How ya Bin?

17 02 2008

Justin Webb’s comments on the situation regarding the world’s public enemy number one make for interesting reading.

I am inclined to think there is only an element of truth in what he says. Bin Laden and Hussein were, for so long, high on America’s most wanted list. They ‘got’ the latter and promptly ensured he was executed. But is the former becoming less important? I’m not sure, although the rhetoric on him has seen a drop in more recent times.

More important than that suggestion is the implications that has for those soldiers in Afghanistan. If we run with the suggestion that Bin Laden is no longer as important, then does this mean that for all those troops still positioned in Afghanistan (and still undergoing what appears to be heavy fighting), are they employed now solely in a peacekeeping role?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the invasion of Afghanistan was a clamp-down on the Bin Laden-led Taleban.  The Taleban, in case you need reminding, are still very much an active force in Afghanistan, with recent news suggesting they are far from going away. Bin Laden still hasn’t been caught, and I for one doubt he ever will be. But if the implications made by Webb are to be entertained, then this would mean that the mission in Afghanistan has become either

a) unnecessary or

b) something different to the original plan.

If however we maintain, as America are likely to do, that the main objective is still the capture of Bin Laden, there is much more of a reason to keep the troops in the country. That reason, other than to save face, would still be to capture the worlds public enemy number one.

It is here where I think the issue is. America needs to save face. Those in the big white building need to keep it looking like they are hunting terrorist HQ so as not to really piss off all those anti-war folk. As well as the families of the troops who continue to die over there.

Of course, it is not just America, but, like sheep to the shepard, Britain still maintains her interest in the country, if only because America says so. That, if I’m correct, is a whole lot of people who the higher powers need to keep happy. If there is some form of justifiable cause (like the hunt for Bin Laden and the threat of terrorism) then these people are much more easily appeased, even if they still do not fully agree with the cause.

Personally I think that the emphasis has very much shifted from capturing Bin Laden and the Taleban to improving the country savaged as it has been by war, cultural and poltical strife. In a similar manner to Iraq, the hunt for one man was only ever likely to be part of the story. The rest of it, as with Iraq, is the hope that the future of the country can be rescued, and made into a less contentious place. That is why America and Britain still have an interest there. I’m not so sure Bin Laden is the issue anymore.

But is this wrong? Surely trying to rebuild a country before you have permanently sorted out the problem is putting the cart before the horse? Surely the emphasis should still be on capturing Bin Laden and the Taleban? Surely America should still be really keen to ‘get’ him? It strikes me though that for the Allies, getting Bin Laden would be a happy addition to what they are trying to do. Much like chocolate sauce on your ice-cream. It isn’t strictly necessary, but it would be nice.

Bin Laden therefore is chocolate sauce.


Smoking through the tape…

15 02 2008

Now I dislike red tape. A lot. It largely unnecessary, especially in the quantities in which it is seen in todays society. Yet this story is strangely satisfying. Maybe it is just because I really dislike smokers. Maybe it is because I think people should take better care of themselves. Or maybe it is because I actually like red tape when it affects me positively.

What ever the reason for it, I strongly approve of this suggestion. I am fed up of smokers moaning about ‘infringment of rights’, ‘victimisation’ and all that sort of rubbish. Smoking is wrong on so many levels that it’s painful (literally in most cases). And yet millions continue to do it. Facebook, the great social indicator of our time, reliably informs me that almost twice as many people are in favour of the smoking ban as are opposed to it. However, there is still a shoking number (23,000) of people who feel they need to insist upon filling bars, pubs and clubs with smoke.

The argument that the ban is victimising smokers is, quite frankly, rubbish. I, as a non-smoker, feel victimised by smokers who insist upon blowing smoke all over me as I walk into a pub. I, as an asthmatic, am more conscious of the effects of second hand smoke than some. Yet there are still some ignorant people (really resisting the urge to swear at this point!) who think that it is a good idea to be allowed to smoke.

The basic argument that smokers have is it’s my life, screw everyone else. The trouble is, that is exactly what they are doing. By smoking, they are by definition screwing everyone around them through passive smoking.

I will stop this rant here because there is so much I could say, but I want to refrain from using ‘colourful’ language. When it comes to smoking, I am firmly in favour of more and more red tape, just so my life is not affected by those ignorant, arrogant prats who feel they have been ‘victimised’ because they have been sent outside to kill themselves.

Let us learn…

14 02 2008

Whilst trawling through the quite frankly petty debate that is occurring on both the BULS and BUCF blogs, one thought occurred to me more than anything else.

The sheer triviality of it all.

There was one quote though that stitched me up: “I will walk the streets until I am without shoes to ensure that a Conservative Government remains a thing of the past and never a thing of the future”. Right.

Yes. For the time being the Conservatives are a thing of the past. However, it is a fools hope that they will stay that way. Whether it be in a year, five years or ten years, I can predict with complete confidence that the Conservatives will be the governing party of Britain again. Just like I can predict that Labour will be in power again in the future too.

It’s called cyclical history. These things come round. If they didn’t change then we surely would have had the same government since the 1700’s. And as this is such a silly idea, I’m not going to entertain it further.

Holding out the hope that Labour can, effectively, monopolise the government to the stage whereby the Conservatives cannot ever hold out the hope of coming back into power is a painfully funny suggestion. Such a proposal, if to be taken seriously, would mean that we have a Labour controlled dictatorship (albeit a warped one whereby they were elected and there was a freedom of choice amongst the voters).

The petty fighting that is going on amongst the two groups- the future of each party nonetheless- is indicative of the way the politics is going. Personality politics is too much of an issue nowadays, and it detracts from the more important issues of exactly what either party can offer the people of Britain. And it is here where the problems lie. Neither side has anything ‘new’ and ‘substantial’ to offer voters. Labour, as the party in government, are churning out ‘common sense’ bills and laws, and are not (other than losing lots of data and mismanaging money) doing anything to really hack off the public. Consequently, the Conservatives are not able to offer anything to compete and they are stuck between a rock (of offering the same as Labour, albeit with a more charismatic leader) and a hard place (of offering more radical policies which may alienate the fickle middle ground voters).

This isn’t a healthy way for the country to be, I don’t think. But it was something of an inevitability of our party system (which, for all intents and purposes is a two party one) since the dawn of mass politics.

I’m left hoping that both sides will get back to trying to work out some sort of policy, rather than playing the personality card.

Blackadder: “We in the Adder party are going to fight this campaign on issues, not personalities”

Interviewer: “Why is that?”

Blackadder: “Because our candidate doesn’t have a personality”

Is this the way politics should really be?

Just another reason…

14 02 2008

My dislike of the american police force is growing daily. This, from yesterday’s news, just takes the biscuit though:

Caught in the rat race…

14 02 2008

It’s not often I find myself agreeing with Tessa Jowell, but her recent comments on the Beijing Olympics did cheer me up. As Steven Spielberg demonstrated recently, celebrities, politicians, athletes and nobel prize winners all want to influence the Chinese president into action over Darfur. China has some sort of special influence over the Sudan, and it is hoped that with the eyes of the world on China this summer, the president could be encouraged to act over the continuing atrocities in the region.

However, as with many things there are people who disagree. There are a small number of people keen to advocate a boycott of the games unless President Hu Jintao acts more decisively over the problems.

But what can this achieve? The Olympics themselves are too big for a small number of protesters staying away to really affect anything. Such protests will not even begin to concern the Chinese government, as, at least according to the official spokesperson, “people do not understand the Chinese government policy on Darfur”. Great. Rather than trying to enlighten us, the Chinese government are happy for the world to criticise them, safe in the knowledge that they believe they are acting in a suitable manner over the problem. Which, for all we know, they might be.

Excuse me though while I remain unconvinced. A lot of people who know a lot more about it than me still seem to think that China is acting in the wrong about the problems in Darfur. China has a notorious reputation for secracy, and the western world continues to be shut out. It is because of this reason the Olympics are so important. They will, for the first time in a long time, give access to China on a world-wide scale. China will be laying itself much more open then previously, and almost certainly it will face some criticisms from prominant people around the world. But this can only be a good thing. In a world which is getting smaller with new technology, the unknown entity in Asia scares a few people. I doubt whether there is significant cause for concern, but the nature of the unknown is something which has struck fear into the hearts of mankind for centuries.

All of which leads me to agree with good old Tessa. Any proposed boycott would be unproductive, pointless and a waste of everybodys time. I say lets enjoy the Olympics in the summer, mindful of the influence China has worldwide, and let us hope that through the Olympics, pressure can be put upon China and President Hu to act more decisively over Darfur.

Is Ignorance Bliss?

13 02 2008

As America continues its search for someone to replace GW, I have become intrigued by the democrats and their campaigning. I will say at this stage that, although I believe there to be little between Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama, I would prefer to see Obama win the contest.  I believe his politics are better and whereas Hillary seems keen to remind us she’s a woman, Barack does not insist on repeating the fact that he is black in order to sway some of the voters. There are a couple of places I check to see what is happening. Usefully these are the Conservative and Labour club blogs from my university, and they keep me up to date with the local opinions of the elections.

However, my issue here is not with who does or does not win, instead, as a Brit looking in, I am wondering whether it is better that I have a view on American politics, despite me having really little in the way of comprehension about how the system actually works. Or is it better that, as someone ignorant of the system, I do not need to wade in with my own opinions about the candidates?

I would be keen to say the former, as I believe any engagement is better than no engagement with current affairs. However, this still leaves me in the position of not really understanding how either Obama or Clinton will actually win the race. I know there are delegates, and there are primaries and caucuses. But I cannot tell you how they really work (despite several readings of the bluffers guide on the BBC website), or why the number of delegates is more for the democrats than the republicans.

The whole system seems too damn complicated for my little brain. Whatever happened to keeping it simple? From what I can gather, the system is a ‘first past the post’ one, but the democrats and republicans are running completely different races, with different rules. This doesn’t make any sense to me. Why not have a universal system across the whole USA, and save simpletons like me worrying about whether the caucus or primary will resolve the election matter.

