Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Amnesty Appeal

Amnesty International have raised the case of Shi Tao, a chinese journalist and are appealing for his release. He was arrested in 2004 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for sending an email to a pro-democracy website in the US about press restrictions around the anniversary of the crackdown on peaceful protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

In the UK we often take the right to blog for granted. But supposing a post on this blog or any other landed you in prison? In China, internet sites are blocked, chat rooms are monitored and journalists and bloggers can be arrested.

If you want to do something to help him then click here and see the details of his case and what you can do to help.

If you would like to join Amnesty International then click here.

Monday, February 26, 2007

No points and rumours continue

Once again Leeds picked up no points from Saturdays game although at least they only lost 1-0. We are firmly rooted to the bottom of the table and whereas a week ago three points would have lifted us out of the relegation zone we now need at least 5. Realistically it is still three from the bottom six to go down although I suppose one or two above that could get dragged in if they hit a really bad run of form.

Meanwhile behind the scenes the rumours continue especially if you are a keen reader of WACCOE.

Someone who claims that they used to work for Ken Bates has posted to the board claiming that the long term future is not with Ken Bates. Apparently Dennis Wise has no term on his contract and the gentleman's agreement is that he will stay whilst Ken Bates is in charge. Also according to them seventy percent of the squad are out of contract in the summer. Finally they reiterate a previous rumour that Peter Wilkinson is going to buy Leeds United.

Whether this will come to pass remains to be seen but I am sure that Ken Bates will want his pound of flesh before he walks away. there are all sorts of plans in the pipeline for the land surrounding Elland Road and I am sure that Bates has his eye on some of the huge profits that could be made from this redevelopment!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

One place the star wars system cannot be based

This is Greenham Common that well known former military airbase and probably the most famous site for the US Cruise Missiles and the protests that were associated with them.
According to the Guardian today the US is revamping and relaunching its Star Wars program designed to create a missile shield around the US (and possibly) its allies. Mr Blair in his wisdom is begging Mr Bush to allow the UK to be part of this scheme and to be allowed to station some of the missiles here. According to the Guardian "such a scheme would be controversial and raise the spectre of a return to Greenham Common-style mass peace protest."
Almost certainly but not at Greenham Common Mr Blair.
The runway has gone, the military hardware has gone, the fuel tanks are out, the fencing is down and the public are back where they belong - on the Common. The Common is slowly being restored to its former state with grazing cattle and public access. There is no airbase left for you to station your missiles on.
The picture above was taken on one of the work parties carried out by the Greenham and Crookham Common Conservation Volunteers a local group who are doing a huge amount of work to help with the restoration of the common.

Friday, February 23, 2007

People of Reading to boycott Daily Mirror

This follows an outrageous piece of journalism (not sure if this is a fair description) in Wednesdays edition of the Daily Mirror by a gentleman called Oliver Holt who describes himself as a Sports Journalist.

The piece he wrote was entitled Reading have put the Berks into Berkshire

He started off like this

"SO READING'S season is a fairy tale is it? Excuse me for a second while I decide whether to giggle or gag. Okay, that wasn't too hard. I'll gag. Because I don't see any fairy story at Reading. I don't see romance, either. I'll be honest. I don't like the club. I don't like what it stands for."

Not likely to go down too well with the punters in Berkshire for a start. However, I think it is fair to say that as far as most neutrals are concerned Reading have proved to be the surprise package in the Premiership this season despite being tipped to go back down straight away and probably in last place at that. Reading have never been in the top flight of English football, have been in existence since 1871 and are currently the oldest team in the Premiership but Mr Holt cannot see the romance in that despite them making it into the Premiership with a record number of points last season.

"That starts at the top with a self-satisfied poster boy of conspicuous consumption and Tory donor, chairman John Madejski. I don't think you should ever, ever trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle, or a bloke who is complicit in having a stadium named after him. What a joke that is."

His eyebrows don't meet in the middle and if John Madejski wants to name the stadium after himself having paid for it to be built he can. Most people in Reading think John Madejski should be Sir John Madejski and not be being vilified by somebody not worth to scrap the mud from his boots.

