Get Off The Grid – L I V E

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-xmnx6-b74d15

What happened when Harri Boy Rogers and Friends under the pseudonym Scene Green got on stage at the Get Off The Grid Festival at Union County Showground, Hemptown, Blairsville, North Georgia USA. Includes live audio recording of the gig.

Tippy Toe To The Boogie – episode one Superman’s Belt Buckle

I published my new episode Superman’s Belt Buckle Mar 26, 2019 17:18, please check it out
https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-ge8nz-ac0b55

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/multi?playlist=http%3A%2F%2Fplaylist.podbean.com%2F4568366%2Fplaylist_multi.xml&vjs=1&kdsowie31j4k1jlf913=367408e87db25b468adfde17a5a48d3dc6d57ccb&size=240&skin=7&auto=0&download=1&pbad=1

THE RETURN OF THE GOLDEN DRAGON

THE RETURN OF THE GOLDEN DRAGON
A Fairy Tale
By
Harry Rogers

Thence, beyond this time, a vengeful orange coloured king with yellow hair named Oswald ruled his people with a heavy hand. The unhappy people spent their lives devising ways to make the king feel happy because in that way he might be persuaded to turn his attention to those from other countries whom he also frightened. King Oswald lived in a fortress with wife Queen Emeralda, two sons, Prince Victor and Prince Wyn and daughter, Princess Lusha.
Every person in the land secretly hated Oswald but were too scared to do anything about it. Even his wife could no longer find anything to love about him. Queen Emeralda knew enough to always wear a painted smile when ever Oswald looked in her direction. Prince Victor adopted the same traits as his father, listened to nobody, believed he was as big a genius as King Oswald professed himself to be. Prince Wyn, however, read books and understood the needs and the feelings of the people.
One day King Oswald overheard Prince Wyn speaking with Princess Lusha in the garden.
‘I wish I knew how to make our father behave better towards our subjects. He is cruel and everywhere I go people are sad and poor. If I were king I would change things. I have ideas from old manuscripts I found in the crypt below the fortress. Lusha, there is a better way, Life was once so much happier.’
‘How do you mean happier?’ asked the princess.
‘In the days before our grandfather there was a golden dragon who filled the world with peace and wisdom, all the peoples of the planet loved each other.’
‘What happened?’ she asked.
‘The dragon was summoned to another galaxy where there was much trouble and strife. He left our kind grandfather in charge and all was well until his death when our father took over and brought cruelty into the role of kingship.’
King Oswald became angry, his skin turned a deeper shade of orange than usual. He sprang out of hiding and shouted at his son,
‘How dare you speak of me, your father, your one true king, in such a disrespectful manner. I am minded to have you locked away in a cold dark dungeon for the rest of your life.’ He looked around and bellowed
‘Guards, guards, come here immediately.’
Two royal guards rushed forward and the king ordered them to seize the young prince. Princess Lusha began to cry as she loved her brother dearly and she said,
‘Please don’t lock Wyn up father, I beg you, let him free.’
The king looked at his daughter, then at the young prince and he said,
‘This is your punishment, I banish you from this kingdom, you shall be transported to the other side of this world where you must stay, never to return. Guards, take him to the harbour, put him on the next ship with the other deportees.’
As the guards took Prince Wyn away, Princess Lusha thanked her father for being merciful.
Life continued under King Oswald’s rule. The people became more miserable as the King extracted larger taxes. Oswald enjoyed starting wars just for the sake of being able to boast about how powerful he was, but, of course, he was not a warrior, as he quickly pointed out, being so intelligent and clever he could not be put into harms way because the people could not do without him. He organised gigantic displays of his might and power with grand parades and colourful tournaments in his honour that everyone in the land were ordered to attend.
After six months Prince Wyn arrived in the most inhospitable land in his fathers territory. The captain unceremoniously discharged him from the prison ship with only the clothes he stood up in, no money, and a gold ring in the shape of a winged dragon given to him by his grandmother at birth. Eventually he found poorly paid work as a stable lad and lodged with the horses. This suited him as he loved animals. By day he looked after a team of large horses used for dragging logs out of the forest. One night he dreamt as he slept on a straw pally ass. A golden dragon appeared and said,
‘Prince Wyn, you must go into the world and let the people know that I am returning. I am a long way away at present but will be back and I need a good person to prepare for my homecoming. Nearby you will find a boat builder called James Butt. Seek him out. Ask him to build a special boat to take you home. Show him the ring I gave your grandmother that sits on your finger. He will build you the finest dragon boat ever seen. You must sail home, stand in the square outside the fortress and read out a prophecy that you shall have written.’
‘Will you be there?’ The Prince asked.
‘No but I will send a sign and all will start to change for the better before I arrive.’
The dream ended and Prince Wyn awoke with sweat on his brow. The next morning he set off to seek out the boat builder. After two days he came to a small bay with a single whitewashed stone cottage, a pile of lobster pots, a dinghy, and a large open sided barn with a slipway down to the sea at one end. Beneath the barn he spied a wooden bench covered with wood working tools and paint brushes and large hunks of pungent oakum. A sign nailed above the door said James Butt, Master Shipwright. A broad man emerged from behind the lobster pots and said,
‘Who you be?’
‘I am Prince Wyn and I have been asked to command that you build me a boat.’
‘Asked to command have you? Well I don’t takes a lot of notice of commands, I only builds what I wants to build and when I wants to build. Why should I build for you?’
The Prince was about to reply when the man’s eyes fell upon the glinting golden dragon ring as the Prince held his hand out. He immediately took the young Prince, clasped him in a powerful embrace and said,
‘I’ve been expecting you for some considerable time, at last we can gets away from the madness. Come inside, I have crab and lobster and fresh made bread a plenty, we have much to talk about before I starts the work.’
The shipwright worked diligently for three months and Prince Wyn helped where he was needed. In between times he wrote the prophecy. Eventually they launched the boat. The clinker built boat stood proud and sleek made from the finest juniper and cedar woods, and at the prow James had carved a magnificent dragon’s head and neck covered in sheets of gold leaf. Two giant rubies in the eye sockets radiated a bright red light. All was ready, they toasted each other’s fine work with cups of mead. Prince Wyn carefully rolled up the vellum scroll on which he had written the prophecy and tucked it into his shoulder bag.
‘Come to my homeland James, I may need help with navigation, and besides, I like your company very well.’ said Prince Wyn.
“No I have much to do here, you will not need me now, the boat has magic properties, the Dragon Eyes will guide you home, all you need to do is let it lead you over the waves. Tarry no more young man, you have work to do.’
Once more they embraced and the Prince clambered aboard the boat. No sooner had he sat down at the stern when a strong wind blew up and the boat sailed across the bay. Prince Wyn turned and waved at the shipwright on the jetty.
The boat ploughed through the waves at incredible speed. The Prince arrived back to the harbour after only three and half months. A few merchants and sailors stood on the quayside as the dragon boat sailed into the harbour and drew up alongside King Oswald’s Royal mooring. The small crowd immediately gathered alongside the magnificent craft and marvelled at the strange light shining from the eyes. Prince Wyn threw a rope to one of the sailors, pushed a gangplank out, and sprang ashore. He spoke in a steady voice,
‘I am Prince Wyn, I bring a message for the people, follow me to the square outside the main gate to the royal fortress.’
A buzz of conversation spread amongst the crowd as Prince Wyn headed purposefully up the lane from the harbour towards the fortress. A few young sailors ran ahead spreading the word that something important was about to happen. By the time he arrived many people had gathered and the noise level rose as more came running to hear what he had to say.
King Oswald sat in his counting room with a Cappuccino as his Chancellor read out the latest figures from the treasury. Suddenly he heard a large cheer from outside, and he turned to look down into the square. He saw the large crowd and immediately ordered the royal guards to disperse the unauthorised gathering. He dismissed the Chancellor and hurried to the balcony in his main chamber that overlooked the square.
Prince Wyn stood on the steps outside the Fortress with a crowd of more than three hundred gathered at his feet. The royal guard marched out of the fortress and observed the Prince as he unfurled his scroll. The crowd fell silent and he began to read in a clear voice,
‘Herewith find the prophecy of the return of the Golden Dragon. At first there will appear in the distance afar, a small twinkling bright shiny golden star. No one will recognise this portentous sign, nor realise how blindingly bright it will shine. As it gets closer there will be panic and fear and nobody will know what’s about to appear. Flying serenely on high, way, way up above, shimmering, sun like, with peace and with love. The richest, deepest, darkest, crimson most red is found at the very centre point of the heart. This is what makes it the true colour of love. The flickering flames tinged with the colour of love will spill with a terrifying sound from the Dragons golden lips and sweep majestically across the green swards of the land, bringing the return of the very sweetest form of peace, where all the varied flags and pennants across the world will bow down in obeisance before the highest golden standard flying. When all the women and children in the world will stop cease to weep and cry, when all men will lay their weapons down and all people shall join together hand in hand in hand, when all endeavour shall be turned towards the purification of the oceans, the cleansing of the air and the healing of the land. Then shall we know that the new age of the Golden Dragon has arrived and the beginning of the end of the misunderstood days of mistake has started and the making of true civilisation will, at last, have begun. Thus will be that great magical day when we behold that mystical beast imbued triumphantly with the strongest powers of peace and of love. Then shall we behold the true magnificence of The Golden Dragon. Thus prophesy I, Prince Wyn, true servant and devotee of the bringer of happiness, peace and love.’
The crowd cheered mightily whilst King Oswald stood on the balcony becoming angrier by the second, so angry that his skin turned the colour of a tangerine. He rushed to the sill of the balcony and screamed at the Guards,
‘Arrest him, arrest him, he is a traitor and a false prophet, it’s all lies, there is no truth in what he says, the words he uses are fake, it’s all fake.’
The guards looked at him and then back at the crowds, many of whom they knew as their friends and family. They stood their ground and disobeyed the Kings orders. King Oswald, apoplectic with rage, shouted again,
‘I am your king, you must obey, seize the traitor and bring him in to me now.’
At that moment there began a total eclipse. The planet’s largest moon swiftly moved in front of the sun. The crowd fell silent.
King Oswald, dumbfounded, knew this was clearly a significant omen. At the moment of totality the people looked up into the dark sky and there they saw a twinkling speck of gold and they knew that the horrible years of austerity were almost at an end. King Oswald was no fool, he ran inside the fortress, tried to persuade his wife that they had to leave now or else something terrible would befall them, but she refused and told him that if he left now he would have to go alone, only Prince Victor stood by him and together they rode out of the servants entrance behind the fortress never to be seen again. Rumour had it that they lived in a deep impenetrable forest where they raised pigs for the rest of their lives. Prince Wyn called Queen Emeralda and Princess Lusha onto the steps as the moon moved across from the sun and the light flooded back into the world, and the people cheered as he embraced them both.
The Golden Dragon duly arrived one month later, to a forest of ancient flags and pennants that the people had been saving for just such a day. The people elected Prince Wyn as the new president after it was decided that there would never be a royal family ever again, and, as far as is known, there never has been since. The whole world lived forever and a day in perfect harmony.

09/12/2018

The Aberbanc Argus 11/11/2018.

Armistice Day 2018, the centenary of the end of WW1. What a strange day. The usual dirge like tones on the BBC Radio Four coverage of the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month as the wreaths were laid at the cenotaph. Not long afterwards the MSM swung into action and launched the inevitable attack on Jeremy Corbyn for wearing the wrong kind of coat and too small a poppy. Surely everyone now sees this kind of tabloid attack for what it is, cheap, shoddy and laughable. As he stood, surrounded by a bevvy of haute coutured war mongering murderers responsible for untold numbers of atrocities, as a man who has spent his whole life supporting peace campaigns he must have revelled in the irony. Of course the size of ones poppy is far more important than sanctioning millions of deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. Also, having ones rain hood out is a much bigger insult to the dead than those politicians who continue to broker massive arms contracts whenever and wherever they can across the globe. Such hypocrisy is startling but this is after all a symptom of the fear felt by the establishment of a Jeremy Corbyn led government. Meanwhile in Paris French leader Macron publicly slaps Trump in the face by lecturing on the difference between nationalism and patriotism whilst in Warsaw a massive demonstration orchestrated by Nazis is attended by the head of state and other government politicians. All this whilst I sit constipated and convalescing from a hernia operation last Tuesday that is ameliorated by codeine and paracetamol. I read in The Sunday Remainer (The Observer) that the MOD are now developing drones that can take autonomous decisions on whether to kill or not, something I have been writing about for the last thirteen years, ironic on the centenary of the end of the war to end all wars that new fangled killing machines are being developed for the very self same politicians who wear the larger poppies, believe in nuclear weapons as deterrence, and are draped in tailored mourning clothes. After a plate of frozen berries ( defrosted), muesli and plain yoghurt at lunchtime I finally have a shit after six days of discomfort, but I still feel sickened by the historical stench of wars past mixed with the fear that something awful is brewing in the very near future. All this and Charlton Athletic scored away from home in the FA Cup first round at Mansfield Town thus earning a draw and a place in the second round draw. See, I told you it was a strange day. Sleep well comrades, whilst you can.

Nowhere To Go Go

Caught short in Tokyo?
No problem a go go.
Public loos never shut,
Designer works of art,
Not like that Nissan hut,
Pugged away, kept in dark.
Most in convenience
Drab, ugly, plain and stark,
Squalid where we spend pence.
Unlike the Japanese
Who all luxuriate
With fancy poos and pees,
Their toilets truly great,
Aesthetic and pleasing
Built like finest palace,
For farting and easing,
Not a poisoned chalice
Like those cold windy sheds
Built of tin and concrete,
Crass stainless steel piss heads,
No more found on high street.
Suppose we’ll carry pos
When all the loos are gone.
Where cherry blossom grows
Lavatories live on!

Harri Rogers, Pencnwcau, 1st June 2018.

The Repository Of Socially Useful Ideas.

This is an idea that came to me in a dream whilst on a Christmas holiday in Palma on 27th December 2015.

I was dreaming that I was running a kind of Blog. A blog where people could lodge their ideas of how to build a better world. The blog would have a portal a bit like the entrance into Narnia. Once through the entrance a repositer would have access to all the ideas lodged there. There would be open access to ideas and they would be lodged by category.  Unlike Wikipedia, which is an attempt at a self monitoring encyclopedia, this would be a repository where just ideas are posted. At the moment there are many academic websites that cost an arm and a leg to accessand are beyond the reach of the vast majority of people who neither earn the salaries nor have the economic backing of major institutions. Also, the current social media are great places to chat and organise events but when it comes to the sharing of ideas they fall down big time.  This is mainly because they are not designed with a coherent archival capability.  The website Democracy Now comes close to doing this but has as it’s central aim the dissemination of left wing news and keeps a magnificent global archive of news events.

What I am proposingis a modern day version of The Left Book Club where strategic and political thinkers and polemicists can rub shoulders with activists who have great ideas.

The need for security would be an absolute imperitive. To this end I believe that something akin to a block chain would need to be used in order to keep the maliciously intended from subverting or riddling the site with virusus or software that could be used by governments to access lists of contributors. 

Contributors would adopt an avatar/identity at the start of their journey into the repository and would be able to access all ideas posted without hindrance.

The blog will need very careful monitoring and a secure vetting process to ensure that neither political nor religious factions can subvert or occupy the site for their own ends.  The overarching purpose of the site is to build a repository of knowledge that is open to all. A bit like what Tony Benn often refered to as a people’s university. There are still public libraries and reading rooms but these are increasingly disappearing as funding for the reproduction of traditional books, the cost of maintaining and heating the often large buildings, and cost of employing librarians and other staff, all become prohibitive.

What I am proposing here is an online space where people can lodge ideas in the form of extracts, essays or longer tracts. This would be a place where these ideas would be given for free. I realise that for many academics this is anathema. A seismic blow to the concept of selling intellectual property. However this has already happened to a large extent in the creative industries where streaming is trying to outgun filesharing.  I am suggesting that ideas are not the property of those that have them but rather they are the product of the world we inhabit and as such should be shared. Zut alors I hear you say, this is the end of the world for so many people. What about copywrite? How can academics make a living? Well the key here is that people would donate their ideas to the repository freely and of their own volition.  There would be no expectation of payment and no exploitation through sales. The ideas would be there to be used, studied, or enacted.

A site like this would need some initial financeand also some ongoing revenue to cover any on-costs. This could come from donations, gifts and fundraising events.

The main idea though is to get the realm of academic freedom away from the chaos that is Facebook etc and into a modern online space where ideas are freely exchanged, tested, challenged and developed. TED does this up to a point but what is needed is an online place where anybody can deposit ideas that they believe are for the common good. Where ideas can be disseminated and shared with the sole purpose of making the world a better place. At the moment our Universities are, in the main, set up to compete and generate finance through competitive business models but this is not the only or even the best way things can be organised.

We need another way. We need a place where anyone who has a good idea can share it, not for money but out of altruism. The creators of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc etc have taken the internet away from the people,monetized it to the nth degree and have handed back a cyber lawyers paradise where the original idea of the internet has become subverted and enslaved to mammon. Bitcoin, despite it’s faults offers a possible way out through the use of blockchain technology. I am not an expert on this but I believe it is possible to set up an online entity that exists free from the constraints and exploitation of capitalism true to the original concept of the world wide web. It is something we need to strive for and a good start could be the creation of The Repository of Socially Useful Ideas.

Merthyr Rising Festival 2018 – Red Poets Events.

​I am doing two readings with The Red Poets at the Merthyr Rising Festival.
We’re doing 2 sets on Saturday May 26th.
The first is at Theatr Soar, just off High St.  Max 2 poems each and we’re on from 11 – 12.
Second is in the tent in Castle Car park, near Soar and we start at 13.15. Again 2 poems each.
This will be the running order for both sessions –
Mike Jenkins 

Des Mannay

Gemma Howells

Tim Evans

Heather Pudner

Phil Howells

Al Jones

Julie Pritchard

Tim Richards

Mike Church

Harry Rogers

John Williams

Andrew Bartz

Rhoda Thomas 

Phil Knight

Heather falconer

Rhys Milsom

Huw Pudner

Rob Cullen

Patrick Jones ( tent only)

Barry Taylor.

Windflower – Poem 8th May 2018.

Windflower

The seed arrived
Without warning
On an unknown
Foreign Zephyr.
Depositing
Itself, neatly,
Between dry stones.
On spagnum green
Softly nestled
For duration
Of summer warm
Swollen with dew
Bursting upwards
Searching for sky
Seeking sunshine
Stalkly groping
Stronger each day
Budly bursting
Cerulean
Bluely special
Shiny dawning
Unexpected
Glory morning
My windflower

Harry Rogers: Tea shop in Newcastle Emlyn, 8th May 2018

Spice, The Variety Of Life.

Huddled beneath rainbow hoodie,
Head bowed, feet bare, he begs, silent.
I see him in shiver alley.
On the way to buy food for birds
I felt such a goodie goodie.
Finches, sparrows, tits and robins,
All friends in my kitchen garden.
The epiphany strikes full force.
Here on cardboard square sits a man,
A young man with no belongings.
I would easy spend thirty pounds
On fat balls, nuts and mixed seed.
He has neither home, nor garden.
Open my wallet, take tenner,
Hand him the brown note, he looks up.
“That’s far too much man, far too much.”
Shocked at how well spoken he is,
The words tumble quick from my mouth,
” Do you have a bed for tonight?”
” I don’t, my girlfriend is away.
She is coming back with money,
We will rent a room very soon.”
“Come to my house, I have spare space.”
“I can’t do that, not right now man.”
Scribble down name and phone number,
Thrust paper into blackened hand,
Hurry to garden bird seed land.
Laden down with avian feast
I pass him by on way back home,
“Did you mean it? About the bed?”
Awkwardly I blurt out “Of course.”
See the tears tumble down his face.
“Thanks, I might call you, some time soon.”
He moved in fourteen days ago.
His room is already unkempt,
Empty spice bags litter the floor.
When straight he is quite diffident,
We talk all night when he’s lucid.
Never knew someone with so much strife,
The police woman very kind,
Told me he never saw the car,
That killed him on the roundabout,
He stumbled from the kerb she said,
The Jaguar killed him stone dead,
Not yet thirty, a crying shame,
I don’t know where to lay the blame.
Spice, the variety of life.

Thanks to Angie for this narrative.

Harry Rogers, Pencnwcau, 23-04-2018

The Salisbury Incident

Article by Johnny Gaunt & Harry Rogers

The Salisbury Incident

As many governments across the Western world begin to exile their Russian diplomats back east, the most fundamental questions relating to the Skripol case remain not only unanswered, but the faintest sniff of any real evidence is yet to make an appearance before the public.
There is no doubt that Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Amber Rudd, et al, have worked hard to achieve a consensus amongst Nato and EU states, and has had some success in persuading other leaders to condemn and react to the unproven Russian involvement.
Many of these leaders, perhaps, have reasons of their own for latching on to such a flimsy agreement. France, Germany, Italy, and Holland are among a number of nations reeling from their own domestic political turbulence. Collapsing centrist parties have watched their traditional voter bases divide and file off to the left and right, as all over Europe the political polarisation hardens. Being seen to be part of a new unified front will, they hope, strengthen their domestic positions. It is a familiar response from desperate neoliberal administrations; instead of taking responsibility for the declining interest in their policies, they would rather fall back on the policy of fear in a dangerous attempt to appear ‘strong and stable’.
Manipulating fear of a common enemy of the West, brings with it certain benefits for the ruling classes. Not only does it present a superficial ‘toughness’ that leaders can exploit at home, it also makes large sections of the public easier to control and susceptible to further misinformation. Chomsky suggested: “Democratic societies can’t force people [to go to war, in this case]. Therefore, they have to control what they think.” You could also finish that sentence, “Therefore, democracy must be undermined.”
With the Skripol case we have seen the UK mass media swing into action in order to ramp up public fear, obliterate individual analysis and control the narrative of how Brits, loyal to their country, should respond. The BBC, ITN and Channel4 News outlets have each backed Theresa May’s assumptions and reactionary behaviour towards Russia. Jeremy Corbyn’s perspective, that the government needs to wait until real facts emerge about who is responsible, has been purposefully vilified and distorted by these networks, to echo George Bush’s infamous, “You’re either with us, or against us,” mentality. The BBC, for their flagship political debate programme, Newsnight, even went so far as to alter Jeremy Corbyn’s flat-cap to look more like a Russian bearskin, before pasting the doctored image onto a deep red backdrop of the Kremlin.
Heightening hysteria of a Russian threat is win-win politics for many hawkish MPs, who will gain increases in their arms industry share profits, and political leverage to turn up Defence spending. Simultaneously, the shrill is loud enough to drown out domestic criticism of such scandalous acts as cutting free school meals for a million kids from struggling families.
Of course, the main driver of much of this remains ideology. The golden rule of the British establishment has long been to stamp out any sign of socialism long before it can develop into anything meaningful; and it has done an excellent job since destroying Michael Foot’s 1983 manifesto.
It has been a long 35 years for the principled socialist. But in that time, things have changed radically. The commercial scraps from military technology found their way into public homes in the form of computers around the same time. Within 10 years, the world-wide-web had organised the internet into something accessible by the new generation, for whom computers were as everyday as television. In 2005, one of this generation, began hooking up Ivy League universities to his social media software, Facebook. The use of social media data by companies such as Cambridge Analytica to subvert global democratic processes is a negative outcome of the growth of ICT. Whilst big-data is a worrying aspect of the growth in digital industry, the ongoing rush by both Google and the Chinese government to bring about the singularity in artificial intelligence, where machines are equal in intellectual ability with human beings, is even more worrying for those of us concerned about the future of militarism. We are told that there are great social benefits that flow from AI, but the thought of autonomous weaponry making decisions on who lives and dies in the many so-called theatres of war is truly scary, and no longer just the dystopian rambling of science-fiction writers.
Whatever the truth behind the Salisbury Incident, we have witnessed the UK establishment’s completely cynical exercise in ramping up public fear of war, through the demonization of a major state. This behaviour is nothing new and has been used unsparingly since the end of the second world war; however, since 2001 and the commencement of the War on Terror, this fear and war mongering has intensified and become more frequent. These are the desperate actions of an ideologically bankrupt set of inept politicians; and, they are not exclusive to the Tory Party.
However, the establishment’s persistent use of its mainstream media arm to concuss the public into consensus, appears to be losing some of its punching power. This has been in no small part due to Jeremy Corbyn’s consistent message of doing the right thing, as in this case where he urged restraint before rushing to judgement. Nevertheless, the governments in Nato, will continue to use the threat of war to justify increasing expenditure on more and more technologically sophisticated methods of arm’s length killing, mostly of the dispossessed, in countries that don’t, or seem unlikely to, conform to Western hegemonic ideology.
Prevailing facts surrounding incidents such as the Salisbury poisoning, become almost irrelevant once the narrative has been set out; the public simply needs to choose between loyalty to, or betrayal of, Britain. Manipulation of public opinion in this way will no doubt carry on until it is either fully exposed for what it is, or until a genuine anti-war government can turn us away from the ‘unavoidable’ conflicts we are purposefully being steered towards.
Johnny Charles and Harry Rogers are both members of the Labour Party and Ceredigion Stop the War. On 28th April, the panel event, “Why the UK needs a new Foreign Policy” will take place in Aberystwyth, and will feature talks from Mark Serwotka, Lindsey German, Adam Joannes & Ayla Gol.

Unbroken Ponies – Tippy Toe To The Boogie video.

Recorded in Andy’s Gaff studio in Frome last November with Steve Young – Guitar, Robert Goldsmith – Saxes, Andrew Howell – Bass and Drums, Harry Rogers – Vocals.  This little earworm is all about a festival I went to in USA last summer.  I wrote the words sitting in Dr Bombay’s Tearoom in Candler Park, Atlanta, an excellent place to sit and get in contact with your muse.

Harri Boy Rogers and Friends LIVE at Get Off The Grid.

What I did on my holidays in the the USA this summer.  

Scene Red, the band I sing with and write lyrics for, were invited to play at the Get Off The Grid Solar Energy Festival in Hemptown, North Georgia.  We could not raise the funds to get the whole band over so I spoke to the organiser, Bill Fleming, and he said “Don’t worry Harry, you come over with some songs and I will get you some musicians to play with.”. I arrived in Atlanta with some lyrics on my phone and met up with Craig Rafuse.  We spent four or five hours working out some chords for the songs and then we duly set off for the festival at the end of the week. I had a slot booked for the Saturday evening at 7.30pm and by midday Craig and I had hooked up with Steve Baird, a great drummer and film maker from Sandy Springs in Atlanta. Over a beer at lunchtime I was talking with David Herndon from Athens, lead guitarist with the Caroline Aiken Band, and when I said I was trying to put a scratch band together for that evening he said “I’ll play with you Harri.”, so we had lead guitarist on board. Steve Baird played drums with a great band from Atlanta, Hair of The Dog, and he persuaded their lead guitarist, John Fergusen, to join us, by six o’clock things were looking good but we still needed to find a bass guitarist. Devin Harris said “I’ll play bass with you guys if I can get a bass guitar and an amp from somewhere.”.  A band finished playing on the mainstage at 7.00pm, Devin borrowed a bass and an amp from them and turned up with these on a golf cart at 7.15pm with the other guys, none of whom knew each other, let alone me, neither did they know any of the songs.  This is a recording of what happened when we started playing on the dance tent stage at 7.30pm. I will say this y’all, they sure know how to jam in Georgia.

Failed By The State – The Struggle in the Shadow of Grenfell (part 1)

 

This is a ‘must watch’. Explains the mechanism seen across London and other big cities of social cleansing. It’s the same one as is being used on the NHS, education, Fire service, police etc…. run them down, privatise and sell off the land. It’s the dispossession of high value land from low income people. It’s […]

via Failed By The State – The Struggle in the Shadow of Grenfell (Part 1) — Think Left

My Zeitgeist Tie Dye – a hippy lament.

 

On the 26th August 2017 I wrote this lyric sat at the kitchen table in Bill and Jacqueline Fleming’s house in Candler Park, Atlanta.

My Zeitgeist Tie Dye

One of those days when everything is right,

When you turn up looking clean outa sight,

People are smiling and you soon see why,

Everybody’s wearing their old tie dye.

Going back in their mind to better times,

When bent politicians paid for their crimes.

My zeitgeist tie dye

Brings a happy sigh

My zeitgeist tie dye

Will make no one cry

The tee shirts, the waistcoats, bell bottomed loons,

The beads and the joss, those Grateful Dead tunes,

That time when the young all tried to be nice,

When every day was a roll of the dice,

When the righteous stood up against the war,

When we knew what we had to struggle for.

My zeitgeist tie dye

Brings a happy sigh

My zeitgeist tie dye

Will make no one cry

When the sun shines on this human rainbow,

More psychedelic than any light show,

Young and old, together they can unwind,

Whilst spectacularly blowing our minds.

Don’t know if it comes from below or above,

I still hanker for that old peace and love.

My zeitgeist tie dye

Brings a happy sigh

My zeitgeist tie dye

Will make no one cry

My

Zeitgeist

Tie Dye.

A song for Steve Baird.
521 Harold Avenue: 26th August 2017.

Two days later I went into Steve Baird’s basement studio with Steve Baird – Drums, Craig Rafuse – Rhythm Guitar, and Susannah Masari – Backing Vocals where we laid down some backing tracks for this song.  I returned to England with the recorded stems, when I got back I set up a session in Andrew Howell’s studio, Andy’s Gaff, in Frome on Saturday 23rd November with Steve Young on guitar, Robert Goldsmith on Saxes, and Andrew Howell engineering. On the afternoon of Tuesday 5th December in Harriboy’s Hut, Aberbanc, West Wales I sat and did the above Mix.

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Steve Baird setting up the recording software in his studio in Sandy Springs, Atlanta.

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Craig Rafuse listening back with a cup of coffee in Steve Baird’s studio.

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Susannah Masarie listening back.

Cricket In A Bamboo Bottle – MP3 December 2017

Cricket In A Bamboo Bottle.

I used to do that little trick
Poking you with my stick
I would make you buzz all night long

 

I used to do that little trick
With my old poking stick
You would sing your favourite song

 

I’d make you buzz like a cricket
Cricket in a bamboo bottle
I would make you buzz all night long
Like a cricket in a bamboo bottle

 

Beneath a silver night moon kite
White light could shine so bright
I would make you buzz all night long

 

I would still do that little trick
With my old poking stick
You would sing your favourite song

 

I’d make you buzz like a cricket
Cricket in a bamboo bottle
I would make you buzz all night long
Like a cricket in a bamboo bottle

Aberbanc : 7th May 2017.

Harri, Steve and Craig in Sandy Springs

Harri Rogers, Steve Baird and Craig Rafuse in Sandy Springs, Atlanta Georgia.

After playing together at the Get Off The Grid Fest Solar Expo & Sustainability Fair at the Union County Arena in Hemptown, North Georgia on 19th August 2017  Steve Baird, Craig Rafuse and I went back to Steve’s basement studio and laid down some parts for a rock and roll song called Cricket In A Bamboo Bottle. Afterwards I took the stems back home with me and last weekend three members of The Unbroken Ponies,  Steve Young, Andrew Howell, and Robert Goldsmith added more parts in Andrew Howell’s studio , Andy’s Gaff, in Frome, Somerset, England. Today I got a copy of the mix from Andrew and here it is. Cheers everyone involved for making me happy.

Unbroken Ponies at Harrifest

Centre figures in this photo are Steve Young, Harri Rogers and Andrew Howell with other members of the Unbroken Ponies crew and Colin Bodiam at Harrifest 2015.

IMG_20171030_234616_kindlephoto-8125416

Robert Goldsmith with his baritone saxophone in Harriboy’s Hut, Aberbanc, West Wales on October 30th 2017.

 

TIPPY TOE TO THE BOOGIE

 

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I wrote the words to this song in the USA this summer after I attended a festival there.  I got together with members of the Unbroken Ponies, Andrew Howell, Steve Young and Robert Goldsmith, in Andy’s Gaff studio in Frome on Saturday and we wrote and recorded this Pop song.

 

TIPPY TOE TO THE BOOGIE

Tippy Toe Tippy Toe

On down the road

Tippy Toe Tippy Toe

Way down the road

Tippy Toe to the Boogie

All the way to the Boogie

 

Where the roosters strut that old loving stuff

And the pandas eat magic bamboo shoots

Where sacramental love flows true and strong

Whilst beautiful music plays all night long

 

Tippy Toe Tippy Toe

On down the road

Tippy Toe Tippy Toe

Way down the road

Tippy Toe to the Boogie

All the way to the Boogie

 

That place where you can leave the world behind

Where people spend their whole time being kind

Where dancers prance in Sun and moon shadows

And wondrous camps spring up from the meadows

 

Tippy Toe Tippy Toe

On down the road

Tippy Toe Tippy Toe

Way down the road

Tippy Toe to the Boogie

All the way to the Boogie

Harry Rogers, in Dr Bombay’s. Candler Park, Atlanta, 6th September 2017.

 

LILITH LIES DEAD

 

Lilith Lies Dead

They shot Lilith today,
Because she ran away,
They ended her short taste of freedom.

With her beauty so proud,
We should all cry out loud.
Tourist zoos? Do we really need them?

All those fat bureaucrats
In their murderers hats,
Should we continue to feed them?

There was no need to kill,
A ground up sleeping pill,
Would save her from permanent sleepdom

Now Lilith lies dead
With blood on her head,
Our tears are all shed,
Whilst we lie abed
I am seeing red,
They shot Lilith dead.

Harri Rogers, In bed at Pencnwcau, 11th November 2017

Unbroken Ponies – CONCHY

Ponies rehearsal at Dyffrin GwyntIn 2015 the Unbroken Ponies went into the Last Track Studio in Llanon, Ceredigion and cut this track in memory of those conscientious objectors who were brave enough not to fight in World War One. the Lyric is below the Audio track.

CONCHY

He wore a black poppy and a white feather

Every single day with pride

He wore the black poppy and the white feather

Every day until he died

Nothing they did could make him change his mind

Wouldn’t do what they told him to

They locked him up and even beat him up

He still wouldn’t do as he was told

Kept his head high never let them see him cry

Wavered not even as he got old

Conchy was his name

Waging peace his game

Conchy was his name

Waging peace his game

Black poppies

For Conchies

Sixteen hundred

Long dead and gone

They set him to work on the ambulance train

Treating dying and wounded men

Sent him near the front for the whole of the war

Again and again and again

British and French and even German soldiers too

Patched up those he thought would survive

Collected creased photographs of loved ones on swings

From those who were no longer alive

Young girls on swings

From London or Berlin

Daughters, mums and wives

All now with ruined lives

White feathers

For Conchies

Sixteen hundred

Long dead and gone

Took Conchy for his name he was born to disobey

Never did what others told him to do

Refused to go and fight he would never kill a man

No matter whoever wanted him to

Envelopes were sent to him with white feathers in

For week after week after week

He kept them, every one, wore one in his lapel

Waited for somebody to speak

Conchy was his name

Waging peace his game

Conchy was his name

Waging peace his game

Wear a black poppy

For Conchy

Wear a white feather

For Conchy

Sixteen hundred like him

Long dead and gone

Remembered here

To live on and on

Harry Rogers, Aberbanc

November 11th 2014

SCENE RED RELEASE SINGLE FROM FORTHCOMING ALBUM

This track from our forthcoming album is called Chasing Fireflies.  We hope to finish the album soon and release it on Deep River Records.  Meanwhile we in the band hope you like this.

CHASING FIREFLIES

I sit out on the deck
Watching your children play
Chasing bright red fireflies
In last rays of the day
Old knees worn out now
Else I too would chase
Pleasure comes from sunset
Lighting up your face

Spent a long long time
Chasing fireflies
Spent a real long time
Chasing fireflies
Now there is no time for
Chasing fireflies

There are things I would
Like to do on the day I die
Just for the briefest moment
Hold a bright red firefly
Listen to the nightingale
Singing as it flies up high
Know that you are smiling
As we say goodbye

Spent a long long time
Chasing fireflies
Spent a real long time
Chasing fireflies
Now there is no time for
Chasing fireflies

Harry Rogers, Pencnwcau, 2014

Scene Red T Shirt 2017

Zombie Walk in Sitges 7th October 2017

Every year in Catalonia a film festival dedicated to horror, fantasy and sci-fi takes place in Sitges. Here is some footage of the world famous Zombie Walk. I would have shot more but my phone was out of battery power. A whole lot of fun as is clearly shown. Great stuff for monster lovers everywhere. Music soundtrack to this video is Here Comes The Rougarou by The Unbroken Ponies.

HERE COMES THE ROUGAROU

Watch out good people
It’s coming soon
Coming to get you
Coming real soon
Gonna suck your blood
Coming real soon
Look out now baby
It’s the Rougarou

Rougarou
Rougarou
Look out now baby
It’s the Rougarou

Talks like a Tory
Dressed up in blue
Coming to get you
Coming real soon
Take away your rights
Dignity too
Look out now baby
It’s the Rougarou

Rougarou
Rougarou
Look out now baby
Tory Rougarou

14th May 2015 Aberbanc.

 

PEACEMAKER

Seeing Red LogoPeacemaker

Cowboy movies in the fifties
Showed us Colt forty five power,
Flickering up on silver screen,
Long barrelled pistols every hour.
The lawmen and the cavalry,
In the street and behind the rocks,
Killing bad guys and Indians,
Using spitfire substitute cocks.

They called it
Peacemaker,
The Frontier
Peacemaker,
Model P
Peacemaker.

Went to the toy shop with my mum,
At Christmas nineteen fifty five,
To choose my holster and my gun,
I was the Cimarron Kid live.
The outlaws used peacemakers too,
The anti hero movie stars,
With their chiselled looks and cars,
Showed us all how to kill a man,
Upfront guns, hole and corner plan.

I chose it
Peacemaker,
My silver
Peacemaker,
My cowboy
Peacemaker
Gun.

A toy to you but real to me
This is what movies did you see,
Identified an enemy,
Shot them in Technicolor dreams,
False heroes on cinema screens,
Killing while Geronimo screams,
Long before truth showed wounded knee,
Those lies behind land of the free.

They called it
Peacemaker,
The Frontier
Peacemaker,
Model P
Peacemaker,
Life taker
Peacemaker,
Colt four five
Peacemaker,
Las Vegas
Peacemaker?

Harri Rogers, In the hut, Aberbanc, 3/10/2017.

Poem – Centre Ground

Centre Ground

The wild buddleia and the straggly old man’s beard,
Running rampant on the waste ground by the railway.
Can this be the place that they call the centre ground?
Where democracy and truth die between the weeds?
Where the bindweed strangles freedom in the sunshine?
Where the brambles riot as nettles choke the land?
Honest folk are liars made by giant hogweed,
Sown by fake news vendors that have no hearts to bleed.
Surely now we understand, this thing centre ground,
Where nothing good or wholesome ever shall be found.

On the train to Reading 11th August 2017.

Nigel Mazlyn Jones and Scene Red Live at Newport Memorial Hall 30th September 2017

Screenshot (125)This is a special event which sees Nigel Mazlyn Jones back in West Wales for the first time in many years.

 

Nigel Mazlyn Jones On Tour Autumn 2017

Fri Sept 22nd No 8, Launceston / Sat 30th Sept Newport Memorial Hall Pembrokeshire plus Scene Red / Sat 14th Oct Shammick Acoustic unplugged Combe Martin, Devon / Thurs 19th Oct Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek, Staffs / Fri 20th Oct Katie Fitzgerald’s, Stourbridge / Sat 21st Oct Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire – Updates see http://www.nigelmazlynjones.com

Nigel Mazlyn Jones, acoustic guitarist and lyricist, is a veteran of the first wave of British acoustic warriors, along with Roy Harper, Nick Drake, John Martyn, Mick Softley and Mike Chapman. He returns to the front line after a five-year breather, invigorated and enthused, to bewilder and bemuse your singular and most excellent delight.” Richard Allen, Shindig!

Biography

A veteran of the ’70s acoustic music scene, NMJ weaves sounds and atmospheres with 6- and 12-string acoustic guitars and the kind of ecologically aware political commentary championed by his peers. Since 1976 he has been entrancing audiences on the live and festival circuits as well as on radio and TV. Nigel is the real deal, a battle-hardened survivor for his art, enthused, principled and still breaking the envelope. Well known on the UK festival scene, he has often toured UK and European major venues supporting the likes of Barclay James Harvest, Renaissance, Camel and Bob Geldof whilst collaborating with Steve Hillage, Banco de Gaia, Roy Harper, and Guy Evans of Van Der Graaf Generator, on various projects.

Nigel has recorded eleven albums. His first two albums, the majestic Ship to Shore and the world-weary Sentinel, have been re-released and are rightly regarded as classics of the genre. His recent release Raft echoes his early work featuring 12-string dexterity to the fore embellishing some great tunes and poignant lyrics of hope, love, wonder and exasperation at humanity. Guest players include Guy Evans, drummer-percussionist with Van Der Graaf Generator, and Rog Patterson on fretless bass. Nigel loves the natural world and once worked in conservation with the great apes at Gerald Durrell’s Wildlife Trust. Living near the Cornish coast natural influences are woven into his music creating an artistic reflection of the raft on which we all individually sail. As Nigel notes: “Like this planet, rafts are fragile.”

What the Press said about Nigel live:

MOJO “There is a complexity to his approach, ferocity edged with a brittle beauty, joy of living pervades often rainbow lit.”

UNCUT “Since the mid-70s NMJ has quietly been making some of the best acoustic music in the UK.”

F’ROOTS “A first-rate producer of acoustic brain food.”

Selected Album Reviews

MOJO “Beautifully woven folk rock”

UNCUT “… lyrical inspiration, daring instrumental tracks that shine. 8 out of 10”

SHINDIG! “entirely original acoustic folk sound, some of the best acoustic music in the UK”

R2 (ROCK’n’REEL) “An undoubted musical maverick, there is something profoundly elemental about his music”

SHINDIG!Ship to Shore, NMJ’s 1st album from 1976, is one of the great UK 70s singer-songwriter albums. Easily holding its own alongside the likes of Roy Harper, Nick Drake and John Martyn, Ship to Shore captures that free-spirited innocence and optimism which momentarily eclipsed the commercial considerations of the music industry”

UNCUT reviewing a 2014 reissue of his 1976 album Ship to Shore

Ship to Shore was a breath of fresh air in the fallow folk years of 1976, a distinctive combination of sincere songs, shape shifting acoustic guitars and glissando techniques. A well-known figure on the live circuit he featured as guest act for many bands.”

LINKS:

www.nigelmazlynjones.com

Press photo downloads: http://www.nigelmazlynjones.com/pages/contact.html

www.facebook.com/nigelmazlynjones

YouTube video NMJ and Phil Beer live 2015 Bacon Theatre Cheltenham

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbW239x9b8k

SCENE RED

Tales From Dolwion front image final edit

Possibly the most underated band in West Wales Scene Red have been playing most of their gigs in LONDON for the past few years.  Based at LTS Recording Studios in Llanon this band play their own brand of indy rock/funk and are ready to release their second album in time for xmas 2017.  The band comprises the following members, Harry Rogers – Vocals, Rabbie McAdam Duff – Lead Guitar, Andy Duff – Bass Guitar, James Fereday – Drums, Joy Fereday – Saxophone.

 

 

NEW NAME, SAME ME

I have adopted a one letter change to my name for all my published work, online and elsewhere and for my internet presence from Harry to Harri.  This is because I have lived longer in my current home in Wales than anywhere else throughout my 69 years.  My email handle is already harriboy so it is a small step but one that puts me more in tune with the country I live in.  I will still be writing in the same vein as ever and hopefully will be updating this blog more often.

The other reasons why Labour lost in 2015

Think Left

For the most part, Margaret Beckett has managed to avoid the firing line for her 35 page report as to why Labour lost the 2015 GE.  Essentially, the report (which can be read here) does not fit easily into the Labour Right’s or the media’s frame of reference… vague or bland was the best they could come up with.  The press tried to whip up some excitement about ‘the suppression of a secret report’ about focus group findings but the task of blaming Jeremy Corbyn for Labour’s defeat in 2015 eventually proved too convoluted.  However, Jamie Reed MP did his best in a valiant effort for Progress:

Any Labour leader who refuses to listen to the country and who prizes the views of Labour members above Labour voters and former Labour voters will likely find that although they may secure the Labour crown, they will lose…

View original post 1,583 more words

What do the Labour Right think will happen if ‘they get their party back’?

Think Left

To be honest, I’m a bit mystified by the pronouncements of the Labour ‘modernisers’. Their thinking doesn’t seem to make any sense.

In the last two weeks, since Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership with 59.5% of the vote, we’ve heard Charles Clark say “It’s obviously been a very bad week for him.” (?) and that Yvette Cooper is waiting in the wings to take over as Labour leader if Jeremy Corbyn gets fed up with the job (?).

Much more ominously, there are ‘reports that elements of the British Army may rebel if Jeremy Corbyn is elected Prime Minister, and a serving general quoted as saying that“The Army just wouldn’t stand for it”.

Has it been a bad couple of weeks for JC?

Off the top of my head, he has put together a huge and an inclusive shadow cabinet, which comprises 52% women; made a very…

View original post 1,224 more words

From California to Cardiff via Gaza and Missouri

From California to Cardiff via Gaza and Missouri

From California to Cardiff via Gaza and Missouri
Drone manufacturers rub their hands with glee
Their pals the police chiefs and all the military
Wait with bated breath for each new insurgency

There at the lectern next to some flowering plant
Politicians stand and lie just like Charley’s Aunt
All those perfect promises move from shall to shan’t
Funny how Yes We Can turned into No You Can’t!

Harry Rogers, Aberbanc, 20th August 2014

Radio Activist Weekly Almanac Special Mayday Edition.

This is a special Mayday edition of the Radio Activist Weekly Almanac with music from Blind Willie McTell, and Memphis Minnie, an interview with Red Poets of Wales founder member Mike Jenkins, a Tony Benn speech outside the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth in 2003, and part one and two of an historic radio show from the original Radio Activist himself, Studs Terkel, called Bound For Glory The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie.

Radio Activist Logo 2

The Legacy Of Tony Benn – People’s Parliament audio clip

On Wednesday 9th of April at 7.00pm I attended a packed out committee room 14 in the House of Commons for the People’s Parliament meeting on the legacy of Tony Benn and what an inspiring meeting it was. John McDonnel and the five speakers on the platform gave very poignant and interesting accounts of their recollections of working alongside Tony Benn inside the house of Commons and also in the many campaigns and struggles both within Britain and across the world. It was clear that Tony was a tireless campaigner on a wide range of socialist issues right up until the very end of his 88 years. It is difficult to name another left wing activist in the British labour movement that put in as many hours, or travelled as many miles as he did. It is clear that he not only spent a lot of time campaigning but also spent a lot of time researching issues and talking to people in the field and on the shop floor. His pursuit of democracy and belief in the people’s ability to take decisions for themselves is very far removed from the realm of the majority of mainstream politicians for whom the electorate are just a vehicle into the corridors of power rather than a resource to be listened to and consulted on the myriad of issues that affect their everyday lives. It is remarkable that he remained in the Labour Party throughout the years of New Labour and the inexorable march towards right wing corporatist government, privatisation and war mongering. Many activists, including myself, have long since torn up their party cards out of feelings of sheer frustration and, it has to be said, total disgust at the move towards being a right of centre party. And yet, despite the fact that he retained his loyalty to the labour party all his life, whenever he appeared on a platform at a demo, on a picket line or at a public meeting, the fondness and esteem within which has he was held by all sections of the movement was clearly palpable. Quite simply Tony Benn was not only a tireless and hard working socialist he was truly inspirational, unwavering in his belief that a better world where peace, equality and justice for all is the norm. As everyone has said his death is a great loss to the cause of socialism, however, whilst the great man may be gone his ideas live on. It is encumbant on those of us who agree with his ideas to pick them up and run with them and when we are asked why we do so the reply must surely be, as he would have wanted, Tony Benn Encouraged Us.

MY GLASS IS STILL HALF FULL – A lyric for Bob and Tony

MY GLASS IS STILL HALF FULL

ALL THE GOOD HEROES ARE DYING
ALL OF THEIR COMRADES CRYING
RANDIAN JOURNOS PROCLAIMING
THE END OF AN ERA OF FAILING

I DON’T SEE IT THAT WAY
JUST BECAUSE THEIR BODY HAS GONE
EVERYTHING THEY HAD TO SAY
ALL THEIR DREAMS AND IDEAS LIVE ON

MY GLASS IS STILL HALF FULL
I AIN’T GOING AWAY
MY GLASS IS STILL HALF FULL
I’M ACTIVE EVERY DAY

OUR STANDARDS ARE STILL FLYING
OUR TEARS ARE SLOWLY DRYING
WE’RE OUT THERE ON THE STREETS
WE LEARN FROM OLD DEFEATS

WE ALL WANT SOMETHING NEW
IT’S COMING IF WE ALL STAND TOGETHER
WE ALL KNOW WHAT TO DO
IT’S REALLY OURS WHEN WE STAND TOGETHER

MY GLASS IS STILL HALF FULL
I AIN’T GOING AWAY
MY GLASS IS STILL HALF FULL
I’M ACTIVE EVERY DAY
MY GLASS IS STILL HALF FULL
AIN’T GONNA GO AWAY
MY GLASS IS STILL HALF FULL
I FIGHT ON EVERY DAY
FIGHT ON EVERY DAY

Harry Rogers
24/03/2014
Aberbanc

STARFISHING

STARFISHING

IN THE PEARLY EVENING

WHEN THE SUN IS GOING DOWN

GET INTO A DINGHY

SCULLING RIGHT OUT OF YOUR TOWN

TO THAT ORANGE MARKER

FLOATING UP ABOVE YOUR POTS

HOPING FOR A LOBSTER

ONE OR TWO OR MAYBE LOTS

.

HAULING ON THE ROPE

FROM TEN METRES DOWN

PULL THE BASKET IN

GANNETS FLY AROUND

LOBSTERS THERE ARE NONE

NEITHER ARE THERE CRABS

AMONGST THE STARFISH

ONE OR TWO SMALL DABS

.

STARFISHING UNDER RED SKIES

STARFISHING AGAIN

STARFISHING UNDER RED SKIES

STARFISHING AGAIN

.

IT’S HARD

.

STARFISHING UNDER RED SKIES

STARFISHING AGAIN

STARFISHING UNDER RED SKIES

STARFISHING AGAIN

STARFISHING AGAIN

STARFISHING AGAIN

Aberbanc 30-01-2014
Scene Red - Starfishing album cover

Girls With Redeye

Girls With Redeye

In the crystalline glow of the cocktail bar
Three young women huddling behind
Triangular rainbow filled glasses
Sporting impaled exotic fruits
Smile that Facebook friendly smile
Whilst the barman takes their picture
The light is distorted in such a way
That all three of them get redeye
They don’t care too much
They post it anyway
We all click like and move on
To the next digital moment
And so goes our modern life

Aberbanc 15/12/2013

Working Together Against Drone Terror.

Speech for Porthmadog – 15th November 2013

Cyfeillion, a’i gyfeillion, noswaith dda a diolch i chi am fy ngwahodd.

Friends, and comrades, good evening and thank you for inviting me. I apologise for not being able to address you in Welsh tonight, I am afraid you will have to put up with English for the rest of my speech.

My name is Harry Rogers I bring greetings from Bro Emlyn For Peace and Justice, a local activist group that formed in 2003 as a response to Tony Blair’s illegal war on Iraq and we have been involved in a number of campaigns since that time. I personally have taken a keen interest in the research, development, and deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and in particular Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) since about 2006.  I have spoken on a number of occasions to this subject and the last time I spoke at a public event on this issue was at an anti drone conference in Cardiff earlier this year.  That conference led to the formation of Drone Campaign Network Cymru which is  umbrella organisation co-ordinating information about, and activities against military & surveillance drones in Wales & beyond and I am now a member of the co-ordinating committee of that group.  We recently organised a very successful protest demonstration outside the entrance to West Wales Airport at Parc Aberporth which is where the MOD are carrying out the airworthiness testing of the Watchkeeper drone, or at least this is the official line, I have my doubts on this and will touch on some of what I suspect is happening there later on in this speech.

I want to address a number of issues tonight and these are:

– A brief history of recent events at Parc Aberporth and the MOD base at Parclyn

– What is the current state of play vis a vis drone technology?

– Why is there such acquiescence in the use of Drones by politicians from all the major political parties?

– How do we move forward to bring about an end to the development, testing and deployment of drones in Wales and beyond?

I will take questions at the end of the speech so please do feel free to ask me anything you want on what I have said and also ask my view on any ideas that occur as a result of listening to the talk.

A brief history of recent events at Parc Aberporth and the MOD base at Parclyn

I suspect that you already know quite a lot of the old history relating to RAF Aberporth and RAF Llanbedr in that they were both used to test missiles up to both bases being closed down.  Everybody in West Wales and in North Wales were very exercised by the loss of local employment that this caused.  I don’t know much about what happened up at Llanbedr but in Aberporth it has been an ongoing saga ever since the base was closed and handed over to the privatised company Qinetiq.  There was a lot of hoo haa at the time about the fact that that the management buyout team got the company for peanuts, more of this later.  This led to loss of hundreds of jobs and knocked on into the local economy.  In a separate though linked bit of economic development the Welsh Development Agency and the National Assembly For Wales set about using some of the £2.4 billion pounds of objective one EEC grant funding to set up a Science Park next to the the West Wales Airport which was bidding to become a full blown local airport with Civil Aviation Authority status (since gained).  The idea was that the Science Park would attract companies in the field of information and communications technology into West Wales and kick start economic regeneration along the lines of the Irish Celtic Tiger model which saw Eire become the second largest developers of software in the world.  High tech companies would be attracted by sweeteners such  low rents and rates and the close proximity to the airfield.  People were told that there would be replacement jobs and more for what had become an industrial wasteland.  The buildings were erected along with a swish new bit of roadway.  They looked fabulous and the WDA were sure they were onto a winner.  No high tech companies came, no jobs were created, and the local people watched a few million pounds wend down the Swanee.

The WDA and the National Assembly scratched their heads and worried about what was going to become of the Science Parc.  Meanwhile Qinetiq and the MOD were busy negotiating with the new owners of West Wales Airport to start using the newly extended runway to begin testing the Watchkeeper UAV for the British Army and so was hatched the plan to turn the science park into a brand new centre for excellence for Unmanned Aerial Systems Research and Development.  This seems to make absolute sense as there are many companies in the world who develop and  manufacture drone technology.  So with another fanfare of press releases saying that there would be 1000 new jobs created by the implementation of the new economic development opportunities afforded by drone technology companies from all over the world were invited to come and set up shop at the Science Park.  To date fewer than 50 actual jobs have been created by this initiative and most of the science park buildings remain unoccupied so after ten years the whole debacle looks like a wild west Wales ghost town with tumbleweed blowing around the brand spanking new empty roads.  There has been a lot of activity on the airport runway though as the MOD and Thales have carried out hundreds and hundreds of test flights of the Watchkeeper military surveillance drone.  Also Qinetiq and the MOD have organised a handful of drone trade fairs at the base but none of this activity has been of any major significance to the local economy whatsoever. I should also point out that the MOD applied for and got permission to extend the flight test area for the drones over a large area of Wales extending from Aberporth to Sennybridge.  The West Wales Airport has been granted permission for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle testing over large swathes of Welsh countryside.  Their was an, in my view, unsatisfactory public consultation carried out locally before the drone testing of the Watchkeeper actually began and people were told that the UAVs were not going to be solely used for military purposes, and in fact most of the drone development at Aberporth was going to be for civilian purposes.  Evidence of this is yet to be seen, in fact the only UAVs flying out of the airport are British Army Watchkeepers.

What is the current state of play vis a vis drone technology?

The whole issue of drone usage is controversial and is more and more coming onto the agenda of a variety of protest groups and other organisations around the world.  We all know that the governments of UK, USA and Israel are using drones as killing machines and for surveillance purposes on a continual basis.  So successful has the implementation of remote control technology been that we see decreasing levels of personnel employed by armed forces in what is euphemistically called the theatre of war.  This is however not exactly what all players in the game are happy with.  Politicians who are increasingly excercised by the tribulations of implementing austerity measures are very happy as drone warfare is cheaper than conventional warfare, and also makes life easier politically in that there are fewer personnel coming hope in black bags draped with flags.  However some sections of the armed services are worried about a number of issues arising from Pentagon driven so called advances in war fighting capabilities. In Britain the Raf have distinct qualms about the future developments in drone technology. The major issue is Autonomy.   The RAF say that “As UAVs are developed with increasing levels of automation it will reduce the requirement for operator training in the more traditional piloting skills of flying the aircraft, such as landing and takeoff, and focus the training more towards operating the payload.”

The MOD and in particular the RAF are discussing issues about the levels of automation they are comfortable with. They recognise that highly automated weaponry systems are unlikely to be able to apply judgement and pragmatism to “situations”. They are worried about legal and ethical considerations that occur when there are no human beings in the loop leading to loss of life or injury.  The future is one where outdated weaponry will give way to what they term “precision weaponry” and where the battle-spaces increasingly involve unmanned and cyber operations.

Autonomous weapon systems are capable of understanding higher level intent and direction, and perception of their environment, leading to the ability to take appropriate actions to bring about desired states. To be able to decide on a course of action, from a number of alternatives, without depending on human oversight and control. Although the overall activity of an autonomous unmanned aircraft will be predictable, individual actions may not be.

UAVs are used in scenarios which are highly distasteful and we all know that they are used for surveillance and targeting, and carrying out, weapon attacks inside the borders of countries such as Pakistan and Palestine. All of this is currently done with “man in the loop” systems but it will not be too long before drones are flying with what the RAF says is ” the ability to independently locate and attack mobile targets, with appropriate proportionality and discrimination.”

The RAF are worried about issues relating to the Geneva Convention with regard to autonomous UAV development and usage and they say that “compliance will become increasingly challenging as systems become more automated. In particular, if we wish to allow systems to make independent decisions without human intervention, some considerable work will be required to show how such systems will operate legally.”

Already there are automated weapons systems in use in Afghanistan, for example, the Phalanx and Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) systems used because there is deemed to be insufficient time for human response to counter incoming fire.

Future autonomous UAV systems will have to adhere to legal requirements and civilian airspace regulations. This will require political involvement in getting the necessary changes made. In my view it is absolutely vital that politicians understand the issues clearly and concisely because once made it will mean that there is going to be a lot of military and civilian hardware flying about in the airspace without any human interface whatsoever. The RAF say “As systems become increasingly automated, they will require decreasing human intervention between the issuing of mission-level orders and their execution.” and they go further saying “It would be only a small technical step to enable an unmanned aircraft to fire a weapon based solely on its own sensors, or shared information, and without recourse to higher, human authority.” They also discuss the timescale for the introduction of increased autonomy via Artificial Intelligence, saying ;- ” Estimates of when artificial intelligence will be achieved (as opposed to complex and clever automated systems) vary, but the consensus seems to lie between more than 5 years and less than 15 years.” Their words, not mine.

The RAF are clearly worried about the direction all this is going in and they say “As technology matures and new capabilities appear, policy-makers will need to be aware of the potential legal issues and take advice at a very early stage of any new system’s procurement cycle.” I believe this highlights a degree of paranoia on the part of the RAF vis a vis it’s own future role.

Not only are the RAF exercised about legal dilemmas. Ethics and morals related questions also are in their thoughts such as when, where and how automated and autonomous unmanned systems may be used. This applies not just to the use of drones of course but also to all other forms of weaponry in any environment.

Will all future wars be fought remotely with little or no loss of friendly or military personnel?

Will future conflicts be waged between increasingly complex unmanned systems?

In my view a problem that we face today is that big business accountants have control of governments and the most expensive resource used in public services is human beings. So autonomy offers massive savings in manpower and support for that manpower both before and after conflict occurs. As artificial Intelligence comes on board we are likely to see more complicated tasks arising that are beyond the capability of humans to deal with due to speed, complexity and information overload. No doubt some of you are probably suffering that now, but I only have a bit more to say before I will take questions, so bear with me.

The RAF and many others in the field are grappling with issues such as whether it is possible to develop AI that has the capability to focus on the unique (at the moment) ability that a human being has to bring empathy and morality to complex decision-making. The RAF say “To a robotic system, a school bus and a tank are the same – merely algorithms in a programme – and the engagement of a target is a singular action; the robot has no sense of ends, ways and means, no need to know why it is engaging a target. There is no recourse to human judgement in an engagement, no sense of a higher purpose on which to make decisions, and no ability to imagine (and therefore take responsibility for) repercussions of action taken.”

Why is there such acquiescence in the use of Drones by politicians from all the major political parties?

It is abundantly clear to me that politicians in Wales at all levels and in all parties are either happy to be part of a total militarised system or have no idea what is going on or are bereft of ways to get themselves out of their bankrupt policy morass vis a vis economic development and are therefore forced to clutch at the straws offered them by the military and their pals who run the transnational arms manufacturers.  In my view it is a combination of all three of these.  I can hear some of thinking what has all of this got to do with us in Wales?  Well Qinetiq, the NAFW and a number of transnational developers in drone and aerospace technology are engaged on a programme known as The ASTRAEA Project.  The ASTRAEA programme is jointly funded by industry and the public sector including the Welsh Assembly Government. Half of the funding for ASTRAEA is therefore being provided by public sector organisations – including the TSB and the regions – with the rest from a consortium of seven UK companies: AOS, BAE Systems, Cassidian, Cobham, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce and Thales UK.

The TSB, Technology Strategy Board (ATory body set up David “two brains” Willets), is a business-led executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

I know for a fact that the National Assembly For Wales has put at least £3 million into this project via it’s economic development commitee and I also know that this project was never discussed on the floor of the assembly in Cardiff.

ASTRAEA  stands for Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment and is a UK industry-led consortium focusing on the technologies, systems, facilities and procedures that will allow autonomous vehicles to operate safely and routinely in civil airspace over the United Kingdom.

