Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Scotland's Government-appointed godparents

I don't know how I missed this...

"The proposal to appoint specific named persons from the NHS and councils to monitor every young person's well-being from birth to 18 is considered one of the most controversial aspects of the bill."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-26208628


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Police pornography

"Police... arrested the teen and took him to juvenile jail, where Foster said they took photos of the teen’s genitals against his will.

"The case was set for trial on July 1, where Foster said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne Richardson told her that her client must either plead guilty or police would obtain another search warrant “for pictures of his erect penis,” for comparison to the evidence from the teen’s cell phone.

"Foster asked how that would be accomplished and was told that “we just take him down to the hospital, give him a shot and then take the pictures that we need.” "

- Washington Post

For more on absurd and invasive officialdom, see this article on Ron Paul's site.


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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gone Goondi-very-windy

Expat Paul Tredgett recounts the challenges of an outback B&B in a hurricane...

Satellite image: Google

Every business has difficult times, makes mistakes and disappoints customers. It is what you do from there which makes the difference. Sometimes the circumstances are beyond your control, but still how you respond makes the difference. What gets up people's noses is when nobody cares, when your are referred to somebody else to get rid of you, and you have to state your case again and again. Where you can’t even contact anybody with the authority to make a decision or resolve the issue. We’ve all been there.

Enter B&B. Or ‘Hosted Accommodation’. In nearly all cases, the owner is the operator on a property they own and consider home. I am one. I not only consider it a business obligation to provide the best service that I can, it is also part of my pride and emotional well-being to share my beautiful environment to provide an enjoyable and satisfying experience. And you have to go far to find the boss who can make decisions and resolve issues, he or she probably greeted you on arrival.

Recently Cyclone Ita molested this part of the coast and brought inconvenience to many.

The cyclone was only a cat 1 when it went somewhere near a couple of days ago. Pretty windy but only one tree across the track, not like the hundreds in the last 2 cyclones. But it rained a bit. 246 mm yesterday and most of that in 3 hours in the afternoon. In the middle of that wind and pelting rain, a guest arrived but I told him to stop at the top of the hill as the creek was 30m wide, navel deep and doing quite a rate of knots. Couldn’t even risk wading through. Fortunately, there is the bridge near Blackbean Cottage. It wasn’t visible, being 400mm underwater, but I assured him that there was one and please follow directly behind me, as it is quite narrow. I had one end of his wheelie suitcase. I disgraced myself twice by missing the bridge and plunging into the water, but had the presence of mind to let go the luggage which he manfully struggled to keep above the waters.

He later agreed that although he is very well traveled, he has never before had quite that experience when arriving at a hotel reception, with storm and tempest and disappearing receptionist/porter. Fortunately, he had a sense of humour.

The rest of the party has arrived yesterday, having flown from Sydney , but the plane made 2 aborted landing attempts before the pilot made a decision between discretion and valour and headed back to land in Brisbane. My guests were accommodated and flown back today at the airlines expense. Both the Gillies and Kuranda range still closed, probably land slips, so they came up the Palmeston. I do appreciate the effort they all made to get here. Lesser mortals would have just cancelled out.

Next day I assembled the able-bodied guests down at the bottom of the waterfall in the rainforest also known as ‘leech central’, due to their abundance there. The occasion was hauling the hydro generator out of the creek as it had been swept away in the floods. It weighs 110 kg and I needed the help.

B&B’s can provide personal service, direct involvement, interesting experiences and perhaps even an educational opportunity. A hotel or motel can provide predictable comfort ranging from adequate to luxurious depending on your budget, but B&B’s often provide something special that you have never experienced before.

Possum Valley is a bit on the wild side. Many offer gentle luxury. Choose carefully.

Originally posted on Paul's blog as "Awkward Moments."


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It's okay to be free, as long as you don't tell anyone

"City officials ignored her activities until she went public and discussed them with Liza Fernandez, a reporter for a local TV station."

What activities? Disconnecting from city utilities and using rainwater and sunlight instead.

(htp: Ron Paul)



Sshhhhh!


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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The encroachment of the State can't be stopped if people increasingly give it the justification

The case after case listed at the Ron Paul site is interesting, not just for the encroachment of the police state but for the stupidity and/or borderline criminality of the punished anyway:
Whether it’s the working mother arrested for letting her 9-year-old play unsupervised at a playground, the teenager forced to have his genitals photographed by police, the underage burglar sentenced to 23 years for shooting a retired police dog, or the 43-year-old man who died of a heart attack after being put in a chokehold by NYPD officers allegedly over the sale of untaxed cigarettes, the theater of the absurd that passes for life in the American police state grows more tragic and incomprehensible by the day. 
In Georgia, a toddler had his face severely burned when a flash bang grenade, launched by a SWAT team during the course of a no-knock warrant, landed in his portable crib, detonating on his pillow. Also in Georgia, a police officer shot and killed a 17-year-old boy who answered the door, reportedly with a Nintendo Wii controller in his hands. The cop claimed the teenager pointed a gun at her, thereby justifying the use of deadly force. 
Then there was the incident wherein a police officer, responding to a complaint that some children were “chopping off tree limbs” creating “tripping hazards,”pulled a gun on a group of 11-year-old boys who were playing in a wooded area, attempting to build a tree fort.
The trouble is, the criticism of both sides is justified.  Yes, the SWAT team and female police officer were not only way OTT but they were criminal as well.  On the other hand, the burglar shooting the police dog needed to be put away all right.  But for 23 years? The public itself is making it so easy for the enforcers to get in and do what they shouldn't.  Much has been written about Mentoring programmes and these look nasty. It's become a science with its own sets of qualifications, extending the social service departments of local authorities to almost ravening monsters, ready to step in and remove a child at a moment's notice. The product of Children's Minister Aileen Campbell's backers:
Unfortunately, this dystopian future has arrived a little faster than I imagined, as last week the Scottish Government’s plan to give every child a state guardian from birth was launched. This state-appointed overseer will be a specific, named individual, and every child will have one, from birth. The responsibility for creating this named guardian will fall on the heads of the health boards for the first five years of a child’s life, before being transferred to councils. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this development is that it clearly comes in large part as a mechanism to target and prevent child abuse.
It's not just over here:
Boston Children’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Department of Youth and Families take another child hostage because hospital staff disagree with the parents on the child’s medical diagnosis.  In California, “Baby Sammy” was taken from his parents because they left one hospital to seek a second opinion at another before subjecting the child to open-heart surgery.  In Ohio, an Amish family was forced to flee the country to spare their daughter unwanted and dangerous chemo-therapy, including a cocktail of drugs not approved for children by the FDA. Reports indicate the girl is in remission through natural means, but the Ohio hospital and child services department are livid.
In every case though, there were ostensible justifications which many might agree with.  In other words, there is a new era of parental irresponsibility, particularly with the young and single parent.  Over here, Labour acknowledges the problem but as it always does, tries to sheet it home to poverty because that ties into inequality and that means the rich can be slugged and the middle-class further attacked and eroded to "even the playing field" to that of stagnant mediocrity.

 All the while, state institution administrators draw fatcat salaries - witness the Baby P payout to Shoesmith. So what we have on the one hand is a society progressively debilitated, e.g. by the single parent family on benefits, the rise of gay adoption and so many other factors contributing to the death of the two original parent family which cost considerably less and gave a better chance to the child. Single parent families have issues.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/3235650/Children-in-single-parent-families-more-likely-to-suffer-emotional-problems-report-finds.html

 Even left-leaning publications acknowledge certain facts:
  http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/07/single_motherhood_worse_for_children_.html

 No one's suggesting it is the only factor - there is the world culture at an earlier and earlier age, dark gaming, children isolating themselves online, whereas once they were part of the family and so on and so on. The point being that the question of bad or irresponsible parenting is increasingly hard to define. It used to be the child found in squalour, with faeces about, having not being fed. But now even middle-class families which might have passed muster before fail on the criteria of increasingly empowered state agencies - hence the issues quoted and linked to above.

 And every one of those defends to the death that the children are loved and are being brought up well, that the parent knows "tons" of other cases where the original parents are abusive to each other and so on. And once again, these people are not wrong. Nor are those pointing the finger at single parents' situations.

They're all correct on their side of the argument. The issues, not cut and dried and fiercely contested, are simply an open invitation for the Mentor Service to step in. The Mentor Service is the foot in the door. It's the Mentor who notices "the problem" and passes it on to Social Services. It is Social Services which take it up from there. Encroachment. It couldn't happen without something to point to and this vanguard of the state does have many things to point to, to justify its intervention.

