Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Imperial War Museum North

There's a strange piece of blatant politically correct brainwashing at the Imperial War Museum North in Salford. In the section on the Cold War there are three events of the period described as defining moments in the Cold War.

One of the events is the arrival of the Empire Windrush carrying the West Indian migrants that led to Britain becoming a 'multi-racial' country. It then explains that despite this there is still racism, homophobia and sexism in this country today.

After reading this we chose to leave and probably won't be back.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Zombie Nation

We've had a great couple of days, apart from having our ears attacked by noise continuously. What is it that makes whoever is responsible think that we want music pumped at us everywhere we go?

Enter a pub and it's blaring at you, so you leave and go to another pub. But, and it's especially bad in Manchester, there is music blaring in the streets too. Maybe it's coming out of shops most of the time, but in Exchange Square it is blaring out of huge speakers. There also seem to be big screens everywhere showing TV programmes, films or concerts. Why?

Then you look in Starbucks and see five people sat drinking over-priced gunge that passes for coffee. There are three individuals and a couple. The couple are not talking to each other, they are playing on their mobiles as are two of the individuals. The fifth person is playing on a laptop. Do people ever actually have conversations any more?

It seems to me that we are fast becoming a nation of zombies, walking around in a semi-comatose state with a constant noise to stop us thinking too much about things. All we seem to do, apart from work, is shop.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lance Armstrong

I find it amazing that Lance Armstrong has been hounded so badly by the US authorities that he is giving up the fight to clear his name. He is the most drug tested athlete in history, and has never failed a test, but the authorities in the US, not the world cycling authorities, are hounding him and are about to strip him of his titles.

Below is Lance Armstrong's full statement:

Lance Armstong's Statement of August 23, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas - August 23rd, 2012 - There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, "Enough is enough." For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart's unconstitutional witch hunt. The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense.
I had hoped that a federal court would stop USADA’s charade. Although the court was sympathetic to my concerns and recognized the many improprieties and deficiencies in USADA’s motives, its conduct, and its process, the court ultimately decided that it could not intervene.
If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and – once and for all – put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colors. I made myself available around the clock and around the world. In-competition. Out of competition. Blood. Urine. Whatever they asked for I provided. What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?
From the beginning, however, this investigation has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs. I am a retired cyclist, yet USADA has lodged charges over 17 years old despite its own 8-year limitation. As respected organizations such as UCI and USA Cycling have made clear, USADA lacks jurisdiction even to bring these charges. The international bodies governing cycling have ordered USADA to stop, have given notice that no one should participate in USADA’s improper proceedings, and have made it clear the pronouncements by USADA that it has banned people for life or stripped them of their accomplishments are made without authority. And as many others, including USADA’s own arbitrators, have found, there is nothing even remotely fair about its process. USADA has broken the law, turned its back on its own rules, and stiff-armed those who have tried to persuade USADA to honor its obligations. At every turn, USADA has played the role of a bully, threatening everyone in its way and challenging the good faith of anyone who questions its motives or its methods, all at U.S. taxpayers’ expense. For the last two months, USADA has endlessly repeated the mantra that there should be a single set of rules, applicable to all, but they have arrogantly refused to practice what they preach. On top of all that, USADA has allegedly made deals with other riders that circumvent their own rules as long as they said I cheated. Many of those riders continue to race today.
The bottom line is I played by the rules that were put in place by the UCI, WADA and USADA when I raced. The idea that athletes can be convicted today without positive A and B samples, under the same rules and procedures that apply to athletes with positive tests, perverts the system and creates a process where any begrudged ex-teammate can open a USADA case out of spite or for personal gain or a cheating cyclist can cut a sweetheart deal for themselves. It’s an unfair approach, applied selectively, in opposition to all the rules. It’s just not right.
USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles. I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours. We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront. There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that. Especially not Travis Tygart.
Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances. I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities. This October, my Foundation will celebrate 15 years of service to cancer survivors and the milestone of raising nearly $500 million. We have a lot of work to do and I'm looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction. I have a responsibility to all those who have stepped forward to devote their time and energy to the cancer cause. I will not stop fighting for that mission. Going forward, I am going to devote myself to raising my five beautiful (and energetic) kids, fighting cancer, and attempting to be the fittest 40-year old on the planet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fighting the European Union

The last couple of months have been extremely hard work, setting up a new business is time consuming and stressful, but ultimately rewarding. Now some semblance of normality is returning to our lives, such as going out last night for our first curry, other than a dodgy takeaway, in many months.

Also yesterday I was invited by Civitas to take part in a debate about the European Union in Liverpool in October. Unsurprisingly I will be speaking against our continued membership. I don't know yet what brave individual will be speaking for. When I say that I'm not being cocky about my debating skills, more that finding somebody to defend the EU these days is a little like finding a Nazi in Germany in the immediate post war years.

Another sign of normality returning is that I have, this morning, joined a new political party, the Independent Libertarians. If you value individual liberty and freedom then please visit their website, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Next on my 'to do' list is to find the time to pop along and watch FC United of Manchester.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Independent Libertarians

Good news, the Independent Libertarian Network is now up and running and open for membership.

To find out a more click on the link above.

Julian Assange

I really can't understand the fuss about Julian Assange, or the number of people who seem to support him. To me he seems to be an attention seeking, egotistical misfit who really should get a life.

We all know there are dark things being done by governments all over the world but that is no excuse for posting classified information on the internet. Instead work to change the system to a more open and accountable one.

But to then hide in the embassy of a country led by an attention seeking, egostistical misfit who puts opponents in jail, while attacking the UK, USA and Sweden, smacks of the worst kind of hypocrisy. See the pattern?

I really can't be arsed saying anything more about the pillock.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday-Bowie Time

This is a class version of a song that appeared on his Heathen album in 2002. This version was for an album that never saw the light of day. Enjoy:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Peterloo Massacre

Today in 1819 fifteen people died in Manchester when the local magistrates ordered armed militia to arrest radical campaigner Henry Hunt, who was to address a crowd of around 80,000 fighting for parliamentary reform. At that time Lancashire had only two MPs who were elected by the head of a freehold property.

The massacre took place around where Central Library now stands on what was then called St Peter's Fields. The name 'Peterloo' came about as the troops who were involved had returned from the Napoleonic Wars and had taken part in the 1815 Battle of Waterloo.

The massacre was one of the key events in our history and contributed to Manchester becoming a key place, not only in our industrial past, but in the never ending campaign for freedom and democracy. It is right that this event should be remembered as our fight for freedom and liberty continues today as the state works ever harder to control ever more aspects of our lives.

More information on the Peterloo Massacre.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Losing Virgin

I'm probably one of the few people who doesn't have a strong opinion about Richard Branson. His attempts at being a latter day Victor Kiam could be cheesy but eh, no harm done really. I was sad to hear that when we were in the darkness of the Blair years he was brown nosing the supreme leader and giving him and 'la gob' free stays on his island paradise but that's his prerogative, and probably made buisiness sense knowing how Blair operates.

But this morning I was shocked to hear that Virgin had lost their West Coast mainline franchise to FirstGroup. In my experience I have been extremely impressed  when travelling to London on Virgin trains. Only real problems have been with the track, which is beyond their control.

By contrast my travel on trains in FirstGroup have been marked by dirty trains full of litter and delays because of drivers not turning up for work. I'd love to know the critria for making these decisions but suspect it is hardly bedtime reading so won't bother. But I can't help wondering if it is Dave 'Blair Lite' Cameron getting revenge for Branson's earlier brown nosing.

Cynical old fart? Me?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympics-Waterloo Sunset

Ray Davies, top man. But who the hell thought of putting George Michael in the closing ceremony?

Now it's over maybe the Londoners will stop whinging about public transport, too many/too few tourists, traffic jams/empty roads and whatever else they've been whining about this past fortnight. Actually they won't, whining is their natural state, it's the one thing I don't miss now I'm back up north.

Got to hear Waterloo Sunset again though:

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Bradley Wiggins Wins Again

My respect for Bradley Wiggins goes up on a daily basis. OK the word on his latest victory, kicking the disgusting Piers Morgan in the nuts, is that it wasn't actually Bradley Wiggins but a fan. Either way it's the kind of thing he would have done and whoever kicks Piers Morgan in the nuts is top man in my reckoning, Wiggo or a fan.

Just for the record I am a patriot and I like to see competitors sing the national anthem. But if they don't then that's up to them. I prefer the understated patriotism where people aren't classed as patriotic if they don't sob when they hear the national anthem or put bunting out gfor the Queen's birthday. What I dislike is footballers like Giggs and Bellamy playing for Great Britain and making a conscious decision not to sing the anthem. Don't like GB, don't play for GB.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

NHS Reality Check

Our local NHS Trust is constantly in the news, it is basically useless. The Independent, hardly a ranting right-wing free market advocating newspaper, gives an idea how bad it is in this article.  Then you can read about the killing of patients at Stepping Hill hospital in this BBC report. Also on the BBC website is this report about the tragic death of Emma Stones at Tameside Hospital.

I could go on listing the litany of abuse, avoidable deaths and sheer incompetence recorded in the National Health Service on a daily basis. I have personal experience of the filthy state of my local hospital and the poor standard of care provided by the nursing staff. My mother-in-law has been housebound for five years due to mistreatment at an NHS hospital. Virtually every person I know has experienced varying degrees of incompetence in the NHS.

Until we take a calm dispassionate look at the NHS the horror stories will continue to appear on an almost daily basis. We need to stop talking about NHS staff as if they are martyrs, they are not. They are doing a job, some highly motivated and competent some not, like in any other field.

Danny Boyle's opening Olympics ceremony was stunning. But why the soviet style propoganda glorification of the NHS? There should have been a minute's silence in memory of the Israeli athletes murdered by Palestians in Munich forty years ago. Maybe Danny Boyle should have included a tribute to those who have died needlessly in the NHS too.

Monday, August 06, 2012

I Won't Let You Down

This is an absolute classic, I've had it in my head all day so thought I'd try and infect others with it! It's by PHD which included Jim Diamond on vocals. Yet again I was shocked that it was out, and a huge hit, all the way back in 1982. It seems like yesterday.

Corby By-Election

So, Louise Mensch is standing down as MP for Corby and clearing off to live in New York. Can't say I blame her really as she was likely to lose the seat next time around anyway. It's a marginal constituency and with the Coalition going from bad to worse to even worse even a Labour Party led by Ed Moribund is pretty sure to retake the seat.

This is a great opportunity for smaller parties to make some headway, but I can't see where there is one at the moment that can be taken seriously. Let's be straight, the Green Party managed to take Brighton in 2010 but Brighton probably has a higher percentage of weirdoes and oddballs per head of population than anywhere in the country. The rest of us aren't clear which planet they're on that they wish to save.

The BNP are a spent force and the long running sitcom that is UKIP just keeps trundling along seemingly content to have a few MEPs on the Brussels gravy train but doing little serious work in the UK. Let's face it any number of MEPs representing the UK is not going to get us out of the EU and Party Leader Nigel Farage recently declared British elections to be a waste of time. On the basis that I always checked my watch was still on my wrist when I was unfortunate enough to have to shake Farage by the hand, his statement means that UK elections are actually worth fighting, but they're happy taking the EU dosh and making a serious impact in the UK could threaten that.

The Lib Dems are likely to lose their deposit having been proved to be completely without principle or integrity since the last election, something many of us in politics have known for years but it has taken the full glare of Coalition limelight to show the average voter how bad they really are. I wouldn't have thought there would be a queue of high profile candidates wanting to be humiliated by being the Lib Dem candidate although Brian Paddick, rivalled only by Nigel Farage in the galloping ego stakes, may fancy the spotlight, after all, they are both shameless self-publicists.

So if it's worth the trouble a flutter on a Labour victory in Corby is what I'd recommend, I doubt there'll be any sort of upset.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Public Versus Private Sector

Over the last few months I've had a lot of contact with my local council, especially the planning and licensing departments. While the processes have been overly bureaucratic, largely due to central government dictats, the staff have been, without exception, helpful and pleasant. Phone calls have been returned when promised, queries have been dealt with promptly and things happened when they were supposed to. One phone call got me through to a receptionist that connected me staightaway to the right person, who then gave me his/her extension number for future use.

Conversely I have also been trying to open a bank account. Admittedly banks are a perverse form of private enterprise but I have been met with rudeness, a 'don't give a shit' attitude and crass incompetence. They all seem to have telephone systems designed to ensure it is impossible to actually reach the person, or even department, that you need to speak to. Messages have been left on numerous occasions and calls never returned. I tried Barclays and gave up. I had previously tried NatWest but left after hanging around ringing a bell at the enquiries desk for an age without anybody bothering to come and deal with my enquiry.

Finally I went back to NatWest and was dealt with by a wonderful woman who assured us that the account would be open within about 5 working days at most. It is now 8 and nothing. She promised to return calls, if busy, within an hour, three messages were left last week and not one was returned.

I've realised recently that it's all too easy for people to whinge about the public sector and sing the praises of the private sector, including yours truly. But no more, in future many of us need to be a little more objective. And don't even get me started on First Direct or the private utility companies.