lördag 27 december 2014

Spaniels against terrorism

POLICE sniffer dogs trained to spot terrorists at railway stations in Britain may no longer come into contact with Muslim passengers – after complaints that it is against the suspects’ religion.

This should be exploited. Teams of dog handlers with unusually friendly dogs, eg Spaniels, Poodles and Corgis, could be posted in all railway stations. The dogs would be trained to wag their tails and approach people and lick them. Bins full of dog biscuits would be placed at the entrances to every platform, and passengers would have to feed the dogs by letting them take the biscuits out of their hands, and then pat them on the head, tickle them behind the ears and be licked.

I think these dog-welcoming teams would be very popular with the British public.

fredag 26 december 2014

Congratulations to engineers working during holidays

The public are complaining about the near-total shutdown of Britain's railways over the holiday period. It is an inconvenience, but allows Network Rail to carry out major projects in one go which would otherwise take months and cost a lot more. It takes a lot of time to bring equipment to the site and clear up afterwards, so this makes sense. People would complain even more if the system was allowed to fall to pieces.

Congratulations to the people who have given up their holiday period to do this essential work.

lördag 20 december 2014

What future for the grandchildren?

Consider a country with nine million inhabitants and a stable population ie it just replaces itself. Now imagine a million arrivals with a slowly growing population, say 1% a year. After 50 years there will be 1.6 million of the immigrant group. If the growth rate is 2% a year, the figure will be 2.6 million descendants; at a 3% rate, it will be over 4.2 million, the original number having doubled after 25 years. Descendants of immigrants will then make up one-third of the total population.

People in charge of immigration policies need to be aware of this. Decisions made today will completely transform the society within half a century. What kind of a future to we want for our grandchildren?

The imagined inadequacies of Göteborg C

The key flaw in the argument for Västlänken is that Göteborg C is a terminal and consequently dysfunctional.

This needs to be looked at in proportion. Göteborg C occupies a larger area than London Waterloo, also a terminus. Waterloo has only four tracks running into it, and the line is in fact only four tracks all the way from Basingstoke, about 60 km away, carrying both long-distance and commuter services. The approach to the station, on a viaduct, cannot be widened as there are buildings on both sides. The length of the platforms, mostly 180 metres, means that trains have only 8 cars, and remember that these are only 20 metres long ie 8 x 20 metres. Yet the station successfully handles 96 million passengers a year.

Göteborg C also has the advantage of six approach tracks. So any suggestion that Göteborg C, possibly with some enlargement, cannot handle all the traffic that is likely to use it with the next 50 years is ludicrous. At present there are only about 20 arrivals within the peak-hour period 0700 to 0800.

And as mentioned in an earlier blog, of the five routes approaching the city, there is no obvious pair to join up.

fredag 19 december 2014

Charity shops lose tax privilege

A court ruling has stated that in future charity shops in Sweden must charge value added tax (MOMS at 25%) on all the goods they sell. In Britain, charity shops enjoy valuable property tax concessions with the result that in some shopping streets, there is almost nothing apart from charity shops.

The case was brought by the tax authorities, using the argument is that it gives them an unfair trading advantage. These charity shops in Sweden already enjoy the services of a free workforce provided under a system of workfare. Now they claim there will be a wave of closures as a result of the ruling.

This looks like a bad move; by any standards, MOMS is a disastrous tax. But look again. The tax privileges enjoyed by these charities has made it almost impossible to earn a livelihood selling second-hand clothes, books, household goods and furniture, a once-flourishing business sector dealing in items that were not of sufficient quality or age to be considered as antiques.

The tax is not going to be passed on because there is a ceiling to what people will pay for second-hand goods, so the charity shops will have to absorb it. This change should also give small businesses a chance to get going once again in a trade from which the charity shops have squeezed them out.

lördag 13 december 2014

Emmaus advocates genocide

EMMAUS purports to be a welfare organisation to help the needy. In reality it has been captured by anti-Semites and is headed up by a Moslem - hence this display in the window of one of its shops in Gothenburg. The problem is not the olive oil but the map in the background. Where is Israel? Since no Jews are allowed to live in the Palestine Authority area, it can be assumed that they would not be allowed to live in the one-state "Free Palestine" shown on the map, which includes the whole of the area from the Jordan to the sea. So where would the Jews go? Presumably there would be another six million slaughtered, though the Christians and Druze who live in Israel would go the same way shortly after.

In the window is a list of companies who are supposed to be boycotted. The one I shall boycott will be Emmaus, and I would advise anyone opposed to genocide to do the same.

lördag 6 december 2014

Statement on Palestine

The speech by Israel's ambassador at the UN General Assembly is a cogent overview of modern Israeli history. November 24, 2014.

I stand before the world as a proud representative of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I stand tall before you knowing that truth and morality are on my side. And yet, I stand here knowing that today in this Assembly, truth will be turned on its head and morality cast aside.

The fact of the matter is that when members of the international community speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a fog descends to cloud all logic and moral clarity. The result isn’t realpolitik, its surreal politik. The world’s unrelenting focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an injustice to tens of millions of victims of tyranny and terrorism in the Middle East. As we speak, Yazidis, Bahai, Kurds, Christians and Muslims are being executed and expelled by radical extremists at a rate of 1,000 people per month.

How many resolutions did you pass last week to address this crisis? And how many special sessions did you call for? The answer is zero. What does this say about international concern for human life? Not much, but it speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of the international community.

Our conflict is not about a Palestinian state, but about the existence of the Jewish state.

I stand before you to speak the truth. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, less than half a percent are truly free – and they are all citizens of Israel.

Israeli Arabs are some of the most educated Arabs in the world. They are our leading physicians and surgeons, they are elected to our parliament, and they serve as judges on our Supreme Court. Millions of men and women in the Middle East would welcome these opportunities and freedoms.

Nonetheless, nation after nation, will stand at this podium today and criticize Israel – the small island of democracy in a region plagued by tyranny and oppression.

Hate Bash Fest
Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state.

Sixty seven years ago this week, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Simple. The Jews said yes. The Arabs said no. But they didn’t just say no. Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon launched a war of annihilation against our newborn state. This is the historical truth that the Arabs are trying to distort. The Arabs’ historic mistake continues to be felt – in lives lost in war, lives lost to terrorism, and lives scarred by the Arab’s narrow political interests. According to the United Nations, about 700,000 Palestinians were displaced in the war initiated by the Arabs themselves. At the same time, some 850,000 Jews were forced to flee from Arab countries.

Why is it, that 67 years later, the displacement of the Jews has been completely forgotten by this institution while the displacement of the Palestinians is the subject of an annual debate?

The difference is that Israel did its utmost to integrate the Jewish refugees into society. The Arabs did just the opposite.

The worst oppression of the Palestinian people takes place in Arab nations. In most of the Arab world, Palestinians are denied citizenship and are aggressively discriminated against. They are barred from owning land and prevented from entering certain professions.

And yet none – not one – of these crimes are mentioned in the resolutions before you.

If you were truly concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people there would be one, just one, resolution to address the thousands of Palestinians killed in Syria. And if you were so truly concerned about the Palestinians there would be at least one resolution to denounce the treatment of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps. But there isn’t. The reason is that today’s debate is not about speaking for peace or speaking for the Palestinian people – it is about speaking against Israel. It is nothing but a hate and bashing festival against Israel.

Pre-emptive Strike
The European nations claim to stand for Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité – freedom, equality, and brotherhood – but nothing could be farther from the truth.

I often hear European leaders proclaim that Israel has the right to exist in secure borders. That’s very nice. But I have to say – it makes about as much sense as me standing here and proclaiming Sweden’s right to exist in secure borders.

When it comes to matters of security, Israel learned the hard way that we cannot rely on others – certainly not Europe. In 1973, on Yom Kippur – the holiest day on the Jewish calendar – the surrounding Arab nations launched an attack against Israel. In the hours before the war began, Golda Meir, our Prime Minister then, made the difficult decision not to launch a pre-emptive strike. The Israeli Government understood that if we launched a pre-emptive strike, we would lose the support of the international community.

As the Arab armies advanced on every front, the situation in Israel grew dire. Our casualty count was growing and we were running dangerously low on weapons and ammunition. In this, our hour of need, President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, agreed to send Galaxy planes loaded with tanks and ammunition to resupply our troops. The only problem was that the Galaxy planes needed to refuel on route to Israel.

The Arab States were closing in and our very existence was threatened – and yet, Europe was not even willing to let the planes refuel. The U.S. stepped in once again and negotiated that the planes be allowed to refuel in the Azores. The government and people of Israel will never forget that when our very existence was at stake, only one country came to our aid – the United States of America.

Israel is tired of hollow promises from European leaders. The Jewish people have a long memory. We will never ever forget that you failed us in the 1940s. You failed us in 1973. And you are failing us again today. Every European parliament that voted to prematurely and unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state is giving the Palestinians exactly what they want – statehood without peace. By handing them a state on a silver platter, you are rewarding unilateral actions and taking away any incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate or compromise or renounce violence. You are sending the message that the Palestinian Authority can sit in a government with terrorists and incite violence against Israel without paying any price.

The first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state was Sweden. One has to wonder why the Swedish Government was so anxious to take this step. When it comes to other conflicts in our region, the Swedish Government calls for direct negotiations between the parties – but for the Palestinians, surprise, surprise, they roll out the red carpet.

State Secretary Söder may think she is here to celebrate her government’s so-called historic recognition, when in reality it’s nothing more than an historic mistake.

The Swedish Government may host the Nobel Prize ceremony, but there is nothing noble about their cynical political campaign to appease the Arabs in order to get a seat on the Security Council. Nations on the Security Council should have sense, sensitivity, and sensibility. Well, the Swedish Government has shown no sense, no sensitivity and no sensibility. Just nonsense.

Israel learned the hard way that listening to the international community can bring about devastating consequences. In 2005, we unilaterally dismantled every settlement and removed every citizen from the Gaza Strip. Did this bring us any closer to peace? Not at all. It paved the way for Iran to send its terrorist proxies to establish a terror stronghold on our doorstep.

I can assure you that we won’t make the same mistake again. When it comes to our security, we cannot and will not rely on others – Israel must be able to defend itself by itself.

Status Quo
The State of Israel is the land of our forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is the land where Moses led the Jewish people, where David built his palace, where Solomon built the Jewish Temple, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace.

For thousands of years, Jews have lived continuously in the land of Israel.

For thousands of years, Jews have lived continuously in the land of Israel. We endured through the rise and fall of the Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman Empires. And we endured through thousands of years of persecution, expulsions and crusades. The bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land is unbreakable.

Nothing can change one simple truth – Israel is our home and Jerusalem is our eternal capital.

At the same time, we recognize that Jerusalem has special meaning for other faiths. Under Israeli sovereignty, all people – and I will repeat that, all people – regardless of religion and nationality can visit the city’s holy sites. And we intend to keep it this way. The only ones trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount are Palestinian leaders.

President Abbas is telling his people that Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount. He has called for days of rage and urged Palestinians to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount using (quote) “all means” necessary. These words are as irresponsible as they are unacceptable.

You don’t have to be Catholic to visit the Vatican, you don’t have to be Jewish to visit the Western Wall, but some Palestinians would like to see the day when only Muslims can visit the Temple Mount.

You, the international community, are lending a hand to extremists and fanatics. You, who preach tolerance and religious freedom, should be ashamed. Israel will never let this happen. We will make sure that the holy places remain open to all people of all faiths for all time.

Yearning for Peace
No one wants peace more than Israel. No one needs to explain the importance of peace to parents who have sent their child to defend our homeland. No one knows the stakes of success or failure better than we Israelis do. The people of Israel have shed too many tears and buried too many sons and daughters.

We are ready for peace, but we are not naïve. Israel’s security is paramount. Only a strong and secure Israel can achieve a comprehensive peace.

The past month should make it clear to anyone that Israel has immediate and pressing security needs. In recent weeks, Palestinian terrorists have shot and stabbed our citizens and twice driven their cars into crowds of pedestrians. Just a few days ago, terrorists armed with axes and a gun savagely attacked Jewish worshipers during morning prayers. We have reached the point when Israelis can’t even find sanctuary from terrorism in the sanctuary of a synagogue. These attacks are the results of years of indoctrination and incitement.

These attacks didn’t emerge out of a vacuum. They are the results of years of indoctrination and incitement. A Jewish proverb teaches: “The instruments of both death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

As a Jew and as an Israeli, I know with utter certainly that when our enemies say they want to attack us, they mean it. Hamas’s genocidal charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews worldwide. For years, Hamas and other terrorist groups have sent suicide bombers into our cities, launched rockets into our towns, and sent terrorists to kidnap and murder our citizens.

And what about the Palestinian Authority? It is leading a systemic campaign of incitement. In schools, children are being taught that ‘Palestine’ will stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. In mosques, religious leaders are spreading vicious libels accusing Jews of destroying Muslim holy sites. In sports stadiums, teams are named after terrorists. And in newspapers, cartoons urge Palestinians to commit terror attacks against Israelis. Children in most of the world grow up watching cartoons of Mickey Mouse singing and dancing. Palestinian children also grow up watching Mickey Mouse, but on Palestinians national television, a twisted figure dressed as Mickey Mouse dances in an explosive belt and chants “Death to America and death to the Jews.”

I challenge you to stand up here today and do something constructive for a change. Publically denounce the violence, denounce the incitement, and denounce the culture of hate.

The battle is between those who sanctify life and those who celebrate death.

Most people believe that at its core, the conflict is a battle between Jews and Arabs or Israelis and Palestinians. They are wrong. The battle that we are witnessing is a battle between those who sanctify life and those who celebrate death.

Following the savage attack in a Jerusalem synagogue, celebrations erupted in Palestinian towns and villages. People were dancing in the street and distributing candy. Young men posed with axes, loudspeakers at mosques called out congratulations, and the terrorists were hailed as “martyrs” and “heroes.”

This isn’t the first time that we saw the Palestinians celebrate the murder of innocent civilians. We saw them rejoice after every terrorist attack on Israeli civilians and they even took to the streets to celebrate the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center right here in New York City.

Imagine the type of state this society would produce.. Does the Middle East really need another terror-ocracy? Some members of the international community are aiding and abetting its creation.

Jewish Star
As we came into the United Nations, we passed the flags of all 193 member States. If you take the time to count, you will discover that there are 15 flags with a crescent and 25 flags with a cross. And then there is one flag with a Jewish Star of David. Amidst all the nations of the world there is one state – just one small nation state for the Jewish people.

And for some people, that is one too many.

As I stand before you today I am reminded of all the years when Jewish people paid for the world’s ignorance and indifference in blood. Those days are no more.

We will never apologize for being a free and independent people in our sovereign state. And we will never apologize for defending ourselves.

To the nations that continue to allow prejudice to prevail over truth, I say “J’accuse.”

I accuse you of hypocrisy. I accuse you of duplicity.

I accuse you of lending legitimacy to those who seek to destroy our State.

I accuse you of speaking about Israel’s right of self-defense in theory, but denying it in practice.

And I accuse you of demanding concessions from Israel, but asking nothing of the Palestinians. In the face of these offenses, the verdict is clear. You are not for peace and you are not for the Palestinian people. You are simply against Israel.

Members of the international community have a choice to make.

You can recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, or permit the Palestinian leadership to deny our history without consequence.

You can publically proclaim that the so-called “claim of return” is a non-starter, or you can allow this claim to remain the major obstacle to any peace agreement.

You can work to end Palestinian incitement, or stand by as hatred and extremism take root for generations to come. You can prematurely recognize a Palestinian state, or you can encourage the Palestinian Authority to break its pact with Hamas and return to direct negotiations.

