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Friday, 31 May 2013

Recycled concepts ...

I am currently reading a book on the loss of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse on the 10th December, 1941 off the coast of Malaysia. These two ships fell victim to aerial attack by 85 Japanese bombers and torpedo bombers. Their loss was a tragedy, a severe blow to British prestige and heralded the demise of the battleship as the 'Queen of the Oceans' in naval thinking. As ever, though, their loss arose from a combination of many factors, not least the belief in British military circles, that the Japanese were not 'air minded' and that the mere presence of these two ships would be sufficient to deter the Japanese invasion fleet.

They were sent to the Far East against the advice of the Admiralty, which wanted them to have an aircraft carrier to provide air cover. Churchill wanted a 'show of force' and believed the Japanese would not challenge 'superior British forces' despite the the fact the Japanese had a substantial fleet. He also believed the RAF when they told him they would provide the air cover for the ships - despite having only outdated and outclassed Brewster Buffalo fighters and Blenheim Light Bombers in place to face a vastly superior force. The Japanese had one stroke of incredible luck, the German surface raider Atlantis captured a ship carrying vital secret information - the full details of everything the British had deployed in Malaysia, where it was and even how effective it was likely to be.

Coupled with the sheer stupidity and incompetence of some of the British officers doing the assessment of Japanese forces and intentions, it is small wonder the entire air defences of Malaysia were destroyed within hours of the launching of the Japanese assault - most of them on the ground. Into this sailed the ill-fated Force Z. No air cover, inadequate air defences and a well equipped, well trained and extremely motivated enemy. It still took five torpedo hits to stop the Prince of Wales and sink her, and four to despatch the Repulse. Considering that almost 40 torpedos were launched against each ship and several tons of bombs, it is not surprising they were sunk. What is appalling is that they were sent out relying on 'air cover' which could not be supplied.

What is even more surprising is the fact that even 70 years on, there are still people in Westminster and Whitehall who argue that ships at sea can be defended by land-based aircraft. Or that a single aircraft can destroy a major warship. One thing they all overlook is that to be effective against a ship an aircraft has to penetrate the air defences, which starts with what our American Allies call a CAP - Combat Air Patrol - a constant patrol of the area around a Task Group by armed interceptor aircraft. Above these is an airborne radar picket, able to detect inward bound intruders well outside the attack range of their weapons, and to direct interceptors to deal with them. This is where our losses in the Falklands should have alerted our strategists and the politicians to the deficiencies of our armed forces - we lacked adequate airborne radar patrols and we also lacked the interceptor capacity, which the Argentinians exploited with their low-level strikes. Most of our ships didn't have the weapons needed to take down an incoming sea skimming missile either  - a 'cost saving' innovation based in the premise our ships would always operate with an ally providing this cover.

Even today our ships are despatched to duties well outside the capability of the RAF's "land based" aircraft in the same manner as the Prince of Wales and the Repulse. Always the questions of air cover are answered by the statement, sometimes patently false, that the ship(s) will always have the requisite air cover from an ally. Thus, our Fleet currently has only the assault ship HMS Ocean and her compliment of helicopters as 'air cover' and airborne anti-submarine patrols. The new HMS Queen Elizabeth and her consort HMS Prince of Wales won't be available for a while yet, and even when they are, will not have a full complement of aircraft. That brings me to the next bit of 'recycled' thinking, this time from the 1960s.

The "Defence Review" of the late 1950s actually suggested that the future RAF would not have manned aircraft, but should instead be equipped with missiles. Likewise, it said the RN didn't need big ships - on the grounds that 'a single bomb can destroy an entire fleet.' They ignored several important things in making that statement. First you actually have to deliver the 'single bomb' which is not as easy as it sounds when you have to penetrate a properly equipped and organised defence screen. Secondly, the technology didn't then exist to completely do away with manned aircraft as an aerial defence system - and it still doesn't. There is talk now of equipping the two new carriers with 'drones' and I recently listened with growing disbelief to a civil servant spouting nonsense about how the technology would soon render the need to put pilots in any aircraft obsolete. There is also talk among the terminally blind in Westminster of not needing the carriers at all. Why? Oh, the RAF can provide the cover from a "land base" in "friendly territory". Ah, yes, and just where would that be in, say, the vacinity of the Falklands?

As the German Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr has discovered, the day of unmanned aircraft is a long way off - and may never be entirely possible. A pity it has taken them almost €2 billion to discover that the Eurohawk drone, impressive as it looks, can't get CAA clearance to fly. Why? Because the satelite communication it needs to be controlled while in flight is subject to disruption. Most of the cost of this project has been spent trying to cure that problem, without success. So now the Minister of Defence faces massive criticism for not having stopped the project earlier.

I find it fascinating that the lessons of 70 years ago have still not been learned in Whitehall or Westminster. They seem to have no concept of the realities of strategic thinking, of war or threat of war. Nor of maintaining the forces you need where you need them, or even of supporting those you have with the right defece systems. I get the impression it is all about their own comfort today. Tomorrow is someone else's problem. Pity about the chaps and chapesses our short-sightedness will ultimately kill - but, hey, never mind tomorrow ...

Thursday, 30 May 2013

An Interesting Observation ...

Mark Twain, otherwise known as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, author of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and numerous other stories, wrote of the Jews as a people -

"...If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.
The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?" 

("Concerning The Jews," Harper's Magazine, 1899) 

It is an observation that certainly challenges many, especially at this time when Jews are once again the target of bigotry and prejudice. In Mr Clemens' day the Russian pogroms were rumbling along and spreading into neighbouring countries. Jews were still barely 'tolerated' in Spain, Italy and in France the infamous Dreyfus affair revealed a deep seated anti-semitic streak in their society. Even in Britain, Jews were not welcome in 'polite' society even though one of its more effective Prime Ministers, Benjamin D'Israeli, was a Jew. He had to convert to Christianity to be permitted to take his seat as an MP!

Jewish doctors, scientists and philosophers have made a huge impact on all societies down the centuries. As Mark Twain remarked, a disproportionately large one given the actual numbers involved. 

What is it, for instance, that drives a Jew, when faced with a strip of barren and 'tired' land on the edge of a desert, to roll up his sleeves and create an irrigation system so he can plant trees and grow oranges where his non-Jewish neighbours herded goats? They have their failures as well, and their crooks, but as a community they seem to be a lot better at picking themselves up, sticking a plaster on the wounds and getting stuck into rebuilding or trying something different, than anyone else. Whether they 'practice' their religion or not, they manage to retain their sense of identity and their cultural heritage a lot better than any other people in history.

They often blend into the background of whatever society they happen to live in. Sometimes you won't know someone is Jewish unless he tells you, yet they know one another - and not because of some 'secret signs' or 'arkane rituals'. It is because they have a certain way of doing things, a way of looking at history, or a way of dealing with others. It is, of course, founded in their faith, again whether they 'practice' it by regular prayer and attendance in the Synagogue, or not. So what is it that gives them the impetus to be so creative, so inventive, and so dogged in their persistence?

It may be in their genes, though I doubt it. For one thing, as most of those who have taken part in the Genographic Survey started a few years ago by the National Geographic Society have discovered, almost everyone with a European or Middle Eastern background has at least one of the genetic markers associated with the Ashkenazi or the Sephardic Jewish diaspora in their genetic make-up. That is hardly surprising, since they have, as a people, been scattered through the Middle East, North Africa and Europe since the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian kings around 598 BC. Yet, despite their internal factions, every attempt to suppress them, convert them, and exterminate them, they have managed to retain their identity and their heritage.

I think that is not only admirable, I think it contains some vital lessons for the rest of us.

Mark Twain, himself a Presbyterian, and though he was critical of organised religion, still a practioner, seems to have had a sneaking admiration for his Jewish contemporaries. As he remarked, their impact on all of the sciences and the arts is completely disproportionate to their numbers. In my view, that alone explains why they have succeeded in turning modern Israel into a thriving hub of agriculture, industry and commerce in the midst of a desert, both figuratively and literally.

Israel is a success story in the sense that it is a working democracy, economically stable (despite attempts to destablise it), and it is constantly at the forefront of innovative thinking in art, science and medicine. So why do so many in the West hate it, and want to see it destroyed? Could it be envy? 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Restoration of the Monarchy

On this day in 1660 Cromwell's "Commonwealth" officially ended with the Restoration of the Monarchy by Parliament. Charles II Stuart became the King of England and Wales and of Scotland. For his corontaion, the Scottish "Honours" had to be used as Cromwell had broken up the English Crown jewels and given some of the precious stones - like the Black Prince's 'Ruby' - to cronies. The ancient crown of Edward the Confessor (St Edward's Crown) was melted down at his command and the money went to pay for his military campaigns against the Scots and the Irish Catholics.

