Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Monbiots Action Plan for Global Warming

Interesting piece from George Monbiot here in todays Guardian in response to the Stern report on climate change. in the article he proposes his ten point plan as follows:

1. Set a target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions based on the latest science. The government is using outdated figures, aiming for a 60% reduction by 2050. Even the annual 3% cut proposed in the early day motion calling for a new climate change bill does not go far enough. Timescale: immediately.

2. Use that target to set an annual carbon cap, which falls on the ski-jump trajectory. Then use the cap to set a personal carbon ration. Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He or she spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol and train and plane tickets. If they run out, they must buy the rest from someone who has used less than his or her quota. This accounts for about 40% of the carbon dioxide we produce. The remainder is auctioned off to companies. It's a simpler and fairer approach than either green taxation or the EU's emissions trading scheme, and it also provides people with a powerful incentive to demand low-carbon technologies. Timescale: a full scheme in place by January 2009.

3. Introduce a new set of building regulations, with three objectives. A. Imposing strict energy-efficiency requirements on all major refurbishments (costing £3,000 or more). Timescale: in force by June 2007. B. Obliging landlords to bring their houses up to high energy-efficiency standards before they can rent them out. Timescale: to cover all new rentals from January 2008. C. Ensuring that all new homes in the UK are built to the German Passivhaus standard (which requires no heating system). Timescale: in force by 2012.

4. Ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights and other wasteful and unnecessary technologies. Introduce a stiff "feebate" system for all electronic goods sold in the UK, with the least efficient taxed heavily and the most efficient receiving tax discounts. Every year the standards in each category rise. Timescale: fully implemented by November 2007.

5. Redeploy money now earmarked for new nuclear missiles towards a massive investment in energy generation and distribution. Two schemes in particular require government support to make them commercially viable: very large wind farms, many miles offshore, connected to the grid with high-voltage direct-current cables; and a hydrogen pipeline network to take over from the natural gas grid as the primary means of delivering fuel for home heating. Timescale: both programmes commence at the end of 2007 and are completed by 2018.

6. Promote the development of a new national coach network. City-centre coach stations are shut down and moved to motorway junctions. Urban public transport networks are extended to meet them. The coaches travel on dedicated lanes and never leave the motorways. Journeys by public transport then become as fast as journeys by car, while saving 90% of emissions. It is self-financing, through the sale of the land now used for coach stations. Timescale: commences in 2008; completed by 2020.

7. Oblige all chains of filling stations to supply leasable electric car batteries. This provides electric cars with unlimited mileage: as the battery runs down, you pull into a forecourt; a crane lifts it out and drops in a fresh one. The batteries are charged overnight with surplus electricity from offshore wind farms. Timescale: fully operational by 2011.

8. Abandon the road-building and road-widening programme, and spend the money on tackling climate change. The government has earmarked £11.4bn for road expansion. It claims to be allocating just £545m a year to "spending policies that tackle climate change". Timescale: immediately.

9. Freeze and then reduce UK airport capacity. While capacity remains high there will be constant upward pressure on any scheme the government introduces to limit flights. We need a freeze on all new airport construction and the introduction of a national quota for landing slots, to be reduced by 90% by 2030. Timescale: immediately.

10. Legislate for the closure of all out-of-town superstores, and their replacement with a warehouse and delivery system. Shops use a staggering amount of energy (six times as much electricity per square metre as factories, for example), and major reductions are hard to achieve: Tesco's "state of the art" energy-saving store at Diss in Norfolk has managed to cut its energy use by only 20%. Warehouses containing the same quantity of goods use roughly 5% of the energy. Out-of-town shops are also hardwired to the car - delivery vehicles use 70% less fuel. Timescale: fully implemented by 2012.

I am keen that we do as much as possible but I am also mindful of what may be achievable or at least what the public will support. Most of his proposals seem possible to me. 3,4 and 5 in particular would be brilliant and in fact I think that 3 (ensuring that all new homes in the UK are built to the German Passivhaus standard) could be done quicker than 2012. The most difficult ones to achieve because of likely public responses will be 2 and 9. But that does not mean we should not try.

Disaster waiting to happen

This piece in this weeks New Scientist indicates that it is not just in the UK that there are concerns about what is to be done with all the surplus nuclear material lying about. Concerns centre around the amount of material stored at the National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Apparently this site has one building known as Y12 that holds 400 tonnes of highly enriched uranium and was rated as a fire hazard as long ago as 1996 by the US Department of Energy. There have been 22 fires ands explosions in this facility since 1997.

Even worse a report into safety at Y12 reveals that the "site has a huge backlog of materials to process, such as unstable uranium oxides,solutions and residues in some 200 different types of containers. The exact contents of thousands are unknown because of poor records, and many have remained unopened since they were shipped across the US from other sites". Apparently the Department of Energy has tried to tackle this problem through the construction of a new uranium storage facility the cost of which has spiraled from $120m to $500m in the last five years due to design changes and inadequate concrete pouring. The store is now almost a decade behind schedule.

The security concerns raised by another report from the Project on Government Oversight are somewhat hair raising to say the least. It says that the site will not achieve the US governments post 9/11 security standards until at least 2013. It goes on to allege that terrorists could easily improvise a nuclear bomb on site (by dropping one 45 kilogram lump onto another from 1.8 meters) that would achieve a 10 kiloton explosion!

The difficulties and costs involved in constructing an above ground facility make one wonder about the potential difficulties and costs that might be associated with constructing a below ground storage facility as it appears we are proposing to do in the UK. I have never been convinced that this is the correct solution given the potential problems of managing waste underground where control might be lost. However, the security concerns add a new dimension to this and presumably this would be easier to manage in a below ground facility.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Duck Tales

I don't often blog about humour, advertising or even smutty humourous advertising but this one I could not resist.

A viral marketing series where a puppet duck banters with the punters in a bar. If you want to see it click here but beware it may not be safe for work!!

and don't complain if you are offended.

Global Warming, Gordon and Gore

A report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern suggests that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20% but taking action now would cost just 1% of global gross domestic product

A summary of the report can be found here

In brief from the executive summary " evidence gathered by the Review leads to a simple conclusion: the benefits of strong, early action considerably outweigh the costs. The evidence shows that ignoring climate change will eventually damage economic growth. Our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century. And it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes. Tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy for the longer term, and it can be done in a way that does not cap the aspirations for growth of rich or poor countries. The earlier effective action is taken, the less costly it will be. At the same time, given that climate change is happening, measures to help people adapt to it are essential. And the less mitigation we do now, the greater the difficulty of continuing to adapt in future."

The message is clear - we need to get on and tackle these issues now.

The ink on this report can hardly have been dry and David Miliband announces that he is drawing up a green tax plan see here. Welcome to the party David - it is nice to see such a quick response from the Labour government to the Liberal Democrats Green Tax Switch campaign which ran from 21st - 29th October. For more details on this click here

Meanwhile Gordon Brown also seems to be a convert to the cause. What a coincidence with this becoming a very hot issue and a leadership election to contest at some point in the next nine months or so. I do welcome the news that the UK government has signed up former US vice-president Al Gore to advise on the environment see here. A great choice - I have already started reading An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore and on 16th November I will be going to the Corn Exchange in Newbury to see the film. Anyone who wants to go and see it should click here. All the reviews I have seen rate this a must see film and some have expressed the view that if Al Gore had exhibited half the amount of passion he shows for global warning when running for President he would have won the election.

Beckett calls for a debate on Trident

Brilliant and about time too. I blogged about this back in March here.

At the time I was reporting on a Sunday Times article here which revealed that "Britain has been secretly designing a new nuclear warhead in conjunction with the Americans, provoking a legal row over the proliferation of nuclear weapons."

I complained that this was yet another example of this governments breathtaking arrogance in ignoring and sidelining parliaments proper role in the decision making process for such important matters. I also complained that we were now discovering that work has already commenced on developing a new system at AWE Aldermaston.

This seemed to be supported by reports from Greenpeace in last weeks Newbury Weekly News here about the recruitment of 25 extra scientists with expertise in hydrodynamics. The MOD says the recruitment of 25 extra scientists with expertise in hydrodynamics has nothing to do with a plan to develop a replacement for the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system. Greenpeace said the only real use for expertise in hydrodynamics - the branch of science dealing with fluids in motion - is to design a new nuclear weapon. The MOD did not deny that extra hydrodynamics scientists were being recruited, but said they were there to conduct tests on existing material. A local expert in such matters told me at a meeting last week that there is no way that they would need that number of extra scientists for the purpose which they claim they are for!

Whatever the truth it is good to see a serious commitment to a proper debate and a vote in the House of Commons.

Of course this may in due course expose the problems in the Labour Party. As Tristan said when commenting on my blog back in march "Basically it boils down to the nuclear issue which really splits the Labour Party (having twice in its history advocated unilateral disarmament with many members still supporting it). Perhaps an appeal to petty nationalism may work to pursuade some, but by no means all...It will also throw into light the slipperiness of Blair, given his membership of CND in the past (ie when it was politically expedient)"

Irrepressible Amnesty International

This is a great campaign from Amnesty International to "show that online or offline the human voice and human rights are impossible to repress." This is a campaign to try and tackle the number of governments that choose to filter or block the information which its citizens can have access to.

The basic idea is that you can add a button to your blog or website and this will feed in censored material from the Amnesty International database directly onto your site. Every time someone loads your site new censored information from some part of the world will be displayed.

If you want to see it look on my sidebar.

If you want to join in click here

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bloggers as terrorists

This was an interesting piece on Prison Planet

The article refers to a meeting of EU ministers who were meeting in an effort to make the internet a more hostile place for terrorists.

This was reported by the BBC here. If you read this piece it all seems perfectly reasonable except for the bit where "Home Secretary John Reid said they would seek to crack down on people using the web to share information on explosives or spread propaganda."

If you read that piece without thinking it too seems entirely reasonable but if you think about it more carefully the first part does not make much sense (fastening the stable door after the horse has bolted comes to mind) and the second part is downright worrying.

Stopping people from sharing information about explosives would seem to be sensible but is probably going to prove to be a bit impractical given that the information could be hosted anywhere in the world in any language. Typing how to build a bomb into google produced 11,700,000 sites with quotation marks around it reduced this to 25,500. I also tried explosives bomb and got 6,530,000 sites. And that was just in english! And all of this before one considers more traditional forms of information such as books.

As for the spreading of propaganda I thought it would be useful to get some definitions.

Dictionary.com came up with the following :

1.information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
2.the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.
3.the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.

Wikipedia came up with the following :

Propaganda is a specific type of message presentation directly aimed at influencing the opinions or behaviour of people, rather than impartially providing information. An appeal to one's emotions is, perhaps, the more obvious propaganda method, but there are varied other more subtle and insidious forms. On the other hand, a most common characteristic of propaganda is volume (in the sense of a large amount). Individually propaganda functions as self-deception. Culturally it works within religions, politics, and economic entities like those which both favour and oppose globalization. Commercially it works within the (mass) market in the free market societies.

Quite where that leaves all the Liberal Democrat websites and bloggers I do not know let alone all those of other parties or of none.

To quote PrisonPlanet.com "The only remaining outlet for the groundswell of dissent in opposition to the Neo-Fascist takeover of the west is the Internet, and it keeps these jack-booted bastards awake at night to think you can sit in front of your computer and broadcast your outrage to the four corners of the earth on a whim."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Strong hint on repayment of donation

At least according to today's Guardian here. The Electoral Commission has indicated that the Liberal Democrats could be forced to pay back their biggest ever donation of £2.4m which came from Michael Brown's company, 5th Avenue Partners Ltd.

The BBC also has the same story here.

Meanwhile The Times runs with the same story with the slant that all 70,000 members of the Liberal Democrats will be personally responsible for repayment of the £2.4m. The piece states that "The Lib Dems have admitted that they have not made any provision for paying back the money. If forced to do so, each party member would share the debt. "

Norfolk Blogger takes issue with the slant in the Times here. He says "it is The Times obsession with claiming the Lib Dem party members are liable for the debt that devalues their article. They keep repeating the phrase "party members will be liable" or "each party member would share the debt". The problem for the journalists, and something they cannot explain is why this is the case? Surely, just like the Tory Party or Labour Party (who both have massive debts which are not paid by their members) the Lib Dems could arrange temporary loans from individuals or financial institutions ? Just because the Lib Dems have made no provision at present, it does not mean they can't !"

I agree entirely with the above statement but just because we have made no provision does not mean that we will be able to raise all of the £2.4m which is required.

What happens then?

Could individual members be forced to stump up their share of the shortfall?

I don't know the answer to that question but I am not surprised that the media are running with it given the following quote from the same Guardian article which I quoted above. "The statement prompted senior Liberal Democrats figures to call for the party to repay Mr Brown's donation, which was spent on last year's general election campaign. Lady Miller, a Lib Dem peer, yesterday told the Guardian: "Raising £2.4m from 70,000 members is a mountain. But one thing the Lib Dems are known for is integrity. The party did its best at the time to check everything was fine. But he gave the party money which wasn't his. At the moment [the decision] is in the balance, but in my view it's balanced on the side of paying it back."

Admittedly this talks about raising the money rather than members being forced to pay the money but this still leaves unansweredered question of what happens if loans and money raised from members do not cover the amount required. The answer to this question could be very significant for membership of all political parties in the UK.

Great start - 3 points

Dennis Wise kicked off his time as manager at Leeds United today and in true new manager form he got three points. Moore and Blake got the goals and the vital three points move Leeds up to 21st! Ok not brilliant I admit but at present all straws will be gratefully clutched at and at least we are out of the relegation zone.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Wise gets nasty and makes first signing

According to this piece in todays Guardian Wise said "I've told the players I want them to be a bit like the Leeds of before, who were horrible. I've explained that I want a bit of that nastiness and togetherness.". We don't want to get a reputation for being dirty and we don't want to get lots of red and yellow cards but if he means the same sort of grit, determination and togetherness that say Reading exhibited last season then I say brilliant.

Meanwhile speaking of Reading and according the BBC here - Graham Stack (Readings 2nd choice keeper) has become Dennis Wise's first signing - on loan for the next three months

Surviving life in the office

Reproduced directly from the Guardian last week - absolutely brilliant (although clearly published to promote "How Work Really Works") most of it has a lot of truth to it especially point 20.

1 Never offer to make coffee

In an open plan office there is a ritual where everyone waits hours for the first person to say: "Who wants a coffee?" That person then finds themselves in the kitchen for the rest of the day working as a junior catering manager. Also remember that nobody ever gets to the top of an organisation by drinking stinky teas. No one wants to have a serious meeting in a room that smells of peppermint/rhubarb/aloe vera.

2 Ignore all emails

Working in the post room is not generally a career choice for most people. Yet with the epidemic of email most people spend half their working lives slaving away in their own personal computer post room. Most emails are biodegradable, however. If you let them sink to the bottom of the pile and go unanswered they will eventually become irrelevant. To some people, doing this might seem like just about the most daring and suicidal thing you could possibly do in an office but, if something really matters, the person who sent it will eventually call you to ask you about it.

3 Get yourself noticed

Getting ahead in business means getting noticed, but working hard makes you almost invisible. Therefore it's a lot better to work hard at getting yourself noticed. What senior management likes more than anything else is junior managers who show signs of initiative and volunteer to do things. Most of the reason for this is that the more junior managers volunteer to do, the less senior managers will have to do themselves. Of course, volunteering for things and doing things are two different matters. Once you have got the credit for volunteering for a project, it's best to get as far away as possible from the project before the work kicks in. The best way to do that is to volunteer for another project.

4 Remember that less is more

You would think that lazy people would form an inert mass at the bottom of an organisation. On the contrary they are found at all levels in business, right up to chair person. The reason for this is simple: when something goes wrong in business it's generally because someone somewhere has tried to do something. Obviously, if you don't do anything, you can't be blamed when it goes wrong. People who sit all day like a lemon, busily straightening paperclips, are therefore the only people with a 100% record of success, and with that sort of record, promotion is inevitable.

5 Treat appraisals as auditions for panto

An appraisal is where you have an exchange of opinion with your boss. It's called an exchange of opinion because you go in with your opinion and leave with their opinion. When you have had a bad year, the best approach is a balance between cringeing apology and grovelling sycophancy, something like: "My respect for you is so intense that it sometimes distracted me, thereby causing the continual string of major cock-ups that have been the main feature of my performance this year." Interestingly, giving appraisals is actually as hard as getting them. The secret is to mix criticism with recognition. For example: "You've made a number of mistakes Martin, but we recognise you made them because you are a total idiot."

6 Get up to speed with the jargon

What differentiates a business thought from a normal thought is that business thoughts have a "going forward" at the end of them going forward. It's also vital that you know that for the envelope to be pushed out of the box and through the window of opportunity, customers should first become stakeholders and then delighted beyond their expectations. In order to do this, top executives will go forward the extra mile while wearing the shoes of the customer. And remember, the customer is king (unless she is a woman).

