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Friday, 29 November 2013

Finding a Balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Religious Upheavals; Defenders of Faith, Defenders of Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Footnote:

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

Monday, 25 November 2013

Funny what a little research turns up ...

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

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

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

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The New Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Propaganda versus fact?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A lot on the plate ...

The Monk finds he has a lot on his plate at the moment. Firstly, the good news, is that his book, A Baltic Affair, seems to have found a steady market. It is selling well in the US and even in the UK. It isn't in the 'Best Seller' lists yet, and it cvertainly hasn't recovered the cost of publication, but it is building up a nice head of steam.

The publisher, IndieGo Publishing in the US, is very pleased with it, and has taken on the publishing of the next in the Harry Heron series of adventures, The Outer Edge. The Monk is delighted, to say the least, but, now comes the difficult bit - the publisher's edits. Fortunately, the editor, Janet Angelo, is, like the Monk, a scifi fan - so they see eye to eye on almost everything she suggests to improve the reader experience, add descriptions, or modify the narrative.  It's a rewarding experience and the Monk wishes his earlier books had received this kind of polish. The Outer Edge is likely to be the best yet of these stories, so watch this space for news of publication.

Now, back to the grindstone, there are deadlines to meet and a lecture to be delivered on Thursday in the UK.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Remembrance Day

Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday, and Britain came, briefly, to a standstill as all across the country old soldiers, sailors and airmen, Boy Scouts, Guides, Sea Cadets, Army Cadets, Air Cadets and members of the public gathered at War Memorials and the Cenotaph in London other major cities, to remember the dead of two World Wars and all the many 'little' wars since. As usual there were those who tried to make a 'political' issue of it, and there was, as ever, the stupid attempt by the anti-war lobbyists to highjack it with their inane 'white' poppy.

Despite this, it was a solemn and well conducted ceremony in the vast majority of places. What the small minority forget in their strident campaigns against 'nationalism' and 'jingoism' and another other '-ism' they can attach to it, is that it is none of those things. It is a time set aside to remember those whose sacrifice gave us the freedom to do the stupid things like hand out white poppies, to try to disrupt parades, or to make inane public posturing by communist Student Union members de rigeur.

It is interesting that the date has great significance in most of Europe, since the 11th November is the Feast Day of Martin of Tours, the fourth century Roman soldier who converted to Christianity around 300AD risking his life and freedom in the process. Famously he shared his cloak with a beggar he encountered in freezing weather, tearing the garment in half to do so. Later he dreamed that he encountered Christ, with Jesus wearing the other half of his cloak. He became the Bishop of Tours sometime after 314AD after defeating the Arianists in a long running debate and series of Synods. It is worth noting that the leading Arianist at that time was none other than the then Bishop of Rome, who changed sides under Martin's erudite arguments. Had Martin not succeeded Christianity in the West would probably now resemble something akin to the Shia version of Islam.

The irony is that Martin of Tours is the Patron Saint of soldiers, sailors and airmen, and the Armistice was signed on his feast day - which many saw as an auspicious omen. So, while the rest of Europe marks St Martin's Day, we British mark the Armistice.

This year, in Germany, there has been an additional element, since two days earlier, on the 9th November, there were ceremonies, church services and civic functions to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the infamous "Kristallnacht" which saw 1,200 Jews murdered and the first 30,000 'deportations' under the Nazis. The 9th and 10th of November are marked annually by small remembrance services, but this years have been of particular note. It is difficult to understand how a minority - and the 'real' Nazis always were a minority - could cow an entire population into accepting such an act of blatant savagery, with murders being committed publicly and the murderers going unpunished. That is until you realise that the Brown-shirted thugs were well organised, armed and given a licence to kill, beat or abuse anyone who attempted to stop them; that they had appointed their own people in charge of Police, Fire Brigade and Ambulance services, and that these services were under orders to stand aside. The local Fire Brigade was ordered to stand by while the Synagogue in Wiesbaden, a particularly magnificent one, burned. Their orders were to 'prevent the fire from spreading' - no attempt was to be made to save the synagogue.

Today a huge memorial stands were it was, recording some 20,000 names of the Jews deported and exterminated in the Death Camps. Ironically, it stands in Sankt-Martinstrasse.

