The BBC and Lord Janner

This BBC article has the following biography of the paedophile Lord Janner.

  • Born in Cardiff in 1928
  • Served in the Army and studied at Cambridge before becoming a barrister and then QC
  • Labour MP for Leicester North West and then Leicester West from 1970 until retiring in 1997, when he was made a life peer
  • Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2009
  • Suspended from the Labour Party in April 2015
  • Ruled unfit to stand trial over allegations of child sexual abuse on 7 December 2015
  • Died two weeks later, aged 87
Nothing much there to explain why he should have so miraculously escaped prosecution for his crimes. Or, explain why he was given a peerage when he should have been given a prison sentence.

Here are a few more biographical details that the BBC clearly didn't consider relevant.

Chairman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews
Vice President – The Association for Jewish Youth
Vice President – The Jewish Leadership Council
President – The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women
Advisory Board – Community Security Trust
Vice President – The World Jewish Congress
Chairman – The Holocaust Educational Trust
Director – The United Jewish Israel Appeal

Merkel's responsibility for migrant deaths

Does Merkel have any responsibility, legal or ethical, for the migrants who drown whilst trying to reach Europe?

In the USA they have the legal concept of 'attractive nuisance'.

"The attractive nuisance doctrine applies to the law of torts, in the United States. It states that a landowner may be held liable for injuries to children trespassing on the land if the injury is caused by an object on the land that is likely to attract children. The doctrine is designed to protect children who are unable to appreciate the risk posed by the object, by imposing a liability on the landowner. The doctrine has been applied to hold landowners liable for injuries caused by abandoned cars, piles of lumber or sand, trampolines, and swimming pools. However, it can be applied to virtually anything on the property of the landowner."
The idea is that even if the children are illegally trespassing on your property and you have put up signs to warn them off you might still be liable for any injury they sustain.

If you substitute 'desperate people' for children and  'Germany' for 'swimming pool' you can see the relevance of the doctrine.

When Merkel announced an open door policy for migrants she created an attractive nuisance which was sure to draw both refugees from Syria and economic migrants from all over. Inevitably, many drowned whilst trying to cross the Mediterranean.

In the USA the attractive nuisance doctrine creates a civil liability, not a criminal offence. As far as I know there is no equivalent doctrine in Europe so Merkel is in no danger of paying for the  folly of her actions.

Merkel may be able to skip merrily away from her responsibility for migrant deaths but she should not be able to avoid the blame for the damage she has done to the European ideal.

She behaved with gross irresponsibility and has done immense damage to European unity. To take one example. The United Kingdom will soon be voting on whether we should continue in the EU or leave. The Eurosceptic arguments have been greatly strengthened by two pieces of evidence.

1. That the EU has been totally unable to deal with the migrant crisis. Its flabby response has been exacerbated by its most powerful member behaving with blind disregard for the common interest.

2. Germany has far too much power.

One thing is clear. Merkel must go. She has been able to stay in power so far because of a peculiarity of the German electoral system but the Germans must act to ensure that she goes ASAP.

How on earth did she not see that her actions would draw millions of the desperate, the greedy and the violent to Europe?  The British response to the Syrian refugee crisis is the right one. It has two parts.

1. Giving hundreds of millions of pounds to support people in refugee camps.

2. Only accepting migrants from refugee camps and then only people in certain categories, families and not violent young men in their twenties.

If German had adopted the same policy it could have taken as many refugees as it liked but avoided all the deaths and political damage.

Monte Piana in the Dolomites

During the First World War the Austrians and Italians fought over this flat topped mountain. The Italians had one part of the plateau and the Austrians the other. A narrow bridge called the Forcella dei Castrati [?] connected the two parts. You can see the two parts and the bridge in the photograph below.

The plateau is now an open air WW1 museum, with reconstructed trenches and bunkers.

A former Italian military road runs up from a car park near Lake Misurina to Refuge Bosi at 2206 meters. Private vehicles are not allowed on this road, so you must either walk up or take a shuttle bus. These buses give a fast and exciting ride. The road runs around the side of the mountain and is steep and narrow, with no barriers between the road and eternity.

Refuge Bose has a small museum that is worth visiting at some point. From the refuge take path n.122 which runs off to the left. This runs around the edge of the plateau and passes a number of tunnels and bunkers created by the Italians during the war. A torch is useful at this point.

Once on the plateau there are lots of paths and you can just roam around looking at the restored WWI trenches, tunnels and bunkers. There is a marked historical trail which will lead you past the best bits.There are a couple of short stretches of grade one via ferrata in this area.

See also

Strada delle Gallerie

Via Ferrata Lagazuoi Tunnels

Map of walks and via ferrata

Jeremy Hunt - a liability for the Conservatives?

The British public are very fond of the NHS. It is a key electoral issue. Surveys have shown that the Conservatives are not trusted to take care of the NHS. It is their weakest issue. The elderly are particularly fond of the NHS and the elderly vote [much more than the young].

Given those  points you would think that the Conservatives would take extra care not to put a foot wrong on the NHS.

Instead, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has managed to provoke the junior doctors to vote [98% in favour] for industrial action.

How stupid can you get?

The Conservatives only have a narrow majority in Parliament and they could easily lose that over the NHS.

They need to get rid of Hunt and put the NHS in a safe pair of hands. Probably the plan is to let him do all the dirty work and then bring in someone more conciliatory nearer the next election.

Pollution from coal power stations

Which country is producing the most carbon pollution from coal powered electricity generators?

Yes, you have guessed it -it is China. Closely followed by the good old USA.

Blue circles represent the total carbon emissions in millions of tons from coal fired power stations. The outer ring represents a country's total emissions from coal, oil and gas power stations. The white area is therefore the emissions from oil and gas fuelled power generation.

Note that Australia produces more pollution from coal powered stations than the UK, despite the UK having about four times the population.

The Berlin Wall - an old lie exposed -

During the Cold War the East Germans put a barrier through Berlin [and elsewhere] to stop people 'escaping' to the West.

Here we have a photo of an East German soldier jumping the wire.

It was all clear evidence of how bad life must be over there and how cruel the regime.  We were told that very few people managed to escape and only at serious risk to their lives since the East German border guards would shoot at anybody trying to cross the Wall.

That was all a lie. People were crossing the border by the bus load.

Between 1964 and 1989 some 33,755 political prisoners and 250,000 of their relatives were sold to West Germany, for a sum totalling 3.5bn Deutschmarks. 

People were also traded for commodities such as coffee, copper and oil.   However, neither side wanted the public to find out - the GDR because it didn't want to appear weak and West Germany because it didn't want to be seen supporting the communist regime.   So the operation remained clandestine - people were traded in darkened nooks of the underground railway, the U-Bahn, or sent across the border in buses with revolving license plates. The number plates would switch at the checkpoints, so as not to arouse suspicion on the other side.

So, no need to tunnel under the wall or cut your way through the wire. All that was needed was money.

The truth is revealed 40 years later. It makes me wonder what lies we are currently being told.

Minard's Maps

Most people will be familiar with Minard's famous map of Napoleon's Russian campaign.

Here are two more of his maps.

English coal exports 1864

Global migration 1858

England saved from Heffalumps

Andrew Parker, Director General of MI5 [aka the Security Service] and head of Britain's secret police  warned that Britain was facing its gravest threat from fanatics and his agency had foiled six major plots to attack this country in the last year – the highest he has ever known. Mr Parker is trying to persuade Parliament to gives his organisation even more surveillance powers.

Here at MI4786 [and two thirds] we have had another successful year keeping the country free of heffalump attacks. Our department foiled 17,689 heffalump plots to launch attacks on our country. If even one of these  attacks had succeeded millions would have died.  I am confident we can continue to defeat heffalumps if our budget is doubled and we are given the power to enter any property and strip search any person we choose [and I am given a knighthood when I retire].

Mr Parker would undoubtedly claim that the fact that in Britain only one person has  been killed by a terrorist in the past ten years demonstrates that MI5 is putting its funds and sweeping powers to good use.

However, here at MI4786 [and two thirds] we have ensured that not even one person has been killed by heffalumps in the past twenty years and that demonstrates that we are even worthier of more of everything.

Death in the Long Grass

There is currently a lot of fuss in the British press about the killing of Cecil the lion. I thought this would be a good time to repost this piece from 2011.

You may have seen the 1996 film The Ghost and the Darkness with Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer. The  film was based on Lieut.-Col. J. H. Patterson’s book 'The Man-Eaters of Tsavo'. The man-eaters were two lions who killed 135 construction workers on the Uganda Railway in 1898 before they were shot by Patterson. The film is a typical Hollywood product but the book is worth reading. It is now out of copyright but  I found a copy on the internet. Patterson goes about slaughtering the wildlife, as they did then, but the wildlife has several very good attempts at slaughtering Patterson.

Reading it reminded me of Peter Hathaway Capstick’s 'Death in the Long Grass'. This 1977 book is about Capstick’s life as a big game hunter in Africa. It is an excellent read. The book is still in print and can be obtained from Amazon. I managed to obtain my copy from a charity shop for 70p.

Capstick describes several encounters with lions and mentions that packs of man-eating lions were common, especially near the Great Rift in Central Africa. The Ubena man-eaters had been operating for ten years before a game officer called Rusby started hunting them. In the two years he took to wipe out the pride they killed another 249 victims. The same chap wiped out the Njombe man-eaters, a pride of fifteen lions, which had a confirmed score of 1500 natives and colonists. A fully grown lion is 6-8 ft long [head and body] and about 4 ft tall.  The natives would have stood little chance against such creatures.  Video.

Capstick has some wonderful anecdotes about lions and other African predators. Its clear from what he writes just how deadly these cute Wildlife Special creatures are in their own environment. He thought that crocodiles alone were killing ten Africans a day at the time he wrote, usually women who had gone down to a river bank to collect water. Also, how little chance anybody would stand against them unless armed with a powerful rifle. Capstick was experienced and well armed but he acquired 300 stitches, three severed tendons and a cut femoral artery during his career.

From another source

"Zambia’s lions had a far worse reputation during the bygone colonial era than did the Tsavo lions. In the far north on Lake Mweru, there was an old boma (government outpost) called Chiengi, about 160kms from Mporokoso, and it was in this area that some man-eaters periodically set up a reign of terror, and they were never beaten. One particular lion, which regularly killed natives in the vicinity of Chiengi Boma, became known as Chiengi Chali. During 1909 alone, he killed ninety locals. For a long time, attempts to bring him to book failed, on one occasion he actually leapt into the courtyard of Sealy the District Officer’s house, but escaped before Sealy could get in a shot.

Efforts to bring Chiengi Chali’s reign of terror to an end were stepped up, with fires being lit and guards posted, but it was to no avail, he just went on killing. Chiengi Chali was not intimidated by very much and broke through the thatched roofs of village huts or forced his way into already lit up doorways. For a long time, he managed to avoid trap guns, yet stole the bait attached to them."

Read more here and here.

Jim Corbett wrote a series of books about hunting man-eating tigers [Man-Eaters of Kumaon] and leopards [The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag] in India. One tiger had killed over 400 people. A woman was taken from her hut by a tiger.  The tiger entered via a small window, took the woman from amongst her family as they slept on the floor, and left with her body through the same small window. A flower pot in the window was still in place when the family woke the next morning.


John Carey  is a British literary critic, and former Merton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. He is the editor  of the Faber Book of Reportage (1987). This was published in America as Eyewitness to History, Harvard University Press, (1987).

The book [700 pages in paperback] is a collection of over 250 reports, starting with a report of the plague in Athens in 430 BC and ending with a report of the fall of President Marcos in 1986.  In between there are reports of a dinner with Attila the Hun, the torture of a Jesuit in the Tower of London, the Confederate bombardment at Gettysburg, the execution of Nazi war criminals and the My Lai massacre.

Some of the reports are several pages long. Others are only about a single page or even half a page.

The book is still in print. It is a superb read and I recommend it to you.

I found the book after reading Carey's autobiography, The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life (2014).

Carey also wrote the Faber Book of Science (1995) editor. Published in America as Eyewitness to Science: Scientists and Writers Illuminate Natural Phenomena from Fossils to Fractals, Harvard University Press, (1997) and that is my next read.

Glasgow's Lost Docklands

The  Clyde runs through Glasgow and connects it to the sea.  There used to be lots of docks on the river; some for building and repairing ships, others for loading and unloading cargo.

Some of the docks were very close to the centre of Glasgow. The small Kingston docks [below] were only a few minutes walk from the Central Station.

Two of Glasgow's biggest docks were only a short distance down the Clyde from the Kingston. The Princes Docks is on the left and the Queens Docks on the right. These date from the time when hordes of dockers swarmed into ship's holds and manually handled cargo.

Some of the shipyards are shown in the photograph below. You can see the Harland and Wolff shipyard on the upper left and some dry docks on the lower left.

In time containerisation and South Korean shipyards did for the Glasgow docks.

In an excess of tidiness the City Council filled in many of the docks.  Now, having seen what other cities have done with their docklands they really wish the had not been so hasty.

Interesting Gorges in Spain

The El Caminito del Rey (The King's little pathway)has now been restored and is open to visitors. In the second photograph you can see the old [very dangerous] path underneath the new one.

Walkers on the old path
Here is a post about another interesting gorge.

I have not tried either of the above but a few years ago I did walk the Cares Gorge Route in the Picos de Europa National Park. The park is in northern Spain and has several good walks.

Codes that changed the world

The BBC has an interesting series of radio programmes about computer languages such as COBOL, FORTRAN and JAVA.

They are available to listen online from here. I could not find any downloads.

The Mincing Machine - Fort Douaumont, Verdun

In 1916 over 250,000 French and German soldiers were killed in the Battle of Verdun. A further half a million were wounded. In term of casualties it was one of the worse battles in human history. Some of the worse fighting was around the French fort at Douamont.

Fort Douaumont was one of a number of forts built [according to the Sere de Riveres system] near the small town of Verdun. The French had decided to abandon these forts because they believed they were too vulnerable to artillery. However, when the Germans easily captured Douaumont the French were seized by an overwhelming desire to get it back. Over 100,000 men were killed or wounded before the fort was recaptured.

I visited Fort Douaumont about 8-10 years ago, and revisited this year during a trip across Northern France. Visitors can stroll on top of the fort [which is heavily pockmarked from artillery fire], and tour the internal galleries. More galleries have been opened since I first visited and one of the gun turrets can now be visited.

The entrance to the fort.

The galleries


Whilst the Germans were occupying the fort a cooking fire ignited grenades and flame-thrower fuel and 600-1000 soldiers died [different websites give different casualties numbers. I think a sign at the memorial below gives a figure of 975]. The bodies could not be taken outside the fort because of French shelling so they were walled up in a tunnel. The site is now an official German war grave.


The toilets below were not installed until after the battle. One can only wonder what conditions were like inside the fort when there were over a thousand men inside and no sanitary facilities.


Fort Douaumont is one of the most important WW1 sites but it is deteriorating and the French government needs to spend some money on restoration and preservation.

Other WW1 sites nearby

Fort Douaumont is shown to the top right in the aerial photograph below. The large site is the Ossuary and is the subject of a separate post.

The site at Fleury devant Douaumont is a large memorial and museum [with a good library and shop]. All three are worth visiting. By following our GPS we managed to repeatedly get lost, though as can be seen from the aerial shot the three sites are close together.

There are many other relics of the war in the area.


Sterioscopic photographs

When I first visited Fort Douaumont they had a number of sterioscopic photographs on display. These were amazingly vivid, one in particular. It showed a French artillery crew resting by their gun. Though the photograph was only black and white the 3-D effect and sharp image made the Frenchmen look very alive. They looked like people you can see any day in the streets, but better looking and more sophisticated.  Probably most of them were later consumed by the 'mincing machine'.

The stereoscopic photographs had gone from Fort Douaumont when I visited recently but there were a large number on display at the Ossuary.

Fort Douaumont Ossuary, Verdun

Douamont Ossuary and adjacent cemetery contains the remains of some of the French and German soldiers who were killed in the Battle of Verdun. Different sources give different numbers but Wikipedia states that the remains of 130,000 unknown soldiers are stored in the Ossuary, and a further 25,000 buried in the cemetery.


Living on a pebble

Put your problems in perspective. You are living on a pebble that is orbiting an insignificant sun in an unfashionable part of a minor galaxy.

The BBC's 'A History of Ideas' podcasts

A  podcast series made by the BBC and the Open University

1.  60 short [about 12 minutes] talks on philosophy

2.  Short animations on philosophical topics

A review by the Independent newspaper.

This is the kind of thing that the BBC does well and justifies the licence fee.

Buying tyres online

I was never happy with the tyre buying process in the UK. After I had bought a tyre I always felt that I had been hornswoggled.

There was no way of determining which  brand of tyre was the best in terms of durability, safety and value for money. I usually used price as a surrogate for quality whilst well aware that it was not a good surrogate. There was also the suspicion that the garage or tyre fitting company was offering the tyres that provided them with the best commission and not the ones that were best for the buyer.

The problem was poor information.  To make a good  decision a buyer needed information on tyre quality and comparative information on a range of tyres.

The EU solved the first part of the problem by introducing a compulsory labelling scheme for tyres. The new standard gives motorists a way of comparing new tyres on their fuel efficiency, wet grip and noise.  The wet grip rating is particularly important.

The wet grip scale runs from A to G and each point represents 3 metres of stopping distance. The difference between a tyre rated A and one rated D is 9 metres, or the difference between stopping safely and sharing the drivers seat with the back of a lorry.

