Saturday, 25 November 2006

Not as easy ........

So, what's the problem in Iraq? is a question that I bet is on a lot of civilians lips and minds. High tech Army, high tech equipment, brave and dutiful soldiers fighting shoeless Ayrabs who ride around on donkeys. The Guest blog gives a good insight.

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Not as easy as it looks

Lebanon lemons

I was fairly comfortable with the popular opinion that Syria is behind the killings in Lebanon. Until, that is, a name from the past suddenly sprung out of the recent coverage. Walid Jumblatt. His was a name one heard in the late '60s whenever there was talk of dirty works in Beirut - and there was a lot of that.

The way the government was eleted back then with one family controlling the post of Prime Minister and with religion as a factor meant that the people of Lebanon lived in interesting times. Wally was a prime mover then and it may be that he is one of those going for a later retirement age.


If that subject offends, look away now.

I am driven to this subject by a couple of similar but unconnected incidents that have caused me to ponder.

The Scottish writer Ian Rankin (he does the Insp Rebus books) was commenting on how graphically violence was depicted in the modern crime novel. He said that the most detailed accounts came from women writers and a fair number of those were lesbians. This remark was given an outing (pun intended) on the BBC radio programme Womans' Hour. Rankin, wisely perhaps, declined to appear but the programme had gathered a number of women writers who, quelle surprise, included outed lesbians. Within a very short while the debate degenereated into a crusade for the joys of sisterhood and how dare anyone include the word lesbian in any uncomplimentary comment.

Nothing against women defending their corner or even being forthright in their views and comments when doing so. However, this trait of attack-dog behaviour came close to two other incidents that had involved me. These involved a couple of forum I (used to) read and contribute to. We were all going along nicely with the usual banter one meets amongst people who may have known each other prior to joining the internet community. Then, something I cannot now recall, led one of the women to write a thread in which she disclosed that she was a lesbian. This attracted no untoward remarks but two other women also revealed that they hade similar life styles. There was some to and fro as to whether being a lesbian was a choice or a gene thing and the thread died down.

About a week after the minor upheaval, a comment was posted that was not out of line with previous topics. It was not - prima facie - in any way connected to lesbianism. However, the women who had outed themselves all jumped to attack the poster as if it had been a direct and vicious attack upon them. They were ultra-defensive and extremely strident.

Within a few days, the same course of events arose on another forum I used. As soon as the woman wrote about her previously secret lesbianism, I groaned. I knew what was to happen. And it did. The same misapprehension as to being targetted. The same wild-cat spitting and clawing at anyone who came near.

Both forum are dead in the water. Contributers are afraid to write lest they be accused as gay and lesbian bashers.

It is the stridency that annoys me. I do not really care what anyone gets up to in their own life. My attitude to gay and lesbian attitudes is that I have no problem with them so long as they do not affect me or mine. I cannot understand why reasonable-minded people should reveal their likes and dislikes and then react so violently at the slightest self-perceived adverse comment. They do neither their cause or themselves any favours.

Friday, 24 November 2006

Master of the terrorist universe

Some while back I expressed doubt about the self-confessed terrorist who had admitted (allegedly) planning to blow up just about everything everywhere. The organisational requirement was immense, procurement of materials and support was a mammoth task and timing required some sort of atomic clock.

So seems I am not the only one with doubts.

New version

After all that resistence to change of the past weeks, I've finally capitulated and switched to the new version. Given that I do not foresee doing any dragging and dropping (whatever that may be) or any of the other claimed benefits, any change will go largely over my head.

No - I changed just for a quiet life. I got fed up with having to sign in everytime I wanted to create a new blog despite my not having signed out from a previous session. I'm quite sure that this new and unwanted process was just a lever applied to make me change.

Perhaps I shall now be able to get on with living my life the way I want it.

Here we go again

I think we are getting near to saturation point with inventive defences from police officers who are charged with criminal offences or whose official conduct comes under scrutiny. Men shot whilst "armed" with table legs, Brazilians shot at Tube stations, Muslims arrested for terrorism whilst surrounded by almost two hundred officers ... the list goes on.

The latest - latest as far as we know that is; what else might be bubbling under, concerns a constable prosecuted for speeding in a town centre. He registered on a speed detector situated just short of a Chinese take-away shop. Seems he had ordered a take away to celebrate his brithday with his friends. His claim was that he had heard of an incident and decided to join in the action. His keen attitude was such that he chose not to lose any time by reporting his decision to play without any invite. Instead of getting onto the quickest route, he wound his way through busy inner-city streets. But, God was good to this paragon constable - the chase was called off. Just when he was yards short of his take-away. Where he was 25 minutes late in picking up his sweet and sour. Seems that the Judge took away this defence and accepted it.

I know the police in general do a rotten job - albeit one they volunteer for. They deserve sympathy when forced into situations the ordinary citizen will ever see even in a nightmare. But this molly coddlying in letting them go free will never improve public perception that there is one law for them and another quite different one for an officer of the law.

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Flying take-away; here I come

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Shape up or ship out

Not all in the world of commerce is sweetness and light. There are some very hard-headed firms out there. Recruitment consultancies seem to be particularly tough which is strange when one considers it likely they will be advising clients on policies and attitudes that will attract the best employees. The running costs of an agency are fairly high where newspaper advertising is involved and the directors make sure that there are good returns on their investment. I worked for a leading agency at a time when I needed a lot of money quickly and if one can manage the work, the rewards can be very good. This lady obviously fell into the red zone where her business commission achieved did not match up the capital employed. Unfairly sacked after bombs - claim

The desert drives men mad

This - below - comes from a subscription-only site so I've had to put the whole thing here. Doesn't make it any less true though.

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What is it about a desert that drives men mad?

On Monday morning the prime minister stood on the Afghan sand and said: "Here in this extraordinary piece of desert is where the fate of world security in the early 21st century is going to be decided."

Tony Blair was talking to soldiers he had sent to fight the toughest guerrillas on earth for control of southern Afghanistan. He told them: "Your defeat [of the Taliban] is not just on behalf of the people of Afghanistan but the people of Britain ... We have got to stay for as long as it takes."

The prime minister's brain has clearly lost touch with reality. Even under the Raj there was no conceivable way Britain could conquer and hold the arc of territory to which Blair was referring. It stretches from the Persian Gulf through Iranian Baluchistan and Afghanistan to Pakistan. No central government has come near to controlling this region, and its aversion to outside intervention is ageless and ruthless, currently fuelled by the world's voracious appetite for oil and opium. But it poses no threat to world security.

The sole basis for Blair's statement is Mullah Omar's hospitality to the fanatic, Osama bin Laden, at the end of the 1990s. As we now know, this was never popular (an Arab among Pashtuns); after 9/11, when the Taliban had collaborated with the west over opium, either Bin Laden would eventually have had to leave or the Tajiks would have taken revenge for his killing of their leader, Sheikh Massoud. Even the Pakistanis were on his tail. Either way, Talib Afghanistan was no more a "threat" after 9/11 than were the American flying schools at which the 9/11 perpetrators trained.

So what is Blair getting at? He once confessed to his hero, Roy Jenkins, that he regretted not having studied history at Oxford. He never spoke a truer word. The concept of world security as holistic and vulnerable to incidents such as 9/11 is nonsensical. Politics is not a variant of the Gaia thesis, in which each component of an ecosystem depends on and responds to every other. There is no butterfly effect in international relations. For want of a victory in Helmand, the Middle East is not lost, nor for want of victory in the Middle East is western civilisation lost.

This is as well, since Blair's resumed war in Afghanistan is clearly not being won. We know from the former army chief Lord Guthrie that Blair, despite promising to "give the army anything it takes", has refused the extra troops and armour needed by the pathetically small expeditionary force of 7,000 in Helmand. He has already had to switch tactics from winning hearts and minds to American-style "search and destroy", blowing up villages with 1,000lb bombs (as we saw on TV last week). British commanders are describing "successes" in terms of enemy kills. They should recall that Victorian officers in the Punjab were told that such boasts would be treated as a sign of failure, not success. Such killings infuriated the population and presaged revenge attacks. Has the British army learned nothing?

Blair has not been able to persuade his Nato allies in Europe of his apocalyptic world-view. The use of the word terrorism to imply some grand military offensive against the west may sound good in White House national security documents and Downing Street speeches. But terrorism is not an enemy or an ideology, let alone a country or an army. It is a weapon, like a gun or a bomb. It is not something that can be defeated, only guarded against.

