If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 31 December 2010

A Message From Our Sponsors

To all who have visited this blog in 2010, may I wish you a Happy New Year, and may you get everything you wish for, within reason. To all those who have left comments, thank you for taking the trouble to contribute. You are all much appreciated.

You may gather from the timing of this post that I am not attending a wild party this evening. The positive is that I won't be ending up like the rest of you ...

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Of Sagas and Hard Seats

I was reminded recently of a character who I now believe, with some regret, to be fictional - a minor character in an Icelandic saga, and the leader of many long and arduous sea-journeys to the New World, one Harald Hardarss. I have searched the web for his name, but the only reference I came up with was to a mention in this very blog back in August of 2009. My own words coming back to me. Hmff. I'm sure I didn't imagine it, and the search for the man continues. However he came to mind again the other day ...

The seat of the XT had sustained several splits last year, due to being left out in the sun and the general depredations of daily use. Every time it rained, the water got through the splits and into the seat foam, and every time I rode it after rain, I got wet balls. A new seat cover is about 40 quid, and not affordable at the moment, so a few strips of gaffer tape later, and all was well.

Until last week.

I needed something from town just before Christmas and, with the gridlocked traffic and a reasonably dry day, I decided to bike it. I hadn't ridden the XT for a while, and when I got it fired up and swung a leg over, I was surprised by how tall the bike felt, and how hard the seat was. However, the seat softened during the ride, and became comfy (in the limited sense of 'trail bike comfy'). But my lower regions had never been so cold. Usually, it's my extremities (hands, knees, neck) that get cold first, and my body stays relatively warm, but this time it was the opposite, with a deep, penetrating cold in my lower torso, and everything else toasty.

Then I remembered the rain-soaked seat foam, and the fact of very cold nights, and a temperature that hadn't risen above zero for several weeks. I had been riding, literally, on a block of ice wrapped in thin plastic.

Not recommended. I'm sure a simple vasectomy would have been easier.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Labour and "crazy ideas"

What is a 'crazy idea' to Labour? Why, one that comes from an ordinary member of the public, of course.

The BBC report that
A plan to allow popular online petitions to be debated in Parliament within a year has been given the go ahead by the government.
Petitions will be hosted on the direct.gov website, and those gaining the most support will be debated in Parliament. Notice that this does not mean that 'Jeremy Clarkson for PM' will become law; merely that if the idea finds enough support, and passes certain criteria for eligibility, it will be debated by MPs. It may not succeed, but it will get a hearing. Predictably, Labour are up in arms:
But Labour said the plans would mean "crazy ideas" being discussed by MPs.
By 'crazy ideas', they mean ideas which have not come through the establishment policy mill: well- (or ill-) intentioned, tempered by party considerations, muted by political correctness, brushed and groomed and polished by the men in suits to make sure that, whatever is debated, nothing will be allowed to change. Ideas which ordinary people have, for making their lives better. The ordinary people that Labour (in their left-wing days) used to say could be trusted, before the people went disobediently off-message over things like immigration and Europe. Paul Flynn leads the charge:

This seems to be an attractive idea to those who haven't seen how useless this has been in other parts of the world when it's tried.

"If you ask people the question 'do you want to pay less tax?', they vote yes.

Well, of course they do, you muppet. Perhaps this just means that people don't like having their money taken off them to pay for the ruling party's pet projects. It's not wicked or unreasonable - it's a legitimate subject for mature debate. I assume here he is referring to Proposition 13 in California in 1978, which limited property taxes and was wildly popular and passed by two-thirds of voters. Of course, it is ridiculous to ask people who pay taxes to decide on the nature and amount of those taxes - after all, who exactly is in charge here?

If we get the e-petitions in there will be some asking for Jeremy Clarkson to be prime minister, for Jedi and Darth Vader to be the religions of the country.

And what would be wrong with that? No-one is suggesting things like this would automatically become law. But they would add something to the rich tapestry of British political life, and let us get things off our chests that have no official outlet. One of the most popular petitions (before Downing Street got windy and removed the facility) was for Gordon Brown to resign. Was that a significant expression of public opinion, or just a 'crazy idea' that should have never have seen the light of day? See the election result for a clue.

"The blogosphere is not an area that is open to sensible debate; it is dominated by the obsessed and the fanatical and we will get crazy ideas coming forward."

Bollocks. I have read some crazy stuff on blogs, and some has been obsessive and fanatical. I have also read things that are as considered and intelligent as anything you read in the mainstream press. See the bloglist on the right of this page for examples of both. Interesting that he should mention bloggers; there is no reference to blogging that I could see in the proposals. That's Flynn revealing his fears and prejudices, that is.

The BBC, meanwhile, is obediently rubbishing the proposals before they have been presented:

BBC News political correspondent Ross Hawkins said that allowing petitions to be
drafted as parliamentary bills would be more difficult and would take longer to put in place.
Since when was that ever a problem for the raft of intrusive and controlling legislation that Labour foisted on us all?

At the heart of all this is the word 'populist'. It means things that many people actually approve of and support: the death penalty, immigration control, withdrawal from Europe. 'Populism' just means doing stuff that people want - y'know, the basis of democracy. Of the people, for the people, kind of thing. The fact that the Left uses the word as a term of abuse tells you all you need to know.

(Just for clarity, I don't support the death penalty. But every survey that has been made has shown a majority in favour of it, and I believe that the people should get their way on this, despite my disapproval.)

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Met Office Uncovered

There's an interesting article on the BBC website about the Met Office, and an FOI request made by the BBC over material related to the Met Office's famous prediction of a 'barbecue summer' in 2009 and their apparent inability to predict the current unusually cold spell.

It seems as if the MO has two conflicting operating arms: the scientists (who, we may assume, have normal levels of astuteness and scientific caution) and the PR and Communications arm, who appear to be the MO's propaganda wing. This quotation is revealing:
"The strapline 'odds on for a barbeque summer' was created by the operations and communications teams to reflect the probability of a good summer. Concern over the use of the strapline and its relationship to the scientific information available was expressed by the scientific community, who were not consulted prior to the media release."
And the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) have an observation:
The GWPF is drawing attention to a map published on the Met Office website in October which indicated that the UK was likely to experience above-normal temperatures in the ensuing three-month period.

For the GPWF, which is sceptical of the Met Office and other mainstream analysis of global warming, this is evidence of a Met Office tendency to under-predict cold weather and over-predict mild winters.
A picture emerges: scientists working in the background, trying to provide a reliable outlook for the weather, based on probabilities which no-one else understands, and a PR wing, who are determined to turn the scientific advice into catchy, black-and-white memorable phrases which follow the required political agenda.

I liked this comment:
Of course, when it's hotter than average, it's 'climate' - when it's colder than average, it's 'weather.'

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Newgale, Christmas Day

Off to Newgale beach with the dogs for the traditional Christmas Day stroll, and a fabulous day it was - bright sunshine, bitterly cold, empty. I was the first person there.

There was a time, when RAF Search and Rescue was based at Brawdy, when the yellow SAR helicopter would fly along the beach every Christmas morning, with Santa sitting in the winchman's position waving at the walkers. Not any more, as Santa has been relocated to Chivenor in Devon.

Icicles within ten metres of the sea.

At the far end, I realised I wasn't alone. A middle-aged couple were standing quietly, facing a niche in the rocks. They were so still I thought they were taking a photograph. Then they moved on, and where they were standing was this:

Peace to them, and to you.

Coldest December For A Century

According to the BBC.

Last night was the coldest I can remember. It was -11°C at 9 am today, and it had dipped to -12°C in the night. That's following three consecutive nights at -9°C. This is Pembrokeshire, for God's sake - Gulf Stream, stuck out in the Atlantic, maritime climate and all that. It's unheard-of. The bedroom was 8°C.

The BBC Weather page predicted a -3°C minimum at 10 pm last night. Good to see they can get it almost right six hours in advance. That will make their predictions for 2100 pretty reliable, then.

Right - off to Newgale with the dogs. Have a good day.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Sheridan - The Daily Mash nails it

Sheridan facing three-in-a-bed sex sessions whether he likes it or not

TOMMY Sheridan was last night facing the prospect of endless three-in-a-bed sex sessions with a variety of eager new friends.


