Saturday, 25 December 2010

Year End update

Well yes - the last one was Finis but I think I can allow myself the luxury that the Big Writers indulge in where they repeat their old stuff and get paid fresh lineage or whatever. They also make some forecasts as to what is coming; I'll play this if the mood takes at the right spot.

Main spot for us here was the wedding of daughter Caroline. We all had a super time as so carefully arranged by the bride.

External event? Hard to say in truth - it is a toss up between the pseudo-government we now have or the constant traffic and noise of Wikileaks. I have never understood the concept of coalition governments. If one has any political beliefs, that is it. This is what I want and none other. I am content to do a little wheeling and dealing within the manifesto of one party but that is it. To assemble a government from bits and pieces is, to me, like making something half Lego and half Meccano. We are seeing the strains already where a party has made pledges, been unable to sustain them and have to go the way of the major coalition partner. Their public stance has changed but they retained their private positions and belief. "Business Secretary Vince Cable's made critical remarks about the Coalition to undercover reporters. The Prime Minister and his deputy negotiated the minefield and the personal chemistry between them was still good. But they got little credit as more explosive comments by Mr Cable about Rupert Murdoch were leaked during their press conference. He kept his Cabinet post, minus media regulation, but at a cost to him and both leaders. It seemed as if Mr Clegg needed the most prominent left-leaning Liberal Democrat inside the tent and that Mr Cameron was powerless to sack him. It was a messy end to the year, and a reminder that, however strong their personal relationship, the two partners could not escape the stresses and strains inherent in any coalition." The two under-cover reporters who had trapped Cable had other scalps. None serious but evidence that the coalition was not really two parties united. They have just over four years to run before they go back to the electorate and there is much troubled water ahead as the austerity moves are teased out, implemented and experienced. The Tory party has had a long time away from the levers of power and the Liberal Democrat group are hauling a wagon with one wheel with a team of three legged horses.

I find myself cold on the topic of Wikileaks. The much-claimed security risk is, as I see it, over-stated. My experience is that if anyone is aiding our forces, he will be known to the terrorists. Whilst the compounds are family units, there is little that goes on in the village that is missed. Meets with military patrols or sudden evidence of financial uplift are a rich source of gossip. The Afghan forces have almost unlimited access to all our encampments and are ripe for pressure to inform. In all the drama that surrounds accusations of theft of documents we seem to hear little of the 2.5 million who have entitled access. The latest cache that was opened is just gossip sent home and risks no one and no thing. It must be an incredibly naïve nation that thinks they are free of back-door reports to America. Or any other major power come to that. I cannot rid myself of the belief that there is a hidden agenda in the attacks on Wikileaks.

Afghanistan lingers on. There are ample admissions that it cannot be solved by military might alone. Sure, we get reports of leading Taliban personalities being taken off the board by Special Forces but this does not seem to lead to any rank and file laying down their arms and going home. Sooner or later the potential commander of B squadron 1st Taliban Irregulars will set up camp in Pakistan. Yes - we have the drones but I wonder how long for? Much is made of the extreme discretion and care in Afghanistan only to hit known terrorists and the scale of kills in Pakistan does not square up with this concept. I can see that the deployment of these unmanned weapons is OK if Pakistan has approved it but it is what the drone does that could well be deemed illegal. Those whose views are blinkered to human rights only could have a good case. One such has described his view of the matter "I have met innocent victims of drone strikes, people who have been injured or lost family members due to faulty intelligence or because they were considered acceptable collateral damage. (Reports indicate that up to one third of those killed are civilians and hundreds of innocent civilians have died in drone strikes since 2004). There is no assistance, no compensation, no acknowledgement of their losses" I suppose there is a possibility that some hard-nose General will press for coalition troops to enter Pakistan. They demonstrably cannot cope with natural disasters still less deploy assets to fight Taliban in areas where the Government writ means little.

Only alternative is talks. Terry has already said it will not negotiate all the while that there are foreign feet on their soil. I see little benefit from getting the corrupt and self-serving Kharzi government having talks. We might be able to cobble up some version of the agreement that allowed the Russians to leave.

Just where would withdrawal get us? All it would achieve would be to put Afghan Army and security forces in place of the coalition troops in keeping the terrorists under some form of limited control. With the fairest mind in the world, I cannot see them achieving this where we have failed. Our surge to the front would soon become their surge to the rear. I am unsure where this will all end; I suppose we will have to await Wikileaks of 2020 to find out.

We have been living under the threat of terrorist action in UK for some while. The Christmas holiday would have been a good time to get maximum publicity for such an attack and the latest arrests by the Anti-Terrorism Group may be related. However, I saw they asked for extra time to hold those detained and wonder if all is going as swimmingly as advertised. Back in the day when I did somewhat similar work, the criteria was that we had developed sufficient evidence so that all that needed to be said was "Get your trousers on, you're nicked" and there was little questioning needed other than to confirm what we knew as suitable evidence. The arrest and conviction figures do not seem to indicate we need Judge Roy Beam. According to the Home Office:
* During 2009-10, 30% of terrorism arrests in England, Scotland and Wales resulted in individuals being charged
* Of these charges, 48% were for terrorism offences
* Over the same time period, 57% of those charged under terrorism legislation were convicted
* From 2006-10, only six people have been held for 28 days without being charged. 48% of 30% etc. does not seem very comforting, especially where one considers the resources we put in the field.

This gilding of the lily is also suggested where we consider the police performance when the car carrying the Heir to the Throne and his consort was attacked in London by an off-shoot of those demonstrating about University fees. Never mind why the car was routed so close to a demonstration that was out of proper control but the close protection squad were out of touch here. We now know that they were alerted by those officers viewing the demonstration but there is no sign of them when the car came under attack. Normal duty PCs - yes.
There was a suggestion that the two teams were not on a common communications network - not unusual or unexpected given the traffic coming from the riot. The suggestion that there was a Royal protection officer in the front passenger seat seems weak given that the rear passenger window was open leaving space for someone to poke Camilla in the ribs with a pole. The suggested advance warning from the main body of police has to be viewed in the suggestion that two, at least, comms channels were in use. The role of the protection squad then was to deploy closely around their Royals until the driver was able to move away. It was our macabre joke that we were really bullet catchers. Seems that a large shrug of the shoulders is all that will come of the incident.

What of the future? I find myself confused and unsure of the recent past so any Cassandra impersonation is ruled out. Suffice to say that in world events I see little improvement or anything good down the road ahead. In my own little world, I am more confident - me and mine can influence somewhat what happens. We are all fit and well(ish) and that must be a major benefit. Perhaps I can just add the Wood's Toast which is frequently heard at family gatherings. It always imparts a nice warm feeling. "Here's to those who love us. Sod the Rest" Feel free to use it.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


I think that I have come to the end of the blogging road. I've been here before but this time I have waited longer to confirm that I really have nothing to contribute.

I have finally accepted that what you see is what you get. Wishing for change on matters outside my control achieves nothing. Reduced immigration. Social justice. Warfare. I could type until my fingers bled but would achieve absolutely nothing in the way of change despite none of these constituting anti-social behaviour.

My father used to say that it did not matter for whom one voted - the Government always win. I can accept that so the key must be not to confront them. Nothing I do is likely to lead to any limitation of my own individual and personal lifestyle. I know the law and should have no trouble living within its boundaries. If I find it difficult to comply with something that I feel alters my quality of life, I shall ignore it and let the cards lay as they fall. For sure, blogging about it will not change things.

I will still have opinions. Maybe I have to fall back into an Angry Old Man style and just shout at the television!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Bit sharp

I used to be a sort of policeman and the ethos stuck. However, things have changed since "my days" and some police tactics in use today have me perturbed. The Met police following upon their investigations into the (student) riots leaned on a hosting organisation to close down a web-site that supported the march.

Anyone even slightly experienced in the internet would know that quite a bit of stuff is mirrored elsewhere. The closure "request" only added to the aggro - another thing with which to bash officialdom. Spending 30 minutes or so on YouTube searching 'interesting' keywords will dig up the most extreme video - sex in all it's varieties, agitprop and extreme political views - you name it, it is there.

The advice given is relatively innocent. Anyone who has viewed the the real Police TV series or CSI/NCIS shows will have a good idea as to what constitutes evidence. Not one of the advised precautions is itself a criminal offence. The adage that ignorance of the law is no excuse is widely used - so, what harm in advising people of their rights?

If you want to see what was published post the demo, it is in the block below.
Students who are worried should consider taking the following actions:

If you have been arrested, or had your details taken–contact the legal support campaign. As a group you can support each other, and mount a coherent campaign.

If you fear you may be arrested as a result of identification by CCTV, FIT or press photography;

DONT panic. Press photos are not necessarily conclusive evidence, and just because the police have a photo of you doesn't mean they know who you are.

DONT hand yourself in. The police often use the psychological pressure of knowing they have your picture to persuade you to 'come forward'. Unless you have a very pressing reason to do otherwise, let them come and find you, if they know who you are.

DO get rid of your clothes. There is no chance of suggesting the bloke in the video is not you if the clothes he is wearing have been found in your wardrobe. Get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing at the demo, including YOUR SHOES, your bag, and any distinctive jewellery you were wearing at the time. Yes, this is difficult, especially if it is your only warm coat or decent pair of boots. But it will be harder still if finding these clothes in your flat gets you convicted of violent disorder.

DONT assume that because you can identify yourself in a video, a judge will be able to as well. 'That isn't me' has got many a person off before now.

DO keep away from other demos for a while. The police will be on the look-out at other demos, especially student ones, for people they have put on their 'wanted' list. Keep a low profile.

DO think about changing your appearance. Perhaps now is a good time for a make-over. Get a haircut and colour, grow a beard, wear glasses. It isn't a guarantee, but may help throw them off the scent.

DO keep your house clean. Get rid of spray cans, demo related stuff, and dodgy texts/photos on your phone. Don't make life easy for them by having drugs, weapons or anything illegal in the house.

DO get the name and number of a good lawyer you can call if things go badly. The support group has the names of recommended lawyers on their site. Take a bit of time to read up on your rights in custody, especially the benefits of not commenting in interview.

DO be careful who you speak about this to. Admit your involvement in criminal damage/disorder ONLY to people you really trust.

DO try and control the nerves and panic. Waiting for a knock on the door is stressful in the extreme, but you need to find a way to get on with business as normal.

Otherwise you'll be serving the sentence before you are even arrested."
I was an 18 year old in the '50s but did not attend the demos or silent majority initiatives. The 6th form common room was always well stocked with leaflets advising much of the above if arrests were likely.

I most certainly do not support, advocate or encourage violent demonstrations. But, we would be a very servile nation if no one were able to vent their disagreement with government actions. It may be that we all know a bit more as government spokespersons responded to the points raised by the marchers.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Forces Covenant - where has it gone?

Today's Times carried a letter from the Chairman of the Forces Pension Society that the widows of Service personnel are going to be financially worse off following government changes to indexation of public sector pension schemes. Changes to pension indexation announced in the emergency budget on 22 June 2010 affect all public service pensions. The Forces Pension Society is calling for the Armed Forces to be exempt from these changes.

The reply from the MOD mandarins is that it is not possible to treat the Armed Forces differently from other public servants. To do so would be unfair on those who do similar worthy and in some cases dangerous jobs. Furthermore, attempting to retrospectively change previous pension schemes would cost billions of pounds. It is a prohibitive cost that could not be justified, especially given the current financial situation.

Now, here is a funny thing - the letter appears in the actual paper but not in full on the Times On Line internet version. I wonder why this is - can it be related to the contents of the Chairman's letter? He points out that the comparison with civil servants is fallacious. The Services never strike, have no union representation, can be sent into a war zone at no notice and may be killed, crippled or mentally and physically damaged by their experiences. He goes on to say that Cameron extolled the Services at every opportunity but his words have a hollow ring unless he instructs his Ministers do not understand and show no intention of wanting to do so. I suppose that the situation was surrendered during the review in exchange for ships we do not need and will not have for some years ahead.

It was exactly this sort of similar but different status of the Army that was meant to be addressed by The Military Covenant. This is very clear -
Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices - including the ultimate sacrifice - in the service of the Nation. In putting the needs of the Nation and the Army before their own, they forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces.

In return, British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service.

In the same way the unique nature of military land operations means that the Army differs from all other institutions, and must be sustained and provided for accordingly by the Nation.

This mutual obligation forms the Military Covenant between the Nation, the Army and each individual soldier; an unbreakable common bond of identity, loyalty and responsibility which has sustained the Army throughout its history. It has perhaps its greatest manifestation in the annual commemoration of Armistice Day, when the Nation keeps covenant with those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives in action.

Army Doctrine Publication Volume 5
Note that this was published as a official Army Doctrine. Cameron cannot claim he does not know it."In March 2008, David Cameron set up a commission to examine the health of the military covenant and how Government and society can better support the Armed Forces." On his very first visit to Afghanistan as PM he said
"What you are doing here will never be forgotten. It is great and important work. You are incredibly brave and professional in what you do. I stand here as your prime minister wanting to tell you from the bottom of my heart that you should be proud of yourselves and what you do because your country is incredibly proud of you."
So, more of what the Army calls bullshit and the rest of the nation might regard as just another set of lies.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Power to the People!!

I had seen the warning letter regarding transparency from Prime Minister David Cameron to Government departments on plans to open up Government data. This was back at the start of summer. I read it and thought that someone had hacked into Government files and produced it as a laugh. Then, yesterday we got the words from the asses mouth. "The transparency website brings together a range of information - including basic details of ministers' meetings, hospitality, gifts and overseas travel, timetables for implementing policies, staffing structures and salary ranges for top civil servants, some of which was already publicly available but was published separately" My first thought was that we website had been knocked out by the junior at some India-based help centre in his tea break. It requires downloads - speedy it ain't. The colours are garish - factual documents do not require technicolour. I had a quick peek at one - Department for International Development - Minister's Gifts - the data is missing. What are they hiding? Rt Hon Michael Gove hasn't had any meetings since July 2010, apparently. I may have scanned through it quickly - my disbelief overcame my interest - but I see no method whereby any Department collates queries and comments so as to answer questions raised. If taken centrally, who distributes them to the appropriate civil servant? If there is a mechanism for querying things directly, how would I know to whom I might address my questions. Everything has to be prepared, collated and checked by someone who posts it to the website. A fine paper-chase that surely will require increasing head counts and dilution of job savings elsewhere in the Westminster machine.

I then looked at some of the detail. The right to know extends into local council planning. Local government spending transparency. New items of local government spending over £500 to be published on a council-by-council basis from January 2011. New local government contracts and tender documents for expenditure over £500 to be published in full from January 2011. The £500 threshold seems incredibly low and will again - I assume - put an extra workload on council staff made more onerous by savings on payroll costs by shedding workers. It appears I will also be able to view tender documents. I handled many such invitations to tender and there is often doubt as to the exact requirement. The anoraks and self-declared experts will be in a position to ask for an explanation for any project ranging from why it is wanted, right through to "why not use MDF in place of the tender specification for plywood?" If we are permitted to know what is in a tender, should we not be able to view and comment upon the responses and bids from contractors?

Announcing the new measures yesterday, Cameron said "We will be the first government in a generation to leave office with much less power in Whitehall than we started with. We are going to take power from government and hand it to people, families and communities – and how we will do that is set out right here in these Business Plans." I cannot understand what is the point of "We will be the first government in a generation to leave office with much less power in Whitehall than we started with" 'Power to the people' was a rallying call in a bygone TV series but Citizen Smith was not a role model. I was under the impression last time I voted that I was stating a preference for someone who would be part of a government that would adhere to their overall role of defending the Realm. If the intention was to reduce their oversight and hand it over to some few million citizens, what will those who lounge on the red or green benches be doing? Whence will come the proper and considered debate if their control is lessened - what would be my neighbour's wishes if someone has WMD on 45 minute deployment? Over As recently as 20th October 2010, 60% of the population stated that we should not be in Afghanistan. So why are we still there?

There may well be a element of Bread & Circuses in the new idea. Whilst we are caught up in demanding to know what happened to the gold Rolex gifted to Minister X by Sheik Shantytown we will not be aware of whatever dodgy plan is being put together. Our concerns for the aged, the sick and long-term unemployed (unemployable?) will be diverted.

Bugger Power to the People - if they should ever really want it, they know how to go about it

Saturday, 6 November 2010


"One problem we have is people don't want to join us because they believe we are not in control of remuneration," said Gulliver. "It would be unacceptable from the point of view of our shareholders if we were unable to attract and retain the type of people required to deliver profit."
Surely a delusion capable of swift correction. Consider the average employee. He/she goes to the HR and tells them that if they want to retain him/her they will have to pay him/her a sum considerable above his/her salary banding. He would speedily be directed towards the door and advised to test his worth elsewhere.
The excuse for the seemingly exorbitant rewards to those in the banking and financial sphere is that it has all been reviewed by their Remuneration Committee. Big deal - they are but employees of the enterprise and are likely to adhere to religion. The Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages."
My objections are directed to the supposition that just one person can so direct and lead the organisation so as to achieve the sort of profit they do achieve. That needs teamwork - we have seen just what damage a rogue trader can inflict despite the assumed talent of the Boss Man. If they fail, they walk away with the inflated sums he has been paid before his bubble burst. All he loses is his bonus calculated on results; that may well be cushioned by Golden Parachutes. If the selection process were better handled, we would not be in the straits we are now and Government support would not have been needed.
Recruitment of new senior staff is mostly put out to specialist agencies. They hunt data bases for likely candidates, do a shuffle and nominate a short-list. Their fee is a proportion of the salary finally achieved so they will obviously favour the £750,000 pa applicant over Mr £500 grand. Any subsequent failure will be explained "he was OK when we put him forward. Don't blame us"
We need Government action to control all salaries. The implied blackmail used by those seeking the top jobs - "if you do not pay me (this) I'll go elsewhere" can be countered by creation of the situation that there is no higher paying position. Pay him a end of year bonus if the results justify it. The cost of this comes off the bottom line. There needs to be a bonus pool - if Mr X gets 30% of the pool there is less for everyone else. All employees should benefit in proportion to any bonus; this to correct the situation where the highest paid receives a reward that is proportionally many many times the raise given to the lowest on the greasy pole.
At one time I worked for a company where the Head Honcho laid down a rule for anyone asking to employ a new worker could do so but their payroll budget would not be increased. It worked very well. So what makes the banking and finance world such a different beast?

Times of interest

"We'reFacing a Coalition of the Heartless, the Clueless and the Confused"
The Times cartoon and the quotation from the New York Times just confirms that our problems in the UK are not unique.The view of an American economist regarding 'incentives' is:
"Do unemployment benefits reduce the incentive to seek work? Yes: workers receiving unemployment benefits aren’t quite as desperate as workers without benefits, and are likely to be slightly more choosy about accepting new jobs. The operative word here is “slightly”: recent economic research suggests that the effect of unemployment benefits on worker behaviour is much weaker than was previously believed. Still, it’s a real effect when the economy is doing well.

But it’s an effect that is completely irrelevant to our current situation. When the economy is booming, and lack of sufficient willing workers is limiting growth, generous unemployment benefits may keep employment lower than it would have been otherwise. But as you may have noticed, right now the economy isn’t booming — again, there are five unemployed workers for every job opening. Cutting off benefits to the unemployed will make them even more desperate for work — but they can’t take jobs that aren’t there"
Apart from a few grey beards, our Cabinet is mainly composed of people with no great experience of being in Westminster. Their ideas were formulated in pleasant soiree graced by others of similar circumstances and grand ideas but not a lot of cut and thrust opposition. Their time in opposition allowed then to see how their changes might be implemented. The Punch and Judy politics led them to believe that decisions were won by those who said the same thing consistently and loudly. When questioned by political journalists, they made little effort to answer or respond in any way other than to repeat their brief - consistently and loudly. Both Cameron and Clegg face a core of Members who retain their loyalty to their party credo and have no time for coalition. Maybe they have been reading the same definition that I have always applied to the word coalition - "a temporary alliance of factions, nations, etc., for some specific purpose, as of political parties in times of national emergency"
Well, those ideas and plans formed pre-responsibility have now mostly been revealed to us. Mostly - we have many bullet points but the majority lack the crossing of Ts and dotting of i. The cartoon details many pledges that the LibDems have had to abandon, maybe the excellent cartoonist will favour us with one to see what the true blues have had to swallow as the price of the temporary alliance. I see it as akin to two Mafiosi capo uniting to overcome the capo di capo which, when achieved, will allow them to set about each other.
Many dreams of a brave new world have already failed to survive when dragged into the light of today. I was struck by from someone whose background suggests he knows whereof he speaks
"In the run up to the 1979 election, Margaret Thatcher presented a distinctive and radical offering to the electorate. There was then a keen consensus that it was a crossroads election which had the potential to change our entire national direction. Similarly, during the 2010 General Election, the appetite for a new approach was tangible. Yet there was little complementary sense of what our direction should be.

When the Conservative government took control of the public purse in the final year of the 1970s, our nation had been subject to monetarist policies for two-and-a-half years, courtesy of the IMF. In essence, the toughest decisions on public spending had already been made. In contrast this year, while there was a superficial acceptance that the best economic times were over, the sheer gravity of our massive economic problems was lightly skated over during the campaign skirmishes. No sense was there that the electorate was prepared to take a painful personal hit following our collective national profligacy. Indeed it served the interests of all three main political parties to confine any economic discussions to a fatuous battle over public spending cuts of £6 billion – a sum borrowed by government every fortnight over the past year.

The public was ready to embrace change in 1979. Today the electorate has seemed unwilling to grasp the seriousness of our national economic situation. The breathless, relentless media coverage of the past two years, charting dramatic stock market swings, house price crashes and global turbulence, has convinced many that the worst is behind us without the headlines having ever truly translated to the situation on the ground. This makes it all the more difficult to persuade a complacent public that an era of financial reckoning lies ahead
So, blame the bloody MSM again but much of the Spending Review was so broad as to leave us shocked when the details were filled in. The party in power has had to row back on quite a few ideas. Worse, we have had instances where humanity has led us to give away with the right hand much of what the left hand has clawed back. An unemployed, lowly educated, father facing reduction of State Benefits and possible eviction from the family home has little sympathy with, say aid to Haiti when vast sums have poured in from the international community but the place remains in the state we see today - a full year after disaster struck.
Someone with whom I was in dispute with in Belfast once capitulated with the wish that I might live in interesting times. I suspect the Coalition may find itself in interesting times before their ship comes home.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


I have written before of my suspicion that a large proportion of the news we get from Afghanistan consists of very carefully worded press releases from the army media. A gloss imparted to forthcoming activities, undue attention to the part that Afghan forces may play, heartfelt appeals to those of us at home not to agitate by explaining just what a snafu it all is.

A lady of the press explains it thus "The MoD has a war to sell. The MoD wants the most positive coverage set before the biggest audience. Obviously. It has a war to sell which is now longer than the Second World War. And it is not going very well. And they want to get out. And...And...They have soldiers dying who were at junior school when the invasion and occupation (for it is both, whatever the spin) began. They have a problem. And the drip drip drip of Wootton Bassett homecomings are not helping, as they also privately acknowledge."

I am confident she is not telling porkies. It is nice sometimes to have one's prejudices confirmed.

Between a rock and a soft space

The current hoo haa regarding the latest episode of Wikileaks threatened for the week-end intrigues me. I may have a better insight than many as to the problem; I was in charge of the Army CID in Belfast from 1970 to 72 and appreciate the task facing US forces regarding investigations into shootings and allegations against the military. The sheer volume of work now required into any serious incident can be overwhelming and, in some cases, impossible to achieve. For example, I was in Londonderry on what became known as Bloody Sunday and took the initial statements from troops involved. The Saville Inquiry into the events took many years and many millions to investigate that half-hour of engagement.

So, what might the senior service officers have done differently? I cannot really know - I wasn't there. However, it comes down to command and control. It all seems to start out well where obedience is implanted in Private Gomer Pyle. The system if properly implemented means that knowledge of what ever is done by the lowest gets escalated upwards. Whilst it is the Colonel's prerogative as to what happens, his salary grade does include responsibility for what is done by his men. And that is where things get fuzzy. Just as in the observation about fleas, he also has his fleas at higher command. They do not concern themselves with detail - "We want to be on top of that hill by nightfall" sparks of all the little fleas and a detailed plan is evolved. Gomer Pyle knows it is no use his objecting to the task or the method. His sergeant knows he cannot blame Pyle for his failure to accomplish what his lieutenant ordered him to do. A situation where a force commander has to acknowledge he is not on top of the hill is not acceptable. "the enemy won't let us go there" does not wash. 'All is fair in love and war' overcomes the Geneva Convention and can be the start of something that people safe in their beds in Washington get all huffy about.

The way in which war is waged has been codified. Reams and reams of paper have been generated but the problem remains of boiling these down into a piece of card maybe slightly bigger than a credit card which Pte Pyle can understand. Try your hand at a précis of this - "The United States is bound by customary law and international laws of war, by the Hague Conventions of 1889 and 1907, the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the Nuremberg Conventions adopted by the United Nations (U.N.) December 11, 1945 -- all of which set limits beyond which, by common consent, decent peoples will not go. Under the Constitution, all treaties are part of the supreme law of the land. Humanitarian law rests on a simple principle; that human rights are measured by one yardstick. Without that principle, all jurisprudence descends into mere piety and power.

When laws of war were codified, military necessity ceased to be the final arbiter of human rights and civility. Nor do violations of the laws of war by one belligerent vindicate the war crimes of another.

For the high officials who planned and supervised military operations in Iraq, the "shock-and-awe" campaign encompasses three major types of war crimes, all in violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949: The "wanton destruction of cities, towns, and villages" in violation of the Nuremberg principles. The premeditated use of weapons known to cause unnecessary suffering and indiscriminate destruction. The use of depleted uranium, the poison of radiation that is destroying the lives of untold numbers of civilians and soldiers, including American personnel.
We are not referring to incidental transgressions of humanitarian law, or even the war crimes of desperate infantrymen in the heat of battle -- like soldiers who recently fired bullets into crowds of anti-occupation demonstrators in Iraq -- follies committed out of fear, confusion, and the hatred that all war evokes. It's not the crimes of passion, but the crimes of calculation that require moral reappraisal.
The italics are mine and, in the context of Wikileaks, could be very significant. There is recognition that passion and hatred are found in the area where bullets fly. What is not covered is the deliberate and conscious rejection of civilised human conduct. Torture can never be tolerated. For clarity, I do not support the often claimed excuse that it is OK to torture someone on the off-chance they know where a large time bomb is ticking away. NCIS is not the real world. The game of rendition or pass the parcel of a prisoner moved about clandestinely so that he ends up somewhere where torture is a recognised feature of investigations, is not acceptable.

So, what might be done? Mumsy Clinton went off very well last night in condemning the brash Assange and his colleagues but as I see it, she really does not have a leg to stand on. Secret and confidential information revealed? The keepers of the data should have made it impossible to be improperly accessed; they wrote the stuff and should have secured it. Danger to indigenous peoples? The Taliban have shown that they have well tried sources of information so anyone exhibiting his new found informant's wealth would be known as would any villager getting too friendly with our troops. ANA personnel engaged in joint operations are another source of information leakage. It would be a farce to expect some form of military Witness Protection Scheme.

So, suppose the idea of 'crime' carried out in the course of battle is capable of being floated and accepted, that leaves the organised, deliberate and intentional offences that contravene the standards enacted. There exists in some countries the concept that a payment of money, (sometimes referred to as blood money), closes the whole affair - whether this exists in Iraq I cannot say. It seems so - "Tribal traditions in Iraq often allow a tribe to pay blood money to compensate for a murder committed by a member." Uncle Sam has a huge tribe and properly handled by a half-way competent spinner, everything could come up as roses.

That leaves the 'black' operations and clearly illegal actions. I cannot see that even so well resourced a country as America could ever investigate the sheer volume of these. Just to return to Iraq in pursuance of witnesses would be a extremely hazardous exercise made worse by the evocative nature of the inquiry.

The matters that will come out of full study of the new Wikileaks must have some official response other than disclosure being deprecated. In simple terms, a significant US personage saying mea culpa (maybe even mea culpa maxima)and we promise not to do it again. This need not be an empty promise and just requires a couple of days extra training for recruits and reinforcement on pre-deployment briefings. Senior officers as well as the doughboys.

Should Wikileaks have released this mass of documentation? On balance, I am in agreement. I think, even without my own direct experience, I would be naïve to think that such things didn't happen and I am not able to use 'not in my name' to dodge the issue. If it happened, I wish to know - even if only to be aware what is being done in any recurrence of fools rushing into some other John Wayne scenario.

Just a quote I came across whilst checking something - "Whatever shortcomings there may have been in Iraq and Afghanistan stemmed from failures and miscalculations at the top, not those doing the fighting and the leading on the ground. It has taken every ounce of our troops' skill, initiative and commitment to battle a cunning and adaptive enemy at the front while overcoming bureaucratic lassitude and sometimes worse at the rear."

Friday, 22 October 2010

What if.........

So, why am I sitting in front of my machine at dark o'clock when there is not another house light in the village?

I sometimes enter horror movies when my dreams become such that they continue to run even when I am sitting up in bed with eyes wide open. Initial treatment is to read a page or two and then try again or to try and force my mind to leave the dark side of the brain and find some other space to colonise. Tonight the hoped for pathway was thinking "What if..." What if I had not said such and such. What if I had not done this or that. Personal actions didn't work so I went for 'what ifs' of others. What if Nap had said 'Yes tonight to Josephine' or if Adolph had withdrawn when Chamberlin warned him?

I then came up with a beauty that merits a blog I can look back at when the memory starts to fade.

It is 11th September 2001, The Twin Towers are down and still smoking. The majority of the world is outraged and in shock whilst some Muslim countries are celebrating Al Queda's actions. The President goes on television to address the world. He says that what happened was the work of a small group of fanatics. Whilst it would be a natural reaction to seek payback by unloading vast quantities of bombs in the direction of the civilians of the country giving a home to the terrorists, such action would be pointless and vindictive. This was the work of individuals and not a nation. Vengeance breeds violence in a long chain and, therefore, the USA would forgive. And pray for the aggressors.

This is the Daddy of all 'what ifs'. No Iraq War, no Afghanistan nonsense. No vast expenditure of lives and money and resources. Not just in America but in the Coalition Of The Conned as well.

This 'what if' surprised me - I had always taken modern day America as a pious country. There have been notable dissenters. "The phrase "An-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye ... ends in making everybody blind" has been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Martin Luther King Jr. later used this phrase in the context of racial violence: "The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind" Jesus Christ: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'. But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Sadly, we have suffered the results of that Mr Bush reverting to the ways of early days and saddling up to ride off in all directions. What we have now though is a feud that will resonate like those of old.

I think that has been sufficient displacement activity and I can drain my cup of tea and toddle off back to bed.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


The debate on Spending Review seems to be centered around who is most effected. The Very Rich, The Rich, The Middle Earners and The Poorly Paid. I think these classifications do not fully explore what has been done to whom. I have always thought of my financial situation in terms of my disposable income. I have only once been in a group that might be described as Rich when any employer determined he had to directly employ me to supervise something I had advised him on as a consultant. My time in HM Forces in the middle NCO ranks were times when the pay was low. In those days there was food on the table, clothes on the children's back and the Sergeants' Mess for entertainment. We didn't run to a car and would have been in difficulties had something unforeseen needed money thrown at it. In the halcyon days we ran two new cars, were up to date with London theatre life and entertained others quite well. It all came from the money remaining after our essential needs and consequent expenditure had been met. I cannot really say that I enjoyed one of the two life styles more than the other. I had the funds to do what I wished to do.

The group now described as poor may not be in that position - I say may - it is not intended as censorious or denigrating but I seem to see a lot of cigarette smoking and quite a few of the guys in the local pub seem to be there at both lunchtimes and evenings. The infants ride in buggies that cost quite a few pounds. The announced changes that are referred to as unfair to the poor will certainly reduce their income; I wonder if it will effect their lifestyle? But, is it fair to expect them to change where those with some positive balance of income over outgoings may not need to economise - are we not all entitled to our 'luxuries' however these may be defined?

The Chancellor's idea of rich or poor may be responsible for what I see as a potential waste of money. The idea that a child aged two needs subsidised education. "There will be funding for 15 free hours of early education and care for all disadvantaged two-year-olds as part of a "fairness premium" which will extend from toddlers to undergraduates. The existing entitlement of 15 hours a week for all three to four-year-olds will be maintained." The 'education' a two year old requires is more socialisation than 1+1=2. Will 'disadvantaged' classification be assessed - and by whom? This all smacks more of 'child-minding' than child education. There used to be much coffee-morning debate about how cruel and hard it was for a child starting at five years. "It is going to put tremendous strain on very young children who haven't reached that stage of development," she said. "We are left with about three years of being able to call our children our own. After that, the Government will dictate what you are allowed to do with your child — when you can go on your holidays, when you can't, what you have to do for homework. That will go on for the rest of their childhood from four years onwards. It is an extremely sad day." If a parent is deemed unable to bring up a young child it must be questionable as to whether they can guide and mentor their offspring until university beckons. If their 'disadvantage' is low family income, they will see and experience little that might make them realise the benefits of education. Not all ugly ducklings grow up to be swans.

I have concerns about those who receive disability benefit. The disability is likely to cause them to live a circumscribed life and they have no real opportunity to improve their lot by working in the black economy. More and more Service personnel are likely to end up classified as disabled - what is there for a guy with both legs and an arm left in the corner of some foreign field? The Government made much of what it was going to do for these but it was all based in greater integration with the NHS. "I have said for some time that mental health will be my welfare priority if I am the next defence secretary, so I am delighted today to announce that a Conservative government will establish a new mental health screening service for all service leavers, including reservists. Together with my colleagues in our Health team, we have agreed funding for a PTSD treatment programme within the NHS. I hope that together we can defuse the potential time bomb of mental health problems, and I am very grateful for the support that Combat Stress has offered us."patient care is at risk. "Research by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland found that more than half of nurses (54 per cent) said they were prevented from providing dignified care to patients to a standard they were happy with.Of these, 76 per cent blamed a lack of staff for the lower standards they felt they were able to deliver. It comes as the NHS in Scotland is cutting staff numbers by almost 3,800, including more than 1,500 working in nursing and midwifery. Research by The Scotsman shows that more than 1,200 out of the 3,800 posts have already been cut, with the rest expected to go by the end of the financial year" So, what chance there for some poor Tom who meets up with an IED tonight?

Cameron's cast-offs

Looks as if I'll have to book some theatrical make up in the near future if I am to get by.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

I see no ships...

...only hardships. My knowledge of economics must date back to when Keynes' book was a pre-order at Amazon but I did get into it as a constituent of the seemingly pointless examinations I went through.

With that bliss that comes of ignorance, I have been forming opinions about Dave's revelations as to the future of our armed forces. Overall impression is 'What future?' Initial opinions from those who know better seem to agree with me.

The greatly reduced Army available for deployment is not all fighting fit, fit to fight warriors. Amongst them are the support services. My immediate query is regarding the medical cover in theatre. The hospital in Afghanistan has a great record in saving life and ameliorating serious trauma. There is a equation as to the number of troops required to overcome a number of opposing forces; we would be hard pressed to overcome a small tribe of third world dissidents. I see the Army of the future as a threat only - "if you come any nearer I'll let the dog off the leash" sort of thing. We do not know the nuts and bolts as to how the reduction was decided. Did it include any provision for assets such as might be needed in an unlikely war zone or will there be a repeat of troops going from tropical Malaya to fight in a Korean winter in their lightweight clothing?.

I cannot understand the ten year outlook for getting troops out of Germany. There will be a saving but spread over ten years? I understood we were in dire straits and any saving had to be very quickly accomplished. I suppose the reasoning is that we have no proper barracks for them to go to and no habitable quarters for their families. The run down will be shorter than ten years and the people-less accommodation will need to be maintained in the interim. I cannot see Dave's Wider Society ideas producing a lot of volunteers to soldiering in place of cost-carrying professionals. If we do have to send troops anywhere where the bullets fly, the reduction in fast air cover could be very significant.

We will see tomorrow what else is to happen. Lost jobs is rightly a very common concern. Getting on one's bike is going to be very hard if it involves relocation - renting accommodation or sell/buy a home is in the doldrums. Demands on social services will be hard as relationships come under strain from all the cut backs and redundancies. We have forecasts of numbers who may be getting their cards but a fair number will be entitled to redundancy pay - has this been costed and provided for?

There will be considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth. Already, I have the feeling that much of what the coalition Cameron/Clegg/ANOs government says is condescending waffle. The people who propose and make the decisions have comfortable salaries or private means and I cannot really believe that they have much idea of the life of a single mum, maybe poorly educated, with three kids living hand to mouth on a slum estate. She has no union to protect her rights and essentials.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Go to Hell - and back

I was quite concerned when I saw this. Those who were in Korea had spoken just what it was like to face an enemy that advanced like a flood tide. The machine-gun barrels melted but still they came on. Not all had weapons but they just picked up weapons from fallen comrades and carried on.

But, then something led me to have a Google round and I found this. Equally impressive in their drill. Drill is a result of cohesion. Cohesion is what leads to fighting discipline as described by the Korean veterans.

We are all still here so perhaps drill is not the be all and end all of military success. Better media now shows us just what fighting entails; for civilians just as for the actual participants.

Remember this when the 11th of November approaches and add something to the widow's mite.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Seal'ed documents

The Sunday Telegraph has come out strong on the hostage rescue operation. The article is headed "Linda Norgrove: how the rescue operation was bungled. The rescue operation was planned meticulously, so how did it lead to the aid worker's death?" We may never know.

The longer it takes to assemble the evidence and come to a judgement, the more the fabric of the evidence is abraded. The rescuers came from a very specialised team and will have discussed the incident immediately afterwards. Unless efforts were made to segregate all individuals when the initial suicide bomber idea was disputed, debate will have continued. Men who live and work very closely develop their own esprit de corps. Where three or four are gathered together and the rescue mission arises they will come to a consensus as to what happened. Not from any improper intent to pervert the inquiry but where there is a difference of recollection, the version proffered by the strongest individual is the one that will prevail and be reiterated when personnel are interviewed. That is assuming the questions put are not answered by "It all happened so quick I don't really remember in detail"

The team used are described as "The highly secret unit, equivalent to the Special Boat Service of the Royal Marines, is composed of operatives battle-hardened from years of "kill-capture" missions waged in the mountains of Afghanistan since 2001" Just what is meant by 'kill-capture', we cannot know but the Wikileaks article contained references to what were really assassination squads that engaged in 'kill-capture'. We may assume from the drone penetrations into Pakistan that defeating the enemy has priority over fussy procedures to determine actual guilt. And that is where things could go very very wrong.

The results of any investigation will attract world-wide interest. Officialdom will not want it bruted about that such units exist. If so, the statements taken by US Army CID will be very much redacted before getting into general knowledge and the whole thing veers into politics and away from a post-engagement debate as to tactics. There are already questions that need to be put to the planners of the operation and those who agreed that these should be implemented. "The special operations forces team flew to the site on a night with no moon and "quick roped" down to the ground, immediately getting into a large and lengthy firefight, during which at least nine militants were killed."

The operation was against an isolated community in very remote country. At night, the slightest noise can be heard from a long way away. Certainly, a helicopter hovering overhead at a height to allow rappelling directly into compound would have been heard with sufficient time for the hostage-holders to get into position before the first attacker was on the ground. One of the factors that has been advanced has been awareness that the captors were absolutely ruthless and the value of Ms Norgren's life was zero. Even if she were not in fact killed by a suicide bomber, the likelihood that she would be executed must have been very high.

Another problem for the organisers are the reasons advanced for using an American team at all. The excuse was that the SAS were very busy elsewhere, the Americans knew the terrain described as very arduous. It shows scant regard for the value of the life of a UK citizen if it really was considered impossible to get together a SAS team of about a dozen for a,at most, four day absence from 'elsewhere' Image intensifiers (night sights)do not work in total darkness and there has been no mention that thermal imagery was available for every man to be so equipped. Knowledge of terrain must be immaterial - the Regiment is well used to operating in Yemen and other difficult areas. Satellite etc photographs of the compounds and surrounds would be available in such detail as to plot a route from remote landing point to front door. Loading way points into a GPS device would make the terrain problems look like the M6 on a Friday night. The SAS specialise in a procedure where troops are parachute dropped at a high level and then use free fall techniques to glide silently to the ground. Designed and taught for clandestine insertions.

Hague and Cameron are fingered as having given the final go ahead. So far as I am aware, neither has any direct personal knowledge of clandestine operations so they would only have considered the political aspect. I can see some Sir Humphrey giving them the briefs with a comment "The spams have a military plan" and that would be as much vetting as as the tactics ever got.

The main point much advanced by those supporting the saga is that 'we' did not kill the woman; the terrorists did. I find that an argument that I will leave for debate by better philosophers than I but it does seem that things could have been done better.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Miner points

I had never really known much about Chile until the news came out of the miners who had been trapped underground. I recall a heavy earthquake earlier in the year but it fell into that category "major incident - not many British killed" that The Times used for problems in 'foreign' far away places. I resorted to my old Q & A resource of Wiki and it reveals a success story in which the colonising Brits went somewhere and did not decimate the locals with exotic diseases or put them to the sword if they refused to kiss the Bible.

It would be nice to think that it was the start and our continuing presence which led to the rescue of all the trapped men. I suspect that we had little part. It all seems to have gone so swimmingly from step to step. The first thing I expected was that any opposition party would weigh in and castigate everything that was being done. The party in power would then riposte that it was all the fault of the previous government and it would all fall into the Punch and Judy politics we do so well. It seems that this is yet to arise or, even, whether such time and energy wasting debate will surface at all. The President may be the factor of change. He appears to have decamped to the makeshift village at the well head and then made sure that all concerned knew he was there. Not by interfering or indulging in micro-management. Reports from hard-bitten reporters used to creating a negative spin are all favourable, He just walks about without a mass entourage and willingly answers in English or Spanish any questions put to him. I do not detect any Press or Media Office with their insistence on controlling and regimenting everything. There are, obviously, effective controls. The cameramen have been provided with good opportunities without the rucks and mauls we see all too often. The plans for action have all been freely released well in advance of execution.

All in all, a fine job. I suggest we could learn quite a bit from it; and not just in the area of mine rescues.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Right men for the job

The Special Air Service has many unorthodox talents.All 'badged' members of The Special Air Service are parachute trained; however, there is a need for members of The Regiment to be trained in military free-fall techniques in order that operational tasks such as covert insertion by parachute into hostile territory, from high altitude, can be employed as and when needed.

Note the term 'covert insertion' i.e. landing troops into somewhere without making a lot of noise or otherwise attracting attention. I am sure that we all know the noise levels of military helicopters. Having one hover whilst attack forces deploy down a rope, in a remote area where such noise is rarely heard, cannot be described as 'covert'. The advance on foot to the compound where a hostage might be held would allow ample time for the dissidents to get into defensive positions and plan their tactics.

American special forces were within "seconds" of rescuing the kidnapped British aid worker Linda Norgrove when she was fatally wounded by a suicidal explosion triggered by one of her captors. We cannot know how long it took for the rescuers to get to the compound from their landing spot but one has to wonder why the silence of a HALO insertion was not used. The training of SF allows almost pin-point accuracy of landing; certainly all in the middle of a compound.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Brute Force

"But in Chelsea on May 6, 2008, the scale of force deployed to deal with a single cornered, drunk, deranged man — some 59 firearms trained officers with a hundred guns — would have been more appropriate for a sighting of Osama Bin Laden." Well, that is what Max Hastings has to say on the matter. Whilst the Inquest concluded yesterday that the Metropolitan Police behaved lawfully in shooting dead barrister Mark Saunders, the Coroner drew attention to the way the operation was organised.

The barrister Mark Saunders was lawfully killed when he was shot by police marksmen, but the Scotland Yard operation had major failings, an inquest jury has ruled.

Officers used reasonable and proportionate force when they shot at the drunk divorce lawyer armed with a shotgun, the inquest found. They had been firing in self-defence or in the defence of colleagues.

But the jury of six women and five men made three major criticisms of the Metropolitan police's handing of the siege at the 32-year-old lawyer's £2.2m London home on 6 May 2008.

Officers did not give enough consideration to letting his wife, Elizabeth, or barrister friend Michael Bradley contact him early in the five-hour siege. They gave "insufficient weight" to the fact he was an alcoholic who was very drunk, and therefore vulnerable. Their confused command structure on the night meant there was a "lack of clarity" over who performed the key role in charge of the police snipers."

Back in the day, specialist groups of the Met were known as 'Squads'; the Murder Squad, Stolen Car squad or Special Patrol or some such. They reverted to giving them CO (for Central Office) number prefixes. Just as well or CO19 would possibly gain the nickname of 'Murder Squad'. There just seem to be so many incidents where someone has died following contact with police regardless of whether or not firearms are involved. I am not going to list them here lest someone feel I have been piling on the agony. I do not use them in my conclusion that led to the 'Murder Squad' comment.

"In all, 59 officers armed with more than 100 guns surrounded his flat, the inquest heard. In his final 20 minutes there were 15 armed officers visible to him at the back of his premises and a helicopter hovering overhead to drown out the noise of installing powerful halogen lights. The lights were turned on two minutes before he was shot, flooding his flat with "Blackpool illuminations".

The manual of the Association of Chief Police Officers stated that in such cases officers should consider taking cover or backing off, if safe, and giving "time and space" to the person, the jury heard. Early negotiation was also recommended. Those tactics could defuse tension, and allow alcohol or drugs to wear off and the subject's mental and emotional state to stabilise. Such tactics were not employed.

While finding police had given insufficient weight to Saunders's problems, the jury said it was not likely this contributed to his death. They found there was a lack of clarity between the key roles of the firearms tactical adviser and the firearms "bronze" adviser, with Superintendent Michael Wise, the "silver" commander in charge of tactical decisions on the night, believing one officer was performing both roles." 59 men armed with the latest weapons. All receive psychological evaluation and considerable range and tactics training. In military terms, 59 to 1 is about two infantry companies - overkill. Co-ordination of such a large group would be difficult. Any one of them would have been capable of neutralising the threat. Adrenaline runs high even for trained and experienced men. There may have been some rousing words - "The key words ­spoken that evening were those of an ­unidentified officer briefing ­colleagues at the scene before Mark Saunders was shot at 9.32pm: 'He let some off at Old Bill and that changes the rules' In the minds of the modern Met, once Saunders, mad or not, fired his gun, he made himself a legitimate candidate for killing. I reject the view of an anonymous marksman who gave ­evidence at the inquest, saying his action was ‘absolutely ­necessary’, as part of the police role in putting themselves ‘between the public and the bad man’

The effective range of the ordinary shotgunfiring buckshot is about 50 metres. We do not know how close the nearest officer was. The rifles used by the police would have effective ranges of many hundreds of metres so there was no need for any of them to put themselves at a range where Saunders might harm anyone - their justification for the fatal shooting. Post mortem established that 5 rounds hit him; 7 officers fired so some more range work needed there.

There was really no need for fatal shooting anyway. Our Special Forces have used blast and gas cartridges fired into the room where a gunman is. These give an opportunity to storm the premises and effect an arrest. I am aware of the self-defence response but the plain fact is that none of the police needed to be in a location such that a man armed only with a shotgun was in position to harm anyone. I have no concern that they shot to kill rather than to wound or disarm - that sort of shooting exists only in spaghetti westerns.

As I see it, the essential is that police re-examine their tactics; especially in the area of command and control. There is concern that Mumbai-type attacks could occur in UK and we have a terrorist prime-target of the Olympics. In light of the way 59 officers dealt with the solicitor, I am concerned at how the police might cope with a considerable number of terrorists armed with assault rifles and explosives in, possible, multiple locations.

There was one other matter for concern. "In the wake of the inquest it has emerged that the Met commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, who had earlier denied any confusion, wrote to the IPCC last week acknowledging inquest evidence had shown "confusion on this point" The last occasion we heard of Met Commissioners writing to IPCC was when Commission Blair involved himself in an IPCC matter was the Brazilian plumber. If IPCC are dealing, they should be left to do just that without any covert warning from a senior policeman that he had already come to a judgment.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito

I suppose I have always followed the advice "you should not give in to evils, but proceed ever more boldly against them" Maybe it was that which led to my choice of employment in HM Forces and, briefly, as a civilian. My early years were in the late 1930s when there was a strong regard for morals in the days when "nice children do not do that" was backed with physical reinforcement if not learnt the first time.

It seems from my aged standpoint of today that that has all been swept away. Children are mostly feral and self-raising and say and do much as they wish with no let or hindrance. On the other hand, it seems as if we have changed attitudes to children. As a seven or eight year old I was outside the house, alone for much of the day and early evening. I knew there were 'dirty' men that I should avoid but my parents never had to consider whether I would disappear off the face of the earth into the hands of such as Myra Hindley and Brady. Paedophilia has benefited from the electronic age.

There is considerable anguish about sex education. I have no memory of one of the fierce dragons known as 'lady teachers' showing me how to cover a banana with a condom as now seems prevalent. I do recall, even now, the locations of such as air-raid shelters where females of my age (12'ish) would gather and sex education became homework. The whole world of male and female relationships has now changed. It was once the done thing to tell a girl-friend or other female just how beautiful she looked as one held the door open for her to exit or as she walked along the pavement with me between her and the traffic. Try that now and one would find the door slammed firmly into one's face or receive a push under a following bus. I remember the early days of the Womens' Liberation movement. Two adherents worked in my department and it seemed that never a day went by without some drama where one of them went by without my having to adjudicate on a perceived disrespectful remark or action.

The preceding ambling on has been set-off by a current court case in Edinburgh involving alleged perjury by a husband and his wife. It is alleged (yes, by me I know) that he is typical of the new breed of sleaze-ball politician and lied about pursuing his sexual activities out-with the marital bed. Press coverage has images of her. She typifies the 'Stand by your man' culture. Whenever I see her photograph I ponder just why this might be. She is a stunner. All without the need to flash her assets about. She follows the footsteps of Mary Archer who has explained why she stood by the damaged-goods husband. This new admonition regarding comments on females may well lead to suggestions from the bra-less community that I am referring to her in a sexual manner. No. She is the sort of woman I would have been proud to take home to my mum to face a grilling far more stressful that a High or Sheriff's Court appearance.

Just to clarify though. There are women in the public eye that would cause my sex machine to rev up. Sorry that should be would have caused; it never gets above zero revs now. There are just some women who cannot, unfortunately, be seen other than as objects of sexual desire. They would most certainly never have met Mum.There are many photographs of Sophia and Kate where they are dressed very formally -as for Ascot one might say - but nothing destroys the lusty image. I think it is the facial bone structure that does it!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Use what you have

Today's Times devotes a page to Elish Angiolini who is stepping down as Lord Advocate, Scotland. (No link as Times is behind a pay-barrier) The article detailed her idea that communications technology could corroborate a victim's account of a sex attack. She supported use of mobile phone company records and social networking sites and had seen a rise of securing convictions. Scots law requires corroboration of a witness's testimony and she had introduced this with expert opinion evidence from psychologists who examine mobile and Facebook records for clues as to a person's behaviour after being attacked. This can encourage victims to come forward where they might fear that they would be believed.

Of course,all this has attracted the criticism of the Human Rights Squad who describe the expert evidence as pseudo-science.

The old Judges Rules governed what police officers should do in the course of their investigations so as to show Judges that things were done fairly. The very first of these rules allowed the police to question any person with a view to finding out whether, or by whom, an offence had been committed. 'Question any person' gave approval to the use of experts and this should include psychologists.

Persons accused of a crime have many routes open to them to avoid questioning or to dispute such evidence. It is, of course, open to them to retain their own expert. These give the man in the dock an advantage over the forces of law and order. My contention, formed from having been an investigator, is that all relevant evidence should be put before a Judge and Jury. The Judge would decide whether it was relevant and the jury - possibly with guidance at summing-up time - would rule as to which side had made it's case. This should happen regardless of how the information was obtained (short of torture obviously). If the accused was shown to have used some form of trickery in the commission of the offence, why is it wrong to bar the police from using trickery in their investigations? We now have international courts of appeal so the idea that the law could ride rough shod over some harmless but unlucky defendant is obsolete.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Care of the sick and aged

I have been reading up on our ancestors and came across this.
"Old Man
Estimated age: 50,000 years
Date of discovery: 1908
Location: La-Chapelle-aux-Saints, France

This individual, who was 30 to 40 years old when he died, had a healed broken rib, severe arthritis of the hip, lower neck, back, and shoulders, and had lost most of his molar teeth. This indicates that Neanderthals may have had a complex social system that included care for the elderly."
There are other accounts of finds where skeletons were found with withered arms, tooth loss and severe osteoarthritis such that they could not have fended for themselves in a hunter-gatherer community.

I have also read up on the suggested changes in the NHS and the impact - especially in Scotland - of cost savings likely to be imposed.

It would seem that our new Government does not even come up to the standards of Neanderthals.

No Neanderthals were harmed in the research for this report.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Crime reform

The Big Man at the Inspectorate of Constabulary has confirmed what so very many people had long suspected. The Police had given up on antisocial behaviour. For whatever reason one subscribes to, there were too few bobbies on their beats. This could well be a ruse to save Forces from cutbacks said to be as much as 25%; I'll not explore that idea.

Regardless of what is done, the police are in the hands of many other agencies. Social Services may want to chip their oar in. Local authorities will have policies. The Prosecution Services will mull things over. And then there are the judiciary who jealously guard their status in deciding what punishments should be awarded. Nicking the antisocial is one thing but it starts off a veritable Snakes and Ladders process.

The very title of Antisocial Behaviour means nothing and leaves open the way that 'high spirits' is differentiated from, say, Causing Criminal Damage. If offences were to be charged as found in the existing criminal law the way in which an offender is dealt with is much simplified and capable of being understood by the lay person. Breaking wind in a lift is antisocial but (thank goodness) not a crime.

A founder of modern policing laid down
the principles under which they should consider their duties."1 / The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.
2 / The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.
3 / Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.
4 / The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
5 / Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.
6 / Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.
7 / Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
8 / Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.
9 / The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it."
That little lot would seem to cover much that hides under the stone of antisocial behaviour. And before we leave the wisdom of Robert Peel he also said "His central notion was that "the police are the public and the public are the police". The police, wrote Peel, are only members of the public who are "paid to give full-time attention to duties incumbent on every citizen".

He argued that the effectiveness of the police in preventing crime depended on public support. The police would gain this by showing absolute impartiality, by offering service to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or status, and "by ready exercise of courtesy and good humour". Force should only be used as a last resort.

Socialist principles of seeking to treat all of the community as equals have gone too far. Some parents take care of what their offspring learn from them and well-behaved others. Other parents give not a damn with the results we have seen. One sees on the TV coverage of where uniformed police interact with young hoodies. There is absolutely no sign of any respect for the uniform or what it should represent. The most foul language from children of about 7 or 8 years of age goes unchecked. This disrespect continues up the age band. The days when juveniles respected adults and the aged have long gone. They are - in short terms - uncontrollable. This what must be put right. Like it or lump it, people need to be made very well aware that the majority expect them to conform to the rules that we need to bind us together.

The concept that we all have the same rights each with another has to be re-examined. Any juvenile - say under 18 years of age - who causes trouble of the sort now described as anti-social needs a short sharp shock and left in no doubt that they must change their ways. If the parents are unable or do not assist in this process, it should be made very clear that the offender will be removed from their control and handed over to the State for corrective re-induction as a reasonably behaving individual.

'Short sharp shock' may suggest National Service or "Sisters of Mercy" running laundries in Ireland. That is exactly what it is not. Ritualised cruelty will change a person but it will rarely alter their personality. I was put through National Service in a Corps that demanded high levels of instant compliance with orders and high personal standards. I saw the toughest of feral youth come in full of resentment and animosity to all. Eighteen weeks later we all marched off the barrack square with everyone committed to upholding the tradition and honour of the Corps that had just accepted us. At no time had I seen any physical violence used towards any of them. Certainly, there was verbal abuse but it was always out in the open and we all understood why correction was needed. We were taught that we could rely on the man next to us and he on us. The need for uniformity of conduct was illustrated. The smelly learnt to shower. The drinker learned to control his consumption. Being the odd man out in a room of maybe 40 others can be very uncomfortable. Once the 'hard men' realised that there was no way they could beat the system, things moved ahead much faster and easier for us all.

How this might be accomplished is something I cannot assist with - I am an old man well out of touch with modern thinking. When I was still a teenager, we had Dr Barnado homes Many local authorities ran Homes for Unmarried Mothers - not all these were the brutal prison many imagine. What worked then could be revised, updated and re-used. They provided valuable training for youngsters, trainee nurses and midwives and ongoing care for the mothers.

I speak about the need to inculcate respect for authority - dissing in street slang.In their milieu of gangland, to diss someone is regarded as a serious offence and may well lead to murder. So, they know the concept. All they need to take on board the others that it does not pay to diss.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Cold wind on hot air

Considerable coverage everywhere on the new Thanet wind farm. The wind power technology is rated as even better than sliced bread. We in Scotland have seen a considerable growth in wind farms - something to do with valleys channelling wind onto flat places. So, we need to give thought to something that appeared in our news quite recently.

"SCOTLAND'S wind farms have produced only around half the amount of power they were expected to this year, Scotland on Sunday has learned. The government blamed the low generation levels on unusually calm weather, but critics said the figures showed the danger of becoming too dependent on renewable energy." This situation is then amplified "Stuart Young, who runs Caithness Wind Information Forum and opposes wind farms, carried out the research by analysing data from the Balancing Mechanism Reporting System website, which the National Grid uses to monitor generation. The site provides a constant flow of information on output from 1,588 megawatts wind farms in Scotland.
His research also showed that for 80 per cent of the time between February and June Scotland's turbines were operating at less than 30 per cent.

And for almost a third of the time they were operating at less than 5 per cent of their maximum output, meaning they were virtually becalmed. Only nine times between February and June had the wind farms achieved 30 per cent efficiency for a full day at a time. There were long stretches, such as from 16 to 29 May, 9 to 15 April and 6 to 23 February when they failed to reach 30 per cent output"

The industry was defended. Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland who is reported as saying "Generally, the wind is blowing somewhere in the UK and the likelihood of low wind speeds affecting 50 per cent of the country occurs less than 100 hours per year."

It seems that the nuclear power stations will be decommissioned. Periods when there is insufficient wind-powered generation will be met by using the coal-fired power stations as back-up. Just how this might work in practice does not seem to have been released but it must take time to go from stand-by to full steam ahead. That is after someone has decided that wind power is failing. The coal fired resources will need to be kept manned. Even if just turning over they require feeding with non-sustainable fuel. They will generate large amounts of CO2. If we factor in the costs to make the windmills, transport them from their foreign manufacturers, erect, maintain and eventually decommission, there cannot be much of a saving on CO2 from wind farms.

Mention is made of the Danish experience as being supportive of wind power. Ah yes but, there is an element of apples and bears comparisons. "Danish wind turbines near Copenhagen. Wind often flows briskly and smoothly over water since there are no obstructions. The large and slow turning turbines of this offshore wind farm near Copenhagen take advantage of the moderate yet constant breezes at this location. While the wind at this location is not strong it is very consistent, with the turbines generating substantial power over 97 percent of the time." We have read about the vagaries of wind speeds in Scotland. 'Moderate' and 'constant breezes' they are not. I haven't kept a check but I think I have seen seven warnings of gale force winds this month alone.

Maybe our political masters who direct their sheep into the appropriate pens should read "The Wind Farm Scam. Dr Etherington argues that in the case of wind power the drawbacks far outweigh the claimed benefits. Wind turbines cannot generate enough energy to reduce global CO2 levels to a meaningful degree; what's more wind power is by nature intermittent and cannot generate a steady output, necessitating back-up coal and gas power plants that significantly negate the saving of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to the inefficacy of wind power there are ecological drawbacks, including damage to habitats, wildlife and the far-from-insignificant aesthetic drawback of the assault upon natural beauty and the pristine landscape, which wind turbines entail. Dr Etherington argues that wind power has been, and is being, excessively financed at the cost of consumers who have not been consulted, nor informed that this effective subsidy is being paid from their bills to support an industry that cannot be cost efficient or, ultimately, favour the cause it purports to support"

And who will have to pick up the costs of this enterprise? Once it gets into the National Grid the costs will pass to the energy suppliers. And to whom will they off-load it? Us - the customers.

Welcome to Cameron's Brave New World.

Made in Britain

As a old coffin dodger I remember when that proud boast meant something when seen on a product. Way way back now when we used to actually build things from start to finish and did not rely on 'service' industries employing off the hook foreigners at sweat shop rates.

We could still be doing it if we tried. We have the brains to invent - just how many types of Dyson vacuum cleaners are there? I hear we are well up in the development of computer games of the shoot 'em up, knock 'em down variety.

Something where I thought the developed world would appreciate some innovation must be the protection of the life and limb of their armed forces. That valuable document we know as Wikileaks revealed details of just how deeply the Taliban have adopted the Improvised Explosive Device. The leaked documents show the exponential growth in the use of these in the last six years. The number of British military personnel killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at 337, after a soldier from the Queen's Royal Lancers and another from the Royal Engineers died in an explosion on 18 September. One would think that we might have explored all avenues to counteract this cheap but deadly munition. We have electronic measures but in the unfriendly to electrons environment they go off song.

But, wait a minute, the Americans have a new weapon of which great things are spoken. A gadget which fires a spear of water capable of slicing steel is being despatched to Afghanistan to disarm roadside bombs. The device — dubbed Stingray — was developed by boffins at America's Sandia National Laboratories — and 3,000 are heading to US soldiers this year.In this news release, it seems that someone's redacting marker had slipped. Bold as brass, right there it says "The basic concept of the devices was first developed in the 1970s in Britain to deal with IRA explosives" So, where the hell has it been in those 40 years? Looking at the manufacturer' site we see "Nine Sandians made the nation's fight against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) personal in 2009 through on-site service with the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) in Washington, DC" What we had for all those years was developed by these nine guys in the space of a year. From concept to shipment of 3,000 units.

We have had a selection of governments since 1970. All full of promises that mostly lasted little longer that it took the ink to dry on their false and deceptive manifesto. So, not caring for our troops is not an attitude confined to any one political party. The Conservative element of our current Mongrel Parliament spoke of rectifying the Military Covenant. "The Conservatives say they will create a new "tri-service" military covenant, which would include specific obligations and requirements to care for families and veterans. The manifesto promises a new mental health screening service for everyone leaving the armed forces. The Conservatives say that more than a quarter of Iraq war veterans suffer mental health problems and that they will establish Britain's first dedicated post-traumatic stress disorder treatment programme within the NHS.

Operational allowances for military personnel would be doubled and the children of servicemen and women killed while on active duty would be provided with university and further education scholarships. The scheme would be backdated to 1990." They said. They have since said that HM Forces personnel and other Budgets will have the same savagery imposed upon them and many now employed will be 'set free' of the bonds of uniform. The Army does not gave a lot of use for one armed and legless soldiers who benefit from a bit of a blind eye approach and are currently found useful employment suited to their medical condition and they will be in the front line for being made civilians. Retraining is not an overnight process so it is not likely they will get a lot of that. Pressure on the NHS will be increased even without the additional workload and expense of caring for damaged former soldiers.

Truly, Kipling had it right all those years ago
"O there'll surely come a day
When they'll give you all your pay,
And treat you as a Christian ought to do;
So, until that day comes round,
Heaven keep you safe and sound,"

For sure, his employers will care not if he is neither safe nor sound.