Of growing concern to the German people is the fact that many Middle Eastern immigrants - largely the second generation of immigrants - are now breeding a new wave of anti-semitism. There are some one million Jews in Germany today, and five million Muslims. A recent study for the BBC rather smugly declared that 'antisemitism is on the rise in Germany' and announced that Britain is the least anti-semitic state in Europe. They failed to mention there are entire cities in the Uk where Jews do not go, or that almost all the assaults on Jews in Germany are committed by immigrants and the small number of radical 'converts' to Islam - something universally condemned by the ordinary Germans.

So this season is one for remembering. It begins with the feasts of All Hallows and All Souls (the first having an Octave which means the last day of the feast of All Saints ends on the 9th November) and now we have the additional 'remembrances' of the events of the 9th and 10th November in 1938, plus the signing of the Armistice on the 11th in 1918.

I have, as is my habit, marked the remembrance day with prayers for the souls of the members of my family who died and those who survived the two world wars, and those of my school friends who also fought in the proxy wars in Africa.

They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning.
We will remember them.

We remember and honour the dead, yet we seem to forget the survivors who lived with traumatic mental scars. Those who survived the horror and the slaughter, and who really did set out to build a world we, their children, could enjoy in freedom. We should remember them as well, perhaps even remind our nihilistic student bodies who babble of 'revolutions' and our politicians who have stolen almost every benefit our fathers and grandfathers fought to obtain or preserve.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Congratulations

Are definitely due to the Monk's eldest daughter, who has successfully achieved a Bachelor of Science (Hons) Management with Trusts and Estates. She has worked hard for this, holding down a full time and demanding job and studying part-time.

Studying for a degree is never a walk in the park, even as a full-time student. Doing it while dealing with a full-time job and all the other little things in life adds a few complications and some challenges. In my view it makes the achievement all the more noteworthy.

Congratulations VC, a celebration is definitely now in order.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

What does 'Aid' really do for the 'poor'?

The subject of 'Aid' is always a touchy one. There are many arguments for richer nations supporting projects in poor or developing nations, the chief being that, in so doing, we foster good relations and reduce the forces of envy which translate into terrorism and violence against the 'haves' in the West. One the other hand, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that very little benefit is actually produced for the providers of 'Aid' or for those it is supposed to help. I was reminded rather strongly of this last night as I watched the launch, by India, of a Mars probe.

India is, currently, in receipts of a few hundreds of millions of pounds of Aid money from the UK government. This is supposedly supporting a range of programmes targeting social and poverty relief issues, and it is ceasing next year. Allegedly. Now here is one of the things that bothers me about the handouts - which have been going on since 1947 - and it is this: India has one of the worlds largest 'poverty' problems in the world. It has a huge number of its reported 1 billion inhabitants living in basic conditions, and subsisting on minimal wages, but it is now the possessor of one of the largest Naval Fleets in that region, equipped with nuclear capable submarines, aircraft carriers, and the latest ship borne aircraft and missiles. It is a nuclear power, and it boasts a space programme - but the UK, which is busy slashing its udgets, reducing its Navy to a coastal defence force, and its other armed forces to little more than token units, is giving India 'Aid'.

Nor is this the only example. Pakistan has been a net beneficiary of Aid for all of its existence, yet its a country described as 'failing'. Corruption is rife, poverty is the biggest 'growth industry' and it provides more radical Islamists to wage terror campaigns than Iran which is supposed to be the seat of Islamic fundamentalism. Zimbabwe is another. Billions in Aid went in for years, but the currency collapsed, the people are starving, the infrastructure is collapsing and the only beneficiaries seem to be Mugabe and his thuggish cronies whose Swiss Bank accounts are stuffed with the proceeds. The same seems to be happening in South Africa, where people who, prior to 1994, were drawing benefits in the UK, or street traders, car salesmen and shopkeepers in the Apartheid years are now billionaires while the countries economy struggles, corruption is rampant, poverty increases and the infrastructure can't be maintained. Ther list goes on and on, and the countries pouring this 'Aid' money into these bottomless pits are making cuts to their own budgets to pay for it.

The UK has cut its Defence Budget to ridiculous levels, it can't afford (we are constantly told) to pay pensioners, and threatens to reduce this 'benefit' (which it is not - we all pay for it through our working lives. We've earned it and had the Whitehall parasites invested even a portion of what they've collected they'd be rolling in money) for those now in work - and paying into the funds Whitehall continues to squander. The UK has no space programme, allegedly because 'there is no benefit to be gained from it', but in reality, because they waste the money on other things. But we are funding India's albeit indirectly. The cuts to Defence are now coming home to bite, with the possibility, on the eve of the Scottish Independence Referendum, of the Govan and Scotstoun shipyards, dependent on ship orders for the RN, closing. Nor is Britain alone, these questions are being asked in Germany and several other countries, but it is one the politicians everywhere don't want to answer.

The truth is that 'Aid', well intentioned as it is, allows the recipient politicians to divert funds they would and should have spent on whatever the 'Aid' is targeting, to other projects. In many recipient countries, the corruption is so entrenched, that the Aid might as well be paid directly to the bank accounts (Swiss) of the families of the politicians who have a nice line of contractors who are the sole winners of any contract going. Usually companies run by wives, sons, cousins or other relatives, and the 'product' delivered is often a joke, and not what it was supposed to be. An example that would be hilarious if it wasn't so stupid, was a contract awarded in South Africa to a relative of a Minister to proivde proper toilets in all the 'informal' townships. What the contractor didn't do, was plumb any of them into a sewer, a water supply or anything else. He built concrete slabs, placed a 'throne' on it and moved on. Thousands of them, in every township. No enclosure, no plumbing, no sewerage removal. Mega-millions into bank. Easy.

When one considers the cost of India's Space Programme, the UK's Aid package is quite small beer, but, considering that we didn't even spend a tenth of the amount of Aid we give India, and less than a fraction of a percent of what we hand out in Aid on our joint effort through the European Space Agency, one does have to ask the question; why? Is there any benefit to the UK from this largesse? Is there any benefit to those on the receiving end (excluding of course the corrupt politicians)? From where I stand, the answer is no. We have almost two million unemployed, we have sold off most of our heavy industries (ironically our steel plants and our prestige car manufactuers to Indian owners) and we can't pay our own bills - but we hand out huge amounts that, spent at home, could at least support a great deal of redevelopment in areas that desperately need it.

We can't pay pensioners, we have a crippling unemployment 'benefit' burden, we are slashing government services and selling them off to foreign operators, we have no Space Programme, our Armed Forces are shrinking to the point of non-existence, but we can hand out billions in 'Aid'? There's something very wrong with that picture, but perhaps those responsible are standiong to close to the trees to see it.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Ten Years of Blogging

Today is the tenth anniversary of my starting a blog. I can scarcely believe it has been this long, and it has certainly gone through a number of changes, and seen many more, along the way. I think the most appropriate way to mark this milestone is to pay tribute to those who have shared the journey, who read my ramblings and occasionally leave comments and suggestions for posts. Some have even joined me in posting their thoughts here.

So I have to say thanks to Ozguru, also known as Gil, who first got me blogging on his then website, back in 2001. Sadly I have been unable to retrieve those early posts., so now count as my first, this one. When that website became too big for his management (and the demands of family and normal day job) we migrated to PixyMisa's MuNu site. The only problem being that, as Ozguru set it all up, I had difficulty getting into the settings to sort out one or two problems, and he didn't have the time to. So, eventually, and rather sadly, I migrated to the present host, Blogger.

Sadly, I've had to record the passing of a few friends, and seen the closure of several blogs as well. Church Mouse edited many of my posts and introduced me to a range of interesting characters and bloogers. She regularly fed me items of interest to blog about as well. Sadly, she died of cancer a little over four years ago, gone, but certainly not forgotten. I have been joined on the blog by Mausi, VC, formerly The Postulant and now Josephus all of whom have, from time to time, posted and contributed and who still contribute with suggestions and ideas.

