Friday, 30 March 2012

Posturing Prats ...

I note with some sceptical disgust that Greenpeace have announced they are sending a ship to the Total Offshore Platform to "monitor the environmental damage." This should be seen for what it is, a cheap publicity stunt aimed at convincing the ignorant among their followers that they are "doing something to protect the planet from the evils of 'Big Oil.'" I lost all patience with Greenpeace some time ago, over the moronic stunts they pulled with the Brent Spar decommissioning. Their usual bunch of idle "activists" succeeded in running a scare campaign on that one claiming that "nuclear waste" and "thousands of tons of oil" were to be dumped when the spar was sunk. As usual, the spineless jellyfish in Parliament bowed to the howling mob and the Spar was dragged ashore and broken up on land, causing far more pollution and requiring a huge expenditure to deal with the problems this caused.

There was no "radioactive waste" and in the end there was less than 50 tons of heavy oil present.

I expect their "morons" to endanger the rig - we already know what is boiling up from the sea bed and we know there is a cloud of gas surrounding the platform - when they break the exclusion zone to put "scientists" (aka activists with a load of equipment they barely know how to use) on board to attempt this "monitoring" activity.

What they will not admit is that their entire effort is aimed at bringing about an end to "capitalism" and the arrival of a socialist Utopia - with, of course, them in charge. They will not be satisfied until they have shut down all oil and gas recovery operations everywhere and made us once more dependent on charcoal (watch that one for Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide emissions!), wood and rubbing two sticks together to make fire.

Their ship, pumping out vast amounts of Carbon Dioxide from its elderly engines, will cruise around the platform, getting in the way of everyone involved in trying to deal with the emergency and endangering themselves and everyone else. It will no doubt burn a vast amount of diesel oil in the process and so will the RIBs they will launch and use to try to prevent anyone from taking any useful action. What really annoys me is that the British and other taxpayers are funding this multi-million dollar organisation to assist them in destroying our economies and our commercial viability.

It is bad enough having to deal with an emergency of this kind, no one needs a bunch of do-gooding morons getting in the way. This is a publicity stunt, pure and simple. It has no scientific purpose and no scientific value - it is just Public Relations at our expense.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Blunt Instrument ...

A friend, a Barrister of some repute, once told a class I was leading, that the "Law is an extremely blunt instrument" and should be used with caution. He was referring at the time to a then recent case, in which the judgement reached by the court, was likely to have a major impact in future on all cases falling under the legislation concerned. This is one of the major problems, in my view, with English Law, it doesn't necessarily mean exactly what it appears to mean - until a court has ruled that it does. Or that it means something subtly different. And that is where the problems start, because now the law impacts upon things those who drafted it, never considered or didn't intend.

In recent years we have seen a number of such rulings, usually made in the application of some recent piece of legislation. Frequently we have seen laws enacted by Parliament - certainly in the last 20 or so years - which are so poorly drafted and so badly thought through that the ultimate interpretation, and therefore the matters it affects, intended to address some 'issue' the denizens of that House deemed necessary, became a weapon against activities and people it was not originally intended to impact upon. Much of the Health and Safety Regulation introduced by the shovel load in the last 15 years has certainly had that impact on the Police, the Fire and Rescue Services, Ambulance Services and even the Voluntary sector. A great deal of the "anti-racist" legislation has had the effect of actually enshrining racism in some ways, with Whitehall "targets" for "ethnic and gender mix" in the workforce of public bodies, or the now frequent use of "race-hate" laws to ban groups or organisations from using public venues because some activist heard a member of the group use an idiom or phrase the activist considered "racist."

I see the problem has reared its head in the US as well, which uses a similar legal process in the interpretation of the law. A recent message from The Postulant provided me with a link to a Journalists Blog which took me to a very interesting article on a court case being brought against Congress for the passage of a law which, among many other things, would permit the deployment of the US Military within the borders of the USA itself for "counter insurgency operations, and the suppression of unrest." The reason this journalist and his fellow litigants are suing over it is that it would also permit the government to stifle the reporting of any action they wished to keep under wraps. Once again, I foresee that the application of this Act would be fraught with ramifications for everyone in the US, but in particular with their much vaunted freedom of expression, action and the right to bear arms.

The more I learned about the law, the legal process and the manner in which laws are created and framed, the more convinced I became that we needed less specific laws and fewer laws of compulsion on the Statute Book. Yes, we do need laws, every society needs to have clearly defined and understood boundaries of behaviour, what we do not need is a plethora of often overlapping, sometimes contradictory and seldom clearly understood legislation. My former profession, the Fire and Rescue Service, is affected by some 900 different pieces of law, a lot of it duplication, and some of it actually flat out contradictory. The Police have a similar problem.

Sadly, since the legal profession has a vested interest in making all law as opaque as possible, I doubt we'll see it reformed short of a major overthrow of the present syste, - and even that is only likely to make it even worse ...

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Faith versus Religion

Josephus sent me a link to a interesting article in The Spectator. It is an interview with the now retired Bishop of Edinburgh, an interesting man in many ways, with an unusual (for a bishop) faith. As the bihop puts it, God hates religion ... If I'm honest, I think that I share that view to a very large extent, though I would not go as far as he does in some other aspects of his statement. I do believe in the empty tomb of Jesus, though I may have a different interpretation from the mainstream of what exactly happened there. I do believe that the essential teachings of the Christian Gospel are sound, that they have made a huge and positive impact on humanity - despite the many instances when "religion" or "religious politics" have given rise to some serious abuses.

I agree entirely with the bishop's view that attempts to reduce everything to certainties - something religious people are often accused of, frequently with justification - is a major failing, but not just within religious circles. The same failing can be seen in science, when one encounters declarations of certainty couched in religious style 'certainties.' As most scientists are quick to point out, todays certainties are often tomorrow's embarrassing failures. As Josephus and I have frequently chuckled over, 'scientists' just over 200 years ago were convinced that something called "Phlogiston" was the active ingredient in combustion. We know now that this is not correct, but it took a lot of argument to lay this one to rest. Likewise 19th Century ideas on the shape, size and appearance of dinosaurs has been completely revised in recent years and so has the evolution of humanity - with big chunks of that still the subject of furious debate.

Faith and "religion" are often confused, one can have "faith" without "religion" though it has been observed that someone with a high degree of conviction on some matter, can then cling to it with a religious fervour. To challenge their conviction in, say, Anthropomorphic Global Warming, is to challenge the very articles of their faith and meets with the same sort of impassioned response one gets challenging the beliefs of a fundamentalist member of any "religion."

I do agree with the bishop's view that religion is bad for faith. One of the things one often encounters in a church is a set of legalistic "laws" (referred to as Canon Law) which regulate virtually everything about membership, activities and even charitable activity. Often these are used to stop someone exercising their faith in some form of ministry, or to prevent any exploration of something society has long adopted. In my time as a Church Warden and as a Reader in the Anglican Church, I had, on a number of occasions, to deal with that sort of activity.

Churches can be frustrating places. What most people forget is that the "church" is a vehicle, a means of transport, not a destination. It provides a place and a means in which "faith" can be explored, developed and grown through. There will be frustrations, there will be conflicts, there are very few certainties. What it must not be is a strait jacket. That is the "religion" God hates.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The danger of live microphones ...

Gordon Brown learned the hard way to be wary of speaking his mind while there was a 'live' microphone present, now it seems Mr. Obama has made the same fundamental error. While Mr. Brown merely insulted and questioned the integrity of an elderly voter when asked an awkward question he didn't like, Mr. Obama appears to have been trying to get the Russians to do some trading on armaments in the interests of his re-election campaign ...

I should imagine that isn't going to play well in certain quarters in the US.

We all know, or at least suspect, our leaders get up to these things and trade off everything including security of the nation and peoples' jobs in their determination to be re-elected time after time. What we don't like, is being confronted with it. Yet here we undoubtedly have an example hitting us right between the eyes, the US President openly saying, "you have to give me something on missiles. This is my last election, once it's over we can ..." The response says a lot about who has and who wields the real power in Russia as the Russian President replies - "I'll tell Vladimir (Putin)..." I'm not sure the Russians wanted that broadcast either!

Just shows how easy it is to shoot yourself in the foot these days. All you need is an 'open' microphone and a 'live' broadcast ...

Monday, 26 March 2012

Triumph over bureaucracy ...

It has taken 23 months, numerous visits to the Standesamt, more telephone calls, emails and letters than we care to remember, apostilles, certificates, certifications of authenticity and a couple of affidavits - but we've finally got permission to get married in Germany. The bureaucrats finally surrendered and stopped sending us demands for more certificates, more proofs of nationality, marriage anullment, income and residence, and have issued the necessary clearance.

Now all we have to do is set a date when those we'd like to invite are likely to be able to attend - and the necessary officials, priest and venues are available ...

It's only taken 23 months so far, what's another six or so?

Saturday, 24 March 2012

RIP Old Friend ...

Paddy Paws
1990 - 2012

This little lady walked into my life in April 1999 and into the hearts of everyone she encountered over the next 13 years. She'd had a tough beginning, either being kicked or run over aged around 2 and rescued by a neighbour who's son spotted the injured cat following him home. They had her patched up and she lived with them for seven years though they already had several cats and a dog. She moved in on me when I bought the house next door, having spent several days assessing us and our house to make sure there were no other animals in residence.

She has moved house with me twice, once only a matter of a few miles, the second time to Germany and travelled from Tewkesbury to our new home in the Taunus loose in the car. In the last twelve months though, she has developed a number of problems, her kidneys giving trouble, her hind quarters with arthritis and finally, in the last weeks, her bladder with kidney stones and persistent infection. For the last few days she could barely eat and refused to drink, so today we took her to the vet yet again.

Madam Paddy Paws was one of a kind. Vocal, demanding, persistent, but always loving and always a comfort and a joy. 

She died on my lap at 12.04 today. Loved, missed terribly, but no longer in pain or distress. We think she knew this was her last journey, she lay quiet and peaceful in my arms on the journey and made no sound at all as she received the final injection. The house is not the same without her.

She may no longer be with us physically, but she will always be remembered. 

Friday, 23 March 2012

Education? Who needs it?

The local radio station here has a limited range of music. We listen to it as it is really a "news" station and we like to keep abreast. I realised recently that one song from the 70s should have been listed as the most stupid and ill-informed lyric ever recorded. Who the heck thought a Pop Song with the lyric -

We don't need no education, 


Teacher, leave those kids alone ...

was a good idea? I can't escape the feeling that there is an entire generation out there who think the song was right. After all, if you're on the dole, you don't need an education. That's only for wimps who go out to work. Strangely it came on the radio just as I read an article on the BBC Website (We're barred from receiving it even on the internet in Europe!) entitled The Church of England Reaffirms its Committment to Education.

Of course that got an immediate response from the Chairman of the National Secular Society (Membership 7,000 and falling. The CofE currently has 3 million and other Christian denominations make up several million more - but don't tell Mr Porteous-Wood, it might depress him) accusing the church of "indoctrination" and declaring "religion belongs in the home and has no place in public society." At a guess I would suggest the Chairman is a member of the generation that sang along with the lyrics "We don't need no education ..." Certainly, having read a number of his statements on the subject of religion and what it stands for I can only say he is a perfect example of someone who is "illiterate" as far as matters of faith are concerned.

To quote the BBC report -

Keith Porteous-Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said by putting schools at the centre of its mission, the Church was acknowledging its churches were failing.
"Turning up the volume of religiosity in schools will cause greater resentment among the non-Christian parents at these schools.
"Religion is something for the home and the place of worship."
Church schools were only successful because they kept out the "difficult-to-teach" children, he added.
What this tells me is that he is very good at sterotyping and not much good at being objective or factual. First, the law forbids selection and discrimination, yet he is here suggesting that Faith or Church Schools do both. Church schools generally have better behaved children because the teachers are better motivated by and large. Though there are examples where that is not the case, they are rare. His remark 'Turning up the volume on religiosity ...' is typical of the sort of blanket denial that anyone has any faith and is instead caught up in some sort of empty ritualistic process made by someone who is utterly ignorant of what faith really is.

Something the Secularists hate is that the entire "Free Public Education" system was started by the much maligned Church of England just over 200 years ago. It took another 50 years before the "Captains and Kings" of Parliament and the "Great and Good" of the moneyed classes conceded that an educated workforce might be useful. I sincerely hope and trust that the CofE continues its involvement in schools and expands it.

Education? Who needs it? It seems to me that there is an entire class of supposedly intelligent and supposedly qualified people out there who do. Somewhere between starting school and reaching their current standing in society they seem to have missed being educated in anything at all - other than their prejudices and ignorance.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A drop in the ocean ...

I am fascinated to read, after my post yesterday and Josephus post the day before, that someone at the University of Oregon has done a great deal of research into the realities of "renewable" versus "fossil fuel" power supply. At Watts Up With That I read that, in the US, it needs ten (10) units of alternative generating power, to replace a single unit of "fossil" fueled power. The article he has posted further goes on to make a number of interesting points about the fact that more efficient appliances, more efficient homes and so on hasn't brought about the expected fall in demand - in fact it has seen an increase.

One reason for this is, of course, the continued growth of the population in every country in the world. Another, is that if someone produces an more fuel efficient engine, it isn't long before someone else, using it, undertakes more journeys or longer ones. After all, if I am used to paying 10% of my income to fuel my car, and can now go further without paying more, why not? This is a sociological issue and it translates into every society on earth and there are plenty of examples of it in all sorts of human activities - so why are the people driving these efforts to reduce consumption surprised?

One of the problems I believe we are all facing is summed up in one of the comments at WUWT. Energy companies are not expanding their output fast enough to keep pace with the growth of cities and demand. If a new suburb is built, it places additional demand on the supply of energy, so we should see an expansion in the supply, but do we? In the UK and Germany there is a drive to build ever more of the vastly expensive and over rated wind turbines. A recent energy report in Germany suggested the target was to have 47% of Germany's power supplied by wind energy. Frankly that is totally unrealistic, unless someone invests heavily, now, in a "smart network" which can shunt power around from scattered turbines that are "online" and the places where there is a demand for power. I can't see it happening anytime soon.

I'm no electrical engineer, but I do know (from having worked for an electricity generating authority briefly) that one of the major problems is a power drop over an extended network. This means you need a lot of transformer stations and boosters in the network to ensure a stable supply. The other problem is you can't just switch generators in and out. Taking one offline is not the problem, bringing one on is. They have to be brought into "Phase" with the network or you can introduce some very exciting, interesting and expensive power surges. So as the wind turbines drop in and out on days when the wind isn't steady or constant enough, you have to kick in some gas, oil or coal fired ones to replace them - or shunt power from somewhere remote to replace it.

At present there isn't an "intelligent network" anywhere in the world that can handle and distribute power being generated where it isn't needed and balancing and shunting it to where it is. UNtil there is, "alternative energy" will remain "a drop in the ocean" as far as demand and supply is concerned. As one WUWT commenter put it, I don't care where the power comes from, as long as it is available. I get very upset when it vanishes because some idiot has blocked the expansion of generating capacity to promote "alternative" energy which can't be supplied when I need it.

This raises yet another issue with the pipe-dream Josephus brought to our attention on Monday. It's all very well generating power in the Sahara Desert, getting it several thousand miles from there to Scandinavia, Scotland or even Northern Germany is not so simple. Leaving aside the political and material problems, there is the simple one of the loss of power the further it has to go in the cables - assuming these aren't stripped, or damaged in storms. It does, I suppose, add the interesting possibility of a storm in Italy causing a blackout in London or Helsinki.

As things stand at present, alternative energy supplies can, potentially, deliver a great deal more than they do. The truth is they don't. In fact, they seldom deliver as much as 10% of their capacity. (UK National Grid figures) so how anyone can even think they could replace fossil or nuclear generating capacity in the near future, is a mystery.

As Fagan was wont to say, I t'ink dey better t'ink it out again.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

When 'Green' isn't 'Green'

Yesterday Josephus wrote quite a piece on the mirage of "free" energy and the pitfalls of covering the landscape with the noisy eyesores of wind 'turbines.' All of this is being pushed forward by WWF, Greenpeace, other "Green" NGOs and all the rest of the "Climate Change/Global Doom Warming organisations. As he mentioned, the proponents determinedly ignore all evidence of environmental damage being done in this pointless pursuit of this golden dream of a "fossil fuel free future."

The vision set out in the report Josephus cited is a grand one, but takes no account at all of the environmental, economic, political and resources impact of attempting to generate electricity in desert areas and then distribute it to countries not just thousands of miles away, but on different continents and even on different sides of an ocean ... Nor does it attempt to address the thorny question of how it will all be paid for or who will pay for it. Josephus raised a second thorny issue. The report proposes placing all these wonderful generating systems in some of the least stable, politically, areas of the world, under the control of governments who have something of a track record of behaving in a somewhat petulant manner in international relations. One can easily imagine a scenario where someone in one of these countries, no doubt "provoked" by some supposed "slight" to his faith, country or culture, could pull the plug on Europe.

Today a report published in the geologists journal, suggests that geological evidence suggests that the 2*C warming the AGW/IPCC pundits want to prevent is not preventable. Indeed, they go further, they say it is inevitable and that sea levels could rise by well over 20 metres as a result. But that, as they are quick to point out (but which will no doubt be omitted from any popular press reports of this) will require the melting of all the West Antarctic ice shelf, all the Greenland ice and most of the sea ice shelf in East Antarctica - which would take thousands of years.

I can see many reasons for finding cleaner energy supplies, but the most important, in my opinion, is to break away from our dependence on oil supplied by countries whose regimes are unstable, untrustworthy and interested only in destroying Western culture and economies. We cannot do entirely without oil, but we can use it more efficiently, we can ensure there is less wastage and we can certainly make better use of our own resources such as coal. But none of these is likely to even be looked at until we can break away from this fetish for "free energy," which, as Josephus has pointed out, is neither "free" nor clean and green.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The problem with 'free' power

The World Wildlife Fund, WWF, assures us that we can and will have all the energy we need from renewable resources by 2050. The Energy Report assures us that

"Switching to renewable energy isn't just the best choice. It's our only option. The way the world produces and uses energy today is not sustainable."

I'm not sure that I find this argument at all convincing although I will admit that the picture of the wonderful curve of off-shore wind turbines presents a classically proportioned artistic image.  It does not, of course, show the corpses of the sea-birds that will have flown into them, being birds of relatively little brain, nor the seabed disruption caused by the concrete platforms.  An array much larger than this is being built of the coast of Aberdeenshire near Balmedie.  The potential eyesore is of sufficiently damaging potential to have forced Donald Trump to stop digging up my most favourite sand-dunes to provide yet another golf course, so not all is bad news.  (Scotland in general and Aberdeen in particular really does not need yet another golf course.)  What is bad news is that I used to sail those waters in a 32ft Albin Express, a wonderful racing yacht belonging to a friend of mine.  Now, there will be an exclusion zone around the damned rotors of progress forcing small craft further out into the grey North Sea, where they will come upon yet more exclusion zones around the platforms draining fossil fuels from beneath the ocean.  No energy comes free, if we wish to live in a technological world, we must pay one way or another, it is how to balance cost with benefit that should concern us.

Now in a local sense, I am all in favour of small scale renewable energy initiatives.  There are many small 1kWH generators on private dwellings in remote areas of Scotland, they cut fuel bills, possibly put the major energy provider of much of Highland region on short time, but then, Mr Honda simply goes safely into the barn, byre or shed to come out again when the wind does not blow.  This is Scotland, so the wind is unlikely not to blow for a lot of the time.  My first encounter with Scottish innovation took place in about 1987 somewhere between Clachnaben (a smal mountain with a 'Beano'-style lump on its head) and the (infamous) Banchory to Fettercairn road, often the first to be announced in late autumn as being closed by snow.  With skis strapped to my pack and the wings of my winter boots open to allow walking rather than locked tight to facilitate skiing or climbing, my friend and I trudged through heather, descending from the snowline to the track to walk out.  Our skiing had been cut short by the lack of snow, so we were on wild land, not on a path.  Then we met that pseudo Australian feature so necessary when you wish to grow trees anywhere where there is a wild Red Deer population, the fence.  This fence was huge, fifteen feet high and snaking as far as the eye could see in any direction, so, bend at 90° at the waist to get the skis parallel to the ground and pass one leg through the fence, get feet firm, lean on the knuckles of one's damp dachstein mitts and draw the other leg through, easy.  This however was when I felt the tingle, my knuckles were tingling and getting very warm, the fence was electrified!  I made the fatal mistake (well, figuratively 'fatal' rather than litteraly, obviously) of reacting to this discovery and found myself stranded like a turtle with by boot fast to the wire of the fence by the hooks of its 'wings'.  From then on there was a danse macabre, a ballet terrible as my friend tried to free me from the infernal power of the fence.  I had experience of electric fences from my farming friends and as we tramped along following my rescue I conjectured on just exactly how powerful the battery would need to be to effectively electrify this truly gargantuan fence in such a remote area, then we heard it... a single tilting target to tempt poor Don Quixote, a roaring, whirling generator kissed by the gentle gale of the southern foothills of the Cairngorms.  That windmill provided "free" power to enable that which could not otherwise be done to be done, by a single land-owner for his own purposes, I can live with that.

On the last occasion that I travelled to London from my cosy Cotswold home on a normally reliable service following track that was originally the great Mr Brunel's seven foot gauge, I had to detour by several other lines and train companies (I prefer the English "Railway Company", to use train in this context always smacks of Americanism, however it is correct, the tracks belong to Network Rail, only the trains a run by the franchisee.) and very well organised it was too; I arrived in Marylebone rather than Paddington, but only half an hour later than I should.  Now what was the cause of this adventure?  Well, not all of the residents of the Home Counties are genteel, some go by the collective "Chavs" and are prone to salvage shiny metals from a number of locations for the benefit of scrap metal dealers.  Two of the most lucrative sources currently being church roofs and railway signalling cables.  The mind boggles at the thought of what the essentially honest and diligent inhabitants of such stable countries as Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Libia, Paestine/Israel (let's not go there...) and Syria.  Surely if the WWF dream of an international grid harvesting african sunshine to produce electricity to feed Western Europe laid massive cables, then the locals would not stoop to simple capitalist enterprise and liberate the metal facilitating this miracle of "free electricity".  Of course they would not.  I wonder where the metal would come from?  There is already a world shortage of copper; I feel that the day approaches when Victorian and Edwardian sub-sea cables no longer in use will be salvaged legitimately to permit simple rewiring of our homes.  Copper mining is a filthy business, Cornwall is beautiful today, just as the Severn valley is at Coalbrookdale.  Imagine them two hundred years ago, filthy, burning, discoloured, highly polluted, but that was small scale, in China today, huge tracts of land are laid waste by metal and rare earth mining, Tantalum, used for capacitors, that last and tricky piece of minaturisation that allows the mobile phone or pad or mp3-player to be the size it is, has horrific tolls associated with its mining and raw production.  We do not live in a nice world, but we are sheltered from the horrors in our cosy Western cocoon.

An analysis of the WWF report written by John Thackara; "When renewable Energy Becomes a Snake Oil Recipe"  mentions some of the costs that the WWF seem to believe will simply be paid by a blind and obliging world to facilitate its, frankly somewhat delusional, claims.  The paragraph, (he uses single sentence paragraphs, which I hate being old and having an attention span >140 charachters)  "The Energy Report also makes wind and sun energy sound clean and weightless when their impact on the real world is far less benign." particularly caught my eye.  I wil now quote the following section of his rebuttal;

‘We need to acknowledge the true costs of any energy development’ warns Pavlik. ‘When a dam is built, a river is lost – but people who turn on their tap and draw that water rarely think about the river that was destroyed to produce it. If we place industrial technologies in what city people regard as wilderness, there will be less awareness of the damage, less incentive to conserve’.

Despite such warnings, vast projects are in the pipeline. According to the LA Times, the total public land under consideration for alternative energy production exceeds 1.45 million acres in California alone.

In India, negative impacts of green energy are already starting to be felt. A wind farm project under way in Pune has destroyed protected forests and threatens farmland in the area. Bombay’s High Court, responding to a public interest petition, ordered a halt on tree felling — but blasting and other destructive activities continue. At another wind power project in Andhra Lake 300,000 trees were felled by an Indo-German enterprise called Enercon to construct an access road along the hills; the consortium had permission to cut 26,000. Many rare plants and shrubs, found only in the western Ghats, have been destroyed because of dumping of rubble from blasted rocks.

Environmental activists allege the project was authorized on the basis of false promises that ‘there is no wildlife in the area’.

