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..There's a little Samuel Pepys in all of us..

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Two announcements to come from Downing Street..
One is an already prepared statement on a 'road fees'scheme.. one which would see an end to road tax, the equivalent of yearly license plate charges, and the introduction of mileage charges leveed against those who use heavily laden highways and byways, leading into any city in the country.. Now while Tony is adamant in starting ten such plans in ten of our major cities, just to see how it'll work, one of his spokesmen has admitted that a national plan is not cast in stone. That this in an effort to cut congestion, and is an idea that should be given a chance.
But, the 1.7million motorists who have signed an internet petition against this charging by the mile, could spell the eventual end to the whole thing..
So, while our roads will still be inadequate to handle the volume of rush-hour traffic, it'll be Gordon Brown's problem in a month or two..
The second is of far greater importance, on so many levels..
Tony's going to announce the withdrawal of some of the British Forces in and around Basra..
Again, should the violence escallate when the withdrawal begins, the troops will return, but the plan expected is to involve some 15 hundred troops coming home in the next month or so, and another 15 hundred by Christmas..
This comes as George is about to announce the infusion of some 21 thousand more American troops to try to contain what's becoming an absolute fiasco in Baghdad.
Now, this British withdrawal, as mentioned, is conditional, and could be a signal to George that Tony's time is coming to an end, along with the political carreers of many of those who supported the American stance unconditionally. A message to those in power in Washington, that Gordon Brown might be an entirely different Prime Minister, one wanting a closer relationship with the EU than that which is now enjoyed with the US.
It is no secret Gordon's a Europhile, and even though, at this point, the Conservatives under David Cameron appear to hold an edge in public opinion, our elections are 18 months away, and a lot can happen in a year and a half..
Even if the Tories get in, and David holds the reins, Iraq is an unpopular war in this country, one in which, it seems, the media is mourning each and every life lost in the Middle East.
Not the same can be said about Afghanistan though. There is a general awareness that terrorism is a real threat, and Afghanistan, with the Taliban and al Q'aeda based in that country, is as good a place as any to fight their infrastructure. Even those who read the most basic of newspapers understands that terrorists will strike here, and that arms and men are slipping across the Pakistani border in droves to form cells, and to actively fight in Afghanistan.
But not Iraq.
And with the distinct possibility the US will expand it's war effort against Iran to stop it's development of nuclear capabilities, the British man on the street understands the US alliance could drop us in yet another endless confrontation. For even if Iran is militarily occupied, and it's nuclear installations destroyed, it would simply mean yet another war of attrition.. guerilla warfare with no ultimate winner.. only a steady stream of body's returning to families who are proud their children chose to serve their country, but who vocally wonder about the wisdom of sending them to serve against an enemy which is not 'playing fair'.
To those of this country, throughout our involvements in all our conflicts, there has been a peace in place at it's outcome, and the knowledge that 'peace' for that particular theatre, is not going to come.
It's not popular.
On the whole, British are tolerant of anothers particular God, and a war in which one particular 'faith' has declared jihad against our entire society, has left us somewhat bewildered.
And indeed, the thoughts of the man on the street are beginning to question the 'right and wrong' of involvement in a conflict that has affected so many already, and stands to effect a definate division among those who are 'British', and those who are 'foreigners'.
Tony's announcement will be a popular one.
And if George does indeed decide the threat of Iran deserves military action, he may have to depend on UN support, for it's questionable as to whether this government will commit any more manpower to an effort with so little popular support here.
This departure of Tony, could cost George.
In fact, one would give good odds on it.
And to add to the general sense of confusion, comes the announcement from Iran's Ahmadenejad, that he'd be happy to talk to any Western power about stopping it's nuclear programs, if that power agreed to abandon it's own. He asks the question, 'why should a country with a nuclear arsenal already in place, deny Iran the right to develop parity?'
An easily answered question, but asked, at a bad time..
Condaleesa Rice is offering the Iranians what might be called a 'poisoned pill'.. Either stop the enrichment programs, or face the prospect of greater embargo's, and the distinct possibility of armed conflict.
Ahmanenejad has but one answer to that, which is in effect an ultimatum.
And that could be delivered in two words.

