Friday, 11 October 2013


He was born in Woolwich to Gertrude and Bertie Weller, on the day before April Fools Day in the year (this I just cannot resist!) that our nation foolishly, along with the other European nations with their empires, embarked on what turned out to be a century of warfare - and, continuing into this.

Educated at Lindisfarne College, nr Southend on Sea from 9-18yrs.  He spent so much time doing sport that he had to go for extra tuition at a crammer in London.

However, his love of sport laid him in good stead for winning the Spurgeon's College tennis championship every year out of the four that he was there.  Anyway, he managed to come out of college as a qualified Baptist minister.  Such was the impact of his Christian ministry that on the very day that he preached his first sermon at his first church, World War part 2 broke out!  His contribution to the war effort was as a chaplain in the British army in Burma.

Kingsbury Free Church 1939 to 1943
Burma as a chaplain to Her Majesty’s Forces 1943 to 1945
Kingsbury 1945 to 1949
Cinnamon Gardens Bap Ch 1949 to 1954
Cranbrook Rd Bap Ch 1955 to 1969
Shoreham by Sea 1969 to 1980 (age 66)
Interregnums in the USA at Racine, nr Chicago and a second church in the southern Bible belt 1980 to 1982
Back to the UK and interregnums at Bognor Regis Baptist Church (1982 to 1987), Merstham Baptist Church (1987 to 1990) and Portslade Baptist Church.

I think he told me that he was involved in building new extensions or new churches at every one of his churches.

Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, was more congenial for the whites in the 1950s thanks to our glorious British Empire.  Didn't we swim in Empire Pool, Colombo and the rock pool on the coast that was swept by waves?  I certainly remember that Grandma Gertrude and Grandpa Bert visited us once.  They swam in the sea and one huge wave engulfed Grandpa and washed his false teeth out to sea, to be seen no more.  He then had to go to some back street dentist in Colombo to get fixed up again.

On returning to the UK we entrusted much of our furniture to my uncle's ship the Empire Windrush in 1954.  I can remember an announcement over the public address system that the Windrush was on fire and my mum rushing below decks to get more information.  Two men in the engine room were killed but no-one else as the ship sank, along with our furniture.

At Ilford, two weeks of our summer holidays each year were spent at BMS summer schools.  I can remember Bexhill and, Cilgwn at Newcastle Emlyn in Wales.  My dad was great at entering into the spirit of summer school entertainments by performing in them.  For example, he once played the part of Cinders in the pantomime, Cinderella.  That version was called Cinderweller!  At one summer school at Boscombe, Dorset, in the 1950s, I can remember a few summer schoolers were most enterprising and imaginative with their antics at the sober Stonehenge monument.  I can remember that it was my dad who was blamed by the BMS for a handful of his charges making fun of the Druids.

In more recent years, he had the largeness of spirit to take on board new departures in Christian worship and has always moved with the times.  On retirement, after forty years full time in the Baptist ministry, he helped out Baptist churches in the USA and Surrey and Sussex.  He then came back to the church here in Shoreham where he was pastor and settled down to being a member in the pew after decades of being in the pulpit.  He visited the older members of the church in a pastoral role and, was called upon to preach, from time to time, until he reached his mid 80s.

My last really good memory of dad was on his last Sunday at the bungalow.  In the absence of Vera, we cooked Sunday lunch together in the kitchen with him cutting and peeling some vegetables and so overcooking them that he didn’t touch his when they got to the plate.  In fact, they weren’t that revolting – but then I eat anything!

The last thirteen months of his life were spent in three care homes in Shoreham and Worthing, after Vera spent some months in a nursing home before he joined her at Rosemary Mount care home.  He died at Cornelia Grange on 1 August.

So we come to bury Caesar - the longest living Weller ever - but also to praise him!

Married Mary Morella Mortimer in 1940.  Mother of my sister and I.  Died April, 1958 after a hysterectomy operation on the Monday; an aneurysm, I believe, was the cause of death on the Friday night.  I don’t think she was strong and well enough to have a major operation, like this.  But, perhaps, that was why she had to have the operation.
Married Marion Sainty in July 1959.  Died in the USA in 1981 after a stroke.
Married Vera Daisy Weller in 1982, who survives him.

My witty daughter, this week commented, thus:
Following the custom of remembering Henry VIII wives – divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived – my dad’s wives are died, died, survived!

Tim Weller 9 August 2006

The best thing about the News is the letters!

