Saturday, December 16, 2006

Mark's Christmas Message

It seems that it has been some time since my last post, and I notice that I have been given a swift kick up the bum by friend Junojen! In fact my last blog was almost a month ago, which in blogland, is quite a while.

However, I've not been idle over the past month, far from it. With the run up to Christmas, life has just got more and more hectic. A couple of weeks ago, I spent an enjoyable Saturday in Manchester with my eldest doing Christmas shopping (and spending a King's ransom). We had a lot of fun, and managed to escape back to Hindley before the crowds got too oppressive.

Last week, Christine and I joined some of my colleagues from work for our Christmas party. It was a great night out, and I drank so much even I ended up on the dance floor - I do believe there was a blue moon that night! We stayed overnight in a hotel overlooking Manchester United football ground - well I suppose you can't have everything!

With the girls in different schools, it has meant double the Carol services, so it was division of labour. Christine went with Jayne to her schools service and Christingle, while I went with Bethen to hers.

A couple of weeks ago I came down with the flu, which, as everyone knows, attacks men far harder than women. It was so bad, I needed to take some time off work, but I tried very hard not to show how much I was truely suffering.

Christmas is now almost upon us, and this weekend we will be putting up and dressing the tree. Christmas will have finally arrived at a certain house in Hindley. Christine is working this Christmas so I will be doing the cooking. Leg of Pork from a pig that grew up on a local free-range farm supplied by our favourite butcher on the market. The vegetables will also be local - we will be using as little supermarket produce as possible. Later in the week, when we will have been joined by our parents, it will be a fine joint of topside.

This is probably my last blog before Christmas, and so I wish all who find and read this post the best gift I can offer, the love of someone who loves you, and to know that no matter how alone we may feel we are, from time to time, we do not walk this world alone.

Have a peaceful and loving Christmas from Mark, Christine and the girls.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The End Of An Era

For the past few years, since the first time I discovered it, the Kirkless Hall Inn has been a regular finishing point for many a cycle ride. The first time I arrived, caked in mud, sweaty and decidedly thirsty I was made very welcome by Jill Jolly, the landlady and queen of the bar. That first day she served me a superb and refreshing pint of Summer Lightening and I was hooked.

Not only was the beer first class, but I later found out that their pub food was pretty good as well. For someone like me who is a relative stranger to the insides of pubs, this was a revelation.

The Kirkless Hall Inn has become the family's regular stopping off point, a place for us to relax in a beautiful spot. The half-timbered pub providing am eye-catching backdrop to the locks. A place where me and the girls have spent many a happy hour watching the bright and colourful canal boats as they made their way up from or down to Wigan. On hot summer days, the pub and the lockside would be buzzing with people also enjoying the environment. A truly wonderful place.

Jill & Bob Jolly, the landlord and lady were the people who worked tirelessly to ensure that welcome was always there. They got to know us very well, and were often interested in our exploits out on the bikes. Whatever condition we were in, and sometimes that was pretty mucky, we were always made to feel welcome. Mum had her 81st birthday lunch at the pub and it was a really jolly time helped by the kind attention of Jill & Bob.

Today was Jill and Bob's last Sunday running the pub. They retire this week and head off to pastures new. Jill wants to spend more time with her family and grandchildren. They will be sadly missed by us, and talking to others at the pub, they feel the same. They have left a very high standard for those who will follow to attain, and we all look forward to that with interest.

But to Bob & Jill, many thanks for your many kindnesses. For maintaining a good cellar and excellent food. Good luck for the future, you will be missed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Corner Turned

People of America have, I believe, taken their first steps to recover their country from the 6 year rule of the 'democratic tyranny' of the Bush administration. Brave America is still alive and is a cause for celebration.

When one considers all the damage that has been perpetrated by that small band of the priviledged few, the road back is going to be long and hard. But the first important step has been made.

The work towards the 2008 presidential election must start now, and Democrates have got to find an internationally acceptable and respected statesman to lead America back to the light. I don't care if he or she is a heathen and has a history of affairs on the side, - all that counts is that he or she is intelligent, wise and can command respect.

America, enjoy your moment of movement back to the free world, but don't rest too long on your laurels, there is an emmense amount of work yet to do.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Two Jays

Surely one Jay is enough! Looks a bit low in the water at the back end!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Thank Goodness For Guantanamo Bay

Thank you, America. George Bush, you are a saint. I take it all back.

John Negroponte, George Bush's Director of National Intelligence, has said that the 'High-Value Terrorist Detainee Program' has saved Britain from at least 2 major terrorist attacks since 2002.

What really amazes me was the forward planning of these terrorist groups. One thwarted plot was an attack in 2003 on Heathrow Airport and the other, in 2004, a series of co-ordinated urban attacks. The detail of all this was known to the terrorists from before their kidnapping(sorry, - capture) in 2002.

Of course, groups like Amnesty International reacted angrily to the claims, saying it ignored allegations that detainees had been placed in stress positions, subjected to sleep deprivation and submitted to 'water-boarding' - partial drowning. Who cares about a little bit of discomfort for a clearly 'bad' person, as long as I'm OK, the oil keeps flowing and lots of people are making a healthy profit out the 'war on terror'.

Of course, also, I believe everything that the White House says, and there is a tooth fairy!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Guns Don't Kill People

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people!" This is the oft quoted mantra of the gun lobby, and those who see guns as a good thing to have in society, that allows then to wring their hands in anguish over the deaths by shooting of children in a school, but still advocate that guns are a good thing.

I have spent some time, this week, thinking about this, and my conclusion is that I just can't agree.

To my mind, there is a major difference between killing sombady with a gun and any other method, and that difference is the degree and level of subjectivity in the killing.

Guns allow for a degree of distance between shooter and victim. The shooter only has to point a gun and pull a trigger. There is a degree of seperation between the method and the victim. The death, for the shooter, is less personal, easier and convenient. All that is required is to squeeze a trigger. Other forms of violent death, generally require the killer to get up close and personal with the victim. Requires a certain degree of physical activity, and the ever present danger that the victim could turn the tables on the killer. Stabbing, strangling and beating all provide dangers for the killer which means that the gun makes a much more tempting tool to use.

