Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Sydney Siege: 3 dead, and political opportunism.

The siege that had been taken place at a Sydney cafe, ended with a storming of the cafe, after a total of a dozen hostages had managed to get out.  It was believed there were still 9 hostages in there when Australia’s Special Forces Police made their storming raid.

And 3 lives were lost in that raid.  One of those, was the gunman, the perpetrator, who was identified as Man Haron Monis, who was an Iranian cleric, who was on bail for a number of offences.

Some wondered whether he was with Islamic State, he wasn’t nor did he show their flag, despite what some have said but more on that later, and some wondered whether he was doing this alone, and yes he was.

But 2 of the hostages also lost their lives in the storming.  Whether that was from the gunman’s gun or the police’s guns, we will probably never know.  One of them was a lawyer, the other was the manager of the cafe.  Two lives cruelly cut short.

But something else was lost in that raid.  Understanding.  We will never learn what drove the man to take these hostages, what his motivations were, what was going on inside his head, and that is a missed opportunity. 

And then Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, made it worse.

During the siege, he had been rightfully careful with his choice of words, not calling it terrorism, not referring to it as anything other than a criminal act, with the possibility of a political motivation, a possibility that unfortunately can never now be proved or disproved.

But after it, he reverted to type and waded into the quagmire.

"He had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability, We know that he sent offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and was found guilty of offences related to this.  We also know that he posted graphic extremist material online. As the siege unfolded yesterday, he sought to cloak his actions with the symbolism of the ISIL death cult.  Tragically, there are people in our community ready to engage in politically motivated violence.  Australians should be reassured by the way our law enforcement and security agencies responded to this brush with terrorism,"

“…this brush with terrorism”?  Every time you call an act such as this terrorism, you are legitimising the cause that drives it.  It is an act of criminality, plain and simple, and that’s how you should be categorising it, and talking about it.  You call it terrorism, and call the perpetrators terrorists, and the criminals believe you just acknowledged that they are right to do what they are doing.  So, never call it terrorism, or call them terrorists.

The other statement I take serious issue with is this one, “he sought to cloak his actions with the symbolism of the ISIL death cult”.  Because every black flag with Arabic writing on it, must be the flag of ISIL(!).  In fact, the flag that was displayed early on in the siege, wasn’t an ISIL flag at all.  In fact, it’s a standard Islamic flag, a Shahada flag, which represents a general expression of faith in Islam.  The writing on it reads, "There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."  The same phrase is on the flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Symbolism of ISIL?  Only in the most shallowest of ways, and in fact, the ISIL flag, doesn’t use that phrase or classical Arabic style of writing.  The script on the ISIL flag, looks almost like it was written by a child, it’s got that very handwritten, amateur quality to it.

Tony Abbott, in that one post-siege statement, took his grade for how he’d handled that, down from a B+, to a D-.  He really should have stuck much closer to the original script that he’d been using during the siege.

When the siege started, I hoped and prayed for a swift, but just, conclusion.  The conclusion was swift, but it was also brutal, and to lose the lives of two of the hostages in that raid, will be leaving a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of the Special Forces Police who carried out that raid.  I wanted the perpetrator taken alive, to stand trial for his crimes, and to find out what his mind-set was.  We’ll never get that, and the justice that was so badly needed at the end of this siege, was lost in a hail of bullets.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Viewpoint Podcast–Episode 1a–Torture report released, needs prosecutions



This week, we saw a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Senator Dianne Fienstein, on the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that the CIA used in the aftermath of September 11th 2001. Okay, let's stop right there. “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”? That's political speak, for the T word, because the T word can lead you into all sorts of legal trouble. The T word? You know, torture. So let's call a spade a spade and say exactly what this was. It was torture, that's what the CIA did for over 6 years, in the aftermath of September 11th 2001.

That same month, President Bush, ordered the use of these techniques. He ordered the CIA to torture prisoners. And he used 9/11 as a justification. These techniques were used until November 2007. And in all that time, according to the report, they were not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining co-operation from detainees. The CIA made claims about the effectiveness of these techniques, that didn't actually stack up or stand up to any scrutiny at all.

And the craziest thing about this is, there are people still defending the use of torture. George W Bush back in 2010, said to NBC News “Using these techniques saved lives, my job was to protect America”. Yeah, right, you'd already failed on that count when you ignored a report that was given to you back in 2001, which had said that Osama Bin Laden was determined to attack America, and afterwards, we had 9/11. So you'd already failed to do your job, and you ordered the CIA to torture prisoners as retribution for that.

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News is also siding with the torturers. In a recent Talking Points commentary on his show The O'Reilly Factor, he said and I quote, “Based on available evidence, "Talking Points" is siding with the CIA people. Look, we're fighting a war... ...Bad things happen in war. After the German SS massacred Americans during the Battle of the Bulge, U.S. troops shot and killed Germans who had their hands up trying to surrender. That was wrong. But it happened and the U.S. high command largely overlooked it, understanding the tremendous emotions involved.
It is the same thing with coerced interrogation.” I wonder what available evidence you're basing that on, Bill, because I have some available evidence, which I'll talk about in a minute, that puts things in a completely different light.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, the day the report was released, appeared on Fox News Channel's Special Report with Bret Baier, and defended the use of torture. He said the CIA deserved “credit not condemnation” for the use of torture, and asked “What are you prepared to do to get the truth against future attacks against the United States?” Well, we know how far you are prepared to go, Mr Cheney. You saw how it was done when you were part of the Nixon administration during the Watergate scandal, a scandal that cost your boss his job. And if you are prepared to break international law to do what you want, then you should face the consequences of that.

Yes, that's right. I said break international law, and that's what Bush, Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, and the people at the CIA did. In most postings I have seen on this story, they have referenced the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which was originally written in 1948. Article 5 of the declaration states that, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” That is the complete article, as found on the UN's website. That is everything it says. Often as well, they reference Article 7 of the declaration, which says, “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.” Now these became international law in 1976 after being incorporated into the International Bill Of Human Rights, which was ratified in that year, but in 1984, the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into being, and was ratified in 1986, becoming international law then, and it is articles under this convention that really defeat all the justifications, all the defences, all the 'we did this for good reasons' arguments that we have heard for years.

International Law is quite explicit on this. Article 2 of the convention reads as follows.

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.


Well, there's no ambiguity there. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, may be invoked as a justifcation for torture. Not even 9/11. And those who justify it, defend it, and support it, should understand that. No justification for torture, or “enhanced interrogation techniques” as the Bush administration liked to call it. And now, they have to do something about it.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, said in a statement earlier this week, “The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the US Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability. International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the US Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes. As a matter of international law, the US is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes. It is no defence for a public official to claim that they were acting on superior orders. CIA officers who physically committed acts of torture therefore bear individual criminal responsibility for their conduct, and cannot hide behind the authorisation they were given by their superiors.

Human Rights Watch have also called for prosecutions as well. And the ACLU wants a special prosecutor appointed. But there it is, The US government is legally, and indeed, morally obliged to bring Bush, Cheney and the others to justice. It cannot just move on and leave this in the past, because it will never be left in the past, until the criminals are prosecuted for what they've done. In his Talking Points commentary, Bill O'Reilly said that opinion lines are drawn on ideology. No, they are drawn on legality. On one side, you have those who are trying to get away with doing something blatantly illegal under international law, and on the other side, you have those who know it's illegal and want to see justice take it's course, and to frame it in political or ideological terms, is completely dishonest. Bill also asked in his talking points commentary, who would you rather have protecting you -- Bush and Cheney, or those who oppose “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Given the evidence I have at my disposal, including international law, my answer is clear, I'd rather have people who do not use torture, rather than George W Bush and Dick Cheney.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Viewpoint Gold Star Award: Lisa Bloom’s blooming good legal analysis on Ferguson Grand Jury.

GoldStarAward

I don’t hand these out as much as I should, so it is time to give out another Gold Star Award, to someone who truly hit the spot on Twitter with some excellent legal analysis on a platform that allows thoughts of a maximum of 140 characters.

Her name is Lisa Bloom and she is MSNBC’s legal analyst, and her twitter timeline is filled with brilliant analysis.  Vox highlighted 8 tweets in particular, but there are far more than just those tweets.  In order, with additional commentary from me as required…

Yeah, that does sound a little silly.

That should be a red flag right there, to any juror. That should be enough to create a suspicion about the evidence, on it's own. It would be a red flag to me as a juror, no matter what the case.

These three tweets highlight major inconsistencies, and again, had the prosecutor done their job, should have queried each one.

These three tweets remind me of Boss Hogg's Sheriffs in The Dukes of Hazard. About the same level of competence shown.

This would be another red flag.

Another indictment of failure.

...and another indictment of failure.

As a photographer and video-journalist myself, I always know to keep spare batteries with me at all times. That's a lack of professionalism.

Nothing is self explanatory, especially when there are no pictures and no sense of scale. Measurements are a MUST. That could be a gross misconduct right there.

Masterclass gratefully accepted, thank you Lisa.

Nah, just find out where the prosecutor went to law school and take them back there, and demand that they refund their tuition fees.

That is a very damning indictment of failure.

Yep, reads like a typical how to get away with it to me...

Well, perhaps the prosecutor could tell us what a typical case looks like... *rolls eyes*

This sounds strange to us Brits, but you have to remember, they drive on the right, and the driver sits in the left hand seat, which means he would have to reach across from the passenger side of the car, to reach the driver.

Some people have drawn comparisons between this and the Trayvon Martin case, and according to Lisa Bloom, those comparisons might actually have some justification...

And reaction to what Lisa Bloom has revealed on Twitter has been generally of a single tone. One word of warning, there is one use of very strong language in one of the following tweets...

There is more from Lisa Bloom on her twitter feed, and I expect there will be more in the next couple of days, but I have to say, congratulations Lisa on some exemplary analysis, and as a result of your hard work, and diligent analysis, you win today's Viewpoint Gold Star Award. I only wish I could give you a physical award myself, and tell you in person. But please, accept this little virtual award, for your excellent analysis and insights.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

RTE cancels Morning Edition, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

Two weeks ago, the Irish Examiner newspaper reported that RTE was axing it's morning news programme Morning Edition. It was one of those moves that came as a surprise, as it wasn't particularly signposted that such a move was about to happen. But frankly, the whole issue of Morning Edition, was a series of bad moves and mistakes from start to finish. RTE shouldn't be cancelling the programme, but it made a lot of mistakes in its creation too.

The whole situation dates back to the 1980s, when ITV and BBC created breakfast shows, TV-am and Breakfast Time. It was expected that RTE would follow their British neighbours lead and create their own breakfast television programme. But battles between RTE and the broadcasting unions in Ireland kept such a programme off the air for many many years.

Meanwhile, TV3, which itself got off to a slow start, getting licenced in 1989, and not launching until 1998 (and that's a long story in itself), launched its own breakfast show, Ireland AM, in 1999.  And since then, Ireland AM has become the default television choice for audiences at breakfast time.  On Radio, that honour goes to Morning Ireland, RTE Radio 1's equivalent of Radio 4's Today programme.

So, there you have the basic situation.  TV3 proud of Ireland AM, one of the few things they can be justifiably proud of, and RTE proud of Morning Ireland on RTE Radio 1.  In fact, they're so proud of it, they put cameras in the radio studio and stream the show on RTE News Now.  So, with Ireland AM airing from 7am to 10am, RTE wanted to compete, but not to detract from Morning Ireland, which airs between 7am and 9am.

So, they created "Morning Edition", which aired for 2 hours from 9am to 11am on both RTE 1 and RTE News Now.  It was announced back in October 2012, and launched on January 28th 2013.  Visually, and format wise, it looked and felt like a breakfast programme.  With news summaries at the top and bottom of each hour, and the newspaper review, and orange tint, and lighter general tone, it has more in common with breakfast programmes than with the daytime hours that the show occupied. 

So, why was it airing at 9am, instead of at 7am, as it should have been?  The only answer that made any sense, was fear.  Fear of failing against Ireland AM, and fear of cannibalising the Morning Ireland audience on RTE Radio 1.So, it was a good show, in the wrong slot.  Too late in the morning, airing after the audience was gone.  Gone to work, gone to school, and gone to TV3 for Ireland AM. 

It was the one time RTE truly needed to compete with TV3, and they didn't.  And then TV3 effectively stuck the knife in deeper, by extending Ireland AM To 10:45, although this was mostly in response to the cancellation of The Morning Show with Sybil & Martin, which had launched in 2009, airing live on weekdays at 11am.  It had been launched as part of an overhaul of daytime programming, and had lasted about 4 years, before being cancelled in 2013.  Ireland AM was extended out to 10.45am, and RTE's Morning Edition found itself in a hole. 

It had not wanted to compete with Ireland AM, and now it was being forced to compete, against its wishes.  And because it started two hours later than Ireland AM, Morning Edition had no chance.  The content was great, it was just two hours too late.  Moving it to 8am, would have helped a little bit, would have taken away some of Ireland AM's lead, and it would have been a proper breakfast show, albeit a slightly late one, but workable as a breakfast slot.  But 9am just isn't workable as a time for a breakfast show, which Morning Edition, really was.

So, RTE decide to cancel Morning Edition, rather than move it, and risk cannibalising Morning Ireland's audience.

Except, that based on everything we've seen here in the UK, TV doesn't cannibalise Radio's audiences at Breakfast time.  Radio's audience at breakfast has remained very strong.  In fact, breakfast is still radio's most listened to timeslot.  Breakfast television hasn't garnered anything like the kind of audience that breakfast radio has, but it has done well enough to make it profitable. 

So, RTE's reason for not moving Morning Edition, has no actual basis in fact, and makes their decision to cancel the show seem very short sighted.  What they are afraid of, doesn't happen.  Radio listeners don't suddenly switch to TV, just because RTE One has a new breakfast programme.  Today on Radio 4 didn't lose listeners because BBC One launched Breakfast Time in 1983.  That audience is pretty fixed, they like Today, they don't want anything else, the competition can do what it wants, they're not going to move.  A similar situation will apply to Morning Ireland.  Their audience likes what Morning Ireland does, and that audience isn't going to suddenly evaporate away to TV, because TV has launched a new breakfast programme. 

RTE needs to get its confidence back.  They need to realise that they are playing for the long haul, not like TV3, living quarter to quarter, worrying about making more profits each quarter.  Both companies feel under pressure with the arrival at the beginning of 2015 of UTV Ireland, which has taken a lot of programming from TV3.  This won't directly affect Ireland AM, which has a steady 50,000 viewers and is produced by TV3 rather than bought in from ITV, which a lot of TV3 programmes have been.  But, it could affect it indirectly, through increased cost of producing home-grown primetime programming, with less money potentially available for their breakfast programme.

No matter what happens with UTV Ireland and TV3, the cancelling of Morning Edition, has been one of the biggest mistakes that RTE has made, bigger than the mistake of putting it on at 9am.  I hope that in cancelling it, they are working to bring a proper breakfast programme, starting at 6am or 6.30am, to RTE One, or at least, a breakfast sequence with half hourly news summaries, or at least, hourly news summaries, rather than teleshopping, and a repeat of a previous weekday's edition of a magazine show.

If they are so concerned about cannibalising Morning Ireland's radio audience, then make Morning Ireland, a joint radio/TV simulcast.  Present it from the RTE News TV studio, studio 3 at Donnybrook, produce it in a very similar way to how Morning Edition has been produced, with the emphasis on guests and live material, rather than packages, and the programme would air on RTE One, RTE News Now (which is pretty standard for all RTE One News programmes), and RTE Radio 1. 

Putting Morning Edition at 9am was a bad idea, but cancelling it now, is even worse, and as the old saying goes, two wrongs don't make a right.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Gold Star Award: The Independent On Sunday

Up until now, I’ve only handed out “awards” for the worst, and the things that are wrong, but it is often better to reward the things that are right, or excellent.  So with that in mind, I’ve decided to hand out some much more positive awards here on Viewpoint, and it starts today, with a Gold Star Award, which I will hand out to individuals or companies who do something truly right, something exceptional, something that exceeds expectations, and is worth rewarding.

GoldStarAward

Today’s Gold Star Award winner is the Independent on Sunday, for their perfect front page today covering the murder of Alan Henning by extremists.  I could describe it, but I think the brilliance of it, can only be demonstrated by showing you the front page itself.

indy20141005

Now, how’s that for dealing with propaganda?  I’d say, that’s the perfect way to do it.  Congratulations, the team behind this wonderful front page of The Independent On Sunday, you win Viewpoint’s first ever Gold Star Award, and richly deserved it is too.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

A “feminist” doesn’t understand what chivalry is.

A friend of mine shared an article with me and her other friends which made a case that chivalry had to die, as it was demeaning to women.  As I read it, I realised that it wasn’t full of facts and truth, but full of misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

So, for the benefit of all readers out there, allow a male feminist to review Abigail Collazo’s article, and show you where exactly the article goes wrong, and we don’t have to look very far at all.

“Like most women, I believe my male friends to be nice people.  They don’t catcall or sexually harass women on the street, they are thoughtful and sweet, and they believe in women’s equality and gender justice like good progressives.”

Oh dear.  This is a bad start.  When the article goes immediately onto the defensive like this, it is never a good sign.

“…And so I give them on break on chivalry, because I know that they don’t mean anything by it.”

You, give men a break for being chivalrous?  How awfully decent of you.  Or perhaps I should I say, how utterly condescending of you.

You feel that accepting chivalry is beneath you?  That’s the very definition of female supremacy there, and not the good kind either, but the kind that mislabels itself as feminism and gives feminism a bad name.  And as if my point needs proving, you prove it for me later in the same article.

“…It is exceptionally rare that a man will walk into or out of an elevator before me.  In fact, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten used to it.  When the doors open, I immediately start walking in or out without a second’s thought as to why I am automatically, almost subconsciously, determining that I am the more important person and should have the right to go first.  Realizing this, I am actually starting to enjoy the very startled look on men’s faces as I don’t step forward first, or even (heaven help them), say “after you” and wait for them.”

Exhibit A, right there.

“…Just as I’ve become accustomed to receiving chivalry, men have become accustomed to extending it.

Why?  Because it’s what nice boys do.  What good men do.

Which is exactly why chivalry is dangerous.  Because it blankets itself as courtesy while concealing a dramatic assertion of inequality between the sexes.  There’s no way around it – chivalry is about viewing women as fragile, delicate creatures who need special protection, special consideration, and special treatment…”

Completely wrong.

Here is how the Concise Oxford Dictionary, defines “chivalry”.

1. the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral, and social code.

2. archaic knights, noblemen and horsemen collectively.

3. the qualities expected of ideal knight, especially courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.

> courteous behaviour, especially that of a man towards a woman.

Notice the bit I’ve highlighted.  Courteous behaviour.  Also note, it says especially, but not exclusively.  A woman can be chivalrous to a man, it is not a one way street. 

Also, the reference to the medieval knightly system, is the same system that was referenced in the article itself.

“The Knight’s Code of Chivalry was a moral system that stated all knights should protect others who can not protect themselves, such as widows, children, and elders. All knights needed to have the strength and skills to fight wars in the Middle Ages. Knights not only had to be strong but they were also extremely disciplined and were expected to use their power to protect the weak and defenceless. Knights vowed to be loyal, generous, and “noble bearing”. Knights were required to tell the truth at all times and always respect the honour of women. Knights not only vowed to protect the weak but also vowed to guard the honour of all fellow knights. They always had to obey those who were placed in authority and were never allowed to refuse a challenge from an equal. Knights lived by honor and for glory. Knights were to fear God and maintain His Church. Knights always kept their faith and never turned their back on a foe. Knights despised pecuniary reward. They persevered to the end in any enterprise begun. The main vow from the knights was that they shall fight for the welfare of all.”

Again, notice that nowhere in there does it talk about demeaning women, but about respecting the honour of women.  That’s the key word here, respect.  Chivalry is about courteousness, about respect, not about demeaning women.

To prove that the article writer doesn’t understand what chivalry truly is, allow me to present Exhibit B…

“…Because here’s the thing: there is a difference between being chivalrous and being nice.  Being nice is expressing or demonstrating consideration for another person – something that I agree all people should do for all other people.  Holding doors open for people, for example, is being nice.  Allowing someone else to go in front of you in an elevator, picking up something someone has dropped – these are all nice things to do for others, regardless of gender.  Holding a door open for a woman because she’s a woman is not just being nice – it’s being chivalrous.  It means that for some reason you believe a woman deserves this extra courtesy.  That she is special.”

The writer believes there is a difference between being courteous, and being chivalrous.  In fact, they are one and the same.  There is no difference.

“Ah…” I hear you cry, “I see a fatal flaw in your argument, and it is in the dictionary definition.”  And then you present…

3. the qualities expected of ideal knight, especially courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.

“There.” you say, “Because society views men as strong and women as weak, that proves that chivalry is demeaning to women.”

No.  It doesn’t.

All it proves is that you bought into the myth, that women are the inferior sex.  I have known some women who are emotionally very strong, and some women who are physically very strong, strong enough to possibly break me in half.  I’ve also known men who are emotionally weak, and men who are physically weak as well.  The idea that men are strong and women are weak, is a myth and it has been BUSTED.  Busted flat.

Ironically, the article writer managed to defeat her own argument, in her own article.  I present Exhibit C…

“…Chivalry was a code wherein a knight promised to defend and protect the weak, the helpless, and the vulnerable.  To act graciously, to be generous and truthful.  Frankly, these are traits that I think all honorable people should strive for – not just men.  And such behavior is certainly not mutually inclusive with special protection and courtesy for women.”

You see.  You had the definition of what you are supposedly against, right there, and you said it was a good thing, that all people should strive for.  What is so bad about chivalry?

Unfortunately then, you revert to back to the wrong narrative…

“…We may say that common courtesy is something we should all strive for – being polite and helpful and respectful to each other just because it’s the nice thing to do.  But gender constructs and stereotypes – the ones that tell men they should never need help or women that they always deserve princess treatment – are getting in the way.  We all contribute, we’re all responsible, and we all need to be more aware.

The chivalric code was written at a time when women’s agency and equality and abilities were not even questioned – they simply didn’t exist.  We’ve come so far since then.  Isn’t it time we updated the meaning of the word chivalry to consider the autonomy and capabilities of women that we’ve fought for so long to be recognized?  Isn’t it time women gave up the benefits of chivalry for our right to be treated as capable beings?”

Ah, but then men would have to give up the benefit of chivalry as well, and a chivalrous man, is regarded in much better terms by women, than the douchebags, you actually admitted that at the start of article, albeit in a somewhat demeaning manner.

Chivalry is all about courteousness, about respect.  In a sense, it is gender equality.  It is not about women being superior to men, or men being superior to women, but it is about men and women being equals.  You see, chivalry doesn’t just have to be from a man to a woman, but it can also be from a woman to a man, from a man to another man, or from a woman to another woman.  The same also applies between men, women and transgendered people.  Chivalry is courteousness, and courteousness is chivalry.  There has never been any difference between them, and there never will be, except in the minds of those who think women are better than men. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Bill Moyers retirement: Thank you for the inspiration.

billmoyersBill Moyers may be an unfamiliar name to a lot of people in the UK, but he is a very familiar name to me.

I first encountered him as the main presenter of a series called Now with Bill Moyers in 2002, but he became the victim of a conspiracy in 2004 to have him removed from the show, because the neo-conservatives who were in power in Congress and the Whitehouse, didn’t like the way that Bill Moyers took them on.  So Bill Moyers left the show in 2005.

But he didn’t stay away for very long.  He brought back an old show, Bill Moyers Journal, in 2007, and used it to champion causes of social justice, voting rights, and many other progressive issues.

He tried to retire in 2010, but was encouraged back to do a new show, Moyers & Company, in 2012.  It was supposed to last 2 years, but once again, he was encouraged to stay on.  Now, at 80 years old, he’s decided that it’s time to hang up his microphone, notebook and pen, and actually retire.

Bill is one of those people who helped me to refine my writing and commentary style, along with Keith Olbermann.  Through reading, watching and listening to his work, I found his essay commentaries to be incredibly well written, well researched and had a distinctive voice that made me want to up my game, in a similar but slightly different way to how the writings and commentaries of Keith Olbermann.  Keith inspired me to use humour in my writings more than I had done previously.  Bill inspired me to to research the heck out of subject before writing about it, not just the cold factual research, but also the well thought-out individual perspectives as well.

Recent personal history has reminded me that cold factual research only tells half the story, and as much as I like to get to the cold hard facts and away from the emotional, and often very personal responses of people, it is the personal perspectives from people’s own experiences, that often offer up unexpected facts and unseen viewpoints that can completely change how a subject is viewed.  One thing I want to do here on The Viewpoint Blog, is get some more individual perspectives in, and I’m looking at ways to do that, such as interviews, podcasts, videos and maybe even guest posts from contributors.  More on that in due time.

So thank you, Bill Moyers, not just for all your hard work over the years, but also for helping to inspire a new generations of writers and commentators, just like me.  If I can be just 1/10th of the journalist that you have been, I will be a very happy man.

Viewpoint Extra: John McNulty & The Seanad

In a post on Monday, I referenced a scandal that had been breaking for a while over a prospective candidate for the Seanad, the upper house of Ireland’s parliament, called John McNulty, who was standing for the Fine Gael party. 

