Friday, August 27, 2010

Mother's instinct saves baby

It was a final chance to say goodbye for grieving mother Kate Ogg after doctors gave up hope of saving her premature baby. She tearfully told her lifeless son - born at 27 weeks weighing 2lb - how much she loved him and cuddled him tightly, not wanting to let him go.

Although little Jamie's twin sister Emily had been delivered successfully, doctors had given Mrs Ogg the news all mothers dread - that after 20 minutes of battling to get her son to breathe, they had declared him dead.

Having given up on a miracle, Mrs Ogg unwrapped the baby from his blanket and held him against her skin. And then an extraordinary thing happened. After two hours of being hugged, touched and spoken to by his mother, the little boy began showing signs of life. At first, it was just a gasp for air that was dismissed by doctors as a reflex action. But then the startled mother fed him a little breast milk on her finger and he started breathing normally.

'I thought, "Oh my God, what's going on",' said Mrs Ogg. 'A short time later he opened his eyes. It was a miracle. Then he held out his hand and grabbed my finger. 'He opened his eyes and moved his head from side to side. The doctor kept shaking his head saying, "I don't believe it, I don't believe it".'

The Australian mother spoke publicly for the first time yesterday to highlight the importance of skin-on-skin care for sick babies, which is being used at an increasing number of British hospitals.

In most cases, babies are rushed off to intensive care if there is a serious problem during the birth. But the 'kangaroo care' technique, named after the way kangaroos hold their young in a pouch next to their bodies, allows the mother to act as a human incubator to keep babies warm, stimulated and fed.

Pre-term and low birth-weight babies treated with the skin-to-skin method have also been shown to have lower infection rates, less severe illness, improved sleep patterns and are at reduced risk of hypothermia.

Mrs Ogg and her husband David told how doctors gave up on saving their son after a three-hour labour in a Sydney hospital in March. 'The doctor asked me had we chosen a name for our son,' said Mrs Ogg. 'I said, "Jamie", and he turned around with my son already wrapped up and said, "We've lost Jamie, he didn't make it, sorry".

'It was the worse feeling I've ever felt. I unwrapped Jamie from his blanket. He was very limp. 'I took my gown off and arranged him on my chest with his head over my arm and just held him. He wasn't moving at all and we just started talking to him. 'We told him what his name was and that he had a sister. We told him the things we wanted to do with him throughout his life. 'Jamie occasionally gasped for air, which doctors said was a reflex action. But then I felt him move as if he were startled, then he started gasping more and more regularly. 'I gave Jamie some breast milk on my finger, he took it and started regular breathing.'

Mrs Ogg held her son, now five months old and fully recovered, as she spoke on the Australian TV show Today Tonight.

Her husband added: 'Luckily I've got a very strong, very smart wife. 'She instinctively did what she did. If she hadn't done that, Jamie probably wouldn't be here.'


Thursday, August 26, 2010

British bank is deluged with over 2,000 complaints a day: But the bailed-out bank rejects 90%

This is just what I would expect from my own experience of Britain's hopelessly bureaucratised banks. They do tend to inspire thoughts of bloodshed --JR

Britain's biggest bank is receiving more than 2,000 complaints from angry customers every day, it admitted last night. Lloyds TSB - which is 43 per cent owned by the taxpayer after a multi-billion pound bailout to save it during the credit crunch - said it had received 300,000 complaints in the first six months of the year.

But just one in ten ended in an apology or compensation for the let-down customers - and an astonishing 90 per cent were dismissed.

Banks have been ordered to publish the full extent of their customers' dissastisfaction by the Financial Services Authority.

Earlier this year, nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland admitted it was receiving more than 1,600 complaints every day. But in contrast to Lloyds TSB, it upheld eight out of every ten - raising questions over how there can be such a disparity.

The figures from the Lloyds group, which also includes Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Cheltenham & Gloucester, were described as 'disappointing' by consumer group Which?.

The bank also revealed that it had 'closed' an astonishing 600,000 outstanding complaints this year, ending a huge backlog.

Many of those were from customers complaining about overdraft charges whose cases had been put on hold until the Supreme Court ruled on whether banks had to pay compensation for overcharging their customers. The banks won their case against the Office for Fair Trading - and Lloyds TSB appeared to have taken that as a cue to simply dismiss hundreds of thousands of pending complaints.

That was despite many complaints separately being upheld by the banking ombudsman.

The figures published yesterday showed:

* The former HBOS banks - which also include smaller brands Birmingham Midshires and Intelligent Finance - received 68,280 complaints from customers unhappy at how their accounts or credit cards were handled in the first six months of the year, and upheld just 7 per cent.

* The same division received 36,121 from disgruntled insurance customers - and upheld almost 68 per cent, suggesting massive problems in its insurance products.

* Of the 103,686 Lloyds TSB bank and credit card customers who complained about their experience, just 12 per cent were not dismissed.

* But 54 per cent of the 41,874 who complained about insurance products had their complaints upheld.

The giant Lloyds group was formed when then prime minister Gordon Brown brokered a deal at a Whitehall drinks party with Lloyds TSB chairman Sir Victor Blank to take over HBOS, which was on the verge of collapse.

Lloyds TSB has around 12million current account customers and Halifax, which was recently named the worst bank for customer satisfaction by consumer group Which?, has about 10million current account holders.

Dominic Lindley, of consumer champion Which?, said: 'It's disappointing to see a taxpayerbacked bank doing such a poor job at keeping its customers happy.'

Britain's biggest building society Nationwide also published its complaints yesterday, revealing that it received 90,200 between October 2009 to April 2010. It also turned down eight out of ten banking customers who complained.

A spokesman for Lloyds said: 'Like every organisation we know there are areas where we can improve and we're working with our customers to do just that.'


Monday, August 23, 2010

Was the ME109 the better fighter aircraft in WWII?

I’m rather enjoying the current wave of Battle of Britain nostalgia, though possibly not as much as the editor of this section. News reached me from Ventnor, via a red Bakelite telephone, that this week’s issue would include a twin test of a Messerschmitt and a Spitfire. Crikey, I thought, in a voice from Pathe News. Then I discovered that they were only cars.

But this did get me thinking. Should it all kick off again, which fighter would you want to be in? Difficult to say. I’ve only tried a Spitfire, and then only from the back of a two-seater and with a dashing ATA gal up front to keep an eye on the boost gauge. But let’s try anyway.

Most people would dismiss the Hurricane quite quickly, but I’m not so sure we should. It was more like the last hurrah of the previous era of fighter design rather than part of the new dawn of stressed-skin, truly high-performance aircraft. It was built more like a TVR, around what we would call a space frame.

The wings of the earliest Hurricanes were actually fabric-covered, like those of the Hawker biplanes that preceded it. It was slower than either the Spit or the 109 but lightly wing-loaded and very manoeuvrable. It seems to have been benign and had a good gun platform, which was sort of the point.

I also sense that its designer, Sydney Camm, knew what he was doing, because he clearly wasn’t a chump. His legacy stretches from the interwar biplanes up to the Hawkers Hunter and Harrier. I think he knew that Britain needed a fighter that was easy to build using existing skills and tools, easy to maintain and repair in the field, and easy for hurriedly trained pilots to master. When things settled down, he gave us the incredible Tempest, after all.

But the early Spitfire was faster, and faster than the Messerschmitt once it had been given a decent constant-speed prop. And it could still out-turn the 109 at 12,000 feet, which we know because the Royal Aircraft Establishment conducted a genuine fighter group test in 1940 using a captured 109. The Spitfire narrowly outclimbed the Messerschmitt and it seems that the controls were lighter and the cockpit more comfortable.

So the Spitfire would look to have it. But I’m not so sure. The British seem to have clung to some outmoded ideas about aerial combat because the last air war they’d fought had finished in 1918. But the Luftwaffe sneaked in a full dress rehearsal in Spain, and knew that manoeuvrability and dogfighting would give way to a quick in-and-out approach coupled with maximum firepower.

So the 109 Emil had cannon as well as machine guns, while The Few had to make do with just the Brownings. Since a fighter’s job is to shoot stuff down, this puts the Jerry kite ahead in my book. I’d have the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke 109.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Awesome courage of the D-Day piper who the Nazis thought was mad

Under the fire of Nazi guns and wading through a sea turning crimson with the blood of fallen colleagues, Bill Millin struggled towards the Normandy sands.

Waist deep in water, he led the commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade on to the beach as they fought to their deaths on the most famous day of World War II.

Amid the clatter of battle and dreadful cries of the injured, Millin only just caught the five words that turned him into a hero. 'Give us "Highland Laddie" man!' shouted Lord Lovat, the charismatic Chief of Clan Fraser and Brigadier of the 2,500 commandos, who was determined to put some backbone into his invading forces.
Piper Bill Millin played again on the Normandy beaches to celebrate the the 35th anniversary of the D-Day Landings

Piper Bill Millin played again on the Normandy beaches to celebrate the the 35th anniversary of the D-Day Landings

Obediently, 21-year-old Millin, Lovatt's personal piper, put the mouthpiece of his bagpipes to his lips, ignored the carnage and thundering crash of gunfire - and played as he had never played before.

It was 8.40 on June 6 1944, the morning of D-day. In the largest amphibious assault ever mounted, 150,000 troops from Britain, America and Canada were landing along a 60-mile stretch of the Normandy coastline.

D-day was the turning point in the Allies' battle against Hitler. And the name of Bill Millin, who died this week aged 88, is intrinsically linked with the events of that early summer's day. He is a reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of ordinary soldiers as they fought to protect this nation from the Nazis. He will live for ever in the annals of history.

The French awarded him their Croix d'Honneur and plan to erect a statue to him close to the beach where he marched ashore - the most eastern of the beaches picked by the Allies for the invasion.

The long stretch of sand where his haunting music stirred his fellow soldiers into battle near the French town of Ouistreham was codenamed Sword, while the other four beaches to the west were Omaha, Gold, Utah and Juno.

By the time Millin landed, it had already been a tumultuous journey across the Channel. 'I had my pipes with me as we set off from England the night before,' he explained later. 'I had been playing to the troops waiting to board the landing craft as we went along the Hamble river, and then I put them back in the box.

'Lord Lovat said: "You better get them out again because you can play us out of the Solent and into the Channel. You will be in the leading craft with me." '

He stood at the front of the landing craft piping The Road To The Isles. When the commandos were just off the Isle of Wight, they met thousands of other boats and ships carrying troops. 'They heard the pipes, and they were throwing their hats in the air and cheering,' he remembered.

He only stopped playing because the waves had become choppy and he was losing his balance. 'After we left the Solent and were out in the Channel, the hatches on the landing craft were put down and we were very cramped.

There were some people playing cards, but most were violently sick, including myself. The next morning I pushed open the hatch and looked out at a grey dawn. The wind was blowing and freezing

'Then after another half an hour people were starting to get gear together, their rucksacks on and were making towards the front of the craft. We could see the mist of the French shoreline and the neat bungalows along the seafront.'
The only weapon Bill carried on D-day was a small dagger tucked into his sock

The only weapon Bill carried on D-day was a small dagger tucked into his sock

Bill continued: 'Everyone was checking their kit, and putting their kit on. I didn't think of being shot, how many Germans there were or anything other than the smell of seasickness on me. We all got up on deck and we stood in the freezing wind watching the shoreline. Then the order came to get ashore and I was very pleased.'

Lord Lovat, 32, jumped into the water first. Because Lovat was over 6ft tall, Bill waited to see what depth it was before going in. He said: 'My kilt floated to the surface and the shock of the freezing cold water knocked all feelings of sickness from me.'

Within seconds the commandos were being struck down by German mortar shells and machine-gun fire. One commando was killed as Lovat got into the sea, his body floating up by Bill as he made for the shore.

Yet Lovat asked Bill to play again. He nearly refused. 'Well, when I looked round - the noise and people lying about on the ground, the shouting and the smoke, the crump of mortars,' he said later, 'I said to myself: "Well, you must be joking, surely." But Lovat insisted, and Bill said: 'Well, what tune would you like, Sir?'

'How about Highland Laddie and The Road To The Isles?' said Lovat, telling him to walk up and down the beach as he played.

Bill could see soldiers lying face down in the water as he played. 'Troops to my left were trying to dig in just off the beach,' he recalled. 'Yet when they heard the pipes, some of them stopped what they were doing and waved their arms, cheering.'

Lovat's commandos were heavily machine-gunned and mortared, but had a vital objective and pressed on. They had orders to link up with the British 6th Airborne division and keep secure a strategically vital bridge over the Caen Canal three miles down a road full of German snipers beyond Sword beach.

The airborne division had captured the bridge in the early hours that day in an assault later immortalised in the classic film The Longest Day, in which the part of Millin was played by Pipe Major Leslie de Laspee, the official piper to the Queen Mother. The 180-strong company airborne division, led by Major John Howard, swooped at dawn in gliders.

The crossing was later renamed Pegasus Bridge, after the flying horse shoulder emblem worn by British airborne forces.

The attack took the Germans completely by surprise and stopped them from swarming over the bridge and towards Sword beach. It also allowed the invading soldiers to push across the bridge and make their way through France.

Throughout that morning, the airborne division had to repel repeated counter-attacks at Pegasus, which was surrounded by Panzer divisions. And by early afternoon, the jaded British troops were urgently needing help from Lovat and his commandos.

Suddenly, at 1 pm, there was the sound of bagpipes. With Bill Millin playing Lovat's favourite tune Blue Bonnets Over The Border, the commandos marched into view. despite heavy German fire, as the red berets of the airborne division and the green berets of the commandos mingled there was a lightening of spirits.

Major Howard approached Lovat. Holding out his hand, he said: 'We are very pleased to see you, old boy.' Lovat responded: 'Yes, and sorry we are two and a-half minutes late.'

The commandos went over the bridge to confront the Germans - with Bill Millin playing his pipes as brave as a lion leading the way.

'not once did I think I was going to die,' said Bill afterwards. 'I was too busy playing. We had been attacked by snipers once we left Sword Beach, particularly from cornfields on the right of the road. 'At one point I glanced round, stopped playing and everyone was face down on the road. even Lovat was on one knee. Then the next thing this sniper comes scrambling down from a tree and Lovat and our group dash forward.

'We could see this sniper's head bobbing about in the cornfield. Lovat shot at him and he fell. Lovat sent two men into the cornfield to see what had happened, and they brought back the dead body.'

Remarkably, the only weapon Bill carried that long day was a Scottish dirk in his sock. He survived unscathed The Germans put a hole in his bagpipes with shrapnel. So he just pulled a spare set out of his rucksack.

The great mystery is why the Germans didn't gun him down. He couldn't have been more conspicuous in full Highland dress and with blaring bagpipes. Pipers were banned in conflict zones after World War I because so many died. Lovat's orders for Bill to play on d-day breached all Army rules.

It would take Bill more than 40 years to find out why he survived. He said: 'I met a German commander at a D-day reunion and asked why they hadn't shot me. 'The commander just tapped his head and said "We thought you were a 'Dummkopf', or off your head. Why waste bullets on a Dummkopf?"'


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Adolf Hitler according to his WWI regiment

In Nazi propaganda, he was a gallant First World War corporal who frequently risked his life. Now the myth of Adolf Hitler's heroism in the trenches has been debunked by research revealing he was little more than a 'teaboy' messenger dubbed a 'rear-area pig' by frontline soldiers.

No individual has been more scrutinized than Hitler, but detective work by Dr Thomas Weber, lecturer in modern history at Aberdeen University, unearthed new evidence.

Previously unpublished letters from veterans of Hitler's regiment have challenged the Nazi portrayal which suggested his virulent nationalism was prompted by his experience on the Western Front.

They overturn his image of his unit, the List Regiment, as a band of brothers, intolerant and anti-Jewish with Hitler 'a hero at its heart'.

They confront long-held views on Hitler’s brave war record, revealing that front soldiers shunned him as a “rear area pig” several kilometres from danger.

The letters and a diary also disclose that List men regarded him as an impractical object of ridicule, joking about his starving in a canned food factory, unable to open a can with a bayonet.

He was viewed by his comrades in regimental HQ as a loner. He was neither popular nor unpopular.

They referred to him as the 'painter' or the 'artist' and noticed that he did not indulge in their favourite pastimes – letter-writing or drinking – but was often seen with a political book in his hand or painting. He was also particularly submissive to his superiors.

'The commonly held view that Hitler had the dangerous job of running between trenches to deliver messages simply does not stand up,' said historian Dr Thomas Weber yesterday.

He added: 'I found his role was to deliver messages between regimental HQ and, for instance, battalions or the HQs of other units. So he would have been between three and five kilometres behind the front. Far from being considered a hero, Hitler was regarded as a "rear area pig" by the soldiers.'

Dr Weber said that previous biographies have had to rely on evidence from Hitler and Nazi propagandists: 'Since Hitler was an ordinary soldier in the First World War, there was not an easily available file on him. Biographers didn’t dig deep enough.'

'The myth of Hitler as a brave soldier and the camaraderie of the trenches was used by the Nazi party from the beginning in order to extend its appeal beyond the far right.

'They went to great lengths to protect this idea and through my research I discovered that a memoir written by one of his comrades was significantly altered between its first publication in 1933 and the outbreak of the Second World War.'

He added: 'The story was that World War One created Hitler and radicalised him and led to the birth of the Nazi movement.

'But his life in the war really was his Achilles heel and the story could collapse like a house of cards. 'I've been trying to show that this is a totally made-up story. Hitler was untypical of the regiment and he was not really radicalised in the war.'

Within the Bavarian War Archives, he discovered papers undisturbed for almost nine decades. Elsewhere, he found unpublished letters and Nazi Party membership files, and traced Jewish List veterans.

It was known that Hitler served as a runner but, armed with new evidence, Dr Weber realises that historians have not distinguished between regimental runners, a relatively safe job, and battalion or company runners, who had to brave machine-gun fire between trenches – Hitler was a runner at regimental HQ several kilometers from the front, and living in comfort in a room.

He said: 'I never thought I would write about Hitler as so many books have been written. But I discovered we know next to nothing about Hitler and the First World War and virtually everything that we do know is based on Mein Kampf or Nazi propaganda. More than 70 per cent of my book is based on previously unused sources.'

In unpublished letters, Alois Schnelldorfer, who also served at List HQ, told his parents that his task was 'to sit in an armchair and make calls like a postmistress'. He also confirmed the front-line view of more generous provisions than the men in the trenches: 'I can drink a litre of beer under a shady walnut tree.'

Speaking of Hitler’s famous 1st Class Iron Cross - the 2nd Class was a relatively common award - Dr Weber says this was largely due to the fact he knew officers who made recommendations.

The documents also make clear that virulent anti-Semitism did not exist, as an unpublished diary by a Jewish List soldier shows.

Also, although it was known that Hitler’s Iron Cross was recommended by Hugo Gutmann, a List Jewish adjutant, when Gutmann was incarcerated by the Gestapo in 1937, it was List veterans who enabled him to survive, Weber discovered. Gutmann referred to a prison-guard who took risks to help him: 'As a good Catholic he despised the Nazis'. Another List ex-comrade helped him to escape to America.

Dr Weber also unearthed evidence to show that the veterans of the List Regiment did not – as maintained by all Hitler biographies – unanimously support Hitler after the war.

An unpublished 1934 postcard by a Hitler admirer laments his being cold-shouldered by veterans in 1922. Dr Weber discovered that few front-line List soldiers became Nazis, whereas several regimental HQ staff were prominent in the party.

Dr Weber concludes that Hitler, who worked for a left-government after the war, became violently nationalist and anti-Semitic from the post-war and post-revolutionary economic and political crisis. [That is also what Hitler said of himself in "Mein Kampf" -- JR]

Dr Weber discovered that records had survived largely intact and were housed in the Bavarian War Archive, but that those pertaining to Hitler's battle group were filed not under the List Regiment, but under the higher division to which the regiment belonged. As a result, they had lain untouched for decades.


Friday, August 13, 2010

The English Civil War and the First Libertarian Movement

In the 1640s, when outright civil war came to England, with a royal army headquartered in Oxford fighting a Parliamentary Army headquartered a mere 50 or 60 miles away in London, it suddenly became possible to think all sorts of things that had previously been considered unthinkable. The king was "the divinely mandated representative of God on earth," after all, and yet here he was being defied and warred against.

True, he was being warred against by Parliament, which liked to think of itself as representing "the people," but this way of looking at things would not withstand close scrutiny. The majority of the people couldn't even vote in Parliamentary elections. Neither was it exactly true to say, as Harry Elmer Barnes did in his 1947 Survey of Western Civilization, that Parliament represented the interests of the commercial or mercantile middle class — the bourgeoisie. It would be closer to the truth to say, with H.G. Wells, writing in 1920, that Parliament represented the interests of the "private property owner," both the owners of the great hereditary estates who sat in the House of Lords and the businessmen and professionals who sat in the House of Commons. But however you defined your terms, whoever was behind it, the private property owner or the bourgeoisie, this open defiance of the king, employing force of arms, flew in the face of everything everyone had always been taught.

It made you wonder what else that everyone had always been taught might turn out, on closer examination, to rest on a less secure foundation than one had always been led to believe was there. Might we, for example, actually be better off with no king at all? With just Parliament? Why did we have government in the first place? What was it for? Murray Rothbard described the situation succinctly in his Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought: "The turmoil of the English Civil War," he wrote, "stimulated radical thinking about politics."

And the most radical thinkers of all in the 1640s were the Levellers. Rothbard calls them "the world's first self-consciously libertarian mass movement." They

worked out a remarkably consistent libertarian doctrine, upholding the rights of 'self-ownership,' private property, religious freedom for the individual, and minimal government interference in society. The rights of each individual to his person and property, furthermore, were 'natural,' that is, they were derived from the nature of man and the universe, and therefore were not dependent on, nor could they be abrogated by, government. And while the economy was scarcely a primary focus of the Levellers, their adherence to a free-market economy was a simple derivation from their stress on liberty and the rights of private property.

The economy was not "a primary focus of the Levellers" because they had what today we would call civil-liberties issues of a particularly compelling sort clamoring for their attention and not willingly taking a back seat to what seemed far less urgent matters of commerce and trade.

Consider the career of the man who was far and away the best known of the Levellers, John Lilburne, who was born in London sometime in the second decade of the 17th century — no record of the exact date of his birth seems to have survived the nearly four hundred years of history that have elapsed since. Though his parents were minor officials in the royal court of King James I, Lilburne himself was never overly respectful toward "the divinely mandated representative of God on earth." He was barely out of his teens before he began spending a lot of his time with people of what the king and his courtiers would have regarded as a distinctly unsavory type.

There was William Prynne, for example. In his book The Triumph of Liberty, Jim Powell describes Prynne as "a Presbyterian lawyer who had published many attacks on the Church of England, for which he was fined." But the fines were the least of his troubles. As Powell tells the tale, Prynne also "was disbarred as a lawyer, condemned to life imprisonment in the Tower of London, his ears were hacked off, and his cheeks were branded with the initials 'SL' (for seditious libeler)."

There was also a physician, Dr. John Bastwick, who had "had his ears cut off for criticizing Church of England officials" and who had introduced young John Lilburne to Prynne. It can come as little surprise when Powell tells us that "the government considered Lilburne a potential troublemaker for associating with these people." He didn't remain a potential troublemaker for long, however. He soon realized his potential.

Over the course of the roughly 20 years of Lilburne's public career, from the late 1630s to the late 1650s, he wrote and published a hundred or so political pamphlets. Over and over and over, Powell tells us, Lilburne

set out his beliefs: that laws should be written in English so everybody could read them and … a trial would be proper only when formal charges are filed, when they refer to known laws, and when the defendant can confront the accuser and have an adequate opportunity to present a defense. He denounced the government-granted monopoly on preaching, attacked government-granted business monopolies, and spoke out for free trade and a free press. He observed that the longer politicians remained in Parliament, the more corrupt they became, so he called for annual parliamentary elections and universal male suffrage.

For saying these things, for writing and publishing them, John Lilburne was repeatedly imprisoned. He spent most of his adult life in jail, and at one point at around the midpoint of his career, in 1645, Powell reports that he had "one of [his] eyes … poked out with a pike" for daring to write and publish a pamphlet describing "the injustices he had suffered" at the hands of King Charles I's government.

But when Parliament took over the national government at the end of the decade, after capturing and beheading the king, John Lilburne didn't find his personal situation much improved. In the 1650s, under Parliament and under the subsequent military dictatorship of former Parliamentary Army officer Oliver Cromwell, Lilburne was imprisoned for expressing his opinions at least as often as he ever had been under King Charles.

Lilburne himself was a former officer of the Parliamentary Army, but he had been disillusioned early. As early as 1646, when the king still lived and civil war still raged all about them, Lilburne had appeared before the House of Lords and denounced its membership in no uncertain terms. "All you intended when you set us a-fighting," he told the assembled members of the upper house of Parliament, "was merely to unhorse and dismount our old riders and tyrants, so that you might get up, and ride us in their stead." It's astounding that Lilburne had any time left over at all from his busy schedule of writing, publishing, and serving time to work as a brewer (which he did) and to serve as a captain in the Parliamentary Army (which he also did), for his life was very short. He died in 1657, a year before Cromwell and at a time when the latter was still very much in power. Lilburne is thought to have been around 43 years old at the time of his death. His health had been ruined by years of imprisonment under harsh conditions. He had given his life — what there was of it — in order to get out his libertarian message. And he had got it out, and it had been received and would be carried forward by others.

At least one of those others was, shall we say, a somewhat unlikely candidate for the honor of carrying on John Lilburne's message. He was an English aristocrat whose birth name was Anthony Ashley Cooper. Cooper was about seven years younger than Lilburne. He was born late in July of 1621, so he was a young man only 21 years of age at the time the strife of interests between the government and the private-property owners erupted into civil war between king and Parliament in the early 1640s.

At first, young Cooper backed the king in the conflict, but after a couple of years he switched his allegiance to Parliament. During the 1650s, he served as an official in Oliver Cromwell's government. After Cromwell's death, he became a member of the 12-man delegation sent by Parliament to invite Charles Stuart to reestablish the Stuart line on the English throne. After Charles II became king in 1660, Cooper served his government in a number of official capacities, including Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Chancellor. It was one weekend at Oxford, during his years as Chancellor of the Exchequer, that Cooper met a young physician and scholar, eleven years his junior, named John Locke.

Now, before I get sidetracked on Locke, consider Anthony Ashley Cooper's career so far. Not a particularly promising one, would you say? A young man is briefly a royalist, then (once he sees who is more likely to win the civil war?) a partisan of Parliament. In his 30s he serves the Commonwealth government he helped to create. Then, in his 40s, he becomes a royalist again, helping to bring back a king who immediately rewards him with high position. Is this not merely the tale of a young man who knows which side his bread is buttered on and who contrives always to be on the winning side in any conflict over who will govern?

Yet Murray Rothbard portrays Cooper very differently in his Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought. Rothbard rehearses the well known basic facts of John Locke's biography — he was born in 1632, the son of a country lawyer who, like John Lilburne, served as a captain in the Parliamentary Army during the English Civil War. After the war, the elder Locke's former commanding officer helped him obtain a scholarship for his son John to attend the prestigious Westminster School, from which he moved on to Oxford. At Oxford, he studied Classics and, after obtaining his master's degree, joined the faculty, teaching Greek and rhetoric. He then took up the study of medicine and became a physician, largely, as Rothbard notes, "in order to stay at Oxford without having to take holy orders."

But much as he liked Oxford, both the town and the campus, Locke willingly left it after fifteen years, at the age of 35, to take up residence in the London home of Anthony Ashley Cooper, where he assumed new duties as personal physician to Cooper's family, tutor to his children, and secretary, adviser, and ghostwriter to Cooper himself. The two men had met the previous year, when Cooper went to Oxford to seek medical advice for a persistent and troublesome liver infection. Locke recommended an operation, which Cooper underwent successfully. He believed that Locke had saved his life, and he spent the rest of that life attempting to repay Locke in any way he could.

Now, when the two men met, in 1666, Locke was not without political opinions, and the political opinions he held were of a sort one would think would appeal to a high official in the king's government, as Cooper was at the time. At Oxford, Locke had insinuated himself into a group of scholars devoted to the ideas and political preferences of Francis Bacon, a royalist who had served as attorney general and Lord Chancellor under James I. Rothbard writes that "Locke and his colleagues enthusiastically welcomed the restoration of Charles II," and Locke's colleagues successfully prevailed upon the newly restored king to personally "[order] Oxford University to keep Locke as medical student without having to take holy orders." Nor was this all, for, according to Rothbard, "in 1661, Locke, this later champion of religious toleration, wrote two tracts denouncing religious tolerance, and favoring the absolute state enforcing religious orthodoxy."

As Rothbard sees it,

something happened to John Locke … when he became personal secretary, advisor, writer, theoretician, and close friend of … Anthony Ashley Cooper … who in 1672 was named the first Earl [of] Shaftesbury. It was due to Shaftesbury that Locke, from then on, was to plunge into political and economic philosophy, and into public service as well as revolutionary intrigue. Locke adopted from Shaftesbury the entire classical liberal Whig outlook, and it was Shaftesbury who converted Locke into a firm and lifelong champion of religious toleration and into a libertarian exponent of self-ownership, property rights, and a free market economy. It was Shaftesbury who made Locke into a libertarian and who stimulated the development of Locke's libertarian system.

Rothbard quotes the editor of one edition of Locke's Two Treatises of Government as saying, "justly" in Rothbard's opinion, that "without Shaftesbury, Locke would not have been Locke at all." But, Rothbard continues,

this truth has been hidden all too often by historians who have had an absurdly monastic horror of how political theory and philosophy often develop: in the heat of political and ideological battle. Instead, many felt they had to hide this relationship in order to construct an idealized image of Locke the pure and detached philosopher, separate from the grubby and mundane political concerns of the real world.

Another way of putting this would be to say that political theory and philosophy often emerge out of what is, at bottom, merely a strife of interests — two or more groups seeking to use the power of the state to advance what they see as their interests. The men who run such groups typically care little or nothing for ideas, political theory and philosophy emphatically included. They see ideas as sometimes useful to sway or manipulate public opinion, however, and they see men of ideas as sometimes useful to do the writing that makes the swaying and manipulating possible.

In the epitaph he wrote for his longtime patron, friend, and mentor, John Locke called Anthony Ashley Cooper, the First Earl of Shaftesbury, "a vigorous and indefatigable champion of civil and ecclesiastical liberty." But what if, instead, Shaftesbury was merely a smarter-than-average 17th-century English politician trying to look out for what he saw as the interests of the wealthy, private-property-owning class into which he had been born? What if his political career reflected nothing more than his successive judgments about what was expedient toward that end?

What if sometimes he had supported the king, sometimes Parliament, because he had tried always to be on good terms with whichever was the winning side, working with those on the winning side to achieve his own objectives as best he could under the ever-changing circumstances? If the king became impossible to deal with, you could see if you could ally yourself with Parliament. If Parliament became impossible, you could form a new political party to promote your interests within Parliament. You could call it the Whigs.

What if, because Shaftesbury was smarter than average, he had given some thought to how the interests of the private-property-owning class could best be packaged to win popular support and had some ideas of his own as to what sorts of arguments would likely be most effective? What if he had decided to try persuading his talented young assistant and understudy, John Locke, of the truth of these arguments before asking him to work the ideas out further, develop them, turn them into a sustained and fully coherent philosophical discourse?

As worked out and developed by John Locke in the early 1680s in his Two Treatises of Government, Shaftesbury's arguments turned out to be pretty much the same as the ones John Lilburne had offered the literate English public back in the turbulent 1640s, back when Shaftesbury — Anthony Ashley Cooper — was an impressionable young man in his early 20s. Rothbard writes that

Locke's entire structure of thought in his Two Treatises of Government … was an elaboration and creative development of Leveller doctrine: the beginnings in self-ownership or self-propriety, the deduced right to property and free exchange, the justification of government as a device to protect such rights, and the right of overturning a government that violates, or becomes destructive of, those ends.

There would seem to be little room for doubt that John Lilburne was a man of principle, not a mere spokesman for an organized interest. As Leonard Levy memorably put it in his book on the Origins of the Fifth Amendment, "While others supported civil liberties to gain their own freedom and denied it to their enemies, Lilburne grew more and more consistent in his devotion to the fundamentals of liberty." Supporting civil liberty to gain your own freedom, while denying it to your enemies — this is the sign of the man who is merely a spokesman for an organized interest, not an advocate of a principle. Lilburne was an advocate of a principle.

The case is not so clear and unequivocal with Shaftesbury — or even with Locke, who espoused the interests of the king when the king was taking care of him and the interests of the private-property owners when they were paying his rent. Rothbard candidly acknowledges that Locke's Two Treatises of Government was "written in 1681–82 as a schema for justifying the forthcoming Whig revolution against the Stuarts."

But does it matter? Not really. What counts in history, including intellectual history, is results, not intentions. Various European mariners, Christopher Columbus among them, set out late in the 15th century to find an alternate sea route to China and India. They found something else entirely. What matters today is not what they set out to do or what motivated them to do what they did but what they did. Whatever their motives may have been, whatever at any given moment they thought of themselves as doing, Anthony Ashley Cooper and John Locke advanced the libertarian idea, just as John Lilburne did. All three of them are part of the libertarian tradition.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Secret files reveal truth behind Lindy Chamberlain's murder conviction

As usual, it was women who were hardest on another woman

SECRET jury notes hidden in Northern Territory police files have revealed why Lindy Chamberlain was convicted of murdering her baby daughter Azaria 30 years ago.

The handwritten notes show that like the rest of the nation, the female jurors were tougher on Lindy than the men.

The three women - a teacher and two housewives - all voted for a conviction while at least four of the nine men had to persuaded that she was guilty. "Doesn't believe dingo,'' one of the housewives is recorded as declaring. Another said that while she was going to convict Lindy, she still found it "hard to accept Mrs C did it''.

They are the missing element in a puzzle that three decades later still perplexes Australia.

Almost three months ago, The Daily Telegraph sought access to the documents and files held by the Northern Territory police on the investigation into Azaria's death. Northern Territory Assistant Commissioner Mark McAdie took the view that the files belonged to the people of Australia, and they should see them. The new NT Police Commissioner John McRoberts, agreed to make them available.

After long negotiations, the only material removed were private police notebooks.

Two weeks ago, The Daily Telegraph was given exclusive access to the Azaria Files - 145 boxes of police documents and exhibits destined for the National Archives because of their historical importance.

Within the files are pages of jury notes apparantly written by the public servant who was the jury foreman, jotted down on blue notepaper as the jurors struggled with their decision in the Darwin courthouse after the seven-week trial that captivated the nation in 1982.

They detail exactly what the jury was thinking when it threw out Lindy's story that a dingo had taken her baby and convicted her of killing Azaria at what was then Ayres Rock on August 17, 1980.

Her husband Michael was convicted of being an accessory.

The jurors were as puzzled as the rest of the country by the couple's unemotional behaviour and why they never joined in the search for their daughter's body. The foreman dismissed the entire defence evidence as "purely smokescreen''.

It was to be six years before Lindy was released and then the couple was exonerated after Azaria's battered matinee jacket was found at the base of the Rock.

Veteran criminal barrister Chester Porter QC said it was unheard of for secret jury notes to be saved after a trial. Mr Porter, who was counsel assisting the Morling Commission of Inquiry that cleared the Chamberlains in 1987, added to the mystery of their origin by revealing the notes were not among the police documents when he examined them to prepare for the commission.

The only juror to have identified herself, Yvonne Cain, said she believed the notes must have been made towards the end of their six-and-a-half hours of argument.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

The ANZAC landings at Gallipoli were a success

New evidence suggests the landings at Gallipoli were, in fact, a cleverly orchestrated and successful assault. It was the British follow-up that failed

It's one of the central threads of Anzac mythology. That at dawn on April 25, 1915, our gallant Diggers - "lions led by donkeys" - were sent on to the Gallipoli beaches and the lethal Turkish guns in an ill-planned assault ordered by incompetent British commanders.

But Hugh Dolan, a serving intelligence officer in the Australian military, claims in a new book to have discovered long-ignored evidence "which turns the Anzac legend on its head". Far from being a disaster, Dolan believes the Anzac landings should be remembered as a success - a daring and unorthodox amphibious assault which was without precedent in modern warfare.
One of the architects of the plan, Lieutenant General William Birdwood.

One of the architects of the plan, Lieutenant General William Birdwood.

In 36 Days: The Untold Story Behind the Gallipoli Landings, Dolan insists the three key Australian officers who planned the operation made ground-breaking use of military intelligence - including aerial reconnaissance photographs - to put together an almost flawless plan.

But their triumph has been overshadowed by the disasters which happened after the landings, Dolan argues, completely distorting what was achieved on the original Anzac Day.

"The most glaring error is the fact it is always described as a dawn landing," says Dolan. "It wasn't. A dawn attack is a daylight attack. This was a silent night attack. It took place in complete darkness.

"I suggest we take down the bronze plaque at Anzac Cove which describes it as a dawn landing, and recast another that is more accurate. And the Department of Veterans' Affairs should update its website, too."

Squadron Leader Dolan - who studied history at Oxford University - worked in military intelligence for several years in the British Army before returning home to Australia to join the Royal Australian Air Force. Now 47, he is an intelligence officer based in Melbourne.

Dolan's book dwells on the 36 days it which the plan was formed and executed - and makes use of Turkish records as well as well as Allied military intelligence. "As far as I can see, no one has focused on the planning before," Dolan says.

Charles Bean, the Herald war correspondent, showed in his diaries that he was aware of some of the military intelligence that went into the planning, but did not include it in his official history: the bible of Anzac mythology. That was partly because the military intelligence was kept secret until 1965.

The result is that the success or failure of the Anzac landing has been judged on whether it achieved the targets outlined in the original British battle plan prepared by Sir General Ian Hamilton, the commander of the 80,000 Allied force.

But Dolan says the three Australian architects of the Anzac Cove landings (Lieutenant General William Birdwood, Major General William Throsby Bridges and Colonel Brudenell White) received Hamilton's permission to change their objectives - and the time of their assault from dawn to pre-dawn.

"They did something extraordinary," says Dolan. "They sent their military intelligence officer, Major Charles Villiers-Stuart, on an aerial reconnaissance mission over Anzac Cove on April 14, 1915. He sat in the back seat [of the two-man biplane] with a pair of binoculars and a 1/40,000 scale map. He was able to determine the strength and position of the Turkish forces on the ridges [behind Anzac Cove]."

At the subsequent intelligence briefing, Villiers-Stuart told his superiors that Hamilton's assumptions about the northern beaches being relatively unprotected were wrong. Anzac Cove was defended by several batteries, barbed wire and entrenchments.

"That led to a reappraisal at Anzac headquarters. Here something special happens," says Dolan. "Instead of landing and advancing [across the Gallipoli peninsula] to Maidos on the Dardenelles, they gained Hamilton's permission to change their orders."

Their new objective was to land and draw the Turkish forces onto them, giving the British the breathing space to land the main attack in the south. "We also have the Anzac commanders doing something the British do not do. They fold the military intelligence they get each day into their [revised battle plan]. The British flew 18 photographic missions over their beaches. But Hamilton never used the intelligence.

"Their attitude was almost like playing cricket. They thought it was somehow unfair, whereas the Anzac commanders insisted on getting their own man in the air to learn about the enemy and use it to their advantage."

The original Hamilton plan had been for the Anzacs to attack at the same time as the British, about 7am. "But the Anzac commanders realised they would be caught in the open and slaughtered by the 32 artillery barrels pointing at them. Their solution was most unorthodox. It had not been practised in modern military history. They launched a silent, night-time assault to land the Anzac troops ashore in the hours of darkness.

"This was very carefully planned right down to the placement of carpet on the decks of the warships to muffle the sound of the men's hobnail boots. They also put velvet around the oarlocks of the rowing boats.

"There was no preliminary bombardment … It was silent, stealthy, professional and very modern. By 4.20am, the first wave was ashore. By 5am, Birdwood was crowing to Hamilton that 5500 men had landed. Dawn wasn't until 5.20am."


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Stuart Hall's English lesson for the BBC: Plummy-voiced broadcaster attacks obsession with regional accents

His warm, distinctive tones have enlivened football coverage for decades. Now the BBC's Stuart Hall has criticised the corporation's obsession with regional accents and backed Received Pronunciation, the 'Queen's English' way of speaking.

The former It's A Knockout host intervened after the BBC's head of television, Jana Bennett, said a new wave of voices from across Britain would go on air in an attempt to more broadly reflect different areas. She promised an increase in 'distinctive voices' which have 'authentic senses of place'.

But 80-year- old Mr Hall, from Lancashire, criticised the plans and defended Received Pronunciation, saying that in his experience it was what the audience wanted. He told this week's Radio Times that for English to remain an 'international language' it had to be spoken in a 'recognisable tongue'. He denied he was proposing the death of on-air regional accents but said they must be justified by context.

Mr Hall, who is still a regular football reporter on Radio 5 Live, said that in his experience properly spoken English had been what most of the audience desired because it represented a neutral voice. He added that it also did not 'detract' or 'distract' from the material.

He criticised Jana Bennett's comments, saying: 'She wants distinctive voices that have an authentic sense of place. As there must be 100,000 dialects in England alone, I am dashed if I know what Jana means.'

His comments come after Sir Roger Moore complained that actors and presenters now need a regional accent to be successful. The 82-year- old actor, whose clipped tones graced seven James Bond films, suggested that if he were starting out now his ability to speak smoothly in the Queen's English would actually hamper his career rather than help it.

Mr Hall looked back to the time when he was working in regional news in the 1960s and 1970s. He said: 'We had an enormous audience, including thousands of Asians living in Bolton and Blackburn. They listened because the spoken English was what they desired, neutral-voices that never detracted or distracted from the material. 'They wanted the English of the Raj where the letters T, B and H were pronounced trippingly off the tongue. 'It was a matter of great pride that we crossed the borders of class and race. We didn't need authentic regional stuff, neither did the viewers.'

Mr Hall added: 'If you imagine I am proposing the death of regional accents, let me put it in perspective. I value them in context. Give me Charlotte Green for my news, Alan Green for sport' - a reference to the Radio 4 announcer known for her classic RP voice and the Northern Irish sports commentator.

A BBC spokesman said: 'Our audiences have told us very clearly that they expect and appreciate being able to hear a wide variety of regional accents across the BBC. 'The whole of the UK pays for the licence fee so it is quite right that the whole of the nation should hear and see itself reflected back on screen and on air.'


Monday, August 2, 2010

Art world goes mad for Britain's 'Mini Monet'

British boy aged seven makes £150,000 in 30 minutes by selling his paintings

His paintings fetch thousands and attract buyers from all over the world. But while his watercolours, pastels and oil paintings hint at a talent honed through decades of practice, Kieron Williamson is barely halfway through primary school.

The seven-year-old prodigy sold his latest collection of paintings for £150,000 at the weekend, with all 33 works sold in just 30 minutes.

Mini-Monet: Keiron Williamson's landscapes and coastal scenes are making him hot property in the art world

The astonishing sale attracted buyers from as far as Arizona, New York and South Africa, with others bidding by telephone from around the world in the hope of securing an original. One couple from Philadelphia camped for two days outside the gallery in Kieron's home town of Holt, Norfolk, to make sure they did not miss out when the third exhibition of his work opened on Friday morning.

Many of his paintings feature Norfolk landscapes or coastal scenes, but the latest exhibition also included views of City Temple in Holborn, Central London, and even a painting of Hong Kong.

Genius at work: Kieron, painting in his parents' kitchen in Holt, Norfolk, has sold all over the world

Impressionist of the Broads: Kieron's landscapes of his native Norfolk show a talent well beyond his young age

Water way with colour: Light, colour and reflections fill one of the paintings sold in a recent auction

Collection: Some of his pictures at the Holt gallery

The biggest sellers were a 20in by 30in oil painting called Sunrise at Morston, which went for £7,995, and a 19in by 25in pastel called Marsh at Sunset, which fetched £6,750.

Kieron said: 'I normally paint in the morning and I am up at 6am and then after school - but with the school holidays at the moment, I am painting all the time. 'I like landscapes as they've got the big Norfolk skies in them and not too many hills or mountains.'

He paints up to six paintings a week and 700 people have registered on a waiting list for an original.

Until two years ago, Kieron's artistic talents stretched only to colouring in dinosaurs drawn for him by parents Keith, 44, and Michelle, 37. But on a family holiday to Cornwall he was inspired by visits to harbours and ports and began producing 'mind-blowing' images of the boats in the water.

Gallery owner Adrian Hill said: 'Kieron has probably become one of the most collectable artists currently exhibiting worldwide. He's impressionist without being too abstract. 'He is years in advance of where he should be.'

Kieron's parents plan to buy him a house with his earnings and invest the rest for him until he is 25.