This is why, I believe, that countries that have strong levels of gun control and have less guns, legitimate or illegitimate, in circulation appear to have less gun crime and death per capita than America.

I am left with the thought that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people and those people are choosing guns because it is easier!"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Another Peaceful Day In School

Five girls are now dead with another 7 girls in hospital fighting for their lives. Yet again, another American community is struggling to come to terms with the consequences of America's love affair with the gun.

Some straight-forward facts courtesy of

Since 1996 around the world, 84 children have been killed in school shootings - 53 of them in America.

At the same time, 38 others - including teachers, janitors and police have been killed - 12 of those in America.

Of the 120 wounded children, 106 were in America and 5 of the 7 other wounded - again mainly teachers, were in America.

The gun lobby is clearly correct - America is a much safer place to be with guns. Children can feel secure as they wander off to school today.

Who cares if they don't come back in the evening?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Please Read This

In follow up from my previous post, I implore all to read this post. Many of the comments are worthy of reading as well.

Friday, September 29, 2006

America's Blackest Day Yet

September 18th 2006. This is the day that America chose to leave the civilised world and become one with all the totalitarian and terrorist states.

The country that has at its 'front door' the Statue of Liberty have turned their backs on that ideal. It has decided that the rule of law is meaningless and that the whim of the president is all that matters.

The senate has cravenly voted with the support of some 'Democrats' to allow Bush and his cronies to kidnap, hide, torture and generally deny any human rights to anyone they deam to be a 'threat' to the country, - including US citizens! It will allow Bush to demonise anyone who argues the opposite as being soft on terrorism. He has already said that Americans have a choice between 2 parties with differing attitudes to the 'war on terror'; "Republicans," he said, "understand the nature of the enemy," he said. "We know the enemy wants to attack us again," whereas Democrats "offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing."

One of the reasons Americans were so against torture was because of the way the British treated American prisoners during the war of Independence. Now they clearly want the freedom to do just that to others.

I am not American, and although I live presently in Blair's Britain (hopefully, for not much longer - we've managed to get rid of the poodle!), I thank God that I don't live in America - once, one of the most enlightened and moral of the free world countries. I feel sick, disgusted and afraid that intelligent men and women could come to the conclusion that being like terrorists will defeat terrorism. If allowed to remain, what else will these craven and cowardly people give to the world's latest dictator.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Terrorism Is Good!

When one looks at what Bush, with the support of weak leaders elsewhere in the world, has done, particularly in terms of foreign policy, one's immediate though is one of incompetence.

However, I am starting to revise that view. Having read Nat Parry's article in my fear that all this actually being deliberately crafted and intentional has been shared.

But the downward spiral of the Iraq War and the worsening worldwide terrorism threat are negatives only if one assumes that creating a more peaceful and secure world was the original goal.

If the goal included changing the character of the United States as a free and open society and consolidating one-party Republican control over the federal budget, then the administration's policies would seem to be working like a charm.


If the U.S. does launch an attack, it seems clear that the terrorism threat faced by Americans at home and abroad will dramatically increase. For such reasons, many observers argue that an attack on Iran is unlikely.

But [retired Air Force Colonel Sam] Gardiner points out that not making sense won't limit what the Bush administration does. "The 'making sense' filter was not applied over the past four years for Iraq, and it is unlikely to be applied in evaluating whether to attack Iran," Gardiner writes.

It also could be that 'making sense' means something different for the Bush administration than it does for average Americans.


Those trends seem likely to continue, and even accelerate, as the "war on terror" remains a powerful excuse for transforming the United States from a historically free and open society to a frightened nation where citizens eagerly trade their constitutional rights for government promises of more security.

The worry is that those trends are gathering pace, with an elite GOP group benefiting from an increasingly compliant populace and opposition. It is fine that no more terrorist attacks take place in the USA, much better, surely, they are in places like London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Melbourne, Johannasburg, etc.

With the dramatic increase in the number of terrorists as a direct result of American policy in Iraq, they are going to have to ply their murderous trade somewhere.

I don't see the activity that would have happened back in the fifties and sixties that brought about a lot of the freedoms and liberty that America is supposed to stand for. No mass rallies at the cenotaph. Where is the Democratic party? What are they doing about this? Maybe Americans enjoy the economic and political restrictions that are piling up on them, but as per usual, what America wants, the rest of us have to suffer!

Thanks America.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Who Wins This?

  • £561bn - What the world spends on arms.
  • £32bn - What the world gives in aid.
  • £275bn - Total debt of developing countries.

Something striking about those figures here in the 6th year of the 21st century.

The figures are published today by Oxfam, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms who are calling on world leaders to tighten controlson the weapons trade.

The charities are launching their campaign as the UN gathers in New York. It will be considering a draft resolution on the treaty next month.

America and the Middle East are responsible for much of the rise in spending on arms, but some of Africa's poorest countries - the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Botswana and Uganda - have all doubled their military spending in the past 20 years. Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan spent more on weapons than on health care between 2002 and 2003.

Clearly there is some money to be made in killing and destruction. I would have thought that by now we would have learnt better. My father used to say that "If you give a man some food, he has to put his gun down to eat it, and if the food is sufficient, then he won't want to pick it up". I know that can sound a bit 'kitchen sink' in its philosophy, but I think he nailed it with the idea that if all peoples were content in life, there wouldn't be the wars we have now.

Clearly, the only winners are those who pocket the profits and their friends.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Does He Have Any Idea What He's Saying?

In his address to the United Nations on the 19th September 2006, George Bush, President of the United States of America, framed his speech in the context of the 1949 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and declared that, "The words of the Universal Declaration are as true to day as they were when they were written".

After I had finished choking on my toast, I thought I'd better look up the Declaration just in case I had mis-understood it.

