Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, but no-one has told me how to do it.

I'm struggling to comprehend this:

A council spokeswoman said: "Data has shown there are people who don't go to the beach.

"We have families in Margate and Ramsgate - the more deprived areas - who have never taken their children."

She said when children from Newington Kids Club in Ramsgate were taken to Dumpton Gap, some of them said they had never been to the beach before.

And when council project officers go into schools, they regularly ask children if they have visited the beach. In nearly every session, there are some children who say no.

Whoa there. You mean to tell me that the reason some parents have never put a pair of shoes on and walked, for free, to the beach, which is free, in their own town is because they are deprived?

*boggle*

That is to say, that it has never occurred to these parents, on a nice day in the school holidays when the kids are bored and climbing the walls to take them down to the bloody beach?

Thanet (Ramsgate, Margate & Broadstairs) has much going against it, however one of the greatest strengths it has are its beaches, most of which are gorgeous sandy affairs. Ramsgate has a corker, Margate's beach is enormous, literally a five minute walk from the town centre and probably the only high spot in a town which is so faded it is almost transparent. Just outside Broadstairs is the sublime Joss Bay, a beach so beautiful that it could make angels cry, it has surf, numerous rockpools, caves, sea eroded arches in the magnificent cliffs that surround the beach which can be explored at low tide. It's a great place, look:


You see? Who wouldn't want to take their kids there? Which child wouldn't want to go and play in the rock pools looking for crabs and shellfish, or explore the caves and arches? Incidentally, through that arch you see is another enormous beach which on the far side turns into a moonscape of chalky rocks, it really is a wonderful place. And it is free.
How is being deprived preventing you from using this?

Still somebody has a job to protect and so has made sure that a problem is identified. Of course now that the problem has been identified, we need the solution. Can we guess what it is?

The authority has received £100,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to encourage locals to explore the coast.

Whaaaaaaat? A hundred grand, to tell people to walk out from their own bloody front door? You are joking aren't you?
No, of course not, these are council people, their sense of humour is surgically removed upon induction to the office.

OK, look, perhaps an advertising campaign for the beaches isn't such a bad idea, there are people from all over Kent who would love using them, plus it could bring some much needed revenue into the towns. It's going to stop there though, isn't it?

Activities coming up include a fun day on Margate beach and a "fit and healthy" day on the sands at Ramsgate.

Oh, no, come on, you're ruining it. A fit and healthy day? Why does everything councils touch have to turn to bland? Kids don't want that, they want danger, excitement. They want pirates and smugglers, they want a tide race. A tide race is so fun that it would probably be banned if it became widespread. The idea is that on a sandy beach you divvy people up into teams and at low tide, with the aid of shovels, you dig out and build the biggest sand castle you can, at the sound of a whistle, everyone in each team has to jump on, the tide comes in and the last team to be washed away wins.
But no, it'll have to be an eco-friendly, tofu pimping, five-a-day, socially inclusive, fit and healthy fun day.

Give me strength.

Once again, the state steps in and tells parents; "we will tell you how to raise your kids. Indeed, you can't be trusted, so we'll do it for you."

This is why kids aren't being taken to the beach - it's nothing to do with deprivation, it's to do with being told that your kids aren't your responsibility and you can only do things when someone organises it for you.

How very tragic.

A thing of rare beauty.

Nick over at Counting Cats has written the most delicious article on, errrm, hang on, I'll just go check I've got this right. . .

*door slams, footsteps running off*






*footsteps running back, door opening*

. . . on Palaeoclimatology.

No, no, no, no, noooooo, wait.

It's bloody superb. I'd try to pick out the highlights, but the whole bloody thing is a highlight.

Do go and check it out, the science seems junkier than a Chinese trading vessel, and Nick's comments made me laugh until spaghetti came out of my nose (I was eating a carbonara at the time of reading).

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Oh, how wonderfully generous.

Earth hour.

Wow.

I mean, wow.

Another example of world-class attention-whoring 'Oooh! Oooh! Look at me! I'm, like, soooooooo important.'

Of course, if it were that important that the lights go out for an hour, they'd be pressing for it to be done at half-four on a Wednesday afternoon in January, not the night before the bloody clocks go forward, so it obviously isn't THAT important, is it?

Another empty gesture to let everyone feel like they're making a difference.

Predictably the BBC are all over it like a 70's powder blue suit on a Nigerian visa applicant.

"It gives everyone the chance to have some fun, to organise their own events, and at the same time be part of an incredibly powerful global message to world leaders of the concern we all share about climate change."

Oh! Rapture! Wherever would we be without the benign and guiding hand of the WWF giving us, us, mere mortals, the chance to have some fun? I'm completely incapable of having fun without some jumped up self important bunch of panda botherers telling me how to do it. Not only that, but they're going to let me organise my own event! I need to lie down, the power is going to my head.

Look, arseholes, we do not all share your concerns about climate change. So, in future, when tempted to speak for me, why not try keeping your fucking mouths shut?

I liked it better when the WWF was all about Steve Austin wrapping a folding chair around the Undertaker's head.

Selfishness and self-fulfilling prophecies.

Ever feel like you've been played for a fool?



I'm not sure why there's a big banner with Thatcher on it, though. Are these people aware that she left Number 10 over twenty years ago? You may as well march around with a banner proclaiming William I to be a bit of a rotter. Let it go.
I really do have sympathy for those staring down the barrel of the cuts, people are going to lose their jobs and that sucks. There are some who will imply that a large number of the (TUC) estimated 200,000 people are lazy, feckless and incompetent. A number of them will be, but nowhere near as much as some would have you believe. There are some who will imply that an equally large number of those marching will be of the opinion that that it is just and right that money be taken from people to fund their job whether it needs doing or not. Again, a number of them will be, but nowhere near as much as some would have you believe. There are also some who would have you believe that the majority of these people would protest against a Tory government regardless of what policies they put in place. Well, you get where I'm coming from.

What frustrates me are the simple facts that have been ignored and will continue to be ignored by the Unions. Firstly there is the myth that these cuts are savage. They aren't. Not even close. These cuts represent the bare minimum that any government who wants to present even a pretence at cutting the defecit could make. Government spending is increasing, taxation on the public is increasing. This is because of the enormous interest payments we must make. Government borrowing has never been greater.

Many Trade Unionists were howling with rage at Osborne's comments about the 50% income tax band being temporary. These Trade Unionists demand that their livelihoods be protected whilst others have their's ripped from them. They see no irony or disparity in this. The self proclaimed great bastions of equality and solidarity would happily see people left destitute. 'Oh, come on.' I hear you say. 'These people are rich, they can afford it.' Well, yes. But how long will they put up with it? With the sort of cash and skills they have, any country in the world would welcome them with open arms. What happens to the employees when the rich up sticks and move, taking their business with them? What then for the cleaners and clerks? The production line employees and drivers? The shop stewards? What happens when these people lose their jobs? When their tax revenue dries up? You think the cuts are savage now?

The marchers have been whipped up into a state of hysteria by the Trade Unions. It is all very well Brendan Barber, Mark Serwotka and Bob Crow calling for strikes, their very handsome pay packets are not subject to being docked when their members go out on strike. What do they care if someone loses a day's, two day's, a week's wages? Having used their muscle to get their man in the big chair at the Labour party against the wishes of the party membership, they will do anything to destabilise the government and have their puppet put in place, dancing on the end of a string which they hold in their fist. The multitude marching are footsoldiers in this campaign, unquestioningly following the orders handed down to them by their own 50% tax paying overlords. And they are paying for the privilege. I'd be speechless in admiration of the genius if it wasn't so utterly sinister.

