Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland Votes 2014: First Result…


Well, we have our first result in.  Clackmannanshire voted No, by 19,036 to 16,350 for Yes.  Now, most political analysts for this referendum had expected Clackmannanshire to vote Yes, after all, it had voted SNP in the European Elections earlier this year, and had a large percentage of lower class voters, the DE demographics, who were expected to vote Yes.  However, this seems to have not been the case at all.  It may well be No’s night, but it could also mean that whatever metrics we might have expected to have applied, may in fact be totally wrong, and we’ll get a different result.  We’ll see what happens with the other results.

Scotland Votes 2014: Early Indications…

Well the polls in Scotland closed at 2200 UK time, and so far, none of the 32 councils have declared, but we are expecting the smaller counties with fewer votes to declare first.

We haven’t had an exit poll, but You Gov did an “on the day” poll, telephoning people who had voted, rather than catching them after they leave the polling station, and that poll suggests 54% have voted No, and 46% have voted Yes.  The head honcho of You Gov, Peter Kellner, gives his poll a 99% certainty, though to be honest, nothing like this has ever been done before, and certainly the usual rules of polling are less reliable here than in elections, so to give this much more credence right now than to call it an interesting survey.  We will see overnight, if that survey has any more credence than that.

Otherwise, there really is little to report.  First results are expected sometime between Midnight and 2am, with the last council declaring around 6am.  Even as a long time observer of global politics, this is one of those situations and issues where I don’t have even an inkling on how this will go.  From the historical perspective, more countries have voted for independence since 1945 than against it, but history is not a guide to the future. 

Hopefully once we get the first results, we’ll start to get an idea just how the vote is going.  But we are still waiting for those first results.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bullet Points: Thursday 18th September 2014

Whilst the referendum is taking place in Scotland, there are other things that are happening, so a few quick bullet points on the stories outside Scotland.

  • Somerset County Council is dipping into its reserves to cover a predicted £7mlln overspend, at least that’s what BBC News is reporting.  Local councils have been forced to cut spending on local services by central governments that have been slowly eroding local government.  If local councils were allowed to raise the money they need to run the local services they need to run, we wouldn’t have these stupid stories about councils “overspending”.
  • News Corp have called Google a “platform for piracy”.  I know there are differences in attitudes between different companies, but to call another corporation a platform for piracy, seems over the top, even for the old salty sea dog himself, Captain Murdoch, shiver me timbers!
  • Police in Rio De Janiero have arrested 22 of their own officers, for involvement in a bribery and extortion racket.  This is shocking behaviour by a force that people are supposed to trust to enforce law and order, not partake in criminal activity.
  • TD’s and Senators in Ireland have returned to face two big issues.  One is the budget that gets announced on 14th October 2014, the other is a wide ranging banking inquiry that is examining Irish banks in the run up to the bank guarantee.  The budget though is the bigger issue after a larger than expected 3% growth rate in the Irish economy.  Could we be seeing a return of the “Celtic Tiger”?  If so, the Irish government must be careful not to have that tiger run away with them, as it did before.
  • Lastly, Spain’s Prime Minister has spoken to Spain’s parliament and issued a warning ahead of Catalonia’s upcoming referendum on independence on 9th November.  He said the EU was made to bring states together, not tear them apart.  That implies that a United States of Europe was the intended outcome, and I think any such thoughts about a United States of Europe are in the realms of daydreams and fantasy.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Idiot Brigade Awards: Monday 8th September 2014

Okay, time to give out the most coveted prizes in blogging world (not), today’s medals in the Idiot Brigade Awards.


The Bronze medal goes to Conservative MP John Redwood, for suggesting that the Scots should be banned from voting in the 2015 General Election if they vote for Independence.  John, you do realise that such an idea is pretty guaranteed to make the Scots vote for Independence, just to spite you?

The Silver medal goes to Patriarch Filaret, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin as being possessed by Satan.  You know, this is not going to help de-escalate the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, but worse than that, you actually compared him to the wrong person.  If anything, Vladimir Putin is looking more and more like George W Bush did during his second term, where all he had was his own certainty, his own beliefs, his own omniscience, and little to no connection with the real world at all. That is about all Putin has left at the moment, is his own certainty, his own omniscience, his own superiority complex, if you will.

But the Fools Gold Award winners today, are Ray Rice, The Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League, The National Football League themselves and the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell.  You may recall that Ray Rice was suspended by the NFL Commissioner for two games, after TMZ released a surveillance video tape showing Ray Race dragging his then fiancé Janay Palmer out of an elevator.  Since then, Roger Goodell and the NFL have taken a public relations pummelling over the lenient punishment.  That led to a change in policy, that was not backdated, that all domestic violence offenders would be suspended for 6 games on a first offence, and banned indefinitely on a second offence.

Today, TMZ released the ‘other video’ that the police had had all along, which showed what happened inside the elevator.  I’m not going to link to it directly, or embed it on the page, as I consider it too graphic and too violent.  But suffice to say, his actions in that elevator made the two game suspension look far worse than farcical.  It made it look utterly shameful and a complete disgrace.

Almost instantly, the Baltimore Ravens released Ray Rice, followed in equally quick succession by the Commissioner, Roger Goodell, announcing that Ray Rice was being suspended from the NFL indefinitely, and all based upon this release of the ‘new’ video, a video that both the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens deny having previously seen, but knowing how the NFL has a great working relationship with the Police, I find that whole scenario incredibly unlikely.

I have little doubt in my own mind, that they were just trying to ride it out, wait until the heat died down, and then everything would be a-ok, and they could quietly bury it.  Today, those thoughts were blown out of the water, and the speed of both organisations reactions unfortunately give away exactly what they knew.  They had to have seen the video, knew what it contained, and yet still, they tried to diminish it, by only suspending Ray Rice for 2 games.  Today’s video demonstrated that you cared as much about domestic violence, as much as you had previously cared about concussions, prior to last year’s settlement, which was not a lot.

Baltimore Ravens, if you had taken some responsibility in the first place and suspended Rice before the NFL had taken its original decision, the one that now looks incredibly ridiculous, you would have looked strong, and in command, instead of looking weak, feeble and out of touch, as you do now.

Roger Goodell, you surely don’t expect me to believe that you hadn’t seen the second videotape until now.  I find that very hard to believe.  Again, rather like the Baltimore Ravens themselves, you look weak, feeble, indecisive and out of touch with the people who matter most to you and your organisation, your fans, especially the large contingent of female fans that the NFL attracts. 

Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.  Not only our Fools Gold Award winner today, but unequivocally, today’s Worst Persons In The World.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Making Sense on Scottish Independence: The questions over what happens next…


I have noticed that a lot of people on social media have a lot of misconception about the whole Scottish Independence issue, especially in the area of what happens afterwards if the vote is in favour of independence.

Let’s start making some sense.  Nothing is going to happen immediately after the result is known.  Independence is a process that will only begin, once the result is known.  During that process, there will be a general election, which will mean that Scottish MPs will continue to sit in the House of Commons until Independence actually happens.  Oh and by the way, there is also a Scottish Parliamentary Election due in 2015, as well as elections to the Assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland. 

There are lots of issues to actually sort out, such as currency, cross border trade, EU membership, UN membership, separation of the public services that are still controlled from Westminster and many others.  One of my favourite things to watch is what will actually happen to the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 in Scotland if they actually vote for independence.  Independence is a process and a negotiation that will take a couple of years to actually sort out.  And there could be two changes of government, one of each side of the negotiation, during the process. 

So we’re looking at a process that will take at least two years to actually sort out, and implement.  So independence for Scotland wouldn’t actually happen until late 2016 at the earliest, and probably not until 2017 if we’re being realistic.

But even if the vote result is not for independence, there will be some very interesting moves of powers from Westminster to Scotland, that much we know is going to happen, but what those exact powers will be, will only be known if the vote goes against independence.

Make no mistake, the story does not end with the result coming out next month.  In fact, we’ll just be getting to the good stuff, either way.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

More self employment does not equal more entrepreneurs

Richard Seymour wrote such a brilliant ‘Comment is Free’ column for the Guardian that it actually got me thinking about what he was saying.  The whole article bears reading as it highlights a very worrying trend, but the last paragraph particularly summed it up…

“…The rise in officially counted self-employment, far from representing a surge in individual initiative, is to a large degree the outcome of a disciplinary process. To this extent, enterprise is not being freed so much as it is being forced.”

