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What is it with failed journalists and armed robberies? Yet another journalist here in Alberta has been jailed for staging armed hold-ups. I used to work with reporter who was just out of jail after serving a sentence for armed robbery. My guess it has something to do with covering the courts and crime. Some journalists decide that years of covering crime gives them an insight into the subject. They think they know the nitty-gitty mechanics of an armed hold-up and where the bad guy who appeared in court went wrong. One thing that always struck me was that many of the robbers were well known to the police long before they took a gun, or a replica thereof, on the job with them. Someone with no criminal record might have an advantage. Another point that struck me was that most hold-up men staged at least three or four heists before their luck ran out. So, the odds of being caught could be reduced by committing only one or two heists and then quitting. Though inexperience and lack of proper violent menace might make the first outing more than a little risky. Journalists down on their luck seem prone to taking up the gun. Much the same thought must have struck Scottish crime writer, and journalist, Bill Knox. He wrote a crime story about a young journalist who decided he'd come up with a near perfect armed robbery. It did not work out well. Time and chance and all that. 

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Is there such a thing as the Canadian Cringe? That no Canadian has really truly made it until they are famous somewhere else? That what happens in America or Europe is more interesting than anything happening in Canada? I was appalled by recent Canadian coverage of the murder of eight people in New York by a Lone Loser in a rented truck. Journalist after journalist or should I say "'journalist' after 'journalist'", cited similar previous attacks in Europe. Not one mentioned the recent hire-van pedestrian knockdown by a Lone Loser here in Edmonton, Alberta, which put four people in hospital. And there was the cop the Loser hit with a car earlier the same night and tried to stab to death. I guess for Canadian "journalists" if it didn't happen in the United States or a major European city, it didn't happen at all. OK, the Edmonton nut-job didn't succeed in killing anyone, but I don't think it was through lack of trying.  And while we're on the subject of homicidal losers; what's this with describing their sad sad murders, and attempted murders and maimings,  as "Lone Wolf Attacks"? That gives them an implied dignity and valour they certainly don't merit and insults wolves. Lone Loser. Sad Sack. Pathetic Excuse for a Human Being.

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I voted recently, in the local council elections here in Edmonton. One of the things that struck me the first time I voted in the Canadian election was that the ballot really seemed to be secret. There was no election worker noting the serial number on my ballot slip against my details on the electoral roll. If the Canadians have a way of working out who has voted for the "wrong" candidate, I haven't been able to figure how they do it. In Britain, and this may no longer be true, the tiny vote for the Communist, Fascist, or other extremist candidates, was gone through by students during the summer holidays and the serial numbers on ballot papers checked against  the electoral roll. Very time consuming and probably the actual real Communist agents of subversion were warned by Moscow not draw attention to themselves by voting for The Party. So, apart from providing some holiday pin-money for the student children of the politically reliable, the whole exercise was pretty much a stupid waste of time when it came to preventing genuine subversion. But it gave Special Branch more work.  In the Hong Kong legislative elections, the Chinese Government in Beijing do not give people the opportunity to vote "wrong".  It carefully vets the list of candidates to make sure no-one disagreeable is on the ballot paper.  A different approach to democracy. But probably both British and Chinese pay equal heed to basic democratic principles.

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So, all the World is doing about the ethnic cleansing of northwest Burma is wringing its hands. The Rohingya crisis has also woken the international community up to just how dreadful Aung San Suu Ky truly is. It must be clear to even the dimmest that Aung actually approves of driving the Muslim population out of Myanmar and has no intention of calling a halt to the Burmese army's murder and house-burning campaign. What disturbs me is the lack of international action. I'd like to think the inaction is due to some kind of realpolitik and not wanting to give over control of Myanmar to the Chinese by destabilizing the Burmese military. But it's important not to forget that the Burmese military is not really a fighting force - its lacklustre performance against non-Burmese insurrections since World War Two clearly shows this - but a multi-billion pound business empire. Could it be that the lack of international intervention, economic sanctions perhaps, has more to do with financial considerations rather than the balance of military power in south-east Asia. The mass displacement of the Rohingya has a lot to do with enriching the Burmese military through landgrabs and other asset seizures.  A sad footnote is that the non-Burmese minorities that the military is so keen to crush, the Rohingya, the Karens, the Shans, etc, were all on the anti-Fascist side in the Second World War. The Burmese military, led by Aung's father, only turned against Imperial Japan when its defeat was certain. Follow the money if you really want to understand what is going on.

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So, the latest figures show 70% of British Army officers were privately educated. Something like 7% of Britons are privately educated. Does anyone else agree that is a terribly shallow talent pool to select leaders from? Those who believe brains and talent are inherited, along with all that money to pay for private education, need only look at the number of family large businesses which collapse by the third or fourth generation. And yet we trust our defence and our children's lives, those of youngsters who choose to join the armed services at least, to the a group of people whose only common qualification is wealth. That works if the the whole point is to make sure that our military leadership has a massive stake in the status quo and therefore a military coup highly unlikely. If, however, the future existence of the country is at stake, maybe it's not really the way to run our defence. Brains rather than breeding could be the way to go. Some may say, well, 70% still leaves 30% who were not privately educated. True, but I suspect that the 30% who are state educated are mainly going into the parts of the army in which the ability to successfully walk and talk simultaneously without falling over is part of their job. OK, that's an exaggeration but that chances of encountering a competent infantry officer below the rank of Major are less than 50-50:- all too often way less than that. And the officers who go into the more technical parts of the army very seldom reach the sort of high ranks at which they could make a real difference to how operations are planned and conducted. And because of that young Britons who choose to serve in the military but who are not privately educated will continue die unnecessary deaths. 

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