Friday, October 24, 2014

Westminster's deficits

Dear reader, please don't be too worried and immediately look elsewhere - this posting won't feature too heavily on the monetary deficit or debt that is affecting the UK.

Rather this is about the other two deficits that are plaguing the UK.

When the so called 'expenses' scandal broke, many people expected the politicians that had their noses so deep into the public purse and were claiming expenses that, if not criminally wrong were at least ethically so, would be severely punished at the ballot box.  Some of them were but maybe not enough.  Some went to prison but again, not enough.

In two recent by-elections - Heywood and Clacton - much has been made of the the results.  In Heywood, Labour clung onto a supposedly safe seat with a much reduced majority of 617 votes, from a concerted challenge by UKIP.   The UKIP leaders crow that if just 20% of the Tory vote had come their way, instead of being 'split' (in their view) then they would have had a remarkable night.

These same UKIP leaders also shout about the victory of their candidate, Douglas Carswell, in Claction, where he actually increased the majority with which he previously won, when he did so as a Conservative candidate at the 2010 General Election.

Look a little closer though and these results seem less spectacular and actually quite worrying.

In Clacton, the winner, Douglas Carswell was a very active local MP for the Conservative party.  His wider activism around European issues, also assured him of media air-time as a prominent Euro-sceptic Tory.  His defection to UKIP was not a complete surprise and neither was his decision to stand down and force a by-election.  That decision speaks to an integrity that is all too lacking among so many of the Westminster elite.

It is a bit rich though for Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, to claim that the election of that party's first MP was about a tide of anti-establishment voting which was ready to sweep away the 'out of touch 'Westminster' parties.  The electoral turn-out in Claction was just over 51%.  So when you consider Farage's comments it seems that people were so disgusted with the Westminster elite that barely half of them could be bothered to vote.  The Clacton turn-out at the General Election was 64% so whatever the message was it can't be said to be a ringing endorsement of Farage's policies.

Again,at Heywood we see a much diminished turn-out - down from 57.5% at the General Election to 36.2% in the by election.  So barely one in three voters could be bothered to vote.  Some might say that this apathetic response is the voting equivalent of the old 'a pox on all your houses' epithet.  Labour talk about how the voters of Heywood voted against a 'viciously cruel and austerity driven Tory government' but don't mention the far from ringing mandate that their candidate gained.  UKIP talk about breaking the mould etc., but the reality is that they too couldn't engage with or mobilise the voters.

For the Tories, Heywood does support their contention that a vote for UKIP gets Ed Miliband into Downing Street and power.  The message from Clacton was always going to be hard for the Conservatives - Carswell was a very good and involved local MP and his integrity shone through.  It will be interesting to see how he works alongside Farage in the coming weeks and months.

Clearly Carswell has depth and his views on Europe and the uncontrolled immigration that the EU and the Labour Party unleashed on the UK, resonate with voters and are aligned with Farage.  However, can the same be said for the social and economic policies put forward by UKIP?  I may be wrong but I always thought that Carswell was 'sound' on the economy and understood the critical need for deficit and debt reduction and smaller government - that isn't entirely in accord with UKIP's policies.  Details on these policies are scant but suggest that UKIP follow a much more interventionist, some might say socialist, approach towards the economy - certainly if their 'spend whatever you like' pledge to the NHS is anything to go by.  

I come back though to the turn-out.  In both cases significantly below the General Election levels.

We all know that the European Project has a major democratic deficit.  In the UK, barely 34.7% of those eligible bothered to vote in the 2014 MEP elections.  The UK wasn't alone in recording such poor rates of participation.  As you can see in the below table, barely 13% in Slovakia bothered to vote!

Member States19791984198919941999200420092014
Belgium91.3692.0990.7390.6691.0590.8190.3990
Denmark47.8252.3846.1752.9250.4647.8959.5456.4
Germany65.7356.7662.2860.0245.194343.2747.9
Ireland63.6147.5668.2843.9850.2158.5858.6451.6
France60.7156.7248.852.7146.7642.7640.6343.5
Italy85.6582.4781.0773.669.7671.7265.0560
Luxembourg88.9188.7987.3988.5587.2791.3590.7690
Netherlands58.1250.8847.4835.6930.0239.2636.7537
United Kingdom32.3532.5736.3736.432438.5234.734.19
Greece80.5980.0373.1870.2563.2252.6158.2
Spain54.7159.1463.0545.1444.8745.90
Portugal51.135.5439.9338.636.7734.50
Sweden38.8437.8545.5348.8
Austria49.442.4345.9745.7
Finland30.1439.4338.640.9
Czech Republic28.328.219.5
Estonia26.8343.936.44
Cyprus72.559.443.97
Lithuania48.3820.9844.91
Latvia41.3453.730.04
Hungary38.536.3128.92
Malta82.3978.7974.81
Poland20.8724.5322.7
Slovenia28.3528.3720.96
Slovakia16.9719.6413
Bulgaria38.9935.50
Romania27.6732.16
Croatia       25.06
Average EU turnout61.9958.9858.4156.6749.5145.474343.09


Now though we see  that just prior to a General Election, voter apathy for the UK parliament remains. The political parties are said to be out of touch - and that includes UKIP!  The same source of the previous table (http://www.ukpolitical.info) also provides the below table on turn-out in UK General Elections, since 1945  We all need to hope that the increases seen in 2010 are built upon and we get back to the turn-out levels seen in the late 1970s through to the 1990s.

YearUKEnglandWalesScotlandN.Ireland
201065.165.564.763.857.6
200561.461.362.660.862.9
200159.459.261.658.268
199771.471.473.571.367.1
199277.77879.775.569.8
198775.375.478.975.167
198372.772.576.172.772.9
19797675.979.476.867.7
1974 Oct72.872.676.674.867.7
1974 Feb78.879807969.9
19707271.477.474.176.6
196675.875.9797666.1
196477.17780.177.671.7
195978.778.982.678.165.9
195576.876.979.675.174.1
195182.682.784.481.279.9
195083.984.484.880.977.4
194572.873.475.76967.4

Perhaps there is a message for David Cameron in the above table?  Maybe it is, that when Margaret Thatcher pursued unpopular but many believe absolutely necessary policies, she brought many voters out to vote.  Indeed, they voted for her and her successor, John Major, in significant numbers and brought large parliamentary success for the Conservatives.  Yes they also voted against her and her policies but the majority voted for the Conservative party.

Strange that!  Give people the hard choice or the soft irresponsible one that Labour pushed and the people chose the tough one on four separate occasions and in large numbers.  Who would have thought it?

While Cameron and his pollsters are thinking about the upcoming General Election, they should also maybe think about these things.

People, other than self-interested public sector union members, haven't taken to the streets in protest about austerity.  I believe that this demonstrates that 'the people' understand the need to rein in public spending.  The need for a welfare cap seems to now be universally accepted.  People can see that those in the public sector have had it too easy and have been cossetted from the realities of life  that 'they' have had to face - redundancy, under-performing and uncertain pensions, real wage cuts and belt-tightening - at home and at work.

'The people' will vote for a party that addresses the first deficit - that of integrity.  A party that does what is right for the UK.  The Conservatives deserve credit for having the courage to push forward with reforms but they have been too timid.  I accept that much of that lack of backbone was because of the compromises that were forced upon them by their coalition partners - the fast-fading Liberal Democrats - but when they come before the electorate again, they must stress their economic competence and emphasize the incompetence and economic mal-administration of the Labour Party.  The electorate know who got us into this mess!

'The people' will also vote for a party that addresses the second deficit - that of democracy.  Again, a party that does what is right for the UK.  One that allows the people of the UK a say on the UK's continued participation in the European Union and one that addresses the democracy needs within the UK.  The so-called 'West Lothian' question has never gone away but the recent Scottish Referendum has brought a much greater focus onto this and to the democratic deficit that is suffered by the English.  I don't advocate an 'English parliament' but English MPs for 'English' votes seems entirely reasonable.

Cameron and Co. need to openly push the message about how they can and will address these two deficits and in the process the other deficit and debt reduction and they now need to do so, unfettered by their Coalition partners.  So it is time to ditch the Lib Dems.  It shan't be too difficult to find an excuse and it allows for a decent period of time - for both parties - to put some clear water between themselves and allow their policy differences to be evident.

I will come back later on what those Conservative policies, should look like.



Friday, October 17, 2014

The duty for Americans

I was dining out with friends, last night and one asked me 'what will you blog about, this week?'  My response was that I wasn't too sure because there is a lot going on in the world, right now - stalling or flat-lining economies, ISIS running rampant, allied to this NATO in jeopardy because of Turkey's acts of realpolitik vis a vis the Kurds, Ebola and the rise of UKIP in the UK - all strong contenders but I am opting to return to the upcoming mid term elections in America.

On November 4, the American electorate will go to the polls to elect all 435 members of the House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 members of the Senate.  There are also certain mayoral and gubernatorial races at the same time.

Back in January, I posted here  about the need for Republicans to come together and elect Republicans to office.  To say that this still stands is an understatement.  Possibly more than ever before, America, and I would suggest the world, need  an overwhelmingly Republican Congress to be elected.

Why so?  Well in the last six years America has lost its way.   Or rather America has drifted from the path that made it the 'shining city upon a hill' and has lurched heavily to the Left.  It isn't just about broken promises - though there are enough of them.  It isn't about the corrupt activities of un-elected officials - as concerning as these are, they can be turned around (incidentally, have the Democrats and their union backers ever stopped for one minute and thought 'what happens when the Republicans get back into power and turn the IRS spotlight on us?.  Come to that, have the Democrats and their union backers ever stopped for one minute and thought?)

It is about what America has become.

America under Obama has lost its pre-eminence among nations.  Previously nations would rattle the American cage but would know that the wrath of a great nation would be visited upon them.  Now?

Consider.  Hillary Clinton spoke of pressing the 'reset' button on America's relationship with Vladimir Putin's Russia.  Given what happened in Crimea and continues to occur in the rest of Ukraine, that 'reset' doesn't seem to be working out too well, for those folks!

Consider.  President Obama spoke of approaching Iran with the open hand of friendship rather than the closed fist of aggression.  Does anyone believe that the situation with Iran is anything other than that they are 6 years closer towards the gaining of a nuclear weapons capability?

Consider.  President Obama also talked of a relationship re-alignment - his so called 'pivot to Asia'.   The thrust was to re-position America's foreign policy to be more centred on Asia and less on Europe.  We can see how that has panned-out in Ukraine but look to Asia also.  China is flexing its military muscles and bullying its neighbors  over island territories in the South China Sea  and the US does nothing about it.

Consider.  Obama withdrew troops from Iraq on an accelerated scale and against the advice of military commanders on the ground.  The result is the horrors being visited upon the people of Syria and Iraq by ISIS.

Consider.  Obama and Kerry (and Clinton before Kerry) support the terrorist Hamas organisation over the democratically elected (the only real democracy in the Middle East) government of Israel. Support Hamas who believe it is acceptable to rain down rockets on civilians and then to complain to the liberal world when Israel defends itself.

Consider also (last one, I promise) that Obama and his cohorts conspired to open the southern border of the USA and allow in hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.  Don't concern yourself with how many of those are terrorists or hardened criminals but just think about this.  How can America call itself a country when it can't even protect its borders?  Mind you, what kind of a 'country' is it that allows its veterans to be treated so shabbily?

I could go on and on.  The simple truth is that America no longer counts for much, in the eyes of much of the world.  Its military is being reduced in numbers and global presence and dissident voices at the top, removed.  Its economy is a basket case with a wildly over-spending government, reliant on the Chinese continuing to buy its debauched currency and Treasury bills.  Its healthcare system in ruins because of  socialist dogma and its welfare system groaning under the weight of so many claimants (it is said that something like 50 million Americans are now receiving food stamps - 50 Million!!)

Today, a decorated US Marine languishes in a Mexican jail.  He took a wrong turn on a border road and found himself in Mexico.  He told this to the Mexican authorities who promptly arrested and incarcerated him.  That was more than 6 months ago.  Close your eyes and think back to the Bush years or the Reagan ones, heavens, maybe even to the Carter days.  Do you seriously believe that any one of those former Presidents would have left Sergeant Andrew Tahmooresi to rot in a Mexican jail for so long, on the basis of a navigation error?  OK, open your eyes.  Truth is that you are in Obamalala land and that country no longer has the 'stroke' to threaten or cajole Mexico.

Is it because the Obama administration allows deserters like Bowe Bergdahl to be swapped for 5 senior Taliban terrorist leaders?  Is it because the same administration allows the traitorous Bradley Manning to undergo a sex-change operation, while serving time for his/her crimes?   Draw your own conclusions.  You can bet though that nations of the world, including the (maybe soon to be former?) allies of the USA know which way the wind is currently blowing.  As do the terrorists.

So back to the main item, today.  The mid terms.

What is needed in November is the election of significant numbers of Republicans by a very large number of voters.  Getting lots of Republicans elected is not enough in itself.  These Republicans need to be elected by very significant numbers of voters.  This is so that a very clear message is sent to Obama that the game has changed.  That 'we the people' as Americans like to say, have had enough.  Also to send a message to the outgoing Democrats - don't you dare try to pass an Amnesty Bill during the time remaining until the new Congress starts in January 2015.  Same for you, Mr President, don't you dare try to pass Executive Orders to circumvent Congress.

Finally, a word for those Republicans  in name only - the so called RINOs.  When you get elected on a tide of anger at the antics of the Democrats and at how they have so swiftly brought a great nation to its knees, consider (sorry, had to do it again) that you now have a chance to be a true Republican and to stand-up for real Republican values.  Think of these elections as like going into the confessional and coming out on November 5th as a redeemed soul.  If you don't, then the tide of true Republicanism might just sweep you away, real soon.

Oh and yes I am a Brit and some might say I shouldn't 'interfere' in American politics.  The real America (not Obama's failing fantasy land) is far too important to the world to be allowed to go under without a fight and it is time for all patriots that believe that the American way is best, to stand-up and be counted.

Get all of the Republican vote out, on November 4th !


Friday, October 10, 2014

Ebola problem - Political Correctness

A question for you.   Are the peoples of Europe and the USA, indeed much of the world, to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness?

I ask because it seems to me that the only reason that Liberia and Sierra Leone have not been isolated - no international flights to or from these countries -  is because it might somehow be seen to be racist.

Consider.  What happens with patients that are diagnosed with Ebola virus?  They are held in isolation and treated with appropriate caution for such a contagious disease.  If diagnosed they are not allowed to wander freely, infecting others.  Why would a country be treated differently from its people?  Let's be open and honest about this - both Liberia and Sierra Leone have a clear problem in containing this disease - their people are distrustful of government and being told to stay home, if you are sick does nothing to put bread on the table so people won't 'do as they are told'!

The idea of monitoring people on arrival at airports is  useless fatuous nonsense and will provide useful but ultimately useless photo-ops at airports, for TV networks.

Think about it.  You arrive at London Heathrow, Paris CDG, Chicago O'Hare or Dubai. Your plane lands 10 minutes after a flight from Freetown, Sierra Leone.  This plane is carrying someone who has unknowingly contracted Ebola virus.  This someone, let's be sexist and say it's a him, had a cold already and has been coughing during the flight and continues upon arrival and some of these coughs contain minor but nevertheless infected, moisture droplets and some of these are ingested by the people off of your flight, including yourself.  This someone then takes a connecting flight and so he doesn't pass through check 'systems' in your destination country.  You and your fellow passengers  do pass through these checks and are allowed in because, while infected, you are not yet showing the so called signs that the authorities can check for.

That is the scenario at so called 'hub' airports and while the risk is greater there it is the same at any port of entry.

At this point, I ask American residents to consider what has happened at their southern border.  This has been allowed to be a border in name only by the Obama administration for many months - how many of those that have been allowed to illegally enter the USA, have infectious diseases?

So, the clear answer - but that doesn't mean it will be followed - is to isolate those countries with a high incidence of Ebola.  No international flights into or out of Sierra Leone or Liberia.  The US Navy and Royal Navy, the Australian, Chinese and French Navy to impose a quarantine on the seas, to keep these countries isolated.  Of course measures would need to be taken to ensure that the necessary deliveries of food and medicines and other essentials of life, are provided to the people of these countries but that should be handled by appropriately attired military or voluntary personnel.

Such a quarantine to remain in place until these countries are 'clean' for a period of 2-3 times the incubation period of the disease, so 2 months or so.

Ebola has the potential to be a modern day Black Death or Great Plague but instead of being spread by infected rats, as these great epidemics were, this will be spread by political correctness.  A 20th century disease that doesn't take the necessary steps because to do so just might offend someone.  Well I have news for the politicians and media - I am offended that my loved ones and fellow humans will be put at risk because of political correctness.  I am offended that people will die, needlessly, because politicians lack the courage to act in the best interests of the people that elect them.

This isn't about Left or Right, Labour or Conservative, Republican or Democrat - this is potentially about survival.  This is Walking Dead for real, territory!

One final point, why on earth are we bringing infected people back to their home countries for treatment?  Why arrange flights to the US or London or Madrid and bring the risk, however small, to your home country?  In what warped mind can this risk to the majority of the citizens ever be considered acceptable?  I absolutely know and understand that these people have families and it would be awful to just 'abandon' people but that is what must be done - treat them in situ.  I know that is harsh but consider this.  How hard is it for the families of hostages to hear a spokesperson from their government say 'we don't negotiate with terrorists' knowing that this is effectively a death sentence for the hostage?

Hard times and issues require what might now seem to be harsh solutions but those that survive will bless those in power that allowed them to do so!

Monday, September 15, 2014

After the vote.

We are a couple of days away from the result of the referendum on Scottish Independence.   The opinion polls suggest a close result likely to favour the No campaign.

In recent weeks there has been talk of David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, being called upon to resign if Scotland votes yes.  The people that make these calls offer no logical reason for why he should do that, other than he has ‘lost’ Scotland.  That is complete poppycock!  As a Unionist, and Englishman, I fully understand the limited participation of Cameron  in the debate.  When he has spoken it is with an obvious and deep-seated passion for our United Kingdom.  Let’s be clear though, the Conservatives are not well liked in Scotland.  Indeed, in some parts they are loathed.  A Scottish friend, who sits in the No camp, said that the less Cameron speaks on the referendum, the better, as his Etonian pronunciation just pushes the ‘don’t knows’ into the Yes camp.  I see his point and it is a sad reflection of the current debate that he may be right.  There’s a part of me though that thinks that as the campaign draws to a close, some people of Scotland are seeing (hearing?) past the voice and listening to the message.  This is a message of our shared history  and a strong desire to have the United Kingdom  continue to lead the world in so many fields.

I think though, that whatever the outcome, Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland and Nicola Sturgeon his deputy, must stand down on Friday morning.  They have led a very divisive campaign.  Oftentimes, they have either wittingly or unwittingly unleashed the thuggish element which inhabits the nationalist fringes (North and South of the border) . 

They have  given a glimpse of what life would be like in  Scottish Nationalist Scotland – Independent or not.  A State controlled media, for example.  One that pushes-out the party line according to wee Eck.  Salmond became furious with Nick Robinson, of the BBC, because Robinson has dared to question some of the more outrageous statements made by Salmond and Co.   Bad boy  Nick – go sit on the naughty step!      It was perhaps telling that Salmond’s outburst against the BBC came just after his independence campaign was solidly endorsed by North Korea’s Supreme Leader – a fully paid-up member of the ‘It’s my country to do with as I want and don’t dare question me’ club.   In Pyongyang one can’t say that the emperor has no clothes but is still possible, just, in Edinburgh. 

Salmond and Sturgeon have taken Scotland down a very divisive road and pitted neighbor against neighbor.  Does anyone believe these two have the ability to bring the country together, from Friday?  These are little people with little minds.  I’ll admit Salmond has a way with words but throughout this campaign they have not managed to craft an answer to the fundamental questions that have been posed.  Ask a question Salmond or Sturgeon don’t like  and back they come with a non-answer or an accusation that ‘you are in the pay of the distant Westminster elite’.  Ask about the Scottish NHS and the accusations that it would not be safe with a No vote and you get all the rubbish about privatization and nothing about the fact that Health is a devolved responsibility and so currently and will continue to sit with Holyrood and not London!  Oh, and by the way, the NHS was established, ever before devolution by those ‘Westminster elite types!’


So come Friday whatever the outcome,  Salmond and Sturgeon could do one last decent act for Scotland, by tendering their own resignations.   They have said nothing, in their years in power, to indicate that they have the spirit to heal the divisions that their hubris has brought about.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Scotland's choice

I have written extensively on the subject of Scottish independence.

For the masochists and 'anoraks'  among you read here , here, here,here on currency, and again here on currency , here on Shetlands and Oil here on Scotland and debt , also here on debt, and again, here.  There have been other posts as well which, if you are so minded you can seek out.

Why so many posts?  Something like 18 by my count.

Well, as an Englishman, of Irish parents, with a son and a grandson born in Scotland, Scotland is personally important to me.  It is an integral part of a great nation - the United Kingdom.  A country that I love.  A country that has a Scottish part, a Welsh part, and Irish part and an English part.  I will be very saddened if the people of Scotland  were to take the irrevocable step of voting for 'independence' from the rest of the UK.

Why 'independence' and not independence?  Well frankly, it is a funny kind of independence that is currently proposed.  An independence that cedes economic policy power to the rest of the UK and, given the ever creeping federalising of the European Union, other powers to Brussels.  Exactly what will Scotland be independent of?  It seems to me that what is really happening is that Alex Salmond and the Scottish Nationalists resent, maybe even hate, the English and this is why they want independence.

Anyway, on Thursday 18 September 2014, a referendum will be held and Scotland's choice will be made.  At the moment it looks like a narrow majority in favour of the  No vote will be the answer.

In some ways that bothers me most.  Non-Scottish politicians have been falling over themselves to offer to grant more powers to the devolved parliament for Scotland.  This is wrong!  Scotland has more than enough power already.  It has had minor tax raising power since devolution was granted and has chosen not to use it.

Have a care !  You politicians may offer Scotland more power but what then of the English?  In the House of Commons, today, we have MPs elected for constituencies in Scotland and in Wales that can vote on matters that solely affect England's constituencies and yet MPs representing English constituencies cannot vote on devolved issues relating to Scotland or Wales.  Mind you, neither can those Scottish and Welsh MPs!

The argument runs that the Westminster parliament is not representative of Scottish opinion because the UK has had the temerity to elect Conservative governments.  Well, bear in mind that Labour relies on the support of 55 Scottish based MPs as part of its power base and this is an overwhelming boost to Labour's electoral chances - absent these seats, Labour would struggle to be the major party in Westminster, as England typically leans toward the Conservative Party.

Since this will be my last blog post before the referendum, I also wanted to mention the tactics of the Yes campaign.  These seem to fall into the following categories.  If faced with a question that is uncomfortable and for which you have no answer, accuse the questioner of 'scare-mongering'.  When your lack of a policy, e.g. on post-independence currency, is challenged, insist that the Westminster parties - all three of the major parties - are bluffing.  When the governor of the Bank of England and numerous other economists chip in with the same questions, repeat the 'they're bluffing ' response.

Then there is the really  nasty side to the debate.  This is exemplified by Jim Sillars, the former leader of the SNP.  He has basically threatened vengeance upon all of those companies that have the temerity to stand-up and be counted and voice their opinion that  a Yes vote is the wrong vote.  There is even talk of nationalising the likes of BP.  Is it any wonder that companies like Standard Life and Royal Bank of Scotland are saying that if there a Yes vote, they will re-domicile their headquarters outside of Scotland.  Obviously the currency uncertainty will play a part but they surely also have a fiduciary duty, in the light of Sillars' comments, to protect their shareholder's interests by avoiding nationalisation.

To the Scots reading this, I say vote No on Thursday and stay in the family of nations that is the greatest on earth.

To the other nationalities that are reading this, get in touch with your Scottish friends and implore them to vote No.

To the politicians I say, stop pandering.  Scotland already has more than enough power.  devolve no more.

Remember VOTE NO!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Be afraid !

Reports from Tripoli, Libya state that eleven commercial airplanes have been stolen.  At any time, knowing of such a theft in what is effectively a failed state,  would be worrying, however, coming so close to the 9/11 anniversary, this must be considered very concerning.

Of course the principal targets would likely be Western - so mainly US, UK or French interests but Egypt and Israel can't sleep easy, knowing of this theft, either.  Neither can Baghdad, Tehran or Jeddah be off their guard.  It is not known which of the multiple terror organisations or militias have taken these planes so the targets are unknown.  Given the random nature of the mindless violence that terrorists visit upon people, maybe knowing which group stole what plane might not even make any difference! 

There remains the possibility that these planes were stolen for the reasons usually given for thievery - I saw it there and thought I could steal it and sell it to feed my drug habit, or something like that - but I just don't see this as a crime of opportunity!  11 trained pilots and probably co-pilots and navigators just happen to be passing Tripoli airport during a battle between two factions and decide ' Hey, while all this is going on, why don't we steal those planes and then fence them, later on?  Yes, of course they are fueled and ready, let's go!

This issue is very worrying on two counts. 

The act itself leaves many of us and our loved ones, vulnerable to the actions of madmen who seem to think human life of little or no value.  People who would fly a plane into a building and not be worried about the ensuing death.

Equally concerning though, is the lack of any noise or activity from the media.  I know that the American MSM try to avoid all Libya stories because, whisper it very quietly, that is kind of, like, Benghazi territory and no one can speak of that, lest it tarnish the reputation of the sainted Obama and blessed Hillary!  But hey!  There are eleven commercial passenger planes missing and there is every likelihood that these are now in the hands of terrorists.  That should really concern us all and all of the posturing that is coming and to come from the NATO summit, will mean nothing if these planes are flown against civilian targets.

We face a more than usual uncertain future until this risk is eliminated.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Scotland's debt - a question for OAPs

In the independence referendum debate, the SNP have found themselves repeatedly on the back foot particularly regarding post-independence currency.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy leader has repeatedly stated that there is no need for a Plan B, see here for a February 2014 outing on the subject.

Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland has belatedly decided he has 3 Plan Bs.  He too was castigated by Alistair Darling in the first televised debate and so came up with not one, not two but three currency plans.  Say what you like about Salmond, he gives you value for money - three plans for teh price of one!  What a man!

Retain Sterling as part of a currency union (something which all three rUK parties have categorically refused to countenance), retain Sterling as some sort of Sterlingization position - where Scotland's monetary policy is then decided in Westminster and not Edinburgh and according to the needs of the rUK economy and not Scotland's or, join the Euro.

My view is that if Scotland votes for independence, then part of the price they will have to pay, to join the European Union, will be to adopt the Euro.

That aside though, John Swinney the Scottish Finance Secretary has weighed-in to the debate and added the full depth of his intellectual prowess.  He has said (and try to hear this without the necessary petulant voice which neatly captures his point) - If Scotland cannot be part of a currency union with rUK, then Scotland will take on none of the UK debt or liabilities. So there, nah, nah, nah!

Consider this though.  Most all governments operate using the debt markets to one degree or another.  Current national debt for the UK is in excess of £1.3 Trillion or 80% of GDP and climbing (this is why George Osborne gets a 'Could do much better' on his end of term report!). For the US the debt mountain is more than $17.8 Trillion for Federal debt or 105% of GDP and a further ~$5 Trillion for debt owed by the individual states.  Germany's debt is around 80% of GDP and that is probably understated when the European Central Bank commitments are properly considered.  Norway is a country much mentioned by Scottish Nationalists.  They too need to go to the debt markets.  Their debt to GDP ratio is in the acceptable 30% range but still the Norwegian government has to borrow.

So, John Swinney's first genius act as the economics guru for Scotland is to send a message to the world of finance that Scotland doesn't pay its debts!  It welshes on them!  It runs away from its obligations! 

So here is question # 1 for Scotland - who do you think will lend you money?  International banks and finance organizations have a thing about debt defaulters - they don't like them.  In fact to go further, they shun them.  Argentina defaulted on its debts and this had two consequences - a great depression which lead to riots and social unrest and hardship and, it could no longer borrow money.  Oh and yes, Argentina has oil as well!

And here is question # 2 - this time for Scotland's pensioners and would be pensioners.  You have paid in to a system, all of your working life but that system was predicated on you getting a pension at a set time in the future.  If an independent Scotland repudiates its debts, who will pay the pensions of Scotland's OAPs?  Certainly not the rUK.  

Think about it, the 'divorce' has become messy and one partner has decided, in a moment of pig-headedness, that they are not paying anything for the mortgage on the house or maintenance for the children - they're offsky!  A little way down the road, this partner realises that they actually need to get a new mortgage and they need a share of the house sale proceeds, to pay their new debts and a house deposit.  They find that they can't get a new mortgage because they have a default against their name and numerous county court debt judgements against themselves, relating to the jointly held debts that they walked away from and even their lawyer tells them they have no chance of getting any help from the former partner, because they can cite abandonment and abdication of fiscal responsibility and so the individual is, if you will excuse the expression, buggered! 

That is the position in which Scotland will find itself, post-independence if they adopt Swinney's policy.

Of course, that all pre-supposes that after a Yes vote, the rUK will allow Scotland to just walk away from its share of debt.  Why should they?  Why should Scotland which has enjoyed and continues to enjoy the fruits of the debt - schools, hospitals, roads, etc., - be allowed to wipe the slate clean.  Need I remind Salmond, Swinney, Sturgeon and the voters of Scotland, that this is a referendum on independence.  All legislation to enact the consequences of a Yes vote must be passed by Westminster.  Can you really see English and Welsh and Northern Irish MPs voting to allow Scotland to walk away 'Scot free' (no pun intended) from its obligations?  Can you?  Why would they agree to burden their rUK constituents with debt for Aberdeen Royal Infirmary or Mrs MacGregor's pension? 

Come to think of it, I don't know why I am so bothered about Swinney's comments unless its just this arrogance that thinks all of the power in this debate, lies in Holyrood.

I hope Scotland votes No on September 18.