Sunday, March 30, 2008

Vote for Ken as London Mayor

I read the above article yesterday in the newspaper about the 3 candidates for the election of the next Mayor for London. I cannot vote in the London elections because I live in Cardiff but I can and will express my opinion. London is not just for Londoners and many people travel regularly into London like I do. London is holding the 2012 Olympics which will bring a lot of money into the whole of the UK and we will benefit from this knock on effect even in Cardiff. Ken Livingstone was tremendous in his help in bringing the Olympics to Britain.

Of the 3 candidates Ken Livingstone is the best one to vote for. When you examine his track record and what he has done for London you will realize why. Boris is a wonderful television character but I cannot support any politician who endorsed the evil Section 28 legislation. Brian was a Police Officer and you know how much I hate their policy of closing roads at the drop of a hat.

Ken Livingstone is the most capable and most experienced candidate of the 3. We know what good he has done for London and he is the one who comes out best in interviews. He will never be as entertaining as Boris but this is politics not television. You want the job of London Mayor done well rather than be entertained by a witty commentator.

Vote for Ken - you know it makes sense.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Now You're Gone by Basshunter .

We bought a CD the other week called Now That's What I Call Music! 69 and it is great to have playing in our car. Sometimes I hear a tune and it just hits the spot. This track, number 3 on disc 1, is my favourite as it has that holiday Eurodance sound that I just love to hear. The single Now You're Gone peaked at No.1 on the UK Singles Chart in 2008 and the British iTunes Chart. Now You're Gone stayed at the UK No.1 spot for five weeks before being knocked off by Welsh female artist Duffy with her song "Mercy". The single uses the same music as "Boten Anna" , a major European hit in 2006, but its lyrics, performed in English are completely different. The arrangement of this song is classic and the listener can imagine they are on holiday dancing around a swimming pool without a care in the world, living a dream.

The song works well in both languages and all you want to do is dance. Watch the video's below to appreciate just how good the English and Swedish versions are.

In English - Now You're Gone

In Swedish - Boten Anna

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You want to do what?

Give me that idea again, you want to fix a propeller to a motor cycle engine, carry that engine on your back whilst grabbing a parachute to fly over the top of Mount Everest ? Are you stupid or is this an April Fools joke? No, this was Mission Everest.

Click the link above and you will find out about the documentary I saw on Channel 4 television last night. Daft as it may seem but Bear Grylss and his friend Gilo Cardozo had a go at this challenge. What the viewer got was a wonderful inspiring documentary about the achievement of childhood dreams.

This pair of adventurers had a wonderful time on their voyage of discovery. It was not plain sailing for either of them and there were many pitfalls along the way. Both men put great strain on their relationships with their wives. They both worked long hours getting this project to happen. This whole idea was fraught with tremendous danger, danger of death to both men as it is easy to get their parachutes twisted which would result in them falling like a stone to their deaths. On the trial in a wind tunnel Gilo Cardozo forgot to put anti-freeze in his paramotor, with the obvious engine failure. On a test flight one of the parachutes got twisted and it was a life and death struggle to untangle the leads before Bear Grylss crashed to his death in a Wiltshire field.

When they set off from the UK they both knew about the dangers involved and that death was a serious reality. It was very moving the scene at the airport when Bear Grylss said a very tearful goodbye to his wife and children. It was clear to the viewer that his wife felt that this would be the last time ever she would see her husband alive.

They had a tense wait for the weather to clear for their challenge. Their safety margins were very slim and they aborted their first opportunity on a vote. It would have been extremely foolish to have gone in those circumstances. But their were more pitfalls to come. Computer failure with their weather monitoring balloon lost them vital launch time. When they took off the wind made radio communication virtually inaudible. At higher altitudes their altimeters and GPS devices froze and failed so their actual achieved heights were not recorded. As if nothing else could go wrong the supercharger drive belt on Gilo Cardozo's paramotor failed which meant he had to parachute back down to earth. Bear Grylss continued upwards but his height was not recorded. The viewer is left with the feeling that all things being equal Bear Grylss succeeded in flying higher than Mount Everest. Both men had a successful landing with no injuries. They had pulled off their challenge, much to the relief of their families and support team. The viewer was left on the edge of their sofa in the safety and comfort of their own homes. What a programme, brilliant. Well done guys, you did it and you made the viewers proud to be British. You showed that British stiff upper lip and determination to succeed when the going gets tough, very tough and cold.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Truth about Muhammad by Robert Spencer .

