Saturday, 26 November 2016

No treat in the tail; just a sting and a triangular walk!

I tried out my hill walk last week that I had recommended to Weller/Willson/Verduyns who like a proper walk up, over and down a hill or two.  I had never done the full length, so thought I should check it.

All went well to begin with.  Problems came when I got up over the snow line and found that it was soft and cloying.  There was so much and it was too deep and sugary that I thought of turning back.  My left knee was also playing up.  I certainly wished that I had snow shoes.  This was last Wednesday 23 Nov, two days after the very wet and windy day.  The NE wind had deposited more on the western dip slope that I was toiling up so thankfully, once I got onto the 800 m ridge the snow was less.  I found the trig point in front of me and turned right to begin what turned out to be a much longer and harder run for home than I thought it would be.  The wide gentle ridge from Moel Sych looked so different in snow and cloud and it was the snow covering the feint path that turned it into a sting, a slog and slow going stumbling along .  At one point, I fell into a bog with the snow up to the top of my right leg and my foot in cold, wet, peaty water.  I got back to the car, after 7 hours, just before I definitely did need to dig out my Petzl but just avoided doing so.  Dry day but cloudy.  Cloud base 750 m.  No-one else seen.


Friday, 11 November 2016

Remember to keep the world safe Day, TODAY by ...

... maintaining our, so far, 102 years of consecutive warfare on countries, in recent years, like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

We must remain strong and militaristic on the world stage to ensure that the international community keeps safe and peaceful.

'Bigging' ourselves up with our military interventions around the world helps to ensure that terrorism is minimised and Western democracy is promoted down the barrel of a gun.

Only the UK can play second fiddle to our good partner and friend, the USA, to guarantee world peace and prosperity in these dangerous and violent times.

Monday, 17 October 2016

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP!

A word of encouragement to our transport, planners, strategists, managers and politicians

Only for the last fifty years our dear transport, planners, strategists, managers and darling politicians (from councillors to MEPs) have been resolute and persistent in thinking that urban railway lines were for cars and lorries to use and, for homes and hotels to be run down them.  An intriguing departure from normal transport practice.  About 80 Km in the Black Country and Birmingham have gone this way.

More by accident than design, one main line railway was not destroyed for homes, trading estates and roads.  Indeed, such is progress that our terrific transport personnel are now turning the UK’s most important, unused but easily reinstated, double track intercity line into use by two different kinds of slow trams.  We are now to have Very Light Rail and Light Rail, very slow and slow - a shuttle tram and a Midland Metro tram - going on 9 Km out of 65 Km that are unused - unused for passenger trains, would you believe - on this nationally vital but overlooked 120 Km main line railway between Worcester and Derby.

Yet, the lot of them do, ultimately, want the trains.  They genuinely think that Metro trams “are the basis for restoring heavy rail services at the appropriate time” (letter dated July 2000 from Tom Magrath, Passenger Services Director, Centro and repeated last year).  This is complete idiocy!

However, things are definitely looking up.  From being drunk and incapable with their success in putting cars, lorries and buildings instead of trains down rail lines, they have now improved to an E grade.  From F grade to E grade in now being only less than competent by running slow trams that stop almost as frequently as buses on double tracks that are desperately needed for commuter and intercity trains between London and the North via the Black Country.

£55.7 billion for HS2.  Not a dickey bird for the 115 Km double track railway lines in the West Midlands without a single passenger train or station.  Homebase was built on one station in Brum - Kings Heath!

£6 million per Km for Scotland’s new, rural, rail line last year, according to RailNews.
£106 million per Km for Birmingham - Brum getting all the money, yet again - for road running Metro trams to replace buses to grandiose Grand Central Shopping Centre and diesel perfumed, basement station.  A similar sum of £106 million per Km for the status symbol trams to the even more prestigious HS2 stations for Brum.  The £128 m for 1.2 Km did include 21 new trams to replace the 16 year old trams, according to RailNews. So, say £80 m per Km for trams to the HS2 station and beyond.

Enough said.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Thank God for a different kind of leader

A consensual, collegiate leader who is decent, honest and principled (as everyone says Corbyn is but, "we certainly don’t want him"!)

