Tuesday 29 November 2011

People who inspired me: Richard Lowry 1955-2011

Earlier tonight while over at my brother's he turned to me from Facebook to tell me that Richard Lowry had died earlier today.

Mr Lowry as we knew him was the younger Economics teacher at Regent House Grammar School when I started my A' Level in the subject. But he was the one who was more inspirational. He was only 15 years older than us but he had ways to get us involved in practical Economics.

When it came to learning about how the stock market worked, he gave us all pages of accounting paper and the sum of £500 on the credit side. For the next three months until the end of that first term we would trade shares at the closing day closing prices from the previous day. He would have to sign off any transactions so on the days we didn't have him for economics we would end up in his hut with our broadsheet paper ( in my case the Guardian, or the new Independent) to carry out our trades. At the end there was a prize of a mint Bank of England one pound note* in a frame. That One Pound Note has traveled to London and back then off to Scotland and back in my safe possession since.

The first time I watched the budget was actually in one of Mr Lowry's classes, wonderfully scheduled for the Chancellor's presentations (they were in the Autumn in 1986). We knew what we were looking out for and were filing in notes of key changes as we went through. It is something I've done many times since, so the fact that I learn of his death on the day of a Chancellors Autumn Statement seems even more poignant.

However, with Doctor Bell seemingly part of the furniture at Regent Mr Lowry looked for better options so before the end of our first year of our A' Level he went of to Glenlola as the head of Business Studies. He later went on to be head of sixth form and Vice Principal. He'd only taken half our our A' Level classes but we always looked forward to them. When he let at the start of June his substitute was Sammy Wilson who is now in charge of the Northern Irish Executive budget.

One morning  he drew up a graph of a good type on the board and started to tell us what to write about it, then half way through started to say that in reverse this meant something else, which got more and more ludicrous as he carried on speaking. I either sadly, or happily, don't have all that he said as more and more of us stopped writing until he got the the line. "Many people have taken this reverse theory as truth and written long studies of this principle but are no better than April Fools" Yes there were a few still writing when he got to those last two words. One person even didn't stop until he wrote down 'fools'.

It was Mr Lowry who inspired me to take Economics further to University (okay I started out at Polytechnic, but my degree is from a University). Of course doing so also got me involved in politics, not the them and us of Northern Irish politics but the real politics of the rest of the UK. I got involved with the exciting new party that had just formed from two founding parties in their first freshers events in September 1988. It has led to so much more (see the political experience tab).

I seen him occasionally around Bangor since he took the role at Glenlola and had told him about standing for Westminster in 2005. He was truly and inspiration that led me to what I've been involved with for the past two decades.

He truly was an inspirational teacher. He took early retirement in January 2010 on health grounds, sadly he has died at the all too early age of 56. So my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sharon and sons Matthew and Peter.

* Younger readers (who aren't from Scotland) may not believe in the mythical one pound note, whose greenness is mentioned in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The reason being in 1987 they were phased out.

A gender balanced Sports Personality of the Year Shsortlist #BBCfail Updated

Yesterday I posted about how the BBC had managed to produce their Sports Personality of the Year list without including a single woman. Today I'm going to produce a gender balanced list of champions, looking at some of the criteria of the all-male list, I have the double World medalist, the emotional champion winning year, the complete dominance of her sport, the inspirational captain and the one who's put disappointment aside in a preferred event to succeed elsewhere.

Mo Farrah

Rebecca Adlington like Mo Farrah above came back from the Worlds with a gold and silver medal. Only see got gold in her longer event the 800m and silver in the 400m. She had also tried to compete in the 200m, but as the result of failing to make the semis in Shanghai has decided to concentrate on just her two gold medal defences for next year.

Rory McIlroy

Beth Tweddle well if the English Cricket Captain can make the all male top ten I'm putting Beth in there. She may not have won any world titles this year but she did inspire the GB women's team to 5th place overall, their highest ever position. She put in possibly her last world level uneven bars routine to lead the way with 15.666 and made the apparatus final in the floor. A mistake in qualifying meant that Tweddle didn't make the uneven bars final but in the team competition she showed she is still the best.

Mark Cavendish

Chrissie Williamson while Cav produces the sprint finish how would you like to swim 2.4km, cycle 112 miles then run a full marathon. Now do that against the best in the world and for a fourth time cross the line first. But for illness last year she may well have been celebrating her fifth in a row. Yeah talk about rowing Sir Steve Redgrave only won his SPOTY after five Olympic Titles four years apart (okay there were Worlds in between). Chrissie has dominated the world Ironman scene for the last five years. Surprisingly I don't recall any of our world class Triathlon competitors being short listed for SPOTY.

Alastair Cook

Victoria Pendleton may have lost her World Sprint Title earlier in the year for the first time since 2006 but came back in the Europeans to take two of the five golds in what should be Team GB&NIs star event next summer. The set back of failing to get to the medal rounds of her favoured sprints once again didn't deter Vicky who won Gold in the Kerin and Team Sprint.

Luke Donald

Sarah Stevenson is a World Taekwando champion. Building on her bronze in Beijing she was working towards greater heights in London next year. However, this year she lost her mother in January of a terminal condition and her father to a tumour 3 months later. Therefore it was an emotional performance dedicated to her absent parents that lifted Gold in Korea last month.

Update According to the BBC here is a full list of those nominated by the main newspapers plus Zoo and Nuts. Where were the votes from Cosmo or Prima.

Here is the rundown of actual nominations, in order of nominations, from a largely male press core o 27 publications:

27 Rory McIlroy (Golf) 

26 Darren Clarke (Golf)

25 Mo Farah (Athletics)

23 Mark Cavendish (Cycling) 23

18 Alastair Cook (Cricket)

17 Dai Greene (Athletics)

14 Andy Murray (Tennis); Andrew Strauss (Cricket)

11 Luke Donald  (Golf)

Amir Khan (Boxing)

Rebecca Adlington (Swimming); Jenson Button (Motorsport) 6

Alastair Brownlee (Triathlon); Keri-Anne Payne (Swimming); Graeme Swann  (Cricket)

James Anderson (Cricket); Stuart Broad (Cricket) 4; Sam Warburton (Rugby Union) 

Carl Froch (Boxing); Scott Parker (Football); Sarah Stevenson (Taekwando); Sam Tomkins (Rugby League); Sam Waley-Cohen (Horse Racing); Chrissie Wellington (Triathlon)

Kath Grainger (Rowing); Victoria Pendleton (Cycling) 2

Nicola Adams (Boxing); Ben Ainslie (Sailing); Gareth Bale (Football); Ian Bell (Cricket); Dmitri Berbatov (Football); Glen Chapple (Cricket); Hannah England (Athletics); Jessica Ennis (Athletics); Dario Franchetti (Motorsport); George Groves (Boxing); Lewis Hamilton (Motorsport); Tony McCoy (Horseracing); George North (Rugby Union); Shanaze Reade (BMX); Stef Reid (Paralympic Athlete); Jamie Roberts (Rugby Union); Wayne Rooney (Football); Paul Scholes (Football); Louis Smith (Gymnastics); Yaya Toure (Football); Jonathan Trott (Cricket); Judd Trump (Snooker); Hayley Turner (Horse Racing); Patrick Viera (Football); David Weir (Football)

So there were a total of just 12 women nominated from 51 names put forward. I'll work out the breakdown by sport later but there seems to be quite a chunk of the England Cricket team.