Among the 30 rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are these:

  • “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
  • “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
  • “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”
  • “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”
  • “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.”
  • “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”
  • “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
  • “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
  • “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

Though Bush is arguably in violation of many if not all the above-cited human rights tenets, he unblushingly cites the Universal Declaration as the foundation for his international policies, from the invasion of Iraq to his handling of the “war on terror.”

Even as Bush criticizes the U.S. Supreme Court for stopping his planned kangaroo courts for terror suspects and as he battles members of Congress over his desire for harsh interrogation of detainees, he invokes principles that bar exactly what he seeks to do.

How does subjecting detainees to simulated drowning by “waterboarding” not violate the prohibition on torture? How does stripping suspects naked and soaking them with cold water in frigid rooms not go against the ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment?”

How does imprisoning people without trial or even charges – and arranging “extraordinary renditions” of others to countries that torture – fit with the U.N. principle barring “arbitrary arrest, detention or exile?”

What about the U.N. mandate that a suspect must get a public trial before an independent tribunal and receive “all the guarantees necessary for his defence?” Instead, Bush wants U.S.-run military tribunals to convict and even execute defendants based on secret evidence that can be withheld from both the public and the defendants.

Bush also insists that his “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief allow him to tap telephones and spy on Americans and non-Americans without obtaining any form of court warrant. Yet, the Universal Declaration objects to “arbitrary interference with [a person’s] privacy, family, home or correspondence.”

Bush’s hostility toward dissent – even declaring some thinking “unacceptable,” as he did at a press conference on Sept. 15 – and the eagerness of his supporters to smear anyone who opposes the President also don’t match with the principle that human rights include the “freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information.”

So, why would Bush invoke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when he is flouting many of its core principles?

There would seem to be two possible explanations for Bush’s chutzpah: either he’s just reading a script without regard to the words or he’s confident that he can speak the opposite of the truth knowing that few people of consequence will call him on it.

Either way, Bush’s cavalier attitude in hailing human rights while simultaneously trashing human rights represents another classic case of Bush’s hubris, which is becoming the defining characteristic of his presidency.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Religion Of Hate

If you insult my religion by claiming it is not always a shining example of peace and love, I shall wage holy war on you. That, in a nutshell, was the reaction of the touchier end of Islam to Pope Benedict XVI's use of a quote by Emperor Manuel II when having been under siege at Constantinople by the loving and all forgiving Islamic and merciful Islamic leader, Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I for 5 years between 1394 and 1402.

But that's the trouble with history, It's either a closed book or unacceptable to somebody or other.

Manuel II's view that everything Mohammed did and said was evil and inhuman, "such as the command to spread by the sword, the faith he preached". In fact, Manuel's son, Constantine XI died on the walls of Constantinople when 7,000 defenders were overwhelmed by over 100,000 Ottomans in 1453. During 24 hours after the fall of the city, a large part of the 50,000 population was raped, bespoiled, killed or enslaved by these followers of a loving and merciful religion.

Of course, the main point of Pope Benedict's argument has been lost in the Pavlovian response by yet another lunatic fringe of another religion. His thesis was simply that violence can never be justified by any religion. One has only to see the rabid fringes of Christianity in action to see that this sort of thing does not just reside in the Islamic extremists.

However, there is some justification for anger in his selectivity of examples. This month sees the 508th anniversary of the death of Tomas de Torquemada. As Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition, this holy, loving and merciful man has become a byword for cruelty in the service of the Catholic religion. The "hammer" of heretics rode around the Iberian peninsular with an entourage of 50 mounted armed guards and 250 armed men. They didn't exactly have "Peace is our Business" emblazoned on their tunics.

Torquemada's enthusiasm for the torture chamber, rack and the smell of burning flesh is legendary, but there was no mention of this enlightened person by the pontiff last week.

The truth is, that when the Vatican and the Imams go head to head over events in their shared history, it's the most glaring example of pots calling kettles black. A little more calmness and a little more acceptance of each others view of history should be the real order of the day.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

No Longer Soldiers!

Apparently, over the past few years the official US Army's "Soldier's Creed" has been changed, and those changes have meant, I believe, a change in the approach American soldiers and the military have applied to their "mission". The original creed was drawn up in the late sixties, early seventies to prevent anymore Viet Nam atrocities. That creed is as follows:

"I am am American soldier. I am a member of the United States Army - a protector of the greatest nation on earth. Because I am proud of the uniform I wear, I will always act in ways creditable to the military service and the nation that it is sworn to guard.... No matter what the situation I am in, I will never do anything for pleasure, profit or personal safety which will disgrace my uniform, my unit or my country. I will use every means I have, even beyond the line of duty, to restrain my Army comrades from actions, disgraceful to themselves and the uniform. I am proud of my country and its flag. I will try to make the people of this nation proud of the service I represent for I am an American soldier."

Now there is a new version called the "Warrior Ethos".

"I am an American soldier. I am a warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live with the Army values. I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I will always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself. I am an expert and I am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I am an American soldier."

I can now start to understand why some of the atrocities of recent times. From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to Bagram to the "black" prisons of the CIA, humiliation and beatings, rape, anal rape and murder are becoming so common-place, that they no longer make front page news. The Warrior Creed allows for no end to any conflict accept total destruction of the "enemy". It allows no defeat and does not allow one ever to stop fighting, lending itself to the idea of the "long war". It says nothing about following orders, it says nothing about obeying laws or showing restraint. It says nothing about dishonourable actions.

When insurgents placed babies in the road in Fallujah in an attempt to stop the American advance, "...placing the mission first" allowed the Americans to just drive over them on their way to "destroy" rather than defeat the enemy. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the activities in American military prisons and the hundreds of reported incidents against civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are part of what the US military is presently intended to be.

While I know that many other armies behave in a worse fashion than the US Army, none of those armies claim to be the "good guys", - shining examples of the best that America stands for.

