Lets dig up our roads and drive at 100Mbps

In a blog post I made a few days ago about the UK economy and the recession I said that I thought that the UK government should build for the future and invest in new roads and civil engineering projects. After the 1930’s depression in the USA the government headed by President Roosevelt started a programme to build roads, dams, airports and similar other huge projects. Billions of dollars were poured into the US economy in a bid to get the economy going again and to get people back to work.

I think that is what the UK government should do as well but we should also be thinking about 21st century infrastructure building. By that, I mean we should start laying a fibre cable network throughout the UK so that the internet will run at 100 Mbps and not the average of 2 Mbps like the internet does now. There is no doubt that the internet is the new industrial revolution and we are still only at the beginning of it. The internet is here to stay so it needs to be improved so that we can all benefit from faster internet speeds which will herald a new way of working – an age of teleworking.

Our roads seem to be constantly dug up. It should be made law that whenever a road is dug up then a fibre cable should be laid as well at the same time. I read that on average our roads are dug up by utilitity companies every 7 years. That means we could probably have a nationwide fibre network in 10 years. That would put us ahead in Europe and give us an advantage for the future.

The trouble is that in the UK we talk too much about doing something and then when we do get around to doing it it costs twice as much. I realise that it needs to be decided who pays for it, but I believe that it should be a government project with private help. Reducing VAT cost the government over £12 Billion. That sum of money lays a lot of fibre cables!

I say – lets start digging up our roads and laying fibre cables, and the sooner the better !

Atheists drive home message with bus adverts

We British are a strange breed ! We are great at coming up with a campaign such as this one. I can understand why a campaign like this should be run, although I doubt it will have much effect.

Disputes about God’s and religion cause so many wars that it makes you wonder whether if there is a God he/she would allow such things to happen in the world.

Richard Dawkins has helped launch a £140,000 Atheist advertising campaign telling people “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Ads will now run on 800 busses across the UK along with 1,000 adverts on the London Underground and two large LCD screens on Oxford Street. The cash for the adverts was raised after comedy writer Ariane Sherine launched a campaign to get enough money (£5,500) to have the slogan appear on just one bus.

However, within four days it had raised £100,000 in donations from the general public. In total it raised over £135,000, smashing its original target by 2,400 percent. Sherine said: “You wait ages for an atheist bus and then 800 come along at once.

She didn’t say: “I would like to thank God for our success.” Hanne Stinson, of the British Humanist Associations who supported the project said: “The incredible response to the Atheist Campaign shows just how many atheists out there have been looking for a voice.” However famous skeptic Prof Richard Dawkins added: “I would have liked to see stronger wording, rather than ‘probably’ it could have been ‘almost certainly’ no God.”

The buses will be running in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, York, Leeds, Newcastle, Dundee, Sheffield, Coventry, Devon, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Swansea, Newport, Rhondda, Bristol, Southampton, Newcastle and Aberdeen.

The Defining Moments of 2008

As 2008 draws to a close nobody can say that this has not been 12 months that has changed the world. The year 2008 was the year of the US elections and the year that the first African-American was elected to become the 44th President of the United States. On 4 November 2008 Barack Obama, a Democrat, beat his Republican opponent John McCain by a margin of 53% to 46%. Even John McCain’s running mate, the ‘hockey mom’ Sarah Palin was not enough to save the Republicans from a huge defeat. It remains to be seen whether Obama can live up to his campaign slogan of “Change We Can Believe In”. In the end though it was the blundering actions of George W Bush including his unjust war in Iraq and his disastrous economic policy that was to be the downfall of the Republican party.

The US elections of 2008 were overshadowed though by the economic crisis that started in the US and then spread throughout Europe and eventually the rest of the world. Every day brought more bad economic news such as the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the government bail-out of banks that were all on the verge of failing. The economic crisis made headline news virtually every night by the BBC and their business editor Robert Peston was the man responsible for delivering this bad news. If there was ever a man who relished bad news and made us all think that the events happening were the equivalent of economic obliteration then Robert Peston was the right man for the job. He was first with all the big economic news stories such as the downfall of Bradford and Bingley and the takeover of HBOS by Lloyds TSB and many other similar news stories. His strange mannerisms and way of speaking would normally have made him into a man to be hated but no, Robert Peston has won us all over and we all now think he is a hero. This man deserves to be made newsman of the year or even be made an economic advisor to the failing government. What a star!