I had felt this myself, as I am placed in a similar position myself of trying to look for work in order to make a wage that I can actually live on, and enable me to rent my own place, but I find that so many jobs these days are less than 16 hours.

16 hours, by the way, is actually an important figure.  That’s the minimum contract amount you need to actually enable yourself to stop claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in the UK.  If you are working less than 16 hours per week, you are required to still sign on at the Jobcentre.

Even then, part time work, from 16-29 hours, may not be enough to actually enable people to actually live the lives they want to live.  Contrary to what you might have seen on the Jetsons, 3 hour work-days do not enable you to have all the mod-cons of today’s hi-tech world, especially when you are on minimum wage for doing an unskilled task, such as pressing buttons all day.  The Jetsons might have been a 1960s vision of the future, but in socio-economic terms, it’s prediction of part time working was correct, but not what you could do around that ‘part-time working’ culture, or indeed what you can buy through part-time working.

This ‘part-time working’ culture has led to situations where people have to work 2 or more part-time jobs to make a living wage, or go down the route of self-employment if you want to make some money, which is exactly what Richard Seymour talks about.

And yes, it does feel like you are being forced down that route, rather than being inspired to go down that route.  As Dr John Demartini might put it, self-employment has become just another means of rescuing desperation, rather than rewarding inspiration.

Self employment in and of itself, is not a bad thing.  I would heartily recommend that every worker tries self-employment at least once in their career.  The time spent doing that will open your eyes and your mind in ways you never thought possible.

But if self-employment is becoming merely another way to rescue ourselves from the damage caused by the ‘part time working’ culture that is so beloved by the Conservatives and by business, then that is not a good thing, and it cannot help to undo the damage that is being caused by businesses worldwide that favour part time working, over full time working, and having a team that views what they do at work, as being more than just a means to earn the money to do the things they truly want to do.

If the Government truly wants to cut the benefits bill, they need to encourage businesses to have more full-time workers, on a living wage, therefore eliminating the need for part time workers under 16 hours to have to continue to sign on and claim benefits, and by having business pay living wages, it would also cut the number of people who are claiming housing benefit on low pay, because they need it to pay the rent on their accommodation.  Criminalising the unemployed is not the way to go.  Turning the part-time culture back towards a full-time culture, most definitely is.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

ITV needs to make its sports coverage distinctive.

Originally posted as part of LinkedIn Pulse, as I am now an author there as well.  Keep up with my postings there by clicking or tapping here.

In these days it's very rare for competing channels to both show the same thing, but Sunday night, 13th July in the UK, that's exactly what happened, as both BBC1 and ITV went head to head with competing coverage of the FIFA World Cup final. How is this possible you ask? BBC and ITV are both members of the EBU, the European Broadcasting Union, who actualy have the rights to show the World Cup across Europe, which they do via their various member stations.

Now, there is a history when it comes to BBC1 and ITV both showing the same event at the same time. Usually ITV loses, and it was the same here, although the margin in terms of viewing figures is huge.

According to a report on the BBC News website, the overnight figures showed that BBC1 had an average of 12.1 million viewers for the World Cup final, against 2.9 million viewers for ITV. The peaks for both channels were 16.7 million for BBC1 and 3.9 million for ITV.

This is becoming so routine for ITV, that you'd think they'd either give up, or try something else, but no, they seem happy to take the hit generally. However, this is a mere symptom of a much bigger problem at ITV Sport, and it is this. ITV Sport generally underperforms against similar BBC Sport coverage. If you were to look at the averages of live football coverage on BBC against similar live coverage on ITV, BBC is more watched, more often. But why?

It's a weird thing really, but in general terms, ITV Sport has a major image problem. It's too often seen to be style over substance, where BBC Sport is often felt to be more substantive. Is that a fair criticism? Not really. At one time, back in ITV's heyday, their coverage of sports was often just as substantive as BBC's, even though sometimes they'd have to settle for lower profile sports and events. But ITV's image took a general hit overall from about 1993 onwards. The hit was mainly in News and Sports coverage and Comedy, which had been areas that various ITV companies had excelled in. It was painful at times to watch what had been a great broadcaster slowly decay.

But in 2000, the rights for Premiership highlights went from BBC to ITV, and ITV announced what they hoped would be their saving grace for Sports coverage. "The Premiership" was to be the first time that Premier League football highlights were to air in PrimeTime, indeed, airing at 7pm from the start of the 2001/2002 season. ITV hoped that this would make them the new goto company for sports coverage. At around the same time, ITV launched the ITV Sport Channel on their digital terrestrial subscription service, ITV Digital, previously known as On Digital. ITV Digital had acquired the Football League rights at around the same time, and were showing these games on the new ITV Sport Channel. For some baffling reason, ITV, in the form of Carlton and Granada, decided that the ITV Sport Channel should not air on Sky, to try to give ITV Digital a competitive advantage.

It was a mistake. One of many that ITV did around that time. I should know. I was covering the whole ITV Digital debacle at the time for Transdiffusion. It was one of the lowest periods in ITV's history. A news service that was pretty universally derided as being style over substance; a failed platform in ITV digital, and a failed sports channel. 2002 was a low point for ITV, and their Premiership highlights were not helping matters. Instead of being at 7pm, the highlights had gotten relegated to a 10.30pm slot, due to low ratings, and would remain there until the end of the rights package in 2004, where upon the rights for Premiership highlights returned to the BBC, and have stayed there ever since.

But why did the Premiership highlights programme do so badly? That truly was style over substance. A typical 75 minute programme contained just under 30 minutes of highlights, far less than BBC had given to highlights previously, usually almost an hour out of an 80 minute show.

Since then, ITV has learned their lesson about substance, although some high profile automation problems that interrupted live football coverage at key times, have not helped their reputation. But now, ITV need to do something rather more radical if they are to undo all the years of damage and neglect that they have done to their Sports department. They need to be as radical as Sky Sports was when they first appeared on the scene back in 1991. But again, they mustn't over-emphasise style over substance, as substance is what wins ratings, something Sky Sports knew about in 1991, although they had their own style, they backed it up with substance.

ITV needs to create their own style, and back it up with substance, something ITV News has had to relearn to do since their 1999-2004 low point. Now ITV Sport needs to do the same. At the moment, they don't really do a lot to distinguish themselves, and sacrificing substance for style just isn't an option, not with the state of the sports broadcasting industry today. EuroSport, BT Sport and Sky Sports are all big players these days in the world of sports rights, along with the BBC. ITV do have some major events, such as The Tour De France, The French Open Tennis, and some Darts and Snooker tournaments, but most sport now is relegated to ITV4, rather than on the main channel. If ITV want to make themselves a sports powerhouse, then they need to have coverage with a lot of substance, in a strong authoritative style, that defines ITV, the way ITV News is now defined by the greater emphasis on human interest news. Maybe ITV Sport should emphasise the match coverage, rather than analysis. It would differentiate them from BBC and just about everybody else in sports broadcasting. Such a strategy would be a radical departure from ITV's long time emphasis on celebrities and personalities in sports coverage, but it would be enough of a departure that might get them noticed again in the sports broadcasting world.

ITV have been stuck in a rut for too long. They say a change is as good as a rest. ITV certainly need to make some major changes.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Murray sleepwalked to defeat? No Way!

So Andy Murray went out today at Wimbledon to 11th seed, the Bulgarian, Grigor Dmitrov, in straight sets.  And on social media, Murray was getting hammered, by people saying that he had sleepwalked into this defeat. 

Actually, it’s more like people sleepwalking into giving criticism that’s based on false premises and over-inflated, over-hyped expectations.  People were expecting Murray to actually successfully defend his title this year.  Only 4 men have achieved the distinction of defending the Men’s Singles at Wimbledon after your first championship during the Open era.  By far the most impressive of these, was Bjorn Borg, who won his first Wimbledon Men’s Singles in 1976, and then went on a run of 5 titles in a row, from 1976 to 1980.  He was only prevented in making it six on the trot in 1981, by a young brash American tennis player, named John McEnroe, who played the game of his life, to defeat Borg, who was still at the peak of his game, at a mere 25 years old. 

The other 3 to achieve that feat.  Boris Becker, in 1985 and 1986; Pete Sampras, in 1993 and 1994; and Roger Federer, in 2003 and 2004.  Coincidentally, there have also been 4 women to achieve the same feat.  Martina Navratilova in 1978 and 1979, Steffi Graf in 1988 and 1989, Venus Williams in 2000 and 2001, and Serena Williams in 2002 and 2003.  To have successfully defended the title this year, would have put Andy Murray in a very exclusive club indeed, a club that does not include Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic, Rafael Nadal, Leyton Hewitt or Novak Djokovic.  So there’s no shame in falling short of defending a title. 

And the other part of the equation, Grigor Dmitrov, has been on a roll since towards the end of 2013.  He won the Stockholm Open, his first title in his career, and this year, he has taken off, winning another 3 tournaments; The Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco, The Nastase Tiriac Trophy in Bucharest and The Aegon Championship at Queen’s Club.  In fact, on grass courts right now, Grigor Dmitrov has won 10 matches in a row, a very impressive run by anybody’s standards.  Dmitrov is definitely the hot player right now.  His confidence is very high, and he is playing the kind of tennis that wins championships.  Murray just had a bad day at the office, played very passive against a very aggressive opponent, who actively prepared to face him, and Murray didn’t have the answers.

You know sometimes we tend to give criticism far too easily and often far too quickly, without actually considering all the evidence and background.  Too often, opinions on social media are written from the lower levels of the brain, which is very emotional, and often very limited in the kinds of responses that are available to you.  Stop, and think, and actually do some research.  Jurgen Klinsman, the USA’s team manager in Soccer’s World Cup, warned people about expecting too much from the team.  It’s always nice to root for someone to win, or for a team to win, but be realistic about it.  Nobody can win every time, as much as we might like them to.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The lottery of the penalty shootout

In this World Cup so far, we have had 4 second round and 2 penalty shootouts.  In that sense, we have had 2 of the most different penalty shootouts that you could have possibly had already during this second round.

The first one involved Brazil and Chile, where there were as many penalties saved as there were scored.  The second one involved Costa Rica, the unexpected unbeaten team of this World Cup, and Greece, and in that one, only one penalty was missed, by Greece at a crucial time, their fourth penalty, which meant that Costa Rica had to score to win, which they did.  Costa Rica didn’t miss a single penalty, and that is one of the rare situations where you can truly say that a team went through on penalties on merit, scoring every single one they took.

Otherwise, the penalty shootout is a lottery.  Saved penalties, missed penalties, over the bar, wide, hitting the woodwork, easy saves, spectacular saves, we’ve seen them all at various points.  It’s no way to end even a Johnston’s Paint Trophy match, let alone something as big as a World Cup match. 

No team ever deserves to go out on penalties, and it hurts to see it.  Some commentators seem to be under the false idea that a penalty shootout is something that all neutral fans love.  In fact, I find this not to be true at all.  Most true sports fans, the ones who want to see a great game, no matter who teams, no matter what the sport, absolutely hate the penalty shootout.  It turns a game of skill, heart, passion and conditioning, into a game of chance, a game of luck, a game of who can win the lottery.

In sports like basketball and hockey, you get overtime periods, and you keep getting overtime periods until you score.  In Soccer, you have 2 15-minute periods of Extra Time, no more and no less.  Then you are onto penalties.  Golden goal extra time was trialled, as was silver goal, where you had until the end of the 15 minute period to reply, depending on how late the goal was scored.  For some baffling reason, both players and fans complained about these, and they have been quietly forgotten by most within the game, and most fans as well. 

But, if after 2 periods of extra time, you cannot separate them, then you should have additional periods of extra time, where the next goal finishes the game.  It should be a moment of skill that wins it, not a moment of luck.  It would also stop the horrible situation that we get in most extra time games, where one or both teams ends up playing for penalties, for some, most or in some cases, all of that second period of extra time. 

Costa Rica’s penalty shootout was the exception that proved the rule.  Scoring every penalty you take, you can’t argue that they didn’t deserve to go through from that match, especially as they had a pretty blatant handball in the 18 yard box, missed by the referee, and that meant they didn’t get the penalty they should have had, but in the end, it didn’t matter, justice was done, and Costa Rica continue as the surprise undefeated team of this World Cup.

But I hope that sometime soon, we can finally persuade the footballing authorities, to do away with the lottery that is the penalty shootout.  It’s no way to decide a game, especially not at a World Cup.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Madonna and Katy Perry raunch it up, dominatrix style

I rarely post about the celebrity obsessed side of the media, as to be honest, it mostly bores me.  It either builds them up or tears them down, and that’s pathetically predictable and predictably boring.

Another predictable story angle is when a celebrity does a raunchy photo shoot or video, the more culturally conservative elements, will go batty over the raunchiness, and hyper-criticise the shoot.

So, when we had the raunchy shoot that involved Madonna and Katy Perry in lots of leather and thigh high boots, we got it all.

Personally, I believe in artistic freedom, and that means doing things that maybe aren’t quite so family friendly, alongside the more family friendly material.  Adults are fans of these singers, as well as kids, so they should be allowed to do something that is designed to appeal to their more adult fans.  Besides, there’s something really refreshing about seeing Madonna being dominated by Katy Perry in a few of those shots.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The alternatives to the Dawlish route, and those getting in the way.

BBC News Online has a page up about the alternatives to the Dawlish route, for the railways in Cornwall and Devon.

Now, I’ve posted about this before, both on my radio show’s Facebook page, and here on the Viewpoint blog.  And I’ll be honest with you, this matters a lot to me.  After the closure of Plymouth City Airport, the loss of the helicopter link to the Isles of Scilly, and the continued situation at Newquay airport, which could close if subsidy isn’t made available, the fact that our only rail link to Exeter, Bristol, London, Birmingham, Scotland, and Wales is shut for 2 months, is a situation I want us to avoid in the future, AT ALL COSTS.

Let me say that again, at all costs.

With that said, let’s look at the routes proposed. 

The first three I’ll mention here, are new routes, which require a lot of work.  They basically by-pass Dawlish to rejoin the main line, either at Dawlish Warren, Powderham or Exminster.  These are not pre-existing lines, and would require a lot more work than any of the other routes.  In my view, these would only be any good if there had been no other alternatives.

The next route I’ll mention here is the old Teign Valley line, which connects Newton Abbot to Exeter, via Chudleigh and Christow.  It needs a little rebuilding, but it is a workable solution for when the Dawlish line is disrupted as it has been this winter.  I do have to agree with what the experts say though, it is of limited benefit really, but after the disruption we’ve had, I’ll happily take a limited benefit route over the messy situation that we as travellers have had to put up with.  This route should be put in place.

The last route is my personal favourite and should be running all the time, even alongside the main Dawlish route.  This is the over Dartmoor route that runs from Plymouth, up the current Gunnislake branch line to Bere Alston, then up an already committed line to Tavistock, then along a rebuilt stretch to Okehampton before joining up with an existing line that is currently used for freight, and Sunday passenger service during the summer, to Exeter.  This route should never have closed in the first place, and frankly, it shouldn’t be just an emergency route, it should be in operation all day, every day.

Unfortunately some people near the Tavistock route, seem to have very distorted priorities in this affair…

“…Colin Rogers, who owns the old Tavistock station - a mixture of holiday cottages and private homes - said property owners were concerned about how much compensation they would get…”

Compensation?  COMPENSATION???

Perhaps those property owners should consider compensating the business in their own area and everywhere westward for the loss of income that has resulted from the line closure at Dawlish.  If they invested in property without having a substantial cushion of liquid capital, then they’re playing in a class that they have no right to be in.  If they can’t handle the risk, they shouldn’t be playing the high risk, high rent district of property.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Viewpoint Sports: Does being 'booked' actually mean anything?

I've been thinking about this for a while, during various times watching either live football or football highlights programmes.  You watch a player commit a foul, and the referee decides that the foul is serious enough to warrant a 'booking' as it is called.  So the referee calls the player over, produces a yellow card, and puts the player's name and/or number in a little black book that he carries.

Sorry, but what kind of penalty is that?  What does going in the referee's little black book actually mean?

Apparently, not much.  A yellow card is a 'caution' that is issued to the player concerned.  That's it, merely a caution.  In Rugby Union, a player that is yellow carded is sent to the 'Sin Bin', for 10 minutes, temporarily reducing the team by 1, which in other sports is sometimes refered to as a "Power Play".

On this day, there were 5 Premier League matches in England.  Between those 5 games, there were 17 yellow cards and 2 red cards.  Now one of those reds was a straight red card, and upon viewing the footage, even that seemed harsh.  The Scottish Premiership saw 2 matches today, one of which had no yellow or red cards, the other had 5 yellows and no reds.  7 top flight games in the UK, and between them all, 22 yellow cards and 2 red cards.

In the English Premier League today, one team, Southampton, had 5 yellow cards issued against them. That's almost half a team in the referee's book.  It's not as bad as an infamous match in the 2006 World Cup when Portugal and the Netherlands were issued 16 yellow cards between them and 4 players got yellow carded twice and got sent off. 

It seems that cautions mean nothing.  Maybe it is time to change what a yellow card actually means in Football. 

Now there are two possible options.  One is to make a yellow card mean the same as it does in Rugby Union, 10 minutes in a penalty box or sin bin for the player shown the card, temporarily reducing the team strength by 1.  Such a move would stop the cynical fouls that result in bookings that prevent what look to be potential goals.  It would also make players think twice before making silly challenges as your team being down a player for 10 minutes is more of a penalty, than a mere caution.  Upon a second yellow card, it would still become a red and a sending off for the duration of the game. 

The other, is to separate the yellow card and red card offences, in other words two yellows would not be an automatic red card, and have various penalties, probably various cards, for differing lengths of time in the 'Sin Bin'.  You could have three levels of penalty, worth 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 15 minutes depending on how serious the foul was, and the red card would still mean sending off. 

I like both thoughts, and to be honest, either one would have more of a deterrent effect than a mere caution. 

Friday, March 07, 2014

Good Morning Britain to return, but is it the change needed?

Earlier this week, we had perhaps the worst kept secret in broadcasting revealed to be true.  Good Morning Britain was indeed to return to ITV, although this time the hosts would be Susannah Reid, joining from BBC Breakfast; Ben Sheppard, former GMTV host; Charlotte Hawkins, joining from Sky News; and Sean Fletcher, joining from Sky Sports News and previously with BBC News Channel.

But this is not the first time ITV has changed the name of their breakfast programme.  In fact, Daybreak came about as a result of perceived problems with GMTV. 

But is another change of name and personnel what is required, or is it a case of moving the deckchairs on the Titanic?

In my analysis of Daybreak, and it's competition, BBC Breakfast, I noticed that whilst Breakfast looks like it comes from a BBC News studio, the look of Daybreak contrasts quite wildly with ITV News, despite having ITV News branded bulletins as part of Daybreak.  If anything, ITV needs to make it more like ITV News.  At the very least, the news bulletins every half hour should come from the ITV News virtual studio, albeit the colour scheme of the studio should reflect the Good Morning Britain look, to distinguish it from other ITV News bulletins, in the same way that ITV News at Ten does from the other bulletins.  

Editorially, the ITV News agenda has improved massively since the days of the 1999-2004 editorial debacle that was the excessively tabloid ITV News, which had replaced ITN News, even though the new look ITV News was still produced by ITN.  But the morning agenda, which has been carried through GMTV and Daybreak, hasn't caught up quite.  At times, it does catch up, and at other times, it seems to go backwards to being more tabloid again.  GMB needs to be popular, not tabloid.  There is a distinct difference, and it needs to be explained.

Tabloid is what you see in the red-tops, over-hyped, editorialised, and generally overdoing everything kind of news.  Another form of tabloid agenda is one that has been popularised by some local US TV stations, 'If It Bleeds, It Leads'. That's tabloid.  Shock value over News Value.

Popular News, as I call it, is the kind of news that actually isn't overhyped, isn't sensationalised, and isn't necessarily showbiz-based, but it is based on what people actually need to know.  It includes news about the economy and consumer related items, essential news about politics, mostly about real issues rather than the endless debates about Europe in the Westminster bubble; and it would also include some news about crime, although not in the hyper-sensentionalised 'if it bleeds, it leads' way that tabloid news does.

If ITV wants Good Morning Britain to be more successful than Daybreak, then it needs to totally embrace the current ITV News agenda, which is more like what I call 'Popular News'.  

But more than that, it needs to avoid the trap of going for competitions through the morning. Competitions are not required at that time of the morning, because most people who have the TV on at that time of day, can't stop to think about what the answer is, so don't bother with them.  Radio is learning this, and slowly moving away from competitions during their breakfast shows.

More than that though, GMB needs to cover things like Sport, which seems to get very little coverage currently on Daybreak.  Having Sean Fletcher as part of the team seems to indicate they are taking that angle more seriously.  Another angle that needs more coverage in the mornings is regional news.  6 minutes of regional updates across 3 bulletins, one per hour, isn't enough, when your competition is running 18 minutes of regional updates across 6 bulletins, twice an hour.  The contrast is stark, very stark.  If anything, even just a doubling of the number of updates, making theirs twice an hour, would be an improvement, but more than that, they do need to make their updates longer, and do something with them that makes them not just a copy of what the BBC does, but distinctive.

Some showbiz news will be a part of the programme, especially around the time of the awards ceremonies, like The Oscars.   But overdoing showbiz news is not a good thing, especially in the mornings.  ITV News has a lot of resources across the country, and using those resources wisely for the right stories, is going to be part of making GMB a success.

If they make a few changes of substance alongside the returning name and the new presenters, then it could help turn ITV's fortunes around.  If not, then it will simply be moving the deckchairs on the sinking ship.  Only time will tell us, if that is what happens.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Dawlish rail link to re-open April 4th.

This is a story that pleases me no end.

It will be exactly 2 months between the line getting damaged by storms, and the line re-opening, and that is great news.

Network Rail has been working around the clock to make the repairs that are needed to restore the line to working order.  They deserve our thanks and our appreciation.

Also, First Great Western deserve a lot of credit, for how they have handled the entire situation.  They have worked very hard to make sure that, as much as physically possible, some kind of service remained in place, even if it wasn't the one they had wanted to run, as based on their published timetable.

However, the whole situation has shown up issues that need to be tackled without delay.

The first one I'm going to bring up, is the continuing debate over whether there should be an airport in Plymouth.

I'm going to make no bones about this.  THERE MUST BE AN AIRPORT IN PLYMOUTH.

Why?  You even need to ask why?  The old Plymouth City Airport to London service could transport people there in less than an hour, whjilst the train still takes 3 hours at quickest.

It was also linked to Newquay Airport, in fact the route started there.  The whole route from Newquay to London via Plymouth took no more than 90 minutes, and was run up to 5 times a day.  And if you think that is the only route that Plymouth had, think again.  There were many others to other UK domestic airports, which made for a speedy connection to many places.

Such services could be provided again.  Flights to the Channel Islands, Bristol, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Derry, Birmingham, St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly (via Newquay and Lands End[if they can tarmac it]), Leeds, Southhampton, Manchester, Liverpool and many more places are all possible, helping to create an air network that would be speedier than the train, and enable cross country travel between the South West and the rest of the country in no more than 3 hours.  Heck, even some limited international flights to places like Dublin or Paris would help no end.

Sadly, the airport's owners, Sutton Harbour Holdings, have shown no real interest in re-opening the airport, claiming it wouldn't be viable.  Yet it seems to be the case that the airport was viable when Plymouth City Council operated it.  And maybe a consortium could run Newquay and Plymouth airports together, making sure both remained viable and operational.

Because in many ways, when Plymouth City Airport closed, the routes that ran from Newquay became a problem, as the customers that were picked up at Plymouth made those routes viable.  Now the airport at Newquay needs subsidy to run.  If Newquay closes, then Exeter becomes the only major airport in the South West, and as we've seen with the railways since February 4th, getting to Exeter would be problematic.

So what to do about the railway itself?  Well, the favourite idea for creating a second route, has been the re-opening of the old LSWR line that ran from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock.  The route from Plymouth to Tavistock has already be committed to prior to this, and it does seem to make sense to re-open that old stretch of track.  The line was closed in 1968, and it was a shame that this happened.  The process of concentrating traffic on one line, the one that got damaged on February 4th, meant that old LSWR line was deemed surplus to requirements.  It doesn't seem surplus to requirements now.

There is also an old Teign Valley route which is being considered, and in my view, reviving this, AS WELL AS, the Plymouth, Tavistock, Okehampton, Exeter route, would be an ideal double solution to the problem.  The northern line needs to be revived anyway, and run as a regular service all the time.  The Teign Valley line would work as a back up should the line at Dawlish get damaged again.

There is one other point that I would like to make in regards to the railways around Cornwall and Devon.  The fact that some areas, especially around North Cornwall, have been cut off from the railway network and could do with being revived in order to create a second Great Western route.  The line between Newquay and Perranporth should be re-opened, as should the lines that connected Padstow, Bude and Launceston to the rail network.  Indeed, connections should be made between Penzance and Perranporth, possibly via St Ives, and between Newquay and Padstow, which would have the effect of creating a nice mini network of lines that since 1963 have only been served by bus services, and that has meant that the bus companies, First Western National and Western Greyhound, have something of a public transport monopoly in those areas, and it would bring competition back. 

At the moment, the lack of transport connections is reinforcing the old image of those of us in Cornwall and Devon as being in the sticks and cut off from the rest of the country.  We need to counteract that immediately.  Restore the lines that should never have been cut, the connections that are in danger need to be protected, and even enhanced as much as possible.  We must not rely entirely on roads, especially roads like the A38 where there are accidents every day, which close the road for hours at a time.

Newquay Airport must remain open.  Plymouth City Airport must be re-opened.  Lands End Airport must be tarmaced.  The old railway lines that were closed must be re-opened.  We must do whatever it takes, pay any price, to make sure our links with not just the rest of the country, but also the rest of the world, are not cut off.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Daily Star goes hyperbole-mad, and made up words.

This is not a news story that needs any further promotion, but what The Daily Star has done has highlighted what is wrong with the tabloid media today, and in no small way either.

The story is about someone who has been labelled a former 'it' girl.  She also happens to be the Daughter of the 6th Marquess of Bristol, and elder sister of the current holder of that title, and the story concerns the outfit she wore to a party in Los Angeles, something she actually tweeted about, including a picture, obviously taken in the back of her limo, which gave a slight preview of her dress.  In other words, this ain't much of a story.

But, The Daily Star, also known as the Daily Star-Struck(!), decided it was worth covering and hyping to levels unseen outside of the Superbowl or the Olympics.  To do that, they describe her outfit thusly...

"...The socialite merged gapboob and dominatrix leather while attending a charity gala in California..."

Gapboob?  The very fact that the computer I am writing this post on doesn't even recognise gapboob as a word says a lot.  It's a made-up word, because somehow they think their audience won't understand the technical term of cleavage. 

As for it being 'dominatrix leather', leather is worn by many people other than dominatrix-types, but of course, since the whole '50 Shades of Grey' thing became popular, tying it in to that imagery has become the standard thing to do.  But somehow, I can't imagine a dominatrix wearing a full length dress with a fishtail hem, as the Daily Star describe it...

"...The full-length frock, complete with fishtail hem, was made from biker chick leather, bringing a very Fifty Shades of Grey vibe to proceedings..."

See what I mean about '50 Shades of Grey'?   Wait, it gets worse...

"...Lady Victoria's attempts to soften her look with an elegant updo and silver chandelier earrings failed to steer this look away from fetish friendly as she attended the unite4:humanity red carpet event..."

First, why would you need to steer this look away from fetish friendly?  Second, she looked glamourous, stylish and elegant in that dress.  And that is something not every woman could achieve.

She pulls of an elegant look, with leather, and she is critcised in the article for an indecent neckline, and wearing dominatrix leather.  Is it any wonder that newspapers are losing readers, as their grip on the real world seems to get more tenuous by the day, and the amount of hype that they put in to a non-story to make it a story, does the exact opposite of justifying the story's existence in the newspaper.  It highlights that the 'story' probably should never have appeared.

More power to Lady Victoria Hervey, I say, for wearing a very stylish leather dress, that made her look stunning.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

30 idiots complain about Celebrity Big Brother.

The Daily Star reported that 30 people had complained to Ofcom about Celebrity Big Brother, specifically the task that required some of the housemates to perform 18-rated entertainment, a task that by the way, producers had to censor for broadcast after the 9pm watershed.

Honestly, what do these 30 people think they are watching?  Celebrity Big Brother is nothing more than licenced and legalised voyeurism.  It's the only way the general public can watch celebrities being themselves without finding themselves in court on a stalking charge.

Unsurprisingly, Mediawatch, the ex-Mary Whitehouse organisation, ciriticised it, but then, that's not news.

It's not high culture, it's programming designed to appeal to the base instincts.  That was just another expression of that. 

By the way, extra hypocrisy points go to Daily Star and Channel 5 owner, Richard Desmond.  He owns the channel that commissioned it because he wanted material to fill up his newspapers and magazines, and now his own newspaper is giving voice to those criticising the programme on his own channel, and partially encouraging the criticism.  That takes a total lack of any scruples.  If you are going to have a programme on your own channel, and you allow your own newspaper to be critical, then you are undermining the staff who produce the programme, and you are also saying that you are only interested in ratings and sales, not in anything else. 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Rupert Murdoch: The captain is unapologetic and beligerent

Yesterday, Channel 4 News in the UK reported on the revelation that a secret recording of a March 2013 meeting at News International, now News UK, of journalists for his newspapers.  The report is shown below.

This shows we've all come to know over the years.  He is totally beligerent, unapologetic, and contemptuous of all authority other than his own.  This is why he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a major broadcaster, or indeed, a major newspaper these days.  He is so out of touch with the public mood.  He lives in his own bubble, with little real connection to the world that his readers and viewers inhabit.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Glenn Greenwald v David Gregory - The state of journalism these days

Earlier today on NBC's Meet The Press, David Gregory had on as a guest, Glenn Greenwald, the man who broke the stories of NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

This was always gonna be interesting...

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Now, let's be honest here. Neither of these two people were starting from an attitude of trying to find the truth.  Both are basically political operatives, especially Glenn Greenwald.  Most journalists that operate in the Beltway bubble, are basically too close to Government to be truly independent of it, we've seen that before between 2001 and 2003.  And Glenn Greenwald has a history of attacking people who challenge him on his stories.  Trust me on that one, I've been on the recieving end.  He doesn't debate people, he just tries to humiliate them, which totally debases and devalues whatever points he was trying to make.

The fact is, the real story is getting lost in this "Where In The World is Edward Snowden?" nonsense, and also being lost in Glenn Greenwald's egomania.

The real story is this.  Why did two parties flip positions on this whole idea, just because a Democratic Party president is now in office as opposed to a Republican president?  Why do politicians think it's okay to have people spying on innocent civilians?  If it wasn't right for George W Bush's administration to do it, then it still isn't right for Barack Obama's administration to do it.

In Britain, our government is not really run by politicians, but by civil servants.  They keep the machinery of government operating all the time.  They're not called civil servants in the US, but basically, there are government workers, who are employed to keep the US Government operating, and basically, these people are not elected, they are employed, and basically, they, like most other workers, will do whatever it takes to justify their existence.  And there are similar individuals in most governments around the world.  That's who really runs your government.

There is no Illuminati, no secret organisation that controls governments worldwide.  It's much simpler than that.

But that's not what makes for good journalism these days.  Truth does not sell newspapers.  Truth does not sell advertising on talk radio stations.  Truth does not help the bottom line of media companies.  So, here's the truth about journalism these days.  Journalism is not about truth any more.  Journalism these days, is about supporting a political agenda, and using that agenda to make money from it.  Most so-called journalists these days are nothing more than political operatives supporting agendas that are designed to make money for their political and economic masters.  Reality and actuality have very little to do with journalism these days.  From Fox News, Sun News, The Daily Mail and The Daily Star on one side, to the Mirror, The Guardian, Current and MSNBC on the other, journalists these days are just about making money, and not about telling the truth. 

That's the reality of journalism today.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dan O'Day tells the truth about Radio.

I read a lot of material on the web, and sometimes, it gets me so riled up that I need to comment, and I often do that here on Viewpoint.

But just sometimes, I read something that I think is so well written, or so accurate, that I should probably point some of you in their direction.

In this case, I am directing you to the blog of radio talent coach and advertising expert, Dan O'Day, and a post of his about 25 traits of a good radio programme director.

I think every body who does a radio show should read this, and incorporate the attitudes in his post into their own work.

Friday, June 21, 2013

2Day FM - Challenging the regulator never works.

2Day FM have been very foolish.

Recently, the Australian media regulator, the ACMA, announced that it was going to conduct a formal investigation into the prank phone call to a London hospital that ended up causing a nurse at that hospital to commit suicide.

Upon the release of preliminary fiundings, 2Day FM filed suit with Australia's Federal Court system to block any further progress in the investigation, and to prevent the ACMA finding them guilty of breaching their licence.

Basically, this is a clear admission of guilt. 

2Day FM have basically admitted that they are guilty of the offences that the ACMA is investigating them for.  And they know, full well, that they could lose their licence.  So, they have decided to take on the regulator.  Huge mistake.

In all the years I've followed the media and covered it, every media company that has taken on the regulator, in any country, has lost.  Courts have never overturned a regulator's decision, nor have they basically prevented a regulator from doing it's job.  Trying to accuse the regulator of overstepping boundaries, is ridiculous.  Trying to say that the regulator does not have the power to say that it breached the terms of it's licence, is incredibly ridiculous.

These are the death throes of a station that did not respect the rules, had no sense of where boundaries were, in fact, a station that had no sense at all.

Once the Australain Federal Court does the right thing and throws this ludicrously silly challenge out of court, then 2Day FM might as well take themselves off the air, because it will be a case of licence revoked, pretty soon.

Goodbye 2Day FM.  Your shameful behaviour in this whole sorry saga, will mean that you will not be missed.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Far Right UK Parties - Worth worrying about?

I was busy minding my own business reading round the various internet sites, and I happened to be reading Daily Kos, when I came across this diary about Far Right extremist politics in this country.  Now I have discovered that this diary is an American's viewpoint on our Far Right politics, and it makes some sense, and is mostly pretty accurate, but for the authoratative viewpoint on UK Far Right politics, you have to ask someone who actually lives in the UK and writes about the political scene, amongst other things, and round here, well, that would be me.

It was a fascinating piece of writing, but the one thing that shines out from it to my eyes, is the fact that because the Republican Party in the US has veered to the extreme right in more recent years, there's always a lot more fear about right-wing extremism in the US than there is in the UK.  In some ways, it reminds me of the fear over Commmunism that we saw in the US back in the 1950s, with the McCarthy witchhunts.  The EDL, BNP and the National Front along with UKIP are the current incarnations of far-right wing politics in this country, a history that pre-dates the Second World War.

In fact, we go all the way back to 1902, and to an organisation called the British Brothers League.  The league was formed as a response to waves of immigration from Eastern Europe which had been going on since 1880.  It's weird, a lot of the debate on immigration now is over immigration from, once again, Eastern Europe.  History does have a way of repeating itself.

Initially, the League was only interested in keeping "Destitute Foreigners" out of England.  Later on, that slowly changed to the more familair refrains of anti-semitism.  Although the league claimed to have 45,000 members, no membership fees were ever taken.  It was mainly a London based organisation, and although it disbanded in 1923, it left a legacy of far-right support that would be used by Oswald Mosley later on.

The next organisation to come out of the woodwork, was an organisation known as The Britons.  Formed in 1919, by now we have the classic anti-semitic, anti-immigrant extreme right wing organisation.  The organisation published extremist propoganda under the label of The Judaic Publishing Company, and later The Britons Publishing Society.  The organisation was dormant during World War 2, though it continued to exist until the late 1940s.

1923 may have seen the disbanding of the British Brothers League, but another organisation was ready to take it's place.  This one was known as British Fascisti, later on The British Fascists.  Despite their name, their inital motivation was more fear of left wing politics, than actual fascism.  There is historical evidence to back this.  Back in 1922, the Conservative Party had won an election under Andrew Bonar Law, who was already an ill man at this time, having previously stood down as Conservative Party leader the previous year, despite the fact that David Lloyd George, a National Liberal, had been the Prime Minister until the 1922 election.

Labour, a relatively new political force at the time, having been formed in 1900, were now starting to have an electoral impact.  They'd won 142 seats in that election, up from the meagre 57 seats they'd won in the 1918 election.  Labour, under Ramsay MacDpnald, had become the official opposition for the first time in their history, overtaking The Liberal Party under Herbert Henry Asquith, a different Liberal party to the National Liberal Party, who had splintered from The Liberal Party, who had been in coalition with the Conservatives. Some on the right wing say the growth of Labour as a threat, hence why British Fascisti was created. 

Strangely enough as well, The British Fascisti were heavily influenced by the Boy Scout movement, as many of the initial members of the British Fascisti had been Boy Scouts in their childhood, and wanted to "...uphold the same lofty ideas of brotherhood, service and duty...".  It seems an unlikely mixture for creating what would be a breeding ground for one of the most famous fascists outside of Oswald Mosley.  The man who later became Lord Haw Haw, William Joyce, was a member of the British Fascisti, after having been attacked, he claimed, by a Jewish communist whilst stewarding a Conservative Party meeting in 1924.  He would later leave The British Fascists to join Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in 1932.

The British Fascists were declared bankrupt in 1934.  By this time, The BUF had established itself and was the major force of fascism in the UK.  However, on the political scale, they were miniscule compared to the mainstream parties of the time, Conservatives, Labour, Liberals and National Liberals.  Even amongst the extreme right, the BUF might have been the most well known, but there were other organisations espousing various ideas of fascism, and fighting between rival groups, was not uncommon.  The Imperial Fascist League, which had formed in 1929, had a rivalry with the BUF.  Although the British Fascists, the BUF and the IFL had discussed mergers, they could never agree to work together, and merge their limited memberships.

Ultimately, this early history of Fascism in the UK is as instructive as it is interesting.  There is an almost tribal mentality to these organisations.  Some people did move between organisations but generally, most stayed loyal, almost to a fault, with the organisation they joined.  The same is also true today.  The BNP, the EDL and the National Front may be the extreme right parties and organisations that most are familiar with, but there are and have been a number of minor far right parties and organisations, including The British Freedom Party, Britain First, The British Democratic Party, British People's Party, The Christian Council of Britain, England First Party, the White Nationalist Party, the Nationalist Alliance, and many other organisations, some of which have been and are organisations that splintered off from the BNP.

Whilst the BNP and the National Front have been the most successful in terms of electoral success, both are so far behind the mainstream parties, that their successes are rather limited really, in the grand scheme of things.  So, is there anything to worry about in regards to the EDL, the BNP and the National Front?  It's very unlikely that there is anything to worry about.  Most of these organisations do not garner much in the way of support outside of their base, and they are so far away from where the majority of the British public politically reside, the political centre, where ultimately elections are won, that the likelyhood of any group getting the necessary votes to get more than token representation in anything beyond local council level, is so small as to render it almost impossible. 

This is down to the way our electoral system works.  First Past The Post is a simple, most votes wins system.  One person, one vote, just a single cross on a piece of paper, and the candidate that gets the most votes wins.  No requirement to get more than 50% of the votes cast in a single constituency, and no complex ranking of candidates by order of preference.  Smaller parties like UKIP, The Greens, even the Liberal Democrats at one stage, complained that the system kept smaller parties out.  And whilst the system does keep some minor parties out, the flipside of that, is that it also tends to keep the BNP and National Front out as well, because to win in any constituency, you need a large concentration of support for your party within that constituency.  One of the reasons the Greens rarely win seats, is because their support is thinly spread across the country, where as pockets of BNP support have sprung up in certain areas, and that's why the BNP has won some council seats in the past, although in the last local elections in May, the BNP lost all the seats they were defending.

And Fox News lending support to the EDL isn't as big a deal in this country as it might seem.  Fox News reaches over 3 million people each week in the USA, around about 1% of the population overall, and is the most watched cable news channel in the US.  Fox News Channel is also shown in the UK.  However, they reach no more than 200,000 people each week in the UK, far less than 1% of the 60 million people that live in the UK.  In terms of people watching news channels in the UK, BBC News leads the way with over 9 million watching each week, Sky News comes next with over 5 million watching each week, and editorially, although owned by the same company that owns Fox News, Sky News is far less right wing that Fox News, mainly due to neutrality regulations that are in place for all broadasters broadcasting from the UK.  Outside of the two main news channels in the UK, Fox News is watched by less people than watch Al Jazeera, or Russia Today, or even EuroNews.  Fox News active support of the EDL is actually causing viewers of Fox News in the UK to change channels.

There is one other reason why it is unlikely that we will see Fascism rise up, and it comes from history and the UK's response to the force that wasthe countries known as "The Communist States".

Communism really first came to prominience in the 19th century with the publication of The Communist Manifesto in 1848, a document written by Karl Marx and Frederich Engels.  Their "communism" was a form of socialism that sought to end capitalism, and the systems that they believed were exploting workers.  It was this basic idea that brought down the Czars in Russia in 1917, and formed the basis for the Communist state that was The Soviet Union until the 1990s.

Communist Parties began forming all over the world.  1920 saw the formation of the British version of the Communist Party.  The US response was best categorised by what happened in the 1950s, and the phenomenon that was McCarthyism.  Joseph McCarthy was a Wisconsin Republican Senator, who led a Senate commitee into the infiltration of American Communist Party agents into the Government.  His over-zealous interrogations of suspects, and demagogue-like attitude, led to him making wild, unsubstatiated accusations against people who were not guilty of any such misdemeanours.  Such McCarthyism is still used today by the Republican Party to call people unpatriotic, or question the morality of an opponent in a political debate.

But in Britian, instead of being scared by '...reds under the bed...', the British establishment gave it little credence or indeed thought it much of a threat, despite the fact that in 1945, 2 Communist Party candiates had been elected as MPs.  Both lost their seats in 1950, and the party began a slow, gradual decline eventually dissolving in 1991, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  A splinter group left the main party in 1988, and formed a new Communist Party which still exists today in the UK, however, the membership has never gotten to the 1000 mark.

So, when it comes down to the likes of the British National Party, the English Defence League and the National Front, they are small parts of a small movement, that is significantly splintered between over 15 different organisations already.  These various splinters are like individual tribes, struggling to work together for a common cause, because one tribe feels that another's slightly different viewpoint on something means they are less true to the cause or less pure. 

Two quotes for me sum up my feelings on this, and I have added particular emphasis to the parts that speak most on this subject..  First comes from the Inaugural Address of President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1933...

"...This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance..."

...and the second comes from Edward R Murrow from his See It Now programme in 1954, talking about McCarthyism...

"...We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men..."

(Cross posted on my Daily Kos diary

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Russia goes backwards on LGBT

Russia Today are reporting that the the lower house of the Russian Parliament, The Duma, has voted for a ban on promoting non-traditional sexual relations to minors.  Now whilst this might sound sensible, it is one of those ideas that in practice causes a lot more problems than it solves.

The situation in Russia regarding LGBT relations has been pretty stable since 2003.  The age of consent is 16, for both heterosexual and LGBT relationships, homosexual sex is legal, as is the right to change your gender, but there is still a long way to go. 

There are no anti-discrimination laws in place for the Russian LGBT community, and this new law seeks to take the issue further back into the dark ages.  People start to express their sexuality as early as their early teens, and they will want to find out information.  Blocking access to that information will not promote heterosexuality, but will make LGBT relationships, and other non-traditional sexual relations more interesting.  It's classic reverse psychology, tell somebody they can't do something and they want to do it all the more.

Some ideas sound eminently sensible.  However, most of those ideas end up causing more problems, especially when those measures are directly against a person's sexuality, and also, trying to place societal controls on something that Mother Nature decides.  It comes across as being a fool's errand to try and place societal controls, such as laws, on things that are not decided by societies, but by nature.

What's worse is that the public backs this ban.  88% back it, and 42% think homosexuality should be made a criminal offence.  This is a backward step for Russia, and it will come back and bite them, when they least expect it.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Abolish the Seanad? No thank you.

In terms of politics threatening to get out of control, this is one situation where that could easily happen.  Enda Kenny, The Taoiseach, announced that he was bringing forward a bill to abolish the Seanad Eireann, the upper chamber of the Irish Parliament, the Oirechtas.

Unlike here in the UK, where the upper house, The House of Lords, is an unelected body, appointed by the Prime Minister via the system of honours bestowed by The Queen, The Seanad Eireann is made up of 60 members.  11 of these are directly appointed by the Taoiseach.  3 are elected by graduates of the University of Dublin, 3 are elected by graduates of the National University of Ireland, and the remaining 43 are elected from 5 special panels called Vocational Panels, made up of TDs, Senators and councillors.

Yeah, it's a little complicated, and that's one of the aspects of the Seanad Eireann that needs reform.  The Seanad should be directly elected, just like the US Senate is.  Further more, let's keep it simple.  Two Senators elected from each county in the Republic of Ireland, 26 counties, 52 Senators in all. 

That's just one aspect of the Seanad that needs reform, there are many others too.  Nobody thinks the Seanad can survive as it currently is.  But I believe Enda Kenny is wrong to call for the abolition of the second chamber.  In parliamentary democracies, the upper chamber is always the modifier, the body that curbs the excesses of the lower house.  With no upper house, there is no body to oversee the lower house and curb it's excesses.  That is why that abolishing the Seanad is wrong, no matter what additional measures you might put in.  The upper chamber must be there to give legislation a more considered opinion, than the lower house can.  That's what it should be doing, and that is why I would recommend everybody in Ireland to vote against any move to abolish the upper chamber.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Making Sense: Protests in Turkey and Comparisons to Arab Spring

For about the past week, there have been protests going on in Instanbul, not Constantinople.  Originally, these protests began over plan to redevelop a park.  Gezi Park to be precise.  But it has turned into something quite different. 

Basically, the protestors right now are worried, worried for their freedoms, worried that secular Turkey, which is constituitionally secular, might be changed to an Islamist state in a new constitution.  It wouldn't be the first time that Turkey has had a new constitution.  The first one was back in 1873, then 1921, 1924, 1961, and finally, 1982, which is the current constitution of Turkey, which enshirnes into law, the fact that Tirkey is a secular and democratic republic which derives it's power from the people.

The constitution was the subject of a referendum in 2010, after Parliament failed to give constitutional amendments the necessary two thirds majority, although they did vote in favour.  The amendments were passed by the referendum.  Some people in Turkey have started to feel that Turkey's three time Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, of the conservative AKP party, may be moving towards turning Turkey into an Islamic state, and an authoritarian one, despite his denials.

That's what is really driving the current wave of protests in Istanbul, Ankara and other Turkish cities right now.  There have been calls for the Prime Minister to resign, which he has dismissed, but it is clear that the Prime Minister and the AKP has lost the confidence of at least some of the people. 

Some have compared this to the Arab Spring uprisings that happened back in 2011.  Whilst those comparisons are understamdable, I believe those comparisons are a little bit far fetched to be honest.  Those were protests in Islamic countries with autocratic governments.  As I stated earlier, Turkey is democratic, and secular.  It is so polar opposite, that the simialrities are literally only superficial ones.  Protestors taking over a local square and promising to stay there until their demands are met.  Sounds more like the Occupy movement. 

Undoubtedly though, this is a local problem within Turkey, and the AKP and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have got to listen to their own people.  Otherwise, they will be regarded as elitist and out of touch with the electorate that gave them their mandate, and that is a situation that few politicians ever recover from.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cornwall Independent councillor out-crazies the Tea Party.

I never thought that I'd see the day when a UK politician presented something crazier than the Tea Party Republicans do.  I even less expected to find that crazy UK politician within my own home county of Cornwall.  None the less, this year, it happened.  What's even crazier is that he resigned, re-stood for election, and got re-elected.  What's worse is that this politician is not a Conservative, not a member of UKIP or the ultra crazy BNP.

Oh no, this was an Independent councillor, unaffiliated with any major political party in the UK.  Sit back, relax, and listen to a cautionary tale from the other side of the big pond, about a Cornwall councillor, disabled children, and council spending.

First, we must add in some relevant context to this tale.  The UK Government is currently a coalition between the Conservatives, the UK equivalent of the Republicans, and The Liberal Democrats, a centre-left party not dissimiliar to the Democrats.  That's enough to make you think that coalition would never work, but surprisingly, more than halfway through the five year term, it's holding together.  Some activists in the UK have refered to it as a Con-Dem administration. 

However in Cornwall Council, these two parties have been on opposite sides of the chamber since 2009.  Conservatives once again were in coalition running the council, but this time, with a large group of independent councillors who held more seats than the Liberal Democrats.  Cornwall is one of the few counties in the UK where Independent, unaffiliated councillors form a major political force, and will often work together, almost like a political party.  The Liberal Democrats had been in charge of the previous county council from 2005 to 2009, but had been voted out of office for creating the current Unitary council, which combined the previous county council and 6 smaller district councils into one body.  So, after the 2009 local election, they were the opposition to the Conservative/Independent coalition, along with 3 Green Party councillors.

Our story involves one of the Independent councillors, from a ward called Wadebridge East.  His name is Collin Brewer, and he was elected relatively comfortably in 2009.  At the time of his election, nobody knew that he was going to become one of the most hated people in Cornish politics.  The incident that was to cause him to become the most hated man in Cornish politics happened in 2011 during an event at County Hall in Truro, the administrative capital of Cornwall. 

The event was a disability forum, and Mr Brewer was speaking to a member of the organisation Disability Cornwall.  Mr Brewer claimed that "...disabled children cost the council too much money and should be put down." 

Now, you'd think a comment that controversial would have been reported straight away.  Nope, it wasn't reported to the public until February 2013, almost 2 years after the incident happened.  Hey, I know the pace of life in Cornwall is a bit slower than in big cities, but not usually that slow!

However, the charity Disability Cornwall did complain to the council and the Standards Committee (yes, we actually have standards committees in UK politics, and they actually do hold people to acceptable standards.) reported its findings in February 2013.  After that report, there were many calls for Mr Brewer to stand down as a councillior.

Collin Brewer put up a vigourous defence, claiming that he wasn't being serious, he was only trying to provoke a discussion on the issue of service costs provision, during a time when central government grants to councils was being cut back, and regulations prevented them from raising all the money that had been cut through local taxes like council tax and business rates. 

Facebook was mobilised against him, a page that demanded his resignation garnered over 3600 likes.  He was told he was no longer welcome as part of the Independent group on Cornwall Council.

But finally on 28th February 2013, Collin Brewer finally realised his position was untenable, and he finally resigned admitting he was wrong, and that he would probably be apologising for it for the rest of his life.  He also said it was unlikely that he would stand in the local elections in May.  Now you might think that this would be the end of the story and 99 times out of 100, it would be.  But as Keith Olbermann once said about an unrelated story, "...this is the 100th time out of 100."

On the 5th of April, Collin Brewer announced that he would be restanding for the seat of Wadebirdge East that he had previously held, in the May local elections, once again, as an Independent.  In 2009, he had been one of four candidates, but this time, he was up against 5 other candidates, one an Independent also, the other four represented four of the political parties in the UK.  Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party).  He stated that the decision was a response to local people who had asked him to stand again.

During the election campaign, the movement that had gotten him out of office, suddenly coalesced again, this time to persuade people not to elect him.

On my own Viewpoint blog, I highlighted the Wadebridge East ward as one of the stories to watch for that night.  I didn't know if Collin Brewer was going to be re-elected, but I suspected it would be close.  I thought it was too soon for him to have been forgiven for his comments, but I did wonder if he might have persuaded enough people that he hadn't meant what he said.

Come the following day, it was discovered he had won his seat back, by just 4 votes.  4 measley little votes gave him victory, a victory that he certainly hadn't deserved, nor should he have been allowed to earn.  Disability Cornwall's chairman Steve Paget was "staggered" and "appalled" at the result.  Almost immediately, the movement that had gotten him out once before, went into overdrive, in order to drive him out once again. 

In the less than 3 weeks since his election victory, there have been a number of protests and tons of calls for him to resign once again.  The leaders of all the political groups in the new council, Liberal Democrat, Independent, Conservative, Labour, Greens, even UKIP, have all called on him to stand down.  The new leader of the Independent group, now in coalition with the Liberal Democrats on the new council, has taken the same decision, and said that Collin Brewer is not welcome as part of the Independent block.  Collin Brewer is a councillor with no support at all in council.

But even that might not be enough to unseat him, now he feels he has a mandate for his views and an electorate behind him.   He has gone one stage further now, in an interview with the Disability News Service, he linked the killing of disabled babies, to farmers killing deformed lambs, a situation that had occured recently due to a disease that was causing many lambs to be born with deformed limbs.  Devon and Cornwall Police are investigating complaints about this interview, and more complaints are expected to be lodged with the police.  Cornwall Council are also investigating.

As far as my research goes, no Republican has ever dared to suggest such an idea.  If you do know different, let me know and point me in the direction of where it was said, I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

So you see, political crazies are not limited to the extreme right wing, they can appear from almost anywhere, even those unaffiliated with any political party or movement.  Remain alert everyone, and watch out, for you never know when a political crazy will suddenly rear it's ugly head.

(Cross posted on my Daily Kos diary.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Viewpoint Extra: Woolwich murder

As a follow up to my post, I am glad to see that at least one politician agrees with me about not allowing fear to win, and even quotes the Koran verse 32 chapter 5 in showing how Islam is not a violent religion...

"If anyone kills a human being it shall be as though he killed all mankind whereas if anyone saves a life it shall be as though he saved the whole of mankind."

The full story is here.

Thank you, Nick Clegg, for being a voice of sanity within the madness.

Woolwich Murder and the problems of using the wrong word.

It's no secret that a lot of us have felt something in the wake of a soldier being murdered just outside of Woolwich Barracks in South London.  The story has some unique oddities to it anyway.  No criminal of any kind hangs around waiting for the Police to pick them up, and only the dumbest think that the police will kill them rather than capturing them.  Also, not since the days of the Northern Ireland troubles have the armed forces been a regular target for murder in this country.  So, this is an unusual case all told.

But the media, especially the press, and parts of social media have been bandying about the words "terrorist" and "terrorism" in relation to this murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, a member of the 2nd Batallion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. 

It is far too easy to use the words terrorist and terrorism, in situations where we just don't know the full back story.  The security services had picked up one of the suspects before, and one is believed to have converted to Islam.  However, no killing done in anyones name, never mind the name of God, is justified.  Calling it terrorism, or the perpetrators terrorists, is giving credence and credibility to their complaints, which is the last thing you need to do.  In some cases, it might actually glorify their actions and their motives, and that is a definite no-no.

And just as bad, is several facebook postings that crop up all over the social network from pages and organisations with agendas of their own, shared by well meaning people who do not realise what these postings really mean.  Some of these posts that get shared espouse racial hatrid, contain statements attributed to politicians that were in fact never made by those politicians, and do nothing to help solve the real problems of the world.  In fact, some of these posts are borderline incitement to violence against other people.  Be very careful what you share, some of these posts are close to or borderline illegal.

What happened was a murder.  That is emotive enough.  Calling it terrorism is too emotive, it provokes fear and anger, which is exactly what these people want.  They want us to be afraid, they want us to be angry.  It's irresponsible, especially for this Conservative government and the media, to do the radical's job for them.  They should be more responsible and not use over-emotive words, that do the radical's bidding.  For the Conservative government, that's their modus operandi, provoke fear, emotionalise everything, divide and conquer. For the media, it's all about sales, ratings, numbers. They think emotionalising the story will get better ratings, more sales.

The best thing to do, is actually to de-emotionalise and de-editorialise this story.  It was a murder.  The murder victim was a serving soldier, two men charged at police, they were arrested.  Those are the pure undiluted facts.  Calling it terrorism, or butchery as one columnist in the Telegraph did, is emotionalising and editorialising the story.  Now a newspaper columnist can do that if they want.  But if they feel like they should do things like that, then do it about a week or so afterwards, not in the relatively immediate aftermath, up to 72 hours after the event.  

The English Defence League amongst others are not helping this whole situation by declaring war on extremist preachers of Islam.  That will do nothing to decrease tensions.

In short, never call it terrorism.  Never call them terrorists.  You will give them what they want.