Sunday, October 05, 2014

Gold Star Award: The Independent On Sunday

Up until now, I’ve only handed out “awards” for the worst, and the things that are wrong, but it is often better to reward the things that are right, or excellent.  So with that in mind, I’ve decided to hand out some much more positive awards here on Viewpoint, and it starts today, with a Gold Star Award, which I will hand out to individuals or companies who do something truly right, something exceptional, something that exceeds expectations, and is worth rewarding.

GoldStarAward

Today’s Gold Star Award winner is the Independent on Sunday, for their perfect front page today covering the murder of Alan Henning by extremists.  I could describe it, but I think the brilliance of it, can only be demonstrated by showing you the front page itself.

indy20141005

Now, how’s that for dealing with propaganda?  I’d say, that’s the perfect way to do it.  Congratulations, the team behind this wonderful front page of The Independent On Sunday, you win Viewpoint’s first ever Gold Star Award, and richly deserved it is too.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

A “feminist” doesn’t understand what chivalry is.

A friend of mine shared an article with me and her other friends which made a case that chivalry had to die, as it was demeaning to women.  As I read it, I realised that it wasn’t full of facts and truth, but full of misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

So, for the benefit of all readers out there, allow a male feminist to review Abigail Collazo’s article, and show you where exactly the article goes wrong, and we don’t have to look very far at all.

“Like most women, I believe my male friends to be nice people.  They don’t catcall or sexually harass women on the street, they are thoughtful and sweet, and they believe in women’s equality and gender justice like good progressives.”

Oh dear.  This is a bad start.  When the article goes immediately onto the defensive like this, it is never a good sign.

“…And so I give them on break on chivalry, because I know that they don’t mean anything by it.”

You, give men a break for being chivalrous?  How awfully decent of you.  Or perhaps I should I say, how utterly condescending of you.

You feel that accepting chivalry is beneath you?  That’s the very definition of female supremacy there, and not the good kind either, but the kind that mislabels itself as feminism and gives feminism a bad name.  And as if my point needs proving, you prove it for me later in the same article.

“…It is exceptionally rare that a man will walk into or out of an elevator before me.  In fact, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten used to it.  When the doors open, I immediately start walking in or out without a second’s thought as to why I am automatically, almost subconsciously, determining that I am the more important person and should have the right to go first.  Realizing this, I am actually starting to enjoy the very startled look on men’s faces as I don’t step forward first, or even (heaven help them), say “after you” and wait for them.”

Exhibit A, right there.

“…Just as I’ve become accustomed to receiving chivalry, men have become accustomed to extending it.

Why?  Because it’s what nice boys do.  What good men do.

Which is exactly why chivalry is dangerous.  Because it blankets itself as courtesy while concealing a dramatic assertion of inequality between the sexes.  There’s no way around it – chivalry is about viewing women as fragile, delicate creatures who need special protection, special consideration, and special treatment…”

Completely wrong.

Here is how the Concise Oxford Dictionary, defines “chivalry”.

1. the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral, and social code.

2. archaic knights, noblemen and horsemen collectively.

3. the qualities expected of ideal knight, especially courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.

> courteous behaviour, especially that of a man towards a woman.

Notice the bit I’ve highlighted.  Courteous behaviour.  Also note, it says especially, but not exclusively.  A woman can be chivalrous to a man, it is not a one way street. 

Also, the reference to the medieval knightly system, is the same system that was referenced in the article itself.

“The Knight’s Code of Chivalry was a moral system that stated all knights should protect others who can not protect themselves, such as widows, children, and elders. All knights needed to have the strength and skills to fight wars in the Middle Ages. Knights not only had to be strong but they were also extremely disciplined and were expected to use their power to protect the weak and defenceless. Knights vowed to be loyal, generous, and “noble bearing”. Knights were required to tell the truth at all times and always respect the honour of women. Knights not only vowed to protect the weak but also vowed to guard the honour of all fellow knights. They always had to obey those who were placed in authority and were never allowed to refuse a challenge from an equal. Knights lived by honor and for glory. Knights were to fear God and maintain His Church. Knights always kept their faith and never turned their back on a foe. Knights despised pecuniary reward. They persevered to the end in any enterprise begun. The main vow from the knights was that they shall fight for the welfare of all.”

