Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hillary Clinton's secret career


Former U.S. First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a little-known second string to her bow: novel-writing. Adding a scarf and dropping an "l" in her forename she becomes her alter ego, controversial author Hilary Mantel.

So what is her real opinion of Margaret Thatcher? I think we should be told.


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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Reflection on 2014


Yet another year seems to have flown by in a blur. Where does all the time go?
2014 saw the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1 and a series of events throughout the UK were scheduled to commemorate this occasion. This is a recurring theme at many of the places that I visited over the year.
Our first holiday of the year was to Mechelen in Belgium. This was our Christmas present to each other. Mechelen is rich in history and is also a place of many bicycles that inspired me to purchase a new bicycle on my return home. Throughout the summer months I enjoyed cycling around the nearby lanes with my camera ever ready in the bicycle basket.
Our next break was a weekend in Salisbury where I was able to visit Stonehenge and Avebury, two places I have been promising to revisit for some time.  My Mum accompanied us on the trip to make up for last years cancelled trip to Oxford; we had promised to take her away for a few days as soon as her broken leg had recovered enough. Later in the year we also went to Oxford although not on my birthday weekend as we had planned in 2013.
2014 was the year that Mr C became a gentleman of a certain age.  We spent his birthday weekend in London so that we could visit the Natural History Museum’s exhibition on mammoths, the highlight of which was Lyuba, a well preserved baby mammoth found in the Siberian tundra.
Whilst in London we took time to visit the Tower of London to see the major art installation; Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red which was part of the WW1 centenary commemorations. We saw the ceramic poppies being planted in the Tower’s moat with a Yeoman Warder helping co-ordinate the proceedings. We returned to the Tower in November, just three days before the last poppy was planted. On this occasion we also heard the commemorative roll call and the playing of the last post, which I found moving. I had been following this project since it was announced on the Tower of London’s website earlier in the year so I was pleased to have had the opportunity to see it twice and also purchase one of the ceramic poppies which arrived in early December.
Due to unforeseen circumstances we had to shelve Mr C’s original plan for a birthday holiday abroad. Instead, we planned a more modest but no less interesting vacation in Winchester during September. The weather was kind to us and we were able to wander around without coats. I had the opportunity to revisit Avebury more thoroughly than we had managed earlier in the year.
I was lucky enough to meet up with blog friends when the Shutterchance group met at RAF Museum Cosford in May. A good time was had by all. I revisited Cosford later in the year and found that replica WW1 planes had arrived and were to be part of the museum’s WW1 centenary commemorations. I must go back for another visit now that the exhibition is fully open.  Another place we visited in connection with WW1 commemorations was Dunham Massey which is currently displaying some of its rooms as they were when it was a war time hospital. On the subject of blog friends there was a touch of sadness when the Vision & Verb collaborative project (of women of a certain age) reached its conclusion in July.
I visited the National Memorial Arboretum for the first time in May. In keeping with the WW1 commemorations I followed a WW1 centenary trail. My visit there was a very moving experience.
Other places I visited were; Hodnet Hall Garden, Berrington Hall, Westonbury Water Gardens, Weston Park, Wroxeter’s Roman City and nearby St Andrew’s Church (where I was able to take photographs after two previously failed attempts). I visited Attingham Park on more than one occasion, the most recent being a few days before Christmas to see the house decked out to a ‘Christmas Through the Ages’ theme;  just the thing to put me in the Christmas spirit.
I wonder what 2015 will bring...
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

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Bullshed!



Neologism announcement:

Since the recent appearance of the word "shedload", even though sheds are not used to carry loads, nor are carts normally piled high with sheds, I have decided that if I can't beat 'em I'll have to join 'em and take 'em further.

So, join me in calling "bullshed!" on all the fertiliser we anticipate reading and hearing in 2015.


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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Daft advice

(Pic source)

Facebook is full of cornpone philosophy and snappy advice you didn't ask for, but this one is a peach: "10 Questions To Ask Before Getting Married". The fourth is my favourite, I think:

"What about your sex life?

"You should discuss and plan your sex life, if you are compatible in frequency and fidelity, how you will keep it fresh, and how you will handle changes. You should also thoroughly discuss boundaries and fetishes."

Can I suggest a couple of competitions?

1. Treat the above as a scripted scene involving the couple and their pastor/vicar/priest/rabbi in prenuptial discussion.

2. Alternatively, make up your own decalogue of questions (e.g. "What's your name?", "Are you married?" and the killer-decider, "Do you like Justin Bieber?")


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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Modern party politics trumps democratic representation and personal principle

Craig Murray, on his unsuccessful attempt to become an SNP Parliamentary candidate for Westminster:

"I was asked at assessment whether, as part of a Westminster deal with another party, I would agree to vote for the bedroom tax if instructed by the Party. I replied “No.” End of SNP political career. Problem is, I really believed we were building a different kind of politics in Scotland. I also knew that a simple lie would get me in, but I couldn’t bring myself to utter it...

"I’m afraid to say that the Panel did not feel able to recommend you for approval as a potential parliamentary candidate at this time. While you showed excellent qualities, you could not give a full commitment on group discipline issues...

"...the only question to which I gave an answer that could possibly be interpreted that way, was the one... on the bedroom tax. There was, incidentally, no corresponding question designed to test the loyalty of right wing people."

Party politics is ripe for culling. No wonder we have direct-democracy campaigns such as the Harrogate Agenda.


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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Season's Greetings!



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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A few theological thoughts

The existence or non-existence of God is so, irrespective of people's beliefs and ratty quarrels. But if He does exist and is the creator of the universe then he cannot be described in terms of space and time, so His nature is ineffable.

Even in the purest of knowledge - mathematics - Kurt Gödel showed that there are assertions that even if true are unprovable and so there is no complete knowledge.

Academic theology was of little interest to either Jesus or Gautama Buddha (who said don't speculate on how the arrow got there, just pull it out). When St Thomas Aquinas had his mystical experience, all his theological writings seemed like straw to him and he stopped altogether.

Roll up your battle flags and show what you believe by how you are. That's quite daunting enough for me.


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Russell Brand begins his financial education



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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Russell Brand's Silly Ideas: Affordable Housing

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/new-era-estate-victory-residents-with-russell-brands-help-stop-takeover-of-their-estate-9937074.html

http://www.citylab.com/housing/2014/12/paris-wants-to-keep-central-neighborhoods-from-becoming-ghettos-for-the-rich/383936/

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/social-cleansing-londons-council-estates-4076556

... Remember Shirley Porter and the Homes For Votes scandal? Now criticise Russell Brand, again... What a silly old Hector he is!

(source)



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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Defending the bully-d*ckhead Russell Brand

A clever piece by "Squander Two", apparently going viral, about a confrontation with the poseur and unfocused protorevolutionary Russell Brand (htp: Anna Raccoon). And yet...

I've commented:

Brand is a blast from the past - about 1968 - 72-ish. And doubtless quite easy to rile, just like the American reporter who questioned Lennon in the 1969 bed-in and got a snarly Liverpudlian response.
 
On the other hand, your piece I find has a whiff of the disingenuous; artful stuff, all those references to food. Hungry bankers at Christmas... Skilfully done, some good points, and of course RB is not really much good at argumentation, which is why he uses so many words. Expect you'd beat him in a debate. Maybe that's why the BBC gives him airtime, to strike a faux balance between protest and the Establishment and weaken the former's credibility. That and his priapic reputation.

Shame so few people talk about the way the banking industry, encouraged by politicians, has messed up the economy with excessive debt and resource misallocation since at least the 70s, but that's a subject RB isn't up to analysing in his Michael Moore-ish way.

By the way, I'm given to understand it's noradrenaline, not adrenaline, that powers the fight or flight reaction. Either way, I don't blame you a bit for curdling at his invasion of your personal space.

If only there was a less vain and more penetrating advocate than the slightly addled Brand. The PPI and FX rows are tiny thunderrumbles compared to the gathering Force 5 financial hurricane caused by decades of monetary warming. Or maybe I'm wrong and it'll all turn out for the best in the end. Let's leave it to the experts as the economy "recovers", hey?


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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bread and circuses

source unknown

Imagine you are a fly on the wall listening to an informal chat among a few UN and EU bureaucrats. Over a quiet cup of coffee their conversation turns to education and what the world must do for its citizens.

“Obviously we need billions of highly educated people to solve numerous problems for humanity at large –“

“No we don’t.”

“Pardon.”

“We need peasants with only a basic education and without the wit to make trouble.”

“Too cynical - surely.”

“No - it's how things are. We have enough tech and we have enough science so we don’t need billions of educated people. A few million at most – say one percent of the global population. The rest are destined to be peasants so we may as well train them accordingly.”

“Well for one thing they won’t accept it.”

“They have no choice. We must educate the masses to be bystanders, which is what they are anyway. Bread and circuses – tried and tested and the only way it can be done. Should take a couple of generations max.”

“Too cynical.”

“Not really. What the hell will they do when the robots come, these billions of educated people? Watch movies all day? Do you paint your neighbour's house while he paints yours?”

“All the same –“

“We are not all the same though are we - you and I? We are not numbered among those billions. In reality the buck stops here so we have to do what is best for everyone, like it or not. I can’t say I like it particularly but I’m not prepared to duck my responsibilities.”

“I still say it won’t work.”

“Yes it will. There are only two basic policies any government can follow – war or bread and circuses. All governments must pursue one or the other so naturally enough a global government is stuck with bread and circuses. It’s our only option.”

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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The real leviathan

source

This is a graph of global consumer spending produced in 2012 by ATKearney. As you see, the figure for 2010 was $28 trillion which is projected to rise to $40 trillion by 2020.

I’ve no idea if these figures are realistic or not, but what impresses me about them is the gargantuan size of global consumer spending. Not so long ago, the danger of rampant consumerism was a significant topic among the chattering classes. Now it seems to have died down a little, or maybe it has been replaced by other worries.

Yet a moment of reflection is all we require to see what a monster consumerism is. How is anyone supposed to resist or control it? Perhaps we don’t need to resist or control it, which if true is just as well because it looks far too big to my eyes. The hunter gatherer is now merely a gatherer and destined to remain so until something gives.

The yen for a consumer lifestyle is at least partly responsible for sucking women out the home, sweeping kids off the open fields and onto the TV couch, filling their bedrooms with unused toys, jamming our roads with cars, pouring wine down our gullets, sucking us into restaurants, fast food outlets, cruise ships, airliners, holiday destinations, clothes we don’t need and every time-destroying wheeze we can be suckered into buying.

Well it’s better than war of course, but what about that leviathan, that multi-trillion dollar consumption monster? Are we ever likely to oppose its apparently insatiable demands. Maybe there is a clue in that word insatiable. Perhaps we are becoming satiated.

Nope.

All the ghastly tawdriness of Christmas has trundled round again and my cynical old eyes see no sign of any change - just the opposite if anything. Strewth it's horrible - at least Tesco was today.

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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Jamie Dimon, the man who put the turd in your turducken

"Wall Street’s biggest banks squeezed out a victory this week when the House narrowly approved a spending bill with provisions that would weaken a section of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations," says The Washington Post.

Then it tries to sweeten the bitter pill by saying, "But the win came at a high cost for the banks -- in spending down their political capital and inflaming public opinion."

As though the demigods playing carelessly with your money give a damn what you think. What bothers them is the possibility of having their train set taken away by the impact of falling oil prices on the unbelievably inflated derivatives market, as Ellen Brown explains.

Derivatives are the fourth horseman in Michael Panzner's apocalyptic vision of a destroyed world economy. Sat behind him, like the lethally oversized crowd in "Widecombe Fair", are the financial establishment and all those they have bought and bullied, and by George they want cushions and helmets for everybody who matters.

Democracy is a sick joke. On both sides of the Atlantic, a professional class of political gamesters have worked out how to get what they want for themselves while appearing to be answerable to you. In the case of last week's "CRomnibus", it was the blackmail of not approving the US Government's budget bill unless it had a deadly rider strapped into the saddle: banks that gamble with your deposits insisted on having the latter insured so that the bets could be bigger and more reckless. My bet wins, I win; my bet loses, you pay.

