Britain does not have a housing crisis but an empty homes crisis

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Thousands of homes in Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire left empty, the Gazette reported on November 24, 2017.

empty-homes1Despite concerns about the lack of housing in the area, almost 3,000 homes are registered as being unoccupied and while the number of empty homes has fallen since 2010 Gloucestershire saw a rise over the last 12 months. Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that there were 2,464 homes in Gloucestershire left empty and 321 in South Gloucestershire.

Well, that is just in Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire. It can be safely assumed that the figure in other counties, towns and cities across Britain would, no doubt, show similar numbers or much greater ones even as, no doubt, would be the case in London.

Britain does not have any housing shortage. The crisis is that of homes being left empty, and that for a number of reasons, but none of the reasons is valid enough when we have homeless individuals and families.

If, in fact, all the homes left empty for the various nefarious reasons would be added together we could, as has been estimated some time back, house our homeless population several times over and that is not even counting those properties that, with very little work, could be turned into perfectly good homes.

There is no need to build more homes; we already have them. We just need to occupy them.

There will, without doubt, now people be popping up out of the woodwork saying that that may all be fine and good but that those homes are in the wrong place and not where people work or want to work.

But that would be rather disingenuous for where the new “affordable” homes are to be build jobs are also not close at hand either in the main which, again, means commuting. That is also true for the proposed – though it has gone rather quiet about it – new garden cities, once called eco-towns.

We do not need such, whether eco-towns or the other, but we need to refurbish old homes and building to be suitable and we must bring the empty homes back into use. If need be those homes – and other suitable buildings for self-conversion – must be taken over by whatever organization or the state and have people put in them.

Alas, we could not possibly do that as that would not give the Tory donor house builders any profits and that just cannot be allowed to happen now, can it. And no profits for the Tory donors would mean fewer and lower donations to the Tories.

© 2017 

US and UK banning the use of Kaspersky anti-virus

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

kaspersky-internet-security-21-700x393Not only the government agencies are on the bandwagon, even Barclay's Bank is advising its customers who got it free via the Bank to stop using it.

I am going out on a limb here now and say that this is because Kaspersky anti-virus is one of the best in catching Trojans and thus the government agencies want people to stop using it under false pretenses.

A little like the list of security software that the FBI published a while back where those that catch (almost) all viruses, malware, etc. were listed as bad performers.

Britain's main cyber security agency has warned British government agencies to avoid using anti-virus software from Russian companies, the latest in a series of moves targeting Moscow-based security software maker Kaspersky Lab.

In a letter to departmental permanent secretaries, the director of the UK National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin, said Russian-made anti-virus software should not be used in systems containing information that would harm national security if it was accessed by the Russian government.

He said his agency is in talks with Kaspersky Lab to develop a system for reviewing its products for use in Britain.

Kaspersky's anti-virus software was banned from U.S. government networks earlier this year on concerns the company has close ties to intelligence agencies in Moscow and that its software could be used to enable Russian spying.

Kaspersky has strongly denied allegations about the safety of its products or ties to the Russian government, saying it has become a scapegoat in the midst of rising tensions between Washington and Moscow.

British bank Barclays said on Saturday it had stopped offering Kaspersky anti-virus products to customers.

“Even though this new guidance isn't directed at members of the public, we have taken the decision to withdraw the offer of Kaspersky software from our customer website,” Barclays said in a statement.

This is (1) Russophobia gone over the top and (2), and I may be going out on a limb here, could just be that Kaspersky's products (and some others from Eastern Europe) recognize government Trojans and such like better than possibly those that the agencies wish to promote instead. Can't have government Trojans now recognized, can we.

Just thinking aloud...

© 2017

Churchill & Orwell – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Churchill & Orwell – The Fight For Freedom
by Thomas E. Ricks
Published 1st June 2017
Royal Hardback, £25
352 pages, with 26 b/w photographs
ISBN 9780715652374

9781594206139_ChurchillAnd_JKF.inddLiberty and truth have never been so topical. In an era when belief and freedom are being questioned, and increasingly challenged, the figures of Churchill and Orwell – those two exemplars of Britishness who preserved individual freedom and democracy for the world, through their far-sighted vision and inspired action – loom large, casting a long shadow across British culture and politics. This new, overarching work by the #1 New York Times bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas E. Ricks explores their extraordinary, epoch-defining lives in detail.

Churchill and Orwell, the two great thinkers who indelibly marked post-war history, are titans of their age, each standing in political opposition to the other, but each committed to the preservation of freedom. However, in the late 1930s they occupied a lonely position: democracy was discredited in many circles and authoritarian rulers, fascist and communist, were everywhere in the ascent. Churchill and Orwell had the foresight to see clearly that the more salient issue was human liberty – and that any government that denies its people basic rights is a totalitarian menace and has to be resisted.

Churchill and Orwell proved their age’s necessary men. The glorious climax of Churchill & Orwell is their drive in the 1940s to triumph over the enemies of freedom. Churchill may have played the larger role in the defeat of Hitler and the Axis, but Orwell’s reckoning with the menace of authoritarian rule in Animal Farm and 1984 (which Churchill admired so much he read it twice) would define the stakes of the Cold War for its 50-year course, and they continue to inspire to this day.

With Orwell’s 1984 at #1 on Amazon and so many other bestseller lists and the intricacies of freedom in national and international politics thrust into the limelight once more, Churchill & Orwell elucidates the extraordinary men behind a victory hard won, and as important to our lives today as it ever has been.

‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’ ~ George Orwell

‘We seek only the right of man to be free; we seek his rights to worship his god, to lead his life in his own way, secure from persecution’ ~ Winston Churchill

Thomas E. Ricks is the bestselling and award-winning author of The Gamble, The Generals, and the no. 1 international bestseller Fiasco – ‘the most authoritative account of how the Bush administration and the US Army created a disaster in Iraq’ (Max Hastings, Sunday Times). He is a former writer for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, and has covered military operations across the globe. He now contributes to the New York Times, Washington Post and New Yorker, and has appeared on the BBC, Sky News and in the Guardian and other UK press. He is also contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine, for which he writes the prize-winning blog The Best Defense.

Today probably more than ever Orwell's books “Animal Farm” and “1984” are important. In “Animal Farm” we find the idea that all are equal but some more equal than others and this is exactly how the neoliberals operate today while “1984” presents us with the nightmarish scenario of an all pervasive totalitarian surveillance state. While it is claimed that Orwell was aiming at the Soviet Union of the day with it today it more appears like a scenario that we are sleepwalking into right this very moment in our neo-liberal capitalist societies. Neo-liberalism is but one side of the coin the other side of which is fascism.

While in their day Churchill & Orwell, especially the latter, were concerned with the rise of totalitarianism that is to say Hitler (& Stalin), today totalitarianism is on the rise again in the guise of neo-liberalism.

Personally I do believe that Orwell may have been mistaken as to Stalin – or why would Stalin still be loved by the Russian people today – and much if not indeed all of what may have happened was more due to Stalin's lieutenants rather than Stalin himself and he, Stalin, may have trusted his lieutenants far too much than was good.

When the author praises the likes of Solzhenitsyn and Lech Wałęsa so much as change makers he is either not aware of who and what they were or is mislead or otherwise confused. Both were not mere dissidents but paid agents of the Western intelligence services, and the same goes for Václav Havel. His name best be not mentioned to many young and not so young Czechs today.

This is a book for anyone interested in politics, especially how today's neo-liberalism is headed towards a totalitarian system, by increments in such a way that most people do not even realize it and call anyone pointing this out conspiracy theorists.

