Monday, 30 January 2012

Central Integrated Primary take campaign to the hill

At the front Cllr. John Barry, Stephen Farry MLA, Steven Agnew MLA
and Peter Campbell  (Principal)
Picture by Joanna Braniff
Earlier today a petition from supporters of Bangor Central Integrated Primary School was taken to Stormont to be handed into the speaker of the Assembly. The petition is the urge the Minister of Education and North Down Borough Council to reconsider selling the adjacent Leisure Centre site to a private company, while the school built for 300 pupils houses 600 next door on a somewhat suffocating parcel of land.

When you consider that the 600 pupils currently have to take their lunch at Bangor Academy next door. Have their sports' day on the Academy playing fields. And all around their playground are a series of huts. This is hardly an ideal situation for the only Integrated Primary School in town.

Earlier this morning the Principal Peter Campbell was on the radio pointing out that the reasons the school needed improved premises on its current location were firstly the capacity issue, also that is was currently part of an education village with Central Nursery and Bangor Academy on the same pocket of land and Glenlola Collegiate and the South East Regional College sites a few minutes walk away. It therefore allows for ease of parents dropping off and collecting children of differing ages. Plus with its unique integrated status for key stage 1 and 2 pupils it needs to be accessible to all of the town's population.

Friends in the Scottish party may remember me talking from an intervention mic during a policies for the future session about how the fact that there was a move to integrated education slightly further to the West of the West of Scotland was a reason why it made most sense to move towards it in Scotland. This school is a prime example. But while others with more land have been updated to do away with the need for temporary classrooms this one has been overlooked by successive Education ministers. This is despite promises to consider working to acquire the Leisure Centre site by the previous minister to enable that improvement.

The petition which has over 3000 signatures is calling for the DUP led North Down Borough Council to reconsider its decision to sell the site to private developers but keep it for public use for the development of the school. If the ministers for education in Northern Ireland are serious about a future where pupils from all historic communities work and learn together schools like BCIPS need to be allowed to develop. My primary school elsewhere in town has less pupils, but more space and an extension adding five new classrooms. My secondary school over in Newtownards in recent years also has had an extensive modernising extension project again doing away with the multitude of temporary classrooms. In both cases many of the temporary classrooms where present for over 20 or 30 years.

We need to do better for our children and their education, a school whose enrollment is twice what its buildings were designed for, that is continuously oversubscribed every year needs to be allow breathing space. Not just for its current pupils but so that it can provide all the service that it needs to, including its own room for sports.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

First Minister takes his seat... the GAA Dr McKenna Cup Final.

Now those of you outside Northern Ireland may be saying this is no biggy it is only a game. This is the first time a Unionist First Minister (or Prime Minister) has attended a game of the Gaelic Athletic Association, ever! Tom Elliot, his opposite number as leader of the UUP, said in his bid for the leadership in September 2010 that he would not attend GAA or gay events.

One wonders if the Pride organisers in Northern Ireland are sending off their invites to Peter Robinson to attend one of their events this summer after his has shown his is inclusive on one of the things that the other main Unionist Party in Northern Ireland's leader has shown reticence over. After all my predictions for this year did include the suggestion that a DUP politician would take part in Pride events this year.

Either way the attendance at a GAA event is big news. It shows that the First Minister is serious about inclusiveness. It is not a first for the DUP, Edwin Poots, while Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure did attend the same event 4 years ago. He may have arrived in his seat after the Irish National Anthem was sung, but then the current Minister for CAL, Carál Ní Chuilín, arrived at her first Northern Ireland football international after Good Save the Queen. But that he was there is none the less a significant step.

The First Minister said:

"It's good to be here. I have had several meetings with the GAA, at a meeting-to-meeting level and when the invitation came I was glad to take it up. 
"I'm not sure if I have caught all the finer points of the game, but I'm on the side of the referee on this one!"

As for the finer points of the game that can only come with attending more of them. It may also be too early to start kitting out the Castlereagh man with all the An Dún regalia, jersey, hoody, ball etc as a Down man should start to have. But when he feels confortable about getting one so he can wear it with the gay Gaelic players in Belfast Pride he could always purchase in in the O'Neills' Store in Enniskillen.

The Tweets I couldn't do under #TwitterBlackout

Because I was self censoring my Twitter outlay yesterday in protest at Twitter threatening to censor when requested by a Government on a country basis here are some of the gems you missed from me.

Londonderry/Doire have been awarded the Fleadh after the in-out-in manouvering of the Ulster Council

BBC ignore the fact that a third Northern Irish golfer is ahead of England's best in Dubai. Where's Gavin Maybin at -5?

The whole Liverpool beating Man United running commentary and rants from me.

The Athletics from Glasgow.

The Ice Skating from Sheffield

My night with some haggis, neeps and tatties in my kilt.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Just who is acting like a dictator Archbishop?

One definition of dictatorship is:

Government by a single person or by a junta or other group that is not responsible to the people or their elected representatives.

So when the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, claims that David Cameron is acting like a dictator when he his holding a consultation on equal marriage he seems to have missed the point. Of course this is a junta of 26 Bishops sitting in the House of Lords who are not responsible nor electable by the people. Indeed even in largely elected second chamber there are still suggestions to keep them in place.

What Sentamu has said is:

"I don't think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can't just (change it) overnight, no matter how powerful you are.
"We've seen dictators do it in different contexts and I don't want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way."

Of course if the government is not able to have redefined very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time, women would never have been allowed to vote, nor would the workers. There would not be social care through benefits or the National Health Service. Jews would not have been allowed to sit in Parliament, nor would Parliament be able to do away with male primogeniture for the heirs of future sovereigns as has been agreed by the Commonwealth which is legislation that now been introduced.

The fact that equal marriage is being put out for public consultation also flies in the face of accusations of dictatorship accusations, which can also be defined as "absolute or despotic control or power".  Somehow you know that a depot is not going to put something out to consultation, as that is not absolute power. No a despotic dictator is liable to just make a change or prevent one on his say so, rather like what Sentuma is trying to do through what he says himself.

So just who is acting like a dictator by having only their view and no other view? Eyes toward the See of York perhaps.

Friday, 27 January 2012

I shall not Tweet 28th January 2012 #TwitterBlackout

I apologise if the tweet announcing this blog post break Twitter Blackout

Tomorrow I shall not be Tweeting. I believe that will be the first day since I first joined Twitter that I shall be doing this on any of my 5 Twitter accounts.

The reason is that Twitter are talking about allowing countries to reactively censor certain tweets while keeping it available elsewhere in the world.

Remember that Twitter was a powerful tool for the Arab Spring. Remember when people all around the world changed their location to Tehran to help protect the Tweeters from Iran who were starting to stand up to their authoritarian regime. Remember when we retweeted without naming the Iranian Tweeter that we were retweeting to spread the message in the hope that someone, somewhere in Iran would get the actual news rather than what was being broadcast through the state controlled media.

This announcement:

"Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why."

Was seen as a suicide note for the freedom of expression that the Social media application has allowed to flow in many of the recent upheavals around the world. Many see it in terms of Star Wars as Twitter going over to the dark side, not allowing people to use the force it offers for good.

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait I was in the USSR for the first 2 weeks of that occupation. I did not know that we were at war until I was in Berlin, because at that time the only media I had was state controlled and somewhat supportive of the Iraqi regime.

If there had of been weapons of mass destruction in Iraq at that time, pre-mobile phones I may well have come out of the USSR to find that the UK no longer existed. Unaware of why.

This reaction from Twitter is what the UK Government said they wanted to do during the London riots. Yet some of the Tweets about the riots were from people trying to ensure that people stayed safe, or crying out for help amid the mayhem. So shutting down Tweets in a territory about a certain subject while on one hand may be seen as good can also work for bad when there are people trying to use the same language as agitators for the reverse effect. Who will be the arbiter of such decisions in the heat of the many thousands of Tweets that will undoubtedly be released at a key time that such action as suggested by Twitter will be called on? When did Twitter take on the Big Brother role from 1984?

Twitter are going what Google did in China, before they pulled out when there was outcry that they would bend their principles of openess to gain a foothold in China. Twitter are following the same course.

We the people of Twitter will not let our fellow Twitterati be silenced. To do that all around the world tomorrow thousands of Twitter users will fall voluntarily silent as an act of disgust. Last week to protest against SOPA many of us blacked out our websites tomorrow we will simply stop talking, on Twitter at any rate.

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance - the Letter from Lib Dem Candidates

You may have read about the letter from over 50 approved Liberal Democrat candidates many of them having stood on the parties manifesto in 2010, urging our party in the Commons to accept the three Lords' amendments, regarding contributory Employment and Support Allowance (cESA) in the Welfare Reform Bill.

In particular the amendments call for:

  • The amount of time a person can receive cESA will be extended to at least 24 months, instead of the Government’s proposed 12 month limit.
  • Cancer patients will be exempted from the time limit.
  • The ‘youth provision’ of the benefit will be protected, meaning that young disabled people who cannot work will still be entitled to cESA without having made National Insurance contributions.
These eESA is paid for people whose conditions mean that they will at some point make a return to employment, but due to illness or disability are unable to do so at the moment. It is also paid out only to people with sufficient national insurance contributions through there working life.

The Conservatives seem to think that by cutting all benefits they are encouraging people to get back, or into work. They seem to bundle up all people living with some form of sickness or disability allowance as some work-shy, scrounging, non-productive member of society.

Those with a cESA claim are not people that fit that description indeed many will have tried to carry on working as best they could until they were unable to do so. They all for whatever reason need time to heal, maybe learn to overcome a new disability, but mostly to get well enough to return to the job they live. By in large this will be achieved within 2 years hence the higher threshold as amended by the Lords.

The one exception is cancer sufferers. As anyone who knows anyone who has cancer will tell you no cancer survivor will say that they are free of cancer until 5 years after the success of their first treatment all-clear. This medically is the time scale at which Doctors will officially say that the survivor is in remission. At times up to that point the survivor will have high and low periods and may very well at the point of 23 months find that their cancer may scarily enough return. That is the reason for the exception for cancer survivors as not even their Doctors can give them the all clear in two years and the disease can return at any point.

You can read the full letter here, and yes that is my signature second on the list of 2010 candidates.

But as my friend Caron points out, it isn't just enough for people like myself and others who are candidates, former MPs, new MPs, on the Leadership programme, GLA candidates or councillors but we need ordinary members and constituents to add their voices as well. Write to you MP, of whatever party, and urge them to support these amendments.

1904 Summer Olympics St. Louis: III Olympiad

"and we award the games of the 3rd Olympiad to......Chicago!"

"Hang on!" you say, why if Chicago in Michigan had been awarded the games did we end up in St. Louis Missouri some 295 miles/475 km away? The reason is that once again the World's Fair was taking place in the same country and the organisers of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition did not want another international event to overshadow their event. They threatened to eclipse the Olympic sports with their own events if the Chicago OGOC (Olympic Games Organising Committee) didn't move them to St. Louis. So Baron Pierre de Coubertin gave in and his games were once again drawfed by the World's Fair and very nearly killed off.

Chicago have subsequently bid to host the games in 1952, 1956 and then again for the next Games in 2016, but have yet to earn the right to hold the Games that they were meant to have been hosting in 1904.

Nations 12 (-12)
Competitors 651 (-346)
Sports 17 (-1)
Events 91 (-4)

1 July - 23 November 1904 St. Louis, Mo, USA

So with once again the games being tagged unto the World's Fair they remained spaced out over a number of months. Just as non-Euopean countries were few at the first two Olympiad so the number of European nations dropped for this one, however the Russo-Japanese war made it difficult for some to get to the USA. Those countries that did manage to take part were (with number of athletes in brackets):

  • Australia (2)
  • Austria (2)
  • Canada (52)
  • Cuba (3)
  • France (1)
  • Germany (17)
  • Great Britain (3)
  • Greece (14)
  • Hungary (4)
  • South Africa (8)
  • Switzerland (1)
  • United States (52)
Therefore our ever present nations Australia, France, Great Britain, Greece and Switzerland sent a total of 21 athletes to this games (their lowest combined total). Only 42 of the events, contained competitors who were not from the USA.

Opening ceremony was a disaster. Held on 1 July and the President of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, David Francis, declined to invite anybody else to open the games. In the end there was a low-key and humdrum opening from a rather disinterested party. 

The games themselves were poorly run and almost ended the eight year old Olympic movement stone cold dead. James Edward Sullivan the organiser of the games tried to hold  sport event on every day of the four and a half months. But yet again this lead to a spread out programme that people and journalists couldn't really focus on.

However, there were new additions to these games. Some of which have remained more or less ever present some of which have faded away.

Oliver Kirk the only man to win 2 boxing golds at one Games
Boxing made it debut with seven weight divisions although all of the 18 boxers in the ring came from the USA. Many of the boxers fought in more than one division, some even managing to medal in more than one. Top of the heap was Oliver Kirk who gold medalled in both Bantam and Feather weight. George Finnegan who won the Fly took silver in the Bantam, a feat repeated by Harry Springer (gold Light and silver Welter) and Charles Mayer (Middle and Heavy). The winning of medals at more than one weight in the same games is a feat that has only been achieved by these four men.

Diving appeared for the first time in St. Louis. With two disciplines the first sound familiar and is the platform, the second was the plunge for distance event, which made its only Olympic appearance. However, the two teams for the platform dive had very different opinions into how the event should run and this led to some bitter disputes.

The Germans felt that only the acrobatic content of the dive should be taking into consideration for marking, not the quality of entry or finish. As a result they would perform well in the air but land belly or back first into the Lake. The Americans had a far more graceful conclusion to their dives attempting to enter perpendicular to the waters surface. German Alfred Braunschweiger initially lost the third place dive off and walked off in a huff. Dr Lewald the Imperial High Commissioner to the World's Fair thus refused initially to provide the statuette to to the winner and George Sheldon the American winner refused to accept his winners reward once the dispute was sorted out and a second bronze was awarded.

The first Olympic Lacrosse champions
The plunge for distance for competition to see how far someone could go from initial dive into the pool without propulsion from arms or legs, face down in the water, see how far they could get in 60 seconds.

Lacrosse made the first of its five Olympic appearances at St. Louis (though the last three as a demonstration sport only). Two teams from Canada (one entirely of Mohawk Indians, the other from the Shamrock Athletic Club) took on a local St. Louis team. In the end the Irish/Canadian Club beat the American's in the final.

A view of some roque courts
Roque as similar mallet sport to croquet replaced it at the 1904 games. Making its only appearance as an Olympic sport. It is played on a raised hard sand or clay surface which is walled. The walls could be used like the cushions of a snooker table to play off. The club that hit the balls had an Octogan head to it. But the aim to hit the ball through a double diamond of arches is very similar to croquet. The sport itself is now obsolete with its governing body ceasing to exist in 1970.

Athletics managed to see it a major controversy and the advent of a new sport.

The controversy came in the Marathon when the first runner to re-enter the Olympic stadium was Frederick Lorz. He had stopped running due to exhaustion after 9 km, then got into the car of his manager until that broke down and then jogged back to the stadium to pick up his kit. As he got there the cheers went up so he ran up to break the tape and was hailed the winner. He was given a life ban but which was later lifted when he apologised saying he never meant to defraud and went on to win the 1905 Boston Marathon. The winner therefore for Tom Hicks, who stopped to walk for part of the course and was given a strychnine shot (now a banned substance) to complete the course. In silver was Albert Corey, who was a French born runner living in new York, but because he had insufficient documentation he is listed as USA not France for his medal, though in the 4 mile mens race the Chicago AA team is deemed to be mixed because of the presence of Corey.

Tom Keily first decathlon gold
The advent though was for the Decathalon. Although the 10 events were a little different from what we know today.

  • 100 yard dash
  • Shot put
  • High jump
  • 880 yard walk
  • Hammer throw
  • Pole vault
  • 120 yard hurdles
  • 56 pound weight throw
  • Long jump
  • 1 mile
Apart from the distance changes to 100m, 110m hurdles and 1500m the modern decathletes thrown a javelin instead of the hammer, a discus instead of the 56 pound weight and take a 400m sprint instead of the 880 yard walk. The first winner was Tom Kiely, he is listed as team GB, however the man from Carrick-on-Suir was a staunch Irish nationalist who had turned down offers both from the British Olympic Committee and a American sponsor to make his way to St. Louis. In the end he made it under his own steam and carried on claiming that he was there to represent Ireland. However, as Ireland was not yet independent the records record him as being British. He was not the first Irishman, nor nationalist, to win an Olympic Gold medal, indeed John Pius Boland in the tennis in 1896 takes that honour. But he was the first to try and vocally make a point of it. Indeed the only other medal won by GB in 1904 was by John Daly from Galway in the 2000m steeplechase.

But the decathlon was an event created for the Olympics and apart from the next games in 1908 it has been a permanent feature in the games ever since.

However, the games though there were notable individual exceptions overall were mediocre as a spectacle. The IOC had to do something to ensure their survival. But more about that next week.

See also my full history of past Olympics here.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Trains, Ships and Automobiles

Often when the Easter weekend arrives in Ireland I used to have a short trip to see the opening stage of the Circuit of Ireland. Scrutineering would often happen in Bangor Leisure Centre's car park before the cars would head off around Castle Park to get things started before the cars headed off out into the country for the stages over the next three days. Sometime returning to the Marine Court Hotel for the champagne celebrations.

This year I will not have a walk to see the start, but I don't mind. This year the opening stage is starting within sight of the Titanic Signature Project around what is currently a derelict piece of land on Queen's Island a stones throw from the drafting offices of Harland and Wolff. I'm looking forward to catching the train up, to the great historic heart of ship manufacturing in Belfast, to watch the cars whizz around this tight circuit.

Seeing as this is the centenary of the launching of the Titanic near this location and the first time in over 20 years that the Circuit of Ireland has started from Belfast is a sign of how much things have changed here. Belfast is buzzing and its quarters are alive with various events throughout the year. Next year I wonder if the circuit will start out of the City of Culture?

If you can't beat Obama subpoena him

Yeah the weirdest story of the week in the Presidential race comes from Georgia, home state of Newt Gingrich.. It is there that Californian attorney and "birther" Orly Taitz has managed to get one justice to actually look at her one of her various lawsuits trying to ban Obama from the State Primary on 9th March. Others have failed.

The court hearing is scheduled for today and Georgia Deputy Chief Justice Michael Malihi has subpoenaed the President to appear before him today n the grounds that his filings to Georgia's secretary of state fail to show why his attendance would be "unreasonable or oppressive," or why his testimony would be "irrelevant, immaterial or cumulative."

I'm sure one of the documents that were passed on to Georgia was the following, issued by the State of Hawaii on 8 August 1961.

Of course the guy who he beat in 2008 was John McCain, born 29th August 1936 at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone.

One wonders what would have happened had his non-American parent not been black and African.

The presumptive Democratic nominee for President is actively campaigning today, but no in the State of Georgia.

Looking at the text of the 14th Amendment it is clear that he qualifies, through section one from the place of his birth. His mother being a natural born American from the State of Kansas he was not the child of an illegal immigrant. His mother and her parents are American. He was raised by them.

14th Amendment to the US Constitution (adopted 9 July 1868)
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Even if both his parents had not been native born American's the fact that he was would make Barack Obama a Natual Born Citizen. This was tested in the Supreme Court in 1898 by by Wong Kim Ark who was born in San Francisco to Chinese parents. This ruled that Wong was a natural born citizen of the USA.

The birthers really do not have a legal leg to stand on in this case are are merely showing prejudice as well as being sore losers. But of course not being native born, McCain did qualify to run for President even though he wasn't born in the US because his parents were American. Strangely the birthers never challenged McCain's eligibility to run or serve as President.

Update: Reading the reports of what happened in court today it appears that the main thrust of the plaintiff's cliams are that because Obama's father is saying because he was not an American citizen, neither is the President. If that is the main thrust it is unconstitutional and should not be admissible in court, see the above.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

What Alex Salmond said?

The best way to look at the emphasis of what Alex Salmond said as he launched his bid for a referendum on Scottish independence is through this Wordle.

In all that is 2312 words during which he said some of the keys ones this many times:

  • Scotland 39
  • referendum 32
  • people 25
  • Parliament 16
  • government 15 (of which UK 5, Scottish 4)
  • Scottish 13
  • independence 12
  • country 12
  • question 10
  • consultation 9
  • UK 7
  • Burns 6
  • fair 5
  • Electoral Commission
  • Union 3 (One the 1707 Union, one European Union and one a new social union)
  • legal challenge 1
  • mandate 1
One of those words above I highlighted was question. In his speech he has outlined what he wants the question to be. It is a very simple non-ambiguous question:

"Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"

There can be no confusion as to the extent of that question. There would be no need for a follow up question is the question had been the convoluted, "Do you want the Scottish Parliament to open negotiations to lead towards an Independent Scotland" which at one point was muted.

