Monday, February 28, 2022

Five fine things found on Facebook (5)

From 1907   Source

How four British migrations defined America 
Link to article

Incredible ultraviolet shot of Saturn by Hubble! Photo credit: @NASA Source

Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) and his long-time friend John T. Lewis
(probably Twain's inspiration for the character "Jim" in "Huckleberry Finn"),
standing together at Quarry Farm, Elmira, New York - 1903. Source

Saturday, February 26, 2022

WEEKENDER: Cr*p Architecture, by Wiggia

... aka the Good, the Bad and the Ugly - not a lot of good below but I think the title paints the picture.

After my piece on the alliance between Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens about the style of the arts and crafts era, I suffered a dose of reality when my old neighbour and I were talking about a proposed 800-house estate that has just been given planning permission not far from here. The country is currently suffering a housing boom as all can see every time they venture out and little of that exactly lifts the soul.

We seem for some time, decades actually, for reasons that are hard to fathom, accepting of poor design and layout with these new estates, never mind the push for profit over quality with non-existent gardens, smaller than ever rooms and cost-cutting measures such as small windows, all too evident when driving past these building sites all over the country.

Some builders are more guilty than others. One, Persimmon, annually comes last on most fronts but continues to churn out the same poorly-built inappropriate designs and sells them. There seems to be nothing in the council planning offices that suggests or insists the properties are simply not up to scratch, 'go away and come back with something better' is not in their vocabulary; all they see is extra council tax, and enormous legal costs if they should choose to contest any application

Out of the blue a new estate is nearing completion in one of the better areas nearby which is adjacent to an established fairly new one that falls into the category described above. It is a combined effort of affordable smaller houses and flats with the council being responsible for the overview. It is in sharp contrast to the usual dross and has a genuine village-like layout, a subtle mix of materials and colours used and a mix of traditional materials with a modern edge in the finish; it works well and shows with a little effort what can be produced.

It begs the question why, if the council can come up with something like that, do they allow the endless dross to be put up by so many of the major building companies? I think we can guess as to why much of it is passed yet surely there is a better way as many of these new estates are the slums of the future.

Despite this rather rambling intro I am actually going to comment on another aspect of awful design now rampant in the country at large. Nothing new in this: I remember it starting during the housing boom during the late eighties; I am referring of course to the home extension.

                             There is a house somewhere behind this example of box on box.

You cannot pick up a magazine such as Homes and Gardens without being assailed by endless space-adding extensions added at in many cases at great cost to what were humdrum terraced and other properties that are now being described as the new trendy part of (fill in as necessary), of what ever borough is being taken over by those that want to live nearer the centre and have the dosh to improve? those same once mundane houses.

This piece was sparked by having the same conversation with my old neighbour when it switched to the property next door which the owners are just moving back into; two doctors having spent eight months in rented while the house was rejigged to accommodate a totally inappropriate rear extension which we have labelled the U boat pen, for viewed from the rear that is exactly what it looks like, completely out of scale to the rest of the house; so much so that the upstairs windows on one side where the extension crosses over have had to be turned on their side as they would have lost the bottom of them, so high has the extension intruded on the original building.

No doubt the interior will give them what they wanted, a huge kitchen/living/dining area, but surely there was a way that could have been achieved without ending up with a concrete bunker.

In the case of this property which is detached it has little impact on my neighbour because of a row of brick built outbuildings on that side which hides it.

                                                       Container with cladding!

Others elsewhere are not so lucky. The relaxing of the planning laws twice under this government has given rise to not just hideous impinging rear extensions but equally hideous loft conversions, all no doubt adding space and value, especially in the environs of the capital, but in the vast majority of cases with some terrible design flaws and costs to neighbours in loss of light and privacy.

Nobody has the right to determine what a neighbour should be allowed to do to their own property, but there used to be limits and considerations as to what was permissible; that has all been swept away.

“The Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order 2015 (GPDO) was designed to free homeowners and councils from expensive red tape when “uncontentious” modifications to properties are planned. The rules allow both homeowners and developers to extend accommodation by up to 75% without planning permission.

"Opinions differ, however, on what counts as “uncontentious”. Single and double-storey side and rear extensions of up to eight metres in length are permitted under the order, as well as loft conversions and large outbuildings covering up to 50% of a property’s land.”

                                                        Dark days for the neighbours

This link shows how the planning rules relaxation has put some people in an impossible position regarding what their neighbours can put up. Many of the extensions today are not neighbour-friendly, to put it mildly.

And as with all else these days fashion dictates they have certain types of door openings that all look the same. Crittall windows for instance are now back in fashion everywhere one looks; box on box has been done to death; zinc roofing ditto along with timber cladding; all used with no thought for the building they are attaching to.

