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February 29, 2008

Circular thinking .....

Various regulators for the government in this country have been handing out huge fines to service providers lately. This is supposed to "encourage" them to provide better services in future. Now maybe I'm missing something here, but how will fining a government agency - one that was privatised and then renationalised by this same bunch of closet communistas - £14 million improve their abysmal service? How is this "value for money?" Especially I ask, how can it be value for money when it must come from my taxes in the first place - and will have to come out of the budget for maintaining the railway system in the second - unless, of course, some other Whitehall W*nker will simply take the money from the Treasury and pass it to the Network Rail Chairman in order for him to pay the Treasury .....

Circular thinking if ever I saw it.

But then, what do you expect from Whitehall? Common sense? Actual solutions? See your psychiatrist quick - it will be fairies in the garden next! The rail regulator evaded, no less than four times, a direct question concerning where the money to pay this fine would come from. Instead he burbled on about how the fine would "improve" performance. How?

Corrupt? Incompetent? Out of touch? Unable to face reality? One really does despair of the shower earning vast salaries to screw the country up completely. And they are completely unanswerable to anyone. Bomb-proof no matter how big the c*ck-up they create. In fact its a well known dictum in Whitehall - the bigger the c*ck-up, the bigger the promotion.

And the tax payer just keeps getting soaked for more of their earnings to pay for it ......

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:55 PM | TrackBack

February 28, 2008

Amazon - My "Other" Blog

This is where I try to engage with my audience ...


Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What price democracy Mister Brown?

The refusal by our government to allow a debate on a Libdem Amendment to the EU Treaty ratification Act currently being rushed through Parliament with indecent haste by Brown and his Labour pitbulls exposes just how far we have drifted from being a democratic state. In a debate on Radio 4 a day or so ago, Charles Kennedy of the Lib Dems found himself having to agree with the UKIP MEP on almost every point the man raised against our remaining a part of the EU. The fact is that we, the British People, have never been allowed to say whether we wish to be a part of the United States of Europe or not. We signed up in 1974 to being a part of a Trading Partnership, NOT a political Union.

Again, it is a fact that Westminster and our Parliament has become an expensive irrelevance. It was already getting that way when Labour decided to devolve powers to Scotland and Wales and that has simply exposed it to the true state of affairs - it now is not Sovereign, nor is it acting on behalf of the People of Britain. The Scottish Parliament speaks for Scotland, not Westminster, the Welsh Assembly speaks for Wales, not Westminster. England is now ruled by Scottish and Welsh MP's who have no constituency in England. How's that for democracy? Brussels formulates and imposes almost 80% of all legislation that Westminster Rubber Stamps. Legislation, moreover, that conflicts with our legal system and practice and imposes ever more restrictive and postively damaging restrictions on our industry, commerce and trade without ever being responsible to the British People or subject to election as they would be in a democratic society. So who does Westminster speak for? It would seem now to speak only for the English, yet even here it is not democratic since Brown's Party majority rests upon Scottish and Welsh MP's who are not affected in the slightest by the taxes and legislation they impose on the English.

Yesterday a mass lobby of Parliament demanding our rite to a Referendum on this issue was highjacked by the loony Greens of Greenpeace who don't give a damn and pulled off a silly stunt to make sure they got the press coverage while the real issue was ignored. On top of this we have to listen to Brown and his Gaulieters spinning that the Treaty isn't a Constituition. Well, pardon me, but almost everyone else in Europe thinks it is - so what is Brown afraid of admitting here?

Certainly one of the things he and his party of traitors isn't admitting is that our Armed Forces have been handed over to Europe. That's right, the "Treaty" creates a European Defence Force and the Royal Navy is now no more than a squadron within that Fleet - led and Commanded by the French. Nelson must be deafening anyone in St Paul's crypt right now. Our Army too has been cut back and cut back so that it can be slotted into the European Army as "the British Division" which is all it now is. Even the Royal Air Force is being cut back to just a Transport and a Strike Wing. Lord alone knows who will be in command of the European Airforce - but he or she probably won't be British either! And Whitehall has just announced another Defenece Review - with the "proposed" aircraft carriers now being projected as "deferred" until 2020. By which time the UK will be mere provinces of Brussels.

We no longer live in a democracy. Labour have seen to that. This is now a Socialist Oligarchy, our democracy died the day Blair won the election in 1997 and it will not be revived in my lifetime. The Civil Service is now the single biggest political power block in the country, employing over 20% of the workforce. Blair himself commented recently that he had found it almost impossible to actually get his intentions implemented because of the blocking and delaying that the civil service employs to prevent anyone actually doing anything they do not appove of or which would reduce their grip on the real power. Yet his party are the very people who have created and fed this monster.

One further affect of the Brussels usurpation of our sovereignty is the manifestation of vexatious legislation meddling in the minutieae of peoples lives. There is a historical precedent for this - the Roman Senate in the dying days of that empire enacted similar rafts of legislation in a desperate effort to assert power of an increasingly disenchanted populace as the real power shifted inexorably into the hands of the Emeroros and their immediate court. Who weilds the real power here now Mister Brown? You? I think not, personally I think it is the Commission in Brussels. Unelected, unaccountable and all powerful - thanks to your and your party's treason.

Westminster is now an expensive irrelevance, corrupt, incestuous and totally unnecessary. It is time to use the words uttered by this shower's equally corrupt and bigotted hero - Oliver Cromwell, dictator, traitor and regicide -

"For too long you have disgraced this house. In the name of God - go!"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:06 PM | TrackBack

February 27, 2008

Sandstone Country

Last weekend Mausi had the opportunity to visit the largest coloured sandstone cave in Europe. It meant a 90 minutes drive to the south west. Close to the French borders lies the town of Homburg. One of its attractions is this huge cave.

One of Homburg's churches built from red sandstone

The coloured sandstone formations around Homburg formed about 240 million years ago. The cave Mausi visited encompasses 12 storeys but only one is open to the public at the moment. If all goes well another two will be accessible in a couple of years.

The sandstone colours inside the cave are truly beautiful

The sandstone inside the cave shows alternating layers or red and yellow. The red sand was contains iron oxides and was depositied during wet periods when the iron was dissolved in water. The yellow layers where caused during dry periods when deserts temporarily took the place of shallow waters.

Ripples in the sandstone caused by waves in shallow waters

The cave itself is manmade. The sand contains a high amount of quartz which was used as a raw material for the production of glass during the seventeenth century. It was quite easy to get at the sand, very simple tools did suffice. Over the different storeys of the cave the sandstone has different densities. The hardest layer has actually turned into sandstone, but in the part of the cave Mausi visited the sand could be scraped from the walls by her fingers. Some of the ceilings are only 80 cm thick but their load bearing capacity is astonishing - up to 2000 kg per square meter.


At all times during different wars the caves have also provided shelter for the people of Homburg. The humidity inside the cave is between 80 and 90 percent or more but the temperature is always +10 Celsius, regardless of what the temperature is outside. The winter of 1944/1945 was extremely cold with temperatures around -20 Celsius. For the people who came to the caves to find shelter from the air raids it must have felt as if someone had suddenly turned the central heating on. At least until the humidity got through the last layers of your clothes.

Temporary home for a whole family during WW II

Mausi finds it hard to believe that families could actually survive in such conditions. Cramped into little space in a damp environment, with little food and no sanitation to speak of. Good thing those times are over and hopefully for a long time to come.

Posted by Mausi at 08:31 PM | TrackBack

February 26, 2008

Berlin revisited

Some days ago Mausi had to go to Berlin again on business. This time it promised to be fun as Mausi was allowed to go by plane instead of the usual tedious journey by train. The only drawback was that Mausi had to get up at 4.30 in the morning to reach the airport in time. 4.30 a.m. is definitely not Mausi's time of the day.

At the airport Mausi showed a printout of her electronic ticket a member of the Lufthansa personnel and was directed to one of those check-in machines. Mausi doesn't like them much, one never knows what mischief they are up to next. And indeed - Mausi entered her name and booking code and the machine offered to print her boarding card next. Only it didn't, it printed a receipt and the plainly refused to print the boarding card due to technical problems. Mausi was ready to faint. In the end she was saved by a very competent and friendly young Lufthansa lady who effortlessly dealt with the complaints of three passengers at the same time and managed to get Mausi's boarding card out of another machine. Mausi hastened to the gate.

As soon as boarding was completed the captain welcomed the passengers and concluded his little speech with the words: "As usual we are missing one passenger. For security reasons we have to unload all baggage ...." Great! However, at this time in the morning passengers are mostly business people who don't carry big suitcases with them. So after all the plane left almost on time.

In Berlin Mausi was met by her boss and his driver. The boss was dropped off at the Ministry of Interior and Mausi was driven to the Bundeskanzleramt, where she was to give a presentation that morning. It is situated in a bend of the river Spree. A very beautiful spot.

The Bundeskanzleramt, which includes Angela Merkel's offices

Mausi was lucky to get inside. That morning President Ehud Olmert form Israel was expected and security was already tight. When he finally arrived, the Bundeskanzleramt was sealed off and not even Mausi's boss could get in. He was late for the meeting and not amused. Mausi's presentation went well and early in the afternoon she found herself in a cold and foggy Berlin with a couple of hours to spend as she liked. After a bit of lunch Mausi decided to take the Underground and to go the Sony Centre which she hadn't seen before.

Roof structure of the Sony Centre

The Sony Centre is a shopping mall, with the shops built around an atrium. Lots of events are taking place in the atrium space and the roof structure is a real eyecatcher. Mausi did some window shopping and then went outside to find herself standing eye to eye to a Lego giraffe.

Mausi just wished she had had enough Lego pieces as kid to build something like that

Slowly the fog was getting through all layers of Mausi's clothing. She warmed herself up with a cup of delicious cappuchino before setting out for the airport again. This time the plane was an hour late. It had been to Paris before flying to Berlin and guess what: the French air traffic controllers had been on strike again causing Mausi's plane to depart late.

