Category Archives for "Current Affairs"

January 24, 2017

How Trump Won And The UK Voted For Brexit

On both sides of the Atlantic millions of people have been asking the question, “How did this happen?  Why did we lose?”.

How they laughed when it was first announced that Trump might run for President.  How they scoffed at the very idea the the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland might one day leave the European Union.

Well, Trump is in now in the White House and the Brexit juggernaut is rolling, albeit around some obstacles put in its path.  The causes for both events will no doubt be debated for a long while yet but there are already some reasons that now seem undeniable.

How Trump Won

Voter Apathy and Complacency?

  • Voter apathy.  No matter how important the vote there are always too many people who find something better to do than to put a cross on a piece of paper.  It seems it’s just too much effort for millions.
  • Voter complacency.  Trump couldn’t possibly win and Clinton is dead cert.  Only a fool would vote for Brexit.  I’m not going to vote because there’s no point when things are so certain.

A quick google reveals that about 63 million Americans voted for Trump but over 90 million didn’t vote at all.  As they say over there, go figure.

I wonder what percentage of those who didn’t vote were on the Women’s Marches or have spent many hours on social media bemoaning the fate of their respective countries.

Ignorance and Prejudice

Another reason often cited as the cause of these so called catastrophes is varying degrees on ignorance, gullibility, and bigotry among those who voted to leave the EU or put Trump in the White House.

I would be the first to agree that there are some pretty dim people out there but to suggest that tens of millions of people are unable to make rational decision for themselves and their families, having weighed up all the arguments for and against, is wildly inaccurate and very condescending.

After the Brexit referendum some people went as far as suggesting that certain people shouldn’t be allowed to vote at all.  They suggested that some voters were either too old to make decisions that would have long term effects or that they were too stupid to know what’s good for them.  This patronising viewpoint is one often heard uttered by the Eurocrats.  Leave it to the experts, they know what’s best for us, eh boys?

Racism and Xenophobia

This is another favourite excuse used by many to explain who things have turned out as they have done.  It doesn’t occur to them that many immigrants and descendants of immigrants voted to leave the EU for reasons they can explain perfectly well for themselves.

If a white person said what is said on these clips people would be quick to whip out the tired old excuses of racism and xenophobia. The truth is that they believe that while immigration has benefits you can have too much of a good thing, and that stricter controls and stronger entry requirements isn’t at all xenophobic but just sensible governance:

In this next clip we see an American gentleman, “Big Joe” who is perfectly capable of making his point among crowds of people who were protesting the day after Trump’s inauguration.

One woman shouts, “You’re on a bicycle and you’re oblivious!” – not sure what’s wrong with being on a bicycle.  Big Joe replies, “Political Correctness is un-American!”

I urge you to watch it to the end as the debate becomes a bit more articulate as it goes on.

Big Joe Answers Questions at Women’s March

Negative Outcomes

Take your pick. I’m sure there will be plenty to choose from.  The worst so far is the fact that Trump has signed the executive order to push ahead with the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Positive Outcomes

Imagine if Clinton were now in the White House and Britain had voted to remain in the EU.  What would change?  I would bet very little, except perhaps that Hillary would probably have to keep Bill on a tight leash:

Things would grind on just as they had before with no major problems resolved and things getting progressively worse for many.

Instead, we are witnessing a big rush of energy entering the political world and things are turning upside down.  Those on the Left who have always seen themselves as champions of freedom and democracy are becoming more and more censorial and authoritarian.

Meanwhile, more people are turning to the Right as they lose faith in the liberal and centre politicians who have failed to listen to their concerns and grievances and who have brought in changes that have transformed their communities and countries without consultation nor consent.

This energy is shaking things up.  It’s removing some of that smug complacency (from both voters and politicians) and reminding us all that our votes do make a difference.

It’s reminding us that our democracy is a precious thing, and that we should never again leave it to others to make decisions for us.

Demonstration and Protest

By all means make your voices heard but don’t smash windows and burn cars.  Burning the limousine belonging to a Muslim immigrant doesn’t do your cause any favours.  Nor does bullying and intimidating Trump supporters simply because you disagree with their points of view.

Is a hijab an appropriate symbol to use in the Women’s March of January 22nd?  Again, depends on your point of view. If you’re one of the organisers bemoaning the fact that 22 states in the US don’t allow Sharia law then it’s probably part of your agenda.

If on the other hand you feel the way this woman does, then it is not appropriate:

It breaks my heart, as someone who is forced to wear this atrocity since the age of 11 (I am 25 now), to see them celebrating the tool of my oppression. Being a hijabi has denied me so many rights, I feel offended right now. I don’t see how this is standing up for minorities. I am a full grown woman who lives a submissive life because she can’t afford to be independent, and has to do things she doesn’t approve of so that she can have something to eat. My parents have threatened repeatedly to throw me on the streets if I ever take it off. Millions of girls are denied their basic rights because of the hijab mentality. Why aren’t you standing up for them?”

 

December 28, 2016

Some thoughts on the Age of Jihad in Europe

The Hunkpapa Lakota holy man Sitting Bull once said, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”   Today we could paraphrase that and say, “Let us put our minds together and see how we can prevent our children being slaughtered by jihadis.”

My parents generation had to fight the Nazis. It fell to them to fight fascism and to endure a horrendous war which threatened to crush everything; all hope, all joy, and all freedoms.

It falls upon the current and it would seem the next generation to live in the Age of Jihad and deal with all the threats and events it imposes upon them.

The assumption is that the vast majority of people want to prevent further acts of violence, to protect the vulnerable, and to live in an atmosphere of peace, cooperation, and mutual respect.

Here’s a little brainstorm about the current situation in Europe.  I’ve tried to keep it factual but some opinions have crept in there too.  It’s not just about jihadis and islamism, it’s about mass migration too because the two things are intertwined.  You can’t discuss one without soon including the other.

  1. Lack of border control means that inadequate checks are carried out on people arriving into Europe. The terrorists and criminals mingle freely with the innocent.
  2. Lack of checks and intelligence combined with the criminality of those who play the system means that the difference between a war refugee, asylum seeker, and migrant is often blurred.
  3. Germany appears to have become so sensitive to its recent past that many precautions and security practices that might help track terrorists or provide evidence of their actions are not implemented for fear of intruding on the privacy of its citizens. (It seems that may be about to change).
  4. Homegrown terrorists are radicalised by clerics and other mentors who live freely and unchallenged among us. Some are even invited to speak at our universities.
  5. Any non native person convicted of a violent act is rarely deported after serving his sentence, leaving them free to continue to exploit the system and commit further acts of terror or criminality.
  6. Convicted criminals and terrorists are free to move about in Europe at will thanks to open border agreements within the Schengen Area.
  7. Freedom of movement allows UK and European citizens to travel to Syria to join the jihad and return into the ranks of those also trained and radicalised.
  8. The security services do not have the resources to monitor all of them and have to prioritise their efforts based on whatever intelligence they can gather.
  9. Sometimes, as in the case of the Berlin attack, they stop watching someone who then goes on to carry out an atrocity.
  10. Sectarianism and factionalism within Islam fuels violence. Peaceful Muslim sects like the Ahmadiyya are persecuted by others who regard them as heretics*.
  11. When Ahmadiyya Muslims show sympathy and support after islamist atrocities the mainstream media reports on them as if they represent all Muslims.
  12. Rival factions within the religion have been engaged in a vicious cycle of violence for millennia.
  13. There is widespread ignorance of this same sectarianism and factionalism within the press, media, and public.
  14. With continued mass migrations into Europe this violent factionalism is imported along with other cultural practices that are at odds with liberal western democracies.
  15. Antisemitism has increased greatly in Europe in recent years. For many Jews life has become intolerable in some European cities and they have emigrated.
  16. Segregation rather than integration is on the increase in many European cities, with large areas devoid of any sign of multiculturalism.
  17. The mainstream media and left wing pressure groups are more concerned with the reaction to acts of terrorism than the atrocities themselves.
  18. Worries about a rise in islamophobia are stronger than their concerns about the spread of islamism and violent jihad. There is almost a ‘we had it coming‘ attitude.
  19. Voters are turning to right wing politicians for answers since the excessive liberalism of the centre and left seems to be not only ineffectual but the actual cause of the current problems.
  20. Requests for stronger immigration controls are dismissed as racism and xenophobia and are quickly followed by another lecture on the benefits of immigration.
  21. Requests for stronger immigration controls are seen as a condemnation of immigration itself rather than limiting it to sustainable levels.
  22. Anyone, particularly politicians, who dares to point at the connection between mass immigration and the rise of islamism in Europe is dismissed as islamophobic.
  23. Warnings from reformed radicals who know the islamist mindset only too well are often ignored.
  24. Muslim reformers, converts to Christianity, and apostates are subjected to harassment and campaigns of violence on the grounds that they are blasphemers and heretics.
  25. The Police are quick to respond to reports of alleged hate crime but not so keen when the alleged perpetrators are themselves from an ethnic minority due to fears about cultural sensitivities and of being regarded as racist.
  26. Political Correctness has caused real and significant damage, pain, and distress by preventing the Police, Social Services, and other authorities from investigating numerous crimes recurring over many years.
  27. Neither left nor right can claim to occupy the moral high ground.  Extremism and intolerance exist at either end of the political spectrum.
  28. Lack of opportunity and socio-economic factors don’t radicalise people.  Some terrorists are educated and employed.

*Examples:

  • Ahmadiyya Muslim shopkeeper from Glasgow Asad Shah murdered by Sunni Muslim from Bradford Tanveer Ahmed (stabbed in the head multiple times in ferocious and prolonged attack because he ‘disrespected’ Islam)
  • Mohammed Hussain Syeedy from Rochdale murdered Imam from Rochdale called Jalal Uddin (head smashed in with multiple blows) because he disagreed with his theological ideas.

Suggestions

  1. The media needs to make a strong effort to distinguish between Sunni/Shia/Salafi/Wahabi and other forms of Islam like Ahmadiyya or Sufi.
  2. This pandering to political correctness must end as soon as possible.  We need to have frank and open discussions without resorting to labeling people and dismissing their concerns and viewpoints simply because we don’t agree with them.
  3. Everyone is responsible for their own reactions.  If you’re offended then it’s your choice to be so.  It doesn’t make you right and your human rights have not been violated.
  4. Security is everyone’s responsibility and we should all be vigilant to potential threats.  We have a duty to report suspicious activity to the relevant authorities.
  5. Governments should pay more heed to those who understand the islamist mindset and give less attention to associations to those who are thinly disguised fronts for extremist viewpoints.

That’s it for the moment.  What are your suggestions?  What’s your analysis and how do you think we can prevent more people from being bombed, stabbed, shot, run over, assaulted, and otherwise hurt?

November 6, 2016

Integration and Segregation. What tribe are you?

Depending on the context, tribes and tribalism are sometimes something to be celebrated and at other times regarded as primitive and inferior.

Sometimes when I can’t get to sleep I don’t count sheep but instead I go through an alphabetical list of Native American tribes.  It usually starts well; Apache, Arapaho, Apsaroke, Assininboine…I falter on the B’s; Brulé Sioux…but the C’s are quite easy; Creek, Cree, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cheyenne, Cherokee, Comanche, and Crow (though that’s cheating a bit because the Crow are the Apsaroke).

I’m usually asleep long before I get to zzzzzz…Zuni

Several decades ago I read a couple of dozen books about Native Americans:

*Forrest Carter also wrote The Outlaw Josey Wales which was made into a successful film starring Clint Eastwood and Chief Dan George.

A small charity based in Leeds called The Onaway Trust acted as a focal point for those of us concerned with the plight of modern day Native Americans and when the pay packet allowed I would send off a small cheque.

In return they supplied journals containing articles about the continuing struggles most notably the (at the time) recent armed siege at Wounded Knee in 1973.  From these we learned about the American Indian Movement (AIM) and of people like Dennis Banks and Russell Means.

In about 1980 Russell Means came over to the UK to give a few talks to small audiences at universities and colleges and I jumped at the chance to attend.  He was accompanied by Floyd Red Crow Westerman who opened the proceedings by singing some songs. After the interval we listened in respectful silence while Means gave his talk on the ongoing struggles of Native Americans in a world of injustice and hostility.

We have reservations about our reservations

Recently the world has witnessed how the many Native American tribes and others have gathered together on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in a way not see for generations to protest the threat to clean water and the encroachment on ancient tribal lands of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

With a hugely impressive display of dignity, forbearance, and non-violent protest in the face of extreme provocation (tear gas, dogs, rubber bullets, water canon, tasers) they appear to have been successful in halting the progress of the black snake.

The pride felt by these people for their cultural identity is self evident.  At the same time Europeans think less of tribalism and more about a homogeneous whole: a multicultural, border-less utopia in which diversity is celebrated and everyone is equal (but not the same).

European Tribes

Come with me to the winged isle
Northern father’s western child
Where the dance of ages is playing still
Through far marches of acres wild

~ Jethro Tull

European tribes have been confined to the controlled spaces of folklore and historical study lest they stir up feelings of patriotism and (horror of horrors) national pride.  Reveal your interest in Norse gods outside academia and sport a tribal tattoo and you’re likely to be viewed with some suspicion as some kind of racial supremacist.

We’ve learned to mock or even fear our own heritage.  King Arthur didn’t exist!  St.George was Turk! Faery Lore is dangerous!  How sophisticated we have become in our modern multicultural mish-mash.

We love to learn about other tribes and agree to respect their culture and traditions, but we’re less celebratory and even a bit embarrassed about our own ancestry and tribal heritage.

According to many the Europeans screwed up the world and created all the problems inherited by the current generations.  When it’s pointed out that our ancestors behaved arguably much better and certainly no worse than many other civilizations past and present these simple facts falls on deaf ears.  One should never let the facts of history interfere with the current trend for hand-wringing apologies.

It’s all in your genes

If you’re a white Briton the likelihood is that your DNA contains a combination of Western European, Scandinavian, Ancient Briton, and Mediterranean, with traces from further like the Near East or North Africa.  We know this because DNA testing proves what the history books have taught us about successive invasions and migrations.

The blood of the British contains elements inherited from over twenty different tribes, Celts, Romans, Vikings, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, and Normans etc as well as any slaves and camp followers that came with them.

It’s all there in your DNA, like a dormant software program ready to be brought to life with the right combination of circumstances, or perhaps it will remain asleep and you’ll simply pass on the heritage to your children.

How did it get there?  

Whether it was military invasion or waves of migration the melting pot of DNA was created through procreation.

Integration came about through intermingling and intermarriage.

Our ancestors got along (eventually) because they got it on with each other.

Integration versus Segregation

So when we consider that in 2005 Trevor Phillips warned that the UK was sleepwalking into segregation and that the recently published Casey Review confirms that segregation is now at ‘worrying levels’ it raises all kinds of questions that as yet have no answers.

For integration to occur people have to relax, keep and open mind, and respect differences but if your culture suggests that you are superior to others then that will never happen.

You will continue to see yourself as better than them.  You are highly unlikely to celebrate your son’s betrothal to an outsider or to marry off your daughters to someone of a difference culture and religion.  Your cultural beliefs may prohibit same sex relationships and condemn all kinds of lifestyles that are accepted within other tribes.

For some generations to come Europe will continue to be divided along cultural and tribal lines.  We are long way off from being fully integrated.  The only way to make any progress towards integration (assuming that is the goal and not everyone agrees that it is the desirable outcome) is to drop the orthodoxy and conservatism that isolates one tribe from all others.

Tribes and cultures that have a live and let live attitude with a little intermingling and marriage at the edges are the best hope for Europe.

Can we talk of integration until there is integration of hearts and minds? Unless you have this, you only have a physical presence, and the walls between us are as high as the mountain range.

~ Chief Dan George

October 26, 2016

The NHS Wasted Billions – Where Does All Our Money Go?

The NHS Wasted Billions - Where Does All Our Money Go?Hardly a day goes by without one politician or another banging the NHS drum.  The political ping-pong often revolves around the NHS wasted billions.

In July of this year the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2 covered the anniversary of the death of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the National Health Service.  I wonder what Mr Bevan would make of today’s NHS.

During the program Jeremy Vine interviewed an Aneira Thomas, the first baby born in an NHS hospital.  She was born on the 5th July 1948 at Amman Valley Hospital, Carmarthenshire.

She, her three sisters, and her daughter have all spent years working in the NHS in a variety of roles. As you can imagine she is a champion for the Health Service and is very proud of her connection to it.

However, when Jeremy Vine asked her what was the single biggest cause of waste in the NHS here answer was surprising.  As I recall (and you can correct me if I’m wrong) she didn’t use the opportunity to knock the Tories or blame Conservative policies.  Instead, she seemed to draw attention to the waste within middle management.

During the preceding weeks I had seen numerous stories in the press about the amount of waste in the NHS.  It began to look as if the NHS is a huge bucket with so many holes in it that every time the budget is increased a lot of it escapes through the holes.

The NHS Wasted Billions

For 2015/16, the overall NHS budget was around £116.4 billion.  It’s the second biggest slice of the tax payers’ pie after pensions.  Defence spending for example is a third of health care.

If you work in the NHS you will probably have your own opinion so feel free to add your comments below this post.  I’d be interested to know what truth there is for each of these examples of the holes in the bucket.

  1. Consultants paid thousands for weekend work (NHS paying locums up to £4,000 for a day’s work, The Times, February 2017)
  2. Agency nurses paid excessive daily rates
  3. The protectionism of middle managers who take a salary but contribute nothing
  4. Paying fortunes for drugs that should cost a fraction of the cost
  5. Outright and deliberate fraud
  6. Health tourism (accounts for £1.8 billion alone)
  7. Failed IT projects
  8. Over-treatment and over-diagnosis
  9. Contracting management consultants who give no value for money
  10. Perks, expenses, and bonuses paid to staff well in excess of their productivity
  11. Theft from hospitals and other medical centres
  12. Self-inflicted conditions and associated illnesses e.g. obesity and diabetes. (No excuse for eating junk food because healthy meals are cheaper, report finds)
  13. Six figure ‘golden handshakes’ for departing executives and consultants
  14. 1990 Courts And Legal Services Act (Section 58) which creates an annual legal bill of £1.5 billion
  15. Bills for private finance NHS hospitals under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).  All but one of these deals was signed for under the Labour government between 1997 and 2010.
  16. Loss of equipment lent to patients that is not collected or returned
  17. Money sent abroad to fund anti-smoking projects in other countries

Are these all valid?  Can you think of any others?

Hospital Parking Charges

Hospital parking charges are a contentious issue.  Over £120,000,000 was collected in 2015/16 according to a report published by the Press Association.

On the one hand there are the hospitals justifying parking charges as an important revenue source that offset the budget cuts.  While on the other the patients, their families, and their visitors are angry about paying for every visit.

If just some of the waste in the list above was addressed perhaps many hospitals could waive or at least reduce the parking charges.

Further Reading

Why can’t we admit to ourselves that the NHS is one of the most overrated, inefficient systems in the world? – The Independent, April 14th 2017

 

September 24, 2016

Dakota Access Pipeline – Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

If you’ve read anything about the history of the American West you’ll know that it’s a long and sad tale of human suffering. Dee Brown’s classic Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West is a compelling account that summarises the history from the arrival of Columbus to the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890.

You may be aware that wars were fought and lost. Treaties were signed and broken. Friends were made and betrayed. The accounts of the massacres will make your blood run cold. The injustices and maltreatment of survivors will make your blood boil.

Perhaps you’ve read nothing but you’ve seen films that give you some idea of the tragedy and betrayal. Dances With Wolves is one such film. For once the cinema had managed to capture something of what we had read in the history books.

We reservations about our reservations

American Indian Teenage Boy PortraitSo you might think that with the Indian Wars receding into history and Native Americans taking their place in American society, politics, business, and culture all is well.

Except it isn’t. In fact, the brutal treatment didn’t end with Wounded Knee.

Once the tribes were defeated militarily they were confined to reservations on what was then regarded as worthless land. The intention was to to provide them with the means to survive but suppliers and middle men ripped them off.

Their remaining children were forced through a schooling system designed to turn them into Americans. They were beaten for speaking their own languages. Their culture, stories, and prayers were forbidden.

Despite all of this the tribes and their cultures endured and survived, though not without many casualties along the way. Alcoholism and suicide on reservations is all too common.

Dakota Access Pipeline

Crow Agency - United States, May 21, 2012: Two headstones mark the location where two Cheyenne warriors were killed on June 25, 1876 while defending their way of life. General George Armstrong Custer and 267 of his men were killed and 55 were injured when attacked by Lakota and Cheyenne warriors.

Headstones mark the location where two Cheyenne warriors were killed on June 25, 1876 while defending their way of life at the Battle of the Little Bighorn

Once again American politics and business is riding roughshod over the Native Americans. The Dakota Access Pipeline is being driven like a lance through the heart of the land.  With comes a high risk of pollution through leaks and spills into the water supply.

They are driving bulldozers through ancient and sacred tribal burial grounds. Can you imagine the outcry if they did that through Arlington Cemetery?

Those who protest are being treated like criminals and private security firms are setting their dogs on them.

However, this outrage has had an unexpected effect. it has united the tribes of the USA in a way that hasn’t been seen for centuries. They are coming from all over the USA and beyond to show their support.

Social media has spread the message far and wide, and the world is watching.  Video footage of the protest and the reaction of those paid to guard the construction sites is there for all to see.

Supporters of the pipeline are well funded.  They are exploiting social media to spread their message too.  They have pointed out that the intended route of the pipeline doesn’t actually traverse any Indian reservations.  Thus they demonstrate their failure to understand how all things are connected.

From an ecological point of view what is over there is connected to what is here. Fences and lines on a map don’t mean a thing.

Leader of the Free World

Native American WomanOn the one hand this this may seem like yet another example of the US government looking the other way while the Indians are abused by a powerful corporation.

But it’s much more than that and it has rallied tribal people and others from all over the USA and beyond.  There is no political agenda.  All people want to do is safeguard their access to clean water.

When I hear the President of the United States referred to as the ‘Leader of the free world’ I can’t help but wonder, “Free from what?  Free for whom?”

Would it be too much to ask that the USA sets an example to the rest of the world?

Give the tribes a break.  Demonstrate to the watching world that you can live up to the principles and ideals that you boast are your bedrock.