Modern extensions, well designed, can look the part on older buildings if well-conceived and designed, after all many listed buildings have had extensions from different periods added and many of them are not exactly harmonious; but many of them are, we should be learning from them.

Many of the listed building rules re renovation vary according to county or borough and are equally daft, but that is another subject.

                                                Where are the Teletubbies?

Many of today's extensions cost a small fortune within the Capital, but in nearly all cases this layout is dwarfed by the return should they sell. Outside these areas the gain is often negligible or neutral, which is why we see most of these monstrosities in city centres.

I presume an architect had a hand in this;
another example of the original property being obliterated by the awful extension.

Friday, February 25, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Henry Purcell's Tavern Songs, by JD

Henry Purcell (1659 - 1695)

One of the most famous English composers was featured in a recent BBC2 programme which I watched and enjoyed last week. One thing I did not previously know was that Purcell was to be found in the taverns of London regularly enjoying a drink or three and he wrote a number of tavern songs some of which were rather rude. (I have been trying to find lyrics but have not so far found any)

As a variation on the usual Friday music format I have selected a few of the songs and added a link at the bottom to The Deller Consort's rendition of sixteen of the songs for you to enjoy at your leisure ( and sing along if you are so inclined!)

Come, let us drink. Henry Purcell

Henry Purcell -- Sir Walter enjoying his damsel -- Deller Consort

Once, Twice, Thrice

Henry Purcell -- The Miller's daughter -- Deller Consort

Purcell: Z 360. Bacchus is a pow'r divine - Abadie (live)

Purcell: Pox On You - Dante Ferrara

At the Tavern (Extract no.2)

- - - - - - - - -
16 of Henry Purcell's Tavern Songs by the Deller Consort -

Thursday, February 24, 2022

THURSDAY BACKTRACK: Music and news from 60 years ago - week ending 24 February 1962

At #5 is Leroy Vandyke with 'Walk On By':

Giles cartoon for this week: The first American in space

(See 20 February below for details of John Glenn's historic spaceflight)

Some memorable events (via Wikipedia):

18 February: 'Two pilots of the French Air Force, described as "renegades", defied orders, broke away from a routine mission over French Algeria, flew their planes across the border into Morocco, and then attacked a rebel camp in the city of Oujda with rockets and machine gun fire. The two, believed to be members of the Organisation Armée Secrète, then flew their planes to Saïda, Algeria, landed, and deserted.'

20 February: 'The United States placed an astronaut into orbit for the first time, as John Glenn was sent aloft from Cape Canaveral aboard on third Project Mercury mission, in the space capsule Friendship 7. Glenn was launched at 9:47 a.m. local time and attained orbit 12 minutes later. After three circuits of the Earth, Glenn left orbit at 2:20 p.m., landed in the Atlantic Ocean at 2:43, and was recovered by the destroyer U.S.S. Noa at 3:04. Glenn, the first American astronaut, returned to outer space on October 29, 1998, at the age of 77, becoming the oldest man to orbit the Earth.'

21 February: 'Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev first danced together, in a Royal Ballet performance of Giselle at Covent Garden in London, creating one of the greatest partnerships in the history of dance. Nureyev had defected from the U.S.S.R. almost eight months earlier on June 16, 1961. He and Fonteyn received 23 curtain calls from the audience.'

    'On the day after John Glenn's historic flight, Soviet Premier Khrushchev sent a telegram to U.S. President Kennedy, proposing that the two nations co-operate on their space program. The first joint venture took place in 1975.'

22 February: 'Pope John XXIII signed Veterum sapientia ("Ancient Wisdom") as an apostolic constitution, the highest possible papal decree. The declaration, published the next day, directed that Roman Catholic seminary students should not only be instructed on the use of the Latin language, but that lectures should be given in Latin, "a bond of unity between the Christian peoples of Europe". The Pope also prohibited priests from arguing against the use of Latin, and created an institute to create new words in Contemporary Latin to keep it apace of modern developments. In 1963, the second Vatican council approved an order retaining Latin for specific rituals, but native languages for most other purposes.'

23 February: 'Astronaut John Glenn arrived in Cape Canaveral to a hero's welcome and was reunited with his family for the first time since before going into space. U.S. President John F. Kennedy, for whom Cape Canaveral was renamed during the 1960s, greeted Glenn and personally awarded him the NASA Special Services Medal. Kennedy praised Glenn for "professional skill, unflinching courage and extraordinary ability to perform a most difficult task under physical stress." It was then that Glenn revealed in an interview that the heat shield on his capsule began to break up upon re-entry, the loss of which would have been fatal. Glenn calmly said, "it could have been a bad day for everybody."'

24 February: 'The United States government began its first telephone and television transmissions via satellite, bouncing signals off of Echo 1, which had been launched on August 12, 1960.'

UK chart hits, week ending 24 February 1962 (tracks in italics have been featured previously)
Htp: Clint's labour-of love compilation

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Ukraine: do we need the War Game? by Sackerson

I don’t know whether the Stop The War Coalition are or contain fifth columnists, as Iain Dale asserts , though when he says he has ‘lost patience’ he reminds me of a certain testy old US President. I like Mr Dale’s output generally but I suppose that blogpost is another sign that we are entering Stage Three of ‘groupthink’ , where alternative voices are to be bullied and shut down.

In this context the Daily Mail is to be commended for going ahead and publishing Peter Hitchens’ article castigating the West for its arrogance and folly in continuing to treat Russia as an enemy after the fall of Communism; though even the mighty Mail feels compelled to push it back into page 13 of the print edition and label it ‘A personal viewpoint.’ Somehow one senses masks and disposable gloves.

If you rely on the mass media you could be forgiven for thinking that Russia’s tanks and troops are already rolling into the Donbass; not so, according to a well-connected blogger who quotes a French diplomat as saying to him (Tuesday 22 Feb):

‘It is now clear that there have been Russian peacekeeping troops in the Donbass for at least five years. Their presence there has been maintained. Putin has signed a decree allowing for further troops to go there, but there is no NATO evidence as yet that any new troops have arrived.

On the other hand, as The Independent reported back in December , Ukraine by then had already positioned half its army on the other side of the conflict zone – some 125,000 troops. One wonders how one of the poorest countries in Europe can afford to maintain a standing army a quarter-million strong and bombard its eastern populace for seven years rather than implement the Minsk Protocol to split the country into autonomous regions. We could do with some quality mainstream journalism.

Speaking of the latter, as tensions mount it is disappointing to hear from the recently-freed Craig Murray (appeal against alleged miscarriage of Scottish justice ongoing) that the independent team of observers known as OSCE, specified in the same Protocol, has just been abandoned by the USA, UK and Canada, three Western members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance , at the time when they are most needed. OSCE was not allowed to access the site of the kindergarten shelled last week, allegedly a false flag attack by the eastern Ukrainians themselves, though according to another independent journalist, the intrepid Eve Bartlett, the munition was fired from an ‘American M141 bunker-type grenade launcher’ from the west.  

Doubtless there are several drivers behind these murky goings-on. One will be Russian politics post the Soviet collapse, which will have left many Russians suddenly finding themselves effectively stranded in countries no longer part of the communist empire. President Putin’s rewritten Constitution in 2020 empowers Russia to defend its citizens abroad ; at the risk of attracting Mr Dale’s ire I might cite Britain’s similar approach in the past – the War of Jenkins' Ear , the robust defence of the Falkland Islanders ( who were technically not even British citizens ) and so on. We remain to be convinced that Putin simply has a plan for European domination; past history shows the traffic has sometimes been the other way.

Another factor is the longstanding US/NATO policy of Russian containment, first urged by George Kennan in 1946. This made sense when the USSR was indeed what Reagan called an ‘evil empire’; the pity is that even when the battle had been won by the West – in 1989 Yeltsin was ‘sick with despair for the Soviet people’ and knew the end was near when he saw the cornucopia of a Texan supermarket - the policy continued. Five years after the collapse, President Carter’s former adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński wrote a book on American geostrategy in which he worried that

‘… any ejection of America by its Western partners from its perch on the western periphery would automatically spell the end of America's participation in the game on the Eurasian chessboard, even though that would probably also mean the eventual subordination of the western extremity to a revived player occupying the middle space.’

25 years on, after President Trump had told European NATO allies to shoulder more of the burden of their defence , we face that possibility. Now, it seems to be about containing, not lethally expansionary Communism, but a nascent power bloc in eastern Europe, a sort of Eurasian EU  . Is it our business to prevent that, at much expense of blood and treasure? Should we have outgrown Great Game-playing in the new era of potential nuclear global destruction?

Ukraine is an awkwardly complex corner of Brzeziński’s chessboard: the Washington Post illustrated its long history in 2015   and here is a simplified overview (reproduced on MoA :

The sudden changes brought about by the defeat of the Red Menace has presented challenges for everyone and we should proceed with caution. The area around the Black Sea has changed radically: in 1988 it was practically a Red lake , except for the shores of eastern Greece and northern Turkey; in recent years, NATO allies have started to encircle it and if Ukraine joins up the lake will be largely Blue. NATO members have permitted the siting of weapons closer and closer to Russia’s western borders; the Great Game here is almost like the children’s game of ‘What’s The Time, Mister Wolf?’,_Mr_Wolf%3F Is it necessary?