It took some time to restore the Crown Jewels, starting with the recreation of the Confessor's Crown in1661, and still used today for the coronation of the Monarch, though it was often carried rather than worn. The original was believed to contain parts of Alfred the Great's crown and it was worn at the coronation of every King or Queen until Cromwell. The famous 'Ruby" (it isn't actually a ruby, but a spinel weighing 170 carats) is now restored to the Crown Jewels, and can be seen at the front of the Imperial State Crown worn for the State Opening of Parliament and other "State" occassions. St Edward's Crown weighs a whopping 4 lbs 12 ounces (2.2 kg) largely because it is solid gold and set with 444 precious stones.

It is perhaps ironic that on this day in 1453, the last Byzantine Emperor died at the hands of the Turkish invaders, bringing to an end the Eastern Roman Empire. This event did trigger the exodus - begun in in 1326 - of the philosopher's, artists and thinkers who would bring the flowering of science and art to the west.  It brought the Renaissance into fruition, and the refugees brought with them copies of all the ancient texts from Greece, Egypt and the East long available only to a restricted few from the west.

I will tonight raise a toast. To my Queen and Sovereign and her heirs and successors. Long may they continue, and may their enemies reap only frustration and defeat.

God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen.

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour,
Long may she reign.
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Who Built a Pyramid in the Sea of Galilee?

Archaeologists are trying to raise the money to examine a strange structure roughly half a kilometer from the shore of the Sea of Gaililee. The submerged structure is conical and apparnetly man-made. It is not entirely unknown to locals, and it appears the archaeologists have known about it for some time as well. The problem is that to examine it would require working underwater at depths down to 15 metres. That limits the time anyone can work and to complicate things, the Sea is full of fine silt. Any movement disturbs this and the already murky water becomes even more opaque.

The experts are convinced the structure is man-made, but that raises a number of important questions, not least being when? That's quickly followed by "why" and "who"?

What is certain is that none of these questions will be answered until someone does undertake a close examination of the structure - and that is going to take a lot of time and money. As I understand it, the Sea of Galilee has exosted within its present shoreline for roughly 15,000 years. The 'cone' is made up of around 60,000 tons of local stone, which will have taken a lot of manpower to shift. The base is buried in silt, but roughy 12 metres of it is above the silt and it rises to within 3 metres of the surface.

Although it has been 'local knowledge' for a long time, it was only recently that a sonar survey of the lake revealed its all too regular shape and structure. Now it remains only to raise the millions of Dollars, Dinar or Pounds it will need to carry out the careful and detailed examination it calls for.

More can be read at Talking Points under "Submerged Structure Beneath Sea of Galilee".

Monday, 27 May 2013

The BBC Lurching Left - Again

The BBC has displayed a distinct bias to the Left of the political spectrum for as long as I've lived in the UK. I am told it predates that, so it must have its roots somewhere in the 1950s. I used to get quite upset at the very clear bias in the manner interviews were conducted with those from the Left getting a far softer ride than anyone from the Right. Once Labour and Blair were in office, the poison was really turned up against the Conservatives - yet Blair could lie through his teeth and never a murmur of challenge from the sycophantic BBC interviewers. Now their own man has admitted the bias and The Spectator reports it - but it hasn't stopped the appointment of a former Labour Cabinet minister as a Director or the decidely Left-wing former Deputy Editor of the Guardian as the Political Editor of Newsnight, one of the most lefty biased 'current affairs' programs the BBC produces.

I expect they will make all the usual protestations about 'balance' and how 'those in government should expect tougher questioning'. There will be lots of pretense and business as usual for the Beeb, after all they get millions a year out of the License Fees everyone is compelled to pay toward the Labour Party's propaganda.

As I said, I used to get angry about it. Now I don't bother. I turned off the BBC years ago, even before I left the UK to live in Germany. It just wasn't worth the aggravation, but one of these days, Parliament will have to address this farcical charade, and cut the BBCs funding. The bias is obvious, and it is now being remarked n by people who are outside the UK. It used to have a reputation for honesty, accuracy and factual reporting. No longer. It has become a joke, a laughing stock and a propaganda machine for the Left.

I'm just glad I no longer have to contribute to their activities.

Friday, 24 May 2013

A Battle for Cultural Supremacy

I have been following the reports of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby with interest, concern and, yes, some anger.  I have seen comments ranging from crude through to inflammatory appended to some online news pages, and a large number expressing horror and disgust. I can only salute the bravery of the two women, one confronting the murderers, the other remaining by the dead soldier 'so he would not die alone'.

The Muslim Council of Britain has issued a rather bland, and not entirely accurate, statement distancing themselves from this act, and so have one or two other Muslim spokespersons. Both have failed to distance themselves from the militant groups from their faith who have marched demanding the surrender of Britain's state to their culturl ideology and their religious law. Both have failed to stop the incitement preached by the likes of Abu Qatada in many mosques in our land at Friday paryers. And both fail to admit that the Quran contains over 400 passages urging the killing of 'Kafirs' or non-believers, and many more urging 'Holy War' to defend and spread their faith. Or that there are several groups using their faith as an excuse to attack us in our own land.

Our own politicians seem to have made a mixed response, though, in part, this is to be expected. One the one hand they have to avoid inflaming an already dangerous state of affairs, yet, on the other, people expect firm leadership and strong action at a time like this.

A large part of the problem is that we have, in the last twenty years, lost our sense of cultural identity, though the process started almost immediately post-WW2. Our heritage has been denigrated from all sides, our Imperial past is now universally painted as 'evil', as being based entirely on slavery and exploitation of 'the masses', and as bringing no benefit to anyone. Views usually put forward by the descendents of those who benefited most from these aspects. It has spread 'at home' as well, with the fostering, yet again in our history, of the ancient 'tribal' divisions. That seeks to deny any form of common heritage, or that we all owe our present standards of living, our health and even our welfare system to the culture of shared effort against oppression and tyrany, of building a nation around our concepts of freedom of speech, association and action.

We succeeded in raising living standards and quality of life for the majority of our citizens and became the envy of those whose own societies and cultures could not provide the same. But, what has always struck me as strange is that there is a large and fairly powerful minority in Britain who feel that every culture is superior to our own, that our heritage must be destroyed and replaced by others drawn from parts of the former Empire that are the very opposite of everything our forebears fought for or struggled to achieve for their heirs and successors. This 'fostering' of alternate cultures has created an environment within our island that encourages those who seek to destroy everything "British" and replace it with the very worst of the cultures their parents and grandparents sought to escape.

This is what has led to the present situation where we have an enemy embedded within our own borders. An enemy that is British by birth, repudiates everything of our heritage, our values, and our culture, and commits acts of pure barbarism in the name of their 'cause'. The worst aspect is that our political leaders permit it, even encourage it, by refusing to deal with the establishment of an alternative legal system and an alternative to our courts in our towns and cities.

Those of us who have lived in Africa have seen or known acts as repugnant as that which played out in Woolwich this week. Our Armed Forces have struggled against similarly barbaric 'rebels' in various failed states in Africa and elsewhere. They know, as I suspect do our politicians, that such things are a part of those 'cultures' when the veneer of law and order breaks down.

Unlike many of those who wish to see the importation of other cultural practices and the relegation of the English to a status of 'irrelevance', I have travelled in Africa, in the Middle and Far East and in the Americas. I can appreciate and even admire the cultural achievements of Iran, or of Thailand and Indonesia. I have many friends in Ghana among other African states, and in the Caribbean, the US and even Canada. While I admire the art, the architecture and the history of Iran, I would not, and do not, choose to live in a society modelled on theirs. Nor would I choose to live in an African cultural society, though there are aspects I admire. Likewise for China, Indonesia and the rest of Asia.

Culturally I am a "British North European". My heritage is entirely British/European, my moral code is based on Christianity, and the history of the peoples whose genes I carry is the 'lore' in which I am steeped. I recognise that we are no better and probably no worse than any other society or culture, but it is my culture. It is my heritage and the others, however admirable I may find some aspects, are alien. If I wish to live in a society founded on them - I should go to a country built on such ideals. That is, I believe, where the apartheid idea of each ethnic group importing, nurturing and continuing to practice their 'native' culture in a host nation is deeply and fatally flawed. That, I believe, is what has created the monster which produces the sort of vile act we have witnessed this week in Woolwich.

