Why Stevenage is the final frontier in space technology | James Delingpole

August 31, 2009

It’s so tantalisingly close, this strange octagonal aluminium box with its shimmery array of circuitry. I see wires coated in silver, connectors of gold, and parts so delicate that even in this temperature-and humidity-controlled, dust-free environment they have to be protected with pink translucent plastic bags.

In two years’ time, this box – the inside of a satellite – will be blasted four times further out into space than any human has ever been.

That’s why I’m so desperate to touch it. Imagine: to have the tiniest trace of your presence on an object a million miles from earth. It’s an urge almost too powerful to resist. It’s the buzz of the rare, the exotic and the strictly forbidden. Which aren’t qualities you’d most immediately associate with an anonymous industrial estate in Stevenage.

The rocket and fuel tanks of the Lisa Pathfinder satellite

The rocket and fuel tanks of the Lisa Pathfinder satellite, which will be launched in 2011 and pave the way for new scientific experiments on gravitational wave detection and black holes

EADS Astrium is the third biggest space company in the world (after Boeing and Lockheed Martin), and space technology is not something Britain is merely good at; there are some areas where we’re the best. We’re at the forefront of robotics, which is why our autonomous rover, due to take off for Mars in 2016, is going to enable us to explore the planet more thoroughly than any mission so far.

And in the field of satellite manufacture, we are peerless. Not only are the models we build more sophisticated than anyone else’s – three are being constructed to measure for the first time the ‘gravitational waves’ predicted by Einstein and we’re even planning to send one to the Sun – but they’re also more reliable, which is why they’re so in demand by the telecommunications industry.

This reliability is something in which Astrium’s highly committed, multinational work force take enormous pride. I discover this after confessing my terrible tactile urge to my guide.

‘I’m really glad you didn’t because they would have torn you to pieces,’ he says. ‘If one tiny bit of grease or dust or hair were to get into some vital part, it could be catastrophic. You can’t repair a satellite up in space. Once it’s broken, that’s it. Millions of pounds down the pan.’

Pathfinder under construction

The pathfinder under construction

There are six main types of satellite, classified according to their mission: scientific research, weather, communications, navigation, Earth observation and military. Many of these are made in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, by EADS Astrium. The construction of these satellites is part of a growing space industry, currently worth at least £7 billion a year and supporting 70,000 jobs worldwide, 1,200 at Astrium itself.

‘We live in a world of instancy, and it’s satellites that provide it,’ says Bob Graham, Astrium’s head of engineering. ‘They’re what large City banks use to transfer money quickly and securely; they’ve improved our weather-gathering data in the past decade by 25 per cent; they supply the information for our sat-navs; they’re the reason soldiers in deep valleys in Afghanistan can call for air supplies and air strikes; they’re what give us instant news gathering; they’re used for disaster monitoring; they give us our satellite TV and mobile-phone communication; they’ll soon be providing broadband from space to all those places like India and Africa where there are insufficient fibre-optic cables.’

(to read more, click here)

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Oasis Are Vulgar, Over-Hyped, Under-Talented and the Face of Yob Britain

Summer is nearly over and so too are our holidays. But joyously and unexpectedly, one final chink of bright sunshine has appeared on the horizon to drive away our back-to-school blues: Oasis, the most overrated band in the history of British music, have finally done the decent thing and split.

This isn’t just another desperate publicity stunt designed to boost what little interest there is left in their ailing brand. At least let’s hope not.

This time, according to the band’s chief songwriter, Noel Gallagher, it’s official and it’s permanent.

Prime Minister Tony Blair held a reception at No.10 Downing Street among the guests at the party were Oasis star Noel Gallagher

Fool Britannia: Prime Minister Tony Blair meets new celebrity friend Noel Gallagher at 10 Downing Street in 1997

‘It’s with some sadness and great relief I have to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer,’ he announced in a heartfelt statement on Friday, with which many of us could identify. Well, the ‘great relief’ part, at any rate.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum, the Romans said. Only say good things about the dead. But in the case of the late and unlamented Oasis, I’m afraid I find it almost impossible. Bad enough that their music was so ludicrously over-hyped and often shockingly derivative; far worse though, were the values Oasis represented.

A vulgar, meretricious phenomenon which owed far more to marketing and spin than genuine talent, led by two feuding egotists with barely an original idea in their bones but with a rare skill at artful repackaging, Oasis were the perfect musical counterpart to the New Labour project.

