Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Manifesto Hypocrisy

That nice Mr Hunt says he has to enforce a new contract on junior doctors because it was a manifesto 'promise'. Shame about the healthcare cap then, which was another manifesto 'promise'. Since Tony Blair's volte-face  on the introduction of tuition fees manifesto 'promises' have appeared entirely optional. That's hypocrisy.

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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

What's Worse Than A Politician?

Answer, a local politician. I have to be careful here, because if things get bad enough I might feel obliged, on the, if you can't beat 'em principle, to enter politics myself. However the way I feel right now is that if politicians are scum on the surface then local politicians are something even more mucky swimming just underneath.

I simply cannot help feeling that the vast majority of these people enter the game because they like controlling events and especially the people around them. They also seem to have a propensity for spending other people's money on their own pet projects and moaning that there isn't enough money at the same time.

And so, the local elections are nearly upon us and the question for me is whether to participate and vote. For years as a travelling liveaboard yachtsman I could not vote in any election, not even by post. I've been told by American yachtties that they can get a postal vote, but for Brits it's different. If you live abroad you can get a postal vote, at least for a certain number of years, even if you have no intention of moving back. And actually I think that people who've paid UK taxes for years, who maybe have a pension from the UK should have a say permanently, without limit. Many are ex forces too and although I'm a pacifist if you served your country you should have a say wherever you are, whenever you are.

However if you're travelling, even temporarily, a postal vote is a problem as you need a 'permanent' address abroad to get one. So I got out of the habit of voting. I will certainly vote to stay in Europe, at my age the turmoil from leaving would probably rumble on until everything goes dark for me, but actually I think its better if we stay for subsequent generations too.

Locally however, where I live now a vote for the Tories would probably be a wasted vote anyway, but on current form I wouldn't vote for them at any price. That leaves Labour and the Lib Dems. Nationally I'm pretty pissed at the Lib Dems for abandoning the path of peace and voting (most of them) to fire missiles around in Syria with no actual strategy. Locally I need to check who holds the power round my way at present Lab or Lib, because whoever is running the show I think they're at least as bad as the picture I painted in my opening statement.

They're selling off a Carnegie Library to become a bar, they say the building is in disrepair and its not economic to do otherwise, but they've been the ones maintaining it, or not. All over the place Councils are asking library volunteers to sign contracts as if it were a paid job, clearly a deterrent and clearly underhand tactics are no problem for local politicians, probably aspiring to greater things.

Labour controlled authorities in Hastings and Waltham Forest are 'Licensing' landlords who've never had a complaint made against them, ever, employing case officers and making small investors pay to have themselves investigated as if they were criminals. A great way to manufacture jobs that make nothing and provide nothing. Clever. It could be even more clever, by which I mean underhanded, if the real aim is to get everyone to sell up.

And so there we are back to voting for the lesser of three evils, just as if I'd never been to sea; but if you do that these self important loonies tell themselves its a positive vote for their pet projects. It isn't. In Stannington for example we have a new twenty miles per hour speed limit, twenty four hours a day. Twenty minutes drive away (at twenty miles an hour) there are roads with fifty miles an hour limits, or higher, with potholes perfectly designed to kill cyclists and motorcyclists and wreck car suspensions and puncture tyres. I don't know what all the road painting and road signs cost in Stannington, (or how much they got for the library at Walkley down the road) but there's no money to fill in pot holes elsewhere apparently.

Still I can hear people saying a twenty miles per hour limit could save children's lives and I agree it could, but I don't see any evidence of past accidents, OK prevention is better than cure, so why have these geniuses left a thirty miles per hour speed limit past the village school? If I vote I guess it will be Lib Dem, but goodness knows I don't really want to encourage any of our brainy local bureaucrats.

On a more cheerful note, some of my products!

Friday, 15 April 2016

Does anyone think the Chancellor will be surprised by that?

The Chancellor announced that Britain deserves a pay rise. So he's told companies to give us one. Of course Britain is run by politicians who meddle in education without being teachers, meddle in healthcare without being doctors or nurses and meddle in business without being businessmen (with a handful of exceptions). British business fights to be competitive, despite competing with hugely different labour rates in China and India to name but two.

It seems to me we try to compete by being better, but there is now a huge number of overseas students benefiting from a British University education, so the skills advantage is probably eroding too. Given that the Tories have always professed to believe in market forces it seems a bit odd that in their eyes a thing is no longer worth what you can get for it.

It has been reported in the news that companies are cutting breaks, cutting overtime and doing everything they can to make a profit from the work of their employees alongside applying the new living wage. It's legitimate for a business to make a profit from the work of its employees, in fact for the company to survive and to continue to employ people it's essential it does so. Which is quite different from ripping people off. I wonder if the Chancellor is surprised that companies are wriggling around trying to stay competitive, or does he think that they should obey his dictates and roll over and die wherever necessary?

My Artflakes

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Lord Owen Says Out! Bonkers.

Europhile Lord Owen appears to have switched sides in the referendum debate, siting defence and the Bosnia crisis in which Europe failed to be effective amongst other things. He's right in that, but it's not a reason to walk out of Europe.

My reasons for staying in europe are: 

70 years of peace in Western Europe. Bosnia was a disaster but it wasn't the Western Front, the EU has made a huge contribution to the peace, trade not take. It's the longest period of peace since fifty or so years during the Roman Empire and that wasn't peace as we know it. 

Leaving the EU will push us closer to our 'special relationship' with the US. The one where America says 'jump' and we say 'how high?'. Given the madness of Trump and the extremes of Cruz our friendship could become an embarrassment if the Democrats don't win big.

SME's who trade in Europe will suffer if we leave; big multi nationals know about dealing with the bureaucracy of international cross border trade, but small firms will struggle. 

International problems like the migrant crisis were prompted largely by the arrogance of Bush and Blair, the USA and UK in alliance again manufactured the chaos, not France, Germany et al. Those problems require greater international co-operation not more division. Isolationism was an American idea we once scorned.

Many of my friends on mainland Europe love the EU, even Greeks! The others will not want it to unravel and so if we leave they will have to punish us, even if it hurts them too in the short term, and given the IMF report on world trade prospects that's not good. 

The EU has done much for our human and legal rights, sometimes it seems to go too far, but it'll be worse if we take powers back and British politicians push the pendulum too far the other way. Do we want to be controlled by our politicians even more than we are now? Is anyone actually a fan of UK politicians? Brexit would mean a lot more power for them. 

The pound would certainly devalue, which many say would help our exports, except that imported raw materials would cost far more, consumer goods and travel would cost far more and any benefit in more competitive export prices would be lost to tariffs and barriers. It's bonkers.

You cannot turn the clock back, certainly not quickly, the Commonwealth countries have new trading partners now, the world is different. 

Parts of the UK, get money back from the EU, vote leave and the whole constitutional problem with Scotland will come to the fore again, they won't wont to leave and it will be never ending, after them it will be the Welsh and the Northern Irish, years of turmoil and division brought about by Conservative Party indecision and incompetence. 

Not that Labour are competent to govern either, but right now you have all those European countries you can flee to when you retire, or to work in when British bureaucracy becomes too unbearable, you have the RIGHT to live abroad in all those lovely places, for now, and that alone is worth keeping.

Malcolm Snook 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Just How Corrupt Is Britain?

Many people think of Russia as corrupt, Greeks have long had a national obsession with avoiding tax, aid agencies have to work hard in many developing countries to keep the aid going to the people and not to profiteering politicians and gangs, but here in Britain we're above all that sort of thing aren't we?

Actually no, and hopefully we're about to find out to what extent. Millions of documents, literally millions, going back some forty years have been leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. That people like Valdimir Putin and Syria's Bashar al-Assad are found there comes as little surprise. That Mossack Fonseca knowingly aided criminals is certain, laundering of Brinks Matt robbery money alone proves that. It also proves they had 'business associates' right here in the UK.

Was any of Mossack Fonseca's business legitimate? Maybe some was, but generally the business sells a cloak of secrecy for those who simply want to avoid tax through to actual thieves and fraudsters. One journalist has estimated that ninety five per cent of Mossack Fonseca's business was effectively criminal in one way or another. It's probably unsafe to say that at this early stage, but it is at least credible given the raison d'etre of the company, and, given that credibility it's disappointing to find the prime minister's late father had been sheltering money in tax havens, using the services of a company like Mossack Fonseca and flying to Nassau periodically to pretend the company was run overseas.

With over eleven million documents for international journalists to sift through, then just like Wikileaks you can expect new revelations for some time to come. Inevitably Cameron senior will not be the only Briton implicated.

It seems to me that there are three key areas where we as humans are our own worst enemies. The first is war, the greatest evil we've invented and now we have the potential to kill off virtually all life on the planet. The second is our disregard for the planet and the species we share it with and the third is corruption. From local politicians going on paid trips abroad for spurious reasons, when they say they can't afford to fix potholes in the road or pay for school books, to national politicians and cheating 'businessmen' corruption holds us all back and it's right here in Britain. The only question is one of degree and soon we may know a little more.

Show the world what you think!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Chinese Steel Tariffs

So, the Chinese are whacking tariffs of up to forty six point three percent on European steel. That's AFTER Mr Cameron had a quiet man to man word! Very influential fellow then and surprise, surprise the government is trying to play it down.

Of course a trade war helps no one, but being weak isn't the answer either. Nor is dishonesty. The Brexit campaign, comedian Boris in particular, will say that Europe stops us responding but the UK government campaigned in Europe to prevent European Community tariffs on Chinese steel. So we know where the UK stands and its not the fault of the French, Germans, Italians or anyone else.

Our steel industry needs to be protected; if China were to gain a monopoly then prices would naturally rise and that would increase the cost of manufactured goods, girders for construction etc. etc. As well as all the job and skills losses here, benefits payments and on and on. International problems require international co-operation, not isolationism and division. Europe matters and it's time to start thinking about what's best for Europe, that at least gives us some clout, even with the Chinese.

The Chinese can make quick decisions because they're on their own and because they're not even a democracy. Europe needs to raise its game and so does the UK government, but the distraction of the referendum just makes everything worse and more difficult.

The Germans have, within the environmental rules, taken some steps to protect their steel industry. The UK government heaped all the environmental responsibilities, energy costs and business rates on Tata and now they're crying because the Indians have given them the finger. We're governed by morons, but Labour who made the black hole in the first place are just as stupid and incompetent unfortunately. If you think European politicians are worse, think again, the migrant bodge with Turkey suggests they're just as bad, but probably not worse than our self serving madmen.

One can only hope that public opinion will have some effect, because there's more common sense to be heard in many a British pub than in the House of Commons (when there's anyone there!). Of course the Tories will never win in Wales, even if they do save Port Talbot, so not too much incentive there. Wales is split between Labour and the nationalists, that could be a mistake if you're Welsh, try engaging with the rest of the UK a bit more, nationalism is about as productive as leaving the EU just saying!

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