Archive for March, 2009

The Right Honourable Robin Cook MP

I often think that perhaps Robin Cook was one of the very few politicians who actually deserved to have the word “honourable” in his title. Here he is giving his ministerial resignation speech to parliament. Although not shown here, I have been reliably informed that he actually received an “unheard of” standing ovation after the speech.

There have been questions asked about his death, two years after his resignation; someone has made a fair, if not conclusive appraisal, on this website.

One of the most interesting comment that Robin Cook has made is as follows:

The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al Qaida. And any informed intelligence officer knows this. But there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an identified entity representing the ‘devil’ only in order to drive the ‘TV watcher’ to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism. The country behind this propaganda is the US and the lobbyists for the US war on terrorism are only interested in making money.” -Robin Cook

The above quote and the above YouTube video were taken from an excellent article on Fred Face’s blog and is well worth the read.

Ampers

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Another gem from the EU

Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party is a nice enough chap, but he has a king size ego like so many other leaders of political parties. However, here he is laying in, like Daniel Hannan, to the UK Prime Mentalist. Good for you Nigel!

Ampers.

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Deists, what are they?

I am approaching seventy at the speed of the Japanese Bullet train! And it has taken that long to label myself religiously speaking.

I was torn between being an Atheist, but I do believe in God, and an Agnostic but I am convinced that a God exists. It is organised religion I disbelieve. I do not believe in any of the religious teachings, including both testaments of the Bible and the Q’uran. I do believe that religion was “invented” to enslave the population. Isn’t the Catholic ritual of confessing to a priest a form of slavery? And look at the hold Islam has on its followers.

On a recent visit to the Canadian “Religious Tolerance” website, I discovered the following explanation of a group I had only actually heard of this very morning.

The word “Deism” is derived from the Latin word for God: “Deus.”

Deism is a natural religion. Deists believe in the existence of God, on purely rational grounds, without any reliance on revealed religion or religious authority. Because of this, Deism is quite different from religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The latter are based on revelations from God to prophet(s) who then taught it to humans. We like to call natural religions as “bottom-up” faiths and revealed religions as “top-down.”

The opposite of Deism is Atheism — the lack of a belief in god(s).

Deists:

  • Do not accept the belief of most religions that God revealed himself to humanity through the writings of the Bible, the Qur’an or other religious texts.

  • Disagree with strong Atheists who assert that there is no evidence of the existence of God.

Many Deists reason that since everything that exists has had a creator, then the universe itself must have been created by God. Thomas Paine concluded a speech shortly after the French Revolution with: “God is the power of first cause, nature is the law, and matter is the subject acted upon.”

Hey! Hey! I have a label! Not terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but it helps when filling out NHS forms and other government busybody type forms. Let’s see what they make of that.

According to a list of Deists in Wikipedia, I am in illustrious company. Here are just a few Deists listed on that website…

Adam Smith
Albert Einstein
Benjamin Franklin
Cicero
Frederick the Great
George Washington
Mark Twain
Marlon Brando
Napoleon Bonaparte
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Paine
Victor Hugo
Voltaire

So, at least, I am no longer alone. I have always known what I believe in, but today is the first day I know that others share the same believe. I am feeling pretty good and it seems irrational that this can do that.

Another Wikipedia site has full information on what a Deist is and it makes fascinating reading – for me!

Ampers.

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Racism – part two

I received the following in an email this morning and it actually got me thinking.

Anyway, here is a cut down version (I am trying not to bore you) and, although it is American, parts of it could also apply in Britain. For example, the Metropolitan police have an association for only black officers but they do not have an association for only white officers. That alone proves that the Met are institutionally racist doesn’t it?

There are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, etc. And then there are just Americans. You pass me on the street and sneer in my direction. You call me ‘White boy,’ ‘Cracker,’ ‘Honkey,’ ‘Whitey,’ ‘Caveman’… and that’s OK. But when I call you, Nigger, Kike, Towel head, Sand-nigger, Camel Jockey, Beaner, Gook, or Chink .. You call me a racist. 

You say that whites commit a lot of violence against you… so why are the ghettos the most dangerous places to live? 

You have the United Negro College Fund. You have Martin Luther King Day. You have Black History Month. You have Cesar Chavez Day. You have Yom Hashoah. You have Ma’uled Al-Nabi. 

You have the NAACP. You have BET… If we had WET (White Entertainment Television), we’d be racists. If we had a White Pride Day, you would call us racists. If we had White History Month, we’d be racists. If we had any organization for only whites to ‘advance’ OUR lives, we’d be racists. 

If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships… You know we’d be racists. There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US . Yet if there were ‘White colleges’, that would be a racist college. 

In the Million Man March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights. If we marched for our race and rights, you would call us racists. You are proud to be black, brown, yellow and orange, and you’re not afraid to announce it. But when we announce our white pride, you call us racists. 

Now I fully believe this email was penned for purely white racist reasons, however, it has got me thinking, and I came up with the following conclusions. Most of these minority organisations were initially set up because the minorities had a tough time in, what is basically, a white environment. Yes, they needed to stick together and help each other with their own advancement. 

But then, has the clock now come full circle and isn’t it time for whites to be allowed to have their own separate organisations as well? My own thought is, having black organisations and white organisations is not a good thing and what I would prefer is to have no separate white organisations, and no separate black organisations either. There are good and bad in all races.

But if fairness is to prevail, we must either ban separate white and black separate associations totally, or allow separate white and black associations without reservation. We should not tolerate the unfairness of having one for one set of people and nothing for another set of people.

Comments to my thoughts and reasoning here would be welcome.

Ampers

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Racism is alive and well.

I met someone recently who would be labelled a racist by many as he was ranting about people coming to this country, swelling the numbers to an extent which is intolerable in this tiny island, taking our jobs and homes, living on social security and suchlike. I am sure you all know what I mean as more and more English people are voicing these concerns.

But you know, we can’t really blame these people. They come to this country to find a better life. They see how easy it is to get a home from the government, money to live by, and after a lifetime of bare existence, who really can blame them for their new life on easy street?

To take it out on someone who is black, or Chinese or Indian or, perhaps a Pole, or Kosovon, is wrong But, help is at hand. Someone is to blame. In the past you have heard me ask the question cui bono or “who benefits”. Over the last ten years I read somewhere that the huge amount of people on social security has risen by around 30%. These people, because they believe what Labour tell them, fear the Conservatives getting in, so will no doubt vote Labour at the next election. So in this case Labour benefits. Who else benefits? I cannot think of anyone else but am open to have you add to the comments if you can think of any other group.

So do we, as the above seems to imply, blame Labour for the situation, rather than the immigrants who think every day is Christmas? (To an African, the benefit payment represents a fortune.) I suppose, up to a point, yes, we can blame Labour. But if you delve a little deeper you may find the real person at fault is just a little closer to home.

We have a two party system in this country. I am not including the Liberal Democrats as they don’t, and I feel may never, play that important a part – come election time. Who did you vote for at the last election? If you didn’t vote you are definitely to blame. If you voted for any party at all, but haven’t got further involved in the political system, then – once more – you are definitely to blame!

Labour isn’t working, and the Conservatives have no satisfactory answer to our problems. Neither do the Liberal Democrats or any of the smaller parties. And life will continue down this road until you decide enough is enough and stand up to be counted.

People get the government they deserve. The people deserve Labour, they deserve everything that is happening to them, and they will continue to deserve all this heartache until they stand up and do something. And, I don’t mean just voting.

And don’t shoot me, I’m only the pianist.

Ampers

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Daniel Hannan MEP accosts Gordon Brown PM

Wow! This man deserves a knighthood. Not because he is a Tory and Brown is a Labourite, but just for his sheer bravery for going up against a man who will hold a grudge. Well done that man, even though I despise his party, or any party that wealds the “party whip” system.

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Morons on public transport.

Quite often, travelling on the London Underground, and I suspect on many other forms of public transport, one hears some “person” playing their music on MP3 players. Unfortunately, they use rather cheap ear-pieces which allow part of the music to escape. All we hear is the repetitive beat which gives the user the appearance of being a moron or Neanderthal.

Yes, these people are morons, but not for the reason of the beat others hear. The actual music may be quite tuneful. All we are subjected to is the background beat which, in all types of music, if you could isolate it, would be pretty monotonous.

No, these people are morons because they don’t give a damn about others and aren’t willing, for a small amount of money, to buy a decent ear-piece thus keeping their music to themselves. I think, personally, that the kindest thing to do to these people would be to gently “put them to sleep”. However, this may result in being arrested and spending a few years in prison.

I hear some of you saying that it might be a small price to pay, but I urge you, think of your families and friends.

Ampers.

PS. The other day I witnessed a young businessman get up to offer a much older woman his seat. She replied; “I don’t want no favours from no bleeding toff!” His put-down was perfect and I mentally applauded him. He smiled at her and said “Oh thank you, it’s been a wicked day and I am awfully tired.”

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Browser problems

It pays to investigate and isolate the problem. I was lazy so when my Internet snarled almost to a halt, taking up to 20 seconds to load a single page, I just changed my router. It was over five years old so I reckoned it was worth the cost. But the trouble persisted. I use Linux, and as my wife’s PC is Windows and she didn’t have the same problem, I started looking closer to home! I also changed the phone and Ethernet cables but the problem persisted.

