Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Balls Up

Poor Ed Balls. He should have stuck to being a financial adviser. As someone responsible for the nation’s youth, he is an obvious disaster.

His Oscar-winning piece of stupidity was the recent legislation to make half the population undergo a test to prove they were not paedophiles. Such a test would be imposed on anyone who, as I do, performs shows to children in schools. Quite how a poet performing a show to an audience of 400 children in a school hall is likely to have an opportunity of practising paedophilia was not gone into. I’m surprised this demonstration of above normal subnormality by one of our cretinous politicians did not inspire a Ken Russell movie, an over-the-top demonstration of in flagrante perversion, perhaps with a Busby Berkeley dancing chorus .

Of course we poets and writers protested. We did not have much hope our protest would succeed. We accepted that we would lumbered with a further piece of incompetent bureaucracy.

But we are professionals: coping with CRB’s and ISA’s would be just one more irritation. What was obvious to everyone except poor old Balls Up, was that his ridiculous piece of legislation was telling the volunteers of Britain “No. Do not on any account volunteer to run a boys’ choir, be a scoutmaster, coach friendly football, take your mate’s kids for a walk, give a lift to an injured boy or girl stranded at the side of a mountain road.” In other words, do not perform any act of kindness whatsoever to a young person: if you do, some busybody will report you to the police, and your career and personal life may be irreparably damaged.

Our distorted sick culture is damaging the national psyche. Ten years ago, if, walking along a road or a station platform, I overtook a woman carrying a suitcase, I would always offer to carry the suitcase for as long as the two of us were going in the same direction. Now I mostly hesitate, in case I am accused of rape.

Yes, a sick culture. But this Balls Up offers us a glimmer of hope. People protested a lot at Balls’ balls up. And – Wowee! Wowee! – Balls has back-tracked, and his stupid legislation has been emasculated.

So it does make a difference. We, as citizens, have to take note that 95% of the decisions taken by politicians are wrong. We have to tell the politicians what we think of their stupidity, and tell them repeatedly. It’s hard work, but it may be worth it if we manage to change our political system a little for the better.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


We have now heard President Obama is sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and HOPES to be able to withdraw in 2011. We have also heard this will cost a further 30 billion dollars on top of the already vast US Defence budget.

What could we not do with 30 billion dollars to provide defences against terrorism in the United States and Britain?

Our first defence against terrorism is an obvious one: find ways of not needing so much oil, and therefore not needing to fight wars in the Middle East to obtain oil.

How many people have heard of Malcolm McCullough? Not many, I guess.

Malcolm McCullough has built a sports car. At the 2008 Geneva Motor Show it achieved acceleration 0 – 60 mph in 7 seconds, and had a range of 250 miles, with fuel consumption equivalent to 150 miles per gallon. Yes, of course, it runs on hydrogen. Each of its four wheels has an electric motor. Electric cars have come a long way from the milk floats we all remember. Malcolm McCullough accepted the challenge of building an electric car which would compete seriously with the best petrol-driven cars.

The 2008 Motor Show. 2008. Eighteen months ago. Why have I only heard of this eighteen months afterwards - in a specialised journal?

”A team of five final year students from Kingston University,have designed and developed an electric motorcycle to compete in the Isle of Man TTXGP Grand Prix, the first ever zero emissions Grand Prix.The Isle of Man is probably the most famous
road race for motorcycles in the world and the race is open to teams from
across the globe. The Kingston students developed several innovative design
solutions to give them the edge against the more established and well funded
factory teams.” This notice came to me today in the bulletin of the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute.

Malcolm McCullough and the Kingston students are not alone. There are a fair number of engineers working with considerable success on building cars and motor bikes which will use electric engines, fuelled by hydrogen. The only waste product from Malcolm McCullough’s car is water. It emits no carbon dioxide; it makes no contribution to global warming.

It showed its paces at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. Why in the name of all we cherish about our precious, fragile, planet, was Malcolm McCullough’s name not trumpeted across the media. Why in the name of sanity, is there not one sane woman or man in the gaggle of mental retards who inhabit the Houses of Parliament and the American Congress to propose funding the rapid building of cars and motor bikes along these lines?

