Saturday, 31 May 2014

Hagel's turn To Do Stupid

Move over John Kerry as it is Hagel's turn to do stupid.
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has accused China of destabilising the South-East Asia region as they have failed to resolve disputes peacefully and the US opposes the use of intimidation or threat of force to assert territorial claims.
He then laid out a list of moves the US has made to increase troops, ships and military assets in the region, provide missile defence systems to Japan, sell sophisticated drones and other aircraft to Korea, and expand defence cooperation with Australia, New Zealand and India.
The Obama administration has certainly become more belligerent and thuggish the longer they have been in power but as with the sanctions on Russia, less and less of the other countries are lining up behind them and are actually edging further away every time someone like Kerry or Hagel open their hypocritical mouths.
Nobody with any sense is going to commit economic and political suicide by joining in the bashing of the next economic superpower, they might mumble something in order to keep with the old power as they await the  new one coming up on the rails but as America found with the Russia sanctions, the influence is waning and nobody seems quite so willing to stand in your corner anymore as you throw your weight around.   

Friday, 30 May 2014

Charlize Theron, You Are A Moron

I don't know much about Charlize Theron, but i do know she is a highly paid actress and that she chose to go into that field knowing that the media will fawn over her and her films and she will in turn pose and pout and be available to the media. 
While she was free to make a choice, rape victims are not so to compare press intrusion to being the victim of rape is at worst outstandingly insensitive, at best the words of an idiot.
Maybe it was a poor choice of phrase, possibly she realised how abhorrent the comparison was as soon as the words where out of her mouth or she is just another self-obsessed idiot who likens the worst sort of violent act against a person which either leaves them dead or mentally and physically scarred for life to the act of having her photograph taken while out shopping.
Ms Theron, you are a moron.

Are We All Racist Now?

The British have always had a thread of arrogance running through them which goes back to the days of Empire when the land Britain ruled over was so vast that the sun literally never set on it.
There are people today who still can't see that what we did to millions of people around the World was anything other than a good thing.
'We dragged them into the modern era with British ingenuity' is the argument, dismissing the tens of millions that died due to Britain doing in Africa and Asia what Hitler attempted to do in Europe a century later.    
This 'better than Johnny Foreigner' view is mostly held by pensioners and the breakdown of voters in British elections shows that pensioners are the ones more likely to vote which may go some way to explain the rise of UKIP (a recent YouGov poll showed UKIPs largest support group was over 65) who have a nasty policy of blaming all the ill's of Britain on immigrants, a view that is shared by many over 65s not because it is true, but because of the 'Little Englander' attitude many of them hold. 
Absurd of course, Britain's ills are down to an economy shattered by financial markets greed and compounded by a Conservative Party using this an an excuse to bring in ideologically driven austerity cuts.
As UKIP is fronted by a right wing politician who made his fortune working in the City, he isn't going to point any fingers at his own kind, he is going to look elsewhere and Europe is where he points the finger.
Credit to him, he had done a very good job of keeping his finger pointed at immigration while his party imploded with racism, sexism and homophobia around him and the older generation suddenly had someone halfway respectable who wasn't the vile BNP or EDL saying what they thought but were afraid to vocalise previously due to the rise of Political Correctness, it's all the fault of the foreigners.    
To answer the question, 'Are we All Racist Now?' the answer is not all but some and these are the ones who voted last Thursday magnifying their impact although thankfully they are also the ones who will gradually be replaced by the next generation who have less members who still applaud the British Empire and look at immigration as a threat to Britain and see it more as an opportunity to embrace different cultures and enhance a vibrant multicultural Britain. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Of Mice & Men Too Good To Lose

Following the government's reshaping of the English literature exam syllabus from 2017, Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird are being dropped for more modern books written by British authors.
Although i don't necessarily agree with the favouring 'British writers', i do understand the need to refresh the book list every so often so we don't have the same books taught year after year, but it is such a shame that two absolute classics are being heaved aside.
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is a bit of a heavier read than Steinbeck's much shorter novella but both books should be first on any list for children to read, if you fail to be inspired by either of these stories then you obviously have not read them.
I first studied Of Mice and Men at school, i have lost count the amount of times i have read it since, a truly special book that weaves in friendship, poverty, responsibility and a last page that is both breathlessly good and shocking as anything anybody has ever written before or since.  
I hope that this will not rob pupils of the discovery of some amazing literature, the kind that will inspire them to read more and i hope that even though these books are not to be covered in full, teachers of English literature will share my thoughts they they are too good to be forgotten and will make a small space for them somewhere in the syllabus.

Chilcot Enquiry

The Iraq War was 2003, the enquiry into the handling of the War began in 2009 and we are still awaiting the outcome in 2014 but we may be getting close to a release date as Tony Blair has come to an agreement with the enquiry over what parts of his discussions with George W Bush can be handed to the enquiry, hardly any of them.
Instead only the 'gist' of the correspondence between the two men will be made available after four years of delays over Bush and Blair's private conversations.
David Cameron has said that that he now expecting the Chilcot report to be published by the end of the year but those of is hoping it will finally nail Tony Blair to the mast over the Iraq War may be disappointed as earlier this week Mr Blair said: 'The sooner it is published the better' which may make us think that he has an idea what is coming and it isn't as bad as it could be.
If Blair can put a stick into the enquiries wheel so we don't find out the incriminating stuff, five years on and millions of pounds later, what is the point of the enquiry?

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

What's Happening In Andromeda Galaxy?

