Thursday, 31 March 2016

Ah ... RISE

With planet SSP breaking out in yet another acute plague of recrimination, allegation and suppurating boils I thought I would see if RISE were managing to avoid the pitfalls of most left wing parties, that of going to bits faster than a chocolate hand grenade. After all RISE keeps on telling us they are not going to make the same mistakes as the SSP, they are the new party of the left, working to give Scotland a new brand of socialism they claim the mass Scottish electorate wants but are too scared to ask for.

It happens a friend is involved in RISE and was among its founding brothers and sisters, so I can get the drift of what is happening from his posts on my time line. A sense of the fraternal warmth flowing through RISE's veins. Today the fraternal warmth-o-meter is on the definitely chilly end. The mistake he made was suggesting in some areas the second vote would be better going to the SNP as they would have a better chance of keeping Tories off the list seats. This sensible suggestion brought down a cart load of opprobrium down around his head and lead to him being called a 'neo-conservative', by a couple of posters, for his proposed support for the SNP in a tactical vote situation. This infuriated my friend so in an attempt to give him some support I posted this on his time line to see if any of his attackers understood they were just another minority party on the very edge of the Scottish electorates' consciousness:

"Change happens too slowly for some and too fast for others, social democracy is as it says on the tin, left of centre but driven by democratic support while seeking to balance the needs of wealth generation with wealth distribution. As such a social democratic party makes changes at a slower pace while trying to bring the maximum democratic support with it. Rise has to understand it is a minority party with no MSPs and no electoral history. Comparisons with the SSP do it little favour given the melt down on planet Sheridan. Here's what most of the general Scottish electorate "know" about left wing parties in Scotland, they are the political equivalent of a chocolate teaspoon. This discussion does little to alter this perception and sounds more like a sketch from the Life of Brian ...... splitters!  

I still have no clue what Rise actually stands for except some dated and demonstrably fallible 1960 political 'Citizen Smith' type stance on the redistribution of wealth and property."

I was advised to go to the RISE web site and get my facts sorted before commenting to which I answered:
"I have, it is just 'Citizen Smith' mumbo jumbo, a scatter gun of left wing policies I have been hearing since my days as a student in the 1970s. Nothing different, just the same regurgitation of Marxist ideas which are talking to themselves, as if saying them over and over some how makes them relevant today. The lack of relevance is papered over with SNP 'bad' press releases. Student politics of a bygone age. My critique is simple, if Rise wants to make a break through it is going to have to be a damned sight more relevant and brave while talking to people other than itself."

My friend pointed out that RISE needs to ask the question of itself:

"What is a socialist party? Is it just an electoral front that wants tax rises?"

To which he got this rather gnomic answer:
"I think the concept of party is in transition. But its ultimate aim would be to transform society."

An answer which could have been straight from the script of an episode of "Citizen Smith". 

So there you have it, folks. RISE is a party in transition. From 'what' to 'what', no one in the party apparently knows; it is going to transform society but it is not exactly clear what this transformation is going to look like; it will have its roots in the Marxist left of politics as its policy statements make clear; yet we should vote RISE, second vote, anyway, because ...... well .... just because ....

I am now reassured my second vote is safe with the radically (maybe), conservative (possibly), Marxist (definitely), socialist (we'll come back to you on that one) RISE; aren't you? 

Saturday, 26 March 2016

The unravelling of neo-conservatism?

Today I watched a clip of a left wing, Flemish, Belgian MP telling the Belgian Parliament the game was up over Belgium's continuing neo-colonial activities in Mali in cahoots with the French. In a well argued diatribe, his speech came down to, "The only reason Belgium are getting militarily involved in Mali was to prop up the French controlled regime to enable AREVA, a Franco-Belgian conglomerate, to make a lot of money mining for Uranium in Mali and had nothing to do with the claimed 'reduction of the threat of Islamic terrorism in Mali'.

The proof, he said, would be seen in the rising share price of Areva on Europe's Stock Exchanges, over the next few months. In his speech he highlighted the reasons behind the US / European removal of the likes of Saddam and Gadhafi who had once been the West's key players among the Islamic states of North Africa and the Middle East. These dictators had served their purpose and the USA's new major partners in the region (Israel and Saudi) wanted them removed. Israel putatively for their 'security' and Saudi because they were in the way of the dominance of the House of Saud across the Middle East and the expansion of their fundamentalist, Wahhabist Shi'ite beliefs.