It is time for a major shift in the political thinking in Britain. We cannot afford to continue to encourage groups to reject our culture and impose their own. To continue down this road will only increase the tensions and make even worse atrocities more likely, not less. All our politicians need to stop denigrating everything British and praising everything alien. More importantly, they need to restore the education system so that it presents a more balanced picture of our rich and very complex cultural and social history instead of the biased mishmash that is currently taught.

Whether we know it or not, we are fighting a war for the survival of our culture. I do not support the actions of the likes of the EDL, the Anti-Fascist League, the BNP or any of the other extremes. Britain has a culture that was always 'tolerant', sometimes too tolerant, and sometimes not tolerant enough. Now we face an enemy within who wish to replace it with an intolerant one with its roots in the 7th Century and a different religion. Unless we are careful, they will win by default, because our politicians will continue to pursue policies of appeasement right to the point that they are themselves replaced.

It is a difficult problem, but it will not be solved by simply turning a blind eye or making more concessions to those who seek to impose their visions on us.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

An Unspeakable Act

I have been wrestling all day with the problem of what to say about yesterday's murder of Drummer Lee Rigby of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. The act of his murder was bad enough, the subsequent actions of the "English Defence League" are not appropriate as a response. The murderers are currently in hospital having been shot and wounded by the police. No doubt, in due time, they will be tried for their crime. I note that two other people have been arrested in connection with this murder, but details are, at present sparse.

Drummer Rigby was apparently targeted by this pair, which suggests they were watching his Depot Barracks, probably even did some 'dry runs' to identify a suitable target and to find the most suitable place. I find it hard to believe that no one spotted anything suspicious, or that no one else was aware of their plans. Having seen these men, the blood still dripping from their hands and the weapons on the television - even confronting a brave (or extremely foolhardy woman) - making no attempt to flee the scene, one suspects they hoped for 'martyrdom'. Thanks to the restrained police action, and one must admit, the sense of the public, they failed to get that wish fulfilled.

I have no doubt that there will already be apologists lining up to claim these men are 'victims' of an 'uncaring' UK society, but hopefully they will not begin that campaign just yet. I am equally sure that the "Multi-Culty" promoters will be out in force to declare this is not a failure of their ideology. I find it astonishing that there are always those who will try to excuse the perpetrators, in my view they are as guilty as those who commit these crimes.

From the limited news reports I am able to access, it appears that noth the attackers are British citizens, recent converts to Islam and both were known to MI5, and yet they have been able to carry out their plan unhindered. There are several aspects about this affair that should concern us. The first, in my view, is that the response to it from the 'leaders' of the Muslim communities in the UK have been rather muted. The only one I have read that condemned it outright was from the Chairman of the Mosque Committee in Essex, whose mosque was attacked by EDL supporters. He made clear that these converts have not understood the teachings of their faith.

I do believe that the concept of Multi-Culturalism is deeply flawed and has contributed to the rise in alienated minority groups which provide the perfect recruiting ground for disaffected individuals willing to take violent action for any cause. It is never popular to say so, but Enoch Powell was right to make the warning he did in the 1960s and perhaps the reason the liberal-left hate him so passionately, is that he has been proved right again and again - though perhaps not quite as dramatically as his speech suggested. The question must be; how much more blood must we see needlessly shed before someone admits the concept of multiple cultures sharing the same space cannot work. We cannot continue to tolerate a significant minority who refuse to accept English Law, who repudiate the freedoms English men and women have won by blood, sweat and tears over centuries, and wish to impose their religion and their ideological worldview on the English.

Then there is the question of the response of those like the EDL who will use this as an excuse to attack those they see as being 'aliens' and 'the problem'. Their actions will not improve matters. They will not 'drive the immigrants into the sea' and all they are likely to do is cause more distress and hardship. Burning, bombing or despoiling mosques will not change anything and simply gives those Muslims who seek it, the excuse to retailiate. I have little doubt that this is what supporters of the EDL seek to achieve, in the hope it will provide an excuse to take even more violent action against the immigrant community. These people simply do not care about the distress, the pain and suffering their actions will bring the Drummer Rigby's family, or to the victims of their actions.

Drummer Rigby is the victim of an unspeakable act of terrorism, the perpetrators, planners and supporters of which are resident in the UK. It is time the community they come from decided where its loyalties lie. It is time our own politicians stopped pretending everything is fine and good and that "mulitculturalism" is the answer to everything, and made it plain to those who commit treason that it will not be tolerated any longer.

My prayers are with Drummer Rigby's family and friends, and with his colleagues in his Regiment. He died a terrible death at the hands of a pair of evil and misguided men. Now we must wait for justice to run its course.


This article in the Evening Standard gives a great deal more information and food for thought.

A further treatise on the Blog Cranmer provides a great deal more.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Political Stupidity

It seems the mindset of the so-called 'liberal-left' knows no bounds when it comes to making offensively insensitive remarks. Even as the death toll in Oklahoma City was rising in the aftermath of the massive tornado that hit the city and flattened two schools and hundreds of other buildings was climbing, a 'celebrity' left-winger was 'Tweeting' excitedly; "This tornado is in Oklahomo so clearly it has been ordered to target only conservatives." The so-called "comedienne" has since 'Tweeted' and apology, but I think the damage is done.

To me this simply proves that often these folk don't think through their actions or even their opinions. They live in their own cosy little self-absorbed world and gauge everything on a scale of how it makes them feel. There is no consideration of consequences, no sympathy for anyone other than those they perceive to be "deserving" victims. In their view anyone who takes a different political, religious or social position to their own is "deserving" of contempt, injury and even death.

Only a complete idiot rejoices in the misfortunes of others. Only a callous and unthinking ideologue would even think of attempting to make fun of other peoples suffering and misery. People like this unfunny woman call themselves "liberals" and pride themselves on their "concern for others" or for the "environment" or any other "cause" - but, as it is written elsewhere, by their fruits you will know them. Liberal? Not by her actions and obvious insensitivity.

In my view, these people demean and disgrace the very term "liberal".

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Abandoned People

Yesterday, for the first time, I saw an article in the BBC News pages that discusses the plight of the white South African population. It is disturbing for a number of reasons, not least because the descendants of those who reaped the wealth of Britain's colonial past - the current political and middle classes - don't care what happens to the descendants of those their forefathers exploited to achieve the wealth and power their descendants enjoy. The article, titled "Do white people have a future in South Africa" is thought provoking and highlights a hidden campaign of genocide condoned, if not officially sanctioned, by the current ruling Party.

The white South Africans are in a unique situation. Their forefathers found a land peopled by the various Qoi tribes, essentially hunter gatherers and herders. There were no settled towns, cities or villages - it was an ancient, but undeveloped, and very sparsely populated land. The original Dutch settlers were employees of the Dutch East India Company - the VOC, counterpart of the British HEIC - and settlement was initially limited, but gradually expanded. Then came the British. Settlement exploded and the 'colony' expanded. Where the 'Boers' or Dutch settlers had fought skirmishes and made treaties as they encountered the Bantu tribes moving south, the British embarked on wars. And they moved a very large number of settlers from the slums of Britain to the 'free land' at the southern tip of the 'dark continent'.

The settlers built roads, harbours and railways. They created towns where there had been military outposts, and many of these grew to become the cities of today. Many gave their lives while Westminster and their dependents, families and friends reaped the rewards. They hated the independent spirit of the Dutch settlers, many of them from wealthy families who could afford to defy the dictats of various Colonial Office placemen and they hated even more the settlers from Britain who quickly learned that to be free they also needed to be independent. It was these men and women who built the modern South Africa. And they paid for it in their blood, sweat and tears. In two World Wars they sent soldiers and sailors - all volunteers - to 'defend their brothers and sisters at home'. Now those same brothers and sisters have cast them adrift and deny any kinship or any responsibility.

History is, as they say, written by the 'victors' and this is certainly true of the history of the 'colonists' in Africa and one or two other places the British now wish to forget. The South African contribution to the defence of freedom in two World Wars has been airbrushed out of the 'official' histories now being written in Britain. Heaven forbid they should admit that the people Peter Hain, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson dug up cricket pitches, boycotted and screamed invective at should be acknowledged as having contributed anything to their wealth and security. Heaven forbid that the children of those 'thieving settlers' should now be considered as anything other than dross to be discarded and reviled as 'deserving' of their fate.

It is estimated that there are now 400,000 white South Africans living in squatter camps. Unemployable in the 'new' South Africa because they are 'semi-skilled' and with Black unemployment running at 23% there are simply no jobs for a new apartheid founded on nepotism and tribalism. Though the figures still show that white people still 'own' the largest share of the country's wealth, the Asian population - about 2% of the total population is fast overtaking them, and the top cadres of the ruling ANC have suddenly become multi-millionaires and even billionaires when, less than 20 years ago, they were, at best middle income earners. Crime, poverty and the lack of jobs, houses and everything else is still the fault of the "whites" and "apartheid" and definitely nothing whatever to do with the massive corruption and outright thievery of those in power now. And all of this the liberal-left studiously ignores. When confronted with it, two responses are evoked - "They deserve it for their evil behaviour under apartheid" and the ever popular, "for the majority to benefit, some must always lose".

