Sunday, 1 October 2017


The true story of Frank Gatland, pilot and escaper in World War II

Ten years after his death at age 90, Gatland’s son Arthur has published his life story.

ESCAPE – THE BEST SPORT EVER was written by Frank Gatland DFM many years after the war ended, after he had returned to life as a farmer in South Auckland, New Zealand. He wrote his story for his family and close friends after they became interested in his other life, on the other side of the world, on the wrong side of the wire, and sometimes looking at the wrong end of the barrel.

Gatland travelled to Europe searching for people who had helped him during his numerous escape attempts, collecting old photographs and memorabilia, re-visiting sites along his escape routes, and jotting down important events as he travelled. ESCAPE – THE BEST SPORT EVER was written as only Frank Gatland could write it – humble, down-to-earth, matter of fact, but still one of the most gripping books I’ve read in a long time.

Frank Gatland volunteered for the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1941, trained on de Havilland Tiger Moths in New Zealand, sailed to the United Kingdom for advanced training before being posted to fly Sterling heavy bombers. His career as captain of the Sterling was distinguished but short. He and his crew were shot down over occupied France in 1942.

Frank was the last to bail out from the doomed aircraft, and although injured, he managed to avoid capture for ten days. It was the first of five escape attempts, each one a feat of endurance in a hostile territory, a hostile climate, and a battle of wits against those who sought to capture him. In his book, Gatland pays tribute to those who risked their own lives to help him in his bid to return to England and active service.
Arthur Gatland (left) at the book launch

In his second escape attempt Gatland did better by walking towards Switzerland for 14 days. On another attempt he was caught after four days riding trains. Gatland never gave up with his escape plans and never despaired after getting caught. He was finally freed by the British in May 1945 after they overran the German lines.

Back in New Zealand Frank Gatland settled for life on the farm with his war bride Anne. In 1960, the Gatlands, Frank and Anne and their five children, became involved with the Auckland Gliding Club where they were known as the Gatland Gliding Club. The family had three gliding instructors and two glider tow pilots. Frank was also served as chief flying instructor and club president. Frank’s son Arthur, who published ESCAPE – THE BEST SPORT EVER, flew solo on his sixteenth birthday, had a long career with the RAF and Air New Zealand, and is currently an Air New Zealand flight simulator instructor for Boeing 777 and 787 pilots. Arthur’s own career would make a wonderful book.

I rate ESCAPE – THE BEST SPORT EVER as five-star reading.

For book sales, email Arthur Gatland at

Saturday, 30 September 2017


Is peer review really the Holy Grail of science?

For 300 years peer reviewed papers have served science and scholarly publishing without question, until recently. In the words of Wikipedia, peer review works like this:

Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people of similar competence to the producers of the work (peers). It constitutes a form of self-regulation by qualified members of a profession within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards of quality, improve performance, and provide credibility in academia. Scholarly review is often used to determine an academic paper’s suitability for publication. Peer review can be categorized by the type of activity and by the field or profession in which the activity occurs.

In a nutshell, peer review helps validate research findings submitted to science journals for publication. The journal will invite other scientists and researchers to comment on the paper before deciding to publish it. The review may take one of several forms. The single blind review is one in which the name(s) of the reviewer(s) are hidden from the author. In a double-blind review the reviewer’s and author’s names are not disclosed. Finally, there is the open review in which the author and reviewer are known to each other. Each review type has its own advantages and disadvantages and there is no perfect system. Personal bias can, and often does, play a part, and the author, whether the name is revealed or not, can often be identified by the writing style or topic, and a reviewer may be influenced by the standing, or lack of standing, of the author.

Acceptance of established scientific principles can change over time and an author with a paper revealing new discoveries may often receive an adverse review from a reviewer who supports the status quo or simply goes with the consensus opinion. History is full of discoveries that were harshly criticized by the establishment but later became mainstream thinking.

In 2006, the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine published this:
Peer review is at the heart of the processes of not just medical journals but of all of science. It is the method by which grants are allocated, papers published, academics promoted, and Nobel prizes won. Yet it is hard to define. It has until recently been unstudied. And its defects are easier to identify than its attributes. Yet it shows no sign of going away. Famously, it is compared with democracy: a system full of problems but the least worst we have.
Perhaps the most damning comment come from The Guardian:
Peer review is the process that decides whether your work gets published in an academic journal. It doesn't work very well any more, mainly as a result of the enormous number of papers that are being published (an estimated 1.3 million papers in 23,750 journals in 2006). There simply aren't enough competent people to do the job. The overwhelming effect of the huge (and unpaid) effort that is put into reviewing papers is to maintain a status hierarchy of journals. Any paper, however bad, can now get published in a journal that claims to be peer-reviewed.
Journals themselves can be biased and actively seeking research findings that suit the publisher’s bias and seeking reviews from reviewers known to also be biased. This makes a mockery of peer reviewing.
During the lifetime of this writer, many changes to CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) have taken place. But each change found bitter resistance because the current method was developed by ‘experts’ and peer reviewed to give it extra authority. My introduction to CPR in the 1950’s, then known as artificial resperation, was to learn the Holger Neilsen technique for use in reviving workmates who had been ‘killed’ by contact with electric power transmission lines. We practised on ‘victims’ hanging in safety harness 30 feet above the ground. The rescuer would climb a ladder, secure his own harness, and perform the revival from behind the victim by moving his arms back and forth to fill the lungs and restart breathing. I never knew of a case where it worked, but it was a universally accepted technique. Present day first aid people would scoff at such an idea, but in its day the Holger Nielsen technique was only questioned by fools, sceptics and agitators. While peer review can help introduce revolutionary new scientific discoveries, it can also block the acceptance of new scientific discoveries.
Economist Professor George J. Borjas
Economics is a field where opinion and data are often disputed, always has been disputed and probably always will be disputed. It is a controversial area of learning. Professor George J. Borjas wrote in his blog:

I have a few pet peeves. One of them is how “peer review” is perceived by far too many people as the gold standard certification of scientific authority. Any academic who’s been through the peer review process many times (as I have) knows that the process is full of potholes and is sometimes subverted by unethical behaviour on the part of editors and reviewers.
Unethical behaviour? Some authors have even been caught peer reviewing their own work.
In recent years the peer review system has become such a shambles that some of the leading journals now knock back everything that doesn’t conform to their own pre-conceived idea of the world and the way it should be. This is the exact opposite of what peer review was supposed to achieve.
Holger Louis Nielsen, Danish Olympian
and creator of Holger Nielsen
artificial respiration
Mention has already been made of economics and CPR and how change has been opposed. Man-made climate change, and its dire consequences for the planet, has found widespread public acceptance. But, interestingly, it has found less acceptance in the academic community, particularly among meteorologists, climate scientists, geologists and historians. But they are largely shouted down by those citing peer reviewed papers.
Peer review is frequently used, by those claiming scientific backgrounds, to silence people who lack a PhD in some scientific discipline. On social media these people, and those citing their work, frequently lambast their critics as ignorant, or challenge them to list their own peer reviewed papers. The idea that anyone without a PhD and a peer reviewed paper is of no consequence, or is an ignorant meaningless individual, is repugnant.
I wonder, if John D. Rockefeller were alive today, would the ivory tower crackpots want to peer review his business plan and tell him it wouldn’t work because he hadn’t been to university. Astronaut John Glenn, author Mark Twain, and industrialist Henry Ford would have failed the PhD/peer review test too. To that list can be added William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, George Eastman and John Major. All dropped out of school before obtaining a degree. Are we to believe that government funded researchers are smarter than the successful men listed above? I don’t think so.
The New Zealand Tour Commentary
It is easy to write-off people who are uneducated. When I was growing up in rural Northland, New Zealand, I was fortunate to live next door to one of the wisest and most respected men I have ever known. He was in his seventies and was the most successful farmer in the district. He had taught himself to read and write, had a house full of books on every subject under the sun, and could talk with, or debate with, the best on any subject. After spending many hours, days and years in his shadow, I knew that a man or woman does not need to be educated to be a genius.
Peer reviews have become a joke. However, if someone genuinely desires a peer review on the future of the climate, my suggestion would be to take a wander down to your nearest seaside pier and ask a crusty old fisherman what he thinks about the future climate. He will tell it the way it is, the way it could be tomorrow, and beyond that summer will follow winter and winter will follow summer the way it always has, and always will.
One pier review will be worth a thousand peer reviews every time.

Sunday, 24 September 2017


National hanging on as the largest party in a hung parliament

After a cliff-hanger, hard-fought campaign, Prime Minister Bill English’s troops trounced Labour by 10% and a margin of 13 seats in the provisional results of a few hours ago. But there will be no free pass for National to form a government. They will need to increase their seat holding from 58 to 61 in the 120-seat parliament, by joining forces with at least one other party.
Prime Minister Bill English

Meanwhile, the Labour Party with 45 seats will need the support of two other parties, if they are to form the next government. Labour will no doubt call on their traditional ally, the Green Party. But the Greens can only offer another seven seats – not enough to form a government. They will also need the support of the New Zealand First Party led by the divisive Winston Peters. His nine seats would give Labour the bare minimum that Labour leader Jacinda Ardern would need to form a government.

The far-right ACT Party has just one seat that will not be needed by National if it is to govern, and will be like a Christmas turkey joining the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh, to the Labour Party. But even without ACT, the Labour Party will have great difficulty getting its two potential coalition partners to stop butting heads. If Labour has trouble with Santa with a team of turkeys and reindeer, imagine the blood and guts if New Zealand First were to get among them like America's National Rifle Association.

There is nowhere else for Labour to turn. All the other minor parties have been banished from Parliament with none polling more than 2.2% nationwide. In the final analysis, whoever forms the next government will have to work with Winston Peters, the prima donna of New Zealand politics since 1981. Winston is a hard-hitting master of political survival, negotiator extraordinaire, and political stuntman without equal.
Opposition Leader Jacinda Ardern

Peters and New Zealand First worked briefly with National some years ago, but it didn’t end happily. However, since then the MMP voting system and the coalition system of government has matured considerably and National has the most experience with it. 