One more brief note here. British banks are announcing their annual profit statements this week. NatWest made just over £2.5 billion last year. It's number three on the list.
More on this issue later..

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Just a brief note here..
Figures show that China's Trade Surplus has risen by 67%, due in part, to the low value of the yuan..
Considering the amount of oil that country's importing from Russia, that figure is absolutely amazing, and puts some great pressure on Western producers, and Western markets.
This may prompt a move from the EU to support the US, as there is general agreement that the Chinese currency is vastly undervalued, and is now beginning to affect the American dollar, and the price of gold..
Good for Canada, and South Africa, but it's a trend that could lead to a complete re-evaluation of what the world sees as the 'standard currency', which at present, is the American greenback.
We'll see what effects this has on the markets come Monday morning.
Watch this space.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The government has announced, that those who collect State benefits, must either Speak English, or provide proof that they are taking classes to learn it.
Some 40thousand jobless people say their poor English is a barrier to finding employment.. and £4.5m is spent on translators in job centres.
This money, says Welfare Minister Jim Murphy, could be put to better use teaching immigrants the Elglish language.
Now this comes into effect in April, and whether the government will be prepared to offer classes to those with difficulties with English in time, is moot..
However, Jim wants more focus put on English language tuition.
To quote.. "We must utilise the resources we have to redress the balance: to put the emphasis not just on translating language to claim a benefit, but to teaching language to get a job."

Yes. And this would tie in nicely with the government announced plans to make those who come here 'British' first, while allowing them the freedom to maintain their particular culture and customs..
Within the Law, of course.
From April, new guidelines will require job centres in England to consentrate on encouraging the take-up of English courses.
And a new programme, backed by £14m of state money, is offering 15,000 places on courses in basic skills and employability training - including language skills - with the Learning and Skills Council.
But, an educational think tank which recently produced a critical report into how the government provides English classes to immigrants, has attacked the proposals as risky.
The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) reports the English tuition system was struggling to meet demand from migrants who wanted to learn the language.
Alastair Thomson of Niace agreed that investing in tuition was better than translation... but added there are too few classes and teachers.

And there is criticisism for separate government proposals, to charge for some English classes from September.. that it was 'bizarre' for the government to expect those unemployed because of their lack of English skills, to come up with the money to pay for an education dealing with the language while they had no income, other than Social Benefits..
And we all thought things were getting better..
A study by the think-tank Civitas suggests a third of households in the UK rely on benefits for their main income.
"What has been happening in the last few years is unemployment has fallen but the number of people receiving incapacity benefits has been going up a little bit," according to the report's author, David Green .
"But there's also been a huge increase in people receiving what's now called working tax credit. So you've got a mixture of pure benefit dependency and what you might call in-work benefit dependency."

Now this may seem like economic babble, but it simply means that a third of the country's households contribute nothing to the overall tax-base, and an increase of those doing jobs that pay so little, that they must have a suppliment from the government to survive.
There will have to come a time, when Westminster recognises the fact, that we are losing the work ethic this country once had, due in the main, to the overall lack of education of this country's youth, and it's unskilled workforce.
It's not a bad idea Jim has there, to teach those who come here to speak the language. It would be expected in any country for any immigrant..
But it's slightly off the mark in it's target demographic. It's a microcosmic view of a macroscopic problem, for it's not only those who come here from other countries who are in need of even something as basic as the English needed to get a job, but those British kids who have given up on the entire educational process, and are now quite content to live off the State, must be included.
A third of British households on the dole, or on disability.
One wonders where these people fit in when the government reports on unemployment figures.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Here we go again...
George seems to be preparing yet another legacy to leave for his successor..
Accusing Iran of supplying Iraqi insurgents with weapons, could well be the precursor to a 'justified' armed response from the US, and if George can convice enough Americans that their sons and daughters are being killed by yet another Middle Eastern country, he might well pull it off..
The purpose would, on the surface, be obvious.
Many will say it's the old saw 'oil', and the protection of America's sources.
Many will say it's another step towards protecting the State of Israel, as the slow progress of finding a homeland for Palistinians continues.
But perhaps, what might be closer to the truth, is the drive George and his administration has, in pacifying those who pose a threat to the US itself.. those who will happily strap on a semtex vest, or carry a suitcase carrying a 'dirty bomb', who might manufacture these weapons in the US itself, and walk down a street in New York, or Washington, and kill as many Americans as possible.
It might also be a 'warning' to those who finance terrorism, while maintaining a 'friendly' relation with the States, the likes of Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, that Americans won't allow terrorism to taint the lives of the men and women on the streets of the US.
It's a scenario that is more than possible, the expansion of military action in the Levant..
And it's something that George himself would be more than willing to leave for his successor, and perhaps the next as well, to deal with.
As his father once so famously said back in 1992..."This will not stand.."
And, another factor which cannot be ignored, is that those American businesses which deal in the manufacture and sale of the weapons of war, will be kept in business, and that's always a plus for the GNP..
One can only hope that when Gordon Brown takes over for Tony in a few months time, he has the sense to slowly withdraw Britain from this endless conflict, while having the diplomatic ability to maintain our economic ties.
This may well be the greatest challenge a British Prime Minister has faced, since World War Two..
A ballancing act worthy of a circus artist..
Gordon Brown.. David Cameron, Sir Menzies Campbell.. it matters little who's in power... for matters of internal importance in Britain, will take a back seat until some resolution is reached.
We in this country are between a rock and a hard place, for we too have extensive dealings with the Saudi's, and other Middle Eastern countries, and call ill afford to lose their money.
So, forget the environment, forget the NHS, forget the growing homeless and the loss of industry to cheaper sources in the EU..
It will be the American agenda, and the growing hostilities between Russia and it's oil, and China, that will take precidence here for quite a while to come.
We here are reknown for our patience in standing in queues.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

An Interesting speech from Russian President Vladmir Putin at this year's International Security Summit in Munich..
Vlad has made statements that can only be interprete as an attack on the US, saying that Americas 'almost uncontained' use of force around the world, has fuelled the threat of a nuclear arms race. Vlad has called the US approach to world affairs 'very dangerous', a statement which makes one think Russia is ready to take a more assertive role in determining world opinion on the various conflicts the US, and indirectly, Britain, are involved in..
Vlad told senior security officials from around the world that nations were "witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations".
"One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way.."

Western leaders in the audience, including Angela Merkel, looked decidedly glum-faced when President Putin had finished.. Earlier, Angela told delegates there was "no way around" the need for Tehran to accept demands from the UN and nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"What we are talking about here is a very, very sensitive technology, and for that reason we need a high degree of transparency, which Iran has failed to provide, and if Iran does not do so then the alternative for Iran is to slip further into isolation..".

But, the speech by Vlad took the wind out of many sails.. and could well signify a more assertive stance by Russia in international matters..
Russia's oil agreements with China could well be the driving force behind this change in attitude by Russia, as Russian oil flows more and more freely into China.
It is a situation the US will have to take interest in, for the last scenario the US, or indeed the Western nations want, is for Russia to take a stand in the Middle East, and North Korea..
This could signify yet another split between Russia and the West, and indeed, with the oil and gas reserves Russia controls, it could indicate a future in which the West may be forced to take a stance against China.
That, is the last thing the West needs..
There has been a rather heated response from the British Muslim Community, following the arrests of nine men ten days ago, three of whom have been released, and six who have appeared in Westminster Magistrates Court and have been charged with a variety of crimes, all terror related..
Compounding the matter was the arrest of a Muslim Cleric yesterday, who stands accused of 'spreading hatred and inciting his followers to violence'..
Spokesmen for the Islamic Community have called Britain a 'Police State' for Muslims, an accusation that has been vehemently denied by Downing Street..
But it would appear that those still in custody, have been discovered with over 45 hundred exhibits which will link them to either planning a terrorist action, or of funding terrorists, or of actually being involved in carrying out an act of terrorism.. This is compelling, and whether the Muslim Community likes it or not, it appears to be a fact that there are those among them who are willing to kill innocents, to further their 'cause'.
It matters not, to the Judicial System, what the faith is of those who would plot to disrupt our way of life, or kill, for the sake of their religion.
If there were fanatical Anglicans, or Presbyterians, or Church of England zealots, they would be hunted down and charged. It just so happens there is an Islamic 'jihad' been called, and thus, the attention has fallen on them.
It is the responsibility of the Islamic faithfull themselves, to recognise those among them who are zealots, and follow the Law of the Land, and report them before they can do any harm. The Police are merely doing their job, and we cannot condemn them for seeking out those who have openly, or covertly, proposed the downfall of this society.
Just as those in the Middle East would weed out any of those who's faith demanded an end to Islam, so we in the West must do the same to those who pose a threat to us.
The most important factor for those who live in Britain, should be that they are British, and enjoy the privilages that go along with that citizenship. In this country, 'faith' is a secondary consideration when it comes to breaking the Law.
A crime against this society, regardless of it's motivation, is still a crime.
A crime against this society, regardless of the religious affiliation of the perpetrator, is still a crime.
Britain has not become a 'Police State' as far as Muslims are concerned, but it has always been one which defines the Law, and proceeds against those who plan, or manage to actually break it.
Consider, our jails are full of non-Muslims who have broken the Law, committing one crime or another.
It is nonsense to declare that we, as a country, are now concentrating our vigilance on one segment of society.
A statement such as that might well be uttered by those who deal in drugs, or habitually commit murder, and to lower those who follow a faith to that level, is not the voice of reason, but the voice of fear.
And, if one follows the Law, one usually has nothing to fear. It is true that those three who were held without charge, and then released, have for the time being been deemed innocent, but the reason for their initial arrest, was the company they kept, and the possible threat they may have been concealing.
The message is, without prejudice, that if you lie with dogs, you smell like dogs, and until it's determined you pose no threat, you run the risk of being thought a dog.
Once again, as has been said before, there are those among the Islamic Community who should take the responsibility expected of a British citizen, and make moves to protect our way of life.
Tolerance is a two sided issue.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tony's facing a couple of difficult hours this morning, as he faces the Liason Committee, which itself is made up of the Heads of various Select Committees..
Now this is a question period which happens regularly.. twice a year.. and he'll likely have one more of these before he steps down as PM..
But the questions he faces this morning are telling.
Britain's continuing role in the Middle East. Should we continue to send forces into the area, or should we try a diplomatic approach more vigorously. This issue in itself will define the relationship the Labour Government intends to pursue with our No.1 ally, the United States. What with Republicans blocking debate on George's latest announcement that he intends to send another 21 thousand or so soldiers into Baghdad, it would appear George is going to make use of his time in office, to ensure there can be no backing out.. that the situation will require Western presence regardless of which Party might control the White House in a year and a half's time..
