Monday, 30 June 2008

Mythbusters

I have a new favourite TV show and blimey, it is a science show.
Mythbusters is special effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman using scientific methods to test the validity of various rumours, urban legends, myths and internet rumours.
This week they tested the 'Brown Note' theory which saw Adam stood amongst some huge speakers and swamped with an infrasound frequency that is said to cause humans to lose control of their bowels. He never unfortunately.
Britain has its own version of Mythbusters called Brainiacs but that is played more for entertainment but there is a certain amount of crossover such as running on custard, mobile phones at petrol stations and the aforementioned Brown note experiment but Mythbusters seems to have a much larger budget and can therefore smash cars between two trucks, build an Archimedes Death Ray and attach rockets to a car to see if it would take off.
Brainiacs is one of Sky's Televisions best viewed programmes and Mythbusters seems very popular on the web so there is the call for science based programming as long as it's done the right way and doesn't blind you with unfathomable science.
One thing is the lousy British accent that Adam Savage seems to launch into at least once a show, it sucks dude. Stick to burning off your eyebrows or making fun of Jamie's impressively ludicrous facial hair.

Euro 2008 Conclusion

Euro 2008 is over and it is the Spanish clacking their castanets together excitedly as they become the best football nation in the continent of Europe.
England, of course, were a load of old tosh and failed to qualify with Russia making it through at our expense and despite what the St George flag waving folk told us before the whole shebang started, England was not missed.
Our dour footballing style would not of contributed to more excitement on the pitch and i am almost certain that the sight of our boozed-up fans lobbing cafe chairs at groups of Germans would not of enhanced things off it.
What we did learn was that despite being labelled the worst German team for decades, they should never be written off or underestimated while the Dutch and Portuguese teams should be written off every time.
We also found out that the Italians, Swedes and French are past their best while Austria, Switzerland and Poland never reached the dizzying heights of being rubbish to start with.
Holders Greece proved that when they won it last time it wasn't a fluke as many suggested, it was a real life miracle and the Russia that swept so majestically past Holland in the Quarter Final were left bemused and dizzy as they got battered around the head with a rolled up Spanish flag in the semi-final.
Spain deserve to be Champions, they were easily the best team at the competition, but the most entertaining team by far were Turkey who have obviously spent the last four years practising the tactic of letting the other team take the lead and then pottering about until the referee was checking his watch and then launching one into the top corner.
Great stuff and it all whets the appetite for the new Premier League season where newly promoted West Bromwich Albion will attempt the same tactics as Turkey only without the scoring at the end bit.

Everyone's Feeling The Pinch

There is a pensioner in the news who's dwelling is badly in need of maintenance. The roof is in a state of disrepair and the stonework on the front of the building is literally falling off in chunks.
As is usual in these belt tightening times, the little old lady is facing a substantial bill to fix all the problems in her home and is appealing for funds to fix her crumbling home.
The home is Buckingham Palace and the pensioner just happens to be the Queen who receives £15m annually from the British taxpayer and is estimated to have a fortune of £280m so we have two options.
The first option is to take sympathy on the old dear and dig deep into the public purse and hand over the $40m needed for the repairs as well as the extra annual £4m requested for further upkeep.
Option two is to tell the cheeky moo to pay to get her own damned roof fixed.
But don't take my word for it, let's ask this minimum wage earning factory worker if he would mind paying more to the multi-millionaire Royal Family to pay for the upkeep of Buckingham Palace.
Didn't think so although i suspect it would be anatomically impossible for her to place it there Sir.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

England Now Nuclear Weapon Free

When they are not being accidentally carried over US cities, the movements of the US nuclear arsenal are top secret but the USA have been kind enough to remove its nukes from Britain after the last 110 American nuclear weapons left in the UK were quietly removed from RAF Lakenhealth in Suffolk.
At a time when the United States are applying pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions, the US still has nuclear bombs in five European bases, in Belgium, Germany, Holland, Italy and Turkey although the issue is controversial and continually draws protests as has the new idea of placing US interceptor missiles somewhere in Eastern Europe.
A 2006 Greenpeace Survey showed that 70 percent of Europeans want to live in a nuclear weapons free Europe. The polling data also demonstrated that a sizable majority of the citizens in countries which host US nuclear weapons were unaware of their presence.
With the overwhelming response on finding out another country holds such devastating weapons in your country being to tell them to get them the hell off, the governments of several NATO countries have insisted that these weapons be removed from their territory. The US has previously removed their weapons from Canada, Greece, Greenland and Iceland who are all now free of US nuclear bombs.
Britain and France are the only nations in Europe with its own nuclear weapons although Britain is not averse to stashing its devastating armaments in other countries, during the cold war it hid nuclear weapons in Cyprus and Singapore without even telling the respective host Governments.
What this all means is that England is now free of nuclear weapons. All of our own nuclear warheads, missiles and submarines are stationed in Faslane, Scotland which will be well received this side of Hadrian's Wall and suits me as i live on the South Coast of England and as far away from them as is geographically possible, but ensures that our (Scottish) Prime Minister is not going to win any popularity contests up there anytime soon.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Israel Palestine Peace Holding...Just