Bill McKay, chief bitch on the perjurers' wing, said: "I don't want to disappoint him so I shall be practising like mad over the next few weeks.

"I imagine this is how an amateur golfer must feel when they're offered the chance to play 18 holes with Ian Woosnam."
Priceless. Read it.

When Icicles Hang By The Wall

On a roadside, near Nowhere Towers

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipt and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit; tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow
And coughing drowns the parson's saw
And birds sit brooding in the snow
And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit; tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

From Love's Labour's Lost, and not A Winter's Tale, as you might imagine. Brrr.

Update: after a slightly alcohol-fuelled discussion with Joe Public, I can confirm that the photo is indeed the right way up. The water seeps from the rock face, forms a curtain of icicles as it freezes, and then blends into the snow on the ground, thus forming both stalactites and stalagmites simultaneously. From a certain viewpoint, probably over 80mg per 100ml, they do appear to be growing upwards. Ish.

Tell you what ...

Let's all join, and then elect Ed Balls as Party Leader, like we all wanted.

I'll call the campaign "Spend a Penny on Labour".

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Do as you are told and all will be well, Part the Second

Via the Dali Mail, another lump of proposterous steaming cowshit:

Fanatics from a banned Islamic hate group have launched a nationwide poster campaign denouncing Christmas as evil.

Organisers plan to put up thousands of placards around the UK claiming the season of goodwill is responsible for rape, teenage pregnancies, abortion, promiscuity, crime and paedophilia.

They hope the campaign will help 'destroy Christmas' in this country and lead to Britons converting to Islam instead.

And a new, must-see website, Xmas Is Evil. Heh.

Thing is, they have a point. Western society is in a crisis. We do have too much selfish and self-indulgent behaviour, people in thrall to mindless and vacuous 'entertainment', unsustainable debt, nasty and preventable social diseases, and a lack of respect for the integrity of others, as evidenced in the prevalence of rape and child abuse. We may disagree on the causes of these things, and on how and even whether they can be controlled, but they are the things that cause me great unease. In this respect, count me among those who are concerned, and who would like to see things done differently.

And then we get this, in the list of things that are wrong with Western society:
  • Claiming that God has a son
  • Blasphemy
Ah, right. My sky fairy is better than your sky fairy. My invented and evidence-free version of the nature of reality is RIGHT, and your invented and evidence-free version of the nature of reality is WRONG, and because of this you deserve to die. At this juncture, we part company.

Regular readers will know that I have little patience with any organised religion, and regard them as equally silly. But I do know one thing: the message of Christianity is love (however imperfectly translated into action), and that applies to believers, the 'us', as well as to everyone else, the 'them'. From what I have seen in my society over the last ten years, the religion being promoted by these posters is one of repression, intolerance, hatred of the 'other', and lethal violence. Christians might disagree on homosexuality, and opinions range from complete acceptance to an explicit and quite nasty disapproval, but no-one (as far as I am aware) is advocating stoning them to death. And it's a long time since Christians advocated a man's right to throw acid in his daughter's face for having the wrong kind of boyfriend. Count me as a non-Christian, but don't assume I am neutral on the matter.

This poster is a sign of growing confidence amongst the militant Islamic community, and I expect to see more things like this as time goes by. And some people will say it's all OK. The posters don't offend me (and it wouldn't matter if they did), but they worry me.

But that line about 'claiming that God has a son' - straight out of Monty Python.

Cardinal Fang - The Comfy Chair!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Do as you are told and all will be well

This pile of nauseating wombat poo, courtesy of Big Brother Watch:

I found it incomprehensible to start with, but then they mention Jesus and it all becomes clear.

Do what anyone in authority tells you to do, because Jesus put them in authority over you.

In other words, comply completely with everything. A recipe for peace, and madness.

Stepford Kids.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Snowbiker

Tonight is the last shift before Christmas, and I needed to get into town to pick up something for our 'Secret Santa' thing. Going in the car would have been impossible, as for the rest of this week it will be basically gridlocked. The temperature was around zero and the roads were dry, so I opted for the Yamaha. As I left the house it started snowing. I was only out about 15 minutes (I can shop very positively when I need to), but in that time a lot of snow fell and continued to fall as I was making my way home.

Anna, who is a little nervous about these things, was watching for my return, and when she saw me she grabbed her camera. The dog seemed quite pleased to see me too.

Abominable or just abdominal? You decide.


Bitterly cold night, all the site locked down and secure, taking five minutes between duties, I listened to some music on my phone with a pair of headphones borrowed from Lost Property. It was a piece of music I had almost forgotten I had: After The Goldrush by Neil Young.

And the song 'Birds'.

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It's over.
Young's lyrics are never clear, and don't slap you in the face with a 'meaning'. They are more associative and suggestive, and any meaning you find is something that was probably in your head anyway. Listening to this song in my own quiet moment, I found it both melancholy and very moving. Young's thin and plaintive voice matches the words perfectly.

Only love can break your heart.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Pleasant times

I start back on nights from tonight, and Anna really wanted to get her Christmas shopping finished, so off we went into town. In Pembrokeshire, the roads are all clear, although rumours are flying round about gridlock East of Carmarthen and plagues of locusts by Swansea. If last night was (theoretically) Black Friday, then the last Saturday before Christmas must surely be Shit Saturday for a shopophobe like me. But no.

We hit town at lunchtime and the shops were all half empty. We managed to park right outside the main shops, and we were finished within the hour. I even helped an elderly gentleman with the 'pound-in-the-slot' trolleys outside Marks and Spencer. He had never encountered these before and was baffled. He is now unbaffled, much like the Triumph's exhaust pipes*.

I don't know how much online time I will be able to manage over the next week, so posting in the next few days may be sporadic. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers, UK and worldwide (yes, there are some), a very Happy Christmas.

Don't do anything I wouldn't do.

* Obligatory bike reference.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Snow: a thing of the past?

Take a read of this, from the Independent of March 2000:
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past

Britain's winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain's culture, as warmer winters - which scientists are attributing to global climate change - produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.
Yes, I know weather isn't climate, but we've had a lot of weather these last two winters. Good to see the CRU beating the drum. Meanwhile, most of Britain is under two feet of 'decline'.

The Problem With Lefties

I know it's appalling blogiquette to quote slabs of someone else's words without making any effort at adding something of your own, but this comment (on Andrew Gilligan's blog in the Telegraph) is so succinct, and so bang on the money, that I thought more people ought to see it. It encapsulates my thoughts very well. Gilligan asked (subsequently edited):
What else are we to make of the demand by Women Against Rape, no less, that the rape allegations against Mr Assange must not be investigated and the great hero immediately freed?
One response:
This happens because the Left has prejudices rather than principles.

Lefties favour groups or not according to where they stand in its internal heirarchy. So its most favoured clients are blacks, Muslims, gays, whales, criminals, polar bears, gypsies, Marxist terrorists, and so on; and its most hated groups are Americans, white middle class males, Christians, married parents, members of the British armed forces, white farmers, and so on.

This works up to a point. A lefty never has a problem deciding whom to side with in a dispute between a black criminal and the police, or gays and Christians, or Marxist terrorists and white farmers (whether in 1930s Russia or noughties Zimbabwe). Their prejudices instruct them unerringly.

Where it gets a bit dodgy is when there's a showdown between client groups that are both at the top of the favour list. So the left goes into a HAL9000-esque paranoid fugue when Muslim clerics advocate beating up women, or when black reggae singers urge that homosexuals be shot in the head. The left has literally no idea what to do because in theory both sides should be equally immune from criticism. It does not compute.

Here we have the latest instance of this determined non-thinking. Assange correctly hates Americans but may be a rapist, so leftist agitprop outfits like Women Against Rape have to decide which cause is more important: opposing rape versus hating America. It looks like hating America has won. This tells you that WAR is not about rape at all but about using whatever stick is handy to beat people they hate. Accusing all men of being rapists was a great way of dehumanising them so they could be stripped of their rights and property, which is the real cause. Women being raped? Who cares.

The Left looks stupid on these occasions not because it's stupid but because it is vicious, nasty, envious, hypocritical, morally incompetent and thoroughly spiteful.
Spot on, justice4rinka.

