Thursday, 29 September 2016

On Tough Guys

Dutch investigators have in my view proved that Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian supplied Buk Missile. There seems to be strong evidence of a missile carrier returning to Russia minus one of its four missile payload as well.

Russia has denied involvement and Buk say it was an obsolete missile, not part of Russia's arsenal anymore. Conspiracy theories and misinformation have been pouring out of Russia since the attack and that has been renewed in intensity since the report.

'Security' Council member Russia has taken the Crimea away from Ukraine and been involved in further conflict in Eastern Ukraine, has shot down a civilian airliner, is actively supporting Assad in the killing of his own civilians in Syria and has been proven to cheat at sport too.

Although the latter pales into insignificance alongside the rest, it is a symptom of what you get when you elect so called tough guys. The Russian people are receiving very different media reports than everyone else of course, the world is against us, we didn't do it, it's all a conspiracy.

It might be argued that Kim Jong-un is a tough guy too, ignoring world opinion and sanctions and testing his weapons of mass destruction regardless of the economic well being, health and education of his own people. It's a difficult dilemma, Hitler and Stalin were tough guys as well and people will say, quite rightly, that we needed tough guys like Churchill and Roosevelt to be strong for us in that era, but for all their strength those gentlemen came from a very different mould.

Shimon Perez has just passed away, he was a joint Nobel Peace Prize winner along with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin (who he will be buried next to) as a result of the Oslo Peace Accord they negotiated. Perez and Rabin were strong men, but not in the final analysis bullies and that I think is the essential difference, it's not the tough looking bully that we need to lead us, but men of strength and principle. Rabin of course paid the ultimate price.

Shimon Perez lost an election he was expected to win to one Benjamin Netanyahu, he lost to tough guy Netanyahu by a mere one percent, Netanyahu promised to get tough with the Palestinians and he did. Is anything better today or have more people died needlessly?

Beware of tough guys, rhetoric was a major tool of Roman commanders and then as now rhetoric can be used to stir up dissatisfaction, war and destruction, only now we're not using swords, slings and catapults.

Did I mention the UN is constitutionally flawed and needs to be recreated from scratch?

Today Avaaz asked me to sign a petition to ask America to enforce a no fly zone over Aleppo. To shoot down Russian jets if necessary. To do so would be to risk escalation, to do nothing is worse they said. I haven't signed. Not because my heart doesn't go out to the people of Aleppo, it truly does, they're being bombed by two tough guys, but because I have always said that throwing ordnance around with no strategy is worse I cannot sign.

If you can't be part of the solution at least stop being part of the problem. I detest Assad but we brought down a tough guy in Iraq and another in Libya, didn't make things better. It actually brought about more death and destruction and a migrant crisis un-paralleled since World War Two. We need a strategy to deal with tough guy bullies, but creating a vacuum isn't it. Lets hope that nations which appear to have matured never make the mistake of electing their ilk.

I do think we should be dropping medicines, food and blankets to civilians in Syria and I do think western leaders should be looking for a  way to end the cycle of violence, if possible without more violence, since as we all know violence generally begets more violence until one side is exhausted, defeated and destroyed. It's all in the history books but we never learn.

I published a plan for promoting peace in my book Of Land, Sea And Sky but have not found financial backing, the idea is out there if anyone wants to give it a try.

Malcolm Snook Author And Blogger

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

No Knock Out Blow But Plenty To See Through.

The Clinton Trump debate has been a hot topic of late. One hundred million Americans watched it and goodness knows how many more around the world, because who leads America matters to us all. I watched it through twice on catch up tv. I must lay my cards on the table up front and say that a Trump presidency would worry me significantly and that while I would rather have found myself in Bernie's camp I am now in Hillary's as the lesser of two evils.

It's a shame that for most of my life, when I've voted in the UK it's been for the lesser of two or three evils, maybe that's the case all over the world. I've heard people at rallies raving about this candidate or that candidate, are they star struck I wonder, is it this modern passion for celebrity, or do they really believe this person can make everything all right in their eyes?

Of course I've maintained recently that things aren't so bad in the west anyway; in most of America,  the UK and western Europe, people have homes, jobs, education, food and clothing, transport and most importantly they're not at war, not war as in world war, or as in Syria at the moment. I've heard enthusiastic Brexit voters say things like, "well, something had to be done". As if life in the UK in the 21st century was hell!

Of course there are problems, things can always be better, that's in the nature of things, but the more we have the more we want and that's human nature too. Wanting more has been the prime motivation for economic migration since Roman times, but depopulating areas of the world and causing tensions in others is not the answer. The Roman Empire you may recall didn't survive it. Which is why we not only have to show humanity to each other, but between nations too. It's why we in the developed world have to help people abroad too.

I think Clinton comes somewhat closer to this understanding than Trump. It used to be the case in the UK and I believe in America too that the economy was the single most important election issue. In many ways it should be, because it pays for all the things we hold dear, education, health, infrastructure, defence, policing and even dare I say it foreign aid which reduces the stress fractures in the world if used wisely.

It seems there's a new trend in politics though, maybe not so very new, but recent anyhow. In the recent UK referendum for example we saw both sides use fear. The remainers used fear of economic hardship in the event of leaving the European Union, the leavers used fear of immigrants, fear of Turkey, they majored on fear, BUT and this is an essential difference, they accused the remainers of using fear and claimed that they had positivity on their side.

They patently did not, since they offered no plan, strategy or insight into what they wanted to achieve, only what they didn't want. Trump talks about making American great again in the same way the European nay sayers told people to reclaim their country. Sounds good and positive but show us the substance.

Unfortunately Trump isn't the messiah and hasn't put forward a credible plan to make things better. Just to muddy my own waters he says the odd thing that makes sense, like encouraging Iran and China to influence North Korea, but overall his policies and character leave much to be desired.

I'd agree that the Obama presidency has been a disappointment in many ways, however the American people did not give Obama the power needed in the house and senate to make widespread changes. I'd agree that the American national debt and annual deficit is a problem, but trust me, in relation to population size it's far, far worse here in the UK.

For all his philandering Mr Clinton didn't make a bad fist of the economy, largely by letting businessmen do what they do and by not meddling constantly. Trump is clearly advocating policies to benefit himself and his golfing buddies, while Mrs Clinton is absolutely right that trickle down didn't work AND that it's the middle classes which are the powerhouse of the economy. Lose sight of that and you stand to lose a heck of a lot.

Then there's Trump's, frankly ridiculous stance on the rest of the world. The people he wants to make new trade deals with are not unaware that he has failed to pay people who've done good work for him at home, just because he's bigger than them and knows how to use lawyers to abuse the laws of the land. With morals like that he can stand in front of millions and claim it's good business.

He is, in my opinion, a criminal effectively, even if he stays on the right side of a legal line and settles with 'no admission of guilt' it's still an abuse of people and a misuse of the legal system, just as he's taken advantage of bankruptcy laws too and claims that that likewise is good business.

Other nations will not be walked over so easily as small businessmen facing years of legal costs if they don't simply cave in to bullying. Clinton is right to point out that America, huge as it is, represents five percent of the world population and you have to trade with the rest of us.

Trump talks about making Japan and Germany pay for America to defend them, what planet is he on? I'll tell you something about modern day Japan, because I have had Japanese clients, and what I can say about them is that they are honourable people to do business with. People who not only pay their bills but do so on time. There's a world of difference between them and Mr Trump.

The notion that the Japanese would pay America to defend them and rely on a man like him to honour his commitments is beyond laughable. Trump has said he will build up America's military, if he thinks he's going to do that with German and Japanese funding he's in fantasy land.

If he wants Germany and Japan to substantially rearm he's going the right way about it. Clinton is correct that the NATO pledge that an attack on one is an attack on all and we join together in defence has only been used once and then for America's benefit. Just look at the hash George W made of it, no strategy whatsoever, chaos and destruction and he took America's allies along with him.

Trump now talks about surrounding countries and smashing ISIS, does he want America's allies to waste more lives and more millions on destructive, deadly adventures with no end game? Another attack with no plan for the peace, if you can call it that, afterwards. ISIS is the new monster for now, smash ISIS with no strategy and another will grow in its place.

Trump himself has complained, with obvious hypocrisy, about the trillions of dollars already spent on military adventures abroad and is now seemingly, somehow insinuating it's been done to protect Europe, Japan et al and that we should chip in. I hope Britain and Europe, Japan and everyone else would have the sense to walk away if he wants to ramp things up again to no clear purpose.

In the event of a Trump presidency I would like to see Britain pull out of NATO and join a European defence force, or even stand alone; it was alliances which embroiled us in World War One and it was the resulting Treaty Of Versailles which largely brought about the horrors of Nazism which we then had no option but to fight.

America once demonstrated real wisdom. At the end of World War One Woodrow Wilson urged the allies not to be too punitive in regard to Germany for the sake of the future. The allies, regarding America as Johnny come latelys in the conflict ignored Mr Wilson's wisdom. At the end of World War Two America participated in the Berlin airlift, the de-nazification programmes and helped rebuild Germany. That was wisdom.

Don't lose your good sense now America. Hillary at least understands the importance of the middle classes to the economy, she understands there's a need for diplomacy and she's paid her taxes as far as we can see.

Whereas you can be sure that businessman Trump has used every weasel device possible to get out of paying his share towards America's soldiers, American schools, American infrastructure such as the airports he moans about, in the same way as he's used weasel devices to avoid paying small business. The Japanese, the Germans, the British don't have a moral imperative to pay towards America's defence, future, education, infrastructure etc. Mr Trump does and he can afford to.

There seems to be a populist wave of discontent on both sides of the Atlantic, don't fall for it, it's being manufactured by politicians to manipulate people, make them scared then pretend to have the solution.

No-one scored a knock out blow in the debate and change is often appealing. Foreigners like me have no right to tell you what to do and that's not my intention, but how you decide will affect the rest of the world AND your relationships with the rest of us. Including your friends.

Malcolm Snook Writer and Blogger

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Birth Lottery And The Animals.

I have rather mixed feelings about monarchy. I mean I don't have a problem with inherited wealth as such. If people work hard and want to pass the proceeds of their industry, or their business itself on to their kids then good on them. To a great extent birth is a lottery, you could be born in a wealthy developed country with a host of educational and  employment options, you could be born in a poor underdeveloped country. You could be born into war, or into peace, you could be born an elephant, a rhino, or a giraffe that gets shot by an American child.

Being born heir to the throne of a country may be the biggest lottery win of all, although the world is not necessarily as kind to monarchs as it once was. Monarchy has been with us for a long time; ancient Sumeria, Egypt, Persia and many more. For all their Republics the Greeks and Romans had monarchy too. The position of Roman Emperor was for a period more akin to a meritocracy despite the best efforts of some dynasties to establish acceptance of an hereditary system which worked for periods too, Julian, Flavian etc.

By the Middle Ages in Europe, being the first born 'legitimate' son of a king pretty much guaranteed men would follow you and so long as daddy had the good sense to stay alive until you reached maturity you were probably on to a good thing. The French revolution changed much and led to the devastating wars with Napoleon as he went in search of an Empire, which is ironic because what the royalty of Europe who opposed him wanted was to avoid republicanism, whilst Napoleon probably wanted to establish his own line just like any other king.

What fools we all are. In Syria there is a 'President', a gentle looking man in a suit who treats the country as his own personal fiefdom, kills his own people in droves and behaves more like a medieval monarch than any of the few remaining royal households in Europe. Here in the UK the queen or king is titular head of state, they don't have, like most of their 'subjects', to worry about a roof over their heads, food in their tummies, education, employment, well, anything much really, but their power is limited, very limited actually.