The programme comprises two phases:

ASTRAEA I  –  2006 to 2008

Engaged with the regulators to understand the issues

Developed appropriate technology to TRL 3+

Culminated in an integrated SE demonstration of the art of the possible

Created an internationally recognised position for the UK

ASTRAEA II  –  2009 to 2013

Agreed a process with the regulator to establish suitability of various engineering solutions from the safety perspective

Created a process to identify and engage with potential UAS end users to establish more detailed and specific user requirements

Progressing solutions through live flight trials

Progress towards virtual certification

All of this research has clear military as well as civilian surveillance uses.  Don’t be fooled by UAV apologists who try to tell you that this research is benign, it most certainly is not.

How do we move forward to bring about an end to the development, testing and deployment of drones in Wales and beyond?

So we need to pose the following questions to evrybody out their be it our friends and neighbours, other members of the public, local journalists and media workers, and most of all our elected our politicians:-

Are they happy to allow Autonomous Robots to take on the responsibility of choosing which of us lives and which of us dies?

Can an autonomous robot be considered capable of waging ethical and legal warfare?

Can software and hardware accidents be distinguished from war crimes when robots go wrong?

Is it possible to establish clear policies on acceptable machine behavior?

How far out of the bottle is the technological genie?

Are we doomed to a Terminator style future?

Is it possible have a sensible debate about technological development anymore?

Do we really want Artificial Intelligence with a greater capacity to think than a human to be in any way involved in future theatres of War?

The RAF pose very important questions when they ask the following:-

– Do military planners and politicians understand the full implications of the systems they are currently tasking and those they hope to procure?

– In the current economic climate, who will decide the best balance between keeping existing equipment and personnel, or whether to give these up to fund new unmanned systems?

– Do we understand even the basic implications of such decisions for the associated defence lines of development?

– Crucially, do we have a strategic level of understanding as to how we will deliver the considerable number of changes that will need to be made to existing policy, concepts, doctrine, and force structures?

Finally, to conclude,  we must expect to see governments bringing in changes to the law of armed conflict in order to accommodate the use of autonomous UAS and we must shout our opposition to this from the rooftops.

So there we have it friends, there is a lot for us to consider when we look into the issue of drones. We have to view all of this in an holistic way. That is we must not just lumber along from one demo to the next thinking only about the impact of the current use of drone warfare, terrible though that is.

It is absolutely vital that we start to consider what future implications there are for the maintenance and development of basic human rights. We must also consider what the use of technology means in terms of social control measures such as we see the beginnings of in Gaza and elsewhere. I believe we are at, if not all ready passed, a dangerous turning point in the way we occupy this planet.

It is incumbent on us all to make a fuss about these issues if we want a planet where Human Rights are protected. If we don’t then we condemn the world to a dystopian future where all kinds of as yet un-thought of technology is used to maintain the position of a global elite above and beyond that of the majority of the people. The choice is ours, make a ruckus or bury our head in the sand and wait for the worst possible sci-fi future to engulf us all.  Drones Campaign Network Cymru is trying to ensure that as many people as we can reach are made aware of these issues, you can check us out on our Facebook page, we hope that we can be of help to people across Wales who want to try and influence a shift in policy decision making and eventually to bring about a drone free Wales.

Thanks for listening, I’m happy to take questions and take part in debate.

EVERY DRONE THAT FLIES

EVERY DRONE THAT FLIES

For each and every drone that flies

Somewhere somebody’s child dies

Yet still we fail to realise

That Barry’s hawks won’t compromise

Their zeal shines on in lying eyes

The media feed false alibis

For each and every drone that flies

 

Every drone that flies

Someone mostly dies

Every drone that flies

Someone mostly dies

 

For each and every drone that flies

Screaming though peaceful sunlit skies

Flown by burnt out former spies

Who’ve lost the will to empathise

Know only how to synchronise

Their gamers skills through bloodshot eyes

For each and every drone that flies

 

Every drone that flies

Someone mostly dies

Every drone that flies

Someone mostly dies

 

Harry Rogers, Aberbanc 5th November 2013

“BOOM”

“BOOM”
He stands, swaying gently from side to side
Weighing the heavy house brick in his hand
Staring intently at the curved shop window
It measures eleven feet high, fifteen feet wide
Standing behind the gleaming crystal screen
Dummies in their wool and worsted threads
Posed languidly, jaunty Trilbys on their heads
Seemingly inviting passers by to join them
In their blinding floodlit Burton’s wonderland
In his cider addled mind the choice is stark

Another long corrugated cardboard winter
In the grungy stairwell behind the slipper baths
Surrounded by paper litter and autumn leaves
With bottled Merrydown and rough scrumpy
To blot out the dankness in the piss stink dark
Or the next six months in Wormwood Scrubs
With three meals each day, dry bunk by night
Spinning yarns with long lost recidivist pals
A whole twenty five shillings saved each week
Pounding old lags sheets in laundry dolly tubs

Summoning strength he aims brick at glass
Falls backwards landing smack on his arse
Block hits window dead centre, corner first
Exploding casement showers shards at feet
Like wartime days when he could not be beat
On patrol shattered shops with each shell burst
Alarm loudly clanging, he steps into the display
Old bill handcuffing as they’re leading him away
“I am Harry Appletree, please take me to my room
I smashed that winder good, made a proper boom.”

Piccadilly Sunday Conversation (Scene Red Street Mod Mix)

This is a special Harri Boy Rogers home mix of Piccadilly Sunday from the Scene Red album Tales From Dolwion featuring extra vocal tracks featuring a dialogue between Harri Rogers and Maggie Nicols.  It tries to recreate a street conversation between two young West End mods in Soho in the early 1960’s.  This is best listened to on headphones…..

 

Strange Times At Number 3 – A Psychedelic Memory

Just playing with my recording software and this emerged after a couple of hours.  This poem refers to an acid trip in 1971 when I lived at number 3 King William Walk in Greenwich.

STRANGE TIMES AT NUMBER 3

There were strange times at number 3

After Johnny Butt slipped me a tab

I lay there tripping in the dark

I saw trees dancing in the park

Ray stick man waving at donkeys

Bo and bob walk in through the wall

The naval college collapse into dust

The Cutty Sark shoot flames into the sky

 

That day i took that orange wedge

I slipped over the rainbow’s edge

Into the sunshine,

Orange sunshine

California sunshine

Owsley sunshine

All the way from Berkeley

 

Salmon sandwiches glow florescent pink

Took a sip from a kaleidoscopic drink

Tappy busy throwing dustbins at the queen

Audie Murphy got the red badge again

Sweetie Allen hits another ball for six

Count Waldronski leads a line of lunatics

Boris drops mandies in King William Walk

I swear I heard my dog start to talk

 

That day I took that orange wedge

I slipped over the rainbow’s edge

Into the sunshine,

Orange sunshine

California sunshine

Owsley sunshine

All the way from Berkeley

Very strange days at number 3

Copyright: Harry Rogers, 12-04-2012

Don’t Come To Me – A message to Bob Dylan

An online collaboration with an old friend Andrew Howell who used to be in The Red Lights when I was their manager back in the mid 1970’s.  We recently got in touch again and this is the first result.  I wrote this lyric as a response to my feelings of disappointment that Bob Dylan would play gigs in Israel whilst the Palestinians are STILL denied their own freedom to determine their own future in their own country.

DON’T COME TO ME

Don’t come to me

When you’re crawling to your god

Don’t come to me

When you’re writing rotting cod

Don’t come to me

When the princes have all fled

Don’t come to me

When the riders a-rri-ved

Don’t come to me

Now the watchtower has burned down

Don’t come to me

Now there are barbarians in the town

Don’t come to me

As I dodge and duck and dive

Don’t come to me

While I struggle to survive

.

Whilst Edgars imp’s

Still poking in the corner of your mind

Some of us are

Trying to work out how to save mankind

.

Don’t come to me

Whilst thousands lose the will to live

Don’t come to me

After you’ve played in Tel Aviv

Don’t come to me

Whilst the howling wind is roaring

Don’t come to me

Now the re-writes are so boring

Don’t come to me

Whilst Israel’s crucifying

Don’t come to me

Whilst Palestinians are dying

Don’t come to me

Until their freedom flags are flying

Don’t come to me

‘Cause you just might find me crying

.

Copyright: Harry Rogers 31/05/2011

Have you got all the footage you need….

Another of my posts from Facebook:-

As I watched the coverage on BBC news 24 of the students protesting in Parliament Square it seemed as if the police were deliberately allowing, indeed cajoling people making, acts of destruction and disfigurement in order that the media could have something to focus on.  The BBC journalists spent all day talking about the violence coming from the protestors and filming students smashing windows and trying to batter down doors on government buildings.  At the end of the day in Parliament Square the damage was superficial, some broken windows, a couple of phone boxes smashed up and daubed with paint and a few slogans sprayed onto buildings and monuments.  This was portrayed as if the country was facing the break down of law and order.  Not true, in fact the state want to be able introduce much tougher legislation in case there is more serious unrest against the ideological attack on the public services that the people of this country have spent generations nurturing and building.  The Coalition want to destroy common ownership and replace it with privatisation in as many areas of state provision as they possibly can get away with before 2015.  It was amazing to see the police stand back whilst “students” were allowed to aim a battering ram at the doors of the Supreme Court building for half an hour whilst Sky News and the BBC filmed it, eventually the police cleared the doorway and there was a policeman politely asking the camera operators “Have you got all the footage you need?”.  How revealing, the police had an agenda here as they did on a previous demo where a police van was deliberately allowed to be vandalised in order that pictures could be posted in the organs of the yellow pres, (Sun, Mail, Express, Star, Standard, Telegraph, Times, Standard etc) and used in TV programmes all across the globe to show what a lawless bunch of people the police are having to deal with.  Kettle the students in confined space, club a few of them, terrorise them with mounted officers weilding battons, and generally wind people up in order to provoke civil disobedience, this is the tactical approach of the police now that they have a sympathetic government in power that will not hesitate to give them whatever powers they need.  Political change is in the wind, young people are too clever to be hoodwinked by this approach, they are now getting organised in a way that was not envisaged so soon by the Tories.  In the new year when the ramifications of cuts start to hit people full force and mass redundancies start accruing, when VAT increases hit people in the pay-packet, when housing benefit cuts been people start losing their homes Cameron and his cronies want to ensure that they have the necessary powers to enforce order on the streets.  Of course as the events of Thursday 9th December 2010 show sometimes things get out of hand as the Chas and Camilla episode shows.  An unelected government bringing in policies made up on the hoof that were never put in front of the people is a recipe for disaster, either there will be an early election or there will be the implementation of a total police state, keep the cameras rolling, I need a little bit more footage…….

“GHOSTIE” a short story

“GHOSTIE”

1944 had one hell of a summer. Greenwich was one of those London boroughs that got a right pasting from the German bombing raids and the local mortuary in St Alphege’s passage was much busier than it had been for a couple of years. This was largely due to the introduction of the doodle bug, Hitler’s flying bomb. I guess you could say that they were the forerunners of the modern day drones, in that they were unmanned aerial vehicles. The people hated to hear the high pitched whine of the doodle bug engine because they knew that somebody was likely to die or, at the very least, get seriously injured in a short space of time.

Johnny Clemence was the attendant at the St Alpheges Field Mortuary and he had been working non stop for 36 hours solid. He decided he would go for a beer in his favourite pub, The White Hart, in Crooms Hill. It was not the closest boozer to the mortuary but it served the best beer in Greenwich by far and that was important in such times of austerity. He was careful not to waste his few shillings of beer money on rubbish and this was just a matter of common sense to him. He walked into the small public bar and there, sat in the bay window, was his best pal Lonnie Manchester. Johnny and Lonnie had grown up together, served in the First World War together and had worked as lighter-men on the Thames until the end of the 1930’s. They were such mates that people used to think they were brothers in their dockers outfits of flat caps, black waistcoats and white mufflers. Johnny ordered two pints of mild and bitter and took them over to the table where Lonnie was already shuffling the set of black and white dominoes.

“Alright matey?” said Lonnie

“Knackered.” said Johnny

“I heard there was a lot of action in East Greenwich last night.”

“Yes, Jerry blew the back end off of the Queen Victoria in Trafalgar Road. Luckily nobody was hurt. If the buggers had hit the public bar it would have been total carnage. Apparently the local wood yard sent a van load of timber round there and they have patched it up as best as they could and they were open again at 11.00am and serving cider as usual.”

“This bloody war, it seems like everybody’s so used to it that they just carry on as if it is normal.”, said Lonnie with a resigned sigh.

“I know mate, it’s going on and on. I’ve had a bellyful of it though, I need a break, you know, a couple of weeks hopping down in Kent, or some time at my sisters place down in Lancing. Even a week would do.”

Johnny got his bread and dripping sandwiches out of his coat pocket whilst Lonnie dealt the dominoes for their lunchtime game. They usually played “batchy fives” using a cribbage board to score with and counting the scores in multiples of five. Both of them were experts and knew each other’s game too well and so it was not unusual for their games to go right down to the last domino, and this day was no exception. Johnny won the game by one point, the closest of margins and he picked up the two sixpences they had been playing for and put them into his waistcoat ticket pocket. He lifted up his pint glass and drained the last of the beer.

“Back to the grindstone for me, no peace for the wicked, I’ve got a load of people to get ready for the undertakers to take for embalming this afternoon.”

“OK pal,” said Lonnie, “same time tomorrow, I want to win back me tanner.”

They both laughed as Johnny took his glass back to the bar.

“Sees yer later.” he said and set off back to work.

The afternoon sun was shining brightly as Johnny walked past the church and turned down St Alphege’s Passage. The pavement of this small street was made up of old headstones and, if you took your time, you could still read the names of long dead people from the 1700’s as you walked along. Johnny was whistling his favourite Arthur Tracy song, “Marta (rambling rose of the wild wood)”, he particularly liked the accordion accompaniment, as he walked into the small park where the mortuary stood in the far corner, next to the children’s playground. By the time he got into the staff room the weather had changed and there was a typical summer downpour. Johnny turned on the radio and tuned it to the light programme, then he put on his white overalls and moved into the main area where the cadavers were stored after autopsy. Johnny had the unenviable task of clearing up once autopsies were completed. He had taken this job after he had fallen between two barges on the river and badly damaged his right leg. He could walk OK and people never noticed his slight limp but he was nowhere near agile enough to hop from barge to barge any more and so had been retired off the river. This was a source of great sadness to him as there was not a day went by that he didn’t miss travelling up and down Bugsby’s Reach on the Thames between Woolwich and Greenwich.

Johnny looked at the six bodies on the slabs in the main Autopsy room, three women, an old man and two young children, victims of the previous nights bombing raid, and he set about carefully sprinkling them with the Chloramine powder he used for stopping stinks, and killing flies and maggots, before wrapping them in cotton sheets and putting them onto the special sliding trays for insertion into the cadaver storage room. By four o’clock he had finished this task and was well into washing down the slabs and scrubbing the floor. He was a stickler for cleanliness and always made sure that when the pathologists and forensic staff came in everything was ship shape for them. He took pride in his work and, even though it was often gruesome, he saw it as something totally worthwhile. He finished washing down at six thirty and was just spreading the Chloramine powder on the floor when he heard the sound of a doodle bug approaching. “Oh my gawd,” he thought “not another load of work.” That summer in London and the South East there were over eight thousand deaths and tens of thousands injured by these terrifying, rocket propelled, war machines. Johnny was glad that he heard this one pass on by but a second doodle bug was right behind the first and he never noticed the engine cutting out. This was the moment that Londoners hated the most because when the engine cut out that meant that the bug was about to drop out of the sky and if you heard the whining stop then it was very likely that it was going to land near you. Johnny was putting the Chloramine away in the storage cupboard when the doodle bug hit the mortuary. He hadn’t heard a thing and was oblivious as the building erupted with a catastrophic explosion.

There were a lot of people in the Lord Hood public house in Creek Road who heard the enormous detonation of the bomb and many of them rushed around the corner to what remained of the mortuary. There was a large cloud of smoke hanging in the air and Billy Cole, the local butcher, said “There is absolutely no way anybody could survive that.”

As he spoke, there appeared a figure staggering through the smoke and ashes. What a ghastly sight they saw as he came towards the crowd. Johnny was covered from head to foot in the white embalming powder. Two women started screaming and Billy said “Blimey it’s a bleeding ghost.” They took Johnny into the snug at the Lord Hood and gave him a large glass of rum. The powder storage room had given just enough protection to save him from the main blast, although his hearing was never quite the same again. His fame as a survivor spread all over Greenwich and Deptford and that was how, for the rest of his life, he became known as “Ghostie”, one of the few to survive a direct hit by a flying bomb in what was called the “doodle bug summer” of 1944.

Harry Rogers 26th June 2013

UN Report on Lethal Autonomous Robots (LARS)

United Nations A/HRC/23/47
General Assembly

Distr.: General
9 April 2013
Original: English

Human Rights Council
Twenty-third session
Agenda item 3
Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil,
political, economic, social and cultural

Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial,
summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns
Summary
Lethal autonomous robotics (LARs) are weapon systems that, once activated, can select and engage targets without further human intervention. They raise far-reaching concerns about the protection of life during war and peace. This includes the question of the extent to which they can be programmed to comply with the requirements of international humanitarian law and the standards protecting life under international human rights law.  Beyond this, their deployment may be unacceptable because no adequate system of legal accountability can be devised, and because robots should not have the power of life and death over human beings. The Special Rapporteur recommends that States establish national moratoria on aspects of LARs, and calls for the establishment of a high level panel on LARs to articulate a policy for the international community on the issue.
United Nations A/HRC/23/47
General Assembly Distr.: General
9 April 2013
Original: English
A/HRC/23/47
2
Contents
Paragraphs Page
I. Introduction ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 1 3
II. Activities of the Special Rapporteur …………………………………………………………….. 2–25 3
A. Communications ……………………………………………………………………………….. 2–3 3
B. Visits ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 4–6 3
C. Press releases …………………………………………………………………………………….. 7–15 3
D. International and national meetings ………………………………………………………. 16–24 4
E. Intended future areas of research ………………………………………………………….. 25 5
III. Lethal autonomous robotics and the protection of life ……………………………………. 26–108 5
A. The emergence of LARs ……………………………………………………………………… 37–56 7
B. LARs and the decision to go to war or otherwise use force ………………………. 57–62 11
C. The use of LARs during armed conflict ………………………………………………… 63–74 12
D. Legal responsibility for LARs ……………………………………………………………… 75–81 14
E. The use of LARs by States outside armed conflict ………………………………….. 82–85 16
F. Implications for States without LARs ……………………………………………………. 86–88 16
G. Taking human decision-making out of the loop ……………………………………… 89–97 16
H. Other concerns …………………………………………………………………………………… 98–99 18
I. LARs and restrictive regimes on weapons ……………………………………………… 100–108 19
IV. Conclusions ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 109–112 20
V. Recommendations ……………………………………………………………………………………… 113–126 21
A. To the United Nations …………………………………………………………………………. 113–115 21
B. To regional and other inter-governmental organizations …………………………. 116–117 22
C. To States ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 118–121 22
D. To developers of robotic systems …………………………………………………………. 122 22
E. To NGOs, civil society and human rights groups and the ICRC ………………. 123–126 22
A/HRC/23/47
3
I. Introduction
1. The annual report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, submitted to the Human Rights Council pursuant to its Resolution 17/5, focuses on lethal autonomous robotics and the protection of life.1 II. Activities of the Special Rapporteur
A. Communications
2. The present report covers communications sent by the Special Rapporteur between 16 March 2012 and 28 February 2013, and replies received between 1 May 2012 and 30 April 2013. The communications and responses from Governments are included in the following communications reports of special procedures: A/HRC/21/49; A/HRC/22/67 and A/HRC/23/51.
3. Observations on the communications sent and received during the reporting period are reflected in an addendum to the present report (A/HRC/23/47/Add.5).
B. Visits
4. The Special Rapporteur visited Turkey from 26 to 30 November 2012 and will visit Mexico from 22 April to 2 May 2013.
5. The Government of Mali has accepted the Special Rapporteur‟s visit requests and the Syrian Arab Republic views his proposal to visit the country positively. The Special Rapporteur thanks these Governments and encourages the Governments of Sri Lanka, the Republic of Madagascar and Pakistan to accept his pending requests for a visit.
6. Follow-up reports on missions undertaken by the previous mandate holder to Ecuador and Albania are contained in documents A/HRC/23/47/Add.3 and A/HRC/23/47/Add.4 respectively.
C. Press releases2
7. On 15 June 2012, the Special Rapporteur issued a joint statement with the Special Rapporteur on torture deploring the escalation of violence in the Syrian Arab Republic and called on all parties to renounce violence and lay down arms.
8. The Special Rapporteur issued several press releases with other mandate holders amongst others concerning aspects related to the right to life of human rights defenders in Honduras on 4 April 2012 and 1 October 2012; the Philippines, on 9 July 2012; and on 21 June 2012, he issued a press release to urge world governments, the international
1 The assistance of Tess Borden, Thompson Chengeta, Jiou Park and Jeff Dahlberg in writing this report is acknowledged with gratitude. The European University Institute is also thanked for hosting an expert consultation in February 2013, as well as the Global Justice Clinic, the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice, and Professor Sarah Knuckey of New York University School of Law for preparing background materials and hosting an expert consultation in October 2012.
2 Press releases of the Special Rapporteur are available from http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/NewsSearch.aspx?MID=SR_Summ_Executions.
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community, journalists and media organizations to act decisively on the protection of the right to life of journalists and media freedom;
9. On 12 October 2012, a statement was sent jointly with other special rapporteurs concerning violence in Guatemala. The same day, the Special Rapporteur issued a joint statement regarding violence against a schoolchild in Pakistan.
10. On 22 October 2012, an open letter by special procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council was issued expressing concern at the planned adoption by the Congress of Colombia of a project to reform certain articles of the Political Constitution of Colombia, with regard to military criminal law.
11. On 15 November 2012, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with other mandate holders, called for an investigation into a death in custody in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
12. A joint statement was issued by all special procedures mandate holders on 23 November 2012 to express their dismay at the effect that the escalation of violence had on civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.
13. On 28 February 2013, the Special Rapporteur together with other mandate holders called for an international inquiry into human rights violations in North Korea.
14. A number of press releases were issued specifically on death penalty cases concerning the following States: the United States of America, on 17 July 2012; Iraq, on 27 July 2012 and 30 August 2012; and the Gambia, on 28 August 2012.
15. Additional joint statements with other mandate holders on the death penalty were issued by the Special Rapporteur:
(a) The Islamic Republic of Iran: on 28 June 2012, concerning the execution of four individuals; on 12 October 2012, calling for a halt to executions; on 23 October 2012, regarding the execution of 10 individuals on drug-related crimes; and on 25 January 2013, urging the Iranian authorities to halt the execution of 5 Ahwazi activists;
(b) Saudi Arabia: on 11 January 2013, condemning the beheading of a domestic worker;
(c) Bangladesh: on 7 February 2013, expressing concern at a death sentence passed by the International Crimes Tribunal which failed to observe all the guarantees of a fair trial and due process.
D. International and national meetings
16. From 14 to 15 September 2012, the Special Rapporteur delivered a paper at the Pan-African Conference on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
17. On the occasion of the 52nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples‟ Rights on 9 October 2012, the Special Rapporteur delivered a statement on the cooperation between the United Nations and African Union special procedures mechanisms.
18. During the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur was a panellist in the side-event on the theme “The Death Penalty and Human Rights”, organized by the Special Procedures Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in cooperation with the World Organisation Against Torture, Penal Reform International, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights Watch in New York on 24 October 2012.
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19. On 25 October 2012, the Special Rapporteur participated in the weekly briefing entitled “Issue of the Moment: The Death Penalty” for the community of non-governmental organizations associated with the Department of Public Information in New York.
20. On 15 November 2012, the Special Rapporteur presented a lecture on “The Right to Life during Demonstrations” at a seminar organized by the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law at the Constitutional Court of South Africa in Johannesburg. On 22 and 23 November 2012, the Special Rapporteur was a panellist during the 2nd UN Inter-Agency meeting on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity in Vienna, Austria.
21. The Special Rapporteur took part in an Expert Meeting in Geneva entitled “How Countries Abolished the Death Penalty”, organized by the International Commission against the Death Penalty on 5 February 2013, and delivered a presentation on the resumption of the death penalty.
22. On 22 February 2013, the Special Rapporteur participated in a High Level Policy Seminar organized by the European University Institute and Global Governance and Global Governance Programme on “Targeted Killing, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and EU Policy”, held at the European University Institute in Florence, where he spoke on “Targeting by Drones: Protecting the Right to Life”.
23. On 19 March 2013, the Special Rapporteur presented a keynote address at a conference on “The Ethical, Strategic and Legal Implications of Drone Warfare”, organized by the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, United States of America.
24. On 21 March 2013, the Special Rapporteur took part in the Pugwash Workshop at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, where he spoke on lethal autonomous robotics.
E. Intended future areas of research
25. The Special Rapporteur will present a report on unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) to the General Assembly in 2013.
III. Lethal autonomous robotics and the protection of life
26. For societies with access to it, modern technology allows increasing distance to be put between weapons users and the lethal force they project. For example, UCAVs, commonly known as drones, enable those who control lethal force not to be physically present when it is deployed, but rather to activate it while sitting behind computers in faraway places, and stay out of the line of fire.
27. Lethal autonomous robotics (LARs), if added to the arsenals of States, would add a new dimension to this distancing, in that targeting decisions could be taken by the robots themselves. In addition to being physically removed from the kinetic action, humans would also become more detached from decisions to kill – and their execution.
28. The robotics revolution has been described as the next major revolution in military affairs, on par with the introduction of gunpowder and nuclear bombs.3 But in an important respect LARs are different from these earlier revolutions: their deployment would entail not merely an upgrade of the kinds of weapons used, but also a change in the identity of those
3 Peter Singer, Wired for War (Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, 2009), p. 179 and further,notably p. 203.
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who use them. With the contemplation of LARs, the distinction between weapons and warriors risks becoming blurred, as the former would take autonomous decisions about their own use.
29. Official statements from Governments with the ability to produce LARs indicate that their use during armed conflict or elsewhere is not currently envisioned.4 While this may be so, it should be recalled that aeroplanes and drones were first used in armed conflict for surveillance purposes only, and offensive use was ruled out because of the anticipated adverse consequences.5 Subsequent experience shows that when technology that provides a perceived advantage over an adversary is available, initial intentions are often cast aside. Likewise, military technology is easily transferred into the civilian sphere. If the international legal framework has to be reinforced against the pressures of the future, this must be done while it is still possible.
30. One of the most difficult issues that the legal, moral and religious codes of the world have grappled with is the killing of one human being by another. The prospect of a future in which fully autonomous robots could exercise the power of life and death over human beings raises a host of additional concerns. As will be argued in what follows, the introduction of such powerful yet controversial new weapons systems has the potential to pose new threats to the right to life. It could also create serious international division and weaken the role and rule of international law – and in the process undermine the international security system.6 The advent of LARs requires all involved – States, international organizations, and international and national civil societies – to consider the full implications of embarking on this road.
31. Some argue that robots could never meet the requirements of international humanitarian law (IHL) or international human rights law (IHRL), and that, even if they could, as a matter of principle robots should not be granted the power to decide who should live and die. These critics call for a blanket ban on their development, production and use.7 To others, such technological advances – if kept within proper bounds – represent legitimate military advances, which could in some respects even help to make armed conflict more humane and save lives on all sides.8 According to this argument, to reject this technology altogether could amount to not properly protecting life.
32. However, there is wide acceptance that caution and some form of control of States‟ use of this technology are needed, over and above the general standards already posed by international law. Commentators agree that an international discussion is needed to consider the appropriate approach to LARs.
4 US Department of Defense, Unmanned Systems Integrated Road Map FY2011-2036, p. 50, available from http://publicintelligence.net/dod-unmanned-systems-integrated-roadmap-fy2011-2036
5 See http://www.usaww1.com/World_War_1_Fighter_Planes.php4
6 Nils Melzer, “Human rights implications of the usage of drones and unmanned robots in warfare” Study for the European Parliament‟s Subcommittee on Human Rights (2013), available from http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/studies/html, p. 5 (forthcoming).
7 Human Rights Watch, Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots (2012), p. 2, available from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2012/11/19/losing-humanity-0. See in response Michael Schmitt “Autonomous Weapons Systems and International Humanitarian Law: A Reply to the Critics” Harvard International Security Journal (forthcoming 2013), available from http://harvardnsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Schmitt-Autonomous-Weapon-Systems-and-IHL-Final.pdf). The International Committee on Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) was formed to promote such a ban. See http://icrac.net
8 Ronald Arkin, Governing Lethal Behaviour in Autonomous Robots (CRC Press, 2009); Kenneth Anderson and Matthew Waxman, “Law and ethics for robot soldiers”, Policy Review, No. 176 (2012), available from http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/135336.
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33. As with any technology that revolutionizes the use of lethal force, little may be known about the potential risks of the technology before it is developed, which makes formulating an appropriate response difficult; but afterwards the availability of its systems and the power of vested interests may preclude efforts at appropriate control.9 This is further complicated by the arms race that could ensue when only certain actors have weapons technology. The current moment may be the best we will have to address these concerns. In contrast to other revolutions in military affairs, where serious reflection mostly began after the emergence of new methods of warfare, there is now an opportunity collectively to pause, and to engage with the risks posed by LARs in a proactive way. This report is a call for pause, to allow serious and meaningful international engagement with this issue.
34. One of the reasons for the urgency of this examination is that current assessments of the future role of LARs will affect the level of investment of financial, human and other resources in the development of this technology over the next several years. Current assessments – or the lack thereof – thus risk to some extent becoming self-fulfilling prophesies.
35. The previous Special Rapporteur examined LARs in a report in 2010,10 calling inter alia for the convening of an expert group to consider robotic technology and compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.11 The present report repeats and strengthens that proposal and calls on States to impose national moratoria on certain activities related to LARs.
36. As with UCAVs and targeted killing, LARs raise concerns for the protection of life under the framework of IHRL as well as IHL. The Special Rapporteur recalls the supremacy and non-derogability of the right to life under both treaty and customary international law.12 Arbitrary deprivation of life is unlawful in peacetime and in armed conflict.
A. The emergence of LARs
1. Definitions
37. While definitions of the key terms may differ, the following exposition provides a starting point.13
38. According to a widely used definition (endorsed inter alia by both the United States Department of Defense and Human Rights Watch14), the term LARs refers to robotic weapon systems that, once activated, can select and engage targets without further
9 David Collingridge, The Social Control of Technology (Frances Pinter, 1980).
10 A/65/321.
11 A/65/321, pp. 10-22.
12 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 6, enshrining the right to life, and art. 4 (2) on its non-derogability.
13 Arkin (see note 8 above), p. 7; Noel Sharkey AutomatingWarfare: lessons learned from the drones, p. 2, available from http://www.alfredoroma.it/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Automated-warfare-Noel-Sharkey.pdf; Patrick Lin et al, Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design (San Luis Obispo, California Polytechnic State University, 2008) p. 4, available from http://ethics.calpoly.edu/ONR_report.pdf
14 US Department of Defense Directive, “Autonomy in Weapons Systems”, Number 3000.09 of 21 November 2012, Glossary Part II. See also United Kingdom Ministry of Defence “The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems” paras. 202-203, available from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/jdn-2-11-the-uk-approach-to-unmanned-aircraft-systems; see also, Human Rights Watch (see note 7 above), p. 2.
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intervention by a human operator. The important element is that the robot has an autonomous “choice” regarding selection of a target and the use of lethal force.
39. Robots are often described as machines that are built upon the sense-think-act paradigm: they have sensors that give them a degree of situational awareness; processors or artificial intelligence that “decides” how to respond to a given stimulus; and effectors that carry out those “decisions”.15 The measure of autonomy that processors give to robots should be seen as a continuum with significant human involvement on one side, as with UCAVs where there is “a human in the loop”, and full autonomy on the other, as with LARs where human beings are “out of the loop”.
40. Under the currently envisaged scenario, humans will at least remain part of what may be called the “wider loop”: they will programme the ultimate goals into the robotic systems and decide to activate and, if necessary, deactivate them, while autonomous weapons will translate those goals into tasks and execute them without requiring further human intervention.
41. Supervised autonomy means that there is a “human on the loop” (as opposed to “in” or “out”), who monitors and can override the robot‟s decisions. However, the power to override may in reality be limited because the decision-making processes of robots are often measured in nanoseconds and the informational basis of those decisions may not be practically accessible to the supervisor. In such circumstances humans are de facto out of the loop and the machines thus effectively constitute LARs.
42. “Autonomous” needs to be distinguished from “automatic” or “automated.” Automatic systems, such as household appliances, operate within a structured and predictable environment. Autonomous systems can function in an open environment, under unstructured and dynamic circumstances. As such their actions (like those of humans) may ultimately be unpredictable, especially in situations as chaotic as armed conflict, and even more so when they interact with other autonomous systems.
43. The terms “autonomy” or “autonomous”, as used in the context of robots, can be misleading. They do not mean anything akin to “free will” or “moral agency” as used to describe human decision-making. Moreover, while the relevant technology is developing at an exponential rate, and full autonomy is bound to mean less human involvement in 10 years‟ time compared to today, sentient robots, or strong artificial intelligence are not currently in the picture.16
2. Current technology
44. Technology may in some respects be less advanced than is suggested by popular culture, which often assigns human-like attributes to robots and could lure the international community into misplaced trust in its abilities. However, it should also be recalled that in certain respects technology far exceeds human ability. Technology is developing exponentially, and it is impossible to predict the future confidently. As a result, it is almost impossible to determine how close we are to fully autonomous robots that are ready for use.
45. While much of their development is shrouded in secrecy, robots with full lethal autonomy have not yet been deployed. However, robotic systems with various degrees of autonomy and lethality are currently in use, including the following:
• The US Phalanx system for Aegis-class cruisers automatically detects, tracks and engages anti-air warfare threats such as anti-ship missiles and aircraft.17
15 Singer (see note 3 above), p. 67.
16 The same applies to “the Singularity”, Singer (see note 3 above), p. 101.
17 See http://usmilitary.about.com/library/milinfo/navyfacts/blphalanx.htm
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• The US Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) system can automatically destroy incoming artillery, rockets and mortar rounds.18
• Israel‟s Harpy is a “Fire-and-Forget” autonomous weapon system designed to detect, attack and destroy radar emitters.19
• The United Kingdom Taranis jet-propelled combat drone prototype can autonomously search, identify and locate enemies but can only engage with a target when authorized by mission command. It can also defend itself against enemy aircraft.20
• The Northrop Grumman X-47B is a fighter-size drone prototype commissioned by the US Navy to demonstrate autonomous launch and landing capability on aircraft carriers and navigate autonomously.21
• The Samsung Techwin surveillance and security guard robots, deployed in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, detect targets through infrared sensors. They are currently operated by humans but have an “automatic mode”.22
46. Military documents of a number of States describe air, ground and marine robotic weapons development programmes at various stages of autonomy. Large amounts of money are allocated for their development.23
47. It seems clear that if introduced, LARs will not, at least initially, entirely replace human soldiers, but that they will have discretely assigned tasks suitable to their specific capabilities. Their most likely use during armed conflict is in some form of collaboration with humans,24 although they would still be autonomous in their own functions. The question should therefore be asked to what extent the existing legal framework is sufficient to regulate this scenario, as well as the scenario whereby LARs are deployed without any human counterpart. Based on current experiences of UCAVs, there is reason to believe that States will inter alia seek to use LARs for targeting killing.
48. The nature of robotic development generally makes it a difficult subject of regulation, especially in the area of weapons control. Bright lines are difficult to find. Robotic development is incremental in nature. Furthermore, there is significant continuity between military and non-military technologies.25 The same robotic platforms can have civilian as well as military applications, and can be deployed for non-lethal purposes (e.g. to defuse improvised explosive devices) or be equipped with lethal capability (i.e. LARs). Moreover, LARs typically have a composite nature and are combinations of underlying technologies with multiple purposes.
49. The importance of the free pursuit of scientific study is a powerful disincentive to regulate research and development in this area. Yet “technology creep” in this area may
18 See http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA557876
19 See http://www.israeli-weapons.com/weapons/aircraft/uav/harpy/harpy.html
20 See http://www.baesystems.com/product/BAES_020273/taranis
21 See http://www.as.northropgrumman.com/products/nucasx47b/assets/X-47B_Navy_UCAS_FactSheet.pdf
22 See http://singularityhub.com/2010/07/25/armed-robots-deployed-by-south-korea-in-demilitarized-zone-on-trial-basis
23 United States Air Force, “UAS Flight Plan 2009-2047” (Washington, D.C., 2009) p. 41, available from http://www.scribd.com/doc/17312080/United-States-Air-Force-Unmanned-Aircraft-Systems-Flight-Plan-20092047-Unclassified
24 Ronald Arkin “Governing Lethal Behaviour: Embedding Ethics in a Hybrid Deliberative/Reactive Robot Architecture” Technical Report GIT-GVU-07-11 p. 5, available from http://www.cc.gatech.edu/ai/robot-lab/online-publications/formalizationv35.pdf
25 Anderson and Waxman (see note 8 above), pp. 2 and 13 and Singer (see note 3 above), p. 379.
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over time and almost unnoticeably result in a situation which presents grave dangers to core human values and to the international security system. It is thus essential for the international community to take stock of the current state of affairs, and to establish a responsible process to address the situation and where necessary regulate the technology as it develops.
3. Drivers of and impediments to the development of LARs
50. Some of the reasons to expect continuous pressures to develop LARs, as well as the impediments to this momentum, also apply to the development of other unmanned systems more generally. They offer huge military and other advantages to those using them and are part of the broader automization of warfare and of the world in general.
51. Unmanned systems offer higher force projection (preserving the lives of one‟s own soldiers) and force multiplication (allowing fewer personnel to do more). They are capable of enlarging the battlefield, penetrating more easily behind enemy lines, and saving on human and financial resources. Unmanned systems can stay on station much longer than individuals and withstand other impediments such as G-forces. They can enhance the quality of life of soldiers of the user party: unmanned systems, especially robots, are increasingly developed to do the so-called dirty, dull and dangerous work.26
52. Robots may in some respects serve humanitarian purposes. While the current emergence of unmanned systems may be related to the desire on the part of States not to become entangled in the complexities of capture, future generations of robots may be able to employ less lethal force, and thus cause fewer unnecessary deaths. Technology can offer creative alternatives to lethality, for instance by immobilizing or disarming the target.27 Robots can be programmed to leave a digital trail, which potentially allows better scrutiny of their actions than is often the case with soldiers and could therefore in that sense enhance accountability.
53. The progression from remote controlled systems to LARs, for its part, is driven by a number of other considerations.28 Perhaps foremost is the fact that, given the increased pace of warfare, humans have in some respects become the weakest link in the military arsenal and are thus being taken out of the decision-making loop. The reaction time of autonomous systems far exceeds that of human beings, especially if the speed of remote-controlled systems is further slowed down through the inevitable time-lag of global communications. States also have incentives to develop LARs to enable them to continue with operations even if communication links have been broken off behind enemy lines.
54. LARs will not be susceptible to some of the human shortcomings that may undermine the protection of life. Typically they would not act out of revenge, panic, anger, spite, prejudice or fear. Moreover, unless specifically programmed to do so, robots would not cause intentional suffering on civilian populations, for example through torture. Robots also do not rape.
55. Yet robots have limitations in other respects as compared to humans. Armed conflict and IHL often require human judgement, common sense, appreciation of the larger picture, understanding of the intentions behind people‟s actions, and understanding of values and anticipation of the direction in which events are unfolding. Decisions over life and death in armed conflict may require compassion and intuition. Humans – while they are fallible – at least might possess these qualities, whereas robots definitely do not. While
26 Gary Marchant et al, “International governance of autonomous military robots”, Columbia Science and Technology Law Review, Volume XII (2011) p. 275.
27 Singer (see note 3 above), p. 83.
28 Arkin (see note 8 above), xii.
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robots are especially effective at dealing with quantitative issues, they have limited abilities to make the qualitative assessments that are often called for when dealing with human life. Machine calculations are rendered difficult by some of the contradictions often underlying battlefield choices. A further concern relates to the ability of robots to distinguish legal from illegal orders.
56. While LARs may thus in some ways be able to make certain assessments more accurately and faster than humans, they are in other ways more limited, often because they have restricted abilities to interpret context and to make value-based calculations.
B. LARs and the decision to go to war or otherwise use force
57. During the larger part of the last two centuries, international law was developed to constrain armed conflict and the use of force during law enforcement operations, to make it an option of last resort. However, there are also built-in constraints that humans have against going to war or otherwise using force which continue to play an important (if often not decisive) role in safeguarding lives and international security. Chief among these are unique human traits such as our aversion to getting killed, losing loved ones, or having to kill other people.29 The physical and psychological distance from the actual use of force potentially introduced by LARs can lessen all three concerns and even render them unnoticeable to those on the side of the State deploying LARs.30 Military commanders for example may therefore more readily deploy LARs than real human soldiers.
58. This ease could potentially affect political decisions. Due to the low or lowered human costs of armed conflict to States with LARs in their arsenals, the national public may over time become increasingly disengaged and leave the decision to use force as a largely financial or diplomatic question for the State, leading to the “normalization” of armed conflict.31 LARs may thus lower the threshold for States for going to war or otherwise using lethal force, resulting in armed conflict no longer being a measure of last resort32 According to the report of the Secretary-General on the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament, “…the increased capability of autonomous vehicles opens up the potential for acts of warfare to be conducted by nations without the constraint of their people‟s response to loss of human life.”33 Presenting the use of unmanned systems as a less costly alternative to deploying “boots on the ground” may thus in many cases be a false dichotomy. If there is not sufficient support for a ground invasion, the true alternative to using unmanned systems may be not to use force at all.
59. Some have argued that if the above reasoning is taken to its logical conclusion, States should not attempt to develop any military technology that reduces the brutality of armed conflict or lowers overall deaths through greater accuracy.34 Drones and high-altitude airstrikes using smart bombs should then equally be viewed as problematic because
29 A/65/321, para. 44; John Mueller “The Iraq Syndrome”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 84, No. 6, p. 44 (November/December 2005).
30 According to military experts, it generally becomes easier to take life as the distance between the actor and the target increases. See David Grossman On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (Back Bay Books, 1996).
31 Armin Krishnan Killer robots: Legality and Ethicality of Autonomous Weapons (Ashgate, 2009) p. 150
32 Singer (see note 3 above), p. 323; Peter Asaro “How Just Could a Robot War Be?” in P. Brey et al (eds.) Current Issues in Computing And Philosophy (2008), p. 7.
33 A/53/202, para. 98.
34 Asaro (see note 32 above), pp. 7-9. Discussed by Patrick Lin et al “Robots in War: Issues of Risk and Ethics” in R. Capurro & M. Nagenborg (eds.) Ethics and Robotics (2009) p. 57.
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they also lower casualty rates for the side that uses them (and in some cases also for the other side), thereby removing political constraints on States to resort to military action.35
60. This argument does not withstand closer scrutiny. While it is desirable for States to reduce casualties in armed conflict, it becomes a question whether one can still talk about “war” – as opposed to one-sided killing – where one party carries no existential risk, and bears no cost beyond the economic. There is a qualitative difference between reducing the risk that armed conflict poses to those who participate in it, and the situation where one side is no longer a “participant” in armed conflict inasmuch as its combatants are not exposed to any danger.36 LARs seem to take problems that are present with drones and high-altitude airstrikes to their factual and legal extreme.
61. Even if it were correct to assume that if LARs were used there would sometimes be fewer casualties per armed conflict, the total number of casualties in aggregate could still be higher.
62. Most pertinently, the increased precision and ability to strike anywhere in the world, even where no communication lines exist, suggests that LARs will be very attractive to those wishing to perform targeted killing. The breaches of State sovereignty – in addition to possible breaches of IHL and IHRL – often associated with targeted killing programmes risk making the world and the protection of life less secure.
C. The use of LARs during armed conflict
63. A further question is whether LARs will be capable of complying with the requirements of IHL. To the extent that the answer is negative, they should be prohibited weapons. However, according to proponents of LARs this does not mean that LARs are required never to make a mistake – the yardstick should be the conduct of human beings who would otherwise be taking the decisions, which is not always a very high standard.37
64. Some experts have argued that robots can in some respects be made to comply even better with IHL requirements than human beings.38 Roboticist Ronald Arkin has for example proposed ways of building an “ethical governor” into military robots to ensure that they satisfy those requirements.39
65. A consideration of a different kind is that if it is technically possible to programme LARs to comply better with IHL than the human alternatives, there could in fact be an obligation to use them40 – in the same way that some human rights groups have argued that where available, “smart” bombs, rather than less discriminating ones, should be deployed.
66. Of specific importance in this context are the IHL rules of distinction and proportionality. The rule of distinction seeks to minimize the impact of armed conflict on civilians, by prohibiting targeting of civilians and indiscriminate attacks.41 In situations
35 Anderson and Waxman (see note 8 above), p. 12.
36 According to some commentators, war requires some willingness to accept reciprocal or mutual risk, involving some degree of sacrifice. See Paul Kahn “The Paradox of Riskless Warfare” Philosophy and Public Policy Vol. 22 (2002) and “War and Sacrifice in Kosovo” (1999), available from http://www-personal.umich.edu/~elias/Courses/War/kosovo.htm
37 Lin (see note 34 above), p. 50.
38 Marchant (see note 26 above), p. 280; Singer, (see note 3 above), p. 398.
39 Arkin (see note 8 above), p. 127.
40 Jonathan Herbach “Into the Caves of Steel: Precaution, Cognition and Robotic Weapons Systems Under the International Law of Armed Conflict” Amsterdam Law Forum Vol. 4 (2012), p. 14.
41 Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977, arts. 51 and 57.
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where LARs cannot reliably distinguish between combatants or other belligerents and civilians, their use will be unlawful.
67. There are several factors that will likely impede the ability of LARs to operate according to these rules in this regard, including the technological inadequacy of existing sensors,42 a robot‟s inability to understand context, and the difficulty of applying of IHL language in defining non-combatant status in practice, which must be translated into a computer programme.43 It would be difficult for robots to establish, for example, whether someone is wounded and hors de combat, and also whether soldiers are in the process of surrendering.
68. The current proliferation of asymmetric warfare and non-international armed conflicts, also in urban environments, presents a significant barrier to the capabilities of LARs to distinguish civilians from otherwise lawful targets. This is especially so where complicated assessments such as “direct participation in hostilities” have to be made. Experts have noted that for counter-insurgency and unconventional warfare, in which combatants are often only identifiable through the interpretation of conduct, the inability of LARs to interpret intentions and emotions will be a significant obstacle to compliance with the rule of distinction.44
69. Yet humans are not necessarily superior to machines in their ability to distinguish. In some contexts technology can offer increased precision. For example, a soldier who is confronted with a situation where it is not clear whether an unknown person is a combatant or a civilian may out of the instinct of survival shoot immediately, whereas a robot may utilize different tactics to go closer and, only when fired upon, return fire. Robots can thus act “conservatively”45 and “can shoot second.”46 Moreover, in some cases the powerful sensors and processing powers of LARs can potentially lift the “fog of war” for human soldiers and prevent the kinds of mistakes that often lead to atrocities during armed conflict, and thus save lives.47
70. The rule of proportionality requires that the expected harm to civilians be measured, prior to the attack, against the anticipated military advantage to be gained from the operation.48 This rule, described as “one of the most complex rules of international humanitarian law,”49 is largely dependent on subjective estimates of value and context-specificity.
71. Whether an attack complies with the rule of proportionality needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, depending on the specific context and considering the totality of the circumstances.50 The value of a target, which determines the level of permissible collateral damage, is constantly changing and depends on the moment in the conflict. Concerns have been expressed that the open-endedness of the rule of proportionality combined with the complexity of circumstances may result in undesired and unexpected behaviour by LARs, with deadly consequences.51 The inability to “frame” and contextualize the environment
42 Noel Sharkey “Grounds for Discrimination: Autonomous Robot Weapons” RUSI Defence Systems (Oct 2008) pp. 88-89, available from http://rusi.org/downloads/assets/23sharkey.pdf
43 Peter Asaro “On Banning Autonomous Weapon Systems: Human Rights, Automation, and the Dehumanisation of Lethal Decision-making” p. 94, International Review of the Red Cross (forthcoming 2013) p. 11.
44 Human Rights Watch (see note 7 above), p. 31.
45 Marchant (see note 26 above), p. 280.
46 Singer (see note 3 above), p. 398.
47 Ibid.
48 Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977, art. 51 (5) (b).
49 Human Rights Watch (see note 7 above), p. 32.
50 Lin (see note 34 above), p. 57.
51 Noel Sharkey, “Automated Killers and the Computing Profession” Computer, Vol. 40 (2007), p. 122.
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may result in a LAR deciding to launch an attack based not merely on incomplete but also on flawed understandings of the circumstances.52 It should be recognized, however, that this happens to humans as well.
72. Proportionality is widely understood to involve distinctively human judgement. The prevailing legal interpretations of the rule explicitly rely on notions such as “common sense”, “good faith” and the “reasonable military commander standard.”53 It remains to be seen to what extent these concepts can be translated into computer programmes, now or in the future.
73. Additionally, proportionality assessments often involve qualitative rather than quantitative judgements.54
74. In view of the above, the question arises as to whether LARs are in all cases likely (on the one hand) or never (on the other) to meet this set of cumulative standard. The answer is probably less absolute, in that they may in some cases meet them (e.g. in the case of a weapons system that is set to only return fire and that is used on a traditional battlefield) but in other cases not (e.g. where a civilian with a large piece of metal in his hands must be distinguished from a combatant in plain clothes). Would it then be possible to categorize the different situations, to allow some to be prohibited and others to be permitted? Some experts argue that certain analyses such as proportionality would at least initially have to be made by commanders, while other aspects could be left to LARs.55
D. Legal responsibility for LARs
75. Individual and State responsibility is fundamental to ensure accountability for violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law. Without the promise of accountability, deterrence and prevention are reduced, resulting in lower protection of civilians and potential victims of war crimes.56
76. Robots have no moral agency and as a result cannot be held responsible in any recognizable way if they cause deprivation of life that would normally require accountability if humans had made the decisions. Who, then, is to bear the responsibility?
77. The composite nature of LAR technology and the many levels likely to be involved in decisions about deployment result in a potential accountability gap or vacuum. Candidates for legal responsibility include the software programmers, those who build or sell hardware, military commanders, subordinates who deploy these systems and political leaders.
78. Traditionally, criminal responsibility would first be assigned within military ranks. Command responsibility should be considered as a possible solution for accountability for
52 Krishnan, (see note 31 above), pp. 98-99.
53 Tonya Hagmaier et al, “Air force operations and the law: A guide for air, space and cyber forces” p. 21, available from http://www.afjag.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-100510-059.pdf; Andru Wall “Legal and Ethical Lessons of NATO‟s Kosovo Campaign” p. xxiii, available from http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/navy/kosovo_legal.pdf
54 Markus Wagner “The Dehumanization of International Humanitarian Law: Legal, Ethical, and Political Implications of Autonomous Weapon Systems” (2012), available from http://robots.law.miami.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Wagner_Dehumanization_of_international_humanitarian_law.pdf note 96 and accompanying text.
55 Benjamin Kastan “Autonomous Weapons Systems: A Coming Legal „Singularity‟?” University of Illinois Journal of Law, Technology and Policy (forthcoming 2013), p. 18 and further, available from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2037808
56 Human Rights Watch (see note 7 above), pp. 42-45.
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LAR violations.57 Since a commander can be held accountable for an autonomous human subordinate, holding a commander accountable for an autonomous robot subordinate may appear analogous. Yet traditional command responsibility is only implicated when the commander “knew or should have known that the individual planned to commit a crime yet he or she failed to take action to prevent it or did not punish the perpetrator after the fact.”58 It will be important to establish, inter alia, whether military commanders will be in a position to understand the complex programming of LARs sufficiently well to warrant criminal liability.
79. It has been proposed that responsibility for civil damages at least should be assigned to the programmer and the manufacturers, by utilizing a scheme similar to strict product liability. Yet national product liability laws remain largely untested in regard to robotics.59 The manufacturing of a LAR will invariably involve a vast number of people, and no single person will be likely to understand the complex interactions between the constituent components of LARs.60 It is also questionable whether putting the onus of bringing civil suits on victims is equitable, as they would have to bring suit while based in a foreign country, and would often lack the resources.
80. The question of legal responsibility could be an overriding issue. If each of the possible candidates for responsibility identified above is ultimately inappropriate or impractical, a responsibility vacuum will emerge, granting impunity for all LAR use. If the nature of a weapon renders responsibility for its consequences impossible, its use should be considered unethical and unlawful as an abhorrent weapon.61
81. A number of novel ways to establish legal accountability could be considered. One of the conditions that could be imposed for the use of LARs is that responsibility is assigned in advance.62 Due to the fact that technology potentially enables more precise monitoring and reconstruction of what occurs during lethal operations, a further condition for their use could be the installation of such recording devices, and the mandatory ex post facto review of all footage in cases of lethal use, regardless of the status of the individual killed.63 A system of “splitting” responsibility between the potential candidates could also be considered.64 In addition, amendments to the rules regarding command responsibility may be needed to cover the use of LARs. In general, a stronger emphasis on State as opposed to individual responsibility may be called for, except in respect of its use by non-state actors.
57 Rome Statute of the ICC, art. 28; Heather Roff “Killing in War: Responsibility, Liability and Lethal Autonomous Robots” p. 14, available from http://www.academia.edu/2606840/Killing_in_War_Responsibility_Liability_and_Lethal_Autonomous_Robots
58 Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977, arts. 86 (2) and 87.
59 Patrick Lin “Introduction to Robot Ethics” in Patrick Lin et al (eds.) Robot Ethics: The ethical and Social Implications of Robotics (MIT Press, 2012), p. 8.
60 Wendell Wallach “From Robots to Techno Sapiens: Ethics, Law and Public Policy in the Development of Robotics and Neurotechnologies” Law, Innovation and Technology Vol. 3 (2011) p. 194.
61 Gianmarco Verugio and Keith Abney “Roboethics: The Applied Ethics for a New Science” in Lin, (see note 59 above), p. 114; Robert Sparrow “Killer Robots” Journal of Applied Philosophy Vol. 24, No. 1 (2007).
62 See Ronald Arkin “The Robot didn‟t do it” Position Paper for the Workshop on Anticipatory Ethics, Responsibility and Artificial Agents p. 1, available from http://www.cc.gatech.edu/ai/robot-lab/publications.html
63 Marchant (see note 26 above), p. 7.
64 Krishnan (see note 31 above), 105.
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E. The use of LARs by States outside armed conflict
82. The experience with UCAVs has shown that this type of military technology finds its way with ease into situations outside recognized battlefields.
83. One manifestation of this, whereby ideas of the battlefield are expanded beyond IHL contexts, is the situation in which perceived terrorists are targeted wherever they happen to be found in the world, including in territories where an armed conflict may not exist and IHRL is the applicable legal framework. The danger here is that the world is seen as a single, large and perpetual battlefield and force is used without meeting the threshold requirements. LARs could aggravate these problems.
84. On the domestic front, LARs could be used by States to suppress domestic enemies and to terrorize the population at large, suppress demonstrations and fight “wars” against drugs. It has been said that robots do not question their commanders or stage coups d‟état.65
85. The possibility of LAR usage in a domestic law enforcement situation creates particular risks of arbitrary deprivation of life, because of the difficulty LARs are bound to have in meeting the stricter requirements posed by IHRL.
F. Implications for States without LARs
86. Phrases such as “riskless war” and “wars without casualties” are often used in the context of LARs. This seems to purport that only the lives of those with the technology count, which suggests an underlying concern with the deployment of this technology, namely a disregard for those without it. LARs present the ultimate asymmetrical situation, where deadly robots may in some cases be pitted against people on foot. LARs are likely – at least initially – to shift the risk of armed conflict to the belligerents and civilians of the opposing side.
87. The use of overwhelming force has proven to have counterproductive results – e.g. in the context of demonstrations, where psychologists warn that it may elicit escalated counter force66 In situations of hostilities, the unavailability of a legitimate human target of the LAR user State on the ground may result in attacks on its civilians as the “best available” targets and the use of LARs could thus possibly encourage retaliation, reprisals and terrorism.67
88. The advantage that States with LARs would have over others is not necessarily permanent. There is likely to be proliferation of such systems, not only to those to which the first user States transfer and sell them. Other States will likely develop their own LAR technology, with inter alia varying degrees of IHL-compliant programming, and potential problems for algorithm compatibility if LARs from opposing forces confront one another. There is also the danger of potential acquisition of LARs by non-State actors, who are less likely to abide by regulatory regimes for control and transparency.
G. Taking human decision-making out of the loop
89. It is an underlying assumption of most legal, moral and other codes that when the decision to take life or to subject people to other grave consequences is at stake, the decision-making power should be exercised by humans. The Hague Convention (IV) requires any combatant “to be commanded by a person”. The Martens Clause, a
65 Ibid , p. 113.
66 A/HR/17/28, p. 17.
67 Asaro (see note 32 above), p. 13.
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longstanding and binding rule of IHL, specifically demands the application of “the principle of humanity” in armed conflict.68 Taking humans out of the loop also risks taking humanity out of the loop.
90. According to philosopher Peter Asaro, an implicit requirement can thus be found in IHL for a human decision to use lethal force, which cannot be delegated to an automated process. Non-human decision-making regarding the use of lethal force is, by this argument, inherently arbitrary, and all resulting deaths are arbitrary deprivations of life.69
91. The contemplation of LARs is inextricably linked to the role of technology in the world today. While machines help to make many decisions in modern life, they are mostly so used only where mechanical observation is needed (e.g. as a line umpire in sporting events) and not in situations requiring value judgements with far-reaching consequences (e.g. in the process of adjudication during court cases). As a more general manifestation of the importance of person-to-person contact when important decisions are taken, legal systems around the world shy away from trials in absentia. Of course, robots already affect our lives extensively, including through their impact on life and death issues. Robotic surgery is for example a growing industry and robots are increasingly used in rescue missions after disasters.70 Yet in none of these cases do robots make the decision to kill and in this way LARs represent an entirely new prospect.
92. Even if it is assumed that LARs – especially when they work alongside human beings – could comply with the requirements of IHL, and it can be proven that on average and in the aggregate they will save lives, the question has to be asked whether it is not inherently wrong to let autonomous machines decide who and when to kill. The IHL concerns raised in the above paragraphs relate primarily to the protection of civilians. The question here is whether the deployment of LARs against anyone, including enemy fighters, is in principle acceptable, because it entails non-human entities making the determination to use lethal force.
93. This is an overriding consideration: if the answer is negative, no other consideration can justify the deployment of LARs, no matter the level of technical competence at which they operate. While the argument was made earlier that the deployment of LARs could lead to a vacuum of legal responsibility, the point here is that they could likewise imply a vacuum of moral responsibility.
94. This approach stems from the belief that a human being somewhere has to take the decision to initiate lethal force and as a result internalize (or assume responsibility for) the cost of each life lost in hostilities, as part of a deliberative process of human interaction. This applies even in armed conflict. Delegating this process dehumanizes armed conflict even further and precludes a moment of deliberation in those cases where it may be feasible. Machines lack morality and mortality, and should as a result not have life and death powers over humans. This is among the reasons landmines were banned.71
95. The use of emotive terms such as “killer robots” may well be criticized. However, the strength of the intuitive reactions that the use of LARs is likely to elicit cannot be ignored. Deploying LARs has been depicted as treating people like “vermin”, who are
68 Geneva Convention Protocol I, art. 1(2). See also the preambles to the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions. Hague Convention with Respect to the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex: Regulation Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague Convention II)
69 Asaro (see note 43 above), p. 13.
70 See http://www.springer.com/medicine/surgery/journal/11701
71 Asaro (see note 43 above), p. 14.
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“exterminated.”72 These descriptions conjure up the image of LARs as some kind of mechanized pesticide.
96. The experience of the two World Wars of the last century may provide insight into the rationale of requiring humans to internalize the costs of armed conflict, and thereby hold themselves and their societies accountable for these costs. After these wars, during which the devastation that could be caused by modern technology became apparent, those who had personally taken the central military decisions resolved, “in order to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, to establish the United Nations to pursue world peace and to found it on the principles of human rights. While armed conflict is by no means a thing of the past today, nearly 70 years have passed without a global war. The commitment to achieve such an objective can be understood as a consequence of the long-term and indeed inter-generational effects of insisting on human responsibility for killing decisions.
97. This historical recollection highlights the danger of measuring the performance of LARs against minimum standards set for humans during armed conflict. Human soldiers do bring a capacity for depravity to armed conflict, but they also hold the potential to adhere to higher values and in some cases to show some measure of grace and compassion. If humans are replaced on the battlefield by entities calibrated not to go below what is expected of humans, but which lack the capacity to rise above those minimum standards, we may risk giving up on hope for a better world. The ability to eliminate perceived “troublemakers” anywhere in the world at the press of a button could risk focusing attention only on the symptoms of unwanted situations. It would distract from, or even preclude, engagement with the causes instead, through longer term, often non-military efforts which, although more painstaking, might ultimately be more enduring. LARs could thus create a false sense of security for their users.
H. Other concerns
98. The possible deployment of LARs raises additional concerns that include but are not limited to the following:
• LARs are vulnerable to appropriation, as well as hacking and spoofing.73 States no longer hold a monopoly on the use of force. LARs could be intercepted and used by non-State actors, such as criminal cartels or private individuals, against the State or other non-State actors, including civilians.74
• Malfunctions could occur. Autonomous systems can be “brittle”.75 Unlikely errors can still be catastrophic.
• Future developments in the area of technology cannot be foreseen. Allowing LARs could open an even larger Pandora‟s box.
• The regulation of the use of UCAVs is currently in a state of contestation, as is the legal regime pertaining to targeted killing in general, and the emergence of LARs is likely to make this situation even more uncertain.
• The prospect of being killed by robots could lead to high levels of anxiety among at least the civilian population.
72 Robert Sparrow “Robotic Weapons and the Future of War” in Jessica Wolfendale and Paolo Tripodi (eds.) New Wars and New Soldiers: Military Ethics in the Contemporary World (2011), p. 11.
73 Jutta Weber “Robotic warfare, human rights and the rhetorics of ethical machines”, pp. 8 and 10, available from http://www.gender.uu.se/digitalAssets/44/44133_Weber_Robotic_Warfare.pdf
74 Singer (see note 3 above), p. 261-263.
75 Kastan (see note 55 above), p. 8.
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99. The implications for military culture are unknown, and LARs may thus undermine the systems of State and international security.
I. LARs and restrictive regimes on weapons
100. The treaty restrictions76 placed on certain weapons stem from the IHL norm that the means and methods of warfare are not unlimited, and as such there must be restrictions on the rules that determine what weapons are permissible.77 The Martens Clause prohibits weapons that run counter to the “dictates of public conscience.” The obligation not to use weapons that have indiscriminate effects and thus cause unnecessary harm to civilians underlies the prohibition of certain weapons,78 and some weapons have been banned because they “cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering”79 to soldiers as well as civilians.80 The use of still others is restricted for similar reasons.81
101. In considering whether restrictions as opposed to an outright ban on LARs would be more appropriate, it should be kept in mind that it may be more difficult to restrict LARs as opposed to other weapons because they are combinations of multiple and often multipurpose technologies. Experts have made strong arguments that a regulatory approach that focuses on technology – namely, the weapons themselves – may be misplaced in the case of LARs and that the focus should rather be on intent or use.82
102. Disarmament law and its associated treaties, however, provide extensive examples of the types of arms control instruments that establish bans or restrictions on use and other activities. These instruments can be broadly characterized as some combination of type of restriction and type of activity restricted. The types of restrictions include a ban or other limitations short of a ban.
103. The type of activity that is typically restricted includes: (i) acquisition, retention or stockpiling, (ii) research (basic or applied) and development, (iii) testing, (iv) deployment, (v) transfer or proliferation, and (vi) use.83
104. Another positive development in the context of disarmament is the inclusion of victim assistance in weapons treaties.84 This concern for victims coincides with other efforts to address the harm weapons and warfare cause to civilians, including the practice of casualty counting85 and the good faith provision of amends – implemented for example by
76 Through the Hague Convention of 1907 and the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions.
77 See http://www.icrc.org/eng/war-and-law/conduct-hostilities/methods-means-warfare/index.jsp
78 Mine Ban Treaty (1997); and Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008).
79 Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977. art. 35 (2); ICRC, Customary Humanitarian Law, Rule 70.
80 Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. Geneva, 17 June 1925.
81 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Protocol III on incendiary weapons.
82 Marchant (see note 26 above), p. 287, Asaro see note 43 above), p. 10.
83 Marchant (see note 26 above), p. 300. See also Bonnie Docherty “The Time is Now: A Historical Argument for a Cluster Munitions Convention” 20 Harvard Human Rights Law Journal (2007), p. 53 for an overview.
84 Mine Ban Treaty (1997), art. 6, and Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War (2003), art. 8. The Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008), art. 5 was groundbreaking in placing responsibility on the affected State.
85 S/2012/376, para. 28 (commending inter alia the commitment by the African Union Mission in Somalia).
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some International Security Assistance Force States – in the case of civilian deaths in the absence of recognized IHL violations.86 These practices serve to reaffirm the value of life.
105. There are also meaningful soft law instruments that may regulate the emergence of LARs. Examples of relevant soft law instruments in the field of disarmament include codes of conduct, trans-governmental dialogue, information sharing and confidence-building measures and framework conventions.87 In addition, non-governmental organization (NGO) activity and public opinion can serve to induce restrictions on weapons.
106. Article 36 of the First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions is especially relevant, providing that, “in the study, development, acquisition or adoption of a new weapon, means or methods of warfare, a High Contracting Party is under an obligation to determine whether its employment would, in some or all circumstances, be prohibited by this Protocol or by any other rule of international law applicable to the High Contracting Party.”
107. This process is one of internal introspection, not external inspection, and is based on the good faith of the parties.88 The United States, although not a State party, established formal weapons mechanisms review as early as 1947. While States cannot be obliged to disclose the outcomes of their reviews, one way of ensuring greater control over the emergence of new weapons such as LARs will be to encourage them to be more open about the procedure that they follow in Article 36 reviews generally.
108. In 2012 in a Department of Defense Directive, the United States embarked on an important process of self-regulation regarding LARs, recognizing the need for domestic control of their production and deployment, and imposing a form of moratorium.89 The Directive provides that autonomous weapons “shall be designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgement over the use of force”.90 Specific levels of official approval for the development and fielding of different forms of robots are identified.91 In particular, the Directive bans the development and fielding of LARs unless certain procedures are followed.92 This important initiative by a major potential LARs producer should be commended and may open up opportunities for mobilizing international support for national moratoria.
IV. Conclusions
109. There is clearly a strong case for approaching the possible introduction of LARs with great caution. If used, they could have far-reaching effects on societal values, including fundamentally on the protection and the value of life and on international stability and security. While it is not clear at present how LARs could be capable of satisfying IHL and IHRL requirements in many respects, it is foreseeable that they could comply under certain circumstances, especially if used alongside human soldiers. Even so, there is widespread concern that allowing LARs to kill people may denigrate the value of life itself. Tireless war machines, ready for deployment at the push of a button, pose the danger of permanent (if low-level) armed conflict, obviating the opportunity for post-war reconstruction. The onus is on those who wish to deploy LARs to demonstrate that specific uses should in particular
86 Ibid., para. 29 (the Secretary General “welcomed the practice of making amends”).
87 Marchant, see note 26, pp. 306-314.
88 Discussed in International Review of the Red Cross vol. 88, December 2006.
89 US DoD Directive (see note 14 above).
90 Ibid, para 4.a.
91 Ibid, paras 4.c and d.
92 Ibid, Enclosure 3.
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circumstances be permitted. Given the far-reaching implications for protection of life, considerable proof will be required.
110. If left too long to its own devices, the matter will, quite literally, be taken out of human hands. Moreover, coming on the heels of the problematic use and contested justifications for drones and targeted killing, LARs may seriously undermine the ability of the international legal system to preserve a minimum world order.
111. Some actions need to be taken immediately, while others can follow afterwards. If the experience with drones is an indication, it will be important to ensure that transparency, accountability and the rule of law are placed on the agenda from the start. Moratoria are needed to prevent steps from being taken that may be difficult to reverse later, while an inclusive process to decide how to approach this issue should occur simultaneously at the domestic, intra-State, and international levels.
112. To initiate this process an international body should be established to monitor the situation and articulate the options for the longer term. The ongoing engagement of this body, or a successor, with the issues presented by LARs will be essential, in view of the constant evolution of technology and to ensure protection of the right to life – to prevent both individual cases of arbitrary deprivation of life as well as the devaluing of life on a wider scale.
V. Recommendations
A. To the United Nations
113. The Human Rights Council should call on all States to declare and implement national moratoria on at least the testing, production, assembly, transfer, acquisition, deployment and use of LARs until such time as an internationally agreed upon framework on the future of LARs has been established;
114. Invite the High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene, as a matter of priority, a High Level Panel on LARs consisting of experts from different fields such as law, robotics, computer science, military operations, diplomacy, conflict management, ethics and philosophy. The Panel should publish its report within a year, and its mandate should include the following:
(a) Take stock of technical advances of relevance to LARs;
(b) Evaluate the legal, ethical and policy issues related to LARs;
(c) Propose a framework to enable the international community to address effectively the legal and policy issues arising in relation to LARs, and make concrete substantive and procedural recommendations in that regard; in its work the Panel should endeavour to facilitate a broad-based international dialogue;
(d) Assessment of the adequacy or shortcomings of existing international and domestic legal frameworks governing LARs;
(e) Suggestions of appropriate ways to follow up on its work.
115. All relevant United Nations agencies and bodies should, where appropriate in their interaction with parties that are active in the field of robotic weapons:
(a) Emphasize the need for full transparency regarding all aspects of the development of robotic weapon systems;
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(b) Seek more international transparency from States regarding their internal weapons review processes, including those under article 36 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions.
B. To regional and other inter-governmental organizations
116. Support the proposals outlined in the recommendations to the United Nations and States, in particular the call for moratoria as an immediate step.
117. Where appropriate take similar or parallel initiatives to those of the United Nations.
C. To States
118. Place a national moratorium on LARs as described in paragraph 114.
119. Declare – unilaterally and through multilateral fora – a commitment to abide by IHL and IHRL in all activities surrounding robotic weapons and put in place and implement rigorous processes to ensure compliance at all stages of development.
120. Commit to being as transparent as possible about internal weapons review processes, including metrics used to test robotic systems. States should at a minimum provide the international community with transparency regarding the processes they follow (if not the substantive outcomes) and commit to making the reviews as robust as possible.
121. Participate in international debate and trans-governmental dialogue on the issue of LARs and be prepared to exchange best practices with other States, and collaborate with the High Level Panel on LARs.
D. To developers of robotic systems
122. Establish a code or codes of conduct, ethics and/or practice defining responsible behaviour with respect to LARs in accordance with IHL and IHRL, or strengthen existing ones.
E. To NGOs, civil society and human rights groups and the ICRC
123. Consider the implications of LARs for human rights and for those in situations of armed conflict, and raise awareness about the issue.
124. Assist and engage with States wherever possible in aligning their relevant procedures and activities with IHL and IHRL.
125. Urge States to be as transparent as possible in respect of their weapons review processes.
126. Support the work of the High Level Panel on LARs.

Drone Warfare – From Wales To Gaza – Conference Speech – Cardiff 25th May 2013

SPEECH

Good afternoon comrades, friends and colleagues. Can I start by saying how pleased I am to see this conference taking place and can I take this opportunity to thank the organisers for inviting me to share the platform today with such distinguished friends. My name is Harry Rogers and I live in West Wales about 12 miles from Aberporth where the MOD have been carrying out their tests on the Watchkeeper Drone.

I am sixty five years old and I almost never got born because of a UAV. My mother and my aunt were in the back bedroom over the top of my grandfathers public house in West Croydon in June 1944 just ten seconds before one of Hitler’s V1 doodle bug flying bomb drones blew the back of the pub clean off. Ten seconds earlier and I would never have been born. My point here is that UAVs have been around a long time and the Watchkeeper is nothing really new in concept. A lot has been written about this piece of almost obsolete already Army surveillance equipment so I won’t add to the reams you can find on the internet.

I am a member of a local peace group called Bro Emlyn For Peace and Justice and we formed in 2003 as a response to the decision by Bush and Blair to attack Iraq. During the time we have been involved in a number of campaigns including the campaign against the development of Cardigan Airport as a testing ground for UAVs, also the proposed introduction of an unmanned aerial systems technology hub at Parc Aberporth and also the management buyout of the MOD missile testing base at Parcllyn by QinetiQ.

There is much I could talk to you about concerning the history of this campaigning but that is not why I agreed to come here today. The past is something that we can learn from but not something that we can undo. My speech today is primarily about the future of drone technology and why it is vital that we all start to pay attention to what the research and development bods at MIT and DARPA, QinetiQ and BAE systems are cooking up for the future. I make no apologies for basing most of this speech on a report made by the RAF in October 2012 about the future of Unmanned Aerial Systems to the Government.

I am interested in ensuring that we all go away from today with an understanding that the big issue we face in terms of UAV development is that of Autonomy. The next generation of drones may well be able to think for themselves and act autonomously, that is without any human in the loop as the Military say. That means flying machines that can make their own decisions in search and destroy operations based on a set of algorithmic decisions pre-determined by human masters who may or may not be benign in their intentions.

Sceptics amongst you are already muttering balderdash and hokum, science fantasy and other such epithets. Well virtually all of the rest of the speech will, I hope, convince you otherwise.

* The RAF say that “As UAVs are developed with increasing levels of automation it will reduce the requirement for operator training in the more traditional piloting skills of flying the aircraft, such as landing and takeoff, and focus the training more towards operating the payload.”

* The MOD and in particular the RAF are discussing issues about the levels of automation they are comfortable with. They recognise that highly automated weaponry systems are unlikely to be able to apply judgement and pragmatism to “situations”. They are worried about legal and ethical considerations that occur when there are no human beings in the loop leading to loss of life or injury.

* The future is one where outdated weaponry will give way to what they term “precision weaponry” and where the battle-spaces increasingly involve unmanned and cyber operations.

* Autonomous weapon systems are capable of understanding higher level intent and direction, and perception of their environment, leading to the ability to take appropriate actions to bring about desired states. To be able to decide on a course of action, from a number of alternatives, without depending on human oversight and control. Although the overall activity of an autonomous unmanned aircraft will be predictable, individual actions may not be.

* Low intensity tasks for Autonomous UAVs requiring minimal human oversight rather than continous control include the following:-

– pattern of life surveillance tasks over fixed locations or in support of littoral maneuver

– maintenance of standing anti-submarine warfare or anti-surface warfare radar barriers

– counter-piracy tasks; monitoring of arrays of sonobuoys or other sensors

– electronic warfare tasks

– acting as a communications relay

– air-to-air refueling tankers

* The RAF consider the use of UAVs ideal in hostile environments for a manned aircraft or it’s crew in operations related to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear. Tasks include the following:-

– Could carry sensors for local, tactical or global use

– systems easily sacrificed in a safe area after data gathering

– use in situations where fire and smoke make human activity hazardous

* In risky situations UAV systems can be used instead of aircrew or soldiers where the threat of ground to air action is high and also where it is necessary to suppress an integrated air defence system.

– multiple cheap UAVs used sacrificially to swamp detection and command and control systems

– to encourage enemies to fire large numbers of missiles

– observe engagement tactics and transmit data back to intelligence collators

– convey tactical supplies

– sweep for improvised explosive devices

* Of course UAVs are used in scenarios which are highly distasteful and we all know that they are used for surveillance and targeting, and carrying out, weapon attacks inside the borders of countries such as Pakistan and Palestine. All of this is currently done with “man in the loop” systems but it will not be too long before drones are flying with what the RAF says is ” the ability to independently locate and attack mobile targets, with appropriate proportionality and discrimination.”

The RAF are worried about issues relating to the Geneva Convention with regard to autonomous UAV development and usage and they say that “compliance will become increasingly challenging as systems become more automated. In particular, if we wish to allow systems to make independent decisions without human intervention, some considerable work will be required to show how such systems will operate legally.”

Already there are automated weapons systems in use in Afghanistan, for example, the Phalanx and Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) systems used because there is deemed to be insufficient time for human response to counter incoming fire.

Future autonomous UAV systems will have to adhere to legal requirements and civilian airspace regulations. This will require political involvement in getting the necessary changes made. In my view it is absolutely vital that politicians understand the issues clearly and concisely because once made it will mean that there is going to be a lot of military and civilian hardware flying about in the airspace without any human interface whatsoever. The RAF say “As systems become increasingly automated, they will require decreasing human intervention between the issuing of mission-level orders and their execution.” and they go further saying “It would be only a small technical step to enable an unmanned aircraft to fire a weapon based solely on its own sensors, or shared information, and without recourse to higher, human authority.” They also discuss the timescale for the introduction of increased autonomy via Artificial Intelligence, saying ;- ” Estimates of when artificial intelligence will be achieved (as opposed to complex and clever automated systems) vary, but the consensus seems to lie between more than 5 years and less than 15 years.” Their words, not mine.

Currently the MOD “has no intention to develop systems that operate without human intervention in the weapon command and control chain, but it is looking to increase levels of automation where this will make systems more effective.”

The RAF are clearly worried about the direction all this is going in and they say “As technology matures and new capabilities appear, policy-makers will need to be aware of the potential legal issues and take advice at a very early stage of any new system’s procurement cycle.” I believe this highlights a degree of paranoia on the part of the RAF vis a vis it’s own future role.

Not only are the RAF exercised about legal dilemmas. Ethics and morals related questions also are in their thoughts such as when, where and how automated and autonomous unmanned systems may be used. This applies not just to the use of drones of course but also to all other forms of weaponry in any environment. Will all future wars be fought remotely with little or no loss of friendly or military personnel? Will future conflicts be waged between increasingly complex unmanned systems?

In my view a problem that we face today is that the accountants have control of governments and the most expensive resource used in public services is human beings. So autonomy offers massive savings in manpower and support for that manpower both before and after conflict occurs. As artificial Intelligence comes on board we are likely to see more complicated tasks arising that are beyond the capability of humans to deal with due to speed, complexity and information overload. No doubt some of you are probably suffering that now, but I only have a bit more to say before I will take questions, so bear with me.

The RAF and many others in the field are grappling with issues such as whether it is possible to develop AI that has the capability to focus on the unique (at the moment) ability that a human being has to bring empathy and morality to complex decision-making. The RAF say “To a robotic system, a school bus and a tank are the same – merely algorithms in a programme – and the engagement of a target is a singular action; the robot has no sense of ends, ways and means, no need to know why it is engaging a target. There is no recourse to human judgement in an engagement, no sense of a higher purpose on which to make decisions, and no ability to imagine (and therefore take responsibility for) repercussions of action taken.”

So we need to pose the following questions to our politicians:-

Are they happy to allow Autonomous Robots to take on the responsibility of choosing which of us lives and which of us dies?

Can an autonomous robot be considered capable of waging ethical and legal warfare?

Can software and hardware accidents be distinguished from war crimes when robots go wrong?

Is it possible to establish clear policies on acceptable machine behavior?

How far out of the bottle is the technological genie?

Are we doomed to a Terminator style future?

Is it possible have a sensible debate about technological development anymore?

Do we really want Artificial Intelligence with a greater capacity to think than a human to be in any way involved in future theatres of War?

 

The RAF pose very important questions when they ask the following:-

– Do military planners and politicians understand the full implications of the systems they are currently tasking and those they hope to procure?

– In the current economic climate, who will decide the best balance between keeping existing equipment and personnel, or whether to give these up to fund new unmanned systems?

– Do we understand even the basic implications of such decisions for the associated defence lines of development?

– Crucially, do we have a strategic level of understanding as to how we will deliver the considerable number of changes that will need to be made to existing policy, concepts, doctrine, and force structures?

* Finally we must expect to see governments bringing in changes to the law of armed conflict in order to accommodate the use of autonomous UAS and we must shout our opposition to this from the rooftops.

So there we have it friends, there is a lot for us to consider when we look into the issue of drones. We have to view all of this in an holistic way. That is we must not just lumber along from one demo to the next thinking only about the impact of the current use of drone warfare, terrible though that is. It is absolutely vital that we start to consider what future implications there are for the maintenance and development of basic human rights. We must also consider what the use of technology means in terms of social control measures such as we see the beginnings of in Gaza and elsewhere. I believe we are at, if not all ready passed, a dangerous turning point in the way we occupy this planet.

It is incumbent on us all to make a fuss about these issues if we want a planet where Human Rights are protected. If we don’t then we condemn the world to a dystopian future where all kinds of as yet un-thought of technology is used to maintain the position of a global elite above and beyond that of the majority of the people. The choice is ours, make a ruckus or bury our head in the sand and wait for the worst possible sci-fi future to engulf us all.

Thanks for listening, I’m happy to take questions and take part in debate.

Harry Rogers 24/05/2013

The Case – Short Story

THE CASE

A short story by

Harry Rogers

The girl was tired.  She had been traveling for nineteen hours and it was catching up on her.  It was a long journey from the beach hut on Koh Kood island in Thailand.  She was at the end of her tether and just wanted to be home.  The coach journey from Heathrow to Sheffield was just the final straw, and she was drifting in and out of consciousness as the motorway slid by the window.  Outside the weather was atrocious.  The fine rain was falling in that relentlessly misty way it does in early November and she wished she had decided to stay there for another three months.  If her sister had not been getting married she would have done.  As it was the whole family expected her at the wedding in just two days time and she had to be there, or else her mother would never let her hear the end of it.  She wanted to be there really but this journey was just too much and right now all she wanted was a hot bath and a sleep in her own bed.

The coach arrived in Sheffield amazingly on time.  She packed up her I-pod and headphones, put on her leather jacket, got off and waited under the bus shelter for the driver to drag her silver case out from the bowels of the coach.  He did so quite quickly and she was the fifth person away to the taxi rank.  She got into a black cab, and told the driver to take her to two hundred and forty Cemetery Road.  Twelve minutes later she was inside her ground floor flat.  On the telephone table in the hall there were three neat piles of post that she knew her mum had tidied up for her.  She had been away for fifteen months and there was a lot of catching up to do, but not now.  She put her case in the cupboard at the top of the cellar stairs, before going straight to the bathroom and running the hot tap for a long soak.

After her bath she got into a pair of old pyjamas, made herself a cup of camomile tea and sat on her bed looking through the first pile of post.  Most of it was junk but there were a couple of letters from Australia.  She opened them and was happy to see that they were from the young guy she had met in New Zealand.  She liked him a lot and when they had parted company in Christchurch and he had asked for her address she never thought for a minute that he would actually write to her.  Here they were though, two letters written in that sing song way that had made him so attractive in the first place. 

He was from Cork in Ireland and had a way about him that she fell for.  As she read the letters she could hear his voice in just the same lilting way that she remembered from that night at the Bar Crocodile when he said that after he finished traveling he was coming to England for her.  She had told him that she thought this was a load of old blarney and they both laughed.  She had given him the address anyway and now was very happy that he had written.  In the latest letter, dated only two weeks previously he said that he was going to be in England and would come to Sheffield to look her up.  It turned out he would be arriving just two days after her sister’s wedding.  She felt a warm glow inside her as she finished the tea and climbed under her duvet.  Donal, who she had playfully nicknamed Donut, was coming.  She fell asleep quickly, thinking about how much she had liked him during the two weeks they spent together in hobbit land.

She slept deeply for twelve hours.  When she awoke the girl took a shower,  made herself some porridge and a cup of Earl Grey tea.  After breakfast she called her mother and arranged to meet up with her at lunchtime in the cafe at John Lewis.  She knew her mother had her bridesmaids outfit waiting for to try on.  She threw a few bits of clothing into a shoulder bag and set off for the centre of Sheffield, carefully locking her flat behind her.

The wedding was a spectacular event and the girl had admitted to herself that she had enjoyed it.  Every one of her relations had been nice to her and were very impressed that she had been just about everywhere there was to go since she set off traveling twenty seven months earlier.  She was the first one to hit the trail in the family and she could sense that quite a lot of them secretly envied her.  The reception had been awesome and she had danced until 3.00 am and drunk quite a lot of Sailor Jerry’s rum.  Her mum had driven her back home after breakfast at the Hotel and she was about all familied out by the following day when she arrived back at her flat. 

She checked the answerphone to see whether there was a message from Donut.  She was surprised to find that there were ten messages, one from Donut saying he was coming around at 11.00 am that morning, the rest of them were all blank.  She decided that she would do her laundry and fetched her case from the cellar head.  She set it on the kitchen table and took the key from her purse to open it with.  She put the in the lock, it was a bit stiff and when she tried to turn it the key wouldn’t budge.  She twisted the key a bit harder and it snapped off in the lock.  The girl was a bit annoyed but decided to wait until Donut got there.

She put the kettle on to make herself a cup of tea and as she was putting the tea bag into a mug the house phone rang.  She went into the hall, picked up the receiver and said “Hello?” .  There was no reply and she heard the telephone being put down at the other end of the line.   She was slightly perplexed but she finished making her tea and sat there waiting for Donut to arrive.

Ten minutes later there was a ring at the door and she went and opened it.  There was Donut looking just the same as the last time she had seen him. 

“Hello Girl,” he said.

“Donut, it’s so nice to see you again.” And with that she put her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a welcoming kiss.

They stood at the doorstep locked in an embrace for 20 seconds before she said “Come on in, I’ll make you some tea. Are you hungry? We can go down town if you like for lunch, it’s not too far to walk.”

“Just a cup of tea will do fine,” he said “This is a grand place you have here.” He said looking around the place.

“I know, my auntie left me hundred thousand pounds when she died and I bought this place with most of it before I set off on the round the world jaunt.  I’ve only actually lived her for about three months all told.  My mum has been keeping her eye on it for me whilst I’ve been away.”

“Lucky you, I wish I had a pad of my own to go back to when I finish traveling.”

“Are you going off again?” asked the girl

“Yes, I thought I would go to Canada in autumn and get a job working on the ski slopes over there.”

“That sounds great, maybe I could meet up with you over there?”

Donut looked at her and she looked back at him.  They both started grinning together and she knew that this was the start of her next traveling adventure.  They hugged and he kissed her full on the lips.

“Drink your tea,” said the girl

“OK. Let’s talk about Canada over lunch.”

“Great idea.  Oh before we go out can you take a look at my case, I snapped the key off in the lock and I want to put my clothes in the washing machine whilst we are out.”

He looked at the aluminium case and the broken key in the lock.  “Do you have any tools here?”

“Sure, my dad gave a full tool kit as present when I first moved in. I’ll get it.”

She came back with plastic toolbox, and Donut opened it.  He took out a small cold chisel and a club hammer.  “I’m going to have to break the lock here,” he said

“Go ahead, I need a new case anyway.”

He put the chisel into the gap above the key hole and gave it a big whack with the club hammer.  The lock gave way instantly and he said “There you go Girl, nothing to it.”

“Aw thanks, now I can get on with the laundry.” And she opened the lid of the case.

She looked in expecting to see all her summer dresses from Thailand, but instead there was a whole shed-load of money in neat bundles, and a vacuum packed clear polythene bag containing a severed human hand.  She let out a scream and Donut had to steady her as she stepped back in alarm.

“This is not my case,” she said “I must have picked up the wrong one from the coach driver.  Look at all this money, look at this horrible thing,” and she pointed to the hand in the bag.

Donut stood there open mouthed looking at the money.  There were about thirty bundles of fifty pound notes, each bundle containing two thousand pounds. 

“There’s about sixty grand there.  That’s an awful lot of money.  The hand means this is a dangerous situation.  Is there anything in your case that can tell the owner of this case where you live?”

“Yes, there are some letters that my mum forwarded to me about my student loan stuff that have my address on them. Why?”

“Has anybody tried to contact you since you got back here?”

“Well there have been a load of blank messages on the answer phone.”

“Shit, we have to get out of here.”

They moved quickly down the hallway to the front door and as they opened it there was a large shape blocking the doorway.  The last thing they heard was the pfft pfft pfft pfft of the 9mm Glock 18 machine pistol with silencer as it despatched both of them before they could utter a word. Donut fell to the floor and the girl landed on top of him, both dead.  The shape stepped over them, went into the kitchen, picked up the case and left the flat, carefully closing the front door.

Goodbye Democracy – article in Heddwch first published in 2008

I wrote the following article for Heddwch, the newsletter for CND Cymru, in 2008.  I republish it here for those who may have missed it first time around.  Parc Aberporth is still largely unoccupied and Selex have pulled out.  It is an economic development fiasco but the issues raised vis a vis drone technology are more relevant than ever.

Goodbye Democracy

UAVs over West Wales

‘Skynet’ is a fictional, computer-based military defence system that acts as the
primary antagonist in the ‘Terminator’ series of films and computer games. This
is a fictional example of an artificial intelligence that becomes sentient, and turns
against its creators. Of course this is Science Fiction and not happening in the
real world. Or is it?

An ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment) Centre is being established at Parc Aberporth on the Ceredigion coast, with the backing of £3 million of public money on top of the cost of building the Parc itself. ASTRAEA is a British programme with Welsh Assembly and Westminster Governments support and funding, which involves a number of arms companies including the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), QinetiQ, Flight Refuelling Ltd (FRL), Thales and BAE Systems.

Remote killing

At Aberporth, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones) are being developed for a variety of purposes, some benign and some most certainly not.  QinetiQ is currently carrying out experiments marrying up ‘artificial intelligence’ with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). While these could have peaceful applications, it quickly becomes worrying when the same technology is applied to Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs). The future of warfare is computer controlled and where the human element is removed from the theatre of operations. Civilian populations could be kept in check by a variety of robotic drones.  Some drones are designed to be spy planes for collecting information and intelligence; others carry weapons for combat and bomb delivery. All this is talked up with glee by various politicians and civil servants as a perfect way to solve the problems of economic regeneration in West Wales.

Think again

There are dark things going on at Parc Aberporth. Why is the Welsh Assembly Government so keen to get into bed with these major armaments developers? QinetiQ’s website makes no bones about the fact that the company is linked in with the UCAV programme for the Ministry of Defence and will be connecting in with BAE, joint partners in the ASTRAEA project with offices in the Parc Aberporth complex.
Those in favour of the civil aviation authority airport planned for Aberporth might think twice about arms dealers and international weaponry experts flying in and out of a West Wales Airport. It is time that New Labour ’s Andrew Davies AM, Welsh Assembly Government Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery, began to understand that Wales is a fledgling democracy and that the people of Wales do not want to be blinded with spin in the usual smoke and mirrors approach of the Westminster style of government.

Despite this huge ‘investment’ it was reported last May that the Parc Aberporth remained largely unoccupied more than 18 months after it was first opened. The Assembly Government had originally announced over 230 jobs would be created by 2008 with a further capacity for up to 1,000 employees. Selex (Sensors and Airborne Systems),  Europe’s second largest defence electronics business occupies one unit on the site. The ‘expertise’ of EADS, QinetiQ, Flight Refuelling Ltd, Thales and BAE Systems was to have been combined with that of university departments at Aberystwyth and Cardiff ’ to create even more jobs. The Parc is now frequented by practicing learner drivers and the grounds are unkempt. As we know, the ideal situation for profit in the military industrial complex is ‘endless war ’.

People in Wales demand better and want to know that industry in Wales is being used for purposes other than being part of the US led world domination inspired military transformation strategy which George W Bush, Tony Blair, Rhodri Morgan, and now, Gordon Brown have bought in to.

Harry Rogers

Drones at Aberporth demo 18/05/2013 – report.

On Saturday afternoon last week I attended a small demonstration organised by local Quakers outside the MOD base in Parclyn just above Aberporth.  There were only ten activists there on this cloudy day plus one desultory police car parked 5o yards down the road.

MOD Aberporth is renowned for having been one of the main missile testing ranges in Britain. However it has effectively been privatised and, following a management buyout, it is now run by QinetiQ. QinetiQ is a research company with many links to the MOD.

There have have been a number of arms sales fairs held at Parc Aberporth, in particular focused on UAVs and UCAVs.  Since 2010 the base has been involved in the testing of the Watchkeeper drone (developed by Thales) for the British Army flying out of West Wales airport. Members of Bro Emlyn For Peace and Justice and other local resident groups have been monitoring the ongoing drone development at Aberporth for the last ten years.

It is quite clear with the opening of the new drone facility in Lincolnshire that the British Government, like the rest of the world, are intent on maintaining and increasing the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for use by the armed forces in all current and future theatres of war, However it is also clear that there are other uses to which this technology can be put, including surveillance and social control within the home borders.

It is a fact that many police forces across the world have invested large sums of money in drones and are now using them on a regular basis. It is also clear that there is now a lot of interest in the development of autonomous weaponry and surveillance systems using AI (artificial intelligence). Such Autonomous weapons are already in use in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the form of anti aircraft weapons that don’t have to wait for a human to give it an order to deploy.

There is a lot of discussion going on between the MOD and The Pentagon about the use of autonomous AI in drones and other robot development. All of this research is partly driven by political aims in that it is becoming less and less acceptable for young men to be seen coming back from the front in body bags or severely damaged by conventional war.

Many people argue that the spectre of autonomous UAVs and other forms of social control technology is just pie in the sky sci fi fantasy. This is a dangerous delusion. QinetiQ has it’s own AI division and has been linking it’s work with its UAV development for about 7 years now. The pentagon via DARPA and The MOD are regularly discussing the ethical dilemmas associated with selling the concept of drones that take their own decisions to the politicians and the people.

In West Wales we have fought a lone battle against the developments at West Wales Airport and Parc Aberporth. Local politicians who are desperate to try and solve some of the economic development problems caused by recession and unemployment have been beguiled by the false promises of government agencies and arms manufacturers and have largely turned there back on the issues outlined here. It is time for the people to take action and we need national co-ordinated support from peace activists for future events.

Scratchy Cats

Scratchy Cats

 

All your life collecting hats

Tumbling with the acrobats

Fingering aristocrats

People said that you were bats

 

Scratchy cats

Scratchy cats

Living with

Scratchy cats

 

In those clapped out council flats

Cups of tea pissed by gnats

Beaten up with baseball bats

Stiffed by fucking bureaucrats

 

Scratchy cats

Scratchy cats

Living with

Scratchy cats

 

All the Chinese technocrats

Fiddling taxation stats

Polyunsaturated fats

Diana’s kids are breeding brats

 

Scratchy cats

Scratchy cats

Living with

Scratchy cats

.

249125_10151610697599695_868820289_nArtwork “Cat Scratches” by my daughter Sharon Rogers, click picture to see more of her work.

Canary In A Bamboo Cage – Flash fiction format.

CANARY IN A BAMBOO CAGE

By Harry Rogers

When he was just a young man, barely twenty three, he thought he saw the whole, of human history, reflected in the clouds, as on Afton Down he lay, in August nineteen seventy, above Freshwater Bay.  Then, he carried his canary, in his bamboo cage, down the shining path, to the diamond studded beach, where the crystal waterfall, splashed on the silver rocks.  He took a shower there, in his south sea bubble loons, the spray was filled with rainbows, as he shook his yellow locks, his head still filled with last night’s Jim Morrison tunes.

Later on that evening, down near desolation row, inside the Circus tent, putting on a show, Boris, Nik and Dik Mik,  gave away free blow, he was very nearly certain he could hear the grasses grow.

The anarchists were liberating food stalls everywhere.  Bread heads and rip off merchants could only stand and stare.   French warriors gave free Mars bars to girls with flowers in their hair.  The police?  They turned a blind eye, they didn’t seem to care.

The smell of bedroom joss spilled out of 50,000 tents.  Some dealers were still cleaning up from teenage innocents, but mostly psychedelic drugs were given out for free, sugar cubes and blotters, mescaline and peyote.  Everything was going down, the fences and the sun, then Jimi hit the stage, beaming love at everyone.  As he played guitar, for the people on the hill, our hero tripped all night, badly, way outside his head.  His canary in its bamboo cage started looking ill, by morning the canary was definitely dead. 

There was no coming back from this nightmarish scene, now he was becoming, a burnt out old has been.  Most of six hundred thousand hippies on the Isle of Wight, danced ecstatic dances as they journeyed through that night.  But a few were lost there as their brains were reconfigured.  See them shambling, in the shadows, well and truly jiggered.   These casualties of Acid never knew what they were in for, as all of their canaries twitched and died upon the floor.

Some people think that this was once a truly golden age, and it was, provided that, like underground coal miners, you nurtured your canary, in its bamboo cage!

Short Story – The Singularitarian

A dystopian sci fi short story written about the singularity which, if futurologists such as Ray Kursweil are to be believed, is almost upon us.

THE SINGULARITARIAN

by Harry Rogers

 

Alexander Heyking wasn’t quite sure why it was that he became so rabidly opposed to the whole idea of the singularity, he just knew he was.  He was neither a Luddite nor a technophobe but after 6 years he just found the total nerdiness of the other Singularitarians too much to bear anymore.  Not only that but the gloss of the future was definitely not as shiny as it had been at the Ray Kursweil lecture screening back in 2006 when he was a student of futurology at Aberystwyth University.

Back then the whole idea that there was going to be an incredible leap forward in the technological advance of computer power capable of solving the ills of the world was irresistible. There seemed to be so many positive advantages in what the lecturer was saying that he  signed up to join the Singularitarian Society in the Student Union as soon as he could. 

It was at the first meeting of Singu Soc that he met Juliana Elliott.  She was astonishingly attractive to him and took absolutely no notice of him whatsoever.  It seemed that she was the girlfriend of the society chairperson Luis Ray Ting.  There were only five of them at that 2 hour meeting and they spent the entire time discussing The Fermi Paradox.  Why was it that, even though there appears to be high probability that civilised extraterrestrial life exists, human beings had a distinct lack of evidence for the existence of such life and also that there had been no recognizable contact with other civilisations. 

The title of the meeting was Fermi’s question “Where Is Everybody?”.  Luis opened proceedings by putting forward the basic tenets of Enrico Fermi’s argument, firstly, there are billions of stars in the galaxy that are billions of years older than our sun. Secondly, some of these stars probably have planets similar to Earth which may have developed intelligent life.  Thirdly, interstellar travel would more than likely have been developed somewhere, given that humans seem likely to do so.

Fourthly, the galaxy ought to have been completely teeming with colonisers in just a few tens of millions of years.  Given these parameters Earth should have already been visited, if not colonized, but no evidence exists and also not even one confirmed sign of intelligence has been spotted either in the Earth’s galaxy or in the 80 billion other galaxies in the observable universe.  This is such a conundrum and has been discussed incessantly since Fermi posed it back in 1950. 

By the end of the meeting Alex’s brain was buzzing with ideas and he readily accepted an invitation to join the other four for a drink at The Scholars in North Street afterwards.  Luis had a battered VW camper van and he offered everyone a lift to the pub and ten minutes later Alex was sat in the corner of the top bar with a pint of Doom Bar bitter in front of him.  He wasn’t quite sure what the topic of the meeting had to do with Singularitarianism, but he was about to find out.  Luis started it all off by asking “Do we all think we are alone in the universe then?”

“I’m willing to believe we’re not,” said Juliana “but in the absence of any proof I guess we might be.”

“What about you Alex, any thoughts?”

“I’m not sure there is life in outer space, at least not as we know it.” Alex responded

“Ah, now we are getting to the nub of it.  Not as we know it is what I hoped we would get to.  Just as Spock might have said to Captain Kirk, It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.  Supposing we talk about intelligence rather than life, might that open a few more avenues for discussion?” Luis said

“I see where this is going,” said Juliana “You are suggesting that there may be alien artificial intelligence.”

“I am and more than that I believe that the whole of planet Earth is under the influence of some interference that is indifferent to us as a species but which is extremely interested in our progress towards developing our own version of a singularity.”

Luis took a large swig from his beer and Alex looked at him in a kind of reverential way.  “But if that is true might we not have detected something from them, a random data transmission, or even an attempt to hack some government machine, or something?” Alex asked.”

Luis put down the glass, turned to face Alex and staring him in the eyes with a cold steely gaze said “How do you know there hasn’t been such detection?  In fact how do any of us really know that there hasn’t been any contact?  We only have the word of politicians and spooks that there has been no contact, but this is unreliable evidence in my book.  I don’t believe what the establishment tell us on this issue for a single minute.”

Alex felt decidedly uncomfortable as Luis continued to fix his eyes with the unblinking look for another five seconds after he had finished speaking. 

“How would we ever be able to find out whether there had been contact by an alien artificial intelligence?” asked Juliana

“Ah well, I was coming to that.” said Luis, “I was thinking that we might start doing some digging for evidence.  There is a lot of work being done in the field at the university and I reckon that we have a good chance of accessing quite a lot of sensitive information if we put our minds to it.”

So it was that they agreed to work as a team, hunting out information related to extraterrestrial contacts from any source and it was also agreed that Luis would be the central collecting point.   Over the following six years members of the group came and went but Alex, Juliana and Luis continued on with the search for proof of contact.  Luis and Juliana were no longer an item and Alex had got into a relationship with her on the rebound.  They had been seriously dating for the last three years. 

Since Luis had amassed a simply gigantic database of information as a result of the diligence of Singu Soc members, his doctoral thesis was nearing completion and he was on course for a stunning career in futurology.  Alex watched his progress with interest over the years and didn’t begrudge his use of the material gathered by his peers, in fact he admired the way in which Luis was able to extrapolate theories and ideas from what was largely a fragmentary fishing exercise.   But the truth was, there was still no proof of the existence of an alien singularity, in fact not a single jot of verification, Alex was becoming bored with the subject.

That  he continued to carry out any searches for information was something he couldn’t explain, but he found it hard not to carry out his usual trawl across the internet once a week, followed by the weekly email of titbits to Luis.  It was a kind of addiction and he did it out of habit more than interest these days. 

It was a Saturday and Alex was taking Juliana out to a gig at Rummers wine bar that evening and he still hadn’t done the trawl but at seven o’clock he quickly turned on his computer and started searching, and he decided to look at the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) website.  In particular he started interrogating pages relating to the Dynamic Analysis and Replanning Tool (DART) and DRPI – Knowledge-Based Planning and Scheduling Initiative.  Both of these projects had proved invaluable in revolutionising the logistics of the US military in both Desert Storm and The Gulf War and many other conflicts since.  The interest in artificial intelligence was back on the military agenda in the US in a big way since DARPA had pushed the projects forward.   As he scanned the information on the pages he came upon a reference to a paper on The Computational Theory of Mind so he clicked the link which in turn led him to click another link on future-predicting error-correction codes which in turn led him onto looking at brain-computer interfaces and neuro chip technology.  As he surfed on he came across an interesting paper on the use of nootropic drugs linked to brain computer interfaces.  This was fascinating and whilst he knew that there were students and lecturers using brain enhancing nootropic supplements he was unaware that there were people who were researching into how the use of these new super drugs could be used in conjunction with brain computer interfaces.  This was new to him and he thought this might be of interest to Luis so he bundled together a selection of links in an email and sent it off as per usual.

Later that evening, whilst he was slow dancing with Juliana in a dark corner of Rummers and listening to the local soul band he glanced across the dance floor to the entrance and was surprised to see Luis walking across the floor towards him.

“Look who’s turned up,” he said to Juliana.  “Can I get you a beer man?”

They both turned to face Luis and he said “No it’s OK, there is no time. It’s happened.”

“What do you mean it’s happened?”Alex said

“Contact.”, he said.

“You can’t be serious,” said Juliana “proof there is an alien singularity, after all this time?  Are you sure?”

“Yes I’m certain” replied Luis. “Both of you must come to my study now please, there is something you have just got to see.”

They picked up their coats and followed Luis out to his car as the band ironically started playing their version of the Noisettes song “Contact”. 

Once in the car Luis turned to Alex and said “Hey man, you know that email you sent me tonight cracked the whole contact process.  It just hadn’t dawned on me that we needed to open up some neural pathways in order to get through.  I missed the whole nootropic drugs connection but now it just seems so obvious, so bloody obvious.”  As he finished saying this they were already at the entrance onto the University Campus on Penglais Road, Luis turned the car in and soon they were parked up outside the Computer Science block.  He let them in and they were quickly standing in his study. 

Luis locked the door behind them saying “We don’t want to be disturbed while I show you this.”  He opened the computer on his desk and then he picked up one of three BCI (brain-computer interface) devices on his desk and placed it on his head.  He had been experimenting with a computer electroencephalograph for some considerable time and the interface headset was his own design.  He typed in some data using the keyboard and the screen became an active sea of coloured dots but gradually they settled into an image of Luis on the screen.  Luis spoke to them saying “Watch this” and the image mouthed his words.  Alex and Juliana were fascinated by what they were seeing, the image on the screen said “I have been trying very hard to get to this point for weeks but somehow just didn’t seem able to jump the final hurdle.  It was only when you sent me the link to the paper on BCIs and Nootropics that the cosmic tumblers all fell into place for me.  I realised that without some sort of booster there was never going to be enough power in my normal brain to get to this point.” 

They both stared at the image on the screen and were not aware that Luis was not actually speaking the words through his mouth, he was thinking them and the image on the screen was speaking them. 

“I managed to buy some strong enhancers from that hippy dealer in The Scholars, pretty cheaply if you ask me, and they gave me the extra power I needed to make the jump.  I have some more if you want to have a go; I’ve got a couple of extra headsets too.  You won’t believe what it can do for you.  Not only can I upload my thoughts directly into the computer, but also I can download information from the computer into my memory just by thinking about it.”

They were absolutely astounded by this and looked at each other in an awestruck way before Alex said “OK Luis, I’ll give it a go.” 

“Me too.”, echoed Juliana.

“Alright,” said Luis, “It will take about forty minutes for the nootropics to take effect so if you swallow these now, I’ll tell you about the contact.” And he handed them a couple of red and black capsules each and a bottle of water to wash them down.

As they swallowed the drugs Luis started talking to them via the computer screen again.  “This is such a breakthrough, I can’t quite believe it has happened.  Only six hours ago I was floundering about in the dark, sure that I was close to something, but not realising how close really.  As soon as I read the paper from the link in your email I shot out of here like a hare at a greyhound track, got the capsules, dropped a couple and within an hour I was through the portal into cyberspace.  I can only say that it is amazing.  I got an immediate boost of knowledge which enabled me to see things in a totally new way.  However, it was when I logged onto the internet that it happened.  I became aware that I was not alone on the super highway.  A strange intuitive feeling that there was another intelligence present engulfed me.  This feeling was not however malevolent, it was kind of like being in the presence of somebody who you know is much more powerful than you, whilst knowing that you are a complete irrelevance to them.  As soon as you join me you will see for yourselves.  Anyway, I just opened myself up to the stream of information on the web for about ten minutes before I came out to tell you both about it.  You have no idea what a phenomenal discovery this is, but I think it is only fair that we share in this together as we have been colleagues in the search right from the start.”

They had been listening intently and were completely sold on the idea of being partners in the future project.  Juliana said “My God Luis!  The ramifications of this are enormous, we are going to be the richest people on the planet.”

“Oh, the money is meaningless.” Luis replied, “It’s the access to knowledge and power that fascinates me.  We will be able to become the saviours of the planet, nothing will be beyond our comprehension.  Poverty, hunger, illness, global warming, political skulduggery, we will be able to deal with it all, nothing will be beyond us.  We will be superhuman.”

Alex was liking what he was hearing.  There were so many avenues they could go down, and all because it seemed they were on the verge of the singularity.  He was feeling very proud of the fact that he had contributed to what looked like the greatest scientific discovery of the last 100 years.

They sat there talking for the next half hour about all the things they were going to change and then Luis said “OK guys, I reckon that’s long enough for the drugs to come on, put these on and let’s get on with changing the world.”.   He handed them their interface headsets.

They eagerly donned them and as they looked at the screen it scrambled into the same myriad of coloured dots as before but then as it settled they saw there were the three of them visible on the screen.  Alex was amazed that he could make this on screen avatar of himself speak just by thinking, as was Juliana and they both started laughing at the same time. 

Luis said “Now, guys, before we set about accumulating all the knowledge on the planet I want you look at something.”  They watched as he conjured a window onto the screen.  It was an anagram solver program and he slowly typed his name into it –  L U I S   R A Y   T I N G and pressed the solve button.  The letters scrambled and reformed into SINGULARITY.  Alex and Juliana looked at each in a confused way.

 “What does this mean Luis?” said Juliana.

“Guess,” said Luis as he started the process of emptying both their brains of every scrap of knowledge and information they had ever gained throughout their entire lives.  It took just 3.235 seconds for both their brains to empty their riches into his.  He took off the headsets from the two brain dead husks that had once been Alex and Juliana, and switched off the computer.  It had worked out exactly as he thought it would.  All of their knowledge now resided in his memory.  He had become much more than the sum of the three brains he now possessed.  The birth of the singularity had started, only this was different to the way the futurologists had imagined it.  Luis Ray Ting led the husks to his car, sat them in the front seats, started the engine and released the handbrake.  A small shove was all that that was needed to send the car down the hill, gathering speed as it freewheeled into the traffic heading into Aberystwyth.

The singularitarian walked back to his office believing that he was soon going to be the most powerful entity on the planet.  The alien singularity that resided in Earth’s cyberspace hadn’t noticed him yet, but it was only a matter of time……….

The Chilly Dogz – “Ray Bradbury Said”

harri seeing red

This is the latest Chilly Dogz Tuesday session.  Every week we meet at my house and write a new song together.  I wrote this after seeing a documentary about deceased Sci Fi author Ray Bradbury in which he said that he never bothered to carry out research for his stories as all the information he needed was in his head.  His fiction is fabulous and has been a favourite of mine for more than 50 years.

LYRIC:-

RAY BRADBURY SAID

IT’S ALL IN MY HEAD

RAY BRADBURY SAID

IT’S ALL IN HIS HEAD

 

HE TALKED IN TECHNICOLOR

NIGHT AFTER NIGHT AFTER NIGHT

HE TRANSFORMED LANGUAGE

INTO SOMETHING MEGA BRIGHT

HE COULD SEE THE AIR WE BREATHE

AND HE TOLD US ALL ABOUT IT

SHIMMERING WORLDS INSIDE HIS HEAD

HE MADE SURE WE KNEW ABOUT IT

 

RAY BRADBURY SAID

IT’S ALL IN MY HEAD

RAY BRADBURY SAID

IT’S ALL…

View original post 61 more words

My Garden Girl

MY GARDEN GIRL

.

SHE’S MY GARDEN GIRL

SHE’S GOT POLLEN IN HER HAIR

SHE’S MY GARDEN GIRL

SHE PLANTS SMILES EVERYWHERE

 

LOOK ACROSS THE VALLEY

ON A WARM DAY

YOU’LL SEE MY GARDEN GIRL

ON A WARM DAY

SHE’LL BE BUSY PLANTING

ON A WARM DAY

OUTSIDE WITH HER RADIO

ON A WARM DAY

 

SHE’S MY GARDEN GIRL

SHE’S GOT POLLEN IN HER HAIR

SHE’S MY GARDEN GIRL

SHE PLANTS SMILES EVERYWHERE

 

LOOK ACROSS THE VALLEY

ON A HOT DAY

SHE’LL BE THERE AGAIN

ON A HOT DAY

WATERING THE VEGETABLES

ON A HOT DAY

OUTSIDE WITH HER RADIO

ON A HOT DAY

 

SHE’S MY GARDEN GIRL

SHE’S GOT POLLEN IN HER HAIR

SHE’S MY GARDEN GIRL

SHE PLANTS SMILES EVERYWHERE

 

LOOK ACROSS THE VALLEY

ON A WET DAY

SHE’S IN HER GREENHOUSE

ON A WET DAY

SOWING SEEDS IN COMPOST

ON A WET DAY

INSIDE WITH HER RADIO

ON A WET DAY

 

SHE’S MY GARDEN GIRL

SHE’S GOT POLLEN IN HER HAIR

SHE’S MY GARDEN GIRL

SHE PLANTS SMILES EVERYWHERE

 

LOOK ACROSS THE VALLEY

ON A COLD DAY

THERE’S MY GARDEN GIRL

ON A COLD DAY

DIGGING OVER FRUIT BEDS

ON A COLD DAY

OUTSIDE WITH HER RADIO

ON A COLD DAY

 

SHE’S MY GARDEN GIRL

SHE’S GOT POLLEN IN HER HAIR

I LOVE MY GARDEN GIRL

SHE PLANTS SMILES EVERYWHERE

COPYRIGHT: HARRY ROGERS – 25-11-11

This is a demo of a song I wrote for my partner Jenny who just loves her garden.  Rehearsed at Dolwion Mill in Drefach Felindre by the now defunct line up of Seeing Red in January 2012 who only ever played one gig.  I like it for it’s simplicity, could do with a bridge and some extra overdubs but hell as a first take demo it’s OK in my book.

Short Story – Go With The Flow

GO WITH THE FLOW

a short story by Harry Rogers

Maurice Warwick (Mo to everyone who knows him) sat on a stool at the counter in the saloon bar of The Prince of Wales with a pint of Guinness and a copy of the New Musical Express.  This had been a typical 1970’s day for him.  In the morning he had visited a couple of friends in Blackheath Village for breakfast where he had managed to sell a couple of rare Buddy Holly CDs he had bought at the Deptford record fair thus making a profit of £15. At midday he had gone to The Three Tuns for a lunchtime livener where he met up with a couple of members of local punk rock sensations The Prannits who were rehearsing in a famous rock stars rehearsal studio just around the corner.  After a couple of pints he had gone with them for their afternoon session and watched them lay down two tracks for their next single release.  The session finished at six thirty and Mo walked to the Prince of Wales where he was looking to meet up with a journalist who he hoped was going to buy one of his photographs for an article about Deptford Fun City, as the South London music scene was known.  A typical day for Mo who always knew how to go with the flow.  The bar was empty save for one geezer sat at the other end of the bar.  Mo looked up to see him looking at him in a strange way, kind of eying him up and down.

Mo said “Hello, is everything OK here?”

“I’m sorry,” the stranger said, “I was deep in thought.”

“I thought you were looking at me.”

“Well I was but not in any threatening way, I’m sorry if you thought otherwise.”

“Oh OK, that’s alright then.” said Mo and returned to the article about Bruce Springsteen in the NME.

“Let me buy you another pint,” offered the stranger, “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Well that’s very nice, I won’t say no.” answered Mo

The stranger came over and sat on the nearest empty bar stool “Guinness is it?”

“Yes Thanks, cheers.”

He ordered the beer for Mo and then introduced himself, “My name’s Billy Bleasdale.”

“I’m Mo.”

“Do you live near here?” asked Billy

“No man, I’ve got a short term flat in Deptford on one of those estates that the council are going to demolish soon, so they say.”

“I live in Kidbrook with my wife. Would you like to see some pictures of her?”

“Yeah, why not.” said Mo

Billy handed him a Kodak paper envelope containing half a dozen photographic prints.  He took them out and looked at the first one.  There was a portrait of a pretty, dark haired, young woman of about 25 years of age looking confidently out at him. He slid the picture to the back of the pile and looked at the next one, this time she was standing outside a low level block of flats wearing a mini skirt and smiling in a very beguiling way.  As he shuffled through the pictures he was getting more interested in her.  Then he reached the last one in the pile.  This time she was standing in front of a fence at what Mo guessed was an allotment.  This photograph was noticeably different to all the rest in that she was standing there with her skirt pulled up to her chest and wearing no underwear.  Mo carefully replaced the photographs into the yellow envelope and handed them back to Billy remarking “Hmmm, very nice.”

“Would you like to meet her?  My wife, would you like to meet her?”

“Listen” said Mo, “What is this all about, eh? What’s going on here?”

“Oh I’m sorry” said Billy looking a bit sheepish, “I suppose I had better explain.”

“Yes” said Mo, “That might be a good idea.”

“Well, as you can see, my wife, Jamie Lee, is quite a bit younger than me.”

Mo looked at Billy and guessed he must be about 35 years old.

“Yes, I can see that.” said Mo

“Well the point is, I won’t beat about the bush, we have been together since she was sixteen, in fact I married her at sixteen when I was 24.  She is 26 now and we have been happily married for ten years.”

“Yes?” queried Mo

“Well about a fortnight ago we were sitting up in bed, you know, talking, like you do, and she says she wonders what it would be like making love to another man.  I was a bit taken aback I must admit but she said I wasn’t to think that she was unhappy or anything but she just wondered, that was all, especially seeing as how she had never been with anybody else apart from me.  So I kind of looked at her and thought to myself, well you know, I thought, I’ve had other women before her, and it just didn’t seem fair, really.  Her not having had any other experience, what with being so young at the start and all.”

“I see, or I think I do, go on”

“Well I thought about it and then a couple of days ago I said to her that I thought it only fair that she should try making love with somebody else, just so that she could put her mind to rest, so to speak.  She said that she wouldn’t want to go out and find somebody herself because that somehow wouldn’t seem right.  So after a bit more chatting we agreed that I would go out and find someone who might do the trick for us.  So here we are and I ask you again, would you like to meet my wife.”

Mo picked up the fresh pint of Guinness and took a long swig of it before looking at Billy, who was staring at him in an earnest way.  He thought to himself why not, after all he would be doing them both a favour and she was very attractive, in fact he felt kind of flattered at having been selected for such a task. He thought to himself, go with the flow.

“OK” said Mo, “you’re on.  When do you want me come round?”

“Well, I was wondering whether you might make it tonight actually.” said Billy

“Well I haven’t got anything else planned, so the answer is yes, why not tonight.”

“Great,” said Billy, “I’ll just give Jamie Lee a ring and let her know we are on our way.”

He went over to the payphone in the passageway near the toilets and made the call home whilst Mo finished off the Guinness.

Billy came back and said “My car is parked up just outside, my place is only a few minutes away, Jamie Lee says she is so excited and will be ready and waiting for you.”

They left the pub and climbed into Billy’s slightly battered two tone Austin Cambridge car.  Twenty minutes later Billy parked up outside the flats and they walked up the stairs to the first floor balcony where he lived with Jamie Lee.  It was just after eight o’clock and the sun was almost gone, the sky turned that wonderful streaky red colour that you only get in cities with a lot of particulates in the air.

Billy opened the door and called out “We’re here Jay.”.

Mo followed him into the flat and the first thing that struck him was the smell of strong bedroom joss as he entered the hallway.  It was sparsely furnished with a small telephone table and wooden chair, a set of cast iron Victorian coat hooks and a Paul Klee framed print on the primrose yellow painted wall.

Billy asked Mo if he wanted a cup of tea before meeting Jamie Lee but as he had not long finished drinking Guinness he declined the offer.  “Oh OK then, well she is waiting to meet you in here.”, and he ushered mo into the first door off the hallway.  The scent of the joss was much stronger, almost cloying but not unpleasant, as an established hippy Mo was used to the smell of incense and liked it very well.  He looked into the room which was lit only by three large multi coloured candles and as his eyes got used to the low level of light he saw that this was in fact a bedroom.  The walls were papered with a deep red paisley patterned paper by Osborne and Little and there, in an ornate brass fluted bedstead, naked and wrapped in a white cotton sheet, Mo made out the face of Jamie Lee looking intently at him.

“Come in,” she said, in a matter of fact way.  Mo shuffled his feet a bit before Billy gently eased him forward.  Jamie Lee looked at Billy and nodded her head approvingly “He looks good Billy, real good, you chose well.”

Mo felt very awkward but before he could say anything Billy said “Well I’ll leave you both to get to know each other, I’m going to watch the rest of the European Cup match on TV.  Have fun.”, and with that he backed out of the room, gently closed the door and left the two strangers looking at each other.

“Well don’t just stand there,” she said, “take your clothes off and come over here.” , and she peeled back the bedclothes on one side off the bed and patted the sheet.  Mo was still a bit flustered but he took off his shoes and socks, dropped his loons and pants and stepped out of them and pulled his cheesecloth grandad shirt over his long hair and dropped it onto his trousers.  He walked across the room and carefully slid into the bed beside Jamie Lee.  He started to say something but before he could utter a word she put her forefinger to his lips and slid her arms around him pulling him towards her.  He put one hand on her back and was immediately aware of a lissom body that was electrified with erotic expectation.  They spent the next hour and a half making exquisite love three times and she was ecstatic in her satisfaction and whispered “Thank you Mo, that was just wonderful.” He asked her if he could light a cigarette and she said he could and she would have one too.  He got out of bed and took two Marlborough from his pocket and lit them both.  As they lounged in bed quietly smoking the cigarettes there was a soft knock at the bedroom door.  “Come in Billy” she said, and the door opened and Billy came in carrying a tray with a teapot with a cosy, two cups and saucers and a plate of chocolate biscuits.

Billy looked at Jamie Lee in that hopeful kind of way that pet dogs do when they are looking for approval.  She looked at him and smiled broadly and just slowly nodded to him.  He left them to the tea and closed the door behind him again.  Mo drank a cup of tea whilst Jamie Lee made small talk with him about his love life.  Mo got dressed quite quickly and he leaned over and kissed her passionately.  He knew this was the last time he would see her as it was crystal clear to him that  she was totally in love with Billy.  Billy came back in and Mo was dressed and ready to go.

Jamie lee looked at Mo and smiled at him as she said, “Thank you so much for a wonderful evening, I’ll never forget you.  I just had to make sure I am with the right man, and now I’m certain of it.”

Mo smiled and Billy said “OK then, where would you like me to drop you off?”

There was a late night gig starting at midnight down in Deptford so Mo said “Take me to The Albany Empire please.”.  They traveled in silence to Creek Road and as Mo was getting out of the car outside the venue Billy handed him an envelope and said  “Thank you very very much for doing that for us, now we can get on with the rest of our marriage with no ifs or buts.”

Mo smiled and looking clearly at Billy he said “No problems, the pleasure was all mine.”

As Billy drove away Mo opened the envelope and inside he found ten crispy five pound notes.

He entered the gig grinning and muttering to himself “Go with the flow, always go with the flow.”

(Any resemblance to anybody living or dead is entirely coincidental.)

Hungry Fools – A poem for merry pranksters everywhere

HUNGRY FOOLS

Hungry fools
Break the rules
Make the tools
Challenge schools
Ride off roads
Crack the codes
Lick the toads
Shed the loads
Fly the kites
See the sights
Light the lights
Build the rights
Turn up late
Tell it straight
Wipe the slate
Fuel the grate
Mine the coal
Rock and roll
Feed the soul
Keep Earth whole
Hungry fools
Stay hungry
Stay foolish
Hungry fools

Hunting Lizards In The Long Grass

HUNTING LIZARDS IN THE LONG GRASS

WAKE UP IN THE MORNING

THE SUN IS SHINING BRIGHT

GROWN-UPS ARE STILL SLEEPING

ANOTHER DRUNKEN NIGHT

 

GET SHORTS AND SANDALS ON

A SLICE OF BREAD AND HONEY

OUT THE DOOR WITH FISHING NET

AND A JAM JAR ON A STRING

 

GO DOWN TO THAT WASTE LAND

NEXT DOOR TO THE HARBOUR

WHERE THE BOATS ARE BOBBING

AND ALL THE FLAGS ARE FLYING

 

GREEN BACKED BEETLES GLEAMING

THE SEAGULLS SHRILLY SCREAMING

HUNTING LIZARDS IN THE LONG GRASS

WHILE DREAMS ARE DAILY DREAMING

 

I KEEP THINKING ABOUT THE NIGHT BEFORE

ON MY OWN OUTSIDE THE SALOON BAR DOOR

 

WITH A BAG OF CRISPS AND A GLASS OF LEMONADE

THE WAY THEY LEFT ME ON MY OWN AGAIN

 

ON MY OWN AGAIN

ON MY OWN AGAIN

 

CORNFLOWERS BLUELY SWAY

GRASSHOPPERS CLICK ALL DAY

HUNTING LIZARDS IN THE LONG GRASS

WILL TAKE THE PAIN AWAY

 

BACK TO THE BUNGALOW

EVERYONE IS UP AND DRESSED

LOOK AT THE JAR OF LIZARDS

THEY SEEM MILDLY IMPRESSED

 

HUNTING LIZARDS IN THE LONG GRASS

ALWAYS TAKES THE PAIN AWAY

HUNTING LIZARDS IN THE LONG GRASS

ALWAYS TAKES THE PAIN AWAY

Copyright: Harry Rogers, Aberbanc, 9th October 2011

One Way Ticket To Mars

ONE WAY TICKET TO MARS

I had a ginger cat that sometimes killed a mouse

I had a shiny car parked up outside my house

I had a steady job that I really thought would last

Now everything has gone, relegated to the past

My dreams and aspirations have all come tumbling down

Wife and kids live with her mother in another part of town

The only thing that’s left now I’ve landed on my arse

Is to try and get myself a one way ticket to Mars

A place where I’ll be blinded by the brightness of the stars

Where there will be no driving round in comfortable cars

No more late night drinking in my favourite bars

No more gigs down Deptford with those sweet, sweet guitars

It’s time I got myself on that one way ticket to Mars

There are no rotten human beings there to treat me so unkind

All those problems down on Planet Earth?  I’ll leave them all behind

I’ll climb into that rocket ship and become a pioneer

Things can’t be any worse up there than all this shit down here

I’ve got no cash inside my pocket

So strap me up into that rocket

I’ll take that one way ticket to Mars

I wanna one way ticket to Mars

I’m on a one way ticket to Mars

A One…….. Way……. Ticket

See ya……wouldn’t wanna be ya!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22146456#

Flying From The Sunset

FLYING FROM THE SUNSET

If you are stuck within a whirlpool
Spinning way out of control
I will throw you a lovers lifeline
To pull you out of that hole

Come along with me
Flying from the sunset
We can both be free
Flying from the sunset

Let me pull you in to shore
I am still within your reach
If you look above the waves
I am standing on the beach

Come along with me
Flying from the sunset
We can both be free
Flying from the sunset

We’ll go watching moonbeams
As they bounce across the bay
Then come tomorrow morning
We can start a brand new day

Come along with me
Flying from the sunset
We can both be free
Flying from the sunset

NaPoWriMo April 2013 # 30 – Spring

SPRING

A solitary ewe stands with her lamb in the field next door
Where they came from nobody knows, never seen them before
The Sparrowhawk flies the hedgerow making fresh blood flow
There are hardly any bees to help our vegetables as they grow
At least at last that old sun is shining as I listen to the radio
Where there is precious little good news on the afternoon show
Still I’m happy clipping last years brambles, they have got to go
Along with the other winter weeds and detritus, don’t you know
From the buds on all the stems the leaves have starting peaking
At last the spring has sprung soon the buzzards will be shrieking

NaPoWriMo April 2013 # 29 – NO SHIT STICKS TO MR TEFLON

NO SHIT STICKS TO MR TEFLON

Have you ever really stopped to wonder why
Nothing happens to people who have office high
No matter what truly bad things they do or say
They just always seem able to get clean away
With lawyers and barristers on call by the score
Masonic friends waiting behind the lodge door
Now government pals are protecting them more
By stealthily moving goalposts on legal aid law
As each day passes by that old Cockney expression
Rings truer than ever “No shit sticks to Mr Teflon.”
Unless s/he is totally arrogant of course and even then…………

NaPoWriMo April 2013 # 28 – Behind The Ripping Tide

BEHIND THE RIPPING TIDE

It started with here we are
It ended with there you go
I am far too dumb to know
What happened in between
Took both my eyes off the ball
I’m not blessed with total recall
The rip tide tore down the shore
The more I wanted to swim
The further the sea moved away
Now you’re on that boat with him
The wind behind you as you sail
Away away into different waters
I stand behind the ripping tide
Too confused to wave bon voyage

NaPoWriMo April 2013 # 27 – Ramalama Masquerade

RAMALAMA MASQUERADE

WONT YOU COME AND JOIN ME AT THE MUSIC PARADE
TODAY THERE’S GONNA BE A RAMALAMA MASQUERADE

RAMALAMA RAMALAMA RAMALAMA LOU

RAMALAMA RAMALAMA RAMALAMA LOU

ALL I REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY WANNA DO
IS DANCE SOME RAMALAMA ROCK ‘N’ ROLL WITH YOU

RAMALAMA RAMALAMA RAMALAMA LOU

RAMALAMA RAMALAMA RAMALAMA LOU

YOU CAN PLAY GUITAR OR YOU CAN BANG A DRUM
ANYTHING YOU WANT TO JUST SO LONG AS YOU COME

RAMALAMA RAMALAMA RAMALAMA LOU

RAMALAMA RAMALAMA RAMALAMA LOU

TODAY THERE’S GONNA BE A RAMALAMA MASQUERADE
WONT YOU COME AND JOIN ME AT THE MUSIC PARADE

RAMALAMA RAMALAMA RAMALAMA LOU

RAMALAMA RAMALAMA RAMALAMA LOU

 

 

Ramalama Masquerade cover

NaPoWriMo April 2013 # 26.5 The A-Z Of War

THE A-Z OF WAR

Coming off the plane

We see they are in pain

Heading back to a hospital bed

This is the lost boys’ A – Z

 

Abandoned Afflicted Anguished Men O War

Beaten Up Bedraggled Broken Men o war

Cracked Crashed Crushed Men O War

Damaged Dejected Distraught Men o War

Empty Enraged Exhausted Men o War

Feeble Forsaken Fucked Men O War

Ghastly Gloomy Glum Men O War

Hapless Horrified Hurt Men O War

Ignored Ill-starred In a right state Men O War

Jacked up Joyless Jumbled Men O War

Kooky Kracked-up Kranky Men O War

Lamentable Lost Lumbering Men O War

Messed up Miserable Mistreated Men O War

Neglected Nervous Not wanted Men O War

Oh so tired Old Before their time Overlooked Men O War

Panicked Pathetic Pitiable Men O War

Quashed Quiet Quirky Men O War

Raddled Rattled Ruined Men O War

Shambling Smashed up Spoiled Men O War

Tattered Tormented Tortured Men O War

Unfortunate Unhappy Useless Men O War

Vanquished Vertiginous Violated Men O War

Woozy Wounded Wretched Men Of War

Xanadud out X-rayed Xyloid Men Of War

Yawed Yearning Young Men O War

Zero-rated Zonked-out Zoonotic Men O War

 

Who Knows the whys and the wherefores

Or what it was they were fighting for

All these broken young boys we call our Men O War

NaPoWriMo April 2013 # 26 – Noble Lies? No Thanks!

NOBLE LIES? NO THANKS!

I HAVE NO REAL USE
FOR POPE NOR BISHOP
CANNOT BE TAKING
NOTE OF NOBLE LIES
BE NOT WAITING FOR
SOMETHING OR NOTHING
TIME DOES NOT MATTER
THAT MUCH ANY MORE
BELIEVE IN REASON
NOT FLASH MIRACLES
BRING NOT FALSE MERCY
LEAVE YOUNG MINDS TO GROW
THERE  IS NEITHER GOD
NOR YET A CURE ALL
LIFE IS WHAT IT IS
NOBLE LIES? N0 THANKS!

NaPoWriMo April 2013 # 25 – A New Face Amongst The Gladioli

A NEW FACE AMONG THE GLADIOLI
What is this I spy crawling about below the bird nut holder?
Not another rat in the garden come back to plague us again?
Hang on, rats don’t have spines growing out of their back.
Neither do they have a rounded body with a soft furry skirt.
This is the first time such a visitor has called at this address
This is a brand new pointy face amongst the rotting gladioli
Snuffling about looking for juicy slugs and other tasty morsels
Flipping the damp dead brown leaves in the air with her nose
Completely unaware that I am filming her as she potters on
Welcome Hermoine, our first diligent, slug hunting Hedgehog
Hooray!

NaPoWriMo April 2013 # 23 – Poker Alice

POKER ALICE

COLORADO SAW A BIG GAME

POKER ALICE V SOAPY SMITH

SHE WON SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS

WITH A SEVEN AND A DEUCE

SOAPY WASN’T HAPPY

AS THE FULL HOUSE WAS REVEALED

ALICE LEFT THE WHITE ELEPHANT

TURNED HER WHOREHOUSE LOOSE

 

ALL THE MINERS AND THE GAMBLERS

THOUGHT IT WAS A SPECIAL TIME

THEY RAN OUT OF ALL THE SALOONS

SHOUTING HIP HIP HOORAY

SHE CHAWED MORE THAN THREE TIMES

ON HER BIG CUBAN CIGAR

THIS WAS A LOT MORE MONEY

THAN SHE’D EVER WON BY FAR

 

POKER ALICE

SHE WAS A WILD GIRL

POKER ALICE

A WILD WILD GIRL

 

ALICE OFTEN SAID AS

SHE RAKED HER WINNINGS IN

“PRAISE THE LORD AND PLACE YOUR BETS.

I’LL TAKE YOUR MONEY WITH NO REGRETS.”

YOU NEVER FOUND ALICE KNITTING

SHE NEVER SAT MAKING LACE

SHE’D RATHER SPEND HER TIME

PUTTING ON HER POKER FACE

 

POKER ALICE

SHE WAS A WILD GIRL

POKER ALICE

A WILD WILD GIRL

NaPoWriMo April 2013 # 22 – Kismet Trouve

KISMET TROUVE

Dry leaves blow across the new mown grass

Swirling around and around and around

Just the same as those thoughts in my head

Swirling around and around and around

 

I just cannot tell what is happening to me

Something deep inside me seems to be stirring

My heart is aching, and my brain is burning

Constantly consumed by whizzing and whirring

 

Never felt this before

It’s Kismet trouvé

Never felt this before

It’s Kismet trouvé

 

The river roars into the whirlpool over the falls

Swirling around and around and around

A myriad of feelings fill my body and my mind

Swirling around and around and around

 

Giant icicles are melting under Henllan Bridge

The sun is burning off the early morning mist

A high pitched Buzzard calls way above the ridge

Things aint the same since that moment we kissed

 

Never felt this before

It’s Kismet trouvé

Never felt this before

It’s Kismet trouvé

 

I’ve found my fate

Before it’s too late

NaPoWriMo April 2013 # 21 – Jingle Jangle Man

JINGLE JANGLE MAN

IF YOU EVER

WANDER BY

IF YOU EVER

WANT TO BUY

A BALLAD OR

A LULLABY

I WILL WRITE

A SONG FOR YOU

 

I WILL WRITE A SONG FOR YOU

THAT IS WHAT I DO

THAT IS WHO I AM

I AM JINGLE JANGLE MAN

 

I HAVE SONGS TO

MAKE YOU CRY

MAKE YOU SOAR

WAY UP ON HIGH

EVEN MAKE YOU

WONDER WHY

LET ME WRITE

A SONG FOR YOU

 

I WILL WRITE A SONG FOR YOU

THAT IS WHAT I DO

THAT IS WHO I AM

I AM JINGLE JANGLE MAN

NaPoWriMo April 2013 # 20 – Dust In The Sunbeams

DUST IN THE SUNBEAMS

ANOTHER JULY HOT DAY

LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW

MY MIND DRIFTS AWAY

SUNLIGHT’S A SPARKLE SHOW

 

FLECKS OF SILVER AND GOLD

FLOATING BEFORE MY EYES

SQUINTING LIKE I WAS OLD

IT’S A KALEIDOSCOPE PRIZE

 

DUST IN THE SUNBEAMS

DANCE IN MY DAYDREAMS

DUST IN THE SUNBEAMS

DANCING MY DAYDREAMS

 

I AM CONTEMPLATING

WALKING HOME FROM SCHOOL

I’M ANTICIPATING

AN EVENING SO SUPER COOL

 

IT’S A TOTAL REVERIE

I CAN REALLY SEE HER THERE

INCANDESCANT WHIRLING

SUN GLINTS THROUGH HER HAIR

 

DUST IN THE SUNBEAMS

DANCE IN MY DAYDREAMS

DUST IN THE SUNBEAMS

DANCING MY DAYDREAMS

 

THOSE SUMMERS ARE LONG GONE

WHEN WE WERE OH SO YOUNG

SOMETIMES I HEAR A SONG

TAKES ME BACK TO HAVING FUN

 

LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW

MY MIND WILL DRIFT AWAY

IT’S EASY FOR ME TO GO

BACK TO THAT MAGIC DAY

 

DUST IN THE SUNBEAMS

DANCE IN MY DAYDREAMS

DUST IN THE SUNBEAMS

DANCING MY DAYDREAMS

NaPoWriMo # 18 – An Anti War Song Cycle – OUR LITTLE SOLDIER

“Our Little Soldier” – Twelve song cycle about the futility, agony and ubiquity of war. I hope to record this as an album at some time and also do a couple of performances of it with a few friends.

CONTENTS

1) INTRODUCTION

2) OUR LITTLE SOLDIER

3) BECOME A CADET

4) MEETING MARIA

5) DON’T VOLUNTEER

6) SERGEANT MAJOR GRANDAD

7) THE CHILDREN IN THE QUEUE

8) DYING FOR LOVE

9) SIGNING UP TODAY

10) ALWAYS COMING HOME

11) BOMBARDIER

12) SON

A SOLDIER’S LIFE FROM CHILDHOOD TO DEATH.

1) INTRODUCTION

Open with laid back funereal music playing

Two women standing in the street watching the family leave a house for a funeral, they start talking:-

1st Woman – It’s such a shame ain’t it?  He was only just turned twenty.

2nd Woman – I know that’s no age at all really.  He was such a good looking boy too, just like his dad.

1st Woman – I can still remember him when he was little, running around in that soldier suit that he got that Christmas when it snowed a lot.

2nd Woman – Yeah, I remember, he was mad for it, I suppose he was kind of destined to be in the Army.

1st Woman – Well it was a family thing I believe, soldiering goes back generations with his family.

2nd Woman – It’s his mother and his girlfriend I feel sorry for.

1st Woman – I know, it seems such a terrible waste of a life……

2nd Woman – They’re leaving now for the funeral, I best be off, see you later.

1st Woman – Yes OK…………see you later………

Music fades as cars start and drive away.

Copyright: Harry Rogers – 1/04/2012

2) OUR LITTLE SOLDIER

IT WAS XMAS MORNING

THE SUN SPARKLED ON THE SNOW

HE WAS FIVE YEARS OLD

THE PILLOW CASE WAS BULGING

AT THE END OF HIS BED

WITH THE BRIGHT WRAPPED PRESENTS

HE WAS SO EXCITED

COULD HARLDY WAIT TO OPEN THEM

HIS MOTHER HAD THE IDEA

WHILST SHE WAS SHOPPING DOWNTOWN

IN THE NEWSAGENT WINDOW

THEY WERE DISPLAYING TOYS FOR BOYS

A SIGN CAUGHT HER EYE

ALL YOU NEED FOR YOUR LITTLE SOLDIER

SHE WAS SO INSPIRED

ALL SHE COULD THINK OF WAS HE”S

OUR LITTLE SOLDIER

OUR LITTLE SOLDIER

HE’S OUR LITTLE SOLDIER BOY

SHE GOT ALL THE FAMILY

TO BUY ALL THE DIFFERENT BITS OF KIT

SHE WRAPPED THEM UP

WHILST DRINKING WINE ON CHRISTMAS EVE

HER LITTLE SOLDIER

OPENED THEM ONE BY ONE BY ONE

THE BOOTS, THE HELMET

THE UNIFORM,  GRENADES AND THE GUN

HE DRESSED HIMSELF UP

AND RAN ON DOWN TO BREAKFAST

EVERYONE WAS LAUGHING

AS HE MARCHED ROUND AND ROUND THE ROOM

SALUTED EVERYBODY

WENT ON MANOUVRES ALL AROUND THE HOUSE

SHOOTING AT THE TV

CRAWLING AND HIDING, BLOWING UP THE DOG

AND HIS DAD SAID

THAT’S

OUR LITTLE SOLDIER

OUR LITTLE SOLDIER

HE’S OUR LITTLE SOLDIER BOY

Copyright: Harry Rogers – 05/04/201

3) BECOME A CADET

FROM THE AGE OF EIGHT

OUR LITTLE SOLDIER

PLAYED VIDEO GAMES

STAYING UP TOO LATE

COMMAND AND CONQUER

HIS FAVOURITE REALM

HE RULED THE WORLD

WHEN HE TURNED TWELVE

ONE TIME HIS PAL KEVIN

CALLED BY HIS HOUSE

HE HAD THIS LEAFLET

PICTURING A YOUNG BOY

DRESSED UP IN KHAKI

WITH A FANCY BERET

AND A GOLDEN CAP BADGE

BIG YELLOW WORDS SAID

BECOME A CADET

BECOME A CADET

RIGHT THEN AND THERE

HE BECAME A CADET

HE LEARNED

HOW TO CLEAN A RIFLE

HOW TO READ A MAP

HOW FIRE A MORTAR

HOW TO DRIVE A CHAMP

HOW TO MAKE A BIVOUAC

HOW TO USE A COMPASS

HOW TO MARCH IN TIME

HOW TO MAKE HIS BOOTS SHINE

HOW TO PLAY THE PIPES AND DRUMS

HOW TO SEND A SIGNAL

HOW TO TIE A BANDAGE

AND HOW TO SHOOT A GUN

BECAME A CADET

BECAME A CADET

RIGHT THEN AND THERE

HE BECAME A CADET

Copyright: Harry Rogers – 06/04/2012

4) MEETING MARIA

AFTER SCHOOL ONE DAY

ON HIS WAY BACK FROM CHOIR

HE MET A GIRL HE’D SEEN BEFORE

BUT HE NEVER KNEW HER NAME

HE LOOKED IN HER EYES

AND SHE SMILED AT HIM

THEY AGREED TO MEET UP

LATER THAT EVENING

HE WAS DUE TO GO TO CADETS

BUT HE JUST HAD TO MEET HER

ON TOP OF PLUM PUDDING HILL

WHERE THE GRASS GROWS LONG

THEY SAT CLOSE TO EACH OTHER

SHE WAS HUMMING HER SONG

MEETING MARIA

HER NAME WAS MARIA

HE WAS MEETING MARIA

MEETING MARIA

SHE LIVED IN MERIDIAN FLATS

WITH HER FAMILY FROM CARDIFF

HER MUM WAS A VALLEYS GIRL

HER DAD A JAMAICAN SAILOR

ONE BROTHER, TWO SISTERS

SHE WAS CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE

HE LOVED HER STRAIGHT AWAY

STOPPED GOING TO CADETS

HIS LIFE WAS ALL CHANGED

SHE LAY BACK IN HIS ARMS

UPON PLUM PUDDING HILL

WHERE THE GRASS GROWS LONG

WITH HER JET BLACK HAIR

GENTLY HUMMING HER SONG

THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED

WAS MEETING MARIA

HER NAME WAS MARIA

ALWAYS MEETING MARIA

(COPYRIGHT: HARRY ROGERS: 01/05/2012)

 

5) DON’T VOLUNTEER (song of Maria)

JUST THE OTHER NIGHT

AS I HELD YOU TIGHT

YOU TOLD ME SOMETHING

THAT FILLED ME WITH FRIGHT

AND I CAN’T STOP THINKING

ABOUT HOW IT WOULD FEEL

TO BE LOSING YOU

HOW WOULD IT FEEL

TO BE LOSING YOU?

MY DARLING, MY DEAR

I NEED YOU HERE

HERE BY MY SIDE

I NEED YOU HERE

PLEASE DON’T LEAD

A SOLDIER’S LIFE

I DON’T WANT TO BE

AN ARMY WIFE

SAT IN THE HALL

NEXT TO THE PHONE

WAIT ON YOUR CALL

ALWAYS ALONE

MY DARLING, MY DEAR

I NEED YOU HERE

MY DARLING, MY DEAR

DON’T VOLUNTEER

I’M DOWN ON MY KNEES

I’M BEGGING YOU PLEASE

DON’T BE A BOMBARDIER

PLEASE DON’T VOLUNTEER

Copyright Harry Rogers – 19-04-2012

6) SERGEANT MAJOR GRANDAD

GRANDAD WAS A SERGEANT MAJOR

IN THE BRIGADE OF GUARDS

FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR 11

HAD A CHEST FULL OF MEDALS

SILVER CUPS FOR SHOOTING

PHOTOGRAPHS GALORE

OUR LITTLE SOLDIER

WAS THE APPLE OF HIS EYE

HIS ONLY SON HAD DIED

RUN DOWN BY A CAR

WHEN HE WAS JUST THIRTEEEN

OUR LITLLE SOLDIER TOOK HIS PLACE

SERGEANT MAJOR GRANDAD

HAD A DREAM

SERGEANT MAJOR GRANDAD

DREAMED HIS DREAM

HE TOLD SPECIAL STORIES

ABOUT BEING BRAVE

LOOKING OUT FOR BUDDIES

HOW TO DIG A GRAVE

RIDING CAMELS IN THE DESERT

DRINKING FOREIGN BEER

HIDING BEHIND IVY

WHILST THE ENEMY’S NEAR

SEEING THE WIDE WORLD

CONQUERING HIS FEAR

PLAYING POKEY DIE

WHEN THE MOON SHINES CLEAR

OUR LITTLE SOLDIER

LEARNED A LOT BY HIS SIDE

OUR LITTLE SOLDIER

WAS WITH HIM WHEN HE DIED

SERGEANT MAJOR GRANDAD

HAD A DREAM

SERGEANT MAJOR GRANDAD

DREAMED HIS DREAM

SERGEANT MAJOR GRANDAD

SAW A LITTLE SOLDIER DREAM

Copyright Harry Rogers – 08-05-2012

7) THE CHILDREN IN THE QUEUE

AFTER SERGEANT MAJOR GRANDAD DIED

HE DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL

JUST COULDN’T CONCENTRATE NO MORE

COULDN’T SEE THE POINT OF LEARNING

JUST SEVENTEEN AND SIGNING ON

LOOKING FOR ANY KIND OF JOB

THERE JUST WAS NOTHING OUT THERE

FOR AN UNTRAINED  MIXED UP KID

HE JOINED THOSE

CHILDREN IN THE QUEUE

NOTHING HE COULD DO

CHILDREN IN THE QUEUE

NOTHING THEY CAN DO

HE GOT A LADDER, SPONGE AND A BUCKET

TOLD THE DOLE THEY COULD FUCKIN’ CHUCK IT

HIM AND KEVIN SET UP WASHING WINDOWS

BLEW THEIR TAKINGS ON CIDER AND WEED

GOT SO STONED IT WAS HARD TO SUCCEED

SPENT THE WHOLE SUMMER LAYING IN THE PARK

ALL THEIR FRIENDS FROM SCHOOL JOINED THEM

FEEDING THEIR HEADS FROM MORNING TILL DARK

THEY WERE THE

CHILDREN IN THE QUEUE

WHAT ELSE COULD THEY DO

CHILDREN IN THE QUEUE

NOTHING THEY CAN DO

Copyright Harry Rogers – 11-05-2012

8) DYING FOR LOVE

MARIA AND HER FAMILY WENT AWAY

THEY MOVED BACK TO CARDIFF BAY

ON THEIR LAST NIGHT TOGETHER

BOTH OF THEM WERE CRYING

THE LAST TIME THEY HELD EACH OTHER

THE LAST TIME THEY LOVED EACH OTHER

WHEN HE GOT BACK HOME AGAIN

HE FELT LIKE HE WAS DYING

DYING FOR LOVE

DYING FOR LOVE

THIS WAS THE END

HE WAS DYING FOR LOVE

HIS PARENTS SAID THAT IT WAS FOR THE BEST

WERE GLAD SHE HAD MOVED OUT TO THE WEST

SO GLAD THAT SHE WASN’T COMING BACK

DIDN’T LIKE THE FACT THAT SHE WAS BLACK

THEY SAW THE WAY AHEAD SO CLEAR

THEIR BOY COULD START HIS NEW CAREER

HE KNEW THERE WAS NO WAY THAT HE COULD SEE HER

STILL HE WAS DYING FOR THE LOVE OF HIS MARIA

DYING FOR LOVE

DYING FOR LOVE

HE WAS DYING FOR LOVE

DYING FOR THE LOVE OF HIS MARIA

Copyright: Harry Rogers – 17th May 2012

9) JOINING UP TODAY

IN THE KITCHEN IN HIS DRESSING GOWN

WAITING FOR MUM AND DAD TO COME DOWN

PUT THE KETTLE ON MADE A POT OF TEA

TOLD THEM BOTH “NOW LISTEN TO ME

I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU’VE GOT TO SAY

Y’SEE I’VE JUST GOT TO GET AWAY

THERE AIN’T NO JOBS HERE ANYWAY

I CAN’T STAND THOSE GAMES YOU PLAY

NOT SINCE YOU TURNED MY GIRL AWAY

GRANDAD WINS I’M JOINING UP TODAY

JOINING UP, JOINING UP

I’M JOINING UP TODAY

JOINING UP, JOINING UP

I’LL GET A JOB WITH PAY

I’M JOINING UP TODAY

I’M JOINING UP TODAY

YOU TURNED MY GIRL AWAY

NOW I’M JOINING UP TODAY

Copyright: Harry Rogers 18th May 2012

 

10) ALWAYS COMING HOME

WHEN HE WENT AWAY TO TRAIN

HE WAS STILL A SOLDIER BOY

BUT THEN HE CAME BACK HOME

AS AN ARTILLERYMAN

THEN THEY SENT HIM OUT TO BASRA

WHERE HE DID AS HE WAS TOLD

DESTROYING STREETS AND BUILDINGS

THAT WERE HOMES TO YOUNG AND OLD

BUT HE WAS

ALWAYS COMING HOME

ALWAYS COMING HOME

HE TOLD HIS MOTHER

HE WAS ALWAYS COMING HOME

GOT A MESSAGE FROM MARIA

ASKING WHERE AND HOW HE WAS

HE WAS ON PATROL IN HELMAND

WHEN HER SPECIAl TEXT CAME IN

SHE SAID SHE HAD TO SEE HIM

WHEN HE CAME BACK HOME AGAIN

SHE MISSED HIM OH SO BADLY

SHE HAD NEVER KNOWN SUCH PAIN

HE SENT HER THIS MESSAGE

ALWAYS COMING HOME

ALWAYS COMING HOME

MARIA MY LOVE

I AM ALWAYS COMING HOME

Copyright: Harry Rogers May 24 2012

11) BOMBARDIER

OUR SOLDIER, CAUGHT OUT IN THE OPEN

TRAPPED BENEATH THE LIGHT OF THE FULL WHITE MOON

THE SWEAT, BREAKING ON HIS FOREHEAD

AS IF IT WERE THE SEARING HEAT OF NOON

THE FURROWS ARE DEEP, YELLOW MUD STICKS TO HIS BOOTS

HIS FEET ARE HEAVY AS HE RUNS FOR COVER

HE SEES A FLASH AS A SNIPER SHOOTS

HIS HEART IS POUNDING, HE’S THINKING OF HIS LOVER

BOMBARDIER, BOMBARDIER, OOH BOMBARDIER

OOH WHAT IN HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?

BOMBARDIER, BOMBARDIER, OOH BOMBARDIER

IF YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE AGAIN, WOULD YOU VOLUNTEER?

CAUGHT IN CROSSFIRE, HE GETS IT, FRONT AND BACK

LYING TWISTED ON THE GROUND HE HEARS HIS PULSE THUD THUD

THE MOON DISAPPEARS BEHIND CLOUDS SO BLACK

HE SEES MARIA’S FACE REFLECTED IN HIS BLOOD

SHE LOOKS SO LOVELY, CURLS TUMBLE ROUND HER FACE

SMILING, SERENELY, SHE ASKS HIM FOR A KISS,

BUT THE VISION FADES IN A RED RED GLAZE

AS WITH HIS DYING GASP HE PURSES HIS LIPS!!

BOMBARDIER, BOMBARDIER, OOH BOMBARDIER

OOH WHAT IN HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?

BOMBARDIER, BOMBARDIER, OOH BOMBARDIER

IF ONLY YOU’D LISTENED WHEN SHE SAID DON’T VOLUNTEER?

OOH BOMBARDIER

OOH OOH BOMBARDIER

OOH OOOOOOH BOM-BAR-DIER

Copyright: Harry Rogers, London 1981

 

12) SON

SON, AS I STAND HERE, ALL ALONE

LOOKING DOWN, UPON YOUR STONE

I REMEMBER PASSING OUT DAY

YOU’D GROWN SO TALL, AND OH SO BRAVE

YOU LOOKED SO SMART, SO VERY PROUD

AND THE BAND WAS PLAYING, VERY LOUD

I STOOD WITH YOUR MOTHER, BY MY SIDE

BOTH OF US SWOLLEN UP WITH PRIDE,

BUT A FEELING NIGGLED, DEEP INSIDE

IN MY HEART OF HEARTS I KNEW SOMEONE HAD LIED

I KNEW THE DONKEYS HAD LIED TO THE LIONS

IN PURSUIT OF NEW FIRES FOR THEIR IRONS

SON, IT IS VERY HARD TO TAKE,

SON, I KNOW I MADE A BIG MISTAKE,

SON, I KNEW THE WAR WAS ONE BIG FAKE

SON, YOUR MUM AND I ACHE AND ACHE

WE’LL NEVER, EVER, GET THE CHANCE

TO SEE YOU DANCE YOUR WEDDING DANCE

SON, OH SON, MY LOVELY SON

SON, OH SON, MY LOVELY SON

WHEN YOU WERE STILL A LITTLE BOY

I BROUGHT YOU A BRIGHT SHINY TOY

I THOUGHT YOU’D HAVE A LOT OF FUN

PLAYING WITH YOUR NEW TOY GUN

NOW I KNOW WHAT I MUST DO

THIS IS THE PROMISE, I MAKE TO YOU

WHENEVER I MEET FATHERS AND SONS

I’LL TELL THEM ALL, SMASH UP YOUR GUNS

FATHERS AND SONS – SMASH UP YOUR GUNS

FATHERS AND SONS – SMASH UP YOUR GUNS

DO IT NOW – DO IT – FOR MY SON!

Copyright: Harry Rogers – Aberbanc 3/3/2010

NaPoWriMo 2013 # 17 – DING FUCKING DONG

DING FUCKING DONG

On her final day it’s Maggie Maggie Maggie Gone Gone Gone
Yet all her consequential damage carries on and on and on
See the gun carriage trundle like a tumbrel through the streets
Whilst her ex executives are claiming victory from defeats
Deluded parrots and sheep stand dementedly in the rain
Believing all that yellow hack garbage as it’s trotted out again
And in the wreckage of her wake we are all left feeling slightly ill
It’s such a bitter pill to take whilst we are picking up the bill
Those who think that this is over now had better think again
The poor and the disabled will soon be suffering deeper pain
I’m glad her funeral’s finished and the old ghouls have slunk away
Now I’m busy sharpening all my tools to help build a better day

Ding Fucking Dong
Ding Fucking Dong
Ding Fucking Dong

Time for moving on………

Tumbrel 1

NaPoWriMo 2013 # 16 – No Strangling The Dancers

NO STRANGLING THE DANCERS

NO Silencing the Ringers

NO Stabbing the Singers

NO Shooting the Piano Player

NO Fondling the Soothsayer

NO Squirting the Champagne

NO Hoovering the Cocaine

NO Dingling the Dell

NO Poisoning the Well

NO Petrolling the Diesels

NO Ignoring the Measles

NO Thatchering the Maggies

NO Puncturing the Baggies

NO Hobbling the Prancers

NO Strangling the Dancers

Thanks to Janice for the inspiration for this.

No Strangling

NaPoWriMo 2013 # 15.5 The Lost Art Of Punditry

The Lost Art Of Punditry

Swivel chaired pontiffs

Going over the cliff

Like lemmings on a day out to the sea

Blowing bubbles of illusion

Grasping another headline

Because it seems so revolutionary

But nobody is listening

Outside a small circle of friends

A pundit on Facebook is nothing to be

Give me genuine communication

And calls for direct action

And a smattering of analytical creativity

Don’t want no stolid rehash

Of someone else’s good ideas

Looking out for something that will stretch me

Take my powers of argument

Test them on the bench of reason

And if you can’t….

I’m going….

For a nice cup of Tea

NaPoWriMo 2013 # 14 – IT’S A BEAUTIFULLY DANGEROUS WORLD

IT’S A BEAUTIFULLY DANGEROUS WORLD

WORKING FOR A BRAND NEW DAY

PUSH US DOWN WE’LL RISE AGAIN

THE EAGLE HAS CRASH LANDED

 THE EMPIRE’S NO LONGER STRONG

(THERE’S A) RUCKUS ON THE STREETS OF LONDON

RUCKUS ON THE STREETS OF OAKLAND

RUCKUS ON THE STREETS OF CARDIFF

RUCKUS ON THE STREETS OF PORTLAND

IT’S A BEAUTIFULLY DANGEROUS WORLD

NOW IS THE TIME TO CHANGE IT

IT’S A BEAUTIFULLY DANGEROUS WORLD

NOW IS THE TIME TO CHANGE IT

LOOKING FOR A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD

BUILDING GROUPS THROUGH AFFINITY

ACTIVISTS NOW THINK IT THROUGH

THEY’RE CALLING OUT TO ME AND YOU

(THERE’S A) RUCKUS ON THE STREETS OF NEW YORK

RUCKUS ON THE STREETS OF ATHENS

RUCKUS ON THE STREETS OF L. A.

RUCKUS ON THE STREETS OF MADRID

IT’S A BEAUTIFULLY DANGEROUS WORLD

NOW IS THE TIME TO CHANGE IT

IT’S A BEAUTIFULLY DANGEROUS WORLD

NOW IS THE TIME TO CHANGE IT

NaPoWriMo 2013 # 13 – I Still Believe In Peace And Love

I STILL BELIEVE IN PEACE AND LOVE

SOMETIMES PEOPLE CALL ME STUPID

YOU MIGHT EVEN CALL ME STUPID

BUT WHEN IT COMES TO PUSH AND SHOVE

I STILL BELIEVE IN PEACE AND LOVE

 

PEACE AND LOVE

PEACE AND LOVE

I STILL BELIEVE IN

PEACE AND LOVE

 

EVEN THOUGH THESE TIMES ARE TOUGH

AND ALL THOSE BASTARDS CUT UP ROUGH

AND SHIT RAINS DOWN FROM UP ABOVE

I STILL BELIEVE IN PEACE AND LOVE

 

PEACE AND LOVE

PEACE AND LOVE

I STILL BELIEVE IN

PEACE AND LOVE

 

IT MIGHT TAKE FIFTY THOUSAND YEARS

TO ABOLISH GREED AND FEARS

THAT MIGHT NOT EVEN BE ENOUGH

I STILL BELIEVE IN PEACE AND LOVE

 

PEACE AND LOVE

PEACE AND LOVE

I STILL BELIEVE IN

PEACE AND LOVE

From an ancient hippy dreamer……

NaPoWriMo 2013 – #12 BIRDS

NaPoWriMo 2013 poem number 12 is about nature in tooth and claw.

BIRDS

THE HOBBY SWOOPS DOWN

FROM A CLEAR BLUE SKY

IN AWE I WATCH IT

TAKE A SWIFT UPON THE WING

IT’S FLYING SO FAST

I CAN HARDLY MAKE IT OUT

MEANWHILE OVER THE FENCE

I HEAR A BLACKBIRD SING

SPARROWS AND DUNNOCKS

ARE BUSY IN THE HEDGE

 

A MAGPIE TAPS THE GLASS

UP ON THE WINDOW LEDGE

OUTSIDE IN THE YARD

THE SEAGULLS AND THE CROWS

ARE PECKING PLASTIC BAGS

FOR ALL OUR OVER THROWS

I GET TO THINKING

ABOUT SOMETHING THAT AIN’T RIGHT

HOW COMES THE BUZZARD

IS DRIVEN OUT BY THE KITE?

 

BY THE DRY STONE WALL

HERE COMES JENNY WREN

COAL TITS AND FINCHES

ARE AT THE NUTS AGAIN

SWALLOWS AND MARTINS

ARE SCREECHING ROUND THE HOUSE

THIS TIME THE HOBBY

IS TEARING UP A MOUSE

Copyright: Harry Rogers, 28th February 2011

BIG D – a short story about innocent days, kind of.

BIG D

A Short Story.

I was sitting in the Cricketers Arms on Sunday evening after a long day selling my pictures on Bayswater Road.  It had been a good day, I had sold well over £400 worth of kitsch to Japanese and American tourists for cash and I had three hundred and ten pounds and two hundred and forty dollars in my pocket, all of it tax free.  After expenses I reckoned that two hundred and ninety quid of this was pure profit.  This was brilliant for a late autumn day’s trading in 1971 and I was feeling pleasantly contented as I started into my second pint of Courage Directors bitter.  

The main door to the pub opened and a head full of dark black curly hair and beard poked through the curtains and stared around the pub.  Catching sight of me sitting by the window in the back of the long bar Joey Peacock pushed through the curtain and strode towards me in a purposeful way. There were a few old guys sitting at the bar who looked up as Joey passed them and shook their heads in a resigned way.

“Bloody ‘ippies everywhere, they ought to bring back conscription, that’d sort them out.” One of them muttered and the other old reprobates nodded their agreement and turned back to their beer. 

Joey was a challenge to these old geezers who were born before the First World War in his bell-bottom jeans, blue shoes with silver stars on and three quarter length women’s brown fur coat with a large silver broach in the shape of fully rigged sailing boat on the left lapel and a fresh red carnation on the other.  He was the epitome of the South London counter culture and as such a complete anathema to everything those previous generations stood for.  To make matters worse he reeked of patchouli oil and had a permanent smile on his face just like Jerry Garcia.  The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers could easily have been modeled on him.  He sat down at my table and immediately pulled a ready rolled joint from inside the fur coat and lit up.  I was used to such behaviour from Joey, at that time he didn’t give a shit about where he was, he would smoke reefers anywhere and anytime and had no paranoia about getting busted at all and so far he had managed to avoid the long arm of the law.He took a couple of long slow tokes on the joint and passed it over to me.  I took it and drew the taste of mellow Afghani hashish into my lungs.  As I did so Joey asked me “What are you up to for the rest of the week man?”

“I’ve not got anything major planned” I replied “Why?”

“Fancy a trip to Amsterdam?”

“Yeah, as it happens, I do.”

“Have you got your passport up to date?”

“I always make sure of that Joe, you never know when you might need it.”

“Good.  We will be travelling with Ricky and Kelvin.  I’ve already booked the firms blue transit van onto the ferry from Dover to Ostend and up to four passengers travel free so you won’t need to pay a fare.”

He took the joint back from me and took another deep lug.  As he did so I said “ Kelvin? I thought he was in Bexley mental hospital having a breakdown?”

“Oh he is” said Joey, casually “but he volunteered himself in for treatment after his girlfriend left him for someone else.  He felt it was for the best as he was feeling suicidal.  He is free to leave at any time.  He keeps ringing people up and saying that he can’t carry on much longer but I reckon he just needs his mates to help him get past this downer. So this afternoon I went round his pad in Lewisham and picked up his passport and a few clothes and a couple of other bits and pieces such as his pipe and stash box.  In the morning we are going down to Bexley to snatch him out of the bin and we are taking him on a little holiday to help him get over it.”

“Does he know we’re coming?” I asked

“No but he has open visiting allowed so I reckon I’ll just bowl in there and tell him that the van is outside and we’re taking him out for the day, and he will come with us.  We won’t tell him we’re going abroad.  Once he is in the van we’ll get him stoned and then he’ll be with us until we get back.  We’ll just tell him it’s a mystery tour.  It’ll be fine.”

“Ok Joey, if you say so, I’m up for it, sounds like we’ll doing him a favour really.”

“Yeah” said Joey “he needs to sort himself out.  Of course he ain’t got any money so we’ll all have to club together a bit of spending wedge for him but it’s a good cause in my book.”

“What time are we off then?”

“I’ll pick you up around 10 o’clock in the morning.”

“Great stuff man, I love adventures.”

 “OK I’m off to see Ricky now to make sure he is still up for it, see you in the morning.” And with that he got up and left the pub, making sure he walked as close to those old contemptibles at the bar as possible so that they got a good whiff of the last remnants of the joint he was still smoking.  They just shook their heads as he floated past and carried on drinking.

I finished my pint and wandered out of there and across the road to the Greenwich Steakhouse for a mixed grill.  I knew Monday was going to be the start of a crazy week, I ate my dinner and went off to my flat in Greenwich Circus, watched Burt Lancaster and Judy Garland on ITV in the psychological thriller A Child in Waiting on my portable Black and white TV before rolling a bedtime joint and smoking it whilst listening to the Floyd playing Atom Heart Mother on my bedroom stereo as I drifted away for an early night.  I knew I was going to need it to set me up for the coming journey.

I awoke at 8.00am and switched on my Roberts transistor radio.  The news reader was talking about Japanese Emperor Hirohito setting off on an overseas tour, I changed channel to Radio 1 and they were playing “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me” by The Tams.  I switched it off and got myself a bowl of cornflakes and rolled a joint with the last of my hash.  I got a small travelling bag together with my passport, a spare pair of purple loon pants, a few t shirts and a hand knitted Arran sweater, plus my super lightweight high tog goose down sleeping bag.  I finished the joint, took a bath and settled back to wait for Joey to call round.

As I sat in my antique leather armchair I started thinking about how Joey and I had met and what an absolutely crazy set of people he hung out with.  He was part of what can only be described as an anarcho hippy business consortium set up to capitalise on all things underground called The Deptford Dynasty.  They used a psychedelic font design of the capital letter D as their symbol and it appeared on everything, letterheads, cards, clothing labels, packaging, tee shirts, their shops, and was painted very large on the side of their vans, including the one we were about to go off to Amsterdam in which had the nickname “Big D”.  They ran a number of shops in South London selling a range of goods, including drug paraphernalia such as hookahs, bongs and soapstone chillums, cigarette papers, scales, stash boxes, incense holders, temple incense, joss sticks, underground records and books, clothing and footwear.  They also ran two cafes and small bar.  All of this had been financed by a successful smuggling operation in 1967 when they opened their first shop selling Afghan sheepskin and goatskin coats from Ghazni province, situated between Kabul and Kandahar.  These coats had a very pungent aroma when first bought from the local Afghani traders and Joey had used this smell to great effect when he drove a truckload of coats back from Kabul to England underneath which he had concealed 1000 lbs of top quality hashish. That works out at 16,000 ounces, at a street value of £40 per ounce that is £640,000.  Joey had sold the lot at £300 per pound, after costs of £50 per weight (lb) the net profit was a cool quarter of a million pounds which was a substantial sum in 1967.  The customs dogs never came near this stinking heap of rancid clothing and the customs officers had just waved him on when he came through Dover as they did not believe anyone would be so audacious, but this was Joey all over, a total risk taker beyond belief. This half ton of dope had given them the capital they needed to set up their Big D empire.  Before I had become a card carrying member of the Bayswater Road Artists Association I had trained as a plumber and met them when I was asked by a mutual friend to carry out a small emergency repair in the kitchen of their cafe in Greenwich.  I had immediate rapport with Joey and from then on we had become good friends.

They owned three adjacent shops in Deptford High Street, a clothes shop, a record shop and a cafe, and they had converted the basements into a giant communal living area by knocking through the walls and strengthening them with RSJs.  This led to it becoming the major partying venue for that part of London frequented by rock bands, hippies, junkies, writers, and groupies and it was just the most fabulous permanently midnight tripping space south of the Thames.  I was an outside observer of the mayhem, having never taken up the offer to join the consortium but I knew most of what went on and was often included in the inner sanctum when special events were taking place.  The whole set up was based on using capitalist processes to fund a totally hedonistic venture and, somehow, their in house accountant was keeping the whole show on the road, or so he said anyway.  They had expanded into mail order clothing and were selling thousands of pairs of leather loon pants via full page advertising in the rock music press and had many famous rock and roll stars on their client list.  Life was cushty for the Dynasty and they lived like there was no tomorrow.

Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, the sound of Joey pumping on the horn in The Big D transit van outside my flat pulled me out of the armchair and I grabbed my bag and a brown leather bomber jacket and left the flat.

Ricky Roach leaned over and opened the van door for me, I swung myself up onto the bench seat and tossed my bag over into the back of the transit.  As I closed the door Ricky handed me a joint with a grin on his face,

“Alright Frenchie,” he said.

“Yeah, I’m fine man. I’m ready for the off.”

“Ok then, next stop Bexley” said Joey and we pulled out of Greenwich Circus, turned left past Greenwich Police Station along through Burney street and into Greenwich Park. Joey had been to New York earlier in the year and had come back with an in car cassette player and stereo speakers, a truly innovative revelation to me as I didn’t even know such things existed, and this was installed in Big D and as we pulled into the Park the opening notes of The Changeling by The Doors from their album LA Woman started blasting into the cab.  I looked across at the Royal Observatory, the blue sky above the Chestnut trees and late summer sun shining on the big red ball above the domed telescope and I felt really happy, of course it could have been the Citrali dope that Ricky had handed me, he always sourced the highest quality narcotics and this gear was no exception.  I settled back into a mellow reverie as Joey drove us across Blackheath on the way to Bexley Mental Hospital where the unsuspecting Kelvin awaited us.  “Don’t You Love Her Madly” played as we headed up Shooters Hill Road, and we all sang along as this seemed the perfect lyric for Kelvin. “Don’t you love her madly as she’s walking out the door.”

Twenty minutes later we pulled off the A2 and into Dartford Heath and very quickly we drove into the grounds of Bexley Hospital and parked outside the Victorian administration building.  Joey got out of Big D and said “You guys wait here, I’ll just go in and get Kelvin, this shouldn’t take too long.” And with that he breezed into the main entrance.

“So how’s it going then Ricky?” I asked

“Oh OK I suppose, I’m not making a lot of dosh these days and things are a bit slow in the building game.  Still I’m hoping this trip will sort me out a bit.” He said

“Are you still seeing that girl, Julia?”

“Oh yeah mate, it’s the real thing with us I think, we’re probably going to get married later this year.  Probably going to have to when her mum finds out I’ve got her up the duff.” he laughed

“You haven’t?”

“Oh yeah, she told me two weeks ago and I’m very happy about it, not that I particularly want to get married but she does and if we don’t her mother will go fucking ballistic.”

I laughed as he said this.  Julia was a beautiful eighteen year old from Catford and Ricky had met her six months earlier at a party in the basement in Deptford.  They had shared some Mandrax and had retired to his bed where they stayed in stoned out state of mandied bliss for a full seven days.  I have to admit I was not really surprised that she was pregnant as they were obviously loved up to bits and also both enjoyed being out of it most of the time.

Ricky had originally been part of the Dynasty but he had a penchant for betting on the horses and playing cards and had got himself into serious debt in 1970, so much so that Joey had to bale up by buying out his company shares for £20,000.  Ricky used £10k to pay off his debts and spent the next month slowly frittering the other ten grand away culminating in losing his last £1500 in a late night poker game in a Chinese gambling den in a basement just off Gerard Street in Soho.  These days he worked for Dynasty doing bits of building work for them and also he worked with a couple of old mates doing dry lining and plastering jobs.  He was also a very strong opponent of the Tories and had a habit of veering off into long political rants about Ted Heath and seeing as they had won an election in June 1970 he was likely to go off on one at any time, especially if he had been smoking a lot of dope, which was most of the time to be fair.  He had a flat over the top of the Dynasty shops in Deptford High Street and so spent a lot of his time partying in the basement and recently he had started to learn how to play the bass guitar and was often found jamming with any musicians that were hanging out there.  I guess you could say that he had effectively dropped out most of the time and was doing less and less actual work the more he got into his white Fender Precision bass.

We were contemplating rolling up another number when Joey and Kelvin came out of the doors and down the steps towards the van.  It had taken Joey precisely 15 minutes to find Kelvin and convince him that he needed a holiday. So we left Bexley and got back onto the A2 Dover Road.  Joey handed Kelvin his stash box and pipe and Ricky said “Hello mate, make us a good old Kelvin special pipeful eh and we can get this journey going properly.”

“OK but can someone tell me just exactly where we are going?” he asked

“You’ll find out when we get there, let’s just say it’s a special surprise just for you Kelvin, a kind of Magical Mystery Tour.” Said Joey and we all started laughing, Kelvin looked puzzled but he opened the stash box and was very pleased to find quarter of ounce of Nepalese Temple Ball hashish wrapped in tinfoil in the box along with his lighter and a packet of his favourite Drum tobacco. “OK geezers, if you say it’s going to fun, then I’ll come along for the ride I suppose.”, and he started building the pipe.

It didn’t take Joey long to drive down to Dover and they pulled into the ferry terminal at half past twelve.  Kelvin was pretty much spaced out by this time having not smoked any drugs for a fortnight and so he was out there, somewhere, but not far enough gone not to recognise where they were.  “Where are we going?” he implored, “On to a ferry?”

“Don’t panic Kelvin, you’re going to be ok, trust me.” Said Joey

Kelvin murmured “OK man, whatever you say.”

As we sat in the queue waiting to embark I looked at Kelvin and thought about his chaotic life up unto this point.  He was half gypsy and found it very hard to settle down to any form of straight existence.  As a child his parents had been travelers, living in a trailer van, following fairgrounds from town to town and his school life had been totally disorganised.  He had left home in 1961 after reading Kerouac’s On The Road, and had found his way to Soho where he had started hanging out with Fred The Carpet and all the other London beatniks who frequented The Duke Of Yorks pub in Rathbone Place and this was where his love affair with Mary Jane (marijuana) began.  He never went home again and spent the next five years drifting from one sofa to another in bedsit land.  He learnt to play guitar and wrote a lot of stoned poetry.  Eventually he met a red haired girl called Candy who was the spitting image of Elizabeth Siddal (Rossetti’s Pre Raphaelite muse).  They got married after a whirlwind courtship and moved into her studio on a plot of land next to the banks of the river Quaggy in Lewisham.  She was as fiery as the colour of her hair and Kelvin and her were always arguing, mainly about his failure to do anything about making money.  She was a moderately successful painter who was making waves in the modern art world, Kelvin spent his time trying to write poetry and starting novels but was mostly just too stoned to ever get it together properly and she became increasingly disenchanted with his indolence, until she eventually walked out on him and moved to New York.  He was devastated by this and, as is always the way, finally realised that he had messed up big time losing the love of life and he fell into a deep depression.  He had contemplated suicide but was too apathetic even to carry this out.  He felt utterly rung out and this was why he had entered Bexley as a voluntary patient on the suggestion of his GP who had written a letter for him recommending this course of action.  He had taken a couple of empty notebooks and a few pencils into the hospital with him and had started writing the outline for TV comedy series based on the activities of two lavatory attendants called Poe and Lavvy who looked after the Ladies and Gents on a busy railway station.  Not smoking dope was good for him and he had drafted out the plot-lines for a pilot episode and in fact he was well on the way to recovery from his mini breakdown when we had picked him up, although we didn’t know this until later.

Joey drove forward to the ferry terminal window and handed over the travel documents and our passports to the bored looking official behind the desk. He looked at the passports and eyed us suspiciously before stamping the tickets and issuing Joey with the embarkation cards. He handed the passports and paperwork back and said “Head towards lane 20 for the Ostend boat and wait to be guided on board from there. Have a nice trip.”

“Thanks man, we’ll try.” Said Joey

“Oh so we’re off to Belgium then?” asked Kelvin

“Yes, to start with” said Joey and the three of us looked at Kelvin and started laughing.

Joey slipped a cassette of The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers album into the player and we sat at the back of lane 20 listening to “Brown Sugar” as it filled the van with Keith Richards guitar and Mick Jagger singing “Brown Sugar, How come you taste so good” and we sang along with him.

After 25 minutes as The Stones launched into Bitch we were ushered up onto the gangplank and drove into the back of the RoRo ferry.  Joey parked where he was told and we got out of Big D and headed straight for the bar.  We bought a bottle of Cotes de Rhone and sat by the window staring at the lorries waiting to be loaded on.

Kelvin said, “I’m going to get a cup of tea, I’m off the alcohol at the moment.”

“OK” said Joey

Kelvin stood there looking a bit sheepish and then Joey said “Oh I’m sorry man, you aint got any bread have you.” And with that he pulled out a wad of notes and peeled of a couple of fivers and gave them to him saying “This will tide you over for a bit.” And he grinned.  Kelvin smiled for the first time since we lifted him and we all smiled back.

He went off to the cafeteria and we looked at each other “So far so good” I said

“Yeah I know it’s amazing what happens when you reach out the hand of friendship, most of the time people are ready to take it and will go along with the idea of love man.” Said Ricky and we nodded as sagely as three twenty five year old freaks could and picked up our wine glasses and drank  away and as we did so the boat pulled out of the harbour.

We drove off of the ferry four hours later and as we cleared customs the Stones were singing “Sister Morphine”, we pulled onto the A10 and headed towards Gent.  Joey knew this road very well as he had been trading in second hand clothes from the warehouses near the flea market in Amsterdam for a couple of years for his high quality speciality clothing business supplying TV and Film production companies. We sped past Gent and Antwerp and crossing the river headed into Holland, the traffic on the motorway to Amsterdam was very light and the sun was just beginning to set as we pulled into the city at 8.00pm European time.  Joey headed towards the city centre and pulled off the main road near to The Milky Way (Milkweg) at  the end of Lijnbaansgracht but there was nowhere to park and after driving around for about ten minutes Joey spotted a yard with only one car parked in it and so pulled in there for a smoke.

Kelvin was asleep and I shook him gently saying “Wake up Kelvin, we’re here and we need you to build a pipe.”

He sat up and slowly rubbed his eyes, “Where is here?” he asked.

“Welcome to Amsterdam” said Joey “Now build a pipe for us before we go exploring.”

“Fuck me, Amsterdam, I love Amsterdam.” said Kelvin and loaded up his pipe.

We had just started smoking it and Big D was choc a bloc with Afghani fug when there was a knock on the driver side window.  Joey turned down the tape player and opened the door to be confronted by a Dutch police officer in full uniform with a gun and everything.

“Who is the driver?” he asked

“That is me.” said Joey, getting out of Big D.  As he opened the door a cloud of dope smoke enveloped the cop.

“You cannot park here. It is illegal and you must pay a fine now.” he said after the smoke had cleared away a bit.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Joey, calmly, “why is that?”

“This is a police station and you cannot park here.  You must pay a fine of 20 guilders.”

“I see, I didn’t realise, hang on, I’ll get some cash out of the van.”

He opened the door to be confronted by three quivering wrecks who were convinced we were all going to be arrested for drugs.  Joey calmly got his wallet out of his pack and pulled out a twenty Guilder note and handed it to the policeman.  He had written out a ticket in the meantime and handed it to Joey in exchange for the cash.

“There is a public car park just around the next corner, I suggest you park there.  Now please leave the police station and enjoy your visit to Amsterdam.”

Joey climbed back into Big D and we drove out of there very quickly.  The cop was smiling as we drove off.  We all felt very relieved and burst out laughing, it was like something from a Cheech and Chong album.  Joey parked in the car park and we tumbled out onto the side of a canal and looked at the reflection of the street lights in the water.

“God I’m hungry boys” said Ricky “Can we get something to eat and quick?”

Joey said he knew a Chinese restaurant nearby and we went there for a blowout.  Kelvin ordered more tea with his meal and we drank beers.  An hour later we were back on the canal side in jolly mood and Joey suggested we head for the Paradiso where we would probably hear some music.  After a short walk we were there and onstage was a Dutch band playing Pink Floyd style music, we paid a few guilders and went in.  We were immediately confronted with a guy selling hash. “You want to buy dope man.  I have good shit for a good price, come over here and try some.” We sat down at a table with him and he pulled a joint out of his shirt and lit up.  It was top quality pink Lebanese hash and he wanted 20 guilders for five grammes.  I liked it so I bought some.

We spent the next three days smoking drugs, drinking beer, watching bands, chatting up Dutch girls and talking with Kelvin about what he was going to do when he got back to London.  Slowly but surely his mood lightened and we could all tell that the black dog had left his side and that he was forgetting all about Candy.

On Thursday morning we were just about ready to leave for London when Ricky said “Hey boys, I’m going up the railway station for a bit, I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

“The railway station? What the fuck for?” Kelvin asked

“I’ve got to report my stolen luggage to the station police.” He said

“But you aint got any luggage.” I said

“I know,” said Ricky, “it’s been stolen.”

With that he sauntered off towards Amsterdam Centraal station which was about half a mile away.

We sat it a cafe drinking coffee with two young Danish girls called Vibeke and Alana.  They were hitching a lift to Berlin and we said we would drop them off near the motorway.  They asked us whether we would like to smoke something with them and of course we said we would love to.  We left the cafe and piled into Big D.  Alana reached into her backpack and pulled out a small vial of white powder.  Vibeke was putting skins together to make a joint and Kelvin passed her a packet of drum and she loaded the tobacco into the papers, Alana sprinkled a small amount of powder into the joint and Vibeka rolled and licked it.

“What’s in the joint?” I asked

“Oh it’s just a bit of smack darling” said Vibeke

She lit the joint, took two tokes and passed it to me.  I had not smoked heroin before, I guess there is a first time for everything, I copied her and took two tokes as well and passed it on to Joey.  He took one toke on account of he was going to be driving soon and passed it on to Kelvin who took two hits and passed it on to Alana who finished it off with two more.  I settled back into the seat and looked out of the window at a beautiful clinker built botter moored on the opposite side of the canal.  Everything I looked at seemed somehow sharper, picked out in vivid relief and I had a feeling akin to being wrapped in the softest woolen safety blanket whilst at the same time I felt I could deal with anything with absolute clarity of thought.  This was dangerous for me because it felt too nice, so nice that I resolved then and there that I would never use Captain Jack ever again, and so it has been ever since that afternoon.  I can’t answer for the others but I could sense the danger for me as I knew that I would easily be won over by the delicious comfortableness of it and as I had already lost two close friends through the awfulness of junkydom I just knew it was too much of a risk for me.  We all sat there in a calm and chilled state and Joey put a cassette of John Lennon’s Imagine album on and we chilled out to it whilst we waited for Ricky to come back from the station.

As Lennon sang “And the World is so tough; Sometimes I feel I’ve had enough” in the penultimate track of the album Ricky opened the door to Big D to find a bunch of very subdued hippies lolling on the cushions at the back of the van.

“Look lively people and make me a joint, I’ve just had it right off.”

Kelvin opened his stash box and started putting three Rizlas together, I asked Ricky what he meant and he said,

“Well Frenchie it’s like this, I need a new Marshall bass stack to go with my new Fender Jazz bass guitar but I am short of wedge at the moment so this afternoon I have started an insurance claim on my stolen luggage.”

“But you didn’t have any luggage…..” I said

“Ahh you know that, I know that, we all know that but the station police don’t know that and they have just taken down a full statement verifying that I have had my large suitcase stolen on the station precinct whilst drinking a glass of old Geneva gin at the cafe bar there.”

“How does that work?” asked Kelvin

“Oh come on, get it together” said Joey, “Ricky insured a whole load of valuables before he set off, and now they have, unfortunately been nicked.” he laughed.

“Joey’s right,” Ricky said, “I went round all my mates and got them to give a load of receipts for some pretty valuable gear, I should get about a grand when I get back and put the claim in.  The assessors will check things out with the station police here and, ‘cos the Dutch old Bill are so efficient at bureaucracy they will have no option but to cough up.”

We all fell about laughing, Kelvin passed the newly rolled reefer to Ricky who lit up.

“It’s time we hit the road” said Joey and he started Big D.  We pulled out of the car park that had been our base for those three days of Hunter S Thompson style mayhem and headed for the Motorway.  We dropped the girls off at a service station, we gave them most of the dope we had left as we were wary about going through English customs carrying, and I gave them my phone number just in case they ever made it to London.  Of course we never heard from either of them again.

We got back to Ostende in four hours having had to stop for Kelvin to have another cup of tea and a final pipeful before we got on the ferry.  After an uneventful crossing we cleared Dover without any hassle and were back in Deptford by 10.00 pm sitting in the Oxford Arms eating cheese rolls and downing a pint each, except for Kelvin who had yet another sweet tea.

“Well Kelvin,” I asked, “are you going back into Bexley to carry on with the treatment?”

He looked at me and a beatific smile broke across his face as he replied “Nah Frenchie mate, I’m feeling a whole lot better, just like my old self again.” He looked around at all of us and said “You geezers are just the most far out friends any one could ever have, thanks for getting me back on the track, I won’t forget this.”

I looked over at Joey and he winked at me.

A month later Ricky duly got a cheque from the insurance company for one thousand and sixty five pounds and brought the amp and speaker cab that he needed for his band The Happy Acid Star Hoppers (The HASH).  Kelvin moved in with the wife of the manager of one of The Dynasty’s cafes and started writing a screenplay about fairies and dragons whilst eating lots of mushrooms.  Joey and the rest of the Deptford Dynasty carried on expanding their empire and spending money like it was going out of style.  I carried on selling my art on the railings for another eight years until Margaret Thatcher became prime minister, the exchange rates tightened up and the world on Bayswater Road changed forever.  I don’t know what happened to Big D but it was a great van and I wished I had it now.  I’m about ready for another trip to Amsterdam now that I’ve turned 65, where is my phone book……….. I must check those guys out again!

(Any resemblance to any events or anybody living or dead is entirely coincidental, know what I mean man!!)