Irma Update …

This morning’s news …

The Glynn County Board of Commissioners has called for a mandatory evacuation for ALL OF GLYNN COUNTY effective at 8:00 a.m., Friday, September 8, 2017, in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. Residents should evacuate immediately.

Following Governor Deal’s declaration of a State of Emergency, the Glynn County Board of Commissioners and the City of Brunswick have issued a State of Emergency for Glynn County. During the period of the State of Emergency, a curfew will be in effect from midnight to 6:00 a.m. until Tuesday, September 12, 2017. County offices and courts will be closed starting 12:00 noon on Friday, September 8, and will remain closed on Monday, September 11 and Tuesday, September 12.

Glynn County includes the beautiful St Simons Island. Good friends will be hitting the road.

May everyone have a safe journey.

It would be nice if the storm could track away into the Atlantic.

Irma …

After a fabulous week on St. Simons Island, which I will get around to sharing, it was time to leave. And by coincidence a very good time to leave. Irma, the strongest hurricane to form in the Atlantic has been meandering north over recent days, has ravaged some of the Caribbean Islands and is bearing down on Cuba. It is tipped to hit Florida on Sunday.

A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the Florida Keys. Police and outreach workers will begin taking those of Miami’s homeless that refuse to go into refuges into custody for their own protection tomorrow. The conurbation centred on Miami is home to 6 million people.

St Simons Island and the nearby city of Brunswick in southern Georgia are on high alert, it is likely that they will be severely impacted in the coming days but no mandatory evacuation has been ordered yet.

Gayle and I picked up our Chevy in Jacksonville this morning and we have been part of a procession of Florida number plates up the I-75. We are safely ensconced in Atlanta.

Our thoughts are with all of you who are in the firing line.

Arrival …

The lovely Gayle and I flew into Jacksonville, the largest city in the contiguous United States. By area that is, and of course, that depends on where the lines are drawn on the map. The metropolitan area has a population of about 1.6 million people.  That’s considerably more than Miami proper with a mere 400,000 but if you throw in the rest of the conurbation – Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach you’ve drawn a line around 5.5 million people. So which gets to be state capital, Jacksonville or Miami? Neither, it’s Tallahassee with a smaller population than either.

Anyway you will be pleased to know that Jacksonville has recovered well from the Great Fire of 1901 which started as a kitchen fire , spread to Spanish Moss in a mattress factory. In just eight hours, it swept through 146 city blocks, destroyed over 2,000 buildings, left about 10,000 homeless and killed seven.

During the silent movie era it was the centre of the film industry but then Hollywood came along.

Hurricane Matthew made itself felt in 2016.

We didn’t stay long in case something bad happened. It seems ill-fated.

The truth is we were picked up by friends and whisked away to the beautiful St Simons Island over the border in Georgia. They have a really fabulous house backing on to a lake.

Whilst having breakfast the next morning we could see this guy without getting up from the table!

I guess a swim is not on the agenda.

As beautiful as the house is all the light switches are up side down. How odd.

The New World …

‘He didn’t discover America he invaded it’: Protesters now rally to REMOVE statue of Christopher Columbus from Manhattan after NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was under review as a ‘symbol of hate’                        The Daily Mail.

As an Australian heading for the New World one of the first things to strike me is that it’s not all that new. By the time Captain James Cook found the east coast of Australia in 1770 Columbus had found an island near the east coast of America (1492), the Mayflower had deposited the Pilgrim Fathers in Massachusetts (1620) (an event that captured the American imagination far more successfully than the first English Colony at Jamestown, Virginia founded 13 years earlier) and about 2 million colonists had followed them. The struggle for independence was underway.

On the 4th of July six years after Cook named Point Hicks America declared its independence. The loss of America may well have been the catalyst for British settlement of Australia in 1788.

Indeed, so ancient is the New World that the Scots were founding colonies in North America prior to Union with England in 1707.

Australia, as a country rather than a bunch of colonies, dates from just 1901. It’s brand new.

Although I must point out that both continents were inhabited long before our European explorers put them on Europe’s map. Wouldn’t want the blog to be considered a symbol of hate. And just for completeness let’s add that neither of these great explorers were the first Europeans to reach the respective land masses. History can be so fickle.

Just imagine those heady days of pride and optimism. Days when we could celebrate the 4th of July or the 26th of January or erect statues to our heroes.

Obliterating history doesn’t change it – just makes it harder to learn from. Civic pride seems so much more constructive than communal self loathing.

Road Trip …

Coming soon …

From south to north. 1,297 miles. I maybe running into some fall colors as I go. Expecting temperatures in the south of around 86°F dropping to maybe as low as 50°F overnight in the north.

As you can see I’m practicing the language, could be bilingual by the time I get back.

Surfing moral panics …

A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.        Edmund Burke (1729–1797).

Mal Brown was kind enough to comment on my recent post regarding our little Australian constitutional crisis, in part saying “ … I didn’t know Britain doesn’t have a constitution. What caused that anomaly ?”

It’s not an anomaly – it’s the proper way to do it! Admittedly it is unusual, there are few other countries that have not adopted a written constitution, New Zealand, Israel and Canada are among them.

So in the absence of an overarching document what does Britain have? Tradition, and some documents and ordinary acts of parliament. The system by which Britain is governed has grown as it has gone along. The general trend since Magna Carta was agreed between King John and a few rebellious barons in 1215 has been to diminish the power of the monarchy, increase the power of the Parliament and to make the parliament accountable to an increasing proportion of the population.

Lord Denning (1899 – 1999), the greatest English judge of modern times, described Magna Carta

as the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.

But despite the great Charter’s great fame the Bill of Rights of 1689 is actually more important. This followed a real constitutional crisis, the Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which a group of parliamentarians invited William of Orange to overthrow King James ll. William became King but was obliged to

solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of this kingdom of England, and the dominions thereunto belonging, according to the statutes in parliament agreed on, and the laws and customs of the same.

In other words The Bill established the supremacy of Parliament over the Crown. It also provided “for the regular meeting of Parliament, free elections to the Commons, free speech in parliamentary debates, and some basic human rights, most famously freedom from ‘cruel or unusual punishment’” to quote Professor Robert Blackburn who goes on to outline what is in my opinion one of the greatest strengths of the British system …

There are a number of associated characteristics of Britain’s unwritten constitution, a cardinal one being that in law Parliament is sovereign in the sense of being the supreme legislative body. Since there is no documentary constitution containing laws that are fundamental in status and superior to ordinary Acts of Parliament, the courts may only interpret parliamentary statutes. They may not overrule or declare them invalid for being contrary to the constitution and ‘unconstitutional’. So, too, there are no entrenched procedures (such as a special power of the House of Lords, or the requirement of a referendum) by which the unwritten constitution may be amended. The legislative process by which a constitutional law is repealed, amended or enacted, even one dealing with a matter of fundamental political importance, is similar in kind to any other Act of Parliament, however trivial its subject matter.

Edmund Burke would be pleased.

So the Poms today are governed by the House of Commons, they can vote for a candidate of their choice if they so desire, the House of Lords acts as a house of review but its powers are much less than formerly, the Queen is an expensive ornament that presides over a continuing soap opera for the chattering classes and signs whatever parliament puts in front of her. The first past the post voting system ensures that there is usually a majority government or as Richard D North quaintly put it the constitution …

enshrines a prejudice against the mob. It is designed to eliminate any serious danger of direct democracy, and is instead a system for selecting and controlling a governing elite (the parliamentarians). A plebiscitic democracy, perhaps ushered in by the silicon chip, would, in one sense, be merely the last step towards democracy, but, in another, the first towards popular rule. But direct democracy risks the perpetual excitement of surfing moral panics, or the tedium of living in a Swiss canton.