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The Future American President?

23 May

Hot off the AP newswire:

“Sarah Palin says she remains a ‘big supporter of offshore drilling’ despite the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

But Palin also tells “Fox News Sunday” that oil companies need to be held accountable. The former Alaska governor suggests that drilling on land in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is safer than trying to extract oil from beneath the ocean floor.”

Well, Sarah, which is it? Offshore or onshore??? Fox News, bastion of “Fair and Balanced Reporting”, naturally accepted both answers.

This video is a mash-up of the full (and lengthy) interviews available on YouTube, a nice little compilation of a woman who has absolutely no idea what she is talking about. I mean it is a sad day when she can’t even tell Katie Couric what magazines she reads.

But wait, Sarah fans, because there’s more to come! That is right my friends, she has “written” another book. Titled America by Heart : Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, it will be published by Harper Books on November 23, 2010—a full six months from today.

Here’s the claptrap from Amazon.com:

“Framed by her strong belief in the importance of family, faith, and patriotism, the book ranges widely over American history, culture, and current affairs, and reflects on the key values—both national and spiritual-that have been such a profound part of Governor Palin’s life and continue to inform her vision of America’s future. Written in her own refreshingly candid voice, AMERICA BY HEART will include selections from classic and contemporary readings that have moved her-from the nation’s founding documents to great speeches, sermons, letters, literature and poetry, biography, and even some of her favorite songs and movies. Here, too, are portraits of some of the extraordinary men and women she admires and who embody her deep love of country, her strong rootedness in faith, and her profound love and appreciation of family. She will also draw from personal experience to amplify these timely (and timeless) themes—themes that are sure to inspire her numerous fans and readers all across the country.”

Alaskan walrus poo. All this from a woman who does not (or cannot) read a magazine? There is no word yet on who actually wrote the book for her.

Does Palin have a chance of winning the Republican nomination for President to run against Obama? In this day and age, anything Kafkaesque is possible. And the “compassionate conservatives” love her because she is determined to abolish the separation of church and state.

Posted from Chandler, Arizona May 23, 2010

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Fixed Term Parliaments: What would Churchill do?

14 May
Winston Churchill in Downing Street giving his...
Image via Wikipedia

Former Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis – yes, that is his real name – has been speaking out against the fixed term parliamentary system introduced by the new Tory/LibDem coalition, describing the idea as a “constitutional outrage”. I know, some might say it’s just a case of sour grapes from the losing party, but he does have some support from constitutional experts.

The argument for change is that the country needs a strong and stable government to oversee the rebuilding of the economy following the credit crisis and bailing out of the banking system. Superficially that does make sense, but closer scrutiny suggests it’s an extremely misleading idea.

During World War Two, Britain was run by a coalition government installed after a vote of no confidence led to the resignation of Conservative prime minister, Neville Chamberlain whose policies of appeasement had proved both unsuccessful and hugely unpopular. Winston Churchill became PM, and later found himself facing a similar vote, but survived to lead the country to victory. I do wonder what he’d think about his successors trying to manipulate public anxiety to make changes to the parliamentary system.

While it is true that we owe a stupendous amount of money, and that we will be paying it off for decades to come, this can not possibly compare to the threat the country faced in the 1940s. Back then, we also had a massive national debt – billions owed to the US alone* – and it was growing because not only did the country have to finance the war effort, there was also the cost of rebuilding once hostilities were over. And of course, the danger was not only financial, the world’s biggest super-power was camped just across the Channel and planning to invade. In the meantime they were bombing our towns and cities into rubble and attacking our shipping with the intention of starving us into submission. Yet, despite this, at no point did anyone think the government should be shored up with changes to the system which made it harder to remove them from power.

Fast forward to 2010 and that very thing could happen. The Tory government want to make it harder to remove them if it all goes horribly wrong. And make no mistake, these changes would protect the Tories, not the coalition! If the coalition falls apart, the fixed term and new rules about votes of no confidence will enable the Tories to stay in power until 2015, despite the fact they will have no majority. They tell us this is a good thing because the country is in financial crisis and needs a firm hand on the tiller to see us through the difficult days ahead. They may have a point, but surely a minority government is not a firm hand, it’s a weak hand, and one which could lead to at best stagnation, and at worst, catastrophe.

So what would Churchill do? Would he approve of a minority government playing on peoples’ fears to introduce undemocratic changes to the parliamentary system to keep themselves in power? I think not.

* It took until 2006 to repay the money owed to the USA


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Is lack of trust in politicans eroding our democracy?

2 Sep

Interesting post from Tim about the continual erosion of the trust (or what’s left of it) between politicians and the UK electorate.

This year, as with every other year has been a constant drip of political cronyism, lies and deceit, eroding trust, connection and communication between political leadership and the electorate.anarchyintheuk.com, Sep 2009

Do read the whole post!

A Mandate for the Malicious

19 Aug

 The Register are covering the story of John Pinnington, a former headmaster who has lost his job because an enhanced security check revealed unsubstantiated rumours about him.

“A recent landmark ruling by the High Court takes the UK one step closer to becoming an “informant society” along the lines of the former East Germany or Soviet Union.”

I have no idea about the veracity of the allegations against Mr Pinnington, but the idea that someone’s life can be ruined by little more than tittle tattle is not only shocking, but against everything the UK legal system is supposed to stand for. I have children at school so of course I agree with security checks, but I’m more concerned about dedicated and talented teachers leaving the education system only to be replaced by those who are squeaky clean but otherwise second rate.

Teaching is a poorly paid occupation with, in many cases, a high level of stress and responsibility. At the time of writing, the profession finds it hard to recruit graduates with good degrees. Adding yet another disincentive will only serve to further deter the very people who would be of most benefit to young minds. Why on earth would these people want to teach when they can earn considerably more doing a job which does not expose them to the risk of public humiliation and ruin!

What is (or should be) of concern to us all is the idea that an individual is no longer considered innocent unless proven guilty – a system which has served us well for centuries – instead gossip and spite are seen as proof of guilt. In an ideal world, no one would ever make false allegations against another person. However, out here in the real world people do, even children. The law should serve to protect the innocent from such claims, not to give a mandate to the malicious.

David Davies resigns on point of principle

12 Jun

David Davies, Conservative MP and shadow home secretary has resigned following the government victory in the 42 day detention vote.

“He told reporters outside the Commons: ‘I will argue in this by-election against the slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this government.'”

Read the full story

Zimbabwe in a state of intimidation

22 Apr

With arms at sea, it looks like the Zimbabwean government is going to step up the violence and intimidation to ensure that any form of run off election held in the country for the presidency will ensure the sort of land slide victory Robert Mugabe has come to expect.

With 10 opposition supports already murdered, and thousands suffering under brutal violence and intimidation, how can a democratic election be expected to take place in a society in crisis?

With Britain and the West condemning Mugabe, the question has to be asked what can, and what will be done to stop what looks to be an inevitable human rights crisis?

The sad truth is that Zimbabwe is already a human rights crisis: effective inflation of over 100 000% p.a., 80% unemployment, over the half of the country are refugees to other countries in the region, like my home, South Africa; what is left in Zimbabwe to ruin?

It is shocking that in the modern world a catastrophe of governance such as Mugabe’s Zimbabwe should be allowed to remain. If Zimbabwe were next to the vast majority of countries in the world, some act of intervention would have taken place. But South African president Thabo Mbeki has done nothing: and whilst his own party the ANC does nothing to impeach him – even they agree that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe and something must be done.

The miracle of Zimbabwe is that less blood has been shed. It speaks to the levels of institutional oppression and legacy of colonialism in the country that a task master of such evil proportions as Mugabe could go on so long without a street based rebellion. Had South Africa such a criminal leader, the people would riot and oust the dictator, as they would in most states…

This illustrates the need of the military to keep Mugabe in power, and thus protect themselves from prosecution for the Matabeleland massacres of the 1980s after the war of independence, instigated by Mugabe and his military chiefs.

It is terrible to see despots and genocidal militarists go free, but it is worse to see a country run to ruin. Whilst on a different level (the Apartheid regime resisted freedom but never slaughtered or perpetuated genocide; simply unequal separation), the Zimbabwean opposition needs to offer a truth and reconciliation style amnesty to the Big Men of Zimbabwe, as South Africa’s ANC did with the Apartheid regime, to grease the wheels of change and heal the wounds of the nation.

It is a cruel irony, that the country known as the bread basket of Africa, is not able to obtain the vast influxes of wealth the country would have seen had it not fallen to ruin, as global wheat and maize prices soar.

Now what remains of Zimbabwe must be guided through the fires of chaos that surround them, and hopefully into a future without despotism and bloodshed.

If that is possible considering Mugabe’s cruel grip on power, is another matter entirely.

The Stealthy Erosion of our Civil Liberties

3 May

Writing for the Comment is Free section of the Guardian, Henry Porter discusses the current UK government’s track record on civil liberties – or, more accurately, the apparent removal of many of our freedoms by stealth.

I feel quite strongly about this subject, and have written about it in the past. I’m not a great believer in conspiracy theories, and I don’t spend my time fretting that the government is out to get me, but, this gradual erosion of basic rights and liberties – which go back centuries in some cases – is deeply worrying. Maybe, this government are telling the truth and are only doing these things because they believe they will protect the people of this country. Maybe, they would never dream of using these powers for any malign purpose, but that doesn’t mean a future, less ethical government would behave in the same wa.

We are in danger of losing freedoms our forebears fought long and hard for, and sadly, a large number of people seem to be prepared to let this happen. Some, are simply unaware of the situation, others feel it’s all for the greater good. ‘If you have nothing to hide . . .’ they say. To them I ask this: If you have nothing to hide, why do you have curtains at your windows? Why don’t you tell every Tom, Dick and Harry your PIN? Why don’t you discuss your entire medical history with the queue at the bus stop? Is it possibly because some things are private?

The issue isn’t whether anyone has anything to hide. It’s a simple matter of living free from state monitoring and interference. Or, to put it another way: When you get up in the morning you put on clean knickers/pants, you wouldn’t expect your mother to come around to your house to check you had. If she did you would feel very silly, and rather offended. Surely, she should trust you as a grown adult to put clean underwear on in the morning? Well, yes she should, and the government should trust us all to behave like responsible citizens too! The money spent on badly designed and intrusive schemes would be better spent on more police officers to enforce the laws we already have.

In my previous post I quoted Shami Chakrabarti, I’ll repost the quote here because I think it is pertinent.

“If you throw live frogs into a pan of boiling water, they will sensibly jump out and save themselves. If you put them in a pan of cold water and gently apply heat until the water boils they will lie in the pan and boil to death. It’s like that.” – Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty

If, like me, you would rather not go down the boiled frog route, try the following links: