Monday, 31 December 2012

The End of the Year ...

Despite the hype put about by the terminally Apocalyptic, which includes those of various religious persuasions as well as none, the world continues on its way through the solar system and the galaxy. Predictions made twelve years ago that 'snow would be unknown by 2010' have also been proved unsound by the weather which continues to do what it does, and none of the cities predicted to be underwater by now are either, though some others have suffered flooding of a more temporary sort.

New York suffered badly from the combination of a storm surge and high spring tides plus an infrastructure not designed, maintained or built to deal with it. Far from the sea levels having risen exponentially, the combination of a four metre surge on top of a two metre tide (roughly 18 feet to the unmetricated) was bound to have an impact on an island which normally deals with a maximum tidal surge of less than half that. "Sandy" was no longer a hurricane when it came ashore either, but it did hit a particularly densely populated area, so the surprise is that there wasn't more damage and more deaths. What is shocking is that there are still, apparently, people without electricity and proper water supply and living in tents, caravans and other temporary shelters.

As I write, most of Europe is very wet, but snowless, while the US is experiencing massive snow storms. The Arctic sea ice levels, dramatically reduced by a two week cyclonic storm in the Arctic earlier this year, has bounced back equally dramatically and many of the less hysteric climate scientists are speaking about how an ice free Arctic drives the snow, ice and freeze bearing 'jet streams' southward over North America and Europe - borne out by the snow falls in Russia and Eastern European and Asiatic areas. We had a taste of this in late October and early November ourselves, but, for the moment we have rain and wind, which, when it does snow, means we'll have ice underlying it.

The economic situation seems to be in stasis at the moment. It isn't getting any better, it could get worse, and the politicians seem unable to figure out what, if anything, they should attempt to fix it. Since everything they've done so far seems only to have made things worse, perhaps they should try the alternative - and do nothing. There do seem to be two problems here in the western democracies, the first being that our political classes think they own the money supply and can distribute it as they wish, the second is that the people who really control the money supply, have been selling off the silver in the west and investing the proceeds where there are fewer calls upon their incomes and less restricttion on their activities. The US, the EU, UK and all the "western" economies are struggling. We have no real industrial capacity any longer and what we do have is almost entirely "foreign owned." Germany is an exception, but it is a 'qualified' exception.

Look through the shareholder lists of many of the UKs 'Flagship' companies and you quickly discover they are owned by 'offshore' interests. Any given company is, in effect, a shell, a facade if you prefer, and its 'value' and production is often illusory. If the 'capital' is held somewhere other than the country of operation, those operations can be switched to somewhere else in the blink of an eye - and it does happen far more frequently than most realise. This is a part of the weakness of all major western economies at present.

The rising economies in the world have yet to really hit their stride, but they are there and it will not be long before they knock a number of the current Top Ten off their spots. My prediction is that India will soon be well up that list, perhaps reaching the Number 2 spot within a couple of years. China is already there, but the dark horse is Brazil. No one seems to have noticed the industrial development and the sheer economic expansion of that big country in South America most associate only with the Amazon rain forest and the Greenpeace/Friends of the Earth campaigns to stop the clearance of the frest for cattle ranching to feed MacDonald's with burger patties.

I suspect that, if we were to have a prediction for an "end of the world" scenario it should be quite simply the eclipse of the Western Democratic economies by the new super powers - China, India and Brazil. History suggests we have burned ourselves out, our political classes and their hanger's-on have weakened our concepts of justice, economic endeavour, nationhood and entreprise to the point we are so afraid of our own shadows, we can no longer compete.

We stand on the brink of a new year. It may bring some solutions to some of the problems left by the Cold War and it may exacerbate others. It may see a small recovery of western economies and it may bring some new solutions to the questions of our dependence on imported oil, gas and power to keep our civilisation alive - but equally, it may not. To a very large extent it is no longer in our hands, or even in the hands of our political classes. We can but wait and see.

As we wait, may I wish all my readers a good celebration of the year past, and everything they hope for themselves and their families in the year ahead.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

A thought for the end of the year ...

I spotted this on The Gorse Fox's blog and think it bears reposting, especially at this season. It certainly ties in with several discussions and posts made by myself and Josephus in recent weeks. It touches on a number of things that contribute to the state of our nation today. 
An ageing Church of England vicar has, apparently, produced a new version of the Ten Commandments and suggests they be hung in the BBC News rooms. 
1) Thou shalt take heed of the atheist prophet Richard Dawkins and not worship God at all. 
2) Thou shalt promote the images of celebrities which thou dost worship. 
3) Thou shalt take God's name in vain. 
4) Remember the Sabbath day to shop until thou dost drop. 
5) Take no notice of thy mother nor thine absent father. 
6) Thou shalt kill the embryo in thy womb, for it would be an hindrance to thy lifestyle, init? 
7) It was said afore time 'Thou shalt not commit adultery' but I say unto thee that thou should'st put it about a bit, like. 
8) 'Thou shalt not steal' being virus chapeau, thou mayest fiddle thine expenses. 
9) Thou shalt grass up neighbours to the Thought Police if they utter such that be racist, sexist or discriminatory. 
10) Thou shalt covet thy neighbour's wife and even his slag, his iPad, his Rolex and his Ferrari and everything that is thy neighbour's. 
This seems somehow appropriate and certainly would explain the focus of TV programmes that seem to glorify and promote all that is seedy.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

High Speed Pup ...

