Thursday, December 11, 2008

Catching Flash Gordon

I'm the same age as Gordon. I thought he was younger. As a young man I was a revolutionary socialist, but now I believe in reform and a mixed economy. Like many as I've grown older I guess I've moved to the right. I know there are exceptions like Tony Benn, but this cooling of revolutionary ardour does seem quite common.

What I can't imagine is ever catching up with Gordon's rightward shift. Am I mistaken in thinking he was once a socialist? I don't think so because this man wrote a sensitive biography of Scottish socialist James Maxton in 1986, although admittedly for his PhD. Maxton's whole life was built on his defense of the poor, the unemployed and low paid workers, especially in Glasgow.

So how can Brown support James Purnell, his public school educated Minister for Work and Pensions, in his attacks on those on benefits. This 'work for benefits' sounds fine but look to the position of the poor and the inner cities in the US to see what we will be getting. The reasons we have a problem with large-scale long term unemployment is that Thatcher's government dismantled so much industry and took away the dignity of labour for many. To New Labour's shame they made no attempt to repair the damage so they must accept some of the blame.

I do wish Brown would read his own Maxton book again.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mandelson Flexes His Muscles

It didn't take long. The doctor of spin is back. This week he tells us that there is no turning back on New Labour policies. At the same time his name comes up in dealing with Russian billionaires, he tells us first that we must move forward with privatizing the Post Office and that the economic crisis is not the fault of market forces but of regulation. You can read this on the BBC website and here's a quote from that article.

"I don't believe what has happened is market failure in the financial sector. I believe it is a regulatory failure."

It might sound good but it doesn't bare much inspection. If the Thatcher/Reagan economics that New Labour followed was the reduction of government interference in the economy and allowing market to regulate itself, then the statement is obviously flawed. If you remove regulation to leave it to the markets and there's a failure, how can you blame regulations that don't exist.

In the end if you believe in a mixed economy, which I suspect most of us do, then it's time the mix was moved away from what are now discredited policies, and that does mean those that New Labour and Thatcher before them pushed.

The grass roots of the Labour Party need to revolt against the leadership in bringing back this man and maybe the best way would be to replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber as New Labour promised.

Charlton Athletic 0-2 Bristol City

A bad week for Charlton. Not only did the team roll over for Bristol City but yesterday came the news that Dubai wouldn't be buying the club. I suspect there are not many smiles on those associated with the club but someone who should be happy is Alan Pardew.

I suspect that, with the poor results from last season and so far this one, a new manager would have been the first signing of the new owners if the take-over had gone ahead. Maybe a few of the players will also feel a bit safer now.

As for the club's future, it doesn't seem very bright. The existing board is obviously trying to get out of the money hole that football clubs not in the Premier League now are. Can they find a buyer in the present economic climate? We have to hope so, but it is a shame that British football grew into the Limited or Public Company format it now is. I wish it had gone along the lines of non-profit social clubs like Australian Rules clubs or Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cardiff City 2-0 Charlton Athletic

The opposite score to last year and not a good time to not only lose but have two men sent off. If we were meant to be showing the Dubai Royal Family why they should buy Charlton instead of Everton/West Ham/Newcastle/Liverpool/Portsmouth, we didn't do a very good job.

Monday, October 20, 2008

True Colours

I liked John McCain! I really did. I had seen him on Jon Stewart's Daily Show which we get out here on Sundays with CNN. Compared to the recent US Republican presidential candidates he looked like a breath of fresh air. Hinting at a liberal position on everything except Iraq, and even there he was saying the war was a mistake but the increase in troop levels was to set the conditions for a withdrawal. (OK, I know, it didn't work in Vietnam.)

Before the Republican convention it was beginning to look like a win-win situation for anyone to the left of Attila the Hun. Of course there is no real left in US presidential politics, something that we have followed in the UK since New Labour. Since the convention McCain has been trying to appeal to the more extreme right base of his party.

Even so I was surprised during the last debate with a couple of the views he stated. First was his obvious dislike of the UK and Sweden's health systems. He considered comparing these with Obama's policies was an insult. I thought the only people who could believe this, for all the NHS's faults, were the health industry and millionaire doctors.

Also the idea of using taxes to what he called 'spreading the wealth' was not only wrong, but far worse, it was socialism. Now if you have to say this to get the religious right on your side, there must be something wrong with Christianity in the US for all their Sunday church-going. Haven't they read about what Jesus told the rich man in the New Testament? (OK, so neither have I but I'm sure it's to do with giving those riches away.)

Let's live in hope, for a while at least, that Obama is a new FDR as it looks like we might need one.

Friday, October 17, 2008

So how many bankers will go to jail?

None is a fairly safe prediction.

From Woody Guthrie's Pretty Boy Floyd -

Some will rob you with a six-gun
And some with a fountain pen
And as through your life you travel
Yes and through your life you roam
You will never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home

This was written in the thirties during the depression which hopefully the politicians will not let us fall into again. I think it would be a good guess the guilty men will not be punished. The politician will let the guilt slide off them onto the bankers. Below are a few lines pulled off Google which shows why they make such easy targets.

HSBC - Stephen Green, who earns a basic salary of £1.25m a year, will not benefit from the bonus scheme. The bank's chief executive, Mike Geoghegan, could earn as much as 4m in bonuses, on top of his £1m-a-year salary, and up to £7m as part of the bank's long-term incentive plan, according to the proposals.

RBS - Sir Fred Goodwin, the chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, earned £4.1m last year, including a bonus for the bank's acquisition of ABN Amro, which the bank now admits it overpaid for.

HBOS - Andy Hornby, the boss of HBOS, earned £1.9m in 2007 but his bank was forced to sell itself to Lloyds TSB last month to avoid going bust.

Lloyds TSB - Lloyds own chief executive, Eric Daniels, was paid £2.4m last year.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Blair Groupies Now Like Gordon

Yesterday I posted that Mandelson coming back into the cabinet must have meant that the ultra-Blairites had cut a deal with Brown. To add strength to that supposition we have one of the Blairites, George Howarth, on the BBC's website saying that he no longer wants a leadership election. Are there really no Labour MPs that will at least put up a fight, even if just over fear of losing their seats?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Brown and Blair were not the first.

Gordon Brown, and Tony Blair, were not the first Labour leaders to continue Thatcher-like policies after they replaced a Tory leader. In fact Thatcher-like policies didn't start with Thatcher but were a throwback to a much earlier age.

For some reason UK TV is going through a period of re-examining Doctor Richard Beeching's destruction of the postwar nationalized British railways. It's about 45 years since his first report that started the axing of so much of the railway infrastructure. The Wilson government of 1964 continued his policies although in their election statements they said they would save the axed lines.

Beeching was a appointed as the highest paid UK civil servant of the time, 1961, by the conservative Minister of Transport and crook, Ernest Marples. Marples had interests in road building companies that he moved into his wife's name while as Minister of Transport, he did his best to increase road transport and decrease that on rail. He had to live the last few years of his life in the tax shelter of Monaco on the run from the UK tax authorities and various court cases started against him. He was a typical Thacherite conservative long before Thatcher's takeover of the party came about.

The person who most resembles Marples today is actually the US vice-president. I wonder if Dick Cheney will spend the last few years of his life in the tax shelter of Dubai, the new head office town of Haliburton, on the run from the US legal system?

The lesson from the Beeching reports, which led to the closure of 25% of the UK's railway mileage and 50% of the stations, were not learnt by governments up until this day. If you close basic infrastructure for purely economic reasons without taking any public need into account, it is very hard to get it back later. Whether it's railways or national health services, profit should not be the governing force. The needs of the public should have the highest priority.

He's done more for homophobia than Sol Campbell

Well this was unexpected. Probably the most disliked man in any of the previous Blair cabinets shows up once again. I guess it explains why Brown was given an easy time by the Blair groupies at the Labour Party Conference. He's cut a deal to let some of them back into power. No matter what personality clashes there were, it wasn't hard politically as Brown invented the New Labour idea. I see the other Miliband, Ed, also gets promoted.