Mausi arrived home again at 21.00 hours. It had been a long day. Berlin is interesting in small doses but much too big for Mausi's liking. One does feel a bit lost there.

Posted by Mausi at 08:50 PM | TrackBack

February 25, 2008

Time for root and branch reform of Westminster ...

The news that the Speaker of the House of Commons is having his expenses investigated by the Parliamentary Wtachdog shows up the fact that our government is now so mired in sleaze that it is incapable of managing its own affairs - never mind ours! Mister Speaker is supposed to be absolutely squeaky clean - but then Gorbals Mick as his detractors nicknamed Labour's Scottish MP incumbent of the most important post in Parliament was always on a knife edge when it came to probity. The Scottish Labour Party has always played fast a loose with our money, particularly when given control of English Tax money. And they have a record of corruption and mafia style bullying and nepotism that makes some Third World States look like Cub Scouts.

When Mister Speaker can be accused of fiddling his expenses, the time has come for the appointment of some body to oversee Parliament and make sure they are playing straight. After all Mister Speaker is the man who agrees MP's allowances and approves their claims. If his aren't quite what they should be, what the h*ll are the rest up to?

Parliament is only a part of the problem. The way money is thrown around Whitehall it should come as no surprise that much of it finds its way into the pockets of corrupt civil servants and their political paymasters. It must surely be time to call a halt to the way Whitehall is run (or not run as the case may be) and put in place public oversight of the activities of the Treasury, demand proper Budgets, not the cobbled together "we don't really know how much we need so we make a guess at it and double it," style of budgeting. This government has done more "spending reviews" than any other in our history - yet the cost of government keeps rising. Why?

Probably because no budget is ever really cut - they just find more creative ways to spend our money to their advantage. Definitely time to clean out the house and bar the CIvil Servants from "managing" anything.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 24, 2008

Lenten thoughts

Today's Gospel reading certainly gives a lot to ponder over. From St John's Gospel it is the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well. With our monthly Chapter meeting looming I find myself hard pressed to do it justice in a short post, but here goes.

What this story certainly tells us is that the gospel is inclusive in its message which is for all who have ears to hear or eyes to see. Samaritans were, in the eyes of their Jewish relations, outcasts. This woman was an outcast among outcasts. Yet Jesus makes clear that His message is as much for her as it is for those who frequent the Temple or observe the strictest rituals or the Law and Worship.

All that is required of anyone is to accept the truth of that Gospel and to make every effort to live by it. Lent reminds us of that need, a need to refocus and refresh ourselves for the ongoing struggle to fulfil that requirement. And here is a final thought, a few days ago I mentioned that the name of one of my students is Abdulrachman, literally, Slave of the Almighty. Consider this, it is what we are all called to be - and therein lies the ultimate freedom.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:13 PM | TrackBack

February 23, 2008

Another assault on our freedom?

The news today that a new camera is to be installed on our roads to police the new government backed installation of special lanes for use by motorists who have more than one person in the car confirms to me that this government wants to deny most of us the use of private transport. Let's face it, most of us use our cars to get to and from work because there isn't suitable public transport or because we need to be flexible and work either longer hours or at different locations from time to time. So the Transport Minister babbling about "choice" and the need to compell us to use inadequate, inconvenient and packed with inconsiderate, ill disciplined and badly behaved yobs is a bit outside of reality. OK for those who have the use of chaffeur driven Jaguars with Police escorts - for the rest of us it will mean being forced to sit in traffic jams in the lanes single motorists, HGVs and everyone else are confined to while the "multi-person" lane is empty.

It seems that the proponents of this latest batch of stupidity traffic management argue that, if you convert one lane of a two lane highway into a "High Density Vehicle" lane and force all other road users into the other lane, you will ease the congestion. Anyone see the flaw in this? Anyone see the problem of forcing all the traffic into one lane so the fortunate few, such as the Minister of Transport and her chums with the kiddie seats and communal transport habits can have the freedom to drive unmolested and unobstructed - no HGVs means no crawling traffic to hold you back - at the expense of the rest of us who will now not only have to pay an exorbitant road tax for bugger all, but will burn more fuel, creating more pollution - and paying more fuel tax - for the privilege of using our own cars.

Some time ago I did share a car with several others. It was never an easy mix since well had to arrive at work or leave work together, it meant that whoever was late at the pickup point or delayed in the office held the rest of us up. It also meant that, if for any reason one of us had to work late or get in early, and sometimes we did, you had to make other arrangements to get there or get home.

As usual, the problems of the city are to be imposed on those of us who choose not to live in the cheek by jowl situation imposed by city life. And, as usual, the politicians and the bureaucrats are the only beneficiaries of yet more legislation and yet more criminalising of the general public as soon as we exercise our freedom of choice. Have any of these morons had to try living without their cars? Easy if you can afford the rents (or have the taxpayer pick them up for you) of central London. Easy if you have the chaffeur service at your beck and call - not so bloody easy if you have to catch trains, tubes and buses while carrying the family shopping!

Even worse, if you live alone and frequently have to travel alone, it is usually not a matter of choice. Where I live (Can afford to live!) is not on a mainline. Even if it was, I still could not travel to my most frequent destinations directly from here. It would involve several changes and is vastly more expensive than using my car. Even if I mix my transport, driving part way, then switching to public transport, I find myself heavily out of pocket vastly inconvenienced by the constraints of the train or bus timetables.

Let's face it, the real reason this government of control freaks, puritans and c;oset communists want to deny us the free use of our cars is that they hate our having any choice at all about how we live, where we live or where we work. They want to confine us in neat little units where we can be more easily monitored and fed the b*llsh*t they would have us believe.

Face it, the real problem on our roads is not the private motorist. It is the huge load of freight that is carried in juggernauts on roads not designed for them, through villages not intended for such traffic and into towns where they damage roads, buildings and lives. If you seek the real cause of pollution look no further than the huge fleets of trucks carrying goods that could be more efficiently carried by rail or sea around our coasts. Look no further than the lunatic "traffic calming" measures forcing motorists to drive at uneconomically low speeds in uneconomical gears around towns and cities and at the lunacy of empty lanes on raods that motorists are banned from using because they are reserved for "mass transit" vehicles. And all the while our Ministers andtheir Civil Service chums ride around at our expense in chaffeur driven limosines. Nice for some.

The last time I had to use the bus to go from my home to the neighbouring town - 8 miles in my car and only a matter of twenty minutes - the bus took a little over an hour and was filled with unruly teenagers who shouted, spat screamed and generally made themselves unpleasant. The bus driver could do nothing about it and the rest of us had to endure it. I have not travelled by bus since, and I don't intend to do so again until I can be assured that that sort of behaviour will not be tolerated and that such passengers will be ejected from the bus immediately.

On those occassions when I can take the train to my destination I find that more often than not I have to pay a premium fare in order to be able to travel when I need to in order to arrive on time at my business - and then, as often as not, I can't find a seat and end up paying over the odds for the privilege of standing for two hours.

Mark my words, this scheme is the thin end of a very large wedge. If this doesn't force you out of your car - and the schemes will be introduced in rural as well as urban areas - there will shortly be another assault on your right to drive your own vehicle. Ironic isn't it, that the present government are the very same people who boycotted lectures, staged "sit-ins" in colleges, schools and universities to force the governing bodies into accepting "freedom of choice" for students - and now they want to remove all freedom of choice from the rest of us.

If it wasn't so blatant, it might even be funny.....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 22, 2008

Teaching across language and cultural barriers ...

I am currently teaching a group from Saudi Arabia. Their language skills are interesting, several are very proficient in English, one young man is acting as interpretter and is doing a grand job at "simultaneous" translation. The tricky bit is that your lecture has to be paced to the speed of translation. There are also a few cultural pitfalls one has to consider, so showing some slides is not on, while others - generally considered by the "advisers" as potentially tricky, are no problem at all.

One thing you quickly learn in teaching in these circumstances is that jokes and idioms don't translate. So if you want to make a little joke and raise a laugh or lighten the mood, you have to first put the joke into context. Fortunately I have enough experiences when things have not gone according to plan to be able to tell these within the context of the lecture and poke fun at my own efforts - which works reasonably well. Sometimes so well they remember that instead of what you wanted them to recall....

All of which said, it has been refreshing to have in front of me a large group of keen and enthusiastic people determined to get as much as possible from their two weeks course. Questions flow, responses are carefully thought out and translated lectures tend to get extended as they discuss aspects and ask for further information. I reckon I could probably extend this to four weeks if they had the time. As it is, I'm exhausted at the end of each day.

One of the more impressive aspects of teaching this group is their cheerful attitude to their faith. They have found the Prayer Room at the college too small, so asked if they could use the classroom. I readily agreed thinking it would be a bit awkward - but hey - if that's what they want. It's worked well, they have shifted the furniture out of the way, then painstakingly put it back once they finished. Wish a few of our own would take some lessons in consideration from them.

The weather hasn't exactly been kind, but they have shown up on time, even though they have been wrapped up like Michelin men on occassion. Mind you, with one morning kicking off at -6*C who can blame them. That said they have been cheerful and great fun to work with. Each day begins with Salaam allee equum. (Peace be with you.) and I have even learned to respond correctly to their polite "Kefaarlik?" (How are you?). On the language front I have learned that Abdulrachman means "Slave of the Most High" and Mubarak means "Happy" - who said learning was a one way street?

I shall be a bit sorry to see them go home next weekend, but it will have been a lot of fun. Now to catch up with my chores.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 21, 2008

Investment theft ...

So Labour is again stealing investment capital. Northern Rocks long suffering shareholders are to have their shares in the business taken off them at a token value by this government of incompetents and thieves in their latest grab of peoples investments. The excuse that it is "to protect the taxpayers investment" is wearing a bit thin. After all, they created the crisis with their ill considered insistence on making the Bank of England reveal who it was lending money too. The real problem here is that having created the problem they compounded it by letting the panic run on and on until the Bank needed to borrow far more than it would have done. Then, of course, the Chancellor stepped in with that great Socialist/Communist panacea for all ills - put an incompetent bureaucrat in charge.

Or if you don't think you'll get away with that - put one of your tax dodging chums in the driving seat. That has to be the biggest con job of all. After making a huge song and dance about "Non-doms" dodging tax in the UK on money earned in the UK by actually living in a country with a lower tax rate, who does the Chancellor appoint to take over the Bank - a "Non-dom" chum ....

The truth is that the Northern Rock has been nationalised "temporarily" to protect the tax payers investment in keeping the bank afloat. As I said earlier, the crisis was engineered by the government, so I think the money should come from their pockets, not ours. Secondly, the shareholders can expect little or no moeny for their investment - the Treasury's creative accountants will value the shares at way below their market value simply to avoid paying out their real value - and there is no way the investors will be able to recover this. Again, all the Labour Communistas are rubbing their grubby hands gleefully and triumphantly declaring that the investors "can't be bailed out by the taxpayers". I think I'd rather know my tax money was doing that than paying the salaries of worthless bureaucrats and politicians who are totally unaccountable. This is exactly what they did to the shareholders of Rail Track when the same moron re-nationalised that!

The other problem is the word "temporarily". In Civil Service terms that embraces everything from "until the wind blows from the East" to "Forever". I suspect that Northern Rock is going to prove a permanent passenger on the Civil Service list, just getting gradually less and less efficient until it becomes obvious that it has, like the rest of Whitehall, just become a financial Black Hole, sucking in money and producing nothing of any worth or value.

Time, I suppose, will tell.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 20, 2008

Eclipse of the moon

Tonight sees the eclipse of the moon, a fascinating sight if it is visible. The moon darkens and takes on a red appearance as the shadow of our planet passes across its surface.

Traditionally, eclipses are portents of disaster, so I wonder who is predicting what for whom on this one. Darius III lost the battle at Gaugamela to Alexander the Great after soothsayers foretold disaster when a total eclipse of the moon occured a few days before the two armies clashed in 331BC. I must confess that I have seen a reference to Alexander being told the same thing - but having the courage to say "b*llsh*t!" and went into battle having given his troops a right old talking too. Darius III probably wished he had.

I wonder how often in history the torch of history has been passed on from one hand who believed the soothsaying to a victor who didn't. I would suspect that we will never know for the simple reason that the winner is unlikely to repeat the soothsayers doomsaying while laughing at the fact that his enemy fell for it.

Wonder if some clown will now try telling us that this ecplipse portends the ending of our civilisation. Won't surprise me at all if someone does!

Whatever, as it is happening at 03.21 - I won't be sitting up to watch it!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:25 PM | TrackBack

February 19, 2008

The Diana farce .....

Rumbles on. Listening to Mr Al Fayed on the radio after he gave his "evidence" today, I found myself wondering if this man is quite all there. I am convinced that he inhabits a world with several more moons around it than the one I am on. In fact if he continues to rant in the manner he was doing this evening when asked to comment on the Enquiry by Radio 4 I fully expect him to be either called to apologise publically by the Judge - a very senior Judge in the Lords - or charged with Contempt of Court, a very serious offence in the eyes of the law.

From what was broadcast the "evidence" now descends to the level of accusations which cannot be substantiated, downright defamation and, when challenged to provide hard evidence, invective and abuse. He clings to the view that the Princess was pregnant in the face of medical testimony that she was not. He declares that she and Dodi "were engaged" when all her friends say this was rubbish and, of course, no one can now prove or disprove it. To cap it all, he accuses the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip of racism and of complicity in "murder" - despite the fact that the Duke's letters released to this court show that he did more to try to help Diana than anyone else. And, much as I loathe Tony Blair, I find the accusation that the little creep colluded with MI5, MI6, Prince Charles and the Duke to have Diana and Dodi killed, just plain ludicrous. Especially as the conspirators are now supposed to have included the French Secret Service and the Sapeurs Pompiers and Ambulance service in Paris! If it wasn't such a monumental waste of money and tragedy for Princes William and Harry it would be laughable.

It really is time to draw a line under this - and send Mr Al Fayed the bill.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:09 PM | TrackBack

February 18, 2008

As civilisation fades ...

In South Africa, it seems that they are finding ever more amusing ways to have a dig at their leaders. The cartoon Madam and Eve has just run a series on "modernised" nursery rhymes most of which hit the mark - pardon the pun - right on the nose.

In a society where crime is so high no one is immune, corruption scandals are the order of the day and the most corrupt of all are sitting in Parliament or about to be crowned as President, there is nothing left buyt to resport to satire. And all nursery rhymes are, or were originally, just that. A poke on the nose for the government of the day. The Madam and Eve versions are amusing and fun for most of us, but do carry a serious message for those who have to live through their current difficulties.

So, is Western civilisation about to collapse completely? Perhaps not entirely in Europe and the North Americas, but it does seem doomed to fade and fail in AFrica and many other places it has been "planted". It is, however, comforting to hope that the "Dark Age" as we might view it, may be shortened by technoloy and the internet. Possibly even by the effect of "Globalisation". But, if Africa does go into a Dark Age, it will impact on the rest of us, and that should worry us all.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:49 AM | TrackBack

February 17, 2008

The cost of an ego?

The Public Enquiry into the death of the late Princess of Wales rumbles on. Or at least, apparently, its gravy train does. It sometimes seems that every nutcase idea that Al Fayed can dream up has to be explored by dragging in every recalcitrant ex-MI6 agent they can find and trotting him through his "conspiracy" piece. But the cost mounts daily and what is the likely outcome? Forgive me for asking I'm sure, but, if this little exercise is assuaging Mr Al Fayed's over expanded ego is already £6 million (Of Taxpayers money!) what benefit are we, the tax payers getting from airing all of this half baked trash in public anyway?

There has been nothing new exposed - except some rather dodgy individuals spouting garbage - that was not revealed in any of the earlier inquests. OK, so maybe our "Loyal" Government have indulged in this orgy of public hysteria by the small "Diana was a Godess" mob in the hopes of speeding the introduction of their Republic of Britain, but I doubt even they would be stupid enough - unless Al Fayed threatened to dish the dirt on them they way he did to John Major's mob. Mr Al Fayed seems to me to be pursuing a personal vendetta against the Royal Family and it also appears that some in our government are hell bent on helping him. Perhaps the time has come to ask whether or not he will accept the verdict, when it is delivered, and how much of the bill he will be personally picking up.

I like the approach that Lord Stevens, the former head of the Metropolitan Police, has taken over the allegations that Mr Al Fayed's lawyers have made regarding the integrity of his investigation into the circumstances of the death of Diana and Dodi Fayed, Mr Al Fayed's son. He is asking for an apology on behalf of his staff whose integrity has been questioned by the Al Fayed team and has been rather robust in defending his report and his own reputation in the Inquiry. (See the extended post!) Interestingly Mr Al Fayed's head of Security, a former Chief Inspector in the Met, has been forced to admit that he lied in public on an ABC TV show.

And, as I have said before, if the outcome isn't what Al Fayed wants, we will be subjected to more accusations of cover-ups and conspiracy. And he will have that loyal bunch of idiots who seriously need to get a life to support him.

Then there is the group that are now bringing a private prosecution against the Serious Fraud Office, a special unit which investigates fraudulent trading or corruption, on the grounds that they acted unlawfully when they stopped an investigation into allegations that British Aerospace had handed out "sweetners" to some important Saudi's. Their case seems to me to be deliberately disingenuous. The case was stopped because it was seriously damaging relations between the EU and the Saudi Kingdom at a time when we really needed their co-operation in the War on Terror. The spokesman for the group sounds like a typical failed student agitator when he protests that "the ethical principle overrides any other questions".

Like Mr Al Fayed, it seems that these groups recognise no truth but their own. I trust that the courts will eject them and their suite with full costs. And I look forward to hearing that Mr Al Fayed has offered to meet the full costs of this massaging of his ego - and perhaps Liberty and one or two other groups should be invited to pay as well.

Mohamed al Fayed's controversial theories about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, have come under fire.

The Harrods tycoon listened quietly as layers of his theory that Diana was murdered in a 1997 car crash by MI6 on the order of the Duke of Edinburgh because she was pregnant and set to get engaged to his son Dodi were stripped down.

The jury heard Lord Stevens, who carried out Operation Paget, the official investigation into the conspiracy theories, publicly denounce for the first time "scurrilous allegations" about his professionalism.

He condemned suggestions that he or his team had been negligent, not done their job properly and that he had been "got at" regarding the evidence in the report.

Calling the allegations "quite outrageous," he said: "I will take that on my behalf, but I will not have it said about people who worked for me for four years, who sometimes cannot defend themselves on these issues."

Lord Steven's report, published in December 2006, found the deaths were a tragic accident and also that driver Henri Paul was three times the French drink-drive limit.

In contrast to an eye-catching headline back in 1997 which claimed Mr Paul was "drunk as a pig", Lord Stevens described him on the night as "under the influence of alcohol". He told the jury: "Looking at the CCTV, looking at the witness statements, we knew that Henri Paul by account had a high tolerance for drink and in all honesty we could not say he was drunk, in our definition."

Lord Stevens also hit back at the suggestion he had used a November 2006 meeting with Mr Paul's parents, Jean and Gisele, to deliberately mislead them over what he would say about how much their son had drunk. He said: "That's outrageous, and I'm looking for an apology in relation to that."

Meanwhile, John Macnamara, a retired Metropolitan Police detective chief superintendent and Mr al Fayed's director of security in August 1997, accepted he had lied in public when he claimed in a television interview that Mr Paul had only drunk pineapple juice.

The jury heard that Mr Macnamara knew Mr Paul had two drinks from bar records he was handed on a visit to Paris immediately after the crash. But he failed to mention it when he took part in an ABC programme on US television on September 10 1997.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:35 PM | TrackBack

February 16, 2008

Soft touch/Out of touch ...