I have, until now, seen no mention of the fact that around 200 white farmers are brutally murdered annually, with the police doing little or nothing to apprehend the murderers or to protect the farmers. In the last 20 years 30,000 white farmers have left the land, been forced off it, or murdered - and the Minister for the Interior continues to incite 'action' by demanding more rapid 'redistribution' of the land. Some reports suggest that, like Zimbabwe, the country is fast approaching a point at which it's agricultural production will collapse.

The BBC's correspondent suggests there is a future for white people in South Africa, but only if they own their own business or are self-employed. Even then, they can only make it if they are well educated, at the top of the skills market and don't employ more than five people. Over that threshold they are required, by law, to have a Black 'partner' who does not need to contribute any capital or make any contribution beyond collecting his (or her) "director's fee".  I would dare to suggest that in the not too distant future the only "white" people living here will be those who are there on contracts, earning in the upper quartile of salaries and living in heavily protected 'gated' communities. The rest will have become refugees, killed off, or forced to 'integrate' by marrying into African families.

Of course, none of this is Britain's 'problem'. These nasty white settlers, Dutch, British, German, Portuguese and everyone else, deserve their fate. They served their purpose, they shed their blood and sent the wealth back to Britain, and when they wanted to keep what they'd built - disgraceful. So, like the flotsam after a storm, they are 'casualties of history'. Another group who failed to make the grade and who will vanish into the history as a footnote if they are lucky. Britain will expend no effort on their behalf. There will be no "Band Aid" campaigns to help them and there will certainly be no picketing of embassies, demonstrations or disruption of cricket matches to raise awareness of their situation.

But, in their fate lies a warning for everyone. We are currently living in an age in which mass migration is once again rising. Britain has seen, in the last sixteen years, an unprecedented influx from Africa, Asia and from Eastern Europe. Ireland has as well, and so have most European countries. The idiotic policies of "multi-culturalism" (a form of reverse apartheid) has created unintegrated populations which, if the demographic statistics are to be believed, will soon do to Europe what the African population did in South Africa between 1948 and 1994. While the White population remained stable at roughly 5.5 million, the Black population grew from 6.5 million in 1948, to 29 million in 1980, and to 36 million in 1994 (it is now ESTIMATED at 50 to 60 million).

I suspect a similar fate awaits the USA, where the country is being assailed by immigrants from failing Southern American nations and perhaps in Australia where the country is under siege (according to some reports) by illegal immigrants from Asia, particularly failing Islamic states. Once again, the failure of these people to integrate is giving rise to 'alternative' cultures, expectations, and very likely, eventually, to swamp the original culture and take control.

Britain has done the Pontius Pilate thing on all its former sons and daughters - even those of Dutch descent who became "British" by force of arms - and cast them adrift. "Not our problem" echoes through Parliament, Whitehall and all the clubs and societies of the rich and powerful, and the ignorant rent-a-mobs who would be out on the streets campaigning if these folk had a different ethnicity.

Frankly, it is a disgrace, and we should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves and of our rulers.

Monday, 20 May 2013

What is a "marriage"?

The row in the UK over the "redefinition" of "marriage" raises some tricky questions, none of which seem to be receiving much attention. If one follows the media, it is something the "majority" want and a handful of "religious nutters" don't. Funny how no one seems to be actually looking at what "marriage" is really supposed to be about.

This is possibly because, certainly in western societies, it has more of a legalistic status than a religious one. That means that in a wide range of matters, from registration of births, through inheritance, succession and adoption, that legal status of "married" is required somewhere along the way. Most western societies understand "marriage" in purely reproductive terms in their legal systems and it must be said that even in less formal societal arrangements, that is the understood purpose of a man wishing to marry a woman and vice versa. Even in the permissive societies of ancient Greece and Persia no one ever suggested that two male lovers or two female lovers should "marry" - essentially because there was no legal need for them to do so.  Inheritance, 'legitimacy' and even adoption were not an issue, but the moment "marriage" became a legal as well as a religious requirement all of that chaged.

Does "marriage" somehow confer "legitimacy" upon a union not predicated on the concept of legitimate procreation? In religious terms, probably not. In legal terms it becomes more difficult, since the legal "definition" of a "marriage" states that it is not a "marriage" until it is "consumated" by the act of intercourse. In English legal history quite a number of "marriages" have been anulled on the grounds that this "act of consummation" has not occured. If those who wish to see the change in the definition of a "marriage" changed to include same sex relations do not consider it an essential for sexual relationships to be legitimised, what exactly do they hope the change will achieve?

It seems to be a question of "status" only as far as most are concerned. They see it as somehow essential to recognition of their relationship being "recognised" as being equal to the religio-legal status accorded to male-female unions. While I have no problem with same sex partnerships being legally recognised, I do hesitate at the use of "marriage" in this context. If it is purely supposed to be an "equality" issue in terms of legal standing for, for example, the couple's intention to adopt a child, then it would make sense to simply change the laws which require "marriage" to reflect a different form of sexual partnership as a "union'. If, on the other hand, it is to enable same-sex couples to force those who, perhaps for religious reasons object to such relationship, to accept them, it becomes something entirely different.

Now the law is being abused to compel acceptance, and history abounds with examples of cultures where the opposite of what was intended has been the result. It is now postulated that perhaps 3% of any given population is Gay, and while I have every sympathy for those who are - and I must add that I know many who are perfectly happy to live their lives as they are - I fail to see why an entire religio-legal institution must be thrown out so that a minority of a minority can have the satisfaction of compelling those who do find it unacceptable, to be forced to do so.

A YouGov Poll suggests that 52% of the population do not have a problem with the change to the definition. However, such polls can also be misleading, since everything depends on how the question is or was worded. Rephrasing the same question may well elicit a completely different answer. It will be interesting to see how the vote in Parliament in this coming week goes. I suspect that Cameron will go all out for the change, motivated by a desire to win over the Gay lobby antagonised by the previous Conservative government's clause 28, which forbade the promotion of homo-sexuality. Milliband and Labour will vote for it because they wish to hold onto the soft-liberal vote it represents.

So how do we define marriage? Is it merely a "license to procreate" or does it have a far deeper and more spiritual meaning. Is an unconsumated marriage, still a marriage? I rather suspect that, in the usual fashion of Whitehall/Westminster a bull will be loosed in this particular shop filled with delicate porcelain goods - and more will destroyed than saved by it.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Late Spring? I blame the solar panels ...

As I write, the fog swirls past the windows. The weather forecast says I can look forward to heavy rain during the day, and possibly storms. There is a cold wind blowing from the North-East and the temerature outside is struggling to reach double figures. Looks like a certain Sheltie is going to need towelling again when we get back from our walk.

I note, thanks to Yahoo News, that the weather in the UK is as confused, and, as usual it is all to do with "Global Warming". Now there I confess I get confused these days. I have recently read several purportedly very learned papers by 'scientists' in this field. One says the oceans are warming and this is causing the atmospheric cooling, another says its because the oceans are cooling that the atmosphere is ... When you look at the actual data from satellites the trend seems to be a downward one, but the landbased thermometers - many of which are located in what are called 'Urban Heat Islands' - the temperatures appear to be rising. As for the ocean temperatures, it depends on where you are measuring and who is collecting the data. Which is perhaps why the scientists using all this stuff massage the data by 'averaging' it, then 'adjusting' it and doing all manner of other tweaks to it, so they can feed it into a model that tells us 'the sky is falling; we're all gonna dieeeee!'

Then, quite by chance, I stumbled across something interesting concerning an experiment in the US to reduce heat absorption by buildings. They painted the roofs of all the buildings in certain areas white - to reflect the heat away. Interesting. But then someone else noted the rainfall recorded in these locations has gone down. I checked, and something odd seems to happen when you blanket an area with solar panels as well. The explanation is that while some wavelengths are absorbed, others are reflected, and those reflected interfere with the process that results in cloud formation. There appears to be a change to the convection columns above them as well. As most school boys discover when playing with mirrored surfaces and sunlight, you can create some fun chaos by bouncing your reflected light off things. So, increase the size of the mirror, put lots of them together in one place and focus them all in the same direction ...

Alright, I'm having a bit of fun here. It's a dull day, I'm putting off mowing the grass (too wet anyway) and it's wet and cold outside.

More seriously, and picking up on the point made by Professor Hulme of East Anglia University, I cannot help wondering what the impact of some of the attempts to tap into 'renewable' energy will be longer term. If we make vast areas of the surface of, say, the Sahara a vast mirror, what effect will that have on air currents? How will it affect the absorption or reflection of IR and UV wavelengths? Someone may know the answers on a small scale, but my understanding is that you cannot simply 'scale those up' to get the answer for a larger scheme.

I think this is one of the dangers of what Professor Hulme identified as the Climate Myth "Constructing Babel". We are 'doing something' to reduce CO2 emissions without, I think, properly considering the consequences of changing the parameters of something else. To use an analogy from my own profession, if I change the state of a fuel, for example wood logs by grinding them to dust I have just changed the ignition properties and the amount of energy I require to get ignition.

Somewhere down the line reflecting heat away with nice shiny solar panels must have some impact - probably small at present, but as more are installed do we really know what the impact will be? Probably not, but then, this is always the problem with poking around at single parts of a very complex machine. As a notice I used to have on my very good (for the time) HiFi used to say -

Bitte nicht gefingerpoken und mittengraben.
Das machine ist easy schnappen das springenwerken
mit spitzensparken und poppen noises.
Bitte sitzen, relaxen und watch das blinken lights.

Perhaps we should put up a similar notice on the environment and the climate ...

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Green Contradiction

A couple of articles in my local (German) paper this morning highlighted a couple of contradictions in the Green/Ecologist arguments. The local Greens wanting to set aside more forest, agricultural and hill/mountain land to erect more wind turbines to counter what they label as "Klimavergiftigung" - poisoning of the climate. It is claimed by these folk that this is necerssary to enbale the shutting down of more 'fossil fuel' power generators. So far, so good - except that more turbines doesn't result in shutting down any other power stations as we have to keep them 'spooling' for when the wind doesn't blow.

Leaving aside the damage these turbines do to wildlife, for the moment, erecting one anywhere on land requires the clearing of ground and trees on at least a quarter acre (roughly 1,000 square metres), a very large and deep excavation, the sinking of deep piles and then a vast amount of concrete to create the base for this thing. The machinery mounted at the top of the tall mast generates vibrations which are then transmitted into the ground, so these drive away small wildlife and even some of the larger animals won't go near them. Engineers will also tell you that if you stick something vibrating into the ground with a lot of water in it, you get something called 'liquifaction' - and that eventually will cause the foundations to move, tilt or collapse. Oh, and my figure here is for the 'normal' turbines. The Greens now want to plant bigger ones.

So they want to clear forests and grass to create a new forest of vibrating and turbulence causing machines to 'stop the climate poisoning.' Enter the ecologist side of the Green movement and we want a return to 'natural' crops, 'natural' fertilisers and 'better land management' - one of those ephemeral terms that means anything you want it to. It sounds good as a 'sound byte' and can be picked up and repeated ad nauseum by town and city dwelling foot soldiers of the movement with little or no knowledge of the realities of agriculture or the production of food.

The problem is that a return to an entirely 'natural' form of food production would not feed the population we currently have. For another it is much less efficient in land use and more labour intensive - so prices would rise steeply. But now we enter the realms of ideological fantasy - since the answer when this is raised is always that "The Government" must subsidise "ecologically sound" food production to keep costs down ...

However, there is hope for the terminally 'Green' as the article set out. The 'nuclear family' model of 2.4 children is no longer valid. Falling births and the failure of many western men and woman to have any children, the artificial 'selection' of male only children in many populous eastern countries and high infant mortality rates in others mean the current model is close to the 2.1 mark set by population experts as the "replacement" threshold for the population. If it falls below this level the human population will start to decline - and some countries are already dipping below it. Germany is one, and China is fast approaching it while parts of the US, Britain and Canada are also below the 'replacement' level.

For the moment it isn't being noticed since the immigration rates to these countries is holding up the population numbers. It is worrying the politicians for all manner of reasons, not least that all economists work on the presumption that consumption will increase. For consumption to continue to increase, and thus an economy to grow, you need more people and they need to have more 'disposable' income. With the population levels approaching the point of decline, it figures that only by increasing each individual's consumption can the economic 'activity' be sustained at present levels. Growth therefore must come from something else, but here lies the contradiction.

To meet the 'Green' demands for 'natural' and 'sustainable' sources for food and energy, we need to subsidise everything. That means higher taxes and greater burdens on those in work, so there is less money for things like 'benefits', health care, pensions, housing, education, the arts - and as taxes rise, less in the individual's pocket to spend on 'consumption' and 'grow' the economies ...

At present it begins to look as if the Greens will get their desire for a greener less populated planet - but it may come at an economic price no one can afford.

As Fagan says - "I t'ink I better t'ink it out again!"

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A Compassionate Society.

Is a term much used by those who believe that modern Britain with its 'free' health care from the NHS, and 'benefit' system is the 'model' for a 'caring' society. Naturally, those who believe that the state is there to provide for housing, income, health care and everything else, do not want to see any changes. But the question must be asked - is the 'state' the best provider if we want a 'compassionate' society? The answer is very probably not.

Taking a look at the current UK 'benefit' system makes one's head spin. It is extremely complex and actually gaining access to parts of it is so convoluted you almost need to be a civil servant to even know it may be available. Different Whitehall Departments all 'manage' different parts of it, so one ends up having to make multiple applications, and don't expect one lot to tell you about the other lot. The 'rules' governing access to any given 'benefit' are also pretty opaque, so your average member of the public is going to struggle to get any clarity should they have a question. Half the time the civil servants themselves don't know, of that I'm convinced.

At the moment there is a lot of focus on the so-called 'bedroom tax' which is being applied to those who live in multi-bedroomed Housing Association properties, usually on Housing Benefit. The removal of the 'discount' on Council Tax for a single person living in such a property is causing a furore, but it was intended to persuade some of these folk to move to smaller properties, so those with larger famillies could have a larger home. It seems sensible, but, it hits widows and widowers who live alone, often on small pensions and they have often been model tenants, living in these houses for extended periods. They raised their families in them, it is filled with memories - and now they are being driven out. Of course the civil servants and politicians behind it trot out the mantra, that 'for the many to reap the greatest benefit, some must lose.' It is never, of course, the case for them and theirs.

The second, and perhaps higher profile, argument revolves around the 'Disability Living Allowance' which is supposed to provide those with severe disabilities and who cannot work, with a top up to any pension, Housing Allowance and any other 'benefit' they receive. As it is one of the most abused of the 'benefits' on offer, the government has targeted it. Now comes the bit that demonstrates why I absolutely do not, and never will, believe that the 'State' can ever be 'compassionate', fair or 'caring'.

They appointed a company called ATOS to conduct 'assessments' of those receiving this benefit. The company set up offices all over the UK and then sent summons to the various recipients to 'appear' at their offices for the assessment. The newspapers have been full of accounts of those who faced long, difficult and sometimes painful journeys to reach the 'assessment' centre and then stripped of their 'benefit' because they were not deemed, by some twerp ticking boxes on a computer, 'disabled enough'. Computer programs can only assess what they are told, so, since each disability case tends to be unique, you simply cannot assess them all using a single set of criteria in a computer.

Unsurprisingly, there have been a number of suicides and more than a few deaths from the distress this has caused - but the civil servants do a "Pontius Pilate" and so does ATOS. "Not our problem, we're just making the assessment on the criteria wer were given." Pass the soap, basin and jug please.

This is the problem, and it is two fold. Those who insist the Benefit System can only be administered by the 'State' firmly believe that a 'Compassionate Society' is one where the State sticks its hand into everyone's wallet and extracts a share of their earnings to 'distribute' to those in need. They ignore the fact that almost 60% of the money that is 'collected' in this way is actually spent in the 'administration' of the system and not on the 'benefits' themselves. Their motivation, often idealistic, is also about 'control'. If you control someone's access to income, housing, transport, education and health care, they are fully in your power - for life. They'll do as they are told for fear of losing what you 'provide' if they don't.

Secondly, the centralised system that is the 'State' is grossly inefficient in assessing any 'local' needs, and very ill-equipped to assess 'individual' needs. It cannot distinguish between someone in genuine need and someone taking the Mickey out of the system. So, to make life easy for themselves, the civil servants at the centre write 'rules' to be applied to everything and everyone - creating a strait jacket that the abusers soon find ways to escape and circumvent, and the really needy find themselves trapped by.