Christmas Drink?

We were given this recipe for a Christmas drink a few years ago, and it has been a staple of the GFGN household every Christmas morning since then. As 'tis the season to be jolly, I thought I would share.

  • Take one champagne flute.
  • Add one measure of Archer's Peach Schnapps.
  • Fill up to half-way with cranberry juice.
  • Top it up with champagne.
  • Serve immediately and frequently.

This isn't a standard cocktail. I have searched the web, and the closest is one that goes by many names (Kinky Pink, Peachface ...) which uses vodka instead of the champagne. So, as far as I know, this is one that is new to science. Vary the proportions of schnapps, cranberry and champagne according to taste; there's no right or wrong, but the ratio above works well. Personally, I don't care for champagne and prefer to use something similar like Cava - to be honest, the cranberry obliterates any subtlety, so the taste and the effects are the same.

It doesn't taste alcoholic, just nice and fruity, so you can neck three or four easily while Granny is opening her presents. It doesn't make you drunk at all, oh no. It just stops your knees from working.

As a by-product, it makes Christmas Day bearable.

If you give it a try, let me know what you think.


Thursday, 16 December 2010

Justice? I don't think so.

Almost exactly a year ago, I posted this about the case of Mohammed Ibrahim, who was jailed for a derisory four months for running over a young girl, Amy Houston, in 2003. He knocked her down, saw what he had done, and ran away, leaving her dying underneath his car. Ibrahim did not hold a driving licence at the time of the accident and had previous criminal convictions.

At the time of my original post, he had appealed against the deportation order following his sentence, citing his 'right' to a family life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. The UK Border Agency appealed against this decision (good for them), but today we learn that two senior immigration judges have ruled that he can remain.

Ibrahim has been crafty. On his release from prison, he met an English woman and they now have two children. This is the ultimate 'get out of jail free' card for the clever asylum-seeker, of course. The 'right' to a family life trumps everything else in the crazy world of rights and entitlements.

If he wants to keep his family together, what is stopping them following him to Iraq when he is deported? If she loves him enough to bear him two children, surely that is a small price to pay for staying with the love of your life? If he is the love of your life, that is. Perhaps she is unwilling to go: "Hey I didn't agree to that!"

It is ironic, and deeply disgusting, that Ibrahim's so-called 'right' to a family life has trumped the more ancient right of Amy's parents to have their daughter alive and well, and not dying in the gutter because some cowardly criminal chooses to run away rather than face the consequences of his actions. (Just remember: she was alive when he left the scene, and might have survived had he called the emergency services before running away. Her father had the heart-breaking task of turning off her life support several hours later.) I'm sure the two senior judges would have wished it otherwise, and that their 'hands were tied' by the legislation (European law over-rides every other law, no matter how ancient), but when will someone within the system stand up and say that this is WRONG?

Another reminder:

I despair of my country.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

You Go, Girl ...

From The Filthy Engineer, via Mummylonglegs:

Overheard at a Tube station -

There were protesters on the concourse handing out pamphlets on the evils of Britain .
I politely declined to take one. An elderly woman behind me was getting off the escalator and a young (20-ish) female protester offered her a pamphlet, which she politely declined.

The young protester put her hand on the woman's shoulder as a gesture of friendship and in a very soft voice said, 'Madam, don't you care about the children of Iraq ?'

The elderly woman looked up at her and said, 'My dear, my father died in France during World War II, I lost my husband in Korea and my grandson in Afghanistan . All three died so you could have the right to stand here and bad mouth our country. If you touch me again, I'll stick this umbrella up your arse and open it.'

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Getting Wood, Again

Latest development on the wood store front:

We had a load delivered at the end of last week, and as today is my first day off since then I have spent the morning stacking it. There's about 2.5 cubic metres there in the middle (today's effort) which, according to my sources, weighs a little over a ton. The wood on the right is the previous load, which is now about 2/3 used. In the left, hidden behind the tarpaulin and wheelbarrow, is the miserable amount that I have managed to cut, split and stack all by myself. It's not even worth photographing. The goal of energy self-sufficiency is still a long way off.

The green Safeway boxes, by the way, are brilliant for carrying wood from the store to the utility room, where they sit for 24 hrs next to the boiler before being brought into the living room for use. Each box will carry almost exactly one evening's worth.

Goodbye Iain Dale

Iain Dale has decided to stop blogging. His reasons: he has no time for it, and he has stopped enjoying it.

I am a little sad about this, but only a little. Iain's blog was the first political blog I ever read, and I valued it for its interesting viewpoints and non-confrontational tone. Iain sounded like a thoroughly decent guy, and I enjoying reading what he had to say. I have no connection whatever with Westminster, so his scoops and gossip were more in the line of general human interest than political ammunition for me, but I enjoyed them all the same.

And yet, of late, the blog and its tone had changed out of all recognition. In one way, it had become merely a vehicle for his radio presence and publishing venture, and many posts were just advertising puffs (no pun meant) for the show or the business. And there had also been a distinct change of tone: Dale had started to get rather querulous about certain issues concerning MPs' behaviour and seemed to have moved miles away from his original position on honesty and rectitude. His defence of Phil Woolas was indefensible in my opinion. An angry article on the Panorama/World Cup fiasco, and his thoughtless and hostile dismissal of all contrary comments, was the last straw for me, and that made me decide to delete him from my blogroll.

So goodbye, Iain. Thanks for all the entertainment and thought-provoking content over the years, but I think you made the right decision.

Monday, 13 December 2010

A Sign Of Things To Come?

I would be far more likely to accept the notion that Islam is a peaceful religion if I had heard loud and angry condemnation of terrorist atrocities from the many 'peaceful' Muslims that we are told constitute the majority. The fact that we don't hear anything of the sort leads me to believe, not that all Muslims are terrorists, but that most Muslims don't think that terrorism in the name of Islam is all that bad. Perhaps the bombers are mistaken, but the error is one of degree. Their crime is being too violent, rather then being violent at all. It's OK to hate the West, but these people are going about it the wrong way. I suspect that many Muslims will publicly disavow any Islamic terrorist attack, if pressed, but may secretly approve, at least slightly and in the privacy of their own minds. (If any Muslim reading this can show me evidence of widespread condemnation of terrorism from within the Muslim community, and thereby show me to be mistaken, I would genuinely like to hear it.)

What many peaceable Muslims don't realise, or choose to ignore, is that every time there is an atrocity in the name of the 'religion of peace', and a deafening silence from the Muslim community follows, it is building up a head of steam in the majority population which may one day- and very regrettably - bring the whole house of cards down on the heads of all Muslims, peaceable or not, and the results will not be pleasant. I want to hear Muslim condemnation of terrorism, loud and clear, because I don't want this to happen.

I was therefore encouraged to read this in the Telegraph, followed by this from the BBC:
"I talked to him and went through his arguments and countered all of them theologically and he accepted it. I thought that was the end of it but he carried on.

"So one day, before the end of Ramadan, when the mosque was full I directly challenged all his misinterpretations of Islam.

"He just stood up and stormed out. We never saw him again - but I heard he'd gone to the Islamic Society at the university and continued to preach his extremist views."
Mr Baksh said it was very rare for the Luton centre, which incorporates a mosque on its premises, to expel any members.

He said when people expressed ideas which were extreme "it's a matter of dealing with them, challenging their theological basis, and making them realise this is not the Islamic point of view, and is not the way we look at life and the situation of Muslims around the world."

In all cases, they had succeeded in persuading them not to further their ideas - "except in this particular one," he said, referring to Abdaly.
It's a start, and I am mildly encouraged. Well done, that man.

Grrrr .........

Today, I am working with a new colleague. He whistles.

The same six-note phrase, over and over.

Then he stops whistling, and starts doing this Pearl and Dean-style singing:


Then he starts whistling again.

I am going mad.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

For Those Of A Patriotic Disposition

Thanks to Iain Dale, I came across this fabulous arrangement of the National Anthem, which was performed at the end of this year's Proms. The National Anthem as it is usually played is dirge-like and funereal, the very antithesis of fun. And yet the tune has its roots as a galliard - a light and lively dance - in the early 17C. Sing it to yourself at about double the usual speed, with heavy stresses on the first note of each bar (ta-ta-ti-taaa-ta-ta) and it becomes light and rather jolly. Rarely, however, is it treated like this, with an arrangement which brings out the majesty and rich harmonic possibilities of the tune. Benjamin Britten, of course. I don't mind admitting this brought tears to my eyes.

A little light Googling brought me to this page, where there is the text of a poem engraved on a piece of slate outside the Honister slate quarry in Cumbria. British patriots, enjoy:

Unfurl our flag - red, white and blue -
and greet it with your smile.
The blue is for the sea we view
around our sceptred isle;
the sea o'er which we've paid our due
in storm and wartime trial.

Raise up our flag - blue, red and white -
salute it with respect.
The white is for the purest light
that freedom can effect
and for the lasting love of right
our citizens expect.

Fly high our flag - white, blue and red -
for everyone to see.
The red is for the blood we shed
to keep our country free
and for our brave forebears who bled
in every century.

Our flag is known the whole world through;
our Union Jack so dear.
We don't want stars of gold on blue
on any flagpoles here!

James Hinton

Why are we so embarrassed by our nation's history? Why do want to denigrate it and cast it aside?

Friday, 10 December 2010

Those poor Lib Dems

For decades, the Liberal Democrats, and the Liberal Party before them, have had the luxury of going into every election knowing that they would not be in power after it. Never mind David Steel's "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government" - no-one ever really believed that. So they have been able to promise anything they wanted, and be all things to all men. Increased spending on your favourite public service? Of course, Sir. Tax cuts? Not a problem, sir. Greater benefits? Your wish is my command, Sir. A vote against that nasty nuclear power or those nasty nuclear weapons, but without the risk that you would have to live with the consequences? Walk this way, Sir.

Well, now they have been found out. A lot of Lib Dems are learning that, when you are in government, you have to make decisions, and often there is no right or easy answer. Never mind the student union idealism, they are learning the truth of Bismarck's saying that "politics is the art of the possible". Not what you would like in an ideal world; not what you would have with unlimited resources; not what makes you look caring and kind - but what can be achieved in the real world with what you have got.

I've seen many young workers develop and be promoted to management positions. It's amazing how they suddenly stop moaning about "them up in the boardroom" and their "stupid" ideas when they have to actually make business decisions - with real consequences - for themselves. It's quite heart-warming. We all have to grow up eventually. Suddenly, making 'unbreakable' pledges to capture the youth vote doesn't seem such a good idea.

It has led to an interesting position for the Lib Dem MPs. Do you stick to your principles and vote against tuition fees, because that was what you promised? Do you accept reality and vote against, despite the 'broken promise' accusation? Or do you abstain?

I like to think I am a fairly moral person, and I would not break a solemn promise without a very good reason, if at all. I can respect MPs who vote against the rise in fees, if only because I respect the principle that your word should be something that you do not break lightly. And yet, the cost of this, in personal terms, is small. You get into trouble with the Party, and some of those nasty Tories will be cross with you, and you may be told that you are putting the future of the coalition and even your own party at risk. But that's all grown-up stuff. You gain the warm approbation of all those students for being a 'man of principle', and you can go to your grave saying that you kept your word.

I have more time for those MPs who decided to vote with the Government. That was a hard decision to make, I am sure, but realistically it is the only way forward, and the country will be grateful in the long term. They will have heeded Keynes's famous words:
When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?
Going from the freedom of permanent opposition into the gruelling pit of government at a time of huge financial crisis will certainly have presented new facts and new perspectives to the incoming Lib Dem cabinet, and if that has caused them to change their minds à la Keynes, then I can respect them for that. The price is the anger of all those who supported you, and a brick through your window if you are Norman Baker, so changing your mind is not cost-free. That makes it all the more admirable, in my book.

Abstention is an attempt to gain the approval of both sides, and is pathetic. You can say to your supporters "well, I promised not to vote for higher fees, and I haven't". And you can say to your party hierarchy "as a matter of principle I cannot vote in favour, but I will not stand in your way". You are trying to get the best of both worlds. It's spineless and feeble. Go with your principles, one way or the other, for God's sake.

Depending on how things turn out over the next few months, this could be the end of the Liberal Democrat party. Their core vote could turn against them - some of the voxpops I have seen on TV have been bitter - and there's no-one waiting to take the place of their traditonal supporters. It would be a rich irony if the events that finally made the Lib dems grow up and become adult about politics were the events that finished them as a mainstream party.

3 Amigos Toy Run 2010

Tomorrow, 11 December 2010. Meet in the Commons car park in Pembroke around 12:00 midday. Run starts at 13:00 approx. Pembroke - Cleddau Bridge - Neyland - Milford Haven and end up at the Day Unit of Withbush Hospital, where refreshments and mince pies will be available.

Sadly, I won't be there as I will be working. The Triumph Owners will be there, though.

If you can get there, go. It's a good day out, and a good cause.

Rejoice, I say, Rejoice

For lo, mine chariot which hath the wheels of the number four, and four is the number thereof, has passed its MoT. And the passing was not of the passing kind, but displeased Pharoah's minion, for it involved a failure for headlight aim, which the minion thereunto addressed himself with a screwdriver, and which thereby was transfigured into a pass. And there was also an advisory in the land, which was the advisory that the brake discs were not of the shiny type, but were becoming rusty as becomes metal things which have not the joy of regular use, and great was the lamentation of it. But this was advisory only and did not corrupt the passing nature of the testing of Pharoah.

Congregation: For yea, we are pleased that the LORD has been gracious unto us.

And lo, great was the weeping and gnashing of teeth in the land of trees, for this testing and the proof thereof caused the felling of many, for presented unto my eyes were six scrolls, and the scrolls were green and pink and yellow, and the scribings upon them were manifold:

  • Pass certificate in English and Welsh
  • Failure certificate for the headlights in English
  • Failure certificate for the headlights in Welsh
  • Advisory certificate for the rusty brake discs in English and Welsh
  • Emissions certificate in English and Welsh.
And lo, great was the joy of Richard of the tribe of Blog, for the LORD would now allow him to drive his chariot throughout the land, and not against the laws of Pharoah, who demandeth such scrolls or the driver of the chariot be cast into the darkness and fined many goats and cattle and sheep, yea, even unto the fourth generation.

Another happy car, today.

This, I can tell you, is a huge relief.

Memo to self: train as an MoT tester. Fifty big ones for 40 minutes' work. Not bad.

UPDATE: list of certificates corrected. Not quite as bad as I thought, when I actually got round to looking properly.

Cats - the truth ...

Via b3ta, these very realistic instructions on ...

How to give a cat a pill.

That's my house every three months, that is.

The dog bit is right, too.

The New Badgers?


h/t to Legiron.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Imagine No Possessions

It's been 30 years since John Lennon was murdered, and there's a big buzz about the anniversary. I suppose I ought to add my bit ...

Imagine is possibly the worst song ever written. It is shallow, it is empty, it is tedious and it is self-indulgent. It only takes two of those lumpen piano chords (he loved that right-left-right-left
vamping, didn't he?) to send me screaming for a soundproof room.

Worse than that, it is so nauseatingly hypocritical that it turns my stomach. "Imagine no possessions" from a millionaire; "Imagine all the pee-pull living life in peace" from a wife-beater.

Peter Risdon has an anecdote which sums it up for me:
"It’s only a fucking song."

I came across this somewhere recently. Lennon was, apparently, being visited in New York by a friend from Liverpool. Seeing Yoko Ono’s walk-in chiller for storing fur coats, the friend said, “Imagine no possessions, eh, John?”

John replied as above.
This, from a "Working-Class Hero".

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

At least one Labourite gets it

Peter Watt, ex-General Secretary of the Labour Party, has an interesting analysis of Labour's electioral woes over on Labour Uncut. Here's an example:
But there is an arrogance at the heart of our politics that is going to make it difficult to really understand why we lost. It is an arrogance that says that we alone own morality and that we alone want the best for people. It says that our instincts and our motives alone are pure. It’s an arrogance that belittles others’ fears and concerns as “isms” whilst raising ours as righteous. We then mistakenly define ourselves as being distinctive from our opponents because we are morally superior rather than because we have different diagnoses and solutions. It is lazy, wrong and politically dangerous.
Well worth a read. And don't forget the comments, some of which take missing the point to an art form.

Jack Warner Hasn't Aged Well



Monday, 6 December 2010

Brrrrr ...

I just can't seem to get warm these days.

Ice crystals on the Bonnie ...

... and hoar frost on the Yamaha ...

It's getting to just above freezing in the day, allowing the previous night's frost to thaw slightly, and then freezing hard every night. There's ice crystals everywhere. By early morning, it has been down to -6° regularly, which is almost unheard-of for what is supposed to be a Gulf Stream climate. I have a distinct lack of interest in going outside unless wrapped in many layers of insulation and sealed within a windproof shell. With a hat. And gloves. Transport which blocks out the surrounding environment and replaces it with a warm, wind-free one, especially if there is little possibility of falling off it, is preferred.

Even if I had one of these ...

... I would be taking the bread-and-butter Ford. Really.

I wish all that lovely warmth that Gore and Monbiot keep promising would turn up. I'll be running out of firewood soon.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


Old Holborn:
You want a £37 million pound theatre in Barry, Wales? You pay for it, you run it, you make it pay, you negotiate with the employees, you deliver the content, you pay the pensions and running costs by producing what free people will pay hard earned money to see, not by demanding by force that a fork lift truck driver on night shift in Newcastle "supports" your "desire" to bring "arts" to the "unemployed" of rural Wales.
There is no such thing as free milk and honey. Ask a bear.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Discimination we can all 'support'

I see that Morrisons are indulging in some disgraceful discriminatory pricing, although I can understand and sympathise with the thinking behind it. It's a nice, peaceful use for those airport body scanners, I suppose.

Yes, I'm childish.

Dearth of Bike-related Posts

To my biking readers, I apologise for the recent lack of bike-related posts. I have to confess that I haven't done many miles on either bike over the last month. The new job has been one reason. Riding to work on a bike in this weather requires a bit of forward planning - leaving work clothes in work, finding somewhere to hang a set of dripping waterproofs, and so on - and for the first few days, you want to be ready for anything and looking reasonably smart, so I am afraid that I defaulted to using a car for the first week or two. Then I have been doing the Door Supervisor training, which has meant yet another location and a new set of clothing challenges. And then I get back to working, and the worst December weather for decades descends on us.

I like to ride all year, and rain and cold go with the territory. But ice, snow and fog, where skill and judgement take second place to dumb luck, are big disincentives. It was one thing when I was young and had no choice, but these days it would seem perverse to opt for two wheels when a perfectly adequate car (with heater, CD player and - crucially - inherent vertical stability) is available. Unfortunately, my car insurance and MoT have expired, and I haven't yet been able to sort that out, so Anna has been very generous in allowing me to use hers.

I started both bikes yesterday and let them get thoroughly warmed up. The Triumph started first time and idled regularly, as if it were a summer's day. The Yam was a bit more reluctant. It started with a bit of patience, but needed nursing along until it got a bit of warmth into the cylinder. I have said before that I think the Bonnie is good enough to be a year-round bike, and I was anticipating retiring the Yam for a bit of TLC, but in these conditions the idea of a rugged, go-anywhere bike that will stand a drop is starting to appeal again. I think I might oil up the Triumph and put it in the garage for a while.

Tonight, the temperature dropped drastically mid-evening and the rain that had been falling all afternoon (I am at work as I write this) instantly turned to black ice. There are reports of cars in ditches and lurid slides on roundabouts from everyone who comes past, so I think resuming the two-wheeled commuting can wait for a day or two. Sometimes, self-preservation wins.

As a winter treat, allow me to present you with this superb image of Aaron Yates at Virginia International Raceway ...

It's like a lesson in physics.

Friday, 3 December 2010

A Different Angle

Having spent the last couple of posts banging on negatively about football, I was delighted to read a post today on the excellent Heresiarch blog which has made me think a little differently about the role of sport in general and football in particular. Here's the drift:

By hosting the World Cup, at vast cost, the Qataris are giving not just football
but global secular culture the greatest possible plug. They are encouraging not
just their own people, but all the inhabitants of that tumultuous region -
Iraqis, Iranians, Saudis, Syrians - to plough their restless energy into a
harmless game. And away from terrorism, fundamentalism and dreams of global

Well worth a read.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Football's Not Coming Home

England will not be hosting the World Cup in 2018, says the BBC.

I can see lots of positives here. The 2018 world Cup will be a pleasant spectacle on the TV that we will be able to watch or not, as we wish. It won't be the all-devouring wall-to-wall 24-hour wankfest that it might have been. We won't be mortgaging our children's futures (well, no more than they are at present with the Olympics) for bragging rights to a game of kickabout.

And everyone's going to blame the BBC.


Iain Dale and the World Cup

I posted something the other day about the BBC Panorama investigation into corruption in FIFA ahead of today's decision on the hosting of the 2018 World Cup. Iain Dale, it seems, would disagree.
What a pity it is that the BBC should have disgraced our bid with that Panorama programme on Monday.
I commented:
An investigation into bribery and corruption is "disgraceful"? That's a new one.
Dale replied:
The timing was disgraceful. They should have screened it after the bid.
He seems to be arguing that the BBC should have withheld any broadcast of their corruption investigation until after the successful bid had been announced. The obvious implication is that the BBC have annoyed FIFA (if the allegations are false, why would that be a problem?) and made them less likely to choose England. Would Mr Dale also agree that newspapers should avoid allegations of corruption against a politician until after an election, in case it affected the result?

The comments are interesting.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Elected Police Chiefs

Some good news at last, and thanks to good old Theresa May. Britain, apparently, is to have elected Police Commissioners. I am quite excited about this. Imagine what changes we could make if we could elect someone of our own way of thinking to direct police policy in our area.

Burglaries? Important.
Criminal assaults? Important.
Vandalism and loutish behaviour? Important.
People offended by a chance remark from a total stranger? Get to the back of the queue.

The usual idiots have been on the airwaves to pull the idea to pieces. One of the most humorous was Ed Balls, who said:
This goes against a 150-year tradition of keeping politics out of policing. It raises the very real prospect of a politician telling a chief constable how to do their job.
Ed, let me tell you a secret. Policing has always been political. Politics is all about how we choose to organise our society, and policing has always been part of that. In the Victorian era, the police were pretty much the servants of the ruling class, employed to keep the workers and poor on their best behaviour. Under New Labour, however, the Police became more aligned with the governing party than ever before. Remember how they lobbied for government policy over the detention without trial issue? Remember how ACPO statements used to uncannily reflect Labour thinking? Ed, to suggest that Labour have disinterestedly kept politics out of policing shows some fucking nerve.

And why shouldn't an elected politician tell the police how to do their job? No-one is suggesting (apart from the Left, for which it is a useful straw man) that Police Commissioners should involve themselves in day-to-day operational decisions. But to have someone who represents the wishes of the people directing overall policing priorities - well, give me one reason why that isn't a good idea? Perhaps the Left believes people aren't clever enough to understand the issues, and that those who know better should decide things for them?

And don't tell me that the Police Authorities (composed of local councillors and various appointees) already reflect the will of the local people. That is the remote and 'we-know-best' system that has got us to where we are today. Can you name the head of your local Police Authority? When and where they meet? Can you say how you communicate your priorities and needs to them, and what they do with that information? No, neither can I.

The BBC's coverage of this story has been - I was going to say 'a revelation', but that's not true. It's been entirely typical. I heard the story on the radio news this afternoon, several times, and each time the introductory line was something like "Labour say Tory plans for elected Police Chiefs are dangerous". You know, spinning the story before the story is fully reported. Even the headline to the accompanying BBC News article is a spin:
New police commissioners 'could cost more than £136m'
The cost of introducing police and crime commissioners could reach more than £136m over 10 years, government documents show.
Yep, standard procedure - get the negatives out fast, before people have even read the story.
Why the Government don't bring the state-funded propaganda arm of the Labour Party to heel I do not know.

But elected Police Commissioners? Yes, please. Soon as.

Gratuitous picture of Home Secretary included because I think she is a bit of a babe.

How Can They Do This?

Leg-Iron nails it:
If they said 'We'll fund students from all over the EU, except Poland', there would be hell to pay.
Story here.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Lib Dems Caught Out

The Liberal Democrats (and the Liberal Party and SDP before them) have been the beneficiaries of the protest vote ("neither of the above") for many years, but I have also known people - admittedly few - who have voted positively for the third party. Reasons usually centred around a 'new type of politics', 'great ideas', or 'the only party who are honest with the electorate'. Anyone who has studied local and national elections will know that, in a contest, the Lib Dems and their predecessors have been anything but honest and fair, but let that pass for the moment.

So how have the poor old Lib Dems, so keen on 'honest' politics and 'listening to the people' and 'honouring their promises' got to the stage where students (their natural support: unrealistic policies believed in by idealistic people) are attacking them in the streets and burning Nick Clegg in effigy? (Both metaphorically, I might add.) How can 'straightforward' Nick Clegg be such a hate-figure amongst the young and politically-aware? How can the wisest of the wise Vince Cable be see-sawing between voting against and abstaining on a Bill of which he was the principal architect?

Well, folks, this is what happens when you get into government. It was always said that the Lib Dems can promise anything in their election manifestos because they would never be called upon to do anything as difficult as deliver it. And the events of the last month prove that to be true. You promise, nay 'pledge', to people that you will fight an increase in tuition fees, and that pledge will come back to bite you. It's not so easy when you actually have to make the decisions, is it?

The next few months will, I think, prove critical to the future of the party. Either they will stick to their guns and make some tough choices - which will involve going back on things they earnestly promised in the election campaign - and emerge a mature and credible political force, or they will listen to their activist base, take their bat home, shrug off responsibility and cause the collapse of the coalition. If that happened, no-one (apart from the terminally dreamy) would ever take them seriously again. And none of the other parties would trust them in the future, which would send the Lib Dems back to the wilderness from which they seemed to be emerging.

Nick Clegg has done a great job in getting them as far as they have, but he will need to hold his nerve.

Legal Groping

Via Big Brother Watch, this bit of fun:

That Common Market Referendum

Doing a bit of reading around for the previous post, I came across some statistics on the British referendum on EU membership in 1975.

Of those who voted, 67.2% voted to stay in the EEC, or 'Common Market' as it was known then. (This was before the successive name changes reflecting increasing federalist ambitions, first to EC and then to EU.) Of those eligible to vote, 64.5% actually turned out to do so. I was one of them.

So, our membership of the Common Market was approved of by 17.4m people, or 43.3% of the voting public. Better than most parliamentary elections, but still not a majority of the people. And that's assuming that the basis on which we voted in the referendum was fair, and that people were told the truth about where the whole project was deliberately headed. Which is wasn't, as we now know.

I wonder what the figures would be today?

Green And Pleasant Land

I've never been to Greenland, but I'd like to go. I imagine I would like the people. After all, Greenland is the only country to leave 'Europe', as our masters insist on calling it. They left what was the European Community in 1985, the only country ever to have done so.

Basically, they realised that the EC was decimating their primary industry, fishing, and had a referendum on leaving the EC. The referendum told the government that the people wanted to leave, and the government (servants of the people rather then their masters) honoured the people's decision. Greenland now has a higher average income than Germany, France or Britain.

Fishing used to be a major British industry, too, and we were more dependent on it than any other European nation, for obvious geographical reasons. It is estimated that when Britain entered the EU we controlled 80% of all European fish stocks. This is because our fishermen had carefully managed fish stocks in the North Sea, whereas French and Spanish fishermen had heavily over-fished the Mediterranean and had destroyed most of the stocks. Nowadays, gigantic Spanish trawlers hoover up the seas round the British Isles, and our fishing industry is a shadow of what it used to be.

Incidentally, while the unions and the left were outraged at job losses in the subsidised coal industry under Mrs Thatcher, they were strangely quiet about the much greater job losses in our profitable fishing fleets. Fishermen are tough and independent people (they have to be) and perhaps they weren't the right kind of working class.

Interesting facts for those who say that leaving the EU would be catastrophic for Britian's economy. It could be the best thing we ever did.

Time for that referendum you promised us, Mr Cameron.

H/t Alex Singleton.

Happy St Andrew's Day

The stats for this blog show that I have a good number of readers from North of the border in Scotlandshire. Proportionally, I have more Scottish readers than from anywhere else on Earth.

I have no idea why. However, may I take this opportunity to wish all my Scottish readers a very happy St Andrew's Day?

Dydd Sant Andreas Hapus! 'Appy Sun Tandy's Day, tha knaws.

BBC does something useful shocker

I was delighted to read that the BBC's Panorama programme on Monday has upset a few footballers. It would seem that the programme alleged that some of the FIFA officials, including the FIFA Vice-President (above) have taken bribes in the past to influence their decisions over World Cup hosting rights.

Apparently, FIFA are about to announce their decision any day now about which country will host the 2018 Word Cup. And I am led to believe that England is a front runner. So naturally the English football establishment is delighted that the BBC is doing its best to ensure that all such decisions are taken openly and fairly, without the nasty smell of corruption to ruin the image of the 'beautiful game'.

Or not. I have seen several men on the television news being very cross (in fact one gentleman with distinctly ginger tendencies seemed rather angry) because apparently this may spoil England's chances of victory.


For one thing, it means that the whole of 2018 (and 2017, and 2016 ...) won't be quite so full of wall-to-wall football if England's campaign is fought on a distant shore. And of course, our inevitable ejection in the early rounds won't be quite such a national disaster.

And for another, it means that some other poor buggers will be standing the ever-inflating cost of hosting such an event. It has been calculated that hosting the World Cup will cost England about £1bn. Remember how the revealed cost of the 2012 Olympics quadrupled as soon as the bid was safely in the bag?

If we lose the bid, it will have been a lucky escape.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Another Nail in the Global Warming Coffin

Via Cats, a link to this article:
Recent massive volcanoes have risen from the ocean floor deep under the Arctic ice cap, spewing plumes of fragmented magma into the sea, scientists who filmed the aftermath reported Wednesday.

The eruptions -- as big as the one that buried Pompei -- took place in 1999 along the Gakkel Ridge, an underwater mountain chain snaking 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) from the northern tip of Greenland to Siberia.

Scientists suspected even at the time that a simultaneous series of earthquakes were linked to these volcanic spasms.

But when a team led of scientists led by Robert Sohn of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts finally got a first-ever glimpse of the ocean floor 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) beneath the Arctic pack ice, they were astonished.

What they saw was unmistakable evidence of explosive eruptions rather than the gradual secretion of lava bubbling up from Earth's mantle onto the ocean floor.
A quick look at Google Earth reveals that the Arctic Ocean is in a basin, surrounded by land on all sides - Greenland, northern Canada, Siberia, northern Europe, and so on. So if volcanoes are erupting explosively in such a basin, and pumping out vast quantities of molten lava beneath the sea, and that sea is covered with an ice-cap, what do we think might happen to the ice-cap? I would imagine it would start to melt around the edges: which is precisely what is happening.

One of the 'unexplained' anomalies of the Warmist argument is that while the Arctic ice-cap is slowly melting, the Antarctic cap is actually growing (graphs and analysis here). This article provides a very credible explanation for the anomaly, and of course it is nothing to do with CO2, fossil fuels, the family dog, or any of the other guilt-inducing reasons they come up with for restricting our lives in the name of the planet.

So the polar bears can blame good old Gaia when they are plummeting through the sky and landing in our cities.

Any day now, I expect to see the Greenies organising risky but valiant expeditions beneath the polar ice to plug these evil volcanoes and save the planet.

Or, on past experience, demanding that you and I do it, while they watch and comment from the relative safety of the Rainbow Warrior. (And blow you to smithereens if you hesitate.)

The wheels are coming off the wagon.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Military Shame

I would urge you to go and visit Subrosa's blog, where she details the sneaky ways the MoD has of getting out of paying proper pensions to the families of dead or wounded soldiers.

Basically, if you have been serving in a rank for less than a year and are killed on active service, then your pension is calculated as if you had never achieved that rank, a distinction which can cost the families of soldiers thousands of pounds a year.

