Guy Talk

So Nigella is back on the box with a new television series called 'Simply Nigella.' It started last night apparently but I missed it, being busy scoring less than 5 points on University Challenge against the androids from Imperial and then recuperating from mental exhaustion with the last  episode of Doc Martin. I'll miss it. Easy going and gentle entertainment. I did enjoy last weeks episode when the wonderful Sigourney Weaver joined the storyline. Sigourney and I have previous, 'my, he is handsome,' she said, (Pinewood Studio's 1991). Unfortunately, and as bad luck would have it, I was 25 miles away at the time but if she liked my photograph that's good enough for me. 

Anyway, there has been something of a storm among the Twitterati about Nigella's programme. Apparently, avocado on toast is not good enough for them. They obviously didn't figure out the word 'Simply,' in the title and will just have to wait for the next cooking series to hit us............ oh look, is that Professional Masterchef on it's way? Indeed it is. Others have been moaning about Nigella's licking, pouting and innuendo. Well, if they don't like that there isn't much point in watching is there. 

But I'm not here to talk about Nigella. I'm way past my Nigella phase. I'm here to help those blokes sitting on their own at home having been deserted by their other halves in favour of book club, the choir or something or someone more sinister and upset making. Don't worry lads, I'm here to help. I've found the perfect cookery school for men on their own. Believe me, you'll fit right in and feel at home with the mood, competence and enjoyment level when you study this clip of Henry Phillips who really has nailed the culinary arts for the single man. Enjoy!

There are a whole series of clips covering every potential social requirement; don't thank me, I'm here to help.

Syria; So What?

Camera's in Westminster; Press Are On The Start Line Then

"UK Politicians . People who don't hesitate to bomb other countries on the flimsiest of evidence but spend years worrying over whether to implement a badger cull . " Army Rumour Web Site

Our Nobel Peace Prize winning President used to think in 2007; Obama:  "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."  With Boehner tearing off a letter signed by 118 Congressmen, (18 Democrats), making it clear that keeping the legislature in the dark is not going to cut it - the UN Sec Gen throwing up obstacles - and now his chief ally Britain having difficulties in going straight to war..... then Barry is taking his time for good reason.  And we should be thankful for his reticence in foreign matters, even if it is indecision.  When Russia and China start sounding reasonable it is time to think again.

We are now in a phase where all involved, on all sides, will seek to confuse, confound and mislead. This is all part of the disinformation and deception campaign which of course, makes perfect tactical sense. This will inevitably create a lot of market noise and markets will ebb and flow with each wave of news, regardless of its veracity. That is, right up until we wake up to hear on the news that Tomahawks are jinking down downtown Damascus.

Surprisingly, Milliband has for once caught the national mood and suddenly become the hate figure in Westminster as a government source tells the Times, 

“No 10 and the Foreign Office think Miliband is a f****** c*** and a copper-bottomed s***. The French hate him now and he’s got no chance of building an alliance with the US Democratic Party”

Why? Here is where things stand this morning. Miliband’s threat to oppose the government means the PM doesn’t have the numbers for military action. Today’s vote will now not authorise intervention, there will have to be a second vote next week if Cameron wants war.” Guido

 

UKIP Says No To War In Syria

As one chum put it "I never like to see that snivelling millipede score a point but someone had to stop Cameron".  Labour were very close to forcing a major defeat on the Govt which resulted in the motion being moved to one of principle today; but we should expect the Mother of all Parliaments to put on a fine display of calm reason.  Open goal for UKIP as well as Nigel Farage echoes the fine words of Lord Tebbit. (Does Cameron really want to lose his summer of easy victories over Labour and the virtual disappearance of UKIP all in one fell swoop?).

" It was not the Assad government which declared war on the Syrian people. Over the years the Assads, father and son, had been authoritarians but by the standards of the Middle East they had respected minorities, not least the Christians. It would be a gross oversimplification of the very complex religious and tribal and ethnic divisions within Syria to blame the Islamists alone, but it was the more extreme Islamists who became increasingly restive at the deviant tolerance of the Assads and they who incited an undeclared war against it and Assad.

What the British and American governments have to ask themselves is who would be strengthened most by any proposed warlike action. If it were to be designed to weaken Assad, would it be a coalition of the moderates of all shades who might find a peaceful way forward, or the extremists who would more likely want to impose a far harsher regime than that of Assad before the uprising? And if despite the first wave of military action the Assad govt survived but became more & not less intransigent towards the rebels of all shades, what then?"

Of course, Sarin itself has a short shelf life once the precursor chemicals are mixed, and so Saddam theories are discountable. Production of Sarin has been a schedule 1 war crime offence since 1993....so by forensic thought, we need to find a supplier with a chemical industry that produces organophosphates...such as sheep dip. That opens out the suspects......"

 

Syrian and US Assets (Bloomberg)

For the moment the Middle East Peace Envoy Tony Bliar (oh the irony -stop it), his press spokesman of old Alistair Campbell and it seems Sam Cam are the main proponents of the school of bomb them back into the middle ages. They might want to just check the above out as this will not be a Libyan style push over.

So who does this crisis help?  Apart from the obvious Sunni/Shia  push and shove; 

1. Obama as he may get his budget/debt ceiling through as Republicans may have to back down in all decency, (ok unlikely but may help if we are being really cynical) 

2. He gets to rig the FOMC again and wave Summers through (again bit of a stretch).

3. Israel as they won't have to be quite so nice to Palestinians in upcoming talks (though I think Netanyahu is right on everyone's case regarding Iran and setting easy precedents)

4. New boy in Iran can't play the peace card to western media and look all normal and nice - which by the way they have in condemning use of chemical weapons.  Unfortunately, they went on to warn Iran will attack and "burn" Israel if Syria is attacked - expect Iran to retaliate via unconventional methods e.g kidnappings via Hezbollah etc

 5.  Erdogan, Hollande and several others with "local difficulties" can divert attention.  As Rahm Emanuel allegedly said never let a good crisis go to waste - always an opportunity.

Meanwhile the US government  are leaking news of impending action on high value targets. The message being delivered to the media and to a public fatigued by war, is that strikes will be limited to high value targets. The last thing Washington wants is regime change because that would create the need for massive resources for a nation building clean-up, involvement in another civil war, another $1tr, probably 5,000 casualties etc etc etc

Obama is due in Sweden on Sep 3rd and then Russia for the G20 on the 5th-6th, the suggestion being that he’d like it all tied up by then, ie limited strike, (Stratfor).

However, other countries are quickly putting the brakes on incl the UK, (above), who at the moment, will struggle to get a vote through parliament without the report from the UN inspectors producing verification, (its not even finished). An attack without clear legal authority would be politically damming both here and in the US and that is thus far, also subject to the UN report. As time passes, domestic opposition here is growing and coalescing across an unlikely collective across the political spectrum.

There is an outside chance that the Russians might cooperate and help remove Assad. Russia still has a large presence in Syria and removing the head but leaving the body in place, (Army, security, intelligence & government), would avoid creating a power vacuum that would allow extremists to flourish. On current form, Putin is unlikely to acquiesce but you never know. For the moment, Russia has announced it is “adjusting” its Naval group in the Med, with Interfax reporting that  they’re sending an additional anti-submarine ship and missile cruiser. Putin and Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, announced they had a telephone conversation yesterday in which they stressed the need to settle the conflict by political and diplomatic means. Meanwhile, the French have dispatched the anti aircraft frigate Chevalier Paul “in the direction of Syria,” which probably means to Corsica for lunch given their parliamentary debate isn’t until next Wednesday. We meanwhile are sending six Tornadoes to Cyprus. Getting crowded down there though and accidents do, unfortunately happen.

Conspiracy theorists may wish to consider this disturbing article.

With regard to markets, an enormously complex geopolitical, religious and civil conflict is not going to be easier to understand over coming days. Markets will continue to trade in an erratic fashion with obvious sensitivity to headlines. Markets will however, want to believe in the “clean and limited,” strike and I tend to the feeling that shares will want to rally short term from here. Having recalibrated down in a somewhat disorderly way they now need to find their levels and re-establish their value based relationships with one another.

However, any rally would have to be quite powerful indeed to overcome the new intermediate downtrend which has taken hold. Much technical damage has been done. In S&P terms, be very cautious if we break down through 1627; above 1640-1643 would probably ignite a short bull run but the dizzy heights of the 1670-80 zone would make me very cautious again. I believe rallies will be sold and the debt ceiling talks, Asian contagion and Europe will all contribute to headwinds for equities. (Europe is the bad boy no one is pricing and crude will impact us all; crude especially is a tax on producers and consumers and spikes in the crude px have usually preceded shares being hammered, (1987, 1999-00, 2005, 2007,).

War lust antidote here.

In summary, the hopes of a clean and limited strike to deliver a bloody nose to the school ground bully but with no fall-out remains possible but is getting ever so more complicated with each day that passes. When I was a young officer cadet we were taught to ask the question “So what?” to every potential action, and then “So what?” to each outcome until we exhausted the process to come to a conclusion. So what? There are an awful lot of “So what?” strands to this wee planning and political challenge. 

Gotcha!

 

The howls of indignation about phone hacking and the News of the World emanating from the Outrage Bus parked outside Westminster has, to my ears, a hollow and tinny sound; like the sort of pinging a cheap Chinese watch makes. It's an absolute fact that to the detriment of anything resembling standards in our society the leaders of all parties have for years courted Murdoch and his papers, even to the extent of employing former editors as their spin meisters. Well, Cameron's got a big old septic boil to lance now.

That it took the revelation that a murdered child's mobile telephone was hacked to give Westminster some backbone after years of sycophantic toadying to News International is just profoundly depressing. Perhaps our formally unelected upper chamber was the only constituency in the country which was independently minded enough to stand up to them. Well, they're not around anymore.

Moreover, hacking into bereaved relatives phones leave one wondering if the story can get any worse. Don't worry; it can and very probably will for these vermin know no limits in their pursuit of so called "stories." 

No-one to whom I have talked is in the least surprised by any of this. The general public long since abandoned any confidence in the ability of our tabloid press to lift themselves out of the grimy, manipulative and nasty sewer which they call home. 

Audience participation though will no doubt spike when we get to the point when some of these cornered rats begin to turn on themselves and begin to spill the beans on each other, Westminster and their competitors. It's just a fact that the press always have more stories than they dare publish. None of them have yet gone nuclear but I suspect someone will, "I found Jesus and he led me to the truth.... when I worked at the ........" and so on. 

The broadsheets needn't take on that holier than thou stance either. In "Newspaper Reporters Plumb New Depths," I discussed how reporters from the Mail and Times trawled the Facebook pages of children for gossip and stories. Odd too how the Mirror is strangely quiet; given they were happy to fabricate stories about British soldiers under that supercilious reptile Piers Morgan it's only a matter of time before their name pops up in the frame. I have experience of their reporters door stepping bereaved families; contempt doesn't come close to what I think of them.

However, the deeply troubling aspect of this disgraceful episode is the reprehensible action of a small number of police officers who accepted bribes from journalists. They will be found and they will go to prison, it's as simple as that. We should chuck the editors and journo's in with them and melt the keys.

News International meanwhile is sinking into a world of financial and reputational hurt, Sunday should certainly be interesting. Some people are even wondering if they used the same password for their email as they used for their Myspace and News International accounts, if they had them. News Internationals statement in 2009 in response to police interest reads as if it were penned by Lewis Carrol, "It is untrue that officers found evidence of News Group staff, either themselves or using private investigators, hacking into "thousands" of mobile phones." Well done Hayley Barlow and Alice Macandrew; just oozing journalistic integrity.

It would of course be warming to think that the News of the World will now go into a death spiral and be quickly buried and forgotten forever. It's unlikely, sadly. Never underestimate how low our fellow citizens will go in their happy pursuit of sex and scandal; however fabricated some of it may be.

And the thing that leaves me feeling like my lungs have been ripped out by an 800lb gorilla? The fact that the Guardian has been the only entity to consistently illuminate the wrongdoing and subversive influence of News International. I'll never be able to bring myself to buy it but they do chalk up some good guy points for the stand they've made. 

As a said earlier, the entire debacle is unedifying and profoundly depressing. Lets conclude then with a story which lays the lie of good journalistic practice bare but leaves us with a smile. Over to Uncle Marvo,

"PILOT'S SKILL SAVES PREGNANT WIFE FROM DISASTER

Pilot Philip Foster's skill and training saved his pregnant wife from certain death yesterday when his aircraft's engine failed whilst returning to his home airfield. He averted disaster by landing in a field, avoiding surrounding villages ...

What a hero, eh?

This is the reality.

Philip Foster (the name they used, and nothing like mine) was actually buggering off somewhere else because the weather was nice, rather than returning home, and was skiving off work. The wife at the time was indeed a bit pregnant as I remember, and was reading a book, oblivious to the engine failure which the hero, Marvo, was addressing with what can only be described as the full three degrees of incompetence.

Having looked around for a suitable landing site and found something vaguely greener than most other possibilities, Marvo proceeds to fail to turn off the fuel. He then descends, because this what aircraft do when they have a buggered engine, normally. He fails to apply the flap, then careers into a field of winter barley, about two feet or so higher than the wings, at a rather unusual angle and executes what can only be described as a "crash" which, had it not been for the height of the crop, would have taken out a small village, church and sub post-office.

Marvo then finds the nearest pub and proceeds to drink it dry.

Now, compare that to the MSM article above? Any similarity at all?

No, didn't think so."

 

Richard Todd & TED

 

Well, what a week to forget and as we go into the weekend I note The Mail are running an indignant story about the remake of every big boys iconic movie, The Dambusters.

Somewhat predictably though, their guns are pointing in the wrong direction. The journalists focus on the gall of script writer Stephen Fry in renaming Guy Gibson's dog from "Nigger," to "Digger." Now, as young lads watching it for the first time we all sniffled back a tear when Nigger was run over outside the guardroom, but the fact is that it's a grossly offensive word in the US. Try using it over there sometime. If you're lucky, a cop will get to you before some enraged local. It's the social semtex equivalent of calling the Queen a hooker would be here. You just don't do it, in jest or otherwise. Moaning about historical revisionism then is largely irrelevant; Nigger, was a dog for goodness sake.

The story of the Dambusters is the story of the courage and fortitude of the aircrews, (53 of whom died on the raid; an attrition rate of 40%), and of the persistent obsession of Barnes Wallis, a brilliant man who never psychologically recovered from those losses for which he felt personally responsible.

 

Richard Todd

The real question here though is why make a new movie at all. How on earth can the original be bettered? It was made by people who lived throigh the war and in some cases, like Richard Todd, (who was an utter gentleman and a privilege to meet), actually fought through it. Apart from the inevitable blizzard of special effects I just don't get it. Leave well alone, they'll only cock it up - the name of the dog is the least of it.

So, enough of ranting for the week, lets attempt to end on a higher note. It's been a wee while since we've visited TED and whenever I do I'm reminded that there really are some jolly clever and special people out there with a vision and imagination that I love to share. 

I found this, unusually original and uplifting,

 


Newspaper Reporters Plumb New Depths

I've long held the view that Facebook is a car crash waiting to happen for most individuals. It is a minefield of potential embarrassing and career ending entries and posts, perhaps typed in a moment of carefree exuberance but the consequences may last a very long time. Once circulated on the web, it cannot be deleted. Incidents resulting from "fun,"entries on Facebook are legion, not to mention those who have inadvertently ruined job opportunities, relationships and friendships by the liberal use of the keyboard in the heat of the moment. At least you can tear letters up after a moments reflection before you post them. Indeed, I fully intend to be the last man standing without a Facebook account and refuse to subject all of my 5 friends, three of whom have four legs, to my inane musings over Facebook. They can check in here if they wish.

Why? Well, you may as well post your thoughts on the electronic billboards at Piccadilly Circus for all the confidentiality you are assured, no matter what your privacy settings may be. Why take the risk?

Nonetheless, it remains the principal means of communication for youngsters and indeed it has a number of advantages. It is cheap, easy to circulate news amongst their circle of chums, (although why they all seem to have hundreds of so called friends is quite beyond me), and an easy way of circulating updates for school work, school and club sport and so on. It clearly though, harbours a number of menacing threats. Quite apart from the intentionally addictive nature of the thing there are some rather unsavoury characters lurking in the digital shadows.

I recently became aware of an incident at a school in the wider area and of that incident I have no particular view. I was appalled though, not to say outraged to discover that hairy old Fleet Street hacks have been trawling the Facebook pages of children as young as 13 in order to dig up material which they can exploit to bolster their collapsing circulation, and you can interpret that in any way you so wish. I see no difference in these reptiles scrolling through private conversations between kids than I do them rifling through their private diaries, drawers and letters. 

Of course kids, and everyone else for that matter, should never put anything in the least bit sensitive in electronic form and always have their privacy settings set to the maximum possible. The lack of diligence by kids however, does not excuse cynical adults exploiting their lack of care and attention for financial advancement either on behalf of their proprietor or themselves. There is no difference whatsoever between this behaviour and the thief who offers the defence, "the door was open so I walked in and helped myself."

Hiding behind their Freedom of the Press banner these big boys go under the tag, "A Daily Mail Staff Reporter;" cowards. They won't be so big and brave if they come across parents. If they're lucky they might bump into the odd father; if mothers ever get a hold of them they'll be eviscerated.

Politicians, celebs and premiership footballers scream from the rafters if their privacy is invaded. They will readily set free the litigation attack dogs of firms like Schillings, Mishcon de Reya and Herbert Smith to hold back intrusion by Fleet Street. Who though, stands to protect our kids? There isn't one of us who didn't say or do something indiscreet in our teenage years but without permanent stain on our young reputations; why therefore, are we absenting ourselves from our duty of care for this generation and not corralling unscrupulous reporters and their editors into a corner and forcing them by threat of severe sanction into leaving minors alone. 

It's a disgrace and way beyond the bounds of acceptable behaviour commensurate with a civilised and decent society.

World Cup; We'll do it ourselves.....

 

I see that the head of the FA, Lord Triesman, has resigned because The Mail reported that he was secretly recorded a couple of years ago by a women called Melissa Jacobs questioning the integrity of the Spanish and Russians over dinner.

I'm no supporter of a very average Labour peer and couldn't care less about football but this is ridiculous.

There was a time, when an Englishman would be lauded for throwing brickbats at foreigners not slung out of his job. Whilst he is obviously a silly man who has been led a merry dance by this stumpy little bint and should know better, the reaction of the media is more outrageous.

If every man was recorded while trying to impress some girlie there would be no end to resignations and who in the flying fvck decided it was right, decent and in the public interest to reproduce such recordings? The Daily Mail? Heaven help us. They haven't moved on much from supporting Fascists in the 1930's then. Are they really trying to preach to us that the "good name," of Spain and Russia is more important than £2.5bn of income to the country. What a joke.

In their fight for survival, the print media will stop at nothing to gain a little spike in circulation. Expect more desperate and aggressive tactics as they slide into history.

Of course, quickly on the disaster scene to pour buckets of kerosene on the blaze is that contemptible piece of vermin, Max Clifford who can always be relied upon to make matters worse, that is, if he didn't create them in the first place. Good thing there are no secret recordings of his conversations over the years but then if there were, we'd never hear about them because Fleet Street is scared stiff of him. Pathetic.

I of course am not the chairman of the FA, nor am I under any restrictions about commenting on the business practices of the Spanish, South Americans or Russians. In fact, I would happily volunteer to sleep with any interested pretty 36 year old, (not the extra from Lord of the Rings that Triesman dredged up), in exchange for having a go at the Spanish were it not for the personal consequences of such actions, which are a little more serious than losing a job................. and a World Cup bid.

There is of course an easy way out of this. The Government should instruct MI6 to record conversations between fast foreign women and representatives from foreign football associations therby levelling the playing field. Thereafter, go to FIFA and say, "Look Sepp my dear fellow, give it to us or we'll pull the rug. No England = less revenue and by the way.... we'll mostly be having our own tournament from now on; Scotland are available as usual, we'll start with them. We managed perfectly well without you in the past and will do so in the future. Think about it Sepp, you have until eleven o'clock which is the traditional time for deadlines from us."

Blair; Shameless

In the post, "A Tale of Two Men," I compared that shameless Tony Blair with another man who, sent to war as a Territorial, returned badly wounded and without compensation. Yet, he has devoted his energy to setting up a charity to help others with life changing injuries in his situation and their carers. What indeed did you do in the war Mr Blair?

It's interesting now therefore, that the Attack Dogs of the press are setting about Blair and beginning to dismantle any pretence of good works since he left office. When even the Guardian is joining in, you know it's not just angry middle aged men in Haslemere that feel deep distaste at the exploitation of his office for personal gain when we have so many young lives wrecked at his behest.

In fact, the Guardian is even launching a competition with a prize for anyone "who can shine the brightest light on those financial structures."

I don't much care about the opaque and complex tax efficient financial structures. I don't even care about how many millions of pounds Mr Blair has or will earn. I care that he appears to have absolved himself of his moral responsibility to give something back. Here is one example that has crossed our desk this week,

50 yr old ex infanteer with major PTSD issues after being involved in a rather famous incident in NI. Served 16 years, whole life is in a mess but one thing that needs addressing immediately is his bedding and mattress. He's completely incontinent, a direct result of his illness. Been too embarrassed to mention it to anyone.

If you want to help Mr Blair you can contact me at hofj@mentalcrumble.com and I'll tell everyone you did the right thing or no one, just as you wish.