Friday, 11 April 2014
I am so glad that I am not in Brussels this week. George is up on the glacier taking ski lessons - he does not ski, so much as hurtle. He does not do that going from side to side thing as he heads down the slopes, he just heads straight down at top speed, and finds sticks cumbersome.
I don't like skiing, I am not all that keen on snow anymore, to be honest. It is nice to look at, but you wouldn't want it in your boots. And so I am spending my time walking in the Tyrolean mountains, and very nice it is too.
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
|With Norman Tebbit at the House of Lords, 2002|
"There's always the possibility that a member of the Real IRA will be so outraged by Mr McGuinness bowing to the Queen that they might shoot him in the back for it. We can but hope."
Lord Tebbit has received quite some criticism today for this comment. Let me just put on record my absolute support for him. No qualifications. No justification. Absolute support for this great Englishman.
I remember meeting with him in the House of Lords, where I was interviewing him for an ex-services newspaper. A nicer, and more gentle man you could never meet.
We are both ex-RAF, and I was delighted to learn that he had flown the Gloster Javelin. I had done some ground training on the Javelin, a beautiful looking aircraft, but with an alarming tendency to burst into flames around the undercarriage legs on engine start-up. Hence the big asbestos gloves we were given...
Totally unnecessary training, as the Javelin was taken out of service many years before my time, but like God, the Royal Air Force moves in mysterious ways.
But I digress....
Norman Tebbitt has very strong thoughts about the cowardly scum that came close to murdering him in cold blood, and who inflicted grievous injuries on his beloved wife. I understand, and share, his thoughts.
Monday, 7 April 2014
I referred in my last post to a comment from a journalist about Nigel Farage "tossing off" on the Kremlin sponsored 'news' channel RT.
How interesting it was to see, following his most recent debate with Nick Clegg, the following report on RT.
On the day when 'pro-Russian' forces tear down the Ukrainian flag in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, I think my point is now well made - useful idiot indeed!
With Putin taking us to the brink in possibly the biggest crisis since Cuba in 1962, perhaps it is time to bring back Defence Regulation 18B?
Incidentally, for the benefit of the swivel-eyed loons, Ukraine has never applied for EU membership. The EU has never offered Ukraine membership.
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
|With Former President Viktor Yushchenko|
Nobody is in any doubt as to who pulled Yanukovych's strings. The Kremlin is very adept at pulling strings.
But to the surprise of many, a new apologist for Russia has emerged. And it all began during the LBC debate between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg.
The Kremlin is hostile to the concept of renewable energy.
The Kremlin's Trojan Horses in the EU oppose individually and collectively any proposal on energy policy - unbundling, for example - as they are opposed to any common energy policy.
The Kremlin did not want either the proposed constitution or the Lisbon Treaty.
It was the Kremlin that first issued the infamous statement saying that "The EU has blood on its hands".
And Nigel Farage's policies are....? The first three are justifiable, of course, from the UKIP perspective, but the last one?
A Brussels journalist recently commented to me that Farage can be seen "tossing off on RT most weeks". RT, a Kremlin backed media platform has shown its true colours during the recent crisis, leading to at least two presenters criticising the station's policy live on air. Some amongst us are old enough to remember Наши кино - 'our cinema' - a Soviet era propaganda tv channel (actually, the last time I was in Belarus, it was still broadcasting there!) RT has become the modern equivilent of this, and will interview any western politician who will be critical to camera of his or her own country. ("Useful idiots" was the phrase that Stalin used.)
Farage says that he "respects" Putin. "The way he played the whole Syria thing. Brilliant." he is reported as saying. Putin has, of course, been choreographing events in Syria for some time, as Russia seeks to pursue a Middle East policy symmetrical to that of the US. Bashar Al-Assad has been pleased to host a strong Russian presence in Syria, as this limits the military options potentially available to Israel. This is the regime, of course, that used chemical weapons against its own civilian population. Putin's intervention following the atrocity was to suggest that actually the regime was not to blame, but that 'rebels' may have been responsible.
On July 5th 2006, the Russian State Duma passed a law - actually a set of amendments to existing legislation - known as 153-FZ. I won't bore you all with the details, but one passage leapt out at me straight away. "The special assignment units of the Federal Security Service bodies may be used, by a decision of the of President of the Russian Federation, against the terrorists and (or) their bases located beyong the territory of the Russian Federation, in order to destroy a threat to the security of the Russian Federation." Within 153-FZ 'extremists' are considered to be 'terrorists'. The definition of such people is broadened within the legislation to include anybody making "libellous statements" about the president or his regime. Note the words "may be used, by a decision of the of President..."
In November 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a British citizen, was murdered in London. The British authorities have stated they have sufficient evidence to secure the conviction of Andrei Lugovoi, a former officer of the KGB's 9th Directorate. This was the organisation tasked with protecting senior government officials. Note again the words "may be used, by a decision of the of President..."
This is the man whose foreign policy Nigel Farage admires so much. This surprises me very much, based on my knowledge of him, and on conversations I may have had with him in the past.
But interestingly, it is not just the UKIP leader who is spouting pro-Kremlin rhetoric. Russia has been courting the western far-right, and parties such as Jobbick and Golden Dawn are increasingly going in the same direction. Marine Le Pen is also no stranger to Moscow - her party wants the replace NATO and the EU with a group of independent nations - including Russia! Putin is using the far-right now in exactly the way his Soviet predecessors used the far-left. To justify his actions, and to support his intentions.
Incidentally, I happen to agree with the argument that says that the EU's approach to Ukraine is flawed, and has been since 2004. The failure of the Orange Revolution came about for a number of reasons, but whereas Putin feared being rembered as the man who lost Ukraine, that title instead went to Barosso. Now we see the results. But it is for the Ukrainian people to decide, through democratic means, their future. Western Ukrainians see themselves as European, and they now seek to assert that identity. However, in the context of the early 21st century, and with the demise of the Westphalian Order, it is hard to see how that desire can be fulfilled at this time other than by EU membership. Of course the EU will welcome them with open arms, but I think a little caution on all sides might be wise here.
Friday, 28 March 2014
"Former Alabama Senator Jeremiah Denton, who survived 7½ years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and alerted the U.S. military to conditions there when he blinked the word "torture" in Morse code during a television interview, has died. He was 89 years of age.
Denton's grandson, Edward Denton, says he died about 8 a.m. Friday at a hospice facility surrounded by family. Edward Denton says his grandfather had been in declining health for the past year and died from heart problems.
Denton, a Republican who served a single term in the U.S. Senate, was a strong advocate of conservative causes and backer of the Reagan administration. But the iron will that served him in such good stead in captivity gave rise to criticism that he was too rigid as a politician."
I remember as a very young child seeing those terrible images from the Vietnam War that have now become so iconic. They were beamed into our homes with every news bulletin.
Vietnam was, of course, a cold war era proxy war.
Of course, we still fight proxy wars, but as one who served in Her Majesty's Armed Forces during the final years of the cold war, I sort of took comfort in the fact that in those days we knew who our enemies were. Our main enemy was what was officially called the Soviet Union, but what we all knew was the Russian Empire. Or as one former Baltic Prime Minister called it recently, "The Second Mongol Occupation".
Then it changed. That change reached its pinnacle on 9/11. The enemy became an unknown force, operating within our own borders.
Now, in a loose interpretation of Marxist vernacular, we see the negation of the negation.
It has changed again. It has reverted back to where we were some decades ago. Russia is on the move again.
A very senior military advisor to NATO told me two days ago "This is the start of World War 3".
Let us hope he is wrong.
Wednesday, 26 March 2014
I have commented on the UKIP policy formulation process in the past. It is, to say the least, incoherent. But this one really takes the biscuit.
Apparently, a chap named Stephen Woolfe, a UKIP economics spokesman who wants to close down the Bank of England, has come up with the idea of abolishing the state pension. Considering that the average UKIP member is quite elderly and below the average educational level, this might seem a somewhat unwise direction to take....
“This would take hundreds of years of strict public finances to have an impact. It is bizarre UKIP could be going after the state pension when its core voters are pensioners.”
Strategic Society Centre director James Lloyd
I understand that UKIP has sought to distance itself from this nonsense, just as it Nigel Farage has sought to distance himself from the Pythonesque 2010 UKIP manifesto that he himself signed off.
Thursday, 20 March 2014
The latest Tory wheeze is a plan to cut taxes to "help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy". Apparently, outside of Central Office, where these chinless Oxford graduates wait for Daddy to arrange a safe seat for them, the proletariat play bingo and drink beer. OK, drinking beer I will accept, and as I own shares in a brewery I'm going to let that one pass without too much criticism. But Bingo?
I actually find it hard to say what I truly think about this. In fact, this is so idiotic, I don't even want to waste my thoughts on it.
What does worry me, deeply, is that somebody at a high level of government thought that was a suitable way of presenting policy. I would like to think that every single person who touched this project, from conception, through approval, to launch, will be sacked this very day.
Given that the Tories are facing a strong challenge from UKIP at the moment, one would have thought that they would have drafted in some heavyweight policy boffins. Apparently that is not the case.
If this is what we are going see from the Tories now, they may as well pack up and go home.
Saturday, 15 March 2014
He was, as always, pessimistic, and even doubted that the event would even happen. For an 8 year old, he is seriously Laconic.
The race started, and he was 5th (out of 6) out of the pits. Not exactly pole position. But by the end of the first lap he was in the lead, and he held it until the end of the race. At the end of his 8th lap, the young lad in second place was still just short of his 7th lap. The lead narrowed slightly, but at the end he was still way ahead of the field. His best mate Jay, whose birthday the event was to celebrate, won the preceding race, so now they are feeling pretty good about themselves.
He celebrated with a fizzy water!
Sunday, 9 March 2014
I am absolutely delighted that the Bus Pass Elvis Party has beaten the Lib Dems in the Clifton North by election.
As I understand it, the party is an offshoot of the Church Of The Militant Elvis.
Being in the business myself, the websites of other political parties are of great interest to me. I think I can honestly say, however, that in a great many years I never saw anything quite like this! Keep up the good work, chaps.
Friday, 28 February 2014
I love music.
Rock n Roll or Country, Jazz or Folk. Classical or Opera, I simply love music. And the good Lord blessed me with a life in which I am surrounded by like minded souls.
Sometimes I am lucky to meet some very special people. But to me, there is none more special than Mr Vytautas Landsbergis MEP, who I have written about before on this blog. He is not just a great composer and musician, but he is also one of the true political heroes of our time. And his office is close to mine, and so I am able to share some moments with him far more often than I really deserve.
He kindly agreed to attend a concert to mark the events unfolding in the Ukraine. After the occasion, a conversation on the stage went something like this:
Me: "Mr Landsbergis, I regret that I never heard you play in this house..."
Mr Landsbergis: "Hmmm...."
At which point he promptly sat down and played for us. I have a soft spot for this stage, because in 2009 it saw the launch of a project to bring more classical music into the parliament. A project initiated by former MEP Tom Wise, under the banner 'FREEDOM OF SPEECH - FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION' and inspired and elevated by the Ukrainian pianist, Dmytro Sukhevienko, a former student of Yehudi Menuhin, and also my daughter's teacher. He is also a good friend and inspiration to me. Dmytro is totally dedicated to to the classical cause.
I was thrilled beyond belief when I was sent the above photo. It is a picture that I will cherish forever.
My thanks to Olga Kaminska for this wonderful image, and for preserving this wonderful memory.
Sunday, 23 February 2014
The men's Ice Hockey final is one of the real highlights of the Winter Olympics, which is why it is saved until the end.
It was obvious, during the semi-final between our two former colonies, Canada and the US, that whoever won that game would take the gold. And lo, it came to pass!
The Swedes looked dangerous at the beginning, and their goalkeeper gave the Canadians a hard time - the goal tally could have been higher.
But the big loser in these games has been Vladimir Putin. A lot of money, lots of favours, and some lives, were sacrificed for what was to be his crowning glory. But the world was looking not at Sochi, but at Kiev.
As I have written before, in 2004 Putin feared that he would be remembered as the man who lost the Ukraine. But he got lucky, and played it well. EU Commission President Barroso was to go down in history as the man who lost the Ukraine.
But now, in what was to be his finest hour, Putin has lost it!
The EU is not the winner either - the Ukraine, Germany, and the US have pulled it off.
Exit stage left, Mr Barroso.
Saturday, 22 February 2014
I have to admit, I somewhat expected Ireland to put in another try in the last 60 seconds, that being a bit of a feature of English sporting events. Nobody can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like we can!
But a win is a win!