We then have the political placemen in councils and government departments all over the country. After thirteeen years of Labour rule, the placemen in government departments accounts for pretty much all the senior managers, Labour ensured this was the case. Before the cuts they warned it was front-line services that would be hit, and by God they've made sure their prophecy has come true. I've seen it in my own department; front line staff being given the elbow whilst the cake eating, tofu promoting, community cohesion diversity outreach social engagement inclusivity officers continue to take home one and a half times the wage of those being given the heave-ho. Is it Cameron and Osborn handing out the P45's? No, it is those people installed by Labour ensuring their prophecies come to pass.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, there is no magic money tree. We have spent the last thirteen years spending, spending, spending, spending, spending, borrowing, borrowing, borrowing, borrowing, borrowing, taxing, taxing, taxing, taxing. The amount taken from us makes us the most taxed people in the world, the amount raised does not match the amount borrowed, the amount borrowed is less still than the amount spent, the amount that continues to be spent. It is always the result of a Labour government.

For thirteen years the Trade Unions have known about it, and they said nothing. They ceased to be bodies representing their members a long time ago, they are now political entities seeking to impose their view without recourse to anything as grubby as democracy. Their silence over the last thirteen years, when they knew full well that the cuts would come in the end, is a betrayal of their members. Now to further their own ends, they send their troops into battle. Sure some of them will fall, but what does it matter? They still have their £145,000 a year pay packets and now they have the leader of the opposition in their pockets.

This is not some idealogical crusade by the Conservatives, they'd spend like a drunken sailor in port to cement their own position, if they could - the fact is that they've smashed open the piggy bank to find a button, a washer and a startled spider are the contents. There is no money. OK? There is no money. Remember the letter? There is no money. I don't know how much more clearly it can be said. There is no money. There is no money. There is no money.

God help us if we end up in the same position as Greece, Ireland and Portugal, because there will be no bail-out. We'll be on our own. Or worse still, there will be a bail-out, and the strings that come attached do not bear thinking about.

I have a friend due to give birth in June. It will be her first child. I submit that it is the height of selfishness to expect this unborn child to spend their entire life in penury, just so you can continue your lifestyle of new telly, regular clothes purchases, meals out, cinema tickets and two holidays a year.

As a Trade Union member you'll have to accept that if you voted Labour (and you probably did) that you voted for this, you voted for the spending. You believed Gordon when he banged on about prudence and golden rules. When everyone else was warning you about it, you ignored them, because life was so good. It was so easy.

Like I said, it sucks. It is horrible. But like the alcoholic who has just one more drink, the smackhead who needs just one final hit, you've allowed yourself to become addicted to the cash. Well, I'm sorry, you do not have the right to demand money from the unborn. Granted, you didn't spend the cash, but you gave the OK for people to do it for you. You have the right to vote, but all rights come with responsibilities. You exercised your right. It is now time to be responsible.

The really mindblowing thing is that Labour will be back in power again one day. You'll put them there. Despite every lesson of history telling you otherwise, you'll expect a different outcome next time. It is insanity.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Obrigado, Portugal.

It would seem that the economically functioning part of the Eurozone (and no doubt those EU members with the common sense to have stayed out of the Euro as well) will have to put their hands in their pockets to support the economically destitute part again.

According to the BBC, the Portuguese parliament has voted down the budget of spending cuts and tax rises which the Prime Minister was kinda banking on. As a result he's resigned and there will likely be an election to follow.

I'm delighted, OK, it may cost us a few more million, but to be honest, we're so in hock at the moment, it doesn't really matter. But this will cause more discontent in Germany. They grumbled over Greece, there was even the stamping of feet over Ireland, who knows what reaction this will bring forth, as a bail-out is pretty much a certainty.

Empires tend to evolve into existence, and with a couple of exceptions, tend to fade away. Like all quick build projects, the EU was made of concrete, it is cracked and the water is seeping in. As soon as that happens the fate of the building is sealed. Portugal is another squall.

Portugal can be bailed out, it won't empty the coffers completely, but what it will do is increase the burden further. Portugal is in this mess because they've had the same problems as Greece and Ireland, but here's the important bit - not as bad. But as people ran from Greece to Ireland in panic over their government bonds, they've also run in panic from Ireland to Portugal. As soon as everyone breathes a sigh of relief over their Portuguese bonds, they'll go running to the next worst place, Spain. If Spain goes under, then all bets are off, there's no halfway practical way that Spain can be bailed out, there just isn't the money. The financial institutions will complain loudly enough, but what happens when the people on the street find their taxes put up to bail out a foreign power?

Van Remploy and Barroso can go on about nation states not existing as much as they like, but they'll find out how many people reject that notion when the industrialised workers of the Rhineland find their savings being raided again to bail out a load of Portuguese and Spanish fishermen.

We owe the Portuguese parliament a debt of thanks, because the only way we're going to get out of the EU anytime soon is via financial collapse, there's not a hope of us being given a referendum.

Of course, the irony is that the Portuguese have rejected it because the idea of the something for nothing, big brothers and sisters picking up the bill culture winking out of existence is just too horrible to consider. They honestly think that by rejecting the budget they're ensuring the continuation of the life they've become accustomed to over the last 21 years. They're not. The other irony is, that by rejecting the budget, they are ensuring their indebtedness to the machine. Had they passed it, following an extended period of discomfort they'd have probably come out the other side.

However, their actions may, just, provide our salvation.

There's one for you, nineteen for me. . .


I just love being told how much of my money some twat who I, and most other people, never voted for, will allow me to keep.

Happy budget day, people.

Adverts we'll never see again - Part 4.


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Cardinal Fang, fetch the comfy chair.


Salted Slug and Devil's Kitchen have written about the astonishing article from George Monbiot today where he comes out in favour of nuclear power. His logic is that a fairly old station, still standing having been rocked by an earthquake, then stuck its tongue out and thumbed its nose at a tsunami that tried to wash it from the face of the Earth, and is still not killing everyone on the east coast of Japan. That means that nuclear power is probably as safe as we're going to get.
Welcome to land of common sense, George.

I fear for you though. This is a heresy. The Inquisitors are bearing down on you as I write this, capes flapping behind them as they run down the road, sinister music playing in the background. They will come for you, oh yes. You were one of them, and now you're a heretic.

How do I know this?

Simple. The BBC says so.

Oh, I really should stop going to their website, but I'm lazy and picking them apart is such good fun.

What have they been up to today?


The survey, commissioned by Friends of the Earth from GfK NOP, polled 1,000 people by phone over the weekend, a week after Japan's crisis began.

1,000 people? That must have taken minutes. Hold the phones! That's a big old section of society polled there. Do I detect a whiff of opportunism here?
"This poll shows that the government's plans for a major expansion of nuclear power in the UK are out of step with public opinion," said Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns for Friends of the Earth UK.

Well colour me surprised. Firstly, what are the odds of a poll commissioned by FOTE finding out exactly what they wanted? Secondly, the government are out of step with public opinion on pretty much every subject you care to name.
"People want clean and safe energy - the government needs to urgently refocus its energy policy, starting by improving the weak energy saving measures within its new Energy Bill."

Well, yes. You neglected to include cheap and reliable with clean and safe. Again it is stating the bleeding obvious. Question: Would you like clean and safe energy? Answer: Oh, yes please, that would be lovely.
What was the other question? I'm betting it was something along the lines of: Question: Japanese power stations could well spew out lethal amounts of radiation, meaning babies are born with six legs and no genitals and transforming crested newts into Godzilla, prowling the Japanese countryside, bent on destruction and the hits of Mario Lanza, does it worry you that the same could happen in Dungeness? Answer: Well, a bit. But it's better than coal though, innit?

So what were these figures that have so discredited the government's nuclear building programme?

More Britons support the building of new nuclear power stations than oppose it, despite the crisis at Japan's Fukushima plant, an opinion poll says.
Still, 35% either strongly or slightly support a programme to replace the UK's existing reactors, with 28% either strongly or slightly opposed.
So that's 37% don't know/don't care. Then comes in the pro-nuclear crowd. Then the anti-nuclear crowd.

Yes. When people say 'less is more' it isn't statistical analysis, you know. Less doesn't really mean more.

On the sauce.

One of the biggest disappointments I have had recently was the failure of Diane Abbott in the Labour leadership contest. I mean, yes, it was very entertaining to see Miliband minority knife Miliband majority right between the shoulder blades, I love the way his lisp comes out when he gets excited and I think it is great the way that the unions rode roughshod over the wishes of the party membership and imposed their own leader. It is also wonderful the way that he’s completely failed to come up with a single policy idea thus far. But then, look at Cameron, it worked for him. Not a word, and then it was cast-iron, but turned out to be polystyrene.

But if only we’d had Diane Abbott, we could have enjoyed so much more. Like this:


But shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said the government should go further and explore minimum pricing.


Oh go on, explore it.

Of course, what she means by ‘explore’ is best translated as ‘do what I bloody say whilst I smile, nod and talk down to you as if you’re a stoat with learning difficulties.’

Before the election, Labour refused to give its backing to minimum pricing.

Well, of course they did, only the SNP are stupid enough to kick someone in the bollocks and then ask for their vote. Not even Gordon Brown was that disconnected, and that’s saying something. (Say, whatever happened to him? I understand he won his seat, but we’ve not seen hide nor hair of him.)

But Ms Abbott told the BBC if a pilot showed it would reduce alcohol-related harm she would be in favour of the move.

Well, now I’m all for innovative thinking, but what does a pilot know about the price of booze and the harm it does? Firstly, the last person I want hanging around booze is a bloody pilot, plus they’re very well paid, so it probably won’t make much difference to them, plus theres' all that duty free they can pick up whilst jetting around the place, the slags. No, pilots are well qualified, but I don't think their skills are suited to this job.

Hmmm?

Oh, a pilot scheme? Well why didn’t they say that?

"It is wrong that very young children can get out of their skulls for less money than it takes to buy a bottle of coca cola.

How young are we talking here, Diane? Four? Five? There’s nothing less dignified than seeing a pre-schooler slurring the words to a nursery rhyme, pissed out of their head on booze in the park, before losing their lunch as they come down the slide.

I think it’s terrible that we see these gangs of eight year olds, challenging adults in the queue for the NiteKlub to a fight, absolutely spanked on Advocaat.

Do you know why it takes less money than a bottle of coca cola, Diane? Do you? It is because they’re very ickle, and so don’t take much booze at all.

I’ll submit my definition here. Baby – toddler – annoying little bastard (pre-school) – annoying little bastard (primary) – annoying middle sized bastard (junior school) – annoying big bastard with no sense yet all the answers, much like Diane Abbott (senior school) – adult. OK? Annoying little bastards are ‘very young children’ in my book. Once you hit the teens, the annoyance changes form, but is still as annoying.

It’s the teens you need to worry about Diane. 

Obviously the best way of preventing these ‘very young children’ from hitting the sauce is by making everyone pay more for it. But even then, I’m not entirely sure putting a minimum price is going to make all that big a difference. If only there was another way we could solve the problem.

Hmmmm.

Ooooh! Ooooh! I know, how about the Licensing Act? You know, the one your lot introduced in 2003? The one that prohibits the sale of alcohol to persons under the age of 18?

This is such a Labour solution to a perceived problem. Ignore the existing laws which obviously aren’t well enforced enough and bring in a new one, which does the same job but in a slightly different way, will have a shedload of unintended consequences and won’t be enforced properly either.

Trebles all round.

The article continues, but Dong Shitker’s name is mentioned and at that point I had to navigate away before I put my head through the screen.

Even out of government Labour boil my piss hotter than a Japanese nuclear power station’s pool.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Adverts we'll never see again - Part 3.


Extending your influence.

Anna Raccoon and Not Applicable (the name that Ian Parker Joseph has given himself via deed poll in preparation for the census*) have been ruminating on the EU's intentions regarding Libya and it makes interesting reading.

What I've found interesting is the sudden keenness of the French to get involved in this, especially when you consider that they were lukewarm on Afghanistan and downright hostile to the idea of going into Iraq. What is the motivation here?

In the comments on this post, I think Call Me Infidel hit a nail on the head when he said:

'it may be as simple as oil contracts for Total.'

But I also think it goes deeper than that. Without doubt the French are ultra-protectionist about their state owned businesses, both inside the EU and without. There is also little doubt that like all good bullies, the EU has an area outside its direct control which it considers as its 'sphere of influence'. Just like the USSR with Poland and all the other Eastern Bloc countries, they are countries which are independent and sovereign, as long as they do what they are told, even though they're not members. Well, the EU's 'sphere of influence' is that strip of land which stretches from the Atlantic coast of Morocco right up to the Egyptian - Israeli/Palestinian border and down into the top of sub-Sahran Africa.

Gaddafi has been a naughty boy, it isn't that he's been oppressing his population, after all he's been doing that for 40 years, the problem is he's now drawing attention to himself. The EU couldn't care less that there isn't a shred of democratic credibility about him, how could they care? The Mandarins of the EU and the Commission have inveigled themselves into the big chair without recourse to anything as grubby as democracy, and just like Gaddafi, they know what is best for their people, it would all be better if everyone just shut up and did what they were told.

Of course the EU will eventually creep over the Med, it's only a matter of time before one of the north African states is conned, bribed or strongarmed into joining. Cathy Ashton, a woman so ugly that when she comes on TV the Daleks hide behind the sofa, has referred to North Africa as the EU's 'southern neighbourhood' on more than one occasion. Once the EU gets a toe hold it will all be trumpets and poetry, a unifying force and so forth. Gaddafi was going to need sorting sooner or later, there was no way he was going to bend to the will of Brussels, so we may as well take advantage of the situation. I'm betting the EU apparatchiks are falling over themselves to offer 'assistance and advice' to Tunisia and Egypt as well, it is simply too good an opportunity to miss.

Have we considered why Sarko has been so keen to get involved in this? The French were the first out of the blocks, according to Sky News, hitting an armoured column with jets before the Libyan air defence systems were taken out of commission. The meeting was held in Paris. The French rep to the UN was agitating for a no-fly zone before even the US, let alone the UK. When the deed was done, Sarko addressed the French nation before O'Blimey had done the same to the Americans.

Make no mistake, the Americans are perfectly happy to ride along on the coat tails of this one. But why is Sarko so damned keen?

Some accuse Sarkozy of being an EU placeman. Someone who will meekly do the EU's bidding. Not a bit of it. Being a placeman suggests that one has the status of a puppet, and Sarko is no puppet, he is one of the driving forces behind the EUro project, he will sell France's national identity and independence without a second's thought. (As an aside, if the EU doesn't die bankrupt and is torn to shreds from within, I fully expect the Benghzai moment to happen in France. When the centime drops, they'll be furious, and the French do so love a good tear-up.)

This is all part of a process. The trappings of state have been picked up one by one, we've had the flag, the anthem, the parliament and the currency, we've recently seen the constitution, the President and the Foreign Minister, the police force isn't far behind, nor is the army. But what's the point of having the army if you're not going to do anything with it? This UNSC resolution is an EU resolution, the only annoying thing from the EU's point of view is that the EU isn't recognised as a country by the UN. Yet. But their own UN resolution? Chalk another item up on the list of the trappings of state.

The only thing they'll need then is their first war. Well, the Americans seem happy to take a back seat. The Chinese response to the whole affair has been 'meh', well, is there a great difference between China and Libya? The Russians have their own oil and gas, so don't really care. The Norwegians steadfastly and selfishly refuse to accept that it isn't their oil, it is European oil, and won't join the club. So why not Libya?

This isn't protection of the vulnerable, this is colonialism and opportunistic asset grabbing by the EU.

I'm annoyed it has taken me so long to figure it out.

Unfortunately, I have a bad, bad feeling about this. Will the USSR's Afghanistan be reflected in the EU's Libya?

* - I love that idea, Not. (That is to say your name, Not, that was not an indication I didn't like the idea in a 90's US teen movie style, Not. Oh bugger, I've done it again.) I like the idea of putting down your name on the census as Not Applicable, Not. (Bollocks there I go again).

Friday, 18 March 2011

Where the lines blur.

I do not agree with the death penalty. I think taking life is wrong, and I see no difference between someone being shot on the street by an individual or someone being hanged/electrocuted/injected with a lethal cocktail by the State. The fact that the person being hanged/electrocuted/injected with a lethal cocktail took another's life is irrelevant, your life belongs to you, and it is my belief that nobody has the right to take it unless in self defence. For me, a State execution is no different to a calculated murder, with one exception. The murderer with the gun on the street is not killing in my name or on my behalf.

So it is with this belief in mind that I struggle with the no-fly zone over Libya. Anna Raccoon has blogged on this subject herself this evening - one line in particular has given me food for thought:

Even some Libertarians are now saying it is perfectly OK to kill Libyans, so long as they are the right sort of wrong thinking Libyans.

That's a line that makes me uncomfortable.

It is all about where the lines blur between different states of mind. Does my model government follow an isolationist policy? No, it doesn't. To cut yourself off from the outside world makes no sense. What about non-interventionist? Well, history has shown us that Vietnam was a disaster, and we should be grateful that we didn't go steaming in with the Americans there. Korea was hardly a shining success either, we're still seeing the fall-out fifty years later. So from that angle, non-interventionism seems like a no brainer.

But wait, were we wrong to get involved when Germany invaded Poland? The Nazi regime did for millions of non-combatants, even when you discount the collateral damage of civilians in a theatre of war. Would it have been the right thing to stand aside and do nothing then? Even if the full horror of the Holocaust wasn't apparent in 1939, we had a good idea of what was going on. Would it have been right to have not got involved in the face of genocide?

No, I maintain that in the face of that alone, the Second World War was a justified campaign.

So where does the line blur between non-interventionist and interventionist? Iraq was obviously well over that line. Afghanistan slightly less so, but still over. Where does the no-fly zone in Libya come?

If Gaddafi chooses to probe, test or ignore the UN, are we justified in enforcing it? Make no mistake, for a no-fly zone to be enforced, people will have to die, be they pilots, ground crew, AA batteries, someone will die.

Is it our crisis to be involved in? I want everyone to be free, but we cannot give freedom. It is not a gift that can be given, it is a condition which can only be taken. We cannot simply hand it over. So from that point of view I do not agree with intervention in Libya.

OK, so, what's happening in Libya isn't a fair fight. There's no way we can make it fair, even if Tunisia or Egypt allowed the west to pour weapons over the border, it wouldn't be fair, we can't give the rebels an air force to challenge the Mad Dog. We can't give them training. And Afghanistan teaches caution, we armed the rebels against the USSR, that did not finish well. We won't train and arm an exiled force, I don't think the US is ready to revisit the Bay of Pigs fiasco. On that point I do not agree with intervention in Libya.

Following on from that, whether we arm the rebels or whether we go steaming in on their behalf, do we know what or who will replace Gaddafi? Will they be any better? One tribe will have to dominate the other, it is what happens here, it is just that our tribes are political, not ethnic. What if we preside over elections, how long will that take to bring about? Would our governments, finding themselves with significant reserves of oil under their 'protection' install anything beyond a puppet government? What happens when the population decide they don't like that and turn on us? Will we be justified in doing just what Gaddafi is doing now? We too would denounce them as terrorists and extremists, and would expect our rantings to hold credibility. What if the population, in a free election, decide they want someone we don't like? What if we have another Palestine/Hamas outcome? What then? Palestine will ride, they don't have oil, it is merely an irritant, but in Libya? On that point I do not agree with intervention.

It is clear that Gaddafi is killing his own people with impunity. Hitler did it. We intervened. Stalin, Pot, Mao and Kim (versions 1 and 2) did it, we did not intervene. It is a shocking betrayal of a people he claims to love. It comes back to the fair fight again, but also factors in abuse of power. On that point, I do agree with intervention.

However, where is the intervention in Bahrain? They have also killed their own in an unfair fight, and even called foreign armies to intervene on their behalf. What about Yemen? The same is happening there as in Libya. Zimbabwe? Sudan? Somaliland? We cannot do all of them, should we do any of them? No, can't agree on that point either. It is neither desirable nor practical to pop up everywhere there is unrest.

I can only support intervention in one of five criteria that I can think of. The sixth criteria is because we rely on Libyan oil. Unfortunately that is why we get exercised about Libya and not Yemen, as Yemen has no oil. That is why we get exercised about Libya and not Bahrain, as Bahrain has a 'friendly' leader, it is obviously less bad for him to kill his people than it is for Gaddafi.

I really, really hope that Libya will be rid of Gaddafi, but for it to mean anything, they'll have to do it for themselves. We simply cannot, and should not do it for them, for if we do, we will merely condemn them to another tyranny. At least this way, even in the face of the most difficult odds, they have a chance.

We've destroyed our own culture and country by thinking and acting for own citizens' good, whether they ask for it or not, for us to do it to another culture and country would be tragic.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Wait, hang on a minute. . .

Did that say what I thought it did?

*Goes and checks*

Yes, it did.

If you don't let me scan you small child, then Vince Cable will come and get you. . .
With that headline and a picture of a crying child, I was wondering what Vince Cable was doing there, it turns out it isn't him at all. That's a relief to be honest, he declared war on Rupert Murdoch, I'd hate to think what would happen if he declared war on a nuclear power station.

Normal service will be resumed shortly. . .

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

I hope you enjoy going to bed at 6 o'clock.

I blogged the other day about the moves by the German greens to jump on the quake and tsunami and impose their vision on the country.

Well, guess what:


Germany has temporarily shut down seven of its nuclear power plants while it reconsiders its nuclear strategy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said that all reactors operational before 1980 would be taken offline, and safety checks carried out on the remaining plants.

The move comes after concerns about radiation leaks at a Japanese plant after last Friday's earthquake.


Yeah, because Germany is regularly rocked by earthquakes and you can't get around Hamburg because of all the tsunamis that hit it.

Look, these stations have been in a massive quake, and have been hit by an enormous tsunami, and five days later they still haven't gone bang. Bloody hell, how much safer do you want them to be?

Salted Slug has the tech nerd details over at his gaff. He intends to swim over and declare himself King of Fukushima. I intend to use a motorboat so I can beat him to the punch.

The green lobby really won't be happy until we're living in yurts and using tallow candles, the health nazis won't be happy until we start getting diagnosed with cases of the vapours brought on by bad air creating a miasma. We've seen Concorde scrapped and the space shuttles decommissioned.

Why the hell are we moving backwards? Is this what is meant by the term 'progressive'?

Give me strength.

UPDATE:

The Filthy Engineer also has a decent idea of what he's talking about. 

UPDATE THE SECOND:

The BBC's disappointment is almost tangible here.

A quick question.

I've been out of the loop since yesterday lunchtime. So I'm more than a little surprised to see that the Bahraini government has invited troops from Saudi and the UAE in. I'm not at all surprised to see that the Bahraini government has declared a three month state of emergency, that it is all kicking off in the capital again and that Sky News is reporting that a Saudi troop has been shot dead by protestors.

My question is this; What sort of despicable monster invites troops in to their country to use force against their own citizens?

More to the point, what sort of despicable monster answers the call and actually sends their troops for this purpose?

Bugger the global economy, the sooner these revolting, backwards, mediaeval despots run out of oil and have no money to put their populations down, the better. Forget the ecological concerns, we need to get a viable alternative to oil bloody quick so we can stop doing business with these hateful people.

Monday, 14 March 2011

A parable.

There's an old guy who drinks in the local. Nice avuncular chap who enjoys a good yarn (this isn't the parable yet, by the way) he's cerainly had an interesting life, mainly as a result of his life in the military, having enjoyed his national service he decided to stay on and spent most of the next couple of decades in Germany, Cyprus and Hong Kong. He is the master of the shaggy dog story, much of what he says is based in reality, but the stories have obviously been tweaked with the line between fact and fantasy becoming blurred in places.

This doesn't make him a Walter Mitty type, his yarns aren't designed to relieve people of money or to make him seem grander than he is, they are a form of entertainment over a pint, and very entertaining they are too. There's a great one about the time Princess Margaret came to visit the base and saw an exhibition of tank formation dancing, the upshot being that someone managed to cross the channels between the microphone over the PA system with the radio comms between the tank commanders, and the less than regal language that was used by the commanders to cajole their charges inside the tanks was broadcast to the crowd. There's also a good story of him and his mates, on a 48 hour pass from base in Germany, encountering a very obnoxious, fresh faced American private in a bar in the Netherlands, and how in conspiracy with the locals they got him drunk to the point of unconciousness before taking him back over the border and dropping him in the middle of some woods on the banks of the Ruhr with nothing but his underpants and a copy of Das Kapital. All good stuff.

He very recently recounted this story, which is certainly apocryphal at best. I present it as a parable.

John had managed to fall through the cracks whilst the country was busy fighting the war. He'd come out of school and was functionally illiterate, he could write his own name but beyond that really couldn't read or write. He'd spent his national service term in Germany. As an NS conscriptee he had no desire to remain the military, whilst he did what was required of him without issue, he couldn't wait for his demob papers to come through. He'd made it clear to his CO that he would do his very best whilst he was there but wasn't interested in being 'developed' as modern parlance would have it. His CO understood and John was as good as his word, when his demob papers came through he was repatriated with a glowing reference from his CO as he had been a model soldier. However due to his lack of military ambition his illiteracy had never been identified or addressed. He left the army and came back to the UK in the late 50's no better off academically than he had been when he left. John just wanted to work.

He'd pimped himself about his native east end with his glowing discharge report held proudly in hand, but as soon as it became clear he couldn't read or write, prospective employers didn't want to know. He eventually went to the Labour Exchange to see what they had on offer. One of the people at the exchange informed him that there was a vacancy as a street sweeper and that given his record he could probably start next week, all he had to do was fill this form in. He struggled with the form in the waiting area for ten minutes, but he had no hope of completing it and his pride would not let him ask for assistance. He left the Labour Exchange despondent and threw the incomplete form in the bin on the street before meeting up with an old comrade in the pub as arranged.

His former brother in arms had left the service and started working at his family accountancy firm. John asked his friend if there was any work going there. His friend, who was aware of John's illiteracy, was apologetic but gave the same answer as all the other potential employers. However, John's mate hit on a plan, he loaned him £20 (pre-decimalisation) to enable him to get a barrow and some stock from Covent Garden. John thought this was a great idea and set up a pitch near Brick Lane. John was good at this and had repaid the loan due to his friend in a matter of weeks. Within four years he had a staff and three fruit and veg shops.

Back in the pub with his mate he was asked how business was going. He replied that it was great and that he was making money hand over fist by catering for the new immigrants coming in from the West Indies. John's mate was delighted to hear this and was touting for his friend's business in the accountancy firm so he could ensure that John's tax affairs were up to date. His jaw hit the floor when John said he didn't know what to do with all the money and that it was all stored in cash, in boxes under his bed.

'We've got to get you to the bank.' His friend said, it isn't safe having all that cash in your room. They went back to John's little flat, bagged some of the cash up and went to the bank. The manager was summoned when he said he wanted to open an account.

When the manager came out he saw this scruffy man in dungarees, overall and flat cap and looked down his nose at him. 'You'll have to fill these forms in, how much do you want to deposit?' he asked, expecting something in the region of a few shillings.

'I can't fill these forms in, sir.' He replied. 'I can't read or write. But I am looking at paying in about £500 today with another couple of thousand to come.'

The manager inspected the contents of the bag and became suspicious that this was the proceeds of some Post Office job. When he asked how John came to be in possession of the cash, John gave his story, with confirmations from his friend who was with him. The manager's attitude changed immediately. 'I shall complete the forms for you, sir.' he said, asking John for the information as he went along. When the formalities had been completed, and the cash safely transferred to the bank's vault he said to John, 'You know Mr. Brown, this is most impressive, despite being illiterate with minimal start-up capital you've managed to grow a robust and successful business. I can only wonder what you could have acheived if you'd been able to read or write.'

'Oh, that's simple boss.' replied John. 'I'd have been a fucking street sweeper.'

What's the moral of story? I'll leave that up to you.

But I'll leave you with this, if this story was set in 2011 rather than the 1950's, he'd have had someone to fill the forms in for him at the Job Centre. He'd have been fed into training to improve his literacy. He'd have been sent off to a parade of dead end jobs that wouldn't have made it worth him coming off the dole. Clearly John is no fool, and he'd realise pretty quick that it would be better for him financially to balls up the interview or perform poorly if he got the job. The exercise is to get him into work, yes, but not for his benefit, it is for the benefit of the government employment figures.

Yes, people need and deserve support to establish themselves, everyone deserves a chance to make a go of it, but John would have found himself wholly dependent on a system which suits its own ends not that of the user. What we have now would crush his acumen and his spirit.

This simply couldn't happen in 2011, I doubt it happened (well, knowing the old boy's stories perhaps not exactly like that) in 1958, but it does have a kernel of credibility when set in the late 50's, in the present day? Not a chance.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

I bet I know the solution.


The work has been focused on key junctions on the North Farm industrial estate, near Tunbridge Wells.

It is part of the North Farm Traffic Study, which is due to be completed by June when recommendations for solutions will be presented to council officials.

Traders have been calling for urgent action to ease traffic congestion amid fears customers are being driven away.

They say problems have escalated since John Lewis and Marks & Spencer opened flagship stores on the estate before Christmas.

What is the problem here, really? We can see that the local residents aren't mentioned here, so they are probably understanding that this retail park is providing jobs at a time when one isn't exactly falling over vacancies. Either that, or the council just don't regard their opinions as being important. Probably a good portion of both.

At a time when the economy is on its arse, we mustn't mistake the cries from the traders that there are too many people coming into the estate, their concern is that it is too difficult for customers to get on site, so they may not bother trying.

I have a feeling that the council will see the problem as being too many people are trying to get in. Calls to ease congestion would, in a sensible world, result in works to improve access and flow by increasing capacity on the roads and/or by introducing a park and ride scheme that is cheap, or even free and sponsored; it is in the interests of the business on site, after all. Thereby encouraging people to come, spend their money and ensure that a local success story continues.

But let us not forget that this is the country where this happens:

Why do I have a funny feeling that the solution will be the introduction or ramping up of parking charges, the construction of traffic calming measures and other things that make people want to stay away, rather than make it easier for people to get in?

Stupid, stupid everywhere, and no-one stops to think.

Bugger it being a big weekend for sport, this has been one of the biggest weekends for idiocy I can remember in a long time. Let's start with sport though;

Iran has indicated it will attend the 2012 Olympics in London, despite complaining that the Games logo resembles the word "Zion".

I couldn't help but chuckle when the story of a proposed boycott broke, but it would appear that perhaps it isn't that important to them after all.


They objected on the grounds that its resemblance to the word Zion - a Biblical term for Israel - was racist.

But now the Iranian-backed Press TV has quoted an official as saying Iranians will "participate gloriously".

Will they? Oh, that's nice. It's not often I agree with Cameron but he hits the nail on the head here:

In an interview with the London-based paper Jewish News, Mr Cameron said: "It's completely paranoid. If the Iranians don't want to come, don't come - we won't miss you.

I think Iran may have one or two more important things to worry about. Boycott the Olympics because the logo is a Zionist insult to Islam? Really? I can understand you boycotting the Olmypics because the logo is crap and a PR catastrophe, but this?

William Hague isn't about to quit, and hasn't lost his mojo and has the full support of the PM. That makes me think there'll be a new Foreign Secretary before the month is out. It seems that Baldy Bill hasn't learned from his mistakes of the past:
“So there’s a certain irony,” he adds. “People tell me there’s a newspaper article saying I lack energy, presumably written by some lounge lizard who’s rolled up at 11am and wondered what to write about (without being rude about journalists!) when I’m already on my second country that day. We’ve put a huge amount of new energy into British foreign policy.”
How many pints at how many pubs on the dray round? 'When I'm already on my second country that day'? I have visions of Hague sat at a table, with the tablecloth tucked into his collar, knife and fork in hand.

What is it with politicians and willy waving? What is it with politicians and making laws, then deciding that the laws they've made don't apply to them because they're too important? EU law especially. I forget who it was who made the point in the House over the prisoner votes debate about the danger of governments picking and choosing which laws they abide by, and the SNP are masters of this.

Plans to introduce minimum drink pricing in Scotland will be revived if the SNP wins May's Holyrood election.

If, although given the low regard the big three are held in at present, May probably can't come quick enough for the SNP.

But they [the plans] were opposed by Labour, the Lib Dems and Tories, who said minimum pricing would penalise responsible drinkers and was probably illegal.

It doesn't matter if it's illegal though, because a politician wants to do it. The thing with politicians (especially Socialists) is that the rule of law is absolutely sacrosant, right up until the point where it is obstructive or inconvenient for them, then it must be ignored.

But addressing delegates, Ms Sturgeon, also the Scottish health secretary, will say the SNP acted like a government, while opponents acted disgracefully.
Oh, how telling. She's right though, by completely disregarding a law they don't like, the SNP have indeed acted just like I would expect a government to act. The disgraceful actions of the opposition must only refer to their saying 'but that's against the law, we can't do that', if so, I have no desire to be a disgrace, does this give me carte-blanche to ignore all laws? Because I'm game.

As Counting Cats pointed out the Ecoloons are already starting to make capital out of the quake and tsunami in Japan. He has some arseclown putting it all down to homeless polar bears, or something. Meanwhile in Germany. . .

The nuclear accident in Japan has sparked a discussion about atomic power in Germany, where a massive anti-nuclear protest was already planned for Saturday. A senior Green Party politician has said that some German plants are vulnerable to the same kind of failure as happened at Fukushima 1.

Riiiiiight. Vulnerable to the same kind of failure?

According to the US Geological Survey, the last earthquake in Germany was as recent as February 14th this year, it came in at a jaw dropping 3.9 on the Richter Scale. 3.9 is labelled as 'often felt, but rarely causes damage'. The difference between 3.9 in Germany and 8.9 in Japan is akin to the difference between dropping teaspoon on your kitchen floor and dropping a reinforced concrete box full of lead and elephants on your floor.

I can find no records of a tsunami in either the Baltic or the North Sea. So when you say that 'some German plants are vulnerable to the same kind of failure as happened at Fukushima 1', you mean that after an earthquake of unbelievable power and then being hit by a bloody great tsunami it still hasn't blown up and made the east coast of Japan uninhabitable for the next four generations, I think I'd be tempted to take my chances. I wonder how many Japanese wind turbines are standing after the quake and tsunami. I'm betting not many, but then I'd be surprised if there were that many to start with, because the Japanese have more sense and realise that a functioning country is more important than making offerings to some green god.

It looks like 10,000 people in one town, half the town's population, has been wiped out. It makes Aberfan look like a stubbed toe, and you have the gall to make capital out of it for your own self-importance and political agenda? The Greens really are some of the least attractive people about, there is no depth to which they will not stoop.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Spam


For some reason, Blogger has decided to go mental about spam, something I've only been hit by occasionally over here. I've had to move a few messages out of the spam folder over the last few days and am having to get into the habit of regularly checking the folder.

Ironically, every comment that has been diverted to the spam folder hasn't been spam. It seems the way to avoid the spam folder is to talk about your scaffolding firm, search engine promotion tools, cosmetics, ugg boots or willy pills.

Go figure.

Anyhow, fret not, if you are one of the people who sees fit to comment over here, don't be put off, I'll fish you out eventually.

Falling out of love.

Another sporting entry.

It is a big sporting day today, as I write this I'm watching India play South Africa in a World Cup match. Cricket is a sport that I've grown into and find that I enjoy more and more. I think the 50 over game is soon to become a relic; it has never really been embraced by the purists and it is too long for those who enjoy the knockabout fun of the T20 game. Cricket is nice. It is respectful without lacking the capacity for those 'oooh, here we go moments' of controversy, it has shown it can change with the times without betraying its spiritual heritage, it is passionately followed, yet that passion rarely boils over into hostility. I like cricket a great deal.

We also have the penultimate (?) weekend of the six nations. Rugby is a sport that I traditionally dismiss as being 'egg chasing'. I find the Union code is obsessed with kicking whilst the League code is obsessed with never passing the ball. Union has always annoyed me, I've found that it specialises in a type of fan (the vast majority of whom are English) who are a particular type of bore. They seem to view their support of the sport as something of a crusade, and have this urge to pin football supporters in a corner, jabbing them with their finger whilst explaining why their code of football is morally, athletically and socially superior. I don't understand why they do it. Some people who like association football don't like rugby football, get over it. I'm sure there are many tennis fans who couldn't give a tuppenny fig about canoeing, yet the canoeing fans don't seem to want to brow beat the strawberry eaters.

The casual violence on the rugby pitch, in Union mainly, bothers me. It is seen as an amusing part of the game to behave in a fashion infront of a crowd that would see you up infront of the magistrate if you behaved that way on the street. Because it is perpetrated by, in the main, bloody good public school old boy middle class chaps, this is acceptable. It isn't. Oh, you'll get banned for stamping on someone with your studded boots, for attempting to gouge someone's eyes out or picking someone up and throwing them down head first into the ground, but punching someone in the face is all part of the fun. Still, I suppose to give them their dues, they all seem to be friends in the bar at the end of the game, everyone calls the referee 'sir' and they don't surround him, faces twisted in rage spitting bile and hatred, when he makes a decision they think may be incorrect. It's a funny old game.