I believe we need to rethink the entire system, removing it from Whitehall completely. It needs to be local, to address 'local' issues and needs and it needs to be out of the hands of the terminally bureaucratic. The 'assessment' needs to get off the 'tick box' computer screen and look at the individual, if necessary with face to face assessments by more than one or two 'assessors'. The plethora of 'benefits' need to be revised as well, and brought under a single agency in each locality, the current system of scattered Departments all having a finger in it is made for abuse and fraud.

Just because a society has a system of 'handouts' in place to support the aged, infirm and out of work does not make it a 'compassionate society' in my view. Compassion is not a 'State' attribute, it is a human one, but rapidly vanishes when small groups are given control of the distribution or allocation of 'compassionate assistance' in a society. I want to see the system reformed. I want a system that uses the contributions I make to it through tax, used wisely and fairly. I don't want to see companies like ATOS paid billions to do what the local charities and social services could do more compassionately and more efficiently. I don't want to see disabled soldiers - or anyone else with a geniune disablity - turned out of their homes or being told they're 'fit enough to find employment' when they are in wheelchairs or missing limbs. Yet that is what Whitehall and ATOS are achieving without actually improving anything.

A genuinely compassionate society is one which operates on genuine concern for each individual. It is one in which neighbour cares for neighbour and it is not one where someone can be driven to suicide by some faceless bureaucrat using a computer which says a person qualifies or doesn't. It is also a society which knows what is right and practices it. In such a society the abuser would soon be excluded or reformed, not, as at present, protected and encouraged.

We have a benefit system, it is currently under strain and much abused, and Whitehall, having ceated the mess, are probably the very last people to be trusted with sorting it out. Does it make Britain a "compassionate society"? I'd say no.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Reducing complexity to simplicity ...

I have often been struck by the way we, as a supposedly sentient and intelligent species, always try to reduce vast complex concepts, mechanisms or problems to single 'simple' issues. It's a bit like the Hollywood movie bomb defuser - usually an amateur - who always cuts the 'blue' wire and saves the XXX with only a couple of seconds left on the timer. It always makes me want it to be the 'wrong' wire ...

A recent article on Watts Up With That, by Willis Eschenbach titled "What we don't know" got me thinking about this. I've certainly encountered this tendency in much less complex disciplines than "climate science" and so have many of my former colleagues. It manifests itself in almost every field of human endeavour. We simply don't seem to like to wrestle with anything more complex or more involved than the things we are able to see, smell, hear or touch. Anything bigger has to be reduced to something we can grasp.

In my own field I have often encountered the midset of 'too much information' when discussing the need to understand the complex interactions of materials involved in a fire. It is surprising how many don't like to go beyond the "Fire Triangle" of Air, Heat, Fuel. Suggest the quadrangle which adds "Sustained Chain Reaction" and you can see the glazed expressions - especially when you then start to discuss the whole problem of conversion from solid or liquid state to gas, or how partcile size matters, or the pyrolysation temperatures of different fuel sources contribute to the rate of fire spread, heat release and ...

See, I suspect many readers are already scrolling down.

The problem, in my profession, with NOT understanding this is that there is then a move twoard taking decisions with the best of intentions, which can actually make things worse. There are plenty of examples, my (and many of my former colleagues) favourite is the "fire test certificate" which is bandied about by many fire protection inspectors, building control officers and some 'fire engineers' ( a term Josephus gets up in arms about). They firmly believe that because material 'X' has passed a fire test in a laboratory to meet certain criteria, this means it will perform that way when placed in a different configuration, with materials 'Y' and 'Z' and this means the structure is now compliant for fire safety. The problem is that the laboratory tests are only indicators, and changing the position of a material, or putting it with another material in a different configuration changes the entire ball game.

This is one of the problems with so-called 'fire resistant' and 'fire retardant' materials. In the public mind, they are often refered to as 'non-combustible' but that is false. They are simply more difficult to ignite, but often, when they do ignite, are a lot nastier than they would be in an unmodified form. In a laboratory all the parameters are controlled. The quantity exposed to ignition is limited, the material is on its own, with no other materials present, and the heat is contained. Other materials are not pyrolysing and adding to the fuel already on fire, so the fuel exposure is also limited. When you put the same material in a room, rovide it with a whole range of other materials to 'play with' and ignite it, you get a totally different response - which will not show on the 'Test Certificate' the unwary have accepted.

This problem has become so serious that many manufacturers are now seriously concerned that their products are being improperly used - but how do they prevent it?

I can certainly understand why most of us accept the utterances of Dr Hawking, or Dr Dawkins when they pronounce on matters related to their branches of scientific research. I'm certainly unlikely to be able to grasp the complicated mathematics that underpins Quantum Mechanics, String Theory or any of the other popular (among hysicists) theories of creation, the universe and so on. I am aware that science has discovered that the great big ball of fire we call the sun expands and contracts on a regular cycle - almost as if it were some living thing breathing steadily. I am also aware that the fusion reaction which keeps it going involves some extremely complex atom smashing, remodelling and combination. Presumably generating all manner of subatomic particles such as the Higgs and other Bososn, Twangons, Clangons and the occasional Bangon. They probably explain the fact that the sound actually emits a steady sound which has been recorded by solar observatories.

It is all very, very interesting (to a geek like me) but I don't even begin to grasp the intricate complexites  of the entire process. I leave that to the astrophysicists.

We see the same thing happening in any given religion. The theology underpinning it is a totally unexplored country for most believers and they tend to focus on the simplest interpretation of everything. Can't explain miracles? Simple, it's a miracle! The concept of a God big enough to be as one Jewish Rabbi explained to me, who is everywhere, everywhen and everyhow all at the same time, is what leads most to cling to the image painted by Michaelangelo in the Sistine Chapel - a 'Super Human' figure lounging on a cloud and reaching out to 'Adam'.

Does that really describe the Creator of the Universe? Of course not, but any other image is probably far, far too complex and far too large for most of us. So they cling to the simple.

Returning to my analogy of the fire inspector clinging to the belief that a 'fire test certificate' guarantees compliance, the sad reality is that quite often it means that he or she is accepting a situation which is a long way from what they think it is. Often it is not what we know and can see which is likely to kill us - it is what we don't know, or don't understand.

As Mr. Essenbach's article reminded me, 96% of the universe is made up of matter and energy we don't understand, can't see and can only measure because it affects everything else. As the saying goes, the only thing which exceeds our arrogance in assuming we know everything, is the depth and breadth of our ignorance about everything.

Monday, 13 May 2013

How To Irritate and Annoy Your Customers ...

I have been a customer of PayPal for some time now, but recently I have had a couple of problems involving my account with them. Though I live in Germany, my main bank account is with a UK based bank, the same one I have banked with for the last 27 years. They have no problems with my living in Europe, but apparently PayPal does. I can't contact them by telephone, and the only other option is by email - on a prescribed form which does not offer any option on the matters I need to discuss with them.

Why is this a problem? Simply put, my royalties are paid, by my US based publisher, into my PayPal account. Now, should any Nigerian Prince, Mafia money launderer, taxman or anyone else interested in getting their hands on it be reading this, forget it. The amounts aren't worth your efforts. The problem is that my publisher pays the money in, and PayPal sends me an 'advice' by email to say its there. The snag is I have to log in to my account and 'accept' the payments. Should be easy, shouldn't it?

Not the way PayPal does it. They always manage to send me the advice with a broken link. I can't accept the money, because the link PayPal send me is lacking the Transaction Code ... To make matters worse, and to rub salt into it, I can't get a sensible reply out of PayPal either, and as for trying to talk to them, forget it. Do you know how annoying it is to dial their number and get a message "The number you have dialled is not available from this location"?

In fact the last time I did manage to contact them and sort this out, I almost ended up having no PayPal account. They wanted to close my UK account and insist I open one in Germany. The snag with that is that the German PayPal site will not accept my card details - because it is a UK Bank card ...

So, now I have submitted yet another formal complaint to their anonymous complaints system. I have no great hope of a resolution anytime soon. In fact I have no great hope of any resolution. So my guess is this will mean a return to asking my publisher to pay me in US$ cheques, for banking and exchanging which, my Bank charges me £5 per item. Thanks, since most of these cheques are around that amount ...

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Wind Power - Bad for the environment?

An article I read recently highlighted a number of aspects regarding the problems associated with increasing the number of wind turbines to generate electricity. Chief among these is, I would say, that they are unreliable. Most of the time they are producing plenty of electricity, nobody wants it - so it just gets 'shed' into the system and isn't used. Add to that the fact we are all paying a premium in tax and the cost of all other forms of electricity generation, to subsidise these massively expensive and unsightly monsters, and you start to understand the growing opposition to them.

Here in Germany the Greens are now demanding that Hessen 'relax' its Planning laws to allow the construction of these useless and expensive monstrosities in protected beauty spots and within 1,000 metres of houses. I suspect this could cost them an election in the not too distant future - especially as those advocating these changes are not living anywhere they will be affected by them! From an Australian campaigner to put a stop to this waste -

Wind power harms the environment. Because of the large area of land needed to collect low-density wind energy, wind power requires more land-clearing, needs more transmission lines, kills more wildlife, lights more bushfires and uglifies more landscape per unit of electricity than conventional power. And the subsonic whine of the turbines drives neighbours batty and devalues local properties. 

Recent studies have demonstrated that the turbulence they cause downwind upsets birds in flight, and I can vouch for the fact the migrating birds make large detours to avoid them. The turbulence also adversely affects the performance of the turbines downwind from the first, with the reduction in efficiency increasing with each subsequent turbine. The impact on birds is, according to Danish ornithologists, dramatic. But none of this seems to be taken on board by the promoters of the 'lets have more windmills' lobby.

I can't help wondering how long it will be before the 'ecologists' start campaigning to 'protect' the 'environment' from further wind turbine erection on the grounds the subsonic whine is disturbing the mating of the lesser midget slug or some other equally unknown creature. It would never occur to them, of course, that the whine of the generator and the chopped up birds might be blighting the lives of the people who have to live next to the damned things.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Climate Wars?

The Norwegian SINTEF organisation has just published a fascinating report, 82 pages in length, analysing the 'debate' between the Anthropomorphic Global Warming supporters and those who take a different view. It makes very interesting reading, and I have to thank Dr. Judith Curry for posting links to it on her blog, Climate etc. Rather than providing an argument over the 'science' of the debate, the SINTEF authors have looked at the attitudes, approaches and positions of both sides and draw some very interesting conclusions.

The report is titled "Consensus and Controversy; The Debate on Man-Made Global Warming" and it was commissioned by, among others, a Norwegian Oil and Gas company. They have drawn on a number of sources in compiling the report, but the Introduction struck a particular cord in highlighting something I have commented on before this. The language and the mindset driving the 'Green' Climate Change argument is all about 'apocalypse'. From the selection of titles mentioned by the researchers -

This alleged ”climate war” is a scientific, political, economic, social and moral public field that is co-constructed and intersects in numerous ways, and which, to some extent at least, is characterized by the rhetoric of apocalypse, war and the communicative logic of the military trenches. Several other popular titles illustrate this: “The Suicidal Planet: How to prevent global climate catastrophe (Hillman 2007); “Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity” (Hansen 2009); ”Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming” (Hoggan and Littlemore 2009); “The Climate Crisis” (Archer and Rahmstorf 2010); “Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence” (Parenti 2011).

The introduction continues, drawing on the work of Professor Hulme who claims the rhetoric has been 'embellished' post 9/11 and this is picked up in a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research, whose report states -

“The alarmist repertoire uses an inflated language, with terms such as “catastrophe”, “chaos” and “havoc”, and its tone is often urgent. It employs a quasi-religious register of doom, death, judgement, heaven and hell” (2007: 55). Likewise, the widely popular “tipping point” metaphor signifies the possible coming of sudden apocalypse. 

Professor Hulme is quoted in Chapter 1 suggesting that there are four 'myths' (he is using this word in its anthropologic sense) of Global Warming and catastrophic AGW as follows -

1. Lamenting Eden,
2. Presaging Apocalpyse,
3. Constructing Babel, and
4. Celebrating Jubilee.

In the first, the discourse on climate change is driven by the concept of a 'perfect' and 'idyllic' past in which humans, animals and their activities were in some kind of balance, life was simple, food and everything else abundant and its subscribers yearn for the return of this idealised 'Eden' state. In the second draws on this and presents humanity as the blight, or as recently on German television, human activity in the form of 'rampant capitalist exploitation', as being to blame. (I had to laugh at this, since it was uttered by a man from the former East German governing Party whose 'benign socialist exploitation of the environment' is one reason the former West German states are still paying a surcharge tax to clean up ...) It is the ideological position of many Green Party members as well, and ignores the fact that the 'State Owned' industries were the world's ultimate nightmare polluters.

The third 'myth' is a telling one as it identifies the belief that mankind can control, manipulate or alter the climate to suit our wishes and desires. One has only to think of the various schemes proposed to 'geo-engineer' various things to 'save the glaciers' or refreeze the polar ice cap. Probably the most stunning example of how this can backfire must be the diversion of almost all the rivers feeding the Caspian Sea by the Soviet Union. They did it for what they considered valid reasons, mainly to supply water to arid areas for agriculture. What it has achieved is reducing the 'sea' to a quarter of its original area and the ground they turned the water onto is now suffering from over use. I suppose we can be thankful their other 'big' idea was never implemented - massive 'space mirrors' directed onto the Siberian steppes to give them daylight in the Arctic winter and 'improve' temperatures. As the report states -

This myth, according to Hulme, mobilises ideas about our abilities to engineer climate utopias, to craft the climate of our own desire. This human creation of a “global thermostat”, through various technological measures, to gain control of a climate that supposedly has “run amok”, partly due to the recklessness of humanity’s actions, is according to Hulme a “Procrustean option for delivering climate utopia to the masses. And which masses? Those who speak loudest, those who pay the most, or those who are condescendingly judged to be most in need of a dose of (our) utopian climate?” (ibid.: 351-2).

The final 'myth' is a trickier one, since this is idealism run amok. The language used is all about ethics and moral values, but what it really boils down to is much less ethical or moral. Once again, it harks back to the 'vision' of a 'restored Eden'. It offers 'salvation' to those who 'follow the righteous path' and cut their use of resources, adapt their lifestyles and ushers in a new era of 'balance and justice'. All four feed into one another at different levels and in interesting ways. Often quoted is the 'Consensus' which, when examined closely is far from what most of those quoting it think it is.

The report is largely sympathetic to the 'Climate Change' argument, as, I would suspect, are most people. The huge question is really how big a part do humanity play, in particular how big an impact do western societies have, and what, if anything, can be done about it, but that bis NOT what this report set out to address. It is an honest, and in my view, very balanced attempt at understanding why there is almost no common understanding of either side's point of view.

I would identify myself as a 'Climate Skeptic' in so far as I do believe that the climate is changing. I also believe that humanity does impact on this. What I do not believe is the assertion that we can stop or reverse it. I do not believe that erecting more wind turbines, shutting all coal, oil and gas plants, curbing the use of hydrocarbon fuels and forcing everyone onto bicycles or public transport will achieve one jot of change in the direction the climate chooses to go. I don't believe in the apocalyptic visions of the Greens and I don't fear the use of nuclear reactors to boil water to make steam to drive turbines and generate power. I don't believe in the 'lost Eden' idyl either. Life before modern technology, medicine and food production tended to be rather short, very smelly and extremely hard. Those of the 'smell the flowers/feel the breeze' mindset who quote Wordsworth and his fellow poets lamenting 'Paradise Lost' and those 'dark satanic mills' blotting the landscape need to remember that the poets tended to belong to the 'Gentry' and had servants, gardeners and minions running around picking up after them. Fine if you were Wordsworth, not so good if you were the minion.

Nor do I believe in the 'Babel' model. In this those who aspire to it see themselves as the 'captains and kings' who will benignly condescend to allow the rest of us to have access to the resources they consider we need, and to dictate how we should use them. Look no further than the annual Climate Change Conferences its pundits attend, all earnestly believing that only by persuading the rest of us to do as they tell us can the world be saved, the climate tamed and Eden restored. It's a lovely vision, but so deeply flawed it must be obvious to all but the terminally uncritical.

At the conclusion of the SINTEF report, Professor Hulme is once again quoted, identifying that the answers to the three primary questions the IPCC was set up to answer are anything but conclusive, certain or final. We should note with caution that Hulme also identified (and he was a member of the IPCC team of scientists) that the Panel is actually governed by a 'Bureau' of 'government representatives' whose job was to ensure the Panel's report 'served the needs of government and policy and was not to be a self-governing body of scientists. Immediately one can identify that the politicians were driving an agenda and the scientists were being more or less told what to find. That, perhaps, explains more than anything else, why the skeptical side of the argument has continued to grow. Tellingly the report concludes with a sentence the politicians and those who seek to make the case for the environment, climate change, or ecology would do well to remember -

Efforts to make people bow uncritically to the authority of a dogmatic representation of Science, seems largely to produce ridicule, opposition and inaction, and ultimately undermines the legitimacy and role of both science and politics in open democracies. 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Ascension Day

This is an important day in the Christian calendar, the day we celebrate the Risen Christ's departure from our sight to the place we hope to join Him in the fullness of time. In Germany and other European countries it is a holiday, the shops are closed, churches are in full voice and the 'Himmelfarht' will be properly marked.

