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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Do we learn from the past?

“There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now”

That is a quote by the playwright Eugene O'Neill. It's a very thoughtful quote. We never learn from history. We keep making the same mistakes. If our leaders fully understood the history of Iraq, they would have understood Iraq is made up of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, all of whom have a mutual dislike for each other. Remove Saddam Hussein - as brutal as he was - you will leave a vacuum of power and despite our best efforts, you cannot ram democracy down the throats of those who do not recognise it or indeed want it.

Iraq, however, is another story, and I do not wish to dwell on it. I have only used it as an example. What I was disturbed to read in The Times today was that a Holocaust memorial in Berlin was being used as a public lavatory by tourists and by neo-Nazi sympathisers. Perhaps the tourists were drunk and didn't realise what they were doing? Perhaps there was remorse in their hearts the next morning when they realised what they had done? All of that is possible.

The Neo-Nazi problem in Germany though is growing. I am sure some of them will have read books telling Germans Hitler wasn't all that bad. Perhaps they have read Mein Kampf? What they do understand is the hurt and distress they will cause to Jewish people. If they have their way they will try and destroy Jews in the same way the Nazis did seventy years ago.

I have visited Germany many times over the years and I have many German friends. I know Germany will not allow the Neo-Nazis to get anywhere and still today, police guards are placed outside synagogues. I know Germany will keep on top of this problem. Those of us who want O'Neill to be wrong, have to become more vocal, much stronger and be ready to present our arguments on a much more regular basis. As time goes by - people forget. It's up to us to make sure they do not.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Starting to feel better again. (I hope)

I was thinking last week how much better I was feeling, and then around three hours later I started to cough and then the coughing became worse and before I knew it I was running a temperature, shivering or sweating, aching all over and sleeping as if my life depended on it. I don't think I have slept as much in my life. One day last week I went to bed at 1.15pm and got up again at 6.45 the following morning. I am starting to feel better, although energy wise, I still feel very depleted. There are some nasty viruses out there and I hope none of you get one.

Therefore, I apologise once again for the very light blogging of late. I have been so tired I couldn't even tell you what has been in the news. I am only just trying to catch up now. This next week I intend to get back in to the swing of things and hopefully normal service will be resumed. It hasn't been a very happy new year so far for me, so all I can say is, 'roll on February.'

Monday, January 22, 2007

More cat than dog?

You Are: 60% Dog, 40% Cat
You are a nice blend of cat and dog.You're playful but not too needy. And you're friendly but careful.And while you have your moody moments, you're too happy to stay upset for long.
Are You More Cat or Dog?

Thanks to Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe and The Last Ditch.

Big Freeze?

Although this time year generally gets me down, there is one thing about the media that makes me chuckle. Every winter - every year - we hear about the big freeze. As if it never got cold in the winter? We hear about temperatures plunging to... 6C. Wow! It could even be -2 overnight. If I mention to friends in the US that the temperature got down to -2, they ask me if I mean Fahrenheit or Celsius.

I'm sure we can all cope for the next couple of months with the cold. Then we can look forward to new hosepipe bans!

Cameron backs cannabis for medicinal use

I got this one from Ellee Seymour.

This is a subject close to my heart. A few years ago a vicar friend of mine was diagnosed with MS. ITV followed him to Amsterdam where he smoked cannabis - legally - in a bar. He continued to use cannabis until he died. He said it was the only thing to give him relief from his pain. We should not be criminalising a section of society. MS sufferers are not drug dealers. They do not peddle their wares on street corners. They are simply coping in the best way they can with a terminal illness.

It was also good to see David Cameron give a straight answer to a straight question. I can't imagine Blair doing the same.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Euro English

I go this from Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe. It certainly made me laugh.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Back to blogging!

I can't say I am feeling 100%, but I miss blogging and tonight is the first time in a few days I have felt like saying anything.