George Bush sees winning the "war on terror" as harbouring into the world some 21st "shining age of human liberty". I'm not so sure. This shining age of human liberty is being bought in the dungeons of "black" prisons, under the fists of US Marines, on the exhaust pipes of Humvees. We are warriors, we are Samurai. We draw the sword, we will destroy.

And if you think about it, that is exactly what Osama bin Ladin said.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I Remember When...

Five years ago, I was on a training course in the middle of Manchester and had just broken for lunch. Sitting around, chewing over the morning's lectures and generally enjoying a relaxing moment, someone received a text message to say that a plane had flown into the World Trade Centre.

This was just unbelievable. It had to be a mistake, but if it wasn't, then a tragic accident. But then the news came through an hour later that a second plane had hit. My mind was in turmoil. I still couldn't believe it, but at the same time, the two reports seemed to confirm the truth. Confusion reigned in my mind, and seemed to be reflected by others I talked to. An American on the course said something which I am sure he has regretted ever since - "About time - bloody ugly buildings!" I'm sure that he, like all of us assumed it was some mistake.

I got home that evening and switched on the news - no mistake!

By that time, the 2 buildings were still standing, but very shortly, the first one fell. I was fascinated and horrified both at the same time. The apparent slow-motion of its fall was almost balletic and encapsulated a lot of beauty. My mind was refusing to accept that what I was watching was the horrific deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of people. That realisation only came to prominence when the second tower fell - and I knew then, the world will never be the same again.

Today, I refuse to make any comment of what has happened since. Today I remember all those caught up in this tragedy. Today, as I write this, a tear is in my eye and I refuse to wipe it away. Today, I, along with any other civilised person, stand to remember this event and my heart truely belongs to all those affected.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why Bother About International Law

Recently, an increasingly desperate Bush & Co have been coming clean on some of the stuff they have been lying about for years. The latest being CIA run prisons around the world so that prisoners can be flown out of USA juristriction (with the active support of countries like Britain) to places where they can be tortured at length.

While thinking about that, a thought struck me. How would the right wing and the government react if this was happening in reverse?

Who would be the first to voice outrage and condemn some other country if they prosecute one of America's soldiers, the way Bush wants to prosecute his suspected terrorists? Will it be acceptable for Iraq or Afghanistan to violate the Geneva Conventions and hold trials without telling their soldiers what they are charged with or letting them see the evidence against them? Will it be considered fair for them to fly American soldiers to secret prisons and torture confessions out of them?

I am aware that these criminals (I do wish Bush and Blair would stop glorifying them by calling them terrorists) have captured soldiers and done terrible things, but it is imperative at this point in history, that we stand firm on the moral high ground. Dictators and tyrants around the world will be watching the 'greatest' democracy in the world and seeing how it behaves, and would feel justified in its repression by pointing to America as an example.

A major reason why we live by the rule of law is not so much that we protect the guilty, but to protect the innocent. If you want the 'other' side to treat prisoners well, then you had better make darn sure you treat your prisoners with respect and care. Guantanamo Bay has probably been the greatest recruiting sergeant for 'terrorists' ever.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Rage Continues

Further to my post of yesterday, I came across Keith Olbermann's blog, - Bloggerman. His latest post was a far more eloquent critique of what the Bush cabal are doing than I could ever achieve. The post in question can be found here and I feel is well worth reading.

The article finished with the question:- "Have you no decency, sir?".... Well we all know the answer to that, Keith... George, Karl, Dick, Don, and the rest of the gang have proven time and again that they have no discernible sense of decency, no morals, no honesty, and no real concern for either the United States, its people or anyone else!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

If You're Against The War, You're For Slavery

I know I'm an outsider, but being fully aware of the impact that America has on my life, I tend to follow what goes on over the pond, closely.

Secretary of State Rice compared the Iraq war with the American Civil War, telling a magazine that slavery might have lasted longer in this country if the North had decided to end the fight early.

"I'm sure there are people who thought it was a mistake to fight the Civil War to its end and to insist that the emancipation of slaves would hold," Rice said in the new issue of Essence magazine.

"I know there were people who said, 'Why don't we get out of this now, take a peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves?'" Rice said.

The rest of the report can be found here.

Is it me, or is the Republican Party starting to panic? We've now had most of the major players in Bush's cabal come out with increasingly extreme and inflammitory language. Do they have any idea how this is playing in the rest of the world. As each sector and interest group is singled out and publically pilloried and attacked, the impression of a government moving ever more desperately becomes apparant.

I truely pray that Americans get it right this time around.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Stop Telling Me What To Think

I am getting heartily sick of newspapers trying to determine what I should read, and more significantly, what I should feel about an issue or story. It seems that more and more, reporters often refuse to offer their judgment about matters of fact, but they do offer their judgment about the potential political effects of events and actions. An essay by Jamison Foser includes the following:

"This is completely backwards.

Consumers of news lack the time, expertise, and, in many cases, ability to determine which of two contradictory statements by competing political figures is true. They often lack the resources to determine if, for example, President Bush's claim to have "delivered" on the promises he made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is true. That's where news organisations should -- but, with depressing frequency, have not -- come in. They have -- or should have -- the expertise and the time to assess those claims, and to report the facts. That's what readers, viewers, and listeners need. That's what journalism should be all about.

On the other hand, as consumers of news, we don't need journalists telling us what the "political impact" of something is going to be; how it will "play at the polls." It's our job to decide that. It's our job to decide who we'll vote for and why; how we'll assess the parties' competing agendas and approaches to the problems we face.

Instead of telling us how they think we'll react, we need journalists to give us the information upon which we can make an informed decision. To tell us the facts, and the truth, and the relevant context. Then we'll tell them the political impact."

The whole article is well worth a read.

For me, I want to be able to have all I need to make my own mind up. Report the facts, and let me decide. I think I'm adult enough to recognise fact from fiction.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

14 Points Of Fascism

Recently, American President George Bush alluded to the worsening situation throughout the Middle-East to the rise of 'muslim' extremism and likened it to the rise of Fascism in Europe during the first half of the 20th century. (He did fail, yet again, to mention the the situation was due in no small part to his lies and woeful and illegal actions in the region).

