30 January 2015

30th January 2015

Tendring Topics……on line

Jaw, jaw is always better than War, war!’

            Sir Winston Churchill, the fiftieth anniversary of whose death was remembered last week, was best known as a great war leader.  Perhaps it was his own personal experience of two world wars, and the South African war before them, that inspired him to declare that ‘Jaw, jaw’ (negotiating with the perceived enemy), was always better than ‘War, war’ (confronting that perceived enemy with the weapons of death and destruction).

            It is advice that the world’s leaders really need to heed today.  The news that the Russian Ambassador had been summoned to explain why Russian bombing aircraft had flown round the United Kingdom some 25 miles from our shores, had been shadowed by our fighters and had disrupted air traffic over the English Channel wasn’t one of the first items in the BBC’s news bulletin today (29th January).  It could well have been the most significant news story though, because it is just such provocative acts that could, unless those concerned are prepared to ‘jaw, jaw’,  trigger the outbreak of World War III.  

            One doesn’t have to be either a psychic or a James Bond to guess the answer of the Russian Ambassador. The flight of the Russian bombers was a direct response to NATOs provocative military manoeuvres in Poland and the Baltic States during the course of which I have little doubt that NATO military aircraft had on many occasions flown up to – and perhaps beyond – the Russian and/or the Belorussian frontiers.

            The NATO manoeuvres were a response to Russia’s recovery of the Crimean peninsula (which had been welcomed by the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants), and Russian support for the Russian-speaking rebels of Eastern Crimea demanding freedom from the rule of the Ukrainian Government in Kiev.  Tit for tat – just as in a primary school playground, but possibly with rather more dire results!

            The NATO response had not been to discuss the possibility of a joint demand for a cease-fire from both Russia and the NATO countries, and a discussion of possible remedies of the grievances of the people of Eastern Ukraine. Nor have they suggested a referendum, under United Nations auspices, of the people of Crimea to enable them have the same right of self-determination as – for instance – the people of the Falklands, Gibraltar and Kosovo.  Instead ‘the west’ immediately gave wholehearted backing to the Government in Kiev, decided that Russia was entirely responsible for the rebellion in the east, and imposed economic sanctions on Russia.   They gave no credit to the Russians when they managed to achieve a cease-fire and peace talks between the two sides, but now that the ceasefire seems to have been broken (by which side I wonder?) they are proposing further sanctions.

            As a lifetime supporter of the BBC I have been bitterly disappointed that they have reported nothing of the Kiev government’s relentless shelling and bombing of towns and villages under rebel control nor, as I discovered from quite another neutral source, of the thousands of civilian refugees from the shelling who have fled into Russia to seek asylum.
         
 I remember our foreign secretary (it was William Hague at the time) declaring darkly that Russia must realize that its actions would have consequences.  Indeed, and so they did.   But, of course, in the Kremlin other politicians were saying exactly the same thing – in Russian.  

            There’s no doubt that EU and American sanctions have damaged the Russian economy – but Russia has, as might have been foreseen, imposed counter-sanctions against us.   A few days ago we heard how British dairy farmers, struggling to keep their heads above water, had been hit a devastating blow by the Russian ban on the import of British dairy products.  A regular blog reader has suggested that the whole country, not just the dairy farmers, should bear the financial burden of this ban, perhaps by an increase in income tax, not likely to be a very attractive idea a few months before a General Election!

            Now the EU and NATO are meeting to discuss further sanctions on Russia.  How the terrorists of IS (Islamic State) Islamic State – in Syria and Iraq, Africa and  Afghanistan – must be laughing to see their enemies, in Russia and ‘the West’, impoverishing themselves, and treading the very dangerous path that could end in war.  How delighted they’d be if World War III did break out!  And all because the leaders of ‘the west’ were not prepared to ‘jaw, jaw’ with Russia the possibility that a substantial minority of Ukrainians should be granted the right to determine their own future; a right that ‘the west’ has supported in other parts of the world.

Eton and Oxbridge?   Try North Essex!

          I wasn’t particularly surprised when I read in the local Daily Gazette that exam results had revealed Colchester Royal Grammar School and Colchester’s High School for Girls to be the best schools in England.  They have both had an unrivalled reputation for years.

            I was totally astonished though to learn from the same Gazette that Yanis Varoufakis, a Ph.D graduate at Essex University (just on the Colchester side of the Colchester/Tendring District boundary) is the Finance Minister of the new Greek Government; that Rena Dourou, another Essex University Graduate who had been the elected governor of Attica (the part of Greece surrounding Athens) is also a member of that government, while a third Essex Uni. Graduate, Fotini Vaki, has been elected to represent the island of Corfu in the new Greek parliament!

            Nor, records the Gazette, is it only in Greece that graduates of Essex University have achieved distinction.  John Bercow, Speaker of our House of Commons, graduated there in 1985. Daniel  Libeskind, world-renowned architect and master-plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre site in New York after the destruction of 9/11, graduated in 1972,  Lord Triesman who graduated in 1969 is Labour’s shadow minister for foreign affairs.  David Yates,  BAFTA winning tv and film director, who directed the final four episodes of the Harry Potter film series, graduated in 1987,  Oscar Arias Sanchez who graduated in 1975, was twice President of Costa Rica and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987; Baroness Virginia Bottomley, who graduated in 1970 was a Conservative MP for twenty-four years and held two Secretary of State roles in the ‘90s, and Sir Christopher Oissarides who graduated in 1971, was awarded the Nobel prize for his contribution to the theory of search frictions and macroeconomics!  (No – I’ve no idea what that means!)

            It is clear that Eton and Oxbridge isn’t the only route to the top.  Essex University may have arrived rather late on the scene but it has certainly made its mark. I have no doubt that, less than twenty miles from my front door, there are more future cabinet ministers and Nobel prize winners in the pipeline!



24 January 2015

24 January 2015

Tendring Topics………on line

Keeping things ‘in proportion’

          I am not one of Lord Mendelson’s greatest admirers.  He was one of the creators of New Labour which, to win elections, surrendered the Labour Party’s soul and converted British politics into a pale imitation of the politics of the USA. There is precious little difference between the objectives of the two main parties.   They only differ in how best to achieve them.  In office Tony Blair, Lord Mendelson’s friend and political colleague, continued the process begun by Mrs Thatcher of turning the UK into a Prime Ministerial dictatorship.

            However, I am inclined to be on Lord Mendelson’s side in his current disagreement with Ed Miliband and his shadow Chancellor Ed Balls.   It is, I think, shameful that multi-millionaires in this country are likely to pay a much smaller proportion of their income in taxation than those whose income is so low that they pay no income tax at all, but do have to pay the government every time they buy an object or service that is subject to VAT or purchase something that is subject to customs duty, like a packet of cigarettes or a pint at a pub.  Multi-millionaires also, of course, pay a much smaller proportion of their income in taxation than do those mythical beings who David Cameron always claims he is eager to help – average hardworking wage earners who pay income tax and, of course, the indirect taxes and custom duties that this government prefers

Ed Miliband’s mansion tax may not be intended to be a one-off tax to help the NHS – or any other good cause – out of its current crisis, by taking a few hundred thousand pounds from the bank accounts of the super-wealthy, but that’s how it sounds.  I think that the government should be fair to both the wealthy and the poor by claiming an equal percentage of the gross income of all of us to fund public services.   The obvious way to do this is by means of the income tax system, the only tax that is linked to ability to pay.  I think we should consider it not as an imposition but as a privilege to pay our annual subscription towards the not-inconsiderable benefits of being a British Citizen, or towards our permission to live and work within the UK.  We would then all have an equal stake in the prosperity or economic failure of our country.  We really would be all in this together!

            Income tax is the obvious means that a government could use to level the economic playing field but another way that would help to do this would be – as Lord Mendelson suggests – adding additional tax bands to the Council Tax system.

            Blog readers past the first flush of youth will recall the ‘bad old days’ in which local authorities, County, Borough and District Councils raised part of their income by means of ‘the domestic rates’.  These were an annual charge on each dwelling within the district.  Nobody enjoyed paying them but they were based on the estimated rental value of the property. They therefore had at least a rough relationship to the income of the occupier of the occupier or occupiers

Mrs Thatcher’s government changed all that.  Instead of the rates we were to have a ‘community charge’ (almost instantly rebranded ‘the poll tax’) which taxed each individual equally regardless of whether that individual was a millionaire or a refuse collector.  It took no account whatsoever of ability to pay. The rating system may have been disliked but the poll tax was actually hated.   It was just such a tax that had provoked the medieval ‘peasants revolt’.  In the late twentieth century it produced wide-spread demonstrations, riots and the eventual fall of the Thatcher government.     

The Poll Tax was replaced by the ‘Council Tax’. This is based on the estimated purchase value of the property and therefore makes a pretence of bearing some relationship to the income or wealth of the householder.  Properties are classified as being in one of eight ‘tax bands’, the lowest of which is under £40,000 and the highest £320,000 and above.  A glance will make it clear that those bands are hopelessly out of date.   I suppose for £40,000 you might, just possibly, get some kind of a shack in an area like the Brooklands Estate, Jaywick  just a couple of miles from my home – but that estate has been declared to be the most deprived area in the UK!

At the other end of the tax bands the situation is even more ridiculous.  The highest tax band for Council Tax is £320,000 and above. I agree that in the Clacton area you would get a very nice property for £320,000 – but not in many other parts of the UK

Do you ever watch ‘Escape to the Country’ ­on BBC tv.   Briefly it’s about very fortunate (and often very hard working and gifted) folk who have made a fortune in London, or Manchester or Sheffield or wherever and are now seeking a residence ‘in the country’.  A BBC presenter introduces them to three or four ‘desirable residences’ in the area of their choice.   It’s not a programme I like to watch.   I have spent too much of my professional life trying to help people who are homeless, or overcrowded or living in squalid conditions, to enjoy seeing well-heeled folk looking over a luxurious home and complaining that ‘the view isn’t quite what we’d hoped for’ or ‘the paddock isn’t really big enough for Rosalie (their spoilt brat!) to exercise the pony we’ve given her for her birthday’.

It’s very unusual for one of those very comfortable and very desirable homes ‘in the country’ to change hands for as little as £320,000.   That sum would probably buy a roomy three bedroom home in one of London’s more pleasant suburbs.  That means that an executive officer of a biggish enterprise or a middle-grade civil servant, living in a comfortable but hardly palatial home in Cheam or Twickenham would pay exactly the same Council Tax as the owner of a ‘Downton Abbey’ or similar stately home or family mansion.

There should be at least three higher tax bands, ending at homes valued at £2 million pounds or more, to bring something like fairness to the Council Tax system. The Council Tax bands, like the income tax system, need urgent reconstruction to make sure that those who have done best from our market economy should pay at least as big a proportion of their wealth in tax as those who have been less fortunate.

A trusted ally – or a ‘pariah state’?

In recent months I have been quite proud of the fact that I am a member of the Church of England as well as of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).   I welcomed the Church’s decision to ordain women as Bishops as well as Priests.   I have applauded the Archbishop of Canterbury’s campaign to replace ‘pay day lenders’ with local ‘credit unions’ and his criticism of economic policies that have led to the proliferation of Food Banks throughout the UK.

That enthusiasm suffered a severe blow this (23rd January) afternoon when I learned that, to comply with government guidelines, the authorities of Westminster Abbey would be flying our national flag at half-mast in mourning for the King of Saudi Arabia.  It suffered a further blow with the news that the Prince of Wales (a future ‘Defender of the Faith’) together with our Prime Minister were to fly to Saudi Arabia to express their condolences.  I suppose that the Prince is aware that any expression of the Faith that he will pledge himself to defend is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabia and that any Muslim in that country who converts to Christianity is likely to be executed!

Saudi Arabia’s disregard for democracy and human rights makes North Korea seem like a liberal Paradise!  Torture is routinely practised in Saudi gaols and public executions, amputations and floggings are daily occurrences.  The case of a blogger who considered the possibility that Saudi Arabia might become a secular state and who is being publicly flogged with fifty lashes every Friday until, if he survives long enough, he has received a total of 1,000 lashes, has recently made the press headlines.  Women in Saudi-Arabia are said to be much more free than they were a decade or so ago – but they are still forbidden to drive cars or leave their homes without a male escort (husband, father or brother).

Most of those involved in the 9/11 outrages in New York were Saudis.  Saudi Arabia is the home of the noxious fundamentalist Islamic faith that IS (the Islamic State) is trying to impose in Syria and Iraq and that Boko Haram is imposing, even more blood-thirstily, in sub-Saharan Africa. Donations from oil-rich Saudi millionaires financed IS during its early days. They possibly still do so.

Do we really need oil (and arms sales) so badly that we are prepared to befriend a state whose philosophy is the exact opposite of the British values that David Cameron and his colleagues are so eager to propagate?