The House of Saud's current attempts to dominate the Middle East has its origins in place after a promise made by T.E Lawrence to Prince Faud, after Damascus was taken, was ignored by the UK Government and the subsequent 1919 Balfour Declaration which blocked the Saudi's taking full control of a unified, Shi'ite dominated 'Arabia' while carving the area up with total disregard to tribal or nomadic regions, sensitivities and allegiances. The border lines had more to do with the West's agreed 'spheres of influence' and wish to control the area's oil and gas resources, as a result of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, and the USA's insistence on Jewish immigration to Palestine. As a result, leadership's under the West's direct or indirect control became the normal situation which only changed in the latter decades of the 20th Century, starting with the expulsion of the Shah of Iran in the 1970's and the creation of a 'fundamentalist', theistic, Shi'ite, Iranian Republic which rejected the USA and the West's control of its natural resources. Worse the new regime started using the West's usual destabilising arts against the West's Arabian clients, a process which lead pro-Iranian 'freedom fighters' to be badged as 'Shi'ite terrorists' in Sunni territories across the Middle East, especially any Palestinian group which was deemed a danger to Israel and Saudi, by reason of their Shi'ite links to Iran and the direct threat to the Saudi religious and political hegemony in the region.

Having got rid of Saddam and with Iran as a Western pariah state, the Saudi Government looked to their next target, the annoyingly secular and relatively, economically successful Assad Government in Syria. A target which the Israeli's were also happy to see removed from their Golan Height's border. The USA's two major client states were in agreement that Assad had to go and the USA could see benefit in removing Russia's last client state in the region. In 2008 the Saudi Ambassador warned the Russians they would not be able to save Assad next time around and if they tried the Saudi's would export 'Jihad' into Russia's remaining Muslim territories. The result of this tacit agreement to shift Assad resulted in the creation of ISIS / Daesh with Saudi money, US weapons and Israeli / UK special forces training. Syria's ethnic minority Christians were never given a thought nor were the actual anti-Assad forces already in Syria because they were Shi'ite / Hezbollah in the main. The Sunni power of USA backed ISIS would simply steam roller over the lot of them, job done, ISIS would be disappeared and a Sunni, pro Saudi President would be 'elected' to rule Syria.

It seems the current Western neo-conservative government's in the US and Europe have failed to recognise the disaster and instability this type of policy has already created and continues to create in both Libya or Iraq. Apparently this time it would be different. Daesh would be kept on a tight chain, this was not going to be Taliban mark 2 and the West's control over the oil and gas fields and their related infrastructure would return, safe and secure under the control of an Exxon, BP or Saudi Arabia. We now know how well this cunning plan has worked out. Baldrick could not have planned it any better.

The current UK Government's arrant hypocrisy is clear while billions of pounds are being found to prop up Ratheon and BAE shares through arms purchases at a time of 'so called' austerity, their response to the human 'co-lateral damage' of their policies is less than generous. As the Belgian MP pointed out the European media has become the political and industrial complex of Europe's propaganda machine. 25 people may have died in Belgium as a result of the airport 'suicide' bombing but on the same day in the Yemen, 137 civilians died as a result of Saudi bombs of UK origin, in just one air raid, and another 145 died in air raids on Syrian civilians.

The bottom line is this whole mess in Mali or the Middle East has little to do with the freedom of the individual, liberty or democracy (a word which the Saudi's have no understanding of or any wish to understand) and is, as usual about the control of natural resources, their infrastructure, their income and the profit margins of Western global corporates while keeping out Russia and China.

It seems the cost in millions of Syrian, Yemeni, Kurdish, Palestinian and other ethnic refugees in the Middle East Region is a price worth paying by Western Government's to secure oil and gas supply but as a UK taxpayer, I can not or ever agree - people are always far more important than share price or profit margins. Until we remind ourselves of the importance of human beings and act on this fundamentally human reality, we will continued to be screwed over by the West's neo-conservative governments and their oligarch friends in the global multi-nationals.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

When they were up, they were up ...

".. and when they were down, they were down but when they were only half way up, they were neither up nor down!"

The children's song is about the abject failure of the Grand Old Duke of York's Flander's Campaign of 1793 after which it was decided that maybe 'Royalty' did not make great generals simply because they were 'Royal' in the mass murder, at ever increasing range, that was 'modern' warfare.

This week has seen the political and media comment equivalent of the Duke of York's Flander's campaign with the Brit Nats in the Duke of York role when discussing the SNPs putative tax plans post May 2016 - remember folks nothing happens until or if the SNP are elected as Scotland's next government at Holyrood.

If you are from the London media scrum, tax rates are going up for those at the top of the ladder with all the apocalyptic prognostication that Grannies who have over £100 cash in a Post Office Savings (aka Bank of Ireland) account they will be moving to England 'toute suite' to avoid a crushing tax burden inflicted on them by the SNP (if they are re-elected). If you are in the Scottish media scrum you are torn between agreeing with the London lead writers (Record / Daily Mail / Torygraph, Gruniad, Courier, Hootsmon) the murderous tax hike is a disaster for Scotland and will kill our economy or crying, "Shame, tax these rich bastards even harder!" as appears in the Record, Herald and The National. Yes, I know the Record appears on both sides but it is torn between its party loyalty and its rapidly plunging sales and advertising revenues so its 'neither up nor down'.

Trying to sort out what is actually being proposed, if the SNP are returned on the 16th May, is well hidden behind this stoor of claim and counter claim, rather like a fog of war (the smoke from all the black powder weapons made it hard for generals to see what was actually happening). So what do I think I know?

