Saturday, 30 June 2012

Hot and Stormy ...

Trying to garden in the present weather is a little tiring. That doesn't stop the grass growing or the weeds getting out of hand, so we've been busy, but now its time for a break. Somewhere there's another storm brewing. We've had several in the last few days. Being high up means some spectacular lightning of course, and it is a trifle cooler than down in the valleys.

The Monk, in a fetching wide brimmed hat, gardening jeans, shirt and sunscreen, has been extracting Bindweed by the bagful. If you could market the stuff and eat it, he and Mausi could probably make a fortune. Our garden is, thankfully, relatively free of it, but we are surrounded by forests and fields, and they are full of it. Plus, it migrates ... Mausi, with much greater knowledge (as you'd expect) of flowering plants, gardens and their care, has dealt with the tending and nurturing. Now the grass is cut, the bindweed hacked into submission and the roots dug out, the edges trimmed and the garden looks cared for and pretty again.

But now its time to contemplate getting the BBQ going and grilling some of Herr Wusts finest sausages ... Preferably before the next thunderstorm arrives.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Death Spiral or Revival?

Some very strong positions and arguments being advanced on all sides at present over the €uro. Some want it dead, others want to save it, but either way, I suspect, the outcome takes everyone into unkown and unknowable territory at present.

On the one hand the anti-lobby claim that the austerity and rescue packages have 'undermined democracy' yet what is the alternative to the 'cure' imposed? Print money and allow the freespending of these states to continue unchecked? Somehow that doesn't appeal much to anyone. But neither does the prospect of having to cut back on the over generous handouts of taxpayer money to fund a wide range of very generous benefits the failing economies are committed to.

One thing is for sure, it can't go on like this. A solution has to be found which works for everyone. It is also clear that there has to be major reform of the manner in which economies are run right across Europe. Europe has to get its act together, and that means reining in some of the more restrictive regulations and directives piling in from Brussels for a start. Putting the brakes on the EU Commission's budget would also be a good way to signal the politicians mean business as well.

A little less negative reporting in much of the English media would also not go amiss, nor would a little less of the obviously protectionist rhetoric from the financial gurus in both the US and the UK. I can't escape the feeling that shooting down the €uro may well have unintended consequences for both currencies.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Liberal Thinking ...

I was reminded of something said some time ago by a US President, often now derided by "liberals" and, it must be said, dismissed by them during his time in office. Yet he rather quietly achieved far more than any of the so-called "liberal" Presidents and governments before or since. I suspect they probably hated him for getting som much right, After all, he was supposedly a "conservative." Part of the problem with any "liberal" is that they have, they believe, all the answers. Never mind the problem, they have the only solution - or so they think.

As Reagan said, 

“It’s not that liberals are dumb, they just know so much that isn’t so.” 

When I read this quote it got me thinking, and I do believe he's hit the nail squarely on the head with it. Quite often they are very intelligent people, however, they will never admit to not knowing something, or to there perhaps being a different narrative to the one they hold as 'truth.' A good example is the row over 'climate change,' the 'liberal' narrative says its all settled. The sky is falling and unless we all immediately give up our cars and all our household electrical appliances and luxuries, we're all going to die. Don't even consider presenting any factual evidence that contradicts this, or suggests it might not be as dire as they say, you are immediately accused of being in 'denial' or the 'pay' of 'Big Oil.'

The problem is that, in order to promote their 'liberal' view on any given subject they must first revise the facts. Not all the facts, just those that promote their particular standpoint. So our history has been revised to the point of farce. If one takes a look at what is taught about, for instance, the building of the British Empire, the entire focus on the history is now on how the Empire Builders 'exploited' the native populations they encountered; how the missionaries 'destroyed' cultures; and how we lived off and created our wealth out of the slave trade with West Africa. It is so selective that they completely ignore the Arab slave raids on Southern Europe Cornwall, Devon and Southern Ireland, the massive Arab slave trade from East Africa and the fact that often it was the traders, not the missionaries, who 'destroyed' cultures.

They have also revised our language, deciding by some cabalistic means, that perfectly innocent idiomatic expressions with perfectly reasonable roots in our culture and in our history (sometimes even in trades) are all related to 'racism' and 'slavery.' The selective use of facts can be a devastatingly powerful weapon when one wants to change peoples allegiances or promote a narrative that demonises a group. A good example of that is the current campaigning against Israel. 

Most of the 'anti-Israel' proponents argue that they are not against 'Israelis' or against 'Jews' but against 'Zionism.' What they do not say or admit, is that their vision of 'Zionism' is a very anti-Jew position since it draws no distinction between 'Jew' (dismissed as 'merely' a religious group or label), Israel the State and Zionist which was, in fact, a political movement born out of desperation driven by the repeated purges of Jews in Europe and Russia in the 19th Century. One of the frequently repeated 'truths' one hears from 'liberal' campaigners on this subject is "there were no Jews in Palestine before 1945" and the other one (a little contradictory) is "there were no Jews in Hebron before 1867." Both are false and even a little examination of the history would expose that falsehood.

It is true that the Jewish population was much smaller than it is now, but that again, depends on how it is counted and by whom. British sources suggest a Jewish population at the time of the Mandate in 1919 as 950,000 - but, as anti-Jewish liberals are always quick to point out, the 'Arab' population was much larger. What they fail to recognise is that the 'Arabs' they are counting include the populations of what is now Jordan, Lebanon and part of Syria. Nothing like being a little loose with the figures. As to the "no Jews in Hebron" narrative, this was true - after all the quite sizable Jewish population there was driven out, killed and dispossessed in 1867. The full story of that little event is well hidden today by the history revisionists as it doesn't suit their narrative at all. In short, at the behest of a Mullah, a riot was incited which ended in the destruction of five Synagogues, the death of 67 Jewish men women and children and several hundred others driven out of house, business and farmstead into the deserts. Nor was this an isolated incident. It was one of many such which continued right up to the British Mandates and were threatened to begin again immediately Britain handed the keys of the arsenals and control of the country to the Arab population.

But in the revised narratives, the Jew has always been the aggressor and the interloper. 

I could continue with many more examples ranging from the "all Police Forces in the UK are 'Institutionally Racist'" and the "Christianity is responsible for all the wars of history" and so on. The real problem here is that the revisionists have 'doctored' the 'truth' of history to the point it is no longer even close to a balanced picture. Much of it is little more than propaganda recycled. Recently I came across yet another example of how, once something has been distorted or corrupted to suit an ideological narrative, it is almost impossible to kill off. It concerned a quotation once used to support the disgraceful theory of Eugenics. Though the author and source have long been discredited and disproved in reputable journals, it popped up in a quotation in a recent article online as 'proof' and 'accepted truth.' 

Sadly, Reagan was absolutely right. It's not that 'liberals' are stupid, they simply will never admit error and they certainly will never let go of any narrative that supports their cause, or admit the truth of anything that disproves it. I think it takes a rather special mindset to be this way.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Turning of the Worm?

I find it fascinating to observe the debate over the future or fate of the €uro. Of particular interest, to me at least, is the fact that many of the pundits now talking it down and predicting its demise are the same voices that, in 1997, talked it up and sang the 'benefits' of the new currency. Among the many 'benefits' they were so keen to exploit was the removal of the need to change our money as we crossed national borders, and, for the commercial pundits, the 'level playing field' of having one currency value across Europe to remove the difficulties fluctuating currency values created when it came to trade.

Now the same things are being punted as 'disasterous' for national industries, or for control of 'the money supply.'

I don't profess to be an economist, but I do recall saying at the time of the launch of the €uro, that it couldn't work as long as every country in it was free to set their own taxes and budgets. Now I read the same comment from many of those who thought the opposite in 1997. I can't escape the feeling that at least some of this turn-around is down to the realisation that the weakening of the US$ and the GB£ in the world 'market' has sparked a 'talking-down' of the €uro, which was being punted, back in 1997 as a potential 'Currency of Refuge' and 'Investment.' Obviously, if that were to happen, the value of the US$ and the GB£ could be threatened.

There remains, of course, the problem of the differences in the economies between the various countries that use the €uro. Greece literally 'cooked the books' to get in and the tragedy is that this wasn't spotted. Maybe it was a case of the politicians overruling the accountants, whatever it was, the Greeks went on a spending spree - and so, it must be said, did several others. The quickest way to devalue a currency is to increase the supply by printing too much of it. As they culdn't do that (Frankfurt and the ECB keep a tight control of THAT at least) they borrowed which had the same effect.

A second, and perhaps less obvious problem back in 1997, was the fact that many countries were only really competitive in the export markets by allowing the value of their national currency to devalue. Italy and Spain are perfect examples of that and so is Greece. Locked into the €uro, they are no longer able to compete, so their industries are suffering badly and so do the rest of their economies. Simple accounting says that if the sales go donw, taxes fall; if jobs are lost, tax income falls. If a government has committed itself to a high spending budget and then fails to get the tax return it needs to cover it - the only answer is to get an overdraft.

The problem with an overdraft is that, sooner or later, the bank wants the money back. As my bank manager used to put it, the banks are grateful if you bank with them from time to time. If they bank with you for too long, they tend to run out of money to lend.

This weekend all the €urozone countries are meeting to try and reach an agreement of how to either save the currency, or kill it. The consensus of a majority of economists seems to be that killing it off will do almost as much damage as trying to save it.

I can't escape the feeling that there will be no winners - especially among the ordinary people of Europe.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Book Review

"On the Run" has recieved a pretty good review on the site, Blog Critics. The reviewer gives it a thumbs up, saying it's a page turner and "A book for those who enjoy approachable science fiction."

The whole review can be read at Blog Critics Books.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Great Social Dream ...

The "ever closer union" dream of the European Union was one of the aspects of the Brussels centric EU that has always stuck in the British throat. OK, I do think the English in particular, are far too insular in their world views and I do think that, by and large, the idea of an 'open' Europe as a single 'trade zone' and group is a good one. But a single 'political' union? I don't think that can ever be made to work effectively. If the strains within the "United Kingdom" between England, Wales, Scotland and the Province of Ulster are tearing apart the people of the four nations who share so much common history and even a common language until the nationalists started trying to impose the 19th Century re-invented "Welsh" and Highlands "Gaelic" on everyone else, the idea of a federation of some 29 very different national states to form a "United States of Europe," is a pipe dream, and always was.

The idea was borne out of the socialist dream of an 'international workers collective' running the world. It is also the underpinning ideal behind the "Globalisation" of commerce and industry. It is, and always was, unworkable.

Globalisation of commerce and industry, so much vaunted by the political classes and the captains of industry and commerce, has led us to the present economic crisis. In the meantime, the Global Capital reserves have found new homes in the Middle East (low tax and no 'socialist' ambitions) and in some of the Far Eastern countries. Much of Britain's remaining industry is now owned and managed by foreign owners. Even some of the names most closely associated with "Britishness" are no longer in "British" hands. Jaguar Motors is now a part of India's Tata Corporation, P&O Ferries is owned by a Dubai based Emir, Cunard is owned by the Danish company Maersk and Vauxhall Motors has long been a part of the US Owned General Motors.

Even such "Trade Mark" High Street stores as Sainsbury's now have a large portion of their controlling shareholding outside of the UK. Of course, none of this matters, as long as the "foreign" owner doesn't decide to increase profitablity by closing the UK arm of the company. OK, that is unlikely with a supermarket chain, but what prevents the owners of Jaguar, Vauxhall or Rolls Royce Cars from shutting down the plants in the UK and transfering manufacturing of these marques to factories elsewhere?

Nothing. That should be one of the lessons learned by the proponents of "sanctions" against countries like South Africa. Ford Motor Company had a strong market share there until they "disinvested" almost overnight. Now their market share is way down the lists. British Leyland cut its throat there in similar fashion a few years earlier. The same pattern emerges in certain Middle Eastern countries, western ideologues demand "disinvestment" and force their home based companies to withdraw - only to have less politically driven traders fill the void and shut them out. The idea that trade and "Globalisation" can be a tool for positive change is a chimera.

This is, I believe, why the European dream of a "federal" Europe was attractive. Individually the nations that make up "Europe" are losing influence in almost every sphere of the world stage. In 1900 the population of Europe was technically leading the world and made up 21% of the world population. No longer, and we are now down to around 6% of the world population. Those whocould see this coming tried to find a way of ensuring Europe's importance on the world stage. Unfortunately I think they've been defeated by several things, first by the "socialist" nature of the agenda that has been in place from the beginning, secondly, by the greed of the money men who saw the chance to make a quick buck by selling the assets to the developing world (and to preserve their own wealth in the face of increasingly rapacious burdens imposed by socialist governments on wealth production) and thirdly by the fact that the populous of Europe are not as dumb as the political classes think.

Instead of being honest from the beginning, they tried to slip the political agenda under the radar - but the people caught on. The introduction of a single currency was a miscalculation. It can only work where, as in the USA, there is a single central budget setting. It can't work where each "member' is setting their own spending agenda and borrowing money to fund it independently. It is now exposed as unworkable in its present form. The big question is - what now?

It seems we have two options. I don't really think anyone in Europe really wants to go back to the system of barriers to trade, to employment and to the movement of people around Europe. That, I believe, is beneficial to us all. Likewise, do we really want to go back to the concept of needing to change our money at each border? Probably not, and I seem to remember many of the same voices now eager to destroy the €uro, arguing that it would reduce the cost of free trade across the EU. My recent visit to Denmark reminded me, at least, of what that was like. So, it seems our leaders must either bite the bullet and attempt to persuade the rest of us that the only way forward is to form a "United States of Europe" or give it up entirely and revert to what it was originally - a Trading bloc with special arrangements for its members and individual currencies.

There is no doubt that the single currency has been enormously beneficial for some of us and disastrous for others. Not all economies were the same and some actually needed a weak currency to compete. How can this be addressed? Probably only by having two, maybe three "currency areas" to allow a "weak" €uro, a "free" €uro and a "firm" €uro. As I've noted before, German economists are terrified of allowing anything which might produce "hyper inflation" and with very good reason. Countries like Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal may well need a dose of it to allow them to become competitive again. Personally, having experienced, if not hyper inflation, certainly "high" inflation, I'm with the folk trying to keep the €uro stable.

The socialist dream of a single socialist Europe as a political entity may be dead, but now we need to ensure that the best parts of that dream are not lost with the worst bits.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Bio-food gives us dirt ...

The Postulant sent me an interesting and, from my point of view, amusing article today. Essentially it suggests that so-called 'Bio Food' obtained at Farmer's Markets may be far better for us than the highly sanitised and quality controlled stuff we get in the supermarket. The reason?

It's loaded with dirt and bacteria which helps keep ur immune systems primed and ready.

This is something I've long argued. The current fetish with sanitised everything has laid us open to all kinds of infections for which we have, now, no immunity. Yet, in our parents generation, some of the things that currently kill children and even older folk, were common and certainly not killers - unless they happened to attack someone already weakened by something else. Salmonella was one such. It comes in eggs among other things and, if you had a dose of it in childhood, you'll probably notice a mildly upset stomach if you catch it again. But, no more. Because everything is now sanitised, we don't get mild doses of anything which would help us develop immunities. Now, when we do get an outbreak, it's usually a serious one.

