Thursday, 24 May 2012
It seems that politics will be on hold until the Greek elections on 17th June.
The leaders of the EU nations, and even to some degree Barak Obama, are determined to terrify the Greek electorate into voting for one of the more traditional parties, certainly one that is for abiding by the existing agreement to implement the austerity package.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, in the Telegraph, reports that:
The German financial daily Handelsblatt said the Bundesbank was “holding a gun to Greece’s head”, hammering home the message that Germany will not submit to blackmail from populist politicians in Athens.
[Definition of populist: a member or adherent of a political party seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people]
We can expect most political activity over the next 3/4 weeks to be concentrated on beating the Greeks into submission – will they be crushed?
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
The Leveson Inquiry, set up to investigate media ethics and journalism practices following the News of The World hacking scandal, has raised an issue that fundamentally undermines the concept of representative democracy in the UK – in its present form.
Prior to the Inquiry, it had become clear that our system of government had little or no democratic content apart from to decide which of the two alternating dictatorships would be in office. Any that might have remained was killed off when Gordon Brown ratified the Lisbon Treaty and placed the UK in political union with the other EU member states.
This act served to underline the then existing democratic deficiency, since, at the time of ratification, polls showed that more than 80% wanted a referendum on whether the Treaty should be ratified and two thirds were against it being signed.
What the Leveson Inquiry has demonstrated is that it is impossible to know whether those standing as candidates at elections are being bribed, corrupted or blackmailed by a rich media mogul [or anyone else for that matter] to insure the candidate, once elected, does their bidding.
Having reached this point, the only certain way to remedy the currently debased system is for the representative to be directly accountable to the people they purport to represent and to provide a system whereby the constituents can sack their representative – if they fail to live up to expectations.
MPs are selected for their well-paid jobs by the constituents and it is their taxes that pays the MP’s salary. It is therefore right and proper that these same people have the right to dismiss them if, over a period of time [6 monthly invervals?] they are dissatisfied with their work. This is how paid employment works in every other circumstance – why not for those who choose a political career?
In last resort, the only valid judgement of an elected representatives actions, whether bribed, corrupted, blackmailed or as pure as the driven snow, is that of those who elected them.
The development of the internet has provided systems that would allow representatives to be publicly questioned by their constituents, their responses debated and for a vote to be taken on whether the representative should retain their post – through an internet forum with a a polling capacity. If the constituents were given the right to question and sack their representative, through this medium, at regular intervals – representatives would be far more concerned about the views of the voters and true democracy would gradually start to replace our existing deeply flawed political system.
The ramifications of such a system are significant. However, whatever the dangers, they are insignificant compared to the dangers inherent in the existing system.
In last resort it is for each political party to decide whether to support such a change – for the current method of seeking improvements to the political system, whether by Inquiry or Committee, can no longer be viewed as unbiased, for it is impossible to know whether those charged with the task are, themselves, the subject of bribery, corruption or blackmail.
Update 23.05.12: The BBC produced an interesting ‘who’s linked to who‘ diagram in September. Perhaps one relationship that has not been examined closely enough, for the purpose of this recommendation, are the work and social links between Lord Leveson and Matthew Freud, who, according to the BBC, has work and social links with both Rupert and James Murdoch.
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Last December the Dalai Lama spoke about the ‘Power of Women’. He welcomed the rise in ‘women’s power’ in the West generally – also in Japan. However, not in the sense that feminists might wish to view this power – as some kind of revenge for years of having to submit to male domination, but for their sensitivity.
There is little doubt that males, particularly white, have seen legislation introduced over recent years that has made them the least protected of all citizens in the UK. In fact it could be argued that there seems to be a concerted attempt to ensure the decline of the indigenous species of these islands. A fact not lost on the Observer who ran an article ‘Lagging at school, the butt of cruel jokes: are males the new Second Sex?’ earlier in the month.
This new found power by women, however, has not led to a more sensitive society, but arguably to quite the reverse. Mothers have not demanded that they be supported so that they can spend, at least, the pre-school years as full-time mothers at this most critical time for their children. So easily done now that there are so many young unemployed who could substitute for them in the workplace. Or that divorce is made far more difficult in order to keep the family unit together, or that fathers of the children of single mothers are obliged to fulfil their role of parent to help these vulnerable women, but, more importantly – their children.
One of the problems with the additional powers gained by women is that they are mainly being exercised by career women, who represent a small part of the female population and are not generally looking for ways to spend more time with their children. Also governments know that working mothers need child care, which provides more tax revenue than if they stay at home to look after their family.
Most mothers would put the rearing of their children significantly ahead of a career and would choose to gradually spend more time at work as the demands of their family decreases. Unfortunately, this is simply not possible for the majority of working mothers as they cannot afford to give up their jobs, although the spiralling cost of childcare is significantly reducing the net profit gained from working.
A popular phrase that has been in fashion for some time now is ‘have it all’ to imply that a mother can be a good mother and hold down a demanding job at the same time – but this seems unlikely to be true. Unless the mother’s mother or a sister is prepared to take on the bulk of the children’s rearing, or a full-time nanny can be afforded, either the professional life or the home life will suffer. Some fathers can take the role of house husband, but these are very much the exception rather than the rule.
Back in 2003 in an article for the Guardian, [Working mothers 'bad for children'] John Carvel reported the findings of a study published by the Institute for Social and Economic Research. The research showed that ‘the children of mothers who return to work full time in the years before they start school have slower emotional development and score less well in reading and maths tests’ and that ‘an early return to work by the mother reduces the child’s chances of progressing to A-level from 60% to 50%’. Also that ‘the employment patterns of the father have little effect’.
The conclusion of Prof Francesconi that [even the children of highly educated mothers who go back to full-time work early will have lower educational attainment, but the disadvantage will not be as much as it is for less educated mums] is damning in educational terms and may have been even more damaging emotionally.
Today the government is criticizing the young and their inability to find work ahead of immigrants, who are likely to have had a full-time mothers caring for them as children. That these immigrants are generally chosen above the British young by employers is hardly surprising since many, if not the majority, of British youngsters will have suffered from not having a dedicated carer and it seems very likely that they are now suffering the consequences of a serious problem that was clearly identified nearly 8 years ago.
It is truly scandalous that the Blair government did not act quickly to find ways that mothers could spend, at least, the pre-school years with their children so as to avoid permanently blighting their lives. For what can be of higher priority to a national government than protecting the nation’s young from harm?
It is outrageous that the present government should attempt to punish these victims by criticizing them for their lack of ability and doing nothing to prevent our current children from suffering the same fate.
Back in 2003 we were in the middle of a boom and the demand for employees made it more difficult to act. Now, however, there are hundreds of thousands of young people who could fill in, either permanently or temporarily, for working mothers to provide extensive leave and at the same time provide the young with desperately needed work. The employed young people’s unemployment benefit could then be used towards helping support the mothers who opt to give up their job.
That this has not been thought of and implemented by now, given the vast resources available to it, further demonstrates that the government’s real concern is not for the wellbeing of the people, but the interests of the corporations who donate large sums to their coffers.
Friday, 18 May 2012
Last night, Robert Preston presenting ‘The Great Euro Crash‘ seemed about to deliver a surprise for the BBC [who are usually in favour of our EU membership], until the last 10 minutes. Based on the content of the program, the expectation was that he would end by giving a very strong recommendation that we should leave of the EU. However, this was not to be – instead he insisted that we should remain members.
What he did do, however, was to endorse Peter Oborne’s view, in an article in theTelegraph earlier in the week, that the primary purpose of the euro was political. In his words ‘the over-riding purpose was, beyond question, political. The founding fathers of the eurozone were determined to use the single currency to promote political union. By doing this, they hoped to domesticate Germany, which had caused such chaos and devastation across the continent during the first half of the 20th century’.
Preston went to some lengths to demonstrate that this political union was not only the purpose of the euro, but also of the EU itself. The founding fathers believed that the union would prevent Germany starting another war in Europe, if there were political union, and this was the intention from the start – the introduction of the euro was simply another step on this path.
It was also a highly speculative venture insofar as never before had a currency been introduced without political union and a central bank that together exercised financial controls over the entire economy using the currency. Germany now is of course trying to fulfil that role, but it cannot do so directly, it has to instead, as we are seeing now, use every threat available to crush any resistance to the financial controls it has put in place.
Although it is understandable that, following WW2, politicians were very eager to avoid another war, but what has happened since, with regard to the development of weaponry, seems to have been overlooked.
The US and the Soviet Union reached a point where they realised that each side could wipe out the other many times over, which gave birth to the concept of MAD – mutually assured destruction. As a result the two nations came to an agreement to limit the number of weapons each had – to avoid a continuing stockpiling and the consequential drain on their economies.
Both Britain and the France had developed a nuclear arsenal by 1960, if the concern was that Germany might start a third war in Europe, this could have been achieved by using the nuclear deterrent as has been done so effectively with other counties in the meantime.
It can only be assumed that the political class, within the EU nations, wanted this project for another reason, as Preston explained – they wanted to remain a world power, something none of them could do alone, but might do together. Also, in the process, they have removed virtually all traces of democracy which allows them to pass any laws they wish, without fear of the people removing them from office.
Based on this desire the EU leaders have led their nations on a reckless path that has ended up in the ‘Euro Crisis’. Fear of the break up of the EU has been ratcheted up to, initially, terrify the Greeks – so that they will fall in line with the negotiated austerity program, but also to terrify the people of the other EU nations, particularly those of the states whose people are rebelling against the cuts they are having to endure.
No doubt the belief is that, if the Greeks can be brought to heel, there is little likelihood that any of the other nations will step out of line in the future and the project can be completed. As a result the EU will, in time, become a single entity, run by Germany and based on German efficiency.
Arguably this is a better way to reach a Europe dominated by Germany – than through war. However, it can hardly be argued that Germany has been ‘domesticated’!
The major hurdle to this outcome is that if the Greeks will not agree to continue with the austerity despite all of the pressure put on them. If the Greeks succeed in obtaining a far more agreeable package, this will lead to austerity being challenged in most of the other eurozone nations.
If the Greeks will not back down and there is no alternative but to expel them from the eurozone, this is an even greater threat to completing the EU project of ever closer union and to the political class. For if they do succeed in recovering economically, without too much suffering, it will lead to most of the eurozone nations, who are experiencing great difficulty in living with austerity, to follow the Greek’s example and leave the eurozone.
Great care is being taken by Angela Merkel to make sure that neither of these are the outcome. For either would mean that the planned european super-state will not be achieved – at least in the foreseeable future.
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
As to be expected Rebekah Brooks took a defiant stance yesterday when she was charged on three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. She described the decision to prosecute her as ‘weak and unjust’. However, given the array of top lawyers the prosecuting team know they will have to face – perhaps a truer description of the decision was – courageous.
We saw, how, in the Rochdale child abuse case, that the prosecuting authorities failed to proceed with, what seemed to be, a perfectly good case based on the evidence from one teenager who came forward at the time the abuse ring were just starting. It did appear that the decision to conclude that she would not be viewed as a credible weakness was more based in fear of the repercussions from the local community rather than the quality of the witness.
What we don’t know of course, is how many more serious cases are not pursued because of the pressure that is applied by the rich or powerful!
Saturday, 12 May 2012
Rebekah Brooks’ appearance at the Leveson Inquiry was remarkable in the sense that the overall impression she gave was of mockery. Whereas this attitude towards the, theoretically, most powerful in the land was troubling from Rupert Murdoch – an aged multi-billionaire who, nevertheless, had been at the heart of the nation’s political life for decades – but, far more striking from a Warrington lass, in her early forties and from humble beginnings.
Of course her capacity to mock came from the power she had exercised on behalf of Murdoch senior and her continued confidence [for some one who has been arrested and is being investigated, on two counts - on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice] implies that she believes her mentor, with the aid of some of the finest legal minds in the land, will be able to protect her from any undue discomfort.
