Covid 19 – Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?

At the time of writing the ‘rich’ world is in a state of panic because a Coronavirus threatens the way of life of billions. Many countries are in ‘lockdown’ and here in the UK extreme emergency legislation has been enacted to confine people to their homes to restrict the virus transmission. At the time of writing this 39,014 deaths world wide are reported, since it was first discovered towards the end of 2019, by the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.

The above sounds fairly serious and indeed it is for those that have died and their relatives. However, the figures do not distinguish between those whose deaths were caused by the virus and those who happened to have the virus when they died of something else. In the vast majority of cases those that died are likely to have been elderly or suffering from some other conditions. They are also more likely to be smokers or have other risk factors.

In any event around 25,000 people will die of hunger or poverty today and I’ve not seen any wall to wall 24/7 hysterical news coverage about that anywhere. Why? Because it affects ‘non people’ in poor countries- people who are viewed as being of low value to those of us in the west. Incidentally around 100,000+ people die in the UK every year from (mostly preventable) coronary heart disease. No one has closed down McDonald’s or brought in emergency legislation requiring people to take mandatory exercise.

The UK Government has passed emergency legislation that among other draconian measures states:

6.—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.

What is really scary how people have happily given up their freedoms. This has been exacerbated by various Police forces in the UK operating outside of the law.

And whilst isolating and reducing transmission rates, where this can be done, are clearly a good thing the legislation is draconian. There are various exemptions such as being able to leave the house to exercise (mysteriously once a day in the case of Wales) but many Police forces such as Dyfed Powys Police here in Wales and Derbyshire Police in England are operating Ultra Vires  and we are now in a ‘police state’ it would seem .

The Police are happily making up legislation to suit themselves!

But it’s an emergency I hear the hysterical, fearful masses shouting – which is of course exactly the time authoritarian regimes and dictators throughout history have implemented such measures.

Facebook groups are awash with people hysterically shaming anyone who dares to object to what is happening and who might be speaking contrary to the herd narrative whilst the state is making it’s people fearful and removing freedoms at a stroke. Hysteria and fear is running amok.

Hence it was with some surprise that I heard that former Supreme Court Judge, Lord Sumption, has now just said exactly the same as me (only more eloquently).

Here is the transcript of an interview Lord Sumption gave to the BBC on the 30th March 2020. Lord Sumption, is a former member of the Supreme Court and last year’s Reith Lecturer. The transcript is from BBC Radio 4’s World at One.

The real problem is that when human societies lose their freedom, it’s not usually because tyrants have taken it away. It’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat. And the threat is usually a real threat but usually exaggerated. That’s what I fear we are seeing now. The pressure on politicians has come from the public. They want action. They don’t pause to ask whether the action will work. They don’t ask themselves whether the cost will be worth paying. They want action anyway. And anyone who has studied history will recognise here the classic symptoms of collective hysteria.

Hysteria is infectious. We are working ourselves up into a lather in which we exaggerate the threat and stop asking ourselves whether the cure may be worse than the disease.

Q At a time like this as you acknowledge , citizens do look to the state for protection, for assistance, we shouldn’t be surprised then if the state takes on new powers, that is what it has been asked to do, almost demanded of it.

A Yes that is absolutely true. We should not be surprised. But we have to recognise that this is how societies become despotisms. And we also have to recognise this is a process which leads naturally to exaggeration. The symptoms of coronavirus are clearly serious for those with other significant medical conditions especially if they’re old. There are exceptional cases in which young people have been struck down, which have had a lot of publicity, but the numbers are pretty small. The Italian evidence for instance suggests that only 12% of deaths is it possible to say coronavirus was the main cause of death. So yes this is serious and yes it’s understandable that people cry out to the government. But the real question is : Is this serious enough to warrant putting most of our population into house imprisonment, wrecking our economy for an indefinite period, destroying businesses that honest and hardworking people have taken years to build up , saddling future generations with debt, depression, stress, heart attacks, suicides and unbelievable distress inflicted on millions of people who are not especially vulnerable and will suffer only mild symptoms or none at all, like the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister.

Q The executive, the government, is all of a sudden really rather powerful and really rather unscrutinised. Parliament is in recess, it’s due to come back in late April, we’re not quite sure whether it will or not, the Prime Minister is closeted away, communicating via his phone, there is not a lot in the way of scrutiny is there?

A No. Certainly there’s not a lot in the way of institutional scrutiny. The Press has engaged in a fair amount of scrutiny, there has been some good and challenging journalism, but mostly the Press has, I think, echoed and indeed amplified the general panic.

Q The restrictions in movement have also changed the relationship between the police and those whose, in name, they serve. The police are naming and shaming citizens for travelling at what they see as the wrong time or driving to the wrong place. Does that set alarm bells ringing for you, as a former senior member of the judiciary?

A Well, I have to say, it does. I mean, the tradition of policing in this country is that policemen are citizens in uniform. They are not members of a disciplined hierarchy operating just at the government’s command. Yet in some parts of the country the police have been trying to stop people from doing things like travelling to take exercise in the open country which are not contrary to the regulations, simply because ministers have said that they would prefer us not to. The police have no power to enforce ministers’ preferences, but only legal regulations which don’t go anything like as far as the government’s guidance. I have to say that the behaviour of the Derbyshire police in trying to shame people into using their undoubted right to take exercise in the country and wrecking beauty spots in the Fells so that people don’t want to go there, is frankly disgraceful.

