Thursday, September 28, 2006

The veneer of democracy.

I have been wondering this past week about democracy and how real democracy is. Governments claim that we have democracy and that it is growing in the free world. I do have severe doubts about these claims made by our elected representatives. We all know that these representatives are not themselves representative of the electorate - disposable income is an easy marker to show the vast differences between us and them.

Here in the UK we get the chance to vote every few years for council and central government representatives. That is all we get, just one vote per person every few years for a representative, not policies or decisions. Behind this facade there are lobby groups who persuade government in various directions. We have consultations with business where employers can have more say in government than the employees who elect parliament. Still rumbling along is the cash for peerages scandal. Wealthy individuals can donate or loan money to political parties to influence government policy. That is undemocratic but money talks. Meanwhile the electorate is fooled into believing that government is being led by voters not a wealthy few.

Time and time again governments lecture us about democracy and how important votes are. It is not just here in the UK that politicians drone on about democracy but behind the scences other forces are very much at work. we know just how much the Jewish lobby forces American policy. In Thailand they have just had a military coup backed by a monarch - how much more undemocratic can you get? Many countries like Tunisia forbid free speech, so there is no opposition to government policy. However, what is the point of free speech when the general public has no influence in the day to day process of government?

The answer to these questions is that we do not have a valid democracy here in the UK or other countries throughout the world. Democracy is a sham and government is pointed by a wealthy few. It matters little which figureheads are at the top of government because the real decisions are taken behind closed doors by a wealthy few. The democracy that many claim we have is simply a veneer - the veneer of democracy.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The death of Vibe.

The regular radio station that I listened to as I drove my car to and from work was Vibe which broadcast on the frequency of 101 FM. The station broadcasted as normal as I went to work on Sunday 3rd September 2006 but on Monday 4th September 2006 there was no Vibe station to be heard on that frequency. Instead on the 101 FM frequency were test transmissions for Kiss , a radio station that was to go live at 07.00 on Wednesday 6th September 2006.

Looking at the Vibe website for an explanation my browser redirected me to the Kiss website. You can click on the 101 West Listen Live link which brings you to Radio Player Site which declares that it used to be called Vibe 101.

Well I have listened to the new Kiss radio station for 2 whole weeks now and my verdict is "sorry guys but you have lost a listener for good. I have now switched my car radio to Red Dragon which is far better for me than what is on offer from Kiss."

I used to like Vibe because it was fresh, the music was new and the DJ banter was professional, witty and made the listener feel part of the community here in South Wales. This Kiss radio station plays different music with a lot of hip hop and gangster rap. The Kiss DJ's talk very amateurish, "Yap, Yap" as though they live in a black ghetto in America. The listener does not feel part of a community and the world of Kiss seems very far away.

The music on offer at Red Dragon is mainstream and ranges from 1980 to now. The banter of the DJ's is lively and the whole feel of the radio station is cosy. You feel as though you are listening to friends in the local pub.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Deadly Harvest.

Front page in my newspaper today is this story about the deadly harvest that is being reaped in Lebanon. The harvest of 1.2 million unexploded bomblets sitting behind after Israel flooded cluster bombs over Lebanon in the last 72 hours before the ceasefire. A commander in the MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) unit told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the army had fired 1,800 cluster rockets, spraying 1.2 million bomblets over houses and fields. "In Lebanon, we covered entire villages with cluster bombs," he said. "What we did there was crazy and monstrous." What makes the cluster bombs so dangerous is that 30 per cent of the bomblets do not detonate on impact. They can lie for years - often difficult to see because of their small size, on roofs, in gardens, in trees, beside roads or in rubbish - waiting to explode when disturbed.

Latest update on cluster munition problem in south Lebanon shows that the number of recorded civilian casualties directly attributable to cluster munitions since the ceasefire is: 83 (74 injured and 9 dead). Of this figure of 83 casualties, 20 are children.

What a legacy Israel has left the people of Southern Lebanon. The people never deserve this, playing roulette with the harvest. How can the people farm their land or rebuild and return to their homes. It is a lottery going out for a walk or onto the roof of your home. I love taking my dog for a walk here in the UK, he is a scavange and roots into undergrowth everywhere. In Lebanon he would not live long before he detonated a bomblet which is about the size and look of a tennis ball or torch batteries with ribbons. Without the farmers harvesting their crops there will be economic ruin over this whole area. No tourists will want to wander about in this minefield which will take a long time to clear. It is anybody's guess how many years the mine clearance will take. Could you imagine what the Western world would have said if it was Israel who had these bomblets littered on her land? This is a crime against humanity and the culprit is Israel. Shame on Israel for yet another war crime and their attitude to a ceasefire where the munitions they delivered on Lebanon are not spent, they are simply waiting for the next victim.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The long tale of the feathered edge fence has finally come to and end.

On Wednesday, 9th March 2005, Mr C. Black of 7, Whinberry Way, St Fagans, Cardiff erected a fence enlarging his garden by 8.30m wide and 14.00m long. This equates to an increase of his garden size by 116 sq metres from the landscape that was in the public domain along the pavement. I reported this to our council who had not received a planning application for the erection of this fence.

Mr C. Black then made a retrospective planning application to our council which I opposed stating...

This house is a part of Westfield Park, an open plan estate, that has been landscaped and has bloomed over the past 6 years. As you come onto the estate and turn right on the roundabout you enjoy the look of the good use of open space, the staggered housing and the numerous bushes and shrubs in front of numbers 1 and 3 Crosswells Way.

Since the owner of No7 Whinberry Way has moved his fence 8.30m outwards onto the edge of the pavement, you are now greeted with the starkness of a fence in the style of a construction site. If this was a building site, when the work was completed the hoardings would be removed but this fence could remain forever. The area taken over since this fence was moved is equivalent to having another house on the end of the road. Out of view is the 116sq metres of landscaping complete with a tree that once enhanced the look of this estate. A lot of thought has gone into the design of this estate and now the character of this estate has changed.

Around this estate there are a number of visibility splays created from block paving, there is one outside of my home. This fence before the junction restricts visibility just where a child could run out into the road.

This planning application was refused by our council and the reasons given were...

The application was determined on 23/08/2005 when it was resolved that:

That planning permission be REFUSED for the following reason(s):

The fence is an obtrusive feature in the street scene, by reason of it's height, materials, prominent corner siting and the enclosure of the exsisting landscaped area, which forms an important part of the character of this estate. It is therefore contrary to Policy 11 (Design and Aesthetic Quality) of the Cardiff Local Plan as well as Policy 2.20 (Good Design) of the deposit Cardiff Unitary Development Plan.

Nothing then happened and the fence remained in it's place. I then wrote to our council and Mr C. Black decided to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

The Planning Inspectorate considered his appeal and decided...

Appeal Decision

Site visit made on 04/04/06

by Anthony H Vaughan

an Inspector appointed by the National Assembly for Wales

Date 25/04/2006

Appeal Ref: APP/Z6815/A/06/1197717

Site address: 7 Whinberry Way, St Fagans, Cardiff.

The National Assembly has transferred the authority to decide this appeal to me as the appointed Inspector.

The appeal is made by Mr C Black under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against the decision of the Cardiff County Council to refuse to grant planning permission.

The application ref:05/01422/W, registered by the Council on 16 June 2005, was refused by notice dated 23 August 2005.

The development is for the retention of a feathered edge fence.


1. For the reasons given below, I dismiss this appeal.


2. The fence that has been erected is both prominent and overbearing in appearance. In my opinion, the proximity to the highway of this discordant and unprepossessing enclosure mars the residential alignment at the entry to Crosswells Way, spoiling the character and openness of the present housing layout. To permit the fence to remain would breach both Policy 11 of the City of Cardiff Local Plan which is the Development Plan and Policy 2.20 of the emerging UDP.

3. I have taken account of the claims regarding the problems of maintenance of the landscaped strip, its allegedly unauthorised use as a play and dog exercise area and domestic security. I have also considered all other matters raised in the submissions, including other fencing projects in the locality, and the letters of support that have been submitted, but find nothing that turns me away from my decision.


The fence remained in the same position so I emailed the Planning Inspectorate and then our council and nothing happened until Sunday 3rd September 2006 when Mr C. Black moved his whole fence backwards an exact 2.00m from the pavement. I was pleased that he has moved the fence back 2.00m although not the original 8.3m and I have now received a letter from our council that puts this issue to an end...

7 Whinberry Way, St Fagans, Cardiff

I refer to the fence erected to the side garden of the above-mentioned property.

The owner has now moved the fence from the back of pavement to such an extent that it is now considered to be "permitted development", under the Town and Country planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, and that the breach of planning control has now been remedied.

I regret, therefore, that there is no further action I can take in this matter.

Yours sincerly,

Stuart Bannister
for Planning Enforcement Manager.

So this now draws this tale to an end.

I am pleased at the eventual outcome. I think Mr C. Black just acted hoping that nobody would be bothered and he could then build another house in his garden as the extended area would have become accepted use. I thought his arrogance at ignoring planning applications, procedure and declarations needed to be challenged as his fence positioning changed the character of our road. Once he had moved his fence the ambience we enjoyed on this estate had been lost, possibly forever. I am pleased that our council stood up to him although he clearly thought I had forgotten about the issue! I think that had I not kept on then the fence would not have moved or the council taken any action. So I claim this a victory, for common sense and my journalistic skills. I claim 2.00m by 14.00m that is 28sq metres! Democracy in action and one man's arrogance defeated by a typewriting bus driver! Oh, what I pretty green road I live on and how nice the residents keep their gardens.
I cannot think of a title for this post as I feel so ashamed.

On Wednesday I called into Moto Lancaster Services on the M6 motorway in Lancashire. I stopped there for a rest and a bite to eat. I stood there at the hot food counter behind a couple who were being served. This couple moved away and a bloke came up to the counter and barked at the assistant that he could not find any butter and that the cashier had told him to come back to her. She went into her kitchen and brought back a box full of produce and gave him a number of portions. He then growled at her saying that these packets were not butter but margarine - "this is pathetic!" he declared as he stormed off. The assistant did not challenge or correct him and simply took his abuse in her stride and asked me what I would like. I fancied the hot roast beef with a Yorkshire wrap that was advertised and she told me there would be a delay of 7 minutes whilst she cooked my dinner, could I pay for it and then return to her counter. This was fine by me so I said OK and continued to the coffee counter. The staff were very busy whilst I waited at this counter when I heard a whisper at my side. "Please Sir" was the whisper I heard, the whisper you would hear a child say to a Headmaster before being whipped with a cane. "I am very sorry Sir " the assistant from the hot food counter continued to say "the Yorkshire wraps are in the fridge but the beef is all frozen". She looked at me as though I was a god who may decide to unleash a bolt of lightening from the heavens to destroy her. I assured her that was OK and I would have the all day breakfast brunch instead.

I was amazed at how servile her attitude was, food is subject to availability. When it has gone, it has gone. What is the big deal about butter or margarine? OK, I prefer butter rather than margarine but it is no big deal. OK, so my first choice of dinner was not available but there were other meals available and anyway, I like most UK citizens, am a few pounds overweight and a lack of a dinner would not kill me. Most British people do not know the true meaning of hunger or starvation. I felt so ashamed because of "butter man's" attitude and the fact that someone, somewhere else in the world would that day die through lack of food. When you are hungry or starving any food is welcome, very welcome to prolong your life and to relieve your suffering. It was only a dinner I was asking for, it would not cost me any pain if I did not get one. I have enough fat reserves to carry me through for a number of days without any discomfort. It was sad that this assistant was worried about any complaints coming from overweight gods who may put a complaint into management about some perceived lack of service. How this assistant did not stand up and say that this is all that is available, take it or leave it - I do not know. She is a saint but is probally not appreciated by the bullying customers who demand what is not available in her kitchen. Why should she be so servile to these overweight gods? "Butter Man" makes me feel ashamed at how British people can be so arrogant when other people in this world are starving - to death.

By coincedence there was a story in my newspaper today that sums up why I felt so ashamed at the attitudes I witnessed on Wednesday at Moto Lancaster Services...

Though she wasn't expecting visitors, Itidal al-Nazli, 35, was happy to display the sparse contents of her refrigerator. Despite the daily and lengthy interruptions to electricity supply since the Israelis bombed Gaza's only power station in early July, it's where she still stores the more perishable food for her family of 10 children. Yesterday morning, after the family had breakfasted on two large potatoes and an aubergine donated by a kindly neighbour, it contained six rather shrivelled peppers, a bag of coffee, three olives in a bowl, a bag of charcoal, and three bags containing crusts of bread.

"But now there is nothing. We don't have anything. The children eat the same food as I do - lentils and beans. Meat? We never see it." Sometimes, she says, neighbours give them handouts of a few vegetables and fruit. "I have no milk for the children," she says, rubbing her thumb and fingers together to show the problem is money and not shortages.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I read a story in my newspaper today about what the UK pays it's soldiers abroad.

The average salary of a newly qualified soldier is £14,300 before tax - compared with about £20,000 for a police officer. In a combat zone, being on duty for a minimum of 16 hours gives the troops an hourly rate of £2.45. There is also a longer service separation allowance of about £6 a day, but this only applies to those who have served at least 12 months away from home.

This is well below the current national minimum wage of £ 5.05 an hour, which is due to rise to £5.35 next month. In reality the figures for soldiers' earnings are even worse. In Helmand, where British forces are involved in some of the heaviest fighting in the Army's recent history, there is little respite from incessant attacks and they are, in effect, on duty all the time. Lt-Gen David Richards, the British commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, said soldiers were enduring "days and days of intense fighting, being woken up by yet another attack when they have not slept for 24 hours. This sort of thing has not happened so consistently, I don't think, since the Korean War or the Second World War. It happened for periods in the Falklands, obviously, and it happened for short periods in the Gulf on both occasions. But this is persistent, low-level dirty fighting."

The soldiers get free accommodation and food while based in combat positions such as Helmand. But they still pay council tax on their barracks rooms in Britain, and, back home, they also pay for food and board.

The armed forces were to be brought into the minimum wage structure by the incoming Labour Government in 1997. But the idea was dropped after pressure from the then Defence Secretary, George Robertson, who claimed it would put the military into a financial and legal straitjacket.

I read the above article and just wondered. Here in the UK we have a lot of Polish workers coming into the UK and doing our jobs for lower rates of pay. We now have the highest unemployment levels for the last six years and I am seeing lots of Polish registered lorries on our motorways. I also see loads of Polish coaches unloading passengers in London and the numbers are increasing every week. As Poland is now part of the EU and it's workers are travelling abroad why don't we have some Polish soldiers in our Army on cheap labour rates? They could even have their own regiment, their own colours and a logo with the slogan - "Polkillski, the new name in murder".

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tony Blair.

There has been tremendous media interest this week about Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the UK. Media commentators and politicians are asking when Tony Blair will step down from being Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party. I am amazed at how much time and column inches this issue has gained. I do not think that the media in the UK should have made such a big story out of this speculation. It is nothing more than speculation by the media and some political back benchers. If I was a journalist I would not be wasting my time with this issue which I consider to be a non-story.

Tony Blair was elected by his constituents to be their MP in the UK Parliament. They and only his constituents can elect him as their MP. The Labour Party elected Tony Blair to be their leader and therefore Prime Minister. The Labour Party and only the members of the Labour Party can elect their own leader.

I do not like the policies and style of government that Tony Blair has delivered but we have a democracy here in the UK and this is the way it works. The people had the chance to vote and they have voted. People have no right to decide when, if at all, Tony Blair should stand down. He is our Prime Minister and that is the way it should stay without any nagging by other people who had their own chance before to seek election as an MP.

I think the media and the back benchers should lay off Tony Blair and leave him alone to do the job for which he was elected. The media should be reporting news that really matters to people not this worthless speculation. Any Labour Party back benchers who are unhappy with the leadership of the party by Tony Blair are welcome to leave the Labour Party and join another political party, start their own party or stand as an independent.

I short, leave the bloke alone. You elected him, now let him lead our government.

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