Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A plague on all our houses

A sobering thought for those, who like me, try to move away when a passenger with a bad cold gets on the train and sits beside you.

Justify Full
An al-quaeda cell in Algeria
have apparently been wiped out by the medieval disease, the black death. The chilling prospect is that they were developing a strain to spread in Western cities. We can only hope that the specialist knowledge to do this, died with them. Certainly it is a grim thought that terror may not come in bombs but simply in an infected person spreading a deadly disease by walking around a city. Al-quaeda is noted for its creative thinking and the absence of recent significant attacks in the west is no real grounds for complacency.
I will certainly try to keep things perspective the next time I think I catch someone's cold on public transport. It could clearly be a lot worse.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A certain mania

Obama-mania reached some parts of London today.

Mania is the right word because it is a form of madness and is based on nothing rational or proven. It is simply based on a feeling and a vague hope.

Even in allegedly serious corporations and firms such as the one I work for, an email was received inviting all those interested to attend the auditorium and watch coverage on TV from 4.45pm GMT. Never mind the credit crunch, never mind work, all were welcome and implicitly encouraged to watch the Obama inauguration. I, for the record, did not go and watch it "live".

We would not do that for a change in our own prime minister so I fail to understand why that is necessary for a change in American president. It is of course political correctness, trend following, jumping on the band wagon or whatever you want to call it.

The ludicrous expectations, it goes without saying, will be disappointed. I am strangely neutral to Obama now certain he will not be as good as people say but not certain he will be as bad as "Obama-cynics" such as myself feared.

As with Blair in 1997, the worst aspect of Obama is not the man himself but rather his ludicrous followers talking as if a new world had arrived. The agenda of some of his backers is to be feared but whether they will prevail remains to be seen. The lesson of Blair is that those cheering loudest today will ultimately be most disappointed while those most cynical today will end up pleasantly surprised. I am sure it will not be an exactly the same but it seems to be the way of things that those who cheer loudest at "new dawns" often go to bed the most disappointed !

So am I simply miserable today ? Not at all. We live, as the cliche goes, in interesting times. Records are constantly being broken, corporations are collapsing daily, jobless totals are soaring, house prices crashing and yet I do not see dispondency.

There is an awakening of something positive and a realisation that the age of unabated consumerism and debt addiction is both over and that it is a good thing too.

The suffering of some people, especially those who were poor to start with, is undoubted. Yet I remain positive that things ultimately will get better. That hope is not based on one man thousands of miles away but on the God-given innate resourcefulness of people everywhere.

In terms of "yes we can" my advise would be not to look at the media-fest played out on every news channel swooning over Obama like lovelorn teenagers. Instead I would look in the mirror. That is where hope and recovery will come from.

Those most effected by Obama-mania are already on the road to taste the bitter fruit of disappointment. For the rest of us, let's just get on real life !

Saturday, January 03, 2009

New Year, new war

Today saw thousands of people, mainly British born, march through the streets of London to protest against Israel's air attacks on Gaza. In many respects it was the usual suspects:

Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn, a few "leaders" of the British Muslim community and a handful of "socially concerned" actors and similar.

Therefore it would be easy to dismiss. However there are some things that should be noted. First I should say that every inclination in me whether political, intellectual or emotional is to favour Israel. Israel in its tiny territory has a right to exist despite broadly hostile neighbours on every side. Ordinary Israelis seem to face daily pressures that people in London could hardly imagine. The worst it generally gets in London is deciding on whether a particular area is safe after dark. For many in Israel the prospect of a rocket coming through the ceiling is a very real one. Additionally the risk of suicide bombers has only been managed through extraordinary security measures.

Nonetheless ,I cannot help feeling uneasy about the assault on Gaza. This is not out of any shred of sympathy for Hamas but due to the fact that there are some innocents caught up in a territory even smaller than Israel.

In essentially approving (by silence if nothing else) of a massive military assault (that has become a ground war this evening) we are approving of high levels of civlian casualties. Of course, any German could point out that Britons had no such sensitivities when they cheered the firestorms in German cities that killed far more than have ever been killed in Gaza.

So war is essentially grim and innocents always get killed. That aside I do think that a victory in Gaza at any price may yet come back to haunt Israel. Will thousands of young Palestinian and Arab people become inspired to become suicide bombers ? Will Israel ultimately become more isolated as a result particularly in the year that the US president changes ? There are not many subjects that create marches of 10,000 people in London but Gaza managed that today. Last but not least will Israel create a greater degree of unity amongst Islamic states. Today I saw reports of the Turkish PM visiting Saudia Arabia and high level Iranian officials flying to Damascus. The differences between the Islamic states is a key part in Israel's foreign policy. United islamic states would be a far bigger threat to it than disunited states.

I support the state of Israel but despite this I find myself uneasy this evening. I suppose that is a luxury to have, to be uneasy. Thousands of Israelis have no time to be uneasy- they have to risk their lives this evening.

I do not envy them and I am thankful I live in a place where I get time to be uncomfortable about the wars in foreign countries.

My hope is not simply for an Israel victory which would seem inevitable but for a lasting peace. That of course is the holy grail that no one has yet obtained.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Happy New Year to all readers !
We are just spending it at home this year which doesn't seem so bad when it is -2 C outside !
2008 was such a difficult year in so many ways. Here's hoping for better things from 2009 !
Happy New Year !