Monday, 30 November 2009

Scottish Independence Not Happening

The story of William Wallace was based on a poem by a man named Blind Harry which may explain why he is depicted as having a blue face. Whether the line 'they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom' was added later by Deaf Billy is not known but i'm almost certain Mr Wallace would approve of the latest push by the Scots for their independence from England.
First Minister Alex Salmond has launched a White Paper for a vote on constitutional reform and declared: "It's time for the people to have their say on Scotland's future".
Damn straight i say, shame he didn't say that before Tony Blair and Gordon Brown got their hands on the seat of power, they could have messed up their own country rather than ours.
I don't particularly want to see the United Kingdom broken up but i wouldn't lose any sleep over it if it was. I do think that Mr Salmond has not run through his sums though because i don't think they would last long without all the money they get off England, £11bn a year at the last count, and a skint Scotland coming hand in cap to its wealthy neighbour is how the Union came about in the first place.
The general feeling is that the Scottish National Party doesn't have a snowballs chance of actually gaining the required number of votes to even kick start the referendum process and the whole thing will die a death until the next time some Scot hits upon the wheeze of breaking away from England.
You can still come and pick up Gordon Brown anytime you want though.

Another Dog Attack

It is with frightening regularity that the news has a story about a child being mauled by a dog.
A four year old boy was killed today by a 'pit-bull type' dog and the arguments start up again about it could have been any type of dog etc etc.
My argument is that whilst it is true that any breed of dog is capable of turning and i also agree to an extent that it is how a dog is raised that is a major factor, but the truth is that it is a certain breed of dog that seems to crop up as the killers.
Whilst a Chihuahua will obviously do less damage to a child than a German Shepherd if it attacked, it just emphasises the point that it is crazy to have a powerful dog around young children.
An American study conducted into dog attacks from 1982 to 2006 showed that pit bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios and their mixes are responsible for 74% of all attacks in the States, 65% of the deaths, and 68% of the maimings. The conclusion they reached is: 'Pit bulls and Rottweilers are accordingly dogs who not only must be handled with special precautions, but also must be regulated with the risk they may pose to the public and other animals, if they are to be kept at all.'
A large, powerful dog bought to protect and guard property is one thing. A lovable, family dog is another but mixing the two is a tragedy waiting to happen. Why would anyone want to have an animal around their loved ones that 'poses a risk' and has to be 'handled with special precautions'.
I dare say that there are many owners of these breed of dogs who will argue the point that theirs would not attack and it is the fault of irresponsible owners and they may be right but how many times do we hear those exact words from the owners after the event and then it's too late.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Consequences Of Attacking Iran

Worrying developments over the Iran nuclear issue with today's UN resolution demanding Tehran heed UN Security Council resolutions calling on it to stop uranium enrichment.
Of course nobody wants to see a nuclear armed Iran but then the idea of anybody with nuclear weapons in their arsenal is a frightening thought.
Just as frightening is the track we seem to be on which ends with Iran being the recipient of a massive amount of Ordnance courtesy of our armed forces.
There was already a growing clamour for this from some countries showing that we have learnt nothing from Iraq.
I do expect the Nuclear armed Israel to strike at Iran's Nuclear installations at some point in 2010 and they will do it with the tacit approval of the West, very likely using Western supplied weaponry.
I have written previously on the blatant hypocrisy and of the lack of evidence of Iran building a nuclear arsenal which resonates with the Iraq WMD fiasco only this time the American intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency have stated loud and clear that they have no evidence.
What is also being overlooked by the foolhardy armchair generals and leaders of countries that seem hell bent on bombing yet another Middle Eastern country are the repercussions a campaign against Iran would bring.
Iran has a huge military capability and a strike would see massive rocketing of Israel's cities not only by the Iranians but without a shadow of a doubt, also from Lebanon and from Gaza. This would trigger Israeli fighting on 3 fronts with a catastrophic death count all around.
Internationally, terrorism by Iranian agents against Israeli and Western targets would spiral and oil prices would rise steeply. American troops in Iraq and the NATO forces in Afghanistan would face renewed hostilities against an even wider ranging and wilder uprising.
These are the facts, and they are not the whinings of a pacifist or an Ahmadinejad fanatic hyping up an imaginary threat, these are the stone cold certainties of how it will unfold.
So what are the alternatives? Maybe we should think about making peace with Iran rather than threatening it with war, or is such an obvious solution too far-fetched for those who see dropping bombs on people and to hell with the consequences as the only answer to our problems?

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The All New, New Model Army

Despite having one of the coolest names for an army ever, life under Oliver Cromwell was not a barrel of laughs. Not only did he close down inns, theaters and ban the majority of sports, but the Puritan nut job also banned Christmas because it was more about the eating, drinking, dancing and having fun rather than the birth of Jesus. He did inspire Elvis Costello to sing a cracking song about him though.
Cromwell said that he talked to God directly and discussed his plans for battles with the big man personally although we now find it hard to think that any country today could be ruled over by a warmongering leader who talked to God directly about his plans to send his troops into battle. Ahem.
Although Cromwell was a sandwich short of a picnic he did have a point about Christmas because despite its origins, it's all about Santa, snowmen and reindeer now. Try finding anything related to Christmas now with a picture of Jesus on it and you will be disappointed.
The problem is that Jesus is just not cool. When you have magicians nowadays who can make the Statue of Liberty disappear or catch a bullet in their teeth, then turning water into wine just seems a bit, well, crap.
What Jesus needs is a professional PR job done on him because the other fictional character, Santa, is what Christmas is all about and the Churchy types know it. As an atheist, i'm more than happy to see Jesus and all his disciples pushed aside and a jolly fat man hauled wheezing into his place but in an unexplainable twist, i dislike the way it has turned into a grubby, money spinning commercial exercise where it isn't the thought that counts but how much you spent.
Cromwell began putting together the New Model Army by firstly rounding up all his relatives to form the core of his own regiment to take on the King's army so Auntie Freda, Uncle George, cancel your bingo night next week because we got a revolution to perform. Better not mention it to Auntie Lesley though, you know what she's like around men in uniform. We'd never get her out of the barracks.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Chilcot Inquiry

What normally happens with Government inquires is that a 'safe' senior Civil Servant is chosen and he dodders around a bit before coming back later to say that actually everything was fine and above board and the carpet is lifted and everything is swiftly brushed beneath it.
As shown by the Kelly inquiry into MP's expenses, sometimes they refuse to play the game and actually get the bit between their teeth and make things very uncomfortable for the people who appointed them.
As the Chilcot inquiry into Iraq launches tomorrow, there are already signs that Sir John Chilcot is prepared to lob a few hand grenades of his own to make the Government, and especially Tony Blair, very nervous.
He has already stated that Blair, Brown and the cabinet ministers at the time must speak in public when they were demanding they give evidence in private. Leaks have been circulating in the media this weekend including senior military commanders telling that preparations for the War were sabotaged by Tony Blair's government's attempts to mislead the public.
Other papers point to Blair promising George W Bush that he would join the US led invasion while denying to the country that preparations were being made for military action.
We already have facts from the Butler and Hutton inquires where the remit was so narrow and disjointed that it was impossible for them to join up all the dots. These need to be drawn together and placed alongside the new facts due to be unearthed to produce a time-line of what happened, when and why so an official stamp can be given to the truths, or untruths, that the we know already. The missing WMDs, the yellow cake, Dr Kelly's death, Saddam's Nuclear aspirations, the 45 minute claim, the changing legal advice, the missing United Nation Resolution, the dodgy dossier fiasco and the role of the intelligence departments.
Tony Blair seems to be keen to drift off into other spheres, leaving behind the mess of Iraq and the million Iraqi dead. Chilcot says he and his team would not shrink from making criticisms of individuals and he would provide a "full and insightful" account of the events leading up to, during and after the invasion but what the British public want to know is did Blair and his Government take us to war under false pretences and did we kill lots of people for no good reason.
If the answer is yes, then prosecutions have to follow. If Chilcot finds that despite all the evidence to the contrary that he is able to hand Blair, Brown, Straw and the rest of the Cabinet a clean bill of health then it could sound the starting bell of something volatile for a public already outraged by our political leaders self-interest.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

