Saturday, 1 July 2006

Pathways to death

After reading this - even if it is American - I am going to get into my bed and pull the covers up over my head.

Good news week

At a time when much of the daily news is dire, drab or defeatist, is is good to come across a blog where "news" comes from the mind of the writer.

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Try here for a cheery read.

Thursday, 29 June 2006

Wednesday, 28 June 2006


I bought some perfume for Mrs 22674586 over the Internet from a firm in Hong Kong. It all turned up OK other than the fact that HM Customs had got their grubby paws on it and charged me GB£10 on it.

My experiences whilst living in Hong Kong led me to have low opinions of how things went on. The buy was still a lot cheaper than I could have found in UK and I was prepared to write the tax off to a lack of experience from my prejudices.

I then noticed that there was a section on the firm's web page where they said that whilst guaranteeing nothing, they were prepared to think about paying any customs dues on their shipment. I sent them an email with my tale of woe. They came back with instructions as to how to get a refund from them.

Well done say I. I still hold my prejudice but am prepared to think that the Chinese way of doing things is better than things were when the gwai lo were in charge.

Monday, 26 June 2006

We can only hope

Time to call a halt?

It will soon be a year since the London transport bombings. There does not seem to be a lot of closure. We await the report on the dead Brazilian and this may well prove to be the final nail in Commissioner Ian Blair’s coffin. The inquiries into what we did or didn’t know didn’t tell us much worth knowing and have generated their own contentious spin off as to what the Americans may have told us. Things we would have expected the inquiry to reveal, such as a police-type tracking device on one of the bombers’ cars, have come to light. The victims’ action group are still pressing for a public inquiry and are upset at the levels of compensation received by those injured.

All in all an unsatisfactory position a year after the events.

Arising from the bombings we have seen a worsening of relations with the wider Islamic community. The attacks may well have strengthened the government case for national ID cards which promise a vast financial burden. Emergency legislation has been proposed against almost total ridicule and universal opposition and has challenged the very basis of our establishment. The Metropolitan police have been shaken and demoralised by criticism of its procedures and performance. We know little of events in our intelligence services but it would seem that they have lost some public confidence.

And, what exactly has caused all this? The fear of terrorism. In actual physical loss, the deaths were less than the weekly toll of road traffic accidents. The casualties were of the same significance.  There is a chance that a particularly well planned terrorist operation using chemical or biological munitions would cause a large loss of life. We are told that the police have frustrated a number of further attacks but are allowed no information as to what these might have involved or their seriousness. Given the magnitude of police effort in the case of a supposed suicide cyanide waistcoat, we might assume that the incidents that were halted without coming to public attention may not have been very significant. It would seem that the chances of being harmed by terrorism are about the same as winning a roll-over lottery draw.

So, why are we submitting ourselves to the supposed will and performance of a group of terrorists? They are achieving a large percentage of their aims without exposing themselves to any real danger of detection. They have disrupted our lives and we are extending that disruption by our own random thrashing about. Why are we concerned at what we may or may not have been told? Knowledge of this will not be of any benefit to events in the past. If it did happen, steps will have been taken to make sure there can be no recurrence. If it did not, measures will have been put in place against the risk that we are not so lucky in the future.

A public inquiry will tell us little that we do not know now. Even if it did, to what end? The harsh truth of the matter is that some 77 people are dead and a large number injured to a greater or lesser degree. Whilst the actual event was traumatic by its violence, blinded is blinded, amputation is amputation, and psychological damage is the same however these injuries were sustained. If the compensation is the same, what is unfair or wrong with that? Life is not a bed of roses.

The expense, time and resources currently devoted to terrorism are, I consider, disproportionate to the risk. We need to get clever. The mechanism of immigration control and vetting of asylum seekers has to be much more thorough. Ongoing supervision of our law enforcement forces has to be raised. Never again should they be placed in the position where manpower questions mean that they have to choose who should be targeted and who would be left alone. I do not advocate a country with STASI/Gestapo/KGB/Mossad type controls but we must be more suspicious of others who might not have a readily discoverable agenda. This inevitably will mean giving up some of what we regard as our freedoms but to carry on as we have been over the past year is doing the terrorists work for them.