The best thing about the News is the letters’ page!  There is another point of view that I have uncovered that Katie Hudson does need to hear even if it distresses her – and I’m sorry that it does.

Katie represents the commonly held misconception that the UK’s oh so ethical foreign policy around the world in supporting the Western friendly governments, for example,  in Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan is all good and perfect.  If only the Arabs would accept that we know best for them and not fight us, all would be well with the world!

I heard the BBC Radio 4 programme, ‘A Point of View’ with historian David Cannadine last year.  Even I was shocked to hear that Churchill supported our government’s attack on Egypt over the Suez  Canal in 1956.  We killed many more Egyptians at that time than they killed of our brave boys.  Even America condemned the joint French, British, Israeli invasioin of Egypt.  Churchill said something to the effect that once begun, our attack should have continued until eventual success!

This was exactly what America did try and do in Indo China between 1959 and 1975  and with our moral support and our armaments that slaughtered many times more men, women and children defending their homeland than the 58,000 dead American soldiers and airmen.  "Harold Wilson, over Vietnam, gave public backing to LBJ but never deployed troops."  (source not recorded)  However, Churchill’s advice (above) ended in ignominious defeat for the freedom loving, democratic, ‘never surrender’ nations of the US/UK and the West!

Equally unacceptable, was our full support “with intelligence information and material aid” (George Baker in 2006, US Sec of State at the time) to Saddam Hussein when he did our dirty work for us by attacking Iran in 1980.  We then double crossed him by soon selling our Western weapons to Iran, as well, to keep the killing going for a full eight years and a million young men slaughtered – and when neither nation gained anything whatsoever!  In addition, the CIA, I understand helped this man and his Baath party gain power in 1968.

It seems that we double crossed Saddam again when we attacked Baghdad with “shock and awe” in a targetted assassination to kill only him on the 19 March 2003 when he was fully co-operating with the UN weapons inspectors who needed time to finish their job – that they never did finish, of course.

Perhaps, we are not so ethical and honest and as full of integrity that we like to think!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Boycotts are better than drones and extra judicial assassinations

Ari Lesser's Powerful music video begs the question:
"Why is there such a strong call to Boycott Israel by various college organizations and professors when the majority of countries around the world are committing verifiable atrocities that are all but ignored?"

Boycotts are all about hurting and disadvantaging ourselves or, at least, inconveniencing ourselves to bring about a wider good - peace with justice for Israel and Palestine.

Since 1948, Israel has been strongly supported and funded by the Christian West, especially by that devout nation, the USA.  Any American president, even Obama would never dream of even slightly reducing its gifts and/or sales of every kind of armaments to Israel - as has happened with Obama's announcement on Thursday over Egypt getting a small reduction in its arms from the US because of the Egyptian military overthrowing a fairly elected Muslim government.  Egypt remains a major ally of the West and is holding to its peace treaty with Israel.

A very small, indeed a tiny minority of people in the West remain upset that after 65 years there is still no justice, still no land, still no State for the Palestinians to bring peace with justice, and thus security, for Israel, also.  These may be the very same people who boycotted South Africa until there was justice for the majority blacks whose descendants had been there for some years before the dominant, white settlers arrived.  Those few who are boycotting Israel may be the same people who disapproved of the discrimination of the minority population by the Protestant, Loyalist, Unionist people in Northern Ireland.  Things are now very much better for the Catholic, nationalist, republican minority.  S Africa sorted; N Ireland sorted; what about Israel/Palestine?

Atrocities around the world are committed by those in absolute power in government.  Especially, I am afraid to say, by the USA/NATO since 1945.  Our side has killed millions in our many wars fighting Communism around the world and, now, fighting Islamist extremists who have learnt from the West's very bad example of violence throughout the last century and now this, too.  Even the most committed, Bible believing Christians have been very happy to serve in the armed forces or to work in careers that involve manufacturing armaments to kill Communists and Islamists.   Israel condemns boycotts.  However,  boycotts are non-violent actions by so few people, it seems, that no-one is affected in Israel.  Non-violent boycotts are very different from the violence of Israel and the West against people who happened to be born into a country with a Communist government or born on holy Muslim soil or were born in Judea and Samaria as Palestinians.  This is also called the West Bank that the UN insist Israel should not be allowing settlers to build homes in.  But, of course, Israel takes no notice of the UN and all its resolutions over the decades.

Atrocities are committed daily by Barak Obama and David Cameron with their escalating drone attacks on Muslim militants.  No fair trial.  No judge and jury.  No proportionate sentence if the defendant is found guilty.  Oh no.  Just a death dealing missile from out of the air.  Our side needs no suicide bombers thanks to digital killing from Kansas or England that, thank the Lord, keep our soldiers out of harms way.

