Friday, 30 January 2015

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p02gyz6b/adam-curtis-bitter-lake

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Empire of Thieves

DID HIMMLER LIVE?
First time I've really made the effort to put a book out on Amazon.com, but here's the result. Anyone with an interest in WW2 and the fate of missing artworks could (I hope) find this novel entertaining. Some years ago, I interviewed Rudolf Hess's Doctor at Spandau Prison in Berlin, the eminent surgeon Dr. Hugh Thomas. Thomas wrote some interesting, best-selling books, such as The Murder of Rudolf Hess and SS-1: The Unlikely Death of Heinrich Himmler. Dr. Thomas hints that Spandau's last, lone prisoner, Hess, my not have been
 Hess at all, but a double. He said to Hess "Who are you? You can tell me now - Himmler is dead," to which Hess responded
"Is he? Are you sure about that?"
That remark gave me the idea for this book. Supposing Himmler didn't die as a suicide at Luneberg in May 1945. And the Himmler file at the Public Records Office (National Archives) is embargoed until 2045. Why? Was 'Himmler' another hapless double? Maybe one day we'll know. In the meantime, I've had a bit of  imaginative fun here speculating on how his life might have panned out in South America, and how his son could have succeeded in Franco's Spain.
I find the history of the Third Reich fascinating for many reasons. One is it that happened in my lifetime. Another reason is the sheer mystery it provokes; How could a 'civilised' nation, Germany, which had given us Beethoven, Bach, Goethe and Schiller descend into 13 years of book-burning madness and mass murder?  And it produced numerous calm, calculating monsters such as Himmler, a man who imagined nothing criminal in his behaviour, who still thought in April 1945 that he could 'negotiate' with Eisenhower and Churchill. These are the elements which led me to writing this bit of speculative fantasy. I suppose I'll not live until 2045. Pity; I'd love to know the truth. In the meantime, this will have to do.
You can download the book on Amazon for Kindle, or send for the paperback. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

A MYSTERY SOLVED!

EVEN OLD SAILORS 
GET EGG ON THEIR FACES.
The Mammoth Book of
Unexplained Phenomena
by
Roy Bainton is published
by Constable & Robinson (UK)
and in the USA by Running Press Inc.


For almost 20 years I’ve been the ‘go to’ source, research-wise, for one of the strangest unsolved maritime mysteries, the bizarre story of the Ourang Medan. So here’s the story as I have usually told it. This version has graced the pages of several magazines, including the Fortean Times,  Saga and is scattered across the internet on dozens of paranormal web sites. Turn out the lights, now light a candle, pour yourself a double rum and read on …





