Monday, 31 August 2015
As the nation groans under the heel of the media literati as they go on and on about what is Socialism and all that in terms of the Labour Party as it might be, was recently and has been in the past we can go back a lot further.
The Staggers (or New Statesman) is a journal that I have looked at now for over sixty years. It has had its ups and downs but in a quirky way has been a useful guide to varied schools of thought on the Left and the nature of their debates.
This fascinating item from 81 years ago is a longish read but covers the same ground as the present debates but at a more informed and intellectual level.
It is a 1934 interview granted by Joseph Stalin, the Great Leader of the Soviet Union then to H.G. Wells the celebrity writer who was a leading figure not only in the politics of the period but in discussing the future and what might be foretold.
He had published his work "The Shape Of Things To Come" in 1933, see the Wikipedia page for a brief guide to its content and meaning. This book became the basis for the famous film of 1936. When I saw the film it quite put me off the future.
We do not seem to have moved on much from 1934.
Saturday, 29 August 2015
As it is a holiday weekend, it is the time to put on a link to an article that is short and to the point, but deals with complicated matters, the nub of which is that humanity as we know it is doomed.
All with no mention of asteroids, comets, solar storms, warming or cooling or geophysical bye-blows by unhappy passing deities.
It is all down to us and our greedy and rapacious financial ways and demands. This article from Our Finite World by Gail Tverberg, hat tip Some Assembly Required, spells it out in a convincing manner that will get all our twitches going.
Enjoy, while you can.
Friday, 28 August 2015
There are many and various ways one can show adherence to political leaders and their causes.
Some are more demanding than others, and some easier.
If it is Jeremy Corbyn that takes your fancy, here is a low cost and simple way to show your loyalty.
Fair Trade, organic and hard wearing, they are also available in navy. I will skip the obvious joke.
Socks, on the other hand, are a matter of choice.
Thursday, 27 August 2015
It slipped my mind a few weeks ago, but is now recalled. In May it was the 60th Anniversary of a famous event which shaped all our lives, one way or another. Yet while some may remember it is now forgotten, but perhaps it is time to recall it with the events in Eastern Europe.
It was the signing of the Warsaw Pact in May 1955 and the foundation of the Warsaw Pact Organisation comprising the USSR, very much in charge, and its major satellite nations. See Wikipedia etc. It was meant to be the counter to NATO created a few years earlier and seen by the East as a threat rather than a defensive alliance.
The Pact collapsed when the USSR imploded and is now history, up to a point. President Putin may have other ideas, especially with the EU trying to take over the territories to the Urals with NATO said to be in tow.
1955 is a long time ago. The two pictures above are a May Day parade in Red Square at the time of Soviet troops, and one from March 1955 of a typical British squaddie in NATO's key defense formation in the field a short distance away from the East German border.
You may wonder about the potential effectiveness of NATO if things did get serious. It is not entirely surprising that it was not long before the UK abandoned National Service and the West relied on the nuclear deterrent.
The question is, are things any better today?
Wednesday, 26 August 2015
Tonight I will be paying full attention to and concentrating the force of what is left of my mind on the Capital One Cup match, Barnsley v Everton. These are two football grounds at which I have had the pleasure of being in the Directors' Box with the local good and the great.
It was a long time ago. Barnsley F.C., as you might expect, was the one with more class. The tea was strong, quality leaf brewed with proper milk and sugar. After the game a good range of drinks was provided freely by a Minister of the Crown. In those happier days we had real Peoples Quantitative Easing.
At Everton F.C., for the uninitiated in Liverpool near the Anfield Cemetery and Stanley Park, it was the cheap new tea bags, powdered milk and strong saccharine pills with a stiff mark up on the drinks you had to buy later. The local politicians huddled together in a corner to do some confidential plotting and fixing away from intrusive media and other nosy people with inconvenient ideas about public interest.
One urgent matter was stopping any idea of allowing container shipping into the Mersey to protect the jobs of the dockers. Then there were the next districts of good Victorian housing to be flattened to give work to the most generous property developers. Also, how to squeeze more business rates to avoid putting up council house rents. All of these vital to keeping Liverpool great.
I was younger than these groups of men, the movers and shakers of that period and born generally in the first third of the 20th Century. Their basic ideas, beliefs, experience, prejudices and reactions etc. reflected their age and how their world had been. But now in the 1970's the world around them had changed radically and the pace of it was increasing.
Most did not realise what was happening, almost all did not understand the drivers of that change and what it might or might not lead to. So too often, conditioned by their thinking they opted to take directions that were the "might not" with bad results. This was not confined to the old industrial areas it was prevalent in others as well.
Essentially, this happened again as the next generation took over another where those at the top in politics and government operated with ideas related to a past that was disappearing at a time when the number of new challenges was increasing. The "new" that was supposed to be was too often an already discredited system imposed on an increasingly alien present.
Moving on to our present times, the same has happened yet again. We can look back in history to other periods and see time and time again when ruling groups seriously misread their presents because of their notions of the past. It is arguable that many of wars, disasters and disruptions are owed to little understanding and less sense of ruling groups.
But a particular disadvantage of the present and one that does impose the past on current thinking is the amount and variety of visual and other archive material that affects present policy. Generations of the past were able to shake off more of their past because it was so little available. We can relive the ideas and notions of half a century ago at the flick of a switch.
In fact our present seems so saddled with that past that our rulers and most of us cannot even begin to think in terms of the present. This is because the present that the media offers us is a shoddy limited one of sensation and instant news. As the preconceptions of this are governed by the visual past we cannot see the present.
If this is the case then the price we will pay will be a heavy one.
Monday, 24 August 2015
For some time it has been one of the mantras of our Prime Ministers, other politicians and persons high in government and commerce to proclaim that "Britain is open for business". As a result we have agreed to the sell offs of major sectors of our economy, private and public, to foreign ownership.
The late former Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan once said of some of this that "It is selling the family silver", but he was talking only of sales within the UK of largely then public sector assets. He was said to be a Conservative, although where we would place him now is not so certain.
More recently it is not just the family silver that has gone. By one means or another we have mortgaged the property in deals we can never repay, pawned many of our possessions, sold others at rock bottom prices to anyone willing to pay a big enough bribe to those in power and in the know and sold our children into debt slavery.
Among those from abroad who have managed to either stack away a lot of loot or to have imaginative financial systems making money that does not exist but people, notably politicians, are willing to accept are Chinese agencies.
Our ancestors may have been reluctant to Kow Tow to the old Emperors of China but our lords and masters have been happy to fling themselves to the floor when the Chinese money men arrive with wonderful promises of riches and fortunes.
China has indeed made astonishing changes in the most recent decades in the way it has urbanised and transformed the economy. There are problems, notably the air pollution in the cities which is beginning to spread around the planet, but the chief one has been that the finance and control has been opaque and complex beyond understanding.
For a little time now the doomsters have been suggesting that all was not as well as it seemed to be and the vast structures of finance, critically involved in the large structures of urban growth, do not have the firm foundations that should be there. One recent choice example is in The Bahamas, one of the many in the area of the Caribbean which has seen inflows of Chinese money.
In March the Mail had a big story about the mega resort being built in The Bahamas coming in at £3 billion plus. It is the Baha Mar project at Cable Beach, New Providence, a place where I have toasted the toes a time or two. The Bahamas now has a population of near 400,000, up from around 100,000 in 1960.
It has had minimal industry, little agriculture and the economy is highly dependent on tourism and financial services as an early tax haven. The capital, Nassau, is a short flight from Miami, which is of great help to all those flights of American money of one sort or another.
The scale and nature of it at Cable Beach is here in all the purple prose the Mail could muster in a major piece of puff, failing to mention that there were serious problems. I wonder who paid who for this one?
The latest Nassau item from the "Tribune" in the Bahamas gives an insight in the present situation at Baha Mar. If interested it is worth scanning the comments for some local feeling. What has been happening is that a key agency in the project has gone bankrupt, Chinese contractors are involved and there is now a flurry of legal cases in the USA.
There are many uncertainties and gaps in the system. There seem to be issues over who owes which land, who owes who money and what contract applies to what part of the project. The detail is mystifying and obscure and may take years to sort out if ever.
But in the scale of it, this is simply one project of many around the world that depends on Chinese money. At present the UK government are bent on handing over vast sums of money for the Hinckley Point nuclear project that involves a French reactor that does not work properly, par for the course.
Does anyone know how much of our economy now is crucially linked and reliant on Chinese money? Because if they do not and the present problems worsen to any degree we are in very real trouble.
Sunday, 23 August 2015
The item below was first posted on Thursday 1st October, 2009, but I think it might have a second outing.
Lenin, Hitler, Liverpool,
& Rorke’s Drift London
An item has been for sale online, said to be an etching made in 1910 of Lenin and Hitler playing chess together in a room in
in the house of a mutual friend. Perhaps, what worries me is the etching. This is skilled, expensive, and takes time
and trouble. Anyone recording this event
would have been more likely to make a quick sketch of one sort or another. Vienna
Also, there must have been many more interesting people in
playing chess or
talking together at the time. Hitler was
an unsuccessful artist, just turned 20, and going nowhere. Lenin was just another middle aged political
thinker and activist on the run from Tsarist Russia, ageing and seemingly with
no real future. Vienna
The other tale about the travels of Adolf that had attention in the past is the one about his supposed visit to
between November 1912 and April 1913. Based
on a suspect memoir by his sister-in-law, Bridget (born Dowling), whose husband
Alois Hitler, listed as Anton in the 1911 England Census; step brother of The
Fuhrer, was working as a waiter in Liverpool
at the time. It became the plot of an
imaginative and readable novel by Beryl Bainbridge that was became an
interesting TV item.
As ever the myth overtook the truth. Detailed research in
suggests that such a visit was never made, and that Bridget was making up an
Irish whimsy later in life to help sell the copies of her life story. It is a great pity, in 1913 both my parents
and their hordes of families were roaming the streets in which Alois and
Bridget Hitler lived and worked. I could
have come up with all sorts of wild fantasies. Vienna
A much better prospect for men who might have met and talked is a pairing that many would feel very unlikely. It is Lenin and Hook, one of the 13 men who won the Victoria Cross at Rorke’s Drift in 1879 when just over 100 men held off and defeated a Zulu Impi with a force of up to 4,500. They were certainly in the same place at the same time and for a year, and with interests in common.
In April 1902 Lenin, born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, was in
London under the name of Jacob Richter, to avoid the
attentions of the
agents of the Okhrana, the Tsarist Secret Police of Imperial Russia, and he
stayed until May 1903. At the British
Museum he was issued with ticket number A72453 to give him access to the
Library with its vast resources of books, and he spent a great deal of time
there researching and writing. Paris
One minor speculation is where he preferred to sit, perhaps seats G7, H9, R7, R8, but the favourite is L13 because of its nearness to the reference shelves. Of the many attendants around, one would have stood out.
Alfred Henry Hook, who had dropped the Alfred early in life, known as Harry, was by then around 50, and perhaps already affected by the TB that was to end his life in 1905. He had been employed there since the 1880’s. After earning his VC in 1879, and with permanent injuries he had bought out, and in 1881 was working as a groom to a General Practitioner in Monmouth named George Owen Willis.
Not long after he was employed at the
as an attendant, and signed up additionally with the Royal Fusiliers, The
London Regiment, 1st Volunteer Battalion as an instructor, rising to
be Sergeant. The Volunteers were the
predecessors of the Territorial Army, and often functioned as feeder units to
the regular Army. British Museum
There are reasons for Lenin to check Hook out. One was that as a figure of authority he was more likely than most to be asked his opinion about this “Mr. Richter” if the Special Branch had been alerted by the Okhrana and were seeking information. The logic would have been to test the possibility. Intellectually, however, would anyone with such an enquiring mind and intelligence of Lenin, miss the opportunity to have an occasional conversation with a man of this experience?
It would not have been difficult, because Hook was temperance, and as busy men both may well have used one of the cheap tea rooms in the vicinity before going on to meetings, as Lenin would, or the Drill Hall, as Hook would. Even fifty years later, it was surprising who you could bump into when going into a
Bloomsbury tearoom for a quick
cuppa and a sandwich.
Imagine, a foreigner with little income, but with a trained legal mind, high academic qualifications, and a great breadth of knowledge, asking plain reasonable questions to an older man to help him towards an understanding of this or that in the news in Britain. The end of the war in South Africa, a new Prime Minister, the crowning of the new King, the British in Somaliland and West Africa, the troubles of agriculture in the Atlantic Isles and more.
Hook was a countryman by birth, one of the many who joined the Army for employment and training. As for Empire, Hook had experienced the full reality of it at the end of his bayonet, and had been involved with many men since who had seen its further shores. He would have been able to make informed and incisive comments about the South African War of 1899-1902 and the business in
It is speculation, and no more, but what might Lenin have learned from Hook? Lenin at the time was interested in agrarian issues, colonisation, political structures, and the extent of financial interests.
In military terms, it would have been organisation, discipline, tactics, the ability of a small well trained group with the motivation and leadership to withstand and overcome what was in theory a vastly superior force. In 1914 the Old Contemptibles, the small regular British army, stopped the might of the German Kaiser’s Imperial Army by its rifle skills, discipline, and bayonets.
To understand Hook you need to forget the film “Zulu” and totally clear it from your mind. It is “Hollywood History”, not as bad or idiotic as most, but certainly with many adjustments to the facts and in particular the portrayal of personalities.
Hook of the film is a travesty, as are other characters, notably
, but to a lesser
extent Chard and Bromhead, both highly professional soldiers who at the end of
the battle shared a bottle of beer found in a burned out wagon. Dalton
Hook was a sober, capable man, probably with a Forest of Dean accent, literate and able to communicate well enough. He would have been a good man to talk to. I believe he always remained a country man, because he returned to his home village, Churcham in Gloucestershire, to die. There is no statue to him anywhere; he has only a simple grave in a country churchyard.
If they did meet and talk a time or two, it might have been this quality and a direct sense of purpose that may have impressed Lenin most of all.
What is intriguing is that that while Hook may have known Lenin, earlier in the 1881 Census he is living in Monmouth as a groom to George Owen Willis. On that same day Karl Marx has for his next door neighbour Edwin Willis, the famed builder of organs.
All people that on earth do dwell.......
Friday, 21 August 2015
As the race for Leader of the Labour Party closes to the line the four candidates are torn between traditional codes of unity, see the picture above, and the need to be different to make their claim. This has led to disputes and ill feeling.
It is always very sad when people who were close in their views and ideas as youngsters become different people in advancing age and bitterly opposed to each other and their beliefs. Yes, I am talking about Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn.
As teenagers they were both fans of the leading left pop group of the Soviet Union, "Kosygin And The Commissars". Who can ever forget their smash hits, "We All Live In A Nuclear Submarine" and "I Ain't Got No Electrification" that made it to number one in the Gulag charts?
Perhaps it is the pigeon issue that has torn them apart. It was during the era of Blair and before that reformists changed the face of Britain by declaring pigeons a feral health risk. Once Britons used to fling their food happily and some even go hungry to help the flapping friends get fat and breed and do more breeding.
Nosy scientists claiming that with the pigeons came other things, insects and microbes in plenty. But humans have always had fleas and things, why should pigeons pay the price for intrusive hygiene? Then there are the green issues. Natural is good.
According to figures available twenty five pigeons can deliver a ton of droppings a year, a form of Green Quantitative Easing, so if an average household can maintain a flock of a hundred on the roof there are four free tons of rich fertiliser to nurture our plant life and vigorous communities of other life.
So when Jeremy wants to set the pigeons free to be welcomed by all he is living the ultimate dream. That is we will have all the fertiliser we want at will and in quantities that will allow us to give freely of it to others. Newcomers to our land can be given pigeons on arrival and help to raise the tonnage.
Indeed there may be a little added maintenance and repair costs to our gutters, roofs and other things. But these purely incidental costs will help stimulate economic growth and provide work for lower paid labour. For a truly socialist economy pigeon droppings can only be a win win feature, nationalised and with their own Five Year Plan.
Ignore the pessimists who talk of disease. Pigeons do not smoke and drink alcohol; this means they are healthy. In any event a few transmitted aches, pains and septic flea bites are a small price to pay and will help to increase spending on the NHS which is something we all want.
There is a different view expressed here in two minutes on Youtube by Tom Lehrer a little time ago if you want to be serious about it.
