Monthly Archives: May 2008

Support The Fuel Protests

I am in 2 minds with regards to the current fuel protests that are underway today.

Working in the transport industry I am supportive of the hauliers efforts too pressure the government into cutting the fuel duty currently in force and to postpone the planned rise in October. However the environmentalist in me wants to see more freight transport diverted onto the railways. Ok you wouldn’t necessarily remove all those lorries from the road but you would reduce the distance travelled and lower CO2 levels in the process.

The big problem is that the government cannot see this. They don’t want to make the investment in the railway infrastructure that would be needed to achieve this; they just want to squeeze as much capacity out of the current network that they can. This means that they want more passenger services and fewer freight movements. With the proposed London Crossrail project they have excluded freight almost completely from the equation.

The rail network in the UK is not really privatised. The government pull all the strings and won’t allow the private sector to make any decisions with their approval. Maybe if the system was privatised we’d actually see an expansion in the number of lines and trains but I won’t hold my breath.

The excess money made from road taxation, in its various forms, is not invested in the public sector transport services, or spent on the road network. We’re having “green” taxes forced upon us but that money is not being invested in green transport alternatives.

If we had an integrated public transport network then I for one would happily relinquish my car for commuting. Yet the option is not available, unless I want to add an hour each way onto my day. I can’t even get a bus to/from my local station.

The government also intends increasing taxes onto high polluting cars could see taxes rise by an additional £200 per year. Originally the government were introducing this tax on new cars but have now said that it will apply to all cars. As the less well off in society can’t afford new cars where are all the replacement less polluting vehicles going to come from?

History Today :

All WW2 today…

1940 : Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the encircled British & French troops begins. This is better known to us simply as Dunkirk. For some reason, not really explained, Hotler lets his panzers rest, instead of wiping out the encircled troops – luckily for us.

1941 : The Bismark is sunk. Only 110 members of the crew survived. Much better than the 4 that survived the sinking of HMS Hood a few days earlier.

1942 : Reinhard Heydrich is fatally wounded by the Czech resistance. Some may think that the subsequent reprisals were not worth the price.

Not Gloating (yet)!!!

I’m trying not to get too excited today. Some peole are getting over excited and declaring that the current Labour government are finished, following last night’s by-election result in Crewe. The Supreme Leader does not have to call a General Election until 2010, so there’s a long way to go yet.

However it is amazing that the Conservative party have taken one of Labour’s safest seats from them. It’s not all down to the 10p tax fiasco either. What is most spectacular is that Labour votes would normally show dissatisfaction by voting Lib-Dem but this time the voters went straight for the Tories.

Much was being said, by the Labour leadership, during various interviews that this is a minor blip and that the voters will come back to them. There were the normal political fumblings regarding the successes achieved by the government on the economy and how bad things were after the Tories were last in office.

I’m fed up with politicians harping on about how bad things were 10 years ago. This is especially true when you consider that national debt was actually lower – once you add in Labour’s off-balance sheet tricks – and that the economy was actually on its upward trend. After 10 years you’d think that there would be no need to keep looking backwards and celebrating your successes.

History Today :

1701 : After a failed attempt William Kidd is finally hanged in London for piracy and murder. Captain Morgan, another pirate, was awarded a knghthood gfor his piratical endeavours.

1798 : The United Irishmen revolt against British rule, with the help of the French, but are defeated. Sounds like a prelude to the Easter Uprising of 1916.

1915 : The Italians lay the groundwork for WW2 by declaring war on Austria-Hungary, after fighting on their side. The moral of the story is: never trust Italy as war partner.

Historical Thoughts

History Today :

1455 : The War of the Roses begin with the Battle of St Albans which was won by Richard “Quasimodo” of York. Lancasterians accuse him of cheating after their right flank was routed by a charge of Daffodils and Tulips.

1939 : Hitler & Mussolini sign the “Pact of Steel” creating the Axis. The Pact was a 10 year treaty of friendship and alliance. Hitler failed to notice that the Italian steel was rusted at the core and would break apart under strain.

2006 : Yugoslavia finally ceases to exist after Montenegro narrowly votes for independence from Serbia. This of course adds another competitor to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Death To Mediocrity

This Saturday sees the final of the worst competition of the year. Yes… it’s Eurovision weekend. As per normal, I will not be watching.

My only interest in the competition was this year’s Irish entry – Dustin the Turkey. Unfortunately he was eliminated in last night’s first semi final. Semi final??? Yes, so many countries wish to enter that they now have to hold 2 semi finals before the final.

Unfortunately Britain have a right of entry to the main competition by right because of the amount of money we contribute to the European Broadcasting Union. Personally I’d be happy if we never entered again. It’s not like it’s really representative of current “pop” music or traditional music.

Dustin was the best reason ever created to mock the competition. Usually you get ABBA clones or some East European “rock” act winning. Think of our past entries – Brotherhood of Man, Cliff Richard, Bucks Fizz, Scoot and that Australian bird – not really pushing the boundaries of modern music are they.

I know that some people like to hold Eurovision parties, only watch “ironically” – like that’s an excuse – or are only interested in the “unbiased” judging. Personally I think that it’s a pan European waste of money – like the EU.

If this is Europe’s way of encouraging peaceful coexistence then I’ll be the first to rev up the Panzers and start heading East.

History Today :

685 : Northumbrians are defeated at the Battle of Nachtansmere by the Picts and English settlement is halted at the firth of Forth. A thousand years later the Englsih get revenge by clearing large swathes of the Highlands of Scottish residents.

1420 : Charles VI cedes France to Henry V of England following Henry’s victory at Agincourt. If it wasn’t for his Welsh archers he’d have got nowhere. This leads to an early influx of British families buying second homes in the Dordogne.

1927 : James Stewart becomes the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St Louis. He goes lead the Glenn Miller Band – before he crashes mysteriously during WW2; some say it was those pesky UFO’s what did it.

And The Boredom Keeps Building

Today the electorates of Kentucky and Oregon get to vote for their Democratic nominee for this autumn’s Presidential election.

It seems that this year’s democratic primaries are never ending affairs. Today’s votes will not actually decide anything either. It looks like this race will go down to the wire. What it seems to have done is deppen the Democrats’ problems. What should have been a battle for the likely next president has turned into a battle of attrition with more damaged caused to the runners than their Republican opponent.

The battle is so hard that the Clinton camp are trying to win by legal means. They say that the voided primaries in Michigan and Floridam, which she won, should be counted in the final vote. Yet the Democratic leadership has already said that they shouldn’t.

In an honourable election Hilary should have conceeded by now so that the Democrats can unite and fight the Republicans. In reality she seems hell bent on dragging it out to the very end and damaging her party’s image. It seems that her personal ambition is more important than anything else.

History Today :

325 : Emperor Constatine calls the Council of Nicaea and lays the foundations up Christian belief, in view of its elevation to state religion. Some would say that this was the marriage of Roman paganism with Christian belief – to make the transition more pagan friendly. I weasn’t there so I don’t know…

1940 : THe first concentration camp is established at Auschwitz under SS commandant Rudilf Hoess. Within 3 years it will become the largest camp in the Nazi empire and the centre of the extermination process.

2002 : East Timor gains independence from Indonesia and becomes the first new country of the 21st Century.

Cluster F***

This week sees an international conference in Dublin to outlaw the use of cluster bombs. There are over 100 countries in favour of signing a treaty to outlaw the use of these weapons. The UK is one of the countries pressing for this.

A cluster bomb is a canister that opens in mid air and spreads lots of individual bomblets over a wide area. They are used mainly as anti-personnel and anti-armour weapons but can also be used to destroy airfields. The problem with them is that you are not guaranteed to have all the bomblets explode on impact – in fact, some are set to explode later when the clear up process starts.

The problem has been highlighted in the recent dispute between Hezbollah and Israel. The Gaza Strip is a densely populated area and their use has led to a high number of civilian casualties. They are not smart bombs that just zero in on troops or armour and should not be used in built-up areas.

If the bomblts don’t explode on impact then they pose a danger to civilians, especially children, who find them among the rubble later. They are the airborne equivalent of landmines – except that people usually know where they planted landmines.

However the UK government has now declared that it does not want a complete ban on its own stocks. They claim that they only have a 2% failure rate and pose less risk than those used by other countries – unfortunately this is not what the Iraq War (conflict) has taught us.

Therefore this could actually lead to one of those political fudges that usually weaken international treaties. The UK wants to exempt the latest generation of cluster bombs from the treaty. Therefore there will be no outright ban. The UK, US etc will still be able to sell these weapons to other “friendly” governments and they would still cause a danger to civilians.

I hope that this won’t happen. I’m a great believer in providing our troops with the best weaponary available but even I believe that some things are just too dangerous to be used.

History Today :

1536 : Mrs Henry VIII the Second, Anne Boelyn, loses her head. According to tradition it took at least 2 attempts to get the job done right. Divorce was much easier in those days….

1897 : Oscar Wilde is released from prison after serving 2 years for Gross Indecency. He’d been told several times to stop B*******g about.

1943 : Churchill & Roosevelt decide that the invasion of Western Europe will take place on 1st May 1944. Like Canute, they couldn’t stop the tide or weather and the invasion finaly took place on 6th June. The moral of the story is not to make definitive decisions unless you understand that they’ll change later.

History Today

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the end of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. This marks the end of the most famous act of Jewish resistance to the Nazis in WW2.

As the Germans started to liquidate the Warsaw Ghetto the Jews decided to resist. They fought off he Germans for several days using small arms and petrol bombs. They hid and fought from fortified bunkers and not only cost German casualties but also show that Jewish “untermenschen” were more than equal to the “master race” that sought to subdue them. By this stage the Jews knew what awaited them at the “resettlement” camps.

Many people forget that not all the Jews went to the gas chambers like lambs to the slaughter. There were also uprisings at Treblinka and Auschwitz and a mass escape from Sobibor.

It is also the 65th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid. This was a great feat of airmanship to destroy the Ruhr dams and strike a blow at German armament production.

What people forget is the bravery of those involved. Bomber Command was the only offensive weapon that could strike at Germany for the entire war. The bomb sights used lacked accuracy for bombing such precision targets – hence the carpet bombing used for the majority of the war.

It was a feat of engineering genius to design a bomb that would bounce and destroy the dam walls. It was a feat of aeronautical genius to be able to fly at a set speed at 60 feet, while under constant anti-aircraft fire to drop the bomb in the correct place on a body of water.

In this day of “smart bombs”, that can be launched miles from the target, we forget what bravery was required by these aircrews. They knew that a high percentage of them would not return from the missions that they flew day after day but they did it anyway.

After this raid 617 squadron became the elite bombing squadron for thec RAF. They went on to sink the Tirpitz and dropped some of the biggst bombs ever developed for specific single target missions. Their accuracy meant that targets could be struck with precision but also minimise casualties.

Also in History Today :

1152 : Eleanor of Aquitaine marries Henry Anjou. This gives the future king of England most of France. By the time her son John dies much of this will be gone.

Mumbo Jumbo

Travelling to work this morning I became bored with my normal Radio 2 listening, Terry Wogan being on holiday and his stand-in (Johnny Walker) proving to be very weak. I strated flicking through the channels and found John Humphries interviewing our Supreme Leader (read Private Eye to understand this).

Amongst all the usual mumbo-jumbo and political b******t we had a piece of Orwellian doublespeak. The Supreme Leader announced that the £2.7bn tax refund passed out yesterday was actually a way of stimulating the economy to ward off a “downturn” – do you remember when those were called ressessions? He had not gaved in to backbench pressure or elctoral annihalation at all.

He kept saying how the US has injected $150bn into their economy and Spain had injected Euro 10bn into their’s to stimulate things. No matter how often Humphries pointed out the difference between an injection of capital and a tax refund, the Surpeme Leader would not accept any difference.

In fact, there is nothing wrong with the economy that the Supreme Leader cannot fix. We are in a great position to weather any storms but we need the help of the international community to combat rising oil and food prices. He kept on saying how he had cut our debt from £44bn in 1997 to £38bn today. Humphries pointed out that he had done this during a period of rising tax revenue and every other economy had done the same but had reduced theirs’ far more.

Then it was pointed out that we were close to the Supreme Leader’s self imposed limit of borrowing on 40% of GDP. In fact, following yesterday’s announcement to borrow the £2.7bn, he only had £100m left. This does not include the funds that have been given for PFI (Private Finance Initiative) projects or the Northern Rock bail out – this would takle borrowing to closer to 45% if it was actually declared on the public finances.

