Thursday, 31 January 2008

Shell Making Mugs Of Us All

There is nothing like the news of a company making jaw dropping profits to raise the hackles of the average Joe. Throw in the fact that it is an oil company and you can almost drown in the vitriol being spat.
Oil giant Shell was the target of today’s exasperated gasps revealing a UK record £13.9 billion profit. That works out to approximately £1.5m an hour which does prove food for thought as we pay a record high of £1 a litre for petrol.
Even the most rabid supporter of capitalism must be struggling to justify a system that sees the consumers struggling with ever rising petrol prices only to line the pockets of a company that already makes an obscene amount of money.
Maybe if Shell were to use some of its vast record profits towards paying off a bill estimated at more than £10bn for the damage caused by its oil activities, its customers may not be so ready to condemn it.
Hardly surprising it is disliked when you read that Shell continues flaring of gas in Nigeria despite being ordered to stop by a Nigerian court, treating with distain the devastation and pollution the practise brings to communities in Nigeria.
Who can feel any warmth towards a company that received a £1.5bn fine for polluting rivers with the equivalent of 13m barrels of oil over the past 5 decades, it is hard to do anything other than despise the company.
Don't be fooled by the adverts stating that Shell are investing their profits in renewable energy because as Friends of the Earth point out, investment in this market has amounted to 1 billion over the past five years while investing 15.6 billion in oil production and refining in 2005 alone.
As the advertising slogan says "You can be sure of Shell" and you can, sure that they will fleece us all blind.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Suharto The Murderer

It is hard to believe that there are people trying to defend a man responsible for what the CIA termed 'one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century' but a look across the right wing media shows that far from being classed with murdering tyrants such as Stalin, the legacy of Indonesian dictator Suharto is attempted to be spun in a good light.
While controlling the Indonesian army, he masterminded the killing of millions of his own citizens suspected of being Communists. The CIA even handed him a list of suspects to help him on his way.
Under his rule vast numbers of political opponents were killed, jailed or sent to labour camps. Time Magazine presented the following account of the slaughter he unleashed. "The murder campaign became so brazen in parts of rural East Java, that Moslem bands placed the heads of victims on poles and paraded them through villages. The killings have been on such a scale that the disposal of the corpses has created a serious sanitation problem in East Java and Northern Sumatra where the humid air bears the reek of decaying flesh. Travellers from those areas tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies."
Being an oil rich country, Suharto was feted by the US Government and oil companies who invested over a billion pounds in the Indonesian oil industry. Margaret Thatcher called him "one of our best friends", ignoring the brutal invasion of East Timor in the seventies that resulted in over 200,000 deaths, a quarter of the population.
Papers in the National Security Archive even reveal that Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger dined with Suharto the evening before the East Timor invasion with Kissinger advising him that "it would be better if it were done after we returned to the United States."
So far from being a positive force as some want us believe, he was in fact a murderous dictator who had the blood of millions of his own countrymen on his hands.
As we have seen many times, having oil and being friendly to the West outweighs any number of people killed in a genocide.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Obama Forever Blowing Bubbles

It seems that despite us exporting David Beckham to LA Galaxy to earn lots of money for not doing very much, English football has caught on with high profile Americans.
Weeks after Tom Hanks displayed his loyalty for Aston Villa by brandishing a Villans scarf at a film premiere, US presidential hopeful Barack Obama has revealed he has a secret passion for West Ham.
And they are not the only Americans to have leanings towards a particular UK football team with Halle Berry and Sylvester Stallone supporting Everton although after his appearance in Escape to Victory, Everton fans expect that he passed on some tips to Tim Howard.
Justin Timberlake and Brad Pitt risk being instantly disliked on sight by coming out for Manchester United while sympathy goes out to Meatloaf who claims supporter ship of Hartlepool United.
Michael Jackson looked understandably bored at Exeter City FC a few years back but that is something that won't ever happen at the home of my own team, the Arsenal.
Arsenal are apparently very proud to list Kevin Costner, Jackie Chan, Freddie Prinze Jr, Spike Lee, Will Ferrell, Michael Moore and Dido among their celebrity 'Gooners'. Bin Laden also used to attend Arsenal games before he turned his mind to other matters.
As he has proved with everything he has recorded since 1987, Phil Collins is not afraid to put his name to a lost cause and is a firm supporter of Tottenham Hotspur, dedicating his singles 'I missed again' to Robbie Keane, 'Against All Odds' to Paul Robinson on his England Call up and 'In The Air Tonight' to sum up the Tottenham style.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Looking Towards Super Tuesday

After South Carolina, Democrat John Edwards must be nervously listening out for the sounds of the fat lady limbering up her vocal chords as he bought up the rear yet again. He should of got the message by now that he is no match for the Clinton and Obama steamroller.
So Obama won the vote by a landslide which was as to be expected in a state where the vote is half black but that in itself poses him with a tricky problem. The figures show that over 75% of the black vote went his way so did he reach out beyond his own demographic and place first for being a black candidate for the presidency or because he is a candidate who just happens to be black? There is a major difference.
Up next is Super Tuesday when it is the turn of influential states to make their choice of Democratic nominee and Hillary's position in these states is looking far more sure footed according to the figures.
She can pretty much rely on taking her home state of New York and is well ahead in the polls of key states New Jersey, Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee and most importantly, California.
The picture is going to be a little clearer after February 5th for the Democrats but the Republicans Party have had nobody rise up out of the mire and seem to be swapping places at the front of their field which shows that outside of their own cliques, they have very little appeal to a wider Republican audience.
Rudy Giuliani, who has long been thought the man most expected to secure his party's nomination, may be regretting his strategy of keeping his powder dry until later in the race after currently languishing in third place in the opinion polls in Florida behind McCain and Romney.
There is still a long way to go but already it is obvious that the Republicans should be casting jealous glances at the opposition and wondering where there own Obama or Hillary is going to come from.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Military's Sloped Shoulders

After a string of deaths and video evidence of ill-treatment of Iraqi's by British troops, a report by the army's Director of army personnel, puts it all down to the failure to train our troops in how to treat civilians in an occupied country.
"Troops were given scant information on how to treat civilian detainees and needed a better understanding between right and wrong" he concluded.
Am i missing something here? The young men and women we are training to kill and then handing over powerful weapons to, don't know what is right or wrong when it comes to dealing with people they are not shooting at?
Are we really supposed to believe that when our troops beat Baha Mousa, the Iraqi hotel worker to death, or killed a couple of teenagers by throwing them off a pier to into the Shatt al-Arac canal, or crushed the skull of Nadhem Abdullah with their rifle butts they did not know that it was wrong?
If the answer, as the military want us to believe, is no, then what sort of psychopaths are we recruiting into our armed forces?
With over 120,000 members of the armed forces having served in southern Iraq since the invasion in 2003, i agree that it is only a tiny proportion of bad apples involved with such abhorrent treatment of the people we are supposed to be protecting, but rather than make up lame excuses for their behaviour or performing half-hearted investigations, they should be dragged out to face the full force of the law and treated as if the attack had happened on the streets of Britain.
At some point in the future, these soldiers who are apparently completely ignorant of whether murdering someone is right or wrong, are going to be taking their place amongst us in civilian society rather than serving prison sentences although the likes of the army's Director of army personnel knows full well they won't be settling in their exclusive part of the town.

Friday, 25 January 2008

John Rambo

Until he dragged Rocky kicking and screaming out of deep freeze for the final sixth time, it had been a while since Sylvester Stallone had a hit movie. OK, so he paired up with that annoying old lady from The Golden Girls to torture us with 'Stop! Or my mom will shoot' but apart from that turkey, he has been mostly famous for having his shoulder felt by Australian Custom officials after sneaking human growth hormone and testosterone into the land down under.
Never one to turn down the opportunity to grow as an actor, the 61 year old has decided that this is the right time to reprised his former role as psychotic killing machine, the mumbling John Rambo.
In Rambo 3, Sly had the Vietnam Vet taking on the might of the Soviet army in Afghanistan, ably assisted by the Mujahideen who were US backed freedom fighters using guerrilla tactics to attack a super-power back then in 1988.
Of course, the Mujahideen are terrorists now using guerrilla tactics to attack a super-power and the kids who whooped it up in the US cinemas as Rambo led them to glory are now in Iraq shooting at the Mujahideen but that is beside the point.
Because of the complexity of explaining how today's enemy was yesterdays allies, Rambo is taking on and killing hundreds of the Burmese army instead.
I expect that there will be many blogs mentioning the high kill rate of Rambo's latest outing (236 as you ask) but i want to draw attention to this charmingly titled Rambo Kill Chart.
There is a trend for the kill rate to up with each film as well as the number of good guys killed by the baddies but i like the fact that the number of bad guys killed by Rambo with his shirt off declines with each film as killings with his shirt on rises sharply.
Proof indeed that no matter how much human growth hormone you stick in your veins, slaughtering a good proportion of the Burmese military is just not sexy when you have man boobs.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Enjoying The Market Crunch

Stock markets down, FTSE and Dow Jones hitting the floor, global crash in share prices. No idea what any of it means but the financial pundits on the news channels seem to be getting quite worked up about it all.
Gordon Brown seems to be sitting back in his big chair and lighting a cigar as he shrugs it all off and tells us that the UK economy is going to ride it out so if he is not worried about it I'm not going to.
According to the people who do get paid to worry about these type of things, it is those with pensions, shares and mortgages who should be eyeing the window ledge because if anyone, they are the ones who will be squeezed until they squeak.
For many years i have been told to get my pension sorted out and i always said yeah ok and did exactly what i have done for the past 38 years and that was nothing until the next time i was harassed about it when i would promise to sort it out again. And then do nothing until the next time and etc etc.
My plan is to somehow land myself a fortune within the next 22 years and retire to an island somewhere in the Pacific, possibly buying it, i haven't decided yet.
I rent and have no stocks or shares so i haven't paid particular attention to the laptop wielding commenter's and their spiky graphs predicting all sorts of crashes, ripples and downturns.
Maybe i should be more concerned but i get a strange satisfaction of knowing that the lazy and probably irresponsible ones like me are the ones sitting pretty at the moment and not grasping handfuls of our own hair.

Interviewing Bin Laden

An offer by al Qaeda for the public to put questions to the terror organisation's leadership has received hundreds of responses.
Al Qaeda's media arm, al Sahab, announced that al Zawahiri would take questions posted on Islamic militant websites and would respond soon.
Not one to piffle about, i rang direct to the head cheese himself, Bin Laden, and asked him a few questions. I began by asking him how he thought his Holy Jihad against the infidel west was going.
"To be honest Lucy" he sighed "it has kinda lost it's edge. I was all for the murder and mayhem at first but it isn't much fun being the Worlds most famous man and spending my time stuck in a cave with only al Zawahiri for company. I have been searching through the Koran recently to see if there is some sharia law loophole that means I could hang out with Brad and Angelina for a few days."
Surprised by his answer, i pressed him further on his fondness for American Hollywood stars.
"The jihadists and I have a lot of time for Mel Gibson" he said enthusiastically after a few moments pondering, "My people asked his people about a part in my next video release entitled "Those Fecking Jews" but we failed to agree on a price. Shame really because i felt we had a bond."
At this point he began saying that he had to go because he had to take the camel into town but before he went i just had time to ask him if he has been following the US Election.
"I try my best to keep up with what is going on in the Great Satan and with my warmongering reputation i am of course attracted to the Republican Party although i don't think any of the current nominees could come close to what Bush and I share. We both sit back and send other people to a pointless death and are both hated by the rest of the world. I really must go, i have a beard trim and dye at 3'o'clock."

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Back Scratching

Easily the most thrown accusation that landed at George Bush's feet was the fact that he was a patsy of the Oil & Gas companies. It is not beyond doubt that the oil industry pumped millions into George W. Bush's campaigns and nobody is naive enough to think that they just handed it over because they thought he was a decent guy, they paid it to gain influence when he was elected president.
With the present incumbent in the finishing straight, Industries are once again lining up behind candidates hoping to get a big thank you for their largess should they gain the keys for 1600, Pennsylvania Ave.
The Center for Responsive Politics has a break down of which industry has contributed how much to which candidate taken from selected Industries. The data is from the Federal Election Commission released on Monday, October 29, 2007.

The Republican nominee Rudy Giuliani is the main recipient of funds from the Oil & Gas companies ($545,058) as well as giving thanks as the leading receiver of donations from the Casinos/Gambling ($177,850), Private Equity ($1,157,900) and Tobacco companies ($77,400).

Democrat Hillary Clinton is the main benefactor from Commercial Banks ($935,658), Health Professionals ($1,695,830) Law Firms ($9,596,748) Pharmaceutical (269,436), Real Estate (3,939,008) and Security & Investment (4,735,730) companies.

Barack Obama's campaign has been funded primarily by Technology Companies ($940,459), Education ($2,112,520) and the Entertainment industry ($2,203,317)

Maybe we are being cynical and the candidates, if elected, will not spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy scratching the back of the industries who scratched theirs on the way to the Presidency. Then again, maybe it is extremely naive of us to think that they won't.

Lies, Lying & Liars

George Washington may not of been able to tell a lie but he was not a typical member of his gender according to the WKD survey that shows men tell five lies a day on average against a Woman's three.
The most common lie is “Nothing’s wrong — I’m fine”, followed by “Nice to see you” and third “I haven’t got any cash on me.”
Bad news for women is that number eight is “No, your bum doesn’t look big in that” with “Of course I love you,” at 12. One of my own personal favourites sits at number 10 with “What text?”.
Many peoples BS detectors go into overdrive when a builder (It will be fine once it settles)or car mechanic (It's supposed to make that noise) opens their mouths but i have a theory that women tell as many lies as men, just that we are better at it and have the gall to lie to WKD surveys.
So i have three lies to somehow shoehorn in everyday which should not be much of a problem tomorrow because i have a tax return form to return.
Only kidding Mr Taxman, i would never lie to Her Majesty's Government and yes i really did only earn £3.79 last year.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Brown Vists China

