Incorporating the Simple Living Review, the Preparedness & Self-Reliance Review, as well as the Outdoor & Survival Review

Bank of Spain chief reckons world faces "total" financial meltdown

by Michael Smith

The governor of the Bank of Spain recently issued a rather bleak but probably more realistic, assessment of the economic crisis, one that is probably than that of any other banking chief or politician, warning that the world faced a "total" financial meltdown not seen since the Great Depression.

"The lack of confidence is total," Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez said in an interview with the El Pais daily newspaper.

"The inter-bank (lending) market is not functioning and this is generating vicious cycles: consumers are not consuming, businessmen are not taking on workers, investors are not investing and the banks are not lending.

"There is an almost total paralysis from which no-one is escaping," he said, adding that any recovery – penciled in by optimists for the end of 2009 and the start of 2010 – could be delayed if confidence is not restored.

He must be the only one finally willing to say what everyone, at least those of us on the lower end of the food chain, has been seeing for ages.

Ordonez recognized that falling oil prices and lower taxes could kick-start a faster-than-anticipated recovery, but warned that a deepening cycle of falling consumer demand, rising unemployment and an ongoing lending squeeze could not be ruled out.

"This is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression" of 1929, he added.

Ordonez said the European Central Bank, of which he is a governing council member, would cut interest rates in January if inflation expectations went much below two percent.

"If, among other variables, we observe that inflation expectations go much below two percent, it's logical that we will lower rates."

Regarding the dire situation in the United States, Ordonez said he backed the decision by the US Federal Reserve to cut interest rates almost to zero in the face of profound deflation fears.

Central banks are seeking to jumpstart movements on crucial interbank money markets that froze after the US market for high-risk, or subprime mortgages collapsed in mid 2007, and locked tighter after the US investment bank Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in mid September.

Interbank markets are a key link in the chain which provides credit to businesses and households.

The problem is that nothing is going to kickstart anything. If those people really think that a few percent – 2.5% as in the case of Britain – of reduction in sales tax or such gimmicks will boost consumer confidence and they will run out to the stores to spend, spend and spend even some more then they need to leave office now, for they live even more in cloud cuckoo land than we, the people, have assumed for years. Most of those people do not appear to live on this planet anyway but on some parallel universe; that much is clear to all but the blindest person possible. And this blindness has nothing to do with eyesight but everything with vision.

The truth, as I see it, is, I am certain, that the recovery penciled in by the optimists, who seem to try and tell everyone that that is definitely the time that the economy will be back on track, may not just be delayed a little but a lot more, more like a number of years.

The realists, though some would call them pessimists, amongst the financial wizards and analysts, reckon that this economic downturn, as some still term this current depression, might make the Great Depression of 1929 and beyond look somewhat like a walk in the park.

If things really get that bad then we are all in for trouble for, while in the Great Depression people, neighbors, family and community looked out for everyone, in general, such safety net, if we might call it thus, no longer exists.

Families no longer are together, neighborhoods no longer function as they did then and as for community; what community. However, maybe, just maybe, this economic crisis might return us all to the real values of life.

We can but hope, I guess.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Americans sell possessions and buy used to cut costs

Good for the environment but a bad sign as to any economic recovery

by Michael Smith

More and more Americans, to it would appear, are selling possessions in order to make ends meet, even selling used children's toys to secondhand dealers, the same as with other items, including family heirlooms.

When it comes to buying things they now, more often than not, look at choosing used rather than new. Amazing what a downturn can do, even as regards to suddenly looking at used again. Also very green for any item that is thus brought back into circulation does not end up in the landfills.

While the fact that folks buy used, secondhand, rather than new may be very good for the environment but it is a bad sign as far as the economy is concerned. It means that people do not believe the talk of the politicians as to this crisis being of short duration only.

The feeling that I, and especially many analyst, have as regards the current economic situation, the credit crunch and the business closures is that it is not going to get better quickly; definitely not in the time frame that the governments, in the USA, Britain and elsewhere, try to tell the people.

Some analyst said that from where he is standing and from what he is seeing that this could be as bad if not even worse than the crisis of the 1930s. If that be so then the gods help us for most people are today in no position to overcome this.

First of all the communities that once existed and that helped one another are gone and secondly most of them are so deep in dept that they do not stand a chance.

In the 1930s as well as before and even after until well into the 60s and 70s people did not live on credit then - in the main – and only lived within their means, as far as the majority was concerned. Purchases were made mainly in cash back then and you saved up for expensive items and did not go out to get it because the Joneses had one or the Millers. You looked at whether you needed it and whether you could afford it.

Enter the era of easy loans and everyone went out with credit cards and such on a spending spree and most people began to live well beyond their means. It had to be the latest TV, the latest HiFi, the latest sofa and such, often just because the neighbors got a new one, regardless whether the old one was bad or not and from what I have seen when growing up even already doing the rounds collecting all those items that people put out at the curb for the special collections to take most of it was in good order.

It was only a matter of time until this bubble burst and it finally has done, in the US as well as elsewhere.

I am more than convinced that there is no quick fix to this and that we will be going through an number of years if not even a decade of very bad economics but, in many instances this may not be a bad thing at all. We may in fact get back to proper communities of people, in the real world as well as the virtual world, that will work together for the common good and support each other and we may also, finally, because of costs, get back the local firms making things. This would be good for our communities and the planet.

The horrible greed that has caused all this may, hopefully, be overcome and maybe we could even get a banking system that does not charge usury, like the Muslim banks. Chance would be a fine thing, I know.

Our countries, whether Britain or America, claim to be based on Christian principles but if that is so then I must say that I think that the Christian faith has absolutely nothing to offer the world. I am serious here. In fact, personally, I do not think that it has anyway. Please no one tell me that those people are just an exception, etc.

Capitalism has not worked and neither has socialism, I am aware of the latter fact as well. Is there a system that we could find so that good could come out of evil in this case?

Maybe out of this collapse or nigh collapse, if we work carefully on it, something good may come. But only if we, the people, actually work on it and ensure that the greedy bankers and politicians do not get to spoil and ruin it again.

It was greed that got us into this mess, total greed. Greed by bankers as much as greed by those who took out the loans.

Many British municipalities and charities are in dire straights because they have lost lots of money in the collapse of the Islandic banks. I feel so sorry for them, NOT. They invested in those unprotected banks of that foreign country for what reason? For the very reason of greed. Island's banks were offering high interest rates, rumored in the region of 15%-25% on high value investments and those institutions and councils thought they could make great profits this way. Now, as far as the councils are concerned it is the local taxpayers, that is to say, the residents, that have to pick up the bill or they will have to face loss of services. No council official, however, seems to be held accountable for those actions of having invested abroad.

Let us hope that good will come out of this and that we will have a new system, one that will be by the people for the people, and maybe we could even have new governments in that same vein. I know, chance would be a fine things, but... the truth is that it is now up to us what we make out of this crisis.

If we, the people, be willing and are prepared to have real solidarity and community then maybe, just maybe, a new society can rise from the ashes. We can but hope (and pray).

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Lone environmental activist gets into power station

A lone environmental activist strolled into power station and shut down 500MW turbine.

By Michael Smith

On 22hrs on Friday, November 28, 2008, a one environmental activist, in full view of CCTV cameras, climbed two, supposedly electric, razer-wire topped fences at Kingsnorth power station in Kent and than literally strolled through an open door into the main generating house and shut down a 500MW turbine. He then strolled back out of the facility leaving behind a banner stating “No New Coal”.

This comes around the same time when in another – unrelated incident – about 50 environmental protesters went through the perimeter fence at Stanstead airport getting into high security air side areas of the airport.

During the year 2008 we have had at least three of such major breaches of security at establishments that should be made and kept secure. Two of those were at airports, the first at Heathrow when protesters actually managed to get onto the fuselage and wings of a parked aircraft and were not noticed until they unfurled a large banner, the the incidents at Stanstead and at Kingsnorth power station. Not counting the one when protesters managed to actually scale the chimney at a power station.

Either we are totally inept at guarding vital infrastructure against potential terrorist attacks or there is no real threat in existence at all. Which is it?

While the surveillance of the individual, especially in Britain, is becoming more and more complete and no one can do anything without not being monitored by CCTV cameras, scanned by scatter radar or such, and/or have their emails and even phone conversations routinely monitored, our vital infrastructure targets are wide open for people to simply walk in unchallenged. Something, in my opinion, does not compute here whatsoever.

It is high time that we either beefed up security at such installations, whether airports, power stations, water works, power lines, and such like, and really guarded such areas or government came clean and admitted finally there there is no real threat from so-called Islamists terrorist whatsoever. Either, as I said, we are totally inept in protecting out vital installations or we are that lax because there is no threat and government is lying to us.

Just a little food for thought!

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Powers of RIPA legislation abused

Ex-Chief of MI5 'astonished'

by Michael Smith

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) was passed in 2000 to regulate the way in which public bodies such as the police and the security services carry out surveillance.

To begin with originally only a small handful of authorities were able to use RIPA but its scope has, for some reason, been expanded enormously and now there are at least 792 organisations using it, including hundreds of local councils.

This has generated dozens of complaints about anti-terrorism legislation being used to spy on, for example, a nursery suspected of selling pot plants unlawfully, a family suspected of lying about living in a school catchment area, and paperboys suspected of not having the right paperwork.

Now those campaigning against the abuse of RIPA have got a new ally in the person Lady Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5. In a speech in the House of Lords recently, she said she was "astonished" when she found out how many organisations were getting access to RIPA powers.

Those that nowadays, more or less willy-nilly seem to be granted the right to carry our surveillance for this or that reason, should never, so it seems as far as the Security Services are and were concerned, be given those powers and rightly so.

While there may be reasons in fact for councils and others to, at times,m be granted powers under RIPA no council, per se, needs to carry our covert surveillance of dustbins for instance as to what people put into them. The same is true in respect to other uses that RIPA has been used for.

When RIPA was introduced the activities authorised by that legislation were meant be confined to the intelligence and security agencies, the police, and Customs and Excise.

The legislation was drafted at the urgent request of the intelligence and security community so that its techniques would be compatible with the Human Rights Act when it came into force in 2000.

Nowadays, however, for reasons unfathomable, every authority of whatever kind, from local councils and trading standards – and that latter one can still be understood – over the Milk Marketing Board equivalent and the one responsible for eggs and whatever else, aside from police, security services and HMRC, that is to say Customs and Excise, are given such covert surveillance powers.

Britain is the fast becoming, if it is not already, an all-pervasive surveillance society and British subjects are the most spied upon people on this planet, ahead even, so it would appear to citizens of Russian and even of Cuba.

On the principle governing the use of intrusive techniques which invade people's privacy, there must be total clarity in the law as to what is permitted and they should be used only in cases where the threat justifies them and their use is proportionate.

Presently, however, it would appear to be neither and as far as a great many people who are in the know amongst the general public are concerned this is very disconcerting and it is creating resentment amongst the people.

However, it seems that the current Labor administration in the United Kingdom could care less as to what the public thinks really. They have a majority in the House and hence do not care one iota about the people.

How can we expect to combat terrorism on our shores when we alienate the general law-abiding public who should be the eyes and ears of the authorities by using spy techniques and anti-terror legislation against them who have done nothing wrong.

The idea of the DNA and fingerprint database and the idea of monitoring all email and Internet traffic of every subject of Her Britannic Majesty is not going to bring the people onto the side of the government. Rather the opposite.

People who work in the field of security, I am sure, can see that but those that try to lord it over the people, whether central or local government do not care, it would seem. Councils up and down the country use RIPA powers against people that may or may not put the wrong stuff into their dustbins; who may put their dustbins out at the wrong day, and such like. As far as I, and Lady Manningham-Buller, see this is a total misuse of the powers of the act. Time some reigning on was done here.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

What part of “NO” does the European Union not understand?

by Michael Smith

Earlier in 2008 the people of the Republic of Ireland, of Eire, rejected in a referendum the amended European Union treaty, which often was referred to as and EU Constitution by a majority vote and, according to the rules the treaty is, therefore, supposed to be dead.

Oh no, says Brussels, we carry on regardless and ask Ireland to hold another referendum until the people say “yes”. The treaty is dead, long live the treaty, seems to be the approach here. The word “NO” seems top be difficult to understand to the bureaucrats, none of which are elected, that run the European Union.

Welcome to democracy a la European Union. Their view is just to hold referendums for so long until the people finally give them what they want or, as in the care of Britain, where the Labor regime simply does not permit a referendum as they know full well that the people would reject any idea of giving the EU still more power, especially for affairs such as defense, policing, and such like. The British people are not as stupid as the government makes them out to be even though there are a few sheeple too many.

Ireland has now, recently, in December 2008, stated that it will hold another referendum and is advising the people to vote yes so as to no lose various European Union subsidies and other monies. This makes it rather obvious that pressure has been brought to bear on Dublin and that the threat of withholding of funding has been mentioned.

The European Union definitely wants to have is own version of democracy: votes and referendums until they get the “right” result, the result that they want. And they have the audacity to talk about other countries.

The people , where they have given a say, have for the second time have rejected this EU Constitution by whatever name. Is that not answer enough to the people in Brussels? Obviously not. They have other ideas of democracy. They have their new version where the people have no say and it is the parliamentarians, the politicians, in the various countries decide.

It would appear that in the European Union the voice and the will of he people only counts if it happens to coincide with the wishes and desires of the minions.

How did we ever get into this mess? More important, however, is how do we get out of this mess?

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Wake-up, we are in a depression

by Michael Smith

We are being told again and again presently that we are not in a depression but this is just a recession and that it this recession is going to be over latest by next year. Sure, and on an airfield nearby a squadron of pigs is preparing for takeoff.

So how many jobs must be lost in how short of a period of time to make a depression? How big a loss of consumer spending to make a depression? How many business closkings to make a depression? How many other area's of the economy have to suffer sudden sever loss to make a depression?

According to some sources, such as Panjiva, a firm that analyzes information drawn from shipping manifests filed with US Customs, said the number of global suppliers actively serving the US market fell from 22,099 in July to just 6,262 in October, a decline of more than 70 per cent.

In China, government statistics estimate that at least 67,000 factories across all sectors closed during the first half of the year.

US November Unemployment figures state that November 2008 added 533,000 + to the 320,000 and 403,000 of October and September 2008 respectively. This make 1,256,000 jobs lost in the last three months up to December 2008.

Will the US lose 1 Million jobs per month in 2009? The way things are going at present this might just be the case.

Is that still not bad enough for them to acknowledge that we are in a depression and no longer just a recession, if the latter would not be bad enough already?

This all raises a lot of questions, does it not?

Why? Why so drastic a drop?

Why the sudden rush of business closing, layoffs?

It is hard to believe this all started with a so called "housing" bust. How could one facet of the economy affect all the rest? It would rather appear that the housing bust was one of the latests signs of this.

If the rush of closings, layoffs continue, many, millions will be homeless and penniless. What happens then?

Also, when I look at this with the eyes of someone who does not generally and necessarily accept everything just the way it may appear then I see that somehow things are strange and so not really add up.

Are they really going to tell us that no one noticed the hosing bubble and the bank problems and that it could not have been dealt with before? It could have been handles before but, it would appear that the collapse was something that was intended to happen.

I know that I may look at things strangely, as some of my readers, I am sure, will have noticed, but it makes sense. For, if you want to reorganize the world, so to speak, and where people work and how and where they live and how, you will have to tear down the fabric first to make things easier. And this is what they have done and are doing.

They allow the collapse, the intervene where it suits, and then... well, I guess we have to wait a little longer for that installment of this story.

But, look at it this way. If they can rearrange where the businesses are and where everyone lives – ideally, as they see it, near the factories and businesses – they can then control us all far better. Am I that far off? I think not.

Food for thought...

Let's just be careful outside, keep our powder dry and watch our six.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Spending our way out of the downturn

by Michael Smith

For years and years, especially as regards to the environment and such, we have now been told to get away from being too much of a consumer and consumption society and now, with an economic crises at hand, for it no longer just looming, folks – it has well and truly arrived, we are encouraged by various government measures to go out and spend, spend, spend. Doh?

I personally cannot see how this spend, spend, spend, thing is, supposed, to help the economy and I also cannot see people doing it. What I can see people doing is in fact to hold on to their money in the hope that things are going to get cheaper still., and things will in the end. We are headed, in Britain at least, rapidly for deflation and this means that things will get cheaper and cheaper and people, and that is human nature, are NOT going to buy something now, this very moment when, more than likely, the same product if 20% cheaper by next week or so.

The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Finance, Alistair Darling, has decided that is exactly what they are trying to do, namely to get the public to go out and spend and spend. With this in mind he has reduced the VAT, the sales tax, by 2.5% from 17.5% to 15%, something which has caused nothing bu extra work and cost for retailers who had to adjust all their tills and all their prices. What he should have done instead, if he thinks that lower taxes will make people go out and spend their way out of a recession – not that that is going to work – is to lower the income tax, especially for the lower earners. But he did not do that.

Other governments in the developed world are implementing or are considering similar fiscal measures. The problem is that, so I see it, this is going to do absolutely nothing; nothing whatsoever, and we will be in a recession and deflationary depression faster than we can imagine by going down this route.

OK, I admit, I am no financial whizkid now expert or analyst but I can sure see the writing on the wall and I can see what people are going to do. They are going to say “thanks, Chancellor” and the money will stay in their accounts or pockets.

In times as uncertain as these no one in their right mind is going to go on a spending spree to help the general economy; they are going to tighten their purse strings for the “just in case”.

We are also currently in the, what could be called, “austerity chique” in which even the better off and those with a job are digging up their gardens, or quite a sizable chunk of it, in order to plant and grow vegetables for themselves and their families. Some do it for reasons of wanting some more organic vegetables and also wanting to know where the food actually comes from and what is it it, and others also may do it because it is at present the in thing to do.

This thing of “spend, spend, spend” is morally irresponsible and unsustainable as most of the people of this country and, I guess the same is also true in other countries, and the country itself are deep in debt, to banks and credit card companies. However, we do not seem to learn the moral lesson from this and the government is trying to simply get people to spend more and more. This is simply not sustainable and sustainability is not just something that we must look at as far as the environment is concerned. Our entire life must be, once again, sustainable but it is not – presently – and the government, as said, is not helping here by encouraging spending in order to, hopefully, revitalize the economy. Revitalize it in what way, that must be the question. For corporate greed to be able to continue as is?

The truth is, as said before, that the common punter is not going to go out and spend any money that they may b e “handed” by the government. The current huge amount of government borrowing by the British government as much as others, though the British seem to be one of those that really think that they can get out of problems by borrowing such humongous sums, is not sustainable and means that the public will be hit by tax hikes in the not so distant future. In view of the fact that such borrowings, as said, means more taxes to pay for this later, people are not going to go out onto the High Street and spend all this money that they are receiving by cuts in VAT and such. They are going to keep some of it if not indeed most of it back for the “in case”.

A “spend, spend, spend” approach that we are being encouraged to take up is a non-sustainable way to go and it much be discouraged rather than encouraged.

Are the government of this country, and others, really thinking that we can buy ourselves out of an economic downturn?

Apparently yes. Cloud Cuckoo Land comes to mind, does it not.

Instead of telling the people to take steps and protect themselves in this economic downturn and to make provisions they think that if people will go out with a little extra money and spend that in High Street shops and the department stores of this country. It is NOT going to make any difference and people are not going to go out and spend, spend, spend.

We are seeing already that they are not going to that. Instead they are holding back, though sales have not completely gone down the drain as yet on the High Street, but then it is the Christmas period and also stores are having pre-Christmas sales to lure the punters in.

People are going, and that is becoming slowly obvious, to hold back in general with spending, waiting for prices to fall further. This means that we are headed towards deflation in due course and instead of the economy picking up it will be doing the opposite. And as soon as this is going to become evident to people they will hold back even more when it comes to spending on the non-essentials.

Talks about prices going down does not seem to be working, as yet, at least not as far as food stuffs is concerned. Here prices seem to be still on the up in most places if not indeed all.

Oil prices, on the other hand, do seem to be falling, and not just in the global wholesale market. Even at the pumps we are seeing prices coming down. Whether that will also be seen as price reductions to the home energy consumer, as regards electricity and gas remains to be seen. The problem simply is that the energy companies are way too greedy, even those that claim to have ethics.

But whatever, we cannot spend ourselves out of an economic downturn that is about 2 seconds away from a recession and not all that far from a depression even. It is just the same madness as the way we have dealt with the natural resources. We have spent, spent, spent until now everything is polluted and nigh on gone.

There is only one way out; on both counts: Cutting back and living a simpler life. Period.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Simplify the Holidays

by Michael Smith

The holiday season is upon us and I am suggesting that we all "simplify the holidays."

Let's use this time of both great hope and great challenges to refocus on the season's deeper values of joy, peace, and family by making holiday choices that support and nurture our homes, our communities, our planet – and our family budgets, too.

I am no Christian and no believer in the story that Jesus the Messiah – Yeshuah ha Meshiach – was supposedly born on December 25 some 2,000 or so years ago in the so-called Holy Land in order to die on the cross to save us all, but nevertheless I believe that this season has become a hectic “must-have I want” kind of time and we must get back to the real values; those that really count.

When we watch then children in the stores with their parents it is not a case of “I would like this or that for Christmas”. No it is “I want that and that and that and that, ad infinitum” and the parents go “we'll get Santa to bring you that all” or such statement. Today's children are made into consumption zombies with no real understanding of the values of things. This can be seen in so many aspects, for instance the way they throw away things and such.

Join me in this campaign by making one or more of a special list of commitments to change our approach to the holidays. Some of the commitments could include: using a locally grown or potted Christmas tree, or, better still, don't use a tree at all (poor thing gets cut off and then discarded and even a potted one is not generally going to survive), giving edible gifts or plants, or hand-made gifts, reusing or using alternatives to traditional wrapping paper, and starting eco-friendly traditions such as picking up litter while caroling, if you do do the caroling bit, I mean. Would not be a good idea for me to do; my voice is horrible and I cannot carry a tune.

There are other things that you can do. Bring some cheer into the lives of some people that are worst of than you, such as homeless children, children in orphanages, at home and abroad. There are the schemes of packing a shoe box with a gift for a needy child ; somewhere. But most of all, give your time to someone. Start with your own child or children or some other loved one.

When it comes to giving gifts, make those gifts from the heart, gifts that you have made for the recipient, and not store-boughten goods.

If you have never tried to simplify the holidays then why not make this season the first. The fact that many, and maybe you too, do not have as much to spend and in light of the world economic situation think of laying by some money, this may be the best “excuse”, if one be needed, to start simplifying the holiday season.

Change begins with each and everyone of us and if we slowly but surely make a real effort to no longer give in to the commercialism of this season then maybe, just maybe, we can change the people around us as well, and here especially our families and friends.

If we want more compassionate communities, a more resilient economy, and a more sustainable environment, we ourselves have to take the first steps, even if they may be difficult or feel a little awkward at first.

With enough initiative and encouragement, we can help create a tipping point for how we approach the holidays – to live more consistently with the values that they stand for.

And this does not just have to be for the holiday season now, does it? We can use a similar approach to simplifying our entire life as much as possible.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Is Pakistan the next country on the attack list?

by Michael Smith

First the outgoing US President Bush made a statement in the middle of December 2008 as to Pakistan and support, whether official government or not, for Islamist terrorists and the talk began that the United States and its security community is intending to put Pakistan on the list of countries that support terrorism. Now on December 14, 2008 the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated that 3 out of 4 terrorist plots against the UK were hatched, so to speak, in Pakistan, while being on a visit to that country.

It does appear to me that those two are now preparing the world for an attack on Pakistan by claiming that it is a supporter of Islamist terrorism, e.g. Al-Qaeda.

Assuming that the attack on Mumbai may have been a false flag operation then it is quite obvious what is going on and that Pakistan is being put on the list of countries to be targeted for attack.

The two countries, that is to say the regimes of both the United States and the United Kingdom, have told Pakistan to act against terrorists and terrorist sponsoring organizations in that country and Gordon Brown had requested for British police and security services to be given access to any of the suspects for the Mumbai attacks that have been arrested in Pakistan. The Pakistani government, however, rejected this request or shall we call it a more or less demand.

The Pakistani Prime Minister basically told the British that any suspects will be questioned only by the Pakistani security services and will, if found to have charges to answer, be tried in Pakistan under Pakistani law. A rebuff to the British and American involvement and interference for sure.

This could more likely now lead to the two regimes that have an agenda in the area of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq to further actions, one can nigh on be sure about, against Pakistan. Let's hope not but things do not look promising right now and we might suddenly find that we, or better us in those two countries due to our respective governments, are involved in yet another foreign adventure which they like to claim a conflict instead of war and give us even more “friends”.

With actions like those against those Al-Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban we certainly have not made ourselves friends around the world and the longer we continue the way we, as countries, are going along we are not getting anywhere. We are making things worse, in fact.

The UK and the United States, by their very actions, have made all their citizens at home and abroad targets of any kind of misguided terrorist and those that think they are holy warriors. The more or less permanent support for everything that the Zionists did in Israel basically was the very beginning to this all. In the eyes of the United States, and to a degree this also seems to hold true as regards to Britain, Israel, the Zionist state, can do no wrong, apparently, and can, with virtual impunity perpetrate acts against the Palestinians that, if perpetrated against another people by another state would immediately, and rightly so, reap condemnation of the highest degree upon the perpetrator. Why not, though, in the case of Zionist Israel?

Even if the Zionist state murders British citizens who are aid workers in Palestine the government in the UK remains rather quiet and it needs the relatives of those murdered to push and shove before things, finally, get done and even then there is a total whitewash permitted.

And American vessel gets attacked by the Zionists and still nothings is said and done really and while I know that that is an old hat, really, as to that ship how come that the US just let it pass off. Had it not been Israel all hell would have broken lose.

But, sorry, I digressed.

It would appear as, presently, yet another target on the axis from Baghdad to the Indus River is being lined us, and this time Pakistan. What is it about that region that the West is so obsessed with?


© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

More and more customers coming back to good old-fashioned cash

by Michael Smith

Cash or credit? For more and more Americans, who have either already overstretched themselves on credit cards, have gotten rid of them, or are just trying to manage their spending better in the tough economy, the answer is increasingly the old-fashioned one, namely cash. No, not Johnny, the other one.

Retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, and other are beginning to notice, so they report, a marked shift away from credit cards in favor of cash and debit cards. A big factor is less credit available as major card issuers cut spending limits and raise fees even for customers who pay their bills on time.

The shift ends Americans' long love affair with credit cards and is one of the changes in consumer behavior that has emerged since the financial meltdown that could depress consumer spending this holiday season and affect shoppers' habits long afterward.

Particularly during holiday seasons past, shoppers could count on a pile of plastic to give them the extra financing needed to splurge on presents before they had to face the bills in January or later.

But even when the economy recovers and credit loosens up, analysts say Americans – shaped by what could be a deep and long-lasting recession – are likely to stick with buying only what they can afford just as their parents or grandparents did after the Great Depression.

This is, definitely, not a bad idea.

Personally, I refuse each and every credit card as I would not have one on any account; no pun intended here. I use a card, yes, but a debit card, which means that I cannot spend more than I have in my bank account. I also would never spend more than a certain limint per month from that anyway.

Why? Because I like to have a safety net and a little financial cushion there for the “just in case”, in the same way as our parents and grandparents did with the money they kept hidden in various places.

Although I have my money in the bank one can but wonder in today's climate as to how safe that actually is and whether a good sturdy safe somewhere at home and keeping the stuff there in coin and paper under lock and key might not be a better choice still.

As I said, I either pay by cash or, in most cases, for convenience of carry, and security, by debit card with chip & PIN. Monthly payments for utilities are going through the banking system by so-called direct debit. This works out cheaper than actually going to a payment center, like the Post Office, to pay those bills or to use check. In fact here we get charged extra if we pay by any other way than by direct debit.

I buy, as said, everything that way for like to know what I have bought and what I have spent and to know that I am not going to be hit with a big bill with the Gods only know what interest added to it. Use cash or debit card but no credit and loans. Cash still is best but debit card is basically cash in plastic form.

Credit cards, on the other hand, can be compared with a loan agency in your pocket. And, just like a loan agency, they charge you the earth for the money they, basically, lend you.

Cash may be seen as old-fashioned and the biggest problem is that cash is also, at some places, seen as dubious, it still is, in my opinion, and, it would appear, also the opinion of a lot of other people, especially in the US, better than credit card.

In this country, that is to say, Britain, though you may no longer use checks, for instance, in most stores in order to pay for your purchases. Is has to be either debit or credit card with chip & PIN. Or, obviously, cash. They still take that – for the moment. In fact, even though cash's death has been foretold so many times, I do not think cash is dead by a long shot. As fas as I can see it is coming back in fashion in many places, and that with a vengeance. Good for it as well.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Do you know what's in your toothpaste?

Aside from fluoride, which is dangerous enough, I mean ...

by Michael Smith

Aside from the fluoride, which is after all a poison, an accumulative one like arsenic, and, so it is said, a neural pathway agent, there are other things in most toothpaste that too can be harmful to you.

The FDA limits the content of fluoride in toothpaste to 1150 ppm, because of its toxicity and too much fluoride can produce fluorosis, a common finding today.

Fluoride is, as I mentioned, a poison like arsenic and like aspartame. And yes, we tend to end up with both fluoride and aspartame in stuff that we put into our mouths and bodies.

The Negative Effects of Fluoride:
While so many toothpastes today contain fluoride and the "virtues" of fluoride are literally everywhere in the media, the negative effects of fluoride are rarely mentioned. It cannot be denied that fluoride promotes a hardening of the outer layers of enamel by combining fluoride with the tooth enamel. These hardened areas may resist acid better than a calcium based-matrix, but will eventually stain (fluorosis) or fracture. They may begin as hypo-calcified areas or whitish spots on the enamel surface. Later in time these areas will darken and chip, leaving unsightly spots on the teeth and areas for requiring restoration.

We are told, again and again, that fluoride in toothpaste and in drinking water prevents cavities, but many studies reveal a different story. There appear to be many studies in which fluoride increased the caries rate. Of course, the Dental Associations in most countries take a different point of view. Other studies have revealed that when fluoridated cities were compared to unfluoridated cities, there was virtually no difference in caries rates.

The next thing that comes to mind, after the fluoride, is the surfactants of the various sorts that are used to make the toothpaste foam. More often than not those are the very same surfactants that are also found in the various detergents. Yuck!

But let us look at a list of common ingredients that are found in many major brand toothpastes:

First of there is Sodium Fluoride and please note that as is the first on the list of ingredients it means that it is the highest proportion in the contents.

Sodium Fluoride is a cancer causing agent and neurotoxin. In toothpaste it is – supposedly – used to prevent tooth decay and as insecticide, disinfectant, and preservative in cosmetics. It can cause nausea and vomiting when ingested and even death, depending upon the dose. Tooth enamel mottling has also been reported.

Then there is are the surfactants and other things that also do not necessarily make for good reading.

Depending on the brand there is Sodium Carbonate - Soda Ash. It absorbs water from the air. Has an alkaline taste and is used as an antacid and reagent in permanent wave solutions, soaps, mouthwashes, shampoos, amongst other things. It is the cause of scalp, forehead, and hand rash experienced by some people when using soaps and other preparations that contain this substance.

In addition to that there are often artificial sweeteners, whether Sodium Saccharin which is 300 times sweeter than sugar, but leaves a bitter after taste and on the FDA's priority list for further safety testing, or there is Aspartame, which is known to be toxic and also a neural pathway agent.

Then there are preservatives and other stuff in there the reading of which makes me feel rather nauseous. No, just reading the list, not actually using a fluoride toothpaste, for I don't.

Since we still need to brush our teeth, what do we do? Luckily there are companies that use high-quality, safe ingredients, including:

calcium carbonate—a natural mineral used to gently clean teeth
baking soda—a gentle abrasive that leaves your teeth feeling smooth after you brush
silica—a mild abrasive that helps remove plaque
stevia—a natural herbal sweetener without the harmful effects of artificial alternatives
xylitol—an important ingredient because it is believed to reduce decay causing bacteria and enhances remineralization
tea tree and neen—both contain antibacterial properties which help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Now that you are equipped with your lists of ingredients, you will be better able to make educated choices about the toothpaste you use. Start by examining the ingredients list of your favorite toothpaste and consider some natural alternatives. Your body will appreciate it.

Other tips to maintain healthy teeth include replacing your toothbrush regularly and asking your dentist to demonstrate the proper techniques to brush and floss. Also, throw away that manual toothbrush and get an electric one. While this may increase you environmental footprint somewhat it certainly is worth the investment. I can vouch for that.

Your teeth are important; they are the first step in achieving good digestion. The break down of food begins in the mouth. The more we chew, the better the cell walls get broken down, preparing the food for the digestive system and helping the body to receive all the food’s nutrients. With education and informed choices, there need not be a conflict between oral health and overall health.

I have been using a particular brand of fluoride-free toothpaste bought from healthfood stores, one which is supposed to be all natural ingredients – but having investigated the ingredients list there I must say that I am somewhat concerned as well for while it contains tea tree oil and aloe vera it still have glycerol and such ingredients, though claimed to be from natural sources. This still makes me wonder somewhat as to what we can and cannot believe of claims until we actually research each and everything to the greatest possible depth. But, who has got the time to do that all the time?

Maybe we should create our own tooth powder from the above safe list?? It might also be healthier and safer.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Southcrop Forest – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith

Southcrop Forest (Paperback)
Lorne Rothman
184 pages
Published 2008 by iUniverse, Inc.

This books is for children and young people (and everyone else) from reading level 9-12 upwards
ISBN-10: 0595495885
ISBN-13: 978-0595495887

Part fantasy quest, part natural history, "Southcrop Forest" has recently been named an Award-Winning Finalist for Nature Writing in the National Best Books 2008 Awards, USA Book News.

"Southcrop Forest" is a children's book - and more. It is steeped in nature, science and Canadian history, made accessible through an engaging, Tolkienesque narrative. A menagerie of plants and animals parades across its pages. Threats from urban sprawl and climate change are central to the plot.

"Southcrop Forest" is an animal fantasy, with a young protagonist who faces terrible dangers, daunting tasks, impossible odds and his own fears. But what a strange protagonist. He is Fur, a colony of caterpillars--a single creature, with one voice and one mind made from a collective. And his companion in this story is Auja, a young oak tree.

Auja lives in Southcrop Forest and Southcrop is in danger. Tree civilization is built upon a subterranean communication network - like a worldwide web for trees, a tree Internet. The hubs of this web are the trees' special farms that hold the source of all tree power. And the last farms in Southcrop are about to be destroyed by humans. The farms of Southcrop are unlike any other. They hold a secret treasure, only just discovered - a treasure so great it could change the world for trees everywhere. But Southcrop Forest is a fragment, bounded by highways and sprawl. Since trees can't walk and their communication lines have been cut, they cannot spread their new-found gift across the land.

The adventure begins when Auja discovers little Fur amongst her branches, a legendary creature not seen for a thousand years. Though small and meek, Fur can travel through the forest and communicate with trees. Fur embarks on a desperate quest to gather the trees' great treasure and carry it across Oak River to the forests of Deep Sky. Ghoulish enemies hunt him on his journey of enlightenment as he learns about the ecology of his world, the threat of humans, and finally, the eerie secret of his existence.

Author, Lorne Rothman states, "I wanted to write an exciting, mythical fantasy but one in which all the creatures and places are real. I wanted to pull kids away from their computer screens and help them to see the nature that's all around us." Readers agree he succeeded. "There has never been a book like this," says "Makes you see nature in a fresh way." And fourteen-year old Ian McCurley, reviewer for Reader Views observes, "Though the book includes many scientific facts, they are expressed in a way perfect for children."

“Southcrop Forest” is a little in the genre of Watership Down and other similar novels and stories but with a twist and this twist is that of the climate problems our Earth is faced with, and we are, ultimately.

While it may be seen as a whimsical story, by some, as we are here having talking trees and a talking colony of tent caterpillars, it is a great educational tool for environmental education of children and young people. While, probably, more suited for those young people that are above elementary school age, I would say that anyone who can read well enough from age 9 or 10 up will definitely enjoy this book and learn a great deal from it,with regards to the environment, natural history and also something about Ontario, Canada.

One could call this book cute, in a way, and I must say that I have enjoyed it immensely and it was one of those where, although you had to, you did not want to have to put it down. You just wanted to carry on reading it to find out how the quest is progressing.

“Southcrop Forest” is an extremely well written book by someone who is able to convey the aspects of science and natural history to the reader through the medium of this story to a great depth, aided by the copious endnotes by the author. Those are very helpful indeed though I – personally – think that they might have been better still as “footnotes” than as “endnotes”, as that would eliminate the going back to the end of the book every so often to check up on the explanations.

I have enjoyed this book immensely and to the greatest extent this book is a page turner, and this becomes especially so towards the last chapters and sections. The reader just wants to know how Fur is going to fare in his quest to save Southcrop Vision and here especially it becomes very difficult to put the books down until one has finished reading.

This is most certainly a book that I can most highly recommend. I am a forester by original trade and I know very much what the author is talking about and I believe that would be most hard pressed to find any other book or text that can explain this all in the same easy way and manner to not just children and young people, even though this book is intended for them.

“Southcrop Forest” should be in as many libraries in Canada and elsewhere as possible, and especially, if they still have them, each and every school library in English-speaking countries and schools.

About the Author

Lorne Rothman holds a Ph.D. in Zoology and studied ecology at the Universities of Toronto, British Columbia and Alberta. He lives in mid-town Toronto, Canada with his wife, two daughters and two cats, under the canopy of one of the finest stands of old growth oak in the city.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Environmental protesters get into secure airport area

What the h*** happened to the security?

by Michael Smith

When, on Monday, December 8, 2008, environmental activists, gained access to a high security area air side on Stanstead airport in Essex one can only ask as to what the h*** has happened to the security at that airport, whether their own security teams or the police. Was everyone asleep at that time of the early morning?

If that is the security on the air side side of our airports then what is going to prevent a more or less major terrorist attack. If environmental activist – unarmed – except for bolt croppers and such like – can get air side on a more or less major airport, the second-largest airport in the UK in fact.

Not so long ago activists got onto a parked aircraft at Heathrow, Britain's largest airport, and one of the world's busiest and no one had noticed until some of them in fact unfurled a banner on the plane.

I must say that if that is our air side security at airports then all the other security measures are a waste of time and useless and will not make our airports and air travel secure.

While those measures aimed at air travelers inconvenience those traveling by air and make check ins and arrivals and longer process they will not prevent explosives, for instance, being placed on a plane. Not as long as the security on airports remains a joke as it is presently. The problem is that this joke is not funny by a long shot.

All the measures currently in place, as I have said already, do is inconvenience the airline travelers and not the terrorists for all they have to do is get air side, by cutting through a fence a la environmental activists and place a device at the belly, for instance, of a parked aircraft. And, the way security (what security?) is on that side of the airports at the present this is not, despite what we are being told, a difficult undertaking and this should make us really worried.

This is also very much the same as regards to security of the railroad rolling stock. While, for instance, as regards to the Eurostar trains, for example, airport style scanners and security checks are used and now even small penknives are illegal to be taken on that train there is very little stopping any more or less determined person getting near the parked trains and attaching a device to it or getting onto the tracks and sabotaging them.

I know that as much as with cyber security there is no 100% security possible anywhere and it cannot be unless we would surrender all our liberties and freedoms and we, as people, should take some responsibility – in fact the greatest part of it – for our own personal security and that of our families and loved ones, and, to some degree of society as a whole.

However, when we look at the ease that people can get into supposedly secure areas and get onto, as in the instance of Heathrow, a parked aircraft then we must ask what is going on.

One must then also wonder as to whether there really is the threat that we are told is there or are we just being told that so that the powers that be can make things more and more difficult for the ordinary people to go about their daily lives, such as having biometric ID cards (probably with transponders) forced upon them and the threat that any cop may demand to see ID and if no ID carried that one then might find oneself in jail.

If the security is allowed to be as lax as it appears to be then on can but come to the conclusion that in reality there is no such threat as the security services and government keep trying to tell us. If not then the lackadaisical approach taken to the air side security at British airports is criminal negligence and some heads should, nay indeed must, roll, and security must be made nigh on watertight.

As I said already, I know, and I hope that everybody else does too, that there is no such things as 100% security without living in a fortress and giving up all liberties and freedoms, and it would be then that the terrorists and enemies of freedom have succeeded and this we must not allow to happen.

If anyone is supposed to feel secure again flying – I for one would not, then again I do not like flying, period – then air side security must be enhanced and made as good as watertight. No good inconveniencing the passengers with all those checks and searches and restrictions when anyone can just saunter into any airport directly through the fence with bolt cutters and then can do, unmolested for quite some time, what they wish to do. There are many countries in the world where anyone entering such a secure are of an airport would simply be shot by snipers.

I do not think that we would, necessarily, want to have such kind of operations in the United Kingdom, but...

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Automakers bail out failed

by Michael Smith

Washington, DC., December 12, 2008: The bail out desired by the US automobile makers such as GM, Ford, and others did not go through in the US Senate and was rejected.

In the light of this the market has taken a nose dive on Friday, December 12, 2008, and it can only be expected to get worse. This aside from the fact that, if he automakers cannot get finance from other sources, we will be seeing a lot more job losses in the USA, and elsewhere, such as the UK, as this will be having a knock-on effect with the subsidiaries of those companies over this side of the pond, that is to say Ford and Vauxhall, in the UK, for instance.

That kind of direct knock-on effect aside there will be a far great knock-on effect hitting home as well, as an difficulties with the automakers will also affect those companies that supply products to them.

Very much like the toppling dominoes this spells real problems for the economy, and not just for the US economy or that of Britain.

On the other hand, had the US government given the automakers the desired billions then they would have to go and help out others as well.

In the UK and the USA a bailout of the banking system started this all and while the reason for the banking bailout may just about make sense in that a collapse of the banks, and especially more or less the entire banking system, would have crippled not just the economies of the respective countries and much more, other bailouts just do not make sense.

No government, theoretically, can go and say “we bail out the banks and the automakers, but no one else”. That certainly would not go down very well indeed and it is something that cannot be done. Otherwise the likes of Woolworth too, where in the UK alone 30,000 jobs are at stake, also needs to be bailed out and this would then mean each and every business affected would, automatically, qualify for government assistance. That, I do not think, could be done.

Hence, while it may be cruel, aside from the banks no other businesses should be able to even get as far as the automakers did get. There is no limitless supply of money there and we must not even contemplate the idea of printing more money to finance such efforts. It does not work.

As harsh as it may sound, many businesses just have not been very prudent when times were good and have been throwing money about left, right and center to CEOs and the likes. Those people were on salaries of millions and were given annual bonuses in the millions but nothing was invested really into the companies and nothing was laid up “for a rainy day”. While CEOs ended up with salaries in the millions and bonuses in the same region the poor workers were given a pittance compared to those salaries.

It is now, unfortunately, as always, the poor workers who are going to have to take the brunt for it will be them that end up losing their jobs while the fat cats have enough money stashed away to make a lovely retirement without having to worry. But then, what's new about that? Was is not always the same.

There is a depression coming, folks, and it is time to batten down the hatches. Prepare while you still have the funds to do so and, where you can, get a garden going to have at least some food that you can grow.

Also have a look at how you can protect you own assets and what skills you have that can get you some additional finances and skills that you can use for providing for yourself and your family in time of crisis. The crisis which appears to be just over the horizon.

The British PM Gordon Brown and his Chancellor Alistair Darling try telling the people – and the world – that this is only a little recession and that there is no full blown depression looming but to most of us common people, I am sure, it would appear that the dreaded “D”-word is just a short way away.

Be prepared, must be the motto and we must look at what we can do to aid ourselves. No government is going to come along to help. We are already now, in Britain, being prepared for the fact that there is going to be virtually no unemployment benefit going to be paid in due course and that everyone will have to do some slave labor to get the little bit of money that is currently called “job seeker's allowance”, the dole as it was once known as.

The Subotnik idea was spoken about some years back and that is also still in the offing in which every one is supposed to do some forced voluntary work “for the good of the community”. This is, no doubt, going to come to a community near all of us in due course. “Pre-warned is pre-armed”, as the motto of the old Royal Observer Corps used to go.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Second-Hand Gifts

by Michael Smith

Is buying second-hand gifts is a great way to keep those holiday costs down? Is it acceptable? Is it unacceptable? Is it just plain tacky?

I, for one, do it and think it's fine . . . but one has to put a lot of thought into how one does it. That antique or collectible that would fit perfectly into Aunt Hilda's collection is a go. But that puzzle with the missing pieces? That just is not going to happen and it cannot.

Anything that is broken or chipped, has pieces missing or such like, obviously, is not suitable as a gift, and not just on occasions such as Christmas and such like.

However, in any other cases, I surely think that second-hand should be an option that should deserve consideration.

Personally I never have (much of) a problem with receiving second-hand gifts – in fact I get quite a number of things given to me that way – though there are some things that are not suitable, in the same way as I would not buy them from any second-hand store myself.

Maybe you can encourage your family to embrace a 'second-hand gift exchange'. There are many perfect gently-used or never used things at goodwill, charity shops, garage sales, etc. that just would make the perfect gifts.

Being frugal, whether as regards to gifts or in other ways, does not need to mean being cheap. The way I see it is that it helps the environment by giving this or that item a new lease of life, living with me if someone gives it to me, or the other way round. It means this particular item did not have to be made again just for me to have it; it was there already and someone else had “outgrown” it.

Gifting second-hand only works either if the items really look new and maybe even are – and you can find such things often in charity shops here – with the tags still on them and have the boxes to go with them too, or if they are collectibles or such like. It is different, maybe, for small children.

The other option, in my opinion, is to make gifts – handmade gifts are great – for people rather than buying them, whether second-hand or not. When I was a child handmade gifts were the norm for the winter celebrations, and also on other occasions.

The other thing was when I was a child was hand-me-downs, in clothes as much as in other things, or things that came from thrift stores or such. But that was more or less in general, that is to say not necessarily a gift for the winter holidays or for birthday or such. Then, in general, it was hand made, whether clothes or something else.

Personally, I have no problem either giving or receiving second-hand gifts. This is especially the case with books. I frequent used bookstores and love giving my friends and family a book I think they will enjoy.

I try to never give someone a gift just because I got it at a great price. It needs to be something that person would really enjoy.

I must say that I am rather perplexed by folks who would turn up their noses at a second-hand gift. Besides showing poor manners, it shows an amazing lack of perspective. The world is running low on raw materials. Living like we are all entitled to every brand new thing we want is leading us toward ruin. Christmas has become just an opportunity for businesses to make money. Perhaps instead of shopping we would be better off spending time with loved ones.

I know that the same, as regards second-hand gifts, is true with hand-made. There are people, and especially children of today, that will turn their noses up on that.

I remember to this day when, as a young one of about six or so I got my first pocketknife – I have had a small sheath knife before that but I always had wanted a small pocketknife. This was a second-hand knife that was in great condition and I loved it. I still have it today.

The same was true – though alas I no longer have it – of a slingshot that an Uncle made for me at about the same age. Aside from the fact it was a real nice catapult I loved it because it, to me, showed the person's love for me having made it for me; especially for me.

Unfortunately adults and children, and especially children, today have the entirely wrong conception of things.

You see them in the stores, the children that is, and it goes I want that and I want that and I want that – ad infinitum – and the parents will say yes to every request and, even if they have to go into debt for this, they are stupid enough to buy their kids everything they ask for. We are creating a generation of people who are never going to be satisfied.

Do not hesitate to give a used gift this year. Just take a look at the current economic crisis. You will be sharing with those you love a way that they can save money and live a better, more frugal lifestyle. This is a good way to get conversations going about everything you do that is frugal. The knowledge they gain from this may well be the greatest gift of all this year.

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008

How much power the security services

by Michael Smith

I am writing this not just with reference to the recent events in the UK but they have given the impetus to this, that is sure.

The question is how much power do the security services of your country have over you. What has recently happened in the UK with regards to a Member of Parliament should not have happened in our supposed free and democratic country and it shows that either the security services have take this power unto themselves or it has been given to them. Either way, it is dangerous and we are headed the same direction, in this case, as the like of the former Rhodesia under the “Mad **** up North” (please replace **** with the term you may see fit), as the Afrikaners say.

What seems to have happened, in all honesty, is that the government of the UK is using the services to snoop on the opposition and also, not to be forgotten, everyone else who may not agree with them, from parties, over journalists, to activist groups and clubs, as well as and especially Bloggers of all colors and persuasions.

Welcome to freedom and democracy a la UK and European Union.

Are you any better in the United States or in Australia? Methinks, not, esp. not Australia where it has come to light that private security agencies, on behest of the govt are snooping on the online activities of all the country's citizens.

The opposition Tory Party in the UK has its offices in the Houses of Parliament and its general offices routinely swept for bugging devices (and some appear to have been found). Apparently the security services have now taken to watching the Tories even. Seems that the Conservative Party is now seen as subversive. Wow! I wonder who else has to watch their backs from now on as to the long tentacles of the Kraken that is the government and the security services.

Who runs the services and who gave them the orders to bug and to go after more or less legitimate activities of MPs, such as making use of leaked documents the exposure of which is in the public interest.

Does anyone really, for one minute, believe that the Security Service (MI5), and Special Branch act entirely on their own in those matters. This has to be authorized at a very senior level, higher than the Commissioner even. So, where does the buck stop in this case or where would the authorization have been issued? Think!

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008

Bulldog Ratchet Pruning Shears BD31303 – Product Review

20mm cutting diameter ratchet pruning shears

Review by Michael Smith

I have to say that this is the first of those kinds of pruning shears that I ever really have had an opportunity to use and review.

Other manufacturers and vendors for some reason have been more than reluctant, to say the least, to part with one of those for a proper and thorough product review and I leave the reader to draw his or her own conclusions as to the why and wherefore of this.

Bulldog's representatives on IOG Saltex 2008 were more than happy to supply me with one of those and so far I must say that I am quite impressed with this tool.

It took a little while for me to get the proper hang of it as to the best way of using it but once that had been mastered it is just a great piece of kit.