7 Be nice to PAs

If you put all the country's chief executives in one room, all they would produce would be a range of jammy share options for themselves and some meaningless corporate waffle for the City. Give them one good PA and they might get some useful work done. That's why it's very difficult for PAs to become managers. It's not that PAs couldn't do management jobs, it's because management couldn't do management jobs without PAs. Remember that for every senior executive on the golf course, there is a PA running the business back in the office.

8 Try not to upset anyone

Think how easy it is to upset someone at home and then triple it: that is how easy it is to upset someone at work. Upsetting your boss is the easiest thing to do in the office (apart from their job that is). All you have to do is turn up and you've got yourself well and truly in their bad books. Keeping on the right side of them is simply a matter of anticipating their every whim, completing work before they decide it's needed and laughing at their pathetic jokes rather than their pathetic dress sense. People at the bottom of the office pile are equally easy to upset. If your job is to push a button you are not going to take kindly to anyone who tells you where, when and how to push it. Only those people who respect your absolute mastery of button-pushing will be allowed to benefit from a display of the aforesaid mastery.

9 Manage without bosses

The difference between a boss and a high street bank is that a bank sometimes gives you credit for things. Bosses give you things to do and then blame you for doing them. What they never understand is that if they didn't give you things to do in the first place, you wouldn't make so many spectacular foul-ups. Naturally there are good bosses and bad bosses. Some take the trouble to get interested in what you are doing, encourage your personal development and generally provide you with a stimulating and challenging environment in which to work. There are also good bosses who lock themselves in their rooms, have five-hour lunches and leave you completely alone.

10 Steer clear of paper

Steer clear of all paper as the thing it's most likely to have on it is work. There is a saying that a job is not finished until the paperwork is done. It's a saying that is not used much these days because most people's entire job is paperwork. It would be like saying to a shipbuilder: "The job's not over until the ship is built," which is blindingly obvious and might get you a rivet in the forehead. There is, however, a slight difference in that you can launch a ship and it will disappear over the horizon, whereas you can finish your paperwork and it will have multiplied and be back on your desk by the following day.

11 Don't drink under the influence of work

Alcohol and business don't mix, which is why you really shouldn't bother with work if you like a drink. Excessive drinking at work makes you feel sociable, light-headed and confident. In other words, it makes you feel like you work in sales. The day after, when you feel like the whole world is a grim, head-crushing torture chamber, it makes you feel like you work in IT. It's an absolute rule that the person who earns least in the office will be the first person to buy a round after work. He is also the first to get absolutely hammered and say something so offensive that he gets passed over for a raise for the seventh year running.

12 Dress up not down

Since the collapse of communism, dress-down Fridays have done more than anything else to impair the smooth running of capitalism. Business suits are for doing business in. If you are wearing a welder's helmet people expect rivets, if you are wearing a suit people expect business. But if you are wearing shorts and sandals, people expect you to be on your way to San Francisco with flowers in your hair. On the other hand, never look too businesslike. This marks you out as someone who works in organised crime or as an undertaker, if not both.

13 Never answer a phone

Answering a phone in an office generally means speaking to a customer or your boss. As neither will call unless they want something, answering the phone will probably mean doing work. Don't pick up a phone unless you know it's a social call. As you will never know whether an incoming call is social or not, it's best to make a lot of pre-emptive outgoing social calls. Managers always get terribly upset about unanswered calls and pretend it could have been someone offering millions of pounds of new business. You know that is very unlikely because you have just had someone on the phone offering millions of pounds of new business and been so rude to him that he rang off.

14 Cycle to work

Office car parks are all built to a rigid standard which requires that they have 30% fewer spaces than cars. The reason why bosses get to work first is because they have such huge cars that they can only park them if they arrive first and can drive straight in without any reversing and manoeuvring. It's left to the Micra-driving minions to squeeze into the tiny little gaps senior management leaves behind. If you use reverse gear more than 18 times to get into a space, you probably shouldn't be parking there. Remember, it's no good sitting there in the world's smallest gap feeling all pleased with yourself if you can't open the door.

15 Refuse to go to conferences

Conferences are the business equivalent of going for a curry, in that everyone thinks having one is a fantastic idea, but you always end up drinking too much, talking rubbish and feeling sick for days afterwards. The biggest fear in the business world is having to make a speech at a conference. This is because you generally have nothing of interest to say and no one in the audience has the slightest interest in anything you have to say anyway. For example, when you are the IT director, it's your job to make sure the IT works. If it does work they know already and if it doesn't, they don't want to hear your pathetic excuses.

16 Ignore consultants

A consultant is someone in business with an ego so large it takes more than one company to support it. At a personal level, consultants work either by trying to inspire fear or trying to be friends. It's in trying to be friends with you that they inspire the most fear. The acid test of a consultant is whether they can say, "Everything's fine, we'll be off then." No real consultant can. Instead they will sell you a project that costs just enough to keep your profits suppressed to a level that requires further remedial consultancy.

17 Find the right person

Everyone in the office is the right person for something. They have the experience, the programme, the form, the docket, the knowledge or the key to make something happen in the easiest manner possible. But when somebody else wants to do this particular thing the last person in the universe they will ask is the right person. Instead they reinvent the wheel, take their driving test and do a couple of horrific crash tests. In this way everyone has to learn to do everything from scratch. That is what they mean when they talk about a learning organisation.

18 Leave networking to trawlermen

The old school tie used to be the fan belt of British manufacturing industry, which explains why we no longer have one. However, in business they still say it's not what you know, it's who you know, which is a bit depressing when you have just completed 15 years of formal education. Networkers give you their card within the first 30 seconds of conversation. After about 20 minutes telling you how brilliant they are, ask whether they would like your card. Then return their own to them and watch them slip it straight back into their pocket.

19 Learn to recycle reports

Reports are the office equivalent of cones in the road. They are not actually work themselves but they are a big, clear sign that real work might be done at some stage. In the meantime, they slow everything down and cause anger and annoyance all round. The quickest and easiest way to write a report is to change the names in the last report. When you do this, be aware that there will always be one name that escapes your changes and that will be in the sentence, "We are committed to personal service to ..." The other thing people always forget to change in reports are the headers and footers which you only notice are completely wrong in the lift on the way to your presentation.

20 Steer well clear of all meetings

Half of every working day is spent in meetings, half of which are not worth having, and of those that are, half the time is wasted. Which means that nearly one third of office life is spent in small rooms with people you don't like, doing things that don't matter. The only reason people have so many meetings is that they are the one time you can get away from your work, your phone and your customers. People say that the secret of a good meeting is preparation. But if people really prepared for meetings, the first thing they would realise is that most are unnecessary. In fact, a tightly run meeting is one of the most frightening things in office life. These are meetings for which you have to prepare, in which you have to work and after which you have to take action. Fortunately, these meetings are as rare as a sense of gay abandon in the finance department

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Depressing but true

The problems with the Leeds team at present according to a couple of posters on WACCOE

On the Pitch:-
  • Can't defend
  • Can't track players
  • Poor Concentration
  • Can't Pass
  • Always go backwards
  • Don't pass and run
  • Don't look for space
  • Too Slow
  • Poor positioning
  • Don't like shooting
  • Too Old
  • Lack of passion
  • Simply not good enough

Off the Pitch:-

  • Dressing room split?
  • Constant change in coaching staff
  • No/Little money
  • Authority not being stamped
    Crowd booing our own players
  • Crowd taking the piss out of our players
  • Crowd more obsessed with Chelsea than Leeds
  • Crowd who dont come
  • Crowd chanting against the new manager

Well that little lot should keep Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet busy for a while!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

3rd Army send battalion to Bangkok

According to the Bangkok Post here the Third Army sent a battalion of troops to Bangkok last night following fears that Thaksin Shinawatra was about to return, There are also protests about the the election of Meechai Ruchupan as the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) President as he is seen as being loyal to Thaksin. Apparently a further four battalions were on their way as well.

Rumours indicate that Thaksin Shinawatra may have left London for Singapore and the authorities are worried that he may attempt to sneak back into the country possibly via the Southern border with Malaysia. Given his previous record on dealing with the insurgency in the South this seems an unlikely route to me.

Meanwhile The Nation reports here on activity within Thaksin Shinawatras former ruling party Thai Rak Thai. After a series of resignations a couple of weeks ago Thai Rak Thai now has a new interim leader in Chaturon Chaisang. Thai Rak Thai also announced it was forming a working group to investigate the government, the Council of National Security (CNS) and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA). They also went on to says that"as the NLA was not democratic because it had no opposition in the House, the Thai Rak Thai working group could act as an opposition outside of Parliament."

This may be part of what is worrying the coup leaders. They have control of the reins of power at present but were Thaksin Shinawatra to return and were there to be an uprising supported by elements of the military which are loyal to Thaksin then the coup leaders may find themselves being investigated instead of being the ones doing the investigating as at present.

There fears may have been exacerbated by a special report in The Nation here about what Thaksin Shinawatra may be doing to facilitate a to return to power. The report essentially says that "although Thaksin has resigned as leader of the Thai Rak Thai Party, the move was to withdraw to regain control". His tactic is to avoid a criminal offence in case the Constitution Tribunal dissolves the party, as a criminal offence cannot be prosecuted retroactively. He accepts that the party needs a new face as it leader and is concentrating on trying to protect his assets from being impounded by the Asset Examination Committee.

The report goes on to say that he has "mobilised at least 300 party members in each province to do underground work. They distributed a cartoon book that tells of Thaksin's life to seek sympathy from the grassroots. He is also trying his best to ensure the Thai public does not lose interest in him. If the Thai Rak Thai Party is dissolved, that would not mean Thaksin's dream to return to power would end. He has been seeking a way to survive. Approaches have been made to politicians such as Somsak Thepsuthin, who led his faction to quit Thai Rak Thai to establish a new party. "

His strategy according to this report is to protect his assets and promote political heirs either within Thai Rak Thai or through a new party. Once the heir has regained political power he can regain full control of his assets and possibly take revenge on those who brought about his downfall.

Whether or not these report have any basis to them I do not know but their publication must be adding to the nervousness amongst the coup leaders.

Google launch bespoke search engine

According to this article from the BBC Google have launched a bespoke search engine service which can be included on people's websites or blogs. The actual Google site for this can be found here. According to Google you can :
  • Place a search box and search results on your website.
  • Specify or prioritize the sites you want to include in searches.
  • Customize the look and feel to match your website.
  • Invite your community to contribute to the search engine.

I will have a play with this later and see how it works.

4 managers in a month

Kevin Blackwell departed at the end of September and John Carver took over. On Monday John Carver too departed and David Geddis was appointed for last nights game against Southend. Yesterday Dennis Wise and his assistant Gus Poyet were confirmed as the new management team. They were at Elland Road last night to watch Leeds take on Southend in the Carling Cup.

The two of them walked around the ground before kick off and were given a far better reception by the Leeds fans than I feared. WACCOE had a poll running on how people felt about the appointment of Dennis Wise and approximately 70% were delighted or pleased when I voted last night.

The opening half in particular will have shown Wise and Poyet just how much work needs to be done as Leeds lost 3-1. In particular some serious work needs to be done on a very leaky defence. They face Southend again on Saturday

If anyone wants the Dennis Wise autobiography then click here

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Fascinating report from the CPRE which can be found here about tranquility in the UK or perhaps more accurately the lack of tranquilty.

The two images shown above represent the South East and the South West of the UK and show very contrasting pictures in terms of the amount of peace and quiet we are likely to find in these two areas. It is interesting to see the relative tranquility of whole areas of the North and North West as well. This ties in well with the recent concerns I expressed about the north / south divide here

Of course I suspect that there are many in the North, North West and South West of the country who are only to glad to see the rest of us trying deparately to cram more and more into the South East!

Regional tranquility maps can be found here

Monday, October 23, 2006

Leeds in talks with Dennis Wise

According to the BBC here Leeds are in talks with Dennis Wise with regard to the managers job and compensation which would be due to Swindon. He has always been in the frame ever since the beginning of the season because of his connections with Bates and I am glad to see that Ken Bates has taken on board my plea yesterday to sort out the situation!

I am not convinced that this is the best appointment for the long term future of Leeds United but on the other hand the job is such a poisoned chalice at the moment that I am not sure who would want the job at least not on the sort of money we are probably offering.

I do not take the view that he should be opposed just because he played for Chelsea. If he is to be the new Leeds manager then the fans need to get behind him and give him a chance to prove what he can do. At least he has some understanding from his days at Wimbledon of the need for team spirit and working together - if he can communicate that to the players then that alone may see some improvement in our performance. Surely it cannot get any worse.

Update : Swindon have refused Leeds permission to continue talks as agreement cannot be reached on compensation

Further Update : Agreement has been reached and talks with Dennis Wise and his assistant Gus Poyet are continuing

Next Update : John Carver has left Leeds United and David Geddis is expected to take charge of tomorrows Carling Cup tie against Southend.

12 months to go

So the UK is not going to throw in the towel in Iraq and we are not going to set a deadline for withdrawal so thats ok then. I am not sure what this piece in the Guardian is referring to then.

The piece certainly gives the impression that the UK is at least setting an unofficial deadline for withdrawal. Kim Howells said "I would have thought that certainly in a year or so there will be adequately trained Iraqi soldiers and security forces - policemen and women and so on - in order to do the job."

He may genuinely think that but I would suggest that three years down the road there is precious little evidence that the Iraqi security forces are efficient enough, effective enough, numerous enough and determined enough to bring order, stability and security to a country that is effectively in the middle of a civil war.

The Americans too seem to be singing from the same song sheet according to this piece in the Guardian The article says "the Bush administration, alarmed by the increasing violence and lawlessness gripping much of Iraq, has decided to force the hand of the embattled prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. It will push him to agree to a timetable of specific measures aimed at disarming the militias, halting sectarian violence, and shouldering more responsibility for the country's security." In other words sort things out and take responsibility for your own security so we can leave.

Whatever happens with British and American troops and their timetable (or not) for withdrawal I think it is inevitable that the final solution for Iraq will involve the Balkanisation of the country. Sooner or later Iraq will split into a number of smaller states most probably three. It seems probable that there is nothing now that the coalition forces or internal Iraqi security forces can do to prevent that. I hope I am wrong and that some miracle occurs and order is re-established as soon as possible. But it does not seem likely.

4-0 to the Arsenal

And quite frankly it could easily have been double that and the result would not have been unfair to Reading. Arsenal are simply the best team to have graced the Madejski Stadium so far. Reading battled and fought until the end although perhaps not with the same vigour as they did against Manchester United and Chelsea. Hopefully it wasn't a result of last weeks events but there was just the smallest tendancy for some Reading players to back off from making challenges. Thierry Henry and Fabregas were noticeable beneficiaries of this and Reading paid the price. The Guardians report of the game can be found here.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bates please act

Leeds United are in free fall at present. Blackwell had clearly lost the dressing room and had to go. Good decision. Then John Carver is given a go. Fair Decision. It seems reasonable to let someone who knows the players and who was the assistant manager and who has worked at other big clubs have a go at turning the situation round.

In his first match we beat Birmingham 3-2 although given Birminghams recent slump in form it does not look so good with hindsight. Then we lost 4-2, 4-0, 2-1 finally yesterday 5-1 to Luton. A report can be found here. 15 goals shipped in four games!. His chance has gone and clearly some stability needs to be brought to the club in general and the dressing room in particular.

There is probably some dead wood in the dressing room but these are generally the same players that got to the playoff final last season so in theory with some organisation and determination a half decent manager should be able to turn things around. Come on Ken please sort out a decent appointment as the new manager a.s.a.p. If it is left much longer we will have to be working out how trim our budgets to life in Division 1!

Speaking of budgets and difficulties with managing them it did amuse me to see this article in the Guardian about Peter Ridsdale lining up a takeover for Cardiff. Good luck boys you will probably need it. How this guy is allowed to continue as a director of a football club let alone take one over is beyond me.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Is this the end game playing out?

Iraq and US and British foreign policy vis-a-vis Iraq has been a disaster ever since Bush decided he was going to oust Saddam come what may and with whatever pretext. As I recall he initially thought Baghdad was responsible for the attack on the twin towers.

This article in the Guardian indicates that efforts are under way in Washington and London to find an exit strategy for Iraq.

Here in the UK the Chief of the General Staff has said what everyone else has been thinking for some considerable time. He should not have said it but it does not make it any less true just because he ought not to have said. Tony Blair has been forced to state that he supports what General Sir Richard Dannatt said even though there is considerable doubt as whether or not he really does.

Back across the pond it is clear that the Americans are also having a rethink and as I suggested before it appears that Blair does not want to act unilaterally and is awaiting guidance and direction from Washington. That guidance will appear doubtless after the US mid term elections when James Baker's commission will publish its recommendations. Having said that Bush is clearly laying the ground for a possible withdrawal and is consulting his generals according to this piece from the BBC.

If this really is the case then Blair should think very carefully before authorising British forces to go back into Amara with a view to retaking it. This city was handed over to the Iraqis just two months ago and now appears to be in chaos with 800 militiamen said to be in control. There is little point sending British troops into a blood bath if both London and Washington are starting to move towards acceptance of the fact that withdrawal is inevitable.

A futher Guardian article which can be found here goes on to outline eight possible options which are said to be under discussion between London and Washington.

The eight options with their pros and cons are as follows :

1 British out now

One of the British diplomats involved in talks on Iraq policy said the UK, which has responsibility for the south of Iraq, "could go tomorrow almost ... It would not look pretty, but it is doable".

Against British diplomats pinpoint three problems if the UK was to pull out immediately. One would be political: the US would not welcome being left virtually alone. The second is military: the US would no longer have a dependable force in the south. The third is security: without British forces in place, fighting between the various militia groups and the criminal gangs in Basra and elsewhere would intensify.

For The British presence is part of the problem. If Basra, Amara and other places were to disintegrate after British forces leave, the FCO hopes Shia religious leaders and Iran, which has influence over the Shia, could quickly establish stability.

Likelihood Not being seriously considered yet. Halving British forces next summer, with further reductions later on, is still the likeliest outcome.

2 US coalition out now

"We could pull out now and leave them to their fate," a Foreign Office official said. "But the place could implode." The advantage of this option would be to cut short the agony.

Against A premature pull-out could precipitate an even more ferocious civil war. Faced with world outrage over the level of human rights abuses and carnage, the US might then have to consider going back in circumstances even worse than before.

For The presence of US forces is making things worse. The insurgency would lose its patriotic justification. A pull-out might force the Iraqi parties and security forces to work together or face a descent into anarchy.

Likelihood Such an early exit is unlikely. It would be an unpalatable humiliation for the Bush administration and most of its critics agree that a hasty withdrawal could ultimately oblige the troops to go back.

3 Phased withdrawal

This is the present policy, but any pull-out is contingent on Iraq developing its own security forces. But there are increasing calls in Washington and London for a timetable. A Foreign Office official said: "The date might possibly have to be secret." Otherwise it could encourage insurgents to step up attacks. During this stage, the US could pour in money for employment programmes.

Against The risk of agreeing a secret date with the Iraqi government is that, as with much else in Iraq, the date would probably leak out anyway.

For The prospect of the removal of its security blanket might force the Iraqi government to face up to the many issues it ignores at present, such as the rise in sectarian violence. It also allows more time for training the Iraqi army and trying to train and reform the police force, a policy that has so far proved to be slower than coalition forces had hoped.

Likelihood Still the likeliest option.

4 Talk to Iran and Syria

There appears to have been virtual consensus in the Baker commission for talks with Iraq's two most difficult neighbours on the grounds that they must ultimately want stability but will not pursue it while excluded from negotiations. The FCO, which has an embassy in Tehran, is pushing for engagement too.

Against Iran and Syria could make demands in return for help that the Bush administration would find hard to accept. Iran would, at a minimum, demand that the US stop calling for regime change. Syria could urge the US to put pressure on Israel to return the Golan Heights, lost in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. There is some question over whether either country could stop sectarian killings.

For Whatever the limitations of their influence, the bloodshed is only likely to worsen until they are brought on board.

Likelihood There may be too much resistance in the Bush administration to direct talks, but the US could well give the nod to negotiations between a sovereign Iraq and its powerful neighbours.

5 Iraqi strongman

The US and British governments have been disappointed so far with Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's elected prime minister who took over earlier this year, mainly over the reluctance of his Shia-dominated coalition to tackle Shia death squads. Washington and London could press for his replacement with a strongman at the head of a junta, such as Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister from 2004-05 - and roll back democracy.

Against Ousting a democratic government, with its carefully crafted constitution, would amount to a scandalous policy failure. "I do not see that as an option for western democracies," a British official said. Allawi is treated with suspicion by religious Shias because he is secular and detested by Sunnis because he presided over the attack on Falluja.

For Only a strong, secular Iraqi leader could break the sectarian deadlock and broker the kind of compromises over oil and regional autonomy that are essential to prevent civil war and keep the country together.

Likelihood Not likely.

6 Break-up of Iraq

Iraq is moving towards a federal model that could result in its break-up. The Kurdish area to the north is virtually autonomous anyway. The Shia-dominated area stretching from Basra in the south to the holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf further north could form another bloc, leaving the Sunnis with much of the west and centre - mostly oil-free desert. Advocates of such partition talk about using coalition forces to escort minority populations across the ethnic divides to streamline the partition and working out a fair revenue-sharing formula for oil.

Against The break-up would leave a power vacuum in the region, which Iran, Syria and Turkey could exploit. The partition of Iraq would not be easy. Baghdad, which has huge Sunni and Shia communities, could explode.
For The sectarian killings are creating de facto partition. Military escorts for civilians displaced by the violence would at least reduce the death toll.

Likelihood Events on the ground may make it inevitable.

7 Redeploy & contain

There are two variations. One is for US forces to leave populated areas and retreat to "super-bases" in the desert from where they could support Iraqi forces - something the army has already begun. An alternative would be for the US forces to move out of Iraq altogether and use bases in nearby countries.

Against "Super-bases could be the worst of both worlds," argues Larry Diamond, a former adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority. The troops would be too cut off from the streets to have much impact, but they would remain foreign occupiers. It could be difficult to persuade other Arab countries to provide bases, and once out, it will be harder going back. It could also be perceived as cutting and running.

For US forces would no longer be in the firing line and with them gone, the motivation for many of the insurgents might evaporate. They would still be at hand to prop up the elected government.

Likelihood Quite possible in the short term as the US tries to stem its casualties, but unlikely as a lasting solution.

8 One last push

This would involve an increase of troops in the short term in the hope of creating sufficient security to deliver economic gains and create confidence in the Iraqi government. This roughly is Senator John McCain's preferred option, but might also appeal to Mr Bush as it would not immediately require a policy U-turn.

Against It might be too late to curb the escalating violence and it would be politically unpalatable at home. It could leave even more US forces stuck in the middle of a civil war.

For Military experts have long said there are not enough coalition forces in Iraq to seal the borders against infiltration and stamp out sectarian killings. It would be a sign of backing for the Baghdad government and would force sectarian leaders to take it more seriously.

Likelihood A final gamble by Mr Bush is not to be discounted. Senator McCain is a presidential frontrunner for 2008, but by then Iraq may look very different.

My Opinion

Option 3 (Phased withdrawal) may be the current policy and may in the opinion of the Guardian still be the likeliest outcome. If they mean in the short term then they may be correct. However, in the long run I suspect that the outcome will be option 6 (break up of Iraq) whether or not the tricky question of oil revenues can be resolved or not. The country is virtually in the throws of a civil war in any case and there are clearly areas which are likely strongholds for each of the Kurds, Shias and Sunnis.

Imagine Earth without people

This was the title of a fascinating piece in last weeks New Scientist which can be found here.

The article was based around the concept that all the people on earth disappeared over night and asked the question what would happen to the earth once we had gone.

Amongst the more interesting snippets were :

By some estimates, 85 per cent of the night sky above the European Union is light-polluted; in the US it is 62 per cent and in Japan 98.5 per cent. In some countries, including Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, there is no longer any night sky untainted by light pollution. Pretty quickly - 24, maybe 48 hours - you'd start to see blackouts because of the lack of fuel added to power stations

In the boreal forests of northern Alberta, Canada, for example, human impact mostly consists of access roads, pipelines, and other narrow strips cut through the forest. In the absence of human activity, the forest will close over 80 per cent of these within 50 years, and all but 5 per cent within 200

Even if CO2 emissions stop tomorrow, though, global warming will continue for another century, boosting average temperatures by a further few tenths of a degree. Atmospheric scientists call this "committed warming", and it happens because the oceans take so long to warm up compared with the atmosphere. In essence, the oceans are acting as a giant air conditioner, keeping the atmosphere cooler than it would otherwise be for the present level of CO2.

That last one certainly makes you think of the trouble we are stacking up for the future!

Friday, October 20, 2006

New 7 Wonders of the World - who would you vote for?

The original 7 wonders of the world are no more and are down to just one - the pyramids at Giza.

Someone has come up with the idea of an online vote for the new 7 wonders of the world.

In all honesty I have to say it is hard to tell whether or not this site is genuine or whether it is just a scam aimed at raising some money and selling some products.

Their shortlist of 21 which can be seen here seems a little odd to me. The Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower to mention two.

If I had to narrow it down to seven I would go for the following :

1. Stonehenge

2. The Great Wall of China

3. The Pyramids of Giza

4. The Easter Island Statues

5. Angkor Wat

6. Machu Picchu

7. Chichen Itza

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Blairs legacy

If as we all suspect Tony Blair has been hanging on in order to establish / preserve his legacy then things have changed a lot over the last week or so. His legacy was always going to be dubious at best - more a case of opportunities lost than a case of opportunities taken.

Frankly if one is looking for positives then once you get past Independence for the Bank of England (for which no doubt Gordon Brown will claim the credit), the Good Friday Agreement, equalization of the age of consent and the Civil Partnership Act one begins to struggle to find positives.

The negatives include much of his foreign policy (which appears to most observers to be merely an extension of that espoused in Washington DC) as well as many problems on the domestic front. Whether Tony Blair likes it or not the illegal war in Iraq will inevitably form a huge part of his page in history.

General Sir Richard Dannatt should not have said the things he said from a constitutional point of view but nobody has seriously questioned the fact that he was right. Yesterday Blair was forced to concede that British troops may be out of Iraq in 10 to 16 months time.

It has also become clear (yet again) just how beholden Blair is to the policy espoused by the United States. He does not want to act unilaterally and needs to await guidance and direction from Washington. That guidance will appear doubtless after the US mid term elections when James Baker's commission will publish its recommendations. It is apparent from this article in yesterdays Guardian that a potential change of direction for US foreign policy is in the offing.

If that change of direction indicates a withdrawal from Iraq it will be fascinating to see what calculations Blair make about his place in history. Does he want to bring the troops home himself or will he continue to hold out stubbornly and leave the task to Brown or whoever the next Prime Minister may be.

If it is left until he is gone and Brown takes over then I would not be surprised to see a whirlwind of announcements on policy (many of which will be contrary to the current position) including a swift withdrawal from Iraq. Brown is ruthless and he will calculate that he needs to kill this issue before a general election which he will want to win.

Ten most polluted places in the world

This report from the Blacksmith Institute identifies the top 10 most polluted sites in the world. I was not surprised to see Chernobyl on the list but I have to confess that most of the rest I had never heard of.

Leaving Chernobyl the other nine sites identified were :

DZERZINSK, RUSSIA - Chemicals and toxic byproducts from Cold War-era chemical weapons manufacturing, including Sarin, VX gas, lewisite - the poisonous effect of which is owed to its arsenic trioxide content, yperite (mustard gas), prussic acid, phosgene, dioxins and other persistent organic chemicals. Lead, from an additives manufacturer, now closed.


KABWE, ZAMBIA - Lead, cadmium

LA OROYA, PERU - Lead, copper, zinc, and sulfur dioxide.

LINFEN, SHANXI PROVINCE, CHINA - Fly-ash, carbon monoxide, Nitrogen oxides, PM-2.5, PM-10, Sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, arsenic, lead

MAILUU-SUU, KYRGYZSTAN - Radioactive uranium mine tailings. Gamma radiation from the dumps measures in between 100-600 micro-roentgens per hour. Heavy metals, and cyanides.

NORILSK, RUSSIA - Air pollution - particulates including Strontium-90, Caesium-137, Sulfur dioxide, heavy metals (nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, selenium), particulates, nitrogen and carbon oxides, phenols, hydrogen sulfide.

RUDNAYA PRISTAN/DALNEGORSK, RUSSIA - Lead, cadmium, mercury, antimony

RANIPET, INDIA - Chemicals

The full report (without images) can be found here

The full report (with images about 12mb) can be found here

Thailand - new approach to trouble in the south

Whatever one feels about the military coup in Thailand the new approach to dealing with the insurgency in the southernmost provinces is to be welcomed.

The new Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has been on a visit to neighbouring Malaysia and has been discussing the problems of violence in the four southernmost provinces of Thailand which are nearest to Malayasia.

According to this report in The Nation Surayud signaled he will take a different approach on the crisis to the hardline stance of the ousted government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. "Let me explain my personal strategy of trying to solve the problems in the south, by peaceful means," he said after talks with Malaysian leaders."We will try to talk to a lot of people. Initially I told the Malaysian prime minister that I will talk to the Muslim leaders in the south, talk to kids in schools. So that is the way I'm trying to present myself, by way of talking."

The Malaysian Defence Minister Najib Razak said "In our meeting, the Thai PM has showed his dedication to solve the southern Thailand political issue. He will restore ties with Muslim leaders in southern Thailand and take steps to start a new administration there, retaining the old administration but with new adjustments".

Lets hope this works and a peaceful solution can be found

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mourinho determined to disgrace Chelsea

If it wasn't enough to virtually accuse someone of attempting to kill his player (see Hunt innocent but what about Mourinho) without any supporting evidence Jose Mourinho has blundered again with factually inaccurate statements about the time it took for an ambulance to arrive to treat his player.

According to the BBC Mourinho claims that "My goalkeeper was in the dressing room for 30 minutes waiting for an ambulance." and went on to say "He left 30 minutes after my doctor called for an urgent ambulance."

The only problem with his accusations are that they do not marry up at all with the official timeline issued by Reading Football Club yesterday. This gives the timings as follows :

17.16 The collision between Petr Cech and Stephen Hunt occurred and treatment was provided on the pitch.

17.21 Petr Cech was taken into the dressing room on a stretcher. Chelsea Football Club's medical staff were in charge of the treatment provided to Cech. At first, they decided that it was not necessary to call an ambulance.

17.40 Cech's condition deteriorated and the Chelsea doctor called for assistance which was immediately raised from the stadium medical control.

17.45 After a brief inspection of Cech, the paramedics called for an ambulance.

17.52 The ambulance arrived at the players' entrance.

18.04 The ambulance departed Madejski Stadium.

18.11 The ambulance arrived at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

This statement seems to be supported by the South Central Ambulance Service who issued their timeline as follows :

17.15 Cech injured

17.20 Cech taken to dressing room. Chelsea doctor does not think ambulance necessary

17.45 Cech's condition deteriorates and Chelsea doctor requests ambulance

17.52 Ambulance arrives at Madejski Stadium

18.11 Ambulance arrives at Royal Berkshire hospital

They went onto say "The removal of the patient was a decision taken by Chelsea, who were offered two routes. One was round the pitch on a stretcher. The other was by a small lift, via a wheelchair." This again completely contradicts Mourinho's statement that the only way the player could get from the dressing room to the ambulance was via a lift.

At some point it seems to me that someone has to step in and make Mourinho responsible for his increasingly bizarre behaviour. Everyone understands that Chelsea have lost two goalkeepers and that one of them was seriously injured. Everyone wishes Petr Cech a swift recovery. But these facts cannot justify Mourinho's statements and it is time that the FA took some action against Mourinho for bringing the game into disrepute

Common sense on the north south divide

I saw a great piece on the long running and thorny issue of the North / South divide here in Mondays Guardian

As anyone who has lived in the south and the south east in particular can tell you there has been a problem for many years and over the years these problems have only got worse.

Local authorities are constantly being given housing allocations which they have to make provision for in their local plans even though they know that the infrastructure in their area can barely cope as it is.

Water and sewage systems are creaking and overloaded, the local road networks cannot cope and the local authority will have to make provision for a whole host of additional services for these new residents from schools to refuse disposal.

In the long run the cost of most of those additional services will not be covered by any planning gain agreements and the cost will have to be picked up by existing and new council tax payers or through cuts in other services.

Central government will also need to deal with the demands for other essential services such as Doctors, Dentists and Hospitals.

How about the problems with water supply in the South East this summer? There is plenty of water in the north but where are we going to be with water supplies in the south in 10 or 20 years time. If rainfall drops off because of global warming, we continue to have hotter and longer summers and usage continues to rise as more and more business and people are crammed into the south east corner of the country.

Public transport is also creaking in some areas, yes there are many areas where public transport is almost non existent but travel into London on most of the commuter lines and you can see that there is not much more capacity available.

Meanwhile less and less jobs are available in the north where unemployment is generally higher and allegedly whole streets in some of the most run down areas can be picked up for a few quid.