Gordon Brown has touched down in China with the only item on his agenda being boosting trade with the Asian giant.
Mr Brown said the relationship between the two countries was "absolutely crucial" to the success of the global economy as a whole but human rights activists have called on Mr Brown not to shy away from discussing difficult issues with the Chinese government. Namely there disgraceful human rights record and the continued occupation of Tibet.
It was around this time last year that Tony Blair buckled under Saudi pressure to call off a criminal inquiry into allegations of corruption against the vile Saudi Royals.
So should human rights issues take priority over economic ones?
Of course the answer should be no but the reality is we have to whore ourselves out to richer nations to keep our own economy afloat. Trade between China and the UK was worth an estimated £20.2bn last year but it shouldn't mean we have to avoid asking the uncomfortable questions.
In the present economic climate, Britain is in no position to pick and choose who we do trade with. As much as it may stick in the craw to be seen pandering to regimes we should be ignoring, money speaks and it is saying we have to hold our noses and take the business but we should never suppress spouting forth our ethical objections otherwise we become nothing more than prostitutes ready to gleefully drop our collective trousers and touch our toes before the mighty Yuan.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Darwin Awards 2007

What with the Golden Globe Awards turning into a low budget press conference and the Oscars looking in doubt, the quest for giving people recognition for things turns towards the 2007 Darwin Awards, which 'Honours those who improve the accidentally removing themselves from it!'
In third place was a woman who, while working out a Hotel gym, realised she needed something from the floor below. She decided that the open shaft of the industrial lift was the communications device for her so she stuck her head into the empty shaft to shout to the people downstairs. And somehow missed noticing that the elevator was coming up towards her.
The silver went to a man who due to a throat ailment, decided to take his drink rectally. Two 1.5 litre bottles of sherry up the kazoo later, he dropped dead.
The top placing went to a couple who decided to spice up their sex life by doing the deed on top of a pyramid shaped metal roof and fell to their deaths leaving behind only two piles of neatly folded clothes.
Special mention must go to the man who attempted to have sex with a cow only for the heifer to take offence and kick him to death.

US v Brit Politicans

One thing that stands out from watching the coverage of US election from my sick bed is just how much more enthusiastic the American public are for the Democratic process than us.
Our bunch of elected officials must look across the Atlantic and wonder why they can't be greeted with waving flags and highly charged, cheering supporters instead of having to make do with the odd window poster and a stage managed round of applause at their annual conventions.
One reason could be that the American public just care more. A glance at our 61% turnout for our last election in 2005 compared to Americas 89% in 2004 shows that they obviously do care.
Another reason could be that the American politicians seem to have more personality and glamour about them while ours tend to be void of any personality and drab in comparison.
The perfect example is the Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinski affair which included briefly disappearing cigars and stained dresses while here the most glitziest the John Mayor and Edwina Curry fling got was the revelation that he tucked his shirt into his Y-fronts.
Boris Johnstone is about as close as we have to a personality but he is well liked for being a bit of a clown, if he ever got within a hundred yards of a cabinet post the country would be in turmoil within ten minutes. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger made fun of his bumbling style of speaking during a link up between the Republican and Conservative Party's and that had to hurt.
George Galloway is always entertaining and can be relied upon to shake things up but nobody could demand half the enthusiasm the supporters of Obama or Clinton show and even Huckabee has his evangelical fans to cheer up a storm for him.
Not to say that US politicians are necessarily better than ours or i actually enjoy listening to Obama constantly pausing to allow the whooping and applause to erupt, therefore taking him 10 times longer to say his piece than it should, it just seems there voters are so much more enthusiastic and keen to show their support.
Maybe we can make it a more glamorous event next time we elect our Prime Minister. Although, just electing our Prime Minister would be start don't you agree Mr Brown?

Sun Of God?

To those of us who don't care What Jesus Would Do in a given situation and see the Church as somewhere to steal candles from, what the Pope get's up to generally doesn't concern us. Unless he is making mind boggling statements that just cry out for someone to lock him in a Vatican cellar until it is time to light the fire that produces the white smoke again that is.
It seems that the crazy ex-Hitler youth member has his doubts over the theory that the Earth goes around the Sun.
Benedict XVI was forced to call off a visit to Rome's main university after hostility from the academics, disgusted at his former defending of the Inquisition and its condemnation of Galileo with the pontiff deeming the Inquisitions bvehaviour as 'reasonable and fair'.
Galileo Galilei was the Inquisition's most high profile victim who was forced on pain of death to backtrack over his view that the earth moved around the sun.
He was ordered to stand trial for heresy and the judgment found that his view of the solar system was "absurd, philosophically false, and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scriptures". He spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
The Pope is free to back or dismiss any theory that he wants but we have to ask, What would Jesus Do?
Hold his head in his hands in dismay and pray that their is a Catholic who is not a laughing stock coming up the ranks behind Ratzinger probably.

Did The Door Hit Him On The Way Out?

Struggling to shore up his coalition government in Israel, Ehud Olmert bought in the right wing party 'Yisrael Beiteinu' led by Avigdor Lieberman who even Ariel Sharon dismissed from his Government for being a too much of a trigger happy maniac.
He called for for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel to be drowned in the Dead Sea and offered to provide the buses to take them there. Nice chap to have on your decision making team then, or rather he was until he walked out of the coalition and took his party with him in protest at a new effort to start peace talks with the Palestinians.
Lieberman had already warned that he would resign from the cabinet if Olmert began to negotiate on core issues with Palestinian leaders and luckily, he kept to his word.
"Negotiations on the basis of land for peace are a critical mistake and will destroy us," he ranted yesterday. "If we pull back to the 1967 borders, everyone should ask himself, what will happen the following day?"
Well Mr Lieberman, what might happen the next day is the rest of us would say "and about time" and maybe your country will not be scorned at every opportunity after a 40 year illegal occupation.
What won't happen is you will be any less of a complete moron.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Organ Donation Conundrum

Gordon Brown has called for a change in the UK's organ donation system so that organs can be removed automatically after people die. He signalled that he favours changing the system of organ donation so that organs can be removed after death unless the deceased have previously expressly stated they do not want it.
More than 8,000 Brits are currently waiting and hoping for an organ transplant. More than 1,000 people die each year before a suitable donor is found.
I know that it is wrong of me, and i really should support a scheme that helps keep others alive, but i don't carry a donor card because i have always had this strange and probably illogical fear.
I picture a scene where i am in hospital and the doctors or surgeons would not do all they could to save my life because they want to use one of my internal organs to use in a transplant for someone else. Wrong and an insult to doctors everywhere but it has always prevented me from carrying a donor card.
This was not eased when news broke last year that some doctors at Alder
Hey Hospital in Liverpool and the Bristol Royal Infirmary were removing organs from children and others without the consent of the dead or their relatives and kept for research and other purposes for years.
There is no real argument i can make against the organs of a dead person being made available to save or improve the lives of the living, it is commendable.
The opt-in scheme is obviously not working here but for the Government to 'presume consent' and assume ownership of my body after death, taking what it wants, makes me feel uncomfortable.
That said, this would save the lives of so many others, so...

Sunday, 13 January 2008

The Big 300

This is my 300th post and almost exactly a year from my first post here, somewhat confusingly titled 'Goodbye'.
As some sort of Community Service, i would like to pass on some advice to newbie bloggers who may have accidentally stumbled across my piece of the web while looking for up skirt pictures of Britney Spears or on the hunt for an English blogger to harangue because your country is better than ours.

The basic things to understand before you start is that:

You will get sworn at.
You will get accused of being a bigot/racist/sexist/ignorant or antisemitic. Sometimes all at once.
You will consider giving it all up and going back to watching repeats of Dukes of Hazard in the evening instead.
You will spend far longer than you anticipated posting, commenting and fending off accusations of being sexist.
You will understand that your sense of humour sometimes does not transcend International boundaries.
You will not get rich.
You will not be discovered by The Times and be offered a weekly column for thousands of pounds.
You will find other bloggers who make you wonder how many times they were dropped on their head as a child.
You will get spambots trying to drag you off to some scam website.
You will find you have periods when you have absolutely nothing to post about, or feel in the mood to post anything.

If you can handle all that, then good luck. If you are the sort of person to sulk if anybody disagrees with you then you really would be better off on the sofa with Bo, Luke, Boss Hogg and Uncle Jesse.
Most of all, be honest, don't give out personal information and don't take it too seriously.

Waiting For God-Oh

Here i sit with an empty Blogger text box thinking do i really want to do another post about George W Bush, this time about how he is rolling about the Middle East and blah blah blah and i decided nope, i have spent enough time pointing and laughing at the US President so instead of attacking him for being a bit on the dim and dangerous side, let us wait until he has moved on to Egypt or wherever he is going and take a peek at what he wrote in the visitors book at the Holocaust Memorial Museum he dropped in at.
'God Bless Israel' he scribbled in what i would like to think of as childlike handwriting.
Don't know what God made of this imposition of his time and energy, so lets ask him.
"It's a bit of a liberty to be honest" said the Almighty, "as if i haven't got enough on my plate already what with answering prayers, blessing America, saving The Queen and trying to orchestrate all these Holy Wars. I really could do without politicians organising yet more for me to do although i have had dealings with this Bush character before."
Obviously reading my mind about the Bush consultation before the Iraq War, the big guy sighed and shook his omnipresent head, "Look, Bush asked should i invade Iraq and i said "George, I'm God. If i want to get rid of Saddam Hussein, I can give him bird flu or food poisoning. I didn't need some jumped up little draft dodger to help me."
I wanted to press him further on the meaning of life, origins of the Universe and exactly what he thought of what those that he made in his own image were doing to the environment that he had cobbled together in under a week, but before i had chance, he got called away to an incident.
"Sorry but the Queen is digging about inside her toaster with a knife again" he said rolling his eyes and ordering Gabriel to fetch his winged chariot.
"I'll tell you what" he said as he departed, "I don't get this much hassle from any of my other creations."

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

US Elections Pop Idol Style

A quick glance at the Statcounter keyword analysis tool of people who have landed at this blog via a google search, show an interesting trend.
The top 6 search terms are american elections explained, us elections explained, american election explained, 2008 elections explained, elections explained and us elections 2008 explained.
It seems that internationally, nobody really has a clue how the US election works.
The best way to explain it would be in relation to reality television shows such as X factor, pop idol or Big Brother.
You start with two large groups of wannabes (Democrats & Republicans) and with each state they visit, the public of that state then vote on who they like and those with the most votes go on to next week (or the next state). Those who poll the least get evicted and drop out.
This goes on with the two groups slowly being whittled down with some leaving and the shrinking surviving group continuing until you end up with winner of each group going into a final head to head against each other.
The whole country then votes for which of these two candidates they want to win, with the victor winning a 4 year term as President of the United States rather than a record deal with Simon Cowell.
It really is that simple and is just a longer version of pop idol, or politician idol if you like.

USA Today

Pick Up The Pace Canada

With the upcoming seal cull in Canada, it is time again to wag a finger and scowl at the country that has one of the best images in the World when they are not hacking seal pups to death and pretending it isn't for the fur.
This year i planned to boycott all things Canadian in protest but apart from Bryan Adams, nothing immediately came to mind to give a wide berth to. A quick whirl through the Internet and my worst fears are confirmed, Canada exports next to nothing to us and is just the North American equivalent of Belgium with a better flag.
I even asked my Canadian colleague what, apart from Canadian teachers with terrible dress sense, does his country export to us and he scratched his head, mumbled something about Bryan Adams and faked a coughing fit.
According to UK Trade & Investment website, the UK is Canada's primary European trading partner but nobody i have asked can remember seeing anything stamped with 'made, built, product of, grown or manufactured in Canada'.
So just what is going on in Canada? You are a big country with a lot of snow, Mounties and apparently you say "eh" after every sentence but have you got nothing us Brits want?
Granted you have produced some fine comedians, actors and singers but come on Canada, unless there is a large secret market that we are all unaware of flourishing here, Britain seems very much a Canada free zone.
You need to pick up the pace because i can't just not buy Bryan Adams, Shania Twain or Avril Lavigne CD's in protest of your seal killing ventures because that would mean i would have been boycotting Canada forever.

CoE: Debt Busters

This is the time of year to rip up any bank statements that fall on the doormat and put on a fake Chinese voice and repeat "Is wong number" if the bank manager phones to arrange a meeting.
Most people's belts are squeezed just that little bit tighter following Christmas but don't fret if the electric company are bellowing through your letterbox or the only thing in your fridge is something that used to resemble a tomato, because help is at hand in the shape of a dog collar wearing saviour.
The Church of England has taken it upon themselves to not only save your soul but also offer free financial advice by launching a campaign to help people struggling with debt.
I don't want to get snooty about any offer of free advice but a fat lot of good a prayer and a few verses from John The Baptist is going to do anyone when the landlord comes hammering on the door and throws your mattress out into the street.
A quick look at the Church's finances reveals that church has to make ends meet with just £1000 million per annum. Never enough to fix their own roof's of course but £1000 million is one hell of a wedge especially if you add it to the £4.8b it has in assets.
With around £750 million of it coming directly from worshippers, the CoE could offer a few tips on how to fill the coffers, for example passing a begging bowl around when you get a few people together seems to be working just fine for them.
Maybe the Church should take some advice from Matthew 19:18 "sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven".
If not there is always Lucy 23:54 "A handful of those millions of bank notes with the queens head on you have squirrelled away would be more helpful than a quick burst of Kumbaya thank you".