A sudden burst of gamma-rays in the Andromeda Galaxy was detected by a NASA satellite this morning which means that there is a high probability that two neutron stars have collided.
A Neutron star is when a star collapses into itself under the force of gravity leaving a significantly smaller but very dense and rapidly spinning dead star.
Depending on the size of the star that collapsing, we could end up with a neutron star or a black hole and scientists are studying the type and length of the gamma-ray emissions detected this morning to understand what has happened in Andromeda.
Unfortunately for the end-of-timers, Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away and the Earth is well away from receiving a direct hit from the gamma-rays so we are in no danger from the event that would have happened while stone age man was first discovering that the sharp edge of a stone can be used as a tool.  
If the burst was caused by colliding neutron stars, previously undetected gravitational waves could be the result as predicted by Einstein but in an ironic twist, our most sensitive gravitational wave instrument, the LIGO, is out of action for an upgrade.
Whatever it was, Earth is not in danger and we are not all doomed but the gravitational waves bending time and space may mean we find ourselves back in 1984 and that would be a disaster...deeley boppers, Phil Collins and day-glo yellow leg warmers all over again!!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Democracy & Capitalism Not That Good Really

The Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, has been spelling out the risk of Capitalism destroying itself unless bankers realise they have an obligation to create a fairer society and Capitalism is doomed if ethics vanish.
I do take umbrage at the insinuation that the banks and financial houses are not full of people who do their jobs ethically and want the best for everyone, we call them the cleaners.
Two of the biggest white elephants of our time are Capitalism and Democracy but for some reason they are held up as the high water mark of human achievement.
Adam Smith, the father of modern Capitalism, was wildly wrong when he assumed that mankind's 'principles' would stop what we see today with the overwhelming majority of people continually having to do with less and less whilst the 1% enrich themselves to the level of obscenity.
Without doubt Adam Smith got that wrong, greed is not good and only fills the bank accounts of the top end while it empties those at the bottom but while we are governed by the millionaires at the top end, nothing is going to change until a crunch comes.
The Occupy movement is a start and it will get its act together one day and things will change but until then  it's austerity cuts for us and massive bonuses for the bankers. If Capitalism destroys itself through its own greed and lack of ethics then it shows what an awful and faulty system Adam Smith envisioned.  
As for Democracy, placing a cross on a ballot paper every five years in order to hand over political control to a party is as much say as we have. Yes we can remove a Government but once in they are there for a long time and can cause untold lasting damage to every corner of our lives.
Short of a revolution as in Ukraine, we are stuck with them and it's 60 months until Democracy wheels its way back again.
Democracy is 1 day every 1826 days and no way to remove the party if its breaks its promises or make u-turnd on the manifesto it was elected upon.    
It seems that the two things that we praise the highest and foist upon others, sometimes at the end of a gun, are really not that praiseworthy.

Is Nigel Farage An Alcoholic?

As the UKIP star is rising, the leader Nigel Farage will come under even further scrutiny. Such as his 'liking of a bottle of wine at lunch and another one at dinner' as his good friend Geoffrey Bloom explained.
As Mr Farage is always pictured in a pub with a pint in his hand, maybe someone should be asking questions about his 'refuelling' as Bobby Robson once called it.
Mind you, if he is an alcoholic and two bottles of wine and a few pints per day would indicate a dependency, it would provide an explanation for some of the things he has come out with.

Say A Prayer For Atheism

When a child reaches aged 7 or 8 he or she rightly questions the idea of Father Christmas and the parents face the inevitable question 'Is Santa real?' and they reluctantly admit that it is all made up and there is no Santa.
It is about the same age when a child has the mental capacity to question God but parents of a religious bent will not draw a line under the religion idea, they keep it going and with Churches and priests and vicars, the idea is enforced and the child grows up into an adult with the idea that God made the Universe and everything in it and after years of indoctrination, their belief is unshakable despite having no evidence whatsoever to back up their beliefs.
As we progress and evolve, Religion has been sliding away as more people reject the idea of a creator but that trend could be reversed according to the professor of genetics at University College London, Steve Jones who believes that population decline in sceptical countries combined with population growth in religious countries could see a resurgence of Christianity and leave sceptics in a minority.
As religion has been the cause of more wars and deaths than any other cause, we can only hope that more people make the realisation that the stories of God and Santa Claus should be treated the same and left behind before a persons age reaches double digits.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Finding A Grain Of Sand On A Beach

If someone asked you to find a grain of sand somewhere in the World but didn't tell you what beach it was on or even what country to look for it in, even with all the technology we have today it would be a daunting task.
As there are more stars then grains of sands on all the beaches in the World, its hardly surprising that we have yet to find life elsewhere but we keep looking.
Scientists at SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) are hopeful that they will discover intelligent life somewhere in the galaxy and that it should be detectable in the near future giving how quickly the technology is developing.
Seth Shostak, senior astronomer has said at the House Committee that he thinks the discovery will come 'within everyone's lifetime in this room' and that discovering sentient life in the universe 'would be the most significant discovery in human history'.
It would but as much as i would like us to discover new worlds, i do worry what would happen once we do.
Would the newly discovered life be friendly and share any technical advances or would it just see us as a threat and seek to destroy us.
Would we share our advances with it if it turns out that we are more intelligent or would we act with hostility?
What if the new planet has a much needed resource, would we take it? Would we go to war with any new World over it much as we do with countries on Earth that have what we want?
Maybe taking the time to find that grain of sand is not a bad thing.

Lib Dems Facing Wipe Out

As i voted for Nick Cleggs party at the last election you would have thought that i would have been moved by the plight of the Liberal Party as they stand to be decimated at the general election next year.
You would think so but as i only leant my vote to the Lib Dems to purge the Labour Party of the Iraq War brigade, i am very happy to see Clegg not only fighting for his job but for his party to be wiped out. 
Mainly because Clegg has been an accessory to the Conservative Parties cruel assault on the poor, the unemployed, students, disabled & the vulnerable in living memory.
Partly due to the way he callously reneged on his University fees pledge within weeks of being in power and in some degree because i just expected better from them, at least to pull the plug on the coalition when they saw the vicious ideological path the Conservative Party was taking.
As an internal ICM poll has revealed, even if they change leader now to Vince Cable or Danny Alexander, they will still be kicked into obscurity so it is a case of bye bye Lib Dems whatever they do.
As expected after 4 years of propping up the Tories and very well deserved.

The New Man In Ukraine

After a year of conflict, riots and overthrows, Ukraine has elected itself a new President, billionaire Petro Poroshenko.
Mr Poroshenko says his first priority is end war and bring peace but the East of the country looks set to be digging in for the long haul so that may be easier said then done.
There are also questions being raised if Mr Poroshenko is what those fought and forcibly removed Viktor Yanukovych for because it seems they have replaced one oligarch with another one, this one even wealthier. 
Add to that the perilous state of the national finances (£15bn debt and a $3.5bn gas bill from Russia to pay), the crippling austerity measures imposed by the IMF due to come into effect and the massive hike in the Russian gas price, and there are troubled times ahead.
It does make you wonder if Ukraine are about to get what they wished for and once they have it, regret wishing for it quite so hard.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Worrying Results In European Elections

I'm not sure what is happening in Europe but we certainly do seem to have taken a worrying swing to the right as is being borne out in the Euro election results tonight.
UKIP, Britain's party of sexist, racists and homophobes have taken a large percentage of the vote while the far right National Front scored its first victory in European Parliament elections in France and Greece's extreme right Golden Dawn are thought to have won nearly 10% of the vote.
In Denmark the right wing Danish People's Party is also expected to top the polls so something is happening here.
Voter turnout in the UK was around the 30% mark and if that is replicated across the continent then it could be that the anti-EU parties got their voters out while the Pro-EU parties never and suffered for it.
The more uncomfortable answer could be that the European project with closer integration is being rejected by European voters and this is sending them a message.
My personal belief is that the anti-immigration parties blaming all our ill's on open borders are shouting the loudest and throw in the economic turmoil and bailing out of the PIIGS countries and you get a toxic mix.
How voting a large portion of anti-European MEP's to the European Parliament is going to improve things we will have to see but the Pro-Europeans will have to raise their game because we are being beaten by and having our laws made in the EU by the very people who are seeking to destroy it and that can't healthy.

World Cup Not Coming To England

It's a strange phenomenon that along with the shops sticking an England flag on everything and flogging it as 'World Cup Mechandise' the TV makers try to flog us new televisions to watch the World Cup on.
Why watching it on a brand new £500 TV will make it any different to watching in t on an old TV is beyond me but i'm sure there are some simple folk out there who fall for the advertisers spiel and buy a new TV.
It seems that whether you watch it on a brand new 52" flat screen or your old TV, the England team will be  back here and watching the knock out stages with us because it is a stone cold certainty that England won't be bringing anything back home except their own luggage.
That isn't just my own personal view but that of the Government who are expecting the Three Lions to crash out after the group stages and won't reach the final.
An official report, drawn up by the Home Office, said that while the England football team is 'certain to be playing in the group stages of competition in Brazil this summer, there is a high probability that the team will not make it into the second round'.
This was the view when drawing up the expected benefits of late opening for pubs during the World Cup which prompted a rethink that would ensure pubs can be open for England's first World Cup fixture against Italy. 
Pele, who usually spends the 12 months before any World Cup going to countries and telling him that he fancies their chances, but even the most high profile erectile dysfunction victim has blanked us this time.
So keep your old TV, don't bother dusting off that Flag of St. George and dig around in your ancestry to find a Brazilian or Argentinian link because as we all know, the World Cup isn't leaving South America this time.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

America Stealing British Nurses

Due to the success of Obamacare, NHS bosses are concerned that Nurses will be upping sticks and flying across the Atlantic to fill the estimated shortfall of 100,000 nurses as US hospitals significantly expand their staff numbers.
The average wage of a nurse in the USA is £40,000 while in the UK it is £30,000 so it is understandable why some of the caring profession could be lured abroad which is ironic considering we poach them from all around the world in the first place but why should a nurse decide to ignore the call from Uncle Sam. Let me explain:

1: Wild Animals. In Britain the most dangerous animal we have is a hedgehog while in America they have wolves, bears, rattlesnakes, sharks and something called fire ants. Stay here and it's picking hedgehog needles out of someones foot. Go over there and it's sucking snake venom out of a sweaty Texan's backside.    

2: Tea: You will never get a decent cup of tea, they drink it cold and the don't use kettles. Make a cup of tea, leave it for two hours and then drink it and that's what you will be drinking for the foreseeable future.  

3: Driving. Americans drive on the opposite side of the road and they don't have roundabouts, instead they have a complicated system of crossroads. If you make it to work with your car intact you can consider yourself fortunate. Stay here and it's mirror, signal and manoeuvre and a leisurely drive at 20mph behind a Nissan Micra.

4: History: Britain gave the World modern nursing and has a rich history. There are beds in British hospitals that were built when the Pilgrim fathers were still on friendly terms with the Natives.  

5: Spelling: While Britain gave the Americans their language, they decided that 5 vowels was one vowel too many and dropped the letter 'u'. Good luck trying to explain that to the man with the ulcus cruris or pustuled uvula .

6: Guns. America has completely mad gun laws so while in Britain it's fluffing the pillows of the man having his gall stones removed, in America you will be dealing with multiple gun shot wounds all day every day. On top of that you will have to live among a community with a larger arsenal than the 16th Air Assault Brigade. 

7: Humour: You won't be at work all the time and at some point you will have to turn on a TV. Do that in Britain and it's Blackadder, Red Dwarf, Monty Python, Downton Abbey and usually something with Stephen Fry presenting it. In America it's Seinfeld and repeats of the X-Files all day.
 
8: Piers Morgan: He is still there which means he isn't here.