The choice is yours. You can continue to steer the Palestinians off course or pave the way to real and lasting peace.

söndag 9 november 2014

Two into five won't go

Railways approach Göteborg from five different directions. Starting from the twelve o'clock position, these are Strömstad-Uddevalla, Trollhattan-Älvängen, Stockholm-Alingsås, Borås and Copenhagen-Kungsbacka. There is no route across the city which has a significantly greater traffic potential than any other, and the connect must necessarily be arbitrary. Whichever lines are joined by a cross-city link, most journeys through the city centre will inevitably require a change just as they do now. If services from the two lines from the north continue onto the one line from the south, the result will be that the southern line will be unnecessarily congested and the potential traffic will be insufficient for the service provided. Or half the trains will have to turn round and go back.

A further drawback is that passengers travelling to and from the south to the city centre and northwards will actually experience longer journey times due to the detour they will now be making through having to make a trip all the way round the city centre through the expensively constructed tunnels.

In these circumstances, there is only thing to be gained from constructing a cross city link, is the reduction in the number of trains terminating at the central station, and the associated costs of platform occupation and train movements.

Against that is the disadvantage of joining separate networks: that delays and disruption are propagated from one network to another. A failure at, say, Alingsås will lead to cancellations at Kungsbacka an hour or so later. This was precisely the experience with London Thameslink, a long-distance cross-city route.

måndag 27 oktober 2014

What is the point of English Masses for students?

The idea has taken hold that because English is amongst the world's best known languages, it is suitable for use for Masses celebrated for students in countries which are not English speaking. The students will indeed probably all know English. Their courses may even be taught in English. With the English language seemingly on the way to taking the place that Latin occupied as a universal language from Roman times until well into the nineteenth century, this seems like an attractive idea.

There are, however, difficulties with this assumption. Latin as a formal language, and particularly ecclesiastical Latin, was largely settled by the sixth century. What people spoke as vernacular languages would have been the dialects of Latin that would eventually evolve into, amongst others, Spanish, Italian and French. English, by contrast, remains a living language. It is constantly changing. The 1970 translation has already been replaced with a new one, which is truer to the Latin, but in the change, the text has become more complicated and includes words, and a style of phrasing, far from what English-speaking people are used to.

English also has wide dialect variations. Some of the US and British colonial dialects, and even of dialects within Britain itself, can be difficult to understand by people not used to them. A further difficulty is that the meaning of a sentence is dependent on both the order of the words and the stress of the voice when spoken. A foreign reader is particularly liable to pick up the wrong meaning.

This explains why, when attending these English language Masses for students, I have barely understood the readings. Listening to some of the celebrating priests can be hard work. If I, as a native speaker of British received pronunciation English, have difficulties, it is safe to assume that nearly everyone present will have much the same experience.

The obvious answer is to use Latin, which would be customary anyway if provisions of the Vatican 2 document Sacrosanctum Concilium was followed, but in the Novus Ordo there is still the question of which language the readings and Responsorial Psalm should be, and there is the long recitation of the Canon. Here is a situation where the Tridentine form of the Mass is ideal. It can all be read and sung in Latin, and everyone can follow in their own language, in their books, or on printed sheets.

There are further aspects to this. Students are the best educated of their generation, and deserve to be given the opportunity to experience the best of the 2000 year-old musical heritage of the Catholic church. It is not good enough to fob them off with indifferent hymns composed in the 1970s, which is what they are getting. We don't drive 1970s cars or wear 1970s clothes, so why are young people being given 1970s liturgy?

If students are exposed to the best that the Catholic church's liturgy has to offer, they are more likely to retain their faith and pass it on to their children. Some of them might possibly discover vocations to the priesthood or religious life. Support for the traditional Mass is strongest amongst the under-30s. There is every reason to expect that it would be well received by students. A good classic  liturgy with high quality music would encourage students to invite their non-Catholic friends and in this way, become part of the church's evangelical outreach.

There are also implications for the host parishes where these Masses are held in a church. They occupy the building for over an hour, take up a priest's time and are often attended by parishioners. Since Summorum Pontificum was issued in 2007, there has been an increase in the celebration of Mass in the old form, but Pope Benedict's expectations have not yet borne the fruit that might have been expected. Partly, this is due to the shortage of priests able to say Mass in the old form. Conversations I have had with priests suggests that even if they want to, they have not had the opportunity to learn, partly due to lack of time and partly due to the shortage of training opportunities. The ability to say Mass in both forms should be a requirement of all seminarians before they are ordained, and that would in due course solve the problem. In the meantime, there is a need for training courses on the lines of the Priests' Conferences organised by the English Latin Mass Society. However, in some parishes, priests are available who are able to celebrate Mass in the old form.

Surely it is a waste of resources to tie up church buildings and the priests' time with indifferent liturgies, which are not comprehensible and of poor quality, when something so much better could be offered?

tisdag 21 oktober 2014

Winning Catholics back to the church

The principal motivation for the suggested relaxation of rules made at the recent Synod of Bishops was that it would arrest the decline in numbers by making the church more welcoming to homosexuals and people living in irregular relationships.

In my experience at parishes in the south of England, declines in attendance during the 1970s and 1980s happened suddenly when new parish priests took over. It happened within a matter of weeks of their arrival. In each case the mass exodus was precipitated by the introduction of the vernacular liturgy. At first, people would move to adjacent parishes where Latin and Gregorian chant was still in use, but as these in turn were hit, there were fewer and fewer places to flee to. The situation eventually arose where for many people, attendance at a Mass where the liturgy was not dreadful could mean a ninety minute journey in each direction on sparse public transport.

The experience of a family I know is perhaps typical. Dino, now in his 70s, is one of a large family whose father came from Italy in the 1920s. Whilst working as an architect 40 years ago, he married Bridget, a work colleague. She had come from Ireland to England to work in the late 1960s, and was also one of a large family. Both families were staunchly and traditionally Catholic - like so many, Bridget had aunt who was a nun.

They lived, and still live, in a parish in a prosperous part of North London and have three children - a son and two daughters, now in their thirties. The oldest boy used to attend Mass regularly but reluctantly. He didn't like the liturgy and found the sermons patronising. The time came, in his mid-teens, when he announced that he would never go to Mass again. The older of the daughters kept the faith and has paid the price in being unable for many years to find a suitable partner - she married recently, later than she would have wanted. The younger daughter, who is in fact my God-daughter, has a live-in boyfriend, pleasant enough; hers is a typical example of an "irregular relationship". I attended her confirmation about twenty years ago, an eminently forgettable event with banal music. Clearly the church has had nothing to offer her. Dino and Marie continue to attend Mass on Sunday but complain about their local parish and travel to the Brompton Oratory whenever possible, which is over an hour away and turns Mass-going into a full day out.

By contrast, I have been relatively fortunate with my own parishes. St Mary Magdalen's, Brighton suffered a near-collapse when a new priest arrived in 1990. It continued in the doldrums until Fr Blake arrived in 2001. Within a couple of years he had turned things round by adopting a traditional style of liturgy, encouraging regular confession and promoting a good work - a parish soup run. Similar stories can be told wherever this has happened. The Oratorians turned round the moribund former Jesuit parish of St Aloysius within a couple of years. The small parish of Littlehampton in Sussex has been pulled round after thirty years of neglect.

It seems that it is perfectly possible to kindle the flames of faith out of the dying embers of a parish, simply by being Catholic and holding to tradition - a dignified liturgy, getting parishioners into the habit of confession and running a good work of some kind in response to local need. It does not need a re-writing of doctrine, redefining as acceptable that which have up to now been recognised as sins.

måndag 20 oktober 2014

Irrelevant synod on the family

What struck me about the synod of bishops which has just closed was its irrelevance. The teaching of the Catholic Church on sexual matters is clear - no sex outside marriage. That is not anti-gay or anti-anybody. We all find it difficult to keep to the rules. That is what the confessional is for, and the end of the matter.

The real concern should be that families are failing, and that is what the bishops ought to have been talking about. There all sorts of pressures on the family - war and instability, economic insecurity, poverty, migration, housing priced out of people's reach, etc. For example, in most developed countries in Europe, one person's wages are often not sufficient to pay for the accommodation for a family. Wages are often dependent on employment opportunities which can vanish overnight.

My former parish priest used to complain about the lack of large families, but the price of a house large enough for a large family was well out of reach of most people in that parish.

The most successful families seem to be those where the family is also an economic unit, running a family business or perhaps an agricultural smallholding. The rise of the firm as the primary economic unit has been detrimental to families, yet our bishops - neither the "progressives" or the "conservatives" say anything about this.

There is no excuse, since there is a substantial body of Catholic church teaching, known as "Catholic Social Teaching", which has been developed since Rerum Novarum was issued in 1891. It serves as a good starting point despite its deficiencies, and is the grounding for the system of economic organisation known as "Distributism". Having developed the ideas in the 1930s, what has always been needed is for lay people to get together, with the blessing of the hierarchy, to formulate a legislative and fiscal structure which would bring about the Distributist economy, where the economy was organised in the interest of the family. When it comes to it, however, there seems to be a complete lack of interest. Instead of solid proposals, all we have is the uttering of platitudes and an embarrassing debate about bedroom morality.

onsdag 15 oktober 2014

Cultural Marxist take on Purcell

This version of Purcell's Indian Queen by Peter Sellers is an example of the pernicious trend to re-work old material to present a left-wing political message. In this case, it is the dreadfulness of the Spanish and Portuguese occupation of America in the sixteenth century. Now, if we apply contemporary standards of what constitutes bad behaviour, it was indeed dreadful. The mistake is to do that. By their lights, they were mostly doing what they thought was right. People in the future will come back and judge us in a similar way for doing dreadful things that, judged by contemporary standards, we consider are right and good. Evil acts are normally justified by some argument or other to make us imagine that we are doing nothing wrong.

The problem is that all this detracts from the work itself, which has the singers in contemporary military uniforms and is accompanied by sound effects of contemporary military actions, with the noise of bombs going off in the background. That is, unfortunately a popular trend which particularly affects contemporary productions of baroque operas; Handel is a major victim. Shakespeare plays have also long been subject to the same treatment.

Fortunately, most of the nonsense is only apparent if you go to a live performance and is out of sight and out of mind if you just listen on the radio. The underlying cause, presumably, is that most of those involved in the productions come from privileged backgrounds but have a guilty conscience. Goodness knows what the singers themselves must make of this nonsense.

måndag 6 oktober 2014

Good Muslims must cut loose from Islam

Decent Muslims are only just waking up to the unpleasantness of their religion, so they think it has been hijacked.

Every Muslim is associated with the actions of its extremists, first of all because the mud sticks, but secondly, those extremists are modelling themselves on the words of the Koran and the actions of Mohammed, which all Muslims venerate. They are not getting their ideas from anywhere other than those sources. We do not get Zoroastrian terrorists or Methodist terrorists.

If good Muslims do not distance themselves from the Koran and Mohammed, then they are in a position of moral ambiguity. The only honest thing to do is to cut themselves loose from it. That is obviously not going to be an easy thing for them to do as it will also involve cutting themselves away from family and community ties. One might hope that others in the family and community will follow the trailblazers.

fredag 26 september 2014

Even more modest Västlänk alternative

Base from Google maps 
Here is an even less ambitious and expensive way of achieving most of the benefits of Västlänken, the principal aim of which is to improve access to the west side of the city centre. A circular route in both directions, it incorporates some existing tram route, part of a section currently under construction, and about 3km of new route, all on the surface. The most expensive piece of civil engineering would involve replacing or supplementing the bridge over the canal at Skeppbron. With just two additional stops, one outside the Opera House and the other where it crosses Avenyn, close to Heden, it would give a fast route from Järntorget and Haga to the Central Station.

Test the demand first
One of the advantages of this proposal is that the travel demand could be tested at minimal cost, and satisfied without having to wait until 2028, by the simple expedient of running a bus service on the route, initially at rush hours only. In fact, one has to ask why this has never been done? Where is the demand?

söndag 21 september 2014

Västlänken without tunnels

Base from Google maps
The vote against the Göteborg congestion charge was probably motivated as much by opposition to Västlänken as to the congestion charge itself. This is a hugely expensive project to dig a tunnel in a loop around the city centre, in the some of the most difficult geological conditions imaginable - waterlogged clay alternating with granite. It will take about twelve years to build, result in claims for damage to buildings, involve the destruction of large numbers of mature trees in the city centre and cause immense disruption during the construction period, with huge excavations and massive volumes of spoil to be carted away. It is estimated that it will take sixty years to recover the energy that will be expended in the construction.

There is no justification for it on transport grounds. There are five lines converging on the city, from(locally, clockwise) Uddevalla, Älvängen, Alingsås, Borås and Kungsbacka, four of these being the local sections of the main lines to Strömstad, Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. There is no obvious choice as to which two lines to connect and, indeed, little demand for cross-city traffic at all, so the only benefit might be to reduce reversals at Göteborg Central. Passengers travelling beyond walking distance from the station change to a tram at Drottningtorget on the south side of the station. This is probably close to capacity. However, there is also a tram stop at Nordstan on the west side of the central station and that carries only one tram route (6), thus it has spare capacity.

The main claim for the route is that it will improve communications to the west side of the city centre. The above diagram shows how this could be achieved at a fraction of the cost and within a fraction of the time by the development of an additional tram route. This would commence with a new tram terminus outside the little-used Liseberg station, with trams timed to connect with the trains. The route would then run to Korsvägen, and turn left along Södra Vägen, taking the Chalmers Tunnel to Chalmers university campus and Salgrenska Hospital, from where it would run to Järntorget. It would then continue along the waterfront, past the opera house and turn left to stop outside the Central station at Nordstan. The route would then run to Polhemplatsen, and then follow the route to the south of Trädgårdsföreningen and back to Järntorget, where it would return to Liseberg by the same route. A second route would follow the loop in an anticlockwise direction ie along Parkgatan, passing Heden. Existing tram route 6 might be diverted along this route to avoid Brunnsparken, and the new direct route might also be used by another line, possibly the 11, which would then stop at Polhemplatsen.

This new construction of tram lines would largely alleviate the current poor access between the Haga area and the Central station.

fredag 29 augusti 2014

Comment is not so free

My comments in the Guardian's Comment is Free section, under the name Nazarene1563, are being pre-moderated ie censored. Here is why.

Q: When I post a comment, it says that my comments are being pre-moderated – what does that mean? Does that apply to everyone in the conversation? 

A: There is a further exception to the overall reactive-moderation approach adopted by the Guardian website: in isolated situations, a particular user may be identified as a risk, based on a pattern of behaviour (e.g. spam, trolling, repeated/frequent borderline abuse), so a temporary filter can be applied to anything they post, which means that their comments will need to be pre-moderated before appearing on the site.

This is a temporary measure applied by moderators to a very small handful of people based entirely on patterns of actual behaviour, and should result relatively quickly in either their posting ability being suspended completely if no improvement is shown, or the filter being removed. The decision to do either of these things would, again, be based on that user's behaviour and activity during the pre-moderation period.

I have been forthright, in particular in relation to Islam, though always polite and never offensive. Very few comments have actually been deleted, so someone has obviously taken a dislike to what I have been saying, and it does not take too much imagination to guess who that might be.

It doesn't bother me particularly but if there is much of this kind of thing it destroys effectiveness of the forum. It is significant that during the Gaza hostilities commentators were left free to say pretty much whatever they wanted about the evils of the Zionists. I suspect there has been a decision to have a crack-down on anyone critical of Islam. Fair enough but in the end the main damage is to the newspaper's credibility as it is no longer a place where comment is free.

torsdag 28 augusti 2014

Sex crime wave

Paedophilia has been in the news for about the past ten years. First it was the Catholic clergy, who were alleged to be paedophiles to a man, when in fact it turned out that 98% of them had not been involved in paedophilia. There were some places where the incidence was higher, and the cover-ups by the hierarchy were reprehensible, but on the whole this was not a major issue.

