politics


This one certainly leaves you wondering . . . how a government minister played a key role in implementing laws, was subsequently responsible for the area of government to which the laws related, and then contravened the very law she had been responsible for enacting but kept her job.  And with our dear leader’s blessing.Baroness Scotland A statement issued on behalf of Baroness Scotland reads, “”She hired Ms Tapui in good faith and saw documents which led her to believe that Ms Tapui was entitled to work in this country.”  So that’s alright then.

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Just exactly who are Gordon Browns friends I’m not sure, but I am certain he won’t have many amongst the working families and pensioners of the UK.

Some time ago, in the face of utility companies, energy suppliers in particular, banking inordinate profits the government was considering imposing a windfall tax which would then be used to fund pay-outs to the poorest households in the country. An alternative, capping the profit level of these companies, was mentioned but never got a sideways look into the government agenda. The profiteers’ response was to protest and insist they must protect their profits to ensure future investment and developments – just how that works out or for whose benefit was never explained, but maybe that doesn’t matter. The energy companies put their prices up by the most obscene proportions imaginable last year and got away with it; it worked, people paid up, the energy companies liked what they saw, did it again this year and are now wallowing in money.

The government has now changed its tune and is saying they will not go for ‘short term gimmicks or give-aways’ but have been ‘working hard’ and ‘focusing’ on long term measures which will provide households with permanent fuel efficiency e.g. loft insulation. Precisely how you work hard at focusing on loft insulation takes some understanding as fitting insulation and draught excluders is relatively low-tech; these techniques have been around for many years and are readily available either at low-cost or, for some people, free. Even if every available insulation technique were applied to a house it would still need to be heated in winter; insulation doesn’t generate heat it only helps you hang on to it for a little while longer once you have got it. In my own experience these measures make very little difference to a household heating bill, they simply enable the house to remain warmer for longer.

So why has our dear leader Brown changed his mind? This is speculation and is based only on his past behaviour not on any inside knowledge; the talked about handouts would have been funded by a windfall tax but that is not going to happen – no tax revenue, no payouts. And why is there no windfall tax? Because Gordon Brown cannot face up to anyone with power and influence. This has happened before; big business has got shirty over something the government has threatened to do, made a few loud noises and the government has backed down. Name one instance of Gordon Brown standing up to big business. . . . . I’m listening. You can’t remember one? Neither can I. Brown is a political coward. He has no balls, no guts, no fire. He may be a ‘nice man’ but the working families and pensioners need someone who is prepared to fight for them and protect them from corporate greed.

Tony Woodley, of Unite, is quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying –

If greedy fuel companies have won out over struggling consumers then this is not just a disappointing move by the Government but a downright disgrace.

Yes, we need measures to improve fuel efficiency but these should not be paid for by needy people. At this moment in time people need immediate respite from the struggle to pay their gas and electricity bills.

There must be a rethink and cash assistance for every needy household in the land. It cannot be right that big business is allowed to bank their obscene profits while ordinary people will shiver this winter.”

Which just about sums up the situation.

By chance I came across an interesting item on the my2buck$ blogsite about Sarah Palin.  There has been a lot of coverage in the media about this VP candidate, but so there should when an unknown person pops up who could potentially be sitting right next to the President of the USA.

The essence of the article is a letter which appeared in the Washington Post written by Anne Kilkenny, someone who claims to have known Palin since the early 90s.  It is very detailed and, on the face of it,  presented objectively. Kilkeny explains her own position and how she stands in relation to Palin, Wasilla and Alaska.  Overall, the impression given is not good news for the Republicans as it exposes Palin’s ineptitude as an administrator and some of her backroom dealings.  The responses have been predictable and the main question being asked is ‘who is Anne Kilkenny?’  Within a couple of days a follow-up posting appeared which was linked to an article in the New York Times which authenticated Kilkenny’s identity so perhaps people can now focus on the merit or otherwise of the contents of the letter itself.

This is just the stuff every USA citizen should read, Republican or Democrat, before taking the vote.  It is said that every country gets the government it deserves – I’m not sure what the USA did to deserve G Dubya – but is Palin the type of person who should be second in command [or first if McCain kicks the bucket] of the USA?.

Read the full post here.

Cross-posted on the Chamber of Ten Thousand Flowers.

This is question close to the heart of many people.  Money and what happens after someone steals, embezzles or obtains it in a dishonest fashion and is subsequently caught. It seems that there is no simple answer to this; how society responds depends on a lot of rather complex, largely unwritten, rules. For instance, the type of crime you commit and how much you have stolen both have a bearing on the outcome but also where you have stolen it from, who you are and who you are connected with.

Take the recent case of the MP who allegedly misused Parliamentary allowances to feather his nest, reported here in The Times and here in The Independent. Over a period of 3 years he paid his eldest son, Henry, a salary as a research assistant, while he [Henry] was studying at Newcastle University. More recently he entered into the same scheme when his second son, Freddie, went to university. After the second time around someone blew the whistle and it was claimed that the money was being paid for no real purpose whatsoever. An enquiry was held into the matter and the committee could find no evidence of any work being done. The only supporting evidence was the say-so of the Conway family members.

Reports are a little fuzzy and confusing regarding how much money was involved, a lot depends on which newspaper you read, but so far as I can gauge the figures below are somewhere in the region.

HC £11,773 per year for 3 years, plus 4 £10,000 bonuses. Total £75,319
FC £10,000 per year for 3 years, plus pension contributions. Total £45,000

For siphoning off a sum of money in excess of £120,000 from public funds Derek Conway was suspended from Parliament for 10 days, must repay £13,161, and has now lost his place in the Conservative Party. No prosecution, no instant dismissal from employment, none of the of the penalties which would have applied automatically had a canteen worker or cleaner stolen a few supplies from the storeroom. Apart from the loss of party membership and the 10 days lost pay, it is now back to ‘service as normal’ for The Honourable Derek Conway, having made a net gain for his offspring of over £100,000.

A few articles covering this . . . . .
The Daily Telegraph
Guido Fawkes’ blog
The Guardian

[towncryer.gif]A few years ago the district of Užupis, in the city of Vilnius, declared itself to be an independent republic. A President and bishop were appointed, four flags were designed [one for each season], and a suitable constitution was duly drawn up. The 41 rights which form the constitution are engraved on mirrors, attached to a wall on Paupio Street. In addition, it has a palace, an army [of 12] to defend it and a National Day [1st April], which may give some idea of just how important this shabby little area has become. More details here and here and probably the most thorough in-depth analysis just here.

Here is a translation of the terms of the constitution –

Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow by everyone.
Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
Everyone has the right to die, but it is not a duty.
Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
Everyone has the right to individuality.
Everyone has the right to love.
Everyone has the right to be not loved, but not necessarily.

Everyone has the right not to be distinguished and famous.

Everyone has the right to be idle.
Everyone has the right to love and take care of a cat.

Everyone has the right to look after a dog till one or the other dies.

A dog has the right to be a dog.
A cat is not obliged to love its master, but it must help him in difficult times.
Everyone has the right to sometimes be unaware of his duties.
Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not a duty.
Everyone has the right to be happy.

Everyone has the right to be unhappy.

Everyone has the right to be silent.

Everyone has the right to have faith.

No one has the right to violence.

Everyone has the right to realize his negligibility and magnificence.

Everyone has the right to encroach upon eternity.
Everyone has the right to understand.
Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
Everyone has the right to be of various nationalities.
Everyone has the right to celebrate or not to celebrate his birthday.
Everyone shall remember his name.
Everyone may share what he possesses.
No-one can share what he does not possess.
Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.
Everyone is capable of independence.
Everyone is responsible for his freedom.
Everyone has the right to cry.
Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.
No-one has the right to make another person guilty.
Everyone has the right to be personal.
Everyone has the right to have no rights.
Everyone has the right to not be afraid.
Do not defeat.
Do not fight back.
Do not surrender.

Some people have been talking about it, many others have been ignoring it, the majority still haven’t got their heads around it but it is happening now.

When China began its current economic revival and subsequent march to power for most people, myself included, this was something unimportant. It was happening thousands of miles way on the other side of the world. In those dim and distant days – all of 5 years ago – the word ‘China’ was scarcely mentioned in the newspapers and when it was it would probably be with a small ‘c’ and more likely to refer to a set of cups and saucers than a country or nation so how could we know? Things have moved on since then and the ‘C’ word has moved from the occasional mention each year, to every week on the national news and now to almost every day. Most people are concious of China but very few seem to have grasped the dimensions of this phenomenon.
In the 1970s something similar happened in Japan and the impact is still being felt, but it would be enormous mistake to imagine that China’s rise to economic prosperity will be on the same scale, just another phase we can live through and then shrug off. There is a huge difference in the size and potential power of these two places which have implications for everyone. The population of Japan is not a great deal more than that of the UK so for such a small nation to have made such an impact is something of an achievement. But what if the same thing were to happen with China? Just consider the dimensions of China. It is not the largest country in the world but to travel from East to West, by train from Beijing to Kashi for instance, takes over 3 days and North to South would be something similar. Everyone knows the population of China, officially 1.3 billion [maybe more] – that’s 1,300,000,000 – but what we don’t seem to understand is that this is more than 20% of the world’s population. By comparison the UK has less than 1%. If everyone in China wanted a pair of rubber boots this year there wouldn’t be enough rubber to meet that demand, let alone keep everyone else happy. Even the slightest hiccup in China can have an impact on everyone else. If there is a statistical shift in China it will affect statistics on a world scale; if there is a similar shift in the UK it is highly unlikely anyone else will even notice. It is the enormity, and the differences in culture, of the place which has lead several western companies to come unstuck when dealing with the PRC as they have mistakenly treated it as just another minor player in the world.
For years we, in the west, have been happily closing down our factories and moving production lines overseas. The theory was that it was cheaper to manufacture in other places therefore the goods would be cheaper for us. Hong Kong [when it was colony], India, Malaya, Thailand, Myanmar have all played their part in this process and many still do but the ultimate move was to China with its never ending supply of un-unionised, unrepresented, unregulated and unprotected dirt-cheap labour. Until now many of the items bought from China have been designed, sourced and marketed by western companies, that way they could at least argue that they were keeping the biggest slice of the profit. Our retail outlets are flooded with goods with the ‘Made in China’ mark but branded with western names. The one area where the China economy is weak is in branding – how many of us can name a global Chinese brand. Answer, none; there aren’t any, well not up to now.