Matt Taibbi is close to despair at the complicity of the Democrats: "... they're not a real party. They're a marketing phenomenon, a big chunk of oligarchical Blob cleverly sold to voters as the more reasonable and less nakedly corrupt wing of a two-headed political establishment."

Are they wrong, these cynical psychopaths who are masters of our universe; or are we wrong, for expecting any other result?

There is an episode in Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" where a foreign student in Paris is directed to the toilet but in his ignorance uses the bidet instead. Miller extrapolates this (p.158) into a vision of a heavenly feast in which you are brought a silver platter, which has on it only two stinking "number twos".

Do you imagine that the silver platter-owners can't guess your opinion? It's part of the treat for them.


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Friday, December 12, 2014

2015

source


For the sake of something which no one loves, strife never arises, there is no pain if it perishes, no envy if it is possessed by someone else, nor fear, nor hatred, and, to put it all briefly, no commotions of the mind at all.

Baruch Spinoza Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione (1677)

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Smelting

source

Is there a connection between Tony Blair's climate change charity, the world's largest aluminium smelter and a Russian oligarch?

Give up?

Try Paul Homewood's post

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I don't know

Hans Holbein the Younger: "The Ambassadors" (1533)

There they are, wealthy, powerful, knowing who's who and what's what. And there it is, the distorted skull cutting across the illusion of three-dimensionality.

A few weeks ago, the always-original thinker Scott Adams tried his hand at explaining the universe, and explaining away any notion of a divine creator. Yet as I wrote to him, maybe some questions may have a truth-value and yet not be scientific. For if (if) someone created the universe, which we now understand to be a continuum of space-time, then the categories of space and time may not apply to the creator. Even if the universe has always existed (and this is to apply the concept of time in a way that may not be legitimate, since it seems to see the universe as framed in time, rather than time being part of the structure), there is still the question, why is there something rather than nothing? And for those who explain the universe as the product of collisions between unobservable meta-universes, the same question can be asked again. As Wittgenstein said, whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

Think of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who abandoned his huge work of systematic theology after an experience that left him saying, "All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me."

Or of the SF writer Philip K Dick - and the revelation that led him (among other things) to save his infant son's life. See Robert Crumb's artstrip here.

I just don't know, and maybe those who think they do also don't know.



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Ourobouros and the melt-up

(Source)

We appear to be entering a very dangerous phase. The system is using deceit to cover the fact that it is creating its own investment. Like flying by pulling on your bootstraps, it can't work, so it won't.

Frances Coppola has been discussing Juncker's plan, and a commenter explains how a dodgy trader's scheme will get the money in and straight out again - with doubtless nice fees and bonuses for the illusionist.

This is "melt-up" territory. If you get it exactly right, you will make a fortune, and if you don't, you'll lose your shirt. I've never claimed or wanted to be that sort of adventurous trader, and goodness knows what happens to the ordinary person during and at the end of this Wild Ride.


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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Attenuated regret

H H Munro (Saki)
source

Reggie listened with the attenuated regret that one bestows on an earthquake disaster in Bolivia or a crop failure in Eastern Turkestan, events which seem so distant that one can almost persuade oneself they haven’t happened.
H H Munro (Saki) - The Toys of Peace and Other Papers (1919)

Every now and then one comes across a gem of a phrase which perfectly encapsulates an aspect of social behaviour. To my mind, one such is attenuated regret as Saki used it. 

Did he invent this delicious phrase? I don't know, but a Google search for "attenuated regret" only gives around 218 results which is appalling for something so delightfully precise.

TV news readers have special facial expressions for attenuated regret, used when reporting disaster or tragic misfortune.

I wonder if they practice in front of the mirror, adjusting their features to achieve the correct degree of attenuation while at the same time preserving a clear semblance of regret? 

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Justice denied

A few days ago I did an anonymised summary of what happened to Victor Nealon, who served 17 years of a 10-year sentence for an attempted rape of which DNA evidence subsequently cleared him. Now he's being pursued for the legal cost of refusing him compensation.

How about a case from 1970 that went to the Court of Appeal four times and was rejected every time, despite a highly dodgy impromptu identification made in an unannounced 2-3 second night visit to the suspect's doorstep, accompanied by police officers who had simply "had a hunch" that the man might have been involved?