I'll Be Back LHC

As the Large Hadron Collider is back in action there was an amazing comment by a scientist on the BBC this morning who said that the whole idea went 'against nature and would be sabotaged by the future'.
The interviewer allowed this comment to pass but it sparked my imagination into considering a Terminator type situation where people come back in time to stop us making whatever catastrophe is about to befall us.
Albert Einstein said the 'separation between past, present and future is only an illusion' which shows which side of the time travel fence he sat upon and i never go against the advice of crazy haired Germans when it comes to all things scientific.
It is actually quite a simple thing to ponder that at some point in the future humans have the ability to be able to travel back in time. Think of the technology we had in 1909 compared to what we have in 2009 and us humans have advanced in amazing leaps and bounds. Imagine explaining Satellite Television to someone in 1909 and they would look at you as if you were crazy.
The usual argument from time travel sceptics is why are we not overrun by people from the future coming back to see us? One reason could be that there is nothing worth seeing at this moment in time.
If i had a chance to go back to the last century, the most obvious times to choose would be 1914-1919 and 1939-1945 for the wars and 1969 to see the Moon Landing with a stop off in 1991 to see Nirvana live when i had the chance but decided i'd give it a miss and see them next time. That gives 13 years out of a possible 100 so maybe there just hasn't been anything happening so far for them to want to come and see.
I love the idea that our future selves are able to come back and stop us doing stupid things although i may change my mind if there are reports of leather clad men wielding shotguns on motorbikes saying 'Hasta la vista, baby' riding around Switzerland anytime soon.

Blair Rejected Again

It was said that the first President of Europe should be someone who can go to other continents and stop the traffic. The only chance Herman van Rompuy has got of causing traffic jams in China is if his Renault Clio packs up on the Beijing ring road but an unknown Belgian is always preferable to the man who was very effective in stopping the traffic along with everything else like water, sanitation and electricity in Baghdad.
It would have been a travesty if Anthony Charles Lynton Blair was today sitting atop the throne of Europe but he was told to sling his hook and its the poetry writing Belgian Prime Minister instead.
Blair can now slink off back to not bringing peace to the Middle East and getting paid millions by Americans who pay to hear him tell them how awesome we all thought he was.
Come to think of it, i haven't heard a peep out of George W Bush since he left office. Has anyone checked that he isn't slumped in a armchair somewhere after another attempt at eating a Pretzel unsupervised?
Apart from now becoming the most famous Belgian ever, the only thing we know about Rompuy is that he is homosexual and likes to write poetry but most importantly, he isn't Blair.
For someone with an ego as big as his, the fact that he has not only been rejected by his party but also by his country and now his continent, has to hurt.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Henry Handball

Thierry Henry has a special place in the affections of all Arsenal Fans. Because of his connection with Arsenal, i have been asked several times over the few past days what i thought of his handball against the Irish. My simple answer is i'm not French or Irish so its no concern of mine what he did. England's through and that's all i'm worried about.
Why, what a Frenchman did against Ireland has become such big news here that it dominates the front pages of the tabloids is beyond me. I listened to the game on the radio and the commentators never mentioned handball until minutes later and the benefit of a few replays where they changed their mind and spent the remainder of the game saying how awful it was that the referee and linesman missed it.
If he did it against England then the Irish would be laughing their heads off so my view is tough luck Ireland. Get over it.
What is more of a concern is the even louder call for technology to play a part in football matches and that is something i am not much of a fan of.
I like the idea of such decisions coming down to what the referee or linesman's see. It makes it unpredictable and exciting. Many times my team and country have been the benefactor and the victim of some awful decisions by the referees. I have said 'phew, we got away with that one' just as many times as i have questioned the referees eyesight when a decision hasn't gone our way. It's part of the game and as much as i screamed at Wayne Rooney for his blatant dive to earn Manchester United a penalty against Arsenal earlier in the season, i was laughing like a drain when Michael Owen went down like he had been shot by a cannon when a bootlace breezed past his shin pad against Argentina in a previous World Cup.
What Thierry did was not nice if you are Irish, bloody great if you happen to be French and if Frank Lampard does the same thing in South Africa next summer we will be using words like cheeky and clever rather than labelling him a cheat or a shyster.
After all this support, we can now expect the Irish nation to be decking out their homes in the flag of St George and cheering on Capello's boys.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Bolon Yokte Is Coming Xmas 2012

There has been many end of the World prophecies. Most famous is probably Nostradamus who divided his time between growing rich inventing fake plague prevention pills and predicting the end of the World.
Ironically, his wife and children all died from the Plague later so although nobody would take his medicinal advice very seriously, many do take heed of his 'The End is Nigh' prophecies even if they have to rewrite them every time we wake up the morning after and find ourselves still here.
Now thanks to the film, 2012, we can prepare ourselves for the end because as the trailer's voice over solemnly instructs 'mankind's earliest civilisation warned us this day would come'.
The theory that we may as well cancel any plans for Christmas 2012 comes from the discovery that according to a partially deciphered, and half missing, hieroglyohic, Mayan calendars, things come to an abrupt end in 2012.
The bit of the inscription left foretells the descent to earth of the God Bolon Yokte on the Long Count date of 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk'u which is interpreted as December 21st or 23rd, 2012.
The next part which describes what this Yokte fellow will do when he gets here has been destroyed, but since this is a deity associated with war, who plays a key role in the ending of one world and the beginning of the next, most analysts have assumed it didn't outline a plan for the handing out of cuddly toys.
Coupling the story of Maya with its intriguing sudden collapse and strange prophecies written in an ancient language is guaranteed to catch our imagination but don't worry if the 2012 date for the end of the world by the headless poultry waving Deity pictured above isn't convenient for you because Pope Leo XI in 1514 predicted it will end in 2014 and he was a Pope so he must have had inside information so you still have plenty of time to buy up tins of beans, torch batteries and anti-plague pills for that underground shelter.

The Irish Or The French?

Being English, i of course want England to qualify for things like the World Cup and as deluded as it makes me, i want us to win them. Can't see it happening but it won't stop me cheering us on until we get knocked out the first time we meet a halfway decent team as usually happens.
Usual practise is to then half heartedly switch my allegiance to whatever European teams are left in it with the exception of any of the other British teams who i want to see not just beaten but sent home as early as possible broken and battered.
Luckily, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are what are technically known in footballing parlance as shite so they never bother the finals of many tournaments but this weekend the Republic of Ireland took on France in a World Cup Qualifier.
I'm not sure when Ireland became part of Britain but because of the high number of British based players in the Ireland team, we were urged to get behind 'our boys'.
Because of the high number of current and former Arsenal based players in the French team, us Gooners found ourselves cheering for Les Bleus.
Whether Ireland manage to still qualify or the French make it through on Wednesday, i'm not really all that bothered but i would prefer the French if i had to choose just because of the shallow reason i gave above.
The British have a strange sense of patriotism when it comes to the countries that make up the British Isles.
It's a weird 'if we can't win, we don't want our closest neighbours to win it either' which is the sentiment that got Andy Murray into problems a few years back when he claimed support for any team that were playing against England.
By a strange quirk of geography, France is actually closer to England than Ireland and the majority of French actually speak more understandable English than the Irish so trade in those pints of Guinness and grab yourself a Stella Artois and let's cheer on Thierry Henry's boys to South Africa.

Monday, 9 November 2009

David Haye Thrills The 1%

I never really took to Lennox Lewis as a Brit. One reason was the boxing gold medal he won for Canada at the 1988 Olympic Games but mainly it was the strange halfway across the Atlantic accent he had. Canadian at heart and a Brit for convenience was the much used term thrown at him.
Now, Britain has a proper Heavyweight Champion of the World in David Haye as he beat Nikolay Valuev at the weekend. How he won and if he deserved the verdict i have no idea because i, along with most of the country, didn't see it.
Haye is on a Sky TV contract and was on 5% of the sales from the £15 pay to view fee so he undoubtedly made a stack of money from it although only 700,000, or just over 1%, of the country saw him do it.
Good luck to him i say, if he wants to put money before the acclaim of the nation then that is up to him but i didn't meet anyone today who watched the fight and there was no excitement over his achievement.
This must be a consideration as the Government reviews the major sporting events which must be broadcast on free to air television.
The English Cricket Board have already commented that while they may be reaping a huge financial benefit from its deal with Sky, cricket has been deprived of a vast audience that potentially includes a future generation of players. Advertisers can't be best pleased either that the millions they spend is shown to such a tiny audience.
Every sport has the right to sell their 'product' to whomsoever they wish, but don't then complain that no-one watches and there pot of emerging talent dries up.
I expect David Haye to go on and make more money than he can count but to 99% of the country he will always be a poor second to boxers who may have a quarter of his talent and never win any belts but are household names whose fights people talk about the next day.

Now That's Not What I Call Music

If America was to throw a concert for its 234th birthday next year, it could call upon a sparkling array of musicians and as long as they didn't invite any Country & Western singers, it would be well worth watching.
If the United Kingdom were to celebrate it's 303rd birthday next year, again, we could have a fine line up. Other places like Canada, Australia and Ireland could rummage around and find enough decent musicians to put on a decent Birthday bash but some places couldn't.
France for example. Great artists but god awful musicians but to be fair to them, they know that they suck so they don't even try which is what someone should have whispered into the ear of the Israeli who decided they would have a concert for Israels 60th Birthday celebrations last year. I saw bits of it on one of the Arts Channels tonight and even the musicians seemed embarrassed to be there.
This got me thinking, why are all the best musicians from only a handful of countries?
If you were to go back to the classical era, Austria and Germany ruled the musical roost but you would rather remove your ears with a butter knife than listen to a concert of the best Austria or Germany has to offer now.
One of the reasons would be that the places where the main group of bands and singers emerge from sing in the English language. Abba would have sunk without trace if they had sung all their songs in Swedish.
So today the top places for musicians would be America, Britain, Canada, Australia and Ireland and then it hit me. All these places are countries us Brits had turned over at some point as part of our Commonwealth land grab. It was the long lost silver lining that i had long sought for our brutal regime.
Okay, so being indirectly responsible for the emergence of Guns N Roses almost 250 years later doesn't make up for hacking our way through hundreds of thousands of the indigenous population globally, but its the silver lining that smarmy British bloggers can arrogantly point to in an attempt to say to seven eights of the globe that thanks to us and our colonies, musically, we are the best and you all suck. Phil Collins excepted of course.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Arsenal Fans And Colorado Rapids Fans

It seems that my team Arsenal are the next club to be hauling up the Star Spangled banner above their Stadium as Stan Kroenke positions himself to make a grab for power. As Kroenke is named as number 164 in the Forbes 400 list of richest people in the World, us Arsenal fans can only say a big Howdy to the yank and wonder if Fernando Torres would prefer to move to the Emirates in the January or summer transfer window.

What it does mean is that Arsenal and its fans will now move in with the rest of the Kroenke family so what other team fans will we be joining. Hello St Louis Rams supporters, we call your sport American Football here which may become confusing.
Is that you i see hiding over there fans of the baseball team Denver Nuggets. I see you have already met the Colorado Avalanche Hockey fans. I expect we will be seeing much more of each other in the near future Colorado Rapids Football team. Pre-season friendlies and i imagine we will find our way to lend you a few of our lesser players. What's that? Do we have a striker that's not really cutting it and wouldn't be missed by the team that we could lend you? Nicklas Bendtner, these guys want a word with you.

Another of the English teams that have already joined up with American owners is Aston Villa who have taken Randy Lerner's money and actually made quite a decent fist of things if you ignore Emile Heskey. Their fans are now linked with the American Football Team the Cleveland Browns.

Liverpool fans have been campaigning to oust the American duo of George Gillett and Tom Hicks ever since they took over and now with them out of the Premier League Title race, the League Cup and as good as out of the European Champions League before the first weekend of November, things will only get warmer for the Americans. For now though they are in with the supporters of the baseball team Texas Rangers, and ice hockey's Dallas Stars.

