Sunday, 30 April 2017

Never Say Never Again

This Blog started in April 2012 - it was a difficult time in recent political history - Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne weren't going crazy, but the consensus was that Mr Cameron had 'lurched off to the right' after gaining power - to quote the BBC's Andrew Marr. They kept attempting or succeeding in introducing legislation that was unfair. In the interests of balance, Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne introduced other legislation that was fair...

Did you see the way I had to add the other sentence on the end of the last paragraph to ensure balance. It's in fact a bit boring having to do that, but if you don't you leave yourself open to cries of bias. I think this could be the last post of this blog - not because I think anything on the blog is wrong - I'm very proud of it all (proud in the healthy sense of the word of course!) - it's just that I now have other projects ongoing and also, I've said all I wanted to say. All I had mentally accumulated over the couple of decades before we had the internet, but had nowhere to publish it.

Things have moved on, I would still like to see a Labour government and remain a Labour supporter - Vote Corbyn 2017! - but I will concede that Theresa May is at least a better leader than Mr Cameron. By no means perfect - but better. Things are at least a little more stabilised politically now.

This Blog has had quite a lot of page views - 93 thousand and counting to date - one month it had 7200 page views, I was pleased about the high view count and it encouraged me to write more on here. The poems I first wrote on here, I collected them up and used Amazon Create Space to self publish them, amazingly this poetry book of mine briefly got into the Amazon UK poetry chart in Christmas 2013, peaking at #5. Fun though being in the charts was, poetry is the slowest selling book genre, so it didn't make me rich.

From a psychology point of view, I was fascinated to see people's reaction about getting the book into the charts. Some people were positive about it - but the chart thing did seem to - often, but not always inspire jealousy in people - kind of like when I mentioned my book getting into the charts; the other person often completely ignored me telling them that, but instead said "I've always wanted to write a book". Like I say, I found this reaction  fascinating and to be honest it only served to further enrich my writing (I like to think anyway) and helped me understand human nature even more.

I think if you have a small bit of writing success like me, it's often only enough to inspire people's unhealthy competitive side (there is a positive healthy side to competition in humans of course) and the reaction you get is mostly negative. I think if you have a real lot of writing success, people's competitive unhealthy reaction is outweighed by their admiration of your high achievement and their desire to be associated with you - so they are really nice to you! ha

If you check back along the timeline of this blog, quite a few of the predictions I made came true. Don't worry - I'm don't think I'm Nostradamus or whatever - it's just the way things were going at that point - you would have to be a bit academically challenged to not correctly predict some things were going to be over - turned.

Anyway - as an interest - this blog has been tremendous fun and I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I learnt a lot about politics and economics along the way - not to mention the fun I had with the poetry. And (you're technically not supposed to start sentences with 'and' but sometimes I think it really works) I intend in the future to always keep an eye on the political situation.

If things deteoriate politically- the retirement of this blog could be short lived - so who know's I may post on this blog again yet - that's why I like the title so much of:

James Bickle

Monday, 20 March 2017

Interesting Developments

There is a lot of speculation about Theresa May calling a general election. But a general election now could in the long term help Labour: Theresa May gets returned with about 80 seats say; Corbyn goes and Labour regroup under a different leader and position themselves ready to take 2022. Versus Labour losing by about 25 seats if the next election were not until 2020 and then Labour not being able to take power until 2025.

Also Nicola Sturgeon is again banging the drum of independance for Scotland. But Scotland have just the same fair say about UK matters as England and Wales. Scotland have a valuable batch of SNP MP's in Westminster, helping shape legislation in London that affects their lives in Scotland. They also have extra devolved powers that we don't in England via their Scottish parliament + they have their own Scottish councils + the Scots have extra central government financing (the dividend) that the rest of the UK don't.

So in short, Scotland already get their fair say so what is their motive for let's be honest obsessing about independance (at least in the SNP) - well I think there are 2 possible motives.

1) Power: Let's be honest human beings can crave power for both natural and unnatural reasons to use Star Wars terminology. If Scotland gain independance we have King Salmond of Edinburgh and Queen Sturgeon of Glasgow  - and which one of us would not want to be a King or Queen? I don't mean literally King and Queen by the way, I'm just illustrating they will be at the very top of the power ladder if they gain independance.

2) Frustration with Westminster: Quite understandably Nicola Sturgeon and co are deeply frustrated that Westminster is not managing things better. For example, a shocking housing crisis, unfair reductions in employment rights, a NHS creaking under the strain where you often have to become a makeshift Doctor yourself, joining the dots to ensure you get the right treatment. Sturgeon perhaps quite correctly thinks she could run Scotland better herself.


We need the Scots help, they are clever and determined: look at those SNP MP's justifiably putting a great deal of pressure on Theresa May and co. Mhairi Black for example, an excellent speaker who is helping keep us in the healthy centre ground with  her articulate speeches in parliament. If we lose Scotland, we lose a valuable check and balance mechanism in their Scottish MP's who are helping keep parliament on a moderate course.

Also, safety in numbers - we are  a small country who already punches above it's weight on the world stage. If we lose Scotland we are just psychologically going to appear weaker and smaller to the rest of the world. Looking and being weaker as a country won't help us negotiate the things we need on the world stage.

We do still have a democracy in the UK  - so if Scotland are concerned that it's not going right, why not stay in the democratic club and try and work towards fixing it. If Scotland gain independence, things might go the left wing way the SNP want for a time. But then the Scottish right will  gain power or the centre etc - as the political system always goes in cycles.  An independent Scotland will still have to have the same political battles, independance is no guarantee of a better time for Scotland. 

So, I reason we are better together - we need the Scottish on board with this UK of ours and maybe they need us as well. 

James Bickle

Friday, 10 March 2017

Jack Monroe versus Katie Hopkins

I was so pleased to see Jack Monroe win her libel case against Katie Hopkins today: I understand people should be able to talk about difficult issues without fear of reprisal but Katie Hopkins has repeatedly said outrageous things and seemed to just keep getting away with it.

I thought Monroe's  win was significant in a wider societal context because both women are powerful and prominent in our society at the moment, Monroe represents good and you guessed it Hopkins represents bad.

Under the Cameron government, Katie Hopkins often supported Camerons crueller policies, indeed Hopkins wanted Cameron to go much further than he did.

Under the Cameron government, Jack Monroe often criticised Camerons crueller policies and wanted Cameron to repeal them.

So this may have been a libel case about some awful tweets on one level, but in a wider context it was a Star Wars like power struggle of good versus bad in our society - and it was nice to see good triumph.

I would like to end this post on the word 'triumph', but as ever I have to avoid doubt. I am not saying Katie Hopkins is all bad, Katie Hopkins has lots of good in her I'm sure, I'm just saying that some of the things Katie Hopkins has said are bad.

James Bickle

Friday, 10 February 2017

Send Form Data PHP (Mysql) Using Http Post

Often on this blog, I tend to write a little post about politics in my spare time; but my day job is Computer Technician and/or Web Developer. I recently had to write a program to send form data into a SQL database using the HTTP post function. The information to write this program was all out there, but it was all scattered around in bits and pieces and not always very clear. So in the interests of the open source/share information mind set, I'm going to post the information and program I made below with comments:

Before you start.

You will need a server (your own computer can be the server running XAMMP) running XAMMP (enable/start Apache and Mysql in XAMMP once installed) if you're going to develop this locally on your computer; or if you want to develop it live on the web, you will need a web host which has PHP and MySql installed and activated. Once you have Mysql running, you will need to create a database called form and within that database a table called form; the form table needs to have rows created ready to collect firstName, lastName and email data. To run this program you need to type
http://localhost/form.php (that address assumes you have the files saved in xammp htdocs folder) into the web browser with apache and mysql running if you are using the program locally, if you are running it on a web server you will need to type in the address for your files on the server.

Part 1 The Html Code form.php

The code below is simple Html to create a form with 3 fields, firstName, lastName and email. When you have filled in the data and click 'submit' you trigger the <form action="send.php"> function. This triggers the send.php program which I will talk about below. It's important to understand the method="post" piece of code too, all that means is that the form data is being sent to the send.php program via the HTTP POST method, in other words the web browser is handling moving the form data you have typed in, over to the send.php program. If you wanted to, you could style the form so it's more attractive using CSS. Save the html as form.php.


<form action="send.php" method="post">
First name: <input type="text" name="firstName"><br><br>
Last name: <input type="text" name="lastName"><br><br>
E-mail: <input type="text" name="email"><br><br>
<input type="submit">


Part 2 send.php Code.

//Put login info into variables for security reasons
$host = "localhost";
$username = "root";
$password = "";
$dbname = "form";

// Create connection
$conn = new mysqli($host, $username, $password, $dbname);

// Check connection
if ($conn->connect_error) {
    die("Connection failed: " . $conn->connect_error);

// escape variables for security
$firstName = mysqli_real_escape_string($conn, $_POST['firstName']);
$lastName = mysqli_real_escape_string($conn, $_POST['lastName']);
$email = mysqli_real_escape_string($conn, $_POST['email']);

// Insert data in SQL Table
$sql = "INSERT INTO form (firstName, lastName, email)
VALUES ('$firstName', '$lastName', '$email')";

// Report if data transfer successful or error
if ($conn->query($sql) === TRUE) {
    echo "New record created successfully";
} else {
    echo "Error: " . $sql . "<br>" . $conn->error;

// Close connection to database


send.php above collects the form data from http post, escapes any escape characters for security  such as ' or / or null and then inserts the data into your sql table. The login info in send.php is configured to work with a local installation of XAMMP on the default settings. So you may need to put in different settings for your own XAMMP install or web server. send.php is commented so I won't explain any further, except to say if you want to test if your mysqli_real_escape function is working or not, try removing the mysqli_real_escape code from send.php and then run the program and try submitting escape characters such as ' - the program should fail and give an error message.

Now put the mysqli_real_escape code back into send.php, fill in the form data again with escape characters, eg put Jame's in first name and then click submit. The program will report back "New record created successfully" if your program is correctly escaping data. You should now have a working function to collect and save form data to a mysql database...

James Bickle

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Grandad Trump

I've been watching President Trump's first couple of weeks and I have to say things are going along the lines I predicted could happen in previous articles, namely that the rest of the US establishment will revoke anything unwise that Trump attempts to get into law, either by his Executive power or by Statute.

Of course the big story overnight is that Federal Judge Robart put a halt on Trump's 'immigration ban' Executive order. Judge Robart's ruling could eventually be overturned by the US Supreme court, where I think the weighting is 3 Republican Supreme Court Judges versus 2 Democrat Judges. Even if it is overturned, the very fact that a Federal Judge even temporarily overturned Trump's original executive order, devalues President Trumps Executive power, his reputation and the Office of the President. Not good things when you consider the US President is usually viewed as the leader of the free world; it's important for us in the UK to have a good US President, not a bad one...

I don't automatically oppose everything President Trump does, for instance I am anti-abortion so the fact the President has a strong line against that is good; the fact that the President recognises the danger of too much Globalisation is detrimental to a nation states economy is worthwhile.

But to me the 'self interest only' based line Mr Trump takes in all policy is tantamount to making decisions, without really considering all the variables involved. I mean, traditionally those who want to work in politics study the academic disciplines of Politics, Economics AND PHILOSOPHY - just like my Grandad did at Oxford University by the way. For those who may not be totally in the know, the philosophy component part is about the moral rights and wrongs of any proposed policy.

If you don't consider the philosophy or jurisprudence of your proposed law (or Executive order in this case) very carefully someone will most likely eventually overturn it. A wise politician considers the philosophy of his legislation very carefully, making sure to balance the interests of all actors as fairly as possible; something which didn't happen with Trumps immigration ban order. For example when under Trumps new immigration ban executive order US residents who already had 'green cards' which mean they have US citizenship already in place were stopped from re-entering the US, their legal home. The fact that someone is suddenly banned from living in their own country when they already have a legal right to stay permanently is clearly ridiculous and outrageously unfair, you can er bet your bottom dollar that a Judge will overturn it; or at least that it will cause a public outcry that will heap diplomatic pressure on the President and society in general to do something about it.

The Trump Presidency, at least so far, feels like somehow the top banana, the cool guy down your local pub, who likes to set the world to rights after a few pints has managed to blag his way into the Presidency. This top banana always thought 'he or she could do better than those dumb politicians' if only THEY were President. But when the reality of the sheer complexity and difficulty of being President hits home, our top banana really struggles and it  becomes apparent they are 'punching above their weight'. Which I think is the case so far with Donald Trump, however Mr Trump is by no means stupid innately, he should do some fast track study on modern politics asap so to avoid future errors.

There's a reason why politicians have to measure their words, it's because EVERYTHING they say has an impact, the good politician is careful what he or she says, to minimise any negativity from each act. I think Trump's politically incorrect, say whatever comes into your head style may be much more suited to campaigning rather than being in office where unfortunately it ends up looking rather ridiculous.

In the photo, here is an example of what Donald Trump said at a recent prayer  breakfast as compared to what Barack Obama said one year earlier at the same prayer breakfast. It's things like below and ill thought out Executive orders that devalue the office of the Presidency.

We are all human and I understand why Trump may think about 'ratings'; I mean hell anytime when my Blog has a number surge I screen capture the stats and post them on my twitter account. But rambling about TV ratings when your President just isn't appropriate.

Obviously I don't support the more unpleasant things that Donald Trump says or does; but I do think there's another side to Trump that campaigned for President because he genuinely wants to help for good, for altruistic reasons. A big reason Trump gets so angry at the press is because they often just suggest he is a deranged narcissist in it for self-aggrandisement, without recognising the part of Trump's personality that genuinely wants to give something back to society and help the poor 'rust belt' people of America. Believe it or not, I think there is a 'kindly Grandad' side to Donald Trump's personality that wants to give something back and er share his wisdom.

Well Grandad Trump, you blagged your way into this, but now this is 'important business', just like you said on election night. This is not reality TV anymore. It's time Mr President to step up to the challenge, this is not buying and selling hotels any longer, this is way way more of a bigger deal. Each new law has to be carefully thought out, then left for a day or two and revisited and double and treble checked before being published.

We all know that ratings are very important to Donald Trump,  at the moment Trump's Presidential ratings are not looking great, but I think Trump has the potential to turn this around, so come on Mr President.

Raise your game.

James Bickle.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Power *** !

I was watching BBC News this morning and I witnessed Michael Gove being nothing but completely positive about Donald Trump. I speculated in my mind that Gove's behaviour was about power; I don't know what his motives are of course in reality, I can only guess. Gove lost power when he was forced to withdraw from the Prime Ministerial race and yet more power when Theresa May promptly sacked him when she became Prime Minister, so it seems plausable to suggest the Trump cheerleading could be about Gove trying to gain power from Trump.

So then this got me thinking about the concept of power itself, power usually has negative connotations doesn't it. 'He or she is power mad' etc -  but in actual fact, wanting power is a positive and healthy thing; as long as you don't break rules of honesty and decency to get there.

Of course, some people break the rules to become big and powerful, in that case the power the person gained is not impressive, as any power gained via a nefarious route doesn't count, in fact the power gained in this scenario is worse than being a poor and powerless person who has no power at all. 

I think every human being is always trying to gain power, it's normal, you notice it every day in your interaction with your fellow human. It's good to be competitive, to try to gain power if it's pursued for the right reasons with good moral's; but if someone finds themselves lying or cheating to gain power, then it's time to take a step back. As the fact the human being has an advanced personality that can over rule and regulate our primal instinct for power is what distinguishes us from animals. 

As I thought about power today, I was reminded of a place I worked as a young man, a timber mill. I worked on the wood machining section, a skilled job which was valued by the mill owners. There was one man, ('John' we will call him ) who was the top wood machinist, he was experienced and the Mill ownership valued him, I think he got an extra pound an hour than the other machinists kind of thing. 

But interestingly, John would spend literally every tea break defaming the Timber Mill bosses. One director, he alleged, had bought the company 'to it's knees' and was demoted to be Director in charge of transport kind of thing. The main company director, according to John was apparently a foolish and greedy workaholic, cutting corners etc in pursuit of ever more money. Even though John's criticism of the bosses was unfair and inaccurate, I have to say it was entertaining and John was clever. In the tea room we all listened in; myself being a naive young man at the time, kind of half believed John's criticism was correct too. 

When I look back, the same Timber Mill bosses were kindly Christians + fair bossses, investing in new machinery etc and sending the finance director round every year to tell you about your pay rise, in other words they were very good bosses and I noticed that this Timber Mill is a much bigger business  than it's early days when I worked there.

But from a psychology point of view, the interesting question is, what drove John to invest so much time and energy into defaming his bosses? I can again only speculate of course, but I think it was about power, jealousy of the bosses having power that John didn't to be exact. John was top dog on the shop floor, the best paid practical worker, but of course the senior management in the office were better paid and had more status than John, In the natural human desire to gain power, a senior management role was John's  only logical next  step to gain more power, after all he was 'King' of the shop floor already. 

An older person can learn new things of course, but John was getting near to retirement age and seemed set in his ways and I would think the jump to senior management would have been hard for him, computers and a lot new to learn etc. I think John thought he couldn't manage, or at least didn't want to take on the senior managers job even if he was offered it, John couldn't get the power he craved from a promotion. So instead of self-regulating and accepting his predicament; which was the right thing to do of course, John went workplace terrorist so to speak and spent every single break time defaming the bosses. John would also call  them 'pen pushers' in an attempt to undermine and devalue their work. If you think about all this running down of the bosses - to us the captive tea break audience, John was convincing us and himself that in fact he was more powerful and better than senior management, even if that wasn't true. It's not for me to diagnose as I have no qualifications in this area, but perhaps a psychiatrist would confirm John had become a neurotic in this area of his life. John was subconsciously upset and frustrated that he couldn't get up to the next power level,  and in defaming the bosses John was papering over the cracks of the problem, without really getting to the bottom of it all.

I didn't understand why John did this defaming at the time, it was only later on after I had studied psychoanalysis that I started to gain some insight. This John defaming shtick was a bit of a storm in a teacup really, I think another side of John quite liked the bosses and I think the bosses quite liked John, maybe the older  managers understood and over looked John's neurotic behaviour for the greater good.

Anyway, I just thought that was an interesting example to discuss power and the healthy and unhealthy side of it. Let's end on a positive note, power is a good thing, it's normal and right to pursue it, as long as you don't break the 'rules'! 

James Bickle

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Changing News

I was reading a newspaper article (online!) and was surprised to read that Twitter is losing serious money, YouTube is just about breaking even and the only site that makes any money out of the three is Facebook.

I already knew the Guardian newspaper website is losing big money also so this got me wondering: can newspapers survive in an internet age? and if so how...

The thing is, obviously before the internet, paper print newspapers were always going to get bought. People want to know what the news is and didn't always want to listen to radio or television so they brought print newspapers, to read on the train to work etc.

Once the internet came on, people could freely exchange newspaper articles at no cost over the www or via email. The big names newspapers quickly jumped on the internet bandwagon and lots published their newspapers free hoping adverts would fund their online sites. But it's now become clear that although adverts will provide some significant revenue for online newspapers, it's not enough to pay the bills.

So then some newspapers sites introduced paywalls or subscriptions or you can't get access to their sites. This seems to have worked in part, but not enough and for example the dreaded Sun newspaper introduced a paywall and then removed it as it wasn't working out financially.

The bottom line as far as I can work out is, and yes this sounds bleak but also I think it's true. Online newspapers are never going to make a profit with just news alone as internet users can easily share news stories at no financial cost on their Facebook etc and other news organisations will subsidise their news and deliver it free for various reasons.

So having very few news sources in the near future is a concern clearly, as we need a vibrant and free press etc in society for lot's of good reasons.

However, I thought of one way online newspapers can survive (others have bound to have thought of this too I know) and that is to make their news websites not just news, but if you sign up for say a newspaper subscription you get other services also, like say holiday insurance, car insurance and say vehicle breakdown cover. So the other services like the insurance run at a profit, the same profit that pays and subsidises the loss making news side of the same business. The 'free' news that the customer gets when they buy say The Guardian breakdown recovery is the value addedness (I made that word up by the way 'addedness' but let's leave it in!) that the customer gets from buying Guardian breakdown recovery as opposed to AA recovery. Also the Google type adverts on the Guardian site will pay for some of the journalism to be produced, just not all as mentioned earlier.

The above is just one idea, that might work; but the bottom line is here, online news providers have to accept free advert supported news is virtually never going to make a profit, so they need to brainstorm with ideas very quickly or their businesses are going to fail just as quickly.

I hear that the Guardian, well aware it is losing money fast, is currently trialing a range of ideas, such as the one I suggested and other ideas too, then I guess they are planning to drop the ones that don't work and run with the ideas that do work. As this new market is fairly unknown territory, the Guardian's plan seems very smart, pioneering even and I have my fingers crossed for the Guardians survival in the future.

James Bickle

Never Say Never Again

This Blog started in April 2012 - it was a difficult time in recent political history - Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne weren't going crazy, b...