Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Once More - Beyond Our Ken


The statement which led to Ken Livingstone's suspension from Labour Party membership (and now to his resignation) was his claim that Hitler had "supported Zionism" when first coming to power in Germany "before he went mad and killed six million Jews". This is a clumsy reference to a deal which the Third Reich struck with leaders of the Zionist Movement on 7th August, 1933. Hitler engaged in the deal in order to remove many Jews from Germany. It was a prelude to events such as resorting to prison camps, Kristallnacht (and the like) and then to his fully fledged mass extermination programme. The words used by Ken to described the early start of such developments clearly need to be have been adjusted.

For Hitler was "mad" in terms of the depth and nature of his anti-semitism (and on many other matters) well before the above deal was ever agreed to. For instance, Mein Kampf was published in two volumes back in 1925 and 1926 and contained clear anti-Semitic claims and attacks upon Judaism. It claimed that Aryans were the master race.

The 1933 development which Ken expressed briefly and badly is, however, contained in great detail in Edwin Black's book "The Transfer Agreement'. The introduction to the 1984 edition of his book stating that - "On August 7, 1933, leaders of the Zionist movement concluded a controversial pact with the Third Reich which, in various forms, transferred some 60,000 Jews and $100 million...to Jewish Palestine".

Edwin Black is himself Jewish. His grandmother was murdered in Treblinka, having pushed her young daughter (who was later to become Edwin's mother) out of the train that was taking them to the camp. The young man who was to become Edwin's father escaping from a group of Jews who were being led to their execution by Nazis in Poland. Edwin's book is solidly researched and he is certainly in no way anti-semitic. If Ken had stuck with its approach, he would not have upset the apple cart. Yet the fact that he badly expressed the nature of this significant historical arrangement does not by itself make him anti-semitic. Nor can I find other evidence to substantiate this claim. But he could have conceded my point.

Informaton on Edwin Black's book and extracts from it can be found via this link.

22 May : According to a Guardian report, Ken Livingstone has now "apologised for his controversial remarks" on Hitler and Jews. If he had done this some time ago (even pointing to what actually happened), it would have been helpful and might have saved a lot of hassle within the Labour Party by cutting the ground from under his opponents.

25 May : Link here for a two year old Foreign Office definition of anti-semitism, although others may employ other definitions as useages often only share family resemblances. But on which items in the Foreign Office's criteria was Ken Livingstone and some other 80 Labour Party members accused ? 

28 May : Link here for 39 cases of claimed anti-semitism in the Labour Party, although one is the late Gerald Kaufman who himself had Jewish parents. Another is Ken Livingstone. But it provides numbers of claims that can be further checked out.

29 May : Link here for Ken's full statement on his resignation from the Labour Party, which I have just discovered.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Michael Martin

I am very sorry to hear about the death of Michael Martin who was a former Speaker of the House of Commons for a period when I was an MP.

A huge personal debt I owed to him is explained in this item which I placed on this blog back in 2009.     

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Does The Left Have A Jewish Problem ?

A problem which I am seeking to pay attention to is whether anti-semitism has become a matter of significance within the Labour Party, especially with (and around) the election of Jeremy Corbyn as our leader. It is a matter I hope to return to in the future.

Within the last 18 months or so, I read Dave Rich's book "The Left's Jewish Problem : Jeremy Corbyn and Anti-Semitism". I made some notes of it at the time and slipped the following comment inside the copy I hold - now slightly tweaked. Did I say anything of significance or just get hold of the wrong end of this slippery stick?

In criticizing Dave Rich's book, I need to point out that I never voted for Jeremy Corbyn for leader - making a positive abstention in the second vote. And amongst a number of reservations I had about Jeremy was his rather uncritical links with Hamas. Although I now feel that Jeremy has adjusted his stance in numbers of the areas of my concern and I would certainly not favour a further leadership contest at this stage, nor a gang-of-four type split. When confronted by two extreme viewpoints, it can sometimes be helpful to seek to transcend these by working for a synthesis - which is more than a surrender or a compromise. This can be done (in this case) without people being involved in a sell-out of their basic values.
The Left's Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism

"One page 236 of his book, Dave Rich states that the "left is divided between those who identify with Jewish aspirations for nationhood and oppose anti-Semitism as part of their anti-racism, and those who oppose Israel and Zionism for exactly the same reason". This conclusion is typical  of his wider approach, where he argues for the first position.

Yet don't many of us fall into alternative positions - not just one of these two extremes? Including those of us who were highly sympathetic to the needs of Jewish people to share a safe and common homeland (especially given our knowledge of the Holocaust), yet also have concerns about the problematic impact which the establishment of Israel had for many Arabs throughout Israel and Palestine. The resulting conflict between, say, Hamas and Israel being something many of us are keen to help to transcend via, say, a two-state solution. Just as many of us have been associated with moves to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland/the Irish Republic, we have the same approach in relation to Israel/Palestine. 

The fact that many of us have feelings of concern about the treatment of Aborigines in the formation of Australia and of Indians in the formation of the USA, does not mean that we feel that these nations should not be fully recognized in international law. Yet we can also still currently criticize moves made by such nations on whole hosts of current matters.

In the first words to the Forward of his book, David Rich indicates that his work is based upon a PhD which he has recently acquired. I have not come across a full link to his thesis, but I would be keen to access it. For I find it hard to believe that he would gain a Doctorate based on the one-sided analysis of his book - as readable and as itemised as it is. For academics usually insist on the dialectics of debate within a thesis, before awards are granted. (Although I admit I have never attempted one). Surely, this is necessary even when one goes on to draw conclusions in an academic analysis which finally come down solidly on one side. Academics (and the rest of us) also need to put their opponent's cases at its most plausible, if they then wish to cap it. In his book Dave Rich does not really attempt this. Yet as John Stuart Mill pointed out, a person who only knows their own side of the case knows little of that."  

For the Commons' Debate related to this issue on 17 April   - Click here.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

How To Use The Coal Authority Interactive Map - showing the dangers of fracking

The Coal Authority Interactive Map can be found via this link. You can use it to search for areas where coal seams have been discovered, including many which have been excavated in the past and where seismic activity (from say earthquakes or underground fracking operations) could lead to subsidence. Many of these areas have since been urbanized, so that seismic disturbances and other forms of ground instability can lead to subsidence beneath built-up areas such as homes, gardens, shops, public buildings, roadways and pathways. We can do little about earthquake dangers, but we should place a block on future fracking operations which will invariably be sort in areas with shale gas and thus linked to the existence of past or remaining coal seams. 

As shown below, the first Coal Authority Interactive Maps shows past and remaining coal seam areas throughout England, Scotland and Wales. You can then (via the Interative Map) home-in to the specific area which interests you. So that, for instance, my second map (to its east) shows the largest combined area of all, with Sheffield near its centre. Via the Interactive Map, specific areas can then be homed into such as the Bramleymoor Lane site being targeted by INEOS near Marsh Lane in Derbyshire.

By then using a list of categories shown in the indexes in the top right corner of the Interactive Map, a wide range of different categories can then be found for the area you have chosen to examine covering items such as Mine Entries, Development High Risk Areas, Underground Workings, Past Shallow Mine Workings and Mine Entry Potential Zones of Influence. Even the red crosses showing the Mine Entries can be clicked onto to see if the Coal Authority holds further details for a specific site, such as the depth of a former shaft. People will often be shocked by the numbers and shallow depths of former workings in their vicinity.

Unfortunately, it will often be unhappy hunting - showing that granting licences to fracking firms is highly dangerous. This is something the Coal Authority should be telling us from the quantity of the information they hold. Their silence is deafening. 


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Fracking, Flaws and Fracturing

This year the 4th Edition of the book shown below has just been published. It is 724 pages long, being made up of an introduction by its editors plus a further 19 articles drawing from a total of 35 highly qualified authors, including the editors themselves. Only four of the articles have a single author, the rest having two or three joint authors. I only temporally hold a Library copy of this book, which I obtained via the inter-library loan system. Below I quote from one of its key articles and later draw attention and give access to one of the key references it employs.
 Methods of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment: 4th Edition (Paperback) book cover

From page 87 in an article entitled "Soils, land and geology" by Chris Stapleton, Hugh Masters Williams and Martin J  Hodson  they make the following important statement related to fracking -
"Seismic Risk is a significant problem in some parts of the world.....For example, hydraulic fracturing ('fracking') can potentially cause significant geological problems that as ESIA (i.e. an "Environmental and Social Impact Assessment". HB) for a fracking operation would need to assess. Fracking involves pumping liquid under pressure into rock formations to force shale gas out. The main geological risks are that expelled gas might contaminate underground aquifers, and the possibility of earthquakes. Earthquakes caused by fracking are usually small, but associated waste-water disposal by injection into deep wells can induce larger earthquakes (Ellsworth 2013). For example, a fracking-induced 5.7 earthquake in central Oklahoma in November 2011 destroyed 14 homes and injured two people....Subsidence and slope stability are also factors that should be considered. Subsidence is caused by underground mining and is usually associated with traditional coalfield areas. where the subsidence extends for considerable distances around collieries".

The article referred to above under the reference "Ellsworth 2013" is by William L. Elsworth and is entitled "Injection-Induced Earthquakes". It was published on 12 July 2013 in Science Volume 341 (see www.sciencemag.org) and can be found via clicking into this link. It includes key sections to follow under the following sub-headings "Earthquakes Induced by Hydraulic Fracturing", "Earthquakes Induced by Deep Injection", "Paradox Valley" showing major seismic problems which arose on that site which is in Colorado and "Hazards and Risk of Induced Earthquakes".

The above pubications, therefore, back up the case I have kept pushing.

If it is thought that earthquake problems can never arise in areas such as Sheffield and Derbyshire, then click here for reports from places such as Sheffield, Chesterfield and Derby of the numbers of  events which occurred from a natural incident in February 2008. Then if you also conduct a search of the area via this Coal Authority Interactive Map you will work out the range of subsidence dangers in the area which would be likely to be seriously triggered by fracking-induced seismic activity.

Added 29 January. On the above theme also click here.

Added 30 January.To what extent has the Derbyshire County Council undertaken a full Environmental and Social Impact Assessment in response to INEOS applications over workings on the Bramleymoor Lane site ?  On the local community's behalf, it should clearly have pursued this proceedure (but so should have the Government before it even considered pro-fracking legislation) which is explained via this link.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

125th Anniversary of the ILP

  Coming of Age certif

 The founding conference of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) was held in Bradford exactly125 years ago today. A leading role in setting up the organisation was taken by Keir Hardie. He had been elected as an Independent Labour MP in West Ham the previous year. The ILP then went on to play a major role in the setting up of the Labour Representation Comittee in 1900, which itself became known as the Labour Party in 1906 with Keir Hardie becoming its first leader in the role of Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The ILP's successor organisation today is Independent Labour Publications.  Barry Winter, its former Secretary provides an important article about the ILP's history on their web-site. See this link. 

Monday, December 04, 2017

Is This Frackings Greatest Danger ?

I refer to this map later. Although if you have more technical skills than I do, it would help if you could enlarge it. Then if you would like to find a similar map for other areas threatened by frackers, this article explains how you can do that.

There are numerous inconveniences and dangers which we face from fracking. Yet it is the problems which arise in former coal mining areas which worry me the most. For where there were (or still are) coal seams this provides key territory for finding shale gas. Yet fracking in such areas will create serious dangers and instability.

A key avenue for discovering where these problems are likely to be is provided via the Coal Authority. You need to turn to their "Interactive Map" which can be found via clicking into this link. If you enter a location (perhaps using your post code) in the section provided in the top left hand corner, you will find the area which interests you. On the Interactive Map you will need to use a set of double clicks to then home-in more closely to your area of interest. It may take trail and error to find exactly what you are after. But it is really worth the effort.

Many people will be surprised by what they find. For instance, Dronfield where I live is seen by many as being a middle class commuter town, yet it is pocked marked with former shallow mine workings which if disturbed could lead to major problems of subsidence. A matter the town has not been free from in the past. Yet its period when coal mining occurred goes well back into history and was often via rather primitive forms of coal extraction, occurring at rather shallow levels. Characteristics which could prove dangerous given modern underground fracking activities.

Once you have found the location which interests you on the Coal Authority Map, then use the index in the top right hand corner to explore the areas make up.

In the map which appears above I show areas such as Dronfield, Unstone and the very northern section of Chesterfield. Then on my map near the right hand side (about a third of the way down) appears Marsh Lane (although it is not easy to find), which is close to where INEOS are seeking their initial right to engage in a vertical underground excavation. In fact, the field they wish to start from appears on my map just below the south of Marsh Lane on the right hand side as you eye moves south towards West Handley. It is exactly where two red crosses appear showing two old mine entries. This danger spot is exactly where INEOS wishes to start its underground operations. See here in the red box provided by INEOS itself -

The masses of red crosses found on Coal Authority maps (such as my top map) are former mine entrances, whilst the brown crosses show mine exits. There are more red crosses than brown ones because old pits often also used their single entrance for exit purposes.

When you examine the Coal Authorities Interactive Map use their index in the top right hand corner.  If you click onto the section "Mine Entry" you will find your own equivalents to the ones on my opening map. On the Interactive Map you can even click onto red crosses and this will give you some information about these mines past workings, sometimes giving you the depth of the workings , which may be very shallow.  Yet shallow mines may well be the most problematic, for the workings they reveal are often just a short distance beneath a house, garden, pavement, road, work place, school, shop or other social provision. Those whose properties are effected are likely to find them falling in value and difficult to insure against subsidence.

The masses of entries and exits shown on the map above are contained in an area with a width of just five miles. Yet the Coal Authority admits that it is unlikely to have discovered everything yet. For instance, some former mine shafts in my area were only discovered following the construction of a modern by-pass which is shown in green on the left hand side of the above map   

To find the equivalent of the black crossed areas which I show, then hit the section in the Coal Authority index marked "Development High Risk Area" - and note the fracking warning this term entails. The more you enlarge the scale of the map, the more such details it will reveal. For instance, the two red crosses where I indicated that INEOS wish to operate from near Marsh Lane can then actually be seen to be placed on top of two small black crosses as shown on my second map. Unfortunately, in its submission to the Derbyshire County Council the Coal Authority itself did not appreciated or even discuss this point.

INEOS themselves admit that when it moves to horizontal fracking techniques its activities can fan out for around a mile and a quarter. Yet in the USA (where INEOS admit they will need to hire fracking experts) the firm Haliburton have engaged in underground operations for some three and a half miles.

The scale of the dangers of fracking operations over wide sections of Derbyshire is also illustrated in the Coal Authority Map showing the full areas of Development Risk via this link. To find similar problems in other areas  link here. 

P.S. At a crude estimate by looking at a larger version of my above map it contains at least 840 mine entrances and exits.

Added 23.10 hours on 5 December. This is the size I was looking for - hat tip to Darren Grayson via "Eckington Against Fracking"
   Affichage de CoalAuthorityMineEntriesAroundWellSite20171205.PNG en cours.  Whoops it has now disappeared