The maximum cutting size, in my opinion, should not be exceeded when cutting hardwoods, whether green or not, such as apply, plum, oak, etc. While it may work alright with slightly larger branch diameters, I must say that I would not recommend doing it.

Once the “trick” of properly using the ratchet is mastered this pair of pruners cuts through quite thick branches without any real effort. Small pruning is best done with the topmost tip of the pruners as it is then just the single snip. This is very good for dead heading of roses and also general small pruning rather than using the cutting jaws further down that then still employs the ratchet, making the cutting process a little slower.

On larger material the ratchet makes cutting virtually effortless and I recently used it to cut back a Willow (Salix) and in this instance cutting material with diameters of 35mm and such without any problems. It must be considered thought that green willow is a rather soft wood.

I also used it to prune some apple trees and in that case I restricted myself to about the maximum given diameter for this pair of pruners and there as well very little effort and strength was needed for the cutting.

From what I have seen so far as to the performance and reliability I can, I think, very much recommend this model of Bulldog's pruners without any hesitation.

Once again another piece of kit that is of fine quality at a very reasonable price.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Were the attacks on Mumbai of 11/26 a false flag operation?

by Michael Smith

Some sources have suggested that the terrorist attacks on the various targets in Mumbai, India, at the end of November 2008, were not perpetrated by Islamist terrorists from Pakistan (or wherever) but by Hindu extremists, probably in the pay of the Indian government.

A suggestion has been made that the boys were wearing the saffron yellow threads of Hindus and, as far as I have seen from some of the photos that were circulated, some indeed seem to have had those thread “bracelets” on their wrists.

A Muslim commentator mentioning that noted that no Muslim would ever wear such Hindu “regalia”, though I would like to question that, that is to say, I would like to suggest that, in order to pass as Hindus initially, that they might have been wearing them.

However, there are a few other things that make one ask as to whether this is another 9/11, in other words something that may be considered questionable and a possible false flag operation in order to have reason to attack another country or simply to put in force repressive measures against the population.

One of them the fact that local Muslin cemeteries refuse to bury the young terrorists, using the claim that because of what they have done they are not true Muslims. Cemeteries in other Islamic countries, I am sure, would line up for the honor to busy those martyrs.

Now the latest twist came in at the fist weekend in December in that one of the men the authorities have arrested; one of them who has bought the SIM cards for the cell phones, is in fact a undercover officer of the security forces.

The plot thickens, I would say, and the claims by some Pakistani Bloggers and even some Pakistani politicians begin to no longer look like the claims of cooks.

The question now is, like with 9/11, what has really happened and what is going on behind the smokescreen right now.

We have had the same strange things happen in the UK with 7/7, where there were very strange things happening at the same time, such as the “paper exercise” of the security services that was dealing with a terrorist attack, so I understand, at exactly the very same targets that the 7/7 bombers did attack. Coincidence? I don't know. I just would like make the old statement here that so many patriots use: I do not hate my country, I fear its government. And the other adage that is so true here as well: God defend me from my friends; from my enemies I can defend myself.

Let use keep vigilant and use discernment in all matters.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

India apportions part-blame for terror attacks to modern technology

by Michael Smith

After the horrific attacks by terrorists on hotels and other targets in the city of Mumbai (Bombay), India, on November 26, 2008, the hysterical online press tried to partially blame modern technology for the fact that the attacks were made possible.

It is, apparently, the fault of the GPS systems and satellite telephones that it was possible for the terrorists to attack those targets in Mumbai with impunity. Doh?

I mean ,folks, let's be serious, this is like claiming the knife jumped out of its sheath and attacked the person that was stabbed, for instance. Help!

A few days after the attacks various online media outlets knew immediately why it was at all possible for the terrorists to attack. On board of the ship that the terrorists may have used – nothing certain as yet on that – to come to India GPS maps and a satellite telephone have been found and it, therefore, obvious that modern technology must shoulder a large part of the blame for this attack having become possible. Wow!

And, in addition to that the email system is also at fault for it made it possible for the "Deccan Mujahideen" after the attacks to send messages to all the news agencies claiming responsibility. It is being claimed that the emails could be traced back to have originated in Russia,. Oh dear. Now there is Russian involvement there as well, is there?

Obviously, had modern technology not existed those attacks would not have happened. That, at least, appears to be some of the reasoning of those so-called journalists.

On the other hand, there are some that put even different angles on this tragic events but...

Some security officials apparently have said that the use of emails by terrorists is by now so common and widespread for them to use this medium to be able to spread their poison far and wide across the globe. I guess that the powers that be will – next – try to stop us using emails or they will claim that they must be able to have the rights to snoop on our email traffic (not that they are not doing this already).

In addition some of the same experts have said that the situation appears that that terrorists can use, without any problems and restrictions, use satellite phone or a Micro-Blogging System as aids for his terrorist activities. So, the experts say, we must now look at how to keep those high-tech tools out of the hands of terrorists. Oh dear!

Now how do they think that is going to be feasible? Only if they make the use of emails and such illegal or by monitoring all the emails that you and I, who are not terrorists, send across the world, whether for business or other reasons. In addition to that, I am certain, they would like to censor all Blogs and Bloggers. That would suit the authorities anyway, would it not.

We only need to look with regards to Blogging to Italy where the courts have, basically, ruled that Blogging is illegal, and that Bloggers require a government permit.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

SWAT Team like raid by Ohio authorities on a farm house in LaGange

By Michael Smith

According to the Christian Worldview Network authorities in the State of Ohio stormed a farm house in LaGange on Monday, December 1, in order to execute a search warrant, holding the Jacqueline and John Stowers and their son and young grandchildren at gunpoint for nine hours.

During the raid the Ohio Department of Agriculture and police confiscated over ten thousand dollars worth of food, computers and cell phones. The Stowers’ crime? They run a private, members-only food co-op.

While state authorities were looking for evidence of illegal activities, the family was not informed what crime they were suspected of, they were not read their rights or allowed to make a phone call. The children, some as young as toddlers, were traumatized by armed officers interrogating the adults with guns drawn.

The Morning Journal, a newspaper serving northern Ohio, reported that the Stowers were believed to be operating without a license. However, the Stowers claim that the food co-op they run does not engage in any activities that would require state licensing.

Friends of the Stowers openly question why such aggressive tactics were necessary to investigate a licensing complaint.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has apparently been chastised by the courts in previous cases for over-reach, including entrapment of an Amish man to sell raw milk, which backfired, when it became known that the man gave milk instead of selling it to a state undercover agent, refusing to take money for what he believed to be a charitable act. The Amish literally interpret the Gospel of Matthew (5:42) to “give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

The matter has been forwarded to the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office and the Lorain County General Health District according to Lorain County court records.

What we can see here is the state, yet again, taking things way too far but then, thus is the nanny state.

Many Americans keep accusing us in Britain of living in a nanny state and allowing it to be thus. The truth is that it is no different in the USA and the more I see of that country the more I can but say “be afraid, people, very afraid, of your government”.

It would appear that running a private, members-only food co-op is seen as “hoarding food” and hence as a felony. Or haven't you realized that it is, in fact, illegal in the eyes of the law enfarcement and such like, to stockpile food; at least more than the recommended 72hour or such amount?

While there may be no actual law, in most states, or other ordinances, against the stockpiling of food, to those in authority people who are self-sufficient and independent in food, water and other things, and who can, hence, not be easily controlled, are an anathema and something that just must not be. Hence the raids on people who have a large amount of food and supplies stored.

Let's face it. This is not the first raid of this kind in one or the other state. We can but wonder what is going to be next on their list. Oh. Yes, rain water harvesting, something that is becoming now a legal requirement in the UK with new houses, is, BTW. You may not, in many places in the USA, collect rainwater from your roofs and such. It is a felony.

And you thougth you were free. Think again!

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Private Web spies monitor activists online for Australian police and attorney-general

God defend me from my friends – from my enemies I can defend myself

by Michael Smith

A private intelligence company has been engaged by police in Australia to secretly monitor internet and email use by activist and protest groups, according to a report.

The company was hired by Victorian Police, the Australian Federal Police and the federal Attorney-General's department to monitor and report on the internet activities of anti-war campaigners, animal rights activists, environmental campaigners, and other protest groups.

The Melbourne-based firm has for the past five years monitored websites, online chat rooms, social networking sites, email lists and bulletin boards, so says the report, and has gathered intelligence on planned protests and other activities, and even though many, if not even the majority, of those on the watch list have broken no laws.

Welcome to the fascist Dominion of Australia. Then again, it would appear that the mother country, Britain, is headed the same way, with the security services running roughshod over all civil liberties possible. Is this a sign of things to come?

This private intelligence company has also prepared threat assessments and intelligence reports for government agencies that included material from media reports, speeches, academic journals and publicly available company data, but no private correspondence, so it is claimed, was monitored.

As to the latter I would, personally, be very dubious. If they go as far as they have gone the chances are that they may have gone further still but that this is more secret than other things.

The company was not named at the request of its management for fear extremists may target the firm.

The news comes a month after Victorian police were found to have targeted community and activist groups in a long-running covert operation.

So much for the claims of freedom and liberties in Australia. If that is freedom and liberty then I would not want to see what happens should they change tack.

There is one difference between Australia and the UK and that is that in Australia it seems to be easier to find out those things that the services are up to compared to the UK. In the latter place the law and the culture of secrecy makes getting such information very difficult indeed, despite of the “Freedom of Information Act” and if they can claim that they are monitoring suspected terrorists then, well, no chance of getting info and anything that ends up leaked and then published could get one killed.

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008

St John's Wort “as good as Prozac”

by Michael Smith

Despite many claims made to the contrary by what one could called “standard mainstream medicine” and their representatives, especially and including the pharmaceutical industry, as regards to herbal medicines, a recent study by German scientists has found that St John's Wort (Hypericum) may be as good as an anti-depressant as Prozac.

According to this study the herbal extract is as effective as the drug and has fewer side effects. As far as my own experiences go with herbal medicines there are very few, if any, what could be called side effects, whatever claims to the contrary are being made by the ordinary practitioners mainstream medicine and especially the pharmaceutical industry.

German researchers found that St John's Wort is also a match for other old and new anti-depressant pills.

While, I am sure, we can all understand the reasons for the pharmaceutical industry poohpoohing herbal and other alternative medicine why this is being done by the general practitioners in countries such as the UK and the USA is something that should give food for thought. In other countries, such as in the Netherlands, it is common for a GP to prescribe homeopathic and herbal alongside the conventional treatments.

There is but one problem, however, and that is the fact that products containing Hypericum perforatum vary greatly. This means that some may be more effective than others. Is that a good reason, though, to take the standard drugs and to be faced with the side effects, such as those of Prozac that seem to be rather dangerous? Personally, I think not.

Many of the readers, I am sure, will not surprised as to the fact that Hypericum has been “cleared”, so to speak, and has even, to some degree, elevated above the drugs, like Prozac.

So, let's her it for plant extracts and herbal medicines...

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

East Tennesseeans switching to firewood to save money

In order to save money this winter, some residents of East Tennessee are switching to firewood for their heating

by Michael Smith

One resident of the State who decided last year to switch solely to firewood instead of using propane gas to heat his home says that it cost him about $350 for the wood to warm his three-bedroom, two-bath house and with energy prices even higher this year, it is something he certainly will continue. He reckons that with the rate then it has saved him $600 and with the ever increasing prices it will be even more so. Others are looking into the old-world energy source as well.

Aside from the fact that it is, more than likely and especially if one has access to a cheap source of wood, a cheaper way to heat a home (and whatever else) than using gas or oil and even coal, it is also much more environmentally friendly. Burning wood is, basically, carbon neutral for the only carbon released is that that the wood used in order to grow and mature.

Many, like the Tennessee resident mentioned, in that State and elsewhere, and not in the USA alone, made and are making the switch to heating and even cooking with wood because of the
skyrocketing prices for gas and other sources of heat and cooking source.

Having said before that the saving that was made by this particular resident was $600 and that with the increasing costs of gas and oil it may be even more in the future we can, though, of that I am sure, be certain that the price of firewood is going to go us as well as demand increases.

Soaring energy costs and threatened scarcity of some fuels like home heating oil this year have led more homeowners to seek alternative sources for heat, and as a result, both seasoned firewood and some supplies of wood-burning stoves are expected to be in short supply.

The demand for wood-and-pellet burning stoves has caused local sales to increase this year, and already firewood sales have taken off about a month early.

The owner of Ben's Firewood in Knoxville said that while they normally start the winter season around October this year it has already started. People are apparently so worried that things are going to get worse, so they are lining up before it gets too bad.

The push for alternative home heat has largely been driven by the Northeast, where the price of heating oil, still the primary method for home heating, has soared. The average household is projected to spend more than $2,500 this winter, according to the Energy Information Administration, a 30 percent increase from last year. And even with crude oil prices - which factor largely into the price of heating oil - falling to a six-month low recently, the price of heating oil was still just under $3 a gallon, its lowest price since early March. Prices once were projected to hit as high as $4 a gallon.

The Knoxville wood- and coal-burning cook stove company already is backlogged on its most popular item, the Torridaire coal heater, a stove that requires no electricity. Stove sales are typically higher after natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, and when economic times are a little rough.

Sales also are up for many firewood dealers - business is up 40 percent in many cases - and the true firewood season has not even begun yet.

But the seasoned wood, or wood that has been dried naturally for about eight or nine months, is quickly becoming in short supply, since it has to be cut around March in order to be ready for winter months.

Kiln wood, or wood that is accelerated through the drying process by sitting four or five days in a 190-degree oven, also is limited based on how much that kiln can produce.

There are, on the other hand, woods that can also be burned green and some burn better and hotter green than seasoned and those are beech and birch. Where they are in ample supply things should not be too bad.

A full cord of seasoned wood will replace about 300 gallons of diesel fuel for heating a home while green wood would only replace about 225 gallons. The difference is water content - the more water that's in the wood, the more water you have to burn off before you get any heat. But even burning green wood is still cheaper than any other energy source.

The most important part in all of this is, however, and this must be observed, that the wood comes from well managed and renewable sources and that it is replanted.

In the UK, if would go back to firewood, and in many places we certainly could and even should, nay, let me rephrase that, must, the coppice woodlands could, once again, come into their own and new ones can and must be planted.

Coppicing, I am certain, could also be done in other countries and environments, such as in the United States.

Wood shortages will, no doubt, occur, especially in the places where it is more used such as in the rural areas of the USA and elsewhere, especially shortages of seasoned wood. Another source of firewood that should not and must not be overlooked for those that need to watch pennies is waste lumber from building sites. The only worrying aspect here could be the release of certain chemicals that were used in the wood, as some building lumber, even if only used for shoring up, is treated.

There is a lot to consider when deciding to switch to alternative heating, such as buying a wood- or coal-burning stove, but many of them do burn more efficiently and cleanly than they did in the 1980s. While there will be more cost up front for a stove, most mid- to lower-level priced stoves should pay for themselves in about two or two and a half years.

As for firewood, it is recommended buyers check references of dealers and be sure to have their chimneys swept at least once a year.

If you have got any amount of land or access to land, and a chain saw, you have basically an inexpensive fuel. A lot less expensive than fuel or gas or electricity.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

The Romani People's Mokadi Law is right after all – proven yet again

by Michael Smith

Many Gohja believe that if some piece of food falls onto the floor and has been there for five seconds or less – the so-called “five second rule” - it can still be eaten and is entirely safe. They also believe that the Romani Mokadi code's rule of throwing away food that has fallen on the floor and not eating it is superstition and such.

However, yet again, much as with the case of not having dogs and cats indoors, science has proven that our Ancient Ones were right in the first place. There is no safe time with food falling on the ground.

It is probably not safe to eat anything that has been on the floor for even one second. In a recent experiment, food scientists contaminated several surfaces with Salmonella. They then dropped pieces of bologna and slices of bread on the floor for as little as five seconds and as long as a whole minute. In the five seconds, both the bread and the bologna picked up an alarming 1,800 types of bacteria. So unless sterilize someone's floor is sterilized and I mean sterilized on an hourly basis it is not safe in any way to eat anything that has fallen onto the floor. The same applies for anything that your shoes may have touched, too.

So, once again proof that the Mokadi Code given to us by our Ancient Onces is as valid today as it was in the days of yore. Hence, once again, we should live by it still and continue to do so.

What is the most amazing part, in my view, is that our Old Ones knew this without having the science to prove it. We do have, I know, all the means of sterilizing cutlery and such like so they do not, maybe, have to be thrown after having accidentally fallen onto the floor or the earth. Food, however, is a different kettle of fish, so to speak, and this does not just apply to fish, and with the food poisoning bacteria it can pick us to quickly by falling on the ground it just is not safe to eat anything that has thus fallen and come in possible contact with contamination.

We can now but wonder how much else is in that ancient knowledge transmitted to us via the old codes, such as the Mokadi Law, which science will, sooner or later, prove to be right and valid still to this very day. Very good reason, methinks, to keep living by it.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008