So much for strong and stable!

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Its laughable this morning. Here we have Mrs strong and stable herself (I can’t write that while keeping a straight face), who undertook an election at the worse possible time, not because the country needed one, but so the Tories could selfishly exploit labour’s low polling numbers. And, having gambled with the UK’s future for the most cynical of political reasons and then lost, she has the nerve to ask for a period of stability during the brexit negotiations. I mean seriously, how out of touch are these Torybots. Not since G. W. Bush stood in front of a banner saying “Mission Accomplished” has a politician been so wrong.

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And let us be clear, the Tories lost this election, not because Corbyn is some sort of political genius, but because Theresa May was terrible. After the awful local election results, Corbyn spent most of his time visiting safe labour seats in an effort to shore up support. When the lib dems and Greens approached him about some sort of progressive alliance, being the clot that he is he rejected this, even thought it ultimately meant the Tories winning crucial seats (I mean god forbid someone who isn’t a bearded hard left brexiter winning those seats! Obviously Corbyn thinks it would be better a Tory win them instead!). Note that several high ranking Tories, including Amber Rudd and IDS only survived by a margin of a few hundred votes. Zack Goldsmith managed to get elected by just 50 votes. So had Corbyn agreed to this progressive alliance, its very likely we’d have seen some pretty major scalps last night.

He also flunked a number of TV interviews, getting basic facts about his manifesto wrong. They had to hide Diana Abbot away after she buggered up earlier on in the campaign. So this is clearly more a case of the Tories losing the election rather than labour winning. And they squandered a 20 point lead at the start. Because while Corbyn wasn’t great, Theresa May was unbelievably $hit! As the spectator put it “Theresa May has the warmth, wit and oratorical ability of a fridge-freezer”.

The Yellow Submarine

Around Whitehall Theresa May has a nickname – the submarine. Because when the going gets tough, she dives below the surface, hides and runs away. And that was basically what she did for the bulk of the election campaign. She chickened out of the debates, she refused to do interviews on local radio or on the BBC’s flagship Today programme, avoided crowds (save a few carefully choreographed campaign events) or “people” in general. When rumours of cuts to pensions emerged, a possible “dementia tax to go with the bedroom tax, she was flip flopping like crazy. At one point during a factory visit the press were locked in a room to stop them asking awkward questions. So I have to assume that when she talked about being “a bloody difficult woman” during the brexit negotiations, her plan involved hiding in the loo and waiting for the EU to push a favourable exit deal under the cubicle door at the 11th hour.

The two terrorist attacks didn’t exactly help, leaving the Tories looking like a deer caught in headlights. The Tory cuts to policing occurred on her watch as home secretary. This is something she can’t dodge blame for. She mumbled something about changing the law or doing away with the human right act, because we know how much the terrorists value human rights, that’ll show em!

And her best bro Trump didn’t exactly help matters by attacking the London mayor in the middle of a terrorist incident, something which she failed to condemn. And recall her invite to him to come over next month is still valid, something that inevitably cost her votes and almost cost her dearly.

Then there’s the issue of brexit, the whole reason apparently for her having an election. And what exactly is the Tory policy on brexit? F*ck knows! Other that the vague idea that we trust Mrs strong and stable wobbly and inept, she goes into Brussels, doesn’t talk to them or give away anything, keeps her cards close to her chest and somehow gets to have her cake and eat it. A sensible strategy if you’re playing gin rummy for a half a packet of crisps, but not when negotiating with the EU over something this important. Trying to play brinkmanship with the EU is like trying to play chicken with a freight train. It ain’t going to swerve or stop because it can’t and frankly it doesn’t have too. Just ask the Greeks.

By contrast the labour strategy, which is to negotiate something along the lines of the Norway model, or the lib dems (another referendum) are far more sensible positions. More importantly for a voter, you know exactly what you’re getting if you voted for them. It dawned on me a day or two ago how badly this could play for the Tories when I was talking to a brexit voting Tory. And he could not explain to me how the Tory strategy was going to work. So if brexiters and Tories are having doubts, you can imagine how this played with remain voters (or those soft leave voters who were essentially conned into voting leave).

Now too be fair, election’s are difficult times for Tories. They have to constantly resist the urge to resort to lizard form, they have to go outside during daylight hours and remember not to call voters plebs. They rely on the right wing media to paper over the cracks. And true to form the Daily Mail and Express editors had their tongues firmly attached to May’s ass for the last two weeks. But this time the cracks were more like chasms and crevasses. Attempts to shore up the Tories involved pushing things to levels of Monty Pythonesque absurdity where even UKIP members started to doubt them.

Consider that the Daily Fail devoted 13 pages on the eve of the election trying to paint Corbyn as pro-terrorist, because its possible that one of the terrorists might have once attended a labour rally (obviously to support Corbyn, not because he was casing the event as a possible future target). Okay, and Jimmy Saville was a Tory supporter, knighted by Margaret Thatcher, so by the same Daily Mail logic does that make all Tories pedo’s?

The great British weather

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Finally, we have the weather to consider. It was raining yesterday morning, although it cleared up a bit towards the evening. This would have effected the outcome because older people (who tend to vote Tory) tend to vote in the morning, while younger voters (who tend to vote for left wing parties) tend to vote in the evening on the way home from work. So its possible that a few hundred votes in key marginal seats were lost because some pensioners opened their curtains in the morning and thought well I ain’t going out in that and stayed in bed.

The Jock vote

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In Scotland the parties fought for every vote

In Scotland it wasn’t a great night for the SNP. That said, they won all but three of Scotland’s seats last time, so it was inevitable that they were going to lose some seats this time. Also the success in 2015 was borne out of two factors. Firstly labour took a very firm stance during the Indy ref of opposing independence, despite the fact that this meant pissing off 45% of the electorate and a majority of voters in several key seats in and around Glasgow. The Tories meanwhile spent the 2015 campaign going on about how Miliband would be in the pocket of those sneaky soap shy Scots. This meant that both labour and the Tories were almost wiped out in 2015.

This time around, labour took a more neutral line towards independence and the Tories focused primarily on soaking up the anti-independence vote. All the literature in my door from the tories was about how the lib dems and labour have no chance, only the true blue Tories can beat the SNP. There was even a Tory poster outside the polling station (which most surely be illegal) proclaiming that the lib dems and labour have no chance of winning here (just as well I voted SNP then, who beat the Tories!). For the record, the lib dems and labour won back several seats in Scotland.

Naturally the argument presented in the media is about how this means Indyref2 is off the cards. Well keep in mind the SNP still control 60% of Scotland’s seats and there’s a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament. If the indy ref result was based on these metrics, they’d win easily. There is, as I’ve discussed before, a dilemma for the SNP. They would like to hold a 2nd referendum ASAP to try and ensure Scotland stays in the EU. On the other hand the more bad news from brexit builds, as well as the anger against the Tories in Westminster (given that independence offers the opportunity to rid Scotland forever of Tory rule) the more likely they are to win.

Weighting up the factors, I’d opt for the long game and wait. That said, I think the SNP need to put in place the necessary measures such that, if it becomes clear that the brexit negotiations are going to result in Scotland getting royally shafted (e.g. tariffs or migration restrictions that will wipe out certain key industries), then a referendum can be called and held quickly. In short there needs to be a big red button on Sturgeon’s desk and while she shouldn’t press the button, the threat that she might should be constantly hanging over the brexit negotiations.

Lessons learnt

So what lessons can we learn from this result? Well I would argue the reason why the polls were wrong this time, as with the previous election and the EU referendum is because there are a lot of angry and confused people who are trying to send a message. Its a rambling incoherent message from the sort of people who have no clue how politics works (e.g. the sort who were googling “what is brexit?” the morning after the referendum vote), but its quite clear what it is – no more austerity. The Tory policy of austerity has cast many millions in the UK into the sort of poverty we should have left in the last century. Until the Tory cuts are reversed, we’ll continue to see random and difficult to predict results like this in all future elections and referendums.

Now granted, ending austerity is easier said than done. Taxes would have to go up. Non-dom’s will have to start paying their fair share of tax. Areas spared from cuts (such as pensions or defence) might need to share the pain. While I think there might be a need to take certain privatised public services that are failing back into public ownership, wholesale re-nationalisation isn’t something the country can afford right now. And naturally a hard brexit is out of the question, given the negative impact that would have on tax receipts. There are, as the Tories say, no magic money trees, but that applies to both parties.

Given that we must now call into question the validity of the EU referendum result (i.e. a large chunk of the leave vote was just a protest vote), there is no mandate for a hard brexit. A soft brexit, with perhaps a 2nd referendum later seems a more sensible strategy. So less a divorce and more of a trial separation.

Thirdly, the UK needs to ditch its ridiculous first past the post election system. The rest of the civilised world used some form of proportional representation (or the two round voting system in France), which is a much fairer and more reliable system. Now supporters of FPTP will say, oh but PR leads to political instability and hung parliaments, while FTTP leads to more stable government….LOL! well I think we can bin that argument after last night.

I mean seriously, at the last election the Tories secured a majority with just 37% of the vote. Which when you account for turn out means they had a majority with the support of just 25% of the electorate. That’s not democracy, its a perversion of democracy. Had just 639 votes gone from the Tories to labour then we’d have gone from a Tory majority in 2015, to a hung parliament. And, as mentioned earlier, there are MP’s who lost their jobs, or came very close to losing this time by just a few hundred votes. They may well have prevailed (or lost) simply because it rained at a particular time of day. That’s how fickle the FPTP system can be. Its basically a form of high stakes lottery, an insane way to run a country and a grossly unfair system.

Send in the clowns

Are these lessons going to be learnt? Well not by the Tories! Already the word is they are going to form a coalition with the Ulster unionists. For those with bad memories, it was Tory pandering to the unionists and euroskeptic backbenchers that crippled John Major’s government and led to Tony Blair’s landslide victory in the 1997 election. To call the unionists unreliable allies is if anything an understatement.

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Theresa May is greeted by her new coalition partners

On paper they are fairly gung-ho, pro-hard brexit, send the EU and all the Poles to hell along with all the Catholics. Unfortunately, as a hard brexit will probably wipe out the Northern Irish economy and likely lead to a collapse in the peace process, a border poll and them all becoming Irish citizens, the Unionists will be prone to sudden flip flopping. We could see the scenario where the Tories are in the room negotiating with the EU, digging their heels in on a particular issue, only to be handed a mobile phone with a tweet from the DUP stating that not only do they no longer support the government on this issue, they will walk out of government unless they reverse their position.

Note that adding together the DUP and Tory seats, they have a majority of just 2 seats. So all it takes is a handful of MP’s (e.g. those who won by just a few votes in a pro-remain constituency) to either vote against the government or abstain…..and one of those is Kenneth Clarke (so on brexit its potentially a majority of one!)….and the government can be outvoted. And keep in mind that the fixed term parliament act means that in theory if the Tories form a government, which then collapses, the opposition can block an early election. Protocol would then dictate that the leader of the opposition (currently Corbyn) would then be invited by the Queen to try and form a government, presumably some sort of progressive alliance.

So returning to the question at the beginning, should the opposition parties cut Theresa May some slack? Absolutely not! Stick it to em! The Tories have selfishly prioritised their own needs above that of the country for too long, they will continue to do so, even if it means driving the country over a cliff edge. So the opposition should try to block them at every turn, using every trick available to them and basically paralyse the government in the hope of forcing them out. Then a progressive alliance can take over. And while I’m not a huge fan of Corbyn, he’s certainly a better pick for the job. Theresa May has demonstrated over the last two months why she is wholly unqualified for the job of PM. The Downing street cat could do a better job than her!

Rolling back the years

I have to finish by contrasting with the political situation in Ireland. We’ve just elected our first openly gay Prime minster, who also just happens to be the son of an immigrant (I suspect the Daily Mail readers all fainted when they heard that one). Keep in mind that it was illegal to even be gay in Ireland right up until the 1990’s (yes really!).

So Ireland has progressed a lot over the last few decades, in part I might add because we have this thing called “a constitution” (UK readers might need to google that one) and a PR based voting system. There should have been an election by now in Ireland, as there’s a minority government and both the main parties are keen to sort it out with an electoral show down. But it was decided, for now, that any election should be delayed until some progress is made with the brexit process. While Irish politicians aren’t great (a shower of gombeens, feckin edjits and cute hoor’s as me grandpa used to say), they are a heck of a lot more mature and professional than any UK politician. And again, that’s probably down to our political system and its checks and balances.

So while in an Irish election you face the choice about whether you want shower of gombeen’s or mob of cute hoor’s to take us into the 21st century, in the UK election the choice is between a labour party who wants to take the country back to the 1970’s and a Tory party who want to go back to the 1900’s. That’s how far the UK has slipped in the last few years. The UK is about as strong and stable right now as a one legged stool and its on the verge of becoming a basket case, a failed state.

Blogging catchup

I’m just back from a trip overseas on business, so I thought it would be a good idea to catchup.

Trump pulls out of Paris climate treaty

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It was perhaps inevitable that Trump would pull out of the Paris climate treaty. He’s rowed back on nearly all of his campaign promises, as inevitably many of these policies were just unworkable or unenforceable. The Paris treaty was one of the few things he could actually change, largely because it will take until nearly the end of his presidency to complete the withdrawal (meaning a few months later his successor might well opt to simply re-enter the agreement).

However it has to be said the main loser is going to be the US. There’s a serious case of deja vu here. When G. W. Bush dropped out of the Kyoto protocol, making the same lame arguments about “jobs” and “growth” the end result was that many of the technical experts in fields such as electric cars, fuel cell research and solar panels all went abroad, mostly to Europe and China and helped investors there found companies that are now worth tens of billions of dollars and employ many tens of thousands of people. And inevitably they then exported this technology back to the US. In other words thanks to Bush America ended up having to buy its own technology back off the Chinese and Europeans. Hardly putting “America first” was it!

History will now repeat itself. If Elon Musk gets into trouble and has to start letting staff go, no doubt they’ll just head overseas and get jobs in Chinese or European renewable multinationals. He himself might well get bought out by some Chinese investors who move production overseas. So how exactly are Trump’s actions going to create jobs?….well aside from more jobs in China anyway!

Furthermore, the US hasn’t really got a choice in the matter. Fossil fuels are a finite resource. As I’ve discussed before, the shale gas boom is eventually going to run out of steam. And there’s already signs of a slow down. Climate change is a crisis that will hit the US hard. So regardless of what Republicans think the US will have to give up fossil fuels eventually. What most countries are opting to do is a slow gradual transition. This means that the positives of a renewables boom (i.e. more jobs, more stable energy prices) tends to cancel out the negatives (higher energy prices, the temporary disruption caused by installing renewables infrastructure). Germany is the poster child for this, but a similar policy is playing out in Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Norway, Scotland and Portugal to name a few. And yes, in all of these countries the renewables boom has largely been a positive that has greatly benefited the economy.

However, trying to undertake a crash course in fossil fuels phase out, which Trump has now all but guaranteed America will have to carry out eventually, will likely to be very disruptive to the economy. In short there’s a hard way and an easy way and Trump just committed America to the hard way. The country will be forced some day to undergo a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels, likely when supply shortages, high prices and the damage caused by climate change starts to bite. And they’ll be also forced to import most of the technology to do so from abroad. So Trump has more or less signed America economic death warrant.

Leader of the free world

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Indeed, during Trump’s recent European tour it became rather obvious what level of damage he’s already inflicted on America’s reputation abroad. The fact is that Trump is probably one of the weakest president’s America has ever had. Allegations regard him and his families ties to Russia (and the Saudi’s) have crippled his administration. Plus its all well and good making campaign speeches about how much America pays for NATO. However, around the G7 table it will no doubt have been pointed out that most of America’s military spending is on things nothing to do with NATO (while countries like Germany and Poland spend almost their entire military budget on NATO related activities).

And then we have the issue of Trump’s silence over the Portland murders of two men who came to the defence of a Muslim woman being abused by a Trump supporter. It would have been very easy for him to condemn this, but he did not do so until a good week after. And even then the announcement came from the official US government account, not his own twiter account. This could not be a clearer signal that Trump isn’t just saying racist stuff to curry favour with the KKK brigade, but he is actually a racist and a fascist himself.

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The resulting power vacuum means that someone else had to take up the mantle of leader of the free world. Given that May is leading the UK into self imposed exile (and economic suicide) that rules out the brit’s. So it now falls to Germany to lead the free world. This has both positives and negatives. On the positive side the Germans, even right wingers like Merkel, are considerably more sensible leaders than any recent American president. On the downside, Merkel is a bit risk adverse and not really the sort of person who is good at handling a crisis (as the situation in Greece proved). And the end consequence is a Europe and an EU that’s even more dominated by Germany than before.

Playing chicken

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I need to do a more detailed update of the election situation, but suffice to say the Tory lead is slipping. This was always the risk, elections are fickle affairs, even with the massive lead the Tories had in the polls at the start there’s always a danger events will turn against them. Its possible the polls are wrong and that labour support is being overestimated. But of course its equally possible that the labour lead is being underestimated. While the probability is that the Tories will still win, that doesn’t mean a Tory win is guaranteed (I’d say its an 75% chance of a Tory win, 20% chance of a hung parliament and a 5% chance of a labour win). And all it takes is one scandal, one leak of something the Tories don’t want to reveal in the next few days and the outcome of the election could change.

Of course the Tories must also acknowledge that they are doing badly not because Corybn is some sort of popular political genius in charge of a united party. He’s been unable to get basic facts right and most election literature I’ve seen from labour candidates avoids even mentioning him (by contrast the Tory, lib dem and SNP literature does mention Corbyn, so he’s an electoral asset….for the other parties!). So the reason why the Tories are doing badly in the polls is because they are making a pigs ear of an election that they should otherwise win easily.

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Take the recent election debates, where the wicked witch of Maidenhead Theresa May refused to show up. This was a major miscalculation. Granted, given the risk of her reverting to her true form, showing up to a debate with “people” was always going to be a bad idea. But not showing makes her look weak, arrogant and too chickshit scared to face Corbyn. How exactly is she proposing to deal with the EU if she’s too afraid to face off against some bearded hippy? So this decision could well backfire badly. Although given that the main winner of the debate were the Greens and lib dems, so its likely labour will lose support as well as a result of the debate.

The fact is that unless the Tories win by a significant majority this will be seen by her party as a political failure on her part and I’m guessing there will be a move against her. Then again, I’ve a suspicion that the real reason for the election is that the Tories are hiding something, quite possibly that May will be resigning soon for health reasons (or that she’s about to get caught up in some major scandal and forced to go). So that might well be the case anyway.

Living in a different era

One of the problems with Brexit and any Tory election victory is how it has puffed up the bigot brigade, who feel they can now throw their weight around. For example, we have a slum landlord type in England who is now refusing to let property to “coloured people. We have a jobseeker who was dismissed as a “left wing loon tree hugger (in an e-mail sent to her) and the number of racist incidents reported countrywide has doubled since the vote with 1 in 3 minorities now reporting some form of abuse.

One is forced to conclude this lot live in a different world and brexit has allowed them to start acting out their insane fantasies. However, this puts them at odds with reality, which does bode well for the country’s future.

Take northern Ireland, a key potential flash point for the brexit negotiations. Any changes to the status of the NI border will have profound knock on implications both in Northern Ireland and the South and thus effect the peace process. On the other hand a lack of a hard border makes a hard brexit an exercise in futility. Any migrant can simply get on a bus at Dublin airport and be in the UK within two hours. And as I’ve pointed out before, its goods not people that the UK needs to worry about. An open Irish border with different tariffs either side of it would be mercilessly exploited by smuggler gangs, undercutting the UK economy and probably bankrupting the economy in NI.

However whenever this issue is discussed in the media, scroll down to the comments and you’ll get lots of the brexit bigots referring to Ireland by the historic term “Eire” and voicing their deluded fantasies that not only is there no risk of a border poll (and Northern Ireland voting to leave the UK) but that Ireland might actually vote to re-join the UK. That’s how far out of touch this lot are.

For those who don’t understand the controversy, shortly after Ireland’s independence in the 1920’s the UK adopted a policy of referring to the Irish Republic as “Eire” as they felt that using the English word “Ireland” could be interpreted as support for a united Ireland and they didn’t like using the word “republic” as they were peeved at how we’d rejected rule by the crown. The British stuck to this policy rigidly to the point of absurdity. During the 1948 Olympics in London while all the other nations paraded under a banner with the name of the country in English, Ireland was forced to parade under the “Eire” banner, the only time in Olympic history a country has paraded under its native language.

Of course the irony here is that “Eire” is the Gaelic geographical name for the Island of Ireland. So actually by adopting this policy the UK was arguably voicing support for a united Ireland. This explains why in 1949, presumably after someone had lent them an English/Irish dictionary, the UK did an about face and took to referring to the Irish state as “the republic of Ireland” (or ROI for short). So when I say Brexiters live in a different era, I am not joking, they are literally sticking to a UK policy that dates prior to the 1940’s. That’s the sort of attitude you’re dealing with.

Downgrade of Chinese debt

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One story that seems to have been missed by many was the downgrading of China’s debts by the rating agency Moody’s, blaming concerns over China’s growing private debts. This is the first time the Chinese have suffered a downgrade since 1989. This provoked a furious response from Beijing. Although arguably this less than measured and diplomatic reaction did more harm than the actual downgrade itself.

On the one hand I’d say the Chinese have a point. Its all too obvious that the rating agencies are biased. I recall someone from the Brazilian finance ministry once bemoaning the fact that during the Workers Party era they’d pass a new policy on something completely unrelated to Brazil’s ability to service its debts (e.g. health care or employment law) and the rating agencies would hit them with a downgrade. Even though the UK or US government might well have down something very similar a few months earlier yet they didn’t get hit with a downgrade. Consider that the US has elected a president recently who boasted about reneging on America’s debts. If China is in such big trouble that its credit rating should be cut, then fairness would require that America’s (and the UK) should lose its A rating altogether.

That said, there’s no smoke without fire. Interbank lending and lending to local businesses as well as growing credit card and mortgage debts in China represents something of an unknown quantity in the country, with it unclear how much has been lent to who and how safe those loans are and what’s going to happen when those loans are defaulted on.

Now some will react with glee to the news China might get into trouble. Think again. Alot of the debt buying going on worldwide, both private and public debt, is being handled by China. So if China catches a cold the rest of might get Ebola. Any change in policy in China, e.g. they stop buying bonds or raise interest rates, would have a amplified knock effect in the west. Mortgage rates would soar, inflation would skyrocket. A devaluation of the RMB would suddenly make many Western goods uncompetitive and could push Western states into recession. While its often pointed out how much of America’s debt’s (both private and public) is owed to China (and thus Trump supporters seem to feel they can just up and renege on that), they forget that two thirds of it is owed to other Americans, mostly pension funds. So any American default of its foreign debts to China would likely bankrupt the entire US pension system overnight.

So this is something that should concern us all. Anyone urging the likes of Trump or May to play some sort of “great game” with China needs to realise what’s at stake – namely keeping your job and not living out your retirement in a dumpster! The trouble is, as recent events have shown above, there’s more than enough people in both the UK and US who will cut off their own nose to spite their face.

The biggest corruption scandal in history

And speaking of Brazil, operation car wash, the investigation that brought down the presidency of Dilma Rousseff, continues and its quickly growing into one of the biggest corruption scandals in world history. Its becoming clear also that crimes of Rouseff or her predecessor Lula were actually fairly minor and that the main reason why she was removed was more because she refused to try and slow down or halt the investigation. So her impeachment is looking more and more like a de-facto coup.

And the current president Temer and his party have their grubby little paw prints all over this scandal. Its clear that they have been on the take far more than Rouseff’s workers party. And since coming to power, we’ve seen key persecutors fired and replaced with political lackies of the president, judges dying in mysterious circumstances, witnesses disappearing, etc. To say this stinks is to put it mildly. There is a very real risk this crisis could bring down the entire Brazilian political system or possibly lead to a coup.

Ruinair

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Given past experience with British Airways I purposely didn’t fly with them this time and avoided Heathrow like the plague. So I wasn’t entirely surprised by the news that BA had all sorts of IT problems (not that their recent penny pinching cuts have anything to do with that!), nor with news of them leaving passengers in the lurch.

The fact is that the only difference between BA and Ryanair is that Ryanair are cheaper and generally on time. In a crisis BA will just fob you off and abandon you just as quickly as the budget airlines. So you may as well fly Ryanair or Easyjet and save yourself a few bob. And I am by no means alone. I know lots of business traveller who won’t get on a BA flight, even if their employer is paying for it. I welcome the day when BA collapses, much as Alitalia is currently going bankrupt.

The impact of brexit on Northern Ireland

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Well the results from the NI election are in and the result isn’t going to make great reading for either the Unionists nor the brexiters. The one thing that was never supposed to happen in Northern Ireland has happened – the Unionists have lost their majority.

While the DUP are still the largest party, in theory they and the UUP can now be outvoted on any issue…such as whether or not to hold a border poll. Now granted, Sinn Fein don’t hold a majority either. They’d need support from the smaller non-unionst parties. And all “non-unionst” means is that they don’t go on orange parades, nor is their pin code 1690. While they aren’t against the idea of a border poll, they aren’t in favour of one either, it doesn’t make them flag waving Irish nationalists.

However in the event of a hard brexit, one that starts impacting on the Northern Irish economy, they could be persuaded to back a border poll, to settle the issue. In short there is now a path to a border poll, that did not previously exist. And its very difficult to tell, particularly against the back drop of a hard brexit which way such a poll would go.

The unionists can block a border poll even without a majority. Rules written into the Northern Irish constitution allow a minority of delegates to veto legislation. Ironically, these rules were inserted to protect the nationalists, something the DUP originally objected too! But the DUP cannot do this alone anymore, they’d need UUP support too. Also blocking a vote and standing against the rest of the assembly raises the risk of the pro-poll parties pulling the plug again, declaring a new election and an electoral alliance in which they don’t stand in each other’s constituencies, effectively turning the election into a defacto border poll.

Now like I said, the other smaller parties aren’t automatically going to go along with Sinn Fein on this. And there’s no guarantee even if a border poll was held that it would be a Yes vote. But the point is that its now a plausible option. The unthinkable (from a unionist point of view) is actually possible now. And the unionist have to look to the moderates in the centre ground and on the left, to save them from a mess of their own creation.

While many unionists are generally euroskeptic (and often to the right of UKIP on many issues) the UUP backed Remain in the referendum, precisely because they feared what is now playing out in NI might happen in the event of a leave vote. But the DUP very stupidly backed leave. Arlene Foster may go down in history as having done more for Irish reunification (through a combination of arrogance, stupidity and incompetence) than Gerry Adams or Martin McGuiness!

But either way, the cost of brexit for unionists is not that they are going to “take control”, its that they’ve lost control and their fate is now in the hands of others….something the rest of the UK will soon discover when brexit negotiations start and they realise its the EU, US and other powers who will decide the UK’s future.

Exit through the wingnut shop

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There’s some brexiters who argue that the UK doesn’t need to trigger article 50, nor spend two years negotiating leaving the EU (and thus its all just a big conspiracy to keep the UK in the EU). We just tell the EU we’re leaving and that’s that. Ah…..no!

To draw an analogy, this would be like quitting your job by just not bothering to showing up for work any more. Okay, so you’ll be leaving without a reference, without your pension contributions, without reimbursement for any outstanding expenses, without your next pay cheque and without the protections afforded by the law. You’d be at risk of your employer suing you for damages (generally your contract of employment will specify an agreed period of grace either side must give before the contract can be terminated) and you’d also not be eligible to claim unemployment benefits. Does any of that sound like a good idea?

The whole point of negotiating is that its a two way street, you reach an accord which gives both sides an acceptable agreement. Perhaps this is the problem of course, the Brexiters think that they can have their cake and eat it and thus the idea that they have to “negotiate” or “compromise” is alien to them. However by refusing to negotiate the UK would essentially be a conceding the field to its opponents. In other words the EU will decide the terms of the UK’s exit, without the UK being consulted.

Naturally the consequences of this could be quite serious. There’s a long list of issues that needs to be resolved and not just with the EU. The UK is doing something that isn’t really governed by existing legislation, so in theory it could leave the country in legal limbo if other nations don’t co-operate. Keep in mind article 50 was originally written by a British lawyer to provide some semblance of an exit mechanism, should it become necessary.

For example that 60 billion the EU says they will charge the UK as its exit fee from the EU. Now I’d consider that at present a negotiating position that they’ll likely horse trade away in exchange for the UK making certain favourable concessions (although the UK will inevitably still face some sort of bill in the end and it will probably be in the tens of billions). However if the UK doesn’t negotiate its exit, then obviously they’ll just slap that bill onto the UK and give the country 30 days to pay, perhaps they’ll even make it higher.

What’s that you say? You’ll refuse to pay? Okay and then the EU starts ceasing UK government assets, freezing bank accounts, imposing punitive taxes on UK companies and businesses or ceasing goods at Calais. Recall that a few years ago, after the Russians reneged on their debts (under Yelstin) it lead to them facing all sorts of sanctions from creditors. At one point a bunch of lawyers showed up at a French air show and tried to impound a group of Russia airforce planes. The Russians actually took off and fled back to Russia to avoid being impounded. That’s the sort of stuff the UK would be facing. The UK’s failure to pay this bill would technically count as a sovereign default, which would mean the UK’s credit rating would be cut to near junk status which would cause a whole host of financial problems.

Ask any lawyer and they will tell you that if someone is suing you in court for money, the worst thing you could possibly do is ignore it. They’ll win by default, the court will appoint a bailiff who’ll come round to your house or place of business and start impounding goods. You can make all the excuses you want at that point, they won’t listen and they don’t have too (they have a county court warrant in their hand). If they are in a good mood they might give you an hour or two to come up with the cash, before then start loading your stuff into their van. And they’ll keep coming back and coming back until you pay up. That’s what the UK would essentially be facing.

And then there’s issues like the WTO. The UK’s membership of the WTO is in a state of limbo. Now in theory so long as nobody kicks up stink it should be easy enough to straighten that out. However, if we’ve left the EU without agreement and are now locked in a trade dispute with them, quite obviously that will have to be resolved first. Without WTO membership the UK will find it quite impossible to trade abroad in any meaningful way.

Then there’s the status of UK citizens in the EU. Without an agreement it will be up to the EU, if not individual EU states, to decide on their fate. My guess is they’ll offer some sort of duel citizenship to the UK citizens they want to keep (i.e. the working age taxpayers living in their countries) while kicking out the pensioners who they want rid of (more precisely, they’d refuse them health care and hit them with a massive punitive tax on their pensions to force them to return to Britain). The French will no doubt withdraw the current border arrangements and simply wave through masses of refugees straight onto Ferries bound for the UK. So we’ll see a drop in east European workers replaced by hordes of pensioners and Syrian migrants.

But we’ll be able to send all them Polish people back right? No! You can’t deport someone to a government whom you don’t have relations with. This is exactly the problem with refugees, they’re in legal limbo and thus can’t be deported back to their country of origin. If the UK left the EU without triggering article 50, then all of the EU citizens would fall into the same category. It would be legally very difficult if not impossible to deport them, or any Syrian refugees for that matter.

And it won’t just be people coming in but goods too. As I’ve pointed out with regard to the post-brexit Irish border, its not people you need to worry about but contraband. Without a bilateral exit agreement from the EU the smugglers will be having a field day. They’ll be shipping in truck loads of tax free booze, cigarettes and petrol, undermining UK businesses and depriving the treasury of valuable tax income. As it is there needs to be some sort of an agreement reached to prevent this becoming a major problem.

And they’ll also be shipping in drugs too. Ireland is already a known transit route for drugs into Europe and in particular shipments into the UK. Our rugged West coast with its countless inlets and bays is virtually impossible to defend and patrol. And the Irish countryside, with its rabbit warren of narrow boreens and remote farm houses, gives smugglers plenty of places to hide stuff. Currently intercepting such shipments is a major focus of attention by customs officials both sides of the border. And its achieved by mutual trust and co-operation. Destroy that agreement and the only winners are the smugglers. In short, leave the EU without triggering article 50 and the only think that will get cheaper in Britain afterwards is the street value of heroin and crack.

So no, the UK can’t leave without triggering article 50. Doing so would be the height of irresponsibility and grossly stupid. Yes article 50 is designed to basically let the EU screw over the country that is leaving. But that’s still better than the alternative, leaving and getting screwed over by the rest of the world permanently.

Asking the Irish to police the UK border

One of the major sticking points for the Tories is how they plan to square the circle of a hard brexit and avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland. There answer appears to be that they expect us Irish to do their dirty work for them. I see a couple of flaws straight away:

– We have this thing in Ireland called “rights” and “due process” (the brexit brigade might want to google that one sometime) which everyone, including Johnny foreigner, is entitled too. Much of what the UK is proposing would fall well short of that. The UK border agencies are notorious for arbitrary and often outright inhuman rulings, and in Ireland people would be entitled to challenge such rulings in court. As you can imagine taking half a plane load of people off to court, putting them up in hotel while the case is heard would be a costly and logistical nightmare.

– Its probable these measures would need a change in the law. The UK government lawyers don’t think so, again google that word “rights”. Once someone challenges such rules in court, they will need new legislation. Recall we briefly legalised all drugs in Ireland due to a similar case last year. If so, that would almost certainly mean a referendum. I can already tell you the result. Theresa May will essentially be told by the Irish electorate to “pog mo thoin” (she might want to google that too!).

– Ireland cannot restrict access to the country to EU citizens (again “rights”, you did google that didn’t you?). What are we supposed to do? say to some Polish guy “ah sure be grand and be garra, don’t go north of the border and get a job as a builder now, will ya, thankin u kindly”. Rather naively the UK seems to think oh we’ll have work visas and all that. Ya, and do you have any idea how many illegals are in the UK right now from outside the EU working in the black economy? You know how many Brits work in Australia or US without work visas? Non starter from day one! If there’s anything worse than migrants coming in and taking jobs, its migrants sneaking in and not paying any taxes.

– In truth its not people we need to worry about but goods. If the UK leaves the common market and becomes subject to tariffs the smugglers, many of them dissident members of Republican or loyalist groups, would have a field day. As things stand there’s still some smuggling (of diesel, Alcohol and cigarettes). There are some border guards and while they don’t set up check points they do perform investigations and roving checks. Obviously we’d need a lot more of them and no matter how many, an open border means some will slip through. This will quickly undermine the UK economy as many small firms will be undercut by goods smuggled over the Irish border.

– So suddenly Ireland needs a shit load more customs and excise officers, more police, more staff at passport control, some major structural changes to airports to accommodate longer queues, more judges, lawyers, detention centres and probably a few hundred million bill to pay for all of this each year. Are you brits planning to pay for all of that? Cos why should we do it if we have to pay? Unlike the UK we also believe in this thing called “balanced budgets” (something no Tory Chancellor has delivered for decades…so you might want to google that one also!), so it ain’t going to happen if the UK doesn’t agree to pay.

Why should we do it? What incentive does Ireland have to comply? There’s an old Republican saying that goes “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”. Now while I suspect you’ll find few politicians, particularly the pro-Republican types who will admit it, but there are many in Ireland who would see a silver lining to a hard brexit. For sure we’d lose out in terms of some exports, but in return we’d benefit from the UK’s high tech firms, airlines and financial services companies relocating to Ireland. A recent survey revealed a whopping 75% of UK firms were eyeing Ireland as a potential base post-brexit. And a hard border basically means Northern Ireland as a political and economy entity is living on borrowed time. A united Ireland becomes less of a possibility and more of an inevitability. I won’t be surprised if some champagne corks go flying in Sinn Fein households if the UK opts for a hard brexit.

Do you trust us? (I won’t!). I’m not sure if Theresa May has ever heard the expression that if someone asks you to do a shitty job, do it badly and you won’t be asked again. So ya we Irish sign up to all of this, the UK pays us an absurd amount to do it…..and we do it badly. We wave through ever cute hoor and gangster from Eastern Europe who shows up, he even tells us he’s off to Belfast (to smuggle horse meat) and we do zip, after all once he’s over the border he’s your problem and what are the British going to do? We hold all the cards.

Like so many things Tory, this stinks of decisions made by public school boys or Grammar school girls who don’t live in the real world.

Northern ireland, a radical post-Brexit fix

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Brexit now threatens much uncertainty as regards Northern Ireland. As one of the most deprived parts of the UK, sharing a direct land border with the eurozone, it will likely bare the brunt of any post-Brexit downturn. Already a legal challenge against Brexit has been launched by a cross party group. There’s even stories of unionists applying for Irish passports south of the border.

Inevitably this means the possibility of Irish reunification has come back on the agenda. There is an absence of reliable polling data, but one poll from the Belfast Telegraph suggested a significant lead for a united Ireland (this must be put in context, not as reliable as a regular poll and similar polls showing a very strong lead to Scottish independence that has now slipped somewhat). But certainly, it seems there has been a significant move in public opinion since Brexit (which has previously show a 60/40 split against a united Ireland). A united Ireland is now no longer just some sort of Sinn Fein fantasy.

And Scottish independence would complicate matters further. Consider that if Scotland breaks away it will be only be possible to travel from the North to the rUK via a foreign country (e.g. via Scotland or via the Republic). Northern Ireland will essentially become an overseas territory of the (former) United Kingdom, surrounded by the EU. It short I would argue that in much the same way that Brexit makes Scottish independence more likely, Brexit and Scottish independence makes a united Ireland more likely (if not an inevitability). Of course this will likely go down like a lead balloon in many loyalist strongholds in the North.

It is in situations like this that a radical solution is required. So what I would propose is that, in the case of Scottish independence, there should be a referendum in Northern Ireland, not on re-unification but instead on changing the terms of the act of Union by which Northern Ireland would enter into a union with Scotland. In essence NI would recognise Scotland as the successor state to the UK, rather than England.

This would offer several benefits from a unionist prospective. They would still have the queen as head of state, they would still be part of the commonwealth and NATO. They would also get to keep the pound (although it would now likely be the Scottish pound). On the other hand, Irish republicans would likely find the government in Edinburgh a good deal less antagonistic a partner than Westminster.

Indeed I suspect the strongest objections to such a proposal would come from the republicans. There’s an old republican saying that goes “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”. Or to put that in slightly less diplomatic terms, the Brits have a habit of screwing up and its usually Toff’s in London playing games of empire who are to blame. If the Scot’s don’t antagonise either the catholic or unionist communities, they avoid dragging the North into the various wars of empire like London did (which of course led directly to Irish independence, as well as American independence and most of the rest of their empire breaking up too), then this new union becomes likely to be the default end state. In short, Irish unification becomes a lot less likely if Northern Ireland was in a union with Scotland rather than England.

Will such a deal happen? Probably not. In much of the same way that one of the SNP’s best allies is the Tory party, one of the Irish nationalists best allies is the ulster unionists. Their closed minds doesn’t leave room for much in the way of radical ideas or compromise. I mean a lot of them voted for Brexit, despite the fact that this was pretty much a case of Turkey’s voting for Christmas. And some are (as noted) ignoring the glaring hypocrisy and quietly applying for an Irish passport.

So my guess is the unionist will refuse to compromise. They’ll find themselves facing a declining economy, overrun by refugees (with both NI’s borders controlled by foreign states it will be all but impossible to limit or deport migrants and refugees, something that will be quickly exploited by the next wave of migrants). Support for reunification will steadily grow, until eventually it gets enough support and passes. But let it be said, that there is an alternative. The question is will they take it?

Weekend round up

Trump and the Republican civil war

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As the BBC discussed this week the Republican party is now caught up in a civil war, with the party establishment fighting off the Tea party. Much of the GOP recognise that no matter how popular Trump might appear, all the demographics are against him and ultimately he has only a very slim chance of defeating Hilary. While yes some polls do put him ahead, its always dangerous to read too much into such polls this early in the campaign. The suspicion is that once its set as Hilary v’s Trump and once its broken down on a state by state level, she will pull a good deal ahead. More crucially the GOP is forced to ask, even if we can get him elected, is that a good thing? A ill-mannered egomaniac buffoon who goes around insulting people is simply not a credible candidate for President of the United States.

Events however took a shock turn with governor Chris Christie endorsing Trump. In essence this shows that the GOP faces a sort of “prisoner dilemma”. If they all stick together and oppose Trump they should be able to deny him the nomination (although that risks him running as an independent). But individually it may be in their interests to slither on over to the winning side. Within the next few days and weeks the rest of the GOP will face this choice. Some, notably Cruz, Rubio and Bush will almost certainly opt to avoid any endorsement for the time being, but longer term they might be forced too.

Fox news faces an interesting dilemma. They do not like Trump one bit, largely because he can’t be controlled and is a danger to their interests. He is in essence a Frankenstein monster of their creation which they may have to now destroy…or fire Megan Kelly (who all the same might want to brush up on her resume just in case!). However, backing Hilary would create “issues”. Fox has spent the last twenty odd years portraying her as the wicked witch of the West. So they would have to come out and say “Benghazi, e-mails, whitewater, oh that was all just a pile of BS we put out to distract you while our corporate buddies raided your pension funds”. Well we all know what happened to the boy who cried wolf….he got a job on Fox!

As I see it there are four possible end games to this:

Scenario #1 (the most likely), Hilary trounces Trump in the election, sweeping into power taking control of congress too. Regardless of whether Obama gets his nominee to the Supreme court through, Hilary will do so and likely replace one or two other justice’s during her term. While she doesn’t turn the US into a socialist republic (as Fox would have you believe), she does continue on the policies of Obama, cementing in Obamacare and gets his modest background check rules on guns pushed through. In the fallout that follows the GOP faces inward and in the ensuing political blood bath the party splits.

Scenario #2, Rubio pulls a rabbit out of his butt and manages to beat Trump. Being the egomanic bully that he is, Trump runs as an independent, costing Rubio (who actually has a half decent chance of beating Hilary) the election. In the post mortem that follows, again the GOP implodes and splits.

Scenario #3, Trump, somehow manages to get elected, quickly proves to be dreadful at the job, even worse than James Buchanan, alienates US allies, starts (and loses) an economic war with the likes of China and tries to enact racist national socialist policies which quickly put him on collision course with both Congress and the Supreme court (regardless of who gets Scalia’s job, a vague glance at the constitution says you can’t discriminate against Mexicans or Muslims). He might prove to be so unpopular that democrat leaning states consider temporary (or permanent) succession. In he end, he is removed from office under the terms of the 25th amendment (probably after he attempts to start an actual war with China or Russia!). In the political bloodbath that follows the GOP splits.

Scenario #4, the CIA, NSA, Mossad, FSB, the mob….or whoever does this sort of cloak and dagger stuff in China terminates his campaign “with extreme prejudice” (and I mean way worse than anything that comes out of his mouth). In the wake of this his VC (likely Christy or Palin….now it all starts to make sense!) gets the job….although chances are they’ll take out both of em too just to be sure, in which case Rubio gets the job and probably beats Hilary.

So rather worryingly the only scenario now where the GOP holds it together (and wins the election) involves Trump getting whacked….which I’m hoping his own security are aware of!

The Tory party split

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And speaking of break ups…. there’s the war within the Tory party. Cameron is now withholding documents from anti-EU cabinet members. This probably makes sense as they’ll inevitably go through said documents and try to put a pro-UKIP spin on it. For example, recent migration figures came out showing a drop in migration rates into the UK, which inevitably the right wing press spun to suggest the opposite was true. However cutting off minsters like this represents a break with protocol.

As one or two of the Sunday newspapers discuss, there is every possibility that the Tory party could split over this referendum. Win or loose, Cameron will almost certainly face a challenge to his leadership. The markets show increasing signs of nervousness. Rating agencies are threatening a downgrade, the G20 warning of a decade of economic limbo for the UK, while Brexit is negotiated (which will not be quick and will leave millions of brit’s stuck in limbo). Meanwhile university leaders are worried about the impact on research funding, while defence chiefs warn that Brexit will put at risk British security.

With the stakes this high, its likely that things will get nasty, particularly as we get close to referendum day. If the result is leave, I can’t see Cameron surviving as PM. While if its stay, I can’s see how his wayward ministers can remain in government. And as the likes of Boris or IDS are unlikely to be happy on the backbenches, its likely the party will split. Cameron may well have just chosen the EU as the hill on which he and his party end up dying on.

Another victim of Tory cuts

Another story people may have missed was Welsh police deliberately running over a dog on the A55. While some of the media did pick up on this, they failed to point out that this dog was in effect another victim of Tory cuts. Normal procedure for dealing with a stray animal on the road is to form a rolling blockade, bring traffic to a stop, deal with the animal and then restart traffic.

However, this process is costly and both council and police budgets have come under strain recently. I recall pointing out some time ago how police and councils were trying to get the victims of traffic accidents to pay for the costs associated with the aftermath of an accident (even if it wasn’t the drivers fault!). Of course, this is a dangerous thing to do as it simply encourages people who get into difficulty to not call the police and opt for a “big society” solution (a BBC reporter mentions how she ended up facing the wrong way on the hard shoulder after a skid on some oil and wisely called the police to help her turn around safely….which she then got billed for!). Obviously this increases the risk of accidents, which is precisely why they shouldn’t be doing this!

Similarly the advice now to dog owners is, if your dog gets loose on the road, don’t call the police, they’ll just run him over. Instead, go out onto an active motorway and try to retrieve the dog yourself. Yes, you’ll probably cause a pileup, but at least you’ll save Osborne a few bob.

So when you hear Osborne and Cameron talking about the need to find “inventive” ways to save on government spending, this is what they are talking about.

Irish Election results – populists dodging responsibly

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Understanding Irish politics

The results of the Irish election show a resounding defeat for the Irish labour party. This is not really a surprise, much like the Tories operation liberal shield, its inevitable the smaller party will suffer worst in a situation where a government pursues unpopular policies. Despite the austerity, its likely Fine Gael will still be the largest party, although they won’t have enough votes, even if we include the obvious candidates, to form a coalition government.

This raises the question that has been asked since the start of the campaign. Will Fianna Fail go for a coalition with Sinn Fein? Certainly the party blamed for causing the recession had a remarkably good showing (perhaps showing how short forgetful many people are!). Sinn Fein say they are ruling out any coalition. This is not surprising given that as a party of protest, they’ll quickly lose support if they ever have to live up to the wild promises they’ve been making. But if a party isn’t prepared to go into government, what’s the point of voting for them? They can oppose the government for free by standing outside the Dail with a placard! Why do we need to pay them a salary to do this inside the house?

But the alternative to stopping Sinn Fein would be an unholy alliance between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. The question is, will this just prove to be a bridge too far? Its possible Fine Gale will pull together enough independents to form a minority government, however a quick review of the results suggests that this is likely impossible. Most of the independents are running on an anti-government or anti-austernity platform and clearly will not go into government. Even adding all of them together, one struggles to come up with a majority.

Clearly, FF know have decided not a good time to be in government (lots of unpopular decisions will need to be made and they don’t want to renege on promises that quite frankly they should never have made) and like SF (who’ve spent the last five years just make all sorts of wild promises) they are seeking to dodge responsibility, likely meaning a hung parliament. An early election is a real possibility. But again, if FF (or SF) aren’t prepared to go into government, what’s the point of voting for them? Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.

Weekend blogging catchup

Rumble in the EU Jungle

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Coming to a field in Surrey?

David Cameron suggested this week that the current border arrangements with France could be rescinded in the event of a vote to leave the EU. This would mean migrants won’t meet a UK border guard until they were across the channel and thus they would become the UK’s problem and not France. As a result he was accused of scaremongering. While this may be true to some degree, but I think the key point missed in this debate was that a vote to leave the EU will have implications well beyond EU treaties.

In essence if the UK votes to leave, all bets are off. Many of the treaties and agreements the UK has signed with its neighbours, allies and trading partners over the last fifty years (relating to migration, defence, trade, etc.) were negotiated on the basis that the UK was a member of the EU. Inevitably they will have to be renegotiated and it is very unlikely the UK will get such a good a deal as a non-EU member. The US for example has made it clear that a vote to leave the EU will invalidate current trade treaties between the UK and the US. A UK of 60 million simply will not get as good a deal as an EU of 500 million.

One could draw a parallel with the Scottish independence debate. The SNP and the Tories both thought they would have each other over the same barrel in the event of a Yes vote. In truth compromise would be necessary. The idea that the Scot’s could share the pound was always absurd, as was the notion that they could gain independence or EU membership according to such an aggressive timetable as put forward by the SNP. Equally however, the rUK could not afford to antagonise a now independent country who controlled most of the Britain’s fossil fuels, water and renewable electricity supply….not unless they fancied going through a winter without heating and electricity!

So similarly, there will have to be some negotiation in the event of Brexit. The only difference is that the EU (or the US, or China) will very firmly have the UK over a barrel, with the UK holding very few if any cards. The UK will need to establish trade deals and do so quickly or risk mass capital flight out of the country. Indeed, speaking of energy, the generally UK imports more gas from pipelines cross the Channel than it sends the other way and electrical imports from France are critical to balancing the grid in southern England. Inevitably, on many issues that come up the UK will probably have to make most of the concessions. Not least because the EU (and in particular the French) will have various “nuclear” options with which they can use to very quickly bring the UK to heel (withdrawing passport controls at Calais being one of those).

Another flash point is Northern Ireland. The good Friday agreement only works because there’s an open border. The minute you put in border controls, it breaks down, it would have to be re-negotiated and my guess is that Sinn Fein will probably demand a border poll as the price for even starting such negotiations. And maintaining an open border means that all a migrant needs to do is hop on a plane to Dublin (and Ryanair do direct flights from Sofia or Marrakech to Dublin for around 30 euro, Turkish Airlines fly’s direct Dublin to Ankara, although ticket prices are a little higher), get on a bus (and there are buses outside Dublin airport direct to Belfast) and you’re across the border and into the UK.

Then of course there’s the issue of NATO. There are many who would argue that the EU is the glue that joins NATO together. Of the European nations in NATO only two, Iceland and Norway. are not members of the EU. And both are part of the Schengen area and have free trade agreements with the EU (quite unlike the sort of arrangements UKIP want, both agree to the imposition of EU legislation to maintain their trading status with the EU), plus they have very specific reasons for being in NATO (i.e. they are vulnerable to invasion and lack the means to defend themselves). Given events in the US (i.e. if a loon like Trump or a leftie like Bernie Sanders became president) if NATO starts taking a more Europe led approach, it is by no means guaranteed that the UK can remain a member of NATO.

The problem is that UKIP seem to think that they’ll get everything their own way, they can keep all of the current agreements and be lavished with gifts. They will often try to claim that the EU has more to lose than the UK, even thought in reality the complete opposite is true.

Dr C*nt and the Medics

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Tory smugness drone Jeremy Hcunt has a problem with his junior doctors, whom he is now at war with. It would seem that the doctors think that working 18 hour shifts seven days a week might endanger patient safety. But what would they know, its not as if they’ve got medical degrees or something….oh, wait, apparently they do!

Also it would seem they are a tad upset as it would seem they’d signed these things called “contracts” a few years ago, which my dictionary tells me is merely “A bidding agreement which is legally enforceable”. Unfortunately, the doctors should have perhaps read the Ferengi rules of acquisition (number 17) which states “A contract is a contract is a contract… but only between Ferengi”….or perhaps between Tories!

Also it would appear that our Mr Hcunt is unfamiliar with this thing called “capitalism”. There is plenty of demand for doctors overseas, or in Scotland (where these new contracts don’t apply) and it would be all too easy for any doctors who don’t like these contracts to simply leave and go overseas, after the NHS spending all the money it costs to train them in the first place. And with the sort of tight border controls the bigot brigade are demanding its doubtful enough replacements can be drafted in from overseas to replace them. In short, the NHS in England is being set up to fail….

…which beg’s the question, is this the whole point of the this doctor’s strike? The Tories, who don’t use the NHS (they all have private health care) want it to fail so that they can privatise it, same way they did with the UK’s energy market and railways under Thatcher.

US election – why Rand Paul’s plight tells us a lot

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In the US primary races the democrats Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton are neck and neck. As one commentator puts itBernie is a bit fuzzy on historical events since Woodstock” . Meanwhile the Republican battle is dominated by Trump and Cruz (a Canadian visitor who seems to think he should be president). Several candidates lagging in the polls have dropped out. Unusually one of these was the libertarian Rand Paul. His father tended to perform reasonably well attracting a near cult like following. But this time the Paulestinians seem to have deserted Rand Paul. This begs the question why?

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I would argue the reason why was that it was always myth that a large chuck of the republicans subscribed to libertarianism. As I’ve discussed in the past, if anything right wing parties like the Republicans are the ideological enemies of libertarians, as many Republican’s, and in particular those in the Tea Party, advocate big government and authoritarian policies.

For example, immigration, which many Republicans want to stop. However this means the state putting a guy at the border checking people’s papers are in order, faceless bureaucrats centrally planning the economy (by deciding how many should be allowed in) and employers facing government interference in who they hire (e.g. don’t hire this young fellow from Poland with a degree and relevant experience, no you have to take Bob from the job centre down the road who likes to sniff glue and was sacked from his last job for laziness). Similarly the GOP wants to allow intrusive government surveillance of the sort that we’re more familiar reading about in 1984. The fact is, the GOP is not a libertarian friendly party, this is why the US has a separate libertarian party.

So why were all those Tea baggers flocking to Rand or Ron Paul in previous elections? Well it might have something to do with dog whistle politics. Often both Paul’s would say things that sounded a little bit racist, such as wanted to repeal equality laws or expressing support for the Confederates in the Civil war on the basis of “state rights”. Now both claimed that no, they weren’t being racist, it just this is how they interpreted these issues from a libertarian prospective. I would argue however, that what was actually happening was that the many racists in the GOP were decoding these speeches as a nod and a wink from the Paul’s along the lines of “we don’t like Nig%ers neither”.

Obviously once such individuals were presented with an actual racist to vote for (two of them in fact), they quickly switched support to Trump or Cruz and Rand Paul found his base evaporating. This theory would also serve to explain why many of the other Republicans are struggling in the polls. Many of them try to tap into this “small government” Tea Party types by talking about downscaling the government by cutting X number of departments (then forgetting how many they planned to cut). However, they don’t seem to understand that very few Americans actually want this, its the racist code words that some are reacting too.

The fact is that they two candidates leading the polls are very much big government national socialists. While Cruz or Trump might cut back some parts of the state (the bit that does important things like rescue people from hurricanes or provides medical care to wounded veterans), in reality they are running on a ticket of expanding government, with more surveillance and government powers, more FBI/CIA agents, more border guards and with bans on gay marriage or abortion. In short Trump and Cruz want a US government that is so big and so authoritarian it is allowed to come into your home, up the stairs and dictate what consenting adults can do in private.

All this is very worrying. Two decades of Fox News lies has created a Frankenstein monster that is now out of control, much as how similar Daily Mail bigotry in the UK now threatens the very survival of the United Kingdom (given the very real possibility of the UK breaking up if the UK votes to leave the EU).

If there are any nuclear options for the grandee’s of the GOP to play, now is the time. I would advocate all of the established candidates pulling out and endorsing one of their own (likely Kaisch or Rubio) as the challenger to the Tea Party candidates. Furthermore they should make it clear that if their guy loses to Trump or Cruz they will all leave the party and either endorse Hilary or Michael Blomberg as well as handing them control of all of the GOP superpac’s, all but guaranteeing the Tea Party candidate will lose and lose badly.

Irish Election – A fight in more ways than one

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A bit of a boob from Sinn Fein!

One has to contrast events in the US with those in Ireland. An election was announced on the 6th of February with polling day on the 26th. A twenty day campaign, although the country has been in defacto election mode for a month or two now. Even so compare that with the two years of campaigning in the US. American doesn’t have a democracy, they have an elaborate system where you pile more and more money onto a weighting scales and the one who says the dumbest things and has the biggest pile wins. No wonder Trump is out in front!

Of course its not that we don’t have problems of our own in Ireland. They’re called “Sinn Fein”. Like many populists parties they’ve been promising everything under the sun. Abolition of water charges and other unpopular austerity measures, 100,000 new homes…while at the same time cutting taxes. They’re even promising an extra holiday! It is a manifesto that only appeals to those who are poor at maths…. which unfortunately appears to be about a fifth of the electorate. The other parties have all vowed not to form a coalition with Sinn Fein, even if they have to go to the polls again or enter into a grand coalition (that said, I won’t be surprised if one of them reneges on that after election day). A grand coalition is a possibility as its likely the Irish labour party are likely to go the way of the lib dems (inevitably blamed for everything the past coalition did, even tho it was the other bigger parties idea in the first place).

And it is for good reason that Sinn Fein should be kept from power as there has been a spate of recent murders in Ireland, which are believed to be linked to fighting between republican controlled gangs with SF or IRA links. In most countries politicians say I’m not a crook. SF politicians have to say, well I’m not a crook any more and I forget where my victims are buried.

Judge Scalia no more

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One of the most right-wing and outspoken of the US supreme court judges, Judge Scalia died in his sleep on Saturday. This is quite a significant event, as it provides Obama with the opportunity to change the balance of the Supreme court towards a more liberal view point.

That said, Scalia was so far to the right, you could put G. W. Bush on the Supreme court and it would still pull the court to the left. He was so far too the right that he was treated as a cartoon figure by some comedians. This is the guy who allowed the US Supreme court to ignore the “well regulated” bit of the 2nd amendment and effectively decide it meant “no regulation” of guns. He recently voted against Obama’s climate change mitigation plans, which has the potential to all but guarantee that Florida drowns. Quite apart from handing the US presidency to Bush, even though Gore had clearly won the most votes (minor pesky detail that!).

Anyway, needless to say, the GOP nominee’s aren’t seeing the funny side of it and are suggesting that Obama should not appoint a replacement (even thought its entirely within his right, the Constitution makes no mention of any pause in election years, indeed it seems to imply he should do so promptly). The Republicans have threatened to fight it right the way through Congress….of course they’d never dream of replacing a Supreme court justice in a presidential election year…of course Bush did this very thing in 2009…and Reagan did in 1988…..

A soggy Yuletide Roundup

The failings of Paris

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While I’m pleased that the agreement in Paris yielded some positives, however it suffers from a major problem – it is distinctly lacking in specifics. There are no set targets nor timetable in terms of at what pace emissions should be cut, no clear policy for enforcing such cuts, no penalties to countries who renege on their commitments at Paris.

Much of the debate seemed to be as to whether a threshold of 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees should be accepted. Why didn’t they just go the whole hog and make it -1.5 degrees and commit to cooling the planet slightly for all the good it would have done! Because without some sort of concrete measures its inevitable that cutting emissions will quickly fall to the bottom of the political agenda, particularly when there are populist parties on the rise in many democracies who believe they can ignore such things as climate change.

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We can tell how meaningless the agreement reached was by the fact the UK government signed up to it. This is despite the fact that the UK has cut back on all its subsidies for renewables and reversed many energy efficiency measures. In fact it has committed to an energy policy all but guaranteed to push up emissions. Many were expecting the UK to try and veto or sabotage any agreement at Paris, but they didn’t have too, because they know that they can sign up to it, make a few meaningless speeches about saving the rainforests or hugging polar bears but otherwise ignore the matter.

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And without the necessary signal from politicians getting the energy industry to commit the sort of funding needed to bring about the necessary changes is highly unlikely. While the renewables industry is growing, its not growing nearly quickly enough and only a shift in national energy policy in many countries will produce the necessary incentives.

So I have little doubt that the next climate conference in a few years time will be to discuss how to meet the Paris accords given that few countries have cut emissions, indeed several have increased them. And no doubt without binding targets the meeting after that will be to discuss how the commitments agreed in Paris are now technically impossible to meet and less stringent targets need to be set.

Meanwhile in Yorkshire

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And should anyone in the UK wonder what’s the problem with climate change, go for a walk in York city centre sometime, or indeed many UK towns. You might want to bring wellies….and a wet suit….or a boat!

While its important not to try too link any individual weather event to climate change, it has to be acknowledged that one of the effects of climate change is more extreme weather and flooding. And the floods in the UK have been getting increasingly worse. This isn’t so much an elephant in the room but an entire family of them. And in the wake of recent flooding in the UK there is already talk of the need for a major rethink towards flood defences across the UK.

Indeed, I would go further. Building flood barriers higher and higher isn’t going to solve the problem. Flooding isn’t just a case of people getting their carpet’s wet, it has economic implications. If your home is prone to flooding you will struggle to get insurance or a mortgage and hence the value of that property, even if its in a prime location, will suffer. In my home town of Cork, a city prone to flooding (as I will discuss in a moment), the most valuable property are those outside the city centre, as those in the centre of town are vulnerable to flooding. Indeed in the wake of floods a few years ago, there are a large number of abandon buildings in the town centre, which nobody wants to invest in.

So clearly if we don’t do something to tackle climate change there will be a host of knock on economic effects, quite apart from the financial cost of building ever more elaborate flood defences. And of course more pictures of politicians standing in waders surrounded by angry locals.

Floods? Its the fault of foreigners

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I always find it amusing how the bigot brigade can twist any problem such that its the fault of foreigners, migrants….or Jeremy Corybn. These floods are a good example. While the other newspapers point to the failings in the governments flood policy, where Osborne’s austerity axe has led to cuts and preventable” flooding (expect lawsuits to follow!), or climate change, the Daily Mail instead blames foreign aid.

Yes its not Osborne’s or Cameron’s fault for cutting back on flood defences, no its those nasty evil migrants who came over here, broke into Downing street and forced the Tories to give money to the regime’s they were fleeing….before presumably running off to the nearest benefits office.

Firstly, what we call “foreign aid” should really be called “UK industrial subsidy” as its often provided to regimes on the basis that they use it to buy British goods (its more equivalent to giving these countries a UK store discount card). Inevitably some of it (perhaps quite a lot of it) does get laundered into swiss bank accounts, but it does so via British businesses. So the headline should read, British businesses help dictators rob billions while Britain is flooded.

Furthermore the whole point of such programmes is to improve the lot of of people in these countries, many of whom count as some of the poorest and most down trodden people in the world. The logic is that if we do this, they will be less inclined to take the dangerous journey across the Med and end up on our shores. So its a bit rich the Daily Mail complaining about all these refugee’s showing up one minute, then complaining about the government trying to do something to prevent such migration in the first place.

Cork flooding

And an idea of what is in store for the UK can be found in my home town of Cork. Like I said, the city has long been prone to flooding. This is nothing new, much of the city centre is founded on reclaimed marsh land, with ancient tributaries flowing in tunnels under a number of the city’s streets.

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In 2009 however the city was subject to an unusually high flood level of 3.1 metres above the usual high watermark, higher than it has ever been since records began. Much of the blame for this flood was levelled at the ESB (electricity supply board). Fearing for the integrity of the Iniscarra dam down river from the city, they felt obliged to open the flood gates and release a large quantity of water. This decision is now a matter of much debate, with a court case ongoing as to whether this decision is justified.

The argument goes that the dam wasn’t as at risk as thought. Furthermore, the ESB had held back a lot of water a few days earlier to allow police divers to search for a body down river. In essence, those suing the ESB for damages claim that the flood was “preventable”. Now while this is debatable, you can obviously see the problem for the UK government. If it can be proven that their austerity worsening the impact of flooding, then they could well find themselves sued by the insurance firms for billions of poundsso Osborne trying to save a few million could cost the country many times that amount!

But returning to the matter in Cork, I would tend to come down in favour of the ESB. Hindsight is a fine thing. Had the ESB not held back the water and a police diver drown, wouldn’t they be sued by the policeman’s family? If they had held the water on the day of the flood and the dam failed then won’t they be blamed for the loss of life that would have resulted downstream?

And like I said, flooding is normal in Cork. Anybody who bought or built property in the boom in the city centre must have surely known what they were getting themselves in for. I mean in one case they build a luxury hotel on a known flood plane. This included an underground car park right next to the river! You do have to pause and wonder what were they thinking!…or perhaps that’s the problem, they were too greedy to think straight.

And one of the main claimants in this case is UCC (University College Cork) who built several large buildings right on the flood plane, which hardly sounds sensible. And as they are paid for by the state and the ESB’s main shareholder is the state, so this court case is literally a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

In essence city’s like Cork (or New Orleans in the US or Venice in Italy) are the canaries in the coal mine. They show us what they long term effects of climate change will be. It will mean lots of people loosing their homes or their investments (ending up owning a property they’ve invested heavily in that’s now rendered worthless). This is the price to be paid for a lack of commitment on climate change. And suffice to say the costs of dealing with the problem will vastly exceed the price of avoiding it in the first place.

The European migrant crisis

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Back in Ireland I happened to be listening to the annual Michael Littleton Memorial Lecture. This year it was given by the businessman and economic adviser Peter Sutherland on the theme of “Migration – The Global Challenge Of Our Times“.

In essence his point was that to deny refugees access to the safety of the EU was to undermine the core values of the not just the EU, but the post-war settlement in Potsdam. Effectively populist anti-immigration parties now threaten to undo everything the west fought for during the war.

Refugee’s, he reminds us, are afforded special status due to the lessons learnt during the holocaust. Prior to this many Jews attempted to flee the nazi’s but were turned back and refused potential safe haven’s, largely due to politicians giving in to populist and racist pressure from the bigot brigade. The most notable example of this was the MS St Louis, otherwise known as the voyage of the damned. Several hundred Jewish refugees on this ship were refused entry to the US, Canada and Cuba and ultimately forced to return to Europe, where many would ultimately die in the concentration camps.

Certainly he is not arguing for an open door policy on migrants. Indeed he argues very firmly for a centralised EU policy on this matter rather than they current policy of beggar thy neighbour. Also there is a need to sort the legitimate refugees from economic migrants. Ironically it is the very populist anti-EU and anti-migrant parties who are stoking fears over migration who represent the major obstacle to any agreement on this issue.

Efforts by the Germans to ease pressure on Greece and Italy have been exasperated by an openly racist policy from governments in the UK, Poland and Hungary. He accuses populist politicians across Europe of stoking the fears of the public and appealing to the lowest forms of deceit. He points out the 780,000 taken in by the US since 9/11 only 3 have engaged in any form of terrorism (and one of those was white!).

And as he further argues, the reality is that Europe needs these migrants. The economies of Europe need an influx of new young workers to pay taxes to fund the pensions of many new retiree’s. The price for many in the UK of curbing migration could well be the loss of their pensions.

It is of course interesting to contrast Peter Sutherland, an individual famous for being to the right of Thatcher, and the likes of UKIP. Of course its easily explained by the fact that he represents a traditional right wing economic liberal view, while UKIP represent national socialism. While they may pretend to be on the right, instead they favour a centrally planned migration policy and borders as tightly controlled as those in North Korea.

The Antibiotic apocalypse

A disturbing story over the last few weeks has been the evolution of bacteria that can counter the drugs of last resort. It is now feared we may only be a few years away from a future where the slightest cut could prove fatal, where many easily treated diseases could prove fatal, where routine medical procedures could be rendered incredibly dangerous. Ultimately the life expectancy of us all will fall for the first time in many generations.

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However what is more disturbing is how this was easily preventable. I was shocked to learn that this very same “drug of last resortwas being routinely given to farm animals in the UK (restrictions were agreed in the UK this month, which sounds like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted).

I mean you say “drug of last resort” most of us would assume we’re talking about a drug locked in a cabinet which only a handful of doctors have access too, perhaps one requiring two keys to open. But no, we were instead shovelling it into feeding trough of Daisy the cow, even thought there was nothing wrong with her!

Its not so much a surprise we’re in this predicament, but a surprise that we didn’t recognise the obvious danger decades ago and do something about it! This again, is the danger of letting major problems like this fester.

A not so magical Christmas

You’ve probably heard Donald Trump’s view that the borders should be closed to Muslims. You probably laughed as the late night comedians ripped him to shreds over it. However what’s not so funny is that, to some degree, it is already the policy of the US that they can exclude people from the country purely on the basis of race and religion.

In the run up to Christmas a British family were prevented from travelling to the US for reasons that the US authorities have not fully explained, citing the Patriot act. They were on their way to Disney land for a Christmas holiday. You can imagine the father trying to tell his kids how their Christmas was now ruined by institutional racism within the US department of homeland security.

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Since 9/11 the US has implemented a policy whereby everyone seeking to enter the country has their name run through a register. And if you’re on a no fly list, you can’t come in. However, given that the list doesn’t distinguish between one guy called Abdul Mohammed and another unrelated person, with the same name  (and its worth noting a lot of Muslim names sound alike, I’ve had three or four Mubarak’s or Mohammed’s in the same class, often from different countries), its very easy for someone to end up on the list and be banned from the US, even if your a law abiding citizen….or even a 1 year old child!

Worst of all is that there is no feedback, no appeals. Your told you can’t fly period. So much for the land of the free!

Good guy with a gun

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Its worrying how you have to rely on US late night comedy for any serious news and analysis in the US. Here’s an interesting piece by the Daily Show regarding guns. The NRA will tell you that the solution to a “bad guy” with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Well not so say the experts. The reality is that a good guy with a gun will likely be shot before he can shoot back. It takes many years of intensive training to teach someone how to react to a shooting incident. Send a bunch of wannabe vigilante’s in and they’ll likely either freeze and be shot, walk straight into a hail of bullets (their gun picked up by the shooter, which was handy as he was starting to run out of ammo!), they may shoot an innocent person fleeing from the attacker or be shot by the police as they arrive on scene (put yourself in a cop’s shoes, you enter a building where there’s been a shooting, you come around a corner see a guy with gun, what do you do? Politely ask him if he’s the homicidal manic they are looking for?).

This matches the results of FBI studies which suggest that a “good guy” only stopped a shooter on 3% of occasions….and many those good guys were unarmed!

It also mirrors the experience of the military. Studies have shown that the majority of green troops in combat will not shoot to kill. They will either freeze, shoot but aim high, or pretend to be busy doing something else (carrying ammo or wounded, making a radio call, guarding the rear for a flank attack, etc.). And we’re talking here about people who’ve been through several months of rigorous training. This is why the US security services and military train relentlessly. It is literally a full time commitment that no group of amateurs could ever hope to match.

And of course we’re forgetting that our spree shooters might just change tactics. If for example you know a university has allowed all its jocks to carry guns around campus, are you going to pitch up with a pistol?…or are you going to take pot shots at them with a rifle from a high roof top?

Ultimately the way to stop a “bad guy” with a gun is to make it harder for him to get a gun in the first place. While shootings at schools or campuses in the US are sufficiently common they now train people how to react, in Europe its practically unheard of.

Reagan in power

And speaking of America, we have revelations about what life was like in the White House behind closed doors under Reagan. In one quote “no one has ever entered the white house so grossly ill informed”.

William Leuchtenburg (a history Professor from Carolina) describes how his staff desperately tried to keep Reagan from the media (he performed all of 6 news conferences in his first year in office, a modern president would do that many in a month), in case he blurted out something crazy. Reagan demonstrated his ignorance at many meetings by not having a clue of current events (he interrupted a meeting on nuclear weapons policy to discuss the plot of the kids movie War Games). On other occasions he fell asleep during meetings…once while the French President was in the room! “You could walk through Ronald Reagan’s deepest thoughts” a California legislator said, “and not get your ankles wet.

Fortunately Reagan’s skill as an actor allowed his staff to guide him through public events, giving him cue cards and even chalking out where he should stand. Meanwhile the mandarins behind the scenes ran the country without him. While some of this turned out positive (the economy did increase for a time) but generally it proved to be a disaster (the economy fell, the deficit soared, the Neo-cons nearly started world war 3, vast sums of public money was squandered) largely because America was essentially rudderless for 8 years.

It is probably incorrect to credit Reagan with much of what went on under his reign, for it would seem the lights were on, but nobody was home!

Jersey Bankruptcy

The UKIP plan for the UK post-Brexit is to turn it into something resembling Jersey. Quite apart from the obvious problems with that, i.e. Jersey doesn’t have to pay for all of the infrastructure, military forces, welfare, pensions and other expenses the UK government has to handle, there is another flaw. That Jersey is currently tittering on the brink of bankruptcy.

The country bet heavily on property, investment and basically prostituting itself off to wealthy tax dodgers. However, since the economic downturn its been struggling to balance the books. Part of the problem for Jersey is that its lassie-faire government has left it at the whim’s of global events. And inevitably with the downturn, its seen an ever growing deficit problem that may prove impossible to fill. Likely requiring them to eventually go cap in hand to Westminster. Naturally this does not bode well for the UK as a whole, should the country vote to leave the EU.

As for Jersey, should we bail them out? My view, no! They made their bed, let them lie in it. The train-wreck of their collapse will serve as a stark example to other tax havens and tax dodgers.

Blogging catch up

Been a while since I’ve had a chance for any blogging, I thought it was time for a catch up.

Greek default
The Greeks are going bankrupt….like a Greek. I think this was the problem the Germans never anticipated. They assumed that if the Greeks did default, they’d default like a German, but of course that’s not going to happen.

Instead, we have Athens basically saying they need to sleep on it over the weekend, have a referendum and even then with it looking like talks are finished, they come back to the table. If the Eurocrats thought that this was going to go to any sort of plan, they were wrong. And the assumption that the Greeks, if they vote no, will quietly leave the Euro, is flat wrong also. That would be way too logical and organised.

Again, this goes back to the beginning of this whole saga, when a failure to tackle the crisis quickly, largely because of resistance from the Germans, let to it building from a minor issue into a full blown crisis. In the end the very thing the German’s resisted, Quantitative Easing, the ECB have been forced to bring in anyway. So while yes the Greeks have to take some of the blame for this crisis, so too does the rest of the EU. And if anyone things the Greeks are going to make things easy for them, they’ve got another thing coming.

Heathrow
An interesting piece here from the BBC about the long running saga of choosing the next airport for London. Would you believe that committee after committee has been debating this matter since the Roskill Commission in 1971. They recommended a new airport on a greenfield site in Buckinghamshire. Then, as now, the government rejected this proposal and fudged the issue. And successive governments have been fudging it ever since.

So with that in mind you can understand why this week’s Airports commission report went down like a lead balloon. The problem here is that politicians keeping asking for an answer to a simple question and then not liking the answer they get back.

Expansion of Gatwick or building a new airport in the Thames estuary comes with numerous difficulties, not least of those cost, but also the issue that such an airport will be in the wrong place. Any replacement for Heathrow will serve not just London but a large chuck of England, and the bulk of people in England live either north or west of the Thames, so an airport tucked away in the South East corner of the country will necessitate a change of trains in London, something that will automatically add 1-3 hours onto any journey time.

This is the whole reason why the Roskill commission picked a site north of the capital. The present Airports commission, perhaps recognising the impracticality of this option went for the next best thing, which was to expand Heathrow.

My own view is that instead of expanding Heathrow, just make sure its integrated into the HS2 network, as this will eliminate the need for commuter flights to Heathrow, freeing up capacity. Furthermore, as HS2 passes close to Manchester and Birmingham airports, it offers the alternative of expanding them instead and offering a fast connection time to London, Heathrow and the rest of the country. Its also worth remembering that much of Heathrow is given over to cargo. Do the parcels really care where they land? Can’t we just take one of a number of airfields near London (or take over Luton or Oxford airport), turn it into a dedicated cargo handling facility (again ensuring good connection to the rail network as well as the motorways) and redirect all the cargo flights away from Heathrow?

But, like I said, the problem is that no matter what answer they come up with, its going to be unpopular with someone. The Heathrow HS2 link for example has been killed off by the usual NIMBY-ish, indeed Gatwick expansion is also resisted by various NIMBY’s in that part of the country.

Ultimately the government needs to realise that part of their job is to make unpopular discussions. So either they need to disappoint someone by expanding Heathrow, or building a new airport to the South West of London. Or re-route HS2. Or do nothing and point out to anyone in London that wants to complain about how awkward air travel is in London, or that prices are so expensive and the airports so inaccessible, well we had plans to fix this, but you objected to it!

Railway cuts
The Tories promised billions to help upgrade railway lines in the UK, all as part of their election plans for a “northern power house”. Needless to say, that promise didn’t last very long. But I have to give the Tories credit. Most governments would at least go through the motions of pretending to keep their election promises, for a year or two anyway, then act shocked and surprised when the programme they’d badly managed and starved of funds failed.

Certainly it is true that there is a desperate need to upgrade the railway lines of Northern England. Taking a train in that part of the world is like going through a time warp. It takes so long to get from, say Liverpool to Sheffield or Leeds to Hull, you’d swear they still used steam trains. But any sort of meaningful upgrade of systems here was always going to be a major job, as big as HS2 itself.

But frankly anyone who honestly believed that the Tories, a party who have been screwing over northern England since the 1800’s, were going to spend tens of billions on the north, well I’ve got some magic beans you might want to buy! This was clearly an election ploy to steal a few lib dem seats.

Tax does have to be taxing
Another lie promise that the Tories made was not to cut working tax credits. Again, any meaningful reading of their election manifesto would lead to the conclusion that there spending plans simply did not add up without some major welfare spending cuts. And the only two line items in the welfare bill with enough zero’s behind them to make those numbers work are a) pensions or b) working tax credits.

And should anyone be in any doubt that working tax credits are going, look no further than the fact that the tabloids are already selling such a cut. They are claiming that migrants in receipt of working tax credits are sending them abroad. Again, this wrong on so many levels. Migrants are at most 13% of the work force, and if this is going on (no proof is offered), it probably only effects a tiny handful (indeed the tabloids seem to admit its a figure in the tens of thousands against recipients in the tens of millions).

And when did we have that vote to impose communism and let the government tell people what to do with their money? I have a bank account in Ireland and yes I push some money from my British account into it every now and then (I don’t receive any working tax credits, but no doubt if I did they would probably class this as “sending it abroad”), as this means I’ve money I can then withdraw in euro’s when I go on my hols. Are the Daily Mail saying the government should now regulate bank account transfers? If so let’s start with the non-dom’s, like the people who own them!

More crucially of course is that these tactics mirror those used prior to previous benefit cuts. Have the tabloids claim migrants or lazy scroungers are receiving them, propose cuts, etc. So working tax credits are likely to be go quicker than you can say “boy for sale”.

United Disgust
Fifa have enough problems as it is, but if you want a good example of the endemic corruption within the organisation, or its wasteful spending on very public vanity projects, look no further than the recently released film “united passions”.

I have yet to come across a film so universally panned by critics 😳 as this film. And probably for good reason, for a film that has taken in all of $200,000 since May….against an alleged budget in the tens of millions. The film’s director has already disowned it, while Tim Roth, who inexplicably plays Blatter :??:, has been making all sorts of excuses.

Of course the film glosses over a few details. Such as the fact that the only reason why we have a world cup was due to a Bernie Ecclestone-esque power struggle between then FIFA president Jules Rimet, the British and the IOC. The film also glosses over the decision to host the second world cup in Fascist Italy. Plus they were in talks with Germany about hosting the 1942 world cup, until Hitler’s little “excursion” into Poland. Then there’s the closeness of FIFA top brass to various shadowy figures, notably various South American dictators and corporate sponsors. Or how on behalf of said sponsors FIFA has put pressure on governments to pass various legislation.

If you want to see a blatant piece of ego massaging propaganda, might I recommend this instead. On the plus side, there are rumours that Ben Afleck and Mat Damon are planning to make a movie of the book House of Deceit about the recent FIFA scandal. Perhaps they can get Tim Roth to reprise his role?

Trump, you’re fired!
Donald Trump :crazy:, professional buffoon and ego manic, has announced his candidacy for the US president. A gift of comic gold dust to US late night comedians. For Trump is known for his habit of suffering from a condition known as “diarrhoea of the mouth”

He has also shown an inability to understand the concept of irony or get a joke, as his recent spat with Bill Maher demonstrates, or indeed his various spat’s with John Steward of the Daily Show. Of course any politician who can’t handle a few comedians is sort of screwed. After all, how does he plan on handling an interview with a serious journalist or a debate with someone like Hilary Clinton?

However in amongst the various comments he’s made since declaring, were a number of racist ones about Mexicans, something which has led to NBC firing him from his own show. Mexican TV have also pulled his shows and even Macy’s has cut its ties with him.

Trump’s problem is that he’s basically a spoiled little rich kid who has lived his life in a little yes man bubble where nobody around him dares to question him. Hence he doesn’t realise how bad what he’s saying sounds to anyone how lives in the real world. I mean even Glenn Beck, a man famous for suffering from Nazi Tourettes, has come out and called Trump crazy.

Battle flag of the racists
And speaking of racists we have the controversy over the Confederate battle flag in the US. After the Charleston killer was seen posing with it, there were calls for the flag to be removed from public buildings. A problem, because inexplicably it still hangs in front of the state capital of South Carolina and its incorporated into the state flag of Mississippi.

Now some will defend the flag and say it means different things. However as John Steward puts it, this is like neo-nazi’s waving swastika’s about and claiming that it means support for Germany’s tough anti-smoking policy. The problem is that the confederate flag has long been a symbol of racists and white supremacists in the US. And it is forever tainted with the legacy of slavery. Now if they people defending it were black or liberals, okay maybe we could believe its defenders, but unfortunately they are almost universally white, conservative, right wingers.

Backing down on climate
The Pope’s letter on climate change released a few weeks ago, which was basically one step removed from a papal bull, has put Republicans in a bit of a pickle. Basically, they can’t bring up climate change denial now, without running the risk of being ambushed by journalists with the line “the pope say’s its happening and its a sin, do you plan on going to hell?”. This is a particular problem for catholic candidates, particularly given their previous positions on issues such as gay marriage and stem cell research.

Traditionally, Republicans have campaigned on the four G’s. God, Guns, Gay’s and Global warming denial. Now they don’t dare mention the first or last G, as that raises the risk of them being ambushed with the other. So this means they’ll probably be focusing more on the two middle G’s from now on…..

Taking it back
….On which point we finish with the story of a US pastor (I’ll let you guess which church) who wants to take back the word “gay” and restore its original meaning.

I happen to agree with this one. I mean “gay” is a crucial word in the English language and we need it. Now thanks to the LGBT lot you can’t read aloud a William Worthsworth poem without someone sniggering at the thought of “feeling gay”.

So yes, let’s restore this word’s original meaning. Hence why I’ll be referring to all US Baptists and Tea party members as gay #babptistsaregay #teapartyaregay :))

Of course we need someone in the UK to front this campaign. So what about Farage? He’s always hanging out in pubs with a big gay grin on him? Maybe he can do it? #farageisgay ;D

Think it will work?