Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mumbai Roulette - Stan versus Tiscali

The idea with this Blog was to take aim at the big, worthy, weighty issues in the world.

Then Tiscali came into my life and I no longer have the energy.

If rights are being trampled at home and war crimes committed abroad, I could care less at the moment. Just as long as someone fixes my home broadband connection.

I moved into my new house and signed up with Tiscali this summer. Things seemed to be working OK albeit with the occasional hiccup, but then I'm hardly home long enough to notice. However, my wife started to become an enthusiastic Internet user and she worked out that it always stopped working when the sun went down.

I could cut-and-paste the email chain and type up summaries of the phone calls that followed but that would be tedious for everyone and like I say, I don't have the energy anymore.

Suffice it to say, I have suffered the full range of Call Centre agonies.

Here are the Top Ten Tiscali Tortures :-

(1) Tiscali staff who couldn't understand my accent (to be fair I had trouble with theirs)
(2) Tiscali staff who didn't understand my problem
(3) Tiscali staff who couldn't do anything for me at all
(4) Tiscali staff who could do only one thing for me, and did it even though the notes said it was something that had already been done.
(5) Tiscali staff who tried and failed to divert me and cut me off
(6) Tiscali staff who didn't want to talk to my wife
(7) Tiscali staff who denied I had ever reported a problem
(8) Tiscali voice message system that cut me off, after keeping me waiting 10 minutes
(9) Tiscali voice system that didn't let me queue or leave a message - just cut me off.
(10) The totally information-free Tiscali website that doesn't exactly help you when you are having problems.

And the torture continues - my connection continues to go down with the sun and I'm serious considering learning some basic Urdu, Bengali and Hindi to see if I can get myself understood.

Better type faster - night is falling I hav.......

Monday, September 25, 2006

Gordon Brown - Summer of '97

Gordon Brown's speech today reminded me of summer 1997.

I was living in Glasgow, the Labour party had just burst into power, changing everything in a stunning first 100 days.

One of the next challenges was to stage and win a Referendum on a separate Parliament for Scotland.

I attended the meeting that launched the campaign - speakers were the late Donald Dewar who had a formidable reputation as a public speaker, and Gordon Brown who was well-known to be dour and a bit boring.

As it happened, Donald Dewar was just about adequate and Gordon Brown blew the roof off the place with one of the most charismatic, enthusiastic heart-felt speeches I have ever experienced.

I stopped being an activist when I discovered that getting stuff done within the party had a far lower priority than back-biting and internal procedure, and that the iron-hand of the leadership allowed no lee-way from being "on message". A little later the Labour Party flip-flopped on practically every policy I cared about and so I gave up my membership totally.

Gordon Brown is a talented man, a gifted public speaker and has a genuine passion for his causes. Everyone seems to be convinced that he'll be Blair Mark II should he become leader.

I wonder whether he might pleasantly surprise us all.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Can you be left-wing and still think it's OK to have fun ?

I read yesterday's posting on the Richard Hammond again in the light of an article in today's right-wing Telegraph newspaper

Wait a minute - I'm calling for less government intervention and more personal freedom too ! Is it possible I've become (gulp) right-wing ?
I quickly checked through my other positions :-
(1) Socialised medicine good (left wing)
(2) Out of control militarism is bad (left-wing)
(3) Taxation of those who can afford it to support those who can't (left wing)
(4) The Market can't be allowed to control everything unaided (left wing)
OK - so not a major "Road to Damascus" conversion. So why am I agreeing with the Telegraph ?
The problem here is that no-one on the planet exactly conforms to the stereotypes. No-one exactly toes a party line on everything. Right wingers hate government control until it comes to Abortion. Left wingers think there should be more state-control until it stops them taking their drug of choice. 

It's a complicated world and simple beliefs can't get you through it.
Which brings me to my favourite Islamic extremist up against John Humphreys on this morning's Radio 4 "Today" program.
Mr Izzadeen has a unexceptional mind and little clue about how to make a point coherently. Mr Humphries is one of the country's all-time best interviewers. I hope to whichever God may be protecting us that Mr Izadeen speaks for a tiny group of people, massively outnumbered by people like John Humphreys who can show them to be the delusional cranks most of us suspect them to be.
The program was better than coffee for getting the adrenalin going. Even more painful to experience than last night's episode of The Office. Incidentally, I was particular amused by his repeated use of the phrase "Wake up and Smell the Coffee", a cliche from his "Great Satan", America.
In my new found devotion to personal freedom - let him speak the language of the Koran if he wants, let him be woken by the beverage of choice, but if he wants to change my view of him and his cronies - he'll have to be elected to something and give something recognisable as an answer to a whole lot of questions.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Richard Hammond's Freedom to Risk

I love Top Gear the British TV car-show. It's a bunch of articulate humorous car-nuts having enormous fun with fast, expensive and dangerous cars.

The presenters have a remarkable chemistry, the strutting, grumpy, right-wing Jeremy Clarkson, the cheeky, boyish, smooth Richard Hammond and the old-before-his-time "Captain Slow" James May. Even my 10 year-old daughter who doesn't care about cars enjoys the show.

If you've never been exposed to it before, do yourself a favour and watch the clips on the Top Gear website - my personal favourite is the £100 car challenge.

