All Blogposts contain only personal views and are published in an entirely personal capacity. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment unless I have refused to delete the comment following a valid complaint. Any complaint must set out the grounds for the deletion of the comment. I also reserve the right to delete comments that - in my opinion, are offensive or make unsubstatiated accusations against persons or groups. Like the BBC, this Blog is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. (with thanks to Valleys Mam's blog where I nicked most of this from).


7 Dec 2013

Crocodile Tears Of The Rich & Famous

When David Cameron latches on to the Mandela bandwagon this week remember that in 1985 he was a top member of the Federation of Conservative Students - a group which produced the infamous 'Hang Mandela' posters.

In 1989 Cameron worked in the tory Policy Unit at Conservative Central Office and went on an anti-sanctions fact finding mission to South Africa with pro-Apartheid Lobby Firm that was sponsored by PW Botha.

Remember this when he tells the world he was inspired by Mandela.  Remember this when he sheds crocodile tears in Parliament,  Remember this when he pretends to look mournful at the up-coming state funeral.

31 Jul 2013

Only One Candidate Worth Their Salt

This August 1st,  there is a Welsh Assembly by-Election for the Constituency of Ynys Mon (Anglesey).

Vote Rhun ap Iorworth, Vote Plaid Cymru - the only party that puts Wales and all it's inhabitants first and doesn't look to London.

4 May 2013

Rocky Times Ahead I Think

Vote share of the Anglesey Council elections makes for interesting reading:

Copyright North Wales Daily Post


New Council
Independent    14
Plaid Cymru    12
Labour             3
Lib Dem           1

The Commissioners got the best and worst of their wishes I think.

They wanted some notorious obstructive and allegedly corrupt figures voting out. Bye bye certain individuals.

They wanted a strong party - Plaid now hold 12 of the 30 seats.

But most of all they wanted the number of Independents severely culling as the Commissioners saw that as one of the major problems because of their constant falling-out, bickering and inability to think of the good of the island as a whole as opposed to just their little bit. There are now 14 Independents out of 30 seats - which is far more than the Commissioners wanted and makes for a highly unstable council.

To be frank, I reckon as a result of the number of Independents this is probably the last County Council election and Anglesey will become part of Gwynedd within a couple of years. The Commissioners were adamant - screw up again and that's the end of you as a County. About the only thing that would stop that would be a very strong and formalised coalition of Plaid, Labour and one other. And I can't see that happening - or of it does then not lasting very long.

11 Sept 2012

How To Watch Every EPL Match (or any senior league match in Europe or the Americas). Or Most Other Major Sporting Events From Around The World. Free.

I came across this little nugget about 2 years ago.  And it works.

1. Install the browser Google Chrome.

2. Look in the top right (your right) corner and you will see a spanner.

3. Click on the spanner and select 'tools'.

4. Click on extensions

5. At the bottom right (as you look at it) you will see 'Get More Extensions >>'. Select this.

6. In the search box type 'Live Sports' and search. 

7. Click on 'Live Sports' and then click on install. (it may download to a holding file in the bottom left as you look at it, in which case as soon as it's finished click there, but mostly it will install itself)

8. A small football will then appear in the top right (as you look at it). Click on that, select 'live stream' and reset the clock to GMT and it will list all the live games available all over europe and other places. 

You may occasionally need to install other programmes or the link you pick will only work on Explorer (in which case cut and paste the URL into Explorer), but you will always get every EPL match (or any other). Sometimes you will only be able to find it with foreign commentary and sometimes you will get it in English. You'll get about thirty links and you may have to look through a lot of them to get what you want. You will also get most La Liga matches, Greek matches, Italian matches and French matches as well as top matches from South America.

Google Chrome is actually far more secure browser than Internet Explorer so the risks of virus are considerably less, but you should have decent virus/spyware programmes and run sweeps regularly as a matter of course.

The quality will also depend on the speed of your internet connection. If you have super-speed and have a modern HD TV, consider connecting your PC to the TV via the PC socket on the side/ back.

Cut and paste the above into a document and save it for future reference.

Good watching.

26 Jul 2012

The Big Fat Lie

There is a blog I sometimes read called zerohedge  (you can find it in my sidebar).    Basically it's a blog where traders and those sorts of people discuss what is happening in the various bourses around the world and sometimes post very good explanations of financial things that we mortals usually don't understand.   Of course this attracts comments and this below is one of the best comments I have ever seen on it. It apparently originated from the Daily Telegraph:-


Well the last two years have gone well - not. Probably the weather and  Royals fault.

“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.?" 
(Joseph Goebbels, Nazi,  12 January 1941.)

The Big Fat Lie.
It was not the picking of your pocket at the petrol pumps, or the deluge of Bob Diamond’s created by the systemic manipulation of interest rates to rob your mortgage; nor was it the banks and their casino business practices paid for by borrowing other people’s pensions.

It is not the idle undeserving rich who own 90% of the wealth despite only paying a fraction in taxes if any at all.
It's not the PFI goldmine that changes your PAYE wage deductions into profits for people who don’t pay taxes at all.  

It's not all our politicians who were bought by big business years ago and deregulated, privitised, asset stripped and privitised public profit with one hand while socialising private loss with the other.  

