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Friday, 21 November 2014

Democratic Coalition?

The recent elections for the Landestags (State Parliaments) in the Federal German Republic (Seventeen 'Lände' or States, three of them more or less 'City States') produced some interesting results. First it is probably wise to explain that the German voting system permits a direct vote for a candidate, and a vote for a Party. A voter can choose to vote for a 'Party' that is not the one of his/her candidate of choice, so the voters may, for instance, elect Candidate Mustermann of the CDU, but give their 'Party' vote to the SPD! The ballots are then counted and half the seats are 'direct' candidates, the other half are assigned on the basis of a Party's share of the Ballot. Any Party that gets less than 5% of the Ballot does not get allocated any seats.

There are at least seven Parties in play, including the conservative Christian Democratic Union and their Bavarian sibling, the CSU, the Social Democrats (SPD) (Germany's oldest political party), the Greens (Bundenis 90/Grünen), Die Linke (formerly the communist/socialist SED of East Germany), the 'liberal' FDP, the AfD (the German equivalent of UKIP) and, surprisingly to outsiders, the National Socialist Party. Independents can also stand, and are often sufficiently well supported to win a seat. Currently the Bundestag and most Landestags do not have FDP or NS members since neither Party achieved the 5% threshold. Which brings me to the subject at hand.

Thüringen has been battling to form a government for some time, but has finally got one. The Coalition is a three way share, with Die Linke the largest partner with the SDP and the Greens as 'juniors'. The Coalition has a ONE seat majority over the 'opposition' Party - the CDU. The prospect of a Linke 'Ministerpräsident' (First Minister) in any of the Lande since 1990 has raised a number of eyebrows, and evoked a comment from the State President, Joachim Gauck. Die Linke are, of course, being a little triumphalist about their 'win', yet, in fact, they are, however you cut the pie, still very much a minority government. How the next four years of their 'rule' will affect them and their coalition partners, remains to be seen.

Personally I was surprised the SPD in particular (roughly equivalent to the UK's Labour Party in ideology), agreed to enter a partnership with Die Linke. There is a bad history there, since it was a coalition between the SPD and the SED in 1949 that brought the SED into power and gave the East German's the next 40 years of oppression. With the backing of the USSR, and a behind the scenes campaign against them, the SPD soon found themselves marginalised and eventually ousted. Perhaps this is why, in the opening paragraphs of the new coalition, the partners have - at the insistence of the SPD and the Greens - included a paragraph which declares that they acknowledge that the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was a dictatorship - an 'Unrechtstaat' - and declares they all support the principles of democratic will of the people.

Seeing the expressions on the faces of the new Die Linke First Minister and his cohorts as that was read out, it struck me that they were, quite literally signing up to it only because they have no other alternative. The leopard does not, indeed cannot, change his spots. I suspect there will be many difficult battles ahead for this coalition, and it may yet cost the SPD and the Greens dearly.

The fact that three 'minority' Parties can form a government under the German system is seen by many as a weakness. While I agree that it does allow some rather strange permutations - like having the majority party unable to form a government because they haven't achieved an outright majority - in another sense it certainly keeps the politicians accountable. The situation in Thüringen is a result of voters sending a message to the ruling CDU that they wanted change. They have also 'punished' the SPD, which came in third in the election, losing its usual second place to Die Linke. None of the three Parties forming the new government enjoy, normally, a sufficient majority to do so as 'leader', but combined, they hold the majority of seats - by ONE.

As I said, the SPD and the Greens may yet come to regret trusting the leopard that is Die Linke (which has still not apologised publicly for the oppression, the judicial murders, political imprisonments, persecutions and all the other abuses they employed to keep control and their hold on power) in this. The German system may not be perfect in many people's eyes (I still think its better than the UK 'First Past the Post system), but it certainly allows the voter here a wider choice - and it does mean that every vote counts.

Die Linke know they are not popular, and I have no doubt they will be on their best behaviour in an attempt to recover their credibility, so we face interesting times here. It will be interesting to watch!  

Monday, 17 November 2014

Schadenfreude

I have to thank Josephus for giving me the smile of the weekend, and I'll share it with you.

As is his wont, Josephus was ruminating on many other matters while performing an essential, but generally menial task. Contemplating a "Use by Date" on, of all things, a packet of frozen prawns, it occurred to him that the prawns 'expired' at around the same time that the current crop of 'millennial' young people will start to enter the workforce, albeit that these will be those who, having been forced to stay in school while having little or no desire to do so, will be exiting those fun factories with only a small amount of the knowledge they could have had, and almost no usable skills.

What employment prospects await them? Not much.

That led him to consider the next election, five years beyond this one. At that point the next tranche of 'millenial' young folk, this time with degrees and diplomas, will be leaving places of Higher Education and seeking work, and now the fun starts. They will enter a world of commerce and industry (and perhaps politics and the Public Services) in which they will find themselves perennially 'too young/inexperienced' for promotion. A world in which all the senior posts are held by the current crop of 'pre-millenial' types - the generation that turned my, and Josephus, age group from being 'too young/inexperienced' to 'dinosaur' and shoved us out to grass. And herein is the rub, because, having told my generation that we are the problem/undeserving recipients destroying the pensions system, they have changed the rules - and now cannot, themselves, retire as they forced us to do.

Because these now ageing 'dinosaurs' cannot retire at 60, not even at 65, but will plan to go on for another twenty years, thereby making real progress for most of the talented young guns very slow.
So the 'young guns' will plot, scheme, and undermine. Remember, that we are talking about the 'connected' generation. In collective ways, they will devise the means to overthrow the 'dinosaurs', just as they did to my and Josephus' generation. And this is where the current crop of power mongers, 'leaders' and 'thinkers' will come unstuck. They've destroyed the means for following a 'career path' in almost all services and industries, indeed they have done the same in commerce. They have 'poisoned the waters' against those with age and experience on their side, and now they will have an angry, frustrated, and above all creatively able generation snapping at their heels.

They will be discarded as we were, but with a big difference. Unlike people like myself and Josephus,  they will not be able to take any pension of any sort. They have made a trap for themselves, and soon it will slam shut behind them. They will be in their late fifties or early sixties with occupational pensions worth a fraction of their predecessors, because the erosion of those benefits in kind was one of their principle weapons, and their old age pensions are still many years in the future.

Will they be employable?  Their lifelong career will have been cut short by a revolution, so probably not. Except as 'Tescbury's' shelf stackers on the zero hours contracts they thought was such a great idea for everyone else working night shift. As another friend says - Karma is a b-1-tch!

Josephus was kinder. He wrote -
I do believe that the Germans have a word for what in English can only be rendered as "Nya-nya-na-nya-nya."
He's right, the German's do have a word for it, and it has found its way into the English Dictionary as well. The word is "Schadenfreude" - to take delight in a self-inflicted misfortune.

Sadly, those most likely to be worst affected by this bout of 'Schadenfreude' are likely to be the group caught between those who pushed Josephus and my generation aside, and the 'millenials' who will shove them out of the window. Karma is indeed a ....

Friday, 7 November 2014

Here's Another Fine Mess ...

What a mess we find ourselves in. The now ex-Attorney-General, Julian Grieves, criticised what he calls the ‘Aggressive Secularisation’ of public life in the UK some weeks ago. As a practising Anglican and member of the Church of England, he raises a concern many of us have felt for some time. As he pointed out, Christians are being marginalised, banned from showing, discussing or even ‘confessing’ their faith. Some have been sacked for wearing crosses, or discussing their faith with others in the workplace. How ironic then, that the same corporate ‘secularisers’ fall over themselves to accommodate Muslims. 

In the same newspaper that carried Mr Grieves’ article, a photograph showed a ‘senior civil servant’ sporting a wonderful example of the ‘Mujahedin’ beard favoured by some Muslims who think it makes them look ‘faithful’ or that it is ‘required’ by their faith. A Christian in the civil service who dared to wear a crucifix, or some other token of their faith, would be ordered to remove it. A nurse was sacked for refusing to remove one on the grounds it was a ‘health risk’ - while Muslim nurses are given special dispensation to wear long sleeves, and the hijab on the grounds their faith ‘requires’ it, when, in fact, it is not a requirement in the Quran at all. British Airways has sacked a check-in desk worker who wore a cross, on the grounds that it was not in keeping with their ‘corporate dress’ code, yet I have had the experience of being ‘checked in’ by a BA worker in a hijab.