Is it affordable? Perhaps when we bemoan the state of our economy, of the NHS and the meanness of our State pension system compared with those in the EU, we should remember how WWI impoverished the UK – the Twenties did not roar in Britain - and WWII very nearly bankrupted us completely. We’ve been struggling against headwinds ever since 1914.

Sixty years ago, Dean Acheson told West Point that ‘Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role.’ It’s time to grow up and not be anybody’s playground sidekick, unless it is in our national interest.

THURSDAY BACKTRACK: Music and news from 60 years ago - week ending 17 February 1962

At #4 is Eden Kane with 'Forget Me Not':

Giles cartoon for this week: Crufts

The famous dog show started in 1891 and has been held annually since then, apart from some of the years in the two World Wars.

Some memorable events (via Wikipedia):

11 February: 'Negotiations, between the government of France and Algerian independence leaders, opened at Les Rousses, a remote village in the French Alps, leading to a preliminary agreement on a transitional government.'

12 February: 'Spike Milligan and John Antrobus's play, The Bed-Sitting Room, is premièred at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury.' Here is the film version (1969):

13 February: 'A crowd of between 150,000 and 500,000 people marched in Paris in the first massive protest against the continuing Algerian war, which had gone into its eighth year. The occasion was the funeral ceremony for five of the nine people who had been killed by police in the Charonne metro station the previous Thursday. With many of the participants walking off of their jobs to protest, business in Paris and much of France was brought to a halt.'

14 February: '"A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy", produced by CBS News and hosted by American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and CBS reporter Charles Collingwood, was broadcast on television by CBS and on NBC at 10:00 pm Eastern time. Attracting 46,000,000 TV viewers, or three out of every four households in America, it was the highest rated television program up to that time.' Video address:

15 February: 'In Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi), the legislature for the Republic of Katanga voted to ratify President Moise Tshombe's declaration that the breakaway state should end its secession and return to the Republic of the Congo.'

16 February: 'Voting in India's national parliamentary election commenced, with 210 million voters going to the polls. There were 14,744 candidates for the 494 seats in the Lok Sabha and the 2,930 seats in the legislatures of 13 Indian states. The final result was that 119,904,284 eligible voters participated, and the Indian National Congress, led by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, won 361 (or about 73%) of the seats. The Communist Party of India was a distant second with 29 seats (6%).'

    'U.S. President Kennedy issued nine Executive Orders, numbered 10095 to 11105, delegating "emergency preparedness functions" for various federal agencies and departments, to be implemented in the event of a national emergency that required a declaration of martial law.'

17 February: 'In the North Sea flood of 1962, Hurricane-force winds and heavy rains swept across West Germany's North Sea coast and sent the waters flooding over the seawalls. There were 345 deaths in West Germany, 281 of them in Hamburg, when the Elbe River overflowed. An estimated 500,000 people were left homeless.'

    'U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara outlined the doctrine of flexible response, the nuclear strategy of the Kennedy administration, in an address to the American Bar Foundation in Chicago. The plan called for building a large enough nuclear arsenal that the United States would have the ability to launch a second strike of nuclear missiles against the Soviets even after an initial exchange of destruction.'

UK chart hits, week ending 17 February 1962 (tracks in italics have been featured previously)
Htp: Clint's labour-of love compilation

Monday, February 21, 2022

Five fine things found on Facebook (4)


“The Nutcracker”, Tchaikovsky; The London Royal Ballet Source

Bone-Titla. San Carlos Apache. 1913 Source

Built in the 18th century, this is one of the oldest buildings
in Hattfjelldal municipality in Norland, Norway Source

King Tutankhamun's shoes Source

Everest Source

Sunday, February 20, 2022

The real battle, by Sackerson

Why Ukraine? Why now? Why at all?

It’s not about fighting Communism - the battle against the USSR was won in the 1990s.

Or are we to be persuaded by racialism? It’s worked before: see the WWI US recruiting poster by Harry Hopps, where a drooling monster ape in a German Pickelhaube helmet holds a despairing young woman – boobs out, lads, look! – under the title ‘Destroy This Mad Brute.’ 

Today the target is not the Hun but the Slav, appealing to what Peter Hitchens has just called ‘the ridiculous cartoon idea that Russia is like Mordor in Lord Of The Rings, an utterly evil country ruled by a Dark Monster.’ Do Slav lives matter?

Our propaganda may be as crude as that of a century ago – see last Friday’s Mail article describing President Putin as a ‘Snarling rat backed into a corner’ - but the quality of our politicians actually seems to have declined. Think of our Foreign Secretary, who can’t distinguish between the Baltic and the Black Sea and goes into a meeting with Mr Lavrov unaware that Rostov and Voronezh are Russian regions If she wishes to channel Mrs Thatcher she should imitate Maggie’s diligent preparation.