I have always felt that this is an issue that could only be tackled successfully through central government intervention. Of course you cannot force people to move from the South to the North but you only have to look at the North / South motorway network on Friday and Sunday evenings to see that there are a large number of people who work / live in the South who want to spend a lot of their leisure time in the North – primarily because that is where they are from originally and where many of their friends and relatives continue to reside. With the right incentives, jobs and infrastructure many of these people would be delighted to move North again instead of travelling backwards and forwards at weekends.

Who knows perhaps the government could invest in all these run down streets which are available at a cheap price and refurbish them to let or sell at a future date as demand for property in the North rises again once the infrastructure and jobs are in place.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hunt innocent but what about Mourinho

Nearly 72 hours after the Reading vs Chelsea game and a lot of hot air has been spouted about the clash between Stephen Hunt and Petr Cech which saw the latter end up in hospital with a fractured skull.

Mourinho was undoubtedly upset at the loss of not one but two goalkeepers and lashed out at Stephen Hunt after the game. Not a nice reaction but possibly understandable.

What was not so understandable was maintaining that position after having had an opportunity to review footage of the incident and after many independent reporters had also reviewed the footage and come to the conclusion that there was no malice in the challenge.

I don't normally read The Daily Mail but is nice to see them suggesting here that it is Chelsea who should now be apologising to Stephen Hunt.

Dull as Dishwater

I have decided to take part in the one day in history blogging event where one chronicles an ordinary day in the life of someone in the UK. If anyone else wants to get involved then click here for more details. I suspect that if everyone chronicles their day as it is then a lot of these blogs (including mine) will be extremely dull. I will post this up and continue to add to it throughout the day.

My alarm went at 6.45 as usual and I set off for work in Reading. The M4 was a lot quieter than usual so I can only assume that there was an accident somewhere west of Junction 12. Walked into town and picked up a baguette for my breakfast before returning to my desk where a series of urgent issues need to be resolved.

Somebody needs a whole load of process maps on their laptop to do an external presentation and the maps are not up to date and they do not know how to get them onto their laptop. Oh and their laptop is playing up and they have gone to a meeting ho hum.

Meanwhile we are still awaiting a custom piece of software which is being written for use by our team. It should have been implemented by the end of September but we have not even got as far as System testing yet and the lack of this software is impacting on our customers who are starting to jump up and down.

One of my colleagues has tried to use our process mapping software in a meeting room and it wouldn't work so I had to go and troubleshoot that as well. Got it working even though I am not technical support. Off to grab a coffee.

Finally resolved the problem with the presentation which was all to do with file access rights to the html files which were needed to run the presentation remotely from the main software. Nipped out to get some fruit for my lunch (all part of my efforts to diet and lose a couple of stone). Also booked the Harley in to try and get my rear wheel sorted out as it appears to have the slowest slow puncture ever.

Spent an hour or so sorting my emails out, it is amazing how much time is spent every day sorting out and replying to work or personal emails. Then spent the rest of the afternoon trying to work out some details for a rollout of process mapping software to 300 people.

Home to the usual domestic chores and time spent on the PC, eating a lovely Dinner cooked by my daughter-in-law, watching football and playing with the kittens who are just the most demented things on earth.

And so to bed

I just knew this would be dull - god knows what thousands of entries like this are going to read like to some historian in 100 or 1000 years time!

More on The Chief of Staff from Millenium Dome Elephant

Having given my thoughts on the furore surrounding the comments by Chief of the General Staff in a piece entitled The thin red line I came across this great piece from the Millenium Dome Elephant. Absolutely brilliant, spot on and a great read. In fact I can heartily recommend The Very Fluffy Diary of Millennium Dome, Elephant to anyone. A unique style of blogging and usually extremely witty.

Thaksin wants to return to Thailand

But according to articles in The Nation here and The Bangkok Post here he will not be allowed to return until martial law has been lifted and even then there is some uncertainty as to whether or not he will be allowed to return home.

Thaksin wants to come home but must know that rightly or wrongly there will be some music to face. On the other hand his supporters may welcome him with open arms which in turn may make it more difficult for the coup leaders to prosecute him.

The coup leaders I suspect are torn between bringing Thaksin home so that they can prosecute him and the knowledge that bringing him home may in itself trigger the violence they wish to avoid.

Maybe a compromise will be reached in the coming weeks whereby Thaksin does a deal which enables him to return without prosecution if certain undertakings are given with regard to him not participating in Thai politics in the future. Mind you even this will leave open the question of Thai Rak Thai and its members or former members an their participation in the next set of elections

Monday, October 16, 2006

The thin red line.

Has General Sir Richard Dannatt crossed the line between reasonable military advice and political interference and if so what should be done.

I have found this really difficult to get my head round so I will tackle the easier question first. If he has crossed the line then he should go. No doubt about that in my opinion.

We live in a parliamentary democracy and at the end of the day our armed forces are at the disposal of the government of the day. This is particularly so where there has been a specific vote in the House of Commons. In my opinion this is a precedent which should be maintained and all military action (except in the most dire circumstances) should be authorised by the House of Commons. Never mind that the war was an illegal war founded upon a false premise. The place to resolve that is through the ballot box. Otherwise we run the risk of the military determining which policies they do and do not like and one has only to look at Thailand to see where that can lead.

Now to the more difficult question. Has he crossed that line?

As the Chief of the General Staff he has a responsibility to those under his command to look after them and to ensure that they have the correct tools and resources to undertake the missions they are carrying out. Initially any such concerns should be addressed to the Ministry of Defence and ultimately to the Secretary of State for Defence. So is it ever acceptable to raise any of these concerns in public via the media or otherwise. I think that depends upon what the issue is.

If the Chief of the General Staff had made representations about lack of soldiers or weapons to complete the mission and his concerns had been over ridden then I feel he may have been justified in putting these concerns into the public domain.

But his comments when much further than that as is made clear in this piece from yesterdays Observer. To quote directly from the article "The general would tell Sands that British troops should be brought home 'soon' from Iraq and that their presence was 'exacerbating' tensions. Not only that, but he, in effect, accused the Prime Minister of being 'naive' in thinking they could install a liberal democracy in Iraq. Within hours of her dramatic story appearing in print, Browne rang Dannatt to demand if his comments were accurately replicated. They were."

In my view this means that he had crossed that line. He almost certainly knew what he was doing and was prepared therefore to take the consequences if it came to it. It matters not one jot that what he said was common sense and that I and many others will entirely agree with his comments that we are part of the problem. We know we should never have gone there in the first place. But is is not the role of the Chief of General Staff to interfere in the political process for determining what missions our armed forces will be used and what missions they will not be used for. Sadly I feel he should go.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Two defeats - one thrashing and one hard fought

Blackwell sacked and Carver takes over as caretaker manager. In his first game Leeds took 3 points off Birmingham. Since then two very poor performances have seen Leeds lose 4-2 to West Brom with 10 men and yesterday they lost 4-0 to Stoke. Yet again a penalty was missed and Carver is beginning to find out just how tough this job can be.

He was quoted after the game as follows "I know what my ambitions are but I have to be quite honest and say possibly this ends my chance of getting the manager's job full-time. The result doesn't help my cause but I will take it on the chin. It was a dreadful day and my first apology is to the fans because we had built their hopes up."

Hearsay on the message boards indicates the players are still unhappy and speculation is that Butler is at the heart of the problems. Whoever or whatever is the cause of the problems Carver now has nothing to lose if he wants to have any chance of securing the job on a permanent basis and should act to drop whoever the troublemakers are for the game against Leicester on Tuesday night. If things don't change he will lose his job anyway

And so the Madejski Stadium for a blood and thunder encounter between Reading and Chelsea. After this game (and the 1-1 draw with Manchester United) no team in the Premiership will be in any doubt as to Readings grit and determination to battle for each and every point this season. Yes Chelsea have millions and millions worth of talent at their disposal but Reading matched them throughout the game despite Chelseas clearly superior possession.

The game had everything. Petr Cech departed in the opening minute after colliding with Hunt. Mourinho later all but accused Hunt of hitting Cech deliberately but in my opinion (and that of several national newspapers) both players were entitled to go for the ball. Chelsea scored via an own goal from a deflected free kick that should never have been given by Mike Riley. The referee had a poor game in my opinion with Chelsea diving and bullying their way to a lot of the decisions which went their way. Two players were dismissed Mikel and Bikey (both probably a bit unlucky) and apparently both teams had a member of their coaching staff (Dillon for Reading and Rui Faria for Chelsea) sent to the stands in a fracas towards the end of the match. Cudicini was also knocked out about two minutes before the end of what turned out to be a 102 minute game.

The Chelsea players and fans were deservedly abused by the Reading fans with taunts of "Divers, Divers" but doubtless they will be happy with their three points. Anyone else visiting the Madejski Stadium this season and hoping for an easy ride will now be aware they will not get one.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Reading push for expansion

Having reached the Premiership and the top flight of English football after a mere 135 years of existence and as the oldest team in the top flight they are not about to stand still. Reading have announced plans to expand their stadium from 24,000 capacity up to approximately 38,000.

According to the official site "Additional seating will be added to the existing single-tier North, South and East Stands, and a new roof will be constructed over each stand. The West Stand will not be affected. The existing on-site access road will be realigned to accommodate the enlarged stadium. Other existing car parking and site infrastructure may have minor alterations, but it is not intended to increase the on-site car parking capacity. Therefore, the planning application will also address transportation issues associated with additional off-site car parking and related increases in public transport provision necessary to deal with the new capacity."

As far as I can see from personal experience nobody is going to object to the ground expansion other than on the grounds of transport and parking issues. These are the two things which need to be addressed at present and will need enormous work if they current parking arrangements and road network are to cater for another 14,000 fans on a regular basis.

In other news it looks as if another former Reading player is due to become a league manager with Peter Grant rumoured to be taking over at Norwich.

Meanwhile Reading take on Chelsea in the Premiership today. More on that tomorrow. Off to the game now and hoping that they show the sort of spirit that earnt them a point in their last home game against Manchester United.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fears of flooding in Bangkok

Oh well it is Friday 13th so here is some news about some more bad luck which has befallen the Thai people.

There have been a lot of floods in Thailand in the last couple of months and now according to the Bangkok Post there are fears that Bangkok itself (which is already suffering from flooding) may suffer disastrous flooding on a scale even greater than the floods which submerged the city in 1995. This is partially because because residents in upstream provinces have opposed the diversion of run-off from the river into the vast fields along its route.

There has not been any increase in the amount of rain this year but it has fallen in different parts of the country. Last year's rain was concentrated mostly in the upper North, and the water run-off was stored by major dams. This year's rain mainly fell south of the dams without the benefit of the reservoirs holding it in.

Apparently a key obstacle to the city's flood drainage attempts is the high tide period. During the three-day high tide, the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) has asked the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) not to discharge water from the city into the Chao Phraya.

I must learn more about the tides in Thailand if they have a three day high tide - it is hard to imagine what that might do here in attempts to protect the east coast and London from flooding.
Despite the violence in the south, the floods and the coup we are still planning to travel to Thailand early next year and I may blog a bit over the next couple of weeks about Koh Samui in an attempt to encourage others to visit Thailand for themselves.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Carver should look at Northern Ireland

I am not going to comment much on the disastrous performance by England last night. The BBC have a report here and the Guardian report can be found here. Suffice to say that Mclaren is now getting the stick that is to be expected for anyone who takes on the England job. He wouldn't have been my choice in the first place but he has to be given a chance at least until the end of the qualifiers.

I am more interested in the Northern Ireland result. A report of last nights 1-0 defeat of Latvia can be found here. David Healy scored the only goal. Northern Ireland beat Spain 3-2 a month ago. David Healy scored all three goals. A report of that game can be found here. For someone who has never played a Premiership game he is not doing badly on the international scene and has now scored 24 goals in 54 appearances for Northern Ireland.

I listened to Lawrie Sanchez on the radio this morning. He made it very clear that the Northern Ireland team was set up to play to Healys strengths. I hope John Carver was listening and can apply some of the same rationale to the way he sets up the Leeds team

Boiled egg cracked

I should declare an interest here or perhaps more accurately a lack of interest. I cannot stand eggs. I am not sure if I am technically allergic to them as I am able to eat cakes and biscuits etc quite happily but give me an egg in egg form and I am likely to vomit. However, this article in yesterdays Guardian caught my eye.

The age-old problem of how to cook the perfect boiled egg may have been solvedby doing away with the boiling water. A British inventor, Simon Rhymes, has created a machine that uses light bulbs to cook the egg and lops the top off at exactly the right height for toast soldier dunking.

Lets hope someone in the UK takes this up and Mr Rhymes doesn't end up having to go abroad to get his creation produced.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Theo is the star as U21's qualify

Theo Walcott was the star last night as Englands U21's qualified for the European Championship Finals next year. England battled hard to defend their 1-0 lead from the first leg first of all against ten men and then with ten men. Germany had Markus Brzenska sent off early in the first half and the Germans seemed to play better with ten than with eleven. They won a penalty and then shock horror..... they missed. Early in the second half England's Steven Taylor was red carded to make it ten vs ten. Sixteen minutes to go and on comes Theo Walcott and promptly scores two goals both of which demonstrated both his lightning quick pace and a similarity to Henry in the way in which he took them both. Steve Mclaren may yet regret leaving Theo in the U21's when England face Croatia tonight.

More support for wind farms

Ofgem says the current arrangements fro those who install microgeneration units and sell any surplus electricity are too complex for customers, with some people not being paid for power they supply back to networks.

The regulator has also urged suppliers to act as a one-stop shop for information on how to install microgeneration units and to help customers obtain meters that can register exports of surplus electricity they may want to sell.

Ofgem went on to say "Suppliers need to compete against each other to raise their game and address these issues so they can respond to the growing numbers of customers that want to generate their own power.

Ofgem threatened that "If they (the Suppliers) are unable to successfully do that, then new legislation could force us to set prices and terms for the sale of surplus electricity back to the networks."

Meanwhile Chris Huhne has called for Ofgem to be given the power to encourage wind farms and that the government should encourage more investment in wind energy by designating planning zones appropriate for wind turbines. See his press release here.

We have started eating the planet

This refers to Ecological Debt Day which apparently this year fell on 9th October.

The day symbolises the day of the year when people's demands exceeded the Earth's ability to supply resources and absorb the demands placed upon it.
The worlds first "ecological debt day" fell on 19 December 1987 and since then it has only got worse

by 1990 it fell on 7th December, by 1995 it fell on 21st November, by 2000 it fell on 1st November and by 2005 it fell on 11th October.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cost of ID cards - are we being told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

The Home Office now estimate that the cost of delivering and running the ID card scheme over the next ten years will be £5.4bn. All well and good (apart from the ID card part of the announcement) as the figures fall in line with the figure of £5.8bn previously estimated by the Home Office. The government has published this information as part of its first bi-annual report to parliament as required under s37 of the Identity Cards Act

However, I couldn't identify anywhere on the Home Office website where the breakdown of these costs was given. Eventually I managed ttrackck down a copy of the report itself here. Guess what? No details except the setup costs will be £290m and the operating costs will be £5,100m. The details would have been interesting to see given the LSE reports which have estimated that the true cost to government as a whole might be somewhere between £19bn and £30bn over ten years

The LSE identity project has already published its initial response to the report in which it says "the report remains vague on many important areas of the scheme and raises important questions:"

Their response goes on to list the outstanding issues as follows :

It gives no details as to whether the new system is likely to be based on a new database (which can have proper security built in) or on existing databases which will have many inaccuracies. What is the breakdown of the 'set-up costs'? Will this entail a new register or an adaptation of older systems?

There is no indication of when procurement is likely to begin or how long it is likely to take. When will the procurement process actually begin?

It talks confidently about successfully recording biometrics to identify individuals uniquely, but there are no immediate plans to trial possible technologies at this stage. How much will the Government spend on testing the technology, particularly secure systems required in this as well as the biometric technologies?

It refers to international obligations for passports in the Schengen area, but fails to point out that the UK is not subject to these requirements. Has the Government looked into the implementation of biometric passport in the Schengen area? Do their passport programs incur similar costs and details?

No consideration is made of the likely fees that will be charged to verify identities against the National Identity Register. Has the Government estimated costs of allowing employers to verify visas through verification against existing visa databases for foreign employment?

The claimed purpose of the Scheme continues to shift. It now appears to be primarily about illegal working and illegal immigration, rather than identity fraud which was claimed as the main purpose a year ago.

One of the expected benefits of the Scheme is convenience for citizens. What policy and cost considerations are involved in the integration of the Citizen Information Program into the National Identity Register?

So no major questions to answer then? Oh except what might we do with that £5.4bn instead? Maybe we could increase the number of Police Officers or something similarly practical. Let alone suppose the figure is larger or anywhere near the £30bn suggested by the LSE. I am sure the true figure will be way higher than the governments estimate simply because they are very clear that it does not include any costs to enable other government departments to make use of the ID card. Clearly they are going to make use of it so failing to identify and plan for the costs does not seem either sensible or realistic.