Novelist. Author of APSARAS and tales from the beautiful Saigh Valley. First person to quantify spiritual values.

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Friday 25 March 2011

Wealth and Power

Readers of my blogs will know that I am not enamoured with Democratic governance as practised in the UK today.
We have seen that once in power, leaders are adapting a more oligarchical approach, ignoring the Cabinet and relying on the chosen few in a 'sofa' conspiracy to formulate policy.

I take comfort that Professor Anthony O'Hear of the University of Buckingham, writing in the 'Fortnightly Review seems to share some of my worries but is able to explain it far better than me.

Click on the link below for his article:

Las Fallas, Valencia 2011


17th – 19th March 2011

I have just returned from a three-day (two night) trip to Valencia for the annual ‘Las Fallas’ festival, held traditionally from 15th-19th March, el Dia de San Jose.
And what a party it was! The festival celebrated by the Valencianos has captured the imagination of not only the wider Community Valenciana, but also the rest of Spain and the international community as well.

Most people, when asked what they know about ‘Las Fallas’ will probably think of the huge figures sculpted from paper that are burnt at the end of the festival. These days, however, there is so much more to enjoy.

It is said that the origin of these huge caricatures, called ninots or ninyots, made these days of polystyrene, came from a winter tradition of carpenters making scarecrows by candlelight. Over time they made these figures, dressed in old clothes, to resemble their neighbours or dignitaries in an effort to promote local scandal and debate. The custom caught on and competition to produce the funniest and most satirical ninot or ninyot was born.
Las Fallas, assembled at many street intersections and in all the different regions of the City are complex assemblies of several figures that take up to a year to make. They are assembled in two days and nights and burnt to the ground in minutes.

However, the fantastic sculptures are not all that make up the festival. The offering of flowers to the ‘Virgen de los Desamparados’ is a spectacular parade made up of men, women and children, all beautifully dressed, from all the Barrios of Valencia, each with their own marching band. The procession takes hours and finishes outside the Cathedral where the ladies’ present bunches of flowers to build a giant floral effigy of the Virgin and Child. The ladies and girls, so steeped in the tradition and sense of Valenciana culture, are often moved to tears by the whole experience.
At two o’clock, each day, the festivities are started with the ‘mascletà’, a thunderous barrage of explosives that has to be experienced to be believed. So intense is the noise, it makes one wonder if it is like the artillery bombardments of the first-world war.

The feria would not be complete without the corridas.
Your reporter attended on the Thursday to see the matadors:
Morante de la Puebla, José María Manzanares y Daniel Luque, who
fought the bulls of Núñez del Cuvillo.

For those who have never attended a corrida, with its history and traditions, the opening scene could hardly be more dramatic as the matadors de toros and their cuadrillas parade before the President. The show is well choreographed, a drama composed of several distinct parts starting with the toreros assessing the bull with a series of flourishes. The picadors then test the bull before the banderilleros demonstrate their skill. The stage is then set for the finale. The matador de toros takes centre stage with his magenta and gold capote as he allows the bull to demonstrate his courage and stamina.
‘Olé’ shout out the aficionados at each successful pass.
With the bull, finally subdued, the crowd hush and the matador seeks the President’s permission to finally honour the bull.
If the crowd feel that the matador de toros has done well they petition the President by waving a white handkerchief or their programs and he might respond by awarding an ear (one white handkerchief) or two. He may further award the tail.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Attack on Libya

A coalition, led by the US, France and the UK have, with a UN mandate attacked Libyan ground bases to enforce an imposed no-fly zone.
I wonder if it will all end in tears. The UN mandate aims to protect civilians being killed by Gaddafi's forces, presumably to promote regime change to a more democratic system.
As in other 'tribal' countries this is a rather optimistic scenario, because I believe that siren call of 'Democracy', heard by the populace from across the world through social networking sites fills them with an expectancy that, even if it were true, cannot be realised to everyones satisfaction. In Tunisia, Bahrain, Iran, the call is all the same, putting people on the street calling for political change. Is it any wonder that Gaddafi, a Libyan patriot, once a national hero, who I believe is making great use of oil revenues to build the Libyan infrastructure, particularly the new water pipelines taking water to the desert, is upset. He wants the people to get behind him, not get in his way.
Okay, there are problems; there are in every country in the world, but is it worth inciting all this bloodshed, because some people are bewitched by the prospect of 'Democracy'. I doubt it. Do they imagine they will be better off with a Democratic country? I doubt that too.
If the coalition is truly trying to promote the Human Rights of the Libyans, why then did they not act in Rhodesia and aim to depose Mugabe when he was slaughtering the opposition. Could it be that Rhodesia had nothing to offer the West, whereas Libya has oil?

I believe that the West, principally the European countries should be engaging more with Gaddafi because the country has so much to offer. Apart from the historical sites linking Libya to the Carthaginians and the Romans at Leptis Magna, there are thousands of miles of unspoilt Mediterranean coastline. Wouldn't it be better if, instead of attacking the country, the Europeans engaged in building bridges with Libya, promoting trade that allowed the better integration of all the people of the country and the building of modern institutions that served them.

Monday 14 March 2011

Maternity Leave

A woman has received a ten figure compensation after being made redundant  for claiming maternity leave for a second child whilst still on leave for the preceding child. A tribunal has ruled that this breaches her rights under the discrimination legislation.

Am I alone in thinking that this ruling goes completely against common sense and rather than promoting the employment of women will ultimaely mean that none of child bearing age will ever be employable again.

The point about work is surely a contract between an employer and an employee whereby the one, in order to make a profit, engages the other in exchange for a livelihood (cash). It is a perfectly natural arrangement suiting both parties. What we have now, is a breakdown in the arrangement where the employee is being given the livelihood whilst offering nothing in exchange. This goes against common sense. Taken to its logical conclusion, the employer could make a loss and go out of business, putting everyone out of work, whilst the absent employee, indulging in her own PERSONAL needs takes money she has NOT earned.

Why would anyone go into business in the UK when legislation is introduced that is not conducive to good corporate practice? Is this being sexist? Probably but it cannot be helped when we have men and women and only women take time off at someone elses expense to have children. This is not something new. It's been going on since Adam and Eve, for Heaven's sake.
Some will argue that without this legislation, women with ability would not give up work to have their children and that therefore the future population would  be composed of the children from feckless families, living off benefits or the very wealthy who can employ nannnies.

If you think that the system is wrong; that women are being discriminated against, then I would say find another way but do not hamper businesses who are all struggling to survive in a very difficult market place.

Paternity Leave? Don't start me!

Thursday 10 March 2011

Meritocracy, Tony Blair and the Iraq War

The Iraq enquiry will find that decisions made by the Labour Government before the war with Iraq were decided amongst a small group of trusted friends rather than the Cabinet. It has been widely reported that Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister thought that if the whole Cabinet were made privy to the plans there would be leaks, detrimental to the war effort.
Readers of my blogs may understand that I favour a form of Meritocracy as a means of Government, with the House of Commons reduced to being a talking shop where the views of the populace can be heard and largely ignored.
Is it me but can I see a parallel between Blairs chosen modus operandi and what I think is a more practical way of governance?

Doctor David Kelly review

There is still no word from the Attorney General about an inquest for the late Doctor David Kelly.

The delay in an announcement is adding to the fear that a grave injustice has been done and a cover-up is under way. The question, however, remains. It will not go away.
Despite the claims from eminent doctors that the Hutton enquiry findings of suicide were at best misguided and the evidence of a knife used to allegedly cut his own wrist  was cleaned of fingerprints post mortem, there seems to be no hurry to revisit the case. Why?
The Hutton enquiry, with limited terms of reference, was set up by the last Labour Government so as to circumvent the need of a proper inquest. Some important witnesses were not called and others were not cross-examined as well as they might have been. It looked then as if Hutton had provided the Government with the result it wanted. It still looks like that today.
Further, the family, it seems, are not pushing for an inquest and the MP, Norman Baker, originally so vocal about the need for further investigation, has gone quiet on the subject. Why?
Is there a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice?
To get to the bottom of the case, there is a need for witnesses to give testimony under oath. This man was a servant of the realm. He served the people of the United Kingdom. He deserves that we find out the truth of what happened and if the reason no inquest is held is because it might embarrass the state, the family or senior members of the Government of the day then we need to be told.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Political upheaval.

It is no surprise with all the upheaval in the Middle East that because of the exposure on the internet, the mobs in other part of the world want to flex their muscles. As governments are toppled, the siren call for Democracy is reaching into the far corners of the world where the demands for human rights drown out all other considerations including sound Governance.

Can you imagine an ant colony where the workers rebel against the heirarchy or a bee colony where the drones overpower the queen and declare bee rights for all and an end to the monarchy? It isn't going to happen because if it did, the colonies and species would die out.
Of course, human beings are different but I believe we are still restricted to certain freedoms that do not effect the ability of the races to survive anarchy and chaos. History has shown us that, from its earliest days,  human beings are made up of leaders and the led. This is not an accident; it is essential for well ordered society and the health of the community. Look for instance what happened when the mob took over in Russia and Cuba. The people ultimately suffered and Castro has now admitted that Communism was a mistake for Cuba. In China, they have realised the mistake and have taken steps to reverse the policy of Socialism whereby the wishes of the peasant class are ostensibly observed. However, despite China having the greatest economic growth in the world, many watching what happens in other parts of the world, looking at internet images of western celebrities, want what they haven't got and want it now. What can the Chinese leadership do? Cave in and let the mob rule? Or do they suppress it? Why are western Liberals surprised when they see that the only way to restore order is by force. By capturing and maybe killing mob leaders, I presume they hope that order will be quickly restored. By restricting internet and mobile phone access, they quell the urges of want and desire that are motivating the unrest. Change takes time and sound governance.
Now there are rumours that many in Egypt are considering the return of the Monarchy. Why not? Egypt has a history of being ruled by Pharaohs at a time of enormous economic and political power.

What can the West do? In my opinion the only way to help the poor and the oppressed in the world is trade fairly with the poorer countries. Wherever you are, hard work should be rewarded. If a peasant farmer is growing wheat , rice or soya he should receive a fair price. Speculation in commodity prices should be outlawed worldwide. Copper miners, working long hours in terrible conditions for low wages should not have their conditions determined by investment bankers in their air-conditioned offices, parasitically creaming off profits by trading metals and other goods.

Public sector pay and conditions

The Home Secretary, Theresa May has told the police that if they are going to save police jobs, they are going to have to accept changes to their pay and conditions. A pay freeze has already been introduced.
Working on the old adage that you don't pick a fight you can't win, one has to suppose that Mrs May feels she can carry the day.
I don't know that she can because the Police Forces are not like normal employees. Their duty is to protect the population from the dangers posed by the evil amongst us. Soldiers put their lives in harm's way when on active duty, but for the police this is a daily possibility as they set off to work, not knowing what danger they will confront or if they will return home at all. In my opinion they should be treated as a special case. Of course there is waste. Cut out the time wasters and the workshy, but those in the front line are entitled to be looked after by the state

Many people will feel that the Government is targetting the wrong public sector workers when it wants to make cuts. Instead they may want to look at the way the Haringey Socialist Council wastes rate payers money.
Andrew Gilligan for the Daily Telegraph has been looking at Haringey's expenses. To see his report click on:

He says: In December alone, Haringey also paid £323,000 to a rainbow coalition of race or gender interest groups, including £19,250 to the Haringey Race and Equality Council, £17,625 to the Bangladeshi Women's Association, £13,950 to the African Caribbean Leadership Council, £10,525 to the Haringey Women's Forum, and large sums to Cypriot, Irish, Turkish and other ethnic-only day centres.
It is not too difficult to imagine that these beneficiaries are all Labour voters whilst axed Libraries and Day centres, populated by groups of all races including the indigenous white population,  represent a lesser harvest of votes. Even better, the cuts can be blamed on the Coalition Government giving them a propaganda coup.
Gilligan also points out that over 550 Haringey staff earn over £50000 pa.. I don't see many of them putting their heads above the parapet like members of the Police Force.
The way Haringey Council uses public money is questionable, but the way it does it for political advantage is a disgrace.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Barnsley. Match preview

The sensible people of Barnsley couldn't possibly do it-could they?
They couldn't witness the suffering of the nation at the hands of the last Government's Labour politicians whose financial mismanagement has landed the country in the mess we find it: they couldn't surely feel the pain of redundancies and loss of services occasioned by the Socialist policies under Blair and Brown and vote for the Labour Party, could they?
The sensible people of Barnsley; Yorkshire folk of renowned forthrightness and fiscal propriety would surely not vote for more of the same, would they?

We shall see tomorrow just how sensible these people are when they vote in the by-election. A vote for the Lemming party by the lemmings will reinforce my view that the people cannot be trusted with the vote.

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Rooney's elbow

There is much in the sport's press about the incident last weekend involving the England striker, Wayne Rooney and the Wigan player, James McCarthey.
If the referee, Clattenberg, believes that he 'dealt with the situation' following what appeared on the video to be a deliberate elbow in the face of McCarthey, the Wigan player, then he clearly is not up to the required standard to be a premier League referee. He was no more than fifteen paces away from the incident and if he was following the ball he can't have failed to see the assault which must have been in his field of view. Mr Clattenberg can't have it both ways. Either he was wrong not to send Rooney off immediately or he is simply not good enough. Which is it to be Mr. Clattenberg?

The FA rules concerning post match revision is clear. It follows FIFA guidelines that where a referee files his post match report and says that the incident has been dealt with to his satisfaction, nothing more can be done. He cannot refer to technology to review the incident, a policy backed to the hilt by FIFA and it's President Mr Blatter. Clattenberg it is alleged spoke with FA officials before posting his report. What was said?  Doesn't he realise that this sort of judgement fuels all those arguments that the FA bend over backwards to accommodate Manchester United and its belligerant Manager. Rooney is a star player but even he must abide by the rules and the code of conduct expected of professional footballers. After the incident, instead of sending off the United player, Clattenberg put his arm around rooney's shoulder in some sort of embrace. Surely this is sending the wrong signal.

Clattenberg must make a decision about his future before the likes of Rooney and his boorish behaviour makes it for him.