Harry is growing and has energy to spare, unlike his humans ...

The garden is a great place to play chase, catch, race, and generally run rings round our people.

In the last few days he's grown bolder, making friends with a number of the neighbourhood dogs - all much bigger than he  - and even, tentatively, with a few new "humans." Walks are even more fun, with so many new smells, new experiences and loads of mud to walk through and bring home.

Current favourite activities? Ripping his bed to pieces, persuading people to play, chewing anything he can get his mouth round - and being with his people.

Friday, 28 December 2012

An Unproductive Congress?

A headline in the Huffington Post caught my eye today. It proclaimed that the latest Congress could be set to be the "most unproductive" since the 1940s. I'll confess that I consider most legislative assemblies to be totally "unproductive" so my reaction when I read the headline was - "so what's new?"

It may actually do the US (and I suspect if the UK could achieve a similar situation) a lot of good to have a legislature that can't agree on anything and so doesn't pass any new legislation for its term of office. Certainly in the UK, we have suffered from far too much new legislation over the last 20-odd years. Almost 80% of the current Statute Book has passed in the last 16 years, and most of that has not "improved" our lives at all, rather the contrary. The problem is, of course, that the parasites  MPs/Congressmen/Representatives that infest sit in most legislatures have to justify their existence somehow and, since they actually generate no income, create no jobs, and live off everyone else's earnings (like the civil servants who actually run the country) the only way they can make their mark is to "pass another little law."

No, even after reading the Huff Post article, which does actually highlight the problem of the Congress refusing to "raise the debt ceiling" and increase taxes. This will impact on the Federal Government's ability to pay teachers, civil servants, medics and the military. It will cripple the Obama Care package and it will impact on jobs across the board, but it will, on the plus side, prevent the passage of a lot of nuisance legislation which would probably impact almost as heavily on the economy.

I always find it interesting that our legislators - in every country - never seem to make the connection between the latest "little law" and the run of unintended consequences it has for everyone else.

Maybe an "unproductive Congress" will prove to be a good thing in the long run ...

Thursday, 27 December 2012

A Baltic Affair released ...

The publisher has uploaded A Baltic Affair to Kindle and Nook and I expect the same will happen over the next days to the other eBook distributers. The book will be available early in the new year as a paperback as well. It has been published by IndieGo ePublishing, based in the US.

Book Description:
Captain Petroc Gray, commander of the ship-rigged sloop of war, HMS Kestrel, is drawn into diplomacy, intrigue, and espionage when he rescues the Freiherr von Dieffenbach and his family off the island of Rügen in the Baltic. The Freiherr is an important and valuable connection in the struggle to beat the Napoleonic Continental blockade of British trade, and his daughter, Silke, is a delightful young woman with a quick wit, brilliant intelligence, and a keen eye for observing the events unfolding around them. The ever-changing political alliances of the Northern European and Scandinavian states—war, sea battles, storms, death, and Napoleon’s “hundred days” leading to the defeat at Waterloo—all conspire to frustrate Petroc’s intention to seek Silke’s hand in marriage, right to the last. But Petroc isn’t one to be easily defeated, whether he is navigating the open seas or matters of the heart, and Silke stands bright and strong in his life like a beacon in a safe harbour.
As soon as I am able to I will post the direct links to the suppliers websites.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Silent Night, Holy Night ...

Christmas Eve is always special. Liturgically, it is when the Christmas decorations should go up, the figures should begin to gather round the household Nativity scene and the family gather to celebrate the coming of Christ into the world. Here, in Germany, we have had the Weinachtsmarkte in almost every city and town throughout Advent, but now people are thinking of celebrating the feast itself.

It may surprise some to know that what in Britain, Australia, South Africa, the US and Canada, is regarded as a "traditional" Christmas Dinner, is not necessarily the meal in Germany. Here it tends to be more along the lines of what a family favours. The Monk has, however, succeeded in introducing a traditional English Christmas Pudding to this small corner of the Taunus which causes some confusion and amusement - since "pudding" in Germany means a vanilla sauce ...

However you keep it, I wish everyone reading this a very blessed Christmas and a great year to come.

May the peace of the Christ child be with you now and always.

Final Preparations ...

Christmas Eve is upon us, the presents wrapped (though in our case one is rather to active and mobile to be wrapped), food stocks are in, wine is selected, meals planned, so we're ready  to celebrate Christmas. It is so pleasant to live where the shops don't open on Sundays, won't be open tomorrow, and have, in fact, already closed forthe most part today. Maximising profits does not trump either the meaning of Christmas or the recognition that it and all other festivals should be and are "family" time, not "shop until you drop" time.

Now we have our church service this evening, then a quiet time watching the television (Dinner for One is essential Christmas viewing!) a few walks with Harry to be undertaken and general relaxation. Plus, of course, an improted Christmas Pudding and a Christmas Cake to be enjoyed over the next few days.


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Military Humour ...