So that's your choices Nurses, go over to America and drink cold tea, get eaten by a bear if you survive the crossroads and have Piers Morgan gurning at you while you relax or stay here, use the letter u and marvel at normal non fatal ants.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Zombie Attack: It's Coming

Oh how they laughed when the zombie conspiracy was first mentioned but like the audience at a Seinfeld gig, nobody laughing now because the Pentagon has made plans in the event of an apocalypse brought about by an army of the undead, to 'preserve the sanctity of human life' among all the non-zombie humans.'
The country's contingency plans for a zombie onslaught emerged in from an unclassified document called 'CONOP 8888'.
The document is a detailed synopsis for battling many kinds of zombies and according to the plan the worst case scenario is a zombie attack in which zombies infect lots of human quickly leaving little time for a response.
It's not just the Americans with contingency plans for a zombie onslaught though, Britain is preparing itself also with the Ministry of Defence explaining that: 'In the event of an apocalyptic incident (e.g. zombies), any plans to rebuild and return England to its pre-attack glory would be led by the Cabinet Office, and thus any pre-planning activity would also take place there. The Ministry of Defence's role in any such event would be to provide military support to the civil authorities.
Concrete proof for the non-believers and if you are still sceptical of the dangers of the undead rising up to eat our brains (UKIP voters are safe) the Pentagon has a detailed breakdown of the types of zombies we are likely to face.  
The highest threat are pathogenic zombies that pass on infection and then evil magic zombies which are the result of occult experimentation. Space zombies are next and come from space or originate from extraterrestrial toxins such as nuclear space radiation that can convert people into zombies.
Further down the list are weaponised zombies who are bio-engineered by hostile forces and then symbiant-induced zombies who are created by parasitic life forms.
Bottom of the list and of least danger to human life are the vegetarian zombies who eat only plant life.
It's coming people, be prepared and let's hope that when the zombies turn up, they are only interested in munching on the shrubbery.

Reserve Currency Threat To US

As the US dollar is the reserve currency, the United States has benefited from lower transaction costs than any other country in the world as it doesn't need to exchange currency for trading purposes.
The US has had this luxury since the end of World War II but the recent turmoil with Russia and the constant sniping at China could make this about to change.
As the US continues to poke Russia with a stick, Vladimar Putin has decried allowing the United States to 'live like parasites off the global economy' while China’s central bank has floated the idea of the creation of a new international currency to replace the dollar, an idea agreed upon by France who joined in condemning the dollar's monopoly and America's 'exorbitant privilege'.
Harvard of all places have now issued a report that things may be about to change with a shift away from dollar based trading, especially in the Middle East and oil transactions.
In the Harvard worst case scenario, a drop in demand for dollar assets would cause the interest rates to skyrocket, sending ripples through the US economy as the value of the dollar plummets.
The alternative currency threatening the US dominance is the Chinese renminbi and although the Harvard report states that a serious challenge to the dollar by the renminbi is still a long way off, but it's time will come and America will then have a big problem.
I can't begin to understand what all this means but as China moves closer to Russia and America continues to poke at both countries, Russia especially, whatever it means it will happen a lot quicker than it otherwise would.

How Did Bear's Become So Cute?

I don't think i have ever seen a bear, don't think i have even seen one in a zoo but as far as my understanding is if i was to bump into one it would more than likely rip off my limbs, hit me over the head with the soggy end and then eat me for tea as some kind of Lucy salad.
In short, bears are not the sort of animal you would want to cross so with the adverts hitting the screens of the new Paddington movie, i wonder how did they get such a good image?
Off the top of my head, including Paddington, i can name Rupert Bear, Winnie the Pooh, Biffo the Bear, Yogi and Boo Boo, Fozzie Bear, Sooty, Pom Bear, Baloo and Bungle from Rainbow which are all kind hearted bears.
Then there are teddy bears with cute button noses and shiny glass eyes but no sign of the claws that with a flick would send your intestines heading southwards onto your shoes.
Why then, when there are so many other cuter animals around, was it bears chosen to steal our pic-a-nic baskets and sing cheery songs with Rod, Jane and Freddy? 
Why not seals, rabbits or squirrels which are much more cuddly and a lot less liable to use your thigh bone to pick it's teeth?
Remember that when Paddington comes to a theatre near you, he may look cute with his battered suitcase and marmalade sandwiches but given the chance he would be ripping out your windpipe and gnawing on your skull before you could say 'Darkest Peru'.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Arsenal FA Cup Winners

Much was made of Arsenal's nine year trophy drought before today's final but hardly anyone mentioned Hull's 110 year wait for silverware but despite a shocking first 8 minutes, the Arsenal drought is now over while Hull's wait stretches to 111 years.

Arsenal should have had three second half penalties, the corner Arsenal equalised off should have been a goal kick and Hull scored their second with a free kick taken at least 3 miles away from where the foul happened but the best moment was with six minutes of injury time remaining.
 
The producers, switching between cameras to fill time after someone had gone to retrieve the ball from row z after one of Tom Huddlestone's passes, and we see the engraver etching Arsenal's name into the trophy. Back to action and Eniola Aluko's little brother slips around the Arsenal goalie and fires towards an empty net.
Not being half as good as his sister, the shot thankfully went wide but I think the engraver put down the trophy after that until the final whistle

I'm also wondering if they found the lid off the trophy that somehow went missing. I'd check Steve Bruce's bag on the way out.   