This is what a police state is like. It’s a state in which the government can issue orders or express preferences with no legal authority and the police will enforce ministers’ wishes. I have to say that most police forces have behaved in a thoroughly sensible and moderate fashion. Derbyshire Police have shamed our policing traditions. There is a natural tendency of course, and a strong temptation for the police to lose sight of their real functions and turn themselves from citizens in uniform into glorified school prefects. I think it’s really sad that the Derbyshire Police have failed to resist that.

Q There will be people listening who admire your legal wisdom but will also say, well, he’s not an epidemiologist, he doesn’t know how disease spreads, he doesn’t understand the risks to the health service if this thing gets out of control. What do you say to them?

A What I say to them is I am not a scientist but it is the right and duty of every citizen to look and see what the scientists have said and to analyse it for themselves and to draw common sense conclusions. We are all perfectly capable of doing that and there’s no particular reason why the scientific nature of the problem should mean we have to resign our liberty into the hands of scientists. We all have critical faculties and it’s rather important, in a moment of national panic, that we should maintain them.

Q Lord Sumption, former Justice of the Supreme Court, speaking to me earlier.

Now if that isn’t bad enough governments around the world, including the UK, have just driven the modern economy off a cliff and we are in ‘freefall’, heading to the bottom of the cliff, for probably no rational reason at all.

Some of this is explained in some detail in this article in the Spectator (behind a paywall but free for the first 2 articles). I quote from that article:

But there’s another, potentially even more serious problem: the way that deaths are recorded. If someone dies of a respiratory infection in the UK, the specific cause of the infection is not usually recorded, unless the illness is a rare ‘notifiable disease’. So the vast majority of respiratory deaths in the UK are recorded as bronchopneumonia, pneumonia, old age or a similar designation. We don’t really test for flu, or other seasonal infections. If the patient has, say, cancer, motor neurone disease or another serious disease, this will be recorded as the cause of death, even if the final illness was a respiratory infection. This means UK certifications normally under-record deaths due to respiratory infections.

Now look at what has happened since the emergence of Covid-19. The list of notifiable diseases has been updated. This list — as well as containing smallpox (which has been extinct for many years) and conditions such as anthrax, brucellosis, plague and rabies (which most UK doctors will never see in their entire careers) — has now been amended to include Covid-19. But not flu. That means every positive test for Covid-19 must be notified, in a way that it just would not be for flu or most other infections.

In the current climate, anyone with a positive test for Covid-19 will certainly be known to clinical staff looking after them: if any of these patients dies, staff will have to record the Covid-19 designation on the death certificate — contrary to usual practice for most infections of this kind. There is a big difference between Covid-19 causing death, and Covid-19 being found in someone who died of other causes. Making Covid-19 notifiable might give the appearance of it causing increasing numbers of deaths, whether this is true or not. It might appear far more of a killer than flu, simply because of the way deaths are recorded.

If we take drastic measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19, it follows that the deaths will also go down. We risk being convinced that we have averted something that was never really going to be as severe as we feared. This unusual way of reporting Covid-19 deaths explains the clear finding that most of its victims have underlying conditions — and would normally be susceptible to other seasonal viruses, which are virtually never recorded as a specific cause of death.

But it gets worse. On the 19th March 2020 the UK’s Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens downgraded the status of Covid 19 saying that COVID-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID) in the UK and that the mortality rate is low overall.

Read that again – the UK’s expert advisory body on pathogens has said that ‘the mortality rate is low’. We have more than likely just crashed the world economy, and make no mistake a massive recession and years of hardship will follow, whilst hundreds of thousands if not millions of people in the poorest countries will die as a direct result of this potential massive mistake.

The above change from the UK advisory body probably came about with the publication of this important French paper (on the 19th March) Sars-CoV2:Fear versus Data which states: “Under these conditions, there does not seem to be a significant difference between the mortality rate of SARS-CoV-2 in OECD countries and that of common coronaviruses (χ2 test, P=0.11). Of course, the major flaw in this study is that the percentage of deaths attributable to the virus is not determined, but this is the case for all studies reporting respiratory virus infections, including SARS-CoV-2. Indeed, viral infections are ecosystem infections where the outcome depends on the inoculums and the surrounding microbiota [26]. Thus, certain bacteria seem to be associated with symptomatic manifestations, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Staphylococcus aureus, which are known to cause an excess of mortality due to secondary infection. Finally, seasonality, geographic location, heat and humidity are co-factors, as are age, gender and underlying pathologies. Under these conditions, and all other things being equal, SARS-CoV-2 infection cannot be described as being statistically more severe than infection with other coronaviruses in common circulation.

Finally, in OECD countries, SARS-CoV-2 does not seem to be deadlier than other circulating viruses. In addition to coronaviruses, there are 16 endemic viruses in common circulation in developed countries (adenovirus, bocavirus, cytomegalovirus, enterovirus, influenza A H1N1 virus, influenza A H3N2 virus, influenza B virus, metapneumovirus, parainfluenzae virus 1, parainfluenzae virus 2, parainfluenzae virus 3, parainfluenzae virus 4, parechovirus, picornavirus, rhinovirus, syncytial respiratory virus), and 2.6 million deaths from respiratory infections (excluding tuberculosis) per year have been noted in recent years worldwide [27]. There is little chance that the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 could change this statistic significantly. Fear could have a larger impact than the virus itself; a case of suicide motivated by the fear of SARS-COV-2 has been reported in India”

I’ll leave you with two highly qualified people who think similarly.

First John P.A. Ioannidis (C.F. Rehnborg Chair in Disease Prevention, Professor of Medicine, of Health Research and Policy, of Biomedical Data Science, and of Statistics; co-Director, Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford.) who has written this article ‘A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data’

Secondly Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, Professor Emeritus of Medical Microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University who has thoughts in a similar vein.

So folks there you have my prediction. A dreadful mistake has been made, a massive recession or even depression is on the way because we’ve just driven the economy over a cliff. All we needed to have done was isolate the vulnerable and to have invested properly in the NHS in the preceding years (rather than try and dismantle it for political reasons) so that it was equipped to deal with the crisis when it arose. It would have been way cheaper. The financial costs of this fiasco will be felt for a generation in the UK and many in the developing world who ‘live on the edge’ will die as a result.

If we decide to jump off the cliff, we need some data to inform us about the rationale of such an action and the chances of landing somewhere safe.

More lives have probably been turned upside down through all of this and futures stunted than any lives that might have been saved otherwise.

Edit : More thoughts from some academics on the same points:

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Greta Thunberg the Inconvenient Truth

“What’s infuriating about manipulations by the Non Profit Industrial Complex is that they harvest the goodwill of the people, especially young people. They target those who were not given the skills and knowledge to truly think for themselves by institutions which are designed to serve the ruling class. Capitalism operates systematically and structurally like a cage to raise domesticated animals. Those organizations and their projects which operate under false slogans of humanity in order to prop up the hierarchy of money and violence are fast becoming some of the most crucial elements of the invisible cage of corporatism, colonialism and militarism.” – Hiroyuki Hamada

Recently my Facebook page and mainstream media both seem to be full of articles and praise for the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. Now I’ll start by saying that I’m sure her intentions are honourable, I’m sure that she is one hundred percent genuine and indeed that the effects of climate change are real – although the cause of climate change is not necessarily clear as the conclusion in this excellent recent research paper shows: Propagation of Error and the Reliability of Global Air Temperature Projections concluding as it does with the sentance ‘ The unavoidable conclusion is that a temperature signal from anthropogenic CO2 emissions (if any) cannot have been, nor presently can be, evidenced in climate observables. ‘ Although personally I do believe that we have to accept the 97% climate scientist consensus that global warming is caused by human activity.

The claim by her mother that ‘She can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how it flows out of chimneys and changes the atmosphere in a landfill‘ should ring a few alarm bells. Incidentally her mother is Swedish opera singer and celebrity Malena Ernman who has apparently made 10 albums and had two hit singles and appeared in the Eurovision contest. Her father is actor Svante Thunberg, while her grandfather is actor and director Olof Thunberg.

However, she is being manipulated by the world’s financial elites, via vehicles like large environmental NGOs, to serve a pre-existing agenda having more to do with expanding capitalism than reversing or mitigating climate change. Basically she and most of the public (including possibly you dear reader) are being ‘played’.

Much of this is detailed in very great depth by independent reporter Cory Morningstar. This is published here, unfortunately it is a very dense and detailed read; but for anyone wishing to examine what is really going on I would suggest ‘sticking with it’.

Since writing this I’ve found a series of podcasts where these (well the first ones anyway) are read

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

As an aside I can find very little, anywhere on the internet, on how much money is actually funding this 15/16 year old’s well orchestrated publicity jaunt around the world. Update (26.09.19) Cory Morningstar has done another excellent piece examining the government organisations, companies and non profit organisations who are involved. It can be read here.

I never actually thought I’d find myself agreeing with Jeremy Clarkson who wrote; Anyway, this means that Miss Thingamajig will have to go to New York, and obviously she can’t use a plane, because she’ll be called a hypocrite. So this, then, is her opportunity to show the world that there are practical, sensible alternatives to a quick seven-hour flight on a Boeing 747. And she’s done just that, saying that she will make the trip on a 60ft racing yacht.

Naturally, this has made all her disciples very happy, but hang on a minute. What’s the message? That the half a million people who fly every day from Europe to America should use a £15m yacht instead? It gets worse, because if you examine the yacht she’s using, it’s not as green as you might imagine. First of all, it is equipped with a diesel engine. Ha. You didn’t know that I knew that, but I do. And second, it’s made mostly from carbon fibre, which cannot be recycled effectively and which uses 14 times more energy to produce than steel. Which can be recycled very easily indeed.


Some good points Jeremy even if I do think you are part of the problem.

For anyone who doesn’t have the time to read all the articles I linked to I would suggest that you listen the interview with Cory Morningstar starting at about 8.20

There is no point me repeating much of what Cory has already published; if you are truly interested you will read it, assess it and formulate your own opinions. If you can’t be arsed well stick to the Daily Mail and the other main stream establishment propaganda and keep your head in the sand.

But Greta Thunberg is being strategically exploited by the World Bank, the UN, and the non-profit industrial complex that serves the ruling classes. They are using her to advance their own self-interests and objectives – that are in direct opposition to everything this young woman articulates. This is being presented as a “leaderless movement” – very much the “New Power” methodology and religion for the capitalists – theorized by Jeremy Heimans (Avaaz/Purpose) for mass movement building – that serves the most powerful and destructive forces on the planet.

The manipulation of young, malleable minds is at the foundation of Western indoctrination in order to insulate a failing system and mask the market solutions being designed to address it. Market “solutions” that benefit the rich at the expense of  the environment. Hence, the youth are always the sacrificial lambs of the profit and non-profit industrial complex.

One must question anything applauded by the Royal families of Europe, or by billionaires in general. Those billionaires will not betray their class, rest assured. The billionaires and corporate interests behind Greta Thunberg are not looking to help the poor and working class; they are looking for massive land grabs and further raids on pensions, social security, and what’s left of working class and socialist movements. Big money orchestrating the Thunberg phenomenon. The ruling class stick together.

Conspiracy theory used to be reserved for invisible helicopters and such, now it’s simply any class analysis. Anytime someone points out who is funding a project there are cries of conspiracy theory.

Why would any rational person look at the Greta phenomenon and not grasp that it is manufactured? There is a lot of money behind this girl. But the non-profit industrial complex, the UN, the World Bank and IMF — they don’t do things altruistically. Capitalism is investment, not virtue. Capitalism created the crisis, it won’t solve it.

Greta is not anti-capitalist. She may say a few things that suggest, vaguely, an anti-capitalist sensibility, but the reality (which is what Morningstar provides) is that she works for big money, corporations and FOR capitalism.

Edit: Just after posting this link I came across this article and this article which kind of echoes my thougths.

Here are some more articles in a similar vein

The Creation of Greta
Greta Inc.
Unpacking Extinction Rebellion — Part I: Net-zero Emissions
Unpacking Extinction Rebellion — Part II: Goals and Tactics
Unpacking Extinction Rebellion — Part III: The 4th Industrial Revolution
Veritable Uprising or the (Faux) Real Thing?
Connecting the Dots (which was so good that I borrowed a bit to update the above)


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How to install 4G Broadband if you don’t have fibre.

Ok so if, like us, you live down a remote valley in Wales you may not have access to a decent broadband connection. In fact it is highly likely that you don’t as the whole roll out of fibre broadband in Wales has been a complete and utter fiasco, a cockup of monumental proportions and a financial scandal that no one seems to be investigating. We have promises in writing from a Welsh minister that we would be connected to fibre by 2016. Three years later there is still no sign of it!

Extract of letter from government minister promising fibre broadband by 2016

We’ve done our bit in trying to improve things including contacting our local AM and MP, the Welsh Government, the BBC and setting up a Facebook Group to try to bring fellow ‘sufferers’ in Wales together. My neighbours and I even featured in a BBC ‘news’ article; in true BBC style they investigated none of the issues and posted some dumbed down nonsense masquerading as news.

A much better read about some of the issues can be found here.

Accordingly it was time for some practical action to see if we could improve things for ourselves. We did and here’s how you can if you are lucky enough to live where you can get a 4G phone signal outside your property. Most of my neighbours are not as fortunate as me in this respect.

I will stress that I’m no expert and am just giving you the benefit of what worked for me. If it doesn’t work for you or you fall off a ladder that’s not my problem (because you should not rely on this as being from someone with expert knowledge). So big disclaimer: do this at your own risk, if it doesn’t work, dont blame me, you are advised to seek professional assistance from someone who knows what they are talking about.

Firstly establish if you can get 4G. We can’t get a signal in our house but a 4G phone can just get a signal outside the front of the house. You need to check if you can. First check the various mobile companies coverage maps online to see which provider might cover your area.

The coverage map for Three is shown below for example. In our case it says we can’t get a signal.

Coverage map for our postcode

In fact the postcade location isn’t quite accurate and we are just on the edge of the shaded area up and to the left of the location pin. So our theoretical reception is marginal.

Then get/borrow/ask a friend with mobile phone on that network to check if you can get a 4G signal at your location. If you can check at each (open) upstairs window around the house or even put a ladder up and try (without falling off). If you can get some sort of signal outside the building you are probably in luck.

Once you have established that you are in with a chance you’ll need; a 4G router, a phone SIM card (with data), and external 4G aerial and an aerial mast.

Just for the sake of completion I’ll mention that EE offer an ‘all in one’ 4G install service and ongoing contract – but it’s expensive.

You need an unlocked 4G router that will accept a phone Sim phone/data card. I bought a secondhand Huawei E5186s off Ebay for around £55. This is an old model and I believe that they were ‘badged’ for European Telecom companies and were being sold off as surplus.

Front of router

Your router should have 2 aerial sockets on the back where you can either screw two (supplied) indoor aerials or the two leads from an external aerial.

Back of router

You need to securely fix a mast and a 4G aerial on the outside of your house. Location is important; it generally wants to be at the highest point on your house you can get it and be orientated towards the phone mast transmitting your signal. If you are in a rural area like me it is likely that there is only one phone mast serving your property. Ours is 8 miles away. However, the lead to the aerial should not, ideally, be longer than 5m because of signal loss; so you will need to think carefully about location of the aerial and router into which you plug the aerial leads. The router also needs a power supply (so you’ll need a power outlet nearby) and you will need to distribute it around your house via wi-fi or ethernet cable (a solution for the latter might be to use Powerline adapters).

You can find the location of local telecoms masts using the Mastdata website (sign up is free for 30 days).

Our aerial is a Poynting Xpol-2 this is a directional aerial as we know there is only one phone mast serving our property. I lined the aerial up by plotting our house and the phone mast on Google Maps and drawing a line between the two. I then tweaked it by watching the signal strength bars. The Poynting website has some good information on installing an aerial. There are also some good videos at the bottom of the page explaining things like cable loss.

An onmi directional aerial may be more appropriate where there are several masts in range. In extreme range situations a twin Yagi aerial may be better; so you may need to seek out more information on this from a specialist supplier (told you I’m no expert). There is some good background on aerials here.

Poynting Xpol – 2

The Xpol – 2 has fixed 5m leads that terminate with standard connectors that screw straight into the aerial sockets on the router. So now all you have to do is fix your aerial mast to your house, secure the aerial to the mast (I got my mast and fittings from Toolstation), secure the twin cables and run them into the house, probably by drilling through the wall, or through a window frame or via some other means and connect the leads into the back of the router. You can then plug your computer in via ethernet or use the wifi facility.

Our aerial on a cranked pole just above eaves level on the side of the house facing the phone mast 8 miles away near the Carmel telecoms tower.
Here’s our aerial on a cranked pole just above eaves level on the side of the house facing the phone mast 8 miles away near the Carmel telecoms tower.

You will of course need a phone card/data sim for your chosen provider. I initially bought a 2Gb PAYG data card just to check all was working. This is just inserted into a spring loaded slot on the side of the router. In my case it is Micro sim (so be aware of Sim sizes if you are thinking of switching for a phone Sim as many phone Sims are smaller nano size).

Mobile phone companies sell both data Sims and phone Sims. The former are just for tablets etc. and just for data. They tend to be more expensive and until recently you could only use a data card in a wi-fi router. Since an Ofcom decision (I think) in 2018 it has been possible to use an ordinary phone Sim with a data allowance (often unlimited) in a data only device. These tend to be cheaper and my Three Network phone card on a 24 month contract with unlimited data is £20 a month (these deals can fluctate). I’ve had no issues using a phone card with unlimited data. Perhaps just buy a cheap PAYG one with a small amount of data for testing first before you sign up to a contract? Don’t forget that once you ditch your landline broadband you are entitled to a saving on the line rental charges as well. I shall wait until I’m out of contract before giving BT the ‘two fingered salute’. I still intend to keep a landline for now just in case fibre does come along in the future but I may well experiment with Voice Over Internet (VOIP) calls in due course.

Basically that’s it. Turn your router on and hope that the signal bars light up, we get between two and three bars eight miles from the transmitter. If they do light up you are ‘in business’. Tweak the aerial orientation if necessary. It normally takes a while (15 minutes?) until your new Sim card is registered on the network.

If you need to access the router settings for the Huawei just type 192.168.8. into the browser bar; the default username and password is usually ‘admin’ for both.

So before this I had internet speeds of around 1.4Mbps down and 0.3Mbps up (for urban readers, shaking their heads in disbelief, that is better than many others in rural areas). Now the speed varies depending on load on the phone mast etc but this is what I just measured (It can be less it can be more) as I wrote this. 50 Mbps is an excellent result.

As I say, if you’re in the same situation, and know that there is some sort of 4G signal available to you this may be worth trying (but as I keep repeating don’t blame me if it doesn’t!). Good luck.

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This Red Poppy Nonsense is Getting Out of Hand

A few people might get offended here. Good, because the British public needs a fecking big ‘wake up’ call as we head towards another Remembrance Day.

The red poppy was once a symbol to remind us of the senseless massacre of millions upon millions of people in muddy fields far away from home. The poppy was supposed to say never again to the horrors of a spat between politicians murdering a generation. In Britain it has been turned  into a symbol of militarism  It is being used as jingoistic propaganda and is now being hijacked by the right wing and the message is no longer ‘remember the senseless slaughter‘ but ‘support our brave lads‘.

We stopped wearing the red poppy quite a few years ago as we realised what was actually happening. The ‘poppy mafia’ certainly seems to have grown stronger in recent years.

Policing of wearing the poppy has grown absurd: public figures face attacks, all the way up to death threats, for not wearing one. There are fucking poppies all over everything, including buses, police cars and ambulances.

Meanwhile, opinion pieces glorifying the deaths in the First World War seem to be on the rise. Should you raise your head to say ‘actually this all wrong‘ you’ll be berated by the mob (which is I seem to recall what happened to those resisting facism before the Second World War in Germany).

They want us to forget what happened and pretend, as they did a hundred years ago, as though wars are nothing more than a jolly good lark. They brainwash children: not to mourn, but to strive to emulate.  They want us to think that having a military (to invade god knows where next) is actually a ‘good thing’ and necessary. It is only necessary for the Military Industrial Complex where it means huge profits for the arms dealers just as it did back in the First World War.

This is what war and ultimately the red poppy is about MONEY. They want a guillable, jingoistic public who will swallow the next war and deaths of young people so that they can still make MONEY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is why these children are being indoctrinated (note the ‘Future Soldier’ T Shirts) in the UK and yet in a few years’ time, if they follow the naive dream they are being steered towards, we could be seeing them shipped back in coffins. With a symbol, it is all too easy to simply radicalise children into militarism (sound familiar?).

More about how the poppy has been compromised through its collaboration with some of the world’s most controversial arms dealers, its increasingly militarised presentation of Remembrance, and its commercialised and trivialising corporatisation of the poppy “brand” can be found in an excellent download here

An excellent article on Poppy Fascism and the English Education System here

Thank goodness for the amazing 95 year old veteran Harry Leslie Smith, who unlike sleezeball politicians is prepared to put people ‘straight’ when it is needed.

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Apparently I’m not Immortal

Aortic heart valve replacement and aorta repair on the horizon and I (John) am guessing that open heart surgery is not a bundle of laughs.

It’s a strange thing to realise that things may end sooner than you thought . Thinking about your mortality is of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; until the unexpected happens.

Anyone who has read this blog will know that Liz is a retired doctor. Just before she retired, about 8 years ago, we were watching television one evening when she put her head on my chest. ‘I think you’ve got a heart murmur’ she said.

Thus started a chain of events which led to me having a CT scan and echocardiograms every 9 to 12 months to keep an ‘eye on things’. Apparently I have bicuspid aortic valve and an aortic aneurysm.

After 8 years of monitoring things have got to the point that complex open heart surgery is going to be required. I was only told this earlier this week so it’s kind of weird to be faced with the knowledge that you need serious and risky surgery to carry on living.

Heart Surgery
A lot of ‘black humour’ is going to be required to get through this.

To be honest I’m not looking forward to this and it’s obviously a tad scary. On the other hand I’m fortunate enough to live in a country where this surgery is routinely carried out about 7,500 times a year and is free within our wonderful National Healt Service that slime ball politicians on the right are trying to dismantle.

I have no choice; but I can write some words about the process that may help someone else in the future. So despite being the world’s worst blogger I will try and keep this updated to the end (not the best choice of words, John).

The next step is being called for another scan and some further tests so that the surgeons have a clear idea of what they are facing.

So as I get called for tests and then surgery I’ll give you a patient’s eye view of things.

Now hopefully, with the skills of those who work in the NHS and the support of Liz, I’ll come through this ok. 

It’s a cliche but ‘live every day as if it is your last, for one day it will be’.

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Travelling in Bangladesh

We’ve failed lamentably at posting about our travels as most years we take several weeks out to travel. In the winter of 2017 we travelled to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Map
Our 2017 Trip of Bangladesh

Flying into Dakha we travelled by ancient paddle steamer, car, plane motorbike and trains to (amongst other places) Barisal, Khulna, the Sunderbans, Sylet, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazaar and St Martin’s Island.

For us, other than the terrible traffic congestion in Dhakha, Bangladesh turned out to be revelation so much so that we immediately returned in February 2018 to visit many places we had missed the first time, particularly in the north west and the Chittagong Hill Tracts (the UK Government advise against travel here).

I really cannot recommend this impoverished country too much as a tourist destination. In the first place hardly anyone goes there so you will only see a handful of tourists. Secondly the people are amazingly friendly and with genuine Muslim hospitality you are received graciously everywhere. If you live in the UK you can also get a 28 day visa on arrival (a letter of invitation helps – but we didn’t have one for our first visit). We stayed, where we could, with local families in villages. It is a photographers dream (and you will find youself the centre of attention everywhere being asked to pose for selfies) with everyone more than happy to be photographed.  You can see a few photos on the gallery here

Rice Mill Worker Bangladesh
Rice Mill Worker Bangladesh

It’s strange how most people would probably give Bangladesh a wide berth, claiming amongst other things it is poor, dirty, dangerous and Muslim. Well to people who think like that your loss is our gain becuse we have spent over 6 or 7 weeks in this vibrant, culturally rich country (their annual outside book fair in February occupies the space of several football fields and lasts for a month). We have travelled on overnight paddle steamers, gone fishing with the otter fisherman, travelled on boats up rivers and through the mangrovees in the Sunderbans, spent days with the bonded labourers in brick kilns, visited the ship breaking yards in Chittagon, ridden motorbikes on the beach, shared village houses with the occupants and had some great food. Everywhere we have been met with huge smiles.

Even the poorest families will offer you tea and find some biscuits for you to eat with true Muslim hospitality; it really makes me mad to see some of the Islamaphobia in the west (particularly the western press). But then most who think that way have never actually met a Muslim family and interacted with them let alone gone to somewhere like Bangladesh (or Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan etc.). Travel is indeed one of the best educations you can have.

Obviously it’s not the easiest of countries to travel in, but a local guide is not expensive and will smooth the path for you (message us if you want some contact details).

We may even return in 2019, although Bangladesh does have elections coming up at the end of 2018 and this may bring about some unrest – so we’ll keep an eye on the situation.

 

 

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Hifi, Vinyl is bollox so are valves and foo

Like a few males of a certain age I like playing music via my hifi system and to keep abreast of things I joined a couple of online forums (fora?). I won’t name them but I’m sure you’ll find them if you search for UK hifi forums. Most of the stuff posted there about valves, vinyl, cables, mains conditioners is complete and utter crap; as Alan Shaw the respected designer of Harbeth loudspeakers frequently points out.

I love this comment from him about speaker cables:

‘We noted recently that the signal from the microphone to the loudspeaker comprises a line. A line of electrons flowing towards the voice coil of the speaker drive units. Because the voice coils are in a magnetic field, and the voice coil is glued to a speaker cone, we can hear a sound.

Before we get too carried away with spending money on the speaker cable that connect the amp to the speakers, and which is sometimes the thickness of a hose pipe, what about the part of the chain that you the consumer can’t play with? The voice coil wire itself.