Military humour tends to be pointed and task oriented. It comes in a number of forms, but the best examples are always those based on the reality of what they are supposed to be doing ...
"If the enemy is in range, so are you." 
-Infantry Journal
"It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed." 
-US. Air Force Manual
"Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword, obviously never encountered automatic weapons." 
-General Mac Arthur
"You, you, and you... panic. The rest of you, come with me." 
-Infantry Sgt.
"Tracers work both ways." 
-Army Ordnance Manual
"Five second fuses last about three seconds." 
-Infantry Journal
The three most useless things in aviation are: fuel in the bowser, runway behind you, and air above you. 
-Basic Flight Training Manual
"Any ship can be a minesweeper. Once." 
-Naval Ops Manual
"Never tell the Platoon Sergeant you have nothing to do." 
-Unknown Infantry Recruit
"If you see a bomb technician running, try to keep up to him." 
-Infantry Journal
"Yea, though I Fly Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I Shall Fear No Evil. For I am at 50,000 feet and climbing." 
-Sign over SR71 Wing Ops
"You've never been lost until you've been lost at Mach 3." 
-Paul F. Crickmore (test pilot)
"The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire." 
-Unknown Author
"If the wings are travelling faster than the fuselage it has to be a helicopter - and therefore, unsafe." 
-Fixed Wing Pilot
"When one engine fails on a twin-engine airplane, you always have enough power left to get you to the scene of the crash." 
-Multi-Engine Training Manual
"Without ammunition, the Air Force is just an expensive flying club." 
-Unknown Author
"If you hear me yell "Eject, Eject, Eject!" the last two will be echoes." If you stop to ask "Why?" you'll be talking to yourself, because by then you'll be the pilot."
-Pre-flight Briefing from a Canadian F104 Pilot
"What is the similarity between air traffic controllers and pilots? If a pilot screws up, the pilot dies... but If ATC screws up... the pilot dies." 
-Sign over Control Tower Door-
"Never trade luck for skill." 
-Author Unknown
The three most common expressions (or famous last words) in military aviation are: "Did you feel that?" "What's that noise?" and "Oh shit!" 
-Authors Unknown
"Airspeed, altitude and brains. Two are always needed to successfully complete the flight." 
-Basic Flight Training Manual
"Flying the airplane is more important than radioing your plight to a person on the ground incapable of understanding or doing anything about it." 
-Emergency Checklist
"The Piper Cub is the safest airplane in the world; it can just barely kill you." 
-Attributed to Max Stanley (Northrop test pilot)
"There is no reason to fly through a thunderstorm in peacetime." 
-Sign over Squadron Ops Desk at Davis-Montham AFB, AZ
"You know that your landing gear is up and locked when it takes full power to taxi to the terminal."
-Lead-in Fighter Training Manual

Friday, 21 December 2012

The World Ends Today ...


The origins of this particular bit of doomsday prophecy don't come from the Mayans, it has its roots in a rambling, magic mushroom inspired but of writing from the 1970s. It is merely one of the latest bits of misinformed drivel so beloved of a vocal and sometimes aggressive group now labelled by some as "conspiracy theorists." Frankly, I doubt they're even that. Their main stock in trade seems to be a form of paranoia. "They/It/The universe/The Government" are out to get us. "They/It/The Universe/The Government is hiding the truth! We're all gonna die!" Yahoo News has a good article covering five examples of "the end of the world is today!" which never happened.

The Monk, Mausi and our pup Harry will not be waiting on any mountain tops, nor will we be battening down any hatches and stocking up for the seige. Our day will be spent in all our usual activities as we prepare to celebrate Christmas.

See you all again tomorrow, the first day of the rest of our lives.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

People in "Poverty" rises again ...

I note with interest that the figures for "people living in poverty" in several western European countries is up again, and all the usual campaigners are jumping up and down about the need to increase "benefits." But in the same week that these figures have emerged, a less well publicised bit of information came out. The UK (and to a slightly lesser extent, Germany) have very generous benefits for child care, tax breaks for those on low incomes with children, generous allowances and policies for housing, heating and, of course, "income."

Stepping aside from these for the moment, there is a third item to ponder in this matrix, immigration. We are all familiar with the usual image of immigrants, in the UK, as being from the East, probably Muslim and from failing and poverty stricken backgrounds. In Germany as well, the usual image is of migrants from the Middle East, seeking work and an escape from the constant tensions there. But, as the UK's most recent census has flagged up, this may not be true. In fact, in the UK, people from India, not Pakistan/Bangladesh are the largest immigrant group and the Pakistani element is actually third or fourth on the tally. It may surprise some to know that Polish people now occupy the second spot on the "immigration" statistics and one of the reasons for this will almost certainly surprise many, should they actually read it up.

Put simply, the UK and Germany, Holland, Belgium and several other Northern and Western European nations offer far more generous support for low paid workers than their homeland! One Polish mother, interviewed by Yahoo News, was quite open about it. Where Poland has a set sum for "Child Support," the UK has a basic amount per child, plus certain tax allowances which effectively increase the value of this money. Then the Housing Benefit, Income Support and the tax allowance she receives because she is on "low pay" all add up to a far more generous package than she enjoyed at "home." A similar story has emerged in Holland and the Belgians have identified this problem as well. Is this a case of the system being "exploited?"

I would say no. Why? Let me be frank. Who among us does not want a better standard of living for ourselves or our children? Who among us would not, if we had to live on the basic income level in our own country and struggle, move to another country where the allowances and support is more generous if we had the option? These folk are not "cheating" anyone, they are using Marx's direction to take their labour to where they can obtain a fairer and more equitable level of reward. Given that to do it they must adopt a new language, learn to live in a new and though related culture, still one with many more differences in practice than they are used to, these folk are simply doing what they need to do in order to improve their lot.