 Which intervention is, in principle, wrong and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Especially with Common Purpose and its brainwashing present in every council in England near the mayor's office. Common Purpose gets in on everything - witness Leveson. Some try to remove themselves from the State, from the grid but even that is fraught and anticipated. The Ron Paul site again:
Meanwhile if you’re one of those hoping to live off the grid, independent of city resources, you might want to think again. Florida resident Robin Speronis was threatened with eviction for living without utilities. Speronis was accused of violating the International Property Maintenance Code by relying on rain water instead of the city water system and solar panels instead of the electric grid.
Only an American phenomenon?  Blogger Macheath, over here, tells this tale:
Decades ago, in the maternity ward of a hospital later castigated in the national press for its shortcomings, a combination of indifference and brutally rough handling provoked me into expressing my opinion of the ‘skills’ of some of the nursing staff. As the objects of my fury stalked off, another nurse remained behind; “Please be careful,” she said, “if you say things like that, they will report you as having postnatal psychosis and have the Social Services in. They might even take your child away.” Parents, it seems, criticise those placed in power over them at their own peril.
The two points coming out of that are the danger and that it has been going on for a long time in the background in this country, only now it is coming to a head and reaching the press. The Ron Paul site again:
Now we can shrug these incidents off as isolated injustices happening to “other” people. We can rationalize them away by suggesting that these people “must” have done something to warrant such treatment. Or we can acknowledge that this slide into totalitarianism—helped along by overcriminalization, government surveillance, militarized police, neighbors turning in neighbors, privatized prisons, and forced labor camps, to name just a few similarities—is tracking very closely with what we saw happening in Germany in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power. 
When all is said and done, what these incidents reflect is a society that has become so bureaucratic, so legalistic, so politically correct, so militaristic, so locked down, so self righteous, and so willing to march in lockstep with the corporate-minded police state that any deviations from the norm—especially those that offend the sensibilities of the “government-knows-best” nanny state or challenge the powers that be—become grist for prosecution, persecution and endless tribulations for the poor souls who are caught in the crosshairs.
The people themselves must shoulder much of the blame for what they have become. They're almost inviting the State in with their irresponsibility and excessive self-centredness or even being innocent and finding themselves drawn into things made easy for them to be drawn into.  The kindly offer of help.  The kindly pay-day loan people.  The kindly Mentor.  Plus the infantilization of society in which parents would even countenance such things.
So who or what is to blame for this bureaucratic nightmare delivered by way of the police state? Is it the White House? Is it Congress? Is it the Department of Homeland Security, with its mobster mindset? Is it some shadowy, power-hungry entity operating off a nefarious plan? 
Or is it, as Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt suggests, the sheepish masses who mindlessly march in lockstep with the government’s dictates—expressing no outrage, demanding no reform, and issuing no challenge to the status quo—who are to blame for the prison walls being erected around us? 
The author of The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt warned that “the greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”
How many of the people described above are going to be remotely aware of what is happening? And of those who are aware, e.g. readers of this blog - how many dismiss it because it might criticize them either directly or obliquely?

 So therefore, what chance that anything can change and halt the advance of the State via the backdoor route of bureaucracy at local level?  The enormous danger is that the root causes are so diffuse, so hard to pin down, so removed from events further along the chain and so many people have bought into them that there is an inert but still collectively massive barrier to anything being done.

 If, for example, the "all must have prizes" paradigm in schools is but a tiny issue on the surface of a wider malaise and a group of teachers have bought into that, those teachers are not going to support any connection made between that and the malaise of society which allows a portal for the State to move in, even if the case can be made.  There's something for these individuals to lose here.

 And that's how Them operates.  It brings in legislation piece by piece via the backdoor, in response to some need perceived by people.

When they see that contrived need addressed, they're hardly likely to see that they have just enabled further totalitarianism.  When the State publishing organ - the MSM - brings up obesity and paedophilia and smoking and this and that., it wants the people who love banning things to all speak up.

 And slowly, the State, on the say-so of such people, bans this, then there's a new crisis and it bans that and onwards and onwards and then it extends it to everyone, just to be on the safe side, as in that Scottish Children's Ministry Mentor Number for all.

 And there we are.  Ninety Eighty-Four for a new age.

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The Human Fruit Machine

 At the Marldon Apple Pie Fair, Devon, 26.07.2014
On a count of three, the children pull out a random fruit. We won! Brilliant.

  
The apple pie, served with clotted creammm
 
The Exeter Pipe Band
 
I was struck by the last tune they played before the march-off, so I asked Pipey. He gave a wry smile and told me it was "The Gael" from "Last of the Mohicans." Ignorant Sassenach, eh?
 
But I don't see why it can't be authentic if it's not ancient - after all, when the MacCrimmons composed theirs it was new to them. One day they'll honour the name of Dougie Maclean, too. Besides, I think the band's rendition was better than the film's soundtrack.




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Monday, July 28, 2014

Frederick Forsyth on freedom and security

Frederick Forsyth's latest thriller, "The Kill List", is as you'd expect, topical and gripping. An evil Islamic propagandist on the US Pesident's weekly-reviewed assassination list is tracked down and eliminated, using all the sophistication of computer hacking, spy drones and massive databases.

Forsyth's fiction is built on well-researched fact. The Presidential "kill list" really exists, and so does the secretive behemoth of Joint Special Ops Command (J-SOC). Here is an extract from Chapter Two:

"Nine Eleven had triggered a sea change in the American Armed Forces and governmental attitudes to any even remotely conceivable possible threat to the USA. National alertness inched its way towards paranoia. The original sixteen intel. gathering agencies of the USA ballooned to over a thousand.

"By 2012 accurate estimates put the number of Americans with top secret clearance at 850,000. Over 1,200 government organizations and 2,000 private companies were working on top secret projects related to counter-torrism and homeland security at over 10,000 locations across the country. [...]

"The most fundamental increase was in Joint Special Ops Command, or J-SOC. This body had existed for years before Nine Eleven but as a low-profile and principally defensive structure. Two men would convert it into the largest, most aggressive and most lethal private army in the world.

