Saturday, 25 August 2012

Just Who Is On The Right Track?

Did you view the Parliamentary TV Channel the other evening and watch the Select Committee on Rail questioning firstly the leaders of the privately-led rail development management, followed by the questioning of the trades unions' representatives? Mmmm ... It doesn't sound very appetising (does it?) and if you didn't view it then I'd not be too surprised.

But - do you know - there are valid reasons why a lot of people should have seen it. In the one hour or thereabouts that I saw, I was hugely disturbed by what must have been blatant misleading of the select committee by the development management chair and vice-chair. In contrast, the four trades unions' members (including Bob Crow!) seemed to be talking very good sense.

In one question directed at the development management pair (about whether they consulted with the trades unions), the answer was of the variety, "Oh, yes, we're in regular contact ... and when our plans are sufficiently developed, the unions will definitely be consulted ...". Right, that response sounds OK. But enter the union representatives and when asked virtually the same question it turns out that they had not been consulted on developments and, what is more, they expected the development management to present a fait accompli so that the unions would have no effective say.

Well, of course the unions would say that, I hear you saying.

But then, if you'd listened to the rest of the evidence from the unions you'd probably be shocked. It seems that the railway system has so many privatised bodies effectively working against one another that recently two of those companies were locked in legal combat with something like 100 lawyers on each side battling out their arguments. Now, who pays for that? ... Presumably it eventually comes down to the fare-payer and even the taxpayer, because (though it was supposed to have been phased out long ago) the state is still subsidising the privatised railway system.

And - a telling point - the unions very much laboured on the issue of whose interests were being served by the fare rises - the customer or the companies' shareholders? Note that the companies seem determined to introduce one-man trains at the detriment of safety, particularly for the elderly and others - to cut costs.

It sounds a bit like the local authorities who have not been paying out the £50 average cost to repair a pot-hole in the road only to pay out a typical £180 single claim because of the ensuing damage to private vehicles. And the pothole problem is getting worse - the claims are escalating.

And the quantitive easing by the Bank of England which - we learn - has only served to line the pockets of the rich as the easing has mainly profited shareholders.

The unions made the clear point that in the days of British Rail, the man at the top of the organisation could be in direct contact with a station master to implement any necessary action - whereas now the chain of command is so complex that there's a danger of Chinese Whispers creeping in. Yes, the old British Rail needed a re-vamp ... but privatisation has not helped one whisker.

But the Coalition carry on ensuring that their kind are well-heeled while competitors at the Paralympics will next year face a 2bn pounds' shortfall in their financial support.

Yes ... the ConDems do what the label says, don't they?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Bob Dylan and 2012

In my previous article I stated that the British athletes have been saying, "If we can accomplish what we have, then everyone can do it!". I asked if that was really the situation.

It would be quite easy to (and sometimes I do) dive into a rant against Tory-ism and their record of elite-ism, which I fear is what the Olympic legacy idea will turn into. The Tory government is hell-bent on their plan to pull in the reins on expenditure, therefore it is difficult to see them stopping the selling of playing-fields and investing (other than through Lottery funds) money into the 'Legacy'.

To be fair, the Socialists in this country don't have such a good record either - well, at least since the post-WW2 years, perhaps one of the bravest periods of government this country has witnessed. But the people got tired of grey-ness and wanted something of what the toffs had. By the mid-1990s, the Labour Party decided that to try and live by some form of decent well-thought principles was out of date, so out went Clause 4 with nothing of great depth to replace it. And since then, the Labour Party has taken on the hue of another mid-stream political party trying to get the support of the professional classes.

And the Liberals? Well, they just have ideas. And think. And have ideas. Just recently, the Libs in the Coalition Pact were threatening to throw their dummy out of the pram if the Tories would not agree to the reform of the House of Lords. And this was at a time when the economy was and is getting into more of a stew and requires pro-active thinking to move away from a triple-dip recession. The Lib-Dems could not bring themselves to fight their Tory friends on that; instead they thought that the 100th anniversary of their 1911 efforts in the Lords was more worthy of remembrance.

So what is the future? I for one feel that the mechanistic, unfair and unimaginative politics that exists has had its day. People have shown in the polls they're not interested, but what will interest them? Perhaps its the notion of 'haves' and 'have nots' being a natural concomitant of human existence, or, worse, that unfairness just has to be accepted. I find that a negative and unevolutionary view.

But the people, somehow, retain an enthusiasm for something worthwhile. What greater proof do we have of the willingness of people to give their all but by observing the enthusiasm of the 70,000 volunteers at this year's London Olympics. It was not a political event, it was a people's event, and thus the volunteers knew that what they were dealing with was not a situation full of legal safeguards (e.g. Health and Safety), monetary-ism and political one-up-manship, but simply an inter-action with people who were (and are), when it comes down to it, just like them. The result? Unity.

