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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Who judges? Sharia Law

The BBC website has reported that Sharia law, and its rough justice, is spreading through rebel held parts of Syria. They report on the killing of a 14 year old boy because he made an off-the-cuff joke about "the Prophet".  See .

The ruling regime in Syria has a lot wrong with it, but we have to be careful that what replaces it, possibly with the help of western nations, is not just as bad, or even worse. Sharia law has no place in the 21st century. Do we never learn that the religions of the world have brought much hatred, wars, civil unrest and unhappiness. Whatever you belief, surely the common threads of all world religions are meant to be care for others, empathy, understanding and love in its most profound sense. Why is it then that the enduring image of almost (all?) major religions is just the opposite?

If you disagree, please let me know the reasons why.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Edward Snowden and the Russian/USA discussions?

This evening, I read that Edward Snowden, the US contractor who has leaked details of US spying activities, has (reportedly) asked for political asylum in Russia and that President Putin has said,

"If [Snowden] wants to go somewhere and there are those who would take him, he is welcome to do so," and  "If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound coming from my lips."

Now, to my suspicious mind this sounds a very strange comment from a Russian head of state. One can only imagine the behind-the-scenes contacts between the US and Russian governments that prompted this utterance. We all know that the USA spies on Russia and that Russia spies on the USA, so why this apparent support for the USA? 


Wednesday, 5 June 2013


Waitrose, part of the John Lewis partnership, is one of my favourite shops. Their food quality is excellent, their no-quibble response to customer returns is first class and now they offer a free cup of coffee or tea plus a free Daily Telegraph or Daily Mail for Waitrose card holding customers. In my view, the Daily Mail is best avoided unless you like rubbish journalism on the far right or need paper to wipe up your mess. Every time I read a copy I fume with rage! The Daily Telegraph is more central politically, although slightly on the right of centre.

The John Lewis partnership is a model for future business: employees share a bonus based on real results (unlike the rip-us-off bankers) and thereby want their business to succeed. They treat their customers well.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The sickness of banks

Having just read an excellent book by the BBC financial correspondent Robert Peston called "How Do We Fix This Mess?: The Economic Price of Having it All, and the Route to Lasting Prosperity" I am appalled by the action of banks and bankers over the last 10-20 years. Rotten to the core does not describe them accurately enough.

Reading this book it is clear that, from the very top, many in the banking business were corrupt, greedy, arrogant and deceitful people who greatly contributed to the crisis that has left many nations, including the UK, greatly in debt and living beyond their means. Not all the blame is on the banks: there was a total absence of control from governments of all flavours too and, as individuals, we were guilty of believing that something for nothing was possible. But, overall, we were being run rings around by greedy individuals who should be strung up and made to repay every penny of their ill-gotten bonuses.

Fixing the problem will be a long slog with a need for a cultural shift: we have again to live within our means at all levels. We need to earn our way in the world and not live on cheap finance (debt) provided by nations like China. The sooner the UK becomes a manufacturing nation again the better.

Globalisation cannot be stopped, but we need to make some major readjustments.

A final lesson from the book: the crisis is far from over and NEVER trust banks or governments with your money. Burying some of what you have saved in a box at the bottom of the garden may not be such a bad thing.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Dam busters raid anniversary
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the raid on the dams in the Ruhr valley by RAF Lancaster bombers of 617 squadron. Whether the raids had the effect intended or not remains contentious but the dam reconstruction work set back the Nazi war effort for several months.

My father was a flight engineer in Lancasters in the 482 Pathfinder squadron in WW2. He flew many night raids over Germany and crash landed on the return to England on one occasion narrowly cheating death. We rarely talked about his time in the RAF: he didn't want to relive the sheer terror he must have felt nightly setting out in the dark knowing his chances of seeing out the night alive were slim. I am sure the fact he dropped flares for the bombers following to kill innocent men, women and children deeply troubled him in later years. He was a very brave man and I wish I had acknowledged this in his lifetime.

"Honest to God" book is 50 years old

Back in spring 1963, a book on theology by John A. T. Robinson , the then Bishop of Woolwich, called "Honest to God" became an instant best seller selling millions and millions of copies around the world.  It was reprinted many times within just a few months.  At the time, everyone, it seemed,  was talking about it. It was endlessly discussed on the TV and in the newspapers. Many within the Church of England were deeply troubled by it.

In the book, Robinson challenged the conventional understanding of God "up there or out there" and instead looked for a demythologised understanding of God as the "ground of being" as Tillich termed it.

Today, few young people will be aware of this book, but if you can find a copy then I can recommend reading it. Unless you are a convinced and total atheist, you are likely to find the book thought provoking. This was no evangelical religious book: in fact it was quite the opposite.  For the first time it seemed a man in the Church of England was vocalising what many had felt: the old portrayal of God as a kindly old man on a cloud was dead, irrelevant. And yet, deep within us there is that sense of something transcendent with a deeper meaning than the atoms and genes from which we are formed.

I see that Amazon is selling a 50th anniversary edition.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The South Hams

I was born and brought up in the beautiful South Hams of Devon, UK.  This is a gentle land of rolling hills, estuaries and farmland surrounded on 3 sides by rugged coastal scenery and on the other side by the southern slopes of Dartmoor. This last week I was back there on holiday in the best weather possible: wall-to-wall sunshine and blue skies. Outside of school holidays the area is not busy with tourists and May is an ideal time to visit.

This video is of Salcombe at the very tip of South Devon, taken yesterday from Snapes Point.