Saturday, 31 December 2011

Samoa celebrates New Year

Samoa has lost a day. Yesterday to be exact, but the good news is that they planned it and they have now already celebrated the new year. There were images of this island on television yesterday and it made me think why the Samoans would wish to change their clocks, never mind the date. The reason, of course, is that Samoa is not just made up of sandy beaches and people on holiday but there is international trade going on. It just so happens that Australia and New Zealand were always a day out. I know the world is getting smaller but it must have been inconvenient for many including those working from Monday to Friday to have to deal with their counterparts on a four-day week basis.

Compare this with Britain. Alright there is no difference of 24 hours with our nearest trading partners but our clocks are different and this will place a smaller but similar inconvenience on our international trade. There are strong arguments to change the clocks twice per year which I wrote about in one of my blogs a couple of years ago at but I don't agree with them. Wouldn't it be nice not to go round the house and change all the clocks twice per year? Many businesses have seasonal opening times despite the clock changes. Parks open in daylight hours. Samoa has made a bold move because it made sense, not to get its new year celebrations in first. Can we learn from them?

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Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

I am reading Bill Bryson's 'At Home'. I have read most of his books and really enjoyed them so I am sure that I will enjoy this one too. In this book he is looking at the history of household life and is mostly taking into consideration the last 160 years, otherwise he would have too much to write about.

The first chapter tells me about The Great Exhimbition of 1851 "the dream of a civil servant, Henry Cole" and it also tell me that Mr Cole's other claim to fame is the invention of the Christmas card. Bill reliably informs me that the reason for the invention of the Christmas card was to encourage people to use the new penny post. I always thought that cards were a commercial venture but there it is in black and white.

And that's why I don't send cards. However I was touched to see that I had two messages on my Facebook wall wishing me a happy birthday. The trouble is that I don't know what a wall is (or Facebook for that matter) so I will have to wait for a tutorial from one of my children before I answer these birthday messages. In the meantime, if you didn't get a card from me, happy Christmas.

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Thursday, 22 December 2011

And Suarez is wrong

Today's news is that Suarez is set to appeal. Is he saying that he is guilty but the punishment is too harsh (I have heard some commentators take this view) or is he saying that he is innocent? Well his agent is "convinced" that the punishment would be reversed, so that should mean he is innocent. However the agent went on to say that "it seems to us absolutely out of proportion," which suggests that he is guilty but the punishment was too harsh.

The appeal will be brought by Liverpool's lawyers who won't let him walk alone and there are many who are convinced that Suarez is not a racist. This is not the issue. The point to be considered is whether Suarez acted in a racist manner and that means that the perception of his words is all important.

Did Evra make up hearing racial abuse? I don't think so. The obvious sentence is guilty with mitigating circumstances. The complexity arises in the size of the punishment not in the conviction that the sentence should be overturned.

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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Liverpool FC is wrong

It is only a few minutes since I published my last blog but I had to write about Liverpool's Luis Suarez. He has been found guilty of repeatedly insulting the Manchester United player Patrice Evra because of his race. The word used was a Spanish variation of the word negro and Suarez denied that it was an insult in South America. That's fine if they were in South America but they were in England. More importantly, it was perceived as an insult.

The reason I am writing about this decision is not because it is remarkable but Liverpool's reaction is worthy of comment. "We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone". They went on to say in their report that "no one else on the field of play...heard the alleged conversation between the two players". Now I have just heard a report that told me Suarez did not find a certain word racist. He needs to learn that racist comments are racist and Liverpool needs to learn that this is the main point.

It is one thing to prove whether a player racially verbally abused another in a certain match. It is much more significant to think you can get away with racist comments.

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A tactic of last resort

In the news yesterday was an article about riots in Egypt. The ruling council described the pro-democracy campaigners as trying to bring down the state and said they were provoking soldiers into retaliation. This was not how the BBC reporter saw it when describing an attack on a female protestor who was fully veiled prior to the attack but she was kicked and beaten and her body exposed. The case for the protestors is also strengthened with the incontrovertible evidence of hundreds with injuries and twelve people who have died. The beating is one of the worst that I have seen in many months. Add to that the religious implications and it is easy to see that Egyptian problems are rising.

There was also footage of an Egyptian soldier firing his gun directly into the crowd. I am old enough to remember the Guardian advert in which you saw what you thought was a certain outcome and it turned out there was an alternative meaning to the images. Then we found out a third reason for what was happening. It really is hard to argue against the way the BBC reported the incident so let's take this story at face value. The forces of law and order had taken things far too far and a moving crowd was being shot at. The likely outcome was that one more protestor was going to be shot and perhaps became one of the twelve who died.

Compare that with today's news. It has been suggested that our police force could be issued with live firearms in order to deal with riots. Indeed the review from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary suggests that the police may be justified in shooting arsonists or protestors throwing missiles. Of course this would be a tactic of last resort but I wonder if that was the justification for the Egyptian soldier shooting into the crowd.

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Friday, 16 December 2011

The message from Feltham and Heston

When by-elections occur there is a general expectancy for the party (or parties) in power to lose ground to their opponents. There is a general expectancy that the main opposition party will increase its vote and this tendency is strengthened if the by-election is in a constituency already held by that opposition party. So it was no surprise to see that Labour won the Feltham and Heston by-election yesterday with an increased majority. It was no surprise to see the number of votes go down for the Conservatives and for the Liberal Democrats.

It was not a verdict, as Ed Miliband put it, "on the government's failed economic plan". This presumes that the economic plan has failed when many would not agree. In fact constraints on public spending were inevitable after the note was passed from the former labour treasury minister that there is no money left.

