Monday, 20 December 2010


After three days of Heathrow closure, I rang Putin to ask him how Moscow airports manage to stay open despite Russian winters.

Putin started with a few not very friendly remarks about baby cameron. "You see, this is not a job for Cameron," he said, “we used to have similar problems in Moscow until one year, I sent the army to clear the snow at the airports. Ah, yes, also important, I told army to bury the directors of the airports under the snow.”

I asked him what happened to them “If you lie under more than two thousand tons of snow not much happens anymore.” Those directors were sorted, he explained, and since then, the new directors know better than to work “the English way.”

Drastic as always but he may be right. Unfortunately, all we will get are lots of explanations and no action. They will blame it on the weather, wrong kind of snow, unfriendly wind etc. No one will pay the price. No one will lose their job for screwing things up.

BAA, the owners of Heathrow, should lose their contract. If Cameron, doesn’t sort it – so should he.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Rabbis vs. Rabies

Many years ago, my mother told me the joke about a man who wrote to a medical help column and asked, “what is rabbis and what can you do against it”, to which the response was “rabbis are a kind of Jewish priests and there is nothing you can do against them.”

Last week several dozen rabbis on the public payroll as municipal rabbis in Israel issued a religious ruling barring Jews from selling or renting homes to non-Jews.

It’s not a joke. A poll has revealed that 55% of Israel’s Jewish population support the rabbis’ position.

Dinner with(out) Julian Assange

Several days ago, at dinner with friends in London, I was asked what I thought Julian Assange of Wikileaks motivation was.

To me, his motivation is not the issue. There are several players in this story:

22-year-old private Bradley Manning who as an intelligence analyst stationed in Iraq has – it has been reported - managed to access, download and export 250,000 classified State Department documents. He has been incarcerated without trial in apparently inhumane conditions at a US Marine base in Virginia.

Julian Assange who runs Wikileaks and has not been accused of anything other than some unconnected rape charges. Assange’s supporters - and there is a growing number of those - firmly believe that these are trumped up charges. Some even suggest that the Swedish women, who had sex with Assange before going to the police, work for the CIA.

The newspapers that print the leaks and probably increase their circulation and profits as a result are just net gainers. I am glad that it’s the Guardian and not one of the Murdoch papers.

And the real culprits? What interests me is not Assange's motivation but why we have not heard about the imprisonment of the real culprits? Are they in a cell so deep that no one can reach them? Or have they already been secretly executed?

Why was it possible for a junior, very junior soldier stationed in Iraq to have access to so much classified material that in no way could have been relevant to whatever his work was? Why was secret material downloadable? Why is it possible to transfer secret documents to external systems? Who created the programs that were meant to prevent that? What were the specifications? Who was in charge?

I actually believe that civil servants should be able to correspond without thinking that everything they say or write will be available to the general public. It is neither the soldier who stole the documents nor anyone who makes them available that are responsible to ensure the safety of this system. Those whose responsibility it was have betrayed the confidence entrusted to them by their country. These are the people who should be in the solitary confinement cells.

This, of course, will not happen. They are – in all likelihood - all chums and I expect that the Head of the emotionally named Department for Homeland Security, the enormous apparatus that has evidently failed in securing the Homeland continues to play golf with the director of the FBI, the head of computer and system security of the State Department and the CEO of the company that supplies the clever programs that allowed all this happen.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Fires in Israel

41 people have died, more than 13,000 evacuated from their homes, villages and a kibbutz completely ruined and forests still burning in the Carmel Mountain area of Israel because of a blazing fire that Israel’s evidently bankrupt fire-fighting system does not seem to be able to contain.

Israel on Fire I

Various countries are coming to Israel’s aid, sending fire fighting planes, other equipment and material. Bulgaria has even sent a team of 100 to help.

Lately, Israel is rightly preoccupied with the notion that it is being delegitimized in the world. Israeli politicians should not mistake humanitarian aid for political support.

Israel on Fire II

How would Israel have reacted had the fires in the Carmel been the result of a Hezbollah attack? Fortunately, that is not the case – otherwise we would have had a full-blown war in the Middle East.

How much death and misery would the world have been spared had the attack on the twin towers in New York been just an attack of a madman or the same damage caused by an earthquake? No Iraq war, no Afghanistan war and a weaker Iran and this is just for starters.

Israel on Fire III

Two years ago, ultra-religious Israeli Member of Parliament Mr Benizri explained that an earthquake that had taken place at the time was God's punishment for gay sex.

Now Benizri (like quite a few of the other ultra-orthodox party leaders) is in jail for corruption. I wonder whether his experience in jail has changed his mind about the evils of homosexuality or has he added the fires in the Carmel Mountains to the catalogue of God's wrathful acts?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Timeline of Corruption

Monday Three days before the football world governing body FIFA meets to decide the venue for the 2018 World Cup, Panorama, the British television programme, airs a report about alleged large scale corruption at FIFA. British Prime Minister David Cameron criticises the BBC for jeopardising British chances of winning the nomination for the 2018 World Cup.

Wednesday Wikileaks documents report that Putin’s Russia is so corrupt that it is in reality a “mafia state”. Putin denies.

Wednesday Putin announces that he will not go to Zurich to attend the FIFA meeting, “as a sign of respect to the Committee’s members. They must have an opportunity to work calmly, without any pressure from anyone.” Now, there's a friendly gesture. All those people saying nasty things about Putin. How unfair.

Thursday FIFA announces that Russia will be the venue for the 2018 World Cup. Of the twenty-two votes in the FIFA Executive Committee only two went for Britain. Having failed in their attempts to lobby FIFA Board members, David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William return to London with their respective tails between their legs.

Thursday Putin flies out to Zurich to thank the FIFA Board.