Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Trouble With Role Models

Lord Taylor, the dodgy peer, is off to chokey for fiddling his expenses and good riddance to him and to all the other crooked politicians who are either in chokey or should be. I have no sympathy whatsoever for any of them, let them rot.

Two things particularly hit me about Taylor. The first being his plea that he fiddled his expenses because he didn't get a salary and that other peers told him to do it. What a clown! There are unemployed people living on a pittance, without the extremely generous alowances and expenses available to peers which are way beyond their out of pocket expenses, and the overwhelming majority of unemployed people don't resort to fiddling.

The second thing that struck me was that his defence barrister pleaded leniency, and no prison sentence, as Taylor was a role model for young black people. Oh really? I'll bet most young black kids, like most other kids, have never heard of him. And, if you assume that he was a role model for black kids, isn't that all the more reason to punish him, and punish him harshly for so badly letting them down?

I think that the old role model defence is trundled out by people who don't really know what's what. It is used, in this case as a cheap shot for leniency, or more usually to whip anybody who is rich and famous who slightly misbehaves, such as footballers and pop stars. It's codswallop. Whining about role models is a side effect of the modern obsession with fame and stardom.

What those who whine about role models are saying is that famous peoples' behaviour will be copied by kids . Or to put it another way they are saying that young people are incapable of thinking for themselves and merely impersonate the rich and famous. I don't believe that, I think most young people are more intelligent than that and can differentiate between right and wrong.

What concerns me much more than the behaviour of the rich and famous is the impact of real people on young people. The bad fathers, uncles, teachers, neighbours and others who young people meet on a daily basis. Now they really are role models and my money is on the worst of them being the first to jump to accusing poor famous 'role models' for their own inadequacies and kids' poor behaviour.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Libya's Gadaffi Paranoid Claims The Telegraph!

The propaganda around the new imperialism sometimes raises a wry smile.

In this article the Telegraph claims Gaddafi is paranoid because he's scampering from place to place convinced that NATO is trying to kill him.

When people bomb the shit out of every place you go I'd call legging it a healthy self-survival instinct rather than paranoia.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nigel Farage's Part In The Destruction Of UKIP

There is an excellent piece on Richard North's EU Referendum blog about the part Nigel Farage has played in the demise of UKIP as a credible force for withdrawal from the EU.

The discussion forum is a particularly interesting read. For years people with real talent have been driven out of UKIP by Farage and his henchmen, people like Richard North, Robin Page and many more. What is left is a clique of Farage loyalists, mostly on the payroll, who are more interested in the childish smearing and name calling of anybody who questions their leader than in engaging in serious politics.

To those of us who once thought UKIP was the answer, it is sad to see that it is now a big part of the problem.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

David Campbell Bannerman: Another UKIP MEP Quits

I wasn't surprised to hear that UKIP MEP David Campbell Bannerman had jumped ship to join theTories. I always felt he was more of a Tory than a UKIP type, but I still find it odd that somebody can spend so much time in a party campaigning for withdrawal from the EU, then jump ship to join a pro-EU party like the Tories. But I suppose there's nowt so queer as folk, especially in politics. No doubt the UKIP lies and smears directorate will be going into overdrive as I write, ready to smear and blacken the name of yet another defector.

As UKIP have now had MEPs for twelve years, and those MEPs have brought nothing but wasted resources, wasted opportunities and embarassment on the Party, maybe it's time they did the honourable thing and withdrew from the whole EU gravy train and fought their battles in the UK, the only place the war for independence can be won. After all, judging by their results in the latest local, general and parliamentary by-elections, having MEPs is doing the cause no favours, unless a few booming bank balances and pensions count as success.

So UKIP have now lost Nikki Sinclaire MEP from the party, and Mike Nattrass MEP and Trevor Coleman MEP from their far right-wing grouping in the European Parliament. I wonder who'll be next to jump ship? No se, y no me importa!

The term "lions led by donkeys" springs to mind. Or should that be "lions led by a donkey"?

John Hemming MP, Another Lib Dem Buffoon

Lord knows there are enough already, but John Hemming has now added to the number of known Lib Dem buffoons. MPs are elected to represent us and to legislate, not use the House of Commons to indulge their insatiable egos.

If you don't know Hemming is the MP who abused parliamentary privilege to name Ryan Giggs as the footballer who had his privacy protected with a superinjunction. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the superinjunction, and I think they are pretty horrendous, why should MPs of all people be allowed to flout the law and get away with it? If MPs can flout laws they don't like then why can't I? My view of Ryan Giggs is that he's been a fool, should have taken his medicine and got on with it. If he had done that the embarrassment would have been over weeks ago.

Of course the problem with Lib Dems is that they seem to think they are morally superior to us mere mortals, hence Hemming pulling a cheap stunt like he did. Hence why Chris Huhne is making such a fool of himself. Hence why Vince Cable is making such a fool of himself. Hence why the Lib Dems were wiped out earlier this month in the local elections, and will be slaughtered at the next general election.

Interesting to see that it has taken a member of the House of Lords to confront the issue of superinjunctions with dignity. Lord Wakeham has written the following letter which appears in the Telegraph:

Dear Sir,
The Prime Minister is right to say that the current situation with regard to privacy injunctions is “unsustainable” and to highlight that the problem is not one of the judiciary’s making because they are simply interpreting the law as it stands.
At the time the legislation was going through Parliament, I predicted that this intolerable state of affairs would inevitably flow from the way in which the European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into our domestic law through the Human Rights Act. It was clear to me that because Parliament was relinquishing control of the issue, the resulting law would inevitably go further than we wished – despite the fact that Jack Straw, when Home Secretary, said that the legislation was not intended to create a general law of privacy – because the Courts would be forced to hand out increasing numbers of injunctions. And the reason for that is that in privacy matters, unlike in libel, the Courts inevitably err on the side of the applicant when considering whether to grant an injunction, and not on the side of a newspaper. That is the root of the inherent “unfairness” the Prime Minster referred to, and why this shambles has arisen.
Section 12 of the Human Rights Act attempted to enshrine in law the PCC’s common sense Code of Practice which protects an individual’s right to privacy as well as defining the public interest which justifies intrusion, with a view to cases being sorted out by the Commission and not the Courts. It has clearly failed to deliver that goal and the problem needs urgently addressing.
There are no palliative routes. The Courts cannot sort this matter out on their own. Nor is the answer simply in “strengthening” the Press Complaints Commission, which already has considerable powers but is often unable to deploy them because it is too frequently bypassed for the Courts in high profile cases. Instead the Human Rights Act may have to be amended, possibly by limiting the role of the Courts to dealing with issues that impact only on public authorities and the State (as the drafters of the Convention envisaged). That would leave the media outside the direct supervision of the Courts on privacy issues and enable the PCC – which can react much more swiftly to changes in newspaper technology than the law will ever be able to do so - to reassert its primacy in this area, as Parliament always intended.
Yours faithfully
Lord Wakeham
(Chairman, Press Complaints Commission, 1995-2001)
House of Lords, London, SW1
So of course the Lib Dems want to wreck the House of Lords:

The Liberal Democrats are another party whose desire to radically reform the House of Lords goes back a long way.
They were the last government to seriously reform the House of Lords when the passed the 1911 Parliament Act, which dramatically reduced peer power.
In their submission to the Royal Commission they set out plans for a directly-elected "Senate" made up of 261 members.
The Senators would be elected from across the UK using the massive constituencies used in the European elections.
Elections would be held every two years with a third of the senate being elected at each poll.
Predictably for the Liberal Democrats the elections would be held under proportional representation.
From the BBC website.

No wonder the few remaining Lib Dem activists are foaming at the mouth about their party joining the Coalition, now they are in the full glare of publicity, being junior partners in government, we can all see what they are really like.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press

OK I wasn't going to, but it's a blog not a tablet of stone.

I'm in a quandary. I instinctively dislike censorship, but I also respect peoples' desire for privacy.

I believe in freedom of the press, but find the seedier elements of the press, the tittle tattle tendency, vile and obnoxious.

I believe in parliamentary privilege, but not irresponsible flouting of the law hiding behind parliamentary privilege.

Was Ryan Giggs' superinjunction there to protect his privacy, from allegations of infidelity in a pretty seedy media, or was it an attempt at curtailing the freedom of the press?

If you oppose the superinjunction would you care to write on the internet, about every little indiscretion you've ever committed, everything you've ever done wrong, no matter how excruciatingly embarassing, for all the world to read?

What's the difference between press intrusion and press freedom? Indeed is there one?

I'm just wondering, because I don't think this issue is black and white.

The Clash-London's Burning

I could bore the pants off everybody going on about whether the superinjunction was a good thing, an effort at stopping press intrusion into somebody's private life, or whether it was curtailing press freedom. In fact, as it is still in place that should be in the present tense.

But I'm not going to because the whole world and his brother, whatever that means, will be pontificating about that this morning. So instead here is the only band who didn't seem to be poseurs in the late '70s early '80s, I always felt The Clash really meant it. Full tilted anger producing brilliant music:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs Ryan Giggs tried to gag the press,
Ryan Giggs Ryan Giggs what a bloody mess,
He's himself to blame, we all know his name...
Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs
At least that's what MP John Hemming said in the House of Commons today. Or something similar.

James Delingpole on President Obama, Or Is It O'Bama?

I always have a laugh when US politicians claim Irish ancestry. Especially when you find out that their claim actually rests on once drinking a pint of Guiness in O'Flaherty's Bar in Boston. Well, Clinton was up to it and now Barack Obama is up to it.

But I can't beat this wonderful article by James Delingpole. So I won't try. You must read it, it's Pure Genius.

Charitable Giving

I first worked for medical charities in the mid 1980s and it was extremely challenging but satisfying and rewarding. We had a job to do, in my case recruiting training and supporting volunteers, and were by and large left to get on with it. We were expected to get results but the management was light and the bureaucracy minimal. Our members' needs, not the staff's needs were paramount

My last experience of the charity world was absolute agony. The charity resembled the most bureaucratic, management obsesssed arm of the NHS. It was like a particularly unfunny version of Yes Minister. Staff were expected to log virtually every movement on a computerised management system that wouldn't have been out of place in the DDR, and  unable to do anything without first doing risk assessments and a huge pile of associated health and safety paperwork. And don't mention the dreaded police checks and the hated proposed Independent Sageguarding Authority, thankfully dumped by the Coalition.

In my experience too many charities are now run for the benefit of an ever expanding paid workforce, partly because of government red tape, partly because of empire building. In the last fifteen years I increasingly heard staff complaining that volunteers couldn't be trusted to do X, Y or Z. My reaction invariably was; "why not?". The voluntary sector, thanks to government interference and an increased dependency on government funding, has been nationalised. Which means that its role as an independent force to fight for its client group has been diminished, it won't bite the hand that feeds it, the government.

The Coalition is about to introduce tax reforms to encourage donations to charity, which is to be welcomed. But it really needs  look at the whole ethos of the voluntary sector in this country. Cash is crucial to charities as it is to any organisation in any sector. What the voluntary sector needs to do is to encourage volunteers and volunteering, in many ways much more difficult than raising funds, especially if you are just tapping into taxpayers' money through grant aplications.

But volunteers and volunteering are at the heart of the voluntary sector, and my sense is that in recent years the charirty world has lost its heart.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fight in Bolivian Parliament

Bolivia is one of my favourite countries. We were there in '91 for a stint and managed to get to watch the Bolivian championship play off final between Bolivar, and The Strongest, who are both from La Paz. 

The people are amazingly friendly and the first sight of La Paz, as we were driven down from the airport in El Alto, is something I will never forget.

What was most striking was the high proportion of indigenous Amerindians in Bolivia compared to many other Latin American countries we had visited. We were also struck by the gentleness and friendliness of the Bolivian people who spent a large amount of their time sat around chewing coca leaves.

So I was particularly surprised by the following film of politicians fighting in the Bolivian Parliament. After decades of coup followed by coup I suppose it's better to have the politicians fighting each other than the army fighting the people. What price would you pay to see the Tories geting stuck into Miliband, Huhne and co?

Mind you, at least the Bolivians fight like real men, I suspect Miliband, Huhne and co would be a bit too camp for it to be called a real fight.

Another Christian Murdered in Iraq

Attacks on Christians in Iraq continue with a young Christian beheaded this week after being kidnapped. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 up to 573 Christians have been killed in religiously and politically motivated attacks. But where is British media coverage? It seems they are far too busy whitewashing what we are supposed to have achieved following the invasion.

The full story can be read here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Kenneth Clarke On Rape-A Female Perspective

I don't often quote or link to the Independent, it is usually too pinko-liberal and therefore incredibly boring. But Mary Dejevsky has a very interesting piece on the Kenneth Clarke business. She puts it it into perspective to a large degree, in a way that a certain element in Britain would never accept from a man. Following is the crucial paragraph:

But all Clarke actually did was to make a modest factual error – not the most heinous offence in an extensive live radio interview – in suggesting that there were grades of rape. In practice, judges make distinctions about degrees of seriousness every day in their sentencing, while upholding the law that defines rape as rape. The two are not incompatible.
There are certain areas in public life that certain groups have made no-go areas for general discussion let alone dissent, and Dejevsky is critical of the extreme feminists in this instance. She follows the above with:

As crimes go, of course, rape is surrounded by a singular mystique. But mystique does not belong in a court of law. And the outcry, such as it was, about Clarke's words was itself based on a misconception about rape cases and British courts. Recent figures show that convictions in rape cases are now on a par with those for most other crimes – at just short of 60 per cent. Yet the old, old statistic – that only 6 per cent of reported rapes result in a conviction – is routinely wheeled out to "prove" that rape is different.
For once I can commend the Independent for an an extremely informative and balanced article, dare I say a must read to those who have been foaming at the mouth over Clarke's comments. Miliband Jr might find it especially informative after his foam flecked, hysterical rant in the House of Commons this week .

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bob Dylan Nudging 70

I've seen Bob Dylan numerous times over the years and I'm glad about that. Sadly the last time I saw him, a few years ago in Manchester, it wasn't so great. His voice has gone to such an extent that I had trouble recognising some of the songs until he was halfway through. I still found it a wonderful occasion although my beloved, not a Bob Dylan fan, found it truly dreadful.

Having said that I think his recent stuff is still extremely listenable as he seems to have written it to suit his voice. As he approaches his seventieth birthday it is inevitable that his voice is a little rocky, he's been touring virtually non stop for decades, which must have taken a toll.

There's an interesting piece about Bob Dylan, and ageing rock stars in the Telegraph today.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is Kenneth Clarke Evil?

It seems that Ed Miliband has once more gone into hyperbole overload. Kenneth Clarke must be immediately sacked, he can longer speak for women apparently, if he ever did. Bear in mind this is the Miliband who claimed AV would be the "triumph of hope over fear". Not prone to exaggeration at all then.

I have no time for Clarke, the man is a clown. But is he really an evil monster who wants to go soft on rapists? Here's what seemed to cause the furore when he was interviewed on BBC5Live:

The presenter, Victoria Derbyshire, interjected: “Rape is rape.”

But Mr Clarke replied: “No It’s not.

“If an 18-year-old has sex with a 15-year-old and she is perfectly willing that is rape, because she is under age, she can’t consent, anybody who has sex with a 15 year old it’s rape.

“But what you and I are talking about is a man forcefully having sex with a woman and she doesn’t want to, that is rape, a serious crime, of course it’s a serious crime.”
Should that 18 year old receive the same sentence as a man who breaks into the home of a stranger in the middle of the night and rapes her at knifepoint? I would suggest not. I would further suggest that a reasoned and mature debate about the clumsy words of Kenneth Clarke could be very useful, but yet again Miliband seems incapable of being calm and collected when he sees the opportunity for a cheap political shot.

The full interview can be heard here.

Refugees from Arab Countries and the European Union

In a fine example of typical European Union hypocrisy France, Italy, Denmarks and others are desperately trying to quit the Schengen Agreement because of the flood of refugees from North Africa, proof that the EU is nothing more than a sham. It's great when the members states are growing fat off the subsidies, but rules and agreements are quickly ignored or broken when they don't suit them. Let' hope it proves to be another nail in  the coffin of the EU.

Italy has done a smart thing and is issuing the current wave of migrants from North Africa with papers allowing them to travel throughout the EU. Italy knows full well the aim of the majority is to get to France and the UK.

But there is a real problem for Britain to face too. How many more immigrants can this country absorb without reaching a major crisis? Why is it that when countries are supposedly liberated people suddenly jump ship and flee the supposedly liberated countries? Why is that the boatloads of refugees we see on TV news are virtually 100% young males? Have they fled such dangerous situations without regard for their women and children? If you don't trust the TV news I suggest a tip to Calais where you can see the queues of young males trying to get into this country.

Of course those bleeding heart liberals at The Guardian blame Italy for the refugee crisisOf course the Independent blames the UK for the perceived refugee crisis. How very typical. Maybe those who were getting carried away at the supposed overthrow of tyrants in the Middle East in recent months might like to consider why so many people are now fleeing the new freedom loving and tolerant regimes in Tunisia and elsewhere.

And if our bombing of Libya was to protect innocent people, who are these thousands of people fleeing the bombing, the guilty?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Latest Private Eye-What A Wonderful Front Page!

Let's Do The Timewarp-The Queen In Ireland

I heard an interesting piece on the radio this morning and thought it was part of the BBC's Domesday Project. Either that or that I had actually travelled back in time to the 1980s when the IRA were blowing people up and the Liberal Democrats had an ounce of credibility. But no, it was definitely being broadcast live, this very morning.

The piece was about the Queen's visit to Ireland and the participant was some kind of Irish socialist republican, he sounded extremely bitter and insular. He constantly referred to the Queen as 'Elizabeth Windsor'. He's obviously a seriously extreme revolutuionary calling her that!. When pressed he didn't want her there, or Obama when he visits soon because their governments kill innocent people in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. As most governments in Europe are sending troops to help in those places he was pressed on which heads of state he would welcome. He couldn't name any because he was talking tosh. But the old chestnuts repeatedly popped up about the potato famine, the six counties and how British troops are occupying part of Ireland and we should go and let the Irish be united.

I have no beef with anybody in Ireland be it the Republic or Northern Ireland. My view has always been that if a majority in Northern Ireland want to remain within the United Kingdom then so be it. When a majority want to be part of the Irish Republic then good luck and goodbye. I feel the same about Scotland and have said before that if the people of Cumbria wanted to join an independent Scotland then so be it. That's democracy.

What disturbed me about this particular republican on the radio is that he represents a 'dissident' Irish republican outfit. 'Dissident' being a euphemism for 'terrorist'. He sounded just like a throwback to the dark days of the 1970s and '80s. It was quite sad to hear and a timely reminder that there are still lunatics, on both sides in Ireland, just waiting to return to the path of violence. That's why I think the Queen's visit is so important to Anglo-Irish relations. The overwhelming majority of Irish peope are decent, law abiding people just wanting to live their lives in peace and prosperity just lik the res ofus. But nobody should be complacent.

One final thought. When the little Irish dissident was spouting about the cost of security for the visit in these straightened times, and wanting the British out of Ireland, I don't remember hearing him asking us to take the billions of pounds we baled them out with when we go.  Strange that.

Guild of Catholic Bloggers

On May 7th I was privileged to join a group of Catholic bloggers at Westminster Cathedral. The purpose was to launch The Guild of Catholic Bloggers. One of the key decisions was to launch an umbrella blog and thus The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma was born.

The knowledge and depth of faith of those present was the most impressive part of the day. I have been a practising Catholic most of my life but in the last couple of years I have been on a journey of discovery. Like many of us I have attended Mass, prayed when in need and that has been about it. But, partly due to persistent attacks on Christianity by militant atheists, I have not only felt the need to stand up and be counted, but also to look deeper into my faith. The Guild of Titus Brandsma will be an excellent support and resource for Catholics, and those wanting to find out about Catholicism everywhere.

I don't call myself a Catholic blogger, I am a Catholic who blogs. This is not a Catholic blog although it is influenced by my Catholicism. If you are curious about the Roman Catholic church and want to find out more I suggest that you, like me, take a look at some of the blogs in my side bar under the heading Catholic Blogs I Like To Visit.

Many thanks to Lawrence of That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill for his hard work on developing the blog. Long may it prosper.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Time To Be Grown Up About The European Union

For many years I've campaigned against UK membership of the European Union and still debate regularly on the issue. One thing I'm always struck by is the childish jingoism of the Eurofanatics. The only thing they seem able to do is accuse those of us who are not in favour of being xenophobes or Little Englanders. They have a dream and don't like reality invading their cosseted, idealised little dream world.

What many of us have known for years is that the British people have been repeatedly lied to about  the implications of joining the Common Market/EEC/EC/EU. All most of us want is the truth, let's face it even Ted Heath eventually admitted lying about what our membership was really all about. But the EU is one thing that scares the political class senseless, because letting the people decide would probably bring the establishment gravy train here and in Europe to an abrupt  end.

So it was refreshing today to read the Telegraph call for a mature debate on the EU. Who knows, Cameron may just listen to the Telegraph.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Great Manchester Clubs Winning Trophies

I'm always proud to be a Mancunian but at the moment I'm especially proud. Three great sports clubs to be proud of, all winning trophies this year.

I salute you Premier League Champions Manchester United and English Premier League Ice Hockey Champions Manchester Phoenix.

Ok, ok,  I know there is another team of winners in Manchester too. So I must also salute the FC United of Manchester Youth Team who won the North West Youth Alliance Premier Division Trophy.

Manchester, the centre of the universe!

The Smiths-Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want

This is amazing. If I'd had a music teacher like this who knows?

Then here is The Smiths' original version:

I bet The Smiths didn't have a music teacher like that. Which says something.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ceca Raznatovic of Serbia, Douze Points

This is truly top European music, not to mention totty. Ladies and gentlemen, Ceca:

Eurovision Song Contest

C'est ici, tonight's the night, the big one, the night we all wait for from the end of one competition to the start of the next. Well we do don't we? Yes, tonight is Eurovision night! Just to be helpful I've even found just the blog to keep you up to date, Eurovision Blog.

There was a good joke on Twitter today. Jedward, who are singing for Ireland tonight, say they want to become the new ABBA. Well somebody had better tell them they are two men short!

When I watch Eurovision I can't help thinking that it sums up the whole European project. Yes I know all Eurovision countries aren't in the EU, but it is definitely the musical and cultural equivalent of the EU, artificial, tacky, bland, meaningless, shallow and so on.  Not forgetting corrupt.

You get countries with great histories and cultures such as the UK, France, Spain and others who, for this one night in the year, seem to find the most bizarre pub singer, in the most camp outfit, with the worst backing band, worst dance and most ridiculous song to parade in the world's worst carnival in a huge hangar type hall in some European city. Each country is a fine place in itself but bringing them together diminishes each one beyond recognition, just like the EU does. But unlike the EU people love it, even if it's just to laugh at it.

But having said that we'll be glued to the telly tonight, laughing as Greece gives Cyprus douze points, Turkey gives Greece nul points and just like the EU, we see that the whole thing is just a corrupt sham. How apt that a journalist called Campey christened it Eurovision.

So, whether you are watching it because you think it's European Union style high culture, because it's always a good for a giggle or you genuinely enjoy the spectacle I hope you enjoy it. But don't throw the telly out of the window if France gives us nul points!

Now for my confession. I once bought a song that had won the Eurovision Song Contest. But to put it in perspective I'd also taken my 11+  that year. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Severine and Un Banc, Un Arbre, Une Rue. I might have had a crush on Severine too actually!

Michael Gradwell and Martin Gradwell, A Right Pair of..............Lib Dems

Unfortunately Martin Gradwell decided to continue his vitriolic and totally disproportionate attack on me today. So I have abandoned the poll mentioned in the post from yesterday and have decided to publish his emails.

Yesterday morning I received a particularly unpleasant email from Martin Gradwell, which you can read a little further down this post. I asked him to refrain from emailing me immediately and to never contact me again.  I warned him that I would reproduce his emails on my blog if he ignored my request. Yesterday evening I received a further email from Martin Gradwell, so here goes.

A week ago I posted So, Farewell Then Lib Dems. I was quite blunt about my dislike of the Lib Dems but that's life. Unfortunately a Morecambe Lib Dem called Michael Gradwell took it personally, or just wanted a fight, I'm not sure which. His comments became personally abusive and unpleasant so I told him that I would no longer publish them. I dislike censorship but am not prepared to have my own blog used by people who wish to be personally nasty and vindictive towards me, there are limits.

Then up popped MT Gradwell. Not being sure whether it was or wasn't Michael using another email address, I rejected the comment. That's when the bile and nastiness reached record levels. It turned out to be Martin, Michael Gradwell's brother. Just as nasty if not worse.

So I posted a song by The Cure called Boys Don't Cry, I was being tongue in cheek after getting his brother to have a go at me. I continued the tongue in cheek playground analogy by saying something like 'my dad's bigger than his'. Sadly I can't link to that post as Blogger was down yesterday and recent posts on all blogs have disappeared. But oh dear, that lit the blue touchpaper and Martin Gradwell sent me the following email. You see, now I won't publish their comments they are emailing me, or at least Martin is. Sad but there you are. Following is the unabridged email:

You vile, vicious little worm! How DARE you bring our dad into this?
Do NOT  even think of doing so again. If you are typical of your
family, then when he was alive my dad was bigger than the whole of
your family put together; but I'll assume you are not typical, because
the thought of a whole family of misanthropes and misfits like you is
just too horrible to contemplate.

If only you could grow up to the point where you start behaving like a
five-year-old, that would be a vast improvement.

I am "starting to sound seriously obsessed"? Really? I have submitted
a grand total of 1 (count 'em .. 1) comments to your shitty excuse for
a blog, which of course you haven't published because you are too much
of a coward to deal with criticism openly and honestly. I ask you
serious questions about your accusatory anecdotes, and you respond
with "Boys don't cry" and a claim that my brother put me up to
responding to you, as if I can't think for myself. Plus, you claim
that WE are the ones attempting to cause a fight, and bringing a
"nasty personal element" to your blog. I'm sorry, but there is only
one nasty personal element in your blog, and it is in charge of it.

There is only one bright spot in all of this - your claim that you
"have no intention of corresponding any further with somebody like
you". Please remain in that frame of mind. I have no intention of
corresponding any further with you either. I have only done so because
you insult my brother, you insult our church by professing to be a
member of it, and now you insult me. If you can refrain from doing two
of those three things in the future, then there's no reason why we
should ever correspond again, thank God. I mean, I expect you will
continue to insult the Church by professing to be a member of it, and
you will insult libertarianism by pretending to be a libertarian, and
you will insult Liberal Democrats by insulting Liberal Democrats. I
would like to do something about these issues, but there is nothing I
can do since you refuse to engage in open and free discussion. Just
refrain from insulting myself or my brother, and, to emphasise this
point in case you are tempted to forget it, do NOT bring our father
into this. Again, in case you are tempted, do NOT bring our mother
into it either. That is all.


MARTIN Gradwell.

This came after an earlier email, a little less nasty and vitriolic but for the sake of fairness I am copying below:

Dear Mr. Beaman,

I submitted a comment to your blog, and I subscribed to the associated
post so that I would be informed if and when my comment was published.
Unfortunately, this resulted in my inbox being polluted by the piece
of vile rubbish quoted at the end of this email.

I believe that my brother can read properly and that it is in fact you
who have difficulties comprehending your own writing. "Why talk of
hatred?" you ask him, as if it wasn't you who started the ball rolling
by expressing your eternal detestation of the way Lib Dems portray
themselves, among other things. Were you not aware of any similarity
of meaning between "detest" and "hate"?

And now you write "At no point in this post do I profess detestation,
and certainly not hatred of another person". If you wanted to
parenthesize the 'and certainly not hatred' then you should have used
actual parentheses, or at least an additional comma after hatred. As
it stands, this unfortunate sentence implies that "At no point in this
post do [you] profess detestation" when in fact you profess not just
momentary but perpetual detestation. of not just one thing but of

Furthermore you might say that you don't detest actual people, only
abstract qualities about them and the way they present themselves.
However, many people would define themselves by their attributes. Take
away the "niceness" of a nice person, for instance, and what is left?
When you attack a person's cherished attributes, you attack that
person. As you do when you call them "fool", or call them "liars"
because their opinions differ from yours, or when you make up garbage
about them and try to convince the world that this garbage is true, or
when you refuse to publish their posts but nevertheless selectively
quote from them, and endlessly mock the selective quotations.

I suspect that you have serious anger issues. I agree with my brother
that you should examine what you write more carefully, and I would go
further. You should examine yourself more carefully, and maybe engage
some professional help in that task.

This leaves me with a serious dilemma. I still want to be notified if
and when my comment gets published, but I don't want my inbox to
become further polluted. In other words, I want my encounter with you
to be as brief as possible, in accordance with the description of your
blog. Perhaps you could oblige me either by publishing my comment and
getting the ensuing discussion over with as soon as possible, or by
letting me know definitively that there will be no publication, so
that I can safely unsubscribe from the vile and wretched post.

Thanking you in anticipation,

Martin Gradwell
So, ignoring my request to cease communication Mr Martin Gradwell yesterday evening sent me the following email. He is certainly sounding more and more obsessed which is quite unnerving, but I've never been one to give in to bullies:

Dear Mr. Beaman,

I am not at all surprised that you would consider posting my private
email to you while refraining from posting my public comments to your
blog, since it is abundantly clear that that is the kind of person you
are. Accordingly, I wrote the email with that possibility in mind.
While it contains more intemperate language than I would normally use,
I believe that this language was fully justified by the circumstances,
and publication of it would not harm my reputation in any way.
Indeed, it would say far more about you than it does about me.

Of course, I don't expect you to post my email in its entirety. Even
someone as crazed as you appear to be is still likely to possess
enough animal cunning to be aware of how bad an idea that would be. I
expect you to post and snipe at one or two short phrases taken out of
context, as is your custom. I am prepared for that too.

I am intrigued by the offer to post a link to my blog. If I had an
active blog then I would certainly take you up on that offer, since
such a link would be a good way of publicizing it. However I must
decline, since I unfortunately do not currently have an active blog,
though I am tempted to start one. You seem to be persisting in
confusing me with my brother, despite repeated clarifications.

I am also intrigued by your notion of contacting my ISP, since I am
fairly sure that my ISP is not common public knowledge. I can guess
that yours is (REMOVED) because you use their email, but I use gmail
from Google. Is gmail what you are referring to, or do you have some
notion of contacting blogger.com and explaining to them about how you
persistently get confused between different people, and they should
take action against my brother because you refuse to publish my
entirely reasonable comment and you instead state your intention to
publish my email?  Good luck with that.

I should have known, when you said that you had "no intention of
corresponding any further", that you had every intention of
corresponding further. I should have known it was too good to be true.
 Actually, I did know. Even though I have only glanced cursorily at
your blog, it was abundantly evident just from the small parts that I
read that you would be a particularly sticky piece of dog-muck, one
almost impossible to wipe from the sole of my shoe once stepped in.
Believe me, I take no pleasure in any of this, but I will take
whatever measures are necessary in order to deal with it, whether that
involves starting a blog of my own, or borrowing the use of a page on
my brother's blog, or emailing you, or whatever. If you really don't
want me to contact you again then it is up to you to make it
unnecessary for me to do so.

MARTIN Gradwell.

P.S. I know, I know, no amount of persistence on my part will make the
slightest difference since you are incorrigibly dense, but that's
MARTIN Gradwell. NOT Michael Gradwell. My email address is (REMOVED)
There you are MARTIN Gradwell. I haven't just published your comments, I've given you a post all to yourself. Perhaps you'll stop mithering me now.

Update-The bizarre Mr Gradwell has been in touch again today. He is starting a blog about me apparently. His obsession is now becoming slightly spooky.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Poll: Those Lovely Lib Dems

Following a post a week ago, So, Farewell Lib Dems, I stopped posting comments from a particularly nasty Lib Dem who set his brother onto me. Yes, I know, very juvenile but there you go. As a consequence I have now been receiving emails, from the brother, of a particularly personal and nasty nature. Despite asking him to stop I received another this evening.

So, my poll is should I publish those nasty emails and name and shame the culprit or not? Feel free to vote in the sidebar.

The post, complete with unabridged copies of the three emails is ready, I just need to click publish post.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More Deluded Rambling From The Lib Dem Leader, Nick Clegg

I'm actually starting to feel sorry for poor old Clegg and his dwindling band of eccentrics. He's now blaming Margaret Thatcher for the devastating losses the Lib Dems suffered last week, clearly the man is delusional. The following is a quote from his speech today as reported in the Telegraph:

He put some of the blame for the Lib Dems' setbacks in Scotland and northern cities in last week's elections on the "deep, visceral memories" of the 1980s and the fear that these areas would once again be "economically ... left for dead" as the Government cuts back on spending.

But he declared: "The '80s won't happen again. We are not in government to turn back the clock, but to move forward to a better, stronger and more balanced economy.

"In the Thatcher years, whole communities were uprooted. Because too many areas were dependent on just one industry, economic upheaval led to social upheaval. Industries went, and communities went with them. Never again."
Strange how the Tories, the party of Margaret Thatcher and obviously the real power in government did surprisingly well last week.

Wonder who he blamed for the loss of five seats in the general election last May? That dastardly Disraeli maybe?

The Ageing Process

I went to the supermarket today and felt decidedly old. I went to get butter, we usually get the supermarket's own brand rightly or wrongly, because it's the cheapest, usually 92p or so. I was shocked to find it had gone up to £1.10. That on top of finding peppers costing 80p each. It's scandalous.

But what made me feel old was the amount of time I spent gassing about it to an eldery couple in the produce aisle.We regaled each other with tales of galloping inflation and the things we have stopped buying, not necessarily because we can't afford them, but because we refuse to 'pay that kind of money'.

We admitted to each other that we've started growing things like tomatoes, peppers and chillis ourselves because, well they just don't taste the same as they used to do they? And when you can get them all the year round they must be stored in huge chillers somewhere for months on end, that's when they lose their flavour. I realised I'd somehow by-passed my dad and gone straight to sounding like my grandad.

My one consolation was that unlike my elderly aquaintance I wasn't wearing a cloth cap. That reassured me that I'm still too young to go down that particular road yet. The downside being that cloth caps look quite trendy on people below a certain age, which I'm well above now. Oh well.

The final scary moment was when I got to the checkout. Stood there with my basket in hand I suddenly realised I was doing something which I've sworn for years I would never do. I was stood there whistling. It was quite a low whistle and I can't remember what tune it was,  if it had a tune. But I was whistling. That did scare me.

On the way home with the shopping I consoled myself with two thoughts. At no point in my moaning with other customers did I say: "Have you heard about her at number 30?". And my whistle didn't have that really annoying wobble that is a true sign that the ageing process is taking its toll.

I suppose we should all be grateful for small mercies. But £1.10 for butter? Not right that!  

Looking Back: Being a Catholic Libertarian

During my political and life journey I have met some fascinating people, and some very dodgy people. I have also met some very sincere people who challenge you and your beliefs either by direct opposition, or by quietly giving food for thought, making you go away rethink some of your views and beliefs. It is no sin to accept you were wrong and take a different path, which is maybe why I haven't slavishly followed one political party throughout my life.

One thing that has been  constant has been my Catholicism. There have been times in my life, especially in my rebellious youth, when I have doubted and at times I have turned my back on my Church. But in recent years I have been considering my faith much more deeply and been much more open to discussing it with others. In politics it is too easy to just tootle along to Mass on a Sunday and keep quiet the rest of the time. It's strange but peope who demand respect for most people in the world are very often the most abusive towards Christians. But I'm the kind of person, for good or ill, who will stand up and fight, especially when facing bigots, and many militant secularists are extremely bigotted. Which is why, in recent years, I have been much more open, overt, call it what you will about my Catholicism.

One of the people I met last year was a young libertarian called Alex Ellis Roswell . Alex is an admirable young chap and I believe he will have a successful and honourable future in politics. He is brave and intelligent but also extremely likeable and pleasant. He is just the kind of person politics needs. So when pondering a few things in the last few days, one being how sometimes older people read something and see what they want to read rather than what is actually written, Alex came to mind and a piece he asked me to write for his blog about my religious and political position.

It is interesting to sometimes look back and consider how things have or haven't changed. Below is the piece that Alex published on March 31 2011. I still regard myself as a libertarian, certainly Roman Catholic but am neither Chairman of the Libertarian Party now nor politically active as I was then:

I don’t want to use this piece to justify my belief in God, nor would I dream of lecturing people who do not believe or are agnostic, I prefer to leave that to theologians, philosophers and others who have devoted much more time and energy than I have to studying these things. What I hope to do here is to explain how I feel that being a Catholic sits easily with being a Libertarian. The following quote is from the Most Rev Peter Smith, Archbishop of Cardiff:

If you simply try to enforce behaviour by law, it doesn’t work terribly well in practice. Governments can’t do everything, and there’s been a tendency in recent years to think government has to do everything. The downside of that is that people think ‘well, I don't have to bother.

That quote goes a long way to explaining how many people, not just libertarians, feel today about politics and the state, or rather the nanny state. Sadly many opponents of libertarianism claim that we just want a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world where the strong thrive and tough on the rest. That is not true. Libertarians merely believe that the state is not the best service provider and that we should provide the highest level of service we can. In other words, we want value for money. If we can provide a higher level of service, say in health care, by removing state control I would suggest that we have a moral duty to do that.

On the question of human behaviour I feel that Catholicism, indeed Christianity generally, provides a much more valuable guide to behaviour and personal morality than the state ever could. Whether or not people accept it today our laws are derived from our Judaeo-Christian heritage and without that our whole legal and moral framework would look radically different.

My behaviour is guided by my moral beliefs primarily, not because the state dictates how I should behave. If I can get away with speeding, without endangering others, I will, regardless of what the state says. The state would not stone me to death for being unfaithful to my wife, but I would never be unfaithful to my wife because of my moral beliefs.

The church teaches us to stand on our own two feet, to be industrious and look after ourselves and our families properly. Then look to the needs of your neighbour if he needs help and so on throughout your wider community. I would argue that the modern welfare state is the opposite of what Christianity teaches. It discourages industry, it encourages people to take money without earning it which belittles the efforts of others and diverts resources from where they are genuinely needed. Nobody with a shred of decency would argue against helping those in genuine need, to ignore those in genuine need is inhuman and unchristian. But there is a better way.

Charity is a great cornerstone of Christianity. There is nothing more worthy than men helping others who are in need or are less fortunate than themselves. Sadly, in the twenty-first century charity is a dirty word to many people. How often do you hear: “No, I don’t want to accept charity thank you very much”? But that same person will be accepting state benefits. Aren’t state benefits merely charity that has been nationalised? Isn’t the welfare state a massively expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic nationalised charity? Doesn’t today’s modern welfare state encourage people to ignore others, encourage the breakup of communities by taking away our need to help and support each other because we know the state will provide? I see an alternative, improved service to that which the state currently provides as a Christian necessity and imperative, not on the grounds of cost, but on the grounds of providing the most effective service to those in need.

One of the questions I’m asked frequently is how I reconcile my Catholic position on abortion with being a libertarian. As with any philosophy there could be a great debate about the libertarian position on abortion, so I can only answer for myself. I believe that life begins at conception therefore, as a libertarian as well as a Catholic, I believe that abortion is the initiation of violence against another human being and is wrong. It is also the reason why, over recent years, I have changed my view on capital punishment, it seemed a strange contradiction to support death for adults but oppose the killing of unborn children.

I have no doubt that debate will rage within the Catholic Church and within the libertarian movement, as long as those two entities exist and man can walk and talk, about what they actually mean and represent. These are merely the views of somebody who does believe in Catholicism but has had years doubting, and even disbelieving, only to eventually return to the Church. Once a Catholic always a Catholic maybe. But I am also a libertarian who has always been a libertarian, even when I couldn’t put the name ‘libertarian’ to my political ideas in the late ‘70s early ‘80s.

Knowing Catholics and libertarians as I do, I have no doubt there will be those who agree with me and others who disagree, but neither will be shy at responding, and I welcome that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lib Dem MP David Laws Guilty.

David Laws has been found guilty on six charges in relation to false expenses claims. He, or others on his behalf, try to mitigate the offence because he was trying to protect himself and his secret gay lover from media interest. In my opinion that merely compounds the felony. He should resign as an MP immediately.

Interestingly Laws got 55% of the vote in the 2010 general election and 51% in 2005, so would have been elected even under AV. But the Yes2AV campaign claimed that the expenses scandal wouldn't have happened if we'd had AV.

So perhaps somebody who supports AV can explain why getting over 50% under FPTP opens a weak or greedy person to wrongdoing, whereas getting over 50% under AV miraculously removes that temptation?

I only ask because I genuinely don't understand.

UK Politics, The Home of the Bland

Now the sham Alternative Vote system has been consigned to the bin how are British politicians going to reconnect with the British public? Indeed, how are people like me, someone who has become disconnected after more than 30 years as a political activist, going to be reconnected to politics? Those are the multimillion dollar questions.

There are two strands to this issue. What must the politicians do and what must the public do? I don't pretend to have all the answers, just my opinions, that's what blogging is about, and if you are so thin skinned as to find somebody who disagrees or disapproves of your position 'hateful' then please stop reading now and go and do something more suited to your vulnerability, such as knitting or playing crown green bowls. You see that makes you bland, and that is the crux of the problem with politicians today, they are bland and can't take robust opposition without squealing and crying foul. Just look at Cable and Huhne over the AV sham.

Where are the big ideas on the big issues? Where is the difference in policies betwen the main parties on such as the NHS? The answer is that the drive to the 'centre ground' has rendered civilised debate on issues such as healthcare redundant. Whatever anybody suggests regarding improving the NHS political opponents will scream about privatisation through the back door and how the NHS is the bedrock of our very existence, which is arrant nonsense. But the drive to the bland centre ground  has killed debate. What has happened to Lansley's NHS reforms? Some criticism and they are withdrawn for further 'consultation'.

The NHS is the prime example in another way of where we have gone wrong. Increasingly the public are distrustful of politicians and government. So why leave something as crucial as you and your family's healthcare in the hands of the politicians? Would you prefer one state owned shop to buy your groceries from? One state owned car company to buy your car from? One state owned brewery selling you your pint in the state owned pubs? I thought not. People complain that the government, through taxes, steals their money and wastes it. They become bitter at how local and national government waste their hard earned cash. But dare to say that there is millions wasted in the NHS too by the government and you are accused of wanting to privatise healthcare so that the poor will die young because they can't afford healthcare. The NHS is the UK's sacred cow. Political censorship crushes debate.

I don't intend to argue here for privatisation of the NHS, I am merely making a point about the stifling of discussion. The same principle applies to discussion of immigration, where those who believe in controlling immigration are accused of racism. The same principle applies with those who disapprove of Islam, they are branded Islamophobes. Those who don't believe that women should referee mens' football games, they are sexist. You disagree with Britain's membership of the EU and you are a Europhobe or worse a xenophobe. The level of political debate in this country has been decimated by political correctness. Remove the shackles of political correctness and we can start to breath in the fresh air of freedom again. But the politicians are trying so hard not to disagree with anybody that they have bored the electorate into a stupor.

Then there is the electorate. They complain about being disconnected from the politicians but you have to help yourelf sometimes, you can't always be spoon fed. They complain that they only get a leaflet at election time, often true. But it is volunteers who deliver leaflets by and large and people aren't volunteering any more. If those who whinge actually looked at the parties' policies, found one they supported then contacted them to leaflet just their own street then the difference would be huge. I don't expect people to spend every minute of their time climbing the political ladder, but that time spent whinging used practically, could make a huge impact. Instead, as in many things they sit back and expect everybody else to do something. Then they are shocked when they see the calibre of the average politico.

But too often the politcal parties take the few activists they have left for granted. The activists in the Labour Party voted for David Miliband but got Ed instead. I'd have been pretty angry as a Labour activist if my vote had been usurped under the Alternative Vote sytem in that way, so that the unions got their man rather than the activists. Then, a few years back Labour activist Walter Wolfgang was manhandled out of the Labour conference, under anti-terror legislation, for heckling a speaker. Not the way to treat your activists I'd have thought.

But what really angers me is the when I hear people boasting of voting for one party all their lives, or even worse having been a member of one party all their lives. I always wonder in that case, who hasn't developed, matured and responded to changing times, them or their parties?

So what's the answer? I don't know, but I do blame the public and the politicos in pretty equal measure for the bland nonentities currently strutting like peacocks across the political stage. Maybe the public gets what the public deserves.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Sectarian Violence in Egypt and Christianity in Russia

A few weeks ago, when people in the West were getting all giddy about the overthrow of tyrants in the Middle East, I was as sceptical as ever and warned that things could turn ugly. Sadly I think those of us who counselled caution have been proved correct. It was obvious in my view so I'm not trying to make myself look like some kind of visionary.

As soon as the shackles of dictatorship are cut from the people a vacuum is created. The big question is who fills that vacuum? My belief was that it would be various shades of Islam, from relatively moderate to fundamentalist, and I was shocked at the time how many people scoffed and seemed naively convinced that in two ticks Western style liberal democracies would be the norm from Cairo to Algiers.

Maybe people will be a little more realistic now that reports are appearning ever more frequently of sectarian violence breaking out in Egypt and Christian churches being torched, not just in Egypt but elsewhere too. I fear that we are only at the beginning of what could be a very uncomfortable few decades.

Contrast that with the news of christianity booming in Russia following the fall of communism, as reported on the excellent eChurch Blog. Who knows, we may yet need Russia as a valuable ally again in the future, and it's good to see that even decades of communist oppression couldn't kill the belief of the Russian people.

For information about the persecution of Christians throughout the world please visit: PERSECUTION.ORG

BBC, Language, Waffle and Rhubarb

I've done it again. I keep promising to stop, but I'm weak and flawed. I really did try this time, even my wife supported me unconditionally, but I fell at the first hurdle. My name's Gregg, and I'm a radio phone-in addict.

We had a tremendous night last night with friends in Rochdale, but driving back up North this morning I listened to Nicky Campbell on BBC5Live. I know I shouldn't, the BBC is bad for the old blood pressure at the best of times, but when Nicky Campbell is on well, need I say more? But it got worse, after 9-00am up pops the dreaded phone-in. Even Mrs B was frothing like a rabid dog, and I had a terrible attack of radio rage. It was that old chestnut "we English are so lazy about learning other languages". Aaarrggghh!

You see, I don't subscribe to this terribly English habit of self-flagellation and loathing. I happen to think that by and large this is a pretty fine place to live and we are amongst the most tolerant people in the world, if anything maybe too tolerant which is why it sometime spills over into the aforementioned self loathing. We have giant parties for St Patrick's Day, we have the biggest Caribbean carnival in the world in Notting Hill. But wear a red rose or a Cross of St George on 23rd April and you're an evil fascist who wants to bring back the Empire and slavery.

So this time it was this language nonsense that got me angry. The BBC does that regularly but, as I am forced to finance the rotten organisation by the tax/theft method of the licence fee, I sometimes get the urge to sample what I'm forced to pay for, although I really shouldn't. The question of the English and foreign languages usually gets me angry because all the pseudo-intellectuals and Islington types love to thrash us with our supposed inability to master other languages. Absolute merde! See what I did there? Or are you too English?

The English are very pragmatic. If we have to do something we do it, and do it very well on the whole. Apart from sport which we do a lot of but not very well. In fact we even did world domination in a very understated way. Gradually it dawned on the world that we controlled two thirds of it. We did this very nicely and, although we were involved in regular spats, we did not do it in a violently militaristic way that led to regular world war like some people I could mention. We did it in a very gentlemanly manner as we did when we retreated to our rightful position as a small island off the coast of Northern Europe, and gave those countries back to their rightful owners. What we left behind were great bureaucracies, if 'great' is the right word, fine engineering works and the English language. Bingo! That's it. In a very strange way the Empire actually is the reason we don't tend to speak foreign languages as much as some people do.

Imagine if the Germans had actually been a nation state before 1871 and they, rather than us, had built an empire that controlled two thirds of the earth. There's a pretty good chance that the USA would be a German speaking country, as would Canada, Australia, New Zealand, much of Africa and so on. OK, they'd probably have different names too, but I'm sure you get the drift. In that case we would all be sat here, speaking numerous languages, watching US TV with English subtitles and air traffic controllers would be speaking German, the international language. There would probably be phone-ins today in Germany moaning about how bad they are at learning other languages. Or maybe not, no lazy national stereotypes here, but the Germans are not as prone to self loathing as we are.

But what language does a poor German learn when the world speaks German. Does he learn English? Spanish? Italian? Flemish? Well you need to learn a language to be nice to people when you're on holiday so they say. So it'll be Greek this year, Bulgarian next year, French next year. Poor Heinz would do nothing but learn foreign languages in case he one day has a holiday in a particular country. It would be stupid. So it is for us.

I admire people who speak other languages. I get a great deal of satisfaction when I use my very basic French or Spanish and manage to communicate effectively. But let's not get hung up on languages and use them as sticks with which to beat ourselves. It's not because we are arrogant, nor because we are lazy and it is certainly not linguistic or cultural imperialism. It's an accident of history, a by product of our past, so let's just be pleased that when we are shopping in a little village on the Amazon, as we were a few years back, the shopkeeper speaks English.

Right, now that's off my chest no more radio phone ins for me.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Guild of Catholic Bloggers

Shamelessly lifted from Fr Sam's blog (link below).
Yesterday was the day that the Catholic bloggers gathered in Westminster, and a great day it was too.

If you take a few minutes you will see that this blog is a blog written by a Catholic, and increasingly influenced by my faith. Most people present yesterday write what I would describe as Catholic blogs. I find these blogs inspirational as well as informative and they are a great source for any Catholic, especially someoneone increasingly looking deeper into, and exploring the reality of his faith. But equally importantly they are a wonderful source for people wanting to find the truth about Roman Catholicism rather than depending on the jaundiced, often downright hostile ramblings in the mainstream media. They are written by real people living their faith, and it was a privelege to spend time with them and to actually meet after communicating through the blogosphere for some time in most cases.

So after arrriving in London I was in time to attend the 12-30 Mass at Westminster Cathedral and to light a candle at the shrine to Blessed Pope John Paul II. An inveterate people watcher I spotted several people also in attendance who were later at the bloggers' gathering. Unfortunately my train didn't arrive early enough for me to be at the 10-30 Latin Mass, which at least one other was able to get to.

A Reluctant Sinner did a tremendous job organising the room and preparing an agenda, this on top of travelling to Rome earlier in the week for the gathering there of bloggers from all over the world, many thanks for that. However if you put a group of bloggers together in a room chairing the meeting is a little like herding cats, and the conversation meandered. But I thought the day was all the better for that and it proved incredibly informative and enjoyable not to say uplifting.

In the end we agreed on developing an umbrella blog to which  'members' will contribute as well as linking to their own blogs. I say 'members' because it looks like developing in a much more informal way than a traditional membership organisation with absolutely minimal organisational structure. Our primary role will be as a way of promoting the work of the Church and as a resource for each other and Catholic bloggers generally, whether they attend our occasional real life gatherings or prefer to communicate via the 'blogosphere'.

So a fruitful day was had by all and I'm sure all present would agree with that. But there are already two further blog posts on yesterday's event on other blogs. And here they are:

Medley Minute with Father Sam 

A Reluctant Sinner

I'm sure that more will follow and I will happily update as people blog their take on yesterday's events.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

So, Farewell Then Liberal Democrats

A voter gives a Lib Dem candidate a piece of his mind.
I really did enjoy seeing the Liberal Democrats get a bloody nose yesterday, and I have no doubt they will get a further thumping when the next general election comes around. In my very early days in politics I was told that people who sit in the middle of the road tend to get run over, how very true.

What I've always detested about the Lib Dems is the way they portray themselves as the 'nice party'. We were always told off for using the word 'nice' at school, it is bland and meaningless. Perfect for the Lib Dems then. I knew they would eventually come a cropper, I'm just surprised it took the populace so long to rumble them. That's something to be grateful to the Coalition government for I suppose.

They have tried to be all things to all men, anti-hunting in my old inner city constituency, pro hunting in my current semi rural constituency where there is a popular local hunt. Even their posters 'Lib Dems Winning Here' carry a slight whiff of dishonesty, in a very gentle Lib Dem way. I also dislike the way every Lib Dem leaflet has a fake opinion poll showing that 'only the Lib Dems can unseat the current Labour/Tory councillor in this ward, it's a two horse race'. And they claim to be whiter than white!

I've seen Lib Dems check out the local council works schedule, then campaign in a street where improvements are due to street lights for example. A quick Lib Dem Focus is popped through doors claiming they are disgusted at the poor street lighting. A few weeks later the council renews the street lights. Hey presto, out comes a Llib Dem Focus taking the credit. Yes, they are that sneaky.

But the real disaster for the Lib Dems was joining the Coalition. It's one thing sitting on the sidelines griping, but when it comes to taking tough decisions, not to mention responsibility, the Lib Dems have fallen well short. The likes of Vince Cable and Chris Huhne have shown what a juvenile, irresponsible and unprincipled gang the Lib Dems really are, and they've been well and truly rumbled.

So, farewell then Lib Dems, you won't be missed.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Osama bin Laden and Che Guevara-Murdered Revolutionaries?

I spent quite a lot of time on the road yesterday and Tuesday, so had plenty of time listening to the radio. I have a terrible habit of listening to radio phone-ins. It's a bit like slowing down to look at an accident, you know you shouldn't but...

Anyway since bin Laden was dispatched to join his 72 virgins there has been a strange response from a minority on radio phone-ins and on the internet. It includes condemnation of the US for naked aggression against an unarmed man. Accusations of 'state sponsored murder' by the US. Accusations that the US is no better than Al-Qaeda and that no democracy should carry out executions without a fair trial. Oh, not forgetting the old US warmongering allegation.

To all that I say absolute bull! bin Laden had it coming and got what he deserved. Bloody hell, to hear some of the idiots gassing off you'd think the special forces had swooped on the local bingo hall and taken out a harmless, grey haired old granny. It was bin Laden, responsible for the deaths of thousands, get a grip people.

Is there any doubt of bin Laden's guilt? No there isn't, that's the test in a case like this. Who wouldn't have taken Hitler out in 1940 if they'd had the chance? Leaving the political nonsense about due process and a fair trial aside, more important is the moral question. How many lives would have been saved if Hitler had been bumped off in 1932, 1939, 1940 or whenever?

If bin Laden had been taken out in 2000 there is a great chance that at least 3000 innocent people would be alive today. He showed no remorse, no sign that he would cease his terrorist activities, I would therefore suggest that many more lives have been saved as a result of taking bin Laden out. What was done was a perfectly moral action. For once Obama has done the right thing.

So what's the link to Che Guevara then? It's a long time now since I had a pop at the BBC but they really angered me yesterday, or rather Peter Allen did on BBC5Live. They were doing a piece about dead terrorists and Che Guevara, Ernie to use his real but less appealing name, was mentioned.

Guevara was the Argentinian terrorist who helped Castro build Cuba into a totalitarian police state. Once the people of Cuba had been suppressed and oppressed, Guevara had to look elswhere to satisfy his murderous bloodlust. So he headed off to oppress the people of Bolivia. However, there weren't enough loonies in Bolivia to follow Ernie and he ended up lost in the forest with a small band of misfits. I don't think they had Che Guevara t-shirts on though, not then. To cut a long story short the Bolivian army surrounded the terrorists and Guevara was shot by a young officer. Job done, another dead terrorist.

But oh no, Allen apologised for calling Ernie a 'terrorist' and referred to him instead as a 'revolutionary'. I may have found 'revolutionary terrorist' an acceptable term but not 'revolutionary', I still prefer 'terrorist' to describe people like bin Laden and Guevara.

I wonder how long until the BBC will be referring to bin Laden as a 'revolutionary'?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Chris Huhne, Lib Dem Brats and the AV Referendum

I can't believe Chris Huhne is still whining and griping about the No campaign before the referendum on Thursday. Every time he opens his mouth he reminds me of an old phrase my mum used to use to whingeing kids: "Stop yarling or I'll give you something to yarl about". I suspect that Huhne is yarling because he knows they have lost the referendum but isn't man enough to take his medicine.

The problem with the Lib Dems crying foul about the No campaign misleading the electorate is that the Lib Dems have been the biggest misleaders of the electorate for decades. Even in the referendum campaign they have misled. For example:

They claim that the expenses scandal wouldn't have happened with AV. Lie!

They claim that MPs would not have seats for life under AV. Lie!

They claim that MPs would have to work harder under AV. Lie!

The Liberal Democrats have had too many years of being able to come out with outrageous promises knowing they would never be in a position to implement or break them. Now they are actually part of the Coalition we can all see what a bunch of vacuous, juvenile poseurs the likes of Clegg, Huhne and Cable actually are.

In recent weeks I have gone from being an AV supporter to being adamantly opposed to it, indeed I have already used my postal vote against. I wasn't so much persuaded by the No campaign, rather by the childish and simplistic campaign run by the supporters of AV. Don't pretend your campaign is about making politics more accountable and less shallow by coming out with nonsense such as the above, backed up by a bunch of publicity hungry media whores like Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley. That's not just shallow it's tacky and patronising.

Try harder next time.

If you are interested in my other posts on AV please click on the Alternative Vote label below.

Wi-Fi Internet Access in Hotels

I'm a little angry, not very, but angry enough to blog. Blogging when very angry can be undignified, I've witnessed people coming terrible croppers blogging in a rage. It can be therapeutic I suppose, in a very public way, but after the therapy the embarassment, sometimes shame can come and whack you over the head when you look back at what you wrote. It's happened to us all, well most of us.

I am angry today about yet another potential rip-off. As is often the case in the UK it is a hotel that has angered me. I've travelled all over Europe over the years, and in recent years internet access, for good or ill, has become an important thing. All over Europe hotels, and even campsites, provide wi-fi access these days for no charge. But oh dearie me, not here in dear old Blighty. As ever we get shafted by the hotel chains, many of whom do not charge in their European hotels. That comes on top of room charges and charges for breakfast being so much higher in the UK already.

In the next week I am spending a night in an Ibis. I've stayed in these hotels in Europe and no charge for wi-fi. There is in the UK. And the cost of a breakfast is so high that I'd expect to have it cooked  and delivered to me in bed by Nigella Lawson. For a third of that price you get a healthy, eat what you can continental breakfast in Europe. So I'm not using wi-fi or having their breakfast, not when I know a greasy spoon round the corner from the hotel that can do a great job of clogging up my arteries for under a fiver.

But on a positive note, after the whinge, I was recently on a course in Coventry and stayed at a great little hotel that was extremely good value and provided free wi-fi. If you ever need to stay in between Coventry and Birmingham I recommend the Allesley Hotel. They do a cracking cooked buffet brekkie too!

That's better. It's nice to end on a positive after a moan.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Osama bin Laden and the Middle East

Am I the only one who woke up this morning to the news of bin Laden's death to feel distinctly underwhelmed? If it is bin Laden, and bin Laden has been running the worldwide terror network we call Al-Qaeda, is it really such a big deal? Do we really think the Islamist terrorists are all going to throw away their weapons and go back to their home towns and villages? Or will there be any number of men just waiting to carry on the work started by bin Laden?

My view has always been that we, the West, have used bin Laden and blown his image out of all proportion because we like to personalise our wars. We don't like to say that we were at war with Germany any more, it was Hitler. The worst excesses of the Soviet Union were not carried out by Russians, they were carried out by Stalin. Cambodians didn't slaughter each other by the million, that was Pol Pot. Cubans haven't oppressed Cubans over the decades, that was Castro.

It is easier to keep the population on side if we create an evil being to target rather than accept that thousands if not millions of people actually follow the doctrine and carry out the attacks and mass murders quite happily. It's especially convenient when you don't want a whole swathe of people blamed, in this case Islamists or Muslims generally. Western governments are walking a tightrope, we are fighting Islamist extremists in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but don't want to turn Western people against Muslim people in the West.

My feeling is that the death of bin Laden is largely irrelevant, he will have laid plans for this scenario years ago, things will continue as if nothing has happened. There may well be a spate of attacks to show their anger at his death, if they even publicly accpet his death, which I wouldn't do if I were an Al-Qaeda leader. There must be any number of lookalikes they can  trundle out to show what a bunch of liars we in the West have in charge.

I am much more fearful of what could happen in the Middle East. When people in the West were coming over all giddy about events in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere I couldn't help a deep sense of foreboding. Helping get rid of dictators is one thing, but what fills the vacuum? Already attacks on Christians have increased in the region and the Muslim Brotherhood is reported to be organising themselves very effectively to make huge strides in public and political life in the new Egypt. The West seemed to be in some kind of mass delusional state. Baddies in the Middle East gone one day, liberal western style democracy installed the next. It doeswn't work like that, never has and never will.

Whether we accept it or not, chaos in the Middle East is what militant Islamists will thrive on and garner support from. If we in Europe end up with militant Islamist states across the Middle East, then we should be very afraid, whether bin Laden is dead or alive.