Friday, 30 November 2012

Modern, Post-Modern or ...

My post of yesterday sparked an exchange with a friend on several points, not least the issue of how our worldview has been shaped by "Modernism" and "Post-modernism." A book I have been rereading, written by the former Bishop of Durham, the Rt. Rev. N. T. Wright, put our current state of society into perspective in this way.

Modernism, he says, is gone, replaced by the Post-Modernist deconstruction of the autonomous 'self' so highly prized since the 18th Century "enlightenment." This has meant that all the narratives we once took for granted, as 'settled science' if you like, have been shown to be nothing but someone else's propaganda, questionable theories of social engineering or r more complex than the "Modern" narrative allowed. The problem is that "Post-Modernism" has not introduced any "certainties" to replace them, rather it as brought what the Bishop calls a 'smorgasbord' of ideas, counter-cultures and greater uncertainties which we are 'free' to pick and choose as we like. It is not surprising, therefore, that we find ourselves pulled this way and that as one political ideology replaces another pulling us in every direction but forward. In part this also explains the polarisation we see in every debate, from social care to climate 'science.'

As the friend I was discussing some of this with yesterday put it -

As we've discussed, prior to 1968, you got thrashed at school and wore a collar and tie as an undergrad, after 1968, neither applied, the world seemed to have gone from B&W to colour, but we were young then, looking back, it seems we (actually, I'm an important 5/6 years younger) broke something that had been holding together the entire social fabric of "modern" Britain.

This accords with the point the Bishop is making in his book. In tearing down the "Modernist" narratives, we've perhaps, stripped out the "glue" that held our society together. Now it may well be that some of that "glue" needed stripping out and replacing, but here we run into the problem with all "revolutionary change." It generally destroys the good bits alongside the bad and it takes years, if not several generations, to restore, replace or repair them. In the meantime, of course, society is pulled from one ideological pole to another, each lurch alienating some, benefitting a few, but often doing far more damage than good.

"Modernity" could be defined as a promotion of arrogant self-assurance, the firm belief we held the reins, we controlled everything from economics, through political direction, scientific innovation and productivity to social order. Post-Modernity has torn that apart, introducing a jaundiced and cynical questioning of every position, every narrative and every motive. If anything it has replaced the "communal" concept of the "individual supremacy" with a the concept of the "supreme individual." That has led to the excesses we see in almost every sphere of human activity - the "me first, second, third and any left over, me again" attitude among many.

The Bishop makes the point that the mistake (and he's talking about Christianity) was to adopt the Modernist narrative in everything, laying the foundations for greed, arrogance and excess and justifying it through the Modernist narratives, which included things like Eugenics and the ideas of racial superiority. Those have been replaced, in Post-Modernism, by concepts of "universal rights" and "multi-culturalism" and "unisex," both of which have transformed into something other than what they proclaim themselves to be. The problem is that we have not yet found a "narrative" which draws people back together and gives them a shared vision and ambition.

In large part that is why nationalism is once again driving people apart, drawing tribal lines in the sand and seeking to draw together those who seek the security of "narrative certainty" in something, while excuding those who don't share the "vision." I'm not at all sure what this will ultimately produce, though I am pretty sure it won't be the Utopia its supporters think.

Unfortunately it will continue, doing immeasurable damage to our society and everything connected to it, until someone is able to restore a narrative we can all share. I think it will be a very long time coming ...

Thursday, 29 November 2012

People and Nations

A recent exchange I have had with several people over the question of various peoples seeking 'independence' got me thinking about the debate over Scottish independence and the ambitions of others for their 'nation' to achieve something similar, the argument always being to achieve 'national freedom' from an oppressor or a some federal arrangement that no longer suits those agitating for a break away.

It struck me that in all the debates on the subject of Scottish independence is the blanket complaint that the 'English' have deprived Scotland of its wealth, suppressed the people or ignored their wishes. Listen to a Welsh nationalist and you hear the same complaint, the 'English' are always the bad guys. But who exactly are 'The English?'

Some aspects of our history suggest that it is only really applicable to those who live in the Home Counties, and then not to everyone in them, but to the Norman and Anglo-Saxon overlord families. But you immediately run into a problem there, because even in the Home Counties it is difficult to find anyone who will immediately define himself or herself as 'English.' Again, the majority of those I have encountered who do, tend to be Public School/Oxbridge graduates from the wealthy landowning families. I've yet to encounter anyone from anywhere outside the Home Counties and that little select group who automatically identified themselves as 'English' and I'm pretty certain anyone born and raised anywhere north of the Humber on the East Coast or north or west of Oxfordshire would identify themselves as being 'men' of whatever County or Region they came from - but NOT as English.

So who are the 'English?' Is there, in point of fact such a people? Geographically of course, there is a country called 'England.' It took William the Conqueror (A Danish Frenchman) to carve out the boundaries of it and several hundred years of war to render it stable, but it is generally everything south of a line drawn between the head of Solway Firth and Berwick on Tweed, but excluding Wales, which lies roughly west of a line drawn along the county boundaries from the head waters of the Dee estuary to Chepstow on the Severn estuary. So one would think that everyone living in that geographic area would call themselves 'English.' Apparently not. It does sometimes appear that centuries (if not millennia) of migration, settlement, resettlement and two civil wars at least, have failed to break down some of the 'tribal' boundaries that made us an easy conquest for the Romans and later the Normans.

Certainly in the last century, particularly since WW2, there has also been a third player at work. The so-called 'Class War' has, if anything, deepened some of the divisions by setting one area and its populace against another. The classic is the north versus the south, which is, in reality, 'everyone else against the south-east.' Now, while that might be a very useful tool for the politicians who play the 'them an' us' game, it is severely damaging to any form of national identity. Perhaps there lies a part of the problem for the denizens of England. We are an easy target, because, as one author puts it, we are so busy fighting and squabbling amongst ourselves, we've failed to notice that for almost all of our history we've actually been at the mercy of 'foreign rulers.'

You could start with the Romans, then the Saxons, the Danes and then the Normans who seem to have done the best job of keeping control - though they did invite the Scottish King to take the thrown - but threw out his grandson when the fellow proved to arrogant and too stiff necked. Then they invited a Dutchman (although in reality he comes from a German Royal House) who happened to be married to a Stuart, passed the crown to another Stuart and finally reverted to a descendent of the Plantagenates who just happened to be related to the Stuarts. The truth is that since Cromwell the real power in the land has remained not with the Royal Houses (though James II tried to impose it), but with the landed gentry and the political class - and it has suited them to be called 'The English.' But are they? 

The situation becomes even more complicated once you throw in the unrestricted immigration from all manner of places with no relationship to anything that we would regard as an 'English' or even a 'British' culture. Travel to Wales, Ireland or Scotland, one sees the Saltire, the Welsh dragon, the Irish Tricolour. In England one sees the flags of every nation under the sun, but when anyone does display the St George's Cross you are told to take it down in case it offends someone, or they assume you are a football hooligan, a member of the BNP or some other right wing extremist group. And don't ever think you can display the Union Flag ...

It seems to me that the English suffer from a lack of 'national' identity. Certainly in the last sixty years they have been told that to be proud of their 'English heritage and culture' is offensive, elitist, racist or an imposition on some 'minority.' The result is that 'The English' have become a vanishing breed in their own country. They are afraid to be identified as 'English' and grit their teeth and bear it when everyone else labels them as something nasty. They have been thrust aside under the drive to a 'Multi-Culty' society, driven it must be said, from London and its satellites, and told they must submit to the rights of every minority now living among them. They have become the whipping boys in their own country of every other nationality with an axe to grind, and now we have to ask the question: Why have they submitted themselves to it?

Once again, I have to ask: Who are 'The English?' Who is this nation of 'oppressors' who have exploited the Welsh, suppressed the Scots and apparently raped just about everyone else? According to the Scots we've stolen 'their' oil and gas, for the Welsh it was 'their' coal and so it goes on. Each 'nation'  believes firmly that, had they had all of it, they would be the world super power United Kingdom was.

If you ask me the English are the victims of everyone else's propaganda, the convenient whipping boys for every agenda in the dis-United Kingdom. In the last two hundred years there have been as many Scottish Prime Ministers and Chancellors of the Exchequer as there have been English ones. When you add in the Welsh PMs and Ministers, the English have been outnumbered more often than not and, even now, Scottish MPs vote on matters that have no force in their own constituencies - thanks to a Scotsman who was Prime Minister and gave Scotland its own government in the face of advice that he would tear the constitution apart.

If anyone in the dis-United Kingdom has a gripe at the moment, it is the English. Assuming, of course, you can find them in their own country any longer ...

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Wrong End of the Stick ...

A couple of days ago I was sent a link to an article in Guardian which fulminates at some length against  offshore companies and nominee directors. One has to read the whole article to spot the fact they are collaborating with a group perhaps infamous for its cover-up of their own activities in phone tapping and mobile phone eavesdropping, while making a huge fuss about the activities of the News of the World. What I missed in reading this, I suspect because the Guardian's own journalists don't understand it either, is that the vast majority of these 'front' companies and 'sham directors' are perfectly legitimate. 

They are established to manage a variety of perfectly legal trust funds and family investments under laws that are well established and properly constituted. They also fail, at every step, to mention that they company that owns the Guardian itself, is one of these "tax-dodging, 'front' organisations." If there is fault here, it must surely lie at the door of the politicians in the UK and eslewhere who have created a tax system that is punitive for beneficiaries of such trusts, and so complex one needs a legal team sat alongside the accountant to work out what is and is not legal. 

In fact the CEO of an organisation that specialises in Trust law is publically decrying the Guardian's series of articles on tax. Another person on the same team wrote to me saying - 

When I read through this article, I could see that the journalists don’t understand company law, let alone trust law, or corporate services. They should be attacking the politicians who made the tax system complicated in order to serve their friends’ interests, not the people who supply directorships (which the journalists automatically assume is to hide something and therefore must be up to no good). 

My mouth actually fell open in shock when I realised that these journos think that a company that is being used to hold assets for a family must reveal all. Would those journos want their own personal bank statements in the public domain? Can’t they see that that’s what they’re demanding? Why can’t they see that you need to fix the legislation in order to close loopholes, not attack people who are operating within the law, just because you happen to disagree with what’s allowed under these laws. The legislation should be the first port of call if you want to change behaviour.

There are several very good points in there. I wonder how any of them would feel - and some are certainly beneficiaries of family trusts according to some sources - if required to have the assets made public? How do the owners of this newspaper feel about having their activities questioned by their own staff?

Many such trusts are set up to protect assets for minors, others are there to protect assets that have been in a family for generations, but often the ideologues who write this sort of article think that inheritiances of any form should be prohibited, if possible the tax should be so punitive that any wealth or property is confiscated to be "redistributed" to some "greater good" they espouse. What most fail to acknowledge is that they are themselves the beneficiaries of some form of "inherited" wealth - simply by virtue of the education they have received or the home they grew up in.

Yes, there are those who are fortunate enough to be born into a family or circumstances that confer upon them wealth most of us find unimaginable, but that also brings enormous responsibility. That is often why these trusts were established in the first place. It also protects organisations and even public bodies. A close look at some of these will undoubtedly reveal that many Oxford Colleges, more than a few at Cambridge and other "blue brick" universities, several of our major cities, including the Corporation of London, make use of similar trusts and offshore 'nominees.'

As my informant suggested, it is an incredibly complex legal area, one the journalists patently do not understand. If there is a problem with it, and there are certainly those who will abuse it, then the problem is not the user, it is the law. If you want that changed, tackle the politicians, not the users. 

As my correspondent says, do the journalists really want their personal bank details published? That is, after all, what they are demanding.

Several of the commentators on this article make that point, and one or two make another interesting observation - quite often the beneficiaries of this legalistic tangle are also subscribers to the Europhobic campaigning. One commentator says this - 

"Part of the Europhobe agenda seems to be that the UK can become another Switzerland ..."
Right. But the Europhobes conveniently overlook a whole lot of very important points. Just a few examples:
1) Switzerland sits at the very heart of Europe. Any goods that need to be transported from Germany to Italy or France to Austria have to pass through Switzerland. The EU can hardly ignore the country. Britain is an outlying island with no geographical significance and, if it leaves the EU, can be ignored.
2) Switzerland has a very, very efficient transport system, state railways that famously run on time and relatively uncluttered motorways (because they insist much of the goods traffic goes by rail)
3) As well as being a (notorious?) financial centre - which is what the Europhobes are eyeing - Switzerland also invests very heavily in research and development and is a world-leader in the field. It also has excellent apprenticeship schemes. Britain, for one reason or another, has all but wrecked its research and manufacturing base. And British apprenticeship schemes ...?
Britain has a very long way to go before becoming another Switzerland

 That certainly makes one pause to think. However, I would hasten to add that Switzerland is, on the whole, a much more prosperous society ...

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Rise of Nationalism ...

Am I alone at pondering the recent spate of claims to some form of 'national' status for various groups around Europe? The United Kingdom is being, it appears, torn asunder by the Scottish nationalist, Welsh nationalists and there are even division between the North East and the rest. Now we have the Catalonians, the original agents of unification of Spain and the conquest of the Muslim Caliphate in the rest of Spain, wanting to break away. Germany has long had an uneasy relationship with Bavaria and if one heads into the Balkan states you encounter some really strong 'nationalist' sentiments.

Head into the former Eastern Bloc countries and it gets stronger. There former Czechoslovakia has become two states divided by the Dnieper River - even the capital is split between the two. The Ukraine has a problem, since during the Soviet years, there was massive immigration from Russia, so now you find ethnic Russians dominating the political scene and the 'native' Ukrainians feel their voice is being stifled. Travel around that whole area and you find this is repeated in a number of places. The Baltic is no exception, you even have to take into account the former East and West Prussia, no longer part of Germany, now largely part of Poland and Lithuania - but with a small wedge which includes the former Königsberg (renamed Kaliningrad) - now part of Russia.

It sometimes seems that peoples, nations and national identities are being torn asunder by the propaganda and the political ambitions of a small and very vociferous (and sometimes violent) group in each country. The carrot is always held out that they need to have control of their own affairs, their own wealth and to shake off the 'oppression' of whoever the greater national government is.

I suspect that it is, in part, driven by frustration among voters who don't live in the 'Big Capital' or who watch the political classes enrich themselves while excluding or ignoring everyone outside of the 'capital' wherever it is. That is certainly true of parts of the UK, where the political elite and the civil servants all seem to live in London and many seem to think that London is the whole of the UK. The attitude is, 'if its right for London, it's right for everywhere.' One often has the impression that the denizens of Westminster and Whitehall think the world ends at the M25, or, if it does continue beyond there, it either doesn't matter or it has all the same facilities and amenities that London has. I recall being told by a Whitehall visitor that I should make more use of public transport to get to and from work. She was completely unable to grasp the fact that even using trains this would still take between one and two hours if all the trains connected and there were no delays anywhere.

Her solution? 'Just sell your house there then and move closer to your employment.' It is that sort of mindset that fails to recognise the real difficulties faced by those who don't enjoy the generous end of the pay scales that causes real anger - and probably feeds the desire to break away from the control of twits like that. The reason I lived where I did was that I couldn't afford the inflated prices nearer my employer!

The danger, however, is that viable economies can easily become non-viable, the 'resources' may prove uneconomical or, may not be as rich or as large as was promised. It is said we get the governments we deserve, and to an extent this is true. Quite often we are taken in by the soft words, the buzz-phrases and the razzmatazz - and fail to see the fact it is all a false facade.

The second, and perhaps larger danger with rampant nationalism, is that it breeds strife between those 'not of my nation' and those that are. It must, surely, be ironic that it arises now, in a time of Multi-Culturalism, when we are told all these 'boundaries' have been torn down. It is also, as one commentator remarked recently, something that always arises at a time of financial hardship - perhaps because there is always the allure of "we can do it better if only ..."

I suspect that these 'nationalist' ambitions are an inbred part of human nature, a desire to belong to an exclusive club or group, a desire to be able to identify strongly with one particular group, be it through language, culture, religion or geography. Personally I find it rather saddening that people can be inflamed into such a narrow vision so easily.

Monday, 26 November 2012

A well argued case ...

I have just listened to a presentation on the "International Law" as applied to Israel. Brew up a cup of coffee or tea, or pour your favourite tipple and sit back and watch and listen to this presentation. It is the most erudite and well presented and informed argument I have seen ...

Watch on TorahCafé.com!

The speaker knows the history, he has the facts, and he argues his case well. I commend to you taking the time to listen to his talk. You will find yourself in possession of facts the media and the anti-Israel lobbies either ignore or remain in ignorance of.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Bishop Michael of Gloucester says it well

Again, I make no apology and trust that the Bishop will approve of my posting his letter here ...

Pastoral letter to the Diocese of Gloucester from Bishop Michael

Failure of the Women Bishops' Measure



Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

It has been a bleak few days for the Church of England. A failure to approve the legislation that would have allowed women to be bishops has made a sad finale to the archiepiscopate of Dr Rowan Williams, whose visit to our diocese in July was such a high point in our diocesan life. It has also created a major problem for his successor, Bishop Justin of Durham. It has undermined the sense of value of our church's more than three thousand women priests. It has puzzled our society and brought ridicule upon the Church. 

People have been saying, understandably, that the Church of England is in crisis. At a certain level that is true. The General Synod has acted foolishly and its leadership has been undermined. There is a huge repair job to be done in our relationship with our society as well as within the church. But, at another level, we are not in crisis, for, as many have said, the real Church of England is to be found, not in synods, but in parishes and other communities, where Christian ministry to the people of our nation goes on being effective in churches and schools, in pastoral care and in the fulfilment of our mission. The irony is that we would be unable to fulfil that ministry without the women clergy of our church.

It is important to say today that the church has not rejected the ministry of its women clergy. In the Diocese of Gloucester more than 95% of our Diocesan Synod voted in favour of the legislation. In the General Synod 74% voted in favour - I wish it were 100%, but 74% is much more than enough. The responses I am receiving to this vote from ordinary Christians give evidence of the fact that the church has received the ministry of women, values and affirms it and wants to see that ministry extended to include episcopal ministry. The ministry of ordained women has been a huge gift of God to the church.

What the church has done is to fail to pass legislation that made generous provision for those unwilling to accept this development. And, of course, there are questions that now have to be faced. Is the church's exemption from equality laws defensible? Does a system that requires 2/3rds majorities in three separate houses place the bar too high? Can it make sense for members of the Synod to be permitted to vote entirely contrary to the view of their diocesan synod? It is really important to keep a welcome place in the Church for those who are unhappy with the idea of women bishops, but they must not hold the Church back, undermine its mission or make it a laughing stock in the mind of the nation.

The more immediate question is how we may find a way forward more speedily than over the cycle of a whole new General Synod. I don't know the answer and I would be suspicious of anyone who thought they did at this stage when we are all still so "raw" after the reverse of this week. But the mood of our leadership, and indeed the mood across the church and the nation, is that a way forward must and will be found without haste but with urgency. I ask you to pray for all those who will be starting conversations about that very soon. I ask you to pray also for those clergy who have experienced this vote as a painful undermining of their ministry. Above all pray for justice, peace and reconciliation in the church.

It has been a difficult time, "grim" as the Bishop of Durham put it, but I have found myself repeating with quiet conviction those wonderful words of the Lady Julian of Norwich - "All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well." I do believe that.

+Michael Gloucestr:

Friday, 23 November 2012

A Clash of Ideology

It isn't often I find myself in agreement with a politician of any stamp, but today I have to say I do agree with Mr. Cameron in his stance over the EU wanting to increase spending when almost all its member states are having to cut budgets. As usual the split on this is almost "the UK versus the Rest" but not quite. As ever it is far more complex than the usual media hype suggests. Broadly speaking the countries supporting the increase in spending are the nett receivers, while those arguing for 'stasis' or a smaller increase tend to be the nett payers.

Those in receipt of what the Commission calls "development funding" want it to continue. Those getting support for failing industries or activities, like France and its agricultural support, want it to continue so they can keep the farmers/trade unions and so on, happy. Others, like Germany, are beginning to question why they are having to make 'savings' while supporting everyone else's spending. The Kanzlerin, Fr. Merkel, is often painted as an 'eminence griese' who always wants Britain to give more, but that is not really a true picture. She walks a difficult road. At present Germany is the largest single contributer to the EU and gets, probably, the least back. Balanced against that the German political classes want the EU and the €uro to succeed, not for the reasons the UK press so often tout, but because there is, in Germany, a deeply entrenched fear of runaway inflation and instability. The country has lost, since the start of the 20th Century more than a third of its original territory, it went through the horror of the hyper-inflation and political paralysis of the Weimar Republic and then the Hitler years. Fr. Merkel knows this history, she lived and suffered under the Soviet imposed "Socialist" GDR, and she has no love for that system at all - but she is also a pragmatist and knows she must work in the gaps between ideological ambitions to find a solution which allows all the different ambitions and systems to work together.

