Thursday, 24 February 2011

Aircraft Miscellany

Here's a controversial thought: the Avro Shackleton ought not have been replaced by the HS.801 Nimrod. If the Nimrod had been a commercial threat to P-3 sales, the Americans would have stopped the project in the mid sixties when Britain was wanting an IMF loan with Uncle Sam's support: the Shorts Belfast production run was curtailed and C-130s were bought instead for that reason. Instead, the Vickers Vanguard should have been re-engined with RR Speys in overwing nacelles to provide additional lift and reduced stall speed by upper surface blowing. Jet flaps to create the Coanda effect had been successfully developed on the Hunting H.126 and the Boeing QSRA mod. of the dHC Buffalo proved the concept used on the Boeing YC-14 and Antonov An-72/74. A similar underfuselage fairing to that used on the Nimrod could have been fitted onto the Vanguard. The advantage of the Vanguard MR would have been a more modern base design with more scope for growth, and a smaller wing area with higher wing-loading (similar to the P-3 Orion) which would provide much smoother flight at low level. But BAC was too busy with the VC-10 and One-Eleven whereas Hawker-Siddeley's workload was low due to the end of both the Avro Vulcan and de Havilland Comet programmes. (Edit: I've just checked my copy of Tony Buttler's British Secret Projects: Jet Bombers Since 1949 and the story of the RAF's Shackleton replacement requirement needs a bit more explanation. The NATO Maritime Patrol Aircraft competition in 1957-8 produced the Breguet Atlantique but that wasn't good enough for the RAF.  In the early sixties OR350/Specification MR218 was issued for which variants of the Comet, Trident and Shackleton were offered by Avro and BAC's versions of the Vanguard and VC-10 (with underwing panniers a la Wellesley). However AST.357 superseded OR350 in 1963 and the Shorts PD.69 was also tendered. It looked as though the Avro 776 trijet would win until the RAF realised its Shackletons wouldn't last until it came into service. And the Treasury wanted something cheaper.  Consequently AST.357 was replaced in June 1964 by the panic ASR.381/MR.254 as good as an off-the shelf Atlantique, so long as it's ready by 1970 spec - without telling Hawker Siddeley! Avro schemed a minimum cost, minimum risk Comet development within a week which became the HS.801 Nimrod. The HS.800 development of the Avro 776 was rejected. as was the Atlantique and the P-3 Orion.

The end of organic naval AEW in 1978 due to the retirement of Ark Royal and the Fairey Gannet AEW3 could have been prevented by the conversion of, say, eight new Westland Sea Kings into AEW helicopters in the early 1970's. The rush job to convert two in 1982 took 11 weeks, consisting of attaching a modified version of the Nimrod Searchwater radar scanner in an inflatable radome to the starboard rear fuselage. As the Sea King entered RN service in ASW configuration in 1969, why wasn't even eleven years long enough to develop the AEW version in time? If cost had been such a driver, surely refitting the ex-Douglas Skyraider/ex-Fairey Gannet AN/APS-20F radar into a retractable fairing on the underside of an HC4-like airframe (like that fitted to the ASW Gannets or MR Shackletons) would have been better than nothing.

But the RAF claimed that it could provide long-range AEW for the Fleet by having the third-hand radars fitted into a dozen re-sparred Shackleton MR2s. MR2s had been replaced by MR3s which had been replaced by Nimrods. They were old, very noisy aircraft that could trace their ancestry back to the Avro Manchester (via Lancaster and Lincoln). The radar "suite" carried by the Shackleton AEW2 was unable to detect the altitude of targets. The USAF and USN had, since 1954, operated a version of the Lockheed Super Constellation known, eventually, as the EC-121 Warning Star. This had the same AN/APS-20 under the fuselage for air search and a height-finder AN/APS-45 antenna in a dorsal hump radome. The operators worked in a converted airliner environment. If only the RAF had decided to convert a dozen of their Bristol Britannia C Mk 1's into AEW aircraft instead. The newer, low hours Britannias went in the 1975 defence cuts whereas five of the Shackletons shook on until 1991.

Update: I've just read this excellent book and the story about MR and AEW aircraft for the RAF is a bit more complicated. Read the book: Amazon can actually obtain it in under a week. I can't wait to read the next book I find on the topic that makes this post even wronger!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Libya: No Fly Zone Is A Non-Starter

Lockheed EC-130J Commando Solo III

The ongoing revolution in Libya is a testament to the bravery of the Libyan people who are slowly, and at great cost to themselves, overthrowing the regime of the evil tyrant Gaddafi. Foreign mercenaries have been terrorising unarmed civilians and the Libyan Air Force has been ordered to bomb rebel areas. Wholesale killing of one's own people is a common activity in Arab dictatorships unfortunately, practised in Iraq, Egypt Syria and Jordon.

There are calls for NATO to declare a "No-Fly Zone" over Libya to protect the Libyan rebels. That would be a declaration of war and could lead to escalation of the current fighting in unforeseen ways both inside Libya and in neighbouring countries. What if Iran weighed in to help its new ally threatened by the imperialist West?

I suggest instead that the response of NATO and the United Nations should be passive. The aircraft at the top of this post is a Hercules modified to broadcast radio and television signals. It would be easy for the Wing that operates it to transit across the Atlantic from Pennsylvania to an Airbase in Southern Italy and then fly sorties in international airspace off the Libyan coast.
Specialists would begin the psyops cold-war by broadcast appeals to Libyan Airforce pilots to defect and then widen the message to the whole of Libya by relaying BBC World Service radio and TV. It may be happening already but I'm not saying anything.

I just hope that Libya can be sorted out quickly and with as little loss of life as possible.

A Big Society First Needs A Small Society

With thanks to Multi-Generational Life
Jim Baxter's recent post Cultural Differences pointed out how Muslim families in general take responsibility for looking after their elders within the home. In my experience this is mirrored in Hindu, Sikh and Chinese families as well.

Of course this practice happens as well, though to a much lesser extent, in white British familes. Before the creation of the Welfare State and the promise of care from cradle to grave, the alternative was charitable almshouses or, dreaded as much as the shame of a pauper's funeral, the workhouse. For reasons of love and duty and stubborn pride in standing on one's own two feet and looking after one's own, it was the social norm to care for aged relatives in the family home. The generations experienced each others' wisdom and charms. Toleration of differences and making allowances were vital lessons learned sharing an often crowded household. It wasn't perfect by any means but it worked for the few years of retirement that the grandparents had earned.

As British society grew wealthier and individual rights and expectations were recognised so, paradoxically, dependence on the State grew. People moved away from their home towns to seek better jobs and houses, equal opprtunities and equal pay legislation and contraception empowered more women to seek careers, and incomes and aspirations leap-frogged upwards. Despite all the alleged benefits of the modern age, people work as hard and as long as before to afford necessities that were luxuries or unheard of by their parents' generation. As a consequence, care for children and the elderly and infirm was gradually contracted out to the State. After all, the Welfare State was a right and it had been paid for through tax so people were only getting back their dues. What was intended as a safety net for the needy became an easy chair for all.

And so the majority of our old people live for their final months or years in nursing or care homes and hospitals. Often the family home has to be sold to meet care home fees, causing anger that the State has broken its promise and deprived the family of the parents' life's work and an inheritance for the children. Care of the elderly has become professionalised, taken from the amateur with intimate lifelong knowledge of the personality and tastes of the individual to changing teams who, with the best will in the world, can not provide bespoke care and understanding to patients they have only known as bundles of symptoms causing inconvenience and trouble.

Because caring was historically undertaken voluntarily within the family, it is now a low-paid occupation. Regrettably, this tends not to attract the best candidates. To improve their status and self-esteem, some carers consider themselves superior to their charges who, especially from the viewpoint of some workers from poor countries without a welfare state, are unwanted and at the bottom of the social pile because they would otherwise be cherished and cared for at home by their families.

Nursing was originally a caring profession for women acting in support of male doctors. With increasing aspirations for higher status and the increasingly technological nature of medicine, nursing has become a graduate profession. In addition, the curse of professional managers has resulted in increasing demands for productivity on wards. All activities must be paper-trailed to satisfy the accountants and lawyers. There is both less time for nurses to care for patients in the old sense and an unfortunate attitude that some jobs are infra-dig for BScs rather than duties to be taken in one's stride. Ensuring patients are fed and watered clean and finding five minutes in a day to hold a hand and chat are surely the minimum that should be expected.

But is it right that we offload our parents,the most valuable members of our families next to our children, onto the State? The State that struggles to grit roads in winter yet subsidises windmill companies, that loses our tax details, that wastes hundreds of £billions in schools that still fail to teach the basics of reading and writing to a quarter of pupils after eleven years? Would you lend your MP your car to drive?

Who do you trust with your family's lives? Who knows you all best? You and your wife. So before we moan that the government should work better, let's take a reality check and realise that the only people with our best intentions at heart are ourselves. We must rediscover what our ancestors knew through experience, that independence from charities or the State based on close family bonds , what I call the Small Society, is the best and strongest building block of a Big Society. For only when we can guarantee our families' well-being through mutual trust and self-reliance can we begin to trust and care for others. And only then can we honestly claim to have a Big Society fit for purpose. There will be a cost to our standard of living and our individualism may have to take a back seat occasionally, but the change from the rat race to the human race will be worth it. And the government, banks and big business will hate having their power challenged as we cast off their chains of unreachable affluence that bond us to them.


Phobia is a technical term used by psychiatrists, doctors, chemists and biologists for the following:

an irrational disabling fear;

hypersensitivity to stimuli;

an aversion to another chemical;

a dislike of environmental conditions.

Phobia is also misused as a lazy shorthand suffix by laymen to smear others and close down dialogue. Hence, the neologisms "Islamophobia" or "homophobia", for example, are just as offensive as the incorrect use of the psychiatric term schizophrenia to mean split personality. It is as illogical as the phrase "War on Terror".  Why should any belief or non-belief system be afforded special protection?  However, people who follow particular beliefs or none  deserve the same protection under the law as everybody else because they are individuals. Much better and clearer to say irrational dislike or hatred of Muslims or Gays, because the irrational and hatred parts are unpacked and highlighted. If someone has a rational dislike of someone else, that's life, however much we would all like to be universally popular.  Universal popularity has its downside in the form of endless cards, cakes and beer received and given.

Closing down dialogue and restricting free speech was the unintended consequence (let's be generous, here) of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill (which didn't do Racial) before it was wisely amended by the House of Lords.  Due to a miscalculation by Tony Blair's whips (the man who "didn't do religion"), the amendments were not overturned by the Commons before the Bill became law in 2006. Full text here. As an aside, why aren't political beliefs afforded the same protection as the other special cases under the law? Why not just make incitement to hatred of anybody an offence? (Editor's note: it already is.)

Our Noble Lords and Ladies inserted a clause into the Act that ought to be asas famous as Magna Carta, the Ship Money case, Habeus Corpus or The Bill of Rights. Section 29J, which amends the Public Order Act 1986, reads as follows:

"Protection of freedom of expression
 Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system."

That  paragraph is all that stands between free-thinking citizens in England and a theocracy on a par with modern day Iran, Calvin's Geneva or Catholic Europe under the thumbscrew of the Spanish Inquisition. It is highly likely that if the well-meaning "faith community" had its way and was able to close down all dissent for reasons of happiness, equality and public safety (just as books were burned in Fahrenheit 451), not only I as an atheist would be treated like Michael Servetus, but the moderate religious organisations would also be persecuted by extremists seeking power.

So when you are accused of a phobia, why not return the favour by describing the accuser as manic? Both are incorrect usaes of technical teminology but sometimes it requires an ascent into ridicule to clear the air in order to see what is important.

Monday, 21 February 2011

On Betrayal

In situations like this the cliched quotation of E M Forster, "I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country " is trundled out but may I take the opportunity to quote Joseph Conrad, "They talk of a man betraying his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond first. All a man can betray is his conscience."

One thing I, as an outsider, find contradictory in "The Land Of The Free" is the power of the House Committee hearings to subpoena citizens to attend and gaol them for contempt if they refuse, like Dashiel Hammett, to attend.

America has fought a continuous civil cold war between the libertarian and authoritarian threads that are woven together into the Star Spangled Banner since the first colonists stepped off their boats. It is because of the far-sighted genius of Thomas Jefferson that separation of religion and State was written into the Constitution.

Dave, This Is Stupid

David Cameron plans to let private companies, charidees, religious nutter societies bid to run public services

In theory, it's a good idea until one remembers the sod off or buy attitude of our utilities that factor a percentage of disgruntled customers (the churn rate) into their business plans. If "your call is important" they would employ more call-handlers and if they really cared about providing good service and keeping your business they would be English speakers.

