Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Tragedy of War

A truly shocking report on the epidemic of suicides in the US appears in today's Guardian. Whilst I don't think our own experience mirrors the US experience, we can't pretend that we too will not have a problem.

It was when I offered to pour my dad a drink as my mother quietly shook her head behind him that I learned how my parents managed the effects of his 25 years army service. Around remembrance day, alcohol made my dad cry, something he himself found shameful. So we quietly excluded him from booze. The collection of photos in an old shirt box gave a clue - pictures of CWGC standard headstones all bearing his regimental badge, taken during a re-visit to the Normandy battlefields he had fought through, taken sometime between coming home from Palestine and leaving again for Korea. In France, Germany, Palestine and Korea he left behind dead comrades, and with each one came the guilt, I realised much later, of having survived.

The recent number of suicides of British soldiers post-combat, 179 in 10 years, is shocking but not surprising. The same must have happened post-1918 and post-1945; this is nothing new, nor are our soldiers today any more lacking in 'moral fibre' than they were in the past. No. In the past there must have been a massive collective resolution to bury the fact, understandably. The non-physical scars of war don't heal. When we send young men into combat they may lose their lives or their lives may be blighted. That's the tragedy of war - no-one really wins.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Gay 'marriage' - France debates

The UK is not the only European country in the midst of a national debate on gay 'marriage'. Hollande promised to bring legislation back before the National Assembly after it fell before the last elections. The parliamentary debate started on the 29th and was predicted to run through to mid-February, but opponents have tabled such a slew of amendments - over 5,000 to date - that Hollande's plans may be derailed. 

If Cameron's plans to permit gay weddings to go through and Hollande's don't, the UK may well end up hosting Gaston and Gaston as they tie the knot in a church service; country house hotels in Kent should not be slow to see the business opportunities here. 

Barclays - would you buy a used car from them?

After 'dodgy' Bob's humiliating exit last year over the Libor rate fixing scandal, growing liabilities in PPI compensation and now claims from small businesses for mis-sold risk offsetting deals, you'd think things couldn't get worse for the Bungling Bank. 

To date, it's proclaimed its virtue as one of the few banks to refuse a bail-out from 'mental' Brown, going to the Qataris for the money instead. Now it appears that it may have lent Qatar the money to buy its own shares ... 

Barclays is amongst the banks quietly attempting to sabotage Vickers, to the extent that the Banking Standards Commission last year asked for legislation to "electrify the fence so banks won't try to game the rules".

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Vote for filth!

It was inevitable, of course, that Labour and the LibDems should put naked party self-interest before the good of the nation and vote down the proposed constituency changes. In a Parliament mired with the filth of sleaze, corruption, peculation, avarice and mendacity it is simply too much to expect that our rotten and diseased political class will do anything other than sink further into the faecal mire. 

The UK's electoral quotients have become so distorted that they are now even beyond third-world standards. Where once ours was the Mother of Parliaments, a model of probity and democratic rectitude, it is now a laughing stock, a banana chamber, corrupt and rotten beyond even the standards of Africa or Central America. And these wicked feculent dogs are responsible. They had a chance yesterday to correct the imbalances, and if not bring us back to the standards of the Old Commonwealth nations (EQ of +/- 3%) to which our Parliament gave birth, then at least to the democratic standards of the 'developing nations' (EQ of +/- 5%). They chose party interest instead. 

How can our ancient nation, our democracy, be so betrayed by such loathsome and verminous filth? What have they, the corrupt, the rotten, have to do with us who would have fair-dealing, equity and integrity in our democratic system? How dare they assume they represent us. They are lower than the scrape of shit on the street. 

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Comments disaster

I must apologise most profusely to all of you who have posted comments in the last 7 days; they have been inadvertently and incorrectly deleted as 'spam'. I really can't blame blogger - I was clearing spam, a task that's becoming increasingly onerous, ticked the wrong button and wiped several pages of your comments. 

I am sincerely sorry - sick as a dog - and hope you will in time overlook this most stupid error on my part.  

Monday, 28 January 2013

MPs and HS2

Decision tree for MPs

Q1 - Do I get a station in my constituency?
YES - Support HS2
NO - Go to Q2

Q2 - Does a firm in my constituency get shedloads of orders?
YES - Support HS2
NO - Go to Q3

Q3 - Do shares in my blind trust stand to gain substantially?
YES - Support HS2
NO - Condemn HS2 as rape and spoilation of ancient English countryside with questionable economic benefits and pledge all your efforts to oppose it. 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Holocaust logistics

The Holocaust, or more properly the operation of the six Nazi extermination camps sited in Poland that within in a brief period of some eighteen months from 1942 killed and processed the great majority of victims, has always presented a scale of logistics that otherwise intelligent people have found improbable. It really wasn't. The evidence of how the thing worked is comprehensive and utterly credible. 

The key was the humble cattle truck, mainstay of armies everywhere, marked for 8 horses or 40 men. A single train could transport a entire regiment, its kit and its support branches. Jews were packed at the rate of between 50 - 150 per wagon, and a formation (a train) could have a consist of 55 wagons. Once the formation had come to a halt at the unloading ramps and the doors unlatched, it took little effort to disembark the cargo - they would be eager for release from those stinking hells. Shouting and whips would separate the men from the women, then into the undressing sheds, then into the death chamber. At Treblinka an entire train could be killed within two to three hours. Burning the dead in batches of 800 - 1,000 on the 'roasts' could be left to the Jewish work parties, who kept the fires burning constantly. 

At one train a day, the operation would run smoothly; for the German managers, a hectic, noisy, stressful couple of hours until the cargoes had been gassed, then back to the peace and quiet of birdsong. Of course there would be days after distant SS units had liquidated entire ghettoes; Radom or Kielce, when the trains just kept coming, the German managers missed their meals, and the unburned dead just piled up. In the mess afterwards, over a few beers, they would gripe at such poor planning, just like car-plant middle managers tasked with a large export order at short notice. 

Oh yes. It all worked very efficiently indeed. Franz Stangl, who commanded Treblinka, was even proud of his 'humane' approach, disguising the buildings and views so as to avoid stress to the condemned cargoes, just like any good abattoir manager. He was never personally cruel, never hit or shot or whipped anyone. He was diligent in doing the job assigned him - of killing and disposing of the contents of the trains sent to his camp as efficiently as possible. 

Perhaps most poignant is the use the Nazis made of the Jews themselves, as ghetto police who assisted in the round-ups and train loadings, as camp kapos running the recovery of gold and hair and spectacles and shoes, as overseers of the roasts. Treblinka processed the whole of the Warsaw ghetto in just three months, between July and September 1942. The very last transport, just a dozen wagons, ten days after the bulk liquidation, was reserved for the Jewish ghetto police.     

CAP and the perfidious Kermits

It looks like Cameron will be powerless to prevent changes to the Common Agricultural Policy that will increase already unsustainable subsidies and maintain artificially high food prices. The EP is due to approve the measures on Wednesday, and the CAP is a 'co-decision' item with the Commission and the Council of Ministers. If one assumes the Commission approves the measures, then approval by the Council of Ministers will be a vote for French interests and a vote against the interests of their own farmers. 

Some 20% of CAP goes to France's half a million farmers. Another 17% is shared amongst the 12 newly accessioned states, including Poland and its 2m farmers alone. French farmers are just 0.1% of the EU's population, yet get 4% of the total budget. The CAP benefits only Gaston and the Kermits.