Saturday, 29 October 2011

Patrick Harvie calls Alex Salmond on his green credentials

At the start of last weeks Scottish National Party conference last weekend First Minister Alex Salmond said:

"We [Scotland] are leading the global revolution in clean, green renewable energy, and we can and should be at the cutting-edge of pioneering carbon capture technology."

This week however, co-convenor of the Scottish Greens Patrick Harvie asked just how green can Alex and his SNP be? In his speech he said:

"Alex Salmond now has a very clear and simple choice - he must either fail on Scotland's much-vaunted climate change targets, or he must drop his unconditional support for the fossil fuel industries. 
"First, the new coal-fired power station at Hunterston must be blocked. Then he must rule out shale gas extraction, which his energy minister has refused to do. 
"Then, because CCS [carbon capture and storage] can never be applied to most uses of oil anyway, he must drop his support for dangerous deepwater oil drilling in Scottish waters."

The SNP are of constantly on about how they are not benefiting enough from the North Sea oil and gas industry. "Black gold" is the jewel in their crown for their being able to finance their dream of an independent Scotland. There has never been any secrecy about that not from the 70s the whole way through to the present day you will hear some SNP elected representative or candidate harp on about it being Scotland's Oil. Yet they continue simultaneously as Patrick has pointed out to try and balance appearing green with energy while looking to extract as much money as possible from fossil fuels.

So Patrick is right to ask what is it to be Alex? Oil, gas and shale or renewables?

Now then, now then, what do we have no longer here? Jimmy Savile RIP

I have a confession to make, as a kid I wrote in Jimmy Savile but I never did get to meet my footballing hero Kenny Dalglish on his TV show. When I did finally get to stand beside Kenny the first time we were at Euston station both checking the time of trains, not once but twice the undergraduate me was unable to turn to the man beside and say a word. Fortunately when his son Paul played for Livingston and the man turned up to pull the half time drawer winning tickets, I was past my rabbit syndrome for the famous and was able to speak to him.

But the man that I was hoping that letter would be the start of it, who made many kids dreams come true is no longer with us. Just after midday today police were called to home in Leedswhere the 84 old DJ and TV presenter lived alone. Apparently he was found dead.

Running the 1982 London Marathon
In the Second World War he was conscripted to work down the pit at South Kirkby Colliery, West Yorkshire. But starting using two record players and a microphone around the music hall it what he claimed was the first disc jockey. He was a semi-professional cyclist, taking part in the 1951 Tour of Britain and a wrestler, grappling in 107 bouts, of which the first 35 were loses. As he said

"No wrestler wanted to go back home and say a long-haired disc jockey had put him down. So from start to finish I got a good hiding. I've broken every bone in my body. I loved it."

But it was in 1958 and 1960 that he made his breaks into first Radio and then television. From 1958-1967 he was a disc jockey on Radio Luxembourg before in 1968 he joined BBC Radio 1.

In 1960 he hosted the Tyne Tees music programme Young at Heart on the TV, he must have done ok as after 4 years of doing that the BBC let him on New Years Day 1964 say the words. "It's number one, it's Top of the Pops" for the first time. 42 years later on 30 July 2006 he after the closing credits of the last Top of the Pops which he co-hosted he was the last one there saying "It's number one, it's still Top of the Pops" before turning out the studio lights.

However, the show, apart from Top of the Pops that he is associated with is the one that bares his name Jim'll Fix It. It originally ran from 31 May 1975 until July 1994 at around this time, teatime, on a Saturday. The show received over 2000 letters a week at it's heyday and the best were being picked to live out their dreams and be awarded with the coveted Jim Fixed It for Me medal on a red ribbon. In 2007 he returned with Jim'll Fix It for Me: Strikes Again it was to show some of the original Fix Its with the fixees all these years later, recreate some of the original Fix Its and make new dreams come true. In the first episode co-presenter Mel Giedroyc, went to Blackpool Pleasure beaches Irn Bru Revolution with some men dressed in shorts, woggles and caps who 26 years previous had been filmed eating and drinking but largely making a mess on the ride. Yeah the former boys of 2nd Sutton St. Mary's Cub Pack were at it again.

However, Jimmy Savile also ran 212 Marathons and races over other distances for the charity Phab (Physically handicapped and able bodied) and was a great patron of Stoke Mandeville hospital and their spinal injuries unit. Often in garish tracksuits to match the gold jewellery that so often bedecked his neck and wrists. He was refused an entry in the first London Marathon in 1982, but turned up with the number 0000 on his gold track suit and running gear (see picture) and completed the course. In 2005 aged 79 he ran his last London Marathon, sadly he never ran it as the oldest man. However, for Phab, Stoke Mandeville and other charities he raised over £40,000,000 in his lifetime. That should and always will be his most heart felt lasting legacy.

For his charitable works he was knighted two times, by Her Mzjesty the Queen in her 1990 Birthday Honours and in the same year by His Holiness the Pope, making him also a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory.

Sir James Wilson Vincent "Jimmy" Savile OBE, KCSG (31 October 1926 – 29 October 2011)

It's not Friday...but here on the Muppet Show is OK Go

I blame oneexwidow for getting me started on this train of though this morning, but bizarrely Kermit and friends has led me around to OK Go. If you don't know who OK Go are YouTube them to see some of the most visually brilliant concepts for music videos anywhere.

Meanwhile back to the main feature....roll title music

Even the journalists at VEVONews got excited about it and did an on set interview.

All good DVD's have a making off documentary, the same goes for all good OK Go videos, this one in no exception.

Friday, 28 October 2011

She didn't reign over us - but what if?

So the Commonwealth heads of state have agreed to end the system of male primogeniture. It will not be retrospective therefore the Princess Royal will sadly not shoot up the Royal succession charts from number 10 back to number 4, the position she last held the moment before Prince William was born. However, as the historian it does make me look at what would have happened if the rule change had come in earlier, here are  three important turning points in history if things had been different.

It is 1509 and Henry VII lies dying from tuberculous, his eldest surviving child Margaret is making the journey south from her husband James IV's Kingdom to be at her father's side. Her first son James had died the year before and she is currently early in the pregnancy of her second son Arthur who will be named after her late brother. Her 18 year old brother Henry rides to meet her at York and escort her to Richmond where their father lies dying. She arrives just in time to be beside her father. See is crowned Queen Margaret in Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but her husband ordered that the Stone of Destiny be transported from Scone and placed into a specially designed throne so that he could sit beside her. The infant Prince Arthur was sadly to die months after being present at his mother's coronation. But she was to bear another son James who would be King James I of England and V of Scotland. Under her reign the UK remained a Catholic nation but was to become a tolerant society for the reformation that swept Europe in the reigns of her descendants.

Her brother Henry married their brother Arthur's widow Catherine of Aragon, but when he grew tired of her in 1533 after she only bore the Duke of York a daughter Mary, the Queen refused to have him annul his marriage. He took a series of mistresses, first Anne Boleyn with who he had an illegitimate daughter Elizabeth. Catherine died in 1536 and the Prince remarried to Jane Seymour who bore him a son Edward but she died in childbirth. He found a third wife in Anne of Cleeves but she was not as attractive as her portrait portrayed her but again the Queen refused to annul the marriage. He took in turn two more mistresses Catherine Howard, the cousin of his previous mistress Anne Boleyn, and Catherine Parr who it is said he was most happy with.

