Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Out with the old ...

Out with the old and in with the new as the saying is. 2013 has certainly seen its ups and downs, and I suspect a few people won't be sorry to see the end of it. Hopefully 2014 will bring better fortunes for us all. For my own family there have been some great times and some of the others as well. My youngest daughter got married in July to a man I really like. My eldest finished her Bachelor of Science degree with Honours, and my son is currently doing what he loves - flying helicopters.

Silke, Harry and I had a great holiday in the UK, travelling around in a hired camper van, the only snag being the battle we had with the UK's 'rules' concerning animals (even with 'Pet Passports') arriving by air with their owners. Next time we'll know, and travel by car!

Our trip took us through Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Gloucestershire, giving us a chance to walk on beaches, explore the history and catch up with friends. It was lots of fun and the Camper Van proved to be a good way to do it.

A trip to Belgrade for a conference for  me proved interesting, and Silke had similar conference trips to Hamburg and Thuringia. Our papers were well received - rewarding considering the amount of effort that goes into preparing them.

The rest of the year has been taken up with a wide range of work related activities for Silke, the publication of one new book for me, and preparation of another. The work I've tackled for a history of my former place of employment seems to have stalled temporarily while I try to find information, anecdotes and pictures of one of its 'former' manifestations, and, of course, lots of 'playtime' and walks for Harry.

All that remains is to wish all my friends and  readers a very happy and prosperous 2014!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Feasts, Festivals and their significance

Since the dawn of mankind, as archeologists are discovering, humans have found reasons to celebrate certain events, or to mark certain seasonal changes. In recent years it has once agin become fashionable to re-invent, or in the words of some, to reclaim, the major Christian festivals, usually in the name of some 'original' religion, but often just for the sake of making it more 'inclusive' and secular. In recent days I have read several treatises on how Christmas was "stolen" from Nordic pagans, or some other group or people, so perhaps it is time to look afresh at why Christianity adopted certain dates in order to mark key events or beliefs.

The one festival we can be reasonably certain of is the Easter festival. Since St John tells us the trial, condemnation, crucifixion and resurrection all occurred "on the eve of the Passover". It made sense therefore to the early Christians to mark the Jewish Passover by commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. The problem is, of course, that it isn't a "fixed" feast in the sense that it may occur anywhere between March 21 and April 25. The Jewish formula, the Orthodox Church and the Western Churches all have slight variations on the way they determine it (Rome, responsible for the way we calculate Easter in the West, changed the formula at least three times between 325 AD and 700 AD) which means, of course, that while Easter and Passover often do coincide, sometimes they don't. It also means that the Western Easter and the Orthodox Easter often don't coincide either. Personally I don't believe this makes one jot of difference - the key is that we remember what Easter is all about - the fact that Christ died on the cross (forensic analysis of the accounts makes that clear!), and rose from the tomb in a renewed 'body' on the third morning. It is this 'resurrection' which is key to the entire Christian Faith. That is why Easter is so important to all Christians.

Having dealt with the reason Easter is 'moveable' and not 'fixed' let us look at some of the other major festivals. The obvious 'biggy' is Christmas, set as the 25th December by the early church fathers. It certainly didn't take its present form however until quite late, and it isn't, and never was, intended to mark the actual day of Christ's birth. Again, examination of the gospel accounts more or less tell us it was very likely in summer. Shepherds and sheep aren't out on the hills in winter, even in the Holy Land. So why did the early fathers choose this date?

The answer is simple. Many of their converts already celebrated the Saturnalia between 21 December and 1 January. Primarily the Saturnalia is a fertility festival associated with a fairly wide range of 'fertility rites' including public copulation as an "offering" to some local deity. Under Romano-Greek practice Bacchus, Satyrs, Pan and several other 'fertility' figures featured in the celebration which marked, as you've guessed, the gradual move out of the winter and into the Spring rebirth of fields, forests and animals. Theologically it does not take a great deal of effort to link the Birth of the New Adam - Jesus Christ - to a renewal of all life, and the renewal through the 'New Adam' of all humanity as well. As St Paul did with the Athenian altar to "the Unknown God", all that really happened was that the Christian converts found a new reason to celebrate the Saturnalia, though we may be sure they didn't continue with some of the more carnal excesses!

Over time, and with the spread of Christianity, the Winter Solstice celebrations in Northern Lands were 'converted' to the Christian message, again, largely because converts already kept these celebrations, and simply were given a new interpretation of them. Thus, Yule logs, Christmas trees, decorations and lights entered the celebrations. As the faith spread, each 'new' group of converts found ways to celebrate their new faith within the framework of the celebrations of their 'old' faith. Gradually these have been 'standardised' by the wider church, but still retain a lot of local and regional variations.

This is how some of the Imbolc customs have become associated with Easter, and how some of the Samhain customs associated with the Festival of All Saints. Imbolc, a festival celebrated by the "Celtic" tribes of Northern Europe and the British Isles doesn't coincide with Easter as some think and actually falls in February. It was originally a celebration of the increase of flocks and herds, since it marks the birthing of lambs, wild boar and deer - and the original cattle. Likewise Samhain doesn't necessarily fall on what has become "Halloween" (a corruption of "All Hallows Eve", the evening preceding All Saints) which is, again, an amalgam of several similar pagan festivals celebrating Harvest, honouring the dead, and invoking local 'gods' and spirits to tide one over the winter. By switching the focus to a commemoration of the "Saints" who set us an example, and adding a commemoration of all those departed this life, the early church created a moment for reflection on life and thanksgiving following the intense labour of the summer, the harvest and the preparations for the long cold, lean months of the winter.

There is a logic to the progression of the festivals and feasts the Church adopted and it has worked very well, by and large. Of course one could argue that some of the original focus has been lost - no one would, I think, disagree that since the 1850s at least, Christmas has been gradually turned into a shopping extravaganza. One could also be excused for wondering what some folk think they are really celebrating in their church/family traditions, and I will confess to being a little concerned at some practices.

What has always intrigued me, and which I have still not been able to find an answer to, is the question of the reason why so many very diverse cultures chose to mark similar festivals at very similar periods. Christianity has adopted largely northern and western European festivals, but one can find similar festivals and seasons in many other cultures. Some, obviously, are related to the 'cycle' of the agricultural year, while others are not. Answers on a postcard please ...

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Middle East's 'Christian Winter'

It is rare for the BBC to post something that acknowledges the fact the Christians are suffering, so, when they do, it is worth getting it more widely read. In the article, "A Point of View: The long winter for the Middle East's Christians" the author, a resident of Delhi, India, makes a number of interesting points about both the seldom mentioned co-existence of Christians and Muslims, but how some of the 'sayings of Jesus' not found in Christian literature, can be found in Islamic books. It is that co-existence that is now threatened, and being systematically destroyed, by the hardline fundamentalists who have taken over the 'Arab Spring'.

In Egypt alone, some 14 million Christians are increasingly the target of attacks. Prior to the civil war in Syria, some 10% of the population were Christian, and to them must be added the Christians driven out of Iraq post the war on Saddam. Now they are being driven out again as al-Qaeda inspired Salafists take control of the revolution and target Christians as 'the enemy of the Prophet'. Turkey has a large Christian population and once, Iran had some 6% of the population as Christians. They were decimated during the war with Iraq, mostly used to clear minefields or lead suicide attacks on Iraqi positions. Today only about 1% of the Iraqi population is Christian, the rest have been driven out, forced to convert, or killed off. Nor is this unique. Pakistan has allowed the fundamentalist Mullahs to wage an undeclared and unacknowledged campaign against Christian communities since Independence - yet it is never acknowledged by the western media.

It is refreshing therefore to see it mentioned 'en passant' by William Dalrymple. The article is a fair one, though he does focus more on the fact that there was co-operation and mutual respect in the past - and not much on the realities of the present. Still, it is a start, and a glimmer of light being shone into a murky area the media - and the BBC in particular - usually try to ignore.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Attacking Faith?

It has been recently claimed that 100,000 Christians are killed each year, and that most 'qualify' as martyrs. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, a journalist writing for the BBC news, has questioned the numbers and the whole question of whether they can be called 'martyrs'. She attempts, in true media style, to reduce the numbers by excluding all those killed in civil wars on the grounds that 'they would have been casualties anyway'. She continues by attempting to argue that the presence of Muslim fighters on the 'other side' doesn't prove that the killings are motivated by an 'anti-Christian' movement.

This ignores, as the organisation which produced the figure states, the fact that two-thirds of the world's Christians live in 'non-Christian' countries, many of them actively hostile to Christianity. That covers all Muslim ruled countries, despite the protestations that they 'allow' the practice of other faiths. The truth is that, from the moment a child enters the school system - if they are allowed to - they are under pressure to convert to Islam. As adults they are often excluded from holding any position of authority if it places them over Muslims. The practice of their religion is also proscribed, with rules forbidding them to discuss it with Muslims or to attempt to convert anyone to it. In at least one Middle Eastern country, even the holding of services in churches is structly controlled by the state - and services can be cancelled without notice. In one I visited, Christians met in the hall of a primary school - but their use of it depended on the man who held the keys, and he frequently 'went away' on the days services were due to be held, taking the keys with him.