I thought it might be interesting to look at 14 indicators of a government on the verge, if not all ready, of becoming fascist.
In his article, "Fascism Anyone?", Lawerence Britt compared the regimes of Hitler, Franco, Suhato and Pinochet and identified 14 characteristics commont to those fascist regimes.

1.) Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2.) Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights: Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3.) Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4.) Supremacy of the Military: Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamourised.

5.) Rampant Sexism: The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6.) Controlled Mass Media: Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7.) Obsession with National Security: Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8.) Religion and Government are Intertwined: Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9.) Corporate Power is Protected: The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10.) Labour Power is Suppressed: Because the organising power of labour is the only real threat to a fascist government, labour unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11.) Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts: Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12.) Obsession with Crime and Punishment: Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13.) Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14.) Fraudulent Elections: Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Does any of the above remind you of anyone?

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Language Of Criticism

It had to happen eventually! As the Bush administration's ratings plummet, the language used to defend their lies and actions get more extreme.

In a recent speech to the American Legion, he said: '"The war we fight today is more than a military conflict," the president said. "It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation ... and on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism," the president said.

"As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before," he said. "They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be: This war will be difficult; this war will be long; and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty."'

Who said that he who uses Nazis and fascism in an argument, loses the argument! This has been a regular cry of the right wingnuts in an attempt to thwart criticism.

Moreover, to level criticism against Israel is to attract a charge of anti-semitism, yet I do not see much difference between what Israel does to its neighbours, and what Nazi Germany did in the 1930's. My argument is not with Judaism but with a sovereign country and its government, Israel. I think it is time for Israel to stop hiding behind the holocaust every time they are put under moral pressure and stand up and answer responsibly for their own actions.

We now have Donald Rumsfeld complaining that those who dare and are so unpatriotic to criticise the administration for their actions in the middle-east are similar to Nazi appeasers back in the 1930's. Do they have any idea how stupid and pathetic it all looks to those outside America.

With the support of a weak British Prime Minister - Tony Blair, America has made one of the biggest messes of the middle-east ever. They are NOT the ones, I believe, who can put it right. They are far too partisan for any of the major players to trust.

Monday, August 21, 2006

It Didn't Last Long

Today is my first day back after my holiday! Where did the time go? Did I acheive what I wanted to do with my time off?

I've come back to over 400 emails in my inbox - 95% of which I've immediately deleted. Lots of new things happening, while at the same time, no real change. It's great to be back!!

Mind you, I did have a pretty good time while being off. A number of good long bike rides and a trip to London to see my sister. I've even made a start on getting my vinyl LP's down to the PC and onto CD. Some of these records head back to a misty late adolescence when a whole new 'adult' world was starting to open up.

My only question is; - why is it that time at work drags, while my time on holiday has just flown by? Is God having a joke? I feel so depressed.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I Was That Child

I was the child who would lie on his back
And wave to the trees, and the trees waved back
Long days in the sun.
I was the boy with his jar and his net
Bringing tadpoles home, his clothes all wet
Nature was fun.
I was the lad who was far too tough
To be caught enjoying this nature stuff,
All kaftans and rice.
I was the youth who enjoyed the thrill
Of discovering man has the power to kill.
Not very nice.

We all need the trees and the birds and the bees
And the frogs and the flowers
And the choice can be ours
But we're taking too long to decide what its worth
Remember, we've borrowed the Earth

Of course, there were times when the truth shone through
With the setting sun, or a sparkling dew
Beautiful sight
And now I'm a man who is happy to cry
When the swifts return to my favourite sky
Screaming in flight.
When I'm an old man with time to spare
How much of my wildlife will still be there
Its vanishing fast.
Will there still be larks in the summer sky
And returning swifts that can still make me cry
How long will they last?

We all need the trees and the birds and the bees
And the frogs and the flowers
And the choice can be ours
But we're taking too long to decide what its worth
Remember, we've borrowed the Earth

We're in danger of losing the earth.

Words: Chris Baines; 1987

Friday, August 04, 2006

I'm On Holiday!

As of today, I am officially 'on holiday'!

Some would say that is a pretty permanent situation as far as I'm concerned, but don't listen that sniping. At work, just like a swan, I may look calm, quiet and perhaps not doing very much, but there is a lot going on underneath!

My Bike

For two weeks I escape the boss, the customers, the hassle of systems that don't work, other departments that don't work and colleagues that don't work! For two weeks my emails can pile up. For two weeks the whinging and whining of my staff will be someone else's problem. For two weeks I don't care. For two weeks, I don't have to catch the same crowded, smelly train to work staring at the same bored looking group of commuters. (The last is not quite true as my train's regulars are a bit of a jolly bunch and most of us do chat to pass the time.)

That Pint Hit The Right Spot

What am I going to do with this golden opportunity - nothing, as far as possible. Some bike rides, some walking, a trip down to London to see my sister and some work of my own on the computer.

The only downside to all this is that it's only for two weeks!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Anti-Semitic Or Justifiable Criticism

When attention turns to the Middle-East and the methodology of violence presently being purportrated, discussion very quickly starts to follow an egg-shell strewn path.

Let me, as clearly as I can, nail my colours to the mast. I have no time for extremism of any kind. The mess in the Middle-East is as much our fault, by that I mean the Western International community, as it is the participants presently wreaking havoc, death and misery to thousands in South Lebanon and Gaza.

In the early 20th Century, after the fall of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, under the terms of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Palestine was mandated to the British, while Syria and Lebanon were mandated to the French. In November 1917, before Britain had conquered Jerusalem and the area to be known as Palestine, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration. The declaration was a letter addressed to Lord Rothschild, based on a request of the Zionist organisation in Great Britain. The declaration stated Britain's support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine, without violating the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities.

The British Mandate contained Jordan, Gaza and the "West Bank". Because no other peoples had ever established a national homeland in "Palestine" since the Jews had done it 2,000 years before, the British "looked favourably" upon the creation of a Jewish National Homeland throughout ALL of Palestine. The Jews had already begun mass immigration into Palestine in the 1880's in an effort to rid the land of swamps and malaria and prepare for the rebirth of Israel. This Jewish effort to revitalise the land attracted an equally large immigration of Arabs from neighbouring areas who were drawn by employment opportunities and healthier living conditions. There was never any attempt by the British, to "rid" the area of what few Arabs were there or those Arab masses that immigrated into this area along with the Jews!

During the years of the Palestine Mandate, from 1922 to 1947, large-scale Jewish immigration from abroad, mainly from Eastern Europe took place, the numbers swelling in the 1930s with the notorious Nazi persecution of Jewish populations. Palestinian demands for independence and resistance to Jewish immigration led to a rebellion in 1937, followed by continuing terrorism and violence from both sides during and immediately after World War II. Great Britain tried to implement various formulas to bring independence to a land ravaged by violence. In 1947, Great Britain in frustration turned the problem over to the United Nations.

After looking at various alternatives, the UN proposed the partitioning of Palestine into two independent States, one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish, with Jerusalem internationalised (Resolution 181 (II) of 1947). One of the two States envisaged in the partition plan proclaimed its independence as Israel and in the 1948 war expanded its territory to occupy 77 per cent of the territory of Palestine in defiance of that resolution. Israel also occupied the larger part of Jerusalem. Over half the indigenous Palestinian population fled or were expelled. Jordan and Egypt occupied the other parts of the territory assigned by the partition resolution to the Palestinian Arab State which did not come into being.

In the 1967 war, Israel occupied the remaining territory of Palestine, until then under Jordanian and Egyptian control (the West Bank and Gaza Strip). This included the remaining part of Jerusalem, which was subsequently annexed by Israel. The war brought about a second exodus of Palestinians, estimated at half a million. Security Council resolution 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967 called on Israel to withdraw from territories it had occupied in the 1967 conflict which, again, Israel has failed totally to honour.

In 1974, the General Assembly reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty, and to return.

Events on the ground, however, remained on a negative course. In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon with the declared intention to eliminate the PLO. A cease-fire was arranged. PLO troops withdrew from Beirut and were transferred to neighboring countries after guarantees of safety were provided for thousands of Palestinian refugees left behind. Subsequently, a large-scale massacre of refugees took place in the camps of Sabra and Shatila.

In September 1983, the International Conference on the Question of Palestine, which was widely attended, adopted inter alia the Geneva Declaration containing the following principles: the need to oppose and reject the establishment of settlements in the occupied territory and actions taken by Israel to change the status of Jerusalem, the right of all States in the region to existence within secure and internationally recognized boundaries, with justice and security for all the people, and the attainment of the legitimate, inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

In December 1987, a mass uprising against the Israeli occupation began in the occupied Palestinian territory (the intifadah). Methods used by the Israeli forces during the uprising resulted in mass injuries and heavy loss of life among the civilian Palestinian population.

A peace conference in Madrid convened in October 1991 led to a "land for peace" agreement and Israeli recognition of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the development of Gaza and limited parts of the West Bank as Palestinian homelands. Israeli distrust of the PLO and it's leader Yasser Arrafat, along with the PLO's apparent inability to control Hamas, led to a deterioration of relations culminating in Israel sealing the border to Gaza and the building of a security wall in 2000 - 2001. At the same time, Israeli re-occupation of the West Bank started in defiance of UN resolution 338.

When one looks back over this history of hatred and violence, one is left with the feeling that Israel developed a rod for its own back. I have only skimmed the surface and highlighted a few of the more significant events, but weak British leadership in the 1930's and 40's allied with significant support from America under tremendous pressure from its indigenous Jewish population meant that Israel was allowed to become, almost, unfettered in it dominance and power. It's military might supplied by the US and the tacit encouragement it gets through lack of any real criticism, along with the lack of International support for the Palestinians, means Israel feels it can throw its weight around with impunity.

Israel's bully-boy tactics over many years has turned friends into enemies and enemies into terrorists. If only it could have learnt to live with neighbours instead of dominating them, and the International community had stood up to the fledgling Israel, then the history of the Middle-East could have been a lot different. Israel has stoked up a lot of anger against it, and until it recognises that, they will never find the peace and security it says it seeks.

Its most recent tactic of bombing and shelling indesciminately, only means that more terrorists will be created, and peace and security will be even more difficult to attain.

Maybe that is what the Israeli government actually wants - a state of war to perpetually exist. As Bush has discovered, it provide a wonderful opportunity for repression and atrocity

Thursday, July 20, 2006

School Holiday Activities

Looking for something to occupy your children. It would seem that parents in the Middle-East might have the answer. See the happy expressions on these Shiite children as they sign their names on rockets that will shortly be blasted off to kill and maim Isreali children. Look how proud their mother looks in the background as she takes pictures of her children enjoying themselves.

It certainly keeps them out of trouble!

Or maybe they are Isreali children writing a message to their counter-parts in Lebenon.

Whether Isreali or Hezzballah, these pictures are sick.

Is it me, or has the world finally gone mad!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Summer Sunday

Today has been a truly lovely day. The weather perfect. A great opportunity to chill out and relax.

The day kicked off with the annual charity bike ride between Manchester and Blackpool, a ride of 58 miles in aid of Christie's Cancer Hospital in Manchester. Most of the people cycling past looked pretty happy, but the day was still young, and it was going to get decidedly hotter. I wish them all well, and hopefully achieve their objective - Blackpool Tower. I intend to join them next year. There is further information on the Bike Events web site. There is another ride in September, - the Manchester 100. You can choose either 100 miles or 100 kilometers. I know which one I'm going to choose (I think kilometers is a great way to measure distance!)!

