Sunday, 3 October 2010

An Open Letter to My MP

The very excellent enhancement of our democracy http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ allows you to see every time your MP asks a question in Parliament and it also allws you to send emails direct to your MP. In the last election, my constituency of Keighley lost the long standing and excellent Labour MP - Ann Cryer to retirement and instead got Kris Hopkins, Conservative. This is a letter I have sent to him.

Dear Kris Hopkins,
As an ex-army officer I am hoping you will agree that the Trident missile system is a colossal waste of money and that the conventional forces are in much greater need of this financing. At this time of economic crisis it is particularly foolish to pursue funding for a weapon system wholly at odds with the reality of the UK's latter-day position in the world. Against whom would we conceivably use these weapons notwithstanding the premise of all nuclear deterrents since Their first and only use against Japan - M.A.D. Were Britain ever threatened by an enemy would not our American allies (who are even less likely to get rid of all their nuclear arsenal), defend us? Will we threaten the Russians for hiking the price of gas? Are they of any use against Al Quaeda, wherever they may be? Can they be used as part of wars such as those in Iraq or Afghanistan? Can they contribute to peace keeping interventions such as in Bosnia or our role in Northern Ireland? The answer to all these actual dispositions of our military in recent years is no.
Those dispositions and the issue of Trident raise the whole question of what role the UK and its military have in the world today as well as what we can afford to be. I lived in Ireland (the Republic) for ten years and was most impressed by the steadfast use of the Irish Army purely for peacekeeping roles - something for which they are held in high regard, indeed sought after.This role of neutrality and amed forces only for peacekeeping is so much endorsed by the people of Ireland that it was an important part of the No votes in referendum for the new European treaty.  I am aware that Britain still has "interests" around the world that need defending from time to time, but has the time not come when we could drop our memories of worldwide imperial power and adopt a role similar to that of Ireland but bigger and better provided for and with all the excellence of which our forces are capable of?


Yours sincerely,
Andrew Wilson

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Power of Facebook




This post was too long for my Facebook status so I am posting it here...

This time last week I was slipping into a hot tub at the swimming pool in Iceland with Groa and Ingo and also we met up with Britta and Mel.
If this week has shown me anything it is the power of Facebook. Not only has the spirit of last weekend continued to bubble like a geysir - erupting regularly with photos, videos, sounds and most of all, comments, but the power has been revealed in other ways. My friend Laura McManus who sings in Leeds City Harmony with me, was devastated as the tragic shootings in Whitehaven unfolded for her via Facebook posts from friends who still live there. She was able to ring her Mum and make sure she was alright - in fact she was locked in a shop which the gunman walked past.
Other friends have been sharing news and comment about the Gaza atrocity - yet another disaster for Israel's relationship with the Palestinians. In Bob Dylan's words "When will they ever learn?"
So Here we live in a world of cities so big they produce alienated individuals who can go on a shooting spree and at the same time, Facebook connects people instantly across the world in a new kind of super-community.
It's thought provoking...
So here in a special dual language post courtesy of Google Translate is the post in Icelandic - sort of...


Í þetta sinn í síðustu viku var ég renni inn í a heitur pottur við sundlaug landsins, með Groa og Ingo og einnig hittum við upp með Britta og Mel.Ef þessi vika hefur sýnt mér neitt það er kraftur af Facebook. Ekki aðeins hefur anda síðustu helgi hélt áfram að kúla eins og Geysir - erupting reglulega með myndir, myndbönd, hljóð og umfram allt, ummæli, en vald hefur fundist í öðrum hætti. vinur Laura McManus minn sem syngur í Leeds City sátt við mig, var rúst sem hörmulega shootings í Whitehaven ósamanbrotnum fyrir hana í gegnum Facebook innlegg frá vini sem búa enn þar. Hún var fær til hringur Mamma hennar og tryggja að hún var allt í lagi - í raun var hún læst í búð sem gunman gekk yfir.Aðrir vinir hafa verið að deila fréttum og athugasemd um Gaza hörmungar - enn eitt stórslys fyrir tengsl Ísraels við Palestínumenn. Í orðum Bob Dylans's "Þegar þeir vilja læra alltaf?Svo hér við lifum í heimi borgum svo stór að þeir framleiða alienated einstaklingar sem geta fara á tökur gleðskapur og á sama tíma, Facebook tengir fólk saman í stað um allan heim á ný tegund af frábær-samfélagsins.Það er talið vekja upp ...

Monday, 1 February 2010

Why I still despise Tony Blair

Last Friday appearance by Tony Blair at the Chilcot Enquiry reminded us all what a slick operator Blair is. I nearly put "questioning by" but "appearance" is more appropriate to what happened if not the defining characteristic of Tony Blair.
We could forgive hubris, we could forgive dazzling displays of wit and panache at Prime Minister's Question Time if the substance of Blair's Premiership was not so disastrous. I'm not saying he achieved nothing worthwhile and three terms of election must indicate some success but there are two things I cannot forgive him. The war on Iraq is one - not because it was illegal, not just because lies or exaggerations were made to justify it, not even because it was so botched in its execution but because it was the direct choice of two men - one riding the coat tails of the other. Blair might have imagined himself to be steering Bush by yanking on his coat tails but when you look at all the important steers that should have been made and weren't, then its clear Blair was caught up in a Nantucket sleighride and he carried all of us along with him. Blair failed, for example, to get the Americans to plan for the aftermath of invasion. The Americans probably couldn't even conceive that they were about to visit the cradle of civilization so little wonder they failed to stop the looting of a museum containing such precious artifacts. More importantly, Bush should have been steered away from war with Iraq altogether and made to focus on repairing relations with the country who due to successive failures of engagement by the West, has drifted into an entirely more dangerous prominence in the fraught Middle East - Iran. No doubt the allies thought that once Iraq was under their control they would have a platform for dealing with Iran and as we know, they never fully had command even of Iraq. Watching Blair justify attacking Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein,even without Weapons of Mass Destruction, was a danger as a sponsor of international terrorism reminds us of how he got his way - it was smooth and plausible but it is what was not said at the time or on Friday that should have given the lie to Blair's dragging us with him in Bush's wake.

My second and biggest objection to Blair is that he destroyed even more thoroughly than Thatcher, the role of Parliament and true democracy. Ironic when you listen to the amount of bleating about restoring democracy that was made by America in this and every other war they have been involved with. Sure, during a war, some decisions have to be made in the secrecy of or with the swiftness afforded by Cabinet without the benefit of Parliamentary debate and sometimes, Presidential style, decisions must be made on the instant by the Prime Minister but in the same way terrorism has been used and abused to reduce our civil rights, so Blair grasped the reigns of power ever closer to himself. That is his biggest crime.
The war was illegal in terms of UN resolutions but so was the dealing with the Serbs and their genocide in Kosovo so I would not dispute that sometimes you cannot wait for everyone to agree before acting to stop evil. Tony Blair argues that enough was achieved in Iraq and enough potential bad averted that his decision to go to war was justified. The Iraqui civilian deaths, the British and American military deaths, the looting and mayhem, the insurgencies and regional instability are all a price worth having paid to depose a dictator (of our making), make sure there were no WMD's and prevent state sponsored terrorism. Personally, and this is only reading between the lines and trying to weigh the mass of information that has washed around the subject, I don't think Saddam Hussein was still much of a threat, his worst had been done and he was in that overblown phase of dictatorships where there are enough internal threats including the loose cannons in one's own family to have kept Saddam busy. He certainly had nothing to do with 9 11 as we should have helped Bush to see.

We have an election coming up and I would be happier if I could be sure that any particular party would restore the power of true debate (that is debate with some power attached) and democracy to the House of Commons - even if it was Conservatives. However, I hear that in my neighbouring constituency of Skipton, the Conservatives are replacing a disgraced (expenses scandal) MP who is at least a local resident with a helicopter candidate - a crony of David Cameron so I guess its going to be same old same old from the Conservatives.
The words Devil and Deep Blue Sea come to mind.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Blog Title


I should explain the title of this blog it is from a Haiku I made up as part of an artwork I created some years back

" How would you know it was just a dream if you don't know you're asleep!"

I was pretty pleased with it as it is not just the 17 syllable rule that make it a Haiku but there has to be some reference to time or seasons passing. I hope the shift in tense between would and don't, imply the difference between a waking and sleeping state hence the passage of time.
Even without the time reference, I still love John Cooper Clarke, the Punk Poet's skit of a Haiku

"Writing a poem in seventeen syllables is very dific"

Any favourites?

Landscape or Portrait?

Yesterday saw the launch of the iPad and finally, for computers, the question of Landscape or Portrait becomes irrelevant. In a way, it has been quite arbitrary that our screens have always been landscape when so much of what we have done on them is to create documents that will be printed in Portrait orientation. What about photographs I hear you say, but when computers started out, their makers could hardly have dreamed of the current blossoming of digital images poured onto a world wide web by non-technical bods. Perhaps they oriented their "Monitors" landscape-wise because they resembled TV screens and no they probably weren't thinking that one day you would be able to watch TV on your computer! Of course, back in those days, you couldn't see a representation of your document on screen - just text and that was in a primitive screen font - no fonts, styles, WYSIWIG or GUI. You had to type till your screen was full and then press the PrtScn key to send all that text to the printer then Scroll down to some fresh screen and carry on. Computers are like archaeological sites with bits of the past sticking up here and there - the PrtScn key is still there and very useful it still it is. It has a slightly different usefulness but its really still doing the same thing - it sends whatever is on the Screen to the Clipboard from whence you can paste it into a graphics programme and have your wicked way with it.
Going back to Photos you might argue that most of them are landscape but when they are not then they end up being so much smaller in Portrait than their broad bottomed sisters and brothers sitting in Landscape - either that or YOU get a crick in the neck looking at them. Of course, with the advent of laptops you could stand them on their side - the keyboard side forming a handy prop but still not very handy for editing.
When the web page came along things got more complicated still - how big is a web page when you come to print it - after all some pages just go on and on or should that be down and down! Sometime ago, on the now defunct Mo'time blog platform, I attempted to create pages that looked the same both on screen and when printed out. You can still see them and judge their success at
http://www.artscastle.com/Motime_Miscellany/ .
Now I dare say there were already some snazzy (and expensive) monitors that could be swizzled round to show things in portrait but it was mobile phones that really gave us the two way screen - those little computers in our pocket - those little gems of consumer lust. Re-orient the picture on the screen and the Portrait/Landscape dilemma is a thing of the past and of course if you own an iPhone with its quintessential Apple design ethos then the edge to edge picture gives no clue as to whether the device even has an orientation. So now, in a convergence of computer, picture, phone and almost anything else you can think of and write an "App" for - carried forward to the iPad we can at last choose to view photos and documents in either Portrait or Landscape but you will be able to use the qwerty keyboard at the bottom of the portrait touch-screen to edit a document in Portrait!
How do you like them Apples?