Let us examine the wider picture, unlike the domestic turbine in Scotland that requires a few feet of wire to connect it to the domestic supply, or the single windmill that powers the deer fence, we are talking vast arrays of huge and costly machinery (or solar arrays) each of which may, in its single entity, produce available power cleanly, but needs to be connected to every other part of the array and then to some supply network.  A lot of copper for the 'chavs' then!   The contol and switching circutry, not a simple on/off switch by any means, especially if the much vaunted "load-balancing" argument is in use, sub-stations, transformers and all the paraphenalia of distribution networks.  Then there is the maintenance; once you have all of this in place, it is so costly that it would have been not only cheaper but more environmentally friendly to rely on the old-fashioned fossil fuel sytem in the first place.  Power stations, even the old nasty ones do not cover hundreds of square miles, modern ones are also clean and efficient in addition to being small.  They require small workforces compared to the huge coal burners of the past, belching their steam from cooling towers; all that wasted energy... there are a few of those left as they are of such immense size that they remain effective, but the last few cooling towers that I have seen or read of in the news were being demolished!  We have moved on, we may need to go further, but let us remain honest.

Read Mr Thakera's paper, it might open a few eyes.  We will, one day, use up all of the viable fossil fuel reserves and then we need to have alternatives in place, but let us do it honestly, openly and without the "Snake Oil".

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Patrick - The Man Behind the Legend

Today there will be celebrations in many parts of the world in honour of St Patrick. The day is a public holiday in Ireland and in some other countries where there is a strong Irish Roman Catholic presence. There will, no doubt, be flags, parades and green beer among other things, including folk dressed as Leprechauns, Irish dancers and Scottish bagpipe bands. (The "Irish" or Uillieann Pipes (From the Irish and literally meaning "Pipes of the Elbow) are played seated with the drones across the legs. The bellows are operated by the players elbow to keep the 'bag' filled with air.) Many of those taking part will know a bit about the legendary figure they are celebrating - like his supposed driving the snakes out of Ireland - but not much more.
This is surprising in many respects since we actually know more about St Patrick than any other person of similar standing in Britain in his period. The reason is that we have two authentic documents, copies of originals written by him, still in existence. From their contents we are able to reconstruct much of his life and the society in which he worked. In recent years re-interpreters have been busy rearranging some of these facts to suit whatever their agendas may be. This seems to be an attempt to downplay and even discredit him and his life's work. 
It is a fate now befalling many other historic figures. The classic example is Dan Brown's abuse of history and fact in his Da Vinci Code. The "Priory of Sion" was the invention of a M. Pierre Plantard in 1956. It was not a remnant of the "Templars" or any other ancient crusading order. Nor was Leonardo da Vinci ever in any way connected to it or that other now infamous group, the Illuminati. A short-lived and rather predatory Masonic Order that was suppressed in 1756 and existed for a total of 56 years. It had nothing whatever to do with the Bilderberger Group. All of that is the figment of Mr Brown's imagination. But conspiracy theorists love it.
I recently came across a statement that St Patrick had been convicted in a British Court of "impersonating" a Bishop and that he was not in fact consecrated as one. This is apparently based on his "Confessio" - translated by his detractors as "Confession" when it actually means "Declaration" - which is biographical and was almost certainly an answer to his detractors in Britain. We know nothing whatever about what these "charges" were, since neither the names of his detractors, any record of their activities or ministry, nor of any "court proceedings" survived the Saxon, Pict and Danish invasions. What we do know is that the British Church was, at this time, under interdict from the rest of the Church for its adherence and practice of "Pelagianism." 
The charge about his "masquerading" as a Bishop is a spurious one, based on the mis translation and possibly misunderstanding of the statement in the opening paragraph of his "Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus" following a raid by the Welsh-Pict "King" - himself a noted Pelagian - in which he excommunicated the King and all his followers and supporters. The relevant salutation states - 
This translates as -
I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. 
It is that final part of the sentence which some have seized on to claim he was a "self declared" Bishop and therefore an impostor. Two things must be remembered here, first that Cromwell probably destroyed the original copy of this letter when he burned what is known as the "Ogham Library" in his campaigns against Catholicism (And some would add Christianity itself) in Ireland. Patrick would have written his original on thin wooden "leaves" which were more durable than the Papyrus used in the Mediterranean. Vellum would have been too difficult to obtain and hugely expensive, so was reserved for things such as copies of the Gospels and other books of the Bible. Secondly, unfortunately, the copyists weren't perfect, and his handwriting probably wasn't that good either. He is likely to have been almost crippled by arthritis as a result of poor diet and abuse as a slave. In fact one story attested within a generation of his death, is that a Bishop named Cartan or Macartan carried him everywhere in the last years of his life. This speaks loudly of a man crippled by an arthritic condition.
As the late Archbishop George Otto Sims has written, Patrick's salutation to the Soldiers of Coroticus is a standard phraseology used in almost every document written by a bishop of that period. What stands out as unique is his use of the term, in reference to himself, as an "untaught sinner." It occurs again in the "Declaration." The letter predates the Declaration, which leads scholars to believe that the excommunication of Coroticus and his supporters led to an attempt to discredit Patrick. It failed, not least because his bishopric was not only valid, but successful. Archbishop Sims (Anglican) and Msgr Liam de Paor (Roman Catholic), describe him as "the first missionary bishop of the church since St Paul." They also point to the fact that, far from being "unlearned" Patrick knows his scriptures intimately and his writing is riddled with quotations from the pre-Vulgate texts in use in the 5th Century.
We know he was the son of a Romano-British official, his father probably a Decurion in Roman parlance, and his grandfather a priest. His full names were Magnus Sucatus Patricius, the first being his actual "nomen," the second the Family name and the third his "cognomen" or nickname. (Julius Caesar is actually Gaius Julius - Caesar means "Hairy" and was probably a derogatory nickname since he was notoriously hairless.) The Decurion class were landowning, usually held public service offices such as being magistrates, running towns and so on. 
Patrick's parents were obviously of this class, having both a "town" residence and a villa somewhere near the shore. Most recent examination of both the clues in his texts and of the history of the period, suggest his most probable "home" to have been along the southern shore of Wales near the mouth of the Severn Estuary or on the north shore of Somerset and South Gloucestershire. It is generally agreed that the copyists got the name of the town wrong - probably because they couldn't read his original - sionce there is nowhere in Roman Britain named "Bannavem Taburnia." There are, however, a number of "Bannaventas" which meant "Market of ..." and several such towns are known in the area I mentioned, several with names easily corrupted by bad handwriting to "Taburnia."
His birth was probably in 385 or 386 AD and he appears, from his own account, to have been a victim of a major raid on the Severn Estuary, South Wales, Somerset and Devon in 401 AD. It is also important to realise that the Irish tribes lived to a law different from the rest of Europe. Rome enforced a system of "manumission" which allowed a slave to be freed or to buy his or her freedom. The Irish did not. Under the law of the Brehon, a slave was a slave, was a slave. Male slaves had a lower value than females and ranked somewhere below the beasts of burden or the owner's hunting hounds. A slave was bought naked and lived that way unless his owner clothed him, and if he was sold, he was sold naked and without any tools, no matter if he had made any to help in his work.
Patrick tells us it took two days sailing to reach Ireland following the raid, with a pause while other raiders assembled at a resting place probably near St David's in West Wales. This is an important clue to his home, since the Irish raiders used light fast craft with an extremely efficient rig. A raid on the coast anywhere further north, say in Cheshire, Lancashire or Scotland, would not have required a two day passage to reach Ireland. He also tells us that he had committed some heinous "sin" which had resulted in his being "rusticated" to the family villa, presumably while his father dealt with the fallout. Since sexual license was fairly widespread the "sin" is unlikely to have been sexual, although that may have been the incentive which some scholars speculate involved a death. Whatever it was, it haunted Patrick for the rest of his life. He saw his period as a slave as a just punishment for his crime, though it took him a while to come to this conclusion. After his escape he tells us he returned home and he then "vanishes" for some 20 years. Again, later monastics tried to claim he'd become a monk during this time, but if this was true, he would certainly have mentioned it and he doesn't. 
Another favourite argument I have seen concerning his bishopric is that his name does not appear in the lists of those consecrated by the Bishops of Rome at this period. This ignores the fact that Rome was not the only "authority" at that time, almost all the Diocesan Bishops were consecrating other bishops, appointing and ordaining priests and sending them on various missions. Monasticism was in its infancy, Lerins, near NIce, being the earliest established and recognised community living to a "Rule."
Historically another man, Palladius Patricius was sent by Rome to Ireland, probably to the area now called Leinster and we also know, from other sources, that he took Magnus Sucatus with him. At some point Palladius and Patrick parted company, the latter returning to Gaul shortly before Palladius unexpectedly died. The Gaulish bishops, then busy dealing with the Pelagian heretics in Britannia didn't waste any time and sent the former slave straight back. The evidence suggests that Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, Lupus of Troyes and the bishop of Paris all had a hand in it. Germanus was the appointed leader of the anti-Pelagian mission, a well documented event.
What makes Patrick unique is that he never made any exaggerated claims and he never forgot his "sin." His humility and the effort he put into his ministry shine like a light in the darkness to those who look for it. He took his life in his hands returning to his former master's tribal lands. The Law of the Brehon prescribed that an escaped slave must be either returned to his master or killed. So how did Patrick escape that fate?
Quite simply, he described himself as "The Slave of Christ" and when challenged always told the challenger that he "served his Master, his God." There were several attempts on his life and on his person. He survived them all and he was always released when taken into slavery again. 
Rather than trying to "re-interpret" documents and evidence we should look more closely at the life and the man. Here was a man who foreswore everything, life, birthright, comfort and home, to serve God. In his latter years, according to a medical professional who has studied the accounts of his "assistants", he should have been bedridden by his late 50's, yet continued working into his late 70s even though he was probably crippled. Among the things he will have suffered from as a result of his years as a slave, are malnutrition (critical in later life if suffered as a teenager), probably deformity of his legs as a result of being used as a beast of burden and malnutrition, damage to his joints as a result of labour and poor diet in his late puberty, possible infertility, and disease associated with parasites in the bowel. There may well have been other injuries due to abuse, punishment and even sexual abuse. That he survived to a possible age of 76 years is almost miraculous. That he remained steadfast in his faith is indisputable.
I will mark his feast day properly, with an act of worship to God and thanks for the life and example of Magnus Sucatus Patricius, Saint, Bishop, Missionary and exemplary Christian.  

Friday, 16 March 2012


After the Monk's recent international wrangles regarding his identity, I thought I would share the newly tightened system for application for my wife's "Blue Badge" disabled parking entitlement.  Now I believe that the system was "improved" to prevent fraudulent abuse; in my experience it is always the big slob who would abandon his vehicle outside the doorway of the shop if it were on the main road, but insists on parking across three disabled bays outside the supermarket, in fact, Homer J Simpson personified.  No amount of rule enforcement will persuade this carachter to follow the rules.  Rather like the changes in hand-gun law in the 1990s that deprived sporting shooters of their sport but only served to increase the possession of illegal firearms; this poor idea is no doubt currently troubling the Olympic committees who are using military premises for the shooting competitions.

Let us see:
I need proof of address; fine, you actually sent me the reminder notice to my address, and I am now responding to it, so it is highly probable that I live here, however, proof beyond reasonable doubt is  required.  Utility bill, well, there are many in my name, but none in  my wife's... bank statement; internet paperless banking... rent book; we own the house... pension; I'm a cradle snatcher, it will be nearly 20 years before that happens... Why not a letter from the various benefits agencies dealing with the disability that entitles me to the Blue Badge in the first place, in fact, why not the letter you sent to me?

Ah!  I need proof of identity... Having already fillied in a section that required my National Insurance Number, a unique identifier (take note all of you ID card gain-sayers.) plus my driving licence number, not only a unique identifier but also containing my date of birth, how much more do you need?  Ah!  My Driving licence; (Plastic and counterpart paper, but copies will do, so I could doctor them as I have a high quality scanner and am a dab hand with the GIMP [photoshop for techies!] How do you think I got my Bachelor of Fluencing parchment?) fine, no problem, by the way, it is a criminal offence not to inform DVLA of any change of address, so could I use that for my address?  No!  Well OK, ah, my certificate of entitlement to disability living allowance, well, fine, but they don't send out annual reminders unless prompted, The entitlement goes back several years, so the original is out of date, but it does have the address on it! (to be fair, the Government department, on phoning were only too happy to send out an update, apparently National Government offices such as DWP are much more streamlined that County Councils who issue parking permits.)

Now, I need proof of entitlement, Aha, we've got two in one there, the letter of entitlement, why couldn't I get a "two-for-one" from my Driving licence?  Are we beginning to see a pattern here?  A fee is charged, not too much of a problem, £10 as a handling charge is not unreasonable, however, what will they do next time when cheques have been phased out?  Ah! the Postal Order, well it might keep Post Office Counters in business I suppose.  Pity they don't have a decent website...

Now none of this should surprise me one bit, however, what is galling is that this is a renewal, the form sent to my address which has not changed.  I think the Blue Badge itself, which after all of this also requires a photograph, should actually be an EU passport, the requirements are certainly strict enough and since they changed from Orange to Blue, they are indeed an EU document.  So why then are they issued in such an innefficient manner by County Councils?  Probably because ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶R̶t̶ ̶H̶o̶n̶  Two Jags Prescott failed in his regionalisation endeavours.  Oh, for the days of joined-up thinking.

Scapegoats ...

Some years ago, in a book by John Winton, I came across a definition of a "Scape Goat" that has stayed with me. Yesterday's post by Josephus touched on it again in one part. The definition is a little crude, but being from the Navy, I suspect it may be excused, especially as it does hit the nail exactly as far as the issue Josephus raised is concerned. Winton has one of the characters in his story say -

"A scape goat is a chap picked at random after any cock-up so everyone can pour sh*t and derision on his head, then go happily on their way rejoicing, safe in the knowledge some other poor b*st*rd will take all the blame."

Josephus reminded me of this when he mentioned the way in which, on what appears to be a regular cycle a particular group or groups is picked out to become the "enemy of civilised society" until sufficient hatred has been stirred up in the minds of the "masses" to lead to that group being "cast into outer darkness." This is really the skill of the propagandist. You can still find people who firmly believe that all Germans were jackbooted, goose-stepping, baby eating Nazis. Someone in the first World War coined the name "Huns" to describe them and it is still being bandied about. (The real "Huns" are actually further East - the Hungarians!) Look at some of the anti-EU blogs and you soon discover that all the old arguments about the Germans cherishing ambitions of "world domination" or "world empire" and being "naturally militaristic" are still in circulation. Erskine Childers' book "The Riddle of the Sands" was a great anti-German propaganda piece at a time when Britain was engaged in an arms race and the populace needed to be whipped up to support the massive expenditures involved.

Josephus mentions the regular assaults on Free Masonry (The Monk is not a member, but has no problem with people who are!), the Jews (goes back to pre-Roman times that does!), and currently, among a small section of the supposedly "Christian" community, those who use the "pill" or, for whatever reason, seek to have an abortion. As he mentions, the law as it is written in Arizona has far reaching consequences - potentially invasive and a rather crude and, I would suggest, unconstitutional attempt to impose a set of personal opinions and prejudices on all the citizens of the State.

He also mentions that being "anti-semitic" is today a seriously taboo issue, yet it has morphed into "anti-Israel." A carefully orchestrated disguise for the much older and more honest version. As I have now seen several times, those who promote this new form of anti-semitism are eager to tell anyone gullible enough to believe them, that they don't "hate Jews" but think that Israel has no right to exist. They then go on to trot out all the old arguments that "the Jews stole the land in 1947," that the Jordanian authorities had "promised" to treat them fairly, and that there were "no Jews" in the Holy Land until after 1916. Now one regularly hears that "Israel is an Apartheid State" and "must be forced" to "return the land stolen from the Palestinians." Again, this ignores the real facts. Among other things it ignores the fact that Israel is unique in Arab lands in being democratic - women are not discriminated against as they are in almost all the neighbour states. There are non-Jews in the Knesset, but there are no non-Muslims in the government of any neighbour!

It also ignores the fact that the "Palestinian" people are actually Jordanian. Balfour's "Two State" proposal was reneged on by successive British governments to pander to Muslim feelings and "don't upset the oil sheiks." The result of attempts to prevent Jewish migration and then to prevent their purchase of land, was the "Stern Gang" - in any other country a "Freedom Fighter Movement" -  and Hagganah. Plus the mess we now face in the Middle East. Ironically, the "Two State" proposal was achieved by default - the Kingdom of Jordan and Israel.

As it is said in the old English expression, "Give a dog and bad name - and hang him." The Jews as represented by the State of Israel, Free Masons, Christians and now those who seek abortions for probably sound enough reasons, have all become our favourite "Scape Goats." We can happily throw ordure at them all and go on our way rejoicing in the belief that we can't smell the muck on our own hands.

I have only this to say to those who vilify the women who need to undergo this deeply upsetting and emotional experience of abortion. It applies to all those, Christian or not, who seek to impose their ideology on others by force, by vilification or any other means. It is the same thing Our Lord said to those who confronted Him with the "woman taken in adultery."

"Let he, who is without sin, cast the first stone."

Thursday, 15 March 2012


I have recently been spending my mornings with my Kindle reading Umberto Eco's rambling tale of the "Prague Cemetary".  This novel reminds one of the nature of human civilisation, or relative lack of it, and confirms that our current age of discontent is no twenty-first century fad, no invention of the evil press barons or social media gurus, users, exposers  or tweeters, it is the product of human society.

We were fortunate to have a most loyal calm and faithful dog in the late 1980s and into the nineties, he was a breed of German origin that traditionally pulled butchers' carts and known for their strong family ties and fierce loyalty.  Unfortunately, the Rottweiller became the "devil-dog" overnight because of an unfortunate incident.  The only upside of this was that the poor German Shepherd got let off the hook for a few years and the Pit-bull became the next object of hate.

In the book I mentioned it is both the Jews, not as a race per se but as a socio-political construct and the Freemasons, again not as any specific society but as a pseudonym for all that is secret or uncomfortable in life that get the attention.  The focus of the book is an amoral carachter who makes his living in 19th century Europe as a spy/forger/political tool available to either the highest bidder or the power or force of the moment.  This led me to reflect that it is some years since Freemasonry has been the subject of press attacks in the UK.  Typically, rather like the GSD, every so many years, some story sets the hounds onto masonry as a scapegoat for all that is dubious in society.  Being openly anti-semitic today will probably attract the wrath of the politically correct forces of law and order, so that removes the Jews from the discussion, but where is the current misplaced focus of attention?

I discovered, courtesy of the BBC Radio 4 "Today" programme that a small group of Christian demonstrators have decided to spend Lent hounding and following visitors to an London establishment that provides abortion services.  It is their privelidge to live in a country where such demonstration is legal and tolerated, however, does that privelidge extend to putting significany moral pressure on some women who are already going through a morally disturbing time in their lives?  I have no strong feelings on this issue, I do not agree with the papal definition of life as beginning at conception, in fact, until quite recently, a child that remained unbaptised was excluded from the rights of the church in the event of early death, my personal view is that life is an independent existence, but I tolerate and accept the views of others.  However, all tolerance has boundaries and yesterday I found my personal 'tolerance' levels to be stretched beyond belief in a related, yet subtly different area of moral indignation.

Yesterday, a Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Republican Debbie Lesko's HB2625 (Arizona) by a vote of 6-2, which would allow an employer to request proof that a woman using insurance to buy birth control was being prescribed the birth control for reasons other than not wanting to get pregnant.  Further, because Arizona is an "at-will employment" state, this means that bosses critical of their female employees' sex lives could fire them as a result.  Basicaly, a minority of employers who disapprove of birth control can interfere in and effectively control their employees' lives because of their belief.  I hesitate to even begin to think what the state of Arizona will consider appropriate should they discover that there are any homosexuals in employment, or if a woman's medical records show that she has had an abortion at some time.  As these two factors, abortion and birth control do have a common high profile proponent in his Holiness Benedict XVI, this leads me conveniently back to my "Prague Cemetary", will those same employers refuse work to Jews, Freemasons, Mexicans or other racial, religious or simply inconvenient groups of people?

To what extent does any individual have the right to (try to) control the thoughts and actions of those with whom they differ in opinion?  States and governments, along with dictators, have always exercised that "right", for good or ill, but what does it say about 21st century civilization in Arizona?  To follow up on this story and get the feel for the current emotional temperature check out my references through Dr Google, simply enter the search term "Whore pills" and click on the first result.

As a post script, this supports a question I asked myself recently on completing my first reading of the "Millenium Trilogy".  The only thing that I could fault, not being a Swedish speaker or reader, was that the translator was evidently an American, words such as "dumpster" where an English speaker from Britain would say "skip" and many others confirmed this.  However, there is the use of one word on hundreds of occassions throughout all three volumes that confused me as its meaning was always derogatory, but varied significantly as to its accuracy or appropriateness.  That word was "Whore"; I now wonder if the translator hailed from Arizona, it would certainly explain several things about the English translation of Steig Larsson's excellent novels.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Madam is unwell ...

Madam Paddy Cat is unwell. It is very likely age related, so there is not a lot anyone can do except make her reasonably comfortable and pander to her little foibles - like insisting on breakfast at 04.15 in the mornings ...

Still, at her age, she's doing remarkably well, a surprise really since she didn't start out that well and probably used up 8 of her supposed 9 lives by the time we moved to the flat I bought in Tewkesbury.

We had a visit to the vet today, not our favourite occupation, and now we are feeling very unhappy and want some personal love and attention.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Who wants to be a President?

Especially in our so-called democracies! Germany is in the process of finding a new President at present, the previous one, Christian Wulff, has been hounded out of office by the usual collection of politicians with an axe to grind, the media (we made you so we can destroy you) and the usual "rent-a-mob" against anyone who manages to achieve anything they haven't. The reason? It seems he had a few friends and enjoyed taking holidays with them, one of them even helped out with a loan when he was looking for a new house. That was enough to get his political opponents onto their high horses. Then he had some bad PR advice and everything went downhill from there.

Sadly, the very politicians now crowing about having brought him down, are no better themselves. One even admitted, as near as a politician will ever get to admitting something, "there but for the grace of God ..." At least in Germany, the President is a figurehead. He or she is elected by a special college of 1240 representatives drawn from the Bundestag and the Landestags with 620 "electors" from the Bundestag and another 620 from the Landes.

With the Presidential campaigns in the US heating up now I was fascinated to see that the whole question of Barak Obama's citizenship is still being hotly debated. There are now claims that his birth certificate has been forged or "doctored" and another document is as well. It seems that Mr Obama may have had the same bad PR advice as Mr Wulff. Had he been open and up front and produced all these documents right at the outset he wouldn't have given the conspiracy theorists the opportunity to make a start. Now he's got no less than Sheriff Arpiao investigating possible forgery and intent to defraud.

I had to look this up, but it appears that the US Constitution does have some clause about the President having to be born in the US of A and not merely be a Citizen of the US. This is, apparently, why a number of other people those of us living in other bits of the globe thought might be President of the US one day, have never been candidates. Arnold Schwarzeneger being one! Now there's a thought ... "Iran! I'll be baaaack!"

What would be the result, I wondered, of Sheriff Arpiao proving his case? If Mr Obama's birth certificate is forged, and one does have to ask why he waited almost 3 years in the face of numerous challenges to produce it, does this mean that his entire Presidency is invalidated? What would be the legal implications of having had an illegal President? I'm sure there are lawyers out there rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of all the laws which, having been signed into law by him, are now seriously open to challenge.

I expect there will be a lot of ramifications in International Affairs as well. Are treaties signed by an invalid President legal and binding? Are any of the appointments made in his name and representing his administration valid?

What does strike me as strange is that everything I've read on this has tried to play it down. Obviously some have no desire to explore this and others don't feel anything is served by it, but what is curious, to me at any rate, is that many of the papers and news media playing it all down would have been running with this ball if the name in the frame had been George W Bush ... That there is a distinct bias is obvious, but it doesn't prove a conspiracy either. What it demonstrates to me is that there are almost no blows too low for the media or in politics - unless it affects your own situation.

As I said earlier, IF Arpiao proves his case, and I rather doubt it will be, what affect does it have? Mr Obama won't be able to run in November for a second Term, plus there will be a lot of fairly tricky legal questions to answer. Will it change much more? Probably not.

But it does raise the question: Why would anyone want to subject themselves, their families and their friends to this sort of baying pack of blood thirsty cannibalism? I think it requires a degree of masochism most of us simply don't have.

Monday, 12 March 2012

A thought for the day ...

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

Albert Einstein.

Coming from one of the most influential Physicists of our age, this says a lot more than a cursory reading will reveal. Think about it, the master of logic, the man who thought in mathematical figures and formulas, is saying that you need to employ the imagination to explore new concepts, ideas and possibly even the improbable if you want to advance knowledge.

Now that is profound.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Say that again?

Sometimes you have to wonder about what you have just heard or read. A case in point is the US Army officer who told reporters that a village in Vietnam had been bombed out of existence in order to save it ...

The New Scientist reports a similar statement has recently been made by a wildlife conservation journal, "Game Changer" to the effect that we have to be prepared to kill some endangered animals in order to "save" them. In short it is being suggested that "culling" elephants, rhinoceros  and other large endangered animals provides the only way to control their activities and prevent, for instance, a herd of elephants destroying forests and crops - or lions killing cattle herds.

Reading this debate reinforces, for me at least, the complexity of the whole ecology. Tweak one part and something else unravels. This runs right through the entire environmental argument. A lot of the time well-meaning individuals and organisations grab hold of one tiny piece of the jigsaw, insist that this is the "key" to everything and then run with it. Until it all goes wrong. Then, of course, its someone else's fault.

The excuse is always, "we have to start somewhere ..."

One thing I learned a long time ago, is that it is often better not to start something until you know exactly which dominoes are going to fall - and what they will trigger in their turn. At least then, you have some idea of how to contain the damage.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

More Windmill woes ...

I see there is a bit of a kerfuffle going on in the "Green energy" lobby at present because the Chancellor and the PM won't give assurances they will continue to subsidise these hugely expensive follies.

I really must look it up, but there is a new technical paper published by Danish scientists and engineers who have identified a new problem with the "wind farms." Put simply, a windmill creates turbulence as it rotates, something we really all should be able to recognise. The big windmills create quite a bit. This is what catches birds out, and these really big blades create some interesting vortices as the wind moves past them and as they rotate - particularly at the tips. Any helicopter pilot or designer will tell you this is one of the more "interesting" features of flying one. Even when the blades are not rotating, they create some interesting turbulence "down wind" as the wind moves round, past or over them.

So why should this be a problem?

Ah, there lies the rub as they say. In a wind farm where you have several rows of these things, the first, upwind row, will operate efficiently. The row behind it loses around 10% of its efficiency and the row behind that, loses more ... Oh dear, so building the damned things in neat rows is not the most efficient way to arrange them. Apparently what you need is to have one long straight row of them. But hold on. The turbulence actually spreads out sideways as well ...

So, all those lovely windmills are probably not operating efficiently even when the wind is blowing within the very narrow operable range. Then, as I mentioned the other day in my post "Yesterday's Challenge" they're very likely generating power when its not needed or simply can't be distributed.

But those nice "Green Power" people don't mind, the government pays them for it anyway ... Or rather, you, the taxpayers, do!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Modern Myths ...

Ever since Dan Brown published The Da Vinci Code, there have been rumours and myths floating round the internet about the "truth" it revealed about Christianity and Christ. Most of this revolves around the statement in the opening pages that the "Priory of Sion" was a society formed in 1099 to "protect" the "secret" that Christ didn't die on the cross and was married with children... The so-called "parchments" supposedly "found" in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris aren't parchments at all. They are in fact typed sheets of paper deposited by their author in the 1960s.

The Priory of Sion, rather than being of ancient foundation was, in fact, founded by a gentleman of the name of Pierre Plantard and some friends in 1956 and was originally a "traditionalist" Catholic group. But M. Plantard was a man of imagination and, having come across the equally fictional stories of the Abbe Saunierre, saw an advantage in building an entire "back history" for his secret society. He pillaged Masonic traditions, legends, fictions and, when he ran out of "evidence" invented some.

Enter now some authors who drew on this rather fantastic "heritage" to write a book in 1975 called "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" and who sued Dan Brown for Breach of Copyright over the Da Vinci Code. They lost even though the judge conceded their material had been used by Brown.

Who was Plantard and why did he create this mythical history? It seems he had a somewhat dubious past and he also believed fervently that he was the last direct descendent of the Merovingian Kings of France. The Merovingians were supplanted by the Carolingian kings and Emperors in 751 AD and M. Plantard was determined to "restore the Merovingian line" to the "throne of France and Europe." Rather a strange  ambition and belief - but of such are Conspiracy Theories made. I wonder whether he could even have imagined that, thanks to Dan Brown's creative "history" extending the "founding" of this rather small, obscure and almost unheard of secret society into the Crusades and linking them to the Templars, Rosslyn Chapel and Leonardo da Vinci would propel its name into the realms of the Conspiracy Theory?

Probably not, though he would, no doubt, have been pleased by the attention it now gets.

The truth, as ever, is far to prosaic for those who love to find "proof" that everyone else is wrong and conspiring to "cover up" what they would like to believe is true. The "Priory of Sion" is far from ancient and, like a number of other supposedly "ancient" secret societies has a rather more recent set of origins. Its founder was certainly imaginative and extremely creative - but, sadly, probably a very deluded individual - like those who believe the introduction to Brown's book ...

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Yesterday's Challenge

Yesterday Josephus posted an interesting challenge, and it's one I am giving some thought to. Trouble is, it needs quite a bit of research to do it justice, so it will be a while before I can pull all of it together with the references I need.

The challenge is to write a refutation of the "benefits" of switching from our present electrical generating plants to "renewable" energy, specifically, energy from wind farms. There are a very large number of things that can and should be used against them, but, as I said, I need to pull together all the facts. Here are some of the issues I think have been buried in the rush to close down nuclear stations, coal fired stations and even the gas and oil ones -

1. Cost. The cost of generating electricity with wind turbines is anything but a straightforward argument. There are a lot of hidden costs in this, far more than in any of the 'old technology' they replace. Apart from the cost of building these things and the cost of extracting the rather expensive metals required for the fancy gearboxes they need, plus the control units and so on, there is a maintenance cost. The 'life' of one of these units is given as 25 years, and then it must be dismantled and replaced.

2. Environmental Impact. This is largely ignored or swept under the carpet, but already, here in Germany, there is a resistance movement building against the building of any more of them. They are noisy, one protester describes it as living next to a perpetually idling helicopter. A recent study of this problem has turned up the fact that it affects a lot more people than originally thought. They vibrate, and animals don't like being near them. Already there are studies reporting that shell fish, bottom feeders and crustaceans are decamping from the offshore wind farm sites. And they are taking a terrible toll on the birds of prey.

3. Distribution of the Power. It isn't simply a matter of connecting these infernal eyesores up to the power grid. The problem is that the National Grid in any given country is configured to supply a permanent load from certain fixed sources and distribute it through a range of sub-stations and transformers to the point of use. Switching off a 'normal' power station leaves a 'hole' in the grid which means that the power has to be shunted into that part from somewhere else. Now project this onto windmills. They don't function all the time, in fact, they can't and if the wind is too strong or to weak, they shut down. To compensate for this you actually need an 'intelligent grid,' one able to detect a weakening of supply from one source and switch to a compensatory over supply somewhere else. It gets even more complex when you add in the variations in power demand between day and night, hot weather and cold, week days and weekends. Add to this the fact that bringing a generator 'on stream' when it is 'out of phase' with the grid is likely to cause a major blackout ... At present, the only way to ensure continuous supply is to keep several coal or gas burning power stations 'spooling' but offline until they are needed.

4. Maintenance. Maintenance is a major issue. It is costly enough when all your turbines and generators are in one or two buildings on the same site, scatter them across the landscape and across large stretches of the ocean and you introduce a whole new range of problems and costs. Recently reported is the fact that all the turbines in the North Sea are suffering from problems of shifting foundations, crumbling concrete and corrosion. To Quote -
"Putting the things offshore may avoid objections from the neighbours, but (Chancellor, beware!) it makes even less sense, because it costs you and me — the taxpayers — double. I have it on good authority from a marine engineer that keeping wind turbines upright in the gravel, tides and storms of the North Sea for 25 years is a near hopeless quest, so the repair bill is going to be horrific and the output disappointing. Already the grouting in the foundations of hundreds of turbines off Kent, Denmark and the Dogger Bank has failed, necessitating costly repairs."
Why should this be so? Easy, the seabed is shingle, mud and not a lot of rock, so the foundations have had to be built on "piles" and the piles are transmitting the vibrations into the mud and shingle. It is now suggested that the maintenance costs are likely to become so exorbitant over the next ten to fifteen years that it will be completely uneconomic to continue generating power from these turbines.

5. Subsidies. At present the electricity generated by these monstrosities is viable only because of massive subsidies. But, here again, the 'transparency' is lacking. the level of subsidy varies from country to country but figures I have recently seen suggest that the real cost per kilowatt from a Wind Turbine is of the order of £1,200 per kW/hour. So tax is subsidising this folly, which means everyone is being forced to pay into the profit Greenpeace among others makes from it. (Greenpeace gets funding from the Wind Turbine lobbies and manufacturers). Figures from the UK's Power Distribution authority shows that wind turbines contributed less than 4% of the power consumed and averaged under 1% per day over the last months of 2011. Hardly an economic situation given the vast amount of money invested in these things.