Throughout the lands once Christian in the Middle East, Christianity is being driven out. Laws forbidding the appointment of Bishops or Patriarchs 'trained outside of the country' are in force - and so are the laws which closed down the training colleges for the priesthood. The current Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul) will very likely be the last, since Turkey has a law that makes it illegal for this post to be held by anyone from outside Turkey. The lands that were the cradle of Christianity are being purged of Christians. The world knows, the UN knows, the media ignores it.

Something I have noted the government, the Church of England  and the media fail to mention is that Israel has a growing Christian population, while the neighbouring Muslim States - and the 'Palestinian Territories' in particular, have a net exodus of Christians. This is due to several factors, the first is most likely the constant threat from their neighbours, certainly there are economic factors in play, but one cannot ignore the frequent attacks, and murder of Christians. What is not acknowledged by the various supposedly 'neutral' Muslim governments is that their laws against 'blasphemy' and for the 'protection' of Islam are frequently used to obtain the judicial mureder of Christians, their dispossession or to drive them out of communities.

The ignorant journalists are patently unaware of the fact that a Christian reciting any of the Christian Creeds, is committing 'blasphemy' according to the teaching of Islam. This is being used in Egypt, Syria and several other Muslim States by fundamentalists to kill Christians and seize their property. In Pakistan it is not uncommon to find Christians being accused of 'insulting the Prophet' or 'insulting the Quran'. One such case did get a mention, probably because it involved a young woman, but there are many more that don't get a mention at all. In Northern Nigeria Christians are the daily target of Islamic fundamentalists attempting to succeed from Nigeria and who wish to create an Islamic State there. Even in the UK, there is pressure, in predominantly Muslim areas on 'Christians', though this is not always obvious, and certainly not acknowledged.

Sadly it is not just in Muslim countries that the Christian Faith is under attack. 'Inclusive' religious education presents a very biased picture to children of what the major faiths teach and believe. In presenting them all as 'essentially the same', Christianity is reduced. Add in the onslaught of media promotion of the humanist and atheist mantra that all religion is 'just mythology' and you begin to understand the reason that the latest Polls give a picture of a country where those who admit a faith are equalled by those who admit none.

Whether the number of 'Christian Martyrs' per year is 100,000, 1,000 or 1 is, in my view, immaterial. That fact that there are any at all is a disgrace, that it is a situation ignored by politicians, twisted by the politically correct media, and denigrated as 'typical example of the stupidity of religion' by atheists is a scandal.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Ten Lords a' leaping ...

There is one Christmas Carol that always puzzled me. Sure, it was fun to sing, and has a nice tune to go with it, but what do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge in the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

The answer is that it was a way to memorise the tenets of the Roman Catholic (indeed the 'catholic') faith, and was composed during the years of the Protestant 'Presbyterianism' of Cromwell and the subsequent attempts to suppress the Roman Church in the British Isles. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in Britain and Ireland were forbidden to practice their faith openly. This carol was written as a catechism song for young Catholics, and its popularity among many 'Protestant' congregations has often amused me.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each of the things in the carol is a key word for a part of the Catechism which the children could remember. Thus -

  • -The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
  • -Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
  • -Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
  • -The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  • -The five golden rings recalled the Pentateuch or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
  • -The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
  • -Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching,  Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
  • -The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
  • -Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness,  Faithfulness,Gentleness, and Self Control.
  • -The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
  • -The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
  • -The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
So there is your history for today. I found it a fascinating way to teach something to children, right under the noses of the authorities rtying to prevent it. It is a lovely song, and it is a good choice for a Christmas Carol ... so pass it on if you wish.

Christmas is a Feast with an 'Octave'. It begins at sunset on the 24th December and continues until the Eve of the Epihany on January 6th. Now you'll be wondering how eight days (an Octave) became twelve. There are four 'Saints Days' in that period, starting with the Feast of St Stephen, followed by the Holy Innocents, then (for Anglicans) Thomas Beckett and the Circumcision of Christ. So, enjoy the twelve days of Christmas!

May I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a fabulous year to come.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Rearranging Deckchairs ...

I have been watching with some amusement, the latest efforts by the Home Office to 'do something' about the 'flood' of immigrants they expect to get from Romania and Bulgaria. The Home Secretary has been making noises about 'capping' the number of immigrants from within the EU, which, as the Deputy PM has pointed out is illegal and discriminatory. It seems to have escaped the notice of the British Press however, that the Danish Interior Ministry, and the Danish EU Commissioner free movement of workers within the EU has nailed the flaw in Mrs May's arguments.

The problem is that Britain has become a magnet for those looking for handouts because it has the most generous 'benefit' system in Europe, the easiest to gain access to, and the easiest to defraud. As the Danish lady said - stop trying to restrict the numbers, and fix the system that draws them in!

That, unfortunately, isn't going to happen. I know there is a huge uproar at the moment about cuts to a wide range of benefits, but the reality is that, in real terms, it is the old pea under the cup trick. While some, often the most in need of help, are losing out, the money is simply being 'rearranged' and the cheats, the idle and the manipulative aren't losing out. The 'rights' lawyers are having a ball, and raking in cash left right and centre 'fighting' for the handouts to migrants from non-EU countries and 'vulnerable minorities' while the pensioners, disabled, and chronically sick who don't have the connections, bear the brunt of it.

Parliament can, in the meantime, award itself a pay rise, bigger pension benefits and expenses claims, but is afraid to tackle the root cause of much of the UK's financial woe - the out of control 'benefit' system. To pay for this the last government raided Pension Funds, destroying some, reducing others to near bankruptcy and accusing all pensioners of 'being a drain on the economy'. A bit rich from a bunch of professional parasites sitting on gold-plated pensions themselves, especially as 'Pensions' are not a 'Benefit'. Everyone in receipt of one has contributed toward it through their employer, through their tax and through direct contributions. In my own case an average throughout my working life of 5% of salary in direct contribution, an amount matched for most of that time by my employer. So called National Insurance is supposed to pay for 'Unemployment Benefit', pensions and, some think, the National Health Service. It currently runs at 11% of earnings, plus an employer's contribution, but most of it simply vanishes into the Whitehall Black Hole. It is not, and never has been, an 'insurance' in the same sense as a policy taken out with an insurance company, nor has a single penny of it been invested for the future.

So now we have the spectacle of politicians having set up systems to 'redistribute' wealth from some, to those they and their civil servant chums consider 'deserving' and blaming those who have paid toward pensions and security for their families, being blamed for it being unaffordable. So now they resort to fraud and deceit to find solutions. One is the move to change the Fire and Rescue Service Pension age to 60. There were, and still are, very sound medical grounds for the present maximum retirement age being 55. The Minister is being misinformed, or possibly disingenuous when he says that any fire fighter forced to leave the service before age 60 will still get a full pension. The fact is that they won't. In fact many may have to leave the service at 50 - and will lose 10 years value from it. This is in the 'Report' the relevant department cooked up - it actually admits that potentially 91% of fire fighters won't be able to meet the fitness standards at age 50 or lower!

The fire fighters are an easy target, they're high profile, and their pension scheme appears very generous, so it is easy to spread the lie it 'isn't earned'. I note the politicians aren't admitting that the fire fighters pay 11% of income into it over their 30 year careers - money that is not - again - invested, but spent by the Local Authority concerned to 'redistribute' wealth on pet projects. I was particularly angered to note on a forum I frequent, that a non-Fire fighting "Area Manager" (Old money equivalent of a Senior Divisional Officer/DO I) 'managing' that other great shibboleth "Human Resources" was arguing that fire fighters should accept that the service isn't a 'lifetime career' any longer, and the pension benefits were too generous. Rich, considering that she has parachuted into the service at the same pay as the fire fighter who used to manage that function, and is now likely to draw the pension she and others like her are trying to deny the 'resources' they are supposed to take care of.

As I said, the fire fighters, police, soldiers, ambulance workers and other 'service' personnel are easy targets. They are relatively small in numbers, so the politicians can afford to sacrifice their possible votes. Likewise the ill, the aged and the disabled. What they will NOT tackle is the massive handout culture they have created since 1909 when the 'universal pension' was first introduced. Since then we have seen 'benefit' after 'benefit' added to the list, and alongside of that we have seen the growth of industries to preserve them. So we have the 'human rights' lawyers, the Union Lobby, the Student lobby, the minorities lobby and so on - all of whom defend their particular interests with threats of disruption or mayhem if there is any attempt to address some of the imbalances that have arisen.

Pensioners are still painted as 'abusing' the system even though they have, in the main, paid for what they get. So do many of the younger folk now facing retiring (if they can) at 67, 69, 70 or later. The Danish Minister is right, Britain needs to tackle the culture of 'benefits' that are creating the unrealistic expectation of being able to live comfortably on these handouts for life without ever having to work. Only then will the 'migrancy' problem go away.

Unfortunately, that is the least likely course of action the present or any future government will take.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Wandering Weather

Snow in Egypt, blizzards in Jerusalem and Beirut, fog in the Taunus - and its cold. Reading the reports on the sea ice extent in the Arctic are interesting, as the freeze up there has been faster than expected, and while western Europe 'enjoys' a comparatively balmy run up to Christmas, further east the big freeze has hit. What fascinates me is the fact that snow is not unknown in Lebanon, Syria, Israel or Jordan. It isn't exactly unknown in Egypt either, but the last time it was this heavy in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel is around 60 years ago, and the last time Egypt got this much is over 100 years ago.

Watching the weather maps and satellite images on television here in Germany one can see the great loops of cold air rippling down from the Arctic and bringing the heavy stuff and the cold down over the North Eastern US and over Central and Eastern Europe into Turkey and the countries south of it.

I now eagerly await the IPCC and Greenpeace et all 'explaining' how all this is 'Climate Change' and 'Anthropomorphic Global Warming'. Should be some very creative ideas and suggestions in there. They still don't seem to want to acknowledge that the Antarctic ice sheet has grown in the last few years - the Emperor penguin population has an extra 35 kilometres to walk to their winter nesting spot as a result. Perhaps we can hope for an acknowledgement of some of the uncertainties in their 'models' at last? I won't hold my breath though.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Media Bias: Reflections of Political bias?

An interesting recent development is the change of direction on the subject of Israel by the Australian Federal government. The announcement by the Australian Foreign Minister that Australia would once again 'support' Israel in the UN General Assembly has triggered the usual torrent of outrage from the pro-Palestinian media sources. The fact is that the General Assembly is one of the reasons I personally consider the UN to be a complete waste of space and money. What the Minister has exposed is the fact that it is biased. There can be no resolution of the vexed question of the existence of Israel or of the status of the 'Palestinian State' - a UN General Assembly fiction - unless and until the General Assembly stops its anti-Israel campaigns.

As one of the General Assembly's interpreters accidentally exposed in an unguarded remark on an 'open' microphone -

I mean, I think when you have five statements, not five, like a total of ten resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there’s gotta be something, c’est un peu trop, non? [It’s a bit much, no?] I mean I know… There’s other really bad shit happening [around the world], but no one says anything about the other stuff.
and this was just a reference to a single session! The fact is that many of the ambassadors seated in the General Assembly are anti-Israel and anti-Jew. Many represent regimes that are far from democratic, do not respect 'human rights' of their own citizens, and have no intention of allowing anyone to discuss their own offences. So Israel makes a perfect 'whipping boy' and the mass media of the world thrives on it since it feeds into the inherent anti-Semitic rhetoric of the socialist left. Oh yes, they always deny that, claiming that being 'anti-zionist' or 'anti-Israel' isn't the same as being 'anti-semitic'. Some go further and claim that as 'all Middle Eastern peoples, including the 'Palestinians' are 'Semitic Peoples' being anti-Israel can't be anti-semitic'. All I can say, in polite language, is garbage. This is pure and simple semantics, splitting hairs and trying to hide their hatred behind yet another web of lies.
The fact is that 'Palestine' didn't exist in name before the British Mandate, and then it included all of what is now the Kingdom of Jordan. The Roman 'Province' actually included all of Syria and Lebanon and most of the Sinai and the British application of the name to the lands of the ancient kingdoms Judea, Israel, and the Transjordan was, as usual, a result of a Whitehall/Westminster misinterpretation of the history. It gets worse, of course, when you realise that there were no such people as 'Palestinians' until Yasser Arafat named the refugees that in the 1970s - and the Arab world immediately saw the political capital to be made out of playing this 'racist' card at every opportunity. And the Jew hating western intelligentsia fell for it.
The UN General Assembly completely ignores that fact that the 1948 'Peace' agreement actually accepted an Israel that included what is now called 'the Occupied Territories' and the whole of Jerusalem. The 'occupiers' immediately after the Agreement was signed, were Jordan and Egypt, who invaded Israel in a surprise attack before the ink on the signatures was even dry. From 1948 until they were ejected in the 1967 war, Jordan and Egypt had massive military presences in both the West Bank (which the King of Jordan regarded as part of his 'Kingdom', and Gaza, which Egypt treated as a 'province'.  Political chicanery at the UN between the UK, the Arab world, the USSR and the 'emerging' nations of Africa and elsewhere, slowly but surely managed to undermine, in the minds of their electorates, the 1948 agreement. Since the 1970s we have been fed a constant diet of Israel being the 'occupiers' and the Arabs as 'the liberators'. Now, we are fed the fiction that Israel is an 'apartheid' state which 'denies the Palestinians their rights'. 
Central to this is, of course, the Jewish 'settlers' moving into the 'Palestinian' lands. I find it interesting that the land for these 'settlements' is being bought and paid for at market prices. Nor is the money coming from the Israeli state, it is private money, and private enterprise which is doing it. The land isn't being 'seized' or 'confiscated' as some media reports have it. Plus, the Israeli government doesn't grant permission for new settlements, it does so only in those areas that it will never include in any future 'redistribution' of land, largely in the area immediately adjacent to Jerusalem itself. But that is not how it is reported by the biased and bigoted western media.
What is NOT reported by the western media, or discussed in the UN General Assembly, is the daily refusal of the Arab/Muslim media, governments and peoples to honour agreements that give Jewish worshippers access to some of the most sacred places in the Jewish faith. Jews are regularly harassed if the attempt to visit the Temple Mount, and are forbidden to pray there. The monthly pilgrimages to the Tomb of Joseph in Judea (part of the West Bank) is regularly reported in Arab media as a 'Jewish Invasion of sacred sites to practise Talmudic rituals'. This is an effort to equate any practise of worship by Jews as the practise of some of the more unsavoury falsehoods of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Sadly most of the western anti-Jew journalists do believe that this Tsarist forgery is the truth - as did a certain Hr. Hitler. In fact the Protocols are a text book in many Muslim schools in that region supposedly to 'warn the children not to trust Jews'. But, of course, that can't be 'anti-semitic' because it's Semites calling Semites names - isn't it?
Why do western journalists and intelligentsia of the left hate the Jews? Why do they wish to destroy Israel? In the UK I suspect it has to do with the fact that the Jews refused to be the victims of a second Holocaust and rejected the British 'solution' for Palestine. Whitehall and Westminster wanted to hand the whole of that territory to the Jordanians, despite the declared intention of the Jordanians of 'cleansing' the land of 'Jews'. As in India, the British government felt the locals were just being childish and would settle the 'squabble'. If they didn't - well, it wasn't going to be 'our' problem any longer. So they staffed the Jordanian army with British officers, set up an all Arab police force and then scuttled out from under. It didn't quite go to plan. The nasty Jews ended up in possession of everything west of the Jordan, and the Arabs who had 'escaped' on the advice of their own side, wound up dispossessed.
The UK did its best at the negotiating table at the fledgling UN to prevent the deal, but, in the end, had to accept the de facto 'Two State' solution in being. The Arabs wouldn't, so immediately they left the negotiating table - attempted to rub out the new state. And they lost. Since then there has been a campaign of propaganda against Israel. Two more wars have taught them nothing, and the passage of time has taught those supposedly intelligent westerners who hate Israel nothing either.
Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish state and its religious centre for almost 3,000 years. Since the recovery of East Jerusalem quite a lot of evidence of this has been found - despite the efforts of some sections of the archaeological profession to suppress or 'reinterpret it. More would be found if the Waqf (the committee of Muslims who control, by international agreement which Israel honours) in charge of 'protecting' the Al Aqsa mosque would allow the proper examination of the site. Instead they have embarked on a deliberate campaign to destroy all traces of any Jewish presence there - even undermining the mount itself in building massive subterranean 'mosques' in the face of advice to the contrary. It's all an Israeli attempt to destroy the mosque and rebuild the Temple according to them. Despite all the claims made by Muslim 'scholars' to Jerusalem being the third 'holiest' site in Islam, it is not mentioned even once in the Quran. Not as Al Quds or as Jerusalem. The 'Prophet' was never there, and it was not until the Arab conquests that it became anything at all to their faith. But, of course, truth is the first casualty in any propaganda war - and this is a war of hate speak and hate propaganda. 
I suspect there are two main reasons there are so many in the west who cannot bring themselves to accept the right of the Jewish people to exist. The first is religious. Many fundamentalist Christians still cling to a far too literal interpretation of parts of the New Testament. The gospel of John is NOT anti-Jew. He uses the term 'The Jews' (in the KJV) to refer to the ruling classes who were, like our present generation, 'religious' when they needed to be and the rest of the time denigrated everything and anything about their faith. Thus, the utterances so often quoted by the religious Jew haters, is misunderstood and misinterpreted. They should direct their bile at the rulers of every land - not just Israel. The second is a perception of self-righteousness. Israel dares to try to behave like a 'western' democracy in a region where none 'should' exist.
Israel is a democratic state. It has first class hospitals, every Israeli citizen has a vote, there are even 'Palestinians' in the Knesset as elected representatives. If we listen to certain 'Christian' media, Christianity is being 'driven out' by the Israelis, but that isn't the truth - the numbers of Christians with Israeli citizenship is increasing. Israel is a 'secular' state and all religions are free to practise there. It must be one of the ironies that the so-called 'Palestinains' could end their isolation tomorrow by simply voting to become Israeli citizens, but you won't find that being discussed anywhere by the pro-Palestinian support teams. Israel's 'crime' in the eyes of western supporters of 'Palestine' is that it does practise 'western values' for its population. As one such campaigner put it; "they claim to be supporters of western values - so we must hold them to a higher standard than we expect of their neighbours." There we have the double standard. Israel must obey the standards set by the anti-Israel campaigners and become like the dictatorships all the rest of the Arab-Islamic world suffers. Presumably so these bleeding hearts can feel sorry for the 'poor downtrodden Jews' when they are again subjected to a renewed Holocaust.
The Australian government has taken a bold step. It is to be hoped that the US, the EU and the UK will now step up to the mark and take a similar stance. The PLO, Fatah and Hamas have made plain their ambitions - not for a state in the West Bank and Gaza, but for the control of the whole of Israel. The PLO representative to the UN is on record saying he supports the expulsion of every Jew from Israel, but there has not been a single mention of this in the western media. Ironic isn't it that I read this in a Middle Eastern source.  

