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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Just to prove me wrong ...

Harry agreed to pose perfectly this morning when I produced the camera, and the results are some great shots of him. He is now almost 4 months (born 9th October 2012) and now too big to curl up on my arm if I have to carry him up or down the stairs. We are advised that it is bad for their hips to allow pups to tackle stairs, so we've now got 'kiddie' gates on our staircases.

Anyway, here's the boy himself.



As I wrote yesterday, he's a handsome little chap, and going to be a real heartbreaker once he hits his teens and adulthood ...

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Living with Harry the Hound ...

Harry is growing in size and confidence, still very much a young 'lad' who loves to play, the only problem really being that anything with four legs is obviously a 'friend' to play with. The horses round here aren't quite sure what to make of it ... Getting pictures of him is a challenge, my camera simply doesn't have the shutter response, plus, as soon as he spots it, he has his nose in the lens.


He's a great little lad, and he's certainly going to be a beautiful example of his breed. I can see all the little girl Shelties queueing up when he matures ...

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Problem with Israel ...

There are always two views on Israel, those that say it is a legitimate state and those who accuse it of atrocities, and declare it is an "illegal" state. There is a great deal of emotion about it on both sides, but what does rather detract from the anti-Israel argument that it is alone in the Middle East as a fully democratic and 'inclusive' state. Those who argue that its treatment of the "Palestinians" disproves that very conveniently overlook that fact that "Palestine" is the result of an attempt to overturn the UN accepted establishment of Israel in 1948 - which failed. Its much argued "pre-1967 borders" are not "borders" but were the ceasefire line agreed in 1948.

Thereafter, in defiance of the Geneva convention which forbids it, both Jordan and Egypt deliberately set about "resettling" the people who are now called "Palestinians" in these areas. The Geneva Convention forbids the "settlement by an occupying power" of any "sovereign territory" it has seized as a result of military action. A look at the maps that formed part of the original 1948 UN Resolution clearly shows that the "occupiers" were not the Israelis, but the Jordanians and the Egyptians - but that has, in the nature of political "debate," and I suspect to a large degree to keep the Islamic nations "sweet," been turned on its head. It should be no surprise that many of the files held by the British government are under embargo and may not be opened for probably another 30 years - and even then I suspect much of their content will have been shredded.

The fact is that British politicians and civil servants, having spent the period 1917 - 1939 drawing up one plan after another, found it expedient to throw the Jews to the lions in order to keep the oil flowing. So they quietly ignored the Grand Mufti of Istanbul's raising an SS Division of followers to send to fight for the Nazis i their campaign to exterminate the Jews. They ignored the declaration by Islamic scholars and leaders throughout the 1939 - 1945 period declaring that the Holocaust was 'the Will of Allah' and that they would 'purge the stain of the Jews from Palestine' as soon as the British withdrew. What can one say of the British decision to close the borders to Jewish refugees and permit an influx of Arabs to the area now called Israel? Or to their signing a document with the "king" they'd created in Jordan handing him control of the whole territory and the weapons arsenals (even assignig British Army officers to lead, train and command it) knowing full well that the clauses in it to make the Jews a "protected minority" were unenforceable and unworkable?

The "Palestinians" (a people who didn't exist until the name was created by Yasser Arafat in the 1960s - it speaks for itself that he was Egyptian and not even born in any part of the territory now argued over) have declared war on Israel. Is it therefore any surprise they are subjected to some draconian restrictions and controls? What would the reaction in Britain be, to France annexing Kent, then resettling a lot of Bretagne farmers there with UN acquiessance? Then, having established their presence, to their starting a campaign demanding the "return" of the whole of England to the "British?" I rather suspect our response would be pretty much that of the Israelis - someone declaring 'war' on us should expect a warlike response - though, given the attitude of some sections of the political spectrum in Britain, we'd probably 'negotiate' the whole country away and then fete the invaders ...

I note that in some sections of academia and of the political classes, Israel has been re-branded as "Palestine" and is now de-legitimised by subtle and not so subtle propaganda. One of the least subtle is to brand the country as an "apartheid state." Clearly those who parrot this term have no concept of what apartheid was or how it fundtioned. For the record, Israel is not an "Apartheid" state. It has no laws discriminating against any section of its population - and, by their own choice, the "Palestinians" are not Israeli citizens. They demand nothing less than that the whole of Israel be handed to them, but don't wish to be a part of the democratic state that is there already, they wish to create yet another undemocratic theocracy of fundamentalism to replace one. What is astonishing to anyone who actually takes the trouble to study this situation instead of simply parading the failed ideologies that led to it, is that the biggest supporters of the "Palestinian" cause claim to be wanting to replace "Israeli tyranny" with "democracy." Obviously their understanding of that term, is not mine.

The history of the British relationship with Israel in the last 65 years is not indicative of a 'friendly' one. All the political Parties have adopted policies which suggest that there is still a British hope that the Arabs will prevail and the "Jewish Question" will be finally "resolved" for them. The trouble is that the "establishment" is incapable of admitting they got it spectacularly wrong in the 1930 - 1947 period, and that they are entirely responsible, through their endless double dealing and compromising everyone, for the situation we now face. What is worse, their constant attempts to appease the more radical demands for Islamification of nations, is feeding the sort of situation we see across the Middle East with the "Arab Spring" rapidly becoming a "Winter of Fundamentalism." The real problem here is that no one in Westminster understands anything outside Westminster or Whitehall, and because the "history" has been distorted and rewritten to present the "history" they wanted rather than reality, they now are trapped by their own deceitfullness.

I'm proud to be British. I'm proud of my British roots and entecendents, but I am thoroughly ashamed of the actions of the British government over Israel and over their subsequent machinations, always supporting Arab and Islamic claims, and always painting Israel as the aggressor. Sadly, in a "war" of propaganda, the first casualty is truth. Israel is not a perfect state, but I defy anyone to show me a country, surrounded by those who wish to detroy it, that is. In my book, its doing a whole lot better than any of its neighbours.

Monday, 28 January 2013

A Disgraceful bit of Anti-Jewish Propaganda ...

If there is an award for the most ill-timed bit of anti-semitic propaganda, it would have to go to yesterday's Times on Sunday for their political cartoon which is pure anti-Israel bile. The timing was obviously deliberate, since yesterday was the memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust. Evidently the Times on Sunday editorial team seem to think that a few million Jews slaughtered by a state machine are the same as the Palestinian casualties who, frankly, could stop the deaths quite easily - by stopping the rocket attacks, the stone throwing and so on - and sitting down to actually find a solution acceptabe to both sides.

I'm afraid my sympathies do not lie with the "Palestinians," they are, to a very large extent, the authors of their own misfortune. It is strange, when you look at it carefully, that time and again, offers are made, the Israeli side indicate agreement or at a least a willingness to discuss it, but the Palestinians refuse to discuss anything except the whole of Israel being handed to them. It is also interesting that Israel is constantly criticised for building settlements, in the "occupied territories"- but, if one goes back to "pre-1967" one quickly realises that the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem itself, were "occupied" by Jordan and Egypt as the 1948 borders of Isreal included both these areas. That was the UN "settlement" treaty of 1948. The West Bank was not Jordan's and Gaza was not Egyptian territory either - but today, it is Israel who is the "bad guy" who must not be allowed to defend itself.

The modern state of Israel is a direct consequence of the Holocaust. The Jews wanted a homeland, a place where they could be Jewish and not afraid of their neighbours, or that some political twerp would launch a new pogrom against them. Of course, this is not what the supporters of Jewish genocide want to hear, and, frankly, I must conclude that the author of yesterday's cartoon and the Editor of the Times on Sunday do support genocide against the Jewish people. From their ivory tower, the Jews have no right to exist, not right to the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, no right to live in peace. They ignore Hamas' constant mantra that not one Jew may remain alive in Israel, or that the Arabs, in the run up to the British bailing out of "Palestine (The Kingdom of Jordan and Israel)," were openly declaring their intention of "driving the Jews into the sea" and "making the Jordan run with the blood of the Jew."

Frankly, the Times on Sunday should be called to account for publishing this cartoon on Holocaust Day. But, in a Britain, where the authors of "Multi-Culty" promote every culture except British or Christian, we should not be surprised they are so blatantly anti-Semitic.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

This is priceless ...

I picked this up on the blog Watts Up With That. I have long said that the "Green" movement has been highjacked by a bunch of ideological vandals, hellbent on using the "save the planet" movement to bring about a new "World Order." This quote, from the WUWT post, sums up how all the "Green" organisations have been used and their membership fed a diet of complete trash while those now running the likes of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF and others are running a far more radical agenda likely to do far more harm than good.

I am James Lovelock, scientist and author, known as the originator of Gaia theory, a view of the Earth that sees it as a self-regulating entity that keeps the surface environment always fit for life… I am an environmentalist and founder member of the Greens but I bow my head in shame at the thought that our original good intentions should have been so misunderstood and misapplied. We never intended a fundamentalist Green movement that rejected all energy sources other than renewable, nor did we expect the Greens to cast aside our priceless ecological heritage because of their failure to understand that the needs of the Earth are not separable from human needs. We need take care that the spinning windmills do not become like the statues on Easter Island, monuments of a failed civilisation. – Bishop Hill James Lovelock, 12 December 2012 (in a letter noted by Phillip Bratby)  

To crown that, there has been an interesting speech delivered in Oxford by the founder of the anti-Genetically Modified crops movement - who now regrets having spent the last two decades being "anti-science." The speech starts with -

I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.
As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.
Says it all really. I commend to my readers this speech in its entirety. Some of the comments and "Green" responses are informative, but notably the bulk of the responses are 'positive' for what is being said. What we are dealing with here is a new version of the 18th/19th Century Luddites who went about smashing machines and destroying factories because they preferred the 'cottage' industry they understood. While the new machines and factories may well have been dangerous, unhealthy (mind you most of the 'cottages' weren't that healthy either!) and the factory owners exploited their workers, that no longer provides sufficient excuse for those of this tendency. 

All it needs now is for the people who are driving the wind farms and the rest of the 'shut down all coal, nuclear and gas power stations' to admit their mistake ...
I won't be holding my breath just yet though.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Britain and Europe

Thinking about the question of Britain being 'part of Europe' or 'in Europe' it strikes me that there is a lot of history and not a few legal, attitudinal and political hurdles to address before this can be decided one way or another. There is no doubt that, geographically, Britain is a part of Europe. During the last Ice Age the first 'settlers' arrived on foot across the land bridge that is now the Straits of Dover and the southern North Sea. The Thames itself was one of many tributaries of what is now the Rhine. Yes, the British Isles are a part of Europe, but that doesn't address the mind of the people who live in them.

A glance at the history of these isles makes a fascinating study. The earliest inhabitants were soon pushed to the margins by a new wave of settlers and they, in their turn, by the next. The label 'Celt' was applied in the 18th Century to the people of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands by amateur archaeologists and historians, but they were actually wrong. Their 'label' was suitably 'romantic' but, as genetic researchers are discovering, not correct. The term "Celt" or more correctly "Keltoi" embraces just about every tribal group in Northern and Western Europe and part of the Balkans. The Irish are, more correctly "Gaels" as are the Western Islanders, and the Picts are the ones with the red hair, not the Celts, who tended to be fair and had the blue eyes.

All of that said, the last time Britain was 'ruled' by a European power was from around 4 AD to 410 AD when the last Roman Prefect left in somewhat of a hurry. After the Roman 'departure' - which was far from total - tribalism reasserted itself with numerous little 'kingdoms' all vying for supremacy and so disunited, the invading Angles (from Friesland) and the Saxons (from the area now known as Niedersachsen and Schleswig-Holstein moved in and picked them off one by one. The Angles and the Saxons had no use for 'cities' so those vanished and were replaced by what, in Ireland are called "Raths" and in Scotland "Duns." It took Alfred the Great, to unite the Southern Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms and to re-establish London which lay abandoned for a little more than 400 years. Between him and Edward the Confessor a succession of less able kings ended with the Danes establishing their overlordship over the East Coast up to Northumbria and to a Dane, Canute, ruling from London. But it was still far from a single "united" kingdom with Mercia in the West to name but one.

Some of these "tribal" divisions are still very much in evidence even now. Perhaps that's why the English are said to be so busy squabbling amongst themselves they don't pay much attention to who is actually ruling them. It took William the Conqueror to unite the whole kingdom and forge the country we now call "England"out of all the squabbling fifedoms.

Now some might argue that William and his Norman successors were "European Powers" ruling England, and as far as the first few Plantagenate kings were concerned it would be partly right. While some of them hardly ever set foot in England, they didn't actually impose a great dal o their subjects, more or less leaving them to rule themselves as long as thery paid their taxes. There have been numerous attempts to invade these islands since William the Conqueror, but none has succeeded, bar one. The one exception was hardly an "invasion" though as William III and his wife Mary II had been invited to do it by Parliament when they kicked out James II. The Spanish "Armada" of 1588 is perhaps the most famous of these grand failures (it was, in fact only one of six attempts by the Spanish Crown) and the French managed several landings on the South coast and even in Wales, but were smartly booted out again. The last "European" invasion was the failed Scottish invasion in support of Charles Stewart "Bonnie Prince Charlie" in 1745 and, since then, "The British" - which included the peoples of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, created the greatest Empire the world has yet seen.

So perhaps they have a bit of a right to want a bit more say about who dictates what to them from Brussels. After all, in the same period that the British were amassing an Empire, Europe was being torn asunder again and again by one would be "Emperor" after another. While the British have enjoyed reasonably stable borders for almost a thousand years (apart from in the North where the Scots repeatedly tried to annex Cumbria and Northumberland and then Ulster ...), in Europe at times when one woke up in the morning one first had to check which flag was flying over the local castle/town/hill as the governing Prince may well have changed overnight. To the British, for far too much of their history, Europe has been where either instability held sway, or, worse, there was some ruler hell bent on disrupting our trade with everyone else. Not for nothing did Napoleon refer to the English as a "Nation of Shopkeepers."

Currently, the EU is frequently blamed, rightly or wrongly, for the demise of much of Britain's industry, for the collapse of the fishing industry and the manner in which traditionally "British" waters are now being fished to extinction by massive Spanish trawlers and by almost everyone else. Added to that is the ease with which lawyers now appeal to the ECHR to get decisions made in British Courts and under British law overthrown by "European" legalism.

The one really big change William I made was to establish a single "bench" of justice where previously each local magnate had done more or less his own thing, now only the King's law applied, and it applied to everyone. It is in this that we find the origins of English "Common" Law.

Put simplisticly, the courts 'interpretted' and applied the law according to precedents set by higher courts in the land. Thus, a 'magistrate' is bound by decisions in the 'Crown" court, the Crown Court is bound by the inter[retation of the same law by a High Court judgement and so on. In a sense this is a pragmatic system, and for almost a thousand years it has worked, by and large, reasonably well. But it is this legal system which gives rise to one of the biggest problems in our age with the attempt to be "in Europe" and "part of Europe." Under the Common Law system English laws have to be written with a degree of what I shall call 'felxibility' built into them. You have to make sure that when you write something along the lines of "it is an offence to pick your nose" that you build in all the possible caveats to say that it is only an offence if it is (a) in public, (b) done in a manner likely to offend, (c) where someone can see you do it - which might have to include CCTV cameras, and (d) that person is offended by it ...

Until someone is actually charged with picking his nose under this law and a court rules on a, b, c and d, a law enforcer can only use his judgement and try to enforce the law as rigorously as possible. Once a body of "Case Law" is established enforcers know that "public" doesn't include the top of Ben Nevis (in Scotland anyway!) but does include the pavement in Oxford Street, that "a manner likely to offend" includes doing it in a manner that is both ostentatious and intended to draw attention and so on. Therein lies a major conflict with European Law in that in Europe, a Napoleonic Codified system pertains. The law means exactly what it says and the courts are interested only in (a) has it been broken, (b) is it proven that the accused broke it deliberately, and (c) what is the penalty. (Again I've oversimplified, there are as many, if not more, safeguards in the majority of European legal systems as in England). It can therefore be said that in Europe laws are written strictly and interpretted liberally, while in England the reverse applies - the law is written with every caveat and exception and then applied very strictly.

This is why there is almost always a problem in applying an EU Directive in England. A single A4 Directive can become 20 pages of "Regulation." Add to this the fact that the English have the very quaint system of sticking amendments to totally unrelated Acts and Regulations in any new Act or Regulation and you have a recipe for "gold plating" which Whitehall exploits ruthlessly. (For those not acquainted with the UK's rather odd government structure "Westminster" is the Parliament, home to some 654 elected MPs and around 1,400 Lords which includes the Lords Spiritual, Lords Justice, Life Peers appointed by the various Political Parties and some 90 Hereditary Peers elected by their fellow hereditaries. "Whitehall is the term applied to mean the Government Departments, infested the domain of the Civil Service, unelected, unaccountable and the real rulers of the UK.)

