Saturday, November 24, 2007

We should Hang Our Heads in Shame...

We should Hang Our Heads in Shame today that this could happen in our once Great Country.

Soldiers who suffered appalling injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan were verbally abused as they swam in a public swimming pool.

During a weekly rehabilitation class at a council leisure centre, 15 servicemen – including several who have lost limbs or suffered severe burns – were heckled and jeered by members of the public.

One woman was so incensed that the troops were using the pool at Leatherhead Leisure Centre in Surrey that she told them they did not deserve to be there.

Unfortunately this is only what can be expected when we have leaders of our Nation who have contempt for the Armed Forces.

The members of public who did this should be publicly named and shamed.

Wounded Iraq veterans driven out of public pool when told they might scare children | the Daily Mail


Apparently its not just "Two Jobs Des" who is trying to do two things at once. Due to the shortage of troops many are being denied the 24-month gap between frontline operations promised by the Ministry of Defence over the past four years.

The Herald reports

That one battalion, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was given just one-third of the recommended time off between six-month stints of duty in the Balkans and Iraq.

The unit is also the worst-manned of the five regular battalions in the new Royal Regiment of Scotland (RRS) with a shortfall of 97 trained men and a backlog of experienced soldiers who have already applied to leave the Army early.

The Black Watch, now 3rd Battalion, RRS, had only 12 months - half the time for rest and recuperation deemed necessary under the MoD's "harmony guidelines" - between two punishing tours of duty in Iraq in which it lost nine dead.

Before the King's Own Scottish Borderers and the Royal Scots amalgamated into 1st Battalion, RRS last year, the component battalions had 16 months and 18 months respectively between deployments in Iraq and Northern Ireland.

One officer who spoke to The Herald said the real situation is much worse because sub-units - 30-man platoons or 100-man rifle companies - are often re-assigned during what is supposed to be their down-time and "bolted on" to other battalions to bring them up to fighting strength for operations.

Under MoD rules, this does not show up as a unit deployment for the soldiers involved. To register as a tour, a battalion has to send a headquarters and at least two company-sized groups.

Anything less than that does not appear in official statistics as a breach of harmony guidelines.

The report then goes onto to make the point that the troop shortages are causing the problem by explaining the "Rent-a-Jock" System as follows

The officer, a veteran of Iraq, said: "Every battalion in the Army is an average of 70 soldiers short of complement. That means robbing Peter to pay Paul when it comes to fielding a unit in combat in the necessary numbers.

"It's known as the Rent-a-Jock' system. A prime example was the KOSB having to provide a reinforced company for six months on a rolling programme at a time to garrison the Falklands while the battalion was supposed to be in peacetime barracks and undergoing normal training in the UK.

"It has become a regular occurrence in this overstretched Army to haul guys away from well-deserved time with their families to bulk out another under-strength regiment which needs the bodies.

"It's little wonder that soldiers are voting with their feet and leaving. There are just too few men available."

Shortages Force Scots Troops Back Into Battle Too Soon (from The Herald )

Friday, November 23, 2007

Laugh at Gordon Time

Apparently The Clunker is giving away copies of his book "Courage" to kids in Uganda. Apparently all the press are laughing at him.

What can we say about this tragicomic figure. Please, Please think what you are doing to this country.

Guy Fawkes' blog of parliamentary plots, rumours and conspiracy: Bottler Gives Remaindered "Courage" Book to African Kids

Priority NHS treatment promised to war veterans ?

According to the Guardian

Health Secretary Johnson is expected to write to GP's across the country instructing them to extend priority treatment to all 4 million existing veterans. Those with injuries received as a result of their service will be able to bypass hospital waiting lists, get priority access to specialist care and become eligible for free prescriptions.
Whilst I applaud this idea, it will do nothing without the backing of funding to allow the priority treatment and still retain reasonable treatment levels for the rest of the General Public. Perhaps the £1.8 billion the NHS is in "surplus" could be used to help with this.

Priority NHS treatment promised to war veterans | Society | The Guardian

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Old Buffers forced into Active Service

The BBC (other internet news sites are available) reports that Five former defence chiefs spoke during a Lords debate, during which there were calls to improve levels of military funding.

The most revealing statement was the fact that

"Gordon Brown was a most unsympathetic chancellor of the exchequer as far as defence was concerned - and the only senior Cabinet minister who avoided coming to the Ministry of Defence to be briefed by our staff on our problems."
So the man in control of the purse strings didn't care enough for the people who are risking their lives for him and his corrupt Government to even come and see the people running the Armed Services. The man is a complete disgrace. We can only hope he is beginning to see the writing on the wall and resigns in the near future.

Lord Boyce didn't hold back in his criticism
"The smoke and mirrors work of the government and, in particular the Treasury, actually means the core defence programme has had no effective budget rise at all.
If we were actually to cut to the truth, we would find it was actually negative - especially if one subtracts the £550 million to be spent on the slum accommodation that should have been replaced years ago.
And this negative budget is why, if you go to the MoD today, you will find blood on the floor as the defence programme is slashed."
Admiral Lord Boyce added that the decision to give one person - Des Browne - the jobs of both defence and Scottish secretary was an
at a time of war and followed up with
"It is seen as an insult by our sailors, our soldiers and our airmen on the front line. And I know because I have reason to speak to them a lot. And it is certainly a demonstration of the disinterest and some might say contempt that the prime minister and his government has for our armed forces. And it shows an appalling lack of judgement at a time when our people are being killed and they are being maimed."
Another former defence chief, General Lord Guthrie, said Mr Brown had been
to the military, following up Lord Guthrie said:
"In my experience... he [Gordon Brown] was a most unsympathetic chancellor of the exchequer as far as defence was concerned - and the only senior Cabinet minister who avoided coming to the Ministry of Defence to be briefed by our staff on our problems. And I think really that he must take much of the blame for the very serious situation we find the services in today.""
As I have been saying this Government and especially Gordon Brown have nothing but contempt for our Armed Forces yet expect them to fight and die for this country. This is the Labour Government's biggest disgrace and makes the loss of personal data by HMCR look like a petty mistake.

P.S. This post was inspired by a "Champagne" Socialist Roger of Political Betting who had this to say on the "Old Buffers"
I was encouraged by seeing those three buffers (who used to run the armed forces) in the House of Lords criticizing Brown personally for not giving them enough money. It reminded me what I dislike about the establishment in this country and I was left asking myself how these three could run a cake shop let alone the armed forces.
My reply to him is here

BBC NEWS | Politics | Brown 'shows contempt for forces'

Scotland Dies Laughing

The Daily Mash's take on the football last night is here

Most would have been dead within minutes

TRIBUTES are being paid to Scotland this morning after the entire country laughed itself to death.

The alarm was first raised at around 10pm last night as thousands of phone calls and text messages went unanswered.

Small groups of volunteers from Berwick-Upon-Tweed and Carlisle ventured north just after midnight only to find houses full of dead people gathered around still blaring television sets.

By dawn, as RAF helicopters flew over deserted city streets, it was clear that the whole country had suffered a catastrophic abdominal rupture.

Wayne Hayes, a special constable from Northumberland, said: "We went into one house in Dunbar and found three men sitting on the sofa with huge smiles on their faces, still holding cans of 70 shilling. They seemed to be at peace."

He added: "In a house near Edinburgh we found a man face down on the living room floor with his trousers and pants round his knees.

"It seems he may have been showing his bare buttocks to the television when he keeled over."

Roy Hobbs, a civil engineer from Northampton, said: "I got a call from my friend Ian in Stirling at about 9.50pm.

"He was already laughing when I answered the phone, but after about 25 minutes of the most vigorous and uncontrollable hilarity, everything suddenly went very quiet."

Moving tributes are already being placed along the Scotland-England border with many mourners opting to leave a simple bag of chips or a deep fried bunch of flowers.


Ministers 'ignored data security warnings'

Please read the whole of this article in the Telegraph. It is just goes from bad to worse. The article currently has 3 pages. How many more will it need?

Some points from the article

  • HMRC has had 2,111 data protection breaches in the past year, according to the Tories. Customs refused to disclose details of what these were
  • A government review of security in 2003 identified “serious risks” of information going astray and recommended data should be encrypted.
  • The chairman of HMRC who resigned over the fiasco is still on full salary and will receive a full pension package.
  • Mr Darling has repeatedly pinned the blame for the missing CDs on a “junior official” at the HMRC who put them in the post. Yet the staff member was following procedures laid down in March by senior HMRC managers when a similar request for data was made by the National Audit Office.
  • Mr Darling also told parliament that he delayed announcing the loss of the CDs for 10 days after being told about it on November 10 because banks wanted more time to prepare anti-fraud measures.
  • The British Banking Association said: “The BBA did not ask for more time and none of our members asked for more time.”
  • The Association of Payment Clearing Services, which manages the movement of money between banks, said: “We found out on Friday and were given until Monday to sort it out. There was no request for a delay.”
  • An almost identical breach of security involving CDs happened in September 2005, when the names, addresses, dates of birth and bank details of UBS customers were lost in the post after being posted by HMRC.
  • Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, said he had repeatedly warned the Government that its data protection procedures were not up to scratch. He said: “I have been pressing the Government to give my office the power to audit and inspect organisations that process people’s personal information without first having to get their consent.”
  • In July this year Mr Thomas warned that data protection breaches in Government departments were "frankly horrifying”. Turning to the latest breach, he said: “It is a shocking case. I am at a loss to find out what happened in this situation. This goes beyond legal compliance. Any aggregated system for collecting information must be proof against criminals, it must be proof against idiots, it must be proof against those who don’t follow the ordinary rules of procedure.”
What more can I add.

Ministers 'ignored data security warnings' - Telegraph

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

HMCR Junior Official Found

I hear they’ve found the “junior” official from HMCR, he was found at Wembley playing in goal for England. Claimed he had got lost in the post.

Another quote from last night from a text message on the BBC. This time from Watson in Aberdeen.

“Without doubt, the defining image of McClaren’s short reign. With their backs against the wall, England need blood, sweat and tears, and yet McClaren stood there helpless, umbrella aloft, not even prepared to get his hair wet! What would Churchill say?”
Next step Home Internationals?

Two die in Iraq Puma helicopter crash

The BBC reports today on the death of two more members of the Armed Forces in Iraq.

We also hear of further stories about the suitability of the equipment being used in Iraq and the age of the equipment. According to the BBC

The US military issued a statement on Tuesday saying two people had been killed and 12 injured when a coalition helicopter crashed near Salman Pak, on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital.

But a spokesman for the UK defence ministry said he could not confirm whether this was the same incident but the details did appear to match.

Defence chiefs said their thoughts were "with the families" of all involved.

The deaths on Tuesday take the total number of UK troops killed in operations in Iraq since the 2003 invasion to 173.
Puma Helicopters have been involved in a number of incidents in service

December 1979: Two RAF pilots and one crewman killed in Mtoko, Zimbabwe, after their Puma hit phone wires.

August 1991:Two killed when a British military Puma crashed in southern France.

November 1992 - Four killed when a Puma and a Gazelle helicopter collided in Northern Ireland.

February 1997 - RAF Puma pilot died after his helicopter crashed near the Bavarian village of Urspring during a training exercise.

April 2001: Two RAF pilots killed when a Puma crashed near Kosovo's border with Macedonia.

March 2002: Seven hurt after an RAF Puma made a forced landing in south Armagh, Northern Ireland.

July 2004: RAF co-pilot killed when a Puma crashed as it came in to land in Basra, southern Iraq.

April 2007: Two British servicemen killed in a collision between two Pumas near Baghdad.

And then in August 2007 3 servicemen killed near Catterick as a Puma crashed.

Which brings us to PMQ's today when the following question was asked

Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford) (LD): The Prime Minister rightly paid tribute to the servicemen killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The two men killed in Iraq were possibly in a Puma helicopter that was older than some of the personnel it was carrying. When will the Chinook helicopters ordered by the previous Conservative Government for use by our special forces be delivered for use by our special forces?

The Prime Minister: I do not think, despite the tragedy yesterday, that anybody should jump to any conclusions about what has happened. A full investigation should and will take place. I want to pay tribute to the courage, dedication and service of the men who have died.

As for equipment, we have ordered more helicopters; more helicopters are there on the ground; and we have the biggest defence programme of capital investment over the next 10 years of any Government at any time.

You just have to admire the gall of the Prime Minister as he ignores the question (that means no the Chinook's are not in service) and rolls out some Tractor Production statistics instead of answering the question.

Our Armed Forces deserve so much better than this. The Puma is a 40 year old design and all RAF Pumas are at least 20 years old.

BBC NEWS | UK | Two dead in Iraq helicopter crash

Who knows what else is out there?

It appears from this report in the Guardian that it was a junior civil servant who made the cock-up and sent the data to the National Audit Office. Apparently

"This individual should not have been involved. It was none of their business. They should have forwarded it on to someone else - another group of civil servants at a more senior level."

"The HMRC office is a huge office with 200 people and there is a nominated team that send items between us and other departments. The individual in question had nothing to do with that team and the it was completely outside their job remit."... ...

And on it goes about how they shouldn't have done this and etc and etc.

This is just not the point. No official should have the capability to do this in HMRC without having gone through a whole range of audited steps. No official, however high in the organisation, should have the ability to do this on a whim at any time. It is a complete breakdown of Security and not just a case of "not following procedures".

It is not just a case of a silly person doing something silly it is about an organisation that is criminally incompetent.

The only saving grace is that we know about this incident.

What about the untraced copies of data that could have taken by, it seems, any member of this organisation and have already been supplied to those who could profit from this data. Who can tell what is out there if it was only procedures that are supposed to stop this type of data extraction.

Civil servant who made the 'colossal error' | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics

Parachuting in the Sun

I rather liked the advert in the top right corner for Customs and Excise as they bailed out of a plane as Darling will surely have to do from the Government if this scandal gets any worse. Strike three cannot be long.

Its juxtaposition with the article on the loss of 25 million records by HMCR is striking.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Broken Spine

After todays news that the Government via the HMRC has managed to lose 25 million peoples personnel and banking data how safe do you feel about having your health details held on a National Database.

According to the Guardian

Nearly two-thirds of family doctors are poised to boycott the government's scheme to put the medical records of 50 million NHS patients on a national electronic database, a Guardian poll reveals today.
Now this is doctors who won''t put your details onto the system so they must not trust it for some reason otherwise they would happily put your details onto the database as it would be tremendously useful.

In a poll for the Guardian three-quarters of family doctors said medical records would become less secure when they are put on a database that will eventually be used by NHS and social services staff throughout England. Half thought the records would be vulnerable to hackers and unauthorised access by officials outside the NHS. A quarter feared bribery or blackmail of people with access to the records and 21% suspected that social services staff would not adhere to the confidentiality rules. I am unsure if there was a tick mark for all the data being given away to all and sundry by junior staff.

The poll of more than 1,000 doctors was conducted by Medix, a healthcare online research organisation previously used by the Department of Health to test medical opinion. It found GPs are increasingly concerned about the department's plan to automatically upload the records of everyone who does not register an objection.

I would venture to suggest that after today the polling figures amongst Doctors would be even worse.

Also in the the Guardian's Comment is Free, Ann Robinson says a second opinion is required on The Spine and it's use. Don't forget you will have to actively register an objection to having your details put on The Spine by replying to a letter telling you of the the changes.

Afters todays inept showing by the Government I would prefer not to have to give my details to them at all. I wonder if we could refuse to give details to HMRC as we believe they are in breach of the Data Protection Act and as such should not be allowed to store confidential data.

Just in case you wondered the total cost of the Spine system for the NHS is currently running at about £12.4 billion.

Family doctors to shun national database of patients' records | Society | The Guardian

MOD and its ‘Co-operation’ in Inquests

Please read the blog entry by Beau Bo D'or and see the image.

MOD and its ‘Co-operation’ in Inquests at Beau Bo D’Or

Major Operational Problem?

What more can go wrong for this Government?

"Intriguing news. Alastair Darling is to make a second and unexpected statement to the Commons this afternoon. It is not about Northern Rock but is, I'm told, about a 'major operational problem' at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. One rumour (and it is, I stress, no more than a rumour) has it that it is about 'data loss'."

Update: More discussion on this here

According to the BBC
Confidential details of 15 million child benefit recipients are on a computer disc lost by HM Revenue and Customs, the BBC understands.The chairman of revenue and customs, Paul Gray, has resigned.

Update 2: According to Darling all Child Benefit names have been "lost" includes parents/children and basically all the details you would need to raid an account or set up a new account. This is a disaster waiting to occur and apparently this is the second time it has happened.

PC gone Mad

I see the Met Police are taking Political Correctness to the nth degree. A uniformed Mascot of one of Blunkett's Bobbies (PCSO'S) was criticised by one of the force's sergeants for failing to represent the capital's communities.

He said the figure, white with blue eyes and blond hair, risks leaving Asian and women officers "isolated".

According to the Telegraph

senior officers said they would invest £15,000 in the design and production of three new characters.

In a written response to the London Assembly, Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said staff from the force's diversity unit were brought in to help create the costumes.

So what started out as a simple and effective idea which was popular in schools has been turned into an issue which could damage the public image of the Police

Met to create politically correct mascots - Telegraph

Monday, November 19, 2007

Coroner could call MoD minister

I see the defence secretary may be called to give evidence at the inquest into an RAF plane crash in Iraq which killed 10 UK servicemen. One problem with this is that the Defence Secretary in question is unlikely to be:-

  • The current one who is likely to go before the inquest starts.
  • May not even be from the same party judging by the time inquests are taking to start.
As I have mentioned before the fact that the RAF's Hercules were not (and maybe still all aren't) fitted with explosive suppressant foam (ESF) is a disgrace and was a disaster waiting to happen.

BBC NEWS | UK | Coroner could call MoD minister

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hack Journalist links autism to mothers drinking

Yet another scare story about Alcohol and trying to link it to Autism this time.

This time the Editor has allowed the following headline in the Scotland on Sunday

Expert links autism to mothers drinking

Some hack in the Scotland on Sunday then says
MODERATE drinking during pregnancy could be the hidden cause of thousands of serious childhood disorders including autism, Scotland's leading authority on alcohol and health warned last night.
If we read the article a bit closer we find that apparently
Dr Maggie Watts, vice chairman on alcohol for the Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action Teams, fears that even low levels of drinking could be related to a range of behavioural problems in young children, the cause of which has previously been a mystery. Watts, who is also a consultant in public health medicine at NHS Ayrshire and Arran, warned that up to one in 100 Scots children - as many as 9,000 - could be suffering from Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) with symptoms including behavioural and memory difficulties. But she said many could be misdiagnosed as suffering from autism and other neurodevelopmental problems because doctors do not ask mothers about their pregnancy drinking habits when making their diagnosis.
So the hack somehow manages to conclude that these cases are linked to Autism when Dr Watts says specifically that they have been misdiagnosed. How a decent editor has allowed this through and into print is beyond my brain power.

Read the article carefully and you will see that it is not Autism we are talking about but Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) which has nothing to do with Autism. The headline just tries to link Alcohol and Autism together.

As a parent of an autistic spectrum child this type of hack journalism and appalling editorship is to be despised. Next time please try and find out what you are talking about before writing this sort of utter tosh.

Uodate: Of course what is moderate drinking, and also please read this story by the Devils Kitchen which will make you think a little before believing the next "Health Warning"

Please don't get me wrong I do not think drinking alcohol in pregnancy is a good idea, I just think responsible reporting is a good idea and what we deserve from our papers. News - Expert links autism to mothers drinking

Four Ouches

Ouch! , Ouch! , Ouch! and Ouch! again.

The Brown bubble has definitely burst!

Gordon Brown the master ventriloquist - Times Online

Wendy sheds another Aide

Yet again one of Wendy Alexander's aides has had to quit. She really seems to pick them. With stories like this and this, another piece of what looks like misjudgment, will no doubt cast more shadows over Labours ever darkening days in Scotland.

The Mail has the following story

A Labour Party official has quit his post after apparently directing a four-letter insult at a senior politician during a glitzy awards ceremony.

Matthew Marr is said to have uttered the insult about Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond as the SNP leader was named Scotland's Politician of the Year.

It is also believed that he became involved in an argument with a female Member of the Scottish Parliament and was abusive to a cloakroom supervisor during Thursday's event at the Prestonfield House hotel in Edinburgh.

Mr Marr, spokesman for Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander, had been in his post for just two months.

Labour is obviously still smarting after its reign of power ended in Scotland.

Labour aide quits 'over four letter' slur | the Daily Mail