   









































17 January 2015

18th January 2015

Tendring Topics……….on line

The Parliamentary General Election

          There was a time when political parties existed to promote specific policies – the Conservative Party on retaining the status quo and, in general, observing the sage advice, ‘If it ain’t bust, don’t fix it’.  They were naturally the party of the ‘haves’ rather than the ‘have nots’.  The Labour Party on the other hand, was the party of change.  They wanted a fairer, more equal Britain, a Britain without nuclear weapons and without imperial pretensions or ambitions.  They argued that these objectives could best be achieved if most or all public services were owned and run by the public.   They were the party of the ‘have nots’.  Both parties tried to persuade a majority of the electorate to support them.

            Now both main parties, and what’s left of the Liberals, claim to serve the interests of the whole country.  In reality they all have just one overriding policy. It’s the same policy; to win elections, gain political power – and keep it.  To this end the Conservatives under Mrs Thatcher became a party of revolutionary change; among other things selling off most public services to private enterprise and compelling local authorities, who had built houses to rid their districts of overcrowding and homelessness, to sell them to sitting tenants at bargain basement prices; thus very cleverly buying votes with other people’s money.

            New Labour, ‘to make itself electable’, sold its own soul by going along with the retention of a nuclear ‘deterrent’, accepting the revolutionary changes that had been introduced by Mrs Thatcher and erasing ‘Clause 4’ from its own constitution.  I have little doubt that many party members voted for the removal of Clause 4 imagining that they were simply acknowledging that some activities were best carried out by private enterprise.  If fact they were accepting the wholesale privatisation of every public service.  In addition, they allowed our country to become the puppet of the most reactionary American president in living memory.  This resulted in our engagement in two ‘colonial’ wars – one illegal and the other unwinnable – resulting in the loss of billions of pounds and the sacrifice of hundreds of British lives

            Party policies are decided nowadays, not by principles or by the exercise of reason and compassion, but by the findings of the latest opinion polls.  And influencing opinion polls is the popular press, owned largely by foreign billionaires who owe no loyalty to the United Kingdom and care only about ‘circulation and profit’. I don’t find it in the least surprising that thousands of electors are now disillusioned with the traditional political parties.  It is upon the way that they react to that disillusion that the future of our country depends.

Don’t bother to vote

            Probably the commonest reaction is to decline to vote.  What’s the point?  They’re all the same – feathering their own nests.  If voting changed anything they’d ban it. Our first-past-the-post electoral system makes sure that the voice of those who can’t bring themselves to vote for any of the main parties, is never heard. The Chartists of the nineteenth and the Suffragettes of the twentieth century must be turning in their graves.  They suffered and died to make sure that everyone had a vote – and they really believed that universal suffrage would change the world.
           
Those who don’t bother to vote have no right to complain when they find themselves represented by someone whose views they thoroughly detest.  Those who can’t bring themselves to vote for any of the candidates must surely be able to select one of them whose policies and attitudes they detest more than those of the others. Vote for the candidate most likely to defeat him or her.  For the much-publicised recent Clacton-on-Sea by-election I voted Conservative for the first (and probably only) time of my life.  Although I disliked the Conservative candidate’s policies, he seemed to be a nice enough chap and I thought he was the candidate most likely to defeat Douglas Carswell who had defected to UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party).   He didn’t do so and Clacton had the dubious honour of returning the very first UKIP MP to Westminster!  Still – I did my best. 

Vote for one of the ‘minority’ candidates

            We don’t yet know how many candidates there will be for our own constituencies in next May’s General Election. In every English constituency there will certainly be representatives of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal-Democrat Party.  There will almost certainly be a Ukipper (in my Clacton constituency he’ll be the sitting MP) and a Green Party Candidate.  Also there’s likely to be a variety of fringe party and special-interest candidates ranging from the Official Raving Loony Party to those eager to publicise local or special concerns like ‘saving a hospital from closure’, ‘building a new bypass’ or, as we had for the Clacton by-election, a lady who wanted to raise the status and ensure the safety of ‘sex workers’.   

            My guess (and you can’t exaggerate how much I’d like to be proved wrong!) is that in the Clacton-on-Sea Constituency Douglas Carswell (the sitting UKIP MP) will retain his seat though with a smaller majority, The Conservative Candidate will come next but with only a few more votes than  his Labour opponent, followed by the Green, the Lib.Dem. the Official Raving Loony Candidate and the various ‘special interest’ candidates who will get only a tiny handful of votes each.

UKIP versus GREEN

            In my constituency (Clacton-on-Sea) our sitting MP is a Ukipper.  That is true of only one other constituency in the United Kingdom.  In most other constituencies there will be a Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat MP who will be looking nervously over his or her shoulder at the UKIP contestant and wondering what effect this new and apparently growing party will have on the election result.

            UKIP and its leader Nigel Farage, remind me uncomfortably of the NAZI party and its leader, Adolf Hitler, in Germany in the 1920s and early ‘30s.   There too, the electorate was disillusioned and tired of the old political parties and their failing policies.  In Adolf Hitler they found someone who was a fervent German nationalist, just as Nigel Farage is a fervent British Nationalist, who disliked the ‘old politics’ and offered a new path for Germany of action rather than talk.  What’s more he assured the Germans that they weren’t to blame for their country’s problems – it was all the fault of ‘the Jews’.  At first most Germans thought that he was a bit of a joke,  Then the wealthy thought they could manipulate him for their own purposes.   One morning though they woke up to discover that he and his brown-shirted followers had taken over their country. – Hitler’s Third Reich had arrived.

            Nigel Farage also assures us that outside forces – the European Union (demonised as ‘Brussels’) and all those foreign immigrants for which the EU, so he says, was largely responsible – were the cause of Britain’s problems.  Shake off the European yoke and get rid of all those foreigners, and Britain would be great again!  At first everyone thought that Nigel Farage – usually seen holding ‘a fag and a pint’ to assure those who saw him that he was ‘one of us’ - was a bit of a joke.  Then, as with Hitler, the wealthy and powerful thought they could use him for their purposes. They have poured their spare thousands of pounds into his party’s coffers. The story is on-going……….. UKIP is essentially a ‘one-objective party’.   The EU and immigrants are its main target.  Other causes are taken up as seems opportune, but generally UKIP policies are those of the extreme right of the Conservative Party.  Abolish ‘green taxes’ and cease subsidising solar and wind power schemes.  Encourage ‘fracking’ for cheap oil and gas.  Ignore the warnings about climate change and global warming.  It either isn’t happening or, if it is, it’s got nothing to do with human activities so there’s nothing to be done about it.  Vote for UKIP and cheaper fuel oil!  I have little doubt that thousands will be short-sighted enough to do so.