Wednesday, 19 August 2015
There is no shortage of news items for those of a nervous disposition. The danger of resistance to antibiotic treatment arising from too many making too much use of them when not needed is there again.
Also there is the menace of the march of mutant head lice. Those of us who remember the school nit nurses with affection from days past might welcome their return.
There are all the volcanoes on the go, earthquakes due in areas with high populations imminent, asteroids a plenty and the universe is now said to be ageing, anyone for a black hole holiday? Last but not least there are flocks of Black Swans up there ready and waiting to cause the next bank bust.
So we look to our government to lead us with wisdom, foresight and the ability to watch over our interests. But what do we find? Our Prime Minister, Primus Inter Pares himself has been revealed to be a junk food addict. He was caught scoffing a whole tube of Pringles on a plane journey and is said to be a fan of them.
The full sorry story is here in The Mail which does not pull its punches. A sample of the article is this:
Today, they may be sold in the crisps aisles of supermarkets, but the resemblance to an ordinary potato crisp ends there.
Pringles are made from a sludge of potato flakes, corn flour, wheat starch and rice flour, mixed with water and preservatives.
This slurry is rolled into a thin sheet and cut by machine into ovals, which are pressed into their distinctive curved shape on a conveyor belt and fried in vegetable oil for exactly 11 seconds.
Excess oil is blown off before they are sprayed with powdered flavourings and seasoning, stacked together and inserted into tubes. As food goes, it’s about as natural as those other inventions of the Sixties — Pop Tarts, Smash instant mash and Angel Delight.
My in house qualified food chemist reminds me that in the last couple decades major advances in particle chemistry, viscosity and other features means that products today pack a much bigger punch and effect than those of the past. Moreover, they do this with what is far smaller quantities of the actual synthetics, in some cases enabling use which might otherwise have exceeded regulations.
The manufacturers, and their scientists, insist that there are no problems and the products do not have the side effects claimed, save perhaps for a few ultra sensitive people or those with existing serious conditions.
If the adverse claims are true and the products not only affect the body but via the circulation of the blood, another debatable theory, have some impact on neural function then what we might expect?
A person affected might be prone to mood swings, have problems making decisions, struggle with figures, say one thing one day and then another on the next day, lose contact with realities, retreat into escaping work and responsibility, be variable in relations with colleagues and other people and altogether fail in their grasp of what is to be done and how.
Can this be said of Cameron?
Ah, yes, well, um, oh dear.
Monday, 17 August 2015
The screening of a new version by the BBC of the DH Lawrence tale of class diversity, "Lady Chatterley's Lover" is said to be one of those where little is left to the imagination.
For those who recall the legal to-do's of over fifty years ago on publication the shift (or without shift) in thinking reminds of not so much a more innocent past, but at least a discrete one.
The literati may have lauded it as a "great work" but the average reader and those whose reading came in plain brown envelopes saw it as a bit of a giggle.
For me the definitive comment on DH Lawrence was the Monty Python sketch, "Working-Class Playwright", text below.
Followed By A Scotsman on a Horse
(Opening Scene : A sitting room straight out of H. Lawrence. Mum, wiping her hands on her apron is ushering in a young man in a suit. They are a Northern couple both wearing working clothes, the husband with the trousers tied at the knees, and in a union shirt and waistcoat.)
Mum (Terry Jones): Oh dad, look who's come to see us. It's our Ken.
Dad (Graham Chapman): (without looking up) Aye, and about bloody time if you ask me.
Ken (Eric Idle): Aren't you pleased to see me, father?
Mum: (squeezing his arm reassuringly) Of course he's pleased to see you, Ken, he...
Dad: All right, woman, all right I've got a tongue in my head - I'll do 'talkin'. (looks at Ken distastefully) Aye... I like yer fancy suit. Is that what they're wearing up in
Ken: It's just an ordinary suit, father. It's all I've got apart from the overalls.
(Dad turns away with an expression of scornful disgust.)
Mum: How are you liking it down the mine, Ken?
Ken: Oh it's not too bad mum, we're using some new tungsten carbide drills for the preliminary coal-face scouring operations.
Mum: Oh that sounds nice, dear...
Dad: Tungsten carbide drills! What the bloody hell's tungsten carbide drills?