What they do have is influence. There are still plenty of royalists, even in places like America and Australia. The Royals are however limited as to which areas they dare to exert influence in, because there will always be some ambitious politician wanting to become a 'president' who will accuse them of abusing their role and move to end the monarchy if the door is open so much as a chink. Which brings me on to Willie Wales, son of the Prince of Wales and next in line after his father to take the throne.

Willie is currently campaigning to end the trade in endangered species and their body parts, ivory, Rhino horn and so on. It's a campaign I endorse wholeheartedly but it represents something of a moral maze too. The winner of the birth lottery is effectively telling poor people in underdeveloped countries not to use what they see as their natural resources. A man with the best education available is telling a park ranger not to accept a bribe which might educate his kids.

These things do not detract from the essential rightness of the message. We don't need ivory to make beautiful art and we don't need keratin from Rhinos as medicine, it's fingernail clippings essentially. However, market forces come into play; while the wealthy are prepared to pay ridiculous sums for ivory and the superstitious will credit nail clippings with magical properties we humans go on destroying the natural world around us.

Willie Wales is right to protest and it's one of the few areas where he can do so without attracting a barrage of criticism. I'd like to see him protest the failed constitution of the UN, but even if he were so inclined he dare not.

I hope this current campaign not mere posturing, look what a good caring guy the future king is, a way to protect the monarchy. I hope he's putting his money where his mouth is too and then monitoring the effect of his efforts. I hope he's helping the people who are tempted to take bribes or poach, so they don't feel motivated to try and get a little more of what he has, by destroying the animals around them.

I hope that as well as bending the ears of other world leaders he's being creative too. Perhaps we should flood markets with fake Rhino horn, if people don't know whether they're buying the real thing or not perhaps they'll stop altogether.

I still don't know quite where I stand on monarchy, which is rare for me, but I do know where I stand on poaching and endangered species and I know we should help as well as preach. That said, good luck with the campaign Willie Wales. Good luck, you'll need it.

Gifts for animal lovers and a way to support this blog.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Stop Meddling Before It's Too Late

I watched Jeremy Corbyn's acceptance speech, now that he's unsurprisingly won the Labour Party leadership, again and arguably with a stronger mandate. He says some good things about peace, inclusive education and the NHS, but there are more problems with what he doesn't say.

Britain has the second highest debt in the world, after the USA, Jeremy does not refer to that, only to the sixth largest economy, because that suits his argument. He, like his predecessor Gordon Brown who got us into this unsustainable and growing debt, seems to think there's money for everything. There isn't, the UK's debt is rather more than half the size of the USA's debt, but their population is around 319 million and ours is a little over 64 million, they're almost five times the size we are.

Jeremy also talks about redistribution of wealth and although he pays lip service to British talent and entrepreneurship don't expect him to reward or encourage it. Labour would again wreck the economy, probably for good and all this time and it's the economy which pays for education, health and everything else we hold dear. I don't like the right wing branch of the Tories any more than he does and I don't want them meddling in health or education either.

It's time politicians allowed doctors to doctor, nurses to nurse, teachers to teach and entrepreneurs to build businesses. I still wonder how the Liberals would do. As things stand it seems to be one extreme or the other.

Malcolm Snook Author And Blogger

Friday, 23 September 2016

Don't Waste Our Money Discovering The Obvious And Inescapable

Something I passed over recently, with all the goings on in Syria and the stupid referendum at home etc., was the Keith Vaz scandal. I had intended to leave it alone after a while. I don't actually give a damn about a person's sexuality and my views on the standards set by UK politicians, most but not all anyway, are well documented.

However I do give a damn about hypocrisy, conflict of interest and dishonesty in public life. I found the thought of Keith Vaz being Chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee interrogating others and pontificating on prostitution and drugs pretty repulsive. I hope it was a joke but someone in the media suggested we needed a person with experience of these things looking into them!

That's as maybe, but we need to know that the person who says Poppers are ok uses them himself and that a person advising government on matters relating to prostitution is a customer! Prostitution has been around a long time, the original business they say. It won't go away and there may be a good case for legalising it and looking after young people who want to be prostitutes, and/or who are driven to it in desperation. Just as there may be a case for taking drugs out of the hands of criminals too.

However there are two things which drove me to blog about Keith Vaz today, some time after the scandal broke. One is that the Parliamentary Commissioner For Standards is investigating the man, which is all to the good in principle. He's no longer on the Home Affairs Committee I believe, certainly he's not Chairman anymore and I would expect his political career to be effectively over; if he's not deselected by Labour, or rejected by the voters then it's time for all decent people to leave the country.

What moved me however was something I read in 'i', the stump of the once great Independent newspaper and still a place with more intelligent writing, more plain facts and a place which is certainly less propagandist than the odious Daily Mail, Express, Sun, Times et al.

The moving article was written by a lady whose husband had 'come out' as gay. She explained how her marriage was no longer a good thing gone bad, but how she now realised it had always been flawed and false, how every memory had to be re-evaluated in the light of this new information. In her case she suffered from the added hurt that her husband will be applauded by many for his bravery in coming out while she is left to her grief and utterly unwarranted humiliation.

Mrs Vaz doesn't have to cope with applause for her husband, but all the other considerations apply, with this new information she will have to re-evaluate all that has gone before. A man who can lie to that extent to the person closest to him is unfit for any public office, end of. I hope the so called Commons Sleaze Watchdog comes to the same conclusion swiftly and without wasting too much taxpayers' money to come to the obvious and inescapable conclusion.

Malcolm Snook Author

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Pressurised To React

The new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point is to go ahead. I know it's not today's news, but I've prioritised my condemnation of the UN and events in Syria. Of course there's a link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, something which caused so much angst over Iran. I propose another link, an economic one as it pertains to the UK.