In Downing Street, we had Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; on the pop stage, the battling Gallagher brothers Liam and Noel; both pairs the very embodiment of style over substance.

Noel Gallagher of Oasis

Quit: Noel Gallagher left Oasis because he can’t work ‘a day longer’ with his brother Liam

What’s remarkable is just how long it took the world to rumble them. I remember in 1994, during that first rush of Oasis hype, feeling rather like the boy in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Was I really the only music journalist in the world, I wondered, who had noticed how murky and bombastic and dull these supposed Great White Hopes of British rock sounded on their first album?

The album was called Definitely Maybe and was biked to me by their publicist with the breathless promise that these lairy Mancunians, recently signed by Alan McGee to his achingly hip Creation Records, were ‘hotter than a hot thing on a hot day.’

‘Hmm,’ I thought after my initial disappointment. ‘Maybe they’ll sound better live.’ So I made a point of catching their first appearance at a major festival, when they played a late afternoon slot on the second stage at Glastonbury.

MANY people who weren’t actually there said that this event was history in the making. As someone who was there, I can assure you it was the mother of all anticlimaxes. But save for the small gaggle of in-the-know hipsters dancing enthusiastically at the front, the audience was so underwhelmed by Oasis’s sludgy, lacklustre performance that it didn’t even bother to get up off the grass.

Sure Oasis grew a lot more professional. I’ve no doubt that there were moments when their gigs  –  fuelled by the tension between the Gallagher brothers  – could be truly electrifying.

Nor would I ever suggest that they weren’t capable of the odd toetapping tune. Though I’m still not at all convinced by that busker’s perennial Wonderwall  –  a dirgey, (very) poor man’s Let It Be, if you ask me  –  there were definitely occasions in the late Nineties where you’d hear a song like Champagne Supernova come on the radio and you’d think: ‘This is all right.’

But the main reason you would think: ‘This is all right’, unfortunately, is that it sounded so comfortingly familiar. Liam Gallagher’s sneering, back-of-the-throat vocal delivery was  –  as he was never ashamed to admit  –  a homage to John Lennon’s.

Oasis band members Liam Gallagher, Alan White, Gem Archer and Andy Bellleave their Hotel and go to the Airport

The band: Liam Gallagher, Alan White, Gem Archer and Andy Bellleave head to the airport. They were due to play at the Paris’ Rock Festival in Seine but pulled out last minute

The lush string arrangements were exactly the sort of thing George Martin had devised 30 years earlier for The Beatles. And when Noel wasn’t being inspired by the back catalogue of Lennon and McCartney for his melodies, he was looking to a host of lesser artistes instead.

Among the more obvious influences identified by author John Harris on Oasis’s second album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory were Gary Glitter’s Hello, Hello I’m Back Again and the theme tune to the Seventies children’s programme You And Me.

Another mooted song sounded so similar to Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” it had to be removed shortly before release under threat of legal action.

The standard artistic counter is that ‘talent borrows, genius steals’. Maybe so. And perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered nearly so much if Oasis had been treated merely as a rather upmarket Beatles tribute act with a Manchester flavour and a comical tendency for the two main players to break out in fights mid-set.

What’s so galling, however, is that for most of their career they were taken so much more seriously than that. They won multiple Brit Awards; their records were slavered over by critics with five-star reviews; (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? remains the third biggest-selling album in UK chart history after Queen’s Greatest Hits and The Beatles’s Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Looking back at Oasis from our post-credit-crunch perspective, it’s hard not to pose the same question one asks so often about the New Labour era: How on earth did so many of us manage to get so royally taken in?

Like the collected works of Damien Hirst, like cheap city breaks every other weekend by easyJet, like wanton-consumption of champagne and cocaine (as ‘normal as having a cup of tea’ Noel famously claimed), Oasis belong to an age where the whole world seemed to have lost all perspective and judgment.

One in which it didn’t even matter whether you were any good at what you did, just so long as you had sufficient front and attitude  –  ie swore a lot, walked with a swagger and repeatedly told everyone how fab you were  –  that was all you needed to carry you through.

(to read more, click here)

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Any Questions | James Delingpole

August 23, 2009

Click here to listen to James on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions. Also on the panel are Jonathan Porritt, Kate Mosse and Mark Stephens. Chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby. (22/08/09)

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  4. Any Questions? Yeah. Why is British broadcasting so incorrigibly liberal-left?

 

Any Questions? Yeah. Why is British broadcasting so incorrigibly liberal-left? | James Delingpole

August 22nd, 2009

Tonight I shall be appearing on BBC’s Radio 4’s Any Questions. This, I should explain for the benefit of non-British readers, is about the closest thing we have over here to an Arena of Cruelty now that bear-baiting, public executions and feeding Christians to lions have all been banned.

Me. Any Questions. Tonight. Middle Wallop, Hants.

With Any Questions – as on its TV equivalent Question Time, and indeed on any current affairs programme conducted by the incorrigibly liberal-left BBC – the chief victim is always the same: whichever member of the panel of politicians, media commentators and celebrities who comes across as the most right wing.

This is why, when Conservative MPs appear on these programmes they often sound so disappointingly limp. I remember one ghastly Any Questions episode when a Tory MP started backtracking wildly after initially daring to suggest that perhaps council tenants are less inclined to take care of their properties than home owners. This is a self-evident truth. A total no-brainer. Of course ownership makes you more likely to take care of something because financial interest and pride will compel you to do so. But the Tory MP – I forget his name: luckily for the craven berk! – went into squirmsome denial mode as soon as a Labour MP on the panel affected umbrage at this outrageous slur on the famed character and decency of the council tenant class.

Having done Any Questions a couple of times myself, now, I know exactly why these Conservative cowardy-custards behave as they do. No one likes being jeered at and booed by an Any Questions or Question Time audience; everyone likes being clapped. And the problem with Any Questions and Question Time audiences is that you’ll almost never get a clap if you suggest any of the following: Anthropogenic Global Warming is an expensive con; the Israelis are not evil, murdering bastards; the NHS isn’t perfect; we can’t afford unlimited immigration; Islamism represents a major cultural threat to British life, not just a physical one; the European superstate is one massive socialist conspiracy to boss us around and bleed us all dry…. To name but a few.

Perhaps I’ll get a slightly better night tonight in Middle Wallop than I did in the slow-motion train-wreck that was my first Any Questions a few years back in Hay On Wye’s literary festival, where I was all but beaten to death with rolled up copies of the Independent and the Guardian. I chose Middle Wallop because, being on the edge of Hampshire and near Wiltshire, in country where I have sometimes gone foxhunting, and where there are numerous retired colonels and military bases, it’s ever so slightly less likely to have an audience stuffed with rabid pinkos.

But you’re never really safe with the BBC. (An organisation for which, in a weird, masochistic way, I have a powerful love: even for quintessentially lefty programmes like Today). I quite believe them when they say their studio audiences are not pre-selected in any way on political grounds. It may just be one of those facts of life that while left-liberal types are drawn to spending their Friday nights in theatres, town halls (or in tonight’s case The Museum of Army Flying) listening to people like me burbling on about current affairs, conservative types prefer to play bridge, or watch TV, or snort cocaine from silver trays balanced on the heads of dwarves.

I can’t say it makes it any less nerve-wracking, though, going on to these shows and knowing that your job, as the token right-winger on the panel, is to be eaten alive by the studio audience. It’s one of those few occasions in my life where I wish could be the kind of tiresome, faux-lovable lefties that will always get an easy ride on these programmes. Tony Benn, say. Even, heaven forfend, Michael Moore.

3 Responses to “Any Questions? Yeah. Why is British broadcasting so incorrigibly liberal-left?”

  1. enterpriseiain says:August 22, 2009 at 12:41 pmThere is a simple answer to why British broadcasting is,apparently ,incorrigibly left wing-it is to provide employment for columnists.
    A columnist is an individual that does nothing and achieves nothing.In order to function they have to take a view that is perceived as iconoclastic.This kind of individual was skewered beautifully by Alan Bennett in “The History Boys”. There is no real thinking,there is no real analysis, there is simply bombast and distortion.
    Be greateful for the BBC James it gives you a platform,it gives you money-or do you refuse to accept payment,but above all it gives you legitimacy.
    I am not fooled however.If I had a list of your achievements I might be prepared to listen but sadly I cannot find them.You are a columnist and commentator and like all others of your ilk enjoy hovering about the dung.
  2. David says:August 23, 2009 at 1:50 amNobody can possibly take Pot-Porrit and the BBC seriously after listening to that debate. The Honourable Baronet is the most insufferably smug, misinformed, misinforming scaremonger, and the very fact that he immediately descended to cheap slurs and name-calling rather than engage in reasoned debate perfectly illustrates the povert of intellect prevalent amongst the Left.The most disgraceful thing about this particular broadcast, though, was the utter lack of impartiality shown by Dimbleby. It has long been a matter of fact that the BBC utterly fails to uphold its charter’s commitment to impartiality in broadcasting; anyone denying this need only listen to the segment of this programme where you are commenting on AGW and are cut off in the middle of a sentence, whereas the other three panellists are given free rein to spout their ridiculous, unintelligent and frankly incorrect views.Please do keep on appearing on these programmes, though. The audience’s reaction to your comments throughout, showed that no matter how hard the BBC try to edit their output to portray anyone with Right-wing views as a Nazi or a lunatic, the majority of people have now realised just how biased they are and will not be so easily taken in by “Auntie” any more.
  3. the man from UNCLE says:August 23, 2009 at 9:00 amYet another reason why I refuse to pay the telly tax. The BBC would have to reform wither and die without its continual extortion of money from the public. John Woss and assorted ‘talent’ as well as the ‘impartial news’ department can all whistle for my money.

What is it that greens like Jonathan Porritt so LOATHE about nature? | James Delingpole

August 22, 2009

What is it that greens like Jonathan Porritt so LOATHE about nature?

For some time now, I have been struck by a strange paradox about the more radical members of the green movement: if they love nature so much, how come they expend so much energy trying to destroy it?

I’m thinking, for example, of their championing of biofuels – a disastrous idea which not only helped starve the poor by causing a massive hike in global food prices but which has also led to still further devastation of their beloved rainforests. And also of the windfarms with which they plan to carpet the British landscape, in theory to save it from an apocalyptic future envisioned by their highly suspect computer models, in practice to render it ugly and unnatural and damaged almost beyond rescue.

The Hon. Sir Jonathon Espie Porritt, 2nd Baronet – he proposes a two-children limit on families

Or listen to Any Questions and hear it for yourself in the visceral hatred, contempt and shrill self-righteousness in the voice of ecology campaigner Sir Jonathan Porritt (Bart.) as he pours scorn on my suggestion that the Severn Barrage project will cause massive environmental damage to the bird-rich mud flats of the Severn Estuary (not to mention killing off one of Britain’s quirkier national phenomena, the mini-tidal-wave-like Severn Bore).

The £20 billion project, if it ever happens, will produce the same amount of energy as one nuclear power station – but at about eight times the cost. Porritt, naturally, is a huge fan – and seems to have little regard for the unfortunate environmental side-effects.

“Wonderful that James is such an ardent defender of the mud flats. At last he’s found a cause worth defending,” sneers Porritt doing his bravura impersonation of Alan Rickman’s oleaginously evil Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies.

Elsewhere in the programme, Porritt calls me a “flat earther” and shrieks “Lies. All lies” when I make several perfectly truthful and valid statements questioning the so-called scientific “consensus” regarding Anthropogenic Global Warming. Needless to say, he makes no attempt to answer when I put to him that if, as Al Gore claims in An Inconvenient Truth global warming increases inexorably with higher CO2 emissions then how come, when CO2 emissions have continued to rise in the last 12 years global temperatures have actually fallen. Displaying the grandeur and pomposity you might imagine an-Old-Etonian-baronet turned eco-freak progressive would have striven a little harder to mask, Porritt carries on as if anyone who disagrees with him is scum quite beneath his contempt.

I’d never met Porritt before. I found his zealotry genuinely frightening, not least because – except when the mask slips, as I think it did on occasion during the programme, enabling listeners to make up their own minds as to what a piece of work this man is – he speaks his apocalyptic (and often scientifically dubious) views in a voice of such persuasive, modulated reasonableness. Worse still, he has the ear of our future King.

I didn’t mention this during the programme, because I thought things were already getting pretty mucky, but I do think there’s something a bit scary about a man who publicly advocates, in all seriousness, that couples should limit themselves to having two children only in order to save Mother Gaia from the deleterious influence of loathsome mankind. I come from a large happy family. I  love my little bro and my two little sisters. If we followed Porritt’s fascistic strictures, they wouldn’t now exist.

Was the programme quite as biased towards the liberal-left as I predicted in yesterday’s blog? Well to be fair to Jonathan Dimbleby I believe he tries as hard as he possibly can to be neutral. (As neutral as a man can be when he’s such a believer in AGW that he’s erecting a wind turbine in his Devon garden, much to the fury of some of his neighbours). The audience at beautiful Middle Wallop’s magnificent Museum Of Army Flying (highly recommended, especially for its Arnhem dioramas with Horsa gliders, and Gallipoli, a six-pounder that was actually used in the battle) were generous and pleasant. But I can’t pretend it wasn’t an uphill struggle being the only libertarian right-wing “AGW denier” against a panel of three liberal-lefties.

Even my nice neighbour, novelist Kate Mosse, who was supposed to be at best neutral came out on the deep green leftie side with possibly the most ludicrously stupid remark of the evening. If we put up with electric pylons, she said, we should put up with wind turbines too. And actually, she thought, the windfarms in South West France where she has her second home look rather pretty.

Yes Kate, and I’d bet they’d look even prettier with a makeover by Cath Kidston. Why on earth didn’t we think of this before?

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If the NHS is ‘fair’, give me unfairness any day

Men without piles

Did I ever tell you about the time the National Health Service relieved me of my piles? It’s a painful story — and for many of you, no doubt, already far, far more information than you want. But I do think it goes a long way towards explaining our ongoing Eloi-like subservience to the great, slobbering, brutish NHS Morlock which we so rose-tintedly delude ourselves is still the ‘Envy of the World’.

Look, if you don’t want to read about piles (‘’roids’ if you’re American), I should skip on a few pars. The key thing to recognise is that from tiny beginnings, they mutate into an all-consuming misery. Enjoying a night in front of the TV? Yeah, but the piles! Having a relaxing bath? Yeah, but the piles! Fancy going riding? Eek! You can see why Napoleon — a fellow sufferer — felt compelled to conquer half the world. Anything to distract yourself from what’s going on down below.

So naturally when a surgeon relieves you of the buggers, you feel exceedingly grateful. I remember coming round after my op in my overstretched local hospital — King’s in south London — two or three years back, and thinking the thought that occurs to all British citizens at some time or another: ‘Gawd bless you NHS! You have saved my sorry arse!’

One reason for my gratitude was that the treatment was free. Gosh, I love being given expensive things for free, don’t you? I like it so much I think I’d almost rather be poor and get lots of free stuff than I would be rich and be able to afford anything I wanted. Free stuff — thanks, lovely Dan from Mongoose cricket bats — feels like a gift from God; proof that life isn’t quite as sucky and thankless and horribly unfair as you imagine.

Another reason for my gratitude was that I wasn’t dead. You do half expect it when you go into an NHS ward. You think, ‘Well if they don’t get my records mixed up with that of a patient marked “Incurable. Please put this man out of his misery now” (or, worse: “Penidectomy”), then I’m almost certain to contract MRSA, as virtually everyone does in NHS hospitals these days, and spend the whole of the rest of my life in a living death.’ (Not that I knew at the time I hadn’t got MRSA. I just took a lucky guess.)

And I suppose the final reason for my gratitude — as with my near drowning experience a fortnight ago — was the pure experience value. Lying in the beds either side of me were people you never get to share such intimate experiences with in the normal course of sheltered, middle-class life: people from the kind of families who mug you or knife you in a pub fight, only wearing their kindly, sympathetic human face because they’re ill in hospital and you’re ill in hospital and it’s all very bonding.

I think I might just have given you the three main reasons why so many British people are so infatuated with their beloved NHS: it’s free; it quite often cures you; it treats everyone equally. But does any of these put the NHS beyond criticism? I should say not, and let’s deal with them one by one.

(to read more, click here)

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Redfaced Greenpeace insists ‘we didn’t make it up’ – we just ’emotionalised the issue’ | James Delingpole

August 21, 2009

Here is a deliciously watchable video of Gerd Leipold, the leader of Greenpeace, squirming like a stuck pig under cross-examination by the BBC’s Stephen Sackur when accused of putting out scaremongering misinformation. (Hat Tips: Not Evil Just Wrong and Watts Up With That)

In a July 15 press release entitled “Urgent Action Needed As Arctic Ice Melts”, Greenpeace shrieked that there will be an ice-free arctic by 2030 thanks to global warming. Interviewing Leipold on the BBC’s Hardtalk programme, Sackur pooh-poohs this risible claim by pointing out that the Greenland ice sheet is a mass of 1.6 million square kilometres with a depth in the middle of 3 kilometres; and that it had survived much warmer periods than the present. He accuses Leipold of “misleading information” and using “exaggeration and alarmism”.

After initially trying to brazen it out, Leipold is forced to surrender when Sackur tells him he’s just come back from the Greenland ice shelf so he knows whereof he speaks.

“I don’t think it will be melting by 2030,” Leipold reluctantly concedes. “That may have been a mistake.”

But it’s OK for Greenpeace to make these, ahem, “mistakes” Leipold suggests because “We as a pressure group have to emotionalise issues and we’re not ashamed of emotionalising issues.” Phew. So, absolutely no need to apologise then, for fomenting the kind of nonsense which nudges political leaders into making costly, wrongheaded decisions, which damage the global economy, which hurt consumers, and which divert scarce resources from areas where they are most needed.

Later in the interview, Leipold recovers his poise sufficiently to demand that US and the rest of the world – as I’d probably put it if I were adopting the techniques of a Greenpeace press release writer – bomb their economies back to the dark ages, return their populations to mud huts and restore the barter system.

“We will definitely have to move to a different concept of growth … The lifestyle of the rich in the world is not a sustainable model,” Leipold said. “If you take the lifestyle, its cost on the environment, and you multiply it with the billions of people and an increasing world population, you come up with numbers which are truly scary.”

I really can’t decide which is more enjoyable here. The humiliation of Greenpeace’s worrying lack of scruples when promoting the “Anthropogenic Global Warming” myth. Or the sterling performance – and by a man in the pay of the BBC, for heaven’s sake – of Stephen Sackur in exposing it.

I do definitely know one thing though. Stephen Sackur is most definitely this blog’s official Hero Of The Week.

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Charlie Brooker on Hannan: not even close to being funny | James Delingpole

August 19, 2009

Charlie Brooker’s columns are so funny and brilliantly written they actually make you want to buy the Guardian. As a media satirist, he is second to few – right up there with Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris. When he mocked me mercilessly in print about a documentary on the Upper Class I made a few years back, I considered it the most tremendous honour.

Why is he so great? Well apart from his gloriously surreal analogies, his no-holds-barred fearlessness, his mastery of Swiftian invective and his cruelly brilliant sense of humour, he’s someone who really knows his stuff. When he has ago at TV and media culture, he does so from the position of someone who understands what makes good art and why quality is something we should always be striving for. (He did a fantastic TV essay once on Clangers and Noggin The Nog creator Oliver Postgate, so moving it made me want to weep). Which is why he can be so entertainingly harsh on anything that falls short of his exacting standards.

Here, though, he is on TV this week offering his considered view on Dan Hannan and the NHS. (Hat Tip: David S Taylor and Tory Outcast)

“Dan Hannan is a boggle-eyed, slap-headed, unpleasant, revolting, heartless, ****-brained, attention-grabbing, foetid excuse for a prick.”

Normally the joy of Brooker is that whatever he says, you think: “That’s so true.” But in this case it just isn’t. Or funny. And I’m really not saying that because I’m a friend of Dan’s. (There’s probably even a schadenfreude part of me which quite enjoys seeing the overexposed baldie being given his comeuppance) (xxxxDan). I’m saying it because, judging Brooker by his own high standards, it’s lame, totally uninsightful, woefully unamusing. And because, worst of all, it evinces exactly the kind of intellectually lazy, identikit-left, student-bar, group-think which Brooker is normally so quick to condemn and mock.

God how I would like to see Brooker satirizing his own performance here. By the end he’d feel so awful he’d never dare show his face on screen again.

 

Why are we still feeding our soldiers into the Taliban mincing machine? | James Delingpole

19th August 2009

The type of warfare all soldiers most loathe and fear is the type where you can’t shoot back. Every “Tom” relishes a firefight. It’s why he (or she) joined up. What takes its toll – as it did in Vietnam, and is now doing in Afghanistan – is the nerve-shredding anxiety of going out day after day on patrol knowing with near-certainty that somewhere on your route is the IED which is going to kill or maim you or one of your mates.

Talk to any politician who supports our Afghan engagement, and they’re quite likely to confide privately that the relatively small few deaths our military has suffered in Helmand is an acceptable price to pay for its front line role in the war on terror. I disagree. Sure the number of soldiers killed so far is quite small (we lost twice as many for example in the Fifties Cyprus “Emergency”) but what should concern us at least as much is the figure the MOD won’t give us: how many soldiers are being blinded, or losing arms or legs (sometimes both), or being otherwise maimed. The blessing of modern medical technology is also its curse: so long as they get to you in time, the military’s doctors can now enable you to survive the sort of wounds that given the choice you might not want to survive.

Why are we still feeding our soldiers into this Afghan mincing machine? I don’t mean “Why are we there?” – that’s a separate debate. I mean why are we adopting a strategy which seems to require tactics absolutely 100 per cent guaranteed to ensure that month after month (perhaps less in winter, when the fighting season stops) we get soldier after soldier coming back from Afghanistan, either in a coffin or crippled for life?

Reading the background to each new fatality is like experiencing Groundhog Day. Time and again it’s the same story: soldiers patrolling on a limited number of fixed (and easily recognised) patrol routes – “mowing the lawn” as it’s known – are either ambushed by the Taliban or blown up by one of several IEDs. During the evacuation of the casualty, another IED – cunningly placed for just this eventuality – takes out the rescue team. Carnage.

To lose one or two soldiers in this way might be considered unfortunate. But when you repeat the same mistake again and again, the phrase “Lions led by Donkeys”  comes to mind. And also “lambs to the slaughter.”

Don’t ask me what our exact strategy should be in Afghanistan. I don’t know. But whatever it is, as Richard North’s superb Defence of The Realm blog never tires of pointing out – simply cannot be one which requires our men on the ground to sacrifice their lives so unnecessarily. Obviously, we need more helicopters (to avoid the mined roads), more IED resistant vehicles (MRAPs) and as Gen Sir Richard Dannatt says today, more comprehensive surveillance. We also need many more men: a Coalition force level of at least 500,000 reckons an experienced former senior officer of my acquaintance.

What we most need, though, is understanding from our political leaders (less Brown, perhaps, who is beyond redemption, but at least from the coming Tory government) that this Afghan engagement is not something which can be brought to any even vaguely successful conclusion through half-measures.

Lt Col William Pender (rtd) nailed the problem exactly when he wrote to the Telegraph earlier this week:

The fundamental question, both for the Government and for Nato (if it is to remain a meaningful alliance), is whether defeat of the Taliban and establishment of a stable, long-term democracy in Afghanistan really is a vital interest.

If it is vital, then since national security is the prime duty of any government, whatever it takes in manpower – but primarily willpower – from all Nato member nations, must be allocated to fulfilling this aim. If this means putting economies on a war footing – fine.

If, on the other hand, these aims are merely desirable rather than vital – and with governments led by politicians with no personal military experience, and more concerned with interest rates, credit crunches and unemployment – why, let them say so. Then the nations that contribute combat troops can resign themselves to long-term attrition of their soldiers committed to an unwinnable war.

Or as one of the Toms sweltering out in Helmand might more succinctly put it: “Either **** or get off the pot.”

Related posts:

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  3. Ron Paul is right. Military adventurism is a luxury we can no longer afford
  4. The lesson of Arnhem and Afghanistan: heroism is no substitute for strategy

 

No. 6 in Total Politics Media Blogs? Moi???

To my enormous surprise I’ve been voted number six most popular journalist blogger by the Total Politics website. Blimey! I thought to do well in these things you had to send round-robins to everyone on your internet mailing list urging them to vote – which I didn’t – so I can honestly say I’m gobsmacked. And delighted. And very proud to be part of such a winning team.

I think I’m right in saying (and I’m not going to double check in case it turns out not to be true) that we Telegraph bloggers had more names in the top 40 then any other organ. Leading us is the mighty Ben Brogan (number 2, only beaten by the excellent Spectator Coffee House), with boy Ed West fast up the rails at 24, the doughty Gerald Warner at 27, Bruno Waterfield at 31 and Ambrose Evans Pritchard at 39. My theory as to why this might be so? Because we’re all so ****ing sound, that’s why.

Anyway, thank you to those out of 1500 voters who nominated us. You have brightened my day and suddenly made it seem all worthwhile. Now all we need to do is change the government, change the country, change the world. Then we’ll be sorted.

Related posts:

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