For Mausi and the Monk, it will be a quiet day, though with Harry, we will be travelling to Mannheim for Harry's 'family reunion' and a 'Grill' (BBQ to the UK and the US or Barbie in Australia and a Braai in the Monk's place of origin). Harry has now fully recovered and is back to his usual chirpy self - though still not eating with his usual gusto.

It promises to be a lovely day out.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A Visit to the Vet ...

Today Harry has to go to the V-E-T to have his baby canines extracted. This is, apparently, a common problem for Shelties, and his needle sharp infant canines are still firmly fixed and crowding his adult canines. It is a procedure that requires full anesthesia, which obviously worries me, and I am currently being watched accusingly because I have failed to provide his normal morning treat and bowl of food. Our appointment is at 11.00 and I'm just hoping it will be quick and problem free.

In the meantime, here is the latest picture of the handsome little aristocrat.

His favourite activity at present is a good 'kick-about' with his football. Hopefully he'll feel up to it this evening. Tomorrow we are supposed to go to Manheim for a 'reunion' with his siblings and the rest of the Goldbachmoor 'family', but may have to forgo that if the vet advises against it. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Books, the latest target for piracy ...

There has been quite a lot of focus on the downloading of music tracks from 'free' sites and a number of attempts to end it. There has equally been a lot of opposition to any attempt to put a stop to the 'sale' by unauthorised sites of these 'free' recordings. Those in favour of the continued supply of free downloads of music often claim that 'no one suffers from it; music must be 'free' and anyway, the recording companies are ripping off the people.' You also hear the argument that the artist and the recording company are only 'capitalist exploiters' who 'deserve to be ripped off'.

The same arguments are advanced by those who sell pirate copies of DVDs, videos and CDs. Yet another argument advanced, usually by those who 'buy' these pirate copies, is that the 'exposure is good for the artist'. They think that a few thousand pirate copies of something somehow 'promotes' sales through normal outlets, so it must be good. Right?

Wrong. On every level. It may be that the royalties on a few thousand copies of a hit song by a multi-millionaire Pop Star don't make a great deal of difference to his or her earnings, but to the vast majority of performers, actors and authors it does. Authors? Yes, the advent of e-books means our work is also now being ripped off. Sometimes quite blatantly, and the people doing it claim to be striking a blow against 'capitalism' or for 'freedom'. Frankly it is simply theft, and what is worse, those who buy from them are encouraging the crime - and very likely feeding the profits of international crime syndicates in the process.

Recently an author I know published a book. In the first few months sales went well, clocking up a few thousand a month. Now some folk would look at that and think - 'Hah! He's making a mint. He's rich!' What they forget is that a book takes time to write. There's a lot of sweat and tears invested in writing it, editing it, correcting and often rewriting parts before it is finally in a shape to be published. The author has invested heavily in terms of time - and often his return is less than a dollar per copy. The vast majority of authors don't get enough from royalties to live on them. So, when sales of his book suddenly 'tanked' and dropped to single copies he wondered why.

Thanks to some sophisticated searching on the web, he soon had the answer. Pirate copies of the book were being offered for free on some sites and sold through ebay's eBooks on others. Nor is he the only one to suffer from this problem, several other authors I know have also been hit by these thieves. It leaves you wondering why you made the effort in the first place. For some of us, independent authors, our books are published through Joint Ventures with our publishers. Not only have I got time and effort invested in my books, but some of my money as well. The return on each book is quite small, electronic or hard copy, and I have to sell quite a few before I recoup my outlay and can start showing a return. A thief can destroy my sales - and thus my outlay - in the blink of an eye.

Copying and reselling any electronic book is theft. Copying it to sell for your own profit takes it further, and if it continues it will destroy any incentive for creativity. After all, why should anyone write a book, create a picture, make a film or record a song if some thief is going to steal it and profit from it at the creator's expense? The UK government is currently changing the law concerning photography - and it will affect any writing posted on the internet as well - to make it legal to use any image, stored electronically, which cannot be identified as the 'property' of the creator. Since some sites that display many images strip the Meta Data out of the files, there are literally millions of images now available for anyone to claim are 'orphan' images.

There is a danger in this for writers as well, as another acquaintance discovered when he posted his poetry online on an author website. Another member of the same site copied the poems verbatim, relabeled and refiled them - then published them via Lulu as his own work. To add insult to injury, the thief entered them in various local and national competitions and boasted that he'd won awards for 'his' poetry. The theft was so blatant it was breathtaking. It has cost the real author - resident in another country - thousands to regain the intellectual rights to his creations and have the sale of the book stopped. The damage is, however, done, and he will never recoup his costs.

So far I have been fortunate - but I am watching very carefully!

Monday, 6 May 2013

An Interview Online ...

Recently I had the enjoyable experience of being interviewed online. Kura Carpenter, the designer of the cover art on two of my books, Their Lordships Request and A Baltic Affair, is also a member of a writers' group in her homeland, New Zealand. She has posted the full interview on her Blog, Kura Carpenter Design under the title "An Interview with Patrick G Cox" and I must say it was a different experience. I've been interviewed a number of times 'live' and the main difference here was the removal of the usual opportunities for opening one's mouth only to change feet.

As an independent author, getting noticed is always a major problem, you are up against some serious money and marketing available to the big publishing houses. Sadly, the advent of the internet and access to publishing means that there is quite a lot of very poor writing also competing for space and sales, and this tends to give all independent work a bad name.

I hope you'll enjoy my answers to Kura's questions as much as I enjoyed the experience of being interviewed in this way.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

A question of passion?

Yesterday I read an interesting item on Facebook concerning the manner in which the Islamic world is now run by fanatics, many of whom aren't all that 'devout' and who often flout the tenets of the faith they claim to follow in pursuit of wealth and power. It made me think, since while the western media and politicians focus on this problem within Islam, they ignore the wider implications.

A question the piece I read raised in my mind is this; at what point does 'passionate activism' tip over into 'fanaticism'? One sees many examples today in all societies of small groups whose 'passion' over one cause or another drives them to sometimes extreme behaviour in pursuit of their goal. The list is extensive, one could name the Hunt Saboteur movement, the Green Campaigners driving industry out of the developed world in pursuit of their dream of a 'natural' nirvana, the proselytising atheists, secularists and humanists determined to drive religion out of society, the 'demonstrators' who feel justified in vilifying people engaged in business, and the destruction of property when it belongs to the 'enemy' of their cause. While I concede that Muslim fundamentalism appears to be a global movement while the others I mentioned tend to be 'local' (OK, the 'Green' movement is getting to be Global), all these movements are driven by quite small groups who tend to get fanatical about their 'cause'.

So what of the rest of us? My experience of travelling and working in several Muslim countries and in a number of other societies lead me to believe that the vast majority of people everywhere just want stability, reasonable comfort, opportunities for their children and food on the table. Talking to my older German neighbours, many of whom were children in the second world war, one does hear of parents who 'went along with' the Nazis because it meant their children didn't get targeted at school, or they got slightly better jobs by kowtowing to the Nazi boss. I have witnessed the same elsewhere, and played that game as well to my shame. In any given society, if there are extremists, fanatics or 'passionate ideologues' in power you may be sure they don't represent everyone. The majority are too busy trying to keep out of trouble and live as 'normal' a life as possible.

This is how the Russian Bolsheviks managed to control the Russian (and all their fellow 'Soviet' people) for over 80 years. It is how Hitler's thugs controlled the 'silent majority' in Germany and how Armadinejad and his goons control the majority of Iranian people, or the Hamas, Hezbollah and Mujahedin control the majorities in their countries. It is how the 'activists' promoting Political Correctness, 'climate change', 'animal rights' or 'civil disobedience' control and influence the agenda for a whole raft of things the majority of us 'go along' with rather than 'cause a problem' or confront the idiocy and the disruptive behaviour of the few.

The borderline between 'passion' over ideology and 'fanaticism' fueled by any ideology, political, religious or 'save the planet' is, at best, marginally thin. If we are not careful we will find ourselves once again being ruled by fanatics, just as the German's did in 1933, or the East Germans post 1949 with the fanatics of the 'Socialist' Party in charge, or the Palestinians today, caught between the fanatics of Hamas and Hezbollah/Fatah. It can't happen in the UK? I'm not so sure William Hill or one of the other betting agencies would give very long odds on it, since we already have submitted to the rule of the fanatically politically correct and the so-called 'environmentalists.'

Beware the man of 'passion', he (or she) is often just a hairsbreadth away from becoming a fanatic.