Monday, 7 December 2015

Plotting Hitlers Death

Plotting Hitlers Death - The German Resistance to Hitler 1933-1945 by Joachim Fest.

An incredibly well researched and well written book. In fact the title is misleading in that it covers only resistance to Hitler in the German Military.

It is fascinating in that it the covers no just Operation Valkyrie, the  most well know assassination attempt against Hitler, but also other attempts that failed. It considers the actions and motives of the key people involved in the military resistance, both were complex.   It gives a clear guide to their world view and the many reasons why the attempts were often cancelled or unsuccessful.

In the end the motivation became

It is a book with unexpected heroism - two plotters telling the Gestapo nothing for 6 days despite unimaginable torture. Other plotters gave themselves up either naively thinking they would be put on trial or just showing by surrendering that they disagreed with the Nazis, something the Nazis found almost incomprehensible.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Agent orange

I was seventeen - just a teenage kid,
The year that I enlisted.
I can't remember why I did;
My mom said, "I insisted".
I had some strange idea then,
That Uncle Sam was right.
Oh, momma cried, but she signed the card,
And then I went off to fight.

Got off the plane in Vietnam;
It didn't seem like war.
With all I saw, I started to wonder
What I had come there for.

Some officers got drunk at night,
And cheated on their wives.
And the peasants on the other side,
Were just strugglin' for their lives.

Oh, the Army tried some fancy stuff,
To bring them to their knees;
Like Agent Orange defoliants,
To kill the brush and trees.

We'd hike all day on jungle trails,
Through clouds of poison spray;
And they never told me then,
That it would hurt my health today.

But I got the news this mornin',
Yeah, the doctors told me so;
They killed me in Vietnam,
And I didn't even know.

I tried hard to forget the war,
Like everybody did.
Settled down, got married;
Even had a couple o' kids.

Well my children both have birth defects,
And the doctors had their doubts;
They never could understand it;
But I think I figured it out.

'Cause I got the news this mornin',
Yeah, the doctors told me so;
They killed me in Vietnam,
And I didn't even know.

This Agent Orange from Vietnam,
We carry it with us, still;
It stays inside for years and years,
Before it starts to kill.

You might get cancer of the liver;
You might get cancer of the skin;
You can file for disability,
But you might not live to win.

Oh, I got the news this mornin',
Yeah, the doctors told me so;
They killed me in Vietnam,
And I didn't even know.

Oh, the doctors said I've got some time,
Trying to be kind;
I've never been a radical,
But this has changed my mind.

Oh, I'd be so proud to hear my kid say
"Hell no, I won't go",
Because you killed my dad in Vietnam;
And he didn't even know.

Yes, I'd be so proud to hear my kid say
"Hell no, I won't go",
Because you killed my dad in Vietnam;
And he didn't even know.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Camerons Arse from Elbow problems

David Cameron has just denounced Peers of being composed of the unelected and unelectable.
(understandably missing out the criticism usually levelled that they are major party donors and cronies)

Cameron has appointed 246 Peers since becoming Prime Minister - that's more than any other Prime Minister and almost 1/3 of current peers.

Here's a guide for the PM, your elbow is the bit you don't talk out of.

Monday, 19 October 2015

the state shouldn't fund religious schools

where have all the scroungers gone ?

Benefits worth more than £13billion are going unclaimed every year, including almost half of jobless people missing out on the dole.
The vast amount in unpaid income support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, housing benefit and pension credit is more than the entire sum George Osborne is trying to cut from the welfare budget.

More shocking evidence, yes I know its the daily Mail but it is from an official Government reply, huge numbers of people not claiming the benefits to which they are entitled.  From people I talk too, claiming job seekers allowance is made particularly unpleasant. Lets not pretend that most of this is because people can afford to go without the money.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Will good luck help Faron relaunch the Lib Dems ?

The SNP is facing the prospect of a by-election in Edinburgh West.  If you could pick a seat where the Lib Dems would be well placed to win a by-election, they don't come better than Edinburgh West.   With Labour and Conservatives having no chance of winning, there vote could be squeezed, the new Corbyn Labour party might win back some votes from the SNP,  and the Lib Dems just 3210 votes behind in 2015 could win.

2015 Result:Conservative: 6732 (12.3%)
Labour: 6425 (11.7%)
Lib Dem: 18168 (33.1%)
SNP: 21378 (39%)
Green: 1140 (2.1%)
UKIP: 1015 (1.9%)
MAJORITY: 3210 (5.9%
Before getting too excited though, the Lib Dems have to remember that their membership in Scotland is pathetic and they will be easily overwhelmed by SNP activist and money.

The SNP have risen further in the polls since the general election, and if the have sense, they will call the by-election as soon as possible.  Better to accept their MP has done wrong and choose someone else than hang on until it starts to irritate people into not voting or switching to other parties.

One of the features of Nick Cleggs leadership was the Lib Dems awful performance in by-elections.  The stakes for the Lib Dems are high, if there is a by-election and the Lib Dems don't improve on 2015, then it is another nail in the coffin.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Military Madness

Why does anyone want the UK to replace the Trident Nuclear Missiles ?

During the cold war, at least the bit I was alive for, I supported the idea of deterrence and Nato having nuclear weapons - I didn't see the point of the UK having it own nuclear weapons.  I couldn't for see anytime when we'd need a British nuclear strike as opposed to a Nato one.

Now the number of MPs lining up to say how vital replacing Trident is quite staggering. Partly I think it is people reliving their early political battles and partly its shear stupidity and inability to think of current and future needs.

History is full of people who prepared for the last conflict, not the next one. Trident is like the Maginot Line, a Dreadnaught in the time of mines and aircraft carriers, a medieval castle in the age of cannon.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

10 million people in the UK entitled to vote aren't even on the electoral register

10 million, that more than voted for the Labour Party at the last general election.

I have often thought that perhaps parliament should have empty seats to represent the people who didn't vote. 

Unfortunately, (or fortunately)  at the last general election 30,691,680 people voted, 66.1% of those registered to vote, that means that something like 15,740,513 people didn't vote, add to them the estimated 8 million not even registered to vote and that's a massive 23.7 million people who could have voted but didn't.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Sarah Palin

Former USA Vice-Presidential candidate has call on immigrants to the USA to speak American  or English.

Palin has had her own brushes with mangling English with her call to "Refudiate" the building of a Mosque (which wasn't a Mosque)
Of course the idea that no one should emigrate without first learning the language comes a bit late for the indigenous nations who occupied the USA before European showed up,

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

gun culture

In 2015 one person has been shot dead by police in Britain. In the US? 680


Monday, 31 August 2015

Infiltrating Labour ? They should be so lucky.

Oh my goodness, 300,000 people have infiltrated the Labour party just so they can vote for Andy Burham, no, hang on that should be Liz Kendall. 
It's bizarre isn't it, I can't think of a single thing that Andy Burnham has said or done that would make me want to join the Labour Party.  More than that, I can't think of Andy think Andy Burnham has done, although I think he was sort of in charge of the NHS, or a junior Minister then shadow Minister for Health.
Usually, I have little sympathy for people who claim not to know who politicians are, I mean how hard is it in the age of the internet and 24 hour news ?

Anyway, back to the main point, it's not Andy Burnham, or Liz Kendall, its Jeremy Corbyn. Apparently, according to some in the Labour Party, the Labour Party has been infiltrated by hard left Trotskyists and they are going to determine the outcome of the Labour Leadership Election.
Now thanks to their new leadership election system about 600,000 are entitled to vote to select the Labour Leader.  All these voters can cast 2nd and third preferences, so for Jeremy Corbyn to win he needs the support of around half those who vote, that is potentially 300,000 people,

Now if there really were 300,000 Trotskyists in the UK, they wouldn't have to join the Labour Party, they would already be the largest political party in the UK.   The reality is that Trotskyists number a few thousand, not ten or hundreds of thousands.
The alarming thing is that it shows that Labour MPs don't understand the appeal of Jeremy Corbyn. just as they don't understand the appeal of UKIP.

Question of the week

Why aren't ghosts naked ?  I can understand the concept of people dying and coming back as 'ghosts' but do their clothes die too ?  Can ghosts change their clothes ? Are they fashion conscious ?
Can ghosts see other ghosts ?

Friday, 14 August 2015

Conservative attacks on Corbyn

The Conservative Party has released figures saying that Jeremy  Corbyn's policies come with a £42 Billion price tag. £42 Billion !  Is that all ???   I mean that would hardly a be a blip to George Osborne.

George Osborne promised to end the gap between what the Government spends and what it gets in taxes in one Parliament.  He failed, and failed big time. HIs figures were out so much that even £42 billion wouldn't help much.

The cost to the taxpayer of the financial crash in 2008 makes £42 billion look like small change.
Last week George Osborne was selling off Government owned share in a Bank at 2/3 of the price the taxpayer paid for them. This is described by him as a 'good deal' .  But then this is the Chancellor who benefits form the enormous tax breaks of a family trust fun. Have you dear reader got a family trust fund ?  I thought not.  Funny what we can afford to fund, tax breaks for the very rich and what we can't afford - housing benefit for under 23 year olds.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Tony Blair's counterproductive attacks on Corbyn

The cardinal rule of influencing people: never tell them that they’re wrong. Instead, search for the part of them that agrees with you, and amplify that. Voters, in any electorate, are people, and people are not logic machines. We think with our feelings

Monday, 10 August 2015

Migrants ?

migrant crisis

Monday, 6 July 2015

The Lib Dem Bourbons

At appalling letter has been written by a collection of massively failed former Lib Dem MPs backing Norman Lamb for Party Leader.
"All of us have been MPs and witnessed at first hand the personal qualities that are needed in a successful party leader.  (eh, we stuck with Nick Clegg, the most disastrous party leader of any party)

The choice we make as Liberal Democrats over the next few weeks is vitally important. It matters for reasons far beyond the future of our party. It can’t be just about making ourselves feel better; (translation - despite the utter failure of our ambition to recast the Liberal Democrats as a right-wing libertarian party  - we still can't acknowledge we were wrong and will belittle the people who pointed out our disastrous errors as only interested in making themselves feel better)

We must be far more ambitious than that. Norman Lamb has demonstrated effectively since 7 May that he shares that ambition. Norman has committed himself to leading a policy and political fightback, reaching out to those millions – particularly young people – who share our values and instincts, but are put off by closed party structures and tribal politics.  (yes, we persist in the absurd belief that people really do support us, they just don't realise it, whereas they DID support us until we reneged on the very things that attracted them to the Lib Dems)

He can set a new tone in our national politics. Norman recognises that we must do the hard work of rebuilding the crucial bonds of trust and hope that we need to play an effective national role. (the trust and hope that was destroyed by the likes the people signing this letter)

Sometimes that will require our leader to take an unpopular stand, or challenge our party to leave its comfort zone.  (what does that mean, it means embrace the lunatic fringe of the libertarian right - personal irresponsibility combined with crony capitalism)
And he understands the importance of campaigning with enthusiasm and integrity for the big causes that matter today. Supporters of human rights, political reform, social justice, UK membership of the EU and international action to stem climate change will all have a powerful champion in Norman
(remind me of the achievements in Government of Nick Clegg and his ministers on political reform ?  defeating UKIP ? )

Lamb. Norman’s record as a constituency MP is outstanding. As a minister he turned liberal policies into action. And he won respect and support for his campaigns on issues such as mental health. (he has an excellent record on mental health, why no mention of his other many high profile achievements if there are any? A list of one is not much of a list)

We are looking for a leader who will inspire us, grow the party and be a persuasive voice for liberalism. We have two great candidates, but have no hesitation in supporting Norman Lamb and urging others to do the same.

I have bolded the MPs who voted for tuition fees. Some of the others had already lost their seats !
Simon Wright went from 1st to 4th in Norwich South, David Laws in Yeovil turned a 13,000 Lib Dem majority into a 5,300 Conservative one, drooping 22% points of vote share back to where it was when Paddy Ashdown first stood in 1979 !  So if your looking for people who made the right call, then these aren't them.

Tom Brake MP (1997-), Paul Burstow (1997-2015), Ming Campbell (1987-2015), Julia Church (Goldsworthy) (2005-10), Ed Davey (1997-2015), Lynne Featherstone (2005-15), Don Foster (1992-2015), Sandra Gidley (2000-10), Stephen Gilbert (2010-15), Matthew Green (2001-5), Nick Harvey (1992-2015), David Heath (1997-2015), John Hemming (2005-15), Julian Huppert (2010-15), Susan Kramer (2005-10), David Laws (2001-15), Mike Moore (1997-2015), Tessa Munt ABSTAINED (2010-15), Bob Russell (1997-2015), Nicol Stephen (1991-92), Mike Thornton (2013-15), Paul Tyler (Feb 1974–Oct 1974 and 1992-2005), Shirley Williams (1981-83, and previously a Labour MP), Stephen Williams ABSTAINED (2005-15), Jenny Willott (2005-15), Simon Wright (2010-15)

Time for nonsense in the drugs debate

`As the debate about so called legal highs rubbles on comparison is often made with the harmful effect of alcohol.  I will declare an interest, I do drink alcohol, but in moderation and infrequently.  Most weeks I probably don't drink, and those when I do it will be a couple of pints or a few glasses of wine or spirits, on one or two days so well within the recommended daily limits.

One 'fact' regularly trotted out is that alcohol is more harmful than other legal and illegal drugs and that it causes 100,000 deaths a year in the UK alone. However, when you try and find the source of this statistic or what alcohol related deaths mean in practice the story that emerges is some what different.

Lets look at Alcohol Concern - they say:

In 2012 there were 8,367  alcohol-related deaths in the UK (In 2013 it was a similar figure 8,416)
Around 63%  (5271) of all alcohol-related deaths in 2012 were caused by alcoholic liver disease
230 people were killed of drink driving accidents in 2012 (out of  9,930 casualties, 1200 of whom suffered serious injury).

How much is drunk by people in a typical week ? When questioned by a survey in 2012:
39% of adults drank no alcohol in the last week
28% of adults drank within the recommended daily amounts
16% drank over the recommended daily amount, but under twice the recommended daily amount
17% of adults drank more than twice the recommended amounts

In rough terms each 2% = 1 million people.

19 Million people drank no alcohol
13.5 Million people drank within the recommended limits
and about 8 million drank over the recommended, limits with another 8 million drinking more than twice the recommended limits.

I have no desire to understate the harm caused by alcohol - alcoholism and alcohol dependency are unpleasant and at time horrific.  The adverse effects of misuse of alcohol can be seen at alcohol concern from crime to ill health to damage to families, friends and society.  Liver disease is a slow and horrible death.

But in terms of users, there are around 30 million weekly alcohol users and 8,367 alcohol related deaths a year.  For illegal drugs, there are around 1,350,000 weekly users and around 2,000 deaths a year.     On these figures 1 in 675 illegal drug users will die, compared to 1 in 3586 alcohol users. Illegal drugs being 5-6 times more dangerous.   But its worse, people don't die to liver disease overnight, it takes years, whereas the long term health effects of most illegal drugs are unknown or haven't filtered through into deaths, yet.
Also most people who take illegal drugs also abuse alcohol.   So when people say - alcohol is worse than illegal drugs - the question is worse for who exactly ?

There were 1,957 deaths related to misuse of illicit drugs in 2014
A large 31% of adults say they have taken at some time an illegal drug, that's 15 million people across the UK. However, far from being a 'drugs culture'  12 million of those people no longer take illegal drugs. Of the 3 million who say they still do take illegal drugs, over half of them, 1,650,000 say they take them less than once a month.

Just 690,000 people take illegal drugs daily, 450,000 take them weekly and 210,000 monthly.

So we are left with just over a million people who take illegal drugs on a daily or weekly basis.

61 per cent of respondents who used illegal drugs in the last year used alcohol at the same time the last time they used drugs. Seven per cent of respondents who used drugs in the last year said that the last time they used drugs, they used more than one drug at the same time.

While smoking the occasional cannabis joint may be relatively low risk for most people, is there really a positive side to crack cocaine, Ketamine or crystal meth in any circumstances ?

The average smoker spends £76.73 on tobacco and the average drinker spends £54.58 per month on alcohol. Drug users who spend money on drugs claim an  average expenditure increases of £74.36. In addition to the money they spend on drugs, active drug users also spend significantly more than the national average on alcohol and tobacco products. 

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Dinner Party

Monty Don
Kevin McCloud
Kate Humble
Pam Ayres
Ruth Goodwin
Colin Baker

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Don't call it a 'fightback'

The Liberal Democrats have to rebuild as a party. Already people are calling for a "fightback" a singularly inappropriate word for the situation. A rebuild, new growth, they would be better words, politics is not a fight or a war, still less a street brawl.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

hedge fund managers don't do anything useful but the top 25 in the UK are obscenely wealthy

2015 rank2014 rankNameCompany2015 wealth (£m)YoY change (£m)
11Alan HowardBrevan Howard1,500-100
22Michael PlattBlueCrest Capital1,500Unchanged
33Alexander KnasterPamplona Capital1,36498
44Sir Michael HintzeCQS1,230175
58Crispin Odey & Nichola PeaseOdey AM1,100580
65Robert MillerSearch Investment Group1,03455
76David HardingWinton Capital1,000250
87Sir Chris HohnChildren's Investment Fund6636
99Martin HughesToscafund51032
1010=Andrew LawCaxton Associates42575
1114=Paul MarshallMarshall Wace400100
1222Chris WokosRivercrest Capital400170
1314=Ian WaceMarshall Wace400100
1410=Sir John BeckwithRivercrest Capital350Unchanged
1514=Yan HuoCapula Investment35050
1613Michael CohenOch-Ziff Capital3355
1714=Sir Paul RuddockLansdowne Partners300Unchanged
1824=John ArmitageEgerton Capital28080
1921Pierre LagrangeMan Group25818
2019=Andy HallAstenbeck Capital250Unchanged
2124=Jonathan HiscockGSA Capital25050
2234=James VernonBrevan Howard250100
2318Hilton NathansonMarble Bar Asset Management230-23
2419=Nicolai TangenAKO Capital225-25
2523Chris LevettMoore Capital220Unchanged

Thursday, 14 May 2015

another reason for Labour to support a democratic voting system

Looking at how the vote was distributed at the general election the Conservatives should, on a uniform swing, be able to secure a majority on a lead of about 6%. Labour would need a lead of almost thirteen points. On an equal amount of votes – 34.5% a piece – the Conservatives would have almost fifty seats more than Labour, Labour would need to have a lead of about four points over the Conservatives just to get the most seats in a hung Parliament. The way the cards have fallen, the system is now even more skewed against Labour than it was against the Conservatives.

How did this happen? It’s probably a mixture of three factors. One is the decline of the Liberal Democrats and tactical voting – one of the reasons the electoral system had worked against the Tories in recent decades was that Labour and Lib Dem voters had been prepared to vote tactically against the Tories, and the Lib Dems have held lots of seats in areas that would otherwise be Tory. Those factors have vanished. At the same time the new dominance of the SNP in an area that was a Labour heartland has tilted the system against Labour. Labour had a lead over the Conservatives of 9% in Scotland, but Labour and Conservative got the same number of Scottish seats because the SNP took them all.
Finally there is how the swing was distributed at this election. Overall there was virtually no swing at all between Labour and Conservative across Great Britain, but underneath this there were variances. In the Conservative held target seats that Labour needed to gain there was a swing towards the Conservatives (presumably because most of these seats were being contested by first time Conservative incumbents). In the seats that Labour already held there was a swing towards Labour – in short, Labour won votes in places where they were of no use to them, piling up useless votes in seats they already held
.And, of course, these are on current boundaries. Any boundary review is likely to follow the usual pattern of reducing the number in seats in northern cities where there is a relative decline in population and increasing the number of seats in the south where the population is growing… further shifting things in the Conservatives favour.

Monday, 11 May 2015

The Lib Dems are doing badly but are they doing badly enough ? How many seats will the Lib Dems win ?

The Lib Dems are doing badly but are they doing badly enough ?

The Liberal Democrat election strategy has been on concentrate all their resources into about 40 seats they believe they can win. It may be even fewer as apparently some seats probably 10-12 are deemed safe enough that they won't get much outside help. These are the ones like Tim Farrons and Norman Lambs where not only do the Lib Dems have a big majority, their opponents haven't really got their act together.

Anyway, so resources are being poured into the selected seats, so money is provided for the printing (and possibly distribution) of leaflets, party workers may be employed to organise volunteers etc,
and members from across the region will be asked to work in these seats - often in "regional action days"

So is it working ?  The Liberal Democrats claim they are doing 'much better'  in their target seats than they are elsewhere.  Whether that is true depends on what one means by 'much better'.  If they mean their poll ratings are much higher in these seats than elsewhere, it is undoubtedly true.  In a sense, it is an odd claim to have to make,  a party is getting its best poll ratings in the places where it has the biggest campaigns.  Well if it wasn't ....

The real question though is will it deliver the MPs the Lib Dem campaign is based upon ?  On this measure things are looking far less rosy.

One of the problems with targeting is that the voters don't always do what is intended. Another is that other parties can spoil the best laid plans.
Looking at the Lib Dem Poll ratings they have not shifted during the election campaign. It seems impossible to reconcile the sort of vote predicted nationally can be broken down so the Lib Dems can win the target seats they expect to.  Put bluntly, they need the 8% to be concentrated in 40 or so places whereas all the evidence points to them getting 5-6% in many places they aren't likely to win leaving not enough extra votes from the total 8% to get to 35-40% in the places they need to.

I suspect that standard voting intention question in the Ashcroft polls reveals the true level of Lib Dem support in these seats.  On that basis, the Lib Dems aren't ahead anywhere.  I am sure they will attract some personal votes, but the expectation seems to be that Lib Dem MPs have thousands and thousands of personal votes, when all pervious elections have suggested very few MPs get more than 1-2000 personal votes, whereas the Lib Dems seem to think they can get 5,000 - 10,000.

With that in mind my prediction is the Lib Dems will win just 12 seats. 

Labour and the future

The Labour Party needs to embrace electoral reform otherwise it will be another 18 years if that before it sees Government again. I don't think the scale of the defeat has sunk in. It is back to 1983 but worse ! The Tories will push through boundary changes, they could very well drive Scotland to independence. They will probably strike at Trade Union Funding and Labour party funding. As always with politics events move on. Parties refighting the last election will always do badly. Electoral reform would be a game changer for Labour. It would mean that Labour/Lib Dems/Greens/UKIP/SNP would all be in favour of voting reform. It would leave the Tories as the odd man out. Instead of mocking PR as some have done, they would be better if they understood how to make it work for Labour. Single Transferable vote in 3 member wards (i.e. made up of the seats of 3 existing MPs would be great. In areas where Labour is strong it would win 2 out of three seats. In areas where Labour is weak it would win 1 in 3. The SNP would be hit hard without a single vote changing. Labour would have MPs in the South and South West. What's not to like ?
Oh, is it that Labour can't bear sharing power with anyone. Labour hates the Lib Dems/Greens/SNP and would rather see a Tory Government than have to co-operate with like minded people. In which case another 18 years is a very very long time and the problems will be worse and the time needed to try and undo the damage will be much longer. Many people will have suffered needlessly. Is that what Labour really wants?

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Jeremy Clarkson - the final word

UKIP says every in the EU wants to live here so why have only 1 in 31,000 come this year ?

Just been reading UKIP propaganda saying "in the last 12 months immigration figures were 625,000"
As the following table from MigrationWatchUK (hardly known for a positive approach to immigration) shows:  Net migration, (immigration minus emigration) was 298,000 year ending September 2014. Why did UKIP use a misleading higher figure ? I can hardly guess.

Net migration form the EU over which UKIP say the UK has ‘no control’ was 162,000 out of 500,000,000 UKIP says have the presumptive right on entry ! (0.0003%, one in every 31,000)
One wonders what the other 499,838,000 are waiting for before coming over to steal “our” jobs whilst simultaneously ”living” on benefits.
Meanwhile, almost as many British people 137,000 went to live elsewhere in the world as came to live in the UK.  UKIP seem confused about whether they will cap immigration, will they cap emigration too ?

All Citizenships
Net Migration

So actually the number of people coming to the UK from the EU is 1/4 of the figure UKIP implies and given that 2-3 million British people who live in other EU countries will lose their right of residency if we leave the EU and be sent back to the UK, presumably net immigration that year will be 2-3 million.

Arthur Scargill has a point !

launching the Social Labour Manifesto Arthur Scargill is reported by the BBC to have said

We believe all faith schools should be abolished as well because they are a breeding ground for prejudice and intolerance. "If Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics or Protestants can go to university together then they can go to school together."

So why aren't there faith Universities ???  I believe in the USA there are. Odd really to think their might be a denominational approach to civil engineering. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

A Lib Dems lots is not a happy one

TUNE/MUSIC – A Policeman’s Lot, Gilbert and Sullivan, Pirates of Penzance
When a Lib Dems out campaigning for election,
His election
Or maturing all his pointless little plans
Little plans
His capacity for losing his deposit
His deposit
Is far more greater than for any other man's
other man's

Our polices we with difficulty smother

'Culty smother
When there's canvassing's and leaflets to be done
to be done.
 Ah, take one consideration with another
 With another,
 A Lib Dems lot is not a happy one.
Ah!,   With elections to be fought and lost and won, 
Lost and won, 
A Lib Dems lot is not a happy one,
happy one.

When your stuck inside a Tory coalitionCoalition. When the voters just think your a waste of timewaste of time, And tuition fees and more than what you promised – what you promisedYou can only hope for better luck next time   Luck next time  
When Nick Clegg is up the creek without a paddle
Without a paddle
And the full horror has only just begun
Just begun
Ah, take one consideration with another
With another
 A Lib Dems lot is not a happy one.

With elections to be fought and lost and won, lost and won, A Lib Dems lot is not a happy one, happy one.

The Pirates of Nick Clegg

I am the very model of a modern Liberal Democrat,
People used to like me, now they think I am a total pratt,
I know the by-election wins, and I quote the fights historical
From Orpington to Bermondsey, in order categorical;
I'm very well acquainted, too, with policies impractical,
I understand elections, both the simple and problematical,
It seems opinion polls are teeming with a lot o' news,
With many cheerful facts about all the seats we're going to lose.

With many cheerful facts about all the seats we're going to lose
With many cheerful facts about all the seats we're going to lose
With many cheerful facts about all the seats we're going to lose

Monday, 30 March 2015

Third humanist killed in the streets of Dhaka

Washiqur Rahman becomes the third humanist to be cleavered to death in the streets of Dhaka

This morning, the humanist satirist and blogger Washiqur Rahman was hacked down not 500 yards from his house, because he criticised religious fundamentalism in a blog. Barely a month has passed since Avijit Roy, the Bangladeshi American founder of the Mukto-Mona blog, was killed in identical circumstances. Ahmed Rajib Haider met a similar end in 2013.

The institutionalised persecution of the non-religious is seen all over the world. In some places, as in Saudi Arabia, the state acts as persecutor. In others, like Bangladesh, a tradition of turning a blind eye to murders committed in the name of blasphemy has given confidence to well-coordinated thugs and terrorists. Following an international outcry over Avijit Roy's death, the man who promised to murder him was arrested for the crime, and afterwards Ahmed Haider's suspected killers were indicted for murder as well. But these late-in-the-day reactions did little to deter the man who killed Washiqur this morning.

As we told the UN this month, states need to act decisively to emphatically and explicitly prohibit murders inspired by perceived acts of blasphemy. A wave of violence now plagues the non-religious in large swathes of the world, and governments, including our own, face a moral obligation to resist it.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Terry Pratchett

Remembering Terry Pratchett (1948–2015): storyteller, campaigner, humanist

We were all saddened to hear of the death of our patron Sir Terry Pratchett last week

Many of us grew up reading his stories and feeling moved by the wonder and joy of the fictional worlds he created.

We were also very lucky to have worked with Terry on a range of issues. As our patron he lobbied with us against 'faith' schools, filmed videos about Humanism for teachers to use in schools, and, after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he became a public face for our longstanding campaign to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill and incurably suffering.

Just last year, he took part in our open letter to the Prime Minister, rebuking him for his damaging assertion that Britain was a 'Christian country'. He also submitted testimony in favour of assisted dying as part of our intervention at the Supreme Court case of Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb, making a powerful plea for the right to die.

Truly, Terry was someone who lived a good life, spreading a great deal of joy and happiness, even transforming his own suffering into a cause for the betterment of all society. We are eternally grateful for all his work, and can only say that we will miss him and that our thoughts are with his loved ones.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

If only Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett had had the figures at her finger tips

The Green Party proposed to spend £5 Billion on affordable housing for rent - that would be paid for by ending tax relief for buy to let and other landlords.

2013 figures from Her Majestys Customs and Revenue (HMCR) show that private landlords claim £5.31 billion a year in mortgage interest and other financial costs and £7 billion in other tax deductible cost including repairs, letting fees and insurance. So the green party could have got another £7 billion ! 

At the moment the Governments spends less than £1 billion a year on the affordable homes programme.

Typically Natalie was interviewed by a right-wing radio presenter who had no ideas about the figures either.