Then we have had scandals in care homes, and last year there was the case of Jimmy Saville case, and other well-known and popular entertainers.

But the really big scandals are only just emerging - those of predatory gangs of Muslim men. This is a widespread problem across Europe. If the authorities do not deal with it, then people will take matters into their own hands.

tisdag 19 augusti 2014

The ugliness of Islam

Why is so much of the strict end of Islam so ugly? Arabic script can be beautiful but the lettering on the ISIS flag looks as if it was done by someone sticking their finger in a bottle of ink. Then there is that rough white circle. Don't they have compasses to draw a proper circle? This is the sort of "artwork" that would be expected from Orcs.

This is part of a wider picture. Beyond abstract patterning, Islam has produced little in the way of art. Its architecture has been formulaic and has not evolved qualitatively in a millennium. What is there in Islamic architecture comparable to the evolution from Romanesque to Gothic and the classical revival of the Renaissance?

The Islamic world has produced no music comparable either to that of Renaissance composers, or the nineteenth century symphonists. Where is the Islamic equivalent of a Palestrina or a Mozart? Who were the Islamic world's Albertis, Michaelangelos, Berninis, Rembrandts and Vermeers?

Nor has the Islamic world has produced anything of significance in science or mathematics for the past thousand years. How many Nobel prizewinners can it claim?

It is almost as though the lack of creativity is an indication of its lack of contact with the creator. It seems as if Islam has the power to turn men into Orcs.

måndag 18 augusti 2014

Kids killed on Gaza beach

The report was that children playing on the beach were shelled by an Israeli vessel and killed. What really happened?

If you do a search on the incident, you will find conflicting reports. One account says that the boys were playing football, another that they were collecting scraps of metal. The photograph of the alleged site of the incident shows a beach but not the kind of beach where people would relax in deckchairs and play games. There was a container which was reportedly targetted by the Israeli gunners, and there seem to be various other bits of industrial debris lying around. There was a report that the Israelis would carry out an investigation but no report of the results of an investigation seems to turn up if you search for it.

The worst is indeed possible: that the boys were shot and killed for fun. Other possibilities are that they were in front of the actual target and the shells fell short - which happens constantly when firing from a vessel at sea. What else was on the beach or in the line of fire? The boys may have been carrying pieces of scrap metal and the Israelis assumed they were weapons. They may even have been using them as pretend weapons, and the Israelis may then have decided that they had hostile intentions; after all, it is not unknown for quite young boys to use substantial firearms, rocket launchers, etc.

Like so much in this wretched war, it will be a very long time, if ever, before the truth emerges. Hamas exploits the circumstances of the war to portray it as a genocide, which it obviously is not, whilst the IDF web site tells a story that it is fighting a perfectly clean war, which is just too good to be true.

You cannot believe anyone.

onsdag 13 augusti 2014

Whose human rights are being violated?

Life at the receiving end of the Hamas firework show...

Just to let you know......= the hamas broke the sease fire for the 7 time- just 1 Hour ago, and fire rockets at israely cities...!!!!!!!!! what would you do if it was on your home ????? at your family ??? for 14 years ????? no time to take a shower..(15 seconds to hit) , cant go to schol, cant sleep at night? can live regulary...??? and above all they are bilding yunnels to get inside people houses and kill children' and kidnapped some more....? what wold you do??? help humanity stop terror....!!!! ( 24:00 NOW, CANT SLEEP..!)

lördag 9 augusti 2014

If Israel vanished - would the Palestinians get what they want?

The Palestinian owners of the land are mostly long dead, so any possible rights would belong to their heirs, who will be the children or grandchildren. Imagine, for the sake of argument, that Israel were to evacuate the entire country. The putative rights of the successors to the original owners would have to be established. Documents would have to be provided, which would include not only land titles, but papers relating to the intended disposal of the estates of the deceased, all properly dated, witnessed and signed. Disputes over claims would take decades for the courts to deal with. Some people would resort to extra-legal means to make their claims.

It should also be remembered that large areas of agricultural land were owned by absentee landlords who rack-rented their tenants. Their successors would also lose no time in asserting their claims; thus the majority of the descendants of those who departed in 1947 would end up as impoverished tenant peasants scratching a bare livelihood, just like their grandparents. Is that what they want?

fredag 8 augusti 2014

British did not give same land to two people.

A Jewish state west of the Jordan was part of the deal for helping to get rid of the Ottomans. The Arabs got Transjordan as part of the same deal. Nobody would have been forced to move. Arabs who did not move but stayed in Israel have a better life than Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East, with democratic rights limited only because of their potential as a security threat, so we are not talking about some evil, oppressive alien regime. Whether there ever would be enough Jews to constitute a Jewish state was in doubt until the rise of the Nazis.

The Balfour Declaration was only part of the picture. The British did not give away the same land to two different people.

Hamas planned Israel attack 25 September

An Israeli perspective on the action in Gaza

"I appreciate how it might have been better from a public perspective point-of-view to have waited, although I have my doubts. It seems no matter how clear-cut the case, no matter how Israel tries to act ethically, no matter that other areas in the region and the world have far more deaths and the like, the world condemns Israel and spends an inordinate amount of time on it.

"Be it because of oil, Jew-hatred, anti-this or that, it just seems to be the case. In any event, we could not wait. The people in the South had been living with missile fire for years, as I am sure you know. It kept increasing and increasing. People demand that their government protect them. Otherwise, they will lose hope and abandon the area. Then, once the tunnels were discovered, we had to act.

"The government and the people have a social contract: we will live there, build it up, but the government must take action to protect us. For years people in the South thought they heard digging, but were told it was their imagination. You can only imagine the stark fear when they discovered how close those tunnels were to them, how well-equipped they were, and how the plan was to kill and maim hundreds if not thousands of people on Rosh Hoshana (ie 25 September.)

"No government, propaganda considerations or not, could delay taking action and still hold the confidence of its people. As I am sure you know, Israelis across the political spectrum, in the high 80, low 90's percent, backed this war. That is unheard of in Israel and in most societies. So, while I appreciate your concerns, and I think they are valid, Israel had to act and could not delay."

måndag 4 augusti 2014

A dispute with a very long tail

In all the discussion about the business in Gaza, it is almost never pointed out that this dispute has a very long tail. You can call it karma. Israel has not always fought as clean as Zionists would have us believe, but when Zionism was little more than an idealistic fantasy, there were attacks by Muslim Arabs on the handful of Jews in the area that became Palestine after WW1. These include anti Jewish riots in 1919, 1920, 1921, 1924, 1929, 1933 and 1936.

At that time Zionism had no traction at all amongst the majority of Jews - it was considered a cranky minority interest, so the Arabs had no reason to fear a mass immigration of Jews. This did not occur until after the Holocaust, when Jews moved into Israel for lack of any other options. Most Jews in Israel are descendants of refugees. When most of these people arrived, it was a place where nobody in their right mind would go if they had any better options.

It is not generally realised that the Palestinian leader, Haj-Amin-el Husseini played an important role in propelling the Nazis towards deciding on the Final Solution (link to video); he travelled to Berlin in 1941 met Hitler and the other Nazi leaders and encouraged them in the policy of total extermination, which had not previously been a firm Nazi intention.

In the light of the experience after 1918, and the involvement of the Palestinian leader in the Holocaust, it is not altogether surprising, though still reprehensible, that the Jews didn't always fight clean, but they declared independence on the basis of the UN boundaries (which were indefensible) and were promptly attacked by the surrounding countries with professional armies. There was no peace treaty and the war led to the 1949 armistice boundary

That lasted until the 1967 war, which was not of Israel's making but was started pre-emptively when Egypt dismissed the UN buffer force, filled Gaza up with troops and then blockaded the Straits of Tiran. Jordan then attacked and that started a new front, stretching the Israeli army, and that led to the occupation of the West Bank. Since there was no peace treaty, and in the early years the Palestinian leader refused to talk to the Israelis, the Israelis were obviously not going to withdraw without a peace treaty, nobody would.