It's yet another example of the shameful way we treat members of our military services, and it ought to change. There is a petition asking for the matter to be reconsidered here, and I have signed it.

Please consider doing the same. As Subrosa says, they deserve better than this.

Why Standards Are Falling

This item (BBC Wales) made me hoot with laughter when it was aired on the 6 o'Clock News this evening.

Denbighshire teacher banned for emotional abuse

A teacher found to have emotionally abused pupils has been banned from the profession.

John Hughes called children at Garth Primary School in Trevor, Denbighshire, names such as dumbo and twit, a disciplinary hearing was told.
Mr Hughes was also found guilty of:
  • poking pupils with a stick [1]
  • dragging them by their collars
  • throwing their work on the floor.
Bloody Hell. No wonder the miserable pussy was banned from the profession. Is that the best he could do?

In my schooldays, being called 'dumbo' and having your work dropped on the floor was a sign that you were in the presence of someone new to the profession. Before they had learned the real stuff.

Like carrying you to the front of the classrom by the little bit of hair in front of your ear. Which was not considered a serious matter, but a mild rebuke, such as for a spelling mistake.

Like throwing a board rubber across the room and hitting someone on the temple and rendering him temporarily unconscious, for talking [2].

Like hitting you a smart slap across the back of the head that made you bury your front teeth in the wood of the desk lid, for nothing at all ("Now wait until you see what you get when you actually do something.")

Then again, I never told a teacher to 'fuck off', I always did my homework, and I left school with a decent but unspectacular set of O and A-levels. So, a bit of a win there, I think.

We are in a world where teachers are facilitators and enablers and entertainers, not disciplinarians, so no wonder the guy was a bit of a misfit. Perhaps he was just a crap teacher, in which case they should have said so. But kicking someone out for calling kids 'Dumbo'?

I'd better report my wife for causing significant mental cruelty, then.

[1] See Monty Python, Self-Defence Against Fresh Fruit.
[2] Mate of mine, chemistry lab. He survived.

Snow and the Tin Snail

A similar scene, somewhere else

It snows rarely round here (last year's was the first snowfall I can remember for at least ten years) but when it does, it doesn't mess about. I was half-way to Carmarthen this morning for my Door supervisor training, when it started. It went from cold, sleety rain to proper snow in a couple of minutes, and before I had covered a mile the A40 was white from side to side, and the traffic slowed to about 40 mph. I started getting a little nervous when a white car overtook me at about 60 and then had to dab his brakes when a white van pulled out in front of him. The white car span across both lanes of the carriageway, over the hard shoulder, back into the fast lane; and then recovered and carried on at the same speed. Good save, poor judgement. And then I got to the roundabout at Carmarthen, slowed to 10 mph, applied the brake gently, and the ABS kicked in immediately and the car slid forward for 20 yards. I had left plenty of room between me and the car in front, so no drama, but the loss of control was absolute. It's a horrible feeling.

I quite like driving in snow, and having lived in East Yorkshire for many years I have had plenty of practice. But the Mondeo is the worst car I have ever driven in snowy or icy conditions. It's a good car to drive (for a car!), and has plenty of grip in the dry and the wet. But as soon as the road surface gets icy, it loses all its composure and behaves like a bar of soap on a wet bathroom floor. The ABS cuts in almost immediately, robbing you of any delicacy in braking, and traction uphill is almost non-existent. I've had more 'helpless' snow/ice moments in the Mondeo than in any other car. I can't think why, as the tyres are in good condition with plenty of tread. I suspect it is the fact that it is a heavy car with a long wheelbase (it's the estate model), and there just isn't enough mass on the front end.

When I lived in the Yorkshire Wolds, I had a Triumph Dolomite (actually two, one after the other, both cast-offs bought from my Dad), and they were quite effective, especially with a block of concrete in the boot. No ABS, and rear wheel drive, so what they lacked in outright traction, they gained in controllability. In fact, the Dolly, given a bit of snow and no other traffic, could be a whole lot of fun. But the best car I have ever driven in snow was my Citroen 2CV6 (and its replacement, a Dyane - the same car with a posher but less stylish body). I commuted between Stamford Bridge and Hull through the winters of 1980 to 1983, and I never once failed to get to work. On one occasion, there was a complete white-out on the A1079, and I passed a strange thing at the side of the road that looked like someone had left a ladder lying there. It turned out to be the top of a petrol tanker which had slid into the roadside ditch and been covered in a snowdrift. The 2CV pootled on past, no worries.

I can think of five reasons why the 2CV is brilliant in snow:
  1. Low power (29 bhp; a 602cc air-cooled flat twin) so you are never tempted just to jam your foot down and blast your way out - which never works anyway;
  2. Modest brakes, four tiny drums, that are no more than adequate for normal use, but are sensitive in slippery conditions;
  3. Narrow tyres which dig down into the snow and find the grip that wider tyres just float over;
  4. Light weight (just over half a tonne), which means the tyres don't have too much mass to contend with;
  5. Good ground clearance.
In fact, that last point needs amplification. The ground clearance is good due to the large diameter wheels, but the reason it laughs at snow is the shape of the underside. In effect, the front of the car is the lowest point, and the underside rises from the front axle rearwards. There is no possibility of getting a wedge of snow building up under the front and reducing the traction of the driving wheels. The front bumper tends to act as a snowplough. In addition, the weight distribution is 58% to the front (when you have taken one apart, you will see why - there is nothing much to the body at all), which means the rear is virtually weightless. Under 200kg is on the rear axle (if it had a rear axle, which it doesn't). so, whatever weight it carries, and it isn't much, most of it is over the driving wheels. The effect is that my 2CV could dance up hills, slaloming round the lorries, vans and cars that had stopped dead at a variety of angles on the way up. Never very fast, but never stopping. And always home in time for tea.

I loved that little car, and if I had the money I would have another one in a heartbeat - just for days like today. Mine looked like this:

but with the square headlights of the 1979 model. Oh, YVY 27V, where are you now? Last taxed in 1984, so probably dead.

V8 Skateboard

Thanks to Peter Risdon, news of a V8-powered skateboard.

It had to be in Australia. "We haven't built any safety features into it at all, really - apart from a big red button and the ability to run away from it, that's about it."

Dear Santa, I've been really good this year.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Flight Decked?

Oh dear. It seems that Tory peer-to-be Howard Flight has put his foot in it. Cameron has told him to apologise, and apologise he has, and furthermore the apology was "unreserved".

What has he been saying? That the Jews were to blame for the Holocaust? That Global Warming Climate Change Chaos is a criminal conspiracy? That immigrants should be rounded up and sent home?

None of the above. His crime was to say:
We're going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it's jolly expensive. But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible.
Labour have called the comments "shameful" and said they showed how "out of touch" the Tories are, and Plaid Cymru have called them "disgraceful". Brendan Barber, of the in-touch-with-the-people's-mood TUC, said that Flight was "an insensitive throwback to the worst of 1980s politics". Man-of-the-people Eric Pickles has said that he found the comments "personally repugnant". David Cameron was clear that he didn't agree with the remarks, and was sure that Mr Flight would want to apologise. Which, after a brief interlude, he has. Shame.

The Tories are planning to remove child benefit from families where someone earns more than £43,000 a year. This will prove a slight disincentive for those familes (who may be accurately called middle-class) to have more children. At the same time, families on less than £43,000 (which will include those on benefits, or should) will continue to get the full child benefit that they do at present. I would be grateful if anyone could explain how anything Mr Flight said was wrong. The first two sentences are pretty much uncontested fact, or at least reasonable assumptions. It can only be his comment that encouraging those on benefits to "breed" is "not very sensible" that is causing controversy.

Paying people to have more and more children (i.e. breeding) when they can't even afford to support the ones they have is indeed not very sensible. I can see the argument for helping anyone who finds him or herself on low or no wages to support children they already have, and that is reasonable and humane. But the current system pays the feckless to be even more feckless. In an age of reliable contraception, there is no reason why anyone should have children they can't afford. Why I should keep on paying for Che'lsee to pop out her fourth and fifth sprogs while sitting at home watching Jeremy Kyle is a mystery. The noises from the Left are as expected. But for Cameron and Pickles to join in an attack on a man who is only saying what many ordinary people are thinking shows a lack of balls.

I happen to think that Flight is wrong on the issue of the higher earners. If you are earning over £43k, you can afford a couple of children, and these are the kind of people who are the least likely to have children they can't afford in any case. His remarks on the incentive that those on benefits have to produce even more children are spot on.

The Coalition - gradually revealing themselves as New Labour with a new coat of paint.

Better Off Out

Sue has a nice bit of music to accompany a headline in a major English newspaper that I thought I would never see:


(Which should, of course, read "out of the EU" - Britain isn't leaving Europe unless there are some pretty powerful tugboats out beyond the Irish Sea.)

The Daily Express has come out in favour of a British withdrawal from the EU. Leading article in the link above. They are also running an online petition, linked in the article. I have signed.

Regular readers will know that I love Europe, meaning the European Nations. As a Brit, I feel part of Europe emotionally, and I believe that co-operation between European nations is a good thing. What I can't stand is the unaccountable, corrupt and profoundly undemocratic European Union. I voted 'yes' in 1975, when what was on offer was membership of a trading bloc. That is nothing like what the EU is today, after 35 years of name-changes and mission creep, and at no point have I, or any other Briton, been asked my opinion on whether I want to be part of it. This is not xenophobia: this is a belief in independence and self-government, democracy and accountability, and a hatred of corruption and self-serving elites.

Perhaps this is the first crack in the dam.

Happy Thanksgiving

I know I have some regular readers from across the Pond, so let me take this opportunity to wish all of them (you know who you are) a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

This week I am mostly ...

... training to become a Door Supervisor. I need this badge to carry out my new job, and I was appointed on the understanding that I would train and get the certificate within three months.

That's £295 for the training and £245 for the certificate (renewable every three years), and my employer will neither pay the costs nor give me time off to do it. So I have been working almost continuous shifts to carry forward four free days to so the course. Nights and days; days and nights. My body-clock is utterly scrambled. The upside of that is that the qualification is mine and not the company's, and I won't feel any guilt about using it outside my normal working week.

It's quite good fun, and a long way from the bald, tattooed hard-man-in-a-leather-jacket image of the traditional 'bouncer'. I have no experience of night clubs, so a lot of it is completely new to me, and quite an education.

If this blog has been a bit quiet recently, that's why.

Normal service, etc.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Science Fact?

I've never been a big fan of Science Fiction, although I have read a fair bit over the years. I have no time for the scary-alien stuff, but there are some very thoughtful and thought-provoking books out there. Robert Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land is obviously a classic of the genre, and I would also include one of the two most prescient books I have ever read, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (the other is Nineteen Eighty-Four): books that describe a possible future society, which are both believable and chilling. If SF doesn't go down the 'warring tribes' route (like the Mad Max films), then it is usually a World Government theme, where the people's freedoms have all been taken away 'for their own good', and life is superficially happy (or not) but ultimately purposeless and trivial. In the past, I have cheerfully dismissed this as - well, fiction, as that is what it was. After all, it couldn't happen here, because a) no government would want that level of control, and b) people wouldn't let it happen. No siree.

Then I came across this, thanks to Cats. The article is interesting, but the real interest is in the mass of quotations which support the notion that our leaders really want a World Government, and that the climate change con is simply an instrument to get people's willing compliance for changes that will make the New World Order possible. This idea has been at the back of my mind for some time, but I have always dismissed the more extreme expressions of it as tin-hat paranoia. But the quotations in the article (and there are masses), if genuine, really frighten me. None of the quotes are referenced, and it will be a fair piece of work to track them all down and verify them, but that may be worth doing. If they are genuine, then we have a lot to be worried about, and we need to wake up to the situation fast.

I won't list them all, but here are some examples:
Quote by Mikhail Gorbachev, communist and former leader of U.S.S.R.: "The emerging 'environmentalization' of our civilization and the need for vigorous action in the interest of the entire global community will inevitably have multiple political consequences. Perhaps the most important of them will be a gradual change in the status of the United Nations. Inevitably, it must assume some aspects of a world government."

Quote by Gordon Brown, former British prime minister: "A New World Order is required to deal with the Climate Change crisis."

Quote by David Brower, a founder of the Sierra Club: "Childbearing should be a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license. All potential parents should be required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing."

Quote by Club of Rome: “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill....All these dangers are caused by human intervention....and thus the “real enemy, then, is humanity itself....believe humanity requires a common motivation, namely a common adversary in order to realize world government. It does not matter if this common enemy is “a real one or….one invented for the purpose.”

Quote by Maurice Strong, a wealthy elitist and primary power behind UN throne: “Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about?”

Quote by David Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!: “My three main goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with it’s full complement of species, returning throughout the world.”

Quote by Robert Muller, former UN Assistant Secretary General: “In my view, after fifty years of service in the United National system, I perceive the utmost urgency and absolute necessity for proper Earth government. There is no shadow of a doubt that the present political and economic systems are no longer appropriate and will lead to the end of life evolution on this planet. We must therefore absolutely and urgently look for new ways.”

Quote by James Lovelock, known as founder of 'Gaia' concept: “I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.”

Quote by Jeremy Rifkin, Greenhouse Crisis Foundation: “The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.”

Quote by Ted Turner, billionaire, founder of CNN and major UN donor: “A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.”

Quote by John Holdren, President Obama's science czar: "There exists ample authority under which population growth could be regulated...It has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society."

Quote by UK's Keith Farnish, environmental writer, philosopher and activist: "The only way to prevent global ecological collapse and thus ensure the survival of humanity is to rid the world of Industrial Civilization...Unloading essentially means the removal of an existing burden: for instance, removing grazing domesticated animals, razing cities to the ground, blowing up dams and switching off the greenhouse gas emissions machine."

Quote by Club of Rome: "Democracy is not a panacea. It cannot organize everything and it is unaware of its own limits. These facts must be faced squarely. Sacrilegious though this may sound, democracy is no longer well suited for the tasks ahead. The complexity and the technical nature of many of today’s problems do not always allow elected representatives to make competent decisions at the right time."

Quote by Michael Oppenheimer, major environmentalist: "The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States. We can't let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialization, we have in the US. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are."

Quote by emeritus professor Daniel Botkin :"The only way to get our society to truly change is to frighten people with the possibility of a catastrophe."

Quote by Stephen Schneider, Stanford Univ., environmentalist: "That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have."

Quote from Monika Kopacz, atmospheric scientist: "It is no secret that a lot of climate-change research is subject to opinion, that climate models sometimes disagree even on the signs of the future changes (e.g. drier vs. wetter future climate). The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’ — and readers’ — attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty."

Quote by Christine Stewart, former Canadian Environment Minister: “No matter if the science is all phoney, there are collateral environmental benefits.... climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.”

Quote by Timoth Wirth, U.S./UN functionary, former elected Democrat: “We’ve got to ride the global-warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”

Quote by Richard Benedik, former U.S./UN bureaucrat: "A global climate treaty must be implemented even if there is no scientific evidence to back the greenhouse effect."

Quote by David Frame, climate modeler, Oxford University: “Rather than seeing models as describing literal truth, we ought to see them as convenient fictions which try to provide something useful.”
Strangely enough, the most significant of these quotations for me are the two referring to nuclear fusion:
Quote by Jeremy Rifkin, Greenhouse Crisis Foundation: “The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.”

Quote by Amory Lovins, scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute: "Complex technology of any sort is an assault on human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it."
I had always assumed that the Green objection to energy use, and specifically nuclear energy, was that it was environmentally damaging, and then when a clean and cheap source of energy was developed (and for my generation that has always been fusion), everyone would welcome it and be happy that all the world could share the advantages of plentiful energy that we have had for some time. Apparently not. Plentiful energy, it seems, is a Bad Thing per se, even if it does no harm to the planet. That revelation is frankly shocking to me. I can't see why anyone would object to lots of clean, cheap energy, unless they hate the human race - and that, I'm sorry to say, seems to be a constant theme of the discourse.

Go and have a read - there are tons more like these.

We need to wake up to this.
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