Any more thoughts of Gordon Brown turning back to old Labour ideals must be now forgotten. It will be unlikely that any real change will be made in the party until he leads them to a terrible defeat, which he is on course to.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Giving up on Frankie

Well my stubborn determination to link to Frankie Valley's old website in the hope he would finally go back to it has finally faded. The link is now to his newer Doctor Kish site. Can't blame him for wanting a life outside of blogging and he and the others who write on Doctor Kish still have the best Charlton site, but maybe one day he will back in all his glory with a daily post on

Charlton Athletic 2-1 Ipswich Town

A win was most needed after a strange run of results. Since my last Charlton post we had lost a home and had an away win, an away draw and an away loss. I will list them below.

Doncaster Rovers 0-1 Charlton Athletic
Nottingham Forest 0-0 Charlton Athletic
Charlton Athletic 1-2 Sheffield Wednesday
Crystal Palace 1-0 Charlton Athletic

Of course, it's the last one of those that hurts as we lost to our local rivals for the first time in the best part of a dozen years. Rivalry like that between Charlton and Palace would be very hard for some of the media yuppies, or foreign owners, to understand. When a few seasons back the Charlton crowd cheered as they sent Palace down to the Championship some reporters couldn't understand it. It was because they failed to understand the basic tribal nature of our football in the UK.

Why are Palace so disliked by the likes of Charlton and Millwall? Many would point to the ground-sharing which Charlton did with Palace after they lost their own ground. I suspect it goes a bit deeper. Palace was always more middle class, more suburban, in fact more Croydon than it's more working class neighbours like Millwall in New Cross or the Charlton's Woolwich area.

Let's hope we are playing a bit better on the 27th. January when the reverse fixture takes place. I wonder why both these games are midweek evening games and not at least one over the Christmas and New Year period. I guess the Met need an easy life now.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Leaving it to market forces, or may the force be with you!

Of course looking closely it was always a nonsense idea. It would be hard to make a case for it even just for good economic times. There never was any logic to it. What was the market? How was it controlled or who controlled it? The forces are spoken of in almost mythical terms and the idea of their supremacy followed with a religious fervour. There is no science to it. The people in the City who swear by it have either degrees in such as ancient Scandinavian languages or very rich fathers who worked in the city before them.

Why should we think that the market force of competition should give us better railways, cleaner hospitals or more efficient school exam markings? There were no guarantees except short-term cost savings. Why should we think that unregulated competition was the best way of running the housing mortgage system? Now the failure of market forces is going to give most of us a decrease in standard of living.

It was good in a way to see two recent articles on the BBC website with market force believers beginning to doubt the truth in the idea. First a couple of weeks ago was an economist looking at the failures of market forces in light of the present economic difficulties and now we have the Stephen Green, taipan and chairman of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, bankers to the opium trade, calling for regulation of banking executive pay to stop the reliance of the banking industry's management to short-term profits and big bonuses. (OK it should be called HSBC or something and the opium bit was a long time ago. I wonder if they have any rich Afghan farmers as clients.)

"Laissez-Faire" or a reliance on market forces is just an excuse for lazy government whether it's Gordon Brown's New Labour or David Cameron's Tory.

Charlton Athletic 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers

So we lost the two games on the trot and the first loss at home. Now with the previously referred to mood swings I should be in a really pessimistic mood, but football fans have to learn to deal with this otherwise the suicide rate would ten times its present one.

How it's dealt with is by using the "Dunkirk spirit". No matter how bad it is today and how much worse it will look tomorrow we know we will win in the end. Just look at supporters of a team like Leeds. As they dropped through the divisions through no fault of their own, but by mismanagement, they still turned out to watch a game.

Have to admit I looked up on the Wolves website whether they were wandering or wondering. Neither are particularly good things to be doing and I'm happy with our teams athleticism.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Problems with Old Etonians

Somewhere in Eton College the pupils are taught to cover up each others weaknesses from public scrutiny. This becomes a real danger when you have a great many of them holding major civil service and political positions and this could be the case if David Cameron is elected as the next prime minister. I suspect London will have to pay a quite high price for electing the old Etonian clown Boris Johnson.

So in a way it's no surprise that government archives just opened to the public dating from WW2 should show old Etonians hiding the activities of one of their number whose meeting with the Germans at the beginning of the war would have caused embarrassment to another of theirs in a high cabinet position.

The story is on the BBC website, click here. Old Etonian James Lonsdale-Bryans went to Italy at the beginning of the war to talk with a German diplomat about possible peace terms. Although he was known for his pro-German views he went with the backing of the Foreign Office. He proposed to the Germans that they should have control of Europe while Britain should have the rest of the world. No action was ever taking against him as a security risk and unlike other German sympathizers he was never interned.

The person that, in this case MI5, were really protecting was Halifax, the Foreign Secretary and pro-appeasement colleague of the disgraced Neville Chamberlain. In fact, although Halifax had made a mess of virtually every job he had ever been given, he would have become Britain's war time prime minister if the Conservative Party had been able to control the succession after Chamberlain resigned. It was the Labour Party that insisted on his rival and fellow conservative Winston Churchill as a reward for joining the government. Their fear was that Halifax would make peace with the Nazis and bring Britain under this evil influence.

This is what you get with old Etonians controlling the country.

Preston North End 2-1 Charlton Athletic

We won this fixture 2-0 last season, but from the few reports I have read today we didn't deserve any points from yesterday's game. Well at least I can expect all 3 points on the next game with the way our results have been so far this season; played 4, won 2, lost 2.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Charlton Athletic 4-2 Reading

Great result, I looked at the goals this morning (Monday) from a torrent download. Week to week mood swings could be here for the season or has Charlton discovered the midfield mix which will supply the strikers with plenty of chances consistently. Let's hope so. Still it must be boring supporting the Uniteds and Chelseas of the world.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Shooting fish in a barrel - there are some thing that are so easy that you don't get many points for doing them, something like pocketing a white ball in billiards. One of these is criticizing Charles Windsor, (aka Charles Philip Arthur George Saxe-Coburg-Gotha). So Phil Woolas I'm not going to give you much of score going after Charles, or should I say 'Chuck', to be like Philip James Woolas who prefers to be known as 'Phil'.

Now Phil doesn't seem to be one of the worse of the New Labour Blair groupies. Well at least he isn't public school and Oxbridge, being grammar school and Manchester. But Phil when you find fault in Charles's biased views on GM food be aware that some of us are a bit suspicious who you represent in the argument.

Phil, when you say, "But government ministers have a responsibility to base policy on science and I do strongly believe that we have a moral responsibility to the developing world to ask the question: can GM crops help?", do you get your science input from government scientist or from the lobbying GM companies like Monsanto? (Click here for the Wikipedia article on Monsanto)

Watford 1-0 Charlton Athletic

Well all the good feelings I had of the coming football season last Sunday took a bit of a beating over the intervening seven days. First on Tuesday was being knocked out of the Carling Cup by Yeovil and then yesterday losing at Watford.

I know from the blogs that Charlton fans say we didn't play that badly yesterday and that the officials were 'homers', but having listened to an old (1992) Danny Baker 606 radio program I downloaded last night and hearing a Norwich fan looking for the silver lining after losing 7-1, I'm a bit suspicious on these reports.

I miss not seeing the football more now, when we are in what was the old Division 2, than when we were in the Premier. This isn't only because there are no games on TV out here, it's also because the mood swings are so much better in the lower leagues for a team like ours. In the Premier it was just a struggle every week to keep our heads above water. Now we can go mentally from being championship material to relegation prospects in a week.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Charlton Athletic 2-0 Swansea City

Apologies to Swansea supporters as yesterday I tagged your team Swansea Town when of course you are city. I have nothing against Swansea, although many years ago I did use a cellar drinking club one afternoon where they had old bus seats perched on beer kegs to sit on and the beer was in plastic glasses long before the rest of Britain went that way. Still it's Swansea City and you were unlucky to play us at the beginning of the season. It's better to play Charlton at the end when we hardly win anything.

Reports suggest Charlton played well enough to deserve the 3 points but will have to get better rather quickly. Here's hoping for a good season. I have a feeling we will be challenging for automatic promotion this season which is a feeling I didn't have last.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Another Season

Today there's no politics in this blog. No attacks on Gordon Brown, Tony Blair or their groupies. Not even a curse on New Labour. Why? Because today is start of the Football League 2008-2009 season. Swansea are visiting Charlton and it will give us an idea of what sort of team we are following this year.

