20th September 2011
CENSORSHIP IN THE MEDIA
What a mess the press! How often have I said that in the past. But current activities by the media, especially the press, verge on censorship. News has on many occasions quite simply been suppressed. It begs the question why.
The Tories have in one respect managed news well. I imagine they have a calendar dotted with certain news items on various days that is newsworthy, but more importantly detracts from, and hopefully smothers bad news. They have actually been very fortunate that the riots in Britain detracted from the Newscorp scandal. Then the war in Libya hit the headlines. Now we hear that the Guardian will not be forced to disclose the name of their snout within the Met.
What is the quid pro quo being offered the press, and indeed others in the media? Well, as most of them have in one way or another been involved in the hacking scandal, perhaps it is the sop that they will not be prosecuted, that the Government will soft pedal on this. And yet it will all out eventually, I have little doubt about that.
What I write has been occasioned by what happened in Cairo recently, the taking over of the Israeli embassy. I can understand the frustration of the Egyptian people, as I stated some months ago. The Egyptian army does not want to see total change. What is happening is very much a matter of window dressing. More importantly, the USA wishes to prevent radical change, and their good relationship with the army is well known. It is to protect Israel that the USA take this line.
But the Cairo mobs are unpredictable, as are mobs everywhere. One should not forget that no English monarch felt secure unless he or she had gained the favour, or at least the acquiesence, of the London mob.
TICKLE MY WINKLES
Well, tickle my winkles, Henry Winkler has been made an honourary OBE. Well done, Sir. Happy Days are here again… God, that takes me back some.
David Cameron by his own admittance states he was approached to join the KGB, but was considered not clever enough. God Damn it, and he’s meant to be smart enough to run the country? To be fair, the KGB only take the brightest young people. During his recent visit to Moscow the Russians flattered him of course, but I should love to read the private notes made by the Russians of the meeting, I suspect they are less than flattering to our man.
What a shame James Bolan has quit the new series of New Tricks, a series I was rather fond of. Truth be told, I lust after Amanda Redman. OK, I wish she had not had remedial attention paid to her face, there was really no need, my Dear. But gorgeous she is!
17th September 2011
RAILWAYS USED BY BETTER OFF
An MP commented a couple of days ago that railways are used by the better off. Of course they are. This has been the case for some considerable time and as ever these people are incredibly slow to recognize what has happened. Poorer people use buses, for longer journeys typically National Express coaches. You would be hard pressed to see a well dressed middle class person travelling by National Express coach, other than those who are impecunious, such as me from time to time.
The same applies to buses in general. Even the London underground is used less frequently by the poorer in our society. What do I mean by poor people? Well, certainly those on benefits. Benefits such as Job Seekers allowance are so meagre that they even make it difficult for those claiming it to travel by bus. Those in employment and on minimum wages fare little better. Even those on an average salary, given the cut-backs we are now seeing and the drop in take home pay, have to reconsider whether a train journey is imperative.
Travel by train has become prohibitively expensive. I am fortunate in that I am over 60 and therefore can purchase a senior rail card which gives me a third off regular fares. That, combined with judicious travelling off-peak, means that I am able to use railways. A very great many in this country quite simply cannot.
I was never happy with the privatisation of our railways. Of course the railway companies have to make a profit, that is their raison d’etre. But it is a nationalized railway that should make profits and plough them back into the system, rather than pay them out as dividends to shareholders. The reason Thatcher privatized the railways – and much else – was that the Government of the day could not cope with repeated strikes in our nationalized industries. That was down in the first instance to bad management, and secondly to bad government. The 3 day week was certainly in their minds when they sold the nationalised industries, and ergo the Government could not be held responsible for strikes. ‘It not down to us Gov’ they could claim – and indeed did claim. That apart, the significant revenue derived from these sales did not go amiss. No, I am all for private enterprise, but not, repeat not, in such critically important services such as our railways.
Thankfully people are getting over the silly notion that there will now be peace between the two Sudans. It just isn’t going to happen for a very long time to come. The panacea of a democratic election, so much welcomed by the world community, cannot brush aside decades, if not centuries of friction between the Sudan’s disparate peoples. Let this be a warning to other states enjoying the Arab spring.
Barely literate are our police, so we are told by some in the media. Barely news I fear, this has been reported several times before. And yet our bobbies but reflect the declining level of education in the country at large. Apart from graduate entrants to the various forces, it is arguably those with the lowest levels of education who will apply to join the police forces.
OUR BOOTIFUL CHANCELLOR
George Osborne says he will ring fence banks (what a word to use). He then goes on to criticize the previous Government. Where were the Tories whilst in opposition to make these criticisms themselves? Quite simply they were in ignorant bliss of how the banking sector was damaging our economy. Of course gambling in financial markets should be separated from the core activities of banks, I have been calling for such action for a good many years, and yet what is proposed does not go far enough; and not to implement it for another 8 years is ridiculous. God knows who will be in Government then. This is the same old Government by sound-byte we had under Blair and it is reprehensible.
Even when playing the markets within the investment side of a bank’s operation, individuals are still able to cause mayhem to a company and an entire country’s economy. This should not be permitted and anyone doing so should face severe fines and imprisonment. This cannot be controlled, we are told. It can, if there is a will to do so. Banks may go overseas we are told. So let them, call their bluff. There are too many on the Tory benches who are in the hands of the City. I mean, to hear Edward Lee talking about killing the goose that laid the golden egg is nonsense, it was an egg addled from the day it was laid.
Dealers using their bank’s, or their clients’ money, really don’t care much about whether they lose it or not, only insofar as their bonuses are concerned. I have seen this myself. If bonuses are not paid, then there is another company prepared to employ them. These people are passed around the city from hand to hand, a kind of musical chairs, where every now and then someone is left standing carrying the can. So, why not pay bonuses out a year, or better two, after they were earned. If losses are incurred in the interim, they will be docked off any bonuses. Again, this is something I have been calling for for many years.
If an example of mal-trading were needed, we need not look any further than the rogue trader at UBS. His superiors are equally culpable.
And what has this naughty boy be up to? The reports of George Osborne’s alleged Cocaine sniffing and association with a prostitute Natalie Rowe have surfaced again, they don’t want to go away. I cannot think of many in my circle, which extends from dossers under the arches to peers of the realm, who have not at some time taken drugs. I recall when the cisterns and other surfaces of the toilets of the Commons and the Lords were wiped some years ago significant residues of Cocaine were found. As for prostitutes, well……
I always had a soft spot for this woman and her ability, the Manic Bulldog as I used to write about her – growl. She is rather a sweety, don’t you think? She has demonstrated this well in her Reith Lectures on Radio BBC 4; one of a dying breed. Her successor, Jonathan Evans, is a right …. well, whatever.
I happened to be in a Vodafone shop and asked the assistant why for £15 I now only get 2GB on my mobile internet connection, whereas I used to get 3GB. ‘That’s because we discovered that 2GB is enough for most customers’ requirements’. What an idiotic reply! That’s a 33% price hike.
11th September 2011
Today we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the Twin Towers and the attack on the Pentagon. And so we should, let this never be forgotten. It was a dreadful outrage committed against the American people, the ramifications of which are still being felt worldwide today. But let us also begin to think about drawing a line under this matter. No doubt a number of politicians will, I find no other way to put it, milk this to its full extent, which I find rather distasteful.
I well remember the event. I was in London at the time and had turned on the television to be confronted with footage of the first tower having been struck. It was almost surreal. A feeling of disbelief gave way to the growing realisation that what I was seeing was for real. And then the second plane flew into the adjacent tower. Any doubts I had were quickly dispelled.
One of the most vivid scenes I recall was all those people jumping off the buildings. It was a terrible sight. I stayed glued to the television all afternoon and evening. Programming schedules were hastily re-arranged by all major channels. I went out to buy some cigarettes. What I found equally shocking was the delight at my local Iraqi run corner shop expressed at this outrage by some customers of Middle East origin.
There are still a number of aspects of what happened that I find disturbing. To name two: Some have described George Bush’s immediate reaction to the event as cowardice. It does beg the question as to why he was not at the helm of the nation in the White House. The excuse offered is that the Secret Service thought he had to be put safely out of harm’s way, but I find that a feebly excuse. More importantly, why were helicopters not used to take people off the roofs of the buildings?
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO MULLAH OMAR?
Was Osama Bin Laden really killed by US special forces? This is a question conspiracy theories are made of, but curiously we have not heard many of them. I’d better put my pennyworth into the mix.
Also, what about the American who was looking for Bin Laden’s body in the Arabian Sea? It has gone quiet around him. Has he been ‘dissuaded’ by US authorities from continuing his search? What about Mullah Omar? We hear little of him. Did he do a deal with the US and divulge the whereabouts of Bin Laden? And finally, did anyone get the reward that had been offered for Bin Laden? That is a line of enquiry the world’s media might like to follow up, perhaps it will reveal who gave him away. A lot of unanswered questions.
Was Bin Laden taken alive, is he in captivity and being interrogated at will? Not according to his wife who was in the same room in which he said to have been killed. This should not stop conspiracy theorists from milking this in time to come.
So this chap got a tummy bug swimming in the Thames; serves him right, what a stupid thing to do, whether for charity or not. We have been told that the Thames is now clean, sporting God knows now how many species of fish. Mr Walliams – you are not a fish! Having said that, I recall well as a young boy swimming in heavily polluted Ruhr river in Essen, Germany, where my father was stationed. With friends we swam to a little island in the river and covered ourselves in mud – and God knows what else. It did not do me any harm – or did it?
LIBYAN REBEL ARMY
The war of independence in Libya has been won, barring mopping up operations. But who has won it? There are any number disparate rebel groups in Libya right now, for the present operating under the mantle of the NTC. As importantly, there are any number of weapons in the hands of all sorts of private individuals. Armouries have been looted and who knows what kind of weaponry has been taken, and by whom. Many of these fighters will not easily be assimilated into a new army. It also begs the question of what will happen to the fragmented former Libyan army. Will the same mistake be made as was in Iraq, ie disbanding the regular army? I see a vast potential for dissident fighters to form groups inimicable to any future government. In short, it is a veritable mess in the making.
Libya is a vast country to police, offering great potential for incursions from neighbouring countries, themselves spread out over vast, often barely habitable tracts of land, and all virtual failed states themselves. Centres like Tripoli and Benghazi may well be able to be controlled, but this does not so readily apply to the outlying towns and villages.
I hope that Western powers, especially the UK, do not in any way get more involved on the ground than they already are.
PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS
Punters are encouraged to claim, but it is lawyers who are to blame. What a lot of people don’t understand is that even when a case is apparently fraudulent, or questionable, the insurance companies don’t contest it for the most part. They take the easy and less costly option of paying out against it. After all, it is far easier for them to increase insurance premiums. This applies particularly to car accident claims. Solicitors and barristers have done especially well out of these claims over the years, many having amassed a small fortune in fees. I hear rumblings of disappointment among their fraternity that business is set to decline in the coming years. I am so sorry for them!
BRITISH EMBASSIES ABROAD
We have had much talk from this Government, especially from our president Bad Luck Dave, of how we need to increase exports from this country. He was even prancing around many parts of the world, having meetings with Tom, Dick and Harry, espousing the need for Britain to export more. His input has been, quite frankly, disappointing, to put it mildly.
As someone who does export, I have found the assistance offered by our embassies and High Commissions around the world to be to a large extent very poor. Trying to get in touch with them in some parts of the world is nigh impossible. Their web-sites are, to say user unfriendly, would be too kind a description, but are for the most part quite useless. E-mail addresses are often not given, and even writing to them for information and other assistance has in my experience brought no result. I am hopping mad about this state of affairs. On the other hand, there are a few very good trade ministers in embassies and High Commissions, Pakistan springs to mind.
The nub of the problem is that we have the wrong kind of staff working in such establishments. They are not fit for purpose. OK, it’s a long time since I worked as a locally employed person at the German embassy in Bonn, as also the Canadian one, but then the Foreign Office recruited graduates from top universities with top degrees. That was, and as far as I am aware, still is the case, and it is a gross error of judgement. This especially so when it comes to the commercial sections of embassies. What is needed are staff with a commercial background, who understand commerce.
Israel’s high handed manner of dealing with its Arab neighbours, both friends and enemies, is harvesting its inevitable fruit.
Israel has been a curious animal. It grew from the ruins of Nazi Germany, from the holocaust, from the appalling suffering Jews were submitted to in the 1930s and 1940s. This notwithstanding the fact that Zionism had been well established long before World War II. The state of Israel learned a great deal from the Nazis in how to deal with it enemies. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, brutality met with brutality, need I go on?
As I wrote some time ago, Israel must be worried more than any other nation in the Middle East as to how current events will take their course. Israel cannot withstand a united Arab mass movement bent on destroying it. It has not the critical mass to do so. That apart, Israeli leaders, and indeed the Israeli nation, are not what they were some what… 30-40 years ago. Those then, conditioned by that period in Jewish history,were quite a different kettle of fish. The implied threat by Israel to resort to the use of nuclear weapons will not deter their enemies from attempting to destroy them. They are martyrs, believers in a cause that is greater than any threat that Israel can bring to bear. Had it not been for the support of the USA over the years, I very much doubt Israel would be in existence at this time.
It was interesting to hear Tony Blair being interviewed by John Humphries on the Today program this morning on BBC Radio 4. He stated, quite categorically, that military action could be taken against Iran, if they continue developing nuclear weapons. There is no doubt in my mind that that is precisely what Iran is doing.