Perhaps our representatives are counting on the dumbing-down of a populace whose imagination has been fed by the fascistic violence of Marvel comic heroes and a secular religion figureheaded by an autistic teenage activist I call the Swedish Frightingale or Joan of Aargh.

Are we fighting for democracy? Let’s not look too closely at how the current regime in Ukraine was installed. For that matter, is the EU a democracy? If it is, why did we leave?

Is the UK a democracy? Actually, no; we have a constitutional monarchy and are subjects not citizens. When John Dunning proposed his 1780 motion to curb the influence of the Crown he may have thought that Parliament was belling the cat; instead, power has simply passed down to the Privy Council, of which the PM and all the Cabinet are automatically members. Tony Benn, a socialist but a Parliamentarian to his bootstraps, warned many years ago - and I'm sorry not to have found a link - that our freedoms could be swept away in an afternoon by Order In Council. PM Blair knew this very well, for one of his first acts in government (3 May 1997) was to use the Council to make the Civil Service subordinate to spin doctors

The Opposition in Parliament is our safeguard against tyranny, but it has failed. A touchstone for this is the way that on 19 October last year Parliament renewed the extraordinary powers of the Coronavirus Act without so much as a division. The Covid episode has taught the State that there is almost nothing it cannot do to the people, provided the Opposition colludes in the hope of getting their turn soon and the Fourth Estate sings loyally from the State’s hymn sheet. We see this again in Canada, where Prime Minister Trudeau has invoked emergency powers merely to deal with trucker protests he himself has provoked by his high-handed Covid mandates.

Even the American Presidency is tending towards autocracy – remember how back in September Biden, speaking to his country about the Covid vaccination program, said ‘this is not about freedom or personal choice… my job as President is to protect all Americans… we’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.’ There as here, government has invaded our daily life so far that the new wine of super-power threatens to burst the old skins of restraining constitutional arrangements; for example, President Biden’s role is set down in Article Two of the Constitution and there his protection was defined in military, rather than medical terms.

If the US were committed to genuine democracy, the Republicans would not find so many ways to make it harder for the underclass to participate in elections – redrawing constituency boundaries into fantastical politically-motivated shapes, siting polling stations far from left-voting population centres and so on; and the Democrats would not be turning a blind eye to, if not encouraging, an influx of poor immigrants whose ballots they hope may be counted on for a generation, or even allowing non-citizens the right to vote.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the real theme of what is happening domestically and internationally is simply the acquisition, concentration and retention of power. Former President Carter’s foreign policy adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński reflected on this in his book ‘The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives,’  published in 1997 - five years after the Soviet collapse. In this work, the term ‘freedom’ appears ten times, ‘democracy’ 25 times but ‘hegemon/y’ 56 times; what he calls ‘the game’ is played out using a string of ‘perches’ for American forces around the globe.

Brzeziński worried that the EU might become more independent of US influence, even friendly with Russia:

‘… any ejection of America by its Western partners from its perch on the western periphery would automatically spell the end of America's participation in the game on the Eurasian chessboard, even though that would probably also mean the eventual subordination of the western extremity to a revived player occupying the middle space.’

Well, here we are, 25 years on.

In playing this real-life board game – more like Risk than chess – I think our leaders have lost the plot. What good will it do us?

For it is ‘the economy, stupid.’ After a decade (the 1950s) in which the Soviet economy had been growing twice as fast as Britain’s, PM Harold Macmillan wrote (December 1960) to President Kennedy:

‘What is going to happen to us unless we can show that our modern free society – the new form of capitalism – can make the fullest use of our resources and results in a steady expansion of our economic strength… If we fail in this, Communism will triumph, not by war, or even subversion, but by seeming to be a better way of bringing people material comforts. In other words, if we were to fall back into anything like the recession or crisis that we had between the wars, with large-scale unemployment of men and machines, I think we would have lost the hand.’

-          Quoted in ‘Macmillan: The Official Biography’ by Alistair Horne (Macmillan, 1988)

For me the word that stands out there is ‘new’; capitalism old-style and protected by a very limited franchise was what fuelled the indignation that threatened to tear apart our ‘free society’; Lloyd George was forced to emasculate the House of lords in order to advance even his relatively modest welfare reforms.

Despite universal adult suffrage in the UK (still awaiting its centenary) the economic strains have begun to return as Western elites gave globalist bankers and traders their head. The tensions this has created at home are now being contained with high-handed government and unprecedented data-driven spying on and suppression of the people, abetted by an Opposition whose principal concern is its own welfare, and a complaisant mass media.

