Saturday, December 26, 2009


First a 2006 number from Northern Irish/Scottish band Snow Patrol, a group formed in 1994 by Gary Lightbody, Michael Morrison and Mark McClelland. It wasn't until they moved to a major label, Polydor Records, that they started to have a degree of success, with the 2003 album Final Straw. The big breakthrough internationally came with 2006's Eyes Open, from which the hit Chasing Cars was drawn - you may remember it from the Grey's Anatomy series. Totally inexplicably, the number Shut Your Eyes seems not to have ticked in the Anglosaxon world, or else I'm gravely mistaken. Here it is:

Back 40 years in time, when The Rolling Stones released the album Aftermath. The following immortal single, Lady Jane, is unique for the haunting sound of the Appalachian dulcimer, a fretted string instrument of the zither family. It typically comes with three or four strings, and has a body the length of the fingerboard. You can see them here. Not long after Lady Jane, the band member playing it, Brian Jones, would begin his slow sinking away in drug and alcohol abuse, which would end so tragically with his death in 1969.

But they sure had nice décolletés in the eighteenth century. Old Old Old Fogey Time wasn't all that bad.


Thursday, December 24, 2009


Adoration of the Shepherds (1622), by Gerrit Van Honthorst, a Dutch Golden Age painter from the city of Utrecht.

From Luke 2, 1-20:

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."

DowneastBlog wishes all its readers of good will a Merry Christmas!!!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The six F-16 Belgian fighter-bombers operating from Kandahar Airfield currently operate low key. It seems that two flights a day suffice given the enhanced US air activity over the whole of Afghanistan. The MoD report for the week of 10-16 December is sketchy, as usual. On December 12, 13 and 16 two missions each without using weapon systems; only on December 15 some target was engaged with GBU 12 bombs.

The photo below, taken over KAF, gives a nice view of the fighter's standard equipment. On the wingtips (in Air Force parlance stations 1 and 9) two Raytheon AIM-9M Sidewinder infrared AA missiles - although the need for those eludes me completely. Then a pair of 500 lbs Texas Instruments GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided bombs on stations 3 and 7 (the bomb pylons of these also contain PIDS, for Pylon Integrated Dispensing Systems, for chaff and/or flares). Sufficient radius of action is provided by the use of two Sargent-Fletcher 370 US gallon (1,400 litres) underwing fuel tanks, on stations 4 and 6. Then there is of course the trusted 20mm General Electric M61A1 Vulcan cannon, now with 520 rounds of the new M70 high velocity/low drag ammunition.

But the most advanced piece of technology in our fighter arms inventory is the pod you see slung to the starboard side: that's the AN/AAQ-33 PANTERA (Precision Attack Navigation and Targeting with Extended Range Acquisition), aka "Sniper Pod". The Belgian Air Force acquired these as a complement to the AN/AAQ-14 LANTIRN (Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infra-Red for Night) pods, already in use since 1997. The PANTERA performs substantially better than the LANTIRN, with its combination of an amazingly effective stabilisation system, a 3G FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) and daylight CCD-TV camera, giving it an unparalleled long-range target detection, identification and designation accuracy from altitudes of up to 40,000 feet - 3 to 5 times higher than LANTIRN's. PANTERA is thus also able to operate from outside the danger zone of most ground-based AA systems. Not only that, but it allows for the jet to launch its weapons systems from outside its own noise range, a priceless asset for ground attacks in Afghanistan.

As for the aircraft themselves, they seem older than they actually are. Belgium bought 160 F-16's in the eighties, building them under licence in the SABCA factories in Haren (near Brussels) and Gosselies (near Charleroi), and the "youngest" airframes, four F16B Block 15OCU's date from... 1989-1990, so almost twenty years old! However, a couple of years ago I had the opportunity of a chat with an accomplished BAF pilot, an officer with the somewhat unfortunate initials of P.C., and he stated that there had been so many updates throughout the years that there's possibly only 5% of the original material left on the oldest airframes. I have never been able to verify this info with other accounts, but what is certain is that most Belgian F-16s are now at Mid-Life Update Tape M4 (MLU-M4) software and hardware standard, so I guess that still places them among the world's best fighters.

On Kandahar Airfield (KAF) the air arm with which our pilots cooperate the most are, not surprisingly, our northern neigbours the Dutch. They have four comparable F-16's present. Originally, they had six, but the arrival of two more Belgian planes in addition to the four already present allowed them to call back two of their own, a move also spurred on by budgetary reasons. One cannot blame the Dutch - their ground committment is much heavier than ours, with several infantry units, many wheeled and tracked AIFV's, mechanized howitzers and so on. These are also in the thick of the fight, with regular heavy clashes with Taliban in Aghanistan's volatile Uruzgan province. Anyway, on KAF and in the air a special camaraderie has developed between our nations, with our jets sometimes being refueled in the air by a Dutch KDC-10 tanker, and Belgian C-130's providing mission support for them (e.g. delivery of liqid hydrogen for their F-16s).


Monday, December 21, 2009


Roger Vernon Scruton (born 1944) is a British philosopher, author and composer. Rather a traditionalist Burkean conservative, his emphasis is more on ethical issues. In his book "The Meaning of Conservatism" (1980) he sought to divert Tory attention away from free market economics towards moral questions. Must have been a hard thing to do at a time when Thatcher was PM and getting the economy back on track was priority no.1. (personally, I would situate myself between Scruton and Buckley, with a strong belief in Von Mises, Friedman and Hayek on the economical side, but I am not a libertarian - I do not believe in a skeleton state). Currently, Scruton is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. The following exerpts are from a column titled Totalitarian Sentimentality in the December 2009/January 2010 issue of The American Spectator:

"Conservatives recognize that social order is hard to achieve and easy to destroy, that it is held in place by discipline and sacrifice, and that the indulgence of criminality and vice is not an act of kindness but an injustice for which all of us will pay. Conservatives therefore maintain severe and -- to many people -- unattractive attitudes. They favor retributive punishment in the criminal law; they uphold traditional marriage and the sacrifices that it requires; they believe in discipline in schools and the value of hard work and military service. They believe in the family and think that the father is an essential part in it. They see welfare provisions as necessary, but also as a potential threat to genuine charity, and a way both of rewarding antisocial conduct and creating a culture of dependency. They value the hard-won legal and constitutional inheritance of their country and believe that immigrants must also value it if they are to be allowed to settle here. Conservatives do not think that war is caused by military strength, but on the contrary by military weakness, of a kind that tempts adventurers and tyrants. And a properly ordered society must be prepared to fight wars -- even wars in foreign parts -- if it is to enjoy a lasting peace in its homeland. In short conservatives are a hard and unfriendly bunch who, in the world in which we live, must steel themselves to be reviled and despised by all people who make compassion into the cornerstone of the moral life.

Liberals are of course very different. They see criminals as victims of social hierarchy and unequal power, people who should be cured by kindness and not threatened with punishment. They wish all privileges to be shared by everyone, the privileges of marriage included. And if marriage can be reformed so as to remove the cost of it, so much the better. Children should be allowed to play and express their love of life; the last thing they need is discipline. Learning comes -- didn't Dewey prove as much? -- from self-expression; and as for sex education, which gives the heebie-jeebies to social conservatives, no better way has ever been found of liberating children from the grip of the family and teaching them to enjoy their bodily rights. Immigrants are just migrants, victims of economic necessity, and if they are forced to come here illegally that only increases their claim on our compassion. Welfare provisions are not rewards to those who receive them, but costs to those who give -- something that we owe to those less fortunate than ourselves. As for the legal and constitutional inheritance of the country, this is certainly to be respected -- but it must "adapt" to new situations, so as to extend its protection to the new victim class. Wars are caused by military strength, by "boys with their toys," who cannot resist the desire to flex their muscles, once they have acquired them. The way to peace is to get rid of the weapons, to reduce the army, and to educate children in the ways of soft power. In the world in which we live liberals are self-evidently lovable -- emphasizing in all their words and gestures that, unlike the social conservatives, they are in every issue on the side of those who need protecting, and against the hierarchies that oppress them.

Those two portraits are familiar to everyone, and I have no doubt on which side the readers of this magazine will stand. What all conservatives know, however, is that it is they who are motivated by compassion, and that their cold-heartedness is only apparent. They are the ones who have taken up the cause of society, and who are prepared to pay the cost of upholding the principles on which we all -- liberals included -- depend. To be known as a social conservative is to lose all hope of an academic career; it is to be denied any chance of those prestigious prizes, from the MacArthur to the Nobel Peace Prize, which liberals confer only on each other. For an intellectual it is to throw away the prospect of a favorable review -- or any review at all -- in the New York Times or the New York Review of Books. Only someone with a conscience could possibly wish to expose himself to the inevitable vilification that attends such an "enemy of the people." And this proves that the conservative conscience is governed not by self-interest but by a concern for the public good. Why else would anyone express it?

By contrast, as conservatives also know, the compassion displayed by the liberal is precisely that -- compassion displayed, though not necessarily felt. The liberal knows in his heart that his "compassionating zeal," as Rousseau described it, is a privilege for which he must thank the social order that sustains him. He knows that his emotion toward the victim class is (these days at least) more or less cost-free, that the few sacrifices he might have to make by way of proving his sincerity are nothing compared to the warm glow of approval by which he will be surrounded by declaring his sympathies. His compassion is a profoundly motivated state of mind, not the painful result of a conscience that will not be silenced, but the costless ticket to popular acclaim. ..."

Readers might be interested to know that, just as William F. Buckley was the founding editor of National Review in 1955, Scruton was founding editor of a British counterpart, The Salisbury Review, in 1982. Check out Scruton's interesting site here.


Sunday, December 20, 2009


Mark Steyn is his usual self, hacking the Man Made Global Warming Scam to pieces in an aptly titled MacLeans column, 17 December. Although, having spent a nasty two hours to get my car roadborne on snowclad roads and back just for a simple errand around the corner, I tend to think more and more the Global Warming thingy itself is beginning to look like complete and utter nonsense. The people in America's northeast probably agree.


"... Shortly after the leaked documents from Britain’s Climatic Research Unit hit the Internet, there appeared in the European press the news that Danish prostitutes had sportingly offered their services for free to the warm-mongers at the Copenhagen conference. I resisted comment for a week—in part because, while a generous gift, it seemed unlikely to be taken up. For one thing, it’s far harder to “hide the decline” when you’re in a Danish bordello than at the Climatic Research Unit. For another, you have to pay extra if you want a second girl to come in and “peer-review” your submission.

Alas, when Andrew Revkin, the Senior Climate Alarmist of the New York Times, made one brief, bland, passing mention of the free-sex offer, eschewing the leaden Steyn jests above, professor Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois fired off an email angrily denouncing his “gutter reportage” and threatening this most co-operative of eco-stooges with “the Big Cutoff” from “those of us who believe we can no longer trust you.” I assume the “Big Cutoff” alludes to access and not anything likely to spoil one’s evening at an environmentally aware whorehouse. Incidentally, in his intemperate missive, professor Schlesinger used the phrase “climate prostitutes,” and it took me a while to figure out that was a reference to the Danish hookers rather than the scientists. Still, given the recent publicity about the Settled Science Syndicate’s bullying of dissenters, this hardly seems the time to threaten a chap with excommunication not for questioning the “science” but for making a joke. Actually, not even a joke, but merely a lighthearted acknowledgement. “There are no jokes in Islam,” declared the Ayatollah Khomeini. And that goes double for us, says professor Schlesinger.

Nor are we allowed to make jokes about Rajendra Pachauri. I always love those experts who go on TV and say you can’t pronounce on this subject unless you’re a bona fide climatologist. Dr. Pachauri, the head honcho of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a graduate of the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. He’s not a climatologist but a railroad engineer. So, if he ever avails himself of a free half-hour with a Copenhagen hooker, I’m sure, like the Bombay to Cochin express, he’ll pull out on time. But it’s hard to see why he should be presiding over a multi-trillion-dollar shakedown of the global economy. For one thing, Dr. Pachauri has one of the largest carbon footprints on the planet. He’s in favour of “hefty aviation taxes” to “deter people from flying,” but fortunately once you’re part of the transnational jet set nothing can deter you. He flew 443,243 miles on “IPCC business” in the year-and-a-half run-up to Copenhagen. I’m not sure whether that includes his two weekend round trips from New York to Delhi, once for a cricket practice, once for a match.

Crook, liar, fraud: the CRU's Phil 'We have to get rid of the MWP' Jones.

... I wrote a couple of weeks back about the corruption of “peer review” revealed by the CRU leaks. But, once it’s got the peer-reviewed label, it’s hard to dislodge. The famous hockey stick graph created by Dr. Michael Mann played a critical role in persuading millions of people we’re all gonna fry. In the National Post of April 2, 2001, after the UN had adopted this graph as the official proof of global warming, I pointed out that the first nine centuries of the millennium were measured by using tree-ring cycles, and the modern era was represented by temperatures. Now I’m not a climatologist. I’m not even a railroad engineer. But, if you show me a graph that looks like a long bungalow with the Empire State Building tacked on the end, I’ll go, “Whoa! That looks pretty serious. We better head for the hills.” If it then emerges in the fine print that the bungalow was created with one unit of measurement and the skyscraper another, I’ll postpone my departure and go, “Er, hang on, what’s the deal with that? If we’ve got tree rings for the first nine centuries, why can’t we stick with the tree rings through the 20th?”

Answer: because after 1960 the tree rings show no express elevator up the thermometer, but in fact a decline. That’s the “decline” that Dr. Phil Jones, in his leaked email, is trying to “hide.” Because, if you don’t hide it, a basic truth emerges—that the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than today, and the planet managed to survive and indeed prosper during it. It took two dogged Canadians, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, to demolish the hockey-stick fraud, and the enraged priests of the Settled Science cult have spent the years since 2006 trying to stick it back together. Dr. Keith Briffa had a crack in 2007 for the IPCC report. As usual, the CRU refused, in defiance of basic scientific etiquette, to reveal its raw data, but eventually the Royal Society ordered them to. And, when they did, it emerged that Dr. Briffa had cherry-picked a few trees from the Yamal peninsula in Siberia to obtain the desired result.

Question: can you measure any tree-ring cycles for the last millennium and get a genuine hockey stick?

Answer: yes. Tree Number YAD061. That’s it. One tree. The temperature records show no warming in Siberia over the last half-century. But you can’t see the forest for the tree, singular. Mr. McIntyre calls it “the most influential tree in the world,” which hardly does justice to what’s being contemplated in its name. YAD061 is the Tree of Life, at least in the sense that millions of lives across the world will, in its name, be transformed by ever greater taxation and regulation....

The Copenhagen circus is over now, thankfully without binding texts forcing developed countries, which care far more for the environment than developing ones, to subordinate themselves to a corrupt "global government", which is what Copenhagen was all about. Such a global supranational authority would basically impose some kind of tax on them for being so successful, in order to finance third world kleptocracies and environmentally irresponsible upcoming industrial players. Paramount among the scientists who warn against this very real danger is Lord Christopher Monckton, Viscount of Brenchley and former scientific adviser to Margaret Thatcher. Below are just two slides from a telling pdf presentation he made:

Alas for Lord Monckton, unlike many other dignitaries the welcome he received at the Copenhagen Summit was less warm than, say, Hugo Chavez's. Monckton was beaten unconscious by the Danish Police. Meanwhile, outright lunatics (we try to forget for a moment they are also cruel dictators) like Mugabe and Ahmadinejad get a free podium to demand the West pays a climate debt.

The guy to the left, a scientist and servant of the British state with an impeccable record, was knocked to the ground - by Danish Police. The guys to the right, who earned a reputation for their decadelong efforts for a clean environment - NOT - got a standing ovation.

I am not sure whether the world is getting warmer. I am however sure it is getting nuttier.


P.S.: Hat tip for the slides Luc Van Braekel.