It's not the closing of factories and movement of jobs to prisoners on £7 a week that is so good for shareholder value.  Neither is it their cheerleading championing of the gambling addicted banks.   

It's not the media’s corruption and obsequious brown-nosing of their neo-liberal masters, nor their rapacious pursuit of the poor, downtrodden, disabled, the Dowler’s or a derelict underclass.

No the Big Fat Lie is that it was YOUR fault people.  And by and large you accept it.

You are lazy. Addicted to welfare. Demotivated to take up the hundreds of thousands of full-time high paying jobs that employers have to offer.  It's also the immigrants fault because they are easy to spot on the whole and even easier to scapegoat as 20th century history  warns us.  The fact that patriotic knight-hooded business is systemically driven to cut costs and that makes immigrants cheaper than you is ignored (as is the link between cheap labour in our prisons and youth unemployment).  No, you would be cheering their good economic sense if you were a shareholder - but you're not. 

However, if you are in work, caught in the poverty trap of low pay and reducing housing benefit, making the rational economic decision that you are better off on benefits, it is a scar on YOUR soul not a shaming testament to the poverty wages paid by your non-dom boss. 

What is more too much red tape and health and safety rules are preventing our glorious ascension into neo-liberalhood. We don’t need rules! Look how the lack of rules have empowered our papers to spy on you and have allowed our banks and financial services to use Adam Smith’s invisible dead hand to pick your pocket. No Rules for Business!

No people the Big Fat Lie is that it is you who are ENTIRELY at fault - you little people. Your benefits are far too high, we need to drive them down to third world levels to make you competitive in the global market place.  Also you voted for (- insert any party you hate here -) and they have destroyed our economy with their (- insert your very own cretinus world view here -   just blame the 'other side' when  in fact all are culpable. -).

Not only that, it is Europe that has beggared us as it was the French were personally responsible for Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns.  The fact that the German and Scandinavian generous welfare model has not stopped them from becoming the richest countries in Europe is hushed and shushed; it will never work here! 

What about foreign aid?  Well, it does costs a fortune to sell all those arms to dictatorships not to mention the UK aid to the USA via Trident; the Americans want top dollar for those missiles. £130,000,000,000 is on the table; but at least we have saved £2.50 on the Red Button - that’s still & will remain in Washington.

And what about the disabled’s unreasonable demands to have access to a job like at Remploy? They need a dose of cold reality to teach them a lesson for their tax draining ways; after all there is plenty of water in drought burdened Britain to put them out when they set themselves alight outside of the Jobcentre.  

Yes you little people, it is your fault and your unreasonable demands for some crumbs from the rich man’s table; now you must pay with your pensions, services, jobs, wages, hospitals and - now that we can read every email/bog/post/text/telephone call - your hard won freedoms too.

No their truth is that we need to funnel even more money from the bottom to the top to pay bankrupt Zombie banks billions in UNSECURED loans so they can stagger on until they have eaten your grandchildren’s pensions too.  To achieve this we need to stop the poor from going to university (fees/loans) or receiving training (EMA).  We need to make the disabled compete “on a level playing field” in the job market, scrap funding for libraries and council run crèches.   Stop the unemployed and 8 out of 10 Housing Benefit receivers who are in employment from living in social housing, push them into the landlord’s greedy hands rather than capping the inflated  “what the market will bear”  rents.   Once upon-a-time if you were looking for work you got on your bike until you found some, now you have to work for your dole and sleep under a bridge.

We have our Trident at least with all those weapons pointing at and protecting us from umm? Erm? Err?   What’s more our military industrial complex needs your taxes to invade foreigners and stealth bomb them from the Medieval back into the Neolithic.  We have been at war forever it seems.  War on communists, war on the Vikings over some Cod, war on drugs, war on Argentinians, war with Serbs, war with Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan (again), war on terrorists, war on wedding parties for some reason; and more to come because the poisoned wells of the Holy Land are still thirsty for more blood for their oil.  Welfare is too expensive!  But death from above is not cheap either.  Still its so far away we can forget about it can we not? 10 years in Afghanistan.  No more public funerals, just shuffle the fallen off to their (soon to be private PFI) scrounging council subsidised resting places.

And what about those scrounging public sector workers with their gold-plated pensions?  Retired Dinner Ladies striding the earth like titans; there coffers creating a cacophony of clinking cash.  Care Assistants retiring to the South of Italy to live la dolce vita. Ambulance drivers downsizing to Devon to open a cheese farm. Don’t forget to spit in their faces and tell them how they have ruined Britannia as the Paramedic scrapes you off the pavement; the surgeon who saves your life, the nurse who knows your needs, who mops your brow.  Tell them you want to go private. And if BUPA don’t do an ambulance, make sure a clause is put into your will saying all mourners must slag off the bejewelled, gilded council gravediggers as they lower you into the deep cool earth. No little people! Close those newly bankrupt hospitals, make expensive teachers redundant, pay for a two week elite sport money pit to keep the rich entertained as they have all the VIP seats and VIP roads to get to them quickly - you can always watch among the dog turds in the park.

So, why do they lie?  

