Saturday 27 January 2024

Holocaust Memoial Day


Europe, 1939-45.  6 000 000 Jewish people exterminated by the Nazis.

Cambodia, 1975-79. Over 1 000 000 murdered (the Killing Fields) by Khmer Rouge.

Rwanda,1994. 800 000 Tutsis slaughtered, mostly in the two months April and May.

Srebrenica, 1995.  7 000 Muslim boys and men killed by Bosnian Serb Forces and 20 000civilians expelled from the area (ethnic cleansing) .

Darfur, 2023. 9 000 dead and 5 600 000 displaced in Sudan.

Gaza, 2023/4. 25 700 dead so far, and 1 700 000 displaced.


Isaiah. (c550BCE).  Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Monday 22 January 2024

Oops - what Larks!


The antics of that wonderful radio comedy “The Navy Lark” appear to have been re-enacted in real life in the Gulf last week.  

Royal Navy minehunter HMS Chiddingfold  sailed backwards into HMS Bangor because a “wiring error” in the former meant that pressing the full-ahead lever caused it go full astern.  The ship had recently been inspected by the Maritime Capability, Trials and Assessment team.   Grant Shapps, the defence secretary claims that the incident “does not reflect incompetence.” ( Royal navy warships crashed after ‘faulty wiring,’  Guardian 22January.)

The incident adds embarrassing (and  presumably expensive) credence to the view of former  BBC Two business editor Paul Mason, writng the The New European,


that “We’re trying to be a global military power on the cheap – and it shows.”

 Masons article was probably written before the navy lark incident, and the ships concerned may not be the ones he refers to.  But according to him  the Royal Navy has 11 Type 23 frigates, and of these only  seven are currently active.  The others need “maintenance and upgrade.”   Of eight Type 26 frigates being built in Glasgow, only  one will  be ready by 2027.   The project to upgrade 148 Challenger 2 tanks  is “still being costed.”  Over-all, “the MoD’s 10 year  Equipment plan commits it to spending £17bn it doesn’t have” and recruitment is down by 22%  and outnumbered by people leaving.

Personally I’d prefer to emphasise our inadequate care and health services, crumbling schools , inadequate infrastructure, bankrupt local councils and rising numbers of families experiencing destitution as sufficient evidence that in offering tax cuts as a bribe in order to cling on to power the Tories have lost all sense of decency.   

But if common humanity does not spell out the reality, maybe the paucity of our defences may appeal to their supporters and bring home the truth.

Friday 12 January 2024

Chickens home to roost



We are familiar with the more obvious manifestations of the devastation to the public realm caused by a government obsessed by currying favour with the electorate with tax cuts: potholes in the roads, lengthening waiting-lists in the NHS, crumbling schools and other public buildings, families in destitution.  

 Three less obvious ones have recently been highlighted.

 FLOODS:  Expenditure on flood defences has been cut back sharply since 2010.  I think I’ve seen the figure of 40% but can’t verify this.  However, we’ve all seen the consequences in the pictures on our televisions over the past few weeks.  After clearing up the physical consequences many households are now discovering their homes are uninsurable and their re-sale values  have plummeted.

Over the much longer term a town-planning cousine of mine who works in Canada has expressed disgust that the UK still has a single drainage system for both sewage from our lavatories and rainfall run-off.  Most developed countries, including Canada, have separate systems, so when there is excess rainfall at least the floodwater is relatively pure.  Not in the UK

COURTS:  One reason for the wholesale amnesty for  the victims of the  Post Office/Horizon scandal is that the judicial system simply does not have the capacity to  deal with the cases on an individual basis without further inordinate delay.  There simply aren’t enough judges, lawyers and other staff, and court-rooms.  There is already a serious backlog of other cases, which for those concerned are often as serious and distressing as the waiting lists in the NHS.

It may seem arcane, but for the legislature, on the instructions of the executive, to over-rule decisions of the courts sets a dangerous precedent.  If they can  do it for one, albeit popular, cause they may be tempted to try in a more  questionable area (eg the legality of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.)


The ARTS:  Protestors are in the news for objecting to cultural institutions accepting sponsorship from fossil fuel extractors such as BP.  Quite right too, in my view.  But if government funding is cut, from where else are these institutions to gain the necessary funding?

 The US juror Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr famously defined taxation as “the price we pay for civilisation.”  With the Tories promising tax cuts and  Labour afraid to offer any alternative, our society is becoming less civilised, and in ways that affect far more than just the poor, the disabled and unloved.  It is time for the rest of us to wake up.