Here’s an extract from an essay I penned back in Spring 2015, published on Kindle. You can find the full Caliphate essay and words on Go-pro bike vigilantes, Simon Cowell’s circus of fear, London vs The Rest of the UK economy, Putin the Red Monarch and more, all in Notes From Margins.

kindle books on culture, politics, opinion, ISIS, caliphate, middle east, terrorism,

Collected essays, published 2015.

But these great `isms’ of preceding centuries, (communism, imperialism and fascism) which caused so much conflict and conveniently fuelled the great technological leaps that global capitalist empires needed to prosper, and expand, have run out of steam.
Although it seems obvious to anyone with half a functioning brain that constant economic growth, increasing consumerism and ever fatter people, gorging on convenience foods, is unsustainable, it remains the central plank of the free market capitalism that empowers modern democracies. In short, without ever cooler looking cars, bigger KFC buckets, more sugary snacks and fancier iPhones the general population doesn’t see any great benefit in modern democracy as a concept. The whole point of living in a `free’ democracy is that you get to own things (on credit) and your wages are high enough to buy leisure time, which is something that about half the world’s population simply do not have. The world’s poor work brutally long hours, struggle to find food and shelter and then they become horribly ill and die, much like our ancestors in Europe did before the late 19th century. This is how life was for many people in Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, Egypt and Syria under the regimes of powerful dictators for much of the last 30-40 years.
Dictators like Mubarak of Eygpt, Gadaffi in Libya, Hussein in Iraq, kept order with brutal efficiency. Political opposition was crushed without mercy, political opposition ringleaders were often tortured and their families executed. These great dictators also stirred up an abiding hatred of the West, to distract attention from their own greed and corruption, as they asset-stripped their own country’s wealth and hid it in Switzerland. All the strong men of the Middle East tolerated Islam, but rarely encouraged it, preferring to publicise themselves as a kind of Soviet personality cult instead.
Everything was sweet until Saddam Hussein went berserk and decided to annexe Kuwait, in a very similar way to say Britain grabbing the Falkland Islands in the 19th century, Hitler anschlussed Austria, or Putin’s Russia absorbed Crimea. Alarmed, the Saudi monarchy lifted the Batphone and called in the Marines, in case their oil wells were next on Saddam’s wish list. Suddenly, Western democracies were engaged in two major military operations, which eventually required the full-scale invasion of a heavily populated country, in order to nail one annoying, moustache-dyeing man.
The second Gulf War featured laser guided, video air strikes, special forces acting undercover, and a motley coalition of regular soldiers battling their way into towns and villages, shooting civilians almost at random. Gulf War 2, which might well be termed `The Hunt For Saddam’ in Hollywood parlance, was a watershed moment in geo-politics. For the very first time, people in the Middle East could see, in all its naked shame, the endgame of modern western democracies; regime change to suit the global oil and consumer industries.
Did a LARGE SCALE coalition force invade Congo, Zimbabwe, Uganda or Somalia to stop civil war, ethnic genocide or other horrors? No, of course not. Did the USA and its allies go in hard against China to give Tibet its longed-for independence, or clean up the drug baron economy of Colombia once and for all? Nope. No cheaper gas prices to be had there.
When Saddam Hussein was conveniently found alive, and then tried and hanged by his own Iraqi judges, the West was satisfied. Mission accomplished. But the world was already changing as a new generation of Middle Eastern muslims utterly rejected the core ideas of western democracies; consumerism, equality of men and women, technological progress for its own sake and the toleration of other religions. At exactly the same point in history as the old `strong men’ of the Middle East were being swept away, a new generation of radicalised young muslim men began to flex their muscles and rally round the black flag of ISIS. The idea of nationhood was being replaced by the concept of a global caliphate – a true global nation, a family of Islam.

caliphate, ancient, idea, islam, politics, rise, ISIL, state,

The caliphate successfully filled the vacuum left by the Romans. It is doing the same again in modern times.

It’s easy to think that these demagogues of jihad, Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law were automatically against the dictators of the past like Ben Ali in Tunisia, Assad in Syria, or higher profile ones such as Gaddaffi and Hussein. But the idea of an Islamic State – ISIL, or IS if you like – is of course nothing new. It is essentially a rebranding of the idea of an Islamic Caliphate, which once stretched from Afghanistan to Southern Spain. This idea never went away; it remained underground, discussed in mosques where the secret agents employed by dictators feared to tread too heavily. For organised religion brings great comfort to those who have very little in terms of material possessions, and so it was – and is – tolerated by Middle Eastern dictatorships today. Indeed you could argue it is a necessary prop for many regimes, because without faith, order via Imans, and strict rules such as no drinking, gambling or fornicating with loose men or women, such states would be more difficult to control.
So the explanation of why the time for a new Caliphate is right, is complicated by the lip service that western politicians pay to democracy itself. In supporting the idea of `freedom’ and tacitly supporting those activist groups willing to take on dictators like Gadaffi, Assad, Mubarak et al, the West undermined their own empires by encouraging a blossoming of almost medieval hatred. Many who opposed the great dictators found it briefly expedient to promote, or support the idea of an `Arab Spring,’ to chime the bell of freedom in Washington, London and Brussels, as armed gangs stormed into palaces, and exacted bloody revenge on local Police, military officials and associated regime hangers-on. For a brief moment it was all heady talk of democracy, women in Egypt having careers and babies and new political parties being formed, even `parliaments.’ But those who led the actual armed gangs doing the dirty work, the fighting in the streets and souks, weren’t interested in cosy EU style committee discussions on fishing quotas, or British parliamentary debates, conducted by overweight buffoons in badly fitting Marks and Spencer suits. Instead, these men wanted the wrath of God to empower them, for the very first time, to chase away every white face from their countries. To take back what was stolen from them centuries before, by the Christian proselytising soldiers of Imperialism. And who can blame them?

Read more here;

real versus fake 9ct gold

Ring on the left is fake, real gold on the right.

I used to be a journalist, now I run a jewellers shop and one thing we do is buy in scrap or unwanted gold.

It’s fraught with difficulty because the price of gold bullion fluctuates and you often find gold plated, rolled gold or gold on silver items being offered. Sometimes there’s downright fakery involved and a brass-copper alloy ring is stamped 18K, when in fact it isn’t worth 18p.

So here are five good ways to spot fake gold, just in case someone tells you that they have run out of fuel and are willing to sell their wedding ring to you for £30 at the local BP petrol station.

  1. Is it magnetic? Real gold, or silver, isn’t the slightest bit magnetic. So if it clings to a magnet, then it ain’t gold, end of story.
  2. Are there UK hallmarks clearly stamped on the ring? A full set of marks usually includes a makers mark, a 375/585/750 number, plus an Assay office mark; rose for Sheffield, anchor for Birmingham, that type of thing. Pre=1973 gold does not have to have a hallmark on it, but most rings do have an assay office marking, date letter and makers mark.

    checking hallmarks on gold jewellery

    Check the hallmarks carefully, as a wonky `18K’ stamp is not a correct UK hallmark.

  3. If the ring feels really, really heavy then it probably has lead inside it a copper-nickel alloy. W ehave even seen glass inside an outer covering of gold.
  4. Is it too yellow? Be careful here, as chinese or indian gold is very yellow in its finish – it’s just the style that is popular in the Far East, but if it is Far East gold, then it may not be hallmarked. UK gold tends to be either a rose colour (9 carat mixed with copper to give a rosy glow) or a very rich, almost tawny coloured yellow. If it looks like yellow dog sick, then it probably isn’t gold.

    fake gold bangles, filled jewellery

    Far Eastern jewellery, like heavy bangles, can be filled with glass, a kind of cement, or silver, to give them serious weight. Beneath an outer layer of 18-22K gold, they’re faking it…

  5. If the ring has cubic zirconia stones set on it then it might not be gold – generally, cheaper CZ stones are set on silver. It is commion practice for many TV and internet retailers to sell `gold on silver’ rings with thin shanks and massive, blingy looking gemstones atop of them. If you use a magnifying glass and see `RG’ stamped inside the ring or `GP’ it means gold plated.

Hope that helped and if you want to know more about gold, then check out our pages at

Long ago, newspapers covered the news. But the internet has debased the whole idea of news gathering, to the point where there are hardly any real documentaries on TV, politics is a pitiful slanging match between party drones, and national newspapers pepper their web pages with pathetic clickbait headlines like the one below.

seo, clickbait, examples, marketing, socailmedia, content, marketing

Newspapers cannot survive long term on clickbait drivel like this.

Why would anyone with a brain ask `what time is Strictly on?’

There’s this thing called iPlayer, so you can’t really miss it. If you’re a Strictly fan, then you would know when it was on.

By the way, the headline should read `who leaves?’ not `leave.’ Basic subbing error there, which spellchecker doesn’t pick up – betrays how many posh kids work on papers now, untrained, with worthless degrees and careers founded on chumocracy, not merit.

Clickbait Will Kill Newspapers

Replacing real sub-editing with crap headlines generated by Google queries turns online papers into a kind of Wikipedia-lite. Yes, it ticks an SEO box and may well drag a few hundred fools into the Telegraph site, all of whom want one single question answering. But will they stay and read the paper? Of course not, they’ll scarper soon as possible, and once your advertisers discover how fickle these surfing buffoons truly are, they will start looking for other ways to reach an audience too.

Clickbait SEO is like colouring books for adults. Pathetic, sad, cheap, repetitive and ultimately degrading. People deserve better and everyone involved in this grubby shambles should man up, (or woman-up) and start writing witty, incisive headlines and well researched news stories that give the reader a solid set of reasons for coming back one day, or even paying to consume online news content.

Because in the end, that is the only way that editors and writers will get paid a living wage.

This is an extract from an essay collection, just published on the Kindle, called `Notes From the Margins.

In this one, I look at how social media was hijacked by trolls, both professional and amateur and an ever growing band of Twitter and Facebook Police squads now trawl social media, looking for easy peasy convictions. The net result is that anyone with something to lose in life; career, mortgage, relationship, reputation etc. simply doesn’t dare express any type of opinion on controversial subjects. Freedom of expression is being surrendered voluntarily, because we live in fear of a careless tweet costing us everything we have worked for.

Here’s a brief extract;

But the saddest truth of all is that social media networks once empowered those without a voice to speak openly, not especially in Europe and the USA, but in countries where dictatorships held sway, and that brief flame of free thought, and speech, has been all but extinguished.
Look at the Orange revolution in Ukraine, the fall of the Mubaruk dynasty in Eygpt, or way opposition to regimes in Libya, Tunisia, Russia or China has used social media. Ideas were debated, demonstrations planned on FB, Twitter or other networks. News travelled faster than conventional TV and radio news organisations could disseminate it. Think about that tipping point when Sky News, the BBC and other networks began using hashtags in bulletins and trained their old fashioned reporters how to use Twitter, Blackberry Messenger and other tools to gather news faster than before. In that moment, social media changed the world because it empowered the voiceless. People became their own editors, en masse, arguably for the first time in history.

kindle books on culture, politics, opinion

Just a collection of opinions.

Yet that wonderful blossoming of free speech has been eradicated by government censorship, as the rise of IS has prompted all kinds of government agency spying. There is also a sinister acceptance that social media is intrinsically `bad’ amongst the general population. It is being painted as a hiding place for troublemakers, terrorists, stalkers, trolls, would-be lone bombers etc.
We now have a new willingness to denounce others. Recent UK government orders to public sector workers that they should `blow the whistle’ on colleagues is just the start of it. Soon, within a decade or so, Orwell’s vision of people spying on their work colleagues, neighbours and friends, and then accusing them anonymously, will become reality. Those who see `abuse’ on social media and refuse to alert the authorities by ticking a box, will find themselves accepting a Police caution, which means they will fail a CRB check for the rest of their working lives. In the last three years (2011-14) some 300 people in Wales alone have had legal action taken against them by the Police for comments on social media.
That is the second reason why free speech is being abolished; your career is at risk because of ONE ill-thought remark, or a click of a `Like’ button after one too many beers. This is a censorship by implied threat on behalf of the state – tweet at your peril, you may lose your job, pension and the roof over your head. So shut up. Nobody, except the very rich and powerful, will dare to speak out on social media in ten years or so. The danger of financial ruin, perhaps even jail, will be too great.
You are free to post endless `Je Suis Charlie’ photos online, but should you dare to express a strong view on Islamic extremism, obese children eating too many Frosties, gay visitors at boarding houses and so on, you may be arrested by the social media Police. In the end, we will only be free to speak about trivia; celebs, sport, fashion, soaps – the dull, palliative opiates of our culture.

You can buy the full collection of waffling essays, covering topics like the inexorable rise of an Islamic Caliphate, the strange crucifixion of Jeremy Clarkson, or how angry white guys with Go-Pros spoiled cycling for everyone, here;*Version*=1&*entries*=0

SEO guidelines and content marketing tips

SEO is two things; good, original content, and funny woodpecker photos.

In the latest round of search engine tweaks, Google says that mobile searches will now feature more news results, rather than the frankly irrelevant results, that a typical search on your iPhone or Android device might bring up.

There is a distinct problem with phone searches on Google in my view. Far too often the results feature photos near the top of page, when you haven’t asked for photos. Ditto video clips. If you’re looking for a very detailed answer to a technical question, then a phone search is often frustrating, and ultimately a waste of time. You just don’t get the answers you want, unless you fire up a PC or laptop. Then the search results are more relevant, more focussed.

Why this should be, remains a mystery to me, but anything that can be done to improve phone searches can only be good news. However, the thing is, not all UK news sources are useful.

For example, most regional UK newspaper sites are appallingly written, littered with basic spelling and grammatical errors, plus they feature a selection of spammy adverts and sponsored advertorial links, disguised as `news’ at the foot of each page. Surely these spammy links break the early Penguin and Panda updates from back in 2012? Why is Google giving high page rank to regional news sites which cannot publish a story without placing three or four adverts within the tedious, often childishly written, copy?

Here’s another example; The Mirror site now carries sponsored news stories on the tragic, broken lives of those people willing to prostitute their personal lives on the Jeremy Vile – sorry, Kyle – TV show. This is NOT news. It’s a blatant advert for a TV channel and some might say it demeans The Mirror, the tabloid that likes to boast `makes you think.’

Other national newspapers are also keen on making their sites pay by featuring all manner of PR related content – I will say it again, this `content’ is not news.

It isn’t unbiased, it often isn’t that informative and frequently has recycled quotes and facts trawled from previous web searches. In short, there isn’t any real journalism going on; no fact checks, no original phone call quotes, no rival points of view mentioned. No depth of insight. It’s `churnalism,’ not journalism.

If Google can filter out this type of `news’ result, then phone searches will improve for users, but I doubt it. Expect more spammy content, more dreary, `celeb’ and reality TV show news and ultimately, expect more disappointment when searching for the info you want.

Like most monopolies, Google’s grip on search engine tech isn’t a good thing in the long run.

google seo updates, new algorithm changes

more news content in phone searches could be a good thing, but what is `news’ these days?

Is being listed on Google News essential SEO?

Always remember, not everyone looking for your business uses Google News

Recently Google emailed webmasters to remind them that they can apply to have their site listed in Google News. There is a tickbox check list, where you describe what your `news’ site is about, add author info – links to G+ author profiles are good too – and link to a `Contact Us’ page.

But is it worth it? Will it boost your page rank for your target keywords?

Hmm, that’s a tricky one and the short answer is `It probably will help your SEO, but the cost in manpower, cash and time might not be worth it.’

Brands Don’t Always Need to Be Publishers

That’s the first thing to remember. Global companies selling mass market products and services like Nike, Virgin, Pepsi, Samsung, TUI travel or VW cars need to publish because they have stories worth telling. Blogs, You Tube and Vimeo videos, social media channels and old fashioned press releases and news features – yep, all on the check list.

But some brands don’t need to try and be `news channels’ and hire content creation teams of editors, video specialists, presenters, event bloggers, tweeters and more.

seo tips and advice for business

Does Rolex need a news channel? Nope, they have thousands of news channels doing that work for free.

For example, if you were Rolex, would you need to produce lots of news, so that you always had something in Google News’s 30 day-ish archive?

No, you would not, because your target customer isn’t trawling the web looking for Rolex bargains, or a new franchise hut opening up next to Nando’s at the retail park. Your Rolex buyer is on a yacht somewhere, planning the downfall of a business rival using secret surveillance, table dancers and a tame journalist on the Sunday Mirror.

Besides, you have about 800 luxury lifestyle bloggers in the UK alone desperately recycling any Rolex content they can in order to generate web traffic, plus 50 watch magazines, upmarket business titles and newspapers etc all covering any snippet of Rolex related news that appears on the horizon.

All you need is a clever PR agency, not an army of news editors located in a Swiss bunker creating daily content.

Brands That Offer News Should Tread Carefully

It’s one thing hiring journalists, bloggers and photographers, but you need to make sure they are SEO trained, and understand how to walk the line between PR spin and useful, accurate product infomation.

Once you start out trying to create `something that goes viral’ you’re sunk. Follow old fashioned news guidelines; who, what, why, when etc. Tell a succinct story, stick to the point and always – I mean always – add at least three superb copyright free photos, or a professionally produced video clip.

Once you skimp on production costs by outsourcing, then your brand suffers by association. Your news channel looks cheap, then so does your product.

SEO guidelines and content marketing tips

SEO is a process. There is no `quick fix.’ Any agency who promises instant results is lying to you. Fact.

Finally, always remember that Google doesn’t archive news stories for long, so all that cash you spend on editors, writers, photographers etc could be for minimal coverage.

You might be better off investing in making your website more interesting, interactive or doing more special offers, competitions or dealing with customer complaints better on Twitter and Facebook.

Don’t forget Google Plus too – few people use it in the UK, but it has a disproportionately large effect on your site’s page rank and overall visibility.

Using G+ is like harnessing an SEO tidal surge – all your boats will rise.


Google recently rolled out a `Pigeon’ algorithm update in the USA, which aims to give higher page rank to

seo tips - add g+ for better page rank for small businesses

Add some G+ content if you want a good organic search result.

local businesses. So when people browse for restaurants, dry cleaning, florists, pizza, motorcycle spare parts, days out etc. they should see more local search results on P1, not just the nearest branches of the big brands.

We can assume the same Pigeon search tweak will start to affect UK traffic in the next month or so, which makes it even more important that small businesses in the UK get on G+ and add ALL the data they can.

Your opening hours, phone number, map location, photo gallery of your products, email – plus some interesting blog posts – should all be showing up on your G+ channel.

Case Study: PJ’s Jewellers Wins New Customers With G+

If you’re not on G+ then I can say that your search results could be negatively affected, and a recent SEO experiement proved this theory.

Although PJ’s Jewellers are already on Facebook and Twitter, I added a recent series of posts on G+, plus a reasonably sized photo gallery, updated opening hours and correctly located the Google Maps pin, as Google didn’t recognise the location of the shop at all.

This was because the shop was located on a street that was long since made into a pedestrianised walkway. So if your shop or office isn’t showing up on Google Maps, don’t wait for the Google car to pass by – get the info updated yourself on G+ asap.

Also started a Pinterest channel and linked some posts to the PJ’s Twitter feed.

Early indications are this activity has made a useful difference to the ranking for PJ’s Jewellers in Warrington, depending on the keyword search term of course.

Now a local search for `PJ’s Jewellers’ brings up all the G+ data on the right hand page of P1 on Google and more importantly, people visiting the shop are saying they’ve seen PJ’s Jewellers on Google, or “I googled `sell your gold for cash in Warrington’ and your shop came up.”

how G+ social media helps small uk businesses

G+ map pin, biz info, fresh content and photos all helped bring in new customers.

Other positive results include;

`Jewellers Warrington’ on Google Maps now shows the shop, previously there was no pin visible at all.

Over 1100 page views of the PJ’s G+ pages during July

PJ’s are still getting customers from Facebook and the site is also performing very well for the business.

The Yell site has years of traction behind it, or `trust and authority’ as Google calls it for algorithm purposes, so for many small companies in the UK a mix of old fashioned, proven marketing methods, plus utilising all the social media channels you can afford to do, is arguably the best way to get good results from online marketing.

There is no `magic bullet’ with SEO, but when Google Pigeon rolls out in the UK, it could be wise to have your G+ site fine tuned, with 100% accurate business info listed, and some interesting content on there.