Tag Archives: Armed Forces

Is Veterans Day The Ultimate Insult To Those Who Served?

So Veterans Day has passed for another year. Yesterday on November 11 the people of the United States stood still for a moment to remember the fallen and to say “thank you” to veterans who served in the military. In Britain and across Europe similar scenes take place as armistice day is used as an occasion to recognise the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. Veterans probably appreciate the gesture and use the occasion to remember those with whom they served. Most veterans are proud of their service and value the opportunity to remember fallen comrades. That said many veterans now see the annual outpouring of jingoism and the way veterans day is “celebrated” as a grave insult.

Source: Is Veterans Day The Ultimate Insult To Those Who Served?

British Troops withdraw from Afghanistan

Monday the 27th October 2014.  At last the day the last British troops have left Afghanistan.

I have repeatedly voiced my opposition to our involvement in the conflicts in the region.  In my view our involvement has been counterproductive.  We have seen young men across the Middle East and even at home become more radicalised.  Arguably the region is less stable than when we began and it is thought by many that we are less safe at home than before the invasion.

It has been conceded that the Taliban are still in control of large areas of the country, Afghanistan now exports more heroine now than it did in 2001.  The conflict has cost a huge amount in both lives and money.

It has always been my view that the invasion of Afghanistan was illegal and immoral.  It is estimated that at least 20,000 Afghan civilians have died during the conflict and I would dearly love to see both Tony Blair and George W. Bush stand trial for war crimes.

Having said all of that I salute every member of our armed services who served in that region.  I salute the 453 British Service personnel who paid the ultimate price.  I salute the thousands of armed forces personnel who have been wounded and maimed and I salute the families of our service personnel who have had to come to terms with loved ones serving in the region.

I salute the bravery, sacrifice and fortitude of each and every person affected by this conflict.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them!!

75 Essential Albums – Day #12 Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

Here goes with day 12 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

Released in 1979 by factory records at the tail end of the punk rock revolution Unknown Pleasures is quite simply a masterpiece,  It was a dark, threatening, disturbing angry masterpiece.  I suspect that if Ian Curtis had not hanged himself in 1980 we would now be looking back on a vast cannon of work by one of the best bands ever to emerge in the UK.  As it is Joy Divisions reputation has reached legendary status.  I was lucky enough to catch Peter Hook and the Light earlier this year in a set consisting almost entirely of Joy Division songs.  Whilst the exquisite torture of Ian Curtis’s vocal could never be replicated the gig was one of the highlights of my band watching career.

Unknown Pleasures is an intoxicating mixture of musical triumph and personal tragedy that just sweeps you away with its power and intensity.  Hooks have thumping basslines, Sumners shrieking guitar and Curtis’s tortured vocals combine to create and atmosphere quite unlike anything I have experienced before or since.  Whilst I was in the Navy I served in the South Atlantic and it is no exaggeration to say that losing myself in Joy Divisions Music saved my sanity.

The album’s raw power is still gripping, most notably on the haunting ‘Day Of The Lords’ and ‘She’s Lost Control’, which Curtis, who was epileptic, wrote in sympathy after hearing that a girl he knew with the same condition had died.  Even the more upbeat moments on the album make you feel every pained thought in Curtis’s tortured mind.

This album really broke the mould.  40 minutes of pain filled torturous brilliance.  I doubt we will ever see its like again.

Oops just realised I accidentally included a pingback to the daily post by accident.  Sorry I was trying to do too many things at once.

75 Essential Albums – Day #8 – ZZ Top – Eliminator

Here goes with day 8 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

ZZ Top – Eliminator

It blows my mind that Eliminator was ZZ Top’s eighth album release. Eliminator was my real introduction to their music.  My excuse is that their music is somewhat removed from the Punk scene I was into at the time and this was their first real commercial success. What a success it was selling over 10 Million copies worldwide.  I must confess that the track ‘Legs’ with the line “She’s got legs and she knows how to use them” had a special meaning for me. My girlfriend at the time had great legs and overtime we went into our local pub the DJ would play that track 🙂

Whilst ZZ Top remained true to their Texas Blues Rock, Eliminator introduced the electronic and new Wave feel that was popular at the time into their music and doubtless this was in many ways responsible for the success of the album.  This is a truly excellent album it does not contain one filler song, as each individual track works well as a stand-alone song. In fact, one can claim that the whole is much less than the sum of this album’s parts.

Frank Beard’s simple rock drum beat sets the pace for the riff-driven “Gimme All Your Lovin’” which also sets the pace for the album.   “Sharp Dressed Man” is the most catchy of the hit songs and utilises a more traditional rock arrangement with some strange vocal effects being the only really synthesised parts.  The song reached the Top Ten on the mainstream rock charts and has remained one of the band’s most famous songs.  “I Need You Tonight” is led by Gibbons’s really soulful and bluesy guitar with an effect-laden edge and a dark feel.

The early part of the album’s second side is the best demonstration of the “synthesizer meets soul” sound which the group was aiming for on Eliminator. On “Legs” the synths are most prominent along with a consistent beat and very few chord changes. It has a great melody, clear hook, and some bluesy lead guitar licks. “Thug” is an eighties-style, synth-heavy song and “Dirty Dog” feels like a pure dance song.  The closing track “Bad Girl” is sung by Hill who uses a Little Richard-type, frantic voice in this old time rocker.

So Eliminator works really well as an exciting, hook laden feel good fusion of Blues-rock and synthesiser pop.  It remains a fun filled fresh album and is still hugely enjoyable.

75 Essential Albums – Day #6 Tom Waits – Mule Variations

Here goes with day 6 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

Ok lets be frank here, Tom Waits isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  There I said it.  His gruff throaty voice, his laconic and often maudlin lyrics turn many people off but (and its a huge but) very few people will ever write a song as good as Tom Waits’ very worst song. The songs on this album are far from Wait’s worst work in fact several tracks are right up there with his very best.

In my opinion Mule Variations is worth buying if the only good thing on the album was “Hold on”, one of my favourite tracks by anyone.  Who doesn’t love lyrics like “They put a sign up in our town, if you live it up you’ll never live it down” or “So he bought her a dime store watch and a ring made from a spoon”, classic Waits, clever insightful, cutting and witty.

The great tracks on this album are the slower ones “Pony,” “House Where Nobody Lives” and “Picture In a Frame” are all, in my opinion, up there amongst the great Waits tracks.  The album as a piece has that ‘one take recording’ feel of many of Waits best albums.  The production is sparse, no gimmicks and Waits is relaxed and confident, he is in good place.  Of course this is Tom Waits so the rattling percussion, the darkness, the aggression and the menace are all present.  It is perhaps this element that lead to ‘Hold on’ being used on the TV show ‘The Walking Dead’ recently something that has given the album a new lease of life.  More upbeat tracks like “Big in Japan,” “Filipino Box Spring Hog” and “Eyeball Kid” showcase Waits crazy and manic side.

Admittedly this may not be Waits greatest ever album but it is very very good and well worth the investment in time that will be required if the listener is to unearth the full reward from a top album.

Yes it’s true, the United States really is the greatest country in the world – but in what? – Stop the War Coalition

Wow, I just came across this article and thought it worth sharing.  I think it throws up some really interesting issues.  Check it out and let me know what you think. Yes it’s true, the United States really is the greatest country in the world – but in what? – Stop the War Coalition.

AMERICAN politicians are fond of telling their audiences that the United States is the greatest country in the world. Is there any evidence for this claim?

Well, yes. When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the United States is, indeed, No. 1.

In 2013, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. government accounted for 37 percent of world military expenditures, putting it far ahead of all other nations. (The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively.)

From 2004 to 2013, the United States was also the No. 1 weapons exporter in the world. Moreover, given the U.S. government’s almost continuous series of wars and acts of military intervention since 1941, it seems likely that it surpasses all rivals when it comes to international violence.

This record is paralleled on the domestic front, where the United States has more guns and gun-related deaths than any other country.

study released in late 2013 reported that the United States had 88 guns for every 100 people, and 40 gun-related deaths for every 400,000 people―the most of any of the 27 economically developed countries surveyed. By contrast, in Britain there were 6 guns per 100 people and 1 gun-related death per 400,000 people.

Yet, in a great many other areas, the United States is not No. 1 at all.

Take education.

In late 2013, the Program for International Student Assessment released a report on how 15-year old students from 65 nations performed on its tests. The report showed that U.S. students ranked 17th in reading and 21st in math. An international survey a bit earlier that year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that the ranking was slightly worse for American adults. In 2014, Pearson, a multinational educational services company, placed the United States 20th in the world in “educational attainment”―well behind Poland and the Slovak Republic.

American healthcare and health fare even worse.

In a 2014 study of healthcare (including infant mortality, healthy life expectancy, and mortality from preventable conditions) in 11 advanced industrial countries, the Commonwealth Fund concluded that the United States ranked last among them. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. healthcare system ranks 30th in the world.

Other studies reach somewhat different conclusions, but all are very unflattering to the United States, as are studies of American health. The United States, for example, has one of the world’s worst cancer rates (the seventh highest), and life expectancy is declining compared to other nations.

An article in the Washington Post in late 2013 reported that the United States ranked 26th among nations in life expectancy, and that the average American lifespan had fallen a year behind the international average.

What about the environment? Specialists at Yale University have developed a highly sophisticated Environmental Performance Index to examine the behavior of nations. In the area of protection of human health from environmental harm, their 2014 index placed the United States 35th in health impacts, 36th in water and sanitation, and 38th in air quality. In the other area studied―protection of ecosystems―the United States ranked 32nd in water resources, 49th in climate and energy, 86th in biodiversity and habitat, 96th in fisheries, 107th in forests, and 109th in agriculture.

These and other areas of interest are dealt with by the Social Progress Index, which was developed by Michael Porter, an eminent professor of business (and a Republican) at Harvard. According to Porter and his team, in 2014 the United States ranked 23rd in access to information and communications, 24th in nutrition and basic medical care, 31st in personal safety, 34th in water and sanitation, 39th in access to basic knowledge, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, and 70th in health and wellness.

The widespread extent of poverty, especially among children, remains a disgrace in one of the world’s wealthiest nations. A 2013 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund noted that, of the 35 economically advanced countries that had been studied, only Rumania had a higher percentage of children living in poverty than did the United States.

Of course, the United States is not locked into these dismal rankings and the sad situation they reveal about the health, education, and welfare of its citizens. It could do much better if its vast wealth, resources, and technology were employed differently than they are at present.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of priorities. When most U.S. government discretionary spending goes for war and preparations for war, it should come as no surprise that the United States emerges No. 1 among nations in its capacity for violence and falls far behind other nations in providing for the well-being of its people.

Americans might want to keep this in mind as their nation embarks upon yet another costly military crusade.

75 Essential Albums – Day #3 Boomtown Rats – Tonic for the troops

Here goes with day 3 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

Boomtown Rats – Tonic for the troops

The Boomtown Rats, came out of Ireland at the height of the punk and ‘new wave’ revolution of the late 1970’s and were often associated with that movement.  In truth they were a little too polished and produced to fit comfortably in that Genre.

The album spawned a number of huge hits including Rat Trap, Like Clockwork and She’s so modern.  The album was a huge hit and for two years in 1978 & 1979 The Rats were the biggest selling band in the UK.  The album was a collection of contradictions rolled up in glitzy package.  The tunes lurched from punk to mainstream pop and in the spoken parts of Rat trap there was even an element of rap and hip-hop.

Though melodic and tuneful Geldof’s grim and melodramatic reflections of urban life and poverty were reminiscent of early Springsteen.  Geldof’s delivery is full of conviction and complex characterisation, his reflections of life in urban high rise blocks are not just an observation of urban life they are a call to action, a plea to rise up and break out of the ‘Rat trap’.

The contradictions continue in ‘Me and Howard Hughes’ & in “I never loved Eva Braun”.  In the former the bright happy tune hides the bleakness of the lyrics whilst In Eva Braun the teenage cooing of the line “Is she really going out with Adolf” disguises the content of the lyrics with its reflections on Hitlers relationship with Eva Braun.

The album also touches on suicide, on teenage fantasies and schoolgirl crushes.  As a piece the album holds together really well, the band are tight and skilful the arrangements are often complex and multi layered the album is dynamic, fun and durable.  Above all it has stood the test of time.  Check it out 🙂