Tuesday, 20 July 2010

"When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.

"Four Democrat senators are demanding an investigation into whether BP played any role in the release of Megrahi. If the slightest evidence to that effect surfaces, BP is toast. The Obama administration will take it out. That would make Obama look strong again, it would provide a useful distraction from his other failures and it would be the first initiative by him that would enthuse redneck Republicans."

I find this article strangely at odds with the normal balance one might expect from the Telegraph. Earlier in the self same article, Warner says "BP’s role in pressing for a decision on the prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, to facilitate its acquiring oil exploration rights from the Gaddafi regime, is now common knowledge".

Cannot have something common knowledge and if slightest evidence at the same time Gerald.

We also get considerable barrage at the fact that the ex-prisoner is still with us. Has the learned and world wise correspondent never heard of remission? "Complete remission means that the cancer or leukaemia can't be detected on scans, X-rays, or blood tests etc.Doctors sometimes call this a complete response.

Partial remission means the treatment has killed some of the cells, but not all. The cancer has shrunk, but can still be seen on scans and doesn't appear to be growing.. The treatment may have stopped the cancer from growing. Or made it smaller so that other treatments are more likely to help, such as surgery or radiotherapy. This is sometimes called a partial response."

I am not able to say whether this remission has visited Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi but then neither is Warner. He bases his vituperation on al-Megrahi having lasted so long after release on some put-up jon when remission is just as likely. A prognosis is not a guaranteed outcome. al-Megrahi's situation was examined by numerous experts and I am not aware of any who have said he was in full health. The debate as to whether or not al-Meghari did it seems superfluous when the complaint is that political expediency was involved in his release.

Certainly the whole matter is being used as another stick to beat BP. The Americans quite like a shady deal. If one wants one in an oil context - have a look at Love Canal.If doubt lingers - just pop over to Vietnam history. The idea that some Britishers might swing something over Uncle Sam has rendered many incandescent. My mother always used to say one should not judge; I stick with people in glass houses should not throw stones. The people who complain that passengers in that ill-fated PanAm flight didn't get to go home free seem to forget the blasting out of the sky of an Iranian jet by a US warship.

Whilst I can appreciate that the posing by US politicians, all paragons of virtue, may inflame the situation I cannot truly understand why they are ranting on as they are. If they feel they were hard done by, why not go down the good old American route of litigation? Some court somewhere has jurisdiction to hear an appeal. It can then see where it goes - or does the US recognise just what a waste of time, money and effort the UN really is? Trying the case in the media does nothing except encourage rabble rousing based on false premise such as the Telegraph has wasted wood pulp on today. I might be prejudiced but I keep coming back to this.

Who goes where?

As the case of a deported frail and mentally ill woman shows, our stretched asylum system fails the most needy and vulnerable.

Late on Thursday evening, Gloria, who has lived in the UK for more than 14 years, was deported.
No one has a complete picture of Gloria's life. She was "clearly vulnerable" according to the UK Border Agency official who interviewed her when she applied for asylum, and might have learning difficulties too. She has mental health problems for which she has been receiving treatment.

Yes, a very sad story. My end conclusion is that it was a shame no one at the Borders Agency thought to have put Gloria's case file to the bottom of the pile and left it there. They will say that the case was plainly one where her continued presence was not in accordance with the laws of this land. The law is the law and one must start somewhere.

It would be interesting to know where this took place and then look at the record of the Agency responsible for that area. Was this a case where justice was demanded or was it an easy catch to bump up the statistics. I tend to agree with Blunkett that we risk being swamped by incomers.

We have reports that there is resentment at illegal immigration on the grounds that it is taking jobs away from those born here. Debating this is complicated because we seem to have no effective means of establishing how many UK-born persons are out of work in a particular area purely because there is no work available. Are they on the dole because it is more profitable for them to live on benefit? Are they the product of an education system so perverted that it's graduates did everything but gain an education that would fit them for gainful employment?

If we are to recover from the dire straits in which we now live, it will be necessary for everyone to contribute. All hands to the oars and no passengers. If someone can contribute, I see no reason why we should not recognise their presence here and get them to contribute on the same footing as the UK True Brit segment.

I could accept a system where employers acted as a sponsor for anyone - regardless of their residency status. If Majuba Saluba or Edward s/o William can do a job, give it to them. All the while they stay employed, they are exempt from Borders agency actions. They could transfer employment if they wished but any time spent unemployed would render them liable to consideration for deportation. The sponsorship documentation would include certification from the company that they had advertised the job for a number of weeks and had no better applicant than the person now nominated.

In return for this protected status, they would undertake to maintain a low background. No demands that we knock St Paul's cathedral down and build a mosque. Nothing about their females becoming mobile mail bags. Sharia law goes down the Sharia No Way. Those practices which are truly adjuncts of their religion would be permitted; what they might wish to do in interpretation of a religious edict would be subject to investigation and a ruling made.

This would allow them to contribute and would, if properly implemented and controlled, defeat those who claim that incomers are spoiling things for everybody.

The question as to what happens when those sponsored reach the end of work span could be solved along the lines that, after X years of gainful employment, the individual was regarded and treated exactly as a UK citizen.

The Agency should continue to investigate all immigrants. Those who were sponsored should be recorded. Those who have actively sought employment would have to demonstrate what efforts they had made to gain employment. This will separate the sheep from the goats. Those who get caught on the filters must be put outside the country without delay or prolonged debate. What may happen to them in their homeland is immaterial; we did not create the despots and the travellers would be well aware of the outcome if they came here and failed to integrate.

This eviction procedure will attract opposition from numerous countries. We will hear much talk of humanity and human rights. We here in UK have our rights and these do not include any form of having to give aid and succour to those who come here with the intention of soaking up aid like a sponge. It cannot really be humane to perpetuate any situation where an immigrant is forced to live a sub-human life as someone on the run. Life is hard for all of us but our salvation must demand that,in the first place, we help ourselves.

I do not regard any of this as racist. We are not arranging anything in the way of persecution or especial treatment. Those deemed UK citizens are going to be subjected to investigation and action where deemed as benefit scroungers or work shy.

In conjunction with all this, we would devote far more time to dealing with those who facilitate people smuggling. Really severe punishment must be introduced to take them out of circulation; fines are a waste of time given the rewards that they get for their dirty work. Fining transport companies is all very well but the prime control of what happens on a HGV is the driver. He needs to face lengthy imprisonment.

Knowing who comes and goes is a major task. Knowing who does what within a community is not easy. We hear much of anti-terrorist measures and these two 'knowings' must surely be part of such protocols.

How did we get here?

Have been involved in long and contentious debate as to how the Earth was formed. Was there a Big Bang, was it evolution or a Supreme Being?

I have defeated the Supreme Being thing. Why would an all-knowing, all-seeing omnipotent entity put tits on a man?

I have rested my case.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Afghanistan - pull out or soldier on?

There has been a rise in the number of think-pieces in the media on the question of withdrawal from Afghanistan. In part, this will have been sparked off by the murder of 3 of our soldiers by someone allegedly on the same side as they were. The indignation which which this was met died down fairly quickly. I suspect that the general public now accept that our brand-new government is already dismissive of their overwhelming majority calling for the troops to be recalled. That same authority has been busy talking-up the effects of cuts and these are far closer to home.

Another factor must be the fudge that we and America enter into when they do discuss leaving. We get dates but they are conditioned "troops will start to return" or "some troops will be left for training purposes" These are weasel words par excellence. Once the early returnees get on the 'plane, the opposition will be strengthened in their will and raise the level of attacks. The troops left behind for 'training' will be in the same weakened position and the trainers may well need guards. Given the treachery of which the locals are capable, it would be unwise to leave this to the students and graduates. The desired force level of Afghan Army and police seems to change on a daily basis and the deserters remain high.