Of course, this labelling scheme is one of the reasons why Britain has to leave the EU. How dare those bastards in the EU dare give consumers information which is damaging to industry profitability. Without high profits factories will close and millions will be put out of work. When Britain is out of the EU our usual practice of  bribing lobbying politicians and civil servants will kill such schemes.

The established tyre retailers have not been enthusiastic about providing customers with comparative information so enter the online retailers, such as  These do provide the comparative information that has previously been unavailable. In addition to providing information they will supply tyres directly to the you or arrange for a nearby garage to supply and fit the tyres.

I checked the BlackCircles web site recently when I wanted two new tyres and was able to find a tyre with a rating of B/A/68. That is, a fuel economy rating of B, a wet stopping distance of A and a decibel rating of 68. Just what I was looking for and at a price of £65 per tyre [including fitting, tax and wheel balancing]. I rang my local garage and they quoted £73 for the same tyre and service, though they cut their price to £68 when I told them the Blackcircles price.

Blackcircles is not the only online tyre retailer. As more people become aware of them I would guess the existing tyre retailers, like HiQ, are going to experience some disruption.

 The old system gave tyre manufacturers no particular incentive to research and produce better tyres. The new system will and I expect that industry will also suffer some disruption, at least in Europe.

A telegram from the War Office

The British War Office used to notify next of kin of a servicemen's death by sending them a telegram.  A uniformed lad on a bike [later a red motor bike] would knock on a door and hand the telegram to a father, mother or wife.

As casualties increased  people began to understand the system and dread the appearance of a telegram delivery boy and a knock on their door.

The Streets They Left Behind web site has produced  a map of the homes of the 9,400 men  who died in World War I who came from the London boroughs of Highbury and Finsbury.  Each red poppy would have meant a knock on the door and a telegram.

The green poppies shows those  casualties who are buried in Islington Cemetery. I suppose those are men who were badly wounded in the war and died back in London.

This page has a link to the above map and also one showing casualties from Toronto.  'By the war’s end in 1918, some neighbourhoods were devastated. Shannon Street, a block running just south of College between Ossington and Dovercourt, lost ten men in the First World War. The Baron family, at 113 Langford Ave. north of Pape and Danforth, lost three sons – 28, 30 and 31 years old. Robert died at Ypres in 1916; Lawson was killed by a shell during a trench raid at Vimy Ridge in 1917; Thomas, gassed in 1915, lingered on to die in Toronto a few weeks before the end of the war.'

There is also an interactive calendar for Toronto's WW1 deaths.

Cameron makes UK an ISIS target

Interesting to see the disinformation campaign that lead up to the House of Commons vote to bomb.

First the terrormongering

Then the failure to learn from experience

1. Intervening in Iraq = disaster

2. Intervening in Afghanistan = disaster

3. Intervening in Libya = disaster

Then claiming there is no alternative

Yes, there is. It is none of our business. We are not the world's policeman. I listened to this Labour numpty on the radio saying that we are not the kind of country that would stand idly by. That is right. We are the kind of country that does as the US tells us to do.

Then deciding to train and arm terrorist groups in Syria

Just look how well this as worked out in the past. For example, arming rebels in Afghanistan during the Russian occupation of the country. Do you remember when Bin Laden was a CIA pinup?

My understanding is that the only groups that is might be reasonably safe to arm are such pussies that the big bad boys will soon come along and take away their new toys. Just as ISIS got all its good stuff when the Iraqi army ran away and left all their expensive weapons for ISIS to pick up.

None of the reasons that the government and their fellow travellers have given for going to war are plausible.  We have not been told the real reasons and once again we are being taken to war on the basis of a pack of lies.

How did the House of Commons ever come to vote for this nonsense?

When politicians claim to be upset that so few people vote in UK elections they might consider that it might be a consequence of them being a bunch of lying, self serving tossers.


Baume-les-Messieurs is a small village deep in a steep valley in the Jura region of eastern France. Limestone cliffs tower over the village.

In addition to the attractive Hobbit village there is an abandoned abbey which may date back to the sixth century.

In the early eight century the abbey and some surrounding villages were destroyed by Saracen raiders. The abbey was refounded in the ninth century. It is now open to visitors. There is a small tourist shop and a restaurant. It looked as if there was also accommodation available.

A river flows alongside the road into the village and there is an attractive  camp site by the river.

We visited in August and the village was not too crowded. Free parking was available.