If that is the question so be it. That question is clear. It is a straight yes/no. It is not confused by an option of devolution max, which though my preferred option is not one that is being offered at this time. Therefore I think the Secretary of State for Scotland should allow that question to be put to the people, the Electoral Commission will be running the practical side of the referendum. Let's get the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments around a table to discuss the niggling issues.

Game on.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

And the nomations are....#Oscars

Today is the day that all of Hollywood and a lot of studios elsewhere around the world have been waiting for, the Academy is announcing the nominations for this years Oscars.

The nominations are:

Actress in a supporting role

Bérénice Bejo for The Artist, Jessica Chastian for The Tree of Life, Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbsand Octavia Spencer for The Help.

Actor in a supporting role

Kenneth Branangh for My Week with Marilyn, Nick Nolte for Warrior, Jonah Hill for Moneyball, Christopher Plummer for Beginners and Max Von Sydow for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.



Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs

Viola Davis for The Help

Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady

Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn


George Clooney for The Descendents

 Demian Bichir for A Better Life

 Jean Dujardin for The Artist

Gary Oldman for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Brad Pitt for Moneyball.


Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist, Alexander Payne for Descendents, Martin Scorsese for Hugo, Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, Terrance Mallick for The Tree of Life


I'm somewhat shocked that Tintin hasn't made the best Animated Feature. Scorsese's Hugo leads the way with 11 overall nominations and The Artist runs it close with 10. Meryl Streep has her 17 nomination but after winning two of her first four for Kramer v Kramer and Sophie's Choice. Christopher Plummer at 82 were he to win, as the father who comes out as gay to his son as gay after his wife dies, would be the oldest winner of a performance Oscar. But  he is up against Ulsterman Kenneth Brannagh is attempting to win an acting Oscar by playing an Oscar winning actor for his role as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Thank you for being inspirational Congresswoman Giffords

A little over a year ago I suspect like most other people in the UK I couldn't tell you the name of the Representative for the Arizona 8th District in Congress.

But when she was holding a Congress on Your Corner event in the Safeway store in Casas Adobes, to the NW of Tuscon her name became etched on many people's memory. Not because she was going out to meet the people but because of the actions of a gunman who shot her and , killed a staffer, a Federal Judge, 3 pensioners and a girl born on 11 September 2001 (yes that 9-11). Eleven others were injured in the shooting.

That congresswoman was Gabriele Giffords. Her recovery since then has been long and arduous, but none the less a little miraculous. She survived a head injury and has spent the past year getting back her motions, her speech, her cognitive functions, if not her memories of the day those shots rang out.

When she appeared in the House of Representatives on 1 August 2001, her first appearance there since the shooting, to vote in support of raising the debt limit ceiling, she received a standing ovation from her colleagues. She had previously been seen in public on 16 May at Kennedy Space Centre to see the launch of the last USS Endeavour Space Shuttle mission under the command of her husband Captain Mark E. Kelly. On that mission her wedding ring went into space with her husband while she kept his on earth awaiting his return.

On Sunday she announced that she would be stepping down from Congress this week, as she still had recovery ahead. However, she also promised that we hadn't seen the last of her and that she will be back. I certainly hope so.

So Gabby I wish you well as you continue to recover and I hope that the world has not seen the last of you as an active politician. You thank the people of the Arizona 8th for their patience, of the world for their prayers, but I'm sure we all want to thank you for the inspiration you have been over the last year.

Here is her announcement video.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Not even Salmond expects the Spanish Inqusition

The latest obstacle to Alex Salmond's vision of an independent Scotland within Europe comes from a rather unexpected source: Spain.

They have indicated that they would veto accession of an independent Scotland into the EU. The separation of other European states is something that Spain in the past has taken a dim view on, they have refused to recognise Kosovo as an independent state.

The Spaniards have real fear that a peaceful split in the United Kingdoms 300+ year Parliamentary union could lead to increased calls from the Basque and Catalonia regions for independence. The Basque region in particular has only recently ceased to be an internal terrorism threat, with Eta calling its ceasefire on 20 October of last year. The fear is that even though Scotland might head into a peaceful settlement, if Spain refuse to allow the same for these two regions the violence could return.

Already they are facing demands for a stronger financial deal from the Catalan premier Artur Mas, based on the Scottish agreement with London and the threat of the splits.

Of course Alex Salmond has a number of things that he is relying on for his vision of independence, one is that he will retain the Monarchy, though there are rival claimants for the Scottish throne that may seen the Jacobites return for a claim. The other is that the Parliament in Scotland has, in his opinion, the right to call the referendum itslef, despite this power NOT being devolved from Westminster. central bank will still be the Bank of England and they will still use Sterling. And of course his determination that Scotland will remain in the EU.

The reaction of the Spanish however, puts another kibosh on Salmond's plans. But no doubt he will continue to bluster on through despite this.

For those of you, like Tom Elliott from earlier this week, bluster from Salmond is the default position for the SNP to attempt to get their way.There was bluster about centralising a Local Income Tax rate in Holyrood, that is until it was found that his Government had defaulted on the payments to Her Majesty's Revenues and Customs that allowed Scotland to alter Income Tax by up to 3% from the UK rate. There was bluster to get a Council Tax freeze in the Concordat with promises to provide for the shortfall centrally which while the first has been observed the second is certainly selective in its effectiveness and many councils are making cuts to keep key services going.

In which I Answer the Question

Stephen Chapman used to challenge us to take five pictures for the fifth of each month, but now he is trying to spark us bloggers in different ways with The Question.

The first Question, for this month, is:

What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?

The sportsman in me though tempted to select a sporting achievement, also realises that to be guaranteed success on the field of sport is something that is also somewhat unsportsmanlike. So all my dreams and aspirations in that area will have to continue to be through hard work and training, or things that have been attempted but are now in the past.

So in order to answer the question I think I have to look at a field that maybe just a little bit of the fear of rejection is actually putting me off getting on with in and carrying on. That also rules out the field of politics as I'm not scared of rejection there, in fact having stood on a number of occasions the failing to win has driven me on even harder in order to succeed.

So my mind gets cast back to a dream I had about 12 years ago when I was visiting Edinburgh in August. Yeah that month in Edinburgh where anyone with any artistic bone in their being is inspired by all the variety of acts that put on shows for a month long run in all manner of venues. That visit did spark the idea in me to write a play that would fit in to the ethos of what The Fringe actual is, but also be able in the way it was written to be able to transfer if it was a success.

You may think that the fact that I am writing about this dream is because there was no further progress in that area. Well actually that is not the case. There is about half of the play written, and every so often it does get revisited. As many of you who read this blog on a regular basis are aware I'm not afraid of putting stuff down in words, so why is this left unfinished.

