Wednesday, 30 June 2010

(Sometimes) Getting away with murder

Two stories on successive pages in the newspaper today. The first makes you despair for what goes on in the seats of power and the other to restore a bit of the faith you lost reading the first story.
Story one is the Liberty medal being awarded to Tony Blair by the American National Constitutional Center for his role in "bringing liberty to people around the world".
Bill Clinton is to present the Award and said: "It was a privilege to work with my friend Tony Blair to help end 30 years of sectarian violence and broker a lasting peace in Northern Ireland (he never, John Major did) to stop the killing in and mass exodus from Kosovo (backed the KLF who started the killing and tried the same trick in Montenegro until told to stop by NATO), and to develop policies that would improve living conditions for people in both our countries (US & UK are bigger terrorist targets than ever).
For a Prime Minister directly responsible for more deaths than any other post-war Prime Minister, the award of another bauble from a country responsible for the most deaths of any post-war country, he must feel very proud.
The second story to restore my faith that we are not all mad is the five peace campaigners who caused £180,000 damage to an arms factory supplying Israel with military equipment and was cleared by the judge under the ruling that they had committed an offence to prevent a more serious crime.
The five's defense was that they had acted to prevent further Israeli war crimes after three weeks of Israel attacks on Gaza last January. A UN investigation later accused Israel of War Crimes in their Gaza attacks and the jury agreed that they had a lawful excuse and set them free.
Two stories with one that shows you can actually get away with murder if you are big and strong enough, get a medal for it actually, and the other that shows no matter how big and strong you may be, the small and powerless can sometimes stop you getting away with murder.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Why we need another system

From Wikipedia: Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned; supply, demand, price, distribution, and investments are determined mainly by private decisions in the free market, rather than through a planned economy; and profit is distributed to owners who invest in businesses.

Capitalism has obviously pushed us on a long way and it is hard to argue that society has not benefited from it, the poor of our grandparents day were many times worse off than the poor today.
What seems to have happened though is that Capitalism has run its course. We have the infrastructure in place for law and order, health, education, employment and welfare. All we seem to be doing now is rearranging the furniture and tinkering with the edges. Capitalism has run its course and now it just seems to be turning in on itself.
As the description states, the system is privately owned and what this means is that making a profit is the driving force. As we have seen in the recent banking crisis, the need to make larger profits drives people to take bigger risks which results in ever bigger crashes. The utility firms, well aware that people are struggling to pay their bills, continue to raise their prices. No sympathy if you cannot afford to pay, they just cut you off or have you up in a court of law threatening prison in the case of the tv license.
The case in America where a privately run youth prison was paying a judge to incarcerate young offenders was a stunning example of how the rush to make a profit precedes any thought of doing what is right for the people it is supposedly being run for. An extreme example granted but an example of the ruthlessness of a company and a judge that had no consideration for the lives they ruined.
The main criticism of Communism is that people wouldn't share or do their part
but is what we have now, where companies can ride roughshod over what is best for society, any better? No sharing there, if you can't pay for it then you go without no matter if its electric, food or water.
BP is much in the news recently and they are serial offenders in bad business practises bought about by trying to cut corners to raise their profits.
The recession has led to mass unemployment through no fault of there own who now find themselves at the welfare office while the public face huge cuts and the financial markets that caused them, get handed billions to prop them up and are back to making huge profits and paying themselves obscene bonuses.
Capitalism was a force for good but it has outlived it usefulness.
There are people literally dying because they cannot afford to buy medicine or the health system is having to ration drugs because the pharmaceutical companies charge such hefty prices.
I don't know what we can replace it with, that is for the politicians to work out, but we need a new system to sustain what we have because we have moved into a phase where profit trumps everything, including lives, and that's not a good place to be.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Brit running Australia

Unless we are bowling at them or touching down a rugby ball behind their posts, i don't tend to take much notice of Australia. It's all the way over there and i have never really forgiven them for Paul Hogan and those god awful Crocodile Dundee films. I did have a brief flirtation with Neighbours in the late 80's and Prisoner Cell Block H but otherwise i largely ignore the place.
By all accounts they feel equally neutral towards us which makes it even more sweeter that a Brit is now running their country. As Alf Stewart would say, you great flamin' galahs.
It's far too boring to read about but the jist is the Welsh woman knifed her Prime Minster boss in the back and took his job and now sits on a throne probably made of old Castlemaine XXXX tins ruling the roost over the Aussies.
Back in the day we had to fight wars to impose Brits as rulers on a nation, now it is much more civilised.
Her first act should be to bring Joe Mangle and Des Clark back into Neighbours and then probably do something about Australians chronic water shortages.
Seems that the Aussies won't be ditching the Queen anytime soon with a Brit running things and if she wants to come and pick up the Minogue sisters she is welcome. Leave Rolf Harris though, i like him.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

More Ponce's needed

The chances of England winning the World Cup have dropped like Ronaldo in the penalty area after we finished second in the group and find ourselves on the tough side of the draw.
Now we find ourselves facing what the British press are contractually obliged to call the Hun or Fritz and to mention the second World War whenever possible.
The group stages of the competition are always tactical and slow but now we are in the knockout stage, things will get interesting.
I have been impressed with Chile's ability to kick seven bells out of the opposition and one of the worst offenders is called Ponce who Wigan are looking at signing apparently which means the fans will have to find a new nickname for Charles N'Zogbia to avoid any confusion.
One feature of this World Cup has been the downfall of the European teams and the rise of the South Americans.
France and Italy who contested the last final, have both been sent packing along with 5 other Europeans while every South American team has made it out of the group stage.
It would be ungracious to suggest the venue has favoured the South Americans, they have just been better and deserve there places in the final 16. I strongly suspect the winners will come from either Argentina or Brazil but i would love to see one of the unfancied teams like Japan, Paraguay or South Korea take it.
As for England, i'd just like us to take a lead from Chile and get stuck in a bit more because what we need is a big Ponce in the heart of our defence. Over to you John Terry. the biggest Ponce we have.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

American ExxonMobil due ass kicking

David Cameron had better put on his best ass kicking boots because in a delicious turn of events, American ExxonMobil has been polluting our pristine shores in Fareham with oil.
Granted BP is dumping 40,000 barrels a day into the Gulf of Mexico and American ExxonMobil leaked 20 barrels from a ship into the sparkling Solent, but it's the principle and in echoes of Florida, we have had to drop containment booms and dispersant's into the sea to protect the South Coast.
Summon head of American ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, to the Commons and let's give him a grilling over how he will clean up the two miles of previously gleaming Hampshire coastline. If we can wheel in a few members of Parliament to douse themselves in oil and heckle him at the same time more the better.
American ExxonMobil has said it apologised for the "regrettable incident" and are "working with the local authorities concerned, to clear up the oil as quickly as possible".
Rex had better not be pictured swanning around on a yacht until every last stone and seagull is wiped clean and only then can he have his life back.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Keeping quiet on armed forces day

Ahead of Armed Forces Day, David Cameron has said the British public should express its appreciation of Britain's military more loudly and more proudly.
I readily admit that they do a job that i wouldn't do but i do find myself in a bit of a bind about how i feel about them in their present role.
I was strongly against the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions so feel it hypocritical of me to express my appreciation of them doing a job i was against them doing in the first place.
How can i say i disagree with you being there but well done anyway, i'm very proud of you. I can't do that.
Not that i agree with the people who berate them when they come back, i prefer to keep a dignified silence and appreciate the job they do, just not appreciate the job that they are presently doing.
It does feel slightly like the emotional blackmail that George W Bush and his cronies employed against the American people with the 'if you are not with us, you are against us' mentality thrown around at the start of the Iraq invasion.
I'm not buying into that from our Government, the military was not in Iraq to keep us safe in our beds. Inquiry after inquiry has hammered that point home and we did not go into Afghanistan for any other reason than to punish the Taliban for not handing over Bin Laden. The former owner of this blog has pointed out many times the deal made where his handover would mean the Taliban would be left safely in power.
I'm not going to be waving my flag and applauding 'our boys' next week and i won't be waving a placard asking how many kids they killed today either. I will be thinking brave boys doing the wrong job in places they shouldn't be.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

To kill a mockingbird revisited

When i was at school i enjoyed reading but as i entered my teenage years and i discovered girls, music and other more interesting things, the books were left behind. It wasn't until i met my wife and her huge collection of books that my reading flame got rekindled.
Among her collection of classic books was 'To Kill a Mockingbird' which i first read aged around 15 because i had to in order to pass English Literature. It didn't mean much to me at the time, pleasant enough story about a lawyer defending a coloured guy in the Deep South of America, but 10 years later, with more mature eyes, i picked it up and when i finally put it down again i had decided it was one of the greatest books i have ever read.
This month it is fifty years old and it is rightly being flouted as one of the best books of the last century although that is a tough list to be placed head of.
My rejuvenated reading bug has seen me drag out some proper classics from the many book shelves that clog up our home, books that i had read previously but seem to have not really read at all.
1984, Huckleberry Finn, Frankenstein, Grapes of Wrath and Last of the Mohican's all seem to contain underlying messages and commentary that i just never got first time around.
It is good to read when you are younger but in my case i was just reading them and not actually 'reading' them at all but maybe it's just something that was wasted on a teenager and in my case, To Kill A Mockingbird needed a more mature and life experienced brain to really understand.

Monday, 14 June 2010

The big squeeze

The UK Government is telling us we are going to have to tighten our belts and things are going to be uncomfortable for a while and to quote Dave Cam, cuts are coming that will 'change the British way of life'.
Sounds ominous and he cut my legs away from under me as i got out my tub and got ready to thump it regarding cutting Defence and how we should be reducing soldiers not nurses or teachers. He then said he was going to cut defence as well and that shut me up good and proper.
There are two things that raises my hackles about this belt tightening episode we are about to undertake.
The first is that the banks and bankers have not been sufficiently walloped for my liking and are now rolling in money and paying out bonuses again. They caused it, let them suffer the worst of it and if the staff threaten to go abroad, let them. It isn't as if they did such a bang up job working here, let them go destroy Americas or Japans economy. Plenty of others willing to step up.
The second thing is that the Tories make it sound as though the problems are down to Government Department waste, overpaying benefits or expensive public services. He is even giving us a say in which public services we want cut or reduced which makes it seem even more that the problem all along has been the public wanting our cake and eating it.
It wasn't, it was the financial sector so if you are going to whack us in your upcoming emergency budget, make sure you whack the people who caused it even harder because people might be more willing to accept library's closing and more of a wait at the hospital if they know the banks are being made to squeak.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

England 1 - USA 1

To read the newspapers today you would have thought that England had been put across Americas knee and given a good spanking on Saturday evening. According to them we should all be clutching a plasticine model of Mother Teresa while saying 32 Hail Marys and Our Fathers and praying for a miracle.
Obviously the goalkeeper Rob Green is getting it in the neck and i'm no West Ham fan but i do feel a bit sorry for him. I admit at the time i called upon my extensive knowledge of Anglo-Saxon dialogue and questioned his parentage but a draw in the opening game against the side that should qualify with us in the group is no disgrace. The only concern is we may finish second and face the Germans who gave a royal tonking to the Australians last night. Got to love that especially as i have the deutschlanders in the office sweep stake.
The French bombed against Uruguay and in that great French tradition, blamed someone else. They are complaining about the fans blowing the vuvuzelas throughout the game.
"We can't hear one another out on the pitch because of them" said Patrick Evra which i would have thought was a blessing as he shanked another precision pass into the top tier of the ground.
Bit of a cheek to ask the South Africans to stop celebrating in their usual fashion. How would we like it if we held the World Cup and the African teams asked us to stop singing songs about which orifice Ashley Cole receives sexual pleasure from or questioning the referee's solo activities.
We wouldn't like it so leave the Africans to blow all the horns they like which is also another song sung at Ashley Cole.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Sanctions on the wrong country

The UN has approved the "toughest ever" sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme amid fears the country is making atomic weapons. What good this will do i don't know and the other nuclear powers taking the moral high ground would be amusing if it wasn't so serious.
We do seem to have it in for Iran and the most quoted reason is the speech where President Ahmadinejad had demanded that "Israel must be wiped off the map".
Repeated many times by anyone wanting to bash Iran, if they had cared to find out themselves they would have seen that he never actually used he words words "map", "wipe out" or even "Israel" and repeated a quote by Ayatollah Khomeini that 'The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time'.
This somehow got translated as he wanted to wipe Israel from the map and has been repeated ad nauseum ever since although he has clarified it many times at later press conferences that he was referring to the Ayatollah's words on the occupation of the Palestinian land by Israel.
Of course it doesn't make such scary headlines and America and Israel need a bogeyman now that Saddam is twirling his moustache elsewhere and Bin Laden has gone underground.
I don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons but then neither do i want anyone else to have them but who could blame him if he was after them? North Korea has shown that owning nuclear weapons is a game changer and Saddam may still be sitting in a palace in Baghdad today if he had actually owned them.
If the UN is going to be handing down sanctions, i would be turning my sights to another country in the Middle East who has been the most aggresive, broken the most laws and occupies land not their own and has covert Nuclear weapons, not the country that last attacked anyone over 200 years ago.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Dismissing the yanks

It's Churchill against Amelia Earhart, Queen Victoria against Suzi Quatro and Ginger Spice against Barbara Bush. Even Little House on the Prairie versus Red Dwarf if you like but it's the World Cup and England's first match is against the Americanos.
On paper a team made up of players from Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham should tonk a team with defenders from Watford and midfielders from Fulham and Bolton but if there is any tonking to be done, it could very well be us on the end of it.
As usual the tabloids are getting carried away and predicting we will be returning with the World Cup in our luggage but anyone who has seen any of the recent friendlies will know that we have been poor against very mediocre opposition and when we come up against a half decent side, we will be packing our bags and flying back home.
I have drawn Germany in the office sweepstake and usually i would be making plans on how to spend my £32 winnings but like us, the Germans best days are behind them.
Rather boringly, it is hard to look past Brazil to win it with the likes of Cesar, Alves, Lucio and Silva in defence you can't see them letting in many and you just know they won't end many games with a zero beside their names.
Europe's best chance is with Spain but i secretly have a hidden wish that Argentina win it. Maradona may not be such great shakes at managerial duties but he was my hero as a player and they have an even better forward line than Brazil so if he accidentally stumbles across the right team, Argentina could do it.
For England, we have to, at the very minimum, not get beaten by the yanks and they are number 14 in the FIFA rankings, only 6 places below us, so it isn't a foregone conclusion and it will be a lot closer than most of us think, even with Jay DeMerit in the back four.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Britain the new Canada

Days after being warned we could be the new Greece, it seems we are now to become the new Canada as the Government looks to copy Canadian tactics in dealing with the deficit.
I always associate the North American country with brightly dressed policemen, maple syrup and ice hockey but apparently in the nineties it turned a huge deficit into a surplus within 5 years and the Lib Dem Cons aim to use its blueprint.
How the Canadians did it was by cutting the budget of everything including healthcare and education which saw hospital waiting lists shoot up with thousands of nurses losing their jobs and hospitals closing. It cut 12% of the civil service workforce and didn't replace leaving teachers with the result of class sizes growing substantially and scrapping special needs classes.
I predict riots if the Con Lib Dems did that here but the overall idea of using the examples of other countries i agree with.
France has the best Healthcare so copy that system. Finland has the best education system so have a look at how they do things and apply it here. The Netherlands the safest roads, Japan the best rail system and the Canadians the world's best banking system.
It is hard to find any 'best of' list that Britain tops so if we are in the mood to borrow things from other places, look to borrow the ideas that made these places the leaders in their field rather than struggle on with the mediocre and terrible like we usually do.
Another plus to becoming the new Canada is that everyone likes Canada and modelling ourselves on a country which lives side by side in harmony with French people may rub off on us.
Erm, let's have another look at that Greek option again.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Soccer Aid

From the start i had better say that i am very much for Charity. Any type of charity if it is for orphans in Romania or the starving in Ethiopia, i give it my full backing and whatever is sloshing about in my jeans pockets at the time.
That said, there is something that gets my goat about Charity events like the Soccer Aid charity match going on today.
It includes professional players such as Ryan Giggs, Henrik Larsson, Zinedine Zidane, Jens Lehmann and Alan Shearer and the rest is made up of celebrities from film and television. All to a man, highly paid and earning weekly what the average person earns annually.
Before the game they are showing the sick and dying in some of the poorest countries in the World and the player gives a solemn voice over informing us that all it would take to save this child's life is an inoculation that costs £1.50 or a £5 mosquito net. My reaction is always, well give it to them then!
Why appeal to us and then wait months for £20m to roll in when you have 60 or so multi-millionaires running around a patch of grass who could easily donate double that and buy even more injections or mosquito nets then trying to squeeze a few quid out of the other 60m of us?
The footballers alone could probably find that by rooting around the back of their sofas.
Apparently the 'stars' give their services free. Very good of them but i'm sure the starving kids would prefer it if they stumped up a few quid to buy food instead rather than score a penalty against the bloke who used to present Have i got news for you.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Idiot BP

As the B in BP stands for British, it doesn't look good that one of our companies are so inept at their job that it has ended up polluting thousands of miles of Americas coastline with oil.
It looks even worse when the boss comes up with the insensitive line ' I want my life back' when he is being interviewed for American television. I dare say the 11 people killed on the rig have more of a claim to wanting their lives back then you Mr Hayward.
There was a great interview on the television this evening where some BP wonk was saying what a public relations disaster this had been for BP in America and it wasn't enough to say sorry to Americans, you have to apologise to them in a certain way for them to accept it.
I'm not really sure what that certain way is and he didn't elaborate so we are left to wonder just how do you say sorry to Americans for what BP has done?
In Britain the wrongdoer has to either resign or be forced out to appease us but i don't know if the Americans go for that approach.
Personally i would go for the 'hands up, no excuses, we screwed up' angle which may garnish a small amount of sympathy or even the heartfelt 'We promise to do everything humanly possible to put this right' and maybe throw in a small tear wipe at the end.
I imagine what he meant was BP will hand over billions of dollars to clean up its mess, keep it's head down and hope it's all forgotten while Tony Hayward gets his life back again.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Britain's drink problem

Britain has a drinking problem, go to any city centre on a weekend evening and it's not hard to notice it. It isn't a new thing, i did my fair share of getting drunk and throwing up in my youth but it just seems worse these days. Most shocking is the amount of young girls brawling and falling down drunk.
What is different now is the advent of alcopops such as Bacardi breezer and hooch which taste like squash or fruit juice and get knocked back like they are.
The latest wheeze is to put the price of alcohol up so high that it prices out the younger members so they drink less and don't get quite so inebriated.
This solution will punish all and would obviously hit the profits of the brewers so expect them to fight against this idea.
The simple solution would be to reduce the strength of the drinks. Most lagers, beers and alcopops are around 5%-6% proof. Why not just make the standard strength 2%-3% instead?
If the brewers can make it 6%, they could easily make it less and the only victim is the person determined to get off their face.
Personally, i'd raise the age limit to 21 as well as 3 years more maturity before hitting the pubs could only be a good thing.
It's a problem that needs sorting but the solution they are considering is the worst for everyone.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Cya Fergie

Good things to say about Sarah Ferguson are harder to find than good food in a branch of Little Chef but if we try really, really hard...nope, can't think of anything.
At least when her sister in law Princes Diana got caught out she had the decency to arrange being photographed coming out of a children's hospital afterwards, Fergie hasn't even got that much cunning.
Instead, she runs off to America to appear on Oprah and blame alcohol for being such a money grasping basketcase.
Drink affects people differently but whereas i tend to laugh a lot and tell jokes really badly after a few, she obviously tries to sell access to her ex-husband for half a million pounds.
Maybe she was drunk when she was pictured having her toes sucked that ended her marriage or hiring the woman her father was having an affair with so they could continue there affair.
The Duchess commented, "I love the fact that Americans embrace me. I said I was sorry for whatever I had done in the UK, and they embraced me and said, 'OK, we'll give you a second chance.' And they have given me my life back, the American people."
You can keep her American people and if you give her a couple of dollars she will let you suck her toes.