Again, notice that nowhere in there does it talk about demeaning women, but about respecting the honour of women.  That’s the key word here, respect.  Chivalry is about courteousness, about respect, not about demeaning women.

To prove that the article writer doesn’t understand what chivalry truly is, allow me to present Exhibit B…

“…Because here’s the thing: there is a difference between being chivalrous and being nice.  Being nice is expressing or demonstrating consideration for another person – something that I agree all people should do for all other people.  Holding doors open for people, for example, is being nice.  Allowing someone else to go in front of you in an elevator, picking up something someone has dropped – these are all nice things to do for others, regardless of gender.  Holding a door open for a woman because she’s a woman is not just being nice – it’s being chivalrous.  It means that for some reason you believe a woman deserves this extra courtesy.  That she is special.”

The writer believes there is a difference between being courteous, and being chivalrous.  In fact, they are one and the same.  There is no difference.

“Ah…” I hear you cry, “I see a fatal flaw in your argument, and it is in the dictionary definition.”  And then you present…

3. the qualities expected of ideal knight, especially courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.

“There.” you say, “Because society views men as strong and women as weak, that proves that chivalry is demeaning to women.”

No.  It doesn’t.

All it proves is that you bought into the myth, that women are the inferior sex.  I have known some women who are emotionally very strong, and some women who are physically very strong, strong enough to possibly break me in half.  I’ve also known men who are emotionally weak, and men who are physically weak as well.  The idea that men are strong and women are weak, is a myth and it has been BUSTED.  Busted flat.

Ironically, the article writer managed to defeat her own argument, in her own article.  I present Exhibit C…

“…Chivalry was a code wherein a knight promised to defend and protect the weak, the helpless, and the vulnerable.  To act graciously, to be generous and truthful.  Frankly, these are traits that I think all honorable people should strive for – not just men.  And such behavior is certainly not mutually inclusive with special protection and courtesy for women.”

You see.  You had the definition of what you are supposedly against, right there, and you said it was a good thing, that all people should strive for.  What is so bad about chivalry?

Unfortunately then, you revert to back to the wrong narrative…

“…We may say that common courtesy is something we should all strive for – being polite and helpful and respectful to each other just because it’s the nice thing to do.  But gender constructs and stereotypes – the ones that tell men they should never need help or women that they always deserve princess treatment – are getting in the way.  We all contribute, we’re all responsible, and we all need to be more aware.

The chivalric code was written at a time when women’s agency and equality and abilities were not even questioned – they simply didn’t exist.  We’ve come so far since then.  Isn’t it time we updated the meaning of the word chivalry to consider the autonomy and capabilities of women that we’ve fought for so long to be recognized?  Isn’t it time women gave up the benefits of chivalry for our right to be treated as capable beings?”

Ah, but then men would have to give up the benefit of chivalry as well, and a chivalrous man, is regarded in much better terms by women, than the douchebags, you actually admitted that at the start of article, albeit in a somewhat demeaning manner.

Chivalry is all about courteousness, about respect.  In a sense, it is gender equality.  It is not about women being superior to men, or men being superior to women, but it is about men and women being equals.  You see, chivalry doesn’t just have to be from a man to a woman, but it can also be from a woman to a man, from a man to another man, or from a woman to another woman.  The same also applies between men, women and transgendered people.  Chivalry is courteousness, and courteousness is chivalry.  There has never been any difference between them, and there never will be, except in the minds of those who think women are better than men. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Bill Moyers retirement: Thank you for the inspiration.

billmoyersBill Moyers may be an unfamiliar name to a lot of people in the UK, but he is a very familiar name to me.

I first encountered him as the main presenter of a series called Now with Bill Moyers in 2002, but he became the victim of a conspiracy in 2004 to have him removed from the show, because the neo-conservatives who were in power in Congress and the Whitehouse, didn’t like the way that Bill Moyers took them on.  So Bill Moyers left the show in 2005.

But he didn’t stay away for very long.  He brought back an old show, Bill Moyers Journal, in 2007, and used it to champion causes of social justice, voting rights, and many other progressive issues.

He tried to retire in 2010, but was encouraged back to do a new show, Moyers & Company, in 2012.  It was supposed to last 2 years, but once again, he was encouraged to stay on.  Now, at 80 years old, he’s decided that it’s time to hang up his microphone, notebook and pen, and actually retire.

Bill is one of those people who helped me to refine my writing and commentary style, along with Keith Olbermann.  Through reading, watching and listening to his work, I found his essay commentaries to be incredibly well written, well researched and had a distinctive voice that made me want to up my game, in a similar but slightly different way to how the writings and commentaries of Keith Olbermann.  Keith inspired me to use humour in my writings more than I had done previously.  Bill inspired me to to research the heck out of subject before writing about it, not just the cold factual research, but also the well thought-out individual perspectives as well.

Recent personal history has reminded me that cold factual research only tells half the story, and as much as I like to get to the cold hard facts and away from the emotional, and often very personal responses of people, it is the personal perspectives from people’s own experiences, that often offer up unexpected facts and unseen viewpoints that can completely change how a subject is viewed.  One thing I want to do here on The Viewpoint Blog, is get some more individual perspectives in, and I’m looking at ways to do that, such as interviews, podcasts, videos and maybe even guest posts from contributors.  More on that in due time.

So thank you, Bill Moyers, not just for all your hard work over the years, but also for helping to inspire a new generations of writers and commentators, just like me.  If I can be just 1/10th of the journalist that you have been, I will be a very happy man.

Viewpoint Extra: John McNulty & The Seanad

In a post on Monday, I referenced a scandal that had been breaking for a while over a prospective candidate for the Seanad, the upper house of Ireland’s parliament, called John McNulty, who was standing for the Fine Gael party. 

Well yesterday, John McNulty, withdrew his candidacy for the Seanad.  There’s one problem though, the ballot papers have already been printed, so his name can’t actually be removed from the ballot.

Fair enough, there is a situation where he could be elected, but if that ends up happening, all he’d have to do is announce a resignation, and there would be a new ballot held for that seat, simple enough.

The whole situation was a mess.  But I fully expect that Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin will try to milk this for everything it’s worth, but as it has no worth at all, and as I said on Monday, political points are worthless and meaningless, I don’t see this causing Enda Kenny any further problems.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sun Media finally show some responsibility... maybe…

It was back on 13th September that Sun News Network crossed a line that they’ve crossed about a million times before, but something about this was different.

It was on their show “The Source with Ezra Levant”, that Ezra made his big mistake.

The response to that commentary was different to anything else.  Trudeau has long been a favourite target of Sun News presenters for commentary and ridicule, but this was something else.  This was a personal attack, both on him and his father.  Not the first and probably won’t be the last, but Justin Trudeau decided that enough was enough and that he was going to boycott Sun Media journalists until the company apologised.

This boycott almost backfired on him spectacularly, as the following video, also from Sun News Network, in this case their “Byline with Brian Lilley” programme, demonstrates.

Okay, so maybe there’s a bit of desperation about the boycott by Trudeau, but the question is serious enough to possibly cause trouble.  However, it didn’t and Sun News Network is now about to apologise for Ezra Levant’s completely irresponsible rant.

Congratulations, Sun Media Corporation.  You finally learned a little lesson about media responsibility, finally, almost too late to matter, almost too little a lesson to really have any meaning, but you have learned it.

Aww, who the heck do I think I’m kidding???  Of course they haven’t learned their lesson, they’re just so desperate to get Justin Trudeau to answer their questions that they will do whatever he wants to try to get him to end his boycott.  After all, you can’t keep crying all the time about the fact that the Liberal Party leader, and possibly the next Canadian Prime Minister, is refusing to answer your one sided, conservative-biased, moronic questions that are actually bad attempts at traps to try to trip up Trudeau and keep Stephen Harper in office for as long as you can.

You really don’t deserve to have the ability to call yourself a news network.  That’s not a complaint about bias, by the way, that’s a matter of definition.  Sun News Network doesn’t have a news programme in it’s primetime line-up, they are all opinion shows. 

BATTLEGROUND: An opinion show all about politics, especially favouring conservative politics.  5pm to 6pm ET.

BYLINE: An opinion show on stories you won’t find on any other channel, because no other channel is dumb enough to report propaganda.  6pm to 7pm, repeated 9pm to 10pm.

THE ARENA: They say the show presents “…strong balanced opinions to challenge conventional thinking…”.  I say the show presents opinions that have been balanced on the edge of a cliff in order to challenge gravity(!).  100% of the time, gravity wins.  7pm to 8pm.

THE SOURCE: Ezra Levant basically lets rip on anything and everything that his extreme conservative sensibilities find abhorrent, which to be honest, is pretty much everything.  8pm to 9pm, repeated 10pm to 11pm.

It’s not merely the opinions that I object to, it’s the irresponsible attitude behind them that leads them to think they can say anything they like without actually worrying about the response from the people they attack.  They think they can copy the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, forgetting that they do not live in the United States and as such do not have those first amendment rights, and even then, I would define freedom of speech separately from having the right to spew hatred, lies and propaganda.  It’s fine to have opinions, based on facts, but you can’t make up your own facts, based on nothing but your own opinions, which are not based on any facts.

When any media organisation thinks that they can make up their own facts to advance their own agenda, they make themselves many things, a laughing stock, irrelevant, disconnected from actuality, and they end up also exposing themselves as liars, propagandists, and haters.

Sun News Network is one of a number of channels and organisations who have no concept of how to be a responsible media platform.  Fox News Channel, and their sister business station, Fox Business, and sister newspaper The New York Post are the obvious and long time examples of irresponsible media, and in the UK, tabloids like The Sun, Daily Star, Daily Express and Daily Mail, are the very definition of irresponsible media, but in Canada, the Sun News Network, and their associated newspapers, like The Toronto Sun, and the Calgary Sun, are also the definition of irresponsible media.  Internationally, you can also add Press TV in Iran and Russia Today to the list of irresponsible media, and there are no doubt one or two others that I have yet to encounter.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Strictly Politics: Reckless move sees backlash.

StrictlyPoliticsWestminsterGraphic

Yesterday, Mark Reckless was a Conservative MP for the constituency of Rochester & Strood.  Today, he’s the probable UKIP candidate for the seat, in a by-election that could be happening in November.

Just like his name, his move to join UKIP and resign as a Conservative MP, was Reckless.  There’s no guarantee that he will get re-elected.  In fact, based upon what happened earlier today in Rochester, Mark Reckless, might have committed a reckless move of political suicide, by joining UKIP.

Channel 4 News political correspondent Michael Crick, has written about what was supposed to be the former MP’s triumphant return to Rochester with Nigel Farage, and the fact that it turned into a roasting for Reckless, at the hands of a local Conservative constituency organisation that had revenge and vengeance on their minds.

Most of what Reckless heard were Conservative activists who were unsurprisingly disgusted at what he’d done, and gave him a piece of their minds, and there were a lot of those.  Mark Reckless, could well have defected himself out of a job, that he could have held onto for about 8 or 9 more months.

Michael also raises a good point about Labour here.  Should they run a campaign here or let Tories and UKIP fight it out between themselves?  To me, the answer is obvious.  Yes, they should run a campaign in Rochester & Strood and run it hard.  After all, until 2010, it had been a Labour seat.  Reckless may well pull a group of voters to UKIP with him, and hopefully, it will split the right wing vote enough for Labour, or some other party if Labour don’t feel up to it, to go in and potentially win the vote. The Green Party would be a good party to get behind right now, if they decide to submit a candidate.

There have been comparisons made with the final days of John Major’s government in the mid 1990s.  In some ways, this is worse, as the Referendum Party was at the time, an untried, untested movement in electoral terms.  UKIP are tried and tested, and have won some seats, mainly at the council level, but also in the European Parliament.  Some people are expecting UKIP to win at least a seat at the UK General Election next year.  I expect that UKIP won’t win a seat, but their very presence will probably mean the Conservatives will lose seats, mostly to Labour.

Overall, this weekend may have proved that political defections are fraught with danger and if you make a Reckless move, you may just end up paying the penalty.  You have to wonder who was the more reckless, Mark Reckless or Nigel Farage?

Fair Or Foul: A new type of post here on Viewpoint.

We’re making some changes to our blog, and introducing different styles of posts here at Viewpoint.  One of these, is the one I’m going to introduce to you right here, it’s called Fair Or Foul, and it goes like this.

I will post about some of the stories that have caught my attention, either the story, a statement from a company, or a quote from a person, or something similar, and I will rate them on the following scale.

FAIR – The story, quote or statement is fair or seems to be fair.

FOUL – The story, quote or statement is not fair, but it’s not a serious foul, there’s nothing egregious about it.

FOUL, Yellow Card – The story, quote or statement is not fair, and is serious enough to earn a Yellow Card warning for unfairness.

FOUL, Red Card – The story, quote or statement is so unfair, egregiously so, that it would warrant a ‘sending off’.

After each rating, I will explain what about the story, quote or statement has persuaded me to give them that rating.

So, having explained all that, let me give you a few examples so you get how the ‘game’ is played.

FairOrFoul

BBC News: Young people out of work for more than six months face losing access to jobseeker's allowance (JSA) if the Conservatives win the next election.  Fair or Foul?

FOUL, Red Card.

No two ways about it, this is a red card offence.  The Conservatives have been trying to force people to work for their dole money for years now, and every time they come out with this idea, it gets so much grief, and rightfully so, that they have to hide it away again until they can find another way to dress it up and try to make it look respectable.

There’s nothing respectable about underpaying for people doing work, especially "community projects", which is Tory code, for menial jobs that they wouldn’t be prepared to do themselves.  Good leaders, lead by example, not by forcing people to work for their benefits, and effectively working to criminalise unemployment.  This all stems from having the basic attitude of “those who can’t find work are basically workshy and don’t want to work”.  That isn’t necessarily the case at all, but because of programmes like Benefits Street, where you encountered people who went around with the attitude of “Oh, the world owes me a living.”, you’ve ended up with the public having a very distorted view of what it means to be unemployed.  And the Tories are trying to take advantage of that, to criminalise the unemployed.  That will not win you votes, especially from those who ARE unemployed, or who have recently been unemployed, whether they have found a job, or gone the self employed route.

The Tories should just drop this whole idea of criminalising the unemployed, and instead try to find ways to enable easier startup of small businesses, and cut the massive amounts of red tape out of small business startup and self-employment.  It will be more beneficial, than criminalising people because they haven’t got a job.

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Emma Watson: “It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. We should stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are.”  Fair or Foul?

FAIR

Emma Watson on Saturday launched a campaign called HeForShe at the United Nations in New York, which aims to promote gender equality to men, and change the perspective of feminism from being seen as one about hating men, to one about gender equality.

I can honestly say that I have always thought that feminism was about equality, not about man-hating, which is something completely different, despite what misogynists like Rush Limbaugh think and say on the air.  Gender equality is something we should all get behind.  I have made my commitment, I urge all men to do the same, go to the website, and take a stand for gender equality.

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Micheal Murphy TD: “What exactly is he apologising for?  Is the Taoiseach now admitting that he instructed Minister Heather Humphreys to appoint Mr McNulty in support of his Seanad candidacy?… …This goes to the heart of the scandal and requires a full statement in Dáil Éireann from the Taoiseach outlining the entire sequence of events from the beginning to the end of this shabby affair."  Fair or Foul?

FOUL

This is just another example of politics as usual that you can find almost anywhere around the world.  In this case, the contretemps is over the appointment of prospective Fine Gael senator to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.  The thought is that the appointment was done to help his Senatorial candidacy.  The accusation is basically cronyism.  But we have seen this accusation thrown about so many times, in many different countries, and really, what would a statement in Dail Eireann really do, other than just give Michael Murphy a chance to try to humiliate the Taoiseach, and score more political points, which are ultimately, meaningless? 

I’ve said this many times, but politics should be about problem solving, not point scoring.  It should be about coming together in the centre, not pulling people to the extremities.  Instead of becoming two tribes, we should be coming together as human beings.  I’m often reminded of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood song, Two Tribes, from 1984, the video of which featured impersonators of US President Ronald Reagan, and Soviet premier Konstantin Chernenko brawling and wrestling each other in front of a rabid crowd.  But one lyric from that song keep coming back to me in these situations.

“When two tribes go to war, a point is all that you can score.”

And political points, are worthless and meaningless.