Death Ship:
The Curious Case of the Ourang Medan



This strange yarn began as an obscure, bizarre footnote in nautical history. The story of the Ourang Medan was one of those chilling fo'c'sle tales told by old hands over a few beers on long voyages. As with the Mary Celeste, a modicum of determined digging can usually strip away the romance and often leave us with the bare, demystified facts.
Not so with the Ourang Medan. The more one digs, the more fragments, hints and nuances appear. I first heard the story on board the old Port Line ship, Port Halifax, when crossing the Pacific in 1961. It was then included in Vincent Gaddis’s Invisible Horizons (1966) and years later in various other works such as Damon Wilson's Big Book of The Unexplained (1998). The oldest source I could track down was an article by Robert V Hulse in Fate magazine in 1953, yet Hulse, like all the others, only had the bare bones of the yarn.
This is a story with a secret; a secret buried somewhere in the guarded records of maritime officialdom. Turn down the lamp, cue the creepy music...
In February 1948 (or June 1947, depending on which source one consults) a series of distress calls were sent out by the Dutch freighter Ourang Medan in the Straits of Malacca between Sumatra and Indonesia.
      ‘All officers including captain dead, lying in chartroom and on bridge, probably whole crew dead... ‘ This chilling message, accompanied by a spate of desperate SOS calls, was followed by indecipherable Morse code... then a final message just two stark words ‘I die.’
Boarding parties found the dead radio operator, his hand on the Morse key, eyes wide open. The entire crew even the ship's dog were discovered in the same terrified posture, all dead.
According to a supposed document, the first mention being by Vincent Gaddis called The Proceedings of the Merchant Marine Council, the crew were found ‘teeth bared, with their upturned faces to the sun, staring, as if in fear...’ Later researchers claim that this document was issued by the US Coastguard Service – although why they would issue a report of something happening in the Malacca Straits is another puzzle.
Following the grim discovery of the fear-frozen cadavers, a fire broke out in the ship's hold.
The boarding parties were forced to abandon her. Shortly after, a violent explosion described in some accounts as so violent the vessel ‘lifted herself from the water’ after which she quickly sank.
So, there you have it. It's a great yarn; but is it just an old seadog's tale? Or perhaps, as some have suggested, a 50-year old April Fool joke, composed by some bored tabloid hack?
The trouble is, it refuses to go away. If these men did die in such a bizarre fashion, What killed them? I started with Lloyd's Shipping registers. There was no mention of the case. Then that standby of all maritime researchers, The Dictionary of Disasters at Sea, 1824-1962. Everything else was in there - even the Mary Celeste but no  Ourang Medan. I contacted Britain's best magazine for old sailors, Sea Breezes, and discussed the case with their late editor, Captain Andrew Douglas, a retired skipper with decades of service on the oceans of the world. He was fascinated, but knew nothing although he did place a plea for information in the next issue.
It was time to get  'official'. I wrote to the Admiralty, the Registrar of Shipping and Seamen, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. They all told me the same thing; if the Ourang Medan was a Dutch vessel, I would have to go to Amsterdam.
Searching the Dutch Shipping records in Amsterdam seemed only to deepen the mystery. There was no mention of the ship at all. There was a Medan, but she had been scrapped before World War II. And my enquiries to the Maritime Authority in Singapore, which may have been able to help with a Malacca Straits incident, drew a blank. I was facing the distinct possibility that this was simply a hoary old fo'c'sle yarn… until Professor Theodor Siersdorfer of Essen, Germany entered the frame. Siersdorfer was a respected marine architect with a long career as a lecturer in all things nautical. He had read the plea in Sea Breezes and I suddenly discovered that I was not alone; Siersdorfer had been on the case for 45 years.
An intriguing parcel of information from Germany opened up new avenues, the most exciting of which was the identity of the two vessels which received the Ourang Medan's SOS calls. One was the City of Baltimore; the second was the Silver Star, owned by Grace Lines of New York, whose crew allegedly actually boarded the stricken Dutchman.
Here the enigma deepens again. Most of the details of the Silver Star's voyage are contained in a strange, 32 page German booklet written in 1954 by one Otto Mielke, (now deceased), entitled Das Totenschiff in der Südsee (Death Ship in the South Sea). Mielke seemed to know a lot about the Ourang Medan's possible route and cargo but fails to give further detailed sources; this is a strange omission because his details, right down to the tonnage, engine power and Captain's name, of the Silver Star, are thoroughly referenced. Professor Siersdorfer also mentioned another marine detective, Alvar Mastin (also searching for the departed Dutch ship), a German who lived in my home town of Hull, in England, in the 1950s. I could not track him down, but apparently Mastin had repeatedly attempted to get details from Grace Lines in New York of the Silver Star crew list and log book - yet was met with a stony silence.
Thus the possible fact remains that the Silver Star crew did really board the Ourang Medan in (as Mielke has it in June, 1947), this was the route via which the story entered nautical legend. I made several unsuccessful attempts to see if there were still members of that crew alive. But there is still confusion; the Germans cite the Silver Star as being the vessel boarding the Orang Medan, yet Lloyd's Registers show that, at the time, the Silver Star had changed owners and had another name... Santa Cecilia.
