Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Monday, 30 September 2013

Nairobi Attack - Are We Prepared?

Following the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, surely we should be asking whether it could happen in Britain.
The Mail today reports that:
Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, a hate preacher wanted for recruiting killers warned that terrorists are planning to murder innocent Britons saying: 'You will all die'. The man, known as Makaburi by his followers which means graveyard said Britain will be targeted by terrorists to impose Sharia law across the world. 
The report also adds that:
He is accused of being part of a network that directed up to 100 British terrorists to East African training camps.
We need to take such warnings seriously as we can no longer rely on the fact that we are an island to protect us from harm. With our lax border controls, and the influx of Somalis into this country, who knows whether one of his lieutenants might even now be here organising such an attack.

Frankly, I am not impressed by our government's response:
The Prime Minister, who chaired meetings of the Cobra crisis committee last week, said he had no intelligence of plans for an ‘imminent’ attack in Britain.
But asked whether he was concerned that British-based Somalis might export terror to the UK, Mr Cameron said: ‘There is always a worry of  that and there is a hotbed of terrorism in Somalia that spills over into  other countries.’
I repeat, this does not impress me in the slightest. Surely the fact that up to 100 "British" terrorists are believed to have attended training camps is a matter of great concern, not just "a worry".  The government should be putting plans together as to how they would deal with such an attack in one of our numerous shopping malls. 

I tried to imagine what would happen if we had such an attack in our local, rather small, shopping centre. I simply cannot imagine our local (Thames Valley) police force would have the resources or any idea how to deal with it, and I expect the same applies to most other forces. Look at how long it took the Met (probably our best resourced police force) to get an armed police response to the shooting of Gunner Lee Rigby. I don't blame the police forces for this situation, but the government who is fond of holding "Cobra" meetings and talking, but doing little else.

Surely it is time that the country had elite armed police/military squads ready at all times to deal with such a crisis, along with resources such as helicopters to move them at a moments notice. Squads which have trained in shopping malls and have all the latest technology at their disposal along with such things as plans and other details of all the major shopping areas for instant reference.

There is also the question of how the ethnic British would view such an attack. Generally we are very tolerant but the day will come when we will say that "enough is enough", and there could be riots directed towards Muslims living in this country.

We may not be able to stop such an attack, but we need to be prepared and our police forces need the necessary backing to be able to handle such a crisis. The British people need to be convinced that their government has real plans and resources for dealing with such a situation and any consequent repercussions. That is far more important than  any number of "Cobra" meetings.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Why Not Now?

The Telegraph reports that

"Ed Miliband has promised to cut overall immigration if Labour wins the next election."

He said that "In our first year in office we will legislate for an immigration bill which has secure control of our borders, cracks down on exploitation of workers coming here undercutting workers already here, and says to big companies that bring in people from outside the EU that they can do that, within a cap, but they have got to train the next generation." 

But haven't the Tories been trying to cut emigration and received nothing but criticism from both Labour and the LibDems?  Surely, if Miliband is serious about what he says. he should be telling Cameron that Labour was willing to enter discussions now about reducing emigration, but no, he is only going to promise to do something within a year of his party being elected. It would certainly improve his standing as a statesman, and please his voters, if he was prepared to do something now, rather than wait. It would also put Clegg firmly in his place!

I was taught, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today", but politicians seem to prefer "Never do anything today which you can put of until tomorrow, or if possible, until after the next election".

No wonder UKIP are making inroads into both Tory and Labour supporters.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Edinburgh's Trams and HS2

The Telegraph reports that

Edinburgh's trams 'will be running by May'

We are also told that the original estimate of £375 million more than doubled at £776 million as did the planned time-scale of three years which became six. The original plans for the trams to run from Edinburgh Airport to Newhaven in the north of the city, were scaled back due to problems, and they will now only run to the City Centre.
So they've got less than originally proposed at twice the cost and twice the time-scale.

I would suggest that there are "lessons to be learnt" in respect of HS2. With far higher estimated costs and longer time-scales, I would argue that both are  likely to more than double before the line is finished, and that it will never get beyond Birmingham.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

LbbDems - Major Policy Announcement - Charge for Plasic Bags

The Telegraph reports that:
"A senior Lib Dem source said the charge, championed by Mr Clegg, would be “centrepiece” at the conference which is taking place this weekend in Glasgow."

Heaven Help Us if this is the centrepiece of LibDem policy! 

This country is still in a financial mess, with the Government continuing to borrow millions (or is it billions?) of pounds each week in spite of the so-called "cuts". At the same time, according to the Mail,  the Taxpayer is loosing around a million pounds a day due to benefits being wrongly paid out by The Department for Work and Pensions, this amount being roughly the same as the amount that is expected to be saved by the new restrictions on benefits.

Yet these major financial issues appear to be of little import to the LibDems since it seems that the best policy that they can come up with is a compulsory charge of 5p each for plastic bags.

I know that reducing the number of waste plastic bags is a desirable objective, but even their most ardent supporters must surely despair at this being the "centrepiece" of LibDem policy. I wonder just how many votes it will attract.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Global Cooling

I  have always been a sceptic when it comes to man-made global warming, mainly in the belief that whilst climate change maybe taking place, there was very little correlation with man's activities over the centuries, and that in any event, such activities are puny compared with nature.

Today, headlines in both the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Telegraph tell us that the Arctic ice cap has expanded by some 60% during the summer this year, resulting in the Northwest Passage having been blocked for the whole year leading to the cancellation numerous voyages through the passage. Some twenty yachts which were planning to sail through the passage are now marooned in the ice.

This confirms what a friend told me about the Antarctic, a couple of years ago, when he went there on a cruise. At that time the media were reporting that massive icebergs had broken away from the main ice and were giving dire warnings about the shrinking ice cover. In fact, due to pack ice, the ship, a Russian ice-breaker, failed to get as far south as it had in previous years, resulting in the use of the ship's helicopter to visit the sights. The ship apparently had to beat a hasty retreat northwards to avoid getting trapped as the ice was rapidly increasing, and in spite of it being the Antarctic summer, there was a real risk of being trapped.

This new news is, of course, most embarrassing for those scientists who predicted that the Arctic would be ice-free by the summer of 2013, and a boost for those who believe warming stopped during the first few years of this century. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was due to meet in October prior to the publication of its fifth assessment report, is now having to hold a "pre-summit" to discuss the situation, as the financing countries are suggesting some 1500 amendments to the draft report because it does not explain what is described as a "pause" in global warming.

Reading these, and other, reports, it is clear that it is no longer possible to claim that an overwhelming consensus of scientists working in this field believe that global warming is taking place; indeed quite a number are now admitting that the warming experienced during the 1980's has now stopped, whilst some of them are going further and are claiming that we are likely to be entering a prolonged period of cooling.

Clearly, this country's energy policy is in need of urgent updating. If there has been no rise in temperatures for the last ten years, a period during which world CO2 output has increased due to activities in India and China, there is now even less reason to believe that man is responsible for global warming. So instead of spending billions on panic renewable energy schemes, and in particular windmills, we need to get fracking fast in order to ensure that our population does not freeze when the world demand for gas and oil rises in the next few years and their prices "hit the roof".

I am waiting to see what the wider media, particularly the BBC, has to say on this matter. So far their has been total silence.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Syria - What will Obama Do?

After the US media has criticised the UK for not being prepared to go to was with Syria and failing to support them in their desire to bomb Syria, Obama has decided to allow Congress to debate the issue before taking action. For once I believe he has made a wise move; it was foolish of him to draw the so-called red line, and it may be embarrassing for him if Congress opposes military action, but even so, I'm sure he is doing the right thing.  In a democratic country, unless there is an immediate threat to its own peoples, no government should take military action without approval of Parliament.

What I believe is the problem in both countries is that it is unclear whether bombing Syria would make any difference. What sort of targets are being proposed that won't cause thousands more unnecessary deaths? Bombing the factories and/or stocks of chemical weapons (assuming that they have been located) will release the very poisons that we are complaining about, killing even more. The situation is made worse because media reports suggest that Assad is holding his prisoners of war at these sites as human shields. So what do we attack that will "punish" Assad, yet not cause thousands more deaths on either side?

The other problem is that if Assad is deposed, those that replace him could be far worse. We've already heard of atrocities being committed by the rebels, and with Al-Qaeda now deeply involved the situation could go from bad to worse. As with Iraq, there seems to be no real forward planning either here or in the US as to how we might deal with the situation in the event of Assad being deposed.

I'm all for action against this tyrant if someone could come up with a practical plan, but to me the mere lobbing of a hundred or so missiles at undefined sites in Syrian seems a very expensive way of achieving absolutely nothing whilst alienating even more members of the Muslim community worldwide.