Who could imagine that the Government hands out £22 billion a year in Housing Benefit (largely to private landlords) and a further £12 billion in tax reliefs to private landlords yet spends such a piddling sum on houses for rent and most of them are at 80% market rent and not what used to be called affordable rents.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Power Trip - a decade of policy plots and spin by Damian McBride

Published in 2103 by Gordon Browns former 'spin doctor'  I am reminded of the phrase the banality of evil, in this case the banality of the reality of power.

Perhaps the most disappoint revelation in the book is page 307, chapter 41, "too many mistakes"
in which it say that upon becoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown planned to call a general election on the policies of: "abolition of tuition fees and big cuts in inheritance tax and stamp duty, and a major constitutional reform programme covering the House of Lords, the voting system, war powers and MP's outside income."   As his poll rating bounced anyway and the plans were dropped.

The death of Robin Cook who apparently would have been Browns choice for Chancellor and/or Deputy Prime Minister is also surely a major blow to progressive pluralist politics. Cook who had achieved so much with the Cook-McClennan agreement would surely have driven forward a change to the voting system and a Lib Dem/Labour coalition. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

all together now - the abc of the Beatles songs and albums

by David Rowley -is there anything else to say about the songs of the Beatles ? David Rowley has already written one book "Beatles for Sale" in 2002, but he has started afresh with a new account dismissing his old book as naive.  A jolly good light read for anyone who has ever listened to the Beatles.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The man who knew too much - Alan Turing and the invention of the computer

A concise book about the life and achievements of Alan Turing - mathematician, enigma code breaker and key person in the invention of computers.

It was fascinating to find out how visionary Turing was. 

The tragedy and horror of Turing conviction and punishment for homosexuality is both shocking and disturbing.  That particular law was in place in the UK until 1968, that is within my lifetime.  Perhaps a few people ought to keep that in mind before propounding the idea that the UK is an untarnished beacon for the rest of the world.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Iain Dale predictions of seats the Lib Dems will win.

These are blogger Iain Dales predictions for the Lib Dem seats. I've annotated his words with my own view in bold and or brackets.

I think the LibDems can only be confident of winning 8 seats for definite. And these are…

Leeds North West
North Norfolk
Orkney & Shetland
Ross, Skye & Lochaber (Only so long as Charles Kennedy is candidate)
Sheffield Hallam
Westmorland & Lonsdale (Only because of Tim Farron)
Let me make it clear, I don’t believe the LibDems will only win 8 seats, but these are the only ones I reckon they can be 100% sure of winning.

These are the seats I reckon they can be 100% sure of losing…
Bradford East (to Lab)
Brent Central (to Lab)
Burnley (to Lab)
Manchester Withington (to Lab)
Norwich South (to Lab)
Redcar (to Lab)
Solihull (to Con)
So that’s only 7 seats I reckon the LibDems are dead certain to lose. Which means if you add those to the seats they are dead certain to win, there are 42 which are in doubt. They fall into three categories…
Argyll & Bute (SNP gain they got 50% in the Scottish Parl. elections to the Lib Dems 12%)
Bath (almost certain Lib Dem hold)
Bermondsey & Old Southwark
Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk
Bristol West
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross
Cheltenham (almost certain Lib Dem hold)
Colchester (almost certain Lib Dem hold)
Edinburgh West (SNP gain)
Hazel Grove
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey (Could be lost to the SNP)
Kingston & Surbiton
North Devon
North East Fife
Southport (almost certain Lib Dem hold)
Thornbury & Yate (almost certain Lib Dem hold)
Birmingham Yardley (could stay Lib Dem on Ashcroft polls)
Cardiff Central
East Dunbartonshire
Hornsey & Wood Green

Berwick upon Tweed
Brecon & Radnorshire
Carshalton & Wallington
Eastbourne  (Looks like a Lib Dem hold based on Lord Ashcroft Polling)
Eastleigh    (More likely a Lib Dem hold or UKIP gain)
Mid Dorset & North Poole
North Cornwall
Portsmouth South
Somerton & Frome
St Austell & Newquay
St Ives
Sutton & Cheam (looks like a Lib Dem hold based on Lord Ashcroft Polling)
Taunton Deane
West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine

Gordon SNP Gain

Over all how did things stack up?
Dale predicts 8 Lib Dem definite, 20 Lib Dem probable holds,  7 certain losses and 21 probable losses.  Apart from switching 3 seats in Scotland to Lib Dem losses and 3 seats in England to Lib Dem holds and expecting the Lib Dems to hold onto one seats (perhaps not Birmingham Yardley but one of the 5) from Labour, I think we are in agreement, except at the moment I would put a further 8 Lib Dem seats as definite Conservative gains.
 Of course these are predictions as things stand and things could change. The Lib Dem poll rating could double before polling day- I can dream, can't I ?

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Labour promises

  1. Decent wages – by raising the minimum wage, promoting the living wage and tackling the gender pay gap

  2. Secure jobs now and in the future – by raising the quality of apprenticeships, ending zero hours contracts, and the stopping the exploitation of agency workers

  3. Rights at work – by building partnerships between workers and employers and reforming the employment tribunal system

  4. Saving our NHS – by repealing the Health and Social Care Act and recruiting 20,000 more nurses and 8000 more GPs, paid for by a tax on properties worth £2 million or more, by clamping down on tax avoidance schemes and by a levy on tobacco companies

  5. Helping with the bills – by freezing energy bills, scrapping the bedroom tax, introducing a cap on annual rail fare increases and providing 25 hours of free childcare for working parents with three and four-year-olds
One has to ask - who is this aimed at ? If  your not on minimum wage, if you haven't got 3or 4 year old children. If your not unhappy with your zero hour contract or apprenticeship and have not been dissatisfied by an industrial tribunal what is going to grab your attention and get you down the polling station to vote ?

Labour used to offer shopping list politics. A long list of pledges, not in any priority, each aimed to win other a particular interest group, little attempt at coherence or costing.   That was an awful approach, this seems to be the mirror image.    No doubt polling has told them the public want achievable realistic proposals not vague promises and grand gestures.   But one should always treat such opinion polls with care as they actually very misleading.

More importantly, as a vision for Britain, let alone a programme for Government 'capping annual rail fare increases' doesn't cut the mustard.

Where are the pledges for those wanting housing ? Why not just increase the minimum wage instead of this half way house of the 'living wage'? What are the specifics of crackdown on tax avoidance - presumably the same ones they let continue last time they were in Government ? Also it is not so much tax avoidance but tax allowances which need abolishing.

Harold Nicholson MP

Harold Nicholson by Norman Rose ISBN 0-224-06218-2

Harold Nicholson was a diplomat, politician, biographer, diarist, novelist, lecturer and broadcaster, journalist and gardener.  Never quite making it to the top rank, he never the less was a witness and participant in lot of events.

He is perhaps most remembered for his diaries, which published late in his life and edited by his son, he referred to them as three books he didn't realise he had written and the most successful of his forty books (actually he wrote nearer thirty books not forty)

He had an interesting career, being involved in the conference that followed the ending of WW1 and so worked with Lloyd-George.
His politics were very odd.  Essentially a Whig, the sort of Liberal Grandee who wants to improve the lot of the workers without actually having to have them round to dinner, he zig-zagged  from being a career Diplomat, then standing for Oswald Mosley's "New Party"  - which at the time was essentially a radical progressive off shoot of the Labour party promoting Keynesianism and public works to conquer unemployment.   In spirit it was very similar to the feeling in 1943-1945 when people started thinking if we can do all this in time of war - this organisation, this better treatment for the masses, we should do it in peace time too.

However Mosley soon started his move towards Fascism.  Harold was appointed editor of the New Party newspaper  'Action'. Harold contributed articles of high brow literary artistry such as one entitled "Lift high the Marigold" which perhaps didn't appeal to aspiring black shirts and  which probably explains why circulation plummeted from 160,000 to 15,000 in ten weeks.

He was personally loyal to Oswald Moseley but wrote in his dairies "He has no political judgement. He believes in fascism, I don't I loath it." Harold begged Mosley not to get involved in fascism, saying it was unsuitable for England and would be doomed to failure and ridicule.

Harold switched to the National Labour Party - those few people who followed Ramsey MacDonald into the National (coalition) Government.  National Labour was dying even as Harold was elected to Parliament at the 1935 General Election.  Harold could have easily ended up a Conservative MP had they offered him a seat (he did ask)  and was basically parachuted into as a coalition candidate in Leicester East in a move very much like being given a rotten Borough in the 1800's.

Harold himself recognised he was essentially an old style Whig and would have been more at home in the Liberal Party but recognised they were doomed  (if only he had spotted that with the New Party or National Labour!) although he was friends with Liberal Party Leader Archibald Sinclair.

As an MP Harold had a excellent record opposing appeasement and the rise of Fascism/Nazi's but outside of Foreign Affairs, his speciality, he struggled to make any impact and recognised himself he was unsuited to being an MP.  Harold was more a supporter of Anthony Eden, rather than Churchill. He knew Churchill but wasn't argumentative enough for Churchill tastes.

After a brief junior minister role in the Government, Harold was demoted to the backbenches and lost his seat in the 1945 general Election. Once again he looked around for a party, sending out feelers to Conservative and Labour. He threw in his lot with Labour and stood in a by-election, but soon regretted it. Really he wanted a seat in the House of Lords, politics without all those pesky constituents and elections but he managed to upset both Labour and Conservatives so that neither were inclined to nominate him.

Oddly (or perhaps more generously not unusual for someone of his times and background) Harold held   Typical of his views was that he hated black people but hated injustice and apartheid even more.   He hated anti-Semitism but disliked Jews and made anti-Semitic comments toward them.  He was derogatory about Turks, Arabs, Japanese and the "coloured races".
Trade Unionists were "ghastly" the working class and the middle class were pigeonholed as  "sheep" and "dumb idiots".  He at least felt uneasy knowing that he was asking for votes from people who's views he disagreed with and who would disagree with his views should they know them.   He fell out with Anthony Eden over Suez (or Suez fiasco as it is usually termed)

Ironically his son became a Conservative MP but was deselected for being far too Liberal for the deep blue constituency party in Bournemouth.

Harold private life is covered too.  As a homosexual man married to a Lesbian wife, Vita Sackville West they had a strange but loving relationship which worked for them in the times they live in.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

One in the eye for Harold

A great little book by Phil Mason taking on so well worn historical myths.

Some of my faves are:
The Vikings were mainly peaceful settlers not sacking monasteries
Far from being desolate - Hadrian's wall was surrounded by settlements and farms
Breaking the enigma code wasn't entirely positive as suing too much information would have given away the fact it had been broken and even when info was passed on commanders weren't told where information came from and couldn't trust it.
The constitution of the USA wasn't easily agreed by wise men but cobbled together, especially the amendments and the wild west wasn't very wild.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Give Blood

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Sunday, 11 January 2015

Last man standing - by Roger Moore

A very good collection of reminisces and tales form Roger Moore from across his acting career.
It had been wonderfully spoofed in Private Eye Magazine but it is genuinely self depreciating about himself and revealing about the many many stars he has met.

from the telegraph

Friday, 9 January 2015

Let the Green Party join the debate

There is an air of absurdity to the Ofcom ruling that the Green Party are not a major political party but UKIP are. 

Everyone seems to bring their own highly biased view of what should entitle a party leader to take part in a televised debate.  Usually it is the qualification that ensures their own favoured party has a place and cuts off another party.

To my mind, the key determinant should be the number of candidates a party is standing.  There was (and perhaps still is) a understanding that any party standing 50 candidates at a General Election is entitled to a party Political Broadcast.

The same principle should apply to the Leaders Debates.  Not to do so gives a catch 22 situation where a party, particularly a smaller party  is not given the opportunity to increase its support and then the failure to increase support is in turn is used as the justification for not giving it the Party the opportunity to increase support.

A change is going to come

So here's the scenario - the Conservatives get 30% of the vote and 280 seats Labour get 31% and 260 seats, the SNP 50 seats and UKIP (15), Lib Dems (25) and Northern Ireland (18) and others get 60 between them. (plus the speaker)
People notice that Labour got more votes than the conservatives but fewer seats, UKIP and the Greens got more votes than the Lib Dem and SNP but fewer seats.  Nearly 40% of people didn't vote Labour or Conservative yet they have less than 40 seats in England and Wales out of 572. 
The Conservatives as the party with the largest number of MPs forms a minority Government, the 70% who didn't vote for them  almost 85% of the electorate) get mightily pissed off.   The new Labour Leader, stuffed by FPTP in Scotland, claiming an moral election victory because of winning more votes for the Tories and despairing of winning a majority announces support for electoral reform.  Suddenly leaders of parties who got 70% of the vote want electoral reform. Alternate Vote has already been rejected so a proper proportional system is the only option.

when dreadful things happen

The awful and callous murder people in Paris in shocking and horrifying.  It is heart breaking to witness the actions of a few humans.

Almost all death is sad, these deaths in Paris seem particularly sad as they were so unnecessary.

We have to remember though that according to the World Health Organization, 56 million people die each year, which is an average of about 153,424 people each day.  The majority of people die peacefully but there will be many who die prematurely and often avoidably from murder, war, famine, unwanted illness or accident.

There are now over 7 billion people on the planet.  It may be horrific to say it, but billions of us could die and human life would go on.  What terrorist atrocity could ever

There are many responses to terrorist attacks - I think the best is for life to continue as normally as possible.  Ensure maximum help is given to the victims, their families, friends and communities affected but pay tribute to them by not dancing to the terrorist tune. Terrorism that doesn't inspire terror has failed.

music mestro please

Graham Nash said the magic of music was to write a song so personal everyone can relate to it.

Thanks to Jackson Browne, Suzanne Vega and Country Joe McDonald - you will never know how much you mean and meant to me but I am sure you would pleased if you knew.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Nostradamus - right again!

One of my favourite books - Nostradamus the end of the Millennium prophecies 1992-2001
on the front cover makes the prediction 1992 - George Bush Re-elected.  Good start as Bill Clinton was elected, not George Bush.

You might have missed the Californian Earthquake in 7.05pm on 8th May 1993  when San Diego disappeared beneath the Pacific Ocean. Worse than Krakatoa, masses of land from San Francisco in the North to the Lower California peninsula in the South are flooded and made useless. Los Angeles is destroyed, as is Hollywood - the geography of this part of the world will be permanently changed. A Tsuanmi (or more than on) hits Mexico but good news, after the quake the San Fransico Golden Gate Bridge is rebuilt.

Here are some other predictions that didn't happen:

Mrs Thatcher's re-election as Conservative Party leader in 1995, or indeed the Conservatives being in opposition in 1995.  (or is it 1996)

Aliens on television in 1998

Fraud destroys the Swiss financial system in 1995

War between Greece and Turkey 1994-1998

Israel defeated in war by her Arab Neighbours 1995-1998

The Coronation of King Charles in 1992-93

The ordination of the first women priests into the Church of England in 1995 (tough luck it happened in 1994 !)

The curing of all cancers by sound waves, the reversing of the aging process, need I go on ?

Predicting the General Election 2015

Predictions as all "psychics" know are best made after the event or with get out clauses or when stating the bleedin obvious.

However, by common consent the UK general election 2015 will be one of the most unpredictable for a long while - probably since 1945.

The most obvious prediction is a hung parliament - if the Conservatives failed to get a majority in 2010 against an unpopular Labour Party and unpopular Labour Prime Minister it is difficult to see how a grateful nation will reward five years of austerity and with more votes in 2015.

However, the British First past the post voting system makes predicting exact results very difficult if not impossible. A handful of votes  can quite literally change the result in a number of seats.
In 2015 we face the following swings and roundabouts.
a) The biggest change is likely to be in Scotland where on current trends the SNP is likely to win 50 or more of the 59 seats.  

b) The second change will be the near annihilation of the Liberal Democrats.  Currently with 57 MPs they are likely to lose the majority of them.   Some of these are the most difficult to predict. Lord Ashcroft has undertaken polls in many of the Lib Dem held seats (and a few they almost won)  on the ordinary voting intention question the Lib Dems where ahead in none of them - only when a second question asking people to think about their own constituency did the Lib Dems get back ahead  in some of the seats (more on this in another post) - taking an optimistic view the Lib Dems are currently set to lose 9 seats to the  Conservatives, 9 to Labour and 9 to the SNP.

c) Labour ought to be winning seats form the Conservatives - on current levels of Labour support the will do so.  Currenty they are on 34% to the Conservatives 31% compared to 29% and 36% respectively in 2010.

Fascinating when Labour got 28% of the vote cast in 1983 it got 209 MPs, 29% in 2010 netted then 258 MPs. The Liberal SDP Alliance got 26% of the vote in 1983 but got only 23 MPs.

d) UKIP is rather unpredictable - looking at the results from local and European elections and from constituency polls by Lord Ashcroft it is obvious that while UKIPP support is rather evenly spread, it does have some areas of strength.  Seemly these are based more on the demographics of the seat and  less on the amount of campaigning by UKIP. My hunch is that they will win about 12 seats mostly from the Conservatives but with a couple from Labour and the Lib Dems

e) The Green Party has only one MP and in unlikely to add many more - but in the increasingly fractured political system they could have the opportunity to establish themselves as a national force.  They outpolled the Lib Dem in the election for Mayor of London and in the European elections. They have wisely decided to target just a few seats - I suspect their best chance of a win is in Bristol. What could be crucial for their future success is their share of the vote.  Some opinion polls have hed them as high as 9 and 10% although 5-6% is more typical - 5-6% is  big improvement on the 2% they usually poll.