Saturday, 28 February 2009

J is for...Just like the Nazi's

I hated history at school and often spent the time doodling in the margin of my exercise book or staring aimlessly out of the window until such time i could drop it like a hot potato and choose something interesting like Art & Design instead.
What i did miss out on was the Second World War and exactly what Hitler and the Nazi's were all about. Everything gleaned since has been from films and documentaries but the general feeling was that the Nazi's were evil because they killed lots of people. Since the 1940's there have been lots of wars and millions of people have been killed, the Iraq invasion has killed over a million people so far but nobody has called the British Labour Party or the American Republicans Nazi's so maybe it isn't in the number.
Maybe it is the fact that the Nazi's whipped up the crowd with falsehoods to support their highly dodgy invasion of Czechoslovakia and Poland but again, that's exactly what Bush & Blair did and to the United Nations and their own citizens.
Possibly it is because the Nazi's not just invaded a country but took over the Government but haven't we recently removed the Afghan and Iraq leaders and put our own guys in?
So it must be that the Nazi's violently and barbarically killed Jews in such large numbers but haven't the descendants of those same Jews just been killing captive Palestinians, and for the past 60 years, in massive numbers with the aid of chemical weapons?
As i said at the start, my grip on history is shaky at best but the Vikings, Romans and British have at some point invaded and barbarically killed others in large numbers, America and Israel have been the busiest when it comes to invading, fighting wars and taking over other peoples land since the Nazi regime. So i ask, why are the Nazis vilified for doing what they did when at some point or another since, it seems someone else has done the same thing?

Friday, 27 February 2009

I is for...Internationalism

Us English like to think that we gave sport to the World. We sing songs about how football is coming home when we hold a tournament and at the Olympic handover ceremony the London Major was banging on about how we gave the world table tennis. The only drawback is then everyone has a point when they say how come if we invented all these games we are so crap at them, fair enough.
England fans are accustomed to losing at sport and on the whole we accept it in good grace but there are some countries that just seem to sting a little more when they beat us.
Losing at anything to Australia hurts, as does getting beat by France, Germany, America or South Africa. Losing to Scotland, Ireland or Wales also cuts just that little deeper but it happens so rarely that we can pass it off as a once in a generation fluke.
In contrast to having certain countries that we hate to lose to, there are some that we almost don't seem to mind when they roll up and beat us at whatever sport it is we invented and everyone else is now better than us at it.
For some reason, we seem willing to accept being beaten by Holland, Brazil, West Indies, Canada and New Zealand which is just as well as it happens so often, with the exception of Canada of course that isn't that great at sports that doesn't involve ice skates and men hitting each other with sticks.
I say as we gave the games to the World, we can take them back and follow the American baseball example and hold a World Series with just us in it. Would be great for our self-confidence and we can top the Olympic medal table in 2012. Yay us.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

H is for...Heavyweight Boxing

Back in the 80s and 90s i would set my alarm clock for 3am to get up and watch the boxing. In those days Mike Tyson was ruling the heavyweight roost and fighting regularly so ITV would beam the fight live to our homes from Madison Square Garden or wherever the fight was taking place. Before he lost the plot completely, Tyson seemed unbeatable and was exciting to watch as he took apart whoever got off the stool in the opposite corner.
At the same time we also had the Eubanks, Benn and Watson middleweight scraps to make it the golden age of boxing.
After Tyson went to prison for rape, heavyweight boxing seemed to lose its sparkle. Lennox Lewis became the champion and although he fought under the banner of being British, he wasn't and was never really accepted as such. He was a good fighter but not spectacular and his fights were always quite boring to watch. He went and now the Klitchkow brothers are the top dogs and they are quite mechanical and stiff.
With Calzaghe retired, there just isn't any fighter at any weight that i would set my alarm to trudge downstairs at 3am to watch anymore and that is really disappointing because boxing is one of the greatest sports we have dreamt up. Heavyweight boxing especially because these guys were so big and powerful that one haymaker could change everything and that kept it exciting. Shamefully, i just don't seem to care anymore.
Possibly it has something to do with the East Europeans now dominating things and the nature of the Ukrainians and Russians who hold the belts is to have less of the showmanship and excitement of the American fighters but god they are boring and boxing needs another Tyson to come through because this has to be the worst time for boxing that i have ever known.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

G is for...Googling Yourself

Everybody has done it at some point, wrote their own name into Google and see if anything pops up. I just did it and had 619,000 hits. I had to wade through to page 6 before there was actually anything about the real me so the other 618,999 i presume are other people with the same name.
Luckily i haven't really got much of a footprint on the Internet but some people do put an amazing amount of personal details on this thing which has it advantages and disadvantages.
If i was an interviewer, i could plausibly google an applicant and there would be a good chance that they would have either a Facebook page, blog or somewhere where they spill their thoughts, likes and dislikes so i could form an opinion of them long before they get within the door for an interview.
Likewise, a boyfriend or girlfriend could be thoroughly checked out beforehand and a decision made to block their number in your mobile and leave a voicemail informing them that you are moving to Alaska.
My advice would be to be very careful with the information you put out there, even more so if you are actually a loon or have a liking for knitting your own underwear because the information is only a few clicks away and available to anyone who might have a motive for digging up facts about you.
Even worse you might google yourself and find out someone saying nasty things about you like this guy on page 10 of my google results who said I'm a real brick. That's not too bad, sturdy, mistake, that first letter isn't a b. The bastard.

Monday, 23 February 2009

F is for...Feck

Father Ted was not only one of the best comedy shows this country had produced, but it gave us the word that the English language has been missing, a sociably acceptable way to say one of the most common but socially unacceptable swear words.
We knew what the priests really meant when they told Bishop Brenan and others to Feck off and it quickly became an everyday word because we had been waiting for a way to say the word without actually saying it.
I was never happy with saying freaking or fricking, they just never seemed guttural enough and muttering that someone was a fugging twit just seemed too cutesy. A bit too close to saying hugging possibly.
Focker or Fokker was the closest we got to it, the satisfying hard k seems to be the key and Stan Boardman made a career out of making jokes about the German Fokkers bombing his city during World War 2.
I make regular use of feck and mumble for fecks sake at least three times per day when i mess up and it is all thanks to Father Ted. God Bless his feckin cotton socks.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

E is for ... European Champions League

Two points to this post. One is the return of the European Champions League where the best of the best of European club football teams play each other to find the best team in Europe and therefore arguably the World. Portsmouth went out of the little European Cup early on so all that's left for me is to hope that Manchester United don't win it.
Very unpatriotic of me perhaps, shouldn't we English be cheering on the English teams? Nope because it seems that everyone who is not a Manchester United fan, hates them. Very tribal English supporters and there teams, very much an attitude of if we can't win it we don't want you to either and as a Pompey fan and therefore in no danger of appearing in a European Champions League match this side of hell freezing over, i will be cheering for Inter Milan this week.
The second point is the idea that creeps up every few years just after England do crap at a tournament. The blame will be put squarely on all the foreign players we have in our league which blocks the progress of the English players. The teams that mostly get it in the neck for having so many overseas players are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United which just happen to be the four teams who top the Premier league and make it to the later rounds of the Champions League every year. Would Liverpool fans be happy to give up Fernando Torres and go back to having Emile Heskey upfront again just so England can do a bit better in World Cups? If a budding English player can't learn to be a better player by daily training at his club with the likes of Cesc Fabregas or Deco then he probably isn't England material anyway.

Paid For By Stanford

While English cricket recovers from its dalliance with Allen Stanford, there was been a story in the newspapers a few months back that at the time made me laugh, and must be giving a giggle to those who have had their fingers burnt by Mr Stanford.
Last year Allen Stanford got up a West Indies 11 to play England at a tournament of five cricket matches. The winning players to receive a million dollars each, donated from Stanford's own pocket.
Captain was Jamaican captain Chris Gayle and this is where it gets pant wettingly funny.
During the tournament, while Stanford was proudly watching his team beat England, Gayle was giving his own special type of delivery to Stanford's girlfriend at the time.
As a member of the winning side, Stanford then had to present him with a cheque for a million dollars. Hilarious and well played that man.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

D is for...Disarmament

Anyone with any sense would like to see the whole world disarmed of Nuclear Weapons. Of course that isn't going to happen because that particular genie is out of the bottle and all we can do is hope that nobody ever gets to use them again. The bombs we possess now are many more times powerful than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and whatever the rights or wrongs of those two events, so the death and devastation would be even more horrific.
So why keep them hanging about? It is all about willy waving. America, Britain, France and all the rest of the Nuclear club (including Israel of all places to have such a devastating weapon) see them as a way to make themselves look big as they deal with other countries around the world. The subtle undertone as discussions with less friendly nations that we could obliterate you so play nice.
As Pakistan and India showed, and North Korea and Iran have taken on board, everything changes once you become a nuclear power. If i was in charge of either N Korea or Iran, i would be going hell for leather to develop the bomb and then parking it right in the middle of the town square.
Of course the biggest threat isn't from a country, its from terrorist cells and what good is nuclear weapons against them? None at all unless you are willing to take out half the country they are in at the same time.
So as much as i support the idea behind CND, it ain't gonna happen so save your subscription money and just hope that the uneasy balance between the haves continues and if the have-nots decide to join the party, well, you can't blame them.

Friday, 20 February 2009

C is for...Country & Western

For obvious reasons, Country & Western music is not that large a draw in England. A trip into our country will yield no wide expanses with cowboys and High Chaparral style ranches. It's farmers blocking roads with their tractors and the Wurzels singing about how they have a brand new combine harvester. True story and yes it did.
I remember a short lived C&W satellite channel a while back but otherwise the image is of Billy Ray Cyrus and Dolly Parton who is more famous for two other things rather than her songs.
The BBC music website used to lump Country and Folk Music together in the same genre which leads to headache inducing scenes of men skipping while wearing bells on their ankles and banging together sticks while wearing rhinestone shirts.
There have been some decent country singers that have made it here. The aforementioned Dolly and Billy, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers i can name off the top of my head and if i thought a bit harder i am sure i can think up some more men and women who appeared on Top of The Pops wearing a stetson and singing about how their dog died and their car got reposessed or their wife or husband left them.
Unfortunately, what comes with Country and Western music is probably the worst sounding instrument known to man. The Hawaiian steel guitar.
It sounds just like louder and more powerful version of the Stylophone that Rolf Harris would try and hock to us back in the 70s. Bloody nasty thing that was and if i never hear a Stylophone or a Hawaiian steel guitar ever again i will be happy. Even happier if i never hear that Coward of The County song also.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

B is for...Beckham

When David Beckham was voted the 2nd best footballer in the world in 2000, George Best made the remark that "He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn't score many goals. Apart from that he's all right."
I always thought Beckham was a decent enough footballer, his ability to ping a football half the length of the pitch and land it directly at his colleagues foot was admirable but i always felt that he was very lucky to make such limited talent go such a long way.
Now he is itching to get away from LA Galaxy and not head the ball or go past an opponent in the Italian League with AC Milan.
Despite his argument that he didn't go to America for the £125 contract and it was to try and increase the popularity of the sport over there, nobody actually believed him. After Real Madrid he had options to come back to England or join any of the Italian clubs who were making noises in his direction but he took the money and went to play in the backwater which is the MLS, by all accounts the standard of our lower Championship leagues.
Now that he has had a taste of the big time again after his loan at Milan, he wants to stay in Italy and has said that he would be disappointed if he had to return to Los Angeles.
Maybe he thought that his England career was over, that he couldn't cut it anymore in the Premier League, Serie A or La Liga but he must regret stepping away from the spotlight when he did and now at 33, his best years are behind him.
Frankly, i am surprised that AC Milan are willing to shell out the millions Galaxy are rightly demanding for him, he can cross a decent ball and take a great free kick but apart from that he managed to make an excellent career out of actually having very little and if the deal falls through and he finds himself back at LA Galaxy, he only has himself to blame.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A is for...Anonymity

Seems quite a controversial topic, especially when it comes to bloggers. There are two sides to the argument that goes with anonymity. One is the right for a person to decide to keep their identity out of the public domain while the downside is the ability for some people to use the same lack of identity to act like a moron.
Looking around at some blogs there have been some downright nasty comments left for the author or other commenter's and most of them have no link back to their own blogs. The anonymity afforded to the abuser induces a great sense of bravery to the person who decides to give a miss to debating like adults and goes for the option of name calling and personal attacks. It is very doubtful that in the real world they would act in such a manner, mainly because they would be nursing a fat lip or worse seconds after opening their mouths.
Some bloggers who hold less conventional views and seem to attract the potty mouthed idiots, switch on comment moderation so they can weed out these idiots which is fine but can be used by the more unscrupulous authors to skew the comments they allow on their blog towards there own way of thinking.
Unfortunately, it is the price bloggers have to pay for having a unregulated Internet where we can say whatever we want on any subject we want but i would rather have to put up with the odd socially backward commenter unable to engage in debate rather than make everyone identifiable with their real life details which could lead to all sorts of problems.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Heartless Bosses

The worst part about a recession is that people lose their jobs and there is no nice way to go about making people redundant but there are some ways that are better than others.
How do the staff at Llyods and Hbos feel knowing that while the axe hovers above 20,000 of them, the bosses are sharing out millions in bonuses. Things are really messed up when this is seen as acceptable because it isn't, you just cannot make a case for this being right.
Likewise the decision to tell the 850 staff at BMW that they were now redundant an hour before there shift ended.
To make things worse, they are Agency staff and therefore have no claim to redundancy regardless of how long they have been employed there. I don't know, but my guess would be that BMW have known for a while that they were going to have to cut back on staff so why was no period of notice given so the staff had at least a glimmer of a chance of finding something else. Even a weeks notice would have been poor but would have been something. To call them together and say that in 60 minutes you are unemployed is shabby.
The recession is sad and unless you are in one of the safer jobs, we all are under threat and dread the call to a meeting with the boss but there are more sympathetic ways to break the bad news.
I just hope that BMW and Lloyds and everyone else who doesn't give a seconds thought to their staff get what is coming to them. A bit of compassion is the very least they could show.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Hello World

Hello All.
As Lucy goes off to serve her time at her Majesty's pleasure or whatever it is she is doing for the next few months, i have offered to step into the breach and either keep this blog ticking over or run it into the ground whatever happens first.
What you won't get from me is cutting satire, philosophical political pieces or any of that left wing or right wing stuff Lucy previously managed to fill her once fine blog with. My brief is to write about anything that i see on the TV or read in the newspaper that pisses me off and as i tend to spend quite a bit of my day saying to people how much that thing i saw on TV or read in the newspaper pissed me off, this should be a doddle.
Expect spelling mistakes, bad grammar, bad language, the wrong punctuation turning up in weird places and badly thought out, half arsed ideas about how to right the worlds wrongs. I'm not a journalist, a philosopher, a wordsmith or an intellectual in any way, shape or form. I'm not a vegetarian, i have never been on a demonstration in my life and the only left and right wings i understand are on the football field.
I will be wrong more times than i am right, be rude to anyone rude to me and use the medium of Lucy's blog to slag off anyone who says bad things about me, what i write about or Portsmouth FC.
Okay, so armed with Lucy's google reader, her Blog roll and a rather long list of things to do and things to don't do, let's see how long i can go before Lucy changes the passwords. First job, how to change it from Lucy to Paul and not delete everything else.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

And The Winner Is...

It's award season and there is only so many times you can see Brad and Angelina posing for photographs on a red carpet or Kate Winslett blubbing in front of a podium before you reach the conclusion that God, these gong giving events are brain numbingly boring.

While the more mainstream actors and actresses are getting their backs slapped, there is a more alternative award ceremony going on that celebrates the actors and actresses who get slapped onto their backs. Or up against a wall. Or on the bonnet of a car. Actually, almost anywhere because this is the 26th Annual Adult Video Awards.

Former husband and wife team Evan Stone and Jessica Drake took the best actor and actress awards and 'Cry Wolf', a tense psychodrama by all accounts, was voted the best film.
Special mention must go to the best title of the year winner 'Strollin in the Colon' although it might be best not to ponder to long on what the film is about, but i don't think it's regarding healthy eating.

One film that did end up clutching an armful of awards to its artificially enhanced bosom was Pirates 2: Stagnettis revenge, a special effects laden romp which had the biggest budget in the history of adult films and is loosely based on the Pirates of the Caribbean film although i don't remember Johnny Depp doing that with a ho ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Turn On, Tune In, Sell Out

No financial gain from any large corporations was received while writing this joint post with Cody, the author of the It Is What It Is blog. This time the left v right, limey v yank, men v women difference of opinion is over concept of musicians 'selling out'. Cody's view of things can be found here.

Musicians "Selling out" means different things to different people. To some it means compromising one's principles in exchange for money, success or other personal gain. For others it has a more political flavour with a group pretending to adhere to a one ideology, while following another.
A case in point would be the political group, Rage Against The Machine, who through the 80's and 90's preached social activism against 'lying corporations' while signing a multi-million pound contract with Epic Records.
If ever a band could be castigated for betraying their core values that are represented in their music it is RATM but there are not many bands who have avoided the inevitable shout of selling their soul for the corporate shilling.
I grew up listening to the likes of the the Damned, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Green Day, Guns n Roses and Nirvana, all angry rebels dispelling the myth that we have to toe the line set out by the squares in charge.
Then came Johnny Rotton, the man who called for Anarchy in the UK, advertising Country Life butter and Nirvana doing a semi-acoustic set singing Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam. Bah.
It would be naive to think that people don't change, that bands never mature and their ideas and direction doesn't evolve but music has a strong effect on us and bring memories flooding back. That song that inspired you, gave you confidence or spoke to you and made you feel that you were not alone in fighting a perceived injustice should not turn up a decade later advertising pet food or kitchen roll.
The Indy movement of the late 80s and early 90s spewed forth such bands as James, Skunk Anansie and Carter USM who built up a huge following and then lost them again when they signed to large labels and went from angry, edgy musicians with a message to turning out safe pop tunes. This should be an example of what happens when you make a deal with the devil, your integrity is compromised and safe and boring never inspired anyone except the equally safe and boring.
Maybe the message is to not look too deeply into the lyrics our heroes are singing, to recognise that it is just a song with a bunch of words strung together in poetic couplets and the angry young singer whipping up a frenzy with their music is actually going to get in their car and drive back to the life of luxury that they came from. But then where is the fun in that? I want my musicians angry and spitting venom at injustices and if i dip out and return a decade later, they are still just as angry and still looking for targets to aim their barbs at. I don't want that song that made me go 'Hell Yeah' to turn up advertising Washing-Up Liquid and the man i revered telling me to buy a Vauxhall Vectra.
Musicians have a duty to their fans to not sully their memories for the sake of a few pounds.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Man Flu Exists

man flu : The condition shared by all males wherein a common illness (usually a mild cold) is presented by the patient as life-threatening. Also known as 'Fishing for Sympathy' or 'Chronic Exaggeration'.

Men are far more likely than women to take a day off work claiming they have flu, according to this survey that i stumbled across today.
Almost one in three men said they had taken time off work because of flu or colds, compared with one in five women questioned.
The research is being heralded as proof of the existence of "man flu" - or the tendency for men to interpret a bit of a cough and sniffle as a potentially life-threatening illness. They also moan more, fork out more on remedies and 82% stay in bed until they feel better.
Jakki Stubbington, of Benenden Healthcare, which carried out the study, said: "All women know that 'man flu' exists and now here is official proof. Women have all seen men making a meal of a sniffle and claiming a bit of a cold is the latest, deadly flu virus.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Carol Thatcher Furore

Considering the surname and her infamous mother, Carol Thatcher has always seemed a very pleasant and amiable person whenever i have seen her on television. As usual with our 'celebrities' the public persona can be very different to the private one and it seems that Thatcher juniors views on race relations leaves something to be desired.
Regardless of whose mouth it comes from, repeatedly referring to a black person as a 'golliwog' is wrong as she did when talking about a coloured tennis player whilst waiting in the green room ready to appear on a BBC show.
To then offer a half hearted apology and comment that 'you don't understand what the fuss is about' is the height of ignorance and exactly why Ms Thatcher deserves everything she gets aimed at her.
The BBC, mindful of the recent Johnathon Ross incident, fired her from her role as a roving reporter and are now unbelievably being accused of being rash in dismissing her. The Major of London has even came out in support of her, saying the comment was ' a bit offensive'.
Maybe people like Carol Thatcher, Boris Johnson and all those who are accusing the BBC of falling to Political Correctness greet there black friends with a cheery 'Hello golliwog' but i strongly doubt it because even inside their thick skulls there is a part that must recognise that it is deeply offensive and demeaning.
Most vexing is the amount of white people who are phoning up radio shows and writing letters to the press saying that it isn't an offensive thing to say while the black population are telling tales of how they grew up with the same word aimed at them as a term of abuse.
If you are one of those that doesn't understand what the fuss is about or subscribe to the Daily Mail line that it is 'sad that Britain has become a country in which we have to watch our tongues for fear of offending a politically correct public service ruling class' then i really worry about how many pathetically ignorant people we still have in this country.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Shining

I once had a friend who had ambitions to be an author and every time he gave me a pile of type to read through i would comment that it needed a vampire. Sure enough he soon got fed up with it and stopped sending me things to read through but i stubbornly maintain that any story can be improved with the introduction of the blood drinking living dead. Just think how much better Pride and Prejudice would have been if Mr Darcy had taken to rampaging through the village of Longbourn in an orgy of blood lust instead of chasing the prudish Elizabeth about the place but then Jane Austen seemed to do quite well without my advice. Could have been better though.
One man who doesn't need my advice because he always seems to squeeze a bogeyman somewhere into his writing is Stephen King who has been honoured as the author of the scariest movie ever by boffins at King's College, London.
Using a mathematical formula which factored in the use of music, the balance between true life and fantasy, and how much blood and gore is involved, the scientists picked out the Shining out of hundreds of horror films and the shower scene in Psycho as the scariest moment ever.
I did see another version of The Shining a few years back which stayed true to the book and knocked spots off the Stanley Kubrik version which weaved its way around the book rather loosely although it was damned scary. The two small girls in the hallway asking the boy if he wanted to come and play with them. Funnily enough as i write this there is an advert for the Shining on the TV behind me. Wow, i forgot how scary it was what with the screeching and wailing woman, her features all twisted and screwed up in anguish, abandoned and shunned by society.
Ooops sorry, its an advert for Madonnas UK tour. She could do with some Vampires on backing vocals methinks.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Sometimes We'll Sigh Sometimes We'll Cry

In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Buddy Holly 13th on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
For many, Holly is most famous for wearing thick rimmed glasses, singing Peggy Sue and then dying in an aeroplane crash and looking like an early version of Elvis Costello and that was pretty much my view of him up until my late teens when i began taking more of an interest in musical history.
I wouldn't describe myself as a big fan of Buddy Holly and i don't think that his music has particularly aged very well but he did have a unique style and image that makes him stay in the memory.
The most obvious trait was his thick rimmed glasses which, even back in the late 50s, must have made him stand out from the slick look of his fellow musicians. He also had that hiccuping style of singing which sounded as if he had made the line in the lyric too short and was trying to stretch out the line to fit the tune. Very effective though and attributed to him borrowing the style used by country singers of that era.
Considering that he was only around for 18 months and at 22, probably had the better years ahead of him, he did seem to leave a mark on music disproportionate to his short time in the spotlight.
I would pick out 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore' and 'True Love Ways' as my favourite Buddy songs and if you take a glance of the other acts around at the time you get a sense of how something simple but driving like 'Peggy Sue' or 'Oh Boy' would appear a revelation.
Whether he deserves to appear 13th in a list of greatest artists ever is debatable but i do get a sense of how influential he might have been in showing that you don't need to be handsome like Elvis or a guitar sensation like Chuck Berry to leave your mark on the history of music timeline.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Chavez Looking Good 10 Years On