If we examine the lives of spiritual communities through the ages then we see that they pooled their resources and their commitment. No one was without. Our society needs to move that way by accepting that we have the spiritual capablity to do it - but as taught by all the great spiritual masters, not according to some Hippie notion without effort and commitment.

Let us re-find our true selves. Perhaps the end of 2012 may lead us to that very thing.

"The world is a-changin'" (Dylan)

Monday, 13 August 2012

How To Get A Level Playing Field?

The 30th Olympiad in modern times has - they say - come to an end. The cauldron has ceased burning and the Olympic flag has been handed over to Rio de Janeiro. Speeches have been made saying how great this Olympic event has been and of how the government is suddenly going to further support the development of new athletes, particularly by bringing about a greater interest in schools. 'Legacy' is the new buzz-word.

Fine - all that is good. But it is a terrible shame that the Thatcher government all those 30 years ago started the trend of selling off school playing fields - and all the governments since have followed suit. Even last week the government were to sign off the sale of another few dozen playing fields - have they now decided not to do that? The ways and means of governments are wonderful to behold.

But back to the London Olympics. The fact is, it's not yet over. The Paralympics is about to start. Are its participants regarded as a separate breed so that they are not to be included in the government's plans? Shouldn't the legacy speeches be made after the Paralympics to strike a chord of unity amongst everyone, not just those that happen to be still in the possession of all their limbs and faculties?

I have, however, a transcending perspective about the effect of the Games. Many of our athletes have been saying that they are ordinary people; if they can accomplish what they have, then everyone must be able to do it. These are very wise words - but not everyone wants to be a sports person. If this folk-wisdom were to be re-directed to cause everyone to believe that they can accomplish something great - not necessarily in sport - but in any field of life, then wouldn't we have the potential of a great civilisation? As Chris Boardman (a former cycling gold medallist) has said: "[Even] achieving a gold medal is not the summit of life ... it is not the end; happiness does not permanently exist in the winning of a medal."

But everyone - in our current form of society - won't accomplish something great. And the 'why?' is in the fact of competition itself. Those that win are glorified by the rest while those that cannot (or not properly helped) to keep up inevitably fall by the wayside and might become criminals or at least benefit claimants, groups of people who tend to get hounded when the economic going gets tough. I would suggest that until society shares its opportunities and winnings amongst all its brothers and sisters, so long as there remains a concept of 'haves' and 'have nots', then there will not be a level playing field of opportunity.

There ... now what was I saying about the sale of playing fields?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Team GB

I have been blown away by Team GB's performance in the Olympics. I don't know whether it interests you but having seen Andy Murray win the gold in the most remarkable way against Federer made me think that it just shows that anything is possible ... it just takes self-belief to achieve what you want to do.

More particularly, if we all in this country were to become as focused as these medal winners on what we should do both socially and spiritually, then, again, anything is possible. The world can so easily become such a wonderful abode if were to desire it enough!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Mr. Bond, The Queen and Mr. Bean

Some of the items included in last night's opening party were class i.m.o. ... The Queen and Mr. Bond, the animation of Churchill's statue, Mr. Bean during the Chariots of Fire interlude ... and what I thought was the truly magnificent theme and engineering of the Olympic flame. That, I thought, was worth all the tea in China ... Well, surely it was at least something that was a truly innovative perspective incorporating the unity of the nations present.

Having said that it seems churlish to criticise anything ... but I must. I felt that the first hour was a bore and the piece about the industrial revolution a total misrepresentation of history. Yes, Britain led the way in industrial development, but at the cost of the gross manipulation of workers and domination of a world that did not need dominating. Furthermore, the process led the world to think that all so-called "progress" was OK despite the pollution of the depths, the surface and the air. And parts of the world still think it's 'OK' as a result of that period of history.

And so many great aspects of Britain's industrial and engineering history were left out anyway.

Surely, the theme should have been about Britain's part in the development of sport; the IOC official declared that Britain is the "Mother of Sport" so surely there was enough in that theme to satisfy everyone.

But the crowning achievement was the piece leading up to and including the flame ceremony. I felt it was just wonderful. Good enough to make the first part of the opening ceremony redundant and - importantly - forgotten.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

How Can Anyone Like Toryism?

The Tory machine grinds on in its determination to impose its will, claiming that it's policy on financial cuts is necessary in view of what that naughty Labour Party did.

Well, the last Labour government was by no means perfect - it certainly did not provide for a rainy day - but the Tories live according to (putting it politely) kidology. They say they're "cutting" but in the process are borrowing more, and wasting more as a result of their various u-turns. They do not know what they're doing, and instead of doing something directly to help the young get into work instead decide that letting the banks have more money to loan to business is the way forward. Will the banks do what is intended at affordable interest rates? I doubt it.

