Archive | March, 2007

Working away from home

30 Mar

Written last night. No intenet access.

I used to be away on business a lot. I used to be seconded all over the country, but recently, since I had children, this has been less frequent. Last week I was drafted in to help get through a backlog of customer disputes. This means 2-3 days a week away from home, staying in generic hotel chains.

Don’t get me wrong; the breakfasts here at the Holiday Inn are great, but I have stayed in a couple of rooms now and they’re pretty indistinguishable. Rather like Big Macs. Of course these hotel chains are all the same, and to be honest, they’re not terrible value for money (even if Holiday Inn are at the top end of the generics).

Of course what I really miss is my family. Just a few days from the brood can seem like weeks. I phoned home earlier, but my little boy was too busy eating raisins to say much to me. I was devastated. Doesn’t he miss me? Of course he’s not two yet, and was probably pretty cheesed off I wasn’t around, or maybe he was wondering who this moron was on the end of the phone? Either way, the raisins were much more interesting.

The food is good. I just had some seafood pasta that was very tasty. But eating alone in a restaurant with only a laptop and a newspaper for company can be a very disheartening, especially when the newspaper is The Indi – which is, presumably because of yet another round of redundancies, becoming more and more like a home for cannibalised pieces from other news sources and commissioned articles from freelancers (i.e. hardly punctual). It doesn’t feel like a newspaper anymore. It doesn’t seem to hold together like The Guardian or The Telegraph, which have identity and a sort of cohesion that The Independent lost some time ago.

I used to like The Indi. It had a great international section that was an excellent brief for world affairs. But now if I want to read news from Asia I’ll go online and read The Asian Times, South China Morning Post, or Kommersant. Why would I read stale stories in the Indi, even if they were still there?

The Guardian, The NY Times, Monocle, The Atlantic, and The New York Review of Books have all the best comment, so what is the point of The Independent? Don’t-get-me-wrong, I don’t want to see the paper’s demise, but certainly a bit of vigour needs to be injected. Anyway, that’s enough about newspapers.

Tonight, no doubt, I’ll be alone in my hotel room watching Question Time and drinking tea, when I could be at home doing something useful. Like what I don’t know, but I’m sure there are exciting opportunities at home that I’m missing out on. A cuddle and a DVD would be heaven.

I shouldn’t complain of course. I’ll be honest, I have it pretty good. But a whinge once in a while is ok, isn’t it?

Iran’s dangerous mistake

29 Mar

I had a few minutes to spare so I checked out some hard-left opinion boards for their take on the Iranian detention of 15 British military personnel. Naturally they take the position that Britain is in the wrong and that the boats were in Iranian waters (even though the Iranian’s have changed their mind once on where the boats were).

The hard-left seem to have arrived at this position on the basis that Blair has past form as a liar, and pretty much everything we do is evil. Craig Murray, always a rational voice, agrees with the conclusion – if maybe not the hypothesis – claiming Iran is indeed justified: –

“In international law the Iranian government were not out of order in detaining foreign military personnel in waters to which they have a legitimate claim…

“For the Royal Navy, to be interdicting shipping within the twelve mile limit of territorial seas in a region they know full well is subject to maritime boundary dispute, is unnecessarily provocative.”

Really, so it’s the British who are being “provocative.” I must have missed a memo.

In fairness to Mr. Murray, this was written a few days ago, and has since blogged a response the British provided coordinates (which supposedly prove the Brits were in Iraqi waters). Murray argues: –

The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.

Hmmm. Surely the reversal of this argument, asking why Iran is detaining British personnel, who were not in legally defined Iranian waters, works too? If there is no legally defined border, this must help London as much as Tehran. So why Craig, are you finding reasons to side with such an intolerant and illiberal regime? I’m not playing the rightwing “us and them” trick I promise, but isn’t this just evidence of the proclivity of the left to side with any position contrary to that of the West?

Either way, it’s a rather repugnant situation. And the Iranians are reinforcing the belief of many in the international community that they are an insidious regime and a danger to stability in the region (yes, I am aware of the irony of a Brit accusing anyone else of destabilising the region).

Parading servicemen (and especially servicewomen) on television is a nauseating spectacle, but the Iranians are pretty cute at this, often forcing dissidents to repent on television. The Iranians have scored an own goal, and I can’t imagine Iran’s allies, Russia and China, are happy with the development. This is simply more evidence that the Americans can throw at the UN Security Council in light of future sanctions.

Tehran has dangerously overplayed its hand, and while there is little Britain can do to get their people back (short of a dangerous rescue attempt), Iran will rue this act of folly when the debts are called in.

That the Iranians have abandoned plans to begin releasing the detainees, based on supposed “wrong behaviour” by the British, is further evidence that Tehran is dangerously deluded as to its moral righteousness in this incident.

Tehran should know it is feeding red meat to the hawks in Washington.

So Mr. Miliband…

29 Mar

…does this mean you will stand against Gordo?

Oh please say it does.

David actually makes a lot of sense: –

The concentration of power in Westminster is as antithetical to our ambitions of a more equal society as is the concentration of power in the private sector.

Creating institutions closer to citizens, open and accountable to their communities, able to reconcile conflicts and competing demands, is the way to tackle the sense of powerlessness that can seem pervasive. That means we need to fight the instinct of bureaucracies and political parties to hold on to power. One hundred towns and cities with the leadership, confidence and power to lead British economic, social and cultural renewal should be our aim.

Although I’m not sure this represents value for money. However, in my immense munificence, I would be happy to offer ‘consultancy’ services to any MPs who are at a loss…

The false economy of cheap staplers

29 Mar

Some things that aren’t as good as they once were. One such item is the humble office stapler. Forget Curly Wurlys and Wagon Wheels, the one thing that has devolved the most over the years is the stapler.

Why do they (meaning the stationers and their Chinese minions) make such rubbish staplers nowadays? Or, more to the point, why does my employer buy such rubbish ones?

The amount of times over the past couple of weeks a staple has buckled at an angle (I’m doing a lot of photocopying and stapling at the moment), leaving the pages less than secure, is becoming a joke.

It has to be a false economy.

I suggest a small team should be given a one-year budget to do a cost-benefit analysis on staplers. It’s the only way.

Away again

27 Mar

Hello there.

I’m working down near London again for the next few days, so it’s unlikely I’ll be around to blog until at least Friday evening. Maybe I’ll get chance to write something on my laptop (and find a Wi-Fi hotspot), and maybe not. Hopefully I will.

I should work out how to patch my laptop through my cell phone. Or maybe I should buy a BlackBerry. I don’t know, but a free BlackBerry would be great hint, hint. What I’m not doing is paying for internet access at the hotel room, but we have already been there, haven’t we?

So please be good and try not to spam me with offers for free shit or sex aids – because of course I’ll not be around to clean the place up. Maybe I should get someone else to contribute to the blog, who may then share the spam-fighting duties. Not sure yet. I guess this blog has a particular political slant that other writers may not be comfortable with. Being Blairite – but anti-Tony Blair (in light of Iraq and general ministerial incompetence), is a pretty tricky position to nail down, hence why I do such a shoddy job of it myself. Anyway offers will be considered.

Being alone in a hotel room does have a tendency of giving one cabin fever, so I guess I’ll be exhausting the allotted expenses allowance. Any fellow bloggers who want to meet up for a beer, please drop me a line.

Silent StarWars

26 Mar

Not sure how many licensing infringements are committed here, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Dave the wolf

26 Mar

I was chatting to my brother-in-law, Matt, about politics last night.

He was reflecting on Cameron’s lead over Brown in the opinion polls, and how he has successfully repositioned the Tories into the centre of British politics. He has a point, but those of us with a more seasoned political eye know it’s all smoke and mirrors.

A quick glance at Cameron’s chosen posse is like perusing a who’s who of the hawkish right. Vaizey, Gove, Fox, Osborn, and Cameron himself are all Neocons to a man. All supported the war in Iraq, and, certainly in the case of Fox and Gove, remain ideological defendants of it. These are internationalist Tories who see the world in black and white: they are pro-American, pro-Israel, and pro-intervention. They believe that the ‘liberal democracies’ of the West must be defended at all costs; a commitment that includes ensuring continued American economic hegemony over the world (something that their very policies ensure looks increasingly uncertain).

Polls constantly inform us that a majority of the population is against the War in Iraq. So how can a prospective government, supposedly so in-tune with the people, possibly be committed to it? Easy. Just don’t talk about it.

A quick perusal of the American Press or a few minutes watching the Sunday political debate shows (such as Meet the Press), and you’ll quickly become aware that the US political scene is obsessed with the war and the incompetence of those who managed it. Democrats and Republicans alike, including many who initially supported the war, are queuing up to bash the president and his administration.

The only opposition Tony Blair has faced has been from his own backbenches and the increasingly incoherent Ming Campbell. The Tories may occasionally kick up a fuss about a lack of equipment, but when have you ever seen Blair really grilled across the dispatch box about the folly of following the Americans in the first place? It doesn’t happen.

The only reason Blair has been able to continue to follow an evermore rightwing foreign policy, to the immense chagrin of the electorate, is that the so-called opposition have cheered him on from the off. Any wonder that people are turned-off by politics?

As I said, Cameron’s lot are Neocons to a man; a position thoroughly at odds with their centrist pretensions.

Another notable deception the ‘New Tories’ have seemingly managed to pull off, is the pretence that they actually give a shit about the NHS and the working poor. This is a party that – only last year – asked Iain Duncan Smith and John Redwood, two of the most committed right-wingers to walk this Earth, to lead policy reviews.

Don’t believe these charlatans and their post-Blair triangulations. And certainly don’t swallow their compassionate conservatism mantra; that’s straight out of the Karl Rove playbook. They’re simply telling a jaded electorate what they want to hear. But hey, that’s just politics.

Cameron’s New Toryism: It’s all spin. Don’t buy it.