            The Green Party is almost the exact opposite of UKIP.  Below is a brief account of their policies and intentions.

We live in unsettling times. Many of the securities that our parents and grandparents fought for – a functioning National Health Service, free education, and an affordable home – now look out of reach for most of us. Coupled with this, climate change is bringing unpredictable and threatening weather patterns. People feel let down by politicians, and yet there has been an explosion in political activism. People want to do things differently and aren’t afraid to be bold and challenging.
We believe that public services should be for the benefit of the public, not sold off in bits; we believe that education is worth investing in and not something that should mean a lifetime of debt; we believe in leaving behind a better world for our children and grandchildren. This is the only world we have and its welfare, above all things, should be the highest priority for us all.
Politics should work for the benefit of all, not just those who shout the loudest or have the deepest pockets.  We believe in “The Common Good”. A vote for the Green Party is a vote for The Common Good.
            Like UKIP, the Green Party is growing.   They have just one MP – in Brighton – but in the European Parliament elections and in recent by-elections (including that in Clacton) Green candidates received more votes than the Liberal Democrats. Currently there is controversy as to whether The Green Party’s President is to join with the leaders of the Conservative Party, Liberal-Democratic Party, Labour Party and UKIP in public televised debate before next May’s general election.  David Cameron is refusing to take part in the debate unless the Greens are also invited.  He is probably wise to do so.   Green arguments, persuasively presented, are far more likely to draw voters from Labour, Liberal Democrat, and even UKIP than they are from the Conservatives.

            If (and it’s quite a big ‘if’) I’m still around in May, I shall vote for the Green Candidate.  I hope that a great many other people will do the same.    

           






13 January 2015

13th January 2015

Tendring Topics…….on Line

The Jihad goes on!

          I don’t think that anyone who has read my previous blogs will accuse me of being indifferent to, or tolerant of, the murderous activities of Islamic extremists or jihadists, holy warriors as they think themselves. On the contrary, I think these activities are the biggest man-made peril facing civilisation today, and one of the most difficult to combat.  Our efforts so far, aimed at confronting the extremists in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, only encourage undecided Muslims to rally to the jihadist cause. I remain convinced that only a movement from within Islam itself, authoritatively denouncing terrorist outrages as blasphemous and wholly evil, will lead to its downfall.

            The latest outrages in France have really stirred up public anger.  Millions, so the newspapers say, have marched and demonstrated in protest at the killings and in defence of ‘free speech’. Scores of the world’s political leaders have linked arms to demonstrate their unity in the face of the jihadist assassins.

            I wonder how many among those demanding ‘free speech’ have during the past few months, demanded the immediate resignation of an MP, or a local councillor, or a tv presenter because, in a moment of thoughtlessness, he or she has used a word or an expression that was perfectly acceptable during my childhood and early adulthood, but is nowadays pounced upon by self-appointed verbal vigilantes and denounced as either racist, antisemitic or homophobic. Are all of us really all that keen on unrestricted ‘free speech’ at all times for everyone?

  I wonder too how many of the political leaders who have denounced the jihadist assassins, have used, or acquiesced with the use of unmanned drones operated from a place of safety, to assassinate anyone they consider to be a threat to their country (and, of course anyone who happens to be in the immediate vicinity at the time!)   Are all our leaders totally opposed to assassination, including that of those whom (without due process of law) they decide is dangerous.

It doesn’t in any way excuse or minimise the guilt and enormity of the actions of the jihadist terrorists, for us and our leaders to ask ourselves whether we too are  without blemish

Four Months of Name Calling

          We’ve only just moved into the New Year and the Parliamentary General Election isn’t until early May. Already though, the first salvos have been fired by the major contestants in the political battle that will decide which of them will form the next government.   It is surely significant that neither Labour nor the Conservatives are promising us a bright future if we’ll only vote for them.  So far they’ve done no more than tell us what a disaster it will be if that ‘other lot’ achieve a majority in the House of Commons.

            Labour says that if the Conservatives are returned to power they will completely wreck the NHS.  Well – the Conservatives have been the dominant force in a coalition government for the past five years and, as I write, many hospitals are in crisis and, at least in the Clacton area where I live, it has become increasingly difficult to get an urgent (or even a non-urgent) appointment with the doctor of your choice. I certainly have less confidence in the NHS than I had five years ago. 

The Conservatives, on the other hand, say that they’re the only party that can be trusted with the economy.  If Labour were to be elected Britain’s finances would soon be in utter chaos.   They might even forget to try to reduce ‘the deficit’. As they’ll gleefully point out, Labour Leader Ed Miliband had forgotten all about it in his final stirring speech at the 2014 Labour Party Conference!

            As for the Liberal Democrats – the best they can hope for is a ‘hung parliament’ in which they’ll be asked to help form a coalition government.  I think they’d be prepared to coalesce with either the Conservatives or Labour.  They’re happy to attack both and claim that, in another coalition government, they would curb the excesses of either party.  The results of European election and recent parliamentary by-elections suggest to me that they won’t get that opportunity.  I voted Lib.Dem in the last General Election but I’ll never do so again.  I am sure that I’m not alone in that.

            Both of the main parties (and the Lib Dems will string along with any policy that will bring in a few votes) have, in fact, the reduction and eventual elimination of the deficit – the gap between government expenditure and government income – as one of their main objectives.   Both seem to imagine though that the only way to do this is to cut government expenditure.  During the past five years the Conservative led coalition has done this relentlessly.  Hence, our pot holed roads, failing educational, health and social services and growing queues at the Food Banks.  They have cut expenditure on our armed services too – but instead of going for the obviously wasteful and totally ineffective Trident Submarine fleet (if it ever does go into action it’ll be ‘goodbye civilisation and goodbye us!) they have depleted the army that even in peacetime can help us out when some private enterprise fails to provide the public service that it promised. The government still hasn’t learned that we’re distrusted and disliked throughout the Middle East and that we should keep our, now depleted, armed forces out of that area.

            The other, and I think by far the best way to narrow that deficit is by means of taxation – not the indirect taxes like VAT and customs duties on, for instance, petrol, alcohol and tobacco.  These disproportionately penalise the less-well-off.  Income tax is the one tax levied in accordance with our ability to pay.  A penny on each band of income tax would have a tremendous effect on that deficit and would drive no-one into poverty.   The state retirement pension is subject to income tax and I can’t understand why other state benefits such as Winter Fuel Allowance for the elderly, children’s allowance, free tv licences for the elderly, attendance allowance (that I get because of my now very limited mobility) should be tax free.  Those whose income is so low that they pay no income tax would be unaffected. The rest of us would find ourselves paying a little, not more than we can afford, for those benefits.

            Instead of this, politicians take a perverse pride in raising the threshold at which income tax becomes payable thus, so they claim, taking thousands of people out of the tax system altogether.  It only takes them out of the income tax system.  They still have to pay those indirect taxes (VAT and Customs duties) that place a much bigger burden upon the poor than on the wealthy.  MPs never seem to grasp the fact that raising the threshold at which income becomes subject to tax helps all income tax payers but doesn’t give even a crumb of help to those with really low incomes who do not pay any income tax anyway.

            At the end of the financial year those Westminster financial geniuses announce that they’ll have to make more savage cuts in public services because income tax revenues are less than had been expected.   Of course they are – because all income tax payers have had their payments reduced!

            Income tax could – and should – be used to reduce and eventually eliminate that deficit.  It would also reduce that other, to my mind much more worrying, gap between the incomes of the wealthiest and those of the poorest of our fellow-citizens.  We have the widest such gap in Europe and it actually widened during the decade of New Labour rule.  Statistics demonstrate that when that gap is narrowed, it is not just the poorest people, but the whole of society, that benefits.

           

           


04 January 2015

4th January 2015

An Unofficial 'Cease-fire'

            The ‘Christmas Day Truce’ between the opposing armies in 1914 has, quite properly, been remembered and celebrated on this centenary year.  Nothing like it, so it is said, was even attempted in World War II.  The reason is, I think, because nowhere were the soldiers of the opposing armies quite so close to each other as they sometimes were in World War I.  However, something rather like that ceasefire was observed between the British prisoners of war in the little German town of Zittau and the local Germans, during the final eighteen months of the Second World War.  Prisoners of war are instructed to divulge only their army number, rank and name to their captors, to maintain their enmity, and to seize any opportunity of escaping.  Number, rank and name was all that was ever required of me. They could always discover our home town by noting the address on our out-going mail!

            It had been easy enough to maintain our enmity to the Italians in the large concentration camp in northern Italy in which I spent my first eighteen months of captivity.  We were half-starved, louse infested and bored out of our minds – frozen in the winter and roasted in the summer.   Transported to Germany on the collapse of Mussolini’s government, I found myself in a small Arbeitskommando (working camp) within the town of Zittau. There were only 30 of us. We were employed, in parties of two to six, on loading and unloading railway wagons, and any other work in the area that required brawn rather than brain.  While working we mixed and (when we had learned some basic German) chatted freely with the German civilians and the Russian and Ukrainian conscripted ‘slave labourers’ who were our companions.  It isn’t easy to maintain enmity with people you meet daily and whom you realize under other circumstances could have been good friends.  Our guards were neither the brutal bullies nor mindless morons of film and fiction. They were remarkably like ourselves, had served on the Eastern Front and had either been wounded or frost bitten to an extent that made them unfit for front line duty.  Their only ambition was to ‘keep their heads down’ and survive the war.  That, as it happened, was our ambition too.  It would have been easy enough to get away.  Usually only an elderly civilian wearing an official armband was ‘supervising us’.  I remember one occasion on which I cut my hand quite badly. I said to our civilian ‘boss’ that I needed to go back to our ‘lager’ (the building in which we lived) to have it washed and bandaged.  He said he couldn’t leave the truck that was being unloaded, so I said that he needn’t bother. I’d find my own way back.  And so I did, walking boldly through the streets of Zittau with no-one raising an eyebrow.  The guard, when I hammered on the door, was just a little surprised to see me unattended but he washed and bandaged my injured hand – and I took the rest of the day ‘off’.

            None of us ever attempted to escape.  Take a look at a map of central Europe and you’ll see how far Zittau is from any then-neutral country.  The Eastern front was quite near as the war came to an end but none of us was sufficiently fool-hardy as to try to get through both the German and the Soviet front lines!  Furthermore we had neither the time, nor the opportunity to plan an escape.  We were usually exhausted when we returned from our day’s work and our guards lived almost ‘on top of us’. I think though that the main reason no-one attempted an escape was the knowledge that, whether or not successful, the lives of those who remained would have been changed for ever.  Our easygoing guards would have been sent to the Eastern Front and replaced by fanatical Nazis. Our every movement would have been observed by an armed guard.  There would have been no more bringing back from work coal for our stoves or potatoes to add to our rations; no more cosy chats with the guards about the stupidity of war!

            We maintained a friendly relationship with the troops stationed in the local barracks.  I once had a very painful rash round my waist.  I thought it was a sweat rash but it was obviously more than that.  A guard and I walked across the town to the ‘Kaserne’ (the barracks). The army medical officer was most interested in my condition and said I was suffering from ‘Girderose’ (I may have spelled it wrongly) which I  learned was shingles. He gave me some vitamin B Tablets and eventually my rash, and the pain departed.  He certainly treated me as effectively as any British Army MO would have. I did no work until the condition had been cleared. 
 
          During the winter of 1944/’45 in the middle of the night, one of our number was accidentally killed by a runaway truck on a railway siding.  I was with him at the time – only a foot or so away, and it was a traumatic experience.  No doubt there was an enquiry about it but I never heard the outcome.  I do know that he was given a full military funeral.  Looking as smart as we could manage, we slow-marched to the cemetery.  A Minister, presumably Lutheran, said a few words as the coffin was lowered into the grave.   We all walked round the grave throwing sprigs of yew that we had been given, onto the coffin.  A firing squad from the local barracks, fired a volley over his grave.  I don’t suppose that that funeral would have given much comfort to his parents and girl-friend but I think that we all found it very moving.  We also had a friendly football match with  German soldiers from the local barracks.  Folded jackets (khaki and field grey) served as goalposts and our biggest worry was of the ball getting kicked into the nearby fast flowing river Moldau.  They won (3 – 1) I think; but then they had a couple of hundred from whom to select their team.  We had just 30, and I wasn’t the only one who was useless at football!