What could not be done with even a small proportion of that 30 billion dollars which is going to be spent on blowing up Afghans?

Yesterday, I posted a blog praising Eddie Stobart for sending as much as possible of his freight by rail not road.

Suppose we could divert some of that 30 billion dollars from blowing up Afghans, and spend it on building a railway system, even if not good enough for a first world country, at least for the third world country which, thanks to our politicians, Britain is rapidly becoming?

War is expensive, in lives, in maimed personalities, in cash. Peace is also expensive, but it’s a more exciting adventure.

Vote for Peace - and that means spending cash on peace.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

In praise of Edddie Stobart

The news this morning, December 1st 2009, mentioned Denby Transport launching a truck 80 feet long on British roads. Let us celebrate this apocolocyntosis of transport policy. Denby, admittedly, are trying to maintain that an 80 foot truck will cause less carbon dioxide pollution than two trucks 40 feet long. Perhaps. But that is not the point.

In case readers are unfamiliar with the word apocolocyntosis, it refers to a satire on one of the Roman emperors. Instead of undergoing apotheosis and becoming a god, he undergoes apocolocyntosis and becomes a pumpkin. I guess many of us would reckon pumpkins would be better at planning Transport for Britain than the present officials in charge.

The trucks which are now ploughing up British roads, even the motorways, should not have been brought into existence. The goods which they carry should travel on railways.

But Britain, possesses a railway system appropriate, not to a third world country, not to a fourth world country, but to a fifth world country, a country governed by certifiable freaks, blind, deaf, and insane. No, one might excuse such people. But our politicians, acting like certifiable freaks, blind, deaf, and insane, claim to be in possession of their wits.

If Britain had a reasonably effective railway system, one which could carry freight, Britain’ s contribution to carbon dioxide emissions and global warming would be hugely reduced.

There is an extremely silly commercial on the television at the moment, which challenges us all to “drive five miles less every week.” Extremely silly, because it’s like New Year resolutions. Sure, we can all say “Yes, I’ll drive five miles less this week”, and possibly we will drive five miles less. Possibly we’ll even do so for the next week. And then the various pressures on us to use our cars will return, and we shall go back to our usual mileage. How else can someone in the country, with no available public transport, get to work?

Eddie Stobart runs a trucking business. I’ve never met Eddie Stobart. But he endears himself to road users by his custom of dedicating each of his trucks to a girl, and putting her as an emblem on the truck front. The problem is that motorists passing a Stobart truck may crane their necks dangerously trying to see whether the Eddie girl is a Dawn or a Cheryl.

A while ago, we noticed far fewer Eddie Stobart trucks on the road. Why? Eddie announced he was sending his stuff by rail. This even applied to freight from the continent. Well done, Eddie. It seemed as if this would be feasible.

Admittedly, we now do see Eddie Stobart trucks on the road again. But Eddie’s website proudly proclaims the frequency of his freight train services, and the amount of goods he does ship by train.

Trying to drive a few miles less each week is a worthy aim. But it is a gesture only. What we need to do is to persuade other haulage firms to behave like Eddie Stobart and force the railways to accept their freight. If all the haulage firms in Britain were like Eddie Stobart …

If all the haulage firms in Britain bombarded the railways with requests …

Well, perhaps then in thirty years' time, when the sea level has risen by the height of a tallish man, and floods like the recent ones in Cockermouth are regular occurrences, perhaps then something might be done ...

We need to remember that our politicians are not sane sensible people with whom we can discuss issues. They are like squabbling children in a playground, and we, the people of Britain, must behave like old-fashioned disciplinarian teachers, and shout at them to stop messing about and get back to work.

Return to Vietnam

Return to Vietnam
President Obama is sending 30,000 (or more) additional soldiers to fight his unwinnable war in Afghanistan. The BBC Today Programme this morning, December 1st 2009, broadcast an extract from a 1965 speech by President Lyndon Johnson as he prepared to send 40 battalions or so to Vietnam. Johnson had recently won a convincing presidential election and was at the height of his popularity. History now excoriates Johnson for the mess of Vietnam, and the accompanying demoralisation of the United States. President Obama has recently won a convincing presidential election and is still nearly at the height of his popularity.
The Johnson speech, quoted on the Today Programme, is horribly similar to what Obama is now saying.
What can we can do, but beg President Obama not to destroy his reputation as Lyndon Johnson destroyed his.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Is there a cellar in the House of Commons?