For goodness sake, not a leader who forces his Cabinet to toe his/her line but who is the first among equals.  A leader prepared to listen and change in the light of advice from people who know what they are talking about.
A leader who does not rule or reign but who serves humbly with no strutting around, self importantly, on the world stage. (I have heard 'good' things of Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs who is also mid 60s)
A leader who sensitively and, from time to time, questions, challenges, checks on what his fellow departmental leaders in the Cabinet are up to but does not compel obedience to his/her wishes.  Who lets them get on with the job without constant prying.  An encourager and supporter of his/her Cabinet members.
A leader who no longer jumps into military interventions/interference in foreign lands without the clear say so of the United Nations General Assembly.
A leader who is the prime, meaning foremost, the first minister meaning servant of the people rather than an all powerful dictator who coerces and compels others to do as he/she says.
A leader of integrity and honour who sticks to his bottom, middle and top line of no aggression, ever -no first, second or third use of WMD - ever.  A WMD pacifist, only as Corbyn is.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Steve Chalke gets it right - transcript

STEVE:
It was the first Christmas after the outrage of the September 11th attack on New York and Washington DC. America and her allies had recently invaded Afghanistan and the tension was building with Saddam Hussain's Iraq. I was doing some work as a presenter of a breakfast television show and was asked to interview a well-known American church leader. As part of the interview I asked him to talk about his understanding of what the Christmas story was all about.
“Peace and goodwill to all,” he replied, “Jesus is the Prince of Peace. That's the core of His life changing story.”
“So if Jesus is the Prince of Peace and one of his key messages was love your enemies, what does that mean on a world scale?” I asked. “I think it’s much easier to understand Jesus’ message on a person-to-person level – it doesn’t necessarily apply to nation/state relationships”.
After the show I asked one of the studio crew what he thought of what our guest had said. His reply was simple, “Love your enemy, but kill them first! 
I have often thought that, at any level, Jesus’ famous sound bite ‘Love your enemies’ probably amounts to, at one and the same time, the most admired and least practised piece of teaching in history. The myth that violence is the only solution to many of the world’s problems still thrives, seemingly everywhere. And, Jesus’ advice about non-violence is dismissed as impractical idealism, extraordinarily, no such charge is ever made against violence, in spite of the fact that history has proved, time and again, that war hostility and terrorism solve nothing in the long run.
Put differently, you can't kill your way to peace.
The ‘might is right’ principle seems to pervade cultures everywhere.. You only have to look at our films to see what dominates our own worldview. From Popeye to Tom and Jerry and Rambo to Batman, we are repeatedly sold the lie that violence is the only way to win and eradicate the enemy. And to add irony to insult, James Bond, the British Spy, in the service of Queen and country kills, murders, threatens, bullies, seduces, commits adultery, lies, steals, cheats, breaks the law and beats his enemies to a pulp.
But, have we actually been deluded into believing a myth that is destroying us? It was Gandhi who wrote: ‘I object to violence because even when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.’ As Carl Jung poignantly observed, “You always become the thing you fight.”  Perhaps the ultimate weakness of any kind of violence is that it is a descending spiral; begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. May be violence can never stop violence, simply because every ‘successful’ violent act deepens our faith in it and this very success leads others to imitate it.
Although, at this moment, Islamic extremism presents our contemporary world with a unique threat – to which very understandably it has been necessary to respond - radicalisation is much more than an Islamic problem. It is a human problem. For instance, here in South London, more young people are enticed by the lure of gangs and guns than ever seduced by the sinister world of extremism and terror.
At the age of 14, a South London kid, became a Christian - a follower of Christ. In that moment, he felt as if his small pointless story had been caught up in a much bigger, radical vision to bring positive change to the world; that he’d joined a huge gang – a gang that was worth belonging to – with a narrative that was strong enough, compelling enough, infectious enough, deep enough, rooted enough, and radical enough to dedicate his life to.
That kid was me.
Everyone needs a narrative worth living by; one that explains to us who we are, supplies us with a sense of worth and purpose – and which offers us hope for the future. Any counter terrorism strategy that falls short of this fails to get to the heart of things.
Do governments, guns and traditional armies have a role to play in our war against terrorism? Theologians and philosophers from Thomas Aquinas to Dietrich Bonhoeffer have spent centuries wrangling over Just War Theory; attempting to find a moral response to the evil perpetrated by those who wreak violence and war on the innocent. Of course a response may be necessary. But, can guns alone finally ever win the peace? Never! In this they are impotent. Instead, in the end we must find and promote a new narrative to live by, together, that brings real change, because lasting change, arises from local communities, one relationship at a time. Every act of love is a victory over hatred. Every act of kindness, a victory over violence. There is finally no other way.
Christians see Jesus Christ as the supreme example of the power of peace – He was oppressed and afflicted, but he did not fight back. His teaching, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ has inspired countless men and women through the centuries to live as non-violent radicals.  For those who have lived out this ‘upside down’, non-violent approach to life in past days, such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Desmond Tutu, or the older Nelson Mandela, there is almost universal admiration and respect. 
Now the challenge before us is to articulate for a new generation a narrative that is powerful enough to bring real and lasting peace to our vulnerable multi-cultural, multi-faith communities as well as to the diversity of our wider world.
It is never enough to talk about peace. It is never enough to believe in peace. The real task, the only task, is to work at peace – As Jesus said; ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’
And now I invite you to reflect in a moment of prayer as we hear the Oasis Waterloo Community Choir sing an arrangement of the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.