Council tax rises under the old system are being suggested for the higher end value homes and, in effect, a continuing freeze for all the rest. This is bad for Grannies living on a reducing basic state pension in a five room house in Morningside or Mulingavie (circa £1 million plus in the current property market) but in real terms it is a small reduction for the majority of us, given inflation is at around 1.5% per anum. So when Labour's Jackie Baillie brings up this poor, cash strapped Granny in Morningside or Mulingavie, as she surely will in her failing attempts at mud slinging, we need remind ourselves that the Granny concerned is entitled to a full housing rebate and her fiscal status is 'uneffected' unless "La Baillie's" London Head Office votes with their Tory bedfellows to cut council tax rebates even further, as they have been prone to do.

As to the higher income tax bands, the SNP have eschewed, for now, lifting them to the 50p level Ms Sturgeon allegedly promised some four years ago, a failure which is a betrayal of their Social Democratic principles according to Mr McWhirter in the Herald. Then again neither is Mr Swinney offering the top rate 'tax cut' being offered in England by altering the 40p tax rate banding to high end earners, as part of Osbourne's £4.4 billion tax give away, announced in Osbourne's car crash of a budget.

To those who support RISE or are to their left, these small council tax and high end earner tax changes are small beer in terms of tax redistribution. This is undoubtedly true but we have yet to see the impact of the Land Refom Act (Scotland) on income to the Scottish Exchequer as Scottish land holdings held 'offshore' in the British Virgin or Cayman Islands become available for taxation at Mr Swinney's hands, if the SNP are re-elected to govern Scotland. On the other hand the high earners in Scotland will be paying more income tax than their equivalents in England, in real terms, as Mr Swinney proposes not to change current income tax banding.

If you have followed this rather esoteric argument through to this point maybe, like me, a light bulb has come on in your head and you are starting to think, the canny SNP are at it again. The SNP are testing the water to see if all these bankers and financial whizzes in Glasgow and Edinburgh will actually do a runner or try to pull some stunt to avoid paying income tax in Scotland. Will all these multi-million pound houses they live in Morningside and Mulingavie suddenly be put up for sale with the council tax rise or, as I suspect, like the frog which is slowly warmed, they will stay put as they are, even as the taxation temperature incrementally rises over the next decade. After all most folk put a lot of things as 'important' in their lives before income. Income only becomes a big issue when you are 'skint' and struggling to feed and house yourself and your family. The one thing you can be sure of, the denizens of the big houses in Morningside or Mulingavie are a long way from being 'skint' and at worst may have to buy cheaper cases of wine each month, to get by, after Mr Swinney's proposed 'tax raid'.

So while the media and comment columns lament over milk yet to be spilled or not not enough milk being spilled, I suggest Mr Swinney is no "Grand Old Duke of York"; No, Sirrah; he is more a canny Duke of Wellington, giving his opponents a stiff volley and seeing if they stand or run, before making his true assault.

Monday, 21 March 2016

A discussion we need to have in Scotland - 2

The response to the previous piece, in Facebook groups it was posted in, has encouraged me to expand my argument on why I believe the present Scottish GP contract is not fit for purpose and maybe answer some of the concerns posters raised.

The current NHS Scotland Act places the legal provision of GP services in the hands of your local health board and my proposal is this is how it will remain in a salaried GP service. As in the teaching profession there will be pay increments for seniority, responsibility and additional specialisation within GP care, such as care for the elderly. The head of the GP practice will be in the hands of a GP, as at present, supported by a small group of GPs, nurses and administrators to ensure the practice is properly run and effectively meeting its local needs and expectations, as it is required to under the current NHS Scotland Act. The annual basic salary for GP doctors would be agreed by NHS Scotland and the BMA, as happens at present, and the contributory superannuated pension scheme for GPs will stay unchanged, as its is an attractive incentive to become a GP. In effect the GPs loose out on their current 'Principal Partner / self employed' tax and other financial benefits but keep a generous pension settlement, including ill health cover and the option of early retirement at 55 which other professional, salaried workers would die for.

This seems a simple idea but it will all fall down if the current politicisation of NHS Scotland as a vote gathering football continues to be kicked hither, thither and thon. This is especially true in the current climate where the UK national media outlets and the British parties in Scotland continue with their routine cry of 'SNP baad' at the slightest problem or failure of NHS care which will inevitably arise in as complex and multi-layered an organisation as NHS Scotland, so reliant on fallible humans to get things right first time.

For example if you can not get a 'routine' GP appointment for three weeks, as one poster averred, this is down to the reality there are not enough GPs available to meet your local need. The people responsible for ensuring there are sufficient GPs in the Health Board Area to meet the need are all sitting around a table as your local health board. A board who are apt to shrug off their legal responsibility for GP provision up the chain of command for partisan reasons, rather than looking at why they are having recruitment problems in their local area. The common reason for recruitment problems I outlined in the previous article. The most common being young doctors are not interested in training as GPs given the current overload of NHS paperwork and patients which appears is the norm; especially across the central belt of Scotland.

Well, you tell me, why not just train more doctors?

This is, in part, the solution. Currently across the UK, the GP doctor to patient ratio is around 1: 3,000. The World Health Organisation suggests, to be effective and meet patients needs and expectations while keeping GPs sane and healthy, the GP to patient ratio should be no more than 1:1,200 as is the case in Scandinavian countries. The 'but' is that to maintain the current ratio at 1: 3000, the UK is a net importer of doctors (and dentists, and nurses ...). The number of undergraduate training places can (and has) be increased by the Scottish Government but even then only a average of 50% of students on a medical or dental undergraduate course at a Scottish Universities are resident in Scotland due, in part, to the current UK wide University placement program (UCCA), EU freedom of access and countries like Qatar or Bahrain offering big financial incentives to University Deans to train their doctors and dentists. In the modern academic world, for a number of differing financial and experiential reasons, it is not practical or sensible to have undergraduate courses only open to 'Scottish' students. The good news is that most of the Scottish graduates from medical and dental undergraduate courses stay in Scotland.

Part of being 'Better Together' is we suffer from the UK's lack of capacity to train future Doctors and Dentists because there would always be always 'chaps' from the British Colonies just dying to come and work in our NHS. This is no longer true and has not been true for a number of decades. Now-a-days the 'chaps and chapesses' come from the old Soviet block countries in Europe or the Philippines but even they are starting to dry up as the economic situation in their own countries improves.

The only answer to the current GP conundrum, until training capacity can be built to meet Scotland's actual need for doctors, dentists, nurses (unlikely while tied down by Westminster's apron strings) ... without the current heavy reliance on 'imports' is to create a GP system in Scotland that meets the young doctors needs and aspirations which, by and large, are to help people get better or, at least, not get any worse in the first instance and not be buried in a paperwork mountain. 

In the current NHS Scotland GP world the young doctor's perception is  formed by reading BMA Journals, Lancet, GP 'News' and the UK media which tells them to be a GP in Scotland, is to be buried up to your neck in paperwork with MPs and MSPs endlessly telling you you are not working hard enough or seeing enough patients quickly enough. Not a very inspiring advert for a job as a GP and all the examinations, study, cost and related lack of free time you have to endure to become one.

So we, the patients, have to accept we are part of the problem, as well, because we often confuse our 'needs' with 'wants' and claim 'rights' but take no 'responsibility'. 

We have been taught by the UK media and politicians of all stripes we have a 'right' to see a GP at anytime of the day or night but not our own responsibility to consider if 'right now' is actually medically appropriate.

We are told by politicians that GP practices should be open until late at night, no matter the impact on a GP, the practice nurses and staff's personal life or patient safety. This is far easier, it appears, than ensuring the right of the worker to take time off to see a doctor with regards a legitimate medical complaint; in effect putting wealth generation before health.

The cost to UK Industry to days lost to ill health is among the highest in the world and all because of our long hours culture and work until you drop attitude. Encouraged by neo-liberal politicians and policies with their zero hours contracts, austerity and an ever disappearing welfare safety net. It seems once more the UK worker is being reduced to a Lowery stick man, to be cast aside when burnt out. Yet who has to pick up the pieces of mental illness, alcoholism, broken homes, beaten children and spouses, divorce, cardio-vascular damage caused by a bad diet, rushed poor quality meals and long hours sitting still watching a screen, then try to put them back together as some form functioning human, that will be your GP; in the first instance, but only if they can get their head out of all the paperwork the politicians want them to fill in to 'prove' they are meeting politically motivated and often meaningless 'targets' and patients demanding their 'rights' to be seen with out thought for the seriousness of their medical condition. Never in the history of modern medicine has so much been measured, in such finite detail for so little real impact on patient care.

So we, the patients, have a direct responsibility for the GP services we receive by the way we use of our vote and our own inherent selfishness - me, me, me. As a result we also have a part in bearing the responsibility for the recruitment problem with GPs in Scotland.

There is no 'simple' solution to the problems GP services in Scotland are facing, as I hope this skim over the surface of this many layered and complex issue has demonstrated. The answer involves all of us, not just the special interest groups, mumbo-speak consultancies, the health boards or the politicians - we need to start listening to GPs and debating the issues before - as is already happening in England - tens of thousands of us no longer have any GP service at all.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

A discussion we need to have in Scotland

While the big news is the split in the Conservative Party over the EU is now a chasm with the slithering Duncan-Smith resigning and blaming his 'personal war on the most needy and vulnerable' on the idiot Osborne's austerity policy. Meanwhile, in the back of the broom cupboard where Labour's Scotch Eggs are having their party relaunch for the nth time, Dugdale is promising us a GP service I guess most of Scotland already enjoys, access to their GP when medically needed on the same day or within 24 hours. This leaves me wondering just what the point of the 48 hour promise actually is? 

