Sunday, November 29, 2009

Does Anyone Really Want To 'Find' Osama Bin Laden?

Unquestioning support for the presence of both our own and US forces in Afghanistan is rapidly dwindlng. As the number of troops returning from the country in coffins is increasing, our realisation of the difficulty of achieving a quick exit strategy is finally sinking in.

In the US, President Obama is, at present, deciding whether he can sell the idea to the American people, of sending another 30,000 troops to the region. It is a political 'hot potato' and a decision that I am sure is causing him many sleepless nights.

It seems, therefore, with somewhat fortuitously good timing, that a report from the US senate has been released stating that the world's most wanted terrorist figure, Osama Bin Laden, was allowed to escape capture from US troops in Afghanistan back in 2001. Of course, the report blames the previous administration for this unlikeliest of errors.

Suspiciously, the release of the report seems timed to re-light the fire in people's minds about the so-called leader of the dreaded Al Qaeda; the man said to be responsible for the 9/11 attacks and numerous other shocking terrorist outrages in various parts of the world.

What I have often wondered, is does anyone really want to catch this man? Does he even really exist?

It seems almost inconceivable, that in the age of the highly sophisticated and often secret technology freely available to the various security agencies, they have not been able to pinpoint the location of one mere mortal.

It raises the question of what they would they do with him if they did manage to capture him? He is the figurehead of an organisation with huge and sophisticated resources; he is not just the tribesman he is made out to be. His capture and trial would only increase his profile and would provoke huge terrorist outrages across the globe and increase the recruitment figures of the so called terrorist organisations.

Alternatively, if he were to be killed 'in battle' it is likely the same result would occur.

It is worth remembering that Osama Bin Laden has been a very useful tool for various governments over the last few years. He has become the world's 'Bogeyman'.

Both his name and the organisation he is said to lead, have been used by various western governments to promote a fear in our populations and allow them to introduce more control and restrictions on our personal freedoms. Without promoting such a fear, these measures would have been greeted with outrage.

Here in the UK, you are lucky to be able to go to the bathroom without being monitored by some nosey government employee following your every move on a surveillance camera.

In reality, the fear of any of us being involved in a terrorist incident far outweighs the probability. However, the perception is constantly promoted that we are all in imminent danger. Faced by this perception, we have knowingly allowed our democratic rights and personal freedoms to be taken away on the basis of what is really just a myth.

So I guess I really have to ask....does any government really WANT to 'find' Osama Bin Laden or is he of more political use remaining 'free'?

Make up your own mind!!

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Weird But.....Works For Me!

I don't have a clue what this has to do with the drink Orangina but after a week of depressing news it made me smile.

Probably, because I can imagine the outrage from the PC police if it were ever to be shown during the ad breaks of the UK's TV channels!

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

EU The Heck Is Catherine Ashton?

Mention the name Catherine Ashton and you could be forgiven for receiving a blank stare in response.

From today, though, all that is likely to change, for she is not only a little known (outside of the political world) Baroness who had been working as the Trade Commissioner for the EU but she has just been named as the person who will be its newly created foreign affairs supremo.

In a similarly surprising move, EU leaders have chosen the Belgian Prime Minister, Herman van Rompuy to be the first permanent European Council President.

Of course, there had been much lobbying for the above post to be awarded to one Anthony Blair, (our ex PM but now multi-millionaire after dinner speaker) and for the foreign supremo role to go to Blair's protege David Miliband (our own Foreign Secretary) but thankfully, the EU's 27 leaders have shown they have a greater vision.

All credit must go to them for turning their collective back on 'celebrity politics' in favour of people who will be able to negotiate with the world on a fresh footing and relatively untarnished by their immediate history.

The EU has taken a lot of criticism in the past but, just maybe, it is now starting to show it could be a good deal for all of us after all!

The jury is still out!!

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A 'Charge' Harriet Harman Won't Be Claiming!

Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, is to face prosecution after all, following a police investigation into her alleged car smash back in July (see earlier post).

The Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement:

'The Crown Prosecution Service has decided there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to prosecute the Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP for the offences of driving without due care and attention and driving whilst using a hand-held mobile telephone in relation to an incident on 3 July 2009 in Peckham, London.'

If found guilty, Ms Harman could face a £6,000 fine, penalty points on her licence or a driving ban.

Her spokeswoman said:

'Ms Harman strongly refutes the allegations and will deny the charges.'

Hmmmm...... now where have we heard that one before?

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No Expense(s) Spared In The Queen's Speech

Are we surprised?

Yesterday, the Queen's Speech, setting out the government's final plans for the country before facing the electorate in next year's general election, was conspicuous by one very large omission - there was no mention of any legislation relating to MP's expenses.

Following one of the biggest political scandals of the last few years, you would think that regaining the trust of the public in politicians (should I, instead, have said gain?) would be right up there at the top of the agenda but apparently that is not the case.

Perhaps, they are hoping we will become so distracted, by experiencing the inevitable financial cuts and increased taxation we are all about to face, we will simply forget the scams and fiddling that has been so rife in the Palace of Westminster - they think they will simply carry on as if nothing happened.

Well, just like the proverbial elephants, we must send the strongest possible message that we definitely won't ever forget!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Computer Virus? - Electrocute Their Genitals!

Beware, there is a new virus attacking computers. It starts with an email along the lines of:

We are contacting you in regards to an unusual activity that was identified in your mailbox. As a result, your mailbox has been deactivated. To restore your mailbox, you are required to extract and run the attached mailbox utility. Best regards, xxxxx technical support.

The file is normally opened before any antivirus software has spotted it. Of course, once open, it runs riot in your computer and stops you from even performing a system restore.

I know of two people who have already fallen foul of it and I have received the email at least six times at my work.

I hope the authors of the virus are quickly caught, so I can attach their genitalia to 240v electrodes until they shrivel up and drop off.

However, this is unlikely to make any difference; not because they are unlikely to be caught and not because I would not attach their genitalia to the electrodes.

It is because their genitals are probably already very small and shrivelled. That is why they have nothing better to do with their pathetic lives than create malicious viruses that cause people such inconvenience and distress.

Get a life you cretins!

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Edward Woodward - 'That's a Wrap!'

You know when you are getting older - the 'stars' you have always watched on-screen start to disappear.

Today, it was the turn of the great actor, Edward Woodward, who died at the age of 79.

I first watched him in the TV series Callan and was mesmerised by his clipped speech, which although was meant to sound posh, still had a touch of the 'common' in it. He had a unique ability to make his characters sound classy but with a hidden menace.

Younger fans will remember him for his starring role in the US series The Equaliser where he played a hitman (during the filming of one series he suffered a heart attack).

He never made it to the lofty status of acting's hierarchy by becoming a 'Lord' or a 'Sir' but he was as good as any of them and was never too serious about his fame.

I shall, like many others, miss him.

As they say in the movies... "That's a wrap"

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The Sun Goes Down!

You could not make it up!

The Sun has been forced to apologise for doing exactly what it criticised the prime minister of doing – misspelling the surname of Jacqui Janes. She is the mother of Grenadier Guardsman, Jamie Janes, who was killed in Afghanistan.

She made GB’s hand written letter of condolence public last week (see post), to illustrate his grammatical and spelling errors (he had inadvertently spelt her family name Jones)

It seems what goes around comes around!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Afghanistan - The History Of Failure.

We are not an occupying army," Gordon Brown told the BBC on Friday. "It's not like previous interventions.... We are actually creating the conditions by which the Afghans themselves, and not an occupying army, can run their own affairs."

The words above are quoted from an excellent article in today's Independent by author James Fergusson. Within it, he explains why the PM's words are so misguided

The full article can be read here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Afghanistan- We Will Eventually Have To Talk (Pt 2)

I suggested it back in July, in my post Afghanistan - We Will Eventually Have To Talk! but now it seems our government is finally catching up with my common sense theory, that nothing will be resolved in Afghanistan unless we all start talking.

They have asked the government of Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, to instigate talks with the Taliban leadership in an attempt to include them in the political process.

The are also pressing for certain former Taliban members to be removed from a United Nations blacklist which hinders freedom of travel thereby preventing open dialogue.

A memo leaked from the Foreign Office states:

"We must weaken and divide the Taliban if we are to reduce the insurgency to a level that can be managed and contained by the Afghan security forces. This can be achieved by a combination of military pressure and clear signals that the option of an honourable exit from the fight exists."

I am not sure there is any "honourable exit" from such a war but it does seems almost absurd, that it has taken so long for our government to wake up to common sense, having already gained vast experience of a similar solution to the problems of Northern Ireland.

Maybe they should read my blog more often!!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Coincidence Of Child Deformities In Iraqi Town Of Falluja?

A baby born with two heads, many with multiple tumours and others with extensive damage to the central nervous system.

It sounds like the kind of horror to be found in the plot of a science fiction film but is, in reality, what is happening in the Iraqi town of Falluja.

The level of chronic deformities in infants is up to fifteen times what was considered to have be 'normal' and the health authorities are struggling to cope. Falluja General Hospital used to see two admissions every fortnight but now they have two admissions every day.

It seems hard to believe it is just coincidence that the town, which was the setting of one of the fiercest battles of the Iraq war, is now showing such abnormalities occurring amongst its young.

One can only speculate on the nature of the weapons deployed in the battle (I am sure the US will not be forthcoming with any answers) but it seems their effects will not be easily forgotten!

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A War Is A Good Payday For MoD Civil Servants...

Civil Servants at the Ministry of Defence have been paid bonuses this year of £47 million.

The payments are, apparently, performance related although quite how 'performance' is measured in a department that deals in armed conflict I am at a loss to understand. Do they get a payment based on a reduction in injuries or deaths? One can only imagine with a feeling of horror!

Forgetting the dubious justifications given publicly for such payments, I wonder how any future government criticism of the bonuses that bankers have been paying themselves can ever be taken seriously from now on.

Added to which, the troops on the front line of Afghanistan only get their normal wages for performing a far more serious and life threatening job every minute of every day.

It is also worth noting that we would not have heard a thing about these payments were it not  for a written reply to a Tory parliamentary question.

It seems that the officials in Whitehall are still playing fast and loose with public money. Time for it to be brought back under control!!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Unemployment - What Hope For Our Young?

The Office of National Statistics has announced today that the number of people unemployed in the UK has risen by its smallest amount since May 2008.

Before we pop the champagne corks and explode the party poppers, we should remember that the rise was still 30,000 bringing the total number of those out of work to 2.46 million.

Even more sobering is the fact that youth unemployment which covers those between 16 and 24-years-old rose by 15,000 to a total of 943,000.

When you think about it, though, is it really surprising? We have become a country that no longer produces anything of substance. Our manufacturing industries have gone, along with our fisheries. Once, we were the envy of the world in technological advance but we now create very little that is innovative or original.

We have become just a service nation that trades in items that do not exist in a realistic form and where the profits and risk taking are high.

University graduates have spent years studying for qualifications, while accumulating huge debts, to find they have returned to a world of few jobs worthy of their abilities.

There are no longer apprenticeships for those to whom academic achievement was beyond their ability; we have few trades left where skills need to be passed on and taught over time. Many of the jobs requiring such skills are now filled by foreign workers prepared to accept lower daily rates and longer hours.

Of course, we all have to shoulder some personal responsibility for allowing such things to happen. The unions became too strong and past governments were too weak. Our products became too expensive and uncompetitive.

The fact remains, though, that when we gave away our industrial ability we also gave away the sense of hope and value of thousand upon thousands of our young people who are never going to be, or want to be bankers!

For many of them, we only offer the armed forces and war in foreign lands!

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Monday, November 09, 2009

What makes a Soldier....

I meant to post this at the weekend but foolishly, I left the original email at work. It was sent as part of a weekly newsletter I receive from the Red Fridays campaign.

I have no idea who the author is but I found it to be extremely thought provoking; it brings reality into the world of politics. I found it to be very moving. I hope you do too....

The average British soldier is 19 years old.....he is a short haired, well built lad who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears and just old enough to buy a round of drinks but old enough to die for his country - and for you. He's not particularly keen on hard work but he'd rather be grafting in Afghanistan than unemployed in the UK .

He recently left comprehensive school where he was probably an average student, played some form of sport, drove a ten year old rust bucket, and knew a girl that either broke up with him when he left, or swore to be waiting when he returns home. He moves easily to rock and roll or hip-hop or to the rattle of a 7.62mm machine gun.

He is about a stone lighter than when he left home because he is working or fighting from dawn to dusk and well beyond. He has trouble spelling, so letter writing is a pain for him, but he can strip a rifle in 25 seconds and reassemble it in the dark. He can recite every detail of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either effectively if he has to. He digs trenches and latrines without the aid of machines and can apply first aid like a professional paramedic. He can march until he is told to stop, or stay dead still until he is told to move.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation but he is not without a rebellious spirit or a sense of personal dignity. He is confidently self-sufficient. He has two sets of uniform with him: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his water bottle full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never forgets to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes and fix his own hurts. If you are thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food is your food. He'll even share his life-saving ammunition with you in the heat of a firefight if you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and regards his weapon as an extension of his own hands. He can save your life or he can take it, because that is his job - it's what a soldier does. He often works twice as long and hard as a civilian, draw half the pay and have nowhere to spend it, and can still find black ironic humour in it all. There's an old saying in the British Army: 'If you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined!'

He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime. He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and he is unashamed to show it or admit it. He feels every bugle note of the 'Last Post' or 'Sunset' vibrate through his body while standing rigidly to attention. He's not afraid to 'Bollock'anyone who shows disrespect when the Regimental Colours are on display or the National Anthem is played; yet in an odd twist, he would defend anyone's right to be an individual. Just as with generations of young people before him, he is paying the price for our freedom. Clean shaven and baby faced he may be, but be prepared to defend yourself if you treat him like a kid.

He is the latest in a long thin line of British Fighting Men that have kept this country free for hundreds of years. He asks for nothing from us except our respect, friendship and understanding. We may not like what he does, but sometimes he doesn't like it either - he just has it to do.. Remember him always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.

And now we even have brave young women putting themselves in harm's way, doing their part in this tradition of going to war when our nation's politicians call on us to do so.

When you receive this, please stop for a moment and if you are so inclined, feel free to say a prayer for our troops in the trouble spots of the world. Maybe you'll want to send it on to someone else too.

Why not leave a message here

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How 'Write' Was PM Gordon Brown ?

Gordon Brown Letter.jpg

It is not often that I feel a pang of sympathy for dear 'ole Gordon, our esteemed prime minister but I did feel it stirring today.

He has, after all, been guilty of extreme arrogance and aloofness in the past but he does not deserve the bitter criticism he received from today's papers.

He was judged to be guilty of nothing more than sending a handwritten letter of sympathy to the mother of a serviceman killed in Afghanistan and misspelling the family name. It is a mistake similar to that any of us could make every time we write a letter - although how many of us bother to hand write letters nowadays?

Whatever your opinion on the rights and wrongs of our presence in Afghanistan, it should be remembered that it was not GB alone who sent us there. He is guilty of many acts of stupidity but I am prepared to believe that today's incident was nothing more than a blip in a genuinely heartfelt message of sympathy.

I am more surprised that the serviceman's mother did not take a moment to think before running to the Sun newspaper.

Let's place a full stop on this story!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Remembrance Sunday and The Afghanistan/Iraq Conflicts

Today is the day we remember all those who have died in conflict fighting to preserve our freedom.

Since my earliest childhood memory of men and women standing around the Cenotaph in warm black coats, silently laying wreaths of bright red poppies, it has been about those who fought in WW1 and WW2. Now, though, it must include those who have, sadly, been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For me, that brings confusion.

Both of the world wars were just that - they were global. They were about fighting to protect our freedom against those who sought to invade and conquer us.

In Iraq and Afghanistan the conflicts are different in that we have chosen to invade those countries - albeit with the excuse we are ultimately protecting our home country from terrorist attack. Despite what Foreign Secretary David Miliband writes in today's Mail On Sunday, the argument is still not convincing.

Sir Jock Stirrup, Head of the Armed Forces, said on the Andrew Marr show this morning:

"We haven't done a good enough job of explaining to the public what our strategy is".

That is because there cannot be a strategy against a foe that uses the unpredictable tactics of the terrorist and promotes our presence in their homeland as that of the invader. Yes, you can 'take the fight to the terrorists' and kill hundreds in battle, thereby reducing the numbers but you cannot change the mindset, or the radicalisation of future generations.

As I listened to the bugler at my local cenotaph service occasionally missing the notes and stopping during his performance of The Last Post, I acknowledged there are those in this country who would try to claim that speaking out against our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq is being unsupportive of our troops. It is not.

To speak out against an unjust and legally dubious conflict is, in reality, being totally supportive of those who do not have a choice!


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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Life On Planet Concussion!

It has been a while since I last posted on here, following my spectacular dive down the stairs and my teeth numbing stop, using my head as a brake, against a doorframe.

Since my unplanned flight, I have been living on Planet Concussion. It is a strange world I entered after needing the rather confusing quality of service available from the NHS (could do better – maybe more written later) and where I have imagined strange things to be happening all around me.

For instance, I had visions of the leader of the over hyped and allegedly racist BNP being grilled on Question Time while outside the studios, demonstrations were taking place ; of MPs being made to re-pay and apologise for the expenses they had inadvertently claimed while “just following the rules”; of X Factor contestants taking up more space in newspapers than proper journalism; of footballer’s wives miraculously being able to give birth to babies; of even more of our troops losing their lives in a mystical land called Afghanistan; of senior scientific advisors to the government being sacked for not agreeing with the political will of our rulers; of bankers being curbed from receiving huge bonuses for doing what they are already paid to do and of the next prime minister of our great country performing a complete U-turn over holding a referendum over Europe.

The weirdest vision of all was the one where Transport for London insisted that actress Kelly Brook should have her own 'buns' concealed with...even bigger buns on a poster advertising the play Calender Girls on London's underground trains.

Planet Concussion is a scary place to be and I am really looking forward to returning to the real world, where things like these would never happen!!

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