Dear friends

I was delighted to hear on ITV News that Steve is against selection of the brightest children to go to more grammar schools.  Theresa May's plan is for yet more preferential treatment for the wealthiest and most privileged to go to the 'best' schools in the land by building more of the supposed 'best'.

I want inclusion that means that those at the bottom should get the best of everything.  Bias to the poor and not the rich.  The rich and brightest are well able to look after themselves.

I was also delighted to hear your excellent 'Sunday Worship' broadcast on Sunday.  Steve's sermon was the very first sermon I have heard - and I am 68 years old - that specifically mentioned non-violence as the way of the Cross - as Christ's way.

Well done, Steve!

Dear Tim

Steve just wanted to thank you for being in touch; your support, kind words and encouragement are much appreciated.

With kind regards

Judith

Judith Doel, PA to Rev Steve Chalke MBE, Founder and Leader, Oasis GlobalThe Oasis Centre 1 Kennington Road, London. SE1 7QP| T. 020 7921 4241 | F. 020 7921 4201 | www.oasisuk.orgwww.oasisglobal.orgwww.oasiscommunitylearning.orgwww.oasischurchwaterloo.orgwww.stopthetraffik.org

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Ammerdown Centre on security

I particularly liked the 'Security for the future' piece.  But it did not mention the militarisation of diplomacy that is a 'new' phrase I heard on Radio 4 earlier this year or, the wisdom of not inciting and not supporting the Arab Spring, rebellion/revolution or democracy or 'freedom', that quickly turns to violence as we have seen with Syria since 2011.  The Jesus/Gandhi way is always best and is effective, eventually.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

"Labour could face years of oblivion" Halesowen News 11 August 2016

Is not years of oblivion a far far better thing they do than have another right wing, conventional kind of leader that takes the nation into more wars on foreign soil without UN blessing?

Which side does the most aggression and violence?

We are expected and encouraged to loath Islamic State and to support the killing of every member in Syria, Iraq, Libya,Tunisia and elsewhere but, we imprison anyone who, in the UK, openly and eloquently supports IS and refuses to condemn their violence - like Anjem Choudary.

Is this a correct analysis or a correct reading of the situation?

Monday, 1 August 2016

Positive, constructive, helpful suggestions for Arriva Trains

Trains cancelled on the Cambrian Coast Line on Saturday 30 July 2016

  1. I would like a written explanation for the reasons, please.  Was it down to an oversight over maintenance of Network Rail infrastructure?
  2. When the electronic sign at Morfa Mawddach station gives you a phone number to ring, can your employee please have the bus times to hand to give to the stranded passenger.  The man I spoke to, soon after 2 pm last Saturday was clueless and spent so much time going to his supervisor whom I did, eventually, get to speak to but was not much better, that I almost ran out of battery on my mobile phone.  I did exhaust the battery when the number on the bus stop was not available and the recorded message could only give me another number to ring which I was then unable to write down.
  3. Your male employee I rang from Morfa Mawddach station told me that the 1608 train was running from Machynlleth but failed to tell me that there was also the 1805 train, too.  I wrongly assumed that the 1608 was the only train and pedalled furiously the 27 miles via Tywyn and Aberdyfi to Machynlleth.
  4. Can you please ask passengers for mobile phone numbers on the online facility when booking and paying for tickets.  If Arriva Trains had texted me to tell me of the trains cancelled and to tell me that I had to get to Machynlleth, with times of trains from there, I would have cycled a shorter route to get the 1805 train from there.  I would only have had to cycle an additional 17 miles instead of the 34 miles that I actually did, according to Google Maps.  My phone had been switched on throughout my cycle ride from Llanrug, near Caernarfon, that started soon after 0700 hrs.  But no text came through about the train cancellations.
  5. It was only at Machynlleth station that I found that there was an 1805 train to Wolverhampton.  At Machynlleth, your Anthony Hill, the drivers' team manager, was sympathetic, understanding and helpful.  He gave me two complimentary bottles of water that was just what I needed after a fast and long cycle ride in the heat to catch a train.  He said he would mention at his Monday's meeting my suggestion of texting passengers with information over train cancellations and the alternative arrangements made.  Did he do so?