© 2017

Not my circus, not my monkeys

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

monkey1“Not my circus, not my monkeys”, is a Polish proverb and one that we do well to remember each and every time someone wants to drag us into their dramas.

All too often others, even good friends, try to draw us into dramas that have absolutely nothing to do with us and in which we should, on no account, involve ourselves. Not if those people are our friends and even less so if they are just acquaintances or even less. They may do it unintentionally but there may be times when they are trying to do it on purpose and especially then we have to remind ourselves that it is not our circus and not our monkeys, as the Poles would say.

But all too often, rather than reminding ourselves of this fact, we get drawn into such dramas – and often even happily as we think that we are helping the other person by doing so – which then affects us badly and also those around us and on the relationship with others.

Helping a friend or relation to deal with a problem in one thing, allowing oneself to be drawn into dramas that have nothing to do with us, another altogether. And it is the latter that will drain us of positive energy.

© 2017

Unlock the untapped potential of your faucet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

plastic-in-ocean-670x388Drinking tap water might be the simplest solution to ocean plastic pollution (oh dear, and this even rhymes).

The solution to plastic water bottle pollution could be as simple as educating the general masses that (their) tap water is safe to drink. While it is not the case everywhere – the safety of the tap water, that is – and unfortunately also in many places in the US, in most places in the more civilized countries it is the case. Also, tap water undergoes far more rigorous testing for purity and safety than does any bottled water.

Bottled water, for anyone who does not know it as yet, is also one of the greatest scams ever created by industry. In the great majority of cases the water is nothing more than tap water filled into plastic bottles – the latter which then end up polluting the environment – and while it is true that in some cases that water went through some additional “filtration” treatment to remove chlorine, for instance, it still is tap water.

And for a bottle of that, which as tap water would cost you just a fraction of a cent, you end up paying hundred times as much and more. That sure does not make sense. Not only are we hurting the environment with the plastic (bottle) waste, we are also hurting ourselves in our own pockets.

The pollution of those bottles, which more often than not are not recycled in any way, shape or form, pollutes the environment even if they are properly disposed off into the waste stream.

In 2017 about 480 billion bottles of plastic will be produced and less than 10% of them will be recycled. The remaining 90% will end up somewhere – whether discarded in nature or in landfills – where the plastic then breaks down into microplastic and ends up in our groundwater, rivers and eventually lakes and oceans. In addition to plastic pollution, bottled water also has an enormous carbon footprint from production and transportation.

And the problem is getting worse as bottled water consumption is growing, all while households may already have access to a clear and present solution, namely their kitchen tap.

Unfortunately, some people are afraid to drink from the tap. A survey of 1500 households in the US and Europe found a growing mistrust in tap water. The concerns are based on a myriad of factors including multiple water crises like the one in Flint, Michigan, the water database by EWG and microplastics reported in tap water by Orbs, preference in taste, health expert opinions, bottled water advertising, and urban myths.

There is also a misconception around recycling, mineral water, and everything else related to bottled water. And so more people are turning to bottled water.

While there are some issues here and there the fact is that, generally, tap water has gotten better in both Europe and the US over the last ten years. More importantly, there is no scientific evidence that bottled water is healthier than tap water.

So here are a couple of recommendations:

1. Drink tap water. It is almost free and in most places in Europe and North America it is as healthy and clean, if not even more so, as bottled water.

2. Anyone worried about the quality of the tap water or who does not like the taste can use a water filter, such as a filter jug even, costing very little to buy and “run”.

3. Always bring a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated.

4. Ask for tap water in restaurants and bars. This, alas, may not always be successful.

It is time to stop polluting the environment with plastic and to clean up the oceans. This way our children and grandchildren can enjoy clean oceans full of life and plastic free sand beneath their feet on the beach. We also must not forget that, if we eat fish, those tiny particles of plastic find their way into the food chain – they already have done so – and end up in the fish that we eat and thus in us.

© 2017

The wasteful toilet flush

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

toilet-cisternNo, I am not taking the proverbial though about it we have to talk, in a way.

The primary use of water in many Western homes is flushing the toilet and it is reckoned that in the US 18.5 gallons (US gallons not Imperial gallons) are used per person per day, which equates, for the US, in US terms again, 5.7 billion US-gallons of clean drinking water going down the drain, literally wasted.

There is an old saying that goes: “If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down” and that could be a start to save water in this department. If your water usage is metered and you pay according to how much water you and your family use then thinking along those lines not only saves clean drinking water from being wasted but also stops you flushing money down the drain, literally.

Aside from that there is another option or one could even say two. If you have a garden then you do not want to waste this fantastic source of nitrogen, phosphorus, etc. that you tend to flush away. You want to use it beneficially for your plants. Saves too in the garden fertilizer department.

This is, if you have a garden, have the males of your family pee on the compost heap or, alternatively, have them pee into a plastic bottle, such as one of those that you buy your milk in, and then, every evening or such, empty this onto the compost heap. It acts as a compost agitator – you see, something else you don't have to buy then – and (one) helps to speed up the composting process and (two) makes a very nutrient rich compost.

If you don't have a garden then still do the bottle thing and only once a day flush the contents of the bottles (all of them together). That way you only flush once. But, if possible, urine should be utilized in the garden, ideally as a compost agitator. While it is a “plant food” it should never be applied to plants directly nor the soil around them even, as it will burn plants and roots when still “fresh”.

© 2017

Fascists on the ascent

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Poland November 2017Everywhere in EU member states (and non-EU countries of Europe) the specter of fascism is seriously rearing its ugly head again. And that not just in the from of fringe groups and insignificant parties. In some countries they have made it into parliament and in some they even are in government, unfortunately, already. In other countries they are headed in that direction. The danger is real and present.

On Sunday, November 19, 2017, in Ostia, a suburb of the Italian capital Rome, there was an election runoff for the post of mayor and for members of the town council. The winner was the Five-Star-Movement (M5S) with 59.6% for their candidate Giuliana Di Pillo. The candidate for the governing Democratic Party (PD) in Italy already had to bail out in the first run with only 13% of the votes cast. With “only” 40,9% of the votes the candidate of the fascist “Brothers of Italy” (FdI), Monica Picca, was unable to prevail but the result shows that the extreme Right led by ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi is on the ascent.

But I do not think that we need this result in a rather local election as a sign and proof that the fascists are on the ascent all over Europe. But not all often wear their aims so broadly on their sleeves as some do. Many come in the guise of Liberals.

In Poland in early November 2017 an estimated 60,000 “nationalists” (can we say Nazis) alone in Warsaw, during nationwide wave of demonstrations and marches, called for all Jews to leave the country and for a white Poland for only those with Polish blood. I can't say what they may have said about the Gypsies, as the media did not report that. And they would have reported nothing had the call no been for Jews to leave the country.

As a Rom I do not need reminding that the fascist are on the rise as we can see this day in day out in countries such as Hungary, Romani, Bulgaria, etc., and not just by mob actions and pogroms but by government speech and more. But when such actions are “only” aimed at the Rom, the Gypsy, the world remains silent and, unfortunately, many Romani People in the West too, even when they are in the know about this.

When the word “Jew”, however, falls then they finally wake up, and make mention of it, as in the case of Poland in early November 2017. No mention was made as to what was said about the Rom in Poland, though I am sure there was a lot that those fascists did say about the Gypsies and how they would like to deal with our Romani People.

