Saturday, 13 April 2013

Eye witness testimony is not always reliable.

Micky Birnbaum is one of my favourite neighbours.  She and I often encounter each other as we walk our dogs.

Micky and I have seen each other on at least 1,500 occasions since I moved here in 2006.

We saw each other again this morning, alongside our mutual neighbour Betty.

Micky complimented me on my beard, saying that it suited me well, and that she was glad that I had decided to grow it.

I told Micky that I’d had a beard since 1975.  She did not believe me.

I told her a second time that my beard dated to 1975.  She replied “no”.

After my third assertion of my 38 year old beard, our mutual neighbour Betty intervened. She said “if Michael says that he has had a beard since 1975 he must be right, after all it’s on his face”.


Thanks Betty! 


But it’s so odd that Micky (who I have known since 2006) had never before noticed my beard, even though she had seen it for at least 1,500 times.


Thereby is an illustration of the un-trustworthiness of “eye witness” testimony.


(In truth I grew my beard in 1975.  I shaved it off in 1983 and hated what I saw, so I immediately grew it again, as a result of which I was beardless for less than a month.)

I am so happy to be bearded. I cannot imagine my chin sans hair.


Me darlin’ brother Martyn and I are proud to be semi- hirsute Poveys.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Of course I would love to take this journey.

But  I am glad that I cannot afford it cos I am not sure that it does much good for African countries., and I am sure that I would not like my traveling companions!

Cairo Journey 2014

Rovos Rail has designed the ultimate African experience for this exclusive five-star journey, which includes the incomparable luxury of the Pride of Africa and a comfortable aircraft.
This 28-day expedition will carry an elite band of intrepid adventurers through the heartlands of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, the Sudan and Egypt.
The northbound route begins with a four-night train journey from Cape Town to the Victoria Falls. Thereafter, guests join our air safari and continue north to Zanzibar, after which they fly into the heartland of Tanzania with a four-day visit to the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. Continue on to Entebbe, Uganda, where guests enjoy an optional visit to the chimpanzees and the source of the Nile. The journey then follows the Nile northwards to Khartoum in the Sudan and onto Abu Simbel in Egypt. A luxurious lake cruiser takes guests in a leisurely fashion over three nights to see the historical sights on the shores of Lake Nasser. Then it is on to Luxor for two nights to experience ancient Egypt in all its splendour with visits to temples, quarries and the Valley of Kings and Queens. Guests rejoin the aircraft for the last leg to Cairo where the adventure ends with a tour of the Pyramids, Sphinx and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities from the Four Seasons Hotel.

CAPE to CAIRO: 17 Jan – 13 Feb 2014    *    CAIRO to CAPE:  4 Feb – 3 Mar 2014
This journey is available in reverse. See next tab and Downloads below for details.

Cape to Cairo

Arrive Cape Town. Transfer to the Cape Grace Hotel at the V&A Waterfront.
Welcome dinner and overnight at hotel.
At 08h30, a wine tasting at Groot Constantia and a visit to Table Mountain (weather permitting).
Lunch en route. Dinner at the V&A Waterfront. Overnight at hotel.
At 08h30, a full-day tour of Cape Peninsula including Fish Hoek, Simonstown, Cape Point, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Hout Bay and Kirstenbosch. Light lunch en route. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Transfer to Rovos Rail’s private lounge at Cape Town Station at 09h00. Depart at 11h00 for Pretoria.
Lunch is served in the dining car/s at 13h00. Visit the historic village of Matjiesfontein at 18h00.
Dinner is served at 19h30 in the dining car/s. Overnight on the train.
Breakfast is served between 07h00 and 10h00. Arrive in Kimberley at 14h30 for a tour of the Big Hole and Diamond Mine Museum followed by dinner and overnight on the train.
Upon arrival at 12h00 at Rovos Rail Station in Pretoria, enjoy a light lunch on the platform followed by a city tour.
Transfer to hotel at 18h00 for dinner and overnight.
Depart Pretoria at 10h00 on Rovos Rail for Botswana. Border formalities at Mafikeng and Gaborone.
Lunch, dinner and overnight on the train.
Travel through Botswana. Day at leisure on the train. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on board.
Border formalities will take place with Zimbabwe.
Breakfast and lunch on board. Arrive at the Victoria Falls at 17h00.
Walk across from the station to the Victoria Falls Hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day at leisure. Optional tour of the Falls, helicopter ride, river rafting, walk with the lions, craft village, etc.
At 16h00, enjoy a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
At 08h00, join your dedicated aircraft at Victoria Falls Airport for the flight to Zanzibar. Arrive Zanzibar at 12h00 and transfer to Zanzibar Serena Hotel for lunch. Enjoy an afternoon tour of Stone Town. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Enjoy the Island Spice Tour with lunch en route. Transfer to airport for an afternoon flight to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Upon arrival, board vehicles for 2½-hour drive via Lake Manyara to Ngorongoro Lodge. Dinner and overnight at lodge.
After breakfast, enjoy a game drive excursion to the Ngorongoro Crater with lunch on the floor of the crater.
Dinner and overnight at lodge.
After breakfast, transfer to the Masek Tented Camp in the Ndutu area, Serengeti Plains.
Arrive at the camp for lunch and an afternoon game drive. Dinner and overnight at the camp.
Breakfast at the camp. Morning and afternoon game drives in the Serengeti. Lunch, dinner and overnight at camp.
Transfer to airstrip at 07h00 for domestic flight to Kilimanjaro Airport.
After immigration and customs formalities, depart at 10h00 for one-hour flight to Entebbe, Uganda.
Upon arrival, passengers will be split into two groups. Group 1: Visit the chimpanzees on Ngamba Island.
Group 2: Enjoy excursion to Jinja, source of the Nile. Each group will enjoy lunch en route.
Dinner and overnight at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort.
At 08h00 Group 1: Enjoy excursion to Jinja, source of the Nile. Group 2: Visit the chimpanzees on Ngamba Island.
Dinner and overnight at hotel.
After breakfast, transfer to Entebbe Airport for flight to Khartoum, Sudan.
Transfer to the Corinthia Hotel for lunch and an afternoon at leisure. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
09h00 Option 1: Full-day tour to the sites of Masawwarat es-Sufra and Naqa (packed lunch provided).
Option 2: Half-day tour of Khartoum with lunch at hotel. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Transfer to Khartoum Airport at 08h00 for flight to Abu Simbel, Egypt. Upon arrival, visit the Abu Simbel Temple.
Board Kasr Ibrim for Lake Nasser cruise. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure. At 18h00, experience an optional Sound & Light show at the Abu Simbel Temple (by arrangement only). Enjoy a candlelit dinner on board while being entertained with Nubian song and dance.
Breakfast is served while cruising to Kasr Ibrim – tour conducted from sundeck (entrance to site not permitted).
Cruise to Amada and visit the temples of Amada and Derr as well as the Tomb of Penout. Enjoy lunch on board.
Afternoon cruise to Wadi El Seboua and the temples of Dakka and Maharraqa. Dinner and overnight on board.
Enjoy breakfast and lunch on board while cruising towards Aswan. Cocktails are served mid morning when passing the Tropic of Cancer. In the afternoon, visit the Kalabsha Temple, Beit El Wali and the Kiosk of Kertassi. Dinner and overnight on board.
At 08h00, transfer by road to Luxor and visit Edfu Temple en route (packed lunch provided).
Arrive Luxor and visit Karnak Temple. Dinner and overnight at the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa.
Enjoy a morning tour to the West Bank of Luxor including the Valley of Kings, Valley of Queens, the Temple of Hatshepsut and a photo stop at Colossi of Memnon. Lunch at hotel. Afternoon visit to Luxor Temple.
Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Enjoy a morning at leisure. After lunch, transfer to Luxor airport for the flight to Cairo. Transfer to the Four Seasons First Residence Hotel with views of both the Nile and the Great Pyramids. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
After breakfast visit the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities followed by lunch at Al Azhar Park. Afternoon at leisure.
Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Take a morning tour of the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx with lunch en route followed by an afternoon tour of Saqqara and Memphis. Farewell dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Transfer to the airport at 10h00 for flight home OR extend your stay with own arrangements.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

St. James's Cambridge - great story from WGBH (Michelle Holmes is a dear friend)

Cambridge Boy Scout Troop Bucks National Trend on Gay Participation

Cambridge Troop 56
Cambridge Boy Scout Troop 56
The Boy Scouts of America will vote next month on whether to end a controversial ban on gay participation. Technically, Boy Scout troops do not allow gay and lesbian members and volunteers. But one troop in Cambridge is not waiting for the vote, and has come up with its own rules.
On a Tuesday evening, inside St. James Episcopal Church in Cambridge, about 12 uniformed scouts are reciting the Boy Scout Oath: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to obey the Scout law …”
If you listened carefully, you’d hear the voices of boys and girls.
“… To help other people at all times, keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
“Morally straight” has become a loaded term in the Boy Scouts of America. For this Troop 56, it means being unusually inclusive. They welcome girls, and in a break from national rules, this troop accepts openly gay members – as scouts, leaders or parent volunteers. Adam Smith, an 18-year-old scout, said his father and his father’s partner are welcome at all events.
“His partner has had an official position in this troop," Smith said. "He was ‘snow czar,’ as we call it – in charge of snow shoveling for a year."
Smith said that for him and the other members of his troop, gay participation is no big deal.
“It’s really no problem whatsoever, I haven’t had anyone ask about it, comment about it," he said. "We just don’t really care. I feel that everyone should be able to feel as easy with their parents and having their parents participate in this wonderful activity as I do.”
Smith said he and the other boys are happy to have girls in the troop. When boy scouts welcome girls, it’s called "venturing," and it's a nationally accepted program. But this troop merges Boy Scout traditions with venturing.
“It’s completely co-ed," Smith said. "All through the ranks. Girls go into venturing at age 14 but we give them our own tenderfoot, second class and first class ranks despite the fact that the BSA technically does not allow those ranks. And we also have a co-ed Cub Scout pack, and that’s something that pretty much no other boy scout troop has.”
Twelve-year-old Emma Andrew – who's far outside the politically charged debate, just wants to do scout things.
“We learn how to tie knots, wilderness survival, first aid," Andrew said. "In an emergency I’ll know what to do. Scouting is so nice and so fun it would just be really bad to exclude other people from it.”
Andrew said she believes each troop should form its own rules for inclusion.
“If there are troops that are different and they don’t have any gay members and that they’re against it, I would be fine with that too," Andrew said. "I mean, I think every troop should be different and they should have votes on what they think.”
But policy is really the farthest thing from the scouts’ minds. At this meeting, they’re working on a communications badge. And a 15-year-old scout named Brian is checking supplies for an upcoming camping trip on Cape Cod.
“Ok, guys do you have a back pack cover?," Brian asked. "Wool Socks? ... Probably one of the best parts is getting outside. It gives you a break from the busy, busy city life.”
Far from the Boy Scouts' national headquarters in Texas, Troop 56 Scout Master David English said he doesn't understand the national policy excluding gays.
“I’m not exactly sure what drives the Boy Scouts to come out with this policy," English said. "But from what I’ve seen in the news in the last 2 weeks I strongly believe that it’s going to be overturned.”
The Troop 56 parent volunteers who are gay declined to comment for this story, which points to the fear and reality, that even among a progressive troop, they don't want to come out to people beyond those they trust. But Troop 56 volunteer and parent Michelle Holmes is a member of the National Council, and looks forward to voting to end the gay ban.
“This is a family organization," Holmes said. "And if a child has two dads or two moms and brings them to the awards ceremony then it’s not secret. It’s part of their family. So that’s the part that we can’t be totally in the closet about.”
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach is one that some other troops adopt, in Massachusetts and elsewhere. But many already have non-discrimination charters.
Right now, THE national council is in the "listening Phase," reviewing a number of issues and how they will impact the Boy Scouts, including fundraising, and legal concerns. The listening phase turns to a vote on the gay ban sometime in May.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher - an alternative viewpoint.

“Popular culture” says “do not speak ill of the dead”.  It’s been said for so long and for so many times that it has achieved the status of an axiom.

But of course it is “popular baloney”. Unless we wish to live in a deceitful fairy tale world in which “everyone lives happily ever after” we must tell the truth about the departed, even if this truth goes against the mainstream grain, or disturbs the smug certainties of the ruling classes.

At the heart of all the (almost world-wide) teary eyed hagiographies of Margaret Thatcher there are lies, and damnable lies - not about her character – but about her policies.

She has been described as a friend of “freedom” and liberty.

 In truth she was a friend of repressive rulers – Suharto in Indonesia; the corrupt Saudi Regime; Pinochet in Chile; Botha in South Africa; and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Her dearest friendships were with City of London Bankers; Business Oligarchs; and International Corporations.

That’s the part of her record which is being celebrated by the international ruling classes.


Nevertheless, there is an uglier side of Lady Thatcher’s record.

She, alongside her idols Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan, was no friend of the working people.

For example: - Thousands upon thousands of hard working coal miners in England, Wales and Scotland had their jobs; their family lives; their incomes and their community structures destroyed by Maggie’s decision to effectively shut down coal mining in the U.K.

“Baroness Thatcher” did all this in the name of a right wing ideology which was as rigid in its way as any policy promulgated by the Soviet Politburo.

I will not speak ill of the dead with regard to Margaret Thatcher’s integrity and family life.

But I must join with others in speaking ill of her dreadful policies. 

And I am angrier than angry that she will be given a “ceremonial funeral” in the presence of Q.E. II at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.

When did that Cathedral host a funeral for a union leader?

When did Queen Elizabeth II attend the funeral of a hardworking member of the working class?

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Corporate States of America

My friends and colleagues from Massachusetts days, Manny Faria and Dan Weir each posted this:

I trust that it is accurate, i.e. that FDR truly said this. (I wish that those who create "posters" such as this would include a footnote which would give the source for their quotations.)

Nonetheless,  presuming that the FDR quotation is accurate I would categorise it as a judgment on “the Corporate State”

We do well to recall that  Fascism is rooted in the ideal of the Corporate State -  a nation in  which the interests of corporations are deemed to be more important than personal and individual  freedoms.

We are there.

NOTE FOR INSTANCE that 7732 individuals have been arrested between Sep 17th  2011 and Feb 28th 2013  in their individual protests of the abuses of corporate America,.


NOTE ALSO that the Agri-business conglomerates in the USA have resisted the open and honest reportage of animal  CRUELTY.   See this for instance:

There is further evidence of the creeping corporate state in the decision by Exxon Mobile to ban flights over the Mayflower, Arkansas oil spill site see:

If you believe that this is just left wing propaganda please note that Ron Paul’s site is also reporting this  (with outrage!).

ExxonMobil has reportedly also threatened to arrest journalists who are trying to enter the spill site.

We are becoming the Corporate State of America.

We are citizens of a nation in  which the rights of individuals are sacrificed in favour of the greed and power of Corporations.