Open thread? Or a half-open thread?

Meaning, I am on vacation (though it hardly seems that way at the moment) and would prefer we keep this blog Palin-free for the next 24 hours so I can think about cheerier things, like the CCP. Can we try to do that? I know it’s Saturday and threads tend to be slow on the weekend, but just in case you have something to say, here’s a soapbox.

The Discussion: 29 Comments

On the English System of Measurements and Weights

This post wants to discuss something remotely related to Math, that is, the English System of Measurements and Weights.

In today’s globalized world, almost every country has adopted the simple and modern Metric system of measurement. There’s only one major country today that insists on using the older and more clumsy English system. This country is of course the most scientifically advanced, most educationally advanced, most economically advanced United States of America. When I first came to America, I was very confused about this: why is the most scientifically advanced, most educationally advanced, most economically advanced country in the world stubbornly continues to use what is clearly a backward and unnecessarily more difficult system? After living in America after all these years, the answer is now a bit clear to me.

First, let me review the English system, just to demonstrate its complexity and clumsiness.

“Foot” is the basic unit of measure in the English system. In ancient times, Northern European farmers used to measure their land using their feet. One big footprint is one “foot”. Ancient European farmers’ feet are slightly larger than today’s men’s feet, therefore a “foot” today seems a bit longer than our feet.

1 foot=12 inches. 3 Feet = 1 Yard. 5280 Feet = 1 Mile. The basic conversion between inch and centimeter is very simple: 1 inch = 2.54 centimeter. Now, please tell me how many feet there are in a meter, please don’t use a calculator.

Now in terms of area: In the metric system, there’s no need to explain, because metric system’s area is simply the equivalent length squared. For example, 1 Square Meter =1 M * 1M. Self-explanatory, simple, intuitive. Now, in the English system, there’s something called the “Acre”. 1 Acre =43,560 square feet. What are some other conversions related to the Acre? Well, it’s impossible for me to list all, just see for yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acre

Now in terms of volume: In the modern Metric system, there’s also no need to explain, because the volume measure is simply the 3rd power of its equivalent length measure. For example, there’s the liter. 1 Liter is simply 1 decimeter * 1 decimeter * 1 decimeter. In the English system, there’s the Gallon, but guess what, the gallon has nothing to do with the feet or inches. 1 Gallon = 4 Quarts, 1 Quart = 2 Pints. One day I was donating blood in a clinic, and I asked a professional nurse, how many cubic inches are there in a pint? And the nurse had absolutely no idea, and no one in the room had any idea. ” Cubic Inch” and “Pint” are both part of your own system, You cannot convert between two common units in your own system? Let me tell you: 1 Pint = 28.87 cubic inches = 473.125 cubic centimeters.). In the metric system, even a 12 year old child knows that 1 Liter = 1 Cubic Centimeter.

Just as a demonstration of the elegance of the metric system and the clumsiness of the English system, read the following:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liter
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallon

I’ll stop here, because if I go on to weights, then this post will never end.

Now I sympathize with American students who hate Math. This type of conversion will drive anyone crazy. 1 Gallon = 231 cubic inches = 0.13368 cubic feet, etc etc etc.

In the US, a car mechanic needs 2 sets of tools, one calibrated in metric system, the other in English system. One used to repair foreign cars, the other to repair domestic cars.

A few years ago, NASA failed to land a Mars Rover, because their system forgot to convert from a British system’s unit to a metric unit in a key area, total cost if tens of millions of dollars.

In the 70’s, American President Jimmy Carter’s administration tried to promote the metric system. As a start, they added a metric conversion to the speed limit signs. So the signs said “Limit: 65 Miles (105 Km)”. Carter was a rather open-minded President, and even tried to promote the use of Solar Power to reduce oil dependency of the US. Of course we all knew how Carter ended up. As soon as Ronald Reagon took power, he immediately canceled the research projects on Solar Power, and immediately took down the metric additions to the speed signs.

Ronald Reagan was known for his conservatism. And he was one of the most popular Presidents in US History. This is not an accident. What is “conservatism”? In plain English, when a man has acquired a lot of stuff, that stuff can be money, power, big houses, luxury goods, high social status, scholarly knowledge, etc. Then, due to human nature, he will do everything in his power to maintain what he has acquired and increase what he has acquired (but “maintain” is a precondition to “increase”). He will energetically oppose anything that can reduce what he has acquired. In America, this desire to “keep”, to “maintain”, to “conserve” forms the basic nature of conservatism. Conservatism needs to keep the status quo, the current order, the established way of life. Any reform or change that challenges that must be opposed.