According to the victor Ms Malhotra, it showed many things including "the verdict of young people in Feltham and Heston looking for a job." No it didn't. The election showed how many votes went to each candidate, nothing more nothing less. There was one definite statistic and that was the turnout of 28.8%, the lowest in a by-election for 11 years.If there is any clear message from this by-election it is that we are desperate to change our electoral system.

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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

We all think independently

I like to keep political leaflets that come through my door and look back at how all political parties act on the promises that they made before an election. One party in Morecambe, the Independent Party, aka Morecambe Bay Independents and by all accounts aka lots of other things, have been in the news recently because of the number of names that they possess. One of their taglines in their leaflets asks you if you are sick of party politics with the presumption that you will vote for their party if you don't like other parties. Did you spot the flaw in this argument? Yes they are a party complete with party politics.

They are also the ones who make the headlines when it comes to making you sick. The problem for the people of Morecambe is that the Town Council is run by this party who have not published a constitution and whose one premise is to work for the town. That's sounds fine but is meaningless. Do they support saving money for the town or spending it? Do they support economic over environmental concerns? In fact what is their position on anything? And if they are independent shouldn't all their members have different views anyway? Now that would be a tagline - The Independent Party - we all think independently!

The trouble with having independent thought is that they are a united party, but some of them decided that they wanted to form a new party and they gave themselves the name Independence 4 Moreambe or I4M for short. Of course the original grouping did not like this and they "trademarked" the opposition group name. It seems this was the MBI's original name (among many others). Well I am willing to accept this argument even if nobody else has heard of it.

The trademark stopped I4M or whatever they are going to call themselves now from standing in a by-election on 22nd December. Sick of party politics?

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Friday, 9 December 2011

How do you trust Kelvin McKenzie?

Kelvin McKenzie, the former editor of the Sun is often seen on television because of his forthright views. Today is no exception because of the way he argued the case for the Sun on yesterday's The Politics Show. He suggested that the scurrilous articles seen in the Sun actually came from reporters in Merseyside. He has apologised today and his defence was that Hillsborough was 21 years ago.

The trouble with this defence is that he has had 21 years to get things right. Firstly he shows no remorse for his decision to run stories that were scurrilous. Secondly he didn't get his facts right yesterday. Thirdly, and for me most importantly, this man can argue so vehemently and be so wrong.

"The Truth" was Kelvin's Hillsborough headline. He may say some things that are true. The trouble is that even if he labels them as true they may still be 'misremembered', and when he puts forward a compelling argument I will never know if he is just making it up.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Britain's European League

I have just been watching the leading item on the BBC’s ten o' clock news which is about David Cameron and how he would fight for the nation's interest on Thursday and Friday when the EU summit will be looking at changing the way the EU works. The challenge from Tory MPs was "do the nation proud...and show some bulldog spirit", and "seize the moment" (to see off the threat of further EU integration). The main issue should not be about the British role in Europe but how to resolve the problems in the Eurozone, as Nick Robinson put it, "we have to boost confidence in the Euro, in the Global economy and we have to do it now".

Confidence in the Euro did not seem to concern Tory MPs. On the other hand Ed Miliband was mostly concerned with David’s specific goals. The news item gave the impression that Ed was an EU supporter and he wanted those goals to put Britain at the centre of Europe as Ed did not want Britain to be left on the sidelines. I wonder why I was left with the impression that Ed just wanted David to be specific in order to give ammunition to the Tory euro sceptics.

Who can blame Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy if they wish to tighten up the rules within the Eurozone? How can David Cameron disagree? However if he does agree then he has to meet the wrath of a large section of his own party. The French and the Germans are going to the summit in the desperate search for agreement. The British are going to the summit concerned with their position in a league table. The trouble is they haven’t decided whether they want to be at the top of the Champions League or in the Blue Square Conference. If we are marginalised then I would not be surprised.

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Thursday, 1 December 2011

What is the fuss about Jeremy Clarkson?

I had to switch the computer on and write this blog because of the first question on Question Time. The question was "do the panel feel that Jeremy Clarkson should be prosecuted for his comments about strikers and if found guilty should he be taken outside and shot?" This joke was met by widespread approval, with applause and laughter.

The first to answer was Deborah Meaden who added to the humour by saying that we should forget about the prosecution bit and just take him outside and shoot him. She didn't like what he said, it was an awful thing to say and it wasn't funny. Yet she has just been laughing at exactly the same joke when it was directed at Clarkson, and she made a similar joke. She either thinks this joke is funny or she doesn't and for me her body language was stronger than the words that came out of her mouth.

The second to answer was Mary Bousted, a trade union leader who didn't want to be "po-faced about this" and then she was po-faced about this because she had been to a country where people had been shot for being members of a trade union. She obviously finds Jeremy's comments plausible rather than humorous and because of this his comments were unacceptable. As for me, I can't believe that people in this county can fail to see that Jeremy was trying to be funny - even people who have visited Colombia. She asked if you replaced the word strikers for another group of people then would you still see it as funny. Well the questioner did replace the word strikers with Clarkson and it was funny.

Even Ken Clarke felt it was a really bad taste joke but admitted that the question was funny and had been laughing when the question was put. He failed to see that it was the same joke but he was right when he said the indignation was mock.

The real point (which happened to be the second question) is about disagreeing or agreeing with the strikers. We should not shoot them, that was just a joke, but many agree with Jeremy and feel that the strikers were wrong. This really was a non-question. We should not be thinking about prosecuting Jeremy Clarkson and we shouldn't be thinking about shooting him - unless of course it is a joke.

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