Sunday, 24 May 2015

Irish Vote For Gay Marriage

In a Worlds first, the Irish Government let the people decide if they would allow gay marriage and it overwhelmingly voted yes, remarkable for a country where some 35 years ago contraception, divorce and homosexuality were all illegal.
The two camps firmly opposed, and thankfully in the minority, where the Church and the outright homophobic, both of which i find baffling.
The Church obviously don't like homosexuality because it says God doesn't like it in their little book, the same little book that goes on to demand: 'They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads'.
Little tolerance there you may think but the Bible also calls for the death of people who ignore Priests, witches, fortunetellers, anyone who hits or curses at their parents, adulterers, other religious followers, non-believers, women who are not virgins on their wedding night, Blasphemers and Sunday workers so it isn't a hotbed of clemency and kindness anyway.
The second group are the homophobes who for some reason make their decision based on what happens in the privacy of someones bedroom as if that makes a difference. 
Deciding that someone is less worthy of their rights because they share their lives with someone of the same gender is forged from the same idea that that the colour of your skin or your gender makes you somehow less deserving.
Thankfully, racism and sexism has been left behind by the vast majority of the population who see a person and base their decisions on that other persons thoughts, morals and personality and not who they have sex with.
I hope that you find a way out of the 16th Century if you are in the first group and things have moved on from 1953 if you are in the second however much you may not like it.

Not Dealing With Islamic State

Might be worth remembering that a few years ago the West wanted to arm and train the rebels in Syria, the same rebels who banded together, called themselves Islamic State and then crossed the border into Iraq much to the disgust of America.
Now that they are taking over large swathes of Iraq and Syria, merrily murdering entire towns as they go, the Americans plan that it would leave the Iraqi troops take on IS, supported by American 'military advisers' and air support is unravelling alarmingly as the march of IS continues in Iraq and Syria and a plan B is needed.
The problem with America and Britain's plan B is that it is the same as the original plan in 2003 when they invaded Iraq and that resulted in a million Iraqi deaths.
Some may say that America and Britain should not be involved as if it is not related to the actions of Bush and Blair when they removed Saddam, as if the chain of events from Saddam's removal, via Al-Queada and then IS never happened.     
The only two solutions i can see are either a massive invasion by US, UK or NATO troops but after a decade of doing little more than disrupting the Taliban in Afghanistan, and IS are a much more powerful force than the Taliban, this is causing a few wobbles in the seats of power.
The other solution is the Vietnam style exit where we, cut and run away and leave the Iraqis to their fate.
Seems either way the death toll is going be horrific and whatever way you cut it, it's our bed but it isn't us who is laying in although to hear the rhetoric coming out of Washington and London, it's all the fault of the Iraqi's.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Congratulations Sweden

They will be giddy in Gothenburg, slapping backs in Stockholm and probably mullered in Malmo because Sweden have been crowned Eurovision Champions 2015.      
In a show of a continental two fingered salute to our politicians, Russia came in second and in what can only be called a bizarre mass deafness related incident, Italy finished third.
The invite to Australia to become part of Europe for the evening finished with them coming in fifth and countless mentions of 'Good morning Australia' as it was 8am down there when the voting section of the evening began and at that time they would only be on their second breakfast tinny.
As for the United Kingdom and our 1920's style song, oh dear, it limped in 24th out of the 27 entries with a disappointing five points, three points ahead of France but five points more than Germany and Austria who ended the night with nul points, which is tremendously embarrassing for the hosts.
As usual we have to blame the block voting of neighbours voting for neighbours and as we are an island, our neighbours have neighbours they are actually sharing a border with so we are always onto a loser but this year we had a half-way decent song which was heavily promoted with a good reception around Europe for the past two months so we can't really blame the song but in that fine British way, we have to find someone to blame and i blame Tony Blair.  
Since the dodgy ex-Prime Minister join forces with that lot over the Atlantic, our European cousins have shunned us so we can add spoiling our chances of ever winning Eurovision on Blair as well as him ruining the Labour Party and getting us involved with iffy Americans and their dodgy oversea wars. 
Anyway, congratulations Sweden and it's off to Stockholm next year where we will turn up and be on the receiving end of another sound thrashing by the likes of Latvia and Montenegro but still finish above the French and Germans. Losers.

Greece Broke

Greece have said that they will not be able to make next €300 million repayment to the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), as 'the country has no money to pay', the Interior Minister announced today.
'The four instalments for the IMF in June are €1.6 billion, this money will not be given and is not there to be given' he explained.
Rather cheekily Greece have their hand out for another €7.2 billion bailout but talks between Athens and its international lenders have stalled over the refusal of the Greek authorities to carry out labour and pension reforms.
My question is, if Greece does fail to make the payment, what is anybody going to do about it? 
The lenders can't fine them or ratchet up the interest, they got no money to pay so financial punishments would be fruitless and sanctions would only reduce the little amount they have anyway so someone, somewhere, is going to have to either stump up the money for them knowing they have little chance of seeing that  €300 million ever again, write off the debt which they will never do or renegotiate the repayments over a longer period of time.
However it turns out, Greece seem to have had their cake, eaten it and gone back for another slice.       

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Eurovision Line Up Complete

The dust has settled on the Eurovision Semi-Finals and we have the line up that is going to compete for the title of best song in the European Broadcasting area.
Call me bias but having heard all the songs battling it out for the crown, i believe that the United Kingdom has a good chance this year with our swing style 'I'm Still In Love With You' ditty.
The first reason is that the contest is stuffed full of ballads and ballads hardly ever win, its the quirky  ones that get the attention and our song is definitely something unusual and one of the only few up-tempo toe tappers.
Secondly, it hails back to a time when the United Kingdom was liked and half our problem in recent years is our unpopularity around Europe (the other half of the problem was naff songs) so a glance back to the age of flappers and the Kit Kat Club is a wise move.
The bookies favourite is Sweden and it is a decent song as is the Israeli entry and Greece has a decent power ballad that is reminiscent of something an X-Factor winner will put out and the Cyprus entry should do well as a dark horse but my money will be on United Kingdom finishing somewhere in the top five.
With Ireland unceremoniously booted out in tonight's Semi-Final we have lost that local rivalry but we do have the Australians taking part this year so it will be considered a victory if we can finish above them if only so we can add Eurovision to the victories we have over them in other areas.

Feeling For The Iraqi People

You really do feel for the people of Iraq who have had a succession of brutal oppressors running their country.
Saddam Hussein killed as many as half a million Iraqis during his reign of secret police, torture, mass murder, rape, deportations, forced disappearances, assassinations and chemical warfare until he was forcibly removed by the West.
In turn the 'coalition of the willing' killed up to a million Iraqi's as it shock and awed its way into the country and after it kicked down the walls, let in Al Queada who bought the car bombs and suicide vests to the marketplaces.
Now Islamic State has joined the party and is murdering its way across swathes of the country and having taken Ramadi with a mass killing of Iraqi security forces and civilians and steeling itself for a run on Baghdad.
George W Bush and Tony Blair may well have washed their hands of Iraq a long time ago but they are directly responsible for everything that has happened to the citizens of Iraq since they removed Saddam Hussein but they are keeping their heads down but you hope that they see what has happened in the country that they 'freed' in 2003 and it lays heavily on their conscience.
Somehow, you doubt it though.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Our Pale Blue Dot

Until i saw the COSMOS series with the very watchable Neil deGrass Tyson, i had never heard of Carl Sagan who wrote and starred in the original COSMOS series back in 1980.
I have though, previously seen the famous Pale Blue Dot image of the Earth taken by the Voyager 1 space probe from 3.7 billion miles away where our planet appears as a tiny dot in the vastness of space.   
Amazing picture and perfectly complimented by one of the most thought provoking passages written where Sagan contemplates that on that dot in the picture: 'everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.'
'Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark' he muses before explaining that this is the only home we have ever known and we have nowhere else to go and how we should: 'deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot'.
Powerful stuff but still we go on polluting the planet, stuffing poisons into the atmosphere, shoving toxic waste into the ground and generally vandalising the only place that we have to live on.
What the image also drives home as we look at that tiny pinprick of light in the vast blackness of space is how we are just a tiny, infinitesimal part of the universe.
It shows how we are not at the centre of things as we maintained for centuries, that we are not even at the centre of our own solar system which is just one of tens of billions of solar systems in our galaxy alone, a galaxy which is in turn amongst hundreds of billions of galaxies in the Universe.   
Whilst we could quite easily make excuses for our less knowledgeable predecessors that the Sun and the Planets went around us and that the Earth and everything around, above and below it was created for our delectation, to maintain that idea today that a God created something 13.8 billion light years across just for the inhabitants of an insignificant,  rocky planet situated out in the sticks on the arm of a far flung Galaxy is the height of arrogance or ignorance.  
The image should make us feel very humble and shows our place in the great scheme of things which is an inconsequential dot in the immense vastness of space and alarmingly, the only place we have to live so we should be taking better care of it because once we have wrecked this planet, we don't have anywhere else to go.

Wanna Job?

It's boomtime for one section of the Civil Service in Saudi Arabia as a recruitment drive is underway to increase the number of executioners as the amount of beheadings has risen to 85 this year and plenty more are expected under new King Salman’s rule.
The job description published online on Monday says no special training is required from applicants and the executioners will be required to behead criminals in public as well as carry out amputations on those convicted of lesser offence's.
The executioners would be considered as ‘religious functionaries’, since they would be serving religious courts and be on the lower end of the civil service pay scale, the ad said.
The recruitment drive comes a day after Saudi Arabia executed the 85th person this year. The number reached in less than five months is compared to an estimated 90 executions over the whole 2014, according to Amnesty International.
There has been a surge of executions since King Salman ascended the Saudi throne in January as he has appointed additional judges to deal with a backlog of appeal cases by death-row inmates.
Criminals are usually executed in Saudi Arabia by public beheading, although occasionally death by stoning or firing squad is ordered. The crimes punishable by death range from violent crimes like murder and rape to blasphemy, adultery, drug crimes, witchcraft and sorcery.
In 2014, Saudi Arabia was ranked third on Amnesty International’s list of countries that carry out the most executions, surpassing Iraq and the United States. China and Iran were ranked 1st and 2nd.

Why Israel Is At Eurovision

For those unacquainted with the history of the Middle East, the idea of a country which borders Jordan and Egypt partaking in the Eurovision competition may appear an odd one.
The often cited reason is that Israel are an European people who happen to be in Asia but the real reason is because Israel is within the European Broadcasting Area as are Tunisia, Lebanon, Libya, Morrocco, Jordon and everyone within the EBU are invited to come along.
The truth is therefore that it is nothing to do with politics or geography, but the EBU leaking out from the borders of geographical Europe into parts of Asia, Israel and some parts of the Middle East and North Africa can join the party although most decline the invite, Israel accept and send along a participant.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Should We Worry About Deflation?

For the first time since March 1960, Britain has moved into negative inflation, or as they call it deflation.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, has said that this was not damaging and the pound in people's pockets was now going further and is good news for families and shows the benefits of an economic plan that is working'.    
Of course he would say that and it is not what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is saying as he said 'deflation is a symptom of a weak economy' and is 'like a thermometer and when you get deflation it is a symptom that the patient is not doing well'.
I am more inclined to believe the man with the Economy Nobel Prize than the man who is running the economy and will therefore spin it as a good thing but i am sure that we will soon find out as the financial problems of 2008 continue in 2015.