blueprint media

Month: May, 2012

Baseball Card Judgements Without Hand-Wringing

Who would be President? Mitt Romney thinks he has the right stuff, but a fascinating , lengthy article in The New York Times of Tuesday 29th May 2012 describes, in detail, the grim realities of power. It goes like this: a liberal law professor, formerly president of the Harvard Law Review, chooses, as Chief Executive of the United States, to take direct responsibility for deciding, without capture, interview, charge, court proceedings or jury, and on a case-by-case basis, who should be killed by drone strike and who should be allowed, this time, to survive, in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

Nominations for assassination of Al-Quaeda members, made by a 100-strong caucus of US national security advisers who, by conference call, gather each week on “Terrorist Tuesday” to review suspected terrorists’ biographies – “a grim debating society that vets the Power Point slides bearing the names, aliases and life stories of suspected members of Al Quaeda“ – has led, even since April this year, to 14 successful targeted killings in Yemen and 6 in Pakistan. One third of those in Pakistan who are nominated to be terminated with “extreme prejudice” are, as a means of ensuring that mistakes are minimised, personally authorised by Barack Obama, a President who, as a candidate, ran a campaign team fixed on the notion of “pragmatism over ideology”.

The President, says the article, is a serious student of the fraught tropic of morality and war as framed and discussed by thinkers such as St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. He is prepared it says, on the basis of credible human intelligence, to take moral responsibility and to constrain mistakes and outrages, such as the killing of innocents. But, “he has avoided the complications of detention by deciding, in effect, to take no prisoners alive”, says one former adviser.

The awesome power of life or death is, for most of us, enough to make our heads swim, but, says the article, a successful attack on the USA or US citizens would overcome, and place in severe jeopardy, the President’s other achievements and ambitions. His constitutional duty, besides, is to protect the country and its citizens. What then of the killing of a US citizen, the radical cleric, Anwar Awlacki, who was killed in a US drone strike last year? “Could the President order the targeted killing of an American citizen, in a country with which the US was not at war, in secret and without the benefit of a trial?”

“This is an easy one”, an aide remembers the President saying. “(It) was based on the weight of evidence showing the cleric had joined the enemy and was plotting more terrorist attacks.”


Havana Surprise

A Sunday Times book review on Sunday 20 May 2012 by Stephen Robinson discusses a story of dread fascination to conspiracy theorists young and old. Castro’s Secrets: the CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine by Brian Latell, [Palgrave Macmillan £16.99  pp288] a former US spy with close connections to Cuba’s spooks, hooks the reader’s attention from the get-go. His story is that on November 22 1963, Florentino Aspillaga, a young, ideologically-committed member of Cuba’s formidable General Directorate of Intelligence, was warned at 9.30 that morning to stop what he was doing – monitoring CIA radio traffic – and “redirect all antennae to eavesdrop on radio communications in Texas”. By 12.30, as most people alive at the time can recall, POTUS, President of the United States, JF Kennedy, was dead. The sole assassin, according to the US-Government initiated Warren Report, was former US Marine, and full-time oddball, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Oswald, feted in the Stanley Kubrick film, Full Metal Jacket by an admiring US Marine Drill Sergeant for the apparently remarkable feat of skewering his Presidential target with three rifle bullets from an infeasible distance in a remarkably short space of time, is documented as having visited the Cuban consulate in Mexico City three times in the autumn of 1963. Many people, of course, maintain that Oswald did not act alone. Moreover, the Cubans had lots of reasons for wanting John Kennedy dead; aside from various US-directed attempts to assassinate the country’s dictator, Castro, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, a fiasco staged and funded by the CIA not long after Kennedy assumed the Presidency, meant that outright US hostility to the Castro regime was likely cause enough for the Cubans to seek revenge. And, of course, according to this account, Castro knew about the planned, and subsequently successful assassination. Conspiracy theorists have been aware of most of these facts for some years, but for most of us, this is a chilling and scarifying account.

A Technical Re-Drawing of England’s Education Policy

Jim McColl, the highly-successful Monaco-based Scottish businessman, is reported to be mired in bureaucracy over his bid to start a vocational, manufacturing-oriented college for under-performing youngsters on the Southside of Glasgow. Arresting piece, therefore, in yesterday’s Times, 29 May 2012, by Kenneth Baker, former Education Secretary, on the impending approval by the UK Government of 15 new university technical colleges (UTCs) in England.

This will bring the number of UTCs to 34 and Lord Baker anticipates “at least 100 UTCs as soon as possible – and that means more than 60,000 students”. Each establishment, which takes youngsters in at 14 and on up to 19, is focused on training technicians and engineers with a curriculum focused on English, maths, science, a business or technically-oriented foreign language, and the history and geography of industry, invention and innovation.

Similar such technical institutions, which briefly existed in England just after the Second World War, are at the core of Germany’s world-leading engineering and scientific excellence.

Each English UTC is supported by both a local university and nearly 300 major manufacturing or technical organisations, including the BBC, the RAF and Virgin Atlantic: Plymouth UTC is supported by Babcock International and specialises in marine engineering and advanced manufacturing; Warwick UTC is supported by Jaguar Land Rover and specialises in engineering with digital technology, while Norfolk UTC, in Norwich, specialises in energy skills and is supported by East Anglia Offshore Wind.

A key part of the education on offer at UTCs, says Lord Baker, is that the students, engaged as they are for two days a week in amassing hands-on practical skills, appreciate more readily than in a conventional school setting how the value of understanding classroom-taught maths, English and science can help them become more accomplished technicians and engineers. Truancy and bad behaviour decline, and, he says, the “disengaged are engaged: this helps to heal our broken society”.

Lord Baker concludes with a plea for both the Government and the financial sector to invest in a sector which the British economy, under severe economic pressure from global competitors, needs more than ever. Meanwhile, in Scotland, our school students, politicians and educational establishment mark time.

TLS Gets the Lunatic’s Vote

Afficianados of the long-running East Enders on BBC1 will have been discombobulated by the antics of the disreputable character Michael Moon. Part-owner of a boxers’ work-out venue in the fictional London Borough of Walford, he is, while a consistently creepy presence, both a snappy dresser and fiance to the multiple-murderer Jeanine.

What then to make of his recent appearance in the pages of the Times Literary Supplement (“TLS”)? It reports , in its 20 April 2012 issue, that he was filmed reading quietly, before the normal state of Cockney-land shouting interrupted by screaming was resumed, none other than the very venerable TLS.

The newspaper’s back page diary, written by Scotsman, James Campbell, tells us that a source described said Moon, as both an “aesthete” and a “psychopath”. He goes on to say that the soap’s script-writers had, some months ago, positioned Moon reading the TLS’s rival, the London Review of Books. As Campbell notes: “No, we are not to about to say that this demonstrates (Moon’s) essential wickedness. Yes, we are pleased to take it as proof that even psychopaths can change”.

Power of Local News

Local newspapers are the lifeblood of communities throughout the country. And even though the squeeze on them continues unabated – Johnston Press, publishers of two great, venerable British newspapers, The Scotsman and The Yorkshire Post is planning to telescope some of their local dailies into weeklies – we thought it was timely to list the generic newspapers titles, minus their local, regional or national appellations, that readers in the English-speaking world have enjoyed for well over 200 years.

If you can think of any other titles for newspapers, please get in touch; so far, however, we’ve come up with:

Age Free Press Press
Argus Guardian Sentinel
Bulletin Globe Spectator
Citizen Herald Standard
Chronicle Inquirer Star
Courier Journal Sun
Dispatch Mail Telegraph
Echo Mercury Times
Evening   News Mirror Today
Examiner Newsday Town Crier
Express Observer Tribune
Extra Post World


Not bad for starters. We recently came across a website title called the Cumbria Crack, but so far, we think that’s unique and not replicated elsewhere; unless, of course, you know different…