For those of us of British heritage who live in Europe, the refueled arguments about "in" or "out" hold some interesting challenges. If Britain did leave, how would that affect our continued residence in a host country? Probably adversely, just as it will impact on travel to any European destination for everyone from Britain. One of the great unanswered questions is surely the economic impact of such a decision. A Banker yesterday pointed out that London would swiftly cease to be the Financial Centre of Europe as it is now, since the relationship with the European Central Bank would change and it would pay banks to change their location fairly swiftly. That would impact the Treasury which, according to their own figures, currently gets 16% of its tax revenue from banking and the financial market. So there are a lot of very complex and trcky questions that need answering before the Referendum Mr. Cameron has promised. It remains to be seem whether he can secure the support he needs for the changes he wants to make in the EU, there are certainly some, including the current German Chancellor, who shares some of his ambitions, but whether they can get all 27 members on board is another questions.

And if not, what then for Britain?

Despite the history, despite the differences and despite my pride in being "British," I do feel strongly that Britain's future is with Europe, in Europe, not alongside it or on the periphery, but full engaged and in it. Perhaps it's time to turn the page, start thinking along new lines and even take a long hard look at why our legal system has become so complex and convoluted. After all, if we want to amend a piece of legislation, surely the best way to do so is to do as is done elsewhere - repeal the whole and replace it with a completely new document?

I know there will be some who disagree with me, but I do think it is time we stopped trying to "go it alone" and punch above our weight. We could be a major player in Europe - but only if we stop arguing over everything and accept the views of others on some things at least.


Thursday, 24 January 2013

An Approaching 'Dark Age'?

A comment left on yesterday's post by Just Another Richard, got me thinking about what we mean by a "Dark Age." When you mention this term, most people think in terms of the supposed 'collapse' of 'civilisation' in Britain and Western Europe as usually presented by popular fiction. It usually features wild Norsemen (they actually came later) pillaging their way across Europe, brning houses, destroying towns and so on. Studying history, one quickly discovers it wasn't quite like that, at least not in most of Western Europe. Certainly certain structures vanished, like the Roman civic administration and, more slowly, the road network. Another casualty was written records and there was a certain loss of 'knowledge' as the scholars retreated Eastward to Byzantium, Alexandria and other places out of reach of the wave of invaders in the West.

So what do we mean by a "Dark Age"? The definition I prefer is that it is a period in which the structures of national and local government breakdown, lawlessness prevails, knowledge and understanding are diminished and the sciences stagnate. To this list should be added, there is a collapse of communal co-operation, individualism rules with the strongest preying on the weak as new power structures emerge, old one's crumble and even national ties loosen and change. All of these are identified in studies of the late Western Roman Empire and most are present in our society today. Another key element in the run up to a "Dark Age" is the loss of a single cultural identity as mass migration begins to change the face of communities and nations. This is, again, a feature of the late Roman collapse, eventually Northern Italy, Southern France and the Dalmation coast had a higher percentage of Visigoths, Celts, Franks and Vandal inhabitants - all with a culture alien to the Roman and Etruscan/Greek occupants - than there were of the original peoples.

Looking around us we see a similar pattern developing as our economic power declines, but our perceived 'wealth' attracts those seeking to escape poverty or oppression elsewhere. Just as with the Romans, there was initially some assimilation, but increasingly, the cultures of the 'host' nations are rejected and the very cultures which locked the newcomers into poverty at home are imposed onec again. Education is, it is said, now more universal than ever before, but it is also being weakened, by the attempts to 'broaden' appeal. Drop out rates from schools are worrying in many 'western' societies and, when you couple it to the lack of 'unskilled' jobs you realise that a latge 'underclass' of poorly educated and unskilled people is being created in the midst of perhaps, one of the greatest technological ages in human history.

Our political elites have lost the trust of the majority as well, creating the opportunity for 'alternative' political structures to emerge - like the "Pirate Party" in Germany, or the socio-political "NGOs" that Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, World Wildlife Fund and even some Aid organisations have become. No longer is the ballot box sufficient for the voters, now we must take to the streets for one cause or another, demanding 'action' on something the majority present rarely fully understand and with no regard for the consequences or ramifications if the 'issue' is dealt with in the manner usually 'popularly' demanded. Just as in the late Roman period, 'celebrity cults' have formed and are exploited to drive competing ideologies of the individual or the 'masses' - a clear indicator of a would be dictator lurking in wait.

The clear marks of a dark age are the breakdown of the political structures, the prevalence of unpunished crime, the failures of education to 'educate' and the collapse of moral authority. Perhaps Just Another Richard is right, a Dark Age is looming over us. How long it will endure remains to be seen, what will emerge from it I'm not sure those who currently hold sway in education, celebrity, politics and law will like it. But then, like the Roman elites, they'll probably decamp and leave the rest of us to suffer the consequences of their folly.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The lost art of debate ...

Yesterday's post by VC, and the comments by Just Another Richard, highlight something other writers, and now an academmic study, have highlighted. There is another aspect to this, which can be traced back to the tactics embraced by politicians of the extremes to prevent dissent, discussion or questions. The old Soviet leaders used to give speeches lasting four or more hours. They never actually said much when you read the transcripts, about what they intended, but they focussed on all the 'evils' of dissent, of any other system, and repeated themselves over and over again. This is essentially what the internet 'trolls' and 'flamers' do and it is certainly what is happening in a wide range of political debates in the wider media.

It's about winning any argument by any means possible. Ideologically it is about denying any opponent the opportunity of putting across anything which might convince a listener that there might be an alternative point of view. The object of the exercise is to prevent that view from becoming known - so the first aim of the 'troll' is to derail the debate. If possible by pulling the discussion away from the point of discussion. The means to do this is to make the attack as personal as possible. It unbalances the opponent, annoys them and can lead to a response that allows them to distract the audience from the message. To the dedicated 'troll' the facts do not matter, truth does not matter, only their view counts, only their view is valid and they will go to any length to silence the opposition, or to destroy their message.

The internet is the ideal medium for many such individuals, since they can make their extremely unpleasant attacks from behind a cloak of anonymity. Often these ad hominen attacks would be actionable under libel laws and sometimes they even contain threats of violence and even murder. Why can they not be controlled, followed up by police or prosecuted? Put simply, all too often these attacks originate from some often sad individual operating from an internet cafe, or some other equally 'mobile' address making tracing them difficult. Those that do not, often use 'proxy' servers to hide their locations and multiple identities to cloak their real names.

Examples abound, the most prominent example is probably the 'debate' on 'climate change' where anyone who does not toe the Greenpeace/IPCC/Friends of the Earth Party line so ably fronted by the likes of Al Gore, must be 'flamed' and 'trolled' as soon as they dare to express any doubts about some of the claims bandied about. Anthony Watt's, the owner of the blog "Watts Up With That," has even had suggestions from a supporter of Anthropogenic Global Warming, that he engages in  questioable moral activities. More recently, he has found himself being deliberately misreported and misrepresented - with a wide range of insulting epithets thrown in for good measure. I have found myself on the receiving end of this sort of attack, though not quite to the same level of vituperation.

Then there is the question of whether or not governments should be able to control, restrict or lock down the internet. I for one would oppose that simply on the grounds that no government can be trusted to do that and certainly no bureaucrat should be trusted to do so even if one could be found who is competent to do it.

To some extent this is emerging on television as well. Watching some 'interviews' and 'discussion panels' has become an exercise in annoyance and - for me - anger management. Some interviewers are so transparently pushing a particular view or ideology that it is disgraceful that we actually have to pay a licence fee to watch it. The tactics are simple; never listen to the answer, interupt as soon as a point counter to yours is being made, accuse the interviewee of untruth or obfuscation, and drag them off into trivia and minutiae so that the message is lost in the noise. The hosility is so obvious in some debates that one wonders why the 'target' even bothers to try to debate. The list of these so-called 'debates' is endless, just look at any 'discussion' on politics, religion, morality. Everything is polarised and the name of the game is to be as rude as possible, as negative as possible about the opposing view, and to back your argument with as little truth or fact as possible.

To my way of thinking the real problem here lies in the loss of courtesy and respect for one another. The more we are told we have to 'respect' this or that minority, the less respect seems to result for anyone. Post modern thinking seems to run along the lines now of 'win at any price' and this means that in everything the biggest bully wins. That is not a healthy society.

We live in an age where access to information has never been easier or as wide. Yet, from the comments one regularly sees on news posts, on FaceBook and in various online forums, many of those who go down the 'troll' and 'flamer' approach are ill-informed and have no wish to be informed. Their philosophy is often best described as "don't confuse me with facts, my mind is made up." As VC said yesterday, the internet is, by and large, a very good thing, but it is also the vehicle for vast amounts of misinformation, propaganda and cyber bullying. Regulation is unlikely to change that, but teaching people to look more carefully at their sources, to be more discerning and to show some respect for others, may. We need to get away from the "deconstructionist" mindset and return to a realisation that 'debate' means giving equal weight to all sides of an argument. I won't hold my breath though, it will require a complete change in social attitudes to strip out the taught 'deconstructionism, moral relativism and win at all costs' form of debate.

In the meantime I will adopt the same approach as other bloggers with a higher profile than mine. I will continue to express my views here and permit those who post to do so as well. We will not 'feed the trolls' by responding to them and any troll or flamer who posts here can expect to not see his/her comment appear.http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/01/18/reader-poll-should-i-sue-the-pants-off-greg-laden/

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Keep Calm... and admit you don't know the answer

The internet is a wonderful thing. I think that the sum total of the good and bad that the internet has done will be positive in the long run. It is a privilege to live in a time where technology has enabled so much freedom to share useful information, from academic institutions down to individuals who love their chosen subjects enough to have studied them in great depth and who can share their findings with others. I hope that as more and more of the world is connected to the internet, the good will continue to grow.

But...

I'm afraid there is a big but. It could even be spelt with two t's, since it generally leaves me feeling like I've been exposed to the excreta of the human hivemind.

First of all there's the crime. I'm not an expert on this so I'll gloss over it and allow people involved in police work to give far better accounts. I've been told that there are not enough police in the UK to handle the levels of crime, of all different kinds, that are being conducted online. If this is true, then the internet is in need of taming, a bit like the Wild West, before we can fully enjoy the benefits that it can bring. How? I don't know!

Then there's the bullying. People used to just get bullied at school or at work. Now it follows them home and hounds them across the internet. Children are being driven to suicide by this. Curiously, online bullies are spread across all age groups, not just kids, so there's no easy cultural or social ill for the media to blame (video games, working parents, teachers etc etc). A particularly good blog post, which then went viral and triggered a lovely, positive response from the hivemind, can be found here: http://www.amandapalmer.net/blog/20130105/

And this leads me to the behaviour that prompted this post. I've been an active netizen since 2002. I've revelled in debates, commented on news items and generally enjoyed explanding my mind and hearing others' opinions for all of that time. Very early on, I was introduced to the rules of debate (http://www.fallacyfiles.org/taxonomy.html) and taught not to devolve into insulting people just because their opinion differed to mine. The forum that I frequented at the time was relatively civilized for a year or two, because the moderators enforced the rules of debate with great energy. Sadly that forum eventually collapsed and I haven't found another one where you could have a sensible debate for 10 years.

At the same time, more and more people have joined online debates, on every newspaper website, blog or forum and I've noticed some disturbing trends. Let's take a look at some innocuous stories first. A professor who is studying the internet to try to work out what makes some stories go viral is approached by his kids and asked for a puppy. He thinks, based on his experience, that he can slow them down by saying "if you get 1 million likes on Facebook, you can have a puppy". His estimate that that would buy him some time so he could get a puppy in Spring instead of now backfired and they got 1 million likes in 7 hours. An amusing little tale, which should have been enjoyable, cute etc. What kind of comments does this kind of article attract online?

"The kids were cute, and good for them for showing they could do it. But....
Where the kids REALLY schooled their dad here was in showing him not to make ridiculous goals for his children. He didn't want them to get a puppy until the Spring. OK. Why didn't he just tell them the TRUTH? Can he not make a rule in his own house and make sure that his kids stick to it? Why do parents have to manipulate their kids with these asinine tasks?"

and:

"The article doesnt touch on how so many people are just plain rude and like to annoy others specially on the internet. Makes you wonder how many people helped the children get the puppy just to make the dad miserable... Probably all of them"

So, we have an attack from a stranger on the professor's parenting skills and someone tarring everyone with the same misanthropic brush that they seem to have doused themselves in. Let's see what else this article can invite:

"Something for the professor to think about, certainly. It would not have gone viral if the kids were black, brown, muslim, aboriginal etc. This, I think is even more interesting than the original story."

"Or it would be, if it was more than a simple assertion. Also, Islam is a religion, not a race."

"Wow. You came "hard" on me. True, Islam is a religion but is actually currently being treated like a race in 17th century west much like the religion of Judaism was treated by Nazis. Do not try to play smarter than you are. But since my comment had only educational purposes, I leave you with some educational material so that you could actually learn something from this small time conversation: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comm...
Or maybe this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new...
Or maybe the question here, paraphrasing MalcolmX should be, are you a field negro or a house negro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v..."

"- The word you're thinking of is 'Arab,' unless you think that Muslims in Egypt and Indonesia will somehow both look the same.
- Don't quote Malcom X to me in such close proximity to Dr. King's birthday. Have a little respect."

For heaven's sake! It's a little story about some kids who want a puppy! Did it have to become a slanging match? And this is a mild example. Let's see what happens if you introduce the hot topic of guns anywhere where a citizen of the United States might see it (which is anywhere on the internet that is written in English).

An epidemiologist noticed that there is a similarity between how violent behaviour spreads and how infectious diseases spread. This is a bona fide scientist and the story has been picked up by a magazine that takes the unusual step of listing references to academic papers in the back, so you can feel fairly secure that this isn't the run-of-the-mill weak causal link stuff that the media often gets fooled into running.

Here's the article: WIRED Magazine: Is it time to treat violence like a contagious disease?

And here's the kind of comments it attracted:

A: "YES!! It's time to treat those who repeatedly commit violent acts against innocent victims as the dangerous diseased element they are, and have always been. Our society is becoming smaller, more interconnected, there just isn't room anymore for these kind of individuals to be "acting out" and running wild. There is a lot of interesting work being done on the relationship between those who chronically commit violent acts and their genetic makeup; lets pursue ALL angles, keep the politicians and "activists" OUT of it, and let pure science come to whatever conclusions research supports. Then for the really hard part, we need legislators and courts with enough wisdom and integrity to create and enforce the necessary laws, ignoring what's POPular, or politically motivated.
This last pres election just demonstrated the results of an electorate more interested in looking "hip," than in making tough but wise decisions. These kind of people are perfect "fodder" for being manipulated by a highly politicized and immoral media. Now we all PAY with "MY way or the highway" Obama, b/c making statements like "the Republicans have two choices" are NOT the words of a presidential negotiator, but rather the words of someone who fancies himself...King or Dicatator."

B: "You are clearly misunderstanding the article... it doesn't say that individual people are a "disease", but rather that the acceptance of violence as a viable alternative has epidemic-like transmission properties.
Of course, this is really just the science of memes applied to a particular meme so I don't see it as particularly insightful nor helpful."

A: ""it doesn't say that individual people are a "disease"," I think you took just a tad bit of liberty in making inferences from my note. Never said "people are a disease." That's like saying someone who has the flu....is the flu!"

C: "You actually started to make sense until you trampled your best point,"politicians and "activists" OUT of it"...You ,like the rest of us have been reading about what the republicans have been saying,,its pitiful,really,,do you not get that....I know ,if only the rest of us were as wise as you.....At least edit your post BEFORE you hit enter....have a great day pal"

A: "edit my post, "Pal?" clearly in addition to being irrational enough to STILL elect a man that increased our debt by about four TRILLION dollars his last term, you are also one of those tards that fail to understand that media such BBs are designed for quick banter, not lengthy tomes that are perfectly edited by anal retentive loser aholes such as yourself (-; "as wise as me?" well, yeah, compared to Obama for King voters such as yourself, I suppose I am a font of wisdom lol!"

D: "Well gee, how are we going to get legislators and courts that aren't swayed by public opinion? Who is going to appoint these courts? And what powers will they have that allow for the kind of measures you're talking about?
Seems kinda sketchy. I feel like we, as a species, have been down this road before..."

A: "OH I don't know, but we could start by electing people that do silly things like...stick to their word."

E: "I'll just ignore the fact that the Republicans are the ones making a fool of themselves and go to the statement:
"and their genetic makeup; let's pursue ALL angles"
That sounds awfully like a eugenics statement there. For someone who obviously doesn't like Obama you sound like you are trying to make the case for huge government intrusion into personal space."


A: ""the Republicans have two choices" (Obama) What part of that don't you understand? These are NOT the words of a negotiator! Eugenics, do you even know what it means? Clearly not, b/c if you did you wouldn't have made the stupid inference you just did. Genetic research IS NOT Eugenics, eugenics was an attempt to use genetics as social policy, "social policy" is fluid and changes with the times, thus eugenics ultimately is neutral in meaning. However, you libtards just luv labeling things dont' you? Makes it all the easier to confuse and politically manipulate the uneducated and dependent masses you all so luv. Go back in time "timetravelor" waaay back."

E: "The republicans are the ones who say it's their way or no way. They have said multiple times that they will block EVERY SINGLE THING THAT HE DOES NO MATTER WHAT. Obama has no choice since there is no negotiating with those idiots.
As for the eugenics, your comment made it sound like you are attempting to genetically test for "violence", in which case yes that is a social policy as a result from a genetic science. Say we find a genetic marker that is related to the predisposition of someone to be violent. What then? We test everyone? No thanks man.
The fact that you can't hold a civil conversation, and that you need to assume that I am a "libtard" means that I'm dealing with an irrational tea party idiot, or you're 12."


A: "Obama said it tard, not me, nor the Republicans. Do your research. Re your eugenics comment, I see you finally admit that I was talking about scientific options versus some kind of nazi...whatever, as you sneakily tried to imply (-; And yes, if there were a genetic test for predisposition to extreme violence I would want it given, so that perhaps that individual could be TREATED and lives saved! Now, you change the issue, "What then? We test everyone?" btw yes, "we test everyone" the same as we test for other genetic DISEASES. And if that intrudes into YOUR "personal space" to bad. Holding a "civil conversation" with people who cannot read and understand a simple post, who are too stupid and lazy to carefully parse what someone is saying, yeah, it does kind of piss one off."

E: "And the republicans said it too! Their being little brats that are holding everything up for the sake of spiting Obama. Do YOUR research as well.
I said it in my first comment, but still the fact that you are implying that we need to develop a test to find this kinda stuff. Then extrapolating from that comment I asked a valid question, one that you don't feel like addressing.
I have read and I understand what you are saying, and all I see is some blindly angry anti-liberal fool who doesn't want to even think about the implications of what he's suggesting.
Edit: On second thought, you're obviously trolling so I'm going to stop feeding the troll. Anyone who uses the terms "libtard" or "tard" just can't be taken seriously."


A: "You're man screwed up the economy his first term, and is already destroying major portions of this economy into his second term, his disaster of a "health plan" (which no one read, but I guess that was OK with you!) is BANKRUPTING business by all accounts (which further depresses the job market) Obama, a man that NEVER had a real job in his ENTIRE life! A man that raised the national debt many TRILLIONS higher than it already was, and YOU were stupid enough to vote for him...again! thanks for the blessings... genius. It's said that wisdom is learning to make the unpleasant but wise choices, clearly you and you lib pals never heard that one. No surprise, you sound like your'e likely still in HS or college.
In re genetic testing for extreme violent predisposition, yes, in order to possibly treat such individuals and SAVE the lives of innocent victims, I would support such testing IF it was as accurate and safe as similar genetic tests. Now, if you feel such testing intrudes into your "personal space" too bad. Ever hear the Beatle song lyrics "I, ME, MINE?" well we all have to grow up sometime and learn that there are others in the world to consider besides ourselves and our wants.

...and so on. This is one of hundreds of examples of people choosing to believe daft things like "the recession is our current political leaders' fault", rather than accepting that what we're seeing is the after-effects of the previous batch of global political leaders' decisions - and that even they had minimal real control over any of our economies. As a species, we are known to prefer clear answers, but surely after thousands of years of civilization we should have got the hang of understanding that reality doesn't divide into "right decision", "wrong decision" or even and that pinning blame on a convenient person doesn't achieve anything and is often just plain wrong?

Why are we incapable of weighing facts (including anecdotes about our political leaders, like the never-ending "Obama isn't a US citizen" rubbish), based on the actual data we have, rather than just picking whichever warped interpretation that we prefer to believe? Maybe it's just that back in 2002, the average person who had internet access was better-educated and more careful about diving into debating a subject without doing some research first, but I have definitely noticed a trend towards people not only shamelessly cherry-picking their sources to support increasingly outlandish positions, but actually make personal attacks on the validity of any data that they disagree with. I've seen it with gun control, abortion, climate change and a whole load of other issues that are too important to be allowed to be sink under the weight of this endless, childish, tit-for-tat commentary.

I don't think it's very likely, but I was hoping that making one blog post might at least contribute in some small way, by prompting whoever reads it to stop and think:

1) Am I reacting to someone else's opinions angrily because they are a) wrong b) right but I don't like it? c) an irritating little tit that doesn't deserve my time and energy?
2) Do I really know the subject well enough* to comment, or have I fallen into the trap of believing someone whose opinion I like because it fits with my worldview?" (See many false stories eagerly lapped up by the public whenever the emergency services go on strike, or by Republicans who hate Obama)
3) Am I adopting an absolutist/ extreme position on a subject which doesn't have a tidy answer? Could the ambiguity be making me uncomfortable and therefore making those islands at either end of the spectrum seem much more inviting than the shark-infested waters of uncertainty in between?
4) Should I maybe take it easy and walk away from this one?

*By "know the subject well enough", I would suggest that someone who has a degree in said subject trumps anyone who has spent less than 3600 hours studying that subject (eg in climate change debates). Anyone who is actually a doctor is better-qualified to make decisions on things like emergency abortions, no matter how emotive the public get about it and no amount of calling people "libtards" will address the US' gun problems.

If everyone could take a deep breath and consider whether the world will really be improved by their muddying the water with yet another comment in a sea of ill-considered comments, we might whittle the internet down to the core data that's worth reading

...In My Humble Opinion...  

Monday, 21 January 2013

'Engineered' Solutions ...

During the latter part of my career one of the 'new' approaches to life and property protection was the adoption of the "fire engineered solution" as a substitute for the so-called "prescriptive" approach to fire protection. The problem is that, all toooften, the motive was to reduce the cost of construction and not to ensure adequate protection. "Risk Based" solutions was the new buzz-phrase and a "risk assessment" was generally produced to support the non-provision of a wide range of protection measures. I annoyed some of those who believed everything could be reduced to 'ticks in a box" to support their idea of a "fire engineered solution" by having this definition on the wall in my office -

Fire Safety Engineering

The art of manipulating processes, materials and systems to protect buildings and people from events we cannot fully assess or anticipate, into models and structures we do not fully understand, in such a way the public at large has no reason to suspect the depth of our ignorance.

One of the pioneers of this field, a professor, saw it and took a copy to use in his lectures, an endorsement for caution in my view.

That view has recently been reinforced by the debacle of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Scheduled to open in 2012, it will now not be open until 2015 at the earliest - and that assumes there are no further problems exposed as they attempt to put right what was wrong in the first place.

The problem is the fire protection. It was "engineered" and a lot of the fire barriers that would usually have subdivided spaces to slow down fire spread, have not been included in the design. The sprinkler system has been designed to a minimum and the heads placed at a height where it is unlikely they will respond to anything timeously. The smoke extraction system, a key element, is also found to be deficient and, despite repeated warnings from the responsible Fire Service, the whole scheme was rushed ahead without taking any notice of the objections. In response to the objections, the fire officer was told, 'its an "engineered" solution. It will all work when it is completed."

The result is that, less than 24 hours before the airport was due to be opened with a great fanfare and all the usual dignitaries making speeches - the Fire Brigade pulled the plug and refused to sign the safety certification. That was a year ago. The project is now running several billion €uro over budget, the Chairman of the Project Committee (the Mayor of Berlin) has resigned and more heads are likely to roll as it continues. There was enormous pressure on the fire officers to 'sign' and accept the 'engineered solution.' Based on their assessment - a thorough and very detailed review of the plans and systems and finally a 'hot smoke' test - they refused, and they have been proved right. The tests have proved the fire service was right all along. The "engineered" solution doesn't work.

One of the biggest problems is the smoke control system, which, for aesthetic reasons was not to have any roof mounted ducts, was supposed to pull the hot smoke down into under floor ducting and discharge it in 'towers' at strategic points. Anyone who has experience of dealing with hot smoke will tell you this is NOT the best way to try to handle hot smoke. For one thing, it is difficult to "pull" it into a duct, for another, it wants to go upward - and the ducts create turbulence at the intakes which means you're mixing air, increasing the volume of the smoke. No wonder it failed the tests.

One can only wonder, in the light of this experience, how many other "fire engineered solutions" may prove totally deficient if put to the ultimate test - a real catastrophic event.