"The word 'private' is justified because it is the personal instrument of the President and of no other.  It can conduct covert war without seeking any sanction from Congress; its multi-billion dollar budget is acquired without ever distrubing the Appropriations Committee, and it can kill you without ruffling the even tenor of the Attorney General's office. It is all top secret."

After this, I anticipated some moral complexity in Forsyth's story, but it concentrates on procedure - how the goodies finally get the baddies. Still, maybe he feels he's given us enough to think about here. After all, a novel is not a lecture.

For freedom and civil rights do seem to matter to him. Here he is in the Daily Express four years ago, commenting on David Davis' 2008 resignation on terror legislation issues:

"He resigned on a point of principle and that principle was the systematic annihilation of chunks of traditional British rights and freedoms by Labour on the usual grounds of “secooooority”. It happens he regards civil rights as damned important, hardly the hallmark of a hang-’em-and-flog-’em dinosaur.

"If to blow away your career on a point of humanitarian principle is “Right wing” some newspapers need a new dictionary. He is actually a traditionalist and things such as habeas corpus, presumed innocence until conviction and no detention without charge are traditional British rights."

How much does J-SOC cost? A secret, though it's thought to be in the billions. And how many lives has it saved - net, discounting for the innocents killed in Hellfire missile strikes and the like? Would the same money spent elsewhere do more good for less expense - for example, the $1,928 estimated cost per life saved in improving neonatal care?

And there are so many other ways to save life in the USA:



Source: Wikipedia

Instead, we have CIA torture (this from Texas Republican Ron Paul, who calls for the Agency to be shut down), and as Washington's Blog says, the crushing of dissent not only abroad but inside the US, plus the backing of ultra-violent groups in foreign countries.

And terrorist attacks on US citizens abroad?

 

Figure 2-01. Leading causes of injury death for
US citizens in foreign countries, 2009–20111,2

(Source)
 
Time for an enquiry into the cost-effectiveness of carte-blanche blank-cheque security arrangements?


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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The rise and fall of the gentleman

Source

Do you know any gentlemen? Perhaps you do - perhaps you are even a member of that apparently dwindling band? For we chaps it's not an easy question is it - am I a gentleman

In my case the answer is a reluctant "no". It may not even be a practical proposition in the modern world yet I have a sneaking suspicion that those with no wish to be a gentleman probably aren't.

I may as well add here that I prefer not to pose a similar question our lady readers. If I may I'll stick to the gentlemen - to coin a phrase.

gentleman
Pronunciation: /ˈdʒɛnt(ə)lmən

NOUN (plural gentlemen)
1 A chivalrous, courteous, or honourable man: he behaved throughout like a perfect gentleman

Historically a gentleman has been many things and chivalrous might be a tad tricky in most areas of modern life, but courteous and honourable shouldn't be too difficult surely? Our leaders could easily set the trend - leading  by example in fact...

...oh dear. I see this line of reasoning might compel me to say something ungentlemanly about our leaders. Which is something I usually enjoy but for the moment I'd better say nothing and move on to a less unsavoury subject.

In fifty years there will be nothing in Europe but Presidents of Republics, not one King left. And with those four letters K-I-N-G, go the priests and the gentlemen. I can see nothing but  candidates paying court to draggletailed  majorities.
Stendhal - Le Rouge et le Noir (1830)

When Stendhal wrote these words, the use of the term gentleman already seems to have begun its apparently terminal decline although there has been an uptick in recent years. Not exactly a hockey stick though and I'm sure the meaning has shifted anyway.  

Not that we should put too much weight on gentlemanly shoulders because at least some were mountebanks, seducers of virgin innocence and even bankers. Dickens created a few, such as the ghastly Pecksniff who certainly posed as a gentleman, albeit not one of independent means.

So coming back to our less than illustrious leaders as I suppose we must in these troubled times, how about our current crop? Are they gentlemen? Mr Putin? Mr Cameron? Mr Obama? 

Would it help if they were - or have we been seduced by the myths of realpolitik?

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Ukraine: Raedwald's take

Cartoon: Taylor Jones

Raedwald's piece on possible sanctions against Russia includes the potential harm to Eurozone's industry and its banks (which have made big loans to Russia).

So the question is, how much does the USA care about the European side-effects of its geopolitical strategy?

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Russia and the Great Game revisited

(pic source)

A couple of months ago I looked at Russia's possible longer-term evolution ("Russia's big plans", April 28); now Peter Hitchens, still struggling to get a balanced message across all the shrilling, reminds us of the bigger picture as seen by the USA:

"It’s useful, at this point, to recall words written by Zbigniew Brzezinski( Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, and the unsung architect of Moscow’s doomed intervention and eventual downfall in Afghanistan. He wrote in his 1997 book ‘The Grand Chessboard’ : ‘Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.’

"‘However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.’"

This provides a context for what seems to be an economic war using European gas consumption as its battleground, as discussed earlier today ("A dirty war for clean energy: Ukraine and beyond").

The attempt to contain Russia, which is under pressure to expand economically in order to stave off a kind of collapse, could potentially be as dangerous as the imperial hemming-in of Germany before WWI, or the victors' pound-of-flesh approach to Germany after 1918.

