Sunday, 31 October 2010

Saints v Sinners

As usual, the Church leaders are complaining about Halloween and are making a push to 'reclaim it for the Church'. One suggestion from the dog collar wearing fraternity has been to get children dressing up as Saints and not vampires or devils but you are not going to get many sweets turning up at my door looking like St Francis of Assisi. And what if i refuse, I mean, a saint can hardly threaten to egg my car, can he.
The Devil not only has the best tunes, he also has the best characters which is why the Church have as much chance of taking back Halloween as St. Bernadette of Lourdes had of getting a job at Hooters.
Anyway, given the revelations about the Catholic church recently, what could be scarier than having your kids open the front door to see a bloke dressed up as a Roman Catholic priest standing there?
Vampires are the most popular choice from the creatures of the night list but they have always been the more cooler of the dead types. We don't seem to see many Mummies or Zombies around these parts anymore. There are quite a few children wearing a sheet with holes cut out for the eyes and girls who go for the dead schoolgirl look. There are some who don't really get it and have rang the doorbell wearing fairy or sheriff costumes so they get the sweets nobody else takes. It's a way of saying i appreciate the effort but it has fallen short of my expectations and only worthy of a sour gobstopper which next doors cat licked and has a hair stuck to it. Try again next year.
We have a few Halloween events going on around here this year. Trips around the local haunted buildings, costume competitions and the cinema is holding a Halloween marathon with 12 hours of scary films.
If the Church is wanting to reclaim Halloween for all that is good and saintly, maybe it can resurrect that old Christian ritual of tying old ladies to a chair and seeing if they drown. Amen.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

London firefighters risky strike

I don't have a problem with people going on strike if they think their employer is not being fair. That's why unions are so important, they are the only thing that stops employers from really taking advantage and as we see time after time, employers will take advantage if they can get away with it.
The drawback with strikes is it is the general public that suffers and support quickly turns into criticism if it drags on too long.
The London fire brigade is going on strike over new contracts they are being forced to sign and they have chosen the busiest time of the year, Guy Fawkes night, to walk out.
Now that the Government has announced such swathing cuts, we shall be seeing much more of this kind of action but if the only tool workers have is to withdraw their labour, then they have very little choice to do anything else. Negotiations were not working and employers will always be happy to drag their feet 'negotiating' while you continue doing the work.
Being the fickle fellows we are, the British are always very supportive of strikers initially but quickly lose our patience when it affects us. The main post office i drive past was receiving many honks of support by passing cars for the first few days then when they went on strike a month ago but by the end of the week they were getting shouted at as people were not getting their letters.
Without public support, industrial action tends to fizzle out but the worst possible outcome for the London firefighters will be the public bonfires that have to be cancelled now.
Missing out on our annual big firework events could be where they lose support before they even get going to build any.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Smells Like Losing My Religion Jeremy

1991 is probably best remembered for the Gulf War, the collapse of the USSR, Mike Tyson's rape arrest and Arsenal winning the League title.
What 1991 should also be remembered for is probably the year music peaked.
I'm not one for placing my CD collection in order, they usually end up in a jumble beside the CD player, but a comment about how 90s dominated my side of the CD cabinet had me commandeering the dining table and sorting through them.
While it is true my collection is very much 90s heavy, the greatest number of CDs were from 1991 and what a stonkingly great year that was for music.
REM were in that brief period when they great with 'Out of time', Tom Petty's 'Into the great wide open', 'Ten' by Pearl Jam, the magnificent Guns N Roses double bill 'Use your illusion 1 and 2, Nirvana 'Nevermind', the Red Hot Chilli Peppers had not yet cleaned up their act and turned bland with 'Blood sugar sex magik', Prince was at his pervy best 'Diamonds and Pearls' and Metallica had yet to annoy all their fans with views on MP3 downloading with 'The Black Album'.
The singles that came from those albums to fill the 1991 charts were classics as well as songs such as 'summertime' by the Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, 'Two Princes' Spin Doctors, 'Weather with you' Crowded House, The Waterboys 'Whole of the moon' and 'Sit Down' by James.
Green Day were cutting their pop punk teeth with 1039 Smoothed out slappy hours and the very underrated Carter USM were just moving on to the radar with '30 Something'.
When you throw in re-releases of the Clash's 'Should i stay or should i go' and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' i declare that 1991 was the best year for music. Ever.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


Outlining the planned cuts, Chancellor George Osborne said "We are all in this together and all must make a contribution."

From the Government official review paper.

B.36 The following charts present the impact across the income distribution of Budget measures (including measures that were announced in the March 2010 Budget or earlier on which the Coalition Government will be introducing legislation) along with Spending Review announcements. To do this, households are ordered by their income and then divided into 10 equally sized groups called deciles. As households with more adults and children require higher levels of household income and expenditure to achieve the same standard of living, an internationally standard adjustment called equivalisation is used to ensure households are compared on an equal basis.

To explain, 1 is the higher income households and 10 is the lower income households. The figures down the left is how much each group stand to lose due to the deficit reduction programme.

We will obviously have to Tipex-out the definition of fair we currently have in our dictionaries.

Be gentle George

Tomorrow afternoon, just after lunch, George Osbourne is going to stand up and screw us all.
490,000 jobs going in the public service we heard today but as we are all in this together, anyone earning over £44,000 a year is losing their £15 child benefit. Ha, who's laughing now fat cats!
Yes we may be losing our libraries, bus services, jobs, police protection, hospitals and have to work longer for less pension but you lose your £15 a week benefit. It's only fair.
Maybe it's just me but there does feel something rather wrong about a bunch of millionaires telling us plebs what we can do without.
I don't know how the families of the 490,000 public service personnel will feel after tomorrow when they find out one or both parents are now unemployed but i don't think they will be thinking its very fair.
Yes we do have a big hole in our finances which needs to be filled somehow but it just feels even more worse when it comes from the Conservatives. The stinking rich, smug Conservatives with their expensive suits and shiny black patent leather shoes.
I just hope that we are not British about the whole thing and just take it. I want us to take a leaf out of the Frenchies book and bring the country to a standstill with strikes. Let's see how long the coalition stands up when the petrol stations run dry and we clog up the streets with the soon to be hundreds and thousands of unemployed waving placards and demonstrating.
Luckily i won't be within sight of a television or radio so i won't be able to see the smug face or hear the smug voice of George Osborne handing out the medicine.
We are all in it together but i don't need a crystal ball to know that some of us are going to be more in it than others.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Religion: A Force For Good In The World?

Tony Blair was many things but as much as i dislike him, he was a great debater. Another man who is of dubious character but can argue with the best of them is Christopher Hitchens which is why when they clash in Toronto at the end of November, it should be titanic.
Blair, god botherer extraordinaire, is going head to head with chief atheist Hitchens in a debate titled 'Religion is a force for good in the world.'
Why the two Englishmen have to go to Canada and can't argue it out in their own country is a mystery unless Blair has had enough of being harangued whenever he sets foot outside of his front door here and hopes the Canadians won't come armed with eggs like the Irish did.
So is Religion a force for good in the World?
The best answer i can come up with is that it should be, but it isn't.
It is hard to fathom how something which is predominantly about caring and loving your fellows could be responsible for so many wars, conflicts and hatred throughout history but we have been killing each other in the name of religion ever since the idea of a creator was first floated.
The test would be how would the world look if religion had never been devised?
You could argue that there would still be just as many deaths, just they would have a different justification and you would have a valid point but this page attributes 890 million deaths to religious conflicts. That's almost a billion people dying in the name of one God or another.
I can't think of conflicts over any other beliefs that can get even close to that figure.
So if religion has been such a driving force for us to kill each other throughout history, is it making things better in our modern world today?
The Vatican recently repeated it's claim that Catholics should not use condoms despite AID's claiming 20 million lives and affecting another 42 million.
The Middle East is a firestorm of Jews versus Muslims and Muslims of one flavour against another.
Northern Ireland is simmering with religious tension and atrocities in the name of religion are going on in Sudan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq, Cyprus, East Timor and the Ivory Coast.
Al Queada are out to kill as many infidels as possible and the Chechen's have targeted all Christians as enemies.
It is hard to make a case for what the World gains by having religion in it against this damning list but maybe Tony Blair will have better luck.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Why is Ahmadinejad the bad guy?

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in the papers after turning up touring Lebanon.
The United States and Israel have expressed concern, with the White House deeming the visit provocative and Israeli officials calling Ahmadinejad a warmonger. How black must that Israeli pot and kettle be? I haven't got enough fingers to count the wars Israel has got itself into. Stick a pin in a map of the middle east and it is high odds Israel has fought with it.
I have never really understood why there is so much animosity from Israel and America towards the Iranian leader.
Yes, his country backs Hezbollah but America and Israel have a history of backing some very iffy characters.
Israel gave South Africa of all countries the technology to build the bomb while America were best pals with the Taliban not so long ago and Al Queada has 'made in America' stamped right through it.
He wants to build nuclear power stations just like Britain, Israel, USA, France and most of the world. No evidence whatsoever that he wants to build nuclear weapons like Britain, Israel, USA and the others already in the nuclear club.
He doesn't like how Israel treats its neighbours, especially the Palestinians, but outside of the USA and Israel, nobody likes how Israel treats its neighbours especially the Palestinians.
The often repeated speech where he supposedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map has been dismissed here before anyone pipes up with that bit of disinformation.
So unless i am missing something, i can't see why Ahmadinejad is the bad guy especially when there are worse countries in that particular area.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Passing blame for Linda Norgrove

I have been hearing lots of conflicting views about the death of British Aid worker Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan.
Sympathy for the victim and anger at the Taliban, then anger at the American troops who apparently bungled the attempt to rescue her and now the view that she shouldn't have been there in the first place.
Not mentioned is the bravery of the American troops who risked their life going in to try and get her out. True, it seems that they had bad intelligence about what room she was being held in but it isn't as if they went in to try and kill her. They went to rescue her from people who would probably have killed her but it all went horribly wrong.
She was there, despite it being probably the most dangerous place on the planet at the moment, to help people.
I would like to know how many of the people sitting at home dishing out blame and fault would have the guts to do what either the American soldiers or Linda did. Not many if any.
What i did find distasteful was the almost instant decision to blame the Taliban only to change their minds 2 days later to being accidental killed by her rescuers.
They obviously didn't know how she died and either jumped to conclusions or lied about it.
It happens so much that we are told one thing initially only to later discover it was actually something else. Just wait before apportioning blame then you don't have the farce of having to backtrack and turning an horrendous incident like this into who did what rather than the death of an innocent victim.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Europe travel warning

A few weeks back i was stopped by a man and his wife and asked what number bus they needed to catch to get to the town centre. Judging by his accent he was obviously American or Canadian and thanked me warmly when i told him i hadn't a clue. I decided afterwards that he had to be American because he ended every sentence by calling me buddy.
Now i don't think that every American tourist calls everybody buddy but it does seem that whenever i have been called buddy, it was by an American.
I have no problem with being called buddy, the guy in the newsagent calls me dude every morning, but it seems that American and Canadian tourists may be thin on the ground soon because they both have been warned of the raised level of terror attacks in Europe and their citizens should take every precaution to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when travelling.
Our own threat level stands at severe which means that an attack is highly likely and we have been issued with a warning of the high threat of a terrorist attack in France and Germany.
Confusingly, Germany has said it will not change its country's threat level because there are no indications of imminent attacks there.
A cynical friend has already put it down to Obama sucking so badly in the USA and with imminent mid-term elections, he has taken a leaf from the G W Bush book and stoked up an imaginary threat, but it seems that it is how cynical we have become over this war on terror.
My opinion of Obama has sunk further with the longer he has been in power but i don't know if i believe this is just fear mongering because an election is coming up, there must be some sort of threat.
Maybe us Europeans, and especially us British, are a bit more blase about terrorism threats, more an inconvenience rather than something to cower from. Hopefully this will be another false alarm but it is understandable that Governments want to make announcements like these so they are covered if anything does happen, but it is also understandable if the public take the next announcement with a slightly larger pinch of salt.