Ken: It's something they use in coal-mining, father.
Dad: (mimicking) 'It's something they use in coal-mining, father'. You're all bloody fancy talk since you left
Ken: Oh not that again.
Mum: He's had a hard day dear, his new play opens at the National Theatre tomorrow.
Ken: Oh that's good.
Dad: Good! Good? What do you know about it? What do you know about getting up at five o'clock in t'morning to fly to Paris, back at the Old Vic for drinks at twelve, sweating the day through press interviews, television interviews and getting back here at ten to wrestle with the problem of a homosexual nymphomaniac drug-addict involved in the ritual murder of a well known Scottish footballer. That's a full working day, lad, and don't you forget it!
Mum: Oh, don't shout at the boy, father.
Dad: Aye, 'ampstead wasn't good enough for you, was it? You had to go poncing off to
Barnsley, you and yer coal-mining friends. (spits)
Ken: Coal-mining is a wonderful thing father, but it's something you'll never understand. Just look at you!
Mum: Oh Ken! Be careful! You know what he's like after a few novels.
Dad: Oh come on lad! Come on, out wi' it! What's wrong wi' me? You tit!
Ken: I'll tell you what's wrong with you. Your head's addled with novels and poems, you come home every evening reeling of Chateau La Tour...
Mum: Oh don't, don't.
Ken: And look what you've done to mother! She's worn out with meeting film stars, attending premieres and giving gala luncheons.
Dad: There's nowt wrong wi' gala luncheons, lad! I've had more gala luncheons than you've had hot dinners!
Mum: Oh please!
Dad: Aaaaaaagh! (clutches hands and sinks to knees)
Mum: Oh no!
Ken: What is it?
Mum: Oh, it's his writer's cramp!
Ken: You never told me about this.
Mum: No, we didn't like to, Kenny.
Dad: I'm all right! I'm all right, woman. Just get him out of here
Mum: Oh Ken! You'd better go.
Ken: All right. I'm going.
Dad: After all we've done for him...
Ken: (at the door) One day you'll realize there's more to life than culture. There's dirt, and smoke, and good honest sweat!
Dad: Get out! Get out! Get OUT! You... LABOURER!
(Ken goes. Shocked silence. Dad goes to table and takes the cover off the typewriter.)
Dad: Hey, you know, mother, I think there's a play there. Get t'agent on t'phone.
Mum: Aye I think you're right, Frank, it could express, it could express a vital theme of our age.
(In the room beneath a man is standing on a chair banging on the ceiling with a broom.)
Michael Palin): Oh shut up! (bang
bang) Shut up! (they stop talking upstairs) Oh, that's
better. (he climbs down and looks at the camera)
Mum and Dad: (from upstairs) We've done that!
(The man looks up slightly disconcerted.)
Man: Oh all right. All right! A man with nine legs.
Voice Off: He ran away.
Man: Oh Bloody Hell! Er... a Scotsman on a horse! Cut to film of a Scotsman [John Cleese] riding up on a home. He looks around, puzzled. Cut to stock film of Women's Institute audience applauding.
Cut to the man with two noses (Graham Chapman); he puts a handkerchief to his elbow and we hear the sound of a nose being blown.
Cut to Women's Institute audience applauding.
Cut to cartoon of a flying sheep.) Voice Over: Harold! Come back, Harold! Harold! Come back, Harold! Oh, blast! The sheep is shot down by a cannon. Cut to film of an audience of Indian ladies not applaudingthat any more.
They don't make them like that any more.
They don't make them like that any more.
Sunday, 16 August 2015
The Palace, with a good deal of sympathy from very many, has made its concern clear about the scale of the paparazzi chase on Prince George. It has become unrelenting, excessive and not just a nuisance but a hazard in many respects.
Of course the photographers would not spend the time and effort on this if they could not make money out of it. So there is the question of who among the press and media is paying big money for these pictures and can they be restrained.
The child, who did not choose his parents or ancestry, needs to have some sort of normality in life and to grow up without this continuing circus around him. But it is not just the photographers the Palace has to worry about.
Seen on Sky TV in the last few days is an advert' for the Ford C Max car, which does not need a key or such for opening doors or car boots etc. It features a small child, who is learning to walk.