Of course, the reason I mention this is Richard Hammond's recent accident with a 300 mph jet car while filming the new series.

No accident at that speed is a little accident and the hospital says that they are "reasonably optimistic he should make a good recovery" rather than "sure he'll make a full recovery" so I fear he's done himself some permanent damage.

Now the hunt is on for the Shysters to assign blame and for the Safety Nazis to spoil our fun.

My position is that as long as you take all possible precautions to protect innocent by-standers, everyone should be able to do pretty well what they want.

I hope Richard Hammond does make that full-recovery and we get to enjoy him enjoying high-G activity in future. However, I fear he won't and I also fear we may have witnessed the high-water mark of motoring journalism.

Watch those marvellous clips while you can. The future's safe, the future's much, much blander.

I am not worthy

Well my good mate Stan has invited me to be the voice of the literate Tory party on here. I'm not sure I would go as far as describing myself as Tory, but as the years pass, it may happen. After all, I remember the Thatcher years so I cannot lean that far right, particularly with a broken foot.

I am firmly behind the two flanks on the war on terminism terrorism, which is why Stan thinks I am a Tory. Well, that and the Telegraph.

Have work to do at the moment, but nice to meet you all. Oh, and my grandfather's name was Stan. How bizarro!

Toodles, and I'll have a rant soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Muslim area

There's a guy called Abu Izzadeen who said something today that made my jaw hang open and my brain turn to mush. He heckled the Home Secretary, John Reid. I don't have a problem with that - John Reid (as is his habit) was talking really quite a lot of patronising clap-trap at the time.

It was this line I had a problem with :-
"How dare you come to a Muslim area"

The location of the meeting was either Leyton or Leytonstone in East London, depending on which newspaper you read. Look at the statistics.

Less than a quarter of the population are Muslim - how does that make it a Muslim area ?

I think Mr. Izzadeen has revealed something very interesting about himself here. In his mind - everyone in the area is Muslim. Wonder how he's managed to live there without bumping into any of the non-Muslims who outnumber his people 3-to-1.

Even if it were 100% Muslim - we're talking about a small slice of the capital city of our country and they get the same law as everyone else.

And so he has to suffer visits from John Reid just like the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Welcome to Britain (you, you and you - but not you)

Romanian and Bulgarian workers are going to be rationed, but we can have an unlimited supply of Poles or Slovaks. Reminds me of a nightclub letting in anyone from Yorkshire but only 5 people from Cambridgeshire at any time.

Personally, assuming they can support themselves and pass some basic vetting to keep out the begging-classes, I'd say let them all come.

Anyone remember how rude the staff used to be in shops and restaurants in Britain ? Remember how powerful plumbers and builders used to be ? Do you know how screwed our economy would be without a regular infusion of tax-paying legal immigrants ?

If nothing else, think of the food. Five years from now I fully expect it to be routine to be nip into a Bulgarian Takeaway after a heavy night out for a tray of stuffed cabbage leaves and a glass of rakyia while you're waiting.

Doing something about the Foam

In the previous rant about fire-retardant foam I blew off some steam and felt a lot better for it.

It occurred to me this was just talk unless I did something about it. So I did.

I haven't chained myself to the gates of parliament (way too busy, sorry) but I have emailed my MP, George Osborne (Conservative), who as shadow Chancellor is odds-on to be the man responsible for paying for this sort of thing after the next election.

I was moved by the report on Channel 4 news of the continuing delay in fitting fire-retardant foam to the fuel tanks of Hercules transport planes deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I am by no means a supporter of either deployment but believe that when troops are put in harm's way there must be an extraordinary effort to do all we can to protect them.

Could I please ask you to raise the continuing delay with the proper authorities ? I feel it's only good luck that we haven't had a repeat of the tragedy of December.

It's not exactly "Ten Days that Shook the World", but it's the first political thing I've done for years.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Foaming at the Mouth

The British government has a foreign policy that I find difficult to understand. I'm prepared to accept this is because I am under-informed and a bit thick.

This policy is carried out by British soldiers who need to stand in dangerous places surrounded by people who hate them and have the means and desire to kill them.

You would hope that the Government, by way of gratitude, would move mountains to protect them for harm as far as humanly possible.

Then you hear about the flame-retardant foam

Available for forty years, requested since the Falklands War, fitted as standard to American planes. Without it, one lucky shot from a Kalashnikov can turn the wing fuel tank of a Hercules cargo plane into a fireball. Sounds like a no-brainer.

I'm betting some bureaucrat picked up an award for the false economy of not having the foam fitted when we ordered the planes. Hope he still feels as smug after the incident in Iraq last December when 10 agents of Government Foreign Policy died needlessly .

You might expect a speedy response from a shocked government to avoid a recurrence.

Now it's Mid-September - and I see on Channel 4 News nothing much has happened, and it's really down to pure dumb luck that it hasn't happened again.

Look, I don't agree with the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I have massive respect for the people who try to make these unpopular policies happen at risk to their own lives, thousands of miles away from their homes and families. They deserve our respect and they deserve the government's protection.

Get it sorted. Learn the lessons. Apologise to the families of the victims. But most of all, buy the damn foam.