It seems that a one-time very senior Tory figure not so long ago succinctly explained that the Conservative Party was a "coalition of privileged interests. Its main purpose is to defend that privilege. And the way it wins elections is by giving just enough to just enough other people". The "other people" are now disaffected; it's all going wrong. Please read this article:

Yes, the Labour Party is not ideal either, and the Liberals certainly aren't.

So, what is needed? I would still vote Labour on the premise that they care more about the needy and are more all-embracing in their philosophy, but I accept that they do tend to get their sums wrong.

Some would say that a combination - a coalition - of all parties would be the best option. Now this idea sounds fine in theory but until politicians start speaking to one another with their hearts instead of their egos, the idea is doomed to fail.

Yes, what is required is nothing short of a re-appraisal of ourselves ... who are we? what is the purpose of life? .... and rigorously apply the doctrine of "do unto others what we would do unto ourselves".

What we certainly don't want is power in the hands of the self-interested few ... in effect those that have inherited the ethos of the Normans. Yes, times haven't changed that much in 1,000 years. The only ones that like Toryism are the ones with money in their pockets or who are living in the delusion that they will get money in their pockets by voting for them.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Advanced Technology in Ancient Times

My last posting about the Antikythera Mechanism prompts me to write a little bit more about technologies that existed before the Buddha and the Christ appeared on Earth.

Back in the mid-1970s, I went through a period of evaluating alternative theories on what really happened in ancient history. It had always bugged me since my schooldays when I suggested to my teacher (in the 1950s) that the land masses of Africa, Europe and the Americas were once interlocked. It appeared obvious to me judging by the near-matching shape of their coastlines. The teacher poo-poohed my suggestion and that, effectively, caused me to question just what education was about. Education seemed then to be concerned about railroading people into mechanical thought processes, and it's not far different today, when material gain seems to be the be-all.

Coming back to the point at hand, my delving into alternative writings in the 70s produced a whole galaxy of new perceptions about what went on in the days BC. I was brought up to believe that history didn't start until 4,000 BC, but it is now becoming clear (as it started to emerge 40 or 50 years ago) that there are many more ancient remnants on Earth that have never been properly explained - until now.

The Antikythera Mechanism is just one such case in point. Not only is the object a wonderful insight into the capabilities of ancient engineers, but also about their knowledge of the cosmos and how all knowledge was studied by the greatest minds. In those days, they were not just mathematicians or biologists or other specialist scientists, but they saw that all knowledge was interlinked - they studied and practised from a holistic point-of-view.

Other remarkable remnants of ancient times include (of course) the Giza Pyramids and Stonehenge. Both Stonehenge and The Great Pyramid have been found to possess mathematical characteristics that are in common with one another, thus hinting that such knowledge was far more widespread than is commonly supposed. But these are not the only structures. There is another structure in Turkey that is supposedly even thousands of years older than Stonehenge, but has not yet been evaluated. And there are stone circles around the world that all seem to have common mathematical and cosmological properties.

Pi and Phi are used as mathematical components in the design of Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid, thus effectively stating that knowledge of such mathematics existed in pre-Greek times. Indeed, the old Sanskrit text Baudhayana Shulba Sutra of the 6th century BC mentions the Pi ratio as approximately equal to 3.

Remarkably, the 20th c. psychic Edgar Caycey stated that by the 21st c. it would be discovered that the Sphinx would reveal an entrance to underground revelations about the Giza Pyramids, and, indeed, work is afoot to uncover mysterious tunnels that exist both under the Sphinx and the Pyramids that have come to light after revealing radar soundings were taken some years ago.

The properties of Stonhenege, the Great Pyramid and the Antikythera Mechanism all indicate that there was great knowledge of technology and science, but that it was all put to the purpose of relating to the hidden world of the cosmos. It was clearly a different world to ours and one (it might seem) devoted to a higher cause than ours, but even their world seems to have been flawed. The ancients seems to have departed from the one important purpose of mankind - to know thyself; to understand the microcosm within the macrocosm. 

I believe it was no accident that the Buddha, Mahavira, Zoroaster and then Jesus appeared on the scene.

A 2,200 year-old computer

I first read about this object over 35 years ago, in the days when no-one knew what it was, having been pulled from the Mediterranean back in 1900. Even 35 years ago, people were wondering whether the object (showing advanced gearing) was some form of computer.

And now (having used advanced x-ray equipment and modern computers to solve the problem, impossible 35 years ago), here is the remarkable answer.

It was probably first designed and made by Archimedes, and derivatives appeared during the rise of Islam. Eventually the design made its way back to Europe and there is an unusual outdoor clock at Hampton Court that employs some of the gearing principles used in Archimedes original work.