The War Industry is far too dominant and important to our nation

Much higher standard of ethical teaching is required in our churches, schools and colleges/universities.  Teaching against arms exports and our armed forces landing and being based in so many other countries.  Sometimes fighting wars of aggression or, at least, having military bases in countries far from our shores.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Is Christian discipleship meant to embrace non-violence, justice and actually doing what Christ taught?

Doing our duty to Queen and Country; doing total discipleship to our God, JC1

Thinking about our nation's recent military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, is there one verse in one of Paul's letters that has a bearing on those trouble spots?  And another as, perhaps, a slight corrective to that one?  What could I be thinking of?!

What would be the mind of Christ in those situations?

How then does that apply to our own Christian discipleship?  Should it affect how we vote, how we write to or, even visit, our MEPs, MPs and councillors?

Hi Tim,

Thanks for all these thoughts on walks etc - we will look forward to seeing you by 9am Friday - we will bring our own lunch and so be ready for the off.

re: your thought for the day, your question about the 'mind of Christ' is a really good one; unfortunately He doesnt offer any soundbites on Afghanistan, Iraq, the Labour leadership etc!!!! (No soundbites but much teaching in the Gospels, Acts and in Paul's letters, don't you think, Peter?)  So we have to rely on the big picture of scripture as a whole I think.  Both the Old Testament and the gospels were written during tumultuous times politically and socially  from slavery in Egypt, warring nations, constant attempts to stamp out the people of God, the failure of the Jewish kings to meet expectations etc;. In the NT there is the total occupation and dominance of the Roman empire with all the injustice and inhumanity that accompanied it.  The apostle Paul made good use of his Roman citizenship and was not, of course, rebellious or revolutionary.  Unlike our Western governments and the public opinion that allows them to be so.  But only when it comes to weaker countries who can't hit back (apart from with terrorism).

When it comes to Romans 13 v 1-7, my commentary has: "The Christian and the state.  Though the Christian has no right to punish (12 v 19-21), the state does have that right and the Christian must respect it.  Paul's confidence that the Roman state is, on the whole, just and beneficent is matched in 1 Peter 2.13-17; 3.v13."

How is the mind of God and of his Messiah expressed? Constantly reconciliation with God through his Messiah is the theme, BEFORE reconciliation with our neighbour is possible. So the sermon on the mount (which most people take as great advice for life) is all about mourning our sin, hungering for God and His righteousness, seeking peace with God first, and only then can we live in our messy world loving our neighbour in need.

So I cannot expect a world that doesn't live under the lordship of Christ to follow his way any more than the OT Israelites, or NT believers could expect those around them to do. Should those who do live in the lordship of Christ follow His (non-aggression) way, however difficult or costly?  That doesn't mean I shouldn't do 'all the good I can to all the people I can just so long as I can', but I think it suggests that the main witness of Christian believers is to enjoy living under the lordship of Christ.- enjoying his world, his peace, his forgiveness, and do all I can to be reconciled with my 'neighbour'.

This may not be what you wanted to hear, as you are still in'campaigning' mode, but I think our world will remain messy until Christ comes again !!  But our own little, individual world should have the minimum mess (or hypocrisy) in it.

Every blessing Tim, and thanks again for all the prep for our time away.

Peter.

This has been sent only to you, Les but is one reply to what Peter wrote on the back of the sheet I gave you yesterday.

You are right.  It is campaigning but, as I see it, it is also, for me, doing my duty to Queen and Country and discipleship to my God (JC1).  "Give to Caesar those things that are Caesar's and to God those things that are God's."

I think, this kind of patriotism puts Jesus Christ first and is also in line with His Spirit that cannot possibly be about overthrowing foreign governments.  In this century alone, these have been Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria.  Last decade, our friends and allies (and our fellow believers) in the States had seven countries as part of their Project for the New American Century.  All to be overthrown to become democratic and American compliant.  All contrary to Titus 3 v 1 and Romans 13 - being submissive and obedient to rulers and authorities.  Especially, the Spirit of Jesus cannot be about bringing democracy down the barrel of a gun, as all three main political parties we vote for believe and do.  My pastor, Les Hardwick, told me that the corrective to complying with the wishes of the authorities is the verse in Acts, "Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men' " Acts 5 v 29.

Therefore, should Christian believers be voting for the main political parties who do war around the world, to try and keep Western compliant governments in power or, use military might to protect their vital strategic interests?  "Not by might, nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord of hosts" Zechariah 4 v 6.

​Tim

Hi Tim 
Thank you for your e-mail in which you raise some very difficult questions.  In Matthew 24v6 Jesus said "You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.".He also spoke in chapter 25 of the need to look after the poor and hungry v 31 to 46.

The question of voting  has to be answered according to our own conscience accepting that someone else will act differently while following their own conscience. Not voting can open the door to  even worse forms of government     (there was a time when I would not vote.)

In September 2002 (15 February 2003) over one million people marched in London protesting against the war against Iraq, the war still went ahead!  The 1950s,saw many protests against  weapons of mass destruction, nothing has changed.  There seems little we can do! but we can feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, try to overcome poverty and vote for the party which seems most willing to tackle these issues!

Les

Thanks v much for these thoughts.

We need a much higher profile given to non violence, constraint not coercion, a new determination to eschew aggression, power, domination, colonialism, empire building, forcing our ways (and wars) on others.

A new determination to allow religious and political toleration, equality, justice tempered with mercy instead of constant punishment and revenge.  A rejection of hypocrisy in too much unethical foreign policy and the closure of Guantanamo Bay.  A rejection of the all out war on Gaza that our side perpetrated in July and August of 2014.  A rejection of lying that allows some of our political leaders to say, "Of course, I will press the nuclear button" to send much of humanity to kingdom come.  Obscene riches to allow, with Trident, such disgusting behaviour by our leaders and, when poverty and inequality is so rife too!

"What we sow today we will reap tomorrow".  Mayhem, instability, civil war in the Middle East is now spreading, with revenge attacks, to our own Western nations that are bombing, missiling Syria and Iraq - and, for many more years to come.  Nearly all the politicians we vote for have unleashed the dogs of war, opened the Pandora's Box, well and truly stirred up a hornet's nest of anger and hatred against Israel and the West.

I must come round today to get the meter reading that Places for People want today.

Every blessing

Tim

Friday, 4 March 2016

Condemning and understanding

CONDEMN A LOT MORE AND UNDERSTAND A LOT LESS


We had decades of child sex abuse and immorality by Jimmy Savile.  No-one persisted with their complaints to ever ensure that the man was stopped.  I think, the pendulum then swung in the opposite direction and, in recent years, we have seen celebrities, establishment figures even in their 90s and the dead, too accused of sex abuse from decades ago.  Even the demented, the dying and the dead are all eligible for investigation into their sex crimes in their youth and, then prosecution of some kind.


How can you get to the truth of the accusations when not just years but decades has elapsed since the alleged incidents?  Do you not get a mixture of mischief makers, misremembering, exaggeration, fantasists and, of course, genuine complaints.  But is it not one person’s word against another person’s?  How do you get justice done for the complainant/victim/survivor and the accused when you have to decide who to believe from not an ounce of evidence to weigh in the scales of justice?


It had to be a difficult judgement over the balance of probability when it came to long dead Bishop George Bell.  The Church of England believed the complainant/victim/survivor and paid her £15,000.  Peter Hitchens was not exactly thrilled!  I suppose the Anglicans felt that they had to give the benefit of the doubt to the complainant, in the present atmosphere.  An atmosphere of being seen to be strong in finding people guilty and punishing hard.  If you give the benefit of the doubt to the accused, you are seen as being a namby pandy, wishy washy, a weak, pathetic liberal.  Only might and strength are respected between peoples and, on the world stage between nations.


It seems to me, as though decision makers and the Police are over-compensating for their careless and unbelieving attitude for decades by going overboard now - since the Savile abuses came to light.  From under-reaction to over-reaction.  We never seem to be able to get things right and to act proportionately and sensibly.  But, then, how can you possibly tell who is telling the truth when decades have passed and there is no evidence?  Is justice pot luck?


Does time temper justice if justice tempered with mercy no longer does?


Should there be a statute of limitation, as some countries have?


Is there ever a danger of a witch hunt?  Have the Savile abuses and inaction awoken memories and anger in those who have been sexually abused by him and many others?  Understandably, they now want something done to assuage their feelings and to give them closure.