Anyway, congratulations Arsenal and a special mention to Jose Mourinho who made the 'Specialist in failure' comment at Arsene in January and then after spending £108 million on players this season, ended it 1 place above Arsenal in the league and with as many trophies as John Terry has Asian friends, none. 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Right To Be Forgotten Ruling

I didn't expect the European Court of Justice ruling on the right to be forgotten to turn into a USA v Europe argument but that is where it seems to have ended up with Europeans cheering the ruling and citing the right to privacy and Americans calling it a violation of free speech.
The ruling has said that Google must remove links to 'irrelevant and outdated data' should a individual request it and stressed that the rights of the individual are paramount when it comes to their control over their personal data.
The Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who the ruling with have a huge effect, explains that this would never happen across the Atlantic because of the constitutional guarantee of free speech: 'This is not a debate the United States is even capable of entering into. You'd have to repeal the First Amendment so that's never going to happen'.
Max Mosley, who has fought years of privacy battles with tabloid newspapers and Google expressed the opposite view, calling an individuals privacy: 'A principle accepted in most civilised countries. The internet shouldn't regurgitate things for ever'.
Tens of millions of EU citizens can now force Google to remove links to their past online lives but my initial thought was not so much the people who want a 10 year old picture removed of them drunk with sick on their shoes and a traffic cone on their head worried about an upcoming interview but the people with real stuff to hide like politicians or celebrities.
My feeling on it is that for the everyday person it's a sound ruling but the flip side is that it is also very beneficial for the dodgy public figures who this time last week would have given up their first born to hide their past and can now benefit from a bit of rewriting their history.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Barlow The Tax Avoider

Not that it was much of a secret but Gary Barlow and Mark Owen and the other one from Take That who nobody knew have been found cheating on their tax bill, or tax avoidance as it is called.
Much pressure now on gary Barlow, or 'the fat one from Take That' as Liam Gallagher called him, to hand back his OBE which the Queen handed to him in 2012 for services to Music and to Charity after HMRC have told him that investing millions in a tax avoidance scheme is a no-no and sent him a tax bill for the millions he tried his hardest to avoid paying. 
As a Conservative party supporter, David Cameron is not surprisingly as keen to speak up as fiercely as he did when Jimmy Carr was caught avoiding paying tax and the Conservative leader is fighting Barlow's corner in the should he hand back his honour debate.
I don't know much about tax but apparently there is something called 'tax avoidance' which is what Barlow and his Take That chums were doing but are not illegal and 'tax evasion' which is illegal.
How avoiding paying tax is different to evading paying tax i'm not sure, the outcome is the same in so much that you try to get out of paying the tax that you rightly owe and as the judge ruled on the case said that the scheme used by the band members and their manager were primarily designed to avoid tax, he should be subject to the same laws as anyone else who deliberately withheld tax from the tax collectors.
Maybe next time we get a bill from HMRC we write a letter saying 'Dear Revenue, i know i owe a lot of tax this year but i do a lot for charity so can you let me off please, thanks' and see how far we get.          
Once again it's one law for the wealthy actively looking to deprive the country of the money they owe and two fingers and penalties to everybody else.

Dreamt v Dreamed

A long time ago there was an Australian blog called 'Heart Of The West' which was a group of bloggers who for some reason loved all things UK and USA. 
Very right wing, their idea of Western was supporting every War GWB got into and generally knocking everything about the left but what was hilarious and led to it's demise was the way they would get their facts hilariously wrong so Tony Blair would be the President of England and Lennon was the first leader of the USSR.
As it would have been rude to not point out their mistakes, it quickly became obvious that the group had all met at a tourette's syndrome circle but the blog was short lived and with much laughter ringing in their ears the blog folded and i would like to think that they are all now in a drying out clinic somewhere.
I mention the sweary Aussies because something that they would do whenever someone ridiculed their latest post would be to attack the commenter's grammar or spelling which of course is much easier than admitting the author was a divvy and read up on the right facts before hitting the post button.  
With the English speaking countries such as Australia and America taking the English language and mangling it, it can be quite difficult to see when a word is just badly spelt or just an Australian or American spelling but recently i have noticed English bloggers using non-english words such as spelled and learned instead of spelt and learnt.
Not sure when i began noticing it but spoilt has also become spoiled, spilt to spilled, burnt to burned, dreamt to dreamed and smelt to smelled.
Nothing wrong with it, an acceptable alternative spelling is always a bonus but it just doesn't look right to me after 45 years of spelling the words with the -t ending instead of -ed.
One thing that doesn't change are the swear words, funny how they always seem to be spelt the same regardless of where in the World you are typing or in the case of the Heart of the West boys and girls, how much Castlemaine XXXX you necked before typing a post about that country called Whales. Flamin' Galah's.

Monday, 12 May 2014

France Say Non To USA

According to EU insiders, there is a growing feeling that the USA is playing up the threat of Russia to ensure more sanctions on Moscow so that EU to pull back on its interests in Russia which would allow America to nip in and replace the EU when relations improve.  
The French are particularly keen to avoid playing to Americas tune and are refusing to accept United States insistence that they cancel a 1.2 billion Euro contract to supply Russia with two helicopter carrier ships. 
US Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, expressed concern over the deal after US lawmakers had demanded more pressure be put on France to stop the contract and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is due to meet the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Washington and President Barak Obama is expected to raise the issue during a visit to France next month to commemorate the D-Day Normandy landings.
'This contract was signed in 2011, it will be carried out' said President Hollande and i would imagine the 1.2 billion reasons outweigh any pressure John Kerry can put on him.

Ban Killer Robots Before They Start Killing

There are many threats to humans and some such as climate change and killer robots are man made but whilst we can't do anything about the tens of thousands of deaths each year from the changing climate, we have at least noticed that creating killer robots is a bad thing and it has been suggested that they should be banned before they even exist.
The Campaign To Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of 51 organisations from 24 countries, has called for an international treaty banning the research and development of killer robots before technology moves too far forward.
It's reasoning for the ban is: 'Deficiencies in judgement, compassion, and capacity to identify with human beings could lead to arbitrary killing of civilians during law enforcement of armed conflict operations.
Robots could not be punished, and superior officers, programmers and manufacturers would all be likely to escape liability.
Finally, as machines, fully autonomous weapons could not comprehend or respect the inherent dignity of human beings'.
Sounds more than fair to me and if we can also ban the new Star Wars film that would be great.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Why Mrs Obama And Not Her Husband?

Yes it was nice of Michelle Obama to go on television and give her sympathies for the 267 girls who have been kidnapped in Nigeria and yes any effort to save these girls is to be encouraged and applauded.
Not sure why Obama's non-elected wife is the one speaking about it though, she may hold the position of First lady but she is only there because of who she was married to, not for anything she said or did and as far as i am aware the wife of the president can't do any more than hold up a bit of paper with some text on it.
Maybe her husband couldn't speak about the heartbreak and outrage of missing children when he has been responsible for so many more dead and dying children, women and men in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq courtesy of his drones.
Maybe Michelle doesn't see her daughters in the innocent children her husband kills in these places or the kids murdered in Syria by terrorists using US supplied weapons?
Looking suitably concerned, she even asked for us to pray for them so would that be the praying to the same God that Boko Haram leader told us was the one who instructed him to kidnap and sale the girls in the first place?
Hardly tactful to bring religious beliefs into it when once again it was religious beliefs that got us into it.
Surely a case of thank you for your concern Michelle and nice handwriting but how about you leave the business of politics to the politicians who can do a bit more than hold up a bit of paper and look misty eyed into a camera.
Someone more cynical would think this is less about missing schoolgirls in Nigeria and more of a chance taken to lift her profile.

Eurovision Song Contest 2014

I am expecting the Austrian man dressed as a woman with a beard to win but if he fails i am leaning towards the Dutch entry although the tune is lifted directly from Every Breath You Take from the Police but on no account must the French song about wanting a moustache triumph.
Tonight an estimated 125 million television sets across Europe will be watching the Eurovision Song Contest but thankfully the people who make the decisions on these things have decided that putting forward old duffers like Englbert Humperdink and Bonnie Tyler to represent us didn't work so let's ask a pretty young thing to have a go instead so it's Molly singing Children of the Universe amidst much waving of the Union Flag this year.
I don't think it is unfair to say that Molly won't win, but nor will she Humperdinck and scrape along the bottom of the leaderboard all night either.
The bookies agree that the UK entry is not as god awful as the last few years as Molly is the 4th favourite with them expecting Austria, Sweden and then the Netherlands to finish above us but we would take that.
Ireland have the most wins with 7 since the contest started but they were dumped out at the semi-final stage this year as was that other famous European country, Israel. The UK, Luxembourg and France are joint second all time winners with 5 wins each but Luxembourg are not in it this year and the French haven't produced a decent tune since Edith Piaf was in her pomp, the moustache song more proof than is needed.
As the winning country has the honour of hosting the event next year it should be interesting if Ukraine are topping the table towards the end of the voting but i am expecting it to roll into Vienna courtesy of a very pretty man in a dress and a full beard.

Update: It's Vienna next year and i expect the UK will now be entering a woman who looks like a man. Or we will if America will lend us Pink. 

Friday, 9 May 2014

Rescuing The Nigerian Schoolgirls

Intelligence sources believe they know where some of the 267 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria are being held in the Sambisa forest. Finding them was the easy part, what follows next is where the danger lays.
The Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, has threatened to sell the girls and there have been reports that some have already been trafficked to neighbouring Chad and Cameroon and the US, French and UK have sent experts sent to advise and support the rescue operation but ominously the British foreign office have said that they aim to not only find the girls but to eradicate the terrorists that took them.
How they will set about freeing 267 girls from heavily armed terrorists has obviously not been mentioned but with the best will in the World, it isn't going to be clean and it will be a miracle if all of the girls come out of this alive.
Horrific situation and the usual solution of going in with all guns blazing is not an option, far too many innocents and too many men armed to the teeth to tackle head on so while everyone agrees that something has to be done, finding exactly what to do is between a rock and a hard place.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Another Daft Idea From The FA

England are going to the World Cup in Brazil in June and even the most fanatical supporter is expecting our tournament to be three games long and then back home to watch the second round on the television with the rest of us.
England has not been a force in football since we won the World Cup in our own country almost half a decade ago but the Football Association have decided that what we need to make England winners is a new division of Premier League B teams to help the young British talent progress.
With promotions only available to Division 1, the obvious problem is the Premier Leagues B sides clogging up the top of the division and stopping the lower league clubs from progressing up the league.
My personal thought is i don't really care about how well England do, they play a tournaments every two years for a month while league teams play for nine months every year and they should take precedent.
If you asked any fan would they rather have their team win something or England perform better at tournaments, the vast majority would take a Cup or league title for their team over England going out on penalties in the European Championship semi-finals.
As for not enough decent England players coming through, if the big teams sign players from lower league teams and then don't play them, Wilfried Zaha being the latest, of course they are not going to progress and we end up with the potential talent kicking their heels on the bench with their progression curtailed and the FA wringing their hands wondering why all the British talent is not coming through and thinking ridiculous schemes like this that punish the teams and fans of lower league sides to benefit the Premier League teams will make us World beaters.
I would suggest the problem with England being rubbish is the succession of inept managers the FA keep appointing.

