Much was made last week of warnings from Germany that allowing the collapse of the €uro might see wars break out in Europe again. This was trumpeted by some as "proof" that "German militarism" was rising and a "threat" to stability. In fact, Germany has cut its armed forces even more drastically than the UK at the moment, scrapping all seven of an entire class of frigates in its Navy and slashing the number of soldiers, sailors and airmen to less than half the figure they were. Reading the full German text of the speech so badly reported in the UK presents a slightly different picture. The reference was to a rise in civil strife which could overspill borders once the economies of some of the states just emerging from the Communist desert collapse. It was not a reference to the sort of wholesale conquests attempted in the last century at all.

Much is made in some quarters about the "lack of democracy" in Europe, yet almost all of Europe uses Alternative Voting or some variant of Proportional Representation. In the UK, if you don't vote according to the "tribal preference" of your local constituency, you might as well not bother - and many don't. I would agree that the Commission should be directly elected and perhaps certain other key posts as well, but here comes the difficulty. It would have to be done on some sort of "Collegiate" system such as that used in the US for presidential elections and we all know the problems that can arise from that! The UK population is currently 62 million, Germany some 85 million, France about the same. It figures that if you get "bloc" voting, your population counts, but is a Collegiate system going to equilise or further disadvantage member states and their voters? Interestingly the German population is declining by about 0.1% per year, while the UKs is rising by 1% per year. Changing demographics can change the voting patterns as well as the economics of a situation. And, how democratic is democratic? Or better still, how do we define it? Let us not forget that all the Communist regimes did, and some still do, claim to be the only democratic states in the world ...

This leads on to one of the things so exercising the UK media and blogs at the moment. As Mr Cameron discovered in his very own "West Lothian" moment - the seventeen €uro States in the EU are not about to take any advice from him or anyone else who isn't in the €uro about how to save it, manage it or work with it. And why should they? After all, the UK has made it clear it is staying out, the Pound is a rival currency and the UK hopes in some quarters, that the failure of the €uro will somehow strengthen the Pound isn't likely to endear then to it or him. In fact the consensus among economists seems to be that the failure of the €uro will damage everyone, perhaps bringing a total failure of the economies of a large number of struggling states.

Sometimes I have the very clear impression that some commentators live on a planet where the view is very confined, so confined that it could almost be unrealistic. There is a larger picture here, one that is slowly becoming clearer. No one seems to have asked why the UK is running its armed forces to such a low ebb. Despite the government's protestations that they are as big and strong as they need be to meet the UK Defence needs, the truth is that they are not. Numerous defence experts have pointed this out and so have the armed forces themselves. But across Europe Defence forces are being reduced and the only conclusion one can draw is that somewhere in this are a bunch of bureaucrats beavering away and planning for a single European Army, Navy and Airforce. Similar activity is affecting police services and many other services - so just how "independent" is anyone these days.

The same applies to may EU member economies, they are now so intertwined that the events in Greece threaten everyone, not just the Eurozone members. Ah well, as a small player and a single vote in a very big pond of voters, I guess I, like everybody else, will just have to wait and see. I just hope the more vociferous among the anti-€uro, anti-EU lobbies are wrong ...    

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Perspectives ...

Earlier this week the Postulant copied me into a link for a brochure the Metropolitan Police were distributing to the "Occupy London" rent-a-mob. It was a great piece of PR and advice, it contained such gems as  -
... if an officer is wearing his riot helmet with the visor down he may not be able to hear you unless he is facing you. He may also shout at you to make sure you hear him ...
As they had gone to some trouble to make clear that the policemen and women would not be wearing these helmets unless faced with a situation that called for it - as in someone has started throwing things or attempted something naughty - I rather thought the gentle hint was "don't even attempt to talk to him - just do as you're told. NOW!"

The Postulant was also engaged with a chat forum and following a clash with some young person whose ignorance obviously exceeds his personality she sent me the following comment -
I really enjoyed seeing an example of the police still managing to do their job well and in a creative way, despite all of the obstacles that get put in their way. We are fortunate that there are still people who are prepared to wear uniform and fight bureacracy to keep us safe - and I would be happy to be quoted on that, at any time and however publicly it needs to be said.  I also pointed out to an anonymous little twerp who insulted a copper on a large online forum with the usual "I pay your wages" garbage that the police and other emergency services are remarkably good value for money. I reminded him that before Robert Peel, the only people who could afford to have someone go after a thief who stole their treasured possessions were the extremely rich (I omitted criminals with heavies - but the price of having a gang of heavies is that sooner or later they get you, so I don't count that as equal protection).  Considering the relatively small amount that we all pay in tax (and probably tiny percentage of our tax that goes to fire, police and health services), we should be extremely grateful to have the kind of protection that used to require a personal army. Any prat who mocks the emergency services deserves the experience of needing them - and then feeling the worst kind of shame over being helped by people who are far better than them. And before you say they wouldn't feel shame, they do in their shrivelled little souls - they just don't always know what the feeling's called ;)
That's my girl all right.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembrance Day


At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We shall remember them.
They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn.
They gave their today
So that we might enjoy our tomorrow.

My grandfather, A/Sgt Henry Nelson Heron (18yrs), Royal Garrison Artillery, 36th Ulster Division, recalled that the silence which descended on the Front at 11 o'clock on the 11th November, 1918 was the most eerie thing he had ever experienced. He never forgot the friends, most of them school boys like himself, he left behind on Flanders fields.

On Flander's fields, where poppies grow,
Between the crosses, row on row ...

The flower of Europe's youth lies beneath those and all the other battle fields from that war and the subsequent one. We should never forget the sacrifice they made. Even those who survived carried the scars to their graves and some of those scars were not visible to the eye, but were indelibly etched on the hearts and minds of the men who fought them.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A sensible rejection ...

As usual there are all the "free lunch" socialist types demanding a "tax on wealth" to pay for, International AID, Climate Change, Wealth Redistribution and Job Creation. The Chancellor of the UK, the number 2 man in the government if you count the incumbent of No. 10 Downing Street as No.1 (I don't, to me the Sovereign is always No. 1 so George Osborne is No. 3) may not be everyone's favourite person, but in this videoed session of the EU Ministers, he is making a damned sight more sense than most of his detractors ...

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Good and bad thinking ...

Came across the following on Climate etc., a blog run by Dr Judith Curry, a noted climate scientist.
Unfortunately, there is not simply good and bad thinking in the world, both easily recognized as such. There is also bad thinking that appears to be good and therefore wrongfully, sometimes disastrously, used as the basis of very important decisions. Very often this “bad thinking” is defended and “rationalized” in a highly sophisticated fashion. However flawed, it successfully counterfeits good thinking, and otherwise intelligent people are taken in. Such thinking is found in every dimension of human life and in every dimension it does harm; in every dimension it works against human well-being. 
While she is addressing some of the name calling and arguing in the climate science/Anthropomorphic Global Warming debate that black is white and vice versa, it struck me, reading her article, that this is what has gone wrong in so many aspects of our present society. In my view the entire Politically Correct agenda is a result of "Bad Thinking" in that it has taken perfectly reasonable and logical issues and created a monster out of them.  Morality is turned on it's head in this process and becomes a draconian beast, the ally of bullies and misogynists who spend all their time examining every statement and every action in others in an effort to find and " - ismist" intention.


This is what has spawned such oxymorons as "institutional racism, sexism, homophobia" and so many more. This is what spawns the sort of idiot who can take a light-hearted comment and turn it into a racist slur, or see a father taking a photograph of his child and turn it into an act of paedophilia.


How does it arise? I suspect it begins innocently enough, as something one can identify with as a "cause" to be supported. Gradually it grows as more and more misinformation is added or misdirection is received until someone, who probably has a tendency toward obsession anyway, becomes so convinced of the "justice" of their cause, they start a crusade. This is the sort of thing that begins with, for example, the perfectly reasonable desire of those who find themselves drawn to a same-sex relationship, to be able to enjoy that relationship openly and without censure. Then it becomes a campaign to demand that everyone must acknowledge that right and finally, as in Sparta, it must be made the "norm" in the eyes of the campaigner. In this drive to compel everyone to accept everything, all sense of balance and "reasonableness" is lost. If you disagree with someone's views, you risk being labeled fascist, if you think Islam isn't the same as Christianity, you are an Islamophobe. If you are uncomfortable with homosexuality, you are a homophobe. Normal, everyday behaviour is now regarded with suspicion by the advocates of PC ideology because it might mask some "-ism" they are against. Using an ordinary figure of speech can get you branded as a racist ...


Another example of how this kind of thinking can be used is to study the case of the fundamentalist in any religion. They will consider no argument around their belief. The reasoning is usually circular and closed. This is clearly manifest in both sides of the climate change debate. Neither side will actually 'hear' what the other side is saying - hence Dr Curry's "bad thinking" label.


But "bad thinking" seems to pervade almost every aspect of our lives at present. I have already mentioned the religious fundamentalist, but they are joined by the anti-religion faction who have arrived, by some rather interesting manipulations of facts, at the conclusion that all wars are started by religions and all sexual abuse is committed by Roman Catholic priests... Again, if the actual crime statistics are examined, less than 2% of all clergy commit any sort of offence and this accounts, across the world, for under 10% of the actual crimes of sexual abuse. What one must not do, is try to discuss this with anyone who is convinced of the mantra: religion = war; clergy = abusers.


I find myself asking what is it in some people that prevents them from critically examining their reasoning or their cause? Is it actually a form of mental illness? 


Maybe there's a doctorate and vast amount of research funding to be had in examining it!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The €uro debacle ...

Seems to be taking up a huge amount of everyone's time at present. Reading some of the UK reports you could be forgiven that the €uro experiment was designed by the Devil himself with the express purpose of impoverishing the member nations and depriving them of their "democratic rights." President Sarkozy and the Chancellor of the German Federation, Angela Merkel seem to be in the firing line over it as well. Primarily they are accused of "stripping the Greeks of the democratic rights" and of trying to recreate the Carolingian Empire.

I have to confess that I find the latter accusation amusing to say the least. Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse in German) was crowned Holy Roman Emperor and managed to bring peace to Europe after subduing all the Germanic, Slavonic and Gaelic tribes who invaded Europe after 410 AD. On his death his empire was divided between his sons and then, in the ensuing 1,000 years, fragmented further. The boundaries we recognise today in Europe are those created after 1945 and I doubt Charlemagne would recognise them - or the supposed "European Empire" the present crop of politicians are accused of creating.

As for the Greek plebiscite - or lack of - I fail to see what they could have voted for or against. Their nation is bankrupt. A large majority evade all forms of tax and the state budget hands out freely against loans from the IMF, EU, and various private financial institutions. Sarkozy and Merkel managed to stitch together a package of funding and reforms with the approval of a number of other €uro members who all stand to lose heavily if Greece does go under and take the €uro down and then, at the 11th hour the man who got Greece into this mess decides to hold a Referendum. On what? Accept or reject the bail out? You can be sure he wouldn't have got anything better by trying to renegotiate it. And if they rejected it? What then? Resurrect the Drachma? With what? Backed by what?

The truth is that Greece probably can't leave the €uro unless they wish to adopt the same tactic Mugabe used when the Zim$ crashed to the point of having so many noughts after the first number there weren't enough printing presses to keep up. What point would a Referendum serve then? Sure "the People" might have had a say in it, but since they voted for Papandreou in the first place, what does it prove? Then they didn't pay the taxes and embarked on social welfare handout programmes and the like that made this situation inevitable. Would it have solved anything?

The simple answer is, no.

The truth is that the €uro is in fact the victim of politics of the handout cultures in far too many of its constituent economies. One of the accusations hurled at Merkel and Sarkozy is that they are "depriving" the member nations of the "right" to set their own budgets and taxes, interest rates etc. But that isn't entirely true either. Germany and France are the principle power-houses in the European economy, with Holland, Sweden and Finland providing the bulk of the economic stability and productivity. Italy is a tale of two halves with the south largely soaking up the economy generated in the north, Spain and Portugal, alongside Greece are examples of Socialist misrule and abuse of economics and then there is Greece.

Merkel, Sarkozy and the other "Northern" nations powering the EU economy would be negligent if they allowed the rogue states like Greece to destroy their countries economies as well. And here lies a major part of the conundrum. If a plebiscite were held and the voters said "yes," the anti-lobby would scream that it had been rigged or the voters "mislead" or "bullied" and if it went their way and the nation's economy collapsed, they would scream that it was the fault of the "rich" who had "robbed" the Treasury. As Churchill once remarked, democracy is the worst of all systems of government - except for all the others. This is, perhaps, where we have taken "democracy" to be something the Ancient Greeks never envisaged. After all, their original system was about REMOVING politicians and banishing them from office!

Western economies are generally declining on the world stage. The rising economic powerhouses are India, China and Brazil and this century will, I think, see them gain centre stage in the leadership of the world, probably with a renewed, restored and economically stable Russia as a fourth. Those who rage about the "democratic rights" that have supposedly been denied the Greeks should consider this carefully. If the €uro is allowed to fail it will seriously damage both the US$ and the British Pound and quite possibly stall or even reverse their economic recovery from the 2008 Crash.

We may not like the €uro, we may even wish to see a reversion to the "old currencies" but I doubt it can happen at this point without causing serious economic chaos. The truth is that today a currency is worth only what a country produces in real terms of the "Balance of Trade." As a trading bloc, Europe has a strong Balance, as individual nations, some are strong others are so weak their currencies would not have even the value of the paper they are printed on. Which is better?

I know one thing, I have a drawer full of currencies from countries who tried to buck the market. I have some banknotes from one former European currency. I hold close to a million in notes. Value? About €2. Would I like to see this happen across the EU? No.

There are many things about the EU I do not like. I don't like the Council of Ministers having the power to appoint the Commission and the President. I want those posts elected. I don't like the way Brussels is running a socialising agenda. I want more freedom and less regulation. I don't like the manner in which the Brussels bureaucrats are able to run rings round national governments, or the way many national civil servants are quick to Gold Plate anything from Brussels which increases their power. I don't like the fact that the EU Parliament is an almost irrelevant institution. What is the point of electing the clowns who feed in it if they can't call the shots to Brussels and the Bureaucrats? But I don't want to see the €uro fail.

The damage it will do will plunge Western democracy into a real crisis, one I don't think we can recover from.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Time, like an ever rolling stream ...

A line from the old funeral and Remembrance Sunday hymn, Abide with me, sprang to mind this morning when I got a message telling me that the wife of the priest who prepared me for confirmation and mother of my first real girlfriend, had died on All Saints Day.

These last few years she has suffered from dementia and been very infirm as well, she was, after all, over 80 years of age. Mrs Moore as we kids knew her, was the epitome of a Vicar's wife. Always engaged in the work of the Parish, always supportive of her husband's ministry and always welcoming to their home. My thoughts are with Val and Penny, her daughters, and with their families at this time. She will be buried alongside her husband, the Rev Mervyn Moore, in Fernie, BC, Canada where the family now live.

It has been a long road for all of them. They came originally from Yorkshire, where Rev Moore had served at the great Cathedral Minster, then moved to South Africa, where he developed his ministry further. Finally, they followed Val and her husband to Canada where they enjoyed their retirement.

May they both rest in peace, and rise with all the saints in glory.

Friday, 4 November 2011

A new threat to the LFB Museum.

Below is the Press Release issued by the Friends of the museum who are trying to save it, yet again, from the politicians who have no appreciation of any heritage which isn't part of their current ideological "vision."

Friends of the London Fire Brigade Museum PRESS RELEASE
 The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, (LFEPA) is expected to propose closing the London Fire Brigade museum, in Winchester House, part of the brigade’s Southwark Training Centre.
 The LFEPA will meet on 24th November to consider a recommendation to close the museum as part of its annual budget review.  This will save the cost of two staff, which we estimate to be £81,000 along with income from admissions and sales from a small shop.  To date this income has never been re-invested in the museum.
 The museum provides many outstanding services…
 ·      It is a fantastic educational resource, and will severely inhibit the LFB’s ability to communicate its fire safety message
·      It is home to nearly 20,000 exhibits, and a fantastic collection of archives including books, and historic service records
·      The museum allows family of former firefighters to conduct searches, at a time when there is a growing interest in genealogy and history.
·       The museum is  presently located in the grounds of the historic Grade II Listed Winchester House, once home to the founding father of modern-day firefighting techniques, Captain Sir Eyre Massey Shaw
 If the museum closes, it will deprive Londoner’s young and old of a valuable link to the capital’s heritage.
Crucially, the museum plays a part in contributing to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s fire safety Message.  See: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/fire/Firekillsreport201011 The Friends of the London Fire Brigade MuseumIs a small independent body formed in 2008 and successfully campaigned to prevent a previous attempt to close it which was vetoed both by the Committee and led to the Mayor supporting it continuation.
 The meeting on 24 November is the means by which the Fire Authority formulates is budget prior to submitting it to the Mayor for his formal approval.
 Our aim is to keep what is an important part of London’s cultural heritage and especially on the eve of the cultural Olympiad, available to the people of London and the wider world.  This collection represents one of the best example’s of fire related memorabilia in the world and shows the key role the Fire Brigade has played in the development of our city.
 Follow us on http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/lfbmuseum http://twitter.com/#!/FLFBM https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=26317448196 http://flfbm.co.uk/ CONTACT: For tv, radio and newspaper interview, call:  Tony Sweeney 07876598199 Dave Rogers 07946403864


If you feel you can support and help us save the museum, please contact the two people listed in the release, sign up to the petition, or, perhaps better, contact the LFEPA and express your feelings, preferably by letter or e-mail.