söndag 30 december 2018

lördag 29 december 2018

EU charge sheet

From the EU website:

The European Commission is the EU’s politically independent executive arm. It is alone responsible for drawing up proposals for new European legislation, and it implements the decisions of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

There is the key problem: the Commission alone can propose and consequently acts as a gatekeeper. Nor is it politically independent. The Commission appointments are made by politicians and the members are politicians; it is misleading to compare it to the British Civil Service. Add in multi-member constituencies and there is a built-in disconnection between individuals and their representatives.

The EEC was founded on the the principle of subsidiarity. In practice, subsidiarity was been ignored. The EUs trade and economic policies neglect the basic principles of sound economic practice as they had been understood since before the end of the eighteenth century. Four blunders is an achievement: CAP, VAT (a condition for membership), putting a tariff wall around the Single Market, and the Euro. All four would have been recognised as the road to ruin by anyone with even a passing knowledge of the teachings of the Classical Economists: the French Physiocrats, Smith, Ricardo and J S Mill.
  • The first two incarnations of CAP were absurd, with food mountains and drinks lakes, the present one - handouts to landowners - is a reverse Robin Hood scandal.
  • There could be no worse tax than VAT; it fails all four of the Canons of Taxation, the long-established set of criteria for judging the soundness of a tax.
  • Tariff barriers impoverish the many at to the benefit of the protected few and come with a heavy administrative cost.
  • The Euro is a flawed conception. With financial and banking crises looming in Italy, Spain, Greece and Ireland, 2019 will probably see its demise in its present form; the likeliest outcome is that Germany will pull out. The Euro has given Germany an unrealistically undervalued currency which has given rise to persistent surpluses and unnecessarily high prices for German consumers and German manufacturers. The converse effect has adversely affected the peripheral countries of southern Europe. The absurd situation has now arisen that the German surpluses can only be lent to countries who are unlikely to be able to pay it back.
What we see is what one would expect when Ricardian principles of economics are ignored: overheating at the geographical core and depression at the periphery. The Cohesion Policy does little to address the issue. As Lady Bracknell said of lost parents, ‘To have one misconceived policy is a misfortune; to have a string of them like carelessness.’ That is a consistent pattern with the EU. It has, for example, been known for decades that VAT fraud is substantial and endemic, but never is there a suggestion that the basic concept of VAT is flawed and that a replacement should be sought. Is the EU, as an institution, incapable of learning anything?


But even the well-intentioned policies go wrong in their execution or timing. The Directive on filament bulbs was imposed two years too soon, resulting in a heap of mercury-contaminated waste from the CF bulbs which were the only alternative at the time, when it was known that LED lighting would soon be available. In the railway industry, on which I keep a close watch, the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) project has been an inconclusive and expensive saga, promising much but delivering little. The Technical Standards for Interoperability (TSI) come with heavy compliance costs; the latest standards for electrification are an important reason why further electrification in the UK has been put on hold.

From another perspective, none of this is surprising. Government at all levels - and I have seen this from the inside - has a propensity for making bad decisions. Other considerations get in the way of good decisions. It is for this reason that the less government, and the fewer levels of government, the better. At each level of government, there are key services which only government can provide. You could say that the function of government is to prevent people from treading on each others toes and keeping sharks and snakes under control, but they are far fewer than those in which government gets involved in.

There is indeed a legitimate function for a continent-wide level of government such as the EU, but it is not the dirigiste organisation it has become.

fredag 14 december 2018

New train design fail

The 800 series stock have 88 seats in the trailer cars. Realistically, they could have 80. They have 9 bays ie 72 seats, and another 8 could be fitted in. I don't know what the bay dimension is, but optimal is 1.90 meters. I suspect the bays are 2.0 metres.

British railways are optimised for vehicles 20 metres long, with space for 64 seats and a couple of toilets. This was established in 1951. That allows them to be full width, nominally 2.82 metres, which is the old C1 loading gauge. These are the dimension of British Railways mark 1 stock, as well as the recent types running mostly south of London. Vehicles with these dimensions can run anywhere on the system.

Longer 23 metre vehicle (Mark 3) were introduced in 1971 to a new loading gauge, C3. These are 2.74 metres wide ie 8 cm narrower than the Mark 1 stock; the reduced width is to provide the additional clearance on curves where the vehicles overhang more. They also have a restricted range of operation as routes have to be specially approved to ensure that they can run safely, and works have had to be carried out such as cutting back of platform edges. A 23 metre vehicle allows for 72 seats, perhaps 76, at a bit of a squeeze.

The 800 series are, as you say, a nominal 26 metres. These are the same width as the mark 3 stock but are tapered from the doorways to the ends; this means that about 6 metre length of each vehicle is not full wide and cannot be used for seating. Further additional works are having to be carried out to accommodate these; I understand that there are still issues at certain stations with sharply curved platforms. The tapered end areas can be used for luggage but it is not safe storage as they are out of sight from the passengers.

There is a further loss in width due to the use of pocketed sliding doors, instead of plug doors. Due to the tapered ends, these doors cannot slide towards the vehicle ends but slide inwards and intrude into the seating areas, which means that there are 8 windowless seats at the ends of each car. From which it can be concluded that 26 metre vehicles are too long for the British system and the choice was a bad decision.

If you look at the train as a whole, the use of the space is inefficient. They are five-car units which are in most cases coupled together. This results in large driving cab areas uselessly located in the centre of the trains. These waste not only space but also the considerable investment in providing them with all the costly equipment which now has to be fitted into a driving cab, and these cabs are not just the cubicle style of driving cab customary on conventional multiple unit trains such as the Great Western’s own Class 387 Electrostars, but large cabs with a sloping apron in front. Because they are not provided with through gangway connections, the two halves of the train have to be fully staffed, and there is more wasted space as two sets of catering facilities have to be provided. These are inefficient trains to operate.

Finally, for reasons which are not immediately obvious but are probably due to the length of the vehicles and the large relative movement between them on curves, there is an exceptionally wide gap between each pair of vehicles, which is more wasted space. In the case of mark 1 stock, this was just 30 cm, resulting in a very short ‘tunnel’ to pass through from coach to coach.

All in all, then, these are a poor concept. No criticism of Hitachi in intended here, because they have achieved a high standard of finish inside and out, with a real feeling of quality. The blame lies with the Department for Transport who specified the trains. These trains are, incidentally, probably the most expensive trains in the world for normal speed running.

tisdag 11 december 2018

Diminishing returns of British high speed rail

The typical inter-city journey in Britain is about 100 miles. Now look at this table of speeds and journey times; remember that to achieve an average speed of 100 mph will involve a period of running at 120 mph or more.
  • 30 mph, 3 h 20 m 
  • 40 mph, 2 h 30 m 
  • 50 mph, 2 h 
  • 60 mph, 1 h 40 m 
  • 70 mph, 1 h 26 m 
  • 80 mph, 1 h 15 m 
  • 90 mph, 1 h 7 m
  • 100 mph 1 h 

The time savings for each successive 10 mph speed increment are 50, 30, 20, 14, 11, 8 and 6 minutes respectively. It is a situation of diminishing returns.

It gets worse than that, because there are break points. 50 mph is the maximum operating speed for light rail. After that, the regulations for heavy rail come in, which affects safety standards, signalling systems, vehicle design and track design, with engineering costs to match. At 100 mph, the EU’s Technical Standards for Interoperability apply, which are even more stringent; at over 125 mph, there is another step change, in design requirements, and for TGV speeds, yet another. All of these factors generate higher costs for construction and equipment, as well as additional wear-and-tear, which has implications for running costs.

There is more. The faster the running speed, the less the curvature, which restricts the choice of route. Then there is the physics. At speeds above 80 mph, air resistance is an increasingly important factor. Energy consumption is proportional to the square of the speed. This gives rise to a situation of accelerating costs, added to the diminishing returns referred to earlier.

Where stations are relatively close, there is little opportunity for running at top speed. For the stretch between Reading and Didcot, trains are approaching Pangbourne before they are running at 125 mph and are already braking soon after they have passed Cholsey.

All these factors give rise to high costs which means that sophisticated yield management systems must be used to fill each train; HS rail is not a walk on service. This means that passengers have to allow plenty of time in order to be sure of arriving at the terminus in time to catch the train for the journey they have paid for. Prudence would suggest between 30 minutes to an hour. This of course adds to effective journey time, resulting in the paradoxical situation that a slower, walk-on service can offer shorter transit than the high speed train where you arrive long in advance and then go and have a coffee while you wait for the train you have booked for.