Greenpeace, WWF and other 'ecology' activist groups have been running a scare scam for years, blaming "Atmospheric CO2 for the "Anthropomorphic Global Warming" which, according to them will cause sea levels to rise by anything from 1 metre this century to over 60 according to one report. The truth is somewhat different. CO2 is a trace gas in the atmosphere. Depending on where you are in the world it can be between 0.2% of the atmosphere you breathe or as high as 0.4% if you live in a large urban city. Plants actually love the stuff, it stimulates growth and makes gardens, crops and forests  flourish. This is why Green House cultivation works so well!

As for it retaining heat in the atmosphere, again, that depends on where and what you measure. Yes, it can cause rapid heating, but in order to demonstrate this effectively in a laboratory you need concentrations above 10% by volume. At that level, guess what, we wouldn't be worried about the warming, but reaching for the breathing apparatus!

Interesting. Even without all the figures to hand, I think I may have qualified for the Spectator's entry criteria ...

Monday, 5 March 2012

History and Perspectives ...

A friend in South Africa is writing a biography of a close family member. She has already discovered that it brings back memories she'd probably rather not recall, like the brutal killing of her father in the presence of her small sister, by a bunch of liquor and hate fueled "freedom fighters" whose only real interest was getting all the valuables and any guns they could find. This was the trade mark of much of the "armed struggle" against the "white oppressors" which saw more of their own people killed for "betrayal" or "collaboration" than all the white victims put together.

Of course, that's not a popular view, certainly under the new regimes or in the liberal western academia which is now writing the "history" of it all. All I can say is that the majority of those writing learned treatises on the subject of the European settlement of Southern Africa, have little or no connection with the families who did live there and even less contact with the realities these people faced.

One author my friend has come across in researching the political background to her family's story put forward the view that, while East Africa was 'settled' by the sons of aristocrats whose only interest was in making money there and who 'gave up and surrendered control' to the locals when it suited them and they could no longer maintain their lifestyles, she paints those who settled in South Africa as "largely illiterate working class ne'er do wells who exploited the blacks and treated them like slaves. We are accused in her book of "dispossessing the Africans of their land, their farms and their culture." She'd obviously only read the anti-white propaganda. The book is stunningly biased, blatantly so in almost every aspect, praising the tribes people in their "resistance" to the "white incursions" and dismissive of everything the European settlers did.

Perhaps one day the real truth will emerge, but sadly, it is unlikely to do so in my lifetime.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Matt Ridley Prize

Announcing the Matt Ridley Prize for Environmental Heresy

Matt Ridley has long deplored the wind farm delusion, and was appalled when a family trust was paid by a wind farm company in compensation for mineral rights on land on which it wanted to build a turbine. The trust would be paid £8,500 a year for it, and Matt couldn’t abide the idea of profiting — even in part — from this. So he is donating £8,500 in an annual prize to be given to the best essay exposing environmental fallacies. Entries open today.

Pieces are to be 1,000 to 2,000 words on the topic of your choice.  Is there anyone we can think of who could pen such a piece?


Saturday, 3 March 2012

New Demographic Study

A new demographic study has produced several surprise findings. The first is that the spread of what is termed "Sub-Replacement Fertility" is far more rapid than previously thought. In essence what this means is that birthrates are falling below "population stability" levels which are where births balance deaths and average life expectancy is long enough for three and even four generation overlaps. This generally means that each woman in the world needs to have 2.1 children. However, increasing numbers of women are choosing to have only one, to start having a family late or to not have any children at all.

While this is generally a "developed world" phenomenon, it isn't necessarily confined to it, and even within it, there are exceptions. The USA being one.

The second finding is that there are an increasing number of "gender imbalances" among the very young. That doesn't mean we are seeing the emergence of what is often refered to as "gender dysphasia" or an increasing number of children who are "Gay," but that the natural "balance" between the sexes is changing. China is the best example, with a rigid "one child" policy, the balance of male to female births has changed dramaitcally in the last 40 years. But China is not alone, right across Asia more and more boys are being born with fewer and fewer girls. This is not confined the Asia either, it is also noted in parts of the Middle East and in Europe.

For China it could be a serious problem. Not only is the population now static, it will soon begin to decline rapidly as both age takes its toll and the falling birth rate increases the tempo. In the west, "gender determination" technology has been subtly at work for some while, and while we still don't see the sort of balance seen in Punjab (126 boys to 100 girls) the western rates are also edging upward.

For the moment a lot of this is concealed by migration, but the authors of this study have identified a trend which seems likely to see the planet's human population fall back a little from the present 7 billion, which, at least in my view, would be no bad thing as it would reduce the strain we place on the world's resources.

A third major finding concerns death rates, and these are showing a sustained and in some places accelerating, increase. With birthrates below the 2.1 for "population stability" (In Europe it stands at 1.4, in China it is around 1.5 and even in parts of Latin America is below 2) which, coupled with the excess of males will impact in time to see a sudden "step" reduction in populace. The return of some diseases once thought to have been eradicated and the arrival of some new ones isn't helping the balance either. Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, cardio-vascular disease, drug and alcohol abuse (even in supposedly "dry" countries) are all major contributers together with famine in overpopulated and very dry parts of Africa and, of course, cancer.

The exception is the USA, with its rich mix of populations, the Hispanic section has the highest birthrate, at around 2.7, Afro-Americans at around 2 and the Anglo-Europeans at 1.8 are the exception to the trend even in South America (Average around 2.0) and outstrip Canada at 1.5.

Of course, there are huge implications in these figures. One is that the "growth" economists rely on is not sustainable as the population shrinks. Someone is going to have to rethink that whole concept. Tax income for governments will also shrink as fewer enter the workforce and more retire at the other end. There will have to be a major rethink of a lot of services, provisions and even how jobs are structured, what they are and how they are sustained/supported from incomes. I forsee that many "non-productive" jobs will have to go. If you aren't producing or doing something translatable into cash on the table - it won't be sustainable.

One thing is for certain in all of this, the world's human population is undergoing a major change, what it will look like in 100 years is anybody's guess. It won't look anything like the situation at present seems certain. The good news is surely, that the planet as a whole will benefit, with less strain on water sources, natural forests, the oceans and grasslands, quite a lot of other inhabitants may see their chances of survival improve.

Friday, 2 March 2012

A Demonstration FOR new development?

Yes, that is what happened yesterday in Frankfurt. Ten thousand demonstrators packed into the Römer - the cities ancient market square - to demonstrate FOR the expansion of Frankfurt International Airport...

Given that we've had months of demonstrations demanding fewer flights, less activity and a reduction of the airport, this is a turn-up for the books. I can't imagine it happening in the UK. As soon as anyone tried to organise it the anti's would turn up the heat and scream them off the streets threatening violence and using intimidating tactics. But this one went without a hitch, though the "gegeners" were assembled, a couple of hundred of them, round the Dom chanting "Eenemeenemiste, wir brauchen eine piste; Eenemeenemeck, die menschen müssen weg!" (Translation: Eenymeenyminey, we want to use a piste (ski slope); Eenymeenyheck, the people must all go!") Got to admit, it's a catchy little slogan, but it was out gunned by the assembled workers, trades unions and corporate investors crowding the neighbouring Römerberg who claim the expansion will bring 100,000 jobs to the region.

The interesting things the facts support this.

The problem is that bad planning decisions over the last thirty or forty years have allowed housing estates and villages to be built all around the periphery of the airport and under its flight paths. Fine as long as it was only a few flights a day, but this is an airport that has thirty second intervals between flights landing or taking off - and these planes are a lot bigger than the ones the planners considered. This is one of the problems of the economics of perpetual "growth" in any sector. It has to impact somewhere. Growth means more people, more people means more traffic, more tarmac, more housing, more jobs, more run-off water, more waste ...

Again, there is a different approach to finding a solution here than to what I am used to. The Airport is buying up properties in the worst affected areas and demolishing them, the Local Authorities are paying for the installation of better sound insulation in houses further away. The "gegeners" can't win this one, but at least something is being done to solve their problems.

I have to say that it was certainly novel to see the CEO of Lufthansa, the CEO of the Airport and of another stakeholder in the Airport, plus all the Union bosses (and one of these is currently striking for higher pay for ground staff at the airport) all addressing the protesters and answering their questions as far as possible. When a reporter challenged the Airport CEO demanding to know who had organised the protest and whether his workers were compelled to be there, he invited one of the workers waving a placard to answer it and walked away. The answer was rather forthright and it certainly didn't give the impression the worker considered himself obliged to be there by his boss. He turned out to be one of the striking ground staff!

This has to be the first time I've seen a demonstration FOR change and expansion and it has to be the first time I've seen such an orderly one.