Friday, 13 December 2019

Another Berwyn prison tragedy

A young man who had not been addicted before he entered prison was introduced to "spice". In spite of being aware enough of the dangers to post a video warning of them, he has been found dead almost certainly as a result of taking the drug.

Surely Wales can do better with the prisons within our boundaries? We must not allow the blanket coverage of the general election to stifle this story.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Westminster's midnight

It has already been remarked that the day after today's poll is the inauspicious Friday the thirteenth. It also happens to be St Lucy's Day, which used to be the shortest day of the year before the reform of the calendar. Thus John Donne could refer to the day's midnight and the year's in one of his most complex poems.

This year, St Lucy's Day also marks a political crisis. When all the votes are in (and it looks as if the very last counts may have a bearing on the overall result) will the UK be set on a course which takes us out of the EU, influencing the future direction of Europe and continuing to benefit from the opportunities the Union offers, or will we become yet another once-great state to become kicked around by the great powers of East and West? Will we start to rebuild our economy and our social structures or be taken in by grand schemes funded by unsustainable borrowing? It is a choice between putting the Brexit jinn back in its bottle for a decade while we concentrate on reconstruction at home or arguing for another year or more about the shape of the trade agreement with Europe, all the while turning in on ourselves. Will we return to an honest democratic path or continue to be seduced by liars and cheats?

The thirteenth of December may no longer be the winter solstice, but this year it will certainly be a turning-point.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Green business newsletter likes our manifesto

This op-ed from Business Green reminds us of another Liberal Democrat initiative in coalition that was vindictively killed off by the Conservatives when they contrived an overall majority in 2015: the Green Investment Bank.

For me, the Lib Dems offer the most compelling manifesto for the green economy. Most experts would agree the 2045 net zero target date is both ambitious and achievable, but crucially there is also a detailed £100bn plan for meeting the goal that centres on urgent action over the next decade. There is a willingness to borrow to invest to go alongside Leader Jo Swinson's genuine apology for the Party's involvement in the past decade's self-defeating austerity policies. That funding would enable massive home retro-fitting programmes, the reinstatement of the Green Investment Bank that was so short-sightedly privatised by the Tories, a huge surge in renewables and EV infrastructure development, and increased clean tech R&D. Add in tree-planting, important climate governance reforms in Whitehall and corporate boardrooms, and the promise of an environmental duty of care law and you end up with a programme that could drastically accelerate decarbonisation efforts without spooking markets or alienating the public.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Farage hypocrisy

So Farage professes himself shocked at Channel 4's exposure of racism in Brexit. He declares that he formed Brexit to get away from the racist party that UKIP had become. (He conveniently forgets that UKIP was less racist before he took it over.) Yet there is evidence that the mature Farage differs little from the the Nazi-idolising Dulwich schoolboy. A contributor to Facebook recalls an incident from earlier this century:

When Obama won his first Presidential election in 2008 the US Embassy in Brussels held a post election party, which I was invited to, at the Renaissance Hotel to celebrate this historic event. I caught a cab to Place Luxembourg (near the EU Parliament) and started to find my way to the hotel.

While walking I bumped into a smartly dressed man who was walking in the opposite direction to me. I decided to ask him the quickest route to the hotel and he started by saying: “Can you believe that Barrack Obama won? Unbelievable! Well, at least his Mother is white!”

That smartly dressed man was Nigel Farage.

The sin in Brexit Inc. is not to be racist, but to be exposed as such.

Monday, 9 December 2019

There is another funding crunch coming

This Sydney Morning Herald story warns of  another financial crisis on the way. It will not be caused by a plunge in trust in transatlantic financial institutions like the 2007/8 crunch, but as I understand the rather arcane explanation the effects will be the same: a shortage of ready money for big borrowers. This is not a time for prospective chancellors to plan expansion of the UK economy based on borrowing, as John McDonnell and Sajid Javid propose.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Mieczysław Weinberg, citizen of nowhere

Today is the centenary of a prolific, but until recently generally unrecognised, Polish Jewish composer. JD has more here.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Cathy Fox on Jeffrey Epstein

I respect Cathy Fox's persistent campaign to uncover the truth about sex offenders. Howevr, I feel that some of the sources she quotes make rather far-fetched allegations. At first sight, her piece on the Duke of York and Jeffrey Epstein falls into this category, yet when one looks at the charges logically they make sense.

For instance, Fox's assertion that:
Epstein and Maxwell were running a “brownstone” operation to sexually blackmail important powerful people, politicians and scientists so that they can be controlled. The best blackmail material is child sexual abuse material.
makes sense when you look into Epstein's history. His first brush with the law was as the promoter of a Ponzi scheme. His co-conspirator was sent down for eighteen years; Epstein mysteriously got off. Could he have already started a blackmail business when he was recruited for the fraud?

Then there is the reported suicide. Epstein had wriggled out of the worst punishment for his previous convictions. He clearly did not lack self-confidence; why should he commit suicide now? The federal authorities had carefully remanded Epstein to one of the most secure jails in New York state, and he had been held in a special unit at the time of his death. Admittedly, US federal jails are understaffed and there was venality on the part of his guards. Still, one does not have to invoke Mossad or the CIA to realise that there were powerful people who are grateful that he is dead.