Whether it is because she is a woman, or because of her once powerful position or because the existing political structures invites anyone [with the desire to pull the strings of our national government] to achieve this remarkable position – is open for debate. However, there is little doubt that she did, and probably still does, hold signficamt power over the affairs of the nation. This power rests purely on her knowledge of the actions and acts of the holders of the highest offices of state in the nation.
It seemed that, responding to a question concerning the indirect messages of commiseration she had received after losing her job, it was with particular delight that she listed these as from No. 10, No. 11, the Home and Foreign Office. The offices, rather than the holders of the offices, as might have been expected if her relations with the individuals were primarily social, rather than more connected to the power these individuals wield – as she tried to imply.
In the previous article the concern was that Rupert Murdoch, a foreign national living in New York, appeared to have exercised a great deal of power over the decisions taken by this and the Blair and Brown administrations – because of the information he held on its leading members. However, this seems to have been passed to Mrs Brooks – Rupert Murdoch’s comment that she “knows how to work my family” seemed to attest to this.
The fact that it is now Mrs Brooks, who appears to hold this power, in no way reduces the need to strengthen our system of representative democracy, so that it is the people who are the final arbitrators in the actions of the government.
Thursday, 3 May 2012
A report from the BBC reveals how the Met. are stockpiling rubber bullets. At the time of last year’s riots the Met held a stock of 700 baton rounds, this has been increased by a factor of 14 to 10,024.
It is little wonder that the fear of rioting is increasing exponentially with the standard of living of the majority steadily decreasing and the wealth of the richest rapidly increasing. The plan to reduce the highest rate of tax from 50% to 45% must rate as one of the worst decisions made by a government in recent years – assuming there was no wish to inflame an already dangerous situation.
It is estimated that just 10% of the austerity measures planned have taken effect – so an, already angry, electorate is likely to want to show its displeasure as the measures bite. With no opportunity to show this displeasure through a democratic system – riot becomes the only alternative.
The Leveson enquiry is beginning to reveal the extent of the corruption within the political class and the old chestnuts of our unwanted membership of the EU, high immigration and the poor treatment of the English through the devolution process, leaving them without a dedicated parliament, still not addressed.
Does the government really believe that they will be able to suppress such anger throughout the last three years of their term – when the financial strategy itself has proved a failure?
Richard North seems to have unearthed why, despite the recent downpours, hosepipe bans will remain in place. Also that Prof. Adrian MacDonald, an expert used by both the BBC and the Independent, is funded in his work, partially, by the EU.
There is little doubt that the government does hide the fact, whenever possible, that frequently unpopular or disastrous legislation emanating from the EU is disguised as UK legislation. Clearly, if it is generally known the extent to which our lives are adversely by EU laws, the already large majority wanting a referendum on our membership and the majority who want out would steadily increase until even the most devious government could not deny the people’s legitimate demands.
As the scandals and sleaze related to government gradually becomes uncovered by Leveson and other sources – surely it is time that newspapers and broadcasters declared the financial interest of their experts and commentators, if there is any, at the very start of each item. We do, as a nation, seem to be sinking in a sea of corruption.
Tuesday, 1 May 2012
According to this year’s Sunday Times ‘Rich List‘ – the wealth of the richest in the UK has risen to record levels. Although the three richest, Lakshmi Mittal – the Indian steel magnate, Alisher Usmanov – Russian iron ore producer and Roman Abramovich – Russian owner of Chelsea football club all have seen their fortunes fall in the year. Mittal is down to his last £12bn, as is Usmanov and Abramovich is now having to manage on less than £10bn.
Humour aside, these figures do confirm that the Coalition’s policies are hurting the vast majority and advantaging the richest. It further demonstrates the mockery of Cameron’s ‘we are all in it together’ and does create an increasingly more dangerous situation as the blatant injustice of the Coalition’s policies becomes more stark.
The stoic Brits do not take to the streets as easily as their Mediterranean cousins which means that if civil unrest does develop it is likely to be more serious because far more rage and discontent will have been suppressed.
Either this, or voters are likely to turn to one of the more extreme parties, like the BNP or EDL which would have very undesirable consequences.