Saturday, 30 August 2008

Republicans Palin Gamble

At first glance it could be a case of hats off to the McCain Campaign in their appointment of Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate. Not only is she very youthful but also very photogenic which will guarantee her, and therefore the Republican Party, plenty of airtime and column inches. Another draw over Obama which they think will have an impact, is the claim to the large percentage of disaffected Hillary Clinton vote who have stubbornly refused to back the Democrat nomination.
That's at first glance, on closer inspection it seems that the Republicans have undermined McCain's strongest point of attack on Obama, his lack of experience. She has been in Office less than two years and is already under investigation for abusing her position over the sacking of a Public Safety Commissioner who was reluctant to sack her former brother-in -law involved in an acrimonious divorce with her younger sister.
That episode is seeing her backtracking and contradicting herself and is sure to come under the microscope as is her links with the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation and the Oil Industry where her husband presently works for BP as well as possible ties to longtime Alaska Republican senator Ted Stevens, who is under indictment on corruption charges.
The Democrats should also raise questions about whether the inexperienced Palin passes the "commander-in-chief test" which is would she be able to assume the presidency should McCain, 72, become incapacitated.
Interesting choice by the Republicans which could either work to their advantage by attracting the PUMA's (although referring to Hillary as a whiner may work against her) and making them more media friendly or could easily expose them to a new angle of attack as picking a female candidate and forsaking more experienced choices in order to cynically pander to the Hillary voters.
If the Democrats play this right, Sarah Palin could soon be left helplessly twisting in the wind as the Obama Team attack the flank that McCain has surprisingly exposed to them.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Celebrity Endorsements

That shy and retiring strumpet Madonna has nailed her colours to the mast with regards to who is not going to get her postal vote in November although lumping John McCain in the same category as Adolf Hitler and Robert Mugabe was a bit over the top. As this shows, enthusiastic endorsements from celebrities can be as embarrassing as they can be helpful to a potential President but the entertainers do like to think that they are helping by lending their name to their hopefuls campaign. Bless 'em.
The Democrats have been easing off the celebrity stardust at their Convention while poor old Sen. McCain is finding Celebrity stardust harder to find.
Obama's celebrity endorsers include Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow, George Clooney, Kanye West, Spike Lee, Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Aniston, Robert DeNiro, Ed Norton, Forest Whitaker, Will Smith, Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Barry Manilow and of course Madonna.
There is a fine set of actors and actresses in that line-up but what about the celebrities that have jumped on the McCain bandwagon? Admittedly, the list isn't long, but it's the quality and not the quantity that counts which is unfortunate as McCain fails on both counts.
A recent fund-raiser at the Beverly Hills Hilton drew Gary Sinise who i know from Forrest Gump and Of Mice & Men, Superman actor Dean Cain, Jon Voight and Jon Cryer of Pretty in Pink fame.
Sylvester Stallone has come out in favour of the Republican as has Tom Selleck.
On the music front what's left of the Beach Boys are to appear at the Republican convention so that's the Celebrity line ups.
Obama can call on some heavyweight actors but his musical talent is a little, well, rubbish to be honest while McCain will hurt his knuckles scraping the bottom of that particular barrel actor wise but i would take the Beach Boys over a few verses of Mandy or Material Girl anytime.

All together now:
Well since he put me down I've been out doin' in my head
I come in late at night and in the mornin' I just lay in bed
Well, Obama you look so fine
And I know it wouldn't take much time
For you to help me Bama
Because my Rally's fast falling apart
Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba
Help me Bama, Help, help me Bama,..............

When Two Tribes Go To War

Tensions between Russia and America are at the lowest point since the fall of the Berlin Wall in the nineties and British Foreign Secretary David Milliband has said that Russia has a "responsibility" not to start a new Cold War although the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said his country is unafraid of a new Cold War and the Russian media seem to be actively encouraging it with one newspaper running the headline 'Tak You!' above an image of a fist with its middle finger raised.
The last Cold War ran from the 1940's to the 1990's and although the downside was the threat of the destruction of the World, the competitive nature of the Cold War quickly fueled the creation of important inventions we use today so it wasn't all bad.
Use a Microwave Oven at all today? You can thank the Cold War for that invention as also the computer that you are reading this on and the Internet that the computer is plugged into. Hang gliders, the television signals beamed from across the Globe to our TV set in the front room, smoke detectors and the Sat Nav in our cars are all Cold War Inventions.
Apart from the inventions and some fantastic Soviet propaganda posters, there were a few great songs like Two Tribes by Frankie Goes To Hollywood and London Calling by The Clash although they were far outweighed by the stinkers like Nena's 99 red balloons, Final Countdown by Europe, Land of Confusion by Phil Collins, and the terrible Through The Barricades by Spandau Ballet.
If we are going to enter another Cold War, could we have a higher quality of song please and keep Phil Collins and Spandau Ballet away from a recording studio.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Conserevapedia & The Mentally Ill

Grand Theft Auto Vice City gives these useful tips to spot if your child might be a red.
"They read complicated literature and have concern for their fellow man. They even like to share. Tell your kids that if someone approaches them with pamphlets about recycling or show any doubts about the fairness of our system then they should find a teacher or a policeman immediately".
Of course the games creators are mocking the crazy thinking of the Political Right but sometimes the right make a decent fist of making themselves look as intelligent as they sound like in this brilliant piece from our favourite Right Wing oddballs, Conservapedia, entitled 'Do Liberal Teachings Cause Mental Illness?'
It goes on to explain that 'Mental illness is increasing and the ten countries with the highest suicide rates are all former Soviet states which are notable for imposing liberal teachings on their population. In the US, liberal indoctrination governs public schools which educate 89% of children and an estimated 20% of these children have a mental illness.
It concludes that 'Medical professionals emphasize that they do not know what causes mental illness. Accordingly, they cannot rule out that liberal indoctrination is a contributing factor.

Teaching children to accept and believe things that are demonstrably false cannot help mental health. Included in this category are the liberal teachings in school that:

- lying about the truth, causing belief in falsehoods
- there are no real differences between boys and girls
- humans are just another type of animal
- all there is is what you see
- that an unproven unconscious excuses evil actions
- self-inflicted death can somehow be good
- denying self-defense, mentally and physically
- denying the ability to control sexual desires
- promoting lifestyles that lead to mental illness
- insisting on an illogical and unjustified separation of church and state

Conservapedia, where the mentally ill come to write pages like this.

India's Superpower Behaviour

I can accept China, Russia and the USA as potential superpowers for this century but have never bought into India emerging to straddle the Globe as a World power. It does seem a case of the Emperors new clothes with everybody else just toeing the line and nobody important saying 'India to be the Superpower?' and then trotting off to the Hospital to get there flabber re-gasted.
What India have been doing recently which all three of the aforementioned potentials have been doing with regularity though is killing innocent civilians. China has Tibet, Russia has Georgia and the USA has Iraq & Afghanistan and now India, quietly, have been shooting dead unarmed demonstrators in Kashmir.
In the latest incident, Indian security forces fired into crowds of several thousand unarmed peace demonstrators adding four more deaths to the many hundreds killed by Indian forces. Humans Right Watch released a 160 page report on human rights abuses in Kashmir by Indian troops three years ago and Amnesty International have been condemning "extra-judicial executions", "disappearances", and "torture" being performed by the Indians for as long as i can remember. Nope, not many other people have heard about it either although the barbaric slaughter of innocent civilians in the Kashmir Valley in 2000 by Indian troops did bring events in the region to our attention for a few days.
The Indian authorities are attempting to snuff out the protests against it's authoritarian rule in the area which has been disputed since 1947 and has caused two wars between India and Pakistan although thankfully not since both became the newest members of the nuclear club.
Hang on, extra-judicial executions, disappearances and torture? Sounds like Superpower behaviour to me after all.

Confused by Hillary Supporters

It is not easy to find many people outside of Republican voting Americans rooting for a McCain win in the upcoming US Presidential elections. If the man does have any redeeming features he is doing well to keep them hidden although Obama's choice of Joe Biden doesn't seem to have enhanced his cause much. Actually, looking hard at Bidens record makes some very uncomfortable reading for those whose biggest concern with this present Republican Administration is its foreign policy. Biden is not the best choice to exaggerate the gap between McCain's pro and Obama's anti-war stance.
Yesterdays Washington Post-ABC news poll show that the lead Obama commanded is being chipped away and now stands at 49% to McCains 45%. Take into account the 2% margin of error and Obama supporters are understandably starting to sweat and will be hoping for a bounce from this weeks Democrat Convention.
What the same poll also highlighted was that a large number of Hillary Clinton supporters are now backing McCain which causes me a bit of head scratching. It seems the ultimate sour grapes to change allegiance to the enemy just because your first choice didn't get the job but then maybe the US election is a completely different animal to the Party politics we have here.
It is almost unheard of for Party members to flip from Labour to Conservative or vice versa, they are completely different animals and the large majority stay with their chosen Party regardless, opting not to vote or vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats if they want to hand out a bloody nose to their own.
Is the ideological difference between Republicans and Democrats so small that one is able to ricochet between the two or do the voters elect Presidents purely depending upon who is running the Party at the time and are quite willing to change sides if they don't like them?
Seems a very strange thing for Hillary supporters to turn their guns on the Party they were lauding a few months ago. If you don't like Obama, for whatever reason, stay at home and just don't vote otherwise you are just cutting off your nose to spite your face and i just don't understand that thinking at all.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Boris Johnson Doesn't Mess Up Shock

Anyone who watched the Olympic closing ceremony couldn't have failed to have seen the London Mayor making his way down the red carpet to receive the flag and mantle of next Olympic hosts.
There is no easy way to describe old Etonian Boris Johnson because Conservative twit with a penchant for affairs with his secretaries just doesn't seem to cover it.
There he was standing in front of a billion people with his jacket unfastened to show off his rotund form and struggling to wave a flag three times. The general consensus was that he would somehow set his hair on fire or cause an international incident by goosing the Beijing Prime Minister but credit to the man, he didn't do either although it was probably sensible to keep him well away from the microphone. He has put his foot into his mouth on so many occasions that he has been treated for athletes tongue so he just walked on, struggled to wave the flag a bit and got off to leave the stage for a London Bus and the beautiful Leona Lewis and some old bloke with a guitar nobody under 30 has ever heard of playing a song from 1969. How hip and cool are we. If we have to ask who he is how is the rest of the World to know who the old guy gurning away on top of the bus is.
David Beckham completed the 'famous' trio and did what he did best, smashing the ball into the crowd which is exactly what he generally does from the penalty spot.
The rest of our 8 minutes was filled by dancers prancing about beside a bus stop, an everday occurrence in Deptford High Street as i recall.
Vistors to London may be disappointed to discover that the number 73 to Kings Cross doesn't open up to reveal famous singers, footballers and vague guitarists pulling weird faces. You want the number 12 for that.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Joe Biden and Neil Kinnock

The US Presidential campaign has been pushed out of the news agenda by the Olympic Games but it has been slowly grinding on as we looked towards China and after glancing at the Olympic Medal Table to make sure we were still above Australia, i went to have a look at what Obama and McCain had been up to since the last time i looked in.
Seems that the down to earth, man of the people McCain has lost track of how many houses he owns (don't you just hate it when that happens) and Obama is about to announce his Vice President with the hot favourite being Senator Joe Biden.
Now Joe Biden is not well known name outside of America but his name once briefly graced our newspaper headlines for an association with Neil Kinnock of all people. Or rather one of the firebrand Socialist and former Labour Party Leaders speeches in particular.
Let's go back to the 1987 Democrat nominations and there's Mr Biden making an emotive speech about education.
The Biden speech had gone: "I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college?"
Pretty impressive or it would be if it hadn't been lifted almost word for word from what Kinnock had said earlier about himself and his wife Glenys in a tear-jerking account of his deprived Welsh upbringing.
The scandal that followed in America made sure Senator Biden's Presidential chances were done for and although it was over 20 years ago, someone on the Republican side is sure to remember or stumble across it while googling one day and throw it at Biden to question Obama's VP selection.
This reminiscing does give us the chance to remember Neil Kinnock especially the time when he humorously fell over on a beach as he tried to escape a wave and got his expensive suit soaked. Neil Kinnock, remembered for making himself look a prat and for his short lived career as muse to American Vice Presidential wannabe's.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Can You Repeat Your Name Please

The BBC has a Pronunciation Unit which researches the correct way to say places or people with unusual names. As sophisticated as this sounds, it is basically BBC researchers ringing up the person or an embassy and asking how do you say these names. That is how German footballer Stefan Kuntz was pronounced Koontz on the BBC and not how the rest of us pronounced it.
The Unit entered meltdown when the Olympics started and television presenters were faced with wrapping their tongues around names such as the Thai weightlifter Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakon but that is one of the best parts of the Olympics, we don't have to rely on German footballers with humorous names to bring out the 10-year-old in all of us because there are some great names strutting their stuff in Beijing.
First up are the aptly named Ghanese Boxer Prince Octopus, USA woman's goalkeeper Hope Solo and Canadian baseball player Stubby Clapp which sounds like something you would need ointment from a clinic to clear up.
Hopefully the parents of athlete Destinee Hooker were not trying to predict a future career path for their daughter and i thank the folks of synchronised swimmer Gisela Moron and Polish handball player Adam Weiner for not having the good sense to change names and deprive me of a cheap laugh. Same goes to ma and pa Thongsuk, parents of weightlifter Sureerat Thongsuk but as usual it is the genitalia related monikers that cause the most schoolgirl sniggering.
Step forward Micaela Cocks, Daisy Dick, Stephen Dick, Curtis Kock, Melanie Kok, Ahmet Peker and Rafael Pennisi. Japanese volleyballer Yoshie Takeshita deserves a special mention as does bronze medal winning Dong Dong from Chinas Trampoline team who won bronze so maybe his parents knew he was going to be so good, they named him twice.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Georgia In NATO

Am the only person who sometimes feels that someone has turned over two pages at once to leave me frantically searching for the part i missed that allowed the person to reach the conclusion that they have?
There was a NATO summit not so long ago where the issue of Georgia being allowed into NATO was shot down in flames by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, who gave a nod towards the camp that suspected the Georgian President was too much of a loose cannon.
Move on a few months and days after Georgia have razed a city to the ground with missiles, killed over 2000 foreign nationals and provoked a war with one of the greatest military arsenals on the planet and then bizarelly it's 'hold on, maybe Georgia should be in NATO after all.'
Just in case Maerkel has forgotten, the premiss of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is that 'an armed attack against one or more of them shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that each of them will assist the Party attacked by taking such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force'.
The only thing different between when Merkel said no and now is that Georgia have started a calamitous War but far from distancing themselves from it with a 'told you so' glance towards George Bush, the decision is being discussed that it should now be bought into NATO so next time it decides to pick a fight with Russia, and Saakashvili will the first chance he gets, it will do so knowing that it won't just be a relatively minor 5 day conflict confined to East Europe, it will draw in the likes of America, Britain, Canada, Germany, France and Turkey to face off against Russia.
Why is that the West couldn't do enough to help Albanians in Kosovo but are quite content to leave Russians in Ossettia to their fate? Same difference isn't it?
Inviting a nation to join an Organisation like NATO while it's guns are still smoking and it's victims are still digging out their dead, would be one of the worst possible moves in history and no amount of oil and gas being piped through Georgia is worth starting a World War over, and certainly not for a man like Saakashvili who would be in the Hague for crimes against humanity if it wasn't for his friends in high places. Think again Merkel.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Is That Britain Third In The Medal Table?

Something has gone horribly wrong with the TEAM GB sports men and women in Beijing. A quick glance
at the table to the left shows that Great Britain are having a disastrous Olympics Games and have risen to third place.
"I assure you" said some Olympic Wonk, "that we will sit down and pose some serious questions to our Athletes when they return and try to reach a solution to reverse this unfortunate set of events".
Damn right mister because this just isn't good enough. Us British are just not accustomed to seeing our boys and girls standing on an Olympic Podium belting out how they want God to save the Queen with Gold medals adorning their chests.
What we do is sigh and hope that an asteroid hits the American runner who is jumping around excitedly after winning the 200m (show some stiff upper lip you American boys, nobody likes a show-off).
What we can't do is work out what to do when we actually start winning. Is it the correct etiquette to bounce up and down on the sofa screaming at the human shaped pixels on the TV set to row/pedal/run/swim faster and leaping in the air with a fist clenched 'YOU EFFING BEAUTY' when we win which is the style i seem to have fallen into this weekend. As the Rebecca Adlington gold medal in the 800m freestyle came at 3.10 am Saturday morning it probably wasn't the most sociable thing to do but if my neighbours still speak to me after my loud drunken renditions of show tunes at midnight on a Saturday night, i am sure they won't mind a bit of top of the lungs cussing every four years.
So there we sit third in the medal table with 11 golds, 6 silvers and 8 bronze although i gave up on Paula Radcliffe and missed the inevitable break down on the Beijing road where she stopped, walked, screamed, cried and posed for photos for the Monday morning newspapers.
Most joyfully we are above the Australians who must be crying into their Vegemite sandwiches this morning. Us British blogger's can start to plan our taunting posts to Australians now.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Those Sensitive Spanish Basketballers

Maybe i have been sniffing the furniture polish too much again but isn't this picture offensive? Incredibly the players on Spain's Olympic basketball team thought it would
be 'interpreted as an affectionate gesture' to use their fingers to make their eyes look more Chinese.
The photo, part of a publicity campaign for the sponsor, shows all 15 players making the gesture on a basketball court adorned with a Chinese dragon.
"It was something like supposed to be funny or something, but never offensive in any way and I'm sorry if anybody thought or took it the wrong way and thought that it was offensive"
explained player Pau Gasol.
The Spanish women's basketball team also posed for photos doing the same thing but it is not the first time Spanish sports has encountered questions over racist attitudes. Recently England's black footballers were treated to monkey chants when they played there in a friendly and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton was subjected to racist abuse at a Barcelona circuit earlier this year.
'We don't think this is an insulting gesture to the Chinese' said a Spanish official so how about when you step up on the podium to collect your medals Spanish basketballers, you do it and see how affectionate the Chinese find it then.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

How Did Russia Become The Bad Guys?

Apart from the obvious bizarreness of watching President George Bush berate someone else for 'invading the territorial sovereignty' of another country, the question being asked by people here is how and why did Russia become the bad guy in all this?
Senator John McCain is talking about 'us all being Georgians now' and President Bush declared the Russian action as "disproportionate and unacceptable" as well as making the quote of the century that world powers should not go about "toppling governments in the 21st century."
The people of Palestine and Lebanon may be wondering just why Georgia receives this kind of response while the US leaves them to the whims of the Israeli military time and time again and the Iraqis and Afghans must have doubled over in laughter when they heard him talking about not toppling Governments.
The facts are the US educated Georgian President gambled on occupying South Ossettia, a protectorate of Russia, under the misguided apprehension that America and the West would protect them from Russian retaliation. Russia, to most here anyway, were justified in stopping the consequent evictions and killings of its nationals in these provinces.
Quite how merely losing a war make you the good guy is a valid point but there are other reasons why America are painting Georgia as the victim when in everyone elses book, it was Georgia who began the whole thing.
Firstly McCain's chief foreign-policy adviser and business partner, Randy Scheunemann, earnt hundreds of thousands of dollars as his job as a lobbyist for the government of Georgia. That conflict of interests show why McCain is grubbily attempting to push the blame away from Georgia but why the rest of the US Government?
A U.S.-backed oil pipeline runs through Georgia, carrying over 1 million barrels of crude oil per day from the Caspian oil fields, estimated to hold the world's third-largest reserves. The present Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, is US educated and his troops are US trained and equipped. Georgia sent troops to Iraq and hold bases for American soldiers on its territory.
The American Government were rebuffed by Europe earlier this year for Georgian membership to NATO, German Chancellor Merkel claiming the Georgian President too much of a hot head to allow into the exclusive club.
The US wants a pro-American leader in charge of the oil pipeline and to lessen the influence of a resurgent Russia in that area and that is why Georgia have been able to invade, kill 2000 Russian civilians in the process, and come out as the victim when its bigger and more powerful neighbour pushed back.
American Governments have a history of backing the bad guys when there interests are at stake, and they have done it again with the Georgian President. Russia are no saints themselves, but if you buy the American line that Georgia are the innocent victims here being bullied by the Russians, you obviously haven't been paying attention.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Bush At The Olympics

Mr President, leave those beach volleyball players alone, you have to make a statement to renounce Russia's actions in Georgia.
OK Henry, did you see the ass on the brunette?
Yes sir.
Seriously Henry, it was an amazing ass, did you see me slap it? Wow, can't get it out of my mind.
Concentrate Sir, stop thinking of that Lady's backside.
I'm a professional Henry.
Yes Sir, now you are on in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...go


Ladies and Gentlemen, America widely condemns Russians actions in Georgia.
I am here to say to Mr Medvedev that he has to BUTT out of other peoples business. Take a SEAT with your Georgian enemy and let's get to the BOTTOM of matters.
First you have to get your ARSEnal BEHIND Georgia's border and hopefully we can move into the TAIL END of this conflict. I don't mean to be so STERN but be warned that although we are concentrating on ASSghanistan, we CAN still light a fire under your BUM through the UN if you continue this course of action. Thank You and God Bless America.

See Henry, told you i'm professional. Now where's that cute runner with the great rack.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

What I Hate About You

Cody and I are always looking for ideas to write concurrent posts about but when he suggested we write one about the things that annoy us about the opposite sex, my first reaction was to cancel any plans for the weekend because i would spend all 48 hours typing. Then we decided to restrict it to just 5 which is just as much of a juggling act but here are the top 5 things that men do that make me want to swing a high heeled foot in their groinal area.

5. Not Reading Instructions. Manufacturers include instructions for a reason, to instruct. Men on the other hand seem to think that they go to all the bother of including this information into the box for some other strange reason because it is the first thing to get binned before hours of swearing, hitting things with a hammer and blaming the packers for giving us the wrong bits before the woman rescues the instructions and calmly points out that he has put piece D where Piece A should be and used the wrong screws in Section C.

4. TV Remote Control. All newspapers have a TV guide, there are even TV guides on the TV itself at the push a button but men prefer to dive-bomb through all 101 channels in two minutes in a never-ending search for a suitable landing spot while passing comments about 'chick flicks' and 'how you hate him' before, on the third time around, settling for some testosterone filled action film and falling asleep within ten minutes.

3. Catching Things In Their Mouths. What is the fascination with throwing things in the air and catching them in their mouths. Doesn't matter what it is, sweets, nuts, cigarettes, grapes, it can't go the short distance between hand and mouth without first being launched up too the ceiling and caught in your gaping gob. Presumably it is supposed to show off your coordination or something but it just makes you look like a seal except the seal doesn't spend the rest of evening complaining that it's eye hurts because your coordination went awry with that last walnut.

2. Toilet Aim. Man has invented missiles that can be sent hundreds of miles and land with almost unerring accuracy at a designated building but he can't aim his pee the short distance between his midriff and a toilet bowl. Heaven knows how anyone can stand slap bang in front of something with a drop distance of less than 2ft, and still miss. And would it kill you to put the seat down when you have finished?

1. Man Flu. Yes i know you are ill and yes you do look terrible and no i don't think you are going to cough up a lung and yes i will fluff your pillow and yes i will phone work for you and tell them you won't be in and yes i know it feels like your dying. Do you know how i know? Because you have exactly the same thing that i had last week when you told me i looked terrible while i was ironing your shirts.

Well it wasn't easy keeping it down to just 5 but i have sympathy for Cody who is posting about the 5 thing that us women do that drive men crazy on his blog. Personally i can't think of any.

Georgian President Loses Gamble

There have been many claims and counter-claims about who is to blame in South Ossettia with Georgia accusing Russia of invading their territory while Russia accused Georgia of attacking Russian civilians and peace-keepers in the breakaway region.
Independent observers say that Georgian troops did attack first with truck launched missiles on the South Ossettians which is very reminiscent of KLA tactics in Kosovo.
At the request of Russia, the UN Security Council held an emergency session in New York the day before the fighting broke out but the U.S. and Britain among others sided with the Georgians in rejecting a statement that required both sides "to renounce the use of force."
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, seems to have gambled that like in Kosovo dealings with Serbia, a small nation that picked a fight with a more powerful country, the world would turn its gaze in their direction and only see the Russian retaliation.
His gamble failed because all he got was some mumbled words from his 'friends' in the West and a painful reminder of the Henry Kissinger quote that "Rational states do not base their strategy on a pledge to commit suicide to protect another states' security."
A 3-day battle has proven to the Georgian President that he seriously miscalculated his allies reaction and nobody had the stomach to take on Russia like they did Serbia.
Now he has a devastated country, pushed South Ossettia even closer to independence and as many as 2000 dead civilians but not that Russia come out of the last few days events with any credit, bombing civilian areas negates any argument they may have held as merely defending the South Ossettians from Georgian aggression.
Kosovo has shown that sometimes you can win by tweaking the tigers tail and running to your powerful friends when it bites back but as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has learnt, your powerful friends are also perfectly capable of turning a blind eye when it is one of the big boys you are tangling with.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Price Of Oil Falling

There is something strange going on at the local petrol station because the numbers on display of the exorbitant price the company charges for fuel has stopped whizzing around like the reels on a fruit machine.
Either the man who changes the numbers has keeled over from overwork and has gone to that great garage forecourt in the sky or incredibly, the price for petrol has stopped rising.
I am sure everyone can remember the likes of Shell and BP justifying stiffing us royally every time we went to fill up our petrol tanks by the rising price of oil. Even the Gas & electric suppliers got in on the act and said that they had no choice but to rise prices by 35% because of the oil price.
So now that oil prices have tumbled down from a record $147 a barrel at the start of last month down to $122, we can expect equally sharp falls in the pump prices can't we?
Far be it for me to want to strip away anymore of Centrica's £1b six month profit, times must be hard in the offices of the likes of British Gas as it is scraping by on £2b per year, but if the prices shot up so absurdly when prices where high, we should see them fall back again as the price lowers which could literally save peoples lives, especially the elderly who will face the probable situation of not turning on there central heating in winter to save money.
For all those people who tried to justify to me the rising costs to fill my car and warm my home whenever i bitch about the companies making massive profits at the cost of the people who can least afford it, how come the prices are not coming down in line with the price of a barrel of oil as quick as they went up or doesn't it work in reverse?

Friday, 8 August 2008

Beating The Aussies

One of our most enjoyable past times is making fun of those people known as Australians. Probably more than any other nation on the planet us Brits and those down under have a history of trying to get one over on each other. They call us POMS, we call them beer swilling sheep bothering yobs but it is all done in jest but the ante has been raised and slap my didgeridoo with a boomerang, even the Governments are at it now.
Britain's culture secretary, Andy Burnham, began it by saying Britain look like they will finish above Australia in the Olympic medal table. A quick look at the last Olympic Table will show Australia finished fourth while we rode in tenth but since then we have spent £235m of lottery and public funds in Team GB and have earmarked 41 medals in Beijing.
Not one to duck a challenge, the Australian Sports minister, a sheila called Kate Ellis, put down her can of Fosters long enough to slur that "The English to this point haven't really been up there with us , but I'm not sure that they're ready to pip us just yet" and challenged her tormentor to a wager.
They agreed the loser should suffer the indignity of having to wear opposition colours the next time Britain and Australia met on the sports field.
Of course I just hope that it is a good games and may the best man or woman win regardless of whether they are one of our fine upstanding British athletes or one of the descendants of our criminals fluking a medal.
In the best tradition of Anglo-Aussie relations i hope we do beat them in the table and will mention it continuously for the next 4 years but if we don't, in another fine Anglo tradition, i will delete this post and deny any knowledge of ever saying it in the first place in much the same manner as we do with the cricket.

Reasons Behind Russian & Georgia Conflict

Yet again out news channels have images of planes dropping there deadly payloads, one countries tanks rolling along the streets of another country and reports of massive civilian casualties.
The Russian Georgia crisis over South Ossetia that has escalated to full blown conflict this afternoon should not be dismissed as local troubles because it has much wider implications in world politics.
The origins of the conflict go back to the days of the Soviet Union when Georgia established itself as an independent state when the Soviet Union imploded.
South Ossetia sat within this new Georgian territory and there was a bitter war between the two as South Ossetia battled for its own independence from Georgia with a preference to become an autonomous region within Russia, a conflict that has rumbled on ever since with Russia arming and financing South Ossetia.
The wider implications of today come with Georgia being an ally of the United States and is of key strategic importance as a gateway to the Middle East for the West but mainly that old troublemaker Oil is yet again in the mix. The Baku-Supsa Pipeline runs between Azerbaijan and Turkey through Georgia and is a key provider of energy for the EU and the United States.
And there, as always, is where we get close to what this is really all about and why we should be concerned about today's events. Control over the flow of oil yet again and we have all seen the devastating results of those conflicts only this time it threatens to bring the West & Russia into direct conflict.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Ignoring Bad Spelling

I once got an ear chewing for sending an email completely full of alternative spellings. Admittedly it was quite an important one but i misjudged the recipients sense of humour and she didn't appreciate receiving an email that started with 'High Julie, Eye wood like two start bye saying that eye am aware..' and continued for the next 500 words in the same vein.
The English language has frequently been referred to as one of the hardest languages to learn because of such nuances of the language which allows for such emails. Aonethr qiruk is taht as lnog as the fsirt and lsat lterets are in pacle, it is still readable although your spell check may explode.
Outside of official documents or projects where the perfect English is required, I have never been much of a spelling nazi, to me what someone is trying to say is always more important than how they say it which is a view that may be frowned upon by English Language students but then English Language Students are widely regarded as being a bit pompous anyway.
Dr Ken Smith, a senior lecturer at Buckinghamshire New University, has opened a debate over his belief that misspelt words should be included as "variant spellings" and accepted into everyday use, not corrected and although i have my reservations, he has a point.
The English language has changed and adapted its spelling over time. For example musick mutated into music, rime into rhyme and we nowadays write fantasy to the original phantasy and show to shew so changes to how we spell is an ever evolving process.
The lecturer says teachers and academics should turn a blind eye to common misspellings such as 'truely', and 'argument' although critics suggest that it is the slippery slope towards the American style of spelling which is a slightly simplified version of English, such as color, dialog and favor and British kids should just learn the correct spelling rather than adapt the language around there shaky grasp of spelling.
My reservation is that lazy students will invariably shout 'spelling variation' when they get pulled up for writing 'commited' or 'imediately' and that just wont do. How can we act all snooty to Americans and Canadians for there spelling if we dumb down our own!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Jumpers For Goalposts In USA

When David Beckham said that he was going to America to try and enhance football in that country it was widely thought that he had probably headed the ball too many times or it was just a line to cover his £120m LA Galaxy contract. Football in America was down the list after Baseball, Basketball, American Football and Ice Hockey but you have to hand it to the guy, in a year he has certainly raised the games profile to new heights.
Beckham was recently named by American sports network ESPN as the Major League Soccer Player of the Year and average attendance at LA Galaxy games is 28,000 which beats the likes of FA Cup winners Portsmouth last season.
Major League shirt sales have risen 780% and internet traffic on the Major League site has increased by 80% so maybe football really is taking a hold over there.
The American businessmen are certainly taking an interest in English teams with Aston Villa and Manchester United in the hands of American owners and my Arsenal team entering into an agreement with Stan Kroenke and his stable of Basketball (Denver Nuggets), Hockey (Colorado Avalanche) and football (Colorado Rapids) teams with the primary aims of building the Arsenal brand in the US.
Even Barack Obama has came out as a West Ham fan ever since a trip to England five years ago and admitted that he watches Premier League games whenever his schedule allows so our national sport is obviously starting to make in-roads into the national US psyche.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Coffee To Go, Going.

The Recession, credit crunch, financial downturn or whatever it's being called this week is claiming another victim and this one hits me where it hurts, right in the percolator.
Back in the late 80s, before it became fashionable, a small group of us returned from a trip to Europe and wanting to bring a bit of the continent to our corner of the UK, began sitting outside a local cafe after work and drank coffee.
As i moved on and upwards, then downwards, then a bit sideways with a few loops thrown in for good measure, i have always found something satisfying and very continental about pavement cafes and especially the rise of coffee houses which i suspect had something to do with the Central Perk coffee house in Friends.
Now Starbucks has announced that it is packing up shop and closing down stores wherever it had laid down its coffee stained hat and if a large international corporation like that is feeling it, only stands to reason that the smaller houses are going to go the same way.
My local Starbucks is soon to go and as much as i dislike large global brands, this coffee behemoth took coffee drinking to a new level and away from chipped mugs and a choice between Nescafe or something the owner found in the back of the shelf and smelt vaguely like coffee.
Places like Costa Coffee and Starbucks raised the bar for all the other coffee chains but it seems that the UK cafe culture could well be over with people finding that they can get their caffeine fix just as easily, and much cheaper, from a cup of instant made in their own home.
It had a good run but by the time we come out the other side of the present money mess, the coffee shop culture will be a thing of the past but for those of us who thought sitting around supping coffee was suave and sophisticated before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon, it is a return to the old times.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Impressing The West

As the rich and famous flood into China from the Western half of the globe, The city Government of Beijing has been giving its residents advice on how to impress if they should happen to stumble across one of us.
A booklet has been posted to every citizen explaining that we are likely to reel away in horror if they wear more than three colour groups in their clothing, parade around outside in there pyjamas or wear white socks with black shoes.
Because we are shocked when saliva doesn't stay in the mouth, spitting in the street is banned as is disorderly lines when queuing because if there is one thing us Westerners hate, it is a crooked queue.
The book advises that there should be no public displays of affection and there are helpful diagrams to show how to shake hands. The shakee's feet should be slightly apart or in the shape of a V or Y when standing, and a handshake should not last more than three seconds.
Don't ask foreigners their age, marital status, income, past experience, address, personal life, religious beliefs or political beliefs, it adds.
The Chinese Authorities seem to have run out of space before they could get to the bit about how we dislike Authoritarian Governments knocking about Tibetan protesters but otherwise i think that just about sums up the things we dislike. Especially the white socks and black shoes thing, that would top my list ahead of wearing your PJ's outside and keeping a queue in a straight line.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

God Giveth & God Telleth You To Take A Hike

Due to the time difference between the South coast of England and Beijing, the Olympics will be played out to the UK insomniacs and people who crazily follow the 'early to bed early to rise' model of sleeping. Personally i follow the 'late to bed and prompt use of the snooze button followed by a mad dash to get ready and then walking around on auto-pilot until the 5th cup of coffee kicks in around mid-morning' model.
My Olympics will then be the edited highlights in the evening which is not a bad thing, i will miss all the waiting around between events usually filled by banal chatter between someone who once came 7th in the 200 metre breaststroke and Michael Johnson wearing those shiny shirts he has a preference for and discussing how we can't pass a relay baton for toffee.
One thing we will still have foisted upon us and which annoys me beyond distraction, are the athletes who thank God for whatever colour medal they end up with.
The general gist is that God is sitting upstairs mulling over a long list of athletes and deciding, 'That Usain Bolt is a nice fella and all, but Tyson Gay is kind to his mum and there was that time he saved that vole. Gay it is then.'
If this continues i want to hear from the athletes who God decided are not worthy of receiving a medal.
I want to see the bitter 200m runner shaking a fist up at the sky and blaming God for their disappointing 6th place in the qualifying heats.
Make no mistake, if you win, God did it because he had decided that you are a worthy Olympian, if you don't win it's not because you skipped all those training runs when it was a bit cold and raining, its because God doesn't like you and thinks you are a bit of a git.
Yep, make no bones about it, if you leave Beijing empty handed it's because God really screwed you over this time. Maybe you should try one of the other deities next time, Muhammad seems to do quite well for the Ethiopian long distance runners so maybe he has an opening for someone in the One Person Dinghy, Laser Class. Might be worth a try.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Olmert's Successor

Israeli leaders seem to have a short shelf-life and outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's time in the big chair will be remembered chiefly for the Lebanon conflict and the allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust that followed him around like a bad smell and ultimately led to his removal.
As with the American elections, whoever slips into the leaders seat next has implications far beyond its own borders with the most pressing items in their in-tray being the Iranian and Palestinian issues.
Olmert set in motion a series of negotiations aimed at cooling the threats along the nation's borders, most notably with Syria, yet continued to controversially fan the flames of world opinion by increasing the expansion of Jewish settlements on West Bank land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.
With Olmert stepping down early, the opportunity to gain the leadership by taking control of the ruling Kadima Party is up for grabs which makes it a two horse race between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and transportation minister Shaul Mofaz. If no clear winner emerges from that a general election will be held which would introduce a third candidate to the race in former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who would be clear favourite to win.
So which of these three would be the best bet for settling accounts with its many foes and head towards a more secure future.

Probably the worst choice would be Shaul Mofaz, the man who generated global headlines recently when he said it was "inevitable" that Israel would attack Iran's nuclear installations. Mofaz's previous outpourings include pledging no return of the Golan Heights to Syria, no division of Jerusalem and no territorial compromise with the Palestinians until they defeat "terrorism".
As the army's chief of staff, he was known for house demolitions in Palestine territory, and an unwillingness to negotiate with Palestinian groups.

Tzipi Livni supported decisions to withdraw Israeli troops from Gaza and led the latest peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. She talks of the need for a two-state solution and would be the most likely to continue the peace talks with Syria but she is certainly no dove, critisising the ceasefire with Hamas and demanding a military response to rockets fired from Gaza.

In his last stint as Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu held peace talks with Yasser Arafat and turned over the West Bank city of Hebron to Palestinian jurisdiction. Like Olmert, he was forced from government by scandals and a corruption inquiry and is a strong opponent of Iran's pursuit of nuclear power and favours a military response, likening the Iranian regime to the Nazi party and accused them of being hell bent on starting a World War.

With Washington also installing a new leader in the next six months, the outcome of both these leadership battles will have great bearing for the Palestinians and International dealings with Iran. Anything other than Obama and Livni taking charge would be a disaster for everyone in that region and beyond and keep us on the same disastrous track that has bought so little reward.