Robinson takes "Them and Us" on Tour

Oh dear! What can the matter be?
Peter Robinson might be starting a calamity.

At the weekend Peter Robinson called for an end of "them and us" in Northern Ireland politics only it didn't seem present from his party in the chamber of Education Training Colleges yesterday. Now it seems he wants to step into Scottish Politics, or does he?

Of course the big question for Northern Irish Unionists over the SNP's call for separation is that once the Union starts to break up in one part what is to stop it happening elsewhere. Look at recent history.

The USSR  in 1990 the Russian Federation started to pass laws that superseded the USSR declaring sovereignty over its territory the largest of the Soviet Republics. In March of 1991 a referendum on the preservation of the Union only carried a majority in 9 of the 15 Republics though passed overwhlemingly as a whole. The seeds of separatism were watered as a result. The coup d'état against the USSR President Gorbachev that August further strengthened the position of the Russian President Yeltsin. On 8 December the three largest republics Russia, Ukraine and Belarus had signed Belavezha Accords which declared the Soviet Union dissolved and the Commonwealth in Independent States in its place. On 21st all the Republics but Georgia had signed the Alma-Ata Protocol confirming the accords. It led to the Christmas Day announcement that Gorbachev was declaring his position extinct and the following day the Supreme Soviet followed suit.
Yugoslavia coming out of the first world war the Kingdom of Serbia, and the States of Croatia and Slovenes were united. They became known as Yugoslavia in 1928. The ethnic tension of the various groups started to grow after the death of Tito in 1980. In 1986 Slobodan Milošević tried to restored the sovereignty of the Serb majority, the Croatians and Slovenes objected. In January 1990 an extraordinary congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia was convened. Milošević insisted on one person, one vote to ensure the plurality of the Serb voice was dominant. The Slovenes backed by the Croats wanted more power devolved to the republics, they were voted down. Their delegations then left the congress effectively dissolving the all-Yugoslavia Communist Party. In 1990 the Republics decided to hold multi-party elections following the collapse of communism elsewhere. However, there was ethnic unrest in a number of the republics throughout 1990 and eventually on 25 June 1991 to the declaration of Independence of Slovenia and Croatia  but due to communication in Slovenia the transition of power from the Yugoslav led to some light skirmishes. Of course that wasn't the case with Croatia or later with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In both the above cases there was a domino effect as each of the constitute parts wanted independence from the Union. Is what Peter Robinson fears that a Scottish secession going to lead to a Welsh pursuit of the same and then a why are we united to just England from Northern Ireland leading either to independence or a united Ireland?

Is he saying there is an end of them and us, but  we don't want us to become them by stealth `because the United Kingdom ends up breaking up. There are many good federalist arguments to be put forward for a high level of devolution across the UK as reasons to safe the Union but give power to the local people (not just disproportionately to Scotland). Having Peter Robinson using such overtly Northern Ireland needs this without addressing issues across the UK as a whole is not the way to do it. Peter really needs to get out the us mentality himself on this one, realise that his small world's eye outlook needs to see what can be of a benefit to all in the UK if he wants to keep the Union not just what he can keep for himself.

Monday 28 November 2011

Updated with predictoins: Sports Personality of the Year 2011

This evening the shortlist for the SPOTY are being unveiled on BBC's The One Show. Once Gary Linekar announces who they will I shall be listing their reasons for the nomination and their chances IMHO of how they will do.

Mo Farrah was, for me, actually a surprising omission from the 2010 short list when he won double gold in the 5000m and 10,000m at the European Championships. This year at the world he won gold in 5000m after achieving a silver in the 10,000m. He also won gold in the European Indoor 5000m this year. For a distance runner to keep winning this is an outstanding achievement.

Andrew Strauss the England Cricket captain who in the winter became only the third England captain to have lead the team to victory in the Ashes both Home and Away in the winter tour. The team made innings of over 500 in four of the test. In the first test there 517-1 (Strauss being the man out stumped for the first time in a test for 100) came too late in the day. But the 644 in the last test was an England record on Australian soil. Although he did make his 19th Test Century and his 6000th test run it wasn't his greatest personal series.

Dai Greene the Welsh hurdler like Mo Farrah was absent from last year's list. He'd won the 400m hurdles both in the European and Commonwealth championships. So this year to top it he won the Worlds, pulling through on a strong field in the home straight. He's also earlier in the year won a time of 45.82 in Birmingham which is second only to Kriss Akabushi in the UK record books.

Rory McIlroy the young Northern Irish golfer looked set to lead the Master from start to finish before shanking his tees shot on the 10th having led for 3½ rounds. Having shot the worse losing round for a leader in the Masters he then in the next Major the U.S. Open led from the start again. He went into the final day already holding several records. This time he didn't add that of choker as he scored the lowest aggregate score by some 4 shots in U.S. Open history. In the P.G.A. he hurt his wrist playing against a tree trunk, but played on. However, in his next four tournaments he was always in the top 3. He won the Shanghai Masters the richest tournament in the world and ends the year World Number 2 behind another of those shortlisted.

Andy Murray the Scot started the year with his second Grand Slam final, but lost the final to Novak Djoković. He was beaten in the semi-final of the other three Slams. But in the Autumn had an good swing winning four out of five tournaments in the run up to the World Tour Finals, overtaking Roger Federer to World Number 3 on the way. But he was forced to retire hurt from the London season ender and Rog jumped over him again.

Alastair Cook in the very successful tour of Australia managed to become the second highest ever England run scorer in a series with 766 (only Wally Hammond 80 years earlier scored more in a series), including 3 centuries. His 235 not out in the first test (his first test double century) at the Gabba beat the record of Don Bradman. He was man of the series in Australia. He took over the One Day International captaincy for the summer. He secured a 3-2 series win over Sri Lanka, and he again was man of the series. In the test series against India he came within 6 runs of his first test triple century.

Darren Clarke the second Northern Irish golfer in the shortlist. The elder statesman of Northern Irish golf. Who was most famous for his 2007 emotional return to competitive golf after the death of his wife Heather. Nobody was talking about Darren as an Open hopeful. His compatriots Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were being talked about. He hadn't made the top ten of any major since 2001. However, after his 20th Attempt he finally won the Claret jug and for the first time since 1910 a country other than the USA had won back to back Majors.

Amir Khan last December just before SPOTY Amir defended his Light Welterweight title for a third time. This year saw firstly a defence against the Irishman Paul McCloskey who had been unbeaten in 22 fights but it was another defence for Amir after a TKO in the 6th. His only other fight of the year was against the IBF champion Zab Judah in an unification bout. In the 5th Amir landed a knockout blow to the belt and walked away with the two belts. He'll be fighting American Lamont Paterson on 10 December before SPOTY takes place.

Mark Cavendish the Manx sprinter was on this list last year. This year he wore the leader's jersey in the Giro d'Italia for one stage, having won the first stage and two others. He also won the Olympic trial event the London Surrey Classic and two stages on the Tour of Britian, leading for the first two days and on points for the first three. But of course the reason he is nomiated is as the first British man to win the Green Jersey of the Tour de France with yet another five stages and also the World Championships in Denmark. Meaning next year when he isn't leading on points he'll be in the rainbow jersey, the first Brit since 1965.

Luke Donald secured the PGA money list title, currently also leads the European Tour Money list and is the world number one ahead of two other UK golfers. In February he won the Accenture Match Play Title beaten the eventual world number one in the final. He also reached the final of the Volve World Match Play Championship a win would have made him world number one, but after 14 straight match play wins he lost. However, when he beat Lee Westwood in a play-off for the European PGA title he overtook him to be world number one. In all he won four titles in the year.

So this year's list contains No women!!, three golfers (two of whom are Northern Irish, two cricketers, two athletes (a long distance runner and a hurdler) a cyclist, a boxer, an a tennis player. Two Northern Irish, a Scot, a Welshman, a Manxman and five Englishmen.

So who is going to win?

I'm ruling out Strauss as he isn't even the best Cricketer in the list and the same applies to Darren although it was good for him to win the Open, he is only the third best golfer in Northern Ireland and third best in this list, although a big personality. I'm also going to rule out Andy Murray again this year, although he is winning titles he is not world number one, nor won a major title which everyone else left is.

When it comes to the athletes there is pure gold, ok Mo has one silver. But to have run almost ½ of a marathon with the 5000m heats he for me has the slight edge, not that Dai Greene's acheivements have not been outstanding.

The two remaining golfers are Mr Consistent in Donald against the man who has had us on the edge of our seats so often this season in McIlroy. They may well by number one and two in the world but it is the way that have dealt with expectations this year. Rory has led 7 rounds of the Majors this year won one and had 5 other top three finishes, Luke has carried on strongest in match play events but also has was a play-off while Rory has lost a couple. Objectively I'd like to say that Luke edges this contest, but it seems that everyone loves Rory's story, the comeback from the Master's to the US Open. However, with three golfers in the mix that vote may be split too much for any of them to win.

Amir Khan is trying to be the fifth boxer to win the title, following Cooper (twice) McGuigan, Lewis and Calzaghe. He has picked up a second belt this year and been dominant in all his games since he was last considered. In some years he may well have stood a chance but there are others who will certainly beat him; one of the golfers, one of the athletes deserve to, but there is no split boxing vote and last time a boxer won another Ricky Hatton came third.

However, I think the real contest is between Alastair Cook and Mark Cavendish. The last time a Brit won the World Cycling Road Race Championships he also took SPOTY and that was without winning much of note that year. But in a sport like cycling at which Britain has excelled in recent years Cavendish has risen to the very top this year. Cook similarly has shun in a year in which those who play his sport have been reasonably successful, we'll forget the limited overs matches in Australia.

The same argument can be made about both that they wouldn't win without their team. But Cook certainly has to be the one to face each ball he faces and there have been a lot of them this year, and Cav wouldn't have teams working so flat out for him, controlling grand tours or the GB guys the World Championship if they didn't know that he could put in the acceleration that would defeat anyone else in the world. Indeed there were times that Cavendish's team lead outs didn't go as planned and he still won, including the World Champs.

That is why my top three this year is:

  • 3 Rory McIlroy
  • 2 Alastair Cook
  • 1 Mark Cavendish

Sunday 27 November 2011

Questions to the Prime Minister 21 Years Ago

It was 21 years ago that Margaret Thatcher was last called upon to answer questions as Prime Minister.

She already knew she was not going to answer another series of PMQs and unlike the usual fighting last one before an election there was the sycophancy from her side and jeers each time this happened from the other side. There was a planted question about how many she had answered, at the time the answer was "His question is the 7,498th oral question to which I have replied in 698 Question Times." There were two more tabled questions after that point,

Those who asked questions were:

  • Alan Haselhurst Conservative MP for Saffron Walden since 1977, he is one of only two MPs who were called that day who are still members today. He was later to be Chairman of Ways and Mean (Deputy Speaker) under the various speakers of the Labour Governments from May 1997 until June 2010. He had previous been MP for Middleton and Prestwich during Heath's government 1970-74.
  • Neil Kinnock the Labour leader of the Opposition at the time MP for Iswyn (1983-95) formerly Bedwelty (1970-85). As leader of the Labour Party from 1983-1992 he was the person who asked Mrs Thatcher more PMQs than anyone else.
  • Dame Jill Knight Con Birmingham Edgebaston 1966-97 she was one of the two MPs who introduced Section 28 into the Local Government Act 1986
  • James Molyneaux Ulster Unionist Lagan Valley 1983-97 formerly South Antrim 1970-83. He was the leader of Unionism in the House at the time. 
  • Maureen Hicks the Conservative who had beaten the national trend by taking Wolverhampton North East off Labour in 1987, as her question points out after 40 years, but she lost it in 1992.
  • Alice Mahon was the Labour MP for Halifax from 1987-2005 she would later be a regular rebel to the Blair Government and resigned from the party in 2009 as she was "sickened" by the smear tactics employed by the party under Damian McBride
  • Donald Thompson had been the Conservative MP for Sowerbury from 1979-83 before boundary changes found him in the seat of Calder Valley until 1997. Having stood and lost Sowerbury in both the 1974 elections and losing Calder Valley to Labour in the 97 landslide his seat reflected the state of the Government.
  • Rosie Barnes one of the remaining post-merger MPs who remained the rump of the SDP in the commons, along with David Owen and John Cartwright, having won the 1987 Greenwich by election and holding the seat 4 months later in the General election.
  • David Wilshire Conservative MP for Spelthorne from 1987-2010 it was he upon seeing Jenny lives with Eric and Martin in an Education Authority resource centre that led to him with Jill Knight drafting the Section 28 amendment.
  • David Winnick is still a Labour MP who was first elected for Croydon South between 1966 and 70 then returned for Walsall North in 1979, therefore spent his first 22 years in the House in opposition. It was he who in 2005 successfully proposed an amendment of 28 days detention without trail to the Governments 90 day failed proposal.
  • Robin Maxwell-Hyslop who was the Conservative MP for Tiverton from 1960-1992 is the longest serving ever member on the Trade and Industry Sub Committee from 1971-92. He'd lost out in Derby North in the 1959 Election which returned Mrs M. H. Thatcher as a new MP in Finchley.
  • Gavin Strang was the Labour MP for Edinburgh East from 1970-2010 who later was one of the 12 Labour backbenchers to support the SNP and Plaid Cymru call for an inquiry into the Iraq war. While the lady may not have been for turning from 2007-09 Strang said he was retiring, not retiring and then finally that he was retiring in 2010. He has the honour of being the last MP to ask Mrs Thatcher and PMQ.
Of this list only Donald Thompson and Robin Maxwell-Hyslop are no longer with us along with the Speaker Bernard Weatherill.

There was a mistake made the Speaker when he called Mrs Barnes before Mrs Mahon at which point Bob Cryer the MP for Bradford South stood up in anger. He was to killed in a car crash less than four years later aged 59. He started out as MP for Keighley from 1974-83, before taking the European seat for Sheffield from 1984-9 and returning to commons for Bradford South in 1987. His wife Ann later held the Keithley seat from 1997-2010 and his son John was MP for Hornchurch from 1997-2005 and since 2010 has been MP for Leyton and Wanstead.

Shock at the death of Gary Speed

I've just got in from church and like the rest of the nation am shocked to hear the sad news that Gary Speed, the Welsh national football manager, has been found dead. More so when you realise that he was only 11 days older than I am myself, and it appears that he has taken his own life.

It was only yesterday that I along with many other saw him on Football Focus. He was on the start of a reasonably successful international management career having lead the team to five wins from the ten games in which he was in charge.

He only retired at 40 in 2010 after a long career in the game, he scored in every season of the Premier league up until 2007. His playing saw him make his debut for Leeds at 19 as I was starting out at University, then Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United He seemed to have gone on and found his managerial feet very quickly. The shock seems to be universal as teams he has played with and against are sending their statements of condolence to his family and shock at what we are coming to terms with today.

Gary Speed 8 Sep 1969 - 27 Nov 2011

Thursday 24 November 2011

Yes Freddie We Still Love You

It's hard to believe that 20 years ago we heard the sad news that Freddie Mercury had passed away.

I know exactly what I was doing that evening. One of my former house mates called me for the second night in a row. The previous day he'd called me because the Freddie had announced that he was HIV positive and had AIDS and my friend from University had contracted HIV through a bad dose of Factor 8 to deal with his haemophilia. My friend had always been one to panic, it is the reason that why I at the age of 22 was already more well read on HIV and AIDS than a lot of people on the news or in Parliament who should have known better.

That night I had been constantly screaming at the radio as I listened to a radio phone in and then my phone went. My friend was panicked that people would think he was going to die tomorrow. I asked had he contracted AIDS yet, the answer he gave was "No!" so I said "You and me are just going to have to keep on educating people like that out of their ignorance."

I never thought that day that 20 years later there would still be so much stigma attached to HIV especially as the meds that are available now give people a much greater change of never getting AIDS and give a far better quality of life, if you ignore the regime of pills, than people thought was possible 20 years ago. Little did we know that 2,750 of those 4,500 + haemophiliac HIV cases would still be with us. At the time many of us who knew them were reassuring them that doctor were working on something to improve their chances of survival knowing that previous breakthroughs were having only limited success.

Freddie's tragic death did two things for generation. It brought many of us back to the music of Queen, even it appears brought one nine-year-old to their music for the first time. Indeed I loved the fact that earlier this month just up the road at the Odyssey in Belfast at the MTV Europe Music Awards that Roger Taylor and Brian May accepted the Icon award on behalf of Queen. I can only imagine what Freddie would have thought and said, probably "About time!".

The other thing it did was highlight the issues of HIV and AIDS, it made more people learn about the facts than before that time. That in turn made it easier for people living with HIV to find people who didn't shirk away from letting them use their toilet, or use the same mug as they had. Admittedly there are still far too many people, especially here in Ireland who seem pig ignorant when you read various comments threads. But from his legacy came the Mercury Phoenix Trust which is one of the charities working for those with HIV and AIDS especially in Africa where Freddie was born, but worldwide. There have been charity events in his name for HIV charities for 20 years now, including tonight at the Rossini Theatre in Civitanova Marche, Italy.

Not everyone has had the past 20 years in full as days of their lives. But Freddie, we still love you.

Thank you for the music and on behalf of those living with HIV who have benefited from you late coming out about your disease have benefited from your legacy in other ways. "Sometimes I get the feeling I was back in the old days - long ago" today is one of those days.

For absent friends.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

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

There are a number of options for J in my tour through my record collection.

There is of course the King of Pop himself. Or maybe some Elton John or Jamiroquai.

Instead I went for the guy whose complete works (well up to a certain point) I have the guitar and piano music for, none other than the Piano Man Billy Joel. But what music to pick.

Because anyone listening to the entire Billy Joel collection will know what an amazing pianist he is here is a little bonus.

Friday 18 November 2011

Typical of Sepp Blatter to only see one option #showracismtheredcard

Just heard Sepp Blatter, surprisingly still the President of FIFA, say that there should be a "zero tolerance" approach to racism. Zero tolerance does not equate to a handshake at the end of the game to deal with it. Indeed zero tolerance should mean that a player or official or fan who is racist during a match shouldn't be anywhere near the game at the final whistle. He says he was left with "no option but to apologise", actually I can think of another.

He says that the reason he is not resigning is because "When you have a problem, you have to deal with it." Now many have spotted that Blatter is not au fait with issues of discrimination only because of his comments about racism 2 days ago. But where were they when myself and others pointed out his lack of sensitivity to gay footballing fans regarding the selection of Qatar as 2014 World Cup venue. Of course there is a problem, but a man who only sees the problems after he opens his mouth to put his foot in it is not the man who will proactively deal with these things. That much is clear from the whole host of Blatter gaffes through the years.

If we truly want to show racism the red card (and for that matter homophobia) in football we need a man in charge who can see it for the depth of the issue that it is, rather than something that only a post game handshake will deal with. It needs someone who has enough understanding of the issues whether it be corruption, racism, homophobia or whatever without upsetting fans, world leaders, etc whenever he tries broach those subjects.

As that is the case there really is only one course of action, one option that Blatter must take: resign.

Update Please sign this petition to join the worldwide support to kick racism out of FIFA starting at the top.

It's Friday...it's time for some models

Well when I saw this Duran Duran video earlier in the week I just had to share it, because it is absolutely brilliant. the band are 30 years old this year and famous for including models in their music videos. Who Girl Panic! though they have gone one step further and have Super Models playing the five members of the band. Naomi Campbell (as lead singer Simon Le Bon), Helena Christensen (Roger Taylor), Eva Herzigova (Nick Rhodes), Cindy Crawford (John Taylor) and Yasmin Le Bon who as the guitarist is always changing says "She is not in Duran Duran", an in joke as the longest wife within the band after 26 years.

But I promised some models, so I suppose we'd better go back to early Duran Duran and some Girls on Film, their third single in 1981.

But of course some of you might have been expected some Male Models so as not to disappoint here are some of the top male models from this spring's Paris Fashion Week.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Tha'll not come a changin' wi' t'rest #LG

I can't believe the findings that Sheffield Hallam University have come up with today. In its study Tackling Homophobia and Transphobia In Settings Supporting Young People it found that LGBT young people in more than one school across Yorkshire were being asked to change for sports and PE in a separate room or toilet and not in the changing rooms with other students.

It made me think back to the article I wrote about the stupidity and homophobia of the American Family Association on just such an issue early last year. I never thought I'd be taking up keyboard about the same issue in my own country.

The reason cited was when students complained about being singled out in such a way was because it was "for their own safety" or to "stop causing a fuss". The problem of course is in singling anyone out as different. Whilst there may be a fear of letting an openly or perceived LGBT pupil face what might happen in a changing room, singling them out and taking them away from the situation makes them more of an overt target, not just in the changing room but elsewhere.

Knowing the layout of my old school changing facilities the only option to change elsewhere would have been in the staff changing room. Surely that is open to other dangers! Or misinterpretation! Or along a long corridor well away from the changing rooms of the rest. Causing a pupil to walk in gym kit to and from the sports centre while other pupils are going about their change of class. In other words making the 'difference' of that LGBT pupil spread outside their year group, possibly to older pupils, or maybe also in vision of other closeted LGBT pupils.

The effect of such policy certainly leads to LGBT pupils wanting to avoid physical education classes or school altogether on such day. May as a result of the isolation and picking out as different by staff lead to increased bullying, increased homophobia and false assumptions of paedophilia based on the actions, lead to other pupils still questioning or hiding their identity not to come out.

I faced enough bullying on the assumption by others (as I was denying it myself) that I was gay in secondary school. Although never in the changing rooms, possibly because I was a team player and one of the sportsmen who went on to earn an honours tie for representing my school at the senior level. It happened often enough away from the eyes of teachers and I served a couple of punishments for fighting back at the wrong point, because the teachers never seemed to take action over the homophobic bullying, or maybe I was scared to admit that was an element of it.

So how do you deal with homophobic bullying in the changing rooms?

  • First don't isolate the victims, if you have to isolate the bullies in a separate changing facility. 
  • Never publicly mark out somebody who already feels different as such, then the others will jump to their own conclusions as to why the steps are being taken. Look for example at the above comment about paedophilia. While you may think removing an LGBT pupil is for their safety the rumour could start by those left that it is for theirs and a new generation grow up with that stereotype. Grr!
  • Learn and teach that not every naked (fe)male body is going to be attractive to an (L)GBT pupil. I still go to the gym and there are some very unattractive and off-putting sights in the male changing rooms.
  • If you are being inclusive that means encourage LGBT pupils to take part in sport, not every LGBT person is poor at sports look at Martina Navratilova, Steven Davies, Dónal Óg Cusack, Matt Mitcham and others as examples who excel at their sport. Doubt if any of them ever had to change in alternative changing facilities because of their sexuality.
So lets look at the needs of the already possibly nervous LGBT pupil in a sensible way that won't hinder them or others in the long term. Isolation and a separate changing regime most certain is not going to prevent that.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Blogged elsewhere: Condemnation of desecration of Derry wreathes to city's and family dead

The war memorial in the diamond in Londonderry/Derry has personal significance to me as one of my Great-Great Uncle's names appears on the south eastern face. He was killed on the second day of the first 1918 Battle of the Somme. The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers with whom he was serving reported heavy losses on the first day, his death is recorded as on the second say of action of that spring offensive.

The Irish regiments were a mix of men of protestant and catholic background. Indeed looking through the list of names of fellow Inniskilling Fusiliers who died in that 15 day offensive there is a balanced mix, even on the memorial in the Diamond. Indeed in that battle the 36th (Ulster) Division and 16th (Irish) Division into which the Inniskilling's battalions were split were the two heaviest losses in that campaign with 7310 and 7149 men falling respectively.

Read full article on Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland

Poke me by the name I call myself Facebook

Have you seen Fahrid Abraham acting. Or have you heard of the exploits of John Hoover or read the books of Francis Fitzgerald. You may well have but until Ahmed Rushdie suddenly found his Facebook page blocked as it wasn't using his real name then there were issues. He raised the issue with them listing the three gents above as examples of why the policy didn't make sense*. No doubt Clive Lewis or Joanne Murray would have considering some witchcraft was afoot.

You see none of the above famous people use their first given name, just like our last Prime Minister James Brown. But the same applies to people who are not famous. My mother uses he second given name. Her uncle did with the family but not in the Forces so his funeral was an interesting combination of those who knew him as Cecil (family) and David almost everyone else. My brother is not alone in the Jonathan's I know who use Facebook as Johnny, indeed we very rarely refer to him as anything else, even on birthday and Christmas cards these days. My late father was Roy despite never having that name on his birth certificate as with many others who shorten or take a nick name.

Of course if Facebook insisted that our kings took their real names we would have ended up since Victoria with Albert I, George V, Edward VII, Albert II, Elizabeth II.

The policy that only real names should be used seems in the case of Rushdie to be as slap stick as an Arthur and Norvell scene. The award winning author, for it is he, first had his Facebook page blocked as they did not believe it was him. So he sent a photocopy of his passport picture and details to prove it was the real knight of the realm. Only for Facebook to reactivate the page as Ahmed Rushdie despite the world knowing him by his second given name, maybe they should have been in charge at the height of the fatwa against the writer.

All I can say it is a good job that Rushdie got this sorted out or else we'd have to send Jeremy Ashdown around to sort them out, he is a trained killer after all.

* For the record these gents are F. Murray Abraham, J. Edgar Hoover, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Salman Rushie. Plus C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. The Prime Minister of course in J. Gordon Brown and Arthur and Norvell are better known as Stan and Ollie, Laurel and Hardy. Jeremy Ashdown of course is Paddy.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Prison reform should be free of partisan political control and Robinson threats

The First Minister Peter Robinson seems to think that throwing his toys out of the pram is the way to go to enable an inclusive prison service in  Northern Ireland. The issue arose in the debate on the Prison Review: Final Report at Stormont yesterday. The thing that seems to concern him most is the issue of the emblems used by the Northern Ireland Prison Service and most noticeably on the sign for the prisons themselves.

The Justice Minister, David Ford made remarks in his summation particularly in response to Jim Allister of Traditional Unionist Voice who had earlier said:

We also know that the reform of policing involved a name change. Are we going to have a name change of the prisons? Are they no longer going to be Her Majesty’s prisons? Perhaps the Minister, in replying, will confirm to us most robustly that that will not happen. I will listen with interest to see whether he does. Like the reform of policing, is the badge of the Prison Service to be changed? Is the crown to go? Let us hear from the Minister a robust denial that that will be any part of the agenda. When we read that the reform of the Prison Service must be like the reform of policing, alarm bells ring very loudly indeed. We wait with interest to see whether that is part of the machinations that are afoot.

The Minister's response to that particular issue and the interruption is recorded in Hansard as follows:

Mr Ford: Jim Allister referred to some extent to symbols and titles as they apply to the Prison Service. Those are operational issues for the Prison Service, but I believe that if NIPS is serious about fundamental and end-to-end structural and cultural reform, it cannot fail to consider the symbols and emblems that are visible signs of the organisation’s culture and focus. That is one of a range of operational issues that I will be expecting NIPS to consider as part of the change process over the coming months. NIPS has to deliver a transformation of its culture and it cannot move forward unless it addresses those sorts of issues along with others relating to staffing and estates, and so on.
Mr Allister: So that we are absolutely clear, is the Minister saying that he anticipates an end to our prisons being called “Her Majesty’s prisons” and that he anticipates an end to the crown being part of the symbol of the Prison Service? Will he be clear on that? If he is saying those things, I want to tell him that there are many in the unionist community who will be appalled at the direction in which he is taking us.
Mr Ford: I think that it is a pity that we are getting hung up on symbols. It is the only issue that anybody has wanted to intervene on during my speech this afternoon. I said that we are looking at a process of fundamental and end-to-end reform that will affect every part of the working of the Prison Service and its culture. In those circumstances, although these issues are operational matters for the Prison Service, it has to consider them as it looks for the appropriate way to run in the years ahead.

It was indeed rather telling that people who talk the talk of being inclusive (Mr Allister excepted) decided that symbols were so important, with the First Minister deciding today that he is even prepared to resign over the issue and force an election.

This ignores the fact that as can been seen at the top the Northern Ireland Prison Service already have adopted a post-devolution emblem that doesn't include the crown or the Queen's moniker. This isn't a new issue as the emblems have been moving forward anyway. Of course when the RUC (GC) was rebranded as the PSNI this all took place before policing and justice was devolved. But I turn once again to The Belfast Agreement which contains the following statement on policing and justice (emphasis mine):

The participants believe it essential that policing structures and arrangements are such that the police service is professional, effective and efficient, fair and impartial, free from partisan political control; accountable, both under the law for its actions and to the community it serves; representative of the society it polices, and operates within a coherent and co-operative criminal justice system, which conforms with human rights norms. The participants also believe that those structures and arrangements must be capable of maintaining law and order including responding effectively to crime and to any terrorist threat and to public order problems. A police service which cannot do so will fail to win public confidence and acceptance. They believe that any such structures and arrangements should be capable of delivering a policing service, in constructive and inclusive partnerships with the community at all levels, and with the maximum delegation of authority and responsibility, consistent with the foregoing principles. These arrangements should be based on principles of protection of human rights and professional integrity and should be unambiguously accepted and actively supported by the entire community.
We as a country need to acknowledge that some of the clinging to past emblems and structures is partisan politics, is not going to he acceptable to the entire community. It does not mean that we totally forget the past, but that we move on to a future that is truly shared.

Maybe it is time for Mr Robinson to get this into perspective and look at the main thrust of the final report and the crux of the issues that prison reforms need in Northern Ireland rather than focus on the cosmetics.

Monday 14 November 2011

Response from the office of Mark Garnier regarding wreath laying

Further to my response to the Conservative Home post by Tim Montgomerie, "Please tell us that Conservatives don't do this", in which I took the first picture that appeared in a Google Images search.

I have since received a phone call and this follow up email from Mark Garnier's office. as promised I am printing the response in full.

Dear Stephen, Further to our conversation earlier I would like to confirm that the photo currently on your Liberal Journal was taken in November 2009 when Mark Garnier was a Parliamentary Candidate for Wyre Forest Conservatives. He laid his wreath as a representative of the local the Conservative Association, hence why it bears the Conservative logo. The image can still be found on Mark’s website here and here. This year Mark visited St Anne’s Church in Bewdley where he laid a wreath paying tribute to those in Wyre Forest who have died, and been wounded, whilst serving in the armed forces. The wreath held the portcullis symbol to represent Mark’s role as the Member of Parliament. He sympathises with the view that MPs should not be party political about Remembrance Sunday.” It would be great if you wanted to replace your previous blog with this. Thank you for your understanding, Best wishes, Teresa Teresa FitzherbertParliamentary Researcher Office of Mark Garnier MPMember of Parliament for Wyre ForestHouse of Commons

I wish to apologise to Mark Garnier for mistakenly implying that the picture was taken this year. Having found it through the first of the above links where there is no date stamp on the page I made an honest mistake. Although I have not replaced the previous blog post I have updated it to point to this blog post, as it acts as a reminder to both Tim Montgomerie of the Conservatives and Jessica Asato of Labour to check how clean their own houses are before saber rattling over such a sensitive issue on such a sensitive day. 

However, I will leave one comment that I hope clarifies the issue from a Tory commentator on the original post.

I was fairly disturbed by this story, so imagine my horror when I walked passed our local War Memorial this morning en route to my office to see our own wreath emblazoned with the Conservative logo.
I immediately phoned my local Chairman who had organised and laid the wreath to ask why we had done this. Apparently, when he called the Royal British Legion in Maidstone who manufacture and dispatch the wreaths, he was asked, "do you want the usual wreath ordered by political parties?" to which he replied "yes". When the wreath arrived, the logo had been pre printed by the RBL.
I have subsequently circulated a note to the three Associations I advise as agent suggesting that in future plain wreaths should be ordered to avoid any accusation of us politicising Remembrance Day. However, this issue might not be as clear cut as it first appears.

Looking at the Royal British legion website a wreath with just such a personalised logo is actually one of either the top two donations via wreath purchase to the cause. So maybe we should also accept that like regiments, Scout or Boy Brigade groups or whatever organisation that Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat local organisations also lost members in one or other or both of the World Wars. 

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

When it comes to the letter I there can really only be one band that takes the honour in my record collection. Back in the early 80s an Australian penfriend told me to look out for this band. So I regularly checked the local independent record store Musique to see if they had any of their releases. When they appeared LP, 7" or 12" single I bought them. I have quite a large vinyl collection from this band, even before a fateful day on 13 July 1985. That was the day that with the world watching they represented Australia on Live Aid. Here is one of those early pre overnight success records.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Let Tories without sin cast the first wreath

Please also read this update with a response from Mark Garnier on this issue.

There had been a lot of outrage from Tories about what a wreath of remembrance apparently laid by a Lib Dem with the logo of the party in the middle. Earlier when this outrage started I did a quick google search and screen grab.

As you can see it was from the website of Mark Garnier Conservative MP for Wyre Valley. If you look in the middle of his wreath you can make out a logo. Here is the close up.

The picture also included John Holden the Conservative Mayor of Kidderminster Council and his fellow Mitton Ward Conservative Councillor Michael Salter.

Once I raised this picture with some high profile Tories it has since been removed from the Tory MP's website.

I don't approve of any party using the wreath they lay as a party political statement. I understand that they are they to lay wreathes on behalf of all the constituents that have died in war and are there as civic leaders in our communities. But the politicising of the laying of wreathes this year has added a sour taste to what today should be; a day of remembrance. But it appears that no party is totally blameless, so led us learn the lesson for the next act of remembrance.

Update Monday 16:20 I have just been contacted by Mark Garnier's office who have informed me that this was a picture from 2009 when he was merely the Parliamentary Spokesperson and not the MP. I have offered him a right of reply which I will publish here as soon as I have received it.

Update 19:00 I have received the email and decided to write it into a separate blog post.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Apparently it is controversial to be "evidence based" #DailyFail

It is with great delight that I link to the is Daily Mail story.

The reason is in the opening line where the Daily Fail say:

"Senior Liberal Democrat MPs have escalated their controversial campaign to force the Government into decriminalising drugs."

The controversy of course is that Tom Brake has laid down parliamentary Early Day Motion 2404 which states:

"That this House notes the serious harm caused by drugs; recognises the need for evidence-based policy making with a clear focus on prevention and harm-reduction; and calls on the Government to establish an independent panel tasked with carrying out an impact assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, reviewing the approach adopted by other countries, and making recommendations for reform."

It calls for an independent review on drug policy, it calls for recommendations to be based on evidence. Yes this may prove controversial as it may very be that evidence suggests that the safest way for drug addicts to get their drugs is through monitored medical sources rather than through street suppliers who mix all sorts of contaminants into their supply in order to get greater value for money. Many of these are more deadly than the  drug use itself, that if proved by evidence may lead to a licensing of certain classes of drugs so that supply and quality can be guaranteed and so that life and support to wean off drugs can be monitored.

It may well lead to a revenue stream for government through licensing of such supply.

But the key element of the so-called controversial proposal is that it is evidence based. With such a knee-jerk response from the Daily Fail the one thing they don't want it the evidence to be looked into carefully as it may shake their world view.

Second* Professional Footballer comes out

You may never have heard of David Testo, but here he is scoring against AC Milan.

The reason you may not have heard of him is that until now he has he only was a member of a Major League Soccer team, Columbus Crew, for two seasons of his career 2004-5. For most of the first season of that he was injured. But since then he has played for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact in the second tier of American football the North American Soccer League.

However, the out of contract player has announced on Radio Canada that he is gay, therefore possibly doubling the number of the opening out professional footballers.

He former team mate and captain of Impact said:Nevio Pizzolitto said:

"I'm sure it was something that weighed on his mind for a long time, which is why I think he finally came out with it."

"I'm glad he did, because he's in a position where he can inspire a lot of people to do the same. Even though we’re professional athletes, we're also human beings, and maybe something like this will change the minds of those in the same position. What David did was great."

In the extract from the radio interview with Testo he said:

"I'm a homosexual. I'm gay. I didn't choose this. This is just who I am. It's has nothing to do if you're good at soccer. You can still be an amazing soccer player and be gay.

"I really do regret not having come out earlier. It's something that I've struggled with my whole life and career.

"It's hard. Living the life of a professional athlete and being gay is incredibly hard. It's like carrying around a secret. Carrying around luggage and never actually being allowed to just be yourself. Its incredibly energy draining on top of having to perform, on top of having to play.

"I don't know how everyone else feels about it, I never did know. That's what probably is the hardest thing about this is."

He carried on talking about how hard it was an individual to "on a daily basis" to be aware and careful of the things he said, to whom he said them with whom he was seen walking around. He was must upset that when he was named MVP in the 2009 season that he couldn't thank his partner by name. But he also realised that being in the closet was also having an impact on those around him on his teams adding.

"I also think players around me had to do the same towards me, and I felt that. That sucks as a human being."

The player was out of contract and released by Montreal Impact on 12 October, but at the age of 30 might still be picked up by another team for next season. I hope he gets the chance so that he can play his sport alongside team mates being totally who he for a change and to get over the fact that he knows that the having to be careful because of not being open has "sucked" not just for him but for those around him.

* Second current, if we count the late Justin Fashanu there are only three openly out players in history.

Friday 11 November 2011

Rick Perry pre-empts Letterman Top 10

The one thing that Rick Perry knew when he made that gaffe in the latest Republican debate was that somehow it would end up in one of David Letterman's legendary top tens the following night. However, there is one way to ease the sting and that is what Rick Perry did, he delivered the top ten Rick Perry excuses himself live on the show.

Before the Charge - Patrick MacGill

At 11 o'clock down at the local war memorial I may be wearing my Irish Poppy label along with my poppy . Sadly it will have a biologically incorrect leaf behind it as I haven't been to Scotland in order to get one from there.

But as a mark of the fact that 49,900 from this island gave their lives in the Great War 1914-1918, more from the South than from the North, more Catholic than Protestant. This year I've decided to share a poem from one of the Irish War poets Patrick MacGill.

Before the Charge

The night is still and the air is keen,
Tense with menace the time crawls by,
In front is the town and its homes are seen,
Blurred in outline against the sky.
The dead leaves float in the sighing air,
The darkness moves like a curtain drawn,
A veil which the morning sun will tear
From the face of death. – We charge at dawn.

Thursday 10 November 2011

London Olympic organisers apology for omitting Belfast

That's HMS Belfast not the city on the banks of the Lagan.

Earlier this week the London 2012 organiser had released a advert that shows an iconic stretch of the River Thames without one of that part's icons, the one that sits on the water.

Picture comparison via BBC

They said that the omission of the World War II and Korean War veteran was "a simple mistake in the advertising production process", Bizarrely the ship has been there for 40 years, far longer than City Hall to the fore of the image and many of the buildings around it.

But surely for the ship that has been part of the riverscape for 4 decades to not be there means that the picture had to be airbrushed with the removal of it in the first place. As the image on the Mirror's website shows there was quite a lot of airbrushing done.

The Shard obviously had to be completed. Indeed there is shockingly not a crane visible anywhere on this London skyline. But to take HMS Belfast out altogether needs more explanation that simply being a simple mistake. I'll accept that maybe the image at the river may have needed some touching up, but there is no reason why such a large part of the riverscape needed to be removed to do so.

It's bizarre that such a fundamental omission was allowed to go out, first from the ad agency to London 2012, then to have been signed off from London 2012 to go to press and indeed be put up.

A simple mistake that wasn't picked up along various lines of approval, probably from a number of London based people who know that stretch of the Thames. Draw your own conclusions.

DUP and the Death Penalty Part II

The DUP MPs David Simpson, Sammy Wilson, Jim Shannon, Gregory Campbell and Jeffrey Donaldson say they are backing a motion to discuss the return of the death penalty. They say this issue was last discussed in 1998 in Westminster in 1998 and that it was now time for the debate to be reopened.

Indeed Mr Donaldson had earlier said that he wanted it brought back for convicted terrorists. Time I think to republish a certain photo.

The issue had of course been debated in each parliament since the abolition of the death penalty up until 1998 when it was last put to the house. Ironically the last time it was amended removing the death penalty for treason, piracy and mutiny were all removed from the statute book. Of course for the Death Penalty was removed in 1965 for most of the UK except Northern Ireland when it came to an end in theNorthern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973.

The Belfast Agreement contains the following statement on policing and justice (emphasis mine):

The participants believe it essential that policing structures and arrangements are such that the police service is professional, effective and efficient, fair and impartial, free from partisan political control; accountable, both under the law for its actions and to the community it serves; representative of the society it polices, and operates within a coherent and co-operative criminal justice system, which conforms with human rights norms. The participants also believe that those structures and arrangements must be capable of maintaining law and order including responding effectively to crime and to any terrorist threat and to public order problems. A police service which cannot do so will fail to win public confidence and acceptance. They believe that any such structures and arrangements should be capable of delivering a policing service, in constructive and inclusive partnerships with the community at all levels, and with the maximum delegation of authority and responsibility, consistent with the foregoing principles. These arrangements should be based on principles of protection of human rights and professional integrity and should be unambiguously accepted and actively supported by the entire community.

We were basing a Northern Ireland that was based on norms, ironically in the same week that the final death penalties were being removed from the statute book, in July 1998.

So does Donaldson's statement indicate a unilateral removal of Northern Ireland from the EU and the European Convention on Human Rights in Protocol 6, Article 1 states:

The death penalty shall be abolished. No one shall be condemned to such penalty or executed.

There are exceptions in time of war, but the DUP are talking about a shared future therefore a peaceful future so hard to find where the war is.

The DUP are saying that one of the reasons they want the debate is "because [they] want to hear the contrary arguments." Interesting that at Stormont quite a lot of the time they refuse to hear the contrary argument (eg The Blood Ban) and make their own decisions without consultation with a contrary position to their own. Curious that the DUP are supporting the 25,000 strong petition to bring back the death penalty and not the contrary reaction based 30,000 strong petition to keep it off the statute books.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Wikio Top Lib Dem Blogs, November 2011

Mark Pack earlier this week announced that his normal look at the Wikio Rankings of top Lib Dem Blogs would be delayed, possibly by two weeks. Knowing how impatient you lot are, here is the list. There are only 16 in the top 100 this month as both Stephen Tall and

1 (6) Liberal Democrat Voice No change
2 (16) Jack of Kent No change
3 (21) Craig Murray Up 27
4 (25) Caron’s Musings Down 6
5 (41) Mark Pack Up 9
6 (43) Liberal England Down 2
7 (53) Paul Walter Up 6
8 (64) Peter Black Up 1
9 (67) Liberal Vision Down 6
10 (78) Mark Thompson Down 18
11 (80) George Potter No Change
12 (81) Nick Thornsby Down 22
13 (88) Spiderplant Land Down 22
14 (89) Stephen Glenn Up 6
15 (94) Miss S B Down 20
16 (95) Lynne Featherstone  Down 1

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Again Christian's mistakenly compare LGBT equality to totalitarian fascism

There is always an issue when you start to compare any group to Nazis. You'd better be careful just what words you use to refer to yourself by in doing so, also you better be fully aware of what groups were targeted by the Germans in the 30s and 40s.

It is a lesson that Alan Craig of the Christian Peoples Alliance would do well to heed as he decided to write about "Confronting the Gaystapo" in last week's Church of England newspaper.

He talks for example about facism, then talks of the German Nazis "intended assault on our civilization, our values, our way of life." Seeing as facism can be defined simply as:

the tenets of a centralized totalitarian and nationalistic government that strictly controls finance, industry, and commerce, practices rigid censorship and racism, and eliminates opposition through secret police.

Is the argument that there is only one way that things can be done just such a regime. Isn't a totalitarianism just that sort of thing. I'm not jumping to a false conclusion here he goes on to say:

Our civilisation, our values, our way of life – indeed the national character – are inevitably formed from the values of the Christian faith, as over a thousand years and more 'Christianity' and 'Englishness' have become fully entwined and fused.
Strange that in that 1000 years or more just what an Englishman's take on Christianity is has been known to change at the whim of the Sovereign. Obviously it became slightly defused and refused to a different strand through Tudor times.

He refers to same-sex marriage, although I'd want to correct him to equal marriage, it is the way he does so in light of his other Nazi imagery as SSM, the parallel to the Schutzstaffel, Hitler's SS cannot be accidental.

He makes two rather sweeping generalisations:

In recent decades gay militants have been in the van of the secularist and new atheist assault on Christianity, and as a consequence our culture has corroded and debased and national confusion and self-doubt has grown.

Christian believers have been a lone voice against the resulting sexualisation, narcissism, hedonism, selfishness and materialism.

This ignores two things. Firstly not all those who are attracted to people of the same sex are atheist, many of us have come through the churches. Many of us remain in the churches not because they are totally accepting of who we are, often in spite of how sometimes our churches refuse us into full communion because of so-called pastoral guidelines that emphasis one human condition above all others as being singled out for exclusion. I'll let you guess what that is but by the general tenet of this blog post you should work it out easily. Many of those who are LGB that have been turned off religion have been done so by the church itself, there's a willingness to accept drunkards, work with prostitutes, aid drug addicts etc, but there is a cold shoulder often given to those who say they love someone of the same gender.

The other thing that has been pointed out during the recent occupy movement outside St. Paul's is the admission charges to get into the most recognised centre of the Church of England for whom Mr Craig has no issue writing for. Christ himself turned out the money changers in the Temple for desecrating his Father's House through their commercial practices. Just who is charging materialistically for the narcissism of seeing the work of man's hands? Isn't it selfish to say "no you can't have".

Looking at the calls for equal marriage it is just that a call for equalness, not to usurp anything. Indeed most of those calling for equality are merely asking for religious groups to have the opportunity to take part, if they want, not forcing them to do anything. But also marriage has been open to those outside of religion for longer than homosexual acts have been legal in this country. Hedonism is not restricted to the LGB communities look at any high street on a weekend evening and you will see straight couple behaving hedonisticly. Not every high street has a LGBT friendly bar.

So stop laying all the ills of this world on one group, especially when you complain about them saying wanting long term relationships when you claim they are hedonistic. Surely wanting to have access to long term committed relationships is a sign of the opposite. If you deny that then you are building the stereotype that you can't have a long term commitment.

Update The Church of England Newspaper has backed its decision to publish the piece as it appeared saying the writer had some "pertinent views".

Five on the Fifth-ish November 2011

I may be a little late for what turns out to the be the penultimate Five on the Fifth hosted by Stephen. But I had a rather hectic week helping two friends move as well as a hectic time getting applications off for jobs so here, better late than never is my contribution to November's Five on the Fifth. The theme was movement but I may end up digressing here somewhat.

Heading toward the Mournes and the highest point of Northern Ireland is in the middle

I had to move my nephew slightly so he wasn't in front of his reflection in this reflective ball to get the shot I wanted

 This bin for collecting dogs' movements had been illegally moved, but people still acted like it was there. (Yes this was the politician in me!)

 With a spot of wind  these sails might move but the street won't be going anywhere. Each of these has the name of a White Star LineVessel to the road side of them, yes one is for the Titanic.
 Finally this boat heading out of Belfast Harbour under the railway bridge and Queen Elizabeth II Bridge carrying the M3 motorway.