Friday, 6 December 2013

Reflections on an Era

The death of Nelson Mandela has prompted me to write something on my own memories of the South Africa I grew up in, and finally left forever in January 1988. It is very easy to put on the rose tinted spectacles, drag out the whitewash and try to pretend it was a straightforward and simple situation, but it wasn't. It was very complex, and despite the manner in which the 'history' is now being written by the winners, it wasn't by any means all one way, although it did, post the 1960s very rapidly become increasingly oppressive. I think very few of us, from the "European" tribes there realised just how insidious the Nationalist Party mechanism was. Certainly some aspects of it really only became clear once I had left the country and could access information not available to me while in SA.

For instance I did not fully appreciate just how closely the Nationalist organisations and structures resembled those of the National Sozialist Demokratische Arbeiters Partei - better known as the Nazi Party outside Germany. It had similar structures 'directing' and controlling many things I think most of us never even suspected. Committees 'organised' military housing, 'managed' Police promotions and even directed the Union I belonged to. The Chairmen of these 'steering' committees often had direct access to Ministers and even the State President himself. The Press and Media were tightly controlled, so we were fed a diet of news 'approved' by the Department of Information, and though we knew it was biased, we had no alternative references available to inform our understanding or our world view. Many of those who demanded sanctions and boycotts played directly into the narrative the Nat propagandists wanted to present, unwittingly (or perhaps deliberately) giving them wonderful ammunition to feed us.

Apartheid has its roots in the attitudes and mindsets of the 19th Century, in which all 'native' peoples were regarded as 'inferior' and 'primitives' to be patronised and 'provided for' by their European 'fathers'. It was founded in ideas stemming from the Theory of Evolution and of course, reached it's ultimate form in the Eugenics Theories of the 1900 - 1945 period. The division of power (and wealth) in South Africa was enshrined in the Constitution of the Union in 1910. This provided for "Native Commissioners" to "represent" the tribal peoples and lands in Parliament, set aside the Tribal Homelands as 'reservations' and envisaged the African tribes as being incapable of rising to the heights of civilised society. It must be one of the great ironies that this was written in Whitehall despite reservations expressed by "colonial" politicians in the four colonies soon to be amalgamated into the new Union.

"Apartheid", the Afrikaans word meaning "Separation" was the brainchild of the Nationalist Party. It began in the 1930s with some 'minor' changes to the Constitution which changed the representation of the African population in Parliament. The outbreak of the second World War brought a change of government, Malan's Nationalists were replaced by Smuts' United Party, and South Africa sent its volunteer forces to liberate Abyssinia and then fight in Egypt, just as they had done in 1914 - 1918 in South West Africa, Tanganyika, Gallipoli (you never hear of that one!) and Flanders, as well as to sea in the RN, RNVR and the fledgling SANF, the RAF and the fledgling SAAF. Unfortunately Smuts lost the election in 1947 and the new Nationalist government lost no time in introducing changes to the constituency boundaries which more or less guaranteed they would always have a majority.

Many of their leading members had spent the war in internment because they supported the Nazi cause and embarked on a campaign of sabotage to weaken the South African war effort. Now they brought all of that evil ideology into government. Of course nothing happened overnight, they'd learned how to manipulate the system, the people and to subtly take control of key positions, key Ministries, the military and the police in ways that would not be obvious or arouse opposition. The architects of all this were Verwoerd, Vorster, Malan and Hertzog. Verwoerd hated the British, and by association, the English speaking half of the white South African population. Vorster was no better, and people really should have taken note even that early.

Little changes gradually began to bite, and the ANC to organise. As a school child one was aware of the tensions, but never really understood them. On the one hand we could see that Africans didn't behave or live as we did. They were different, they lived in their own villages and travelled on their own buses, trains and so on. The first major upheaval came, in my memory, with the violent murder, and some reports stated the 'muti' consumption of parts of the bodies, of two white nuns on a visit to Duncan Village on the West Bank of the Buffalo River. We heard people discussing these events, and we were aware that our fathers were possibly to be recalled to uniform as it was expected that the violence would spread and become a general uprising. Some of my school friends, whose parents farmed in what was then the Transkei, were frightened that their parents might be murdered and their homes destroyed, but, as children, we noticed only the absence of Africans in the city centre and in other areas of our daily lives where we normally encountered them and interacted with them.

What is very obvious with the benefit of hindsight and now distance, is that it is very difficult when growing up in that sort of society, to develop a balanced and unbiased view of the country, or of the rights and wrongs of the society you live in. For me that awareness really didn't begin to develop until the mid-1970s. By then I could see the impact of the policies on my 'non-European' friends in the Indian, Chinese and Coloured communities. I had long been aware of the manner in which the apartheid system impacted Africans, but, as I didn't have many acquaintances in that group, and those I did know tended to be better educated and wealthier, it seemed more a question of social and cultural difference. I must also admit that the campaigns of bombings, shootings and ambushes, to murder 'whites', coupled with the daily murders in the 'townships' motivated by rival political ambitions, definitely coloured my view. As they say, when you stand to close to the trees, you can't always see the forest.

The real campaigns of violence began in the 1960s, possibly with Sharpville. Horrible as that was, it pales into insignificance against similar events against demonstrators in recent years, but Sharpville is supposedly 'unique' in that it was a 'white' oppressor acting against 'Blacks'. The violence escalated year on year from there, and was certainly not one sided, nor was it simply Black/White. Different factions fought one another for ascendancy, and the big players in the Cold War all had a finger and sometimes a whole hand in it. The ANC wasn't the only player. They're still not, though one now seldom hears of the Pan African Congress (Marxist) or the Azania Peoples Party (Maoist) and one or two others. The USSR, China and North Korea all supplied arms, explosives and training to their particular favourites of the moment. The west tacitly propped up the Nationalist government in return for military intelligence and sometimes Russian and Chinese hardware captured in battle.

As a fire fighter I was one among many caught in the middle. We were shot at, petrol bombed, acid bombed and occasionally stabbed when were not being subjected to stone throwing. The stone throwing became something we expected, but it was always interesting to note that it usually was absent if there were no foreign TV crews present. No TV, no stone throwing, no other forms of assault on us. As I have said there were factions involved as well, and there were, in my personal experience, many more 'black on black' murders and terror attacks, then there were on whites. The 'Winnie Necklace' was a particularly hideous form of execution practised by ANC cadres on anyone accused of 'informing' and, as a fire fighter I saw far too many of these.

As in Germany under the Nazis, not everyone was supportive of the apartheid regime or the ideology. Indeed, Connie Mulder, as Minister for the Interior (Home Secretary) actually regarded English speaking South Africans as untrustworthy (as in we wouldn't vote for the Nats and their policies) and proposed stripping us of our vote, or making us 'second class citizens' with a limited version of the vote. By the 1970s the National Party had managed to gain complete control of the civil service, the television and radio services, the military and the police. Even the Fire Service was, in some Provinces, subject to the oversight of political committees they operated in every facet of the nation's life. Again, this is something one only really appreciated once you stood back and stepped outside of it. Now I can see how we were told what to think, how to act, what was considered 'correct'. It was subtle, you might have reservations, you might even on occasion refuse, but somehow, when you did, you were bypassed and someone else took over. It came as a shock to me when, after I'd left SA, to learn that I had twice been 'investigated' by the Security Police because I'd made proposals that did not meet the approval of members of the political committee 'interested' in our service on one, and because I was a member of my Bishop's Committee for Reconciliation on the other.

What the media have covered in great detail is the 'wrongs' and confessions of the key players from the police and government against the Black population. What is never mentioned are the camps maintained by the ANC for 're-education' of people they had abducted, or the multiple murders of their own people who dared to disagree with their campaigns. I have never heard a word of apology or sympathy for the many innocent victims of bombings perpetrated on stations, in restaurants or bus stops in the name of 'the cause' from the many who praised those, but condemned any arrest, any application of justice for murder. They have never had to deal with the shattered lives, torn and dismembered bodies of the victims - but can pontificate and justify any assault on a 'white' person as long as it is in some country a long way away. What they seem to be unable to connect is the link between all terrorist activities in every country. These same people have no trouble it seems labelling one group "freedom fighters" and another "terrorist" because they happen to be on a different side, or in a different situation.

I have mixed feelings on Nelson Mandela. He was, after all, the Head of the ANC's military wing and instrumental in the planning, supplying and organising of much of the terrorism of the 1960s. The evidence against him at his trial was overwhelming and he knew it, even making a statement to the court that the organisation intended the violent overthrow of the regime. Desmond Tutu wrote what is probably the best obituary we will see for "The Madiba". In it he wrote that the 27 years Mandela spent in prison are probably what made him what he became - a man of great understanding, vision and compassion. I think the Archbishop is right, and perhaps that is what we should all learn from the events that produced him.

It was not easy living in the apartheid South Africa, even for a 'white' person. There was always an element of threat; there was always the vilification from outside the country, and, if one could travel abroad, one soon discovered what it felt like to be a pariah as soon as it was revealed that you were from South Africa. At home, if one dared question anything 'official' there was always the threat to your job, or of a visit from the Security police. It was not a nice place to be, especially as there was little most of us could do to change any of it.

The Madiba is dead. He was a remarkable man, even a great man, though that was probably thrust upon him. South Africa will miss him. Sadly I very much doubt there is anyone in South Africa now with the same degree of integrity or compassion. It is my fear that his legacy will be squandered in the coming years to the detriment of all the peoples of that land.    

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Could This be Why We're in Trouble?

The report by Mr Neary in the BBC regarding the manner in which his autistic son is 'managed' by Social Services might explain a bit about what is wrong with the UK today. It certainly goes a long way towards explaining how many of our 'services' have become unanswerable and worse, unaccountable. But, who can challnge them? Everything is concealed by the use of 'jargon', and worse, the people they are supposed to 'help' are treated as objects incapable of thinking for themselves and unable to decide what is good for themselves. Mr Neary's case is far from unique, though he probably is unique in having taken the social services in this case to court and winning.

Social Services were set up to look after the vulnerable in our society, but, like a lot of good ideas, have been overtaken by the 'systemisers' and 'processers'. It has become a self perpetuating 'industry' in which its all about 'numbers' and 'procedures' and not about looking after people as individuals. This particular instance involves the Social Services, but almost all the 'new' professions that have arisen since the 1960s do it. Everything is about creating a niche, a permanent home for all those who like to feel they are 'caring' about something. The first thing that inevitably arises is an opaque 'jargon' which only insiders can actually interpret. It builds a mystique around whatever the profession does, and prevents outsiders from seeing or understanding how it operates or what it really does.

Some of my former colleagues will recall how our own profession was highjacked by a small group who suddenly got the 'education' bug. It wasn't long and everything was reduced to acronyms which most of us couldn't interpret. We went to meetings and listened as the 'experts' delivered briefings that consisted entirely of acronyms linked by a few verbs, articles and the odd noun. I once sat and listed every acronym used and when the bright spark giving the briefing finally asked 'any questions?' stuck my hand up and asked where I could find a list of the 43 acronyms I'd noted which would enable me to interpret them into English. There was no answer, and I think I was removed from the management Christmas Card list at that point.

One of the prime examples of the manner this quasi-professional jargon is used to exclude or to control access must be the Politically Correct process which dictates that no one may identify any group as being more likely to commit some offence, or more likely to be 'at risk' of something. The result is that everyone is now regarded as a potential criminal, or of being 'at risk' of dying in a fire starting in their kitchen due to falling asleep while heating a pot full of oil to make chips. Everyone - particularly pensioners - are suspected of 'fiddling' their tax returns and hiding income, but not, it seems those with mega incomes and clever accountants who make sure the money stays in tax havens. Every home must now be 'disabled friendly' in case the occupant is disabled - or a disbaled person wishes to buy it. Everyone is considered to be potentially racist, sexist or any other -ist, particularly those who profess to be followers of Christianity.

This 'process' imposition on every aspect of our lives is, in my view, one of the major reasons our society is becoming increasingly dysfunctional. By allowing quasi-professions like Social Services to reduce us all to 'cases', by allowing the family courts to hold sessions 'in camera' and accept evidence that would not be given to time of day in any other court, we are slowly but surely dehumanising the very people we are supposedly trying to help - and in dehumanising them, we lose something ourselves.

The second aspect to this that is deeply disturbing is that we are conceding power and control to these opaque professions. Their jargon passes for 'expert speak' and sounds 'professional' but it conceals the opposite. Much of it isn't scientific at all, it just sounds good. As the example given by Mr Neary illustrates: if you or I make a choice, it is a simple 'choice'. If someone in the care of Social Services makes the same choice - they are 'being empowered'. If one of us loses their temper, we get it off our chests. If someone in the 'care' system loses their temper, it requires a 'case review', followed by 'anger management training' and a 'risk management plan', somewhere along the line involving at least one psychologist for an 'assessment'.

When one reads of this and similar cases, one does begin to wonder if we have all taken collective leave of our senses. We actually believe this 'processification' and 'objectification' of the subjects is good for society? As I said, Social Services does do some good work, but all too often the good work is undone by a slavish adherence to 'procedure'. The powers over us all that have been given to the ubiquitous "Social Worker" are far greater than most Trading Standards Officers or Fire Safety Inspectors wield, and most have less legal training. Surely we can find a less soulless approach? Surely we can find a way that doesn't become so bureaucratic and rule bound it loses sight of children and adults who really are at risk while dealing in an often draconian manner with those who are trying to follow the rules?

The more I look at this, the more convinced I become that we are in trouble. We've allowed a lot of very smart people to highjack key parts of our lives, and now they have entrenched themselves - at the expense of the very people they are supposedly helping (see Mr Neary's comments on the closeure of Day Centres) and covering their deceits in jargon.

After each and every failure of 'care' by a Social Services Department we hear the same excuse, and the same 'remedy'. "We are revising our procedures" or "we are understaffed and underfunded". But, as I said, we should not look only at Social Services, there are numerous other 'industries' now all building little empires, all with their own jargon, all with their own clientele and all demanding ever bigger handouts to fund their 'activity'.

It is time we took a long hard look at all of them and demanded proper, jargin and acronym free answers. Until we do we will not get anywhere near repairing the divisions in a society that is becoming more fractured with each passing year.



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Economic Disaster Looming

Yesterday's video clip from MoneyWeek got me digging. What I have turned up (far from a complete picture I confess) has got me deeply concerned. There was some further fuel added late last night when I read a report that one of the largest circulation Chinese daily papers ran an editorial basically saying that China didn't need Britain, "a small and no longer significant nation that has impoverished itself and has nothing to offer China". Sadly, I suspect they may well be right on the money despite the Prime Minister's much vaunted 6 billion pound trade deals. I note he didn't say which way the 6 billion would be going - to Britain or to China.

We should all be deeply concerned by the fact that our National Debt has shot through the 'billions' and is now over 1.4 trillion Pounds. We need to be even more concerned over the fact that, despite the much vaunted 'cuts' in all manner of 'services' and 'benefits' the overall spending in Whitehall has actually increased. This is not a new phenomenon, Whitehall 'cuts' and 'savings' always seem to translate into increases in their overall budgets. All talk of 'value for money' almost invariably means a reduction in delivery and a massive hike in the cost of whatever it is. Th awful truth of our National Debt is that it is over 9x the National GDP. Put another way, the Demand on the "Money Supply" is 9 times greater than the Supply. This can't go on.

But the terrible truth is that neither Parliament (the prime source of the problem) nor Whitehall are capable of dealing with it. Even if they wanted to, the truth is that the either haven't a clue as to how to do so, or, they are afraid to.

So what will happen if the country runs out of money? Who will really suffer?

My studies of the late Roman Empire and its collapse revealed that the majority of Middle and Working Class folk were the first victims. The rich and powerful carved out little fiefdoms for themselves, hired soldiers and sat tight, the middle classes and the workers found themselves being squeezed for massive tax demands, then for 'protection' and finally surrendered their property and liberty just for food and shelter. The wealthy families survived, eventually becoming, through marriages, 'little' wars and adoption of the tactics of the barbarian invaders, the 'noble' families who ruled Europe until the wars of Revolution in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

I suspect something similar is about to happen in Britain.