Apparently, however, the EU condemnation, a very light one, came only after it was made public what had been said about Jews and where the Rom are under attack the EU, apparently, cannot possibly interfere because those are internal (domestic) affairs of the countries in question. It can interfere when it suit, though, such as when it condemns, and rightly so, school segregation. When, however, the lives and freedoms of Rom are threatened then it would seem, the EU cannot and will not.

But the EU has never had the best for the Rom at heart, regardless of what they say and regardless of the moneys that have been given to obscure projects that never seem to have materialized. It is a neoliberal construct after all and neoliberalism is one of the coin which, on the other side has fascism. Only neoliberalism is not as obvious, generally, as is outright fascism, the results, however, are, in effect, the same.

As far as the Rom, the Gypsies, are concerned, there is only one thing that will help and that is for the People, us, the Rom, to do things ourselves. We can petition governments and the EU, etc., as much as we like. As far as they are concerned we do not – really – count (except, maybe, during election times, especially not as long as we do not conform to their measures and be totally integrated into the neoliberal capitalist model of wage slaves.

Only we can free ourselves. But, alas, as far as our “leaders”, most of who we have not chose but who have appointed themselves to be our leaders, are concerned there is no money in that for them and thus they will do anything and everything to prevent us liberating ourselves. We need grassroots unity and ditch the “leaders”, the judges (Rechtssprecher) and the false sherengros (headmen), etc., free ourselves from their chains, and advance as one, regardless of tribe, group and clan.

© 2017

Rising abuse of alcohol among children and young people

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

binge drinking kids 2What is the answer? More education or does it need stronger prohibition and laws?

I think what everyone forgets in this equation is to ask the question as to why children as young as eight and ten drink themselves into a coma even. We must first ask why are children and teenagers taking to excessive drinking, so-called binge drinking, which lands some in a coma, and there are at least two reasons here. One is the very system and the pressure of the education system to perform to set standards and the second is the very fact that children no longer have boundaries of any kind and thus feel insecure.

binge drinking kidsGerman media recently reported that in central Germany, what is known as Mitteldeutschland, Saxony and Thuringia, more and more children and teenagers end up in hospital because of alcohol. In 2016 more than 950 children and young people were treated in hospital in Saxony alone for acute alcohol poisoning. In Thuringia the number was around 530. This is a rise of 3% above the previous year. Alarming is the rate of 10-14 year-olds among that number. In that age group there was a serious increase in binge drinkers, almost 25%. More than half of those were girls.

The story, more than likely, will be no different in other countries, including and especially Britain and the United States, despite strict alcohol laws and all the jazz.

While everyone is talking,again, about educating children and young people about the danger of alcohol and especially binge drinking and even stricter laws the underlying cause no one seems to be prepared to look at, consider, and especially not tackle.

Those engaging in this activity of drinking themselves into a stupor and even a coma – almost at least if not actually – have, I should guess, heard all the warnings, had the lessons about it, and there is, in most countries, already a minimum age to buying alcohol in that it is illegal for anyone under a certain age to purchase alcohol and more importantly that it is illegal for traders to sell alcohol to anyone who even appears to be underage. So, how come they still do it and more importantly why?

The idea of the powers-that-be, however, once again, is not to tackle the causes but to deal with the symptoms by more education and more prohibition. Seems to be working well, doesn't it.

© 2017

Christmas supermarket till receipts wrap around the world – every week!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

till-receiptsOver 26,000 miles of receipts issued as waste reaches 'epidemic' levels

British supermarkets issue over 26,000 miles of till receipts every week in the run up to Christmas – more than enough paper to go around the entire circumference of the world – and virtually all of it is wasted.

These are the findings of a leading expert in waste and recycling, which has calculated that around 270 tons of till receipts are printed out for customers, many of which are thrown straight into bins along with non-recyclable single-use carrier bags.

Most of those receipts, and everything else that is printed from the till roll, is also on a special kind of paper that does not really recycle well, if at all. It is a so-called thermal paper as the printers does not actually ink but heat to create the “imprint”. In addition to that the paper is laced with BPA, which is a known health risk.

Stores that print out additional offers along with the legally required receipt make the problem worse by producing paper that customers almost always ignore. And those are just the receipts, etc., that are issued over the run-up to Christmas.

Factor in to that the estimated 150 million supermarket and convenience store transactions every week, and a couple of feet soon turns into thousands of miles.

In extreme cases, a customer can sometimes leave a store with:

  • Till receipt

  • Separate bank card receipt

  • Money saving offers

  • "You saved… compared to our competitors" promotions

  • Loyalty vouchers to collect

While the receipt itself is a (legal) requirement, it is the reams of promotional material to which we should object, leaving customers walking away with armfuls of ticker tape that they often bin, along with their carrier bags.

Those estimated 150 million weekly grocery transactions equate to:

  • 26,000 miles of paper, more than enough to reach around the world's 24,000 circumference

  • 270 tons of paper, most of which is discarded rather than recycled because, as indicated already above, some of the paper is mostly non-recyclable

  • A year's worth of till receipts would reach from the moon and back – twice

The frightening thing is that the data is only confined this to grocery stores in the United Kingdom. Add to that other business sectors like DIY warehouses and petrol stations, add in the rest of the world – that weekly till roll is going to wrap the world up like a gift bow, and that's not a good thing.

© 2017

Sustainable and money-conscious living with children

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

photo-1446072030474-a32143843657I say right at the start here that, more than likely, some suggestions may be a little controversial, at least to some readers.

Anyone who has children wants the best for them, that is obvious. But financial restraints do not always allow for doing all the things that one may want for them and giving them everything. Then again giving them everything is neither good for the children not is it good for the Planet and sustainable.

It is often said that the rich are rich because they live like poor and the poor are poor because they live like rich and that definitely often is the case as to poorer families with children who want to buy and do everything for their children so that they are not seen as poor. Totally defeats the object.

Wanting to to consider the Planet and to live as far as possible green and sustainable often meets with financial limits. But that should not, actually, be the case. On the contrary: A consumer behavior aimed to resource-conserving should actually benefit the household finances as it should help you save money rather than spend more. But, having said that, greenwash advertising tell us that we have to buy this and that.

Then there are the restrictions as to income and budget anyway and if one is on a restricted budget then what is one to do in this case. On the other hand those suggestions that I shall be making here can also be applied to any financial situation especially if one wants to be kinder to the Planet.

So let's consider a couple of ideas...

Clothes: Children grow very quickly, as those who do have them will know, that they very fast outgrow their clothes and that often well before those clothes are worn out. Unless, that is, you buy the very cheapest, but that is not really a sustainable option. So, what is one to do?

The answer here would be – OK, I know that that is not always what the kids would want – secondhand from charity shops and such like, or hand-me-downs from older siblings or even other families.

If they go to school where school uniforms are worn then, generally, they will have to be purchased new unless the school has a system of “recycling” those from older children to the younger ones. If school without uniform then anything goes.

Clothes for play should always be secondhand or even handmade by the parent. If they are at home, indoors or in the yard where it is possible, and now comes a controversial bit, let them be in their one-button suit they were born with. This saves washing clothes and this saves money on water, detergent, energy and is also is better for the clothes as too much washing also wears them out. It is easier and cheaper to wash the kids than their clothes. It is also better for the children and the Planet.

If you homeschool your children – and while that is not an option in many countries but where it is I would suggest to take it if possible – then no school clothes are needed at all (another saving) and if you (and the children) so desire the natural attire of wearing nothing is also an option.