Enjoy, it's a fascinating subject. Oh, and in that book I read 35 years ago, it was stated that objects thought to be electrical batteries were also found, also over 2,000 years old. I wonder what has happened to the investigation into those?

Greece was an advanced technology nation, not just a home to philosophers - perhaps it needs to re-find itself!!

Friday, 6 April 2012

All in it together? ... Phooey.

Back in 2010, I made a few pronouncements about what I thought of the government coalition, but since then I've rather kept my powder dry. It did not take much imagination that pronouncements such as "We're all in it together" (Cameron) would rebound on the governing parties, and the truth of it all is at last coming to the surface.

Don't get me wrong - cuts were always going to be necessary and drastic. But the Labour Party knew that and were already drawing up their plans (slower pace cuts with less pain and providing for room for growth) when they were ousted by what turned out to be a coalition. The Labour Party has since derided the coalition for the swingeing cuts with no or little room for growth. The government said: "Ah, but staffing cuts in the public sector will be picked up by self-generation in the private sector!" Phooey number 1: Since then, unemployment has increased and growth predictions have had to be hugely downgraded. And I say a 1.8% growth for next year will remain a pipe-dream. There's nothing that the government are doing that will cause that kind of growth next year.

And now we come to this year's budget and Phooey number 2. The Liberals (anxious to be noticed and that they had won (to them) a great victory in getting closer to their £10,000 allowances-before-tax) in the process took their eye off the ball and did not notice that families getting by on £15,500 p.a. are going to lose some 20% income as a result of the changes to the Tax Credits system. Under this new system, claimants now have to work 24 hours a week instead of the previous 16 hours. Trouble is, there's not enough bouyancy in the market for employers to offer such claimants extra hours per week, and so these families will be some £3,000 to £4,000 p.a. worse off. On top of that, a study has revealed that the average family with children stands to lose £511 p.a. We're all in it together? Well, the richest people in the country improved their lot by 20% last year, and they will now be even better off now that the top rate of tax is being reduced. Yes, the chancellor says they will be caught by other taxation changes, but we all know that the rich employ clever accountants, don't we? Those accountants will get even more astute and more rich.

Phooey number 3? Well, today we find that in London, the Kid's Company (which helps 13,000 children there) has reported a dramatic rise in the numbers of children coming to their walk-in centres, not in search of shelter or safety but for food. The situation concerning poverty, however, is getting worse all round the country, not just London. Cameron, while you are stuffing your children's faces with Easter eggs this week-end, think about the Dickensian affair taking place on our streets now!

Are there any more 'phooeys' to find? Oh, yes; plenty. One of the most serious of these concerns the recent closure of the State's forensic labs facility. It's already been found that there are many anomalies now being created in the private sector's version of this so that the chances of errors in justice are now remarkably increased. I expect to hear next year that the savings gained by privatisation have been more than swallowed up by High Court appeals and maybe wrongful imprisonments that we will never hear about. And that's just the financial side of things - what about the sufferings to families affected by the process?

I say, if it's not broke, don't change it. And, please Mr. Cameron, when in future you say that "We're all in it together", kindly remember that we're onto you. What you're really saying is that the wealthy will continue to be "in it together" to be even more wealthy and will ease their consciences by throwing out a few scraps to the down-and-outs.

What can I add to this sad litany of phooeys? Well, I could go on, and in particular get at the government for  how they've (not) planned for water shortages in the south-east. The south-east really does soak in all the blessings going, and the water issue is just one more!


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Robert Fisk and Islam

I have been an admirer of The Independent's crack Middle East reporter Robert Fisk for 15 or more years. I have read some of his books; I have read many of his articles. I was surprised, therefore, to read to-day's 'I' (a subset of The Independent) and a comment by Fisk about the singer Cat Stevens (a.k.a. Yusuf Islam).

In the article, Fisk refers to Stevens' conversion to Islam (in the late 1970s) and infers that Stevens "... frittered away more than 20 years of his life ...". Presumably in Stevens' pursuit of knowledge about Islam.

Just how had Stevens "frittered away" his time, I wish to know. Clearly, Stevens was guided by something about Islam that had inspired him, and I happen to know that he became a respected figure at Regent's Park Mosque in north London, where he was frequently to be seen. I believe that Stevens' presence in Islam has been of a constructive nature.

Islamic people were civilised centuries before Medieval Europe decided to look into the Islamic sciences and literature to discover just what Muslims had learnt. In Spain, wonderful architecture and gardens remain as testimony to the culture that Islam brought to that country. The English language contains many Arabic-derived words - algebra and alcohol are but just two.

There are depths in Islam that I would recommend that people should study before they write words stating that to do so is frittering away one's life.

Robert Fisk, I am surprised and disappointed at you. But I wish you peace.

P.S. I see that his version of the article in The Independent contains the precursory words: "this is a Fisk opinion, I fear"