Search

Paul's Blog

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.

SMD Blogs

Posted by on in SMD Blogs

I recently caught a couple of episodes of a programme on the TV called Deadliest Warrior. It's a bit like a boys' school playground argument about who would win if, say, the Incredible Hulk fought Billy the Kid which has been turned into a television programme. Only instead of playground heroes, the programme supposedly pits types of warrior from history against each other; say a zulu versus a samuri. The programme has lots of demonstrations of the weapons used by the warriors. This often involves hacking at pig carcases or shooting anatomically correct dummies – some even made of gel which replicates human flesh – with lots of blood spatter flying. A doctor examines the results and proclaims “instant kills” or mortal wounds, etc. It's all very pseudo-scientific and not a little silly. Then the supposed results of the demonstrations are fed into a computer which we are told will run a simulated fight between the two warriors no less than 1,000 times and predict a winner. I think later in the series pitted two teams of five against each other. Well, we all know that a computer program is only as good as the programmer. Some of the results were a little surprising. But here's the clincher – one of the episodes I watched pitted the Viet Cong against the Waffen SS. The computer declared the SS would win. But the Viet Cong and the Waffen SS did fight it out in French Indo-China in the 1950s. Only the Waffen SS guys were serving the French Foreign Legion. And the Viet Cong, or a least the Viet Minh, won in the real life. Maybe the producers should be more careful and make sure they don't pit people who really did square off in their little gory fantasy.

Continue reading
Hits: 970
0

Posted by on in SMD Blogs

When I was just a little fellah, we went to Glasgow to see Santa. But this was a very special Santa: it was my great-grannie's brother Charlie. I can’t remember whether we went to see him at Lewis’s on Argyll Street or at nearby Goldbergs. My poor mum must have been in dilemma. Family pride meant that she wanted us to know that the big guy in red with the beard was Charlie. But if she did that, we might feel cheated at not getting to see the real Santa. It had turned out, she told us kids, that for some reason Santa couldn’t make it to Glasgow that day and had asked Uncle Charlie to stand in for him. It was a great honour; apparently.

Continue reading
Hits: 954
0

Posted by on in SMD Blogs

Living in Canada, it never occurred to me that many Britons would be unaware of what exactly was said in that so-called prank call which is said to have led to the suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha. The British media apparently decided against letting the public hear what the nurse in the Duchess of Cornwall’s room actually told the Australian disk jockeys pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles. But media did play the clip of Saldanha answering the call and putting it through to the Duchess’s room. That meant Saldanha was alone in the harsh public limelight when perhaps it should have been shared with her colleague. Of course in these days of the worldwide web, folks in Britain would have no problem hearing the whole call – not that there was much to it, the gist of what the nurse in the room said was that the Duchess was sleeping.  I heard an executive of the Australian radio station involved interviewed and he seemed to stop just short of saying “How were we to know that the silly besom would kill herself”. I was not impressed. The two pea-brains who made the call seemed genuinely upset. But they must have known that someone at the hospital might lose their job as a result of the call. And for what? What was supposed to be so funny?

Continue reading
Hits: 918
0

Posted by on in SMD Blogs

Journalists, if they are going to do their job properly, need sources. Nothing in this world is free. Or at least very very few things are free. These sources have agendas of their own. The journalist is using them and they are using the journalist. Often, the arrangement is mutually beneficial: the journalist gets a story; the source is often using the journalist as a tool to hurt a career rival and/or advance their own. Another thing the source may get is protection. Journalists are reluctant to destroy or damage the career of a valuable source. This means that a source often gets the benefit of the doubt when the brown stuff hits the fan. But sadly, it can go beyond that. Protecting a source can involve turning a blind-eye to wrong doing. Take the shortage of helicopters when the British Army first deployed to Afghanistan. Senior officers would brief journalists off-the-record that there was a shortage and soldiers were dying as a result. But on the record they toed the Government line and declared helicopter provision was adequate. Soldiers kept on dying – and senior officers did not damage their career and lucrative pension prospects by speaking out. The most journalists would do was quote un-named sources highlighting the shortage and then quote the official denial. Perhaps sometimes the un-named source and the senior officer issuing the denial were the same person. A senior, clearly identified, officer going on the record would have made all the difference when it came to getting those desperately needed helicopters to Afghanistan. But very few journalists were willing to risk losing a source who might one day be head of the British military by outing any of the senior officers involved. A cosy relationship. The only people who suffered where the poor squaddies killed or maimed by Taliban booby traps while travelling in convoys when they should have been flying in helicopters.

Continue reading
Hits: 983
0

Posted by on in SMD Blogs

When news reports from Afghanistan talk about a “senior soldier” being killed they usually mean a senior officer – perhaps a Lieutenant-Colonel. Walter Barrie was a captain but in truth he would appear to have been one of the most senior soldiers killed in Afghanistan – both in terms of experience and talent. Capt. Barrie was gunned down by a rogue Afghan soldier while playing football earlier this month. His death was greeted with sadness and an outpouring for tributes to his professionalism and humanity from his fellow soldiers. He was what is termed a Late Entry Officer – army code for promoted from the ranks. He was the Regimental Sergeant Major when the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Royal Highland Fusiliers, where in Afghanistan in 2008. After his stint as the most senior non-commissioned officer in the battalion, he followed the usual career pattern of promotion to officer status and appointment as the unit’s welfare officer. I only know about Capt. Barrie from the flood of tributes which followed his murder. But I have known former RSMs whose hearts have been broken by being shunted into the battalion welfare job. They only stuck it for the enhanced pension which retirement at captain’s rank brings. And that’s why I believe Captain Barrie was indeed one of the most senior soldiers to die in Afghanistan. He threw himself into the job, masterminding a highly successful charity drive to support the families of battalion members killed or seriously injured in Afghanistan. And then instead of taking a desk job and waiting for his pension, Capt. Barrie got himself sent back to Afghanistan, this time helping to train the Afghan National Army. Had he lived, he may even have managed to reach the rank of Major. I expect his funeral at Glencorse Barracks on Thursday (Nove.29) will be a major and emotional affair.


Continue reading
Hits: 1020
0
Go to top