Friday, 7 December 2012

The Mayan Legend: The year 2012 will end without the expected apocalypse...

In a few days time the legend that the world will end on 21st December will be seen as a falsehood, a piece of folklore attributed to the Mayan of long ago, but now said to be the work of others for reasons unknown. Unless something dreadful happens in the coming days, the year 2012 will end without the expected apocalypse.
Even in these so-called sophisticated times, we are still drawn to the mysteries of the ancients and while established religions are on a downward trend, the world of the supernatural has also been embraced, with films, TV shows and books satisfying a worldwide audience.  The interest in unworldly phenomenon crosses age, race and the class divide, but why is it that  today it is only the truly faithful who accept the miracles of Jesus as fact, while the rest of us treat them with cynicism , but will readily accept the existence of alien beings from Outer Space?

Are there beings out there that not only know of our existence, but have visited us, even move amongst us? Could there really be an outer world order that controls us? I haven’t a clue and I am not aware that any evidence exists of such a conspiracy.  As for December 21st......well, there’s no harm in packing a few sandwiches and replacing the torch batteries, just in case!


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Leveson & The British Press: Tick Tock.....for journo-spivs....

The Prime Minister David Cameron is in an awkward situation. His instinct is to back his media chums and refrain from any attempt to control the press through statutory regulation. That view is also shared with the majority of his party's MPs, despite the supposed clamour from the general public that the press be controlled by legal means.

The Prime Minister has told newspaper proprietors that they must act quickly to appoint a press Overlord who will satisfy their need for independence and the public's apparent mood for some primeval vengeance against the media.

Disgust was rightly expressed over some of the phone-hacking activity, in particular that relating to murder victim Milly Dowler and the underhand attacks on missing Madeleine McCann's parents, but in reality is it really the vast majority of the public clamouring for legal control of the media, or a coalition of hacked-off celebrity victims with their own egotistical agenda, combined with the understandably angry "ordinary" victims like the McCann and Dowler families?

Britain is rightly proud of its press, even if some of the headlines often reflect that of owners with self-interest rather than free speech in mind. However, while there is justifiable concern at the arrogance of parts of the media, is it too easy for us to demand statutory action without understanding what that entails?

Do we really want the Civil Service, with its political masters, interfering in what is acceptable and not acceptable for the press to publish? How would we know that an intervention was for the right reasons and not just because it safeguarded the reputation of an individual with friends in high places?

Lives have been destroyed by the disgraceful behaviour of journo-spivs. But important stories have also been uncovered by journalists working on the edge of legality. Is it not better for the press to have a quasi-independent regulatory body, with the powers to really bite the hand that feeds it, rather than a statutory system that could ultimately squeeze the life out of free expression.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Kate & William: Eat your hearts out now suckers!

While my first reaction to the announcement that Kate Middleton and Prince William were expecting their first child, was "another royal mouth for taxpayers to feed", it was tinged with a sense of joy for the couple. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge come across like decent folk and she has become a fantastic asset to the Royal Family. It is striking that the Duchess has more class than any of the current crop of blue-blood royals.

 Her mother and father may be products of the maligned solid middle-class, but they have brought her up well and must be proud of their daughter who will be Queen. No doubt they will also overflow with love for their future grandchild who, boy or girl, will become King or Queen in their own right.

When the Duchess is alone with her parents I wonder do they hug and squeal with delight that they have reached the highest echelons of British society, despite the snobbery and jealousy their rise up the ladder has attracted - including within the Royal fold and amongst the upper-class friends of Prince William, who used to mock her middle-class origins. Eat your hearts out now suckers!

Monday, 26 November 2012

UK Politics: A sniff of the Little Englander......

I'm watching BBC2's The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler and I shudder at the very thought that a man like that monster could have so enchanted a whole nation. What environment creates a mind-set that allows a people to welcome such evil? Could such a man ever find a place in the UK? I like to think not, but it is true that we have become disillusioned with our mainstream politicians and the political system, hence the low turnout at the ballot box.

We have two mainstream parties, Labour and the Conservatives, who may appear poles apart in ideology at the despatch box, but when in government are effectively interchangeable, the majority of the population still voting in accordance with family tradition and prejudice, rather than any expectation of real change. In fact too much change would probably frighten most of us.

The current Coalition is no more radical that the previous Labour or Conservative governments and is likely to implode leading up to the next General Election. If  David Cameron or Ed Miliband reach out the hand of friendship to the Liberal Democrats next time round, it will be because of a great need for its support and with pinched nostrils to dispel the smell. Nick Clegg may be a balancing power for good in the current government, but the public cares little for the man or his party who are seen as selling their principled souls for chauffeured cars.

The Tories would like to win the next election outright, but are fearful that UKip, may spoil voting patterns in those marginal seats where Cameron and Miliband will be wrestling for each and every ballot paper.

So does that mean, as suggested, that Cameron's Conservatives will appeal to the anti-EU lobby by doing a deal with UKip, the party led by Nigel Farage, that nice and reasonable man, who isn't at all against foreigners entering the country, but just one at a time through a revolving door? At least I think that's what he means? I'm not sure to be honest.

Mr Farage does come across like a personable man, but isn't it a worry that a party on the fringe could end up with a disproportionate influence on the political process? UKip has softened its hard-edged image which, perhaps unfairly, once upon a time made me think of the BNP, but it remains fiercely anti-Europe and there's more than a sniff of the Little Englander surrounding the party. In fact, it reeks of a certain type of nationalism and, being a simple soul, that makes me nervous. But I do like Mr Farage.

A Free Press: Politicians less enthusiastic about climbing into bed with the nearest red-top...

The report on the future of the press will be published this week and Lord Leveson, its author, can't win. If he backs state regulation the press will bash him with words of condemnation and if he opts for self-control then the rest of the world will howl in anguish and accuse him of being  weak. Meanwhile, what to do about the prime minister's dilemma? Whatever the report's conclusion, Mr Cameron will have to decide to go softly-softly with the media, or play hard-ball and insist on external regulation.

The Prime Minister won't want a hostile media on his back come the next General Election, but the mood in the country is that the press should be punished in some way for its hacking misdeeds, even if that includes publications free of any involvement in the recent scandals.

The British press has served the country well. It has exposed corruption in high places and campaigned on a score of issues which would otherwise have been ignored by our politicians, but parts of it has behaved badly, with the repercussions for News International still being played out in the courts.

A free press is vital in a democracy, but its barons need to be less arrogant and appreciate they are not above the law....and perhaps our leaders, the politicians and their cronies, should be a little less enthusiastic about climbing into bed with the nearest red-top, or broadsheet for that matter.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Anne the Elephant: Bobby Roberts should hang his head in shame....

Anne, Europe's oldest Elephant, now recovering
Circus owner, Bobby Roberts, should hang his head in shame for allowing the terrible abuse of Anne, the 60 year-old Elephant, who served him well and made him money over 58 years of exploitation.  The awful cruelty towards her, at the hands of her keeper, Nicolai Nitu, was not a one-off incident and while he escaped back to his native Romania, Roberts, found guilty of animal cruelty, walked away from the court with a three-year conditional discharge.

Anne's treatment was secretly filmed by Animal Defenders International, which showed her chained, kicked and beaten with a pitchfork. The majestic animal, who suffers from arthritis, now lives at Longleat Safari Park and is said to be thriving.

Mr Roberts had a duty of care for all the animals in his charge and he was aware that Anne was held in chains, but did nothing about it. The district judge who passed sentence on him should also be ashamed that he has failed in his own duty to send a message that cruelty to animals will be punished.

Bobby Roberts reputation is in ruins, but he really should have taken care of Anne.