So the wretched situation continued and in the meantime the mild social democrats who had run Israel since 1948 were replaced by hard-liners. The Palestinians had missed the bus.

I have met Palestinians through CAABU. If asked what they see as a solution, they will reply that Israel is a European problem. Actually that is not even true as at least one-third of Israeli Jews are descendants of immigrants from Arab countries, but the statement is code for saying that Israel should not be there AT ALL.That is no basis for any settlement. The Palestinians in general regard the WHOLE of Israel as occupied land. It is part of the Umma ie once a Muslim land, always a Muslim land, and that applies to Spain too. Short of disappearing themselves, there is NOTHING the Israelis could do to satisfy Palestinians.

The irony is that with three times as many Palestinians as departed in 1947, they would end up fighting over the inheritance if the Israelis were to vanish. Much of it would be claimed by descendants of the absentee landlords who owned Palestine previously, leaving the majority to become impoverished rack-rented tenant farmers like they were before.

lördag 2 augusti 2014

The new Christian symbol

The new Christian symbol, courtesy of ISIS. It is the Arabic letter "N" for Nazarene. It has been painted on the doors of Christian houses in areas they have occupied. Christians are being given the options "pay", "convert" or "be killed".

So far the Christians have been leaving quietly but I don't think this passivity will continue for much longer. Then the Jihadi thugs will get a nasty shock.

lördag 26 juli 2014

Should Israel show more restraint over Gaza?

This comment appeared as a response in the Guardian's Comment is Free section. It puts the thing into perspective.

Much has been written about the citizens of Sderot who were captured on camera "celebrating" the shelling of Gaza by the IDF forces from the hillside. It was inevitable that these images would be picked like ripe fruit by the media of all kinds and used to villify Israel, as if it could be more vilified and demonized that it is already.

However, for some reason there are many who have found the need, Comment is Free posters included, to embellish their descriptions of this event to include descriptions of barbeques and discos, and even referring the the Sderot residents as "settlers" although Sderot is located well within the 1967 borders. I suppose that there are enough people out there who consider the entire State of Israel to be a settlement.

So much righteous indignation.

Compare Sderot and nearby villages and towns to a Coca Cola bottle that has been regularly shaken, on average three times a day for thirteen years since January 30th 2001. In July 2014 someone decided to remove the bottle top and was shocked to discover that the liquid virtually exploded out of the bottle. And what exactly did he expect, that the bottle show a little "restraint"? Some "proportionality?"

Well the people of Sderot and Israel as a whole are no different from this proverbial coke bottle. They have been "shaken" and "shaken" endlessly since 2001, rocketed out of their minds as they run from shelter to shelter, watching their shell shocked children helplessly as they wet their beds on a nightly basis, visit post-trauma experts weekly, lose their friends, homes and livelihoods as the Hamas pound and pound them with never ending and indiscriminate rocket fire, terrorising them for terror's sake.

And before I get peppered (or rocketed) with whataboutery, Let me say to you people of London and other places thousands of miles away, it's restraint you want? Why don't you show some? Don't the people of Sderot deserve just a teensy weensy bit of your all important empathy? Or are you totally incapable of looking beyond the Palestinian narrative to see that there exists another narrative, possibly also deserving of merit and that there are victims on both sides?

The fact that they were actually eating popcorn only serves to compound the "atrocious behaviour" of the people of Sderot you say. "Sderot cinema" you have dubbed it.

"The people of Israel need to be brought to account" you shout from every editorial.

Well if anyone is showing restraint it's the people of Sderot. They have been doing so since January 30th 2001. How much more restraint are they required to display?

Empathy does not mean blindly, naively and gullibly following a spoon-fed ideology to the point that it takes the actions you so despise out of context.

Next time you hear about another rocket shot over Israel try for just one millisecond to put yourself in their place. Try and curb that smirk on your face while you wipe your oily hands from those fish 'n chips so that you can make that all important post.

lördag 19 juli 2014

Liturgists and terrorists

NWE561 Sheffield Corporation Transport Department fleet no. 361 a 1952 built Leyland PD2/12 with rare Mann Egerton H56R bodywork

What is the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist? You can negotiate with a terrorist. The quip seems to be used as a means of putting down people who prefer traditional liturgy, but it raises an important question. What is a liturgist? Who are liturgists?

I would suggest that those who favour a vernacular Mass with hymns drawn from the Protestant repertoire are no less deserving of the term than those who would rather attend Mass in Latin with Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony. In one way or another, every one has preferences. That feelings often run so strongly in either direction only confirms the truth of the quip.

It was not always so. The liturgy was a given, and one just got on with reading what was in the books using the music that went with the texts. There was not much to discuss or argue about and preferences did not come into it.

In this respect, going to Mass was much like travelling by public transport. You took it as it came, and you knew exactly what was coming. For much of the twentieth century, most British buses looked like the one in the picture. The driver sat in his own cab, separated from the passengers by a window. The engine was at the front to the left of the driver's cab. There was an open platform at the back where you stepped on and off, and a conductor took the fares one the passengers were on board and seated. It was an easy vehicle to use. You did not have to fumble for your change just as you were getting on the bus. The internal layout of the seats was simple, tidy and comprehensible. The design was inexpensive to build and maintain. With well-placed grab rails, good circulation space and no need to pay the driver, waiting time at stops was minimal. This style of vehicle was ubiquitous. It could be seen from Aberdeen in the north to Truro in the south-west, and all places in between, making it part of the shared landscape and personal space of everyone in the country.

For various reasons these vehicles began to be regarded as inadequate from the 1960s onwards. Standardisation fell apart. All sorts of configurations were tried, with engines, doorways and staircases in different places, in seemingly endless variation. None of these was particularly satisfactory, they were unpopular with the public. Just to get on to a bus became a disorientating experience. Journey times doubled due to the extra time spent standing at stops. This was undoubtedly a factor in the fall in the number of passengers travelling by bus. Eventually, London was the only place where they were in regular service and bus use remained high. These survivors were the famous and iconic Routemasters, which continued until 2005, by which time they were about 45 years old; the design was the inspiration for a new generation of London buses which started to come into service in 2012.

Given that the liturgy is, likewise a shared part of our mental landscapes, and that standardisation fell apart at roughly the same time as standardised bus design came to an end, it should not be surprising that everyone has a strong view on the subject. Thus we are all liturgists.

torsdag 17 juli 2014

Eyeless in Gaza

Yet again the Israelis are the baddies. It is easy to condemn from the security of Sevenoaks. However, if rockets were regularly fired in their direction, the residents of Sevenoaks would quickly demand that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

That said, there still enough Israelis who would be happy to see a deal done, if they were convinced that it would stick. If the Israelis were confident that the deal would hold, there is no reason why the militarily indefensible 1948 Armistice border would not be acceptable. And there's the rub.

The trouble is that the Palestinians have mishandled the situation since 1947. The state of Israel was declared on the basis of the 1947 UN award, which was territory that had mostly been purchased from landowners. It was then attacked by five of the neighbouring countries and when the armistice was agreed, that settled the border until 1967, with Jerusalem divided and no access by Jews to the traditional holy sites.

In the meantime, the Gaza strip was occupied by Egypt and the West Bank and half of Jerusalem by Jordan, both acting illegally. Throughout the period there were sporadic raids into Israel and regular firing from the Golan Heights, then part of Syria.

In 1967 Nasser asked the Swedish UN force to leave and assembled a huge invasion force and blockaded the port of Eilat. Israel launched a pre-emptive strike, whilst Jordan attacked, and the result of that was that Israel ended up in occupation of the entire West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Gaza strip and the Sinai desert. At the time, the Israelis were anxious to get out of all the occupied territories but nobody on the Arab side would even sit down in the same room and negotiate.

Sinai was handed back to Egypt as part of a peace agreement after Anwar Sadat took a personal initiative which cost him his life. The Israelis withdrew from Gaza and forcibly removed the settlers. The inhabitants of the Golan Heights are Druze, supporters of Israel, and the younger generation are applying for Israeli citizenship and join the Israeli army.

The problem for the Palestinians is that they missed the window of opportunity of dealing with the Israelis during the long period when the government was left-of-centre social democratic. Eventually the mood changed and the Israeli government is composed of hard-liners. If things are to change, the Palestinians will have to make sustained and reassuring noises.

onsdag 2 juli 2014

The wicked Israelis

People have stolen WHOLE CONTINENTS from the previous inhabitants, but the Jews try to get their country back out of necessity, because of 2000 years of persecution, and then they get demonised when they are terrorised by their neighbours and don't take it quietly on the chin.

tisdag 24 juni 2014

HS3 - the high speed madness gets worse

Reports are that Chancellor George Osborne is pushing a proposal for a high speed line, "HS3", between Manchester and Leeds. This is conclusive proof that the man is clueless. This is a typical politician's response.

There is no advantage in running faster than 100 mph between destinations less than 50 miles apart. There are no further useful time savings to be made. Frequent trains and good local connections are needed. That means a programme of platform-lengthening, junction improvements, and possibly, new routes, but high speed does not come into this. Loading-gauge enhancements to take double-deck trains would be nice to have but the trouble is that the routes on which they could operate would be badly restricted.

Equally important in this context is the need to improve local connections through the development of bus and light rail services, as well as park-and-ride facilities.

lördag 24 maj 2014

Recipe for English-style light ale

A classic English pale ale with a heavy hop content. Quantities are for 10 litres thus this has 2.5 times the normal hops. If you have brewed beer before these instructions give you enough information to give you a drinkable beer at the first attempt. If not, then research the subject more deeply if you do not want to be disappointed. If you want an even more bitter flavour then you might replace hops (A) with a high-alpha type such as Galaxy.

         1500 g    crushed malt grain
  200 g    crystal malt grain
    50 g    hops (Goldings A)
    25 g    hops (Goldings B)
    10 g    hops (Goldings C)
    10 g    hops (Goldings D)
      5 g    hops (Goldings E)

2 tsp gypsum
Copper finings (Irish moss)

Mix yeast with dilute malt solution and leave in warm place. If no activity after 3 hours add extra dried yeast pellets.

Boil seaweed gently until it becomes a jelly.

Fill bucket with cold water and place in freezer

Fill large pan with water sufficient to cover malt grains (do not add malt grains yet). Add gypsum and heat to 60°C. Remove from heat and add malt grains. Temperature should be 55°C.Then slowly warm to 65°C and remove from heat
Leave for 2 hours. Add boiling water until temperature is 67°C.Leave for a further 20 minutes, then bring temperature to 75°C to terminate the mash process. Leave for 10 minutes.

Prepare boiling water for sparging

Put grain residue in strainer and arrange to make a saucer-shaped filter bed. Then pour hot liquid through and collect the wort in a bucket.
Put the grain residue back in the mash pan, pour hot water on and re-filter. Repeat (3 or 4 times) until the filtrate is no longer sweet. Alternatively, use a boiling pan with a tap and a perforated false bottom made for the purpose.

Place the liquid into 11 L boiling pan (or boil down until the volume is sufficiently reduced). When volume is reduced to less than 8 litres, add hops A. Boil for a further 45 minutes.

Add copper finings and hops B and boil for a further 15 minutes, then hops C and boil for a further one minute, then and transfer to bucket.
Cool quickly by adding ice prepared previously.

When cool, siphon into fermentation vessel leaving residue behind. This should be done in such a way as to make as much splash as possible to get air into the wort, to enable the yeast to work effectively. Make up to 10 litres.

The fermentation vessel should be placed in the room where the fermentation will take place. If required, fit heating band round bucket (or aquarium heater) and plug in to electricity supply. Temperature must be at least 15°C and preferably less than 25°C

Check SG with hydrometer. It should be around 1.035, if lower, add 300g - 500g sugar. Add hops D in a net bag with something heavy in it so that it sinks to the bottom of the fermentation bucket.

When the temperature has fallen to 35°C the active yeast starter can be added “pitched” to the wort. A small quantity (a “splash”) of CocaCola can be added to provide necessary phosphorus for the fast-growing yeast. Check daily. Initial action will be very vigorous. When the yeast has formed a cake on the surface, skim off together with other debris, to prevent a bad flavour that can occur if the yeast cells start to decompose.

When activity has subsided, check the SG with hydrometer. It should be less than 1.020. Use syphon to transfer to a closed vessel fitted with an air lock, Add 50g sugar.

Add hops E in a small net bag. Allow to settle for at least 2 weeks, draw off into open container, then add gelatine finings, 60 g priming sugar, then transfer to container or bottles for final conditioning. The ale can be drunk about one month after bottling.

Govia gets Thameslink franchise

Govia's award of the Thameslink franchise and the introduction of a new fleet of rolling stock will not solve the problems that have affected this service since it was introduced in 1988.

Thameslink reinstated a service which had last run in 1916. British Rail had been reluctant to re-open the route, arguing that there was no demand. When, in 1986, Chris Green took over what was then the London and South East Sector and re-christened it Network South East, he pursued the re-opening of the route. The trains were packed from day one, showing that it satisfied a long-standing suppressed demand.

However, it has always been a problematic route.The difficulties are inherent in running a long distance service through the middle of London. It is consequently vulnerable to disruptions on both of the main lines over which it runs ie a points failure at Haywards Heath will cause delays in the Bedford area a couple of hours later.

A further difficulty is that the rolling stock has to be designed to inner suburban standards with relatively few seats and plenty of space for standing and circulation. This means that passengers can spend an hour in an uncomfortable seat and may have to stand most of the way. On top of this are the crowds of passengers travelling to and from Gatwick with their luggage. Standing is a shiny new train is no more comfortable than standing in an old one, and in fact the new trains will be little different fundamentally than those they will replace.

The Thameslink (and Crossrail) concepts in the present form are flawed. These routes should be cut back to operate roughly within the area enclosed by the M25. Destinations further from London should be served by dedicated services operating from the London terminals.

torsdag 24 april 2014

Carrot as well as stick

Riga Coal Dock

I watch with some dismay the hostile attitudes that are hardening in the relationship between Russia and the EU and USA. What is being ignored here is that there are genuine issues which ought to be conceded. The borders following the break-up of the Soviet Union do not correspond to linguistic and national borders. Adjustments and exchanges of territory (this goes in both directions), subject to referendum, could reduce dissatisfactions.

There is also a better need for economic development and collaboration. The Russian populations in the Baltic countries seem to have missed out quite badly. The EU could play a role here, in particular in relation to parts of Latvia and the Russian enclave which was formerly East Prussia, with joint infrastructure projects and other investments.

The economic dependencies are closer than is generally appreciated. For example, coal from the eastern Ukraine goes by train to Riga where it is shipped to.... Tilbury.

Carrot as well as stick.

måndag 14 april 2014

Biggest fare dodger in history

"Train bosses have come under fire for not prosecuting a wealthy hedge fund manager who was described as the “biggest fare dodger in railway history”, evading more than £42,000 in train tickets. The City executive is believed to have dodged the fare for the 82-minute commute between the Sussex village of Stonegate and central London for five years.

He exploited a flaw that allowed him to go through barriers at Cannon Street station in London by “tapping out” with an Oyster travelcard. After finally being caught by a ticket inspector, the executive was able to pay £42,550 in dodged fares and £450 in legal costs within three days of being asked to pay up as part of an out-of-court settlement." Daily Telegraph article

One has to admire the guy's ingenuity. One also has to question the competence of the people who set up the system, for not spotting the flaw. Perhaps they should employ him as a consultant to check the security of their systems in future.

söndag 13 april 2014

Forgotten cost of Scottish independence

One of the hidden costs of Scottish independence has never even been mentioned yet - haggis-proof fencing along the border. The vicious little beasts are both excellent climbers and burrowers. They can dig down a metre deep, which means that hundreds of miles of expensive fencing will have to be erected along the border. All vehicles will have to be carefully checked at crossing points to make sure that none of them escape, or are smuggled into England.

onsdag 9 april 2014

Scottish independence peril

Following a "yes" vote, the Loch Ness monster will awake from his slumber, opening a fiery fissure from Fort William to Inverness. A vast subterranean magma chamber will spew forth its contents and create a molten lava field which will eventually bury the whole of Great Britain in a layer six metres thick. Clouds of poison gas will spread all round the globe. A decade of summerless years will cause mass starvation and will be followed by an ice age which will go on for 100,000 years.

måndag 7 april 2014

Crossrail - one railway for the price of two

Expectations of an imminent start on a new north-south rail line across London have been damped, with the former chief executive of Network Rail warning that no work on “Crossrail 2” will happen in the next decade. (FT article)

The route, on a south-west to north-east axis from Chelsea to Hackney, was first proposed as a tube line in 1901 and has popped up regularly ever since. Now Crossrail was also originally intended to relieve the congested Central Line and the northern part of the Circle Line. This could have been satisfied by building another tube line on roughly the present alignment from Paddington to Stratford. In an easterly direction, it might have continued to, perhaps, Woolwich, and at the westerly end, it might have run to Hammersmith, and possibly, eventually, Heathrow.

The London tube uses small 3.5 metre diameter tunnels and electrification by conductor rail. Crossrail, by contrast, is a full-sized railway with overhead electrification, requiring 6 metre tunnels. Thus, almost four times as much material has to be excavated, and costs cannot be less then double the cost of a tube line.

Thus, for the price of Crossrail 1, Londoners could have had both Crossrail 1 and Crossrail 2 for their money. Thus is the money wasted on over-specified infrastructure. How did this happen?

HS2 threatens wildlife habitats, MPs warn.

The Government should examine the option of the maximum speed being reduced from 225 mph to 185 mph to cut carbon emissions, says the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee. The report calls for full environmental surveys along the length of the route and ringfencing of cash to preserve habitats. Guardian article.

tisdag 18 mars 2014

Save Carlander Park

Google maps
Carlanda Hospital plans to build 7,000 square metres of additional space, to enable it to expand its services, and also to provide accommodation suitable for modern medical technology. Unfortunately, it is not a good scheme and will practically destroy a valuable local amenity. A better solution is needed.

Existing building and park
The present hospital is a building of distinction and historic interest in an attractive landscape setting with mature trees. The park and building are important both for the immediate neighbourhood and in the wider context of the city. The hospital building itself, with its distinctive outline, is a conspicuous landmark visible from a distance, for example when travelling northwards from Mölndal. The park and hospital provides a fitting climax to the formal classical red-brick buildings on the two sides of Eklandagatan, with the group of trees at the north end of the park being visible from Korsvägen.

The park is both an important local amenity and part of the linked series of green spaces that extend all the way across the city centre, which make it possible to walk long distances in an environment dominated by trees. These green spaces also have an important function in helping to keep the oxygen balance and the air cleaner, in an area with high pollution and particle load. It is important to note also that areas immediately adjacent have been reserved for construction shafts for Västlänken which will bring thousands of lorries to the area, further adding to the area’s pollution levels.

What is wrong with the proposal?
The proposed building will destroy the open ambience of the park and at the same time largely hide the existing 1927 building, in the National Romantic style. Apart from the use of brick cladding, the bulk, form and elevational treatment of the building appear to bear little relationship to the site and the neighbouring buildings, including the original hospital and the residential buildings surrounding the park. The new building could, in fact, have been designed to be free-standing on a green-field site anywhere. The design is not a response to the specific character of the site and its neighbours. It is uninspiring in the extreme.

The visual impact cannot be reliably judged in the absence of walk-through videos which should have been provided at this stage. However, from drawing so far released, it can be seen that the building so close to the path through the park and it will dominate the view as seen by pedestrians walking in both directions. The perspectives are misleading, in that they show the building half-hidden behind trees which are in poor condition and likely not to survive for much longer, if indeed, they outlast the the building process. The same applies to some of the other trees, in particular the magnificent mature copper beech towards the south end of site.

Other options
The best solution for the park would be for no further construction to take place on it. Taken together with proposed university developments in Näckrosdamm park, the cumulative effect is to damage two of the links in the network of green spaces that cross the city centre. Possible solutions involving no further development include
  • Construction of the hospital extension on another site eg brown field land to the east side of Mölndalväg.
  • Relocation of the hospital to a new building on another site. The existing building might then be re-used as a hotel or for university purposes.
  • Use as a hotel, in a scheme similar to the Clarion group’s Posthuset development, which would mean that members of the public would continue to have access.
It appears that new building elsewhere on the site is precluded as the land is reserved for construction of Västlänken tunnels. If this were not the case, other options would have included building on the Södra Vägen frontage or extending the main building northwards. Given this restriction, there remain further possibilities.

One option would be to complete the original proposed scheme for the hospital, ie with the same plan and mass, but in a contemporary idiom which was a paraphrase of the original architectural style. A precedent here is the scheme for the extension of Covent Garden by Jeremy Dixon of Building Design Partnership.

Finally, there is the option for amending the design of the current proposal. Alternatives to the flat roof-line should be offered, either a pitched form or curved forms. A curved plan, similar to Pedagogen might fit the site better. The use of matching materials has not resulted in a building that matches or even fits the context. The converse seems to be case. A clear or mirror class facade would almost certainly have less of an obtrusive visual impact that the brick facade shown in the drawings. Alternative elevational treatments should be presented.

The proposal is for a dull and uninspiring building which would damage both a historical environment and a space which forms part of the city’s network of green walk-ways. Other options should be considered, including
  • relocation of the hospital to a new site, with reuse of the existing building
  • construction of the extension on a separate site
  • an alternative scheme which completed the original proposal for the hospital, but in a modern idiom which as a paraphrase of the 1927 design
  • amendments to the current proposal to lighten its visual impact
Alternative proposals should be prepared and presented for public consultation. Presentations should include walk-through videos so that people not familiar with reading architectural drawings can appreciate what the proposals will look like when built.

Refurbishment of the park should also be an integral part of any scheme.
  • Some of the existing trees are in poor condition and plans need to be made for their replacement to allow for a succession of healthy trees in the future.
  • The parking and waste recyling area at the north end of the park is unsightly and needs to be redesigned.
  • The car parking area at the south end needs to be redesigned.
  • Walkways need to be constructed in accordance with the routes that people actually take, including the path to the bus stop in Eklandagatan and through the south-end car park.
  • The wire mesh boundary fence should be replaced by a fence of better quality.

lördag 15 mars 2014

Matthew Locke 1621-1677

I had always been under the impression that Matthew Locke was one of the minor seventeenth century composers. Locke was part of the unlucky generation to be caught up in the Civil War and then the Commonwealth. He lived in the Netherlands for a while and became a Roman Catholic. During the Protectorate, there was no place for church musicians, but he wrote a number of pieces for the theatre and was appointed to a position in court at the Restoration.

Locke has been eclipsed by the better known Henry Purcell, but listening to this set for The Tempest, the verdict seems unjust. I am not suggesting that Purcell was a plagiarist, but there are pieces here which turn up almost unchanged in some of the Purcell settings such as the Faerie Queen. The practice of re-using earlier music was widespread in the Baroque period. Handel was a master of the art, but it must be a good thing to acknowledge the source.

fredag 31 januari 2014

HS2 benefits 'made up', economists tell MPs

Government calculations used to justify the £50 billion HS2 scheme were “essentially made up” a former member of Whitehall’s high speed rail advisory panel has told MPs.

Henry Overman, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics said he had quit the panel after he felt its role had changed from providing independent advice to promoting the project.

Article in Daily Telegraph.

Ricardo’s Law in brief