Last season was disappointing with a 11th. place finish when the hope, if not belief, at the start was for a return to the Premier League or at least a playoff spot. Charlton doesn't have a rich foreign owner so money is tight and players have been sold. It has a young team and this season's hope must be that they make good. This is the time of year I do miss being back home.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Time to reform the British justice system?

With no written constitution and laws dating back to the Middle Ages or earlier, it is no surprise that at times the British courts hand out some strange punishments. The rule of law in Britain has always been based on the protection of property. After all the rules were made by landed aristocracy who wanted their property, belongings and serfs protected.

In these more modern times I suspect that most UK citizens would rather base the punishment of criminals on the harm they do to others rather than the amount of money involved. I remember the 30 year sentences given to the Great Train Robbers when I was a child. I think many thought they were too hard and although the judge tried to justify them with the hurt caused to the train driver, there was a suspicion that this was a little overdone by both the judge and the railway man. The judge did of course talk about the amount of money taken.

So on Wednesday when I read that 5 burglars from a family of travellers were jailed, BBC story here, for up to 11 years each over a series of burglaries with no violence involved, I suspected it must be to do with the amount again. And so it proved, but not only the amount was the cause. There was also who had been the victims.

These thieves specialized in large country houses. We had amongst others property tycoon Harry Hyams, Formula One advertising tycoon Paddy McNally and Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire Sir Philip Wroughton.

Judge Critchlow said "Cases of this gravity must attract heavy sentences because of the deliberate criminality, organisation and sophistication of their planning and the effect on the occupants."

It does ask the question, "Should rich people get more protection from the law as they have more money"? For causing harm to others who does the most, these guys or someone turning over some little old lady's house. Let us get down to the dirty bit of the justice system. Should the pedophile or the rapist get a lower sentence than the 11 years these men got?

Interesting thoughts and a politician could ride a populist train by bringing the subject up, although it wouldn't go down with some of the 'conservative club blue-rinsed hang them all brigade'. Maybe the next Labour leader could try it on for size.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Maggie a State Funeral?

Like the newspapers I'm getting my obituary column ready early. It seems that in government and at the palace there is talk about giving Maggie Thatcher, Hilda to her friends, a state funeral with all the trappings that Churchill got.

Now I don't want to throw cold water on that idea but I have a much better one. How about a new national holiday instead. We could have this on the first day of May. If the first was either a Saturday, Sunday or Monday we could then have an extra Tuesday off to add to the May Bank Holiday making a very long weekend.

Now what to call this new holiday? Depending on your political allegiances it could be Thatcher Day, Bloody Maggie Day or just plain May Day, its old name before she changed it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Better Late Than Never - A Windfall Profits Tax

This week we had two major oil companies declaring extra high profits, Shell and Exxon. Exxon actually set a record high profit in the US for all industries, not just oil. There had never been a profit result that high before.

This blog in March gave the head of Shell, Jeroen van der Veer, the title of "an unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism" first awarded to Tiny Rowland by Edward Heath. My argument then was that van der Veer was trying to fight off any talk of a windfall profits tax. Big oil knew it had friends at the very top of the US political system in Bush and Cheney, but must have been a bit nervous in the UK of some of the Labour backbenchers.

A windfall profits tax on the oil companies was introduced in 1980 by Jimmy Carter on the oil companies who were gouging the public after the OPEC oil embargo. Now it seems that even some cabinet ministers in the UK are talking about it. See the BBC story "Ministers 'consider' windfall tax". Now the chances are that Brown will be against it, but for the next Labour leader in the Autumn it is important to get some basic Labour ideas across and this is one. Even Barak Obama is talking windfall taxes.

So will it be John Hutton who leads the first revolt against Brown in the government. Much as it doesn't taste very nice, the next Labour leader will be one of the Blair groupies, male or female, but it's not the person that's important but the policies that must change from the Blair/Brown Thatcherite ones in present use.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reasons to Dump Brown - Part 4

Labour is in danger of matching its 1931 election results if it can not hang onto the safe seats in Scotland. Back then, after Ramsey MacDonald had deserted the party, they were reduced to 52 seats. With the Gordon Brown impersonator, Wendy Alexander, as leader of the Scottish Labour Party is it any surprise that Labour lost its traditional support in Glasgow? (I wrote this without even realizing she had alreay resigned almost a month before because of sleaze. Things are looking up.)

Today we have union leaders Paul Kenny and Tony Woodley calling for change, one for a new party leader and the other for a return to more traditional policies. In reality one without the other will not save the party from a terrible disaster in the next election. So what has gone wrong?

I suspect it all started with Kinnock. The moment the party lost the balance of three power centers in the party, the constituency party, the parliamentary party and the unions making decision and gave instead the parliamentary party absolute power in all but words the rot set in. Of course it looked so good when Blair could win elections after years of Tory governments but it was based on policies without principles.

In 1997 Labour just had to be there. The Tories were committing suicide over Europe and with sleaze, and the public wanted them gone. In 2001 and just about in 2005 Blair could show that New Labour made better Tories than the Tories themselves. Now it looks like the Tories are back to being the best right wing party in the UK.

There was a hope that Brown might change direction after Blair went, but this was a false hope as it was Brown who had been inventing the policies of the Blair governments. For the leadership contest only 29 of the 356 Labour MPs had the courage to try and force a leadership election which included the other sections of the party. This was 16 shy of the minimum needed.

Of course most MPs are pretty selfish individuals who will do what is best for themselves but now they must realize they have not only hurt the party but also put those, even with what had been regarded as safe seats, in danger of not getting re-elected, even as opposition MPs next time.

This year there must be a leadership challenge and it must go out to the whole party. Are there 45 MPs who will do the job? Here's what the union bosses are now saying.

Tony Woodley - "The change people want - in Glasgow and around the country - is a change of political approach. Blairism should finally be buried in Glasgow's East End."

"For too long the government has put all its eggs in the free-market basket. People are now looking for more support and protection from government as we face serious economic difficulties rooted in City excesses."

Paul Kenny - "The MPs have got to make a strong decision as to whether they want to go into an election with Gordon Brown or have a [leadership] contest."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Reasons to Dump Brown - Part 3

As a young man I criticized Labour for being reformist rather than revolutionary. Now, much older and liking reformism, I can't find any reformist tendencies in New Labour. The closest we get with get to any reforms after 11 years in government is more Thatcherism in privatization. Although often called reforms what Thatcher was doing was turning the clock back to days of more laissez faire capitalism.

The reason a reformist government needs to be the opposite of a laissez faire conservative one is that we need central economic planning to take on the likes of big oil, the drug companies and the banks. Instead we get in today's news a story that really sums up the Blair/Brown policies.

We have some lickspittle in Brown's cabinet, James Purnell, regurgitating the old Tory attack on social security claimants, a work for your benefits and end disability payments diatribe.

David Cameron quite rightly accuses the government of stealing Conservative Party policies regarding the proposed benefits changes. Are there any brave souls left amongst the Labour MPs to stand against the Thatcherites that control the party.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reasons to Dump Brown - Part 2

What's in a name. Privatisation, selling off the family silver, selling the crown jewels, all pretty much the same thing. We can add Brown's favourite, "public-private partnership", to that list. We have to remember that he is a Thacherite when it comes to the public services.

We are told that private companies are more efficient than public ones, so why is it that every time we hear a public service in trouble we find a private company not doing the job. Brown pushed for his public-private partnership to do the London Underground maintenance and it was a disaster. The latest is the school kids exams are not getting marked. According to the BBC website the problem is caused by a private company called ETS Europe.

Didn't the mafia say "let everyone wet their beaks". That's what has happened as we sell off bits of education, health, railways and other services. The gangsters in the City make fortunes and the public service workers have to strike to get more than a two and a bit percent pay rise.

Maybe the unions should only contribute funds to MPs who are prepared to dump Brown.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Boycott the Evening Standard

I watched an Alexei Sayle documentary about Liverpool last night. In it explained how Liverpool still largely boycotts Murdoch's Sun newspaper because of their coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. Well that got me thinking;-)

The London Evening Standard's coverage of the London Mayor's election was one-eyed, vicious and untruthful as they fought to get Boris Mugabe Johnson elected that maybe they, Associated Newspaper and their editor, Veronica Wadley, should get this Liverpool treatment. It's the economic equivalent of a Liverpool kiss I guess.

I know you will not get that almost total boycott that has occurred in Liverpool but it wouldn't take much to put this rag in deep trouble. They are already up against the freebies, including one of their own. So Boris supporters heading back to the suburbs after a hard day at their city desk will still buy it. The horse and dog followers will still need it - I take it the paper still has good form guides. But if just fifteen or twenty percent of Standard readers stopped buying it there will be real trouble. Unlike the Sun that still has a market outside of Liverpool, the Standard is a London local paper and has nowhere to run.

Come on Londoners, how about a boycott of the London Evening Standard?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

1968 Revisited

First a couple of direct links to posts about 1968 on Jakartass's blog, his own and a post from David Jardine.

Reading the both the blogs and the comments made me think a little deeper on what did happen back then. Of course just one year didn't change the world as we know it. What made the change was something that had already started by then. When people criticize the often flawed heroes of sixties youth they are missing the point. Probably Alexander Dubček was a better man than Ho Chi Minh but it was Ho's name being called out in the protests that year. Che probably did end up with a blood lust that caused the executions of good people.

The revolution in 1968 wasn't based on class, although it was certainly against the ruling class. The communist party had no leadership role in it. In fact the French Communist Party spurned the chance of really taking on De Gaulle. Those involved were looking for alternatives to the old Stalinist ideas of the traditional communist parties, hence the explosion in Trotskyite and anarchist parties.

So what was 1968? It was the political side of the youth movement that had really got going earlier in the decade. If there was a class part to it, you would have to say the political side was predominately middle class. But the 1968 students had a connection to the Mod movement and the beginnings of the hippie movement much more than any political party or ideal. This was the first time I know of that a generation was in revolt against another mainly on the grounds that the older could no longer be trusted with running the world.

If there was no 1968 there could be no Tony Blair, no Bill Clinton, no Barack Obama and, sorry to say, probably no David Cameron in leadership positions at their age. The cultural changes that have happened since then would have been fewer. Why? Because the older generation found that, just like Charles 1st., they had no divine right to rule. So for all their mixed up political thinking, we should thank Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Rudi Dutschke, Bernadette Devlin and Tariq Ali. Problem is that we are now that older generation. We sowed the seeds of our own destruction;-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Time to Dump Brown

Quotes from the first two articles I read on the BBC website today.

On plans to bring private companies in to run NHS trusts - link to the article.

And Geoff Martin, head of campaigns at Health Emergency, predicted there would be an "almighty row" over the plans. He added: "The government's suicide mission to alienate core supporters takes another leap with this effort to privatise the NHS on a scale that even Margaret Thatcher would have balked at."

On Imperial College having its own entrance exam - link to article.

Rector Sir Richard Sykes told an independent schools conference that all applicants had "four or five A-levels". He said it was "frightening" that 40% of his undergraduate intake came from the 7% who were privately schooled.

It's quite possible that whoever leads the Labour Party will not be able to stop a Tory victory but my message to the Labour backbenchers who are in danger of losing their cozy jobs is at least go out with your heads held high. What will these New Labour years be remembered for - Thatcherism with a human face and the Iraq war? Look back at the 1945 Labour government which is remembered for the NHS, Social Security, nationalising the coal and railway companies and so much more even though they were governing in tough times.

So Labour backbenchers need to find a new leader. Don't go for a Blairite because that's what Brown is. The only difference was he fell out with the gang boss and replaced him. Come up with some policies that you will at least be remembered for. Below are two you still have time to do.

One, invest a massive amount in council and low cost house building. Finance it by pulling the troops out of Iraq and taxing the city fund managers, oil companies and suchlike. (Do you remember how all the candidates for the deputy leader post jumped on this council housing bandwagon last year.)

Two, bring in laws, similar to what the US has, to break up the media empire of Murdoch. Make it so he has to get rid of Sky and one of his daily newspapers or keep Sky and lose both papers. He isn't going to back you in the next election anyway so why let him decide it.

I will try and think up a few more over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Forty Years On

I've been trying to ignore it, but quite correctly many bloggers are remembering 1968 like Jakartass. It was a momentous year for those who were there. I was 16 and although I didn't get to the Grosvenor Square anti-war demonstration in March I did get to almost all the others that year. The UK wasn't as exiting as what was going on in France, Germany, the US and Czechoslovakia but a generation's political ideas were formed one way or another.

It was when the communist party started to lose the leadership of the left in France and also in the UK. New leaders were popping up. Danny the Red (Daniel Cohn-Bendit) in France, Rudi Dutschke in Germany, the Black Panther leaders in the US and people like Tariq Ali in the UK. Not all travelled the same path. Some like Andreas Baader moved towards terrorism.

The world was in trouble. The Tet offensive was on in Vietnam, a civil war in Nigeria, Russian tanks in Czechoslovakia, the ongoing cultural revolution in China and the beginning of the most recent period of troubles in Northern Ireland. Although a lot has changed I think we all thought it would be far more changed than it is.

Changes on Klong Banma

I haven't been exercising enough. Last weekend I managed to get a walk along our local canal, Klong Banma. I hadn't done this walk for a few months and found that much of the vegetation had been cut back and near the railway a new housing estate was being built. The site is on both sides of the klong and it looks like the builders only have road access on the western side. They have put in what I take is a temporary bridge to get their trucks between the two sides.

New Housing Estate
New Housing Estate

Building Workers Housing
Building Workers Housing

New Bridge
New Bridge

The new mosque, which is slowly being built near where Klong Banma goes under the Chonburi Motorway, is almost finished. It is one of the two giant mosques being built at the Bangkok end of the motorway. Below is a view from the klong path.

New Mosque
New Mosque

Monday, May 26, 2008

Boris cancels Venezuelan oil deal

I have to be honest, Boris gives me someone to really dislike for the next 4 or 5 years or whatever the mayor's term is. On the BBC website it says that this old Etonian will not renew the deal with Venezuela that supplies cheap diesel for London buses to fund half price fares for those of the capital's citizens on income support. In return London was supplying expert advisors to Venezuela on such operations as traffic management and recycling.

Now Boris didn't say it was economic reasons so we have to guess it was for political reasons. That is that Chavez was far too left wing for him. Boris says there are better ways of helping both poor Londoners and poor Venezuelans, but quite how you help the latter by withdrawing London's experts and the former by not having a supply of cheap diesel I don't get.

This man and his Etonian cronies are as much a danger to the UK as Bush and the right-wing think-tanks were to the US. Isn't there some legal means of taking any financial loss to London caused by Boris's stupidity from his personal wealth like Maggie was doing to those various city councilors in Liverpool and suchlike.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Remove the Burmese Generals

Gordon Brown has now come out rebuking the Burmese generals for killing their own people, this time by ignoring their plight rather than by shooting them. Aid needs to be forced through and if this means air drops without permission, so be it.

The US and the UK were quick enough to go into oil rich Iraq. I don't expect them to do this in Burma but the least they could do is support the opposition groups with money and even arms if asked for. This is the real pariah state in Asia.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wilderness or Renewal

Frank Field certainly has it in for Gordon Brown. This is not a man to forgive and forget, in fact there is something old testament about him. I'm not sure politically where he comes from but I suspect his religion is what leads him into not accepting the usual politician's compromises. The government is backtracking and some of the backbenchers knives are out. It's hard to see how Labour will win the next election as the momentum after the local and London Mayoral elections seems unstoppable.

It's not too soon for the party to make plans in case the worse, a Tory landslide, happens. New Labour won power on the back of Tony Blair's charisma. They dropped their ideology in an Americanisation of British politics. They have tried, and succeeded for a long time, in being a better Conservative Party than the Tories themselves, a sort of Maggie with a human face. I'm not sure either Neil Kinnock or John Smith thought that was what they were starting, but I suspect not.

The Tory, and now the Liberal, answer is to find young, good-looking leaders with charisma. Gordon Brown's problem is this is an asset he doesn't have. If Labour is going to continue being New Labour they will need to find a competitor in the charisma stakes to take over from Gordon and then hope the Tories make such a mess of it they lose their support. But... there is another answer.

Get back to having an ideology. Modernise it if necessary, but stop trying to be more conservative than the Conservatives. By its nature the Tories have no ideology, no new ideas. They are there to conserve the status quo, always have been, always will. Fight charisma with ideas. Remind people that some of the worse dictators in memory had fantastic charisma but ended up doing their people no good in the long run.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tourist Pollution

It's funny how sometimes an idea seems so clear that you can't figure out why others haven't already picked up on it.

So yesterday I drove with my youngest daughter to the National Museum. It gave us a chance to try the GPS on the new top of the range Nokia N95 8GB she had given me. We parked on Sanam Luang, the royal fields used in the yearly rice ploughing festival. While walking to the museum we passed 20 plus large coaches all without passengers and with their engines running. They carry the tourists who visit the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. They keep their engines running so the air-conditioning is on when the tourists return.

If one of those Bangkok Metropolitan Authority cops was to walk up and down the line of coaches getting them to turn off the engines there would be very few losers. Apart for the tourist having to wait a few minutes for the bus to cool down everyone's a winner. While the city cop is checking on the coaches he isn't picking on poor street hawkers. The coach company saves on fuel. Most importantly we don't have the diesel pollution around this historical area.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Last Saturday's Walk

We went back out to the Klong Saen Saeb about 7 kilometers east of Minburi to finish off the last bit of that end of the canal with a footpath. We had got this far last month. It was only 5 kilometers there and back with a good footpath on either side but not a lot of interest except the canal here is well stocked with fish by the looks of it.

Klong Saen Saeb, Minburi
Klong Saen Saeb

After the walk we drove towards Chachoengsao trying to follow the klong but it does get a bit complicated as it splits, rejoins and changes name before it reaches the Ban Pakong River. I think we were getting lost when we found a new temple building under construction at Wat Prong Arkard (this spelling is probably wrong but comes off a ThinkNet map). The size of the building is massive and the construction techniques are similar to building a shopping mall but the design is all traditional Thai temple building. I have no idea of the cost but it's many millions of Baht.

Wat Prong Arkard
Wat Prong Arkard

From there we drove into Chachoengsao and stopped off at the old city fort walls by the river. Had a closer look at the old cannon there and took some pictures of the marks on them. The date below is interesting. This fort dates back to the early 19th. Century and the interesting bit in Wikipedia is of it being used in the mid 19th. Century during the Angyee Rebellion. This is something I know nothing about. I have found a reference to fighting Chinese opium dealers in Chachoengsao and another to a Chinese coolie revolt in Phuket. I will try to find out more.

Chachoengsao Fort Cannon
Chachoengsao Fort Canon

The Clown Wins

I just took down the Stop Boris graphic. Must admit I'm surprised that London voted how it did. I thought Ken could win in spite of Labour's problems. The outer suburbs seem to have put in a strong Boris vote so it might be a council tax vote also.

I suspect this is the end of any progressive London policies on public transport and pollution. Boris really is a throwback to a much earlier time. In a way it is before Thatcher, even back to before the Second World War when Old Etonians knew ruling Britain and much of the world was their job.

So well done Ken. Shame about this one. It might have been better to get expelled from the party again. If you had won I think we could have seen a bit more courage from the left of the party in pushing for changes in government policy.

Monday, April 28, 2008


As you age so mortality touches you that little bit harder. In the Western world, unless you are unlucky, your youthful brushes with mortality are as that oldest generation to which your grandparents belong begins to pass away. By the time you are late middle age the brushes are getting wider and you might even have played with it yourself. You begin lose friends of your own age. Now the Who's song of our generation doesn't seem so fine.

I wished I were religious but I'm not. I can only hope when I go that someone will say that I made their life a little bit happier at sometime. So to an old friend, 'Tim, you made my life a little happier.'

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Tale of Two Women

On today's BBC website's front page is news on two Labour women MPs. The 77 year old Gwyneth Dunwoody died and the 46 year old Angela Christine Smith didn't resign her junior government job after all.

I suspect both of these women are to the right of where I stand on many issues. One will be remembered for taking on the party leadership while the other will have to pull something out of the bag to not be remembered as yet another MP who backed down to Gordon Brown.

What is it with Gordon, does he batter people or what? Angela, if the change in the lowest tax rate is against your principles then go. Don't back down. Go to the police if he threatens you.

In 2001 the Labour leaders tried to move Gwyneth Dunwoody off of the chairmanship of the parliamentary transport committee as she was too independent for them. The Labour backbenchers rebelled and put her back. A bit more backbone today wouldn't go amiss.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

London Mayor, You're Havin' A Laugh

It looks like Boris Johnson is being found out rather quickly. I don't think keeping him hidden away will fool the London voters. I suspect that David Cameron and the Tory leadership never thought Boris, or BoJo to his friends, would seriously challenge Ken Livingstone.

Now he is in with a chance Cameron has problems. Does he keep Boris quiet and hope to win on an anti-Ken vote, but then face a year or so of extreme embarrassment as Boris is allowed to speak again as London's Mayor? Or does he let him speak and lose London? Maggie lost London and disbanded Ken's GLC so maybe that's his answer.

Never mind the principles Gordon

While Gordon tries to be the better Tory than Cameron I wonder if he remembers what he wrote in 1986? Already on the opposition front bench for Labour his biography of the Scottish socialist James Maxton was published. Below is Brown quoting Maxton.

"Round about Westminster, there hung nearly 800 years of hoary tradition. The rule driven into them from the day they arrived there was 'never mind about your political principles. Never mind about the suffering of the people you represent or your ideals, but for God's sake mind the etiquette of the place.' "

Who was writing about whom?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thai New Year

It's Songkran in Thailand today. That's the Thai New Year festival when everyone throws water over each other. Of course the traditional practice is to gently pour water over the hands of your elders, but out of the streets is pure fun and anarchy. It coincides with the hottest part of the year and it is very hot right now. So no walk this weekend or I might end up looking like the picture from Wikipedia below.

Friday, April 11, 2008

More on Boris

It seems that my view of the Jeremy Paxman's BBC London Mayor's Election debate is a fairly widespread one regarding Boris shooting himself in the foot. Anyway with the election only a couple of weeks away I thought I had better put a link in to a pro-Ken blog on the sidebar or you could just click here.

Watergate Problems

Here's a link to yesterday's Bangkok Post Outlook section article on a klong community at Wat Sai. Building a watergate had almost destroyed their traditional way of life. I suspect it wasn't so much the watergate as the bureaucratic control of the opening and closing of the gate. The men at the various gates do not have the authority to do this without the say so of someone behind a desk working office hours.

We see it over on this side of Bangkok also. At times when water could be let through to the river at low tide it isn't and areas upstream are flooding. Even on my own housing estate the pumps should be used to lower the lake levels before the rains start rather than after the roads are flooded. Many government departments are decentralising and maybe the Irrigation Department needs to as well. If the watergate workers became more like English lock-keepers and could control their gates it would be better. We might even get some klong tourism like they do in England with the narrow boat tours.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Boris The Unthinkable

I just watched Jeremy Paxman and the three main candidates for the London Mayor's job debating on the BBC. I must admit a few months ago I thought it was a no contest which recent polls show isn't the case. Also I thought the Tories had put Boris up as a bit of a joke candidate, just like when it was going to be Jeffrey Archer.

That second bit hasn't changed - he is a clown. God help London if he wins. This would be our own version of George Bush. How could this man ever have run a magazine? I'm not sure what his connection is with London, but running the city isn't on.

It should have been so easy for the two other candidates to attack Ken Livingstone on his record as he is the incumbent but instead neither could really get to him on anything including crime and the bendy busses. I think the reason is Ken is a good city administrator and fairly non-corrupt compared to most politicians.

The Liberal's Brain Paddick came across as bit too much of 'a plague on both your houses'. He will suffer I suspect with voters of my age group. Those who would vote for a policeman won't vote for a gay, and those who would vote for a gay won't vote for a policeman.

Bloody noses for the Chinese

I do think the Chinese leadership have done well, far better than Yeltsin did in Russia, in leading their country towards a mixed economy. What they fail to understand is that most people outside of China have a much higher regard for human rights than they have. Protests on the Oympic flame's route through London, Paris and San Francisco caught the Chinese government ill-prepared. Now it just sounds like bluster out of Beijing.

They have a bad record on human rights within their present day borders with both political opposition and minorities. Outside China their support for brutal regimes like Burma and Sudan upsets many. One of their problems is they have a tendency towards racism. 91.5% of China's population are ethnic Han according to Wikipedia. The government and many other Chinese often have a superior attitude when dealing with minorities in China and other Asians. It comes across as the elder brother or cousin to the smaller ethnic groups. You can see it going on in Tibet. In fact they behave in a similar way as the Brits did when we were a colonial power.

I wonder if there were no Beijing Olympics how many more Tibetans would be dead?

Klong Walk in Samut Prakan

Back on the east side of the Chao Phraya River last Sunday with about a 7 kilometer walk along the klongs of Samut Prakan. Heading west we reached the intersection of Sukhumvit and Srinakarin Roads so we were still outside of Samut Prakan's old town. Click on the Google Earth picture below for a better look at the route shown with yellow dots.

Again this week I had company which was good as it wasn't the most interesting canal I've walked. It was mainly rural with lots of fish farms and fairly sparse housing apart from the western end which had housing estates an a Chinese temple, Wat Bang Ping. We left the klongs for a short while to look for a signposted park but all we found was some fenced off marsh land. Hopefully the local government will protect it as it's important for drainage as well as nature.
Interesting finds pictured below were a pair of klong dredgers, solar powered pathway lamps and a polystyrene foam raft which had plants growing out of it although it was still in use. Click on the pictures for a better view.

Klong Dredgers
060408- 001

Solar Powered Lamps
060408- 004

Klong Raft
060408- 002

Friday, April 4, 2008

Sins of the Fathers

So Max Mosley is the son of Oswald Mosley. I didn't know that. I could have looked it up on Wikipedia as it's there.

For those who don't know, Max Mosley is president of something called the FIA which governs Formula 1 motor racing and other motor racing competitions. Oswald Mosley was of course the head of the pre and post WW2 fascist party in Britain. He was married to one of the Mitford sisters. Both of Max's parents were from the British aristocracy and friends of the rich and famous, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Max was bought up in the world of public (UK private) schools and Oxbridge universities.

I thought at first it was just my ignorance in not associating Max with his father. The two people I called after I found out also did not know, although they had seen Max's name in the papers many times and knew what he did. They were sensible people who usually have a better knowledge of current affairs than me.

We only found out because one of Murdoch's UK papers discovered a sex scandal involving Max Mosley, some prostitutes and Nazi uniforms. The paper, News of the World, is an embarrassment, with years of titillating the public on Sunday with sex scandals.

We shouldn't blame a son for the sins of his parents. That isn't fair. But if, say Ronnie Bigg's son became head of the FA how often would the papers be able to resist printing, "Joe Biggs, son of the Great Train Robber". Most that follow UK sport probably know that snooker player Ronnie O'Sullivan's father is in prison for murder. So how come myself and the next two people I telephoned didn't know about Max Mosley.

On top of all this Max was, as a young man at least, and maybe still is a fascist. He went out on the streets campaigning for them. So why isn't it general public knowledge.? Usually I try to avoid conspiracy theories, but to me it looks like the old school tie and aristocrat networks at work.

What scares me about this is we could well have both an old Etonian London Mayor and a Tory cabinet filled with 'chaps' from the leading public schools in the near future. Everything will be decided behind closed doors and corruption will be on par with a banana republic. Don't trust these people.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Nakhon Chaisri and Nakhon Pathom

On Sunday I had a chance to take a friend out to the Jesada Technik Museum in Nakhon Chaisri and then onto Nakhon Pathom for a bit of a walk. An early start meant we got out of Bangkok quite easily but we did hit traffic out of town and on the way back. It's so hot at the moment that everyone with a car is trying to get away on weekends.

So first the Jesada Technik Museum. This is a place for grown up boys to go look at cars from their youth. I've talked about this place before and it's definitely for boys not girls. The owner, Jesada Dejkulrit, is a millionaire who has built a museum any 11 year old boy would dream of. It's pure collecting for the sake of collecting and I'm really jealous. I wish all millionaires spent their money as sensibly as this.

I took 277 pictures and my friend a similar amount. They are of old cars, some just wrecks, motorbikes, scooters, trucks, helicopters, a DC3, rice barges, old fire engines and even a tank. The new museum building looks like it is getting close to being finished inside. Another trip would be in order when that happens.

Jesada Museum Entrance
Old Jesada Technik Museum

From the museum we drove onto Nakhon Pathom with no real plans on what to see. Nakhon Pathom is a fairly ancient town in Thailand and pre-dates the Tai race entering what is present day Thailand. The town was probably part of what is called the Dvaravati Kingdom which was inhabited by the Mons. Strange therefore that we ended up looking at buildings from the late 19th. and early 20th. century.

We had a walk through the well kept grounds of the Sanam Chan Palace. This complex of Royal residences is 101 years old and features a building that would pass as a castle in a Disney movie. Click on the picture below.

Chali Mongkol Asana
Sanam Chan Palace, Chali Mongkol Asana

Taking care of this fairly large area were young women dressed in black. They looked like fashionable version of the Khmer Rouge but on reflection I suspect they were students from the fine arts department and black would be for mourning the recent death of the Thai King's elder sister.

Palace Cleaning Crew
Sanam Chan Palace, Samakkhi Mukamat Residence

The last stop was at the Phra Pathom Chedi built in the 1870's which is the tallest stupa in the world at 127 metres. It is much revered in Thailand.

Phra Pathom Chedi
Phra Pathom Chedi

Wat Khu Sang, Samut Prakan

Not much exercise on Saturday. A drive over the new bridge to the Chulchomklao Fort navy base for lunch in their seafood restaurant and then a drive out on some of the small roads going west from there. Going along the northern bank of Klong Sapphasamit and turning right just before the cement road runs out at the large rice mill takes you on some small roads back towards the river. Close to the canal is Wat Khu Sang with many colourful temple buildings. Below is one that was really shining in the sun. Click on the picture for a better resolution one. This temple is well kept and clean and obviously the center of the local community. In the Bangkok suburbs this role has largely been taken over by the large shopping malls.

Wat Khu Sang, Samut Prakan

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blame it on Harry Potter!

Not really Harry Potter's fault here in Thailand but he did help. I went to the Bangkok International Bookfair yesterday to meet some people. In Thailand we always have the book fair during the school summer holidays; it's our very hot season here. There were tens of thousands of kids, mainly teens, camped out on every available bit of floor space and they were reading! I hope there are similar scenes in the UK and rest of the first world otherwise we will be left behind in twenty years.

Split this Blog

I have been thinking about splitting this blog. Maybe my minority views on UK politics don't really fit in with canals and walking although that's where I fine tune them;-) On the internet we tend to niche everything. The more we niche the easier it is for people to find us. So maybe I will take new political posts onto a new blog. I will ponder this some more.

This is what you get for the money!

I couldn't let the British Airways Heathrow Terminal 5 story go by this week without a comment. I live in a third world country where two years ago they moved from one airport to another 25 kilometers away overnight and still had passengers flying with their baggage the next day. So why couldn't British Airways, and maybe the British Airports Authority (BAA), get it right?

Well you would have to go back to 1981 with British Airways when Maggie Thatcher put John King, later Lord, in as chairman of the company to set about privatising it. Two years later he brings in Colin Marshall to run it and from then on you have a history of job losses, bad labour relations and crooked dealings. While the Tories held up British Airways as what could be done by privatisation, experienced travellers avoided the airline like the plague. If it hadn't had its sinicured atlantic flights out of Heathrow it would have died years ago.

I suspect I could make a similar case about the now Spanish owned BAA. How did British Airways hope the move would work out when the staff-management relations are so very poor. Where was the needed enthusiasm from the labour force meant to come from. The whole Thatcherite policy on privatisation needed a beaten labour force to make these companies succeed without state support. The chairmen of these companies were picked to do the job. You only have to think back to bringing Ian MacGregor in as head of the coal industry.

So which of the many companies privatised have worked out as successes. Sure there has been some success for asset strippers and those that hold a near monopoly position in their industry, but for the customers and staff there has not been an overall benefit. Will train commuters in the UK claim they are better off. I suspect not many of the remaining small shareholders feel particularly happy. Those in British Airways should demand a change in management at the very least. How about those who invested into the Channel Tunnel. I guess the then Tory cabinet didn't put anything into that one.

Read Diamond Geezer, he was there.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

West Samut Prakan Walk

The province of Samut Prakan, like Bangkok, spreads across both sides of the Chao Phraya river. It sits at the mouth of the river between Bangkok and the sea. Since the recent industrial ring road bridge, and even more since the new Bangkok Ring Road bridge have connected both banks of the river below the city, new places of interest have become easier to access. One of these is the Chulachomklao Fort.

We went over there for a walk yesterday. I found this about year ago by following signs which took me to a guarded naval base at the mouth of the river. Apart from the fort we found a museum naval ship, a fine seafood restaurant and wood decked pathways through preserved mangrove swamp. Yesterday with a friend we walked around them all, playing with the six inch guns that were fired at the French Navy in 1893 and walking through the dry-docked corvette, HTMS Maeklong, which was built in 1935 in Japan.

HTMS Maeklong
HTMS Maeklong

British WW2 25 Pounder
25 Pounder at Chulachomklao Fort

There is a display of various guns in small park and it includes a ex-British WW2 vintage 25 pound artillery piece. The two pathways through the mangrove swamp were interesting with plenty of birds, a couple of large water monitors and some mud-skippers which are fish that can breathe out of water. An 11 AM stop at the restaurant gave us some coffee and another stop outside the gates for a soft drink let us watch the guys fishing off the bridge over one of the large canals in this area. It really is a good place to visit if you haven't been before and great if you have kids. For foreigners you should have your passports and for Thais your ID cards to get through the navy guards.

Heron in the Mangrove Swamp
Heron at Chulachomklao Fort

From there we headed back along the riverside road until a left turn took us out to Ban Sakhla. The road ends after about 8 kilometers in the car park of Wat Sakhla. From here we could walk through Ban Sakhla village where access is only by the pathways or by canal. Of course now-a-days everyone has a motorbike, but most houses also had long-tailed boats of various sizes. From this village boats go to Klong Sapphasamit which joins the Chao Phraya River to the port of Samut Sakhon to the west.

Ban Sakhla Houses on Canal
Ban Sakhla

Wat Sakhla is lively place, being the center of village life, and the car park for anyone visiting. There was quite a bit of karaoke and eating going on while we were there. At the northern end of the temple is an old leaning stupa that I suspect dates back many centuries. I think this is in the Mon style of temple building.

Wat Sakhla Leaning Stupa

Old Hall at Wat Pounwanaram
Old Temple Near Ban Sakhla

Going back down Ban Sakhla road we stopped at another old temple hall at Wat Pounwanaram. This old building, although not as old as the stupa at Wat Sakhla, was interesting as the walls were wood planks, I guess teak. The last stop and walk was on the river at Wat Traimit Wararam. Most of the buildings here are more recent although I suspect there has been a temple on this site for a very long time. There is a great river view here and just behind the temple an old large wood hulled and decked river boat is moored. A man came over and offered us the boat for 200,000 Baht, but I supect that's a bit like buying Tower Bridge in London.

Old Wooden River Boat
Old Boat at Wat Traimit Wararam

Charlton Athletic 1-1 West Brom

It's hot in Bangkok right now. Everyone is complaining about it. Weekends it becomes more noticeable as we are out of the office air-conditioning. Being hazy I left my hat off for some of yesterday's walk and burnt the top of my head. I get lazy, find more to moan about and even Charlton can't help me. A one-one draw with West Brom doesn't help. It's good not to be losing but now really only wins help.

The only upbeat football story to come out of the weekend was in Frankie Valley's new blog where he stood next to the great Garry Nelson, footballer and writer. Shouldn't have peed on his shoes though Frankie.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Short Term Planning

So the British banks have gone, cap in hand, to Mervyn King at the Bank of England. These bastions of the British establishment and great supporters of the Tory party have been caught short. The very fault that Cameron is been attacking Brown for, not putting anything aside for the bad times, is what he friends in the banks have done.

I don't believe anyone thought that economically we would continue just to see growth with no downturns. There might be wishful thinking that the downturns can be moderate, but not that they will not come at all. So why were the banks not ready?

I think pure capitalism works on a very short term view of the future. Plans don't seem to be made for that far ahead. With socialism with see the attempt at long term planning with the disastrous Soviet five year plans. Up until the 1930s both America and the UK had almost pure capitalism. This probably explains why the Great Depression was so bad.

With Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the Second World War and the 1945 Labour Government we see the beginning of a mixed economy. This mix should give us hopefully a little more forward planning. To me Thatcher and Reagan represented one last throw of old style capitalism but even they couldn't turn the clock back that far.

So what's the answer? We live in a economic balance between capitalist growth and socialist planning. Getting the balance right should let us have a moderate growth with a lack of recession, but one thing that will be needed is reduce the power and independence worldwide of the banks and oil companies.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Credit where credit is due 2

Congratulations to the 19 brave Labour MPs who voted against the government on Post Office closures. It's going to be interesting to see Brown's response. Does New Labour seem to have far more Stalinist tendencies than old Labour?

Good to see Diane Abbott in the list - I enjoy watching her and Portillo with Andrew Neil on the BBC. Not surprised that ex-post office worker's union leader, Alan Johnson, isn't on the list.

Here's the full list - thanks to the BBC website.

Diane Abbott (Hackney North & Stoke Newington)
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North)
John Cummings (Easington)
Andrew Dismore (Hendon)
David Drew (Stroud)
Frank Field (Birkenhead)
Paul Flynn (Newport West)
John Grogan (Selby)
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North)
John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington)
Eric Martlew (Carlisle)
Alan Meale (Mansfield)
Gordon Prentice (Pendle)
Alan Simpson (Nottingham South)
Geraldine Smith (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester South)
David Taylor (Leicestershire North West)
Mike Wood (Batley & Spen)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oath of allegiance - bring it on!

I'm all for. Make all the school kids swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen, or a King Charles or William or whoever. Being a English republican I figure that should just about finish off the monarchy in the UK as that generation are empowered.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saturday walk on Klong Saen Saeb

Yesterday's walk was about 9 kilometres from and back to the truck on Klong Saen Saeb. This canal is 170 years old and was built to move troops faster towards the eastern borders of the then Siam. You can get the history on Wikipedia here.

The walk covered an section of the canal going east from the watergate called GP8 on the eastern side of Minburi town. I had pleasant company so spent a great deal of the walk in conversation but there was still plenty to see. It is mainly a Moslem area with at least three mosques on the route. The paths were pleasant and lots birds and fish and other animals to see.

The stand out location on this walk was the Kamalulislam Mosque for a number of reasons. A BMA history notice board told us that the mosque is also known as Sai Kongdim which is the name of the small canal joining the Saen Saeb next to the mosque. We walked a few hundred metres along this canal until the path run out but have a fairly spectacular picture of a lizard on a water hyacinth from the end. (I didn't take this picture or the one of mosque.)

The board told us that the King Rama V, (Chulalongkorn), visited a mosque on this site by boat in 1907. Again it would be interesting to know the history of these Moslem communities east of Bangkok as this shows they were here at least 100 years ago. The path along the klong next to the mosque has a frame with a climbing plant growing over it. The path becomes a tunnel as on the klong side it has dropped roots down to the water. It's gives a beautiful shade from the sun.

There wasn't that much going on in the canal but in the houses on the side there seemed to be a few places getting ready for some sort of celebration lunch. We were invited into one but by then we needed to get back. See the map below for this walk. There are also a few pictures from the walk. Minburi is just to the east of Bangkok.

Lizard in the Canal
Lizard in the water hyacinths

Kamalulislam Mosque
Kamalulislam Mosque 6

Kamalulislam Mosque Canal Path
Kamalulislam Mosque 7

Spirit House in the Klong
Klong Spirit House

Ipswich 2-0 Charlton Athletic

Hard to find any positives to take out of this result. The manager, Alan Pardew, seems to be trying to find some on the BBC website. Good luck to him.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Burnley 1-0 Charlton Athletic

Another loss and the second loss to Burnley this season. We are 10 points behind the second positioned team and even the play-offs are looking a bit dodgy. Not a happy supporter today.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Klong Bueng Khwang

This weekend I finished most of the top end Klong Song Ton Nun and walked a large part of Klong Bueng Khwang. (I guess that seeing as I don't put a "h" in klong I shouldn't put it in Khwang either but I will go with the spelling on Google Earth for now.)

These were longish hour-and-a-half walks through almost entirely Moslem rural communities. The growing of grass turf was something I hadn't noticed before and I got some good pictures of this farming. The pathways were in fairly good condition and clean although one area I found where there obviously was not too much human traffic had become a good perch for the little brown herons. I have never seen so many together and their guano is far better than the dog mess I find in other areas.

Click on the map to see update of Rom Klao area walks

Can you see the 3 brown herons?

Growing grass turf near the klong
Grass Cultivation near Klong Song Ton Nun

You can see why they are called water hyacinths
Klong Beung Khwang 011

Mr. van der Veer I just don't believe you!

In the early seventies Edward Heath, probably the last "One Nation" Tory prime minister, called Tiny Rowland, (a horrible little shit in charge of a company called Lonrho), "an unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism".

35 years I would like to give that title to the boss of Royal Dutch Shell, Jeroen van der Veer. While we are giving out this title let's give honourable mentions to the US oil companies and the pharmaceutical industry who are all doing so well by being so bad.

What upset me was watching Mr. van der Veer go on TV and defend their massively increased profits against any talk of a windfall tax by arguing that most of their profit was made outside of Europe. Does he really think we all fall for that legend they created of their retail operation losing money while the overseas production operations made all the profit. His bean-counters can put the profit where they want and of course they put it in countries with the lowest taxes and most corrupt governments.

What a surprise that Wikipedia tells us that van der Veer was awarded honourary doctorate from the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

Charlton Athletic 1-2 Preston

Well the dream is dead. I no longer think we will get one of the two automatic promotion spots this season. Unlike last time we were relegated we haven't kept an almost intact team from the premier. We have a virtually brand new team, thankfully as last season's team was just not good enough for the Premier Division wages they were getting paid. This new team might make it, but probably not year.

A new dream - we will get one of the four play-off spots and ten years after we did it at Wembley we do it again. Last time I sat in a bar in Soi Cowboy and watched grown men, Sunderland supporters, crying as Charlton won a match which many describe as the best they have ever seen.

At least this way I will get to see them on TV.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Won 15, Drawn 11, Lost 10

Last three games were lost to Blackpool, beat Sheffield United and drew with Bristol City, and so goes Charlton's season. Just not consistent enough for one of the top two spots and automatic promotion to the Premier League. Then again they just needed to win 3 of the games they lost to be top of the division.

Still it might keep us away from Richard Scudamore, that spin doctor in charge of the Premier League with his £800,000 salary. According to Wikipedia he is a Bristol City supporter though.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Klong

Klong Song Ton Nun is another canal that links to the two large canals running east from Bangkok, Klong Saen Saeb and Klong Prawet Buriram. This one is almost due north of the new Bangkok airport. It runs parallel and just west of Rom Klao Road that goes to Minburi. With walks on Saturday and Sunday all I have to walk is the last few kilometers at the Minburi end.

There are quite a few communities living on this klong and as you move north it becomes very rural, with even rice paddy between the klong and Rom Klao Road. There are the usual religious splits with both Buddhist and Moslem communities. The last two canals have had a real excess of bad mannered dogs and it's good when you get to the Moslem areas that there are no snarling dogs and no dog shit on the path.

A quick note on the wildlife I see on these walks. The only dangerous animals I see are dogs. I thought I would see a few snakes warming themselves on the paths but all I have seen is one swimming across the canal and a couple of dead ones in the water. Maybe snakes have been driven out of town now which would be a shame. I have seen a few water monitors, smaller lizards and turtles but mostly birds.

I wish I knew a bit more about birds, but there is always something look at. Today there were swifts catching insects over the water, herons and storks catching fish and the last few weeks I've been noticing the blue and orange of the small kingfishers which never let you get too close.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Democracy - Still the best answer?

The problem with democracy is that the people sometimes vote for a bunch of scoundrels. OK, so that's just my opinion;-) Even with this it's hard to see what would be a better system right now. With democracy we shouldn't have to qualify it with words like "Western" or "Capitalist". It just means that the citizens get to elect their government. Democracy shouldn't depend on an economic system or a location.

(In fact it would be pretty hard to find a pure capitalist economic system now. Even Maggie Thatcher and Ronnie Reagan couldn't put the clock back that far. We now have mainly mixed economies of state and privately owned operations and a timeline through the last 150 years would show the ratio has been moving in the direction of state control in one way or another.)

My thoughts were drawn to the above subject by three events, the elections in Thailand and Pakistan, and the retirement of Fidel Castro in Cuba. In the two elections patronage politics again came to fore. Maybe in Pakistan there was also an anti-military rule vote, but the politicians that have been elected are the same ones that have been involved with corruption in the past. In Thailand Taksin's, (that's the owner of Manchester City Football Club for UK readers), millions have bought about the election of a real rogues gallery. In Cuba an unelected leader hands over to his unelected brother. Any elections that have taken place in Cuba must be shams as no opposition is tolerated.

In Cuba, the lack of legitimacy that a vote would give and the imprisonment of dissenters has taken away from their argument on how the US has isolated them. So even with a good school and health system the people are poor in material possessions and in personal freedoms. Taking Thailand as the democratic example we find a government elected by giving gifts to the mainly peasant farming communities in the north and northeast on a very local level. Now at least when it goes wrong again the citizens have none to blame but themselves and they have the option of removing this government at the next election. (By the way it's hard to disprove the country people are better off after the previous Taksin governments.)

When we look closely it seems most democracies are built on patronage. The more local the government level, the more likely that a politician will get elected on what he promises the community, and this is probably how it should be. The danger in our UK style of parliamentary democracy is that only a minor part of the electorate actually control who forms the next government and these are those in the swing seats. This probably explains why all the political parties are trying to squeeze into the centre ground. The patronage is just for this minority. Ah well, I don't know the answer to this one; maybe it is to go with some form of proportional representation.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Some pictures from this weekend's walk

Although this large canal isn't as interesting as some of the smaller ones I've walked here are few bits that caught my eye. Click on any the pictures for a larger view.

About half-way along I found the biggest and most professional fish raising pens. They were made of lots of small pens tied together. Later when I walked back down KingKaow Road I saw pickups waiting for fish from these pens. It looked like they were breeding small fish for sale to the fish farms so the water must be good here.


Because this area off Kingkaow Road is industrial there are many apartment buildings for the workers, mainly young people from out of town, to rent. Some were painted in pleasant pastel colours and I suspect most people would prefer this than the plain cement buildings. I think some of the London suburbs could be improved by copying these colours.


At the Bangna-Trat Highway end of the canal is a large Chinese temple-like building. Below you can see the canal side of it with the fine ceramic detail on the roof and the view of the front from the road.




The New Bangkok Airport Klongs

Yesterday and today I have been walking the rest of the klong that runs north-south on the western edge of the new Bangkok airport, Suvarnabhumi. (No, I'm not going to say how it's pronounced.) This is a wide canal and once past the southern edge of the airport there are footpaths on both sides most of the way to the Bangna-Trat Highway. On the other side of this road there are no footpaths in sight. I might have to try further south sometime.

This canal isn't very interesting but it did give me a chance to get in some decent exercise. All up over three days walking, always returning to the car, I did about 26 kilometres with the longest day being 12 kilometres. At first I thought the canal might have been part of the airport development but it seems to be a bit older than that. The communities along the canal seem to be mainly buddhist unlike the canals a few kilometres to the north which have a large Moslem population.

Below is a picture from Google Earth which shows the paths with yellow dots. I'm not sure why Google has such a poor resolution view of the airport. Maybe it's a security problem.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Life on Mars

I have the same problem as I suspect many bloggers, or come to think of it, old men at the corner of any pub bar. This is that I can't see how people can have views different to mine. With politics it seems so obvious to me, so how come others don't see it?

Could it be that I am like one of those old testament prophets that are not listenned to? Could it just be my views are so out of kilter with everyone else? Why do I feel like the boy who could see that the Emperor was naked and not in his new set of clothes. I suspect I have at least part of the reason.

I left the UK in 1973 and led a Peter Pan like existence working around the world. I didn't have to grow up again until 1995 when I stopped travelling. I missed the Thatcher years. I missed the rise of Blair and New Labour. In fact it's "Life on Mars" in reverse. I went to sleep in 1973 and woke up in 1995.

A small side note - I saw "Life on Mars" for the first time at the end of last year. I was missing some of the humour as I didn't realize things weren't done that way anymore.