Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Vacuum cleaner.

In science and politics, they say the same thing about vacuums - where you create one, there will always be something or someone determined to fill it.

I am an expert in political vacuums and I enjoyed the highest quality training. From General Mike Jackson no less, our Prime Minister's own tutor. He is the only man in the last decade or so who has truly understood the power of vacuums.

In Kosovo in 1999, I was a uniformed Army press officer and for the purposes of the day we crossed the border from Macedonia, I was in charge of the Sky News team and Reuters. By means of some clever manoevering by me, we were literally the third vehicle in the convoy of 2000 vehicles which would all drive up that one straight road to Pristina.

So what, Bailey? I hear you shout. Stick with it. Stick with it.

So Jackson's plan for entering Kosovo, which was revealed to the world but actually designed with only one audience in mind, was to give the Serbs a timeframe for withdrawal. After each 24hr period beyond a stated day they had to have withdrawn further and further North until all troops had left Kosovo. What the old devil omitted to mention was that he had no intention of waiting for the withdrawal programme to even start before flooding the place with Nato soldiers. So it was then that we moved slowly but surely into Kosovo that morning to be confronted by some pretty surprised and pissed off Serbs. "We haven't even started packing yet" they said. "We have another day" they insisted.

What Jackson realised was that if he left so much as the width of a piece of paper between them leaving and us arriving, the Albanian KLA would have moved so damn fast and cause so much chaos to our eventual role that our position would have been untenable from the start and highly embarrassing in the end. Jackson had been talking to the KLA, not the Serbs. He was trying to catch them off guard. It worked a treat. We got there first and were there to put the KLA straight into their box when they arrived. Heard a sqeak from Kosovo since?? No. Didn't think so.

What on earth then, you might ask, is going on in Iraq. The Allies determinedly bring 30 years of tyranny to an end and then completely ignore the propensity for Muslim sectarianism to bubble back to the surface and fill the vacuum. You know well that I am not against this war, but as was said repeatedly at the time, I do find it baffling that our political leaders wander in to a place with a history like that, without the first thought given to the real job of putting the place back together again. As a result we have a laughable number of troops trying to hold it all together. We are going to lose. Shias and Sunnis will slaughter each other whether we stay or go. That is unless we take control. And I mean really take control, in a way that would make even Nero blanche.

Where am I going with all this? - Just think Blair and Brown and I'll get there in a minute.

History, both ancient and modern, is filled with examples of phenomenal tyrannies suppressing ancient sectarian feuds, only for the tyrant to die or be deposed and everything kick off again as if nothing had happened. How about Tito in Yugoslavia for one? That feud between Serbs, Muslims and Croats erupted after his death with greater ferocity than ever, and that was after 50 years of Tito's absolute rule during which they all lived "happily" side by side. You'd think we'd learn.

Well maybe, just maybe, Mr Blair and Mr Brown have learnt. All the talk on the news tonight was of Mr Blair seeing off Mr Brown. "I'm staying put!", "Bugger off Brown!", "I'm still in charge!" (at least one of those will be a headline tomorrow). But it was only yesterday that the news was full of Mr Brown postitioning himself for leadership and finally discovering his friendly sense of humour to boot.

I do hate the ridiculous fickleness and ephemeral nature of news and its reporters. Stand back. Look at that again. What do you see? Well I see two men ruling out any possibility whatsoever of a VACUUM. I am guessing here, but I'll wager it's Brown calling the shots on this one.

Hello, Mr Howard. Wakey, wakey.....................

Thursday, 15 September 2005

Bloody Terrible

I absolutely bloody hate BT! They are the most unhelpful, ignorant, pathetic, useless, dis-organised bunch of jobs-worths I have ever come across.

What is so upsetting is that you know that wading through their eternal "press 1 for this and 2 for that" routine ends up with a monkey who is utterly incapable of fixing your problem.
Worst of all, they provide single lines through which you are delivered two services (telephone and broadband) but their engineers are only trained to fix one of them. So if you get the wrong one, they just walk off without so much as a bye-or-leave and you have to go back to the start.
They neither care, nor have to care about their customers and it is quite apparent that their customer service is orientated around the management of the business and not the satisfaction to the customer.

I would like to have nothing more to do with them. Does anyone know of an alternative?

I may have been a little harsh.

On reflection, a number of maligned players in the post below deserve to be recovered a little.

In is unfair to suggest that Hayden, Langer and Gilchrist failed to turn up. They did - just without their usual party poppers. Gilchrist kept wicket superbly. Hayden caught cripsly in the slips and Langer's average was higher than Trescothick's. I apologise to you all.

It is also a little brusque to say that Bell's performance was entirely negligible. He did make more outfield catches than any other player on either side (this excludes wickies and exclusive slip fielders like Hayden). On the issue of his batting, however, I remain intransigent. It was bloody awful. If the youthful enthusiasm and belief in the dressing room was as contagious as we are being led to believe, then we should be bottling Bell's blood, since he clearly has the immunity of an alligator. Back to the counties for you, ol' boy. Oi! Collingwood.......

I think the rest of them pretty much got what they deserved.

2 final points - Lovely to see Flintoff paraded round London drunk as a Lord, lovely to see him behave so impeccably despite his condition and lovely to see such behaviour placed in its proper context and accepted for what it was. Also, how devastating is it to hear Dennis Lillee, the most frightening fast bowler in history, predict how fiercesome our bowlers are going to be on the hard bouncy pitches in Australia next time round. Cool or what?!

Monday, 12 September 2005

It's been emotional.

It is half my life-time ago that England last held the Ashes and tonight they are regained after the most nerve-wracking series I have watched.

Cricket is a finer sport than any other. It is as complex as chess and as strenuous as triathlon. It requires physical and mental courage, patience, dexterity, control, natural skill and supreme endurance.

The pleasure is not just in beating Australia but in the manner that England have beaten Australia. This is a team with living legends like Warne and McGrath, players of the last decade like Hayden and Gilchrist and emerging players such as Brett Lee and Michael Clarke. No. The real thrill comes in having watched our players out perform them and the averages speak for themselves.

The real difference between the two teams was exactly that - England were the better team. A collection of exceptionally talented players more tightly bound than the other side. In so many areas of the game our players just pip the other side. So many players shone and someone always stood up and did the job no matter how perilous the situation. I make only two changes to this team for the immediate future. Only Ian Bell failed to deliver any resounding contribution in any game and I felt all along that Collingwood or Thorpe should have been there in his place. With Thorpe retired, Collingwood or Robert Key must step in. And Geraint Jones, who struggled behind the stumps, must be replaced with a specialist wicketkeeper. We need a keeper who can bat, rather than a batsman who can keep.

Of the Aussies, so many players failed to turn up. Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist, Gillespie, Kasprowicz, Katich and Martyn. Warne, McGrath, Clarke and Lee were the only men on the pitch half the time. (Brett Lee is the real deal. He was their best player besides Warne and he is the next great name in Aussie fast bowling).

Warne and Flintoff were the biggest contributors and to be fair it is hard to separate them. Warne took 40 wickets (thats 40% of the possible total and in the event he took very nearly half of all Aussie wickets!!!) and scored 249 runs. Flintoff took 24 wickets and scored 402 runs. Flintoff wins, but Warne is a living legend and we will never see spin bowling like that again.

But I have determinedly not mentioned two men so far. The defining difference between the two teams was leadership and the biggest cheer of all is reserved for Michael Vaughan. He designed this victory, he lead this victory and he played his part in it too. He inspired, controlled, contained, encouraged, calmed and calculated. He also scored the highest single innings score of all (166 at Old Trafford). He was awesome. Ponting on the other hand was panicked, scared, lost and clueless. He had no plan and could not even respond when the world realised what Vaughan and Fletcher had done.

Vaughan enabled England's bowlers to suffocate the Aussie batting with plans and imaginative fields and they bowled like a relay team (of doctors performing "the snip"!). It was constant and un-relenting. The most destructive batsman in the world, Gilchrist never made it beyond 49 and in the first four test matches only one Aussie scored a century!

So once again, just as in rugby, leadership, discipline, respect and team work have carried the national team to the top of the world (albeit a small world in cricket!). Sport is more than skill and fitness. Sport is desire, confidence, character, sportsmanship and most of all self-sacrifice for the team. Whilst cricket right now is awesome, Football in this country is, and has been for sometime, awful and it will have to understand that before it will ever rise to the top.

The back pages will now be given back to the world of self obsessed, violent and obscene soccer players but for now the beautiful game is Strauss diving for a catch or cutting through point, Flintoff pulling for six or moving a ball back off the seam, Vaughan driving through the covers or plotting a wicket, Trescothick clipping through square leg, Pietersen hooking for six, Harmison bowling a yorker, Jones reversing the swing, Hoggard swinging and beating the bat, Giles just holding everything together and England lifting the Ashes.

Well done and thank you.

Sunday, 11 September 2005

Super Site

I (Oliver bailey) am creating a website that isn't on the web. Instead of being on the web it is on a disc. It is called the Super Site. If you want a copy please comment on this post. Bye.

Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Looting, Robbery and Rape. Would it happen here?

I am genuinely sad for those who have lost everything in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many will have lost a lifetimes work and endevour. It must be heart breaking. I am also genuinely moved by the knowledge that many hundreds of thousands of people are living suspended lives

It must be said however, despite the apparent insensitivity, that my sympathy is tempered ever so slightly by a number of things.

A minor point would be my constant amazement that people knowingly build and live in communities located in such geographically un-sound situations. There are many examples around the world, of human's defiance of nature's superior force and every so often she proves who's in charge.

The most important point however is the incompetence and downright negligence of a state and local government not to have the powers, resources and plans in place to deal with a known threat and regular rehersals of their plans.

There is no question that good, rehersed plans save lives. Ask the many survivors of the French airliner that came down and blew up a month or so ago. Ask the hundreds of survivors or the London bombings on July 7th. Those in charge knew that one day the threat would arrive and had plans to cope.

Even according to its highest officials, New Orleans has been waiting for this for years, yet their readiness was non existent. The Mayor can order people to leave, but sod you if you can't. I would go so far as to say that the negligence of public officials verges on the criminal. Contingency planning is a much maligned profession but behind the scenes they must quietly get on with the job and have plans in place.

If an order to evacuatte is given, it should have been followed up with clinical precision to ensure that everyone leaves and would be easily anticipated by the massive build up of national guard and other agencies ready to move in and execute the order.

The third world coped better with the tsunami, and they had only 30 seconds notice. Get a grip, America.

It is at this point that I leap to the defence of that prize, grinning Charlie, President Bush. What the hell was he supposed to have done about it? Is he really supposed to check personally the contingency plans of every State and County. Was he really supposed to command the response? Have we gone mad? No. He has been massively let down by Senators, Governors, Congressmen, Mayors and every other local representative and it is very disconcerting that we see these very people promising to "punch the President". If they had done their job properly in the first place........

I also wish to hear nothing more from that dreadful group of British tourists caught up in it. They ignored the warnings, they were pathetically ill-prepared and most of them have displayed a staggering lack of dignity in the way they have escaped - and then weep crocodile tears for those they left behind. Sorry, not acceptable.

What is most alarming and depressing is the speed of descent into civil unrest and disorder. Media reports of rape, robbery, murder, looting are a disgrace. A natural disaster occurs, and a community of people are at each others throats within days. Is this where we are at, the so-called developed world? In the moment when a community should pull together and help itself, the community has pulled apart and turned on itself.

Can you imagine that happening here in Britain?

In as much as this has become the parallel stories of rich and poor, I rather think there are sufficient similarities between our two countries to merit closer scrutiny.

The very fact that I, a pro-American blogger, am contemplating this demonstrates just how much more fuel has been poured on anti-American sentiment. How they will crow. Until now, criticism of America has taken place against defensible backdrops. There has always been another side to the story. But in New Orleans we see America in its true colours. No Richard Rescorla here.

It is worth bearing in mind that a certain audience will have watched this situation very carefully indeed and will have been quite amazed and intrigued at how simple it has been to bring a major US city to its knees. Radical Muslims have shown a propensity for developing unique and viscious tactics against the West, deliberately targetted at our fears and foibles. This advertisment of the Western / American psyche will not have gone un-noticed.

Saturday, 3 September 2005

Welcome to my world

You may have been wondering, nay, possibly concerned, about my silence over the past month.

Well there are a number of reasons - a summer holiday for one (including a gorgeous week in France, near Bordeaux, courtescy of our wonderful friends, Phil and Vanessa). Addictive and nerve shattering cricket for two (I told you cricket rocked!). Doing the old DIY and odd jobs round the house for three (also preparing a room for our delightful new au pair, Klaudia from Hungary).

But most of all, and most thrillingly, my time has been occupied by the preparation for the creation of my new business, which is formally brought into being on Monday morning.

No more commuting, no more London, no more outrageous parking and train fares or rip-off sandwiches at Pret.

Please welcome Countryside Communications - a specialist public relations consultancy communicating to, for, about and from the countryside.

Spam control

Sorry to have to activate spam controls on this comments area of this blog. I am more than happy to enjoy your comments but I will not tolerate spam, and especially not religious spam!
I hope this does not deter you from contributing.

Rent-a-gobs r us

I have decided to start a list of all those from whom I would like to hear and see nothing during the rest of this wretched Tory leadership contest. It is a "living" list and I shall add to it as I come across more people I don't want to hear from. Please feel free to add to it yourselves, through the comments facility.

Ken Clarke
The BBC in its entirety
Ann Widdecombe
Norman Tebbitt
Lord Patten
Francis Maude
Norman Lamont
John Major
Polly Toynbee
Neil Kinnock
Michael Howard
Michael Portillo
Michael Hestletine
In fact pretty much anyone called Michael

If the media come calling, remember to Just Say No!

What does Ken Clarke think he is doing and who is he trying to kid? We had a name, in the Army, for officers who used to try over and over to get into the SAS, only to come back with increasingly ridiculous excuses for being rebuffed. What was it now? Oh yes, that's right - wankers!

This window of opportunity cannot be wasted. Whilst we have Clarke, Widdecombe, Yeo, Bercow, Hestletine et al in one boat, we must sink it once and for all. Individually they have the voter appeal of a cowpat. Together, they are the slurry pit that the party has swum in since the 1990's.

I also came up with another solution to the leadership election. I think that in a first round all the names on the list should be whittled down to a short list of three by the membership of the party and then a leader selected from those three by the MPs.

Only there's a catch - the first round vote should only be by those members of the party who are 45 years of age or under.

It is we young'uns who have most to lose by living our best years under a government we despise and a opposition party led by an unelectable dinosaur we don't want but are lumbered with by a senior element who still think they are important.

If we were the Party whose youth (relatively speaking of course!) elected its leader, we would almost certainly attract more people and would repeatedly refresh itself within the context of the modern society in which it exists. How radical is that? You can't even spell radical, Mr Blair.