Then there is the supermarket chain I will no longer shop at, which allows its cashiers to refuse to serve people who wish to buy pork products or alcohol. This is defended on the grounds it would be a breach of their faith for them to do so, but, a Christian woman who objected to being compelled to give advice on abortion is sacked because her faith may not interfere with the organisations ‘policy’ of providing the information. The list goes on. Christians who refuse to provide bed space to Gays are dragged into court, yet Muslim B&B operators are not put to the test by the same activist organisations. That there is a very deep seated and, frankly, disgraceful, double standard being applied is all too obvious, and if that weren’t enough, there is the whole matter of ‘radical Islam’ and what can only be termed as ‘hate speech’ being spread in our universities, on our streets and in public life entirely without check.

How did we get here? How did this situation develop without someone, somewhere, putting on the brakes?

Sadly, it appears that two things apply here. The first is that our ‘liberal’ society is so afraid of being accused of racism, Islamophobia or any of the other artificial ‘phobias’ invented by them over the last 40 years, they cannot bring themselves to admit it is happening. Secondly, the good old Law of Unintended Consequences has come into play. The efforts - publicly stated by certain sections of our ‘intelligentsia’ - to ‘destroy Christianity and religion’ in Britain, has produced a society with nothing but the prejudices of the elite as a ‘moral’ compass. That has created a society in which the Islamic community can see no virtue, so, they look to their own values and want to impose those. That wish, coupled with the void created by the lack of faith in the majority (G K Chesterton had it right when he said an absence of ‘faith’ did not mean the absence of ‘belief’ - just that now people will believe anything) provides a gap into which the radicals can step with their twisted and warped version of religion and find fertile ground for converts.

In another article, an Imam points to the fact that this ‘radical’ brand of Islam is, in fact, anathema to the teaching of the Quran. One Imam has shown his disapproval to his Mosque Committee, by resigning his post after they invited a pro-IS preacher to deliver a sermon. Others, including the Muslim Council itself, have condemned the radical teachers, the recruiters for IS and the organisation and its actions - but get very little notice in the media, or, indeed, from the young men flocking to the IS Banner. An Oxford based Imam and part-time lecturer at one of the colleges there, has flagged up that the harassment of Christians and Jews (and others) is contrary to the Quran, specifically, to Sura (Chapter) 2 verse 256, which states that there is NO compulsion (forcing) in religion, each individual i free to worship as they choose. This is confirmed in Sura 109 verse 6, which states that everyone has the right to follow their own faith. Even more telling, Sura 22 verse 40 states that all ‘places of worship, whether Christian or Jewish, are to be ‘respected’ and ‘honoured’. So where does the problem with a radical version of Islam arise? 

There are two distinct problems here, and it is important that they be recognised. The first is what is termed ‘political Islam’, that is the root of the ideological movement which seeks to impose secular control through the Sharia. The second part of the problem is that, particularly in Sunni Islam, there is no recognised qualification for preachers. So anyone can claim to be a ‘preacher’ and it is easy for a radical preacher to gain acceptance - especially if he’s able to attract the support of disaffected youth. These ‘preachers’ often draw on the collection of material known as the Hadith (The Sayings …) for material, and it is from the Hadith that the concept of martyrdom comes. It is from the Hadith that the concept of a martyr being rewarded with a life of ease in heaven attended by 72 ‘virgins’ comes.

The Hadith is of very questionable origins. Purporting to be the ‘sayings of the Prophet’ it was first compiled around 300 years after his death, and was condemned then by many scholars. It has gained traction since, becoming the source for justification of many barbaric practices, and a source for much that makes up ‘Sharia’ Law today, and most of that was first ‘codified’ in the 18th Century. It is also the source of the nonsense that allows men to demand and dictate that every women must cover her hair, wear shapeless clothing and in extreme cases, wander round hidden beneath the all black ‘tent’ of the Burkha. It is from the Hadith that some Sunni sects have adopted the female genital mutilation practices, which are, in fact, forbidden by the Quran itself. It is this twisting of the message of the Quran by men of what can only be termed hatred, that gives rise to the ‘radical’ version we now see spreading like a cancer through all sections of Islamic society. 

The problem in the west is that most of those who argue for giving concessions to ‘devout’ Muslims with regard to setting their own ‘cultural’ boundaries and even allowing them to set up enclaves in our cities, is that they do not understand the origins of much of what they assume is ‘in the Quran’. Nor do they understand (and sometimes give the impression that they don’t want to) that there is no such thing as a single universal ‘Islamic Culture’. What is seen on British streets is largely imported from Pakistan and Bangladesh, and would be laughed at in Iran and many other ‘Islamic’ countries. The Burkha comes from Arabia, and is not native to most countries. In fact until fairly recently, none of this was ‘enforced’ on women outside of Arabia and some North African tribal cultures. Even the silly beards sported by young men (and some who should know better) are not at all ‘Islamic’. In fact they are the mark of the likes of the Taliban and Mujahedin. 

So what is seen by ‘liberals’ and supporters of Multi-Culturalism as ‘Islamic Culture' is a sham, but the problem now is that it has become the ‘badge’ of devotion to Islam - so every young man who thinks he’s found a ‘cause’ in his religious beliefs now dresses in this mishmash of costumes and demands that all women in his circle do the same. And with this twisted baggage has come all the other abuses - the ‘honour killings’, the forced marriages, the female genital mutilations, the treatment of ‘Dhimmi’ girls as sex toys and, of course, the demands for the entire English legal system to be suspended and replaced by Sharia Law.

Now the nastier problems are surfacing, the Multi-Culty promoters are desperately denying that any of this is a problem created by their idiocy. For years we have been forbidden to criticise the hate preachers, on the grounds it is their ‘right’ to express these opinions under our cherished ‘freedom of speech’ laws. Or that to criticise them was ‘racist’ and ‘Islamophobic’ in that it was an attack on ‘the religious beliefs’ of the speaker. Anyone who dared speak out, was immediately branded a ‘racist’ or an ‘Islamophobe’ - or if they persisted, a ‘Fascist’. Even now, writers in The Guardian will go to great lengths to give the impression that the likes of the IS and the hate preachers recruiting for them in Britain, are ‘a violent minority’ who do not represent the majority. While I might accept that the majority of British Muslims (there are some 3 million of them) are not ‘violent’ and do not seek to overthrow British Society, they are funding the violent minority. They aren’t doing anything to stop the steadily increasing numbers of young men and women joining ISIS/L (currently estimated by Security Forces in Europe at between 500 and 2,000) and indulging in the murder, kidnapping and torture of Shi’ites, Eastern Christians and others. 

The use of ‘labels’ with a pejorative meaning is a deliberate ploy by those who wish to shut down any debate they don’t want held. By accusing those who dare to question anything, of racism, Islamophobia or fascism, they whip into a fury all the ignoramuses who never stop to look further than the half truths and sometimes downright lies they are fed, leading to the hounding of the inconvenient ‘target’ from the public stage. Now the tactics are coming home to roost with something of a vengeance. We are in this mess precisely because we have not been allowed to debate any aspect of the drive to impose ‘multi-culturalism’ without any regard for the very real, and very foreseeable, consequences. No one dared to challenge the poison being spread by hate preachers like Abu Hamza. We weren’t even allowed to deport them - on the grounds that sending many of them back to the countries they came from, would be a breach of their ‘human rights’.

And now, no doubt, the same ‘human rights’ lawyers are sharpening their ‘briefs’ in preparation to defend the 500 (or 2,000) British passport holders currently fighting under the IS banner. I have no doubt that when the Security Services do track down the funders, recruiters, IT experts and supporters working from inside the UK for the IS murderers, these same ‘human rights’ lawyers and organisations will rush to defend them from criminal charges. Frankly, these lawyers are a major part of the problem, and should be made to face the survivors and the relatives of their ‘client’s’ victims - if not charged with treason alongside the murderers and psychopaths of IS.

According to the Security Agencies in Europe, Britain is now the No.2 exporter of radicalised Islamic terrorists (France is currently No.1 by a small margin). We are an international joke, and our politicians and civil servants haven’t a clue what to do about it. And while they remain paralysed by fear of the consequences of speaking out, and of being accused of attempting to curb the ‘right’ to some extreme form of speech, religion or oppression. So, it appears inevitable, that we will be ‘sleep walked’ into a war for our very existence. 

Our fathers, grandfathers and their predecessors must be rolling in their graves.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Brain Drain

My thanks to Josephus for a couple of recent reports and articles on matters close to both our hearts. The first was an item on the finally published report on the tragic deaths of firefighters in Warwickshire in 2007. The report states, inter alia, that the Fire and Rescue Service training system had become limited in scope, and required significant review. It went on to say that the "Integrated Personal Development System" (IPDS) "competence based scheme" was not meeting the services' expectations as personnel were training to complete "portfolios" rather than focusing on "firemanship".

Funny that, this was exactly what both Josephus and I identified and argued when the scheme was first "rolled out" with great fanfare as the future of fire and rescue service training. The reality is that both of us were long enough in the tooth to have witnessed the failures of so-called "on station training" and "learning on the job" when not reinforced by formal progression training with examination and practical assessment. No amount of "ticks in boxes" can ever substitute for experience reinforced by knowledge, yet the champions of IPDS (all, one might add, rewarded with 'Honours' or very nice promotions and postings for their efforts) publicly declared that "knowledge of theory was unnecessary, you only had to know how to 'do' something".

Tragically, their wonderful scheme is now showing just how deeply flawed IPDS is. Deaths on duty have climbed steeply since its introduction and the scrapping of knowledge based examinations. There are other factors in play as well, however, one being played out right before our eyes at the present moment. While, on the surface, the battle over Fire Service Pensions appears to be simply about changing the retirement age, it is part of a much deeper ailment. It is now openly declared that a fire fighter should not expect to spend his/her entire career in the service. One young HR Director (in my day this post would have been filled by a crusty and battle scarred SDO or ACFO), blithely told me at a meeting that she discouraged people from thinking they could expect a 30 year career and a pension. In her view it was "healthy" for the Service to have a high staff turnover. Worryingly, at least in the meeting, the CFO of the FRS concerned, agreed with her!

Which brings me to the second article. It is rather long, and can be read here with the title "Inside the World of HR" . The author opens with the experience of Tesco, just a few years ago set to take over the world - or so it seemed - but now in deep trouble financially. The article identifies one of the major flaws that has entered business in the last 40 or so years - the haemorrhage of knowledge and experience due to high staff turnovers. The author cites several studies conducted by scientific bodies which identify that fact that any organisation actually 'owns' about 10% of its "knowledge" - the other 90% is in the heads of its employees. Now most employers will argue they "own" that as well, but the fact is they don't, and can't. Each individual has developed special and unique experience, it cannot be transmitted in any other way than the much maligned "sitting next to Nelly" system of sharing. Add to this now the most revealing findings of the studies cited in the article I've linked.

Most major organisations have a 15% per annum change of staff. The authors of the study from which that comes argue that this is a success; according to them, it makes business more flexible and less likely to be "locked into" the past. However, what they don't acknowledge is that it takes, on average, only 7 years for any organisation to undergo a complete change of staff at that rate. With that goes all knowledge of what worked and what didn't work in the past. Thus, as with Tesco, wheels get reinvented, mistakes get repeated and ultimately, a successful and healthy business ends up in trouble.

The reason is quite simple. It takes at least a year (in the FRS it is regarded as 2 years for a recruit firefighter and, in the past, a further 4 years as a firefighter before you could be considered for promotion) for a newcomer to an organisation to learn the ropes and become fully productive. Now comes another devastating statistic - in all the studies cited the maximum length of time most spend in an organisation is 5 years. So, as an employer and, if I'm lucky, my new recruit today, will have just reached his/her most useful range of knowledge and experience when they depart, taking 90% of the knowledge and experience I could use, with them. As the author of the article shows by example after example, this haemorrhage of knowledge and experience is steadily destroying organisations.

There are a number of factors at work here, among them the prominence and power of accountants who see everything in the short term and in terms of "cost". Pensions "cost" so the solution, for an accountant, is make sure you have only the minimum numbers qualifying for one. Experienced and long serving employees "cost" in terms of higher salaries, benefits and "on costs" such as pension contributions - so reduce the number you have on the books as much as possible. Then there is the whole question of "management" as a "profession" (and I'll confess that I have a number of "Management" qualifications). The academic belief that there is such a profession is, in my view, serious wrong. "Management" is a function, not a "profession", and, if one cares to look at the most successful managers in the world they are all people who have a very wide understanding and deep experience of the things they manage. If you want examples of poor management practice, look no further than an organisation which has "generalist" managers parachuting into senior roles with little or no understanding of what they are managing.

I was amused to see that the author of the article I have linked, cites the UK Civil Service as just such an example.

How does one fix this situation? I'm inclined to think it will require a major shift in thinking, and a return to the idea that a career is for life and not just a short term step on the ladder to the next "job". It will require a total rethink in what is being taught in MBA and various other "Management" courses, and it will require a complete change of direction in "Human Resources" so that the value of retaining staff, and the knowledge and experience they hold will be seen. It is perhaps too much to hope for that the "short-termism" of our western business culture can also be eroded and the longer vision held by other cultures adopted.

Answers on a post card please ...

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Food Bank Controversy ...

Food Banks are much in the news at present, and are something of a 'hot' topic in many people's minds. The reason is not hard to find, we are bombarded with news items about the 'rising number' of Food Banks, and the need for them. Add in a liberal mix of politicians all trying to make political capital, abuse of statistics in the media and you have a ready made subject to 'prove' that poverty is on the rise. Recently a friend and former colleague who happens to be legally qualified and does voluntary work for a number of charities who work with those in need, on benefits or in low-paid employment. He had some very interesting things to say about the misrepresentation of the figures on Food Banks, and pointed me to a website which provides even more interesting information. 

The Trussel Trust is a major provider of food banks, and there website has a range of very accessible and readable statistics. According to their figures they have provided 913,138 people with 'emergency food supplies' sufficient for three days. Note that the numbers are for 'people' NOT 'families', and one more point of note in this is that each time a person returns, that person is counted as a 'new' customer. My friend informs me that this is further complicated by the fact that the referring charities hand out the food bank vouchers to individuals, NOT families, so a single adult applying and qualifying will receive one voucher, a second for a partner and another for each child. And they will receive the same number each time they reapply. Thus, someone who comes in say every fortnight and receives five food bank chitties is going to appear in the statistics as 26 times 5 people - 130 people in the years statistics.

Of course, not everyone does that, and the suggestion from the participating charities figures is that probably fully two-thirds of those in receipt of this assistance don't. The second half of this is, of course, to put the numbers into a proper perspective. As I said earlier, we are talking individual people NOT 'families'. Next we must look at it against total population in the UK, and we find that even with the 'repeat users' it is still actually quite a small percentage of the population. 

The Trust keeps a record of why people are drawing on the Food Banks, and now we find really interesting statistics on why people are 'in need'. The top three, in order, are -

1. Delayed Benefits
2. Low Income
3. Benefit Changes.

The fourth is equally interesting. It is listed as 'Other', but this includes those who persist in believing there is a horse somewhere, that will make them rich. Unsurprisingly, Debt and Unemployment come next, with Homelessness, Domestic Violence, and Sickness in that order. Certainly, in our society, the top three may be addressable, and numbers five, six and seven should be. 

Sadly, there is little one can really do about those who spend their wages (and family's domestic subsistence) in the local betting shop, short of shutting such premises altogether. However, we need, once again, to look at this in a balanced manner. Once again, the news papers and the 'word on the street' has been somewhat misleading. What it has failed to mention when reproting the 'increase in reliance on food banks' is that there has been a change in the way certain 'Benefits' were dealt with. 

'Benefit' is probably the wrong word to describe what used to be called a 'Crisis Loan' which was issued by a Local Authority and was supposed to 'tide a family over' a temporary shortfall in income. As of 1st April 2013, a change in the law switched off these funds, but switched it to an alternative system. Crisis Loans had to be repaid, which meant that ultimately all you were doing was deferring the crunch. Under the new system most Local Authorities issue 'Food Vouchers' which are redeemable at a Food Bank and give three days worth of food. These are not 'means tested' so anyone can, in an emergency, qualify. Naturally, those who would and could benefit most are the elderly, young folk struggling to get started, the homeless and the sick. 

We must also look at the sudden increase in the number of these food banks. Once again, it goes back to the changed legislation. The rise in the use of the food banks directly correlates to the rise in the number of these facilities. Did they increase due to demand, or did usage increase due to availability. It would seem to be a bit of both, not least due to the removal of a 'cash loan' system and its replacement with the vouchers redeemable only in food. As my friend put it, the loans had to be repaid, and there was no guarantee that the money handed out wouldn't wind up attached to a betting slip in the local bookmakers. Now, at least, those who receive the vouchers, get food on the table. 

Yes, it is a great shame that we need them, but the fact is we do. Almost 70 years of political meddling to 'lift people out of poverty' haven't achieved it, nor are they likely to. Human nature is, by nature, inclined to certain behaviours, and some of those tend to drive people toward poverty. So we have food banks, and more food banks are being opened, but it doesn't mean more people are 'falling into poverty' because the usage is increasing. Changes to the benefit of 'Emergency Loans' mean food vouchers, not money for the betting shop or the pub. 

