The Crusades – 21st Century style.

 

 

Mobi-Babble

I wish I could say I was feeling better, but unfortunately that is not the case.  I certainly do not feel as dire as I did last Sunday, when I could hardly breathe and was in such pain from my throat I thought I was about to croak!

Dear Noo bought me some very powerful antibiotics to fight the upper respiratory infection and a decongestant to break up the phlegm and on Monday I felt almost cured. But since then, my illness seems to have regressed and my condition now seems to have slipped into a chronic stage. My chest is still heavily congested, which is still causing breathing problems, especially at night when I try to sleep and I  have occasional fevers. But at least that unbearable pain in my throat has subsided, so life is tolerable, if not overly merry.

 

In preparation for my round of doctors in Bangkok next week I have been finalising the disposition of my personal estate. I am pleased to report that everything is now in ‘apple pie’ order in the event that I suddenly exit this ‘mortal coil’, and both Noo and my two daughters in the UK are now well provided for.

To be honest, my plan is to live long enough to spend all my ill-gotten gains and leave as little to my offspring as possible, (they don’t actually need it as they are both doing very well, with good jobs, their own houses, cars, husbands and all that good stuff), but it remains to be seen how successful I am in this little venture.

 

The Crusades – 21st Century style.

 

Afghanistan

A few weeks ago, some American military officers at a detention centre in Parwan, Afghanistan became concerned that detainees were secretly communicating through notes scribbled in library books, possibly to plot an attack. There was a suspicion that the books were being used as a means to communicate, internal and external, and the fear was that the detainees might “organise.”

Two Afghan-American interpreters were assigned to sift through the library’s books and set aside those that had writing that might constitute a security risk. By the time the interpreters were finished, 1,652 books were stacked on the floor and tables for removal, including some Korans, many other religious or scholarly texts, and a number of secular works, including novels and poetry.

Whether the inscriptions were a security risk is a matter of debate. There were some notes on the margins of the books in which some of the detainees had written memories of their imprisonment, their name, their father’s name, location and the place where they were arrested, and in some of the books, including Korans, words were occasionally written in the margins, translations of difficult Arabic words into Pashto or Dari. They had nothing to do with terrorism or criminal activities.

An American official stated that they overly relied on linguists, (the military term for interpreters and translators), as none of the U.S. military can read any of the languages involved. But the linguists were responsible only for the sorting of the books, not for the decision to burn them.

 

Why was the fatal decision made to burn these books?

Apparently, we are told, they didn’t have the storage capacity – not even for 1,652 books.

 I think I might be able to store that number quite easily in my spare bedroom; maybe they should have given me a call.

Why was the decision to burn them made so quickly?

We are told that it was part of their procedures ‘to do that’, but there is a process in place and ‘that burning is the last thing’. They should have been retained for a while, but in this case they weren’t. No explanation is given for this apparent ‘short cut’ in established procedures.

Any comment from me would probably be superfluous, but this tragic incident, which precipitated the loss of countless lives, both American and Afghan, simply demonstrates the crass ignorance and cultural disconnection of the American military machine and the sheer hopelessness of their task and of its inevitable and utterly predictable failure.

 

There is now little doubt, as I have written on a number of occasions, that within a short period of time following the final withdrawal of NATO forces from this country, it will revert to its previous medieval state and will be once again at the dubious mercy of the murderous, ruthless, and misogynist Taliban.

Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, who spent last year in a combat deployment touring Afghanistan, writes in the February issue of the Armed Forces Journal: “What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.”

Instead, he was told that the Taliban “controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot” of coalition military bases. “I observed Afghan security forces collude with the insurgency.” He found American officers, “who had nothing but contempt for the Afghan troops in their area.”

The mutual ill will has become deadly. Two American officers were shot to death last week at the Afghan Interior Ministry, which is supposed to be one of the safest places in Kabul. But for U.S. military personnel, there are no longer any safe places.

 

Even official assessments of the war are discouraging. In a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper predicted the Afghan government will make “incremental, fragile progress” this year, while noting the persistence of “corruption as well as poor leadership and management” in the police and army.

Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess Jr., director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, told the committee that “the Afghan government will continue to struggle to fill the vacuum” left by coalition troops. The Afghan defence minister predicts “catastrophe” if the U.S. proceeds with plans to reduce the size of the Afghan force after 2014.

In the meantime, we can already see the start of the slippery slope back to total barbarism and the subjugation of women.

A government-appointed council of 150 leading Muslim clerics last week said that Afghan law should require women to wear the veil and forbid them from mixing with men in the work place or travelling without a male chaperone. “Men are fundamental and women are secondary,” the Council said in a statement on Friday.

President Hamid Karzai has signalled his support of this view by publishing the council’s statement on his web site.

And today, Wednesday, we learn of the deaths of six British soldiers in Helmut Province – the largest loss of life from a single ground incident since the start of the campaign. The British government tell us that these brave men sacrificed their lives in the interest of British national security and to protect us all from terrorism back in the UK. Can someone please explain to me how they are doing this?

The government also went on to say that soon this role will be taken over by the Afghan forces….. it has to be a joke… doesn’t it?

 

Libya

 

We now have it from reliable sources that the recent desecration of the World War II graves in Libya was a direct result of the Koran burning incident in Afghanistan.

As many of you are aware, I was a strong supporter of the recent NATO involvement in Libya, and to the extent that their intervention ensured the success of the rebels and the downfall of Gadhafi, then I can still claim that my view was probably correct.

I say ‘probably’, because I am no longer as cock sure as I was. Even during all the murderous years of the Gadhafi regime, there was never any attempt to despoil the graves of the allied war dead. Let’s face it, the country is now in a bigger mess than ever; it is in state of utter anarchy with armed gangs talking control of tribal areas and even some suburbs of Tripoli and other cities and there appears to be no prospect in sight of the central transitional government being able to disarm these dangerous factions.

 

Did you see the video footage of the cemetery desecration? This wasn’t an inflamed, crazy, mob out of control. This was a large, organised group of rebels, going about their business in a well-planned, matter of fact manner, destroying the headstones of hundreds of graves and then going to work on a massive sandstone cross, which must have taken several hours to demolish. And all this after the Brits had given them so much military support in their recent struggles with Gadhafi.

And, ‘hot off the press’ ,we hear that the armed faction which controls the oil-rich Benghazi area, has effectively declared secession from the ruling council in Tripoli.

 

Iraq

This country also appears to be in a state of total anarchy with the Sunni and Shiite factions at each other’s throats and after months of wrangling, they are still unable to form anything approaching a stable government.  Last year, 2011, over 4,000 civilians were killed in factional violence in Iraq, and this year to date, there have already been 800 deaths.

 

Syria

It gives me no pleasure to say that ‘I told you so’, but never did  I make a truer statement when I warned that Russia and China’s veto on the recent UN security Council resolution on condemning Assad’s regime’s violence in Syria was tantamount to a ‘Licence to kill’. And so it has proved to be.

When the dust has finally settled and the historians sift through the full, unspeakable horrors of the crimes that have been perpetrated on Syrian civilians in recent weeks and months, then I truly believe that these two self-serving super powers will be utterly condemned in the eyes of the world.

I have written recently that in some respects I have a sneaking regard from Putin, and while I was not in agreement with much that he has done, at least I could see where he was coming from. But on this matter, he has utterly misjudged the situation, and will be condemned for his heartless veto till his dying day.

 

Reliable reports of killing squads entering Homs and surrounding areas, rounding up all males as young as 12 and as old as 80 and summarily slitting their throats – sometimes in front of their families, is so horrific that it makes me shudder as I write. And this is to say nothing of the wives and daughters of these men who were raped repeatedly in front of them before executing them.

Did you see the news footage of families fleeing the violence to the Lebanon? Did you see any males over the age of 12 amongst their number?

 

 

The Arab Spring

Last year, along with most people in the west, I welcomed the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. At long last, so we thought, these young vibrant Arabs were throwing all caution to the wind in a brave attempt to throw off the yoke of hundreds, if not thousands of years of feudalism and despotic rule.

We all became excited and fascinated as it seemed that one state after another was overthrowing their own particular dictator.

Yet here we are, almost a year down the road, and what have the democracy seeking young Arabs got to show for it? Exactly where is the true success story? Yemen? Tunisia? Egypt? Bahrain? Syria? Algeria? Iraq? Jordan? Libya? Kuwait? Lebanon? Saudi Arabia?

Every country has its own story. In some, such as Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or Jordan, very little has changed and its business as usual for the rulers in situ. In others, such as Syria and Bahrain, civil protests have been brutally repressed and are an abhorrence to all decent minded people the world over. In still others, such as Libya and Iraq the jury is still a very long way out and the ultimate success in the fight for democratic government and equal rights is still very much open to question.

 

Even in Egypt, where we all held such high hopes, murderous factional fighting has broken out between the Muslim radicals and Coptic Christians and the armed forces seem to be extremely reluctant to relinquish the reins of power. I truly fear the eventual outcome for a country that hasn’t seen democracy for thousands of years.

So what are we to discern from all this mayhem in the Muslim world?

Well for starters, having had our western fingers burned any number of times whenever we try to interfere and instil our western ‘Christian-inspired’ principles on the devoted followers of Islam, we should understand that there is absolutely nothing we can do to hasten their paths to democracy,and human rights and get the ‘hell out of their countries and leave them all to it.

 

We are a million miles and several centuries apart and the more we try to ‘help’ the more we are hated and reviled for our efforts. We must call time and start to build ‘fortress west’ as a matter of some urgency.

I understand that this is easier said than done in this modern,’globalised’ society, where we are all inter-dependant on each other and in particular, where we rely on a number of Arab states to keep our cars running. But at least we can extract ourselves from all political and  social involvement in these states and we must become ever more aloof from the way they run their countries. We must start now to plan our strategic economic withdrawal so that we become less and less reliant on Arab oil and other Arab trade.

Certainly, the West can make  immediate withdrawals from the likes of Afghanistan and even Pakistan, as there is nothing more we can do in such places; places where we are regarded as the very devil incarnate and are their avowed enemies.

 

I actually doubt if there will be much change in the way in which most Moslem countries are governed for at least 50 – and more likely a 100 years or more. We say that some Moslem societies are still medieval in nature and structure; maybe that is an exaggeration, but certainly the evolution of society in many of these countries is at least 100 years behind the west.

Indeed, if we look back at our own history of just the last century, we will find western countries indulging in ‘acceptable practices’ which would appal us today, not least amongst them was the segregation of blacks and whites, and the lynching of Negroes, which was still rife in many parts of the USA a mere 50 years ago.

So don’t expect anything to happen any day soon. I know it is sometimes heart-breaking to watch, but in my opinion, we have little choice but to let them get on with it and find their own way. If we don’t, there soon may be no way forward for any of us.

 

Joke emails

Like most of you, I receive my daily dose of ‘joke emails’ from around the world, many of which I have seen before. Some are faintly amusing, some are offensive, a few are pornographic, and, just once in while I receive one that is genuinely funny.

The other day I received one which was both racist and offensive, but as I deleted it from my computer, I suddenly realised that racist and offensive it may be; there is a kernel of truth in what the author is trying to say. The more I thought about it, the more I concluded that at least part of this email was something worth sharing with my readers, as it is certainly quite thought provoking and it also dovetails neatly into the main subject of today’s blog.

So I recovered it from my ‘Deleted’ file and here it is, in part:

 

The Arabs are not happy!

They’re not happy in Gaza ..
They’re not happy in Egypt .
They’re not happy in Libya ..
They’re not happy in Morocco .
They’re not happy in Iran ..
They’re not happy in Iraq .
They’re not happy in Yemen ..
They’re not happy in Afghanistan .
They’re not happy in Pakistan ..
They’re not happy in Syria.

They’re not happy in Lebanon ..
So, where are they happy?

They’re happy in England ..
They’re happy in France .
They’re happy in Italy ..
They’re happy in Germany .
They’re happy in Norway ..
They’re happy in Canada & the U.S.

They’re happy in every country that is not Muslim.

And who do they blame?
Not Islam.
Not their leadership.
Not themselves.

THEY BLAME THE COUNTRIES THEY ARE HAPPY IN!

ARABS:
Everyone seems to be wondering why Muslims are so quick to commit
suicide.

Let’s have a look at the evidence:

 

….(I have censored the remainder, but I am sure you can use your imagination….)

 

 

 

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I don’t give a hoot!

 

 

 

Whitney – “An angel reaching for the sky”

 


Mobi-Babble

I am becoming increasingly anxious about my medical condition, which has been diagnosed as aortic stenosis, or to us laymen – a dodgy heart valve. My worries started when I realised that despite a mountain of blood pressure reducing drugs, my BP was still quite high – just before the time when my next twice-daily dose was due to be taken. During most of the intervening period, the BP was impressively low, but it concerned me that only a few hours later, it was back up again. This didn’t seem to be quite as it should be to my, admittedly non-medical, brain.

So I started to do some more research to try and assess the severity of my condition and how long will it be before I really need to get serious about having an operation.

 

The first thing I have established is that heart valve replacement is inevitable. It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ as there is simply no alternative treatment. I also learned that the longer I leave it, the more damage I will do to my heart and the higher the risk of me suddenly becoming the ‘late -Mobi’.

With this in mind, I made another attempt to get hold of the results of the cardiogram test I had last December at Bumrungrad to try to see how bad my condition is, and this time I was lucky, as the nice man on the phone emailed me copies of all the reports within an hour of my enquiry.

 

I have tried to understand the various ‘Doppler Measurements & Calculations’, and I confess that  most of them are still a mystery to me, but I have been able to establish that certain key readings concerning my aortic valve have deteriorated since the previous test was done in June 2010. The Doctor’s summary report states my condition as being ‘moderate to severe’ which is none too encouraging.

On the positive front, the readings that I was able to decipher do not appear to be as bad as those quoted in clinical papers that I have studied, although they are by no means very encouraging.

I am also concerned about taking too much daily exercise; I now learn that too much exercise can cause heart failure, as exercise puts the heart under more pressure because of the impaired valve. I also better understand why I was feeling so tired, breathless, feint and generally shitty when I first started to take exercise a few months back. They are all symptoms of aortic stenosis – not just because I was unfit. Anyway, given that most of these symptoms have either reduced or disappeared completely, I think I will continue with my daily walks, but ensure that I do not overdo it, as I have done on a few recent occasions.

 

But, as a medical expert has told me in unequivocal terms, the bottom line is that I need surgery, sooner rather than later. I am going to Bangkok next week, (Wednesday), and try see a specialist at Rajawithi Hospital, a government hospital, which I am told is the number one hospital in Thailand for heart surgery.

 I will have to join the queue and it may take a while to be seen (I may even have to return 2 or 3 times) but eventually I will get to see the consultant who will schedule me for surgery, if he decides that I need it.

This might all take a few weeks, maybe a month or more, but the advantages of going this route are two-fold. As stated, Rajawithi has the best surgeons, provide the best after care and have the lowest mortality rate, and, equally important, it will be a lot cheaper than going to one of the private hospitals.

So wish me luck and I will duly report on progress.

 

“An angel reaching for the sky”

Last year Amy, and this year Whitney…what is it with these singers? They seem to have it all, but in the end they turn out to be mere mortals, like the rest of us imperfect citizens of Planet Earth.

I am sure that there will be millions upon millions of words written in tribute to Whitney over the coming days and weeks and endless speculations – even conspiracy theories – on how she died, why she died and whether it needed to have happened or could it have been prevented.

Even barely two hours after her death, Twitter has already gone viral…

So I will just confine my own uttering to state that for a long period of my life – most of it during my ‘Insurance Years’ in the UK – Whitney was always there, with her incredible voice and her towering ballads that couldn’t fail to move and inspire even the hardest of hearts.

What a God-given talent! What a waste of a beautiful person who I believe still had much to give, despite the ravages of recent years.

My own tribute to Whitney is not a Whitney song, but that hauntingly evocative song which was written by Brian May as a tribute Freddie Mercury, but has since become an anthem for the ‘good who die young.’

 If you have a few minutes to spare , please click on the link below and listen to this incredible song – and for goodness sake, GIVE IT SOME WELLY! …but keep a tissue to hand….

“ONE BY ONE”

One by one

Only the Good die young

They’re only flyin’ too close to the sun

Cryin’ for nothing

Cryin’ for no-one

No-one but you…

R.I.P. Whitney; from one recovering addict, to one who never quite made it.

.

.

.

 

Bits and Bobs

Syria…

I regretfully note that I was spot on when I predicted in a recent blog that the recent Russian and Chinese vetoes at the UN Security council were effectively giving the Syrian regime a ‘licence to kill.’

I believe that history will record that the two-nation veto, used  for unquestionably political and self-serving purposes, was one of the most despicable acts carried out by so-called responsible world states in the past thirty years. The continuing suffering and death to the people of Homs and elsewhere are testament to this gargantuan error of judgement.

 

Thai floods…

I had to chuckle recently when I read that in her Saturday talk show, P.M. Yingluck  admitted that severe flooding may recur and that participation from all related bodies is crucial to ease the situation. She went on to say: “her government will help locals in flood-prone areas to adapt themselves to a new lifestyle, for example, by introducing them to jobs in water-related fields.”

 

The mind boggles…. scenes of the movie ‘Waterworld’, where the entire planet was permanently flooded, immediately spring to mind. Is the lovely Miss Yingluck telling us that these folk will be living in a world perpetually surrounded by water and that they had better get used to it and adapt? It certainly seemed so….

 

A Concert for George…

Thanks to Roger,one of my readers, I learned about this excellent concert that was staged as a tribute to George Harrison at the Albert Hall in London, exactly a year after his untimely death. It has to be one of the truly great live concerts of all time and stars a veritable ‘who’s who’ of great musicians: Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Malcom Abbs, Gary Brooker, Jules Holland, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and so many others.

And what about Joe Brown? Where has he been for the past 40 years? and what a performer! – especially his amazingly emotional closing song, complete with ukulele solo…

 

Not to forget the opening section of Indian music, written by Ravi Shanklar, (plus a small piece by George himself), played by the most extraordinary and wonderful collection of Indian and western musicians and singers. It totally blew my mind away and set me up for the incredible western music concert that followed, featuring George’s own eclectic output of original, wonderful songs.

It is said that the main Beatles song producing partnership of Lennon/McCartney was so good and so prolific that George’s songs rarely made it onto their albums. This may have been true, but when they did, my God, were they ‘good-uns’!

 

‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ with a soaring Clapton solo stands out, but for me, the high point of the night was when Paul McCartney started playing a ‘honky tonk’ version of ‘Something’ on yet another ukulele, (George’s favourite instrument), and after a minute or so, it somehow morphed into the full orchestral version in all its majestic glory – truly one of the greatest love songs ever written… ‘Something in the way she moves’….

 

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I don’t give a hoot…

 

 

 

A Licence to Kill…with Impunity

Mobi-Babble

I’m five days late on my ‘sobriety report’ but better late than never and I’m now pleased to tell you that my period of continuous sobriety now stands at 1 year and 1 month. I think that the longer I remain sober, the stronger I feel about remaining so.

The rainy season seems to have started unseasonably early around the lake and we have been having some horrendous, daily thunderstorms – both locally and in Pattaya – almost every day for the past week.

The dogs hate the thunder, but I love the rain as it waters all trees, flowers and grass and keeps the ambient temperature down to more tolerable levels. I guess it is the ‘storm before the calm’ as we slowly edge towards the hot, dry season in April when everyone will retreat into their air-conditioned rooms to get away from the 40+ degree centigrade afternoon highs.

‘A licence to Kill with impunity’

I guess there’s no particular reason why I should single out the blatant self-seeking hypocrisy on the part of Russia and China with regards to the latest showdown at the United Nations over Syria, as this kind of action is no better than we have come to expect from all nations –both east and west, when they feel their personal interests are in some way being in some compromised.

Yet somehow it sticks in the gullet more than most. Here we have the Arab League no less, unanimous in deploring the daily slaughter that is being perpetrated by the vicious Assad regime and we are told by the UN agencies have that ‘crimes against humanity’ are being committed on a daily basis; but because Russia and China hold strong trading relationships and positions of influence with the Syrian government, they have used their veto and refused to join the condemnation.

Let’s face it, even if the UN security council resolution had been passed, it would have had little or no effect on the crimes being committed in Syria – the imprisonment, torture and massacre of civilians, including women and children – but at least it would have laid down a marker. It would have sent a strong message to the Syrian authorities that they were on their own and that the UN strongly deplored what they were about

But instead of this, Russia and China used their veto on what was a fairly ‘toothless’ resolution, and even tried every diplomatic trick in the book to try and derail the tabling of the resolution, putting their own interests first and refusing to acknowledge that the events in Syria were tantamount to wholesale slaughter; all this because they want to maintain an inside edge in any future dealings with Syria and Assad.

And what have really achieved by this cowardly, self-serving act?  Many are saying they have handed the Assad regime ‘A licence to Kill with impunity’

Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that the USA, UK, and the other western nations are bastions of virtue and haven’t ‘dirtied’ their own diplomatic hands when the occasion has demanded it, but this blatant demonstration of self-interest by the Russians and Chinese in the face of the daily deaths of innocent civilians has got to be a new low, in the world of diplomatic machinations.

Consider this: Even Brazil and Pakistan, who are currently members of the UN Security Council, supported the resolution….

Trouble is a brewing in The Falklands

…and we all know why; for the very same reason as that which seems to dominate so much of the diplomatic tensions throughout the world : OIL.

It’s a bit like having yet another elephant in the room, this time, a large, very black one. Our little skirmish with Argentina, which was settled 30 years ago has suddenly been stirred up again, as soon as the oil companies started oil exploration in the territorial waters around the Falkland Islands.

Argentina, being a nation that has lurched from economic crisis to economic crisis has latched onto the current South American, Chavez–led hostility to the old colonial powers, and have seized their opportunity to raise these Anglo/Argentinian enmities yet again.

A good part of me says: why doesn’t the UK just sit down with the Argentines and come to some kind of compromise settlement, whereby Argentina receives an agreed percentage of the oil revenues and everyone goes home happy. All this constant conflict, with its associated stirring up of old enmities and hatred – to say nothing of the costs of sending expensive aircraft carriers to the other side of the world to defend our territories, would be a thing of the past.

It just seems tome to be somewhat ridiculous for so-called civilised nations in the 21st century to still be fighting over the sovereignty of small parcels of land.

Of course, ‘pigs might fly’.

The Falklands conflict brings to mind the age-old argument about when is a conquering power entitled to lay legitimate claim to a territory? How many years must go by before a ‘de facto’ occupation becomes legal in the eyes of the world?

Maybe the South and North American nations should hand back sovereignty of their nations to the indigenous Indians. Ditto, the Australians to the aborigines, or the New Zealanders to the Maoris, and so on. I mean, none of this ‘new world’ colonialism happened that long ago, in terms of world history.

Then, of course we have the Middle East conflict where the Palestinians rightly claim that the Israelis occupied their home land and threw them out. But then the Israelis can point to much further back in history when they – the Jews  - had previously occupied the area that is present day Israel, for thousands of years.

Who has the better claim?  I think you will find that in general terms it will always be the ‘de facto’ occupier who has legality on his side, provided they have been there for at least a few generations. This is especially so when the local population, who have also lived in a particular territory for many generations, express a desire to belong to the ‘occupying’ nation rather than another, as is the case with Gibraltar, The Channel Islands and the Falklands.

The fact remains that although there are conflicting claims as to which nation first discovered the Falklands, the British first ‘occupied’ the then empty Falkland Islands territory in the seventeenth Century, laid claim to it soon after, and have have had a presence there and governed it continuously since 1833.

Argentina did not even exist as sovereign state during the period that The UK first occupied and populated these islands. Also note that there never did exist an indigenous population on the Falklands. When Britain ‘discovered’ it, it was devoid of all human habitation. Most of today’s Falkland Islands citizenry claim British ancestors, in much the same way as, for example, most Australian citizens do in Australia – but with one notable difference – there was, and still is an indigenous Australian population. (I’m not having a ‘go’ at  the Aussies, just pointing out how ridiculous the whole Argentine claim on the Falklands is…)

Today, The Falklands are a self-governing British Overseas Territory, with the United Kingdom responsible for defence and foreign affairs and the Falkland islanders have reaffirmed over and over again that this is the way they wish to remain.

Consider this: the Falkland Islands are some 250 miles off the South American coast. The British Channel Islands are a mere 14 miles of the coast of France.  Yet you don’t hear the French continually bleating about us handing back ‘their islands’ – and this from a country that detests the English probably more than any other nation, having been at war with us for a majority of the past thousand years, (See last week’s blog).

Why? Because the population of the Channel Islands prefer to be governed by Britain – it’s as simple as that, and the last thing the French want, is to govern a territory where the local population are hostile to the French and their culture and prefer to live a British way of life.

Mind you, as far as I am aware –there is no suggestion of any oil deposits existing in or around the Channel Islands, so there is no question of  ‘black gold’ rearing its ugly head to further harm Anglo/French relations; for if there was, who knows what the Frogs may be saying….

A Miscellany of Reviews.

For my sins, I have had to re-learn a lesson that I should have remembered from a long time ago: that if a movie doesn’t appear to be your ‘cup of tea’, and if it hasn’t had good reviews, then don’t ever dream that you will enjoy watching it.

So, completely forgetting this rule, I watched two films recently that were so bad that I wish I had done something completely different with my valuable time. To be fair to me, the first one did seem to have one or two good reviews – including one by The Daily telegraph, (who is usually quite reliable),even though it wasn’t my kind of movie.

It was the ‘The Inbetweeners the British, teenage ‘coming of age’ comedy which had started life as a hit BBC sitcom and had been transformed into one of the most successful box office British movies of 2011. I read the positive reviews, but still had no particular desire to see it until a good friend of mine told me he had seen it and it was hilarious.

Not being one to reject any genre out of hand, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. As it commenced, I was fully prepared to be entertained and amused by the silly antics of a bunch of testosterone-filled teenage boys on their first trip abroad. Indeed I confess that for the first five minutes, I really thought that this might indeed be the exception that proved the rule.

But unfortunately, an early scene when one of the spotty kids masturbated naked in front of a live sex web cam and was interrupted i9n mid -shoot by his mother and sister with the news that his Granddad had just died, turned out to be the high point of the film.

After that, it was downhill all the way, with barely another mirth–provoking antic throughout the remainder of the dire film to redeem it from being a banal, badly acted, badly-scripted, decidedly unfunny garbage. But maybe I am just a grumpy old sod…

The next film was ‘Hangover 2′, an American offering, which cost probably 100 times more than the ‘In Betweeners’ to make and also did amazingly well at the box office. At least with this movie, I could have no excuse for watching it, as every single review panned it mercilessly; and well should they have done.

For my sins, last year I also watched Hangover 1, which although fairly banal,  did contain some good, original humour and was well acted by the main protagonists. As those who have read about Hangover 2 or have had the misfortune to watch it will know, the sequel simply uses all the gags from the first movie and transplants them to some kind of crazy, make-believe Asian state, occasionally referred to as Thailand, (although the local people are referred to as ‘Asiatics’ not Thai), but which bears no resemblance to any country that I have ever had the misfortune to live in.

Not that this would matter if the film was entertaining; but it isn’t. It is total, unadulterated crap without a single redeeming feature. It is worse – much worse – than the ‘In Betweeners’ and trust me, that’s saying something.

Next time, I will remember my rules and trust my instincts.

Contrast these two pieces of  rubbish, which both made millions for their studios, with some of the excellent – nay, superlative fare  – that can be seen on television these days, and I sometimes wonder why I bother with feature movies at all.

Some time ago I wrote a critical piece about Australian TV dramas, and received a fair amount of flak from my Aussie readers for so doing. Well rightly or wrongly, I stuck to my guns over this view, but I am delighted to report that the Aussies have totally redeemed themselves by making a programme which I can honestly say is one of the finest pieces of TV Drama I have ever seen.

I am referring to ‘The Slap’, an 8 part Aussie mini-series based on the book of the same name.

The series was recently broadcast on Channel four in the UK and is deservedly up for multiple awards. If you haven’t seen it yet and you like your drama to be gritty, thought provoking, edgy and sometimes so realistic it is painful to watch, then go no further than ‘The Slap’.

It follows the lives of several characters who attend an otherwise innocuous 40th birthday party, when one of the guests controversially slaps a four-year old who is misbehaving. The resulting court proceedings blow apart lifelong friendships and family relationships and the ensuing story covers virtually the whole gamut of present day social controversies, including rape, infidelity, substance abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, breast-feeding, cultural ethnicity, interracial marriage and so on.

I am sure my Aussie readers would be familiar with some, if not all, of the actors in this piece, but they were all new to me, and I have to say that the entire ensemble cast – including the kids – acted their socks off, without exception.

I will be picky and offer one criticism. I hated the intermittent comments made by a hidden, unknown, ghostly (ghastly!)narrator. The lines narrated were undoubtedly taken from the novel, where ‘omniscient narration’ can be an acceptable literary device; but in a piece of TV visual drama, it is simply a lazy, very old fashioned cop-out. Everything told to us by this ‘mystery’ narrator, could just have easily been included in the script and acted out by the players.

But I am being picky – good on yer Oz – I take my hat off to you, for a brilliant piece of relevant 21st century drama.

By way of total contrast, I also commend the wonderful HBO series, ‘Treme’, to my readers. I have previous written about Series One, and I can now happily report that Series Two is even better.

Treme is a totally different viewing experience to a drama like ‘The Slap’, although it can be every bit as thought provoking and on occasion it can also work on your deepest emotions. But Treme, first and foremost, is a story of modern day New Orleans, its unbelievable music and the magical characters who inhabit it.

If you love music – from Cajun to blues to bluegrass to ‘bounce’ to every kind of imaginable jazz and God knows what else, then just relax and luxuriate in one of the greatest TV series ever made. It is quite unlike any other drama series you will ever watch, as more often than not, the myriad plots and lives of the inhabitants seem to go nowhere – but it just doesn’t seem to matter.

Because that is the true nature of life, especially in places like New Orleans, where most of the folk are dirt poor, where the crime rate is going through the roof and despite all the earlier promises of aid made to them following the devastation of their city by Hurricane Katrina, they have effectively been deserted by the Federal government,  .

At its core, Treme is about its music and the people who love it and make it – and music is at the heart of this incredible show.

If music is in your soul, then watch ‘Treme’ if you can.

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a hoot…

Our kids don’t read anymore!

11 Months, 7 days, still sober.

Yes, folks, I’m now well into uncharted territory and am edging ever closer to my very first alcohol-free anniversary; an anniversary that I share with no lesser personage than Jesus Christ himself – well near as makes no difference – his birth, my spiritual enlightenment….

If I was still attending AA, I would probably soon qualify for one of their special ‘gongs’, but I guess I will survive well enough without. In fact I believe I will survive a lot better without any input from my good friends at AA. I now know that for me, AA simply does not work, but that doesn’t preclude it working for other alcoholics.

I have been meaning to write about my views on this for some time.  In fact, ever since Thai Visa, in their esteemed wisdom refused to let me express my personal theories on AA in their own forum, I have had it on my agenda to write a small tract in my blog.  No doubt I will get around to it soon.

Mobi Babble

My attempts to sell my car have pretty much ground to a halt during this season of severe floods.

I did have one guy from Bangkok, who seemed seriously interested in buying it, but the floods impacted his plans and he cancelled a trip to come and see it at the last moment. A few weeks later, he re-contacted me and suggested  that if I still hadn’t sold it then maybe I would be prepared to reduce the price. He wasn’t a Thai, for if he was, he would have known that in this country, we never reduce prices, even if we can’t sell something for years – in fact in the case of property, we are more likely to put the price up that reduce it.

My main man in the used car business in Bangkok has advised me that the car market has ground to halt until the country is dry again – nobody is in the mood to buy and sell cars. This will probably be in the New Year and interestingly he has advised me that the luxury-end used  cars, like mine, which are less ‘vulnerable’ to flooding, will probably go up in price .  As I was saying…

Anyway, as time has gone on, I am not even sure if I really want to sell it any more; I am torn between keeping it and continuing to enjoy driving a beautiful machine, or selling it and having fun with something a bit different. Either way, I am not too bothered and I am certainly not so desperate that I will drastically reduce the price. I’ll just let matters take their course and see how things go.

Since my return from the UK back in September, the furthest I have ventured from Pattaya has been to Chon Buri to have my car serviced. I cancelled a trip to Hua Hin in November, partly because of the floods, and partly because I was hoping for a quick sale of my car.

But now things are getting back to normal and I have given up the idea of a quick sale, I have decided to spend a couple of nights in Bangkok, where I will see my cardiac and diabetes specialists and do a bit of shopping , after which, I will drive on up to Nong Khai with Noo for three nights.

It is almost a year since we have been up there and I know she is missing her family; it will also be a nice break for me – it’s good to get away every now and then – even at my advanced age – and ‘re-charge the batteries’, as they say.

I confess I haven’t been too well as of late and am getting quite worried about it. I cannot shake off the chest pains I get when I go for my afternoon stroll and I now find that my blood pressure is alarmingly high, despite the mountain of blood pressure reducing and heart slowing drugs that I take, so I better have my cardiologist check me over.

I haven’t seen her for more than two years so it is way overdue. I am concerned that I may need a procedure which will be very costly – money that I can ill afford, but there’s no point bumbling along blindly in the dark. I better find out the worst and then consider my options.

Will those crazy, hazy, nonsense days of EU bureaucrats ever end?

Some time ago I wrote a piece about some of the ridiculous laws and regulations that have been enacted through the years by unelected officials in Brussels.

(see: HERE )

So in these days of imminent collapse of the Euro and increasing talk about Britain taking back some of its previously surrendered sovereignty, is there a glimmer of hope on the horizon that one day soon we will finally rid ourselves once and for all from all from these ghastly, European self- seeking, power-hungry, business-stifling pencil pushers?

In the past we have suffered from EU bureaucrats dictating that only cucumbers which are ‘practically straight’, ( i.e. those which had a gradient of no more than 1 in 10), can be legally sold, and  that ‘bendy’ bananas, knobbly carrots and other misshapen fruit and vegetables are forever banned from the food shelves of Britain.

We have long since suffered from rules which prohibit fresh food products being sold in British markets by pounds and ounces, (perpetrators being subject to jail sentences), and more recently, the EU decreed that food could only be sold by weight and never by quantity; hence it was no longer legal to sell eggs or even bread rolls by the dozen or half dozen.

Then, last year, we had the most baffling edict of all – the ruling that a swede can be called a ‘turnip’, provided it is in a Cornish pasty!!!

That incomprehensible ruling must have taken some beating, but we can always rely on the twisted and perversely- cunning minds of these nameless officials to come up with something even more perplexing.

Yes, my friends, can you believe that last week the EU outdid itself and ruled that bottled water manufacturers could no longer advertise their product as helping to prevent dehydration. Why? Apparently, because of a lack of scientific evidence. The ruling is based on the premise that if, for example, a person was suffering from severe diarrhoea, then drinking water would not necessarily cure them of dehydration.

I ask you…..

Now I hold no brief for bottled water manufactures, as most, if not all of whom, make ridiculous profits on a largely superfluous product, the contents of which, can be obtained free from any water tap in most EU countries. (Not so, I hasten to add in Thailand).

But don’t you think that in these days of global financial meltdown and so many unsolvable world conflicts, that these highly paid civil servants of the EU could spend their time doing something a little more constructive than pedantically nit-pick on the earth-shattering issue of whether or not drinking water can alleviate dehydration?

The Arab Spring and Western Hypocrisy.

I have written quite a lot on this subject this over the past few months, which included supporting the NATO led action in Libya and also, in particular, trying to bring attention the brutal repression that has been going on in Bahrain.

I have also decried the equally brutal suppression that was taking place in Syria, long before the world finally accepted that it could no longer stand by and keep their mouths shut, which is what most of them would dearly like to do.

There is still very little world reaction to the unbelievable crimes that were and still are being committed in Bahrain, and now, to cap it all, the world is totally and utterly lip-tied on the repression that is currently going on in Saudi Arabia.

A recent 73 page report, published last week by Amnesty International, has accused Saudi Arabia of reacting to the Arab Spring by launching a wave of repression. In their report, the human rights group said hundreds of people had been arrested, many of them without charge or trial.

Prominent reformists had been given long sentences following trials that Amnesty described as “grossly unfair”. So far, unrest has largely been confined to the Shia minority in the east of the country.

The report comes a little more than a week after clashes in the eastern region of Qatif left four people dead. Shia Muslims in the area have complained for years of economic discrimination and religious persecution, and were angered by the harsh suppression of Shia protesters in neighbouring Bahrain earlier this year. (Saudi troops entered Bahrain to assist the authorities there, without a word of protest from anyone in the west.).

Amnesty accuses the Saudi authorities of arresting hundreds of people for demanding political and social reforms or for calling for the release of relatives detained without charge or trial. The abusive practices being employed by the Saudi Arabian government are worryingly similar to those which they have long used against people accused of terrorist offences.”

The report says that since February, when sporadic demonstrations began – in defiance of a permanent national ban on protests – the Saudi government has carried out a crackdown that has included the arrest of mainly Shia Muslims in the restive Eastern Province.

Last week 16 men, including nine prominent reformists, were given sentences ranging from five to 30 years in prison. Amnesty said they were blindfolded and handcuffed during their trial, while their lawyer was not allowed to enter the court for the first three sessions.

“Peaceful protesters and supporters of political reform in the country have been targeted for arrest in an attempt to stamp out the kinds of call for reform that have echoed across the region,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.

“While the arguments used to justify this wide-ranging crackdown may be different, the abusive practices being employed by the Saudi Arabian government are worryingly similar to those which they have long used against people accused of terrorist offences,” he said.

Amnesty says that the government continues to detain thousands of people on terrorism-related grounds. “Torture and other ill-treatment in detention are widespread”, it says; an allegation Saudi Arabia has always denied.

Amnesty says the government has drafted an anti-terror law that would effectively criminalise dissent as a “terrorist crime” and allow extended detention without charge or trial.

Questioning the integrity of the king would carry a minimum prison sentence of 10 years, according to Amnesty. The four who died in Qatif last week were killed when security forces opened fire using live ammunition, an indication that tensions in the predominantly Shia Eastern Province continue to escalate.

A Shia activist said at least one of those killed was unarmed when he was shot dead at a checkpoint for failing to stop. The others died the following day as protests erupted at his funeral, he said.

So why does the world continue to remain silent?  I don’t really have to tell you – it’s a three letter word that begins with the letter ‘O’

Our kids no longer read books

It was reported the other day that almost 4 million children in the UK do not own a single book, and to put this in perspective, that is one in three of our kids under the age of 16.

Now this isn’t because the UK is third world country and parents cannot afford to buy books for its kids. On the contrary, as the country has become richer, the number of child book owners has become fewer, down from one in ten kids only seven years ago to one in three today.

In fact, I would wager that if the UK was a third world country then then a higher percentage of our kids would probably own books. They would have far greater incentive to better themselves and get themselves out of their lives of poverty.

Personally, I cannot conceive of a childhood which didn’t include owning and reading books.

I know it’s a big jump from ‘non- book owning kids’ to the recent riots, but at the time of the riots, I was struck over and over again by the youths’ claims that they did it because they were bored. At a time of unrivalled prosperity, notwithstanding the current economic problems, when kids have so much to keep them amused, I found it absolutely astonishing that they committed these unspeakably selfish and anti-social crimes because they were bored.

So maybe the intellectual stimulation derived from watching semi pornographic pop videos, gratuitously violent films and playing even more gratuitously violent video games, isn’t sufficient to keep our kids from becoming bored out of their tiny minds?

I cannot ever recall being bored when reading books by my favourite authors.

I also wonder whether the mere act of reading books may contribute positively to the development of a child’s knowledge and understanding of the world and people around them; and would therefore hold them in good stead when faced with a choice of  either taking part in mindless looting or doing something constructive and meaningful with their lives.

I actually don’t blame the kids – and not even their parents. As a nation we seem to have lost our way in how to educate and raise our offspring. For me, it all started in the late sixties, when the ‘bleeding heart’ labour-left hijacked the once greatly admired British education system and ruined it for generations to come.

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I don’t give a hoot!…

Whither Syria? Whither Greece? Whither Scotland? Whither cheats?

Nine months, 5 days, still sober.

 

Mobi-Babble

In the end I skipped the weekend edition of my blog and I am now back on track with my mid-week effort.

So what’s been going on the Mobi household?

Hmmm. My memory’s not what it sued to be – must be mad cow’s disease rearing its ugly head again.

Let’s see now…last Thursday morning I drove to Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha) on Pratumak hill to collect Noo and her friend from their three days of ascetic nun-hood at the ancient Wat. They seemed delighted to see me and as soon as we got home they stuffed themselves silly with food and then fell fast asleep!

It would seem they hadn’t had a great deal of sleep during their sojourn as nuns, what with gossiping half the night away and then rising before dawn to perform their menial duties like sweeping and cleaning around the Big Buddha statues and shrines.

Anyway, when they woke, they assured me that they had enjoyed the experience and felt much uplifted in spirit…. I suggested to Noo that she might feel even more uplifted if she made a start on the mountain of washing up waiting for her in the kitchen.

I know, I’m an s.o.b…

Saturday was rugby day, so I decided to have a nice breakfast in the Pussy Cat where I watched the Frogs being humiliated by Tonga, before joining  Rick and a few others in the Church where we all watched the England /Scotland game.

You will have to read my little piece on ‘sport cheats’ below to find out who I supported and why.

During the course of the game, I had a bit of a falling out with Rick and haven’t seen him since, although I will probably catch up with him sometime today. It was silly really and as I know he reads this blog I will not dwell on the details, only to say that such occasional ‘fallings out’ are probably inevitable amongst head-strong, grumpy old men…. (‘speak for yourself’ , says Rick..)

On Sunday, I was due to drive to the airport in the late afternoon to pick up my friend Bob, who was scheduled to fly in for a visit from Cambodia, but I received an sms at the last moment to inform me that his trip was postponed for a week. I then assumed that I would have Monday free to catch up on my blog, but in the event, Bob changed his plans again and took a cab into Pattaya in the small hours of Monday morning and held up at some flea pit of a room in Pattaya Tai.

So on Monday morning I had to pick him up and he has spent the past 2 days with me, so this is partly but not wholly, the reason why I have failed to write a blog.

I am pleased  to report that I have been behaving myself over the past week, no weak moments, no straying into places of ill repute, and on most days, I have taken my 40 minute walk around the lake with Noo and the dogs.

Whither Syria?

We seem to be living in an era when the world is forever swinging from one major crisis to another, be it economic collapse, flood, famine, hurricanes, cyclones,  earthquakes, nuclear meltdown, endless wars, and last but not least, the brutal repression of uprisings in the Middle East against despotic, oppressive, Arab regimes.

You would have thought that at a time when the world appears to be increasingly in ‘uncharted territory’, that at least the so-called mature and responsible world states that constitute the only organisation that the world recognises as having any kind of international legal authority – namely the United Nations Security Committee – would have the wisdom, the far sight and indeed  the plain common sense to adjudge what is just and right  in this increasingly  troubled world of ours.

You would have thought that the weak and oppressed would be able to rely on these ‘elder states’ to make the right and proper decisions’  to protect and support the basic  human rights of  ordinary citizens.

Yesterday, Russia and China joined forces to veto a European-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution which condemned Syria and which  hinted that it could face sanctions if its bloody crackdown on protesters continues.

The decision by Moscow and Beijing to use their veto power indicated that the Security Council might be headed for a longer-term deadlock on issues related to the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the “Arab Spring” pro-democracy movements in the region.

The draft resolution received nine votes in favour and four abstentions from Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa. Russia and China cast the only votes against the resolution, which was drafted by France with the cooperation of Britain, Germany and Portugal.

“We cannot today doubt the meaning of this veto of this text,” the French U.N. Ambassador told the 15-nation council. “This is not a matter of wording. It is a political choice. It is a refusal of all resolutions of the council against Syria.”

“This veto will not stop us,” he added. “No veto can give carte blanche to the Syrian authorities.”

The United Nations says Syrian military operations against demonstrators have killed at least 2,700 civilians.

The U.S. Ambassador said Washington was “outraged” by what diplomats said was a “double veto” by Moscow and Beijing, adding that the time had long past for the Security Council to adopt “tough targeted sanctions” on Damascus.

“The crisis in Syria will stay before the Security Council and we will not rest until this council rises to meet its responsibilities,” she said.

The British Ambassador said that he, too, was “deeply disappointed” by the rejection of the resolution.

Regarding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s promises of reforms, he said: “There is no sign of reform or a genuine attempt to address the concerns of the Syrian population.”

He later read a joint statement by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, telling reporters “those who blocked this resolution will have that on their conscience,” and that it was a “bitter blow” to those fighting for democracy in Syria.

The Russian Ambassador told the council that Moscow’s veto reflected “a conflict of political approaches” between Russia and the European council members.

He said that Moscow was firmly opposed to the threat of sanctions against Damascus, adding that what he described as the confrontational approach of the European delegations was “against the peaceful settlement of the crisis.”

He reiterated his concerns that passing the European resolution on Syria could have opened the door to a Libya-style military intervention in the Syrian authorities’ six-month crackdown on anti-government demonstrations there.

He added, however, that Moscow would prefer it if Syria was “quicker with implementing the promised changes.”

The Chinese Ambassador said that Beijing opposed the idea of “interference in (Syria’s) internal affairs.”

For months, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – the “BRICS” countries  – have criticized the United States and European council members for allegedly allowing NATO to overstep its Security Council mandate to protect civilians in Libya.

The failed resolution was a watered-down version of previous drafts that had threatened Syria with sanctions if it ignored international demands that it halt its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Later drafts removed the word sanctions, though this was not enough to satisfy Russia and China.

Although the USA voted for the draft resolution, Washington was unhappy with the extent of the compromises the Europeans had made in an attempt to satisfy the BRICS, diplomats said.

So the question is: why did Russia and China veto what was actually a very weak, almost ineffectual resolution which was unlikely to have much effect on what the Syrian government was up to; except to make it very clear to them that in the eyes of the world, their behaviour was to be utterly condemned?

The answers are twofold. Firstly, the two vetoing states are very unhappy with the situation in Libya where they completely miss-read the situation and failed to contribute to efforts to oust Gaddafi, with the result that the European and American powers are now firm friends with the new Libyan regime and the Russians and Chinese may be frozen out.

They do not wish a similar situation to occur in Syria, so the veto is a blatant, cynical political ploy to try and protect their own relations and interests with the criminal Syrian regime. The welfare of millions of ordinary Syrians citizens, some of whom are being beaten, tortured and killed on the streets every day is of no concern to them.

In their judgement, it is none of their business, even though they are de facto guardians of world order by virtue of their permanent seats on the UN Security Council. They are not acting in the interests of the international community; they are acting purely and selfishly for themselves.

Then we come to the second reason why they are so reluctant to condemn despotic repressive regimes. The simple truth is that the whole spirit of the ‘Arab Spring’ is an anathema to them. It sends a cold chill through their authoritarian hearts, as both Russia – and in particular China – have much to fear from their own people if they ever decided to rise up against human rights and democratic abuses within their own borders.

Whither Greece?

Greece is virtually a failed state. They have been living beyond their means for decades and have run up massive debts that they have no hope of repaying. Their only hope of survival as a nation is to dramatically cut their spending and go through a period – probably many years – of severe austerity.

If they do not do this, they will run out of money and the means to survive. We can spend the next year debating about what has caused this mess, and the reasons are many; from the idiotic decision by the EU to bring countries like Greece into the Euro, to everyone’s favourite  country that predicated the current world financial crisis in the first place – our beloved US of A with its venal, bonus hungry bankers and their sub- prime mortgage scandal that was exported to virtually every corner of the world.

But right now, this simply isn’t the point.

WE ARE WHERE WE ARE!!!

You can string up every banker in the world and watch them die miserable, painful deaths, but it isn’t going to change anything.

So what do the good Greek folk do? Why, bless my soul and  tickle my booze-addled liver,  they do something very intelligent. They organise yet another 24 hour general strike in protest against the country’s austerity measures.

Schools will be closed, ferry services and flights cancelled and hospitals will be working with reduced staff. Some militant civil servants are promising to sabotage government reforms.

And just what do they expect to achieve by this action?

Maybe the Greeks have a word for it….

Whither Scotland?

While we are on the subject of national economies, I have been fascinated to observe the head of steam which has been fast gaining momentum in Scotland to move rapidly towards total independence from England.

Being a true-blue Englishman, nothing would please me more than to give our Scottish neighbours the old heave-ho and rebuild Hadrian’s Wall to keep out the marauding, kilted mac-hoards, with Sean Connery and Mel Mac-Gibson at the helm.

There is little doubt that within a couple of decades, they will be desperate to return to the bosom of their Sassenach betters, with their glengarries and empty sporrans in hand, begging us to take them back again.

Why would they do that? You may ask. Well the simple answer is that if the Scots became an independent nation it wouldn’t take many years before they would become as bust as Iceland.

For the moment, let’s take leave of the real world and assume that the Scottish banking crisis never happened. Could Scotland feasibly go it alone? The bottom line is, not without taking a huge hit to living standards and/or public services.

During the election campaign, the Scottish Labour Party attempted to cost the Scottish Nationalist Party’s  goal of quitting the UK and came to the conclusion that without major spending cuts and or tax increases, there would be an on-going structural budget deficit of £14bn a year, equal to around £2,600 per head of population.

Bang goes free university tuition and bang goes free prescriptions. And bang goes an awful lot more to boot.

Ah, but the Scots have North Sea oil, you say. Well yes, but the Labour Party calculation is after taking into account £4bn a year in North Sea tax revenues. Depending on where the line in the sea is drawn, it might be a bit higher than that, but unless you include fields which are unmistakably in English waters, it’s not going to close the deficit.

It’s a hoots mon and an Och Aye to that…. and… so sorry about the rugby…..

Sporting Cheats

We are living in a world where cheating in sport is completely acceptable, unless you get caught.

Even then, as a rule, not much happens to the cheats. It’s a bit like fiddling your tax. As long as you don’t get caught, cheating the tax man is considered by most as fair game.

But first and foremost sport is a game? Or is it? Not really, not any more. First and foremost it is a business, and a distant second – or maybe – third – it constitutes a game.

Cheating in professional football (soccer) has been rife for many years. There is simply too much money at stake and players, coaches and managers alike have been actively involved in twisting the rules any way they can dream up – and get away with – to gain an advantage.

And what happens when someone gets caught cheating? There is such an indignant outcry of innocence from the accused party or parties that the average football punter could be forgiven for thinking they were living in a parallel universe.

We have also seen all manner of cheating in that so-English, so-polite and gentlemanly of all sports – cricket. Ball gouging, rubbing sand into the ball (once perpetrated by a well-known English cricket captain) and providing inside information and throwing matches for gambling syndicates has been going on for as long as I can remember.

Then we have the drug cheats in countless sports, but in particular in athletics, including, I am quite sure, many household names who have never been caught. There is even a growing school of thought that drug taking in sports such as athletics should be allowed, as it is so difficult to detect every new drug that is  introduced into the sports market.

The only reason this idea doesn’t gain even more traction is because it is thought it would disadvantage the competitors from the poorer countries who wouldn’t be able to buy the latest hi-tech drugs.

But there is no mention of the stark fact that drug enhanced performances is cheating – just that the poorer folk might not be able to cheat on an equal footing.

I could go on and on about cheating in modern  day sports, but let’s jump quickly into the ‘sport of the moment’ – rugby – given that the world cup is currently in progress.

I recall a rugby cheating incident a few years back when there was furore over the use of ‘fake blood’ by certain players to persuade the referee to allow them to have a temporary ‘blood replacement player’ come on at a crucial point in the game where the introduction of such a player with specific skills would be to the advantage of the cheating team. (The rules state that any player who is bleeding from a wound during the game should go off and be temporarily substituted until such time as the wound has been treated and the bleeding has  stopped).

That was then, so what cheating took place last week?

The Rugby Football Union suspended two of England’s coaches before the Pool B decider against Scotland last Saturday.

Kicking coach Dave Alred and fitness specialist Paul Stridgeon were found to have illegally switched balls during England’s 67-3 win over Romania.

Jonny Wilkinson twice tried to change balls before converting England tries!!!!

“It’s unfortunate that we have had to take this action but ultimately there was a breach of the laws of the game,” said England manager Martin Johnson.

“But it’s happened, some action has been taken and we have to move on.”

The pair were banned from entering Eden Park, the venue for the Scotland game, following an internal RFU review of the incident.

The RFU fully accepts that the action of those team management members was incorrect and detrimental to the image of the tournament, the game and to English rugby

A  spokesman had earlier confirmed that England were warned at half-time in the win over Romania about attempting to use a different ball to the one used to score a try for the subsequent conversion attempts.

“It happened twice and they were told to desist, which they did,” he added.

The RFU said it had decided to suspend Alred and Stridgeon because switching balls during a match contravened “both the laws of the game and the spirit of the game”.

It concluded: “The RFU fully accepts that the action of those team management members was incorrect and detrimental to the image of the tournament, the game and to English rugby.”

World Cup organisers welcomed the “decisive and timely” move and said no further punishment would be handed out.

WTF!!!

Your humble blogger was so outraged by this pathetic and unnecessary and deliberate cheating in a game which claims to be above such underhand practices, that despite my antipathy towards my northern neighbours, I actually supported the Scots while watching the subsequent clash between the two sides.

I was quite distraught when they lost…..

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a hoot!..