In terms of politics Gordon Brown and Labour managed to go from no-hopers to maybe some hope as he tried to tell us that only he could save us in this time of crisis. This is time for experience and not newboys he said looking at David Cameron and also over his shoulder at David Milband, his foreign affairs minister who wanted Gordon Browns job. Maybe Gordon wasn’t looking over the Atlantic to see that Barack Obama, the inexperienced Democrat was about to win the US election! It amazes me that Labour have gained some points back on the Conservatives in the opinion polls. How can a party that is presiding over rising unemployment, high taxes, political spin, the decimation of our pensions and the taking away of civil liberties ever gain favour with anybody.

Carrying on in politics, Boris Johnson won the London Mayor election on 2 May and became the unlikely bumbling new London Mayor, replacing the left wing socialist Ken Livingstone.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still going on and the US lost its 4,000th soldier killed whist the UK lost its 300th soldier killed since 2001. I still maintain that Britain should not have gone to war against Saddam Hussein. The facts about weapons of mass destruction were wrong. Had we known the true facts things would have been different. As far as Afghanistan is concerned I can understand that we don’t want terror training camps but if you fight a war you fight it properly, not half heartedly. You go in with overwhelming force with the right equipment from the start. What we have at the moment is a small army with poor equipment and a situation that could last for years. What should happen is that you go in and get out as soon as possible.

2008 was Olympic Games year, held in Beijing, China. The games turned out to be the most spectacular of any and the smog and pollution that blights the area was hardly a distraction. There were virtually no protesters to be seen. I suppose that was because they were all locked up! The Olympic Games themselves were excellent – due mainly to the fact that Great Britain did better than expected. I must admit that I had no interest in watching the games on TV but I sat down at the start to watch the women’s cycling and Britain won ! From that moment on I watched a fair bit more including the magnificent cycling team including 3 times gold medal winner Chris Hoy, who also became the first Britain to win 3 gold medals since 1908. Our athletics team didn’t do particularly well, which I suppose is the main sport in the Olympics but overall we did very well, which is not bad for a nation of sofa dwellers and wii fit fanatics. Other highlights worth mentioning from the Olympic games are Michael Phelps winning 8 gold medals and the best of all, the incredible sprinting of the Jamaican Usain Bolt, who proves that Jamaica is more that just a country of pot smoking, violent, reggae music listening psychopaths. Bolt became the fastest man on earth in the 100m final with a time of 9.69 seconds.

In other world events President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe carried on killing his own citizens. The second election was called off (Mugabe lost the first election so he decided the country would have a rigged second one) after the opposition leader, whose name I can’t spell, along with his supporters suffered violence and intimidation. An attempt at power sharing was just a ploy by Mugabe to try and deflect criticism from abroad. As I write this Zimbabwe is in the grip of inflation running at 231 million percent, clean water is only available to the privileged few, murder and rape is rife, unemployment has reached 90% and the average life expectancy is 40 years. Robert Mugabe is about 84 years old I think so his life expectancy must be running out soon!

In other world events, there was a devasting cyclone in Burma that killed an estimated 146,000 people, an earthquake in China in May that was felt more than 1,000 miles away from its epicentre and 87,000 people were killed. There was a terrible terrorist attack in Mumbai in November. Over 180 innocent people were murdered by about 10 terrorists. The Indian police managed to hold out against 10 men for 3 days, no sorry it was the other way round! Also, the so called Big Bang experiment by the Hadron Collider, built at huge expense to replicate the start of the universe suffered an electrical fault and the event turned into a small splutter!

Personally, for me, 2008 has not been a fantastic year but neither has it been bad either. I was in Palma, Majorca in April for a conference. Michael Portillo was one of the guest speakers. In May I was in Italy and visited Pisa and a stunning place called Monterosso which I can highly recommend. Apart from that I have been working on my websites. It’s a never ending job trying to get a website to the top of Google! My guitar playing is another year older and I don’t seem to be any better than I was a year ago. Maybe I need a better guitar!

Finally, the football team I support, Leeds United, after a string of poor results, sacked their manager, Gary McAllister, who had only been in the job 11 months. Promotion from League One looks like it is a fading hope.

Lets hope 2009 is better for us all including Leeds United!

Manchester congestion charge driven out of town

I don’t live in Manchester but it was interesting to hear that the residents of Manchester had voted against a charge for using their cars in the city. There were two charging zones proposed. Within the M60 outer ring road and an inner city charging zone. The deal was, as far as I am aware, that a charge would be introduced and in return investment would be made in public transport.

That to me means that all car drivers will be taxed and that some of the money would be used to improve trains and trams etc. In other words, it’s another stealth tax from a government that loves to tax everything that we do and have. Even pensioners hard earned savings are being taxed. Why should pensioners pay tax again when they have already paid tax when they earnt the money in the first place! Anyway that’s another grump of mine.

There is no doubt that our major towns and cities are grinding to a halt because of too many cars, therefore something needs to be done to solve the problem. I live in Leeds and the problem with peak time gridlock has been with us for many years and very little seems to be done to help improve the situation. The roads from the suburbs and surrounding areas of Leeds that lead into Leeds city centre are just a long queue of cars moving at just a few miles an hour.

If you consider the issue there seems to be two types of road user. Firstly, there is the commuter that travels from relatively short distances to the city centre and then there is the person who travels either from one town or city to another or someone who is constantly on the road.

The problem to solve first is the commuter. The majority of commuters would use public transport rather than their cars if good, clean, fast and regular public transport was available. Leeds dumped its Super Tram system because it was too expensive and the government refused to put money in. That is a scandal. London gets billions of pounds and Leeds gets little. The London Cross Rail project is going to cost £15 Billion and Leeds gets a new bus lane! That is just not right. (Bus lanes as they are at the moment don’t work by the way).

Here is my solution and it’s a lot cheaper than building expensive tram systems. Its called the bus!…Busses are great and relatively cheap but they need to have proper bus only lanes built. Most bus lanes in Leeds stretch for a few hundred yards before mixing with all the traffic again. The bus lanes need to be 10 miles long! There also needs to be huge car parks built so that commuters can use park and ride schemes.

That’s the cheap option. If money wasn’t really an option I think every big city in the UK should have an underground system and also we need to build more roads. Wider motorways, better ring roads and better roads into city centres. Personally I would rather have better roads and public transport than two new aircraft carriers and a war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But that’s just my opinion!

Barack Obama and the descent of the US into the third world.

I was glad to see that Barack Obama has won the US Presidential race. There wasn’t really much of a choice though in my opinion ! The United States seems to be very good at choosing candidates that in any other country wouldn’t stand a chance of being elected. John McCain was too old and looked like he had been on a course of botox injections and Barack Obama was the inexperienced politician who was good at talking and making promises.

In the end the US voted for “change”, which is fine but I’m not exactly sure what real changes he will make. I was interested to see Obama holding a meeting with his advisors and then holding a brief press conference. He looked very nervous and I got the distinct impression that now he has done the easy bit and won he is now thinking… “this is a bummer…what the hell have I let myself in for..I can’t believe they actually believed me”.

But someone needs to grab the reins before its too late. My feeling is that the USA has reached its peak and is now going backwards. There is too much poverty and inequality and it may be impossible for anybody to stop the rot. Lets hope that for their sake and the whole world that Barack Obama can keep his promises.

As far the Republican party is concerned I think they need to give home affairs priority and also please lets not have Sarah Palin running for president in four years time. Anybody who thinks that Africa is one country….and spends her spare time with a shotgun… shouldn’t really be put in charge of the most powerful country in the world !