The future will be dominated by foreign-owned companies intent on using Rip-Off Britain as a milch cow to brighten their domestic balance sheets. The costs of the services will increase, what you receive will fall and the government can wash its hands (or wipe them on the back of its trousers, more like) and claim it's not their fault, make a complaint to the national service regulator, OffUK.

The contracts will be like a honey pot to international organised crime wishing to launder its money through front companies. Look at the multi-£ billion farce of carbon-trading credit thefts. Digressing, I find it hypocritical that the very people who rant about privatising air rave about doing the same for carbon. They're both molecules that cannot be owned but for one some very clever-clever financial types have monetised it for their masters' evil bidding. And what if an ultra religious group sets up a company to run the contraceptive and abortion service with all the service standards box-ticked and then goes into voluntary liquidation, thereby achieving its concealed aim of removing choice?

This isn't to say that our public services are good at the moment. By and large they are shit, mismanaged by incompetents with two aims, to maximise their salaries and impose their PC bigotry on us. As a result, the staff are inadequately trained, demotivated, lack proper leadership and inspiration and are often poorly-paid.

The solution is not to offload the public services but to re instill, preferably with a reign of merciless terror over the upper ranks, the public service ethos. Public service is boring but if done well is satisfying. Reform public services, don't abdicate responsibility. Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary (change that daft title to Minister of Municipal Works) is the very image of the great Alderman Albert Foodbotham of Bradford (I live in Peter Simple's World for part of the year). Go to it Eric, rattle your chain and thump your desk. Action this day!



I  must declare an interest. I am prejudiced against wasting £30 billion of public money to shave 33 minutes off the journey time between London and Birmingham but nothing or only a few minutes for other destinations. Travelling to the Continent will require a connection from Euston to St Pancras stations on  part of the commuter-standard North London Line .

The economics don't stack up and the environmental impact is horrendous. Why should people's homes and lives be wrecked to satisfy the hidden demands of The Trans European Rail Network . That's not merely the unspoken elephant in the room but the iron bonds to shackle the countries of Europe together. It looks good on a map (see p42 for the UK and p27 for the whole of Europe).

If £30 billion can be afforded to improve the UK's transport infrastructure then surely reinstating the public  transport links that feed into the main networks would make more sense economically, socially and evironmentally. This second and third level network was first cut in the Sixties by Dr Beeching, without a cheaper flexible alternative system to replace it, and now this year with the removal of local authority transport subsidies.

Update 10 March 2011: Letter to Daily Telegraph describes HS2 as a waste of money.


Mitre-Box Thoughts

I like making and mending things in my shed. It's a great feeling to take an idea, use tools and suitable materials to turn it into a solid object for practical use or ornament.

One very helpful tool is my mitre box. In case you don't know, a mitre box enables you to accurately cut angles in wood using a tenon saw, say for picture frame corners. Mine is a simple, cheap (£6) plastic one with slots set at 0 and 45 degrees. It does all I want (mainly cutting straight down - I don't practice enough to do it freehand), but you can buy variable angle models or make one yourself. Or buy a power chopsaw as seen in those DIY makeover programmes.

No matter how much care I take marking out the line to cut, then cutting slowly and gently, corners are never as crisp when done freehand. I was cutting some pieces of wood in the box this morning to make replacement desk drawer dividers. Concentrating on keeping the saw blade level, I thought how ironic it is that something that guides movement actually gives me the freedom to be more creative.

A tip for prospective mitrebox users: line the base of the box with a sacrificial piece of cardboard to cut into. And screw the box onto a piece of scrap wood.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Hypocrisy or Stupidity

Members of the Primate Order Considering Taxation Reform

Labour MP Chuka Umannu of the Treasury Select Committee is moaning that Barclays only paid the equivalent of 3% of its profits in Corporation Tax last year. The rate is 28%. Apparently, Barclays offset their losses from the previous year against the tax bill. That is a bad thing for the Left as Tax is a Good Thing because it means that Town Hall Chief Executives and Diversity Coordinators can have salaries competitive with Premier League footie players.

So it follows that the tax system should be altered to remove any loopholes or allowances. Er, the tax code more than doubled in length between 1997 and 2010 when Labour were in power and it's the longest in the world. It's sooo hard to solve a problem when there's only thirteen years available.