As far as the handling codes go, I much prefer the American version. It is a bit stop and start, but I find it is a sport that is true to its roots, delivers a package which generates a lot of support, not only from the fans but also the sponsors, yet the vast amounts of cash poured into it have not led to wholesale changes in the format of the competition. Despite a worldwide audience of God knows how many for the Superbowl, there is no sponsorship on player's shirts. The officials are (literally) untouchable and the league makes sure that competition is sufficiently even for all 32 teams at the start of the season to ensure that interest remains. When the new seasons starts in September, 8 teams will have a real shout at winning the title, another 16 a decent chance of getting there with a bit of luck, 4 teams will find it a challenge, 4 teams will have no hope at all. (Bizarrely, the Cleveland Browns are perpetually in this last group, despite the league's best efforts to make it a level playing field. I'll start shitting out £20 notes before the Browns win the Superbowl.) Yet for all of this, for all of the hard hitting on the field sometimes the crowd seems a little sterile, almost as if they are enthusiastic, yet ultimately disinterested. It also bugs me that when the Vince Lombardi trophy is awarded at the end of the Superbowl it is handed over to the team owner, rather than the head coach, quarterback or most senior player. It just doesn't feel right.

So that brings me once again to football. A friend asked me last night 'are you watching the football tomorrow?' It reminded me that this afternoon it is Manchester United vs. Arsenal in the FA Cup 6th round. These are two of the biggest teams competing in the oldest and one of the most presitigious competitions in the world. My response? 'Dunno, I find that I'm falling out of love with football. The sport is becoming so ugly.'

What I mean by that isn't that it is ugly on the pitch, all the time, Barcelona and Arsenal both play a style of football that is so beautiful it could make angels weep. I've been to matches where the atmosphere is, to use a well worn cliche, electric; real goosebumps, hair standing on end, hang on, I've got to go to the toilet, electric.

But over the last few years the face of the sport has been changing. I'll start with the supporters. Heated rivalries are important, having someone you 'hate' is one of the most defining qualities of tribal football support, but it now seems that a good season is not measured in your own team's success but in your closest rival's failure. A good deal of my friends on Facebook (my personal page, rather than my Snowolf persona) are both Arsenal and Spurs fans. The Spurs fans seemed happier to see Arsenal go out to Barcelona this week than they were to see them see off Milan. Whereas the Arsenal fans seem more bothered that Spurs won, rather than they lost. Can this be so? Is it really true that the Arsenal fans would rather see Spurs go out than to see their own team win? It isn't attractive. Tease your rivals because you won, by all means. But because they lost when you were nowhere near? Really?

I wrote about Ferguson the other day, and now Wenger, the manager at Arsenal with whom Ferguson has had more than one difference of opinon, has been acting like a clown. There was a controversial decision to send of Robin Van Persie, Arsenal's Dutch forward the other night. He was sent off because of, I thought, a poor interpretation of a poor law of the game, but them's the breaks. At the end of the game Wenger and the referee were nose to nose and having a right old row in a most unbecoming manner.

Arsene, old chap, the decision is made, what is getting in the referee's face going to solve? So he made a bad decision. Live with it. He's human, we've all made poor decisions, even you. He then had the temerity to the demand an apology, whether it is from the referee for his reaction and/or decision, or UEFA for disciplining him and/or the bloody silly rule is not clear. Let's reverse the roles and suppose that when his 'keeper went off injured early on in the match that the substitute he'd brought on was a striker, and he'd dropped the aforementioned Van Persie back to play in goal and Barcelona had gone on to score to eight. An unlikely scenario, but perhaps Arsene had decided it was the right decision, under pressure in the glare of the spotlight, at the time. How would he react if an Arsenal fan went nose to nose with him to protest the decision. Would he take no action and just mark it up to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune? No. There'd be bannings from the ground, flashing blue lights and probably a fine if not a short spell inside. So what makes this OK for him then?

As for the referee, he should know a lot better, and I believe that just as the managers are contractually obliged to speak to the media pre and post match, the officials (who are professional now) should also be obliged to speak to the media about why they made a decision they made. UEFA must stop pretending that their officials can do no wrong. Managers must stop pretending that they can do no wrong and that the officials can do no right. It really doesn't make the game fun to watch.

Nor does the constant moaning and whining, from the players. The endless simulation of injury. The incessant badgering of the ref over every decision, the mimed invitations to show their opponents cards for some imagined foul play, the grabbing and pulling of the officials. Laying hands on the officials? Do that in Rugby, the NFL, Major League Baseball, hell, any sport other than WWE Wrestling and see where that gets you. Yet the officials on the pitch do not deal with it, the administrators do not deal with it, the clubs condone it.

The game's calendar is pulled and pushed about to meet the demands from sponsors. Well, they need that sponsorship money, is the response. Yes, right up until the point that the sport becomes so detached from its base that no-one watches. Then see how the sponsors turn and walk away. The traditional supporters excluded by sky high ticket prices used to bankroll the enormous wage demands from players, that are met by clubs with no business plans and levels of debt that would make the Irish government sweat. The sulking from those players if their every demand is not met, every request is not granted. They take £100k per week plus, and then expect their employer to tug their forelock and wipe the player's arse for them, and amazingly, the employer does it! What madness is this? I've no problem with earning a shed load of money, but. . .

Ugly, ugly, ugly, ugly.

No, I'm falling out of love with football. I think I'll take the dog for a walk instead.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Movie night.

Two little films for you tonight.

We'll start with the comic relief. The first clip is an animated short from the DVD extras of 'Despicable Me', an excellent family film if you've not seen it. It is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. It has been recorded by some chap off his TV with an HD video cam, probably illegally posted, but there you go. The quality is good though. Enjoy yourself for three minutes.



The second video is a little more serious. It had Mrs. Wolfers applauding. I commend it to you now and urge you to watch.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Don't it make you proud?

Yes, The Economist's Democracy Index ranks us 19th out of 26 in democracies around the world.

Clicking image should, viagra like, make it bigger.

Yes, the UK, not as good as Malta or Luxembourg, slightly better than Mauritius and Costa Rica.

Still, could be worse, the Italians and French are ranked under 'flawed democracies'.

It's the only time I can think that I'd like the European parliament to be recognised, I wonder which category they would come under? Hybrid regimes, perhaps? That'd put them in the same category as such luminaries as Hong Kong SAR, Albania, Malawi and Palestine.

It's enough to make you swell with pride.

It's about courage.

An interesting little article over at Direct Democracy today about how the question of an in/out referendum regarding the EU won't go away, how many Tories are turning to UKIP and the phenomenon of cross bench agreement between Labour and Conservative MPs in their support for such a referendum. It's a rum old do, and I do think the debate about the votes for prisoners was the moment a very large penny dropped.

I remember the days when Labour were EUro-sceptic, well in part at least, there was a very real danger that Labour in opposition in '93 could have wrecked the ratification of the Maastricht treaty. Of course they didn't because even then, their top table was completely in hock to the EUro project. I remember being raging at the time as a very naive teenager who was foresquare behind the EU, I've worken up since then. But the world has changed since the early nineties, not least because Labour are starting to lose votes to the BNP. I don't think this is because Labour are propped up by a bunch of horrible racists, Socialists have many ugly facets, but casual racism isn't one of them, it is because so many people are utterly fed up with the EU. Those Labour voters who are fed up with it aren't likely to vote UKIP, because they are at heart Tories. Despite their discomfort about the BNP's agenda, they are the only party offering what they want in a left centric fashion (pay no heed to the hype, there is nothing right wing about the BNP, they are as red as red can be, just as Mussolini was), so they will go there.

For the Tories the argument is simpler, they understand markets and are not burdened by a sense of loyalty - my party right or wrong - as it were. If the party they follow stops offering what they want, they will take their vote elsewhere. Unfortunately for the Tories their top table is also hopelessly, helplessly wedded to le projet. The backbenchers will stamp their feet, and can do it all they like, it will make no difference, the only thing cast iron about Dave and his chums is that he will do everything he can to ensure that the UK remains in the EU. Just like Mubarak in Egypt, Cameron will defy the wishes of the majority to the bitter end, right up until the moment a man with a (metaphorical in i-Dave's case) gun taps him on the shoulder. It is no coincedence that one of Cameron's first gambits was to neuter the 1922 Committee.

Even so, it is easier for the Tories to unseat their leader than it is for Labour. Lest we forget, Labour have never chucked a leader out on his ear, it just doesn't work that way, and the current leader was elected by the internationalist trade unions, not the party membership.

The Labour back benchers could find themselves slapped down in short order.

The Tory backbenchers will be studiously ignored.

The LibDems, well, just look at Nick's history, they talk a brave fight, calling for a full referendum when everyone else was calling for one over Lisbon was one of the more transparent bluffs I've ever seen. They'd run a mile if they thought one was ever on the horizon. They're a blusted flush, anyway. When Farrage talks about UKIP being the proper voice of the opposition right now, I don't think he's too far from the truth.

I've always maintained that Labour sold their heritage down the river when they plumped for Blair and Brown, they abandoned their core constituency because they wanted power. That damage will take years to repair, if it ever is.

The Tories did the same thing when they elected Cameron, they'd rather be in power than have a leader who represented their views. Well, it was your party, your choice.

So, it is all about courage.

Will the MP's have the courage to jeopardise their hands being on the levers of power? Will those who vote for the big two have the courage to vote in a way which means their tribe may not have power?

Do the Labour backbench MPs have the courage to go against their newly imposed leader? Doubt it.

Do the Tory backbench MPs (who at least have two options) have the courage to either defy their leader and try to bring about a leadership challenge, or even more radically try hold him to ransom by threatening to bring the government down by taking the UKIP whip if he doesn't submit to their demands, and do they have the courage to actually do it if he calls their bluff? Doubt that too.

No, the real courage must come from the voters. Do the electorate have the courage to realise that our continued membership of the EU is the biggest issue out there? Make no mistake about it, if you want to be a resident in a territory that is a constituent part of a Federal single European state, then you want to stay in. If you don't then you want to get out. There are, and can be, no half measures here, the stated aim of the EU is clear, if you think it won't end in one bloody great big country stretching from the Bosphorus to the Atlantic, then you're kidding yourself.

Do the electorate have the courage to end their own abusive relationship with their tribal party and vote elsewhere? Is there really a desire to get out of the EU? Do people really care?

Unfortunately I fear not, and this is what the EU, the European Commission and the leaderships of the big three bank on. I'm confident that if a referendum came to pass, that an out vote would win the day, but I don't think the electorate have the gumption to force the issue through the lobby or the ballot box. I think that those who do care can make life uncomfortable for their natural parties, but I don't think they can bring the house down.

So that means it is down to our MPs to do the right thing and give us the chance to have our say, once and for all, whichever way it goes. The prospect of relying on them chills me to the bone.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Does he have any redeeming features?

This descends into trivia, but has got my goat this weekend. If you want something with a little more import, head on over to Old Holborn's place, where it would seem that some serious shit has gone down. . .

Anyway, who is it that does not have any redeeming features?

I could be talking about William Hague, who has not had a good couple of weeks as foreign secretary. Indeed he's proven that the spirit of Palmerston is alive and well, although perhaps unfortunately for Baldy Bill, it seems to be living in the body of an assistant working on a whelk stall in Folkestone.

But I'm not though.

I could be talking about the poor old Duke of York, who appears to have made some very poor choices when it comes to friends. He's accused of being boorish, heavy handed and of having bad judgement. Well, he did marry that woman after all.

But I'm not talking about him either.

I'm talking about one of the nastiest, meanest and downright objectionable people to have occupied the public stage for the last twenty five years. He is arrogant, lacking in grace and manners, bears grudges whilst suffering from a towering persecution complex, which is kind of ironic, given his history of embarking on campaigns against other individuals, and is a master of hypocrisy.

To many people he is a hero, to many more his is the role of villain, posturing, shouting and screaming, bullying and intimidating others. Who am I speaking of?

Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United. I have no club axe to grind here, I was the supporter of a small non-league team until they went out of business last summer. It always amuses me that the supporters of five or six clubs perpetually accuse each other of trying to buy the title, long gone are the days of the The Lisbon Lions, the Celtic team that won the 1967 European Cup when all team members were from within 30 miles of Glasgow. I have no problem with United, Ferguson I have a big problem with however.

His latest act was to refuse to speak to the media following United's 3-1 away defeat to Liverpool over the weekend, he also barred his assistant, Mike Phelan (who normally does the talking to the BBC, more of which in a moment) and senior player Ryan Giggs from talking to the media post match. It is a mark of the man that on the fairly rare occasion when United lose (and for all his faults there is no doubt that for a generation, Ferguson has proven himself to be one of the best, if not the best in the game) this is the sort of stunt that he pulls. I cannot remember any occasion where having lost we've seen Ferguson come out and say 'fair play to the opposition, they were the better team today and deserved the victory'. You see, Ferguson's United, in his mind, are never beaten, they are cheated by a dishonest opposition, a negligent or colluding referee, a poor pitch, on one famous occasions by the colour of their shirts. I'm not a psychologist, but I'm betting he's a fascinating case study and it certainly seems to work, I'm guessing that a lot of his team talks are based upon the concept of a band of brothers, struggling against a system which is set up to penalise them.

This latest episode all comes down to comments made by Ferguson following the recent game against Chelsea. United lost, and, surprise surprise, it was all down to the referee, Martin Atkinson. Atkinson, it would seem did not send off a Chelsea player that Ferguson considered should have been sent off. Ferguson said that he 'feared the worst' when he heard that Atkinson had been selected for the match and that 'You want a fair referee – or a strong referee, anyway – and we didn’t get that.'

On the sending off that wasn't he said: 'He does Rooney clear as day, [Atkinson was] six yards from it, he doesn’t do anything'. Ferguson has form in this area and is the subject of a two match suspended ban for similar displays, he may well find himself barred from the dressing room and pitchside for four games when the wheels of FA justice finish turning. I have no problem with any manager or player criticising a poor refereeing performance, but here Ferguson is questioning the integrity of a fellow professional, and that isn't on.

It is also the height of hypocrisy, given the line trotted out by Mike Phelan following an elbow that was thrown by Rooney in the game against Wolves, an assault which the referee decided did not merit ejection from the game, to the amazement of the non-United supporting public. Without any hint of irony, Phelan told the BBC that 'The referee saw what he saw and he kept the game rolling. We can’t dispute a referee’s decision. He is out there on the field to take charge of the situation.'

Quite, well, what's good for the goose, or does it only count if the decision is in United's favour? If it isn't then it can be disputed until the cows come home.

So why was Phelan talking to the BBC? Well, in 2004, the BBC made a documentary about Jason Ferguson, one of Sir Alex's sons, who was acting as a player agent. The programme made some allegations about Jason's activities and character that perhaps did not reflect well on either Ferguson. As a result of this, Ferguson never speaks to the BBC. I have never heard of any action taken against the BBC for defamation, so make your own judgements on that.

I can't stand this man, his attitude, his behaviour, his face, his inability to chew gum with his mouth closed, his habit of threatening reporters who ask him a question he doesn't like that they'll never work again. In my opinion he is a bully, who tries to use his position to belittle others and expects special treatment, treatment that would have him ranting if others received it.

He's not the only villain of the story, Wenger at Arsenal is notoriously short sighted, Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea seems to blithely allow the most appalling behaviour from his charges, the list goes on. But Ferguson takes the biscuit. The best line I heard about him was on the radio the other day; 'He could start an argument with the Dalai Lama, in a prozac factory.'

I detest him, especially when you consider him against the character of one of his contemporaries, the late, great Sir Bobby Robson.