I agree with Mr. Cameron, and it may come as a surprise to many, that, by and large, so does Fr. Merkel on many issues. Far too much of the EU "development" funding is lost through corruption and incompetence in the bureaucratic machinations of the states struggling to emerge from Communism. Ironically many of the most corrupt crooks in these states milking the system are former "communist party" apparatchiks. In other states, it is the incompetence of the politicians that is the problem. They have the socialist mindset that says they 'own' the nations wealth and can spend as much as they like on anything they like as long as it 'creates' jobs. So countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal have spent themselves into a hole and now rely on the EU handouts for "development" to bail them out - and demand help from Germany et al to pay off their massive borrowing.

The problem is that huge government managed projects seldom create long term jobs - unless you count utterly non-productive employment in their burgeoning bureaucracies as "employment." I don't. These jobs are a nett charge on the taxpayer, they "produce" nothing and often obstruct real growth. So what do these projects do?

They create an illusion of "growth" by inflating GDP figures and generate a lot of short term and usually unskilled posts which vanish with the completion of the project. The solution most politicians of this ideological stamp go for is to then start a similar project somewhere else - thus we have motorway building on islands where the traffic load is a few horse and donkey carts per month. It gets worse when you throw in the French support for non-viable farms (and they aren't the only ones) where they subsidise farmers to not produce anything more than they can use to feed themselves. Once again, the subsidies vanish into the economy and are counted as a part of GDP - giving a false picture of the "health" of a country's economic strength. I rather suspect that if all the salaries of "non-productive" jobs in the Public Sector, MPs salaries and wages and subsidies propping up non-productive industries and so on were stripped out of the GDP figures many economies would be exposed as being in the red.

Mr. Cameron is not popular at home because he is cutting what he sees as spending the government can't sustain, but sadly, he isn't cutting back the bureaucrats which is where he really does need to make some swinging cuts. He's not popular in Europe, because he opposes the spending plans of many dependent on EU handouts. As the leaders of the EU states meet over this weekend though, Mr Cameron does have some support. The Netherlands, Sweden and less obviously Germany all want cuts to the EU budget. They probably won't reach agreement, but the lines in the sand are becoming more clearly defined.

We, the tax payers, will have to wait and see.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A Very Christian Perspective

I make no apology for posting, in its entirety, the Statement posted by the Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Reverend Michael Perham in response to the vote in the General Synod on the Measure dealing with the consecration of women to the Bishopric.

Statement from Bishop Michael

General Synod Rejects Draft Legislation on Women Bishops

The general synod of the Church of England has voted against the appointment of women as bishops. The measure was passed by the synod's houses of bishops and clergy but was rejected by the House of Laity.

The votes were 44 for and three against with two abstentions in the House of Bishops, 148 for and 45 against in the House of Clergy and 132 for and 74 against in the House of Laity. The vote in the House of Laity, was just short of the required majority - six more 'yes' votes were needed.

The House of laity is the largest element of the General Synod and is made up of lay members of the church elected by its 44 dioceses.

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Revd Michael Perham said:

"The failure of the Women Bishops' Measure to achieve the necessary majority in the House of Laity is a huge disappointment and sadness. Many men as much as many women will experience this as a real blow, but my heart goes out particularly to our women clergy who have ministered so effectively in the Church and had hoped today would be an affirmation of their ministry. 

"In the Diocese of Gloucester I think they know their priesthood is honoured and valued. I believe those of us who have worked hard for a positive vote need now a little time to work through our initial sadness and frustration, but then we must go to work - led firmly by the House of Bishops, I hope - on finding a way through that does not mean five more years of waiting for a development that will surely come. There will be women bishops in the Church of England. I have no doubt about that. Our response to the Holy Spirit and the effectiveness of our mission require it."

Bishop Michael takes a philosophical and measured view. It is one I agree with.

What I do find interesting is the fact that several of the "nay-sayers" were women. They did not, according to their statements, vote against the consecration of women, but against what they see as a deeply flawed Measure which made no provision for the ministry of and to those who cannot, in conscience, accept a woman as a bishop.

That does rather put a different complexion on the outcome and makes a nonsense of some of the garbage being churned out by the ignorant in the media and elsewhere, many of whom do not seem to know that the measure was not about "ordination" - women are already ordained to the priesthood and have shown their ability in ministry more than adequately - but about the final level, "consecration."

As for the garbage being spewed by certain politicians ...

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope all my American readers have a very happy Thanksgiving today.

The celebration was instituted by the first settlers to give thanks for their survival, for the crops they'd managed to raise and harvest and their own safety. It continues today as a celebration of the plenty the hard work, enterprise and industry that nation has built on the back of a mixed legacy.

I hope it will find new inspiration and hope at this season.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Ceasefire? Or a cessation of firing?

According to the news the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is now in place. I have no doubt the Israelis will observe it, but I have severe doubts about the behaviour of some of the groups Hamas speaks for. In the past these "cease fires" have been driven by the need for Hamas or its fellow terrorist organisations, to find a new source of ammunition or to regroup and re-arm and I remain sceptical on this one.

I rather suspect it is driven by a shortage of missiles and the realisation that their attempt to blanket Israeli towns and cities with them has failed. Watching various news channels, including Al Jazeera, I noted a number of hits by Israeli weapons which were followed by even larger secondary explosions, suggesting that ammunition dumps had been located, targeted and destroyed. Now the only question remaining is how long it will take for a fresh supply of the missiles Hamas has been using to be delivered across the Sinai desert and through the tunnels ...

That, more than anything else, is what will determine how long the ceasfire holds I suspect. I hope and pray that I will be proved wrong.

The Trouble With Democracy ...

When the Church of England was separated from Rome on the 11th February, 1531, it was a step taken to achieve a number of reforms. The King had his reasons - he wanted an annulment of his marriage, and the Pope, in thrall to Henry's wife's family, the Emperor in Spain, refused. Many of the bishops and clergy also saw an opportunity to reform a church obsessed with secular power and wealth and purge it of some of the worst abuses. Thus, in accepting 'The Sovereign' as secular Head and 'Lawful Governor' they joined forces to bring into being a church which returned to a form of synodical governance, regulated by the Crown.

The Church of England underwent some painful reforms and changes in those early years as first one faction - influenced by Calvin, Knox and others - tried to drag it into Presbyterianism, while others tried to find a way to hold to the best of the Catholic teaching and re-examine the whole to find a less "revolutionary" and more "evolutionary" path for the faithful. There was a savage return to Rome under Mary I which, it must be said, did more to reinforce the thinking and power of the "presbyter" faction than it did to win hearts and minds of even those who wished to 'hold the Catholick faith." Then, of course, came Cromwell. That the Church survived him and his fanatics is nothing short of a miracle and most of the older churches still bear the scars ...