Let's take a look at what will happen if the government can no longer service its debt and the money supply dries up. As in Greece, the first to be hit will be those who depend on the State for their income. Civil Servants, teachers, doctors, nurses, fire fighters, police, soldiers, sailors and airmen, pensioners, the disabled, students and the unemployed. Health services will be crippled, those with debts, mortgages, loans and so on will no longer be able to pay for them. Unemployment and homelessness will soar, so will the need for food depots, child protection and so on. Some communities, where there is a strong community support ethic (the Muslim groups come to mind) will survive by coming together and taking care of their own as they do in the Middle East and elsewhere, the richer members of families providing the basics for the less fortunate. For the rest, used to "The Government" providing everything, there will be a major problem as the Greeks have discovered. You can't feed a family out of grow bags on the balcony of a flat, you might if you have a greenhouse or an allotment, but both of those will become very vulnerable to the desperate hungry who don't have access to such facilities themselves.

There will be riots over the cessation of 'benefits' and certainly the likes of the National Union of Students will embark on campaigns of anarchy over their Student Grants and Loans being stopped. They will be joined by others dependent on the hand-out culture we have created, and both will simply make the situation ten times worse. We can be sure a number of expensive projects will cease. The new aircraft carriers being one, but others will include things like road maintenance, keeping the rail infrastructure up to date and so on. Health care will become basic - unless you can pay for it yourself - and we can expect fuel to become increasingly expensive and scarce. That will mean cold homes for many, which, coupled with minimal food supplies will mean a rise in deaths from disease and the cold.

While Whitehall will desperately target all the 'High Profile' projects and Services (Fire, Military, Student Grants and Loans, Pensioners and so on) they will be saving 'pennies' simply because they will not dare to tackle the real cause of the problem - the major slice of the money we overspend from the Treasury goes on the 'Welfare Benefit' handouts and the massive Whitehall machine that administers it. Defence, even including the new carriers, is under 2% of our GDP, less than most of Europe spends, half what the US spends (in equivalent terms) and less than a quarter of what many Middle Eastern and 'Developing' nations we currently give Aid to, spend. By contrast, according to some sources (it is difficult to make sense of some figures since the 'benefits' now handed out are spread across several Departments and not, as one would think, under one umbrella) our 'Welfare' bill accounts for around 50% of GDP!

So far all the 'austerity' measures have done little more than rearrange the deck chairs on this sinking ship. The HMRC (as a friend discovered this week) is so desperate to find extra money they are now 'auditing' pensioners in the hope of finding hidden billions in undeclared savings. As my friend reported, the pennies they do find are far outweighed in real terms by the cost of these 'teams' chasing them. Those who do have the sort of money the HMRC would love to tax have it where it can't be got at, or have used all the loopholes in the Tax book to protect it. The only option now for the Treasury is to 'nationalise' all the 'private wealth' such as savings and private (invested) pension funds as has been done in some of the Eastern European countries trying to get their debt under control.

It is obvious that this situation cannot continue. We're broke, living on the Credit Card and praying for a Lottery win. Parliament can't fix it, Whitehall won't. So, sooner or later, we're going to go bust. All most of us can do, at this stage, is hope and pray we can weather the catastrophe somehow, and make sure that the government can, in the end, be remodelled, its powers to give away what isn't theirs in the first place restricted and at least some of the best of our society and culture salvaged.

It isn't a good picture, and the troubling part is that it is very likely that those who caused it all will be the ones who survive with wealth and power intact.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Tipping Point for our economies?

A few weeks ago the Monk wrote about the way our 'economists' always assume that population growth, means growing economies and growing productivity and pointed out that this isn't necessarily true. Today I have watched a video on the MoneyWeek website. It is shocking, but, sadly, it is frighteningly accurate.

I commend to everyone reading this blog, take time out to watch and listen to this. The truth, as I've long suspected, is that the politicians and civil servants haven't the faintest idea of how to deal with this problem. They are trapped in a cage of their own making. They've set up a system of handouts and promises which are unfunded and based on only the desire to buy votes by promising more and more. They're all guilty of it - even the 'austerity coalition'.

It isn't only the costs of pensions, welfare benefit and the NHS, the biggest burden is the cost of the huge bureaucracy they've created alongside their "welfare" promises. If this video is right, things can only get a whole lot worse. Whitehall has no reserves, they've never invested a penny to pay for anything they've promised, and the MPs and Civil Servants are the only people who have made sure their positions, incomes and pensions are protected.

Do take the time to listen to this - then I suggest think about how you can protect yourself.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Finding a Balance

Yesterday I read an article in the Spectator Blogs which raises several very interesting issues. Not least the small matter of being able to speak the truth as you see it on a wide range of issues. This is something that seems to be taking over and stifling many discussions. There are certain subjects which seem to have become "taboo", utterly off limits no matter how serious, lest one wishes to be crucified, hung drawn and quartered figuratively speaking, by the politically correct lobbies.

Rod Liddle's article in the Spectator Blog yesterday highlights the case of the Attorney General, now being crucified by the guardians of political correctness in the media and politics, for answering a question put by an interviewer when he talked about corruption being brought into Britain by certain immigrant minority groups. The interviewer asked a direct question and got a straight answer. Cue the outraged denials, condemnations and demands for his head on a platter. As Rod Liddle points out, the AG isn't saying anything that is not true, however inconvenient it might be, and however unpalatable to the defenders of multi-culty and political correctness. It is not "racist" to point out that a particular group in society is responsible for more of any sort of problem than anyone else. Yet this is exactly what happens as soon as something arises involving a particular group, culture, faith or community.

These same guardians of political correctness have no problem, however, when one of their "protected" groups denigrates anything about British culture, whips up recruits to go and fight a jihad somewhere, burns poppies on Remembrance Day or anything else offensive to the majority of the population. That is OK in their twisted view, offending the minority is not.

So Mr Grieve stated that, when he spoke of voter fraud and corruption in the ballot box, he had in mind certain sections of the Pakistani community. Fact: there have been two major investigations of alleged voting shenanigans in two constituencies involving the Pakistani community. OK, so neither actually led to criminal charges, what they did do, was turn up a lot of unsavoury practices. Like massive abuse of Postal Votes; like women being ordered to vote a certain way by male members of the family and much more. Have any of these been addressed? Is he committing a crime in actually citing, as the basis of his answer, the Report of the Electoral Commission, which highlighted both the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities as being more likely to adopt "inappropriate" activities in elections? No. But he is inconveniencing the PC guardians who are desperately trying to sweep this under the carpet rather than discuss this and other issues. One can guess why.

However, this is part of something insidious in the "Politically Correct" agenda. By imposing punitive sanctions on anyone who dares to break the rules on anything deemed "offensive" by some "guardian" of PC, one strangles debate. Eventually, as in the scenario in the book 1984, lies become truth, no one dares discuss anything lest they be 'reported' to the authorities and sent for "re-education". In short, when I want your opinion, I'll tell you what it is.

Most of the terminally Politically Correct I have met are, at heart, bullies. They have power, usually taken without consent, and they plan to use it to the fullest extent to make sure you toe the line. While most of those I have encountered would furiously deny this, they are employing exactly the same methods used by Hitler's supporters to enslave the majority of Germans. A creeping introduction of subjects that it was "taboo" to discuss or challenge led, eventually, to total control of the population. We are witnessing the same insidious process today in almost every aspect of public and personal life. One does not know who may take something you might have said and blow it totally out of proportion.

People have lost their jobs thanks to this, even when the supposedly "non-PC" statement had nothing whatever to do with their work or workplace. Others have had their careers blocked or sidelined through it. One entire Group, a charitable group formed to support the work of their local hospital, were told to get rid of their Chairman or lose the right to use any council owned property because the Chairman (a well known lady of undoubted reputation) was accused of racism by an hysterical trouble maker who, it subsequently emerged, only attended such gatherings to "police" them for "offensive and racist attitudes". A RNLI station based in the Severn estuary, and very actively engaged in that area (it is a very busy station) was denied Heritage Lottery funding for some much needed improvements to its base - because they weren't "inclusive" enough and served only an "elitist" group.

Why do we, a people who believe we live in a Parliamentary Democracy elected by the "majority" to govern, accept these dictates from a minority among us. I have the misfortune to know several people who found, when they tried to seek their homes in certain cities where the "slandered" ethnic group have come to be dominant, who found themselves eventually forced to seek at way below market value to someone from the chosen "ethnic group". The mechanism is simple, you list your house with an Agent, the Agent advertises it. You may get one or two "interested" visitors, and then, mysteriously, nothing. Next you get a visit from someone insisting they are interested, but offering a lower price and refusing to work through the Agent. That is followed by "negotiations" which lead nowhere. When, eventually, you are worn down (some agents even tell you outright you're unlikely to get a buyer at this point), and you approach the "interested" party to accept the offer - it is suddenly much, much lower. Take it or leave it.

OK, so the PC element don't count this as "corruption", but if it isn't, it is certainly extremely close to criminal.