I said I found this amusing, and, in a sense, I do. Having grown up in Africa, and having visited many Third World countries, I get a laugh every time I hear one of the earnest Food Hygene types banging on about 'Healthy food.' Frankly, they haven't a clue.

I think this is, once again, an area where well intentioned meddling has created a situation where the consequences are unintended, but include a loss of vital immunities to fairly minor ailments and the development of some pretty serious allergies because of dietary changes.

When will we learn ...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Chav Prayer

I cannot resist posting this. It was sent to me by my youngest daughter. I have no idea who the original author is, but he or she has hit all the nails straight on the head -

Our father,
Who art in prison
Mother knows not his name.
Thy chavdom come, thy shoplifting be done,
In JJB Sports as in Poundland.
Give us this day our welfare bread
And forgive us our ASBOs 
As we Happy Slap those who give evidence against us.
Lead us not into employment
But deliver us free housing
For thine is the chavdom
The Burberry and the Blackberry
For ever and ever.

As I said ...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

G 20

The newspapers today are saying Mrs. Merkel stands alone as she opposes any attempt to 'print money' to hand out as 'stimulus' packages to promote 'growth' in stalled economies. I think she's right. The concept of constant and never ending 'growth' in economies is how we got into this mess and it is probably the one thing we need to reconsider very carefully. It is predicated on the idea that populations must continue to grow and the 'buying power' of individuals will grow as well. That last premise is really the crunch point. Only the increasingly small group of upper income earners are really able to claim increasing proprotions of their income is 'dispoable.' For the rest, life continues as a battle between balancing our household needs against shrinking incomes and rsing prices.

Stimulus? Pumping more paper money into banks to fuel more 'credit' to people already struggling to pay existing debts is not a sensible option. Again, this is how we got into this mess. Besides, printing more money simply devalues the currency overall.

Who is proposing this? Interestingly, mostly countries already struggling to pay National Debts running into trillions. Its a word that is probably totally meaningless to the average voter. A 'trillion' is beyond even 'telephone number' quantities. The US alone has a National Debt of over US$1.5 trillion, and the UK has close to a trillion dollar debt itself. What's a 'trillion' anyway? OK, in my vocabulary it is one million, million. That's right, it's got twelve '0's' behind the first number. At an interest rate of 2% per annum, that means every tax payer is essentially just servicing the debt run up on the National Credit Card by the w*nk*rs in the government supposedly serving them. In the case of Greece and Spain, thanks to US based 'Credit Rating Agencies' desperately protecting the crumbling dollar value against 'new' currencies and stronger economies like the €urozone, have had their credit ratings reduced - which also pushed the interest payable on much lower debts up.

Greece is trying to service a debt with an interest rate of 4.5% and Spain has something similar. If the G 20 were really interested in 'stimulating' those economies they'd cut the interest rates on those debts and raise them for the richer economies. Mrs. Merkel is right, the only option is to cut spending to the minimum and reduce the burden of ever larger government bureaucracies which produce nothing, actually strangle growth and increase corrution as they grow.

Germany experienced hyper-inflation in the 1920s and 30s and will move heaven and earth never to go there again. Mrs Merkel is right, no one can put our economies at risk of inflation of that sort again. I have lived with massive inflation. Salary rises of 12% 'Cost of Living' increases, plus 7% (the maximum I could be awarded for good conduct and performance) didn't cover the actual rise in cost of living which ran, unofficially because of the way the government measured it, at closer to 25% than 12. I would support Mrs. Merkel all the way on preventing having to live with that again!

As I said above, the concept that economies can 'grow' year on year in perpetuity is false. All things have their limits, unless you live in a perfect world and a perfect universe. We don't. Printing more money unsupported by either 'production' or 'treasure' is probably the resort of desperate men who think only in terms of elections and have no understanding of the impact on people or economies. Governments do not 'generate' money. They use it, they take it from their populations and 'redistribute' it to themselves and their hangers-on (and supposedly to the 'have-nots' through 'welfare'), but they don't generate wealth or even produce anything that could be 'sold' at a profit. Yes, I do accept that some of their services are necessary and are not 'market driven' but far to much that governments of various flavours have taken upon themselves in the last century are far better delivered by anyone except a government department.

Key to this is that 'growth' in government is not 'growth' in an economy. In fact, I'm convinced it should be measured as a a brake on growth. Yes, there are people being paid salaries, and they are spending that on consumer goods, but they are NOT producing anything to be sold. They are paid by the taxpayers, out of money the said taxpayers could be using themselves. Plus, the 'goods' being consumed have to be bought from someone else - often involving importing them from somewhere quite remote. I read recently that almost 60% of the food consumed (and measured in the UK economic statistics as 'growth' in sales) is imported. OK, there probably isn't enough viable agricultural land in the UK to support the 60 million people living there, and they certainly would not have anything like the variety they get at the 'local' supermarket.

Demographics are against the pundits of economic growth in the majority of western democracies. Populations are growing only through immigration. The industrial base is all but gone in many, and increasingly the economy is focussed on 'sales' and consumption and the 'service industry.' As this seems to embrace everything from cleaning services to anything done by a civil servant it is hardly an 'industry' in the 'productive' sense. It stands to reason that sooner, rather than later, the money has to run out - unless you print more.

And that is most certainly NOT growth.

Mrs. Merkel is right. The fact that a majority of politicians are in favour of running the printing presses and spending money they neither have nor own, does not make her wrong.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Hot or Cold?

Josephus sent me a link recently to an article in Forbes Magazine. He added the comment, "this will push your buttons." I read the article with great interest. Written by their political and economics contributor, Peter Ferrara, he had just attended the seventh International Conference on Climate Change. As I said, his report, entitled, perhaps provocatively, "Sorry Global Warming Alarmists: The Earth is Cooling" makes very interesting reading.

The Conference looked at a wide range of issues including the acquisition, compilation and adjustment of data and its application by spin doctors, politicians and others. It also took a good hard look at the economic impacts of what is being proposed by those on the Global Warming side.

Let me state right up front that I am a sceptic with regard to most of the claims being made by the IPCC. I don't believe the science behind Anthropomorphic Global Warming is anywhere near settled and I certainly don't believe the "modelling" predictions for any of it. Why? Mainly because most of those pushing this story are not playing with either a full deck of cards or have agendas that make me deeply suspicious. As the old saw goes, if you want to know what is behind something: Follow the Money. Who benefits by pushing the current "AGW" mantra? Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Earth First and a plethora of windmill manufacturers, anti-nuclear agitators, solar panel makers and, of course, the 'Climate Scientist' Community who are being funded to the tune of billions for "research." As the recent "Climategate" email hacking showed, these vested interests are not afraid to use bully-boy tactics to make damned sure nothing which threatens their version of what is happening appears in print. That is enough, in itself, to make me suspicious.

Perhaps I've had rather too much time working with police investigators who have taught me the mantra: "Trust no one; Question everything; Check everything." And the more I've looked at this the more stands out as being "not quite right" about it all.

It seems to me that those who claim that cutting out oil, reducing our emissions (notably in the west only) will "prevent global warming" are living in a dream world. You might as well say something like "we can stop continental drift if we drive big wedges between the tectonic plates in the subduction zones." Among other things, these are the same folk who trot out the mantra that we need "localisation" of things like power generation, food supply and so on. In short, as another writer on this subject has stated, these folk want to live in small self-sustaining communities. The hate the industrial world, they hate the thought of having to travel outside of their environs to get anything. Many are city dwellers with a very idealised vision of life in small communities and of self-sufficiency. (I live in a small idyllic village on a mountain ridge. Self-sufficient? No. We are dependent for almost everything on outside supply and this village has been for the several hundred years its been here.)

