The Evolving Declaration

Times change, so they do. Is war upon us? Who knows. Maybe yes, maybe no. But probably not. Yet. Not this week. Hopefully not before the iPhone 8 has been launched and mine shipped to me. Many months ago, I suggested one possible end to Trump’s reign could be a military coup d’etat. On the basis that Trump flips out and orders something particularly irrational and outrageous that only instant military intervention could prevent. It was at the ‘least likely’ end of the list. Maybe it should move up a place or two. Continue reading “The Evolving Declaration”

Hand it to Trump

For the last year or two, I have been known to make use of these virtual pages to protest political developments, deviants and disaster. There’s much to protest about at the moment. Although, perhaps, if you are a Trump loving Brexiteer, you might think I doth protest too much. But regardless, I do protest. I’m not, however, a protester. I have never actually attended a protest march, gathering, sit in, commune or other type of mass event that actually requires my physical presence. In part it’s because I’m lazy. It’s also often Continue reading “Hand it to Trump”

The Poster Child

One.

The election last week. Well, that was unexpected, huh? Against all odds, the Conservative landslide transpired to be a hung parliament. Recriminations in Tory and media circles will last long into the night. And beyond. But the truth is, we are all guided by polls. Which in the UK are notoriously off the mark. But still, the Continue reading “The Poster Child”

#TBT The Election

Back in 2006, Mexicans went to the polls in what was a contentious, controversial and ultimately very close presidential election. The result wasn’t what roughly half the population wanted. And that half of the population were angry. Very angry. The protests went on for what seemed like years – possibly because it was years. There was even a protest outside my home, which Obrador once visitied to do a little anger-stirring Continue reading “#TBT The Election”

Understanding Trump

Last week, Donald Trump heroically prevented the squashing of one of the most endangered insects on the planet by the careless actions of the prime minister of Montenegro, who came within an inch of stepping on it. In fluent Croatian, Trump alerted his international colleague, “Budi oprezan, prijatelju. Gotovo stao na Continue reading “Understanding Trump”

The Trial of the Century

Last year, we had a somewhat controversial trial in the UK. You may have heard of it – the news services covered it fairly comprehensively. It was controversial for a number of reasons, not least that it even occurred. Instigated by a fairly small number of individuals, most of whom had a fairly questionable set of morals, on the basis of hearsay and dodgy data. Continue reading “The Trial of the Century”

An Election. Again.

As a committed Remainer, you might think I’d be pleased that there will be another General Election in June. An opportunity to stop the madness that is Brexit, perhaps. And yet, as optimistic a person as I try to be, I’m not terribly excited. Truth be told, it’s rather filled me with Continue reading “An Election. Again.”

A Trumped Up Charge

It strikes me that the Republican Party has something of a problem. For eight years, the most vocal part of the party has spent it’s time questioning Obama’s birthplace, the exact shade of black of his skin, his religion and whether or not he is a gay communist who funded his youthful drug habit through male prostitution. And attempting to block everything he does regardless of its merits. The rational part of the party appears to have spent it’s time trying to appease the former. And no one has questioned what direction the party should take. Exactly what does the GOP stand for? What are their core values and ethics? How do these translate into policies in today’s USA? Continue reading “A Trumped Up Charge”

Should We Stay Or Should We Go?

The date has been set and the campaigning has begun. I have a few thoughts on the debate as to whether or not we should leave the EU. I have a few observations on the situation too.

  • Jeremy Corbyn is right. This referendum wasn’t created to debate our membership of the EU, although the consequence of the outcome could obviously alter our relationship with the continent. This referendum is really about Cameron appeasing a wildly divided Conservative party, which has on several occasions in the last 30 years pretty much self imploded over the debate regarding our place in (or out of) Europe. He wanted to limit the defections to UKIP prior to the 2015 election. A better tact would have been to let those who wanted out of Europe to get out of the party and bring in fresh blood.

Continue reading “Should We Stay Or Should We Go?”

Rapist in Chief

I view politics very much through a British looking glass. You wouldn’t expect anything else. This means I’m inevitably going to be viewed as a commie by our American cousins and a capitalist pig by our Russian ex-friends. Both are simplistic labels proferred by simplistic minds. My political line of thought is easily summed up. If it’s too big to fail, essential infrastructure, a matter of national security, a social service or where human decency overrides the need for profit, it should be government run. Otherwise, we the people should be left to get on with it. There’s the ‘left’ and the ‘libertarian’ in me in in two shortish sentences. Of course, those two sentences are wide open to interpretation. You can have a crack at this quiz, if you care to. It’s pretty low brow, but still…

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With this in mind, you can probably imagine how I view US politics. Obama is not a socialist. Sanders is not a communist. Neither are even close. You guys really need to meet Jeremy Corbyn, our new-ish Labour leader. Some people would suggest Sanders is an American style Corbyn in many regards. I like Corbyn. He’s principled, decent and in the politics game to try to make a difference, rather than for his own furtherment. His analysis of real world politics and issues is spot on. Probably because he lives in the real world. Yet, I probably won’t vote for him. As things stand, I’ll vote Liberal. Because Corbyn is a weak leader whose specialty is protest not policy.

He’s a good guy in the wrong job. But he is not Britain’s Sanders. He is our Trump. You might not see how such a comparison works if you look at their respective policies and opinions. They couldn’t be more different. But policies don’t matter one jot if you don’t get a shot at the top job. What Trump and Corbyn do share is the ability to tear their own parties apart, to alienate the key floating voters and to gift their opponents the next election. This is the main reason behind my opposition to Corbyn.

My assumption, though, is that Trump will fall down in the primaries. He’ll get to the blue states, who’ll pick a moderate Republican and send Trump back to the tower. His tower, sadly. Not ours. We no longer behead crooks anyway. Trump is nuts. Despicable is not too strong a word.  He most definitely doesn’t live in the real world. It’s worrying that anyone who does would offer him their support. Frankly, Ted Cruz is no better.

You couldn’t make a parody of Trump. He is a walking talking parody already. Where does one even begin to list his misdemeanors? He’s figuratively raped the bank accounts of Americans and other citizens and governments around the world for decades. But perhaps more of a concern is the literal rape of his ex-wife. Is this just being ignored in the US? Have I missed something? Seriously, what’s the deal? There’s been no conviction, as is oft the case with this particular crime. But dear old Ivana was pretty clear in a statement under oath. He raped her. Then he gagged her through the courts. One of the joys of ‘freedom’. Can I get a hallelujah?

Nowadays, she says that he didn’t literally or criminally rape her. What does that even mean? He had her permission to rape her? Isn’t that sort of activity more commonly known as consensual intercourse? Is this just a British / American linguistic anomaly? Help me out guys. But I guess, more importantly, help yourselves out. You are the ones with a vote to cast in this election, not I. Don’t swallow the audio-visual Rophenol soundbites he’s throwing your way. Don’t give this guy your consent. He will shaft you all if he gets the opportunity.

Syria

We’re at war. Again. Sort of. I’m not really sure why our latest campaign in Syria is being called a war. Obviously there is a war happening on the ground. We’re not participating in that. We’re just dropping bombs on distance targets from a safe distance.  But anyhow. I have a few thoughts.

  • Why are we bombing Syria? Well, there’s a very simple answer to this. Its what we do. It’s what we’ve done for hundreds of years. It’s what we’ll continue to do until someone gives us a sound thrashing and puts a stop to it. Even then, it’ll probably only be a temporary stop. It’s in the national psyche. It’s tradition, pride, vanity. If there is a bit of a kerfuffle going on someone in the world, we feel obliged to throw our hat in the ring. Especially if the French are involved. You think this is a ridiculous explanation? The world is, more often than not, ridiculous. Besides, I have evidence. A map of the world. Everything in red is a nation invaded or occupied by the UK at some stage. I know what you’re thinking. How the hell did Luxembourg get away with it??

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  • I voted Labour at the last election. I’ll be voting for someone else at the next election, unless Corbyn is replaced. I like him. His analysis of a problem is often spot on. He is principled. He is eloquent. He says what needs to be said. But his solutions, when he actually has one, are usually ideological, impractical and devoid of consideration for all other connected factors. The chap is an activist. He is not a leader. He demonstrated that last week. He is 100% against bombing in Syria. Yet, rather than force Labour MPs to vote against military action, he gave his colleagues a free vote. Why? Because his colleagues were going to ignore him anyway and he didn’t want to look weak. He’s not in control of the party and even if he were, his continued leadership is almost certain to see another Tory win in 2020. Who might replace him? Some would now say that Hilary Benn is a candidate. Picture yourself in the year 2020 at a UK/US convention. PM Hilary and Pres Hillary. Cartoonists are going to have a field day.
  • The argument in the UK as to whether we should bomb Syria seems to be devoid of substance on both sides. The Right believe they can bomb ISIS into oblivion. The Left want a political solution. A political solution? Who are they kidding? A political solution with who? Russia? Assad? Turkey? The Kurds? That’s like sitting at at table with a bowl of dog shit and declaring that you are going to make a cake. Ain’t nobody gonna be swallowing that, I’m afraid. As far as I see it, there are two types of war. Total war, which is the one we most want to avoid. The other type involves running around trying to put out fires, but doing little to actually stop the firestarter. Which is also unpleasant, but probably better than sitting back and watching the fires spread and burn some more. But when all is said and done, there is no answer to this (or many other) of the world’s problems. Such is life.

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  • No one seems to be asking the most important question. It’s a simple one. Can our bombs kill radicalized terrorists more quickly than the bombs radicalize new terrorists? There’s got to be someone doing the maths…

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  • I’ve also noticed that those people I speak to who are most in favour of bombing Syria are also the least likely to approve of us taking in refugees. There has to be a formula out there to calculate the bombs to refugee ratio. Factor in tonnage of bombs dropped, the period of time over which they are dropped and the density of the receiving population per square mile. Plus a few other  contributory factors. We can then present the maths to fans of the bomb and explain the concept of cause and effect in numerical form. Getting them to understand the concept of ‘responsibility’ is another matter altogether…

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  • Putin is nuts. He may sometimes make a valid point. But I suspect that’s by chance rather than design. The Turks are also nuts. They are doing more to prolong and aggravate the Syrian conflict than other nation. They have definitely occupied the moral low ground. I read somewhere recently that Turkey and Russia have waged war against each other more times throughout history than any other pair of countries. Although producing such a stat is a very dubious art. But anyway.  They’re not buddies at the best of times. That should be everyone’s biggest concern, perhaps.

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  • I’ve long needed a post relevant for my warplane photos.

PS. We’re still bombing Iraq, dontcha know?

 

Europe’s Turkey

Let’s see if we can put this in a nutshell. In the late 90s, Greece, with a little help from their German friends, fudged their books to get the drachma operating within the rules and regulations of the ERM and threw their lot in to join the Euro. They continued fudging their books right up to a few years back. The Great Recession struck and someone asked for a little something from the reserves, only to be told…oops….ain’t none. A big stack of debts, yes. Cash reserves? Not so much. Not to worry. They kept on spending the welfare, dodging their taxes and dreaming the European dream.

And Greece and the EU fudged the books again, breaking all sorts of rules and regulations, splashing the cash to try and keep Greece’s head above water. Alas, the floatation aid stopped Greece from ever reaching dry land. And here we are today. The Greeks have debts they can never pay off. The Germans have credit notes they can’t forgive. Forgiveness is for wars. The truth is, the Greeks should never have been in the Eurozone. Trying to keep them in it was simply throwing good money after bad. It turned out that a half-baked single currency shared by a multitude of independent and competing economies wasn’t such a good idea. Who knew? I guess all the other countries who have ever tried to share a currency and seen it fail.

So here we are. Pick an option. It’s lose, lose all round. There can be no winners. The only question is, does Europe seek an idealogical solution based on faux European unity and give the Greek’s their financial haircut? Or do they seek a common sense solution and let Greece go? Time will tell. Either option is expensive. Either way, pro-Euro supporters like myself are watching, weeping, and losing faith. It’s become an uncontrollable monster. The Eurozone area needs to federalise. The European Union needs complete reform, or risk losing supporters like myself to the sceptic side.

Are there any possible winners at all? Well, possibly. If Greece becomes Europe’s turkey and is sent to the slaughter house, could Turkey become Europe’s next hot entry? Whether this would be a good thing for the Turks or a bad thing is debatable. But they have previously expressed a desire to join in the fun. The only thing stopping them? The Greeks, with their Cypriotic grudge*. Who might not be around to say ‘oxi’ for that much longer…

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  • Of course, the Greek part of Cyprus will remain to be convinced…

My Europe, My Vote

The right to cast your vote in secret is an important one to ensure a free and democratic election. I have cast my ballot today in the 2014 European elections. Just how free and fair an election process is can be tested by the willingness of the voters to forego their right of secrecy and declare the recipient of their vote, comfortable that whilst others may disagree with their choice, they won’t face discrimination or any other adverse effect due to their vote. I’m perfectly happy to tell you who I voted for. I voted for the lesser of two eight evils.

I keep threatening to run for election as an independent myself one day. Perhaps next year. If I can raise the £500 needed for the deposit. Any donors? If I get at least 5% of the vote, I’ll get my cash back. And so, therefore, will you.  But I’ll not bother running for a European election. It has to be the real deal. The General Election. Don’t be overly surprised if you didn’t get your donation back. But there’s always the chance you’ll see me in television, on a stage, waiting anxiously for the results to be declared, hoping that I get at least two votes. My own vote being pretty much in the bag…

So, now you know. I voted Labour. In between uploading those photos and getting on  to this paragraph , I had to pause for thought. Should I be posting photos of my trip into the polling station? You’ll note one of those photos shows a sign forbidding photography. In my defence, I noticed it on the way out, not the way in, and nobody said anything to me inside about not taking a photo.

The BBC has this article explaining the rights and wrongs of photography in a polling station. Essentially, there are no rights or wrongs, other than to photograph someone else making their choice – specifically, revealing their choice – is an offence. Polling stations have been told to put up signs forbidding photography even though it seems pretty clear that there is no law to support this policy.

So. To publish or not to publish my photographed ballot paper? Obviously, given that you’ve seen the photos above, I chose to publish. For several reasons. I object, albeit rather mildly in this instance, to being told not to do something when there is no legislation preventing me from doing so. Selfies have been going on for a while now, as have elections. If this were important, there should have been prior legislation. I have satisfied myself that my photo does not compromise any other persons right to a secret ballot. And also because, on the very next BBC page that I turned to, I see that they have published photos taken inside polling stations during this election to accompany their election coverage. Much as I have.

Back to the election. Which has mostly been about UKIP. I hate to generalise, really I do, but I’m going to just go ahead and make an exception. Active UKIP supporters….they do rather come across as a rather ignorant, arrogant collection of toffs and tarts who haven’t yet quite gotten around to acclimatising to the 21st century. It’s a rag tag collection of people who are just like other people, and enjoy other people’s company, just so long as they aren’t…you know…different. It’s a party for racists who didn’t know they were racist. It’s a party for people who can’t tell the difference between officious political correctness and plain old fashioned xenophobia.

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But I like UKIP. It serves a purpose. It splinters the Conservative party. Many of the rotten apples of the political world have gravitated around UKIP, identifying themselves. And, one must concede, they have put Europe on the agenda as a subject demanding action rather than empty rhetoric. Most intelligent people do not want the UK to leave the EU. They want to belong to a cohesive, efficient Europe that is flexible in meeting the needs of member nations, that is committed to upholding the sovereignty of individuals nations and that brings economic benefits. As opposed to a domineering, excessive and bureaucratic monster. It’s sadly closer to the latter than the former. Let’s fix it, not flog it.

So, did you vote? Would you vote? How did you vote? Left, right, centre or secretly?

British Socialism in the 21st Century

I must confess that when reading through Forbes list of the worlds richest people, you have to head quite a long way down the list before you find a Brit. There’s no need for a person to have tens of billions of pounds. Or dollars, for that matter. Here in the UK, we are strong believers of wealth distribution, and the idea of having a handful of mega billionaires is something we find rather distasteful. Instead, we have lots and lots of plain old fashioned normal billionaires.

Lots and lots of them. Over a hundred now, which is more billionaires per capita than any where else on the planet. London is home to the majority of them, unsurprisingly. A total of 72, more than any other city on the planet.  I’ve read repeatedly how London is reclaiming it’s title of Capital of the World. It sure does have the capital. And that loot is coming in from all four corners of the globe. You see, of the 25 richest people in Britain, only seven of them are actually British. And one of those has a bit of a question mark over his nationality. Just two of them are in the top ten.  Here’s a little chart I created, totalling up the cash per country. For convenience, I included the Ukrainian chap in the ‘Russia’ tab. He soon will be, anyway.

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To be clear, I’m not anti-rich people. I’m a fan of Bill Gates, and they don’t come any richer than him. But, am I really being controversial by stating the opinion that if the majority of the wealth that exists on this planet is concentrated in the possession of an incredibly tiny proportion of the population then something has gone wrong? Economics is a complicated subject, I know. But surely the status quo is not the perfecta ratio?

I imagine most people, of whatever political persuasion, do not wish to see fellow citizens who are prepared to do a fair days work but have no work to do, made homeless or starve. That is why we have a social safety net. But my little rant today are for those are actually do complete a fair days work. The Minimum Wage was one of the better policies introduced by Tony Blair’s government. The ratification of the European Working Time Directive in 1999 was also an important step forward.

If we’re not paying people a living wage, then they end up picking up benefits to keep their head above water. In other words, the tax payer is subsidising the employers, be they corporations or smaller enterprises. There are a few policies that I would like to see implemented by the next UK government. Assuming that the incumbent one is removed….crossed fingers.

I’d like to see the minimum wage increased to a living wage. I’d like to see the Tax Allowance increased to the amount set as the minimum wage. I’d like to see employers obliged to pay 1.5x the hourly rate for every hour that PAYE employees works over their contracted hours. I’ll wager that the Zero Hours contracts will disappear pretty quickly. I’d also like to see pay at 1.5x the hourly rate for all hours worked on Saturdays, and 2x the hourly rate for work done at night or on Sundays.

I’d like to see a couple of pieces of Mexican employment legislation introduced too. Particularly, a minimum of a three month pay off for all employees fired, let go or otherwise released from employment contracts, on top of any redundancy pay out that already exists in British law. Just to put a bit more onus on employers to choose their employees carefully, to ensure they give them a fair opportunity and to ease any period of unemployment for the employee. Lastly, a Christmas bonus. Two weeks salary, to be paid prior to Jesus’ big day in December.

Which of the main UK political parties will take these ideas up and run with them? I’d give them my vote. Alas, I’ll probably have to run for parliament myself…

 

 

Scottish Expulsion

Scotland, that rugged mountainous land just to the north of England. The home of the haggis. An English speaking country, supposedly, whaur nae a single body kin actually speak sassenach. A land of homphobic gaelics with no sense of irony. They gave us the likes of Rod Effing Stewart and refuse to take him back. The mystery isn’t why the Scots are voting for independence, but why the English aren’t voting to expel them. And whilst they can’t keep the pound, they definitely can keep Rod Stewart.

But voting for independence, or against it, they are and the day of reckoning is coming up fast. The bookmakers have the No camp as very strong favourites. I personally have the Meh camp way out if front. Either way, it doesn’t look good for the Yes camp at the moment. But things can change, and sometimes they can change quickly.

I am pretty firmly in the Meh camp. It’s a decision for the Scots to make. But at the same time, I can’t help feel that as the inhabitants of the same smallish island, with roughly the same language and such an intertwined history, present and (whether any one likes it or not) future, the status quo is the way to go. The Scots have a good degree of autonomy with their own parliament. A union is usually stronger and more resilient that fragmentation. And there’s an awful lot more in the list of similarities than there is in the list of differences when discussing the English and the Scots. And Scotland does have it plus sides, if you can overlook boiled offal and deep fried Mars bars.

I do have a couple of strong-ish opinions though. Firstly, that for a vote of independence to be successful, a simple majority is not enough. The 40% rule was controversial in the 1979 vote. But I feel it didn’t go far enough. I feel that a minimum of 50% of the electorate should be the qualifying limit. Independence through apathy isn’t acceptable. If not enough people actually care, then the justification for a break up of the UK isn’t there.

Secondly, of course they can’t keep the bloody pound! The question they will be voting on is ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?‘. Not, ‘Should Scotland be sort of independent, but keep the bits of union it likes?‘ If they want monetary union, and are so confident that automatic membership of the EU is a given, then let them join the Euro. I pass you over to one of the highlights of the British political world, the excellent Question Time.