Interesting that the shaky peace between Israel & Palestine is still holding although there is mounting pressure on Israel to respond to the 4 rockets that have been fired into Israel by Palestinian militants.
Probably suits many to depict Palestine as the one attempting to break the truce but of course there has been little mention that since the deal, Israel has continued raids into Palestinian territory, killing two people which prompted the Islamic Jihad rockets landing in Israel.
The tit for tat killings will probably sadly return but to see and hear the likes of Fox News urging Israel to 'defend itself against militants hell bent on wrecking the peace deal' is ignoring the fact that it if anyone, it has been Israel who have been doing their level best to wreck things since the announcement.
Just wanted to put this down as a marker for the inevitable future arguments over who broke this particular deal.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Feel Our Wrath Mugabe

As Robert Mugabe carries on doing his best impression of a despotic tyrant, the British Government have decided to get serious. No more mister nice guy, we have had enough and the foot is coming down. We are withdrawing his honorary knighthood.
I didn't even know he was an Honorary Knight, or to give him his full title 'Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath', but it seems the Queen deemed him a worthy recipient in 1994 for his work in liberating Zimbabwe from white minority rule and as a proponent of reconciliation with the white population. How's that working then?
Her Majesty goes dishing out Honorary Knighthoods to reward the Commonwealth citizens and non-British friends her Government regards as worthy folk around the world although as this episode shows, it can be all turn a bit sour afterwards.
Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush snr all got Hon. Knighthoods as have Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg but including Mugabe, there have been some glorious embarrassments.
German Emperor Wilhelm II and Japanese Emperor Hirohito were both on the receiving end of shiny British baubles before doing their level best to kill us and it was probably not that well received by the Romanian public when we gave a KBE and a hearty handshake to our pal Nicolae Ceaucescu, although we did snatch it back the day before he was shot.
Luckily Hitler never made the cut but probably the greatest faux pas was when we deemed his ally Benito Mussolini worthy. Il Duce got one in 1923 although it was rescinded in 1940. We don't just let anyone have them you know.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Why Not Human Rights For Apes?

They use tools, have rudimentary language and star in TV commercials moving pianos and drinking cups of tea, but now Apes are about to be given equal top billing on the evolutionary ladder with us humans by being granted human rights.
Spain's parliament is set to approve a new law giving the right to life and freedom to our closest relatives making it the first time any national parliament has issued human rights to non-humans but even more surprising is that this is happening in Spain where animal welfare usually includes throwing goats off church roofs and torturing bulls.
Interestingly scientists did originally place apes next to humans under the genus Homo but this proved controversial to the church and apes were pushed out into their own sub human genus, Pan.
Persuaded by the discovery that we share 98%-99% of our DNA with Apes which is closer than the relationship between donkeys and horses, New Zealand and Great Britain granted great apes rights as 'non-human hominids' with legal protection from animal experimentation, torture and slavery.
There have been growing calls for chimps and humans to be brought together under the same umbrella genus again but the question is what is the criteria that makes us humans and them apes?
We both have the ability to think, communicate, learn, use tools, share major blood groups, suffer the same diseases and viruses, feel emotions, dream, anticipate the future, show empathy and researchers in Japan discovered that chimps are better at numerical memory tests then humans.
It is hard to find a single redeeming quality that humans have that Apes don't share with us and to find exactly what sets us apart and makes us deserve a genus to ourselves because in the grand scheme of things, it seems we are as near damned identical as it is possible to be.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Psychic Predictions 2008: Update

As we are fast approaching the halfway point in the year, this would be a good opportunity to have a quick check on how the Psychic predictions for 2008 that the British Psychics at www.psychics.co.uk managed to foresee in January are getting on.

The Psychics predicted that:

1. The Beijing Olympics would be cancelled,
2. Earthquakes in California and Greece,
3. A hurricane greater than Katrina striking the US,
4. Panic as scientists discover that something healthy is actually the opposite,
5. India engaged in conflict,
6. A small nuclear detonation in the Middle East,
7. A major terrorist attack involving a missile,
8. The assassination of a major American politician,
9. A major volcanic eruption,
10 Riots in the UK,
11 Poignant space news
12 A white boat/ship with the name ELLE in the name making major news.

Hmm...not looking too good at the moment i admit, but the year is only at the halfway point so plenty of time to put that right although looking at the not very cheerful predictions above, maybe we should hope that the psychics were in a bit of a grumpy mood that day.
Remember, in accordance with the new laws governing psychics and mediums, this is just for entertainment and no money should be handed over to anyone claiming to predict your future. Unless you are terminally hard of thinking then email me at the address above to receive a personalised and in depth analysis of why your next bank statement will show an outgoing of £10, and all for the one time offer of £10.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Meet The Men Behind The Manhattan Declaration

Welcome to tonight's edition of the Weakest Link. Today's contestants are all signatories of the recently published Manhattan Declaration that sets out to dismiss the belief that climate change is man made.
We start with the strongest link from the last round, that's you Timothy Ball.

Anne: Timothy, which retired professor acted as a consultant for Friends of Science who are part funded by the oil industry?
Timothy Ball: Me.
Anne: Correct.

Anne: Robert M Carter, The Institute of Public Affairs is funded by Mining companies BHP-Billington and Western Mining Corp and oil companies Caltex, Esso Australia and Shell. Which global warming sceptic is a member of the IPA?
Robert Carter: That would be me Anne.
Anne: Correct.

Anne: Richard Lindzen, True or false, you act as a consultant to oil and coal interests and had your speech 'Global warming: The origin and nature of alleged scientific consensus' underwritten by OPEC?
Richard Lindzen: True.
Anne: Correct.

Anne: S. Fred Singer, which physicist runs the Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) and has been a paid consultant for several oil companies and has received multiple grants from ExxonMobil to fund the SEPP?
S. Fred Singer: I do Anne.
Anne: Correct

Anne: Patrick J. Michaels, who has received funding from the German Coal Mining Assoc, the Edison Electric Institute, the Cyprus Minerals Company and the Intermountain Rural Electric Assoc. to fund his World Climate Review newsletter and blog?
Patrick J. Michaels: I have.
Anne: Correct

Anne: Robert C. Balling, Jr, which Geography professor had the Kuwaiti government pay for a version of his DVD 'A Heated Debate' to be released in the Middle East and conducted an ExxonMobil-funded study in 2002 entitled "The 2000 United States Historical Climate Network Update: What Changed?"
Robert C. Balling: That would be me Anne.
Anne: Correct.

Anne: Tom Harris, which former head of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, set up this organisation on the initiative of the High Park Group, a lobby organization with clients that include the Canadian Electricity Association and the Canadian Gas Association?
Tom Harris: Me Anne.
Anne: Correct

Anne: Tim Patterson, which scientist is a member of both the aforementioned Friends of Science and the Natural Resources Stewardship Project?
Tim Patterson: Me Anne.
Anne: Correct.

At the end of that round you managed to bank billions between you from anyone who has an interest in kicking the Climate Change debate into the long grass so as well as all being thoroughly discredited, you are all the weakest link. Goodbye!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Guns N Roses: Chinese Democracy

For those of us that like their music loud and played by men with long hair and amplifiers turned up so loud you can actually feel your eardrums trying to escape your head, the late 80's and early 90s was music at its high water line.
If you spent that era being shouted at to turn that noise down while you played air guitar in your bedroom, then the news that one of the greatest bands of our time is on the verge of releasing its next album should leave you as pumped as Pee Wee Herman's rubber doll.
Thirteen years and over £6 million in the making, Chinese Democracy by Guns N Roses is reportedly slated for imminent release and tracks are already being downloaded after being leaked onto Torrent sites.
Axl Rose is the only surviving member from the original band which relied heavily upon the unsurpassed talents of Slash on his Gibson Les Paul Guitar although Brian May and Red Hot Chilli Peppers former guitarist Dave Navarro are said to have been drafted in to attempt the impossible and fill that particular gap.
With Rose one of rocks all time greatest frontmen and the chief writer on the G'n'R big hits such as Sweet Child O' Mine, November Rain and You Could Be Mine, the album promises to be an equal to any of the 5 others they have previously released and with the exception of only a handful of bands, we need a group like Guns n Roses because the music being put out today is depressingly bland.
It is also impossible to not like a band that annoy Jon Bon Jovi so much.

UK Leading The Way

Raise your glasses, run that Union Flag up the pole and break out the best China cups because good old Britannia is sitting pretty once more at the top of a global table.
Actually, it could be defined as a rather dubious accolade to pick up because the world table we lead is the league of weapons sales with shows that the United Kingdom is now the worlds number one arms exporter.
We are responsible for a third of all worldwide exports of military equipment and have just flogged 72 aircraft to Saudi Arabia for £4.4b which obviously does not contravene the Governments much trumpeted ethical foreign policy it drew up upon taking power in 1997 which promised they would refuse to sell arms to nations if there was a chance that they would be used for internal oppression, external aggression, or regional tensions.
Might be better not to mention that in 2006 we exported arms to 19 of the 20 countries identified as "countries of concern" for abusing human rights including Saudi Arabia, Israel, Colombia, China, Russia, Pakistan, Jordan and Turkey.
I expect the Government's best brains will have got together to construct a case for supplying these weapons to regimes that regularly hit the headlines for their human right violations.
Here comes the Trade Minister Digby Jones now to pick up the baton. He's bound to strike the right note of spin and half-truths to ease our concerns that we are a major contributing factor to the death and destruction happening globally.
"As demonstrated by this outstanding export performance, the UK has a first-class defence industry" he said.
Ok, maybe he won't then but at least we can be proud that the next time we watch the news and see a shell explode into a block of flats or a group of demonstrators cut down by a spray of bullets, we supplied them.
Brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye every time. Mostly to the victims families.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Britain And The U.S.E.

Two events this week that have sparked some passionate debate in Britain. The first was the hypocritical response to the death of the first servicewoman in Afghanistan, and the other the 'NO' vote in Ireland at closer integration with Europe.
The way the EU Constitution works is that all 27 member nations have to ratify a treaty for it to be accepted. Nineteen countries have so far agreed to this particular Lisbon Treaty and the referendum in Ireland returned the not unexpected, but thoroughly Democratic, refusal.
I am pro-Europe and have argued many times that the future is one large European nation run along the line of the United States of America so the Ireland result was a disappointment to me personally but the Irish citizens said no and that has to be respected, but at least they got the opportunity to vote against it because here in Britain the Prime Minster has taken the decision for us and ratified it anyway although that is on hiatus because of a legal challenge.
There will now be some tinkering with this Treaty and a few sentences deleted, inserted or replaced to make it more acceptable to the Irish followed by a series of re-votes until it is accepted which i don't have an aversion to although the way the PM has rode roughshod over the British people has left a nasty taste in my mouth despite my obvious agreement with the EU vision.
The United States of Europe is going to happen, it is inevitable so we have a choice. We can become part of the process and have a voice in the decisions that that shapes and defines who we are and what we are doing or we can stay outside and be swept along with what others decide in our absence.
The world is changing and the next century will be dominated by countries like China, India and America and the voices of countries likes Ireland and Britain will be ignored as inconsequential. Europe has to be in there swinging as an influential major player on the big decisions that effect us all from future conflicts to the Environment and that means us joining together to become a global force of 800 million people because the alternative is us becoming that small island off the Coast of the next Superpower withering to a painful demise.

Equality: Hypocrisy In Death

Two events this week that have sparked some passionate debate in Britain. The first was the death of 26 year old Sarah Bryant, now infamous for being the first British servicewoman to be killed in Afghanistan when she and three others died in a roadside bomb attack.
The tragic death of such a young woman inevitably debate centered around should women be sent to serve in conflicts with the suggestion from some being that they should be given jobs 'behind the lines'.
The nature of the war in Afghanistan is that there is no front line, as soon as you land you are in the thick of it so regardless of if you are infantry or intelligence, you are equally in peril.
If the armed forces are prepared to sign up young women, and there are women prepared to do the job, then they must show equality when it comes to the less publicised areas of their chosen career.
Britain has lost 106 members of its armed forces in Afghanistan and although the Prime Minister pays lip service to the dead and injured each week, this death seems to have struck a chord that the deaths of 105 men never seemed to chime.
To a grieving parent or child, whether it is their mother, father, son or daughter that dies at the hand of the Taliban, it is just as much a life altering catastrophe.
You either have equality and ask everyone to do the same job with the same consequences or don't let women into the job in the first place if you don't want to see them getting killed.
To the Government and newspapers like the Murdoch owned Sun, that were so gung-ho to send our men and women there and are shouting the loudest on this topic, i say too late. You got what you wanted so deal with the consequences.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Yesterday's Friend & Today's Terrorists

Funny thing terrorism. Nelson Mandela and his ANC party were condemned as terrorists by the USA & UK and he is still officially on the US list of known terrorists but there is a movement to have his name removed.
Whether Mr Mandela was a terrorist or not depends upon your interpretation of exactly what a terrorist is and whether they are supporting the overthrowing of a government you are against.
Fidel Castro waged a campaign to overthrow a corrupt and brutal leader in Batista in Cuba and was rewarded by over 50 years of sanctions and repeated attempts on his life by a Batista friendly USA.
While Saddam Hussein was fighting Iran, he was supported by the West with those famous chemical weapons but as soon as he turned his attentions to the oil fields of Kuwait, he went from hero to terrorist overnight.
Al Queada went from what Ronald Reagan said were 'the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers' when they were trying to remove Russians from an invaded Afghanistan but are now 'the greatest threat to mankind' when it is American soldiers they are trying to remove from an invaded Afghanistan.
In May 2001, the USA handed the Taliban a gift of $43m, in October of the same year they were forcibly removing them.
Hamas and Hizbullah are condemned as terrorist organisations for attacking Israel although it is Israel that are the occupiers and began life itself after a terrorist campaign by the likes of the Stern Gang and Irgun Zvei Leumi.
The IRA went on fund raising trips to New York and Boston and were shaking hands with President Clinton while IRA bombs exploded with deadly effect in England.
Sure does make it difficult to keep up with who exactly are the terrorists and who are fighting for a worthy cause.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Look At The Firmware On That!

In the 1980's film, Revenge of the Nerds, a band of like minded dweebs fought back against there tormentors to gain their peace, self respect and a cute blonde girl. In the real world the nerds would be given wedgies before skulking off home to sit in their bedroom and play computer games until 4am. That's just the way it is and under no circumstances would they get the girl unless she came with a footpump.
But in true techno-geek fashion, the pasty face brigade have given up trying to woo the female population with their knowledge of calculus and being able to recite the script from Star Wars, and have built there own girlfriend. Nerds meet Emma, Emma meet nerds.
According to the makers, she walks like a lady, swings her hips to music, is always affectionate and acts like a real girlfriend.
Before you guys trade in your floppy for a hard drive, she is only 38cm tall and made of plastic but this is the first step on the journey to Futurama style sex-bots.
The idea of humans interacting with synthetic humans is an old idea but as technology continues relentlessly onwards and upwards, it will become more and more commonplace.
For some people - the lonely, the miserable, David Hasselhoff - sexbots could be a great relief and release although there are fears that an entire class of humans may emerge who will not know how to interact with the opposite gender and may never have sex with other humans. Very much like today's computer programmers come to think of it.

They Call It Stagflation

To borrow a line on economics from Harry Truman, who is dead and probably doesn't need it: "It's a recession when your neighbour loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours".
To me the way economics works is that i choose something, pay for it and then moan about how much it cost for weeks afterwards.
As soon as the conversation turns to inflation or interest rates, my mind generally wanders off to a tropical island where David Boreanaz is serving me a Sea Breeze while dressed in only a pair of tight speedos and a glint in his eye. His toned, muscular torso browning slowly in the heat of the sun while he lays the tray down beside me, the sweet fragrance of sun lotion toying with my senses as he moves closer....ahem.
So, anyway, in a desperate attempt to show us that they know what they are doing, the Bank of England have made up a new word for whatever it is our economy is doing, Stagflation, and then warned that whatever they decide to call it, it's going to crash above 4% by the end of the year driven up by soaring food and fuel prices. Cue the news channels full of sombre looking men in suits holding clipboards and pointing to messy line charts and mumbling something about economic efficiency and frugal policies.
I am happy to admit that i know very little about economic matters and there seems to be so many contributing factors that it is hard to get a simple answer to the question, who is to blame?
Something, somewhere, has changed and it has had a domino effect on everything else from oil prices to worldwide food shortages and maybe it is too simple a solution to suggest we just work out what that disastrous change was, and change it back again.
My money, if i have any left after filling up my car and buying a loaf of bread, on what has driven everything to this present climate is iffy wars in the Middle East and someone in a financial institution being greedy and wanting to make a few billion more.

Monday, 16 June 2008

No Advertising Here

As i heard on my Sony CDX-GT424 CD/MP3/USB car radio that has amazing looks and great features which come together so you actually look forward to long car journeys, the culture secretary has spoken out against plans to introduce product placement as an alternative against commercial breaks.
I drew on my Raffles 100s which are a blend of the finest flu-cured golden Virginia, air-cured Burley and Oriental tobaccos for that mild taste and contemplated just what i would prefer as i drove my Peugeot 307 1.6 (Peugeot are committed to leading the industry with style, flair and a relentless drive for aesthetic achievement) to the Asda supermarket where shoppers can buy top quality products at low, low prices such as the new BOSCH TAS4011 Coffee Maker which combines the great Tassimo system with Bosch's renowned looks and quality, and offers a world of flavour with perfect results every time.
On the one hand the advertisement breaks are annoying, especially during a film but they do give a convenient break for nipping off to the kitchen or bathroom.
Maybe one evening i will have to switch off my affordable yet stylish Sony Ericsson W200i mobile phone with its amazing 5 mega pixel camera and switch on my Panasonic TX-26LMD70A Television with V-Real technology, acclaimed for delivering outstanding image quality and decide, although i really hate the idea of some smart arse trying to sneak in subliminal adverts when you least expect them.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Bush was an utter catastrophe but at least...

We have a visitor to our shores tomorrow, a grey haired older gentleman with a Texan twang, a penchant for falling off bicycles and arguably the most despised politician on the Planet.
Mindful of the record breaking protests that greeted the American President when he popped over in 2003, the Metropolitan Police have banned a proposed protest against him as he visits here on his farewell tour, although organisers are planning to go ahead with it anyway and dare the British police to be shown around the World stifling Democracy at home while we export it elsewhere at the end of a gun.
The British public have not really taken to the Bush Administration with Condoleezza Rice constantly harangued by large and boisterous demonstrations when she stopped by in 2006 and only last week John Bolton cutting short a visit after an attempt by George Menbiot to to arrest him for war crimes.
The general consensus on Bush's Presidency is that it has been an unmitigated disaster not only for the US but for everywhere else as well and if we never see him again it will be too soon, but every hated figure in history has made a decision or done something, no matter how small, that everyone agrees was actually a good thing. Even Italian dictator Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time but what can we find if we dig far enough down through the mire of Bush's legacy that can make his increasingly shrinking band of supporters say "Yes, Bush was an utter catastrophe but at least..." I have nothing.
Possibly he had a policy that those of us outside of the USA are unaware of or have been overshadowed by his failings, but all i see is Afghanistan, Iraq, national Debt, Kyoto withdrawal, rows with Russia over missiles defence, New Orleans, Sub-prime markets, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, threatening Iran and Syria, defending Israels wars, global protests, torture, Vietnam War avoidance and the Patriot Act.
Not sure about the trains in America though but at the bottom of my barrel, if i scrape it hard enough,it says 'Right Wing death knell" so hopefully that will be the ending of that particular sentence and something we can thank George Walker Bush for. Cheers buddy.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

How I Stopped Worrying And Learnt To Love The PC

If movies have taught us anything, it is that one day super computers will rise up and overthrow its meat and bone creators and make slaves of us all. Admittedly it looks far fetched when even my own PC goes into a sulk when i try to run more than 3 applications at the same time but maybe even the newest supercomputer named Roadrunner, would struggle to run Excel, Word and open email at the same time.
It means very little to me but apparently it is capable of a trillion calculations a second and is more than twice as powerful as the previous best supercomputer but here is the scary bit, it is only 50 times less powerful than the human brain and at the present rate of processing advances, the machines are expected to out-perform our grey cells in just five years.
Will we then reach a point where computers can design other computers that are even faster and better to run all the aspects of our lives?
Artificial intelligences would be so far ahead of our own that they'd be able to do anything and we would end up relying on their logic circuits for our very lives which they could snuff out quite easily as we are now no use to them and therefore redundant.
This idea, called a Technological singularity, even have the big knobs at Sun Microsystems worried with some voicing their concerns about such an eventuality.
Maybe we should be concerned at the progress of supercomputers and the consequences but as a fail safe i recommend they load Photoshop and Quark on each computer and if it shows signs of turning evil, just run both at the same time because in my experience it will work for ten minutes before slowing to a crawl, hanging for ages and then be in need of a reboot. Problem solved and the human race lives to fight another day.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Trump In Aberdeen

Donald Trump is back in Scotland and issuing an evolve or die warning to those opposing his golf course plans in Aberdeen although the Towns reply back is more along the lines of eff off and die.
The gloriously bad haired property tycoon landed in Scotland at the start of a three week public inquiry into plans for a £1bn golf course on a site of special scientific interest but stopped off on the way at his mother's childhood home on the Scottish Isle of Lewis where he was greeted by local residents holding up signs that read "We Don't Want You Hair" and "Don't Comb Over Her".
He said that there was zero truth to the suggestion his visit was motivated by a cheap quest for publicity and he just wanted to see the place his mother lived in. Which he did, spending 97 seconds in his mothers former home and therefore putting that rumour well and truly to rest.
From there he flew to Aberdeen to face the Conservation bodies including the Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Ramblers Association and RSPB who are opposing his development.
The initial meeting didn't go well for the American who admitted to rejecting repeated warnings from his own environment experts that his plans for golf course would severely and significantly damage the area and suggesting that he move the course elsewhere.
In a wonderful fit of pique after being told of Scotland's right to roam laws that would disallow him from 'gating off' the course and berating him for failing to find out that the site was of scientific interest before he purchased it, the increasingly irritated Trump sarcastically retorted to the Ramblers Association executive: '"You know it's interesting, nobody has ever told me I don't know how to buy property before. You're the first one. I appreciate your advice."
Four hours later Trump emerged and told the waiting media that he had "slayed" his opponents.
"Everyone is telling me we knocked it out of the box," he declared not specifying if it was the same believable people who told him his hair looks fine when he leaves his mansion every morning.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Anaheim Arsenal & San Antonio Spurs

If you ignore the 10 other London teams, there are really only two football teams in the capital.
One is Arsenal who receive platitudes for their entertaining style of play and refreshing approach to the beautiful game, and Tottenham Hotspur who receive barely muffled giggles when they take to the pitch.
As an Arsenal fan, i have long held bragging rights over the supporters of the White Hart Lane mob although it is always good natured and i am sure that they actually enjoy me constantly mentioning our 3 Premier League and 4 FA Cup triumphs in the last 10 years compared to their solitary League Cup win during the same period.
It was while mooching about the Internet for news about Arsenal, i discovered that not only is there an American basketball team called Arsenal, but one called Spurs as well.
Anaheim Arsenal are based in California and San Antonio Spurs from Texas although the rest of the teams websites may as well have been written in Latin because i didn't understand any of the Basketball speak except that Arsenal are in the NBA D-League and Spurs are in the NBA.
It is between seasons at the moment with the leagues beginning again in November although it seems pretty unlikely that they will ever play each other which is probably a good thing for Arsenal who would get a Ricky Hatton style thumping if they ever found themselves on the same court as the Spurs.
I did try to buy a mug from the Arsenal site but failed to navigate my way to the shop so if any Anaheim Arsenal representatives stumble across this and would quite like to reach out to a fellow Arsenal fan across the Atlantic and be holding a mug as they do it, i will give it pride of place on the shelf at work and make sure it stands proudly in front of the Spurs one.

Monday, 9 June 2008

100 Brit Deaths In Afghanistan

Three more dead British servicemen, courtesy of an Afghan suicide bomber, has taken the toll to 100 British troops killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
Arrival at this gruesome milestone has led to questions being asked about the sacrifices our troops are making in the name of Queen and country but to my mind, it is not the right questions we are asking.
Like the Iraq conflict, whatever your feelings about whether we should be there or not, the facts are that we are there but why are we only questioning our presence now? Why does it take the 100th death of a Brit before we say 'hang about, what exactly are we doing there?'
We stopped counting Afghan civilian deaths in Dec 2002 when it stood at an atrocious 3800. Heaven only knows what the figure is now.
The truth is that we are stuck in Afghanistan. Leaving would result in a far greater loss of life and the return of the Taliban while staying means the country remains a basket case run by a puppet Government that we prop up.
So just what have tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and over 800 NATO troops died for?
Bin Laden is still at large, the trade in Opium has skyrocketed, the Taliban are regrouping, insurgency attacks are on the rise and despite all our firepower, we are still fighting a war seven years after its inglorious birth.
And yet, although we are no nearer an end as we ever were in Afghanistan and Iraq, the sabres are being rattled over attacking Iran next. We never learn but it seems that it doesn't matter how many innocent civilians we kill in the process, as long as the number of deaths on our side stays out of treble figures, we can swallow it.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Differing Opinions On President Carter

With the exception of the present leader, ex-American Presidents are generally quite well thought of this side of the Atlantic. Bill Clinton received a warm welcome when he appeared at the Labour conference a few years back but there is one that we seemed to have really taken to our hearts just as his popularity takes a dive in his own country.
I was only 8 when Jimmy Carter took over as President in 1977 and i couldn't say with any confidence whether he was a good President but folks here seem to revere him mostly because he never used the immense military machine at his disposal unlike every President since Herbert Hoover prior to his administration, and certainly every President since.
His tireless work in attempting to bring peace to the Middle East also brings him a little closer to British hearts although this seems to be the very reason which divides British and American opinion on him.
The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979 was probably his stand out moment during his time in charge but his recent actions in the Middle East where he met with Syrian and Hamas leaders and writing a book comparing Israel's actions towards the Palestinians to Apartheid South Africa, calling it 'one of the greatest human rights crimes on earth, have seen his stock fall rapidly in his home country but rise immensely in Europe.
The standing ovation following the speech he made at the Hay Festival a fortnight ago probably sums up exactly why he is so fondly thought of here. Stating that he could drastically alter Americas image in ten minutes he said that his first speech, if he was elected as President again, would be: "My country will never again torture a prisoner, we will never again attack another country unless our security is directly threatened. Human rights will be the foundation of our foreign policy."
It seems that what we see and like in ex-President Carter is very much the opposite of what we see and dislike in President Bush and yearn for a return to the days where a President can finish his term and argue that diplomacy was always put first.
As he said in the news interview this weekend when questioned on what was his legacy, "We kept our country at peace, we never dropped a bomb, we never launched a missile" he replied and there isn't many leaders of the Worlds major countries who can proudly make that boast.

Recession Claims Another Victim

I am not one who feels glee in other peoples misery. Actually, that's not quite true because if that other person is an Estate Agent or a Banker i am only too happy to dance about cackling manically about cosmic karma.
With the worlds fiances going down the gurgler, the list of deserving victims is growing so let us add another one to the list, SUV's.
According to legend, it was Arnold Schwarzenegger in the early 90s who hassled car manufacturer AM General into creating the first civilian version of the petrol swallowing Humvee. Shift the clock on a decade or so and taste the irony as Arnie is now the Governor of California and a leading light in America as it fights global warming.
The woman bothering Austrian did much to create the massive behemoth that have plagued our streets ever since but it seems that the end is nigh for the mega-car as worldwide sales have dropped through the floor and GM have announced it is closing its manufacturing plants.
Of course it is the rising cost of petrol that has put paid to running a ridiculously large car rather than say developing an environmental conscience or not wanting to appear a self-absorbed plank. Heaven only knows how these people are going to get there kids to school or pick up their shopping in a car that hasn't got 4x4 drive and isn't seven foot wide but times are hard and we are all suffering.
The recession may be hurting but little things like this give it a very nice silver lining and everyone else will now be able to relax and stop picking paint off the end of their keys.*

*Keying SUV's is not condoned and should never be performed when there are CCTV cameras in the vicinity.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Prince On His 50th Birthday

I have always been pretty much indifferent to Prince. To me he was one of those singers who were always around in the charts and on the radio in the 80s and 90s with some OK-ish tunes but never actually had that huge song that got me excited about him. He also seemed more than a little weird and creepy but luckily he had Michael Jackson around at the same time who out-weirded him so he managed to escape under the radar for a while until he completely lost the plot and scrawled Slave on his cheek and changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol.
It was during this period of being very strange that he got his only UK number one but his star was waning and the vertically challenged man with the high pitched voice who had wrote that song for Sinead O'Connor and the brilliant Manic Monday for the Bangles, just seemed to disappear.
He has been on a bit of a comeback recently and played a set of widely acclaimed concerts at the O2 Arena last year and his career seems to be on a bit of a renaissance still i feel that it has always smouldered but never really caught fire.
With a more mature mind i do find myself looking back to some groups and singers that i had overlooked in their heyday for whatever reason and realising that actually they were not as bad as i thought at the time but i still find the total indifference to Prince still there.
Apart from Manic Monday which he wrote, i do have one Prince song on my Ipod, Sign O' The Times, but that's more to do with the opening lyric being one of my favourite opening lyrics ever.
If only he had done more along the lines of "In France a skinny man, Died of a big disease with a little name" but he never so Happy 50th Birthday anyway Prince. Your music was never my cup of tea but you are obviously a huge hit among many music fans, i just never managed to work out what they saw that i never.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Obama No Friend Of Palestine

As someone who has to share a world with them, there are 3 things i am looking for in a new American President. To reverse the foreign policy that sees it reach for the stick before even contemplating the carrot, to sign up to a green agenda and to deal with the Palestine/Israel conflict even-handedly.
Obama has called for diplomacy in the Middle East while McCain sings about bombing Iran, both have agreed to environmental initiatives but neither has come up with a satisfactory response on dealing with Israel. In fact both have promised to stand staunchly behind Israel whatever happens.
I did expect more from Obama and i am sorely disappointed with what he has been saying at the AIPAC meeting.
I have asked on numerous occasions here and elsewhere just what does America get from backing Israel to the hilt regardless of it thumbing its nose at World opinion, countless UN Resolutions and the International Court of Justice while illegally occupying and annexing land and running an apartheid system against a smaller, weaker neighbour for the past 60 years.
Seemingly the answer is that it considers the 2% of Jewish votes important enough to back a nation with a policy towards its neighbours that has little, if any support, outside of Israeli and American borders.
Maybe it was just rhetoric to impress the AIPAC and that glorious 2% but what Obama is promising is to maintain the current status quo as is and that is fine for the Israeli's but not what anyone who wakes up on the wrong side of that Israeli Wall and armed checkpoints wants to hear.
I do find it strange that a potential president must have his fitness to govern judged by how far he is willing to go to serve another country and how they ignore, don't realise or just don't care, how divisive bankrolling an Israel that keeps Palestine down under the heel of its boot, is to its own global image.
Obama may stand for much needed change in his own country but there obviously is not going to be any change in America’s stance towards the Palestine/Israel conflict in the next four years.
More one sided death and destruction it is then and i was expecting so much more from Obama.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

A Worrying Hair Trend Among Republicans

One of the tactics organisations like Peta use to bring attention to the plight of cruelty to animals
is to show us horrific pictures of creatures in distress. I apologise if the picture above causes distress to the fainthearted but i feel it is my duty to draw your attention to something that is going on right under our noses.
See these seemingly innocent young men applauding John McCain? Yes, the fashion police should obviously be summoned and letters sent home to parents to inform them they face prosecution if they ever let there sons near a wardrobe unaccompanied again, but look above the laughingly wide ties to the hairstyles.
Your eyes are not deceiving you, almost all these young men are wearing the same side parting style as McCain.
The next time McCain drags his aging carcass onto a stage, take a look at the male supporters and you also will notice that there is a growing trend among the McCain menfolk to ignore hair gel, a semblance of style, mirrors and the last 30 years to sport a hairstyle even Bill Gates would consider nerdy.
Politicians are role models and seeing this guy out there on stage is leading kids into thinking that maybe its ok to have a hilarious 1970's style side parting. It isn't because it starts with the hair and before you know it you a fully fledged right winger wearing nylon shirts, patent leather shoes and wanting to shoot homosexuals and Asians who don't sell you oil.
Just say no kids before it's too late. And for heavens sake find a decent hair stylist.

Hillary For Vice President?

All the signs are that Hillary's goose has been cooked and she is going to withdraw from the race to be the Democratic nominee, leaving the field clear for Obama to go head to balding head with the old guy the Reps have nominated.
Something that has been whispered before and is being mentioned a little more loudly now is Hillary stepping up to become Obama's number 2 in the so called 'Dream-Ticket'.
On the face of it, it does seem ideal. The huge crowds that have been turning out to vote and show their support has been record breaking and Clinton's victories in states along the way demonstrate her strength and appeal among blue collar workers and women which could only benefit Obama as he takes on McCain.
These gains must be weighed up against the potential drawbacks, of which there are plenty.
For a man who has ran his campaign on change in the White House, it would seem an odd move for Obama to then run with one of the two families who have dominated the hot seat for the past two decades.
Then there is the problem of Bill who was not so subtly told to shut his big fat yap after he was blamed for Hillary's crash in North Carolina. Could Obama really trust him to not become a liability for him as he evidently was for his wife and after some of her remarks aimed at Obama during the campaign, could she drag his whole campaign to the bitter levels that he has managed to stay above so far?
What cannot be avoided is the intensity of support each set of followers has for Obama and Hillary, if the Democrats want to unify and have all these voters going Democrat in November, there's no better way than to have Hillary as the Vice Presidential nominee.
Whether Obama is willing to take the gamble on Hillary or choose someone else to run with him is something for him to mull over, but the so called 'Dream Ticket' can sweep the Democrats to power or just as easily blow up in their faces.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Not A Heart Shaped Box

Such is the life of a world famous rock star. Kurt Cobain may have been singing about a heart shaped box in 1993 but by 1994 he was laying inside a coffin shaped box after taking his own life.
Actually, he was cremated and had half his ashes spread over the Wishkah river while the rest of him ended up in a very rock n roll pink teddy bear shaped handbag.
To be even more accurate, he was in a pink teddy bear shaped handbag until this weekend when someone managed to get into Courtney Love's Hollywood home and steal the remains of the Grunge singer.
"I can't believe anyone would take Kurt's ashes from me. I find it disgusting and right now I'm suicidal. If I don't get them back I don't know what I'll do" said Love who lovingly asked everyone at her husbands memorial to call Cobain an asshole.
It's not clear how you could go about knocking out the most famous singer of the 90's ashes on eBay without arousing suspicion, but let us just hope that he is in a better place. And let's face it, when you have spent the past decade in a pink teddy bear shaped handbag, there are not many worse places to be. Unless Keith Richards is hanging about clutching a straw that is.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Who To Support In Euro 2008

European Championships start at the weekend and with England deciding to not qualify and let some other team have a go, we have nobody to cheer for. We are even denied the fallback position of cheering on anyone playing Scotland, Ireland or Wales because they were also too rubbish to qualify so the nation is frantically searching for a country to adopt for three weeks.
Some friends are going for countries they have good memories of holidaying in but what we all seem to be overlooking is that thanks to several successful invasions, us English have a hotch-potch of DNA in our veins and could easily switch our allegiance to fit our bloodline.
The Romans came, straightened our roads, built a wall to keep out the Scottish ruffians and particularly enjoyed showing their short swords to the ladies. They also had sex with many of them.
The Germanic Saxons then arrived en-masse and dipped their broadswords into the genealogical mix before it was the turn of the Vikings to park their long ships here while they went about their merry way raping, pillaging and assimilating themselves with whomever of our ancestors they hadn't chopped up into firewood.
The French Normans were the last mob to overrun us and left more than the lingering smell of garlic in the bedrooms of 11th century ladies.
So as for the Euro 2008 Championship you can either look up the origin of your surname as an indicator of who you should be supporting for or just cheer on the descendants of our Italian, Swede, German and French forefathers.

Obama Slips Up Over Auschwitz

Hillary Clinton suffered irreparable damage to her reputation with her remembrance of landing in Bosnia under sniper fire only for a TV clip to turn up showing her stepping off the plane smiling and shaking hands with the natives. She claimed to have been tired and had misspoken.
Fast forward a few months and hey looks it Obama in New Mexico, let's listen into what he has to say.
"I had a uncle who was one of the, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps."
And so up went the chorus of "hang about son" from everyone with even the most basic knowledge of history.
There could be several reasons for such a painfully embarrassing slip up. Obamas uncle could have been part of Stalin's Red Army who did actually liberate the prisoners from Auschwitz or we can take his campaign runners explanation that he actually meant to say Buchenwald, Obama just confused the names of the concentration camps. Fair enough, could happen i guess but it is only just this side of credible to confuse the two, especially as Auschwitz is easily the most infamous concentration camp.
It does seem a theme that American and British accounts of the second world war routinely write the Soviets out of the story and cast the US and UK as the heroes, thus creating the false impression among the general public that Germany was defeated by the US and Great Britain.
Whatever the reason behind Obamas slip, whether it was a lie, confusion or ignorance, he cannot afford to be so careless with his speeches again and stay credible.