Is there a cellar in the House of Commons? If so, does it have a huge lock and key? If so, why can we not lock all the politicians inside, and sound-proof the building so we cannot hear them mouthing their platitudes?

Would any normal person behave with the stupidity of a politician?

Alan Johnson,www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/.../alan-johnson our mentally retarded Home Secretary, has sacked Professor David Nutt, his Chief Drug Adviser,www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/.../alan-johnson because Professor Nutt www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/.../drugs-adviser-david-nutt-sacked reproved the Home Secretary for “devaluing and distorting” scientific evidence on cannabis in order to justify reclassifying cannabis as Class B, not a Class C, drug – in other words to make out cannabis was more dangerous than the science indicates, for political purposes.

Why do we tolerate scientific illiteracy in our so-called leaders?

Surely, by now we should all be realising that what we need is more science, good science, careful science, and what we need to do is to learn about science so that we can enter the debates with knowledge and concern. Because we can be very sure it won;t be politicians who get us out of the mess we're in. Our only hope is the scientists.

More science: less politics.

Let’s all call for Alan Johnson to retire from politics, and return to working for Royal Mail, where he may well have done a good job.

Politicians, stop messing things up.

No to Tory; No to Labour; No, no, no, to political parties.

Would you race horses shut in cages? Would you play football with your ankles chained together? Would you watch movies blindfold?

Political parties order their members to stop thinking, and follow instructions from the party leadership, while the party leadership only thinks about how to be elected, or re-elected.

What are the serious things wrong with Britain (and the rest of the industrial world)? We are fighting wars we cannot win with no clear idea of why we are doing so. We have a transport policy which could only have been dreamt up by the gibbering insane, and which is going soon to overheat Planet Earth so that the only habitation fit for a human being will be at the North and South Pole. We are locked into a criminally insane financial system. We are encouraged by our purbling so-called leaders into ignoring the scientists and engineers who are the only people who can possibly get us out of this shit. Etc, etc, etc.

And the politicians cannot start to think about what we ought to do, because they have one concern and one concern only – to be re-elected.

I’ve been reading comments on Facebook by people who refuse to vote for Tories or Labour. Are we moving towards a General Election with a turn-out of 0%?

No to Tory; No to Labour; No, no, no, to political parties.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Stop Starvation .... with Books! And defuse Nick Griffin as well.

One reason to call for immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan is that the war is costing the British taxpayer too much money. How much did the invasion of Iraq cost us? We are not told. Once war is declared the money needed to fight the war is ring-fenced. Generals, quite rightly, ask for the soldiers and equipment they need to “do the job.” We, the taxpayers, are never allowed to decide whether we want to blow all that money away in explosions, never allowed to say we would rather spend our money on something else.

Politicians are, by definition, ring-fenced. Our system means we have a Minister of Defence, whose remit is to extract as much money as possible from the Treasury to spend on soldiers, armaments, etc. Similarly with all the other ministers. We, as normal human beings, know we have a certain amount of cash, some of which we have to spend on food, heating, mortgage, etc, and some which we spend on various activities. If one activity costs too much, we give it up.

We might well find ourselves in the position of wanting, but not being able to afford, a New Year holiday in Barbados. But instead, we might go for a springtime cycling holiday in Cornwall. Government spending is allocated in such a way that once the decision is taken to go to Barbados, there is no procedure for changing to a Cornish cycling trip.

If the British government cut its large expenditure on war and armaments, there would be plenty of money left for cycling trip expenditure which might actually achieve more than war.

It is. however, necessary to use the cliché, and think ‘out of the box.’ Last night on BBC Question Time www.bbc.co.uk/questiontime/,Nick Griffin www.bnp.org.uk was one of the guests. Hedged around with shifts of language, we nevertheless gather that the British National Party wishes to drive non-white people out of Britain.

We all know that Europe is being infiltrated in vast numbers by immigrants from Asia and Africa; why? Because their own countries offer them little hope of improving their lives.

Do we approve of immigration? And if so, how much? Well, we can, and should, discuss that. But surely everyone must approve of abolishing poverty in Third World countries.

One reason why life in Third World countries is getting worse and worse rapidly is because the population is rising. Now it is no use us telling an African family to have fewer children. With no welfare, no pensions, etc, the African couple will have six, seven, eight, children in order that some of the children will survive to look after their parents in old age.

But there is a simple solution, tried and tested.

Simple does not mean easy.

In the 1980’s the United Nations predicted world population would rise to 12 billion, which is far more than Planet Earth can support. But, mercifully, this prediction has now been revised, and the forecast is now a bit under 9 billion round 2040 (which is still far more than Planet Earth can support).

But why the revision of 3 billion less?

In 1989, the state of Kerala, in south India, was one of the poorest parts of the world. The average daily earning was 89 cents. A Brazilian educator Paulo Freire www.ptoweb.org/freire.html sexyracy.blogspot.com taught that education should be about the basic problems of living. Kerala started a state-wide campaign to teach people to read, with reading material which discussed hunger, poverty, safe drinking water, etc. Singers travelled the state encouraging participation. A slogan was shouted “Kerala reading, Kerala beautiful”. There were reading classes in the fields, on the shore, in cowsheds.

By 2000, Kerala literacy was nearly equivalent to that in the First World.

And, and, and … the women were literate, and the birthrate has declined to 18 births per thousand per year, while in much of Africa it is over 60 per thousand.

In the 1980’s, in many of the poorest countries, only about 3 % of women could read. Where women have learnt to read, the birthrate drops.

It costs much less to teach people to read, than it does to drop bombs on them.

The solution is simple; not easy; in a way very complicated; but simple: we need to set the cost of the Afghan war against the cost of sending books and teachers to poor countries; we need to take into account the fact that if we do spend the money on books not bombs, we may start to stop the reason for the British National Party’s existence.

That is a simple solution.

Stop starvation … with books.

I I obtained some of these figures from The Meaning of the 21st Century, www.21school.oz.ac.uk/ by James Martin,www.campaign.ox.ac.uk/

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Leave Afghanistan Alone; Prepare for the Real War

It is surely obvious to more or less every thinking person in the world – except of course to politicians who are blinkered into short-sightedness by the need for re-election in four years’ time – that humanity is hurrying towards a crisis which will make even the horrendous deaths of First World War, Second World War, gulags, concentration camps, not to mention AIDS etc, look relatively trivial.

If Planet Earth continues to warm as it is doing now, vast areas of grain-producing temperate lands (such as the Great Plains of North America) will turn to dust, tropical countries will become completely uninhabitable, etc. It is now reckoned that of the fish which there used to be in the oceans only ten per cent are left. Etc. Etc. Incidentally the likely prediction is that if the Arctic ice melts much more, the Gulf Stream will turn from a warm current to a cold current and Britain and northern Europe will be submerged under 2 miles of pack ice.

There will be death not on a scale of millions, but of billions. Billions.

Scientists have discovered all sorts of ways of slowing down, even preventing, Global Warming. But politicians are, by definition, incapable of paying attention to scientists. First, most politicians are ignorant of science, and not interested enough to read about it. For heaven’ s sake, I’m not a scientist; I’m a poet. But I try and take an interest in what the scientists are doing, because they are changing our world – very rapidly.

Secondly, the solutions which might help Planet Earth – along with all of us human beings, not to mention the animals, birds, insects, fish, and so on – are not going to be working within the four years which is all that politicians think about.

So we, the ordinary citizens of the world, must hammer this message at our so-called leaders: Concentrate on what is really important. Stop wasting money (and sending people to their death) in Afghanistan. Spend a bit more of our money on what is really worth while.

More to come in future blogs.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Emperor's New Clothes in Helmand

John Hutton, www.johnhuttonmp.co.uk/ epolitix.com apinfo.co.uk who, in June 2009, resigned as Minister of Defence, was interviewed as a Defence spokeman on Channel Four News www.channel4.com/news/last night (October 14th). He uttered the standard government pronouncement on the need to send more British troops to Afghanistan, ‘to finish the job there.’ In answer to one of Jon Snow’s interjections, www.channel4.com/news/authors.jsp, Hutton asseverated this was ‘not a political matter” because it was “a matter of UK national security.”

But why?
Why is making war on Afghanistan “a matter of UK national security”?

Has Afghanistan got nuclear weapons, and rockets capable of delivering a nuclear warhead on London?

Has Afghanistan got a fleet of air craft carriers equipped with the latest aircraft such as the F/A-22 Raptor, the LCA, the EuroFighter 2000 Typhoon, the SU-47 (SU-37 Berkut). The SU-37Terminator, the MG/MAPO 1.42 MFI, the Aurora, the X-35 Joint Strike Fighter (F-35 Lightning II), the Chenghu J-10, the JF-17 Thunder (Chengu FRC-1), the V-22 Osprey?

How many regiments of Paratroopers does Afghanistan have? How many commandos of Marines?

How detailed is plan for the invasion of Britain which our intelligence forces have managed to steal from Taliban HQ?

Is there a fleet of Afghan submarines already patrolling the Atlantic western approaches ready to torpedo every oil tanker and merchant ship bringing fuel and food to embattled Britain?

How easily will the Afghan tanks be able to cross Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and France, not to mention the English Channel?

Have the Afghans worked out a plan to seize the Channel Tunnel, and roll their tanks along the railway line?

No one in government has ever properly explained why defending “UK national security” entails attacking Afghanistan. We are, indeed told that terrorists are trained in Afghanistan. But they are also being trained in north-west Pakistan? Why are British troops not attacking Pakistan then?

I have not covered up the fact that this blog is written by a poet, and that the first person to become a follower of this blog is a song-writer. No one in authority takes any notice of poets. But possibly our craft is one of the best for training an ordinary adult to look at the world like a child. Let us remember Hans Andersen with his story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. The NATO governments display their shows of force in Afghanistan, as the Emperor, strutting starkers, displayed his astonishing new costume. Let us be the little boy who sees the nakedness.

The only difference is that the little boy is laughing at the Emperor’s sagging belly and spotty bottom. We must weep as the corpses of our soldiers, killed as a result of bad decisions by our rulers, are brought home.

Let’s bring them home alive. Tony Benn says so, and this time certainly Tony Benn is right.

Leo Aylen

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

War wrong? War stupid.

I guess the majority of British people now think it was wrong for Mr Blair to follow Mr Bush and order the invasion of Iraq. Wrong. Wrong. An illegal war. Invading Iraq meant disregarding the principles of the United Nations. Blair’s decision now seems not only wrong morally, but also very stupid.

The real motive for invading Iraq must have been to get hold of as much Iraqi oil as possible. Has this been successful? We are kept in the dark.

What is the morality of sending British soldiers to fight in Afghanistan? Well, we could argue that for a long time. But, in a way, we don’t need to argue the morality, because we can simply say that the Afghan war is a very stupid mistake.

Read history. No foreign power has ever conquered Afghanistan. However we judge the morality of invading Afghanistan, there is only one sensible course of action left now: admit defeat, withdraw as soon as possible, and save the lives of British soldiers.

The Afghanistan Mistake

In ‘Evenings with Tony Benn’ the Afghanistan war always comes up. How does Tony Benn react to the war there? He is highly intelligent and well-read; he knows history. His principle argument is incontrovertible.

The British tried three times in the nineteenth and early twentieth century: there were three Anglo-Afghan wars: in 1839 – 1842; in 1878 – 1881; and in 1919. The Soviet Union tried: their Afghan war lasted from 1979 – 1989, and ended in defeat and undignified withdrawl. In 2001 NATO forces invaded Afghanistan, and are fighting there still. NO FOREIGN POWER HAS EVER SUCCEEDED IN SUBDUING THE AFGHANS FOR LONG. Has there ever been any point in invading this wild mountainous country?

What arguments are there for continuing the Afghan war? Government spokesmen say Afghanistan is a training-ground for terrorists. But north-west Pakistan is an equally important training-ground. British ministers are obviously embarrassed by this fact, since Pakistan is officially an ally of the West. The Afghanistan war is justified as an attempt to control the production of opium, since most of the heroin sold on the streets of Europe and America is derived from Afghan opium. But nothing will stop the production of opium, as long as Afghan farmers earn vastly more for opium than for any other crop. So what use is the war?

I have the greatest respect for the soldiers fighting there. Of course it is dangerous, and uncomfortable. Nothing alters my respect for their bravery, fitness, and determination. But however brave they are, it does not alter the fact that they are fighting an unwinnable war in a country which is best left alone.

Every day ordinary lads in uniform perform acts of great bravery. The British soldiers fighting in Afghanistan are highly trained professionals. Their wives and girl-friends, their parents and grandparents, accept their wounds and their deaths. But suppose the British Government had ordered conscription. When the United States fought and lost the war in Vietnam, their army of conscripts had no reason to behave with the restraint and discipline of professional soldiers. The Vietnam war damaged America hugely. Just imagine British conscripts fighting in Afghanistan, as the National Service boys fought in all those miserable so-called little wars of the 1940’s and 50’s. 21st century British conscripts in Afghanistan? They’d mutiny. But just because they are professionals it is still wrong to ask our soldiers to risk their lives in an unwinnable war. It is still wrong even though they remain silent and do not complain as conscripts surely would.

Admit defeat, and bring the troops home. How could any sane person not agree with Tony Benn?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Anger of the Apathetic

As I said in my previous blog, The Guardian on March 17th, 2005, contained an article by Tony Benn www.tonybenn.com.archive.html titled Not apathy, but anger.

“My own experience,” he wrote “four years after leaving parliament to devote more time to politics, has convinced me that, far from being apathetic, most people are angry that no one seems to be listening to them.”
I think this is a serious challenge to the citizens of Britain. How can we best follow the implications of Tony Benn’s Guardian article? There are two ways in which to push the debate forward. The first is to consider how and where we, the citizens of Britain, can influence government, and take more part in government. This of course needs a huge amount of discussion, and will be developed later, Alternatively, we jump immediately into current political debates about urgent political problems. The two most obvious and most urgent are the war in Afghanistan and the ‘drugs problem.’ In his ‘Evenings with Tony Benn’ Tony speaks eloquently on these two topics. There is no doubt where he stands on both these questions. For myself, I cannot see how any sensible person could disagree. Watch this space.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Tony Benn: "Not Apathy,but Anger"

As I said in my previous blog, The Guardian on March 17th, 2005, contained an article by Tony Benn www.tonybenn.com.archive.html titled Not apathy, but anger.

“My own experience,” he wrote “four years after leaving parliament to devote more time to politics, has convinced me that, far from being apathetic, most people are angry that no one seems to be listening to them.”
I think this is a serious challenge to the citizens of Britain. How can we best follow the implications of Tony Benn’s Guardian article? There are two ways in which to push the debate forward. The first is to consider how and where we, the citizens of Britain, can influence government, and take more part in government. This of course needs a huge amount of discussion, and will be developed later, Alternatively, we jump immediately into current political debates about urgent political problems. The two most obvious and most urgent are the war in Afghanistan and the ‘drugs problem.’ In his ‘Evenings with Tony Benn’ Tony speaks eloquently on these two topics. There is no doubt where he stands on both these questions. For myself, I cannot see how any sensible person could disagree. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Guy Fawkes and Tony Benn

Not apathy, but anger, an article by Tony Benn www.tonybenn.com.archive.html news.bbc.co.uk in The Guardian of March 17th, 2005, contained this paragraph:

“My own experience,” he wrote “four years after leaving parliament to devote more time to politics, has convinced me that, far from being apathetic, most people are angry that no one seems to be listening to them.”

My aim in writing The Guy Fawkes Option was to follow up on what Tony Benn wrote when he announced he was leaving Parliament to devote more time to politics. Tony himself tours Britain tirelessly; his message: politicians must not ignore the citizens of this country.

There is the reverse to this coin. The citizens of this country should start a continuous debate on how we can take more control of the way our nation is governed. I’ve called this project — an ongoing debate of citizens — The Guy Fawkes Option.