Thursday, 31 March 2011

USS What?

The United States Navy does have an impressive array of ships at its disposal. Some are named after former Presidents such as USS Eisenhower, USS George Washington and USS Harry Truman.
There are others with names such as USS Wasp and USS Boxer which conjure up visions of vicious, stinging insects and tough canines.
So what happened with USS Ponce?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Not Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution

According to the IFPI Digital Music Report, global music sales were down by 8.4% in 2010. The blame is placed at the doorstep of illegal down loaders which is a handy fig leaf so nobody has to admit that less people are buying music because today's music is pants.
To be fair it is a bit of a double whammy because it isn't just the music but the new musicians as well who seem to be eeked out of the same squeaky clean template.
The only one creating any excitement is Lady Gaga when she dons another strange outfit but she is a lone loon in a depressingly barren landscape.
A look at the headline acts at these years festivals shows there is a real dearth of up and coming talent.
Bands like U2, Pulp, Suede, Bon Jovi, The Cure, Def Leppard and Coldplay were all doing their stuff in the 80s and 90s but have not been replaced by younger bands so are still receiving top billing at the big shows.
If anyone is to be blamed, it is the likes of X-Factor, American Idol and Disney putting out endless bubble-gum pop and bland, uninteresting musicians.
When was the last time you read about a musician smashing up a hotel room or taking a drunken swing at a photographer. Even the rappers who could always be relied upon for a spot of drunken debauchery have toned it down.
How we long for the likes of an Axel Rose, Johnny Rotten or Iggy Pop to liven things up a bit because Justin Beiber, Miley Cirus and Olly Murs sure aren't going to be photographed slumped outside a nightclub being sick over their personal assistants anytime soon. How boring.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Who Decides The Rebels & Terrorists?

Quite ironic really that the American military has helicopters called Apache and missiles named Tomahawks, both names taken from the people they slaughtered and then rounded up into reservations while they stole their land.
If a country tried that these days the International community would be installing no fly zones over North America to protect the Native American Indians who would probably be armed and held up as freedom fighters or rebels.
Or would they? In Kosovo, the KLA massacred whole villages of Serbs and when the Serbs fought back, they were the bad guys and the KLA the ones who NATO rushed to help. Look at Israel who murder and steal Palestinian land and when the Palestinians fight back, it is they who are the terrorists.
In Libya, those trying to overthrow the Government are the freedom fighters while in Northern Ireland the IRA attempting the same thing were terrorists.
It's confusing this freedom fighter/terrorist/rebel/insurgent thing.
Menachem Begin was the leader of the terror group the Irgun who bombed and massacred but picked up a Nobel Peace Prize while the CIA-funded, heroic, anti-Soviet fighters the mujhadeen led by Osama bin Laden becomes the world’s most wanted terrorist group. One time friends to the west Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi are now in the history books as murdering tyrants who had to be removed from power.
Nelson Mandela went from terrorist to international statesman while Fidel Castro has had countless attempts on his life by America after he overthrew the corrupt Batista Government. The Taliban are invited to the White House and described as 'the moral equivalents of America's founding fathers' and a few years later are being violently ousted by the same people who lauded them.
Who decides these things? The UN? The West? The Government being targeted?
Was Gandhi or the American colonies terrorists for wanting to overthrow British rule or the Bolsheviks for removing their king?
One can only conclude that the criteria for either being a freedom fighter or a terrorist is whether the person describing them likes them and it is the world powers that decide whether you are a fighting for your freedom against the Government or terrorising it.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Tracing The Giant's Shoulders

