Who is in The Driving Seat Now?

a driverless car

No steering wheel?

It is reported that driverless cars will be allowed on UK roads next year. Many people are expressing concerns about safety. Mind you, the old story goes that the most dangerous component in a car is the nut behind the wheel, so perhaps removing that will prove to be no bad thing.

Years ago I read about traffic polls taken of cars crossing the Oakland bridge in San Fransisco. Chrating the number of occupants by year it showed that as time went on the number of occupants was steadily reducing as more people bought their own cars and became drivers rather than passengers. The statistics showed that if the trend continued, before the end of thetwentieth century one in four cars would be crossing the bridge with nobody in it. That was a fair joke back then but now it seems to be coming true. How are we taking the news?

I started off by saying that some people were expressing concern. Of course, most people don’t seem to be concerned. Why should that be? Perhaps we hav become accustomed to things proceeding without human control. Who sits and stares through the window on the washing machine to make sure that the clothes are being cleaned properly? We have become relaxed about lack of control. Our political systems seem to have gone the same way. The recent economic crash which the world is still trying to recover from showed that those who were supposed to be regulating the financial systems were doing nothing of the kind.

Policies in the UK just seem to go in a random, haphazard fashion. Take our outlook on homosexuality. In the recent past such things were deemed illegal and people could be prosecuted for behaviour that was deemed indecent. All that changed and the world became a more tolerant place. Now it is becoming illegal hold an opposite view. If you don’t believe that homosexual behaviour is acceptable you can lose your job. One intolerance has been replaced by another. Who is steering this place?

We seem to have a government in the UK where things just drift along from one crisis to the next; a bit like a learner driver who hasn’t got the hang of steering and manages to bash every car parked along the street as he passes. People might see a computer driven car as a much safer option than anything driven by our politicians.

No steering wheel? Well, what’s the point?

A View On The Killing

Ambulance

Life Savers

Apparently the Care minister has changed his mind on the Euthenasia question. He now thinks Lord Falconer’s bill should be supported. Even the former Archbishop of Canterbury has  decided the time is right for us to choose death over life. In fact he goes further than the bill which proposes to relax the law in cases  where someone is suffering a terminal illness. Lord Carey refers to cases of people with locked in syndrom but not in a terminal state.

And so it goes on. The half truths are being rolled out to persuade a compassionate people (thats you and me) the it is wrong to let patients go on suffering in pain and it is better to kill them. The half that is true is that it is wrong to let people suffer in pain. The half that is wrong is that it is better to kill them. Whe have the technology to relieve pain; that’s what the hospice movement is all about. Of course it is cheaper to kill people.

Life is fragile. We take all sorts of steps to support life. My twin grandsons were born seven weeks early almost a year ago and the technology and, above all, the wonderful, professional care they recieved in Glasgow hospitals helped them to live and I now have two great wee boys. We spend lots of money on pedestrian crossings to keep people alive when crossing the road. Our emergency services are there to save lives. Why all this? Because life is important. We are either for life of for death.

That might seem a simple choice but it is not. Life costs money. Hospitals, hospices and carers cost. Death, on the other hand, makes money. We make millions from selling weapons, bombs and bullets whose purpose is simply to kill. We are currently remembering the First World War. That war caused millions to be slaughtered in the most horrible conditions imaginable. It was called “The War to End All Wars”, to stop the killing.

In the second leg, World War Two, we saw the killing grow into an industry. Apart from the fighting we saw millions murdered by the German regime because they were ‘subhuman’, handicapped, politically different or someone you don’t like. The Neuremburgh trials punished some of the perpetrators. Unfortunately the lesson has not been learnt. When you choose death over life killing becomes the answer to all sorts of problems.

Some will point out that the bill is restricted to the terminally ill and will be regulated. Well, they said that about abortion and we see the number of babies killed soaring. The archbishop’s outlook on this has already moved beyond the terminal cases. It’s a slippery slope and we are about to step over the edge.

Just hope you are allowed to grow old without developing some problem that the ‘Death Squads’ will deem to be too serious and have you put down.

Too Clever By Half?

A graduate

Is this guy too scary?

I see the politicians are promoting the idea of more people going to university to make them employable. See the BBC article here.

I wonder if this is really the case? Labour are arguing for ‘Technical Degrees’ that are not academic but focus on skills. This is to raise the status of technicians I imagine. I have two reservations about this.

First, I have found examples of the difficulty of having a degree recognised as worthwhile. My daughter with her first class M.A. and M.Lit with distinction was advised by the ‘consultant’ at the Jobcentre to remove any mention of a degree from her CV if she wanted to get a job. I assumed this was an isolated thing ’till yesterday.

A friend has just completed a Ph.D in his spare time. He is currently employed by B.T. but is about to be made redundant as the work he does is being sent to India. He was told to revise his CV and did so. On submitting his updated document he was berated by a senior manager for including his university qualifications. He was told that anyone with a degree in their CV would not get an interview in BT. The manager would not give details of his own university education.

It would appear to me that the problem we have is not one of lack of education in the applicants but we have the wrong people in influential positions in our industry, especially big companies. Let’s remember that BT was originally Poast Office Telephones which had the monopoly of telecoms and is now a poor relation in that field. Is it any wonder?

There is a malaise here in government bodies and some employers. They make the excuse of lack of education and training as the cause of unemployment. I think they are looking in the wrong direction. I remember a meeting of physics department heads being addressed by a representative of industry complaining that young people were not being taught the right skills. We asked him what skills he would like to see taught. “Honesty and reliability” was his reply. Not exactly skills and not something we often find demonstrated by governments and employers either if recent revelations are to be believed.

My second reservation is the idea that there are no suitable technical qualifications for the non-academic. There have always been good college courses and national qualifications. The problem is that industry is not giving the recognition these courses deserve. Changing the name to a degree will make no difference. Blaming the youngsters, the schools, colleges and universities is dishonest and serves no purpose other than to pass the buck. Government and employers need to shake up their ideas and put the right people in place to get the economy moving, with more jobs.

Are you too clever or are you afraid some young gun with a degree will take your job?

Old Prophesy, New Times

At mass today I was struck by the Old Testament reading.

It’s a reading from the prophet Amos and was obviously written a long, long time ago. Despite the age of the passage I found it amazingly pertinent to the world today. In our period of austerity imposed by the Coalition government the poor have been badly hit and the rich seem to be prospering. This is obviously nothing new as Amos rails against those who cheat the poor.

 

I repeat the passage here.

 

Amos 8:4-6,9-12

Listen to this, you who trample on the needyand try to suppress the poor people of the country,you who say, ‘When will New Moon be overso that we can sell our corn,and Sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?

Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,by swindling and tampering with the scales,we can buy up the poor for money,and the needy for a pair of sandals,and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’

That day – it is the Lord who speaks –I will make the sun go down at noon,and darken the earth in broad daylight.

I am going to turn your feasts into funerals,all your singing into lamentation;I will have your loins all in sackcloth,your heads all shaved.

I will make it a mourning like the mourning for an only son,as long as it lasts it will be like a day of bitterness.

See what days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –days when I will bring famine on the country,a famine not of bread, a drought not of water,but of hearing the word of the Lord.

They will stagger from sea to sea,wander from north to east,seeking the word of the Lordand failing to find it.

 

I wonder how that would be received by our government today. They have recently prompted the idea of teaching our young people traditional values. Well traditional values would be old values and you don’t get many older than the Old Testament.

 

Do you think the Coalition might recognize themselves in the passage? Perhaps that’s just seeing it my way.

British Values

Wee Michael

In a galaxy far, far away

The Tory Education minister wants all schools to teach British values. Every pupils should learn about what we, as a sociey, value in a person. He was supported by the prime Minister.

Mr Cameron said: “I would say freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions – those are the sorts of things that I would hope would be inculcated into the curriculum in any school in Britain whether it was a private school, state school, faith-based school, free school, academy or anything else.”

Surely we could add truthfulness to that list. I wonder why he left it out? I also wonder why the government think that schools are the right place for these values to be inculcated? Surely basic values are learned at home in the first isntance. Our young people can learn these values from the way our society operates. Take freedom for instance. Young people will see that we are free to express our views about anything and demonstrate in public in support of our views without interference or kettling by the police. Well, perhaps not.

Tolerance is a basic value we live by in the UK. We tolerate people’s religious beliefs and don’t penalise them for operating in accourdance with their religion like Catholic adoption societies who try to place children in hetrosexual families. We don’t force them to close, er, well apart from that kind of thing.

The rule of law is important in our society. So much so that we have a legal aid system that provides defence for people in court. We don’t stint on that kind of thing because the rule of law is one of our values. That’s right, isn’t it? Isn’t it? No? Oh!

The belief in personal and social responsibility is paramount in Britain. We can see that in the way that bankers who brought the economy to it’s knees were charged and brought to court. Those bankers who mad fortunes from wrongfull selling of PPI and caused the Libor scandal heve been charged for their crimes and jailed. Well they are going to be charged, tried and jailed then. Oh, they are not being dealt with by the law but the banks have to pay back the money, if you can catch them, well that’s surely personal responsibility. You are responsible for catching the bankers who have robbed you. Simple!

Respect for British institutions is a no – brainer. Who could fail to respect the police who shot the terrorist Jean Charles de Menenzes before he could do any damage with the explosives he was wearing in his puffer jacket, which he wasn’t wearing anyway and then lied about it when it turned out he wasn’t a terrorist. The officers in charge of the force were severely knighted as a punishment. We respect institutions like parliament where the ministers fiddle their expenses and give a short, cursory non apology and that’s an end of it. We must respec t the coallition government who stand up and admit that the problems we face are someone else’s fault.

I’m also interested in “anything else”, as in “private school, state school, faith-based school, free school, academy or anything else.” What else is there? What does that mean, Sunday school, night school, card school? This isn’t just some vague waffle is it? Surely this is something we can learn to respect, just like Dave and wee Michael.

Remembering D-Day?

The 6th of June is remembered as D-Day, the day that allied forces forced a landing in Normandy that helped chande history – for the better. The media is full of D-Day. Newspapers are full of it, television replies with a barrage of interviews, film and re-enactments. This is seventy years on.

A few years ago I ment an old veteran in Dunbar. He claimed he was the oldest surviving veteran of the landings. I have no reason to disbelieve him. He told me about the celebrations of the sixtieth anniversary. He was one of a group of veterans who were taken to France to take part in the ceremonials. They were greeted by the world leaders. He recalled that the British leader responded to one of the veteran’s jokes as though he had been insulted. “No sense of humour”, the veteran concluded.

A politician would regard such a ceremony as above humour. It would be spoiled by trivia. The soldier might not agree. If they took the war too seriously they might never have survived. Dark humour helped many soldiers cope with the horrors they experienced on the beaches and beyond. It is the soldiers, after all, who are the only ones who can remember D-Day. They were there and experienced it. Those of us who were born after the war have only experienced the movies and they could not possibly convey the horrors, even if they tried.

How did soldiers cope with their experiences? The truth is many did not. Many veterans carried on with apparently normal lives after the war but nobody knew of the nightmares that blighted their lives. Some turned to the bottle. I had an uncle who had drink problems. He never spoke of the war but recently I learned he had been at Dunkirk and had fought his way from the Normandy beaches into Germany. How can we possibly understand the effects of war when we don’t know what really went on?I knew one man who flew Spitfires over France. His family didn’t see any significance in that. They knew little of what he did or saw.

The heroes of the European war were ordinary men. They went back to their ordinary jobs after the war and nobody really knew what it was like. They carried the effects into those ordinary lives and that has shaped our society in a subtle way. Some went into politics and had gained the wisdom to avoid wars where possible. Today we have politicians who only experienced war through the eyes of Hollywood. Is that why we have marched into so many conflicts in this new century?

If we want to remember wars then let it be a memory of the evil that is war and try to avoid it. The pomp and celebrations are all a bit late now. Let’s hope there are no plans for 2024.

So What?

Ukip have changed politics for ever! Really?
What’s behind the recent Euro results?
People are disgusted by the way our government has abused its powers and attacked everyone but the rich and lied about it. They have told them that they are lower than a mouthy guy in a bar who talks rubbish and has no policies.

This result is not about Europe. This is a message to Parliament. I think the message reads;
Forget the extra holiday.
Get to work and do what you are paid for.
Start sorting out the economy.
Stop messing around with schools, marriage, anything that distracts attention from the real job you are supposed to be doing and get on with really sorting the economy.
In other words, get back to politics and do what we pay you for!
If you can’t handle that then go before we throw you out!

The Blockade Runner and the Independence Vote

Clydebuilt

 

I was recently watching this BBC Scotland program hosted by David Hayman. The episode I had recorded was ‘The Robert E Lee’. This episode centres on the Clyde built paddle steamer Giraffe which was sold to the Confederacy and renamed the Robert E Lee and became one of the fastest blockade runners of the war.

 

Steamship

The Clydebuilt Blockade Runner

I found this particularly interesting because I had just completed a course on the American Civil War at Strathclyde University, delivered by Robert Lynch. In the course I had learned about the importance of cotton to the Confederate states. Cotton provided the link with Scotland and soon some of my fellow students unearthed links between Glasgow and the Confederacy. These included evidence of Jefferson Davis having visited Glasgow to stay with some industrialists and collaborators after his release from prison. This is expanded on in the programme which also shows evidence of a Confederate spy network working from Bridge of Allan.

This program highlighted the role of Glasgow’s Shipbuilders and the blockade runners. It filled in lots of interesting details of the activities of the blockade runners and the Scots who made fortunes from the war.

It gives us a fresh look at the role Scotland played in supporting the slave owning Confederacy and is particularly interesting at this time. Scotland is about to go to the polls to vote on independence. The Yes camp has made much of the UK’s imperial past and their desire to dissociate Scotland from it. Is this moral stance justified?

Taking this closer look at Scotland’s history of support for a slave system and the fortunes made in extending the slaughter of the Civil War should encourage us to examine the myth of our historical innocence.

I believe it is important for the future of Scotland to expose the truth about ourselves and our past. We are not a people who lived under the yoke of imperialism but we were instrumental in promoting it and made fortunes out of our fellow man.

When we walk into the polling booth this autumn let’s make our decision based on facts and not myth.

Why We Need an In-Out Referendum Now

Why We Need A Referendum

 

I have come to believe we need an in-out referendum and we need it now!

Why do we need one now? That is obvious.

Our economy is in a dreadful state. I know we have signs of growth, but it is growth based on consumers spending their savings, not on industrial expansion. People are buying new cars, booking holidays etc rather than leave their cash in the bank losing value as inflation outruns the interest rate

Pay day lenders are making massive profits as more and more people fall into debt. The rich are getting extremely rich and the poor are getting even poorer. We are told that the economy will be back to pre-crisis levels at the end of the year. Just ask people how their income matches up to their expenditure. Most people will be way behind.

We are creating a massive problem for our children. Unemployment among the young is racing well ahead of the headline rates. This was caused by the austerity that was supposed to save future generations from our debt.

So,how will a referendum help? I want an in-out referendum on the government and I think we need it now. Things are getting worse and we are being misled by doctored figures and hidden reports. Can we afford to have another two years of Tory muddle and Lib Dem aquiesence? I don’t think so.

A General Election Now! Get the Tories Out before it is too late!

What is the important issue today?

In the words of Bill Clinton,”It’s the economy, stupid!”

Fings Aint Wot They Used Ta Be

Freak waves

Storms hit the coast

I don’t know if you’ve noticed , but the weather has been rather unusual recently. Storms have lashed the south coast and have destroyed the railway line to Cormwall. There are so many flooded areas in England that emergency services are stretched beyond their limits. Even the army is overstretched.

That’s not all. The East coast of the USA and Canada has been suffering a winter like no other. Some places have seen snow for the first time. Travel has been almost impossible at times. Meanwhile California is suffering its worst ever winter drought. I was in San Francisco over a year ago and my cousin Matt McGhaa was explaining that their summer water supply is dependent on the winter snows on the hills melting and topping up their reservoirs. Not much hope of that this year.

Australia has been on fire again.

Do you think the climate may be changing?

Do you think it might not be for the better?

Do you think the government has taken this seriously?

I don’t really want to be a prophet of doom, but the way things are looking I think we should start considering some changes around here. We could start with a government that seems to have missed the predictions and gut the money for flood protection.