Bedclothes such as nightshirts or pajamas: Here you should ask yourself as to whether they are really necessary at all. Sleeping in the nude is better for them as far as their health is concerned, and the same goes also for you, as their parents. And if it is a little too cold, say, then an old T-shirt will do with below the waist remaining bare. Never should children (or adults) sleep in underpants.

Shoes: Children's shoes are another one of those things that they grow out of at an alarming rate. So, the ideal thing is to have just a couple of pairs of shoes and boots for them and at other times let them go barefoot whenever and wherever possible. Better for their feet anyway.

Ditch the underpants: For the male of the species this, apparently, is especially important for health, and best start with the boys as soon as they are safely out of diapers and “accident free”. Apparently the restriction in those garments causes problems later as well, but it could also be the reason that many males later in life have health problems down there in the front.

Nudity for the children – and even the entire family – at home reduces the impact in the clothing department on the Planet and the wallet. Far fewer clothes are then needed and there are none that get dirty during play, craft activities, helping in the garden, and such. Paint, glue or dirt on the skin only need a bit of soap and water and not a whole wash cycle in a washing machine. It is a lifestyle that not only benefits your children and you but greatly reduces your family's impact on the Planet.

Holiday camp” for and with children instead of long-distance travel

You want to give your children something special when they are on holiday from school (if you don't homeschool)? Sure travels are great – but not really always for the children many who rather would stay at home – but holiday “camps” and other activities organized by the local council or other organizations which will give the little ones many great experiences. At the same time the environmental footprint is reduced as there are no long distances to travel.

If such “holiday camps” are not available locally, though in many places they are, then create your own adventure with and for the kids in the local countryside. There is much that you can do yourself for and with the kids: a night hike, a scavenger hunt or the campfire by the river or lake (make sure you can legally make a fire there) with bread on the stick or such – such highlight cost next to nothing, don't use up much energy and are much more interesting and exciting for the children and much greener than any travel to foreign destinations. Children also do not necessarily take too well to such trips.

Let children make their own ways

This is very controversial nowadays as in some places this can be constituted as child neglect by the powers-that-be but really should not be.

A quick drive to music lessons, to ballet classes into the next big town: especially when hobbies are concerned much money and gasoline can be saved because also the local municipal centers of have many possibilities and much to offer.

Many regional and local spots or music courses are offers which the child can often get to on his own steam without the need of the Mom or Dad Taxi. Walking and cycling should also be the main way to and from school.

Oh, but dare you suggest that in some countries nowadays, or even do it, that is to say to let the kids go alone to school, walking or cycling, or to the part or the woods, then you risk a visit from child protective services and a charge of child neglect, child endangerment or such. The world has gone mad, I know.

Toys

Regardless of age children really do not need many toys and definitely not expensive ones. All too often the new toy is being played with for five minutes – well, it may be a little longer but – and then put away often never to be played with again. So what's the point?

Pester power, obviously, can be very strong with all the ads on the television aimed at the kids during kids' viewing times and especially during the programs aimed directly at children. The only way to avoid this is to either limit the television viewing of your kids or, my recommendation, getting rid off the television altogether.

Many toys can also, safely, be bought secondhand, at, what we call in Britain, charity Shops, and such like, including stuffed cuddly toys. The best toys, often, however, are those that the kids learn to make for themselves, and the games.

Also and especially when we are talking here about sustainable and money-conscious living with children we want the children to learn and take up that habit of sustainable and money-conscious living themselves and how we raise them in that spirit will go a long way towards how they will become in that department.

© 2017

Smartphone neck

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

text-neckA new disease, if one would want to call it thus, has arrived in the region of the cervical spine; the “Smartphone neck”, also known as “text-neck”. Especially members of the younger generation are affected by it malaise. Though, to all intents and purposes, it is a self-inflicted injury, much like shooting yourself in the foot while cleaning a gun having forgotten to clear it first.

Personally I am not surprised seeing, on a daily basis, people of all ages being glued to the screens of their cellphones and smartphones, texting or whatever, not just in town, including crossing the roads without looking up, but even while walking in the park of the woods.

Personally I cannot understand why people have become so obsessed with needing to be connected all the time via their devices on social nedia and whatever.

On the other hand the “being busy on my smartphone” also is a message to the world around them that says “I do not want to interact with you, you and you in real life”. A “don't even think about talking to me” open message without saying so directly.

Spending too much time at the computer, as, alas, I also do, does not help the neck either though it is a little better than looking down onto a screen as with a smartphone.

We are often our own greatest enemy.

© 2017

Security devours freedom

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

14479765_655052154674847_4338337349472694382_nA flock of sheep is in the enclosure and the mother ewe asks: “Children, do you know why we are surrounded by barbed wire?” “I know, Mom!”, says one of the lambs. “That is there to keep the terrorists out, so that we can enjoy our freedom in peace.”

The terrorists hate us for our freedoms we are being told and in order to fight them and to keep us safe we have to give up our freedoms piece by piece to the powers-that-be.

The powers-that-be press the people to clamor for more and more security and protection by creating more and more threats and claiming that in order for them to be able to protect us they need to have access to all our telephone data, our Internet data, and more and more surveillance of all our lives, of everything that we do. We must, we are told, to give up more and more freedoms for which the terrorists hate us here so much.

Well, the way things are going there will soon be nothing left anymore for them to hate us any longer. We will have given away all those freedoms, more or less voluntarily, to be safe from terrorists (and criminals).

All those CCTV cameras neither deter crime, nor do they help to solve crime, and they definitely do not stop terrorism. Neither will broad telephone intercepts, especially on cell phone networks, and data collection and retention. But it will make “1984” look like a children's story.

Incrementally our freedoms, that we are being told the terrorists hate us so badly for, are being eroded and removed and the people, in general, by clamoring for more and more safety and security, having been first scared by the powers-that-be into believing all those threats and dangers, are playing right into the hands of the elite whose aim is to remove our freedoms from us.

More and more surveillance, data retention, monitoring of everyone's Internet activity and (mobile) telephone calls, and whatever else they are going to come up with next is not there to keep us, the public, safe but to monitor everything that we do just in case that we get ideas above and beyond our station.

It is all about people control and has absolutely nothing to do with making and keeping us safe from terrorist attacks or such like. How can any of those measures prevent a suicide attacker carrying out his “mission”? It cannot and will not. In the same way that police and soldiers on the streets, even in armored carries, won't. If you shoot a suicide bomber the bomb goes off, if you challenge him he will detonate it. Off it goes in any case and there will be victims.

None of those measures are designed to keep us safe. They are designed to keep us controlled and to keep us in a perpetual state of fear.

© 2017

Bed edging in parks, gardens and other green spaces

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Groundscare TurfTeq edgingIsn't it about time bed edging was back on the agenda? Neat edges make such a difference to parks, gardens and other green spaces, and it’s economical to maintain them if you have the right machinery. The TurfTeq is a versatile and productive edger.

But it can also be done without such machines – or with using them (on hire) – only every now and then to re-cut such edges. It is not necessary to own them outright these days.

Well made and well maintained edges add an instant appeal to beds, whether flower or shrubs, and even a bed in transition – that is to say between plantings – if free of weeds and well edged looks acceptable and more than that to the eye of the beholder.

Besides the use of such machines – or manually remaking and maintaining such edges – keeping them well trimmed manually by use of sharp edging shears is as important, if not even more so. The grass clippings can either be removed or incorporated into the soil. Visibly, however, they should not remain as that will detract from the good looks.

