News roundup

Republican racism

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If the GOP convention had a motto it would be “make America hate again”. The theme of the convention was that of a broken America (actually the economy is doing well, a lot better than before Obama took over), where crime is on the rise (actually violent crime is down….and anyway won’t gun control be a better way of tackling gun violence?) and migrants are streaming across the border (migration into the US has been falling for sometime, more are going back to Mexico than are arriving, indeed a recent spike in arrivals is being blamed (ironically enough) on Trump’s talk of building a wall).

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Why do Republicans hate America so much? Fact checkers have had to go into overdrive trying to debunk much of what was said at the convention, notably by Trump himself. Even the Wall Street Journal (hardly a bastion of left wing sentiment) has dismissed Trump’s posturings as a recipe for a recession, that would hit low income workers that hardest.

Of course the problem is that Trump’s supporters long ago traded in the truth for comforting lies. Many actually acknowledge that they know he’s lying but they still don’t care, as they put his lies above someone else’s facts. If there was one thing that died in Cleveland it was any connection between Republicans and this little thing the rest of us call “reality”.

Perhaps most worrying of all is that it is now okay to be openly racist in the US. For years the GOP practised a system of dog whistle politics, whereby they would say certain things that at face value didn’t sound racist, but were in fact a nod and a wink to racist bigots along the lines of we know what you’re thinking and we dress up in hoods and burn crosses too.

Well now, many feel free enough to pull off their hoods and come out of the closet, resulting in a rise in hate crime. Of course, this is hardly a surprise given that it was a wave of hate that propelled Trump towards the nomination in the first place. For example, the old “Obama is a Kenyan and a Muslim” card was played by one of the speakers at the GOP convention (ignoring the fact that even if it was true Obama is from Kenya, the country is 82.5% Christian, i.e. he’d be more likely to be Christian than an American!). And David Duke, the KKK leader whom Trump was slow to disavow after he endorsed Trump, is now planning to run for office on the Republican ticket. This would be simply unthinkable a few years ago.

Fortunately, the polls do put Hillary still ahead of Trump, although perhaps not far enough. The current consensus is that she will probably carry most of the major swing states. She may struggle in Florida or Nevada, although if she captures all of the rest (where she is well ahead in the polls) it won’t matter. In congressional polls, the democrats are now also ahead.

One part of me wants Trump to lose narrowly, as this one mean his supporters don’t get the message, they’ll turn inward and tear the party apart – guaranteeing Hillary gets 8 years in charge, with control of both houses and the Supreme court. However, on the other hand, it would be much better for the GOP, and democracy itself in America, for the Trump camp to lose this election and lose big. I mean mass defections to the libertarian party, enough of a lead to Hillary that she sweeps the board in the electoral college, even in traditional GOP voting states. That might be enough of a shock to the system to scare the GOP party straight and make them realise they need to modernise as a party if they want to ever win an election again.

Oh how it Bernies

And worryingly there isn’t exactly a lot of unity on display at the Democratic convention. Firstly e-mails were leaked (fortunately this time nothing to do with Hillary) which showed how the DNC was conspiring against Bernie Sanders. Now this is not exactly a surprise, welcome to the messy world of politics! Indeed Bernie himself seemed to brush it off, endorsing Hillaryagain…. on the first day.

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However, he was met by boo’s and chanting from his own supporters (prompting one Hillary supporter to quib “this is what losers look like”). They don’t seem to get the message that they’ve lost, its a choice between Trump and Hillary now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of Hillary but I can tell the difference between two, admittedly unpleasant, but distinctly different post-election scenarios. One where we get Hilary, and she strengthens Obama care and implements one or two other left wing policies, but otherwise its business as usual. Or we get Trump…..and probably totalitarian rule and world war 3 shortly there after.

So the Bernie or bust brigade can’t dodge the question, are you happy for Trump to be president? Because voting for anyone other than Hillary or sitting out the election means you are essentially endorsing Trump. But Bernie can do very little about this. He’s no longer in control of his own revolution, nobody is.

Bears and guns

Speaking of Republicans and dumb animals, there’s the issue of bears and what to do if you meet a bear in the woods (well don’t disturb them if they are going to the toilet anyway, we all know what bears definitely do in the woods!). This was of interest to me as over the summer I was hiking in Sweden, where there are some bears (not many, but it is one of the few places in Europe where you might encounter a bear in the wild).

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Well the general advice is to avoid such encounters. Above all else you don’t want to surprise the bear (so make some noise and watch out near streams and waterfalls), as this would be interpreted as predator like behaviour by the bear. Equally you don’t want to soil your trousers and run away (this is prey like behaviour and even then it may follow as its curious as to why you are running). If all else fails, there’s bear spray. This is not a new brand of deodorant, but a very strong form of pepper spray.

Now gun nuts would say, well this is why I carry my 45 around with me. But the official advice is no, guns don’t help. A little 10g bullet ain’t going to stop 700 lbs of angry bear. Yes he might bleed to death or die of an infection several days afterwards, but that’s still going to leave him more than enough time to rip your head off. Making an already angry bear even angrier isn’t exactly helping.

So yet another of these gun myths is debunked. Guns don’t make you safer. Indeed, by luring people into a false sense of security they likely make the situation worse.

The unacceptable face of capitalism

Another big hairy beast is that of Phil Green Greed, the former owner of the now bankrupt BHS chain. He was slammed in a government report, which placed the blame for the collapse of the company on him, branding Mr Greed Green as “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. They also suggested that if he has any morals he should get out his cheque book and write out a cheque for £570 million to pay off the pensioners.

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Is he likely to do this? Like fuck he will! We are talking about one of the UK’s most prolific tax dodgers. He was relaxing on his new £100 million yacht while his minimum wage workers got sacked. Indeed, his response has been to demand an apology from the authors of this report. This is the problem with arseholes like this, or Mike Scrooge Mac Ashley over at Sports Workhouse Direct, they are so deluded and full of their own ego that they don’t see anything wrong with what they are doing.

Furthermore, this saga also debunks one of the central myths of capitalism – that it is always in the interest of a boss to run his company well. In truth it can often be easier to make money by deliberately steering it onto the rocks, milking the company dry, not investing in new products or infrastructure (just look at the railways), all while awarding yourself a massive salary. Then in the end, you burn it down for the insurance money, or dump the whole sorry mess on the taxpayer.

This is in fact a classic mafia trick. They’ll buy up a struggling (but on paper successful) business and run it into the ground, buy stuff on credit in one door and sell it out the back for half price. Then when the banks about to foreclose, they burn it down. The Kray twins used to pull this one all the time. The only difference is that they worked on a much smaller scale. So while they got a life sentence…..Mr Greed Green got a knighthood and a £100m yacht!

The IOC – More corrupt than FIFA

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The IOC, to the shock of many, decided not to issue a blanket ban on Russian athletes at the Rio Olympics, despite numerous and quite serious doping allegations, including evidence of systematic doping at the Sochi games. This passes the buck on to the individual sporting federations. However with just 10 days to go to the start of the Olympics it is extremely doubtful that they will be able to go through the process of banning athletes.

And the Russian whistleblower who risked her career and possibly her life to expose all of this? She’s been thrown under the bus. They were supposed to let her compete as a neutral but they’ve pulled back from that one.

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It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that all of this was deliberate and planned. Anyone who thinks corruption in sport begins and ends with FIFA, I’m afraid not. The IOC president is known to be very friendly with Putin. And no doubt the IOC’s decision to hold the Sochi games in a Black Sea coastal resort miles from any snow was influenced by the decision of Putin to invite along his buddy Mr brown envelope, along with Mr ruble and his millions of friends. Naturally fearful that the Russians might expose this fact, the IOC deliberately dithered on this decision and waited until they knew it would be more or less too late for many of the sporting bodies to act.

Certainly it is true that doping is not just a Russian problem. If you believe that all Western athletes are clean, you are very naïve. However, we have evidence of blatant politically motivated interference here. I mean the evidence would seem to be that Russian athletes do train in a lab, wired up to a computer, surrounded by scientists injecting them with this or that, not unlike the training scene from the Rocky movie. Recent Russian sporting success is in fact more a success in pharmaceuticals and chemistry. And the message the IOC is sending is that even all of this can be ignored, if you pay us enough money. And to any whistle blowers the message is clearly a case of don’t even think about it.

One can only hope that hitting the IOC where it hurts, a vigorous boycott of their sponsors perhaps, will bring them to heel, although likely too late for this Olympics.

The labour civil war

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The labour civil war continues, both sides appear to be digging in. Corbyn says he ain’t going anywhere, even though it means he’s having to put up with cold silence from his side during PMQ’s. The PLP are also ignoring polls showing he’ll win by a landslide. And in retaliation, Corbyn is threatening nearly all of his own party with deselection before the next election. And in other developments, the party is threatening to block members from voting who are accused of “threatening behaviour, with party members asked to report such people – which will likely result in paranoia. Lawsuits are being filed by those barred from voting, and its likely the post of labour leader could ultimately be decided in court.

The likely sequence of events is therefore, Corbyn will almost certainly win the leadership challenge and starts a purge of his own party. The PLP will all defect to some new party, or the lib dems, Corbyn is left with a handful of hangers on (to the point where he can’t claim to be the official opposition anymore). In the next election the labour vote is split between the two factions. And the Tories, despite the economic woes of Brexit, still end up winning (presumably then going into power as a minority government or in coalition with New labour or the lib dems).

Could someone explain to me how this is helping anyone? Well anyone other than the Tories or UKIP! The fact is that Corbyn has lost the support of his own MP’s, I don’t see how he can lead the party now. Equally, the PLP need to realise there’s a grass roots push for real change (more old labour, less Tony Blair new labour) in the party and they need to listen to that.

Post coup Turkey

Last week some elements of the Turkish army, alarmed by the growing authoritarianism of President Erdogan, launched a coup. It was clearly half baked and not very well thought out. For starters they failed to capture him and his cabinet straight away. They didn’t even seem to be aware he wasn’t in the capital but away on holiday. Rule one of coups, get the guy you are trying to overthrow first. Every minute he’s free is a minute he’s mustering support in his favour. And clearly not all of the military went along with this. While Erdogan was becoming increasingly unpopular, there was no public appetite for a coup.

There is no worse case scenario for a coup plotter than launching one and failing. Its often said that if the US bid for independence failed then George Washington and all of those who signed the declaration would have been hung as traitors. The British colonies to this day would celebrate their own form of Guy Fawkes night, where effigies of the traitors of Philly are annually burned. Consider that Hugo Chavez regime is still in power in Venezuela, despite the fact he’s been dead for several years now, because despite the country’s many economic woes, no one wants to be associated with those who supported the US backed coup against him.

And so predictably, far from sending the message to Erdogan that he needs to tone things down a notch, instead its led to little short of a massive political purge. Tens of thousands have been arrested or sacked, including teachers. Several ships of the Turkish navy are still apparently missing. The US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a critic of Erdogan’s regime has been blamed by the Turkish government for the coup, although there is very little evidence to support this notion. Even so they have used it as an excuse to round up his supporters, who along with other opposition groups make up the bulk of those arrested (and no doubt some tortured confession will quickly emerge to retrospectively justify all of this).

There is even talk of bringing back the death penalty. This would of course invalidate Turkey’s application for EU membership. In short Erdogan is emerging as even more authoritarian that before. No doubt there will be another spike in asylum seekers fleeing Turkey, this time Turks rather than Syrians. Europe’s main ally in the region now threatens to become a source of instability and mass migration itself.

The Panama papers – an update

Finally, if you thought that whole Mossack Fonseca business had just blown over, well no. More revelations are being made every day. The latest releases relate to Africa and they reveal a fairly dirty web, showing how tax havens are used to rob the continent of its vast mineral wealth. This matters a great deal. Its often said, that on paper, if you add up the mineral resources, the population and the assets at Africa’s disposal, it should be the wealthiest continent on earth, not the poorest.

But for years Western corporations (and increasingly Chinese ones) have co-operated with corrupt local rulers to plunder Africa, lining one another’s pockets in the process, while the locals are stuck with the mess left over afterwards.

Weekly round up

The biggest scam in history

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For sometime I’ve been worried about the F-35 JSF, an aircraft that is now critical to the defence of the West, as it is slated to replace a whole host of other aircraft from the Harrier, the A-10 tankbuster to F-16’s and F-15’s. And this effects not just the US but many NATO member states as well. The Royal Navy will be entirely dependant on the aircraft. Indeed thanks to some rather foolish decisions by the Tories, if the F-35 fails to deliver, the carriers that the UK is currently building become effectively useless.

Hence with so much riding on it, you’d kind of hope the latest reports regarding the F-35 would be good….they ain’t, in fact they are terrible. Reports are now emerging of them repeatedly failing combat tests, the result of said test even being doctored, of engine fires or flame outs, cracks in the fuselage or of them being unable to operate during clouds or at night (so they will stop Putin, but only if he attacks on a sunny day!). Oh, and as I previously mention the supposedly “superiorF-35 recently lost a dogfight to a F-16 (an aircraft designed back in the 70’s).

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Now all of this would be bad enough if it weren’t for the $1.5 trillion price tag the F-35 fleet comes with. It is one of the most expensive military procurement exercises in history. Plane for plane they are many times more expensive than the aircraft they are replacing. Take the A-10, the unit replacement costs of this are $12 million v’s $110 million for a JSF. The A-10 can carry much more payload, quite apart from its huge 30mm gatling gun. The JSF has a mere 180 rounds of 25mm ammo per gun v’s the 1,000+ rounds the A-10 carries. The A-10 is designed for low speed, low level close air support, the F-35 isn’t. The A-10 can absorb large amount of battle damage (it can even stay flying if it loses part of a wing or an engine), the F-35 (as noted) can’t deal with clouds! Ask yourself, if you were a pilot, or a ground commander looking for CAS which would you rather doing the job?

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Even F-35 pilots seem to acknowledge that in some roles other aircraft (such as the A-10) are superior. But so sensitive is this topic, that highlighting the deficiencies of the F-35 was labelled “treason” by a US general, fearful of a possibility of the F-35 being cancelled or scaled back. Such is the nature of the mess the US military has now got itself into when it comes to procurement.

Now it could be that the F-35 matures into a fine aircraft, its stealth capability would certainly make it useful, but one has to ask if its sensible to be putting all of ones eggs in the one basket. This has been the critical flaw in this entire strategy from day one. Also the military have fallen into the trap of thinking that just because something is newer its better. Not so! Its worth noting for example that various attempts to replace the B-52 with the B-1b’s and B-2’s have failed and its likely there will still be B-52’s in service right into the 2040’s.

So I would argue it might be sensible to scale back the ambitions regarding this aircraft, henge ones bets. Certainly as far as the UK is concerned I would suggest adjusting the carriers to take other aircraft, such as the French made Rafale or the US made F-18 and operating the ships with two sets of aircraft side by side.

Tory tax dodge scuppered….for now!

Osborne tried to pull a fast one recently, but got found out and was forced to back down…for now! He was trying to launch a raid on pension pots by removing the tax relief applied to pensions. This is a very bad idea because the whole point of such tax relief is to encourage people to save for retirement so they don’t become a burden on the system in later life. The chancellor promised he’d make up for it by guaranteeing that in future pensioners would pay no taxes once they retired.

Do you spot it? Yes he just offered many of the UK’s rich a way of avoiding payment of any tax – retire. Once they declared themselves retired they’d pay no taxes, even if their income was in the millions. Meanwhile hardworking middle earners would be forced to pay yet more taxes (on top of the tax rise already due thanks to an increase in NI rates). Given that most retirees (who aren’t rich) actually pay very little income tax anyway, they won’t really benefit from this measure after retirement.

The plan has been killed for now, but as we know the Tories are known to sneak stuff through when the country is distracted. Expect this to reappear in the closing phases of the EU referendum.

The EU referendum rubble’s on

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The Brexit camp continue to be in denial about the fact that the UK economy will suffer as a result of Brexit, not least because of the years of uncertainty that will result, nor that it will give the UK greater freedoms. Take for example Canada. They recently completed a free trade deal with the EU after a “mere” seven years of work. And the price for this was commitments to comply with a host of the very EU regulations that the UKIP camp are always complaining about. And that’s just the EU, other trading blocks will cancel such deals and it will be sometime (if ever!) before they are put on the table again, notably with regard to trade with the US.

Meanwhile the head of the CBI suggested that contrary to all the evidence, the UK economy won’t be effected…and promptly got himself suspended for saying so by his own members! Indeed he’s since been forced to resign completely.

In other news speculation continues as to what will happen with Calais. The French have now hinted that they will end bilateral agreements at Calais, meaning that in the event of Brexit, migrants will be simply waved through customs at Calais (likely having got off a shuttle bus direct from Greece, Spain or southern Italy) and the first time they’ll meet a British border guard will be in Dover.

Rather naively the UKIP lot say, oh we’ll just send them back. How? The French won’t allow them back into France nor will the ferry companies allow them on the boat without assurances they’ll be allowed off the boat again. So unless they propose to build a big catapult at Dover and fling them back across the channel, the fact is that Brexit will not solve the UK’s “migrant problem” (assuming we have a problem) but instead make it worse.

The EU vote and charities

Meanwhile the charities commission has warned many environmental charities not to campaign for the UK to stay in the UK, claiming this would show political bias. WTF! This one of the most important questions put to voters in a generation. It is largely thanks to the EU why issues like climate change are on the agenda. And besides which, Brexit will effect their bottom line. Charities are being warned of a possible £200 million hit if the UK votes to leave the EU.

If Greenpeace can’t campaign for the UK to stay in then I assume then all the lobbyist for various hedge funds who want to profit from the post-Brexit chaos (whom Farage is cosy with) won’t be allowed to campaign either, nor will members of various shadowy right-wing think tanks, some of whom are using tax loopholes to help fund the Brexit campaign.

When the Mosul Dam bursts…….

A worrying story is emerging from Iraq that would only aid to the misery of those living under ISIS. It would seem that the Mosul Dam, up river from the city of Mosul (with a 1.5 million+ population) is at risk of collapse due to mismanagement of the site by ISIS.

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It all goes back to the days of Saddam when the dam was built. The Western companies brought in to advise the Iraqi’s recommended against building the dam where it now sits, due to the fact that the underlying soil included Gypsum and was water porous. However, the dam went ahead anyway, largely because the all-seeing dictator said it would. The foundations could have been dug deeper. This won’t have solved the problem, but they would have mitigated it somewhat, but again the Saddam regime wanted it built quickly, so such concerns were ignored.

It was only after it was built that the scale of the problems became apparent, with voids forming directly underneath it, weakening the structure. The Iraqi solution has been to pump in grouting material under the dam to plug the holes and they’ve had to do it contentiously since the 80’s. When ISIS took over the site the grouting stopped as the support staff fled. While the Kurds have retaken the area, the fear is that the dam might be too far gone to be fixed before it fails.

Winter flood waters are now building up and to complicate matters one of the doors on the sluice gates (designed to allow the reservoir to be drained to prevent this very thing happening) is jammed shut. Due to an oversight during construction, fixing this won’t be easy, certainly not given the current security situation.

The US has advised residences of Mosul to evacuate as a precaution, although exactly where they are supposed to go in the middle of a desert, nor whether ISIS will let them go anywhere isn’t explained.

Syrian reality check time

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With a caucus of the Syrian opposition just finished in Vienna, with further talks due soon in Riyadh, its becoming obvious that there is a growing disconnect between the “plans” of the West and the actual situation on the ground.

While trying to sell the idea of air strikes in Syria, Cameron made a claim of there being 70,000 fighters on the ground ready to run in after air strikes and destroy ISIS. However the reality is that the Syrian opposition are, for the most part, not fighting IS and have no intention of doing so any time soon. While they are as horrified by IS as much as the rest of the world, the fact is that IS isn’t shelling their towns, and it is Assad and his Russian allies who are bombing them. Life is about priorities and their priority right now is taking down Assad.

On the other hand, Assad’s forces are also not fighting IS, nor are they likely to start any time soon. Certainly IS has pushed them out of large parts of Eastern Syria, something they would like to reverse. But at present, the main threat to Assad’s rule is not a bunch of IS bandits out in the desert, but the rebels knocking on his door in the west of the country, including the very hills overlooking Damascus.

The only group who could conceivably defeat IS are the Kurds. However they are reluctant to move beyond non-Kurdish areas. And the Kurds ending up in control of large swades of Syria or Iraq is unacceptable to the Turk’s or Iranians who would see that as a threat to their rule. Indeed, the Kurds haven’t been invited to the talks in Riyadh. This would be like hold the Yalta conference without inviting the US.

So in short the West can drop all the smart bombs they want but it isn’t going to change diddly squat. There are only three possible end states for Syria that I can see, none of which the West will find appealing. The Assad regime collapses and ISIS eventually overwhelm the other groups and takes over. Or Assad succeeds in finally winning back control of a ruined and impoverished country.

Or, as I suspect is more likely, the current status quo will become the final end state, with Assad in control in the West (his position harassed by rebel groups who become gradually more radical and “ISIS” like as time goes on) and ISIS in control in the East, devoting much of their time to attacks against the West or the Kurds.

There are a number of ways the west could change things, but none of them are easy. Firstly confronting Russia. The Serb’s, allies of the Russians in the Yugoslav war, only came to the peace table after NATO bomb attacks. Similarly threatening that for every bomb that falls on the rebels ten will fall on Assad’s forces and its possible Assad and the Russians can be forced to the bargaining table. Of course, there is a risk of conflict between Russia and America in this scenario. Although using drones and cruise missiles would avoid any direct confrontation between Russia and the US.

Alternatively, a policy of containment. Isolate ISIS, close the borders and wait them out. Most notably ending the trade in oil and stopping the flow of fighters into (or out of) the country. However that would mean America standing up to the Saudi’s, who are one of the main supporters of IS. Without their support and without the flow of cash and fighters the regime will collapse. However, America and the West’s addiction to oil largely prevents this. And such a blockade would also require the Turks, Iraq’s, the Assad regime and Jordanians to all co-operate, which is a pretty unlikely scenario.

This leaves the option of a ground invasion, either by a Western Army or a coalition of local armies. The Turks and Jordanians could easily mop up IS in short order. However, there’s the small matter of what happens next. Occupying such a large area for who knows how long, likely in the face of opposition from the rest of Syria.

Ultimately there are three approaches to war. The Corbyn strategy – don’t fight in the first place if you know your going to lose anyway. The fight to win strategy – whereby you go in with all the firepower, ground troops and resources needed to both defeat and then hold the territory for however long it takes and regardless of cost or casualties. Or option three, the west (and Russia’s) current strategy – the half-baked approach of chucking a couple of bombs at random out the back of a plane, cross your fingers and hope it does some good.

A shot across the bow

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The shoot down of a Russian plane by Turkey was something of an inevitability. For quite sometime the Russians have been pretending to bomb IS, even though most of their attacks have been directed at the anti-Assad forces, some of whom are allies of Turkey, notably the Turkmen militia. It was these groups who the Su-24 was attempting to bomb when it was shot down.

Much of the debate revolved around whether Turkey’s shoot down was an over reaction, given that the Russian plane was only over Turkish airspace for only about 17 seconds. However from the Turkish point of view that hardly mattered. The Russians supplied them with an excuse to act and they took it.

Clearly Ankara was sending a message to the Russians, but also Washington. Since the Paris attacks the Turks have worried that NATO will adopt a “my enemies, enemy is my friend” attitude towards the Russians and ignore their actions in Northern Syria. Clearly this attack indicates that this is not acceptable to the Turks, no more than they’ll accept arming of the Kurds. Which is of course a problem because the only land force on the battlefield who is likely to defeat IS anytime soon is the Kurd’s.

While Russia, unlike the US, has a clear plan and a strategy, namely keep Assad in power, this shoot down should highlight its a plan doomed to failure. If indeed they succeed in driving out the Turkmen, the rebels will simply retreat into Turkey. Then, like Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Viet Cong in North Vietnam, they’ll continue to lob artillery shells and rockets into Syria as well as launch raids into the country. The Syrians and Russians will be powerless to stop them without taking on Turkey, who currently has the largest army in the region….and NATO backing them up.

Putin of course tried to save face, claiming his forces were getting revenge for the Russian airliner (there are no IS fighters within a hundred miles of where the aircraft was shot down) and deploying anti-aircraft missiles, ignoring the fact that Turkey has some very effective ground based missile systems of its own and any attempt to shoot down a Turkish jet would probably escalate the crisis and give Turkey the excuse they need to send in their forces. And Turkey has more than sufficient military forces at its disposal to easily overwhelm the Russian forces in the region, as well as those of their Syrian allies.

What this event shows is exactly why IS exists. Because the competing interests of the various powers, Russia, the Assad regime, the Kurds, Iran, the Saudi’s, prevents them from uniting to take action against IS. As many military experts have pointed out, any moderately equipped army, supported by air strikes, would wipe ISIS off the map in a few weeks. Historical lessons that should have been learnt in 1945….or indeed during the Yugoslav war…..or the Khmer Rouge’s reign, have been ignored. And we all know what happens when you ignore the lessons of history.

Untangling the Paris Attacks

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Let us be clear there will be only one beneficiary from these attacks in Paris and that’s the French Far right. With an election looming in about a month’s time its entirely possible they will now gain control of several French regions….and I won’t want to be a Muslim living in France when that happened (they’ll probably make them wearing little yellow stars or something). And the chances are high that their candidate may even make it onto the 2nd round of voting, a worrying repeat of the 2002 election. Indeed there’s even an outside chance now that the FN could win (although feuding within the party will likely prevent that)….which would probably result in them nuking Mecca or something.

So if getting electing a bunch of neo-nazi bigots to power in France was the intention of these attacks, well mission accomplished. Needless to say its unlikely France will halt its operations in Syria (not that this would matter, its Russia and the US who are doing most of the bombing). Indeed its likely this will intensity efforts. If Hollande or Obama now ordered in ground troops (I doubt they would, but lets suppose) then I doubt there would be too many objections after last night.

And no doubt these attacks will be wrapped up with the current migrant/refugee crisis. While acknowledging that yes there are probably some Wahhabists amongst the refugees, one has to remember the bulk of them are fleeing the Jihadi’s. Unfortunately, real Jihadi’s and Wahhabists don’t have to swim across from Turkey, they just get on a plane and wave their Saudi passport at anyone who asks.

The suggestion, as even the BBC speculated last night, that the weapons used were smuggled in via refugees, carried across a dozen land borders without anyone (fellow refugees or border guards) noticing is absurd. However, inevitably this attack will probably be justification for slamming the door on refugees, legitimate or otherwise. Again hardly a great step forward for Islam.

But why is it that Wahhabists and the far right seem to be natural allies? Well because they both basically want the same thing. Both are essentially anti-progressive Luddite’s. They are frightened by modern technology, globalisation and even curried food or “rock and roll“. Like so many similar groups throughout history, they want to return to a gilded age. However, the problem for both groups is that, this fabled age never existed.

As I’ve discussed before with regard to ISIS, the Islam of the past was very different to Wahhabism of the present. Any Wahhabi who showed up in 10th century Mecca would likely be beaten to death by the locals as a heretic within about 5 minutes. The tradition of wear full length veil’s is of relatively recent origin and historically there was seen as nothing overtly sacrilegious with images of Mohammed. In short the infidel of Islam in those days were lunatic thugs like ISIS and not the Christians and Jews (whom Muslim rulers generally tolerated, so long as they kept to themselves).

As for the far right, any attempt to implement their policies would likely bankrupt France. And while they may reminisce about how wonderful things were before the EU came along with its migrants, they seem to forget how pre-EU many French in rural areas lived below the poverty line, with none of the modern convinces they now enjoy (you know like flush toilets and electricity). Life back then was far from idyllic. It was short, hard and brutal. And anyone who really wants to return to that way of life can do so pretty easily by just emigrating to certain parts of Africa or Asia.

Certainly there is a need to recognise the threat posed by ISIS and its sympathizers. But a measured reaction is what’s needed. Some security measures, some efforts to separate genuine refugees from economic migrants (or worse), preferably with a common EU wide policy, rather than the current game of beggar my neighbour.

Certainly it is true that Muslims need to wake up to the fact that the Wahhabists are trying to take over their religion and drive it down a very dangerous road to ruin. They need to call these people out, as a Wahhabi led world isn’t the sort of place I suspect any of them would want to live in (just look at life under ISIS). And its just a matter of time before these guys piss off someone whose as crazy as them (and they blew up a Russian plane the other week) and he’s crazy enough to hit back with nukes or a ground invasion.

The West’s support for Israel also doesn’t help. Now while nobody is denying Israel’s right to exist, nor her right to self defence. But Israel’s violation of the 1967 border, the attempts of its far right to colonise parts of the West bank and the brutal behaviour of its military is a major sticking point. The West needs to adopt a neutral stance. i.e. call out the Israeli’s as war criminals (and the Palestinian terrorist groups too) impose an arms embargo, if not a full trade embargo on the entire region. And the policy on Iran’s nuclear weapons needs to apply the same standard to Israel.

And least we forget, the whole reason why ISIS exists is because of Middle Eastern oil. There’s lots of dangerous terrorist groups around the world who nobody cares about, because they aren’t sitting on top of oil fields (Taliban anybody? Remember Al-Qaeda? What about the Tamil Tigers or Farc?). I doubt the West would be entangled in the Middle East if it their main industry was dates and tallow. So getting off our addiction to oil is something that needs to be done sooner rather than later.

Egyptian delusions

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Its rare that you find me agreeing with the government on security issues. I tend to take the view that much anti-terrorism “security theatre” often has political motivations (such as the current “snoopers charter”). However, that is not to say there aren’t some crazy people out there who mean us harm, as events at the time of writing in Paris show. And that some reasonable and proportional measures are appropriate in defending against such threats.

So, as for the UK government’s decision to ban flights to Sharm el-Sheikh I’m in full agreement. The Egyptian government are not what one could describe as reliable partners. They are for one very much beholden to what I will refer to as “the camel jockey lobby”, a reference to those Egyptians who hang around tourist traps and try to entice punters into taking camel rides (bit like the fella’s selling jaunting cart rides in Killarney through the gap of Dunloe…rip off merchants!). This is by no means the first time Egypt has faced a security threat, and they have a nasty habit of ignoring or denying such threats exist.

Take for example the case of Egypt Air 990. This plane plunged into the Atlantic off the US coast in 2001. The Americans quickly zeroed in on the actions of relief first officer Gameel Al-Batouti. Shortly after the pilot left him alone on the cockpit (to go to the bathroom) the relief pilot was heard (via black box data) turning off the autopilot, disabling various systems, uttering the words “Tawkalt ala Allah” (I rely on God) before plunging the plane into a dive. When the pilot managed to fight his way through to the cockpit, the relief pilot switched off the aircraft’s engines (rendering any attempt to pull out of the dive impossible).

Despite this overwhelming evidence, the Egyptians steadfastly refused to accept the obvious – that their pilot had deliberately crashed his plane. They concocted theory after theory which could explain away the crash on mechanical factors. The NTSB investigated and then dismissed everyone one of them. While the Americans do accept that the aircraft may have broken up prior to hitting the water, this was more than likely because the pilots had exceeded the aircraft’s flight envelope. Indeed, the very damage on the wreckage was, the NTSB claim, consistent with the sort you’d see if both pilots were imputing opposite control actions (i.e. one pilot trying to crash the plane, the other trying to climb out of danger) in a high speed dive.

To this day, the Egyptians classify this crash as “unexplained mechanical failure”. Some Egyptian tabloids even tried to concoct a conspiracy theory implicating Mossad. And this is by no means a one off. In the wake of the Luxor massacre the Egyptians were very slow to react. They blamed Britain for the attacks (it policy of offering asylum to people they’d tortured) and perhaps predictably, even tried to blame an Israeli conspiracy against them.

Indeed even in 2010, when there was a shark attack off Sharm el-Sheikh, the Egyptians did their best impression of the mayor of Amity, denying any danger….and then blaming the Israeli’s for it (leading to some Israeli bloggers to start posting pictures of sharks wearing Jewish skull caps!).

So with this in mind, you can understand the concerns of the government spooks. They had to accept reports about lax security, put two and two together, while accepting that the Egyptians would be very slow to accept the facts and do anything about it. And when Britain decided to fly people home, the Egyptians got the hump and refused planes permission to land, effectively taking many thousands of tourists hostage for a few days.

Indeed, If you’ve been listening to media reports, you’ll have noticed how they involved the authorities in the West (or Russia) ruling out various mechanical failure possibilities one after the other (engine failure, structural failure, etc.). I suspect that this was because behind the scenes the Egyptians have been concocting theory after theory to try and dance around the more obvious conclusion.

And of course the situation was made worse by the fact it was a Russian plane that was struck. As we all know Putin has been pretending to bomb IS, even though most of their attacks have hit the Free Syrian army. Now even the most pro-Kremlin media source is left with the uncomfortable realisation that all they’ve done is stir up a hornet’s nest and paint a giant target on every Russian in the Middle East. One assumes they are now going to have to actually start bombing IS, meaning they’ll be drawn ever more into a the war in Syria. Even if and when their boy Assad falls from power, they’ll probably still be entangled in Syria.

As for anyone who goes out to places like Egypt or the Middle East as a tourist, I think it has to be accepted that these are not safe countries any more. Yes, you might get a wonderful cheap holiday in the Sun. Yes, its not fair on the people out there, the majority of whom aren’t terrorists. But until Middle eastern states put their house in order, both in terms of dealing with the groups within their borders, but those who sponsor them (read the Saudi’s), these countries will remain unsafe and they have to suffer the economic consequences for that. And the locals need to put pressure on their governments to take appropriate action to deal with these issues and confront the Wahhabists.

Britain’s Shame

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The migration crisis has shamed Cameron. While he’s mubbling about taking in 20,000 over 5 years the Germans are suggesting they can cope with half a million a year. Ireland is proposing to take in the same number a year as the UK (despite us having only a 1/12 the UK’s population). In a desperate effort of bait and switch, the story of a young British Jihadi killed in a drone strike a month ago was resurrected, in the hope of getting the media to change the subject.

Of course the idea that the government can fight its way out of this situation with smart bombs from 10,000 ft is naive and foolish. Only action on the ground will ultimately remove ISIS. Which means either supplying substantial resources to the Kurdish fighters (which NATO won’t do, as that would upset the Turks) or deploying ground troops (which NATO certainly ain’t going to do, because we all know how that panned out last time and again the Turks know how that one will pan out, likely spreading the conflict across the border into Turkey, something that’s already a risk).

Certainly, one has to say that the German’s in their haste to help are setting a dangerous precedence. They could be seen to be encouraging migrants to make the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean and to ignore EU policy on refugees . This has to stop. If there’s anything sensible on this issue Cameron has said, its the idea that we should be prioritising those who come in via the proper channels, those who enter the EU illegally go essentially to the back of the queue.

Indeed, at the risk of sounding like Farage, there is also a need to ensure that some Syrians are encouraged to return once the war is over. The refugee’s from Syria now arriving are the middle class and white collar workers. Doctors, nurses, engineer’s, shop keepers, etc. The loss of so many of these probably poses a greater threat to ISIS or the Assad regime than any number of smart bombs, something that’s probably not immediately obvious to ISIS and its fanatics….although I suspect they’ll figure that out once power plants start going down and their battlefield casualties soar because they don’t have the staff to treat them.

If Syria has now burned an entire generation of it professionals, then the country is in very serious trouble, as it will make rebuilding the country post-war very difficult. We need only look at Somalia, Sudan and Afghanistan for proof of that.

However all of this requires a common EU policy on migration and refugees. And the very EU states who are complaining most about these refugee’s, notably the Hungarians, British and more recently the Dane’s, are the main obstacle to such a policy.

Of course the real issue here is that Cameron tied his hands several years ago, with that ridiculous pledge in the Tory manifesto to get migration down to the “tens of thousands”, a figure divorced from any connection with reality (given that over 80,000 British or their families return to live in Britain each year and nearly twice that number of students enter). Its a pledge designed purely to satisfy the UKIP bigot brigade and the Tories are forced to stick to it, or risk splitting their party.

Three No’s to Brussels

And of course, this brings us to the thorny issue of the EU referendum. Recently UKIP launched its no….or sort of no campaign. This means there’s now three separate no campaigns, something even uncyclopedia were making fun of (you know its bad when a satirical website reports stuff as fact, because the truth has become funnier than fiction).

And despite anything anyone might say, the anti-EU campaign will be primarily fought on one issue – immigration. And naturally images of hordes of migrants coming off boats has the bigot brigade practically foaming at the mouth. So Cameron’s failure to confront the UKIP wing of his party is what has effectively trapped him on the issue of immigration, and threatens to trap him on the matter of any EU referendum.

I recall speculating that once it became obvious that Cameron’s position on Europe was unworkable, he’d likely fudge the issue. The legislation passed as I understand it contains no specific timetable, so if Cameron’s re-negotiations with the EU stall (news flash, they stalled several mouths ago when it became obvious he couldn’t control his back benchers), he can just kick it into the long grass of the next election.

I feel this is increasingly likely, particularly if Corybn wins the labour leadership on Sunday. Cameron was relying on labour to do most of the heavy lifting in a pro-EU campaign. However, if they now adopt a more neutral stance as a party (or if Corybn actually campaigns against the EU), that would force Cameron to take a more active role, something that will almost certainly split his party….and then split the country if you follow the noises coming out of Hollyrood and the latest opinion polls.

In short, Europe is faced with a very large and messy crisis, which there are no easy or simple answers too. While Cameron has gotten himself into a massive mess of his own creation, one which has even fewer easy exit strategies.

Weekly Roundup

Getting it wrong on the refugee crisis

The Tories have looked on the growing crisis over refugees not as a humanitarian crisis that they need to pull their weight on, but as a cynical opportunity. They’ve been suggesting that the masses of migrants proves that there is a need to restrict the movement of people across EU borders.

However this amounts to muddling up two distinctly different issues. Internal migration between EU countries by workers, which the British benefit from, being able to travel to other EU states for work (or retirement in Spain or Southern France) and external migration from outside the EU.

Certainly some of those coming across the Med are not refugees but economic migrants and yes they are exploiting a lack of EU co-ordination on this issue. However the solution is more co-operation by EU states on this, a common policy on migrants, and agreement to share migrants and a firmer policy towards returning non-refugee’s home, particularly if they break the rules (such as breaking into the channel tunnel or arriving illegally by boat). So in many respect’s the Tories and UKIP have got it ass backwards.

However, if the Tories think they can use this to argue for changes to internal EU travel, think again. The Germans, who have taken in far more than any other EU state are very clear that unless they see some movement on Cameron’s part to take on his fair share of the burden, then the British can forget about any form of renegotiation.

The UK reported to the UN over disability cuts

And speaking of human rights violations, the UK is now being investigated by the UN for possible human rights violations over its welfare reform policies. It is alleged that these are discriminatory towards those with disabilities, who have suffered disproportionately worse than any from the recent cuts to welfare. Figures released last week by the DWP that thousands of claimants died within weeks of being declared “fit for work.

So on second thoughts, maybe the Syrians shouldn’t come here. If IDS and Osborne keep this up we might have the disabled and unemployed sneaking onto trucks to Calais to try and claim asylum from a British government, who discriminates and persecutes them!

Shot on Camera

Of course a shocking story over the last week was the shooting death of a journalist and cameraman live on air, in the US. This inevitably lead to more calls for Gun control, which politicians, afraid of the gun lobby, promptly ignored.

Of course the usual reaction of the gun lobby is to suggest that the solution to a crazy person with a gun is to encourage more carrying of guns by people to defend themselves…like in the wild west, how did that one work out? Indeed, studies have shown that regions with concealed carry laws have higher rates of gun crime.

But returning to the wild west, there-in lie the problem, in those days many towns far from encouraging the carrying of firearms actually had quite strict laws against the carrying of guns, often requiring for example that guns be deposited at the sheriff’s office as people came into town (he’d issue them with a receipt). The infamous gunfight at the OK Corral came about when Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday (who had been deputised by the town council) attempted to enforce local gun control laws.

Unfortunately, that was then and this is now. And now the gun lobby will hide behind lawyers and lobbyists rather than settle things “like men” as it were. Perhaps the Ok Corral would have worked out differently if the Clanton’s had their lawyer in tow?

Oddly enough thought, the Republicans seem keen on allowing guns in some places…but not others, such as Republican rallies, the G. W. Bush library and (irony of ironies) all Trump hotels and golf courses.

Osama Bin Corbyn

You know your opponents are getting desperate when they start making stuff up. Take Carmichael and his Ferrero Rocher” allegations against Nichola Sturgeon.

Well now there’s ludicrous claims regarding Jeremy Corbyn and comments he made after Bin Laden’s assassination. He said at the time that it was a tragedy that Bin Laden wasn’t captured and brought back for trial in New York. However, it was implied by the right wing media that he said that Bin Laden’s death was a tragedy (leaving out the second half of the sentence). Quite clearly Corybn’s opponents have been going over his past with a fine toothed coob looking for anything that might be used to smear him….even if its not true!

Of course, there are many who would agree with Corbyn, and not necessarily the usual leftie tree hugger types. But in reality it was no surprise really that they killed him. Given that Bin Laden used to work for the CIA, the US didn’t want him showing up in court and pointing this inconvenient little truth out and dishing out the dirt on the US.

Old big nose is back

And speaking or right wing hatchet jobs, Rebekah “Sideshow” Brooks has apparently got her old job back. So much as predicted, the Murdoch’s have gotten away with this scot free, despite admissions by Brooks herself to bribing police.

A shed load of rent

As the London property bubble continues there’s been a new trend in London, the renting out of shed’s as converted “studio” flats. One prospective tenant showed up at a apartment to find his “double bedroom” was a shed in the lounge. Meanwhile wholesale “social cleansing” continues across the city. Hence why there is an urgent need for measures to ease the problem, such as rent controls and greater building of social housing.

Turkey’s untimely intervention

In the wake of an ISIS suicide attack in Suruc last week, Turkey has now begun a campaign of bomb attacks against ISIS, but also against the Kurds. They are also suggesting they plan to invade northern Syria on the pretext of creating a “safe” area. This is a dangerous move, which could easily escalate the current crisis.

Not least because there already exists a “safe” area along the North Syrian border, which, thanks to recent advances by the Pesmerga, is now largely now controlled by the Kurdish forces. Inevitably one has to conclude Turkey’s goal is to attack ISIS while making sure the Kurds get hit in the crossfire. Indeed there are numerous rumours that Turkish security forces have been in touch with ISIS.

This raises the risk of widening the conflict. With the Kurdish forces, in Syria, Iraq and the Kurdish areas of Turkey fighting the Turkish army. I doubt ISIS and the Kurd’s would ever ally against the Turks. But they could easily form some sort of unofficial truce, effectively scuppering all the West’s efforts as well as inevitably cementing ISIS hold over the land it currently controls. As up until now, the Kurds have been the main force driving back ISIS.

The reality is that Turkish president Erdogan is exploiting the situation to further his own political position. This is a guy who makes Frank Underwood look like a rank amateur. He’s been accused of becoming increasingly dictatorial and corrupt (he’s had to deny owning a golden toilet!). Clearly his plan is to start a war and bomb someone to help with his ratings. However the long term consequences of this are quite severe.

Random Thoughts

Inside job
I happened to catch a rerun of the Oscar winning 2010 documentary film “Inside Job and it was a sobering experience, as it illustrated to me how in many respects nothing has changed, and its probably if not when the next financial crisis hits. Incidentally, there’s a copy of the film online available via the internet archive here.

There are many myths about the financial crisis. The first is that this was some sort of bolt from the blue that nobody say coming. bollix to that is all I can say! The first time I heard the term “credit crunch” was in the early 2000’s, on the BBC money programme who were reviewing the Japanese asset bubble. In 2006, Irish economist Morgan Kelly discussed the probability and consequences of a property bubble bursting and its effects on the Irish economy.

Others such as Raghuram Rajan, George Soros, Satyajit Das, Christine Legarde, Bethany Mc Lean, all flagged up warnings at various points (from as early as 2005) of the impending crisis. However they were ignored by those from within their ivory corporate and government towers. Thus this “out of the blue” argument only applies if we assume that those in charge were snorting so much coke that they simply didn’t hear the warnings.

Another myth is that everything was the fault of Gordon Brown and G.W. Bush. In truth the bulk of the blame has to be laid at the feet of Thatcher and Reagan and their deregulation of markets. Bill Clinton also must take some of the flack for his repeal of the Glass Steagall act.

To draw an analogy, if the warehouse full of oil soaked rags burnt down, its hardly fair to blame the newly appointed nightwatchman Gordon Brown for it, given that it was some else’s decision to fill the warehouse with the rags while bricking up the fire exits and selling off the fire extinguishers. Okay, senior nightwatchman G. W. Bush has to take some blame for letting his frat house friends play all night poker games in the basement, without checking to see they weren’t smoking. But clearly the bulk of the blame has to go past adminstrations and the laissez-faire polices they initiated.

And the scary thing is that it was more luck that anything that meant the measures taken by governments actually worked. The few trillions in bailout money was a fraction of the hundreds of Trillions in at risk assets. In essence governments in the US, UK and Europe successfully managed to bluff the markets by throwing enough money around and hoping the spiff’s would be too busy lining their pockets to bother doing the maths. By contrast, in Iceland, which offered similar guarantees on its deposits, the markets smelt a rat, called their bluff and found the Icelandic’s wanting. So we really did dodge a bullet back then.

And where are the guys who caused this crisis? On their yachts or still in their corporate or government ivory towers! Several have gone into academia, where they are teaching the next generation of business studies students the same old tosh that got us into this crisis in the first place. This is like the nightwatchmen far from being fired being put promoted to head of training! Very few have lost their jobs or fortunes, nevermind gone to prison.

Recently Jon Steward drew attention to the fact that a group of US teachers who faked exam results face jail…while virtually none of those responsible for the biggest economic crisis in history have ever, or will ever see a night in jail.

Perhaps more worrying are the signs that we haven’t learnt the lessons of the crisis. Recent events such as LIBOR, the Forex scandal, the impending bankruptcy of Greece and possibly Italy, all this talk of Brexit and renegotiating the UK’s EU membership all point to the fact that those in power haven’t learnt a thing.

And the very fact we have a Tory majority government suggests the bulk of the electorate have forgotten too. Keep in mind the Tories, were talking about jailing people for benefits fraud, but not a day in jail for traders doing the same. Because the real lesson of the crisis was that beyond a certain tipping point everyone is at risk of being carried along by events beyond their control.

If in theory for example a US investment firm were to come out tomorrow and reveal that they’d done something silly and were now at risk of bankruptcy, or an Italian or Greek bank were to do the same, or a large UK manufacturer were to suddenly realise its business model isn’t viable outside of the EU, well what then? We could be looking at more bailouts, but where’s the money going to come from? Will the public support another round of bailouts? And even if they do, suppose the markets call the government’s bluff and they find said government unable to meet its obligations? We could be looking at a crisis of such proportions it will make the Great Recession look fairly tame.

UKIP’s cult of personality
I’ve been saying for quite a while that UKIP is little more than the cult of the Nigel. Without him UKIP are just a bunch of has-been ex-national front members . And we saw that last week with a “challenge” to his leadership. Well that is too say that several in the party came out with statements which seemed to criticise Farage, but instead they criticized various shadowy figures around him.

This is classic cult behaviour. The all seeing leader can do no wrong, he is infallible and always right about everything, ever! So the faithful instead blame either those outside the cult or his “advisors” for the leader’s mistakes. No doubt they’ll soon be burning his critics in wicker men while chanting “Sumer Is Icumen In”.

Needless to say, I’d be hugely embarrassed to be anyone one of the loon’s who actually voted for them. Although it was handy to know that there’s 3.8 million racists in the country and that this is but 7% of the population.

Coal rollers
Speaking of right wing loons, in the US there’s a fad being brewing called “coal rolling”, where they rig up their SUV’s to emit large clouds of smoke as a sort of two fingered salute to environmentalists. It just goes to show the extremes things have gone to under the tea party antics of America. The reason for opposing action on climate change has little to do with science and everything to do with a wrapped ideology.

And since were talking about it, its not just climate change that’s the worry but air pollution, which has a severe effect on the health of many. Tens of thousands of excess mortalities each year in the US are caused by air pollution. But such is the insanity of the US these days. Its the equivlent of driving around blowing cigarette smoke in people’s faces.

Meanwhile, to those who “don’t believe in climate change”, well Florida is slowly slipping into the Atlantic, an unprecedented strong el-Nino is forecast this year over the Pacific, we have a record breaking drought in California that has left the state desperate for water. And meanwhile if you live in the central US and you built that bunker in the yard to save you from Obama’s death panels….well its been raining so hard bunkers and storm shelters have started to rise out of the ground and float away.

Gun fight at the Waco Corral
A major gun fight erupted between rival biker gangs in Texas this week. I mean we have a country where people can own guns unregulated, including many in criminal biker gangs, what could possibly go wrong with that?a shootout involving several hundred people which left 9 dead!

And before anyone quotes me the 2nd amendment of the US constitution, yes and that was written when guns were muzzle loaded muskets with a fire rate of 1 every few minutes and an accurate range of a few metres (be interesting to see a re-run of this fight involving musket wielding bikers…presumably on penny farthings! “stand and deliver” and all that :))). Now unless we’re proposing to go back to those days one has to acknowledge that gun violence is a serious problem. The idea that adding more guns to the mix will somehow make everyone safer is of course ridiculous and is not born out by the facts.

Migration
There are some who say that the solution to migration is the fortress mentality, i.e. bar the door, send them home, turn back the boats. The short comings of this strategy have been laid bare by events in Asia. There the Thai’s, under pressure from their own brand of UKIP bigots, very naively enacted a draconian policy on migrants. However as they discovered when try to implement it on a group of boat people, they weren’t going to cooperate, not least because they were too desperate to do so….I mean why else do you think they were crammed into a small boat in the middle of the ocean? Felt like a scenic cruise?

So to those Katie Hopkins followers in UKIP who want to do the same, you would have to be willing to do some pretty awful things to stop immigration this way. People that suitably desperate aren’t going to turn around simply because you asked nicely, or even if you point guns at them, largely because turning around is probably not an option for them even if they wanted too. The solution is long term measures to help stabilise these countries and stop corrupt regimes abusing their power (perhaps by not being said leaders buddies and helping them launder their ill-gotten gains).

The deadly game
The Beeb sent a journalist into Qatar to investigate the state of venue construction….and the locals arrested him! Yes, that’s the world cup in 2022 for you.

The Beeb were hoping to investigate claims by newspapers, such as the Guardian, which claimed a very high death toll (one or two a day) of migrant workers on these projects. In fact its now possible that 62 workers will die for each match that is ultimately played at the 2022 world cup…not including the players who collapse due to heat stroke!

In short, FIFA’s decision to hold the games here isn’t merely the matter of a few brown envelopes changing hands, its about FIFA selling the soul of football.

Worse than Yugoslavia
I’ve described before how the conflict in Syria threatens to be worse than the Yugoslav civil war. Well the current estimates are that the casualty rates in Syria alone (nevermind Iraq) are up to similar levels, with vastly more people displaced, and the destruction of some of the world’s most historic monuments. With Palmyra now in ISIS sights, its possible that the entire region might slide into an abyss, from which there may not be an easy return.

And keep in mind, that if Iraq and Syria falls, its almost certain to involve the West eventually. There is simply no way the US or its allies could allow the likes of ISIS to end up controlling that much of the world’s oil. An invasion of Iraq, and possibly Syria too, is now a very real possibility.

I’m reminded of a prediction prior to the last Iraq war that the invasion of Iraq would led to “a hundred Bin Laden’s” and that US troops would be occupying the region for generations to come. Well now the Iraqi’s reckon we’re facing a thousand Bin Laden’s. Don’t you hate it when people get these things right, then drastically underestimate how screwed we are!