Because the problem is not us its the systemic failure of capitalism.  Because it is based on greed and exploitation. Because they know the price of everything and the value of nothing.  Because they are a class of rich expensively  educated out of touch toffs who profess to be sympathetic to ordinary people but nurse a deep antipathy to anyone who dare question their self serving oligarchy.  Actually they are afraid that we will wake up and flex our democratic rights and vote them all into oblivion. So afraid they want to read every Tweet, email, blog, telephone and anything else they can get their hands on and jail you for a bad airport joke.  If you steal a bottle of water its HMP Scumsink (sponsored by G4S) if you rob millions it’s a knighthood and a place in the Royal Box at the Olympics.

So little people, don't be old, don't be ill, don't be a reader, don't be unemployed - or employed, don't aspire to improve yourself physically and mentally, don't live in your own place - or rent, don’t send your kids to a comprehensive in fact don't have kids - especially disabled kids - as you can't afford them under the ConDems (or Labour or whoever - it matters not, they all sup from the same teat).   Do go to public school, do use off-shore accounts to defraud your neighbors, do clear the streets of scum in London so you can get to the Olympic stadium quicker, do buy private medicine, do blame Europe, immigrants, lefties,  the unions and scrounging feral council house skanks. It's their fault that we lost the money, yes it's their fault that we lost the money; yes definitely, unquestionably, its YOUR fault people that we lost all the money. Thus goes the numbskull doublethink chant from the dumbskull tongues of our media and political masters.

Why do our politicians and media have no answers? Where is the dissent? The dialectical argument? The counter point in the press? The equitable exchange of ideas for improvement?

No. None of that please. Shut up at the back!

They are struck blind; reduced to repeating and rehearsing old lies to themselves in the dark; drunk on the delightful dull-dazzel of their own devious, demonic, diatribe. Their mouths are so stuffed with neo-liberal gold that they are speechless; dumb; duped and deranged. When they do manage to spit and curse at us for our spendthrift, wasteful ways, all they have to offer is lies, lies, self serving lies…..

"The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly. The rich have always objected to being governed at all."
G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

"Real rich people figure out how to dodge taxes."
(George W. Bush, 2004)

”We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes”
(Leona Helmsley, property heiress)

7 Jul 2012

Defence Of The Realm ( They don't like it up 'em! )

In the last few days we have seen the Armed Forces lined up for cuts that will reduce it considerably.  The Army - of which I was a member will be dramatically reduced and the Infantry in particular will be severely affected.  In fact the Infantry will be smaller than it was before Napoleon was a threat.

The Government is pushing the idea that the TA will fill the gaps. I served 22 years in the Regular Army in the Infantry, with the last three of those as the Regular Army Heavy Weapons (mortars) Instructor attached to a TA Infantry Battalion. Will the TA be able to fill the gap?  The short answer to that is 'NO'.    The long answer is 'definately NO'.
What we are talking here in the main is using TA Infantry to bolster regular Infantry.  This happens now with varying degrees of success whereby TA Infantry soldiers will join the regulars for a 6 month stint in Afghanistan or wherever.  However to do that 6 month tour they usually go to the 'Regs' for a year as it takes a few months to get them up to speed,  then they need to do the pre-deployment training,  the deployment itself and then finally a couple of weeks off at the end whilst they are transferred back to the TA.  So in order to get a 6 month operational tour out of them requires a year of their time.
Now then,  what makes a TA Infantry soldier.  For starters very few ex-Regs join.  Most of those that do leave very quickly because it was not what they expected as it is so different to the Regs.   In the TA  unit I was attached to a heavy amount were actually students using it as a means of helping pay their way through college.   Then there were ordinary workers from both the public and private sector,  then there were a smattering of unemployed between jobs. 
As for the unit strength?   Less than half of the soldiers on my books actually turned in.   The remainder were 'non-effectiver' - ie hadn't been seen in months - years in some cases,  and were kept on the books purely as a method of making the unit appear better manned on paper than it was in reality (the good thing about MOD and politicians is they are remarkably thick and believe figures are real and somehow should be believed.  No they aren't.  Figures exist purely to be manipulated.).  Budget was allocated on strength and therefore more men on paper was more money which you could use to concentrate on soldiers that attended frequently.
Now this is where the crunch comes.  By far and away the best attenders I had were the students.  They would attend rain, wind or shine,  extra days etc etc, go away with the 'Regs' on 6 week live firing exercises to Canada,  - motivated purely by money.  Once their three years was up and they had finished in college that was the last you saw of them.  But they were good heavy attenders, young, eager, bright and easy to train.   The downside for the government is that these people are not going to leave college for a year to bail-out a shortage in the 'Regs'.
Then you had the private sector workers.  Mainly working shifts and so their attendance was haphazard and revolved around their shift work and overtime.  Many had employers that were openly hostile to them being in the TA (some major company names as well).  Some were so hostile that the soldiers kept it secret from them.
Then you had public sector workers.  They had as a rule more stable work patterns and obviously more compliant employers.  They tended to do the minimum - couple of tuesday nights a month, one weekend a month, 2 week summer camp.  Just enough to qualify for their bounty payment - which in turn paid for their summer holiday.  They tended to be long term and as a result occupied the rank structure from Corporal up to Sergeant Major.   The big downside on these people was that most of them were in jobs that were reserved occupations - fire brigade, health workers, teachers, Police Officers & PCSOs etc,  so there is no way they can be mobilised without it having serious repurcusions.
Then there were those unemployed.   They were strictly governed on how often they could attend by how much they were allowed to earn before it screwed their benefits.  But the young single ones were a rich seam of potential recruits for the 'Regs' and/or 1 year short attachments for an operational tour.
You have got no chance of replacing swathes of regular Infantry with the TA unless you change major laws and really punish and publicly humiliate employers large and small and guarentee in law certain rights for TA soldiers.   You also need to put an awful lot more time, money and Regular Army instructors into it, allocate more training days, more training space on ranges, exercise areas and better facilities. Don't do that and this will definately fall flat on it's arse.    Do it and it probably will but at least you will have a chance.

24 Jun 2012

A Roof Over Your Head - No Longer A Right, Not Even If You Work.

Homeless young person - something you are about to see a lot more of
David Cameron will announce major changes to the Housing Benefits system,  excluding hundreds of thousands of marginalised and vulnerable young people.

Lets just do a quick comparison between the political 'haves' and the ordinary 'have nots'.

subsidised food (at home and at work), subsidised housing (including 2nd homes), no council tax. subsidsed transport (bike, car, rail and air), subsidised furnishings, subsidised home maintainance, gold-plated pension scheme, subsidised phone costs, subsidised internet, subsidised TV licence, subsidised Sky TV etc etc etc.

Yet they are ruthlessly targeting:-
£70 a week JSA claimants,  £94 a week IB claimants, OAPs, the sick, lone-parent families, children, people on low incomes in expensive areas.

(As food for thought, the annual £1.8bn HB bill for the under-25s, whilst not an insubstantial income for landlords, does rather pale in comparison to Vodafone's illegal £6bn tax evasion carried out with government assistance.  Jimmy Carr eat your heart out - you are a mere amateur at tax avoidance).

So why victimise under 25s? If Housing Benefit is so wrong then why not abolish it completely (along with mortgage relief)?  Why just pick on under-25s and then only those in rented accommodation and not those with mortgages? 

What if they have no parents to return to?  Or their parents have downsized or retired abroad? What if they are married? Or a single parent?

So why single-out under 25's in rented accommodation?  Voting patterns within socio-economic age groups springs immediately to mind - in other words class war and snobbery.

Almost certainly this will lead to a massive increase in homelessness. The government estimates that there are 380,000 claimants under-25 and remember a claimant is not necessarily one person - it can be a family,  and claimants are not necessarily unemployed - many are in work but on low incomes or are living in expensive areas such as the south east of England.  Nearly every single one of them (and any dependents) is now at risk of losing their Benefit and as a result their home.   Lets get something straight at this point. Because of tax credits it is impossible to be worse off at work than on Benefits (despite what the Daily Mail/Daily Telegraph editors routinely spout).   Sometimes the difference between the two is marginal,  but that is because lower-end wage levels in this country are too low and are being subsidsed (to the employers benefit) by tax credits anyway. Likewise the move towards more people in part-time jobs and less in full-time.  Hence why this is not just going to devastate the unemployed but also young people in low paid employment as well.

Housing Benefit remember, ends up in the hands of property-owning  landlords (including councils and Housing Associations),  not the claimants - they are merely the funnel.   This cut-back will lead to a collapse in private rent levels and with a bit of luck cause many BTL landlords to go bust flooding the market with more cheap housing, further devaluing house prices and kicking the bottom out of private rent levels.

But it won't - quite the opposite in fact.  Local authorites - in order to meet their legal obligations regarding housing the homeless, vulnerable, children etc.  will (because of the huge shortage of social housing) have to contract out to the 'Third Sector' - step forward the self-same landlords only this time charging more,  with less cost being met by central government and more cost being met at Local Authority level,  from dwindling resources, leading to more and more cuts to local services as councils will have to pay high levels in rent to the Third Sector but only able to charge extemly low levels that someone on Benefits or low incomes can afford with no Housing Benefit element and the short fall covered by the council taxpayer.

In the world of conspiracy theories you could put a pretty strong case up that in fact Westminster is embarking on a massive social engineering experiment to force Local Authorities to use their pension funds to build council housing as the financial impact to Local Authorities of not embarking on a massive building programme will be crippling.

Make no mistake,  the Minimum Wage will be next.  It will be localised (to suit employers) as will benefits - including pension credits.  Then hundreds of thousands of young people will be forced to relocate rather than forcing employers to move.  Then they will start on older people,  then they will start on you.  (Bit like Pastor Niemöller's poem).   Except that if Cameron continues on his current road he is going to end up on the receiving end of a deserved, bigger and more humiliating defeat than Churchill in 1945 and Major in 1997 and the Tories will be in opposition for two decades at least (which is not healthy for democracy).

The biggest beneficiaries to the welfare state were, are and will always remain the landlords, the Third Sector and employers.   Not the claimants.

More on homelessness among young people:-
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


12 May 2012

Save Penrhos

Penrhos Country Park (also known as Penrhos Coastal Park/ Penrhos Nature Reserve — map reference SH2781) is a 200 acre country park near Holyhead  on the island of Anglesey.  It is adjacent to the A55, on the Anglesey Coastal Path and also adjoins Beddmanarch Bay.    It has been open for public  use and enjoyment for over 40 years and is a very popular place for visits from locals and tourists alike.

The park—in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) forms part of the Anglesey Coastal Path Network and the National Cycle Track Routes 5 & 8.  Parts of the wooded areas were created in the early 1800s with 15,000 broad-leaved trees, but many were replaced in the 1960s with commercial forestry species. It boasts a stunning coastline along with woodland paths meandering past pools and follies.
It is home to a huge variety of flora & fauna ranging from humble fungi, through badgers, bats and foxes, to domestic & migratory birds including  divers, grebes, sea ducks, gulls, terns, auks, a large cormorant colony, pippits, warblers, chats and buntings.  Rarities have included Red-necked Phalarope, Mediterranean and Glaucous gulls, Golden Oriole; Black Redstart, and Yellow Browed Warbler.
The area has been part of an AONB since 1967 with the sandbanks and mudflats of the Beddmanarch Bay being part of the Beddmanarch & Cymyran Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
In 2009 Anglesey gained Global and European Geopark status because of its unique geology while the Gorsedd-y-Penrhyn headland within the park being designated as a Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Site (UKRIGS).

Penrhos Nature Park is under threat from a development company—Land & Lakes, who wish to fence off a large part of it and turn it into a gated Holiday Park and Leisure Complex.
This will entail significant development and construction works including the destruction of large chunks of established woodland — the habitat of a huge range of flora and fauna. The development will also entail fencing-off large areas, permanently denying access to the general public to a facility that they have walked, roamed, explored and enjoyed at their leisure for generations.  Anyone who has any doubts about the sacle of the devastation this will cause to Penrhos should compare the plan & air photo here
Whilst it is accepted by most people that Anglesey’s tourist industry needs to be developed in order to help support the area economically, the part of the development proposed for the Penrhos Nature Park and associated woodlands should not be placed in that location but re-sited elsewhere on the island where it will not have the same devastating  impact.

"Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of it's beauty, it's riches, or it's romance." - Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President, USA

21 Jan 2012

The Greatest

The Greatest

This month (17 Jan) saw the 70th birthday of one of the most remarkable men of my lifetime.  A warrior, a supreme athlete, a poet,  a social campaigner, a shameless showman and a man of the highest principle and personal honour - Muhammad Ali.

Born in Louisville Kentucky on 17 Jan 1942 and originally named Cassius Marcellus Clay after his father.     Ali became a boxer because of a childhood incident when at the age of 12 someone stole his bicycle.  He remarked to a Police Officer that he would ‘whup’ the thief.  The Police Officer advised him to learn to box first.    As a result of that advice,  over the next 6 years Ali won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Title culminating in his winning the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics.   Sometime later Ali threw the gold medal into the Ohio River in disgust after being refused service in a ‘Whites Only’ restaurant. 

Ali then turned professional.

He was a highly unorthodox fighter who rather than hold his hands close to his face held them lower and relied on his lightning reflexes and foot speed – the famous Ali shuffle.   In 1964 Ali beat Liston in a title fight and became – at the age of 22,  Heavyweight Champion of the world, at that time the youngest challenger to ever beat a reigning champion and a record which stood for over 20 years until Mike Tyson broke it in 1986.

In late 1964 Ali became a member of the Nation of Islam and originally took the name Cassius X ( a reference to slavery and slaves having no surname)  dropping his birth name of Cassius Clay,  eventually changing to Muhammad Ali instead and in a fight two years later the phrase “what’s my name” came into being when during pre-match for bout against Ernie Terrell,  Terrell referred to him as ‘Clay’.  In retaliation Ali mercilessly beat him for the full 15 rounds continually taunting Terrell with “What’s my name Uncle Tom?  What’s my name”.   Ali deliberately did not knock him out - which he could have done easily,  preferring instead to punish him and a reporter on the night commented that it was “a barbarous display of cruelty”.  A dark moment in an otherwise glorious career.

In 1966 Ali was declared eligible for Draft into the US Armed Forces.  Bizarrely,  two years previously he had failed the tests because his literacy skills were below standard,  but by 1966 the Vietnam War was in full swing and in order to keep the military supplied with recruits,  the standards were lowered and all previous failures revisited and regraded accordingly.   Ali declared he would not join the military and that his religion forbade him to go to war saying “We don't take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers.”    He went on to utter what became a phrase of a generation of black Americans “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.  None of them ever called me nigger”.  The US military called him for induction in 1967.  Ali refused four times to answer his name when called and was arrested.   Ali was tried, found Guilty and the Appeal process commenced.   His boxing licence was suspended and he was formally stripped of his title.

Until that point, there was little organised resistance to the Vietnam war. From that moment on all that changed.  Ali’s stance even inspired Martin Luther King to openly oppose the war.   Ali became an iconic figure giving speeches at universities and rallies right across America,  coming out with phrases such as “No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder, kill, and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slave-masters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end. Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

In 1970,  Ali was reinstated as a professional boxer and his licence returned to him despite his conviction still standing and the Appeals process still on-going - public pressure was simply to great for the US Government.  It was now a period of heavyweight greats and over the following years Ali fought such legends as Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman,  Leon Spinks, Ernie Shavers and Larry Holmes – the so –called Golden Era of heavyweight boxers.     Ali – ever the showman and now social activist,  took his fights to the third world.   The Phillipines famous ‘Thrila In Manila’ – which Ali later described as the closest thing to death imaginable and which left both boxers completely and utterly exhausted,  and the Zairean ‘Rumble In The Jungle’,  insisting that the ticket prices were set at a level affordable to the local population's ordinary people.   Ali finally retired from the ring in 1981 after losing to Trevor Burbick.  Three years later in 1984 he was diagnosed as suffering from Parkinson’s Disease,  attributed to years of physical punishment and blows to the head.

The Thrila In Manila

Since his retirement he has remained a devout Muslim and campaigned tirelessly against racism and the exploitation of the third world.  He has been awarded dozens of honours,  had roads named after him, songs written about him,  been the subject of countless books, films and even TV shows appearing several times on Michael Parkinson’s BBC chat show.  One of his fights was even the inspiration for the first Rocky film.  Every heavyweight champion ever since lives under his shadow, is compared to him and always found wanting - merely pretenders to the throne.

Ali At 70

And now he is 70 and - as he himself proclaims, he is truly ‘The Greatest’.

Happy Birthday Muhammad Ali.  And thank you.

The Ali Rap

11 Oct 2011

Building Bridges

 "a small bridge in the middle of a rather insignificant little town"

Last week on 04 October,  the name of a small bridge in the middle of a rather insignificant little town in the Balkans held a ceremony in honour of an incident that happened 18 years before. The occasion was to re-name it as the 'Lance Corporal Wayne Edwards Bridge'.  The town was Gornji Vakuf in Central Bosnia and the occasion they were commemorating and honouring was Wayne's tragic death on 13th Janury 1993.

Wayne was a Lance Corporal (LCpl) from the North Wales Infantry Regiment 1RWF*.  Wrecsam was his home town where his mother and family lived.  He was attached to B Company, 1CHESHIRE in the capacity of Warrior ICV manning increment (AIMI) and I had the privilage of being in the same Company alongside him as senior mortar fire controller/information collater.

WARRIOR Infantry Combat Vehicle
A magnificent piece of equipment and the best ICV on earth.
We actually wrote to the GKN factory at the end of our tour thanking them
and some of the troops went to thank the construction workers personally.
Once again, thank you.  You have no idea about how good your work is.

A week or so before his death serious fighting had broken out within and around the town between the Bosnian Croats who had tried to seize the town to gain control of the highway and thus control the access into the deep centre of Bosnia and their nominal allies the resident Bosnian muslims.  Wayne had bravely volunteered to drive a Warrior escort vehicle to get a muslim woman who was having a breach birth through the front lines and to a hospital.   As he was driving his vehicle across the bridge in the centre of town - which was the front line,  a Bosnian Croat HVO militia man fired a burst of AK47 fire at a group of Bosnian Muslim Armija that were near the vehicle.  One of the rounds hit him just under the eye passing straight through his head causing catastrophic damage and killing him instantly. His vehicle then slewed off the bridge and was hanging over the edge trapping the crew and section inside. It was a terrible day for everyone involved - absolute chaos. We were stuck in the middle of a major battle involving over 5000 combatants ( & which had absolutely nothing to do with us) in an area the size of Holyhead, with tank, rocket, artillery and mortar fire flying everywhere.  There were dead bodies lying in the streets, snipers all over the place, streams of panic-stricken civilians trying to get out and to cap it all we now had a man down and a section trapped.    (I later had to help one young soldier wash the blood and gore off himself because he had literally ceased to function)..  This would necessitate a major operation to recover his body,  the rest of the section, and the Warrior armoured vehicle all to be carried out whilst under fire.   The Bosnian Muslim Armija at one stage, without propmpting,  even  put down covering fire to occupy the Bosnian Croats who were trying to get the bridge so that they could take our vehicle as it was superior to anything in their armoury.

And so,  last week,  with Wayne's sister and our former Commanding Officer and now Tory MP Col Bob Stewart DSO in attendance the bridge was re-named.   A short clip from the Forces TV station BFBS can be seen here:-


Col Bob Stewart's line about the recovery of his body being a minute doesn't tell the whole story, understating an extremly dangerous hour with many acts of selflessness and an iron determination that Wayne,  his section and his vehicle would all be recovered no matter what and no-one and nothing would stop us.  Yes it was a minute - once we had winched the vehicle back on to the bridge,  then got the soldiers in the fighting compartment out, then dragged his body back from the driver's compartment through the escape tunnel.   In reality it took the best part of an hour.  We had to form an armoured column,  clear a path 1600 metres from our base to the bridge.  Storm the bridge and form a fire line on the far-side,  bring forward an armoured recovery vehicle, winch the Warrior back onto the bridge and then bring forward the medical team.    The bravest man that day was a REME mechanic called Willie Bernard.  Under heavy fire, he climbed out of the recovery vehicle and connected up the steel hausers.  While he was on the roof of his recovery vehicle Bosnian Croats were firing at him and he had rounds literally ricocheting round his feet. 

Cpl Willie Bernard the REME Recovery Mechanic
(Copyright David Rowlands)

In addition a small marble monument was placed on the bridge a month or so after he died.  The people of Wrecsam also paid for a dove cote and a flock of white doves (symbolising peace) to be built in Wrecsam.