I have been looking at an article written the last time we lost men to our own forces. Just a few extracts will indicate how little has changed in the intervening nine months. This is how things were seen back then by a respected contributor:
I was in an office in Kabul this summer being lectured by a mid-ranking official about the successful work of the government. "Completely off the record, what do you really think of this government?" I asked him, not expecting a very interesting reply.
"So long as you promise not to reveal my identity, I can tell you that this government is made up of killers and crooks," answered the official with scarcely a pause. He gave some examples of government-inspired killings and corruption.

In this tradition of carefully calculated treachery, the shooting dead of five British soldiers by an Afghan policeman operating with them is hardly surprising. Afghan leaders have long been notorious for concealing their true loyalties and changing sides. But the potential political consequences are very serious. The US and British strategy to build up the Afghan security forces to as many as 400,000 may prove impossible because the state is too weak and too poor and commands the loyalty of too few Afghans.
And then there is the question of loyalty:
The reputation of Afghans for always defeating their enemies is based in part on the speed with which they join the winner. The Taliban advances in the 1990s were notable less for military victories than local warlords defecting to them after receiving a large bribe. In the US war to overthrow the Taliban in 2001, the same process went into reverse as the CIA bought off the same warlords who then sent their men home without a fight.

Nor is this the first time that Western forces have been turned on by their Afghan colleagues. In Kunduz province north of Kabul earlier this summer, a policeman shot eight of his colleagues and turned his police post over to the Taliban. An American military trainer was shot and wounded by one of the men he was training when he drank water in front of them when they were fasting during Ramadan.

The shaky loyalty of the Afghan police and, to a lesser extent, the army to their own government undermines US and British plans to hold the line against the Taliban while a strong local security force is built up. US political leaders speak of a force of 240,000 soldiers and 160,000 police to be trained in the next few years. In reality, though, nobody knows the current size of the Afghan security forces.

The army is supposedly 90,000 strong, but this figure may be grossly over-stated. "My educated guess is that such an army simply does not exist," writes Ann Jones, an American specialist on Afghanistan. "I knew men who repeatedly went through ANA [Afghan National Army] training to get the promised Kalashnikov and the pay. Then they went home for a while and often returned some weeks later to enlist under a different name."

Even so, the reputation of the army among ordinary Afghans is much better than that of the police. Some of these are paid a pittance for a very dangerous job. They are often stationed in vulnerable outposts and checkpoints. Their training is frequently almost non-existent. Before the presidential election in August, policemen being trained by a US security firm who had been receiving eight weeks' training saw this reduced to three weeks, so they could be sent to guard polling stations in southern Afghanistan.
That same commentator returned to the subject this week-end. His conclusions?
The US leadership is clearly divided on the merits of staying in Afghanistan, but cannot work out how to withdraw without too great a loss of face. It reached the same conclusion over Iraq, but there the situation was easier. The anti-US insurgents came from the Sunni community – which made up only 20 per cent of Iraqis – who were under intense pressure from the Shia government, the armed forces, militias and death squads. The insurgency in Afghanistan is drawn from the Pashtun community, 42 per cent of the population, and so far shows no sign of splitting. With Iraq, it was enough that US voters got the impression they had won. A retreat could be conducted with no US objectives achieved, but nobody could be accused of cutting and running. This was the achievement of General Petraeus, now the military commander in Afghanistan. But political and military conditions are wholly different there. Dressing up a withdrawal as some sort of success will be far more difficult in Afghanistan.
I suspect Cameron has realised he has no influence over what Obama chooses to do; we will not be consulted on any final solution but merely told 'this is what I'm doing'. If he has no say or influence it is pointless his forming a policy of his own and he keeps his breath to cool a different bowl of soup.

It is difficult to see just what benefit would come from any Review of Defence. If we cannot know what we are required to do, we cannot determine how many troops and what other assets will be needed. We cannot hope for any backbone from the senior officers; their lack of spine was demonstrated in the recent Times investigation. So - soldier on would seem to be the most likely outcome, They mat do something when the recital of deaths at commencement of parliamentary business may cut down on the time they need to debate their own well-ordered and pig-trough policies.