That is why Conservatives are usually very rich people. You rarely hear of a poor person being a conservative. The poor has nothing to conserve, other than their lives.

America’s social ideology is remarkably conservative. America has already achieved great accomplishments in Science and Technology, has accumulated a great amount of wealthy, and in effect has become the biggest rich man and biggest monopoly of power in today’s world, thanks to military conquests, unfair trade, etc. It is only natural that in this climate, conservatism rules in America. Because of the economic superpower status of the US, American rich elites give a small portion of their accumulated or pillaged wealth to the regular Joes of America. The regular Joes, after receiving their portions, started to live comfortably as well (gas guzzlers, 12 room houses, etc) The more the they live comfortably, the more conservative they’ll get, because there are more things to conserve in their lives.

One example: Recently in America, Oil prices have been going up. Americans are big fans of SUV’s, and many of my American colleagues and friends started to worry. Those people never really cared about any world issues before, yet all of a suddenly, they all jumped out, and many started complaining that China’s and India’s economic development contributed to the rise in oil prices, they started discussing what globalization means to the ways of life to Americans, they started to worry that if one day Chinese and Indian people started enjoy the same level of quality of living and energy consumption as Americans, what will that mean for Americans themselves. But in all of those discussions, I have never heard once, either among regular people, or in mainstream media, about whether Americans should start to reduce energy consumption by building smaller houses, driving smaller cars ( there are some educated Americans who are now starting to realize this, but it’s a small percentage of American populace). In fact, I think if the day comes where American government decides to invade China and India to secure more oil, I think the American populace would overwhelmingly support it.

The American people have not always been this conservative, this opposed to change. As recently as the Great Depression, America saw a big wave of Socialist movements, in fact, I believe a few Socialist won many states in the elections back then. But that was short lived. After world war 2, American elites accumulated huge wealth thanks to the war, and secured America’s position as the world’s superpower. The working class in America saw fundamental improvements to their ways of life, they started to eat more meat, drink more milk, live in bigger houses, drive more cars, and slowly as their material lives got better, they slowly lost the desire for change and reform ( what is there to change if I like the present ways? ). Then, as the anti-Vietnam War movements came in the 60’s, a new class of radical reformists rose. They opposed authority, opposed war, opposed over consumption. Many of them left the cities, formed communes, worked together, shared their fruits of labor. But those communes did not last long, and after the 80’s, only very few of those communes remain.

In today’s America, “revolution” is an outdated word, an old concept. The people are becoming more conservative everyday. In the American mainstream society and Media, Marxism, Socialism, Communism are now synonymous with the Devil. If you call someone a “60’s radical”, that is an insult. “Liberal”, “Atheist”, “Radical”, “Environmentalist”, those words are all bad words in today’s America, even on mainstream media like CNN or MSNBC. But if you look in the dictionary, a environmentalist, an atheist, a socialist, those words are completely neutral words. The conservative American society injected its own flavor into these words.

America is the birthplace of Pragmatism. There are two famous people called “Charles Pierce” and “William James”. Both lived in the 19th Century America. Pragmatism opposes reason, it believes that the truth is whatever works for me and whatever brings me benefits. In Europe today, there’s still a strong tradition of reason inherited from philosophers like Kant and scientists like Darwin. In Europe, people can discuss Marxism and Socialism for purely academic purposes, and in purely objective and balanced ways. In America, unless one is at a very liberal college like Berkeley or Columbia University, one cannot hope to discuss Marxism in a reasonable way without being labelled names (including on this forum). This is how deep conservatism runs in America. America’s most liberal politicians like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, will be considered too conservative to win any election in almost any other country.

Another reason Americans are so opposed to getting rid of the English system of measure is psychological. Most Americans feel very proud and arrogant about their superpower status in today’s world. They feel comfortable adopting a bird’s eye’s view of the rest of the world. America, given its power, can do anything it desires. This is a very comfortable psychological feeling of superiority. A typical American, after reading this post, would say “You think our system of measure is backward, stupid, complex? Well we are Americans, we will never change for anyone else, who cares if the rest of the world adopted the modern metric system, we are Americans, we will keep our way of life, and we are proud of it, the rest of the world can fuck off!”