Corruption is present in every society, sometimes it is so subtle it passes unnoticed. My concern is that if we are not to be allowed to point it out, and not allowed to identify who or what is responsible, how can we ever hope to deal with any of these problems. It matters not what the subject is, the entire problem with the imposition of Political Correctness is that it prevents resolution of any problem. The second and bigger problem is that it eventually allows a repressive and possible evil ideology to take hold uncontested and unchallengeable. Unless there is balance in discussion we will never resolve any of these issues. The real truth here is that Political Correctness is the single most dangerous ideology in the western world today. It is strangling freedom of speech, it is suppressing truth, concealing corruption and damaging democracy.

It is time to throw Political Correctness into the trash box and tell it's Stasi-like purveyors where the exits are.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Religious Upheavals; Defenders of Faith, Defenders of Culture

An excellent article in the Telegraph Blog which I picked up through the Diocese of Gloucester FaceBook page, in which it was suggested that Christians in the UK could take lessons from Muslims in showing more readiness in defending their faith, got me thinking. (Always dangerous of course - thinking.) There have been several things lately that merit some careful thought - especially on this subject. One being the revelation that over 400 young British Muslims, born in the UK, raised in the UK and educated here, have joined Al Qaeda supporting or affiliated insurgency groups in the civil war in Syria. So have some 500 German Muslims, a similar number from France and a few hundred more from other European countries.

The unifying rallying cry is that they are 'defending Islam' from the 'forces of Satan'. In their eyes the Assad regime is apostate, undermining 'pure' Islam and this is a Holy War. The last time Christians were prepared to fight a war over differences in their theological, liturgical and authority positions was in the 17th Century, and for this we are very thankful. Islam, at present, is being torn between competing visions of what, exactly, 'true' Islam is. In many ways it mirrors the divisions of the 15th to 17th Century Christian struggles between Protestants and Roman Catholics, and will probably, eventually, have a similar outcome, but in the meantime, it promises to be bloodier and even more divisive than the Christian Reformation was.

Friends living in a number of Muslim governed countries have spoken of a sea change occuring in the attitudes of the young, pointing to the fact that many of these countries have a majority of their populations under the age of 30. Saudi Arabia (Kingdom of Saudi) is an excellent example. It is the nation that includes the holiest sites in the Islamic world. It is also Wahabi/Sunni and very 'conservative' in its governance. The 'Religious Police' have sweeping powers to maintain 'public decency' and 'religious order' and use them to enforce the letter of their interpretation of Sharia Law. But, Saudi Arabia is also in the position of having 52% of its population under the age of 25. The tensions are building as young women demand rights they are currently denied, and many young men openly defy authority demanding more freedom for themselves and their sisters. It isn't helped by the uncertainty of a regime on the point of change (the King is well into his 80s and some reports suggest he's comatose and on life support) and the Islamic 'scholars' led by the Mufti of Mecca determined to prevent any 'liberalisation' in their society. The problem they face is that a growing majority of young people in these countries are disaffected with the strictures of their faith, and more and more are paying 'lip service' only to stay out of trouble, while privately seeking ways to escape.

The west has already undergone an 'anti-religion' sea change, albeit a less violent one than that currently wracking many Islamic countries. Many younger people have turned away from Christianity, the main objection being the 'heirarchical' nature of churches and the refusal to accept any new thinking on many aspects our children find inconsistent with scientific findings and the realities of peoples' lives. This doesn't mean they don't 'believe' - they do, but in something far more nebulous, less structured and more, as they see it, in touch with where they are. So Humanism (modern version of the Pelagian heresy of the 3rd and 4th Centuries) and Atheism have become popular, alongside neo-Paganism, Wiccanism and a few others. One catalyst for all of this is the internet. Never before has it been so easy to access information and disinformation - and sadly, there is a vast amount of the latter about everything on the 'net'. And, as we all know, if its on the Net, it must be fact ...

The UK, until fairly recently, prided itself on having a Judeo-Christian Heritage and culture. Most of Europe (with the possible exception of France) sees itself in a very similar manner. Germany, it must be noted, has no doubt on that score and even more 'faith' holidays than the UK. While the UK leans toward the more Protestant end of the Christian spectrum, Germany and most of Europe lean toward the Roman Catholic or Orthodox traditions which are often more colourful - a legacy in the UK, perhaps, of the Puritanical attempts to expunge joy from worship. This has its parallels in Islam, with the more 'puritanical' sects attempting to restore what they believe are the 7th Century practices and interpretations of their faith, while others want to make it more 'open'.

As the Telegraph article points out, it has become, under the ideology of 'multi-culturalism' OK to denigrate any Christian society, culture or heritage, but if one dares to criticise anyone elses - take shelter. The hounds of Political Correctness, the Media and numerous 'minority rights' groups will be unleashed against you. Why is this? Why have we allowed ourselves to be marginalised in our own countries, our own societies - often by very small, but very vocal 'pressure groups'? To a very large extent this is exactly how the Nazis in Germany, and the Soviets in Russia silenced and controlled the majorities in their countries.

I have long said that I ask only that my culture and my faith is accorded the same respect I am asked to show anyone elses. If you denigrate mine, then how can you demand I respect yours? None of us live in a perfect society or a perfect world, and all attempts to impose any given 'vision' of a perfect society inevitably lead only to conflict. History is littered with the wreckage of such attempts by those seeking to gain power or to retain it - and the legacies of those attempts still fuel conflicts and divide us. I agree with the authoress of the article I have linked above. It is time to stop allowing everyone, from Islamic extremists, Humanists, Atheists, Political Activistas and the Media to denigrate, slander and destroy our heritage, our culture and our faith. I do not advocate taking up arms, or revolution. I do advocate ceasing to simply swallow the epithets and to stand up for ourselves

The Attorney-General has been forced to 'apologise' for stating something most people recognise as being grounded in fact. Corruption has many faces and forms, and it is endemic in almost every society. Perhaps he was unwise in his choice of example, there are many others he could have chosen. That fact that most of the corruption is just on the legal side of the law - by a split hair - does not mean, as those hurling abuse at him claim, mean it doesn't exist.

I agree with Christine Odone. It is time we stood up and were counted.


Cristina Odone is a journalist, novelist and broadcaster specialising in the relationship between society, families and faith. She is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies and is a former editor of the Catholic Herald and deputy editor of the New Statesman. She is married and lives in west London with her husband, two stepsons and a daughter. Her new ebook No God Zone is now available on Kindle.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Funny what a little research turns up ...

To all those currently falling for the Greenpeace/IPCC hand-wringing line that Typhoon Hainun/Yolande is "unprecedented" here are some reports from respected newspapers that show a different picture. This is not the first time Tacloban has been 'wiped out' by a typhoon. Nor is it likely, I suspect, to be the last time.

So where was the Anthropomorphic Global Warming coming from in 1912? The fact is the storm of 1912 killed many more than this latest Super Typhoon, yet, according to Greenpeace, Dr Hansen and all the other IPCC 'scientists' - CO2 was around two thirds of its present level. Population was around a quarter of the present total even in the populous Far East.

Can we have less hype, and more factual reporting in the media please?

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The New Religion

It would seem the much touted 'Climate Change Conference' in Warsaw has ended without managing to make any binding resolutions. This has disappointed the promoters, Greenpeace et al, since they had played all the usual emotive cards including the images of the super typhoon damage in the Philippines. We have been treated to earnest declarations by various delegates and Greenpeace spokespeople that Europe (and Poland, their host nation in particular) were 'causing' these super storms by our continued 'carbon emissions' and consumption of 'carbon' fuels.

The Polish coal burning power plants (of course accompanied by lots of footage of steam billowing from cooling towers and blather about the 'smoke' being toxic) came in for special opprobrium coupled with emotional appeals to shut down the coal industry. The mantra is that this will save the planet, improve the health of the Polish people and generally stop 'Climate Change'. It would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that these people evidently fervently believe what they are saying. The are missionaries for the new world religion. It has a number of names, ecology, climate change, renewable energy, sustainable resources - all under the general banner of "Green". Green is good, Green is great, Green will save us all from all manner of problems, from nuclear fallout to melting ice caps and drowning polar bears. What it won't do is provide jobs, food or anything like a modern society - but don't try to explain that to any of the "True Believers".

It has been said that if there is one thing about life that is constant, it is change. Change is all around us in everything from our bodies to the environment. It is true to say that simply moving from one room to another changes not just the location we occupy but the rooms and ourselves. So it is with the planet. It has been in a state of change since it first began to form, and it will continue to do so until finally the sun itself destroys us and the rest of the solar system.

But the new religion would have us believe that we are, first, changing the climate and destroying the planet, a charge based on data which is less than 200 years old, and only 30 or so if we assume that only the satellite and 'modern' data are 'accurate'. The problem here is that in order to fit it into the various mathematical models so it can be 'analysed' it has been adjusted, manipulated and managed to the point of uselessness. As they say, with computers, if you input garbage, you get garbage out, but to the True Believer of the Green Religion, if 'science' - read the PR handouts and Press Releases from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth or WWF and others - says 'X' is happening, and it is caused by those nasty Europeans, Americans, Canadians, etc., then it must be so. Get out the banners, occupy their streets, scale the buildings, dig up the test crop fields and behave like the Luddites of the 19th Century England.