This time of year is never good for me. I suffer from SAD. I hate the dark nights with a vengeance. My body does not seem to be able to cope with darkness at around 4.00pm. Couple that with my IBS flaring up, quite a bit of emotional stress, and trying to work full-time with - on average - about 2-4 hours sleep a night, you can probably understand why I have been feeling 'under the weather.' Physical and mental exhaustion doesn't begin to tell the tale.

I have been thinking these past few days though and I was wondering what makes us blog? Is it an ego trip? Do we feel we can make a difference? Do we have other ambitions?

For me it is simple. I love writing. I always have. My mother - who is very articulate - still asks me to write letters for her to government departments and the local council, as I seem to write the letter in a few minutes. She also gives me that 'look' when I rearrange everything she has written down on a draft. Words fascinate me. My favourite word in the English Language is 'serendipity.' It has such a ring to it. If anyone says we don't have a beautiful language - send them to me. I will soon show them the error of their ways.

I also - in common with all bloggers - like to express my views on any issue I think is important. What I think the blogosphere will do over the years is bring a different perspective on the major issues of the day to a very wide audience. I don't know whether we in the UK will have the power of some of the US blogs, but I genuinely want us to. There was a time when the only political comments were in the newspapers and on television news. Not anymore. I usually pick up more news from reading fellow blogs, than from 'The Times' or the BBC.

Moving on; James Higham has been given too much stress over the past three weeks. He set up Blogpower in the interests of all small bloggers. He has now reported on how we should proceed. Tom Paine has described as the headmaster, and he is certainly sounding like one at the moment. This is not a bad thing. Those of us in Blogpower should all start to 'play by the rules.' The hits to my blog have increased dramatically since I joined this confederation. I have only been blogging for about ten weeks, but the response I get is fantastic and makes me want to write again. James has some great ways of moving this confederation forward and we should, firstly, thank him for what he has done so far, and, secondly, try to make it work now - and in the future - for all Blogpower bloggers. I hate to use the left-wing mantra of 'United we stand; divided we fall', but I just have, although as a child the first time I heard that expression was in a Laurel and Hardy 'short.'

The next thing I want to talk about, are those who influence us and encourage us. I know someone in Ohio, USA. I have never met her personally - as she is a friend of a friend - but she has been influential to me. Ret Bailey was a copy editor, and she had a look at some of my writing in the past. She corrected it, but always said it was her personal preferences - nothing wrong with my writing. She has encouraged me and given me so much praise over the last three years. She has been an inspiration to me and I thank her very much.

I am sure we all have people like that in our lives who have encouraged us to write and express ourselves. I have singled out Ret; but there have been many others too. All of you know how much I defend our rights to freedom of expression and speech. It's not just because I think they are now in danger in the UK at the heart of government. No. It is because everyone is born equal under God. Everyone counts. I want as many people as possible to express their opinions and make me think. Blogging is the epitome of everything I believe to be true.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sorry for the light blogging

I haven't been too well of late and that's why you haven't seen any posts from me for a few days. When I am restored to health, I will start again.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

More trackside deaths

A few years ago I played the organ for a teenage boy's funeral. He died after climbing on an old railway carriage and got too close to the overhead power lines. I remember the vicar saying to me before the funeral, he knew what he wanted to say, but couldn't. This child knew he should not have been trespassing. He knew there were dangers. He knew he could get killed.

Once again, there are more deaths. This time two men are hit by a London Underground train. They were spraying graffiti at the time. No doubt their families will try to blame the authorities, saying it was too easy to get to the tracks, but the fact remains, they knew the risks they were taking. Why people do this defies all logic. Let's hope this has put a few more off from doing the same.


This is what I wrote on the comments page on defending the blog just over a week ago.

If anyone has been on Central News they will know in the past two days I have been commenting on it. I disagree with the views of the blog, but tonight I have commented about the BNP on my blog and given Central News a link. I have done this in the interests of free speech and in the 'blogpower' spirit. If we start banning people because they are members of the BNP, I will certainly leave. Blogpower has been good for me and I've read so many blogs I would never have normally come across. On my blog I urge everyone to stand up for our rights and liberties. Everyone has those rights and liberties whether we agree with them or not.

I have been saddened that other bloggers have left 'Blogpower.' I am a libertarian and feel everyone has the right to free speech, however, I have changed some of my views since the posting above.

Tomorrow at 6.00pm we will have a decision on how Blogpower will move on. I will accept any decision that is made, however I would prefer not to link to Central News anymore. I accept his right to free speech - and indeed defend it - but I do not have to give him a platform for his blog. I sincerely hope Central News goes and then I feel we can move on and hopefully get back to something like normality.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Question Time

I'm watching 'Question Time' at the moment. Charlie Falconer is getting crucified. Long may this government slide in to chaos.

Education lottery

Bel has written about Labour's proposed changes. Read it here.

This is another example of how New Labour, revert very much to just plain old Labour, the longer they are in power.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Calling Planet Blair

After hearing the exchanges between Tony Blair and David Cameron today, I couldn't help wonder what planet Blair is on. The Home Office is a massive, sprawling department, with so many responsibilities. When Cameron asked him on whether he agreed with Conservative policy on a having a minister - with cabinet rank - as a homeland security minister, Blair said no again.

When it is suits him, the PM can't stop talking about security issues. If it is so important, why not have a cabinet minister responsible for it? It would ease the Home Secretary's workload and - you never know - might help in getting the Home Office fit for purpose again.

If Blair is serious about homeland security and sorting the Home Office out, then why does he not do something practical?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Stop press! UKIP now have representation at Westminster

The media have been reporting this as a blow for David Cameron. I've only just found out who these peers are. They are Lord Pearson of Rannoch and Lord Willoughby de Broke. Who? Well that's what I thought. They also had the Tory whip withdrawn in 2004 for urging the Great British Public to vote for UKIP. So they have left. So what? It's hardly a surprise.

Are you going carbon neutral?

So Tony Blair isn't going to give up his long-haul flights, but is going to make himself 'carbon neutral' by planting a few trees or something.

If the PM wants to holiday with his family in the US, Seychelles, or Baghdad, he is entitled to, and good on him. Of course, I would prefer it was a one-way ticket.

Why then has he bowed to the pressure of trying to make himself carbon neutral? Only 3% of greenhouse gas emissions come from air travel. Yes, that is not a typo; 3%! The vast majority of emissions come from households and industry. Switching to low-energy lightbulbs is going to do more for the enviroment than boycotting British Airways.

Recently I visited some friends in Normandy. I had two options for my travel arrangements

1. Drive from Hull to Poole. I would have to allow myself 8 hours for that journey, just in case there were motorway hold-ups. Then around 6 hours on a ferry. Then a one hour drive to my friends' place. At least 15 hours door-to-door.

2. Drive from Hull to East Midlands Airport. 1 hour 45 minutes. Wait for flight, 2 hours. Land and get through French immigration, 1 hour 30 minutes. Get picked up by my friends and travel to their home, 2 hours. I make that 7 hours 15 minutes.

You can guess which option I went for. Not only did I not fancy crossing the channel for six hours in December, I did not have a long drive to get to the ferry port, so I was more relaxed when I arrived.

If I am being selfish, then so be it, but considering the flight was full, how many greenhouse gas emissions would there have been if everyone on that flight had driven from the North and the Midlands to France? I am sure there is someone out there who can tell me.

Hat Tip: Bel

Monday, January 08, 2007

Read Boris!

Just one more before I go to bed. I don't think Boris Johnson needs a plug from me, however I have just read a most eloquent article on his blog, attacking Tony Blair's silence after the death of Saddam Hussein and the general mess that exists in Iraq. It is four days old now, but one hell of a good read.

Are we bloggers the scourge of professional journalists?

An interesting piece from Shout out Liverpool. With all the underhand techniques journalists use to get their story, I would have thought we raise the standard.

Saddam charges dropped

The Iraqi High Tribunal has dropped all charges against Saddam Hussein, who was hanged on 30 December, as the genocide trial of six co-defendants resumed.

I'm sure it is an enormous relief to him!

Link: BBC News

DJ Mike Read for London Mayor?

I was just glancing at the BBC News website and found this story. So it looks like Mike Read is likely to throw his 'hat in the ring.' I'm not sure what to think. The Tories certainly need a high profile candidate in 2008, but surely someone with some political experience is needed? Lord Coe and Lord Stevens have apparently both turned it down, however is it people like them, with some clout, who we should be considering?

Ruth Kelly

Elle Seymour has a very thoughtful piece on Ruth Kelly.

Dyslexia can completely destroy a child's confidence. There are still teachers who don't understand it and simply call a child thick or stupid. This happened to a friend and a friend's son. It was only when it was detected and understanding teachers were brought in, that their self-confidence was raised.

Ruth Kelly has every right to get the best possible education for her child. I don't dispute that. What I do want to know is why she has not and why she is not pushing this important educational provision in state schools through government. Every parent in her situation would love to send their child to this school. The problem is the £15000 you have to find. I hope this story has raised awareness of dyslexia and hopefully there will be more government money to help all children who suffer from it.

So what is wrong with English Cricket?

Like The Tin Drummer, I have also been avoiding commenting on the dismal scenes from Australia. Cricket is - and always has been - a passion for me, so - after reflection - I will now post some of my thoughts.

The Tin Drummer picks up on an interview Steve Harmison gave to Mike Atherton. We found out Harmison isn't really bothered about getting the new ball. What? He is supposed to be England's premier fast bowler. He should be 'champing at the bit' to get hold of the new ball. Harmison also has no idea what he will be doing until May. You will have to ask the coach, Duncan Fletcher about that. Again, I am gobsmacked. He should be keeping himself fit, bowling initially in indoor nets and when the new season starts, he should be bowling as much as possible for Durham. The man has played cricket long enough to know what to do. He shouldn't need Fletcher to tell him. And, of course, he is glad to be returning home, having 'retired' from one-day internationals. How you can retire at the age of 29 beats me, but it just shows his commitment. For me, he doesn't have any and it pains to say it as I am a member of Durham County Cricket Club and I have watched his entire career.

The next problem for England is a desire to win. When Australia lost the Ashes in 2005, I bet they were plotting revenge on the plane home. If they had retained the Ashes I think Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne would have retired, but that shows the commitment and sheer bloody mindedness of Australia. They were determined to win back the ashes and do it spectacularly. You didn't hear Glenn McGrath saying to his captain, 'It's okay Ricky, I'm not bothered if I get the new ball. Play me anywhere.' Every player in the Australian squad had a purpose and an attitude about them. England simply did not.

The next problem was preparation. The England players were 'under-cooked' coming in to this series. The old expression, 'Poor planning and preparation, makes for piss-poor performance' applies here, and that was a piss-poor performance by any standard. Yes Australia are a brilliant team, but if the side had prepared better, perhaps they could have turned around chances to their advantage. The Aussies did this every time.

The next problem was team selection. For some reason Duncan Fletcher was hell-bent on having the closest side possible to the 2005 series in England. He did this ignoring the form of players in the previous year. Monty Panesar, the in-form spinner was left out for Ashley Giles, who hadn't played for a year. Geraint Jones was favoured as wicket keeper over Chris Read. Marcus Trescothick was taken out, even though the team management knew he was having big psychological problems. Fletcher has to put his hand up and plead guilty. He knows he was wrong and it got England off to the worst possible start.

Now we move to the one-day internationals (ODI). If you look at this link here you will see Australia have five top ten ODI batsmen to England's one and Australia have three top ten ODI bowlers compared to England's zero. If you read what Paul Collingwood has to say - and I regard him as a player of real commitment - his views on ODI series is positive, but I think it a triumph of hope over experience.

UPDATE: For an Australian view on their captain, read this.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Gordon Brown and the servant state.

Read here what Gordon Brown's vision is. If I have read him right, he believes in smaller government and the servant state.

