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.