Isaac Newton famously remarked that all he had achieved was due to 'standing on the shoulders of Giants.'
One of the greatest quotes ever and there have been many giant's shoulders for us to stand upon but at some point in time, someone must take the credit as the inventor of the development that has most advanced mankind.
I would argue that the event that most advanced us was the asteroid that slammed into the Earth 65m years ago which hastened the death of the dinosaurs and allowed space for the growth of the mammals but what single development over the following 65m years has most bought us to where we are today.
There are many contenders which I hand over the prize to temporarily who without there development, we would be much worse off and make it almost impossible for me to create a list of their importance.
Furthest back in our history would be fire, or rather the ability to control fire, the wheel, language, boats, tools and weapons. All, without which, we would not have even began to advance and truly the giants who shoulders we later stood upon.
Then there is the invention of the printing press, astronomy, gunpowder, cartography, the steam engine and electricity, all of which would bring the world to a screeching halt if one of them were uninvented.
As if all those were not enough, we can throw space travel into the equation and that's a pretty decent group of developments and inventions that all have a good shout of being declared the one thing that has most advanced human beings.
It's too big a subject for my mind, especially on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but i can see how without tools, none of the other developments would have been possible so the giant whose shoulders Newton and everyone else has been upon was the first stone age person to use a tool. I think.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Why Big Government Is Needed

One argument that seems more of an issue in America than here is the big Government versus small Government debate.
The argument goes that the concept of small Government is more effective as it concentrates only on a few, but important, attributes of society and the economy will flourish without government interference.
Those in favour of a big Government argue that it is only government regulation which keeps a tab on the capitalist market and without them, the huge corporations will ride roughshod over society in order to turn a profit.
You only have to look to see how many companies and corporations have been fined for inappropriate behaviour which has been designed to put one over the consumers so the idea that they should be left to their own devices should fill us all with horror. Do we need reminding of the havoc the lightly regulated financial market has inflicted on the global economy?
Wednesday we were given yet another example of why they should be kept on a very tight leash and the advocates of small Government should be rethinking their arguments.
The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, took 1p off a litre of petrol, effective from 6pm that evening.
Stories soon emerged of petrol stations, aware that the cut was coming, put up their prices by a penny, or more in some cases, and then took it off again at 6pm. Another common rant was the prices going down but not by the full penny.
The AA said: 'One of two of the supermarkets appear to have put prices down but we've also heard that a lot of service stations are selling at the previous day's prices'.
The Government have now pledged to 'watch oil companies like a hawk' to make sure that the 1p a litre is enforced and that is just a tiny example as to why we need a big Government to stop big business ripping us off because if they can get away with it, they will.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

And So It Goes On

Citing 'Israeli crimes', Hamas ended its ceasefire and began shooting rockets into Israel last weekend. The next day, Israeli planes carried out air strikes in response. Hamas reply was to fire even more rockets so the Israelis undertook even more air raids, killing 4 civilians which so infuriated the Palestinians that a bomb was detonated outside the main bus station in Jerusalem which the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond to 'aggressively'.
And so the cycle starts all over again and each blame each other and missiles and rockets get fired backwards and forwards killing and maiming people who just want to live without worrying if a Palestinian missile or an Israeli bomb is going to come through their roof at any moment.
Anyone who follows these events in the Middle East is familiar with how this cycle works and how it grows bigger and more destructive and only seems designed to keep the decades old conflict alive rather than to end it.
The pro-Palestinians and pro-Israeli supporters can argue forever about who is in the right and who is wrong or how far back to go to determine who started the hostilities but if the conflict is to be resolved, the cycle must end.
But for that to happen, both sides must put peace ahead of politics but both Hamas and the Israelis need conflict with each other. Without Israel for Hamas to rage against, they lose their reason for being and without Hamas for Israel to rage against, Israel lose the reason for building on occupied land.
Yes both sides are to blame and yes i put more of the blame on Israel because Israel is the occupier and oppressor with the Palestinians the occupied and oppressed. Nobody should want to see anyone killed, least of all innocent civilians queuing to catch a bus in Israel or whilst sitting in their own home in Gaza so the commenter's, bloggers and journalists who urge Israel to hit Palestine hard for their bomb attack or justify a rucksack bomb at a Jerusalem bus shelter are just fueling the problem that nobody, on either side, is willing to call a halt to this tit for tat killing which will only end in more hatred and death and makes the chances of peace even more elusive.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A Nothing Budget Expected

Budget Day tomorrow and if the speculation is right, it is going to be a mixed bag.
The good news is personal allowance, the amount we earn before paying tax, will be increased by around £600 to £7,475, £250m is being set aside to help first-time home buyers purchase newly built property and a planned rise in fuel duty will be scrapped.
With VAT up to 20%, inflation at 4.4% and the prices of utilities, food, fuel and clothes rising while pay not going up go up by anything like the same extent, it's not expected to be a vintage belt tightening budget because Osbourne doesn't really have anything left to squeeze the masses for.
I like his idea of merging National Insurance (12%) and income tax (20%) because it was time the National Insurance sham was abolished since it's nothing more than just another tax which the Government manipulate so they can keep their promise of not raising income tax. If he sets it at anything other than 32% for the lowest earners though there will be outrage.
Overall, he can't do very much except tinker around the edges and hit the smokers and drinkers which is par for the course on Budget Day. With unemployment soaring and the public sector already being ripped to shreds, he has no room for manoeuvre in that direction and it will not be easy to justify more cuts to save money when his party has just taken us into another war where we are dropping £1 million a pop cruise missiles on Libya.
There is a massive demonstration planned for Saturday against this Governments cuts and students fees and unless Osbourne can pull a rabbit out of his hat tomorrow which will improve the general lot of the majority of households in this country, or hit the well off harder so they pull their weight in his 'all in it together' mantra, there will be much anger on the streets
It's about time we saw some benefits to these austerity measures because so far Osbourne has done nothing but take and offered no carrots while we seem to be in the same position as we were when he took over and that position is the sound of deckchairs being rearranged as the iceberg looms ahead.

Nothing To See Here

Psst, Israel, over here.
As everyone else is looking the other way at Libya and Japan, i don't think anyone noticed the air strike where you bombed a Palestinian family home and killed four innocent people and wounded 12.
I also know some of you are worried about Israel facing the same UN fate as Libya for your military action in Gaza and the West Bank to protect the Palestinian population but you don't need be.
You have been getting away with murder for decades so why should they start to want to protect them now?

Monday, 21 March 2011

Blistering Chocolate Barnacles

We went to Belgium last summer and Belgium is famous for many things. Actually it isn't but one thing it is renown for is chocolate and as Belgium is full of shops selling the stuff, we brought a backpack full of the brown wonder as souvenirs for family and friends, not that they saw much of it as most was consumed on the ferry back.
Belgium hasn't got much going for it and it may not have the chocolate for much longer because apparently the world is facing a chocolate shortage.
The majority of the world's cocoa supply comes from West Africa and the average West African farmer has worked out that for the small amount he makes from cocoa trees, he can make more growing palm oil which is increasingly in demand for biofuels.
Tending to cocoa trees is immensely time-consuming, taking up to five years to grow a new crop and that satisfying feeling that his product is contributing to our type 2 diabetes is just not enough anymore.
As new markets open up in Asia for chocolate, the chairman of the Cocoa Research Association has said: 'Chocolate consumption is increasing faster than cocoa production and it's not sustainable. These smallholders earn just 80 cents a day so there is no incentive to replant trees when they die off, and to wait up to five years for a new crop'.
Poor Belgium, it will just have to fall back on it's other famous exports, Tin Tin and Jean Claude Van Damme.
Actually, on second thoughts, you may want to concentrate more on Tin Tin.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Another Wrong Military Intervention