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The Local: The Spanish government has said Catalonia would not be allowed to hold an independence referendum, shortly after the region's leader set a November 9 date for the vote.  Fair or Foul?

FOUL, Yellow Card.

Apparently, the Spanish Government has forgotten what kind of country it is governing.  It is a country made up of 19 autonomous regions, two of those are cities.  Each autonomous region has their own parliament, can make their own laws, and each is a democracy of its own. 

Catalonia is one of a few autonomous regions that has significantly more powers than most other regions, amongst those powers, is for the regional president to dissolve parliament and call elections, and if Catalonia is blocked from holding a referendum on independence, it could well be that Catalonia turns it into an election issue, and make independence the centrepiece of an election campaign, and for the Spanish national government, that would be a much bigger headache, than a mere referendum.

The Spanish government, look like they’re afraid that they are going to lose, and that might be true, but instead of looking like scaredy-cats, and running to the Spanish Constitutional Court to get the vote ruled unconstitutional, which is what they’ll try and do, they should actually let the vote happen, and let things take their course, and if something goes wrong, be ready to welcome them back into the Spanish fold with open arms.  This is starting to look like an enforced empire, rather than a collective of people that want to work together.  And by extension, it is also making the European Union look like an attempt at empire building, rather than the Community that it was when the UK joined in 1973.   

In saying that “…no-one is above the national will of all Spaniards…”, you look like enforcers of something that maybe, the people of Catalonia don’t want anymore, and maybe, other regions of Spain, might not like it either, and might not want to be a part of it.  If you cannot respect the will of the Catalonian people, why should other regions want to be part of Spain either?  You do yourself no favours by starting to appear dictatorial, rather than democratic.

Hence, the yellow card, as a warning that trying to dictate what can and can’t be done, by a democratic, devolved region of your own country, is likely to lead to the breakup, not just of Spain, but potentially of other countries too, and possibly by extension, the breakup of the European Union, as people decide they don’t want to be a part of any elected government, that decides it can become dictatorial when it likes.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland Votes 2014: Result and Aftermath

ScotlandVotesUnion

Well, by 5am this morning, we knew that Scotland had voted no to independence, and there was a huge sigh of relief from the No camp, and a huge groan of disappointment from the Yes camp. 

The final result after all 32 council areas had declared was…

ScottishVoteResult2014

On a personal note, I had been of mixed emotions throughout this referendum campaign.  Part of me was sad at the thought of breaking up the UK, especially as it was starting to feel more like a bitter divorce than an amicable separation, but part of me was excited at the prospect of Scotland becoming an independent country and all the associated things that would change with it, such as the changes to the media in Scotland.  Upon seeing that the result was going to be no, I was still of mixed emotions.  Relief was there, but there was a lot more disappointment.  I would have loved to see how Scotland would have developed as an independent nation.

But putting my disappointment aside, we now have a situation where we know there is a large movement for change, 45% of those who voted prove that, and that kind of support for change can’t be denied or ignored.  So maybe we’ll start to see a move towards a more federal UK.  Maybe we’ll see Yorkshire, Cornwall, Wessex and other areas become autonomous regions within the UK as a whole. 

But one thing we won’t see will be Alex Salmond as Scottish First Minister for much longer.  He decided that today’s result was the end for him, as the First Minister of a devolved Scotland, and as leader of the SNP, the Scottish Nationalist Party.  He will stand down in November, when a new leader of the SNP is elected, and therefore, a new Scottish First Minister.  Nicola Sturgeon, current Deputy First Minister, is the obvious favourite.

One thing this referendum has undoubtedly done, is to release the devolution genie from the bottle for parts of England, as well as reinvigiorate it for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  It will not be business as usual, ever again.  The idea of a parliament for England has been put forward, and some have linked the idea to House of Lords reform.  Now, to be honest, any one of these issues on their own is enough to stall a government or cause ructions in the Palace of Westminster.  But to try to put all this together, before the next election, sounds like a bridge too far.  It sounds like a rushed job, rather than what is needed, which is time to go through the options and decide what works best. 

Overall, yes, this is the beginning of big change within the UK, but will it be the right change that is needed, or a rushed change that could do more damage than good?  Only time will tell.

Scotland Votes 2014: First Result…

ScottishIndependenceRefendum

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.