Thursday, 8 September 2011

Mission Impossible in Afghanistan

The US attempts to rebuild a nation in Afghanistan by deploying thousands of troops and killing many civilians is sheer folly.  According to latest estimates billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars have been spent in Afghanistan on mission impossible. (One estimate puts the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan at four trillion dollars.  Such an amount would considerably reduce world poverty for years, but perhaps that does not allow for the corruption at work in poor countries.)  The death toll of US combatants is very sad.  The USA's reputation remains in tatters.  Torture, rendition, Guantanamo Bay, civilian casualties, aiding corruption, abuses of human rights, and other practices have lost the moral high ground.

Americans in Afghanistan have caused what some commentators call the hydra effect. Chop one head and others grow.  Killing one insurgent leads to others being recruited and trained to fight to end US occupation of Afghanistan.  There is no shortage of young men willing to make and plant roadside bombs (improvised explosive devices) to kill and maim US troops. This is a conflict against a very determined guerilla opposition that  cannot be won by conventional means. Yet mission impossible continues and dollars are wasted on this stupid war.  

Recent Riots in England: some interesting questions

We now know that many of the rioters were young criminals, as about 75 per cent have previous convictions.

Fraser Nelson also asks:

How many of those convicted finished school?
How many were brought up in a workless household?
How many by a lone parent, how many in welfare ghettos?

It is not just about poverty, because some very poor families do not produce delinquent children or engage in anti-social behaviour.

It is not a socio-economic problem, but a moral problem.  My father-in-law grew up in South Wales where poverty was rife during the Great Depression of the 1930s but the people had high moral principles fostered by the chapel, community and trade union movement.  There was a sense of community and those who engaged in anti-social behaviour were subject to effective local sanctions.  Today we have lost that sense of close community that shaped good manners, good conduct, consideration and care for others. In good communities people pull together and help each other; there is a sense of decency, concern and care for neighbour and neighbourhood.

I have known extremely poor people and missionaries who lived on low incomes among poor people in rural and urban environments, but they never resorted to theft, looting or anti-social behaviour.  During the Second World War and during the 1950s, there happened to be very many people who certainly by today's standards would be classed as extremely poor and needy yet they lived a highly moral life and worked hard for low wages.  The children were brought up on the ten commandments, so stealing was wrong; they had a sense of accountability to God, parents, school and community.  They did not want to let any of them down.  They avoided bringing disgrace and shame.

 In some housing estates there is alienation, anonymity, anti-social attitudes, high crime levels, violence, selfishness and inconsiderate behaviour.  There is no sense of shame, responsibility or accountability.  The youth lack moral guidelines, a moral compass. They do not know right from wrong, but do what is right in their own eyes.  They have not been helped to develop a social conscience or good ethical code of conduct. We are now reaping the consequences of bad seed in bad soil.  Sunday schools once helped these young people. How many of them had any form a Sunday school education? It has been said that a child who goes through the Sunday school system rarely goes through the juvenile court and criminal justice system.

High population density may have something to do with it, because putting some people in overcrowded conditions can cause aggression. But areas of Holland and Japan which are densely populated have low crime rates.  Social deprivation may be a cause, but it is, like poverty, hard to define.

European Football: England's dismal performance against Wales

England managed a win over Wales at Wembley on Tuesday evening despite a dull and dismal display in front of their supporters. A crucial easy miss by Earnshaw denied Wales a deserved draw.  The Welsh had a lot of possession on English soil, which surprised many pundits.  But England's failure to maintain possession and dominate in midfield must worry the manager and his staff. The midfield failed to feed Rooney and create enough goal scoring chances.

England's current high world ranking (currently fourth according to FIFA) flatters them and on this latest performance they will fail to maintain it.  We have world class defenders, but our midfield looked very mediocre, far from world class. We completely lacked authority in midfield.  The Welsh midfield were often much better. At times they outshone the England team, particularly in the second half.  Spain, Germany and Holland are way ahead in quality, midfield skill and general performance. Other sides ranked in the top ten have much better midfield balance and quality.  They hold the ball well and look comfortable in possession. We cannot seem to do that in so many games.  Don't expect England to do well when they come up against international class players. Our midfield mediocrity will let us down again. Our midfield does not gel at Wembley in recent matches there.  It has been found wanting. It is high time that we had a convincing win at Wembley.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Berners Roding Church

The abandoned and  neglected church at Berners Roding has fascinated a number of visitors.  One photographer has commented on the lamentable state of this once sacred building, which dates back to the 14th century.  It is shame that it has not  been preserved, perhaps as a retreat or place of prayer.  It could have been a poustinia where troubled souls could find solace and comfort for a time away from the pressures and problems of modern/post modern life. A poustinia in the Russian Orthodox Church tradition is a place for prayer and fasting. It was often found in isolated places, where a room had a bed, Bible, desk and a chair.

All Saints Church, Berners Roding

The graveyard at Berners Roding

Travellers at Dale Farm, Church land and Romans 13:1-7

The travellers at Dale Farm who are threatened with eviction need somewhere to go.  They would want to continue their way of life where they could park their caravans and cars etc.  The local churches have been involved in the mediation process.  I wonder if any of them has thought about offering some land owned by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church to help these travellers.   These churches own vast amounts of land and property. They have a lot of land attached to theological colleges, convents, monasteries, cathedrals, neglected churches, educational institutions, retreat centres etc.

Has Vanessa Redgrave thought about accommodating some of the travellers on her land? Perhaps she has thought about putting them in her back yard or on her property.

Are some of the wealthy travellers prepared to buy some more brown sites, like old scrapyards, to help them?  It is alleged that there are some very wealthy travellers who have become rich by evading taxes on their income through some their commercial enterprises.  Travellers have been accused of parasitical practices by taking advantage of the free health care, transport infrastructure, local amenities and benefits of society without putting in the funds through taxes, revenues etc.

Some, however, see travellers as a persecuted minority in a complex and structured society that treats them badly and unjustly.  According to this view, and others close to it, the travellers have a right to their independent, non-conformist culture and way of life.  It has been argued that they are often vilified for petty crimes by a hypocritical and hypercritical society that tolerates enormous fraud and foul practices in the name of commerce, banking and enterprise.

Some of the travellers who claim to be practising Catholics, committed Christians, preachers and pilgrims, and  other religious labels and affiliations need to consider the message and meaning of Paul's letter to the Romans in chapter 13, verses one to seven.

We pay taxes to the authorities because they are God's servants who give their full time to government administration.  Verse six clearly enjoins these acts.  We are to give everyone what we owe them and that includes taxes, revenue, respect and honour.

Those who put themselves above reasonable laws and established rules in a democratic society and deliberately disobey them, should take heed.  According to Romans 13:2, they are clearly acting against what God has established, rebelling against God and inviting the judgement of God on themselves.

This applies to certain members of the travellers, but it also applies to the incredibly greedy tax evaders who have lied, cheated and sought refuge in "tax havens", who are guilty of criminal acts that cost the British tax payer far, far more than the small amounts of lost revenue from the travelling community.

Saturday, 3 September 2011


A next door neighbour retired to Maldon, where her son had a shop and worked as an electrician.  Seaside towns in Essex seem to appeal to elderly folk.  Frinton is known as being on the Costa Geriatrica.  Some say: Harwich for the continent. Frinton for the incontinent. Maldon is a popular Summer outing and weekend destination for families with young children, because it has wonderful playgrounds and water features for the kids.

 Parking can be expensive, but the spacious Promenade Park gets very crowded on warm Summer days in August.  It cost me twice as much to park in Promenade Park, rather than parking in Butt Lane in the centre of town.  The Butt Lane car park can get full very quickly in August!

I last visited Maldon on a pleasant August day, when hordes of children were enjoying the playgrounds and ponds around Promenade Park. My children enjoyed coming here on warm Summer days during the school holiday season.

Maldon is wonderfully charming and has some delightful quiet spots, even on busy school holidays.

Hythe Quay attracts many visitors.  The Jolly Sailor pub, once used in a Lovejoy episode (Series 3, No Strings) starring Joanna Lumley as Victoria Cavero, is a popular watering hole.   The photographs of the lovely Lumley lady have sadly been removed.

I love to walk along the ancient streets.  What a delightful place!

Ancient and modern work well together.

The staff at the Tourist Information Office (Coach Lane) and at All Saints' Church are very helpful.  They will provide you with plenty of information about Maldon's fascinating history, amenities and places of interest.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Syria: killings continue, resentment rises and abuses abound

Some sources believe that over 500 civilians have been slaughtered during Ramadan, which has now ended.

The opposition to the Assad regime is growing stronger.  Reform is no longer an option.  The hearts and minds of the people are now behind a complete removal of the evil dictatorship.

The human rights record of the House of Assad, stretching back years, is appalling. Murder, torture, mayhem, injustice, imprisonment without trial, and political corruption have been experienced by the oppressed Syria people.  They remember the days of Hafez, father of Bashar, who was responsible for the Hama massacre in 1982. Well over ten thousand civilians were murdered.  There will be much rejoicing when the House of Assad eventually falls. Such is the level of oppression and secret police state practices that no creditable opposition has been allowed to grow. A transition to democracy will be a difficult and painful journey for the Syrian people.

 Bashar al-Assad is particularly unpopular on account of his Alawite beliefs and his autocratic government which has  favoured the Alawite minority. Alawites are considered to be heretical Muslims by many mainstream Islamic scholars and believers. Alawites are a branch, some would say sect, a rather secretive sect, of Shia Islam.  The vast majority of Muslims in Syria are Sunni.  The Alawites account for about 12 per cent of the population, yet their influence in government is considerable. Bashar al-Assad has an inner circle of trusted Alawites around him.

Alawites take their name from Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was a cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad.


River Stour