Britain has the luxury of cutting back on it's forces on the ground, and public opinion is beling led towards that eventuality, especially with the release this morning by the Sun newspaper, of cockpit recordings from US aircraft, which attacked a well-marked British convoy, killing one British soldier, and wounding several others. The point has been emphasised in the British media, that the pilots involved in this tragedy, were reservists, on their first mission, who had been fed incorrect intelligence.
It has not helped the British man on the street, to reconcile himself to our involvement in this conflict, allied with soldiers who cannot tell who's the real enemy.
Add to that the growing tensions between the British Islamic Community, the British public, and the tensions recently raised by the arrests and continued confinement of 9 British Muslims, who are suspected of plotting to kidnap and videotape the beheading of a British Muslim soldier.
This has turned into what was commonly called a 'cluster-f***'.
Tony's also going to have to answer pointed questions about climate change, and what Britain can do about it.
In his initial address to this Committee, Tony pointed out that we in this country, contribute only 2% of all carbon emissions currently released through industry into the atmosphere. He also pointedly announced, that the US and China contribute 40%, and that literally nothing can be done towards controlling human effects on our climate, unless there is a global consensus.
And quite frankly, with the US moving at a snails pace towards moving away from carbon-based fuels, and China still considered a 'developing country' and therefor exempt from any controls whatsoever, there is absolutely nothing we in Britain can do, that would have any real effect on our biosphere. If we went completely 'eco-friendly' immediately, we would see whatever benefit we might make swallowed up and lost, regardless of how many hydrogen based cars or motorbikes we might get on the roads, or how many energy efficient lightbulbs we change to.
Back to Britain's minority communities for a moment. There is a foofoorah ongoing about 'faith schools', and their effect on the children that attend them. Accusations have been flying about that such schools secularise groups.. instill within their communities an element of isolationism, where the government is desperately trying to boost the idea of being British first, and whatever else, second. In this, the government is failing.
It has been pointed out, that we are developing a 'ghetto society', wherein Muslims, WASPs, recent immigrants, are deliberately grouping together in their own neighbourhoods. The tolerance shown of television in soaps the likes of Eastenders, simply does not exist, and will not exist until there is a reason to be proud of being British again.
This process, if it does or even can develop, will take generations, and the formation of a trust which simply, today, is not there.
On to the EU, and Britain's future involvement in this organisation. Tony's stance is, that while the EU is in such financial difficulties, it would certainly not be in our interests to broaden our ties. It is a fact that even the government is seemingly aware of, that the EU is a teetering group, constantly expanding to take in economies which are thoroughly under-developed. That the Euro is vastly over-inflated in value, and to link our economy to the likes of France, Germany, Italy, which are all bankrupt and still the mainstay of the EU, as well as Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, which are all desperately trying to industrialise in the aftermath of the dissolution of the USSR, would be disasterous. Yet, therein the problem, for as we are a member of the EU, we are required to allow immigrants from these countries to flock to us in search of British wages, while also allowing them the freedom to maintain their own societies, and reject British common values.
Now, we are not against immigration, for indeed these people are willing to work at jobs the average Briton would turn their noses up at. This generates tax revenue for the government, whichever might be in power.. and gets these 'distasteful' jobs done.
But this again reflects badly on the average Brit, which generates resentment, however misdirected.
Tony has little time left before Gordon Brown takes the reins, and whatever he might propose will have to be reviewed by his successor. But, there are situations already set in motion, which must be addressed by any government in power.. Situations which will take years to resolve.
Take this latest statement from Tony, in answer to a question from the Committee, concerning our presence in Afghanistan. Tony insists that while Afghanistan will 'never' be what we see a democracy to be, but our goal there should be to give the Afghani people a chance at 'regional democracy'.. which suggests that the best we might be able to do, is allow Afghani's to 'elect' their Warlords.
What tripe! Should that be our true goal, then we might as well pull out now, as the Russians did.. and conceed that we cannot impose Western ideals or methods, on those from a culture that has a long history of internal strife.
There comes a time when it must be admitted that there is no 'International Community', but merely a coalition of Western powers with more money than sense.
There was a time, when the Levant was first approached by Britain in the 18th and 19th century, that trade agreements were reached without intervention in the manner in which the individual governments of these Middle Estern countries conducted themselves.
It seems now, that we suffer from hubris, and it is doing us no good whatsoever. It is time we cleaned our own house, and left other countries to do the same..

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