"No doubt the board begged and pleaded with him to allow them to recognise his outstanding contribution to Berkshire life. No doubt it was absolutely none of his doing. But I don't care how much money he's poured into the club"

I doubt it - he basically is the board with I believe one other director. You see Mr Holt he owns Reading Football Club and has built the club up carefully brick by brick. I realise that this is an alien concept to someone who supports Chelsea where the owner has been able to subsidise the Club to the tune of £500m. John Madejski's vision has always been of a club which is able to stand on its own two feet!

I don't care whether Reading finish sixth. You know what, even if they overtake Chelsea and Man United, romp the title and win the FA Cup as well, my abiding memory of their debut Premiership season will always be Stephen Hunt kneeing Petr Cech in the head.

Never mind that this was an accidental collision, never mind the pure and utter rubbish spouted by the Chelsea manager after the event and which continued even when the facts that were produced by the Berkshire Ambulance Service contradicted the line he wanted to take. Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story or a shoddy and cheap piece of "journalism"

Then there's Whispering Steve Coppell, another soul bursting with romance.
That's why he blew the chance to get his side into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Saturday when he played his second team at Old Trafford. There's more joie de vivre in a door mat at a funeral home than there is in the laughing boy in charge of Reading.

You know Mr Holt you may have a point about the public face which Steve Coppell presents to the media. However, I don't know a single Reading fan who has a problem with this. Do you know why Mr Holt? Because it works!! Steve Coppell is the most successful manager in Readings history. As for the changes to the side for the game against Manchester United why is that a problem. The so called big boys make loads of changes but that is ok because it is called squad rotation. Reading make changes and they are accused of putting out their reserves. Oh and come to think of it how many teams have got anything out of a game at Old Trafford this season?

Please Mr Holt do your job properly in future. As far as most Reading fans are concerned they do not want to see you or your newspaper in Reading again.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Worlds largest wave farm

Scottish ministers have announced funding for what has been described as the world's biggest wave energy farm. Apparently the Pelamis device (shown above) has been tested at the European Marine Energy Centre on Orkney and Scottish Power wants to commission four more at the same site. Scottish Power say this could create enough power for 2,000 homes.
According to the Lib Dem Deputy First Minister Nicol Stephen "This will be the world's biggest commercial wave project - significantly bigger than the major Portuguese scheme". He went on to say "Scotland has the potential to generate a quarter of Europe's marine energy and kick-starting the sector is vital if we are to create a significant industry based in Scotland and meet our long-term renewables targets."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How should we react?

The opinion poll in yesterdays Guardian puts the Tories on 40%, Labour on 31% and the Lib Dems on 19%. Even more interestingly they then go on to examine the state of the polls if the name specific leaders and give figures of 42% for the Tories under Cameron, 29% for Labour under Brown and 17% for the Lib Dems under Campbell. So does this mean anything and should we be worried?

42% is heading towards the sort of figure that the Tories were getting in General elections during the eighties and early nineties when they were polling around 45 – 46%. 29% is (according to the Guardian) the sort of poll rating that Labour were achieving under Michael Foot in the early eighties. 17% is historically not a bad figure for the Liberal Democrats although recently we have done better. Our figures tend to rise during election periods as we get more coverage and between elections we struggle to be heard.

The political landscape at present is extremely unusual. Blair is damaged goods and is limping on until some as yet unknown date – probably after the local elections on May 3rd but who knows. Brown has his agreement and is biding his time and whilst he may be making plans for his post Blair regime he is unable to go public with anything as yet.

Most worrying for the Liberal Democrats is that we have been unable to exploit this situation. Part of this is undoubtedly down to the normal difficulty we have as the third party in gaining media attention for what we are saying but the opinion poll hints at the fact that for us Ming Campbell is not a positive. This is important because whereas Brown cannot act publicly as Leader Campbell already is Leader.

The Tories are not surprisingly exploiting this vacuum on the British political stage. At present Cameron is in effect getting a free run and not surprisingly his opinion poll ratings have risen accordingly.

The political landscape in the UK will look very different in about six months time if and when Brown walks through the door of number 10. The stage will be his and pretty much his alone for some time and we can fully expect him to hit the ground running having had so much time to prepare for the transition.

A number of high profile announcements will attempt to reposition Brown and the Labour government. Expect a quick exit from Iraq (at least quicker than todays likely announcement) and a complete repositioning of our foreign policy possibly along the lines of “an ethical foreign policy” but with a different strap line. He may also attempt to do something about the lingering problems in the NHS. Whether or not this re-branding will succeed only time will tell but the opinion polls will look significantly different for a while.

The key question is how the Liberal Democrats in general and Ming Campbell in particular can best attempt to exploit the current vacuum – that is the bit we should be worrying about.

My suggestion for what it is worth is as follows.

Set up a group to identify and review likely Brown initiatives which he may wish to launch in the early days of his administration.

Focus in on those that he will need to push if he is to succeed in re-branding the Labour government and disassociating itself from Blair.

Find those that match with our own policies and principles and focus all our fire power on pushing for these things to be done.

In other words show leadership and steal Browns thunder before he gets to Number 10!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Great Wall

According to the BBC researchers are to carry out the first detailed survey of the Great Wall of China to establish just how long it is. I walked an extremely small section many years ago and it is a very impressive structure.
It amazes me that we do not know how long the wall is - we only have an estimate of approximately 3,100 miles. The study will go on for four years and will check the exact route of the wall as well as its length.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Windpower milestone

The UK has become only the seventh nation in the world to have more than two gigawatts of operational wind power capacity. This milestone was passed when the Braes O'Doune wind farm, near Stirling, began producing electricity.
The government has set a target for 10% of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2010 and 20% by 2020 but surely we could do better than that given the amount of wind we get. No doubt someone will tell me that it is the wrong type of wind but when you realise that Germany has more than 20GW of wind energy capacity, 10 times as much as the UK you have to think we could do a lot more

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Reading surprise again

Reading went to Old Trafford yesterday with their reserve team and I guess most people would assume that their FA Cup adventure would come to a halt at that point. But no Reading battled and fought as they always do despite going 1-0 down and being a little fortunate to not concede further goals and instead got an equaliser themselves through a fantastic header from Brynjar Gunnarsson. I was slightly disappointed to see Manchester United officials complaining about the need for a replay in amongst their busy schedule. Two answers to that one (and to Arsene Wenger who made the same complaint): a)win the game first time and b) don't insult other clubs by making such comments when your playing and financial resources are much greater.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Watercress prevents cancer

This story from Fridays Guardian is good news indeed particularly for someone who absolutely loves Watercress. I always knew that Watercress was a good source of iron but the article reveals a lot more. Apparently Watercress "contains more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than oranges and more calcium than milk"

More importantly the study "suggested that eating 85g of watercress a day could inhibit the growth of cancer cells and even kill them. Scientists at Ulster University found that the watercress reduced the damage caused by cancer cells to white blood cells by 22.9%. Watercress also raised levels of antioxidants which absorb so-called "free radicals", molecules which some experts believe damage the body's tissues.

A bag a day please - yum!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Coppell is top

The League Managers Association has published its Managers Performance Table for the 3rd quarter of the season up to the 12th February and Steve Coppell is top! Not surprising given the performance of Reading this season and the lions share of credit has to go to him for the way in which he has built a team out of players who by and large did not cost much and have not achieved much prior to their time at Reading.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Greenpeace victory on nuclear power

Apparently Greenpeace has won its High Court bid to make the government rethink its programme to build a new generation of nuclear power stations. The judge ruled that the consultation process before making the decision last year had been "seriously flawed" and "procedurally unfair".

Greenpeace complained that there had been a failure to present clear proposals and information on key issues, such as disposal of radioactive waste and building costs.
The Trade and Industry Secretary contested the judicial review but Mr Justice Sullivan took a different view. He said "something has gone clearly and radically wrong" He went on to say that "the consultation document contained no actual proposals and the information given to consultees had been wholly insufficient for them to make an intelligent response" and that"the information given on waste had been not merely inadequate but also misleading".
Of course the DTI say (correctly) that this is about the process of consultation and not about the principle of Nuclear Power. The point they omit to make is that of course with full, correct and accurate information the consultation paper might have led both the consultees and the DTI itself to a different conclusion!