After we waved most of them by at the end of our road, Christine took the girls walking to drop Bethen off at her friends for a sleep-over. I decided to check out my newly serviced and updated bike (new saddle [about time], new panniers and new extension to the handle-bars) and so took it for a quick spin along the tow-path. It was amazing. I managed speeds I've never done before on this bike. Everything felt tight and slick - a real joy to ride. Afterwards, we all met up, - minus Bethen, at the Kirkless Hall pub for lunch, and spent the afternoon watching canal boats going through the locks.

A classic, perfect English summer's day.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Another Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of the London Bombings of July last year. 52 lives were lost, hundreds more were injured to varying degrees, hundreds more directly affected. It has left a trail of blighted lives, - husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons all taken on that day. All those people are in our thoughts today, and pray they find the strength to continue to strive for a fullfilling and peaceful life.

Has it changed us? Have we as a people changed? Certainly the Government thought we had and attempted to bring in draconian "anti-terrorist" legislation, - most of which has faced intense opposition from the population. For most of us, radically changing our lives and the basic principles upon which we define ourselves as a society, would mean that the terrorist would have won.

Terrible things will happen, and those who perpetrate those atrocities need to be hunted down and punished, but what we must never do is surrender to the terrorists which seems to have happened in America, and has almost happened here. We are a freedom and liberal loving society, and will resist all attempts of the executive where we can to use spurious and cycnical means to apply governmental control - for which I give thanks.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day

Taking this opportunity the thank America for the vigorous celebration of our 14th wedding anniversary. You really shouldn't, you know. You really should save your money, - lets face it, you've got a war to pay for and Haliburton share price to support, but we don't begrudge the effort.

The years seem to have flown by since then, and we have been joined by two fellow travelers in life, - our girls. Both of us have waited a long time before tieing the knot, and I for one do not regret a minute of it. When I look back at where we've traveled and how far we've come, I can't wait for the next few years.

So if you can, make one of those rockets for us. Thanks

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Father's Day

Last Sunday was Father's Day, - not a traditional English celebration, but an American creation by Sonora Smart Dodd in 1909 and subsequently exported, and was designed to ensure that Dads also had their day and, more cynically, card manufacturers have another contrived day to make a profit! Personally, it doesn't really mean a lot to me, but I go along with it.

However, my kids did get me a card, and I felt it was rather good. It lists 10 things that Dads only ever hear in their dreams:
  • "Dad, you must teach me some of your funky dance moves."
  • "Dad, is there anything I can do for you?"
  • "Dad, here's that fiver I borrowed from you."
  • "Dad, nice shirt, could you give me some fashion tips?"
  • "Dad, I couldn't possibly accept any more of your hard-earned cash."
  • "Dad, don't give me any pocket money, treat yourself."
  • "Dad, I'm listening."
  • "Dad, I agree, that's enough of my cheek."
  • "Dad, I won't be needing a lift tonight, you're not a twenty-four hour taxi service."
  • "Yes Dad, you're right as always!"
Wouldn't all of the above help to make this world a better place? Ah well, at least I can dream.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Football World Cup

Although football is not my most favourite of games, we are in the midst of a football and beer drinking fest, of which the England Football team are taking part (they are playing football, I'm drinking the beer!).

We have just completed the group stage which consists of a round-robin of matches with three other teams, - the top two going through to the knock-out stage. We have, so far, failed to have been fully convincing, but the important thing to remember is that we have come top of our group; we haven't lost a match; we've scored 5 goals with only 2 against. Although it has been frustrating, we are in the best position we could ever hope to be in at this stage.

Who said, supporting England would be easy!

Let's hope they are working hard as I type. On the whole, our defense and mid-field would seem to be pretty solid and with the possibility of Ferdinand and Neville coming back niggles and knocks, some of the indecision in defense is likely to be eliminated. Ferdinand and Terry are true World class.

Mid field, Gerrard seems to be firing on all cylinders, and Lampard is getting into shooting positions - eventually one will go in! My only doubts are up front. Crouch, at this level, looks a little off the pace, but he does hold the ball up well, Rooney is not yet fully match fit, but I'm sure he will start to make a real impression. What we need is to start playing as a team. We have the players, we just need the team-work.

Time to get behind them, and the beer in for Sunday's match against Ecuador. Well done England so far.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Is This The Sensible Way To Deal With Paedophiles

First off, I am a father of two children, and the thought of anything happening to them brings me out in a cold sweat and gives me sleepless nights. The idea of any pervert getting their hands on them frightened me, and if anyone did do anything, I would probably commit some offences of my own!

For some time, a tabloid newspaper , I suspect in search of sensationalist headlines, has been campaigning for something it calls 'Sarah's Law' after the assault and death of Sarah Payne six years ago and modeled on 'Megan's Law' in America.

Now I don't know how it works in the US, but from what the paper has said should happen would, I believe, lead to vigilantism and the driving of these people under-ground. Sure, those charged with protecting society should be fully aware of these people and where they are and what they are doing, but the rest of us? Do I really want to know that someone round the corner has a conviction for child abuse? If I did know, how would that effect the way I live, and how I parent my children? Would I want to do something about it? I honestly don't have an answer, but what I do know is that we shouldn't, at the whim of newspaper sales, destroy a cornerstone of British justice quickly and without sensible thought.

Moreover, the police are not happy with the way the debate in this country is going. Chief Constable Terry Grange told BBC News he was extremely concerned the Home Office had "surrendered" power over [child abuse] policy to the News of the World [newspaper].

When viewed emotionally, Sarah's (Megan's) Law would seem to be the answer, but intellectually, I feel it would be taking the wrong road. Child abuse and murder is an horrendous crime, and needs to be dealt with carefully, and with wisdom, not headlines.

Six years ago, the tabloid press, by 'outing' paedophiles, caused some of the worst scenes of vigilantism this country has seen in a centuary, and brought about the deaths of two people who had been mistakenly identified.

Finally, 90% of child abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows, and is often a relative!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Suicide Is A PR Stunt!

Colleen Graffy, a senior foreign policy official in the Bush administration, has stated that three illegally detained people at Guantanamo Bay, 2 Saudi's and one from Yemen, killed themselves as part of a PR stunt! She said that the deaths were "... good PR move to draw attention," and, "a tactic to further the jihad cause."