"Why is Israel under the magnifying glass when it is one tiny state (the size of New Jersey) surrounded by 22 Muslim Middle East countries that commit endless crimes of murder and torture of their own women and children in the name of religion?"
Most of you just want to do the right thing. The right thing requires thinking for yourself.
It's time to do your own digging.
(Do not use Wikipedia. Their entries can be updated by just about anyone!)
Here Is Israel!

Here O Israel, MY ANSWER:
Israel's biggest problem is being a modern, affluent Western country in the heart of the Arab Middle East.  Just like its greatest friend and ally, the USA, its people are generous and hospitable.  However, it is the unofficial 52nd state of the USA.  The UK is the 51st state.  This is Israel's undoing and it is ours, too.  Being so closely identified with the West and the USA is a terrible stigma.  It is a burden that could begin to be shed.  It is like having the mark of the beast, in the eyes of some Arabs.  This is because of the West's violent and dominating ways in, first some Communist countries and, now in some Muslim lands.  For some Arabs, very regrettably, the US is seen as "the great Satan" - simply because of its interfering, we know best for you, we must have what we want, behaviour in the Middle East.

As someone who loves Israel, I would implore its people and government to compromise, to give up land for peace with justice.  I would beseech them to turn their enemies that surround them into friends for life.  That is real peace and security.  Now, that IS being a truly successful country.  "Love your God and love your neighbour, O Israel"

" 'Not by might, nor by power but by my spirit', says the Lord."

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

How can anyone quarrel with Putin's article in the New York Times?

MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.
From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future.

We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not.

Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.
No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen non-proliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.

There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

  • John C.
  • Central Valley California
NYT Pick
Aside from the obviously specious claim that it was the rebels who used the gas, much of this post is thought provoking and has a tone of reasonableness that I find disturbing to my prejudices. What a crazy world we are living in when Russia sounds more sane and responsible than our own government on a serious international crisis. It's as if I have blundered into some bizarre parallel universe.

Any moment now Rod Serling is going to walk into my living room and announce that I have just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.

  • jfx
  • Chicago
NYT Pick
Well written. I appreciate hearing Putin's thoughts directly, and hopefully his open letter to the US can be reciprocated, allowing Obama to directly address the Russian people on important topics.

Putin's claim that the originators of the gas attack likely were Syrian rebels requires the same evidence of proof as Obama's claim the attack was made by the Syrian government. "Trust me, I know" isn't sufficient. However, if he is right, that may increase the chance of US military action, because if the Syrian government has lost control of their enormous chemical weapons stockpile that arguably is a direct threat to US national security.

  • Jordan
  • Long Island
NYT Pick
International diplomacy is certainly preferable to military intervention. I applaud President Putin for bringing the conversation to a higher level. Additionally, the proposed solution is far more likely to yield real results that any limited military strike would. If the real objective in this situation is Chemical Weapon Stockpiles, then certainly it is more sensible to dismantle and destroy the stockpiles under the scrutiny of organized international verification, then to vainly attempt to deter and degrade the Syrian Government's military capability with the vague hope that "they won't do it again."

Again, Bravo President Putin.

  • Mike
  • Carlsbad, CA
NYT Pick
"Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression."

This statement alone makes me ignore this opinion piece. Isn't this from the same country that unilaterally decided to invade the independent country of Georgia? Is your advice "Do as I say, not as I do?", Mr. Putin?

  • Sarah
  • Arlington, VA
NYT Pick
Finally a powerful foreign leader has the guts to point out the hubris of a country that constantly not only calls itself 'exceptional', but is populated by a majority never having set foot in another country in their life considering it 'the greatest country in the world'.

Except for the statement of Mr. Putin still blaming the so-called rebels for the chemical attack on Syrian civilians, his op-ed reveals a deep understanding of the decades old conflicts in the middle east, and the fact that those very conflicts can not and never will be resolved by brute force from afar.

  • Chris McMorrow
  • Waltham, Mass.
NYT Pick
I wish I could feel that Mr. Putin was being sincere here. If nothing else, he has a fabulous writer.

But at my age, having grown up during the Cold War and witnessed all sorts of tricks, lies, distortions, and manipulations by the old Soviet Regime, I just have some doubts. As an ex-KBG agent, Mr. Putin may not be my age, but he was trained in the old Soviet culture.

