Friday, 22 January 2016

Litvinenko

I feel sorry for Litvinenko I really do, horrible way to die and I feel even more sorry for his widow. The thing is though, he was a spy. We don't really need an enquiry ten years on to tell us he was probably bumped off by the FSB with clearance from the top, I mean the choice of Polonium itself was a clear statement. I don't really understand why the Russians don't just say, sure we did it.

Litvinenko defected saying the FSB was corrupt, and it may well be, but of course the Russians regarded him as a traitor, roles reversed we would too. Then, working for our security services he tries to recruit another Russian spy to our side and gets bumped off instead.

I'm sure espionage isn't like we see on tv or in films, but I'm also sure it's a risky career option. I find it hard to believe we've never killed an enemy on foreign soil in peace time. All this posturing is ridiculous, we do not want a return to the cold war. As a kid I can remember air raid sirens being tested and I remember my uncle who worked in the so called defence industry showing movies of a nerve gas attack.

We've got a handful of nukes we could throw back in the worst case scenario and we probably need permission from the Yanks and firing codes even to do that. Peace is what the world needs and that means talking to each other, d├ętente, understanding. End the posturing and build a relationship with Russia. I'm sure they have corruption problems and mafia, but really we aren't helping matters either.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Love America, Worry About American Politics.

Woke in a cold sweat last night after dreaming that the world's largest economy (possibly), and the world's largest military (probably) was under the control of Donald Chump and Sarah Walin.

My nightmare was probably caused by the news that Sarah Palin, she who thought Africa was one country and famously urged Americans to stand by their NORTH  Korean ally has endorsed megalomaniac businessman Donald Trump.

Maybe I shouldn't worry, after all the American people had the good sense to elect Obama twice, even if they didn't vote him enough power to be fully effective. There again I think most of the world's current terrorist and refugee problems can be laid at the feet of Bush and Blair, elected two and three times respectively by the Americans and we British.

The other sign of hope is the Palin effect on McCain. After his defeat the Telegraph newspaper reported as follows: 'In the wake of defeat, aides to presidential candidate Senator John McCain have reeled off examples of how the Alaska governor's ignorance, temper and shopaholic behaviour caused a civil war within the campaign. It also emerged she could not name the nations involved in the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) even though there are only three – the United States, Canada and Mexico – and the agreement had come up in the campaign. According to Carl Cameron of Fox News, aides said she had "real problems with basic civics" such as the different responsibilities of municipal, state and federal government.'

Palin maybe a sideshow but then there's Trump himself. Now I've long advocated the idea that a country is a huge and complex corporation at its core and that it needs to be run by people who've studied, or been in, business. Not by people who've only studied politics.

Trump is selling himself to the American people as a businessman, but the fact is he's a failure as a businessman. He inherited a vast fortune from his father and hasn't always been too clever with it. The respected American paper The Washington Post had this to say: ' Trump has not done nearly as well as other American business magnates, or even a typical middle-class retiree following sound financial advice, as a review of the numbers over the past four decades shows. He is a billionaire today despite this poor performance because when he started his career, his father had already built a colossal real-estate empire. And the wealth Donald Trump has accumulated since then has at times come at the expense of taxpayers or the banks and investors who have lent him money.'

Citing an independent evaluation, Business Week put Trump's net worth at $100 million in 1978. Had Trump gotten out of real estate entirely, put his money in an index fund based on the S&P 500 and reinvested the dividends, he'd be worth twice as much today than he actually is having run his own business himself!

In 2010 Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., filed for bankruptcy for the third time.Then there's Trump Airlines, Trump Vodka and a whole list of other other failures, which in many cases have hurt outside investors who trusted Trump as much, or more, than they hurt him.

That's without noting how the Trumps have worked the system to their personal advantage, Donald Trump's father, Fred, built his real-estate business on federal subsidies, as The Washington Post's Emily Badger has reported. Financing from The US Government isn't available to the typical investor (although homeowners do benefit indirectly from federal subsidies and can deduct interest they pay on their mortgage from their tax bill). The younger Trump has continued that strategy, boasting about his ability to secure taxpayer dollars from local officials, as the Los Angeles Times has reported.

Basically, the question is do you want this kind of man running things America? Please say no.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Workplace Pensions TV Advertising

We keep getting bombarded with TV ads for the workplace pension, goodness knows how much money the government is spending on the ads. The thrust is "don't ignore the workplace pension it's a legal obligation". A legal pain in the backside for entrepreneurs, small businesses and people trying to give work to carers, cleaners gardeners no doubt.

Clearly we woudn't be seeing all these ads unless people were ignoring the workplace pension, and why would they do that? Because it's too onerous maybe. I've said before that a country is like a large complex corporation, but instead of people who've studied business we get politicians who've studied politics, they know how to work the system, but not the country.

The  Tories worked the problem out years ago. Baby boom after the war, National Insurance not ring fenced or invested for the future, but a system where the young tax payers pay the pensions of their elders (crooked and stupid in itself), so when the pendulum swings, not enough money, obviously. So what did they do? rhetorical question, they got us all to invest in personal pensions and conned us into opting out of SERPS (The State Earnings Related Pension Scheme) by offering incentives to help grow the new personal pensions we were paying into.

Enter New Labour and new chancellor Gordon Brown, he who must have spent more of our money than any other peacetime politician in UK history. During the 'honeymoon period' when nobody wants to see any faults he destroys our personal pensions because he's promised not to raise taxes but he wants to get more money out of us somehow. Billions have been wiped off our pensions, but his will be fine you can rest assured, government see.

So now we're back to square one, or worse really and so the Tories introduce the Workplace Pension, but as usual they get the detail all wrong, go too far and no one wants to know and so they're wasting more money on advertising. That's without all the bureaucratic waste governments create each time they change the system. The whole lot of 'em need to go.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

As Expected Jeremy Corbin Loses The Plot

When Jeremy Corbin was elected leader of the Labour party I feared the worst (for them). I'm no fan of the other mob either, for those who haven't read much of what I write. I found myself, however, in agreement when he wanted to scrap Trident and in agreement again when he didn't want to bomb Syria, with no plan or strategy to make things better. (I personally think if we can drop bombs we can drop food and medicine to people who need it but that's another story.)

Anyhow, Labour elected a leader it didn't deign to follow. And now the madness starts. Labour has always been in thrall to the unions and the unions never see the big picture. Jeremy better keep them onside no matter what. So, we have two new, I hesitate to use this word, 'initiatives'. First is that we should keep Trident and the jobs the unions want to protect, but ditch the nuclear warheads. WHAT! So if someone nukes Britain the submarines return home to a radioactive wasteland where the survivors are supposed to make new warheads attach them and shoot them back. Sure, that'll work.

Either keep the damn things or scrap 'em. I prefer scrap 'em and use the money to invest in peaceful industries and create new jobs that way, maybe even jobs that bring a return to the country; after all a country is really just a large complex corporation. Running things we don't need like submarines that fire blanks is a surefire waste of our money and resources!

The second 'initiative' to keep the unions sweet is to make sympathy strikes legal again. So some poor sap is trying to run a business and turn a profit for his investors and for the country and his workers go on strike because some other company has workers with a grievance. Well done Jeremy, bring down the wealth creators and  the country why don't you, return to chaos. We can always plant veggies in the garden.

It's this kind of thing made Labour unelectable and made the Tories feel so secure that their arrogance and sleaze ran riot. Only the Liberals opposed the Blair Bush madness and now they've lurched to the right because after the last election they think its the only way to recover, that, that's what people want. NO we want moderation and common sense please.


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Broken Bridges

In wartime military engineers throw pontoon bridges and pre fabs across rivers in no time at all. The temporary bridges are strong enough to carry heavy tanks and artillery, lorries and troop transports. In peacetime bridges are swept away or  damaged by floods and  the crossing remains out of use for months, clever eh.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

How Can We Improve Democracy?

I'd rather live in a democratic country than in one where people have no say at all, however we all know it's an imperfect system. Perfection may be asking too much but we can always seek to make things better. Come election time we're presented with claims and counter claims and false promises, like the recent conservative one on inheritance tax made before the election and reneged on straight afterwards.

What I'd like to suggest is an independent academic review body which analyses the long term effects of the policies enacted by parties when they've been in power. It seems to me that here in the UK much policy is short term, if you've got five years in office and everyone starts building up for an election after four why would you consider the long term?

Short termism must be at least partially responsible for spending cuts to flood defences, which have led to greater expense and misery in the long term, and short termism could well have a lot to do with ignoring global warming. Gordon Brown's pension raid wasn't going to rebound on him in the short term and so on.