The report by the Royal United Services Institute which states that the UK is now a "soft target" for terrorists should worry the government. Instead, as is usual for the Labour Ideologues who cannot distinguish fact from the fiction they are fed by the Civil Service, The MP Keith Vaz denies that the report has identified what the rest of the population is all too aware of. Labour's Mass Immigration policy, particularly from their Islamic favourites, has seriously weakened the very fabric of British Society. Worse, it has created tensions by fostering isolationist groups setting up ghettos.

Mister Vaz and the Cabinet Office deny that this is so - but the reality is that every Muslim man who walks the streets of London, Birmingham, Leeds or Bradford (to name just a few) dressed in his Palestinian Refugee camp garb and sporting the fundamentalist whiskers, is demonstrating his rejection of everything British. Mister Vaz can protest all he likes that this projects a "tolerant and multi-cultural society" but the reality is that it does not. It projects a desire to supplant everything about our society with their own values, rules and laws. That is, perhaps, why the Archbishop's rather esoteric suggestion that "elements" of the Sharia Civil Code could be adopted, provoked such a hysterical backlash among the rest of us. Whether Mister Vaz and the rest of his Labour Storm Troopers and Gauleiters of the Multi-Faith, Multi-cultural ghetto building PC Brigade want to acknowledge it or not, the way forward for this country is most emphatically not to allow immigrants to come in on their terms and bring with them all the baggage of the country they have left behind.

Personally I have no objection to someone practicing a faith different to mine. But I do insist that this is my country and I expect them to adopt our rules and our way of life. If that is not the way they want to live - then they know where the airport is. Whenever I visit the Middle East or other Islamic countries I am proscribed in every regard as concerns my faith. I may not carry a Bible with me into many countries and even a prayer book or any other Christian book is definitely enough to get me the next plane home. I do not wish to impose that on them - but I repeat, this is my country and its traditions, however badly undermined by the likes of Keith Vaz and the rest of Labour's ghastly crew, are firmly based in Christianity. If you want to wear a dishdash, burnous and a head covering designed to keep the sun off you - then go and live where it is the norm. Nothing looks more idiotic than to see someone wearing the full Palestinian (and it is Palestinian - it is not some sort of "Muslim" uniform, it was invented in Lebanon by a leader of the PLO) with a couple of thick padded bomber style jackets over it. In fact most of the guys I worked with in North Africa recently don't even own this outfit and they are as Muslim as any of the Middle Eastern types.

It was to be expected that Labour's motor mouths would scream that the RUSI report was "out of touch" but the truth is that it is they that are out of touch and out of step. Tellingly an Afro-Caribbean gentleman phoned the Radio 4 phone in this morning and had a mouthful to say about "newcomers" trying to turn Britain into a Muslim Middle Eastern state. And the show's host did his best to denigrate the old boy - who freely admitted that he had come here as a young man in the 1950's - but singularly failed to do anything other than show up his own prejudice and bias. It was enlightening to say the very least.

Labour has much to answer for and the fact that it is their policies which have created this situation and, what is worse, lit the fuse on the powder keg, is likely to come home to roost for them soon. No one but a fool still believes that they are any way, shape or form, capable of resolving this. How can they - they refuse to even admit that there is a problem. So they continue to parrot their fairy tale version of how good it all is and to live in their cushioned and pamperd ivory towers in Whitehall.

After listening to Mister Vaz I concluded that he has fairies living at the bottom of his garden - along with the rest of the Cabinet.

By Sky News SkyNews - Friday, February 15 09:09 amBritain is becoming a "soft touch" in the face of increased threats from home and abroad because of its failure to "lay down the line" to ethnic minorities.

That's the claim from a defence think tank which says a lack of confidence in British identity and institutions is increasingly making the UK a "target" for attack.

The influential Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) also believes successive governments have presided over a decline in the nation's armed forces.

A contrast is made between the sense of national "fragmentation" and the "implacability" of Islamists who challenge the UK's interests domestically and overseas.

The report says: "That fragmentation is worsened by the firm self-image of those elements within it who refuse to integrate.

This is a problem worsened by the lack of leadership from the majority which in mis-placed deference to 'multiculturalism' failed to lay down the line to immigrant communities, thus undercutting those within them trying to fight extremism.

"The country's lack of self-confidence is in stark contrast to the implacability of its Islamist terrorist enemy.

"We look like a soft touch. We are indeed a soft touch, from within and without."

The think tank believe terrorism is not the only threat the UK faces; Russian nationalism, and increased competition for energy resources means that in future the Armed Forces may be called upon - and found wanting.

It said: "There is now such disjuncture between Britain's enduring security interests and the manner in which the state's moral and material defence of those interests has been pursued since the collapse of the Soviet Union (and especially during the last decade).

"This disjuncture is like a breach made by the defenders themselves in the walls of their own city," it said.

But the Government said that RUSI's claims "do not stand up to scrutiny".

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "The safety and security of our citizens is the Government's main priority and the Government rejects any suggestion that Britain is a soft touch for terrorists."

The Government say that counter-terrorism funding has increased, that policy is indeed co-ordinated, and that the report's conclusions on community cohesion are "out-of-date".

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 15, 2008

Cool Scifi Forum ....

OK, so this probably isn't a classic Blog, but its a darned good forum ...


Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:57 AM | TrackBack


I listened with interest to the debate around the apology by the current Federal PM of Austalia to the Aboriginal people. He apologised for several things done to Australia's aboriginal people over the last hundred years, including the "forced" removal and "conditioning" of aboriginal children. By this is meant that they were placed in regular education, instead of being allowed to follow the practice (which I understand has been re-introduced) of children in this group attending when they happen to take the fancy or to simply go "walk about" when the mood strikes them and their families. Listening to the various sides of the debate I repeatedly heard the words "racist views" or "apartheid" and then that crowning insult thrown by the left - "conservative" - which in their view equates to "Neo-Nazi". The one thing I didn't hear was any suggestion that the attempt to assimilate (another of the words used in the debate) the aboriginal peoples into the mainstream, might have benefited at least some among them.

What was clear from the debate was that the government, having issued the apology, now regards the matter as closed. Those who opposed the issue of the apology made an interesting point, one I find myself agreeing with. What good is an apology if there is to be no attempt to address the still very obvious issue of what to do with a large section of the population (about 300,000 people) who stubbornly refuse to lift themselves out of the stone age culture they would like everyone else in Australia to adopt? Clearly even the Left on this argument haven't a clue either, since there were the usual mutterings about returning the land to its rightful inhabitants, compensation and then - nothing constructive or practical. Except of course the usual propaganda, twisted history and ideology.

It is a very interesting and difficult conundrum. First it is filled with emotions, which never help to settle any problem. I have no doubt that the Australians of the 1890's saw the aboriginal peoples (as indeed did many Europeans) as an unfortunate sub-species to be protected, educated and, if possible, helped toward "enlightenment". In frustration, no doubt, they adopted the policy of enforced separation of children from parents deemed to be beyond reform and genuinely thought they were doing the "right thing". I have equally no doubt that those who now jump up and down about this and other "abuses" of the past will reject any thought that their fathers and grandfathers might have had the highest of ideals - ideals they held as dearly as the current crop of apologists cling to their desire to wear sackclothe and ashes and go about flagellating the rest of us for the "sins" of the past. The fact is that we look back with the perfect vision of hindsight and, as a philosopher once remarked, "The past is a foreign country from which we are now barred."

We cannot put right the mistakes of the past with meaningless apologies. And the apology is meaningless if it does not include a determination to provide a clear and acceptable means to provide a way out of the hardship that so many aborigines claim is a result of the history for which the apology has been made. That was very much the point made by those who opposed the statement. Yet this is the latest fetish of the left of any and every political spectrum. It is, in fact, part of the "victim" culture so beloved of Labour in this country and in Europe - and certain sections of the US and Canadian political spectrum.

Wherever you go these days there is some lobby campaigning for an apology for something done to someone with whom they seldom have much more than a tenuous connection. A classic example has to be Stephen Spielberg's dumping the Chinese Olympic Directorship. Instead of using his role to campaign quietly, he's decided to "grandstand" it and publically attempt to humiliate the Chinese. Now I would not rate the Chinese government as the world's most benevolent regime, but the fact is that they have to work out their own solutions within their own culture. And the culture of "Protest" is not one they have any truck with. So to promote protest in that country is not only to ask for trouble, but to visit it upon the heads of those gullible enough to listen to Westerners who have more sensibilities than sense. Yes China has an appalling Human Rights record, but so do a number of the "Protest" lobby's favourite regimes. I'm sorry, but Spielberg's resigning on the grounds that China should have stopped the slaughter in Dharfur is plain stupid. China is not concerned with what happens anywhere outside China at the moment, though I fully expect that that will change drastically if they are put under enough pressure - and it won't be the countries we disapprove of that they then target.

This culture of apology seems to me to have sprung from the protest movements of the 1960's and the Hippy culture that gave rise to these neo-puritans (on any matter THEY disapprove of) is now propelling the West into a very dangerous possible confrontation with the vigourous and rising powers off the East that do not share our obsession with "Human Rights" or our concept of "democracy".

Perhaps it is time to sit back and think carefully about the whole ethos that drives this urge to apologise for everything while at the same time trying to dictate behaviour to everyone else........

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 14, 2008

Valentines Day

Is not big on my calendar. Frankly it has become just another of those days/events in the year on which we are encouraged to part with huge amounts of our cash by the merchants and their marketing people.

That is not to say I don't think I should tell those I love that I love them - I do, and I have learned that that should be daily, if not all the time I am with them and even when I'm not. And I don't have to give fancy cards, chocolates or flowers to do it. In fact sometimes just doing something a little out of the ordinary or making some small gesture to make the other person feel really special is a far better way of saying and doing it. Even better is to get to know the other person so well that you can anticipate their needs and place these ahead of your own wants and desires without making yourself a martyr to it since that simply turns them off big time. Modern Valentine's Day frenzy is simply pandering to the Hollywood image of "Happily ever aftering" - the problem is that the glitz soon wears off.

And remember that Hollywood marriages are often measured in hours.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:39 AM | TrackBack

February 13, 2008

Vanishing civilisations ….

Why does a civilisation simply fall apart? My studies to get into the life of St Patrick, who lived roughly between 385 and 461 AD, confronted me with a number of seemingly unanswerable questions, chief among them the question of why almost all Roman towns and the Villas that provided the food to them vanished from our landscape and would not reappear until almost four hundred years later – and then in a much cruder and far less pleasing form. Why did Rome itself, and almost all the cities of the Western Roman Empire fall apart so quickly? It more or less all fell apart in the space of sixty years between 410AD and 476AD. What caused it to go so quickly?

A lot of further reading provided some of the clues I needed. For instance, the fact that Britain, as a “border” Province, proved to be a breeding ground for ambitious generals with an eye on the Imperial Laurel. Following the campaign by Magnus Maximus (Macsen in the Roman British legends) and his son Vincent which ended in Magnus being assassinated in Northern Italy by agents of Stilichio and his son’s execution, Britain was not permitted to mint coinage. Thus, all money had to be imported after 389AD and there was a cash crisis in 405AD when the country literally ran out of money. Everyone was forced back onto a barter system, but the greater effect was that they were no longer able to pay the army to defend them. Coupled with that, after Boudica’s revolt all native born Britons were forbidden to train in arms, unless they could join a legion in Germany, Italy or the Eastern part of the Empire. Thus, in 409AD when the Emperor Honorius told them they would have to go it alone in future, they had a major problem. In 410 Constantius III sent tax gatherers and that was the final straw. Londinium held its own version of the Boston Tea Party …

The civil administration fell apart very rapidly after that, frankly, the Brits had had enough of paying tax and feeding the “Managers” who did nothing but shuffle paper and charge taxes. Those they could find, they killed. But, with civil government gone, a vacuum was created and into that stepped the old tribal rivalries under new leaders. The towns and cities could not be maintained without all the paraphernalia of government, so the people simply walked away from them and tried to subsist by farming any open space someone else wasn’t already using. Londinium was an empty shell by 429Ad and had all but vanished by the time Alfred the Great re-occupied the site in 889AD.

The same was happening along the Rhine and across the northern and western parts of Gaul and down into Spain. Cities and towns shrivelled without the protection of Rome or the civic authority needed to keep the streets repaired, the drains cleaned and ensure the garbage was removed. And into the void created by the departure of the bureaucrats and the empire troops came the Bishops and the local Senatorial families who claimed lands and the allegiance of the dispossessed and impoverished middle class.

Sound familiar? It should, because as I read I realised that I had been looking at it happening across Africa. Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Darfur, Nigeria. It doesn’t matter were you look, the same pattern emerges, crumbling infrastructures, power hungry “barons” who use muscle and influence to carve out their own fiefdoms as the central government loses its grip on its more remote parts. Corruption at the centre leaves the cities and towns crippled through lack of finance to maintain essential services and so disease, unemployment and crime begin to spiral out of control. And the "Middle" class vanishes.

The Roman British towns were abandoned because they could not be kept working without the trade generated by the free flow of goods from the countryside into the towns to feed the craftsmen who lived there and sold their goods and manufactured products to the rural communities and the passing traders. Once the money supply dried up, the craftsmen had no way of buying what they needed – after all, a farmer can only use so many brooches and a pair of shoes – well, how many pairs do you really need when the priority may be seed for the next planting, meat for the table or oil for the lamps. With no hope of sustaining trade the craftsmen had either to move to Gaul or further afield – or become farmers again.

It seems to me that we are watching this development afresh. In Africa for now, but the strain of absorbing the flood tide of migrants from those collapsing states – and the fact that they, like the Goths, Visigoths and Franks who swept into Gaul and Spain from Germany in 407AD have no tradition of democracy or of the skills that sustain cities and towns, it is only a question of how long before the same strains start to tear our “civilisation” apart.

I’m not sure there is a simple answer to this question. After all, at the centre of the Empire, Rome remained a functioning city, thanks largely to the Pope assuming secular powers and raising an army to defend it. I think something similar may happen here. I just hope that we don’t have a thousand year gap between now and the next Renaissance!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:16 PM | TrackBack

February 12, 2008

Living on the edge ...

South of Manila is farming country, with some spectacular mountains and ridges. In the midst of this is a magnificent lake - Lake Taal. The lake is beautiful and huge. There are several small towns along its edge and prime real estate is being developed along the ridge running all around it. In its centre are several small islands. Very picturesque, very beautiful setting and the sunsets .... Well, to die for as they say.

A settlement under development to the north of Lake Taal. Note the sea views. The mountain in the distance is a volcano.

The trouble is that you might well end up doing just that. For "Lake" Taal is the flooded caldera of the Taal volcano!

Lake Taal, seen from its Northern Rim. The "islands" are all volcanic vents and fume regularly.

In 1510 the Taal Volcano blew its top in a super eruption much like the Mount St Helens event and buried the area on which Metro Manila now stands in fifteen feet of ash and debris. When the Spanish invaders arrived some twenty years later, the vegetation had recovered sufficiently to hide most of the scars. Mount Taal had ceased to exist and the crater is all that is left - but it blows its top in a cycle that runs to roughly every 600 years - so watch this space .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2008

Remembering someone .....

Today would have been my mother's 83rd birthday. She died suddenly, although she had been getting frailer and more housebound for at least two years, in November 1999 so she is not here to celebrate it.

Grace Eleanor Frances Heron 1925 - 1999 May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

While she was alive she had the ability to drive me up the wall in frustration, yet she could also be extremely thoughtful and caring. It is fair to say that I have good memories and some not so good one's of my relationship with her and of our growing up, but she was, and always will be, our Mum. My brother and I still miss her deeply.

A candle burns in the Abbey today, just for her.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:17 AM | TrackBack

February 10, 2008

Coping with a collapsing civilization .....

The South African power crisis rumbles on and their hold on civilisation becomes, like Zimbabwe's, more and more tenuous. As Africa enters a dark age, with shortages of housing, food, electricity and water. As dictators rise from the ranks of the criminally insane, rapists and murderers, the general population have little choice but to defend what little they have and try to live as normally as they can.

My brother sent me this latest prayer from a frustrated South African - and I share it with you ....

Our father who art in Eskom,
Powerless be thy name.
Thy kingdom badly run, thy power undone,
In Joburg as it is in KZN and CPT.
Give us this day our half-baked bread,
And forgive the trespassers who shoot us dead.
Lead me not into a dark nation,
But deliver me from load shedding.
For you have no kingdom,
No power and no electricity,
Forever and ever

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:58 AM | TrackBack

February 09, 2008

Opening one's mouth to change feet ....

Seems to be speciality of Archbishop Rowan Cantaur. Out of loyalty to our Archbishop I have to say that I think I understand what he was trying to say - that the conflict for Muslims between our secular legal system, based as it is (Despite numerous denials by our atheist leaders, judges and civil servants) on Judeo-Christian moral principles, does cause some conflicts for Muslims. The problem is that you cannot allow two legal systems to operate in the same country. One or the other must be given precedence and override the other. But, if you actually read what Archbishop Rowan was saying, he wasn't proposing the adoption of Sharia Law in the UK. Though I have to admit that the journalists who made these assumptions probably couldn't understand half his paper anyway.

Some of you may recall that one of our Blair Babe ministers of state made similar remarks not that long ago, so the Archbishop is not alone in this thinking. He is, in fact, in line with a number of Labour Ministers who see no problem with the idea that we can operate three different sets of laws in this country without a problem. That is what lies at the heart of unease in many minds about the EU Constituion - it is founded on a legal system which is completely in conflict with the way in which the English Law system works, So is the Sharia. Blair's Babes don't want to understand either argument - and most of Labour's foot soldiers wouldn't either. Don't confuse them or the press with facts - their minds are made up. And the same can be said of the General Synod members whose knickers seem to be too tight suddenly. They should shut up and try reading what he really said, and not what it is reported he said out of context and out of malice.

There is also some confusion about the Sharia Law, many, including some Muslims, believe that it is "in the Koran". It isn't. In fact it is the work of 17th and 18th Century law scholars of the Ottoman Turkish Empire who developed this system based upon the Islamic understanding of justice. I am not at all sure that many in this country would wish to subscribe to the rules of evidence it contains, or the fact that the accused is represented by a legal adviser appointed by the court whose job is to plead mitigation - the court having, in most cases, already heard the evidence it thinks relevant. Nor, I suspect, would many Western women willingly accept that three women's evidence is necessary to overturn the witness of one man. Of course there are variations in the way this operates and is applied throughout the Islamic world, but that is the strictest interpretation of it. But the Archbishop is not suggesting that we adopt the criminal part of that code, only some of the "civil" part, which does, in some instances, merit closer examination and, as he rightly points out, much of that is already a part of our legal code anyway. So why the hysterical response from the Press? They, after all, have helped to create this mess.

The Archbishop's statement that its adoption is "inevitable" only reflects the trend in this present government of traitors, who will go to any length to appease their Muslim electorate, including, as they already do, turning a blind eye to Sharia "Courts" already operating in the Midlands and the North East. It may be annoying to many to have the Archbishop express this view - and the hysterical response in the media is informative if for nothing else than the fact that it demonstrates just how frightened our politicians and the "intelligentsia" who have promoted this with their "multi-culturalism" - are about its exposure. As Shakespeare put it, "Methinks the lady doth protest too much!"

That said, the Archbishop has stirred up a controversy, one with the potential to do a lot of damage, not to those responsible for the mess he has exposed, but to the Church of England itself. Not least I suspect will be the renewal of efforts to caste the church off by the political establishment so they can divert even more money to their own comforts and wastage without having the Church to prick their consciences. But then, that is also what the Church needs to be doing, stirring up consciences. If it is to be relevant in this modern day and age it must not shy away from challenging secular thinking and secular immorality in government. Far more than just our Christian principles are at stake here.

Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, once described himself as a "Bipediorthodontologist". I think the Archbishop may well be in the same league.

Political and religious leaders have reacted with anger at the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments on the role of Islamic law in the UK.

Dr Rowan Williams said it was unavoidable that aspects of the Sharia system would become the norm in this country.

He said there was a place for finding a "constructive accommodation" in areas such as marriage - allowing Muslim women to avoid western divorce proceedings.

But Downing Street rejected the sugestion saying only British laws should apply here.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "Our general position is that sharia law cannot be used as a justification for committing breaches of English law, nor should the principles of sharia law be included in a civil court for resolving contractual disputes."

He added: "If there are specific instances like stamp duty, where changes can be made in a way that's consistent with British law and British values, in a way to accommodate the values of fundamental Muslims, that is something the Government would look at.

"In general terms, if there are specific instances that can be looked at on a case-by-case basis, that is something we can look at.

"But the Prime Minister believes British law should apply in this country, based on British values," he said.

Alistair McBay, spokesman for the National Secular Society said: "In a plural society, all citizens are equal under the law and the Archbishop's comments directly undermine this."

Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice said: "This is a Christian country with Christian laws. If Muslims want to live under sharia law then they are free to emigrate to a country where sharia law is already in operation.

"Any accommodation with sharia law does nothing to help social cohesion. Christian law has been eroded by secularism and this country was founded on Christian values."

Dr Williams said other religions enjoyed such tolerance of their own laws, but stressed that it could never be allowed to take precedence over an individual's rights as a citizen.

He said it would also require a change in perception of what sharia involved beyond the "inhumanity" of extreme punishments and attitudes to women seen in some Islamic states.

Dr Williams said Orthodox Jewish courts already operated in the UK, and anti-abortion views of Catholics and other Christians were "accommodated within the law".

"Sharia law for civil matters is something which has been introduced in some western countries with much success; I believe that Muslims would take huge comfort from the Government allowing civil matters being resolved according to their faith."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: "Provided an activity prescribed by sharia law does not contravene the law of England and Wales, there is nothing in English law that prevents people abiding by sharia law if they wish to do so."

But the spokesman added sharia law "has no jurisdiction in England and Wales. There is no intention to change this."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:42 AM | TrackBack

February 08, 2008

New Short Story ...


Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Laughing in the face of adversity?

I have recently received this from someone who has been on a month's holiday in South Africa and experienced the "load shedding" first hand. These are some the jokes that are circulating the country.

1. “In a drive to save on electricity consumption, the light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off until further notice. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Kindly postpone all hopes and dreams.”

2. "Apparently we now have a new national anthem: Hello Darkness my old friend."

3. "Apparently the electricity supplier is changing its name and motto from “Eskom, together building the powerbase for sustainable growth and development” to “Eishkom, it‘s broken, welcome to our world, pitch black and powerless”.

4. Satan went on holiday to Cape Town and he ran into Gatiep.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked Gatiep.

“Nay,” said Gatiep. “Gimme a hint.”

“I am the Prince of Darkness,” said Satan.

“Damn,” said Gatiep. “So you‘re the CEO of Eskom!”

Another friend sent me this ....

This was emailed to me by my Internet Service Provider because their towers were down this afternoon due to load shedding (their UPS battery back up died because it was off for so long) so I had no internet...

Eishkom Letterhead. (It used to be Eskom, but now its broken ...)

Dear Electricity Consumer,

Just a little note to let you know we understand your anger in the recent price hike & power cuts.

But it should be noted that you have no choice.

We are a big company and you will pay what we tell you.

You have no choice.

We have the power, you need the power.

So sad, too bad. Sucks to be you.

We have enclosed a little picture to help outline our response.

Have a nice day and keep those cheques coming, loser!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:46 AM | TrackBack

February 07, 2008

Exploiting a tragedy ....

Some of you may have picked up on a report of a tragic fire which occurred in Ludwigshafen, Germany, on Monday. The fire occurred in a 19th Century building near the centre of town and nine people died while sixty were injured but rescued by the fire fighters. As the investigation teams assembled yesterday two things happened which, frankly, illustrate why politicians should stay away from disaster scenes and the media should be charged with inciting disorder.

First, the Turkish press got hold of a claim that the Feuerwehr had taken over forty minutes (That's right 40 minutes!) to respond. That was picked up by Turkish Language papers in Germany and blazed across their headlines and claims of racism and arson attacks are now the order of the day. The truth of the response is somewhat different. In fact the first Feuerwehr attendance was with 90 SECONDS of the call and the full attendance, professional and volunteer, was there within 4 MINUTES. But did the media check their facts? Of course not - the forty minute response sells more papers doesn't it? So they ran with that. The result was that a mob of youths spitting, shrieking insults and throwing things turned up at the scene and the hordes of reporters bombarded the Chief Fire Officer with so many hostile questions they reduced him to tears defending his men and his service. Eventually he told them to "get st*ffed" in more diplomatic langauage and was escorted away by a police colleague. The fire service then withdrew their support for the investigationas their men were "at risk" if they remained. Already an off duty fireman has been set on in a pub and beaten up and no doubt more will follow.

But, bearing in mind that the building is unsafe and the investigation is, at this stage, being conducted from suspended cages dropped into the building from above, cranes and turntable ladders allowing investigators to see into rooms and a host of other creative methods to search and find the evidence, the politicians got into the act. Turkey's Vice President and the Bundeskanzlerin, Angela Merkel are to visit today for a photo opportunity. Yesterday, all work was suspended for almost four hours while various politicans from both the Landtag and Turkey posed for their pictures with distressed Turkish Guest Workers in front of the building, laid wreaths and did all the vote catching things that are so blatantly false to any thinking person.

According to the press reports the building had fifty two registered residents, but that these had invited a large number of friends to watch the Rose Monday parades from the upper floors. It is a single staircase building, the staircase being open from the basement right up to the top floors. In effect, that makes it a chimney, so any fire starting in that space will do as this one appears to have done, run very quickly up the stairs and attack the upper floors first. The Monk has learned that the electrical installation in the surviving parts of the structure and in the basement, such as can be seen by the investigators at present, is "non-standard" - in other words, it has been extended, amended and added to without regard to safety regulations ....

That said, the invetigation team includes Germany's Bundeskriminalamt and they are considering the evidence of all options. The Press has been quick to scream "arson" and "racism" which is unfortunate, because now, no matter what the outcome the seeds of mistrust in the investigations outcome have been planted. Should they find, as well they might, that it is a tragic accident, the Turkish community will now refuse to believe that. Worse, the Feuerwehr in Ludwigshafen, which pulled off a fantasic number of rescues, hampered by the Carnival march and crowds, has now been branded by an irresponsible press as under performing and "murderous" to quote one reporter.

It never fails to sicken the Monk when he encounters such blatant exploitation of tragedy by politicians, both apparent and hidden behind the facades of journalism or "Community Leader" to push their own agendas. A tragedy has occurred here and whatever the outcome of the investigation the Monk knows it will have been conducted professionally and its conclusions will be an accurate representation of the facts. What the politicians of all flavours do with those facts is another matter.

Pray, my brothers and sisters, for those affected by the tragedy, the dead, the injured, the genuinely bereaved - and the investigators and emergency services now being vilified by an immoral media.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 06, 2008

Poll finds Labour more sleazy than the Tories ...

Well theres a surprise .....

Labour has made sleaze an artform. Dr Goebbels is credited with the dictum that "if you tell a lie big enough, it will become the new truth." Labour have taken that to heart and piled one huge lie on another. Their "New Clothes" of "NuLabour " and "Cool Britannia" have proved to be as covering as those of the fictional Emperor in the "Emperor's New Clothes".

Anyone with half a brain had only to look at the council's Labour have mismanaged for years, Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford, Brent and the late unlamented GLC (lately replaced by the even worse GLA!) and so many more that I would run out of space here, to see that they are nothing but manipulative, work shy and corrupt career politicians. Look how they have debased the honours system. Look at the vandalism they have perpetrated on the Lords. Look at how they reward incompetents and promote dishonesty. Just look at how they select EU Commissioners. Financial impropriety? No problem - promote him and send him to a nice little earner in Brussels. Watch, that incompetent (The PM's words!) Hain will get a nice little backhander from his pal Gordo and a cushy job in Brussels as compensation for getting caught out with his funding declarations....

Sleaze? You bet. Ask those who have to work for Labour Councils. Ask those who have to live in them - apart from the Labour parasites on benefit who will always vote for whatever donkey Labour fields of course.

Labour have always been more sleazy than the Tories - and the Tories are no saints lets face it. But, as I said at the beginning of this - Labour have raised it to an artform. Worthy of a Turner Prize perhaps?

LONDON (Reuters) - The allegation of sleaze is linked more closely to Gordon Brown and Labour than the Conservatives, according to a poll on Tuesday.

The Times survey came just hours after the speaker of the House of Commons announced a root and branch review of MPs' expenses and donations after a wave of adverse publicity.

The Populus poll showed the opposition had strengthened its lead over the government -- with the Tories popularity rising three points to 40 percent, while Labour was down two points to 31 percent.

It found that in the public's mind Labour was more closely linked with sleaze allegations than the Tories despite the political storm over Conservative MP Derek Conway's payments of taxpayers' money to his family. It did, however, find that sleaze was linked to both parties.

In another setback for Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling, the poll also found Tory leader David Cameron and his shadow chancellor George Osborne had stronger ratings for economic competence

Conway, 54, was suspended from parliament and kicked out of the party after admitting using almost 50,000 pounds of public money to pay his son, Frederick Conway, 22, a Newcastle University geography student, for work he apparently never carried out.

Commons speaker Michael Martin announced the review of MPs' allowances on Monday. It is expected to report in the Autumn.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 05, 2008

Just boats and beaches ...

The Filipino fishermen run these interesting motorised "canoes" with outriggers for stability. The engine is a marinised V8 petrol or diesel and these things can get up to very respectable speeds, certainly high enough for water ski-ing.

The slim lines of this motorised outrigger canoe can be seen. A heat exchanger under the hull is all that breaks the smooth lines of the canoe.

Boats on a beach - these fishing canoes use lines, nets and sometimes divers.

Watching them at sea is interesting, they are far more seaworthy than they look.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:43 AM | TrackBack

February 04, 2008

So this is Labour's Multicultural, mutual respect society?

I was appalled to discover that a party of Jewish visitors to that stinkhole of a city, London, were stoned by gangs of youths while visiting the East End. For those who know, the East End was, at one time, the home of thousands of Jewish refugees, a hard working community that contributed far more to our nation than they took out. Unlike the present denizens of the East End who have gradually displaced everyone else and now feel they can impose their version of multicultural exchange on visitors.

Even more appalling is that fact that none of the major newspapers reported the fact that the ninety-six visitors were attacked by thiese yobs - described as "Asian" youths - while visiting sites of historical significance to their families. Equally, not one word of this has been on the BBC News or any other radio station or TV channel. Considering that the attack took place on Holocaust Memorial Day, that is nothing less than a disgrace. Had it been the BNP attacking a party of Pakistani's it would have been national headlines and Brown and his cronies would still be rabbiting on about it. But no, these were Jews and their attackers were Mr Brown's Paymasters in the inner cities - so let's be clear on this. Nothing will happen to the perpetrators and it will not be reported in the press properly either. It will, like so much more of this kind of activity, be swept under the carpet in the interests of peace and harmony in our "multicultural paradise". The fact that the only place I could find this was on a blog says everything you need to know about the attitudes and priorities of our NuLabour luvvies infesting the media. Dodgblogium has more links.

Go, read them and weep for our nation.....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:08 PM | TrackBack

Fact or fiction - the confused history taught in Britain ...

Following on from my blast at the idiots who think British History is too oppressive to be taught, there comes a survey that shows just how much damage these morons have done. Almost half the people surveyed think that several of our key historical figures, such as Richard the Lionheart, (Richard II), Florence nightingale, Sir Winston Churchill (25% of those surveyed) and others are fictional or myth. Believe it or not, almost a third thought the Charles Dickens was a character in a novel and others didn't even know who Charles Darwin was. The same group thought that King Arthur, Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes and several other fictional/mythological figures were fact.

A number of people who served this country within the last century are believed by many of those surveyed, to have been characters invented by Hollywood. I wonder what Bernard Montgomery, Earl of Alamein, thinks of that? He was, apparently a figure invented for the "war" films and not real at all. The idea that 23% of those surveyed think that Winston Churchill is a fictional person - again invented to fill a role in movies - is unbelievable, but probably shouldn't be surprising. After all, he, Bomber Harris, Air Marshall Trenchard, Admiral Sir Max Horton, Admiral Cunnigham and every other real leader of that period have been villianised and demonised by the Liberal Left for the last sixty years. A number of the books on my shelves, purporting to be histories of the period, reflect this bias. Almost all use inuendo and selective facts to build a case for declaring that WW2 was unecessary, that all the Allied Leaders were warmongers and psychopaths or so deeply flawed that they should never have been allowed out unescorted. A pity the survey didn't go all the way and find out just how much the survey sample actually knew about some of the key events in our history and some of the realities faced by our forefathers. Mind you, that might have been far too revealing.

This report on UK News gives more details.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:44 AM | TrackBack

February 03, 2008

Parenting lessons are a waste of time and money?

So what else is new. Only the morons who persist in trying to create a "punishment free" society (except of course for people THEY disapprove of, such as motorists or citizens who dare to defend themselves!) still think that it is possible to create a model society in which boys are girls and girls take male roles, bad behaviour is "discussed reasonably" and not punished and crime can be "trained" out of the system.

Well, a major academic study has just concluded that the "Parenting lessons" offered at great expense in Australia are pointless, do not improve the statistics and are, in fact, a complete waste of money. The study also showed that one in every seven children has behavioural problems. There are a number of reasons underlying this simplistic statistic, some of them genetic (as with Aspergers Syndrome or Tourettes) but others seem to be connected to a wide range of things such as sybling heirarchies, environment and reward/punishment issues.

Interestingly the researchers insist that the trial results show insufficient improvement to support the introduction of a wider trial. Thank God for that, some common sense beginning to permeate the thinking of the social engineers and tinkerers? Probably not, but it is an encouraging sign that they admit its not working!

AFP - Friday, February 1 09:19 amPARIS (AFP) - A new study shows that parent training programmes fail to reduce behavioural problems in toddlers, suggesting that coaching on how to rear children may be a waste of time and money.

On average, behavioural problems afflict every seventh child aged 4 to 17, previously studies have shown.

Aggressive or extremely defiant youngsters are said to have externalised problems, while those of kids who withdraw, or suffer anxiety and depression, are described as internalised.

Troubles in childhood often have serious personal, social and economic consequences later in life, experts say.

Left untreated, approximately 50 percent of preschoolers with behaviour problems develop mental health problems, including depression.

Besides the direct cost of treatment, there are social costs as well: unemployment, family stress or violence, drug use and increased crime have all been linked to behavioural difficulties very early in life.

One approach is to deal with the problems as they emerge through counselling, drug treatment, or psychiatry. But this is expensive, and not always effective.

Another tack is to try to nip the problems in the bud by discouraging the kind of parenting that can lead to troubled behaviour, such as unduly harsh discipline and unrealistic expectations.

For the study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers enrolled 300 mothers and their eight-month old tots in the Melbourne area into the training programme.

Unlike earlier studies, this one looked not just at high risk families, but a representative sampling of parents and children from poor, middle income and wealthier families.

The scientists, led by Harriet Hiscock at the Centre for Community Child Health in Parkville, Australia, compared behaviour of the test group over an 18 month period with another set of mothers and kids who did not receive any special counselling.

The results showed very little difference between the two groups.

Mothers in the programme were somewhat less abusive and acquired more realistic expectations of how quickly their children would progress.

But there was no significant difference is the level of behaviour problems in the children, or in the mental health of the mothers.

"The outcome at two years are insufficient to support widespread introduction of a very early universal programme to prevent behavioural problems in toddlers," the researchers conclude.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:35 PM | TrackBack

February 02, 2008

Disgraceful history?

One of Labour's favourite "Think Tanks" has just published a report I would find risible, if it were not for the fact that it is intellectually and morally insulting - quite apart from the fact that it is so blatantly twisted against anything English, or for that matter, "British". The thrust of the report is that our history is so shameful we should not teach it to our children, that they should, instead, be taught about everyone else's history and how noble and good they were as they struggled to overcome our evil doings.

As I said, insulting and frankly anti-British.

These morons obviously have a serious problem. They cannot see the facts for the ideology they wish to push. They refuse to recognise that, until well into the 19th Century British subjects were being regularly seized and enslaved by the pirates who operated freely under the flag of Islam from North Africa. Anybody ever wonder why the French attacked Algeria and annexed it? No, thought not, mainly it was to stop the raiding of the coast of the South of France and the disruption of trade in the Mediteranean originating from the various Bey's of this that and the next controlling the coasts of Algiers, Tunisia, Libya and the rest. In 1836 a British Fleet assisted in an assault on Algiers for just that reason, Algiers based raiders had seized one too many merchant ships under British Flag. OK, so we turned the trans-Atlantic slave trade into a factory style process - that is one of the features of the British, usually slow to get off the starting block on anything, we simply don't know when to stop. Ask the residents of Hamburg, Dresden or one or two other German cities. Take a look at the same morons now making this proposterous proposal and you will see the same thing at work. They have spent so long campaigning for their "cause" that they can't see it has gone far enough and that it should now come to a gentle halt and consolidate what they have - not strive for more.

However, one of the more stupid assertions made by the "beat Britain for its slave trade" is that the Army or the Navy was engaged in capturing slaves in West Africa. If these morons knew their history instead of their prejudice they would know that the slaves were rounded up by locals who sold them to the Arab traders to their North as well. It was the Royal Navy and the Army that put a stop to the tribal wars that fueled this from 1820 onwards, noit an exercise in getting more slaves but in bringing peace to a region that had never had it! On the East Coast of Africa the slave trade continued in Arab Dhows well into the 20th Century, although, again, it was the Royal Navy that was hard at work to suppress it. Trouble was, being the other side of Africa and not affecting British shipping or people (except occassionally!) it was of little interest to the same bunch of w*nkers who now want our history suppressed. As late as 1942 my father's ship intercepted a dhow loaded with Africans being taken to an Arab slave market. But you won't find that in any "multi-cultural" history.

Yes our history is a bloody one, but it has also brought huge benefits to most of the worlds population. In fact, the very history these idiots want suppressed gave rise to democracy in the modern world - the Ancient Greek model was very, very different to what we now know. Modern democracy is founded on Magna Carta and the principles of freedom and human rights have their beginnings there. My father fought againts the oppression threatened by National Socialism and against the Communists afterward. My Grandfathers fought against the Kaiser and my Great-grandfathers against the enemies of their day. They all fought for the freedom they believed they had inherited from their fathers and it is a legacy and a history to be exceptionally proud of.

They most certainly did not fight to maintain our hard won freedom so that this bunch of closet communists could steal it by deploying their version of twisted history, denigrating everything that is good in our past and by proscribing our right to freedom of speech, expression and thought! I expect the thought police will be after me now for this heresy, but I am damned if I care. I too will fight to preserve the right to be free - and that means being free of those who overtax, over regulate and over govern this proud and ancient nation.

Why then, should we be forced to listen to morons whose understanding of our history is tenuous, biased and completely devoid of fact? I'd call for their being silenced - except that I, unlike them, believe that everyone has the right to an opinion and to express that opinion freely - even if it causes some idiot offence!

And just a sample of what is available as real history, not the doctored kind the authors of the report wish to see taught in English schools, the extended post contains some of what is available on the BBC History site.

British Slaves on the Barbary Coast
By Professor Rees Davies

Barbary pirates © The fishermen and coastal dwellers of 17th-century Britain lived in terror of being kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in North Africa. Hundreds of thousands across Europe met wretched deaths on the Barbary Coast in this way. Professor Robert Davis investigates.