Since 1662 the Church has managed, by and large, to find a middle way. That has been enabled by the fact it is not governed by "princes of the church" but by its Synods which include bishops, clergy and laity. This allows those who still cling to the Edwardian political decision to relegate the Mass to a minor place in worship, with the insistence on conducting it from the North End of the altar to do so, while those of a more 'catholic' practice stand facing East at the centre of the altar or facing west from the same position behind it. What the "North Enders" fail to understand is that the altar should not be against a wall for their practice, it should be placed lengthwise in the middle of the congregation. That means the priest stands in the centre of the long side facing South.

This argument over the Eucharist is one of the central differences between the "Evangelicals" (a misnomer, all Christians are Evangelical by definition, what this wing of the CofE is in reality is Ultra-Protestant/Non-Conforming and often the antithesis of evangelising) and the "Catholics" within the CofE (and wider Anglicanism) and it is often a source of amusement and wonder to me that both extremes often oppose the same things, ostensibly for different reasons. An "Evangelical" will tell you something "isn't in the Bible" while a "Catholic" will tell you the same thing isn't "traditional" or is not a "practice of the Early Church." Usually both are missing the point. Once this polarisation enters any sort of "democratic" forum you invariably have an unholy alliance in opposition to any change.

Which brings me back to the Church of England and the failed vote on the Measure for the Ordination and Consecration of Women. The General Synod is an unusual body It is established in law as the "Governing Body of the Church of England." Though Her Majesty is the titular Head as "Supreme Governor" in effect this function falls upon Parliament and, in its wisdom, that body has authorised the General Synod to determine what shall and shall not be done in the church. It comprises three Houses The Bishops, The Clergy and The Laity. For most "business" only a "simple majority" is required to pass the measure, for anything that makes a major change to accepted practice, doctrine or tradition you need a two thirds majority in all three Houses. That is where the problems begin. This was, no doubt, considered a sensible safeguard when the General Synod was created by Parliament in the 20th Century. But it also renders it a hostage to quite small groups deploying "tactical" votes. Quite small groups have the power to derail years of discussion and effort - and they do. That is one of the problems of democracy.

Often those outside the Church of England and other Anglican Provinces, have difficulty understanding this, but Anglicanism is NOT like Rome, where these discussions take place "in camera" and the Pope eventually decrees and everyone must do or get out. In Anglican Churches, once the General Synod or the relevant Provincial Synod has discussed (typically over years!) the subject, drafted the new Canon Law Measure and voted on it, if it passes, we must abide by it (though we reserve the right to ignore some - like the Measure that calls on us to boycott certain companies products) or find another spiritual home. If it fails, it fails, and the process must restart, taking into account the reasons it was rejected the first time round ...

That is what has happened in the vote taken yesterday that would have allowed, if passed, the consecration of women as bishops in the "Church of England." Not in the Church of Wales, Scotland, Ireland or anywhere else. It failed in the House of Laity despite overwhelming support in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy. Just six lay members voting 'yes' would have passed it. The reasons the 'nay' sayers rejected it is interesting. On the one end, the "Evangelical" group calling themselves Together 4ward, voted against because they felt the Measure did not provide clearly for those who cannot, for reasons of faith, accept a woman as Bishop. Ironically the "Catholic" groups have voted because they cannot accept a change to "tradition" and because they wanted to be guaranteed an alternative oversight if it did pass.

Ironically the "all male" priesthood and bishopric is not Biblical, though it is often presented that way and has been reinforced by various Councils held since the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The Bible is ambiguous on this point - just as it is on the whole question of Papal Authority. There is, in fact, considerable evidence of women priests and bishops pre-Nicea and even of Apostlic activity by them. All of it now submerged and hidden by centuries of "tradition."

I am deeply saddened by the outcome of this vote. It is not about "relevance" but it is about listening to the Holy Spirit and laying aside our own prejudices, fears and ambitions - and finding a way to move forward. After all, the real issue here is to ensure that the Gospel continues to be read, to be revealed and to be shown to be relevant to everyone everywhere. Hopefully the Synod can find a way out of this failure of the General Synod to reflect the wishes of the majority of Diocesan Synod members, the majority of people in the Parishes.

But I fear it will take a miracle.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Origins of Civilisation

The origins of civilisation have been somethingI have pondered many times over the years, and recently an article I was reading on an ancient, the article claims it is more than 9,000 years old, reawakened my interest in it. The article discussed a site in Northern Turkey where archaelogists have been working for a number of years and have uncovered the earliest known 'city' yet found. It is built of mudbricks and displays all the characteristics of a single community. The artefacts can be dated and lead to the conclusion that the first occupation and the beginnings of the development of the 'city' are at least 9,000 years old.

What is puzzling is that many of the structures show a sophistication that suggests a well developed 'technology' was available to the builders - yet it seems to have sprung fully developed as it were into existence 9,000 years ago. It set me thinking, because when one reads up on all the oldest known civilisation sites of the ancient world, one quickly notices a similar pattern. Within a time span of seldom more than two human generations, supposedly 'primitive' societies go from building in adobe or wattle and daub, to monumental structures with paved roads, city walls, temples, palaces and sophisticated cities. What was the trigger?

It is almost as if there was some forerunner to the Indus Valley civilisation, the Nile Valley and the Chinese that has escaped notice. No, I'm not suggesting visitors from outer space, nor am I about to suggest some form of 'divine' intervention. But my curiosity is certainly raised by the realisation that there are a number of finds turning up along the continental shelves that appear to be 'unnatural' formations. One at least, in the Sea of Japan, bears all the hallmarks of having been 'built' by humans. There are a number of these sites, several off the west coast of the Indian sub-continent, one in the Bahamas which we now know was dismantled by a contractor who used the carved stone blocks to build a harbour in Florida.

There is something else that is noticeable, and this is that there are no such 'cradles of civilisation' in the Southern Hemisphere. The sole possible example is Great Zimbabwe, which was constructed between 1200 and 1500 when it was abandoned. About all we know for certain of this site is that it was built by the forerunners of the Mashona peoples and that they had some trade with vistors from Arabia and the Chinese, or at least with others who did. Nor do we know why they abandoned it.

When considering the reports of submerged structures offshore in certain areas, and one takes into account the fact that every major civilisation has a "flood" legend similar to the Biblical accounts of Noah, it prompts a second line of thought. One Dr Robert Ballard of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has tried to explore in the Black Sea. As we know, sea levels were up to 200 feet lower during the last Ice Age than they are at present. Could 'civilisation' have started in cities we have now 'lost' because they were covered in water when the great Northern Hemisphere ice sheets melted? Could the refugees from these cities have founded the new ones that have given rise to the civilisations we now consider to be the 'originals?' 

