Pivotal US healthcare votes swung by ailing Senators

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It’s been a disastrous week for Donald Trump’s Presidency. I won’t the list the cataclysms because there are endless articles cataloguing them. This article does a very good job in summing up the situation.

What struck me was that a situation which led to the Affordable Care Act (ACA – “Obamacare”) becoming law was repeated as the Republican “Skinny Repeal” of the ACA failed in the US Senate early on Friday morning.

In the December 2009, the late Senator Robert Byrd, then 92 years-old with fragile health, was instrumental in passing the Affordable Care Act through several late night voting appearances in his wheelchair. Continue reading

Great programme about Donna Summer’s “I feel love”

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Available to listen to for the next four days, Radio 2 have surpassed themselves with this superb documentary called “The Summer of I feel love”.

Introduced by Paul Sexton, the show includes interviews with Giorgio Moroder and (Englishman) Peter Belotti, who co-produced the ground-breaking track.

The documentary is presented in a wonderful way, blending various tracks which led up to and followed “I feel love” with fascinating interview clips. Peter Belotti tells how Moog Synthesiser programmer, Robbie Wedel, who helped create the tune, managed to use a method of synchronising the beats which even Robert Moog didn’t realise was possible, at the time!

This programme is highly recommended for music anoraks. For me, the track reminds me of a great 1978 summer spent feeding the dishwasher conveyor belt (“washing dishes” wouldn’t do it justice) at Butlin’s Holiday Camp, Minehead. I remember seeing Tony Blackburn playing the song on his Radio One Roadshow from Minehead.

Kenny Everett’s tapes – and the Troggs arguing over a song

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Earlier this week I returned to the British Library to do another two hours of listening to Kenny Everett’s tapes.

As I explained in February, dear Kenny Everett left his numerous audio tapes to the nation, in the shape of the British Library. You can go there and listen to them. They are endless and very entertaining.

The British Library have a “SoundServer” on which all their digitised recordings are held. You obtain a Reader’s Card and then you can listen to the recordings on the Soundserver in the library. I did this in February but then requested about a dozen of Kenny Everett’s tapes (some reel-to-reel and some NAB cartridges), which weren’t then on the SoundServer, to be added to it. Understandably, this took the elves at the British Library some time and then I had to find a date to go back to listen to the digitised result.

So that’s what I was doing earlier this week.

The recording which stood out, for me, was a little series of episodes of “Stan Friday – Hells Angel” which seemed to date from around 1981 and were done for Capital Radio. I didn’t hear them or of them when they were originally broadcast. They were in the same sort of format as “Captain Kremmen”. They were quite priceless to listen to – really beautifully crafted and very funny. They are found under reference C723/45 at the British Library.

Here’s a little end piece of one of the episodes which tickled my fancy:

Question: What are your views on Red China?. Answer: Well, I think it looks very nice on a white table cloth.
Announcer: -Will Stan make it as a comic?
-Will we be sued by Bernard Manning?
-Is it true what they say about Dixie?
Find out in the next kidney-curdling, bowel-busting episode of Stan Friday – Hells Angel”

It all demonstrates that, although Kenny Everett obtained his greatest amount of fame from his TV shows, he was at heart a radio man and spent endless hours, days, months and years crafting radio shows. The depth and breadth of creativity, humour, techinical tenacity/brilliance and panache he put into his radio work was pure genius. We will never see his kind again.

Ah yes. The Troggs. Under reference C723/125 C10, there is an 11 minute 33 second recording of the Troggs arguing about a song in a recording studio. This was in Kenny Everett’s tape collection. It isn’t clear what song it is that they are discussing, but they are convinced it could be a Number One but have very strongly diverse views on how to achieve that! The argument becomes very heated indeed and is quite a treat to listen to!

Thames Barrier and the Thames Walk at Greenwich and Woolwich

Bucket lists. Some have swimming with dolphins or standing on the edge of a cliff on their bucket list. I have things like visiting the Alexander Fleming museum and eating East End pie, mash and liquor on mine. Visiting the Thames Barrier is another one, and this morning I finally managed to indulge. The walk along the Thames from North Greenwich Station (by the O2) was wonderful and I was not disappointed by the Thames Barrier visitor centre, which was superb.

The story of the building of the barrier itself was mindblowing. Just imagine huge gates the weight of half the Eiffel Tower being shipped on a special barge down from Teeside to Greenwich.

But the daily maintenance of the barrier is quite extraordinary. The gates have been put down to stop a flood of central London 178 times since the barrier was installed. But it all goes on quietly in the background and no one notices it.

If the barrier didn’t work people would soon notice, and the daily grind of exceptionally advanced maintenance ensures it all goes smoothly.

Well done to the Environment Agency for a quite extraordinary piece of engineering!

Some photos from today are at the top of this post.

Who to trust on the economy? The CBI or Dr Fox with his kamikazee Brexit?

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This week, it was very welcome to hear the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) calling for the UK to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union once it leaves the EU, until a full trade deal is in place.

This seems to be simple common sense to me. Continue reading

Is this why there is no rush to make Boris Johnson Prime Minister?

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Theresa v Boris: How May became PM is highly recommended viewing. It’s available for the next ten days on BBC iPlayer. Made for BBC2, it is an attractive mix of key player interviews, contemporaneous news footage and dramatised scenes.

Theresa May is played very well indeed by Jacqueline King (who I might gratuitously point out is well known to the legions of Lib Dem Doctor Who fans!) and Boris is captured brilliantly by Will Barton, even though his hair and nose make him look more like Michael Fabricant. Continue reading

What is the government’s exact majority?

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Since June 9th, I’ve been keeping a little spreadsheet to show the exact majority of the government.

First of all, the question arose: ‘What is the working majority of the government?’ That is, if the DUP don’t vote with the government but simply abstain (because they don’t want Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister). My calculations suggest this working majority is four, based on the following assumptions: Continue reading