If political parties knew that the truth of the long term effects of their past policies and actions when in power would be brought to public attention by a body of independent academics from great Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge immediately prior to every election maybe they'd think about the future as something they're invested in too!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

UK Government Hypocrisy

On 11 December 2015 the UK Government signed up to a new deal on battling climate change at the Paris Conference. On the 17th December 2015 it was announced that 93 new licences to explore 159 blocks of land for shale gas to be potentially fracked had been issued.

Also in December and January the north of England and Scotland experienced the worst flooding since records began. Hypocrisy wedded to stupidity.

The coalition of the Liberals with the Tories brought a degree of common sense and balance, but the electorate were so scared of Ed Miliband that they turned in droves to the Tories and wiped the Liberals out. This is the result and worse still the Liberals have responded by lurching to the right too thinking that if the Tories did so well that must be what people want.

When will our politicians ever learn?

Friday, 8 January 2016

My Heart Goes Out To The Good People Of Germany

I've spent a lot of time in Germany in recent years I've visited Ulm, Munich, Hamburg, Trier, Memmingen and many smaller places on the Kiel Canal and River Elbe. I've made German friends through dancing and another set of German friends through sailing.

Germany has rebuilt itself since World War Two, its industry, its towns and cities and its society. It has coped brilliantly with reunification and created a liberal, peaceful, environmentally caring society. German towns are clean and virtually litter and graffiti free, everything works and by far the majority of the people are welcoming, educated, charming and hospitable. Policing is also polite and low key.

Largely thanks to its liberal society Germany has adopted a virtually open door policy towards refugees. This has been encouraged by heart rending depictions in the media which often chooses to film women and children in particular.

The thing is, that if you wish to live an a liberal society, as I do, then welcoming millions of immigrants (Germany received over one million in 2015 alone) who may not wish to live in a liberal society will probably cause conflict.

On New Year's Eve organised gangs robbed, physically and sexually assaulted women in a number of towns in Germany, but especially in Cologne. Victims have reported that the men were of Arabic appearance and spoke neither German nor English.

It may be circumstantial evidence but it is a fact that most of the new immigrants are men who have actually left their women behind. Many of these men come from countries where women's rights are restricted and at worst where women are treated as chattels.

If you come from a society where women have to be covered from head to foot without choice on their part, a place where women are under the control of a father until they are put under the control of a husband chosen for them, if you are used to women walking behind you and not going outdoors at all without a man, possibly a place where women don't have the right to drive a car or own a passport, then Europe requires some adjusting.

Clearly the events of New Year's Eve came as a great shock to the ordinary people of Germany and to the police who were totally unprepared for events. Which brings me back to the point that if you wish to live in  a liberal society then you cannot afford to simply import millions of people who want to live in a different way. Sharia Law for example is anathema not just to Christians but also to secularists, humanists, etc. ie to the majority of European citizens.

I'm not for a moment suggesting we should not help refugees, but at the hub of it is the idea of multiculturalism and political correctness. In Britain we live in a multicultural society, but it's not without problems. I believe strongly in freedom of belief and of religion, I also believe in freedom of speech, but what happens in a democracy if a situation is reached where the majority do not see things that way? Just as communism disallowed other parties so do dictatorships and religious states.

If I spend time abroad I obey not just the laws of the country, but I also respect its culture and traditions, personally I do not want to go to a British enclave in some other country. My conclusion is that Angela Merkel got it wrong, probably for the best of reasons. Now the lady mayor of Cologne has suggested that German women now need to behave differently. NO.

What is needed are checks and balances, you cannot just allow millions of people in without knowing who they  are, or where they come from (whether indeed they are actually refugees), or their likely intentions. Young men who have left their women behind and who regard them as second class citizens still don't expect to be celibate and they may regard western women in an unfortunately biased and negative way too.

Here in the UK thousands, of young British girls, often underage even, have been abused by organised gangs of men from a different ethnic background. The police turned a blind eye because of political correctness and even now that the truth has emerged there has been only a handful of prosecutions.

Help refugees yes, but checks and balances to ensure our civilised and liberal way of life which we and our forebears have worked hard to achieve is not lost. We have a culture too and multiculturalism and political correctness threaten it, here and in the rest of Europe, but especially political correctness. The debate needs to happen and people coming in have to be detained and checked. Not in an unkind way, but to prevent conflict later. Now the freedom to cross borders within Europe is under threat, which is sad, but the loss of our way of life would be sadder still.