Scenario one After Henry VII, Queen Margaret I (Apr 1509- Oct 1541), James I of England and V of Scotland (Oct 1541- Dec 1542), Queen Mary (Dec 1542- Mar 1602*), King James II and VI of Scotland, Queen Elizabeth I (Mar 1925- Feb 1662), King Charles I (see below) ( Feb 1662- Aug 1680), King Charles II (Aug 1860- May 1865), Queen Elizabeth II (May 1865- Dec 1722), King Philip I (Dec 1722- Dec 1723), Queen Louise I (Dec 1723- Feb 1743), Queen Charlotte (Feb 1743- Jan 1761), King Louis (Jan 1761- May 1768), Queen Louise II (May 1768- Jun 1821), King Louis Philippe I of UK and France (Jun 1821- Aug 1850), King Philip II (Aug 1850- Sep 1894), Queen Amelie (Sep 1894- Oct 1951), Queen Margaret II (Oct 1951 - Present)
The woman who's diamond Jubilee we could have been celebrating on Tuesday

Elizabeth II?
Suppose instead the change was brought in my either Mary or Elizabeth after they succeeded their father Henry VIII and brother Edward VI. In 1625 James I of England and VI of Scotland dies and his daughter Elizabeth become Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen had married some 12 years earlier Frederick V, Elector Palatine. After almost 37 years on the throne dies in 1662 leaving her son already reigning for 30 years as Karl I Ludwig to assume the throne of England as Charles I, who reigns benevolently for 18 years as he is ruling the United Kingdom and is not a focus for opposition forces there is no Civil War. In 1680 he is succeeded by his son as Charles II sadly Charles II's marriage to Princess Wilhelmina Ernestina of Denmark is childless when he dies five years into his reign to be succeeded by his sister as Elizabeth III, who was married to the younger brother of the King of  France.
Scenario two after James I, Queen Elizabeth II (Mar 1925- Feb 1662), King Charles I (see above) ( Feb 1662- Aug 1680), King Charles II (Aug 1860- May 1865), Queen Elizabeth III (May 1865- Dec 1722), King Philip II** (Dec 1722- Dec 1723), Queen Louise I (Dec 1723- Feb 1743), Queen Charlotte (Feb 1743- Jan 1761), King Louis (Jan 1761- May 1768), Queen Louise II (May 1768- Jun 1821), King Louis Philippe I of UK and France (Jun 1821- Aug 1850), King Philip III (Aug 1850- Sep 1894), Queen Amelie (Sep 1894- Oct 1951), Queen Margaret (Oct 1951 - Present)

Queen Victoria II?
Finally in 1901 when Queen Victoria I died her daughter the German Empress Frederick becomes Queen Victoria II and her son  Wilhelm II becomes heir apparent. The Queen moves for an act of Parliament to co-join the two Empires allowing her eldest son to succeed her, which the Marquess of Salisbury delivers in person for Royal Ascent just before the summer recess. However, within weeks of the Royal Succession Act of 1901 passing into the Queen dies on 5 August and the House of Hohenzollern-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha are in mourning for a second time in seven months. The Emperor rules Germany and the UK until 4 June 1941 just before the celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of the Royal Succession Act (1901) and his own reign in the UK. However he did extend his Empire after winning the Great War of 1914-16. Annexing France and Poland. He is recognised by Tsar Nicholas II and Emperor Charles of Austria-Hungary as Holy Roman Emperor. However, Nicholas is deposed by a communist uprising in 1921 the same year that William II of Germany and V of the United Kingdom declares an independent Ireland.

Scenario three  after Victoria, Queen Victoria II (Jan-Aug 1901), King William V (Aug 1901-Jun 1941), King William VI (Jun 1941-July 1951), Queen Felicitas (July 1951- Aug 2009), Queen Frederica (2009-present)

All three of these ladies were the oldest surviving child when their reigning parent died and as you can see there are interesting twists to history that would have been the outcome, not just to the history of the Royal Family but to the UK and Europe as a whole.

* Of course without Elizabeth being a legitimate threat to the Mary she is not executed and lives to the age of 60.
** Of course Queen Mary Henry VIII's daughter married Philip of Spain and her titles were his for the term of their marriage, making him King Philip of England, hence in this time like the first Philip who is an heir has the second regnal number.

Further reading If you like slants on actual geo-political history I can recommend Prime Minister Portillo: and Other Things that Never Happened (2004) edited by Duncan Brack and Iain Dale. But I also have just  seen there are follow ups also edited by Duncan of counter factuals President Gore: and Other Things that Never Happened and Prime Minister Boris: and Other Things that Never Happened. I'm sure a fourth volume will have to include will have to include a chapter, if not be the title "Queen Victoria II: and Other Things that Never Happened" looking at the issue of gender neutral primogeniture well Duncan you know where you can find me to contribute that chapter.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Big Eck's SNP bigs up a Facebook unscientific poll - Statistics Not Partisanship

I just saw this headline on the SNP website

For a start we all know the 'accuracy' of Faebook polling, indeed I was surprised that I hadn't picked up on it before now. It turns out it is one of those questions that get asked on facebook from time to time

Even the SNP report claims that 45% of such a poll is a majority with 42% failing. Now that places the result within any statistical margin of error. But not a clearance of 50% within a margin of error, especially as a Facebook poll cannot be weighted to take out any irregularities or non-representation of the sample group.

When I checked the figures for first preference as this is not a two question option as Caron has been blogging about, were:

Yes to full independence for Scotland 7447 44.3% of decided 46.4%
Yes to devolution max 1356 8.1% 8.4%
No 7239 43.1% 45.1%
Undecided 761 4.5%

Hardly a majority by any measure and too close to call by most I say. Obviously the SNP don't stand for Statistics Not Partisanship.

Jeffrey get your facts right about cafés, the bible and LGBT in this country

Today in PMQs the DUP's MP for Lagan Valley, Jeffrey Donaldson, asked David Cameron the following question:

Q8. [76635] Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): The Prime Minister has warned African countries that unless they improve gay rights, he will cut their aid, yet in many African countries where we pour in millions of pounds of aid, Christians face great persecution and destruction of churches, lives and property. Here in the UK, anyone who displays a Bible verse on the wall of a café faces prosecution. Was Ann Widdecombe right when she said that in the 21st century hedgehogs have more rights than Christians?

Now me being curious wanted to take a look at just how many cafe owners had faced prosecution for the offence of displaying a bible verse as I know a few of them around Northern Ireland that do so. Though I do know that potentially there are a few that are on permanent display on roadsides in Northern Ireland that could cause offence to certain sections of the community under section 75 (1) of the Belfast Agreement and I have yet to hear of anyone or any LGBT group protesting or prosecuting their existence.

It appears I wasn't the only one to want to do a fact check, read this piece by full fact check.

The Ann Widdecombe reference comes from this article in her Express column. But she doesn't mention anything about Cafes.

No that honour goes to the Fail on Sunday (again I have to apologise to readers for the link). After 24 paragraphs of reporting in which it is said that

  • the cafe owner was threatened with arrest
  • that he was told to stop playing his DVDs of the New Testament
  • that he faced and intensive inquisition for over an hour after the police arrived unannounced
  • that he was being bullied by the police
  • that he feared being put into handcuffs
  • that the Christian Institute (yes them again) are preparing a complaint on the cafe owners behalf

We get to this statement from Lancashire Constabulary after it says that they turned up to look into a complaint from a member of the public under the Public Order Act 1986 (which also for the record states that criticism of sexual conduct shall not in itself be deemed threatening or to stir up hatred):

"At no point did the officer ask the cafe owner to remove any materials or arrest the man and we took a commonsense and objective approach in dealing with the complaint. We believe our response and the action we took was completely proportionate and our officers are always available should the cafe owner want to discuss the matter or need any advice in the future. 
"The Constabulary is respectful of all religious views. However, we do have a responsibility to make sure that material that communities may find deeply offensive or inflammatory is not being displayed in public. 
"No complaint has been received about the conduct of the officer in question and we are satisfied that they performed their duties professionally."

Yeah it is another non-story in the Fail.

Maybe Jeffrey should look at some of the activity within his own party. Of course there is the former chair of the Health Committee who said that homosexual should see her little Christian psychiatrist friend for a cure. Or the current deputy chair who says that all those who take part in Pride are repugnant. Even those it would seem who offer counselling to suicidal LGBT young and not so young people, those who offer sexual health advise to all whether LGBT or straight, those who are men/women of the cloth, those who sit with them in Stormont or council chambers across Northern Ireland.

In America the so called family group, the American Family Association (AFA), have this week attacked the Trevor Project, a helpline for suicidal prevention among LGBT teens. So clearly they don't want people to tell these LGBT teens, who are five times more likely to take their own lives that straight teens, not to commit suicide. Sadly that is not so far removed from the actions and words of many in the DUP and indeed the tone with which Mr Donaldson asked his question. The figures for homophobic bullying of teens in Northern Ireland are as bad as in the USA where the AFA operate are just as bad.

Those of us who have been through those feelings in the past want to tell Northern Ireland LGBT teens, young people and not so young that it gets better, but how can we when our leaders fail to get their facts right about issues of homophobia real or alleged.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The other 2 Davids

In the 80s there were two sets of Two Davids that happened to influence my life. The first everyone should have a good guess at were the Lords Steel and Owen who through the 80s influenced my politics so much that one of the first things I did on leaving Northern Ireland to go to higher education was to join the Liberal Democrats.

The second set of two David's are less well known but had an equally life long effect on my life. They were David Fletcher and David Geary. The former first took me for Junior Boys Brigade taught me the importance of using both my feet, which in later years led to me being able to confuse opponents at will. But it was later when the two teamed up in the 80s to have a one hour session for junior bowlers at the church bowling club that they became the two Davids.

They starting coaching boys and later girls to play the game. I'd already learnt the basics from my Grandmother and late Grandfather, so jumped at the chance to get back to the game some 5 years after he had died. We played against each other and some of us stayed on to play against the mixed club in the evening. We even had competitions against other companies in the area our arch rivals 1st and 3rd Bangor. Bowling also became a BB Display event for the years that they kept this up. Through them I entered my first zonal tournaments, the first time losing to my club mate the second year losing to one of my eventual Bangor team mates, although that was my last year in the juniors so going out in the semis was hard to take and I had to be told to go back and shake hands after being beaten by a player 4 years younger than me. But I also picked up my first trophy winning the club junior title.

Some of the boys went on to become men and played bowls at all levels. Some of us even during that time tried out stadium bowls at the Bangor stadium when it was here at that time, some of us are still playing outdoors. Of the boys in that that club I think I'm the one who went on to have success at the highest level in the sport. Winning a full set of NIBA and IBA junior titles in one year and a Civil Service National title amongst other decent showings in tournaments in Ireland and Scotland. Those Irish titles were something that the two Davids were delighted to see, something that none of my three Grandparents, who all bowled, lived to see.

While I was in Scotland David Fletcher died, he was also a great supporter of Guide Dogs for the Blind organising the collection of stamps from all the Bangor churches. At the weekend we also lost David Geary and today is the day that we bury him. Both these two Davids served as elders in the church as I grew up. The bowling clubs are providing the refreshments this afternoon, there also one more thing that I can do to honour a fellow bowler, I'll be wearing my club blazer with some of the badges I'm entitled to wear.

So to the other two Davids in my life this is a day of remembrance and gratitude for getting me into my second stint as a bowler.

Monday, 24 October 2011

SNP join Lib Dems in saying blood deferral unfair #bloodban

One thing that did emerge from the SNP's conference in Inverness was that they too joined with the Liberal Democrats, while welcoming the progress of the SaBTO report in September, recognising that the one year deferral period for men who have sex with men is wholly inadequate.

Glasgow Cathcart delegate Stewart McDonald said:

"We have a situation where two men in a perfectly safe, healthy sexual relationship are prevented from doing what the Blood Transfusion Service calls 'something amazing': they will be prevented from helping to save lives.

"Most gay men do not have, and never will have HIV. Their blood is screened in the exact same way as everyone else's, and if safe should be donated in the same way as everyone else's. The policy we have just now, I would say, is unfit for purpose. And this is 21st Century Scotland. We can do better than this."

Thankfully unlike here in Northern Ireland the Scottish Health Minister has taken the SaBTO recommended deferral period on board for now. Though I'm not sure 100% what the motion before the delegates at SNP conference called for. Therefore I was disappointed to hear that a Scottish Government spokesman say (emphasis mine):

"While we understand the point, the UK Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissue and Organs has looked in depth at all the latest scientific evidence in this area, including improvements to blood screening and changes to donation criteria overseas, and recommended these changes on the basis of that evidence. 
"On that basis, the Scottish Government have accepted this expert advice in relation to blood donations in Scotland. 
"These changes will bring the criteria for men who have sex with men into line with other groups who are deferred from blood donation for 12 months due to sexual behaviours, while ensuring every possible step is taken to maintain the safety of our blood supply."

They clearly have not understood the point if they are still saying that the 12 month referral is based on behaviour. The fact is as was argued so well by Stewart at the SNP conference and so many at Lib Dem conference that there are MSM who are in stable relationships, have always practiced safe sex and regularly get their blood checked for STIs and return constant negative results. They are also most likely have taken, or at least been offered, the Hepatitis B and C shots to protect against the longer incubation STIs that SaBTO are most concerned about affecting the blood supply.

There are MSM whose behaviour out there in the world of relationships is exemplary and just what the Blood Transfusion service would like to have as an assurance to the blood supply, yet they are still prevented by giving blood if they are in a full, caring and sexual relationship with a long term partner. All the while a heterosexual man who sleeps around, doesn't always practice safe sex and does not know his sexual history nor taken Hep B and C shots is freely able to give blood.

L, the U and Everything: A-Z of the Music I have F is for Falco

Catching up to where this series really should be at last we get to F.

It could have been Frankie goes to Holywood, or maybe a bit of Fatboy Slim. There is also some Fine Young Cannibals on tape (therefore from my student days) or more recently some Fun Loving Criminals. Or back to Crowded House with something from Tim Finn.

However, there was a certain one hit wonder that sprung to the top of my list for today. I have the 12" version of that single on vinyl. And as this weekend it was Rock week on X-Factor there can only really be one song.

L, the U and Everything: A-Z of the Music I have E is for Eurthymics

Catching up with the last few weeks before I get back on track there is one more catch up to do.

For the letter E, I could camp it up with a bit of Erasure. Guitar it up with some Eagles. I was even tempted to give you some Christian Folk/Grunge with Eden Burning (although difficulty was finding a clip to embed that was more than just music that I actually own).

Which brings me to today's featured artist, I just couldn't get past the voice of Annie Lennox so you know where I'm going with this. As for tracks there is one that kicks off that everyone knows exactly who is singing and what straight away.

Yes sir - The First Prime Minister's Answer

On this day 50 years ago the experiment that had been anounced in the July before recess that the Prime Minister would answer questions in the House at 3:15 on Tuesday's and Thursdays would continue. It is still continuing today although Tony Blair made it one half hour session on Wednesday rather than two 15 minute ones on the days originally set aside for it.

Here is the full exchange and supplementaries of that first question, to then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

Q1. Mr. Shinwell asked the Prime Minister whether the statement by the Minister of Transport during his visit to the Scandinavian countries, about Government policy concerning subsidies to help the shipbuilding industry and shipping, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan) Yes, Sir. 
Mr. Shinwell If the Prime Minister agrees with his right hon. Friend, who said while he was in Scandinavia that the Government's policy was opposed to subsidy, why did they concede a subsidy to the Cunard Line? Now that that matter is in abeyance, if not finally settled, do we understand from the Prime Minister that it is the intention of the Government to consider the possibility of financial assistance to the shipbuilding and shipping industries? 
The Prime Minister What my right hon. Friend said was that he felt that competition between Governments in subsidies would not be in the long-term interests of this country. It is perfectly true that the Atlantic passenger trade is in a rather special position, because there are only two competing ships, both of them built by subsidy and operated by subsidy. Broadly speaking, I think we all agree that it would be better for all companies if subsidy was not in general used. 
Mr. Shinwell Will the Prime Minister reply to the final part of my supplementary question? Will the Government consider, in lieu of the Cunard arrange- 742 ment to assist the shipbuilding and shipping industries? 
The Prime Minister There is always the question of credit facilities which we have done our best to improve, and we will certainly do our best to see if any further improvement can be made.

L, the U and Everything: A-Z of the Music I have D is for Duran Duran

I've been a bit lax in recent weeks of updating this series so I think we need a little catch up over the next few hours.

First up there are a number of possibles for D. Neil Diamond may shock you, but seeing as Bangor's bolwing team always celebrated with Sweet Caroline it may not surprise you that much. There is of course the brilliant Divine Comedy, who has appeared before on my blog. My last gig in Edinburgh before I returned was Neil Ham. There is also the possibility of Def Leppard or the Damned, but just to prove how eclectic my musical tastes are there can only really be one band that dominates by Ds whether on vinyl, CD or audio tape.

Over to Simon, Nick and John from the resurgent Wedding Album.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

RIP Marco Simoncelli 1987-2011

I can't believe for second weekend in a row that top level motorsport is facing a fatality.

Italian Marco Simoncelli was certainly a character on the MotoGP circuit and even though he was only racing in that series for a second season, the 24 year old had been around motorsport for a decade. If you had watched any MotoGP over the last two seasons you would have had no problems picking out Marco from the rest while helmets were off. His hair stood out like a mop exploding when he took his helmet off at the end of a race, and hardly allowing him to put a cap on at the finish.

But he brought the same flamboyance to the track. He was one who would take riders on, sometimes passing at spots that nobody thought it was possible to pass. But he would take his racing to his opponents from start to finish.

He was having just that sort of battle with Alvaro Bautista in Seapng today when going into a corner his leg came off and over the bike. Bautista was able to avoid him but Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi coming up behind didn't have an option as coming out of the bend and levelling their bikes up Marco's machine careered back across the track, him still hanging on to the inside side of it, into their paths. His helmet came off  just as Edwards came into contact with him and Rossi soon afterwards. Edwards came off his bike and both he, his bike and the empty helmet skidded unto the grass while Simoncelli's limb body skidded to a halt on the track while Rossi remained upright and rode over the grass.

The race was red flagged and the medical teams did what they could to revive the Italian, but he was pronounced dead at the in track medical centre at 4:56pm local time.

Last year on the same track Simoncelli split a helmet in practice this year it came off in a horrific impact. At the age of 24 without a MotoGP title but as the 2008 250cc World Champion he was taken too soon doing the sport he had spent over half his life competing in.

Marco Simoncelli 1987-2011

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Nick Clegg terrorised on flight for supporting the Human Rights Act

Warning this blog post contains a link to the Daily Mail

So the Daily Fail has a headline Woman passenger's jet rage at Nick Clegg over his support of Human Rights Act. The article contains the line "David Cameron pledged while in opposition to scrap the Human Rights Act (HRA), which he said prevented Britain from deporting foreign terrorists." While talking about a passenger who had to be physically restrained from an onslaught against the Deputy Prime Minister.

Apparently according to the Fail the physical assault and terrorism by one woman is a sign that many are angry at the deputy Prime Minister for vowing to keep the HRA. One person in an incident of air rage is the voice of the people! Wow! Those Occupying the London Stock Exchange (or to be precise a public space close by) certainly seem glad of the rights under the HRA.

No doubt as her attack happened over international territory and I trust over the EU, she'll be glad that it will mean she is entitled to a fair trail, unlike if it had occurred once off the plane in Cairo. That her liberty and security as well as those of the other passengers were protected by her being restrained because of her attack. That she won't be tortured or face the death penalty for attacking another passenger on a plane. That she wasn't deemed to be a threat to the plane so much that she may have been shot by an air marshall, but that the life of everyone on that plane was protected, even hers. That she was allowed her freedom of conscience to make her points to the DPM. She also had her freedom of expression until it was restricted when it reached into the realm of needing to prevent disorder and crime.

Yeah you've guessed it I've just stated her case in relation to six of the ten articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. You'd almost feel that a majority of people had voted for a party that was opposed to the HRA in May 2010. It's not just the Lib Dems on page 9:3 of A Future Fair for All the Labour Manifesto they say

"We are proud to have brought in the Human Rights Act, enabling British citizens to take action in British courts rather than having to wait years to seek redress in Strasbourg. We will not repeal or resile from it."

So there you have it, there is no public will to get rid of the HRA. There is only a Tory will that ignores the many fine points in it because it gets in the way of them doing things that they want to do, even more so than the Liberal Democrats it seems.

Read also What Zadok Day over at A Song of Liberty actually found to be what happened, but that sort of mutually respecting conversation doesn't sell the Daily Fail or the Scum.

MP's long-held opinion shockingly shocks the Catholic Church at fringe event #equalmarriage

There has been uproar from the Catholic Church in Scotland about comments made by Pete Wishart MP
at a fringe event at SNP conference yesterday. Mr Wishart said:

"What I believe will happen is that our government, over the course of the next few years, after this consultation, will bring forward legislation which will ensure we will have equal marriage in this country. I'm proud of that, I'm proud that this is the party that will be leading us forward, and I look forward to that new Scotland that we're trying to build."

Seeing as the Scotsman say it was hosted by Alyn Smith MEP (along with the Scottish Youth Parliament and LGBT Youth Scotland, I notice) I did what any tweeting fiend would do and check his Tweeter feed. Look what I found:

Now there you have it, there was a discussion. It was a fringe event looking at one of the political topics of the day, in this case equal marriage. Apparently it went around the houses.

Now what the Catholic Church of Scotland may not have got is that fringe meetings at party conferences are meetings where issues are discussed. No conclusions are necessarily drawn, no policy is formed, but members will be made to think and will make the political representatives present think. What is said in a fringe meeting by a speaker is not Ex Cathedra. Indeed I have found out from people who were there that the debate from the floor did cover both sides of the debate, though the overall majority were in support of the premise of equal marriage being the outcome from the consultation.

But look again at the start of Wishart's comments it is "what I believe will happen", it is not what will happen, but what he believes will happen. Now Pete Wishart is one of those MPs within the SNP who for a long time has been pro equal marriage. It is hardly surprising that he should want to see a progressive way forward being the outcome.

The shouting and gnashing of teeth is over the church fearing that they will be forced to do anything. Look at John Mason's amendment which actually wasn't an amendment as there was no obligation for any faith group to carry out same-sex marriage anyway, something backed up by John Swinney.

"There will be no compulsion here, there will be no obligation. The protection is there so that no individual within the religious community will be obliged to do this.
"I think we're right to take this course of action, we're right to make it possible for religious practitioners to conduct same-sex marriages if they wish to do so. But clearly there must be no compulsion involved in any of that."

What most people want is the possibility of religious groups coming to their own conclusions within their own governance structure. Where there are same sex couples or gay individual within that faith grouping, they may ask their leaders to look at the issue, if that is they want to get married within that faith. The laws of the churches are of course up for them and cannot be dictated to, but there are faith groups that want an enabling to carry out same-sex as well as mixed sex marriage and have already said they wish to do so.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Preview of the Tour de France 2012

The route for next years Tour de France was announced last week, and I missed it. But here on the left is the map of the route.

It will start in Belgium in Liege with a Prologue. More details of the actual rout will come later, but there will be

    • 9 flat stages
    • 4 medium mountain stages - one with a summit finish
    • 5 mountain stages - two with a summit finish
    • 2 individual time-trial stages
    • 1 prologue
    • 2 rest days
It makes it a somewhat different race from this years at least on paper.

New stages towns to the 2012 tour will be Abbeville, Annonay Davézieux, Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, La Planche des Belles Filles, Peyragudes, Porrentruy, Samatan, Tomblaine, Visé.

You'll not continue to walk in ignorance

For me it has now been over half my lifetime from the match I never got to, but for 96 it was the day their lives ended.

Unlike 'The Truth' headline that one paper which I, and many others associated with Liverpool, refuse to to read to this day the truth will soon be revealed. Parliament tonight voted to release the papers. It will not of course bring back the 96 who lost their lived that day at Hillsborough but it will allow the families to get closure over just what happened on that day. Why only one ambulance was able to get unto the pitch to offer assistance. Why fans were told off by police and stewards when they started to spill over unto the pitch when things started to get dangerous in the Lepping Road End rather than assistance being given.

To the 96 and their familes You'll Never Walk Alone and today the MPs have also said you shall not continue to walk in ignorance.

Monday, 17 October 2011

H2G2 reopened and under new management

Last night was finally the time that H2G2 completed its trip through the etha and landed after testing from a dedicated team of, well put honestly, friends. The doors were flung open at the new, old address of easy to remember.

After 10 years with the BBC the collaborative effort (how very h2g2) of Robbie Stamp, Aly and Brian Larholm, and the h2g2 Community Consortium. Robbie was a close friend of Douglas Adams and helped set up the site back in 1999 as well as producing the Hitchhikers' movie. Aly and Brian have a decade of social media expertise and wanted to bring that to an already existing community site and the Community Consortium were just a bunch of guys you know, and guyesses who didn't want to see the place they had known for up to 12 years disappear without a fight once the BBC decided to sell it off.

In the end all three banded together and offered the BBC a deal that would maintain the integrity of the site which had existed before the BBC lifeboat came along to rescue it from the Digital Village, after the period known to researchers as Rupert.

The much shorter transport phase has been far easier for researchers to deal with, they knew the site was coming back after the BBC shut the doors and turned out the lights at the end of September. Rupert really was a period of the unknown, with little cells of researchers setting up all sorts of groups to keep each other informed of what was going on. This time we  moved en masse aware of where we thought we were heading and hoping that when the switch was pressed to turn the lights back on, that well. It would work.

Well it has, and the researchers are already gathering to start once more on yet another new home. Not so much journey of the sorcerer but at least journey of H2G2.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Dan Wheldon 1978-2011

Dan Wheldon with his elder son kissing the bricks at the finish line of Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year

British motorsports fans often forget about Dan Wheldon. When it comes to car racing it is all about Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton but for the last few years he and Bathgate's Dario Franchitti have been two of the leading lights in the IRL Indycar series.

Wheldon actually won the title in 2005, before Dario won the first of his three titles prior to the one he won as a result of the crash that took Wheldon's life today. He has also won the Indianapolis 500 twice in that 2005 season and again this, therefore matching Frachetti's success as the only two time British winners of that race.

Wheldon was born in Emberton, near Olney, Buckinghamshire, England. In his early career racing open wheeled formula he had a great rivalry with Formula One World Championship winning driver Jenson Button. However in 1999 their paths took a different track with Wheldon heading to America because his family could not fund him in the UK and European formula that are the normal route to F1.

He progressed through the lower American open wheel series U.S. F2000 Championship Series, the Toyota Atlantic series and the Indy Lights series. Until in 2002 he got the call from Andretti Green Racing to replace Michael Andretti who was retiring from racing. He was to win the rookie of the year title.

In 2004 at Twin Win Motegi in Japan he won his first Indycar race, and gathered two more wins that season to finish second in the championship to his team mate Sam Hornish Jr.

The folowing season he became the first Brit since Graham Hill, Damon's father, to win the Indianapolis 500. With five wins, a record under the IRL sanction, he won his only Indycar championship.

At the end of 2005 he announced that he was moving to Chip Ganassi Racing, but he won the 24 Hours of Daytona along with Scott Dixon and Casey Mears. At the end of the 2006 Indycar season he was equal on points with his former team mate Sam Hornish Jr., but the American's not liking two winners had a tiebreak of the most wins which was 4-2 for Hornish and he was therefore declared the champion.

In September 2008 he was released from Chip Ganassi to be replace by Dario Franchitti, who had won the title in 2007. In 2009 he raced for Panther Racing, giving them a second spot in the Indianapolis 500 a feat he would repeat in 2010, when he remained more competitive through the whole season. However, he failed to win a race with Panther and was replaced by J.R. Hildebrand.

He hadn't secured a regular drive for the 2011 season but driving for Bryan Herta Motorsport he took the honours once again in the Indianapolis 500 a race win he dedicated to his mother who had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimers.

He had started on the back of the 34 car grid and had already made up 10 places in the first 12 laps when the crash happened at the Las Vegas Indy 300. He would have shared a $5 million special one off prize with one lucky fan if he had won the race.

At about 23:00 UK time the drivers and officials came out of a briefing session at the track. Twitter was alive with people reporting on the looks of the drivers faces as they came out not looking good. Shortly after a very short press conference (see below) announced the news that Dan Wheldon had indeed died as a result of the crash at the age of 33. The drivers still in shock decided to honour Dan with a five lap salute, his care number 77 was the only one that was displayed on the position boards at the track as they went around in his honour.

Here is footage of the five lap salute and you can hear a bagpiper playing Amazing Graze probably a CD or some such over the PA but a nice touch. With his pit crew standing out at the point his car came to rest.

Thoughts and prayers go to his wife Suzie Behm, and sons Sebastian 2 and Oliver not yet 7 months old, his mother and his father, who started him on the road to a career in racing, at this difficult time.

Dan Wheldon 22 June 1978 - 16 October 2011

Bad Indycar crash in Vegas kills British driver Dan Wheldon

In the last hour there has been a 15 car collision in the final Indycar race of the season in Las Vegas. There were several cars burst into flames one of which had taken off  for about 6-7 car lengths after being unable to avoid a collision in front, while two others also look as if they were airbourne for less time.

As a motorsports fan my thoughts and prayers are with the drivers involved, any of their families either at trackside or watching/getting news elsewhere and with the medical teams at the track.

I'm not going to embed the clip of the crash but you can find it here. Here is another view from Will Power's car, the one that flew for about 7 car lengths.

Update Will Power who was challenging Bathgate's Dario Franchitti was the title was caught up in the crash. However, there is major concern of British driver Dan Wheldon who apparently one of the worse affected in the crash. There is no news yet of his condition, apart from the fact that doctors are reporting he is in a serious condition.

Rookie Pippa Mann was also rather shaken up as she was removed from the scene in an ambulance. While Townsend Bell cars was left upside down amongst the smoldering wreckage of the carnage. Of the 34 cars that started the race less than 12 laps earlier 15 were taken out in the crash, the race is currently under red flag conditions.

Update 2 Terry Blount of ESPN is reporting that the entire roll area of Wheldon's car was sheered off before being covered in a tarp. He was airlifted to hospital after having 20 doctors attend to him at the scene. Pippa Mann and JR Hildebrand were taken to the hospital by ambulance awake and alert as a precautionary measure. Other drivers were treated at the medical centre at the track, some of who including Will Power have been talking to media.

Update 3 Full list of the drivers involved is Dan Whelton, Will Power, Townsend Bell, Tomas Scheckter, Paul Tracy, EJ Viso, Alex Lloyd, Buddy Rice, Vitor Meira and rookies Pippa Mann, James Jakes, JR Hildebrand, Jay Howard, Charlie Kimball and Wade Cunningham.

Update 4 Will Power after complaining of lower back pain at the track has also been transported to hospital.

Update 5 23:04 BST Indycar announce that Dan Wheldon has died as a result of his injuries in the crash. The race has been abandoned. More on this blog post.

I'll continue to update this blog post as more information becomes available

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Christian Institute bullies its way over homophobic bullying education pack - then rejoices

Apparently the Christian Institute are rejoicing because they think they have squashed a homophobic bullying help pack which has been taken down pending looking into their complaint.

In their article they wrote  that the pack "was styled as guidance on preventing bullying", before the Institute's Mike Judge went on the say

"a hierarchy of victim has seeped into our education system where some forms of bullying are taken more seriously than others".

Strangely that is just the reason why material looking how teachers can deal with homophobic bullying is needed. Teachers in our schools everywhere know how to deal with racist bullying, they know how to deal with sectarian bullying. These types of bullying are taken seriously. It is the homophobic bullying that is one of the areas that is overlooked.

Mr Judge also says:

"Schools have become factories for undermining family values and brainwashing children."

The problem is that the group mentality and peer pressure of fellow students is what leads school children to get away with bullying or to take part in it. One of my friends at school would often join in with the homophobic bullying of me at secondary school. He would later always apologise for doing so, saying that the reason he did so was to fit in with the others and not to be attacked by them for other reasons. Yes, to avoid him getting bullied by that group he would take part in the verbal bullying (he never took part in physical bullying of me) that was going on.

So Mr Judge yes we have to ensure that no type of bullying is superior to another, but when you attack a resource that is there to deal with one of the most harmful types of bullying still prevalent in our schools. Earlier this week the figures from Rainbow Project/ Cara Friend report Left out of the equation looking at LGBT young people in schools showed that 84.5% had contemplated suicide, 35.3% had attempted it and 41.2% had self harmed. Indeed at that age I was part of whatever those first two statistics would have been. It also pointed out that while young people racially or religiously victimised had other family members to rely on, LGBT youth could only rely on the professionals that they came into contact with.

That is why it is important that our teachers know how to deal with homophobic bullying, have resources to change that group mentality in the classroom. So that no type of bullying is better resourced than any other to be dealt with in our classroom. If the Christian Institute can't get that they aren't very Christ-like.

There is one piece of truth in the Christian Institute article:

Anne Jardine, Director of Learning and Community at the Education Scotland quango, said the document had been removed from its website, "pending further discussion".

According the NUS LGBT Officer Nathan Sparkling the complaint had coincided with a staff holiday so the person to make a decision was not available and the procedure was to suspend this until it could be considered and action agreed by the person responsible. This apparently should be happening soon and the pack will be reinstated on the website.

Note The institute has a whole section tagged as 'homosexual rights' or actually if you read the material how they have tried to block those rights every step of the way for the last 15 years. It shows you exactly what stance they would take on anything, even if it is logical, makes sense and may even prevent harm, if it is seen to acknowledge that homosexuals exist everywhere, even in their churches.

Friday, 14 October 2011

It's Friday...mae'n yw dydd Gwener, yn dod ar Gymru

In twelve hours time we should all be awake in front of the television cheering on Wales in the Rugby World Cup. Therefore I'm doing a special late night it's Friday to get us in the mood.

First up we need a rendition of the Cwm Rhondda. However, me being me this isn't going to be straight forward so here is Only Men Aloud.

Rugby separates the men from the boys, singing doesn't. Not really in Wales. So here are Only Boys Aloud! with an appropriate message, even if it is in Welsh.

Now no doubt, unless you've sung with gusto at a sports event of Lib Dem Glee club or wherever you may need some help with the lyrics of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau or Land of Our Fathers but come on we'll all be singing it in Welsh tomorrow so here are the words on the screen so you can learn to sing it. Cymru am byth.

It's Friday...I just want to get my geek out

This Friday I'm just gonna geek out. So enjoy.

If you're a geek these'll need no introduction.

The Blunderful Dr Fox

So the news has come though that Dr Liam Fox has resigned as Secretary of State for Defence. As Dr Fox wrote in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister he had "mistakenly allowed" his personal and professional responsibilities to become "blurred".

After a week of trying to defend himself more than the country over allegations that his best man Adam Werrity had unparalleled to the Defence Secretary and his contacts both at the MoD and on his overseas trips. He has finally fallen on his figurative sword.

He claims that the consequences of the close access his close friend has had to foreign leaders and their retinue when they have been meeting with the representative of the UK Government has only become apparent to him in recent days. Going on to say:

"I have also repeatedly said that the national interest must always come before personal interest.

"I now have to hold myself to my own standard. I have therefore decided, with great sadness, to resign from my post as secretary of state for defence."

It has somehow taken Dr Fox longer than most of the rest of us have taken to see the issues of access and frequency of which Mr Werrity had that access as an issue in one of the most secure Ministers and his meetings with key people.

The resignation comes after it was revealed that a private intelligence firm and a property company that lobbies the UK on behalf of Israel had been funding the many travels of Mr Werrity to the tune of £147,000.

If Mr Fox was getting alternative non-Civil Service advice on a regular basis from a friend employed by people with a number of vested interests it is something that David Cameron why hasn't the PM taken action sooner. After all at conference he said:

"If we fool ourselves that we can do these things without effort, without correcting past mistakes, without confronting vested interests and failed ideas, then no, we’re not going to get anywhere.

"But if we put in the effort, correct those mistakes, confront those vested interests and take on the failed ideas of the past, then I know we can turn this ship around."

Mr Fox has been fooling himself about his friend surely not being wholly on the periphery of overseas events that he attended, as he claimed. Surely he must have known that the frequency with which he turned up was something untoward, especially if as he claims he was not representing him in either an official or unofficial capacity.

But if these vest interests have managed to work so close to the heart of government for one minister you have to ask how many of them are working elsewhere? Cameron seems to think that the only vested interests we have in this country are the unions, what about the businesses that have vested interests that the Conservative party have long pandered to. They would probably hope to continue to do so unchecked if it weren't for the Liberal Democrats also in government.

Trip down my own memory lane

Was with mum in Easons in Bangor earlier when this display caught my eye. It was the second of Terrance Bowman's books, this time moving on a decade it is Bangor in the Seventies.

With over 500 pictures from The Spectator archives and reminiscences from people such as another Lib Dem from the town and the 1977 DUP Candidate for Ballyholme and Groomsport in the council elections. You may know them better as Lembit Öpik and Sammy Wilson.

But as I carried on flicking through the pictures I kept seeing the odd person I knew here and there. Some I knew at the time some I've met since. But then I turned to page 154 and saw myself staring out at me.

Here is the pic:

See if you can spot me.

The caption reads:

Grange Park Primary School entered a choir in the Belfast Music Festival for the first time in March 1978. The juniors enjoyed success, winning two trophies. The choir was conducted by John Ekin and accompanied by Ann Murphy. They are included with principal Frank R. Martin.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Left Out of the Equation report show homophobia not tackled in Northern Ireland Schools

The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister last year produced their Draft Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration which as many people pointed out ignored LGBT issues, failed to promise to deliver a Sexual Orientation Strategy before 2012. Indeed failed to take us on much since the investigation intohomophobic harassment and violence of 2003.

Is it any wonder that with such institutionalised inaction by the NI executive that the Left Out of the Equation report from The Rainbow Project and Cara Friend looking at the experiences of LGBT young people at school is so harrowing?

  • 94 per cent said that there was nothing taught in sexual health education that was relevant to them
  • 87 per cent felt that their school took not effort to prevent homophobic bullying
  • 69 per cent said that teachers took no action to stop homophobic language and that 8% reported that staff laughed along or joined in
These are all figures that I would have expected in my school days over 20 years ago, the fact that this is still the case means that another generation of school children are going through the bullying that I endured and worse another generation are getting away with believing that it is alright to do so. 

The recommendations of the report are that:
  • Government must ensure that all schools are required to have an effective policy and intervention  strategy to combat homophobic bullying.
  • The Minister for Education must ensure that there is an appropriate complaints mechanism where pupils and their families can challenge the decisions of Boards of Governors.
  • The Minister for Education must ensure that the legal protections afforded to LGB people are not denied to young people.
  • The Minister for Education must ensure that all teachers are required to have effective training in how to intervene when they witness homophobic language and behaviour.
  • The Minister for Education must ensure that there is a legal duty placed on schools; that they must show due regard to the necessity of promoting equality of opportunity for all young people.

I look forward to finding out what the Minister of Education intends to do about these once he is not standing in as Deputy First Minister.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

National coming out day - it ain't always easy but it's worth it

Today is National Coming Out Day a day that those of us who have come out as LGBT encourage others that it isn't that hard and surprisingly you'll get a lot of support when you do. Last year I wrote about some of the various comings out that I've ended up having to do.

Of course each person has to decide when to come out and to whom they want to come out. After a year in Northern Ireland I've learnt that far more of my LGB friends have yet to tell their family despite their friends all knowing about their orientation.

Seeing as today I've spent a lot of time with family at a family funeral I can understand just what sort of decision go through on a regular basis. I seem to be able to tell the members of my generation in the family that I am gay, or they pick up the not full on messages a lot easier than the older generation. The fact that I am the oldest member of my generation in the extended family and still have no 'wife' is always an issue that causes a few eyebrows to be raised. Although less times now is the initial question followed up with no doubt you'll find the right girl.

However, talking to one of my politically active second cousins (yeah none of us know where we got it from) it seemed second nature to drop in a comment about one of the party they work for having had a bit of a rant with me about LGBT issues.

For all my friends whether fully out, partially out, or only out to other LGBT people. Have a good day, and if you've chosen today to tell someone new I hope it has gone well, but no matter what it does get better.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Some blogging elsewhere - all about language and the words we use

I've done a little bit of blogging elsewhere in recent day.

Over on LGBT Lib Dems NI

Dave for equality in marriage we need equality in language

Looking at the language used by several in talking about the government proposals and how the Prime Minister and his party still have a way to go to understand equality.

Anglican Archbishop of Armagh calls for  “reasoned and rational” same-sex discussion

Although the Church of Ireland Archbishop does understand that language needs to be inclusive and discussions on this issue need to be reasoned and rational.

Solas successfully argue against religious marriage altogether

Scottish faith group Solas may have brought a whole other argument to the table over equal marriage when they brought the European normative of civil marriage not religious to the table in their response to the Scottish Parliament's consultation.

While over on Lib Dems NI

Irish language row in Stormont

Looks at a different area of language and when is asking a question not asking a question in the views of the person presiding in the chair.

If your not following LGBT Lib Dems NI or Lib Dems NI please do you may miss out on something I write.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Next time you have a business trip abroad take me your bestest friend

I have a number of friends who work all over the world travelling to meetings here and there. Apart from the ones who have traveled for the same work purposes or have traveled to where I am, very few of them have seen me on the margins of any of their work meetings.

But apparently the Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox has encountered his friend Adam Werrity on the margins of 18 of his foreign trips. This appears to be on top of the 14 trips to his Ministry of Defence offices since May of last year.

Now surely the foreign secretary's itinerary of foreign trips is one of those that is protected by the official secrets act. After all we are at war in Afghanistan and recently in Iraq and the terrorist threat still exists in many parts of Africa and Asia. But as one of these chance encounters was apparently at a military airbase as Dr Fox was transferring flights to Afghanistan. Yeah that is airbase not airport, but apparently to transfer to a civilian aircraft. Surely the only reason to transfer there, would have been during the Arab Spring uprisings, when surely Mr Werrity and the other arms dealers defence industry businessmen would surely have been advised not to travel to Dubai.

I'm not that keen on fox hunting, but I smell a rat.

Although if you are going on a business trip overseas and wouldn't mind seeing me on the margins of it and your work may well pay me to be there as an advisor or something, give us a call, my diary is pretty empty at present.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Da iawn Cymru #rwc11

Shane Williams scoring the first try
Well done Wales.

Of course there will be debates over whether Ireland kicking those two penalty opportunities early in the first half would have changed the way the match panned out. But a 12 point win was not in most people's estimates of the way the first quarter final would go.