I blame Gordon Brown for much of our own inability to do anything without selling off the family jewels, to follow on from our gold which he more or less gave away. In the past we built our own power stations and the profits stayed in this country. Would we not do that now if there was anything left in the coffers? If we scrapped Trident we could build our own power stations and the profits could stay here. Nuclear weapons don't earn a return and in the event of a nuclear war Armageddon would be the end of us whether we joined in the stupidity or not.

Hinkley Point will produce the most expensive power in the history of power generation (if it works), two thirds of the investment comes from France, how that relationship will blossom or wither when Article 50 is triggered who knows. The remaining third comes from China, a country with an outstanding human rights record and far more akin to us in outlook than anyone in France, Germany, Spain, Italy....

There are more reasons to be concerned, many more in fact. Hinkley Point relies on new and unproven technology which has yet to produce a single unit of electricity anywhere in the world. Pressurised reactors are in the pipeline in both France and Finland, both are years behind schedule AND billions of pounds over budget, something that's never happened to any project approved by our politicians of course.

Bradwell in Essex and Sizewell in Suffolk are next in line. It is estimated that Hinkley Point alone will cost consumers an extra thirty billion pounds in energy bills in coming years, that's without it going over budget and without taking Bradwell and Sizewell into account. The problem is that our politicians don't understand the need for strategy, or leadership come to that. They had no strategy for Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, they have no strategy for airport expansion and they have no strategy for the power we need in the modern world.

As individuals we can have a strategy and I'd recommend solar panels on the roof as a start, and lots of 'em, not just because other countries will be pulling the strings but because it will get out of hand, guaranteed. As for the government I'd like to see more interest in renewables, what about research into tide power, we're an island with a huge tidal range, pilot scheme anyone? In the meantime short term investment in any technology known to deliver, proven, as clean as possible and where costs can be calculated accurately, I'd like us to forget Trident, invest and reap the benefit of infrastructure investment for ourselves.

Did I mention we should leave the Security Council!

Malcolm Snook Writer

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Looking For Balance

It's long seemed to me that the main problem the 'incomers' had with native Americans was simply their being there. They stood in the way of so called progress, or in more blunt terms money and profit, so make agreements, break them, whatever it takes to 'win'. A new moral dilemma is now become apparent.

Now it's the turn of another species, standing in the way of money and profit. Horses and Burros, the latter a term which seems to be largely American and which refers to a donkey, mule or an ass depending on your point of view. Horses, donkey's, mules and so on have served mankind for millennia, in war and in peace, largely before the advent of the internal combustion engine, but they continue to give many people great pleasure from simply riding, to admiring, to racing, showjumping, dressage, ceremonial.....

It's easy to forget these were and in some cases still are wild animals, how inconvenient is that. There are believed to be fewer than fifty thousand wild horses left in the USA but more than forty five thousand have been rounded up and put in government facilities to make way for more vast cattle farms.

Unfortunately those facilities cost millions of dollars to run so lets just kill the horses eh! A politicians answer if ever there was one, do what's expedient, the hell with what's right. What kind of a world do we want to leave behind? Who cares so long as we're rich now.

If you're American you have a say in this. If you think it's morally ok then don't sign the various petitions, national and by state, objecting to the further destruction of wild animals, habitat and history. If you do object here's a link to just one of the petitions, you will find others.

I know election fever is upon you and that nice Mr Trump would probably just slaughter the horses, take the money and call it business, but please, the Americans I know personally are thoroughly decent people, so go on spare a thought for the horses and your own future and the joy horses might bring to your kids. Get them away from computer games for a few hours.

Animal gifts    Farm Animal Gifts   Horsey Gifts

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A Nation Of Quitters?

One hundred and thirty heads of government will be meeting at the impotent headquarters of the United Nations this week against the backdrop of warring members of the all powerful Security Council members, well, three of the five anyway. All powerful that is.

Outrage has been expressed that a UN aid convey was blasted to smithereens probably by helicopters overhead, probably by the Assad regime who knew the route of the convey and didn't want a ceasefire anyway. It wasn't much of a ceasefire however you look at it, but I share the outrage at a cowardly and despicable, murderous attack on people bringing aid to the needy. Reflecting once again the impotence of the UN in its current, outdated cold war form.

It now appears that a US airstrike which attacked Assad's troops as opposed to IS, the target we're supposed to believe it had in its sights may have been supported by our own RAF. At the time of writing I've not heard a denial or a confirmation from the MOD just the accusation from the media.

I wish Tim Farron and the Lib Dems had not lost their moral compass over the vote for airstrikes in Syria; as the only party to stand against the Iraq War they actually demonstrated some leadership, previously. Edmund Burke once said "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing". He did not, however, specify what the something other than nothing should be.

Being a part of the problem and not a part of the solution is actually worse than doing nothing; doing something to help when one is able to and knowing the difference, that would be something. I would have preferred Nick Clegg remained as leader of the Lib Dems. Of course he was tainted with tuition fees, wrongly, and with the Lib Dems wipeout at the last election, wrongly. Looking at the sticking power of Saint Jeremy one wonders if Clegg might not have tried to hang on.

Personally I believe fear of Ed Miliband drove thousands of Lib Dem voters into the Venus Flytrap arms of the Tories in the South West, the Scottish Referendum did for them in Scotland, as it did for Labour and the tuition fees thing shows just how stupid public opinion can be. In the election which gave us the coalition the Lib Dems also lost seats, yes they held the balance of power, but if people wanted them to deliver their manifesto promises they should have put them in government.

Blair introduced tuition fees after promising to legislate AGAINST such fees, hypocrite. Cameron increased them, not Clegg, he simply declined to bring the government down over the issue at a time of financial crisis AND they're set to increase again under May. There's currently something of a building boom at many universities, which have seen their revenues increase by between twenty five and sixty plus percent recently.

This may be a good thing, but we have to weight the benefits to our economy now against generations of indebted graduates and the selling of a first class education to our competitors. I'd like to think that students coming to Britain (I cannot call it 'Great' at the moment) from countries with less than ideal human rights records will come to see and respect and adopt British and European values, but what are British values now?

We've rejected the co-operative effort which brought peace and prosperity to a Europe riven by wars for millennia and primarily because we don't want refugees from a war we helped to foment, and continue to exercise our forces on, from coming here. Generous eh. Compare that with the response by the good people of Canada who adhere to what were once our values far better than we.

Which brings us right back to the UN where Theresa May is now grandstanding for Brexit voters, saying that refugees should stay in the first safe country they reach and given that we're an island to the west of mainland Europe it won't be us so we can wash our hands. Politicians can be pure evil, but in this case she's just reflecting the selfish idiocy of fifty two percent of the UK population. And demonstrating yet again why the UN is not fit for purpose since it's misused by politicians like her for points scoring at home to no useful end whatsoever.

There is some hope though; if memory serves the Tories came to power with about thirty seven percent of the total vote, the Lib Dems are fighting for a referendum on the terms of our withdrawal from Europe and if the terms are no good then they would move to remain after all. What I wonder would happen if the forty eight percent with the sense to vote remain and all those who voted leave but who are now beginning to see through the lies, to the future implications of leaving, and of a one party Tory state, as opposed to the short term export boost from a weak pound were to vote Lib Dem?

Meantime will someone move to create a new constitution for the UN, something which might work in the twenty first century as opposed to in the aftermath of World War Two, and before we get embroiled in World War Three please. I hesitate to say we should quit the Security Council in protest because we seem to have become a nation of quitters, but I'd love to see some leadership towards a more equitable, common sense system, a bit like Europe actually.

Malcolm Snook Writer

Monday, 19 September 2016

The Years Haven't Dimmed His Optimism Then.

Many years ago there was a Labour leader who stumbled on the beach. Unlike William the Conqueror, who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat Mr Kinnock went on to host a victory party where he discovered he'd actually snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Mr Kinnock has now announced that he believes there won't be another Labour government in his lifetime if Jeremy Corbin wins the leadership election this week, as is predicted. At least the passing years haven't dulled Mr Kinnock's optimism.

He is of course right I have blogged previously about the perils of Britain becoming a one party state, well, England anyway, because while the SNP hold Scotland there's no real hope for Labour, Owen Smith or no Owen Smith. The Liberals should be the major party of opposition in this country since they hold, on the whole, to the centre, common sense ground where there's a little balance. Fiscal responsibility but not total austerity, balance.

It's a shame Nick Clegg is no longer leader, Tim Farron inspires less confidence and is not really that visible to be honest. He also made the mistake of voting and leading others to vote to throw deadly ordnance around in Syria with no strategy, when his party had been the only one to stand above such nonsense.

What really has happened is that the pendulum of public opinion has started to swing ever more wildly from one extreme to the other, it's reflected in the rise of the SNP, of UKIP, the referendum result and indeed even in Cameron obtaining an unexpected overall majority not so long ago.

We are, as a nation, becoming like America where everything happens first. We're becoming divided and broken. America is split down the middle, Obama may have replaced the nightmare of George W for two terms, but the American people were not united enough to give him any real power in House, or Senate, they're effectively a divided nation.

Now, as a result of frustration, the Republican leaning Americans have become even more extreme, a Trump victory is as likely as us voting to leave the EU. I'll spell that out, it's entirely possible even if people are not telling each other, or the pollsters of their intentions. Trump offers no more hope than the odious Farage or Johnson, he and they are just symptoms of the disease which is people's discontent.

The more you have the more you want it seems, most people in the UK and the USA have jobs, homes, education, some sort of free or affordable healthcare, pensions, cars, holidays. They're not living through the destruction of World War Two, other than Peral Harbour the Americans never did. We are living in a golden age, but I hear people who voted to leave Europe saying things like 'something had to be done'.

No, it's time to realise how lucky we've been and are, we don't need far left Corbynistas and Entryists any more than we need the far right. It's time Britain regained its moral compass and its common sense and got that damn pendulum under control. Did I mention the Lib Dem option?

Stand up for common sense.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

We Know What We Don't Want But We Don't Know What We Do Want

Despite the ceasefire, so called, in Syria, American jets have been in action hitting the wrong target (probably). The US has expressed regret for hitting Assad's troops, allied to and supported by Russia, a couple of days before the US and Russia were, maybe still are, about to start a joint operation against IS.

Russia has called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over the air strike and the US has described the calling of the meeting a stunt. Stunt or not it's certainly a complete waste of time, the UN is a waste of time and money as things stand and the Security Council is a large part, if not the largest part of the problem. The 'major powers', a title the once great Britain clings to even in bankruptcy have control and they are not singing from the same song sheet. In fact they're not even using the same book.

Aid conveys intended for the thousands of suffering civilians in rebel held areas of Syria are still on the Turkish border; try telling a child injured in the last few days that there's a ceasefire in place. The UN is impotent and the 'major powers' are to blame. The US and the UK have no strategy whatsoever, all they know is they don't want IS, or Russia in charge, so they go on fighting and killing for they know not what.

Russia is no better morally, supporting a mass murderer and war criminal simply to keep their power base in the region intact. The only thing you can say about the Russians is that they have an end game in sight and the military muscle to carry it out, as well as effectively the power of veto at the UN.

I've blogged repeatedly about the inadequacies and fundamental wrongness of the UN constitution, a voice in the wilderness, but it's no less true for that. The UN is a club of governments and that means vested self interest, what is worse is that five of those governments hold all the cards, it's an utter nonsense. Smarter people than me need to think about a new constitution and soon.

I can offer some suggestions about what needs to be considered though. One country one vote, or a number of votes depending on size of population. Maybe the constitution of the UN should ban any and all military action beyond ones own borders, meaning that defence actually becomes defence. In the case of civil war, only UN forces can intervene to keep the peace. They need to be a damn sight better organised than they currently are though as a previous blog post points out. Maybe organisations like Amnesty, Greenpeace, Oxfam should have some sort of vote. Perhaps human rights abuses 'at home' should reduce a government's say or voting rights at the UN.

Maybe, and I think this is a good idea personally, presidency of the UN should rotate just as the presidency of the European Union, so many Brits have given up on, does. I wonder how many 'Leave' voters in the UK really know how the EU functions. We need a joined up co-operative world if we're ever to end war and given the weapons which exist in the 21st Century we really do need to end war. Our planet and our species, not to mention every other species hangs in the balance.

I can well understand why some in Europe want a European defence force. In terms of Europe only France and Britain have a voice on the Security Council, Britain has no idea how to be a team player in Europe and the real power lies with Russia, China and the US. Europe united would still be a force to be reckoned with. Does Britain really want to move closer to the US if Trump gets in? Would a NATO commitment to Trump really be a good idea.

The world needs a UN fit for purpose and Britain needs to wake its ideas up.

Stand up for peace.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Are They Potty Trained Or Just Potty?

Natasha Devon was appointed by the government to be a mental health champion for children. There is an epidemic of mental health problems in this country, but the only people who seem to prioritise it are the Lib Dems. Still, the appointment of Ms Devon suggested the Conservative government was doing something.

Ms Devon spent years talking to youngsters and teachers, working out how to combat this mental health crisis of such epidemic proportions that even children self harming is becoming so commonplace it starts to look normal.

The charity YoungMinds suggests that three children in every classroom have a diagnosed mental illness. Ms Devon has now completed her report, but she did so without a job, because as soon as she demonstrated that she was truly independent and might actually critisise her employers, that's our government, famous for consulting on things they personally cannot know about, she got sacked.

Proving yet again that the vast majority of politicans in this country are not worthy of our respect, but a few individuals are. Ms Devon I salute you.


Friday, 16 September 2016

Sub-Saharan Britain

A 'State Of Nature' report on Britain's bio-diversity and wildlife has recently been published. It makes grim reading. Of eight thousand species surveyed one thousand one hundred and ninety nine are threatened with extinction. Fifty six percent of UK species have declined since the 1970s when intensive farming really started to take hold. More than half of our farmland dwelling species are currently in decline AND Britain has already lost more species than the world average over the last few decades. It's a national disgrace.

A new biodiversity intactness index shows that the UK is one of most nature-depleted countries in world, something we should be thoroughly ashamed of, but it's the EU which has done most to help our wildlife, rather than the UK Government.

New research published in the journal Science and included in the State of Nature report reveals that the UK has lost significantly more nature over the long term than the world average. Of two hundred and eighteen countries assessed for ‘biodiversity intactness’, the UK is ranked one hundred and eighty ninth, a consequence of centuries of industrialisation, urbanisation and over-exploitation of our natural resources.

Our farmland dwelling species are probably most at risk, for example, for every one hundred turtle doves in Norfolk in the 1970s there are now about eight. Thanks to EU subsidies some farmers are now leaving margins for wildlife, or even planting fields to provide food for wildlife, some have re-dug ponds which were filled in, replaced hedgerows, verges and so on.

The UK government has promised that no one will lose out when we leave the EU, a promise I'd trust as far as I could throw fat Boris. The standard get out of jail card for politicians breaking promises is the old 'well the situation has changed' line, or  'things are different now'; with the leaving process set to be a lengthy one they know they can say what the hell they like right now. Just like Blair promising to legislate against university tuition fees pre election and introducing them post election.

The EU put a curb on our politicians and it was predominantly my generation which wiped that out for those who will be left behind, lets hope they are not left behind in a sub Saharan Britain. Should the economy falter when Article 50 is triggered, or when negotiations are completed it will give our politicians the perfect excuse to break their promise that no one will lose out from leaving the EU. And I'll tell you this, it's a damn sight harder to be green, when you're in the red.

Gifts Butterflies and moths  ,  Birds   and    Flowers 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

What Has Happened To Us?

Post referendum race hate appalls and disgusts me. We entered World War Two in defence of Poland and by the end of the war we were too exhausted to protect Poland from soviet aggression. At least we took some refugees. Poland is our friend and ally, Polish pilots performed heroics in the Battle Of Britain. Poles are not all wonderful people, or angels, I was robbed by Polish tenants not so long ago. However, it's the actions of some of my fellow Brits which truly upset me.

What the hell has happened to British values and decency? It seems nearly every Pole living in the UK has a story to tell. It's come to murder now has it. I was very moved by a Polish lady speaking on television last night, from her accent she's been here for some long time. She pointed out she is a tax payer. The interviewer tried to put words in her mouth about friends and good Brits, which she conceded, but added "what's the point if I don't  feel safe?"  Quite.

Jean Claude Junker, president of the European Commission has spoken out about race hate and populism and he's damned right, a foreigner yes and the head of a commission so many Brits love to hate talking sense, wanting to defend European values and the kind of values Britain used to espouse.

What the hell is wrong with Britain? Where is the leadership? Farage, Gove, Johnson and all their clique should be utterly ashamed of themselves and of the hatred and racism they inspired. It's time ordinary people remembered their roots if they want Britain to be great. End racism NOW.

Malcolm Snook Writer

Monday, 12 September 2016

How Long Can Politicians Talk And Not Act?

Thirty years now politicians have discussed what to do about the fact that our airport capacity isn't keeping pace with out trade needs and travel wants. Mind you, if the recent scare story about our needing visas for all European countries was to come true in a few years then we probably wouldn't need so many flights, but it's about as unlikely as a vote to leave the EU.

Boris wanted a hugely expensive island built in the Thames Estuary, but he's found a new way to go down in history, way down in fact. So, in a great show of leadership the Tories are talking about a free vote on Heathrow expansion, well, frankly there's no other way to reach a decision since the Tories are as divided on this as on everything else, from our relationship with Europe to education and much more.

In a one party state I suppose you can afford a bit of infighting. Given the economic uncertainties, then infrastructure spending does seem a sensible option, but I rather suspect the Chinese were invited in to build nuclear power stations here because we've got less than no money left and politicians still mislead us with talk about deficit while the DEBT goes up hugely every single day.

Given the nuclear reaction to the Chinese and the paranoia over foreigners generally I wonder who will get invited in to build our new runways, and take the profits of course, if they ever get around to voting to go ahead.

Gordon Brown overspent hugely, Scotland is even deeper in debt than England and voted for us to continue to subsidise them, but all of our debts are rising. It's a mess and no mistake. Leaving the EU won't rectify it and honestly I wish I could see a solution. Churchill came along when we needed him, but its hard to see anyone in the House Of Commons with the necessary genius we need now.

Malcolm Snook

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Fingers Crossed For The Best Then!

You may remember there were devastating floods in the North of England last winter. Thousands of people had their Christmas ruined particularly in Cumbria and Yorkshire, and many are still struggling, most can't get insurance either. People in Somerset and parts of the Thames Valley went through it not so long before that.

At least one bridge is still unopened and at least one pub likewise and winter will be upon us again before you know it. A recent television report from one of the affected towns described how last year there were only five miles of temporary barriers available, but now there are twenty five! Imagine my joy when I discovered that was actually for the whole country! Should be enough to encircle what, a small hamlet! And guess what in about twenty to thirty percent of cases they fail.

Nice to know our politicians are taking the problem so seriously; they've just published their review of flood defences and of course these temporary barriers aren't the only 'improvements' however many areas are little or no better off than they were. There have been cuts to flood defence budgets, then there's a disaster so they spend, then they cut, then they spend (a bit) WHERE IS THE STRATEGY?

A singularly unimpressive performance by Dr Therese Coffey MP will have done less than nothing to allay peoples' fears, so lets all support the government and do as they do - hope it doesn't bloody rain!

Malcolm Snook

Friday, 9 September 2016

More Respectful To Us Than We Are To Them

An interesting week or so in politics. I once had a Japanese company as a major client and worked closely with them. The Japanese are extremely courteous and actually care about the loss of face, or feelings of others, not just themselves. So, when Japan makes the warnings it has given to the UK government public, you can be certain this is a big deal.

The warning of course was about access to the single market in Europe and to a lesser extent about the free movement of workers. Japanese Banks and car makers may pull out of the UK without these things. Now, companies like Honda, Nissan, Toyota didn't come here just because we're in the Single Market, the British Government of the day made huge efforts to tempt them here. However, they would have gone to Germany, France or elsewhere in Europe if we hadn't been part of the Single Market.

One of the TV news programmes went to Swindon this week where Honda is a huge employer and spoke to people on the streets to see if they were worried. One old lady said "oh yes they (the Japanese) have been threatening us". The lack of understanding is shaming really. No, they have genuine concerns and just as the UK Government puts its (not ours) concerns first, the Japanese government puts its economy first. It's not a threat, it's a genuine worry and they will respond to suit themselves, not to hurt us specifically.

A man interviewed on the street said "well, it's very expensive to move big factories" or words to that effect, suggesting it won't happen. So, car companies like Honda, Toyota and Nissan make millions of cars, they make a four figure profit generally on each one, manufacturing equipment gets written down in the accounts, new factories get built periodically anyway, assets can be sold, can they afford to move, you can bet your life on it.

Would it make sense to move, yes, especially if tariffs mean each of those millions of cars becomes less profitable by ten or even twenty percent, you do the maths. I wonder how many of their workers voted leave. The Japanese employ one hundred and forty thousand workers in the UK and as a by the by there are one hundred and forty five thousand EUROPEAN workers in the NHS.

Malcolm Snook

Thursday, 8 September 2016

I'm No Fan Of Ryanair But....

I'm no fan of Ryanair, but at least I'm not the only one who thinks our political class have no idea!

Ryanair now will base all 50 of its expensive new planes outside the UK because the airline has 'much more political certainty in continental Europe' since the Brexit vote.
Chief executive Michael O'Leary said the politicians who are now working on taking the UK out of the European Union are 'headless chickens' who have 'no idea where they're going to finish up'.
'We're being very cautious about the amount of capacity we're allocating to the UK over the next two or three years until we get some kind of indication of what Brexit will look like,' he said.
'It's not because we're annoyed or anything with the UK, but we have much more political certainty in continental Europe than we have in the UK while they're all running around trying to work out what Brexit looks like.
'None of the new aircraft we take delivery of next year will be based here in the UK and already you can see the Brexit decision is costing real jobs, real visitors are being lost and real investment is being postponed.
'There's a bunch of headless chickens here, they don't know what they voted for and have no idea where they're going to finish up, so we have to be cautious with our expansion next year, which is a pity.'
The airline said it expects lower growth over the next few years as the EU exit negotiations take place, but Mr O'Leary said he would begin investment and expansion 'the following day' if the Scottish Government scraps air passenger duty as planned.

In a way I don't blame Theresa May for not wanting to give a running commentary, but people need to see a plan before too long, does she have one I wonder; there's nothing confidence inspiring so far. One hundred and forty five thousand doctors and nurses in UK hospitals are Europeans unsure of their situation AND hospitals are understaffed still. NHS trusts want to recruit more staff from places like Italy, but no one knows what the status of these people will be, least of all themselves.

A lady doctor from the Netherlands was interviewed last night and told how she asked a patient who voted leave 'why?' The response was 'immigration', the doctor explained that she is an immigrant 'oh I didn't mean you dear'. We are Lemmings.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

We're Never Going To Agree - Chaos And Volatility For Years To Come

Cameron's referendum was the most stupid enterprise I've seen in politics in my lifetime. There will be wrangling, uncertainty and a sense of betrayal on both sides of the argument for years to come. No one knows what deals will be done, or when, or what so called Brexit will look like. The pound will bounce up and down and ultimately we'll either accept free movement to protect what's left of our damaged economy, Brexit voters will feel betrayed, or we'll risk losing financial services and car making to other countries Remain voters will be horrified and workers will lose out.

