Friday, 21 April 2017

The power of lying. The Popish Plot Part 2

For part one, see my post of yesterday.

When Titus Oates presented his ‘evidence’ to the Privy Council, King Charles II tore it to shreds, but Oates had the support of the London mob, and standing up to him publicly - that was quite another matter. It would have caused an almighty row.

So the king did nothing to save from execution at least 15 people he must have known to be innocent, while Oates was heaped with honours and money.

But gradually people became more and more sceptical about Oates' claims, and in 1681 Charles had him arrested and imprisoned. And when the king was succeeded by his brother, the Catholic James II, who Oates had denounced, the perjurer was imprisoned for life, put in the pillory and whipped through the streets of London.

The story was not quite over, though. When James was deposed by his daughter Mary and his son-in-law, William III, Oates was pardoned, released and given a pension.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The power of lying. The Popish Plot Part 1

Some of the Brexit strategists and bankrollers think they are awfully clever to have conned people into supporting them by a campaign of mendacity and deceit, but actually there’s nothing new about lying in order to achieve a political objective, even in England.

Back in 1678, Titus Oates (pictured)  was in a tight corner. His cv included being expelled from school, failing to get a degree at Cambridge, then falsely claiming he had one to get ordained as a Church of England priest. Next he had lied about a schoolteacher whose job he wanted, accusing him of sodomy.

This time Oates got arrested for perjury, but he escaped and in 1675 managed to get a job as a ship’s chaplain. The following year he was sacked for buggery, and arrested again for perjury, but managed to escape again.

Next he tried his hand at becoming a Catholic priest, but got expelled from three different seminaries. What on earth was he to do? Oates decided to turn to the thing he did best. Lying. In September 1678, he concocted fake news on a heroic scale, claiming there was a huge foreign-backed Roman Catholic plot, involving hundreds of priests and nobles.

They were planning a Catholic takeover of England while the Queen’s doctor and her sister-in-law’s secretary were to assassinate King Charles II.

To be continued…………….

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

North Korean famines

North Korea does not just make the headlines for missile and nuclear bomb tests, it is also well-known for famines. Though there is plenty of money for military hardware, the hardline Communist regime often struggles to feed its own people.

In such a secretive country, it is hard to be sure which was its most disastrous famine, but there were fears that one in the first decade of the 21st century may have killed up to 3.5 million people, with tens of thousands fleeing into China, and women being sold as brides or forced into brothels and illegal sweatshops.

A decade earlier, in 1994, defectors were reporting things had got so bad that old people were going out into the fields to die so their families would not have to feed them. As floods and drought struck in 1995-97, the government had to appeal for international help while it appeared to be channelling what food there was to the army of one million and party activists.

In 1998, a visiting research team from the US State Congress estimated that at least 900,000 had died of starvation over the previous 3 years, though it reckoned the real figure might be as high as 2.4 million. Malnutrition was also widespread.

For more see A Disastrous History of the World. See also my posts of 22 September 2010, 26 May 2011 and 31 January 2016.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Free talk on storms - May 11

A note for your diary. I am booked to give a free talk on storms, based on my book Storm: Nature and Culture at 7.30 pm on May 11 at Highgate Library Civic and Cultural Centre, Croftdown Road, London NW5 1HB.

More details nearer the time.

Friday, 24 March 2017

'Storm: Nature and Culture': new reviews

Here's another review of Storm. This time from the Church Times.

I've also had this review from an Indian environmental website:-

Friday, 17 March 2017

'Storm: Nature and Culture' review

Here's a review of Storm from the Methodist Recorder

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Brexitwatch - MPs' last chance to get a say on Brexit. Write to yours.

After the House of Commons nodded through the bill to give Theresa May a blank cheque on Brexit with astonishingly little dissent, the House of Lords has tried to give MPs another chance by amending the bill to give Parliament a genuine say.
On Monday, it will go back to the Commons with the UK's increasingly dictatorial unelected Prime Minister ordering that the changes be reversed. If you want to stop Parliament being bypassed, it is crucial you write to your MP NOW to demand that they stand up for the amendment and democracy.
My MP happens to be Labour's Brexit spokesperson, Sir Keir Starmer, and this is what I have written to him.
Dear Sir Keir,
When Gina Miller gave Labour MPs a chance to have a genuine say over any Brexit terms that Theresa May may negotiate, you ran a mile. 
Now the Lords have courageously given you a second chance (which Labour does not deserve.) It is vital that this time Labour supports the amendment to give Parliament a meaningful voice. 
I trust you are fighting hard for this outcome with Jeremy Corbyn. If he refuses and continues his Brexit coalition with the Tories and UKIP, I trust you will defy him and vote for the amendment, urging your colleagues to do the same.
If Labour are prepared to show some backbone for once, there is every chance of winning over enough Tory rebels to defeat our increasingly dictatorial prime minister. If Labour again refuses to oppose, you can hardly complain if Tory rebels decide there is little point in sticking their necks out.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington