Posts Tagged ‘Mi5’
Old habits die hard and although we retired codgers no longer have any logical reason for disliking Monday mornings, we still do. Throw in dark skies, drizzle and the promise of arctic conditions to come and you have the text for another edition of Grumipy Old Men which invariably grace our Christmas breakfast tables.
No surprise then that once we had shed our waterproofs and gathered around the ‘hut’ fire this morning the mood was somewhat downbeat. The usual prime target, Gorgeous George Osborne, was soon under fire, today we had a variation on the theme of tax avoiders. It seems that our less than esteemed Chancellor is falling somewhat short of practising what he regularly preaches about regarding every penny of public money as gold dust. He is renting out his family home at £2,450 per week while living in Downing Street. His place in Notting Hill was purchased for £1.85 million in 2006, but its value has soared to £4 million . Once the fact that he pays back no contribution for living at the taxpayer’s expense had leaked, we were told that his Labour predecessor did likewise. So that’s all right then.
No such easy explanation is on offer for the fact that the heads of MI6, MI5 and GCHQ exaggerated the threat to national security created by the revelations of Edward Snowden. The former lord chancellor Lord Falconer has revealed that no fewer than 850,000 people had open access to the files leaked by the US whistleblower. It was inconceivable, says his Lordship, that the US and UK authorities were not aware of the inevitability of leaks given the enormous access allowed. Falconer praised the Guardian and New York Times for their role in “strengthening democracy” by publishing extracts. He is far from alone, yesterday the Sunday Times quoted a leading Tory MP as describing the appearance of the security boffins as a “total pantomime”, and added that the questions asked by the committee had been agreed in advance!
My fellow grumps also mentioned in passing the adverts appearing on behalf of the loan sharks. ‘Rudolf’s Readies’ offers the chance to “brighten up Christmas with a £1,000 cash loan”. That loan will cost £250 for a month’s credit, the equivalent of an APR of 1,737 per cent. ‘Fast Christmas Loans’ charges an APR of 2,120 per cent for a similar deal. Another, ‘Christmass Loans’ promises, in broken English, “monetary bliss for an auspicious occasion”. How can the government allow exploitation of the vulnerable on such a scale?
Given the veil of silence that it has drawn over the worsening situation involving the Roma in Sheffield, the answer is probably easily. For the developments there are causing great concern to both Knacker and the local authority. Some days ago local MP David Blunkett warned that tensions between residents and migrants from Slovakia could escalate into rioting unless steps were taken to improve integration. His fellow MP Nick Clegg called for the Roma community to show respect.
One of our allotments gang has a brother living in Sheffield, and he has filled in the background to Blunkett’s demand that people be reminded that they are not living in a “downtrodden village or woodland”. It seems that the Roma like to stand outside their homes through the night,listening to loud music and talking loudly. Some take to urinating and defecating in public areas, and young girls offering sexual services loiter on every corner. The Page Hall area acts as a magnet for incoming EU passport holders, and there is widespread fear that once the floodgates open in January the situation will rocket out of control. Already there are vigilante gangs representing the local white and ethnic residents who feel unprotected.
Jack Sraw has admitted that the figures produced by the last government were “worthless”. The likely arivals pre-2010 were forecast at between 5,000 and 13,000. It is now believed that almost 1,100,000 arrived. Straw has pointed out that other EU members France and Germany have defied the spirit of free travel and put “nailed planks across their doors”. The result is that the millions understandably anxious to leave such as Romania and Bulgaria see the UK as their destination.
A veil of silence has been drawn over the subject, and it is only now that the threat of civil disorder is looming that some politicians are beginning to speak out. It ministers fail to copy the example of France and Germany tomorrow’s headlines will not be focussed solely on the breakdown of our public services, the breakdown of law and order will hit the front pages too!
We like to end on a positive note, even on Monday mornings. So three cheers for the Duke of Edinburgh. As people 70 years younger hopped from foot to foot to try to keep warm, our favourite Royal stood ramrod straight and motionless at three remembrance services, including one in Belgium.
They truly don’t make ‘em like him any more!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything!”….Pablo Picasso
Two sunny mornings on the trot. Blue skies make all the difference, suddenly life feels good. Even Albert was cheerful this morning, less so when someone mentioned that, no, this is not the start of summer, merely a brief interlude between monsoons. But for the moment our efforts at attracting bees are paying dividends. There were masses of them around the sunflowers and runner bean flowers. Incidentally there were also large numbers of sparrows, creatures we haven’t seen in this neck of the woods for yonks.
It is on such mornings that I reflect on the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. The Earth’s living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even bother to turn up and discuss it at last week’s Earth summit in Rio. Those that did pledged only to pursue “sustained growth”, the primary cause of the biosphere’s losses. World governments, which have performed such miracles in developing stealth bombers and drone warfare, global markets and trillion-dollar bailouts are not even prepared to spend a tenth of the energy they devoted to these projects on defending our living planets. They have abandoned the fight to save so much of what we hold dear; the forests, the brooks, the wetlands, the coral reefs, the glaciers, the birdsong and the night chorus.
Just another example of the folly of so much being entrusted to politicians who think only as far as their next election. But at least we can all draw some comfort from doing our little bit to support wildlife. Every allotment, every garden can make a small contribution and, to quote the dreaded Tesco, every little helps.
What we cannot do anything about is the growing threat of terrorism by British, yes ‘British’, citizens. The chattering classes continue to bang on about innocent until proved guilty and human rights. Meantime, we had an update yesterday from Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5.
Giving the Lord Mayor’s annual Defence and Security lecture, he said that the so-called Arab Spring, so passionately supported by the British government, has opened up new bases for exporting jihad. In almost every uprising it is not democracy as we know it that has emerged but hardline Muslim fundamentalists, inimically hostile to the West.
The result is that the opportunities for British would-be jihadists to seek training in the art of terrorism have increased fourfold. Right now, Jonathan Evans revealed, several hundred Brits are making their way to Arab countries for training. All are known to the security boffins. Equally well known are, he said, individuals “working in back rooms in the UK on plans to mount credible terrorist attacks”.
So since we know the identity of most of these lunatics why leave them to their own devices? That is where Nick Clegg and all the bleeding hearts come into play. We cannot punish peole for intent they say, intent in itself is not a crime. So our whole legal structure is based on the principle that until they actually convert a bus load of innocents to body parts they cannot be apprehended. Result is that the security forces can only match cunning with cunning. Since 9/11 no fewer than 43 plots have been identified and thwarted. But the would-be perpetrators are still free to try again.
Sooner or later the security people will miss one. If we continue to handicap them with human-rights laws that is an inevitability. Surely the time has come to strengthen their arm. Why should it not be a criminal offence for any British citizen to attend al-Qa’ida training camps? Human rights? What about those of the proposed victims?
An emotional response in pubs and clubs across the country is that since these madmen love the Islamist states so much they should go to live there. But that is not an answer, these people are mainly British by birth. The multi-cultural society of which many are rightly proud has a flip side.. They cannot be deported, they belong here.
Yes there are sensible arguments about the need for better social conditions in our inner cities, where housing and employment failures provide breeding grounds for those who dream of Islamic domination. But we are where we are.
Perhaps our dear leader could take time off from talking about policies he may, or may not, introduce in four years time, to consider how thousands of deaths at the hands of the known enemies in our midst can be avoided.
On this issue at least he could rely on public support when Nick Clegg begins to rant about a threat to democracy. There is a greater threat!
THOUGHTS ON DATING; “When I first met Mr Right, I had no idea that his first name was ‘Always’ “……Rita Rudner “I’m a one-man woman. One man at a time”…..Mae West “I took up a collection or a man in our office. Sadly I didn’t get enough to buy one”…..Ruth Buzzi “I don’t know what went wrong between me and my girlfriend – or Tubby as I called her” …..Stewart France “To keep a man you must be a maid in the living-room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom. I hire the other two and take care of the bedroom myself”…..Jerry Hall “I think–therefore I’m single!”…..Liz Winston
When Eliza Manningham-Buller appeared before the Chilcot inquiry recently she warned that the Bush/Blair invasion of Iraq threatened to radicalise, for want of a better word, some amongst a generation of young people who saw our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as being an attack upon Islam. The result was, claimed the former head of MI5, that the threat from terrorism had ‘increased substantially’.
Her words inevitably increased the sense of fear that is damaging race relations in this country. Of course we always had the mindless bigots and low-life BNP who seem to lack a self undertsanding that would tell them that their beliefs are illogical, but now we face the much less manageable prospect of fear of the unknown amongst the huge decent and peaceful community. And this is a tragedy for the vast majority of Muslims whose only desire is to live their lives in peace. Two of our allotment group are of that faith and I am proud to claim one of them as my best pal. It pains me deeply to witness his reaction each time that the media features a new security alert or incident.
And so I shared his delight at the news of a massive anti-terror campaign launched last week. This was lead by al-Hidayah 2010, a three-day event attended by 1,300 Muslims, mainly young men and women. Devotees of Muslim scholar Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, gathered at Warwick University to be taught practical ways of countering extremist views in their schools, universities and communities. The theme was engagement with people expressing radical views and attendees were directed to passages of the Qur’an to help them to argue against them.
The camp follows the publication by Qadri, founder of the moderate Minhaj-ul-Quran International movement, of a headline-grabbing ‘fatwa on terrorism’, a 600 page volume claiming to remove decisively any theological justification for Islamist terror. A spokesman, Shahid Mursaleen, expalined that ‘we are trying to train young people here to counter the argumants they hear from radicals, to give them the knowledge so they can question the extremists and contradict their ideology’. Delegates paid £200 to attend but such was the demand that many more were turned away.
In his opening lecture Dr Qadri argued that radicalism was a slow process that began with an ‘ideological infection’. This could be treated before the sufferer turned violent if fellow Muslims spoke to them and showed their philosophy to be wrong. The reaction from large numbers of those who attended was very positive. Typical was Mohsin Khan,19, from Oldham, who said ” I want to learn more about my religion, about why terrorism is wrong, about being a better human”.
The next stage of the campaign is now underway. A fleet of vehicles is to travel the country trying to counter extremism. The vehicles are in effect mobile libraries being filled with books and DVDs. They will be manned by an eager army of volunteers and ‘will knock on every door’.
The huge venture is billed as ‘the UK’s first anti-terror camp’. Let us hope that we all come to share Mohsin’s desire to learn more about being better humans. Strip away fear and prejudice and we all are simply part of one humanity. Initiatives such as this are better than a thousand laws from posturing politicians. It is truly a giant step forward toward a happier, more integrated and safer Britain.
RAF CUTS ARE ILL-THOUGHT THROUGH!
The apparent decision to impose the majority of defence budget cuts on the RAf is illogical and dangerous. It seems that the fleet is to be reduced to 200 fighter planes, the lowest number since 1914. Perhaps the decision is influenced by the fact that the Taliban does not have an airbourne capability but many other countries that pose an equal threat do.
Being in a position to ensure that hostile aircraft are not allowed to penetrate British air space is as vital to our future security as the ability to fight land-based battles. In fact many experts contend that it is infinitely more important than the Trident capacity.
Whether draconian cuts are the right way to resolve the economic crisis is a debate for economists, ensuring the defence of the realm should be in the hands of military experts not muppets.
The average Bobby will lose up to £5000 a year under plans to scrap overtime and bonuses. Without doubt there is scope to change outdated practices but is this really the right time to slash pay given that the number of officers is to be drastically reduced?
It would be an easier package to sell were it not for the fact that the Banks are gleefully announcing huge increases in the bonuses they pay themselves. Not only have the coalition bean-counters taken over the decsion making they seem determined to allow their pals- who caused this mess- to escape scot-free!
YESTERDAY’S ANSWERS ; 1 The Bee Gees 2 Michael Angelow was the first streaker at a Test Match in England.
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1 Which long running soap opera screened its 1000th episode in August, 1970? 2.The first woman to climb Everest, Junko Tabei, was from which country?
It is actually unfair to address this question to the Prime Minister rather than his predecessors but right now he is the only one capable of bringing to a head the nightmare of Afghanistan and the continuing death of our troops and civilians. Yesterday he spoke out as no other has done on the elements of the Pakistan state that promote terrorism so maybe, just maybe, he is prepared to face up to the terrible dilemma of continued sacrifice without a cause.
When all other rationale for what he had done had evaporated Blair and his ministers resorted to justifying the Iraq and Afghanistan ventures by claiming that they made Britain a safer place. Last week the former head of MI5, Lady Manningham-Buller, told the Chilcot inquiry that ” nobody can claim it was about making Britain safer, in fact it has made the situation much worse”. So what is the cause for which so much precious blood is being spilt?
Two items of news have made even more obscure any lingering hope. The first was the appearancve at Chilcot of General Sir Richard Dannat, former head of the army. He admitted that too few troops have been employed to take on so massive a challenge and added that the forces were running close to ‘a seizing-up moment’. It was after this that I read the leaked war logs.
Now here is unreality writ large. One almost had the feeling of watching a Space Odyssey computer game. There is talk of locating the enemy, directing fire and dropping bombs with pinpoint accuracy.No one would be killed bar the Taliban, all would be well as massively superior force overwhelmed a tinpot enemy. Clearly Blair, Bush and their generals were so dazzled by their supposed superiority in military might that they felt invincible. At no point is there any indication that they reflected on the lessons to be learned from the decade spent by the Russians attempting to do what they were now undertaking.
It really beggars belief to find that Nato, the Pentagon and Britain’s defence experts alike believed that all they had to do was invade with force, pacify the Pashtun and then ‘build a nation’ in a medieval land along western democratic lines . Equally revealing are the revelations of incompetence on a grand scale ranging through the failure of ‘hearts and minds’, the waste of aid, the ‘flip-flop’ on opium, the odious belief that money trumps zeal and love of country. And the logs are shot through with the arrogance of hi-tech addicts and the glee taken in killing leaders from the air. The thinking seemed to be that if enough Taliban were killed the enemy would run out of men.
What is most startling is the continuance of a strategy involving the bombing of civilian targets in the hope of killing Taliban. Each dead Pashtun is not, as Nato claims, a talisman of success neither are civilian deaths simply ‘regrettable’. The act recruits 10 more enemy. Every Taliban elder murdered breeds another, younger one, frantic for revenge. Every village decimated leads more and more to cry that at least under the Taliban they would remain alive.
Last week’e rocket attack on 45 civilians in Helmand was a massacre that would be a war crime if committed by infantry .Slowly but surely the population turns against the Nato forces. Yet no general has succeeded in getting the bombing stopped, the killer-computers appear to be on autopiliot.
The truth when viewed in the light of so many bereaved families is that we cannot ever ‘win’ in Afghanistan, a fact that Nato now openly acknowledges. And yet if we walk away tomorrow it will feel as if we have deserted those who gave their all for a cause invented by politicians for their own glory. The best we can do is surely to get through the charade of training the Afghan army and police and leave without a backward glance. No backward glance because we would almost certainly see the Taliban step forward from all the communities in which they already dwell -the Taliban is a concept not an army- to replace the present corrupt government with an even more appalling one. But there is nothing we can do unless we propose to occupy the land for eternity.
Cameron can demonstrate that, unlike his predecessors, he has self awareness, he recognises the impossible and he can stop the flow of blood. He can call for the bombimg to stop and pull the troops back into a training mode. It will not be glorious but at least all those families who lie awake in the still of the night dreading the next day’s news will feel comforted.
Nothing can ever justify what we did or the crass way in which we did it, but unless we seek another Vietnam we have to face the awful reality of where we are.
AND MEANWHILE; Encouraged by the burning heat of May and June, Albert and Tom decided to head for Blackpool after all for the annual two-week holiday in these parts. They had previously resolved never again having experienced an appalling summer in 2009. Sadly they were soon back. On the day they arrived the monsoons arrived too and our despondent pair returned to the allotment shed in a foul mood. The fact that we had lost one of heir ferrets didn’t help either but the last straw was the arrival of the youths given an ASBO for damaging the fences. They gave Winston Churchill salutes and using illegally aquired booze, toasted Theresa May!
Long before I became too old to do anything likely to trouble my conscience I was no stranger to sleepless nights. On one occasion my exasperated GP suggested that I pull back my curtains to observe the countless other bedrooms showing a light. All of them, like you, he said, are mulling over things not worth thinking about. He added that if the worries of all his patients were piled one on top of the other they would constitute a danger to aircraft heading for Manchester airport!
Alas my problem these days is to stay awake but I do wonder how some low-life and high-life characters manage to live with things they have done, none of which meet my late doctor’s description of trivial. The low-life example is easy since only yesterday one of my pals in the allotment shed was distraught at news of his grandaughter who was on her first ever visit abroad. Despite being in a school party she had been robbed of her precious pocket-money, the pouch containing which had been torn from her. Clearly we do not have sole ownership of low-life scum whose self understanding is zero!
Such people probably have no problem sleeping despite having ensured that others can’t, but what about the high-life of our society? Tony Blair is now traipsing the world earning a fortune at lectures and goodness knows what else. But the marathon-long Chilcott inquiry continues to shed light on the lies and deception that surrounded the decision to invade Iraq. Yesterday it was the turn of Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, to appear. And apart from having a name ideally suited to a spy, she gave very revealing testimony.
Whenever Blair and his many associates in government are attacked about the invented stories of weapons of mass destruction they invariably reply that the invasion was in any case worthwhile since it meant a reduction in the threat of terrorism to the UK. However, Lady Manningham-Buller said that the conflict increased ‘substantially’ the threat from international terrorism to Britain. She was not surprised, she said, that UK citizens were behind the 7/7 attacks in London nor that “increasing numbers of Britons were attracted to the ideology of Osama Bin Laden and saw the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan as threatening their co-religionists and the Muslim world”. She went on to insist that our involvement in Iraq “radicalised a generation who saw our action as an attack on Islam”.
She went on to reveal that in March 2002, a year before the invasion, MI5 advised the government that the security threat from Iraq was low. She added that “we did not believe that Saddam Hussein had the capability to do anything aginst the UK. That proved to be the right judgement”. She had warned that an invasion would increase the threat to Britain and at the time she asked of her superiors “why now?”. She added that very few would argue that the intelligence was sustantial enough to make the decision to go to war and reminded the inquiry that there was no credible intelligence to suggest any connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida.
The damning punch-line came when the former head of our intelligence services said that arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad. In other words not only is there reason to condemn what Blair and his ministers did on the grounds that there were no weapons of mass destruction, but also because by following in the footsteps of George Bush they have rendered this country ten times more vulnerable to terrorism than was previously the case. A lot of people have died as a result of deception and incompetence. Of course Blair was the instigator but we shouldn’t forget that only the Lib Dems voted against invasion.
The other candidates for sleepless nights are surely David Cameron and George Osbourne. There are encouraging signs that the economy is recovering in line with Grumpy Gordon’s prediction but they are pressing ahead with the most drastic service cuts imaginable. Economists warn that these may tip us back in to recession but of even greater concern is the effect that what is already happening is going to have on the elderly and vulnerable. Social workers and mental health staffs are being slashed despite their already being under intolerable pressures. The point will quickly be reached where it is impossible to maintain anything resembling a safe service. Is it the hope that the many elderly victims will simply die alone and untended?
I am sure that Cameron and Osbourne have no wish for that but they are both from privileged backgrounds and undoubtedly confuse the cries for help as ones of obstruction. There is at the very least a chance that they will destroy the economy and our elderly all at the same time without understanding what they are doing. The brake on them was supposed to be provided by Nick Clegg. He has effectively ceased to exist and already has enough to lie awake on having destroyed his Party’s reputation for compassion.
Of course there is an altogether different way to view insomnia. One doctor that I talked to all those years ago confessed that he suffered in that way and rejoiced in it. He said that he had relived every ball of every Test Match he had ever watched. If he were alive today he could have studfied Murali’s 800 wickets. Sounds good to me!
AND ANOTHER THING!… News that Teeside Crown Court yesterday agreed not to send to jail a man convicted of being part of a group that carried out a violent assault in Darlington town centre. Judge Peter Bowers responded favourably to a plea for clemency by solicitor Peter Sabiston who argued that the offender’s lack of height would make him vulnerable to bullying.
This is quite a precedent, not least in our ferret-breeders club. Tommy is so short that when he takes his ferret out on a lead it appears, by scale, to be the size of an alsation. And Tommy does have a tendency toward light-fingerism. Now he vows to step up his Malteser-nicking!
Sport dominates today’s headlines with Serena Williams giving the hapless Vera Zvonareva a beating, in fact the only time that Vera was able to hold her own was in the warm-up. In football, Maradona’s dream was shattered into many pieces as Germany repeated their penchant for scoring four goals against inferior opposition. In the other World Cup quarter-final there was a reappearance of the ‘hand of God’ when Paraguay missed a last minute penalty awarded when one of their Spanish opponents decided to play goalkeeper. Clearly cheats do prosper sinceSpain went on to win the penalty shoot-out. And at cricket the old England one-day habits re-emerged as they were blown away by Tait. Prayers are being said that he stands by his pledge not to play for the Aussies in the coming Ashes series.
There are a few other striking headlines today.DameStella Rimington, the former head of MI5, is reported as saying that there are hordes of Russian spies wandering the UK. What they could possibly be spying on is less than clear but I am going to keep a close eye on one of ourAllotment holders who has taken to wearing a Cossack hat. The Telegraph, for which MP’s expenses has become the equivalent of the Express Diana obsession has headlines featuring ex-Stockton MP Frank Cook who apparently has both a princess wife and duplicate expenses. I was too busy worrying about the allotment spy to read the piece and moved on to note with pleasure that my lifelong hero, Clint Eastwood is 80 and is still going strong.
At this point I noticed the announcement of 40 per cent cuts in many Whitehall departments. What on earth have all those highly paid people been doing all these years if their dismissals will have ‘no effect on public services’? One can only assume that they have been engaged in trivial pursuits which neatly takes me to the story that most caught my interest and which genuinely saddened me.
Chris Haney, the Canadian inventor of the incredibly popular board game Trivial Pursuits, has died at the young age of 59. He was suffering from kidney and circulatory problems. It was during a Scrabble match at Haney’s home in Montreal on 15th December 1979 that he and his friend, Scott Abbott, had settled down to play but discovered that some of the letters were missing. At a loss, they mulled over how to create a new game based on remembering inconsequential facts . Before the evening was over they already had a design in mind.
With Haney’s brother, John, and a lawyer firend, Ed Werner, they formed Horn Abbot Ltd in January 1980. The four managed to persuade friends and family to invest and raise 40,000 dollars . Haney was clearly less than sure of success for he pursuaded his mother not to invest. But he needn’t have doubted, The game was launched in 1981 and by 1984 sales had reached 800 million dollars. From there it was success all the way andmillions of households around the world own one of the Boards designed on that evening in 1979.From time to time more esoteric versions of the famous games have been launched including issues relating to Walt Disney, Star Wars and The Beatles but the original version has outsold them all and is still popular today.
The last year’s of Chris Haney’s life were, in his own words, like that of a rock star.The young man who dropped out of school at 17 and went to work at the Canadian Press, where he met Scott Abbott, created what became a symbol, one in a blue box. He unintentionally stimulated interest in quzzing and he provided us all with much diversion and pleasure.
From this moment on each time we reach for the Board we will remember an inventor who grasped an opportunity and turned it into a worldwide delight!