I have finished reading the book called The Truth about Muhammad by Robert Spencer. This book was written in 2006 and published in paperback in 2007. Robert Spencer is a director of Jihad Watch a wonderful website that reveals the jihad and other problems spreading the world in the name of Islam. Muslims regularly disagree with free speech and expression by giving out death threats to anyone who criticizes their religion or their prophet, Muhammad. Because of these threats Robert Spencer lives in an secure, undisclosed location. It would be stupid for me to criticize Muhammad or Islam in this blog in case Muslims are offended. Therefore I will only discuss the reader experience you get from reading this book.

I bought this book for £7.24 on Amazon and it is worth every penny. The government of Pakistan announced on 20 December 2006 its ban on Robert Spencer's book, The Truth About Muhammad, citing "objectionable material" as the cause. This is a shame because this book tells the truth that Muslims want to keep quiet. Robert Spencer reveals the life, actions and preaching of Muhammad using as sources the Islamic holy books of the Qur'an, the Hadith and the Sira.

Reading this book the reader understands the history of Islam, how it started and how Muhammad is worshiped as the holder of "an excellent example of conduct" which Muslims strive to follow and emulate. This is why Islam is not the religion of peace that Muslims claim it is but the most intolerant religion on earth. At the end of this book you understand just what is happening today because Muslims are following the actions and preachings of Muhammad. Robert Spencer has given you the missing pieces of the jigsaw so that you can see the full picture. Everything now makes sense to me and I understand what has gone wrong over the last 1,400 years. The Prophet of Islam is not a hero but a violent political activist of his day. It is a shame that so many people today follow his example and that our politicians still let Muslims publicly proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace when clearly it is not.

If you ever wanted to know what makes Muslims tick then this is the book for you. It explains all those things you always wondered about and you can then understand the religious impulse that drives Islam today.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five years on and things are no better.

Five years ago today the war started against Iraq. We are no further on in this war that George Bush claimed would last only 5 months. It is a very long running news story that has drawn me in from the start. I read about the problems in Iraq a lot and follow the developments like a sports fan will follow his chosen sport. This is not a spectator sport to enjoy but history in the making where many lives are lost on a daily basis. Click the link above to read in full the article Robert Fisk wrote that made the front page of The Independent newspaper today. He puts into perspective the reality of the war in Iraq and how politicians are not learning from history. I agree with what he has written and his conclusions which I will quote below. I understand his frustrations as a journalist witnessing this senseless bloodshed on a daily basis. There was never any need for this war the West had started and I cannot see it ending this year or the next. I will continue reading about the problems within Iraq that have been caused by the West not minding it's own business like a sports fan follows the same team from season to season.

In the words of Robert Fisk...

It is a grotesque truism that today – after all the posturing of our political midgets five years ago – we might at last be permitted a valid seance with the ghosts of the Second World War. Statistics are the medium, and the room would have to be dark. But it is a fact that the total of US dead in Iraq (3,978) is well over the number of American casualties suffered in the initial D-Day landings at Normandy (3,384 killed and missing) on 6 June, 1944, or more than three times the total British casualties at Arnhem the same year (1,200).

They count for just over a third of the total fatalities (11,014) of the entire British Expeditionary Force from the German invasion of Belgium to the final evacuation at Dunkirk in June 1940. The number of British dead in Iraq – 176 – is almost equal to the total of UK forces lost at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-45 (just over 200). The number of US wounded in Iraq – 29,395 – is more than nine times the number of Americans injured on 6 June (3,184) and more than a quarter of the tally for US wounded in the entire 1950-53 Korean war (103,284).

Iraqi casualties allow an even closer comparison to the Second World War. Even if we accept the lowest of fatality statistics for civilian dead – they range from 350,000 up to a million – these long ago dwarfed the number of British civilian dead in the flying-bomb blitz on London in 1944-45 (6,000) and now far outnumber the total figure for civilians killed in bombing raids across the United Kingdom – 60,595 dead, 86,182 seriously wounded – from 1940 to 1945.

Indeed, the Iraqi civilian death toll since our invasion is now greater than the total number of British military fatalities in the Second World War, which came to an astounding 265,000 dead (some histories give this figure as 300,000) and 277,000 wounded. Minimum estimates for Iraqi dead mean that the civilians of Mesopotamia have suffered six or seven Dresdens or – more terrible still – two Hiroshimas.

Yet in a sense, all this is a distraction from the awful truth in Buchanan's warning. We have dispatched our armies into the land of Islam. We have done so with the sole encouragement of Israel, whose own false intelligence over Iraq has been discreetly forgotten by our masters, while weeping crocodile tears for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died.

America's massive military prestige has been irreparably diminished. And if there are, as I now calculate, 22 times as many Western troops in the Muslim world as there were at the time of the 11th and 12th century Crusades, we must ask what we are doing. Are we there for oil? For democracy? For Israel? For fear of weapons of mass destruction? Or for fear of Islam?

And until we learn to leave these Muslim peoples alone, our catastrophe in the Middle East will only become graver. There is no connection between Islam and "terror". But there is a connection between our occupation of Muslim lands and "terror".

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Battle for Haditha .

I watched the film called Battle for Haditha on Channel 4, plus the follow up programme about the cover up by the American Marines on More 4 last night. I am familiar with the tragic events that happened at Haditha in Iraq on 19 November 2005. The film was a very realistic re-enactment of what actually happened in the lead up to that tragic day, the horrific slaughter and the aftermath. The true horror of that day was shown together with the very strong emotions expressed by all parties. It is right that Channel 4 has made and broadcast this film so that the public can understand the grim reality of what really happened. You realise how people will openly lie to get away with murder and how work mates will stick together no matter how evil their actions have been. These events were truly shocking but it is better that the truth has come out in the end. The film was very well done and I can recommend other people to watch it if it is repeated.

The follow up programme about the cover up by the Americans was very gripping. It is terrible that at the end of the day these Marines have got away with murder. All the Marines have walked away free from their acts of genocide. Justice has clearly not been done which is like attacking the Iraqi people twice. This was a war crime and the Marines should have been prosecuted as such.

I wrote about this event in this blog on Friday, March 24, 2006 and I still stand by my comment of "What these American troops have done is plain evil, I would call it genocide".

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Playing the Race Card all skin colours can do it.

Poles in Britain have accused the Daily Mail of defaming their community in a letter of complaint to the press watchdog. Many articles published on Polish migrants were likely to foster racial tension, the Federation of Poles in Great Britain said. The federation, the largest group representing Poles in Britain, says that of 80 articles published on the subject by the Daily Mail in the past two years, fewer than five were positive. Headlines such as "Are young Polish workers robbing their country of its future?"; "Britain is country of choice for many 'feckless' Poles" and "Polish Borat claims groping women is normal in eastern Europe", are among those that have caused fury. The federation accused the newspaper in its letter to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) of being unacceptably racist. "If the subject had been Pakistani or African immigrants, such a string of article headlines would have been considered blatantly racist and probably subject to a court summons," the letter said.

...Okay, I do not like the Daily Mail as a newspaper. I would not buy a copy but it is the voice of Middle England. However, the press - all newspapers must be free to publish without censorship. Nobody is asking you to buy a copy of the Daily Mail and I will never buy one. The freedom of the press is very important within a democracy, whether you like what they print or not. Newspapers should be allowed to challenge our society and the cultures within. It is wrong for the Federation of Poles in Great Britain to claim racism. Their claim is childish and does their cause no favours. Journalism is a skill and I cannot see their complaints being upheld. It is sour grapes for these Polish moaners because other Poles have let their community down. The public must know the truth and the media can help. What employers want is cheap labour and pressure on existing employees to accept lower pay and conditions. The Polish migrants have achieved this in many industries and now they have the cheek to complain when the press publish the downsides to their migration.

Bus and coach drivers throughout the country have suffered lower living standards since the arrival of the Polish and other East European drivers flooding our depots. People have a right to free expression and a free press. If these Polish people do not like what is written about them in the press then they can go back to Poland. For the Poles to use the Race Card against the Daily Mail is a cheap trick. This is journalism not racism. To be racist you have to treat people differently because of their ethnic origin. The Daily Mail is just reporting life in Britain, it is a level playing field. Anyone can be the subject of a newspaper report and readers can vote with their wallets. Encouraging racial hatred is a crime but reporting on the problems caused by ethnic groups in our society is respectable journalism. What is the Polish for "grow up and get a life"?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Credit card fraud soars despite 'chip and pin' .

Fraud on credit and debit cards rose by a quarter last year to reach a record high despite the introduction of the "chip and pin" security system. The cost of fraud on cards issued in Britain totalled £535.2 million during 2007, with losses rising for the first time since 2004, according to the payments body Apacs. But there was also a six per cent increase in card fraud losses in Britain, which was largely driven by fraudsters using stolen details to make purchases over the telephone or internet, or by mail order. This "card not present" fraud soared by 37 per cent to £290.5 million, possibly as criminals frustrated by chip and pin security looked for alternative scams.

The above is taken from a newspaper story last week and is one of those things that you imagine only happens to other people. Wrong, last Friday - 7th March I had a telephone call from the Alliance Leicester whom we have a current account with. The caller was working in their fraud department and she had discovered some unusual transactions on our account earlier than morning. Could we confirm that we had made 7 transactions with Cotton Traders and 1 transaction with Green Light? No, certainly not - nobody would make 7 transactions with Cotton Traders in the one day because you would pay postage and packing on each order - money down the drain - we have never heard of a company called Green Light. These were not silly amounts but big money. The Cotton Trader debits were for £129.55 - £129.55 - £129.55 - £153.65 - £173.65 - £153.65 - £20.74 - giving a total of £890.34 - The Green Light transaction was for £30.00 making the attempted fraud on our account totaling a staggering £920.34 - no wonder the flags were flying at Alliance Leicester.

I was very pleased that the fraud department had picked up this attempted fraud and reversed these payments on our account. Because of this fraud the Alliance Leicester canceled both our debit cards which meant we could not use them until the replacement cards arrived. We have not lost any money because of this fraud but we have been inconvenienced by these robbers. Because of their actions we have not been able to use a debit card and have had access to our money denied. These thieves have stopped us using our account and our money although we have done nothing wrong or foolish. Thankfully there was plenty of food in our house and I had some cash to buy petrol to get to work. Our independence has been robbed for a week before our new cards arrived in the post yesterday.

It really annoys me that this fraud can occur. Chip and pin is supposed to be secure and internet websites starting https are declared as secure sites. What would have happened if the fraud department had not picked this activity up or had not been able to talk to me on the telephone? People can loose a lot of money through fraud and even if they do not suffer a cash loss then their lives can have big problems as we move towards a cash-less society. We pay very little in cash these days, most transactions are done by chip and pin. Chip and pin is very convenient for us but when you loose this method of payment you are effectively broke and penny-less.

Thankfully this nightmare is over but sadly it will probably happen to someone else tomorrow. The most frustrating thing is that there is nothing the consumer can do to guard against this fraud. We are all at risk, so check your bank statements very carefully indeed. We have signed some disclaimers with the Alliance Leicester so that they can pursue this crime and hopefully they can catch these robbers. We have no idea were the leak in card security has come from and I suspect that some criminals have hacked into traders intranet systems to steal the information.

At the end of the day the consumer pays for this crime with increased costs somewhere along the line.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Budget and pub closures.

So 4p has been added to the price of a pint of beer in the latest budget from our government. Industry voices are saying that this increase of 4p a pint will lead to more pub closures, especially in rural areas.

What rubbish these people talk. Pubs close because they are business failures for many reasons. There is a demand for pubs everywhere but if landlords are greedy then people will go elsewhere. Look at the huge difference between the price of beer in supermarkets and the price of beer in pubs. People decide where they are going to drink and if they choose a pub for social reasons then 4p a pint extra will never put them off. Take 5 pints and that could cost you an extra 20p for an evening out. A lot of people will not even bend down to pick up a dropped 20p coin. This tiny increase will not lead to more pub closures in the same way that if 4p a pint was lobbed off the taxation of beer in pubs, they would suddenly become popular again.

Many pubs will close if they do not meet the demands at sensible prices - good managers will offer their customers value and prosper. Greedy landlords will see their business fail and that is their fault for being so greedy. Look at your big successful pub chains, they offer a good range of competitively priced food and drink. Your small rural pub landlord may think his pub offers class but that will not pay his bills whilst he overcharges his snobby customers. Grow up landlords and offer your customers value or it is a trip to the bankruptcy court for you Greedy Boy.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Another one stopped from workplace blogging.

Oh, the list goes on, employers just do not want people writing blogs about their day jobs. Employers think that bloggers may tarnish their brand if they write something that the general public may read on the internet. Rather than stand up and be counted, employers will bully staff into not writing about their day jobs. Oh, the public face of companies is very different - text your feedback - everyone is tell us what you think - BUT NEVER post your comments on the internet for anybody to read.

This goes across a range of nationwide companies but also includes our government departments. Civil Serf is 33, lives in London and works in the Civil Service, an institution she describes as "pointless and doomed". The rest, however, remains a mystery. Known only as "Civil Serf", she recounts the trials and tribulations of a Whitehall woman working in "the land of serfdom", bemoaning the futile efforts of her unnamed government department to effect any real change. Since she began blogging in November, Civil Serf's site has received almost 9,000 hits, with more than 4,600 readers logging on last month alone.

If you click on the link for Civil Serf now you will read...

This page does not exist.