It’s not the Russians we need to sort out.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

WEEKENDER: Kamila Valieva - a Pawn in the Game? by Wiggia

The young Russian figure skater caught out in the Olympics for drug use is currently getting a soft ride from both the IOC and the press. It cannot be a coincidence that her age is a factor in all this and the fact she is currently the world's Number One in her sport.

Should we care? Sport in general has not covered itself with glory when it comes to tackling difficult issues, such as footballers who insist taking the knee is a worthwhile practice, when the BLM is being exposed as an organisation that not only has ulterior motives away from race but is also a launching pad for the founders to fleece the public funds coming their way... millionaire row beckons.

Yet the players in our PL carry on as if this totally misguided gesture is actually having an effect on perceived racism, when in fact telling everyone every week they are racist just creates resentment for something that has been in decline for years; now, thanks to their agitation, it is headline news again.

It is and has been said that sport and politics do not mix, though the truth is politicians have used sport to their advantage for decades, and the fundamental principles of the Olympics as laid out by Pierre de Coubertin in 1898 have been jettisoned in favour of a flag-waving exercise. The Olympic movement is all about money and more of it, the amount poured into the IOC coffers to seal an Olympic bid are proof of that.

Nations and politicians all want to bask in the glory of having spent more than the last Games or World Cup to seal their place in history. The coming World Cup in Qatar  has to be one of the most ridiculous decisions by a sporting body in history: a country that has no interest in any sport other than importing a few Africans to boost their non-existent medal tally has only political reasons to bid for a major sporting event.  

The truth about how the stadiums have been built with the equivalent of slave labour with a death rate that has been deliberately hidden away was revealed very early on but ignored by FIFA and all the countries competing including our own kneeling team; the manager who believes kneeling sends the ‘right message’ is very quiet about competing in Qatar - why could that possibly be?

When one looks back to the fuss about touring cricket teams during the apartheid years in South Africa and the banning of players who competed there, today's attitude reveals a gap in moral fortitude the width of the Grand Canyon. The difference is money: no money for a breakaway cricket tour in real terms, but huge amounts gained in Qatar.

It was ever thus.

Back to Valieva. The sympathy being shown to the young Russian who is competing with a faux Russian team with the name ROC - a pseudonym for loophole - is being seen in a very different light to those young east Germans years ago, part of the regime's systematic doping program. Russia along with China has been doing the same thing in recent times, not that the USA or others have clean hands in all this during the same period.

Having failed a drug test she should have been automatically excluded from competing. It matters not if she was coerced, though the route to fame and fortune often does not need much coercion; she failed a test and that should have been that. If she wins now, we will now have the sight of other athletes being denied their rightful place on the podium and another sport being forever tainted.

This is the IOCs wording on anyone caught doping in competition at Beijing:

'An anti-doping rule violation in Individual Sports in connection with an In-Competition test automatically leads to Disqualification of the result obtained in that Competition with all resulting Consequences, including forfeiture of any medals, diplomas, points and prizes.'

You would think from that it is pretty cut and dried, but apparently not. They do themselves no favours in using weasel words to allow Valieva to continue.

Coming from a cycling background, I am more than aware of how doping ruins sport, and have written on the subject in a different context before. There is little doubt all sports have indulged in forms of doping. Lax testing and a reluctance to match other sports' doping regimes has allowed hitherto ‘clean’ sports to prosper whereas under the surface it has been going on for years.

Allowing this young girl to compete, along with some decisions deserving of derision in the USA regarding endless numbers of sprinters being found to fail drugs tests yet re-appearing months later in competition, has resulted in empty stadiums. When all sports become tainted with the belief that ‘everyone is at it’ sport loses its value in society. Fraudulent behaviour in sport should never be seen as different from fraud in the wider world, and whether the fifteen-year-old girl was used or was aware of being doped is of no consequence, she should not be there; it perpetuates the whole ‘winning at all costs' mentality that pervades sport these days when money is king.

Also, we must never forget the long term effects that doping has on competitors in many cases, including deaths. During the EPO (Armstrong) era many cyclists died after blood clotting events caused by the drug; again, the real numbers were not issued officially as far as I know, but it was not merely one or two, and again athletes as young as fifteen / fourteen were testing positive. Somehow though, I cannot see it ever being eradicated. Gene therapy is already being touted as the next challenge and we cannot be sure it is not already being trialled; this is very complicated to test for and prove though no doubt in the future it will be possible, but yet again it continues the drug era into the foreseeable future. Money and drugs will always triumph over morals in sport, it seems; a sad indictment of our times.

An article in the Times shows the hypocrisy among national sporting bodies. This runner has just retired:

As this article is normally behind a paywall and I read it as part of my ‘free’ sampler I offer you this passage, which sets the tone:

'The US Olympic Committee was understandably disgruntled with the outcome of Kamila Valieva’s case at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. She is only 15, a “protected person” according to the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the latest chapter in Russia’s flagrant abuse of sporting ethics. However, that US Track & Field saw fit to post an image of Justin Gatlin alongside a starry-eyed emoji and the words: “Happy retirement to one of the greatest!” highlighted Olympic levels of hypocrisy as we sank further in the murk.'