What follows is pure speculation, but there is a tantalising, possible explanation as to her crew's demise and her disappearance from the records. Mielke mentions a mixed, lethal cargo on the Dutchman 'Zyankali' (potassium cyanide) and nitroglycerine. How this mixture could have gone unrecorded is a mystery, as the controls on such lethal cargoes, even 50 years ago, would have ensured reams of paperwork.
The Geneva Protocol of 1925 ratified by 33 nations outlawed all chemical weapons. As history has shown, the Nazis made horrific use of the extermination gas 'Zyklon B' but, according to Albert Speer in his book Inside the Third Reich (1995), they also had stockpiled a secret gas called Tabun and, as late as 1944, were manufacturing 1,000 tons of this deadly substance each month. According to Speer: ‘It could penetrate the filters of all known gas masks and contact with even small lingering quantities had fatal effects...’
Apart from the Nazis, only one other nation used gas; Japan.  The Japanese used gas in China during World War II. In 1935, the brilliant Japanese bacteriologist Shiro Ishi set up the Japanese Army Unit 731 in a remote village in occupied Manchuria. Unit 731's brief was to find a chemical, gas or biological weapon to win the war. Hideous, inhumane experiments were carried out on helpless Australian, American, Russian, Chinese and British prisoners some of the worst war crimes ever committed. Was there a Nuremberg type trial for these doctors of death? Far from it. The biochemists' hideous research was too 'good' to waste; they pulled off a mysterious secret deal with their erstwhile enemies and appear to have done a deal with General Douglas McArthur's forces. The criminals went free and prospered, leaving the possibility that the Japanese may have stored quantities of nerve gas in Singapore.
To try and explain the obstinate absence of the ill-fated Ourang Medan from official records, we must look at the political turmoil which existed throughout Indonesia in the immediate post-war years. Before the war, Java and Sumatra were part of the Dutch empire. In 1945 the Dutch returned, expecting to carry on their rule as before, but found the newly established republics of Southeast Asia had gained wide local support. A bitter, dirty war for control broke out, and in 1947-48 the Dutch carried out major 'police actions' in area. After World War II, there was a brisk trade in nerve gas and biological agents with repressive governments everywhere.
It was okay to make and sell this vile stuff - as long as you didn't use it. But somebody did, that's for sure. Death has always had its currency. So how was this deadly cargo moved around the South China Sea and through the Straits of Malacca during this troubled period? Not by air; the prospect of a cargo plane crashing with several tons of deadly gas on board was too horrendous to consider. No, you hired an insignificant old tramp steamer, preferably with a low paid foreign crew, stowed the cargo in disguised oil drums and, like all serious smugglers, hoped for the best, and a blind eye from authority.
I first heard the Ourang Medan story in 1961 within 15 years of its origin. If we accept, due to the nature of her crew's deaths, that she was carrying deadly gas or chemicals and if indeed she was a Dutch vessel, had this news broken it would have been a major embarrassment for any government involved, especially in the light of the restrictions imposed by the Geneva Convention. Hence the dead ends faced by any researcher. The story exists because, like the gases, it escaped.
But here's another mystery; if a gas leak killed the crew, was the final explosion another accident or an officially ordered scuttling? The crew of the Silver Star would have told the tale from that day on in every mess room on every ship they sailed in. Eventually, in a mess room on the British tramp steamer Port Halifax, it reached me. Aficionados of The X Files have had a field day with this tragedy, blaming UFOs, sea monsters, etc., but the possible reality is no less ominous.
The field of the unexplained is littered with red herrings, hoaxes and outright fakery. But if the story of this ship of death is an invention, why manufacture it and who was responsible? What made this common currency in the mess rooms of the old vessels I sailed in the 1960’s and, why were other ships real ships involved in the yarn? Any marine researcher will tell you that even the mighty tomes of Lloyd's Shipping Registers can throw up more questions than answers, especially when ships have their names changed frequently
I then received a letter from the Dutch Royal Navy which asked me for information on the Ourang Medan case. Why? I could tell them nothing.
In the UK, the Ministry of Defence have irresponsibly destroyed all records of poison gas dumps that are over 25 Years old. Over 100,000 tons of deadly Tabun and Sarin nerve gases were deliberately loaded onto ships at the end of World War II and sunk in the North Sea, the Baltic and Atlantic. In 1998, a Swedish fishing vessel landed an unusual catch a net full of mustard gas canisters; the crew spent a long time in hospital with serious burns. Professor Siersdorfer sent me copies of photographs taken by a German Captain from Hamburg. I was the first person to see these in 50 years. They revealed a terrifying story. Shortly after the end of World War 2, a number of commandeered elderly German merchant vessels were used by the Royal Navy in conjunction with the Merchant service. These captured ships were loaded with thousands of tons of canisters and shells of Nazi poison gas, sailed out into the North Sea, where explosive charges were set. The ancient hulks, bursting with contamination, were then blown up and sunk.
It's a nice, creepy Fortean thought that the hapless sailors of the mythical Ourang Medan were visited by a UFO or a giant squid which was so scary it literally ‘frightened them to death'. That may have been a fine prognosis in the nutty, sci-fi Fifties. Yet humanity is capable of far more sinister behaviour than any intergalactic visitor to Roswell. Whatever solution which could reveal what killed the crew on that sinister Dutch ship lies somewhere at the bottom of the Malacca Straits.