So, so much for living in a free country, with free speech. You cannot write about your day job or your employer may sack you. If you work for our government, elected by the people in free elections and paid for by the people, you cannot write about the problems within government because they can sack or silence you. What can we British write about without censorship? The weather perhaps? Certainly nothing about our day jobs or poetry .

Friday, March 07, 2008

Out by Natsuo Kirino .

I have just finished reading Out by Natsuo Kirino. This book was written in 1997 and translated into English by Stephen Snyder in 2003. It was published in paperback by Vintage in 2004 and I bought a copy from Amazon who were banging it out for just £2.00 - I did not buy it because it was cheap.

I really enjoyed this novel which is a gritty tale set in Japan. This is not a Japanese story, this tale could have happened anywhere in the world. Some readers may think this book is for feminists but it should appeal to both genders. The story involves 3 murders and 1 case of manslaughter but it is not gory. Yes, 3 bodies are cut up into little pieces but it is not gruesome. People reading other posts in my blog will know that reports of terrorist activity are truly gruesome and this book is not as graphic as those newspaper reports I have quoted. There is a small amount of sex in this book but it is not vulgar and is part of the story.

The title Out describes the book well because all the characters involved are looking for a way out, so that they can move on in their lives. All these characters try their level best to move on whatever happens along the way. The reader develops a hope that things will turn out right for all the characters in the end. You are taken into the lives of working class women working in a factory. You understand the bonds that can form between workers who will help each other out beyond the workplace. These women can go to great lengths to help each other yet they can still bitch and mistrust each other.

This book is well written with fully developed characters and plot. It is not glamourous and there is plenty of detail with a lively progress. Everything makes sense to the reader and you pick up on this strong working class atmosphere with all the hopes and failures. At the end of the book you feel "Go for it girl, you are free and have found a way out".

I was impressed by Natsuo's writing and will be interested in reading her other novel Grotesque when I have time to do so.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bus surfers and YouTube .

TWO teenage boys were filmed risking their lives by clinging on to the back of a moving bus for three miles. The stunt, known as bus surfing, was filmed by the passenger of a car travelling behind the bus and posted on video website YouTube but later removed amid fears it might prompt copycat pranks. YouTube said it had received complaints from concerned users and therefore decided to remove the video from its site. The video has received over 2,700 hits since it was posted on February 18.

The number 100 bus was travelling between Tonteg and Pontypridd in the South Wales Valleys. By risking their lives, the boys, aged between 13 and 15, were avoiding the £1.25 fare. Mr Mainwaring and Mr Campbell, of Llantwit Fardre , were on their way to a Saturday afternoon football match in Pontypridd when they saw the teenagers holding on to the back of the bus, standing on the bumper with their heads just below the back window.

...These boys are stupid, just plain stupid. Bus surfing has gone on in the UK for many years now. Many bus operators have warning stickers on the backs of their buses warning against the dangers of holding onto the back. Common sense would tell you that bus surfing is a bad idea. But boys will be boys the world over and catching these incidents on video makes good entertainment. It is a shame that this footage has been removed from YouTube. These boys probably thought that they were being cool, but risking serious injury is not cool. Shooting a video like this one below is cool, very cool. I can imagine a girl like this dancing through the bus wash at the Llantwit Fardre depot, that would be cool, very cool! The bus depot does not have the glamour of Hawaii where the girl can walk on the beach in front of Diamond Head but fame has to start somewhere, so why not Llantwit Fardre?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Citroen C3 one year on.

We have had our Citroen C3 1.1 L for a whole year now and so it's birthday deserves a blog post. We are happy with our little car and have covered over 11,000 trouble free miles in her. It is a very easy car to use and to live with. We love the body work with it's high seating position and roof line. The ride is quiet and comfortable with adequate boot space for our little pet dog. The performance is adequate from this 1124 cc petrol engine - not stonking for a small hatchback but then I get 47mpg - there is never any smoke without fire. The power steering is very light and I think someone with a broken arm would have no problems spinning the wheel. It is an easy car to drive both around town and in the countryside.

The first year of ownership gives you free breakdown cover in partnership with the AA. I have just received a letter from Citroen offering me two years AA breakdown cover, including recovery and home start for £120. Looking on the Moneysupermarket website I was able to buy 12 months breakdown cover that includes recovery and home start from Autonational Rescue for £38.00 - which on their official website would have cost £66 for 15 months cover.

Like many people I had renewed my tax disc online saving a potential queue at the Post Office. This renewal cost me £115 which was £15 more than the dealer paid last year.

Some guys get bored very quickly with their car and want to change it for another. Not me, I am happy with my little Citroen and I will not be changing it unless something serious happens when the warranty expires in another 2 year's time.

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