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September 27, 2005

The Monk is away

The Monk is travelling in North Eastern Europe - Poland to be exact - for his "day-job". He is giving a paper at a conference and will be out of communication until his return.

Until recently, he would have left a stock of entries for Church Mouse to put up as she saw fit, but sadly Church Mouse is not well, in fact, she is having a very difficult time at the moment and will not be able to attend to the blog as she did before. On which note, I ask you all to pray for her as she battles cancer which is now quite advanced and not responding to treatment. She has been a stalwart Mouse and a brave one, your prayers will be much appreciated at this time and for the forseeable future.

As the Monk cannot keep in touch with Church Mouse for the next seven days, he would appreciate it if you keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 26, 2005

Interruption of posts

I am sorry to say, that I did not have an opportunity to post anything yesterday, in fact I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep up a regular daily post due to workloads and personal demands. Over the next few days things will be even more disjointed, but I hope that you will bare with me until I find a way to get things back to normal.

Do keep checking on me!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:32 PM | TrackBack

Conference season

The Chancellor of the Exchequer's BIG speech is likely to be something of an Oscar Award performance. For one thing he is likely to say that his "cuts" to the Civil Service have seen 80,000 jobs cut, but is it true? The simple answer is no. The object of the exercise was to "save" £22.5 billion, instead the Whitehall Whallahs have hired in "Consultants" to "advise" them on everything they are paid to know anyway, at a cost of £2.5 billion. Not a single job has gone from Whitehall, all the big departments have managed to hang on to every single post and acquired a few more. So the monster continues to grow - with enhanced powers and cost.

As he lines himself up to be the Illustrious Leader we should all begin to worry, not least because the economy is slowing down, the country is experiencing a rise in crime (despite the "adjusted" statistics) and the pensions "Black Hole" is getting worse. And who, as the adverts used to say, do we have to thank? Why none other than our very own Gordon, whose economic policies have seen government spending go through the roof, and his raids on pension funds, insurance premiums and every other "service" he thinks he can get away with have seen costs rising steadily. Now he announces he wants "more private home ownership" and "more individual share ownership". Funny that, because this is the man who not that long ago was proclaiming that we had to build more "social" housing!

More worrying though, is the evident confidence of this party of thieves, robbers and ideologues who should not be allowed out unaccompanied, that they are going to be in power for evermore! They have such overweening belief in their inevitable victory at any future polls that they are already handing out posts in a future Brown Government. Even more worrying is the fact that the Civil Service is now completely in the control of Labour Party appointees and ideologues. Even if they were voted out, the Civil Service Party is now in a posiion to frustrate any change of ideology, party agenda or parliamentary intent.

It seems we now live in a one party state, communist in its behaviour, and communist in its centralised control of everything. All we can really hope for is that the electorate will wake up before the next election and throw this shower out before they can entrench themselves any further!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:10 PM | TrackBack

September 24, 2005

Yet another super storm

Hard on the heels of Hurricane Katrina comes Hurricane Rita, already clocking up wind speeds in excess of Katrina. More than a million people, according to our news, were being told to evacuate the Texas Gulf Coast as the storm approaches. Interestingly, this time, the authorities are laying on busses and aircraft to move those without their own transport, yet even so, the Interstate seems to be almost at a standstill. At least Rita seems to have moderated a bit as it heads inland - it's now down to a Category 3!

The storm itself is over 400km (a little over 250 miles from side to side), and is notching up wind speeds in excess of 160 miles per hour. That is some storm, and it is still gaining power as it soaks up energy over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico! Scientific American, a magazine I subscribe too, recently published an article on the results of a survey of these storms over the last twenty years, and reports that they are, in fact, increasingly powerful and frequent. Now the "Global Warming" lobby - led by the Haed of the UK's Environmental Research Section - are already out and shouting "it's all the US's fault", but is it? Or is it something much bigger and much, much less controllable? It is notable that the Kyoto Protocol is once again being waved at the US and Australia, but it's notable exclusions and licenses to pollute for "developing" nations are simply waved aside when challenged. Nor are these same "experts" prepared to express an opinion on the ongoing destruction of the Indonesian rainforests, the Jungles of central America and the Far East and the Amazon Basin - or the Congo Basin for that matter. These are all in "developing" nations. They aren't "rich" so we can't blame them can we?

In the Scientific American and in New Scientist and Astronomy I have read nuemrous other reports that show that our planet occupies a rather unique position in space, a narrow band of space that is exactly the right distance from the sun so that we do not fry or freeze. At the present moment, our orbit is on the "inner" edge of that bad, so we are, effectively closer to the sun - ergo; the planet gets more heat! That is not to say we are not compounding this in some ways, but it does seem to explain some of the more extreme situations we seem to have lately. The other half of this equation is the ocean itself, absorbing a lot more heat as it is, it would seem likely that we can soon expect to see even more of these super storms since they form over "hot spots" in the ocean and then gather strength from other hot spots as they head North.

At this point in time there is little any of us can do except pray for those who are travellig and for those who will lose everything.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:47 PM | TrackBack

September 23, 2005

How cuddly is your attitude?

The latest round in the demoralisation and destruction of the British Fire and Rescue Services is well underway. The assessment of competence, the much trumpetted "benchmark" for promotion, has been downgraded to be only 10% of the assessment process. Something called "PQA's" now dominate the assessments - and it is on these that decisions are being made as to who should be promoted or appointed.

What, you may well ask, is a "PQA"? In this age of acronyms where no one actually speaks a complete sentence anymore without littering the converstaion with strings of acronyms no one else (or a very limited number of cogniscenti) understands, it stands for "Personal Qualities and Attributes" and is supposed to measure how receptive you are to working with people from different cultures, colours or sexual orientation. It is also intended to measure your "political" awareness and to gauge your sense of "community". It has nothing whatever to do with measuring how effective you would be as a manager of an emergency service, or of whether or not you actually know anything about it. A colleague who recently underwent this death of career, emerged saying that the whole thing seemed to be aimed at Politically Correct "Issues" and the perceptions of biase as seen by the interviewer. He found that all the questions were extremely subjective and was very distressed to be told at the end of the interview that he had not made the required level - but that he could expect feedback on his performance and development needs, wait for it - in December! Forty other candidates in lower ranks - sorry Roles - had a similar view when they emerged from this exercise, and surprise, surprise, the Service has now appointed several people from outside the profession to replace the uniformed types so patently unsuitable. And the HR Director involved was distressed and surprised by the level of antipathy she encountered when giving feedback!

This experience among colleagues is not unique, but some have learned how to play the game. Three who have also recently undergone this ordeal and succeeded in getting the posts they were after freely admit that they had researched the sources and trends from other people's experiences and spent the entire interview - an hour and a half in duration - shovelling bovine excrement. It obviously worked, in their opinion, primarily because the interviewers were not being objective but selectively subjective and heard only the things they wanted to hear, immediately moving on when they heard the "right" answer. Other colleagues have not been able to pull this off - and I suppose it speaks for itself that all the successful ones have spent several years actually teaching the "new" management techniques.

To make matters worse, the "assessment" is in several "parts" only one of which is a compulsory pass. You've guessed it, it's the one about culture and diversity. You can achieve or not achieve a "pass" in any of the other sections and still get through as long as you score 100% in the Culture and Diversity section. As an additional incentive, a "Not Ready" result - no one "Fails" - bars you from applying for or serving in an acting capacity in any role but the one you are in for two years. In that time you may not attend or undergo any other "Assessment Centre". So how is it run? Well, for a start, it certainly puts the applicant under pressure. The "Assessor" sits the candidate down, hands them a "Standard" list of questions (Developed and published by that extremely competent and efficient organisation called the Civil Service) and asks you to respond to the first question - then starts a stop watch and tells you that you have five minutes to answer verbally.

Your verbal answers are being written down by hand by another member of the panel - who, as they are not using shorhand and are trying to take your answers "verbatim" - keeps interupting your flow by asking you to slow down. Then you are criticised at the end for not completing your answer in the required time. The response to any protest is that it is a test of your communication skills! This is a test which works well for people who deal in meetings, in esoteric concepts and can blather away about "principles" and "strategies" for Africa, but it is a huge problem for those whose communication is usually on a practical level. It also bears no relation at all to how well someone will perform in an emergency situation, but creates a huge amount of stress and seems designed to exclude the technical people and promote the paper shufflers. The worst aspect is that it is a nationally imposed assessment process devised for office workers and now being used in a service which spends less than 20% of their working time "working" in offices!

So, next time you need a fire engine at your fire/road accident or other emergency, don't expect too much in the way of emergency action. The crew will have been demotivated to the point that they no longer care, and the person in charge will know all about how to empathise with your distress, make a cup of tea and perhaps offer you community fire safety advice and counselling, but not a lot about dealing with the emergency to hand.

And don't forget that we're going to be paying more for this service than we did for the crude, rough, tough and "elitist" service it is supposed to be "modernising". Time to invest in some fire equipment for your own use and protection methinks!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 22, 2005

Kyoto comments

The Kyoto Protocol is once again in the news down under (or Up Over if you're from Down Under! - No; let's not go any further with that analogy!)and G'day Mate has posted a wonderful rant from one of his regular reads on it. Under the title of Kyoto Protocol (Revisited)Ozguru points up that most of the supposed "alternatives" are unreliable and even worse, would do some major environmental damage. Oz is in fact quoting from Dave's Halfarsed Blog and the full rant can be read there under the title "It ain't bad, it just ain't that good".. It is well worth visiting.

In fact, I followed up some of the ideas that Dave mentions and I wonder if the Green Airheads who have proposed this have even given any thought to the long term effects of having every roof covered in radiant panels? Consider for a moment the implications of two important things about these - first the absorb a lot of heat in the process of operation, but secondly, the also are reflective. Focus the reflected heat and light and you can send some serious radiant heat straight up into the air - possibly creating some serious convective updrafts. Over the surface of a major city, this could create something not unlike a major atmospheric depression. Just looking at the convected air currents rising above several of these panels fitted on local roof surfaces, makes me wonder what 250,000 square kilometres worth would do to atmospheric air currents!

Another little point, since we now think we know that ice ages are effectively caused by the creation of atmospheric changes which result in cloud cover reflecting sunlight away from the surface and thus prolonging winter in either hemisphere, if we created a massive surface which reflects heat back into space in the way these huge arrays would appear to do, would we not be in danger of plunging ourselves back into a massive ice age?

As to wind farms, as both Dave and Oz point out, they only work when there is wind and require backing up for peak demands - usually at night or when there is no wind. Ergo, we need something like a whole lot of gas-turbine generation plants all on stand-by for the demand - and starting these up and running them causes atmospheric pollution.

Kyoto is, at best, a "political" solution. The science behind it is questionable and unreliable. The Protocol itself addresses only the "developed" nations and allows the "developing" nations to pollute to their hearts content. Another aspect that is not being considered in this is that as factories move to "developing" nations, so do the jobs. The "Developed" nations can only afford the expensive social packages they offer their citizens as long as they are able to generate wealth through commerce and industry - and the taxes that flow from these. Equally, they can only afford these expensive and often "experimental" "Green" solutions because they have both the wealth and technology to do it.

It is ironic that Australia, Europe, and the US are often pilloried by the Green lobby as "polluters" when, in fact, they pollute proportionately less than undeveloped nations - the difference is that because the undeveloped nations populations tend to be very large, the pollution per head tends to appear to be smaller than that for - say - Australia.

This is a serious debate, one that has become far to polarised and far too dependent on very questionable science. The last people who shopuld be determining what and how we resolve these issues are the half baked and frankly hysterical members of Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the politicians. Ozguru and Dave are right, there is a clean and very green alternative to coal, to wind farms and to solar panels. Its called nuclear fusion and nuclear fission and the sooner we recognise that it is a safe and seriously reliable alternative the better.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:16 AM | TrackBack

September 21, 2005

What price crime and punishment?

From time to time, we have a case which raises some important issueas in relation to the way in which we deal with criminals. Murder should surely be seen as one crime that is worthy of, if not the death penalty, then, at the very least, permanent deprivation of liberty for the perpetrator? And what of the increasingly common cases of serial offenders, fueled usually by drug addictions, who rack up incredible criminal records before they even hit maturity - and who are still treated as "suitable for rehabilitation" despite all evidence to the contrary? It would seem, frequently, that the criminal justice system is driven more by compassion for the criminal than by the administration of justice for the victim.

This week has seen the conviction and sentencing of a young man whose record for burglary begins at the tender age of 10, for the cold blooded killing of a grandmother in a raid on a small jewellery store. His sentence of 22 years for this crime is risible - even though there are those who will argue that it will effectively mean his being "on parole" for the rest of his life - as he will be released "on licence" after serving half of this total. It is risible precisely because he was out of jail "on license" and electronically tagged when he committed this murder! In fact he had removed the tag within hours of his release, failed to report as required for interviews with his supervising parole officer and failed to observe the curfew imposed by his license for almost the entire two weeks he was supposedly "on license" - yet the supervisory authorities did absolutely nothing to control him!

Further he is a cocaine addict and so will simply keep on offending to feed his habit. All of this the authorities knew - but still decided to allow him loose, record for violence, sexual offences and all, on "license" to terrorise the community.

If this was an isolated case it would be bad enough, but it isn't, it is merely the most visible in a long and growing catalogue of similar cases all of which our crumbling legal system refuses to address properly. Even the Lord Chief Justice is a party to this with his latest directive to judges and magistrates to avoid locking up people for violent crime, burglary or assault - but to treat "white collar" crime and "sexual" offences more harshly. So, the message is clear, commit assault and manslaughter or rob someone of their possessions and you will be treated less harshly than a man who indulges in "insider trading" or "cooks" his company books.

The root of the problem does seem to be the perception that burglary and robbery are "victimless" crimes because no one is injured. Assault or murder have victims - but drink, drugs and "provocation" are all taken as "mitigation". Any crime committed by anyone under the age of 18 is treated as "youthful misdemeanour" and frequently rewarded, but the bottom line is really that nothing is punished anymore - unless you are white, middle class and do something which affects the profit to be made by the ruling classes speculation on the Stock Market!

The lack of any retribution, or at least the appearance of punishment, for crime is fueling a mindset that anything is permissable, and being caught is a badge of honour since it proves you are "hard". These are people who are caught up in a web created by their having no respect for anyone - least of all themselves - and who then seek to make themselves "respected" by intimidation or violent criminal activity. It is a malaise which reaches deeply into the entire psyche of crime and punishment - and one which makes a complete nonsense of any attempt at "rehabilitation" because, unless the root cause - the lack of respect for authority, lack of respect for society and lack of respect for self - is addressed, there can be no rehabilitation!

At the moment it would seem that there is too much focus on "forgive and rehabilitation" and not enough on making clear that crime is not something a civilised society is prepared to tolerate. Undisciplined behaviour in a child, if unchecked, leads to real behavioural and anti-social behaviour in their teens and to real crime in adulthood. If caught early and dealt with effectively - and reward/non-reward is not effective! - much of this sort of heartache can be prevented. Criminal Justice needs to refocus on punishment, correction and then on rehabilitation. The last cannot be achieved with being underpinned by the first two elements.

The Home Office currently wants to cut the cost of keeping people in prison - but this is a false economy since the real price then falls on those whose lives are destroyed, homes wrecked, possessions stolen by the likes of the violent hooligan jailed this week for murder. How many more must we suffer before someone in the Halls of Power has the guts to admit they have had it wrong and brings in the change of direction that is so patently needed?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 20, 2005

Lies, damned lies ....

The publication this week of the memoirs of a man who was once "on the inside" at Number 10, must make for some very uncomfortable reading among the Blair Media Manipulation Units. Not only does this book name names, it has the dates, the places and the events as well. Tellingly, Number 10 tried to strangle it - by putting senior Civil Servants to work on trying to get parts excluded, rewritten in a more favourable light or simply twisted to the Number 10 preferred version of the truth. The book does not bode well for government, the contents exposing some of the really appalling lies this government regularly resorts too in its desperate and very determined bid to hold onto power at all costs even if that actually kills off democracy altogether.

The fact that Blair and his sycophants have deployed Civil Service manadarins to do their dirty work should send shockwaves through the system because it proves, if proof was needed, that the civil service is now an organ of the Labour Party and not an independent and impartial service at all. It is now run exclusively by Labour Aparatchiks, for the benefit and service of Labour ideology and not for the national interest. The fact that the Cabinet Secretary himself - the Head of the Civil Service - was directly involved in implementing Mr Blair's "modernising" dictats which have seen the Civil Service grow by 1.8 million and become ever more closely aligned to the delivery of "socialist" values, is proof of the fact it is no longer "independent" or "impartial". Add to that, its direct intervention in efforts to block the publication of Mr Price's book, and you have all the proof you need that this vast unelected and singularly unaccountable organisation is not only not good for this country, but a force destroying our much prized democracy.

What Mr Price has exposed is a deliberate and very carefully orchestrated campaign run by the New Labour media manipulators and ably aided and abetted by the Civil Service poodles appointed by this devious little man and his Party to destroy the democratic establishments, imperfect though they were, of this country and replace it with a Socialist Paradise to ensure their perpetual grip on power. We should thank Mr Price - and begin immediately to challenge every attempt by these unscrupulous gangsters, to enslave us further!

What this book reveals is just how rotten, dishonest and power hungry this government is. They will stop at nothing to hold onto power at any price and no lie, no deceit and no skuldugery is to low for them to stoop beneath it. It is time to reform the entire political structure, root branch and civil service!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 19, 2005

Creating ghettoes?

I am finding myself more and more in accord with Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (an organisation I have personally no time for at all!). He has recently spoken out - albeit in code - against "multi-culturalism". In a recent speech in Manchester he declared that our "tolerance of diversity" was "sleepwalking us into segregation".

Now I have argued before that the "preservation of diversity" is nothing less than "Apartheid" by another name, so it comes as a welcome confirmation to have Mr Phillips state that the emphasis on diversity is encouraging the growth of segregation. That diversity is in fact isolating people and dividing society, by encouraging the growth of ghettoes in which minority communities cut themselves off and then apply seperate values to themselves and those they encounter when they make forays into the rest of British society.

As Mr Phillips says; "The fragmentation of our society by race and ethnicity is a catastrophe for us all." I would actually say it is more than that, it is a travesty created by a failed ideology and perpetuated by a small minority whose purpose is to create a society founded on their vision of Utopia, a totally unworkable concept in any shape or form and which will lead, ultimately, to a tragedy for every part of British Society.

Seeing Mr Hain bleating about wanting to see more and more "integration" is insulting, since this is the very same man who so despises our own culture that he and his cohorts have dreamed up this "rainbow" Britain concept which, as Mr Phillips has rightly pointed out, is leading in the opposite direction. What is needed is not more money (as Mr Phillips suggests) or even more talking (as the Conservative Spokesman suggests) but a much more pragmatic and sensible approach based on common sense and not ideology. The starting pioint has to be a review of the current immigration policy and of the mess that is the "asylum" policy. Without a much more sensible approach to these important issues there can be no starting point - the country has now a total of 7.5% of the population as "new arrivals" since 1991, and the enlargement of Europe seems to be increasing this with the loss of controls on our borders and the reluctance of the Whitehall Whallahs to actually get to grips with the abuses and abusers.

There are not going to be any quick fixes for this, nor are there going to be any easy solutions. The politicians have between them created this mess, the lawyers thrive on it and a whole "industry" of "equality, diversity and ethnic rights" activists have made careers out of it. The victims are almost entirely the entire population of the UK as we all find ourselves forced deeper and deeper into our own little ghetto.

I welcome Mr Phillips warning, let us all hope that someone, somewhere, will kick into gear the machinery that will do something about it. In the meantime we should all do our utmost to expose the sham that is "multi-culturalism" and the farce that it is the "only" future. We should all be British - or not. To attempt to be anything else while living in these isles is to invite the creation of yet more ghettoes and that can only lead to disaster.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:33 PM | TrackBack

September 18, 2005

Sunday prayer

In a world where we are constantly bombarded by the latest piece of evidence that some psychopaths will stop at nothing to further their religious and political aims, we should remember that while God is trying to get His message of love across to us, it is we who are His hands, feet and agents here in this world. It is our prayers and our actions alone which can influence the calculated and deliberate slaughter in Bagdhad, in Afghanistan and in places like Zimbabwe.

So I offer you these prayers, set for today in the Common Lectionary and which seem to hit the mark quite well. As you read them, please keep in mind all those places where men and women are being subjected to terror and pray that we might be guided into the ways to overcome that.

Our Father and Lord, in whom is fullness and light and wisdom; enlighten our minds by the Holy Spirit and grant us the grace to receive your word with reverence and understanding; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Eternal God and Father, cleanse us from all that hinders our communion with you and with each other. May our worship be in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Go in the peace of Christ.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:38 PM | TrackBack

September 17, 2005

Medieval Glass

Gloucester Cathedral boasts one of the greatest expanses of medieval glass in England, if not the biggest. The East Window fills the entire East End of the Cathedral and has recently been lovingly restored. This Cathedral is where the style of late medieval architecture known as "English Perpendicular" was invented and this window is the epitomy of the style's descriptor of "more glass than wall". East of this is preserved the medieval lady chapel, used as a school post dissolution of the monastery and reformation, but now restored to its original use and used daily. It too, is a glorious example of the full English Perpendicular art and we are fortunate indeed that it survived the dissolution.

The great East Window rises above the High Altar in Gloucester Cathedral.

The great East Window fills the entire wall at the East End, it's tracery and stonework holding together panels that depict kings, prophets, angels, patriarchs and Our Lord and the disciples and Apostles. Created in the 13th and 14th Centuries it is an amazing set of glass and art, which has survived iconoclasts, puritans, sieges, civil war and the bombing of the second World War. While it was being cleaned and releaded, it has also had minor repairs done to it and hopefully it will still be here for many more centuries as a reminder of the beauty that humanity is capable of creating even in unsettled and violent times.

Many readers will know parts of Gloucester (founded as a Benedictine Monastery in 615 AD) from the Harry Potter films, the most familiar bit being the glorious enclosed Cloister which appears in a number of scenes with Harry and his chums going to and from classes in Hogwarts. The magic of the movies has transformed some parts giving them access to places that do not exist at Gloucester, but many do, and they are recognisable to those of us who know the building.

It is also the last resting place for two members of the "modern" Royal lineage, King Edward II and Robert Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror's eldest son. Robert was deprived twice of his father's throne, first by William Rufus (William II) and then by Henry I who locked him away in Cardiff Castle until he died. He now rests in a fine wooden coffin shrine on the South side of the ambulatory near the High Altar. Ironically, he and his tomb were removed to the undercroft during WW2 and rested on top of a large crate from Westminster Abbey throughout. In 1946, when the Westminster crates were collected, it was discovered that he had lain on the throne he never occupied - the Coronation Chair!

Another Royal Tomb at Gloucester is that of it's founder, the one time King of Mercia who endowed the monastery with land and funds to build the original. He was reburied in a magnificent tomb in medieval times on the North of the High Altar. Never one of the richer foundations, Gloucester today mixes the great drum pillars of a Norman nave, with the late medieval English Perpendicular of the East Quire and Transepts, it's glorious Lady Chapel and the the wonderful cloisters. Many of the monastic buildings also survive as they found other uses when Henry VIII made it a Cathedral in 1540.

Robert Wakeham, the last Abbot of Tewkesbury, became the first Bishop of Gloucester and it is possibly to his astute management that we owe the preservation of so much of the monastic establishment as he swiftly found uses for as many of the structures surrounding the cloister as he could. Even the Lady Chapel becoming a school is down to his shrewd management.

A living legacy and one still giving praise to the Lord in all its guises and uses.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:05 PM | TrackBack

September 16, 2005

Rights and responsibility

This morning I had the dubious pleasure, on the way to work, of listening to our Illustrious Leader proclaiming that his Home Secretary's new laws on terrorism will not erode our "civil liberties" to any significant degree. He further claims that the average British Citizen (actually I beieved that we were "Subjects") recognised that our "Rights" came with "Responsibilities". Well, that would certainly be news to some of my current crop of neighbours and their uncontrolled and rupgnant offspring.

He went further and suggested that anyone coming to Britain in future, would have to "live by our rules". Really? And which "rules" would those be Mr Blair? The one's that criminalise parents for controlling children firmly? The one's that criminalise debate on religion if it criticises Islam? The one's that allow out of control youths to terrorise elderly folk and destroy and damage everyone else's property? Or did he mean that he and his cohorts have at last realised that their 1960's "free love" ideology has been a dismal failure and created a broken, disenchanted and seriously (possibly terminally!) damaged society?

As an example of what I mean, this last week has been a bit of a nightmare for the residents around my home. A gang of youths, male and female - aged at a guess between 14 and 17 - have taken up residence in the local park. The congregate in large numbers and then migrate to sit on street corners near my home and hold shrieking and shouting competitions with other groups. They consume alcoholic drinks without attempting to conceal it and the stench of marijuana is all pervasive. The language is unbelievable and seems to consist of not more than five words, most of them referred to as "Anglo-Saxon" and regularly involve fights and scuffles. Fences have been torn down, hedges attacked and damaged and the police are all but powerless to stop it.

Last Friday night, there was what can only be described as a riot in the street outside and despite three police cars attending, all that happened was that the parents arrived and joined the fight!

This morning a prime example of the mental attitude of these kids was visible for all to see. An expensive child's bicycle, thrown down in the gutter and abandoned apparently because the chain had jumped the gears and it could not now be ridden. I have seen the boy who owns this bike and know that he is from a "deprived" family - so what exactly is his mindset when he simply throws away something as expensive as this? (My own children had to make do with second hand bicycles I had painstakingly rebuilt for them from scrap, so this one makes my blood boil.) Is this a part of the modern British Socialist mindset which seems to promote the "everyone owes me" culture? I rather think it is. These children have grown up without any guidance in acceptable behaviour, their "heroes" are not men of discipline, they are people like the Man U footballer whose outbursts on the field should have had him barred for life! Yet these are the "role models" the kids are being taught to look up to - people who cannot control their tempers, recognise no codes of behaviour other than their "I want it, I'll have it" ethos.

Mr Blair and his sycophants frequently blame the parents of these children, and there is certainly an element of blame that belongs there. But it is encouraged by the fact that we now have armies of social workers all eager to interfere in family life, all eager to promote childrens "rights" and to deny that those rights bring responsibilities. No one has the "right" to disrupt or destroy anyone else's "right" to enjoyment of their home, property or lifestyle, yet that is precisely what Blair and his friends have done, created a society in which the out of control and frankly criminal have all the rights and everyone else is a hostage to their right to be indifferent to anything but their own wants.

Really, the problem is a very difficult one. It will not be solved by ASBO's or even more legislation restricting parental control. The root of the problem is that we now have two generations of "citizens" who do not have the slightest understanding of "self discipline" or who accept the consequences for their actions. They simply do not accept that destroying someone else's property has a consequence for the owner. You constantly hear "the insurance will pay for it!" or, "I don't care - it's only a .....!" This is the same mindset that tortures other children by merciless teasing and bullying while the social workers, teachers and parents all look the other way. It's frankly "too hard" to deal with, so they shirk the responsibility.

Yet another symptom of this is the "happy slapping" craze. Again there is no acceptance of the consequences, the perpetrators frankly, do not care. Yet, you can be very sure that they do fully understand exactly the hurt, the damage and the harm they are causing, precisely because they set out to do it - because it gives them a thrill! Worse, they often excuse their actions by saying the victim "deserved it!" The only way they will ever learn the consequences of their actions is if someone did the same to them - unlikely, and certainly not desirable, yet, what alternative is there? Even sending them to a young offenders institution seems to have become a "badge of honour" in that it shows you are "hard".

Even more laughable is the latest fad among the legal profession, social workers and youth workers of making the perpetrators "apologise" to their victims. Having been a witness to a couple of these I can tell you that I had the overwhelming desire to drag the little *£%*@$* out of the room and string him up as a public warning - and then go back and do the same with the social worker and the lawyer! The sheer insincerity for the "apology" and the unctious attitudes of the Magistrate, Social Worker and Lawyer with this yob who patently did not mean a word said on his behalf made me so angry I had to bite my tongue and grip the armrests on the chair so hard I broke one. I also drew blood from my tongue. The little creep knew exactly what he had done and how much pain he had caused - yet the "officers of the law" aided and abetted in letting him flaunt his arrogance and get a way with it.

The root of the problem in our society is that no one is willing to admit that there is a large section of our society - mainly under 40's - who do not recognise that "rights" bring "responsibilities". This is where Blair and politicians of all parties have it completely wrong! The new laws will help to restrict the freedom of terrorists to act, to recruit and to escape the consequences of attacking the British public, what they will not do, is reduce the fertile ground for recruiting from among this dissaffected, over protected and over privileged youth culture who see it as a challenge and as fun to be disruptive, destructive and frankly murderous.

If we want to change this pattern we need to address both the issues of integration and to address the consequences issue. For far too long we have allowed those who carry out "happy slapping" attacks - or stand back and "enjoy" them - to escape the consequences and penalties of their actions. These kids DO know what they are doing and they DO know the consequences. It is time they were made to accept those consequences. It is time they learned that you simply cannot throw away something and expect to get another - even if it is by theft.

It is time that those who promote separation of cultures (Multiculturalism) and "rights" were made to face the results of their creation. Blair's response with draconian laws is interesting - especially in the light of his opposition to much milder laws in the time when the IRA were running around bombing us. Perhaps he too, has learned that our society needs discipline and needs to know who it is, what it is and where it is going.

Perhaps this new legislation will focus some minds on the rest of the problem. And perhaps I am the Cardinal Archbishop of the Church of Latter Day Cynics.

Somehow I doubt that this government or any other in this country will address the real issues at the root of the rising problem with anti-social and anti-cultural behaviour - it is simply never punished. None of those involved are ever made to pay the price for their actions, even where it has led the victims to commit suicide. Come on Mr Blair, let's bring in a manslaughter charge associated with "happy slapping" and let's make those who film such attacks on their mobile phones, "accessories to the assault".

That will make a start on dealing with anti-social behaviour and in teaching responsibility.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:19 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 15, 2005

Soaring vaulting

Going through my pictures from Germany, I felt I had to share this breathtaking view of the nave of Köln Dom (Cathedral). The nave organ is suspended around 100 feet above the floor from the vaulting and is accessed from the clerestory walkway - itself around 100 feet above the floor. That should give a reasonable idea of just how high that vaulted roof is!

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Looking East down the nave of Köln Cathedral nave.

These huge and impressive structures soar upwards on a narrow floor plan, their pillared archways supporting incredible loads. While the nave itself is narrow, the overall width is increased by the double aisle on each side, each aisle being as wide as the nave itself, and the doubling increases the overall width of the building to around five times the width of the nave.

Outside the central lantern reaches for the sky and is balanced by the twin spires of the West End.

And it was all built without the aid of modern machinery. A triumph of human endeavour and a stunning tribute to the God we worship.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 14, 2005

A taste of his own medicine?

The Northern Ireland Secretary, the arch protester and one time professional student protester and wrecker of other people's education, sporting pleasure and campaigner on all sorts of "rights"; none other than the esteemed Mr Peter Hain, is suddenly on the receiving end of someone else's protest. And clearly he isn't enjoying the experience any more than those he himself targetted in his activist days, enjoyed his attention. How the wheel turns! How the definition of terrorism changes. By their own definition, most of the cabinet were once terrorists in their student campaigning days - so I do not hesitate to call them so - but now they are chummying up to more dangerous and murderous terrorists and trying to appease them.

This government has turned appeasement into a fine art when it comes to dealing with murderers and terrorists, especially those of the IRA who have suddenly, in New Labour speak, become "Nationalists" and "Peacemakers". The Unionists, of course, have been demonised by Blair's Propaganda Ministry and are portrayed as wreckers and unco-operative recalcitrant extremists. Mind you, that's easy to do when they - and the rest of Northern Ireland - are not Labour supporting luvvies. It's also very easy to do when you are not fighting for your right to rule in a democratic way, without the IRA's guns and bombs calling the shots. New Labour have managed to portray Sinn Fein as a "majority" party, when it is not, even in the South, the Republic, it is a minority Party, but they and their New Labour chums have managed to present themselves as "majority" representatives of the "oppressed" Irish. Being part Irish I can also enjoy the joke about the gullible English, but this is taking it too far.

The recent riots are a symptom of what will happen if Hain and Blair continue to ignore the majority voters of Northern Ireland and give concession after concession to Adams and his gang of thieves, drug peddlers and murderers. Drug peddlers, you ask? Where did you think the IRA's funding came from? The tooth fairy? For the last forty years the IRA has run almost every racket from drugs and prostitution to "protection" in order to fund their "war" on the innocent and the free. Now, as with his disasterous endorsements of Mugabe and his thugs, Blair and his sycophants have done it again. They back Adams and the IRA only because they want to avenge themselves on the Unionists who consistently vote against Labour and Blair in Westminster.

All very well for Hain to bleat about "Unionist thugs" and "Loyalist Terrorists" when he was one himself and daily sups with the devil in his appeasement meetings with Adams and Co. Did he really expect this nation of tough "Wild Geese" and pugnacious fighters to take this lying down? I rather think he will find he has a tiger by the tail, and it is slowly getting ready to turn and savage him - and with him Blair and all his sycophants. No one in their right mind wants a return to the bullets, bombs and guns - but Blair and his fellow terrorist Secretary of State have created a situation in which they have alienated the majority and will sooner, rather than later, find they must pay the price.

I suspect that the Unionist/Loyalist majority in Northern Ireland have only just begun to show their anger. Mr Hain's career, like so many others, may well come to a very sticky and messy end as a result of Labour vindictive folly. But I doubt they will learn anything from it - they are too arrogant and too stupid to do so.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:24 PM | TrackBack

September 13, 2005

Fuel woes

I find myself green with envy whenever I visit either the US or Australia and have to pay their fuel prices - especially now. The recent escalation in the cost of oil has hit fairly hard here in the UK with a rise of over 50% in the "at the pump" price since January. For someone like myself with no choice but to use a car to get to and from work (a daily average out and return of 60 miles) the mounting cost is eating heavily into my small "disposable" income. A tank of fuel for my car (a diesel) cost, last December, just over £30 and I use roughly a tankful every eight to ten days. Now a tankful costs in the region of £45 and rising. Today I paid £1.05 per litre - and decided that at that price (admittedly at a garage that is known to take advantage of any "crisis") a half tank would see me through the remainder of the week or until I could find somewhere more reasonably priced!

Over lunch I had the dubious pleasure of hearing our ever so caring and concerned Chancellor of the Exchequer, Chief Thief of the Treasury and Grave Robber, Redistributor of Everyone Else's Money to his favourite electorate, piously claiming that his exhorbitant tax on fuel "had nothing to do with the excessive price". Considering that 61% of the cost of every litre is tax - and then he taxes that as well by adding VAT at 17.5% at the pump - I would say he is being extremely economical with the truth. Since his "share" of the price rises with every rise in the basic cost at a more or less exponential rate, its pretty disingenuous of him to say that the tax part is not contributing to the cost. I may not be a mathematician but even I can work out that if something costs £1.00 and you add 61p tax, and then tax that at 17.5% you are suddenly paying £1.89 for your £1 item. Now increase the price by 25p at the base end and the 61 p becomes 76p and the VAT likewise increases in value to make the new price £2.36! Our Chancellor either thinks that we, the paying public are complete idiots or he is unable to do the arithmetic.

Of course the situation is not helped by the media who have talked up the possibility that some filling stations could run "dry" if the planned "Fuel Blockades" happen. It has, as usual, become a self fulfilling prophecy with the gullible dashing to the filling stations and filling ever container they can find with fuel. A colleague is currently having to deal with the usual tranche of morons who have filled up wheelie bins with petrol or diesel (marginally safer!) and are now trying to store these inside their houses! We agreed a few minutes ago that we should cease our efforts on these cases, allow natural selection to happen - and nominate the lot for this years Darwin Awards!

Trying to get to the nearest filling station in my area was a waste of time, the forecourt was solid with little old ladies in blue rinse hairstyles all filling containers and spilling fuel out of overfilled tanks. Alongside them a couple of farmers cheerfully filling Land Rovers (with trailers behind) loaded with Jerry Cans and even one huge tractor with trailer and 44 gallon drums! The next filling station was already dry - so on to the next which still had around a quarter of their usual fuel stock of diesel - but at a price 6p a litre above anyone else! Who us, profiteering?

Between the Chancellor, the Oil Cartels, the Producers and the odd profiteer it could prove to be a difficult few weeks. The Chancellor is unlikely to lower his tax take - he can't because his forcasts are so far adrift he needs every penny he can get - and even if the oil production rose significantly, it is unlikely that any reduction in price will be passed on the the consumer.

Well, I think it's time I checked on the availability of alternative fuels and possibly steam generation to power an engine. I wonder if I could persuade the fish and chip shop locally to sell me his old vegetable oil? Diesel cars run on any light oil so all I would have to do is filter the "fines" and dewater it and I should have a good alternative fuel.

I wonder if anyone has a patent on it yet?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Thought for the day

My desk calendar gives a quote for each day, some amusing, some witty and some so close to the truth that they merit further examination.

This is the one from last Friday:

"Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has gotten into the wrong hands"

Attributed to Senator Jesse Helms from North Carolina, it makes me want to ask the question; "In whose hands should it be?" It seems to me to be the case that it is no longer in the hands of the electorate (if it ever was!) but has universally become the possession of the "elected" Party Apparatchiks in every "democratic" nation. It is certainly the case everywhere the vote goes to a "party" rather than a person elected for his or her accord with those they purport to represent!

I wonder in whose hands the good senator thought it should be? Surely not his own as an elected rep in the corridors of power? Could he have meant the electorate? Surely not!

Quite a thought.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 12, 2005

How to destroy a public service

The latest piece of ill-conceived damagement from the Office of the Deputy Prime Misery, aimed at consolidating the destruction of the professional UK Fire and Rescue Services, contains some really interesting pointers on how the super intelligences that now run this country from Whitehall think. It probably also tells us a lot about the planet they live on.

Having scrapped the Appointments and Promotions Regulations which created the professional management structure that has served the service and the public extremely well, the latest "New Labour" ideology decrees that the service can be managed more efficiently and effectively by parachuting in people with no knowledge or experience of the service at all levels. The first step was to destroy the rank structure. This was too "militaristic" and "exclusive". Then came the destruction of the recruitment selection and testing criteria, and then the creation of "Role Maps" which are supposed to form the basis of the "Integrated Personal Development System" - note the use of the word "Integrated", it is a favourite in anything this shower of incompetents wish to push as "modernising", and has nothing whatever to do with actually being joined up and relevant - and for identifying what the post holder actually does. In the past, of course, this was usually covered by something called a "Job Description", but the new Role Maps are written in NVQ speak and are thus unintelligible to any but the NVQ industry cogniscenti, and so require constant re-interpretation and "specialists" to provide guidance on selection for role. Another piece of the NVQ upload is the requirement that everyone must now maintain a "portfolio" of evidence to show that, irrespective of your Doctorate in Whatever, you are "competent" to do the job you hold. Now this may sound a little cynical, but what it has produced is experts in the invention of "evidence" and the use of the photocopier!

So, now we have scrapped the selection criteria, the professional progression and the professional management, we have to re-invent something to take its place - so we have reached back into the 1930's and created a system which allows anybody who thinks they can do it better than a professionally trained fire officer to apply for and be appointed to a post at any role/rank above Firefighter. After all, or so the theory goes, any "manager" can take charge and "manage" any function, no matter how technical or complex, because to "manage" one doesn't need to know how the job is actually done. So we now have a consultation document which states; inter alia, that we are looking for a set of selection criteria which must:
(i) Assess candidates against National Personal Qualities Assessments,
(ii) Meet the Psychological Society's Best Practice Guidelines,
(iii) Be relevant to the role, be fair, be open and reflect the core values of the service (which have almsot nothing to do with actually responding to emergencies anymore according to the government document they are found in!),
(iv) require no prior knowledge of the service by candidates,
(v) provide a structure that can be organised to meet the working requirements of people on different working systems.

Now most of those, except (iv) sound reasonable, until you realise that this is all about providing jobs for people who would not have been able to leap into the rank/role they wanted without having to learn or do the jobs below the one they want first. Add to this the fact that the service now has targets for employing disabled persons, ethnic minorities and others seen as "disadvantaged" by previous recruitment and promotion criteria and you can see what this is designed to do. As more of the frontline is eroded to make way for the appointment of more and more "support" we face the sort of situation that the military have - 9 support staff (paper shufflers who never actually handle any of the hardware) to every 1 fighting man or woman.

The entire system as outlined in the new consultation paper is designed to remove all professional fire fighter types from all "roles" above the Station Manager (formerly called a Station Officer or Assistant Divisional Officer!)- particularly the "specialist" roles which are seen as choice jobs for people who don't like to fight fires but think a guide can provide all the knowledge they need - and replace them with New Labour Managers. Heaven forbid that any of these new managers or "specialists" should be paid less than the people they are replacing, but, naturally, they will have no responsibility for the actual protection of the public or any of the "nasty, dirty" technical functions. They will be "strategic" managers who will decide, based on interminable "Business Cases" prepared by the nasty Techy types, where resources, personnel and activities will be placed. They will also determine the "policies" to be followed, fulfilling this in a complete vacuum as they simply will not have, despite "consultation", any understanding of the ramifications of their policies.

The poor unsuspecting public will probably not notice the difference, unfortunately, until it is too late. They will be paying the costs in terms of rising insurance premiums, falling response and rising fire damage and losses. The mindset behind all this is the same one that seems to think that an ever shrinking number of regiments, ships and aircraft can be deployed to more and more "little" wars around the world. Watch this space, the next step will undoubtedly be to recruit the next generation of Ship's Captains, Admirals, Generals and Air Marshals from the ranks of so-called "Captains of Industry". After all, if such "managers" can run the fire service, they can surely run the Armed Forces - and be much less threatening to the Civil Servants and Politicians, because they will be as ignorant of the realities as their political masters.

Yes, if you want to destroy a professional organisation, there is no better way than to destroy it from within. Change the structure, change the criteria for the various roles, change the recruiting, change the progression for the personnel, replace the professionals with non-professionals at the top and then stand back and watch as it slowly self destructs. Remember when you get the next increase in Council Tax, or on your Insurance Premium and are waiting in vain for the fire appliance that used to be available to you locally, to come from 10 miles or more away, that you read it here first.

It will be too late to change things then, in fact, it is probably too late already!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 11, 2005

In memoriam

We should not forget those who were killed in the World Trade Centre on this day four years ago. Their unnecessary and brutal slaughter by Al Qaeda fanatics should stand as a sharp reminder to us all of the dangerous age in which we live, an age made more dangerous than ever by the fanatical beliefs, so ably promoted by power hungry "religious" leaders in the Middle East, of a disaffected and militant youth who have grown up in the West.

As we remember the fallen, it behoves us to be vigilant, but it also behoves us to seek to find ways to address the issues which give rise to this ready supply of psychopathic fanatics and to create a world in which they are marginalised and eradicated.

Si vis pacem; para bellum.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Decorated churches in the Rhine-Pfalz

The interior decoration of some of the smaller churches I visited during my all too brief visit to the Rhinelands were quite fascinating. They ranged from the highly ornate "Baroque" to a much simpler style, frequently related to whether they were "Lutheran" or "Catholic".

The interior of a beautiful Lutheran church with tiered galleries and a magnificent Baroque organ. The sign on the left says "Please turn off your mobile phone, we still talk to God in the old fashioned way."

Typical examples were found in several places as these photos show. In the first I have managed to capture the interior of a beautiful Lutheran Church in Speyer, unfortunately closed to visitors but still visible through the glass screen doors. In the city of Mainz not far from the massive red sandstone Dom, stood a magnificent monastic Church, part of an Augustinian Monastery. The interior a riot of stucco and painted ceilings.

The magnificent Baroque interior of the Augustinian Monastery Church in Mainz. The exterior belies the magnificence of the interior!

Externally the building, while interesting, gives little indication of the feast for the senses that lies hidden within.

I found the contrast between the medieval architecture of many of the Rhineland Cathedrals and older churches and these later Baroque buildings fascinating. The great "Dom" Churches speak of a nation of confident security, political certainity and power, built more for the statement they make about the authority of the Bishops or Kings building them, than their use as a place of worship. The smaller Baroque buildings with their riotous decoration speak of a nation at ease with itself and enjoying prosperity and security, comfortable with it's faith and expressing itself in the decoration and simpler architecture.

The most striking feature of the great churches is the soaring height of the nave, and then the width of the aisles, frequently almost as high as the nave. The great sweep of the nave from West to East is designed to inspire awe, and it is a place for dramatic political events such as coronations, enthronements and the great festivals of the church. By contrast the smaller Baroque churches are more intimate and less dramatic in size - but make up for that in their decoration.

Definitely something I want to explore further - there is just so much more to see!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 10, 2005


Reading the Bible one comes across a lot of miraculous healing stories and there is always a debate about why we no longer see any. Come to that, why do we find them in the Old and New Testaments and in very few, if any, other religious writings. In fact, "healing" was a major part of the early Christian Church, but does not seem to have had the same sort of profile in Islam or any other religious movement except Judaism.

Until I really started digging I found no reference to it at all in Islam and I find no "miracles" ascribed to Mohammed until three centuries after his death. So is the age of miracles past? Was there ever an age in which, the Biblical stories notwithstanding, miracles actually happened? Are the Biblical stories merely "poetic" or wishful thinking on the part of the Gospel writers and chronoicallers of the Old and New Testaments? The evidence seems to suggest not. When one applies a critical review of these events it rapidly becomes apparent that "healing" is a very complex action, one which affects more than the person "healed" in the final "healing" action.

Firstly we need to look at the sequence of events. In almost all the miracles described in the Gospel, particularly those ascribed to Christ Himself, we find that a key element of the healing is that the afflicted person "comes to Christ" - a positive statement which includes; "I believe you can heal me where others can't"; "I want to be healed" and "I accept your decision". This is equally true of the Old Testament miracles of healing, the three elements of approach, wanting God, and acceptance of God's will are all there. The only exceptions I can find are those where Christ has raised someone from the dead and the Centurion's servant. Clearly the deceased cannot ask for healing, yet the action seems to include others becoming whole or perhaps even discovering God through the "healing" action. In the case of the Centurion the servant is healed by the soldiers faith - but it would seem that Christ also reaches out and brings the Centurion and his family to God through the action of healing the servant.

In Acts, we find the same sort of pattern, the person seeking healing makes the approach; in short, "comes to God" to find healing. There is a positive action there and the further elements of desire for wholeness and confirmation as one of God's people is also present. So why do we seem to have difficulty in this day and age? Why do we seem to have lost the art of miraculous healing?

Perhaps it is because we are looking for the wrong thing, or even, looking at it in the wrong manner!

Healing is still a very large part of the Churches ministry to the world. Miracles do occur still, they happen all around us, quite often to people we know, but, because we are looking for the wrong things we do not see them for what they are. Instead we see only the "failures" the occassions when we fail to get the "cure" we want, and get something else instead. Dying is also a part of God's world and plan, sometimes death is the cure - because the person continues into a new life, one we simply do not understand or recognise yet. We think that because the person we have prayed for, or who has received annointing or laying on of hands is not instantly cured of cancer, deformity or some other affliction, we have somehow "failed" or, worse, that the afflicted has somehow "failed".

During the medieval period the concept of "sin" being linked to affliction gained ground. By the reformation this link was taken as the ultimate answer, all affliction was seen as "puinishment" for some "sin". THis can clearly be seen in the Book of Common Prayer in the services for the Sick which give almost all their focus to exhorting the sick person to repent of sin. You could be forgiven for thinking the Lord was present in these services only as a courtesy - in case He decided to be forgiving and merciful! It is this concept which still permeates a lot of our thinking on the subject of healing and miracles even now - and it is one we should strive to lose!

Look again at the miracles of the New Testament particularly. As I said at the beginning of this ramble, the three elements are present, "approach", "desire to be healed" and "desire to accept God's decision". But there is something else as well, there is a wider healing of the bystanders who see, believe and themselves "come to God to be healed". There is more too, there is a transfer of power, a passage of energy between the healer and the healed, between the healer and the witnesses. And again, although the word "sin" is sometimes used in the healing process, it is not the same sense that we have come to use and understand - in the New Testament, the "sin" is anything which separates us from God. Which may be some "bad" act in our past, but it can equally mean a lack of faith, a lack of understanding or even a lack of love between individuals or groups!

We need to recapture the understanding that healing is present even in the death of a loved one. For that person it may be the final act of reconciliation with God, the surcease of pain and rejection, for those around them, it may be the discovery of a deeper sense of love, of appreciation of that person's virtues and the source of the persons strength and fortitude. There are many things to be learned about ourselves and others - and especially about God and life itself - at a deathbed.

Christianity is a "healing faith", healing of this broken world lies at the heart of the Gospel and Christ himself came to bring Healing to the World. We need to remember that and to recapture that in our worship, in our understanding of our faith and in the way we respond to the world around us. Above all, we need to keep our faith in the healing powers of prayer, and of God's healing love - no matter what the outcome in relation to our wants and expectations.

God's healing frequently transcends death itself, we need to remember that we worship a loving and forgiving God, but, we also need to remember that, in answering our prayers, He gives us that which we need, not necessarily that which we want.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:22 PM | TrackBack

September 09, 2005

Magnificent beast .....

A few weekends ago I had the fun of taking an American friend and visitor to the Fairford Steam Rally. This is a major event covering several acres of parkland and encompassing a wide range of activities from the full sized preserved engines to the modellers and even some steam launches. In another section there were a large number of preserved and restored motor vehicles and the sort of small pumping and generating engines which proliferated from 1900 onwards.

Pride of place in the show went to six of the big steam traction "Showman" engines. These really are magnificent beasts, their brasswork gleaming as they gently hiss waiting patiently to strut their stuff in the arena. Other interesting steam propelled vehicles also abounded - including three "commercial" lorries and a steam omnibus - one of which picked up a speeding ticket on its way to the show, being trapped by a gatsometer camera at 65 miles per hour in a 50 mile per hour zone!

The magnificent Burrell Showman Engine towers over her crew as she waits her turn in the show ring.

Elsewhere in the show area another surprise waited - a fully operational steam "galloper" (a carousel to anyone else, particularly those from the US!). Also called a "Merry-go-round" the steam galloper is built around a central boiler and steam engine mounted on a wheeled platform. The carousel part revolves around the central funnel and boiler from which it is suspended and revolving eccentric cams cause the beautifully carved, painted and individually named, horses to rise and fall giving an exciting and musically accompanied ride. The control platform is central and is hidden by a full calliope organ which plays as the carousel revolves. These used to be seen at every fair, but sadly few survive and this one has a long history and has been lovingly rebuilt and restored. Ironically, the lady in the foreground, a resident of Tewkesbury, lives in a house not far from where the horses were carved - and Tewkesbury itself used to be the proud home of the factory that made the steam gallopers!

The Showman's pride and joy - a fully restored and operational Steam Galloper. The show that had one of these was a really successful group in the "Big League" of showmen.

Sadly, these magnificent beasts are now no longer made and the factories that made them are long gone - but we are fortunate that we can still admire the workmanship and the pride that they reflected in their heyday!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:07 PM | TrackBack

Important announcement

Adrian Warnock, who runs the Blogdom of God, is busy revamping the Blogdom. He is calling on everyone who has a site which they feel should be linked to this in some way, to let him have the URL so they can be built in.

It sounds exciting and I hope it will create new opportunities to spread the Gospel to all who want to hear it - but who may have reservations about church membership or attendance. Let's support Adrian and see what happens - my experience of God is that it is almost always challenging, exciting and usually works out to be fun as well!

This link should take you to the Blogdom of God Alliance Roll!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:41 PM | TrackBack

September 08, 2005

Christian Carnival

Wandering around the blogs looking for posts on Katrina, I stumbled across the Christian Carnival hosted by Technogypsy. There are some interesting ideas and articles on this one so I plan to return when I have some time and read my way through as many as I can. In the meantime some of my readers may find it interesting too!

Peace be with you all!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:45 PM | TrackBack

Genographic update

I am now starting to get e-mails from people who have matches to my Y-chromosome DNA and share a relatively recent ancestor - that is, somewhere in the last few hundred years. I can see this is going to prove very interesting indeed as we explore the where and who.

For the moment, most of them seem to have fairly organised information and family relationship charts, whereas mine is still very patchy and incomplete. While I know a lot about the broad sweep of the family, there are some significant "missing links" between my branch and the supposed parent branch. Finding them is going to be quite a task methinks, and perhaps this will help.

Another task for the "Golden Years" perhaps. I can hear myself now - "They just don't make family trees like they used to!"

Maybe not!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 07, 2005


Many of the beautifully restored buildings one sees in the Rhien-Pfalz are, like the one in the attached picture, decorated. This is all the more remarkable for the fact that many of them were very badly damaged by bombs and fire in World War 2 and have been rebuilt or restored since.

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Decorated medieval buildings in the centre of the old city of Mainz.

The city of Mainz suffered some bombing during the war, primarily because of its size and it's strategic location on the river. All the more credit, then, to the citizens and the nation that it has been so beautifully and lovingly restored. Mainz and the sister city on the North bank, Wiesbaden will need further exploration when the Monk has an opportunity!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:56 PM | TrackBack

September 06, 2005

Genographic survey - the ongoing discovery

In a further interesting development from the National Geographic's Genographic Project, I have contributed my DNA to the next step - the Family Tree DNA exploration. DNA released to this project is matched against all the samples they have in the database and produces lists based on the best matches to your DNA measured on 12 marker matches. Presumably at some point this will be further refined to the 25 marker match, but for now ends at 12 markers and assembles a profile of "Recent" Ethnic Origins at "exact" match, one-step mutation and two-step mutation.

Reading through the lists of these for my own DNA I find a fascinating pattern emerging, especially at the "exact" match, but it just gets more and more interesting as you go through the other matches. In the first group I find I have genetic relatives in the following places:

England 109
Ireland 34
Germany 33
Scotland 13
Netherlands 4
France 4
Poland 2

and Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, the USA and South Africa all feature as well. (There are many more as well, but I have been selective!) At the first step mutation group this process becomes even more interesting, because the numbers for the countries above increase dramatically, but a whole lot more join the list. So I find that I now have genetic relations in:

Australia, Belgium, Bohemia, Denmark, Iceland, Greenland, Hungary, Iran, Polynesia, Sweden, the Ukraine, Slovakia and Shetland and many more. At the two-step mutation, the above are joined by genetic relations in Belarus, Siberia and Romani among many more which include China, the Melanesia, the Balkans and the Americas.

Now some of that can be ascribed to the fact that we are a family who have served the Crown in many lands through the centuries, either at sea or in the various armies sent abroad to settle or occupy territory so we have left genetic markers which show up now. One of the more interesting discoveries has been that of a Quaker family of my surname - who emigrated with the Pilgrim Fathers, though probably not on the same ship. They orginate from near where I live (a friend lives in the "Old 'Friends' House - the former Quaker Meeting House in Tewkesbury.) and photos from the late 1890's and early 1900's show remarkable family resemblances to me, my brother and my parents and grandparents! Quite scary in one sense, but an astonishing link in the overall family history chain.

The project is still incomplete, and I would definitely urge everyone who reads this to make the effort and to take the plunge - contribute your DNA. For me, it has shown just how close a family we all are, just how closely related we all are and how we have spread around the globe. Go here to sign up now.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 05, 2005

Tessa's tete-a-tete

An interesting lady called Tessa, who writes well, sometimes amusingly and always informatively.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:20 PM | Comments (1)

Can he say that?

Shock, horror! Sir Gulam, the "Curry King", writing in the Financial Times, has said that his fellow Muslim's "must integrate into British culture and society, or get out!" And this from a man who is a Muslim, was born in India, but immigrated here, wears a "Western" suit and clothes, and runs a multi-million pound empire he and his wife built from scratch.

In his view, Muslim immigrants who retreat into their ghettos and try to change the world to the culture and society they have left do themselves and every other Muslim no good at all. Hence his advice to them, become British, or go! Now the last time someone said this, or very nearly this - his name is Lord Tebbit - the left wing press, the entire Labour Party and the whole "multi-cultural" industry rose up in arms and howled "racist". They seem to have a bit of a problem with Sir Gulam on that one! But it could also be that he has donated a rather large amount of money to the Labour Party and a few other "causes" so beloved of the Left and they are afraid he might want it back!

It is incredibly refreshing to hear someone from within that community denouncing the stupidity of trying to recreate the very oppressive culture you have fled from, in the country you came to because it was so free and relaxed! Equally interesting, the Leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, endorsed Sir Gulam's sentiments - with the usual caveat about all militancy is the government's fault because of the war in Iraq. Hypocrite! As usual, he wants it both ways.

Just how much of a problem this importation of the culture and mindset of the mainly Muslim dominated Eastern countries these folk have come from, is illustrated by the images we have recently seen, one of the Yorkshire raised and educated Teaching Assistant turned suicide bomber, and the other of the young woman who threw herself and her two infant children under the Heathrow Express to escape an "arranged" marriage she could no longer bear. I would suspect that this last image is the real reason the Mullahs and Imams want to force Britain into the Islamic vision of piety, the conflict that arises between women who see all around them the freedom enjoyed by their non-Muslim neighbours and the oppression they themselves endure under the heel of their menfolk who, under Muslim law, own them, will sooner, rather than later, either shatter the hold of Islam over women completely, or the men will soon be compelled to accept change and a redistribution of power - and an abandonment to their "divine" right to beat their womenfolk, force them to marry, or to have sex.

I hope that Sir Gulam's words are taken to heart by Mr Blair and his sycophants. This is a man who is not a slave to a failed ideology, he is sincere and he is right. The success of this country has long depended not on the isolation of its disparate immigrant groups but on their integration - sometimes over many centuries. That is why we have places like Petit France in the heart of London, why we have Flemish weavers names in the Cotswolds and why we have such a tolerant society. Successful immigrants are the ones who, after arriving in a new country, adapt, adopt those customs and practices which they like and adapt to those they don't - or adapt the customs to suit them. They don't wear clothes designed for the desert in the English winter, grow scruffy beards and walk around wearing turbans or headscarves, they blend in and became part of the majority.

Sir Gulam deserves some praise for his statement. Let us hope that Tony the Cronymaker will also heed his words and reign in the cretins who are destroying this nation and its tolerance. Somehow I doubt he has either the authority or the wisdom. Pity!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:30 AM | TrackBack

September 04, 2005

Sunday sermon

Today I am preaching at the Evensong service in the Abbey and I have had quite a difficult time picking up a subject. The lessons set in the lectionary didn't help and the events unfolding among my many friends in the US aren't helping either. It would seem from the sermons I have heard this morning that the Vicar (Lord Abbot) and the other clergy aren't finding it easy either.

That said, they have all now preached sermons I found encouraging and useful, so I hope mine will help someone as well. I am posting the text in the extended post below, but please do remember that these are simply the notes - what happens when you get up to preach is that the notes provide a frame - the Holy Spirit, provides the words!

Because the frailty of men without thee cannot help but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful”

+May I speak in the Name of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

As David remarked last week in the introduction to his sermon, having read the lessons carefully, prayed about it and given it a lot of thought I found myself wondering how I would be able to find something to preach on in these! That said, I think there is something to say and which does, in fact continue on from David’s sermon last week.

There must be very few people who have not been appalled by the devastation of the New Orleans area. Every one of us is, I’m sure appalled by the human tragedy being played out in the world’s supposedly leading nation. As the newspapers say, one expects this in a third world country, not in the US. And yet, why not? Just because the US is a developed, wealthy and technologically advanced country does not mean that it to is vulnerable to the awesome power of nature, that its structures and services cannot be overwhelmed by a disaster on this scale. We are, after all, talking about an area bigger than the entire UK to be searched, restored, people found, bodies recovered, the injured found and treated, the dead identified and buried. Humanity is, as our Collect reminded us this evening, frail. All of our science, all of our technology is as nothing in the face of a storm of the magnitude that struck the Mississippi Delta.

I suppose it is inevitable too, that there are those who are now raising the cry on the one hand, “Why does God allow this?” And on the other “This is God’s punishment for the wickedness of the war on Islam.” Personally, I think both are completely and utterly wrong! This is not God striking or allowing anything, this is the result of men exercising choices and as Father Peter reminded us a few weeks ago, to blame God is to abrogate our own responsibility, to assign to God motives of revenge or punishment is to misunderstand his love for us and His creation.

As our understanding of the world around us, and of God and our own relationship with Him grows, our understanding of these events and God’s part in them changes as well. As the Archbishop said in response to the question after the Tsunami; “Where was God in this?”, “God was there beside the dying, the bereaved and the injured and weeping with them.” So he will be with those affected by the Hurricane in America, and so he would be with us if it had happened here.

The writer of our Collect tonight, had a very different view of the world and of the human race. To him – or her – the human race was sinful, disobedient of God’s will and liable to attract the just punishment of a wrathful God. I would like to think that we have moved on from that to a better understanding of the message Paul, Peter and their companions have tried to pass on to us from our Lord, that God is a caring and loving God who allows us to choose – even when it is likely to cause us harm. We still make that choice and must accept responsibility for the consequences when it goes wrong. Owning a gun does not make me a criminal – using it to rob a Post Office does. It is my choice that makes the difference.

Human frailty is a key element in all our choices. If we choose to ignore God, if we choose to turn away from what we know is right and deliberately do wrong, we cannot, as Fr Peter reminded us so clearly a couple of Sundays ago, blame it on God, the Devil or anyone but ourselves. It is our “frailty” that we can and do make bad choices.

In another sense we are also rather frail or fragile creatures, we are easily broken and damaged, and can easily damage ourselves. It is convenient then too to blame someone else, but is it someone else’s fault if we have made the choice to do something or live somewhere? Of course not, we have the ability and the sense to know that living on a volcano, or in a city that is largely below sea level is probably putting ourselves in the way of harm – but we do it anyway.

Our readings tonight from both Ezekial and the Acts make the point that false prophets or even those who think they are harnessing something they have observed to have some power, are exercising another form of “frailty”. They see the true power, but do not understand that it comes not from any individual, but directly from God, that it is available to any who truly seek to be the instrument of God and not to use it for their own self aggrandisement, and they choose to abuse it. They are soon put to rout according to the writers and exposed for the charlatans they are.

The failures of humanity over the Centuries have all arisen from the simple error of getting to big for our own boots. We think we understand, we think we know – and then we discover that we haven’t even begun to grasp the first principles when it all goes horribly wrong. But do we admit we have messed it up? Of course not, we blunder on, re-inventing excuses to hide the fact that we are to blame and pass the blame to God or – if we are Dualists – to something we invest with equality to God, whom we call the devil.

Reading a paper prepared by Fr Charles for the Theological Forum, I was struck by one reference in it to the fact that since the Edict of Milan in 313AD, Christianity has steadily lost its understanding of “healing” and, indeed the ability to perform the miracle of healing. Paul, in Acts is credited with many such cures, in fact the whole Bible contains numerous accounts of miraculous healings, yet, as Fr Charles points out in his paper, the “official” position is that we should not expect a miracle because we are “between Grace” in that the Kingdom is not yet fully come. Thankfully, in recent years there has been much review of this position, because it is an important ministry, one that was central to the spread of the Gospel and to the early Church.

Perhaps this is yet another “frailty” we should pray for strength to overcome, that we can be restored to the belief and understanding that healing is both a gift of grace conveyed through anointing and laying on of hands, and of the recipient accepting it in faith and in readiness of expectation. Remember the woman whose faith healed her though she only touched Christ’s robe – that is what we have lost through frailty and need to recover. That is the faith that brings mountains to do our bidding, yet it is a fragile thing, easily damaged through ignorance, wrong choice and deliberate denial.

The language of the reading from Acts suggests almost a Dualistic position with its references to demons and casting out spirits, but we should also remember that this is probably the only way it could be described. What underlies this is clearly the belief and understanding that all things, all matter, all creation are subject to God. It is God, who converts through Paul’s words; it is God who heals through Paul’s ministry.

Human frailty takes many forms and has many faces. We should pray that our frailty does not separate us from the glorious grace of our loving God, that we may continue to seek to understand Him better, to understand the tragedies that happen around us and too us, and to understand that he is there beside us as we grope through the mists of our own ignorance. As I was reminded recently, the reason we meet Sunday by Sunday is to share that faith and to grow in faith. We need also to rediscover the faith the Apostles and their congregations knew and understood, then, and probably only then, will we be able to overcome the frailties of our faith and truly build the faith of those who walked with Christ to the Resurrection.

The physical frailty of humanity has been all to graphically demonstrated in this week. Our frailty of faith is equally fragile and needs to be constantly nurtured and renewed. We need a disaster relief programme too for those times when it really takes a hammering, when we have got it wrong and need to step back and say, “sorry, got that wrong, where to from here?”

As the Collect concluded:
“Lead us to all things profitable for our salvation.”


Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:01 PM | Comments (8)

September 03, 2005

Big guns on the M1

It has to be the silly season (the period when serious news simply doesn't happen because Blair and his chums are away on their hols and the Civil Service cretinature is incapable of generating any) when one of the national daily's runs a story to the effect that HMS Belfast, moored in the Upper Pool above Tower Bridge (opposite the Tower of London) has her still operative forward six inch guns trained on a Motorway Services on the M1 12 miles away!

For most people, I suppose, she is simply an interesting museum piece moored tranquilly in the Thames. Few probably realise that her guns are still serviceable, although I should think that certain safety precautions have been taken, and she has no "live" munitions on board. Fewer still will appreciate that, from where she is, she could hit almost everything inside the M25 and certainly quite a few places beyond it - like Slough, Reigate, Redhill, Barnet, Thurrock and Dartford. She could also hit, and probably devastate, a large part of St Alban's and a few other towns around the capital. Perhaps we should be glad that there are now very few people around who know how to serve and fire these guns efficiently! And just in case you thought that was all she had, think again, she also has pairs of 4 inch High Angle/Low Angle mounts and they have a similar or slightly higher rate of fire and range to match. In the hands of an accomplished, trained, and motivated crew, these will throw bricks which will do just as much damage and have similar penetration.

HMS Belfast's six inch guns are the same type that took on and severely damaged the Graf Spee at the River Plate, that finished off the Scharnhorst at North Cape (one of Belfast's Battle Honours) and which delivered accurate and massive support in landings in Sicily, Salerno, North Africa, Normandy and elsewhere. Properly served a single gun can keep six shells in flight per minute. That's going some for a manually served gun. HMS Belfast has twelve of them, and she was at North Cape, Normandy, and several other intense battles, her "Battle Honours" are quite a list! At the River Plate, it was the two six inch gunned cruisers, HMS Ajax and Achilles, who did most of the damage to the Graf Spee; their high-speed closing of the range and then high rate of fire meant that the Graf Spee absorbed a large amount of damage very quickly and was forced to divide her own fire between the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter and the pair of lighter ships doing most of the damage. It was their shells that knocked out the Graf Spee's after dynamo rooms, her aircraft catapult and hangers, and then destroyed her electric and hydraulic systems to her after guns. The photos taken by newsmen showed little of this damage, possibly because they did not recognise that the smaller puncture holes all indicated deep penetration and internal damage out of all proportion to the size of hole in her armour.

Each six inch gun fires a 112 pound shell which is "propelled" out of the gun by a 110 pound bag of cordite. With radar gunnery control the maximum range of these guns came into play, previously they had been limited to aiming by visual sights which meant you could shoot what you could see from the control top and rangefinders. Radar moved the accuracy up the ladder, but is still more or less "if you can see it, you can shoot it" and the range could be extended by using aerial spotting to direct the guns, with an aircraft flying between the target and the guns to report the fall of shot and make corrections to the aim. Since the introduction of GPS and satelite navigation, these guns, if served by range and direction finding served by a GPS based system, would probably be far more devastating than any missile save a nuke.

Six 112 pound shells arriving every minute would spoil anyone's day. Make that 72 and it's time to get the hell out of the way, or wave a white flag and hope they see it!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:02 PM | TrackBack

An infamous anniversary

Today is the 66th anniversary of the invasion of Poland which sparked the second world war. That invasion saw the collapse of all the false hopes of the appeasers represented by Neville Chamberlain's infamous "piece of paper" and "Peace in our time!"

Once again, we live in a world in which great strife is the norm and unresolved conflicts and clashes of culture are threatening peace, yet we are also seeing the "democratic" nations cutting back on defence as never before - because the "appeasers" are once again in power and working their weazel philosophy.

On this day of all days we should remember that had the world stood firm against Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese leadership from the end of the first great conflict, had they remained strong and maintained effective and powerful armed forces, Hitler and his chums could not have caused the havoc they did.

As the great Roman general Tacitus said; "Si vis pacem; para bellum!"

If you seek peace, prepare for war.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:49 PM | TrackBack

September 02, 2005

Orders of magnitude

Watching the news of the scale of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, I am struck by the way the media and others are presenting this as a case of the US Federal government, and the President in particular, doing too little or nothing at all. On every bulletin I have so far watched, I have had to listen to and watch the same hysterical woman rant about how nothing is being done and how no one cares. Good television, good human interest, but is it the real picture?

The sheer scale of the devastation is equal to that caused by the boxing day tsunami, probably the only reason the deathtoll isn't as high is that at least some of the population had been evacuated. An area of 90,000 square miles is more than the entire land surface of the UK - in fact it is more than the whole of the Netherlands and Belgium and probably a bit of Germany and Denmark! The entire infrastructure is destroyed or damaged, the roads (you want to get trucks and busses in you need usable roads!) the airports, and the electricity (modern cities need that just to keep clean water flowing and sewerage going out!) is out as well. And you still have upwards of a million people who need to be fed, watered and evacuated!

All very well for the armchair critics in the US, the UK and the usual suspects in the media to start blaming "the government" or "the President", but you can be damned sure they would have been no better at solving this one in a couple of hours.

Probably uniquely in the world today the US does have the structures and resources to deal with this. The problem is it takes time to get the people and the equipment to where you need it and then it takes time to actually penetrate the zone and find everyone in need. When the law and order also breaks down as it has in parts of New Orleans, you then have an added problem of the rescue personnel coming under attack. And then you have the media contribution. One of the most infuriating "news" broadcasts I have seen so far is of a placard waving mob "demonstrating" and demanding help. It is so obviously "staged for television" that it is nauseating! Yes it is a tragedy! Yes it is a disaster of unbelievable proportions, but where the hell are the priorities of the news media when they can take up airspace and valuable cargo space on helicopters, about the only viable means of getting to those in need quickly, with "celebrities" whose main contribution seems to be to weep and accuse their President of "failing" to help. They will happily interview hysterical people who need clean water and food, having flown in with a full payload of reporter, camera crew and sound man when what was really needed was a helicopter loaded with food, water and equipment for sanitation! Not more handwringing and pontificating media reporters. Certainly the world needs to know what is happening, and those who are so quick to criticise the President in this should know that no emergency management or planning system can be activiated until the full extent of what is needed is known. That means getting good intelligence from the scene, real intelligence, not media circus spin, not party political spin.

Having been involved in Emergency Planning and Management for a large part of my career I can say with some authority that the emergency relief Command will have been assembled as the storm approached. They will have been trying to ensure that, initially, the right things were in place to "protect in situ", that is to maintain the dykes (levees to the US) and to pump out the areas that did flood. Evacuation and emergency shelter will also have been a high priority, but evacuation would have been suspended as the storm struck and is impossible until after it has passed. Once the storm begins to ease, the next phase kicks into gear, usually at local level - not national - and requires a local team to assess and report back on the actions required and the equipment needed. They will also prioritise the needs, still considering in order;

maintenance of law

In New Orleans, the initial assessment was that the flood water could be contained, then the levee failed and containment was not an option. With the roads destroyed, evacuation becomes difficult as does reaching those who need food, water and assistance. When the law and order fails and the gangs start to seize control of areas, this compounds the problems because now the aid and rescue workers are denied access. So the National Guard has been mobilised and sent in - a few thousand against a few hundred thousand - and combing an area bigger than several countries in Europe. How much impact could they have immediately? The simple answer is not much, but they will. It won't happen instantly and in a nice convenient Hollywood style with the "good guys" cavalry riding over the hill and putting it all right immediately, it will take time and time is a very subjective thing. For those waiting for relief it is a lifetime, to those bringing the relief it seems to fly past as they struggle through the debris at an agonising pace. I know, I have been there, I have done this and struggled afterwards with the few who have only seen their waiting and not the effort that went into reaching them.

It is even worse when you are the co-ordinator in what is now frequently referred to as "Gold Command". You are not "on the scene" able to actually "do" the job. You are reliant on reports of progress from the teams on the ground, aerial reconnaissance (if available) and any other reliable and verifiable source to make your assessments and priorities from. Then comes the even more difficult bit of where to make your dispositions to. Who do I leave in place, who do I move, who is the most urgent and who the least. Where do I send the equipment and where do I send in the food, water, medical supplies? How do they get there? What obstacles need to be overcome to achieve this and how will they be overcome - also, how long will it take to go this route as opposed to that one. Even more tricky is the fact that Gold Command must work as a team - it is also an "Interagency" assembly and each agency has a different capability and agenda. Ultimately they must all be pointed in the same direction and all the synergies utilised in the best possible way to achieve the maximum effect. There is no easy way to do this and sometimes the "Commander" is obliged to bang heads on the table and issue unpopular orders. Being the Number One in Gold Command is a bit like being God, most of the time you are working on amicable and co-operative levels, occassionally it's time to issue thunderbolts. Those who have never been in Command, can never know the loneliness of having to make a choice between taking one action which will save this small group and another which will save a larger group in more imminent danger further away, in the hope that you will be able to save the others on the return swing.

It doesn't always work and sometimes you have to live with that. I well recall an incident my father talked of when, as a young seaman serving on one of the RN's large battleships, there was a torpedo hit which started a fire in the 15 inch gun magazine. Fire in cordite is not a good idea, but there are also upwards of ninety men and officers in the magazine when at action stations. The officer in charge opened the seacocks and flooded it, drowning himself and the other eighty nine in the magazine. It saved more than 1100 members of the crew and the ship - brave, terminal for him and all with him, but the only option. Only those who have had to make similar choices can ever appreciate that.

So, the media circus now gathering like flies around the Mississippi Delta would do well to remember that they are hindering not helping, the critics would do better to shut up, cut their fuel usage which is drawing off fuel vital for the aid delivery and get down to the local charity centre and see what they can do to help instead of throwing criticisms.

No emergency plan or management system is ever perfect. It can always be improved and so it should be, we learn, after all, from the mistakes of the past. Now we all know that the levee's around New Orleans should have been strengthened and raised several years ago - carping about it now isn't going to improve it! Besides, surely it was the state and city legislature and not the Presidency which should have dealt with that? Looking at a map shows that most of New Orleans and St Louis is below sea level, so maybe that should be addressed when rebuilding the city after this disaster.

In the meantime, I raise my cap to those actually getting in there and getting aid in. I salute those who are getting to grips with this and starting to try to bring normailty back to a scene of such devastation and on such a scale that I very much doubt any nation, the US included, could have done any better. Now is not the time for recriminations, now is the time for every man, woman and child to get in there and do whatever is need to help - and that includes the rest of the world.

Let us hope that the EU and UK governments get the message! In particular, let's see less of the media circus and a lot more of their acting in assisting the emergency crews in any way they can.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:36 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 01, 2005

Are we suffering from mass paranoia?

It seems to me that this nation is now in the grip of paranoia. Reading Tim's post on An Englishman's Castle about the reaction of the North Yorkshire Police to a report from one of the usual crop of completely wet and stupid morons who delight in reporting these things, about a father and son arrested and held for five and a hlaf hours on "firearms charges" for playing with a toy pistol and rifle BOUGHT AT THE DAMNED SCARBOROUGH SEASIDE STALLS WHERE THEY WERE ARRESTED makes my blood boil! Especially after the weekend event where two teenagers and two older youths burst into a South East London baptism party, shot a woman in cold blood and then robbed the rest of the party with REAL GUNS!

Ever since Blair and his shower of complete idiots passed legislation on the owning of handguns shortly after coming to power, gun crime has gone through the roof! What is worse, guns are now more readily available then ever before - to the criminal element! Worse yet, these new generation of armed criminals are more ready to use these weapons than ever before, viz the events of last Saturday. It would be alarming enough if this had not resulted in yet another phenomenon - now we have an army of pathetic and stupid individuals who patently wouldn't know one end of a gun of any sort from the other, who take it upon themselves to phone the police and report every child or adult seen playing with anything that even looks like a gun! We have, as a result, had people shot for carrying table legs wrapped in a suspicious looking shape, we have armed responses to a pair of children seen in a suburban street playing cops and robbers with toy pistols and the latest folly, a father and son arrested at gunpoint on a beach for playing with a pair of toy guns bought on the seafront.

Even more worrying is the police response. Having really screwed it up, by not checking what they were dealing with and then by not admitting that they had got it badly wrong when any halfwit should have been able to tell instantly that they were dealing with toys, they carried through the full process of arrest, caution, fingerprinting and DNA sampling of the father and son! I bet they haven't told either that their DNA will now be on the national register for life - despite what Mr Blair and his sycophants publically declare.

This "risk aversion" syndrome is turning us into a nation of complete wimps and informers. The East German Stasi would have been proud of the way people are informing on their neighbours and on anyone they see in the street. This is the same sort of idiocy which informs on a father disciplining a badly behaving child at a supermarket - but then fails to deal with a child abuser and potential murderer in a community! The shooting of the Brazilian "suspect" recently has also raised a number of rather ugly questions, not least why the armed response officer emptied a full magazine into the victim. Surely a "double tap" would have been sufficient? I know I have commented that the victim in this case should have stopped, but from what has emerged since, the whole thing seems to have been a monumental SNAFU which has only served to increase public fear and concern.

This mass paranoia is being fed by the media and used by both Whitehall and the politicians to manipulate public opinion, create a climate of fear and to introduce ever more restrictions on the personal liberty of the individual. Ironically, it is this same bunch of cretins who insist that "Care in the Community" of dangerous psychotics, schizophrenics and other mentally disturbed people is about respecting their "right" to normal life and privacy!

No wonder we have paranoid morons phoning the police to report toys and childrens games! A pity the police don't behave a bit more sensibly as well!

(The original blog post on this can be found on Kim duToit's blog.)

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:30 AM | TrackBack

Continued downward evolution

I note with interest that since swopping to MuNu and excising all the spam trackbacks and comments, I have slid further down the evolutionary tree in the Blogosphere! I am now down to "Flappy Bird" status - something I better keep from Madam Paddy Cat who was interested enough in the fact that I was an "Adorable Rodent" until recently! "Flappy Birds" are a special interest of hers!

Presumably I have also managed, in the changeover to lose all the links to my humble ramblings. Ah me, how easily is the ego deflated!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:57 AM