© 2017

Groundscare TurfTeq edging

Wake up! Fascism disguised as liberalism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

truth-hate-speechThe first thing I have to say here is that this liberalism, as it appears to us, is actually what is referred to as neoliberalism and what, in the US is often called neoconservatism or short neocon. In truth this is neither liberalism nor conservatism, as in old money, but it is fascism in disguise. Neoliberalism and neoconservatism are same side of the same coin; the reverse side being fascism.

People are – by those very neoliberals – led to fear the rise of neo-Nazis and so-called right-wing parties, and those in power, which in general are the neoliberals, are trying to pretend that those groupings are the danger of fascism reemerging. They are far too visible for that. So do not be deceived.

The true danger and fascists are the neoliberals that have,m by now, infiltrated almost every political party, especially those on the center to left of the spectrum, the trade unions, and other such organizations and bodies, and are, as in the case of the Labour Party in Britain, leading the working class organization ever more towards an alignment with capital. Or how else is one to interpret the comments at a gathering of business leaders in a speech by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labour Party, shortly after he was elected as leader, when he said that the Labour Party is the natural ally of (big) business? And that, by the way, came out of the mouth of a person who confesses to be a socialist.

Working class parties and groups are becoming revisionist in so many places in Europe and elsewhere in that they distance themselves from so many of the teachings of the old leaders of the socialist and communist world, and of the affiliations they once had to parties such as the SED and the CPSU. They are pandering to people that are not and never have been their supporters ever, namely the bourgeoisie and the capitalists. They have abandoned or are abandoning the working class or are even trying to pretend that class today is dead and a thing of the past.

Fascism does not come openly via so-called neo-Nazi groups. I believe we have been conditioned by the powers-that-be, aka the elite, to see the danger of fascism as coming (only) from that corner. This maybe just so that we do not expect it from another direction. But from another direction it is coming and a fascist dictatorship, a more-or-less global one, is in the offing unless we manage to stem the tide. But to that end we, and others, will have to wake up and become awake and aware first.

To clarify things a little. I am not saying the Labour Party is leading us towards a fascist dictatorship, though if we allow the right-wing neoliberals, the Blairites, the New Labour gang, and others free reign then it invariably will do so as truly as will the Tories, the Lib-Dems and/or the Green Party. It is the neoliberal elements within them – and some of those groups are nothing but neoliberals, such as the Green Party. Don't be deceived by their eco-label or the social-democrat/socialist one they are trying to pin onto themselves.

The true Nazis and fascists have returned to us, that is to say their offspring have, often from South America to Germany, though some never left, in the guise of neoliberals, and have infiltrated (almost) all parties and movements, and especially those on the left. Be it the Greens, and not just in Germany, the Social-Democrats in Europe, other left parties, and also the Democratic Party in the US. Of those in the “center” and on the right we shall not even talk.

The specter of groups such as the skinheads and others is being held up in front of us so as to not look elsewhere. But elsewhere we must look. I am no Bible thumper – not even a Christian by a very long shot – but I will quote a passage here anyway because it fits and that one is “by their fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16).

© 2017

#fascism #neoliberalism #neoconservatism #politics

A move back to our roots: more wood and clay and less plastic

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

23213129_1845303528843664_4872651655123413633_oBefore plastic became ubiquitous, many kitchen items were made from wood or pottery, that is to say clay, and also from metal. Predominately the material was wood and pottery; metal in the form of copper, lead, bronze and then finally iron, from whence came steel, including stainless steel, came into the equation much later.

The anti-plastic movement is gaining strength as more people realize the folly of using a material that not only leaches chemicals into our bodies, food, and environment, but also does not biodegrade. The movement has taken many shapes and forms, from no-straw campaigns to the zero waste lifestyle to more natural-fiber clothing.

But there is plastic and there is plastic in this context and while, yes, predominately, though not entirely anymore, plastic is made from oil and thus not very sustainable and all that, some plastic is better than other. The main concern, in the general context of getting away from plastic, is the disposable kind, the stuff that really no one needs and that ends up in our countryside, rivers and the seas.

Children are the key to the future so it is the children, therefore, first and foremost that we must educate about the “back to our roots” way of using natural materials. Once kids’ habits change (through education), they will influence their parents to change, while holding them accountable.

To this end teaching children the making of things from natural materials, such as making a wooden spatula or even a spoon, and in that case an eating spoon just right for them, and making a piece of pottery, would be the order of the day.

There was, once, a time when all schools were teaching handcrafts, especially woodwork and pottery but today that is all but gone.

When a child makes something him- or herself, for personal use especially, this product will have a special value for them – and thus we should teach them to aim for the best they can do.

But it should not stop at wood and clay (pottery) but include also the making of products from other, ideally natural materials, by hand and schools – and other places – must be at the forefront again for children – and not just children – to learn again the skills and the joys of making. Textiles, leather, and also metals, should be included.

While in regards to wood, pottery, and even textiles, the entire process can become part of the learning process with leather and metals it is somewhat of as different story. Working with wood and clay for pottery the process goes from natural to made product easy. With textiles it is a little more complicated. Wool needs to be shorn off the sheep, then made into yarn and then worked either by knitting, weaving or otherwise. Even more work is involved in the making of cotton, canvas and linen. And metals are getting even more complicated.

Having said that, however, does not mean that the skills of working those materials should not be taught; they should, as they once were. They should also be taught to both genders, as far as schools are concerned. Boys and men should know how to sew as well, not just girls and women, and the same goes for mending. We must remember that traditionally in the past the tailor was male. Also the cooks – chefs – in inns and hotels were (and often still are) predominately male, so both cooking and sewing is not (just) something that girls and women do. But I digressed somewhat.

We must become makers again instead of being (just) consumers (and learning again to appreciate the handmade efforts of ourselves and our children – proficiency comes with time) and this making can take many forms.

And making “by hand” may not always mean absolutely without any machines. As long as your hands are still involved in the work, and your skills, and it is not an automated process you are still making whatever you are making “by hand”. The potter who uses a powered wheel rather than a kick wheel still shapes the clay by hand into the object that he or she is making. The wood-turner who is using a powered lathe rather than a foot-operated pole lathe or such, still, like the potter, shapes the object, using his hands. I am just saying.

© 2017

Pruning your trees

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Pruning your treesOnce the leaves have fallen in late autumn/early winter, take the opportunity to get in there to remove any congested growth. For some fruit trees, however, the time to do any real pruning and cutting back is not that time of year but much earlier or somewhat later.

Trees of the prunus species, cherries, plums, damsons, and related, should be pruned – pardon the almost pun – while the sap is rising, after they have flowered. While that may reduce any fruit production for that year it is r4eckoned to reduce the risk of any infection entering the tree.

Apple trees have a very narrow window, so to speak, in which pruning should take place and that is about from mid to late January to the end of February (in Europe at least). Others can be pruned more or less immediately after the leaves have all fallen off and this also goes for the majority of ornamental shrubs and trees.

© 2017

The most important school subjects

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Handwerk1The most important school subjects are not reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. even though they are important, especially for self-directed learning, as I can ascertain. However, “viewed scientifically the most import school subjects would be music, sports, dramatics, art and handicrafts, the latter is what the Scandinavians would call sloyd”. This is what the brain researcher Manfred Spitzer says and, as far as child development, especially in elementary school children, is concerned that is exactly what is needed.

Children who spend much of their childhood playing (for play is an important aspect of learning), drawing, painting, doing sports, dramatics, and such, are in a much better position later to be taught, to study and to be trained in order to be able to follow a useful profession and calling. Much more useful than learning in Kindergarten already Chinese or having to be worried in elementary school about tests and passing them in order to progress up the ladder, so to speak.