However, one thing that is certain after this match. Both Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Gordon D'Arcy, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell and many of the others in the Ireland squad will not be there in 2015. There will be experienced young heads like Tommy Bowe and Kieth Earls on the wings, Johnny Sexton at Scrum Half. But Ireland had entered this world cup as one of the oldest teams, many of the figureheads knew this was most likely going to be their last chance to win the world cup.

After a slow start against the USA, but then there was that win against Australia. Suddenly from being talked about as a team that might struggle to get out of the pool we were being talked about as a team that could go all the way to the final. Then when we demolished Italy in the second half of the last pool game it was set up for the semi final of the two in form Northern Hemisphere teams to send one of them away home in the half of the draw that now guaranteed a six nations finalist.

Wales of course only just lost out to South Africa in the first game. But like Ireland also kept building on their start. Theirs of course was not a slow start and indeed many consider they were actually cheated of a winning three points by the match officials. We haven't even seen who Wales will play next weekend but I already feel that we will be hearing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau* being sung by the vast traveling Welsh Male Voice Choir in red at Auckland in the final.

* Land of Our Fathers

Friday, 7 October 2011

Wikio welcome me back into the top 100

Well thanks go to Mark Pack for bringing this to my attention, but the wikio ranking see me back inside the top 100 political blogs. With some difficulty getting Wikio to accept the new address initially, taking time out from blogging really cutting stuff while I worked for Yes! to Fairer Votes with an array of parties and the fact that some people still link to instead of

hasn't made things easy. But I am back at number 95 I'll be looking to see how that improves over the next few months see if I can get back into the top 50 once again.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

What would Andrew Reeves do about Steve Jobs cause of death?

One of my first thoughts about the fact that Steve Jobs died yesterday of pancreatic cancer is that I'm sure Andrew Reeves would have used the fact that he too lost his dearly beloved mother to the same disease as a really from the heart plea for people to donate to research into one of the most virulent types of cancer that there is.

How am I so sure, because he chose the day that was his mother's birthday earlier this year to get married to someone else he loved immensely, his dear husband Roger. He even mentioned his mother's disease on that day.

He of course wrote about the first Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Week back in 2009. When he mentioned some of the really heart breaking facts:
  • Pancreatic cancer only has a 3% survival rate, that hasn't improved in forty years.
  • It's the 5th most common cause of caner death in the UK
  • Survival rates for pancreatic cancer are extremely low – 4-6 months on average after diagnosis, with the 5 year survival rates less than 3%.
He may of course have told you all how almost a year ago he took part in a 10k race at Hopetoun House, largely because the charity he was being asked to run with Bev, Elspeth, Siobhan and Fiona was Cancer Research. It may have been only 1 hour 19 minutes of his life, and he would have easily rattled off several blog posts about pancreatic cancer in that time, but is was an period of time he was proud to have given to the cause.

However, of course I'm not 100% sure what Andrew would have been doing as soon as he learnt of Steve Jobs death. All I can guess is that he would have made a plea for pancreatic cancer.

That is why most of all and no matter what he would have used today and the sad news of Steve Jobs death to the same disease to highlight two worthy charities dedicated to pancreatic cancer, Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund and Pancreatic Cancer UK.

So as Andrew is no longer around to ask you to do it yourself let me on his behalf say, although the death of Steve Jobs from pancreatic cancer is a terrible loss, so to is the next person to die of pancreatic cancer. Therefore, please give generously and if you are able please give with gift aid as well so that the tax you've paid on your donation is also given to the cause. How to donate.

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

People may love or hate Apple. But one thing that everyone can agree on is that Steve Jobs was a visionary.

He may have lead the way with Apple products but everyone else is trying to keep up. Touch screen technology on phones is now seen almost as standard, and I was working in the industry in the last 10 years when colours screens and cameras first came in a the new innovation. We know think nothing of reading our books on electronic books, they started with the iBooks.

The iPad has lead the way to tablet technologies. Items the size of books that I know that one of my heroes Douglas Adams would have loved to own, it really is the realisation of his internet connected Hitchhikers Guide. The fact that Douglas was a Mac fan means I'm sure he and Steve Jobs would have got on like a house on fire.

Maybe they will now, in this the week that H2G2 is returning to ownership of those who love and understand Douglas and away from the BBC.

Because sadly today Steve Jobs lost his battle with cancer. Jobs had managed to survive seven years with the Pancreatic Cancer that he was diagnosed with in 2004. Therefore in the time he was ill he came up with the final concepts of the iPhone and iPad and moved on the iPod from its 2001 launch into something that is now included in phones and tablets and therefore is an obsolete Apple technology less than 10 years after launch as it is now integral in so much more.

The energy and enthusiasm of the guy was behind the way that Apple launched new products. It was a demonstration of what was  offer not by some underling but the CEO, something that Tim Cook who took over when Jobs resigned in August did only yesterday with the iCloud launching next week though it was Phil Schiller who presented the iPhone 4S and the Siri voice activation software*.

Tim Cook was left yesterday to say that Apple was a family of products that were to work seamlessly together. However, the thread that for so long tied that connectivity of function and vision has sadly passed on today.

See also The BBC's Obituary

Stephen Paul "Steve" Jobs entrepreneur and inventor February 24, 1955 - October 5, 2011

* As an ex-Motorola employee Apple playing catch up there ;-)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Rogue in not for Running

So she may have said she was Going Rogue in her book, seen by many as laying out her manifesto to be the Republican Presidential Nominee for 2012. She has been seen by many for the last three years as the one that everyone has to beat having been on  the ticket last time. But this evening in a press release from Alaska the former Governor Sarah Palin has announced that she will not be seeking the nomination for the Republican Party in 2012. Her statement reads:

After much prayer and serious consideration, I have decided that I will not be seeking the 2012 GOP nomination for President of the United States. As always, my family comes first and obviously Todd and I put great consideration into family life before making this decision. When we serve, we devote ourselves to God, family and country. My decision maintains this order.
My decision is based upon a review of what common sense Conservatives and Independents have accomplished, especially over the last year. I believe that at this time I can be more effective in a decisive role to help elect other true public servants to office – from the nation’s governors to Congressional seats and the Presidency. We need to continue to actively and aggressively help those who will stop the “fundamental transformation” of our nation and instead seek the restoration of our greatness, our goodness and our constitutional republic based on the rule of law.
From the bottom of my heart I thank those who have supported me and defended my record throughout the years, and encouraged me to run for President. Know that by working together we can bring this country back – and as I’ve always said, one doesn’t need a title to help do it.

I will continue driving the discussion for freedom and free markets, including in the race for President where our candidates must embrace immediate action toward energy independence through domestic resource developments of conventional energy sources, along with renewables. We must reduce tax burdens and onerous regulations that kill American industry, and our candidates must always push to minimize government to strengthen the economy and allow the private sector to create jobs.

Those will be our priorities so Americans can be confident that a smaller, smarter government that is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people can better serve this most exceptional nation.

In the coming weeks I will help coordinate strategies to assist in replacing the President, re-taking the Senate, and maintaining the House.
Thank you again for all your support. Let’s unite to restore this country!

God bless America.
– Sarah Palin
It means that those still in the race are Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman, Texas Governor Rick Perry, previous runner and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former speaker of the House of Representative Newt Gingrich, former Governor of Utah and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. and Radio Host Herman Cain.