That's without going into sovereignty, racism, our role in the world, the disintegration of the UK, the rights of Brits abroad, pensions, the NHS..... If you want to see how ludicrous the debate has become read Hansard.  Madness, these are our politicians folks!

Malcolm Snook

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Black Lives And City Airport

I was going to have Theresa May, the G20 summit and the hypocrisy of Keith Vaz in my sights today, but that can wait, for once  I'm going to be right up to date and comment on something happening now! The runway at City Airport in London is currently closed due to Black Lives Matter protestors.

In many ways I'm very supportive of Black Lives Matter and not just in the USA although the situation in the USA is far worse. Anyway, I was interested to hear a spokeswoman for Black Lives Matter on the radio about an hour ago. I was driving at the time so I cannot give a verbatim report.

However, she spoke about frivolous short haul air travel by the wealthy, air quality in the surrounding area and how Black people nearby are scraping by on just twenty thousand pounds a year. Now I got by on eighteen thousand and something last year and I happen to think my life matters too. Further more I'm taking steps to try and improve matters for myself. I'm not blaming anyone who might be doing better than me.

For two periods in my life I lived under the flight path of London City Airport and it is a fact that unburnt aircraft fuel drops out of the sky and makes everything oily and common sense says its in the air we breathe therefore. It's clearly a big issue, but it's not an exclusively Black issue. Then there's the question of whether flights form London City Airport are frivolous perks for overpaid white people.

Frankly, I suspect that most of the flights from London City Airport are for business and businesses evaluate what's the best value for them, the most efficient, the best use of time etc. Businesses in the City have their issues, but business which supports our economy is not of itself frivolous.

If, Black Lives Matter were talking about equality of opportunity and could make a case I'd be right behind them, if they were campaigning to end racism I'd stand shoulder to shoulder with them on that issue. If they were talking about police brutality or institutional racism I'd also stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

However I think this protest is an error of judgement, I'm all in favour of environmental campaigning, but that would be more effective if it had nothing to do with race, if it was inclusive. I don't think this protest will further the cause of equality and understanding. Even if it were appropriate there's the question of proportionality, something Junior Doctors have had to wrestle with this week.

I believe in peaceful protest, I might even believe in direct action if the specific circumstances called for it, but this isn't it.

The Junior Doctors' protest is more likely to achieve a degree of public support than this one. It's a shame because Black Lives Matter may be harming their own cause and in many areas they have a just and worthwhile cause to campaign for.

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Friday, 2 September 2016

Junior Doctor's Strike

Theresa May, our recently shoehorned into office, un-elected Prime Minister is backing that nice Jeremy Hunt to the hilt. Some of you may have noticed that hospitals are actually open seven days a week. The charge that you're more likely to die if you are admitted at the weekend is unproven. Jeremy Hunt knows this.

That's not to say that the possibility of there being some truth in it shouldn't be taken seriously, but if the aim is to make things better not worse then Hunt and now May are failing. I've long harboured the suspicion that for politicians it's largely about their own egos and being able to say look what I achieved come election time. Hunt is a prime candidate for suspicion.

Like many people I have huge sympathy for doctors. It is true that once they get on in their careers they stand to make a lot of money, but I feel that most people who enter medicine do so because they want a career where they can do some good in the world.

Then there are the risks, we've just seen an optometrist get a criminal record for making a mistake. The crime being negligence, which it may have been. Ever had a bad day yourself? Ever performed below par? I know I have, but I worked in advertising. A missed deadline meant a financial cost, embarrassment, even the risk of a sacking or losing a client, but nobody died and no one is going to make you a criminal.

Yes, I have a lot of sympathy for people in the medical profession. Even so, if Hunt and May were making things better I'd go along with them, but they're not. Germany and France spend more per capita on health than we do. After Brexit it's likely that reciprocal health arrangements will be lost and that the Tories will push creeping privatisation of the health service again.

So long as Labour are in disarray and the SNP are strong in Scotland there's no chance of getting the Tories out either. Not that I'd trust Labour, the SNP or the Greens with the economy. That only leaves the Liberals and we'd need a huge awakening of common sense to see them  in power!

What the referendum here and the rise of Trump in the USA shows is that we are all Lemmings. Most of us have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, transport, education, healthcare, and some level of social security. My parents and grandparents didn't have all that and they had world wars. When I was born food was still rationed.

Yet people are getting more and more polarised and abandoning the middle ground because they think things are so bad! The more you've got, the more you want, that's the problem. We should celebrate what we have, avoid making things worse and then work to make them better still. Abandoning Europe and making war on Junior Doctors are just two of the huge errors we're making.

A hospital in the SW was recently criticised heavily in a report for not having enough doctors on duty. Doctors, believe it or not, don't grow on trees. We can't train enough doctors and twenty percent of UK doctors come from EUROPEAN countries. They pay taxes here and work in our beloved NHS, here, but they didn't get a vote in the referendum and I know how I'd feel if I was one of them.

Now, the government is also intent on destroying the morale of young motivated British doctors and deterring British students from taking up medicine as a career. Lemmings the lot of us. Oh and by the way, think about voting Liberal next time Eh, if you want to stop short of the cliff edge.

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Thursday, 1 September 2016

Prophetic Lego!

Had kids over today and they brought a DVD of the Lego Movie with them which they wanted to watch. I don't know when it came out, but I think it's been around a little while. In the story there is a baddie, naturally, this one is a bad businessman who builds walls between people, lives in a tower, has an army of robots and threatens the end of the world.

Put you in mind of anyone?

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