The approaching Scottish independence vote has focussed my mind and, although I won't be allowed a vote, if I was I would be voting to remain part of the United Kingdom. Why? Because I like the 'idea' of a 'United Kingdom' even if I don't think that our Kingdom is anything approaching 'united'.
Alex Salmond has gone to great lengths to explain how Scotland would be better off as an independent state, separated from the rest of the UK, and little that he has said convinces me. Why not? Because I've watched how Scottish parliamentarians behave and its just as bad as their English, Irish and Welsh counterparts.
If the Scottish Parliament building had been delivered for £21M, as the original budget for the conversion of the old Royal High School building proposed, then I'd be impressed. But the 'upturned boat' cost £457M the last time I looked. Then there is Edinburgh's tram project which seems to have cost the thick end of £1.2Bn for one line and stops which don't benefit many of Edinburgh's residents. Then there is the second Forth Crossing (possibly called the Third Forth Crossing) required by the problems encountered with the stay wires on the original Forth Road Bridge. So £200M is pointed at a second bridge when the engineers have been able to fix the problems with the first (or second) making the second (or third) redundant.
So, as far as fiscal probity goes, the Scots don't rate as highly as I would like and that is the major issue for me about Scottish Independence. Its more than likely going to end up being Bureaucratic Dependence (on the Scottish Taxpayer). There will be more and more layers of bureaucracy on top of existing bureaucracy and, at the same time, in the remainder of the UK, those layers of bureaucracy which dealt with Scottish matters won't go away. Those running those empires will just retitle themselves to keep their jobs. So, costs both north and south of the border will rise with no benefit to anyone but friends of the various parliamentary organisations.
I'd have a lot more respect for Alex Salmond if he had fought for decentralisation of the UK's existing and overbearing bureaucracies in order to deliver more services with less overheads. Had he managed that then he's have a real argument, not for splitting Scotland away but for applying those skills in Westminster.
16 August 2014
2 August 2014
A couple of days ago someone reminded me about the middle eastern tv channel Al Jazeera and I realised that it was missing from my YouView menu. I retuned the box, recovered Al Jazeera in both Arabic and English and sat down to watch the alternative coverage of Israel's version of the 'War Against Terror'. And I'm not too sure that it was a good move.
What I saw almost immediately was just how sanitised is the coverage of Gaza that we are seeing from even our rabidly left-wing and wholly biased British Broadcasting Corporation.
BBC announcers warn us that "some of the images you will see are disturbing" and what we are shown is a lot of dried blood and the occasional shoe. What we don't ever see is the remains of the owners of the blood or the shoe. Al Jazeera doesn't spare us that comfort and gave me a close-up view of charred and bloated bodies piled up against a wall in a Gaza basement, probably courtesy of some newly acquired American munitions. You can find those selfsame images if you tune in or even if you google around the www.
Watching the BBC, its easy to think that, whilst Gaza is being reduced to rubble, most of the inhabitants are getting away with scratches. Yes, we see the coffins but what we don't see is the gory link between the relentless Israeli shelling and bombing of Gaza and the procession of coffins. What we don't see is the splattered brains and shattered limbs that are shovelled or scooped into bags to get them into the coffins. What we don't see is the reality of war and the reality of collective punishment as it is being applied by the Israeli armed forces in Gaza to the prisoners of the Gaza Gulag.
I wonder what would happen if the BBC started to show something approaching the reality of daily life and death in Gaza. Maybe we wouldn't be quite so smug and complacent.
29 July 2014
Why does Israel do it? The answer is pretty simple, because she can. No-one is going to stop her. No-one is going to stand up for the Palestinians because the Palestinians don't have anything that the west wants. The west knows it, Israel knows it and the Palestinians know it.
Today, Israel is imposing a collective punishment on the residents of Gaza in the hope, one assumes, that if Israel punishes the wider Palestinian community enough then they may turn against Hamas or Fatah or the PLO. Its a strategy which Israel clearly has the will, and the firepower, to impose and, right now, Israel seems determined to follow through and raise Gaza to the ground. Given that Israel has already turned Gaza into a prison camp, it must be like shooting fish in a barrel.
Have a look here at 1 hour in Gaza.
And it makes me wonder, what will happen in the future when this new generation of Palestinians grow up and look at the world around them. Will they want to be friends with Israel? Probably not. And, in a few decades hence, when the west is less obsessed with fossil fuels, will America want to anchor its aircraft carriers in nearby waters in case there is another, greater threat to Israel?
Maybe then Israel will need its ultimate deterrent. And, going on the current example, she will be quite prepared to use it. Then the threat will not just be to Israel.
22 July 2014
In the aftermath of Malaysian Airways flight MH17, I found it curious that a man from Putin's past, Alexander Litvinenko, resurfaces. Obviously, Litvinenko can't resurface because he's dead, killed, we are led to believe, by the introduction of radioactive Polonium into his system. So who was Litvinenko?
We are told that he was a KGB officer who claimed that Boris Berezovsky ( a Russian oligarch) was assassinated on the orders of senior KGB officers. Obviously this wasn't a good carrier move and, after being arrested a couple of times, tried and acquitted, Litvinenko came to London where he remained publicly critical of what might be termed the Putin regime. And then, out of the blue, he went to Tescos, bought some radioactive polonium, cooked a stew with it and died. His widow claimed that he was poisoned by the KGB and the UK authorities pointed the finger at Andrey Lugovoy (a Russian security agent) but no action was taken because the Russian authorities refused to extradite Lugovoy.
End of story, you might expect but no, not quite. In the aftermath of the downing of MH17, attention is again focussed on Putin's expansionist ambitions, particularly in the Ukraine where it is widely believed that Russian service personnel are supporting the separatists. Its doubtful that a bunch of Ukrainian red-necks could actually operate a surface to air missile system so the downing of MH17 ends up on the doorstep of the Russian authorities i.e. Vlad Putin.
And, as if by magic, Alexander Litvinenko's death resurfaces to further undermine Putin's reputation, as if such was needed. And, at the same time, the Butler Sloss 'review of reviews' into child abuse (in high places) is conveniently pushed off the front pages. How fortunate for the one-time Speaker of the House of Commons, George Thomas and his reputation.
15 July 2014
……or do they. I felt some sympathy for Baroness Butler Sloss as she stood down from her leading role in the Review of Reviews into the ongoing child abuse scandal that continues to hubble and bubble and threaten to destabilise the establishment.
She clearly has great integrity and a track record of doing a good job in similar situations. And she clearly placed great faith in her own view of her capabilities, a faith which was, most probably, justified. But what she, and Theresa May who appointed her, and the Civil Servants who advised Theresa all forgot was the simple fact that the Baroness was the sister of a previous Attorney General who made what might look, from 2014, some pretty odd decisions regarding who got prosecuted for what, back in the day.
Things have changed and it might just have been that the Baroness might have had a hard time squaring some of those past decisions with the way we consider the victims today. Back in the day, it wasn't the victims who were considered, it was the perpetrators and the whole sad story was held together by boy's clubs and private schools and ivy-league colleges and masonic lodges and the panoply of establishment power networks, networks which still function today, just in slightly different ways.
I'm sure that abuse still goes on: abuse of children; abuse of staff; abuse of power; abuse of influence; abuse of access……..the list is endless. But I suspect that the influential and the powerful are a little more careful how they indulge their desires to abuse. I'm sure they will take greater care to make sure that they cover their tracks, unlike their predecessors, who may well have left a few traces of their passing.
And had the Baroness found those traces, would she have been able to draw them out into the open and risk the ire of the hand that feeds her? Particularly if they had led to the Attorney General's office.
8 July 2014
Yesterday I saw part of an interview with ex-MP David Mellor who stepped into the Geoffrey Dickens 'missing dossier' debate on behalf of his old friend and colleague Leon Brittan. Mellor's position seemed to be that his friend Leon had been caught up in a witch-hunt and, as far as Mellor was concerned, Leon had always behaved quite properly which, Mellor believed, was a matter of record. Mellor went on to do a bit of mud-slinging at Labour over some of their member's relationship with the Paedophile Information Exchange, clearly in an effort to claim the moral high ground for the Conservatives.
Then, this morning on the BBC's 'Today' programme, an interview with Tim Fortescue (Conservative MP for Liverpool Garston between '66 and '74) was played where Fortescue, a government Whip in the Heath administration between '70 and '73, said the following:
"For anyone with any sense, who was in trouble would come to the Whips and tell them the truth, and say now, I'm in a jam, can you help?
It might be debt, it might be……a scandal involving small boys, or any kind of scandal in which erm er, a member seemed likely to be mixed up in, they'd come and ask if we could help and if we could, we did.
And we would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points…….and if I mean, that sounds a pretty, pretty nasty reason, but it's one of the reasons because if we could get a chap out of trouble then, he will do as we ask forever more."
What do these vignette's tell us about the current 'missing dossier' debate. What it tells us is that, from the viewpoint of politicians, everything is about politics, power and influence. It would seem that child abuse was not seen by the Whips Office as being something that should be disclosed and punished but as something which could deliver influence. If the Geoffrey Dickens dossier had found its way to the Whips Office, it might simply have been seen as a tool to ensure compliance on the part of anyone named.
There is no doubt that times have changed and, in the light of Savile, sexual abuse is now taken rather more seriously than it was in the 1970s and 1980s but, underlying this change in society's attitude, there is the engrained behaviour of establishment organisations like government, like the civil service, like the Police. The tendency for such organisations to deliver favours or close ranks and protect their own reputation.
I remember, many many years ago, in the playground at my primary school, I saw a friend of mine being roughed-up by some of the class bullies. Being a pretty scrawny kid, I knew that stepping-in would probably go badly for me so my next option was to get help from the teacher who was on playground duty. The teacher did step in and sort out the problem but they then took me aside and told me not to tell tales. To say that this left me confused is something of an understatement. In my young eyes, my friend was being beaten up which seemed like a bad thing and I wanted to help yet when I did it seemed that I was in the wrong. And that was my first experience of the consequences, in our society, of 'whistle-blowing'. We are told that we should do the right thing yet, when we do it, it would seem that the whistle-blower pays the highest price.
What is required today is for those individuals who it is suggested were abused by 'high ranking politicians', for those individuals to step forward and tell their stories. But even today, in our changed times, will any of them feel safe enough to step forward or will they fear the consequences enough to maintain their silence? And if they did step forward, would David Mellor honour their courage more than he clearly honours his political friendships?
Also of interest:
Greville Janner, VIP child abuse and the mysterious death of Frank Beck | thecolemanexperience
Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #1 | Desiring Progress
The 1984 “Cabinet Minister Scandal” | spotlight
6 July 2014
So, back in the early 1980s, then MP Geoffrey Dickens hands a file to the then Home Secretary which, it is claimed, details paedophile activity at Westminster i.e. at the heart of our 'democracy'. The implication is that this file referred to MP's or their staff or the staff at the Houses of Parliament. And now we are told that the then Home Secretary handed this file over to a civil servant for consideration and action, or not. And now we are told that nothing ever happened and that the file has either disappeared or been destroyed or cannot be found.
Then we hear that some 100 similar files dating up to 1999 and which, it is assumed, deal with the same subject, have also disappeared or been destroyed or cannot be found.
Do I think that there is some sort of cover-up? Of course I do because this isn't some weird DJ or some eccentric Australian entertainer. This deals with Establishment figures and, even if they are dead, the Establishment, the edifice of the state, would take a serious hit. The MP's Expenses scandal was bad enough. What would happen if the Great British Public was to be informed that, say, MPs had been fiddling with little boys or little girls and claiming expenses for doing so? And what would happen if, like Hillsborough, the Great British Public was to find out that the whole sordid story had been covered-up? No, it is almost certain that there has been a cover-up and I doubt that the facts will ever see the light of day.
To think that just recently there was a public debate about whether or not Britain should be party to the removal of awful dictators. It seems that Britain may just have its very own awful monsters residing at the heart of the Establishment and absolutely nothing will be done to bring them to book. What is it the bible says about paying more attention to the beam in your own eye?