He'd been celebrating his birthday at home with his wife and daughter at the time, but as the judge counselled the jury: “Watch it, members of the jury …. This is a family alibi.”

Then, three years after the man's release from prison, a London gangster copped to having done the job, giving plenty of verifiable detail. But even that wasn't enough to reverse the verdict.

Tony Stock, the man jailed for the crime, died in 2012 unexonerated.

More here.


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Friday, December 05, 2014

A Complaint

Our new contributor Sebastopol McToffbodger highlights a consumer issue for parents:



Dear Disney Store

I wish to make a complaint. I recently purchased a Toy Story Woody Talking Doll for my son Liam as the film is definitely one of his favourites, he plays it all the time.

But imagine his disappointment when he opened the box and found the item above left which is not at all like the picture on the web (right). I told him that that is how cowboys dress in winter but I’m not sure he believes me.

The voice is wrong too, you can hardly understand what it is saying but what you do hear isn’t like in the film, it keeps on with ‘Cost of living crisis’, ‘It’s the same old Tories’ and ‘squeezed middle’ which doesn’t make sense to either of us though Liam’s stepdad laughed and all vodka came down his nose.

The version we bought is supposed to be recordable but when my partner tried to make it say “Labour’s deficit” and “I was a Privy Councillor with the last lot” the string stuck and the jaw just flapped up and down silently.

I am sure you will agree this is not at all the service we expect from a major supplier like yourselves and I look forward to hearing what you intend to do about it.

Yours sincerely

Bethan-Marie Carter-Allsopp (Ms)


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Thursday, December 04, 2014

45 years on

It didn't make a difference, except that saying it meant you didn't consent. Perhaps in the great theatre of the eternal, that makes a difference.




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A child's-eye view of robofascism




The above clip is from a child's game called Raft Wars 2. As with the original, cute little characters (including a baby) bravely battle a series of teams of bad guys.

But one of the teams in version 2 interests me. The bad guys are in blue and labelled "Security" - and not our security, obviously. This team appears more than once in the game, and has a helicopter and several missile-launching drones.

Is it too much to treat this as a sign of the times? More in a moment...

IT'S BEEN 40 years since the William Tyndale School scandal began to brew- ooh lefty teachers and their progressive methods, good job they were smacked down.

Except that such methods were not unique to that school, but were generally accepted and enshrined in the Plowden report. Today even more than then, we are aware of the multiple differences between children in their mental and emotional makeup, not to mention the multifarious traumas that they carry with them because of modern widespread family dysfunction.

A not-terribly-well-written 2008 review of the affair by a retired head (how come so many teachers can't write?) got a riposte from Brian Haddow, the deputy head at the time. He maintains that what made it important to smack down Tyndale was that implicit in a more cooperative learning approach is the principle of active democracy.

Up to a point. Tyndale was a gift to reactionaries because of the intransigence of the leadership. If the latter had taken time to sell their ideas to all those involved, tweak their systems in the light of experience, and soothe those who were upset, the outcome might have been very different. But the British are just as uncompromisingly self-righteous as any other nation - quite possibly we can blame the revolutions and civil wars of the eighteenth century onward, on the pig-headed Puritans that Elizabeth I contained for so long during her reign. So it was "my way or the highway" - and the fragmentation began.

As I recall, the leaks and counter-briefing began with a member of staff who was not a teacher and who didn't feel her views had been valued (some teachers today may find that their TA can be a challenge as well as an asset).

At any rate, Parliament got into the control issue and we now have inspectorate squads of Fault-Finder Generals roaming the country in search of schools to pick apart and justify conversion to the Latest Great Thing: Academies! The business model rules - if by that you understand widening disparity in pay, increasingly high-handed (and venal) management, etc. We've seen it all before in tertiary education.

Returning to Brian Haddow's letter, one of the things he says points the way to the debate we should be having today:

"We are tightly regulated and policed because of social fragmentation and a breakdown of ideological consensus."

I'm not sure when we did have consensus, except in response to the dreadful threat of the Nazis and then the need to rebuild our country after 1945. But economic globalism is driving fat wedges into our population, as billionaire Jimmy Goldmsith warned so clearly in 1994 during the GATT talks (see the interview here). With overpriced assets (especially houses) powered by ridiculous levels of debt, we cannot possibly drop our wages to compete with the emerging economies. The playing field has been heavily tilted towards mobile capital and against much-less-mobile labour.