HS rail is centre-to-centre, but most journey are not, and involve a local trip at one or both ends. It is much more cost-effective to cut times for local journeys, which carry a volume of traffic a couple of orders of magnitude greater than long distance routes.

måndag 10 december 2018

The real Crossrail scandal

Crossrail has been plagued by delays and cost over-runs which have attracted widespread criticism. A simpler scheme, possibly a tube line, could have been built for, perhaps, 40% of the cost, given 80% of the benefits and opened 15 years ago. However, the scheme as it is will transform ease of movement in and across London and will be adequate for many decades to come, which a new tube will not have been. The delays and extra cost will soon be forgotten.

The real Crossrail scandal is that it will generate many times the construction cost in land value uplift but the taxpayers will see little of that back in return for the money that has been spent.

onsdag 21 november 2018

Brexit fishing row

The EU has consistently got its fishing policy wrong. There used to be a flourishing inshore fishing industry all along the Sussex coast, with a self-policing mafia. After 1973, the French fishermen came across and scooped the sea clean. In another ill-conceived incarnation of fishing policy, the result was that small fish were thrown back into the sea, dead.

This is a good example of where Georgist principles could apply. The seas within UK territorial waters would be divided into zones – Worthing, Shoreham, Brighton, Newhaven, Eastbourne and Hastings, for example, for which a limited number of fixed term licences would be bid in an open auction, something like the auction for radio spectrum; there would also be zones where no fishing at all was permitted, to allow stocks to recover. There might be a limit on the size of boats which could be used – ten metres, perhaps.

The bids would be open to anyone; if French fishermen thought it worthwhile to use fuel and spend the time to cross the Channel in a small boat
to fish off the Sussex coast, then they might out-bid the locals, but locals would have the natural advantage.

The system would be a fair one and the revenue would go towards providing protection and research.

söndag 4 november 2018

EU threat to YouTube.

When the new EU copyright rules kick-in, I would expect a lot of the remainers will be losing their enthusiasm. Being inside the EU, I have already come across numerous non-working links due to EU regulation. Reminder to self: sort out VPN.

Monster puzzle

I came across this project to restore these monster American locomotives which dated from the 1940s. In principle, they consist (since many survive as historic monuments) of two large locomotives with one boiler supplying the steam. What I do not understand is the rationale behind the immensely complicated design.

The same effect was achieved more simply by the Beyer-Garatt configuration, with two engine units and a boiler slung in between on a carrying frame. The space over the engine units was used for fuel and water. The boiler was set low down, giving the engines a low centre of gravity which made them suitable for high speed running. Large numbers of this type were built for use in Commonwealth countries and some narrow gauge (2ft) examples are running on the Welsh Highland Railway.

In principle, the Beyer-Garatt could be much larger than any that were every built; a double 2‑10‑2 would have been practicable, with no limitation to the size of the boiler. The puzzle is why, when faced with demands for more powerful locomotives, ALCO rejected, or did not consider, the Beyer-Garatt?

söndag 21 oktober 2018

“Asian” child grooming gangs

An article in the Observer discusses what should be done about what it describes as “Asian child grooming gangs”. It says that, “It is imperative, though, to be clear that exploring this question to inform the prevention of abuse in no way implies whole ethnic or faith communities are more likely to sexually abuse children than others.”

But then again, the question needs to be answered. Skirting round it helps to feed the rumour mill and the real racism, not the genuine concern that there is one faith group (which one could it be?) which seems to be disproportionately represented in these cases. If this is really the case, then the reasons need to be explored.

The Observer does not help by trying to promote diversionary arguments like “Asian men are more likely to work in the night-time economy, which gives them greater opportunity to exploit vulnerable children.”

And it is disingenuous to blame the authorities, as the authors of the article attempt to do. “The disgusting prejudice towards the mainly white, working-class victims in places such as Rotherham and Rochdale was not limited to the mainly Asian perpetrators, but extended to the police and social workers.” It is the attitudes fostered by the Observer and its ilk which have forced the police and social workers to look away in order to avoid accusations of racism.

torsdag 11 oktober 2018

Should employment be subsidised?

With increasing automation, it has been suggested that it will be necessary to subsidise jobs. Is there anything in this idea?

There are unlimited amounts of work waiting to be done. It can be done by people with little in the way of formal qualifications and which cannot easily be automated.

However, the suggestion of subsidy raises a key point. Real wages are the net purchasing power of take-home pay ie take-home pay minus sales taxes, in particular VAT.

Gross labour costs to employers are take-home pay, plus wage-related employer taxes, primarily NIC, plus taxes nominally payable by employees, ie employee’s NIC plus employee’s PAYE Income Tax.

The difference between the two used to be called the Tax Wedge, but the term has gone out of fashion. Another way of expressing it is to say that the incidence of all labour related taxes, including those nominally done by employees, is on the employer. Depending on pay levels, it is between 60% and 90% of net purchasing power of wages, and amounts to a huge employment surcharge falling on the employer. The UK is not the worst country in this respect, not by a long way. In Sweden, the tax surcharge on top of net real wages is more than 100%.

The consequences are that there is a substantial incentive to replace labour by capital – eg self-service checkouts – and that wages cannot fall to market-clearing levels.

Before we talk about employment subsidies, we should think about tax reforms, initially particular, through the substantial increase in tax and NI thresholds so as to take low skilled people out of tax altogether. There is no point in paying employment subsidies and then taking it back in tax.

onsdag 26 september 2018

Västlänken no longer needed

Rosa and Blå Express bus routes have now been re-routed to run direct from Järntorget to Nordstan and Centralstationen, via the Opera House. That solves the problem of the long journey time between the station and the west side of Gothenburg city centre, which is the main benefit of Västlänken.

If these buses are not sufficient, a new route could be introduced to run from the station to Järntorget via the inner ring road (past Heden).

So now Västlänken can be dropped and a few tens of billions of kronor saved.

måndag 24 september 2018

Brexit puzzle

The UK government is not proposing to restrict the flow of goods INTO the UK, nor is the EU proposing to restrict the flow of goods OUT of the the EU. That poses a set of questions, but not the ones that are being asked; there have been warnings about Britain running short of food after Brexit, due to customs delays. But there has been no threat of sanctions against the UK, so what is this all about?

More relevant was an article last week in the Guardian described the problem of reinstatement of customs at Rotterdam. EU rules will require customs checks on goods from Britain at every port. However, there does not seem to be any corresponding need to do the same thing at Harwich and Felixstowe, nor does the UK government appear to have the inclination to commit the considerable resources.

Likewise, passengers arriving at E27 destinations from the UK will theoretically have to declare goods purchased in the UK. I can envisage being made to queue for customs checks on returning home to Gothenburg after a visit to the UK. If day trippers to Dieppe are liable to be frisked by French customs, what will that do for the economy of Dieppe?

The problem is one primarily for the EU. It arises because of the way the Single Market is constructed. Why is nobody picking this up?

lördag 22 september 2018

Palestinian dream comes true

In the dream, the Jewish Israelis all pack up and go, leaving only the Christians, Muslims and Druze. The Palestinian refugees, now in their third generation and numbering five million descendants of the estimated 700,000, can now return.

To redress all the other injustices, compensation is be paid to the estates of 1948 landowners on the basis of 1948 use value, plus 70 years rent. Tenants displaced in 1948 are compensated on the basis of 70 years disturbance.

That raises a practical question. How would the restored ownership and tenancy rights be allocated seventy years later? Would there be a court to settle disputes between claimants, eg second cousins? How long would it take to settle these disputes, which would inevitably arise? What would happen in the meantime?

onsdag 19 september 2018

Will strawberries rot in British fields?

Conflicting predictions are being made by Brexit opponents.
  • Brexit will lead to the collapse of British agriculture and industry.
  • There will not be sufficient workers for seasonal agricultural work.
Both predictions cannot be true. Assuming a near, but not total collapse, there will be millions of unemployed workers willing to pick strawberries at a pittance wage.