Let Us Pray

I asked my friend the Reverend what does he and his congregation pray for each Sunday at mass and the big two are World Peace and healing the sick.
So what if we leave our brains at the door and consider there is a big man upstairs and he finally stops blessing America and saving the Queen long enough to grant us World Peace, what would happen?
Immediately all armies around the World would lay down their arms which would be great but then nobody would need an military if everyone was at peace so that would be hundreds of millions of ex-servicemen around the world kicking their heels and looking for work in an already overcrowded jobs market. Then there are all the civilian jobs that go with the military, more unemployment.
So what if God then decides 2000 years is long enough to make us wait for no more sickness and waves a wand borrowed from the tooth fairy and heals everyone.
No more sickness or illness, great but then if nobody is sick we won't need hospitals, clinics or doctors surgeries.
That's a few more tens of millions of nurses and surgeons and doctors out of work and joining the dole queues massively swollen by the recently unemployed military.
Less people working, more people claiming benefits, less tax in the Government coffers so more austerity cuts and another double dip recession leading to less jobs and on and on and on.
Next time you go to church and the reverend asks for a prayer to heal the sick or bring about world peace what they are actually asking you to pray for is mass unemployment, more austerity cuts and to sink the economy beneath.
And to think that we thought UKIP was the largest danger to Britain, it's actually the Archbishop of Canterbury! 

To Eat Or Not To Eat Halal Meat

Much controversy over Halal meat lately with calls for clearer labelling of these products in shops, restaurants and takeaways so the consumer can make an informed choice about the meat they buy.
Although most people know it's a crueler and less humane way to kill animals, not many know what actually happens in the slaughterhouses for meat to be called 'Halal'.
Under both the Muslim and Jewish method of slaughter, the animal is killed by a knife slashed straight through the animals throat while a prayer is said so the animal is not stunned first as in the more usual slaughter style.
Jewish and Muslim leaders say that the act of cutting the animal’s neck renders it 'insensible to pain' but that's a view not shared by the British Veterinary Association who insist animals should be stunned before slaughter, saying that otherwise they remain conscious for up to two minutes after the cut.
There is a solution though, don't eat meat and that solves the problem altogether.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Clinton Speaks Sense But Loses Votes

Hillary Clinton latest mutterings won't play well in the land of the free and the home of the brave as she ponders that having the country awash with guns may be a bit of a problem.
The potential 2016 Presidential candidate said that the gun culture in the US is way out of balance and the country needs to rein in the notion that anybody can have a gun, anywhere, anytime was not in the best interest of the vast majority of people. You reckon?
Of course it may all just be a left wing plot to disarm law abiding citizens so they can oppress them but while the vast majority of the developed world consider this opinion to plain common sense, can't see it being a vote winner for her in the land where the second amendment trumps everything.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Climate Change Hitting Home In America's Backyard

I guess it is fair enough that the country that has caused the most damage to the environment is one of the worst affected by the changing climate that it has caused and a report by the National Climate Assessment explain over 840 pages how the damaged climate is affecting America today.
The climate scientists say its main message was that climate change was already disrupting the lives of Americans today in the form of extreme weather, sea-level rise, and the thawing of Arctic sea ice, a shift in growing seasons, and other indicators, the report said.
It said all Americans are experiencing and will continue to experience the effects of climate change and gave examples such as record-breaking heat, drought and wildfires in the south-west, increased downpours and flood risks in the north-east, midwest and Great Plains states and sea-level rises already causing dangerous flooding in low-lying areas like Miami, Norfolk, Virginia, and New Hampshire, the report said.
Drought and high temperatures were already baking California and Arizona and prolonging the fire season in other parts of the south-west.
In California, warmer winters have made it difficult to grow cherries. In the midwest, wetter springs have delayed planting.
The report also warned of a growing risk of contaminated water supply because of sea-level rise and flooding, and poor air quality as hotter temperatures bring smog, and soot from wildfires drifts across the country. Those with allergies are facing longer pollen and ragweed seasons.
'I think maybe this report will be the turning point when people finally realise that this is about them' said Susan Hassol, the chief science writer on the report.
Unfortunately, the effects of climate change are not restricted to the largest polluters such as America and China and everyone suffers but i'm sure that the climate change deniers will be out in force to tell Obama that it's not happening, even while the droughts and floods devastate the country.

Monday, 5 May 2014

North Korea Hits Back At USA Human Rights

The problem with living in a glass house is that if you throw stones around, one day someone will fling one back your way which is exactly what the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have done.
After years of American bad-mouthing the Asian nation, the North Koreans have replied with their own report on American human rights report called 'News Analysis on Poor Human Rights Records in US'.
The key points include:

- Severe racism with wide gaps between the minorities and the whites
- An average of 300,000 people a week are registered as unemployed, but any proper measure has not been taken.
- The soaring US housing price has left many people homeless.
- One sixth or 46.5 million Americans are impoverished.
- Rampant crime poses a serious threat to the people's rights to existence and their inviolable rights.
- The U.S. government monitors every movement of its citizens and foreigners under the pretext of 'national security.
- Increasing number of gun-related crimes in all parts of the country and even its military bases this year.
- The U.S. tops the world list of homicides.
- The U.S. has 2.2 millions of prisoners at present, the highest number in the world.
- President Obama squanders hundred millions of dollars on his foreign trips in disregard of his people's wretched life.

The report concludes by calling the U.S. "the world's worst human right abuser and tundra of a human being's rights to existence."

Nice try Kim Jong Un but i wouldn't be looking to hand over that worlds worst human right abuser trophy just yet.