I think the main thing that really strikes me here is how myopic the US can be to its image around the world. We pay lip service to the idea that certain actions will "surely win us more enmity around the world," but we usually go on our merry way trying to get our way.

So, the benefit of Mr. Putin's assessment here--even if contrived, manipulative, and written to lecture this country, in and of itself a pretty arrogant act--is how based in realpolitik it is.

But--and this is a very big but--I'm not sure that Russia is in any position to lecture anyone right now, given its long history of isolationism, paranoia, and curbs on basic freedoms inside its borders.

I think it will be interesting for all of us to save this article, and our posts, and see how they stack up against events as they unfold over the next 6 months. We will either be pleasantly surprised, or just surprised as how gullible we really were.

  • George
  • San Jose, CA
NYT Pick
Mr Putin makes many points, some I disagree, some I agree. But all are perfectly valid concerns. I commend Mr Putin for contributing to the discussion.

Mr Putin's main concern is the issue of who's responsible for the recent chemical attack. Mr Obama admits the issue remains in dispute, but believes there is substantial evidence the Syrian government is responsible. Mr Putin believes it may in fact be the Rebels who are responsible. It would be hard to disagree that this is the key issue and deserves full "due process" resolution.

US constitutional law might offer some help here. It requires in a dispute such as this, where a crime may have been committed, for the accuser (Mr Obama in this case) to provide all evidence pertinent to the crime be made available to the accused (Mr Assad, presumably in this case represented by Mr Putin). "All evidence" , meaning that which supports the accuser's claims, and also that which supports the accused claims -- the so-called exculpatory evidence. Mr Obama should immediately provide this evidence to Mr Putin.

US law rules of evidence also require that testimony or claims be of first person origin. No third person testimony -- so-called "hearsay" evidence -- is allowed. Mr Obama should comply, and offer evidence only which can be supported by first person testimony. With names attached.

  • Bill in Tennessee
  • Knoxvillle TN
NYT Pick
With all due respect to Mr. Putin (and I am saddened to say that my respect for Putin exceeds that of my respect for Obama right now), what the phrase "American exceptionalism" means is not that our people are special and exceptional...not at all. Our founders knew that men are not angels... thus they instituted a Constitution and a way of self-governance that was unlike any other on earth at that time, a representative republic that had no king, no caste system, no aristocracy, but all men equal under the law and having natural rights granted, not by government, but by our creator. Such rights, not coming from government but being endowed by our creator, were therefor "inalienable"... they could not be rescinded by government because they do not come from government. This, in my opinion, is the source of American exceptionalism; not that our people are superior but that our way of self-governance and equality under the law is superior.

Nations that choose to model themselves after the American experiment also are exceptional, the relationship between the governed and those who govern has now been raised to a new, exceptional level. Mr. Putin, I hope your own nation can one day rise to the level of self-governance that was put forth in Philadelphia, July 4, 1776. Future generations will then speak of Russian exceptionalism.

  • J Young
  • Seattle
NYT Pick
Am I the only one who finds it strange that Putin asserts the rebels were responsible for the chemical attacks at the same time he suggests that the Syrian government turn over its chemical weapons arsenal? Kind of a head-scratcher. As is the fact that so many commenters express gratitude for his counsel and seem utterly unaware of the hypocrisy entailed in his lecturing the US on equality and the rule of international law.

Are we completely post-history these days? Even recent history? For goodness' sake, this man represses his own people and arms international conflicts on a regular basis, apparently without compunctions. To take his words at face value is inane. He is clearly playing (and preying) on American fears and on our vast naivete regarding world affairs. Make no mistake, this solution serves his ends. The fact that it may serve ours as well does not make him a friend.

  • Dylan Morrissey
  • CA
NYT Pick
While not all of Putin's reasoning is null, the abhorrent hypocrisy of several of his statements completely destroy any of the validity of his attempt at appealing to the American people.

I do not believe that the limited military strikes that have been called for are the right course of action for the US to take (the situation in Syria is much too complicated for that simplicity), yet in criticizing Obama, Putin completely disregards the fact that his actions have done nothing better to uphold the integrity of the UN as a body to uphold international peace and security. Whether Putin wants to admit it or not, Syria has grossly violated a core piece of the 1925 Geneva Protocol--be careful in questioning the US on wanting to uphold international peacekeeping principles when you have armed the Assad regime and ignored its obvious use of chemical weapons. Furthermore, Putin feebly ends his argument with words "we must not forget that God created us equal." In all aspects, this statement is ridiculous. "We?" Can Putin really refer to himself and Americans collectively as "we" when he bars Americans from adopting Russian children? Does he truly believe that "God created us equal" when he actively promotes the persecution of gays?
    Yes, the article is well-written and some reasons he presents should be considered in the debate, but don't criticize the US on principles you yourself violate excruciatingly. As an American, I feel no greater trust in Russia.