I've ranted about politics and politicians, pondered some of the deeper mysteries of life, theology and history. I've celebrated some of my successes and shared some of my failures. It often surprised me that anyone read my thoughts, but it also encouraged me to broaden my writing and get some of it published. That has been an adventure all of its own.

So here it is, my tenth anniversary Blog Post. I can only wonder what the next ten years will bring with them.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Economics of 'Growth'

I am not a statistician, but I have some experience in using 'statistics' to make a point on occassion, or to persuade an audience that 'something' is happening or must be done. I have sufficient knowledge of the manner in which the data is is collected, how it is processed and sometimes manipulated, to be very suspicious when they are used by politicians, civil servants and certain 'scientists'. The majority of these folk are, like me, broadly 'illiterate' with regard to the significance of a whole range of things the raw 'numbers' appear to indicate, and completely illiterate when it comes to understanding the very complex mathematical 'models' used to work out what the data means.

Thus, when the Treasury (or a politician) talks about "economic growth" I take it with a large dose of salt. Why? Well, I have several reasons. First of all, I am one of those awkward people like Thomas the Twin (Thomas Didymus or Doubting Thomas). I tend to believe what I can see, feel, measure physically (THAT may surprise a few folk) and things like statistics tend to show only a small portion of the bigger picture. Secondly, in my lifetime, world population has gone from some 2 billion to 7 billion, and the world is creaking ecologically as a result. We are running out of all manner of things (I don't think hydrocarbon fuel is one of them - we keep finding more untapped 'reserves), but water and food certainly are. So is space for housing.

Yet all economists, and all national economies are built around the supposition that populations, wealth acquisition, commercial and industrial expansion, will continue to grow. The whole kettle of fish is built on the assumption that we will continue to buy and discard ever increasing quantities of 'consumer' goods. But, as far as I can see, this bubble is alreay almost at bursting point. Populations in most developed countries are either static, or declining if one removes the mass migrations coming in from less developed countries. The basket of 'goodies' that is used by the Treasury to measure 'growth' in the economy of any nation is full of some pretty ephemeral items. Like salaries and wages, like orders being filled, unemployment numbers, and new registrations of businesses. Inflation is adjusted for in these measurements, but everyone massages that figure to the point of worthlessness as the truth might scare away investors, or provoke revolution.

We hear of 'new' industries replacing old ones, which is true, but these new industries don't employ the vast numbers needed to address unemployment. Often they have the reverse effect. Unemployment in many countriues is also a seasonal thing. In Europe quite a number of the 'pavement cafe' operators shed staff (some even close completely) in the winter, and reopen in the Spring/Summer. They and their staff are 'unemployed' during the winter months, which slews these figures. If the banks have a 'good' year, that boosts the 'balance of trade' and so we see 'growth' - but it seldom feeds down to the rest of us.

Another major reason I doubt the 'growth' economics model can be sustained is that I don't think populations can continue to expand. In 1945, Britain had a population of some 20 million. It is now 60 million and growing, yet, even as it grows, it isn't growth due to births - it is boosted by migration and large migrant families. Unemployment keeps increasing, and, because we have a socialist system of 'benefits' so does the costz of running it. Ironically, as the population grows, the actual contributions to pensions, social benefits and so on from tax on the employed is in danger of falling off. Thus, our governments are increasingly compelled to engage in some dubious economic tactics to cover their spending plans. They borrow money on an eye watering scale, always on the promise that 'growth' will enable then to repay it. They increase taxes, adjust some of the 'hidden' taxation to increase its impact and encourage everyopne to spend, spend, spend - so the economy can 'grow'.

However, demographically, there are signs the world population is not going to continue its upward growth. China is seeing the start of a downturn, largely because a preference for male children means they now have an almost 2 to 1 male to female population of under 30s. India is also starting to show similar signs. Germany's population was found recently to be 1,8 million less than was estimated, and similar patterns are emerging elsewhere. So, if populations are not 'growing' naturally, how can we sustain 'economic growth' and continue to buy today and pay with tomorrow's 'growth'?

I suggest that we need, urgently, to find a new economic model. One which is sustainable, fair and does not involve stepping back to subsistence living for our populations while those who have done well out of the economics of 'growth' and literally robbed the bank, bask in luxury.