            The most remarkable example of wartime Anglo/German co-operation was with the local branch of the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) whom we all thought of as being fanatical Nazis.  Their office was next door to our ‘lager’.  We had a gramophone and some records, mostly jazz, presumably from the Red Cross.   Hitler banned jazz as being decadent and the young men (mostly teenagers) listened to the sounds from our lager with envy.  Eventually they summoned up the courage to ask our guards and our ‘confidence man’ (official spokesman) if we’d agree to a swap – some of our jazz records for some of their officially approved folk songs and dance music.  To make sure that nothing about this arrangement became known to higher authority, only those who ‘needed to know’ were told of the swap.  I, for instance, knew that there had been some welcome additions to our record library – but it was years later that I learned how it had come about.  I think that we did the better out of the exchange.  I never missed the jazz records but several of the German ones were memorable and enjoyable.  I can remember the tune and much of the words of one of them – it was, I think, ‘top of the pops’ in Germany sometime in the 1930s : Regen Tropfen, die am dein Fenster klopfen, das merke dir, die sind ein Grüss von mir. (raindrops, falling on your window, seem to you to be a greeting from me.)   

            I now have good friends in Zittau and have been to see them on several occasions in recent years. In 2014 they all came to Clacton for my 93rd birthday celebration.  It was the culmination of a friendship that began before any of them were born!

Impartial BBC?

          I have been – and to some extent still am – a strong supporter of the BBC.  I would hate it to have to depend on the whim of advertisers for its finance.  For over twenty years I wrote a weekly Tendring Topics column for a local newspaper.  Nobody told me what I could and couldn’t write – but I did know that the paper was dependent for its existence on advertisements for new or used cars and homes.  My survival instincts therefore ensured that I thought twice, and then again, before writing too strong a criticism of either estate agents or car salesmen!

            The BBC is pledged to impartiality on controversial topics and in some fields  leans over backwards to ensure that their viewers and listeners are presented with both sides of any argument.  For instance, the world’s leading scientists are all but unanimous on the urgent need to counter climate change (global warming) by phasing out fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and seeking out and developing sustainable sources of energy.  However, whenever the BBC has an experienced meteorologist on a broadcast programme explaining the importance  and urgency of combating climate change you can bet your life that they’ll find some has-been politician with no knowledge of the subject, or  an ‘expert’ with interests in the oil, gas or coal industries, to give an opposing view.

            How very different is the BBC’s attitude with regard to foreign affairs.   With regard to the situation in the Ukraine for instance, you’d never guess that the overwhelming number of inhabitants of Crimea wanted to be part of Russia.  But I remember before Russia’s ‘annexation’ the difficulty that BBC’s and other reporters had in finding a single Crimean who wished to remain within Ukraine.  The impression is given that the pro-Russian rebels (urged on by Vladimir Putin) began the civil war.  But I remember seeing news shots of the men women and children of eastern Ukraine passively resisting the tanks of the Kiev government, before the fighting started.

            BBC bulletins have ignored the fact that the shelling by the Kiev government forces of the area of the Malayan airliner’s crash delayed the UN inspectors from carrying out their investigation.  Nor have we heard how the relentless shelling of residential areas occupied by the rebels, has destroyed hundreds of homes, killed a great many innocent civilians and caused thousands of eastern Ukrainians to become refugees in Russia.  No wonder elections held by the Kiev government produce comfortable majorities for the supporters of that government – tens of thousands who would have opposed them have been killed or driven from their homes.

            But there – the BBC depends on the government for its licence fee, and the government unquestioningly supports the Kiev Government.  He who pays the piper calls the tune.





















27 December 2014

27th December 2014

Tendring Topics…….on line

The Challenge of Islamic Extremism

            The problem of Islamic Extremism (Jihadism) is surely among the most serious facing what we think of as ‘civilisation’ today.  In this blog I have returned to the subject again and again and I can think of no easy – or even difficult – solutions to it.  I am sitting comfortably and securely at home in the safety of the UK.  Elsewhere in the world innocent men, women and little children are facing torture, slavery and death at the hands of jihadists.    A regular, and very articulate, reader of the blog has written to me over Christmas to tell me of his concerns and of a possible solution.

I see in your blog you include a comment about the dreadful killing in Pakistan. Almost as bad as the gunning down of children was the special treatment of incineration meted out to the head teacher and a class teacher who tried to protect the children. The gunmen arrived with a can of petrol for that specific purpose.  The next day the Nigerian Islamists (Boku Harran) took 100 people hostage - almost a whole village, but that didn't even make it to the headlines. The BBC calculated that over 5000 people were killed by Islamic extremists during the month of November alone, from 10 counties around the world - and that was before the Pakistan incident!

However, there seems to me to be a few issues to consider in formulating a response. The first is that both the Sydney incident and the Pakistan incident were a direct response to the action taken by those governments in seeking to crush these extremists.  That has been the pattern of so many of the atrocities- like the Spanish train bomb, the attacks on Kenya and the London Tube bombs.  There is also the very obvious threat of radicalisation within the Muslim community at home. This risk is massively increased by a foreign policy which could be seen as hostile to Islam. There may well be valid reasons for our involvement overseas and for forcefully opposing these people. Making the home nation safer (the Tony Blair argument) certainly isn't one of them.

‘Western’ governments have to recognise that jihadism is a world-wide movement, not a bit like Nazi Germany, which was the vision of a deranged man with power in his hands. The U.S. / Israeli policy of assassinating extremist leaders using Drones, just doesn't work.  Innocent people are killed, there are always other leaders to replace those killed, and illegal action of this kind in another country only perpetuates the cycle of grievance and retaliation.

I think maybe it is time to acknowledge - even if we totally disagree with it - that there is popular support in some parts of the world for an extreme Islamic nation with everything which goes with that - lack of human rights, complete rejection of Western views and democracy etc. I am thinking the thing which might eventually end the bloodshed would be the allocation of land and the establishment of Islamic Governments in prescribed areas where there is already a strong belief in that sort of regime. A peace settlement should be based on a few fundamental principles - non aggression into the "less Islamic zone", free movement of disaffected citizens out of the Islamic Zone and free movement of radical Islamists from other counties into the Zone.  Frankly the Pakistan / Afghanistan border area may as well be declared as such, because neither government  has control and the act of trying to control is a cause of endless attacks on Kabul and Islamabad. Perhaps the same should be true of Northern Nigeria where it seems to me the Government is very half hearted about dealing with the situation and has allowed that area to deteriorate economically and thereby fuelled antiwestern resentment. I suspect that a part of Somalia is the same.

It’s certainly an idea and, if jihadists were guided by reason and prepared to negotiate a peace settlement, it might work.  I don’t think they are. They are, I believe, convinced that they have been chosen by God to convert the whole world to their particularly noxious brand of Islam and to enslave and/or kill any who oppose them.  The idea that they could live at peace with people who don’t share that viewpoint would be anathema to them.  I do agree with my correspondent though, that violent attacks, air-strikes and drone assassinations only produce more enthusiastic recruits for the jihadist cause. You can’t destroy an idea, even a thoroughly bad one, by violence.

I believe that the only permanent answer to Islamic extremism must come from Muslims themselves.  I think that most Muslims instinctively prefer to live in a mainly Christian, multifaith or secular society rather than in a strictly Islamic one.  Why else did Muslim refugees from Kosovo seek refuge in western Europe rather than in Albania – the Muslim country ‘next door’?     Why do Muslim refugees seek to gain access to multifaith Australia rather than Muslim Indonesia?  When the former Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that some aspects of Sharia law might be introduced in the UK, he overlooked the fact that a considerable number of people who consider themselves to be devout Muslims had come to this country for no other reason than to escape the strictures of Sharia law.

 Islam doesn’t have an equivalent of the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury who can with authority, denounce this, that or the other practice as being contrary to the will of God.  Surely though there must be devout, respected and charismatic Muslim leaders who can publicly and convincingly declare that forced conversions, murder of non-believers, abduction and sale of young girls into sex slavery is not just un-Islamic  but is in blasphemous denial of the will of Allah, who is  compassionate, merciful and just. Those who carry out such practices can expect to answer for their actions in a higher than worldly court.   

            I eagerly await the emergence of such Muslim leaders.  Without them, I fear that the world will be condemned to an endless cycle of murder and vengeance.

A British Middle East Presence

            I didn’t think that I would ever agree with any pronouncement made by Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip.   However I do wholeheartedly agree with his opposition to the government’s massive reinforcement of the   forces already training Iraqi troops to fight the forces of Islamic State.  It’s ‘mission creep’ and it’s beginning to speed up.  How long will it be, I wonder, before one of those ‘training units’ is attacked by IS and compelled to defend itself – and we’ll be well on our way to involvement in ‘the third gulf war’?

            I don’t know what Mr Farage thinks of the government’s establishing a naval base in Bahrain but I think that, like the reinforcement of our ‘training mission’ in Iraq, it is expensive idiocy.  Britain, largely as a result of the present government’s and its New Labour predecessors’ activities, is regarded with deep suspicion throughout the Middle East – and with good reason.  Wherever we have interfered – in Iraq, in Libya and in Syria, we have managed to make a bad situation even worse.

            We no longer have an Empire.  We’re an average sized country on the western fringes of Europe.  The only way we can effectively make our voice heard on the global stage is as a leading and active member of a more-closely-knit European Union.  We no longer need a ‘presence’ east of Suez and we never have needed those  wildly expensive Trident submarines that have signally failed to deter a single one of the international acts of aggression that have occurred during the past half century.

            Now there’s a couple of ways in which George Osborne could reduce that deficit – without reducing the poor to starvation.

Making a bad situation worse

            There’s been plenty of bad news in the newspapers and on the tv and radio recently; atrocities committed by Islamic State, a terrible road accident in Glasgow, continuing Ebola epidemic in West Africa, thousands rendered jobless in Britain by the failure of a privately owned delivery service.  However there was one undoubted piece of good news on a BBC bulletin on Boxing Day.   An exchange of prisoners of war between the forces of the Kiev government in Ukraine and the forces of the pro-Russian rebels in the eastern provinces of that divided country.  As a former PoW myself I know how much that means to the individuals freed under the agreement and to their families.

                        It’s all part of an uneasy cease-fire brokered by the Russian Government some months ago.   It is a cease-fire peace initiative that ‘the west’ should be whole-heartedly supporting, urging both sides to be prepared to make concessions in the interests of a just and lasting peace.  Instead, we are offering unqualified support to the Kiev government and encouraging them to join NATO, which the Russians inevitably see as a hostile alliance with which they are increasingly surrounded.  Have we really forgotten, in the centenary year of the outbreak of World War I, that it was just such a system of alliances that led to the carnage of 1914/1918?

            The European Union’s latest initiative in the conflict is to inflict economic sanctions directly onto the inhabitants of the Crimea and Sebastapol.  Are they being punished for having wanted to be annexed by (they would say re-united with)   Russia?  Their position is not unlike that of the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands who wanted to remain British despite their geographical proximity to Argentina. Just as the UK has ensured that the will of the overwhelming majority of Falklanders has been fulfilled, so Russia has fulfilled the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Crimeans.  The only difference I can discern is that, unlike the British, the Russians achieved their objective without loss of blood.  The pro-Russian separatists are not like the zealots of the Islamic State.  They are prepared to negotiate.  We should encourage them, not make a bad situation worse.    

           Dear Blog readers.......

.I qu  ............I quite thought that the previous blog would be the last one for 2014, but here I am again.  I have had a wonderful Christmas break with my family and feel thoroughly refreshed. I have no idea when the next blog will appear but, in the meantime, I wish all blog readers (and all people of good will towards their fellow men, women and children, of whatever race, colour or creed) a very Happy New Year.  May 2015 be a year of peace and hope. 

  M


  




  

             

 

             



































17 December 2014

17th December 2014

Tendring Topics…….on line

‘Lord, make me chaste and celibate…….
          but not just yet!’

            This was said to have been a prayer of St Augustine of Hippo (no, not the St. Augustine who brought the Christian faith to the heathen English) and proves that saints are 'only human'!.

            I think of St Augustine’s prayer whenever I read, or hear on tv or radio, about yet another international conference on climate change resulting from global warming.  There’s always a remarkable unanimity about these conferences.  The leaders of almost every nation accept the reality of global warming resulting in extreme weather conditions throughout the world.  The northern polar ice-cap is shrinking as are glaciers world-wide. There have been killer typhoons in the South Pacific Ocean and unprecedented monsoon floods on the Indian sub-continent. North America has had searing heat and drought as well as floods and unseasonal arctic spells that have stretched most of the way from Canada to the Mexican border. 


The Rhone Glacier, photographed by me in 1979.  There is now no ice to be seen.

Africa has had prolonged droughts and Australia has had both floods and bush fires, laying waste to hundreds of square miles of land. 

Mainland Europe has had floods, mud-slides and avalanches. During the winter of 2013/2014 the UK’s weather was unseasonably mild but heavy storms battered and broke the sea defences on Britain East Coast while elsewhere – particularly on the Somerset Levels and the Thames Valley – hundreds of acres of land, together with farms and homes, were flooded for weeks as a result of continuous torrential rain.  Last month, our government produced plans for flood prevention to be carried out in the next two or three years.  If only nature proceeded at an equally leisurely pace!