National leader Bill English has to his credit eight years as Deputy PM and a year as PM, making him the most likely person capable of keeping Winston Peters in check. On the other hand, Labour’s Jacinda Ardern has just a few months experience as deputy leader. She is a personable young lady and a skilled debater who has turned her party around spectacularly in her seven weeks as leader. She may well survive to be a great Labour prime minister, after a future election. If she fails to form a government this time, it will be because of Winston Peters and New Zealand First.

National’s Bill English is an experienced politician and leader who has turned his career around since his 2002 election loss to Labour during his first term as leader. He became Deputy PM to John Key in 2008 and held the post until Key’s retirement in 2016. Early in the latest campaign, English appeared to falter and some people thought he was doing a re-run of 2002. Opinion polls put the two parties on a knife-edge with some even putting Labour marginally in front. As the campaign wore on, English rebounded, appearing more relaxed and confident. The experienced older leader shone through also as the nice family man, polite, sincere and sure-footed.
New Zealand First Leader
Winston Peters

The provisional election night results are listed below:

National Party          998,813 votes           58 Seats
Labour Party            776,556                       45
New Zealand First   162,988                        7
Green Party              126,995                        5
ACT Party                    10,959                        1
Opportunities Party   48,018                        0
Maori Party                  23,456                       0
ALC                                5,853                         0
Conservative                 5,318                         0
Mana Party                   2,775                         0
Ban 1080                       1,080                        0
NZ Peoples Party         1,631                         0
United Future              1,471                          0
Outdoors Party            1,333                         0
Democrats SC                 732                          0
Internet Party                464                          0

The highest polling candidate was Amy Adams for the National Party in the Selwyn electorate with 25,320 votes, while the lowest polling candidate was Wellington Central independent candidate Bob Wessex with just 14 votes. That’s not many miles to the gallon for Bob, but if he believed in what he was doing, whatever that was, good on him.

Meanwhile, the parties may take two or three weeks to sort themselves out into a government and an opposition while the current three-term National Government continues holding office in a caretaker role, until one leader can go to the Governor-General with the confidence of a majority of MP’s.

The 2017 New Zealand general election campaign was one out of the bag with no end of surprises, twists and turns, and shock resignations. The next three years could be every bit as interesting.


Friday, 22 September 2017


If Bibles were shot full of holes and holes were filled full of guns, the world would be a be a safer place. 


Bill Moon’s Iowa 80 Truckstop

Reposted from 2012
Description: About Iowa 80
When trucking was just a gleam in some of today’s drivers’ eyes and Interstate 80 was not yet completed, the Iowa 80 Truckstop was founded. In 1964, Standard Oil built and opened the truck stop, and in September 1965, Bill Moon took over management of the truckstop for Amoco. Like many of the truckstops in existence at the time, Iowa 80 was a small facility that only took up a fraction of what it does today, housing a small truckers store, one lube bay and a restaurant run by the Peel family.
The Iowa 80  Truck Jamboree
Under Mr. Moon’s keen management, the truckstop began to grow and in 1984 Bill Moon purchased the truckstop from Amoco, that like the industry itself, has been a flurry of activity and expansion ever since. Now that it was theirs, the Moon family was able to remodel, update and expand the restaurant and truckers store. The shop bays were closed to build state of the art private showers and a driver’s area, both of which were very rare in a truckstop at this time. In 1989, Iowa 80 added a new store probably most famous for, other than its chrome selection, the 1918 Oldsmobile hoisted above the cashier island.

Three years later, in 1992, Iowa 80 Truckstop expanded its fuel center and became a Truckstops of America franchisee. This move gave Iowa 80 the opportunity to associate with a nationally recognized name and at the same time maintain its independence. Truckstops of America would also serve as a connection to the trucking fleets that had grown over the years. And one year later, Iowa 80 opened its TA Service Center. Sadly, 1992 also marked the year that Mr. Bill Moon passed away, but his family is still operating the truckstop as he would have wanted — focusing on the customer and you are sure to find someone from the Moon family on the grounds any given day.
The late Bill Moon

Mr. Moon’s focus on the customer is what sparked the beginning of theWalcott Truckers Jamboree, now preparing to celebrate its 33rd year. This huge driver appreciation event has evolved over the years and serves as an example for other truckstops and towns that hold such events. The Jamboree began as the Moon family’s way of thanking their driver customers and continues to do so today as a celebration of the trucking industry with a pork chop cook-out, Super Truck Beauty Contest, Live Entertainment, exhibits and an antique truck display that is partially comprised of the Moon family collection. Many of the trucks are displayed year-round in the truckstop building and on the grounds. The place is a tribute to the trucking industry with antique trucks, pumps, toys and hundreds of photos displayed throughout

With the completion of its $4 million expansion project in 1994, Iowa 80 TA Truckstop widened the gap as the largest truckstop in the world. The truckstop now boasts the Iowa 80 Kitchen, it’s new 300-seat restaurant with a 50-ft. salad bar, one-of-a-kind Truckers Warehouse Store, 24 private showers, 60-seat Dolby Surround Sound® movie theater, Driver’s Den, two Game Rooms, Embroidery Center, Vinyl Graphics Shop, Barber, Dentist, TA Service Center, Truckomat truck wash, CAT Scale, state-of-the-art Fuel Center, Wendy’s and Dairy Queen in the Food Court and a Blimpie located in the Fuel Center and parking for 800 tractor-trailers, 250 cars and 20 buses.

In 1997, the Iowa 80 Catalog was born. Drivers can now order everything they want from Iowa 80 Truckstop even if their schedule or route doesn’t take them to Walcott. Drivers have the choice of ordering by phone from the catalog or ordering on-line, 24 hours a day, at

The Iowa 80 Trucking Museum, a dream of Bill Moon, Iowa 80’s founder opened in July of 2008. The museum houses many of the Moon Family’s antique trucks and transportation memorabilia. Museum tours are available by appointment.

Iowa 80 completed yet another expansion in 2006. Iowa 80’s New 30,000 sq. foot Super Truck Showroom features everything from chrome bumpers to lights to cleaning supplies. The new addition, boasts two full size tractors and a tractor-trailer inside the building. They have been incorporated into the design and are used to display new interior and exterior chrome and stainless products as well as lights so drivers can see how the merchandise actually looks installed on a truck.

The Super Truck Showroom includes a staff of truck accessories experts to assist drivers who are customizing their trucks. A wall of lights will be displayed so drivers can see what every single type of light sold will look like lit up. The Custom Shop features a vinyl graphics shop, custom t-shirt shop, laser engraving and an embroidery center rolled into one. Drivers can see their designs come to life. There is also a balcony from the second floor overlooking the Super Truck Showroom where drivers can just stand and soak in all of the chrome and lights.

Iowa 80 has also remodeled the rest of the main building. More bathrooms have been added and the Convenience Store and Food Court have been expanded, adding Taco Bell, Pizza Hut Express, Orange Julius and Caribou Coffee.

Over the years drivers have seen a lot of changes in truckstops and the amenities they offer. For drivers Iowa 80 TA Truckstop has been a home away from home and they’ve watched it transform from a small facility into the largest, most respected truckstop in the world. And each one of those drivers know that even though Iowa 80 has changed, their friendly service and commitment to truckers has remained the same. Iowa 80 is always focused on serving the professional driver better.

Monday, 18 September 2017


Man-Made Global Warming, Ice Ages & Tons Of Caribou Poop

Originally published in Principia-Scientific

Written by Richard F. Cronin
A good indicator of climate change is the ridge of caribou poop stretching for several kilometers. Piles of caribou poop 2.5 meters tall. Poop everywhere. Reminds me of that joke about the poor monkey desperately trying to put the cork back in. See the article published in January 2003 by the Japan Times and LA Times.

It is known that as the Ice Age glaciers expanded they pushed rocks and debris forward. These rocks embedded, consolidated, and hardened the leading edge of a glacier. It is also known that with warming, the retreating glacier forms “ice dams” behind the hardened face of the glacier, so the melt water pooled behind the face, until the ice dam failed catastrophically.
The “Great Missoula Flood” was just such an occurrence which gouged out the Columbia River basin. Logically, migrating caribou and other animals would drink from the melt water at the face of a retreating glacier. Even at a considerable distance from the glacier, the earth was scoured clean by the catastrophic burst of water. Also, once the ice dam is breached at one point, the entire face of the glacier would “unzip”.
Glacial lakes are found all over the world, as evidence
of extreme and sometimes rapid climate change,
without any human input
Therefore, we find eskers (berms of rock), animals buried in silt with their last meal still in their stomachs, having been swept along in the rush of water, plus caribou poop which has been left in piles that stretch for kilometers. This would be just like the debris line at the high water mark along a beach.  The lightest matter carries further along.  Just as the old sourdough miner panning for heavy nuggets of gold as he washed away the lighter quartz sand particles.
Man fabricates classifiers for mineral separations. Nature does such things on its own schedule and a vastly greater scale. The power of such events dwarf puny humans. Such colossal blindness and arrogance to think man over-matches Nature.
Just about every culture has tales of “great floods”. These tales are certainly rooted in actual events.
Quoting from the article below: “The ice core showed the Northern Hemisphere briefly emerged from the last ice age some 14,700 years ago with a 22-degree-Fahrenheit spike in just 50 years, then plunged back into icy conditions before abruptly warming again about 11,700 years ago.”
Again, as the cold melt water swept out onto massive flood plains, the air would be cooled considerably and the cold melt water settled into lakes gouged out of the earth. Witness the Finger Lake region in upstate New York, as well as the narrow lakes scattered across Manitoba, all aligned north to south. However, even in an emergent warming period, melt water from the glacier would still flow out and expand the cold lakes. The surrounding areas are quite cool until the melting slowed and the land rapidly re-warmed.
And we have people who think that the current warming is “unprecedented” and charring a burger on your backyard grill is going to hurt the planet?
It’s just so much poop.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017


Hurricane Irma could be the most terrifying storm in a generation

As Hurricane Irma barrels northwest into the Caribbean Sea, it is set to severely damage the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba before taking a vicious swipe at the Florida Keys, Miami and much of the mostly sea-level Florida peninsula. Irma has the potential to end thousands of lives. It is so violent that it is causing enough movement for it to be detected on earthquake measuring equipment.
The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900
Many people, including some scientists, are saying that storms like Irma are caused by man-made global warming. It is the most powerful hurricane to strike North America since the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, when an estimated 12,000 people died. Although only a Category 4 storm, it had a storm surge of up to 15 feet. It struck with little warning and killed more people than any other known US hurricane. A stronger Category 5 storm struck Florida on Labor Day 1935 killing 408, and Cat 5 hurricanes also struck in 1969 and 1992 giving a total of three Cat 5 storms during the twentieth century. Hurricane Irma is the first Cat 5 North American storm of the twenty-first century to make landfall. Hurricane Katrina in 2005, had been a Cat 5 storm but had weakened to Cat 3 by the time it made landfall in Louisiana where it caused up to 1,800 deaths, mostly due to flooding in the low-lying city of New Orleans.

Official records for Hurricanes have only been kept since 1852 and in the context of the 7-billion-year history of the world, 1852-2017 is a mere speck of sand on a rather large beach. The period is too short to decide that storms are becoming more frequent, or more powerful.

Despite frequent claims that the science is settled and most scientists agree that anthropogenic climate change is real, science is never settled and there are thousands of scientists who disagree with the so-called consensus. Prominent among the global warming skeptics are many meteorologists who are best qualified to understand climate than any other profession. Many geologists, archaeologists and historians also question the ‘consensus.’ These are people who can look deeper into history than any researcher focused solely on the climate patterns of the last 120 years.
Hurricane Irma
Even during the period of reliable weather records, there is no pattern to indicate warmer weather or more frequent and violent storms. For example, the highest recorded storm surge of 48 feet was recorded in Queensland, Australia, in 1899. The greatest number of fatalities (500,000) caused by a tropical cyclone was in the Bay of Bengal in 1970.  The highest ever confirmed temperature recorded was 56.7°C at Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley, California, in 1913. On the other hand, the lowest temperature ever recorded was -93°C in Antarctica in 2010.

Tornados have a lot in common with hurricanes due to the extreme low air pressure at the core or eye, their circular motion and destructive power. A major difference is size. Tornados can be as small as just a few feet across, while hurricanes can be 1,000 miles across. Tornados form over land in unstable atmospheric conditions while hurricanes (or tropical storms) form over warm oceans but will usually weaken after landfall. In appearance, a tornado is a smaller version of a hurricane, but may have stronger winds than a hurricane.  The Tri-State Tornado that swept across Missouri, Illinois and Indiana in March 1925 was America’s most damaging known tornado, killing 700 people. But tornados didn’t just start with the gathering of weather statistics. In the year 1551, an estimated 600 died in Europe due to a tornado.
The blogger at the Grand Canyon

If we look further back into history, we find an appalling record of death and destruction due to natural disasters. This is where earth scientists can tell us much more than climate scientists building computer models. World population growth since the Industrial Revolution tends to make some recent disasters appear worse. For example, the 1931 China floods may have taken up to 4 million lives, while the 1887 Yellow River flood in the same country took up to 2 million lives. But the population may have doubled during the interval between the two floods. And remember, floods are caused by violent storms. Let’s go back a little further to India. Cyclones in 1839 and 1737 took roughly 300,000 lives each. Let there be no mistake that these were major storms of no less severity than a modern-day Irma or Katrina. In the year 1530 a major storm caused a surge that killed 100,000 in the Netherlands. Other storm surges killed tens of thousands in the same country. There is nothing in history to indicate that storms are becoming more frequent or more violent in the twenty-first century.

A frequent claim is that global warming will cause food shortages because more areas will be turned into desert. That is pure scaremongering. Ask any geologist how deserts are created and they will invariably tell you that there are many reasons for deserts, and high temperature alone is not one of them. Extremes of temperature, both hot and cold, can be a cause, but even then, there is often other factors including, lack of precipitation, soil conditions and persistent wind. Take a minute to study a map of the world, preferably one that shows vegetation, and you will see that none of the world’s deserts are situated on the Equator. Follow the Equator around the world and you will see that the equatorial regions are mostly covered in tropical rain forest or cultivation. The world’s largest desert is the Antarctica continent. It is too cold and dry to grow anything. But 50 million years ago, when average world temperature was 14°C warmer than now, the Antarctic had forests and dinosaurs. People other than climate scientists have discovered their remains.

If the world climate is warming, that will be good for the planet and for mankind. The tropical rain forests will extend into the current temperate zones, deserts will reduce in size and some may even disappear. Vast areas currently too cold to produce food will come into production. In a warmer world people will be healthier. There will be fewer plagues and famines, both of which have mostly occurred when the climate has been in a colder than normal cycle. People have nothing to fear from warmer weather.

But to return to Hurricane Irma, there is no hard evidence that it has been triggered because people drive cars, and cars cause climate change. Irma is part of a 100% natural phenomenon, in which nature has its own cycles and moods.

Probably, Irma will be a major disaster, and it will be a miracle if no lives are lost. It is more likely that it will one of the outstanding disasters of the twenty-first century. But you can’t stop Irma. Just like any other hurricane, Irma she has a mind of her own. If you are reading this in Florida, it is time to head for the hills, and the nearest hills are in Georgia far from the sea.

Sunday, 27 August 2017


New Zealand drivers are taking a small step to faster speed limits
New Zealand Minister of Transport Simon Bridges has announced that some roads will have a new 110 kph (68 mph) by the end of the year, instead of the usual 100 kph (62 mph) limit on country roads and motorways.
The minister said, “We’ve invested heavily in our transport system to deliver safe, reliable and world-class roads. People will soon be able to benefit with more efficient and quicker journey times. A new speed limit of 110 km/h on the Tauranga Eastern Link is to be put in place by the end of this year. The Roads of National Significance are the safest roads in New Zealand – with no deaths on these roads to date.” (The Tauranga Eastern Link is a new motorway near one of New Zealand’s fastest growing cities.)
The Tauranga Eastern Link Motorway
Several other motorways and expressways have also been scheduled to get the new speed limit after the Tauranga motorway. So, how much difference will the new limit make to roads safety? Probably not a lot, if the experience of other countries is anything to go by.
For many years Germany has had no speed limit on motorways and that has not unduly affected the accident rate. Although it has no motorways, the Isle of Man also has no speed limits. Australia’s remote Northern Territory also had no speed limit on one highway, but that was changed due to increased fatal accidents due to thrill-seekers, and collisions with animals. Meanwhile, Bulgaria, Poland and the United Arab Emirates each have a 140 kph speed limit on selected highways. Thirty-eight countries have a maximum posted speed limit of 130 kph, 66 countries have a maximum of 120 kph, while 36 countries have a limit of 110 kph. Just 54 countries now have a speed limit of 100 kph or less and many of those are underdeveloped with poor quality roading and vehicles, or difficult terrain. For example, Papua New Guinea and the Nunavut Territory of Canada have a limit of just 70 kph. The modern world is travelling much faster than in earlier times.
New Zealand highways have been improved greatly in recent decades while the accident rate has declined. The time is right to raise the limit on selected roads, or Highways of National Significance as some roads are now called. These are divided roads that have at least two lanes in each direction, a good surface, wide shoulders, gentle curves, crash barriers and limited access. They are equal to the best anywhere.
After the change in New Zealand the country will still be among the slower paced nations. Most New Zealanders are ready to move up a gear and will welcome the change.
Of interest to many commercial drivers is that no mention has been made of also raising the speed limit for heavy vehicles. At present, New Zealand has a 90 kph limit on all heavy vehicles, and vehicles towing trailers, including cars towing trailers and caravans. But, after allowing for a 5 kph tolerance for trucks and buses and a 10 kph tolerance for cars, that gives an effective speed differential of not 10 but 15 kph (a 25 kph differential with the new limit). This leads to traffic flow conflict. Many car drivers want the heavies to travel slower so cars can pass more easily. But most heavy vehicle drivers claim that the speed differential is causing accidents due to reckless overtaking by car drivers. Most truck and bus drivers say they would feel safer with a uniform speed limit for all classes of vehicle. A uniform speed limit with uniform enforcement would remove most of the need for overtaking.
Before the merger of the Ministry of Transport highway patrols with the Police Department about 20 years ago, the tolerance policy was uniform with all classes of vehicles effectively limited to 110 kph, with a 10 kph tolerance for cars and a 20 kph tolerance for heavy vehicles. Under that regime, truck and bus drivers felt safer. But about 15 years ago a new policy was adopted for heavy vehicles with the tolerance set at 5 kph. That created an effective speed differential of 15 kph. The traffic flow conflict immediately increased and so did the number of car versus heavy vehicle fatal accidents. The policy change has been a failure.
As a voting bloc, car drivers are the majority and they can demand from government what heavy vehicle drivers cannot, even though many car drivers believe the opposite to be the case. A typical car driver opinion cropped up on Facebook this morning from one Bill Shugg of Wellington in response to a comment similar to the above: “BS it is the flow you call that is causing the problem trucks don’t like being passed and build up huge convoys behind them. The different speed allows better cornering vehicles to pass you road hogs so you don’t hold us up on hills both up and down. FFS JUST PULL LEFT. Oh and slow down in the wet so people can see. Better idea put freight on rails where it’s safer.” Thanks, Bill Shugg. I believe President Trump has a vacancy for a man of your talents to write speeches and advise on policy. You should apply.
Different speed limits for different classes of vehicles (split limits or SSLs) apply in many countries apart from New Zealand. But the wisdom of them is regularly questioned by most commercial drivers who find themselves at the coal-face for long hours every day and frequently are faced with life and death situations, on dual carriageways as much as minor roads. The claim by some that flow conflict will not exist on dual carriageways is mythical. Passing and lane changing by reckless car drivers is a constant threat to truck and bus drivers, and speed differential plays a major part.
Australia has uniform speed limits for all classes of vehicles except in the Northern Territory and a limited number of other highways where there is a 10 kph differential. The Australian fatal accident rate is slightly less than New Zealand where speed differentials are greater and cover all rural areas.
Some critics of uniform speed limits site Europe to support their cause. They say it works well there and the accident rate is low. But most European countries do not permit trucks on their roads during weekends and public holidays – the time when car drivers are at their most reckless. Sometimes I think the wrong people may have been banned.
Now let’s compare countries and their accident rates and how SSLs have their effect on safety. The world average annual road deaths per 100,000 inhabitants is 17.4, but that is not a reliable base to research from because of the widely varying rates of vehicle ownership throughout the world. A much more reliable statistic is the number of fatalities per billion kilometres, but many countries don’t report those stats. That leaves a third option, fatalities per 100,000 vehicles, as the best way to research road safety statistics. The African continent is by far the most unsafe place to be on a road with a death seven times higher than the rest of the world. If we put Africa aside we get 72 fatalities per 100,000 vehicles per year for the rest of the world.

From my research, the most surprising discovery is that in the United Arab Emirates, the only place where trucks, buses and cars can all legally travel at 140 kph, the death rate is only 38.2 per 100,000 vehicles. UAE roads are twice as safe as the world average, not including Africa. Another interesting discovery was that in Kosovo trucks can legally travel 10 kph faster than other vehicles. There is no international uniformity when it comes to speed limits. Politicians react to the whims of the electorate, regardless of the logic of the electorate. In Germany, the ban on trucks on weekends and public holidays must be music to the ears of truck drivers who, when they are allowed on the autobahn, are restricted to 80 kph while amateur car drivers have no speed limit. That probably goes some way to explaining why the fatality rate in Germany is only 6.8 per 100,000 vehicles; on the most reckless days the most solid objects are removed from the line of fire of the most reckless amateurs.
Of 197 countries, only 65 have split speed limits. The largest differential of 70 kph is found in India where the death rate is 130 per 100,000 vehicles, which is almost double the world rate (less Africa), and would be even higher if fewer people used public transport. In Saudi Arabia where the speed differential between light and heavy vehicles is 45 kph, the death rate is 119 per 100,000 vehicles. Russia does a little better where the death rate is 53.4 per 100,000 vehicles with a differential of 50 kph. Trying to establish a link between accident rates and split speed limits is not easy because so many other factors can come into play and often statistics are vague or not available. Europe generally has low accident rates, but the high use of public transport, excellent roads, strict enforcement and the absence of trucks at high accident times all play a part.
In the United States, 34,000 died during the last year on record, but that is only 12.9 per 100,000 vehicles and equates to 7.1 fatalities per 1 billion vehicles kilometres. I have an interest in the US accident statistics because I have driven in 47 of the 50 states as a car driver or truck driver. When I first drove there in 1985, the country had a nationwide 55 mph (88 kph) speed limit on all vehicles. In 2001 when I started driving trucks there, the individual states had gained the right to set their own speed limits and about half opted for SSLs with trucks limited to 10-25 mph slower than cars and buses. It is interesting to note that while many countries have SSLs for all heavy vehicles, the US allows buses to keep pace with cars in all states. There was much unease with the split limits when I drove trucks and the flow conflict was mostly on the freeways. In most other areas trucks and cars had the same speed limits. Gradually, the states have been changing to uniform speed limits and now only eight states still have split speed limits.
Unfortunately, there is a myth that persists with car drivers and politicians whereby they believe that heavy vehicles take longer to stop, don’t corner as well, and the drivers of heavy vehicles are irresponsible and unskilled, and therefore they should be compelled to drive slower than car drivers. The fact is that truck drivers must pass character, drug, and police checks. They must pass stringent theoretical and practical driving tests.  Once qualified and employed, they sometimes clock up more miles a year than most car drivers will drive during their whole lifetime. Trucks are expensive to fix and insure, carry expensive cargoes, and drivers must be at the top of their game every minute of the day, if they want to remain in employment.

In America, trucking is a huge industry and handles 70% of all freight, using 3.5 million heavy duty trucks, typically a tractor unit hauling a 53-foot semi-trailer with an all-up weight of 80,000 lbs. If there is anywhere in the world to test the viability and safety of having trucks travelling at the same speed as cars, America is the place to make that test. America has been through the 55-mph uniform speed limit that ended in 1987, the individual state shambles and SSLs that followed, to the now dawning of the reality that trucks and cars are safer when travelling at the same speed.
The speed limits for US trucks now range from 55 mph (88 kph) to 85 mph (136 kph) in a small part of Texas. Four states allow trucks to travel at the car speed of 80 mph (128 kph), nine states have a truck speed limit of 75 mph (120 kph), and 19 states permit trucks to keep pace with cars at 70 mph (112 kph). These higher truck speed limits have not compromised safety, and meanwhile, from insurance statistics we learn that 75% of truck accidents are caused by drivers of cars.
From the point of view of most truck driver, California is a rogue state that insists in having unreasonable restrictions on trucks. The state has a 55-mph speed limit on trucks that is strictly enforced, while cars are legally limited to 70 mph but in practice can travel much faster. But in the last year for which statistics are available California had 244 truck deaths, the second highest in the nation after Texas with 543 deaths. Texas also has an SSL of 75 mph for trucks and 85 mph for cars. Florida has split speed limits on some roads and the annual truck death rate is 194.
Split speed limits impose undue stress on all drivers, and for truck drivers they make a long day on the road even longer with an increased risk of crashing due to fatigue. The National Motorists Association (representing all drivers) have joined forces with trucking organizations to fight against split speed limits on the grounds of safety. Interestingly, many large truck fleet operators want to retain the split limits. But their motivation is fuel saving rather than life saving. Insurance companies pay for crashes, but owners pay for fuel and for some that makes fuel a more important concern.
One owner-operator truck driver, Steve Barnes, from Cascade Locks, Oregon, has been waging a war on split limits for many years. During his research, he found that highway speed limits are set using the 85th percentile principle where the limit is set where it best suits the speed of 85% of drivers. If 7.5% will be travelling slower and 7.5% faster than the limit, the 85 percentile achieves a speed that is safest for the greatest number.  This also means that both groups of 7.5% are driving less safely than the 85% and they are involved in a higher proportion of accidents. However, due to ill-informed political persuasion from car drivers, trucks are excluded from the 85% in some states and are forced to drive slower and therefore more dangerously. Those states are now becoming fewer in number and more of the remaining state with SSLs are looking at changing.
Perhaps the greatest contradiction with SSLs is that they only apply at the top end of speed limits, apparently so that trucks can stop short of hazards. But surely, if that was logical, SSLs would be applied to city streets where people can step out into the traffic without warning, which they do frequently, and when they do truck drivers stop just as soon as cars, if not sooner. It makes no sense to have a lower speed limit on heavy vehicles on rural roads where the driver seated up high has the best view of the road ahead.
When the Tauranga Eastern Link gains its 110 kph speed limit there will be no valid reason for it to not apply to all vehicles.

Saturday, 19 August 2017


Australians may not be eligible for election to their own Parliament

Australians are facing a major constitutional crisis with a legal opinion claiming that the entire population may be ineligible for election to their own parliament. And New Zealand is to blame. Already, several MPs with parental connections to New Zealand, have resigned or are waiting for a court ruling. The most senior being the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister
Barnaby Joyce
But is appears to go much further than that. This may be the deepest constitutional crisis since the Rum Rebellion of 1808-1810 when Governor William Bligh was arrested by the military and sent packing back to England. Yes, that was Bligh of the mutiny on the Bounty. The poor man couldn’t do anything right. The dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s government in 1973 was, by comparison, just a game of fiddlesticks. The 2017 crisis is the real thing.
According to Sydney barrister and mediator, Robert Angyal, a simple law change in New Zealand several years ago may have rendered all Australians ineligible for election to their own Parliament. The New Zealand Immigration Act grants automatically to all Australians the right to permanent residence in New Zealand. They only have to turn up at the border and they can stay as long as they like, work and enjoy all the benefits of New Zealand citizens, including the right to vote after one year, and citizenship after five years. They have that right, unless they are not of good character, which may exclude some politicians, but who would expect them to admit to that?
So, they have an extremely serious problem.
The problem being that Section 44 of the Australian Constitution states that any person who is a citizen of another country, or is entitled to the benefits of being a citizen of another country, is not eligible for election the Australian Parliament or Senate. So, the New Zealand law has slam dunked the Australian Constitution, the Government, and probably every law enacted in Australia since Australians gained the right to be New Zealanders. For Kiwis, this is better even than having the All Blacks beat the Wallabies, and this time it didn’t take balls to do it.
One course of action would be for all the members of the House and Senate to renounce their right to New Zealand citizenship. But another immediate problem presents itself. Who would they make the renunciation to? The Australian Governor-General who was appointed by a Cabinet that comprised disqualified MPs? That won’t work. Somehow, Australia must get rid of all its ‘elected’ federal politicians. Whoever accepts the declaration, would have to be a foreigner. One rather dramatic way would be to invite President Trump for a state visit. He could just disembark from Air Force One and say, “You’re fired!”
On the other hand, Foreign Betty might just be a better choice. She would do it ever so nicely, and the Royals have always had a closeness with Australia. Some went to school there, and her husband was once rumoured to have other children living there. Yes, it should be Foreign Betty. She is not an Australian or a New Zealander. Yes, Betty is the one. But listening to the declaration 226 times might be a bit much after the long flight. She could die at number 99 and what a pickle that would be! A better idea would be for old Betty to just, nicely of course, dissolve both houses and call for fresh elections. But no, that won’t work either. Australians would still be electing people who are disqualified.
Here is my suggestion. New Zealand can come to the rescue with a trans-Tasman political restructure. Since 2010, New Zealand has become skilled at fixing things broken, and I believe we can fix Australia’s constitutional crisis. We can offer to establish a new nation called Anzac. It would comprise two states; Aoteoroa and West Island. The federal capital could be sited on the Sunshine Coast, because it has better weather than Wellington, and Aoteoroan politicians would get more frequent flyer points.
Australian Prime Minister
Malcolm Turnbull
The buildings that currently house the federal parliament and government offices, could be occupied by the West Island State Government. The current states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania would become district councils. All city councils in West Island would become community boards. It would be a very simple structure with lean, mean running costs and low taxes.
The above plan would enable Barnaby Joyce to keep his job while enjoying the benefits of being a real New Zealander. Malcolm Turnbull may have to resign due to shame because no doubt West Islanders would start calling him Malcolm Turncoat, and worse. However, if he was to survive the political turmoil and ensuing elections, he would have an easier workload as the Premier of West Island.
Meanwhile the main workload would be carried by Anzac Prime Minister Bill English and his deputy Paula Bennett, or at an outside chance Jacindarella Ardern and Kelvin someone.