The problem is, of course, that they actually slew the statistics the "bleeding heart" pundits base their argument upon. The German statistics show that "people in poverty" has increased from 14% in 2007 to 16% in 2011 and, of course, there are calls for an increase in "benefit" to "lift people out of poverty." I note that a similar increase has occured in the UK and the same call is being made there. But now comes the crunch, the "people in poverty" figures are taken from the numbers of people living on certain "benefits," and those now include the steady trickle of Eastern Europeans seeking a new life and a better deal for their children.

As the Polish lady cheerfully identified to the interviewer, she is doing a job, low paid, that could be done by a native Brit, and receiving help for her family. She got the job because no one in Britain was prepared to do it. Why? It all comes back to that generous "benefit" package. Why work when, if you did, you'd lose the benefits you currently enjoy, have to pay the full rates of income tax, national insurance and so on - only to find that your earnings now come out below what you get in "benefits?" This is the vicious circle that over generous "benefits" create by becoming a disincentive to work.

I suspect that the answer to lifting people out of poverty is to find a way to incentivise them to find work and develop their productivity. That is not going to be easy, largely because, at least since the end of the Great War, there has been a strong under current against any position that involved either "service" or some sort of "tied living" arrangement, both of which could provide a lot of jobs if properly regulated. The "benefits" themselves have become so embedded in the psyche of many as a "right not to work" paid for by "government" and therefore "free," is another part of the problem. We used to laugh at the antics of Andy Capp and his long suffering wife Flo, and though he was a stereotype, he did typify a certain mindset. It will not be easy to change that either!

As the Bible says, there will always be those who are "poor," sometimes through choice and sometimes by their own inability to manage themselves or their incomes properly. We must, obviously, provide a safety net for those who are caught in this trap, but that net should never be one from which they are not encouraged or enabled to escape. And, as I was remonded recently by a friend, "poverty" is also a state of mind, often completely unrelated to material wealth.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Growing Fast - Sowing Destruction

Harry is gaining in size now, at 10 weeks, he's getting very active and very assertive, the teeth are needles and anything he uses them on doesn't stand a chance. Even the toughest toys are starting to show weakness. As for his day bed ...

It is being systematically 'mined' for the stuffing in the bottom cushion. We're not sure why it is so attractive, but we are grateful it is keeping him occupied and away from any attempt to 'mine the cushions in anything else!

One of the more interesting aspects of living with this small bundle of energy is that you can take him for a walk - we do, twice daily - you can have him out in the garden and play until you drop. But the moment you come back inside - Playtime! At least he sleeps from the time we go to bed. But as soon as one of us stirs around 05.00 - Harry is there, ready to go! We're told he'll slow down a bit after the first year.

Only another 10 months then ...

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

I know this is rather long, but it is worth reading. It comes from the blog "The Old Jarhead" and I repost it because it covers many of the things I have myself pondered in recent years. As G K Chesterton remarked, the absence of religion does not mean the absence of beliefe. On the contrary, it simply means people will believe in anything.

The Great Progressive Church
Robert A. Hall

Psychologists, I’ve read, say that people psychologically need religion in one form or another, and will always invent a theology if they are not given one. Looking at the multiplicity of religious beliefs through human history, I suspect this is true. Many religions seem very weird to me, like the “Cargo Cult” religion of the South Pacific Islanders during WWII and 21st century American entitlement voters. I suspect that all theologies seem weird to unbelievers. Understanding that is one reason I don’t try to convince anyone else what to believe. And I know the truth of the old saying that, “People who want to tell you what they believe about religion are uninterested in hearing what you believe.”

I’m a protestant Christian, a Presbyterian when I can find a church and minister I like, but I’ll settle for other denominations. Though I’m never sure of the efficacy, I ask God every day to protect my wife, Bonnie and my Granddaughter, Britnye. As the Brits say, “Can’t hurt, might help.” I ask nothing for myself. I’ve had a great life, and I suspect He doesn’t look with favor on the greedy.

I’m not the first to notice that the rise of thetic, Un-Churched, Godless Secular Humanists has resulted in liberals meeting this human need by converting Progressive Ideology into religious doctrine and admiration for Progressive leaders into unquestioning worship. Self-righteous calls for civility aside, this explains why they get so angry and vicious when you challenge any of their tenets. You are not disagreeing with them over policy. You are attacking the core of their religion, and their reaction is often the same as it you told a member of the Westboro Baptist Church that Jesus wasn’t divine or a member of the Muslim Brotherhood that Mohammad was a fake and Jesus was the Son of God. Blasphemy cannot be tolerated by fundamentalists of any stripe.

Of course, like all religions, the Progressive Church has degrees of belief, from the moderates, who are rather like Christmas and Easter Christians, to the Fundamentalist Progressives, who respond as you’d expect from a Salafist told that Allah wasn’t really in favor of slaughtering Jews. (Why are you picking up that stone?) I forwarded a Progressive on my joke list a funny story about beer. But I hadn’t noticed it came from Fox news, and he used it to launch an attack on Fox and defense of Obama, though it really had naught to do with either. I took him off the joke list. Who needs the aggro?

To understand the Progressive Church, you must first understand for them that intentions matter, not the results for real people. If they can feel all warm and fuzzy about intending good, the actually outcomes are of no interest. Note that they find no cognitive dissonance when their principles collide with each other or with reality—they just ignore it in the grand tradition of many great religions.

And just as some Christians believe in “The Elect of God”—people pre-chosen for salvation—the Progressive Church has groups of the “elect” and groups of despised infidels who are not going to heaven. But as with many religions, you can join the Progressive Church and be among the saved by accepting all the canons and renouncing other political beliefs.

The Progressive Elect are Muslims, Gays, Blacks, Hispanics, Women, the Poor, Government Union Members and other Union Members. I’ve tried to put this in order, but it changes frequently as the Progressive Mullahs issue a new Fatwa. And I’m sure I’ve missed some. Thus, right now, Gays trump Blacks, but Muslims trump Gays. So if conservatives oppose Gay Marriage (I don’t, BTW), it is an atrocity, but if Muslims call for the Murder of Gays, it is a heartwarming display of Multiculturalism.

Of course, all Professing Progressives are among the Elect, including wealthy Progressives, though wealthy non-Progressives are among the worst of the infidels.

Among the Canons of the Progressive Church are:

Multiculturalism. This trumps almost everything right now. Any mention of Islamist violence is, for example, “Islamophobic,” and truth is not a defense.

Environmentalism. Progressives make much of their support for the poor, but are willing to grind them into poverty to feel all green and fuzzy.  So pumping corn into alternative bio-fuel fuel and starving theThird World is tough for the hungry, but high on the list of revered behaviors. The Third World Poor don’t vote here, after all. And Global Warming must be accepted and believed, and the poor must tithe to Al Gore to reduce carbon emissions, regardless of cost. The cascading failures of tax-supported green energy companies don’t signify, because intentions matter, not results. Looking at any contrary evidence is blasphemy, and not permitted, just as the Medieval divines convicted Galileo of heresy for claiming that the Earth revolved around the sun—and to look at the evidence was not permitted.

Gay Rights. Universities kept military recruiters off campus because of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy ordered by Progressive Mullah Bill Clinton. Go figure. Gay rights in the US are sacrosanct. Gays being executed in Muslim countries are not worth mentioning—they don’t vote for or contribute to Democrats after all.

Feminism. Progressives think it’s an outrage if you don’t want to pay for free birth control for yuppie law students, but completely ignore the stoning of women, child marriages, female genital mutilation, honor killings of female relatives for even speaking to a strange man and oppressive inequality of women in Muslim countries under Shari’a Law, because to notice it would be heresy against their multicultural canon.

America is evil and must apologize to the world. They don’t often say it, because it might lose votes among the bitter clingers, unless you catch one preaching “God Damn America” without challenge from any noted parishioners. But you can see they believe it from their actions.

Israel is evilIsrael is not only an American ally, but the only multi-party democracy in the Middle East, and tries to preserve freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and equality for women. Naturally, all good Progressives despise Israel, even Jewish ones. Scratch a Progressive, and if you don’t find a Star of David, you’ll likely find an Anti-Semite. It’s more advanced, of course, in more Progressive countries like France, but violent anti-Semitism will grow here as the Progressive Faith grows.

Race matters a great deal, culture not at all. As a conservative, I believe the opposite, but this is how it is, though they talk about a post-racial America. (If you actually had a way to eliminate all racism, they’d murder you, because it’s their rice bowl.) One of the interesting features of the Progressive Church is their ability to believe that any policy disagreement with Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Susan Rice or Charlie Rangel grows out of your brutal Jim Crow racism, but that their most egregious, vile attacks on Clarence Thomas, Condi Rice, Colin Powel, Allan West or Mia Love were entirely based on disagreement with their policies and actions. Sure. And Jesse Jackson can declare Budweiser racist, not fit to drink for Progressives, until Bud reward his sons with lucrative beer distributorships, when a fatwa was issued making Bud hahal for Progressives to consume again. Racial blackmail is perfectly acceptable to the Progressive Church.

Racism drives everything non-Progressives do. So White Rule inRhodesia was evil and had to be destroyed. Never mind that Black Rule there dropped black life expectancy by 10 to 15 years, destroyed the economy through hyper-inflation and turned the country from a food-exporter to one stalked by starvation. Intentions mattered, not the deleterious results for the poor black folks who actually lived—and died—there. And 59% of whites voting for Romney is clear evidence of terrible racism, while 95% of blacks voting for Obama is not. Thus, the media can edit tapes and pictures to make that “white Hispanic” George Zimmerman look racist, but can ignore black flash mobs attacking whites, Hispanics and Asians. Also not to be mentioned is that 53% of the murders are committed by the 13% of the population that is black, with upwards of 85% of the victims being black folks. But tough law enforcement would be racist, so black folks must die on the Progressive alter. Truth, again, is not a defense.

The Rich are evil—but only if they earned their money in business and are not Progressives. So Mega-Millionaires Michael Moore, Warren Buffet, Al Gore, George Soros, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Jim Johnson, Franklin Raines, Tax Cheat Tim Geithner, Angelo “Friends of Angelo at Countrywide” Mozilo and any number of entertainment and athletic stars are all righteous people, while a couple each working 60 hours a week to bring home $260k are among the evil rich who aren’t “paying their fair share.” Of course, Progressives who get caught with their hands in the cookie jar become invisible. See Obama’s real estate angel and convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko or Obama bundler Jon Corzine, who misplaced a billion bucks of the customers’ money. Hey, I bet you’ve misplaced at least $100M yourself more than once.

The Bush Tax Cuts Benefited only the Rich. Never mind that the tax bill for average folks also went down, that many on the lower end stopped paying any taxes at all, and that after the tax cuts, the wealthy paid a larger share of the total tax revenues—which went up. Intentions matter, not results. Raising taxes is about theology, not revenue.

Guns are evil. Never mind that the cities with the strictest gun control have the worst crime, or that as gun ownership has gone up crime has dropped, or that thousands of decent citizens save themselves from violence every year with their legally-owned guns. The ProgressiveChurch decrees guns evil regardless. And don't think of making your hunting rifle into an "assault rifle" by putting a black folding stock and bayonet lug on it. Guns that look more dangerous are more dangerous.

Everything depends on who says it. If Obama said in 2008 that raising the debt ceiling was unpatriotic, and in 2011 that voting against raising the debt ceiling was wrong, both statements were true, because Obama said them. If Democrats and George Bush both looked at the CIA intelligence and concluded there were WMDs in Iraq, the Democrats were using the best data they had, but Bush lied. When Obama and Susan Rice repeated CIA talking points about Benghazi(that were mysteriously changed by persons unknown) they weren't lying, they were repeating the intelligence they had. If Bush had said it was a spontaneous demonstration, that would have been a lie, of course, because Bush said it.

Children are a high priority. As long as they are children of the Progressive Elect voting blocks in the US. So banning DDT to save the birds to feel good about the environmental was wonderful, and several million dead black, brown and yellow kids from Malaria in theThird World mattered not at all. Nor did the birds, of course, when it was time to build eagle-chopper wind farms in homage to Big Green.

A Progressive Fatwa making something Halah (allowed) or Haram (forbidden) may be issued by any of the Progressive Mullahs such as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Michael Moore, Harry Reid, Jo Biden, Paul Krugman, Nancy Pelosi, the New York Times or many others and will be instantly adopted without question or thought by all Fundamentalist Progressives. There is, it must be noted, a theological debate right now in the Progressive Church as to whether Barack Obama is the reigning Progressive Pope, or actually a Progressive God—our “Lord and Savior” as Jamie Foxx recently worshiped him.

The issuing of Fatwas means that new Progressive Canons pop up all the time. The most recent one is that requiring voters to identify themselves to vote is racist, there is no real voter fraud and thus requiring ID is evidence of conservative voter suppression. (The NBPP thugs with nightsticks outside polling places in Philadelphia are, of course, not voter suppression because they are black.) Never mind that voters were required to have voter cards for a long time without Progressives noticing the racism. Never mind that voter fraud has a long history in the city political machines (mostly Democrat, but some Republican too) from Tammany Hall to the First Ward in Chicago, where “floaters” were paid 50 cents a vote to chain vote as often as possible. (I recommend The Lords of the Levee.) Never mind that Lyndon Johnson because a US Senator through voter fraud and JFK may have been elected president in 1960 due to it. The Church decrees now that fraud doesn’t exist.

But if you ask why it isn’t racist to require minorities to identify themselves to cash a check, fly, drive, buy a gun, buy alcohol, buy tobacco, sign up for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Welfare, or to enter a government building, Obama rally or the Democrat National convention, they will deflect or ignore the question. Apparently it’s fine with liberals that a large number of Blacks and Hispanics are prevented from doing these things because they can’t get ID, as long as they can vote as often as they want, no questions asked. The Fatwa was issued by Mullah Holder and others and they all now really believe that any effort to eliminate fraud is racist. And they will not look at the evidence. One Progressive told me there was no evidence, but if I sent him some he’d look at it. When I did, he decided the site that linked to the evidence was biased, therefore it would be blasphemy to look at the links—thus saving himself from having to look in the telescope or challenge his beliefs.

As with any great Religion, there is a lot more to the ProgressiveChurch than this brief overview, but I hope I have put it into perspective. I will continue to engage with Moderate Progressives, who are willing to discuss policy rationally. But I’m going to try to avoid the Fundamentalist Progressives, who believe anyone who disagrees with them is evil, stupid or both, because disagreement is heresy. It’s not worth the conflict. And, eventually, they’ll justify violence as a response. The extreme Left, like the extreme Right, always does. Progressive Jihad is coming.

Robert A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam Veteran who served five terms in the Massachusetts Senate. He is the author of “The Coming Collapse of the American Republic.” All royalties go to help wounded vets, but for a free PDF of this 80-page book, write him at tartanmarine(at)

Monday, 17 December 2012

The Vexed Question ...

Reactions to the tragedy in Connecticut have been interesting, some might say, in some quarters, insensitive. Predictably there have been calls for an outright ban on firearms, something I find myself, as a former gun owner, opposed to. I do not believe a "disarmed" public is safer. Plus, if the UK's crime statistics are to be trusted, the immediate effect of the Blair government's ban on the ownership of handguns resulted instead in a huge leap in the use of illegally owned guns in crimes. That is reflected in the Australian statistics as well since the introduction on a firearms ban there.

The fact is that many countries which do have a high proportion of gun ownership do not have the same high death rates with them as the US. Canada has as many gun owners per capita as the US, but less than a tenth of the number of gun related deaths, and the same applies to Sweden. Norway also has a high proportion of gun ownership and only one recorded "amoklauf" as the German's have it - that of the lunatic Brivik and most of the weapons he used were not "legal." 

The abuse of firearms is always a problem, just as is the abuse of any other lethal weapon. I suspect that in the day of William II "Rufus," there could well have been calls for the banning of Long Bows after one "accidentally went off" while he was hunting and killed him. I think we can be sure he wasn't the only such casualty either. Weapons of any sort are dangerous, but in the hands of someone responsible are no more than a threat. And therein, I think, lies the problem.

Samuel Colt, the man who created the .44 (and the later .45 "Peacemaker") calibre six shot revolver which became the best known handgun of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, called his guns "the Equalisers." No longer was the strongest man around able to enforce his will on others, with a Colt revolver in his hand, even a weakling or a woman had the same authority. The trouble is that this mindset seems to have become entrenched, and I can think of several popular movies where the possession (and the willingness to use it) of a firearm has swayed the outcome of a confrontation between a "baddie" and a much less powerful "goodie" in favour of the weaker party.

That is one aspect of what seems to underlie many of these incidents. But there does seem to be another element in play, one that is extremely sensitive. In fact it is, ironically the same lobby that demands the outright ban on weapons that refuses to assess or discuss the part this may play.

A study of the last such tragic shooting spree in the US turned up the fact that the perpetrator was a sociopath. A look by the same researchers found a similar pattern in other such incidents (indeed, it applies to Brivik as well) and there is another element to it, the use of antidepressant medications seems to increase the risk posed by some people with similar conditions. One researcher suggest these "amoklaufers" suffer from an Asperger's-like Syndrome and likens it to a form of Autism. Now, here is the super sensitive part, there are a lot of people who suffer from Asperger's and Autism, but the vast majority learn to manage their condition and don't go on murder sprees! So what could explain the few that do? 

The simple answer seems to be the use or abuse of anti-depressants. But even that doesn't seem to be the whole answer, there do seem to be other influences and triggers in play, as yet only vaguely identified and understood. OK, that seems to go some way toward explaining the sort of mass shootings, but it doesn't explain these statistics - 

An ongoing nationwide study by the Violence Policy Center documents that since May 2007, citizens legally allowed to carry concealed handguns have killed at least 14 law enforcement officers and 499 private citizens, including 35 shooters who killed themselves after the attack.

In Michigan, from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, 38 lives were ended by Michigan concealed handgun permit holders in non-self-defense deaths. In addition, conceal carry licensees have committed at least 23 mass shootings (three or more victims) that claimed a total of 103 innocent lives.   (With thanks to a lawyer friend in the US)

Other statistics show that the average death toll in the US is around 40 people per day in shooting incidents, and here the difference appears to be that in the US a lot of people seem to feel a need to carry their weapons on their person. Why? Those who defend this claim it is to "protect themselves." 

My friends know how I feel about the right to self defence and to defend my property and family and the useless UK legal position on it. That would see me charged with "assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm" if I dared to injure some scumbag breaking and entering my home, or who assaulted me, my wife or my family members in the street. The whole of that depends on whether some smart lawyer can convince the court that my response was "unreasonable" or that I used "disproportionate" force in my defence or even a weapon not available to the criminal. Either way, I could end up being convicted for defending myself. That said, the US obsession with the use of lethal weapons for self-defence does seem to go way beyond the realms of "reasonable" even in my book.

Reading the reports and the available information on previous massacres perpetrated by people like the young man in Connecticut, does suggest that there needs to be a much tighter control on the issue of licences to possess firearms and to use them. I would suggest that a great deal of careful thought needs to be given to the mental conditions of those who have committed these crimes, and then there needs to be a very careful appraisal of the conditions which pertain, politically and socially, that give rise to the feeling of insecurity that drives many to wish to own a firearm for "self-defence."

Care must be taken to get the right controls in place. These need to address some of the extremely tricky issues such as the mental state and the medications used among many other things. That may require a type of "profiling" of applicants. This must not be rushed and the emotions must not be used to guide the solution. Emotive responses are seldom either rational or, in the longer term, the answer.

And while it continues, we should all pray for the latest victims, the families and friends - and for those who must find the answers. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

What can one say?

There is almost nothing one can say regarding the tragic murder of 20 children and at six adults in a school in Connecticut. I have no doubt we will eventually learn what motivated this young man, and I have no doubt that nothing can ever replace the children he has killed, or assuage the grief of the parents and others affected by it.

How does one prevent these events? There is no easy answer. We cannot "un-invent" guns and even where there is tight control there is still abuse. That leaves only the question of what kind of person can commit such an evil deed? The weapons this young man used did not select the targets or pull the triggers or load and reload - he did. Had he not had access to his mother's weapons, he would probably have found some other weapon to use.

All any of us can do at present is pray for the departed and those left to mourn.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Growing Bolder

Having settled in, Harry is making himself comfortable and getting set into carving out his place in the family. Here he is with some of his toys.

The little fellow is bright, quick and learning fast. Already he knows how to ask to be let out for his 'business' and he's starting to pick up on some commands. Tomorrow he goes to "Puppy School" for the first time, so we'll see how he gets on, though he does have a bit of a tummy problem at the moment which the vet says is diet related.

He's also proving to have a lot of "bounce to the ounce." But he's a great little fellow and fast becoming a fabulous little companion.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The UN 'Regulate' the Internet?

My immediate response is "No way, Jose`!"

I'm not concerned about the "commerce" aspect that is exercising the minds of the many "western" governments. What concerns me is that once the UN, probably the least democratic and least efficient organisation we've yet managed to create, gets control of the "information highway" we could find ourselves being fed only the latest propaganda for certain "special interest" and "Non Government Organisations" and all alternative views and information being denied.

When you realise that the General Assembly is made up of a majority of totalitarian and marginally democratic governments, you very quickly realise that you would soon see them campaigning for the banning and shutting down of all websites and information streams they don't like. They are trying to pass this power grab off as "just an extension of the existing telecommunications treaty." Yeah, we've heard that one before, and anyone who regularly travels to some of the more deprived parts of the world will also know that many of them already use clauses in that treaty to restrict access to telecommunications, shut opposition movements out of them, or monitor private and business usage.

No, the United Nations is entirely the wrong organisation to allow to regulate the internet in any way, shape or form. It will simply become an excuse for all the advocacy propagandists, all the authoritarians and all the control freaks in every capital in the world to make use of the "international law" to once again attack the freedoms our forefathers fought so hard to win.

Let the UN regulate the Internet? No, no, no and again no!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Reliable References?

One of the key elements in any treatise intended for academia is to include 'references' for everything you rely on in your research or your final outcomes. In essence it is a sound system, it should mean that if I study something and draw certain conclusions from it, I should be able to point to support for my hypothesis in other work by others in my field. Ideally I should include references to work which differs from my outcomes and state why I disagree. However, there are pitfalls to this. Quite often the "references" have a tendency to become "circular" and the outcome can be predictable because the author has fallen into the trap of accepting, without challenge, something said by someone else.

As I'm sure Josephus will be able to show at some point when he has time, these 'references' tend to become self-perpetuating and once they have entered a sort of magic zone where they have been relied on by so many other 'experts' they become unchallengable - yet may well be of decidedly unreliable provenance. An example I came across recently relates to the "Mayan Prophecy" that the world will end on 21st December of this year. Tracing the origin of this exposes the fact that it first appears in a book written by someone named McKenna in 1979. The book itself is a rather strange mix of "New Age" ideas, hallucinatory "revelation" and very little actual knowledge of the Mayan artifacts or calendar. So how did it get so widely spread and so wisely adopted?

It turns out that McKenna was one of the "gurus" followed by a small group of later authors, one of whom recently gave an interview on their writing, who all agreed that the way to get noticed was to draw on each other as "reference" material in support of their ideas. According to the article he freely admits that many of the ideas of "Nibiru" and "Planet X" crashing into the earth on this date were "revealed" on "magic mushroom trips." So, the question really, is how did their ramblings become so widely quoted and spark this whole zany movement that now expects the end of the world to occur in 9 days time?

The answer is "referencing." As soon as someone uses a "reference" from something someone has written, it begins to be used by others, quite often without their actually having read the "referenced" item fully. And sometimes the original "quote" is completely spurious, an invention of the imagination of the original author. Suddenly the game changes. Another common misconception is that everything on the internet is true, proved and indisputable. The problem here is that often misrepresentations are posted and go viral because they feed into the expectation bias of certain groups. A good example are some of the quotes and refences used against Christianity - quite a number have become "authenticated" by the reputation of the originator. No one has ever questioned the origins of the opinion - for that is often all it is - of the original author. Many of these can be traced back to authors like Bertrand Russell, and most, when you examine his support for the statement, are unsupported and just his blatantly biased opinion. However, for those of like mind, Russell said it, he's the "expert," therefore it is true.

This is what has happened with the Mayan "Prophecy." It no longer matters how many real experts on the Mayan culture, artifacts and calendars (there is more than one) try to correct the garbage, it is ignored, "because McKenna was an expert" and his interpretation was supported by ... who was quoting ... and so we go round in a circle to discover that they have all been quoting each other as "expert sources." Some of their thinking was inspired by Erich von Daeniken's books (1976) which sparked more than a few entertaining and equally whacky books on the questions he raised.

The "scientific" and the "philosophic" communities of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries were particularly good at this trick and I note with interest that it still goes on today. During my own ventures into writing dissertations for my degrees I have several times investigated some of the quoted references  in works I was pointed to for study and found myself going round the same proverbial roundabout. "A says, because B says; B says, because X says; X says because Y said and Y said it because he read a paper by A ...

In another paper for a different forum, I did a considerable amount of research online and found some similar patterns. More alarmingly I found a huge amount of material which was not just misleading, or inaccurate, but totally spurious and written by people with either an axe to grind, or with some whacky ideas they wished to peddle. In both cases, the actual understanding of the subject and the material quoted tended to be either totally spurious or so off the mark it was complete nonsense. I could see this, but I would suspect that the vast majority of people accessing this material would not. In fact it was only possible for me to see it in some cases because I started out with a very thorough grounding in the subject.

Returning to my starting point, the use of references and quoting sources for ideas, theories and so on is good practice. It has been practiced for as long as men have attempted to build our understanding of everything around us. The Greek philosophers did it, the early Church fathers did it and if one ignores the inventions of the late 18th Century anti-Church movement - whose quotes and references frequently fall into the example I gave above - one finds that even the much maligned Church was drawing on Aristotle, Plato and Socrates to name but a few, for their scientific views and ideas. The problem comes in when someone steps outside that trail, and creates their own "source" without anything other than their own "reason and intellect" to support their hypothesis - and launches a new set of references of the circular kind ...

Sometimes one has to be very careful of one's sources.