Some may say that this does not do the economy any good and that it is only that which counts, in other words productivity and growth, and training obedient wage slaves.

But today's economy no longer needs untrained docile workers at production lines but highly flexible, stress resistant multi-taskers who are prepared to learn new things to the end of their life. No one needs what the schools of today churn out in the way of unripe non-adults. Nor will the children, as children and later as adults, ever need most of what they have been “taught” in school – generally only in order to pass the tests and exams – in later life.

Yes, reading, writing and some other things are important, as I have already said in the beginning, but you do not have to go to the brainwashing institution called “school” to learn those.

As far as handicrafts, aka sloyd in Scandinavia, and such like are concerned getting hands dirty and learning about traditional trades is what it is all about – kids will be having a ball as long as they are not just be shown how to but are actually allowed and helped to make things.

Also teach them gardening and the growing of food and involve them in this, to the extent of letting them have their own plots where to experiment with growing this or that.

Maybe the best thing would be for children to be taught at home (or other similar setting) rather than in the formal setting of the brainwashing facilities that we call schools where children are but trained to pass tests and regurgitate information in order to pass them.

Many kids are measured on their intelligence base solely on regurgitation of information. Many grow up thinking they are worthless and stupid because they do poorly. This is one of the many factors that contribute to social burden and decay. No matter what anyone says you are not stupid, just a different kind of smart. Also and especially children develop and mature in different stages regardless of age so any standardized tests actually prove nothing and all they do is make some believe that they are failures and will never amount to anything.

That is why self-directed learning, as often is the case with homeschooling, where the kids decide what they want to learn, research, etc., rather than following a set of guidelines, is so much better than any other way.

© 2017

Thank You for voting Tory

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

500534084Thanks for voting Tory. Everyone who did has really done well.

Due to the actions of the Conservative government of the “United Kingdom” it has been estimated that 120,000 children will wake up homeless this Christmas and many, many more in dire poverty. Hope you are proud of yourself. But, I guess, as long as it is not you and your children why should you care.

The Tories have been talking about getting Britain back to Victorian values but what they really aim to do is turning back the clock and bringing us all back into the Victorian era and if we are not careful back further still.

10446715_10205374118698472_1392947066675936283_nVictorian values were not, necessarily, the greatest thing either but the era definitely was no good for the common man, woman or child. Homelessness was rampant and dire poverty and we are on the best way to that kind of situation again.

It won't be long, if we allow the Tories to remain in power, that we will have workhouses and child labor again, but, no doubt, that is also something that the Tories would not mind, as long as it is not their children but only those of the working class.

The most worrying part is that such a great number of working class people actually vote Tory (or even further right-wing) and thus are causing misery for their class and the children of their class. But it seems to be the attitude of “I am alright, Jack” in the same way as Gypsies in the West are not prepared to do anything to help those of the same race persecuted in Eastern Europe, for instance. But, when the shoe is on the other foot they are the first to complain.

I do not even want to start to talk about the other things that are being destroyed, dismantled and sold off to the highest bidder for private gain, by the Tories, such as the NHS and other aspects of the welfare state. You really have done well keeping those parasites in power.

© 2017

Which cutting board is best, wood or plastic?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

wooden cutting boardWhen it comes to cutting boards which is the more sustainable and healthy choice; plastic or wood?

The good old cutting board is one of our most durable household goods and it has proven its worth through times and ages, especially when made from good wood. Properly cared for it will go through generations without complaining of breaking.

As a refresher, it is generally considered advisable to have at least two cutting boards, kept separate, so to speak, in your kitchen. One of those should should be designated for raw meat, seafood, and poultry, and kept for that purpose only and the other board(s) for everything else. This helps avoid cross-contamination for purposes of health (keeping bacteria from sneaking into our produce, bread, and other non-fleshy items) and for purposes of hospitality (vegetarians and vegans will thank you).

In fact, this question of bacteria helps answer your question about plastic vs. wood. Plastic gained favor for a while because it is non-porous and dishwasher-safe, two qualities that made it seem like a healthier, cleaner choice. But it seems this was just another PR coup by the plastics industry.

According to research, including a study at the UC-Davis Food Safety Laboratory, wood wins the bacteria battle hands down. While bacteria such as salmonella and listeria are easy to clean off brand-new plastic boards, these boards become, so say the researchers, “impossible to clean and disinfect manually” once damaged by knives. In other words, the sneaky little bacteria hide out in the cracks and crevices. Wood cutting boards provide a home for bacteria too, but only for a very short time, and the little critters actually scoot down under the surface and die.

Many woods, in fact, have very high antibacterial and antiviral properties, such as the much maligned Sycamore, for example, which has one of the if not indeed the highest. Maligned, in Britain, for the fact that it is not a “native” tree and that is spreads somewhat like a weed. It has been in Britain for almost 2000 years, having brought here by the Romans and thus, I should think, we really should give it citizenship.

This makes wood more or less magical and if you buy a cutting board made from sustainably harvested sources – sorry, but forget the bamboo notion – it is definitely a greener choice than oil-based old plastic.

Once there are too many cuts showing on the surface of your wooden cutting boards or they have become excessively worn or have developed hard-to-clean grooves there still is no need to throw them away, even though the food safety people may say so. All you have to do is sand them smooth again or, if need be, planed down a bit, and they are ready to roll and entirely safe again.

So, if you have old wooden cutting boards rejuvenate them with some sanding and giving them a coat of vegetable (or mineral oil) and they will be yours to use, safely, and will last for many generations to come. The reason I put mineral oil in brackets is for the fact that – personally – I do not like using it simply because it is oil-based, as in the black stuff coming out of the ground. Some people claim that vegetable oil goes rancid but I have not found this to be a problem.

© 2017

Zero Waste – is it possible?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sinnlos sammeln und sortieren - recycling bins1Zero Waste is a concept that is very much like the idea of sustainable consumption in that it is not feasible regardless of what some people preach.

While it is possible to reduce waste, all waste, including food waste, to a minimum, zero waste, in that we do not produce any waste at all, just is not possible, regardless of what some people may think or claim, in the same way as there can be no sustainable consumption.

Whatever we do we are going to produce waste in some way, shape or form, though ideally, and that is the operative word and challenge, that waste should be recycled by whichever way. In addition to that we must change the way that we produce things and also produce food and use all the food grown, not just those vegetables, for instance, that have the right shape, size, etc.

As far as products are concerned they must be made so as to keep waste in production to the minimum and made in such a way that they can be kept going ad infinitum, almost, by being repairable, ideally user-repairable. But that is not a model that industry (and, it would appear, government) does not want.

Going further, however, we all must find ways, aside from just reducing waste, to make use of the waste that is still there especially the kind that can, in some ways, be reused, reworked, repurposed and upcycled, and that before we even think whether or not it can be (commercially) recycled.

This is also where upcycling as an economic activity, especially by small workers, comes in. Far too much of commercial recycling destroys the product and does not actually recycle anything but downcycles rather. But I am beginning to digress.

Zero Waste is a nice idea but it just will, I am afraid to say, never really work because there will always be some waste that is being produced though a more-or-less circular process might just reduce it is a very small percentage.

However, the latter process will only work if everyone, from government to every individual person, pulls on the same rope, so to speak. The problem is that already now in the case of ordinary recycling things are not always the way they appear and are made to appear.

While recyclables may be collected by the municipalities they may not actually always end up being recycled even if that means that they are downcycled. Quite frequently, for a variety of reason, one of them though being that at some time the price for the recyclables may be too low, they are sent to landfill.

