Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Why Didn't The BBC Lead With This Item?

On Monday (an order banning publication has now been lifted) at Swansea Crown Court Sarfraz Ibrahim apleaded guilty to corruption, attempting to pervert the course of justice and misconduct in public office. He is the head of the advocacy unit at the Gwent CPS in South Wales and accepted a share of a £20,000 bribe to drop a case.

This brings the entire justice system into disrepute. It may just be one bad apple but the whole barrel is tainted. If there is one corrupt person at such a senior level then the whole system is weakened. Every case that Ibrahim handled will have to be checked for impropriety. His colleagues and associates will come under suspicion. People who had cases dropped against them may be wrongly slurred by the possibility of corruption. If there is one thing that the administration of justice, on which civil society rests, requires it is absolute honesty and impartiality. That is why Justice is blindfolded.
So how does the BBC report this earthquaking news? Not on the front page of its news website
but instead relegated to item 3 on its Wales page.
It's as if the BBC wanted to tuck it away from its viewers. Why?
Update 14 July: the scum got four and a half years or as short as two years and a quarter in prison assuming he wasn't remanded in custody.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Bring Our Brave Boys Home From South Africa

Ninety-two weeks into the World Cup competition, our brave and highly trained Ingerland soccer players have endured high-altitude and hot temperatures and suffered countless painful injuries. Despite the World Cup being vital to our national interests, no additional spending has been authorised by either the FA or the British government to counter the deadly vuvuleza horn or the lethal jabulane footerball designed to render only Ingerlish footballers incapable of playing above Sunday Pub League standard. Moreover, the cunning FIFA rules mean that Ingerlish players are unable to use the tactics that makes the Ingerlish Premier League Division One the best in the world for footer fans: instead of being in a team with eight or nine other foreign players, our highly skilled Italian coach has to pick eleven (!) Ingerlish players for the Ingerlish side. No foreigners are allowed! And the say that football kicks out racism. Amazingly, "Fabulous" Fabio as he was called until our world beating players arrived in South Africa, is criticized for not publishing the list of players until two hours before kick-off. Given the resources, I would be stick sucking my pencil after the extra time whistle blew.

Bring Our Brave Boys Home From South Africa!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

American Oil Spill

Update 25 June 2010: re Bhopal, it would appear Obuma's vitriolic attacks against BP has roused Indian public opinion against Union Carbide . I wonder if America will allow a level playing field?

Is Afghanistan The Best Place To Fight?

My Grandad fought at Monte Cassino. Both sides fought stubbornly and incredibly bravely at great cost in lives. The Monastery was nearly flattened by Allied bombers. I say nearly because it was turned into a network of foxholes, ratruns and cellars that helped the fanatical German Paras defending it. And yet, as cogently argued by Professor Richard Holmes, the battle was unnecessary. Especially after breakout from the Anzio landings Monte Cassino could have been prudently ignored. The Battle of Hurtgen Forest was another unnecessary battle. Fought between September 1944 and February 1945 on the Belgo-German border it claimed tens of thousands of American and German casualties and in the mini-series Band of Brothers its sustained futile nastiness was the shell-burst among the trees that eviscerated the camel and broke the spirit of many of Easy Company's veterans. Equally. the Battle of Berlin nearly brought Bomber Command to its knees with unsustainable losses that were only reduced by a change in strategy to the pre D-Day bombing of the transportation network and oil refineries.

My point is that, as Sun Tzu wrote 2,500 years ago, and I paraphrase, it is always better to seek battle at a time and place of one's choosing. The wise chap also said that it's better to avoid battle altogether if possible. Something that the Duke of Wellington and those awkward third world amateur generals who beat modern western armies understood.

So why are Coalition forces engaged in fighting a war in Afghanistan against an enemy who won't stand still long enough in one place in large enough numbers for a set piece all-arms engagement to achieve a decisive victory?

The Taliban or local tribal fighters have no territorial claims against any western nation, although a bit of border tidying outstanding since independence was granted to India and Pakistan in 1947 would enable the Pathans to be united and save Pakistan a lot of internal strife in pacifying its western tribal areas where the writ of Islamabad is tenuous and temporary.

Al Quaeda can easily move its bases anywhere in the Middle East, North Africa, South East Asia where there is a large muslim population and poor government (the two tend to exist together).
What is to stop Venezuela becoming a terrorist haven as a means of attacking the USA?

Another reason given for Britain having 10,000 troops in Afghanistan is the destruction of the opium crop. If I was a poor Afghan farmer living in poverty, I would definitely grow poppies in preference to wheat, apricots and pomegranates. Western heroin addicts are the West's problem. However, it treats addicts as victims whereas the Afghan farmers have their crops destroyed and are then ordered to grow something much less profitable. The problem is not down to the suppliers, despicable as they are, but with the consumers of the drugs. It would be easier to reduce demand by vigorously tackling the drug addition problem in this country. How much extra expenditure than is spent in Afghanistan would be needed to wean addicts off their drugs and keep them clean?

Another argument for fighting in Afghanistan is to bring equal rights to women, educate children and improve healthcare. There are swathes of the Third World that require such reforms. Afghanistan is no different. Think how unequal, how illiberal, how brutish, nasty and short were the lives of ordinary people in the West until a hundred and fifty, or a hundred years or even more recently in some parts of London. Yet the development was not imposed from outside, it was grown in fits and starts and some dead ends from within. Because of that gradualism, people accepted it and felt a sense of ownership so that our veneer of civilisation became habitual and part of the furniture. What right have the Mrs Jellybys of the West, for all their good intentions, got to expect that the off the shelf, flatpack 21st century will be accepted with open arms by people living what is a very dangerous medieval lifestyle? Wouldn't it be more realistic and sensible to identify the points of similarity between our very different cultures, use those to develop understanding and leave the Afghans and indeed the rest of the world to sort out the awkward bits by themselves in their own time? After all, only an idiot expects everybody to celebrate Christmas in an identical fashion. So long as there's presents, telly and turkey the order and respective amounts are unimportant.

So back to the question of why the Coalition fights in Afghanistan when it is a foreign country that is not vital for the protection of our people and property, that offers geographical advantages to the guerrilla fighter, that extends the lines of supply so that every soldier costs £250,000 per year to feed and equip when a Taliban fighter would be rich if he earned £1,000 per year, and where the population is at best ambivalent towards the government and the Coalition. In the words of the First World War song, "We're here because we're here, because we're here." The very successful campaign of 2001 removed the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and left a power vacuum. Unfortunately, instead of just tidying up the worst of the damage and leaving smartly with the warning not to make us return, it was considered desirable and possible that a new country could be grown out of the wreckage of thirty years of war and zip all, with the exception of some thirties vintage Hawker Harts, modern civilization outside the big cities. Nearly nine years down the line we have, metaphorically, advanced back to Mons just like the BEF in WWI and called it a victory. We may be winning but are the Taliban losing?

My proposals are that Coalition Forces withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible to enable the Afghans to sort out their affairs again and a UN Border Commission is established to resolve the outstanding border problems of Afghanistan/Pakistan and Pakistan/India that were swept under the carpet in 1947. Nato and other Coalition forces need a period of time, call it a hudna for want of a better word, to rest, learn lessons and reequip where required and in the meantime the foreign ministries of all western nations must adopt the Arab technique of taqiyya in all dealings with the islamic world as a matter of professional courtesy.

I will discuss equipment and strategy in a later post.

Defence: A Modest Proposal

David Cameron exhorts us to get behind our troops and support the war in Afghanistan. Just like Gordon Brown. It is a nearly universally held belief that the MoD is overstaffed and bad but the armed services are like nurses with guns: they can do no wrong and nothing is too good for them.
May I suggest that our armed forces are not perfect and spending more money on them without clearly specifying targets to achieve is wasteful of the nation's limited resources at any time and especially so now when the National Debt is £900 billion and rising.
Instead of viewing Defence as A Good Thing in its own right, the radical Tory should regard Defence as a means of protection for the United Kingdom and its international trade. The three most important areas of government business are foreign affairs, homeland security and industry and energy policy. The other departments support this Triad. The Treasury is a means of efficiently raising and distributing the money needed to operate government. Just as in an ideal world there would be no need for the Police to protect, deter, detect and prosecute to allow law abiding folk to go about their lawful business, in a similar Utopia there would be no need for armed forces. It is clear that there are states or quasi-states that threaten the physical safety and interests of the United Kingdom. I propose a system whereby every five years the Triad define the threats facing our country and, if they are unable to ameliorate them with in-house resources, ie diplomacy, foreign aid, policing of aliens, trade agreements etc, they should request the MoD to submit a tender for the military means to counter the defined threats. The MoD could also add other threats it had identified for consideration by the Triad for inclusion in the defence package. The package would then be presented by the Triad to the Treasury to assess its affordability. Each part of the bid would be benchmarked to ensure best value for money and effectiveness. If the Treasury considered that the tender was too dear, the Triad could either fund the deficit from its own resources or argue the case for more expenditure or renegotiate the defence package with the MoD. The Defence Budget would then be submitted to Parliament for its approval.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Health & Safety - Buncefield

It's a cliche that Health & Safety has mental health problems and that things would be so much easier and more sensible if it was ignored and people allowed to get on with their jobs and lives. I bet nobody living near or working at the Buncefield Oil Depot holds that opinion.
Sometimes there are very good reasons for introducing apparently inconvenient working practices. It is better to be thirty minutes late in this life than thirty years early in the next.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Foolproof Lawn Care

Before. Note the carefully selected mix of grasses, weeds and moss.
I've spent the last two days applying Evergreen Complete 4 in 1 to the lawns of Gallimaufry Towers. I can honestly say that application was as easy as walking up and down the lawn holding a plastic box by its handle. Refilling the spreader with Evergreen from the refill bag was easy, just read the instructions and take care. I watered the Evergreen in with a hose straight after application as rain wasn't forecast and by this morning large patches of moss had turned black. I'll rake that out in a fortnight's time. Next thing to look out for is the broadleaved weeds like dandelions, buttercups and clover growing beyond their energy in the weeks ahead. I'll give any stubborn survivors a stop treatment of Verdone. Then it's a matter of encouraging the grass to fill in the gaps so I might selectively reseed. Whatever happens, I'll increase the mower height.

