Saturday, 14 July 2007

Proof Reading is not easy !!!

I do admire proof readers.....They have a skill that I sadly lack.

Each and every time that I look at this blog, I find more spelling errors. So I do have sympathy with those daily newspapers that have a reputation for lousy spelling. - No names :-)

Friday, 13 July 2007

Stella Rimmington writing in The Daily Mail

Its refreshing to hear from someone who knows what they are talking about. Few people in this PC society dare say that any high risk segment of the population should get more attention than less likely folks. But should a little old granny from Devon really be body searched to the same extent as a 20 year old who has just returned from Pakistan?

Profiling works. - and its efficient.

That, with a working e-border control policy will provide some much needed intelligence to improve the efficiency of MI5 and MI6. The problem is that the e-border program is getting diluted per day, resulting in the true potential value being realised further and further into the future. What's really needed is the original 'extended borders' program sooner rather than later.

Having said that, I'll be having my coffee a day earlier this weekend and am getting concerned that my routine is getting seriously compromised. I need to get some order back in my life...........

The start of the slippery slope of betrayal

There is one recent event which marks a turning point in the way that 'liberal left' morality has been corrupted and hijacked by terrorist groups. That turning point was a symbolic act of suicide by a then world respected organisation.

The organisation was Amnesty International. The era was the late 1970's - I cannot remember the exact date.

I was quite active in our university branch of Amnesty. At that time the 'Golden Rule' was that we would ONLY support and be involved with people who were involved in NON-VIOLENT activities. Absolutely morally correct. No arguments about calling 'terrorists' by the name of 'freedom fighters', and no political decisions needing to be made.

Then the decision was taken that Amnesty would work for ANYONE who was a political prisoner. Whatever that is. So all the above issues had to be addressed. This led to the need to be seen as 'even-handed'......and the end result has been that there is now no differentiation whatsoever between aggressor and victim !

So that decision 30 years ago has led to the current state of affairs where Amnesty treats provocateurs and terrorists with the same even hand as those victims and those trying to defend themselves. (You can sense my value judgement having to be made here)

Amnesty International has called on the UN to investigate war crimes it says both Israel and Hezbollah committed during last year's war in Lebanon. The report urges the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on both Israel and Hezbollah until "mechanisms are in place to ensure that weapons will not be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law".

AN ARMS EMBARGO ?. Wasn't that supposed to be happening to Hezbollah already as part of the UN agreement? But who has been re-arming and rebuilding their bunkers? Who has more missiles and rockets now than before the war in Lebanon. AND WHERE DID THEY COME FROM? Lebanon has a coast which is effectively controlled by the German Navy under a UN flag. That leaves its only other border, that with Syria. There are not too many prizes for the correct answer…..And it is plain as the end of your nose that Israel was defending itself from an unprovoked attack.

So we can see this is a great example where the once revered organisation has now made itself a laughing stock on all sides except the BBC, who still holds them up on a pedestal. Sure, there are good deeds done by Amnesty in many parts of the world. BUT if you can't trust them to make a moral judgement in Lebanon, can we trust them elsewhere?

Amnesty's founders have been betrayed, and after all this time there is no one who really remembers its past noble calling.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

International Space Station - Its still up there !

In case you had forgotten about it, the ISS is still going strong and growing all the time. Its getting pretty big now and should be easily visible with the naked eye.

Big Brother & surviellence

The UK has more cctv cameras per head of population than any other country. Yet its the most worried about having an ID card. How come?

Maybe it can be explained by the fact that cctv has crept up on us whilst ID cards are coming fast in a blaze of publicity. Also cctv has, at the moment, a public safety benefit which is clear and demonstrated frequently, whereas ID cards....

So to get ID cards to be accepted - and there is no law that forces you to carry them - you need to demonstrate a real benefit too. Well for sure, "National Security" does not cut it with most thinking people, so what other benefit can be used? Its also not "streamlining government" as we just know that any savings will be lost in the government cashpot.

Maybe we should look at the other time-honoured motivations of Joe Public. In reality those boil down to "more cash in my pocket".

So what models can reward the citizen for using an ID card?

Maybe we can learn from the credit card companies. How do they differentiate?.

Better interest rates
Bigger credit limits
Indemnities/fraud protection.
Easy management

So......the way it might work is:

* The government charge you only an extra £10 to get a card when you get a new passport and then **gives** you £50 after you use the ID card for the 2nd or 3rd time and on each anniversary you get a fist full of discount vouchers. - maybe even airmiles.

* You have free on-line viewing of your ID card use.

* Banks give you 0.25% lower overdraft rate if you use your ID card each time you interact with the bank. - They have less fraud.

* Credit cards give you some cashback if you identify yourself with the ID card as well as chip n'pin. - They have less fraud.

Those ideas are a start..............

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Poor Coffee and Poor Politics

Trying to get hold of anyone is awful at this time of year - To say the least, I am frustrated. Having said that I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend and sampling another coffee shop.

I've actually worked out how to get a decent cup of cappuccino in the Starbucks/Nero/Costas of this world: Ask for an extra shot of espresso. Then it stops tasting like brown and white water and begins to taste of the coffee.. Having said that, I went to a coffee shop in Radlett a few days ago and asked for an extra shot. They said that the cappuccino machine had only one setting! I don't think I'll be voting for that place any more :-)

I heard an amazing series of comments on Al-Jazerra TV last night. BEFORE YOU THINK ANYTHING, it was curiosity, not some twisted political viewpoint that caused this to occur. I actually accidentally tuned in and as I recognised a famous Pakistani cricketing celebrity I decided to listen to what he was saying. I still cannot understand why sportsmen, or for that matter actors, feel the need to get involved in politics. But I have no doubt that the guy got hit on his head once too often. His view was that the Pakistani Government had lost all sense of humanity by risking the women and children held hostage in the Red Mosque in Islamabad and should in fact give in to the extremists' demands. Again, its transposing the position of criminal and victim and twisting morality. After about 2 minutes of questions from viewers all enforcing the gentleman's views, I decided that I had enough and moved down the channels in an attempt to re tune to someone more sensible - like Donald Duck. Image my shock when I was confronted by the same cricketer being interviewed by "The Friend Of The Weak", Mr George Galloway. George Galloway was trying his hardest to sound and act Eastern, even down to his accent, which has started sounding more and more Iraqi every day. Not a bad thing in itself if it was not patently false. How people follow this man beggars belief. I suspect that they would follow anyone who re-enforces their own bigoted views of this world. I was reminded of the old TV interviews with the Far Right, BNP etc. 1984 and 'Newspeak' really compare as a mere shadow. Its funny how the far left has found a new 'cause celeb' after bashing the US under the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament banner. Enough time wasted on this lot.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

The future of military aviation

We all know that pilots are expensive to train and even more politically expensive to retrieve when captured. So what is the future of military aviation?

So this is the X24 UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle)

The Boeing Joint Unmanned Combat Air System X-45 is an unmanned combat air vehicle being developed for strike missions such as Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD), electronic warfare and associated operations. (That's all bad news if you are on the receiving end....)

Reconnaissance and limited strike missions roles are even now being carried out by 'drones'. These can be like the 'Predator' UAV (Unmanned Airbourne Vehicle), which can carry 4 hellfire missiles (you definately dont want to be looking at the business-end of one of these either) as well as camera stuff. They hang around waiting for something or someone interesting to pounce on.

The Rolls-Royce of the UAV world is the 'Global Hawk', which according to the glossy brochure is a 'high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial reconnaissance system designed to provide military field commanders with high-resolution, near real-time imagery of large geographic areas.' - Translated, that means that it goes up high for a long time and takes great pictures.

Listen out for more and more references to these in the news. Its planned that in the not too distant future, you will not see many manned aircraft at all. They will get more and more autonomous and be able to make their own decisions as to whether they will attack a particular target. - Which makes the 'Blue-on-Blue' blog below even more relevant.

Sunday morning in the garden

This Sunday was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, a cool breeze blowing.

So we decided that rather than going to a coffee shop we would get some bagels and smoked salmon and enjoy the delights of breakfast in my chum's beautiful garden in Middlesex. We had good filter coffee, charming company consisting of my chum's wife and a family friend, and we discussed some of the day's burning issues: tennis and Russian theatre.

- by the way, we forgot the smoked salmon so we made do with egg and chives and a super orange marmalade.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Blue - On - Blue

And there is yet another investigation into 'Blue-on-Blue' (friendly fire) casualties in the second Iraq War.

Doesn't any of the media appreciate how confused warfare is? I heard that about 20% of Allied casulties in World War Two were due to friendly fire. It happens in war. It always will.

If you doubt this, try a little experiment yourself. Spend a day at one of these paintball events where two or more teams play at being soldiers and try to 'kill' their opponents with bullets made from coloured paint. You get a paint splash and you are 'dead' - at least for that game.

Now try to play with two teams - but in silence..... You will see more than 20% 'Blue-on-Blue' that's for sure. And real war also has problems with communications. Technologies that might prevent these accidents have done a great job - they are called IFF (Identify Friend Foe) - and have reduced these accidents to a handful, even in coalition actions. But you always get confusion in battle.

Soldiers know the risks. Its a hard thing to say, but their families should recognise the risks too.

The next posting will be about coffee shops....I promise !!!

Another investigation into NATO 'Wrong doings' in Afghanistan.

And then you wonder about the sheer hypocrisy of the media. They start equating those murderers who detonate car-bombs at funerals and weddings with the aim of killing as many people as possible, with precision attacks against those very murderers which occasionally and accidentally may kill a non-combatant.

Has anyone considered the very very large number of precision attacks which are aborted at the last moment in order to avoid civilian loss of life? - I think not.

I'm reminded of a recent film on TV called 'The Heroes of Telmark'. Its about an attempt to prevent a critical consignment of heavy water (That's the stuff essential to atom bombs) from getting to Nazi Germany. In the film, which is based on a true story, the only way to stop the train with the heavy water is to sink the passenger ferry which is conveying it across a fjord. It had to be done. - no doubt. But the difference between Telmark and the terrorism that we see now, is that those Norwegians did all the could to reduce the civilian loss of life. In London, Bagdad and Kabul, the perpetrators fill the bombs with nails.

Enough said.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Berlin visit - personal thoughts

It’s always strange travelling to Germany.

I remember the first time, crossing the border from France and heading a relatively short distance north to Freiberg. “Pretty country”, I thought. Then I started wondering about the forests at the side of the autobahn.

How many Jews were buried in unmarked graves? How many women and children slaughtered like animals?

And then you ring-fence these thoughts and continue with the purpose of your visit - business. Then it gets easier. You get used to putting those thoughts to one side; you get to know the young Germans, a generation removed from the horror. I never hide the fact that I am Jewish - it usually becomes apparent from my name and association with Israel. Most of the Germans that I meet on my many visits appear also to have ring-fenced the racial barbarism and outwardly all appears normal, but I always look at the forests and wonder…...

What is worse is that I start wondering; if such inhumanity can happen in such a ‘nice’ place, can it happen elsewhere?

Then an opportunity occurs that forces you to cling to hope, a hope that things have really changed. Something occurs that makes you think that maybe, at least in Europe, the Holocaust was a “barbarity too far”.

Last year, I happened to be attending a conference in Berlin. Not the first time to the city, but the first extended stay, where I could sightsee a little, and take the opportunity to visit the new Holocaust memorial.

The first thing that strikes you is the location and size. It’s big. It’s very big! It is about the size of a city block, and it is located at the very centre of Berlin, at the very heart of Germany.

Then you are drawn to the starkness of it. Controversial certainly - but sombre and respectful like a massive cemetery. It is squeezed together with a mass of tombstones. They appear cramped as if there are too many to fit this vast acreage. Plain black obelisks, differing heights, on an undulating surface, expressing the vastness and diversity of those remembered.

Underneath the vast expanse of obelisks lay a number of exhibition rooms. They are eerily quiet. Almost nobody talks, even the children. You are exposed to a history of the Holocaust, from its seeds through to its bloody execution.

Be clear - It is not a “Holocaust Memorial”. It is a “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe”. - Yes, the word “murdered”. There is no toying with words or nuances. Here, right by the Brandenburg Gate and within earshot of the Reichstag, the open realisation and declaration that over 6 million Jews were murdered by the Germans.

And it is busy, not with tourists, but with schoolchildren and young adults. All being drawn to the realisation of a past that was kept to the shadows, was whispered, and set aside in the minds of most Germans.

It is constructed cleverly, not to shock with graphic images. There are some, but not very many. What is conveyed is a slow, methodical, systematic attempted murder of an entire race. It is conveyed, not at a macro level, not by stunning you by the very vastness of the act, but by the very personal effect on families; Whether German, Belgian, French, Dutch, Greek, Italian, Turkish……. The perspective was from a varied sample of families, in different countries, and how they were affected. Family pictures dissected and analysed with the stories of each family member. This child murdered in Auschwitz, this man murdered in a death march, this one surviving and living in Israel. What is starkly obvious is the way the Germans recorded each details so methodically. The minutiae of the process of the industrialisation of murder. Transit documents, cattle truck manifests, lists of property. There were also many personal letters. Some of these were thrown from the cattle-trucks. Others were smuggled from the ghettos. In all the cases, the fate of the writers was indicated. All were murdered.

I began to wonder about the photographs. Why were there not more graphic stories of bodies and horror? Then I realised. If the pictures were too horrific, if the images too painful, then people would not come. Then parents would keep their children away from being exposed to such nightmares.

Here is the balance between the obligation to reveal the horror of past mass crimes, and the reality of communicating the enormity of the act to a generation that is now twice removed from that act. This memorial is designed to bring this barbarity out of the shadows for the new generation of Germans.

The “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” is not easy to visit. Even after several weeks, my mind wanders between the cold grey slabs of concrete. However, I do believe that it is a vital piece in the evolution of Europe, a realisation of the past for future generations.

A B1 bomber going fishing

This is real projection of power.

Its the last of the pre 'stealth' super bombers. The B-1 costs an awful lot of money and was designed to fly ever so low and fast to avoid the enemy radar. Even if it was detected (and it is loud), it is hard to hit a 1000+ mph aircraft flying at 200 foot! Its 20th Century thinking.

Still it is not as effective as a stealthy B-2 bomber armed with Satnav guided bombs, but that lot is even more expensive.

Real life in toys... doesn't get more true to life than this:

A Lego NBC cleanup team (That's Nuclear Biological Chemical to you folks).

So much for the school playset. ...

My sort of humour

I'm very much into 'Far Side' and 'Dilbert' humour.

This is one of my favourites (which is neither, but is in 'Far Side' style!):

30th June in Pinner

So, on Sunday we went to Pinner, Middlesex for coffee. It was a dull day and we really needed a nice breakfast and coffee.

There are a number of coffee shops there, the best that we've tried being 'Cafe Rouge' and 'Cafe Uno'. However Cafe Rouge is rather dark and 'Cafe Uno' has just been branded as 'Brasserie Chez Gerard'. This was bright and clean. The window glass was removed so it was fresh and semi open. The coffee (Skinny decaf Late) was ordered strong. IT WAS GREAT!. - Piping hot and had real flavour. Scrambled eggs were delivered on a round wooden block on a baguette and were cooked to perfection. The only downside was that the tables were a little small and could not easily cope with two 50 year olds, coffee, food and the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph newspapers all at the same time. Parking is a bit of a hassle too. Lots of cars.

It was not cheap though, but well worth it.

BY THE WAY, there is a dinky Sunday market in Pinner selling all sorts of 'organic' fresh foods like cheeses and breads, fruits and meats.

A great Sunday Morning........scoring 8/10

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Welcome to My Blog

Hmmm ..I hope that this works out and is not too boring. I really want to use this to help people enjoy their lives a little more and to share some stuff that I have picked up on the way to help out. It will be generally mundane stuff like my favourite coffee shops. I go for a coffee EVERY Sunday morning at about 9am and finding a decent place in North West London or Hertfordshire at that time is almost impossible. I go with an old chum from college and its a fixed point from which we can survive the week. While everything else may be shifting and changing, and life throws its worst at you, at least you can have a cup of decent coffee and moan about the Sunday newspapers and the politicians.