(*RWF - Royal Welch Fusiliers, 23rd of Foot, who were the North Wales Infantry Regiment.  Now 1st Bn The Royal Welsh following their amalgamation with the  Royal Regiment of Wales in 2006 to form a single Welsh regiment covering all of Wales.  Currently based at the Dale Bks in Chester)

21 Aug 2011

Victory To The Workers

Len Worstell & John 'Jac' John 

With the rioting that took place over in England very recently and the subsequent (and in some instances misplaced) public revulsion it is very easy to forget that riots are the inevitable consequence of prevailing social conditions.   Over on Jac O' The North's blog is an article on this the 100th commemoration of the Llanelli Riots in August 1911.

What were they?  What were they about?

Well history records that it was a huge feeling of exploitation that caused it.   1910 & 1911 was a period of significant industrial unrest all over the UK ( in 1910 and early 1911 there had been severe unrest in Tonypandy and all over the Rhondda Valley and beyond ) and on 17 August 1911 the first ever national railway strike started in Llanelli.  Low wages,  appalling working conditions, a 70 hour working week, management being able to enforce overtime whenever they felt like it without warning and several years of below inflation pay rises had caused huge resentment in the workforce.  Talks had been on-going between management and the unions and following a total breakdown caused by management intransigence the Llanelli railway workers walked off the job.   Very quickly the dispute spread into other sectors and within hours the railway line through Llanelli was barricaded on both sides of the town. The south Wales rail network and in particular the main rail line from London were of huge strategic importance to the British Government as it was the main supply route between the major British Army depots - which were in southern England, and the British garrisons in trouble-ridden Ireland via the sea route of Fishguard to Rosslare. In addition the sub-lines of the network were 'feeder-routes' for coal, steel and iron ore - the fuel of the Empire.  Any attempt at shutting the network down was literally an attack on the authority of Westminster.

The following day (18 Aug) a train transiting from London to Fishguard containing passengers and goods en-route to Ireland was halted and disabled.   Magistrates - petitioned by the local Constabulary, sent a request for military reinforcements and the then Home Secretary - Winston Churchill - authorised their deployment.   By late on the 18th clashes had broken out between troops and strikers on and in the vicinity of the barricades.  These continued through the morning of the 19th and by early afternoon a train crewed by blacklegs (scum) was brought to a standstill by the people - including women and children - forming a human blockade and lying across the track.  Strikers then boarded and disabled the train blocking the line further.  A company of Lancashire Fusiliers moved forward and attempted to clear the rail line of protesters at bayonet point.  The people withdrew to the embankments and started stoning the troops.   A Magistrate was sent for and - for the very last time in Wales,  the Riot Act was formally read.  The crowd not only refused to disperse - they stoned the Magistrate for good measure.  The order to open fire was given.  Two men were killed on the spot.  Records are that one was a very popular local rugby player - John 'Jac' John,  the other - Len Worstell,  was a patient from a TB sanitorium at home for the weekend who was having a shave at the time and ventured outside to see what the commotion was.

Tragically, by the time the shootings happened management and the government had already given in to the unions with Churchill recorded as saying "They have beaten us" however news of the unions victory had failed to filter down to the strikers.    Inflammed by the shootings both the strikers and the local population at large became more agitated and rioting and looting broke out all over the local area including an attack on an explosives train which exploded killing 4 and injuring many more.

It took the whole night for the Army and local Constabulary to restore order and even then local school children subsequently went on strike and refused to attend lessons as protest at was was regarded by the local population as the murder of two men by the English Army (it was an English regiment).

At least one soldier deserted rather than open fire on the protesters -  Pte Harold Spiers* of the Worcestershire Regiment (now 2MERCIAN) and he is reputed to be the  the 'Dai Bach y Soldiwr' of the verse added to the folk song 'Sosban Fach'  shortly after the incident.

A BBC documetary of the incident can be viewed here (You may need to download BBC iPlayer)

Boycezone Perform Sosban Fach (rugby variant with All Blacks reference)

*Harold Spiers. - Harold Spiers, a Private in the Worcestershire Regiment, came from a family proud of the fact that all its men had been soldiers. He enlisted in July 1909 at the age of 20. In two years’ time he would be arrested and placed under military guard at Llanelli for refusing to shoot a man sitting on a garden wall.  In his statement to police, he said he had been in the firing party ordered to “defend the railway line against rioters”. He was ordered by his Commanding Officer: “You see that man on the wall. Shoot him.” He refused to obey the order, saying he would not shoot somebody “in cold blood”. Had the man thrown a brick or a bottle at him, it would have been different, he said. He had been arrested, and after the soldiers had retreated to the railway station he was held there in custody, but during the chaos of an explosion and fire had managed to escape. He then walked nearly 90 miles, eating apples, nuts and blackberries on the way, to New Radnor on the English border, where he was discovered by Sergeant Evans on Monday, August 21. He admitted that he was a deserter from the army, and recounted the remarkable events that had taken place the previous Saturday in Llanelli. He was handed over to the military authorities and taken to Cardiff Barracks, where he was accused of “desertion whilst in aid of the civil powers” and remanded for a district court martial.   The fledgling Labour Party took up a campaign for his release headed by the MP for Aberavon Ramsey McDonald - who went on to become the first Labour Prime Minister.   A poem was also written at the time and widely circulated amongst workers throughout the UK.