David Cameron has said that: 'the time for action' has come because of Gaddafi ceasefire breaches and 'Colonel Gaddafi has made this happen, he lied to the international community.'
Should we trust Cameron, Obama or Sarkozy? No. Should we trust Gaddafi? No. Should we trust the rebels led by the National Front for Salvation of Libya? No.
None of the above have the ordinary Libyan peoples interests at heart despite why they say they are acting, all have their own agenda and once again it will be the ordinary people of Libya who would pay the heaviest price.
It is the hypocrisy with which the West operate that drives everyone crazy. It wouldn't have gone unnoticed with the speed at which the US condemned Syria yesterday while remaining next to silent on the Saudi military supporting the killing of protesters in Bahrain. The Saudis have even agreed to deploy their planes to Libya to enforce the no-fly-zone while Saudi protesters are brutally oppressed and suppressed in their own country.
And did I hear the UN threaten attacks on Libya for contravening the UN resolution while as we speak, Israel is contravening, and has contravened countless, US resolution with impunity with a supportive US vetoing any condemnation of them.
The armchair generals are out in force again, asking those of us who oppose the West's military intervention in Libya who we are to condemn thousands of innocent people to death by the hands of Gaddafi? My reply is who are they to condemn thousands of people to death by western planes?
There is every chance that this will end up as another debacle for the allies, we have form in this area.
The last time we decided on 'humanitarian intervention', against a tyrant who was slaughtering his own people, we managed to somehow make things even worse and leave the entire country in a mess that it's going to take a generation to recover from. On top of that, the civilian death toll topped a million.
This is a disaster waiting to happen. We'll do what we always do. Charge in, remove the government, get them to 'democratically elect' a western friendly puppet government, then leave, after we're satisfied that the country resources are nice and safe for the West.
This whole thing has nothing to do with promoting democracy or protecting Libyan civilians. It is about promoting western interests by controlling and directing pro-democracy movements in oil rich countries and it stinks.

Friday, 18 March 2011


Many years ago a friend and i invented a game to play on Google. You start with 2 random words and you have to take turns changing one of the words to get less hits than the previous person got. If you scored a nil then you lost.
Many hours we spent playing that instead of doing anything constructive and we still play it now occasionally to decide which one of us has to make the coffee or buy the pastries.
Google hasn't changed much all these years later but i do enjoy the feature where you start to type something it the search box and it attempts to guess what you are going to type before you finish.
Because it receives millions and millions of requests per day, it is an excellent way of finding out what's popular and what people are thinking.
We have done the i love and i hate question previously and found out that Obama was both the most loved and most hated person according to the number of Google hits he got but just what are the tens of millions of Google users asking today about the great and good?
if we type in the word 'Is' and then the name of those in the news today we get the questions:

is David Cameron popular, jewish, married
is Obama a muslim, freemason, black
is Maragaret Thatcher dead, dead yet, still alive
is Justin Bieber dead, gay, a virgin
is the Queen german, dead, married
is Charlie Sheen dead, dying, rich
is Tony Blair a freemason, jewish, scottish
is God real, dead, an alien
is Gaddafi in venezuela, finished, jewish
is Lady Gaga a man, dead, gay

There does seem to be a theme where Googlers want to know if someone is dead or Jewish but i love the way the most asked question about Lady Gaga is whether she is a man or not and all everyone wants to know about Margaret Thatcer is whether she has died yet.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Problem With Elections

One of the demands of the Liberal Democrats before they agreed to team up with the Conservatives and stab us all in the back was a referendum on the voting system.
Nick Clegg and his cohorts are demanding we switch from the first past the post system we currently where a voter puts an 'X' beside their favoured party on the ballot paper, to an alternative voting system where they rank the candidates on offer. 1 for Labour, 2 for Conservative etc.
The greatest difference i can see is it will be more representative of voters choice, Labour won the 2007 election with only 34% of the country voting for them meaning 66% didn't want them but were stuck with them anyway.
That is a good thing obviously but what grates with me is not the method of how they get in, it's how once they get the keys to the door, they are left alone for 5 years to do what they like.
I would like to see some mechanism where an election is triggered if the voters don't like what they are up to.
As things stand, the Lib Dem/Conservative coalition Government can slash and burn everything as much as they like for the next 4 years and there is nothing we can do about it.
That's what i want to see changed by having a threshold where if a Governments popularity sinks below 30%, the country holds another election. All the polls, and we have lots of them, would be gathered and analysed to make one final running percentage.
Alternatively, why not reduce the limit and hold elections every 2 years so we can remove them before any real damage is caused and scandals are not half forgotten by time.
It would also force them to consider things more carefully instead of front loading their time with all the bad decisions so they can offer election time bribes when they come into their final year.
We can tinker with how we elect our Prime Ministers all we want but it won't stop any of them being liabilities when they get in power. Isn't that so Mr Clegg.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Nuclear Power Lie

If there is a silver lining in the Japanese catastrophe, and it will be a very well hidden silver lining at present, it is that it may finally nail this crazy obsession with Nuclear power.
It has been pushed as the alternative to dirty, polluting coal fired power stations and Governments everywhere seems to have swallowed the ideal and gone crazy building nuclear power stations. There are curently 442 nuclear power plant in operation around the globe.
The continuing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant has sparked a review of thinking about the safety of nuclear technology with Germany announcing it will close down seven older reactors, Italy and Poland suspending plans to sign on to nuclear energy and Russia ordering a review of the future of Russia's atomic energy sector.
The problem with nuclear energy is when it goes wrong, as in Chernobyl, it goes catastrophically wrong with devastating results for the environment but that isn't its worst aspect.
The waste from nuclear power stations, the low level less dangerous stuff, remains deadly to humans for thousands of years. The high level waste is hazardous for a million years!
The preferred solution everywhere is to dump it in a big hole in the ground. A very, very deep hole and forget about it.
The IAEA said that the Fukushima incident is rated a level four out of seven on its scale of seriousness. Chernobyl was a seven rating. France's nuclear safety authority, however, said the situation is at level six.
The events in Japan must now open our eyes to a clean, safe energy source that doesn't require burning coal or include radioactive fuel rods. It's a wake up call that we must discard the misplaced faith in nuclear energy that has been misrepresented and sold to us as safe when, in reality, it threatens the very future of our planet and all of us on it.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Why Libya?

In one country, the people rise up against a ruthless regime and the West is itching to join in with no-fly zones and arming the rebels. In a neighbouring country the people rise up against a ruthless regime and the West goes all quiet. So what is different between Libya and Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain or Algeria?
The Libyan regime is killing civilians who dare try to depose it, but so did the Tunisian, Egyptian and Yemenese Governments.
Maybe it is the numbers involved, the number of dead Libyans is put around 6000 while in Egypt it was 384, 230 in Tunisia and 40 and rising in Yemen. Is there a magic number of dead where the West will tolerate a certain number of civilian deaths but when the number is reached, start to consider things unacceptable?
Is Gaddafi's regime less democratic than those around him? In the World Democracy League Table, Libya are bundled into the 4th Division with Iran, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Oman, Jordon and UAE.
In the Corruption League Table Libya are above Yemen and share the same rating as Iran. If corruption and lack of Democracy is the trigger, than we should be looking at places like Uzbekistan who are below Gaddafi's regime in both tables.
The Moroccans have been suppressing and killing civilians in the Western Sahara since 1979, the Israelis have been suppressing and killing civilians in Palestine since 1948, the leaked American embassy cable point the finger at Saudi Arabia as the largest donor of funds to Al Queada along with Qatar and Kuwait.
Up until a few weeks ago, Libya was one of those those countries in the region friendly to the West, keeping the oil and gas flowing our way and paying billions for our weapons.
Somewhere along the line, Gadaffi moved from a tolerated friend to a must-be-removed foe although it is hard to work out when he moved from one to another and why he, and not others, are now in that particular column.
David Cameron and French President Sarkozy are the main pushers for a no-fly-zone above Libya, even when the Americans are pausing for thought about another military adventure. A no-fly-zone would include air strikes on radar and anti-aircraft positions and with them civilian deaths, the very reason David Cameron is calling for military action on Libya.
David Cameron is looking for a distraction and he thinks he has found one because as Margaret Thatcher will tell you, a good, quick successful war is a vote winner at home.
Not sure how he can explain how our bankrupt government who have slashed everything to the bone in order to save money, has enough stashed away somewhere to wage yet another inappropriate and avoidable war.

Time For Arsene To Go?

It has not been easy being an Arsenal fan over these last 13 days. From going for the quadruple 2 weeks ago to beaten in the League Cup Final, knocked out of Europe and now out of the FA Cup all in the space of a fortnight.
It could be put down to bad luck with Arsenal getting drawn against Barcelona in Europe and Manchester United in the FA Cup although anyone who saw the Barcelona game and our record breaking nil attempts on goals could see we were severely out of our depth.
It may seem conceited and selfish for Arsenal fans to whine about things like only reaching the Cup Quarter Finals and the last 16 in Europe when other clubs are going to the wall but Arsenal are one of the big four clubs in England and we should be challenging for the major honours each year, but we are not.
Listening to the radio phone-ins this morning and after the game last night, it seems more and more Arsenal fans are thinking the unthinkable and considering a change of manager.
After 14 years, questions are being asked about Arsene Wenger's ability to take Arsenal up a level and deliver them from the annual bridesmaid role in the major competitions.
It is six years since Arsenal last won anything and although we are second in the league, there is a sense of pessimism around amongst Gooners that Arsenal can last the pace in the run-in.
Myself i am willing to wait until the end of the season and if we win the League (and we have an easier run in than Man Ure) everything will be forgotten and forgiven.
If we drop away and end up biting our nails over qualification for a European place next season, i will sadly have to admit that it is time for a change at the top.

Saturday, 12 March 2011


Humans seem intent on making more and more destructive weapons but as the events in Japan have shown, nothing we have come up with yet can match nature at its awesome worst.
One report i read put the energy in the 8.9 earthquake as equivalent to 336 megatons or 336 million tons of TNT.
Whereas floods, extreme weather and droughts can arguably be placed at the doorstep of us humans, earthquakes and volcanoes are acts of nature and unfortunately there is nothing we can do about them, just be prepared for when they do rear up.
One explanation for the quick succession of earthquakes in New Zealand and now in Japan is the arrival of next Saturdays Supermoon when the moon is at its closest point to Earth.
True that the moon influences the tides and can even change peoples behaviour, the police increase patrols on nights where there is a full moon, so when the moon is closest, it make sense that it's effect is stronger, but can it actually influence the earths crust?
The last time the moon got this close was on January 10, 2005 around the time of the devastating 9.0 Indonesian earthquake.
John Vidale, a seismologist at the University of Washington and director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, states 'Both the moon and sun do stress the Earth a tiny bit, and when we look hard we can see a very small increase in tectonic activity when they're aligned. At times of full and new moons, you see a less-than-1-percent increase in earthquake activity, and a slightly higher response in volcanoes.'
Personally, i put the harrowing scenes from Japan on our televisions due to the country sitting on the Pacific 'Ring of Fire', one of the world's most active areas for earthquakes and less to do with the moons orbit.
Nobody to blame and your heart goes out to the victims although you can't help wondering about the decision to build nuclear reactors right on the coast of a country prone to major earthquakes and tsunamis.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Black Metal Finds New Fan

I don't know what the Pope is up to these days but for some reason he was on the television doing Popely things which seemed to amount to waving and sitting down a lot. It was when he sat down after a heavy bout of waving that i noticed something about the Popes chair. A closer look confirmed it, the Holy one has only gone and become a Satanist.
Proof is right there where the Holy derriere is perched, an inverted cross carved on the chair.
When goats heads and pentagram are not readily available, devil worshippers and heavy metal headbanger types have made the upside cross the ultimate sign of sticking a middle finger up to Christianity and adorn themselves with the symbol that inspires churchy types to tut loudly at them.
They obviously thought themselves as pretty hardcore, take that Jesus, but there's only one man on Earth who is death metal enough to have an inverted cross carved into his own throne. Born to raise hell Ratzs.
Thoughts of the Pope starting his next sermon with the words 'I'm an axe grinder, pile driver, I got no brain, I'm insane' were short lived because if i and Cradle of Filth had paid attention in Sunday School we would have realized that the inverted cross is actually the intellectual property of Saint Peter, the first Pope, and one of the most revered figures in Catholic lore.
My priestly neighbour expanded on the subject that Pete was crucified and requested to be crucified upside down because he didn't feel worthy of dying the same way as Jesus.
So it seems all those satanists thought they were being clever and showing their disdain for everything Churchy, they were unknowingly joining the Pope in showing humility and unworthiness before Christ.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Loving Those Germans

The BBC World Service holds an annual country rating poll where it measures who the World views as having the most positive global influence and who has the most negative influence.
Germany came out top and the UK second with Canada third. The countries viewed most negatively were Iran, North Korea and Pakistan.
Now being a Brit i wonder just what has happened to make us considered the second best example.
I see us like one of those annoyingly yappy little dogs you see in the park that has a go at the bigger dogs who watch with amusement and then ignore it. I can't think of anything that we have done recently that makes other countries look at us and say 'Why can't we be more like those Brits?'
The economy is down the sink, we have been involved in all the major dodgy wars of late and we are one of the major exporters of arms to any despot that has the cash. If anything, our example is one to avoid not be admired.
No surprise that Canada is in the top 3 because apart from killing seal pups for their fur, they just sit there not doing anything and not annoying anyone.
No real surprise either that Pakistan, N Korea and Iran make up the bottom 3. None of them have been portrayed in the best light over the past few years.
Of the global powerhouses, the USA is viewed as a better influence than China and Russia is way down the list.
The largest jump up the table from 2010 is made by Brazil who are rapidly seen as having a positive influence in the world while the sharpest fall is made by Pakistan.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Rise & Fall Of REM

I have always felt a little let down by the group REM. In the early 90s they produced two great albums, Automatic for the People and Out of Time.
Songs like Drive, Everybody Hurts, Man on the Moon, Losing My Religion and Shiny Happy People were everywhere in the early 90s and added to what i think of as the golden age of music in my lifetime.
Then it all seemed to go pear shaped with the Monster album in 1994 and they have just been bobbling along not doing very much exciting ever since.
Now they have another album out 'Collapse into Now' but i have long given up on expecting anything as barnstorming as their earlier efforts.
I'm not really sure what to put down the rise and fall of REM to. They did their best work at the same time as the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam were producing the Grunge sound which is a million miles away from what REM were putting out but somehow REM were associated with that era, possibly because of the close friendship between Michael Stipe and Kurt Cobain.
I see plenty of young students wearing Nirvana, Guns n Roses and Pearl Jam T shirts and listening to the those bands music but R.E.M. and their music is not ageing very well. I have had conversations about Pearl Jam's and Nirvana's MTV Unplugged sessions but never R.E.M.'s Unplugged.
R.E.M. it seems, are regarded as an old band, much like how i always saw the Rolling Stones, living on past glories and not really noticed. Just hanging about bothering the charts occasionally.
I certainly won't buy their new album and won't go out of my way to listen to it. It seems that REM have turned into 'oldies music' who only really appeal to people of my generation and they stopped appealing to me around 1994.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Michael Moore And The Wisconsin Public Workers

Something seems to be brewing in Wisconsin. I wasn't sure what or why Wisconsin was in uproar but Michael Moore is involved and some commenter's from other sites have used my Michael Moore post about how he paid for the medical fees for the wife of the man who ran the anti-Michael Moore website as an example of what a decent guy Mr Moore is.
Following the links back i found that Wisconsin has a projected $3.6 billion deficit and Governor Scott Walker is hitting the public servants there by raising the cost of their health insurances, taking a hit to the pay packet and relinquishing workers rights to negotiate things such as working hours, work conditions, redundancy payments etc.
The health insurance costs and pay reduction you could make an argument for and i read that the unions accepted these conditions but balked at the third demand.
I fail to see how making workers unable to negotiate with their employers regarding their working conditions can be shoehorned into the states deficit reduction so what it does smell of is the Governor attempting to use the financial crisis to sidestep the workers unions.
This would enable the state to make redundancies on the cheap or the more cynical view, make working conditions so unpalatable that workers leave therefore negating any redundancy payments at all.
With the unions weakened, the state will be able to implement its own rules and we all see what happens when the powerful are left to their own devices.
I don't know if their is more to it, i have only a brief overview of events in Wisconsin but i am willing to put my faith in a cause Michael Moore feels strongly about because Michael Moore has not often been wrong.
You are lucky to have him America and all the best to the public service workers of the badger state.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Copying Solon

I don't know what was in the water in Ancient Greece but they sure did churn out a lot of philosophers, probably the most famous being Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. All very impressive and a good case could be made for all of them being the greatest thinkers ever, but i have always been impressed with the lesser known Solon who is credited for thinking up the earliest form of Democracy that would later become the
system that we would say we adopted but never actually did.
Solon was not only a statesman, lawmaker and philosopher, but he would write his policies in the forms of poems. On the idea of money he wrote:

'Some wicked men are rich, some good men poor,
But I would rather trust in what's secure;
Our virtue sticks with us and makes us strong,
But money changes owners all day long'

I never said they were good poems but what a great idea and one that should be revived so all our politicians can only pass new laws and make statements if they are done through poems.

Say I, David Cameron with dignity
To Gadaffi the black prince of tyranny
Please be a good chap
stop this killing folk crap
or we'll light up your state like a Christmas Tree

Gadaffi's reply:

The British all think that i'm mad
They want to kill me and my lad
But i will not despair
and us he can't scare
Cause he sold me all the arms that he had

How much more fun would it be and what with the age of austerity we are now in, all those poems about bankers although i'm struggling to think of any words that rhyme with bankers.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Libya 2011 Iraq 2003

2011 and an anti-western leader of an oil rich country is being threatened with military action by the West?
Been here before haven't we in 2003 when an anti-western leader of an oil rich country was threatened with military action by the West.
Yes Gaddafi is a vile tyrant and yes he is killing his own people but so was Saddam and look how that turned out when we went steaming in all guns blazing.
David Cameron has said that he has not ruled out military action in Libya and the Pentagon has said it is moving naval and air forces into positions near Libya in case military intervention is required.
A no-fly zone looks an increasing possibility to deter Gaddafi from using his planes to attack demonstrators but that is exactly how Iraq began and developed into the monstrous mess it is now.
The West cannot stand by and watch obviously but the military option is a disaster waiting to happen and opens Cameron and Obama, quite rightly, to the same accusations levelled at Blair and Bush of just going after the oil.
As he is showing in Pakistan, Obama is not averse to dropping bombs on countries he has no right to be dropping them on. He has also, in contradiction to the peace loving President we expected to get, stepped up attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan with horrific results. President Hamid Karzai issued a denunciation of American military operations just last week after 64 civilians were killed by an American helicopter assault in Ghaziabad.
Another similarity to Iraq and the absurd idea that we can make things better with our missiles is the arming of Gaddafi in the same way as we did Saddam.
We are the people who wanted to be both there friends so we could buy their oil and sell them arms knowing full well that both were unhinged tyrants, but that didn't bother our conscience.
When they showed their true colours, the West threw up their hands in disgust and make threats. Both Saddam and Gaddafi accussed the West of betrayal and they are both right. Neither has shown to be anything other than what we expected while it is us faking the moral outage as if we are appalled that they used the arms we sold them for anything other than peaceful means.
The momentum is moving at pace towards a NATO led (not UN rubber stamped you notice) invasion into another oil rich country, coincidentally the one with the largest oil reserves in Africa.
It seems we just don't learn, even as the folly of Iraq and Afghanistan rumbles on.
Opponents of the Gaddafi regime based in eastern Libya said they did not want any foreign intervention in the country and Cameron and Obama should keep the US and UK military as far away from Libya as possible.
Recent history shows that when we do attacks on 'humanitarian grounds' we kill more civilians, stoke more anti-western feeling, increase the long term damage and end up controlling the oil wells when we get all Rambo on leaders who were once our good friends.