Nor can terrorism ever win. Blair's flattering reference to it was in reality to al-Qaida and to the Islamist jihadism whose cause he has so incessantly advertised. As the American strategist Louise Richardson points out in What Terrorists Want, al-Qaida has not the remotest chance of defeating the west or undermining its civilisation.

Only a deranged paranoid could think that. Some group or other will always look for ways to commit random killings, against which national security services need to be vigilant. But this is not war. Richardson points out that these groups are being grotesquely overrated. They cannot plausibly deploy weapons of true mass destruction, and remain stuck with the oldest terrorist tool of all, the man with a bomb (and if we are really negligent, with a plane).

While terrorism can take on different guises, it is not new and is not a threat to human society to rank with a world war or a nuclear holocaust - as the home secretary, John Reid, has absurdly claimed. Terrorist incidents are the outcome of someone's mental pathology and are of no political significance - unless cynical leaders in a targeted community choose otherwise.

What is sad about Blair's statement is not its strategic naivety but the psychology behind it. Why have the leaders of Britain and America felt driven to adopt so wildly distorted a concept of menace? In an analysis of terrorism in the latest New York Review of Books, Max Rodenbeck offers plausible but depressing answers. They include the short-term popularity that war offers democratic leaders, the yearning of defence chiefs and industries to prove the worth of expensive kit and, in Iraq's case, "the influence of neoconservatives and of the pro-Israeli lobby, seeing a chance to set a superpower on Israel's enemies".

All this is true, but I sense a deeper disconnect. The west is ruled by a generation of leaders with no experience of war or its threat. Blair and his team cannot recall the aftermath of the second world war, and in the cold war they rushed to join CND. They were distant from those real global horrors. Yet now in power they seem to crave an enemy of equivalent monstrosity. Modern government has a big hole in its ego, yearning to be filled by something called a "threat to security".

After 1990 many hoped that an age of stable peace might dawn. Rich nations might disarm and combine to help the poor, advancing the cause of global responsibility. Instead two of history's most internationalist states, America and Britain, have returned to the trough of conflict, chasing a chimera of "world terrorism", and at ludicrous expense. They have brought death and destruction to a part of the globe that posed no strategic threat. Now one of them, Tony Blair, stands in a patch of desert to claim that "world security in the 21st century" depends on which warlord controls it. Was anything so demented?

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Gotcha! (or maybe not?)

Another tool towards crime detection. Your Fingerprints Taken At Roadside. Seems OK to me but does sort of assume that driving a car is inherently criminal. So far as I know, neither my or my wife's fingerprints are on record anywhere. There is not likely to be any record of my son's or daughter's prints or those of their partners. Just a quick and casual inquiry amongst some ten or so friends gave the same result. So, about 20 or so for whom a roadside check would be ineffective. If my prints are not on file, slightly more incentive to give false address.
So, money spent. Police effort and time used in checking for positive findings. Low level of positive results. Guess what next happens?
Additional pressure for the prompt introduction of ID Cards with everyone having prints on file. One way or another, democracy is slightly circumvented. I happen to be in favour of ID cards but would prefer that their introduction be achieved with less secret police methods.

My principles won't let me

Unfortunately, the language used in this comment on today's attitudes is redolent of a member of the BNP but, that aside, illustrates the sort of thing that merely adds to the prejudice towards newcomers.

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We do not want the fruit. It might be against someone's religious beliefs. I think. Maybe. Can I have three Lucky Dips please?

Alice through the keyhole

The gubmint seems always to be seeking ways to spend yet more money it does not have to deal in a manner we do not want regarding problems that do not exist. They now seek to produce a database covering every teenager in the land. The claim is that it will assist in parenting as well as protecting vulnerable children.
Given that B'Liar's eldest son had to be dragged off the streets when drunker than a tick, allied to the open secret that he had to use his spinners to cover details of his daughter's suicide attempt, one can see his - and the wide mouth frog's - interest in the matter. But, why force everyone to be covered? It is not as if the existing agencies are a shining light where it comes to protecting kids at risk. As recently as 2004 they brought in a Childrens' Act which was supposed to cover everything the new database aims to fix.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Better than Big Bubba in the showers

Given his record for assaulting women, it seems strange that Mike Tyson should be seen as the star 'turn' in a legal brothel. The thrill of that earth moving moment must be reduced when one is concentrating on keeping one's ear lobes away from his grinding teeth.

I was taken in by his sheer masculinity in those days before the money ate into his brain. Regardless of how one saw boxing - as a sport or as an demeaning exhibition of brutality - he was a champion at what he did. Shame he threw it all away. His descent into rented stallion must be the end of any faint shred of admiration.

Little green-eyed God

Every so often I come across a blog that makes me wish I could start all over again with the knowledge I have now. Reading Fred (below) always has the effect that I wish I were he. He seems to have his life sorted. He has obviously had demons but they are all in that place demons go when defeated.

Don't just read the item I've highlighted. Scroll back through his work. A life I missed. Damn!

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At peace with the world, I think

Voice of sanity

We seem to live in a world of drama queens. Almost anything can attract the attention of the media and is instantly transformed into something likely to shatter the world as we know it. So, it is nice every so often to come across someone with the ability and willingness to impost the voice of sanity. Such as this example -

"The Sun is working itself into a lather this morning; the opinion column says it all:-
PAEDOPHILES are the lowest of the low.

Any police chief who disagrees should be stripped of their badge and sent packing. We are astonished at the naivety of Chief Constable Terry Grange. He says that sex with children between the ages of 13 and 16 is a grey area.There is nothing grey about this area. Sex with anyone under the age of 16 is illegal. Grange says his remarks were aimed at 16-year-old boys having sex with their 15-year-old girlfriends. But anyone in such a position of authority should know better. His comments are not only ridiculous; they are downright dangerous.

Paedophiles are sick people. They crave justification for the evil they do. Many teenagers are at their most vulnerable precisely from perverts who exploit that grey area described by the Chief Constable. The law should be there to protect the young from those who would prey on them. There is no excusing Grange's outrageous and irresponsible remarks. They play right into the hands of the manipulative scum who abuse our children for their sick pleasure. He doesn't just carry out the law of the land - he IS the law of the land. He should be sacked this morning. Any judge or magistrate knows that the age gap is crucial in cases of under-age sex. The police and CPS have protocols for these cases, mostly reasoning that the law does well to keep its big flat feet out of this area. A 17 year-old boy with a 14 year-old girlfriend is not a paedophile. Most teenage girls would not be seen dead with a boy who was not a couple of years older than themselves, and there is street kudos to be gained from a 'cool' 18 year-old, especially if he has a car. 14 year-old boys are awkward, insecure, shambling, sniggering creatures (trust me, I used to be one) and it is hardly surprising that girls, who grow up faster, look to older boys.Of course there comes a point at which the age gap is too wide to be proper. That point is not rigidly defined, but anyone looking at a particular case will know it when he sees it. The Chief Constable's point is a sensible one, and is no more than a restatement of current practice. He is right to say that the word Paedophile should be reserved for those mature adults with an interest in pre-pubescent children. Over-use has now so devalued the word that it is used as an all-purpose playground insult, following in the ignoble footsteps of 'spastic' 'retard' and the rest.

A Sun graduate traineeship is among the most coveted in journalism. The paper recruits the brightest and the best. The journalists know as well as I that the opinion piece above is, bluntly, bollocks. How very cynical, to employ educated people to construct deliberately misleading articles calculated to pander to the mob. Yuk. PS - is a Chief constable really the law of the land? Are you quite sure about that, over there in Wapping?"

Going home - job left unfinished

My days of involvement in dealing with terrorism are long gone. The technical equipment is almost beyond my understanding. Motivation of both terorists and those who resist it is a vastly different creature to the one I knew.

All that said, I feel that I have to comment on an item written by someone who is in today's struggle for freedom and sanity.

He talks about the concept of losing. "What frustrates me most of all is the number of Americans that are rooting for us to lose. From media, to politicians and political pundits, to folks who just have no clue but put on airs of knowing all, there is a definite segment of the American population who genuinely wants us to lose this war".

Sure, when guys are losing their lives seeking a victory, this defeatist talk is very hard. What I think the writer overlooks though is that there can be no lasting victory. A temporary winner? Yes. I always summed up the difference between the good goys and the bad guys as that we wrere prepared to die in defence of our beliefs. The terrorist sought death as a means to achieving his end. We can devise what we think are winning strategies. Compromise. Bargain. Seek partnerships. But, the terrorist sees only victory in his terms and to his satisfaction. Sooner or later the individual terrorists will come together from their place on the losers pedestal and workuntil they have the critical mass needed to make themselves a force to be reckoned with.

Jack Army ends his item with "I'd rather fight them here, in another country, away from my family and my fellow countrymen. More than that, I'd rather defeat them here, in a country trying hard to be free, trying hard to be secure, trying hard to be lead by good people rather than terrorists in politicians clothing" To me, the killer phrase here is "trying hard". Trying hard won't hack it. It seems to me that there has to be such a sea change in conditions in Iraq as to be impossible to comprehend. Conditions change from day to day. Alliances break up and re-form. What lasts a year may well break after a year and a day. The Iraqi people are quite capable of reflecting what we want them to say. They have been around a long while and are happy to play the long game.

Whilst I can have no real comprehension of 9/11, I can accept it as powerful motivator in the idea of fighting terrorism at its roots rather than in amongst ma and pa. There is - to me - the factor that on one's own ground one has the advantage. Counter-terrorism procedures must be easier when one is doing better than 'trying hard'. Corruption in an Arab country is almost endemic but better combatted when all are speaking the same language.

Just to repeat. Easy for me to seem to criticise from the comfort of my own home. I've spent time away from home in unpleasant conditions and danger to know that. To me, the writer and his comrades deserve the highest respect just for being in the God-forsaken country. To keep on trying in the face of what they see as carping and back-stabbing onlookers is an enhancement of their courage and bravery.

Monday, 20 November 2006

Urban Dictionery

Nice to know that I am not the only one to have such a negative image of the man!

Still makes me smile

For quite some while now my favourite music has been country. I find that some of the lyrics get me thinking very deeply. It is not all "the cows gone dry, my horse is lame, the dog bit the turkey and my wife's got PMT" stuff. Whilst there are many sayings that have found their way into my memory, I still remember the very first song that got me hooked. Johnny Cash sang it best but there are a number of versions.

"Well, don't call my name out your window I'm leavin', I won't ever turn my head

Don't send your kinfolks to give me no talkin' I'll be gone like I said.

You'd say the same old things that you've been saying all along

Lay there in bed and keep your mouth shut till I'm gone

Don't give me that old familiar cussin', moanin', groan

Understand your man

Tidy your bad mouth and understand your man

You can give my other suits to the Salvation Army

And anything else I leave behind

I ain't takin' nothin' that'll slow down my travelin'

While I'm untanglin' my mind.

I ain't gonna repeat what I've said anymore

While I'm breathing air that ain't been breathed before

I'll be as gone as a wild goose in winter

Then you'll understand your man

You hear me talkin' honey, understand your man.

Remember what I tell you

understand your man...

It is the bit about suits and Salvation Army. Just so damned carefree. Footloose. Never came up but had I ever decided to cut and run, this would be the phrase running through my head. Mind you, there is a lot of Kris Kristofferson that says things I would have loved to have said too.

Tenders invited

I thought that my contempt for the creature named T B'Liar was as high as possible. That is until he took his gurning act to Afghanistan where he had the bare faced cheek to address the troops along the lines that they were our only hope of salvation at the same time as his minions were refusing to honour a committment to make sure the troops had all the equipment they needed.

Mind you, he has triggered in me a new line of business.


Proposals are invited from suitably qualified enterprises for the design, manufacture and distribution of two lines of produce that are certain to be a runaway commercial success.

Item One. A photographic representation of the face of the current Prime Minister B'Liar. The image to be printed onto sticky-back plastic of a shape and size to facilitate mounting inside the bowl of urinals and w.c. closets. Two alternative products are required. a) one with permanent inks and, b) one where the effect of the waste products deposited onto the image cause it to slowly disappear like the smile on the face of the Cheshire Cat.

Item Two. Lavatory paper. Each section of paper to have a photographic representation of the face of the current Prime Minsier B'Liar. The surface of the paper to be coated with an emulsion such that it feels slimy and unpleasant. This to emphasise the image. The actual paper is to be thin so as to provide a non-effective barrier between hands and bodily waste. Intention here is to provide additional pleasure at scrubbing one's hands clean of anything that has touched what is a personification of the printed image.

This should make me a very rich man. Ideal Christmas presents.

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Please release me - let me go

Yes - I know the subject heading is a very old song but it refers to a different release and letting go.

Seems that so many doctors think they can over-ride written instructions from patients who have given instructions as to what happens that legislation may be called for.

Well, if that is what it takes - I'm in favour.

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It is really quite simple - just do as I ask eh!