            The latest international conference on climate change was in Lima.  The world’s leaders heard scientific experts explain that a major cause of climate change is the steady increase in ‘greenhouse gases’ produced by fossil fuels; coal and coal products and fuel oils used in industry, in road transport and for warming our homes.  We must, say the world’s scientists, urgently reduce the use of fossil fuels – leaving some reserves untouched – if we want to save our planet for our grandchildren and their grandchildren

            The world’s political leaders agree.  Reducing the use of fossils fuels must be a priority – but not just yet.  The Chinese want to wait until their industrialisation has caught up with that of the USA.  The UKs leaders have got a general election coming up.  They certainly don’t want to take any precipitate action that might cost them votes – or the support of those giving generous donations to the ruling party.  Beside in shale oil, another fossil fuel obtained by ‘fracking’, the Americans are sending us cheaper fuel – and encouraging us to wreck our own countryside by producing our own.  Producing a cheaper fuel (never mind that it produces greenhouse gases) is certainly a vote winner.  There are very few votes to be gained in the pursuit of clean and sustainable energy.

            The result of the International Conference in Lima?  Well, no worth-while action will take place this year.  Next year, perhaps something positive will be agreed – but I’m not holding my breath.

        We’ll never know whether the prayer of St Augustine to be made chaste and celibate – but not just yet, was answered.  Perhaps it was.  It is the nature of the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ to forgive sins of the flesh, particularly those who have acknowledged and confessed their fault.   ‘Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, But still in love he sought me. And on his shoulder gently laid, And home rejoicing brought me’   I think God may be a little less forgiving towards those who, from greed, national pride or fear of election defeat, ignore the warnings of the wise, and are prepared to sacrifice future generations to their own self-centred interests.

‘It’s not what is done……..it’s who it is does it’

       The American Senate’s report on the conduct of the CIA in the aftermath of ‘9/11’ has brought the whole policy of the USA at that time into the limelight.  As well as the torture of suspects under interrogation, there was their ‘rendition’ to countries, Libya for instance, where torture could take place without as much as raised eyebrow, and there was the establishment at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, of a concentration camp of which Himmler would have been proud!

        I find myself interested less in what the CIA and their political masters did, but what they didn’t even attempt to do.  The outrages of ‘9/11’ were planned and carried out by El Qaeda, the dominant jihadist terrorist organisation of the day. At the head of El Qaeda was Osama bin Laden whom the CIA tracked down and killed, without so it seems, making any attempt to capture him.  It certainly stopped him from revealing, in the dock, the support El Quaeda had from the CIA in their campaign of terror against soldiers and civilians of the Soviet Union.

          Osama Bin Laden was a Saudi Arabian, so were the overwhelming number of the terrorists who had successfully planned and carried out the destruction of New York’s ‘Twin Towers’ on ‘9/11’.   There was not an Iraqi or an Iranian or a Syrian among them.  Saudi Arabia practises and preaches the noxious perversion of Islam that has been taken up by El Quaeda and their successors IS or Islamic State.  Compared with Saudi Arabia, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and President Assad’s Syria were havens of freedom and tolerance.  Furthermore, it is known that prominent Saudi Arabians helped finance Islamic State in its early bloodthirsty progress in Syria and Iraq – and possibly continue to do so today.
       
            The USA, and the UK the USA’s ‘special relation’, invaded Iraq on the pretext that the Iraqi government had been involved in ‘9/11’ and that it possessed ‘weapons of mass destruction’, neither of which claims had even a scintilla of truth.  Hundreds of British and American service-men died as a result, together with thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.  Nor did we bring peace and prosperity to Iraq.  Since our departure Iraq has never been at peace and is currently under attack by Islamic State.  We have now sent in hundreds of British troops ‘to train Iraqi forces’.  How long will it be before those troops have to defend themselves against IS attack and we find ourselves dragged unwillingly into a third ‘Gulf War?’

       Again, in support of the USA, we went to war in Afghanistan because their Taliban government was protecting the bases of El Qaeda.  Within months El Qaeda had moved those bases to Somalia and Yemen – but the Taliban fought on.  We have, after ten years and goodness knows how many deaths on both sides of the conflict, withdrawn all our combat troops.  They may not have been defeated but I am quite sure they wouldn’t claim to have gained a great victory.  My guess is that in six months time a fundamentalist Muslim government (it may not be called Taliban) will be ruling Afghanistan and all those mini-victories, for education, for women’s liberation and so on, will have been lost.

              Meanwhile Saudi-Arabia, the inspiration and (I believe) clandestine supporter of Islamic terrorists, remains unchallenged as one of our ‘trusted allies’.   We buy their oil and we sell them our armaments and don’t ask too many questions.  As I have said before, nowadays it isn’t ‘what is done’ but ‘who did it’ that is of greatest concern to our Government and that of our American allies.  What a pity that not even the combined efforts of the CIA and MI6 can manage to establish that Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein and President Assad, conspired together to carry out ‘9/11’!

Merry Christmas?

     This will be my last blog before Christmas, probably the last blog in 2014.  It’s the season of good will and I’d very much like to wish all humankind a Happy Christmas and  New Year.

       Sadly the news seems to get worse from day to day. World-wide no early effective action will be taken place to counter climate change.  On the other side of the world, in Sydney Australia, a jihadist fanatic has held the customers and staff of a busy café hostage – a situation that resulted in the death of the fanatic, of the café’s  manager and of one of the customers, a barrister in her thirties with two children.  Worst of all was the massacre by the Pakistan Taliban of 132 children, and nine members of the staff, at a school in Peshawar in north-western Pakistan – a crime even more heinous than that of  King Herod’s slaughter of the 'Holy Innocents’ in Bethlehem two thousand years ago!

     For ‘good news’ we are told about the new vessel –  half a kilometre long! – that is being built in South Korea to exploit new fields of (greenhouse gas producing) oil that lie beneath the ocean floor off the north of Australia. The production of similar enormous vessels to extract and process submarine oil fields is planned for the future!

     It’s the ‘season of good will’ and I have to  confess that I feel very little good will towards politicians who are prepared to sacrifice future generations in their pursuit of immediate economic or political advantage.  I feel even less good will towards those who torture or murder their fellow men and women in the blasphemous belief that their crimes will earn them the favour of God, and none at all towards those, whoever they may be and whatever their cause, pretext or excuse, who harm or kill innocent children.

     That said, I do wish a very Happy Christmas and a New Year of Peace and Hope to all readers of this blog and to all those who, with love for humanity in their hearts, are striving to make this sad world a happier place, and to work towards an answer to our prayer, Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’.




































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