Fantasy aside, there are not a fixed number of workers in a country, any more than there is a fixed amount of work to be done. Unemployment in the UK is allegedly at a very low level, though this conceals big regional and sectoral differences. Unemployment figures are also politically loaded. There has, for decades, been a drive to remove the unemployed, in one way or another, from the numbers of those seeking work or potentially economically active. The amount of harassment needed to claim benefit and remain as an unemployed statistic is an incentive to drop off the list, thereby becoming classified as not economically active. Thus the alleged full employment is a heavily massaged statistic.

The cry from employers that they will not get enough immigrant workers is, in the main, a plea to allow them to continue to pay skinflint wages. If it is worth their while, people not economically active will join and augment the workforce: students on vacation, over-50s who have given up the hopeless task of finding work, active elderly pensioners, even people who are unfit for work.

For decades, employers have been difficult about employing people in indifferent health or over 50. If more people are to enter employment, employers will have to be more generous and accommodating. That would be an excellent outcome from Brexit.

torsdag 13 september 2018

Was the Swedish election result fiddled?

The rumour mill in Sweden is increasingly talking about election fraud. There is certainly a big discrepancy between the pre-election predictions and the result, particularly in the case of the Sverigedemokraterna (SD), which is about one-third down.

There were reports that there were no voting slips for the SD at many polling stations (there is a different slip for each party), and that counts and registration of votes may have been irregular. The government website crashed for over an hour after the election.

The Swedish voting system is complicated and the votes are not counted as they are in Britain. It does not happen under the eye of the public, as in Britain, where the ballot papers are sorted and counted in a large hall, closely watched by scrutineers from all the parties. Nor is there the exciting moment when the Returning Officer stands up to announce the result.

There is much wrong with the British first past the post system, where people vote for the major party or candidate they dislike least, but the nuts and bolts of the British election procedure are less vulnerable to tampering. The Swedish system lacks transparency. It needs to be changed before people lose confidence in it, and from that point, lose confidence in democracy itself.

Sweden is now saddled with a government that most people do not want, and which has failed to deal with the mounting number of problems in the country. Expect growing unrest. In the meantime – and an election may not be far off – expect increasing unrest and the rise of the genuinely nasty far right. This has created the situation that they feed on.

tisdag 11 september 2018

Time for a new centre party in Britain?

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, shocked by the shift of the Labour Party back to the Marxist Left, has argued that it is time.

My reaction is just a weary, “Here we go again!”. In the 1980s it was called “Militant”. Now it is “Momentum”. Behind it are the same public sector white collar staff and college lecturers.

We need to think beyond the one-dimensional Left-Right political model. Left and Right are both failed paradigms. Both are driven, conceptually, from the extremes. It was Lenin who said that “The wind always blows from the Left”. At the other end of this spectrum is the false libertarianism inspired by thinkers such as Rothbard, Benson and David Friedmann (son of Milton),

More success is likely from a party which stood in a triangular relationship to Left and Right, as indeed did the British Liberal Party until the end of World War 2. If it had held to its guiding principles, an alliance with the centrist SDP would not have hapened since it would have been conceptually impossible.

Perhaps an updated Gladstonian Liberal Party is just what the country needs. Where it realises this or would support it is another question. Given that its values were Judeo-Christian, it is unlikely; we will continue to flounder around. The future will look more like the present post-election mess in Sweden, a state of affairs that affects all western-type democracies.

måndag 10 september 2018

Protectionist question

Here is a mystery which I cannot unravel.

The Midland Railway procured a fleet of locomotives from US manufacturers in 1899. This is what was said about them.

The American 2-6-0 tender engines were erected at Derby in 1899 and were supplied by Burnham Williams and Co., namely Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia and by the Schenectady Locomotive Works, New York. Recourse was made to America as the Derby shops were full to capacity with work, and the private locomotive builders were in the midst of a boom and suffering from strikes. As more six-coupled locomotives were needed Johnson (the Midland Railway’s Chief Mechanical Engineer), in company with his opposite numbers on the Great Central and Great Northern Railways, obtained sanction to purchase from the USA and orders for thirty locomotives were placed with Baldwin and ten with Schenectady. 

Within a few weeks the first crates arrived at the Derby Works on 24 May 1899, the engines having been previously assembled and then dismantled again at the parent companies works. Space was found at the bottom end of No 3 bay in No 8 shop at Derby for the re-erection of the Schenectady locomotives, but the Baldwin's exceeded the capacity of the shops and space was cleared in front of the Locomotive Works offices and they were erected out in the open, this fortunately being summer time. The first Baldwin was ready to go into service by the end of May, the range of running numbers allocated to this type being 2501-10 and 2521-40, and the first ten locomotives were completed by the end of the following month. 

These engines were almost entirely American save the Johnson coal-rails and MR buffing and drawgear. They had the normal (for the USA) bar frames and outside cylinders (18in x 24in) with inside valve gear. The driving wheels were 5ft diameter on a wheelbase of 6ft 3in + 8ft 6in and the pony truck wheels were 2ft 9in diameter, being 7ft 5in in front of the leading driving wheel. The boiler was pressed to 160psi and had three domes of varying sizes, one being a sand box on the first ring of the boiler, the next the steam dome housing the regulator and twin Coale pop safety valves and the last and smallest one housing chime whistle and spring safety valve. The cabs were very large by Midland standards with two side windows. One unusual feature was the bar steel support struts from the smokebox to the footplating over the pony truck. 

The last 20 Baldwins were built between September and November, 1899 and the class was divided between the Toton, Sheffield and Leeds running depots. A driver of that day, James Gibbs Hardy, observed very rough workmanship when the crates of material arrived, but modified his criticism when the first commenced running on 21 June commented in his diary, splendid weather cab, upholstered seats and the engine looks considerably better now it is in working order. He had one of these engines No 2503, booked to him to do 1000 miles and found them hard to reverse and rather poor steamers. He took the first one to Normanton where everyone stared at it, and on 24 July took the first one up the Peak to Manchester, recording that she went up the bank with 80-901b of steam. By August 8, he had completed his 1000 miles and was very glad to get rid of her. 

The Schenectadys were rather nearer to looking like Midland engines, although they also had bar frames. The outside cylinders were 18in x 24 in and the tapered boiler was pitched 7ft lin from rail, the working pressure being 160psi. Driving wheels were 5ft diameter on a 7ft + 8ft 6in wheelbase and the pony truck, having 3ft diameter wheels was placed 7ft 6in in front of the leading driving wheel. Total wheelbase was 43ft and length over buffers 51ft 11¼in with basically Midland 3,250gal tender on a shorter 12ft 3in wheelbase. Working weights were engine 49.75 tons and tender 37 tons. 

These were all stationed at Wellingborough. These engines were not popular and some criticisms reached America causing bad feeling. Johnson (the MR Chief Mechanical Engineer) gave some comparable figures quoting that, work for work, they consumed 20-25% more coal, and 50% more oil than his standard goods engines, while repairs cost 60% more. To their credit he observed that the engines cost £400 less than their British counterparts, and were at least supplied within a few months of the contract being placed, while he had to wait about three years for locomotives ordered from British firms, due in the main to the engineering strike which had forced the Midland Company to buy Yankee in the first place.

They didn’t last very long on any of the three railways which had them, which was a pity, as the basic design concept was advanced by British standards.

With their large comfortable enclosed cabs and easy access to working parts, they should have been popular with the enginemen and set the standard for future production. Similar locomotives, the 4300 class were built soon after by the Great Western, and then by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (class N) and Great Northern (LNER class K2), and after 1923, several hundred, such as as the LNER K1 class, the LMS classes 4MT and 2MT, and the British Railways classes 2, 3 and 4. They were a popular and versatile type suitable for both passenger and freight trains. But the imports were not up to the job and were quickly scrapped - all were gone by 1914.

What was the reason for the unpopularity and poor performance? Could it be that the US manufacturers were protected by trade tariffs and therefore not worried about competition?

The US railways were not unconcerned about efficiency. An inefficient locomotive does less work than an efficient one of the same size. So a larger locomotive is needed to pull the same load as an efficient smaller one could have done. Efficiency adds next to nothing to the construction cost of a steam locomotive, as it is a matter of getting critical dimensions right and putting the machine together so that the steam and oil does not leak away. The Chicago and Northwestern Railway had its own testing plant, where in 1896, experiments were conducted for the Master Mechanics’ Association under the supervision of Professor W F M Goss of Purdue University - just in time for the information to be used for the Midland Railway machines.

This makes the example of the locomotives supplied to the Midland Railway is curious. The thermal efficiency of the Midland’s own locomotives, such as the 2P class 4-4-0, was poor, due to the short-travel valves; they were no match for the superficially similar Southern classes D1, E1 and L1. Standard Midland Railway axleboxes were a perpetual nuisance. Worse still, like most British locomotives at the time, they had internal cylinders and a crank axle, an expensive item. They were an easy target to beat.

Foreign appearance notwithstanding, the Yankee engines ought to have been an immediate success and forerunner of large orders for the US companies.What is behind this story?

söndag 9 september 2018

Crossrail delayed

The opening of Crossrail has been delayed by yet another year. It never was a good scheme. The stated need was for additional capacity on the northern section of the Metropolitan between Paddington and Liverpool Street. This could have been met by a new tube line between Paddington and Liverpool Street, on the same alignment as Crossrail. Because these are not logical starting points, it might have run westward to Heathrow and/or Hammersmith (the Metropolitan branch), and eastward to Stratford or Woolwhich, but as a tube.

With no need to run on the national network, and running in tunnels of just over half the diameter, it could have been completed 15 years ago at a fraction of the cost.

This was a bad case of mission creep. Like HS2.

fredag 24 augusti 2018

Clerical abuse misrepresentation

An article in the Guardian by an abuse victim refers yet again to abuse of “children”. But since the author of the article was fifteen at the time, this was not child abuse but under-age homosexual abuse. Indeed, this seems to be the nature of most of this abuse, which, technically speaking is not paedophilia but ephebophilia.

Why, therefore, is this epidemic of abuse still being referred to as child abuse by critics of the Catholic Church? Is it because there is a desire to cover up another reality? If so, why?

The author also states that the abuse continued for two-and-a-half years, which raises the question of why the victim allowed it to continue for so long? A punch in the face from a fifteen year old would have put a stop to this and no priest would have dared reported such an assault to the police.

torsdag 16 augusti 2018

Stifling discussion

The FT has run a couple of pieces on Sweden this week. The first was a report of the outbreak of car burning, the second, today, on the rise of Sverigedemocraterna, described as a populist party with Nazi roots, which is probably not far short of the mark.

Around ten this morning, there were about 150 comments, most of them reasonable; a few had been removed. By lunchtime, all the comments had been hidden and the article was no longer open for comments.

The same phenomenon hit the Guardian a couple of years ago. Comment is Free is no longer free, with only the most trivial topics being open for comment.

This is precisely the kind of thing which gives rise to a sense that the media is being controlled by an elite which will tolerate no criticism. Its main effect is to boost the populist right.

fredag 3 augusti 2018

Today - a sad Golden Jubilee

The last timetabled steam train on British Railways ran exactly fifty years ago, Saturday 3rd August 1968. That evening, Preston station was packed with enthusiasts and general public alike to witness the departure of the last two ordinary, timetabled steam hauled trains. The Blackpool train had already left at 20.50 behind 45212. Everyone now waited for the very last one of all, the 21.25 Preston (ex Glasgow) to Liverpool Exchange leave with LMS Class 5, 45318 at the head of a packed train. The driver of the train, Ernie Heyes died on 25th June 2010, aged 75. RIP.

The following week, Saturday 11th August, ran the famous 15 Guinea special, and that was the end. British Railways enforced a total ban on steam, which in the event, and entirely unexpectedly, lasted for only three years, with the running, in the autumn of 1971, of a special train headed by the Great Western locomotive King George V.

So disappeared as characteristic feature of the English landscape as the hedgerow elms. The demise of steam in Britain was a shameful story of waste and political interference driven by an absurd concern for ‘image‘, an issue which continues to get in the way of good decisions in almost every sphere of business and industry.

torsdag 2 augusti 2018

Business students more likely to have brain parasite

An analysis of students in the US has found that those who have a certain type of brain parasite are more likely to be majoring in business studies. Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite carried by cats, can infect people through contact with cat faeces, poorly cooked meat, or contaminated water. The parasite forms cysts in the brain where it can remain for the rest of a person’s life. Some studies have linked infection with the parasite to slower reaction times, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, suicidal behaviour, and explosive anger.

I wonder what the incidence of this disease is among politicians? It could explain quite a lot. Would it be a good idea, for the safety of the public, that they were screened?


måndag 25 juni 2018

Swansea Bay barrage dropped

This project sounds like one of those environmentally friendly schemes which is almost certainly just the opposite. Just a few of the doubts concern...
  • The embodied energy of the concrete structure.
  • The effect on wildlife, including fish and wading birds.
  • The long-term consequences of the scheme, eg silting and pollution.
  • Maintenance issues eg marine growth on the turbines, and silting again.
The uncompetitive cost of the electricity it would generate gives some indication of the embodied energy the scheme would absorb before any power was generated. I am inclined to think it is a good thing that the scheme has been abandoned.

onsdag 20 juni 2018

Västlänken - the chaos begins

Next week come the first major disruptions due to Västlänken. Major alterations to Gothenburg’s tram services are always a feature of the summer as the holiday season is set aside for renewal of track. That is a story in itself, because the fleet of Italian trams that came into service in 2010 are inflexible and cause additional wear on curves. However, on top of this, there are closures in preparation for Västlänken, and to crown it all, the road tunnel along the Göta Älv will be closed for six months in one direction for the same reason. That will cause horrendous and widespread delays and congestion.

It is already proving to be a project too far, and that is just a month into the construction period.

In addition, trenches are appearing all over the place, blocking the entrances to shops and restaurants, which cannot be doing their business any good at all. I wonder how many bankruptcies there will be before the wretched scheme is complete?

onsdag 6 juni 2018

Microsoft’s underwater data centre

Microsoft’s underwater data centre idea plumbs the depths in several ways. The idea is to use cold surrounding seawater to dissipate the heat generated. This is of course low-grade heat, but it is perfectly suitable for the heating of buildings, hot water systems, etc, which adds up to a huge amount of energy use worldwide, especially in the colder parts of the world.

A data centre in Helsinki uses the waste heat in this way, heating a group of adjacent buildings. I would be happy to have a data centre in our basement if it meant no more heating bills. There is a fibre optic cable in the street outside, so there is no need for an underwater cable.

What are Microsoft engineers thinking of?

fredag 18 maj 2018

Minding the gap

Gaps between platforms and trains are another problem caused when there is a mis-match between the infrastructure and the trains. When the system was built in the early days of Queen Victoria, passenger carriages were short four-wheeled vehicles, typically less than 10 metres long. Over the next century, the standard length of a British passenger vehicle had risen to 20 metres. With bogies close to the ends, and about 14 metres apart, there would be a large gap on sharply curved concave platforms. This was not usually a problem with slam-door trains as passengers would lower the window inside the door and use the top of the window frame for support when getting on and off. The trains were also fitted with external handrails. This was not an ideal arrangement but it worked.

The first large scale use of sliding door trains on the national system adopted the 1/3:2/3 configuration, as in these class 313 trains seen here at Brighton. The size of the gap is obvious. From the mid-1980s, this 1:3:2/3 configuration became standard for all trains in Britain apart from the inter-city fleet, where end doors became the standard. The final BR designs, however, adopted a 1/4:3/4 configuration, with two seating bays between the vehicle ends and the doorway vestibule.  This was a feature of the Networker and derivatives of the design including the 20 metre Electrostar classes. This reduced the size of the gap because the doorway was only just inside the bogie wheelbase. The 23 metre Turbostars were similar, but with five bays instead of four between the doorways.

The new CAF Civity trains for Northern seem to have reintroduced the problem, as these are 23 metre vehicles with the doorways three bays in from the ends, and four bays between the doorways. As the photograph shows, the doorways are well inside the bogie wheelbase, which could give rise to large gaps at concave platform faces. We shall see.

The problem could of course be solved entirely if the trains were fitted with retractable steps, but that is a step too far, it appears.

onsdag 16 maj 2018

The UK loading gauge question


One would have thought that a priority for rolling stock designers would have been to make the best use of the limited UK loading gauge. Seemingly not. The illustration of the interior of the new locomotive-hauled Nova 3 coaches for Transpennine Express is taken from an article in International Railway Journal; I hope this is acceptable under the fair use of copyright rules.

Take a look at the skirting area. This shows the problem caused by the very sharp lower bodyside curvature apparent in exterior views of the stock. This example is almost the rule. The same thing affects much of the rolling stock built since 1990, including the BR-designed Networkers and the BREL Electrostars and Turbostars. The bodyside profile makes no sense within the parameters of the UK loading gauge.

As is well known, the British loading gauge is little bigger than that permitted for narrow gauge railways such as those of Japan and South Africa. This is mostly due to the closeness of adjacent tracks and the low bridges and tunnels, but the problem is aggravated by the British practice of having high platforms, approximately 90 cm high. The issue was carefully examined when British Railways was formed in 1948, and the result was the C1 loading gauge (diagram above), which applied to passenger vehicles of a nominal width of 20 metres with bogie centres 14.17 metres apart - as close as practical to the vehicle ends. The mark 1 stock was built to comply with this standard, and more recent stock such as the Bombardier class 377 Electrostars are constructed to the same main dimensions.

Eventually, longer vehicles came into use. These were made narrower, in accordance with a geometrical formula to take account of overthrow on curves. Another important change was the use of air springing which is softer, which meant that carriages had to be narrower at the cantrail, where the sides meet the roof.

As far as the passenger space is concerned, the salient point is that the maximum width of the loading gauge is available from 1.225 metres above rail level and upwards for about 1.2 metres, when the vehicle body has to become narrower. The C1 loading gauge for 20 metre vehicles allows a full 2.82 metres, tapering to 2.62 metres at the cantrail. Logically, it generates a profile similar to that in these vehicles below.

The important factor here is the floor height. The standard height used to be 1.3 metres, which resulted in no loss in width, leaving space for skirting level ducts without cutting into legroom; this is a feature of, for instance, all the BR mark 1 stock. The Hitachi 800 series are also unaffected due to the high floor level enforced due to the size of the underfloor engines. Suburban stock, on the other hand, with a lower standard floor height, can suffer badly from reduced floor width, although it does not affect the Siemens Desiro class 450 and similar types. That said, one wonders why lower bodyside curvature is needed on suburban stock at all as the footsteps project beyond the bodysides.

The problem can be seen clearly in the top photograph; passengers sitting next to the windows will only be able to put one foot on the floor unless they twist themselves at an angle. Why, then, do these vehicles have such pronounced lower bodyside curvature, since there is no necessity for it through loading gauge constraints?

UK productivity questions

The latest UK productivity figures for the first three months of 2018 are not good, prompting the usual recriminatory comments. However, there are basic questions which rarely seem to get asked.
  • Transport costs.
  • High reject rates. 
  • Remedial work having to be done on finished products.
  • Inefficient layout of factory premises.
  • Inefficient delivery of components and sub-assemblies to workbenches.
  • Works kept waiting for components to arrive.
  • Products not designed for efficient production.
  • Excessive down-time of plant and machinery. 
  • Poor communications between management and shop-floor workers. 

It is a subject that needs to be put under the microscope if remedies are to be found. Hand-wringing achieves nothing.

torsdag 10 maj 2018

The Journey East #10

Three of us were received into the Orthodox Church today. One of us was baptised in the lake and then Chrismated - anointed with Holy Oil, on the forehead, eyelids, ears, nose, mouth, hands and feet. The others two, being Roman Catholics, were only Chrismated, having been baptised already.

Many thanks to all involved, including those who acted as Godparents and Fr Mikael Fälthammar, who has given us the course of instruction and received us into the Church.

It is one of the most important event that anyone could have in their life. The journey is of course not over. This is a staging post on the journey.

lördag 5 maj 2018

Spare us the Marxfest

There is a flurry of articles about Marx today, it being the 200th anniversary of his birth on 5th May 1818. If only the Soviets/Red Guards/Khmer Rouge... had really understood, Marxism would have led to a paradise on earth.

fredag 4 maj 2018

Why do people still praise Marx?

Every so often someone comes up with an article in praise of Karl Marx and suggesting that we should take another look at what he wrote. If you have a subscription you can read the latest offering, in the FT of all places.

What Engels observed in England in 1840s Manchester was not capitalism. It was the consequence of the large scale land enclosures which had taken place between 1760 and 1840, which had transformed a self-sufficient peasantry into a class of wage slaves with no land rights. The bit about wage slaves was correct; the process by which this happened on the ground was described in detailed by the Hammonds in The Village Labourer.

The periodic economic crises which characterised the US economy, and indeed, the general development of the US, were analysed by Henry George in his book Progress and Poverty, published in 1879, which promptly became a bestseller, remained so for half a century and is still in print and available on-line.

George contradicts Marx, obliquely, by defining his initial concepts rigorously and noting that there are THREE factors of production, Land, Capital and Labour, as opposed to the TWO factors postulated by the Marx and his followers - Capital and Labour; Marxist theory buries the concept of Land by rolling it into the category of Capital (and sometimes wealth. Any possibility of analysing the particular and specific characteristics of Land economics, and its role in the economy, is thereby stymied.

Unsurprisingly, this suited the landowning interests, since the role of land was effectively airbrushed out of economics theory, with whole textbooks devoting just a paragraph to the the topic. Even Catholic Social Teaching did the same thing, with the original encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII, published in 1891 burying land under the category of Property. Keynesians did the same thing. So does Pickety, as does everyone who regards land as wealth, or refers to a housing crisis without making it clear that it is underpinned by a failure in the land market.

If there is one nineteenth century writer on political economy who needs to be re-evaluated, it is not Karl Marx but Henry George.

onsdag 2 maj 2018

Sickening article in the Guardian

This article paints a glowing picture of multi-cultural Malmö. I mentioned in comments that the recent immigration had had a disastrous effect on the Jewish community in the city. My comments have disappeared without trace.

So much for freedom of discussion. Left-liberalism, Guardian-style, is taking society down a road as dark as any the right could contrive.

måndag 30 april 2018

The Journey East #9

To leave the Catholic church one has to send a completed form to the local parish. I did not want to send it without an explanation. Here is the main part of what I wrote.

Since the arguments on both sides have been rehearsed endlessly and inconclusively for 1000 years, this is not something that can be resolved by recourse either to debate or history. There is nothing I could add; more erudite people than me have tried. If the Orthodox Church is heretical, then so must be all the saints in the pre-schism Church.

The issues come down to theology, ecclesiology, and their manifestation in liturgy, devotional practice, church architecture, art and music; it seems to me that the problems which have afflicted the Catholic church over the past forty years have their roots far back in Catholic ecclesiology.

One attends liturgy to come into the presence of almighty God. Since the Orthodox liturgy, and its setting, creates the most favourable possible circumstances for that encounter, my conclusion is that I should accept the providential grace which has made this opportunity available.

fredag 13 april 2018

Britain’s new inter city trains

I am planning to discuss the new Hitachi inter-city trains in several pieces on this blog. I put it under the heading of  “vanity schemes” because they were clearly not the best value-for-money replacement for the HST fleet and came about due to the political influence of the civil servants within the Department for Transport who developed the project and then protected it at all costs.

These trains have many good points, in particular the quality of the finish and detailing inside and out, the smooth ride and surprisingly low noise levels when on diesel power. However, they also have many shortcomings, which are due to the specification produced as a result of the work of the DfT.  Hitachi has made the best of a concept that could have been better conceived.

There is a lot of poorly utilised space due to the length of the vehicles.This is noticeable in the uncomfortable seats misaligned with windows, inadequate space for luggage in a location where passengers can keep it supervised, and the need to “mind the gap”, which should not be necessary given that various forms of retractable step have been around on continental railways for about 20 years.

The Great Western 2 x 5-car formations are inefficient in terms of space, cost and staffing requirements. There is an unusually large gap between vehicles, which means the gangways are long and again, space is wasted. Acceleration is sluggish when starting on diesel power.

If the trains had been built as 23 metre, 72 seat loco-powered push-pull sets, close-coupled like mark 3 stock, the passenger experience would have been very much better and the cost very much less. Of course that means the electrification would have had to be completed as planned for the trains to run.

onsdag 11 april 2018

The death of civilised debate

The Guardian has been steadily reducing the number of articles on which comments are allowed. On the newspaper’s web site, which used to appear under the slogan “Comment is Free”,  attributed to its famous editor C P Scott, comment is now restricted to the most trivial of topics. As for the commenting opportunities that still remain; where, formerly, comment was normally open for three days, it is usually closed after a few hundred responses.

There are many reasons why this has happened. The newspaper has been a staunch defender of immigration, looks down on criticism of Islam and regards Islamic immigration as unproblematic. This was a widely held view, before Isis and the series of sexual abuse cases came to public attention. These called forth responses ranging from reasonable criticism to xenophobia and outright racism. On the other side, the reasonable criticism was attacked as racist or Islamophobic.

Then came Brexit, an issue which has divided the British bitterly. This is reflected in press attitudes. Both The Guardian and the Financial Times took a line strongly defensive of the EU, to the point that criticism was almost off-limits. The Mail, predictably, took a populist and jingoistic stance, whilst the Telegraph adopted a similar position, though tailored to its better educated and older readers.

There is a reasonable case for Brexit which has rarely been presented, not least because, on the whole, Brexit supporters themselves do not understand the potential benefits; this extends even to academic supporters such as Minford. Although the “remain” case is largely based on mercantilist thinking which was refuted by the classical economists, remainers took the stance that the Brexiters were all old, stupid, xenophobic, and malevolent. Thus, public debate has largely been reduced to assertion and name-calling.

On top of that there is a decline in manners, possibly aggravated by the anonymity of the internet. Disagreement is widely expressed by starting a response with “rubbish”, “nonsense”, “piffle”, or obscenities.

On top of that again is the alleged use of spamming factories, with the Russians and Chinese being blamed. They might well be responsible, but if they are, they are not responsible for creating the fertile ground in which they can gain influence and credibility. The guilty ones are the politicians and media people who want to project a particular view of the world whilst pretending that issues which affect the public at a daily level simply do not exist.

And so the forum for public debate is shrinking and coming under increasing pressure. It does not augur well.

söndag 8 april 2018

Happy Easter

Easter has finally happened. It seems as if Lent has been going on for months. I am going back to bed for another couple of hours as I did not get home till three.

I will say only that it is the first Easter Vigil which did not disappoint since I moved to Sweden in 2012. Thank you Fathers Nemania, Duschan, and Dragan, and the choir, who were singing solidly for over three hours and had to be back again at 8.30 this morning.

At last, an Easter Vigil which was everything an Easter Vigil should be.

onsdag 4 april 2018

Blessed Sacrament flown into church by drone scandal

A parish in Brazil has been criticised on social media after video showed a drone flying the Blessed Sacrament into the church. The act has been branded ‘sacrilegious’.


However, the entire cult of the Blessed Sacrament is questionable. It is of medieval origin, and whilst the motivation was pious, the command we were given was ‘take and eat’. The Anglican reformers emphasised the point in Article XXV of the Thirty-Nine Articles, which states that ‘the Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use Them’.

The objection is not that Christ is not really present in the Blessed Sacrament, but that He really is present. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. (Ex 33:20). The practice does not exist in the Orthodox church. This is one of the reasons why I am hoping to be received into that communion.

söndag 1 april 2018

Calendrical anomalies

Today feels strange. It is Palm Sunday when everyone else is celebrating Easter Sunday. Yesterday was Lazarus Saturday which is my family feast day. Next week is Holy Week as we are still in Lent, which began about the same time as everyone else’s Lent but weekends do not really count.

It seems as if Lent has been going on forever, what with the cold weather and everything, and still snow on the ground. Next Saturday evening will be big, though.

fredag 30 mars 2018

Why is this night different from all other nights?

מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה

This year Passover corresponds precisely with the western Easter, whereas we Orthodox are still looking forwards to celebrating our Easter, which will be next week. John 19:14 says that today (Friday) was Preparation Day for the Passover, and therefore the Last Supper can not have been a Seder meal.

Confusion over this point arises from a mistranslation of Luke 22:7. From this confusion arises a further confusion, that the Mass is a re-enactment of the Last Supper; this is explained in the polemical book Innovations of the Roman Church by Apostolos Makrakis. From this confusion arises yet more: the use of unleavened bread in the Catholic Mass and the entire programme of liturgical reforms introduced, first at the Protestant Reformation, and fifty years ago, by the Roman Catholic Church itself.

Confusion should not, however, be a cause of enmity, but a reason for enquiry. I wish everyone who reads this a happy Pesach, or Easter, whenever you are celebrating it.
חַג שָׂמֵחַ

tisdag 27 mars 2018

Phasing out diesel

British politicians are now saying that the future for the railways is hydrogen or battery power and that diesel traction should be phased out by 2040.

Batteries have made vast improvements over the past couple of decades. Lithium supply is a problem but several of the elements on the top left hand side of the Periodic Table are candidates and we can expect substitutes to be adopted. However, the underlying problem of energy density is unlikely to be solved since there is no Moore’s Law in operation. The likely use of battery power will be for use on routes which are electrified for most of their length; one could envisage a train running from Paddington to Maidenhead on electric power and continuing to Bourne End and Marlow under battery power, where it could receive a top-up before returning; similar trains could also provide the all-day shuttle service on the branch. Apart from the provision of batteries, they would be similar in almost all respects to the regular fleet of electric trains running only on electrified routes.

Hydrogen power dead end?
Hydrogen powered trains, on the other hand, look like a specialised niche. The hydrogen has to be made somehow, probably by electrolysis of water. This energy is recovered in a fuel cell where it is converted into electricity. Both processes result in losses, on top of the usual losses associated with the drive train and control systems. That is not the end of the energy losses. There are also losses associated with the transport of the hydrogen, which is not a portable fuel. Hydrogen will liquify only at extremely low temperatures, below 33°K. That is cold. At ambient temperatures is has to be compressed and put in tanks capable of withstanding extreme high pressures, which means they are heavy, and both compression and liquefaction consume large amounts of energy. A German experiment aims to use otherwise unusable electricity from wind generation to produce the hydrogen but this seems an inefficient and expensive way of making use of it.

What is the overall thermal efficiency when all of this is taken into account? There is a discussion of the subject here, in relation to automotive applications of hydrogen fuel cells. Then there is platinum to consider. Fuel cells require platinum catalysts. Alternatives are not even on the horizon. It is one of the rarest of elements. Platinum mines are not environmentally friendly. Taking one thing with another, this technology is nothing like as clean as it seems, and not particularly cost effective.

Battery power might have specialised applications such as the branch line off an electrified main line, referred to above. Hydrogen power looks like a dead end. Neither is a candidate for the hoped-for replacement of diesel power. Politicians should get to grips with basic chemistry and physics before going public about their aspirations.

söndag 25 mars 2018

“Dictator Pope” author revealed

The author of the book “Dictator Pope” has now been revealed, which has led to him being suspended from the Order of the Knights of Malta.

Marcantonio Colonna is the pen name of Henry Sire, an author and historian. Sire was born in 1949 in Barcelona to a family of French ancestry. He was educated in England at the Jesuits’ centuries-old Stonyhurst College and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he gained an honours degree in Modern History. He is the author of six books on Catholic history and biography, including one on the famous English Jesuit, writer, and philosopher Father Martin D’Arcy, SJ. The Dictator Pope is the fruit of Henry Sire’s four-year residence in Rome from 2013 to 2017. During that time he became personally acquainted with many figures in the Vatican, including Cardinals and Curial officials, together with journalists specialising in Vatican affairs. (Publisher’s note)

It all makes for racy reading, but my own view is that anyone concerned about their spiritual well-being should keep well away from Rome and not engage themselves in the goings-on there, or, for that matter, in church politics in general. The aim and purpose of the church is to enable us to focus on its leader, who is Jesus Christ. Criticism of popes, bishops and priests is a dangerous distraction.

Over the two millennia of Christianity, church leaders in general, and popes in particular, have not, on the whole, covered themselves with glory; their failings are for the Lord to judge. If much is entrusted to one, then much is expected. We should consider ourselves fortunate if such responsibility has not fallen on us.

Their function is to provide us with the tools to enable us to carry out this task; the shepherds should feed their lambs.If the ones we have fail to do that, then we need to seek out others who still take the task seriously. Standing on the sidelines and booing is as much the Devil’s work as the shepherds who act like wolves.

lördag 24 mars 2018

GWML electrification disgrace to British engineering

The Great Western Main Line electrification makes slow progress. Between Swindon and Bristol Temple Meads the project has been abandoned due to the cost, which is a mercy as it avoids disfiguring the Cotswold landscape. The work to Cardiff proceeds, much delayed, as here at Bristol Parkway. The overhead structures look as if they were designed to carry the weight of the trains, not the thin contact wires and supporting catenary.

fredag 23 februari 2018

Remainer food hypocrisy

Remainers claim that Brexit will allow in a torrent of toxic meat. This Guardian article, unsurprisingly not open for comment, shows yet again that there is already a grave home-produced problem.

Tests carried out on food at the point of entry to a country are almost worthless in ensuring that it will be safe by the time it it put on the shelves of the shops, or served in restaurants. Food can be badly handled, or frozen food thawed and re-frozen. The most effective deterrent is the likelihood of random checks, with contraventions punishable by heavy fines or imprisonment.

To supplement the resources of local authorities, it would also be worth giving the public better access to public analytical and testing services.

Import controls exist primarily to protect producer interests. Benefits to consumers are largely incidental.

onsdag 21 februari 2018

Remainers: lovers blind to the faults of the beloved

Remainers are like lovers who are blind to the faults of the loved one, even when these faults are expensive habits which can kill. How is this?

The EU can be seen as operating in three levels in a hierarchical structure.

At the top level is the principle of a forum where major issues of common interest can be discussed and differences resolved. This is one of the places where a particular moral tone is set eg through promoting values, human rights issues, legal structures, developing cultural and educational collaboration such as the Erasmus programme, and keeping a watchful eye on what is happening elsewhere in the world. There are also shared concerns such as the management of rivers which flow through several countries.

Significantly, the EU steered clear of associating itself with Christianity, despite pleas such as that made by the Pope in 2002, when he said, of the EU draft Constitution, “How can we not mention the decisive contribution of the values which Christianity espouses and that have contributed to strengthening culture and humanism of which Europe feels legitimately proud and without which its most profound identity could not be understood?”

Score: C

Next level down is about trade, economics, tax and tariff policies. These are in principle both moral and practical decisions “coloured” by the moral tone that comes from above. It has profound implications for the quality of people's lives and political relations with the rest of the world.

Score: FAIL

I rate it as a fail because it a moral failure. Tariffs and trade protection are corrupt and immoral, as well as damaging; the Mafia lives on protection, as in “protection racket”. VAT is a immoral tax which is inefficient and economically damaging. If the EU had been doing its job properly at the top level, it would have pushed member countries to get rid of VAT, not make it a membershi requirement.

The bottom “artisan” level is about regulation and technical matters. Whilst important to individuals, it is trivial within the broader context. Much of this regulation is, or can be, dealt with other international bodies such as the ISO and industrial organisations. Some originates there and is transcribed into EU regulation. The EU has been responsible for plenty of silly and counter-productive regulation, but taking one thing with another - food additives and E-numbers, for example - it does not do too badly.

Score: B

IN CONCLUSION, I would count myself broadly in support of the concept of an EU, provided it kept to the principle of subsidiarity.  Failure in the policy areas of tax, economics, trade and tariffs, however, is a critical moral and practical top-level failure. That most national governments are no better is beside the point. It is easier to change the direction of a country than a continent, and the larger the body, the larger the scale of the damage can be, up to and including the possibility of major conflict and war.

If those who had been committed to the EU had spoken up and demanded change, the toxic political situation today would never have developed.

fredag 16 februari 2018

Calendar confusions

I have taken down my Christmas lights at last, yesterday being the Feast of the Presentation, 2nd February, which marks the end of the Christmas season. Except that yesterday was 15th February. It was 2nd February on the Julian calendar, which is now 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar in secular use.

Muslims use a lunar calendar with 12 months, but the months are  28 or 29 days long. The year is shorter than the real year, and feasts like Ramadan are 11 or 12 days earlier each year. At the moment, Ramadan is in the middle of the summer, which would be tough on those near the Arctic circle if the rules were not relaxed.

The Jewish calendar is also a lunar calendar but extra months are added according to a 19 year cycle of leap years. The extra month, called Adar Sheni, the Second Adar, is in the spring, and is inserted on the 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19th years of the cycle. In practice the Jewish calendar is more complicated than that. Passover is on 15th Nisan, the month after Adar. In leap years, Nisan is after Adar Sheni, which brings Passover into late April if there is a leap year. The earliest date for Passover is 26th March.

The Jewish calendar keeps reasonably good time, with a drift of one day every 231 years, about 4 days per millennium. It will be several millennia before Passover is so late in the year as to be a problem. There is no need for anyone alive today to worry about it.

The Julian calendar is worse, with a leap year every four years and a drift of 12 days per millennium. It came about like this. A solar year is reckoned as 365 and a quarter days; after four years, an extra day is added to the year. Each year is 11 minutes too long, a discrepancy which builds up over time. This drift had been noticed by the early middle ages but it took a long time to devise a way of fixing the problem.

The solution adopted was to make an adjustment every hundred years, by not having a leap year unless the year was divisible by 400. Thus 1600 and 2000 were leap years but 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not, and 2100 will not be. The calendar was first introduced in 1582 and its use spread gradually. By the time it was adopted in Britain, in 1752, 11 days had to be skipped; 2th September 1752 was followed by 14th September 1752. This change is the reason why the British tax year ends on 5th April; it is the old Lady Day, 25th March.

Thus the Gregorian calendar has 238 leap years per millennium compared to the 250 leap years of the Julian calendar. The separation of 12 days per thousand years is not desperate but becomes appreciable with the passing of the centuries. 

The trouble with the Gregorian calender, however, is that, every few years, 2005 and 2008, for example, Easter can be one month before the Jewish Passover. This matters from a theological perspective because the Last Supper was on 14th Nisan, the night before the Jewish Seder on the 15th. The earliest possible date for Easter is 22th March is but there will not be another until 2353; about once a century, Easter is on 23th March but it is not unusual for Easter to be a month before Passover.

The Julian calendar still used by some of the Orthodox churches avoids Easter from coming before Passover, but is drifting to the point where it is sometimes, and increasingly, in May; if the calendar is still in use, it will be on 10th May in 2268. This is of course nothing that any of us alive today needs to bother ourselves about, but at some time it would be a good idea to skip a fortnight and bring the Julian calendar back into line if the churches want to carry on using it. There is a lot to be said for not adopting the Gregorian calendar with its breaking of the link to the Jewish Passover.

onsdag 14 februari 2018

The True Catholic Doctrine of Salvation

This is extracted, unedited and without comment, from “The Innovations of the Roman Church” by Apostolos Makrakis (1831-1905).

Here is an alternative interpretation of Matthew 16:18, the passage on which the perpetual Supremacy of Peter is based: that the Rock is not the person of Peter, but the faith which Peter confesses.

“He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him. Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16: 15-19).

The Father of Christ revealed to Peter that Christ was the Son of the living God, and not what other men thought about Him, who thought Christ to be John the Baptist, or Elias, or Jeremiah, or as one of the prophets. And Christ supplementing the divine revelation made to Peter, says to him that for this reason he was named Peter, he who was formally called Simon son of Jona—that he knew the rock of faith and became the foundation stone of the holy structure and the fact that upon this rock of faith Christ will build His own Church, which the ruler of darkness will fight with all his might, but shall not prevail against it. (The effectiveness of the above passage in Greek lies in the etymology of the name Peter meaning of rock.)

Thus every man who knows and confesses Christ as Peter did to be the Son of the living God, becomes petros (like rock) that is a rock useful toward the building of the Church all the members -of which possess the same essential characteristic, of confessing Christ as the Son of the living God, perfect God, begotten of true God without time, and perfect man born within time of .the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary according to the testimony of the Evangelists. He who does not believe and testify this does not become petros nor a member of the Church of Christ.

And he moreover, who denies this testimony, crumbles away from the divine structure or is cut off from association with the Church because he has lost the most essential asset of membership. Therefore the stone upon which Christ promises to build his Church is the confession of Peter, the truth revealed to him by the heavenly Father which abides for ever, the truth which gives birth to Peter’s and the stones of the divine structure. But the Papists destroy this scriptural passage toward their own damnation arguing sophistically and erroneously that Christ promised Peter to build upon the latter’s persons His Church; and the phrase “upon this rock” which clearly signifies the confession of Peter they interpret upon thee Peter. And by heaping up more falsehoods upon this one they build up the system of their diabolical heresy through which Satan has attempted the overthrow of the orthodox Church but failed totally; for falsehood is not strong enough to overcome truth.

The foundation of the Christian Church in Christ and Peter’s testimony. Upon this foundation the apostles have built the once Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of God, as Peter also testifies in his first Catholic Epistle saying: To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also, as living stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” Behold the living stone, the chosen, the precious, the corner stone upon which Apostle Peter built the church; behold too the living stones placed upon the Foundation stone of the structure and constituting God’s spiritual house within which holy priests offer acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. But the Papists of Rome, after repudiating this doctrine of Apostle Peter, boast that they are his only successors, thus deluding themselves and others and bound toward perdition.

But this delusion of theirs we have reproached in our work which has been fully reprinted under the title “Memoir of the Nature of the Church of Christ” and whoever wishes may find therein the reproach. But the prophetic statement of Christ regarding the Church to be built upon the testimony of Peter “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” has received full historic proof; because since the beginning of the foundation and organization of the Church, Satan’s attacks out of the gates of Hell, against the Church and its basic truth for the purpose of destroying them, have proven powerless either toward shaking the foundation. or toward tearing down the super-structure on the foundation. And the well founded and fighting Church shall prevail against the gates of hell, and after finally overcoming the enemy will imprison him in the place whence he attacked her. The invincible Church will prove victorious through sheer strength over her bitter enemy and will eventually wipe out his power and authority from the face of the earth.

“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

The kingdom of heaven has a door which closes and opens, and the door has keys by which it is opened and closed. But what is the door to the kingdom of heaven, and what are the keys that open and close it. The door to the kingdom of heaven is Christ as He says: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” This door is opened to those who will repent and bring forth fruit worthy of repentance, but it is closed to the unrepentant and unbelieving.

And the keys which open and shut this door are the power to bind and loose n1en’s sins. He who has been granted remission of sins by the one who has the authority to do so, enters freely through the door opened for him; whereas he who has not been granted forgiveness does not enter, the door being closed to him. The power to forgive sins was possessed by Christ who exercised it by announcing to those who approached Him in faith the remission- of their sins, and by saying “Child be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.” This power Christ, after his resurrection imparted to his own disciples by breathing upon them and saying “receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” Then Peter with the other disciples received the keys of the kingdom which Christ promised to give him after his testimony of the truth. The Father showed Peter the door of the kingdom of heaven; and the Son fulfilling the work of the Father gave Peter the keys for opening and closing the door, for ushering in or keeping out those whom he judged worthy or unworthy of admittance. But Peter was not the only one who received from the Father the knowledge of the door nor was he the only one to whom Christ gave the keys for opening and closing it. Christ praying to His Father says: “O righteous Father the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee and these have known that thou hast sent me.” And Peter answering Christ says: “Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Obviously Peter testifies to a common knowledge of the faith in Christ among the disciples and does not boast that he alone knew and believed in Christ. Therefore he received the keys in common with the other disciples, no one disciple being given the keys individually. But those who distort the Scriptures toward their own perdition, those who have misinterpreted the rock of faith, and have built the house of their heresy on false foundation, have also misinterpreted the keys of the kingdom and commercialised them toward filling their purse. The self-elected successors of Peter have become the exclusive and only heirs to the keys of God’s kingdom, and the only possessors of the authority to bind and loose and to usher in and put out of Paradise those they wish. And they wish to usher in those who give them silver and gold, whereas Peter excludes from the kingdom of heaven those who offer him silver and gold according to the following proof. The book of Acts of the Apostles record that Simon the sorcerer seeing that the Apostles imparted the Holy Spirit through the laying of their hands he offered them money saying: “Give me also this power, that on whomsoever lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” But Peter said unto him. “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.”

Behold, Peter, the key-master of God’s kingdom excluded Simon the sorcerer from it for offering silver to the former. But his self-termed successors usher the one offering them the most silver farthings into Paradise. And what may be gathered logically from this contrast? That the keys of Peter are different from those that the Papists hold in their hands. The keys of the latter being different from those of Peter open and close an opposite door—the door of hell and death. And those who give silver to them in order to enter Paradise, enter the Tartarus of eternal damnation whereas these who turn away and flee from the Papists, get farther from the door and entrance which ushers all that enter through it, to everlasting perdition.

Speaking more simple—Christ established His Church on the Confession of St. Peter (Petra) in Greek meaning a Great Rock, and Christ is (the Rock of our salvation. The Romish Church established its claim on the person of St. Peter. Therefore, they worship St. Peter more than God, and look to the Pope for their salvation and wage continual war upon Christ’s true people everywhere with a view to world-wide domination to rule the Church and Politics in every country and to bring down ruin on all nations.

Innovations of the Roman Church—Minor innovations

This is extracted, unedited, from “The Innovations of the Roman Church” by Apostolos Makrakis (1831-1905). I do not like the style but am in agreement with the substance. 

Neither statues nor pictures are approved according to Jewish practice. Statues are indeed problematic; whilst they are intended only as a help to worship, it does not always stop there in practice. Ikons are a different matter because they are not made by human hands and are the product of prayer.

The Gregorian calendar has been criticised by Jewish authorities on the same grounds: that Easter can occur a month too early.

On the celibacy of the clergy, recent experience should be sufficient to condemn the practice. Married clergy is not of course a guarantee that misdemeanours will not occur, and this is not to suggest that most Catholic priests do not keep their vow of celibacy, but the requirement is neither necessary nor desirable.

But besides the seven major innovations (heresies) and the infallible primacy, the Popes fabricated and introduced other innovations of a lower order, such as, for instance:

1) The use of statues instead of icons (sacred images, or pictures), in imitation of the idolators. The icon, being a picture represents and depicts to the eye the departed soul, whereas the statue represents to the touch the body of the departed. The Church of Christ handed down the icons from the very beginning, having ousted the statues from the churches. St. Luke, one of the seventy Apostles and the author of the Gospel bearing his name as well as of the Acts of the Apostles, initiated the practice by painting pictures of the Theotokos while she was still alive, which she blessed. The Eastern Church preserved this heritage in spite of the furious war waged by the iconoclasts and notwithstanding the pressure and propaganda put forth by the statuarian Romanists.

2) The celibacy of the clergy, instituted in the sixteenth century by Pope Gregory XIII of Rome, which is not recommended anywhere in the Holy Scriptures or in the Apostolical or Synodical Canons. Everyone is left free to choose marriage or celibacy for himself. The Lord said: “All men cannot receive this saying, but they to Whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who were so born from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Matt. 19.11-12). As a consequence of the law of celibacy of the Papal clergy, the latter fell into malfeasances for which they were subject to no disposal from office when caught in the act, nor are they even now so punished, but only transferred.

For in the Roman Catholic Church the doctrine of the Jesuits that “The end justifies the means” prevails and is practised. That is to say, whatever they do they do for the glory of God, and therefore it is no sin. Adultery, wars with those who oppose the Holy Pope, etc. are all pardonable, because they are practiced for the glory of God and the subjection of all to the Pope!

3) The change of the Julian calendar by Pope Gregory XIII of Rome in the year 1582 by calling October 5th October 15th.

Satan had long endeavoured to change the calendar through the agency of many antichrists and astrologers, but had been constantly defeated by the monkery of both the East and the West, aided by those fearful anathemas of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod against all who should attempt to add to or to subtract from the decrees and regulations issued by the Holy Synods. St. Bede, a monk and philosopher (Anglo-Saxon, A.D. 730) stoutly declared: “The alleged correction of the ecclesiastical calendar is not permissible to anyone.” Likewise conscientious astronomers have at various times declared that no Synod should permit a change of the calendar on an astronomical basis, because astronomers never agree in their astronomical calculations.

In the end, however, the aforesaid Gregory ascended the Papal throne (A.D. 1572) and in cooperation with the astrologers J. Stoeffler, Regiomonus, and Aloysius Lilius effected the change, of the calendar, and changed its name to the “Gregorian”. But it took 150 years to establish the new calendar in the West, during which rivers of blood were shed, and it is even now acknowledged to be erroneous both from the ecclesiastical and from the scientific points of view by astronomers of the West.

The Orthodox Eastern Church disapproved and condemned and anathematised the Gregorian calendar at three consecutive Synods in Constantinople in A.D. 1583 under the presidency of the patriarchs Jeremiah of Constantinople, Silvester of Alexandria, and Sophronios of Jerusalem; and the second time by the same authorities in the year 1587; and the third under the presidency of Jeremiah of Constantinople, Meletios Pegas of Alexandria, Joachim of Antioch, and Sophronios of Jerusalem.

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