After two days the moss has turned black and died. The weeds already appear to be growing vigorously.

Photos will be uploaded progressively. I bought the Evergreen Complete from Amazon and Wilkinsons but and good DIY/garden centre should stock it.

Mona By Name Moaner By Nature

This morning's Thought For The Day slot on Radio 4's Today programme was filled by Professor Mona Siddiqui of Glasgow University Islamic. It's not fair that muslims are picked out for anti-terrorist checks at airports, but then it's not fair that anybody is. Without a trace of irony she criticised the postponed CCTV in certain Birmingham districts, saying "But rightly or wrongly a sense of belonging can take years to build and only seconds to destroy. " Yes, in the time it took to detonate rucksack bombs on the bus and tube in 2005. As an academic, I would have thought that Professor Siddiqui would have appreciated that Bayesian Search Theory the is an excellent method of finding something. If I drop my keys off the side of a boat mid ocean, I might know precisely where they are but the chances of me locating and retrieving them would be close to nil. But political correctness (wherever that is found in the Koran or Hadith) states that everybody is equally likely to smuggle bombs or weapons. And of course the chaps who drove their car into the foyer of Glasgow Airport and blew themselves up operated an equal opportunities policy for their potential victims. They were reckless as to the ethnic or religious backgound of their targets. As always, Platitude Of The Day cuts through the nonsense brilliantly.
Why can't Today have some common sense for a change?

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Is This Why Obama Is Buck Shifting And Nagging BP?

Apparently the US Navy has mislaid/ is temporarily unsure of the exact whereabouts of four underwater target drones. So there's no chance of them sorting the oil spill problem out in the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike in all the Hollywood disaster films there isn't a secret US facility paid for with "black budget" money where a group of mavericks have built a super vehicle from a titanium-kevlar composite that will save the day for Apple Pie. There's nobody chomping (ruining) a cigar and "kicking ass" or being cruel to donkeys as English speakers say. No, the biggest superpower has to rely on ordinary American oil workers headquartered in Houston (BP America) to do at 5,000 ft underwater what oil workers struggled to do at 150 ft thirty one years ago when the Ixtoc 1 rig toppled over. That was eventually capped and sorted and the polllution cleaned up. The problem this time may be that American fishing boats may have over-exploited the fish stocks and thereby prevented nature repairing itself. But there aren't many votes pointing that out. Here's a bit of leadership Obama: tell Americans to drive smaller cars that use less petrol. Simples.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

And You Wouldn't Be Working For Me Either Barack Old Fruit.

Lovable Barack Obama is angry that BP hasn't tidied up its mess as quickly as he could have done. He reckons, in his American donkey-bottom fixated way that the CEO of BP isn't up to the job. Let's put to one side for a moment the facts that the manufacturer of the blowout preventer and the owner of the oil rig that BP leased are American.
Remind me, POTUS, C-in-C of the world's only hyperpower, what you have done since you were sworn in (and you bollocked that up) eighteen months ago? Oh yes, you made a surrender speech to muslims in Cairo and in return for that a Nigerian blew his balls off on an American airliner and a US Army psychiatrist murdered 13 people on an army base. Iran and North Korea are even more dangerous. Well worth the No Balls Peace Prize you were given after five minutes in the job. Will the committe want it back after reading about this Amnesty report on Yemen? I'll admit that catching that fly was pretty clever.
In short, you have squandered your opportunity as President and have sought to spread the blame on other people to save your own skin. Not very impressive.
I would sack you straight away but with your American legal training behind you I would be tied up at a tribunal and forced to pay you £thousands in damages for wrongful dismissal, hurt feelings, discrimination and Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. So, I'd probably give you a flash title, an ofice and appoint you to carry out a meaningless time-consuming project to keep you out of harm's way. Like the American voters did.

Monday, 7 June 2010

How Very Dare They

I was rather surprised to read in today's Mail on Sunday that the Prime Minister intended to appoint John Browne, aka Lord Browne of Madingley, as a "Super-Director" to oversee expenditure cuts and bring in private sector methods to the public sector to save £billions. That's this Lord Browne. The same chap who was excused a perjury trial for lying about how he met his former boyfriend. The trial Judge, Mr Justice Eady said "I am not prepared to make allowances for a 'white lie' told to the court in circumstances such as these - especially by a man who prays in aid of his reputation and distinction, and refers to the various honours he has received under the present government, when asking the court to prefer his account of what took place." The matter was not referred to the Attorney General, in contrast to the Archer and Aitken perjury cases and subsequent spells in chokey, cases because disclosure was "probably sufficient punishment". The disclosure that a life peer lied under oath was not sufficient to prevent the noble lord 's appointment as head of a government committee into university tuition fees by the equally honourable Lord Mandlevort.
Which leads one to ask if there is one law for us and other laws for them. If you were to ask me my opininion I would have to say that Lord Browne is an extremely capable person of impeachable honesty and integrity. I learned that from reading about Lord Browne.