Another angle to consider is the value and power of the Chinese ¥ [Yuan]. At present it is seen as an undervalued currency and many western powers have been pressing the PRC to revalue the RMB. So far China has resisted such efforts. Another factor to consider is the rate at which money is saved in the PRC. At present the average Chinese citizen saves 40% of income every year – by contrast the average citizen of the UK is £3,175 in debt. Overall, China saved approximately 50% of GDP, about $1.1 trillion, in 2007, the US managed to save 13% of GDP, about $1.6 trillion, although the US economy is 6 times that of China. This pattern of behaviour is reflected throughout the Chinese economy with private companies and the government itself following suit, storing money for the proverbial rainy day. In recent weeks a Chinese company purchased a French vineyard, a modest move and not an earth shattering event in itself but something quite new demonstrating that China does have an interest in the world beyond its borders. What would happen – or should I say what will happen, as this event is now so close as to be almost inevitable – if the PRC waited until it controlled the biggest slice of manufacturing in the world and then re-valued the RMB, just as we want them to? This would certainly make Chinese goods more expensive for western countries, but, hey ho, why should they care, with manufacturing neatly tied up and under control their customers are certainly not going to do a runner, that simply wouldn’t be an option. More importantly, the RMB, combined with the reserves held by the PRC, would then have the power to enable the Chinese to wander the world and go on an acquisition spree. No need to limit purchases to crappy little vineyards, we could soon find that our railways, power companies and banks were owned by PRC Plc.

What happens when China finally makes its marketing breakthrough and begins selling goods manufactured in China, with Chinese brand names and sold on the global market as it surely must? I don’t know the answer to this question and I’m not convinced anyone else does including our dear leaders, I can only speculate and posit ideas but the thoughts which come to mind are not encouraging. Our share of the profits will diminish drastically, that much is certain, we will eventually reach a point when we can no longer expect to buy at such low prices from the PRC and we will not have the financial clout to ‘buy whatever the price’, and then what. We will buy from somewhere else? But where? There isn’t another country in the world which could take the place of China. India might have been a possibility but we had our fling in that subcontinent a while ago. While we have been sitting around admiring ourselves and thinking how savvy and successful we all are President Hu Jintao and his pals have been beavering away around the world developing relationships and securing resources for China’s future. Many of the rogue states of the world, which coincidentally hold the key to much of the mineral wealth of the planet, are safely in China’s pocket so our options are reduced yet further. I’m sure someone somwhere with a little more inside knowledge than myself could enlighten us further as what has been happening and what, in all likelihood, will happen soon. All I know is that I am typing this article while sitting at a desk in the UK, using a PC manufactured in the China, and sold with a Chinese brand name from a British retail store.
“Greetings, Master” in Putonghua [Mandarin to you and me] is 吾皇万岁万岁万万岁; now might be a good time to start learning.
[bear+-+81459170.jpg]Now that Ms Gillian Gibbons is safely home maybe it is ok to speculate on the real reasons why she was imprisoned. It certainly takes some swallowing that anyone could possibly be upset or offended at a child’s toy being given the name of a human being. We can accept that there is a cultural difference between western countries and African countries when it comes to children’s toys; only in the wealthy western countries are children brought up with cuddly animal toys, and that has only been happening in the last century; but is that enough of a difference to create a situation in which someone can be offended by the eccentricities of a western teacher? How long did it take for the person to be offended? Instantly? This is something we have little or no definite information about but the impression gained, and it is only an impression, is that there was a lapse of time between the event and the complaint being made, which suggests that the information may have been passed around until it finally found someone waiting to be offended. It is difficult to visualise precisely what the plaintiff imagined he/she was going to achieve – publicity, a blow against the interfering West, closure of Unity school? All possible and all very short term gains, except the latter which may be so damaged and discredited it never reopens.

Ms Gibbons appears to be the innocent party on every count – she did not name the bear, and when the choice was first made by the schoolchildren she asked if it was ok to choose that name, so she showed cultural sensitivity right from the beginning. The complaint was made by a private citizen – a parent or a teacher, depending on which newspaper you read – but after that the Sudanese equivalent of the CPS would have taken charge. Wouldn’t it have been possible for someone with his head screwed on the right way round to have thrown the idea out before it even reached the courts? On reaching the court would it not have been possible for the judge to have dismissed the case? Or were there other matters to be considered.

This episode does Sudan no credit, which may be why the government responded to Lord Ahmed and Lady Warsi so well, it does the Islamic faith even less good and relationships between westerners and Muslims living in the west least of all. Unfortunately Mo the Ted is just the sort of stuff to make ideal ammunition for the groups of extremists and their sympathisers so it may not be unreasonable to expect trouble in the near future, from the Muslim nutters who look for any excuse to have a go at the decadent west and from the neo-Nazis who can’t wait to expel them from the planet.

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