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Clinton v Obama

If i had a vote in the American election i would be putting my X beside whichever Democrat makes it out of the scrap for the nomination. The general consensus seems to think it will be Clinton and Obama left standing with John Edwards star falling by the wayside after peaking in Iowa.
Out of the two Democrats that potentially leaves, voters would face an intriguing choice.
As former first lady, Hillary may not of actually been there before but she was riding shotgun to her husband when he sat in the big chair and that type of experience has be invaluable.
If elected, you wouldn't just get her, you would also get Bill in a two for one offer and sex scandals aside, he made a pretty decent fist of things nationally and internationally during his two terms.
With Bill behind her, she would hit the ground running with no settling in period and avoiding the steep learning curve and possible pitfalls that every new leader has to negotiate.
With Obama what you get is complete change from the possible Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton succession that has dominated for the past two decades. A fresh face and a new perspective would represent a volte-face and almost instantly begin to repair Americas tarnished image on the World stage.
He has no baggage, uses clear and expressive language, shows intelligence and has impressive oratory skills but most importantly, he represents the greatest shift away from the status quo which has has been a disaster on so many levels.
The choice would be a steady hand from an experienced leader who would shift the ship back onto an even keel or a gamble on a new, young, fresh face that signals a new direction.
Experience or the energy of new blood. I do not have to make that decision but it is an interesting choice.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Britney On The Brink

The sad sight of Britney Spears, visibly distressed and being carried out of her house, strapped to a stretcher and taken to hospital for psychiatric evaluation left an uneasy taste in my mouth.
The media and talk show hosts may see it all as a great laugh, another thing to point and laugh about at her expense but all i see is a young woman who has been pushed over the edge and is settling into some very dangerous territory.
She may not be a sophisticated or highly educated person and she may not have had the greatest upbringing but she is only a singer who gained fame and fortune early with very little, if any, guidance.
Someone needs to take her under their wing, drag her away from the lifestyle that has driven her to such desperation before she takes the ultimate decision and is found lifeless in a bedroom somewhere because you do not need to be psychic to see that is the catastrophic end in store for her, looming large in huge neon letters.

Palm Beach Post

TalkSport & KABC

Another bout of insomnia had me sitting in the kitchen at 3am last night warming up milk in the microwave and listening to the radio. Mike Mendoza, right leaning talk show host of Talksport Radio was having a live link up with fellow radio host Al Rantel of KABC in Los Angeles, California.
The premise was to get Brits to question Al and Americans to question Mike.
The Brits and Rantel discussed Obama's victory in the Iowa caucas when Mike mentioned that he feared for the Democrat's safety, what with him being a black candidate who was looking as though he may be within a shout of reaching the White House, citing the history of previous high profile assassinations, attempted assassinations and school shootings.
This seemed to get the gander up of the callers US side, and Al, who berated Mike for his view of Americans as a bunch of racists. Much backpeddling, counter accusation and agreeing to disagree later, the subject turned to the US Presidential candidates backing for Israel and this time it was the turn of the US host to get it in the ear from Brits for the US backing Israel and Rantel dismissing the Palestinians as a bunch of terrorists. Again, much backpeddling and Rantels turn to get it from Mendoza.
It really was great radio and two things struck me as i sat listening to both sides venting their spleen.
Firstly the American right and the British right, whereas both unfathomable to me, are very different animals and from what i could hear, it came down to God & guns.
Secondly, we may share a language and a common ancestry, but the image these Right leaning Americans and British callers seemed to have each other was very insightful.
How far apart the UK & US left are, i don't know but i would love to find out what issues we are apart on if any.

Friday, 4 January 2008

I Wanna Be A Rockstar

It's Michael Stipes birthday today so Happy 48th Birthday Mike.
REM have always been a bit of a strange band for me, they hung about for ages not doing very much then suddenly dashed out two great albums and a handful of barnstorming songs in the early nineties and then seemed to go back to being pretty average again.
I bought 'Out of Time' and 'Automatic for the people' and loved the singles on it including 'Losing My Religion', 'Everybody Hurts' and my favourite REM song 'Man on the Moon' but since those heady days, they seemed to have just dropped back into the plethora of so-so bands churning out nothing-to-get-excited-about music.
All this leads me nicely onto Nickelback who had a huge hit with 'How You Remind Me' about 6 years ago and then buggered off for a few years doing nothing very exciting and then suddenly, out of nowhere conjured up the brilliant 'Rockstar' which is sitting just outside the top 10 in the UK Charts.
I know it has been knocking about in North America for quite some time but they finally saw fit to release it here and i have replaced the iffy home burnt version with the proper CD and have been driving along for the past few weeks singing about how the girls come easy and the drugs come cheap and popping my pills from a Pez dispenser.
Brilliant song, great video but i just wish bands would either stay good or stay hopeless. Messes me about no end when they suddenly pull a gem out of a long line of duffers.
Now, where did i put that Pez dispenser.