The second part of the New Creed is that if we stop emitting 'carbon' we can stop the climate changing. According to the adherents and True Believers by returning to a pre-industrial dependence on wind power, water wheels and cottage industries, we can stop climate change, prevent super storms and maintain our current life style. Facts, unfortunately, are against them, but why let facts interfere with belief?

Destroy industrialisation, redistribute wealth, save the planet. The True Believers don't believe anything a real scientist says, they aren't interested. If it challenges the Green Truth it must be rejected, discredited and, if necessary, the foot soldiers mobilised to trash the project.

One reason the Warsaw has now packed up with, dare one say it, yet again, no workable or even credible decisions or agreements, is, I suspect, that politicians have finally woken up to the real agenda and the real cost of the 'Green Religion'. Put simply, we can't afford it. The new Australian government has scrapped the previous government's "Carbon Tax" which produced the ridiculous situation where one of the worlds largest coal producers was taxing its own industries out of business, while exporting the coal to be burned in China and India. Makes a lot of sense that does! We have the ridiculous situation in the UK where the Drax Mega Power station has been converted to burn "renewable" wood chips instead of coal. OK, except the wood chips are shipped from the US and Canada, and the consumption (wood isn't nearly as efficient a fuel as coal) means vast tracts of forest in both the US and Canada are being cut down to feed a power station 7,000 miles away which is built on top of a coal field. Yes, very 'green' I'm sure, but Greenpeace trumpets that this is a 'success'.

A trawl of the web reveals a very large number of things Greenpeace and 'Greens' in general oppose and are prepared to take 'direct action' (read terror tactics) to prevent. Some readers will remember the Brent Spar fiasco, but that was simply one of many where the Greenpeace 'science' has been or can be shown to be complete trash and fantasy - but the True Believers simply ignore the evidence. In Australia recently, Greenpeace activists were found guilty of criminal damage when they destroyed Greenhouses where scientists were growing Golden Rice, a carotene enriched rice strain that is intended to combat the large numbers of children and adults whose diet is rice based, and who go blind because the strains they currently eat, are deficient in a number of vital vitamins and minerals, not least being Vitamin A. The judge handed down suspended sentences because the convicted terror squad were all minors, pointing out as she did so, that Greenpeace had anticipated the criminal charges that would follow and deliberately used minors for its action.

When you realise that the man who currently heads Greenpeace International holds a DPhil in Political Sociology, not 'science', and has a long record of 'activism' against almost everything to do with Western values, economics and life, you begin to see a pattern. The Church of Greenpeace now operates a fleet of three ships permanently with up to three more when necessary, it has an annual budget of over 250 million pounds sterling and fingers in almost every sphere of protest activity, one can see why they rely so heavily on sensational claims which the media obligingly publishes as 'fact'.

Science has now been corrupted by this and its sister churches. Science which doesn't support their Credo must be howled down, the scientists muzzled, and if that isn't possible, then they must be intimidated. The 'Creed' of Climate Change must be protected at all costs, and the ignorant foot soldiers happily rush to 'march' with their puerile slogans. Any opportunity to disrupt society, to destroy the livelihoods and the activities which have given us the modern conveniences and lifestyles we enjoy. As a result billions of pounds is being poured into attempts to 'stop climate change' when we would be better served by putting it toward projects designed to help us adapt. Like Golden Rice, or any of the other useful adaptive projects currently targeted by Greenpeace True Believers and either underfunded or discredited by the pseudo-science that pours from Greenpeace 'laboratories' - the results always then selectively reported to support the Cause. When they can't do that, Photoshop, old photos, staged events and straightforward fabrication will do nicely. After all, the Media aren't going to challenge it, and the public simply can't tell the difference.

One hopeful sign is that there are now reports that more and more politicians are starting to see through the hype. Some have been brave enough to call a halt, others feel they must be more subtle. Frankly, the only way to deal with these terrorists in our midst is to meet them head on. Cut the massive funding that goes to Greenpeace et al from governments. Confront them publicly when they oppose something on flimsy or fabricated evidence. Let's put them in court every time some of their members commit crimes.

The New Religion of Green is a mix of misguided 'faith', belief in myths generated by PR experts, and the cynical exploitation of the media, education and young people deceived by it all into lives of 'activism'. We treat religions which promote violence and disobedience with the strict application of national and international law. It is time this new 'religion' was treated the same way. Having the 'right' to do something, does not automatically make it 'right' to do it. A lesson there, I think for everyone.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Propaganda versus fact?

Last night I watched the latest Greenpeace stunt, the occupation of the roof of a public building in Warsaw to unfurl banners, in English I noted, demanding to know "Who Rules Poland? The People or King Coal?" Their spokesman earnestly informed the television interviewer that unless Europe stops burning coal and all other hydrocarbons, "Climate Change will continue unchecked and millions more will die in superstorms like Hainan/Yolande". Of course, Poland is a target at the moment, because their government has, in my view wisely, rejected the "carbon" mythology and is building more coal fired power stations. There are sound economic and political reasons for this. Not least being the 200,000 jobs the coal industry supports, but secondly, and perhaps more importantly, because it makes Poland independent of Russian gas supplies for power.

Germany, on the other hand, is now so far down the road of "wind and solar only" that reversing it will be costly and probably politically explosive. Yet, according to economists in the UK and Europe, the rush to renewables is destroying industries (One of Germany's largest employers BASF is contemplating shutting their largest plant because of energy costs) and jobs. Private householders are already complaining about the cost of heating, lighting and cooking, and finding 'cheaper petrol' is a national sport.

On the same news broadcast we had word that the Russians are still pondering what to do with the Greenpeace activists who tried to occupy their drill rig in the Arctic. The report suggested that hefty fines were being contemplated for some while the piracy charge remains on the table for others. There are several very material issues here, none of which seem to make contact with the Greenpeace foot soldiers ideological aims. Not least is that these Green policies are destroying Western economies, and the more damage they do, the more unemployed we will have to support, the higher our taxes will go and the less competitive we will be. Who then will pay for these Greenpeace stunts?

To proclaim that Europe's contribution of a trace gas to the atmosphere is going to lead to the devastation of entire nations is just nonsense. So is the claim that we can "manage" the Global Climate in any way, shape or form. The day I see all the Greenpeace members standing at the Low Tide Mark in the Severn and holding back the tide I'll change my view. Until then, let them get real, get a life and live in reality.

Here are some of the facts the Climate Change adherents refuse to acknowledge -

  1. The latest and most honest assessments and data sets show there has been NO noticeable warming in the last 17 years,
  2. The number of 'super storms' including hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, tornadoes, etc., is no higher in frequency and the incidence of "Super" Hurricanes and Typhoons is about the same or less than in the 1970s and below the average for the late 19th and early 20th Centuries,
  3. Other scientific disciplines suggest that the rise in CO2 FOLLOWS warming and doesn't lead it,
  4. The Greenland ice sheet did not vanish two years ago when news reports ran with headlines that 97% of it had melted. The actual data suggested that there was some melting on the surface ice over 97% of the surface.
  5. The Antarctic continental ice is NOT vanishing and the continent is NOT warming.
  6. The steam plumes above cooling towers so beloved of Greenpeace propagandists is NOT 'new' water vapour being added to the atmosphere, it is water vapour already present condensing in the plume,
  7. "Carbon" and Sulphur emissions have gone down across Europe, but the demand for energy is rising and "Green" energy simply can't cover it,
  8. "Capacity" from windmills is not the same as "delivery" of power to a grid. So the capacity may be to provide 17% of what is needed, but reality is that it is generally averaging 5% or less. 
  9. Hooking the windmills into the national grid is a hugely expensive exercise, currently paid for by massive cross subsidies which are pushing energy prices beyond the reach of the poorer elements of society and many pensioners - plus wind farm operators are guaranteed payment, even for power not used. The perfect golden egg if you own wind farms, and Greenpeace reaps huge profits from its shareholdings in these monsters,
  10. Rising energy prices fuel inflation, drive businesses into shifting to lower cost operations or even relocating complete operations. That costs jobs, pushes the cost of unemployment up, and to pay for that tax must rise,
  11. Since all economies are based on the "Balance" between imports, exports and local tax raising, if exports decline, and jobs decline, tax income also falls. As the balance swings toward ever more costly importation of necessities, the value of the currency slips as well. The final result is a country as poor as some of the failed states one now sees in Africa.

If we are serious about preserving our current standards of living, and of improving the lives of our citizens, it is time to kick the likes of Greenpeace into touch and adopt more sensible policies on energy, development and economics than those they advocate. We cannot control the climate, therefore we must find ways to adapt. We all know the oil and gas may eventually run out, as will some of the other minerals and materials we need to sustain us. So we need to find new sources and that may well mean taking a science fiction option and developing the ability to mine our solar system. Who knows, that may actually be far more cost effective than the current ecologically devastating operations needed to make solar panels, fancy batteries and the infernal wind turbines.