I think it is because to hire a room in which to put on a production costs, the hiring and accommodating of a cast costs. Even though the later is at a minimum, I think there somewhere inside there is the sense that there might be financial failure even if the script is of top notch quality that somehow prevents me from even completing that script.

But I hear you say, surely there are other ways to get the script performed. Yes, maybe, but in my minds eye it needs to debut at the Edinburgh Fringe, it has a certain edginess to it that if it viewed by the right people will enable it to grow, and as a result maybe unleash the writer that has always been present in me.

Therefore if I could be guaranteed that I would not fail, I'd be hiring a venue in Edinburgh this summer, even before I have the script complete. Getting the company together, then getting on to finishing the thing off. Like Douglas Adams when it comes to literary creation I sometimes need an immovable deadline to get the final product out there, or else it will just whoosh past my head.

Romney got owned by Gingrich

When Associated Press finally join the other news organisations a whole half hour after the pools close you know the exit polls had to be clear. CBS and Fox had taken all of 4 minutes, ABC and CNN eight.

As I write this with 85% of the results reported the result in South Carolina is (final result in red):

  • Newt Gingrich 40.4% 40.4%
  • Mitt Romney 27.1% 27.8%
  • Rick Santorum 17.4% 17.0%
  • Ron Paul 13.4% 13.0%
That is as much of an owning of a state result as Romney managed in New Hampshire. In fact it is more so. But then like New Hampshire the winner came from a neighbouring state.

So where does that leave the Republican party nomination race as they head to Florida.

First up Gingrich has the momentum, but as was pointed out in the coverage I heard he is not on every state's ballot at the moment. He says that if he is nominated he will challenge Obama to seven three hour dabates. He is talking like a winner after tonight, he is talking about taking on Obama not his opponents. 

Romney took a bit of a pasting here. Before his supporters knew the cameras were live you saw the frowns. He outspent Gingrich with $2.4m of ad buy to $612,000. So although he is getting his message out there one thing is lacking. The exit polls revealed that he had lost his lead in who do see most likely to beat Obama in November. That honour now goes to Gingrich, possibly because of the way he ended up swinging from the start of the debate on Thursday, when a week ago that was Romney. 

Romney also came out swinging at Gingrich saying that as he'd never run a state or a business. The counter punch came when Newt said he was the only speaker in the supporters' lifetimes that had supervised four consecutive balanced budgets. The fight is on.

Rick Santorum has done well enough to stay in the race. His speech was one that would allow him to be an asset to whomever happens to win this race. Indeed he opened in praise of his colleague in the House of Representatives. As I said earlier if he didn't put up a good position here he may as well pack up and head home. As it is he has done enough to keep on with the fight. He will be waiting to see if Romney and Gingrich manage to destroy each other in the crossfire they are aiming at each other, he may well be the man to pick up the pieces and be the compromise candidate if things get so nasty as to make both of them a political liability.

As for Ron Paul, this was Christian country and his liberal message may not have gone done well with some of these southerners. But he carried on and on and on in his speech with his economic vision. However, he is the only man left in the race who has not yet won a statewide poll.  He said he will carry on, there are some caucusing states coming up where he has done well. He will still have picked up delegates here and as he said in his speech, before giggling his giggle, winning delegates is the name of the game. Wow! How insightful.  

So all four are left in, nobody was knocked out yet and this race is far from over and may well get even nastier in the weeks ahead. If it does it could still stir things up even more. But tonight Romney was owned by Gingrich. At point I tweeted that the Romney gap was closing....but only between him and Santorum as Gingrich edged further ahead as the results mounted up.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Polling day in South Carolina

It's been a week that one candidate's ex-wife claimed he wanted an open marriage. Another seemed to either lack or have the business acumen that made him successful as he stumbled over his tax returns. One was no longer strong enough to carry on and you didn't need to go to church to know that. One was actually ignored by the moderator in a debate (though the crowd booed that oversight). The one who speaks Chinese bowed to the inevitable and stopped his campaign. The other may have been declared winner in Iowa and looked deeper into the issue of fundamentalist Islam in a more thoughtful way that most GOP candidates before him.

In South Carolina voting is under way is what is heating up to be a GOP race. There are only four men left Mitt Romney who won in Iowa and New Hampshire, Rick Santorum who came second first in Iowa but performed poorly in New Hampshire, Ron Paul has shown strongly in both and Newt Gingrich who has come close to winning some counties but hasn't done so...yet.

Since 1980 the winner of the GOP South Carolina Primary has gone on to be the Republican nominee for President. So what does today hold for them all?

Mitt Romney picked up the endorsement of Jon Hunstman when he stepped aside on the 15th. He is still seen as the one to beat by the others and is running neck and neck with one of his rivals this time Gingrich. However, in the debate on Thursday night there were yet again concerns that the successful business man is using off shore banking to keep his taxes below that of the average working American. While this may be shrewd business practise in the world of politics it is seen as tax evasion especially to the Reagan Democrats that he seems keen to bring back from the Obama fold.

Newt Gingrich  has ridden the wave of his marital issues. Of course his marital issues are not so much the problem as at the time his second wife said he was suggesting an open marriage he was calling for a special prosecutor into the affairs of the man at the White House, Bill Clinton. So it smacks of hypocrisy. But he is doing just what he needs to do to keep his hope alive, a win or strong second here will keep him in the race. He picked up the backing of Rick Perry when he dropped out and Sarah Palin, though he did promise her a position once she came out in support, which may smack against the constitution and a promise of appointment by candidate.

Ron Paul will no doubt by the end of today be saying that this year the trend since 1980 is there to be broken. Not least because there is proportionality in the delegates this time rather than winner takes all. In all possibility even if Gingrich wins here today he would still be second in the number of delegates. He's ticking along with his libertarian take on what is needed to beat Obama and his $1 Trillion cuts in Washington spending by slashing 5 Departments he sees as superfluous is gathering momentum with a certain electorate.

Rick Santorum  may well be wishing that the eight Iowa districts that forgot to call in their results in the caucus had done so before New Hampshire. Then he would have been taking on New England's son having already beaten him once. As it is he trailed in behind the other 3, if only just behind Gingrich. He hasn't gone for the full out blood path that Romney and Gingrich seem to be playing on each other and Ron Paul. maybe it is true that the nice guy can't win, especially in the GOP. However, the fact that he is still here after some of the former front runners Bachmann and Perry have dropped out shows there must be some fight in him somewhere. If he stays in for the next stops on the itinerary he will have to bring it to the table and get back to the top of the lists to stay in this race. Of course not everywhere can be won by shaking every hand like Iowa and he is lacking the big financial backers to allow him to compete on a  even footing.

So after today at least three if not all four will probably still be feeling they have a chance to win this thing, as we head off to the sunshine state of Florida, where there is a scheduled debate on Monday night.

Friday, 20 January 2012

1900 Summer Olympics Paris: II Olympiad

Last week was the first in my looks at the various Summer Olympiads in the lead up to the return to London in July to be the first city to host a third Summer Olympiad. Today it is the turn to take a look at the second in Paris, which did not have an opening ceremony. Although seeing as the Olympics started on 14 May and ended on 28 October as part of the World Fair it may explain why.

There were no medals from these games with the winners receiving cups or trophies and professionals were allowed to take part in some sports like fencing.

Nations 24 (+10)
Competitors 997 (+756)
Sports 18 (+9)
Events 95 (+52)

14 May - 28 October 1900 in Paris

As you can see there were new nations and new events joining the growing Olympic movement.

Of the nations the debutants were:

  • Argentina
  • Belgium
  • Bohemia
  • Canada
  • Cuba
  • India
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Spain
As you may notice there are twelve countries on the above list as Bulgaria and Chile who had been represented at the previous games did not send athletes. So we are down already to only 12 ever present nations. There is also a dispute about whether Brazil, Haiti, Iran, Luxembourg and Peru were represented, the IOC records say they were not but some other records say they were there.

With twice as many sports there were more opportunities in different fields.

Archery the IOC lists 6 events as part of the Olympics but there were 8 other events as part of the World's Fair that could just as easily be counted. However as that would have involved 5000 archers it is probably a matter of making the games looklike they were growing that hte 150 who took part in those 6 events are officially counted. Only three nations France, Belgium and Netherlands sent archers.

There were no standardised rules for international archery until 1931 therefore the rules for the event were determined for early archery competitions by the host nation. The European nations tended to base their's on the skills of hunting.

The disciplines were: 
  • Au Cordon Doré  (the Golden Chord) 33m
  • Au Cordon Doré 50m
  • Au Chapalet (The Rosary) 33m
  • Au Chapalet 50m
  • Sur la Perche à la Herse (Perch on the Harrow)
  • Sur la Perche à la Pyramide (Perch on the Pyramid)
Basque pelota made its one and only appearance as an official Olympic sport. It was contested by two teams, hardly surprisingly France and Spain. If consisted of one match and the score is lost to history. However, the Spaniards were victorious.

Cricket surprisingly made made its only Olympic appearance in Paris of all places. It was meant to appear in Athens four years earlier but no teams signed up. In 1900 it almost faced a similar fate when Belgium and the Netherlands withdrew their teams. In the end a touring side the Devon and Somerset Wanderers (Old Boys of Blundell School and Castle Cary CC) took on a team made up of Albion CC and Standard Athletic Club in Paris (teams of expats). Only two of the GB team were deemed to be county standard but they still beat the French Brits by 158 runs.

Croquet appeared in the well known form only once, again in 1900. But it makes Olympic history in being the first Olympic sport to include women in the shape of Mme. Filleaul Brohy, Mlle. Marie Ohnier and Mlle. Desprès took part among the 9 French competitors but did not 'medal'. There was a one ball singles, two ball singles and doubles event to make 3 winners all French. Surprising considering the popularity in English lawns it was only the Belgians that challenged the French.

Equestrian made a debut for horsemanship in 1900. The disciplines were Jumping, High Jump and Long Jump. Belgium won two events outright and a French and Italian rider shared the high jump.

Football made its debut in Paris. Keep it quiet to the Scottish, Welsh and Irish FAs but the first winners were team GB. Well at least in the form of Upton Park FC, although no connection to West Ham United except the name. Although the event was actually two demonstration matches against the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques from Paris against Upton Park and the Université Libre de Bruxelles. The French were therefore the only team to play twice but lost to the British and beat the Belgians.

Women golfers taking part in the 1900 Games
Golf actually went one better than croquet in having a separate Men's and Women's events. It therefore means that Margaret Ives Abbott (USA) became one of the first female Olympic Champions.

Polo along with the other equestrian events was the ball sport of the horsing world, In total there were eight polo events held as part of the World's Fair but it is only the Grand Prix Internationale de l'Exposition that counted as a medal event. Like the football and cricket it was a club event rather than an international. Unlike those two however it resulted in two Englishman, an Irishman and an American taking the gold for the Foxhunter's Club beating another GB/USA mixed team in the final.

Eights on the Seine
Rowing also made it's Olympic debut on the River Seine with four diciplines, single sculls, coxed pairs, fours and eights. Strong winds had prevented the event making an appearance in 1896. A four lane course was laid out, but this led to controversy in the coxed fours event when six crews were put through to the final. This came after protests that the winners of the three semi-finals plus only the runner up of semi final three were to go through. In the end when the final was scheduled the original qualifiers boycotted the event so other crews rowed again in the final. However, the officials deciding to hold a second 'final' for the boycotting crews, both are officially recognised as Olympic event and there are two sets of medals awarded in that event. However as the second final contained the winners or the semi-finals it means that the unbeaten crew of the Germania Ruder Club Gustav Goßler, Oskar Goßler, Walter Katzenstein,Waldemar Tietgens and (cox) Carl Goßler are probably the real champions.

Surprisingly considering its history in the sport GB only sent one sculler to the event.

France v Germany in first Olympic Rugby match
Rugby Union made a debut  in Paris for the first of its four appearances at the games. While the hosts fielded the national squad, Germany were represented by  FC 1880 Frankfurt and GB by Moseley Wanderers. Moseley had played a full game in England the day before their match in Paris against France and then returned straight away to England. In the result just two games were played both won by France and Germany and GB both received a silver medal.  Rugby holds the distinction of being the first sport to award a gold medal to a black Olympian as Franco-Haitian Constantin Henriquez de Zubiera was part of the winning team.

Rugby will actually be returning as a sevens event in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

Sailing another of the Olympic perennials that made it's debut at Paris, or rather Le Harve. Like rowing it had failed to appear in the first games as scheduled. So the first medals were awarded in classes that were handicapped on time based on the tonnage of the yachts. In the end GB won 3 golds, France 2, Switzerland and a Mixed (France/GB) team one apiece.

Charlotte Cooper first female Olympic Champion
Tennis made it debut a a little Olympic history on 11 July when Charlotte Cooper already three time Wimbledon won in both the singles and mixed doubles. The men's singles semi-finals saw four British men contesting the medals. Between them they would eventually take 10 Wimbledon singles titles, the winner Lawrence Doherty was the rising star, who would win five consecutive from 1902-1906, he beat the old hand   and Scottish born 1896 Champion Harold Mahony, the beaten semi-finalists were Laurie's elder brother and 1897-1900 Wimbledon Champion Reginald and Arthur Norris. Sadly of the three Wimbledon Champions all three were dead by 43, the Doherty brothers had respitory problems which led to them taking up the sport and Mahony died in a motorcycle accident.

However, with the Doherty brothers taking the men's doubles and Reginald partnering Charlotte to the mixed doubles GB took all four of the competitions on offer.

Tug-o-War saw that man Constantin Henriquez de Zubiera win the first medal by a black Olympian, three months before the Rugby Union triumph. However, three of the USA team were taking part in the hammer at the same time as the competition so only two teams took part. France losing to a combined team from Denmark and Sweden.

Water Polo the pool saw the arrival of water polo to the games without a Hungarian team who dominate this event through Olympic history. In the end it was another triumph for GB with a team that scored 29 goals and conceded 3 through the knock out tournament. As a omen of things to come this was also the first time a Coe won Olympic gold as a Thomas Coe was part of the Osborne Swimming Club team that dominated this event.

There were some changes to other events that were mentioned in the 1896 post, weightlifting became an element in a 16 element gymnastics competition. In Athletics the hammer was added, as were standing jumps for the three disciplines, the 110m, 200 and 400m hurdles, two steeplechases over 2500m and 4000m, a 60m sprint, the 200m and a 5000m team race (like cross country adding the places for a lowest point score to win). Cycling saw just a 2000m sprint and the 25km race in the home of cycling, however 25km champion Louis Bastien also took part in the épée.

Being part of the World's Fair there were other sporting events taking place including kite flying, cannon shooting and motorcycle racing but these are not recognised by IOC.

See also:

    Thursday, 19 January 2012

    SNP MP claims to be an Unionist

    Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
    Watson: How can MacNeill claim to be a unionist when he is of Nationalist stock?

    Holmes: It's 1603, my dear Watson. 

    Angus MacNeill, the SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, has just appeared on BBC Northern Ireland's Hearts and Minds [link to iPlayer from this point] claiming to be a Unionist!

    The thing is that the tactic that he was using was which version of the Union was his opponent in debate, the UUP leader Tom Elliott, referring to. He kept going back to it as Elliott tried to mention that the United Kingdom was stronger under the European Union (throwing another union into the mix shows how poor a debater Elliott is). So my Scottish friends beware!

    Having worked on the referendum for the yes to AV campaign one thing that the No team did was to try and confuse and complex the issues. Something that MacNeill was trying to do to a clearly unprepared and unaware Elliot and presenter Noel Thompson. Yes there are a number of Unions involved the Union of the Crowns (of England and Scotland) in 1603, the Act of Union 1707, which did away with the separate states and parliaments under the same crown, there are of course the Acts of Union of 1800 that united Ireland into that Kingdom. There is also the Statue of Rhuddlan from 1284 which effectively binds Wales to England.

    MacNeill was using the confusion which anyone who hasn't spent time with the SNP could easily fall into distracting the debate away from the issues to Northern Ireland as a result of Scottish independence by trying to tie Northern Irish unionists up by their understanding of what the Union is. The thing is of course there are different views of what the union is for amongst unionists. There is the Northern Irish viewpoint. There is one largely shared by Conservatives and Labour, then there is a different one that Liberal Democrats hold. Other parties such as UKIP hold other opinions as well.

    Was MacNeill trying a line of attack on a show in Belfast this evening that may eventually get used in Glasgow and Edinburgh? One that accentuates differences in what the union means to various people who support it to pull the union apart? Is claiming to be a 1603 unionist a cunning plot to assuage people that Scottish Nationalists are going to change things that much. Though look at their continuing vision to centralise with the police and fire services bill publication today.

    I think we are well aware that the SNP are not going to play by the rules that currently exist, because each time they get knocked back it becomes one more trophy for them to parade about a repressive Westminster. Now it looks like they may also be trying to confuse people by just what union we're all talking about. They may have launched a divide and conquer approach tonight, to try and win through.

    Strong redrafted by Rick Perry

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our former speaker can’t celebrate an open marriage with his mistress in Washington as his wife at home. As President, I'm sure that Gingrich's war on Clinton will not stop him having sex with that woman, or that woman, or that woman. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on his sexual history of cheating on his wives. Faith made America strong. It can make The current Mrs Gingrich strong again. I’m Rick Perry and I approve Newt Gingrich.

    The original ad is below.

    Yeah believe it or not on the day that the second wife of Newt Gingrich revealed he wanted an open marriage when he confessed to his six-year affair, has suspended his campaign. This man of faith who doesn't think gays can enter monogamous marriage, or serve openly in the US Military, is backing the hypocrite who ordered the equiry into the Lewinski affair before saying goodnight to his wife while his mistress was beside him in his bed.

    Now that is a strong choice, NOT!

    Update Having just read that Newt Gingrich is offering senior appointments to GOP endorsers. Oops that is another contravention of the US Constitution after saying he will over rule the Supreme Court earlier. So Perry is endorsing a felon, see below:

    TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 29 > § 599§ 599. Promise of appointment by candidate
    Whoever, being a candidate, directly or indirectly promises or pledges the appointment, or the use of his influence or support for the appointment of any person to any public or private position or employment, for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

    Wednesday, 18 January 2012

    SOPA Blackout

    This site is blacked out today in support of the SOPA Protest. Come have a look at the header.

    Tuesday, 17 January 2012

    Royal Yacht to cheer up Diamond Jubilee - the solution

    So the Queen wants a yacht!

    Or rather Michael Gove thinks we should as a grateful nation give her one as a 60 years long service award for her current job. I'm thinking the £60m that it would cost might go some way to giving some of us without jobs greater assistance in finding one, rather than as an award for one that one was merely born into. Most of us who are unemployed don't have the luxury of a family 'firm' to fall back on.

    However, if as Michael Gove says he is worried that the Diamond Jubilee celebrations are being put in the shade by the Olympic, I have a solution. If only George VI's doctors has euthanased him a month early to avoid such a clash, rather than a few hours so his death would make the morning papers.

    But seriously the solution is to actually get her a yacht, not one of his motor cruisers with funnels etc, but a yacht with ropes and sails and everything. It is something she could easily get tutelage from some of her distant cousins. Hopefully they can get her up to speed to emulate many of her cousins in taking part in the games themselves.

    For example the exploits of ex-King (then Crown Prince) Constantine of Greece (pictured GE3) in the 1960 games in Rome, who took the gold medal with his crew in the Dragon class, a now defunct class. But members of the Royal Family have spent time on Constantine's yacht, or that of his sister Sofia's husband, better known as King Juan Carlos of Spain. So there is a definite connection between the Windsors and Olympic gold in yachting.

    Of course poor Constantine didn't quite have a home regatta he had to take part in the Med but at the Bay of Naples. Though he is a first cousin to the Duke of Edinburgh, but although being descended through Victoria's eldest daughter Victoria is higher in the order of succession that Prince Philip would be who is only descended from a younger daughter Alice.

    In 1964 and 68 another cousin a descendant of Edward VII's daughter Maud, the current King Harald V of Norway took part in the 5.5m class (boats like those in the picture). His best was 8th in Tokyo in 64. However, his father Olav V had won Gold in 1928 in a 6m boat. Harald is still sailing competitively at least until recently as in 2007 he came 6th in a class at the World Championships and won a European title in 2005.

    Constantine's sister Sophia has managed to give birth to two more Royal Olympian sailors. Her second daughter Christina took part in the regatta in 1988 coming 20th in the Tornado having carried the standard in the opening ceremony. Sophia's son Crown Prince Felipe has the honour of being the only Royal who has sailed in an Olympic regatta on home soil at the Barcelona Games of 1992, when he also had the honour of carrying his nations flag before his father and mother in the box. In the regatta he game in sixth in the Soling class.

    So maybe we should get Her Majesty a Elliott or 470 class yacht and see if she can qualify for the Olympics as a condition of her keeping it.

    Saturday, 14 January 2012

    Balls reveals Economic Plans....George Osborne's

    For the last 18 months Labour have been saying that the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition has been cutting too fast, they have stood along those in the public sector about their pay conditions etc. All the while many of us have asked what are their alternatives for this parliament then.

    When finally the Guardian have got to the bottom of the issue in an interview with the Shadow Chancellor today.

    Labour's alternative it seems is do exactly what is being done.

    Balls says:

    "My starting point is, I am afraid, we are going to have keep all these cuts. There is a big squeeze happening on budgets across the piece. The squeeze on defence spending, for instance, is £15bn by 2015. We are going to have to start from that being the baseline. At this stage, we can make no commitments to reverse any of that, on spending or on tax. So I am being absolutely clear about that."

    He also says:

    "It is now inevitable that public sector pay restraint will have to continue through this parliament. Labour cannot duck that reality and won't. There is no way we should be arguing for higher pay when the choice is between higher pay and bringing unemployment down.
    "I know there will be some people in the trade union movement and the Labour party who will think of course Labour has got to oppose that pay restraint in 2014 and 2015. That is something we cannot do, should not do and will not do."

    So now we as Lib Dems know just what we have achieved. We have tamed the Conservative plans to make things fairer for those who are worst off than they initially planned and we have done it so well that the Labour party cannot improve on what we have managed to get unto the table.

    Therefore plaudits to Danny Alexander and David Laws in the early days for setting up a fairness in the plan to help the UK recovery. For making tough yet fair decisions. Even Ed Balls agrees.

    Friday, 13 January 2012

    Not all the world speaks English (American) #GOP

    Considering that Nick Clegg can speak Dutch, Spanish, German and French as well as English of course which while this polyglotism is astounding is not shunned by British voters the same is not the case it would seem in America.

    First of all there was shocking adverts by a group supporing Ron Paul about the fact that former US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman might be able to communicate in Mandarin.

    Now the fact that an American who spent 2 years in French in his youth can speak, shock horror, French has been attacked in this add from Newt Gingrich.

    It is bad enough that most Brits think they should be able by with just English. I've spoken enough conversational Spanish, German and Russian to get by with greeting etc. but to use being able to speak to some of the 94% of the world who don't speak English as their first language, or some of the 75-90% who speak it as a second language is an atrocious sign of how little America and especially Newt Gingrich cares for foreign affairs.

    The attacks on Chinese speakers of which 2 million existed in the 2000 US Census and French 1.6m shows that Gingrich and Paul are even not aware of the continuing diversity of the constituency that they wish to represent.

    1896 Summer Olympics Athens: I Olympiad

    Over the Fridays between now and the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Games I'll be taking a little look at the summer Olympiads that have gone before.

    Nations 14
    Competitors 241
    Sports 9
    Events 43

    6-15 April 1896 in Athens, Greece

    So to kick off it is back in 1896 to Athens where Baron Pierre de Coubertin vision which he first had in 1889 to revive the ancient Greek idea of an Olympics. He wasn't the first as Thomas Arnold head of Rugby School had first come up with the idea of the Much Wenlock games (after where one of the London 2012 mascots gets its name) in 1850.

    • The original Olympic nations were Greece (the hosts)
    • Australia (although not independent until 1901 the 800m and 1500m golds of Edwin Flack are listed for them)
    • Austria (although part of the Austira-Hungary empire their results are listed separately)
    • Bulgaria (they claim that the Swiss born gymnast Charles Champaud who was living in Bulgaria was competing for them)
    • Chile (who had one athlete Luis Subercaseaux in the 100, 400 and 800m)
    • Denmark
    • France
    • Germany
    • Great Britian and Ireland
    • Hungary (as with Austria above, but also including athletes from Vojvodina, now Serbia, in their team results)
    • Italy (although their most prominent athlete Carlo Airoldo was deemed professional and excluded they also had a shooter Rivabella)
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • United States of America
    As you can tell from some of the above comments there was little organisation as such. Indeed some of the olympians happened to be in Europe and turned up to take part.

    The sports were:

    Contestants lines up for the 100m
    Athletics with 12 events
    • 100m (when Francis Lane (USA) won the first heat on day one he became the first Olympic winner he came 3rd in the final)
    • 400m
    • 800m
    • 1500m
    • 110m hurdles
    • Marathon (a debut event of 40km from Marathon to the Olympic Stadium)
    • High Jump
    • Pole Vault
    • Long Jump
    • Triple Jump (James Connolly (USA) on winning became the first modern Olympic Champion)
    • Shot Put
    • Discus (part of the ancient games but never before part of an international competition)
    USA won 9 of the Silver Medals (for winning), Australia 2 and Greece only the Marathon.

    Cycling had 6 events mostly contested at the velodrome.
    • Road Race (87km)
    • Sprint (2km)
    • Time Trial (1/3km once around the track)
    • 10km
    • 100km
    • 12 hour race
    There were only 19 cyclists from 5 countries taking part with 4 wins for France (three of which were by Paul Masson), 1 each for Greece and Austria.

    Fenching held three events in sabre, foil and masters foil and the spoils were 2 for Greece, 1 France.

    Carl Schuhmann taking part in the vault
    Gymnastics comprised a total of eight events (the first five are familiar, the last two are now part of the team overall)
    • Horizontal bar
    • Parallel bars
    • Pommel horse
    • Rings
    • Vault
    • Rope climbing ( to climb a height of 14 m (only achieved by 2) with style and time deciding factors to split equal heights)
    • Team parallel bars
    • Team horizontal bar
    Germany won five of the events, Greece 2 and Switzerland the remaining one.

    Shooting  comprised 5 events 
    • 200m miltary rifle (Greece filled the top 5 places)
    • 200m free rifle
    • 25m miltary pistol
    • 25m rapid fire pistol
    • 30m free pistol
    Greece won three of the events with USA winning the other 2.

    Swimming all the events took place in the open sea at the Bay of Zea
    • 100m freestyle
    • 500m freestyle
    • 1200m freestyle ( the final race and Alfréd Hajós (Hun) who won the 100m and Paul Neumann (Aut) who won the 500m both entered with mixed results. Hajós won and Neumann DNF)
    • 100m sailors freestyle ( this was only open to sailors in the Greek navy and the winning time was 1 minute slower that the open event)
    Winners Hungary 2, Austria 1 and Greece one for a Greek only event.

    Tennis had only men's singles and men's doubles. John Boland of Great Britain won both the doubles with Friedrich Traun of Germany.

    Weightlifting was still young event in 1896 and the rules are different from today so there was the one handed and the two handed lift. Launceston Elliot of GB won the one handed and Viggo Jensen of Denmark the two handed, with each man coming second in the other event.

    Wrestling there were no weight classes back in 1896 just one open Greco-Roman event won by German Carl Schuhmann.

    So there you have it the nations and sports that first graced the Olympics. Some recognisable some very different to the sports we know today.

    See also: