July 23

Ministry of Defence and G4S Sound The Irony Klaxon

Michael Fallon, General Peter Wall, G4S

G4S has announced its commitment to provide at least 600 employees as members of the military reserve from 2017, making it one of the UK’s leading employers of armed forces reservists. – MoD

G4S has made commitments to supply at least 600 employees to help solve the problem of woeful under-recruiting within British reserve forces.

In 2012, upwards of 3,500 military personnel were deployed to plug a gap left by G4S. This was after the outsourcing firm hashed up their contract to supply security staff for the Olympic games. This was in addition to over 15,000 troops already involved with Operation Olympic.

I welcome this partnership between G4S and the Ministry of Defence.  In future, the Defence Secretary will be able to mobilise reserve forces and force G4S employees to undertake jobs they were supposed to do in the first place. Please excuse me whilst I sound the irony klaxon.

Olympic Soliders

Category: Armed Forces
July 22

The Guardian Has Gone Too Far

50 Cent Thomas The Tank Engine

I’m 29 years old, I don’t have any children and it has been many years since I’ve watched Thomas the Tank Engine. When I was growing up my TV diet included (but wasn’t limited to); Sharky & George, Super Ted, Fireman Sam, Inspector Gadget, Thunderbirds, Captain Planet, Animaniacs AND Thomas the Tank Engine.

The Guardian reached a low point during the Snowden saga, however, today they’ve gone one step too far. We have now observed ‘peak Guardian’. Comment is free has published a grossly offensive article named ‘Thomas the Tank Engine had to shut the hell up to save children everywhere‘. Amongst various complaints levelled within the article, include concerns about the big cheese Sir Topham Hatt;

Hatt orders the trains to do everything from hauling freight to carrying passengers to running whatever random errand he wants done, whenever he wants it done – regardless of their pre-existing schedules.

Fat Controller, Sir Topham Hatt
I hold no qualifications in journalism, I’ve never written for a national newspaper and I certainly do not – at this time – inhabit the Westminster bubble. Despite my lack of experience, the above complaint appears to be describing how I imagine most national paper editors to be. Better still, looking back at my previous service in the armed forces, it sounds like someone in charge doing their job!

Hatt has to scold one of them about being a “really useful engine”, because their sole utility in life is their ability to satisfy his whims.

To be blunt, they’re trains and Thomas the Tank Engine is a fictional show about trains on an island. It’s not as if Sir Topham, when running low on supplies of alcohol, would be able to ask Thomas to jump off the tracks and nip into the supermarket for sherry and pork pies

I imagine writing for a newspaper is very much the same. You can write what you want but an editor makes the final decision. An editor may appreciate an ability to unicycle whilst discussing middle eastern politics, yet, you’re paid to write and not doss about.

Well guess what? It’s not OK. You think a little boy watching Thomas is going to file away the lesson that pink is OK for boys? No, what kids remember is that James was laughed at, cruelly, over and over again, because he looked different and was clad in a “girly” pink color.

I oddly read the above quote and wondered if someone is not giving enough credit to the mental capacity of children. Shielding people from the outside world surely leaves them unprepared in later life.

Perhaps children may see the above lesson and realise not everyone in the world is nice and well-mannered. Furthermore, a child may recognise the suffering such abuse can cause and think ‘that’s horrible, I don’t want to end up like those nasty diesel engines‘.

…but when the good engines pump out white smoke and the bad engines pump out black smoke – and they are all pumping out smoke – it’s not hard to make the leap into the race territory.)

During ‘pope idol‘ (voting for a new pope) smoke from burning papal ballot papers is black when a decision is yet to be made. The smoke only turns white after the successful selection of a new pope.

Should the Guardian therefore be inclined to commission a blog post about this horrid practice? Oh and for reference, it’s a steam & smoke mixture that comes out of Steam Engines, not just smoke.

And really, that theme song makes me scream. Thomas can just go bust my buffers.

Should we invade Canada because of Justin Bieber? Imprison people playing Christmas music in August? It could always be worse! When was the last time you listening to the Pingu theme? Heaven forbid you ever run into Thomas hanging with his home boy 50 cent.

Chug Life - Thomas the Tank Engine

This isn’t the first time Comment is free has published an article slating Thomas the Tank Engine, in 2012 “the sooner that blue bastard is carted off for scrap, the better for parents everywhere” made my blood boil. At the time I thought there were more important things than worrying about misguided delusions surrounding a fictional – yet loveable – ‘blue bastard‘ of a tank engine.

I may have let things slide in 2012, I won’t do the same now. Take your Guardian hands away from one of my childhood heroes!

Category: Annoying, Media
July 19

BBC Bias?

Thick Of It Hugh Abbot

“All news is regional”

Invite 20 people into a room and ask for their opinion on something; rarely will you get a consensus which is truly 100%. The BBC is not perfect, though neither are you or I. Simply put, ‘to err is human‘.

I was in Manchester on Monday the 14th, enjoying delights such as trams, Nando’s and Media City. During lunch I had an interesting chat with a gentleman [BBC employee] who was astounded by some of the recent – and historical – protests and complaints against the BBC.

It seems a single article, podcast or broadcast can attract the following complaints all at once; 1) right-wing bias, 2) left-wing bias, 3) didn’t cover the issue enough, 3) covered the issue too much. Even in the modern era of constant news, there are still only 24 hours in a day.

Confirmation bias can play a strong role in how prominent you think a news story should be. “Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for information that confirms what we already know” – BBC. Conversely, this may influence how much bias you perceive there to be in an organisation such as the BBC, especially if they don’t actively highlight stories YOU think are important.

BBC News presenter with stack of paper

People will complain that ‘x‘ story wasn’t shown via a particular medium through which they enjoy ingesting their daily fix of news. The BBC aren’t the only news organisation in the world and it’s not your duty to be morally offended on behalf of everyone else. Especially if they publish an online article, but dont send a breaking news alert about the terrible things someone said about Miliband’s ability to eat bacon sandwiches.

Today I’ve seen outrage and condemnation – once again – directed towards the BBC, on the premise that they hadn’t covered a protest in London. Sadly for the plaintiff I easily found a link to a story on the protest, on the BBC News website, by using magic Google powers.

There was subsequent outrage about a protest held outside of last year’s Conservative party conference. I thought it was perhaps a little unfair to use Google – as it was seemingly beyond this person’s ability – so instead I used Bing to find a news article on the BBC News website.

This went on for some time before I finally tired and banged my head against something (IKEA table). Each time a story was claimed “to never have been covered by the BBC“, I achieved in finding a relevant BBC story online. From this point I realised it wasn’t dark forces of confirmation bias I was dealing with, it was moronic laziness.

As per my opening paragraph, the BBC are not perfect. Just remember to make sure the central tenet of your argument doesn’t contain more holes than a Brazilian football defence at the World Cup.

Hogwarts Protest Sign

Alas, perhaps there is credence in a debate about certain issues having not been broadcast on the TV. More interesting is that such a point came from someone spending all day on twitter, ingesting news from many sources, yet is still outraged on behalf of others that it wasn’t on TV.

This isn’t a post declaring my undying love for the BBC, for I recognise there are issues with the licence fee that do need to be addressed. For the moment, however, I’m staying at my parents do they pay it.

Category: BBC
July 19

Cold War 2

BUK Launcher
Geopolitical fall out emanating from the crash of flight MH17 is yet to be fully realised. A definitive cold harsh truth of the circumstances surrounding what has transpired has not been fully consolidated. In such situations the dark arts of assessment and guesswork are at the forefront of all deliberations surrounding the deaths of nearly 300 people.

Many believe that separatists fired an anti-aircraft weapon system, which then brought down an aircraft they’d initially believed to be a Ukrainian military flight. One suspected weapon is the BUK launch system.

The term ‘effective use‘ doesn’t necessarily mean being able to operate something to a high standard. The effective use of a rocket is to destroy something, which in the case of MH17 is exactly what is suspected to have happened. This may negate many arguments about the level of training required to operate such a device.

As recently as five years ago the British Army used GENFORCE to train military intelligence Analysts. Based on historical cold war – basically Russian – formations and equipment, it was a tool utilised to fine tune the assessment and conjecture of trainee Intelligence Corps Junior Non-Commissioned Officers.

Since then, training has focussed more towards the counter-insurgency (COIN) operations of Iraq and Afghanistan. After becoming immersed in a campaign war footing of enduring COIN operations in the middle-east, the Ministry of Defence stands downwind from a crossroad of choice.

SA80 Rifle

British armed forces, back to training in the woods?

Continuing prospects of ‘Cold War 2‘, highlights that defence mentality in the UK needs to decide whether it continues down the counter-insurgency rabbit hole or re-learns what was once considered to be its bread and butter. With a depleted regular armed forces – post SDSR – and a lack of volunteers for the reserve forces, it’s unclear whether they can do either of these two options.

At this current time, our armed forces can no longer act as extensions of British foreign policy when we may need them to.

Despite these international and strategic concerns, grieving continues for the families, friends and associates of nearly 300 people. Such events are beyond tragic, even for people not directly connected with those who died aboard flight MH17.

Whether a family member or merely a fellow football fan, you don’t need a direct link with the deceased to feel a sense of horror or outrage; that very fact simply makes us human. Yet the national security implications of a second cold war, still loom on the horizon.

July 18

Government Plans To Hush Ministers

Danny Alexander getting out of a car

Downing Street is to be fitted with charging points and over 150 electric vehicles are to be introduced to the ‘Government Car Service‘, according to reports in today’s Telegraph.

The centrally located ‘Westminster Bubble‘ is believed to be an ideal place for the environmentally friendly vehicles to be used, without fear of batteries running dry.

The Telegraph states a current total of 85 vehicles being used for ministerial purposes – previously 142 in 2011 – the wider vehicle-fleet of central government departments, and associated agencies, totals around 25,000 vehicles. Measures to replace the entire fleet could go some way to saving an ailing industry.

Following the recent ministerial reshuffle, Danny Alexander stated “I think that every member of the Government will want to be at the forefront of this [electric vehicles]“.

Mr Alexander, aware that electric vehicles are less audible than those with internal combustion engines, will likely be hoping that newly promoted Conservative ministers are seen and not heard.

July 16

The Outrage Bus, Calling At Parliament

Empty House of Commons Chamber

Many within the Twitterati will often spend their days complaining about how few MPs are debating a particular issue. Those complaining the loudest can be split into two distinct groups; those who are devious and those who don’t fully comprehend how the House of Commons functions. the same as with many other debates. [Read more at http://www.columnist.org.uk/]

Category: Politics
July 15

You Might Very Well Think That, But I Couldn’t Possibly Comment

Michael Give House of Cards

via @GeneralBoles (Twitter)

First there was firing, then the hiring and now many start conspiring. This morning the ‘blob’ is sure to be celebrating news of Nicky Morgan replacing Michael Gove as Education Secretary.

However, many of Gove’s policy ideas are either in place or in the process of being implemented. Any ‘radical’ Tories expressing concerns, should consider what has already been achieved.

Whilst there is an air of confusion over whether Gove’s new role as Chief Whip is a demotion, according to ‘Members’ Pay and Expenses Rates‘ his pay won’t drop. For Gove, things don’t seem that bad considering the power he still yields.

Details regarding Government chief whip pay

Members’ pay and expenses report

I don’t suggest Gove will begin to use rat poison to silence his critics – or push journalists from towers within the House of Commons – however, those who’ve seen the original BBC ‘House of Cards‘ will remember the influence the Government Chief Whip held on that show.

You might very well think that Gove is no Francis Urquhart (Frank Underwood), but, I couldn’t possibly comment.

Update 17:51
It appears that even Michael Gove doesn’t know whether or not he’s getting a pay cut.

Category: Politics
June 24

The Silver Lining of English Football Failure

Domestic Violence Sport

Every time England play a football match – win or lose – domestic violence is known to increase. A saddening statistic when even a single incident of domestic violence is one too many. Instances of domestic violence rose by up to 25% during the 2010 World Cup, according to studies undertaken by the National Centre for Domestic Violence, ACPO and the BBC.

Domestic violence can impact upon anyone regardless of sex, though in the majority of cases violence is directed towards women. Those effecting such violence and intimidation are unlikely to read a blog post on the subject. However, such actions remain cowardly and utterly disgusting.

The silver lining of English football failure is a shortened run of matches which may have acted as catalysts for violence somewhere in your local community. Yet football is not the problem, the anguish or joy at England’s performance is not the problem, brutes, bullies and inhumane cowards are.

National Centre for Domestic Violence – 0844 8044 999

World Cup Trophy

Category: Bullying
June 3

Volunteers Week 1-7 June

Volunteers Week

I currently undertake moderation of the online ‘forum/message board’ at TheSite.org, an extremely valuable online resource for those aged 16-25, run by the charity YouthNet. I first started as a user of YouthNet’s services and subsequently developed into a volunteer.

My involvement with YouthNet began over 10 years ago. I’ve known and seen many staff come and go, yet there has always been dedication amongst them all – past and present – to provide sheer excellence in terms of supporting young people in a modern and fast-moving society.

Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration of the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK – and it’s taking place from the 1-7 June 2014. To read more about my volunteering with, and the excellent support provided by YouthNet, please click here.

Youthnet Logo

Category: Volunteering