Well, then don’t complain about your math classes next time.

September 6, 2008 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

NFL predictions, anyone?

September 6, 2008 @ 1:14 pm | Comment

I predict that the NY Giants will NOT repeat. I also predict that Hurricane Gustav will NOT hit Nawlins directly (hold it, have a missed a news cycle or two?). Finally, I predict that all Asian Girls looking for Love & Marriage will find their dreams come true in the arms of some big-nosed foreigner.

September 6, 2008 @ 1:23 pm | Comment

Ouch.

Well, I’m with you on the Giants. I am hoping this is finally the year that the Chargers go to the Bowl. I think there’s a really good chance of that. I don’t know the NFC teams as well. Cowboys? Packers? Someone clue me in.

September 6, 2008 @ 1:33 pm | Comment

Lisa,

To tell you the truth, I enjoy watching college football more than professional football (my undergraduate degree is from the U. of Iowa, so I’m a Hawkeye fan). I seem to recall reading an entry of yours (from your blog?) in which you described in detail watching a football game. Am I imagining that? This would be from a couple years ago. Do you still keep a blog?

September 6, 2008 @ 1:43 pm | Comment

Yep, you remember correctly. It was that amazing Boise State game. How could you beat that game?!

It’s taken me a while, but I’m really enjoying college football too.

I know this sounds very weird, but for whatever reason, football helps me get stuff done around the house. You know…laundry…cleaning…bills…

I do still have a blog – I had not been keeping it up very well the last year? Two years? – just too busy. But I’m starting to post a little more again.

September 6, 2008 @ 1:57 pm | Comment

Lisa,

Yeah, that indeed was the game. I’ve been watching college football for a long time and I think that one was perhaps the most dramatic game that I’ve ever seen. Do you remember the end? Boise State went for a two-point conversion with that Statue of Liberty play and the running back strode into the end zone with the the opposing players looking in the other direction (an extremely gutsy call). The only other recent game that comes close was the Texas-USC national championship game where the the Texas defense stopped the Trojans on a fourth-and-one play, and then Vince Young took the offense down the field in less than a minute to score the winning touchdown.

I too enjoy cleaning while watching sports.

September 6, 2008 @ 2:09 pm | Comment

Jeffrey, yeah, I couldn’t believe the ending of that game! It was like something you’d see on a playground or in a movie. And then, after the game was over, when the running back (?) proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend on live TV. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The USC/Texas game was really exciting too, but being an Angeleno, I do have a mild allegiance to USC – but only for football. And if it’s USC versus UCLA, I gotta go Bruins.

September 6, 2008 @ 2:13 pm | Comment

Lisa,

Indeed. That marriage proposal was crazy. What stays with me is how the Boise State players never gave up, even when there were many points in the game where you thought they’d never recover.

Hey, the Bruins won a great game last week. They beat Tennessee, a very good team. Listen, I’ll root for the Bruins with you when they play the Trojans. I just checked their schedule and they play the Trojans on December 6, 2008, the last game of the season (that’s usual, if I remember correctly).

Okay, gotta turn in. It’s pretty late here in New York. Have a nice evening.

September 6, 2008 @ 2:33 pm | Comment

‘Night!

September 6, 2008 @ 2:40 pm | Comment

Math actually brings up some interesting points. Not sure about his definition of the rich being conservative because they want to “conserve” things. Thee are many dirt-poor conservatives and horrifically wealthy liberals (Gates, Soros, Buffet, the McArthurs, lots of Rockefellers and Kennedys, etc.)

September 6, 2008 @ 3:59 pm | Comment

Well, “conservatives” actually used to care about conserving things! Look at Teddy Roosevelt.

How’s your vacation, Richard?

September 6, 2008 @ 4:09 pm | Comment

NFL predictions, anyone?

I predict a 25% increase in showboating.

Not that I know anything about NFL, other than it’s not nearly as good as Rugby Union. ๐Ÿ˜€

September 6, 2008 @ 5:29 pm | Comment

Anyone in China right now able to tell me the retail price at the pump for gasoline? Please include city and date please.

September 6, 2008 @ 5:33 pm | Comment

Allright, while we’re posting random requests, I still want to hear back from the person who knows where to buy hand-made leather shoes in China. Was it Shanghai? I’m having a hell of a time finding comfortable leather shoes here, and usually end up buying them in America, which in itself is an iffy proposition. The price isn’t too bad with the cheaper dollar, but the $1,000 transport cost is killing me!

September 6, 2008 @ 6:13 pm | Comment

Get cotton shoes! They are cheap, comfortable and no animals have to be killed for them.

September 7, 2008 @ 12:26 am | Comment

Watching some college football today. My wife is the NFL fan in our house. Which raises a question….

In the States, we have high school, college, and professional organized sports that attract large numbers of fans. Sometimes minor leagues between college and professional (like in baseball), but that’s the progression.

Why are there not organized college teams in China?

September 7, 2008 @ 1:46 am | Comment

Math:

” Let me tell you: 1 Pint = 28.87 cubic inches = 473.125 cubic centimeters.). In the metric system, even a 12 year old child knows that 1 Liter = 1 Cubic Centimeter.”

I believe 1 liter is 1000 cubic centimeters. I know you meant otherwise, but just letting you know I’m not sleeping.

Math– agree with your suggestion that it would be good if the U.S. could join the rest of the world (well, almost) by adopting the metric system. President Carter had it right, and the only way to do it is gradually. Actually I don’t mind using internet conversion calculators, but oh well.

My opinion is that it’s not a snotty thing, that Americans are better than the rest of the world, I think it’s just inertia.

September 7, 2008 @ 2:00 am | Comment

Sam, I know a shop in Beijing near the huge ghost mall The Place that makes hand-made, custom-ordered leather shoes. I can get you the contact details if you want.

I bought my bicycle, by the way – a cheapie, for 600 rmb. Merida is the brand. Really good and solid, and for the money a real bargain. It’s probably been stolen already (I’m in Thailand at the moment, will know when i get back next week)..

September 7, 2008 @ 3:46 am | Comment

“Most Americans feel very proud and arrogant about their superpower status in todayโ€™s world.” Such nonsense could only be spouted by someone who is not American.

You don’t get it. Most Americans would just like to get rid of the rest of the world by closing the doors and tending to their own business rather than, say, give US$1 billion to Georgia (the country), put up with uncontrolled immigration, and generally serve as the primary excuse for any failure natural or man-made in the semi- and civilized worlds. Also, failure to go metric in the US has nothing to do with Mom and Pop, Jane and Jimmy, trying to think in liters and meters but everything to do with the trades – carpentry, construction, plumbing – and related sectors which would have to convert not only measurements but tooling and tools. Look at the examples of Australia and Great Britain where many trades still follow feet and inches.

America won’t go metric because it’s too proud and arrogant? What absolute crap. But, say, didn’t you forget voltage? The US and some very, very few countries use 110/60; by your logic surely that should rank at the very height of arrogance? Or perhaps a shrewd plan to discourage imports of electronic goods? Yeah?

September 7, 2008 @ 4:29 am | Comment

Great! Yeah, lemme know how to contact the Beijing shoemaker when you have time. And I think Merida is pretty well respected! Good choice, I imagine.

Shutup, Mor; it’s against my religion to kill cotton plants. Killing my own shoes is a different matter altogether.

September 7, 2008 @ 2:39 pm | Comment

We don’t use the metric system cuz it was invented by the French.

Anyways Math, you from Australia? Just wondering?

September 7, 2008 @ 2:57 pm | Comment

Hey speaking of the metric system, reminds of the series Baroque Cycle by Neil Stephenson (I’m still reading the first book, busy). It’s interesting cuz a sub-plot of that book dealt with the Royal Society and the “continental savants” (e.g Leibniz). And you know the Royal Society and Lbeibniz et al. all were very much interested in the metric system idea.

How is this related to the Peking Duck? I’ve no idea.

September 7, 2008 @ 4:44 pm | Comment

freak
I don’t think math is Australian. If he were he would call him/herself maths. Why do you ask that anyway?

September 7, 2008 @ 7:50 pm | Comment

I’ll stick to the english system because I like to drink my milk from the gallon. But at the same time, I admit I do feel I’m driving much faster when my car is going a whole 80 km/hr!

September 8, 2008 @ 9:28 am | Comment

How come surfing isn’t an Olympic sport?

Is it because “Charlie don’t surf!”?

September 8, 2008 @ 8:28 pm | Comment

China has forbidden men to grow beards and has forced restaurants to stay open on religious holidays. But it only affects Muslims in Xinjiang, so it’s OK, then.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/09/world/asia/09china.html

September 8, 2008 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

The Impact Of Decline Upon Weights And Measures
Anonymous (8/12/1996)

Our community is discarding the useful weights and measures learnt by centuries of experience by replacing Imperial with Metric measure. The following article is from Keefe university, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England. It is about the proposed metrication of the United Kingdom but it clearly reveals the defeat of commonsense that metrication entails.
SURELY the most irritating excuse produced for the European Commission’s banning of British Imperial weights and measures is the claim that feet and inches, gallons and pints, pounds and ounces do not belong in the “modern world”. This claim has never cut much ice. The USA put Neil Armstrong on the moon using Imperial measurements and continues to use feet and inches in designing space satellites. The most modern desk-top publishing computer programmes use fractions of an inch to measure letter sizes, and electronic weighing scales in supermarkets display pound and ounces on digitalised readouts. What is not so well known is that it is in fact the metric system, which is outmoded and flawed, seriously hampering efficient practices of measuring, division and tallying.

The problem with metric is that every unit is based on the number ten. In weight, for example, there are 10 mg in 1 cg, 10 cg in 1 dg, 10 dg in 1 g, 10g in 1 Dg, 10Dg in 1hg, 10 hg in 1 kg, 10 kg in 1 Mg, and so on. Although metric’s decimal structure is much acclaimed by supporters of conversion, the rigidity of constant multiplications of ten frequently means that metric measures overshoot desirable or useful proportions. Take the experience of the metric system in the building industry as an example. Metric fails to produce any intermediate unit between the decimetre (4 inches) and the metre (40 inches) and so deprives builders of the Imperial foot, used throughout history and suitable for a wide range of building needs such as planning grids. As a result, the building trade sector, both in Britain and in Europe, has created the “metric foot” of 30 centimetres together with larger units of 120 or 90 centimetres (metric yards) into which metric feet may divide. Metric in the building industry survives because the metre can be discarded in favour of measures that reproduce the very Imperial units metric was intended to replace.

Cans of soft drink provide another example of metric inefficiency. Drink cans cannot be produced in metric units because there are no metric measures available that reflect normal drinking quantities. The litre is much too big and the centilitre is much too small. Instead, the canning industry has had to divide the litre by about a third and produce a non-standard metric measure of “330 millilitres” in order to produce a suitable quantity. The figure of 330 millilitres does not constitute an exact third of a litre because no metric measure can be divided by three without producing an infinitely recurring decimal(3.333333 etc). Thus, three cans of Coke make 0.99 litres, not one litre. Rather than streamlining our system of measurement, metrication disrupts it.

Metric’s inappropriate divisions are compounded by the fact that metric is based on abstract scientific principles which are aloof from everyday uses. The metre is defined as “The length equal to 1,650,763.3 wavelengths in vacuum of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the levels 2p to base 10 and Sd to base 5 of the krypton 86 atom.” As fascinating as such equations are to atomic scientists, metric measures do not bear any relevance to the vast diversity of human activities such as commerce, construction, surveying, cooking and weighing new-born babies. Whereas the British system has evolved around the essentials of what people carry, drink or work with (producing the pound, pint and foot), the metric system is a combination of unergonomic units based on a number that can seldom be cleanly divided and from which important proportions cannot be expressed as single units. Metric is workable only by abandoning its standard measures, the metre, kilo and litre, and replacing them with units of different sizes based on human needs and totally unrelated to “wavelengths in a vacuum”. And because of metric’s decimal structure, desirable quantities can only be represented by larger numbers of numerous digits: the logical unit of one pound of tinned food therefore becomes the metric standard of 420 grams; one gallon of engine oil becomes five litres of oil; a straightforward foot of fabric becomes twenty-five centimetres of fabric; two inch wide masking tape becomes fifty millimetres; a pint of milk becomes five hundred millilitre units; and roof-boxes, baths and tables previously measured as five or six feet explode into hundreds of centimetres or thousands of millimetres.

Such conversions do not make numbers more logical or streamlined, just bigger. There is no magic process by which measuring the world in metric improves it. Selling petrol by litres instead of gallons does not improve efficiency or solve world pollution. Enforcing metric measures in the building industry does not make houses faster to build or ensure superior quality. Nor is there any evidence that converting clothing sizes from inches to centimetres will make clothes easier to fit.

Any glance at history will confirm the use of metric does not ensure success. Whereas Britain’s industrial growth during the 1800s was at a time of Imperial measurements, Britain’s decline from the 1960s was during the very first move towards metric. Going decimal in 1971 did not prevent the period of inflation that followed, nor has the metrication of school education improved the level of learning. During the Second World War, countries that used Imperial measures were victors while losers used metric. If metricators only studied the metric countries they are so keen to copy, they would find that most have adapted the metric system to reproduce Imperial measures that existed prior to their own metrication. Examples include the French “livre”and the German “Pfund” (500 grams, about one pound in weight), and the Swedish inch (25 millimetres). Numerous European industries have not yet converted to metric: the German gun industry, the Dutch plumbing trade and the Swedish timber industry all use Imperial measures. Belgium, home of the European Union, uses acres, not metric hectares. And it should not be forgotten that the most powerful economy in the world uses Imperial measures: the United States of America.

The lack of closely-argued research by the British Government to demonstrate the supposed “benefits” of metrication is even more astonishing considering that the costs of transferring to metric amounts to a staggering 12 billion. Having lost the technical argument, metricators resort to the claim that Imperial measures are “complicated and difficult to understand”. This is rather like suggesting people are unable to grasp the concept of a right angle because right angles consist of ninety degrees rather than 100. It is a simple fact that we all live in an “irrational” 365 or 366 day year in which the measurements of hours, days and months involves units as diverse as 60, 24, 7,14, 28, 30, 31, 12 and 52. Although there is not a single ten involved in measuring the passage of time, this writer has yet to meet anyone who cannot tell the time because of the “confusing” division of hours into 60 rather than 100 minutes, or who is unable to remember the day because there are seven days in a week instead of a logical “ten”.

The entire metric attack on Britain flies in the face of European Union President Jacques Santer’s assurance in May 1995 that European Union did not threaten the UK’s national identity or cultural traditions. The reality is that the European Union is intent on abolishing almost every British measure by means of European Union directives 89/617 and 80/181 which have compelled the metric conversion of a vast range of packaged foods, liquids, carpets and commercial documents affecting industry, local authorities and public sector administration. Small concessions such as the printing of Imperial measures in small print along metric on food packaging are likely to be withdrawn in 1999, and the few areas to escape this year’s imposition, in particular the weighing of loose fruit in pounds and ounces, will be banned on January 1st 2000.

September 8, 2008 @ 11:12 pm | Comment

Part II

But surely, argue the supporters of European Union, Britain is now a part of Europe and should accept European ways. Here in lies the Great Euro-Lie. If the European Union regarded Britain as much a part of Europe as France and Germany, then it necessarily follows that pints are just as European as litres, and miles as European as kilometres. The European Union’s hostility to the European way of life which has developed in Britain reveals that its definition of “Europe” is a strictly selective one. It defines what is European and what is not โ€” and its campaign against European culture in Britain reveals that British people have no place in Europe other than as 57 million featureless numbers to add to the growing Euro-bureaucratic machine. An English village sweet shop can no longer sell four ounces of butterscotch but has to say “113 grams” and 9 by 4 inch envelopes will be re-labelled “229 x 102 millimetres” in a clumsy attempt to show how accurate metric can be. The British people, who have been quite happy with pints and pounds, will be forced instead to learn words like “decagram” and “hectalitre”. But nowhere are the effects of metrication more ludicrous than in our courts. Any witness who refers to a six-inch knife will be told by the judge to say a “152 millimetre” knife and instructed to speak only in terms of centimetres and metres. Thus, even to speak in non-metric language will be banned by the European Union in some circumstances.

The sheer unpopularity of European Union directives 89/617 and 80/181 may be gauged by the Government’s threat of ยฃ5,000 fines and six month prison sentences for those who use Imperial measures. Due to the Government’s attempt to sneak the changes in unnoticed by the public at large, confusion and contradiction has surrounded just who and what is affected by the directives. Doorstep milk pints may stay (for the time being) but milk cartons have to go metric. Shandy in pints is banned but pints of beer may remain. Pizza restaurants may continue to refer to seven inch pizzas rather than “177 millimetre” pizzas, but it remains unclear whether bicycle shop assistants risk prosecution if they say that a cycle has an 18-inch wheel instead of an European Union approved “457 mm” wheel. And will the police be guilty of a criminal offence should they refer to a suspect’s height in some official document as “six feet”? The classification “criminal” is a serious one and should be reserved for people who rob, assault and kill. That people like grocers and tailors can go to prison for failing to observe surreal metric-diktat is an indication of the mad Euro-whirlpool into which we are all being sucked.

Metrication is not the only form of uniformity being imposed by the European Union. Brussels has already phased in European Union passports and is now pushing the idea of a Euro-driving licence (complete with mugshots). This is likely to be followed by some sort of Euro-identity card. Perhaps Brussels might like to also consider scrapping British Bank Holidays and replacing them with Euro Holidays? Or introducing a Euro-wide telephone box design, or a single Euro-uniform for postmen, or the abolition of the British legal system? Or triangular tea-bags?

It defies belief that when there are so many real problems confronting Europe such as the war in Bosnia, Brussels finds time to fiddle about with such issues as whether manufacturers from outside Cornwall and Yorkshire should be permitted to call their products Cornish pasties and Yorkshire puddings. The European Union is presently considering a proposal by the European Parliament to set up a “European Observation Station” to monitor flying saucers. No less than 20,000 directives interfering in every conceivable subject from carrots and cucumbers to carpets and coffins have flooded out of Brussels. One of the European Union’s most recent directives has been its historic decision to forbid the use of a harmless colouring dye in frozen mushy peas. As a result, frozen mushy peas will be sold yellow in colour from June 1996. “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” says John Clark, sales director of frozen mushy pea producer, Lockwoods of Ambergate, which employs 24 people. “We have been producing mushy peas for thirty years . . . We feel this is a case of the big boys in Brussels pushing around small British firms. “Lockwoods of Ambergate will stop production in December 1995.

Other firms to feel the pressure of Euro-remoulding include rural garages which make small sales of petrol and have found it difficult meeting the cost of spending thousands of pounds on metric pumps. According to garage owner Frank Robertson from Cloughton, North Yorkshire, “It’s uneconomic to lashout on new pumps serving litres.” Mr Robertson’s Orchard Garage opened in 1929 and has now closed as a result of metrication. According to a motor trade estimate, four thousand rural garages have closed. All thanks to the streamlined beauty of “European Union”.

Europe has a long history of producing regimes and ideologies committed to the concept of the European superstate: Napoleonic France, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia. Now we have the Brussels Bureaucracy, intent on invading every nook and cranny of our national life and imposing conformity and obedience on 365 million people. But there remains โ€”justโ€”a glimmer of hope. Although the European Union can force unpopular directives by means of legal and bureaucratic coercion, it has failed to realise that forcing people to measure their height in centimetres does not make people like centimetres. Forcing people to use kilometres instead of miles will not make them like kilometres. And forcing British people to carry European identity cards will not make people feel European.

Rather than forging a new European identity, the European Union’s constant pushing is more likely to increase resistance, and it is in this that the seed of the European Union’s future destruction will lie. “Metric Day” has cut Imperial measures down in swathes and has been a devastating defeat for commonsense. Yet anti-metric sentiment can be heard in pubs, offices and supermarkets across the country. Here and there individuals are turning to face the metric onslaught. Property consultant Mike Natrass of Birmingham’s Natrass Giles, recently turned down a merger proposal when he learnt that the other company was going metric. He said, “We are British and don’t want to see things that are British being lost.” Another businessman, Bruce Robertson, owner of the Trago Mills Store Group in Devon and Cornwall, has made public his intention to risk fines in order to resist metrication. And spearheading the fight is the British Weights and Measures Association established by Vivian Linacre. Mr Linacre has vowed to stop metric absorption at all costs and is to challenge compulsory metrication in the European Court of Justice. Britain has four years before the current wave of metrication is completed. This period must be used to bring urgent pressure on our Government to halt the process it has so negligently permitted by giving the people of Britain a clear assurance that the mile and the pub pint will remain. The Government must decriminalise Imperial measures, resist the European Union’s banning order on pounds and ounces on January 1st 2000, and, most important of all, restore the teaching of Imperial measures in education. Such a stand will at last tell the bureaucrats of Brussels that Britain is not about to be stamped, streamlined and standardised according to specifications decided by officials the British people did not elect. Otherwise, for every inch we give the European Union, they will take a mile, or, as the European Union would prefer to say,

“Give us 25.4 millimetres and we will take 1.609 kilometres. “

September 8, 2008 @ 11:13 pm | Comment

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