Friday, February 18, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Bert Jansch, by JD

"Bert Jansch (3 November 1943 – 5 October 2011) was born in Glasgow and came to prominence in London in the 1960s as an acoustic guitarist and singer-songwriter. He recorded at least 25 albums and toured extensively from the 1960s to the 21st century.

"Jansch was a leading figure in the 1960s British folk revival, touring folk clubs and recording several solo albums, as well as collaborating with other musicians such as John Renbourn and Anne Briggs. In 1968, he co-founded the band Pentangle, touring and recording with them until their break-up in 1972." 

ACOUSTIC ROUTES - Film trailer with Bert Jansch Billy Connolly Davey Graham Wizz Jones

CHASING LOVE - Jacqui McShee and Bert Jansch from the music film Acoustic Routes

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Communism's victims, the great country of the dead

 According to the estimates of the 1997 French historical survey Le Livre noir du communisme, Communism has claimed the lives of some 94,360,000 people.

To illustrate this statistic, we can compare it to Worldometer's list of countries by size of population. If all the victims formed a nation of their own, they would be the 16th most populous country on Earth:

Alternatively, we could say that the size of the toll is equivalent to everyone in the globe's smaller 106 States and dependencies (from the Vatican right up to and including Croatia); every living soul in 45% of the world's nations... plus more than half of Kuwait; .

Communism is, of course, not the only ideology that kills in the name of peace, justice, equality etc; but its professed love of Man and pity for his condition seem to have involved an awful lot of destroying him.

I still wonder why the USA continued to back the Chinese Communist Party after Soviet Communism collapsed. It must have been a very sophisticated calculation.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Five fine things found on Facebook (3)


A deliveryman for the Home Ice Company hauls
a 25-pound ice block cleaved from a 100-pound block
Houston, Texas, 1928 Source

This Is How Sand Looks Magnified Up To 300 Times

Portrait of a Pacific woman, New Zealand, circa 1870 - 1900

Frozen Lighthouses On Lake Michigan Shore Source

                   The nine different ethnic groups of Bukovina region, (Austria-Hungary), 1902

From top left:
Hutsul, Hungarian, Rom (Romani or Gypsy), Lipovan, Jew, Pole, Schwab, Romanian, Rusyn

Monday, February 14, 2022

Ukraine, the wrong elephant, by Sackerson

George Orwell wrote that as a policeman in 1930s Burma he was called on to shoot an elephant that had gone ‘must’ and killed its keeper. By the time he was armed and there, the animal had become calm and harmless; but the crowd expected him to destroy it, and so he did, cruelly and pointlessly. Let the people’s will be done.

Today, Russia is that Jumbo. Seven years after the Minsk-2 Agreement to regionalise Ukraine, an agreement which the ruling regime has failed to implement, suddenly we are to believe in an imminent assault by the Russians, one that will justify military intervention (possibly indirect) by the West including Britain. The consequences are unpredictable but potentially utterly disastrous.

Where is the public outcry like the one that in 2013 stopped the Cameron government in its tracks over Syria? It has been forestalled by orchestrated drum-banging; thanks to advances in mass communication, the people’s will can be given to them ready-made. For quite some time, we have been regaled with details of Russia’s build-up of forces on the border with Ukraine; though we are told much less of the Ukrainian forces massed since 2014 at the border, not of the country but of the Donbass, that largely ethnically and linguistically Russian eastern part of their cobbled-together nation. The UK’s new Chief of Defence Staff, a Navy man, thrilled the Daily Mail’s readers with details of how the evil Putin could cut vital undersea data cables. The US has prepared us for an attack on the Russians by suggesting that the latter might be planning a false flag attack on themselves.

It feels like the build-up to Iraq Two – the military preparations and jingoistic hoo-ha are getting to the point where it becomes impossible to turn back, even when the justifying pretext has failed to show itself. If the groom doesn’t appear soon we’ll have to do with the best man. What might that be? A local uprising? An assassination?

The hysterical groupthink is such that when Stephen Glover expresses concerns he has to preface them with ‘Vladimir Putin is a nasty piece of work. But…’ as though one has to apologise for widening the lens to consider context.

Now before I too have to fend off accusations of loving the obviously subhuman Slavs who can’t wait to spit babies on their bayonets (sorry, that was the WWI Huns wasn’t it?) I should say that the raping and murdering Red Army chased my mother’s family out of East Prussia in 1945 and their farm is still sitting in Russian Federation territory; a return of our property would be most welcome, thank you.

However, it seems to have escaped the US State Department’s notice that the Soviet Union collapsed thirty years ago and Russia is no longer the homeland of godless Commies. After over seventy years of State persecution three-quarters of the population is still Christian. Also, despite the outrageous depredations of the post-collapse oligarchs only one-eighth of the seats in the Duma and regional parliaments are in the re-formed Communist party and none of the 31-strong national cabinet is a Communist; if anyone has a reason to hate and fear Red oppression it is the Russians themselves.

Conversely, it might be thought that if anyone misses the wicked Soviets it is the American political establishment. When the Nazis had been defeated the Marshall Plan saved Europe from falling apart and becoming a prey to revolution, yet when the USSR died there was no such reconciliation and assistance with reconstruction. The bogeyman’s role was too important to be written out. So it was that when Hillary Clinton addressed the voters of Nevada during the 2016 Presidential election campaign, she repainted the former slavering socialists as the core of a worldwide right-wing conspiracy; Putin was ‘the grand godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism.’ Her chaotic logic could have implied that she herself was an internationalist left-winger; thank goodness that her party had Bernie Sanders to help position her centrally in her triangulation.

If our American friends are so set on the hunt for godless Commies they might look further east, to the country to which they have almost suicidally ceded key US economic resources for decades. Vladimir Putin may possibly have designs on Ukraine, though it beats me why he should wish to venture further into Western continental Europe, historically a pit of mutually antagonistic serpents two of which launched vast raids on Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries; but China, now…

Twelve months after Mao’s 1949 establishment of the People’s Republic of China came the annexation of Tibet, referencing events in 1793. Far from defending the Tibetans, the British Foreign Office at last formally recognised the Chinese claim in 2008 . The country is rich in much-needed minerals, woods and water; as is the north Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh, which the Chinese consider to be part of the ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’; plus the Aksai Chin region of Kashmir, to which the Chinese also claim entitlement. 

Looking north, in the early 1950s Mao offered Stalin help with developing Siberia’s mineral resources; ‘Koba’ said thanks but no thanks. In the wake of the Soviet collapse Chinese began crossing the Amur river in Eastern Siberia, heading for the city of Blagoveshchensk just across the water. France24 reported on the growing ‘sinicisation’ of Siberia as long ago as 2012. Russia’s richly-resourced yet sparsely populated east must be a standing temptation to the Chinese, who outnumber the Russian people by nine to one.

Nor have China and Russia have always seen eye to eye ideologically, even before the fall of the USSR. When Khrushchev began his ‘thaw’ with the West, seeking a modus vivendi between the two political philosophies and spheres of influence, it led to the Sino-Soviet Split, China condemning Russia as ‘revisionists’ who had abandoned the principle that all those resisting global Communism should be converted or killed – rather like the extremists of another great proselytising faith who currently threaten world peace. It seems odd that when trying to widen the split, America chose to invest in the country that espoused the purer, more uncompromising version of Marxist-Leninism.

It’s taken the crass macho diplomacy of Joe Biden (or his advisers) to push Putin and Xi together; now, the two eastern nations have (sort of) united in declaring a ‘new era’ in their mutual relations. Yet if the West has the wisdom to pull back, we shall see how deep the new Sino-Russian understanding goes. I would suggest the basis is a wary pragmatism, wise in a world where more than one nation is capable of obliterating human civilisation with nuclear weapons.

As to their plans for the rest of the world, we could take the view that it is not the Russians who are on the march – it seems Putin sees his line of development through a sort of Eurasian EU, negotiating for closer links with countries to his south while seeking to keep religious fanaticism under control. 

China, on the other hand, is more clearly expansionist and although its army is a million strong the tools currently employed are both more subtle and more powerful than mere sword-waving. About the Belt and Road Initiative we read often, but also of the Chinese government’s use of purchases, loans and possibly financial incentives to foreign politicos in the Pacific and Africa; my query is why America has not taken a leaf out of China’s book and love-bombed the same countries. Surely it would be much easier to contain the expansion of the Chinese hegemon with money rather than armies and missiles.

This is especially topical now that China is siding with Argentina in the latter’s claim that her $44 billion loan from the IMF is ‘odious debt’ and ‘China reaffirmed its support for Argentina’s demand to fully exercise sovereignty on the Malvinas Islands.’ Doubtless the vast Chinese fishing fleets would love to help Argentina exploit the Exclusive Economic Zones around the Falklands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands; and then there might just be further implications for control (legal and/or military) of some of the potential mineral resources both there and in British Antarctic Territory.

In the midst of this we are supposed to focus on Ukraine, the wrong elephant. I hope that at least the British will not be so easily swayed and that our politicians can ‘get it’, as David Cameron did.