Did you appreciate that the voice coil wire is not much thicker than a human hair? And if we unwind a voice coil from a RADIAL 5″ or 8″ woofer we can stretch it out a long way …. far longer than the cable typically used to connect your amp to your speakers! So, on the basis of the sound be limited by the weakest link – in this case the thinnest wire – I’m satisfied that QED79 strand (or equivalent) is ‘more than adequate enough to get you going’.

It really is most bizzare and it’s like the world hasn’t changed since the video above. There is almost a universal lack of scientific knowledge and a desire to ‘believe any old crap’. This is perpetuated by an industry selling dreams of perfect and better sound to the delusional. Some audiophiles call themselves ‘subjectivists’ (i.e. if I can hear the improvement it is better) and they generally spend a fortune seeking audio perfection. Of course the only purpose of a hifi industry is relieve consumers of as much cash as possible and if some sort of ‘pseudo babble’ or fancy coloured light on the front of the equipment does that better than cold hard science they don’t really care; they just want your cash.

People claim that they can hear all sorts of improvements by changing this or that. This is of couse just expectational bias. Hardly anyone carries out listening trials in a scientific way. It’s a fact that if you take any well designed, competent solid state amplifiers and adjust for the difference in sound levels they output – people cannot distinguish between them. That’s why I use a good old Quad solid state amplifier rather than the latest ‘in fashion bling’. Valves by the way just add distortion (which may be nice when creating a sound in the first place) and can, some claim, be pleasing. However, as they move the sound away from what the artist or engineer intended they are ultimately not improving the sound but diminishing it.

This lecture shows how difficult it is test things scientifically.

Vinyl is bollox, there i’ve said it. It really is, no if’s and buts. The dynamic range of even a CD is 100dB or more compared to around 50/60dB of an LP; that is it is 100-1000  better than analogue working at it’s very best. Distortions of 10-30% are quite normal for vinyl replay of loud sounds. That amount of distortion may actually be masked by music, or may add a certain character not readily attributable to “distortion” by the casual listener. Some listeners may even like the distortion, as they consider a particular ‘sound’ to be normal to their ears.

The cutting engineers developed numerous craft skills for working around the technical reality of discs. They became masters of taking the recording and manipulating it so that it would, literally, ‘fit’ onto a gramophone record.

He/she squashes the dynamic range so that the grooves never accelerate the average stylus too fast, he raises the loudness of the quieter elements of the music so that they are both audible above the inevitable hiss, crackles and plops, he reduces the stereo width generally since that minimises stylus movement, he probably monos the bass below about 100Hz (reduces groove width, necessary for 20 mins/side), he sets the peak loudness to minimise distortion on the average pickup and so on.

He uses every trick he knows to compensate for the limits of the medium even though it is significantly different from that recorded by the microphone. And I haven’t even started on hiss, crakle and pops or discussing a medium that degrades over time and with playing.

Vinyl might be a satisfying theatrical performance but is never capabale of reproducing the original performance; full stop. The cartridge is dumb it cannot separate the wanted motion (the music) from the random motion (the noise).

The development of the CD red book standard by Sony/Phillips was an astonishing piece of work for the time and was the greatest leap forward in hifi reproduction ever. The standard still can reproduce everything that anyone over 18 (Some youngsters MAY technically have hearing that extends beyond the upper frequency range) can hear.

By far the biggest factors in hifi reproduction are how the material was recorded in the first place, how it was mastered (some people defending vinyl will quote the mastering loudness wars at this stage) and the acoustics of the room you are listening in.

As for those who claim that some vinyl has a better dynamic range than the CD according to the Dynamic Range Database; well you had better take a look at this.

Basically vinyl is taking the piss. Marketers are selling a theatrical performance (look at the artwork, feel how tactile it is) and a retro nostalgia to get people to part with cash (probably for the second time) for an inferior product.

Oh yea, you also have to turn it over halfway through.

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Ryan Young Scottish Traditional Fiddle Player

It’s been sometime since we wrote a blog here. But I doubt that there are too many regular readers! We’ve been keeping ourselves busy in the meantime. Not least helping a young traditional fiddler from Scotland; Ryan Young.Ryan Young Traditional Scottish Fiddle Player

We came across Ryan playing on BBC Alba on the TV and where so impressed that we got in touch with him with a view to seeing if we could help him at all. Ryan is quite simply, in our opinion, the most promising young traditional fiddle player in the UK. His interpretations of traditional Scottish tunes are quite stuning.

Our friendship with Ryan has ultimately led to him recording his first album with a triple Grammy award winning producer – Jesse Lewis.We still can’t quite get our heads around the fact that Jesse agreed to fly to Scotland to do this project; here are some of his albums he was involved in recently.

The album has been recorded in high resolution audio at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and we had a lot of fun helping pull all this together. You can find out more about this here. The album should be available around the first quarter of 2017.

If you are at all interested in traditional music; particularly the fiddle playing of Martin Hayes, Alasdair Fraser and Liz Caroll can I suggest that you check out Ryan’s playing. He really is in the same league as they are. He is, in my opinion, the best young traditional fiddler of his generation.

You can find out more about Ryan at his website www.ryanyoung.scot or follow him on Facebook.

Edit: Since posting this Ryan has won ‘Up and Coming Artist of the Year’ at MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2016.

