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Monday, 19 May 2014

Betraying their roots?

I have a new reason to detest and even oppose the creation of more offshore 'wind parks'. The impact they are having on the dolphin population. New research into why there has been a massive increase in dolphins stranding and dying in the North Sea area has found that it is because the victims are going deaf. It has taken a long time to find this out, and a lot more effort to find the cause. It turns out that the deafened dolphins are all from pods who lived and hunted in the vacinity of new wind parks. It has now been established that the cause of their going deaf is a direct result of the noise created when driving the 'piling' to create the foundations for the wind turbines.

A dolphin that cannot hear, cannot find food, cannot find its way, cannot detect obstructions, cannot ...

Now comes the really entertaining bit. Greenpeace has its origins in defending and protecting marine mammals - starting with the great whales, then expanding to cover Orca, dolphins and others. Now it seems, since Greenpeace are reaping large financial rewards from these same wind parks, that's no longer a priority. Pity about the dolphins, seals, fish and other marine life. No wonder more and more of the founders of Greenpeace are turning against them. I've come a long way down that road myself. It may surprise some to know that I once supported their campaigns to stop over fishing, the slaughter of dolphins and whales and so on. Now I will not give them ice in winter.

Building these wind turbines means driving massive piled foundations deep into the sea bed. This is done by 'hammering' using a massive falling weight which strikes the metal 'pile', each blow driving it deeper. The sound of the blow is amplified by the water, travelling as a kind of pressure wave. During the 'driving' operation these hammer blows are repeated at least once every minute, and all marine animals within a considerable radius of the source are subjected to this intense noise. Dolphins have a particularly sensitive ear - they need it - and the damage is rapid and permanent. Nor is it 'short duration' noise, the piling operations last for weeks. The underwater noise levels, if translated into the human environmental equivalent, would invoke an immediate ban by the Health and Safety Executive.

So, I expect Greenpeace will continue to put out its propaganda about 'Global Warming' and 'Climate Change', while ignoring the damage its favourite 'renewable' energy source is causing to all the marine and other wildlife it once thought so important. No, I will never again support them on any issue, and I will continue to object to the construction of useless windmills whose sole purpose seems to be to enrich their proponents.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

What if Scotland decides to stay in the UK?

Ever since the Blair/Brown mangling of the UK’s Constitution, there has been a large question mark over the status of ‘England’ within the Union. Scotland has a Parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland have Assemblies, but England has … Westminster, which, we are constantly told is the “United Kingdom Parliament”. In other words, “England” is represented by its MPs sitting in a joint parliament making decisions that apply only in England and determined to a large extent by Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs.

Let’s take a look at the actual make-up of the Westminster Chamber (I’ll leave the Lords out of it for the moment - that is another problem entirely thanks to Blair!). There are 650 MPs currently in the House of Commons, of whom 533 are ‘English’ (though in reality some are Scottish or Welsh Party Members in ‘English’ seats), 40 Welsh, 59 Scottish and 18 Northern Irish. In effect it means that there are 117 MPs voting on laws that have little or no impact on their own constituents in matters ‘devolved’ to the Scottish Parliament or the two Assemblies. Worse, it means that the voters in each of these constituencies actually has TWO MPs - one 'local' and the other in Westminster, while the 'English' constituencies have only one, in Westminster. Since a majority of the constituencies in Scotland and Wales are invariably also Labour, Nationalist or Liberal Democrat supporters, there is a clear bias against the representation most frequently the choice of ‘English’ voters. Reference to the map clearly shows this.

To further complicate the story we must also recognise that there are 53 million people in England, 3 million in Wales, 5.29 million in Scotland and 1.8 million in Northern Ireland. This means there are fewer voters per MP in Scotland and Wales than there are in England. Then there are arguments about the allocation of funds to the various components as well, with the per capita spend in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland higher than anywhere in England. And all of this is ‘managed’ by Westminster where those 117 ‘National’ MPs make very sure their voters ‘interests’ are paramount. It is a very tricky question and, to use a hackneyed expression, thorny issue. One the politicians hoped they could evade by breaking England up into ‘Regions’ so each Region had its own Assembly and could safely be sidelined.

That plan fell apart when the first ‘Region’ resoundingly rejected being made autonomous and being made to pay for yet another hot-air talking shop for meddlers. The surprise was that it was a Labour ‘heartland area. To date the only such ‘Region’ to accept the ‘honour’ is the London conurbation where the Greater London Authority has an Assembly which presides over the 33 Boroughs and cities that make up what everyone outside the UK calls ‘London’. The problem when the voters rejected the ‘Regional Assembly’ proposal was that Blair and his planners had no alternative plan, no back-up to answer what has, for many years, been known as the “West Lothian Question”. For some reason, all our ‘political’ class are terrified of allowing the ‘English’ to have their own voice, their own Parliament.

Perhaps it is time to call this bluff, and for the ‘English’ to demand the same status as the Welsh, Scots and Irish (and come to that the Suzerainties of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man). Perhaps it is time to reject entirely the divisions imposed by Westminster and Whitehall in their ‘Regions’ and demand an English Parliament based outside of London. Surely, if we are going to continue to play this so-called ‘democracy’ game, it is only right? The problem is that the Liberal Left (and possibly the Conservative Centre as well) seem to be absolutely terrified by the thought of an 'English' Parliament. One has to ask why?

As I see it there are several purely ‘political’ problems to address here. The first is that the ‘first past the post/winner takes all’ electoral system is so far past its ‘sell by’ date it is a joke. The second is to acknowledge that, without the Scottish and Welsh MPs, Labour will never form a majority government in England. The third part of the problem is that Westminster, and to a large extent, Whitehall, will have to be completely restructured with Whitehall being cut back and many of its Departments devolved completely to the four national governments. I would suggest therefore that Whitehall would be responsible only for overall ‘Treasury’ functions, Defence, Foreign Policy and matters pertaining to Immigration, Citizenship and mutual internal arrangements. Westminster itself could be slimmed down dramatically, losing perhaps half of its current denizens and all their ‘hanger’s on’.

The more I consider this, the more I like it. Moving the activities of the Civil Service closer to the people they purport to serve  - the taxpayer - will make them far more responsive to reality, rather than their imagined world. It will also break what Jonathon Swift called “the echo of the London Coffee House”. As he said, there is a tendency in Westminster and Whitehall to believe that “London” is the whole of the UK, and this has caused problems all through the ages. Shifting an ‘English’ Parliament out of London, and ejecting all those departments that are devolved as well, will certainly cure that tendency.

I believe the idea of a Parliament for England is an idea whose time has come. The only question is how to compel the denizens of Westminster to accept it.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Medical Dilemmas ...

Those who suffer allergic reactions are familiar with the need to take loads of antihistamines to suppress the reaction. Mine is an annual bout of battling pollen, and a month on antihistamines which always makes me wish someone would find a 'cure'. There are some supposed 'cures' but they are also high-risk and don't always work.

Some years ago I learned that Hayfever, Asthma and Eczema are all caused by the same gene defect, but it is rare for someone suffering from the first of these to develop the other two. Unfortunately, those who develop Eczema frequently also develop Asthma and it can get even more complex. Medical science focuses on treating the symptoms of these ailments, rather than treating the cause - difficult when it is caused by the bodies own defences 'reacting' to a non-infectious agent such as pollen. My own allergies are house dust and grass pollen, though I seem to be reacting to a few other species of pollen lately as well. Other folk react to animal hair, certain foods (some folk get migraines from eating chocolate) and a wide range of other 'trigger' substances.

Part of the problem, of course, is that we are basically 'Mk I' humans, and though we have adapted our environs, our genes haven't yet adapted to many of the things those adaptations have introduced. Add to that, the damage we take from various illnesses we suffer, exposure to some substances in our careers, or inadvertantly in our homes, and the cumulation means we wind up allergic to something.

Step forward the pharmaceutical industry.

While many ailments can be cured, others have to be 'managed' by palliative treatments. Like my hay fever. I dose myself with an antihistamine preparation which - most of the time - relieves the symptoms. I also resort to some 'old fashioned' practices, like flushing my nose with salt water, and, more recently, using a 'wand' type device which is inserted into the nostrils and bathes the reacting mucosa in red light. It is a case of just trying to get through the worst of the season as best one can - which is what our ancestors did for much of the time I suspect. I know many of mine resorted to becoming seafarers - no pollen at sea at least.

Now the problem with daily doses of antihistamine is that it affects more than just the parts of the system that are responding to the pollen. It affects the whole of the immune system. So, if you also suffer from some other underlying conditions, you reduce the bodies natural response to those as well. This is why I tend to 'take the meds' only when I'm already pretty desperate, which, of course, means they are much less effective. While Hayfever is very common, it isn't the focus of a great deal of research. Why? Largely because there is more money to be made in already available preparations which deal with the symptoms, than in trying to find a way to cure it.

That leads me to a recent article on treatments for cancer which is based on boosting the immune system. The problem with cancer cells is that they generate an agent which 'blocks' the immune system and prevents it from acting to destroy the cancer cell. So the discovery of that, and the development of the means to 'boost' the immune system so it does attack tumours is a major step forward. But now comes my question - how will this work for someone who needs to take an immune system suppressing agents to control - for example - Hayfever?

Perhaps it is time the pharmaceutical industry did take a look at finding ways to treat those of us who are sensitive to pollen, dust and other 'particulates'. Hayfever, Asthma and Eczema are possibly the most common allergy conditions in every population group. Yes, we are a lovely 'cash cow' for all the preparations we have little choice but to use when our 'affliction is upon us', but, since it is already known which gene causes it, and what the 'defect' looks like - why, of why, can't someone come up with a proper cure?

Could some 'researcher' reading this give it some thought please?