Above is the Ford C Max child and also Prince George. Surely some resemblance?
Saturday, 15 August 2015
In August 1945 the Atomic Bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had some of us cheering. Also, there was a sense of awe that a single bomb carried by a single aircraft could do as much damage and worse than many nights of bombing by large air forces. It made us realise that the world had changed forever.
The Japanese War for the UK and the USA had begun in December 1941 with the declaration of war by Japan against Britain and the USA. This was a further stage in the bid to be masters of the East. This warfare had begun in October 1931 with attacks in Manchuria and later on China with all the attendant horrors.
They believed that victory would be theirs for the taking given that Britain at that time seemed to have little hope of stopping Germany and were vulnerable in the East. The problems in India helped to encourage Japanese confidence that it was just a question of pushing at the door.
As for the USA, they were perceived as being weak by Japan given the strength of isolationist opinion in American politics at the time and the never ending confusion of their electoral system. But what was critical was that the USA under Roosevelt had begun to rearm and Japan needed to hit hard before this was fully in place.
The rest of the story is well known enough. What I am certain of is that when the enormity of what the Japanese had done emerged as their troops stood down and the gates of the camps for internees and prisoners were opened there were very few people who regretted the dropping of the A Bombs.
There were some I knew, looking at the wreckage in many our own cities, who felt that the Allies should have gone on to A Bomb every urban area in Japan.
Thursday, 13 August 2015
The row over the long delayed release of a report by Sir John Chilcot on the Iraq War of 2003, Operation Telic, and events before and after has surfaced again. The families of the fallen and injured have threatened legal action unless progress is made. General Sir Michael Rose, who opposed the war is supporting them.
Personally, I was on record at the time as against the war. It was not just political arising from my distaste for the Tony Blair regime. My view was that on the figures I was seeing in terms of the logistics it was going to be a botch job that had a high risk of going badly wrong. Old tankies never die they just complain away.
The long delay is put down to what is called "Maxwellisation", that is that a proposed report should allow confidential reference to and comment by those mentioned and involved. It is to satisfy the legal issues that may arise. In the case of Chilcot this has become protracted and complicated.
Given that the Blair government was essentially one of lawyers, for lawyers and by lawyers this is not surprising, and Mrs. Blair, lest we forget is a Human Rights lawyer who operates at the highest levels and at the highest cost to the community. For people of this ilk the dead and the injured are just collateral casualties on their road to political nirvana.
This group are never going to allow a published report if they can prevent it from saying that they were at fault in any way and for any reason. This is not just because it might leave them open to action but because it would impact on their current activity and standing.
The report might well take the view that the Blair cabal that went into the war were incompetent, incapable of proper analysis and appreciation of intelligence, did not understand logistics and failed to see the operational dangers and risks in either military terms or the political situation on the ground in Iraq.
A real question is just how much did Blair follow George W.Bush or how much did he do to lead him into the mire? The American dimension may be a source of difficulty in that if Blair etc. had such a key role in leading to the invasion, does this make them liable in the USA?
The one certainty we do have is that Parliament and the public were misled and misinformed. How far that was deliberate and culpable deceit is a matter that the Report might help understand. How far it may have been haste, stupidity and arrogance is a matter for real discussion.
But if we are looking for precedents for Cameron and the cabinet there is one I would recommend. It is from one of the heroes of our history, a man formidable in battle, as a general and in politics. It is Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington.
Publish and be damned.
Wednesday, 12 August 2015
The problems in the parts of the former Soviet Union have not gone away for summer, they just carry on being less reported. One matter that crops up which is seriously worrying is the question of the EU chiefs interfering and dragging in NATO, that leftover from the Cold War.
If there is one good way to trigger a disastrous conflict that ruins all and wrecks nations and peoples it is putting uncontrolled power into the hands of ignorant fools who are consumed with their own arrogance who then call on Generals and military who want to make a name for themselves.
Is there cause for alarm in what is claimed to be happening out there in and around the Ukraine? Are these people serious or is it just unthinking posturing? If there is a complex continuing situation in the Ukraine and area born of long history and contesting peoples why do they think they can cure it with empty threats and emptier promises?
