Tuesday 29 August 2006

Ahmedinejad-Bush coming to your television

Looking at a rather smart Iran

I can only wonder who is making brisk business selling seats for the debate of the Century, two presidents of states that are arch-enemies squaring up against each other to discuss world affairs.

Having now proved to all that precision weapons are not that smart enough to disarm a guerrilla movement through their proxy in Lebanon and commissioned a heavy water reactor plant for Uranium enrichment, Iran is playing a rather deft diplomatic hand that is leaving the United States rather flat-footed.

I can pointedly note that Condoleezza Rice has not been able to set foot in the Middle East having brought forth through the serious birth pangs of a New Middle East a baby that would spit out milk that comes from America.

In fact, it is now left to Kofi Annan and the UN to clean up the debacle of that inconclusive 34-day war.

Let us talk to the world together

So, as we await Iran’s response to proposals of hypocrisy that aim to preclude Iran from the enrichment of Uranium on suspicion of dual-use intentions that could lead to a nuclear bomb; Dr Ahmedinejad who only the day before in a released statement about a letter to Angela Merkel sent in July about the Holocaust being a debilitating hoax to hamstring Germany, has now challenged Mr George Bush to a live television debate.

This challenge would obviously be dismissed as expected by the White House as a diversion from global concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons.

But then I ask whose concerns exactly? Apart from those of the privileged nuclear world whose main actors surround Iran on all sides with wars and unrest whilst sponsoring opportunities for insurrection within Iran.

I think both presidents do have something to say and it is time that those presidents met and thrashed things out rather that employing megaphone diplomacy and railroading the UN into precarious resolutions that bring more trouble into an already troubled world.

It is also poignant to note that Laura Bush took the podium in New Orleans at the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina; Mr Bush’s ratings do not put him in any reckoning apart from accepting more faults and responsibility for the poor management of the Katrina aftermath.

New ideas needed

North Korea however is probably busy planning another sabre-rattling missile fly-past over Japan as they beat their chests over having nuclear weapons and getting away with it all, the whole concept of nuclear deterrence has failed and new ideas with safeguards that even-handedly address global issues for security, energy and military might need to be debated on an equality and partnership forum.

It is now not enough for some countries to hijack the debate to meet ulterior ends whilst purporting to act on behalf of the world, those arguments which have been played back a broken vinyl record no more excite the resonance of ground-breaking, inspired or worthwhile points – rather they all look like ways of getting at that axis-of-evil.

A high wooden horse

It is now time for America to climb down from their high horse and begin to do the anathema, address the causes of terrorism, address the problems in the Middle East from the occupied lands to the support of tyrannical regimes and worst of all, maybe it is time to talk to Osama bin Laden, because this mad war on terror is doing nothing for peace on earth and goodwill to all men.

On a final note, would this war on our liberties, freedoms and privacy masquerading as the war on terror have any bite if we all knew that Osama bin Laden were dead?

Monday 28 August 2006

My contribution to the war on terror - suspicion

Getting on a first class coach

Suddenly, I have found that I am being subconsciously programmed into the mindset of the war on terror as subjective analysis and profiling upset my peace of mind as I travel from place to place.

On my return from Brussels, I had the unfortunate situation of not travelling light which meant I could not move between coaches that easily.

Unlike the German or French trains, the platforms for Belgian trains in the Netherlands or Belgium are not signposted to signify what part of the train has the first class carriages which are usually at one end, so one has to stand in the centre and then run either way as the train arrives to the right end.

I got on, reclined my seat and dozed off as I usually do when I get on any moving vehicle where I am not the driver.

Passengers from hell and beyond

When we got to Antwerp a group of people got on, probably eight in number all adult from middle-aged to probably pension age.

The older men had dulcet sounding tones to their conversation, the middle-aged ones were like claxons at full blast and the women were like banshees shrieking at a ghoulish congregation of fearsome festivities in a cemetery at some utterly forsaken place.

I prayed they had second class tickets, hoping the ticket conductor would move them on, but no, they had paid to be in company and be completely inconsiderate of other passengers.

Then one of their number started playing with phone tones at peak volume, at which point, I should have gotten up and shouted some abuse at them, but someone else beat me to it, it only helped the situation a little.

Crude profiling praying for action

Then all this disturbance was done in a foreign language I could not understand, it was probably Turkish or Turkic and then I suddenly had a kindred feeling with those who had two Asians thrown off a plane travelling from Malaga to Manchester and I just could not be objective about it.

If only we could get the conductor to throw these people off at the next minor train stop for not conforming to accepted first class passenger conduct and speaking a foreign language to the inconvenience of us all.

Unusual behaviour feeding suspicion

Then when going to church yesterday, some four Moroccans got on the metro and rather than sit down considering the carriage was half-empty they were walking up and down the length of the coach without any order to whatever they were doing.

That really made many of us uncomfortable, could they be planning something like a mugging on the train or some dastardly terrorist act?

Once again, I felt like calling the police to see into what they were up to and get them off the train.

What is acceptable anyway?

Why can’t people just board public transport with the modicum of decency to behave in a generally unsuspicious and civil manner?

My fear is that I am slowly getting assimilated into a mindset that suspects everything and gets weary of people if they look or act differently, the problem is I can easily fall into the category of someone who looks different, and in desperate situations would I also get betrayed on needless suspicion and by atrocious bigotry?

This war on terror does make everyone vulnerable in these uncertain and interesting times.

Sunday 27 August 2006

I take this opportunity

The nuisance of association

I have for years shunned gatherings of Nigerians for any kind of activity. The one I joined recently which pertains to my membership of the Nigerian chapter of students on my Masters course more or less ended up looking like subscribing to a SPAM generator and as if that was not bad enough, one email inadvertently sent to all included a squabble that was far from edifying to all concerned.

I was of the good mind of withdrawing from that chapter, however, the moderator prevailed on me to accommodate a few of those nuisances as part of what is Nigerian rather than protesting from a too Westernised perspective.

From buyer to guest

So, the proprietor of the African foodstuffs and goods store at the entrance to the Central Station Metro platforms in Amsterdam passed me an invitation to her 50th birthday celebrations which I gladly accepted.

We continually have all this idle banter about all sorts of events and issues that leaves us all with belly laughs that could leave some in tears too. When she said she was looking youthful, I asked for the secret and if it was on sale; exceedingly nice lady.

Hail Mary or Bloody Mary

The Africa House was to be the venue of the event which would have started with a Roman Catholic Service at noon, but since I was already going to my church, it meant I missed having to mouth my Hail Mary’s which might lead to the Mother of God streaming tears down from the eyes of a statue somewhere on the premises – Our Lady of Africa House might leave some thinking the shrine was animist rather than Roman Catholic.

Anyway, as I got there, it was obvious that we had gathered for a big party, most of the women in traditional wear with skyscraper headgear and antennas pointing in all directions.

Scruffy dressers in esteemed company

Many of the men were in jackets or suits, but the sloppy dressers with all buttons done up really irritate the dormant snob in me, I still cannot believe any well brought up person would do up all the buttons on their suits or jackets.

If one were to quote Sir Hardy Amies – one time dressmaker for the Queen, one would say, “How scruffy you look today, dear boy”. I do remember him saying you could not trust a man who did up all his buttons; somehow, subconsciously one takes a dim view of such appearances, if their conversation could ever result in anything better than piffle.

The look the problem

On the woman, I could not help but notice the ones who probably in the Igbo tradition had been fattened for marriage that they had a rolling or maybe revolving gait visible from behind, if that was not arresting enough, some definite accentuated the gyration, it was so deliberate they would be needing a hip replacement not too soon.

The men approaching middle age who had their hair shorn all seemed to have these double folds of flesh at the back of their heads, in fact, I did remember my father has those folds, they were substantially muscular and felt like Achilles tendons only that they were at the back of the head.

It had me feeling the back of my head towards the neck for signs and the silent prayer that if it is avoidable, then I do not want that additional feature as part of my pose in a silhouette.

Ceremony or cacophony

There was a programme distributed and the MC arrived a bit late, but as things got going, 30 minutes of getting people to the high table must be a record, because it Nigeria, it takes a lot longer with speeches from everyone that is anyone.

Every introduction started with, “I take this opportunity to invite …” from chiefs to untitled proletariats, space was found to be occupied by the honoured and privileged.

The celebrant all dressed up beautifully and flamboyantly made an entrance; a group of ladies all bedecked in the same attire waving white handkerchiefs surrounded her signing songs and dancing.

Then later the children of the celebrant presented her with flowers to the music of Prince Nico Mbarga of Sweet Mother fame, then I noticed money being sprayed – flinging, throwing, flooding or pasting of currency – on the celebrant.

Dollars trump the Euro

Ah! The Euro does not lend itself to this kind of hedonistic aggrandisement that characterises Nigerian parties, European notaphily begins with the 5 Euro note, and so, it was dollars (one dollar notes) which by the time I left had been gathered to fill a decent sized bin bag.

This, apart from the brisk business of money changers that could fill you with Jesus rage, only that one cannot go upturning the high table.

Food and drinks flowed along with situations where certain favoured guests end up with unopened bottles of wine to take home and I did attain favoured status in company.

The Master Chatterbox

The MC however never really got to excite or control the crowd, be it for getting up for prayer, or getting people to respond to chants of Praise the Lord or Igbo Kwenu, but I definitely did give apploss (sic) when it was asked for.

I never got to meet the celebrant but I got her daughter to deliver my card and present after attending for 3 hours in what looked like it would go on late into the night. Interesting event and strange practices, I think I have become a lot less Nigerian than I thought I was.

The job just comes

Fortunate and grateful

In my career life, I have been so fortunate. In the last 12 years, I have hardly had a job where I have had to do all the footwork, rather, there has always been someone, some company, some contract in which I have worked that has lead to another opportunity somewhere else.

I realise, I am never so aggressive about looking for work even though in some cases one should be concerned about knowing when the next bank bloat would be.

But then, I learnt the most important lesson about work just when I went freelance contracting that each day you are appearing at work, you are writing your reference and laying out the paths to success or destruction of your career.

The evil men do

Two CVs came in prospecting for work from people who had worked in that company a few years before. The department manager was new and knew nothing about them so he sounded round other staff about these people.

The report was so bad, I cringed, one had spent all his time running another business rather than doing his work, the other was considered lazy and lackadaisical have done some unmentioned damage to the systems in their tenure.

Basically, this report made them unemployable, since the IT world is fluid, the dispersal of people means that this message would propagate eventual to other opportunities, to redeem themselves they have to be aware of this situation and begin to rebuild their reputations anew – what is almost impossible is rebuilding that with old contacts.

Certification is just the beginning

The lesson reinforced my views about character and professionalism at work, most especially when you are on a short-term contracts, my next job came about through two avenues; a contract that barely lasted 5 weeks and an agency I have worked for since the beginning of the year, it would probably lead on to other things.

I remember when there was a rush by people to attain vendor certifications to move from postal clerk jobs of £7.00/hour to the entry-level £20.00/hour contract jobs in IT Support. Many saw the MCSE and CNE as ends rather than means of developing new careers.

The contracts usually only lasted no more than 3 months before they moved on, having left jobs as fumblers, problem creators and unprofessionally aggressive people with eyes for the money only. By the time they had the first pay packet, they were in the car showroom looking for a show-off Lexus automobile.

I would want to believe that that generation of sorry and hapless contractors have either been eliminated from the market or they have learnt to make better use of their acquired certification to improve their knowledge and usefulness to industry.

Giving thanks

In the end, I believe my life is encompassed with favour and grace rather than sheer luck and good fortune, though in a secular world they all seem to matter.

What better thing could I have done with all these wonderful happenings than to go to church and give thanks for all the blessings that pour into my life everyday.

Saturday 26 August 2006

Making an ass of a South African policeman

Qualified to Minister?

Sometimes, one wonders what qualifications are required other than political affiliation and cronyism to become ministers of the realm in many governments.

The Nigerian Blog World is bursting with opinions about the suitability and qualifications of the current Finance Minister who understudied as a Minister of State in that Ministry a seemingly more capable person who had PhD in regional economics and development and was a vice-president at the World Bank.

Though it is said that the current Finance Minister is respected internationally, for a country like Nigeria with a huge oil economy undergoing extensive reforms, a BSc in Geography and Post Graduate Diploma in Management in some countries might just be sufficient for a middle-level position in Local Government.

In any case, she is now the Finance Minister and we can only expect that she would perform with excellence despite our general misgivings.

New treatments for HIV/AIDS

In South Africa, certain ministerial appointments and the antics of the ministerial personnel borders on the laughable as they make pronouncements that would have circus clowns look unfunny.

The Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Mismang is apparently medically trained culminating in a Masters in Public Health. There is no doubt that the side effects and toxicities of HIV/AIDS drugs are issues of concern.

However, to then use that issue to advocate the treatment of AIDS with lemon, beetroot and garlic without empirical medical or pharmacological research to support that basis makes this qualified doctor look like a quack.

Group-think AIDS malady

To compound issues, these bizarre statements were made at an international conference on the HIV/AIDS.

For a country like South Africa that has such a high number of infected citizens, the health minister has for 7 years been the worst possible person to appoint to address a situation that borders on a national crisis.

This is not helped by the fact that certain obtuse ideologues in leadership are viewing HIV/AIDS as a purely social issue instead of seeing the serious medical and public health perspective to the problem.

The clamour for her resignation if not her sacking cannot be loud enough; this woman has failed to grasp the context and brief of her ministerial portfolio, to say the least.

The making of a crime story

It is not strange to see policemen in Amsterdam in cars, on scooters, on bicycles, on roller-blade skates, on horses or strolling on foot; they get around the town just as everyone does and they do command a modicum of authority.

Returning to South Africa, which supposedly has one of the highest crime rates in the world, anyone in charge of dealing with crime should be adequately providing resources to the men on the ground to tackle serious crime whilst maintaining a façade of authority and respect.

In the case of South Africa, this might mean armed personnel, reinforced cars equipped with radios, photographic equipment and a few other paraphernalia that would allow effective arrests and quick despatch of cases.

So, one would think it valid when the police suggest they cannot get to crime scenes because they do not have cars – cars in themselves provide some sort of protection to the occupants as they race to crime scenes.

An ass of a policeman

The minister in charge (Minister of Safety and Security), Charles Nqakula offers a “better” suggestion; they should ride bicycles or donkeys to those crime scenes or get out of the police force. It might sound rhetorical or metaphorical, but I think he is deathly serious.

Bicycles, I can understand, but then how do you get the suspect back to the police station for charging and questioning as part of your investigation and prosecution process.

Now, there no way any policeman who mounts an ass is going to command the authority to take charge or exude the seriousness that entertains a crime scene; even if he had a gun, he would be a jumped up version of the milky-bar kid.

If the policeman had to chase after offenders, an ass or donkey is hardly the kind of runner for that sort of thing, they are more beasts of burden; you could probably lay dead men on the donkey but not criminals.

Arrest this stupidity

The minister with a past career in journalism is probably good at writing fantasy stories but serious crime affects lives, people, property and economies at large.

He should be addressing the core issue of ensuring that the police force is equipped to meet the challenges of a 21st Century South African society.

Headline grabbing sound bites that pour scorn and ridicule on the people of South Africa would not do, in fact, it would appear that a background in law enforcement or the military would be better suited for this job.

Political appointments

It would appear there are some ministerial appointments of convenience in very sensitive positions where the said ministers become untouchables even though they are performing no beneficial ministerial function for their people.

What leaves one astounded is that many end up pontificating in such a way that their heads do not check what their mouths are saying, however, it is the chief executive, the head of government we should hold responsible for making appointments where possibly better qualified citizens are available to do a better job for their people.

The Finance Minister in Nigeria is yet to prove herself, but the tow South African ministers reviewed here have proved that we probably can get donkeys to do better jobs than they are doing.

It is time for the president to move the war on corruption to the next stage; a war on ministerial incompetence.

Friday 25 August 2006

Made in America - just in your backyard

Well, apart from losing credibility amongst the Arabs, the crocodile tears posture of America in investigating Israel’s use of cluster bombs in Lebanon smacks of rank hypocrisy to say the least.

The embarrassment of finding unexploded bombs in Lebanon with the proudly emblazoned “Made in America” label is just one muddle that America would require superhuman diplomacy to dig itself out of.

If you give a child a loaded gun and expect sensible usage, you’ll be dead before you think of ways of getting it back – the big morale of the story.

Read on …

Alas! Pluto. Thou hast been diminished amongst thy peers

Holst the mystic

Lovers of classical music must have for years wondered who would write a movement to complete Gustav Holst’s The Planets for Pluto.

Gustav Holst wrote a movement for all planets, except the Earth, where he lived and by then Pluto had not been discovered, he then refused to write one for Pluto, even though Pluto was discovered in his lifetime.

However, if you note that the movement for Neptune is called The Mystic, one might just surmise that Holst had seen further into space and time to realise that Pluto would be demoted from a planet to a dwarf.

There would be recriminations for that dramatic change, but for now, we have a complete collection reflected by the Planets as envisaged by Gustav Holst.

The planet that most excites me is Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity and the score for that patriotic song and Anglican hymn – I vow to thee, My country – it was so movingly performed at the wedding and funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The terminal decline of air travel

A stopover for an FBI frisking

If I understood this any better, I would be lying through my teeth. Basically, the world has now been overcome with hysteria about air travel that logic fails to feature in any of the so-called reactions taken.

The news wires are now been flooded with the news of a diversion from a Manchester – Chicago flight to Bangor, not the one in Wales but the one after crossing the Atlantic in the state of Maine in the United States of America.

What is really amusing is, if indeed there was a bomb on that plane, why the terrorist did not blow the damn thing up over the North Atlantic rather than wait for it to enter the US air space.

Extradition by stealth

One is also left suspect of the whole issue if a so-called passenger on the security list did get to embark on a flight considering how much information is demanded of airlines, most especially this airline being one of the native airlines – American Airlines.

If this is not a serious and unforgivable lapse in security, then it might be that America is implementing an extradition through the backdoor but allowing suspects to arrive in the United States, creating a diversion melodrama and then nabbing their quarry.

I might at this time be jumping to conclusions and this plane having landed on US soil might have the FBI extricate some sort of evidence no matter how contrived to justify the diversion of this flight – God help you that your name does not sound like Bush, Blair or Bin Laden.

Profiling a typical air traveller

We already know now that if you look different, speak a language other than English, look in your bag to retrieve that pulp fiction or attempt to play one of those games on your mobile phone you are completely done for without redemption.

Let us just agree that air travel is only meant for a particular kind of clone only known to the government, just as your hand baggage should fit into some impossible sizing measurement, you should fit that perfect, ordinary, normal, average buffoon who happens to love subjecting themselves to searches as intimate as would require a gloved hand.

Who compensates for this inconvenience?

However, in some cases, it has been left to those mile-high trolley dollies to profile, assess and subjectively prejudge their passengers and arrive at the preposterous conclusion that a passenger, in the light of increased security, or the plane is somehow in peril.

The trouble with all this inconvenience is that for the supposed misdeeds of one or some passengers who probably have no relationship apart from being brought together on that flight by some flight booking system, the scheduled department and arrival times of others has been put completely out of order.

The question now becomes who would compensate the affected for this outrageous abuse of freedom to travel and liberty to disembark at the original destination.

Indeed, cabin crew vigilance is paramount in these threatening times and I hear that it is good to err on the side of caution, but how much of this exercise of prerogative is intuition, hunch, premonition, supposition, suspicion as opposed to factual analysis of observed circumstances?

As I write, I also hear that a student has checked in a bag containing dynamite on a flight about to depart Argentina.

Conspiracies and opportunities

I am beginning to think this whole thing is becoming a free-for-all conspiracy to completely discredit air travel in favour for a more green earth – not too implausible.

Do we now need a nuclear powered, acoustic iceberg destroyer, ocean liner called 21st Century Titanic and a EuroStar that traverses all closely linked continents – Europe, Asia, Africa?

The Eurotunnel proves that there might be a viable engineering case for a Gibraltar (UK bordering Spain) to Ceuta (Spain bordering Morocco) tunnel to link Africa and Europe under the Straits of Gibraltar – a mere 14 kilometres in length – (the idea is bridge has been suggested) and this air scare times might just make the Channel Tunnel breakeven, at last.


Two U.S. airliners diverted, passenger subdued

UK-US plane diverted over 'scare'

Airline Insanity Merely A Beta Test For Police State Caste System

Much terror out of a mobile phone and a plastic bag

We too are now in it

One has at times commented about how the large and influential country of the Netherlands sometimes adopts a “me too” persona, to as it were, appear involved, relevant and at the centre of issues.

The Netherlands is in many cases quite influential in many ways, the international courts of justice are resident here; for a country with such little land space we are one of the largest food exporters; we used to be the most tolerant and liberal democracy and society amongst other things.

What has changed is that we now have little-minded politicians and leaders whose lack of initiative, foresight and stature projects the face of the Netherlands in less grander terms than when leaders of greater standing and stature ruled this beautiful land.

It is my prayer that come November when elections take place, a better crop of politicians come forward to lead this land; though, that is not to say that society itself has not changed to accommodate the mediocre over the better qualified.

A flight of fantasy

Just to illustrate how this war on terror has become an irrational fear of terror exciting hysteria, histrionics, and subjective conjecture we have now had our own flight scare which involved aborting a journey to Mumbai (Bombay) with the return to Schiphol and the arrest of 12 passengers.

Apparently, several passengers were fidgeting with mobile phones and plastic bags in what the Minister of Justice has now said is behaviour not normally seen amongst average passengers.

The cabin crew observed the behaviour in which the pilot and captain of the aircraft would have acted; the decision to turn the plane back would have been taken after some consideration and consultation with airport security – this led up the chain to the Minister of Justice who probably in conjunction with other cabinet colleagues like the Defence and Internal Affairs ministers scrambled two F-16 fighter planes to escort the plane back to Schiphol.

The F-16 fighter planes could have under certain circumstances been permitted to shoot down the plane that contained 149 souls and the crew, thankfully, that did not happen.

However, before landing, a good deal of the jet fuel was let out over the IJsselmeer to lighten the aircraft.

It now transpires that this terrorist scare might have been an overreaction to a perfectly normal situation where coincidences might have appeared as some pre-planned activity – the 12 would be freed and released without charge.

The big questions about air travel

My concern with this new event highlights a few issues that need serious analysis.

  • What training have cabin crew all around the world received to appreciate possible terrorist threats from normal behavioural patterns to be expected from people in an enclosed space on a long-haul flight?
  • What really constitutes normal average flight passenger behaviour in this day and age? Everyone is tense and anxious, these emotions could very well becloud observation and vigilance.
  • What evidence would have been required to shoot down the plane along with its “innocent” passengers and crew and where would it have been shot down, since the flight path towards Bombay would most likely have been over land?
  • What are the consequences of releasing thousands of litres of kerosene fuel into a lake which has active wildlife and human usage?
  • Have captains on flights the requisite skills to make objective assessments of potential terrorist situations which are quite different from passenger irresponsibility situations?
  • What has happened to the joy of air travel in the last few years?

The world, a bigger place

In the end, if air travel is to become so fraught with uncertainties, the world which became a smaller place in the 20th Century is on the verge of becoming a much larger place in the 21st Century as we switch back to land and sea travel.

Basically, what is required is greater sophistication in passenger screening before they board flights, but this all has to be in proportion without infringing on rights and freedoms and subjective profiling.

The complexities and logistics of airport security are illustrated in the Air Travel Security Planning Map on pages 4 and 5, there is no doubt that there have to be new ways of doing things for air travel to return to a pleasurable and exciting experience – that could be a long way off.


Donner plays down terror link after Schiphol scare

BBC NEWS | Europe | Jet alert suspects 'to be freed'

An Air Travel Security Planning Map (Pages 4 & 5) [The Wayback Machine]

Back to James Blake and Rosa Parks - 1955 to 2006

Losing the religion of liberties

I would not be speaking too soon if I suggest that all the freedoms and liberties we fought for and gained in the last 50 years of the 20th Century are disappearing into the cloud of the war on terrorism that fosters profiling, discrimination, segregation and suspicion amongst people who had heretofore been neighbours expressing all manner of civility.

Rosa Parks must be turning in her grave as news arrives that blacks were asked to give up their seats for white kids by a school bus driver.

This in the self-same United States of America – Read on (unfortunately the Shreveport Times has killed this link).

As the story goes, this happened in Coushatta, Louisiana on the 24th of August 2006 where 9 black kids were asked to give up their seats for fellow white students on a bus. I have included a transcript from the CNN about the event. (Search for Coushatta on the page to land within the text of the matter).

This town has history.

Updated 11th March 2008

Thursday 24 August 2006

London police in an institutionally culpable homicide

Crime headlines as I left

I leave London saddened and hardly elated by news that arrived on the Evening Standard paper.

You will recall that last week I noticed within a 5-minute walk, signs seeking information about grievous crimes that created a sense of insecurity about the city from the first night.

So, I left, I got a copy of the Evening Standard and the front page read, “Father is killed by teenage gun gang”. One could almost dismiss this as a typical drug dispute situation, but the detail reveals a deeper malaise in society that I am not sure is easy to address.

Standing up to be killed?

The father killed was a 22-year-old young man father of a 3-year old son and he got killed doing what we as a society has lost sight of and stopped doing – standing up to anti-social miscreants who menace our peace, property and lives.

Hardly 7 months before, a group of kids were throwing stones at his car, he came of his house and confronted the gang; he got stabbed in the neck that the stabbing just missed his jugular vein.

A rotten police for a rotting society

The police took calls from his fiancée every day for 5 weeks and still did not end up taking a statement from her, and after the police were supplied with the details of the perpetrators and so on, but no one got prosecuted for the crime that the kids deemed themselves untouchable.

The question is how kids end up with knives that they can be such a danger to society having had parents whose dereliction of parental responsibility has lead to the creation of these treacherous monsters who because they are under 18 never see enough of the toughness of the law when they offend.

The news we now have is, this very young family was terrorised since then to the most recent situation where the young father who had returned home after a confrontation with that self-same gang stepped out and got shot by a member of that gang.

The next obvious question as we learn that a 14-year old who cannot be named is arrested is how did a kid end up with a loaded gun with which he has wasted away a life?

A rotten police and a rotten job

Now we hear that the police are sorry for the way the initial investigation was conducted, well, they cannot be half sorry; the life of a young family has been ruined because the terminal point where the crime-investigation-prosecution-punishment chain should have kicked in at the first crime was left unaddressed because of police inaction.

One cannot begin to imagine what might have been going through the minds of the police when the young lady tried to report the first crime – could Canning Town in East London have been such a hopeless crime-ridden place that no crime was worthy of police attention?

Have we become so obsessed with prospective terrorist attacks that more intimate crimes no more attract interest and service?

Could, as in the case of Steven Lawrence a policeman detective have been manipulating and thwarting the investigation in favour of the suspects such that they can get away scot-free?

Taking back our society

We cannot begin to talk of the kind of people who brought forth this brood of vipers who have become a scourge on our society, who from youth have no concept of the value of life or property and have become a law unto themselves.

Sorry, is just not enough, relieving some senior policemen of their duties cannot begin to assuage the pain of that loss, in fact, apart from the prosecution of those youths; there should after a review of all the investigations of the police into the first crime charges of negligence, dereliction of duty and probably culpable homicide in seeking to address this murder should ensue.

We need to win our society back from the situation where it has become the playground of reckless criminal abuse and non-consideration for others.

Once kids get onto the first rung of a seemingly criminal existence they should be brought under strict supervision which in some cases should include confinement as well as monitoring, mentoring and vocational training – there is no scope for a politically correct assessment of this problem – society cannot afford to paper over deep seated social problems.

The parents should not only be named and shamed for allowed discipline and control to fail in the upbringing of their wards; whilst no one goes to parental school for childrearing; it is no excuse for unleashing devils unto our streets.

Institutionally incapable police

The police having been labelled institutionally racist are also becoming institutionally lazy in dealing with serious crime, it is unlikely that one can retain confident in a leadership that allows such serious issues to become headlines because requisite action has not been taken as needed to resolve crimes.

Just as I read on African Shirts a few days ago, I do not think London with all its culture, attractions and beauty is not close by far to the safest city in Europe

The heightened perception of vulnerability to crime needs to be addressed better as the deluded Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police suggests we can leave our front doors unlocked because of lessened crime, we find that we can still get shot at our doorsteps which it could have been prevented if the earlier stabbing had been given full police attention.


Telegraph | News | Young father shot dead as he challenges teenage yobs

Teen questioned over gun killing

Police sorry for inquiry 'hurt'

Wednesday 23 August 2006

To London to see the Queen

Hand me the lipstick – Now!

Indeed, my blog has been deafeningly silent, I have been in London and this is my last day before I leave for Amsterdam en route Brussels – by train.

Well, now, they have really banned cosmetic through Heathrow, many who got away with rouge and mascara would have to consider something permanent – Botox, face lift, whatever keeps that look young, sexy and less affected by the strain of negotiating airport security.

The war on terror is now terrifyingly real amongst us and the terrorists only have to think up the next ploy to get us into a tizzy. Now, 11 of the suspects have been charged, it is shame that their attack being so imminent, the evidence is still far from being gathered enough to expect a trial for another 12 to 18 months.

Six nights of 60 hours and still not done

My Oyster card has been screaming at me for the last 2 days that it is about to expire; fine, but really, I do not intend to spend another day in London, I have spent 6 nights and if I may say, tourists do end up spending 6 nights in London.

However, coming from a continental European country where standard of living is higher and the cost of living is considerably lower, I do wonder how they get people to pay the prices I see about the place – it is atrocious to say the least – even with the doubling of prices after the introduction of the Euro, we have a cheaper existence than what Londoners have to put up with.

My 6 night sojourn has been an eye-opener if not experience, I only informed 8 people I was visiting and managed to meet just 6, even in those cases I was pressed for time and opportunity – if I had informed a handful more I would have been stressed beyond the limit in trying to satisfy the needs of meeting, visiting, seeing and staying.

This is only with 6 years away from London, imagine 16 years away from Nigeria and that would be a logistic nightmare requiring an updated version of management software from NASA expeditions – I am definitely not yet looking forward to that prospect.

Left driving for the right side

Many times I get into the argument about whether driving on the left is right or driving on the right in Europe is wrong or less popular around the world.

A good few countries drive on the left, including India, Australia, Canada and Indonesia. Some have switched sides as you will see from the link.

Imagine my consternation to the subconscious predilection to the right-side driving ideal when I find that I am on the wrong side of the road waiting for a bus or I notice that the driver is to my right when I get into a car.

Worse still, sitting in front, my eyes and head are in conflict as I expect to see cars going in one direction and they are not, this especially at turnings.

Then we got on the bus and I can claim priority seating on public transport because I do use a cane; I must note that London is a bit more tolerant compared to our Amsterdam when people with assisted mobility embark.

Do sit in my seat

Twice, at least, I was offered a seat on the tube, but when we got on a bus, a “lady” with more plastic bags than a Sainsbury’s counter got on and simply barked my friend off his seat beside me demanding to sit down.

At first we thought he had occupied reserved seats, but that was not the case, as the woman murmured without respite letting ladies have seats on buses, but she was no lady, not even if I stretched my imagination.

When we got to the last stop, she got off and started rummaging through the rubbish bins – that was our brush with the Mental Health – Care in the Community programme – if the medication does help bring good manners to the fore, she must have skipped her required dosage, where I could have had compassion, I had anger, disdain and disgust – I am only human.

Some have even suffered worse fates from those encounters, we only suffered a rude situation, and we can live with that.

Exciting Kitchen rage

On the Friday, we went up to a Nigerian Restaurant on Kinsland Road near Dalston in East London and we had the pepper soup and suya for entrées then as they had no okra soup we plumbed for the spinach and red stew.

This was the second time I felt like asking for an apron to invade the kitchen and teach a few ideas about cooking Nigerian stew – not only was it greasy and unpalatable, it completely put us off we could hardly try the beef in the stew.

The waitress then suggested a doggie-bag and in an unguarded response I rebuffed with the comment that my dogs would refuse the meal. Well, that was the truth, only it was not expressed in the finesse of tone, context and delivery.

I apologised, but I do hope that the message was clear that if another visit to that place records a failing of the sort we have once endured; my review of the place would be less appreciative than this one.

A changing London

All the area around London Bridge has changed considerably in 6 years from the City Hall and interesting performances in the bowl beside the building and those anti-skateboard knobs on the concrete platforms all down to Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge and the London Eye.

I cried off the London Eye, the queues were as long as burger-gluttons lining up for a fat expensive burger at Hard Rock cafe or was it Planet Hollywood. The VIP express – jump-the-queue tickets were not only twice as expensive, the queue did not seem to be moving any faster either.

The view from the London Eye is not exactly a view to die for, having looked from the 7th floor of Tate Modern did not show an amazing skyline rivaling New York, I can safely give that a miss for now.

London again?

Would it be another 6 years before I return? Probably … I cannot say I am that enamoured about London per se.

However, catching up with friends and family and seeing how so grown up those little kids have become is testament to the fact that time does fly and the accumulation of passing time adds up to what makes everyone exclaim – Has it really been that long ago since you were here? Well, yes, it has.

Friday 18 August 2006

The end to presidential voyeurism

War against the presidential juggernaut

Somehow the presidential mandate in the United States cannot be accused for not putting up a robust fight in protecting the American People – whatever that means; it is an emotive appellation that deludes the group it refers to into a fall sense of security as their rights get trampled on.

Many bloggers including myself have derided vehemently the assumed untrammelled powers of the Presidency post 9-11 to abrogate legislative and judicial oversight under the premise of being the Commander-in-Chief in a time of war.

The one that has received the biggest brick-bats is the exercise of presidential privilege in the unwarranted surveillance of American citizens, the revelation of which caused stirs and the government in no mean terms condemned as unpatriotic and the most top secret activity in the war against terror.

The new un-American

The concern here is that the War on Terror has become a blanket term to separate acquiescing citizens whose complacency regarding their liberties and freedoms have been encroached upon with impunity and are assuaged with occasional coincidentally well placed security alerts from those who question the rationale behind many of those alerts and the intentions of the government.

The apologists are on the verge of calling the thinking ones un-American, time will tell if the ghost of Joe McCarthy does not return to haunt Americans, this time not on Communist activities but on trying to retain liberties, freedom and privacy over the behemoth of the State.

A timely judgement

Now, judgement has been returned in a suit filed in January 2006 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the National Security Agency (NSA).

After weighing the government’s well-rehearsed mantra on state secrets, presidential war time claims of prerogative and powers as well as supposed value of the exercise against the issues of the first and fourth amendment, the separation of powers and existing laws regarding surveillance, the judge found in favour of the plaintiff.

On a broader scale, this is in favour of the sleeping majority who have allowed the machinery of government, especially this on to run roughshod over their rights which as a matter of course is enshrined in their constitution but never tested except in times of adversity.

Beyond that, it shows that the government should not take advantage of one situation (9-11) to exercise power in over other circumstances (constitutional rights) with the premise that all issues are related to some all-consuming desire to ensure national security – this is the whole aberration of the War on Terror.

For the world at large, hopefully, it would really help buttress the case of civil liberties where other governments appropriate the War on Terror and the American unconstitutional practices to clamp down on their people aspirations for the American freedoms of old.

Illegal, unconstitutional – STOP NOW!

In a 44-page judgement, the judge has declared surveillance without warrants unconstitutional and asked for them to be stopped forthwith. It is a definitely a setback for the Bush administration, but as expected, the government would appeal the ruling – this in the light of the fact that the Supreme Court has already told the President he does not have a blank cheque.

That cheque is written in the ink of the US Constitution, though pre-signed by the American People is only to the amount approved by the legislature, only then can the executive cash that cheque with the oversight in processing of the judiciary – that is the working of democracy – something we always get preached at us from the White House every time we try to catch breath.

What is strange is this landmark ruling does not to be hitting the headlines as much as other news stories like the tobacco industry getting away scot-free for deceiving customers with their advertising. How we get our priorities in a twist, at times.

Thursday 17 August 2006

Is this London?

I’m leaving on the slow train

With the new developments in the mind games that have been the real war on terror, travelling by air to London is completely out of the question. If you have to arrive at the airport a day before you depart and might only be able to have your hair shirt as hand luggage, why bother?

The other alternatives are road, sea and train – I took the latter which involves travel through Brussels and then the Eurostar from Brussels to London, at least you can carry whatever you want before some nut thinks that is another little scare in the making.

All signs lead nowhere

So, I arrived in London this afternoon and missed something I usually see in stations in Berlin and Paris, good signs for locations above ground and local maps on advertisement type billboards. Nothing of the sort, I need to get my A-to-Z out to find my bearings, hopefully, the street names appear where they should.

Before I surfaced, I had to get a London Underground travelcard (it used to be mainly paper-based with a magnetic strip – shows how long I’ve been away from London), it is now known as the Oyster card – a nondescript credit card sized plastic thingy that does not show any obvious sign that it is a 7-day travelcard for all zones.

Then to the hotel where I should had a deal that extended my entire stay, but with two days left, the cost is too outrageous to contemplate – this city is not paved in gold but they pay diamond prices for things that glitter like dark wood.

The spectre of crimes recent

So, I had a rather long walk to one of my old haunts and could not help but notice two crime scene notices seeking information for events that happened in the last few weeks. One victim was shot and another looked like a racial attack by a mob, all within a 5-minute stroll. Makes me weary of what is happening in London.

Then, somehow I ended up at Elephant and Castle; I remember my cousin once saying important landmarks in London are named after places in the biggest city in Nigeria – Ibadan. He gave a few examples like – Ìtá aperin (translates as the Elephant Square or Elephant and castle in this case), then Eléyelé (translates as the pigeon’s keeper or Trafalgar Square, if you like).

The maze of castle with no elephants

Anyway, I had to get a bus to my hotel, the signs indicated I need to look for bus stop C which was on the other end of that area, I got there and found that the maps did not correlate with the realities I could see, having traversed tunnels till my orientation is as bad as compass doing 10 revolutions per second, I threw up my hands in absolute despair and incredulity that anyone could make sense of those location maps.

A lady who seemed to know what my frustration was and the nonsense that masquerades as help for tourists and non-locals alike then gave directions which had me walking off in another direction, then finally I found the stop, only to see the that location map at the stop should have been the same all through.

It is strange because the map of the London Underground is considered a work of art, a masterpiece of engineering drawing and it is the standard by which other city maps are drawn; that these ideas have not converted to locations maps for bus stops is unfortunate.

London after six years of absence – not too sure – I give my views in a week.

Tuesday 15 August 2006

Was that the Real Story?

When documentaries sensationalise rather than educate
I did not see the Real Story episode that was broadcast last night, but the snippets that were shown in the news stories during that day did have a touch of sensationalised histrionics to it.
It is a well-known fact that certain enterprising but dishonest Nigerians have been involved in what is known as Advanced Fee Fraud or 419 in the local parlance.
Part of what I saw showed a raid on an Internet café in Nigeria where officials of the EFCC (Nigerian Fraud Squad) had everyone vacate the computers; they asked everyone to put up their hands facing the walls and then as one of the suspects remonstrated an EFCC official assaulted the man with a slap in the face commanding him to shut up.
This is a poor reflection on the Nigerian criminal justice system that suspects can be assaulted but law enforcement agents with impunity and very little recourse for justice.
My take on 419
Back to 419 - This is where using the human susceptibility to greed and gullibility, a victim receives a request to supposedly launder ill-gotten gains from bogus contracts or stashes of frozen sums of money by providing their bank account details and paying an upfront fee for the administration of the process. Some are so sophisticated in their ploys that it becomes too good to be true – anything that has that feel to it has my radar homing in on something fishy.
Many have fallen for this get-rich-quick scheme and lost large sums of money, but I have no sympathy for both the perpetrator and the victim, they were both about to engage in a criminal act. However, there are cases where the contracts do look real, but when you are about to invest money, especially in Nigeria, you have to have your wits about you and seek an independent, impartial review of the whole thing – involve lawyers and investigators you can trust before you part with your cash.
The Real Story episode revealed that people’s details were being sold for as little as 20 Pounds, the details were supposedly gleaned of hard disks which would have been in used and second-hand computers exported to Nigeria.
Your details can be used anywhere
The fact is the information on hard disks can be read in any country and can be used by any set of criminals either in Nigeria or elsewhere. Having completed a module on Computer Forensics, I am very well aware of the fact that it takes a lot more to delete data off a hard disk.
There are tools to recover long removed data and special tools are required to wipe hard disks to the security standard of the Department of Defence, in fact, in most cases, the hard disk would be melted if the data that it once contained is considered secret.
Besides, identity fraud is probably an issue closer to home than in faraway Nigeria. All you have to do to rummage through a bin and find letters, bank statements, if not credit card PIN slips that give enough information about a person – this is called bin raiding – a further search on the Internet can reveal birth date, birthplace and parents if the genealogy, census, birth, marriage and death registrations are online.
A letter posted to my cousin in England from Nigeria some 20 years ago ended up in the hands of a lodger who used that information to obtain a National Insurance number in my name – so identity theft does not have to be so complicated or sophisticated.
Developing a sense of security to protect privacy
People who generally would lock their doors when they go out and pull the curtains to keep prying eyes out, apparently, do not apply the same principle to their information, data, computers and personal details.
Everyone who receives a letter of any importance must invest in a paper shredder and shredders do have different security ratings from strips to pulp – I never dispose of any paper that has not been shredded and I have been doing that for at least 7 years.
Your computer when online is like an open door with drawn curtains and open windows; you need more than just any popular anti-virus software because virus developers test their malevolent programs against popular anti-virus software to prevent detection.
The general idea is to develop the fortress principle to your computer, an outer wall (a firewall), the doors and windows (an anti-virus software) and then the protection of valuables within the home (malware detectors).
Use good tools
In my case, I do use a hardware firewall found in my wireless router and enable the software firewalls on all computers, I have installed the well known McAfee VirusScan Plus and Trend Micro PcCillin Internet Security ensuring that the updates run every day at night.
Malware is software that gets installed inadvertently on your system through opening a suspicious email or visiting an innocuous web site, they can install key loggers which record all the keystrokes you have typed and send that information to a harvesting system where the information can be replayed as if it were you logging on to your bank account or some other security service. These are really the identity theft perpetrators.
I use Lavasoft Ad-Aware and SpyBot – Search and Destroy, with all that attention to detail, I still find that a keylogger still ends up on my laptop every few days – you just need to keep ahead of the criminals – time after time.
In addition, to remove all references to sites, I have visited and files I have opened on an operational system, I use CleanUP.
If you are done with your computer, you can recycle it, but before you do, search for a secure hard disk deletion tool as this write-up suggests – Purge hard drives before recycling.
Common sense approach to social engineering
In all, you have your identity to protect, ensuring that the people privy to your secrets are authorised to access that information with discretion under the contract of confidentiality, not of which should violate your right to privacy.
Where people, emails or forms ask for information that should be personal and known only to you like your PIN numbers, do not under any circumstances reveal that information because that that time you would be seriously compromised – they might want information about who you are where name, address, date of birth and account number might suffice, but that should only be divulged to those your have ascertained through obtaining their own details first.
Always err on the side of caution, err of the side of keeping the information than giving it out.