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Friday, 26 December 2014

Oh No, More Predictions

As we approach the end of the year, we may well be reflecting on the past year and also thinking about the year to come ... possibly with a view to predictions!!

Now, as we at PC towers have a proven record of predictive failure which would do Nostradamus proud (unless you happen to believe that he was any better than, Old Mother Shipton and other seers .... i.e. rubbish), then we won't be giving the world another cheap laugh by predicting things to come.

Our Predictions Rival ~ Paul The Octopus
 
Apart from anything else, we could easily do the quick ones and say that:

  • Libya could well fail completely (if it hasn't already) ~ the high hopes of their revolution smashed on the same anvil of Islamic fundamentalism that wrecked the originally secular 'democracy' movements in other Arab countries.
  • Syria will continue its 'civil war' for another year, with the only two credible fighting forces being the repugnant IS, and the almost as nasty state forces of the Assad regime .... this may run for another decade as a proxy fight, with some of the gulf sates, and other unofficial 'Saudi' sponsors backing IS, and Iran backing the official regime.
  • The Afghans will prove incapable of a staving off the Taliban without occasional western military support, but will be equally unable to gain any of the countryside back either. In fact the stalemate will be exactly as it was when the Soviets propped up its 'communist regime' against the Mujahideen two decades ago.
  • Iraq will remain another battleground, with a weak regime unable to face IS, but IS being held back from winning by the air attacks from Iran, Iraq and the Western forces in the region.
  • The Ukraine will also fizzle on as a low level proxy war, with the eventual 'compromise' solution having to be created by more bloodshed. Anyone looking from the outside can see that the Crimea is not going to ever be 'Ukrainian' again, and that probably the most eastern of the disputed regions will probably also stay in Russian hands ... but until the locals see this, the fighting carries on.
  • The world economy will teeter on the edge of another recession, because the euro zone countries and increasingly those in South America are not growing. Argentina and Venezuela will slip into recessions.
  • There is to be the first fixed term general election in UK history, with the results very much up in the air ... even Nostradamus, or the modern equivalent MORI, are going to be unable to call it. Probably the only aspect that we can say with a certainty is that the chances of an absolute majority for any one party is smaller than might have been thought a couple of years ago: UKIP will win more seats from the Tories than from Labour, but Labour will lose a lot of Scottish Westminster seats to the SNP ... and this will leave the balance of power in Westminster in doubt. The Liberals will likely suffer badly at the polls (although who knows, their core 'party of protest' vote may stay firm ~ once a liberal always a liberal!).
  • China will be ever more aggressive in foreign policy, trying to enforce its claims to an entire sea as its territory .... its attack dog North Korea, will continue to bluster, threaten and verbally attack anyone who threatens the regime and may start to look internally unstable if there are food shortages. Third generation absolute leaders often prove to be mad ~ e.g. Rome : Augustus (sane), Tiberius (despotic) ~ Caligula (mad as a hatter), and are usually killed by those who fear death at their hands.The latest 'Kim il' has killed family members already.
  • The USA will have a strange year as its economy improves (probably as long as there is no world recession), under a last term President. Technically he has nearly 2 years until Tuesday, November 8, 2016, but strangely the US system leaves it with a dead duck President for the final 2 years of any second term, unless a President also holds both the Senate and Congress (which is not the case for Pres.Obama). Traditionally the President in these scenarios look to a foreign policy success (Nixon in China for example), but Obama may not have this outlet as he has soured relations with Israel, and only has the other messes in the Middle East to look at. All extremely infertile ground for any sort of success, particularly as much of it is as a direct result of earlier US interference in the same countries. All roads led to Damascus so to speak  ...... Afghanistan led to Iraq, which led to Libya, which led to Syria.

..... Damn, wait a minute that's a bunch of predictions after all .... oh well, here's one prediction that will be true, and that is that this is another years worth of predictions that will fall to the ground within months, or even weeks, as Macmillan's 'events dear boy, events' overtake them one by one.

Happy New Year to all our readers ............

Cold Shoulders

The New York Police Department aka the NYPD, showed their displeasure for the New York  mayors actions in supporting protests against them ...



.... the city's mayor, Bill de Blasio, went to a hospital to pay tribute to two officers killed by a gunman, only to have them turn their backs on him as he arrived. According to the New York Times, the protest was encouraged by union leaders because the mayor has campaigned against "overreaching by police" under his predecessor.

Without doubt, there are also police officers who also accuse him of having 'blood on his hands' over both the anti-police sentiments, and the recent murder of two New York City cops, after he gave his recent support for protesters in the city marching, in opposition to a grand jury's decision to not indict the police officer who killed a Mr Eric Garner.

This all reminded me of when British Home Secretary's have been booed by Police Officers at their federation meetings .....

Teresa May Gets The British Booing ....

.... I wonder which is more effective the silent shunning of the cold shoulder, or the loud heckles?

Yankee Doodle Blogger

The majority of my readers are from the US, followed by those readers from the UK .... not too surprising, given that the USA is the largest pool of native 'English' first language speakers in the world.

Yankee Doodle Branding ....

However, whether they are following the primarily US content, or just individual stories I am not able to determine, not without extending Google analytic's far more than I am comfortable setting up, especially on such a small blog.

SEO Branding Is All A Game ....

So by way of experiment, and partly because the US interests me, I am going to aim a little more of my content towards US centred stories ... not so much that I lose the UK voice of the blog, but enough to ensure that I can see if there is a spike in visitor hits, and its what visitors want. After all it may be the non-US content that attracts US visitors, but I will never know on present posting content, not without a few tweaks.

I Wasn't Born On The 4th Of July

Trying to please everyone is a mistake, but on the other hand aiming at the core audience is just common sense .... which is kinda like the old favourite “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

So for a little while at least, I am just a "Yankee Doodle Dandy" ... or maybe not ... we'll see how it goes.

Diva of the Year

♪♪"We three kings of orient are"♪♪ .... well not a king but a queen for sure, Heather Cho (Cho Hyun-Ah). Surely in the running for self important personage of the year, and when you consider the opposition (e.g. Andrew Mitchell), that's surely some accolade.

She raised herself above the international parapets and waived the 'look at me flag, look at me flag' when she delayed an international plane flight over the way she was served nuts ... in a bag and not on a plate as prescribed by her airline.

'A Right Diva' ~ The Traditional Depiction

In order to achieve this, she used her authority as a Korean Air executive and a vice president, to order the captain of the plane to turn back from taxiing to the runway on the Incheon-bound flight, and to return to the terminal in New York, in order to facilitate the removal of the chief steward from the plane, after a trainee steward handed her the nuts in an inappropriate manner.

At first when the story broke, in true oriental face saving style, the airline backed her actions by issuing a statement stating that 'checking service standards' was part of her job, and she had the pilot's backing for the action ... however it was later alleged that she had in fact been a simple passenger at the time.

Of course, given that she is daughter of company boss Cho Yang-ho, and a vice president of service standards, then she would never simply be a 'passenger', and no doubt all the staff, from pilot to stewards would have been aware of this ..... the plane eventually arrived 11 minutes late (which is better than my train ever manages).

But when the story broke internationally (to much laughter and ridicule), eventually, after the South Korean travel minister said that she had shamed the airline, and the nation, she was forced to resign. Now prosecutors in South Korea are seeking her arrest, after it was alleged to have jabbed a flight steward with a document folder .... they are also attempting to charge another Korean Air executive with allegedly attempting to cover up the incident during a subsequent investigation. Its actually all gone a little bit OTT as she has since issued not one, but two tearful public apologies, and since resigned from all her posts, but .....

Guess Who Wont Be Going To The Next Staff Party?

.....  it was undoubtedly 'Diva of the Year' moment for 2015.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Happy Christmas

Finally .... as its the last post before Christmas, and because its become something of a tradition on this blog, here's a copy of one of the Christmas Annuals I received as a child.

The 'Victor' .... An Exciting Read For A Boy

Its 'The Victor' annual from 1967 .... I admit its not particularly 'christmassy', but for a lad just leaving the Beano and Dandy fully behind (we were innocent for longer back in the day), it was a big step to tackle comic books that had real written stories, as well as cartoon characters.

For those not familiar with the contents of this long disappeared comic book (it finished as late as 1993), the characters included 'Morgyn the Mighty' (a sort of poor mans 'tarzan' on an island called 'Black Island'), and 'Alf Tupper' aka 'The Tough of the Track' (a jobbing track runner who could run virtually any distance, make up any lost ground, and beat anyone) .... my what scrapes he got into, including I recall, pole vaulting into a burning bedroom window to save a child, which was a 'world record', but Alf couldn't prove it because the fire burnt the window wall down before it could be measured. Plus numerous others I am struggling to recall.

'Morgyn The Mighty' ... Worlds Strongest Man

Even after looking it up in Wikipedia, I can't recall them, although 'The Hammer Man', a knight with a hammer instead of a lance rings a vague bell.

In fact the only other thing I can recall from this comic (which I read religiously for at least six years if not longer), is the front and back cover, which was usually a 'true' account of heroism by a British or Empire soldier, against either the Germans or Japanese in WWI or WWII. Often 'our lad' would die, but take half a division of the 'Hande Hochs' or 'Banzais' with them first.

Now that I recall this, I moved from 'The Victor' comic briefly into the world war combat square war magazines, which contained only those kind of stories, but then into the world of DC and Marvel .... ah well, happier and more innocent days, which is what I wish you all for the coming year.

Well done Big Fella!

A Christmas Tale ..... at the traditional time, the traditional story is usually a fairy tale .... not necessarily in New York though .... its a now proven fact that Santa Claus imbibes just a little too much sherry on his rounds.

As any follower of Health and Safety rules will know, drinking while in charge of reindeer, as well as climbing down chimneys and other hazardous Christmas tree approaches is a dangerous practise. So perhaps its not a surprise that over the years, good old Kris Kringle has had a few accidents .....

There was that incident with the wrestler Alberto Del Rio when he was hit by the wrestlers car ...

Drunk Santa

.... lucky not to get breathalysed on that one.

Then of course, there was the regrettable incident in the Florida shopping Mall ..... when His beard became tangled in the winching gear, and for a wrenchingly long time he wriggled furiously to free himself, losing his hat. To distract the crowd, an assistant below led them in a rousing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

When Santa finally landed, he ripped off the tangled facial hair, told the children that he was actually an elf, and fled .

Santa Losing His Cool ... His Hat and His Beard

.... another moment to forget.

However, you have to give the old fella his due. He just dusts himself off, walks unsteadily back to the chimney or his sleigh and carries on .... not missing any Christian boys and girls out.

So spare a thought to the busiest man of next Wednesday .... he's hundreds of years old, packing a lot of timber, and fairly pissed .... but he gets the job done.

Well done Big Fella!

Old Maps Modern Appeal

Old maps are a source of endless fascination for me as well many others .... so I was pleased when many news outlets published an old and previously lost map of the County of Lancashire in England. Dated from 1602 AD, and part of a set of fifteen from which it had become detached centuries ago, before recently being found again.

Old Lancashire Map

This was of course before the Great mapping of Britain and Ireland in the 18th and19th centuries .....

The Modern Version Of The Same Area In Lancashire

I was particularly interested to compare it with the Google version of the same area .... and I can say that its not bad, but also that looking at it "I can see my house from here".

It was an early attempt to accurately and proportionately display the features of the area it was covering but was an improvement on the first non topological Gough map of Britain which was stitched together between 1355 AD and 1366 AD.

Gough Map Of Britain 1355 AD To 1366 Ad

Funny how they never got the shape right (because they believed the world centred on Jerusalem), but you can see what countries it represents ....

Saddest Little Boy

Kun Kun is a little boy from a village near Xichong in Sichuan province China. Kun Kun is HIV positive ... he inherited this from his mother who has abandoned him with very elderly non-blood-related grandparents. Kun Kun doesn't go to school because they don't want him. Kun Kun has no playmates because no one wants him to play with their children. "Nobody wants to play with me, so I just play by myself," he was quoted as saying.

Kun Kun ~ The Unwanted Boy. His Grandfather Signs The Petition.

Kun Kun knows no one loves him because he watched as his 'grandfather' signed a petition which an entire village had signed, to have him taken in to state care (nearly a death sentence in rural China, especially if HIV positive), because they are too old to look after him. After he watched this, the poor little boy was said to have "raced home, climbed into bed, and laid there wordlessly".

Kun Kun Watches Villagers Sign The Petition

He now runs wild and plays with fires, because he is isolated, lonely, scared, angry, rejected, frightened and desperate ... Kun Kun is just eight years old. It actually gave me a lump in my throat (for several reasons I won't go into, but lets say I can empathise somewhat with his feelings). Social media in China has now run wild, and the authorities have now promised to pay for his medical care.

But how very very sad ...

If you are a believer in prayers at Christmas or any time, remember Kun Kun in yours this year, because he and other children in similar situations around the globe, really need all the help they can get ... Kun Kun is the sad hidden face of want and need everywhere this year.

Slaughter of the Innocents

Pakistan has been playing with fire for decades .... and people playing with fire always get burnt in the end. On the one hand, Pakistan's been promoting the Taliban inside Afghanistan, to keep the country destabilised, but on the other, the Pakistani army is increasingly finding itself  fighting a war against the Taliban inside Pakistan.

Ever since General Zia Ul Haq Islamised the country, its been sliding into a supine acceptance of Sharia law as the only legal and moral framework for the country, whilst becoming increasingly a hard-line Taliban ridden and intolerant society, where women's rights are going backwards .... but we have a saying in the West which is that you reap what you sow.

The thing about it is is that the more you Islamify (or any religion actually) a country, the more its populations tolerance towards violence towards 'others' is built up ... in Pakistan, attacks on Shia's have been bloody and violent, but more or less silently condoned by the Sunni majority (there certainly has been no movement to stop Sunni's committing the crimes). Similarly casual street violence towards the tiny Christian community is not preached against in mosques. Woman are routinely controlled and killed in honour crimes, with the tacit if silent approval of the elder males ... the 7th century mores are in full force in many areas.

Once a society is saturated in blood to the extent that Pakistan is, then the men of violence find little resistance towards crossing what ever lines there are left in the sand. In Syria and Iraq, minority groups women are routinely raped and used as sex slaves, their children treated in much the same manner. Little is said about this in the Arab or Pakistani press because, well its kinda OK isn't it? Qur'an (5:51/52) 'O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other;' and other such remarks from the holy book.

Then when hundreds are killed in a mosque attack on Shia's, well its bad, but they are unbelievers and we know what the book says about that .... so how big a line is it to cross, to target army school children? Apparently, not much ....especially if the attackers believe they are revenging their own families deaths.

The murder of over a hundred school children in an army sponsored school in Pakistan is a very tragic event, but surely was predictable, as the dual policy of feeding the Taliban in Afghanistan, whilst trying to muzzle them in Pakistan, was bound to come unstuck eventually .... matters have moved on since the 1980's.

The fact that the poor victims now are increasingly Sunni's, means that now the main Pakistani community cries out, that its against Islam's teachings .... but what about the Christian or Yazidis children in Syria and Iraq? Where were the cries when Shia children are killed in Sunni Taliban bomb blasts in Pakistan? .... this latest tragedy was inevitable once Pakistan stopped being a secular state, and started committing acts of violence on other groups with no protests.

The Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan are now looking to what 'I.S.I.S' in Iraq and Syria is doing, and the rise of the other Caliphates in Arab and African lands, are the new benchmarks of jihadist ambition, and that's exactly what Pakistan is likely to find developing in the badlands of Helmand and North Warizstan ....

Pakistan Taliban - Picture Of The Merciless Killers Of Children

Pakistan may not be able to turn back from the course it has followed for decades, there is apparently no real appetite amongst its backward patriarchal masses to return to secular law with minority and women's rights respected, and maybe its actually entering the first phase of becoming yet another failed Muslim state.

Time will tell if this is a final and last chance for the Pakistani leadership to realise exactly what abyss they are staring down, or if they just bluster, make a few futile show blows, and then in a few months carry on as before .... the bailing of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the man India accuses of ordering the Mumbai Atack suggests not everyone is on board with the idea that there are no good Taliban.

So if its the latter course, then they have crossed the rubicon, and really are heading for a collapse.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Bad Airports

Occasionally one of those ever popular website lists, most famous this, or most numerous that's, actually catch my attention. I rarely bother to do more than glance at them, but one made me smile. We have all been stuck in airports and seen or worried about what's going on .... Johannesburg Airport (now renamed 'O. R. Tambo International Airport'), was an interesting experience for me. The unofficial 'helpers' are allowed to wander around freely, and demand a fee for 'helping you' ~ 10 rand as I recall.

So when I saw these listings on customers complaints and reviews about Airports on a couple of sites, I felt compelled to combine and re-list them below ..... enjoy.   

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Manila:

The NAIA in Manila has been voted as the 2011 world's worst airport by users of the on-line travel website 'The Guide to Sleeping in Airports' (www.sleepinginairports.net), based on reader reviews and poll votes.

The website listed reasons such as safety concerns, 'theft, poor facilities, bribery and lack of comfortable seating'. One reader said: 'You will not want to even close your eyes here! Bribery and theft exists. Airport taxes are collected, but the money does not seem to go towards the betterment of the airport. In terms of facilities, passengers may have better luck at the newer Terminal 3, where it is clean, spacious and offers an internet connection.'

Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Paris:

It might be the largest airport in France - and one of the busiest in the world - but Paris CDG, which opened in 1974, has since frequently been criticised for its confusing layout, rude staff and ugly buildings. What's more, the seating benches have been deemed uncomfortable and insufficient, and homeless people are said to frequently disturb sleeping travellers ~ I have passed through this airport and its not the most attractive.

Frankfurt Hahn Airport, Germany:


Frankfurt Hahn also made the worst airports 2011 list. They said: 'Limited seating, bucket seats, and a lack of passenger facilities. A very basic airport for budget airlines.' In a 2010 World's Worst Travel Survey, passengers also complained of 'confusing signs' and 'unpleasant ground staff'..... its also I can testify from experience, huge.

London Heathrow Airport, UK:


In a Priority Pass survey in 2010, London Heathrow was voted the least favourite airport, owing to the fact that it is also one of the world's busiest. The problems of winter 2010, when the airport was ill-prepared for bad weather and snow grounded thousands of flights, further weakened its image. Long security queues and hours waiting at the baggage line have also been cited .... can't deny the queues complaints.

Delhi, India:

According to Independent writer Peter Popham, Delhi airport's 'carpeting is a thin scarlet runner, and stains are splattered in corners. Creature comforts are negligible. Passport control takes an eternity. Half the trolleys are broken down. They force you to x-ray your luggage coming in to the country as well as going out.' And, according to a survey by 'Foreign Policy magazine', it also boasts 'aggressive beggars, syringes on the terminal floor, and filthy bathrooms'.

Mutala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Nigeria:

According to reports, 'the odour of faeces and urine abound in this airport, which no doubt attract the hoards of rats, cockroaches and other bugs that scurry around the departures and arrivals area.' There's also been talk of overflowing toilets, and passengers escaping the airport chaos only to be mugged or beaten up on the tarmac outside.

Los Angeles International Airport, America:

The San Francisco Chronicle describes LAX as 'eight terminals connected by a traffic jam'. And, according to one review seating is limited, rude security staff who 'automatically assume you are a terrorist, or that you will never leave their country', bathrooms are in poor condition, direction signs are poor, and there are no conveniences for people in transit .... 'not even a 24 hour coffee shop.'

Lukla Airport, Nepal:

This small airport in the town of Lukla in eastern Nepal is popular as it is the gateway to the Mount Everest region in Nepal. But it will give you a nail-biting landing, involving a plummet onto an uphill airstrip cut into the side of a mountain. And on take-off, the airstrip comes to an abrupt end at the edge of a mountain cliff .... squeaky bum time.


Lukla Airport In Nepal... that runway drops straight off the mountain.

Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport, Senegal:

At Dakar's airport 'there is only squalor, an unnerving sense of confinement, and to some extent danger,' said salon.com's Patrick Smith. Foreign Policy magazine's survey also concurred, writing: 'Dakar has no seats and travellers are targeted by hawkers, porters and security guards who move them on. Immigration takes three hours.'

Simon Bolivar International, Colombia, Venezuela:

Simón Bolívar International, known locally as ‘Maiquetia’, is the main international airport in the South American state of Venezuela. It is located around 29km from the centre of the capital, Caracas, and is described as being 'situated practically in the middle of the favelas'. Hundreds of travellers have been robbed or mugged as soon as they left the airport, while kidnapping, stabbings and shootings 'have all occurred before passengers have even reached the taxi line', according to the Matador Network. What's more, you'll be charged a $53 airport tax for the privilege of risking these abuses.

So there you are .... a rogues gallery of nastiness, acute enough to thrill any potential traveller to these spots ... no doubt there are many other such travel danger zones, so feel free to add them (but keep the language clean). 

UPDATE:

By chance I found a list from 2015 compiled by the website SleepingInAirports based on its travellers surveys which covered various criteria, not just safety, so different regions expected different things from their airports standards. They could have just gone for other African airports which have dreadful reputations. e.g, 2. Khartoum International Airport - 3. Kinshasha International Airport - 4. Juba International Airport - 5. Djibouti International Airport etc.

In Worst Order:
  1. Port Harcourt International Airport - Nigeria.
  2. King Abdulaziz International Airport - Saudi Arabia.
  3. Tribhuvan International Airport - Katmandu Nepal.
  4. Tashkent International Airport - Uzbekistan.
  5. Simon Bolivar International Airport -Caracas Venezuela.
  6. Toussaint Louverture International Airport - Haiti.
  7. Hamid Karzai International Airport -Afghanistan.
  8. Tan Son Nhat International Airport -Vietnam.
  9. Benazir Bhutto International Airport - Pakistan.
  10. Beauvis-Tille International Airport -Paris.

For Comparison - Best Order (top five):
  1. Changi International Airport -Singapore.
  2. Icheon International Airport -South Korea.
  3. Haneda International Airport - Japan.
  4. Taoyuan International Airport - Taiwan.
  5. Hong Kong International Airport - Hong Kong.

Legacy Forever

A few years ago I was watching a documentary on Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China and his increasingly bizarre and desperate attempts to stave of the inevitable fate that gets us all, whether divine royal demi-god or foot in the mud peasant mortals, death. These involved sending sage's across the globe looking for the elixir of life, or the fountain of youth. He even started eating mercury balls laced with gold devised by his doctors as the best way to keep him (and them) alive ….

This was a form of sympathetic magic. Gold was known to be eternal and immutable, while mercury was considered to be the same, so a bit of both must pass on these properties if ingested, or at least that was the theory. Especially as the cost was such that only an emperor or a god could afford the treatments.

Needless to say, it didn’t work … he’s dead, probably poisoned by the mercury he had been ingesting. In fact he may well be very well preserved for much the same reasons …. The mercury would have killed the bugs that normally eat a body after death.

So perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that the nearest equivalent to this demi-god status left in Asia (after Emperor Hirohito finally gave up the claim), the Kim dynasty of North Korea, had a similar aim. The founding father of the divine dynasty Kim Il-Sung, became a picky eater and had all his rice grains individually selected (shades of ‘peel me a grape Beulah’) …. But more importantly he created a health institute, whose sole purpose, was to devise ways of prolonging his life.

Needless to say again, it didn’t work … he’s dead but worshipped, however there is no reason to think that the institute has closed, and no doubt even now, several Fu-Manchu’s are literally slaving away to find a cure for death, for the Kim-Il’s.

Fu Manchu's Seeking Cure For Death

Strangely, there is another link between the first emperor and Dictator Kim-Il Sung, which is that after his death Emperor Qin Shi Huang was laid into a tomb that only the Egyptians in their pomp are likely to have matched. It has not been excavated, but is believed to be both intact, and extremely toxic, because he had flowing rivers of mercury representing the rivers of his kingdom in the tomb, these will have stopped flowing after 2,000 years, but the fumes have built up, and mercury can be detected on the surface. However he also had the terracotta warriors stand guard on his underground kingdom … but a distinct lack of current worship.

Qin Shi Huangs Tomb

Equally, Kim-Il Sung is laid to rest in a giant mausoleum, which while admittedly not a patch on the grandeur of the Chinese Emperors tomb, is still a very big building. However, where Kim-Il Sung loses out on Gold, Diamonds, and the no doubt splendid artefacts stakes, he does make up for it on the guards divisions. He has a massive, devoted and fanatical army protecting his tomb, and to cap it all he has descendants with nuclear bombs.

Kim-il Sung's Tomb

There can be a strange synchronicity around some forms of rule, especially dictatorships, after all there are only so many ways in which:
  • You can be worshipped as a demi-god,
  • Try to stave off the inevitable death (in fact if you can survive to a natural death you have done well), 

and finally if you make to a normal death,
  • Protect your legacy (and body parts) from destruction after death.

So perhaps its no surprise that the attempted methods to handle them are always so similar ....

Why Half A Job Is Worse Than Nothing

Bob Marley once sang “I’M GONNA smoke’a de ganja until I go blind. You know I smoke’a de ganja all a de time.” .... a sentiment that far too many of our citizens concur with.

As discussed is earlier posts, drug decriminalisation is underway as many countries are finding that the economic and social costs of trying to fight the 'war against drugs' too prohibitive a price to pay.

One of the latest to join this growing band (several countries in Europe and Latin America have already taken this step), is Jamaica where the government said it intended to decriminalise possession of small amounts of the drug. The 'Kofi Annan Foundation' has suggested that minor drug offences should also be decriminalised in West Africa to reduce violence and corruption.

The reasons for these moves are simple, the 'war' has been lost. Fifty years of banning, billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives have resulted only in the overthrow of many democratic states as narco-corruption or even narco-arms have simply overwhelmed them. Mexico is the high profile state at risk of succumbing, but already many smaller South American states have been seriously compromised. All African states already have huge governance and corruption issues as it is, and drug money bribes find many willing hands.

Prohibiting narcotics has failed to prevent an increase in their use, mainly in the rich world but increasingly in emerging markets (Brazil is now the world’s biggest customer of crack cocaine), while simply enriching the criminal Mafia's who run the trade ... so while Western Governments still publicly argue for zero tolerance, privately no one seriously argues that reform is not needed .... however is simply decriminalising minor drug usage the answer?
 
Half A Job Can Be Worse Than No Job

While lenient penalties may save many young people from gaining a criminal record (whether they inhale or not), and spare taxpayers the expense of arresting, trying and jailing them its looks to me to be a dangerous half job .... because, while supplying drugs remains and illegal activity, it will remain a criminal monopoly. So the drug cartels will continue to corrupt the police and politicians across the globe, so allowing the ganja users of Jamaica or cocaine users of London to avoid penalties, their Dollars or Euros still end up paying the animals who saw off heads in Latin America.

So we are in danger of having another set of ill thought out and un-joined up drug polices that will actually produce the 'worst of all worlds'. 'Decriminalisation' only makes real sense when combined with steps towards legalisation. The examples of what is required are being led by the ever brave Uruguay, but also in the US states of Colorado and Washington state, which have all managed to put criminals out of one aspect the drug business. They have done this by legalising the cannabis trade from cultivation to retail, and and given it to law-abiding entrepreneurs.

These entrepreneurs pay tax, and obey the laws on where, when and to whom they can sell their products. This not only gives a new income stream to those governments, but the money saved on policing marijuana usage is being spent on tackling real criminals, or on treatment for serious addicts.

Any steps away from prohibition are in the right direction, but half a job is worse than not doing anything at all.

Bowing Our Necks To The Black Flag

From Syria ....

From Outside The Town Of Dabiq in Syria

To Iraq

To The Plains of Iraq

To Kenya

The Carnage Of A terror Attack

To Nigeria

Boko Haram Parading The Flag

To Tower Hamlets in London

Even Tower Hamlets Pays Homage ....
 
 ... the same black flag and the same Shahada message inscribed in white, displayed for the same reason. To strike terror in the enemies of the forthcoming world Caliphate that Islamists expect to come soon from a force that they consider to be not as a marauding band of terrorists but as brave defenders of Sunni Islam against the encroaching forces of Iran and its Shia allies. And its that goal that IS propaganda is aimed .. .... IS wants to project an image of itself as a group which has done away with nationalism. 

IS believes it is divinely commanded to adopt particularly savage tactics, because there is a verse of the Quran, which issues a command to "strike terror into [the hearts of] the enemies of Allah".  Its this easy literalism of the IS (and Boko Haram) approach to the Quran, which  explains why the group films and disseminates grisly videos and to such a wide audience amongst Muslims in Western Europe.

The basis of true Islamic identity, they want to argue, comes from the fraternity of faith ... the Ummah. For that reason the self-styled Caliphate of IS (and to a greater degree than its brothers in Algeria, Mali and Nigeria)  aspires to be a sort-of "United Nations of Islam", a melting pot for all Muslims - provided, of course, they are strictly Sunni Muslims, who subscribe completely to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's narrow construction of the faith. Any who don't are the wrong type of Muslim.

The Hadiths suggest that the Prophet Muhammad said that "the last hour will not come" until Muslims vanquish the Romans at "Dabiq or Al-A'maq" (which are both in the Syria-Turkey border region) on their way to conquer Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) .... now technically the Ottomans archived that aim but of course the last hour didn't come, so obviously the Turks are not the right sort of Muslims. 

Which is why the recent execution, of an American convert to Islam, was carried out in the IS controlled town of 'Dabiq' ... to both taunt the US, and send a subliminal message to all 'good' Muslims everywhere, for whom the significance of the town wouldn't fail to register. 

To put this threat into context, the BBC has reported that in just one month this year, Islamists have murdered over 5,000 people and maimed many many more ..... All the while the same black flag flutters over the conquered towns and villages in many areas in the Muslim world, and across the rest of the worlds video screens.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Photo-bombed By Animals

Photo-bombing is the accidental (or occasionally deliberate), intrusion of someone or something into someone's posed photograph ..... There is a roaring trade in these on the internet and the newspapers. We at PC towers are no more immune to the humour of these than anyone, and here's a small selection of ones that have made us smile.

Parroting ......

Horsing Around .....
Sneaky Paws ....
Wassup ....
Loaned Shark ....
Birds Of A Feather .... Flock Together
Cheeky Monkey ......
Taken The Hump? .....
Watch The Birdy ......

No apologies for hopefully raising a few smiles ....


Puppies Haram

There are times when you only have to tell the story as it is ..... so here we are.

The young muslims of Malaya and other countries, have taken to celebrating 'western' events such as Valentines day and Halloween. It is just a part of the 'globalisation' that the socialists are so keen on to justify 'multiculturalism' politics in the west, but the Mullahs of Malaysia and elsewhere are not quite so keen on either 'globalisation', nor 'multiculturalism', and in fact violently oppose them (except where its Muslims in non Muslim lands, when they embrace it .... while it suits them).

So they are afraid that their young people's attempts to try and join in the rest of the worlds activities are a threat to Islam, and therefore to be suppressed by whatever means are possible .... in Iran, arrest, clampdown and fear are the norm. In Malaya, the remnants of British laws on equality make this a little more difficult, but state thugs can still terrorise minorities (or waverers), either directly or via false charges.

But the most effective method is the fatwa (a religious proclamation, which is never tolerant), so this month the country's National Fatwa Council announced that Halloween is too Western and "could wrongly influence local Muslim youths," and should treat Valentines day as Haram (forbidden) and that all Muslim should not celebrate it.

The council, one of Malaysia's highest Islamic bodies, says Halloween is a Christian celebration of the dead, and "against Islamic teachings" (what isn't?), in a fatwa issued on its website. "Halloween is celebrated using a humorous theme mixed with horror to entertain and resist the spirit of death that influences humans... It cannot be celebrated by Muslims," it says. In other words, being happy in a humorous way, is Haram in Islam.

What do they say good Muslims should do instead? Well, the council advises young Muslims to remember the dead by reciting prayers and reading the Koran .... err, five times a day as usual then?

It seems that the religion is so insecure that it believes its youths can be easily swayed from the true path, by a card with a rose on it, or a 'humorous theme mixed with horror to entertain', and to that end, in Negeri Sembilan in western Malaysia, an international primary school has been told it must apply to the local education department, to get approval for its private Halloween party, after a protest by Muslim groups. I cant verify it, but I would guess that was a 'no' then.

This Is Forbidden ... in Islam.

This council has a bit of 'previous' form on tolerance, when in an earlier ruling, they warmed up by ruling that touching dogs is 'un-Islamic', this was in response to an event in Bandar Utama called "I want to touch a dog", which was a chance for Muslims to stroke dogs, an act traditionally seen as unclean.

The participants in this event then had to follow strict religious cleansing rituals after petting the dogs ... as I said at the top of the piece, I don't need to comment on these events, they speak for themselves.

The Story of the Key

Since before the time of the Pharaohs, people have been using keys to lock things up. Such a simple everyday purely mechanical device, which we all use everyday and which has travelled with us since the dawn of human kinds civilisations.

In fact when you think on it, the metal key has proved remarkably resilient, even in the time of electronic locks. In antiquity the key was claimed to have been invented by 'Theodore of Samos' in  6th century BC Greece (they tended to claim credit for everything), but its more likely that it was invented in Assyria, as the earliest known lock and key device was discovered in the ruins of 'Nineveh', the capital of that ancient state, and much the same technology was known to have been used in Egypt around the same time.

The Egyptian version was remarkably similar to what we use for our key locks today ... the Egyptians had a wooden pin lock, which consisted of a bolt, door fixture, and key. When the key was inserted, pins within the fixture were lifted out of drilled holes within the bolt, allowing it to move. When the key was removed, the pins fell part-way into the bolt, preventing movement ... they even came up with the warded lock, which remains the most recognizable lock and key design in the Western world.

Strangely, as far as we know, the usually very inventive Romans made no changes to that basic couple of models, with affluent Romans keeping their valuables in secure boxes within their households, while wearing the keys as 'rings on their fingers'. So the lock and key idea was already over a thousand years old before its next change.

The Lock And Key An Old Invention

In fact we can give ourselves in England a little back pat here, because the first all-metal lock appeared between the years 870 AD and 900 AD , and are attributed to English (Saxon?) craftsmen ..... Englishmen also made the next improvement, when firstly locksmith, Robert Barron invented the double–acting tumbler lock in 1778 AD, and then when this was greatly improved upon by Jeremiah Chubb in 1818, with both designs based on the use of movable levers. He won a competition run by the British Admiralty to produce a lock that could be opened only with its own key. Up until then locks didn't have unique keys.

There was a rival design by the British inventor, Joseph Bramah, in 1784. Using the cutting edge of the precision machine tooling capabilities of the time, and which was deemed unbreakable. His lock used a cylindrical key with precise notches along the surface; these moved the metal slides that restricted the turning of the bolt into an exact alignment, allowing the lock to open.

The last of the modern locks was a double-acting pin tumbler lock invented by American Abraham O. Stansbury in England in 1805, but the version still in use today was invented by American Linus Yale, Sr. in 1848. This lock design used pins of varying lengths to prevent the lock from opening without the correct key.

In 1861, his son of the same name patented a smaller flat key with serrated edges as well as pins of varying lengths within the lock itself, which while used today but in a nice synchronicity is essentially a more developed version of the Egyptian lock.

And that more or less was what we have now with just the three basic designs .... the same designs of Bramah, Chubb and Yale.

However as electronic locking devices become ever-more popular, especially for cars are the days of the humble key numbered? Well if reports are correct (and who am I to argue with the 'The Times' newspaper of London?), possibly not. It seems that Range Rover vehicles with key-less ignitions are being targeted by thieves, and consequently are now hard to insure in London. It appears that thieves have hit on a method of getting inside the vehicles, and copying their key-less ignition code using a device bought on the internet.

But industry insiders say that this will be cracked soon with vehicles made secure by using a different code every time the vehicle is locked and soon key fobs are to replaced by a smartphone with a varying code that unlocks the vehicle ...... hmm we will see.

Of course hotel room keys started converting to ditch metal keys. The first key cards were introduced at a hotel in Atlanta, US, in 1979. The swipe card has been widely taken up, not only for security reasons - it reduces wasted electricity, since a guest can only operate the lights with the key in the holder. It also enables hotel staff to know when the guest is in their room, and, importantly, it means the lock does not need to be replaced if the key is lost.

This, and variants on the electric car lock, such as smartphone apps are being brought in for some houses ... but even if key-less systems take off, most people do not live in new-build housing. Retrofitting homes with smart high-tech locks, would be expensive and impractical, so the metal key and lock may have another century of life at the very least and probably a lot longer than that.

Oh, and a bit of trivia ... Bramah called his lock the "Challenge Lock" and offered a reward of reward of £200 to "...the artist who can make an instrument that will pick or open this lock". The challenge stood for over 67 years until, at the Great Exhibition of 1851, the American locksmith Alfred Charles Hobbs was able to open the lock .... eventually. It took Hobbs' some 51 hours, spread over 16 days before he cracked (hardly Raffles like then) and not exactly in the spirit of the challenge but, following some argument about the circumstances under which he had opened it, he was awarded the prize.

And to cement the keys place as one of man's oldest inventions, in 2013 'Timpsons', the UK key cutting store, sold about 16,250,000 keys - its highest total ever. Finally, humans are actually very conservative, so remembering codes and passwords is a nightmare for most of us (just look at the PC passwords we all have to remember), so you just can't beat the simple straightforwardness and satisfaction of a key.

Clunking Off The Political Stage

Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister ans currently Labour MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath in Scotland, will stand down as an MP at the next general election .... cue an outpouring of praise for a man who many believe has ruined Britain for a generation to come.

First comes the bullshit from those other members of the Westminster bubble, some of it from people who in reality must have loathed him: 

  • PM David Cameron said: "Gordon has given a huge amount in terms of public service and his contribution in government and Parliament ....."
  • His successor as leader of the Labour Party, the back stabber Mr Miliband said "Gordon has been a towering political figure for a generation" .... instrumental in Labours "investment in health and education and the minimum wage. He worked with other world leaders to stop the financial crisis becoming a great depression. And even recently he played a really important role in the Scottish referendum making sure there was a no vote". 
  • Finally arch manipulator, Peter Mandelson said ..."no-one could take away" his achievements in office. "The balance of achievements will be very much in Gordon Brown's favour."

Then comes the BBC 'analysis' of his career ..... laughable in its dismissal of any failures in this left wing socialist hero (contrast that with the lukewarm analysis of the achievements of the real 'giant' of this political era, Margaret Thatcher, when she died).

  • As 'Chancellor Mr Brown oversaw a decade of growth', 
  • He made the Bank of England independent and 
  • Played a key role in keeping the UK out of the Euro.

Reality:

He was a flat track bully as a politician, beating up those who were weaker, but backing away when faced by those with more balls such as Tony Blair. He was a fair weather Chancellor of the Exchequer ... good at spending money during a world wide boom, even the money we didn't have.

  • When he took over as Prime Minister from Mr Blair it was only when he was guaranteed that there would be no contest in 2007 .... in fact he never seems to have competed in, let alone won any election where he was seriously facing opposition.  Even his Scottish Westminster seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath is a Labour safe seat, with a 20,000+ majority.
  • As PM he chickened out of going to the country immediately, and it looked to everyone like his fear of defeat was the ruling factor. He had never taken on Tony Blair in a contest either, despite much personal antipathy between them, for much the same reasons.
  • As Chancellor, by borrowing during a world wide boom, and even inventing the private Finance Initiative, to build it now, pay for it later, he has mortgaged the countries children, and even grand children's future. He has set up debts that we and they will still be paying for long after the shoddy assets he built (virtually all in the NHS, over which he, like many Labour politicians, obsessed), are gone. 
  • His 'decade of growth', was a decade shared by every major nation in the world barring Japan. How hard is it to do that? Answer, not very hard. The hard part would have been to not bankrupt us during a boom .... the moral of the crickets and the ants comes to mind when thinking of his chancellorship.
  • As Chancellor he stole money from the best run pensions industry in Europe .... it never recovered, and many of us not on an MP's golden pension, will suffer for this until the grave.
  • As for 'keeping us out of the Euro', well he apparently decided to do it without bothering to tell Prime Minister Tony Blair (who favoured membership and thought it was the UK's "destiny" to join it), and for political reasons, not necessarily the economic ones at that time .... he always cited his 'five euro tests' as having not been met.  To be fair, he feared that any instability in the euro-zone could threaten his overall reputation for successful economic management, which by chance is what's happened. So he gained some credit by the accidents of the economic cycles, but as for his overall reputation for successful economic management? Well that's entirely another matter.

Saviour of the Union?

This Is Who Many Scots Blame For Their Woes
 
As an architect of Scottish Devolution, and the inevitable path it went down, to describe him as a key player who 'played a  really important role in the Scottish referendum' is a strange one .... he was a major signatory of the Scottish Claim of Right in 1988. To this document and its principles he remained ever true, and his late intervention in the referendum may have been motivated by the fear that he would considered as one of the key architects of the union's dissolution if the Scottish National Party won. Now when it finally happens in a few years time, people will have forgotten his part in the breakup of the country and its balkanisation and his hands will be much cleaner.

Browns Loyalties Never Doubted

He was never this colossus that the Left and the Labour party, will try to make him into ..... in fact it was his parties attitude to white English working class concerns, over his governments open door immigration policies, well illustrated by his run-in with a Mrs Gillian Duffy during the 2010 election campaign (he called her a bigot ... but worse was forced to grovel an apology which he patently didn't mean). Its the consequences of that immigration policy, which is in many ways the driver for the current UKIP rise, which combined with the eventual inevitable break up of the British Union, that will be his real legacies ....

But to end on a positive I'll say this.

He faithfully kept his oath to the Scottish Claim Of right ....

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A middle aged orange male ... So 'un' PC it's not true....