October 20, 2010

British defence cuts will impact the troops in Afghanistan

Filed under: Britain, Military, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:16

Lewis Page comes close to calling Britain’s prime minister a liar over the speech he made the other day:

Mr Cameron and other Coalition politicians have repeatedly assured us that in fact all their decisions are aimed at support of our heroic troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan — but in fact, in one hugely important respect, they are slashing support for our boys and girls.

Last Christmas, regular Reg readers may remember, in a freak outburst of common sense Labour defence ministers announced plans to buy no less than 22 more desperately-needed Chinook helicopters. The powerful Chinook, only helicopter able to really overcome the tough hot-and-high conditions of Afghanistan, is the single greatest desire of our hard-pressed troops in Helmand. Lack of Chinooks is the worst handicap their commanders face. Say what you like about Labour, but in their last months they did the right thing and ordered a good big number of these vital machines. They planned to pay for them, sensibly, by cutting some Tornado bombers among other things.

Good old Mr Cameron, though — the soldier’s friend — has cut this order to 12, almost halving it. He received massive cheers yesterday from ignorant MPs yesterday, saying:

There is no cut whatsoever in the support for our forces in Afghanistan … we have been and will be providing more for our brave forces in Afghanistan [including] crucially, at last, the right level of helicopter capability.

That is perilously close to being an outright lie, we’d suggest. No matter what you think of the rest of his plans, Mr Cameron’s decision to cut the Chinook order (to preserve Tornado bombers, too!) is an unforgivable betrayal of our fighting men and women at war right now — and then he has the gall to try and pretend that he’s actually decided to order some helicopters rather than cutting an existing order!

The daily Orwell

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, WW2 — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 13:09

A few years back, on the old blog, I mentioned that the Orwell Trust was publishing George Orwell’s diary in blog form. It’s now up to October 1940:

The unspeakable depression of lighting the fires every morning with papers of a year ago, and getting glimpses of optimistic headlines as they go up in smoke.

Some combination tools work well … and then there’s this one

Filed under: Humour, Randomness, Woodworking — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:05

Christopher Schwarz gives in to the urge to try out a new tool that combines the rasp and the chisel in one not-so-easy-to-handle package:

Now usually when I see a tool like this I just ignore it. Boneheaded ideas like this usually end up in a mass grave with the bones of dodo birds, passenger pigeons and AMC Pacer automobiles. But a couple weeks ago I stumbled on a set of these tools for sale — new — on Amazon.

These tools must be stopped. So I bought a set of three to take a look. They are as bad as I feared.

The tools are incredibly heavy. The rasp teeth are coarse and not very aggressive. They manage to make more of a farting sound than any scratches in the wood. Of course, it doesn’t help things that you have to use the rasp one-handed — grabbing the chisel tip is ill-advised.

Or is it? The chisel edge is as sharp as Lennie from “Of Mice and Men.” And when you do pound the chisel into a piece of wood (thank you Mongo the Mallet) the tool stops dead after 1″ because the rasp teeth dig into your work.

And the worst thing of all? They are branded as Nicholson — the once-great rasp maker.

But if this tool can succeed in the marketplace for 10 years, what other opportunities are toolmakers missing out on?

NFL levies $75,000 fine for helmet-to-helmet hit

Filed under: Football, Health — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:57

The NFL is at least appearing to be serious about their new policies on helmet-to-helmet hits:

A day after saying it would consider suspending players for helmet-to-helmet hits, the N.F.L. decided Tuesday to fine three players involved in a string of injurious collisions last Sunday.

The N.F.L. wants to give players and teams fair warning that it plans to ratchet up discipline for violations of players’ safety rules, the league spokesman Greg Aiello said. Players, coaches and teams will be told Wednesday that future disciplinary actions will be harsher, setting the stage for possible suspensions.

James Harrison, the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker who knocked two Cleveland Browns out of their game with helmet-to-helmet hits — one was within the rules; the other was a penalty the officials missed, the league said — was fined the most, $75,000, because of previous trouble. Earlier this season, he was fined $5,000 for slamming Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young to the ground while sacking him.

Update, 22 October: For a lighter view of the issue, here’s Scott Reid:

My favourite part of this story is the way James Harrison declared he would retire rather than be told he couldn’t hit people in the head at excessive speeds with his helmet. He was already sore about that on-field crossbow ban and the legal talking-to he got after he tried to roofie Tom Brady. How many more humiliations is a defensive player supposed to endure? When it was pointed out to him that retiring meant not getting paid, Harrison quickly amended his view. Still, I wouldn’t set my cocktail down next to him if I was a certain long-haired New England pretty-boy quarterback.

Shocker: terrorists now free to take photos of public buildings!

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:51

<sarc>Speaking of giving terrorists a free ride, some liberal lame-brain has granted terrorists the right to take photographs of public buildings:

The New York Civil Liberties Union and Libertarian activist Antonio Musumeci just won a court case that affirms the right of photographers to take pictures and record video out front of federal courthouses. The US federal government settled the case by apologizing to Musumeci for his arrest, acknowledging that it is legal to record at courthouses, and promising to issue guidelines to federal officers explaining this fact to them.

Amazing. Next you’ll be telling me that just anyone can now brazenly take photos of any federal building at all!</sarc>

“We got an opt-out!”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:39

I’ve said before that I’ve been avoiding going anywhere by plane for the last few years, but I didn’t realize the security theatre also applied to aircrew:

My name is Michael Roberts, and I am a pilot for ExpressJet Airlines, Inc., based in Houston (that is, I still am for the time being). This morning as I attempted to pass through the security line for my commute to work I was denied access to the secured area of the terminal building at Memphis International Airport. I have passed through the same line roughly once per week for the past four and a half years without incident. Today, however, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at this checkpoint were using one of the new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) systems that are currently being deployed at airports across the nation. These are the controversial devices featured by the media in recent months, albeit sparingly, which enable screeners to see beneath people’s clothing to an extremely graphic and intrusive level of detail (virtual strip searching). Travelers refusing this indignity may instead be physically frisked by a government security agent until the agent is satisfied to release them on their way in what is being touted as an “alternative option” to AIT. The following is a somewhat hastily drafted account of my experience this morning.

As I loaded my bags onto the X-ray scanner belt, an agent told me to remove my shoes and send them through as well, which I’ve not normally been required to do when passing through the standard metal detectors in uniform. When I questioned her, she said it was necessary to remove my shoes for the AIT scanner. I explained that I did not wish to participate in the AIT program, so she told me I could keep my shoes and directed me through the metal detector that had been roped off. She then called somewhat urgently to the agents on the other side: “We got an opt-out!” and also reported the “opt-out” into her handheld radio. On the other side I was stopped by another agent and informed that because I had “opted out” of AIT screening, I would have to go through secondary screening. I asked for clarification to be sure he was talking about frisking me, which he confirmed, and I declined. At this point he and another agent explained the TSA’s latest decree, saying I would not be permitted to pass without showing them my naked body, and how my refusal to do so had now given them cause to put their hands on me as I evidently posed a threat to air transportation security (this, of course, is my nutshell synopsis of the exchange). I asked whether they did in fact suspect I was concealing something after I had passed through the metal detector, or whether they believed that I had made any threats or given other indications of malicious designs to warrant treating me, a law-abiding fellow citizen, so rudely. None of that was relevant, I was told. They were just doing their job.

I’m not surprised that they refused him entry after he declined to participate in the latest act of security theatre . . . but I wonder if aircrew have not — until now — been required to go through the full indignity that awaited mere travellers if they refused AIT screening.

H/T to Jon Henke for the link.

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