That would be one way to explain how the Egyptians could go from mudbrick mastabas to the Great Pyramid in the span of 70 years. Certainly some of the refugees would have needed to build boats to reach dry land as the high ground became peninsulas, then islands and finally submerged. One account suggests that the Mediterranean basin contained a 'lake' about 300 feet lower than the present sea level, but, as the Atlantic level rose and eventually overtopped the land dam in the Straits of Gibraltar the water level would have taken several years to fill the basin to an equilibrium level. The same thing would have occured in the Bosphorus as the water in the Mediterranean finally overtopped the land dam there and carved a new channel to flood the Black Sea basin. There would have been an awful lot of very distressed and displaced people and animals trying to find ground high enough to escape the constantly rising water levels as the basins filled.

We are told that the Ice Age 'ended' about 12,000 years ago, but in fact that is only when the ice began its retreat, it may well have taken much longer than that for the water levels to rise - there's an awful lot of sheer 'volume' to fill when you look at it carefully. Looking at some of the locations suggested as possible submerged cities, it is also evident that many of them would have first been 'cut off' from the 'mainland' by the water rising slowly and not abandoned until it became obvious the water wasn't going to go down again.

Well, I'm not an oceanographer, nor am I an archaeologist, so these are questions that I can't answer, nor have I the resources or expertise to explore it. Perhaps, one day, someone will pick up on what Dr Ballard has already found along the Turkish coast in the Black Sea. And perhaps, when they do, it will answer at least some of my questions. Who knows, it may even require a little rewriting of some of the history books.

Hopefully while I've still enough marbles in my head to be able to read them.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Very little changes ...

That is certainly true of politics. The following, rather tongue-in-cheek, "prayer" got an MP called William Hone into hot water when it first circulated in 1817.

Our Lord, 
who art in the treasury, 
whatsoever be thy name

Thy power be prolonged, 
thy will be done, 
throughout the empire as it is in each session

Give us our usual sops, 
and forgive us our occasional absences on divisions; 
as we promise not to forgive those who divide against thee

Turn us not out of our places, 
but keep us in the House of Commons, 
the land of Pensions and Plenty

And deliver us from the People 


William Hone, 1817

The trouble is, it seems to be as true of the politicians today as it was then ...

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Hopefully this will bring a little balance ...

I commend to readers the new website Climate Dialogue. It has been set up with the view of putting the arguments between scientists on the question of climate change into perspective. Instead of name calling and arguments, this site has been set up to provide people with opposing views a platform on which to air them and set out why they consider their argument has merit. It is driven by the Dutch Government's recognition that the errors of fact and biased reporting of the IPCC has given a very unbalanced view of what is happening to the climate and what is really driving it. They have had the courage to admit that there is uncertainty and instructed that both sides must be heard.

The people behind Climate Dialogue plan to invite prominent climate scientists to respond to questions and topics and will be inviting people from BOTH sides of the argument. That can only be a good thing.

Like most people, I am not a "climate scientist." There are, in fact, very few of them, but there are an awful lot of 'climate activists' who have grabbed little bits of the science and spun it together to create a doomsday picture which suits their world view. Like most vociferous groups, they get a lot of media exposure, peddling some often very dodgy data to support their claims.

Hopefully this new site will give us all a chance to examine the arguments and the data for ourselves and see where the uncertainties lie. Most of us do recognise that the climate is changing, we don't agree with the extremist view that it is all down to an increase in a trace gas that makes up less than 0.1% of the atmosphere, and if you read the scientists papers carefully (I know, my head hurts with some of them) you find that the vast majority of them don't either.

So, let's support Climate Dialogue. The first post is up and it is an interesting one.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

An Interesting Thought ...

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Preamble, Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.
This is the opening statement in the American Declaration of Independence. In theory voters are supposed to be able to change the government through the ballot box, but many of us have experienced systems where that simply doesn't happen. More recently I have come to the conclusion that the "first past the post" system actually disenfranchises those who vote for the losing candidates.
Which raises the important question: how then do you effect a change if a majority are so dissatisfied with a government? 
There are some very worrying indications starting to emerge from the US about the latest election, some of it beginning to look like massive voter fraud. A friend there sent me this link to the Political Outcast and I have since done a trawl and found that similar stories are popping up in a number of areas. Electronic voting machines that 'default' to Obama no matter who you vote for is just one of them. OK, even if half of these are not provable, it should trigger, at the very least, a thorough investigation of what went on. 
I find it unbelievable that in one city almost all the 'Districts' returned a 100% poll for a single candidate. Not one of the other names on the ballot got a single vote. That sounds very fishy, no matter how you cut it. In another State it is said that one candidate got 99% of the vote. Really? Again, the number is incredibly high, especially given that prior to the election it was given as a "swing" state with pollsters splitting the vote 50-50. 
If this is happening for real in the world's self proclaimed shining light of democracy, I shudder to think what is really happening in the Polling Booths anywhere else!

Friday, 16 November 2012

One Wonders ...

Recently I've pondered a great deal on the apparently absolute polarisation of opinions on a wide range of matters, everywhere people seem to have lost the ability to see anything between the extremes in politics, religion, science and climate change. Everything is presented as either Black or White, there is nothing in between. More worryingly, this extremist approach seems to be breeding a generation of those who think their world-view, be it climate change, political ideology or religious belief, justifies their taking action to enforce it on everyone else.

We have examples of this in the Middle East where the "Arab Spring" seems to have given way to a mood of intolerance of anyone who doesn't adhere to Islamic fundamentalism. Coptic Christian women are being attacked and beaten and their hair shaved, by gangs of burqa wearing Muslim women, a plot has been uncovered in Egypt to assassinate the new Coptic Pope, burn Christian homes and churches and drive Christianity out of Egypt. In Gaza, Christians are accused of 'spying' for Israel and threatened with public execution.

In politics, the polarisation is so marked that, in any "first past the post" electoral system, it is almost a waste of money even bothering to hold elections in some constituencies. You might as well let the relevant Party decide who the candidate is and just tell the constituents who he/she is. An alarming example is that fact that at 59 'District' Polling stations in Philadelphia in the US, only one candidate on all the ballot papers returned, was voted for. That suggests one of two things, either there was massive coercion, or there was massive voting fraud. It is extremely unlikely that every single voter in any given district will vote for only one party or candidate. Human behaviour alone dictates you will get a few voters at least voting for someone else.

In the "climate change" affair, it gets even worse. Anyone who doesn't kowtow to the activist orthodoxy that all of "climate change" is attributable to those evil western capitalists polluting our planet with evil CO2, is denied access for publishing any studies, no matter how authoritatively peer reviewed, by the "guardians of climate consensus" to any of the most popular journals. I read National Geographic, Nature, Scientific American, New Scietist and others, and all of them endlessly repeat long discredited 'truths' about "Anthropomorphic Global Warming" ad nauseum. In fact, I've finally cancelled subscriptions to some of them as I just got fed up with the puerile trash they are peddling while refusing to publish any of the many very learned and very much more scientific papers being turned out by people like Prof. Judith Curry and many others in this field. Now it seems that the vendetta against those who dare to keep pointing to the Emperor's lack of clothing has been escalated.

Judith Curry's Blog has been suspended by the operators of WordPress. Clicking on the link for it gets you this message -

“ is no longer available.
This blog has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service.”

It will be interesting to see why this has been done. Having read their Terms of Service, and knowing the content of her Blog, and the manner in which it is policed by a number of her colleagues (interestingly some from the pro-AGW lobby) I cannot see what she might have "violated" in these. Ergo, I can only conclude that she has been the victim of a "denial of service" attack by someone who objects to her attacking what he/she considers to be the "truth." We should all be very concerned about this development. The first principle of freedom is that I must respect the right of others to exercise their freedom to disagree with me. I may find someone's ideology or utterances utterly repugnant, but that does not give me the right to deny them the right to make them.

Dr. Curry is one of the more balanced writers o the subject of Climate Change, she is often so 'scientific' my head hurts and my eyes water reading it, but she is informative and she should be heard.

The road down which we seem to be being forced by small "special interest" groups, advocacy groups, various Non Governmental Organisations and others prepared to use force, sabotage and threat to impose their vision and ideologies is a dangerous one. It is not one I choose to travel and it is not one any rational and reasonable person should submit to. The attack on Judith Curry's blog is not the first, other climate skeptic bloogers have had similar attacks in the past, quite possibly by activists placed within WordPress and other providers. It is NOT a healthy sign.

It is a sign that our "democracy" and our hard won "freedom" is under threat from within. It is being eroded by extremist activists who think they alone have a right to dictate how we live, what we say and think and will stop at nothing to achieve their vision of Utopia.

UPDATE: Dr Curry's blog has been restored, but there is,as yet, no explanation as to why it was suspended. The post that apparently triggered the suspension is still there and visible.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

... That is the Question.

Well, the Monk is much more of an international guru than I and I agree with many of the points in the To be; or not to be post, particularly the Commission as a sink for failed domestic politicians, also the attitude of Whitehall that the Monk terms “gold plating” which has been an issue for years.

If some Whitehall plonker had not raised the question of the possibility of CFC contamination of blown insulation in fridges and freezers we would have had a simple and effective recycling regime twenty years ago. I applaud the attitude of those councils who simply take such appliances at no cost pro bono, as those who do not risk fly tipping, but, it is only a problem because someone asked a question to which there could only be one response.

I recall the first civil servant in a skirt ruling the roost in a former place of employment doing the same thing: the site, for it was not simply one building, cost a fortune to run if there were no customers on-site and between Christmas and New Year there never were, so for some years, the organisation simply closed the site from Christmas Eve until the 2nd or 3rd of January and granted de-facto leave of absence to the staff, they were “locked out” on full pay. Net savings ~£15,000. However this el-supremo (el suprema?) felt so exposed in her leadership that she would not ratify this process on her watch, but asked Whitehall if it could be allowed... you can guess the answer... overall result, £15,000+ of wasted funds, additional overtime, because if you run even a skeleton staff, there is overtime to pay, loss of morale, because the extra “free” day or two days leave was a truly valued Christmas bonus and overall an undermining of any respect as a leader for the Chief Executive. Would the Master of a Royal Naval vessel signal the Admiral, or worse, the First Sea Lord, to legitimise the issue of a Christmas tot for the officers and men? I think not.

Josephus has for long considered that if the emerging British Empire in the Seventeenth century had not been so keen to wage war with the Netherlands, who we one generation later invited to supply a Protestant Monarch, then Europe today would most probably have a Protestant North and a Roman South, France would most likely have been partitioned after the Peninsular wars, and we might even still have had Trafalgar, possibly even Waterloo. Today, the EU is trying hard to come to terms with the Catholic or Coptic South of Europe bleeding the Protestant North, but it is not quite so simple as that... my money suggests it would have been that simple 300 years ago. Oh, and the 1914 war probably would not have happened as Germany would have been “North” and Austria-Hungary “South”. However, as to the UK not having the army, navy or air-force to wage war, nor did we in 1914 ( stand fast Royal Navy.) or in 1939. We lost the BEF on both occasions, we started the 1939 conflict with HMS Hood as the pride of the RN, although that didn't last long and our air-force was all bi-planes apart from a handful of fighters such as the Hurricane. What we “won” the war with was all built during the conflict; what I do agree with is that we no longer have the industrial capacity.

Now then, dates of wars and conflicts are always a touchy subject, my generation knows full well that WW1 was '14-'18 and WW2 was '39-'45. However, for the US WW1 was '17-'18 and WW2 '42-'45. For much of South East Asia, that conflict could be anywhere from 1936 to 1972. however, what we can look at here is our “special Relationship” with the (dis... see previous blogs...) United States of America. Give me the United States of Europe any time, despite the fact that I am firmly mono-glot and believe that Johnny foreigner aught to speak English. The pre-condition, however, would be hinted at in the name “UNITED”, which currently they are not. The politics of the EU is reminiscent of a 1950s girl's public school where the Head Girl and the Captain of Lacrosse are forming support teams that in the latter case resemble Ernst Roehm's Sturm Abteilung, which gives us potential for an interesting if distasteful sub-plot as I seem to remember one lacrosse captain whose sexual desires were distinctly a single-gender issue as we are led to believe Roehm's were. The Head Girl, by contrast, will be forming a team that will tend towards the left as the less physical and more bookish often do, strength in solidarity, not in might; the sorority itself becoming the political drive to force the bully-girl opposition to see sense. I think I have the imagination to work this into a novel to rival “Fifty Shades of Grey”, I'm thinking “100 shades of politics”, but it doesn't have the ring, perhaps “The Pink Cardies” would work.

The post-war political socialist opportunism, mentioned by the Monk does have the origin of the EU within it, in fact, it is possibly Weimar Germany that spawned it, The great empires, or the vacuum in their wake spawned Lenin, Hitler, unfortunately Stalin, Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Tze-Dong and others just as a brutally strict Headmistress sticking firmly to post-war values as the world emerged blinking from social revolution into the 1970s spawned the “Pink Cardies”. That does not mean that everyone must become communist. Communism is an ideal, it appears not to be a viable system of governance.

So, to the Monk's conclusions; broadly I agree, however, the following are my jaded observations;
  1. Less dictat, agreed, but the English Legal System is now so out of tune with the rest of the UK as well as the rest of the world that it needs changing... no-one will want that, but then, no-one wanted decimal coinage... have you tried adding 17/6¾d to £5/16/4½d in your head lately?
  2. NO! not more election, but YES! More direct appointments, government by committee will always fail, it always did, let us not use the Melchett Approach here. ( And that is what is so brilliant about it! It will catch the watchful Hun totally off guard. Doing precisely what we've done 18 times before is exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time! )
  3. The solution is socialism, the concept of working together, it is the leadership and the vision, not the name that matters; Didactic leadership will always founder in the modern world where the “plebs” can read, write and use social media. Democratic Socialism seeks to establish socialism through democratic processes and propagate its ideals within the context of a democratic system, that seems to fit the bill. One definition is as a system “that follow(s) an electoral, reformist or evolutionary path to socialism, rather than a revolutionary one.” The words of Anthony Crossland quoted in Chris Pierson, "Lost property: What the Third Way lacks," Journal of Political Ideologies (June 2005)
  4. This one can be simplified by doing what the USA fought so hard to stop, but that still exists there today, accept that those who live in lands of cold winters and cool summers will forever think differently and more frugally than those in the lands of hot sun and warm winters, January food would be sun-dried ham with sun-dried tomatoes, not the same as the turnip and chimney smoked sausage of the northern lands. In our pre-modern times, the north had to lay supply for winter, such an ethos in the Mediterranean never developed simply because it was never needed. Perhaps a new post of “Dictator South” is needed, let us appoint some cardinal or other for the job...
The term "United States of Europe" was used by Winston Churchill in his speech delivered on 9 September 1946 at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, however, it is clear that Churchill envisioned a United State of Europe without the participation of Britain, which together with the British Commonwealth would coexist with other powers such as "mighty America, and I trust Soviet Russia". Fact: Britain may have a Commonwealth in name, but it no longer has an empire, grow up and get over it, we had huge ties with Continental Europe two-hundred years ago. Wellington would have been, in fact was, in deep do-dah until Blücher arrived! Again, let us quote General Melchett's staff officer, Darling and Captain Blackadder;

Captain Darling: I'm as British as Queen Victoria! Captain Blackadder: So your father's German, you're half German, and you married a German!

PS, much as it pains me to refer to anything Association Football related, but it's 2 World Wars and 1 World Cup as the chant goes!

One to raise a laugh ...

I think the 'environmentalist' mantra of the great big evil 'C' - shorthand for "Carbon Dioxide" but now reported everywhere as "carbon" - has finally hit the just plain ludicrous. I followed a commentators link a day or so ago to Climate Realists, and found a very entertaining piece entitled "Carbon Free Sugar;  Science free environmentalism."

In a recent exchange with an environmentalist I was informed, patronisingly, that 'carbon' was the new 'scientific' shorthand for CO2, Methane and all the other forms of gas which include 'carbon.' According to this self-taught 'scientist' the new "Greenspeak" is to refer to all carbonaceous emissions as "e-carbon." Well, if you read the hilarious article in Climate Realists under the link above, you'll see why I'm laughing.

"Carbon free sugar" (Chemical composition C6H12O6)will be interesting. Presumably the Carbon has been replaced by Silicone. Though how you get the chemistry out of H2O beats me ...

As the author of the Climate Realist article says - we now have entirely science free environmentalism. Wonderful.

To be; or not to be ...

One of the biggest problems with the UK and the EU is that there has never been a proper debate on whether Britain should be fully engaged, or not. At present most UK efforts are to stand on the sidelines and shout "No" at every proposal. This is not helped by the fact that the Brussels bureaucracy, originally set up to manage a three state membership, has just expanded exponentially and has become 'home' to failed party apparatchiks from all over the EU - think of our own glorious examples, Kinnock, Mandelson, Britten ...

The UK does need to get over the mindset that developed in the late Victorian and Edwardian period that Germany was threatening our Empire and our industrial trade. We no longer have either and we can either be a part of the successful economic zone of Northern Europe, helping shape it, or go it alone as a "once was; no longer influential" shadow perpetually standing on the sidelines hurling childish invective. Yes, we did 'beat' them in two world wars, but I think a more honest appraisal suggests we literally bled ourselves and them to a standstill. As for doing it again - us and who? We have neither the ships, aircraft, trained men, weapons or the industrial capacity to even contemplate it.

I currently live in Germany. One of the most striking features is that the adoption of EU Directives is done on a 'common sense' approach. There is none of the 'Gold Plating' Whitehall imposes on everything. The Unions are not locked in the arguments and battles of the 19th Century as they are in Britain and don't have an ideological desire to turn the country into a new 'soviet' state as many appear to do in the UK. Several things are striking in Germany about labour/employer relations. For one thing there is more partnership between workers and employers, most starkly highlighted by the failure of these relations in the Multinationals like the GM owned Opel company. The US "managers" try the same approach in Germany that they use in the US and seem unable to engage their workforce meaningfully. My experience in the UK is similar, "management" and "union" regard each other as enemies to be destroyed, not as partners in finding a healthy formula for both worker and investor. The other striking feature is that many companies are still majority owned by the founding families, and that 'family' involvement does, by and large, rein in the feature most repulsive about 'public' corporations in that there is less of the drive to maximise profit at the expense of everything else.

The EU does have its roots in the post war wave of socialist opportunism and ideological desire to 'internationalise' and create centrally planned and controlled economies worldwide. The current problems in the €urozone show that this has failed, but, as with any massive organisation, it takes at least 10 years before the direction and the thinking can be changed. 

If the EU is to survive, it needs to break out of - 

1. The Centralised scheme that is Brussels. There needs to be far less of the 'dictat' approach and a great deal more 'local' involvement in how and what will be adopted and applied. One of the biggest problems the UK faces is that its legal system is unique and largely incompatible with the systems in force everywhere else in Europe.

2. Introduce more direct elections, such as for the Commissioners and the EU Presidency. It is simply not good enough to argue that "we elect the Ministers who sit on the Council and elect the Commissioners." The people need to 'own' the institutions and post holders. We need to be involved far more directly in these elections and appointments.

3. The current agenda, often painted as a 'socialist' experiment, is driven by the flavour of the various member state governments, mostly dominated by France and many of the 'new' members from the East, that needs to change, but it does reflect the ideology of many of those in power. (Interestingly, Germany's Fr. Merkel, is anti-communist and right of centre, but how does one define the 'centre' in an age when the left dominated media defines it as 'socialism'?)

4. There needs to be a rethink on how the individual member states operate their economies, Greece has milked the cow dry, but its major problem was high state spending, far in excess of the income from tax revenue (they never bothered to collect it) or GDP. There probably needs to be a two tier economic system, but that creates further problems.

The EU desperately needs reform, everyone recognises that, but the UK needs first of all to decide whether it wishes to relegate itself to the fringes, dependent on Uncle Sam and the few former colonies it hasn't yet managed to alienate completely, or to adopt a more pragmatic approach and engage fully in Europe. Whether we like it or not, the EU is a democratic system of sorts. We can only expect to win majority support for our ideas if we can present a convincing argument to them. At the moment we don't, we behave like petty little children who throw tantrums when we can't get 'our' way. A good start would be to put an end to the constant presentation of the EU as some sort of 'German experiment in world domination' or as the 'Fourth Reich.' It isn't and frankly it is the perfect example of what is wrong with the UK mindset at present.