23 September, 2006

Lateral Thinking

There are ordinary idiots and then there are highly trained council-trained idiots. Joe Duckworth (photographed here by Royters), the Isle of Wight Council's chief executive, is a potential Nobel Prize wining council idiot. At a time when the council is freezing appointments and cutting expenditure, he is responsible for this, from the Daily Telgraph:

A council faced with budget cuts has spent almost £2,000 to issue staff with "thinking caps" and puzzles to help them come up with money-saving ideas.
Officers are being asked to wear the baseball caps at "brainstorming" meetings and compete to come up with thrift schemes.
The Isle of Wight council has bought 250 caps, with the words "thinking cap" across the front, and 3,000 cube puzzles which can be made into the word "think".

Gibraltar Betrayed.

It is not just Crumbling Spires which regards the recent deal between the UK and Spain over Gibraltar as sell-out of the Rock's sovereignty by the ever-treacherous Foreign Office. Keith Azopardi, leader of the Progressive Democracy Party opposition knows full well what is going on and that Chief Minister Peter Caruana has been misleading the population. Panorama reports,

On Thursday night at the Chamber of Commerce Dinner Mr Caruana clearly stated that Gibraltarians flying to Spain would not have to go through Spanish Passport Controls either leaving Gibraltar on route to say Madrid or returning to Gibraltar from a Spanish airport.
The next day he contradicted it, saying in a television phone-in when he accepted that on route to Madrid or Barcelona a Gibraltarian leaving Gibraltar will be subjected to Spanish controls both on route to the plane and immediately after landing.
“The bottom line is that a Gibraltarian flying from what is meant to be his Airport to Spain is being checked by a Spanish Official and when he returns home from Spain to his home airport he is being checked by a Spanish official before reaching Gibraltar officials," says the [PDP] statement.
What happens if a Gibraltarian refuses to show his passport to the Spanish Authorities when he lands? Will he be able to come home? Will he be refused entry within his own airport? Will he be arrested, and if so by which authority? Can he be arrested by the Gibraltar Police for not showing his passport in Gibraltar to a Spanish official?” said the PDP.
On past form, the answer is that Spanish will do whatever they like and the British government will meekly accept it.


Waziristan Accord

Is the Waziristan Accord a real attempt to deal with the foreign troublemakers in the area or is it a sham?

In well-argued articles, Noblesse Oblige and The Fourth Rail have different perspectives but both argue a convincing case.

As is often the case, I think it is probably a bit of both. Either way, the worry remains that the Taliban will use the area to regroup for a new assault on ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

22 September, 2006

Straight as a judge

The Old Bailey is currently being titillated by the case of the Brazilian slapper and the immigration judges. Anyone interested in the lurid detail can read the fun reports in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

From the more venerable, but less entertaining, pages of the Times, these passages caught my eye:

Judge J admitted that she had paid the cleaner between £5 and £7 per hour in cash...
...Both judges also deny being aware that the woman did not have a work permit.
It sounds like the judges did not need to know if she had a work permit because they were paying cash-in-hand and so avoiding tax and National Insurance. I wonder if the Inland Revenue is going to investigate possible criminal activity? Perhaps not.

Update 22.9.06: Daily Mail
The police might like to investigate the judge's nose.

Tax fraud and Class A drugs. It's a fun-filled life in the perhaps unfortunately Department for Constitutional Affairs. The DCA guidelines for applicants to the immigration judiciary states:
They should so conduct their private affairs as to minimise the possibility of conflict or embarrassment.
No comment.

The battle for Garmser:

At the beginning of September, the Taliban captured the town of Garmser in Helmand. They have since been persuaded to leave.

In a despatch from Tom Coghlan, its correspondent in Kabul, the Daily Telegraph looks behind the headlines and examines the reality of the fighting in Garmser, painting a vivid picture of the bravery and professionalism of the outnumbered troops under almost constant fire during the week-long action.

In a week when the mainstream media is full reports of British soldiers being less than gentle with captured terrorists, this episode deserves a much wider publication than it will probably get.

On the first day however, they captured a Taliban fighter with a life-threatening stomach wound whose life was saved by the prompt attention of a British Army medic.
"The medic kept him alive all night, even though this Taliban tried to grab a gun and kill him while they were caring for him," said Mr Langan.
During the night, the Taliban fighter's heart stopped twice but the medic managed to revive him. In the morning, before he was airlifted out, the injured Taliban touched the forehead of the men who had saved him in respect
I doubt it will feature prominently on the BBC or other msm insisting on drawing parallels between NATO and the Soviet invasion.

21 September, 2006

NATO "numerically in the ball park".

Stars and Stripes is one of a number of papers today carrying a story that NATO is to get more troops in Afghanistan.

Nearly two weeks after NATO’s top commander asked for additional troops to bolster operations against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, alliance members have offered close to the additional 2,000 to 2,500 personnel to fill out the mission roster. “Numerically, we are in the ballpark,” U.S. Marine Gen. James L. Jones, NATO’s supreme allied commander, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.
The Washington Post has a similar story but with a subtle negative spin:
Many of the people of Afghanistan are on a fence right now, and they will be for whichever side wins," ...[General Jones] said. Despite the deteriorating security, Jones pointed to progress in Afghanistan, citing the fact that 6 million children are attending school, and hundreds of development projects have been undertaken -- including the construction of about 1,800 miles of roads -- in the past four years.
"Deteriorating security situation"? That would be the security situation which yesterday Crumbling Spires could report was improving. Stars and Stripes quotes what Jones actually said.
On Sept. 15, the Taliban’s spokesman in Afghanistan issued a statement to Islamic press outlets that said fighters had made a “strategic retreat” in southern Afghanistan.
“It was not a decision that was theirs alone, I assure you,” Jones said. “It was encouraged highly” by the NATO forces on the ground.Despite the retreat, “I don’t think they’ve been totally defeated,” Jones said of the Taliban.
“We will continue to see them where there is less [central government and NATO] strength,” particularly in western Afghanistan, as well as “continuing to use their asymmetric tactics,” like attacking civilians, he said.
Perhaps something was lost in translation.

Schism looming

The battle lines between liberal and conservative (orthodox) Anglicans over homosexual priests are being further delineated as Orthodox bishops from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia meet in Rwanda, where they are expected to agree a common statement on the issue

Beilefnet reports that,

Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola said the proposed statement, or covenant, is being drafted at this week's gathering of 25 bishops mainly from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The meeting in Kigali ends Friday.
"We have provisions in the covenant that very clearly state what it means to be an Anglican. The dos and don'ts of an Anglican," said Akinola, the chairman of Global South grouping, which represents more than two-thirds of the Anglican Communion's members
The obvious question is why should a small minority of the Anglican communion be able to arbitrarily substitute "human rights" concepts for biblical authority and impose their views on the majority.

Reuters also has a report.


20 September, 2006

Afghanistan: all points bulletin

In Farah province, western Afghanistan, ISAF forces have launched Operation Wyconda Pincer against the Taliban. As far as I can work out, Wyconda is a native North American term meaning a rocky place where mushrooms grow. Forbes reports that,

The offensive follows recent Taliban attacks in Farah that left at least a dozen insurgents and police dead last week. Four Italian soldiers were also wounded in a recent roadside bombing.

Map from Europa. Click on map to enlarge.

In eastern Afghanistan, CNN reports, Operation Mountain Fury is going after the Taliban, targeting the area around Ghazni, Paktia and Lowgar.

Operation Medusa has just finished in the southern areas of K(Q)hanadar and Helmand and the Taliban threat seems to have been much reduced there.

The north of the country is relatively quiet, which is where the majority of non-combatant NATO forces from outside the USA,UK, Canada and Netherlands have been hiding.

Reid on Islam

John Reid, the Home Secretary, has been barracked by extremist Muslims during a speech in which he urged Islamic parents to watch their children for signs of extremism. The barracker-in-chief is identified by the Guardian as Abu Izzadeen, the noted jihadist and Defender of the Prophet, who is a former member of the banned Islamic terrorist group al-Ghurabaa. Reid and al-Ghurabaa have some some history.

Reid's sin? To ask parents to take responsibility for their children's behaviour. The Guardian reports that Reid said,

...fanatics are looking to groom and brainwash children, including your children, for suicide bombings. Grooming them to kill themselves in order to murder others.
"Look for the telltale signs now and talk to them before their hatred grows and you risk losing them forever. In protecting our families, we are protecting our community."
Tags: ,

Taliban took on British soldiers, came off worst.

Patrick Bishop, the Daily Telegraph's man in Afghanistan, has filed a report from Helmand which portrays the soldiers on the ground as a great deal more optimistic about their ability to deal with the Taliban than the Defence Secretary was yesterday in his somewhat defeatist speech. According to Bishop,

There is a heady mood in the dusty air that British forces have been put to the test and emerged triumphant. There is also scorn among the sunburned soldiers for those at home who doubt the value of their efforts.
The consensus amongst the soldiers Bishop has been talking to and listening to, from generals to corporals, is that they went up against the Taliban and were the better side, so establishing a psychological ascendency and damaging the mediaeval terrorists' reputation with the locals. At a cost of 14 combat fatalities, tragic but not unduly high considering the intensity of much of the fighting, some important tactical successes have been achieved. Bishop writes,
The troops occupying the key district centres of Musa Qala, Sangin, Nowzad, Kajaki and Gereshk have brought relative quiet to the area after months of combat at levels unprecedented in recent British military history.
Senior officers are in no doubt that this is no more than a lull in the campaign; the Taliban will regroup and come back for more. However, the Army is confident that it can deal with any test the Taliban cares to put them to. Are you listening Des Browne?

19 September, 2006

The Defence Secretary on Afghanistan

The game, as Holmes would say, is afoot. When the "game" involves a senior minister coming close to admitting a major policy failure, the problem is often identifying precisely what game he is playing at. Such is the conundrum with the Defence Secretary's speech to the Royal United Serviceman's Institute in which Des Browne came close to admitting that NATO's ISAF is facing serious, perhaps insurmountable, problems in Afghanistan. In a remarkable passage, interestingly fixed on by both the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian, Browne said,

Let’s be clear – success won’t be what we understand by security and prosperity and proper governance, but it will be progress and it will be massively worth achieving, both for them, the Afghans, and for us. I accept that this looks some way off, against a background of intense fighting, and to be frank, currently relatively little direct progress on governance and reconstruction in the South.
I smell defeatism. Browne seems to ruling out a final victory over the Taliban and settling for some unspecified degree of "progress" towards an equally unspecified "security and prosperity and proper governance". If, by this, Browne means, rather than defeat of the Taliban, a continuation of the present conflict into the foreseeable future then it marks a significant redefinition of war aims, one which is bound to have an adverse effect on the morale of troops at the sharp end of the fighting. The long term scenario is not inconceivable, especially with the an under-manned and under-equipped ISAF struggling to gain sufficient resources from NATO's recalcitrant member states.

In a later, perhaps even more remarkable passsage, Browne seems to take off on a flight of fancy:
...across the border in Pakistan, a new approach to security in the border areas may hold hope for the future, but might even see an increase in Taliban activity in the shorter term.
Pakistan's new approach to security? That would be the surrender of Waziristan to the Taliban, providing them with a secure base on Afghanistan's border.

Defeatism and unrealism in the same package, How economical. I agree with Browne that the cause in Afghanistan is both noble and very much in our national interest but it is insufficient for the government to offer our troops only the prospect of more of the same hard fighting without defining clear goals. I am, therefore, driven to the inescapable conclusion that ministers should either give our troops both a clearly defined role and the resources to do the job or bring them home immediately.


The Foreign Office and Spain have signed a deal over Gibraltar which has attracted favourable comment in the press, including both the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. However,experience teaches us that, when the Foreign Office does a deal, it is often a mistake to take it at face value.

For this analysis, I will use the Daily Telegraph's report, although the Guardian's reporting is so similar that both papers have obviously swallowed the FO line cast at the same briefing. Three areas need to be highlighted briefly: territorial sovereignty; border control; and taxation. First, territorial sovereignty:

...In what will be seen as a symbolic coup for Spain, the Spanish flag will, for the first time in more than 50 years, be flown on the British territory.
So the Spanish flag will fly over Gibraltar in a "symbolic coup". What symbol does a national flag represent if not national sovereignty. The sub-text is clear: Spain is claiming de facto the sovereign right to be on this territory and the FO is not arguing the point.

I will deal with border control and immigration together.
...A new [airport] terminal will have entrances on both sides of the border so passengers and cargo travelling to and from Spain can bypass Gibraltar controls and taxes.
Although border control and taxation are two vital ingredients of any worthwhile definition of sovereignty, in certain circumstances, on Gibaltarian territory, Spain will not be subject to local taxes and immigration controls. Again the sub-text is clear: this small part of Gibraltar is to be regarded de facto as a part of Spain.

Thus the thin end of the wedge is inserted. The principle that Spain has some claim to sovereignty over the Rock, however tenuous,has been conceded with the obvious danger is that, in future meetings between the UK and Spain, the FO will find it much easier to begin to ceding that sovereignty.

Air Reinforcement(s)

New meaning is being given to the term "The Few". Offhand, I'm not sure exactly how many the Few were but it was certainly more than one which is the number of aeroplanes the RAF is sending to reinforce its existing squadron of six in Afghanistan. The BBC reports that

The move is a response to a "surge" in demand for close air support from British and other international troops fighting the Taliban, said a statement.
Let's hope it is a very small surge.

Any move which can save the lives of British servicemen is to be welcomed but this episode has the feel of an argument between the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury. Yet again the Treasury wins. It is a question of priorities and with this government those priorities are always electoral. As I've noted before, servicemen tend not to vote Labour, the public sector workforce does. So, while the plague of state under-employed functionaries swells by the day, the British Army goes into action undermanned and under-equipped.

Still no sign of the helicopters so desperately needed by the British Army.

18 September, 2006

Canterbury Inaction

As the Archbishop of Canterbury fiddles the Episcopal church burns.

The Boston Globe reports that,

In a letter to leaders of the world's Anglican churches released yesterday, Archbishop Rowan Williams also said there would be no quick response to plans by seven dioceses of the US Episcopal Church to seek leadership outside that church because of their opposition to the appointment of gay clergy.
Actually, it is now eight dioceses. The Peoria Star Journal reports that the Diocese of Quincy, Illinois
...joins seven other U.S. dioceses... that have asked for alternative oversight since the Episcopal Church's triennial convention in June failed to declare a moratorium on election of noncelibate homosexual bishops. The moratorium had been requested by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and other Anglican primates.

Euro collapse

Daily Telegraph columnist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard thinks the impending collapse of the Euro could be the way ahead for Europe.

Those of us who have been thundering ever since Maastricht that EMU is a woefully misconceived idea that will destroy the very Europe it was intended to cement, can only say: welcome to the club. In truth, it is a well-kept Brussels secret that many of the EU's own experts fear the euro will blow apart in the next nasty recession, with Italy, Portugal, Greece, and Spain shaping up as prime candidates for ejection.

As The Daily Telegraph's Brussels correspondent, I used to meet for furtive lunches with a Commission economist who was so worried about the coming smash-up that he had switched his savings into "hard" currencies, choosing foreign accounts beyond EU reach. I joke not. He knew, from his ringside seat, that the single currency had been thrust on Europe by the Delors crowd for entirely political reasons in the face of vehement warnings from the pros at the Directorate of Economic and Monetary Affairs.

The question now seems to be not if the Euro will collapse but just how much economic and social damage will occur before the unrepresentative EU political elite finally bows to the inevitable?

As suggested in Evans-Pritchard's article, the collapse of monetary union could, in the longer term, lead to the unravelling of the single market. To which we can add, if the single market unravels that will surely hasten hasten the collapse of political union. Suddenly Europe's future seems brighter than it did.

Afghanistan: MSM attack

NATO's operation Medusa against the Taliban has ended. The main stream media's international operation against NATO in Afghanistan is beginning.

In London, the Free Press International cites a Congressional Research Service review to justify the headline screaming: NATO struggles in Afghanistan.

The Gulf Times quotes approvingly a European think tanks' view that

southern Afghanistan is suffering "a humanitarian crisis of starvation and poverty..." caused by "US-British military policies".
Over in Canada, the Toronto Sun states confidently that the "West won't win Afghan War".

Over here, the BBC is more subtle, yet the message is the same.Placing its arguments within the usual anti-Bush framework:
Nato is the major trans-Atlantic forum and it has inevitably suffered from the broader strains between many European countries and the Bush administration. The "war on terror" has left many of its members uncomfortable. They do not entirely share Washington's world view. And the Bush administration has tended to reinforce key bilateral relationships rather than bolstering Nato as a whole.
Amongst the doom and gloom I read, only the Sunday Times reports positively on Afghanistan, acknowledging that Medusa was a tactical success.

Over the coming weeks, we can expect a constant stream of similar msm attempts to sap the West's political will defend itself.

17 September, 2006

Uncovering Iran

BBC Radio 4 has just launched a series of programmes, "Uncovering Iran", which is "aimed at challenging some of the perceptions still held about this intriguing country". The introduction informs us that

The image of Iran - through the prism of the western media - gives a somewhat one-sided view of a fanatical yet repressed population railing against the Great Satan.
From the tenor of the publicity material on the BBC website, it seems likely that the BBC will be attempting to redress that perceived imbalance and to persuade us that Iran is basically a peace loving country suffering at the hand of America.

I prefer to form my view of Iranian politics from Iranian Television, available through MEMRI TV.

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Echoing a government minister, Johnathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, has criticised the great liberal shibboleth: multi-culturalism. He told the Sunday Telegraph:

...that multiculturalism had led to segregation and a country that was no longer confident of what it stood for...

...Last month, Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, acknowledged that multiculturalism might be encouraging ethnic groups to live separate lives. But Sir Jonathan went further, arguing that it was time that the idea of multiculturalism was abandoned. In the 19th century, there was a single dominant identity in the country that welcomed in lots of people, but multiculturalism has led to confusion and segregation, he said.
Remarkable stuff from the Rabbi, who is perhaps best known to us gentiles as BBC Radio Four's resident Jewish bleeding heart liberal. Two decades ago, those of us who held similar views were derided by the left as "racists". Now, our views are echoed by establishment figures. What has happened to cause this change?

Could it be that it is finally dawning on the more thinking liberals that a "multi-cultural" society is an unstable society with an inherent tendency to Balkanisation and civil war.

Mrs Blair

Mrs Tony Blair, the well-known human rights profiteer lawyer has been investigated by the police for an alleged assault on a teenager. According to the Daily Mail the investigation involved six plain clothes detectives.