Thursday, 17 January 2013

It's Happening Again!

As I write this I sit wondering if this will be the last communication that I will have with the rest of the world for some time, or possibly ever. I am preparing myself and my family for the possibility that things may never be the same again and we may be reduced to surviving by our wits alone. The reason? Apparently it will snow in the UK tonight and may do so for a couple of days over the weekend and next week. As we know, as the first flake falls from the sky, the country will grind to a halt.

If you Google "Why is Britain so unprepared for snow", there are pages and pages of discussions and suggestions as to why we don't cope, dating back, in some cases, for years. And yet, despite the fact that there has been all this discussion, everybody knows that when the snow does start, it will be the same old story. Why do we never learn?

I accept that by comparison with other countries, we have less and more infrequent snowfall, but it has snowed every year for at least the last four years. But the argument is still put forward that we do not have sufficient snowfall to justify the outlay on things such as snowploughs. But clearly we do. If we had snowploughs, roads would be cleared much more easily. Even the measures that are allegedly in place are sadly missing. There has been the threat of snow for more than a week, and yet the last time I saw a gritter on any of our local roads was more than two months ago.

The other thing that weather like this causes is panic buying. As soon as there is a severe weather warning, the supermarket shelves are emptied of such staples as bread and milk. I've never understood why. In all the times that we have had snow, not once have the shops been closed and not once have we even contemplated slaughtering our neighbours in order to provide a square meal. Generally the employees will live locally and walk to work. The wages that they receive generally mean that they can't live further away as they can't afford to run cars or pay the extortionate train fares.

The only conclusion that I can draw is that these people that do the panic buying are concerned as the only way that they would be able to get to the supermarket would be to walk, like the employees, as the roads would be unsuitable for driving, and god forbid that they should have to actually walk! The irony of this is that so many of them will have 4 x 4's that they have no idea how to drive in this situation, as they have only been bought as a status symbol to be shown off on the school run.

At least I know that should most of the food go there are likely to be plenty of burgers, due to the revelation that there has been horse DNA found in Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland beef burgers.

Personally, I can't see what all the fuss is about. Firstly, two of these companies are originally German, so based in a country where the consumption of horses is not uncommon. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that it’s not just the burgers that are "contaminated".

My second reason is a little more personal. I was taught to ride when I was a child. When I say "ride", I mean that in the loosest possible sense. What generally happened was that I would get onto the horses back, get comfortable in the saddle and then find myself flying through the air at high speed as the horse/pony decided that it didn't feel like giving me a trip around the paddock on that day. So I would not be at all averse to my only dealings with horses being with them smothered in burger relish and cheese and between two halves of a burger bun and I actually quite like horsemeat. I would be far more concerned if they had found human DNA rather than equine in this meat.

I suppose the fact that there is no mention of there being meat other than dead cow in the product is why these companies are getting into trouble, although I have seen a joke about the fact that a burger was found to contain 29% horse meat. One wag tweeted that he hadn't realised that there was actually that much meat of any kind in the product.

My favourite joke? Is it coincidence that that "hamburgers" is an anagram of "Shergar bum"?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What hope is there?

Bit of a theme to the titles of this year's posts so far, but this follows on from my last post of 2012. A saw the link to this on Twitter:

In the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees Freedom of Speech, among other things. In the aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook, Piers Morgan, of whom I am not a fan, exercised this right to free speech and suggested that guns should be banned, as they have been in Britain. As a result of this, Alex Jones, who is described in his Wikipedia entry as a "talk radio host, actor and filmmaker", exercised his right to free speech by initiating a petition to have Piers Morgan deported.

In an extremely clever move by Mr Morgan, he invited Mr Jones on to his show to debate gun crime. The ignorant, at times incomprehensible and completely disjointed rant by Mr Jones is a sight to behold.

This man is no less extreme than the fundamentalist preachers, of whatever belief, and as long as there are people like him in America, which there always will be due to that First Amendment, there will be people able to gain access to weapons with which to kill innocent adults and children.

I, for one, am glad that I live in the "police state" of Great Britain.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

What have we achieved?

In September 1996, there was an uprising in Afghanistan and a group of former Mujahedeen called the Taliban seized the capital, Kabul. Once they had done this , they formed the Government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan and moved the capital to Kandahar in the south of the country, a city that had been the traditional Pashtun seat of power for more than 200 years.

Once in power, the Taliban proceeded to turn their Islamic State into something from the middle ages, with a very strict, and some would say distorted, view of Sharia Law. banning things such as music, television and insisting that all men must have a beard.

However, their oppression of women was the issue that seemed to attract the most media attention. Women were banned from receiving an education and were not permitted to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. When they did leave their homes, they were required to be completely covered by a burqa. Failure to comply with these edicts could result in the woman concerned being publicly beaten. More serious crimes, for both sexes, could result in public executions, which often took place in football stadiums, as football, along with just about every other form of entertainment, had been banned by the Taliban.

Whilst the regime's actions drew a lot of condemnation from just about every Government, other than those of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as well as from just about every NGO, very little was actually done about it. However, that was to change very dramatically in late-2001.

When the Taliban seized power, Osama bin Laden, who had fought as a Mujahid during the Soviet occupation, moved from Sudan to Afghanistan, with many of his al-Qaeda fighters forming part of the new Taliban army. The Taliban gave refuge to bin Laden, who was wanted in the United States in connection with attacks on US Embassies in Africa.

However, the final straw was the fact that bin Laden was sheltered by the Taliban following the September 2011 attacks in the United States. Having refused to agree to the demands that bin Laden be handed over to US authorities, the Taliban found themselves under attack, initially from the air but, very shortly after, also from ground troops.

The first British troops were involved almost from day one, and since that time, 438 British Servicemen and Servicewomen have died in that country, the latest, a Royal Engineer having been killed yesterday in yet another green on blue attack.

As the international involvement in Afghanistan draws to a close, the plan being that foreign troops will have left by the end of next year, what will happen?

What I think will happen is that the fiercely tribal Afghans, who seem apathetic when it comes to helping themselves, will carry on as they always have, giving the motivated, if extremist, Taliban the opportunity to move back in and impose their regime once again. In fact, I predict that within two years of the last NATO soldier, sailor or airman leaving Afghanistan, the women will be back in their houses with their blacked out windows so that people cannot see them from outside, men will have their beards and head coverings and  public executions will be the only form of entertainment for to the population.

In fact, I expect that the regime will be far more extreme than previous, knowing full well that the West will not want to get embroiled in another costly conflict.

So, just over 11 years after the Taliban was overthrown, what have we achieved?