Adam Smith Got It Wrong

While Karl Marx is thought of as the father of Communism, his counterpart would be Adam Smith and his 'Wealth of Nations' book that decreed that the motivating force of economic growth was selfishness.
The Smith analogy was that: 'It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest' which means that the Butcher is not selling you meat because he enjoys or wants to sell you meat, he is only doing it to make money and this desire to make money benefited everyone as he spent this money hiring people and buying other things from people selling items and the money went around and everyone got a slice.
While Marx's slogan was that Communism would produce enough goods and services so that everyone's needs can be satisfied, Smith's was being selfish and greedy is the key to satisfying everyone but as we now know, Smith underestimated the self-regulating powers of mankind when it came to selfishness.
'How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him' wrote Smith but while his idea of selfishness running the economy has been taken up with gusto, his idea that considering the fortune of others would act as a brake on just how selfish we would be was wildly wrong.
As we have suffered recession after recession for as long as i can remember, the time between them has been less and it seems that finally the recession of 2008 may well have been the final straw as countries go bankrupt and  the global crisis rumbles on six years later. 
This last recession was caused by selfishness in the financial sector, an area unconstrained by any of the moral sentiments Smith expected to stop it from happening. The mantra of 'greed is good' has not only brought down most of the World but has badly damaged Smith's own idea of how an economy should work.  
While the regular people are losing their jobs and their homes, the same people whose sheer greed led directly to where we find ourselves today continue to rake in huge pay packages and bonuses.
Governments know what caused the crash, know that Smith's idea of an economy based on selfishness has failed but continue to try and re-build their economies by telling business people to go on being selfish and greedy.
There will have to be a point when someone important points out that Adam Smith was wrong and greed is not good, it's downright bad for the overwhelming majority of us.

Measuring A Successful Lifetime

One of the great lines is the idea that being the richest person in the cemetery doesn't count for anything so when we reach the end of our life, how can we judge if we have been a success in the 80 or so years that we have been on the planet?
We could look at bank balance but as in the opening line, you don't need money where you are going and wealth doesn't really equate to success, it may be an inheritance or a lottery win.
We could consider a persons personal achievements but again that be be skewed by opportunities that presented themselves in their lifetime, someone working three jobs and living hand to mouth is not going to have the time or finances to undertake college courses or win prizes.
Another criteria could be the persons employment but again that could be skewed by circumstances such as opportunities during the working life or even knowing the right people in the right places.
If we set aside all material things, we could count how many people turn up at your funeral as a measure of how successful you have been but that is unfair as a person working in a large office will know and have met more people and formed relationships with them then someone who is a self-employed plumber who pops into someones life to fix their dodgy shower and never sees them again.
My own philosophy on just how successful someone has been in their life is how many people, when discussing the deceased person, have nice things to say about them.        
If most people say 'you know what, she was a nice person' and not 'you know what, she was a bit of a cow' then i would suggest that leaving people with a good impression of you represents a successful time while you were here much more than how much you had in the bank.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Postmodernism Today

High brow discussion on BBC last night between men in tweed jackets about Post-modernism which i never really understood, mainly because i don't really understand what modernism means or when it started and if we don't know exactly what it is, how can we tell when it has ended?
According to the majority of clever people who know about these things, the shift into Modernism from whatever it was pre-Modernism is considered to be the industrial revolution as this bought political, economic, social and cultural change so with this as a benchmark, we probably have seen another shift since then and the Post-modernist world is something along the lines of something called Cyberism or Computerism which will do until someone thinks of a better name for it.
Using the above four criteria, computers have certainly bought social, political, economic and cultural change from the time of the Industrial Revolution.
Therefore the debates can stop about when will we achieve Post-Modernism and what will it be like because if you took a person from 1800 and plonked them down in 2014 it would be unrecognisable to them in every way so doesn't that prove that we have moved on from the Modernist era or does it just mean that i am still not understanding the whole thing?

Friday, 2 May 2014

Clarkson Squealing, Let Him Go

It went from 'I did not use the N-word, never use it' to a grovelling apology and admission that he did use the word but tried to obscure it and once again the calls are for Jeremy Clarkson to be sacked.
In the unbroadcast clip, Clarkson is  reciting the 'eeny, meeny, miny, moe' nursery rhyme to chose between two but instead of using less controversial versions of what to catch by the toe, phrases such as tiger, monkey or piggy that i remember from my childhood, he went with nigger but mumbled it in a way that 'wasn't quite good enough' as he now admits after his initial denials.  
Now he is begging forgiveness and explaining that: 'I was well aware that in the best-known version of this rhyme there is a racist expression that I was extremely keen to avoid. I mumbled where the offensive word would normally occur but if you listen very carefully  with the sound turned right up it did appear that I'd actually used the word I was trying to obscure. I was mortified by this, horrified. It is a word I loathe and I did everything in my power to make sure that that version did not appear in the programme that was transmitted'.
Whether Clarkson is a racist i don't know but i would ask him why, when he could have chosen any other rhyme kids use to choose between things, he chose this one and even after deciding eeny, meeny was the best one for the job, why did he then choose to use the offensive word and not replace it with something else instead of saying, albeit not very clearly, the word that could get him sacked? 
Clarkson's Top Gear co-host James May may have explained it better than anyone, saying: 'Jeremy Clarkson is not a racist. He is a monumental bellend and many other things, but not a racist'.
I would agree with the monumental bellend argument but if he is sacked, and i highly doubt they will tell him to pack his bags, but if he is, then its his own fault for being an utter tool and the fact that he was trying to mumble his way through it so he knew he was being offensive so it's his own fault.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Hello Means Hello Everywhere

Watching Asian films you do realise that wherever you are in the World, when you answer the phone you say 'Hello'.
Whether it's a Japanese, Chinese, South Korean or Indian film, they all answer the phone with the English greeting 'Hello' which seems a bit strange. It also seems strange they suddenly start speaking in English for a few sentences in an Indian film and then back into their own language again.
Not sure why some sentences are spoken in English and some in Indian but it does show up how bad the subtitles are when the English subs read nothing like what is coming out of the actors mouth. 
The song 'Happy Birthday' is also sang in English but that's probably because the words wouldn't scan if they sang it in Korean.
The English language is full of words from other countries but i do wonder if a family in Hong Kong watch a Hollywood film and say 'Wow, they say Hello when they answer the phone as well'.
I expect at some point in the future all the Worlds languages will meld together or we will hit upon a form of Esperanto that everyone speaks but at least we can go to Asia and greet people and know we will be understood.