So there you have the version of this yarn which I’ve been innocently peddling for all these years. But limbering up for an appearance this weekend on US radio (Coast to Coast AM) I decided to have one more trawls of the internet to see if anyone had proceeded further with this. Well, to my relief (mixed, from a writers’ standpoint, with a little chagrin), it becomes obvious that behind the blank wall I had finished at lies more. So praise goes to this diligent researcher, on ALEX BUTZIGER,

ALEX BUTZIGER
on his excellent web site Bermuda Triangle Central. He’s also put his research into a book for Kindle on Amazon; The Ourang Medan, Conjuring A Ghost Ship. I’m sure Alex )who I have congratulated already) won’t mind me re-producing some of his research here. You can stop shivering your timbers now. Over to you, Alex.

World's Greatest Sea Mystery Solved
An Enigma Older than You May Think

Exposed as a Nazi Plot 

Ourang Medan, November 13, 1939 (or earlier).

Today, for a change, a sea mystery from outside the Bermuda Triangle, in fact, from
the other side of the globe. For six decades, the ghost ship Ourang Medan has been regarded among the greatest mysteries of the sea, right up there with the Mary Celeste and the Carroll A. Deering. Now, I may be able to present you the solution. Yet, through a simple search on eBay, I found a copy of the Vichy French magazine Sept-Jours (#45, September 7, 1941) that had the more or less complete story of the Ourang Medan in it (p. 9, "Après Vingt Mois — Le Mystère de l' 'Ourang-Medan' Est Éclairci," i.e., "After Twenty Months, the Mystery of the Ourang Medan Is Solved"). It predates the earliest commonly known version by eleven years.

This article, in turn, refers to an earlier article on the Ourang Medan in an earlier issue of the same magazine (#13, December 29, 1940). According to Sept-Jours, the Ourang Medan incident took place on November 13, 1939, predating the earliest traditional date for the incident by about eight years.

In the 1941 article, the ship that finds the Ourang Medan is not the Silver Star, but an unnamed American destroyer (or torpedo boat, torpilleur in the original; the French don't seem to make much of a distinction). That should come as no surprise, as the Silver Star was built only in 1942 (as the Santa Cecilia, 6,507 tons; 1946 to United States Maritime Commission, renamed Silver Star; 1947 reverted to Grace Line, renamed Santa Juana; scrapped 1971).

According to the article, Ourang Medan means "black man" in Malay. What's more, the story is set in mid-Pacific, not in Indonesia.

It claims the Ourang Medan was notorious in the South Sea for transporting convicts from Australia to penal islands. When she was too decrepit even for that, the Australian government sold her to a millionaire pirate, a suspected smuggler, drug dealer, and white slaver (that's at least what I think négociant de chair humaine means), who had eluded the police forces and navies of four or five countries.

One day, Sir Harry Charles Luke, the British governor of Fiji, heard that among a tribe on the main island of Viti Levu there lived a man who had arrived in a boat bearing the name Ourang Medan. The governor had that man dragged into the government offices in Suva and interrogated. The mysterious stranger told the story of the last voyage of the Ourang Medan.

Only the captain (cum owner, cum pirate) and the officers of the Ourang Medan were Europeans. The sailors were Malays or Polynesians, poor, poorly treated, and almost rightless.

In October, in Singapore, the Ourang Medan loaded 2,500 carefully sealed boxes. Then she headed for Sydney. But after several days at sea, the captain suddenly changed his mind and announced that they would go to Panama.

That meant a trip all the way across the Pacific, potentially dangerous, given the state of the ship. The men were frightened. But the captain stated that he had enough provisions on board and promised them a big bonus upon arrival.