The Land Of Our Dozy Policemen

The life of a policeman in the cities of England isn't always easy what with the traffic, drunken teenagers and angry Islamists trying to kill us while we sleep (copyright Murdoch Press) so it is sometimes nice to leave behind the sweaty and harassed lawman of England and get some perspective from the beautiful hills and fields of an altogether more relaxed part of Britain.
Somewhere like Wales with its rolling hillsides, peaceful dales and the strained bleating of sheep emanating from beside red faced farmers.
A beautiful scene and not one bird brained dolt of a Chief Constable opening his mouth and uttering something so stupid you could almost believe his brain had been replaced by a turnip to ruin it.
Oops, my mistake, here comes one now.
"Ecstasy is safer than Aspirin" according to North Wales Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom "There is a lot of scaremongering, rumourmongering around ecstasy that isn’t borne out by the evidence. It is actually a remarkably safe substance"
That would be the evidence from the National Drugs Prevention Alliance then who pointed out to the loon that almost 500 people have died through taking ecstasy since the mid 1990's.
Maybe Mr Brunstrom should relocate to a place where his grip on reality is more attuned. I am sure Tinky Winky would let him sleep on the sofa.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Ridding The World Of Cliches

A particular pet hate of mine is the overuse of cliches in everyday speak. The tabloids are especially bad for what amounts to lazy writing and i want to tweak the ear of every sportsman who tells us that they are over the moon or as sick as a parrot.
It really does irk me so hopefully the annual list of words and phrases that deserve to be banned published by The Times will help us turn the corner away from this slippery slope although admittedly, the extent of their use does leave us with a mountain to climb.
Avoiding such cliches may prove to be a steep learning curve for new journalists and even for those who have been around the block a few times but if we can catch the journalism students early doors then we can prevent things going pear shaped and the wheels coming off. Of course there will be those who bury their head in the sand and refuse to think outside the box or push the envelope but at the end of the day, the cream will always rise to the top.
Cliches. There really is no need for them.

US Elections Explained For Brits

Ok fellow Brits, we have seen the news of the upcoming US elections on our screen for a while now and as a nation who usually don't give a fig about our own leaders let alone those of another countries, so you may be wondering, or probably not, what the hell those crazy yanks are up to now.
Allow me to explain.
Here in the UK our election is a ten week sprint for a party to vote for and whoever is the party leader at that time cops it as the person to lead us down whatever garden path they decide for the next 5 years.
The American election in comparison is a triathalon and the competitors have only just dipped their toe in the water of the first discipline.
The starting gun to the slog for the White House Hot Seat is due to go off in Iowa where all the hopefuls either get the nod to continue or the slap around the face to go home and stop wasting everybody's time.
The nods from the Democratic side of the fence seem to be aimed towards Clinton and Obama with the rest of the Democratic field, to be quite frank, losing the ghost of any chance they had so long ago that even Derek Ocorah couldn't find them.
The Republican field is a bit more open so perm 3 from 6. Huckabee, Romney, McCain, Giuliani, Thompson or Paul but the only one's familiar to us Brits will be Fred Thompson who was in Law & Order on Sky One and possibly Rudy Giuliani who had a pop at our NHS the other month but don't to worry about remembering them, Thompson will soon be Out of Order and Rudy will need more than the kiss of life from a St John's ambulanceman to get his chances revived.
After Iowa the whole thing moves onto New Hampshire and around the country slowly whittling down the number of wannabe Presidents until they end up with one Elephant (Republican) and one Donkey (Democrat) who then fight it out to replace the Monkey who is there at the moment.
Simple see, and you though Des O'Connor on Countdown was as exciting as it got.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

2008 Psychic Predictions

'Come writers and critics' sang that sage of philosophical thought Bob Dylan before continuing in that annoying nasal drone 'who prophesise with your pens' which leads us nicely to people who do actually prophesise with their pens. Well keyboards anyway.
Any highlight at the start of a new year is the time honoured tradition of trying to guess what we will be facing in the coming twelve months. Despite being armed with tarot cards, one black and white candle and a Ouija board, my best efforts managed to dredge up nothing more than the sight of my friends head spinning around on her shoulders so we decided to turn to the people who have slightly more control over the dark arts. Psychics.
A quick trawl over the internet pointed us to Britain's foremost exponents of chatting to dead red Indians chiefs who have seen fit to tell us mortals what is going to happen on our planet during the next year.
So thank you to the guys at, let us gaze together as the mists clear and in our crystal ball we see:
The Beijing Olympics being cancelled, earthquakes in California and Greece, a hurricane greater than Katrina striking the US, panic as scientists discover that something long held to be healthy is not, India to be engaged in conflict, a small nuclear detonation in the Middle East, a major terrorist attack involving a missile, the assassination of a major American politician, a major volcanic eruption, riots in the UK, poignant space news and a white boat/ship with the name ELLE in the name making major news.
Doesn't sound too clever does it which is a bit of a downer because i was really hoping for something a bit more upbeat.
Still, back to my Ouija board to try and find out what the future holds for Britney Spears and maybe i can find time to do something about that deep growling voice coming from my Christmas Tree and the poltergeist that has been throwing about my plates since my initial attempt.