As many know NHS Helpline routinely gets calls for medical emergencies such as 'running out of nappies' phoned through to it. In some cases, because the punter does not get the 'emergency help' from the NHS Helpline, they then go and phone 999 or 911 for help with the nappy problem. In effect Dugdale's promise on GP access is on a par with phoning 999 because you have run out of nappies. 

There is a big problem with Scotland's GP services which is the NHS Scotland contract for GP services is no longer fit for purpose. As a result GP's in GP services have been complaining for around two decades about work load and annual rounds of under funding of GP practice. In doing this they have helped create the current GP recruitment problems they are suffering which have, in part, caused the increasing workload, along with a related increased micromanagement of GP Practice by NHS Scotland. 

Let us be clear GP services in Scotland are not yet at the level of melt down or crisis which is increasingly common across England where practices are shutting their doors as GPs retire without replacement, leaving tens of thousands without any GP cover. Neither are we, in Scotland, immune from the impact of the last of the post war 'baby boomer' generation coming towards retirement as GPs. 

The problem after two decades of GPs in Scotland complaining about their lot, the new generation of recently qualified doctors are avoiding GP training pathways, if at all possible. Those who have followed the GP training pathway are not interested in signing up to the current GP sub-contract and prefer to work as either salaried or locum GPs, rather than joining a medical practice as a partner which up until ten years ago would be the norm. Throw in over 50% of UK medical and dental graduates are now female and are likely to take time out to have families in their late twenties and thirties and you have an inherent GP partner recruitment problem. These ladies normally come back to work in their late thirties and early forties but routinely job share, as this makes child care easier to organise, some ladies do return full time and there are those who never marry or never have children.

To understand why the current GP contract is unfit for purpose and increasingly a block to young doctors training as GPs we have to go back to 1947. In 1947 Bevin was having problems as neither the GPs nor the Consultants were buying into his plans for the NHS. The BMA committees representing both these groups were digging their heels in, basically saying, "over our dead bodies". Bevin's Parliamentary Secretary, Michael Foote, asked his boss how they were going to get round this impasse to which Bevin's answer was, "I am going to stuff their wallets with so much cash they can not refuse."

To do this Bevin allowed the GPs and Consultants to, in effect, remain private contractors (thus keeping all their related tax benefits) committed to a certain number of heavily subsidised hours of NHS work each week with all sorts of add on benefits if they carried out 37 or more hours of NHS work each week. Over time the GP contract excluded any mixing with private practice in the same building, until by the late sixties virtually all GP practices were NHS practices and private GP practices hardly existed outside of Harley Street in London. 

The GP contract's bones have remained those of the original 1948 contract with the principle doctors as nominal 'private' practitioners taking on NHS contract work. We also need to consider the modern multi GP practice is a recent concept, starting in the late 1970's as the demands on GP services became more complex and meeting them, as a single practitioner, became ever more expensive. Pooling financial resources and sharing investment costs became the norm, as did the increasing centralisation of GP services in 'Health Centres' as partnerships between individual NHS sub-contracting doctors grew in size. Throw in the paperwork created by ever more complex employment law, health and safety, drug control, cross infection control, hazardous waste disposal and environmental protection issues, along with increasing NHS Scotland micromanagement, and would you be interested in investing upwards of £150,000 to be a partner in the average GP NHS Practice in Scotland.  

Even with tuition being paid for Scottish under graduates training in Scotland, the average Doctor or Dentist is sitting on, in excess £60,000 of debt on qualifying from a Scottish University which the BMA estimates will take until their mid thirties to pay off. At the same time, to ensure these doctors and dentists move up the training ladder, they are also having to put their hands in their pockets to pay for courses and Royal College examinations, as they follow their preferred specialisation. A cost which is upwards of £15,000 depending on their ability to pass these exams first time (the pass mark is routinely 80+%). So to become a GP, by your mid thirties, you will have to manage a debt of around £75,000 while possibly trying to buy a home and look after a family. Just when you get all that paid off, the principal GP in your practice asks you to cough up £150,000 to become a 'full' partner and all the hassle, regulatory burden, additional responsibilities and angst that involves you with. 

At that point you hear a numpty politician trying to get elected on a promise that is an insult to you and your profession and wonder why be a GP, just to be a political whipping post?

So you decide life is far better being either a salaried or a locum GP, even though it will inevitably mean the collapse of GP services as we, the patient, knows them when no GP's are left who are willing to take on a NHS Scotland GP principal contract number and the costs and burdens that currently encumbers you with.

The real problem is neither the GPs' negotiators in Scotland nor NHS Scotland appear to be willing to think about the inevitable collapse of the current GP practice system which will begin to happen over the next decade, just as it is already happening in England. Solving the looming problems within NHS Scotland's GP services needs more than the current 'sticky plaster' approach or 'blame game'. 

I suggest we need a radical overhaul of how NHS Scotland funds GP provision, away from the Bevin style contract 'with knobs on' they currently use. Primarily because the traditional contract is killing GP practice, starving it of its most vital resource, young doctors, and is no longer as cost effective a way of providing GP services, as it once was, given the level of NHS subsidies which are thrown at GP services. The proposed new GP computer system being a case in point - not to be mixed up with the £1 billion plus IT disaster which currently hangs around the neck of NHS England.

A salaried GP service, in my opinion, is inevitable as it is the best way to encourage new graduates into GP training schemes (being salaried appears to be their preference) and allows for a better ironing out of the problems of the numbers of lady doctors taking time out to have a family in their thirties and job share in their 40's.

Bevin's GP contract has had its day, as has the day of the 'Aye Beens' of the BMA's GP Committee in Scotland and NHS Scotland. Time to look forward rather than back and address the realistic needs and expectations of both GP doctors, as providers, and patients as users of NHS Scotland GP Services rather than just yet another cheap, political stunt.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Last Trump

So Donald Trump is feart to face up to his objectors, so feart that he lied to the US media when he said he had been told by Chicago Police to cancel his 'Presidential' rally at Iowa State University because of a threat to his safety. Outside of Fox News and the rest of the right wing dominated US media there are some USA journalists who fact check and in doing so discovered there had been no such request by the Chicago Police Department or their commander on the ground at the University. The police commander at Iowa State was happy he had more than enough personnel on the ground to deal with any trouble that might break out and was as surprised as anyone else when Donald beat a hasty retreat.

The question to be asked is just why did Donald do a runner?

There were already a number of anti-Donald Trump protesters in the hall with large signs linking Trump's proposed policies to the Nazi Party, apartheid, racial discrimination among other jibes. Apparently heavy handed attempts by his 'stewards' to remove these students had been met with widespread but peaceful obstruction and a total failure to eject these non Donald Trump supporting clones. This alone does not give sufficient reason for Donald to shrink into his shell like some massive, globular snail shouting, "Am no cumin oot, its too scary." Nor does it help Donald's cause that the only folk offering violence and threats were his own campaign's KKK sponsored security, so his campaign organisers must of got wind of some thing that would have caused him major media embarrassment.

My best guess is the 'student' body he was hoping to recruit into his asinine, 'blame every one else but the WASPs for the state of the USA', policies at Iowa State had a massive walk out planned which would have left Donald exposed to speaking to a far small group of nutters who actually believe him. Half to two thirds of the hall emptying or dropping their trousers and baring their arses at him, would have not gone down well with the Donald Trump Campaign managers and given the media a field day. So it was better to try and make out he was protecting himself from a terrorist threat or such like. I do not think it will be long before Donald Trump campaign meetings will be closed door events to invited supporters. Just as now happens in Scotland when the UK Tory, Libdem or Labour leaders turn up in Scotland, speak for twenty minutes and then scuttle off back to London, claiming they have slayed the SNP dragon this time, for sure.

It is apposite to compare Donald's running away with what is happening in the SECC this weekend where dissent is rife and folk openly and honestly contest whether current SNP policy is going in the correct direction, over their cups of tea or glasses of something stronger. The difference is you are likely to be ear-wigged by one of the SNP MSPs, MP's, councilors or leadership who will join in the discussion and argue their case for the party's current policies as being the best for Scotland and therefore best for the SNP.

You will not be barged or hand bagged out of the way by Nichola's minders from the SNP's Granny Security Force as they ensure only folk who are the right folk get anywhere near the leadership. One of the regular complaints from SNP conference organisers as conference has grown in size, is the problems of getting the leadership away from debating and talking with members, during breaks, which routinely causes delays to main hall sessions.

As for the idea we are all Nichola zombies in the SNP, the press chooses not to explain how the SNP policy making system operates when they claim the SNP conference simply rubber stamps the leadership's policies. All the motions before conference have been discussed at branch and constituency level in the run up. The decision of how voting branch members at conference are to use their vote has been agreed by the branch. The only time the SNP leadership tried to steamroller the branches over policy they came within 35 branch votes in 3,000 of being told to bugger off and have a careful re-think about the move to change policy on NATO. The leadership have learned from this near disaster and now the constituency MP and MSPs make sure their local branches and constituency party are well briefed on any proposed new policy or changes in policy, taking on board local concerns which then shape and influence overall policy direction. They also put forward motions from the branches to be consider by the policy committee, many will be discussed by conference over the weekend either in the main session or at alternate sessions. Others, such as the repeat fracking motion, are sent back with an explanation why they were refused this time.

No, the SNP is not perfect. We are still prone to be taken in by councilors and MSPs who claim to support the principles of the SNP but are simply keeping or getting their noses in the trough, through wielding patronage in their own self interest, as is being revealed by the current problems in Monklands SNP which sadly is merely a reflection of the longstanding, corrupt political culture which is extant in North Lanarkshire Council as a whole. This is no excuse for the current shenanigans of back stabbing and obfuscation being exercised by the local SNP MSP and some standing SNP councilors who must now be feart their own coats may now be on a shoogly peg rather than those they sought to tarnish.

I just hope Nichola does not do a 'Donald Trump' over the festering sore that is the current Monkland's SNP constituency party and branches. It is a boil on the arse end of the SNP which needs lancing and if it takes the current MSP down with it, then so be it, The integrity of the SNP in the public eye is far more important than protecting the sitting Monklands SNP MSP or his apparent chums in the cooncil.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Greased Lightening ....

Down on the underside of the world the citizenry of Australia are starting to ask just what a pup they are being sold with latest budget sucking monstrosity of an air frame which is the much delayed bodge, known as the Lockheed-Martin F35 Lightening. Apparently the Australian Government have chucked some Aus$ 18 billion at Lockheed-Martin for the F35 and so far not even seen the commemorative golden rivet that is to be placed in the first aircraft delivered to the ARAF.

In a newspaper report the Australian Defence Minister claimed the problems with and delays to the standard USAF variant of the F35, they are purchasing, are 'minor teething problems' such as the occasional Pratt and Whitney turbo jet engine bursting into flames on take off (well they have two for that reason). If the plane is operating in an ambient temperature of over 32C it won't work because the fuel gets too hot and the sensor package thinks it is on fire so switches off 'minor' stuff off like the engines. To get round this, the current procedure is to intermittently open the weapons bay doors which is fine it cools the fuel and the engines keep working. Yet this rather wrecks the stealth capability of the plane, its big USP (unique selling point), which then makes it appear like a big, bright blob on a North Korean radar screen, crying shoot me down and put me out of my misery. This, according to MoD Australia, is a 'minor' problem. Then there is the slight embarrassment, in this super conducting, fly by wire, computer game plane, that the data encryption can apparently be hacked into by a four year old with a mobile phone and the 'Flash Player' update for the 25 mm Aden Canon, being fitted to the Australian variant, is not likely to be available this side of 2019. This is fortunate because MoD Australia are now not expecting the first delivery of any F35 air frames to the ARAF, first promised for 2012, until 2021 at the earliest.

The UK MoD has also thrown billions of UK taxpayers pounds at Lockheed-Martin for the F35 'Lightening' VSTOL variant which is even more complicated in its avionics and engine control package than the ARAF's lame duck variant. There has been one major problem with the UK's version which no doubt the current Tory minster would refer to as a 'minor teething problem' if asked,  is the standard air frame which was supposed to help keep the cost down, cracks up under the stress of VSTOL operations. As the RN's new aircraft carriers were designed to land and launch standard carrier aircraft, serious thought was given to putting back in the catapult and arrester gear which Gordon 'Prudence' Brown made the RN take out to keep costs down. The reason for this was the reality that the UK's F35 VSTOL variant will be unlikely to see front line service much before 2030. The RAF /RN team looked at the USN F35 carrier variant only to discover it was having the same problems of air frame failure due to the impact of carrier launches and landing and, as a bonus 'minor teething problem', the arrester hook had been put in the wrong place increasing the stress on the F35 carrier variant's already over stressed air frame, so the carrier variant F35 is also unlikely to be available in an export version until 2030 when all the USN orders will have been fulfilled. As a result it was decided the UK would stick with the VSTOL variant after all, even though its already reduced weapon load capability compared to the rest of the F35 variants, courtesy of the bigger and heavier VSTOL jet engine, had to be decreased further to balance the extra strengthening of the air frame required, so it did not fall apart after a couple of flights. The only lightening so far achieved in the UK variant is that of lightening UK taxpayers' pockets.

My regular readers will no doubt now have alarm bells ringing loudly in their heads at the mention of Lockheed-Martin because these are the same jokers who are developing Trident 3 to sell to the 'Little Willie Wavers' of the Conservative, Labour and Unionist Party, to make up for their own political inadequacies. These are the same bunch of money munching 'Yahoos' who the Tories have just chucked £600 million to as Trident 3 preproduction and preparation fees - even though the Trident 3 replacement program has yet to be agreed by the UK's Parliament and has been soundly rejected by those who it impacts on the most in terms of the threat of nuclear holocaust, the people of Scotland.

A cursory look at Lockheed-Martin's F35 program cost over run must place in severe doubt the Tory Government's claim the UK's Trident 3 program will 'only cost' £100 billion over its life time. This needs to be put in the context of how much the recent, new build, Astute Class submarine program at Barrow in Furness has over run the original cost and is still sucking up RN finance in attempts to get this class of submarines into a fit state to do the job they are supposed to do. So much has been taken out of the RN procurement budget for 'fixes' the rumour mill is claiming the full number of Astute class boats required to operate effectively will not be built. Trident 3 requires a new class of 'bomber' submarine for the RN, the cost over runs will be at least as great as the Astute Class and the RN is already talking about building the new Trident submarines 'one short' of ideal requirements, Royal Navy speak for only three boats rather than the current, accepted, operational minimum of four.

A question, I propose, not so much of greased lightening but of greased palms, as the embarrassment and continuing failure of the Lockheed-Martin F35 program to deliver an aircraft which actually works, is swept under the carpet in Defence Department partners around the world. Hardly much of a recommendation to believe Cameron or any other Trident 3 supporters in the UK Parliament's claims of cost control or cost effectiveness during its build and operation. The one thing NAO report after NAO report has made clear is UK Government Departments and thier UK Parliamentary masters can not be trusted to cost effectively procure a dozen tooth brushes for the UK Armed Forces, a computer system for the DWP or build a school for a reasonable sum, let alone something as complex as the F35 or Trident 3.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Three Little Pigs ....

In a land, far, far away; there once lived three little pigs, Hogfather Dewar, Widdler Wallace and Mumper Forsyth. For as long as they could remember they had lived their lives in the great Westminster hog farm, snouts in the trough occasionally saying the word 'Scotland' every four or five years for no apparent reason they ever understood but it kept their noses in the trough. At the end of every day they returned to their comfy personalised sties made of straw, shit and sand and pish and wind; named Too Poor, Too Stupid and Too Wee, respectively.

Life was fine because they had the bad wolf of home rule and the big bad wolf of independence firmly under lock and key, hidden away in the depths of the deep dark woods. No one knows how, but the bad wolf of home rule escaped and began to roam wild across Scotland, howling their scary cry, to the three pigs of 'Almost freedom'. Committees of the old, bold with their hands in the Three Pigs pocket's were raised and sought out how best to get the bad wolf of Home Rule back in its cage, stopping its scary rampage in Scotland as more and more Scots took up its ancient howl of 'Home Rule' and worse, some Scots were increasingly heard crying the big bad wolf's howl, 'Independence'.

The failure of the Three Pigs best friend's talking shops to come up with any ideas was thought of as 'good politics' until the new Head Boar, Blair, got a bit of a roasting over the lack of democracy in the UK, especially in the regions, and if he wanted some nice EU jobs when he was done in the Westminster Pig Farm, he better toe the line if this particular little piggy wanted to go to market.

One day while his nose was in the trough, Hogfather Dewar felt a trotter on the shoulder and was summoned before the Head Boar. The Head Boar asked if Hogfather had found away to put the bad wolf of Scotch home rule back in its cage and if not when? As it was causing his other Boars a deal of irritable bowel trouble at the thought of all that oil and gas revenue plus Labour's UK majority heading for the pork butchers to end up as a selection of chitterlings, trotters, sausages and hams.

Hogfather decided maybe the best way was to give into the Scots and create a sort of home rule that was not really home rule and rigged to ensure he, Widdler and Mumper could keep their noses in the trough with the warm feeling they had done something for the Scots, for once. Hogfather was surprised at the other two's lack of excitement as Widdler said "Maybes aye" and Mumper said "No, never, not by the hairs on my chinny, chin-chin".

In spite of the lack of enthusiasm from the other two pigs Hogfather went ahead, set up yet another committee of his Scotch pals and people no normal person in Scotland had ever heard of, to rubber stamp his idea and went ahead anyway knowing Widdler would see the error of his ways when the new trough came along in Edinburgh, anyway he was under orders from the Head Boar to get it sorted. So the two remaining pigs, as Mumpers house of pish and wind had been blown down by the electorate of Kinross, leaving him reliant 'on the bru' until some Conservative Boar found him a pauper's place in the House of Lords, to rest his weary head went ahead with the Holyrood trough.

So it came to pass the Fairy Godmother of Saxe-Coburg waved her magic wand and Scotland was given its 'powers lite' home rule rigged to ensure the supporters of the Big Bad Wolf would never get anywhere near the keys to the big bad wolf's paddock so Hogfather and Widdler's noses would remain in the trough sine die.

This whole scam might have worked but the Hogfather contracted swine disease and suddenly died, leaving Widdler all on his own, reliant on an inbred litter of the Hogfather's piglets, all fighting each other to get on the biggest teat or deepest part of the trough, for support, while their sow from Westminster tried to eat them.

In the background the howls of the wolves of 'Home Rule' and 'Independence' grew ever louder and closer in the Scottish woods around their expensive, new stye at Holyrood. Widdler and his new pal Snorker McConnell tried their best at huffing and puffing to stop their houses collapsing around them but in 2007 Labour's house of straw was blown in and the Libdems house of shite and sand followed Mumpers house of pish and wind down the river.

The wolves were now in the building and were not going away, no matter how much, how often or how loudly the subsequent Hogfather and Widdler blood line litters cried 'Wolf' to the people of Scotland. A lesson, to this day, our latter day little piggies seem unable to learn or understand as on a full moon every four or five years, in May, their numbers decline ever further - not through being eaten by the wolves they decry and fear but by a simple pencil mark, made by the people of Scotland.

It seems Scots are quite happy with the re-introduction of wolves in Scotland.