Freethinkeruk’s Weblog

UK Political weblog

Archive for the month “September, 2008”

A Sign of The Times

On a slightly lighter note amidst all the gloom and doom.

A motor cruiser named ‘Mr Greedy’ got into trouble and ended up on the rocks in the Channel Islands, which of course are well known tax havens for bankers, financiers and those not willing to pay their proper contribution to society. See.

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Cold War Hots Up Again

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered plans to be drawn up for a nuclear ‘umbrella’ to protect Russia from a potential attack along with more nuclear submarines and a space shield.

So here we go again, embarking on yet another arms race, creating tension, fears and an appalling waste of natural resources that no one can afford. So predictable when at the US behest, all the little countries that were formally part of the Soviet Union clamour to join the EU and NATO with their eyes on the financial inducements on offer.  US anti missile missiles are to be based in Poland just west of Russia along with promises of cash and NATO membership to Georgia to the south and so on. No wonder Russia feels increasingly threatened.

Western governments and their media will of course point the finger at Russia and it’s new President but the truth is plain to see for anyone with at least one brain cell.

Housing, it’s not all bad news.

House prices continue to fall in the UK with London showing it’s first fall in over eight years. Bad news if you’ve bought a house expecting it to increase in value, above the rate of inflation, indefinitely. If though, you bought a house to be your home to live in, which is what they are really for, what difference does it make? If you need to move then the cost of the house you wish to buy will also have gone down by approximately the same percentage rate as yours. If the current financial crisis continues and it looks set to do so for a year or two at least, then house prices may stabilise at a sensible and sustainable level. It’s not likely, unfortunately, that the current government will accept my suggestion and nationalise all land (see).

Perhaps and I won’t hold my breath, regulations will be brought in requiring a hefty deposit to be put down when buying a home and a limit on lending of say, three times annual income. In the case of a couple buying, based on the highest single earner only, thus removing the financial block on having babies. These regulations would have the added benefit of keeping prices on a more even keel.

The talks currently still under way in the USA, as to how to prop up the banks with how many $billions are going to do little for mortgaged to the hilt buyers in the US and in the wider world. ‘Trickle down’ has never worked as we all know too well after the Thatcher years. How about at least some of these now almost countless billions going to the mortgage payers who are in trouble, by way of installment interest relief. It would help them and help the wider economy and if the greedy bankers could possibly learn the lesson it would help to stabilise the banks as well.

Oh well, dream on.

Roll on Republic

While the economy crashes, bankruptcies rise faster than the morning sun, peoples homes are being repossessed, energy costs condemming elderly and the poor to potential hypothermia and while unemployment increases, Downing Street finds the time to re-write the law so that female Royals or Royals of any faith, can inherit the Throne and so keep within the law of human rights. Incredible but true.

Photo Rex features

Photo Rex features

What ‘human right’ allows an unelected, undemocratic person to inherit the position of head of State, with unbridled power and influence along with vast estates, palaces and castles paid for by taxpayers who can exercise no control over them. Time to change the law regarding Royals indeed, time to abolish this feudal anachronism for good.

Oh! Reports out today also suggest that the monarchy is demanding even more money from taxpayers; so around £150million per year isn’t enough then! That’s around ten times the cost of an average European President.

Nuclear Power – The Big Debate?

So, there we have it, Britain’s nuclear power industry handed over to France with EDF already planning to build four more reactors.

The cost of this takeover is £12.5bn to EDF but didn’t I hear a short while ago that the cost of disposing of the radioactive waste that we already have (if anywhere can be found to put it) will be £76bn and rising? Isn’t it usually the case that when one company takes over another it takes over not just the assets but also the liabilities? Who is going to pay for future waste as we have yet to see the small print, indeed, if we ever do see it. Obvious of course that it will be us, the British taxpayer.

EDF is 86% owned by the French State so what the hell is our Government doing by giving control of our energy to a albeit benign, foreign power. As a matter of passing interest freethinkeruk’s electricity is supplied by EDF with around a 25% increase in cost so far this year. In France EDF was told by their government that 2% increase was the maximum allowed. Put another way we subsidise French electricity users.

We were also promised a ‘Big Debate’ on nuclear power, full public consultation; well at least they didn’t waste money on consultation when they had already made their minds up. Nuclear power is expensive, hugely risky and releases a lot of carbon in the process of getting the uranium out of the ground. Even while planning on more reactors it is still not known where to store the waste for the next 5000 years or more or how it’s ‘safety’ can be guaranteed by generations as yet unborn. On top of all this, safe, green alternatives exist and are getting more efficient all the time and together with energy conservation these dangerous reactors are not needed.

NHS Privatisation

freethinkeruk recently made a hospital booking for a minor medical procedure at my local community hospital. I used the new on-line book it yourself system which seemed OK until I received the inevitable paper confirmation in the post subject to me returning a paper form and the hospital’s receipt of my GP’s written confirmation. What on Earth is the point of a computerised system that requires paper confirmation every step of the way? What a waste of money! By the way GPs do have a choice whether to use the new system or not but they do get an inducement of around 70p per booking if they do. What!

Anyway, to my main point. When I got the paperwork I discovered not just the NHS logo on the header but also one of ‘Ramsey Health Care’ which on investigation turns out to be an Australian Private hospital group that has been given a contract with the NHS to carry out 95,000 procedures. It’s a ‘no brainer’ to realise that ‘Private + Contract = Profit = money lost from the NHS’. Obviously this loss makes it all the harder for NHS hospitals to improve their service and hence the easier it for politicians to say we need more private involvement. Over time this in turn will lead to the demise of our beloved NHS, the service that came in after the war despite fierce opposition and has been improving our lives ever since. We can shrug our shoulders saying ‘what can we do?’ or stand up and fight every inch of the way to keep, maintain and improve this precious resource that still, just, belongs to each and every one of us.

By the way, in case you wonder what freethinkeruk did, he cancelled the appointment and is demanding treatment in a genuine NHS hospital rather than letting the cost associated with his treatment fall into private hands. A small protest yes, but if we all did it?…………….

Insane World

Financial institutions are crashing around the world and governments are using taxpayers money to prop up private companies whose greed got the better of them. Not so long ago public money was again being used to ‘save’ investors in company retirement plans that crashed. Houses are being repossessed (UK) at the rate of 100 per day with worse in the USA and unemployment is steadily rising.

Roughly there is still the same amount of money in the world, there are still people needing homes to live in and people willing to engage in employment. So what has changed? The dominant global system of which we in the UK are a part, is capitalism and for that to survive it depends on a number of factors. It requires continual ever increasing production and therefore an ever expanding market to buy the products. It also needs investors to make future profits and increasingly these investors want quick short term profits.

Money, the paper and coins stuff, are all but worthless in themselves, they represent labour, work, something done by someone somewhere. Investors have money but themselves produce nothing and therefore exist by virtue of someone else’s labour. The global industry can easily supply everyone’s needs but would leave little if anything for those who wish to grab more than their share. So it follows that needs fulfilled are not enough and wants must be stimulated hence, apart from anything else, the emergence of the huge, multi £billion advertising and marketing industry. Wants become acquisitiveness which becomes greed the essential fuel of capitalism. Instead of simply enjoying living with our needs fulfilled we spend our time planning for the future, buying on credit what we cannot afford now, on the assumption that we will be able to afford the repayments way into the uncertain future. We’ve even got to the ridiculous state where mortgages are crossing over from one generation to the next!

As stated earlier money can only represent labour of some kind so when that earning power becomes so far into the future that a return on investment becomes currently worthless something has to give. The erratic cycles of ‘boom and bust’ are an inevitable part of the capitalist system but it is the ‘ordinary’ global citizen who pays the price, every time.

Gobbledegook

Freethinkeruk signed an on-line petition a while back, calling for MP’s to have the right when voted in, to swear an oath of allegiance to the Nation and to their constituents rather than to the Monarch. I paste below the petition and following that the response from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Details of Petition:

“All residents of a constituency where the MP is a Republican are deprived of their fair and equal representation in Parliament unless their MP begins his Parliamentary career by swearing loyalty to the very institution which they have just been elected to oppose. It is morally wrong and profoundly anti-democratic.”

· Read the petition

Read the Government’s response

The present oath or affirmation which members of both Houses are required to take at the beginning of a new Parliament or on entry into Parliament recognises an appropriate obligation on the members of the Parliament, in their consideration of forthcoming measures, to respect the existing constitutional arrangement. This does not represent any bar to the proposal by members of alternative arrangements. The Government has no plans to propose any change to the form of the Oath or Affirmation currently set down by law for Members of Parliament.

Apart from showing contempt for millions of voters and of MPs who want change it also doesn’t make sense. What are these alternative arrangements mentioned? I suppose it means we will still be subjected to the ridiculous spectacle of MP’s taking the Oath with their fingers crossed behind their backs thus signifying that they are lying.

pc Osama Bin Laden

‘Political correctness’ is changing the character of Britain or more accurately of Britons. Take the latest bit of nonsense. A middle ranking police officer in Cornwall, Ch Supt Colin Terry, dressed up as Osama Bin Laden complete with a face mask that can be bought in any joke shop and went to a small town carnival where he was collecting for charity. He has now been sacked from his temporary EU secondment to Afghanistan where he was helping with setting up police security. Well maybe that is just about understandable. He has also now been reported to the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) and likely to face disciplinary action from the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary.

For goodness sake, we in Britain have historically poked fun at those who we percieve to be our enemy or those who become pompous or set themselves above the rest of us. It cuts them all down to the size that they truly are.

Energy Help

With a fanfare the Government today announces a wonderful ‘deal’ with the energy companies. They are going to provide home insulation for the very elderly and those on benefits and so assist in reducing their bills. Well freethinkeruk can’t speak for anyone else but I have been getting information from my supplier (EDF) for some time offering just such a deal. Cynic that I am I can’t help but think this latest announcement is just an old agreement dusted off and presented as a breakthrough.

The estimated cost to the suppliers is around £1billion and as I said in a previous post, the suppliers will get this, or a windfall tax back from their customers one way or another. When pressed in an interview Hillary Benn (I can’t believe Tony is his dad) admitted that we will all pay about an extra £35 per year to cover this expenditure. QED!

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