Finally Manchester United fans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers supporters shared common ground when Malcom Glazer strode into Old Trafford and plonked his amusingly ginger facial hair behind the owners desk. What with the Man Utds managers purple nose it can be quite a colour clash when these two get together.
Anyway, Manchester United fans are easily the most despised in the country so by association we are legally obliged to boo loudly at you Buccaneer fans also. Sorry, its the law.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Hard Things Made Easy #2

Do you remember sitting in French lessons at school reciting the days of the week and how to count from one to ten. Of course this would come in handy if you needed to meet someone at the Eiffel Tower at 6 on a Wednesday but otherwise it was pretty useless.
I would expect that, like me, you spent the best part of a year saying things in a weird accent and then forgot them. How about if i said to you that by the time it takes you to read this post, about 3 mins approximately, i could teach you to speak thousands of French words? Sacre Bleu as they say.
The thing to remember is that a good majority of the words that make up the English language are taken from the French, with the endings subtly changed.

How many words can you think of that end in -ible? Possible, incredible, visible. Knock off the -ible at the end and replace it with -ebe and you are speaking French. Possebe, incredebe, visebe.

Same with words ending in -able. Table, acceptable, debatable. Knock off the -able and say -arb instead so its becomes tarb, acceptarb, debatarb.

Easy isn't it, and here's some more. Words ending in -ent and -ant. Arrogant, assistant, independent, transparent all have the -ant or -ent knocked off and replaced with -unt so its pronounced arrogunt, assistunt, independunt and transparunt.

The way to pronounce words ending in -ary is -aire so stationary, necessary and secretary become stationaire, necessaire, secretaire.

Know many words ending in -tion and -sion? Pronounce it -seeon so position become posiseeon and condition becomes condiseeon.

To round off your thousands of words, find words ending in -ical and say -eek instead. So political is politeek and economical is economeek.

Remember, this is only a very rough guide and isn't the spelling and it only works with the spoken word. It is also important to get the emphasis in the right place which is generally where the change is made so it is independ-UNT, condi-SEEON, deba-TARB or econom-EEK.

There, as promised, you have just added thousands of words of a foreign language to your vocabulary (vocabul-AIRE) in less than 3 minutes.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Dr Nutt

I've always found it a quirk of the British political system that a Government has to pick its ministers for Government posts from the members that have been elected. What we end up with is the man controlling the Health Department for example, with no background in Health and was previously a lawyer.
Obviously the Prime Minister cannot find a perfect fit for each position from among his elected members so to this end, the Government bring in 'experts' to give advice to the Minister and to help steer policy and to stop any monumental mistakes.
The problem is that experts, with all their experience and background, sometimes say things that the Ministers don't want to hear and why Dr David Nutt today finds himself sacked as the Governments chief drug adviser.
The Scientist made the judgement in a research paper that "Alcohol ranks as the fifth most harmful drug after heroin, cocaine, barbiturates and methadone. Tobacco is ranked ninth. Cannabis, LSD and ecstasy, while harmful, are ranked lower at 11, 14 and 18 respectively."
As the Government are in the middle of an attempt to reclassify cannabis, LSD and ecstasy as Class B drugs, and as they make billions from the alcohol and tobacco industry, Dr Nutt's comments were always going to be deemed less than helpful.
Experts do sometimes get it wrong as was shown with last weeks 'we are coming out of recession, oops, no we're not' debacle by the economy experts but I'd still take the view of an expert over that of a minister every time.
What Dr Nutt was actually saying was that although cannabis, LSD and ecstasy are undoubtedly dangerous drugs, there are actually some legal ones that are even more dangerous and damaging that need to be addressed as well.
We can disagree with him but personally i would assume that he knows more about it than the man who sacked him, Home Secretary Alan Johnson, whose background is in banking.
He was sacked, and was not the first expert to have been, for telling the truth as he saw it and means that the government is prepared to dismiss expert advice on the drug issue.
These scientists and scholars are not politicians and not supposed to tow the government line but the ministers should not take on independent advisers and then whinge and remove them when the advice comes back and it isn't what they want to hear.