Traditional Scottish Fiddler Ryan Young with Martin Hayes
Traditional Scottish Fiddler Ryan Young with Martin Hayes

Traditional Scottish Fiddler Ryan Young with Dennis Cahill
Traditional Scottish Fiddler Ryan Young with Dennis Cahill

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Rachel Sermanni at The Magic Lantern, Tywyn

Well its been a quiet few weeks for us old codgers. However, for the next 3 weekends we have 3 gigs lined up. The first was a trek up to Tywyn to see Rachel Sermanni in concert (last night) then next weekend we’re off to see Nick Cave play in Koko, London as John managed to get tickets for the special gig he is doing there as part of his film 20,000 Days on Earth. Then the weekend after it’s back to Tywyn to see Robyn Hitchcock who I blogged about earlier in the year when he played at the Laugharne Weekend. Crickey, at our age, we should be sat on the sofa watching the TV with a mug of cocoa not hurtling round the UK to listen to quirky folk play music in quirky places.

The Magic Lantern, Tywyn
Rachel Sermanni at The Magic Lantern, Tywyn

So speaking of quirky we headed off to The Magic Lantern yesterday afternoon in the van. Liz spent many weekends as a child in and around Tywyn so it was a trip back down memory lane to go back there. We ambled across country, in the annoying way old folk do (if you’re stuck behind in a car whilst John scans the countryside for photographs) and stopped off in rainy Aberdyfi for a cup of tea and fish and chips before trundling into Tywyn an hour or so before the gig. The Magic Lantern is a delightfully converted old Assembly Rooms/Cinema that has real character and rather fine acoustics.

Hitchcock at the Magic lantern
Hitchcock keeps an eye on proceedings at the Magic Lantern, Tywyn. This will be very weird in two weeks time when Hitchcock watches Hitchcock!

I get quite a buzz out of hearing new people for the first time and I’m not too sure how I first strayed across Rachel. ‘That sounds good’ I thought not realising that she was only a tad over 20 years old. Our paths nearly crossed in Clonakilty in the south west of Ireland when she was playing in De Baras pub but we were already going to another gig at Baltimore Fiddle Fair. So, as she lives in Scotland and not that much music gets to the far west of Wales, it wasn’t until last night we got to see her.

What a delight it turned out to be. The venue was perfect, the audience, although not large were attentive, and Rachel was delightful with the bubbly enthusiasm of one so young. Do not be deceived – her songs, voice and delivery are mature. Each song is is sung with a delivery that emphasises its meaning, a little stop or a little smile can mean a lot in these songs. Because she is so unique it’s quite hard to categorise her music; I’ve heard things like ‘folk noir balladeer’ banded about but that doesn’t really do her justice. Rachel is Rachel and I very much doubt she is ever going to be neatly slotted into any pigeon hole.

Songs that stood out for me were ‘Ever Since the Chocolate’, ‘Song to a Fox’, the Robbie Burns song ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ (which I hated when I heard Eddie Reader do it) and the delicious ‘Eggshells’ which was an encore sung without the microphone.

Rachel Sermanni
Rachel Sermanni singing ‘Eggshells’ at the Magic Lantern, Tywyn

A really good gig and it just proves that if you keep your ears open there is great stuff out there. Not wishing to turn this into a rant (us old folks are pretty good at that Rachel – and I’ve done it previously here anyway) I just wish a few more people would turn off their ‘mind numbing’ televisions, that are spewing out plastic pap in the spaces between the commercials, and get along to gigs like this.

After such a good evening what else could we do but park the van down by the estuary and fall asleep to the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. It beats a mug of cocoa and the goggle box any night.

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40 Years Ago – The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle

The Wild the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

Forty years ago today one of the greatest rock albums of all time was released. It was the difficult second album for a 23 year old Bruce Springsteen who went on to become a household name.

People seem to love him or hate him. The greatest rock artist of all time or a boring formulaic oldie? This post isn’t about that debate.

How did this young man, who had not exactly been a success at school, manage to conceive, write and put together this masterpiece? Although he probably answered this question himself later in life – “For me, I was somebody who was a smart young guy who didn’t do very well in school. The basic system of education, I didn’t fit in; my intelligence was elsewhere.”

It’s a massive cinematographic style album of the characters and places of where he grew up; stories from the board walk and the beach. Springsteen is observing life from the street corner, rather than driving down the highway.

For me Bruce has never surpassed this album and whilst this was an early (and some argue weaker) incarnation of the E Street Band I love the production and feel of the recording. The music has vast open spaces and room to breath whilst at the same time you can almost feel the heat of a Jersey night. I much prefer the production to the later ‘wall of sound’ production.

As Bruce grew older he seemed to restrict himself into tighter and tighter song structures, that were much more formulaic (albeit a formula that most would be more than happy with). I guess we shouldn’t be angry that he never wrote down this way again, we should just be grateful that, at one time, he did.

So if you detest the thought of listening to Springsteen give this a listen and marvel at the creativity of a 23 year old; you may be pleasantly surprised and if you’re one of the ‘converted’ (like me) have another listen to probably the most underrated album of all time. The last three tracks, especially ‘Incident on 57th Street’ and ‘New York City Serenade’  are some of the best tracks ever written in the ‘rock’ genre (although it defies categorisation); lyrical and vivid story telling at its best. Probably my ‘Desert Island Disc’ if I had to just choose one.

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