The problem is that all our individual efforts come often to nothing because there where we can do nothing about things are not on the same level. It is therefore much more important that we see that we can reuse more of the stuff that runs under “waste”, from composting to reworking and upcycling, even in a semi-commercial enterprise, than believing the, let me call them, powers-that-be that they will take care of it.

There has always been waste, with the exception, maybe, in the case of Nature, and there always will be, in some way, shape or form. What way, shape and form this waste is going to be, however, and what we do with it though, is another question in point and that is up to us. Reusing, repurposing and upcycling whatever can be treated in this way needs to be done, up to and including doing this as a business. Those three have to become an economic activity, even if only on a small scale, but in many small enterprises.

We cannot keep pretending to be able to tackle waste by claiming that we can go “zero waste” because we cannot truly and fully. To believe otherwise is conning ourselves. Only Nature knows no real waste as in Nature everything is recycled, truly recycled, in one way or the other.

© 2017

Industry and industrial production in the new age

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

design-100-resimage_v-variantSmall16x9_w-640I am going to play the Devil's Advocate here and will say that industry and industrial production will not, as it is being claimed, go over to total robotic production but will, in fact, cease and that in the not so distant future. And that regardless of what governments and industry and economists proclaim.

Why? Because it is dependent on a great deal of energy, especially of electricity and gas, and to all intents and purposes there is a very limited amount of oil and gas, upon which our energy production and on it industry depends, left to go around (despite the fact that the price of oil did fall quite significantly in the late part of 2014 and the early part of 2015 but that is a political ball game rather than oil and gas being abundant still) and renewable energies such as wind and sun just cannot provide the high voltages and wattage that are required by industrial production as we have now and the one that they are envisaging for the future.

The future of production will be small scale industry again – that is, at least, the way that I (and also others) – see it and much will be made more or less by hand again rather than by large machines, by production lines and robots. Without the power to do so it just cannot compute.

However, we keep being told that robots will take our jobs and that almost everything in the not so distant future will be performed by robots, many of them being what is referred to as “humanoid” robots. In the BBC Radio 4 program Analysis of March 2, 2015 entitled “When robots steal our jobs” this was very much being hinted at and also, it is claimed, that when this happens we all will have so much more free time to do what we want.

Hello! And what about money to live? Oh, some say, everyone will be given a basic universal income. Yes, sure, and pigs fly.

While the idea of a basic income is a great idea and one that should be supported and for which trial are now being carried out in some places, it will, probably, however, never come to pass in the capitalist system as we have it today. It will require a new system that has other ideals, a system where man and Nature are valued and stand in the center and not profit for corporations and shareholders. And one where no longer perpetual economic growth and the acquisition of wealth by business owners and others is the aim and name of the game.

This system will come about when capitalism collapses, as it must and will, and we return to a different way of production when also, as it must be, the means of production will be in the hands of the workers and not of the state. True socialism is not state capitalism and is the only system that abolishes and eliminates the distinction between the bosses and the workers.

But it has to be said here that in the post-industrial age production will be of a different kind and conducted in a different way than most of us have come to know and understand over the last century or more. The kind of production that we have known for so long ever since the “Industrial Revolution” will become a thing of the past and, like the motorcar, will be seen, later, as but a blip in human history.

Does anyone really believe that those robots, that are claimed to be taking jobs, can be made and run in a world where non-renewable resources are becoming scarce and where we need to get away from fossil fuel derived energy? I, for one, do not and that simply because of the fact that due to the restraints that will be forced upon us if we do not want the Planet to be destroyed entirely neither their manufacture nor their use will be feasible in due course. They will just remain ideas in the heads of the capitalists.

The new world will be very much like the old world before the industrial revolution and production (and other work) will be performed again in the ways of old. Sounds dreadful to many, I know, as the consumer goods will neither be abundant anymore nor cheap, cheap, cheap, as they are presently and as the consumers today demand them to be. That those products, that are so very cheap, come too us at a very high cost of exploitation of people and the Planet no one seems to want to know about. In addition to that those goods are not cheap in other ways as they are designed to break down in a very short space of time resulting in the fact that we have to buy new again, and again. But that is the way this present capitalist system has been set up, especially ever since the Second World War.

Before that time, and even for a while thereafter, especially in certain countries, products were made in a way that they lasted and that they could easily be repaired. However, the capitalist saw there profits disappear if they were to create new products that were better and learned from what had happened during the war where they were suppliers to the military. Products that get destroyed all the time would have to be replaced with the same products again and again and they basically put a self-destruct mechanism into the goods they made and sold. This mechanism is built-in obsolescence and non-repairability. If something breaks down after a short while, designed actually to do so, and then made in such a way that it cannot be repaired you do not have to invest all too much in research and development of new products; you can just sell your “old” ones over and over again. A total win-win situation for the capitalist and a total lose-lose situation for the consumer.

Years ago, and that will be the way again that things will be produced in the future, products, today often referred to as “durable goods” and given a lifespan of about three years, used to last for decades for they were made to last, and they were repairable and that is why they did last, for when something did break it could be fixed, often by the owner him- or herself. Those durable goods of today are not fit the name durable as they are rather the opposite. While that means that such products, like we once had, will be more expensive initially this cost, spread over the years that the product will actually last, coupled with repairability, will make them cheaper in the long run.

In the German Democratic Republic an entire repair sector existed in the economy, from small shops to industrial complexes almost that were geared to repair whatever the customer might bring along, from clothes and other textiles as well as, obviously, shoes and boots, over household appliances and such to vehicles. You could even get your knives, scissors and other cutting tools sharpened, reset and such, and all at a reasonable cost. But, to some extent, I digressed a little.

Industrial production in the new age of no-fossil fuels to power everything will, nay must, by virtue of lack of the amount of power required by the large-scale production we know today, return to much small scale and thus products will be made in a different way and must be made to last and be repairable as they will be more expensive.

But to be perfectly honest the cheap goods that come to us today more often that not are not made in a sustainable way and the fact that they are – predominantly – non-repairable makes them, in the long run, more expensive than the kind of products and goods that we had before that we, although more expensive, repairable. Personally, I don't think that such a change is a bad thing at all.

© 2017

Pavements and cycle paths are critical infrastructure, not frills

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

cycle path londonIn the USA this does not seem to be understood by local, state, and federal government and the only thing that seem to count in their eyes are provisions for the motor car. But things are not much better in Britain, for instance.

Unfortunately, many pavements (sidewalks, as our American cousins would say) in Britain are in a bad state of repair as well, even though the maintenance of those is down to the local authorities, the councils. Lack of funding from central government and more cuts in the name of austerity certainly do take their toll, but some of them seem to have been lacking maintenance for a couple of decades at least and in some instance it would appear more than just a couple of decades.

As to cycle paths, their provision, in comparison to what is being done and has been done almost for ever in countries of mainland Europe, is absolutely derisory and the talk of government that it would like to encourage more people to cycle is laughable when one sees the provisions (not) made.

There is hardly, in Britain, a single cycle path that is continuous and virtually none that is actually physically separated from the motor traffic on the road, unlike a great many, if not the majority, of such paths in countries such as The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. According to the British government, an not just the current, it is not possible to do such things in this country. It can be done, the only thing lacking is the political will to do so.

If government is truly interested in getting people out of their cars and wanting them to walk and cycle to the shops, to school, and even to work, then provisions must me made so that people can feel safe and be safe to do so. What it boils down to is that the motoring lobby hands out fat donations and facilitation payments to the governments while, obviously, the lobby of cyclists and pedestrians does not and cannot do that. Hence more and more roads are being built instead of making provisions for alternative modes of transport, by creating the necessary infrastructure. But time and again there are plans for new roads, there is money found for new roads, and so on. Cycle paths and pavements, on the other hand, when it comes to them then there is no money to be found.

As I said, the majority of cycle paths would make our continental cousins, especially in Holland, Denmark and Germany, suffer a serious laughing attack. Not only are they not physically separated from the roads; nay, often they are just short strips on the road and then that is it. At other times, where there are long stretches of cycle paths that are part of the road cyclists will have to dodge the traffic anyway as the paths are full of parked cars, or cars are actually using those parts of the road that are dedicated to cycling, thus again the cyclist either has to avoid those stretches or is actually in danger of being hit. That is no way to encourage people to take to the bike instead of the car. In fact, it has rather the opposite effect. Thus it is hardly surprising that people, illegally, cycle on the pavements as no safe provisions are being made for them.

© 2017

From consumer society to maker society

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

20139988_1539078376130193_5453055660688507791_nThere was a time when people made and grew almost all of the things they needed; the majority of them at least. They did not – and could not – simply go to the stores or order on-line for home delivery. The latter option did not exist until even a few years ago and the other was not an option because there were no stores (in the very old days) or they could not afford to buy what they wanted.

Money was tight for many, especially the working class, farm laborers and such. So the only option they had was to make what they needed and wanted from materials that were available for free or cheap.

The raw materials for many of the things people needed and wanted was wood, but also other natural and man-made materials, such as scrap and trash. Children used their imagination to fashion all manner of toys from natural materials and from trash, and this is, on all counts, still true today in many a Third World country but also in what some would call backwards areas in the Western world.

The majority today, however, cannot even think how to get something that they need or want aside from checking their wallets or bank accounts and the nearest store or website. The very thought of making something seems alien to many today.

We have been brainwashed into the consumer mentality believing that whatever we need and want has to be coming from some shop of sorts, whether in bricks and mortar or in the virtual realm, and that making things that we need and want to ourselves from natural materials or, God forbid, waste materials, is something only for the very poor in other countries.

And also to use things that are more that a year or so old is also something that is only for the very poor. We must have new manufactured goods all the time, preferably cheap from some offshore manufacturing site.

Sometimes I wonder how this kind of brainwashing was ever possible to happen to the majority but happen it did and it is scary.

We have to find back to reality and that pronto. The time is going to come, and it is not all that far away, for sure, that those products that the majority run after today will no longer be dirt cheap and therefore we must change our ways and do things differently again. I say purposely again as it once was the way things were done and they must be done that way again.

We must return from a consumer and consumption orientated society return to, or transition and develop, however one may wish to put it, into a maker society where, once again, people are prepared to make things and enjoy making things rather than just consuming things. But it is a learning curve and I will not deny that, especially for those that never did such things before. Many young people today, as children, never made their own toys and entertainment the way some of the somewhat older generation did. They often were not allowed to do that as they could get hurt using a knife for whittling of such and as a knife, in the hands of a child or young person (and not just in the hands of a young person), in places such as the UK, is immediately considered an offensive weapon.

Not only is it just a question of being prepared to make our own things – and to repair the things that we have – but a society where everyone makes things or grows things, and is involved in making and growing things or maintaining those things.

In the main, however, all people are doing today is to consumer, bar the few that produce and grow things, and after the things are used they get thrown away. That is the mentality that is prevalent today and it is that mentality that also is causing other ills in society for a consumer, a user, society also uses people and animals in the same way as things and discards them when they are no longer productive.

The entire world needs to change to a new society but it will only do so if we, the people, actually change. The consumer is but a passive user of products and living things and often has no idea as to the true cost of his or her mentality to the Planet.

While it is true that the consumer him- or herself does not do the actual exploitation of environment, of people and of animals, and that is being done by the capitalists, the corporations and such, it is he or she who, by the act of consuming in the way he or she does, being not prepared to turn to being a maker, participates, passively in this exploitation, whether they want this to be true or not.

Edward Abbey is quoted to have said, with reference to the United States of America: “If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others. Neither to serve nor rule. That was the American dream.” And this also applies to all other nations as well.

The move from a consumer society to a maker society – even if the making part is but a small one with each and every one, to start with – already would go a long way towards this, such as removing the power from the corporations, and thus the rich and “powerful” to dominate others, as in us as the people.

However, a maker society does not just mean making just things for oneself from scratch and even scrap but a society of people who make things rather than having things made for them in some factory in some far way third world country.

On the other hand making things ourselves, for ourselves and for others, and even for sale, liberates. It sets us free from the constant consumption and consumerism and allows us to think what we really need and want (out of life). And it not just liberates the individual, but the entire society.

As far as society goes, we cannot just be consumers, as the majority seems to be today, permanently buying something and tossing out the things – often the very same things we have just bought new, but which are newer than the old ones – that we only bought a couple of months ago. We all must become makers again, on a small and on a larger scale, but always on a human scale.

© 2017

Grab a great read AND support Anti-Slavery Day on 18th October 2017

(PRESS RELEASE)

x-defaultFormer football club Chair, actor and author Michael Bearcroft has announced an exciting new partnership with the charity HopeforJustice, whereby £1 from every sale of his re-released novel Dangerous Score (£9.99, New Generation Publishing) will go directly to helping combat modern slavery.

Estimates suggest that over 21 million people are living in modern slavery today, with over 10,000 of those living in the UK. It is also the third largest source of illegal income, only exceeded by drugs and arms trafficking. As Anti-Slavery Day approaches on the 18th October, author Michael Bearcroft has re-released his successful novel Dangerous Score which explores the world of corruption, organised crime and human trafficking, pledging that £1 from every book sale will go directly to Hope for Justice.

Following an early career as a junior footballer for Sheffield United, Michael continued to be involved in the football industry for many years, as the Chairman of Corby Town F.C and sponsor of both Rothwell Town F.C and Kettering F.C. It therefore seemed logical that the sport he knows so much about would feature as the backdrop for Dangerous Score.

In the book, Michael brings together the worlds of football and organised crime as they collide and become entwined in a bloodthirsty, bitter tale of love, lust and murder. When successful footballer Jason Clooney’s wife unexpectedly leaves him in Australia, he returns home to the UK to start a new life in Sheffield. A winning goal catapults his home team- Kettering Town Football Club- into the national spotlight. However, a brief encounter with a mysterious woman called Jess, propels him into the underworld of international organised crime and human trafficking, changing his life forever.

Michael began researching human trafficking whilst writing his novel and was astounded at the sheer scale of the problem. He decided that he wanted to do whatever he could to help support those forced into modern slavery which led to his new partnership with Hope For Justice, a global charity founded in the UK in 2008 with the aim of working to end modern slavery and human trafficking.

In the past three years, Hope for Justice has rescued 350 people from human trafficking in the UK and is actively working to help many more.

‘Human trafficking is a hidden crime and it’s happening all around us. The main character in Dangerous Score stumbles into this secret world and finds himself submerged in the underbelly of organised crime. I’ve partnered with Hope for Justice because I want to support and bring more light to the desperate plight of people around the world and in the UK. This charity is doing truly amazing things that are transforming people’s lives and I want to help let more people know about them so that collectively, we can do more to eradicate this truly heinous crime,” explains Michael.

Dangerous Score (£9.99, New Generation Publishing) is available from Amazon and all good bookshops. £1 from every sale goes to Hope For Justice.
For more information visit:
www.dangerousscore.co.uk
www.hopeforjustice.org