Page 1 of 6

1. Europe under attack
2. Estimating slave numbers
3. The slave's lot
4. The European response
5. The legacy of enslavement
6. Find out more

Europe under attack

'When we had arrived [in Cork], I made a request to Lord Inchaquoin to give me a passport for England. I took boat to Youghal and then embarked on the vessel John Filmer, which set sail with 120 passengers. `But before we had lost sight of land, we were captured by Algerine pirates, who put all the men in irons.'

'...the corsairs plundered British shipping pretty much at will...'
So wrote the Reverend Devereux Spratt - carried off in April 1641 for several years' bondage in Algiers, while attempting a simple voyage across the Irish Sea from County Cork to England. Spratt's experience has been largely forgotten now, though it was far from unique in his day.

In the first half of the 1600s, Barbary corsairs - pirates from the Barbary Coast of North Africa, authorised by their governments to attack the shipping of Christian countries - ranged all around Britain's shores. In their lanteen-rigged xebecs (a type of ship) and oared galleys, they grabbed ships and sailors, and sold the sailors into slavery. Admiralty records show that during this time the corsairs plundered British shipping pretty much at will, taking no fewer than 466 vessels between 1609 and 1616, and 27 more vessels from near Plymouth in 1625. As 18th-century historian Joseph Morgan put it, 'this I take to be the Time when those Corsairs were in their Zenith'.

Unfortunately, it was hardly the end of them, even then. Morgan also noted that he had a '...List, printed in London in 1682' of 160 British ships captured by Algerians between 1677 and 1680. Considering what the number of sailors who were taken with each ship was likely to have been, these examples translate into a probable 7,000 to 9,000 able-bodied British men and women taken into slavery in those years.

Not content with attacking ships and sailors, the corsairs also sometimes raided coastal settlements, generally running their craft onto unguarded beaches, and creeping up on villages in the dark to snatch their victims and retreat before the alarm could be sounded. Almost all the inhabitants of the village of Baltimore, in Ireland, were taken in this way in 1631, and other attacks were launched against coastal villages in Devon and Cornwall. Samuel Pepys gives a vivid account of an encounter with two men who'd been taken into slavery, in his diary of 8 February 1661.

'...during these years, Britons were enslaved all too often.'
'...to the Fleece tavern to drink and there we spent till 4 a-clock telling stories of Algier and the manner of the life of Slaves there; and truly, Captain Mootham and Mr Dawes (who have been both slaves there) did make me full acquainted with their condition there. As, how they eat nothing but bread and water.... How they are beat upon the soles of the feet and bellies at the Liberty of their Padron. How they are all night called into their master's Bagnard, and there they lie.'

The very casualness of the account makes it clear just how commonplace unfortunates like Moontham and Dawes were in 17th-century Britain. Britons in later years have boasted that they 'never will be slaves,' but during these years they were enslaved all too often.

Estimating slave numbers

North African pirate ship © According to observers of the late 1500s and early 1600s, there were around 35,000 European Christian slaves held throughout this time on the Barbary Coast - many in Tripoli, Tunis, and various Moroccan towns, but most of all in Algiers. The greatest number were sailors, taken with their ships, but a good many were fishermen and coastal villagers. Out of all these, the British captives were mostly sailors, and although they were numerous there were relatively fewer of them than of people from lands close to Africa, especially Spain and Italy. The unfortunate southerners were sometimes taken by the thousands, by slavers who raided the coasts of Valencia, Andalusia, Calabria and Sicily so often that eventually it was said that 'there was no one left to capture any longer'.

'White slaves in Barbary were generally from impoverished families...'
There are no records of how many men, women and children were enslaved, but it is possible to calculate roughly the number of fresh captives that would have been needed to keep populations steady and replace those slaves who died, escaped, were ransomed, or converted to Islam. On this basis it is thought that around 8,500 new slaves were needed annually to replenish numbers - about 850,000 captives over the century from 1580 to 1680.

By extension, for the 250 years between 1530 and 1780, the figure could easily have been as high as 1,250,000 - this is only just over a tenth of the Africans taken as slaves to the Americas from 1500 to 1800, but a considerable figure nevertheless. White slaves in Barbary were generally from impoverished families, and had almost as little hope of buying back their freedom as the Africans taken to the Americas: most would end their days as slaves in North Africa, dying of starvation, disease, or maltreatment.

The slave's lot

Slaves in chains © Slaves in Barbary fell into two broad categories. The 'public slaves' belonged to the ruling pasha, who by right of rulership could claim an eighth of all Christians captured by the corsairs, and buy all the others he wanted at reduced prices. These slaves were housed in large prisons known as baños (baths), often in wretchedly overcrowded conditions. They were mostly used to row the corsair galleys in the pursuit of loot (and more slaves) - work so strenuous that thousands died or went mad while chained to the oar.

'...they received one change of clothing every year.'
During the winter these galeotti worked on state projects - quarrying stone, building walls or harbour facilities, felling timber and constructing new galleys. Each day they would be given perhaps two or three loaves of black bread - 'that the dogs themselves wouldn't eat' - and limited water; they received one change of clothing every year. Those who collapsed on the job from exhaustion or malnutrition were typically beaten until they got up and went back to work. The pasha also bought most female captives, some of whom were taken into his harem, where they lived out their days in captivity. The majority, however, were purchased for their ransom value; while awaiting their release, they worked in the palace as harem attendants.

'Some were well cared for, becoming virtual companions of their owners...'
Many other slaves belonged to 'private parties.' Their treatment and work varied as much as their masters did. Some were well cared for, becoming virtual companions of their owners. Others were worked as hard as any 'public' slave, in agricultural labour, or construction work, or selling water or other goods around town on his (or her) owner's behalf. They were expected to pay a proportion of their earnings to their owner - those who failed to raise the required amount typically being beaten to encourage them to work harder.

As they aged or their owner's fortunes changed, slaves were resold, often repeatedly. The most unlucky ended up stuck and forgotten out in the desert, in some sleepy town such as Suez, or in the Turkish sultan's galleys, where some slaves rowed for decades without ever setting foot on shore.

The European response

A priest negotiates ransom for the release of slaves © Europeans sometimes attempted to buy their people out of slavery, but no real system emerged before around 1640. Then the attempts became more systematic and were sometimes state subsidised, as in Spain and France. Almost all the actual work, however - from collecting the funds, to voyaging to Barbary, to negotiating with the slave owners there - was carried out by clergy, mostly members of the Trinitarian or Mercedarian orders.

'By the 1700s, the ransoming orders had significantly reduced slave populations in Barbary...'
Parish churches too, all over Spain and Italy, kept locked collection boxes marked 'for the poor slaves', with clerics constantly reminded their wealthier parishioners to include ransoming societies in their wills; slave-redeeming confraternities also sprouted in hundreds of cities and villages. Ransoming slaves was promoted as being one of the best of the charitable works a Catholic could perform, since slaves were ideal victims: 'Their [only] fault, their crime, is recognising Jesus Christ as the most divine Saviour... and of professing Him as the True Faith.' By the 1700s, the ransoming orders had significantly reduced slave populations in Barbary, eventually even inflating slave prices, as more cash chased fewer captives.

'Thousands of Dutch, Germans and British "languished for years in the chains of Barbary"...'
Compared to Catholic Europe, Protestant states could be lax and disorganised in freeing their subjects. Thousands of Dutch, Germans and British 'languished for years in the chains of Barbary,' without the aid of organised clergy or state funds for their release. England set aside its 'Algerian Duty' from customs income to finance redemptions, but much of this was diverted to other uses. Large-scale ransomings - like the one headed by Edmund Casson that freed 244 men, women, and children in 1646 - were rare, with the result that Protestant Britons were often more demoralised and likely to die in captivity than European Catholics. As one ex-slave noted:

'All of the nations made some shift to live, save only the English, who it seems are not so shiftful as others, and... have no great kindness one for another. The winter I was in [captivity], I observ'd there died above twenty of them out of pure want.'

How typical - even then it seems those in Whitehall could always find a way to spend the money intended to relieve the suffering of opthers on themselves and their own aggrandisement ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 01, 2008

More Philippines pictures ...

Overpopulation and pollution have turned Manila Bay into an open sewer. It used to be said that if you fell into the Thames, you needed full decontamination and probably innoculation against every known disease. That isn't the case any longer, but Manila Bay is filthy and the stench, particularly when the wind is off the bay, is unbelievable. Falling into this would, I think, result in the instant contracting of every known plague!

I did have the opportunity to sail on a forty footer in a race held on the bay and the most remarkable thing is the clear delineation that is visible in the water as you cross the point at which the tides form a barrier to the outflow of the filth in the bay. On one side you are floating on dirty, brown and stinking water, cross the line and the water is clean, clear and blue green.

A ferry in Manila Bay, built on traditional lines. this one runs from the city out to the Cavite peninsula. Other ferries run to Corregidor, the fortified island which forms the stopper in the neck of the bottle that is Manila Bay.

Fishing boats on a beach on the Cavite peninsula - note the detritus on the beach ...

I expect that with several million people living in Metro Manila, and an infra-structure that is less of a structure and more of a political football, it is hardly surprising that very little actually functions and that which does, is inadequate to meet the needs of the population it serves.

Outside of the Manila area the countyside shows its volcanic origins and the soil is very fertile - but again, the population levels mean that most families manage on a little subsistence farming and trade like fury for anything else they may need. The large farms all belong to a very small group of families - "Hidalgo" style nearly all the wealth rests inside the few "families" who did well under the Spanish - and the only option for the less well connected is to take employment from the Hidalgos or scratch a living in some other way.

It amuses me somewhat whenever I hear the Green accusation that we in the West are "raping" these countries and destroying their ecology. WE aren't, and the populace of these countries don't give a damn. The Filipino wants a BIG gas guzzling engine in his Jeepney and doesn't seem to care much about the impact throwing rubbish into rivers, lakes, the sea or anywhere else, has on the future of the planet at all.

Paradise it most certainly could be - away from the politicians and the cities, but at the moment, I rather think it fits the description of a paradise in danger of being permanently lost.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack