Sunday, 27 February 2011

Unethical Arms Industry

David Cameron spent the best part of last week visiting Middle Eastern countries accompanied by members of the British arms industry and after taking a roasting for his tasteless trip, came out in defence saying Britain had 'nothing to be ashamed of' for selling weapons to Arab leaders.
The PR companies employed by the British arms industry have since been out in force painting a picture of honest British arms companies providing British jobs and propping up our economy while selling arms to grateful democracies in need of self-defence.
Honest arms companies? The largest UK arms supplier BAE Systems admitted two criminal charges of bribery and corruption in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and was fined £286m.
Providing British jobs? Arms exports are subsidised by the government by around £900 million per year and according to the MoD, 49,000 jobs are sustained by military exports which amounts to 0.2% of the UK workforce. That works out to UK taxpayers paying over £19,000 per person in this industry. Think of any other private industry where it costs us almost a billion pounds just to run it?
Propping up the economy is the third argument. The MoD's own economists have concluded that the economic benefits of arms exports are insignificant and that the 'balance of argument about defence exports should depend mainly on non-economic consideration'.
Grateful democracies? Democracies like Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE and Yemen. None of them democracies, all very grateful though.
That just leaves self defence. The main players in the arms trade are often those using weapons for aggression and repression and most of the countries involved in violently putting down demonstrations over the last month have used British bought arms against their own citizens.
Indonesia, Israel, China and Morocco have all been excellent customers of the British arms exporters, not the civilians of West Papua, Palestine, Tibet or Western Sahara who have been so easily bombed and terrorised by the first four.
Let's not forget to mention that we export arms to 19 of the 20 countries identified as "countries of concern" for abusing human rights including Saudi Arabia, Israel, Colombia, China, Russia, Pakistan, Jordan and Turkey. All certified human rights abusers and all somehow avoid falling into the laughable ethical foreign policy that we will not sell arms to nations involved in internal oppression, external aggression, or regional tensions. We love and want them doing all three because if they didn't, we wouldn't have a market to sell to.
We can be proud that the next time we watch the news and a group of demonstrators have been cut down by a spray of bullets or watch with horror as another tyrant bombs his own people that our current Prime Minister and the one before that and the one before that went some way to making that happen and that should bring a lump to the throat, a tear to the eye and an overwhelming feeling of shame every time.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

No More Patents Pending

Clever bunch us humans. From the first time a stone age cave dweller saw a log floating past and climbed upon it, we have came up with new and better ways to move ourselves around the planet.
The first of anything is always a source of controversy but the timeline of transport on Wikipedia lists the dates for the firsts: ship, ancient Egypt BC, car 1769, submarine 1775, hot air balloon 1783, train, 1822, airship 1852, bicycle 1861, motorcycle, 1885, aeroplane 1903, helicopter, 1907, jet plane 1939, hovercraft 1956.
The record shows there was a frantic 130 years or so when the inventors had brainstorm after brainstorm and then apart from the hovercraft (the jet plane wasn't really a 'new' type of transport), everything ground to a halt for the past 100 years with the only passenger transport being bigger and better versions of what we already had.
Possibly, everything that could be invented for transport, has been invented and we reached the end of how we can physically move ourselves around in 1956.
There have been people tinkering with jet packs and the idea of teleportation is not just a fantasy of Star Trek fans as the Chinese and American Governments have been researching it for years.
One of the main reasons i can think of that we haven't continually progressed as expected is not through lack of eureka moments from inventors or because we have reached the limit of known physics, it is because inventing new modes of transport is dangerous.
For every one of the above mode of transports listed, lots and lots of people ended up a mangled mess before lessons were learnt and each generation was made a little better and a little safer until we reached the stage we are at now.
Take the aeroplane as an example. Generation after generation tried and failed to create a flying machine and the Wright brothers were fortunate enough to have centuries of previous failed attempts by others to hone their own machine.
Imagine if the car had not been invented and someone suddenly came up with the idea today of a small, metal box that carried gallons of highly inflammable liquid and can travel at over 100 mph. The idea would be drowned at birth by the Health and Safety officials.
Not that i am suggesting i want to see hundreds of people risking their lives just to perfect a new mode of transport so i can get from A to B quicker, just suggesting that the leaps and bounds of the late 18th to the early 20th Centuries will never be repeated due to the Health and Safety regulations preventing it which is a good thing. Isn't it?

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Drink Latte & Be Healthy

I am always on the look out for something decent to watch on the television to while away those long winter evenings. Preferably it would have vampires and various monsters and undead things running around and scaring people and Tru Blood is shaping up nicely except in one aspect.
It ticks lots of boxes and the actor who plays Bill the main vampire, is not short in the looks department but the problem is, i can't understand what they are saying for most of the show!
I have to really listen to make out the words through the Louisiana accent and then parts of it bypass me and i have to make up what i thought they just said.
Apart from not being able to follow the dialogue properly, it is a good show and it was a remark by Sookie to her grandmother when they were talking about a Starbucks opening up in their town that had me Googling to see if it was true.
Sookie's grandmother said that she didn't understand why people liked drinking coffee with too much milk in it. Sookie replied that studies showed all the milky coffee being drunk now was decreasing calcium deficiency in the USA. I think that's what they said, it may have been a discussion about Bill Gates but that's what i heard.
Anyway, that is indeed true according to dietitian Carolyn O'Neil, author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous! Her research found that a Latte provides 40% of the 1,000 milligrams of calcium recommended each day and a Venti provides 50%. Two of those a day and you are sorted but the even better news is that a latte also provides 25% daily value of protein and 35% daily value of vitamin D.
I will be filing this under 'Bad things that are good for you' along with caffeine prevents the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's, chocolate helps control blood pressure, cigarettes shortens reaction time and improves short term memory and drinking beer reduces the risk of kidney stones.
They don't have posters for that at the doctors surgery.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Letter To Gaddafi

Dear Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi

Please stop the killing of innocent civilians. We need your oil and you are making us look really bad. We told everyone you were a decent chap now!!

Love Tony,

P.S. Tony say's if you survive the revolution, the oil exploration deal is still on right?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Britain - Over There Somewhere

Prince Andrew, the Grand Old Duke of York, said in that infamous cable that 'The Americans don't understand geography' while Sarah Palin has got North Korea confused with South Korea, called Africa a country and thought she could see Russia from her Alaskan home. Even American Ambrose Bierce said "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography" and he died in the early 20th Century before Americans were taught a lot more geography.
As we have invited your President Barack Obama over to our green and pleasant land to stay with the Queen in May on a State Visit, and as you haven't had a war against us in your lifetime, find a map showing Great Britain just in case you are wondering where your President is in May. Confusingly we are also called the United Kingdom, Britain, GB, UK or just England which amusingly annoys the hell out of the other 3 countries in Great Britain.
Quite a lot of you Americans hail from one of the countries of Great Britain and a simple test should prove what part is in your DNA. If you are drinking tea while reading this, your ancestry is English.
If you are drinking a spirit, you hail from Scotland and if you are drinking lager then your grandparents were Irish. If you are stroking a sheep then your relatives moved over from the valleys.
The last time your President came over we lined the streets to greet him. Greeted him with eggs and banners decrying him as a war criminal i grant you, but it was a good turn out nonetheless. I do expect your present ruler to be treated better, we wouldn't have trusted the last one with a knife and fork so he is in safe hands while over here being entertained by The Queen and Prince Philip. Well the Queen anyway, Prince Phillip has a bit of a history with non-white non-British people.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Barclays Swindling Us All

I never really swallowed the line about if we keep hitting the banks they will just go abroad and take all their money with them. My answer was we should double our efforts and wave them goodbye from the quayside because they are obviously not very good at their jobs as the £200bn bail out painfully shows.
Turns out that they were taking all their money abroad anyway with a letter from Barclays admitting that it paid just £113m in corporation tax in 2009 while totting up a record £11.6bn of profits.
The HM Revenue & Customs website shows corporation tax is 28% and 28% of £11,600,000,000,000 isn't £113,000,000.
The Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who requested Barclays reveal the tax paid by the bank, described the figure as 1% of its 2009 profits and called it shocking.
When asked what tax Barclays paid by the Treasury select committee of MPs last month, the Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond said £2 Billion, knowing full well that most of that was tax paid by employees under the PAYE system.
Chuka Umanna may be shocked but he can't be surprised because Barclays is the latest in a round of high profile tax avoidance stories recently.
Last year Vodaphone's £6bn tax bill was settled by HM Revenue & Customs £4.8bn light and Boots the Chemist moved its headquarters to Switzerland and now pay just 3% in tax. Top shop owner, Phillip Green, awarded himself a huge dividend payout, £1.2 billion, in 2005 which went through various offshore accounts and tax dodges to his wife's Monaco bank account. And Green was appointed last year by David Cameron to advise the government on how to slash public spending!!
Barclays has been involved in controversy before, supporting the apartheid government in South Africa, a revelation that saw it's shares drop after a student boycott. It helps funds President Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe, was fined $298m for violating international money laundering rules and holds £7.3 billion in shares in arms manufacturers.
With that track record it isn't going to care about swindling the UK out of billions of pounds of tax while we all face severe cuts.
While they are taking bail out money from the tax payer and only pay 1% in Tax, i think its imperative that they do all sod off and let some other mug of a country pay for their mistakes and then receive a kick in the teeth and 1% as a thank you.

Twitter & Facebook

This blog has now caught up with everybody else and is available on Twitter and Facebook. Apparently it is not the full, grown up Facebook as i'm not allowed but it's a page which means nothing to me.
Don't know what the advantages are to being on Twitter and Facebook (page, not the real one remember) but i was told they are the places to be and as a places to be kind of person, i asked someone else to make it happen and here we are with a blog, an RSS feed with my posts on, a twitter page with my posts on and a facebook page with my posts on.
Anyway, they are over there on the right so you can click on them and read exactly what you can read here anyway but who am i to argue with technology.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Bieber Fever

Come with me back to the early 1980s. It's Thursday evening and sat on the sofa's in living rooms all across the land are legions of young girls, just entering their teens, waiting excitedly as the Top of the Pops presenter counts down through the charts and people like Human League, Bucks Fizz and Shakin' Stevens until finally millions of teenage hearts leap and the face of Simon Le Bon fills our TV screens.
Fast forward 25 years and Simon Le Bon is still squeezing into those tight trousers but he has long been replaced as the face that teenage girls scream at and now it is the turn of a 16 year old Canadian with silly hair.
They are calling it Bieber fever and he has already written an autobiography, had worldwide hits and has a movie under his belt when other young boys his age are more concerned with completing Bioshock 2.
I have seen and read a few interviews and he has come across as a nice enough boy and he avoided the Miley Cyrus career suicide move of coming across as a spoilt, pretentious little snot. If ever a teenager needed to be left on a desert island somewhere and forgotten it was her.
What Bieber has got going for him is the way he has not been spewed out by the Cowell production line or coached in the sickly sweet Disney template, he is a product of the new media and was actually 'discovered' by music executives.
The career of a teenage heart-throb is short lived and i expect his posters will be replaced by someone else on bedroom walls around the world this time next year but i refuse to join in the sneering by my fellow adults.
He seems nice enough and although his songs are not my cup of tea, he isn't doing anybody any harm so we should leave him alone and remember that our generation produced people like Phil Collins, Shane MacGowan and George Michael so we have nothing to sneer about. Okay, maybe we can sneer at the silly haircut and his liking of wearing bow ties.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Mass Ejections

Although coronal mass ejections sounds like one of those films that should come in brown paper bags and be carried by shifty looking men in raincoats, it's actually the latest thing that is going to end life on earth or more likely make our televisions flicker a bit.
Not just one but three solar flare eruptions are set to reach Earth from tomorrow and scientists are watching closely as the third was an x-flare, which the man with all the pens in his top pocket said was the most intense sort.
To make matters worse, scientists will have around half an hour's notice that the wave of charged particles is about to directly hit the Earth's magnetic shield.

Here comes the science bit: When the ejection is directed towards the Earth and reaches it as an interplanetary CME (ICME), the shock wave of the traveling mass of Solar Energetic Particles causes a geomagnetic storm that may disrupt the Earth's magnetosphere, compressing it on the day side and extending the night-side magnetic tail. When the magnetosphere reconnects on the nightside, it releases power on the order of terawatt scale, which is directed back toward the Earth's upper atmosphere.
This process can cause particularly strong auroras in large regions around Earth's magnetic poles.
Coronal mass ejections, along with solar flares of other origin, can disrupt radio transmissions and cause damage to satellites and electrical transmission line facilities, resulting in potentially massive and long-lasting power outages.
Humans in space or at high altitudes, for example, in airplanes, risk exposure to intense radiation.

So if your radio starts crackling or your lights flicker tonight and tomorrow, it's because of a coronal mass ejection. If you hear heavy breathing coming from that mac wearing neighbour it is probably another type of ejection we really shouldn't go into.

A Different Type Of Protest In Bahrain

One thing i have noticed about the protests in the Middle East recently is the lack of American and Israeli flags being burned in the streets.
Usually when a protest erupts in Middle Eastern streets, it is boom time for whoever has the licence to supply the star and stripes in those countries. I take that to mean that the protesters are acting out of their own interests to remove dodgy leaders running their countries rather than being angry at being at the beck and call of the West.
There was a moment during the Egyptian protest when a protester held up a tear gas canister to the camera and pointed out the 'Made in America' stamp on the side of it but America cannot be blamed for supplying the riot gear to Bahrain, because Britain beat them to it.
The batons, riot shields and tear gas being fired at the protesters has all been supplied by good old Blighty which has led to MP's calling for an end to the export of riot control equipment to Bahrain.
Bahrain's record on human rights has been praised as one of the most progressive in the Middle East by human rights groups and the UN, although it was starting from a very low level where brutal suppression of demonstrations were usual, so the protests are not so much against a corrupt and heavy handed leadership, its mainly the majority Shia population who are sidelined by the ruling Sunni's.
America has its 5th Fleet and the UK Navy ships stationed in Bahrain so the King of Bahrain won't be receiving a phone call from Obama or Cameron suggesting he steps down anytime soon. Also in the mix is Saudi Arabia who give support, military and logistical, to Bahrain mostly because it is in its own interests to suppress any Shia uprisng less they make things uncomfortable for the Saudi Arabian leadership in their own country.
If Iran, a Shia country, begins sniffing around then things could take a very different turn to how they went in Egypt and Tunisia and if America is seen to be backing the King and the security forces killing protesters, the flag suppliers had better start stocking up.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Big Society Explained

There are a few things that we can rely on to happen monthly. A full moon, pay day and David Cameron having another bash at trying to explain exactly what his Big Society idea is.
He was at it again today and called it 'central to the social recovery the country needed'. The country said 'whatever posh boy' and largely ignored him because despite this 150th attempt at explaining exactly what it is, nobody seems to understand it. Allow me to enlighten you in three easy to follow steps.

1) The Conservatives, in an attempt to save money, make 500,000 public servants redundant.
2) Public Services (services provided by government to its citizens) stretched and forced to close.
3) Volunteer groups then take over and run the public services.

That's it. That is what David Cameron has been trying to say for the past 12 months. He wants people to do for nothing, the jobs that people were previously being paid to do.
It really isn't that difficult a concept but of course Dave has to wrap it all up in political spin to make it sound like something wonderful because otherwise we will say 'hold on, you want me to do for free what someone was getting paid £15,000 per year to do just last month? On yer bike sunshine'.
Try again in a few weeks Dave, i enjoy hearing you flap around in the wind desperately trying to explain what the Big Society is without actually explaining what it is.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Land Of The Free?

In my local Tesco store, they sell jeans for £4. Not particularly nice jeans but they seem popular in these financially challenging times. I'm not privy to how much Tesco pay for these jeans or where they come from, but they obviously pay the distributor less than £4 per pair in order to make a profit, and the distributor pays the factory and the factory pays the jeans makers who by the time the money gets to them, and everyone else has taken a slice of the £4, must be paid a pittance to make the jeans in the first place.
There have been many cases of big name stores and companies being rightly condemned for using slave labour and making huge profits but a comment on a BBC programme about American prisons had me doing some research.
There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the USA.
According to California Prison Focus, 'no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.'
The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country, half a million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. The United States holds 25% of the world's prison population, but only 5% of the world's people.
So why has America got such a high prison population?
Are Americans just more criminally minded, the police more vigilant or is the justice system just more geared towards jailing offenders?
Whatever the reason why, the prison industry is one of the few areas in the economy doing well during the recession.
There are over 100 private prisons in the USA, the largest provider is Corrections Corporation of America who run 66 correctional facilities in 19 states.
CCA's 2010 Fourth Quarter and Full-Year Financial Results shows 'Total management revenue for the fourth quarter of 2010 increased 3.6% to $430.8 million from $415.8 million during the prior year period, primarily driven by a 4.3% increase in average daily inmate populations'.
Revenue up by $15 million in one quarter but these are good times for CCA who 'during 2011, we expect to invest approximately $113.0 million to $128.0 million in capital expenditures, consisting of approximately $63.0 million to $73.0 million in on-going prison construction and expenditures related to potential land acquisitions'. Big money in running prisons obviously but how do they make there money?
According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens.
Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people'.
So many prisoners create a large workforce and the products made by American inmates are sold through UNICOR who boast on their website 'Made in the USA products and services, supporting domestic jobs and our Nation’s economy'.
So the likes of UNICOR and CCA are making tens of millions from products made by American inmates and buyers get cheap products so everybody wins. Everyone except the prisoners who make 28 cents to 66 cents per hour. The average minimum wage in America is $7.75.
Slave labour? The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution 'officially abolished and continues to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime'.
Except as punishment for a crime, so it's legal and the more prisoners there are the more products are made and more profits for the private prison providers who are spending tens of millions building more facilities to house citizens of a nation that already imprisons more people than any other country.
Land of the Free?

Friday, 11 February 2011

Egypt, Tunisia, Wikileaks

It looked shaky for a while but finally, the Egyptians have done it and Mubarak has gone.
Now we can only hope the West keeps it's nose out and allows the Egyptians to elect who they want and not who we want them to elect for our own selfish ends.
Quite sickening to see and hear the likes of Cameron and Obama handing out ethical and moral advice when up until these demonstrations in Cairo, we haven´t bothered about the poor and the oppressed in Egypt. Why try pretend they give a stuff about them now?
A number of people should take the praise for ousting this corrupt, Western backed regime, mostly the Egyptian protesters who risked their lives to challenge the Mubarak Government. Taking a bow should also be the Tunisians who inspired the Egyptians to rise up when they overthrew their own head of state and the spark that began the whole chain of events, Wikileaks.
It was the leaked cables from the US Ambassador in Tunis, describing the opulent lifestyle of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his family that fired up the nation's disaffected citizens.
The rapid success of the two revolutions have us now scanning the rest of the Middle East for other troubled regimes. Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Jordan have all attracted attention recently and the Iranians who challenged Ahmadinejad after the 2009 elections, may be dusting down their banners in preparation for another go at overthrowing him.
This century has began with a slew of uprisings against dictators and authoritarian regimes in Iran, Tunisia, Burma, Egypt, Ukraine, Jordan, Yemen, Niger, Thailand, Belarus and Sudan all with different results but this does not change the fact that it seems that the people living under these regimes are fighting back. While some of these oppressive governments have been propped up by the Western countries, hopefully these changes show that there is no room for dictators in the new century.
These are interesting times and the man who should be feeling proudest tonight is Bradley Manning whose brave actions are having a greater affect than anyone could have dreamed.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

1000th Post

This is the 1000th Falling On A Bruise post and i wish that i had used tags so i could see who or what has cropped up the most here.
In the negative column would the Right Wing as a whole and followed by slanderous words aimed at George W Bush, Tony Blair, Israel, the Conservative Party, US foreign policy, hunters, Capitalism and oil companies.
On the plus side would be Socialism, Hugo Chavez, Slash, Buffy, Scandinavia, Green Day, Kurt Cobain and the United Nations.

The most viewed post of the 1000 was Shame On You Mr Brown from October 2007 which concerned how the UK and USA were moving Iran into their gun sights. That was in the day when Blogburst were in existence and passing blog posts around to newspaper websites.

The most commented post was Keeping the Gun ban written in March 2007 where i supported continuing the gun ban in the UK. Guns are always a hot button topic to get temperatures raised.

The post that has remained consistently in the top 10 of the most popular in my Statcounter page is Michael Moore: Guardian Angel June 2007 and one of my own favourites posts relating how Micheal Moore anonymously settled the health bill for the wife of the owner of the most popular anti-Moore website.

The most visited post from Google searches is Bolon Yokte Is Coming Xmas 2012 from November 2009 but probably my own personal favourite is from January 2010, Whinging Pom Eggs.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Duh, You Don't Say

You gotta love all these studies that get done on common sense things and conclude that men like to hog the TV remote control or the French use less soap than any other nationality.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism produced another 'duh, you don't say' study today that found more than half the donations raked in by David Cameron's Tories last year came from the City.
Financial service firms and individuals with finance related employments donated 51% of the £22.5m raised by the Conservatives in 2010, the first year the Conservatives regained power, 75% more than was raised previously when they were on the opposition benches.
The research has heightened interest coming as it does as George Osborne, the Chancellor, has been widely condemned today for going soft on banks, imposing a £800million additional tax levy on the banks that amounts to less than the £1billion profit they rack up in a week.
'It beggars belief that anyone could claim that Conservative donors are influencing policy,' the spokesman pushed out to try and blag it said but i don't think anyone is thinking the city is influencing the Conservatives. We are thinking more along the lines of the City have bought the Conservative Party.
The saddest thing is that the only real alternative to a banker owned Tory Party is the Union owned Labour Party who receive 80% of their funding from Union subscriptions.
Why can't we just have politicians who are not in the debt of someone else because whatever they say, the parties cannot fail to be influenced by big donors because they will be cutting their own throats if they upset whoever bankrolls them and the funding dries up.
The only way out of it is to either get some proper people in power or make the Parties all Government funded so nobody owes favours to anyone and we can get on the job of knocking seven bells out of the bankers and telling the Unions to take a flying one.
Ae you paying attention Egyptian protesters, this is how Democracy works. Great 'innit!!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Another Horror Film

There has been a long list of famous monsters in movies but it seems that 2011 is going to be the year when the biggest, scariest, most fear inspiring monster comes to our movie theatres because filming has began on The Iron Lady, a film abut Margaret Thatcher.
Meryl Streep takes the lead role in a film billed as 'an intimate portrait of an extraordinary and complex woman' and also stars Jim Broadbent as Denis Thatcher, Anthony Head as Geoffrey Howe and Richard E Grant playing the part of Michael 'Tarzan' Heseltine.
No news yet on who has been cast as Mrs T's good friend General Pinochet or her arch nemesis Nelson Mandela.
I'm sure the film will appeal to Tories harking back to the fond, lazy days of the 80s when unemployment topped 3 million and anything not nailed down was sold off and the sight of coal mining towns being decimated.
I just hope they get the last part right where she is driven away in the back of a taxi, her tear streaked face gazing out of the rear window as her time as Prime Minister comes to a screeching halt because who doesn't love a happy ending.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Foiled Again

With his charge sheet including an arrest for theft, one for disorderly conduct and another for drink driving, George W Bush is no stranger to having his collar felt by American police officers but he has spurned the opportunity to see how we do it here in Europe by cancelling a visit to Switzerland amid concerns he could be arrested.
The former leader had been due to speak at a charity event in Zurich next weekend but he caught wind of human rights groups in Switzerland lodging criminal complaints with Swiss Courts for his arrest over allegations of ordering torture and decided to stay at home instead.
International arrest warrants have been requested for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Condoleeza Rice and Alberto Gonzales at the International Criminal Court in The Hague but as Bush withdrew from the ICC in 2002 and Obama hasn't resigned, they can't prosecute them anyway.
Germany and Spanish Courts have made noises about issuing an arrest warrant for Donald Rumsfeld if his smug face ever turns up on their shores and Interpol are chasing Dick Cheney for his role in a Nigerian bribery case.
Fair enough it is not for the crimes he committed as Vice President along with the rest of them but i'm sure we would accept it if it meant him having to keep a vice like grip on his shower soap in the mornings.
What i don't understand is how Tony Blair can swan around the place earning millions and not have lawyers chasing him down the street with arrest warrants wherever he goes. There has been a few attempts by the public to impose a citizens arrest on him but otherwise he only has to avoid a few shoes and eggs thrown at him.
We may not ever get the men and ladies behind the invasion of Iraq in front of any Court, but we do continue to make things uncomfortable for them and that's some sort of small victory.

Can We Have This Torturer Next Please?

Egyptians are continuing the process of removing their highly disliked dictator from power much to the annoyance of Western Governments so they distanced themselves from Mubarak and are telling Egyptians who they would prefer to take over for now, the Vice President Omar Suleiman.
'There are forces at work in any society, particularly one that is facing these kind of challenges, that will try to derail or overtake the process to pursue their own agenda, which is why I think it's important to follow the transition process announced by the Egyptian government, actually headed by vice-president Omar Suleiman' Hillary Clinton explained today.
So why are the Americans so keen to have Suleiman running things if they can't have their first choice puppet Mubarak?
Apart from Suleiman being known as Mubarak II and Mubarak's hit man, was head of the Egyptian intelligence who aided the U.S. rendition program and oversaw the torture of Al Qaeda suspects on behalf of the Americans and received his training at John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School and Center at Fort Bragg, i can't find any suspicious motives behind America backing him.
Unless of course...nah, i'm just being cynical because the Obama Administration is much too smooth to be seen wanting to replace one American friendly torturer with another one. Aren't they?

Friday, 4 February 2011

No Stereotypes Here

The BBC has apologised for the remarks in the car show Top Gear after a presenter said that the Mexican car would be like Mexican people, lazy, feckless, flatulent and overweight.
In a letter to Mexico's ambassador in London, it said that it was sorry if it had offended some people, but said jokes based on national stereotyping were part of British national humour.
Very true because we Brits do like to bash other countries over the head with national sterotypes but we always assumed that they quite liked it.
Living in a very metropolitan City, i was in the perfect place to find out just what other nations thought of our gentle ribbing of their characteristics.
I began by trying to ask my Jamaican neighbour but he didn't answer the door. Obviously he was washing his dreadlocks or he just had his Bob Marley CD turned up too loud to hear the doorbell so i moved across the hallway to Mick the Irishman but remembered that the month had a day in it and he would be drunk and trying to get into a fight somewhere.
The doorman is Spanish and i quietly tiptoed past him on the way out as not to disturb his siesta and was lucky enough to meet a German gentleman entering the building.
After exchanging small talk about what type of schnitzel he had bought for his families dinner, i asked him if he found the British depiction of Germans as offensive. He replied that he had to be at home to iron his leiderhosen at 11:56 and as we had been talking for 3 minutes and 27 seconds he would not have time to answer but he had 4 minutes to spare between 19:33 and 19:37 this evening. I thanked him and as he walked into the building humming oom-pah music, i continued on my search for more nationals to question.
I asked the dirty, lazy, unshaven, curly moustached French man wearing a beret, striped jumper and carrying a baguette under the arm at the park playing petanque but he just rudely ignored me as did the Scotsman but to be fair i did call him Miss and complement him on his skirt.
The Indian gentleman who runs the local newsagent was normally very chatty but his wife told me that he had packed up the family elephant and gone looking for Tigers on the South Downs but she expected him back soon because a good Bollywood film was on TV.
I considered asking the Italian man who runs the Pizza Shop his thoughts but he was busy adjusting his shirt to show his pectorial muscles and chest hair so headed to the Park instead where i found a few clog wearing homesick Netherlanders gazing at the tulip flower bed and discussing how there was just not enough windmills in Britain.
I decided what i needed was an Australian so on my way home i dropped into a random pub and as expected, found an Australian barman.
We got along fine at first until I inadvertently offended him by asking him if he had ever tried low alcohol lager and he angrily picked up his boomerang and stormed off saying something about taking the rest fo the day off, i think he said he was going surfing or to find a crocodile to wrestle.
Suddenly realising that i had not drank a cup of tea for almost two hours, i made my way home and sat down to watch 'allo 'allo and reflect on how lucky the rest of the World is to have us Brits to disguise extreme, racist, bigoted xenophobic views as humour. God bless us.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Wrong King George

When i first heard that they were making a film about King George, i wondered which one of the six was about to be made into a cinematic hero.
Possibly it would be the story of the first George, a German who took the throne on virtue of being the closest living Protestant relative to Queen Anne, leapfrogging over the 50 Catholics stood between himself and the dead Queen. His wouldn't be the greatest story but a nice sideline would be how he married his cousin then had her imprisoned for 30 years until she died.
The second King George would be interesting. A hothead who often brawled with his father and challenged the Duke of Newcastle to a duel at a family Christening which saw him arrested and banished from the Royal Palace by his father. While King he spent his time fighting his son, beating the Scots led by Bonnie Prince Charles and impregnating his mistresses before gorging on fruit and dying on the toilet with a fatal bout of diarrhoea.
King George III already has a film made about him and the fifth King George was so dull that his biographer complained 'he did nothing at all but kill animals and stick in stamps'.
Not material for an exciting cinema visit but hopefully, they had plumped to make a film of my favourite King George, the fourth one.
The Duke of Wellington said that he was 'the worst man he ever fell in with his whole life, the most selfish, the most false, the most ill-natured, the most entirely without one redeeming quality'. Not a fan then.
His time as Prince Regent while his dad was barking mad involved heavy drinking, numerous mistresses, an illegal wedding and wild extravagance that saw Parliament grant him £161,000 (equal to £17m today) to pay off his debts.
More expensive extravagance and he received a second bail out of £630,000 (equal to £49m today) from his father on the condition that he married his cousin Caroline which he did then banned her from his coronation.
Instead, in their wisdom, we get a film about King George 6th whose most interesting aspect was his stutter. Bah.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Failing The Egyptians

I do sigh whenever something happens around the globe and the news suddenly shows a White House spokesman spouting Americas view on what should be done. How i wish someone would turn around, as China now do, and point out the many injustices in America and lecture them about what they should do. Glass Houses indeed.
We have had Hillary Clinton on television today giving the Obama's administrations take on events in Cairo and stating what they want to see and how the President should go about achieving it.
The truth is, America want the dictator Mubarak to keep the highest seat because the Egyptian President is friendly to Israel, and for some unfathomable reason, America likes to blindly prop up whoever happens to be in power in the Israeli Government.
America has effectively been saying to Egyptians for the past 3 decades, yes we are aware how corrupt your leader is, but because he is our best friends friend, you just have to put up with it.
The West, not just America, has a history of backing corrupt officials of elsewhere as long as they get something out of it. Tyrants such as King Abdulah of Saudi Arabia, Gaddafi in Libya, Hu Jintao in China, Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan and even Equatorial Guineas Teodoro Obiang Mguema, a man described as worse than Robert Mugabe, is considered a friend. Previously Saddam Hussein and even Bin Laden and his pals were a recipient of Western aid and support until it all turned sour.
Consider the lukewarm reaction from the West to the Egyptian uprising, Obama putting out a statement about Mubarak delivering on his promise of reforms, no backing for the Egyptian people looking to rid themselves of a brutal leader.
Contrast this to Iran when thousands of protesters came out on the streets of Tehran to challenge the result of the Iranian presidential election, Barack Obama said he was 'appalled and outraged' and 'along with all free nations, the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights.'
Now the bogeyman of Islamist fundamentalists 'taking over Egypt' has been raised by some and the scaremongering stories of how the World will have to deal with another Iran and what that means for the US losing one of its few friends in the Middle East (not to mention $8bn worth of trade) and endangering Israel.
It's time the West, particularly the US and UK, stopped interfering in other countries and allowed them the universal rights that America was so keen on enforcing in Iran and Burma.
The Egyptians are fighting for freedom, democracy and a bit of dignity but the world’s biggest democracies are failing them.
The Egyptian protesters congregating in Tahrir Square would be correct to think that universal rights are only for those who don't sell oil, are friendly to the West and Israel or allow western airfields in their country. If you scratch the West's back then you can expect to be backed regardless of how much of a corrupt dictatorship you are as long as you don't stray from the West's script.