Saturday, 26 August 2006

Where the heck have YOU been?

My period off-air was my own fault for taking up a TalkTalk offer to combine much cheaper telephone calls with free Broadband services. I suppose you can when it works but the response was so great that the TT people could not handle it. They completely fouled up on the transfer, which meant that I was off-air for about a month. I’m still not live but I’m blogging so as to keep up to date with my blether and so that I would not have too much to write when things/if things sorted themselves out.

I suppose the major thing has been Lebanon. What this has demonstrated is just how powerless the world community is to have much of an effect upon regional events. I think the reasons for this are interesting. The great and the good have much to say but fail to recognise just how desperate things are. The entrenched Muslim position is that Israel has no right to be where they are. The extremists even deny the right of the Jews to exist anywhere. Israel claims that the land is rightly theirs, wishes to live in peace and will never again find themselves in a 1935-1945 position. Talking will not change things. My main thought is that Israel, in confronting this basic aim of Palestine and the Arab world in general, has lost the propaganda war where the onlookers think their reaction is non-proportional in respect of the kidnapping of two soldiers.

Just as much try and reason with a homicidal maniac high on drugs. Let us assume that the leaders of the Islamic terrorists do come to some agreement with Israel. They do not have sufficient control over their members to ensure that just a few do not go rogue and continue to fire rockets into Israeli territory. This would provoke a reaction from IDF and the whole thing would be off again.
The attitude of the media is also interesting. They make the maximum use of press briefings from the Israeli side and ask aggressive questions before seemingly rejecting the answers they receive. We do not see any interviews with the terrorist leaders. No questions like “So, Mr Mohammed. What did you expect the Israeli to do when you kidnapped their soldiers?” or “How did you think they would respond to the firing of rockets into their land?” The way in which Muslims demonstrate grief and anger is very demonstrative and provides good images. The damage to Arab villages is very graphic when high explosives strike. We were shown a devastated village that, the Press stated, had been a terrorist stronghold and where there had been some 9 or more IDF deaths. Who can say what damage came from the defenders resisting and which from the attackers advancing? Why do we not see what damage there is in, say, Haifa when over 200 rockets are fired in a day?  Israeli people are far more stoic – can one say dignified? – in the face of death so do not attract the lenses like Arabs.

Still, it cannot be too serious. Our Prime Minister is having a farewell tour of USA. He saw big Arnold and signed a deal with California on global warning. That reminded me of when the small London borough of Ealing declared itself a nuclear-free zone. I suppose they thought the radiation would see the signs and go round them. The wide-mouthed frog was not with him. This relieved her minders of a drunken Scouse rendering of Hasta la vista Baby.

Another Police Complaints report out today. This one was regarding the shooting of an innocent man during an early morning police raid on his home involving 200 officers. Seems it was an accident. The number of police deployed can illustrate the presumed threat and it would be reasonable for high adrenaline levels in the attacking group. The usual background to the discharge of a firearm described as accidental is where the weapon has some fault that allowed or caused a round to be fired without intervention of the weapon handler. All other discharges are negligent. A highly trained officer should be able to avoid negligence. Suggestion seems to be that it was an accident as there was some physical contact between shooter and shot person. That is negligence. So, one more in a series of highly publicised shootings by police expert marksmen and it was all OK, just one of those things. Just how Independent is the Independent complaint system? Another thing that was revealed was that the police intruders were shouting “Armed Police” but could not be heard as the sound was muffled behind their gas masks. Why did the police not know from their training that they were silenced in this manner? Where is the legal responsibility if their required warnings cannot be heard?

Another 3 soldiers killed in ambush in Afghanistan. You remember – the place where the Defence Secretary said he hoped that not a shot would be fired in anger? It is also the place where there is a long tradition of rebel tribesmen inflicting heavy losses on the British army. In Iraq, the terrorists resort to roadside bombs that remove them from real danger, in the latest attack the Afghans were confident enough to confront a convoy of 12 armoured vehicles. The convoy was itself a symptom of how marginal things are. We have forts in Indian country where some 50 or so soldiers live in a village and use it as a base for patrols.

The normal re-supply by road has been deemed too dangerous and helicopters should be used. Except that we do not have enough helicopters. I’m sure that to Afghan eyes a helicopter is just a fatter and more valued target than an armoured vehicle. We do have some Apache attack choppers and one was called in at the latest attack. It killed one tribesman so either we need some better pilots or the simple peasant has camouflage talent sufficient to beat the very expensive and sophisticated weapons systems one would expect in a machine designed to find and kill the enemy. I listen to the morning news with some dread lest I hear a report that the assassins have got into one of the forts and wiped it off the map.

I have a resolution to the TalkTalk broadband saga. I got hold of a Customer Services telephone number and, after the obligatory 30-minute wait on hold, spoke to someone who spoke English I could understand. Reviewing my notes on her screen, she admitted that I was not likely to be connected until late August and all the talk of routers and software in the post was a ruse. We agreed this telling of falsehoods was reprehensible. I had no interest in a relationship where the service centre agents lied – not just one but three different people had told me the ‘in the post’ lie. I got the number of the department that could take my cancellation of the agreement.

This hides behind another (surely designed to annoy) set of options. Make a wrong choice and, bingo, you are cut off. I got the selection right at the second go. Then followed 51 minutes of “Sorry for the delay. Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold” If they are sorry for the delay, they should do something about it by getting more lines and extra staff. Ditto if they truly feel the call is important. I can understand why there might be a shortage of staff in this department as the agents are in the heavyweight fighter class. That is heavy as in sumo wrestlers and not boxing.

The lady I won in the raffle was very correct but quite keen to gain the initiative. An early exchange came when I mentioned a ‘router’ as an item I expected. I was briskly told it was not a ‘router’ but was a ‘modem’. I responded that to serve her pedantic demands and to save confusion I would refer to it as a small box made of what appeared to be black plastic with connecters and wires that one joined to one’s computer to get a internet connection. I found pleasure in making frequent reference to the router/modem in these terms. My dragon then went on to tell me that my connection was live. I asked how a connection could be said to exist if something were only attached at one end. I understood live in this context to be like a electric current. I received no shock. The conversation then descended into the realms of a Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch. This is a dead connection loomed. I finally tired of her waspish responses and said I wanted to abandon the whole TalkTalk saga. “That will need a £70 cancellation fee” said she. I queried exactly what it was that cost £70 that had to be done to cancel something that had never existed. She offered me a contact to whom I could write for an explanation. I told her TalkTalk would get their money. I would get the benefit of telling anyone who would listen, just what a load of rubbish was TalkTalk and their backer Carphone Warehouse. So – dear reader; be aware. Be very aware. They cannot deliver what they promise (TV programme 2 August), their telephone administration system is rubbish and agents are allowed to lie to cover their deficiencies.

I think it would be a good piece of legislation for call centres to be run by a rival company. I am sure that Apple could run the service centre for Microsoft with a great deal more honesty and confidence. Sky or Orange should take over the TalkTalk operation. They would then respond much better to complaints.

The very hot weather seems to have moved away. Expert local opinion is that the rain we had was not really sufficient and the crops are sure to be below par. Planting for winter wheat and barley cannot start as the ground is too dry for the seeds to germinate. The local farmers try so very hard that it is sad to see the problems they have. Not many latest registration Range Rovers around here. The dog enjoyed the heat as we changed the beach/country regime to beach every day. She still got the exercise swimming and did not overheat so dangerously as she had done up on the hill. My personal thermostat has failed; the tropical heat that fazed me not at all would surely kill me now.

The main p.c. over-cooked itself. The power pack melted. This is being written on one of the laptops and the iMac has come back into play for correspondence. Delivery time for a new pack is in the TalkTalk league – five or six days. I just hope that the cleft in the messenger’s stick does not penetrate the packaging. I am told that it used to be possible during the afternoon to write a postcard invitation to take tea that day and it would get there in time. So much for progress!

Slowly, gradually, painfully, things seem to be coming back towards normal. The ‘proper’ p.c. is back with a double-size fan assembly and it is certainly much cooler. After some very heated discussions with TalkTalk, I have the Migration Code I need for BT to take me on. I still think it is strange that I have a line I paid for, for which I pay a rental, where I may choose my Internet supplier but where I have to obtain authority from another to decide what is connected to that line.

So – we have what is described as a Cease Fire. Israel will remain in Lebanon until the multi-nation force gets set up and deploys. Not much chance of anything going wrong there then! The cheese eating surrender monkeys of La Belle France were well to the fore with the offer of 200 engineers. This in a force destined to be 15,000 strong. You can bet your apples that the engineers would not go anywhere or try anything military unless guarded by a strong infantry presence.

I was amazed at the so-called ‘friendly’ Muslim community warning us that the terrorist violence in UK was likely to continue until we changed our attitudes and policies to Arab nations. If this is not supporting the terrorists, what is? They have the same relationship to the murderers as Sinn Fein had to the Provisional IRA. Shagger Prescott has met with them so we will have sold the pass there then. They are all about restitution of the Muslim empire as it was in it’s heyday so a whole swathe of the Middle East from Turkey to mid-Spain will have to adopt Sharia. They do not care how they get it but that is their aim – they claim with Holy backing.