One World leader guaranteed to get the right frothing at the mouth is Hugo Chavez who today celebrates 10 years as Venezuelan President.
I make no bones about, i think the man is a shining example of what all World leaders should aspire to and you only have to look at the state of the Country that he inherited from the brutal right wing dictator Perez, and compare it to how it is now ten years later under the guidance of Chavez and his Socialist ideals.
In 1998, the majority of Venezuelans lived below the poverty line and after Chavez won the Presidential election he made it a priority to lance this particularly unpleasant boil.
He nationalised the country's oil reserves and set about using the revenue from the oil business to be used to finance social and development programmes.
Chavez began literacy campaigns, built free medical centres and hospitals and constructed schools in the poorest neighbourhoods as well as subsidising supermarkets to reduce the cost of food to the poorest families.
What Chavez has done is not such a revolutionary idea, he just let the people keep the profits from the natural resources of their country to better their lives.
What must really grate with the right about Chavez is that this is the first serious attempt at a modern form of Socialism and only the most blinkered of McCarthy era relics would not admit that Chavez has made a mighty fine fist of things so far.
To compare 1998 to 2008 figures make astounding reading.
1628 doctors in 1998, 19,571 today while there was 250,000 free school meals in 1998 in 2008 there was 1.8m.
Access to education has dramatically increased, including more than 1 million people participating in free adult literacy classes, leading to Venezuela eradicating illiteracy by UN standards.
The 60% of the population in poverty in 1998, is down to below 30% today. The Venezuelan economy has grown by almost 80% with inflation down from 120% in 1998 to just under 20% now.
Don't expect those bent on condemning Chavez as a power crazed megalomaniac to applaud these impressive achievements but the rest of us can maybe agree that he has set about solving the problems of the most vulnerable in Society, namely the poor and sick and has laid the groundwork for a country where the majority and not the few, reap the most benefits and that is as it should always be.
Here's to another 10 more years of the incredible Hugo Chavez.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Wind Of Change In Europe

As the recession bites, there is a sense of something in the air in Europe that doesn't bode well for not only the Governments but the entire system that they run their countries by.
Almost 20 years ago many Governments in the East of Europe ditched communism and put their faith in a capitalist system much feted by the West. This very same system is now in crisis and quite rightly, the people have every reason to feel betrayed but it isn't just the former communist bloc that citizens are taking to the streets. The big, wealthy democracies of Western Europe are also hearing the growing mumblings of discontent and as Europe's time of troubles deepen, Governments are right to be worried as revolt is in the air.
This weekend France was at standstill by a wave of strike action and riots over growing unemployment, wildcat strikes hit the length and breadth of Britain as oil workers downed tools over job security and the bringing in of Italian and Portuguese workers. Angry protesters gathered in Hungary as unemployment rockets, Greek farmers joined students to blockade motorways and major roads, Latvia witnessed 15,000 demonstrators rampaging through the capital and trying to storm the parliament.
Ukraine, Lithuania and Iceland have also seen violent protests and if the pundits are to believed, the economic situation is going to get much worse before it gets any better and it will be in the East Europeans countries where the recession is going to make the most changes to the political landscape as the inevitable calls grow for a return to Communism.
The conclusion that they are rapidly reaching is that they have lost the attractive sides of communism (subsidized housing, cheap fuel, guaranteed jobs) as well as the less desirable aspects (secret police, censorship).
That is the trade off and they would have every right to ask questions about the economic system that they have adopted and was sold to them by the West as the route to economic wealth and stability.
Governments will fall as things grow worse and the East European Parliaments look the most fragile and susceptible to a revolution. The irony is that it was two decades of Capitalism that made Communism look attractive again to those who have lived through both and decide that the disadvantages of Capitalism far outweigh the disadvantages of Communism.