Thoughts of a fly on the bar wall

It is 50 years since I started visiting bars, since then I have sat in more bars, in more places than I want to remember. I have worked behind, cooked in, served in, and managed pubs. I have conversed and argued with painters, Pakis (Ladies and Gentleman from Pakistan if you must), parasites, Parisians, parliamentarians, peers of the realm , perverts, players, pleaders, plebs, plumbers, Poles, poofters, prime ministers and prostitutes. I have written and broadcast about far cities, elegant restaurants, bordellos and mismanaged disasters.
I have heard absolute rubbish, absurd claims, downright duplicity as well as much good sense and enormous doses of reality.
Put it all these conversations together with my last few years thinking, reading and writing about the way we live, about our governance, our mistakes and our future and you get to this blog.

Sam Worthington

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Has the west become ungovernable?

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.”
Alexis de Tocqueville

That quote by Alexis de Tocqueville comes from a book he wrote in 1835. In Another quote he talks about democracy lasting for 200 years before it will fail because of economic excesses.
The head of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan, has pointed out that the developed economies (IMF etc.) keep lecturing the developing world on what to do: demanding reduced levels of debt, structural reforms and sound monetary policies. They then do exactly the opposite themselves.
The current UK election demonstrates the problems – the UK has run a budget deficit since 2001 – through all the good years of the early noughties it still ran a deficit. This peaked with the financial crash of 2008/9
It is eventually forecast to be corrected in 2019. But that assumes the current policies stay in place. Net interest payments on borrowing have moved from 22 billion in 2001 to a forecast 57 Billion in 2019.  And those high payments will stay in place for decades as the deficit created will take a long time to pay down. But still the major left wing parties are all saying the deficit reduction is too harsh – traditionalists would say not fast enough..
But there is another dimension – the world security situation is anything but secure – see this article. There is Russia banging a drum in Eastern Europe and the lunatics loose in the Levant, then if you look further afield there is an emerging China bullying in the Far East, and, by no means least to the UK, is sabre rattling Argentina over the Falklands. Against that back ground one would have thought defence would have at least featured in the UK election; but all the main parties have ignored the subject, or in some cases suggesting there needs to be greater, than the already significant,  cuts – and no party – except UKIP – will commit to the minimum recommended NATO spend of 2% of GDP. On the other hand Interest payments are forecast to be 2.7% of GDP in 2019.
But it is not just the UK – most European countries are running a budget deficit with reductions in their defence budgets.
The reason the USA and UK avoided the worst impact of the financial crises was because they implemented “quantative easing” – or it could be called under hand money printing. In the Euro zone - where money creation is verboten – the economies have gone into melt down creating mass unemployment and allowing nationalists political parties to threaten to take over. Part of the problem is these countries have been shoe horned into the Euro – and they did not fit so they are being compelled to fit by a tough austerity regime. Sitting on the outside it seems inconceivable, that sooner or later, the Euro system is going to break asunder and at least one country, if not several, are going to leave it. The main problem for many European countries is that they urgently need structural reforms of their labour markets. But the one thing the rising nationalist parties will not support is changes to labour laws. The National Front in France is talking about nationalising failing companies so they can stay in business.
Globalisation and digitalisation have dramatically changed much of the way business is done, it has changed management practises, it has enhanced global trade and opened up communications and the knowledge base – anybody with a computer can find out information that was once hard to come by. In addition the traditional middle management class has been done away with by centralised digital management – there is no real intermediary between top management – often earning obscene salaries - and the basic entry level worker.
For workers laid off in Europe it is relatively easy to find out about the workers who have replaced them – their working conditions and their wages. So it becomes particularly galling when workers lose jobs to people on the other side of the World who are earning a few dollars a day whilst working in overcrowded, and often unsafe, factories.
There is a real danger that growing nationalism will drive governments to protective positions that see them drop out of the free trade regime. Of course that is likely to work both ways impoverishing all involved as tit for tat trade sanctions hit. What is worse that may well increase insecurity as emerging nations, with growing military might, look for issues to distract from their unemployment problems created by a breakdown in globalisation.
Needless to say the economically conservative say the issues are very simple. Balance the budget, free up labour markets, encourage international trade, offer tax breaks to inward investors encourage entrepreneurs and wealth creators.
Those on the left will say increase tax on companies, increase tax on wealthy individuals, protect jobs by making it hard to fire people and that Keynes was right: investment in infrastructure – even if means more borrowing – is good.
For the voters: jam today is more important than promises of a golden upland in 10 years. Envy – of the rich – is always an easier sentiment to stir than common sense. The abject failure of the great socialist experiment – the USSR – is a part of history and who studies history these day? As to the threats to the country’s defence – where is Ukraine? And China is the other side of the world. Let the Arabs solve their own problems!
As long as we have democracy it looks as if sensible responsible government will not garner the votes required to win an election. No wonder the European Union has done its best to isolate itself from the will of its peoples. Politics is supposed to be the art of the possible – but what if good governance is no longer possible? We may end up looking with envy at a one party system that is economically literate: but will inevitable be nationalistic. There have been few of those in history and they mostly ended in disaster. Maybe Alexis de Tocqueville is right – democracy can only last 200 years.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Clarkson and cultural Marxism

With UK election only weeks away it might be an idea for the politicians – particularly of the main parties – to look carefully at the furore surrounding the Clarkson affair (as I think I can rightly call it.)
From the little we know of the facts it seems that Clarkson lost his temper and smacked a man he felt had screwed up.
Now we have all been there – at the end of a long day, when something else goes wrong, suddenly you see red; and want to lash out. We all know we should not and hope we have the self-discipline to not actually hit anybody – but it can be a near run thing.
Judged on those simple presumed facts Clarkson was wrong – of course we do not know how provoked he was – but even so he should not have done it.
If I have that information, living on the other side of the world, I would presume most of those living in the UK have it also. So why have the best part of a million people signed the petition supporting Clarkson?
I was trying to establish if this is change.org’s most popular petition. It is certainly more popular than many a deserving cause. And to a certain extent it reflects the irrelevance of much that catches fire on the internet.
The narcissistic armchair activism that the digital age has created – no make up selfies (well-lit), ice-bucket challengers who forgot to do the donating, 1,000 likes on pages raising awareness of horrific suffering in Syria – are no doubt for the most part well-intentioned. But it’s empty – how many of the people who tweeted #jesuischarlie had ever heard of Charlie Hebdo before it was attacked? How many even looked it up after?
That may all be true but is there not another message? Many of the people signing have done so because they see Clarkson as one of the last bastions of non-political correctness. For some time the PC media have, on the face of it, been conspiring to bring Clarkson down. He stands for everything they abhor – jolly japes, fast cars, men having fun and questionable jokes. The bland purified world they aspire to does not include a place for Top Gear and Clarkson – they hate its success.
But as the viewing figures show the great British public love it and what is worse – if you are a PC aficionado – is the rest of the world loves it too.
Any perceived wrong doing of Clarkson is publicised and bawled out as a reason to get rid of him. In the end, those old fashioned enough to think PC is a load of old rubbish, have come together to protect their man – even if he is wrong. And this flies straight in face of the modern PC establishment – especially senior politicians.
Many see political correctness as a way of stopping discussion of subjects that the establishment have made their mind up on. It has been described as cultural Marxism. But to many of us PC is abhorrent – why can we not discuss what we want? We should be sensitive enough to not make statements which will cause offence. However for many of us PC has turned upside down the very beliefs we were bought up on.
Therefore it is not surprising that Clarkson has so many supporters. It is the same reason UKIP, and other new parties, have so many supporters  We are all fed up with being told what we should think.
If there is any lesson, in the Clarkson affair, it is for our supposedly three wise monkeys who run our main political parties – if you opened your eyes, ears and mouth and started seeing, hearing and speaking about what is really wrong, and what people are really concerned about, you to might actually be popular.




Monday, 12 January 2015

Ask Chralie - we cannot be fair to anarchist

The atrocities in Paris have once again put Islam and Islamic immigration onto the front pages. There is barely a media outlet in the world that has not condemned the attacks and the massive demonstration in Paris articulated the free world’s outrage. Inevitable there are splits among political leaders and opinion formers over exactly what these attacks mean and what they will change.
Western politicians are terrified of upsetting the large number of Muslims who have been allowed to move to their countries. So they have been stressing that the vast majority of Muslims are peace loving good guys. The liberal democratic intelligentsia has been busy pointing out that Charlie Hebdo went out of its way to insult Mohammad and thus, by implication, was partly responsible.
Others – notable Nigel Farage of UKIP – has blamed the imposition of multi culturalism on our societies. This he says has largely failed so we now have a fifth column who were born into countries – and are citizens of that country – but hate the country. That statement has been condemned by some as politicking although others, including Norman Tebbit a respected older UK politician, have said he is fundamentally correct.
There has been much talk about police intelligence and keeping a track of known Muslim sympathisers. I fear talk is as ever cheap – monitoring thousands of potential terrorist is no easy matter. As one commentator pointed out if 90% of Muslims are safe, and definitely not terrorists, that suggest that 10% are the opposite. That is a massive number when you consider in the UK there are 3  million, France well over 5 million and in Germany about 2 million. Even if the percentage is reduced to a more realistic 1% then that means the UK has to monitor 30,000, in France it is 50,000 and Germany 20,000. Simple monitoring communications is not enough – thanks to the Edward Snowdon’s of this world people are well aware of the realities of electronic surveillance. To effectively monitor the numbers that could realistically be tending towards Islamic extremism is well-nigh impossible; unless intelligence services are going to employ hundreds of thousands.
There is one other point worth making – immigrants, and most Muslims are immigrants, come to a country to better themselves – they come for paid jobs. Europe is in the midst of an economic crises largely bought about by the strictures of the Euro and the aspiration of the those who want to create a single European state. The quickest way to get more recruits for Islamic extremism is to have thousands of disenfranchised young men kicking their heels and unable to work.
Personally I believe there are number of issues. The failure of certain immigrant groups to assimilate into their new country has created the disenfranchised youths that become terrorists. They find themselves growing up in strange community that has the culture of the old country but surrounded by the values of the new. They are neither fish nor fowl. They become easy recruits for radicals who offer a meaning to life.
The host countries, of the immigrants, have aided and abetted this situation by allowing immigrants to live in ghettos and shape their lives to their old ways. Education is the key to integrating the next generation into the ways of the new country. Secular is one things but ducking the teaching of the basic planks of our western society is another. Western society is based on Christianity – we do much of what we do in life because we are Christians. The biggest holidays are Christmas and Easter, the biggest events christenings, marriages and funerals. We take Sunday off because it is the day of rest – according to our religion. Our monarchs are crowned in a church and presidents sworn in using a bible. It is one thing to be polite and pleasant to immigrants; it is another to change our whole country to suit them. But we are not changing the country we are playing at the edges by creating a multi-ethnic society that nobody really wants and nobody really understands.
There have been many appeals not to regard all Muslims as terrorists - we must, we are told, still be nice to Muslims. I am not going to be nasty to Muslims per se – why should I be? But to an extent the Muslim communities are responsible. They often know who is likely to travel to fight for ISIS, or who is radically anti our society. So they know who the potential bad guys are but, like many communities, they think it is none of their business. It is time the Muslim communities woke up to the fact that if they do not police their own – the back lash will affect them.
Of course one of the perceived objectives of people like Al Qaeda is to create a division in society – the extremists are well aware that Europeans now have so many Muslims living in their countries that an internal Muslim versus the rest feud could quickly become a civil war that would destroy our societies and lifestyle. Furthermore with the demands of the modern welfare states; providing the counter terrorism facilities truly required will strain the already broken budgets. The people – the voters – have been bribed by free health, social welfare and pensions: those privileges now provided; cannot be removed – even to fight terrorists.
The issue is what to do – what will work, what is legal and last, but by no means least, what can the Europeans afford?
In the UK I believe the first priority is to start is by being clear who we are – we are a secular Christian nation with Christian traditions. If people really do not want to live in our society then they can go – there are countries where Shia law is the norm. Our schools should encourage pupils to believe in the United Kingdom and be proud of our long and distinguished history. As a country we have done much more good than bad. Jingoism is not all bad as it draws a nation together. We need our immigrant communities to be first and foremost British not Bangladeshi, Indian, or Pakistani. We need them to speak English not Urdu, Hindi, Arabic  or any other language – all children at a UK school should be taught in, and speak, English.
We should not accept any more Muslim immigrants unless they come with a work permit and a job, speak good English and agree to be British. New American citizens have to be sworn in and agree to abide by the constitution. In Thailand to get Thai citizenship a new citizen must sing the National anthem and the Kings song - as far as I can see in the UK all they have to do is know the way to the dole office!
We cannot practically monitor all those that we have reason to believe are potential extremists and or terrorist. So we need to find a way of dealing with them. We cannot simple wait until they do something bad and then put them in jail – usually for year or two after which they are back on the streets. We cannot put them in jail on suspicion they may do something bad. If this was a real war we would either direct them to live in a set area, or intern them. Without going into a long winded argument about legality – tagging is a modern system that allows basic freedom. The argument about the electronic monitoring of our mail is that if there is nothing to hide: why fear it. If somebody has been convicted of an offence that relates to terrorism or extremism why not insist they then wear an electronic tag (for ever)? I would go further and suggest all who have been connected to persons so connected should be tagged – especially those who we know have been to fight for ISIS or are suspected of going to a training camp.
We keep getting told we are not at war – well it is not a war as many of us think of war. It has no formal front and no readily identifiable entity as the enemy. ISIS is little more than a collective of anarchists – terrorists are a mass of semi connected amoebas that are hard to identify within society.
Trying to be fair to all will just as quickly destroy our essential liberties as being unfair to a few who, on the face of it, are trying destroy our whole system. It is not a fair world – ask the families of the people killed in Paris by these recent incidents. So let us stop pretending it is. We are never going to out fair anarchists.