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A dirty war for clean energy: Ukraine and beyond

From Martin Armstrong today (emphases mine):

"We are getting info from reliable sources that there may be another layer to the USA v Russian conflict. Just as the entire Syrian agenda was to arm terrorists to topple the Syrian government in order to push through a pipeline to cut off the energy monopoly in Europe held by Russia, we may be actually seeing another motive here. The projections of fracking technology that the USA will become a net exporter of energy has set the stage for another perhaps covert move – sanctions against Russia to open the European market for energy. In this new war of words and sanctions against Russia, it is the Americans who seem to be marching either totally brain-dead, or with another energy secret agenda. This very will may be all about one thing -:taking the Russian energy market from them. To turn off Russia as a competitor, the Russian president is to be internationally isolated. The shooting down of flight MH17 is playing into this agenda and comes precisely at the right moment to aid the U.S. strategy on energy. We will keep you advised on this matter."

And from an October 2012 VT article:

(source: Veterans Today)

"The significant question to be asked at this point is what could bind Israel, Turkey, Qatar in a form of unholy alliance on the one side, and Assad’s Syria, Iran, Russia and China on the other side, in such deadly confrontation over the political future of Syria? One answer is energy geopolitics.

What has yet to be fully appreciated in geopolitical assessments of the Middle East is the dramatically rising importance of the control of natural gas to the future of not only Middle East gas producing countries, but also of the EU and Eurasia including Russia as producer and China as consumer.

"Natural gas is rapidly becoming the “clean energy” of choice to replace coal and nuclear electric generation across the European Union, most especially since Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear after the Fukushima disaster. Gas is regarded as far more “environmentally friendly” in terms of its so-called “carbon footprint.”

"The only realistic way EU governments, from Germany to France to Italy to Spain, will be able to meet EU mandated CO2 reduction targets by 2020 is a major shift to burning gas instead of coal. Gas reduces CO2 emissions by 50-60% over coal.[xiii]

"Given that the economic cost of using gas instead of wind or other alternative energy forms is dramatically lower, gas is rapidly becoming the energy of demand for the EU, the biggest emerging gas market in the world.

"Huge gas resource discoveries in Israel, in Qatar and in Syria combined with the emergence of the EU as the world’s potentially largest natural gas consumer, combine to create the seeds of the present geopolitical clash over the Assad regime.


"In July 2011, as the NATO and Gulf states’ destabilization operations against Assad in Syria were in full swing, the governments of Syria, Iran and Iraq signed an historic gas pipeline energy agreement which went largely unnoticed amid CNN reports of the Syrian unrest..."

There's more, lots more, in that VT piece.


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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cabinet reshuffle

Pic: Facebook

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Ukraine: down the memory hole

"Moment they realised it was a civilian plane"

From the Daily Mail, Saturday 19 July 2014, page 4

Interesting to compare the Daily Mail's print edition with its online counterpart. Sam Greenhill's helpful contextualisation (boxed in red above) seems to be missing, at least on my visit to the site (c. 9.30 am).

Perhaps the exclusion is merely to avoid giving more material to conspiracy theorists to fuss over, but in the present climate of profound public distrust it could have the opposite effect. As it is, both versions of the article are festooned with caveats ("appear", "claim", "allegedly" etc).

A little verbal telltale in the translation - "yards" for "gardens" - said "American English" to me, though whether that means translated by an American, or by a Ukrainian who has learned the American version of English, I couldn't say.

From the online Daily Mail (accessed 20 July 2014)

Nothing is what it seems.

And speaking of context, here is the sterling Peter Hitchens  (embedded link is mine):

One thing we should have learned in the past 100 years is that war is hell. We might also have noticed that, once begun, war is hard to stop and often takes shocking turns.
 
So those who began the current war in Ukraine – the direct cause of the frightful murder of so many innocents on Flight MH17 on Thursday – really have no excuse.
 
There is no doubt about who they were. In any war, the aggressor is the one who makes the first move into neutral or disputed territory.
 
And that aggressor was the European Union, which rivals China as the world’s most expansionist power, swallowing countries the way performing seals swallow fish (16 gulped down since 1995).
 
Ignoring repeated and increasingly urgent warnings from Moscow, the EU – backed by the USA – sought to bring Ukraine into its orbit. It did so through violence and illegality, an armed mob and the overthrow of an elected president.
 
I warned then that this would lead to terrible conflict. I wrote in March: ‘Having raised hopes that we cannot fulfil, we have awakened the ancient passions of this cruel part of the world – and who knows where our vainglorious folly will now lead?’
 
Now we see. Largely unreported over the past few months, a filthy little war has been under way in Eastern Ukraine.
 
Many innocents have died, unnoticed in the West. Neither side has anything to boast of – last Tuesday 11 innocent civilians died in an airstrike on a block of flats in the town of Snizhne, which Ukraine is unconvincingly trying to blame on Russia. 
 
 
from Wikipedia


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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ukraine and the downed Malaysian airliner: four theories

1. For no conceivable advantage and in the certainty that they will be universally vilified, separatist Ukrainian forces deliberately shoot down a civilian airliner travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

2. Incompetent pro-Russian Ukrainian forces bring down what they think is an enemy military transport plane. For some reason this aircraft is travelling at a constant altitude of 33,000 feet 20 miles from Russian airspace, into which, travelling at some 500 miles per hour, it will pass in a couple of minutes. Subsequently a source says that oddly, reportedly "uncomfortable" with his route, the pilot has changed his flight plan, which normally would be to cross further south over the Sea of Azov, to head closer to the heart of the conflict:

source: Daily Mail
(UPDATE @ 18:35: see this from The Conversation about flight restrictions in the area.)
 
source: Mashable

3. In a bungled assassination attempt, someone working for the other side hits MH17 by mistake, thinking it to be President Putin's official plane.

4. The missile strike is a "false flag" pseudo-terrorist attack. In order to curb Russian expansionism (or historically, their partial recovery of some territory formerly under Soviet control) and block what may be Putin's plans for the Black Sea and a nascent EEC-style Eastern European economic union, Western agencies are quite happy to murder some 300 innocent civilians to create a pretext for military intervention in the Ukraine - or anti-Russian boycotts and sanctions.

Update (9:12): the trigger-happy-idiots theory may be correct - see Richard North today - but as North says, has the potential for dangerous anti-Russian spin, which Washington's Blog says was the American approach to a similar tragedy in 1983.

Update (21 July): Richard North says that the Ukrainian government was aware of an operational missile launcher in rebel territory and failed in its duty to warn airlines accordingly.


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Friday, July 18, 2014

EU energy security

It has long been my suspicion that for EU bureaucrats, the orthodox climate message is merely a sales pitch for energy security. Nothing whatever to do with science and the real climate except as a PR vehicle. It’s by no means the whole story behind EU climate orthodoxy, but for me there are four points worth considering. 
  • A totalitarian state such as the EU needs energy independence.
  • Too many oil-producers are unstable or potentially unfriendly.
  • Coal and nuclear have too many political hurdles.
  • In a warming world EU peasants should need less energy anyway. 

So it may well be that energy independence is to be purchased at whatever cost to the general EU population, but that cost is not perceived as excessive anyway. At least not to those who matter.

There has always been a problem in taking climate orthodoxy at face value. From the beginning its protagonists have exhibited political rather than scientific behaviour. In a world which failed to warm as predicted, EU climate policies are seriously weird unless climate orthodoxy is not really the political rationale behind them.

Surely we need a vastly more powerful political rationale to explain both the astronomical cost and the implacable way so-called green policies have been enacted. A few degrees of warming doesn’t come close as an explanation and the political classes are wholly uninterested in the projected timescales anyway. 

This degree of extreme political resolve is more characteristic of crazy totalitarian regimes than democracies. Massive projects intended to root out and change forever certain fundamental aspects of civil society. Soviet collective farms for example. Nothing can stop them whatever the cost, be it financial or social.

In which case, any human cost to the EU peasant is sure to be waved aside as collateral damage. Did you expect to be collateral damage one day? No – I suppose folk generally don’t.

The climate message, the extreme propaganda, the corruption of news media, the vicious malice directed at sceptics all point to a massive political project. A project which must be vastly more important than some obviously dodgy climate predictions about a future which lies decades beyond the political horizon.

Energy security fits the bill even if it isn’t the whole story. Blend it with a bungling bureaucracy and a totalitarian ethos and in my view a plausible picture emerges. The only real problem is that with current technology, aiming to power the EU by wind, solar, biomass etc is bonkers.

Why do we always end up with bonkers?

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The Davey Lamp

Ed Davey has an opportunity to make his mark when the lights go out. He could lend his name to a simple non-electric lighting device – the Davey Lamp.




Made in China from recycled power station generators and lavishly plated in genuine Brassex, this retro style no-electric green lighting module is sure to add distinction to any benighted home.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Foresight and pickled cucumbers


I made some pickled cucumbers yesterday. It doesn’t take long and they should be ready to eat in a few weeks. We enjoy home made pickles,  but for some reason don’t make them as often as we could. My pickled cucumber recipe is pretty old, so I suggest you go for something more modern, but it works fine for us.

To pickle Cucumbers fliced.
Pare thirty large cucumbers, flice them into a difh, take fix onions, flice and ftrew on them fome salt, fo cover them and let them ftand to drain twenty-four hours; make your pickle of white wine vinegar, nutmeg, pepper, cloves and mace, boil the fpices in the pickle, drain the liquor clear from the cucumbers, put them into a deep pot, pour the liquor [1] upon them boiling hot, and cover them very clofe; [2] when they are cold drain the liquor from them, give it another boil; and when it is cold pour it on them again; fo keep them for ufe.
Elizabeth Moxon – English Housewifery (1790)

[1] This of course refers to the vinegar pickling liquor.
[2] I finish here and omit the following step.

I don’t use thirty cucumbers because these days we can buy them all year round. Of course doughty old Liz Moxon was writing for those with the foresight and diligence to eke out a good crop of cucumbers to take them through the lean months of winter and early spring.

In those days, domestic foresight such as this was part of a middle class lifestyle and still not wholly unconnected with survival. In later decades the job would usually have been passed to a servant and later still a food manufacturer. 

I suppose it's the other side of economic progress and efficiency. It's easier and possibly cheaper to buy pickles rather than make your own. So everything is rosy apart from losing certain intangibles we've almost forgotten - such as the need for domestic foresight.

Oddly enough, foresight seems to be a problem doesn't it?

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Monday, July 14, 2014

A moment of luxury

Click to enlarge (Pic source)

Stow-on-the-Wold, heart of the Cotswolds and these days a tourist stop.

We grumbled about the variable temperature in the shower, yet less than 80 years ago, the town had no mains water, and modern drainage only two decades later:

"Stow was, until recent times, supplied with water from springs below the town. For centuries, women and children had carried water with yoke and bucket from the spring on Well Lane. Water carts plied between Well Lane and the town where the water was sold to the townsfolk at the price of a farthing a bucket. Several systems had been tried to force water up the hill including windmills, horse-mills and water wheels but all had failed. In 1871, Joseph Chamberlayne-Chamberlayne, lord of the manor, donated £2000 to the town for a deep well to be bored and this was a success. Mains water was laid on in 1937. Sewage disposal used numerous cavities in the rock, known locally as swillies, as natural soakaways under and around the houses until mains drainage was installed in 1958."

One of the wells on Well Lane (pic source)

We're living a life I didn't dream of as a child, driving from Birmingham to a beautiful place like this in an hour. For how much longer will many of us have cars and zoom round the country like pre-war landed gentry?

One of the charms of the town is its many little alleys (in York called snickelways). Stow's are particularly narrow and the man running the charity bric-à-brac explained that in the old times, when on market day the square might hold 30,000 sheep, the alleys made the wide-fleeced animals go in single file, which made them easier to count; hence the name of Fleece Alley.

Are we looking at the past, or the future?


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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Demise of the baby boomers

But things of which we have not had a direct intuition, which we have learned only through other people, we have no longer any opportunity, the time has passed in which we could inform our heart of them; its communications with reality are suspended; and so we cannot profit by the discovery, it is too late.
Marcel Proust - À la recherche du temps perdu

Recent deaths among my contemporaries yet again remind me that we baby boomers are on the way out. Not just in terms of mortality because there are a few decades to go yet, but in terms of influence.

So what have we achieved, we baby boomers?

For my part I prefer not to make a list. From the EU to windmills, from house prices to taxes to political liars it’s not likely to be a cheery one. Unfortunately, Proust was right about the value of direct experience too.

As genuine hardship becomes a distant memory, it isn’t easy to see where the vitality to change things will come from. If there is no real need to better oneself, then surely the vitality sags. We see many things in modern Britain, but vitality is not one of them.

So maybe that’s what we’ve done, we baby boomers. We’ve sucked the dear old place dry.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Does management justify its own costs?



Throughout history, the university systems of the world have evolved from a monastic model, through the industrial model as a driver of social mobility, to the latest, which is the ‘business’ model.
Like all models, this one has assumptions. In this case, the underlying but usually unstated one is that the faculty who teach and research, and the people who maintain the buildings, are not working hard enough.
The proposed solution is to add layers of middle managers, whose only contribution is to ‘motivate’ and generate policies to make everything ‘more efficient’.
The sad reality is that no amount of increased efficiency or hard work on the producers of the system can make up for the cost of this increased administration.
A cynic might argue that the only purpose of these changes is to provide jobs for those who can’t do anything productive.


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Friday, July 11, 2014

Do you veto yourself?

In his book Mind Time, Benjamin Libet raised the possibility that free will is not so much a free choice as a conscious veto on certain options as they bubble up from the unconscious. His experimental work was confined to motor control, but the idea is easily extended to wider issues of belief.

In other words, free will may not be a matter of freely choosing what to believe as freely choosing what not to believe - a conscious veto on social beliefs, opinions or narratives we have no wish to adopt.

If so, then belief simply implies that a conscious veto has not been exercised. Scepticism implies the opposite - a conscious veto has been exercised. In other words scepticism is the footprint of free will - belief leaves no footprint.

The idea is not new and of course it works both ways. If I veto any suggestion that the Earth is a sphere, then I may be exercising free will, but it is a ludicrous and intellectually damaging achievement. I suspect this may be one of the attractions of The Flat Earth Society – the free will aspect, the attractions of dissent.

Because there do seem to be attractions to scepticism and dissent. So much so that wholly conventional ideas are often presented as dissent – which in one sense they often are. The traditional politics of left and right for example. Both sides tend to use the language of dissent, often by inventing straw men - or straw women. It must feel like the cool breeze of intellectual freedom, even when no more than the other side of a numbing orthodoxy.

One obvious attraction of a broader and deeper scepticism is that the options are less constrained. Possibilities remain open, further analysis is always worthwhile. This seems to be the attraction of detachment. The veto is active and well developed, but also rounded by habits of introspection.

Should I accept this idea - or is there more to be understood? No I’ll pass for now - there is more to be understood.

The veto is transformed into a positive experience; an aspect of well-being, of a genial life lived apart from the rancour of intellectual passion and coercion.

If feels like free will – possibly because it is.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bad business is good business


I'm reading Michael Crichton's "Airframe" (1996) and it contains a passage that has resonances far beyond the airline industry. Here, an accident investigator is telling a journalist about an explosion on an aircraft a few hours before: the operator had bought her company's excellent plane, but installed corroded second-hand engines, despite warnings.

"Super-cheap carriers are a stock scam."

"A stock scam?"

"Sure," Casey said. "You buy some aircraft so old and poorly maintained no reputable carrier will use them for spares. Then you subcontract maintenance to limit your liability. Then you offer cheap fares, and use the cash to buy new routes. It's a pyramid scheme but on paper it looks great. Volume's up, revenue's up, and Wall Street loves you. You're saving so much on maintenance that your earnings skyrocket. Your stock price doubles and doubles again. By the time the bodies start piling up, as you know they will, you've made your fortune off the stock, and can afford the best counsel. That's the genius of deregulation, Jack. When the bill comes, nobody pays.."

"Except the passengers."

Plea bargaining, court and regulator fines that come nowhere near the improper profits made, a couple in jail but hundreds and thousands of others untouched... it's not just banks, it's the way of the world.


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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Frackquakes: evidence


"Did a train just go past?"

John Martin: The Great Day Of His Wrath

A professor of seismology links soaring seismic activity on Oklahoma to fracking; an industry-sponsored research association dismisses the effects as negligible.

(Htp: Chris Martenson's Peak Prosperity site).

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

1984: progress update


http://4umi.com/orwell/1984/4

1. Michael Krieger (htp: Tyler Durden) discusses the effects of the new legislation requiring internet articles to be deleted (or de-listed) at the request of complainants.

2. Martin Armstrong (himself seemingly the victim of questionable use of state power) first discusses supposedly hack-proof web browsers for those who don't like being spied on - and then passes on a rumour that the NSA is targeting anyone who tries to download such browsers.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Ukraine and Russia: as I said



Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge today (7 July):

"... As we remarked two weeks ago, when observing the recent developments surrounding the suddenly all-important South Stream gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine ...

"should Russia find a way to completely bypass Kiev as a traditional transit hub for Russian gas, it would make the country, and its ongoing civil war, completely irrelevant not only for Russia, but worse, for Europe, the IMF, and Ukraine's staunch western "supporters and allies" as well...

"[he quotes Itar-Tass] Gazprom.. aim to diversify routes for exporting natural gas and exclude transit risks..."

I differ slightly from Durden on the relevance of Ukraine, because (a) the Brotherhood line that feeds Blue Stream and the proposed South Stream, crosses Ukraine, (b) Soyuz and Blue Stream cross in eastern Ukraine, and (c) South Stream, a subspur of Blue Stream, will pass close to the southern shore of Crimea.

South and Blue Streams don't have enough capacity between them to completely compensate for the potential loss of  Brotherhood and Soyuz in central/western Ukraine, but it would be a start, provided S&B were made secure from seizure or destruction.

So from the Russian perspective, not only had Crimea to fall and remain in Russian hands, but the bitter struggle in eastern Ukraine must end with a stalemate somewhere west of those transiting energy lines:

 
why the extreme east of Ukraine is a key piece in the Russian strategy


As I was saying four months ago...

March 17: Naval infrastructure development on the Black Sea under the guise of Olympic preparation... strategic importance of South Stream pipeline... eastern Ukraine set for takeover ("...  South Stream crosses a bit of the extreme eastern part of Ukraine, but a little territorial snipping - a land purchase, maybe? - could put that right")... purchase of gas pipelines in Greece by proxy... and some further speculations...

March 19: Ukraine protests a pretext for Russian seizure of eastern Ukraine ("was the whole thing set up by Russia in the first place, to provoke a crisis aimed at the annexation of Crimea, near which will run the South Stream gas pipeline? - and possibly, in due course, eastern Ukraine, which is also predominantly Russian-speaking and across which runs Blue Stream?")... vulnerability of Russian gas and oil lines through Belarus and Ukraine... "some of the South Stream construction contracts were signed last Friday [March14]"... importance of Nord Stream also...

March 29: Historical struggle between US/EU and Russia for control of the Black Sea...

April 28: Russia's possible long-term strategy: an "eastern EU" centred on western Russia and connecting the Black and Caspian Seas, the Middle East and Asia.. Russia under heavy pressure to maintain economic momentum...


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