’Shoot straight, boys!’ the officer shouted
The ringleader, there is your man,
These strikers deserve to be routed,
’Twas well till their trouble began...
So shoot for old England, your mother,
Deserters the world will deride’
He answered ‘I shoot not my brother’
And stood with his gun at his side.

14 Aug 2011

Swinging In The Wind

Health & Safety - For Demonstration Purposes Only.
Do Not Try This At Home.

So, the Daily Mail/Daily Telegraph mind-set have mobilised the 'hang 'em, flog 'em. send 'em home' Brigade to sign their pointless petition regarding state murder.  It's surprising that they have found the time to stop whining about immigrants/the EU/asylum seekers/single parents/Muslims/unions/teenagers/BBC/looters/rioters/hoodies/anti-bloodsports/gay marriages* (*delete as applicable)  to - in their otherwise busy but seemingly pointless lives, squeeze in the 30 seconds or so required to sign the petition demanding the return of their favourite laughable cassus belli - hanging people.

The petition can be seen here  for any of you that didn't know about it and are dim enough to think signing it will achieve anything other than 30 minutes of Parliamentary tediousness at 11pm on a wednesday night when no politician cares and - more tellingly, most of the people who signed won't bother their arses to even watch on the BBC Parliament Channel.

The history of e-petitions suggests that the initial few weeks are when it attracts the most attention and the interest rapidly wanes as more important things - such as Steve & Becky's tangled love-life on Coronation Street,  rise more to the fore of public consciousness.  In this particular instance those 'old dependables' the Mail, Telegraph & Express carried prominent stories about it along with weblink details and an active URL on their own websites. Peter Hitchens (rather predictably) wrote a mouth-frothing eye-bulging demand for the return of the rope.  The populist Sun & Star likewise ran prominent articles with web details.   Every other newspaper also carried stories about it . It was mentioned on all the main news programmes,  crusty old tory right wingers wheeled out on Sky News, the URL was virally tweeted and was even doing the rounds on facebook.  It was discussed on Mums Net where - surprisingly, the abolitionists held the day.    As of the time of writing it has amassed around 14,500 signatures and has 5 months left to get the other 85,500 it needs to be even considered for a dreary wednesday night.  However in true 'British Farce' tradition it is competing against two other petitions for the same thing - here (with 3,000 signees)  and here (with 2,500)  although in all probability a lot of people will have signed more than one of them.   Interestingly there is a petition to retain the abolition here which has amassed more than 22,000.

But let's assume that it gets the magic 100,000 signees. What happens then?  Well the Government considers whether it is worthy of any Parliamentary time and if they consider it so they will allocate it a slot in 'Other Parliamentary Buisness' and provided more important issues of the day don't over run then it will get a bit of floor time where the MPs (those that bother attending) will discuss the merits or otherwise of restoration.   If it then clears that hurdle the due process of Parliamentary Procedure takes over and the system of Papers, Bills, Committees, Amendments etc commences.   Should it clear all that it then goes to the vote.  Lib Dem, Labour, SNP and Plaid are all virtually guarenteed to vote 'No' along with a significant chunk of the Tories and it will fail (if it ever got that far) but for the sake of argument we'll say it passes.  Capital Punishment is restored to the statute books.

Except that it won't be.  We are members of the EU and signatories to the ECHR.  To actually hang anyone we would have to leave both.   It also brings in a host of other problems.  For instance other members of the EU and ECHR would be legally obliged not to extradite wanted people back to us unless we guarenteed not to hang them.  In addition Scotland has it's own law-making system.  Supposing England & Wales restored it and Scotland didn't? It could further precipitate the break-up of the UK.  People wanted for murder would only need to make Scotland, France or Ireland to be safe from being hanged.

Conspiracy theorists could even suggest that in actual fact this is a UKIP 'trick' to attract the pro-hanging to their fold by implanting in people's minds that only they or the unacceptable BNP have the restoration of Capital Punishment as a policy.  (That alone speaks volumes).

There's also a problem getting convictions.  In the final few years of hanging the Courts were becoming increasingly frustrated because juries were not bringing back unanimous verdicts in murder cases because people opposed to hanging would vote Not Guilty in the privacy of the Jury Room.  As a result murderers who should have hanged didn't and some were only found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter because enough jurors voted Not Guilty to stop a murder conviction in it's tracks.

Then there's always the minor technical problem that an innocent person gets hanged.

And the view of an 'expert'?  Albert Pierrepoint was the last large-scale hangman in the UK resigning the post in 1956 over a matter of conscience.  He hanged more people than any other documented British executioner - a reputed figure of over 680 - and said in 1974 "I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing, and are only an antiquated relic of a primitive desire for revenge which takes the easy way and hands over the responsibility for revenge to other people.".  Pierrepoint believed hanging failed in it's primary task as a deterrent,  because virtually everyone he hanged killed in the heat of the moment.

Me?  I'm opposed 100%. There are far more important things for Parliament to be discussing than something that is pointless and within the judicial world personally I believe the most important thing that is wrong with our system is disclosure (or to be more precise - lack of it).  The Police should release to the defence all evidence collected - not just the bits they are using to build their case.

Jimmy Page/Robert Plant - Gallows Pole

As an afternote,  this is a pretty good summary. (added at 21.25)