And then there is identity. I find it really hard to understand why political leaders don't appreciate how much identity matters to people. Yorks v Lancs, Scots v sassenachs, one football team v another - surely it must be obvious that these reflect fundamental instincts that need to be handled very carefully. Yet the EU's insistence on totally unrestricted freedom of movement creates just the sort of strains that its starry-eyed Ode To Joy brotherhood theme was meant to deal with. There is no such thing as a unihuman.

Now since globalism won't work*, it must be made to work, and the hammer to drive the square peg into the round hole is: security.

The "conservatives" (they aren't) with their money-obsession, and the Left with its amorphous goodbuddy dreams are combining to create the conditions for fascism.

Do we really want a world full of robospies and ubiquitous buzzy drones? Do we have to make nervous old ladies check for beardies under the bed? Couldn't we just have national sovereignty and the Rule of Law?
______________

*(Of course, it does work - most for those who matter most - otherwise it wouldn't be allowed.)


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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

CCTV is so last year




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The technologies are not new, but as yet the possibilities are barely off the ground. This is just an example.

Source   More here.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral

The current Cathedral was begun in 1079, 13 years after William the Conqueror invaded England. During its construction it was the largest church north of the Alps. It was built in the Romanesque style of Normandy and later extended. The only parts of the Norman original to remain are the north and south transepts and the crypt. The construction of this new cathedral was well under way and had received its first dedication before the Anglo-Saxon minster was demolished with some of its stones being used in the new cathedral.

The first church at the site where Winchester Cathedral now stands was built around 648. It was a small Anglo-Saxon church, which later became known as Old Minster. This original modest church was enlarged between the years of 973-994. In the grounds to the north of Winchester Cathedral a red brick outline shows the position of original cruciform church and a grey outline shows the footings of the enlarged church.

The cathedral is impressive from the outside but when you step inside, the immense height and scale of the building inspires a sense of awe. Today, the cathedral contains many treasures and on entering the building you are greeted with the stunning beauty of the nave. The columns draw the eye towards the quire which is concealed behind a finely carved wooden screen.

Walking down the north aisle, and due to the number of people congregating, it is impossible to miss the grave of Jane Austen with its nearby brass commemorative plaque and memorial window. Not far from the grave in the nave is a carved 12th century font made from Belgian black Tournai marble. It depicts scenes from the life of St Nicholas who was Bishop of Myra in about AD300.

The Crypt with Sound II by Antony Gormley

The oldest part of the cathedral is the crypt which was designed to raise the east of the cathedral to emulate the ‘holy hill’ on which Jerusalem and the temple were built. Beneath the crypt is a well in the place of the original high altar. Within the crypt is a modern sculpture called Sound II, designed by Antony Gormley. The crypt regularly floods so the sculpture was designed to stand in water and with cupped hands to hold water, the symbolism being that we should be still for a moment to ‘sound’ the depths of our own spirit.

Icons by Sergei Fyodorov and the tunnel entrance

Steps not far from the crypt were used by pilgrims in the last part of their journey to visit the shrine of St Swithun. After climbing the ‘pilgrim steps’ the pilgrims entered a tunnel through a still visible ‘Holy Hole’ so they could be closer to the Holy Relics. St Swithun was initially buried outside the Old Minster but was later reinterred inside that church on 15th July 971 against his original wishes. It is alleged that it rained for forty days giving rise to the legend, that if it rains on St Swithun’s day, it will rain for the next forty days. In 1093 his remains were once again removed to the present cathedral and it is thought that from 1150 his shrine was situated on a platform behind the high altar. The shrine was later moved to the location of the current memorial, the original having been destroyed in 1538 on the orders of King Henry VIII.

Near to the current shrine, above the ‘Holy Hole’ can be seen a series of Russian icons, painted by Sergei Fyodorov, from the left they depict; St Birinus, St Peter, Archangel Michael, Mary, Christ, John the Baptist, Archangel Gabriel, St Paul and St Swithun.

