By chance I came across an interesting item on the my2buck$ blogsite about Sarah Palin.  There has been a lot of coverage in the media about this VP candidate, but so there should when an unknown person pops up who could potentially be sitting right next to the President of the USA.

The essence of the article is a letter which appeared in the Washington Post written by Anne Kilkenny, someone who claims to have known Palin since the early 90s.  It is very detailed and, on the face of it,  presented objectively. Kilkeny explains her own position and how she stands in relation to Palin, Wasilla and Alaska.  Overall, the impression given is not good news for the Republicans as it exposes Palin’s ineptitude as an administrator and some of her backroom dealings.  The responses have been predictable and the main question being asked is ‘who is Anne Kilkenny?’  Within a couple of days a follow-up posting appeared which was linked to an article in the New York Times which authenticated Kilkenny’s identity so perhaps people can now focus on the merit or otherwise of the contents of the letter itself.

This is just the stuff every USA citizen should read, Republican or Democrat, before taking the vote.  It is said that every country gets the government it deserves – I’m not sure what the USA did to deserve G Dubya – but is Palin the type of person who should be second in command [or first if McCain kicks the bucket] of the USA?.

Read the full post here.

Cross-posted on the Chamber of Ten Thousand Flowers.

I was passing the time in a reading room recently, working my way through the newspapers of the day, as one does, filling in bits of crossword puzzles, dozing and drinking tea, though not necessarily in that order. Stuffed a way in a corner was the remnants of a backcopy which I idly glanced through until I came across an article about a marathon runner. This was a character who had been briefly introduced to us at school but I had never really got acquainted with him as he was quickly pushed back out of my mind to make way as we moved on to Corn Law, Tariff Reform and other more important matters. This was not the original marathon runner, Pheidippides the soldier who fought in the battle of Marathon, ran to Athens to deliver the good news and then dropped dead, but a pastry shop assistant whose achievements were no less remarkable in that he completed the 1908 event, lost the medal, but won the hearts of millions of people around the world.

Dorando Pietri began his running career in an almost casual fashion, perhaps by accident, when, in 1904, he took part in a local race at Carpi which featured Pericle Pagliani, the then top runner in Italy. According to accounts available Pietri was still in his working clothes when he ran but he beat Pagliani. A few days later he participated in a 3,000 metre race at Bologna and won! What had prompted him to do that is unknown, bravado, a bet with his pals or Italian dottiness and eccentricity, is unknown but during the following years he began his rise to international fame. In 1905 he won the Paris 30 km race, his first international success and in 1906 won the qualifying Italian marathon for the Athens Olympic games, held later that year. During the Athens marathon he retired from the race, due to an intestinal illness, while he was in the lead by 5 minutes. By 1907 he was the undisputed long distance champion of Italy, for every event from 5,000 metres upwards.

At the 1908 London Olympics the day of the marathons race was said to be an unusually hot one by UK standards (78 degrees F) and this took its toll on all of the 56 starters. Three-quarters of the way into the race Pietri was in second place and several minutes behind the leader but when he was told Hefferson, the leader,  was having trouble he increased his pace and a few miles later overtook him. After entering the stadium for the final lap his troubles began when he took a wrong turn and was redirected by an official. He then fell from exhaustion but was helped back to his feet and struggled on. Different stories give varying counts of the times he fell, all we know is that it happened several times and each time he was helped on his way by officials and Arthur Conan Doyle, no less, who happened to be standing by. Of his 26 miles and 365 yards, taking 2 hours, 54 minutes and 46 seconds the final lap had taken 10 minutes to complete [no one actually timed this section so we only have anecdotal information]. And only in the final moments had any other competitor entered the stadium!

Several theories have been put forward to explain his condition on entering the stadium – excessive heat, his efforts in the final half of the course to speed up, gargling with wine during the race – but these are speculative. And the nearest he got to using drugs was to take balsamic vinegar during training.

From any of the BW photographs available of those final moments many differences between Pietri and a modern athlete can be seen. There is even a difference between himself and the officials surrounding him. There is no imagery or PR at work, he is noticeably small, skinny, one might say weedy, the very picture of the underdog and this had an immediate appeal to the masses. He had finished by sheer will and determination.

Immediately after the race the USA team lodged a complaint which was accepted by the committee and Johnny Hayes, who came in second, was awarded first position. Undoubtedly the USA complaint was technically correct, Pietri had been redirected, assisted and helped to his feet by officials who should have had no influence on his performance. But whatever anyone wants to say no one can alter those staggering ten minutes when he was in the stadium alone. That is an impressive lead to have gained, after coming up from behind, by any standard.

In the months following he was invited to America to compete in a tour of races. Twice he competed against Johnny Hayes and twice he beat him. Of the 22 races he participated in on tour he won 17. He continued his professional racing career for another 3 years and retired after winning his final race at Goteburg, Sweden.

He died in 1941, at the age of 56, of a heart attack.

Some people have been talking about it, many others have been ignoring it, the majority still haven’t got their heads around it but it is happening now.