Sex abuse victims are now given full attention.  Men are under suspicion more than ever before of predatory behaviour or luring girls and women.  Yet, from what I see, the foreign victims of UK wars of (often) aggression in our 102 consecutive years of war in foreign lands, get little attention.  We do all we can to keep these refugees out, in fact and to forget the whole ghastly business of migrants fleeing war, poverty and environmental degradation.  We convince ourselves that all that is nothing to do with us because we are in no way responsible!  We have been groomed to accept that and, that our aggression is sadly essential in a fallen and failed world but, anyway, we are the good guys getting rid of Communists, evil dictators, jihadists and extremists.  We are the knights in shining armour and the millions of victims of our aggression have to put up with it for the greater good.  We, certainly, have no responsibility for them.


Over the Adam Johnson case, I heard on the ‘Jeremy Vine Show’, one caller talking of national hysteria over sexual activity between young people.  Another caller mentioned decision makers wanting to be seen doing much better on sex abuse cases than they did over Savile (my over-compensating pendulum swing) .


Is not uncovering a cover up or, exposing abuse or, misuse of public money or, malpractice or maladministration or any wrong-doing by others an honourable endeavour?


Hence, since the 1980s, I have been doing what I regard as exposing misdeeds and uncovering dereliction of duty.  From the KBH motorway bypass alongside a fast rural trunk road and main line railway to today.  Today, thirty years on, I am trying to get the trains back on that same line further north that is not used.  It would bypass Brum and take some road and rail congestion out of their Grand Central Shopping Centre and basement station, as well as our Black Country.


Hence, my writing exposes:

  • Idiocy in dismantling first the tram network and then the rail network, failure to mothball the rail lines and, failure to correct their stupidity in 50 years.
  • Failed to build the W approach tunnels when Westside was being built in the 1990s.
  • Failed to build the E approach tunnels when the Bull Ring was being rebuilt in the next decade.
  • After 50 years, 78 Km of unused or goods only, double track rail lines alongside or near congested roads in the Black Country and Birmingham.
  • Further 58 Km from Walsall to Derby via Lichfield is still not available for passenger trains.
  • 2 important rail curves still not built - after 50 years.
  • Failed to link the Merry Hill monorail to the main line railway and to open it at the same time.
  • £750 m (all rail money?) for Grand Central Shopping Centre with the main line station tagged along as an afterthought and stuck in the basement.
  • Now, a plan for, possibly, transport money going for subsidising the M6 Toll to further reduce the amount of money for urban Beeching rail reversals in the Black Country and Brum.
  • The W Midlands Combined Authority remains corruptly biased towards road schemes; secondly, towards super expensive tram extensions in Birmingham city centre; thirdly, £12 m for a second rapid transit mode to duplicate the first, trams.  What little money is left over may then go to Brum rail schemes.
  • Beeching rail reversals continue to be the forgotten, the sad Cinderella of the Midlands, as traffic choked roads and rail lines get ever worse as the populations rises.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Corrupt transport practices

This is a scandal, a disgrace and has gone on for decades.
  • 78 Km of unused or goods only, double track rail lines alongside/near congested roads in the Black Country and Birmingham.
  • Further 58 Km from Walsall to Derby via Lichfield is still not available for passenger trains.
  • 2 important rail curves still not built - after 50 years.
  • £750 m (all rail money?) for Grand Central Shopping Centre with the main line station tagged along as an afterthought and stuck in the basement.
  • Now, plan for transport money going for subsidising M6 Toll to further reduce the amount of money for urban Beeching rail reversals in the Black Country and Brum.
  • The W Midlands Combined Authority remains corruptly biased towards road schemes; secondly, towards super expensive tram extensions in Birmingham city centre; thirdly, £12 m for a second rapid transit mode to duplicate the first, trams. What little money is left over may then go to Brum rail schemes 
  • Beeching rail reversals continue to be sidelined in the Midlands.
YOU ONLY GET WHAT YOU ASK FOR!

THANKS to all those who saw the forgotten railway on Sunday, 21 Feb.  We are forbidden, even after 50 years, to have our trains back.  Don't stand for it!

If you think that every mile should be available for us to travel on by diesel train (in the first instance) and from Stourbridge to Walsall (later to Lichfield and Derby) please say so to:

Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport                     patrick.mcloughlin@dft.gsi.gov.uk
​Claire Perry​,  Rail Minister claire.perry@dft.gsi.gov.uk  
Cllr Bob Sleigh, Chair of the W Mids Combined Authority      rsleigh@solihull.gov.uk
Cllr Darren Cooper, Vice Chair                                        darren_cooper@sandwell.gov.uk
James Aspinall, Managing Director, Centro                   jamesaspinall@centro.org.uk
Laura Shoaf, W Mids Integrated Transport Authority                     laurashoaf@wmita.org.uk
Stuart Everton, Black Country Director of Transport             stuart.everton@wolverhampton.gov.uk

Don't forget to remind them that they do have to write an unbeatable business case first!!

Don't forget to ask them to all go down to London and pay a visit to our Patrick and Claire for them to agree the transfer of funds from the two short sections for electric trams to be used instead for the full 21 Km for diesel trains.  They have enough money in the bank already (£207 m when they only need £72 m).

THANKS V MUCH!  They must be very fed up hearing from me.  One person can easily be ignored, as I am.  Put all 7 in the one e-mail, if you like.  Think up your own cheeky or attention grabbing subject field.


THE PLANNED BREAK UP OF THIS MAIN LINE RAILWAY IS PERMANENT AND A DISGRACE:


The UK’s only unused, major, North-South main line railway is to be sectioned up into:
from south to north, we have planned,​ in order,
  6 Km: daily, 25 waggon goods trains from Port Talbot to Round Oak, via Stourbridge Jct
  4 Km: Light Rail Metro trams (£310 m for 12 Km, inclu 4 Km of road running)
  2 Km: Very Light Rail shuttle trams, through Dudley Tunnel to Cinder Bank road
  4 Km: Light Rail Metro trams (£310 m for 12 Km, inclu 4 Km of road running)
  3 Km: Empty, private space of linear wilderness of shrubs, trees, Himalayan Balsam (an illegal plant)
  2 Km: of passenger trains - Bescot to Walsall
TOTAL: 21 Km   (approx distances)

This is 21 Km of a 74 Km main line railway between Stourbridge Jct and Derby through the increasingly densely populated and road/rail congested Black Country - the boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall, with a population of a million.  Diesels and four rebuilt stations is £72 million (based on last year’s rural Beeching reinstatement in Scotland at £6 m per Km).
My reasons​ for wanting the trains back on every kilometre (​at a quarter of the price​ of trams on 8 Km, plus road running on 4 Km)​ instead of trams on 8 Km of the main line railway​:
  1. It is the UK's last remaining, easily reinstated north-south main line railway between Stourbridge and Derby.  Therefore, the most important unused rail line.
  2. The only one between train congested Grand Central Shopping Centre/basement station and the Hereford to Shrewsbury Line
  3. 74 Km between the two towns of Stourbridge and Derby.
  4. 21 Km between Stourbridge and Walsall that urgently needs to be reinstated first.
  5. This would be only the 3rd Beeching reversal in 50 years in the Black Country and Brum.
  6. Only 12 Km needs to have the track relaid and four stations rebuilt to give everyone 21 Km of passenger line, once more.
  7. COST: 12 Km x £6 m per Km = £72 million, including the stations (based on Beeching rural rail reversal in Scotland last year).
  8. It reduces chronic and worsening road and rail congestion in the Black Country and Brum.
  9. Quicker, simpler, cheaper and easier to achieve than 12 Km of road and rail running trams that the councillors and Centro officers have failed to achieve in 35 years of trying.
  10. If they were ever to succeed, it would destroy for an eternity and beyond, the possibility of passenger trains from London Paddington and the North being seen again in the Black Country!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Robin Yassin-Kassab

Dear Adrian

You invited Robin to speak at last year's book festival.  He was a powerful, persuasive, oratorical speaker that made me feel uncomfortable.  He was very different from Frank Gardner's measured tones, who was on the same platform.  Frank could see all sides of the problem and spoke with quiet authority.  Robin, at one point, got carried away into a rabble rousing piece of eloquence that drew great applause!  I did not join in.

At the end of the festival, in the tent outside the front entrance to the County Buildings, there were slogans posted on two or three boards and all written by your speakers.  One, posted by Robin, had "To be rid of IS, you have to be rid of Assad" (or words to that effect, I believe.  It could have been the other way round).  In other words, Robin was espousing the violent and undemocratic overthrow of a UN recognised and legitimate government in Syria.

My friend and host with whom I was staying, Mike Clayton when I told him commented, "I would prefer the festival not to get into politics."  For me, politics is all about morality, law and order and keeping within the socially accepted bounds.  I felt, Robin overstepped the mark in supporting violent rebellion against the government in Syria.  On the other hand, we cannot of course stifle free speech.  And, of course, the West for five years has and still does support the removal of Assad by force.  I just felt that Robin went too far.

I would be glad to read your perspective on Robin's contribution as to whether it was acceptable.

I would love to hear again, what exactly he did say.  But only you have access to the archive!

With best wishes

"They (Russians and Iranians and 'held by all sides') fear the collapse of another state in Damascus ... they (all sides) don't need another collapsed state." 

Lyse Doucet OBE, a Canadian journalist who is the BBC's Chief International Correspondent on Sunday 28 Feb 2016 on 'Broadcasting House', Radio 4.

'Robin has played his so sincere but ignoble contribution in supporting the overthrow of a legitimate government to bring about yet another collapsed state.'  My conclusion from reading his blog and hearing him speak at Wigtown last year.

Dear Adrian

Thanks v much for your thoughtful and excellent comments.

Robin's trenchant support for the Syrian rebels, although in line with US, UK, NATO five year foreign policy, has brought about another failed state in the Meddle East and hordes of refugees fleeing the mess that our employment in armaments, arms exports, our taxes and our foreign policy has contributed to.

I now think, the long standing support for the overthrow of UN recognised but unsavoury governments from our Western point of view, should no longer be given a voice unless there is an equally strong, eloquent and oratorical speech giving the other side of the case.  The latter was lacking when it came to Robin's oratory.  My feeble effort in a brief question was easily flattened by Robin.  When I tried to make a point to him, afterwards I got such an eloquent ear bashing that I switched off and missed his over emphatic answer, completely.  I am intellectually slower than him and so I could not keep up with his speed of speech!  I am now returning to read his blog to understand why getting rid of Assad is so important to him, even though the consequences are so horrifying.

I much look forward to hearing Robin again this autumn at the festival.  But should he not be in debate with another eloquent politician like George Galloway, Adrian?  That would be another full house.  The clash of the titans!

All the best

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Are we white Westerners in any way responsible for instability, turmoil and warfare in the Middle East?

From our track record of warfare, around the globe, in every single year since, at least 1914, we are probably killing more humans in Syria and Iraq than Islamic State is.  Did we stir things up in the region in the first place, over ten decades of cheeky, oil motivated, military intervention in the Middle East?  Especially, since the end of our war in Afghanistan on 31 December 2014, the end of our warfare in Iraq and our support for rebellion called the Arab Spring?

Unlike Western behaviour in their region, at least Islamic State with their conquests, give the inhabitants the choice of staying put and remaining Muslims if they convert to their fundamental interpretation of Islam or, converting to Islam if not Muslims or, paying taxes to Islamic State or, moving out.  The Western way was to bring God, guns and germs to the original inhabitants in the case of our North American conquests of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Killing the adherents of Islamic State in an attempt to exterminate the lot of them, seems to me to be a rather tall order.  Indeed, futile.  Far better to stop our violence and aggression and to welcome those fleeing Islamic State and Western/Russian air strikes.  At least, we can then be sure that all the refugees are fleeing Islamic State and not Western/Russian bombs.

Western policy is to remove the legitimate government in Syria and to extinguish Islamic State.  Russia policy is to support the Syrian government.  You could argue that we, once more, are over throwing a government down the barrel of a gun and the communist/capitalist Russia are upholding the lawful government.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Fortress Europe and Fighting Europe

My thoughts after reading 'Fight for the heart of Europe' in 'New Internationalist', Jan/Feb 2016


My very biased, unbalanced, self critical and jaundiced view of what the rich and powerful nations do to the weak, poor and defenceless nations that we can attack without fear of them attacking us.  I know they are also escaping Islamic State but, I think, their thousand of fighters is the whirlwind from NATO sowing the wind over 100 years of drawing straight line boundaries and overthrowing governments in the Meddle East to get the 'right' governments that toe the American/Western line.
​​
Migrant rush to N Europe to escape American, European (and now Russian since Sept 2015) death from the air, only to face death from the sea that the European governments allow.  Very nasty behaviour.
or,
We have a second go at wiping them out by refusing to give them safe passage from our fire and flame from the air.  Very immoral.
or,
Fugitives from American and European rocket fire flee to our shores to be on the safe side of the attackers, instead of remaining on the dangerous ​side of the attacked.  Very sensible.

Never before has there been such a chaotic, disorganised, free for all to get away from wars that we have initiated or revolutions (Arab Spring and regime changes) that we support.  We end up killing people with our direct attacks in the Meddle East.  Those that escape our drones and precision air strikes then have to run the gauntlet of death by drowning or hypothermia in the Med.

We do nothing or very little to stop the desperate from dying because too many are already arriving successfully to take our jobs, our green belt with their housing and our NHS beds.  The cheek of it!  But this is a most dishonourable and immoral stance, especially when we are largely responsible for the wars they are fleeing from.  And wars, in every single year since 1914, has been a natural and normal part of our foreign policy around the globe - to this day.