    • David Voss
    • Richmond, VA
    NYT Pick
    I'm sickened by the fact that we live in a time when a foreign leader has the ear of the American people. Our President is so weak that the American people would actually consider reading an Op-Ed from Putin and take it for face value. In the absence of leadership, someone will fill the void. Putin is trying to do just that. The sad thing is, the really said thing, is that many Americans will agree with his final paragraph. That we are not exceptional - we are just equal to everyone else. This is exactly what Obama has been trying to instill in us since Day 1. For us not to be outraged is a sign that our society now believes there is nothing great about the United States. This is our lot on 9/11/13 just 12 years after we were attacked.
    For those of you who have not given up on the United States, I stand with you. We are the greatest country in the world because of people like you and I who will not give up on God, country, family, and the opportunity to create something with our lives that transcends our existence. Stay strong brothers and sisters! We will win this war.

    • Dmitry Mikheyev
    • Moscow, Russia
    NYT Pick
    In full disclosure, I am Russian American, who has no reason to love the KGB and has all reasons to love America. I spent 6 years in GULAG and then was granted political asylum in America. But to me, this ’s stance on Syria makes more sense that anything else I heard from American political-military-industrial-media elite. I admit meeting very smart KGB guys even when they were interrogating me. Putin is obviously one of the most gifted and intelligent world leaders of our time. But of course great brain power can be very dangerous in the wrong hands, right? So what motives him?
    Having lived in Moscow for 15 years I am confident that after decades of Communism Russia is obsessed with catching up with the West in technology and living standards. So Russia needs peaceful and stable international environment.
    In contrast, the US is a crusading whose global ambition is to "civilize and modernize” the world according to its own image. Putin captured the fundamental paradox of American democracy: Can liberty, democracy and happiness be imposed on others by bombs and destruction?
    America should help Russia facilitate solution to the Syrian crisis through negotiations and compromises. America has to learn to live with complexities of the real world. The black-and-white thinking leads to endless wars with others. Such policy will inevitably result in self-destruction.

    • September1940
    • Stamford CT
    NYT Pick
    I am shocked that, after reading President Putin's opinion, I feel that he is correct. The Russian President, an ex-KGB agent, a man who has led his county on some of their own missions of destruction, suddenly delivers a message which strikes a chord in me. Why, I wonder, am I reacting this way?

    I think it is because, despite the hypocrisies in President Putin's writing, he makes sense - simple, common sense. He appears to cut through all the fog and word-spinning we are used to hearing from politicians - certainly from our own President - and gets to the kernel of the matter.

    Force has, indeed, proven pointless. Where are we after the optimism of the so-called "Arab spring?" We still are confronting lunatic fringe elements who are propelling their societies into chaos, in the name of religion. We are constantly at war and finding it too easy to take international law into our own hands; acting unilaterally and, unfortunately, being perceived as the world's bully.

    I pray that our President finds the same portion of common sense and manages to get himself under control - his bellicose and nonsensical speeches notwithstanding.

    Thousands of people in Syria have been killed prior to the alleged chemical attack. Why did we/the world not respond to their deaths? A dead person is a dead person.

    It doesn't matter who offers the olive branch or what it looks like - we must accept President Putin's well-reasoned approach to fending off a rush to military action.

    MYSELF:  "By their fruits ye shall know them."  Western Christianity, Western democracy, the American Constitution of self-governance and equality under the law that makes the US so exceptional, are all so very nice in theory but the centuries of violence and aggression, the imperialist ways and continuing hegemony, lets all three down so very, very badly.  Be less coercive, boastful and fervent in furthering these 'exceptional' ideas as you call them and you may make fewer enemies in the lands you invade/intervene in.  You may even be content to help people more than to wage war on them.

    The Western track record around the world, in recent centuries is, actually, one of being anti-Christian and anti-human.  I am ashamed of my religion, my culture and my nation's history.  The all powerful West, with its only true faith, its only true system of governance and its only true capitalism, has been failing humanity for centuries.  Its monarchs and priests (Church and State); its explorers and entrepreneurs; and its missionaries and traders have let the side down.

      Tuesday, 8 October 2013

      Peloton of two pushed hard but, fell apart, dramatically!

      Yesterday's ride ended in disappointment for Jon and I although Gareth did really well on his hybrid bike and zig-zagged up the 'Wall' like Corinne did last year.

      Things were going really well until we got to the Elan valley.  Jon and I had been taking it in turns to push the pace in a peloton of the two of us.  We overtook a number of riders - as many as double figures.  Then I punctured, broke a plastic tyre lever while I was getting the tyre off and, then, the remaining two levers snapped trying to put the tyre back on!  They must have been the ones I bought from Wilkinson.  The marshall on the motorbike was a great help with folding pliers in his penknife set.  He also had a Lidl track pump that was not so good but got the tyre pumped up.  In the struggle to get the tyre back on with the pliers I badly scratched the rim of the back tyre but it is still safe.  I lost nearly an hour, with also struggling to get the nasty thorn out of the tyre without my tweezers that I had forgotten - along with my padded pants, so I was feeling it by the end!

      Within a few minutes of my breakdown, Jon broke down when his right hand gear lever and cable to the rear gears so malfunctioned that he had to abandon the race/ride!  In the process, he also lost his cycle computer.  He went back but could not find it.  Later in the afternoon, he overtook me but by sitting in the car that had rescued his bike and him from the roadside!

      I ended up with the other old bods at the end of the ride but managed to overtake three of them.  One was a 72 year old who, at 68 had cycled, with his son, from Lands End to John o'Groats in only nine days.  An amazing achievement!

      Tuesday, 1 October 2013

      Are our intelligence services as intelligent and as essential and as useful as they want us to think?

      Dear Prof Richard

      I was the guy who asked the question on Sunday morning, "Were we unnecessarily paranoid about Soviet Russia in the decades of MAD.  Why all the fuss and nonsense from our spies when it was MAD that just about prevented a nuclear holocaust?"

      Please could you check, clarify and comment on my report, below of what you said on Sunday.  Ignore my rather jaundiced, unpatriotic, despairing and dissident interpretation over the usefulness of our secret services!

      Very many thanks, if you are able to oblige.


      Richard Aldrich replied and confirmed the facts as being correct.

      ​The offering, below is after his sub editing and that he called "a fiesty piece !!!!" The facts and annual costs of £2/3 billions are his; the conclusions I have drawn are mine:-​
      At the Wigtown Book Festival on Sunday, I heard Richard Aldrich, Professor of International Security at the University of Warwick, speak about his book about GCHQ.  From what I heard, our top ranking intelligent intelligence officers (probably mostly from Oxbridge) got things wrong over Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons at the time of the Gulf War in 1990/91.  They told the politicians that he did not have any WMD but, it seems that he did have them all the time, and lots of them!  So in 2002/3 there was not only political pressure on them "to bend the intelligence" towards invasion but, also a fear of getting it wrong a second time. Ironically, this led them to over-correct and, again to get things wrong, by telling Blair and Bush that this time they were fairly sure he had them.  Therefore, twice they have been mistaken in the case of only one country.  Aldrich said that "Saddam Hussein was deliberately ambiguous over his WMD" in order to keep his enemies, like Iran, guessing.

      Therefore, are the 
      ​two or three ​
      billions of pounds spent every year on GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 worth all the money?  They all work so closely  with America's National Security Agency, too that there must be much duplication of wasted effort of finite resources and much hot air - of dangerous greenhouse gases.

      It seems that all kinds of weird and wonderful shenanigans went  on over bugs in embassies during the Cold War that was all a complete waste of everyone's time and money.  Time and again, our intelligence officers were taken by surprise at what was known by the Russians despite exhaustive efforts to keep it all secret!  I can only conclude that it was mutually assured destruction (MAD) - and mutual destruction very many times over, too - that prevented nuclear annihilation.

      Aldrich asserted in one slide that 'The Cold War was HOT!'  He explained that some of the submarines and aircraft used to collect intelligence near Soviet bases became involved in actual fighting.  Some of our submarines were depth-charged by the Russians while working on behalf of GCHQ. I noted down that he said, "GCHQ failed in its main mission to crack top level Soviet cyphers."

      Aldrich gave so many examples of wasted effort by intelligent officers that I came away feeling that it was some sort of no expense spared, elaborate game that was played out between the secret services of both - the ever so virtuous Christian West and the very wicked Communist East.

      I also came away thinking that the evil Communists did exactly what they liked and when they liked (just as our side did), without the West's secret service being able to stop them - even if they did know in time which, on so many occasions, they did not!