Sort it out

This is becoming a complete and utter farce from a so called professional football club. Apparently the Leeds Chief Executive Shaun Harvey has stated that the club do not know which player leaked team news to Crystal Palace before Saturday's league game. Shaun Harvey said "While we know it happened, we do not know which Leeds United player it was. There are people at the club who know but they have not told us as yet."
He needs to have a word with Ken Bates pretty smartish and ensure that Dennis Wise informs him who the culprit is so that the appropriate disciplinary action can be undertaken. What is more this all needs to be done and an announcement about who the culprit is needs to be made before Leeds face Cardiff on Saturday.
Yes we got a great result against Crystal Palace last Saturday and Dennis Wise probable used this incident to engineer some of the required team spirit but this incident could backfire if it is not resolved quickly. The team must all be looking at each other wondering who it is and meanwhile some of the players are picking up a lot of stick on the message boards.
Of course maybe just maybe Dennis Wise has a plan and will unveil the player to his team mates just before handing in his team sheet on Saturday hoping to inspire them to another three points. If he does everyone will be happy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Points total update

Some small signs for optimism despite the ongoing saga over who revealed the team lineup to Crystal Palace the day before the game.

When we were on 24 points with 18 games to go I calculated we needed 1.55 points per game to reach 52 points (the highest total required in the last 10 years). Now on 3o points that is down to 1.46 points per game.

The performance level required for the remainder of the season when we were on 24 points was somewhere between the sixth and seventh placed teams at the time. The performance level now required on 30 points is somewhere between the tenth and eleventh placed teams

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The future of the British nuclear deterrent

The government claims it is undergoing a period of debate and consultation ahead of a final decision although it is starkly clear that the decision to develop a new generation of weapons has already been taken. That much was clear nearly a year ago when The Sunday Times ran a piece entitled Revealed: UK develops secret nuclear warhead. I blogged about this at the time and my main concern was that the debate should take place in the open and parliament should have the final say on whether or not we want a replacement and if so what form that should take, when it should be developed by and what budget should be allocated to it. To be already spending money on a replacement weapons system without parliamentary approval was and is quite simply wrong.

The Liberal Democrats will be deciding their policy on this issue at their Spring conference in Harrogate on Saturday 3rd March. The motion can be found here.

In a nutshell the Lib Dem motion notes the Labour governments position namely to retain a nuclear deterrent, extend the life of Trident and reduce the number of warheads by 20% and commence procurement for a new class of submarine. The motion then goes on to propose that the Liberal Democrat policy should be as follows :

a) Britain should now begin a major reduction of its nuclear arsenal by approximately 50%, retaining no more than 100 warheads; with each Trident submarine carrying no more than 24 warheads when on deterrence patrol;

(b) The current Trident nuclear system should be maintained and its operational life extended;

(c) A final decision on whether and, if so, how to procure any successor system be taken at the point when the significant capital spending would begin to be incurred on a three boat replacement.

An amendment is to be tabled along the lines of conference resolves that the UK should not procure a successor nuclear weapons system to the current Trident system.

I hope that the amendment is passed and that we make a clear stand on what is the correct way forward for the UK. Why do I feel like this?

1. From a moral standpoint I do not see how we can justify the possession or usage of nuclear weapons let alone the design and production of a whole new system and the submarines which act as a delivery platform.

2. As I understand it the development and production of a new system would break our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for a start.

3. Were we ever to use nuclear weapons there would be disastrous consequences for the local population and the environment in the affected region. Not forgetting of course the continuing environmental impacts of the current weapons system just through the work going on to maintain the system in a safe state.

4. The governments own scientific advisor has stated that the greatest threat that the UK faces is global warming - perhaps we would be better employed spending our time and money on tackling this issue

5. The biggest threat to our security would seem to come from terrorism within our borders. The possession of nuclear weapons will not help us protect the security of our own people against this threat one jot. According to No New Trident one retired general has summarised Trident as: "useless, expensive and dangerous". The defence of the UK actually requires more and better equipped infantry and air and naval transport. Trident is a poor use of scarce resources needed elsewhere for our national security.

6. There seems to be a general consensus that we could not use our nuclear weapons without the consent of the United States - if this is so then we do not have an independent nuclear deterrent so why have one and pay for one if we have to ask someone else for permission too use it?

7. The potential cost of this new system is colossal. The figures I have seen quoted range from £65bn to £75bn depending on the option selected. The reality of what it will eventually cost is I suspect likely to be much greater than these figures given the propensity for such schemes to experience time and cost overruns. Indeed CND quote another figure - the savings which could be achieved if the UK were to spend at the EU average for military spending would equate to £8.5 bn per year (over 25 years that is £212.5bn)

If we accept that we should not have them and are obligated not to design and produce new systems then it seems far more sensible to scrap the system and have a genuine debate about the best way to spend the consequential savings. Some could doubtless go on conventional forces and security measures but I would prefer to see most of this money being invested in protecting us from the greatest threat we face - global warming. It depends on what figure you believe for the cost of a Trident replacement but a couple of ideas of how this money could be spent were given recently in The Ecologist :

  • Nine million homes in the UK need cavity wall insulation. Providing this would cost £16bn and would save 6.5 million tonnes of C02 emissions per annum
  • 25,000 onshore or 8,000 offshore turbines would generate 33% of the UK energy needs and would cost £75bn. I guess that if the government invested in this then the government would reap the income from the sale of the resulting electricity so providing further funds for other projects.
This is to say nothing of the many other issues which face the UK and desperately need tackling.

The NHS needs fixing once and for all, clearly some more money is required given the shortfalls but more importantly would be some form of cross party consensus which would take the NHS away from being a political football and towards being a stable organisation which can deliver a consistently high standard of health care and drugs throughout the UK.

The waste we generate and how we deal with it is a huge problem and we are only scratching at the surface of what needs to be done to invest in systems to deal with the waste as well as the requirement to ensure that we produce as little as possible in the first place.

Public Transport need some serious investment - it is just not acceptable to have stations (as we do) with no service whatsoever on a Sunday. More houses have been built near our station in recent years and even more are going up now. Wonderful until the occupants discover that the service is somewhat infrequent at the best of times and non existent on a Sunday and they will have to use a car anyway

If you want to read more about the issues go to No New Trident here or click on the button on my side bar.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Is this what we are going to do with our nuclear waste?

According to the BBC scientists have backed the government's plan to store the UK's nuclear waste deep underground.

David Miliband told the House of Commons back in October that we were to bury our nuclear waste so I guess it is handy that this report supports the governments policy.

The policy announcement last year was not unexpected and was in line with the Committee on Radioactive Waste Managements report a summary of which can be found here. In summary the report states that :
  • Geological disposal is the preferred long term solution
  • Interim storage arrangements will have a vital role to play in the mean time
  • A new approach to implementation is required which should be based on the willingness of local communities to participate.

Professor Charles Curtis, president of The Geological Society of London, presenting the latest report, said "After a long period without waste policy, the UK finally has a way to go forward. We concur the safest and most secure way to go is deep geological depositories, and we see no insurmountable scientific and technological barriers to this."

Apparently between one-third and two-thirds of the UK have a suitable geological make-up for deep nuclear waste burial. It is also likely that the approval, design and construction of such a facility will take up to 40 years to achieve!

There are as I see it a number of problems with the way forward as proposed.

Firstly, the government has to identify and acquire a suitable site. The search for such a site in itself will be mired in political difficulty. The government will not want to look at any sites near to any marginal Labour seats for a start. The uproar amongst the local community eventually chosen to site this repository is likely to be significant.

Secondly, the scientists may be convinced about the viability of such a storage facility but I guess the great British public may take some further convincing. I sat on the Atomic Weapons Establishment Local Liaison Committee for a number of years and this issue was discussed at length on several occasions. My only conclusion was that this stuff was best off contained in specially constructed stores above ground where the state and condition of the drums could be easily monitored and where any faulty packages could easily be retrieved and repackaged.

Thirdly, even if one agreed with the long term disposal option the government needs to address the second point made by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management namely that Interim storage arrangements will have a vital role to play. If it is going to take up to 40 years to implement the long term strategy then they had better put a bit more thought and effort into the medium term strategy.

Of course the problem might not be quite so big if we were not proposing to replace Trident with yet another Nuclear weapons System about which I propose to write more soon.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Leeds player stitches Leeds up

According to Dennis Wise he found out at 1pm yesterday that one of the Leeds United players had given details of the team selection to Crystal Palace. On the various fan sites the rumours on the message boards would tend to indicate that the front runners are Thompson, Derry and Sullivan.

I sure hope it is not Thompson who has been playing well and seems unlikely to have a motive for such a thing having not long ago arrived at the club. Apparently he picked up a late injury and hence did not play today.

Sullivan is rumoured to be upset at being dropped to the bench. But if it was him then I cannot believe that he would have been on the bench yesterday afternoon.

Derry apparently has links to Palace having played for them and may have been upset at not being in the team.

Other names in the frame include Carole, Crainey, Elliot, Stack and even Gary Kelly. I hope for the sake of all the innocent parties getting dragged into this that Leeds United name the player and soon.

It is possible that Crystal Palace may come out of this with some credit as rumour is that it was Taylor who tipped Wise off about what had happened. Having said that knowing the team line up the day before did not help as Palace lost 2-1 thanks to goals from Matt Heath and Robbie Blake. More importantly the bottom of the table is now tightening up and it looks like three from six to go down with just three points separating the bottom six.

Meanwhile Reading march on with a place in Europe starting to look a possibility as Reading beat Villa 2-0 and move onto 43 points. They are the form team in the Premiership with 16 points from the last 6 games.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Oxfam - pot calls kettle black

Don't get me wrong I think that Oxfam do a lot of good work but I think they need to make sure that their own house is in order before they have a go at others.

They have taken the EU to task for bank charges incurred in transferring money to the Palestinians. More than €3m (£2m) of EU aid for Palestinians was spent on bank charges last year in an effort to bypass the Hamas-run government, Oxfam said yesterday. The money was spent between August and December under the temporary international mechanism, a system run by the European commission that delivers directly to Palestinians and avoids supporting the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

Oxfam described the mechanism as an "aid fiasco" and said it should be scrapped. But the EC said it was the "most direct and most efficient" means of delivery.

Fair enough you might think except for the fact that there was a piece on the BBC back in June 2005 stating that Oxfam had paid $1m to the Sri Lankan government to allow its vehicles into the country to help with the relief effort after the Tsunami! That's another Aid Fiasco that should be scrapped.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Waitrose and packaging

Why is there a picture of a lasagne on my blog you may ask?

Well I have just had some home shopping delivered from Waitrose.

In the shopping (as ordered) were two Waitrose Lasagnes (see above)

I was absolutely stunned by the amount of packaging involved - each Lasagne is contained in a foil tray with a film of plastic over the top. That is then sheathed in a cardboard cover with the cooking instructions on it. But the piece de resistance was the individual cardboard box that each of the two Lasagnes was contained in. Why oh why in this day and age is this level of packaging considered to be necessary?

I went to the environmental bit of the John Lewis website here and it says very clearly "we regularly review our business practices and performance to identify how we can improve our energy efficiency, minimise packaging and reduce air emissions, waste disposal, water usage and the impacts of our transport operations."

Well John Lewis / Waitrose you claim to minimise packaging but the evidence says otherwise. I have emailed them so we will see what of response I get.

Leeds for sale again?

Rumours are circulating about the future ownership of Leeds United – again!

The current one circulating is that Peter Wilkinson currently owner of Hull City and said to be worth approximately £400m (although according to the 2005 Rich list he was worth £269m) is to buy the club off Ken Bates. There was supposed to be a big announcement in January according to Uncle Ken but it never came so maybe this is what it was and negotiations are still ongoing.

Wilkinson is said to be Leeds through and through and he lives in Ilkley. He was quoted in an article on Real Business Online as saying “I am never, ever buying Leeds United.”

However back in 2003 he told the Yorkshire Evening Post "I'm heartbroken at what's happened to this football club. I've lived through hell for the past three years watching what's gone on at Elland Road. I've watched Leeds for 40 years and I hate seeing them where they are now. I've watched the club destroyed. It's desperately sad when you see Leeds are at the bottom of the league.”

Deja Vue – only we are now bottom of a different league

This guy is an astute businessman and would I feel be good news for the club - Just for good measure it is also rumoured that the new manager will be Paul Jewell.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Climate change concerts

According to the FT today a series of concerts "bigger than Live Aid" is being planned for July, in a bid to put the subject of climate change before an audience of a global audience of 2 billion.

The event, scheduled for July 7, will feature co-ordinated film, music and television events in seven cities including London, Washington DC, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town and Kyoto.

It is understood that former US vice-president Al Gore, whose movie An Inconvenient Truth brought climate change to cinema audiences last year, will announce the event tomorrow in London.

Straw man

Jack Straw has published his proposals for reform of the House of Lords but I have some serious concerns about what the government are proposing.

Their proposals are summarised on the BBC site as follows:
  • A 'hybrid' of elected and appointed peers
  • Reduce size of House from 746 to 540 members
  • End hereditary and life peerages over time
  • Elected peers to be voted in at same time as Euro elections
  • Maximum time in office of 15 years for elected and appointed peers
  • Appointees a mixture of party politicians and non-party figures
  • Lords may be renamed - possibly 'The Reformed Chamber'
  • Anglican bishops and archbishops to keep seats

In contrast with this Liberal Democrat policy is that:

  1. The majority of the House of Lords should be elected, with no more than 20% appointed by an Independent Appointments Commission.
  2. There should be no additional political appointees.
  3. No more hereditaries and no more life peers created. Hereditaries should cease to serve at the date of the first elections.
  4. Members should be elected under a system that gives voters real choice (such as the Single Transferable Vote).
  5. Members should serve for three fixed 4 year terms, i.e 12 years non-renewable.
  6. The Reformed Lords (and Commons) should retain its powers of scrutiny over the government.

I support 4, 5 and 6 but quite frankly in a modern democracy the first three are too weak. One hundred percent of the members of the second chamber should be elected. There should be no appointed members whatsoever. Aside from the lack of democracy involved in appointed members it would also help to avoid so many of the questions about cash or loans for peerages. Hereditary and life peers should lose their seats immediately and there should be no places for bishops and archbishops. If they want to take part then they can stand and get elected like everyone else.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Is this what I will be riding in 20 years time?

I sincerely hope not. This is the world's first purpose built hydrogen powered motorbike which is designed by Intelligent Energy. It may be environmentally friendly but I would certainly dispute that it is likely to be fun as they claim. Apparently the only noise is from the tyres - not much use to a Harley loving nut like me then. And probably not very safe if people cannot hear you coming at all.

According to the BBC there is some good news in that there are some downsides to this technology :
  • Producing hydrogen isn't that green. At present, the bulk of it comes from using up fossil fuels. The whole process isn't as polluting as producing oil but it still has an impact.
  • Hydrogen is easy to buy (apparently) and costs about the same as petrol, but virtually no petrol stations sell it.
  • The bike will cost you upwards of £6,000. For a bike with a top speed of 50. For that you could buy a proper bike such as a Sportster and still have change

If anyone is interested the bike also has its own site which can be found here at envbike.com

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

CNS criticise Thaksin for remarks

The chief of the Council for National Security (CNS) Sonthi Boonyaratglin has gone on record to say that "the final chapter is near" for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He claims the people will judge him for his remarks concerning His Majesty the King. The comments were mad in an interview in Time magazine's February 12 issue that Sonthi says implied His Majesty the King backed the September 19 coup.

Thaksin was quoted as saying. "It was the same with Thailand's 17 other coups. First, the people are shocked. Then they start to voice their concerns. And then they start to accept it, especially after it's endorsed by His Majesty the King, "They're very disciplined. They obey. But they are watching what the new rulers are doing and when they will return democracy to the people. People's tolerance is limited.

I think these comments can be interpreted two ways. Either you can interpret it as direct criticism of the King and an implication that he was behind the coup or you can interpret it as a statement of what actually happened (the coup happened and then the King endorsed it).

How the general population perceive this interview will be absolutely critical to Thaksins future.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Good news - Lib Dem Feed now working

I still have not changed the code on the blog other than to add the No New Trident Button and lo and behold the Lib Dem Feed has started working again all by itself. Brilliant

No New Trident button added

I have added a No New Trident button to my sidebar.

If you click on the button it will take you to No New Trident a campaign website set up by the Lib Dem Peace and Security Group who are seeking to secure a vote at the Harrogate Conference in March that will establish Liberal Democrat policy as being opposed to the replacement of Trident.

I will be blogging about my views on this later on.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

40 points - chance would be a fine thing

Reading reached the magic mark of forty points yesterday after beating Manchester City 2-0 with two goals from Leroy Lita and he would have had a hatrick if a perfectly good goal had not been disallowed. What Leeds would give for forty points at this stage in the season. Yesterday they got beaten 2-1 by Norwich having at one stage been 1-0 up. It is not looking good although as they say "it is not over until the fat lady sings". My worry is that she seems to be warming up her vocal chords.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ballots, Balls and Bikes or is it?

I have been running this blog for a little over a year now and the title was derived from those things I thought I would most likely be blogging about namely UK Politics, Football and Motorcycles.

The new version of Blogger has introduced the concept of labels and I have finally finished labelling all my posts so I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how my proposed theme for the blog has turned out.

There are 440 posts up on the site.


106 posts were labelled as UK politics with 54 labelled as Lib Dems, 16 Labour and 12 Tories (If only winning elections was so simple). 7 posts were labelled as US Politics, 12 were labelled as Iraq and 31 were labelled Environment. Most surprising of all given where I started was that 66 were labelled as Thai Politics (100 were labelled as Thailand so 34 were nothing to do with Thai Politics). When I started the blog the Lib Dem leadership contest was under way and so naturally I had expected to be commenting on UK Politics and I had no inkling that the democracy in Thailand was going to hit so many problems or that there was going to be a military coup.


90 posts were labelled as Football with 56 being labelled Leeds and 42 Reading. Not that surprising as a Leeds fan and a season ticket holder at Reading.


18 posts were labelled bikes of which 15 were also labelled as Harley Davidson.


I wondered about the imbalance between the number of posts on politics and football and the number on bikes but I guess the reality is that there is not too much to say about bikes from my perspective. It is just great fun to ride. Even better if you can combine two things and ride your Harley to the football match and ride it home again which is what I have done to most home games this season including two in January. Most of the posts have been pictures of bikes. The other big surprise was the number of posts about Thailand. I love Thailand but had no idea I would end up posting so much about it.

Maybe I should consider a rename to Bangkok, Ballots, Balls and Bikes!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Internet censorship in Thailand

The military appointed government has now gone on record to say that they are unhappy about the fact that what they term “Political undercurrents” are using the Internet to attack the government via websites.

Apparently they believe that the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology should take action against these websites. Although no specifics were given as to what action should be taken against such websites it is not unreasonable to assume that they may wish to track down the creators of such material and presumably that they will wish to take the sites down and / or block access to such sites by users in Thailand.

None of this bodes well for Thailand's democratic future although since the military coup I guess this was all to be expected.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Coppell signs Duberry!

Apparently Reading manager Steve Coppell has signed Michael Duberry from Stoke. Having already signed two defenders Greg Halford from Colchester (for a club record fee) and Alan Bennett from Cork I had rather hoped that he would sign a striker. But why has he opted for Duberry? As a Leeds fan I can truly say that this guy was a disaster. However, rumour has it that he has been much improved at Stoke this season and given Coppells record in the transfer market I wouldn't bet against him turning out to be a bargain.