The climate is changing. It has been changing for the whole of the Earth's existence and it is also cyclic. Many things influence it, things the IPCC chooses to ignore. One is that, in all of its history, the planet has spent 20% of its time in ice ages and the rest considerably hotter than it is now. Technically we are still in an ice age, Antarctica is frozen solid and it will require several thousand years for all of that to melt even if we do let the CO2 levels exceed Dr. Hansen's "catastrophe" threshold. One estimate for the melting of the entire Greenland Ice Sheet is that it would take a minimum of 15,000 years and therein lies another little question mark. When Eric the Red originally settled there around 990 AD, he was able to keep and breed cattle. Once the "Little Ice Age" started to bite (around 1600), that became impossible and remains so to this day.

There are a number of indicators that suggest the climate is actually in a cooling phase at present. Certainly, from the data I have had a chance to see, what leapt out at me was that the data was so heavily "adjusted" for this, that and the next thing, I might as well have wet my finger, stuck it in the air and selected a number that appealed to me. One source openly state that they ignore "lowest" temperatures in their datasets and average only the highest. To me that is a sham, and average includes the highest and the lowest. The trouble is, when you're looking at temperatures and you do that, you end up with a lower temperature than the IPCC claims for the last several decades.

One thing I do know, is that the drive from lobby groups and tree hugger types through the political machinery for "green" and "renewable" energy is costing jobs and increasing prices exponentially. The Greenpeace demand to impose a "bunker tax" on all shipping won't achieve anything other than to drive the cost of food even higher. Almost all of Europe and the UK is dependent on imported food, consumer goods and so on. Imposing surcharges on transport simply increases the cost. Friends of the Earth have produced a wonderful plan to replace all nuclear and coal fired power generation with wind farms and solar. Only problem, their numbers are based on a reduction of energy use and ignores the fact that simply to supply a part of India with solar power requires 1 million acres of solar panels. They also want to put these in a "desert" - which is only 4 million acres and is one of the few places where certain plants are cultivated.

We do have to take on board the fact that there was no idyllic past. Without mass production our present lifestyles are impossible, modern medicine would not exist and sharing and transfer of resources become impossible. Fine, let's have solar heating and power - but we must then accept the fact that extraction of the extremely rare and scarce minerals needed for their production are causing huge environmental damage in China, India and elsewhere. Wind Farms? OK, but distribution is tricky, so is guaranteeing the supply. Britain has the capacity to generate something like 30% of its energy with wind,ills, trouble is they are usually shunting power into the grid when its not required - and it can't be stored. What about battery powered cars? OK, but again, the batteries have a 5 years lifespan. Six if you're lucky. Again, they use some very exotic minerals - and you can't reuse, refurbish or recycle them ...

I agree entirely that we do need to change the way we use the Earth, its resources and care for the environment, but instead of throwing money into 'single issues' which address only a tiny fraction of the larger problem we should sit back, do a complete analysis and then target those things we need to do to adapt how and what we do for the future.

There is no simple answer, and there is certainly no magic bullet. returning to idyllic little village communities dependent on their own resources is not an option. Its time those who dream that dream where made to face reality.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

A Little Weekend Break

The Monk and Mausi will be back on Sunday. We're having a little break in the Westerwald, though we don't expect to run into any dwarfs, werewolves, vampires of any spelling, witches or other folk out of any of Terry Pratchett's books.

Pity, they would probably be rather fun ...

Friday, 15 June 2012

More on Marriage

I noted yesterday that Bishop Tim Ellis had made a stand on this issue. What was interesting was the responses. There were a very large number in support and a handful in opposition to his position. One of those quite rightly stated that the 'official' statement was simply quoting and restating the Church's own Canon Law on the matter.

To me, that is a part of the problem. Canon Law, like any other "law" is man-made. I accept that it is made in order to regulate and maintain certain principles and behaviours, but it is not immutable and it was certainly not God-given. Like any other "law," Canon Law can be revised, reviewed, amended or even repealed. The problem with the Church of England at present, is that the General Synod has forgotten this. A large part of it wants to make more Canon Law and certainly do not want to allow any part of it to be reviewed, revised or changed.

Some years ago I was part of a group setting up a Server's Guild. One of our number, a lawyer, drafted a constitution for it. It was a masterpiece, it set out clearly what we were, what our aims were and how we regulated ourselves in the performance of that Office for the benefit of the worshippers in our Parish Church. It had to be approved by the Parish Church Council and the Vicar. The Vicar considered it carefully, so did the PCC. At the meeting we waited to hear the usual 'nod thorugh' we expected. We didn't get it.

The Vicar raised the item, listened to the comments from members (all in favour) and then said quietly: "Jesus only made two rules for membership of his church. There are fifty three to be a server in this Parish if we approve this."

Our constitution did not receive approval, but we continued to Serve at the altar, and some of those at that meeting are still serving. Every time I look through the several books of Canon Law governing the Church of England I am reminded of that Constitution for the Guild of Servers. Yes, as humans we do need some 'rules' to govern ourselves, but there are times when we become so bound up in them we do well to step outside the 'rules' and tear up those that prevent us acting sensibly and in a Christian fashion. The 'Laws' laid down and made by the General Synod have, for quite some time, actually prevented us from behaving like the Christians we are supposed to be in a very wide range of matters. It is time the Church stopped being so legalistic and asked itself seriously the question; "What would Jesus do or say in this position?"

I suspect he would tell us, as he told the Pharisees, that the slavish adherence to a set of 'laws,' no matter how well intentioned, do not a good Christian make. Excluding people because they are different, labeling others because we do not like their lifestyle, or digging our heels in and taking refuge behind barriers because we don't want to have to face changing understandings or changing perceptions is not behaving in a Christian manner.

If nothing else, this debate may just provoke a revision of the Canons and perhaps a good hard look at what we are doing with the message of the gospels.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Great Marriage Debate - Again

It seems I'm not the only one uncomfortable with some of the utterances by sections of the CofE on the proposed changes to the marriage law. At least one Bishop is as well. In a brilliant post, far more erudite than my own, Bishop Tim Ellis, Suffragan Bishop of Grantham in the Diocese of Lincoln has written in his Blog a piece entitled "Not in my name." I confess I have to agree with every word he says. The debate has been hijacked by those with extreme views at both ends of the spectrum. As the Bishop says, the whole is being driven by minorities, including some ecclesiastical elites, some fundamentalist laity and the vast majority are either not making their voices heard or being allowed to express a view for themselves.

This is further borne out by another blog post - this time a Lay person. Another Reader, John McLuckie has expressed his thoughts on the matter in a post entitled "Dear Church of England." Again, he makes a number of excellent points, but he sums it up very well when he says -
But my deepest concern is to do with the behaviour of the church as a Christian body. I became an Anglican in part because I was attracted to a way of doing theology that was open to human experience. It seems that I was mistaken. When the Church of England consistently favours scripture and tradition over reason, it devalues humanity.
Indeed. This is my concern as well. In refusing to recognise the human needs and the humanity of those who are different in their lifestyle, not, as some claim through choice, the church effectively devalues them as people. If we allow this vociferous group to continue to drive the church's thinking and agenda, we risk allowing them to paint us, not just into a corner, but out of the 'picture' altogether.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Great Marriage Debate

I'll come straight out and admit that I regard the near hysteria of certain sections of the Church of England over the proposal to call the union between two people a "marriage" regardless of their sex, a little less than truly Christian. It is predicated on the doctrine of the Church which describes "marriage" as being between a man and a woman for the purposes of procreation. It also draws on the Bible (KJV canon) and one frequently hears a quote of one of the three texts which are generally interpreted as injunctions against same sex relationships. Interestingly, in the Vulgate Canon of books and translations, the number of texts is down to two and a maybe ... But, the context is very important when reading these in any version.

Most Christian professions argue that the Bible requires us to "love the sinner; loathe the sin." In the case of homosexuality, this means loving the "Gay" and loathing the sexual act. It is a very tricky balancing act, because it can easily become a weapon against any person who admits being in a "relationship." Much of this is also driven by the interpretation of the "sin" of Sodom and Gomorrah as being sexual, whereas it is actually their breaking of the sacred rules of hospitality to the stranger that is the cause of their downfall. Likewise, the "sin" of Onan is not the act he commits to avoid making the woman pregnant, but the fact that he is defying God by NOT making her pregnant.

First of all, the present concept of "marriage" is of fairly recent date. Yes, there is a "marriage rite" in the earliest CofE Prayer Books, just as there was in the Roman Catholic missals. But this doesn't necessarily mean everyone went through that process. Many didn't. As recently as the 19th Century many couples simply "cohabited" as the process involved in getting "married" could be extremely protracted, expensive and fraught with difficulty. In the early 19th Century, in parts of Britain, "fairs" were still being held where a farmer or farm labourer could bring along his "wife" and trade her for another. According to one source I have read it was really only from the 14th Century onwards that the "common" people began to ask the church for a formal "blessing" of their marriages. This was driven, in part, by a desire to mark such a union in the same manner as their overlords.

The Church has always had a view on marriage, but in early Roman times it was the Civil Law that governed this. Marriage was an contract between families. For the commoner, it was a much less formal affair.

In most of Europe we have a system where anyone wishing to get married MUST undergo a "civil" ceremony and may then have a church ceremony. Most have also, sensibly, termed the civil side a "civil partnership" or, where it is still a marriage, have a "civil partnership" ceremony for those of the same sex. It is a purely legal matter necessitated by the laws of inheritance which dictate who inherits what and when. Unlike Britain, where I could leave my entire estate to a home for disabled bats, in Germany that would not be considered a valid bequest unless my "heirs" - in the first instance my wife and in the second my children - waived their right to inherit. It is the law regarding "inheritance" which is bedevilling this debate in the UK. However, there are a number of other small problems with any change to the legal definition.

The first is that the CofE Vicar, in his legal position as "Priest of the Parish" is usually also a Marriage Officer. This means that marriage in a Church of England Parish is recognised as legally binding. If one marries in a Non-Conformist Church where the Minister is not a Marriage Officer, one would then have to undergo a Civil Marriage with a Registrar of Marriages for it to be legal and binding. Changing the law to make the CofE Vicars "marry" same sex partners creates a difficulty for the whole Church in that it is completely contrary to the Churches teaching regarding the purpose and nature of "marriage." This does create a moral dilemma for the Vicar. If he follows the teachings of the CofE, he must actually defy them to perform the ceremony. The Table of Kindred and Affinity isn't much help here either, since those who drafted it never envisaged a union between two members of the same sex.

The second problem arises in law, certainly in England. In case law, a marriage is not a marriage unless it is "consumated." That means the couple must more than cohabit, they must actually engage in a sexual act. Here again, the law is rather specific as it describes that as an act intended to procreate. Patently that can't happen between people of the same sex.

As I see it the Church has a problem. As the "Established" Church, it is required to "minister" to every member of the Parish. That also means that everyone wishing to be baptised, married or buried has the right to have this provided in their Parish Church. No, the State does not provide any funding to support this or a wide range of other things the parishioners are entitled to. Yes, we can acknowledge that the Bible does have passages suggesting that sex between two people of the same sex is not acceptable, but it was written in a climate where sexual acts between men, between women, between men and animals and all the panoply of possible sexual activity was the norm in the whole variety of fertility gods and goddesses worshipped in societies throughout the Middle East. It is also based on the idea that homosexual preferences are a "life choice" made deliberately by the individual.

The matter of "choice" is an increasingly untenable position. The growing body of scientific evidence which indicates that around 3% of all males are homosexual and around another 5% may well "swing both ways" from birth is difficult to ignore. If the Church truly believes what it teaches regarding God having made each of us as we are, then it cannot continue to deny the evidence that some of humanity simply isn't "wired" toward procreation and cannot be denied the essential human need of partnership and the grace of bonding with a kindred spirit. Yes, this is a minefield, but we do also need to ask ourselves what Christ would say and do if confronted (as he probably was) by this question.

I rather suspect his answer would put the Synod into something of an apoplectic fit, because I don't believe he would endorse their stance! That said, I do believe that Mr Cameron-Clegg has taken an unnecessarily confrontational path on this. I suspect there is a rather nasty political motive behind it, since the solution is a simple one - just redesignate "marriage" as a "civil partnership." Those who wish to can continue to be "married" and the non-believers who wish to can call it what they like. Since the whole is a civil law matter anyway why challenge the faith of those who find the change spiritually difficult? It achieves nothing except to create deep and bitter division over the "right" of a few hundred activists to force their domestic arrangements into the public eye.

What this is most likely to achieve is the mass resignation of Church of England vicars and clergy as Marriage Officers. That will cause enormous hardship for thousands.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Saving civilisation

I was reminded today that it is now popularly believed that all the work of the Ancient Greek philosophers and scientists - if not all the 'civilised' knowledge of the west, would have been 'lost' if the Muslim invaders from Arabia had not preserved it. While it is certainly true that they carried it back into Spain and copiously copied every document they found in each of the major centres they overran between 800 and 1300 AD, it is false to claim that these documents had been 'lost' in the west.

In a fascinating book entitled "How the Irish saved civilisation," one is reminded, of the explosion in Irish literacy following Christianisation of that land between 429 and 500 AD. The Irish discovered writing, better, they discovered reading, copying and recording. Everything they got their hands on, they copied. And they shared it. We are often told how the Abbot of the Notre Dame community had a 'library' of only 16 books while the Caliph of Cordoba had hundreds, but what is ignored is how documents copied by the Irish were populating monastic libraries all over Northern Europe at this time. I was surprised to learn that one of the oldest extant copies of a work by Aristotle came from an Irish monastery and fetched up in a University collection in Germany.

Much is also made these days of the destruction, by one of the more ignorant 'Christian' governors of Egypt, of the library of Alexandria. What is forgotten though is that much of its content was shared between all the other great libraries, in Rome, Byzantium, Damascus and elsewhere. Nor was this 'Christian' the only destroyer of such libraries. A later Muslim governor would do it again, more thoroughly. We can only be thankful, I suppose, that copiests had already copied and distributed almost everything it contained.

We should not ignore the fact that the libraries of Byzantium contained all these works and much, much more. They were 'lost' the Christendom when the Arabic invaders finally conquered the city in 1453. But 'lost' is perhaps the wrong word. Many of the intellectuals who had found a home there fled to Italy, Austria, Romania, Hungary and other western lands - taking a great deal of the library content with them. Copies of these 'lost' documents have turned up in some rather remote places - like Poland and Russia.

