Blogroll Me! How This Old Brit Sees It ...: April 2005

30 April 2005

The approaching thunder ...

Posted by Hello

"I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us ..... I feel the suffering of millions ... ".

The above words were written in 1942, by a young girl, wise beyond her years. She wrote them in a little, red & white checked diary she'd received as a recent birthday present -- as she hid from Hitler's occupying army, in Holland .

Ten years later, on 30th April 1952 [today's exact date] "The Diary of a Young Girl" was issued for the first time in English. Originally, having been published in Dutch, in 1947 -- thanks to the the young writer's proud father, Otto. His daughter never read her own printed work; she died in a nazi concentration camp along with her mother and sister -- just before her 16th birthday, in 1945.

The book's first title had been " Het Achterhuis" [The Secret House]. It was later re-titled and became a worldwide best-seller, as "The Diary of Anne Frank". Anyone who's not read it, should try to. [Anne Frank pictured above.]

It should be read, inwardly digested, understood and remembered. Because, young Anne Frank's work remains a living [and deathly] testament to the true evils of intolerance; be they of national, racial, religious, political, sexual, or similar nature.

Now, over half a century later, growing numbers of people are hearing those same ominous rumblings -- " ... the approaching thunder that will one day destroy us ... ".

The threats from today's extremists, fundamentalists, fanatics and supremacists are not confined to a single country. Their ilk abound, and are spreading rapidly through our global village. Those set to suffer most -- ie: the ordinary people -- must make our combined voices of reason heard before it becomes too late. Hopefully, it isn't, yet. So, another of young Anne' s premonitions could yet prove to be true.

For, she also wrote in her diary: * " ... yet, when I look up into the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too will end, that peace and tranquility will return once more."

28 April 2005

Shades of Suez ...

Posted by Hello

Comparisons are being made by some in the UK, between Tony Blair's handling of Iraq and Anthony Eden's 1956/7, Suez debacle. Undoubtedly, apart from their 'party' politics the similarities are striking.

Like Blair has done, Eden withheld vital information from the British public, their Parliament and even his own Cabinet. All of which, eventually led to his untimely resignation, premature loss of health and historic, public humiliation.

Eden, the then Conservative Premier, responded to Egypt's Colonel Nasser's coup and nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company [run since it's 1869 construction, by Britain & France] by striking secret deals with France & Israel, in 1956, regarding a massive conspiracy. ( The Suez canal being easily the number one route for bringing Middle East oil to Europe.)

The plan was for Israel to invade Egypt, thereby enabling France & Britain to intervene in the guise of peacekeepers, and to reoccupy the canal zone. Just as Tony Blair's Iraq war preperations were 'far from transparent' [to say the least] so were Anthony Eden's. Then, just as now, key negotiations involving a pre-planned military adventure, were conducted by a small, crony-cabal.

On 29th October 1956, the Israelis invaded Egypt -- exactly as per the underhanded, three party secret agreement.

Four days later, British & French paratroops were dropped into Egypt's canal zone. Almost immediately, a major international outcry ensued.

One big difference between Eden's Suez and Blair's Iraq, was the the sudden, strong and unexpected American opposition. Eden was utterly dumbfounded. A 'friend' he'd taken for granted, had turned on him. US President, Dwight Eisenhower, simply refused to counternounce such an operation. He reasoned that Russia, being then allied to Egypt, may well spark a conflict between the the nuclear powers. The American President told the British Premier -- in no uncertain terms -- to pull out.

So completely surprised & shattered was Eden, that he did so without even consulting France. From that moment on, it all fell painfully apart. Practically overnight, Eden became a broken man -- in every respect of the phrase. Almost immediately, he fell seriously ill.

Three months later, in January 1957, Eden was persuaded to step down as Britain's Prime Minister. Two days after that, he resigned as a Member of Parliament, too.

A funeral, an 'ugh' and a smile ...

Posted by Hello

Sir John Mills

Yesterday, 27th April, British big-screen legend, Sir John Mills was buried. He died last Saturday, aged 97, after starring in more than 100 films during a career spanning over 70 years. The well loved & respected quintessentially English-man had worked till the end.

His widow, actress & author of renown, Mary Haley Bell, was comforted by family & friends, and a host of stars. Lords, Ladies, Dames and Knights of the realm, abounded.

Also there, was the Prime Minister's wife, Cherie Blair; protecting herself from the drizzle, with a huge, multi-coloured, wide-striped umbrella -- emblazoned with the name & logo of the private helicopter company that carries her and her husband around. Ugh! Tasteless? That's Cherie's middle name. But that's another story.

As in many such sombre proceedings, there were a couple of lighter moments though.

As Sir John's coffin was carried into church, the swinging strains of Frank Sinatra's 'You make me feel so young,' filled the air.

After the funeral, many happy memories were recounted among the mourners -- including some delightfully, funny ones.

One, related to the time, not too long ago, when Sir John and his wife were honoured guests at the gala opening of Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber's musical version of 'Whistle Down The Wind'. The original film version, many may remember, featured the Mills' youngest daughter [ then, child-star] Hayley.

At this point, I should add, that though not widely known, Mary Haley Bell [now aged 92] fell victim to the awful Alzheimers, some time ago.

After sitting, seemingly spellbound, throughout the glitz & glamour of the first night performance, an exchange between the couple occurred as the final curtain fell. An exchange overheard by several of the gathered, great & good.

"Well, what did you think, darling?" asked Sir John, as he turned to clasp Mary's hand. Even above the rattle of the surrounding tiaras and jewelry, her reply was clearly heard. "Crap!" she said.

Abysmal AOL Security ...

* Posted by Hello

First off, let me say I'm only using AOL as my ISP till my minimum term contract runs out. Plenty of people told me plenty of things, before I switched to AOL from Freeserve. But, when I first got this new [Dell] computer, pre-loaded into it was a free, three month AOL- ISP offer. Like the cheapskate I am, I took their freebie bait.

At the risk of veritable inundation by "told you so" emails, I'm still gonna pass the following info on.

Sick of the sight of screen warnings re: the need for separate spyware protection, on top of any anti-virus programme I had, I decided to download yet another AOL freebie -- namely, their own spyware detection/protection software.

Prior to this, I 'd already been using another free, downloadable-from-the-web programme called Ad-Aware. But, what the heck, I thought, and decided to put AOL's equivalent product to the test. So, I dutifully downloaded, installed and then ran it. Whoopee! All clear, it proudly announced; none of that nasty spyware stuff found.

You can probably guess what I'm going to say next. Yep, that's right! I immediately opened & ran my Ad-Aware. Ha! Think you're on a roll? Guessed what's coming, again? Heh.

Seven, hidden, tracking cookies! Huh! Hidden from AOL, maybe, but not from Ad-Aware.

Needless to say, AOL's second rate shit's now been uninstalled. Who needs to waste valuable 'puter space with such a crappy, waste-of-space-programme as theirs? Eh?

27 April 2005

Far-Eastern Feuding ...

The Chinese have been showing Japan exactly what they think of it's 'revisionist' history recently. Hundreds of thousands have regularly been demonstrating in the streets. As it's all gone on, what's not been happening is as noteworthy as what has. Everything's taken place without a single sighting of a solitary, Tianamman-square-type tank to keep 'order'. Hmm?

It's true the Japanese have, in the past, inflicted terrible things on their oriental neighbours [and others] -- but 'revision of history' has long been the norm in China, too. Often, by more subtle yet equally effective, sins of omission.

Witness what Briton, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, the BBC's Beijing, resident correspondent, recently reported -- in an intelligent and fair & balanced way. Incidentally, he's more than well read in Chinese history, and has much first hand experience in life in modern China, where he lives with his family. Interestingly, his wife is Japanese and they have two young children. Hopefully, they'll ensure we soon have at least a couple more enlightened adults amongst us. Half British, half Japanese, growing up in China? Definitely, far Eastern experts of the future, I'd say.

Here's a telling extract from their father's recent BBC piece.

* Young Chinese are taught about the atrocities committed by the Japanese during World War II. They are not however taught about the 17 official apologies that Japan has made to China over the last 30 years, including one from the Japanese emperor when he visited Beijing.

Nor are they told of the $30bn in aid that Japan has given to China since ties were re-established in 1972, aid that has helped build Beijing's international airport and the city's new subway system. You'll search in vain for a plaque on either acknowledging where the money came from.

Unlike Japan, in China the government really does control history.

His full article's well worth a read -- at the link down below -- here's another taster:

China's own history has been relentlessly rewritten to erase the episodes the Communist Party would rather forget. Ask any young Chinese about Mao's disastrous "great leap forward" campaign in which more than 20 million people starved to death, and you will get a blank stare.

Ask about China's unprovoked invasion of Vietnam in 1979 in which tens of thousands of Vietnamese were killed. Again, nothing.

Last week China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao declared that:
"Only a country that respects history, and takes responsibility for history, can take greater responsibilities in the international community."

He was talking about Japan, but he could just as well have been talking about China.

26 April 2005

Boy-men ...

Lorraine Kelly

No sooner has the shitty Schwartznegger started slagging off American women again, than another of his 'boy-men' ilk, comes to the UK shooting off his stupid mouth.

Pictured above is Lorraine Kelly, Britain's favourite 'mum-next-door' television presenter. She co-hosts ITV's flagship live morning show, 'This Morning'. She's about as down to earth, self effacing and un-showbizzy as it's possible to be in her business. Really.

Yesterday morning, Monday 25th April, one of the programme's guests was the American actor, hell-raiser and serial self abuser, Robert Downey Jr.

"Junior" ?! Well, he certainly got that right.

The genial host warmly welcomed Downey on behalf of her millions strong, audience. "You look really well, " she said.

And the dick-headed, dim-witted, Downey's reply? On live, breakfast time, national television?

"Thanks. I was just gonna say, your tits look great too."

Obviously taken aback, embarrassed and flustered, Ms Kelly struggled for words for a while. But being a proper professional - unlike the sorry excuse for a guest - she eventually composed herself and continued. " Oh ... erm ... oh ... good. Well, erm, I'm glad I've made you happy."

Happy?! I don't think so. I'd say quite the reverse. I'd say, he's still as sad a sack of shit as he ever was.

Don't these guys ever grow up?

24 April 2005

Uh, oh!


Alan Rimmer, of the UK's Sunday Mirror, published an 'exclusive' today [Sunday 24th April]. It wasn't many words long. It wasn't given much space nor prominence; it made it, only into a corner of page 30 -- in an 80 page edition. The word "murder" wasn't used -- the word "killing" was.

Upon reading, I immediately thought it strange to learn the body in question was found a full week earlier -- yet I'd been ignorant of it until today. Seemingly, a post mortem's already been held -- confirming cause of death as an abdominal gunshot wound. Also, the very next day an inquest was opened -- then immediately adjourned. The next tid-bit really struck me as odd -- the claim that a 'senior' Metropolitan Police officer had been 'informed'. That, is highly unusal.

Apparently, the dead man was a 57 year old, un-named, ex-soldier. His body was found a week ago, slumped at the wheel of his BMW, parked in a quiet West London street.

Rimmer's 'exclusive' included the following information:

The deceased was not just any ex-soldier:he was a former SAS member.

He'd served with the Coldstream Guards -- in Londonderry, Northern Ireland -- in January 1972 -- when 13 civilians were shot dead by the British Army on the infamous, 'Bloody Sunday'.

The plot thickens even more.

In the British government's recent Bloody Sunday enquiry, the dead man is said to have given evidence -- under cover of a special codename.

I repeat: "Uh, oh!" I add: "Keep your eyes & ears open."

What a great day ... not!

Yesterday, 23rd April, was England's national day -- St George's Day. No big deal has been made of it for quite a few years. Even when it was widely celebrated, it was never on anything like the scale of Ireland's St Patrick's Day. However, a couple of things that made the news yesterday -- mostly hidden well away on the papers' middle pages -- surprised me no end. Disappointed me too. So much so, I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry.

The first item, concerned a traditional, English 'local' pub. The landlord had applied to his local council for a license extension -- to get an extra hour or so, serving customers. This 'extension' practice is more or less the norm here in the UK on 'special occasions' -- be it for either national or local celebrations/events.

Earlier this year, the same landlord was granted, without a problem, an extension for Chinese New Year. But, the application relating to our own national day was turned down flat. It wasn't " a special enough day," he was told. Yep, really. St George of England's Day isn't a 'special day' here in England anymore -- at any rate, not according to his local council.

Now, as anyone who knows me or has read anything I've ever written, can tell you -- I'm about as liberal as it's possible to be. Live & let live, is my motto. However, liberal or no liberal, I find that kind thing hard to stomach.

Imagine then, how my jaw dropped and my mouth gaped, when I went on to read, the same day, a piece about Portsmouth. By the way, for those who don't know; Portsmouth is a 'Royal Navy' city. Nearly all Portsmouth's population is connected, in some way, to our 'senior service'. The local economy is almost totally, dependent on navy related business. So much so, I doubt there's been a single day in the last few centuries when at least a couple of Royal Navy ships haven't been in port.

This year, a brand new order went out from the brass. Whilst the St George's Day tradition of decking out all our ships in port, in full-dress [ie: all manner of flags, pennants, bunting, etc, are displayed] -- positively, no St George's flags were to be flown.

The reason? Well, according to our pain-in-the-arse, powers that be -- Turkey may take offence. Y'see, a Turkish war ship was in port too -- on a visit connected to a joint exercise with ourselves;the kind of exercise that allies often carry out together.

Apparently, it just so happens, our St George's Day coincides with Turkey's national day. But, guess what? The Turkish navy could fly whichever flags it wanted to.

Talk about 'political correctness' gone mad. Eh? Can you credit it?!

21 April 2005

Yep, there's a "HELL" alright.

War, is Hell.
No, it's not Hiroshima; it's my home city of Liverpool, England. It's how it was when I was born here and grew up here, during WW2.

Can you believe things got even worse before, only gradually, getting better? Go on, take a good look. See how it was [and still is] to be on the receiving end of warfare -- via aerial bombing.

What you can't see here, is the so-called, collateral damage. You know, that's the term the brass use. It's how they describe the dead, the dying, the dismembered, the disfigured and the disabled -- not to mention the dispossessed, the demented and the bereaved. And, remember that collateral damage applies almost exclusively, to innocent civilians -- not armed troops with at least a fighting chance.

Study the pic as long and as intently as you like. Take forever if you want. But, you'll never hear the screams, nor sniff the stench -- be it of burning, or rotting flesh. Nor will you whiff the stink of human shit, running open-sewer-style through the streets, as the infrastructure shattered daily. Clean water, gas and electricity distribution was a-la today's Iraq.

What an introduction to life, eh? What a wonderful, welcoming world. Brings a whole new meaning to the term 'baptism of fire, wouldn't you say?

Now, here we are today;April 2005, in the 21st century. Yet, there's still WW2 related suffering all around me, even as celebrations of the 60th anniversary of that war's end are arranged. Some survivors still search for war-wound, pain-relief. Many, for more straightforward solace -- all too often in the bottoms of bottles. Others remain in their long time, asylum-homes -- for their own safety, you see. Incidentally, we don't really call them asylums any more; too uncivilized, you see.

Still living [yet mainly ignored] badly crippled victims, now barely crawl, through their remaining days. Mercifully, for many, their suffering's almost over;their war's end's in site. They've waited three score years, this year. Sometimes, I imagine I hear them. "Death, where is thy sting?"

Believe me, there are no winners in war -- only loosers. Witness the evidence I've offered and think on this; I've written only of the 'winners'.

A famous American general, Smedley Butler, once exposed war for what it truly is -- in just four short words. "War is a racket," he said.

He knew exactly what he was saying;he'd had lots of first hand experience. He knew that while the rich & powerful get richer and more powerful, we, the ordinary people of either side, never stand a chance. From the first shot of any war, the best any of us can hope for, is simpy to survive.

I, for one, can't wait to celebrate this upcoming 60 year anniversary . The further behind us, the better

© 2005 Richard Morrison

19 April 2005

Spooky ...

Tuesday 19th May 2005 - Cardinal Ratzinger became the new pope.

Because I'm agnostic, it doesn't mean too much to me. I don't give credence to clairvoyants and the like either, so their predictions cut no ice at all. But, sometimes there are things I honestly can't call anything but 'spooky!'

The night before the Vatican vote for Ratzinger, one of my favourite old films happened to be on TV again, so I watched. Remember "Midnight Cowboy"? Remember Dustin Hoffman's haunting portrayal of the sad, seedy Ratso? Hmmm. Ratso ....... Ratzinger. Well .... I'm just sayin' ..... that's all'.

A full half day before the white smoke & bell ringing began in Rome, I'd read an article on past papal-predictions. The piece, by an Irishman named Henry Kelly, appeared in a British national morning paper [Daily Mail] so must have been printed the previous night. It must have been researched and written considerably earlier.

As well as the usual [and expected] Nostradamus stuff, I learned for the first time of an Irish 'holy man' named Malachy -- who was born in county Armargh in 1094 -- ie:over 900+ years ago. Apparently, he was a 'seer' of some repute -- as well as a 'healer'. So many great & good things were claimed to have been done by him before he died, aged 56, in 1148 -- that he was later canonised by Pope Clement 3, some 42 years later in 1190.

Amongst Malachy's predictions were 112 papal prophecies. He said that's how many popes were [then] yet to come -- before the anti-Christ one arrived, to be the very last -- and that that's when Rome would 'fall'. It's claimed his papal forecasting record is surprisingly good since he began in 1143, with Pope Celestine.

Now, note this. Ratzinger, as Benedict XVI, becomes Pope number 111 -- meaning the next one is the last one -- according to Malachy.

The spookiness continues. The Irish holy man also wrote -- almost one millennium ago -- that this latest [and penultimate] Pope, would be: "Of the glory of the Olive". Hmmm. Spooookeee. The monks of the order of St Benedict are also known as --- Olivetans.

So, ............ I'm just sayin' ........................ over to you.

© 2005 Richard Morrison

18 April 2005

Reebok ad gets the boot ...


"Those who say it can't be done shouldn't interrupt those doing it," is a quote I heard a long time ago. I can't remember who said it first, but it's become one of my favourites and I use it at every relevant opportunity. Sadly, relevant opportunities arise too often.

So many folk seem to moan & groan and blame all around them if things aren't right - yet few try improving things themselves. "They should ....... blah, blah, blah," one hears, a dozen times a day ". I'm sure you hear it too. People constantly referring to a mystical "They". So, OK, in some 'wars,' "They" may come out winners - but there's lots of smaller 'battles' ordinary people can win. Here's an example.

Giant sportswear manufacturer, Reebok, that likes adding the word 'England' to it's own logo -- and completely plastering it's product's with the British 'Union Jack'. All this, in spite of being one of the world's biggest users of Asian sweat-shop labour.

Recently, a Reebok television advert shocked many people in Britain. It featured American rapper, '50 Cent'. In the ad, a shot is heard, then the rapper counts slowly to nine -- the number of times he was shot, in New York, in 2000. "Who you planning to massacre next?" he asks, then laughs. Next, Reebok's slogan "I am what I am," appears.

Lucy Cope, a grieving mother whose son, Damien, was shot dead in London in 2002, saw the ad. She couldn't believe what she was watching & hearing in her own living room on her own TV. " I felt physically sick. My heart stopped," she said. "I wish Damien could have survived nine bullets. It took only one to end his life". So she decided it was time to take action -- along with 36 more UK mothers who had lost their children to gun killings. "Kids look up to 50Cent. They think if it's cool for him, it's cool for them. But, no one is a hero if they're involved with guns," said one mother.

Lucy and the other mothers decided to take on Reebok. They first collected signatures on a petition. Dozens of complaints lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority soon followed. The big stores were contacted and asked not to stock Reebok products unless they pulled their tasteless ad. Next, the women canvassed the wider British public, asking them to boycott both Reebok themselves -- and shops continuing to sell Reebok goods while the ad still aired.

Now, after a long hard slog, these determined ladies' campaign has finally finished.

The mighty Reebok continue to run their offensive advert across most of the globe -- but NOT in Britain. They've now withdrawn the ad from all UK television screens.


© 2005 Richard Morrison

17 April 2005

Diplomatic bags of cash ...

Cash by the diplomatic-bag-load is being handed out on a regular basis, to numerous British diplomats -- to simply stay at home and tend their gardens. Over 150 of them are collecting more than £500,000 monthly [over £6,ooo,ooo p.a.] between them, according to a report by Glen Owen, in today's [17th April] Mail on Sunday. Incredible and/or immoral as it may seem -- it's perfectly legal and within their rules.

What the Rover MG workers wouldn't give for such a sweet deal, eh? Or most other ordinary [ex] employees who are unceremoniously dumped at the drop of hat, at minimal expense to their dumper bosses.

Gardening-leave, as it's called, is what these diplomats are sent home to enjoy, as they join the growing number of superfluous British embassy staff. Such paid leave is so named, because those taking it aren't required to do anything more taxing than potter about their own gardens. Indeed, they're expressly forbidden to take on real work, of any description.

It's the current policy of reducing British embassy staff [in order to save money, you see] that's brought about this amazing state of affairs.

The diplomatic version of garden-leave can last for six months or longer, after which, the affected diplomats are offered either other civil service jobs -- or tasty redundancy packages.

When pressed for further details/discussion last night [16April] the Foreign Office -- with over half the total 150 'garden leavers' on it's payroll -- "was unavailable for comment " to The Mail on Sunday -- let alone to a blogging old Brit, named Richard.


© 2005 Richard Morrison

Camilla cries off ...

Months ago, plans were agreed by our new, 57 year old, Duchess of Cornwall [shown here, loyally crunching a nice crusty, Cornish-pasty] to perform her first solo Royal duty, a week tomorrow. Now being the most senior, female Royal, after the Queen, she was set to spend time amongst the sick -- as British Royals, from time to time tend to do.
Sadly, it now appears the only [fat] chance Southampton General Hospital has of seeing her, is maybe as a patient. Of course, only if she's secretly switched from the Harley Street set to the NHS. Otherwise, I fear it's a case of 'forget it,' because Charlie's little darlin' has suddenly started suffering, herself. Or so we're being led to believe.
Only four days ago, courtiers unexpectedly cancelled the whole caboodle -- allegedly at Camilla's command. "She's sick," they've reportedly said. You know, like -- she's become overcome -- with nervousness. We'll have to postpone. It's panic, pure panic. It's panic attacks! The prospect of performing publicly, all alone, has filled her with too much fear.
However, Charles' Clarence House press secretary, has also chimed in -- to the contrary. He claims the abrupt cancellation is due to 'strict rules'. Rules, re: Royal engagements in run ups to elections. Rules, which a Cabinet Office spokesman has since said, come as news to him.
Confusing isn't it?
There's more. The very day Camilla should have set off for Southampton -- Prince Andrew, The Duke of York, is visiting a hospital, at Wrexham in North Wales. Furthermore, Prince Anne, the Princess Royal, is also to visit a hospital [ St Mary's ] in London -- on May 5th -- General Election Day.
Obviously, I've missed something, somewhere along the line. I was convinced that Anne & Andrew were both still, 'Royals'.

© 2005 Richard Morrison

16 April 2005

Blair! Support our troops!

Above is a photo of a young British Soldier having a run in with irate locals, somewhere in Southern Iraq.
Just another day at the office. Eh?
Around 35,000 of the UK's brave servicemen & women now look set to loose their right to vote in the May 5th general election. All thanks to a cock-up by the government and the MOD.
Those involved should all be ashamed. They should pay a price.
Can you believe It?

Blair can't help his own people. And to think that he's helping Bush to organise Iraq? Neither one of them could organise a piss-up in a brewery.
* Incidentally, the squaddie shown above, escaped that nasty situation in one piece. I hope that's still the case.
© 2005 Richard Morrison

15 April 2005

British soldiers can't vote ...

Support our troops, we're urged, and most of us do. If only the bods at the top did too. Especially, as they're the ones who deploy our lads across the world - war zones included. So how the hell can it come about, that around 35,000 serving men & women may loose their vote in May's general election? Well, right now the finger's pointing straight at the Ministry of Defence and Blair's boy-wonder government.

When this sort of scandal arises, it's usually due to incompetence. Such shambles as these -- when British squaddies are still actually fighting for their lives in Iraq & Afghanistan -- are unforgivable. Other UK troops in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Germany and Cyprus are stuck in similar 'schtook'.

I say, this particular 'cock-up' is more criminal negligence than incompetence. Heads should roll. MOD heads and Blair-boys' heads - to bolster troops' morale - as many already feel they're forgotten. Examples should be set. Signals should be sent, that supportive actions - not simple slogans - are there when it matters . Then relevant heads should roll -- sooner rather than later.

I gasped in disbelief when reading today's Daily Mail online. Out of our 48,000 soldiers serving their country abroad, some 35,000 could be missing out in the coming general election. An election where they [should] get to tell the politicians who sent them to do what they're doing -- where ever they're having to do it -- what they think of them. These boys are told they're fighting for democracy when they're called upon to lay their lives on the line. Hmm. Surely democracy, like charity and regime change, should always begin at home.

One British [Iraq veteran] officer is saying:" The Iraqis got to vote, but we can't." He sums the whole sorry mess up so succinctly -- in just eight words. The Whitehall wallahs & ministerial mandarins could learn much from him - he's a true professional.

Changes to rules, whereby troops abroad are no longer automatically included on electoral lists, have caused chaos. Troops serving away from home must now 're-register' annually. This year's registration deadline was March 11th. The forms only began going out, 10 days earlier.
© 2005 Richard Morrison

Four stamps & a bottle opener ...

My doctor recently changed my medication. I've just had to check that little paper insert that lists possible side-effects. There was no mention of hallucinations, so I went back to the newspaper story I'd previously begun reading. It still said the same as it did when I looked the first time. Not surprisingly, my eyebrows soon raised as high as they did the first time.

Apparently, a Californian man just won an auction for four stamps & a bottle opener -- on eBay. Well, so my newspaper said. And, OK, OK, I know what you're thinking:that paper must have some real weirdo news editor. With all that's going on in the world these days, how the hell can that be judged worthy of space in a national daily?! Right? That's what you're thinking. Right?

So, here's the low down on what went down. A man in Sioux City, Iowa, put the stamps & opener up for sale along with an old, stale piece of wafer. Next -- and no matter how this is reading right now, this isn't a joke -- next thing was, it went. The stuff had sold for a cool, grand.

The high bidder & now new owner, has since said he bought the 'lot' to stop the wafer "falling into the hands of a witch or Satanist." The seller's since said he doesn't believe he'll "be going to hell" for selling something so special.

Stay with me, please. This is true. This is news. Let me report -- then you decide.

It seems this all started way back in 1998, in Rome, Italy. That's when the seller claims he went to the Vatican and received communion from the recently deceased Pope John Paul 2. That's when, where and how his wafer was blessed -- along with his stamps & bottle opener. Surprisingly, he says he's not even Catholic. The Californian buyer catergorically claims he is.

I ask you, can you bloody well Adam & Eve it?!?! Talk about fools and their money.
© 2005 Richard Morrison

14 April 2005

Hearts of gold ...

What a great bunch of guys. Businessmen, with hearts of gold, you may think. That yank, Maurice 'Hank' Greenberg, and those brits, The Phoenix Four, led by John Towers. Wow! What generosity!

'May think,' that is, if you didn't know the nitty-gritty of what's really been happening at MG Rover here in England, and American International Group in the US.

Insurance tsar, Greenberg, a Bush Pioneer and one of America's richest men, out of the blue surprised his wife with a little gift. It was the bulk of his own AIG shares/stocks. A bundle worth more than a whoping $2 billion. Pfft! All done & dusted. Overnight, $2 billion, gone. Given away -- to the missus. Hmm. I wonder why?

The Phoenix Four spread their generosity over 5 years. Giving an average of £1 million a year to each of it's top managers - even though they were lousy at their jobs. So lousy, in fact, they were helping MG Rover loose many millions, each year they managed. Nice work if you can get it, eh? Of course, when the four-strong top management team consists of your four good selves, there's not much 'if' involved.

And, what many people don't realise about the timing of Greenberg's generous gesture, is this. It was just days before he was forced to quit his top AIG post -- due to a huge [plot still thickening] accounting scandal.

Although Greenberg's not been charged yet, New York Attorney General, Elliot Spitzer, says there's overwhelming evidence of wrong-doing. He further says, many 'accounting tricks' have been going on. Tricks, of the phony figure, profit boosting variety. As of earlier today, AIG still won't comment. Watch this space.

Now, swiftly flitting back to England's Phoenix Four.

Getting together, only five years ago, as a team of entrepreneurial buyout-managers, they bought Rover MG from the German car company BMW in 2000 -- for £10 ! Yep, you read that right -- it's not a typo. They paid TEN, GB POUNDS, STERLING for the whole caboodle -- lock, stock & barrel.

Today's latest is, they're about to share another £6.1 million [windfall] between them. Huh! They'll need to move fast -- while there's still a few quid left to steal.

All this, as 6,000 hard working British men & women are unceremoniously dumped on to the dole. Additionally, there's an estimated 15,000 to 16,000 more workers, now staring the same fate in the face - as lots of Rover's suppliers and other dependent firms, also seem certain to sink.

Businessmen? I'd call them plain old fashioned crooks. Generous guys? Hearts of gold. I don't think so -- though they could afford them.
© 2005 Richard Morrison

13 April 2005

Rumsfeld in 'Heroin Heaven' ...

So, Donald Rumsfeld's arrived in Afghanistan fresh from Iraq. To boost the troops' morale, eh?

Remember what Rumsfeld did for his country and it's troops' morale when he was younger? Ha! Go on, say it, I dare ya!

Remember Afghanistan ? That's the country where billions of dollars worth of US tax payers' money, and not a little of the UK's too, was spent rearranging the ruins & rubble the Russians left behind.

It's the the country where they beat the Taliban -- or so they'd have us believe. Those of us trusting or simple minded enough to swallow all their bullshit, that is. It's the country where those awful war-lords [ some of whom the US is now inviting to help govern the place] were wreaking havoc. Until the US & it's 'allied'crew began wreaking their own havoc.

It's also the place where Osama- bin-laden hung out and where, we were assured, he would be caught and/or killed. Remember him too? The guy who, with only a few cell phones and some 4x4s & horses, managed to make monkeys out of our superpowers' mega-well-equipped, technologically enhanced, highly trained & mobile modern armies? Eh? Remember?

And, it just happens to be the country where much of the world's heroin-producing poppy crops were [and now increasingly are] grown. Grown to supply the civilized West's ever ready, massive market for the stuff, I might add. Well, they said that had to be stopped too, didn't they? So, .... er .... shouldn't someone point out a few things to Rumsfeld while he's there on the ground? Then, when he gets back home he can update his boss, G.W.B. Including in his report what the UN is telling anyone with ears to hear, about American-Afghanistan's, 'heroin heaven'.

The poppy growing/farming/production/business has flourished over the last couple of years -- the 'American' years. Again just today, the UN confirmed that 80% of the world's heroin now comes from Afghanistan. Incidentally, the American-Afghan- poppy business is one of the few businesses that have flourished during Bush's presidency. The Carlyles and Haliburtons of the world notwhithstanding of course -- but that's another story. Not convinced? Then take a peek at the state of the United States' economy. It won't take you long to 'get the picture'. New US deficit records are being set, month after month after month.

Mission[s] accomplished, eh?

Anyhow, to end as I began -- as nature insists we all do -- back to Rummy. I wonder if this time he's got a better line of patter for his long suffering troops than his old "stuff happens" one?

The real problem of the crooked Bush administration Rumsfeld represents, is a moral one, not a morale one. But like the old saying goes, "None are so blind, as those who will not see".
© 2005 Richard Morrison

12 April 2005

On Georges, bikes and booze ...

I read in today's Daily Mail that George W. Bush now has an iPod. One that's filled with no less than 250 different songs. He gets his choices downloaded [legally I hope] by an old buddy called, Mark McKinnon.

" No one should psycho-analyze the (President's) song selection, " warns McKinnon - so I won't.

Apparently, the President likes listening to his stuff while riding his bike. Remember his bike? Millions of us around the world, not so long ago, watched one Bush bike ride we'll never forget. Because we all enjoyed it so much, I expect. After all, genuine GWB laughs are few and far between. Serial stutters & blunders excepted of course.

On learning the Presidential iPod contains most [if not all] the lachrymose hits of another famous George, I admit I had a good giggle. Because the other George turns out to be George Jones - the alcoholic country singer and self confessed former junkie.

I wasn't so much laughing at the singer, personally, but at some of his past antics - and some related ironies. Ironies are often the things that most easily spark genuine, spontaneous smiles from me . As some did again today, when several mental George pictures came flooding back.

Mental pictures -- like remembered visions of Bush so unexpectedly [and comically] parting company with his mountain bike. Heh. What a hoot. What a sport. What a good old boy. What a real, regular guy, eh? Just like you and me. [ Bank account balances excepted of course.]

Then, more mental pictures - this time of the other George - the Jones one. Half forgotten images, suddenly conjuring themselves back up. Such as those of the time he fell off his big petrol-powered lawn mower. Yeah - his lawn mower. Really. As sure as I sit kerpounding this keyboard. Go ask that nice li'l lady who married him a while ago - you know, that other country singer, Tammy Wynette. I can tell you: she knows.

Anyhow, back to the irony business. One fine day, Miss Tammy's husband, George, needed some real emergency transport. In a hurry. To get to the store on time. The local liquor store!

He'd been banned from driving, you see. [ Heh. I wonder why?] Well, Tammy had, quite sensibly, hidden the keys to all the family cars. All 27 of them! I kid you not.

But, it seems old George was not to be thwarted. He couldn't use a car - he couldn't find his bike - so he'd hop on his lawn-mower and ride THAT down the road. I mean, he NEEDED that drink.

Little had he realised though, ' the wagon' wasn't the only thing he'd fall off that day. For it as it turned out, it was also the day poor George Jones fell -- arse-over-tip -- right into the street -- off the bloody lawn-mower!

Memories, ironies, Georges, bikes and booze - aah - don't you love 'em all?

Incidentally, before anyone accuses me of trying to make the 'leader of the free world' look foolish - I categorically deny it. Moreover, I hereby do declare, that he's definitely not.

Falling off a bike is one thing. Falling of a sofa eating pretzels is yet another. But when it comes to any seriously dangerous stuff, Dubya always proves beyond doubt, that he's no fool.

One need only look at his war on terror. His rubble rearranging rampage through Afghanistan. His illegal Iraq invasion. Etc, etc. Doesn't he invariably ensure that the really risky rides [like 'war-wagons'] are, absolutely always, done by anyone but him?

A fool? No way. Bush is not the fool.
© 2005 Richard Morrison

11 April 2005

Where there's a will ...

... There's usually trouble, too. And Monaco's brand new ruler, 47 year old Prince Albert, well knows it.

"There are going to be arguments," he's today been reported as saying, in the The Daily Mirror. Well, I'll just bet there are. Bloody great big ones!

While not disclosing exactly what size fortune he's to inherit from his recently deceased, 81 year old dad, Prince Ranier, the Mirror did divulge this much. Albert's elder [by a year] sister, Princess Caroline, has been left a whoping £950 million. But it's her brother who's been named "the main beneficiary". Phew!

Now, moving swiftly back to the subject of predicted "arguments".

The pair's younger sister, Stephanie, 40, seems all set to be the one firing the first shots of any looming battles. Boy! Talk about 'A Family At War'. If I had a fortune of my own, I'd gladly risk it in an instant -- by betting we 'ain't seen nothin' yet'. Because, little baby sister, Steph, is set to get only one per cent of dear old dad's huge stash. Wow! As far as pops was concerned, she must really have been a right, royal pain in the arse.

Sheesh. Talk about sibling rivalry. Eh?
© 2005 Richard Morrison

Suffer little children to come unto me ... ?

Perhaps the biblical quote I've used to title this piece should have had it's punctuation changed a while back, to read: "Suffer, little children -- to come unto me." It would probably have been more appropriate, considering the almighty scandal of rampant paedophilia amongst some American Catholic priests, just a few years ago.

It was a scandal which [to maintain a biblical theme] begat a scandal. For the guilty parties were systematically 'covered up' by their then boss. I speak, of course, of the diocese of Boston's then Archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law.

After a concerted outcry, he was eventually forced to resign his Archbishop's post. Only to be spirited away by the church hierarchy -- before reappearing, working in the Vatican. Huh! It's a damned promotion to head office, said many at the time. Some system, eh?

Now, a mere three years after 'running for cover' himself, in Rome, his ugly head rears again.

To the further incredulity and disgust of millions of decent people worldwide, especially American Catholics, it appears his church has 'honored' him again. By hand picking him to lead one of nine memorial masses for the recently deceased, Roman Catholic Church's 'Boss of Bosses' - Pope John Paul 2. Just three days after the pontiff's funeral.

Well, I've never claimed infallibility and I don't want to pontificate. But I will say this: "Something stinks in the Vatican state".

What I can't say, is what in hell - or what in heaven's name, if you prefer - should Catholics expect next? Maybe more to the point -- what should they damned well, demand next?!?!?
© 2005 Richard Morrison

10 April 2005

When times were tough for Tone ...

So, it's all hands to the campaign trail, again. Eh?

Seeing Tony Blair speaking today -- going for another oscar, it seemed -- reminded me of other performances of his. And while this true tale may be news to many, it's not to lots like me. Ask dear Cherie. Not long ago, she actively helped him spread this particular piece of nonsense. Not quite as dramatic as the WMD debacle. Nor the famous 45 minute farce. Yet just as revealing.

Visiting a temporary refuge for the homeless -- TV cameras in tow of course -- she stopped to speak to a man. A young man. A man of the Blairs' 21st century Britain. But this was an Englishman who had no home to call his castle.

"Tony knows what it's like to be homeless," Cherie lied. With her familiarly pained yet sincerely straight, face.

However, what she carefully avoided mentioning were the actual details of said spouse's homelessness. So I'll do it for her. Right here and now.

When Blair stepped from the train for the first time as a student, to stay in London, it was getting late in the day. But, hey! He was young. He was fit & strong. He had a sleeping bag, and the weather wasn't too bad. Anyhow, this was a bit of an adventure, wasn't it? What the heck? He'd sort out some digs in the morning. Everything would be fine. He wasn't a lumberjack but he was alright.

So, he slept beneath the stars. In his sleeping bag. In a park. For one night. Then did sort out digs next morning.

That, my friends, is how our fearless leader learned: "what it's like to be homeless".

Ugh. Would someone please pass the puke bucket.
© 2005 Richard Morrison

09 April 2005


It's been all go for the last couple of days, eh? Well, it would have been if I'd been one of the rich and famous and/or great & good.

Yesterday, I'd have been bored half to death for hours, in Rome. At the already dead, Pope's funeral. Amongst a right motely crew of mourners, too. Did you ever see so many phoneys all together in one place at the same time?

This morning I'd have flown home, fast, to England. Then, whizzed straight down to Windsor, for that wedding. Loyally, singing out loud: "Get me to the church on time". Or castle, or town hall. Or, wherever else had finally been burdened with them .

Imagine the pressure. Chinless Charlie and his whacky what's-her-name woman would never have forgiven me if I hadn't shown. You can bet your life I'd have soon been added to HRH's famous "bloody people" list. If not actually thrown bodily into the Bloody Tower.

Waving ta-ta to Windsor, I'd then have winged my way, at warp speed, up to Liverpool's Aintree racecourse . There, quite comfortably, casualy mingling 'mongst the country & county crew. Whether I needed a Grand National fix again, this year, or not.

Phew! It's tough at the top. And amid all this
, a certain established blogger asks me to fit in an interview for her. Right in the middle of everything else already on one's overflowing plate. Oh, well. Seeing as she's the daughter of a famous, retired American scientist........ such is 'the culture of life,' I suppose. ( Heh. Can you spot the hidden blog-clue? )

Next, looming large on my horizon, would be the sunny [though sometimes slightly sweaty] shores of the South of France. You know -- The marvelous Mediterranean. Magnificent Monaco. And, the recently deceased Prince Ranier. The latest, in an ever growing line of late lamenteds -- and another flaming funeral!
© 2005 Richard Morrison

*** N.B. I'm just learning the technical side of this personal blog/ web publishing lark. This first effort is what you might call a test flight. Lightweight, I know, but that may just help it get off the ground. If it does fly, expect to see some weight, increasingly added. Especially, in the politics dept. Particularly, re: Blair & Bush. Always allowing some space for a smile, or two. I hope.

It won't always be pretty. It won't always be P.C. It will always be :
"How THIS Old Brit Sees It."