In the meantime, the Berlin Brandenburg Airport remains closed. Many of the systems have to be pulled out, redesigned and totally replaced. Many of the buildings require major alteration or reconstruction and the taxpayers are picking up the tab. On top of this, the 'concession' shops had all been let, the tennants pressured into installing their fittings and stock and hiring staff - which is now all standing idle and costing ... If it all goes to schedule, and provided the government keeps paying, the airport now looks likely to open three years late and some €2 billion over the original €3 billion cost.

Probably not the best advert for the design team, the "fire engineers" involved or the Project Managers, who, just to add insult to injury, are all civil service bureaucrats.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Papacy in the Third Millenium

I found this fascinating article on the Blog Archbishop Cranmer, and I have taken literally the invitation in the tail of it in reposting it in its entirety here. Written by a Roman Catholic insider he flags up everything that has always concerned me about Rome and its claims of supremacy and exclusivity in the Eucharist and the ordinariate.

Will the Next Pope Become the Vatican’s Last Pope?

The next pope, expected soon by many, will apparently be the last imperial pope elected. Thereafter, the Catholic hierarchy will likely be compelled to adopt power-sharing reforms under accelerating pressure, including from political leaders in Australia, Ireland, Germany and soon likely the USA, as well. The percentage of voting Cardinals in the Vatican, mostly Italians, has increased considerably during Benedict XVI’s short tenure. This has fortified the Vatican Cardinal clique’s veto grip on the next papal election, which likely will be of an initially younger, longer serving, but similarly imperial, pope.

Benedict XVI’s evident enhancement of the papal election veto threat by his selection of new voting Cardinals helps explain in retrospect the apparent support of long time Vatican powers, Cardinal Sodano, et al., for the elderly current German pope’s election in 2005. This support had been surprising to some, given the earlier reported disputes between them over investigating Cardinal Groer and Father Maciel, two notorious sexual predators. Groer and Maciel had also been strongly supported by Pope John Paul II. The Vatican clique’s enhanced veto power tends to assure that their next hand-picked pope can be expected to continue to run the Catholic Church dictatorially, mainly to maximize the wealth and power of Vatican Cardinals and their subservient, but well rewarded, Cardinal accomplices worldwide.

Italian Cardinals in 1870 lost to a nationalist army their political control over the lucrative Papal States. But these Cardinals and their carefully chosen Italian successors, including Cardinals Ottaviani and Sodano for much of the last half century, have shrewdly managed to recover and even expand their power and wealth since 1870. The Vatican clique has significantly strengthened its already tight grip on the worldwide Roman Holy Empire, with its considerable wealth and political influence, so far at least. In the process, the clique has also succeeded in helping to undermine the overwhelming approvals of the 1966 papal birth control commission of contraception and of the 2,500+ Vatican II bishops of effective power-sharing among the pope and bishops and also to undercut the strong support for making celibacy optional for priests. Very significantly, however, the Vatican clique also has failed to curtail effectively the massive worldwide scandal of priest sexual assaults on trusting children.

Ironically, by the end of World War I in 1918 after a half-century “voluntary imprisonment’ in Vatican City, these Cardinals were finally free of all effective European monarchical controls that had restrained papal power often over a millennium and a half. Beginning in the late 1920′s, the Vatican clique began to expand its political influence and wealth by trading “spiritual” electoral support for local privileges, powers and subsidies, beginning with European facist leaders like Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, right up to the recent effort to dump President Obama to elect a “papally friendlier” Mitt Romney. No longer after 1918 did the Vatican clique regularly have to bend to foreign rulers on bishops’ appointments or to accept related foreign interference in Vatican matters, making the Vatican clique’s power almost unprecedented in Catholic Church history. This may dramatically change soon.

Ongoing developments indicate that electing a new pope now, who would appear to be just another puppet of the imperial Vatican clique, would likely lead rapidly to the end of the Roman Holy Empire. These ongoing developments include: (A) the continuing disclosures of the Catholic hierarchy’s worldwide criminal conspiracies, (B) the imminent end of papal primacy and the return of accountability, (C) the steady restoration of scriptural primacy and simple Gospel values, and (D) the increasing loss of effective Vatican political power worldwide.
_____________________________________________________ —————————————————————————————–
(A) The Disclosures of the Catholic Hierarchy’s Criminal Conspiracies

International prosecutors, government investigators and/or abuse survivors’ lawyers will likely continue their relentless pursuit of key Cardinals, including perhaps the pope, for child endangerment abuse cover-up practices and for bank money laundering and other financial crimes.

Pressure will continue to mount from:

(1) the ongoing revelations from the major governmental investigation commission in Australia (and probably soon in the USA as well), which will override non-disclosure agreements and compel testimony, including about the details of communications between the local hierarchy and Vatican officials;

(2) the Los Angeles Archdiocesan file revelations underlying the $660 million abuse settlement and including hundreds of previously secret and unredacted abuse related files;

(3) the award winning HBO documentary (“Mea Maxima Culpa”) about over 200 deaf Milwaukee boys sexually abused by a single priest that will begin airing internationally on February 4, which includes details of the failure of the current pope’s former CDF department to deal effectively and expeditiously with the evident predator, as well as the clip of the pope earlier slapping an ABC-TV reporter for daring to press him on the status of Father Maciel’s almost fifty-year old investigation;

(4) the seemingly unending bizarre saga of Cardinal Rigali’s former Philly Archdiocesean priests’ ongoing child sexual abuse and/or child endangerment criminal trials, and the related blatant perjury and document destruction admissions;

(5) the ongoing stonewalling by German bishops apparently to keep independent investigators like Professor Pfeiffer from getting to the Munich and Regensburg files of the Ratzinger brothers;

(6) New York Cardinal Dolan’s shameful and failed effort to try illegally to keep millions of dollars of Milwaukee funds from abuse survivors, including some of the 200 deaf boys mentioned above;

(7) the continuation in office of Kansas City Bishop Finn after his conviction for a child endangerment related crime, despite the demands of many local Catholics that he be removed;

(8) the arrest of Cardinal Egan’s and Archbishop Lori’s former Bridgeport top aide, Monsignor Wallin, reportedly a cross dressing, porn distributing, alleged drug dealer;

(9) the appointment of one of disgraced Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyers as the new chief Vatican prosecutor of predatory priests; and

(10) inevitably more obscene revelations related to the foregoing, that will just add more fuel to the demand for more and stronger prosecutorial efforts worldwide against the Catholic hierarchy.

(B) The End of Papal Primacy and the Restoration of Accountability

Anticipated disclosures from these prosecutorial proceedings from previously secret Vatican documents and likely sworn testimony from Vatican employees, such as the papal butler who can be expected to reveal more especially after Gorgeous Georg’s surprising promotion to Archbishop, and notwithstanding the apparent effort to buy the butler’s silence with a new Catholic hospital position in Rome, appear likely to raise more issues of greater papal culpability.

These issues will then serve to buttress the increasingly widely disseminated historical and scriptural evidence that shows clearly that “divine origin” claims for papal authority are mainly unsupportable. The imminent collapse of papal credibility and authority will likely lead more Catholics to revisit and to seek to restore the structure that Jesus and his first disciples left behind intentionally, where local church gatherings were overseen by locally selected and accountable leaders, both male and female.

The weaknesses of the papal primacy claims, both scripturally and historically, have recently been very effectively summarized in the outstanding new book by a promising young theologian, entitled,”Democracy in the Christian Church: An Historical, Theological and Political Case”, accessible for free in part at http://amzn.com/0567449521

(C) The Restoration of Scriptural Primacy and Simple Gospel Values

Catholicism is based mainly on the reported history in the New Testament of a unique person, Jesus, and his early disciples. No pope or hierarchy can change or override that, even if they too often try to avoid or misapply the New Testament. The words of the New Testament are there for all to read.

Having despaired of the loss of papal credibility, more Catholics will now acknowledge the increasingly significant historical and scriptural evidence concerning the Eucharist. This evidence makes clear that for Jesus and his initial disciples, the Eucharist Meal was not intended to be an event mainly to be monopolized and controlled by a “mystical” celibate male priesthood managed tightly by an opportunistic and unaccountable hierarchy. For the current Vatican, the Eucharistic Meal appears too often to be mainly a weekly fundraising event for overly trusting Catholics dominated by low-paid priests that the hierarchy appears to believe must be protected and supported blindly, even when they sexually abuse children.

Once the true Eucharist history and the essential role of the assembled Christian fellowship first reported in Chapters 10 and 11 of Paul’s earliest Epistle, First Corinthians, are fully appreciated and broadly acknowledged by more Catholics, as is already happening, it will become clearer that the top-down Catholic hierarchy is a mostly unnecessary and, too often parasitic, accident of medieval history that Catholics should just consider sweeping into the dustbin of church history.

(D) The Loss of Effective Vatican Papal Political Power

The Vatican is increasingly and regularly losing its political influence, as evidenced by significant recent Vatican political failures in Ireland, Australia, the Philippines and the USA, make very clear. For more on this, please read my statement, “A Taboo, a New Pope and a Truer Church”, accessible by clicking either on the heading on the top of this essay or clicking on:http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-8A

For the reasons discussed above, Catholics following Gospel mandates will, and morally are obligated to, steadily transfer their financial and other support from the imperial top-down Vatican church hierarchical structures that Constantine left behind to competing non-hierarchical church structures that conform more closely to the Gospel values that Jesus left behind. Without weekly Catholics’ contributions that currently depend on a rigged purported monopoly on the Eucharist offered exclusively by often excessively obedient celibate males supporting a self-interested and mostly unnecessary hierarchy, the current Roman Holy Empire will wither away over time, with a little help from prosecutors.

In the near term, the gates of hell will not prevail against the current hierarchy. Instead, prosecutors will open hell’s gates for entry by those in the hierarchy who have earned it. True Christian Catholics will then get on with restoring the Catholic Church to conform to the Spirit the first disciples left behind.

Readers are respectfully asked to forward this essay widely and/or to include links to it or quotes from it in suitable comments on other websites, as deemed appropriate.

 The only thing I would point out to Roman Catholics wishing to find a valid alternative 'home' is that both the Anglican Churches and the Old Catholic Bishoprics already offer the faith described in the penultimate paragraph.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Harry at School ...

Harry is getting bolder as he grows, and now there are other Shelties to play with, he's joining in a bit more of the rough and tumble. Today saw him joining in the chase and catch games this breed love to play, though he's still unsure about the racing through tunnels ...


And if things get a little too rough, you can always dodge between someone's feet. Sure fire way to slow the bigger guys down ...

Friday, 18 January 2013

Expectations ...

Those of us who grew up in the immediate post-war period of the 1950s and 60s, did so with the expectation that, at 65, we would be able to retire and draw a pension we'd contributed toward, just as our parents had. We also expected to be able to buy our own homes, perhaps even moving up the property ladder from what our parents had. We expected to own a car, enjoy a career and we were raised with the expectation that there would always be a 'job' or, if we were lucky, a career for us.

It wasn't unreasonable of us to expect that our children would have the same opportunities and expectations. Or was it? In the light of the current economic mess we're experiencing, perhaps it was.

Talking to the present generation - our kids - one quickly discovers that they have a wide range of things to face that we did not. The first is the difficulty in finding employment, any employment. Even those leaving university with qualifications commerce and industry can use are struggling, and those with a more technical bent are struggling to stay employed. More and more businesses are falling back on the supermarket trick of employing largely "part time" staff which allows them to pay minimum wages and reduces the overall cost of employing someone - since you don't have to provide a career path or cover pension investments among other things.

Heavy industries are almost an extinct activity in the UK, our once extensive ship building industry is all but gone, steel is no longer produced as far as I am able to discover anywhere in the UK, the mines have vanished and now more and more High Street chains are shutting their doors. We keep hearing that we need immigrants to fill the unfilled jobs, but if that is the case, why are they unfilled? Could it be because they are so poorly paid it doesn't pay to take the work? That seems to be the case for many of these 'jobs.' What the influx of 'new' people does do is drive the price of property sky-high, but that actually benefits those on higher incomes since they are already on the property ladder, and can reap the reward in profits when they sell or when they wish to raise capital against their assets.

For those at the starting end of careers there are several problems, the first being the cost of any property anywhere near the place of work. The second is the cost of transport to and from their place of work. Once again, those who constantly argue for increasing fuel prices to "drive people out of their cars" forget that this increases the cost of public transport as well. Higher fuel prices also drive up the cost of food and every other commodity the hard pressed ordinary householder needs. As ever, the hardest hit are always those at the bottom - the young folk starting out in career (if they can find one), trying to find a home, start a family build a nest-egg for their own retirement.

Recently I talked to some 30-something folk. Neither expect to be able to retire, they have their own home, but at the cost of both working. Both work a six day week, and forget about having a day at home together in the week - the changes to allow businesses to trade 24/7 have put paid to the family having even one day together at the weekend. The law allows the employers to give two days in the week off - not necessarily together and almost assuredly not on a Saturday or Sunday. At least, in the days when I worked that sort of pattern, I lived at the Fire Station and so did my family, not so the folk who work for the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury et al, or the many 'Call Centres' and other distribution centres now working round the clock. You note, of course, that the "executives" of these companies do not, themselves work weekends and public holidays, that is just for the 'plebs.'

I really feel for the current younger generation, their expectations are shrinking and career opportunities vanishing faster than anyone can change a shirt. Even if you are fortunate enough to land one, it is extremely likely, given the current economic situation, that the company will be sold, merged or asset stripped and broken up eaving the employees high and dry. There is no longer any guarantee that a company will still exist in 20 years, let alone 40 or 50.

It has long been my opinion, that the problem is short term thinking. Investors, Board Members, Politicians and even Civil Servants all seem to think no further than this fiscal year, or, if you're lucky, five years at the most. There are no 'visions' any longer, just a 'make the fastest buck you can, grab the money and run' philosophy. Our so-called 'leaders' in business as well as in politics are completely out of touch with the realities and difficulties faced by those below "middle management" and really do not understand the impact of their lack of longterm vision or planning on the very people they depend on to 'produce' whatever it is they have their money invested in.

Add to this the ever growing 'benefits' system of the UK and - from the government's own figures - you quickly realise that it is only a matter of time before the cost of the benefits and the rest of the 'government machine' will outstrip the national income. At that point there will be major hardship for everyone not in that top one or two percent that is the 'movers and shakers' of the Boardrooms, Banking, Politics and Civil Service. Don't expect them to understand why people are starving on the streets and don't expect them to trim their own expensive lifestyles to address the issue. We already have the example of the MPs voting to give themselves a 32% increase in pay and a further 20% increase in their "expenses" while at the same time reducing the basic pay for police. Out of touch? Or simply don't give a damn?

After my conversation with my young friends, and a bit of thought and digging, I find myself bitter at the way we have all been betrayed.

We were brought up being told that the "Universal Pension" meant we didn't need to make provision for it. Those of us who did, found ourselves penalised for doing so, and then Gordon Brown and the rest of the Westminster and Whitehall Thieves Guild asset stripped them and left most of us struggling. Now they keep telling us that it is the fault of "greedy pensioners." Did we create an uninvested pension scheme? Did we not pay into this scheme, involuntarily for the most part, throughout our working lives? How then are we responsible for the problem?

Over the last seventy years politicians, civil servants, 'captains of industry/commerce' and Union leaders, have played fast and loose with the money we contributed to our retirement and to the building of the nations economic base. They have created a society which is now dependent on handouts, an economy which is owned by foreign capital, where jobs are scarce and getting scarcer, and where our children and their children can look forward to a return to - what? A pre-nineteenth Century system of 'grace and favour' where the wealthy provide for the servants and retainers? Of tied 'cottages' for favoured employees? Of a subsistence economy for the majority and unimagineable luxury for the rich?

Our children are paying for the short-sightedness and greed of Whitehall, Westminster, the Unions and the Captains of Industry and Commerce.  It's a disgrace - but I'm damned if I know how we can fix it.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Helping ...

Getting to grips with the computer and typing ...


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Worthless 'Gifts'?

The news today is full of the collapse of the HMV store chain, though the current 'management' seem to think they can 'save' the company. What I find astonishing is their blatant attempt at what I can only call theft. Customers who, in good faith, exchanged 'coin of the Realm' for a 'Gift Voucher,' are now being told they can't exchange these for 'goods' in any of the stores.

I am no legal expert on this, but I'm pretty sure that anyone holding such a 'Gift Voucher' could argue a case in law for either the return of their money or the supply of some 'goods.' It is my understanding that a 'Gift Voucher' is legally a form of 'Promissary Note' in that it has a 'value' printed on it and a form of words setting out what it may be exchanged for. That puts it into the same league, in a more restricted way, as a Bank Note issued - say - by the Bank of England which carries the legend "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of £X." The difference is that the Gift Voucher may only be exchanged for 'goods' in a branch of the issuing company's store.

Effectively, when I buy a Gift Voucher from a company, I am receiving a Bill of Exchange in which transaction they are accepting my money and agreeing to provide me with, at some future date, goods to the same value from their stock. Promissary Notes and Bills of Exchange have been around since Roman times at least and probably longer. Carrying around gold and silver coins was risky and they were heavy, so a system of 'deposits and receipts' came into being. The receipts eventually became exchangeable between traders and the system developed into the bank notes we have today. An extension of the system allowed companies to issue a "promise to pay" on a certain date in the future for goods already received - that is the Promissary Note. These could be and often are, "discounted" to a bank by the receiving company for 'cash in hand' so they get the money, less a small percentage, and the bank later collects the full amount from the payer.

The HMV Board's decision to renege on its Gift Voucher promissary notes has some serious implications for every company that sells such certificates. They've taken the customers' money, but now refuse to honour the agreement. If it isn't outright theft, it is certainly fraud.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Catholic and Protestant


The Church of England (and by definition all its 'daughter' churches in the Anglican Communion) is 'Catholic' in its adherence to the three ancient Creeds and 'Apostolic' in its orders of clergy and the consecration of its bishops, again, traceable back to the Apostolic appointments of the first century. It is also 'Protestant' in rejecting the claims of Papal supremacy and in some of its reformation theology which rejects, among other things, the concepts of needing a 'spiritual intercessor' in the form of a 'saint,' Mary, the Mother of Christ or one of the Apostles to 'speak' on our behalf to God in the person of Christ. The Anglican belief follows the early church understanding that one 'spoke directly to God' and did so individually or as a part of a congregation.

It is often said, in derogation, that the Church of England was born out of Henry VIII's desire to obtain a divorce. In part this is true, but it is rather the tip of a much larger iceberg. Henry, like many other Sovereigns, was increasingly frustrated by the refusal of the clergy to recognise his authority or to submit to justice and the 'law of the land.' Henry certainly wasn't the only sovereign having trouble with Abbots and Bishops who had become so rich and powerful they kept their own armies, made their own laws and sometimes issued decrees in defiance of the King. Records from other European nations show a similar pattern. 

The Popes were often in the pay of one or another would be "Emperor of the World," and were also usually members of one of the ruling families of Italy or another of the Southern European Kingdoms. On occasion there was more than one "Pope" at large as well. At the time of Henry's matrimonial problem the Pope was a "guest" of one of Henry's wife's relatives. He certainly wasn't going to do anything to upset his "host."

Within England, many of the bishop's saw an opportunity to reform the church and get rid of the superstition, abuses and, it must be admitted, consolidate their own positions. In its original form, the Church merely rejected the "Bishop of Rome's" overriding of the laws of England and Wales. The relevant legislation states very simply, "The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm," and it would very likely have stayed within that 'traditional catholic' state were it not for the immediate excommunication the said Bishop of Rome then issued, and the even stupider direct attempt to claim that Henry held his throne and crown by the 'consent' of Rome. When the Pope went one step further, calling for Henry's assassination, that was enough to launch an anti-Rome purge of all offices of state and all the livings of anyone who still harboured hopes of a return to the 'fold.'

It was the opening the more protestant reformers were waiting for, and they seized the opportunity. The teachings of Calvin, Luther and Zwingley found a ready reception among a populace sick to death of the "Roman" clergy lording it over them, living literally in many cases like lords, often seizing property 'in lieu of tithes' and always hiding behind the common people's fear of being denied absolution or being condemned by a priest or monk to Hell for some minor slight or observance. One thing often forgotten - or perhaps not generally known today - is that at the time of the Reformation the vast majority of people attending church to 'hear' the Mass were not 'communicants.' The nearest most commoners got to it was to see the Host raised in a Monstrance at a Benediction. Only the clergy and the nobility ever got communion at these services and the English reforming bishops recognised this as the travesty it was.

This led to the Mass being translated into English and the forbidding of the use of Latin, the King and the bishops declaring that to be included in the Eucharist, a man (and a woman obviously) must be able to understand the words of the Mass. They went one further, when Henry died and Edward VI came to the throne and declared that the Bible must be read, and the Gospel proclaimed, in English. 

It was under Edward VI that the Protestant Reformers really got the bit between their teeth, and very nearly went completely overboard. Fortunately Parliament refused to ratify the Prayer Book they produced which, incidentally, contained the first version of the Articles of Religion numbering more than fifty. In the 1662 version, many of the more extreme items were struck out and the list reduced to the 39 we still have today. It also required that, for a Eucharist, the "Communion Table" was to be set in the Quire, longwise, and those 'admitted to Communion' to be seated around it. It then directed that the priest stand upon the North side to celebrate the Eucharistic Rite. This was, in part, carried over into the 1662 Prayer Book which states only that the priest must 'stand on the North side' but omits the position of the 'table.'

One has to appreciate that all of that was purely to put a distance between the 'reformed' Church in England, and the Roman east facing practice. There is no liturgical reason for the priest to attempt to perform the consecration or any other part of the Eucharist from the North End of the altar, other than the politics and prejudice of the 16th Century. It has no Biblical or theological credence and its perpetuation by the 'Protestant' wing of the Church of England is purely a matter of practice and the desire to reduce the importance of the central act of worship for anyone who believes in the 'catholic' traditions and understanding of the significance of what the Eucharist represents. 

Much as I love the poetry of Cranmer's prose in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, I have to acknowledge that it was a compromise. It was an attempt by the Church leaders of the 'Restoration' to hold together the conflicting demands of the 'catholic and apostolic' wing of the Church of England, and reconcile the demands of the anti-catholic 'presbyterians' who had held sway over all religious practice under Cromwell. Thus, the Eucharistic Rite includes much that is 'catholic' and blends it with the 'Protestant.' So we have the opening Collect for Purity and the Prayer of Humble Access preceding the Prayer of Consecration. 

The Eucharist was intended, in the minds of the 17th Century compilers of the BCP, to follow, by arrangement and the agreement of the Church Wardens, the 'normal' Sunday Morning Prayer service. Thus there was no provision for a sermon in the Eucharist, since anyone 'admitted to communion' would already have endured one of at least an hour and a half in Morning Prayer. Don't think you could get away with only attending the Eucharist either. If you weren't present at Morning Prayer, the Vicar had the power to deny you access to the Eucharist. This was the purpose of his having to give 'notice' that he intended to celebrate the Eucharist, and to charge those wishing to attend to 'prepare themselves and amend their ways to ensure they were worthy of admittance.'

The Rubric states that, having prepared the 'table' (ghastly protestant term) and led the congregation as far as the reading of the 'charge' as set out in the BCP service, he was to station himself at the entrance to the chancel and examine each person who wished to remain and be admitted to the Eucharist. It further states that he was to turn away those HE considered 'unworthy.' As late as the early 19th Century, these 'rules' were enforced and followed - and it took the 'rebellion' of John and Charles Wesley and their 'Methodist' movement to shake the CofE out of this 'Protestant' hatred of the the catholicity of a Eucharist open to all to cause this unChristian and frankly ridiculous system to be abandoned.

It must be one of life's great ironies that the Methodists now have a closer resemblance to the Church of England in the 17th Century than its 'parent' does (though there are sections of the Anglican Church 'family' that make the Methodists look positively "Roman!"). 

The Book of Common Prayer was revised in 1928/29, but an atheist Parliament refused to allow its use. It was however, adopted by a number of the 'Provinces' of the Church, among them South Africa, Australia and Canada. Further attempts to sort out the unworkable elements of the BCP resulted in the Alternative Service Book, which rather fell between stools in the sense that it tried to be too inclusive and to provide for all options. It also abandoned the beauty of Cranmer's prose and adopted expressions and language that many felt was overly familiar and 'common.' Hence the comment by Josephus on my recent post regarding the Catholic and Apostolic nature of the Church of England. To a very large extent his criticisms are addressed very successfully in the Common Worship services now in use in England, Wales and elsewhere. It does strike a happy balance in that it preserves the best language, provides a liturgical platform which fits with both 'catholic' practices and with those who adhere to the 16th Century 'north side' celebration. It also gives alternatives to Evensong and Morning Prayer - though the Monk confesses, his daily 'Offices' remain his beloved Prayer Book versions of these.

The tension between 'Catholic' and 'Protestant' remains a part of the Anglican Church. There will always be those who find it either 'too Catholic' or 'too Protestant,' but, as I said in my opening, that is probably healthy. It ensures that it cannot be dragged back into the folly of the Cromwellian Presbyters and their hate filled vision and it also ensures it cannot become 'another Rome.'

The Anglican Church has much to offer, and the new Archbishop has a great deal to build on to move this great church forward during his tenure. I commend him to everyone's prayers.