It is one thing to play political and diplomatic games which are part and parcel of what goes on normally. But upping the ante to wheel out what is left of the European military to stage a few military exercises if only to impress the natives or at least the Corporates is asking for something to go badly wrong.
We have been here before notably in 1954. This article in interesting as it attempts to put a gloss on major military exercises mounted by The West shortly after the death of Stalin when it was assumed that the Soviet Union would be falling into disarray and division. Unlike other military exercises which were classified secret or higher in purpose and form Battle Royal was fully publicised.
The results were very curious. Whilst what went on at the political and General Staff levels was claimed to be good and first class what was actually happening out there in the field was a shambles. When the British formations staggered back to barracks after a few days in benign weather conditions they were not in good shape.
Worse was to come because the upshot was a series of larger and smaller exercises to follow up to see if it could all be improved and to determine how capable the Army really was. These did not end well and a large scale exercise in December 1955 in full winter conditions made it clear that if indeed the Soviet Third Shock Army decided to move to the West we could not stop them.
If anything this blustering by the West may well have concentrated minds in Moscow to retain unity of purpose. The equipment was not up to it, the men, largely conscript in the lowest ranks, were not, the support services were grossly inadequate. These were all factors in the Suez Crisis debacle.
The consequences in the next few years were a radical reshaping of the military, new equipment on a major scale and new strategies. What was clear that in terms of conventional warfare the West did not have a chance.
Europe now has a collection of armies that are very limited in the capability to withstand any campaign or effort that could last even months and not years. Nor do they have the ability to raise or train larger numbers suddenly. Nor are they a coherent force together and nor do they have the stock of equipment and materials to last any time in the field.
We cannot rely on The Yanks any more. They do not have the men, they do not have the means and they do not have the money. More to the point they would be mad to follow the EU into a dance of death in the Ukraine.
Cameron The Nudging Behaviourist who has been making it clear on many subjects that he cannot make anything clear needs to get the bits of his brain together to tell the EU to put up, shut up and the UK will not be going anywhere near the Ukraine and may even support Putin.
Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Among the many promises for the future being flung about in the debate on the Labour leadership election there are those to take us back to what was to make what will be. Some are easier than others. The promise of new coal mines sounds easy but is not.
This UK Coal web site gives a fair amount of basic information related to deep mining. It had two mines, Thoresby and Kellingley, both gone. They had been kept going with government support which ended. This has to do not simply with subsidy and debt but climate policy and carbon emissions.
Is Labour talking about far more extensive open cast mining across Wales and the odd drift mine for specialist coals? If it is deep mines then the idea that opening new ones in South Wales will be a restoration to existing communities they need to think again.
Assuming Labour win in 2020 it would take a good ten years to create new deep mines, if not more. By that time just how many of those former deep mines communities have gone? Probably most of them and in a number of areas all leaving a remnant body of labour.
Also, such deep mines will need thick seams over extensive areas to allow modern methods to be applied. The deeper and more you go means serious challenges in geology and the physics; do I need to go into the air and water issues?
Then there is the subsidence. Having lived in worked in mining areas this is a major issue. What is to be done with all the waste? Take it back down again? Dump it in the sea? Put on top of hills to create mountains for winter sports?
Are the proposals made in the hope of achieving continuing and real profits? Or is the idea that state subsidies here will allow benefits and savings elsewhere in energy use or overall impact? They might be creating jobs, money flows raising taxes and reducing benefits.
Inevitably, this raises many questions about the existing energy companies, probably regarded as candidates for state control. But the money realities remain. Will highly subsidised mining need high energy prices to pay for it? Back to square one as they used to say in the 1930's but there is a price to be paid, one way or another.
If the mantra is jobs and incomes to communities it would be a very expensive and risky way of doing it. The question is could money be spent on other forms of job creation which would yield far better and more reliable returns? What other economic activities are possible without wrecking the environment?
Not least will be the wage and benefits levels for those who do the work. Presumably, Labour does not want cheap labour. To make the figures work better importing low wage labour from the East might make sense to private operators.
Given the muddle of thinking in the Labour Party they are all too likely to import the labour for the new state mines and then pay them top dollar, especially if the locals don't like the idea of going down or working in mines.
Bring back the trolley buses.