When China began its current economic revival and subsequent march to power for most people, myself included, this was something unimportant. It was happening thousands of miles way on the other side of the world. In those dim and distant days – all of 5 years ago – the word ‘China’ was scarcely mentioned in the newspapers and when it was it would probably be with a small ‘c’ and more likely to refer to a set of cups and saucers than a country or nation so how could we know? Things have moved on since then and the ‘C’ word has moved from the occasional mention each year, to every week on the national news and now to almost every day. Most people are concious of China but very few seem to have grasped the dimensions of this phenomenon.
In the 1970s something similar happened in Japan and the impact is still being felt, but it would be enormous mistake to imagine that China’s rise to economic prosperity will be on the same scale, just another phase we can live through and then shrug off. There is a huge difference in the size and potential power of these two places which have implications for everyone. The population of Japan is not a great deal more than that of the UK so for such a small nation to have made such an impact is something of an achievement. But what if the same thing were to happen with China? Just consider the dimensions of China. It is not the largest country in the world but to travel from East to West, by train from Beijing to Kashi for instance, takes over 3 days and North to South would be something similar. Everyone knows the population of China, officially 1.3 billion [maybe more] – that’s 1,300,000,000 – but what we don’t seem to understand is that this is more than 20% of the world’s population. By comparison the UK has less than 1%. If everyone in China wanted a pair of rubber boots this year there wouldn’t be enough rubber to meet that demand, let alone keep everyone else happy. Even the slightest hiccup in China can have an impact on everyone else. If there is a statistical shift in China it will affect statistics on a world scale; if there is a similar shift in the UK it is highly unlikely anyone else will even notice. It is the enormity, and the differences in culture, of the place which has lead several western companies to come unstuck when dealing with the PRC as they have mistakenly treated it as just another minor player in the world.
For years we, in the west, have been happily closing down our factories and moving production lines overseas. The theory was that it was cheaper to manufacture in other places therefore the goods would be cheaper for us. Hong Kong [when it was colony], India, Malaya, Thailand, Myanmar have all played their part in this process and many still do but the ultimate move was to China with its never ending supply of un-unionised, unrepresented, unregulated and unprotected dirt-cheap labour. Until now many of the items bought from China have been designed, sourced and marketed by western companies, that way they could at least argue that they were keeping the biggest slice of the profit. Our retail outlets are flooded with goods with the ‘Made in China’ mark but branded with western names. The one area where the China economy is weak is in branding – how many of us can name a global Chinese brand. Answer, none; there aren’t any, well not up to now.

Another angle to consider is the value and power of the Chinese ¥ [Yuan]. At present it is seen as an undervalued currency and many western powers have been pressing the PRC to revalue the RMB. So far China has resisted such efforts. Another factor to consider is the rate at which money is saved in the PRC. At present the average Chinese citizen saves 40% of income every year – by contrast the average citizen of the UK is £3,175 in debt. Overall, China saved approximately 50% of GDP, about $1.1 trillion, in 2007, the US managed to save 13% of GDP, about $1.6 trillion, although the US economy is 6 times that of China. This pattern of behaviour is reflected throughout the Chinese economy with private companies and the government itself following suit, storing money for the proverbial rainy day. In recent weeks a Chinese company purchased a French vineyard, a modest move and not an earth shattering event in itself but something quite new demonstrating that China does have an interest in the world beyond its borders. What would happen – or should I say what will happen, as this event is now so close as to be almost inevitable – if the PRC waited until it controlled the biggest slice of manufacturing in the world and then re-valued the RMB, just as we want them to? This would certainly make Chinese goods more expensive for western countries, but, hey ho, why should they care, with manufacturing neatly tied up and under control their customers are certainly not going to do a runner, that simply wouldn’t be an option. More importantly, the RMB, combined with the reserves held by the PRC, would then have the power to enable the Chinese to wander the world and go on an acquisition spree. No need to limit purchases to crappy little vineyards, we could soon find that our railways, power companies and banks were owned by PRC Plc.

What happens when China finally makes its marketing breakthrough and begins selling goods manufactured in China, with Chinese brand names and sold on the global market as it surely must? I don’t know the answer to this question and I’m not convinced anyone else does including our dear leaders, I can only speculate and posit ideas but the thoughts which come to mind are not encouraging. Our share of the profits will diminish drastically, that much is certain, we will eventually reach a point when we can no longer expect to buy at such low prices from the PRC and we will not have the financial clout to ‘buy whatever the price’, and then what. We will buy from somewhere else? But where? There isn’t another country in the world which could take the place of China. India might have been a possibility but we had our fling in that subcontinent a while ago. While we have been sitting around admiring ourselves and thinking how savvy and successful we all are President Hu Jintao and his pals have been beavering away around the world developing relationships and securing resources for China’s future. Many of the rogue states of the world, which coincidentally hold the key to much of the mineral wealth of the planet, are safely in China’s pocket so our options are reduced yet further. I’m sure someone somwhere with a little more inside knowledge than myself could enlighten us further as what has been happening and what, in all likelihood, will happen soon. All I know is that I am typing this article while sitting at a desk in the UK, using a PC manufactured in the China, and sold with a Chinese brand name from a British retail store.
“Greetings, Master” in Putonghua [Mandarin to you and me] is 吾皇万岁万岁万万岁; now might be a good time to start learning.

This one is just so smart I have no answer. The warming of the atmosphere has a very straightforward explanation after all; you just need to open your eyes to what is going on around you and it becomes obvious.

All the interfering with natural processes which we do obviously has its consequences, and fiddling around with the time, as we do each year to ‘save’ daylight, is no exception. Read the full article here and here in the Arkansas Gazette.



  1. What is the difference between France and America?

  1. France has a President who speaks fluent English.