How is it that politicians are able to whitewash everything and only accept that good things happen?

History Today :

1252 : Innocent IV authorises the use of torture against heretics in the Inquisition, via his bull “Ad existirpanda”. Why he wants bulls to torture pandas I have no idea – maybe Ian or Rosamundi could enlighten me…..

1649 : Oliver Cromwell’s “Rump Parliament” declares England a ‘commonwealth’ or free state. Millions rejoice until they realise that it does nothing to improve their lives and they still have to pay for things.

1957 : Britain tests its first hydrogen bomb over Christmas Island, following the US and USSR. Why did we and the French test these things in the Pacific – could it be that it wouldn’t be very good for us if they tried these nearer to home?

We Come In Peace, Shoot To Kill

Today the Ministry of Defence (MOD) began releasing previously classified documents relating to sightings of UFO’s. Now I know that many of you believe that there is no intelligent life anywhere in the Universe. With the
exception of my house, that of my parents, my sister’s family and several of my friends – there is no other intelligent life in the Universe.

Many of these sightings can be explained as being aircraft, meteors, bright stars, planets and satellites. The MOD weren’t concerned as they only evaluated the sightings as to whether or not they were threats to our national defence. Some of the sightings also tie in with flights by experimental British and American aircraft – especially fast jets.

The great bonanza in Sci-fi in the 50’s led to a large increase in sightings of UFOs. Hollywood were happy to jump on the bandwagon by using UFOs as an analogy for the threat posed by communist infiltration – about as great a threat in numbers as there were confirmed UFO sightings. Just look at films like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

A 1999 survey found that 49% of Brits believe in life on other planets and that 29% believe that aliens have already visited Earth in flying saucers. Then you get the conspiracy theorists who are convinced that there are aircraft hangars containing flying saucers used for experimental by the US and UK government. How do you keep such a conspiracy secret for so long?

During the 1970’s there was also a widespread belief that UFOs were actually angels come to visit Earth to teach us. Why that would involve the use of anal probes no one was able to say….. If they were real then why did they only visit rural America or unconvincing UK residents?

Personally I believe that intelligent life is as likely to be found elsewhere as Cardiff City getting to another FA Cup Final or Birmingham City being relegated from the Premiership…….

History Today:

1796 : Dr Edward Jenner adminsters the first smallpox vaccination, using pus from cowpox. Mmmmm!!!

1948 : The imperialist, colonial aggressors (UK) mandate for palestine ends and the state of Israel is proclaimed by Jewish groups. We’d found that Israel was not the “paradise” that we though it was. We learnt that you can’t appease Arabs and Jews at the same time.

1955 : The Eastern European states, under the fraternal protection of the Soviet Union, sign the Warsaw Pact military alliance in response to the US/British imperialist, colonial agressors and their lackies in NATO. No Hungarian or Czech citizens were killed as a consequence of this, until later.

Darth Vader Is Stopped By The Force

Arwel Wynn Hughes, from Holyhead, has been given a suspended prison sentence after attachking two Star Wars fans with a metal crutch, while shouting “Darth Vader”.

The 2 cousins had set up a Jedi faith church, with around 30 members, and were being filmed having a light sabre fight. Mr Hughes, wearing a black bin liner, jumped over a wall and shouted Darth Vader several times before hitting Mr B. Jones on the back of the head and Mr M. Jones o his leg. He then ran off.

Mr Hughes was later arrested by police and told them that he was “extremely drunk” at the time and has no recollection of the incident. He had a “serious drinking” problem but has now stopped drinking and is hoping to go into a rehab programme.

There is a Jedi Church website but I can’t access it from work. It’s at www.jedi-church.co.uk, if you’d like to look.

History today :

1787 : The “First Fleet” sets sail to Australia. It contains the first convicts and establishes the first penal colony there. Nothing much has changed in the last 220 years – so they tell me 🙂

1830 : Simon Bolivar, the “Liberator”, who won independence for much of South America from Spain, dies. He has a country and a fine Cuban cigar named after him.

1943 : The Allies clear out North Africa as 250,000 German and Italian troops surrender.