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Unite-d in stupidity

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

So here’s the scenario – you work for a multi-national company which employs tens of thousands of people, you already get paid better than the industry average, thanks to the global downturn your company starts to lose money and develops ways to try and keep the company viable by changing some working practices and downsizing just a little.

What do you, as a responsible employee do? Do you:

a) Work with your managers to implement the changes in a bid to ensure that the company survives and therefore you stay in work, or;

b) Vote to go on a strike which will cripple the company financially, penalise tens of thousands of innocent customers and possibly destroy any hope the company has of surviving?

Sadly, the cabin crews of British Airways have voted to do the latter, and while managers at BA are desperately trying to ensure they can still get most of their flights away when the first strike starts tomorrow, the company has already lost an extra £25 million as a result of the Unite union’s idiotic and confrontational attitude, and say that if the strikes go ahead, the losses could be hundreds of millions.

At the heart of this dispute are a bunch of fat-cat union leaders who are dictating terms and using 16th century industrial relations techniques to try and hold not just British Airways, but every British taxpayer to ransom.

Tony Woodley and his cronies at Unite are betting that the Government will do everything it can to stop British Airways, the country’s national airline, from going to the wall; the union leaders have seen the massive pay-outs made to the banks to stop them going bust and are fuelling the dispute with the privatised company to get the same result, so they and their members can line their pockets still further at our expense.

You know full well that while the passengers are left stranded and the rank-and-file union member goes hungry on the picket lines, the union leaders will still get paid and have full bellies, sitting at home warm and secure while everyone else suffers.

These dinosaurs have never liked the privatisation policies under which many nationalised industries were sold off in the 1980s; true, some of the sales were done monumentally badly, but that does not necessarily mean they were bad, however, with private companies in charge, the unions lost their power because their political donations to the Labour party were suddenly disconnected from the people who ran the companies.

For years the unions have been trying to reverse those sales and after the banking crisis and the bailouts that were handed out last year (which effectively put some banks back under Government control), these backward, knuckle-dragging morons have seen an opportunity, and are betting their members’ pensions (not their own of course) on the Government doing the same for BA if it goes to the wall.

Whether they succeed or not is another matter, with tens of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on BA, and many tens of thousands more working for BA’s suppliers, this dispute may just be the biggest mass (professional) suicide in history.

On the other hand, this Government is so spineless, the unions may be on to something, and certainly the railway workers seem to think so, as they’re now planning strikes of their own.

In the meantime, we, the fare-paying, tax-paying passengers can only struggle on with our lives, watching our work and incomes be ruined by the outdated actions of a bunch of greedy old farts.

I hope anyone who has a flight cancelled this weekend sues the Unite union for their losses – that would serve the ignorant bastards right.

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Kiss your sanity goodbye

March 12, 2010 1 comment
The National Newspaper

Kiss & Tell story?

I’ve made many observations in the past about the stupidity of the law, and it’s now becoming clear that different laws and different legal systems are stupid for different reasons.

Take Sharia for instance. There are many people I know who believe it is a perfectly sensible system and who abide by it every day, and on the face of it, Sharia is no different to the Ten Commandments, upon which most common law is based – actually, it’s just common sense.

What’s not common sense is when a law is hi-jacked and used by extremists to impose their morals on others, or exploited by small-minded fools to hold back the development of a society.

Take this story pictured in the National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, where a British ex-pat and a UK visitor were seen kissing in a hotel restaurant after having a drink, and as a result have been sentenced to a month in jail and then deportation.

Now, I have plenty of friends who have worked in the Middle East and who relate ludicrous horror stories like this every time I see them.

I have also visited the Jumeriah Beach Residence in Dubai and know that it is an ultra modern hotel which like many in the region, sells alcohol to ex-pats and foreign visitors, and feels entirely like any other luxury hotel anywhere in the world.

So here’s a few matters arising:

Some friends meet for a drink and a meal, in a place where food and alcohol are openly and legally sold to them.

Some woman, who has her kids with her at 2 o’clock in the morning, sees them kissing, but doesn’t see them well enough to be able to tell whether it is on the lips or the cheek, tells the authorities and suddenly these people are arrested and face jail time.

Now, if someone is jailed for having drunk alcohol in a place where alcohol is on sale, isn’t that called entrapment?

If you are taken into an environment where you are treated very much as if you were at home, and arrested for doing something you would normally do there, are you not being deliberately misled?

If I had my children in a hotel bar or restaurant at 2 o’clock in the morning, shouldn’t I expect to be arrested for child abuse and have my kids taken away by social services?

Unfortunately, this is all perfectly normal in the fairytale-land of the Middle East, and it tells you a lot about how the people of this region are simply not ready to deal with the West, despite claims to the contrary by it’s leaders, even though almost all of them have not been elected, and who treat their own people like children.

Cities like Dubai have spent jaw-dropping amounts of money on buildings and infrastructure, using an army of slave labourers from South Asia; they have enticed Western businesses with tax-free financing to set up shop there so they can point to these developments and say they are democratic and modern, and they build fantastic hotels and allow them to sell alcohol to ex-pats so as to encourage these businesses to bring staff over.

But underneath it all, the old laws remain in place – the laws that were developed in the Middle Ages still hold sway, and of course, ignorance is no defence.

And there’s the problem: Western people are encoraged to go into cities like Dubai, they are made to feel at home, given all the comforts of home plus tax-free wages, or stay in luxurious hotels where food and alcohol are freely available.

But technically, the laws still apply, even inside the hotels.

Add to this a swathe of local people who see huge amounts of money being spent on Western-style business and hotels and not on them, and you suddenly have an army of spies who are full of righteous indignation and happy to exploit the old laws to their own advantage to make life uncomfortable for any Westerner who strays.

If you treat people like children, is it any surprise that they act like them?

The same is true in the stone-cold sober world of business, and I have heard many a tale about Western business people held in the country they called home, against their will, because there is a dispute over their business dealings, usually because the local partner faces having to take some responsibility for their actions and like a pouting teenager would rather falsely blame it on the “corrupt” Westerner.

Again the local laws are little changed from the Middle Ages and in countries where you need a visa to leave the country, and where bureaucracies are still based on paper and fax, where there are no bankruptcy laws and where debtors go to prison (and the local labour laws prevent them from finding other work) and where the court system is as transparent as mud, there’s no wonder Western businesses find the cards stacked against them if things go wrong.

Until these iniquities are sorted out, the Middle East will never be a safe place for Western companies and executives to do business, and that won’t happen until these countries grow up and drag their people and their legal systems into the modern age, and start treating them like grown-ups.

Another day… another censor

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment

One day after I highlighted the removal of a blog piece from the Al Jazeera English website because it dared to tell the truth about an ally of the Qatari government, it seems the infection is spreading, and it’s another champion of free speech that’s succumbed.

This time it’s The Huffington Post who have removed a remarkably anodyne report from well known 9/11 sceptic Jesse Ventura – his posting told of how hundreds of architects and engineers have signed a petition calling on Congress to re-examine the destruction of the World Trade Center’s twin towers on September 11, 2001.

As usual, HuffPo management have shown a remarkably tenuous grasp on reality, and an breathtaking ignorance of the medium they work in, by openly removing an article which is bound to appear elsewhere along with suitable public approbium about how one of America’s standard-bearers of free-speech has joined the racks of the mainstream media’s blue pencil brigade.

Almost immediately the full article has appeared elsewhere on sites like 911Blogger, as have the reports of the takedown in the wider news media.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a policy that says “no conspiracy theories”, which is what the HuffPo is now cravenly hiding behind, and almost every site on the web will have different policies for dealing with different eventualities.

What’s troubling in this case is that Ventura’s report is not a conspiracy theory, but a factual report about how a group of real experts have done nothing more conspiratorial than call for a re-examination of the scientific evidence because their research says the science is inconsistent with the official story told by the Bush-administration appointed 9/11 Commission.

As Ventura pointed out, this was never covered in the mainstream media, so it is exactly the kind of story the HuffPo should be highlighting, but because Ventura mentions his new book, American Conspiracies, it was obviously too much for the spineless editorial team, who seem intent on putting their pensions before their principles. It is a sad day for the Huffington Post, and what’s worse is that it is not the first time they have been caught censoring their contributors.

As for the subject matter, well I’m no conspiracy theorist (I prefer cock-up every time), but given the choice between the American Institute of Architects and a bunch of Dubya’s lackeys… who would you choose?

Assuming of course you were given the choice, something which the American mainstream media and now, remarkably, The Huffington Post, don’t appear to want you to have.

Total waste of time

June 17, 2009 Leave a comment

There’s revolution formenting in Iran and outrage among the people of Britain, so what does our beleaguered and spineless Government go and do? It releases Lord Carter’s report on Digital Britain, yes, all 245 pages of it.

The introduction started thus:

On 26 August 1768, when Captain James Cook set sail for Australia, it took 2 years and 320 days before he returned to describe what he found there.

and that’s where I gave up, because that told me everything I needed to know about Lord Carter’s report.

First of all, Captain James Cook did not set sail for Australia (which at that time was almost unknown, and the bits that were known of had been named New Holland by the Dutch), the Admiralty (at the behest of the Royal Society) ordered him to travel to the Pacific so that astronomer Charles Green could observe and record the transit of Venus across the sun.

It was only when this part of the voyage was complete that Cook opened sealed orders instructing him to search for the southern continent of Terra Australis, which the Royal Society were convinced was somewhere in the southern Pacific, and that the voyage to Tahiti would be an inconspicuous cover for a voyage of colonial expansion.

So off he went, eventually visiting and mapping New Zealand, Tasmania and Australia, and claiming them for the British Empire.

He got back to England in 1771 but it was months before accounts of his voyage were published, and the Royal Society weren’t happy because the land mass Cook found (known today as Australia) didn’t meet their expectations, so they sent Cook off again in 1772 to search for Terra Australis, which Cook found – we know it today as Antarctica.

So here we have a modern day report on the state of Digital Britain which contains, in the very first sentence, a dumbed down statement of remarkable inaccuracy, and which was confirmed as such in seconds with a Google search.

In the time is has taken for this report to be drawn up, the world has already changed, politicians have been discredited, the credibility of government is in tatters and anyone who’s ever used the interwebs knows that any government attempt to stop downloading simply won’t stop people getting hold of free content.

It’s also interesting about the “basic level” of broadband being described at 2mbps, on which even YouTube struggles, and this also conveniently ignores another ignaminious bit of British history.

The newly formed British Telecom had a plan to run optical fibre to every home in Britain in the early 1980s; the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher decided instead to privatise BT to raise money for tax cuts and to pay-off government debt, so the whole project was cancelled, and 20 years on we’re still paying for the lack of investment.

Lord Carter has wasted a massive opportunity to announce some real changes, instead what we have is the same tired old debate about top slicing the licence fee to shore up failing businesses and a stealth tax on landline telephones – which guarantees to penalise the poor and the elderly and force them to pay for services they don’t use.

How ironic then that Lord Carter evokes the name of the great Captain Cook to launch such a pitiful report – in the 18th Century Cook risked life and limb several times for the glory of his country, advancing science and understanding and making history.

Meanwhile here in the 21st Century Lord Carter spinelessly fleeces the poor, ignores the country, dithers and disappoints and all of this while trying to re-write history.

It’s all just too pathetic for words.

Categories: Internet, Politics Tags: , ,

Out-foxing the news fixers

June 14, 2009 Leave a comment

There’s been an interesting couple of articles over on The New York Times recently which look at the growing extremism in the US Republican Party, something I commented on last month.

Columnist Frank Rich provides a detailed takedown of what he describes as the “Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers” and the corrosive effect that they and their message are having on what passes for political discourse in the US.

Another writer, Paul Krugman takes a wider ranging view of reaction to the murder of Dr George Tiller by an anti-abortion fanatic, followed in short-order by the incident at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington in which a security guard was shot dead by a white supremacist and Holocaust denier.

Both point to what seems to be an increasingly worrying trend that incidents like this are on the increase following Barack Obama’s election as President, and that the right-wing media, including the Faux News Channel, bear some responsibility for this.

What’s worrying in the middle of all this is that having been trounced at the elections in November the Republican Party is currently leaderless, rudderless and clueless, as exemplified by the recent fiasco over whether Gingrich or Palin should speak at a fund-raising dinner – if they can’t get their guest lists sorted out you have to wonder whether they ever will re-discover the plot ahead of 2012, or whether they have already written that off and are concentrating in 2016.

Unfortunately nature abhors a vacuum, and so into that breech have stepped a whole swathe of unelected, possibly even unelectable, voices like so-called comedian Rush Limbaugh and actor Jon Voight, who told Faux News Channel and others that his devout wish was to “bring an end to this false prophet Obama“.  

This is exactly the kind of swing to extremism that the British Labour Party suffered after its humiliation at the hands of the Conservatives in 1979 – and by the time the next election came round in 1983, the Party was riven with divisions as it lurched to the left under Michael Foot.

Labour’s manifesto for the 1983 elections included abolition of the House of Lords, leaving the EEC (the fore-runner of the EU) and abandoning the UK’s nuclear deterrent, prompting one senior Labour MP to describe it as “the longest suicide note in history“.

It took the reality check of the Conservatives Party’s 1983 landslide to set Labour back on the road to electoral respectability, although it took them another 14 years to actually achieve their goal of regaining Number 10.

There’s no doubt the electoral roller coaster that is American politics plays out much quicker than the UK one, but one wonders whether the Republicans are already paying the price for allowing the extremism of the election campaign to get so out of hand, as evidenced in the Al Jazeera video I posted a few days ago

Frank Rich is already alarmed that no-one is reining in the “hard-core haters”:

The only voices that might penetrate their alternative reality — I emphasize might — belong to conservative leaders with the guts and clout to step up as McCain did last fall. Where are they? The genteel public debate in right-leaning intellectual circles about the conservative movement’s future will be buried by history if these insistent alarms are met with silence.

Hang on a minute, did he say McCain had guts – in classic sports broadcasting terms, let’s see that again…

So that’s having “the guts and clout to step up” eh Frank? We can clearly see McCain is embarrassed because he knows his campaign has been based entirely around Obama’s race and background, and now one of his base supporters has come out and said it and he’s got to agree with her without agreeing with her, knowing that if he gets the next few statements wrong, his whole campaign is doomed to be filed in a garbage bin marked “flip-flopper”.

So he fumbles, he humms, he errrs, and he comes out with something so remarkably anodyne that it can be read any which way you like; the only decisive thing he does is to get his microphone well away from the loony old trout.

McCain didn’t “step up”, he fell over, tried to stand up, managed to get his foot out of his mouth and then ran like hell, and in doing so he showed all the leadership qualities of a concussed bee.

What was needed was for McCain to walk slowly and silently back to the centre of the stage and then to deliver a quiet but stinging rebuke to anyone in his party who dared to make the rest of the campaign about race, to make it clear that the election should be about policy, and not about fearmongering – then he should have gone away and slapped down anyone on his campaign team who disagreed.

That would have been leadership, that would have been “stepping up” but he blew it, and so set in motion the course of events that lead us to where we are today, with right-wing extremism on the rise in the US effectively being encouraged by a leaderless and ineffective Republican party and egged on by loud-mouth shock jocks like Limbaugh, Beck and O’Reilly who really are the perfect examples of the inverse ratio between the size of the brain and the size of the mouth.

Someone needs to step up and provide the same kind of reality check as the Labour Party got in 1983; the problem is that if the American Right waits until after the 2012 election, how many people are going to die in the meantime?

Sects, lies and videotape

June 10, 2009 4 comments

Normally I keep my political comments restricted to UK and US, but one of my e-mail alerts this morning drew my attention to a shocking video that’s starting to do the rounds about the views of young people in Israel about the recent speech given by President Obama on the Middle East.

I watch what is happening in the Middle East with utter dispair sometimes, it’s almost as if neither side wants to a budge an inch and that all the leaderships involved are quite happy for the fighting to continue because it’s become the only thing that defines their power.

In contrast then was Obama’s eagerly-anticipated speech in Cairo which basically said “the status quo is not acceptable, there must be change, but the only people that can make that change are the people of the Middle East themselves”.

Although the speech appeared to hit the mark with all concerned, especially both sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, guaging the reaction of people on the ground was slower in coming, although when it did, the considered response was also welcoming.

One wonders though how much of the story we’re actually hearing, and when you hear the one of the vanguards of 21st Century news, The Huffington Post, is censoring content that runs counter to the preceived wisdom, one has to start questioning how the narrative is being constructed.

The piece that was removed from the HuffPo is a short video vox-pop of young people in Israel giving their views on the Obama speech – the views expressed, especially those from the young American Jews, and the language used are utterly shocking – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED:

Even the people who produced it, Max Blumenthal and Joseph Dana were shocked at the views expressed, and the forcefulness with which they were made, but were further shocked when an administrator at the HuffPo removed the video from the site, claiming, according to Blumenthal that: “I don’t see that it has any real news value”.

So I suppose there was “no real news value” last year, when Al Jazeera English broadcast a vox-pop of people attanding a Sarah Palin rally in Ohio, and shocking the world with a similar level of ignorance:

Now I can see many reasons why an old media organisation might remove such a video from their site, or indeed, choose not to publish it at all – some of these, such as the question of taste and decency, are arguably legitimate, and indeed I myself thought long and hard about whether to embed the video or just link to it because of the foul language used.

For a premier blog to remove it because they consider is has no “real news value” is extremely dangerous; it’s exactly the kind of nebulous reason that would be used to justify censorship by an old media outlet like Fox News.

There’s no doubt The Huffington Post has made a massive contribution to the development of the interwebs as a space for news/information that engages with its audience rather than just preaching to them, but the kind of editorial arrogance they’ve displayed over the Blumenthal video will only serve to raise so much unnecessary speculation about their editorial credibility.

The problem is that its co-founder and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington seems to spend more time getting her face on the old media with guest spots on MSNBC and guest hosting Squawk Box on CNBC, which only serves to make her look more and more old corporate and old media; a perception I would be running a mile from if I was running the best politics site on the planet.

The financial downturn, the difficulties faced by old media companies and the collapse of the newspaper industry is the time for organisations like the Huffington Post to be rising above the frey, consolidating and leading the way, not pracing around on TV while quietly adopting the same tired old editorial dogmas they claim to have moved on from.

As for the morons on the video their disgusting comments seem to show where the real oppositon to change in the Middle East lie, and that there is a bedrock of racism and bigotry both in Israel and among American Jews that is going to be Obama’s biggest and toughest obstacle.

These people, the same people who supported the killing of over 1,000 Palestinians in January in the most one-sided war in the history of mankind, all hide their hate behind the shield of victimhood, claiming that the world is against them.

Well here’s newsflash – it is, and on the basis of this kind of disgusting bigotry – is there any wonder why?

Out to Lunch

June 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Sometimes the bare-faced bias of some so-called journalists takes some beating, but this headline in particular took the biscuit for me:

White House declines to say what NY trip cost

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is declining to say what it cost for President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, to eat dinner and take in a play in New York over the weekend.

Asked if he would outline the costs, Gibbs said Monday the Obamas would have preferred using a commercial airline shuttle to New York and back but that the Secret Service would not allow such unprotected travel.

Well, derrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

Just which idiot decided this was a story, or even a question worth asking at a White House press conference?

Didn’t somebody, somewhere stop and ask themselves some very simple questions before wasting everyone’s bandwidth with such obvious partisan reporting?

Such as:

  • How much more expensive would it have been for the US to have their President and his wife hop on a Ted flight and be DOA at La Guardia?
  • Why can’t a President, who has a wife and family, have a night out and get out of the house occasionally?
  • If you’re the leader of the free world, just how easy should it be to slip down to Moe’s Tavern for a couple of pints with your mates?
  • It’s a four hour drive from Washington to NY, how much more expensive would it be to have to search the length of the New Jersey Turnpike when the President’s Smart Car went missing?

Sadly this half-baked bull excretia is what passes for serious journalism in America these days, and is being driven by the dinosaurs of the Republican party who time and again show that they have completely lost their grip on reality.

Seriously, if these are the questions currently coming out of the brightest and best of the US’s newsrooms, there’s no wonder nobody was asking some serious and searching questions about the economy this time last year.

Obama’s now in the Middle East, I wonder if he remembered to turn out the lights before he left?