This is the chancellor who wants - and indeed does - tax us more. The man who believes in the state interfering more in our lives, rather than less. I can feel a general election coming very shortly. This has to be a ploy to con the electorate in to thinking he is somehow different than the rest of the Labour Party, and different to his past too. How many people does he think he can fool in to thinking he has had a 'Road to Damascus' experience? Listening to people? You have only done that at election time and then conveniently forgotten what you were told.

How many more lies is he going to tell?

Tony Blair thinks the manner of Saddam Hussein's execution was wrong.

Tony Blair believes the manner in which Saddam Hussein's execution was conducted was "completely wrong", but he remains silent on whether he thinks it was right to execute Saddam in the first place.

If - like me - you agree capital punishment is wrong; why is it right in other countries? You are either for it or against it. What I am tired of, are those who fudge the issue. They say you can make exceptions. I would like to ask one question. Who are the exceptions going to be and who decides on it?

I have seen the mobile phone footage and watched Saddam fall to his death. He was a brutal dictator, however, watching those scenes has reminded me why I am against the death penalty. It is simply an act of revenge, and when the state kills, they stoop to the level of the person they are killing.

If anyone disagrees with me on the hanging of Saddam Hussein and who in general opposes the death penalty - and I am sure there are many of you - please tell me your criteria for deciding who should die and who should not.

Link: BBC News

Are you Conervative or Liberal?

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 60% Conservative, 40% Liberal
Social Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
How Liberal Or Conservative Are You?

I got this from Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe. It's American and some of the questions are pertinent only to the US, but it's a bit of fun. I'm not sure how they mark though. I'm sure I am more than 60% conservative.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Let's get out and knock on doors.

As you are aware, for the last couple of days I have been engaging in a debate - if that's what you want to call it - with the BNP. I have received abuse and when I give them the evidence they asked for to back up my arguments, I am told I haven't answered their arguments or they won't read the links I've posted, because they assume they are lies. Arguing with the BNP is pointless. They are a party of bigots and I'm afraid that is what we are dealing with.

Anyone who is reading this, no matter what political persuasion, should get out and knock on doors at the next election and expose the BNP. I am tired of wasting my time with them. It is the electorate that matters.

Army recruitment

The MoD on BBC news tonight say army recruitment is buoyant. That is why they have raised the age of army recruits from 26 to 33. This is nonsense. All regiments are having recruitment problems. The MoD are just trying to con the public. They aren't conning me.

I've been tagged again

I have been tagged by Out of the crowd. Thank you darling. I knew I would get one of these eventually.

So here we are; 5 things you might not know about me.

1. I am an organist and I have been a church organist for 17 years.
2. I have taken the lead twice in two musicals for an operatic society in Co Durham and I have taken many other parts too.
3. I am a cricket fanatic and I am a member of Durham County Cricket Club.
4. I met Tony Blair before he became an MP. He was campaigning in Ferryhill in 1993. I also counted his votes in 1997. It wasn't my fault, honest, although I do blame an uncle of mine. He was on the Sedgefield Constituency Labour Party Committee who agreed to Blair in the first place. He regrets it now too and is no longer a member of the Labour Party. He was also a former Mayor of Ferryhill.
5. I love cats and dogs in equal measure. My former organ teacher's dog, Gresley, is wonderful and my neighbour's cat, Rocky, is so cute, and mischievous too. He likes to wander around my home and then disappear when he wants to. I saw him leading another cat into mischief a few days ago. You should have seen the look on his face.

I will now tag the following:

Andy Percy
Lizzie Fison
Robert Rams
Defending the blog
and she will love me for this, across the Altantic
Media Lizzy

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Britain's Armed Forces

Our armed forces do not have some of the essential equipment they need. Forget what the government say; I have this first hand from many soldiers. They are poorly paid for the job they do. The standard of accommodation is poor and Mr Blair gets them to fight a war that never needed to happen. Princes' William and Harry serve their country in the army, but I don't see the 'Blair boys' doing the same. Is it any wonder the vast majority of regiments are under-strength? If a government takes its armed forces for granted - which this government has - they do so at their peril.

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