On November 7, a sailor unscrewed the cover of a wind scoop. He collapsed, and the others thought he had fainted. But he was dead.

Shrugging it off as a heart attack, the captain had the corpse quite unceremoniously dumped overboard. Over the next couple days, more men died, and the rats jumped overboard, a sure sign the ship was doomed.

The sailors mutinied, demanding that the captain take them back to Singapore. That was when the radio operator sent the distress call. The survivors fled in two lifeboats, but only one boat with our sole survivor made it to Viti Levu.

The report was wired to Singapore, the authorities there investigated, and the truth was revealed. The Ourang Medan had been carrying nitroglycerine, potassium cyanide, and sulfuric acid, which had not been properly stowed. The containers broke, the chemicals reacted, and hydrogen cyanide poison gas filled the holds and the ventilation system. The explosion that destroyed the ship was caused by overheated nitroglycerin that spontaneously ignited when the ventilation fan stopped working.

That, lassies and lads, was the (presumably) original story of the Ourang Medan. It was on fucking eBay (I paid 3 euros plus shipping from France), and it was too hard to find for all those triangular researchers of the last six decades, Gaddis, Edwards, Winer, and the whole bunch of sensationalists.

So we have nonsense, nonsense, and more nonsense. What, then, is the origin of the tale of the Ourang Medan? Nazi propaganda, that's what.

Just like the nazis' 1943 version of the Titanic movie. Both tales depict Western, capitalist, Allied society as breeding grounds for evil, capitalist pirates who sacrifice their crews on their coffin ships.

While obviously less costly to produce than a movie, the Ourang Medan article series goes even further propagandistically: The nameless captain (Nemo, huh?) of the Ourang Medan is a drug dealer and a white slaver. Thus, the story appeals to primeval fears among the stupid, the cowardly, and the weak, fears of drugs and rape, fears any authoritarian, fascist government exploits, fears only a strong, fascist government can supposedly protect you from.

The poor treatment of the native sailors? To put into perspective the poor treatment by the German occupiers. The hydrogen cyanide gas? Maybe to distract from any rumors already spreading that the nazis were using it for mass murder?

Of course, aimed at the Western Allies, this propaganda would have been pointless. Anyone in the free world could have called or written to Australia, Singapore (not yet occupied by the Japanese), or Fiji, asked if anything about the Ourang Medan was known there, and upon being told no, concluded that the story was bogus.

But the people the propaganda was aimed at, the people of occupied and Vichy France, didn't have that luxury. They couldn't freely communicate with Allied countries and thus couldn't check the story.

It is of course not likely that this silly story was a major propaganda operation like Titanic. Hitler and Goebbels probably never heard of any Ourang Medan.

More likely, it was the homegrown product of Sept-Jours, in the spirit of collaboration. Just like Belgian cartoonist Hergé drew the anti-Semitic, anti-American Tintin comic book The Shooting Star to ingratiate himself with the Nazi occupiers. Those collaborators told themselves, "This is just what is demanded now, and if we do it, hopefully the Nazis will leave us alone."
 Or was it homegrown? Or maybe rather heimgewachsen?

The Sept-Jours article matches almost blow by blow the account in the 1954 German pamphlet Dampfer "Ourang Medan" — Das Totenschiff in der Südsee (Steamer "Ourang Medan" — The Death Ship in the South Sea) by one Otto Mielke. This pamphlet was in fact the first issue of Anker Hefte (Anchor Pamphlets), a pulp magazine featuring fictionalized accounts of true sea adventures. Both versions are set in the South Sea instead of in Indonesia, both share some details like the rats abandoning the ship, and both have the poison gas solution related by a sole survivor, although the German version is set in 1947 and stars the Silver Star.

What's more, the Mielke account gives the position of the Ourang Medan as 20°S 179°W — which is consistent with the Sept-Jours version, but inconsistent with the Mielke account itself! This position is near Fiji, where Sept-Jours has the survivor land. Yet Mielke has his survivor make landfall at Taongi in the Marshall Islands, much farther north. If you look at a map, you'll see it's almost impossible to get from that position to the Marshall Islands without hitting Fiji first. So Mielke must have known the Sept-Jours version and rewritten it, but forgotten to change the position of the wreck when he changed the alleged landfall of the survivor.



What Mielke did during the war is not certain, but apparently he was a war correspondent with the Nazi navy, the Kriegsmarine. So maybe the tale of the Ourang Medan originated with Mielke? Maybe as a war correspondent he wrote propaganda to be fed to papers in occupied countries as international news?

Maybe Mielke happened to read the scuttlebutt version of his own propaganda tale in the Coast Guard magazine after the war? Maybe he decided to kick off his pulp magazine with a fictionalized version of a fictional sea adventure, because it was more sensational? After all, it had been legitimized by the Coast Guard. Maybe he rewrote his own old canard with a postwar setting and the real-life Silver Star?

As Churchill allegedly had it, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." And a silly bit of Vichy or nazi propaganda may resurface like a U-boat to become the greatest postwar sea mystery.

RIP, Ourang Medan. You belong to the realm of Tales of the Gold Monkey, not to reality.

These are only short extracts but they serve to demonstrate just how important diligence and determination are when it comes to research. I had given up on the story a couple of years ago, and as a purveyor of spooky maritime yarns I dropped the ball. Thankfully, there are much younger men out there like Alex Butziger with the energy and patience required to keep digging. He’s set me an example. The story is still fascinating, but for a whole new set of reasons, and it puts the other old yarn of the ‘Haunted U-Boat’, UB65, in a totally new light. More power to your elbow, Alex! And it's still spooky out there at sea. I know. I've felt it.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

What 'Big Society'?

2015: Still ‘In it Together’?

In May, we face the most contentious General Election in modern times.
    There’s an old adage, “No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in”. This inspires Russell Brand’s ‘don’t vote’ policy. His book, Revolution, topped the best seller lists. Sadly, in modern Britain no-one can expect any sort of revolution if they don’t vote. Russell Brand is no Lenin, and despite his hair and beard, he couldn’t kiss Che Guevara’s boots. If young people are complaining that politicians don’t listen to them, they’ll be ignored even more if they avoid the ballot box.


    May’s election is one of serious issues. Paramount among these is the NHS. Its decline began when Tony Blair encouraged PFI (Private Finance Initiatives). This allows the private sector to build hospitals, and we repay the ‘favour’ at ten times the cost, whilst still not owning the building. In the North East of England alone, hospital building cost £1.34bn yet the total repayment to private investors is £10.32bn. Would you buy a £300 TV set and then agree to pay £3,000 for it? This loan shark system has been continued by the Coalition, who promised us ‘no top-down re-organisation of the NHS’, and then, with Andrew Lansley’s secretive Health and Social Care Act, they did exactly that - pulling the rug from under our doctors and nurses. So as we read daily about the ‘failing NHS’, we should look behind the headlines and ask who created this mess, and for what purpose - the introduction of a US-style private insurance system, where the rich get the best treatment and the rest of us would be scared to even visit the surgery. This is another ‘PFI’ - Profit from Illness.
   
     Before voting, we should ask - who can we trust? Little England’s ale and ciggies superhero, ex-banker Nigel Farage and his U-Kippers? Apart from the Kippers’ xenophobia for immigrants and Europe what are their policies? If asked, Farage says the NHS is great, but UKIP's deputy chairman, disgraced ex-Tory MP Neil ‘Cash for questions’ Hamilton, insults our doctors and nurses in The Daily Express calling the NHS "diseased", saying it’s "a more effective killing machine than the Taliban", and a "Soviet-style nationalised monolith …  a substitute for religion". The rising Green Party say they’ll “Maintain a publicly funded, publicly provided NHS, oppose NHS privatisation and treating healthcare as a market.” Labour suggest they’ll achieve this by raising £1bn from tax avoidance, tax houses worth over £2m and raise revenue from the tobacco companies. As for the Coalition, the floundering Lib Dems pledge an extra £1bn a year on the NHS – over and above David Cameron’s promise; “The next Conservative government will protect the NHS budget and continue to invest more.”

   
     The May election is a social crossroads. We cannot afford to remain indifferent. Britain has become a bastion of inequality. The ranks of the super-rich expand daily as the poor are demonised. Whilst our nurses beg for a 1% pay rise, George Osborne gives his Chief of Staff, Rupert Harrison, a 17% salary increase to £90,000. May 2015 may well answer the question - are we still ‘all in it together’?

Vote Kipper?

Can you smell Kippers?

Who said this?: “Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths.” In the light of the Rochester and Strood by-election success, in case any of our elected local politicians are thinking of defecting to UKIP, we should pause before putting our cross against a ‘Kipper’ candidate’s name without asking - who are UKIP, and what do they really stand for? Leaving the EEC is a tough decision which deserves informed, meticulous debate. What kind of Britain does UKIP want? Paul Nuttall MEP, the vice-chair of UKIP, posted on his website: 'I would argue that the very existence of the NHS stifles competition.' So that’s the NHS gone. Kippers love privatisation, don’t like the Public Sector, hate the Unions, want to cut benefits even further, and although their leader is a descendant of immigrants and is married to a German, they persist in their epic xenophobia.
UKIP’s pint and a fag poster boy, Nigel Farage, ticks all the boxes for those who seek a mythical Britain which never existed. His policies remain fuzzy, but he’s only UKIP’s leader. The man pulling the strings is a shadowy figure, ex-Liberal Democrat Steve Crowther, UKIP’s chairman. Controversial Kipper Godfrey Bloom, famous for referring to women as ‘sluts’ and his comments about ‘bong-bongo land’ recently resigned from the party, referring to Crowther as  a “svengali-like” figure and a “man of mystery”, whilst warning recent Tory defectors to look out for a knife in their backs.

Much of the misery Britain has suffered in the past decade is down to rogue Bankers. Mr. Farage knows all about banking. After leaving Public School he went to work for investment banks and brokerages Credit Lyonnais Rouse, Natexis Metals and Refco Inc. Farage’s boss at Refco Inc. was Cambridge-educated Briton, Phillip Roger Bennett. In 2005, it was revealed that Bennett had hidden roughly $430 million of bad debt from the company's auditors and investors. In 2008, he was sentenced to 16 years in jail for financial fraud.
Addressing the European Parliament Farage declared that we have a “common enemy: rich people and successful companies avoiding tax.” But whilst campaigning against tax avoidance, Mr Farage set up an off-shore trust fund on the Isle of Man to avoid inheritance tax. When Channel 4 news challenged him, Nigel asked “Isle of Man, is that off-shore?”  When told that it is, Farage’s geography seemed shaky, replying “Well, it’s difficult to define whether it’s off-shore or not.”


Then there’s that other prominent Kipper, ex-Tory Minister Neil ‘cash in brown envelopes’ Hamilton, once keen to invite Fascists Alessandra Mussolini, the dictator’s grand-daughter, and French National Front Leader, racist Holocaust denier Jean Marie le Pen to the 1992 Tory Conference.  But if you’re ready to vote for a party which trades in the language of fear and division, place your cross. We still live in a democracy - for the time being. And whose words opened this column? Dr. Josef Goebbels, (1897-1945) Germany’s propaganda minister.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas Day

CHRISTMAS DAY


Was it ever like this?
Reduced to a parched oasis
In Capital’s cultural desert
Tomorrow a promise of true mayhem
Some shops will open at 5 am
An allowance for the need
To satisfy rapacious greed
Happy now to sell and buy us
With their transatlantic virus
their flipside of austerity
highlighting inequality
as X-Box kids still sit and play
Banking barons, miles away
Pull crackers on their sun kissed yachts
Counting dividends on new laptops
Opulent children, rich mothers, dads,
On their state-of-art I-pads.
Celebrate their avarice
Yet some of us still ask;
Can you remember this?
A tangerine, some sweets and nuts
Tin trains and Dinky toys
Dolls for undemanding girls
Popguns for the boys
Plum duffs with hidden silver coins
Paper chains for bright-eyed striplings
Homemade mince pies,
Not Mr. Kipling’s.
Sad but now so very true
That simple Yuletide we once knew
Social  innocence, hi-jacked
A frail memory which sadly lacks
The Milk of Human Kindness
When we were all as one
Capitalism’s triumph
Our childhood’s dreams
All gone.