That would be the Barclays that didn't need bailing out with taxpayers' money, the Barclays whose President and Group Chief Executive, Bob Diamond, popular Lord Mandelson claimed was the unacceptable face of capitalism a month before the election last yearand then helped prepare for a Treasury Select Committee grilling in January this year.

Why doesn't Chuka Umannu demand that Anthony Charles Lynton Blair opens the curtains on his network of companies and partnerships to ensure he pays every last penny of tax due? After all, he's "a kind of straight kind of guy" with nothing to hide from his Cabinet.

It's suddenly gone very quiet.

Friday, 18 February 2011

I Dare You, Andrew Mitchell

To propose a 100% cut of international aid and the winding-up of your Department for International Development and then rely on the democratic pressure of 533,341 people signing an online petition to reverse your decision.

If Caroline Spelman can very graciously row back from off-loading Forestry Commission land in England so quickly, why can't you do the same for your Coalition government's ridiculous increase from £8 billion to £11 billion a year of the ring-fenced aid budget? Was that daft commitment merely a consequence of Theresa May's publicity-seeking "Nasty Party" soundbite or is there a scintilla of reason behind it? David Cameron said "We're all in this together" so you ought to say that our aid recipients, and ask them to buy lower spec Land Cruisers, at least until our economy looks a bit healthier.

It would be very interesting to see if your voters actually prefer, when allowed to express an opinion, oak trees to Indian rocket scientists.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Epeli "Pex" Uluilakeba Campaign

Epeli Uluilakeba, known as Pex to his mates, is a 29 year old Fijian former soldier who is facing deportation. He served two tours in Iraq, was badly wounded and suffered from severe PTSD. He got into trouble, was sent to Colchester and dismissed the Army. But Pex is a devout Christian and pulled himself together and trained to be a plumber. But he's not allowed to work in this country or even sign on to a GP.

The full story is here on the EURefendum blog. There is an update here.

I'm sure that you, like me, have been deeply touched by the brilliant writing of Skiplicker on his blog. If this country cannot properly look after men and women who have been mentally and physically injured on her behalf, just as it fails to care for old people and young children, then it truly deserves to become the cashpoint of the world.

Please make a donation, if you can, to the appeal (see the links), but just as importantly, please copy the links to Richard North's posts and Christopher Booker's article onto your blogs. Let's send this story viral. It is well known that the 697 odd press officers in the MoD and the thousands off others in government monitor blog memes so the more references to Pex the better. Who knows, the BBC and the rest of the British mediocre might even bother to follow a decent Human Rights story for a change.

Picture: Pex, front right, with colleagues in al Amarah - taken by Philip Hewett before he was killed in the same Snatch Land Rover where Pex sustained his injuries.

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Big C

A comedy about a suburban, fortyish woman teacher coming to terms with a diagnosis of terminal cancer in her own way? Put aside any preconceptions and savour each half-hour long, perfectly polished and cut gem on Channel 4. It is brilliantly funny from start to finish of every episode. Starring Laura Linney and Oliver Platt and supported by a company of equally talented actors with scripts expertly crafted by geniuses, it is my gold standard for television quality this year. If you enjoyed the excellent Six Feet Under this is for you.
It is the best medicine for me.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Did You Know This About Meat?

The law requires farm animals to be stunned before slaughter. It’s all laid down here as amended here

However, there is an exemption for slaughter by religious methods for the food of Jews and Muslims.Slaughtering animals by the shechita (for kosher) or halal methods for consumption by people of not of those faiths is therefore illegal. Yet many schools, hospitals, pubs, restaurants and even Wembley Stadium are secretly supplied only halal meat as a convenience to the caterers and management. If you have a lamb korma from a takeaway displaying the halal symbol and you haven't recited the shahadah or you're eating a salt-beef on rye from a deli and you still fully-insulated down below, then an offence has been committed by the slaughter man and abattoir.

Something has to be done. Government and parliament doesn't want to ruffle any feathers as
this briefing paper suggests.

In order to start things rolling, today I submitted a FOI request to DEFRA to investigate the extent of the problem:

“How many prosecutions have there been each year since 2000 under The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 (SI 731) 1995 as amended by The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) (Amendment) Regulations 1999 (SI 400 for contravention of the exemption for religious slaughter at section 22 provided that it is done accordance with Schedule 12?

Schedule 12 Section 2 states that the exemption is for the food of Jews and Muslims. If meat is produced for persons not of these faiths then an offence has been committed under Section 26 or 25, or both, of the 1995 regulations.

Although I disapprove of the unconventional slaughter methods on moral grounds, I do not seek to have the exemptions repealed because I respect the beliefs of the communities that require slaughter by religious methods but wish that the number of farm animals so slaughtered is kept to the necessary minimum.”

I'll let you know when I receive a reply.  Reply received 28 February, update here.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Cryptic Crosswords

Probably the greatest intellectual delight of my life. I began at fourteen, teaching myself the techniques to solve the clues, completed the Times Crossword in my first term at uni and have progressed through thousands of Telegraph, Times and Guardian puzzles since. I admit I'm an addict, needing the stimulus of cruciverbalism at least once a day. I used to be a boy racer, once completing the Telegraph crossword in under five minutes on the train and then regretting I couldn't read a broadsheet comfortably in self-loading-cargo class for the remainder of my commute to London. Since then I've slowed down, preferring to savour the inspirational/analytical process. What is especially satisfying is finding a tiny crib into an initially impenetrable puzzle and eventually filling in every white square. It's similar to cracking codes, so I've read, which was why crossword fiends were recruited to work at Bletchley Park. And for the half an hour or so that I'm putting pencil to paper, I imagine I'm in mental communion with the likes of Colin Dexter, Endeavour Morse and John Gielgud (who, I was told, would sometimes write anything in order to impress onlookers with his apparent rapid clue-solving ability - such vanity).
Next time you buy a newspaper, if you don't already do so automatically, turn to the crossword page and try a few clues. Don't worry if the answers don't come immediately, but be prepared for words to shoot forward from your unconscious mind. You'll be hooked!
In the meantime, try these classic clues: hijklmno (5), gsge (8,4) . Sheer brilliance by the setters.

Friday, 11 February 2011

ECHR and Prisoners' Votes

Well done David Davis, Priti Patel and Jack Straw for leading the reassertion of the supremacy of Parliament over the judiciary. Let's hope the government fights back against the unaccountable judges of the ECHR and repatriates the deciding role in human rights law to the UK Supreme Court.

The 2005 judgement EHCR 681 is flawed because it denies judges the power to remove enfranchisement from convicted prisoners yet permits doctors to deny the right to vote to people who are subject to any "legal incapacity" which impairs their judgement. That is people with learning difficulties or mental illness that prevents them, in the opinion of doctors, from comprehending the voting procedure and understanding for what and whom they are voting. Well, that's me off the electoral register after last year's election fiasco(did I really vote for the Coalition and LibDem policies? And the AV Referendum will remove anyone else if they are honest about their level of ignorance. In addition, if election staff believe you are drunk or under the influence of drugs they can ask you a series of questions to assess your capability to vote. They may require you to return later when sufficiently sober.
Members of the Jury, I put it to you that convicted criminals are possessed of an impaired judgement, or possing a mental disorder, to use the Mental Health Act 2007's portmanteau term, otherwise they wouldn't hack their landlady's head off or fiddle Parliamentary allowances. Having, to use the Mental Health Act 1983's definition, "a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant/severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning and is associated with abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct on the part of the person concerned" pretty much sums up such criminal behaviour. But most people in prison are mentally ill, bleat the leftie Mrs Jellybys. Gotcha! Case proven.

Update: It wouldn't surprise me if the next legal cause celebre for prisoners is the suspension or deferment of benefits while they are inside prison. Amazingly, liberal Canada only stopped pension payments last June!

Update 2: Wouldn't it be funny if prisoners were charged board and lodging for their time inside (it's already docked from compensation payments to wrongfully convicted prisoners) that equalled any compensation due them for loss of voting rights?

Update 3: who, apart from the odious Simon Hughes voted for prisoners' votes? The other 21 should be named so they can be voted out by their constituents.
Here's the record of the ayes and noes.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

When Is News Not News?

When it's wrong. The Guardian published this article on Monday under the headline "Navy forced to drop warship patrols in Caribbean through lack of funds". The webpage address is even more stark "nacy-abandons-caribbean-warship-patrols" (sic - it is the Grauniad). So what is the actualite, buried within the article? Instead of a Type 23 Frigate and a RFA supply vessel, only the RFA ship with a naval party and helicopter will be sent for the hurricane season. The Type 23 frigate has taken part in successful anti-drug-smuggling patrols. Using one of the world's best anti-submarine ships is a bit of an overkill, although HMS Iron Duke's detachment enabled Prince William to see the West Indies with the rest of the crew. Makes better photos for the recruitment brochures than the North Sea. The Royal Fleet Auxilliary ship, eg RFA Bay class can do the same anti-drug duties as the Type 23 frigate and has better accommodation for long-term patrols. But, you say, the Frigate was there to fly the flag (cocktail parties with local dignitories) and sell British warships. If any of the West Indian navies wanted a ship it would be something more along the lines of a River Class patrol vessel. Update: the preferred vessel in the region is a smaller Dutch-built ship that the UK has bought four of as Customs Cutters.
And for some proper reporting with research and perspective I must recommend the excellent for these two articles here and here

The first relates that an RFA ship and HMS Iron Duke were withdrawn early last year (just before the Haiti earthquake) by the Brown government for budgetary reasons and the second that an RFA ship with naval party and helicopter will patrol instead of a frigate this year.

And then in today's Telegraph we read that the Royal Navy has more Admirals than warships. This has been the laughable case since Parkinson's Law was published over fifty years ago. The Telegraph's Defence Correspondent, Thomas Harding, writes:

"Commander John Muxworthy, chairman of the UK National Defence Association, defended the number of admirals saying they were the equivalent to senior managers who were necessary to oversee big budgets and construction projects.

"Otherwise it would all be run by civil servants," he added. "What is really appalling is not that we have 41 admirals but that we only have 40 warships.""

Actually, Commander Muxworthy, if there are not enough proper jobs for Admirals, they should be on the beach, retired from active service and working as civil servants (cheaper) running the big budgets and construction projects - if they have the skills. Cost overruns for the Astute class submarines were managed by the same people who negotiated the Unaffordable class aircraft carrier contracts. The Royal Navy is meant to be a club for keeping senior officers in the circumstances to which they have grown accustomed. I have the greatest repect for the men and women of the Armed Services when they lay their lives on the line to protect others, but expensive experience demonstrates their procurement and maintenance skills are on a par with a six-year old in a sweetshop.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


I must admit that any interest in Egypt I have is primarily due to Egyptology. I'm of the generation that was amazed by the Tutankhamon exhibition at the British Museum, indeed I watch Channel 5 because of the preponderance of Pharoahonic programmes it broadcasts. And Neighbours. My interest in Egypt declines after Cleopatra and only rallies with the North African Campaign of 1940-43. The Egyptians sat that out, mostly. And I recall buying early Egyptian potatoes a few years ago. They were packed in exported and imported Irish peart because EU regulations prevented the importation of foreign soil that might harbour pests (Colorado beetles?).
As for the Egyptians and their governments, well the murderous antics of the Egyptian Auxilliary Police and fedeyeen terrorists from 1951 to 1954 in the Suez Canal Zone following the unilateral abrogation of the Anglo-Egyptian Alliance Treaty of 1936 speak for themselves. Nasser and Sadat were both pro-Nazi during WW2, Sadat being imprisoned. King Farouk (aka Fat Fucker)was as bad as any of the bedsheet and teatowel wearing royalty of the region and was also pro-Nazi, Egypt not declaring war on the Axis Powers until 1945. The nationalisation of the Suez Canal by Nasser in July 1956 was the icing on the cake. However, we are told that Egypt is a Good Thing because in the seventies it swapped taking Soviet aid for American and promised not to lose another war against Israel.
So, I don't care who is in charge of Egypt so long as the Suez Canal is unobstructed and the 80 million Egyptians stay at home and don't claim political asylum in my little country that, between 1882 and 1956, Egyptians didn't want any truck with. If only the BBC accepted that English people are only interested in pyramids and El-Alamein, they would save an awful lot of money by withdrawing their brigade of journalists from Tahrir Square or wherever. Who cares what "The Arab Street" thinks? The endless news from Egypt is becoming as boring and repetitive as that yawn-inducing Chilean mine rescue last year.

Is it just my computer that's slow or is this entire £300,000 website sitting in the canteen finishing its all day fried breakfast/ at court/ on a course/ on leave/ on sick leave/ shagging someone's wife/ on a gayist march/ hitting or shooting someone (making sure there's insufficient evidence)/ doing a ton with the lights and siren on for everyone?

Update 9:33 Finally, managed to access the site. What was the incident of violent crime in our road in December?