Well yesterday, John McNulty, withdrew his candidacy for the Seanad.  There’s one problem though, the ballot papers have already been printed, so his name can’t actually be removed from the ballot.

Fair enough, there is a situation where he could be elected, but if that ends up happening, all he’d have to do is announce a resignation, and there would be a new ballot held for that seat, simple enough.

The whole situation was a mess.  But I fully expect that Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin will try to milk this for everything it’s worth, but as it has no worth at all, and as I said on Monday, political points are worthless and meaningless, I don’t see this causing Enda Kenny any further problems.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sun Media finally show some responsibility... maybe…

It was back on 13th September that Sun News Network crossed a line that they’ve crossed about a million times before, but something about this was different.

It was on their show “The Source with Ezra Levant”, that Ezra made his big mistake.

The response to that commentary was different to anything else.  Trudeau has long been a favourite target of Sun News presenters for commentary and ridicule, but this was something else.  This was a personal attack, both on him and his father.  Not the first and probably won’t be the last, but Justin Trudeau decided that enough was enough and that he was going to boycott Sun Media journalists until the company apologised.

This boycott almost backfired on him spectacularly, as the following video, also from Sun News Network, in this case their “Byline with Brian Lilley” programme, demonstrates.

Okay, so maybe there’s a bit of desperation about the boycott by Trudeau, but the question is serious enough to possibly cause trouble.  However, it didn’t and Sun News Network is now about to apologise for Ezra Levant’s completely irresponsible rant.

Congratulations, Sun Media Corporation.  You finally learned a little lesson about media responsibility, finally, almost too late to matter, almost too little a lesson to really have any meaning, but you have learned it.

Aww, who the heck do I think I’m kidding???  Of course they haven’t learned their lesson, they’re just so desperate to get Justin Trudeau to answer their questions that they will do whatever he wants to try to get him to end his boycott.  After all, you can’t keep crying all the time about the fact that the Liberal Party leader, and possibly the next Canadian Prime Minister, is refusing to answer your one sided, conservative-biased, moronic questions that are actually bad attempts at traps to try to trip up Trudeau and keep Stephen Harper in office for as long as you can.

You really don’t deserve to have the ability to call yourself a news network.  That’s not a complaint about bias, by the way, that’s a matter of definition.  Sun News Network doesn’t have a news programme in it’s primetime line-up, they are all opinion shows. 

BATTLEGROUND: An opinion show all about politics, especially favouring conservative politics.  5pm to 6pm ET.

BYLINE: An opinion show on stories you won’t find on any other channel, because no other channel is dumb enough to report propaganda.  6pm to 7pm, repeated 9pm to 10pm.

THE ARENA: They say the show presents “…strong balanced opinions to challenge conventional thinking…”.  I say the show presents opinions that have been balanced on the edge of a cliff in order to challenge gravity(!).  100% of the time, gravity wins.  7pm to 8pm.

THE SOURCE: Ezra Levant basically lets rip on anything and everything that his extreme conservative sensibilities find abhorrent, which to be honest, is pretty much everything.  8pm to 9pm, repeated 10pm to 11pm.

It’s not merely the opinions that I object to, it’s the irresponsible attitude behind them that leads them to think they can say anything they like without actually worrying about the response from the people they attack.  They think they can copy the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, forgetting that they do not live in the United States and as such do not have those first amendment rights, and even then, I would define freedom of speech separately from having the right to spew hatred, lies and propaganda.  It’s fine to have opinions, based on facts, but you can’t make up your own facts, based on nothing but your own opinions, which are not based on any facts.

When any media organisation thinks that they can make up their own facts to advance their own agenda, they make themselves many things, a laughing stock, irrelevant, disconnected from actuality, and they end up also exposing themselves as liars, propagandists, and haters.

Sun News Network is one of a number of channels and organisations who have no concept of how to be a responsible media platform.  Fox News Channel, and their sister business station, Fox Business, and sister newspaper The New York Post are the obvious and long time examples of irresponsible media, and in the UK, tabloids like The Sun, Daily Star, Daily Express and Daily Mail, are the very definition of irresponsible media, but in Canada, the Sun News Network, and their associated newspapers, like The Toronto Sun, and the Calgary Sun, are also the definition of irresponsible media.  Internationally, you can also add Press TV in Iran and Russia Today to the list of irresponsible media, and there are no doubt one or two others that I have yet to encounter.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Strictly Politics: Reckless move sees backlash.

StrictlyPoliticsWestminsterGraphic

Yesterday, Mark Reckless was a Conservative MP for the constituency of Rochester & Strood.  Today, he’s the probable UKIP candidate for the seat, in a by-election that could be happening in November.

Just like his name, his move to join UKIP and resign as a Conservative MP, was Reckless.  There’s no guarantee that he will get re-elected.  In fact, based upon what happened earlier today in Rochester, Mark Reckless, might have committed a reckless move of political suicide, by joining UKIP.

Channel 4 News political correspondent Michael Crick, has written about what was supposed to be the former MP’s triumphant return to Rochester with Nigel Farage, and the fact that it turned into a roasting for Reckless, at the hands of a local Conservative constituency organisation that had revenge and vengeance on their minds.

Most of what Reckless heard were Conservative activists who were unsurprisingly disgusted at what he’d done, and gave him a piece of their minds, and there were a lot of those.  Mark Reckless, could well have defected himself out of a job, that he could have held onto for about 8 or 9 more months.

Michael also raises a good point about Labour here.  Should they run a campaign here or let Tories and UKIP fight it out between themselves?  To me, the answer is obvious.  Yes, they should run a campaign in Rochester & Strood and run it hard.  After all, until 2010, it had been a Labour seat.  Reckless may well pull a group of voters to UKIP with him, and hopefully, it will split the right wing vote enough for Labour, or some other party if Labour don’t feel up to it, to go in and potentially win the vote. The Green Party would be a good party to get behind right now, if they decide to submit a candidate.

There have been comparisons made with the final days of John Major’s government in the mid 1990s.  In some ways, this is worse, as the Referendum Party was at the time, an untried, untested movement in electoral terms.  UKIP are tried and tested, and have won some seats, mainly at the council level, but also in the European Parliament.  Some people are expecting UKIP to win at least a seat at the UK General Election next year.  I expect that UKIP won’t win a seat, but their very presence will probably mean the Conservatives will lose seats, mostly to Labour.

Overall, this weekend may have proved that political defections are fraught with danger and if you make a Reckless move, you may just end up paying the penalty.  You have to wonder who was the more reckless, Mark Reckless or Nigel Farage?

Fair Or Foul: A new type of post here on Viewpoint.

We’re making some changes to our blog, and introducing different styles of posts here at Viewpoint.  One of these, is the one I’m going to introduce to you right here, it’s called Fair Or Foul, and it goes like this.

I will post about some of the stories that have caught my attention, either the story, a statement from a company, or a quote from a person, or something similar, and I will rate them on the following scale.

FAIR – The story, quote or statement is fair or seems to be fair.

FOUL – The story, quote or statement is not fair, but it’s not a serious foul, there’s nothing egregious about it.

FOUL, Yellow Card – The story, quote or statement is not fair, and is serious enough to earn a Yellow Card warning for unfairness.

FOUL, Red Card – The story, quote or statement is so unfair, egregiously so, that it would warrant a ‘sending off’.

After each rating, I will explain what about the story, quote or statement has persuaded me to give them that rating.

So, having explained all that, let me give you a few examples so you get how the ‘game’ is played.

FairOrFoul

BBC News: Young people out of work for more than six months face losing access to jobseeker's allowance (JSA) if the Conservatives win the next election.  Fair or Foul?

FOUL, Red Card.

No two ways about it, this is a red card offence.  The Conservatives have been trying to force people to work for their dole money for years now, and every time they come out with this idea, it gets so much grief, and rightfully so, that they have to hide it away again until they can find another way to dress it up and try to make it look respectable.

There’s nothing respectable about underpaying for people doing work, especially "community projects", which is Tory code, for menial jobs that they wouldn’t be prepared to do themselves.  Good leaders, lead by example, not by forcing people to work for their benefits, and effectively working to criminalise unemployment.  This all stems from having the basic attitude of “those who can’t find work are basically workshy and don’t want to work”.  That isn’t necessarily the case at all, but because of programmes like Benefits Street, where you encountered people who went around with the attitude of “Oh, the world owes me a living.”, you’ve ended up with the public having a very distorted view of what it means to be unemployed.  And the Tories are trying to take advantage of that, to criminalise the unemployed.  That will not win you votes, especially from those who ARE unemployed, or who have recently been unemployed, whether they have found a job, or gone the self employed route.

The Tories should just drop this whole idea of criminalising the unemployed, and instead try to find ways to enable easier startup of small businesses, and cut the massive amounts of red tape out of small business startup and self-employment.  It will be more beneficial, than criminalising people because they haven’t got a job.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Emma Watson: “It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. We should stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are.”  Fair or Foul?

FAIR

Emma Watson on Saturday launched a campaign called HeForShe at the United Nations in New York, which aims to promote gender equality to men, and change the perspective of feminism from being seen as one about hating men, to one about gender equality.

I can honestly say that I have always thought that feminism was about equality, not about man-hating, which is something completely different, despite what misogynists like Rush Limbaugh think and say on the air.  Gender equality is something we should all get behind.  I have made my commitment, I urge all men to do the same, go to the website, and take a stand for gender equality.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Micheal Murphy TD: “What exactly is he apologising for?  Is the Taoiseach now admitting that he instructed Minister Heather Humphreys to appoint Mr McNulty in support of his Seanad candidacy?… …This goes to the heart of the scandal and requires a full statement in Dáil Éireann from the Taoiseach outlining the entire sequence of events from the beginning to the end of this shabby affair."  Fair or Foul?

FOUL

This is just another example of politics as usual that you can find almost anywhere around the world.  In this case, the contretemps is over the appointment of prospective Fine Gael senator to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.  The thought is that the appointment was done to help his Senatorial candidacy.  The accusation is basically cronyism.  But we have seen this accusation thrown about so many times, in many different countries, and really, what would a statement in Dail Eireann really do, other than just give Michael Murphy a chance to try to humiliate the Taoiseach, and score more political points, which are ultimately, meaningless? 

I’ve said this many times, but politics should be about problem solving, not point scoring.  It should be about coming together in the centre, not pulling people to the extremities.  Instead of becoming two tribes, we should be coming together as human beings.  I’m often reminded of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood song, Two Tribes, from 1984, the video of which featured impersonators of US President Ronald Reagan, and Soviet premier Konstantin Chernenko brawling and wrestling each other in front of a rabid crowd.  But one lyric from that song keep coming back to me in these situations.

“When two tribes go to war, a point is all that you can score.”

And political points, are worthless and meaningless.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Local: The Spanish government has said Catalonia would not be allowed to hold an independence referendum, shortly after the region's leader set a November 9 date for the vote.  Fair or Foul?

FOUL, Yellow Card.

Apparently, the Spanish Government has forgotten what kind of country it is governing.  It is a country made up of 19 autonomous regions, two of those are cities.  Each autonomous region has their own parliament, can make their own laws, and each is a democracy of its own. 

Catalonia is one of a few autonomous regions that has significantly more powers than most other regions, amongst those powers, is for the regional president to dissolve parliament and call elections, and if Catalonia is blocked from holding a referendum on independence, it could well be that Catalonia turns it into an election issue, and make independence the centrepiece of an election campaign, and for the Spanish national government, that would be a much bigger headache, than a mere referendum.

The Spanish government, look like they’re afraid that they are going to lose, and that might be true, but instead of looking like scaredy-cats, and running to the Spanish Constitutional Court to get the vote ruled unconstitutional, which is what they’ll try and do, they should actually let the vote happen, and let things take their course, and if something goes wrong, be ready to welcome them back into the Spanish fold with open arms.  This is starting to look like an enforced empire, rather than a collective of people that want to work together.  And by extension, it is also making the European Union look like an attempt at empire building, rather than the Community that it was when the UK joined in 1973.   

In saying that “…no-one is above the national will of all Spaniards…”, you look like enforcers of something that maybe, the people of Catalonia don’t want anymore, and maybe, other regions of Spain, might not like it either, and might not want to be a part of it.  If you cannot respect the will of the Catalonian people, why should other regions want to be part of Spain either?  You do yourself no favours by starting to appear dictatorial, rather than democratic.

Hence, the yellow card, as a warning that trying to dictate what can and can’t be done, by a democratic, devolved region of your own country, is likely to lead to the breakup, not just of Spain, but potentially of other countries too, and possibly by extension, the breakup of the European Union, as people decide they don’t want to be a part of any elected government, that decides it can become dictatorial when it likes.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland Votes 2014: Result and Aftermath

ScotlandVotesUnion

Well, by 5am this morning, we knew that Scotland had voted no to independence, and there was a huge sigh of relief from the No camp, and a huge groan of disappointment from the Yes camp. 

The final result after all 32 council areas had declared was…

ScottishVoteResult2014

On a personal note, I had been of mixed emotions throughout this referendum campaign.  Part of me was sad at the thought of breaking up the UK, especially as it was starting to feel more like a bitter divorce than an amicable separation, but part of me was excited at the prospect of Scotland becoming an independent country and all the associated things that would change with it, such as the changes to the media in Scotland.  Upon seeing that the result was going to be no, I was still of mixed emotions.  Relief was there, but there was a lot more disappointment.  I would have loved to see how Scotland would have developed as an independent nation.

But putting my disappointment aside, we now have a situation where we know there is a large movement for change, 45% of those who voted prove that, and that kind of support for change can’t be denied or ignored.  So maybe we’ll start to see a move towards a more federal UK.  Maybe we’ll see Yorkshire, Cornwall, Wessex and other areas become autonomous regions within the UK as a whole. 

But one thing we won’t see will be Alex Salmond as Scottish First Minister for much longer.  He decided that today’s result was the end for him, as the First Minister of a devolved Scotland, and as leader of the SNP, the Scottish Nationalist Party.  He will stand down in November, when a new leader of the SNP is elected, and therefore, a new Scottish First Minister.  Nicola Sturgeon, current Deputy First Minister, is the obvious favourite.

One thing this referendum has undoubtedly done, is to release the devolution genie from the bottle for parts of England, as well as reinvigiorate it for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  It will not be business as usual, ever again.  The idea of a parliament for England has been put forward, and some have linked the idea to House of Lords reform.  Now, to be honest, any one of these issues on their own is enough to stall a government or cause ructions in the Palace of Westminster.  But to try to put all this together, before the next election, sounds like a bridge too far.  It sounds like a rushed job, rather than what is needed, which is time to go through the options and decide what works best. 

Overall, yes, this is the beginning of big change within the UK, but will it be the right change that is needed, or a rushed change that could do more damage than good?  Only time will tell.

Scotland Votes 2014: First Result…

ScottishIndependenceRefendum

Well, we have our first result in.  Clackmannanshire voted No, by 19,036 to 16,350 for Yes.  Now, most political analysts for this referendum had expected Clackmannanshire to vote Yes, after all, it had voted SNP in the European Elections earlier this year, and had a large percentage of lower class voters, the DE demographics, who were expected to vote Yes.  However, this seems to have not been the case at all.  It may well be No’s night, but it could also mean that whatever metrics we might have expected to have applied, may in fact be totally wrong, and we’ll get a different result.  We’ll see what happens with the other results.

Scotland Votes 2014: Early Indications…

Well the polls in Scotland closed at 2200 UK time, and so far, none of the 32 councils have declared, but we are expecting the smaller counties with fewer votes to declare first.

We haven’t had an exit poll, but You Gov did an “on the day” poll, telephoning people who had voted, rather than catching them after they leave the polling station, and that poll suggests 54% have voted No, and 46% have voted Yes.  The head honcho of You Gov, Peter Kellner, gives his poll a 99% certainty, though to be honest, nothing like this has ever been done before, and certainly the usual rules of polling are less reliable here than in elections, so to give this much more credence right now than to call it an interesting survey.  We will see overnight, if that survey has any more credence than that.

Otherwise, there really is little to report.  First results are expected sometime between Midnight and 2am, with the last council declaring around 6am.  Even as a long time observer of global politics, this is one of those situations and issues where I don’t have even an inkling on how this will go.  From the historical perspective, more countries have voted for independence since 1945 than against it, but history is not a guide to the future. 

Hopefully once we get the first results, we’ll start to get an idea just how the vote is going.  But we are still waiting for those first results.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bullet Points: Thursday 18th September 2014

Whilst the referendum is taking place in Scotland, there are other things that are happening, so a few quick bullet points on the stories outside Scotland.

  • Somerset County Council is dipping into its reserves to cover a predicted £7mlln overspend, at least that’s what BBC News is reporting.  Local councils have been forced to cut spending on local services by central governments that have been slowly eroding local government.  If local councils were allowed to raise the money they need to run the local services they need to run, we wouldn’t have these stupid stories about councils “overspending”.
  • News Corp have called Google a “platform for piracy”.  I know there are differences in attitudes between different companies, but to call another corporation a platform for piracy, seems over the top, even for the old salty sea dog himself, Captain Murdoch, shiver me timbers!
  • Police in Rio De Janiero have arrested 22 of their own officers, for involvement in a bribery and extortion racket.  This is shocking behaviour by a force that people are supposed to trust to enforce law and order, not partake in criminal activity.
  • TD’s and Senators in Ireland have returned to face two big issues.  One is the budget that gets announced on 14th October 2014, the other is a wide ranging banking inquiry that is examining Irish banks in the run up to the bank guarantee.  The budget though is the bigger issue after a larger than expected 3% growth rate in the Irish economy.  Could we be seeing a return of the “Celtic Tiger”?  If so, the Irish government must be careful not to have that tiger run away with them, as it did before.
  • Lastly, Spain’s Prime Minister has spoken to Spain’s parliament and issued a warning ahead of Catalonia’s upcoming referendum on independence on 9th November.  He said the EU was made to bring states together, not tear them apart.  That implies that a United States of Europe was the intended outcome, and I think any such thoughts about a United States of Europe are in the realms of daydreams and fantasy.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Idiot Brigade Awards: Monday 8th September 2014

Okay, time to give out the most coveted prizes in blogging world (not), today’s medals in the Idiot Brigade Awards.

IdiotBrigadeAwards

The Bronze medal goes to Conservative MP John Redwood, for suggesting that the Scots should be banned from voting in the 2015 General Election if they vote for Independence.  John, you do realise that such an idea is pretty guaranteed to make the Scots vote for Independence, just to spite you?

The Silver medal goes to Patriarch Filaret, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin as being possessed by Satan.  You know, this is not going to help de-escalate the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, but worse than that, you actually compared him to the wrong person.  If anything, Vladimir Putin is looking more and more like George W Bush did during his second term, where all he had was his own certainty, his own beliefs, his own omniscience, and little to no connection with the real world at all. That is about all Putin has left at the moment, is his own certainty, his own omniscience, his own superiority complex, if you will.

But the Fools Gold Award winners today, are Ray Rice, The Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League, The National Football League themselves and the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell.  You may recall that Ray Rice was suspended by the NFL Commissioner for two games, after TMZ released a surveillance video tape showing Ray Race dragging his then fiancé Janay Palmer out of an elevator.  Since then, Roger Goodell and the NFL have taken a public relations pummelling over the lenient punishment.  That led to a change in policy, that was not backdated, that all domestic violence offenders would be suspended for 6 games on a first offence, and banned indefinitely on a second offence.

Today, TMZ released the ‘other video’ that the police had had all along, which showed what happened inside the elevator.  I’m not going to link to it directly, or embed it on the page, as I consider it too graphic and too violent.  But suffice to say, his actions in that elevator made the two game suspension look far worse than farcical.  It made it look utterly shameful and a complete disgrace.

Almost instantly, the Baltimore Ravens released Ray Rice, followed in equally quick succession by the Commissioner, Roger Goodell, announcing that Ray Rice was being suspended from the NFL indefinitely, and all based upon this release of the ‘new’ video, a video that both the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens deny having previously seen, but knowing how the NFL has a great working relationship with the Police, I find that whole scenario incredibly unlikely.

I have little doubt in my own mind, that they were just trying to ride it out, wait until the heat died down, and then everything would be a-ok, and they could quietly bury it.  Today, those thoughts were blown out of the water, and the speed of both organisations reactions unfortunately give away exactly what they knew.  They had to have seen the video, knew what it contained, and yet still, they tried to diminish it, by only suspending Ray Rice for 2 games.  Today’s video demonstrated that you cared as much about domestic violence, as much as you had previously cared about concussions, prior to last year’s settlement, which was not a lot.

Baltimore Ravens, if you had taken some responsibility in the first place and suspended Rice before the NFL had taken its original decision, the one that now looks incredibly ridiculous, you would have looked strong, and in command, instead of looking weak, feeble and out of touch, as you do now.

Roger Goodell, you surely don’t expect me to believe that you hadn’t seen the second videotape until now.  I find that very hard to believe.  Again, rather like the Baltimore Ravens themselves, you look weak, feeble, indecisive and out of touch with the people who matter most to you and your organisation, your fans, especially the large contingent of female fans that the NFL attracts. 

Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.  Not only our Fools Gold Award winner today, but unequivocally, today’s Worst Persons In The World.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Making Sense on Scottish Independence: The questions over what happens next…

MakingSenseGraphic

I have noticed that a lot of people on social media have a lot of misconception about the whole Scottish Independence issue, especially in the area of what happens afterwards if the vote is in favour of independence.

Let’s start making some sense.  Nothing is going to happen immediately after the result is known.  Independence is a process that will only begin, once the result is known.  During that process, there will be a general election, which will mean that Scottish MPs will continue to sit in the House of Commons until Independence actually happens.  Oh and by the way, there is also a Scottish Parliamentary Election due in 2015, as well as elections to the Assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland. 

There are lots of issues to actually sort out, such as currency, cross border trade, EU membership, UN membership, separation of the public services that are still controlled from Westminster and many others.  One of my favourite things to watch is what will actually happen to the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 in Scotland if they actually vote for independence.  Independence is a process and a negotiation that will take a couple of years to actually sort out.  And there could be two changes of government, one of each side of the negotiation, during the process. 

So we’re looking at a process that will take at least two years to actually sort out, and implement.  So independence for Scotland wouldn’t actually happen until late 2016 at the earliest, and probably not until 2017 if we’re being realistic.

But even if the vote result is not for independence, there will be some very interesting moves of powers from Westminster to Scotland, that much we know is going to happen, but what those exact powers will be, will only be known if the vote goes against independence.

Make no mistake, the story does not end with the result coming out next month.  In fact, we’ll just be getting to the good stuff, either way.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

More self employment does not equal more entrepreneurs

Richard Seymour wrote such a brilliant ‘Comment is Free’ column for the Guardian that it actually got me thinking about what he was saying.  The whole article bears reading as it highlights a very worrying trend, but the last paragraph particularly summed it up…

“…The rise in officially counted self-employment, far from representing a surge in individual initiative, is to a large degree the outcome of a disciplinary process. To this extent, enterprise is not being freed so much as it is being forced.”

I had felt this myself, as I am placed in a similar position myself of trying to look for work in order to make a wage that I can actually live on, and enable me to rent my own place, but I find that so many jobs these days are less than 16 hours.

16 hours, by the way, is actually an important figure.  That’s the minimum contract amount you need to actually enable yourself to stop claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in the UK.  If you are working less than 16 hours per week, you are required to still sign on at the Jobcentre.

Even then, part time work, from 16-29 hours, may not be enough to actually enable people to actually live the lives they want to live.  Contrary to what you might have seen on the Jetsons, 3 hour work-days do not enable you to have all the mod-cons of today’s hi-tech world, especially when you are on minimum wage for doing an unskilled task, such as pressing buttons all day.  The Jetsons might have been a 1960s vision of the future, but in socio-economic terms, it’s prediction of part time working was correct, but not what you could do around that ‘part-time working’ culture, or indeed what you can buy through part-time working.

This ‘part-time working’ culture has led to situations where people have to work 2 or more part-time jobs to make a living wage, or go down the route of self-employment if you want to make some money, which is exactly what Richard Seymour talks about.

And yes, it does feel like you are being forced down that route, rather than being inspired to go down that route.  As Dr John Demartini might put it, self-employment has become just another means of rescuing desperation, rather than rewarding inspiration.

Self employment in and of itself, is not a bad thing.  I would heartily recommend that every worker tries self-employment at least once in their career.  The time spent doing that will open your eyes and your mind in ways you never thought possible.

But if self-employment is becoming merely another way to rescue ourselves from the damage caused by the ‘part time working’ culture that is so beloved by the Conservatives and by business, then that is not a good thing, and it cannot help to undo the damage that is being caused by businesses worldwide that favour part time working, over full time working, and having a team that views what they do at work, as being more than just a means to earn the money to do the things they truly want to do.

If the Government truly wants to cut the benefits bill, they need to encourage businesses to have more full-time workers, on a living wage, therefore eliminating the need for part time workers under 16 hours to have to continue to sign on and claim benefits, and by having business pay living wages, it would also cut the number of people who are claiming housing benefit on low pay, because they need it to pay the rent on their accommodation.  Criminalising the unemployed is not the way to go.  Turning the part-time culture back towards a full-time culture, most definitely is.