It is popular to claim that "Christianity believed the world was flat" and "Islam taught it was a globe." Peasants in western Europe might have believed in a flat earth, seamen certainly didn't and neither did Christian intellectuals and monastics. They'd read Ptolemy's treatise on astronomy - or at least heard of it. Likewise the claims that "Christian doctrine dictated that the Earth was centre of the Universe, based on the Bible" are false. Christian teaching was based on Aristotle and Plato - until Copernicus (Polish monastic and priest) worked out that we moved around the sun. He, realising the implications, didn't make a big fuss about it - that fell to Galileo who had to "make a point" to prove his genius. In part this mythology is the product of both anti-Roman Catholic propaganda generated by the more rabid anti-catholics and the later Victorian "scientific" community's desire to take science out of the "Arts" in the universities.

I have always found it fascinating that this major conquest occured at a moment in time when Islam was already turning against intellectualism and in retreat elsewhere. Spanish Al-Andalus was less than 40 years from its demise (Granada surrendered in 1492 to the Spanish king) and the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1326 had led to the death of the last Caliph in the Middle East (They claimed direct descent from the family of the Prophet) and a rising tide of fundamentalist thinking. This seems to be forgotten by many of the promoters of the idea that Islam is the preserver of science and peace and Christianity the retarder to progress.

The Mongol conquest in 1326 traumatised Islam, turning it inward, but also making it more fundamentalist and martial in nature. The Ottomans didn't rest on their laurels after conquering Byzantium, they almost succeeded in subjugating Europe via the back door of the Balkans, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. It was a long and bloody campaign, but it was turned back. The legacy, however, continues to this day. Almost all the problems in the Balkans can be traced to the attempt to forcibly impose Islam on the conquered lands. Nor does it end there, much of the fundamentalist nature of the more extreme forms of Islam which have emerged in the last sixty years also have their origins in the reverses suffered between 1326 and 1600.

Its a fascinating study, but, unfortunately, not a popular one with our current politically correct educationists and anti-religious propagandists.

Monday, 11 June 2012

A Good Question

I note with interest that the pundits in the UK and in the US are still promoting the idea that "The End of the €uro Is Nigh!" I wonder what they hope to achieve by this to be honest, because that is exactly what they are not being. There certainly are problems within the €urozone, but the austerity measures adopted (imposed according to some) are stabilising most of them. Greece remains a major problem, mainl because the Greek government still hasn't addressed the issue of non-payment/collection of taxes. Spain has a major problem at present, but, with the help of the EZB, it now has some funds to get it going again.

On our recent stay in Denmark it was pointed out to us that a majority of Danes expect to join the €uro within the next few years. To them it is a matter of when, not if.

Across the €urozone the Balance of Payments is more favourable than that of either the UK or the US. Industries are recovering and the majority of governments - with the exceptions of Greece, Italy and Spain at present, are behaving sensibly and cutting their cloth to suit their pockets.

Something the Postulant reminded me of today, is the situation with regard to legislation and regulation. Ever since 1997, the UK has been regulating and legislating as if there was no tomorrow. The usual mantra from the civil service is that "The EU requires it" but that doesn't seem to be the case - at least not from the manner in which this is handled elsewhere in the EU. I am left to believe then, that the flood of regulations and legislation is Whiethall's desperate grab for ever more money from the taxpayer and even more control over the minutia of individuals lives.

I am no longer certain this assault on the UK's ancient freedoms is coming from the EU. Frankly I think it is generated more by the incompetence of the politicians compounded by the ambitions of the Civil Servants. Sooner rather than later, someone will have to give these folks a reality check. Probably at the point of a hayfork.

As for those trying to talk the €uro into oblivion, I rather think their reality check will come sooner than Whitehall's. I suspect that before much longer the €uro will start to strengthen - and when it does it will prove the doomsayers wrong. Of course, at present, it suits me to have the £ Sterling stronger than the €uro. My pension is paid in Sterling ...

Saturday, 9 June 2012

NHS Estates?

I'm intrigued. The Postulant sent me a link to a report which stated that the properties arm of the National Health Service had been turned into a "company" to sell off all the acres of land the NHS owns, but doesn't use. There must be an awful lot of it because the new "company," imaginatively named PropCo, is expected to become the "owner" of land and property valued at several billion pounds. I'm intrigued for several reasons, not least because the NHS is always pleading for more money, yet has apparently had billions tied up in unused property. Secondly, I'm very intrigued by the constitution of this new "company" which appears to have been carved out of the former NHS Estates, the division of the Department of Health which used to "manage" and maintain all the NHS properties.

If PropCo has been set up along the same lines as all the previous "Executive Agencies," I would suggest there is a scam in progress. Under the "Treasury Rules" the Executive Agencies are set up as a "business" burdened by not being permitted to take an overdraft from a bank, saddled with an inflated "deemed mortgage" for any property it is established in (and it isn't allowed to sell those or move to more affordable premises either) and no operating capital. The "deemed mortgage" is also established at a large interest rate, typically anywhere between 3 and 6 times the rate you'd get from a bank, and then blamed at regular meetings with the relevant Cabinet Minister for failing to show a profit. There is a long list of such "Executive Agencies" which have "failed" and been broken up and their assets sold off to "preferred bidders" on the Treasury's List of Preferred Bidders.

I can certainly understand the selling off of unused property. What I find a little less understandable is the settiing up of a "company" to do so. Surely the NHS Estates could have done this directly, perhaps even on the understanding that the money made from the sale was to be ploughed into upgrading existing premises or even renewing or replacing some? Now it seems likely that any money - and going on previous form on matters like this, it seems unlikely there will be any real profit - will simply vanish into the Black Hole called Whitehall to be squandered on some other over budget and out of control project.

One thing I am absolutely certain of. If there is a profit to be made from this, it will be made by whoever buys the properties from PropCo, not by PropCo. So, as the saying is, we will have to "follow the money" to see who, and perhaps what, is behind this. If, as is suggested, PropCo is "privatised" at some point, we can be very certain that it will then be systematically asset stripped, as have all the other Executive Agencies, and the unprofitable rump will then be allowed to die an unnatural death by a thousand cuts.

As ever, the taxpayer will pick up the cost.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Corpus Christi

Is kept as a public holiday in Germany, one of many "religious" holidays no longer kept in the UK, though the feast is marked an kept by the Anglican Church. The feast is a marking of the institution of Holy Communion, not a popular one in anti-catholic cicles since there is always an argument between Protestants and Catholics (Note; I include all churches with the three "orders" of clergy, that is Bishops, Priests and Deacons, as "catholic.") as to what the Holy Communion actually is.

One of the stumbling blocks for Protestants is the concept of Christ's presence in the consecrated Host and Wine. Probably deliberately, the Calvinists, Knoxists and their offshoots, misrepresented the concept of "transubstantiation" and played down the importance of the Eucharist. Even now, there are many who misunderstand the concept of "transubstantiation" and what it represents. Theologians do NOT suggest or believe that the bread and wine are somehow 'magically' transformed into physical flesh and blood. Nor is that what Christ himself meant when he instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper. To understand the origins of what he did and the significance of what he said, we have to look at the Judaic "Friendship Offering" set out in Leviticus. Essentially this is a meal shared between a man and a priest in which elements, primarily bread and wine, are first offered on the altar before the tabernacle in thanksgiving, and then consumed as a "meal" before it.

Reading Leviticus one sees a long list of sacrificial "offerings" to be made for atonement or thanksgiving for an equally long list of actions or events. In the Last Supper, Christ swept all of this away, making himself the ultimate sacrifice, offered once and for all time for everything and everyone. Hence his command that we "do this as often as you eat/drink it in memory of me."

So what is "transubstantiation" all about. In the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest invokes the Holy Spirit, using words to the effect of (there are a number of different forms for this prayer) "send down the Holy Spirit upon these your gifts of bread and wine so that they may become, for us, the very spiritual food and drink of Christ's Last Supper." In so doing, catholic theology infers that Christ is present in spirit in the consecrated bread (referred to as "The Host") and in the consecrated wine. In every form of the consecration prayer (and in every language)  Christ's own words are used as the Words of Institution; "this is my Body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me" followed by "this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me."

One thing to be aware of here is that this doesn't suggest that every time we eat bread or drink wine we are essentially having communion. It is only when it is in the context in which Christ performed this action that it is. The Last Supper followed the traditional Jewish Sabbath meal at which the women first bring light to the table at which all the family, friends and servants are gathered. Prayers are offered for the light and for the home. The head of the household then give thanks for the bread, blesses it, breaks it and shares it with everyone at the table. That is followed by the meal and finally a special cup of wine is brought to the table, thanks offered and the cup is shared by everyone present. The Early Church followed this sort of pattern for probably the first 200 to 300 years, but gradually the gatherings became too large and the Eucharist took place outside of the context of a meal. In some ways this is a pity, but we must also acknowledge that it was probably the only way to keep the sense of the special nature of the Eucharist without losing it entirely in a sort of mega-dinner party.

In the "Great Thanksgiving" prayer the "elements" are transformed spiritually to become, for the faithful, the outward visible sign of the inward spiritual grace to be found in Christ's spiritual presence. Now we come to were the various factions part company. To a catholic, once consecrated, the bread and wine remain consecrated and therefore Christ is present even after the service is over. To a Protestant, it is purely symbolic and you can tip it all in the bin or down the sink afterward. As a catholic, I find that abhorrent, but I recognise the difference in perspective.

Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) means different things to different people, but the celebration of the Eucharist is, quite possibly, the single most significant act of worship for any and every Christian.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A fritzed internet connection ...

We've had a little battle the last couple of days, between us and our FritzBox router. It suddenly refused to connect to the internet, even though everything else on it was functioning. Our internal LAn, the WiFi parts - just no internet. We traced everything, connections, jack plugs, reset the thing and no joy.

So, today it got replaced. Bingo. We're back. Normal service resumes tomorrow.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Some Interesting Insights

Over the last couple of days I have been helping a friend who is writing a biography for her sister. This has meant doing a lot of reading from a variety of sources of different perspectives on the brief history of the country once called Rhodesia. The reason is quite simple, my friend's father was probably the first clear victim of the terror campaign and her mother and youngest sister, then aged 4, were in the vehicle when it happened.

What I have found fascinating about the documents and different perspectives I've read on the history of the country, the events leading up to the Unilateral Declaration of Independence and the subsequent Bush War, Lancaster House Agreement and the handover to the best worst candidate who has done exactly what the much maligned white "settlers" were afraid would happen, has been enlightening to say the least. As one political commentator put, Ian Smith was not as cynical as those on the British side. He believed that an agreement had to be honoured, whereas the people he was dealing with would offer and agree anything - then calmly deny everything and tear the heart out of their discussions as soon as they faced a different audience.

What also became very clear as I read - and I was reading accounts from both sides of the fence - was that the British negotiators didn't give a brass farthing about the legitimate fears and concerns of the "settlers" (most of them second or third generation), had no intention of offering them any kind of lifeline and saw them merely as a nuisance to be thrown to the lions of political expediency as quickly as possible. This certainly becomes very clear as the media propaganda campaign wound itself into high gear and reads emotive words like "treason," "rebellion" and "illegal government" or, best of all, "corrupt kangaroo courts" as a description of the murder trial proceedings involving my friend's father's murderers. What became very clear was that the UK regarded the white population in Rhodesia (and this carried over against the white South African population) as a small handful of rich, parasitic individuals who had stolen the land, the infrastructures and even the cities from the poor downtrodden indigenous population.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The first white settlers entered the country that became Rhodesia in the 1880s and found - by the British government's own estimates -  a few hundred thousand people, members of warring tribes. The British South Africa Company, chartered by Westminster to settle and develop the land, found itself with a major problem right from the start. The Matabele, a break away of the Zulu nation in South Africa, had arrived barely a decade before the BSAC and immediately set about subjugating the indigenous Shona. The first task the Company had to tackle was to bring peace to the tribes. That uncovered another problem - a thriving slave trade with the Arab held ports in Tanganyika and Kenya. It took 10 years and Regular Troops from Britain and India to eventually suppress this ghastly trade and put an end to the genocidal wars between the tribes. The Royal Navy even had to send three small gunboats overland to patrol the waters of Lake Nyasa and keep the peace.

In 1896 a Lord Carrington drew up the original documents dividing the land between the tribes and the settlers and drawing the boundaries for what would become the colonies of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). One of the ironies of the tragedy that unfolded between 1960 and 1974 is that it was another Lord Carrington that paved the way for the psychopath Mugabe to take control of the country. It is another common fallacy to state that the black population were , as in South Africa, excluded from the ballot box. They were not, but ZANU, ZAPU, the ANC and the "Patriotic Front" enforced a boycott of every plebicite the government held and promoted the idea that they could not take part as this would "legitimise" the "regime." The truth, again. is even more complex. They were not interested in any compromise, or in any settlement which protected the rights of the white minority to security, property ownership or citizenship. For them it was everything or nothing. No compromise, no accommodation - hand it all over and get out.

My friend's family became the first casualties in the political game played out over the trial of the murderers. In the UK Press they were portrayed as abusive farmers and it was even suggested that the victim had beaten and evicted people from "their" land to "steal" it and add it to his farm. These lies have never been withdrawn. The Crown even "pardoned" the murderers (The Rhodesians ignored it and hung them anyway.), but at no time was any expression of sympathy, regret or condolence offered to the family.

What no one on the anti-Rhodesia side has ever acknowledged or addressed is what did they think the white population, admittedly a minority, a mere 250,000 individuals in a population of 3 million would do or where would they go? Remember, they were there because the forefathers of those in Westminster and Whitehall saw a chance to make money out of them and the land.

It does strike me that there is a very similar campaign being waged quietly against Israel. Poisonous reporting in the UK media is driving some serious anti-Jewish feeling. Every dead Palestinian terrorist brings forth masses of column inches and hours of coverage on television - but the daily bombardment of Israeli civilians is never mentioned - unless it happens to hit something they can't avoid reporting. The same thing went on against the Rhodesians. They were all painted as brutal killers, devious white supremacists and land grabbing thieves. Every time the "talks" they were enticed to collapsed, it was reported that they had refused to compromise. When you actually look at some of the real documents that are in the Public Records and available from a number of sources now, you quickly discover that the British Government was looking after its own interests very nicely, playing both sides off against the middle to keep the African members of the Commonwealth happy and the white Rhodesians made a convenient whipping boy. A classic example was a new Constitution for the country which would have increased Black representation in the legislature and received the approval of the populace in a referendum. When it reached Westminster, instead of accepting and approving it - Westminster altered it, entirely without consultation with the people it affected.

The truth is that Westminster never has liked dealing with people who want a say in how they are governed. The same pattern can be found in their dealings with the American colonies in 1776, in Ireland in the 19th Century and early 20th, in Israel and India in 1945 - 47. Promise things they know they can't or won't deliver, place a "final solution" on the table with a take it or leave it and then walk away leaving a trail of victims they've demonised and pilloried behind them. Only the Americans, the Indians and the Israelis seem to have succeeded in salvaging their countries from the potential wreck. The Rhodesians are and were the victims of the forces of demographics, changing ideologies in the corridors of power and the "new morality" of those whose wealth was built out of the labour and efforts of those they shipped off to the colonies in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Like the 6 million white South Africans now, they are the casualties in the philosophy that drives our political masters - "Some must always lose out so that others can benefit." Funny how its never those who utter this who are among the losers.

There does seem to be a bit of irony in the fact that the same activist groups who campaigned to have the white minority in Rhodesia and South Africa thrown to the lions, now campaign tirelessly to protect any and every "minority" - except any white minority - from "oppression" or "persecution."

Monday, 4 June 2012

National Minimum Wages ...

An article I read here on Yahoo, suggests that scrapping the National Minimum Wage may stimulate business and boost job creation. I don't think it is anywhere near that easy. For one thing, the NMW has already pushed prices and expectations up, but it has, it must be admitted, also cost jobs and, as I was recently reminded, things like fruit crops are rotting on the trees and the ground, because the price paid by the supermarkets is below the cost of harvesting them at the minimum wage.

This is a very complex issue, not one that can be addressed in 'sound bites' or with all the attendant emotive utterances that usually accompany any attempt to address it. The principle of a "fair wage for a fair day's labour" is one that Marx identified and which is also found in Adam Smith's treatises. The problem with Marx and Jung's ideologies is that they make no allowance for a more mobile society and do not recognise the manner in which a dynamic society changes. They failed to recognise that, as even they wrote, the economic situation of the growing echelons of the upper end of the working class and the even wider spectrum of white collar workers was already hugely different to the position of their parents and grandparents and that process has accelerated through the 20th Century.

The concept of setting a minimum wage sounds good in theory, but in practice it forces employers to adjust ALL wages and salaries upwards. As a former 'employer' in my role as Church Warden of a very large Parish Church with a big staff necessary to maintain it, it became a nightmare each time the Chancellor generously gave the Minimum Wage Earners an increase, I had to make an across the board adjustment of all wages paid to the whole of our staff. In the end we had, as our income was declining and our other costs rising, to make redundancies - and if you want to see an expensive way of shedding staff - try that one! 

The effect of the Minimum Wage is to drive wage inflation. By pushing wages up, you drive costs up. Increasing costs mean a rise in prices and the vicious circle begins. As prices rise, so do the demands for a rise in wages ... In any given business, the cost of labour is always the largest single charge on the business and the largest single part of the price charged for the goods or services provided. That is a simple business fact. Nor is it simply a case of paying the employee. The government adds some charges to this in the form of "Employers Contributions" for National Insurance and State Earnings Related Pension contributions which add between 30% and 40% to the cost of employing a worker. 

Sadly, history shows that any attempt to level the playing field in terms of wealth by "redistribution" through tax or through government regulation of the wage market inevitably fail and wind up destroying economies and impoverishing many more than they help. I now live in Germany, anyone who wants to know how "successful" the 50 years of communist economics was in the former GDR, Poland, Hungary or Romania, need look no further than their levels of unemployment, government borrowing and the out dated and totally inadequate infrastructures left behind for those nasty, evil Capitalists to replace and rebuild ...

I'm now a Pensioner, living on a small Pension after almost 50 years of employment, paying into a non-existent fund mismanaged by the same political classes and civil servants now desperately searching for new ways to raise money they have promised, but don't own. No government in the world "owns" the wealth of the nation or that of any individual within them, that belongs to the people. The only money a government has is what it can legitimately charge through tax for the services it provides in return - and we have now reached a point where the charge on the individual exceeds the benefit we receive in return. Those who think that all wealth in a nation belongs equally to everyone should reread Marx, that is not what he says and certainly not what he meant.

Perhaps, at this point, a better solution to this wage spiral would be to make it illegal to award "across the board" increases based on percentages of an individual's wage or salary, since this only widens the gaps between top earners and those at the bottom. A fairer method of evening things out would be to introduce a median increase based on a percentage of the average between top and bottom scales. That would ensure that the lowest paid would get a larger boost than those at the upper end and it would, over time, also reduce the disparity and self level so that the "steps" between scales would still be maintained. Logically it makes more sense than imposing a "Minimum" which simply impacts all the way up the tree - and, as many commentators on the article point out, has now become a "maximum" level for everyone in a particular field.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Sixty Years of Service

The Monk would like to congratulate Her Majesty on the sixty years she has given in service of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. She has weathered the varying storms whipped up by a venal Press pack, politicians attempting to cover up the cost of their follies and the "civil" servants who cost the nation an arm and both legs, but hide their extravagance behind sneaky releases of the "cost of the Royal Household." Long may she continue, and long may her heirs and successors continue the exemplary service they give the nations of which she is head.

The First Elizabeth reigned during a period of religious and social upheaval, and set the scene for the start of the British Empire. The Second has had the misfortune to reign over a nation which has lost its Empire and perhaps its way, but that is hardly her fault - that lies squarely with the self-serving political classes who have pursued nothing but their own enrichment and self-interest since the reign of Edward VII, her great-grandfather.

The Royal Household costs the taxpayer a fraction of the cost of the Prime Minister's Office and, put alongside the cost of Whitehall, is a mere pittance. Her Majesty is worth every penny, unlike the rest of them.

God save the Queen!
Long may she reign!

Friday, 1 June 2012

A date to Remember?

Yesterday we left the coast of Jutland for the drive back to Germany. The previous evening we'd taken a walk along the dunes just north of where we'd rented a holiday cottage and, near Norre Lyndvig, came across a memorial to two wrecks that occurred in 1811, the 64 gun Fourth Rate "St George" and a second ship, a frigate of 36 guns. 1400 men died in these wrecks and the bodies washed ashore all along the Ringkobing Fjord coast. Over 500 were buried beneath the dunes where the memorial now stands, but, as I stood and looked out to the site of the wreck of the "St George" the place and the date took another focus.

From this spot, in 1916, I would have heard the gunfire from the battle between the two greatest Battle Fleets ever to meet and engage in a ship-to-ship duel of gunnery. This took place in the late afternoon of the 31st May. The British Grand Fleet met the slightly smaller German High Seas Fleet in a long awaited battle. British losses were horrific - three of Admiral Beattie's Battle Cruiser Force blew up with the loss of almost all hands. His own flagship, HMS Lion, almost shared their fate, but was saved only by the dying action of the Royal Marine Major commanding 'Q' Turret. As the cordite around him ignited, he ordered the flooding of the magazine, drowning everyone in it, but saving the ship.

From where we stood we might have been able to see at least some of this, and certainly the muzzle flash and smoke. With over 500 ships charging about and the major units firing their 11, 13.5, 14 and 15 inch guns it must have been an awe inspiring and possibly frightening sight and sound for the inhabitants of this area.

The German Fleet did not escape unscathed, though, through disasterously poor communications, it escaped Jellicoe's hoped for "Glorious First of June" he spent the night preparing his ships for. Through bold handling and leadership, the High Seas Fleet managed to pass through the tail of the British Fleet during the night and return to its base. Though they were sighted and engaged by several ships, no one thought to send Jellicoe a signal about it ...

May 31st, 1916 stands in history as the date of the last engagement between two massive battle fleets and, unlike Trafalgar, Copenhagen, the Nile, or Admiral Howe's "Glorious First of June" it is best described as inconclusive. It is true the High Seas Fleet never again challenged the Grand Fleet, but it is a mistake to think it did nothing else. It found plenty of action in the Baltic and all but destroyed Russian Naval forces in a number of engagements and performed admirably in support of the Army against the Russian land forces and later the Bolsheviks.

Standing on the windswept dunes I could only wonder what the men engaged in that clash of the giants would think of the world we have created from the peace they won with their lives.