Unfortunately, the stigmatising of Food Banks by the ignorant is putting off many who should be making use of them. That is something that concerns my friend very deeply - to the point it makes him extremely angry when he encounters those he considers 'numpties' who are grinding ideological axes founded on complete ignorance of the subject. As my friend wrote to me - 
Finally with all the do gooders shaking their heads in disgust at the foodbank, they have by default made them unavailable to many folks who wont accept the vouchers (my experience), because there is a now a stigma about them, thanks to all the best meant criticisms. Many are too proud to be seen going to them. They are usually the proud OAPS and genuinely most needy.
Yes, it's sad we need them, but they, like many things in life, are a necessary evil, and I plead with everyone to be careful when ranting about them that they don't by accident stigmatise them and the people who need them.
And the next person I hear using foodbanks as a cheap political point scoring tool “wull get their heed pood aff”


For those who don't speak Glaswegian, that bit in parenthesis translates as - "will get their head pulled off". In my view, they will deserve it.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Turkey 'Aiding and Abetting' ISIL?

One gets the strong impression that Turkey is covertly aiding and abetting the Islamic State murder machine. Reading the argument over support for the Kurdish fighters defending Kobani, and how 'porous' the Turkish border with the territory now controlled by ISIS/L is, one wonders what all those Turkish troops are actually there to prevent. I suspect their orders are not to stop ISIS/L, but to prevent any Kurdish fighters from escaping IS thugs.

The Turks have watched this tragedy unfold, and they have made no effort whatsoever to stop the steady flow of 'Jihadis' rushing to join ISIS/L. One can only speculate on how much in the form of weapons, munitions and 'materiel' for the fight is being supplied directly to the ISIS/L fighting machine by the Turkish Army and across this border. If I were a NATO Commander, I would be seriously looking at how much 'Intelligence' material I gave my Turkish 'Ally' about anything planned against ISIS/L.

Turkey does have a problem with this little war, one which will come back to bite them very, very hard I think. A large part of their reluctance to do anything to prevent the slaughter on their border is that the victims are, largely, Kurds. Roughly a quarter of the existing 'territorial area' of modern Turkey is populated by Kurds who have long cherished the desire to have their own 'nation state'. This would include the area of Iraq and the portion of Syria that includes two major cities - one of them Kobani - and the Turks have fought a long and very bloody campaign to prevent this. It now sticks in their collective craws, that their 'enemy', the Kurdish PKK, is the only force that seems to be having any success against ISIS/L. Should the Kurds win, the Turks will face a battle hardened, rearmed and very determined army of Kurds who will want their independence from an oppressive regime that is currently prepared to see their people sacrificed in order to prevent just this scenario from arising.

Both ways the Turks face a major problem here. If they aid the Kurds - as other NATO members are doing - they will have to address the political ambitions of their 'enemy within'. If they allow the Kurds to be defeated, and allow the genocide to go unpunished and unchecked that will follow, they will, within a short time, face the ISIS/L Jihad to include their country in the 'Caliphate'. If the Kurds win ... Well, I don't have to paint a picture.

One thing is very clear, Turkey faces a 'no-win' situation of their own manufacture, and now the only thing they can think of doing is to prevent the Kurds from winning. So the are covertly helping the 'enemy of my enemy' in the hope the venomous ISIS/L will not turn and bite them when their objectives in Syria and Iraq have been achieved.

If the rest of NATO and the world have any sense at all, they will not allow this to continue. And they will not allow ISIS/L or their supporters anywhere in the world, to continue, to receive arms, or to 'fade back into the crowd'. Those that wave the black flag of ISIS/L anywhere must be hauled into court and face the full penalty of the law for their support, encouragement and participation in mass murder, genocide and religious oppression. Make no mistake, if the ISIS/L win in Kobani, they will not stop there, and the Turks know it, but are paralysed by their fear of a Kurdish 'settlement'.

It will destroy them. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Meet the Archbishop of Canterbury

A fascinating interview with the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, ++Justin Welby.

It is just over an hour, but well worth spending the time listening to his responses to the questions from Canon Jeffrey John. Humour, humility, confidence, faith, personal tragedy ... The making of an Archbishop for the present.

So much he says in this accords with my own experience of faith, it is almost frightening.