Thursday, March 26, 2015

Russell Brand voted the world's fourth most important thinker  This  is NOT an April Fool 'Joke':

The Telegraph has run an Article on the fact that a certain Russell Brand has been voted the world's fourth most important thinker by Prospect an apparently respectable Intellectual magazine!
Having triple checked it was not April Fools day and because I hadn't time deciding that having a lie down in a darkened room was not an option I read the article again (wasting more of my free views over a total Dill Brain) and found that the top three were:
1.Thomas Piketty, French economist.
2. Yanis Varoufakis, Greek finance minister.
3. Naomi Klein, Canadian author.
Then:
4. The Arrogant, Self Centred, Loud Mouthed, Dill Brain (NO not me, R. Brand)
5. Paul Krugman, US economist.
6. Arundhati Roy, Indian writer and activist.
7. Jurgen Habermas, German philosopher.
8. Daniel Kahneman, US-Israeli psychologist.
9. John Gray, UK philosopher.
10. Atul Gawande, US surgeon and writer. 


Applying even the word Thinker to Russell Brand is an oxymoron, to put him the same list as any of the above is an insult to them and sadly proves that; He who shouts a lot about issues he has only a vague, passing knowledge of, is considered a Great Thinker and Intellectual, proves that the Human Race is in devolution, not continuing evolution.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thought for the Day: The Life Form Species known as the Chain Email.

Chain Emails, by whoever and where ever they are spawned, develop a life of their own often evolving as they pass through recipients and countries,

 Some start by making a valid point, or give a useful warning, but many perpetrate a hoax (e.g. Israeli Spy Satellite records Shuttle Explosion), or are used to incite Fear Uncertainty and Doubt,

Evolution of the mail can be as simple as changing a Name and/or location of the incident, or problem; it can add Pictures, or if Pictures already included, adds, or changes them (often to update an aged mail). The more sophisticated evolutions involve using the original as a template and then redrafting to provide complete localisation. I suppose these should be view as Children of the Original Parent Mail.
It was inevitable that some Chain Mails would migrate into the newer environment of Social Media, some unchanged, others actually being started within Facebook etc.

 Sites such as Hoax Slayer:www.hoax-slayer.com/ or Snopes www.snopes.com/
attempt to track and investigate these Chain Mails and now Social Media Posts, but hey are always going to be 'behind the curve', not only due the sheer volume of mails, but also due to 'Hibernation', where a Chain disappears, only to resurface 5, or more years later. . Despite this, Hoax Slayer and Snopes provide a useful way of checking on the accuracy and provenance ,of these Chain Mails and Posts,

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

David Cameron:  Jobless teenagers must carry out community work to get benefits:

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks exclusively to the Daily Telegraph in an interview aboard a train to Southampton on January 26th, 2015

The ITIM Viewpoint:

There are other Schemes which have, or are attempting to get Young People into employment by using unpaid work to retain their benefits, Community Work Programme, Mandatory Work Activity, and Work Experience (I could go on about the Work Programme and Mandatory Training, but life is too short)
All were conceptually good, all suffer, or suffered from poor oversight (by DWP and in some cases JobCentre having to meet a target, rather than the right placement(), poor management (by Third Party Providers), in the case of Work Experience, some really benefited, but placement with a good employer who takes the programme seriously is a lottery as many don't and like those on other programmes end up even more disenchanted than before.
Making a good 'Sound Bite Statement' without learning what was wrong with other Programmes and then structuring a new one around the existing Community Work Programme without careful planning, oversight and allowing JobCentre staff some flexibility in placement, rather than hitting targets, so the Individual Benefits is pointless.
Actually this is not anti-Conservative party as such, Labour had some good ideas, when in Power, Good ideas were what they were best at, actually implementing then, well I think they were actually worse then the coalition.
What is really needed is cross Party co-operation, leading to a consensus and a properly structured Community and Business Programme involving Business, Charities and Providers and DWP, Job Centre oversight with real muscle to ensure the Programme functions correctly.

Links:

Yahoo carrying the Sky News Video and Article

The Telegraph Article
 


Thought for the day:

As most of you are aware I tend to view Politicians with a great deal of cynicism. In effect 'Guilty until you have proved to me that you believe in what you say and are doing is in the National/Community/Local Interest and not self interest,
This acid test has been failed by so many at all levels in my past, that it was a surprise how many (all parties) up to MP levels have passed in the area where I now live,.
This made me ponder how many National Politicians I actually still respected, or perhaps should re-evaluate more objectively as in some case many decades have passed. I am not going to bore you with a list, but the result is that for over half, I totally, or at least mainly disagreed with their views and the policies they supported. So in these cases ,my respect was for their integrity and belief that what they wanted, or were actually doing was right! Respect, does not make me forgive them for the mess they made when they had power and influence, but then the ones I never respected made an even bigger mess,,, Hmm!,.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Very Sombre Thoughts for Today:

There is always Armed Conflict going on somewhere in the World, there are always tensions between Nations, or Faiths, Every now and then( (anything between 20 and 50 years) the number and mix of Conflicts combined with Tensions become not isolated local (if tragic) problems but form volatile mix that endangers World peace.

In the recent past some of these potential disasters have been 'dampened down, either by resolving the tensions, or by the then Superpowers 'waving the big stick'.
Today things are not so easy and whilst the lessons of History give us fair warning, simply drawing parallels is not always the correct approach, especially when the mi of 'players' has changed so much over the last few decades.

Some of those in play have not changed, Russia under a strong, confident Leader, Japan with very deep concerns over threats, both local (North Korea and China) and in the supply chain of resources it lacks, but are vital to its needs.
The Middle East and parts of North Africa in turmoil and Europe facing, like Japan, threats to its supply chain (Gas, Oil) and internal strife with rise of Extreme Islamism and serious economic tensions, both actual and potential.

Meanwhile Afghanistan has not gone away, then tensions between India and Pakistan have been, and remain constant, therefore tend to be ignored most of the time, are rising as both side increase their defence and acquire ever more sophisticated weapons, The situation in Nigeria, is not anything like the civil war, but has echoes of events in the Congo many decades ago, Then the UN intervened and put a 'lid on the problem', Nigeria should be able to resolve this without outside help, but its performance so far indicates it lacks the ability to do so. This may mean they pull out of any Peace Keeping role to bring more efficient units to deal with Boko Haram, which like ISIS is using Islam as a 'cover' for its actions and is extending its reach outside Nigeria.,

So yes there are parallels between today ad the early 1930's in some areas especially for Britain, just coming (very slowly) out of recession and cutting the Armed Forces to the bone, The internal threats may have changed to Islam Extremist with a smidgen of Provisional IRA, but in addition to the Supply Chain problem there is the potential of another Falklands War, the need to confront ISIS on its home ground. .Also the immigration issue, in part because many immigrants have not, and actually have no intention of integrating, their loyalty being to their ethic homeland not to Britain..

This extremely dangerous mix of Conflict and Tensions leading to wide spread further conflict needs a Political consensus among NATO Nations (possibly having to ignore Turkey) and at home in the UK, the Party Political games are distracting our Political Leaders from the vital need to take action in the National Interest, not in pathetic self interest.

ITIM

The Idle Man is back:

After an absence of 3 Years and nearly 8 Months, the Idle Man is back. Although Posts will be erratic both in terms of subject and number of posts per month (nothing new on both counts), I am back on seat as far as this blog goes.,

Friday, May 20, 2011

Report by the NAO on MOD Armoured Vehicle Procurement

The National Audit Office (NAO) has produced a report (20th May 2011) on The Cost Effective Delivery of Armoured Vehicle Capability. The NAO press release although couched in unemotional language, is damning of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) standard procurement process for Armoured Vehicles.
This is the key part of the Press Release dealing with the Standard Procurement Process:

The suspension and cancellation of a number of key armoured vehicle projects since the 1998 defence review has resulted in the Armed Forces facing a significant shortage in the principal armoured vehicles they require, until at least 2024-2025.

Today's National Audit Office report found that the Department's standard acquisition process has been undermined by a combination of over-ambitious requirements and unstable financial planning. Despite the commitment of considerable resources, since 1998, the MOD has received only a fraction of the armoured vehicles it has set out to buy through its standard acquisition process.

The Department's reluctance to compromise in setting technologically demanding requirements under its standard acquisition process has put the timely and cost-effective delivery of the equipment at risk. Unwieldy procurement processes have not coped well with rapid changes to equipment requirements in the light of operational experience, resulting in a number of armoured vehicle projects being delayed or abandoned.

Armoured Vehicle projects have also suffered from unstable budgets and continual changes to financial plans. As the NAO reported in its Strategic Financial Management of the Defence Budget report, the cycle of unrealistic planning followed by cost overruns has led to a need to find additional short-term savings on a regular basis. Spending to date includes £321 million on cancelled or suspended projects and a further £397 million funding on-going, but delayed, projects. Without significant additional investment sustained over time, the Department will have a shortfall in the armoured vehicles it says it needs until at least 2024-2025.


I am reminded of some of the comments and conclusions of the Review of Acquisition for the Secretary of State for Defence by Bernard Gray on the 15th October 2009 - For those without the time to read through the near 300 Page report should check out some of the other links on the MOD - Review of Acquisition Page.

Returning to the new NAO Report, it does have some 'nicer' things to say about the MOD's handling of Urgent Operational Requirements:

To address shortfalls in equipment for current operations, such as in Afghanistan, the Department has placed greater reliance on the Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) since 2003, at an additional cost of £2.8 billion. This has been more successful and has significantly improved protection levels for UK forces against today's threats. The UOR process is not a sustainable substitute for the standard acquisition process. While some UOR vehicles may be taken into the core fleet, the Department does not expect these vehicles to offer a long-term solution to its armoured vehicle needs.

The 'more successful' phrase might, I feel be disputed, certainly Richard North when he was covering the UOR purchases in his Defence of the Realm Blog would probably disagree. My view is the rash of 'panic' buying by the MOD did eventually meet operational requirements, but the process was expensive in both in British Casualties and Financially enormous.

The Government's initial reaction to the report was given by Defence Equipment minister Peter Luff a Career Politician with no Defence Experience prior to him appointment as a minister, who said:
"The report highlighted serious flaws in the process left by the previous Labour government.We are absolutely committed to a funded and realistic defence equipment programme to ensure our Armed Forces are properly equipped and taxpayers get value for money," he said. "Given the disastrous state of the department's finances we inherited, this change will take time."

Whilst it is true that the previous Labour Government on Defence Policy in general and Defence Procurement in particular was very poor, the same can be said of all previous Governments, Conservative, or Labour going back as far as the 1960's.
When this is coupled with the culture that exists in the MOD, also stretching back into the 1960's it is surprising the British Armed Services ever get the right equipment, almost never on time and never at the budgeted cost.

Sadly this NAO Report after the initial Media furore dies down and some temporary discomfort for some Officials in the MOD, being asked difficult questions, will like other Similar Reports be quietly ignored.

NAO The Cost Effective Delivery of Armoured Vehicle Capability Report Links:
Press Release
Full Report -
The Cost Effective Delivery of Armoured Vehicle Capability -  PDF (730kb)
Executive Summary

Media Reaction to the Report:

BBC-Armed forces 'face vehicle shortages until 2025'
Guardian -Auditor attacks chaos in equipping British troops
Independent -Afghan war 'to leave UK short of armour'
Mail Online -MoD 'cost lives' by wasting £718m on vehicles never builtMirror -Troops 'face shortage of vehicles'
Reuters -Army faces armoured vehicles shortage - watchdog
Sky News -UK Forces' Vehicle Shortage 'Costs Millions'

Specialist Media:
Defence Viewpoints - NAO slams UK armoured vehicle procurement

Related Posts in this Blog:
Cormorant Communications System - Lame Duck in a War Zone
Lost Before It Started - A Defence of the Realm Series
Nimrod exposes contempt for Armed Forces

Monday, May 09, 2011

Celebrities, The Media , Privacy, Rumour and the fallout.

Once confined to a certain type of Publication, all areas of the media now have an insatiable need for, and an addiction to Celebrity news, gossip, or rumour. A need so great, that in some cases they appear to have made someone a Celebrity, just so they can report on them.

A large number of celebrities have used this insatiable need, to form a symbiotic relationship with the Media to enhance, extend, or rejuvenate their careers and in some cases made considerable money from doing so.

The result is that in the eyes of the Media, a Celebrity regardless of whether they actively court the media, or not, does not have the right to separate their private and public lives, if it sells Newspapers, Magazines, or fills a broadcast News slot.

Every action has a reaction and the result is a law designed to protect Children and other Special Cases against being named in the Media, is being used to protect rich Celebrities from having their indiscretions revealed. As usual a Law drafted by Lawyers, has been perverted by Lawyers to enrich themselves and as a by product, protect their clients.

Unless the a criminal law is being broken (or in the case of Politicians, National security compromised), I have little or no interest in the indiscretions of those in Public Life, but the effect of, what I see as the misuse of the Super Injunction did irritate me.

My irritation was increased as in some of these cases there is an element of; 'It's the rich wot gets the pleasure. It's the poor wot gets the blame', where the Celebrity's privacy is protected, but the other person involved is not. As they are not rich enough to obtain their own Super Injunction, the media focus on them. So they are 'named and shamed' but the Celebrity remains hidden behind a legal screen.

What has finally pushed my irritation level to the point of writing this has been how, in the absence of facts about who is protected, malicious rumours and gossip, over Social Networks and Blogs,( on servers outside UK Jurisdiction) have gained a following at the expense of People who have not obtained an injunction and apparently having nothing to hide, but have been forced to use both the Mainstream Media and the same Social Networks that falsely named them, to defend themselves.

The law can do nothing to protect those falsely accused and ironically can also do nothing if someone who is protected by a Super Injunction is named!
So a law that was passed for good reasons, but since perverted by Lawyers, has now due social networks and blogs outside British Jurisdiction, not only being subverted, but has resulted in people being falsely accused of using it. My late Father used to say the Law is an Ass, but I suspect he would, if still alive replace I s with an r and append an e.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The death of Osama Bin Laden, but not of al-Qaeda

Due the evolution of the al-Qaeda, the death of Osama Bin Laden although hugely symbolic and a psychological shock, especially to the 'terminally deluded' who actually carry out atrocities, is not, sadly the death knell of the al-Qaeda.

This is due to al-Qaeda having evolved into initially a 'franchise' and now with the exception of the core group, more into a purely a brand name, used by groups loosely affiliated, rather than being directed by central a strategy. Even the al-Qaeda ideology package has been modified by these groups to suit local circumstances and due to rise of sectarian difference, the 'value' of the al-Qaeda brand has also declined with certain Groups distancing themselves from their al-Qaeda connections. What has not changed is that across the board these groups ideology is still the same mixture of hate, corrupted religious beliefs coupled with a nihilistic agenda (What I find strange and frankly worrying is that so many otherwise intelligent people can believe in an ideology that would have been considered extreme even in the 12th AD).

The remaining senior members of what formed the core of al-Qaeda have in relative terms, only a small number of terrorists under their direct control but still have influence, albeit declining, with some affiliates This does not mean this core group isn't still extremely dangerous. Although none of them has the profile, or charisma to replace Bin Laden, they are to some extent revered in their own right and it would make the world a better place if they could join their leader in hell as soon as possible..

It is almost certain that all groups using the al-Qaeda Brand and even those that due recent differences have distanced themselves from their al-Qaeda inspired roots will attempt revenge attacks. Indeed some have already announced their intention to do so. Whilst any successful attack will cause death, suffering and grief, what concerns me most is those groups who have learned the lessons of careful planning, have the money and human resources to attempt revenge on a single major attack on a high profile target and to whom 'revenge is a dish best eaten cold' makes sense.

However what may, or may not happen in the following days and weeks, the World is a better place for the death of this evil man and I can only commend the Intelligence operation and subsequent US Special Forces action that resulted in his death. It is already apparent that this took years of hard and often frustrating Intelligence work and I suspect at times carried out at high risk by individual agents, culminating a 40 minute fire fight as US Navy SEALS attacked the Compound. Whatever recognition the US gives those involved the rest of us should also give them our thanks and congratulations on a job well done.