Oh, and the so-called “Super Tuesday”? Was that the biggest over-emphasis of a day ever? It had the potential to be huge, granted. But the fact that, in all reality, it did little to seperate the two democrats, only to me seems to show how tight the race is, and will be until the end. Consequently, hyping it up before hand as the potential day which will almost decisively swing the vote one way or another seems to me to be flawed.

But then what do I know. I’m a simpleton.

The right man?

12 02 2008

I notice on the Beeb that Dwain Chambers has been included in GB’s squad for the upcoming world championships. Chambers, who was banned from running due to a failed drugs test two years ago, has completed a turnaround in his own fortunes. And I agree with it. Yes, he did fail that test. Yes he did take banned substances to improve his performance. And yes, he has done his time. Chambers was one of British athletics’ leading lights until he decided he needed THG to help him improve his own performance further. He has been frozen out of athletics for two years, and he is back.

If he is the best man, then he should be selected. It really is that simple. He will not make the same mistakes again, and, as a sprinter, time is not on his side. Sprinters are young, fit and keen. Chambers, at 29, is surely approaching the latter stages of his running career. Due to this fact, I maintain that he will not make the same mistakes again. He will be putting everything into training for the championships, safe in the knowledge that he will not be selected for the Olympics due to his past crimes.

Now I do not advocate taking drugs at all, least of all performance enhancers. But Chambers has done the time for the crime. He has spent two years trying to salvage his career, and the news today is indicative of the work and effort he must have put in to get to somewhere near the top of the discipline.

Impossible Jobs…

12 02 2008

As far as impossible jobs go, the defence lawyers at the ‘fair trials’ for the six men accused of planning 9/11 must be pretty high up. To some extent here I agree with the human rights campaigners, how can these men who are accused of inflicting so much damage on one day, plus the subsequent wars, ever be expected to have a fair trial? The prejudice against them due to the allegations of the acts they may have done will surely hamper any trial conducted against them on American soil?

For me, the whole issue of torturing someone is a confusing middle ground. I can understand both sides of the coin, and could easily, if asked, argue the other ground. I am a critic of the American judicial system, especially local level stuff. Which is why I feel that if you are going to torture the information out of someone, you better be damned sure you are getting the truth.  A story made up simply to end the torture and appease the torturers is no good to anyone, least of all the defendant, for whom it may cost their life.

For me, the outcome of these trials is a foregone conclusion. These men will be convicted, the only issue is whether they will be given the death penalty, or simply jailed for life. Then again, I’ve been wrong before. Rewind a couple of years, and I confidently predicted that Saddam Hussein would not be killed, instead his trial would last a long time and nothing would get sorted. And we all know how that ended up don’t we? Either way, these six will not be walking free for a very long time, if ever again.

The World-wide game…

11 02 2008

There is one thing which concerned me most about the FA’s recent proposals for the English game. In case you do not know what is happening, the full story is here. But what gets to me is that of the 20 managers in the league, only 2 have come out and said that it’s a bad idea. The others have either agreed with the proposals, or have remained non-committal.

For me, the plan is just a stupid one, made to further inflate the wallets of the fat cats at the FA. Will the fans feel the benefits? Almost certainly not in Britain, and it is unlikely further around the globe too. The ‘big four’ will attract big crowds, but if the fixture list throws up, for example, Middlesborough vs Portsmouth, do the fans in America, Asia or Africa really want to see these teams devoid as they are of ‘big name’ players? I cannot imagine so.

The true fans are the ones who fill the terraces every Saturday. They are, and will remain, the corner-stone of the game. They should be who we are concerned with in all of this, not those FA officials, who, with little real experience in the game, have, in their infinite wisdom, decided that this is a good idea.

If the desire for international matches is still around after the fans have been asked, why not entertain the idea of having the Community Shield game abroad? This is the most expendable game there is in English football (although it is closely followed by the Carling Cup), so it would make sense to offload that first, before the thoughts about playing an international round of matches are ever really properly entertained again.

Losing my religion…

11 02 2008

Is quite an apt song for Rowan Williams to be listening to at the moment it seems. However, I feel a bit sorry for him. Yes he is a bumbling fool. Yes he doesn’t know how to handle the press. And yes, he very often says the wrong things. But I genuinely believe his head is in the right place.

Take the current row over Sharia law. From what I can gather, he merely suggested that it was a possibility that Britain could adopt the law in the future. I do not think he was advocating it, nor do I think he was necessarily saying it was a good thing. What he thinks is that it may become something necessary to encourage religious cooperation in Britain.

I completely dislike religion, I’m sure it causes too many conflicts, and problems. This row is but another one. I think though that in the case of Archbishop Williams, the press have blown this out of all proportion.  In a similar way, if I suggest that I believe that, for example, Fascism is a good thing, some will seize upon that and suggest that I’m a firm advocate of killing jews and Hitler. Which of course, I’m not. But those in the press keen for a good story, would not hesitate about taking this and running with it. As they have done with good old Rowan.

Apart from those odd eyebrows, Rowan’s heart is in the right place, so I say let it go. There is too much in the way of religious discontent in the rest of the world for it to become a big issue here.


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