William Walker by Glynn Williams

In front of the three chapels that are situated at the east end of the cathedral stands a small memorial statue of William Walker who is known as the ‘Winchester Diver’. In the early 1900s large cracks appeared within the walls of Winchester Cathedral, Soft peat and a high water table had caused the foundations to sink. A diver, William Walker was employed to underpin the foundations of the cathedral. William spent six hours a day for six years in water below the cathedral in order to shore up the foundations.

The Quire

Behind the high altar stands a stunning Great Screen which was completed in 1745. Originally it was covered in brightly coloured statues of the saints but these were removed during the Reformation. The current statues were added in the 1880s and include representatives of the English church. If you face away from the altar you can see the intricately carved quire stalls designed to keep the monks warm and comfortable as they prayed, the symbolism depicted on the stalls assisting their prayers. The stalls date from the 1300s and feature mythical beasts, foliage, animals, the pagan ‘green man’ and motifs from everyday life. The fact that these were not Christian symbols means that they survived the Reformation.

The Chapel of St John the Evangelist and the Fisherman Apostles

One of the south transept chapels, The Chapel of St John the Evangelist and the Fisherman Apostles, drew me in. Within this chapel can be found the grave of Izaak Walton, who became famous as the author of ‘The Complete Angler’. The modern altar by Peter Eugine Ball is carved from an oak tree that was felled in a storm. It depicts scenes of swirling water and several types of fish that are mentioned in Isaak’s book. Next to the altar is a statue, also by Peter Eugine Ball, entitled Pieta, which depicts the deep grief and faith of the Mother of Jesus. The statues to either side of the altar depict the fisherman’s apostles Peter and Andrew as do the stained glass window which also incorporates Isaak Walton sitting next to Winchester’s River Itchen. The seats made of green oak by Alison Crowther feature gentle ripples and wave-like backs. This completes the theme of sitting by a riverside and being refreshed by the blessings of nature.

I took time to sit quietly and reflect in this tranquil space…

I would have liked to see the Winchester Bible and the Triforium Gallery but that was not possible on my two visits. Maybe next time…

I have shared just a few of the cathedral’s many treasures and now I leave it for you, if you choose to visit, to seek out your own treasures and pathway through the Cathedral of Winchester.

  • More history and treasures of Winchester Cathedral can be found on the Cathedral's website

Information sources Winchester Cathedral Pitkin guide and Winchester Cathedral, A short guide – Official Cathedral Guide.

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Monday, December 01, 2014

In your own words

source

In an idle moment I recently checked when I last sent a letter. September 2011 seems to be the most recent – a little over three years ago.

I know because I compose my letters in MS Word before printing them off and signing them. At least that’s what I used to do. I’ve no idea when I last sent a hand-written letter - or if I’ll ever send another. Probably not.

As you probably know, MS Word is able to correct certain spelling errors and highlight what it thinks are grammatical infelicities; as well as picking up missing punctuation or the same word written twice in succession. Such as ho ho.

Imagine a situation where this kind of automated assistance becomes a little more intrusive throughout the embedded text editors of email and social media. As with a spell checker it could highlight inappropriate words and suggest alternatives. A word such as “shit” could become slightly more difficult to write unless the digital assistant is switched off.

Maybe the loss of “shit” is no big deal, but what if the text editing software becomes still more intrusive and fiddly workarounds are needed to write the word “shit” at all. Taking it a stage further, suppose alternative phrasing is suggested whenever we leave a radical comment in the social media.

It isn’t an issue of libel, racism or whatever. There are usually existing policies for those issues. What is suggested here is more speculative. It lies in the technology and possibilities of a proximate future. A future of endlessly tightened guidance by all kinds of embedded text editors as they are tuned to our habits and to social norms.

This could occur under pressure from government bodies, pressure groups, charities and all the usual suspects - including mainstream media of course. Step by step is usually the way.

So what if one day we find our words are no longer our own?

Many won’t notice because they don’t use social media to express themselves in a radical manner. Their idle chatter is likely to remain untouched apart from digital finger-wagging over the expletives and a raised digital eyebrow when the ramblings become particularly incoherent.

What do you think?

Feel free to comment.

For now.

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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.