The base commander and war criminal, Navy Rear Admiral Harry Harris, said that the suicides were "...not an act of desperation but an act of 'asymmetric' warfare against us".

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "The deaths of these three men does not represent an 'asymmetrical act of war' as the Americans unbelievably claim, but rather an act of absolute desperation."

Former British inmate, Shafiq Rasul, added: "There is no hope in Guantanamo! The only thing that goes through your mind day after day is how to get justice or how to kill yourself.

"It is the despair - not the thought of martyrdom - that consumes you there."

I can't believe how far the people in the American administration have sunk in their view of humanity. There can be NO excuse to accuse those who have been interned illegally for years, of carrying out PR stunts. I agree that there is a message here. It is one of people without hope. People who have no other means of escape from the mental, and probable physical, torture. Of people who feel as if the world has abandoned them.

And of course, the moral tone of the administration is set by those at the top.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Quality Blogging Time

Happy Birthday
It is really weird, but this self-imposed task to blog is slipping a bit in recent times and I feel guilty!

Why should I feel guilty? For those who regularly visit, it has probably been noticable that I've recently been doing less and less blogs. Not because there is less and less going on in the world, nor is it because I am getting bored or lazy. It's just that my hours at work have changed, which means I get back at a more 'normal' time and the weather has been superb. The idea of sitting at the computer trying to think of something to say, is not as appealing as sitting in the garden with a pint of beer, listening to the birds (there are some blackbirds nesting in our hedge and the chicks are pretty noisy) and the children out playing.

Please check back from time to time, because, being Britain, it will rain at some time, and so I will be returning to the blog.

However, my main guilt in all this is that I've not gone visiting as much as I should, and for that I do apologise. I haven't forgotten you, and I will catch up soon.

Take care everyone.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Do We Never Learn

A London Assembly inquiry into the London bombings in July 2005 has found the in the initial moments, lack of communication and overall organisation very rapidly became a major problem when coping with the atrocities. They also found emergency first-aid points set up for just such an incident were empty of equipment, and people were having to go to local chemists and pharmacies to get bandages and plasters and antiseptics etc.

Eighteen years ago, a major fire took place at King's Cross underground where exactly the same circumstances were found. Reports then, stated that the number one priority was to ensure the ability of agencies to talk to each other both above ground and below, and, critically, between those at the surface and those down below.

They had 18 years to get it installed, tested and working properly, - why didn't they? I bet it had something to do with money!

It is important to state, that those who were first down and attended the injured, performed heroically, and used good imagination and thought to provide the best level of care they could give, given the circumstances, but they could have had much better back-up, resource and direction had the lessons of King's Cross been learnt and implemented.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Seas Turn Red

Over the past few years, Japan has been actively lobbying fellow members of the International Whaling Commission and would appear to have a majority of the countries on its side to facilitate a return to commercial whaling.

For the past 20 years, only Norway, Iceland and Japan have been allowed to hunt and slaughter whales, supposedly for "scientific" purposes (though it seems strange that they need to take so many each year, and somehow end up in restaurants!). However, of the 60 country Commission, Japan now seems to have about 35 in its pocket.

A lot of these countries have never had whaling industry (some don't even have a coastline), such as Belize, Mali, Togo and Gambia - yet they will support Japan at the next Whaling Commission's meeting in St Kitts in June. Much of this support has been bought through lavish and cheap aid / loan agreements.

I just hope the whales appreciate this lavish attention! However, it is proof that you can't be complacent, even if you think the battle is won!

I make no apologies for the pictures!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Real Tragic News

News is coming through that Britain's oldest brewery is to be sold and all brewing to cease when a merger between two of the UK's foremost real-ale brewers merge.

The 400-year-old Ram Brewery in Wandsworth, London, is to be sold by Young & Co in a tie-up with Charles Wells, - the brewer of Bombardier Bitter. This will probably mean that approximately 90 jobs will be lost when Young's brewery operation is transfered to the Well's site at Bedford.

Is this a start of consolidation in the real-ale world. I hope not. I think I need a beer!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Are Dell Keylogging For America's Home Security Services

Quick post. Came across this on Moxiegrrrl's site which made me sit up and think. Someone dismantling their Dell Laptop came across a little gismo that sits between the keyboard and the integrated ethernet board, - an ideal position to intercept keystrokes!

Do read the article. It may be nothing, but in this day and age, it might very well be something. The letter this guy has from the DOHS would indicate they know something about it!

Iraq - An Exercise In Self-Delusion

Monday saw a surprise and secret visit to Bagdad by Tony Blair offering his support to the newly elected and installed Iraqi government. He flew in by helicopter direct into the Green Zone - that extremely heavily guarded enclave in Bagdad to deliver an up-beat message. It does seem strange that the worse things get in Iraq, the more positive Blair and Bush's pronouncements are on the subject!

What I found interesting was what he had to say: "We have a government of national unity that crosses all boundaries. Iraqi people are able to write the next chapter of their history themselves". The irony here is that as he was speaking those words, two car bombs exploded killing nine people along with the reported deaths of 23 others in various attacks bringing the death toll, so far in May, to 848. This is on top of the kidnappings and sectarian torture that is the daily fate for many who now exist in this American/UK generated mess.

There just seems to be so much ad odds with reality in what Blair was saying. First off, the fact that Iraqis do not have the ability to determine there own future is so obvious. The first Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was basically forced out by the US who thought he wasn't suitable for their purposes. Secondly, yes there is a cross-sectarian government, but the government seems so divided that each ministry is basically run and staffed by the party that runs it. Funds are being milked and corruption is rife, but no-one can be sacked because that would upset the delicate balance that presently holds. Moreover, there is a Ministry of Tourism, but no Ministry of the Interior or Defence!

I am so angry about the mess these two idiots have made in the world. It is going to take generations to put right, and in the mean time everyone suffers either through cost (us) or death (the Iraqis).