This went on for weeks and I tried everything. I then asked a question on the Net and Tom suggested I tried another browser so I downloaded Opera. The trouble vanished. It turned out to be as simple as that. There must have been some conflict from one of the add-ons I used in Firefox.

So now I had to resolve the problem to find out which add-on was causing the conflict, but also whether it was causing the conflict with Firefox – unlikely, or perhaps a conflict with another add-on – more likely. But then, as I started to use Opera , I thought, why bother, Opera seems superb.

Opera launches much faster. It has the same initial screen as Google Chrome, having nine squares, or slots, for your favourite websites, one click and they load. I have Gmail, Google Reader, Google Calendar, my Blog, Facebook and Youtube to start as these were ones I opened in tabs in Firefox eberytime I fired up. This way Opera fires up much quicker and I get a minimal delay when actually loading the program.

There is a mail program built in but, alas, it offers bad import facilities. No import for csv, ldif or vcards. They suggest the free program “Dawn” or another commercial program to change addressbook file types but these are only for Windows and is of no use to the millions of Linux users.

However, I use Gmail so this is no real problem to me and other users will either use Outlook, Thunderbird or Evolution so I shall just ignore the mail addition.

I much prefer the browser to Firefox as it is simpler, loads faster, and does the job more efficiently. However, there are other problems, such as Google doesn’t support it fully, and if you want Google Gears you have to use Firefox. Whilst on about the bad points, if you use Google calendar you will find it portrays the monthly pages in a weird almost unreadable form.

Opera is available for Windows, Mac and Linux and is very strong on security. If I hadn’t had this problem with Firefox I would never have got around to using Opera. However I may have to start finding out what is causing my problems with Firefox as I am a big user of Google.

Ampers

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Further thoughts on “The Jury Team”

Since my blog last Monday I have had further thoughts on The Jury Team. Readers may remember I attended the launch of a new political party that exists only to give support for independent candidates who want to stand for parliament, the European Parliament or local council elections.

First of all, I shall talk only about the two parties who have a chance of election. I am referring, of course, to the Conservatives and the Socialists.

Let’s face it, Labour isn’t working, and the Tories have little else to offer us. Parliament continues to be a yah-boo house and the only serious debates we get on the political scene are in the House of Lords.

Why is that? Possibly because there are more cross bench members of the Lords. Participants in the debates are not under the “party whip” system so they can use their own knowledge and experience to put forward their views, rather than to have to toe the “party line”, therefore we get a detailed and sensible discussion.

Who is responsible for this mess? It would be incorrect to say the FSA as the buck must stop with the Prime Minister. However, it would also be incorrect to blame, directly, all the Labour MPs, although they could be blamed indirectly. Why is this? They can be blamed indirectly because, like the Tories, they ignore their own minds when they vote and toe the “party line”. If they didn’t, they might be expelled from the party, thus putting paid to their lucrative careers. If they were Independent MPs, they could vote in what they personally believed in, and Mr Brown and Mr Cameron might not get the majority they hope for every time.

The ideas of Sir Paul Judge, who has seen all this at first hand as Director-General of the Conservative Party, of setting up an organisation to assist honest and trustworthy people to stand as independents and, who can vote according to their conscience, has to be a good thing for British politics. Bringing the “whip system” to an end would be an added bonus. I believe this is Sir Paul’s objective but it may take decades to achieve. However, I cannot think of a better way of improving our political system whilst at the same time getting more people interested in the merry-go-round again.

The Press and TV have only given The Jury Team the sort of coverage that even Veritas got during their launch week. However, whilst not belittling Sir Paul Judge in any way (he who is twice the man that K-S is) Veritas did have Kilroy-Silk on side who was a top hand at getting press coverage. I have a feeling that now the press and television coverage will slowly disappear as bothsides have vested interests. Most of the press in the Tory Party and most of television in the Labour Party.

We were told at the launch that The Jury Team would utilise the Internet and mobile phones. One would have thought they would have put an edited video of the launch on YouTube. I checked last Saturday, five days afterwards, and still no mention when I searched “the jury team”. A missed opportunity and not a comforting thought for those keen on this organisation. They need to get their arses into gear if they want to use the Internet as a weapon. Come on, Sir Paul, what about it?

I would love to get involved behind the scenes in this organisation, but I would rather wait to see if they have the nous to use modern technology correctly. Internet = Immediacy.

Ampers.

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Who is guilty of our debacle?

I get The Mail every Saturday morning. I hate buying newspapers as many readers know, I prefer to get my news feeds from Google Reader and feel buying papers is outmoded. However, as long as The Mail continue to have six pages for TV and Radio for each day of the week on Saturdays, I will continue to buy it.

In this week’s edition, Max Hastings has an article stating that it is not just “Fred the shred” who is guilty for our problems, but a whole raft of other bankers as well.

I am mindful of a sign on the desk of the President of the United States. It reads, quite simply, “The buck stops here”. I would hazard a guess that our Prime Minister does not have a similar sign anywhere in Downing Street.

Let’s look at the responsibility issue. In the mid twentieth century when there were very few rules and regulations, and nobody appointed to oversee the behaviour of bankers, a bank manager was a pillar of the community, respected by all. A bank manager had gravitas, he wasn’t some snotty nose kid who one tends to find as a local bank manager nowadays. A snotty nose kid because all the local manager’s power has been removed to “area” level and above. The present breed of bank manager counts very little apart from paper-clips.

Now consider the FSA. This body was established by Gordon Brown to oversee and check on all in the Finance Industry. An industry I am reasonably familiar with as my wife has been an executive in a company who has trained people in this industry for a couple of decades.

Yes, we all know that the FSA has fallen down on the job, and – no doubt – will continue to make a mess of things. The question is here: “Do we need the FSA?”. This implies a further question: “Can we rely on bankers to govern themselves?”

I have mixed feelings about this. I subscribe to the theory that the reason why the bankers have fiddled whilst Britain collapsed is because they weren’t responsible for the “checking” of the industry. The FSA was responsible! So the bankers fiddled whilst and where they could as the FSA would take the blame. If we hadn’t had the FSA, may not the bankers have kept to the same patterns as they did in the mid twentieth century?

Put a child on his honour and he will behave himself, up to a point. But put him under the supervision of his elder brother, and the younger will see what he can get away with and there’s no “up to a point” here!.

So to come back to my earlier point, where does the buck stop? With the bankers? With the FSA? Or with the “man at the top”.

Ampers

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Nice little earner

This is a video about a young 22 year old who manages to swindle $300,000,000 from the American Government for a load of useless Chinese 1960’s junk which probably cost about $100.

The video can be believed, it was filmed in Congress!

What is amazing is that it seemed so easy to set up, and the American politicians fell for it as easily! Any reader out there wanting to join me in a little trip to Washington? My Washington phone number is +1-202-580-8694 but I am only ever in the office there after 2:00pm and leave sharp on 5pm. 🙂

Ampers

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We, the people

This is the most exciting political video I have ever watched in my entire life. It is American based but it could equally apply in any Western country in the world, including the UK.

One amusing part, towards the end, is the way “We, the people” are saying how to take action. They talked about the first American revolution starting at the Boston tea party and the public are told to take a teabag and put it in an envelope and send it to their Congressman. They will then get the message!

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Who is Ampers?

One of my heroes, Petrus “Piet” Jacobus Joubert (January 20, 1834 – March 28, 1900), was Commandant-General of the South African Republic from 1880 to 1900. He once wrote:

“I bear no hatred against England; I hate no one; everyone is welcome in our country, whether he be a Frenchman, or German, or American or Englishman, I am always ready to offer him the hand of friendship. But let the entire world come and try to tread on me and try to put its foot on my neck, and try to take away the freedom of my country and my nation then, with a guard of twenty burghers, I shall fight, yes, against the whole world, until I am either free or dead.”

And, really, this last part really sums up what I am really all about; but you need to read the words carefully to understand. But if you don’t quite make the connection, let me put it in my words…

“I hate no human being whatsoever, whatever nationality, creed, colour or religion they are. I am always ready to offer the hand of friendship. But threaten, attack, or try and take away any rights or freedoms, of either myself, my family or my country, and I will do all within my power to thwart you and if I fail, I will never forget or forgive what you have done to me and mine.”

I had written this a few years ago and am now a little concerned that it may not be the exact truth. Suffice to say that if you accept that politicians are not human, then it can still stand.

Ampers

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The new political party – launch of “The Jury Team”

This morning I covered the launch of the Jury Team, Sir Paul Judge’s inspiration and desire to destroy the party whip system.

The overall aim of the party is to seek out intelligent people who want to stand as independents to make a difference. People who are sick of “confrontational politics” and want to break the present political mould.

Countries in the EU who trust their politicians vary. The highest is Denmark with a whopping 76%. Amazing! I bet Gordon Brown eats his heart out when he reads that. The second lowest in the EU is France with only 35% of people trusting their politicians. Now that is disappointingly low isn’t it? Hands up who of you instinctively know that Great Britain came last with only 25%? No don’t bother, it is pretty obvious you all knew that!

The launch started with an explanatory film, and then Sir Paul addressed the audience. We were told that the present system was not 21st century government and that all semblance of honesty has been lost with the rise of the political classes.

However, a little more about Sir Paul Judge should be included. After getting his degree at Cambridge, Sir Paul continued his education at the Wharton Business School. He then worked for, and led the buyout of the food interests of, Cadbury Sweppes to form Premier Brands which was successfully sold in 1989. At one time he became Director-General of the Conservative Party and at present holds the following positions: Chairman of Schroder Income Growth Fund; Director of ENRC plc; Director of the UK Accreditation Service; Director of the Standard Bank Group of Johannesburg and Director of Tempur-Pedic International. Inc of Kentucky. He also has an impressive string of honorary positions both now and throughout his working life. Which reminds me of the phrase:

“If you want a job done, ask a busy person.”

The line up included

Martin Bell
– who had set up the “Independent Network” to support non-aligned MPs, remember Reg Keys who stood against Tony Blair?

Martin was still wearing his trademark white suit. I do hope he gets a tax allowance on dry-cleaning!

Lord David Ramsbotham
– former career soldier who served in six areas of the world, and who became the Chief Inspector of Prisons told us how having independent members works perfectly in the House of Lords and generates good serious debate. He spoke of his burning desire to produce this intelligent debate into the Commons

Dr Richard Taylor
– the doctor who stood for parliament (Wye Forest) because an independent MP because the Health Service was going to close Kiddeminster hospital. It was in the news at the time, but it seems he got in for a second term. He used to be totally disinterested in politics but moved into the political arena by complete and utter anger that a very few ill-informed people thought they had the right to take away a vital service for a population of 140,000 and wrap it up in spin.

Tony Egginton
– was elected in 2002 as Mansfield’s independent mayor and had done such a good job for the area that he was voted in in 2007 for a second term. Tony said he would set up a cross party cabinet as the local authority should be about local people and issues, and not about politics. Tony’s ‘hands on’ policy approach and ‘open door’ policy means that he can be instantly recognised by the people of Mansfield, who have adopted him as their champion.

Councillor Keith Ross
– who, after 21 years in local politics, became Leader of the West Somerset District Council and is leader of the “Independent Group” of the Local Government Association of which over 2000 councillors belong.

There was a lot of additional information both in the talk and handed out to us, but I deliberately decided to keep this as brief as possible.

We were also introduced to two candidates of the new party, Miranda Banks, who was young and brash but, as part of her upbringing was in Australia, I guess I can overlook that. But, in her young life she seems to have done a lot and nobody could deny that she was passionate in what she believed in. And I can forgive her anything as she loves rugby!

Lyn Tofari had a varied working career before settling down to raise her two children. But afterwards, she joined the Denham Parish Council and is “the village voice” in the local Bucks newspaper. In 2003 she canvassed as an independent for Gerrards Cross East and Denham South West, and took the seat from the sitting Conservative.

The Jury Team intends to make full use of the Internet and mobile phones so that, instead of the local executive choosing the party candidate, everyone in the area can choose the person standing under the Jury Team’s umbrella. There are 125 mobile phones in the UK for every 100 people! By checking on the SIM card, the Jury Team can ensure that there is only one vote per SIM Card – or mobile phone.

Although extremists are not welcome, the Jury Team accepts applications from Socialists and Conservatives although I have a feeling they would prefer Centists and Libertarians rather than those who are fully paid up Statists – but that is only my opinion.

I won’t go into their list of twelve “Commons Standing Orders” proposals, suffice to say they are all based on the Jury Trend’s “Three Governance Principles” and can be seen on their website – these are:

  • Governments should be run for the benefit of the people and not for the benefit of any political party

  • Elected representatives should vote according to their view of what is best for the country and their constituents and not at the direction of the political party.

  • Politicians should fully comply with the “Nolan Principles of Public Life” and have externally decided and transparent remuneration.

My verdict. Looking at the trends of voting, I have a feeling that this is the right time for a party such as this. The party itself has no policies, it is there solely to give support in all the regions of the UK for people wanting to stand outside of the party system. If you are not an extremest, you might get their support and backing. Yes, it could go somewhere. Personally I hope it does. I have joined, it is only a fiver and one can pay through PayPal which at least shows their willingness to get involved with “the net”.

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Trevor Manual

Trevor Manual, South Africa’s Minister of Finance for the last fourteen years, is an excellent speaker, and began by welcoming us in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. You can read more about him in Wikipedia.

The main theme of the Sunday event, with 220 South Africans attending – even though there was only three days notice – and a good rugby game on the “box” – was that the South African courts have now decreed that South Africans abroad are now entitled to vote. Trevor explained the procedures which were quite simple. A form needed to be downloaded from the Internet, printed out and filled in, and then it had to be taken around to the South African Embassy. He emphasised, throughout the meeting how important it was for South Africans to register and vote in case they lose the facility in the future.

Trevor said it was his duty to speak about everyone voting for the ANC. But then, as an ANC senior member, he had to! He said that, in politics, all politicians of any party were friends, except in the actual parliament and, of course, at election time!

He asks for the ANC to be trusted and to give them more time after explaining that SA has only been a democracy for 15 years. Naturally he declined to mention the good structure the country was in when they took it over. He said that people look to the ANC for the excellent economy (but I say this is due to the excellent stewardship of Trevor Manual rather than due to the ANC in general). South Africans are affected by economic issues but not as much as many people thought they would be. He made a comment about the world having to dance until the music stops and, in this case, the music was the banks!

He then spoke about the present economic conditions and singled out Platinum. Apart from expensive jewellery, this was used to make catalytic converters for the motor industry and that the problem the industrial West was having in that area was not good for Platinum production.

He also said that South Africans don’t suffer the same gloom and doom as many other peoples do. South Africans not having the trillions of debt that the USA and UK (and many other industrial nations) are generating.

Trevor then spoke about crime – he said that although there are more burglaries per capita in London than Johannesburg, in London the burglars tend to burgle when the house owner is away, whereas in South Africa they don’t care and use violence to get their way. This, he said, has to stop as South Africa must produce a society where it is safe for our women and children.

Also, we must look into the activities of our local police a little more thoroughly. We should take an interest in them more. After all: “If they think you don’t care, they won’t.“

Trevor couldn’t stress this enough. We would all become more safe if we took more of an interest in the police in our areas than just rely on private security companies.

All the South African pollsters are now saying the ANC will win the next election and our slogan for this election is “Working together we can do more.”

But, he stressed, freedom to take part in democracy means you have the responsibility to make it work. We have to fight for democracy, it is our responsibility.

He then quoted Paul Kruger saying “Alles sal regt kom”. The literal translation is “all shall come right”, but what the speaker was saying is that we all need to be more active in our democracy.

He spoke about the ANC and said that once a job becomes all about just earning an income we would have already lost the battle.

Having an active state and a passive electorate is not democracy! It will not appeal to people who prefer leisure over work. I am not sure now about South Africa, but this is very common in London!

Trevor is, of course, very knowledgeable about the world financial situation and also the British political situation. He made a joke about Polish plumbers and SA security guards, and what he was attempting to say was that in times of economic stress people become insular and parochial.

He was then asked how the next financial minister would perform. Trevor replied that there were too many international issues to be able to give a satisfactory reply, but said he had developed a great civil service team behind him that the new minister could rely upon.

He was asked about why the Skorpions were disbanded. Here, Mr Manual had to be careful how he answered and had to take the ANC line and could be forgiven for this! What he did say was that it was wrong that the Skorpions were allowed to choose their own cases. Another specialised crime unit will be formed who won’t be able to cherry pick crimes they investigate. However, to the listening public what was disturbing was that we learnt that cases would be chosen by the government. (So I guess they won’t pick on Zuma any more?)

South African financial institutions are well capitalised and should be able to ride out what the world throw at us. He then told a joke about an Italian minister who said that Italian banks are safe. He said that this was because the directors don’t have computers and they don’t speak English!

Exchange controls have protected SA and in relative terms SA is safe. He stressed that the government will not relax their restriction for SA companies to subsidise their overseas subsidiaries with South African currency as they are not going to risk local pension funds.

When asked about progress we learned that 90% of South Africans now have electricity in their homes and that progress is continuing but it is an expensive and long job.

With regards to greener issues, we were told that a carbon tax fund was set up to help change lighting in buildings. Also that they were introducing a heavier tax for cars that were “gas guzzlers” so people now have a choice, pay more if they don’t want to be green.’ South Africa is also very proud of its own designed and produced electric car.

My verdict? Mr Manual is an honest and sincere man, but has to toe the ANC line, especially since the South African ambassadress was by his side. By this I am not intimating anything detrimental to the ANC but, as in any country, a politician has to toe the party line and no one person can ever agree to everything that his party says or decrees. It is also apparent that he was held in high esteem by most all of the 220 South Africans at the meeting.

I would go further. Tomorrow I am covering a new party in Britain called Jury Team which is setting up shop to support any independent MP to stand for Parliament should Jury Team feel he or she has a chance. They can be left wing or right wing, it doesn’t matter. The objective is to break the hold on MPs honesty that the whip system destroys.

Should Mr Manual think of moving to the UK, I would certainly point him in the right direction. Britain needs at least one honest MP. However, I must warn him that he’ll be very lonely there!

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Skype can be useful

But first of all, one has to detach oneself from the umbilical cord that binds you to the computer. I will explain these three different services first, and then I will explain how you can use this service even when your computer is turned off, from any room in the house.

If any of your contacts are on Skype themselves, then you can not only talk to them free of charge, but if you have a web-cam (video camera) you can make video calls. In addition, you can arrange conference calls between a few friends.

The service

I had a look at the Skype website and discovered some very interesting services there which are especially useful for calling people who are not on Skype..

Skype have three monthly payment plans, but unlike telephone companies, you don’t have to sign a contract and can leave at any time.

The three contracts that interested me most (see below) all included “unlimited local calls” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I also thought the free voice-mail and additional telephone number could be useful.

These were as follows:

For a single European country, (I chose the United Kingdom as I live here) it costs £1.95 plus VAT (£2.24) a month, I would get all my calls to landlines free including a discount on other types of calls. And I can choose which country to have my free phone number in. If I choose the US, then all my American friends can call me without International charges.

For those who have lots of contacts in Europe, for £2.95 plus VAT (£3.39) a month you would get free calls to 21 European countries.

And if a lot of your contacts are further afield, you would, for £6.95 plus VAT (£7.99) a month not only would you get free landline calls, but three telephone numbers. For example, if you live in the UK and have a daughter who emigrated to Sydney, Australia, you could chose a Sydney phone number so she could phone home for the price of a local call.

As I mentioned, I decided to just subscribe to the UK only service and pay extra for the very few overseas calls I make. I had the choice of paying monthly (gross) for £2.24, or paying quarterly which worked out at £2.09 a month or paying £22.43 a year which have me a monthly cost of only £1.87.

The phone

On checking all the phones that are available, including mobile phones with Skype built in from “3”; I decided on the “RTX Dualphone 3088”

This is a DECT wire-less telephone that can be used around the house, even with the computer turned off. This would, I thought, be useful. This came to £73.90 net (£84.99 gross).

With it I could receive incoming calls from my land-line, my Skype number, or Skype to Skype calls. In addition, I could also make outgoing calls through Skype, or direct through my Telco. And it did not matter whether my computer was on or off as everything went straight through the router.

When the phone arrived I thought I would charge up the batteries and play with it for a while before reading the manual. It was so intuitive that I had everything set up and, when I finally read the manual to see if I had missed anything, I hadn’t!

Whereas the telephone number is useful if you prefer to use the umbilical cord and stay glued to the computer, it is not necessary with a dual phone as people can still get through to you on your Telco’s number.

There is nothing wrong with the Skype service, once you divorce it from your computer.

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On the toob

I was traveling on the London Underground the other day on a full train and a woman, about 25 years of age, entered the carriage. She had two metal walking sticks, the type issued by hospitals. I immediately got up and offered my seat but she was adamant in her refusal.

It is a shame really as her churlishness did indicate that she had not been well brought up.

When you are in a situation like that you should smile and accept the offer as it is so very rude not to.

After about three stops the seat next to me became unoccupied and she came and sat down. I had thought at first that she refused because it may have been awkward for her to sit down, but this was obviously not the case.

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Council Tax

I read in the Motley Fool email today that it is easy to see which Council Tax band your neighbours (the one’s in similar houses to you) are in.

You can go to a website and search. It is as easy as clicking here!

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Is this a real “credit crunch”?

I ask as I have, over the last few days, spoken to three people who not only have lost their jobs, but, as older people, stand little chance of getting another job in the foreseeable future.

On being asked what operating system they use on their computers, they all said Windows. When asked if they want to explore a free operating system (Linux) with tens of thousands of free programs (20,000 at the last count), each one said no. So I thought that, perhaps, being jobless, they were too busy to explore ways of cutting back their expenses?

Still it is their life (and their bills) so who am I to argue.


Gendarmerie saves millions with open desktop and web applications

by Gijs Hillenius — last modified Mar 10, 2009 09:34 AM

The French Gendarmerie’s gradual migration to a complete open source desktop and web applications has saved millions of euro, says Lieutenant-Colonel Xavier Guimard. “This year the IT budget will be reduced by 70 percent. This will not affect our IT systems.”

Guimard this Thursday in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands gave a presentation on the move from a Microsoft-based to an Ubuntu GNU/Linux-based desktop. The Lieutenant-Colonel was one of the keynote speakers at an annual conference organised by NOiV, the Dutch national resource centre on open source and open standards.

Most of these savings are on proprietary software licences. Up until 2004 the Gendarmerie acquired 12.000 to 15.000 licences annually. In 2005 it bought just 27. “Since July 2007 we have bought two hundred Microsoft licences. If one of us wants a new PC, it comes with Ubuntu. This encourages our users to migrate.” Guimard estimates Gendarmerie since 2004 has saved 50 million euro on licences for standard office applications, hardware and maintenance.

The Gendarmerie’s decided on a strict open standards IT policy in 2002. The 105.000 heads strong police force at that time used an out-dated IT system which was expensive to maintain and not able to interoperate with other police forces or custom agencies. Strictly maintaining of this policy for instance lead SAP to adapt its human resource application so it could be used with a web browser. “This means we can move to a competitor’s human resource application at any time.

The decision in 2004 to move to open source, was raised by one of the Gendarmerie’s accountants. “Microsoft was forcing us to buy new software licences. This annoyed our accountant, who tried OpenOffice.” According to Guimard the proprietary software maker then started lobbying the Gendarmerie, which is how the general manager found out about the experiments. “When he saw OpenOffice worked just as well and was available for free, it was he that decided it should be installed on all 90.000 desktops.”

The rest of the article is here.

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Good news in The Telegraph

Sir Paul Judge starts ‘Jury Team’ campaign for more independent MPs

Sir Paul Judge, a millionaire Conservative donor, is setting up his own political movement called “Jury Team” that aims to get more independent MPs elected.

By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 12:45PM GMT 08 Mar 2009

Sir Paul said that the movement will support and fund individual candidates without espousing any central views or policies.

The aim is to break the traditional party leaderships’ control over the political process, he said.

The new movement will work by raising money and mobilising support behind independent candidates with a strong interest in certain issues but no party allegiance.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the Liberty human rights group, is one possible candidate.

The Jury Team will be formally launched next week, but its website www.juryteam.org is already running, seeking donations and recruiting 12 regional organisers for the coming campaigns.

Read more at The Telegraph.

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Producing good photographs from your digital camera

Contrary to popular opinion, you do not need to spend £190 on Adobe’s Lightroom or even more on Photoshop if all you want to do is to show off your photograph in a better light.

Neither do you have to have a great technical knowledge. In fact you don’t have to be technical at all. Go into Google and type in: Picasa. Then download the Windows version of the program. If you use Linux, Google for Picasa Linux. Or a Mac, Google for Picasa Mac.

I show below a photograph that my wife took of me.

The secret is not to spend time working on all your photographs as long as they stay on your computer. No, you only bother to work on them when you want to use them elsewhere. That way you don’t spend time on photographs you may never use.

Once I downloaded the above photograph to Picasa, I could have cropped it, but it didn’t need cropping. So I lightened the overall picture ever so slightly, and lightened the highlights, again ever so slightly. Then I applied a little soft-focus. The time taken? A little over a minute. And here is the result:

The secret is not to alter too much. My objective here was to just lighten up the picture so it didn’t look too gloomy

Remember, Google do not charge a penny for Picasa, so this whole exercise, once the photograph was taken, didn’t cost a penny.

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Who is Gordon Brown?

It was a lovely day today so I drove into the Berkshire countryside and stopped at an old rural pub for a drink and a meal.

While enjoying a pint I got into conversation with an old guy, he must have been about ninety and the conversation got around to politics and how the unelected Prime Minister was ruining the country.

“Well, you know,” drawled the farmer, “this Brown fella is what they call a fencepost tortoise ’round these parts”

Not being familiar with the term, I asked him what a fencepost tortoise was.

The old farmer said, “When you’re driving along a country road and you come across a fence post with a tortoise balanced on top, that’s called a fencepost tortoise.”

The old farmer saw the puzzled look on my face, so he continued to explain,

“You know he didn’t get up there by himself, he definitely doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just gotta wonder what kind of fool put him up there in the first place!”

I returned to my car, well refreshed, and it wasn’t the food or the alcohol, it was knowing I wasn’t alone out there!

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Survival 21st Century style

One of the bloggers I read had written extensively about Charles Darwin… well it’s that time of the year, isn’t it?

One particular phrase caught my eye:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’

This led me thinking. A lot of people pride themselves on being fit, being strong and, in academia, being intelligent. But there is nothing here to help you in the mire that surrounds us if you are not adaptable.

The Indians in our society will survive, as will the Chinese and the Poles. (And, of course, many other races.) But what about our native born English people?

I was reading, recently, about a Pole who was a medical doctor, working on a building site as he found it was going to take a bit of time before he landed a hospital job.

Can you honestly imagine a doctor, accountant or lawyer, let alone a corporate executive, of office worker, willing to dig ditches, or work on a building site to save their mortgage, or, in fact, their marriage? It is hard to imagine, but I am sure there must be one or two somewhere in England.

I will repeat Darwin’s mantra, maybe it will sink in…

It is not the strongest of the species that survives,
nor the most intelligent that survives.
It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’

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Ubuntu

OK, most of you know I use the Ubuntu Operating System on my PCs and continue to rave about this; and the fact that I have about 20,000 programs available to me and over 98% of them are totally free!

But what about the name? How do you pronounce it for a start? Try: Ooboontoo, got it? That is roughly how it is pronounced by a Zulu as it is part of their language.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has this to say of the word…

“A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

The Operating System has a Zulu word as the person here, in London, Mark Shuttleworth who put this all together is from South Africa and I guess he must have thought it was appropriate..

Do you have ubuntu? And, here, I am not referring to the computer operating system! If you are a politician there is no need to answer as we all know, only too well, that you don’t.

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