The Beauty of Grey

12 06 2013

Category; Law, Politics

256px-USSupremeCourtWestFacade

©UpstateNYer

It must be tough being a US Supreme Court Justice, knowing that your application of overriding principle leads to flagrant, obvious and pitiless injustice, but that is the decision they faced recently in the case of Maryland v Kingclick here.

A rapist, caught and charged years after the offence, given away by a DNA sample collected in an entirely unrelated matter.

Was that an unreasonable search (click here), did the constitution allow such a thing or ought the conviction to be struck down, and a man who everyone knows is a rapist be set free on a point of principle? Read the rest of this entry »





Disaster and the State

13 05 2013

Category; LawMediaPolitics

© Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty

A terrible industrial disaster in Bangladesh, a building full of workshops collapses leaving more than a thousand dead (click here), and our first reaction in developed economies is to question our responsibilities as consumers and whether we should boycott the western companies who have clothing made there (click here).

It’s an example of the fact we seem to have forgotten what the state is for.

Read the rest of this entry »





Don’t Blame Starbucks

20 10 2012

Category; Finance, Law, Media, Politics

Schiuma

It’s easy to get worked into a schiuma by the revelation that Starbucks hasn’t managed to pay any corporation tax in the UK since 2009 – click here for report. Big turnover is, apparently, eaten away by expensive licensing royalties to an overseas subsidiary (Holland) of the Starbucks parent company, expensive beans bought from another overseas subsidiary (Switzerland) and then roasted by yet another overseas subsidiary (Holland).

Politicians and journalists are gleefully calling for a boycott of the company that doesn’t ‘pay it’s share’see here and here. But it’s very simple. Read the rest of this entry »





A Tale of Two Fathers

7 07 2012

Category: Politics

An off-hand remark by a Prime Minister and the state of a nation is revealed. Who’s the Prime Minister, and what did he say?

Tony Blair, ever, you know, quotable, told a cabinet colleague (click here) that he wanted his children to go to an elite school because he didn’t want them ending up like Harold Wilson’s children.

“I want them to do better than that.”

Thanks to the Daily Mail’s seeming obsession with Prime Ministers’ children we can see what happened to both Prime Ministers’ children. Read the rest of this entry »





Aristotle

28 06 2012

Category; Politics

The enduring appeal of Aristotle; in 5 minutes, with 20 slides, via Supernanny, Tony Blair and Simon Cowell…





Only the Little People Pay Taxes

23 06 2012

Category; Politics, Finance

Jimmy Carr and his Bentley

Poor Jimmy Carr has realised he made a ‘massive error of judgment’ and he’s really sorry. The comedian somehow stumbled on a tax avoidance scheme that saved him an awful lot of money – click here.

Carr is a man who feels that his success allows him to stand apart from other people. As Leona Helmsley once said;

 “We don’t pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes.”

And justice. While Leona did serve at least a little time in gaol for tax evasion (click here) Jimmy Carr has repeatedly, well, let me phrase this carefully, he has repeatedly managed to secure the best possible outcome for himself after being prosecuted for motoring offences by hiring very expensive specialist lawyers – see here for more on that.

It was more interesting to see the flailing on this issue from politicians. They simply did not know how to respond. They did not understand how their reactions reflected on the nature of our society and its governance which, given that a basic role of government is gathering and spending money, is quite revealing. I’m not sure our politicians really know what they are there for anymore. Read the rest of this entry »





It Just Doesn’t Look Good

19 03 2012

Category: Politics, Middle East

The Bristol City Council resolution in June 2010 condemning Israel and urging sanctions, a boycott and disinvestment (see here) needs to be seen in context; the other countries and issues that have earned such an extreme measure of condemnation.

As one councillor put it in that debate:

We cannot run away from this problem, we have a responsibility

And in the words of another

I believe in human rights and international law and when I see those rights being attacked day after day…I think we have an obligation to speak out

Well, they certainly spoke out on Israel;  disgraceful, despicable, outrageous, horrendous, barbarism, murderers, state terrorism, piracy, racism, villains, inhuman, rogue state, horrific, apartheid was what they said – see here for a previous post about that with video of the debate. But as for the context; it just doesn’t look good. Read the rest of this entry »





And Don’t Come Back

18 03 2012

Category: Middle East, Politics

©AP

Farewell then Sami Khiyami, Syrian Ambassador to the Court of St James, formerly an electronics engineer, latterly a ludicrous apologist for evil. Click here for details of his departure.

He has returned to Syria, permanently it seems; a country he recently described as ‘the nicest and most beautiful state in the Middle East’.

In that interview he went on to blame Israel for disorder in Syria because ‘they could be behind any bad thing in the world’.

In October he was ordered by the UK Government to stop harassing Syrians in the UK – see here.

See him justifying the unjustifiable in a previous post – click here





Bristol Doesn’t ❤ Israel

18 03 2012

Category; Politics, Middle East, Bristol

Time to revisit something from 2010. In June of that year an Israel boycott motion was passed by Bristol City Council (click here for the motion).

I watched  the debate on a webcast and found it monumentally depressing. I edited the webcast (keeping all the speakers who spoke on the topic and all their points).

Here’s that video: Read the rest of this entry »





Tonge Gone

3 03 2012

Category: Politics, Middle East

So, Jenny Tonge has been set adrift from the Liberal Democrats, as I predicted – see here for more on Jenny Tonge and the Liberal Democrats.

The story was carried on Radio 4 with an interview with Tonge and  little context or background – listen here to the honey-tongued hatemonger. Read the rest of this entry »





Historical Intelligence

11 02 2012

Category; Politics

© EPA/Orestis Panagiotou

They are burning German flags in Athens.

Hardly surprising.

Whoever is crunching the numbers in Berlin, Paris and Brussels, whoever is shaping European financial policy has a tin ear to the echoes of the past. Read the rest of this entry »





Funny Money?

11 01 2012

Category; Politics, Finance, Bristol

Bristol Council, in the South West of Britain, seems to have money trouble. It’s been revealed by the BBC that it is planning to raise £50 million in debt to finance a variety of projects – click here for  the BBC website report.

That’s £50 million for the ratepayers of tomorrow, and for years to come, to pay for. Read the rest of this entry »





The Highest Incarnation of the Revolutionary Comradely Love

29 12 2011

Category; Politics

North Korea has, in Kim Jong-il, a second departed leader to add to its pantheon; I was in North Korea a few weeks ago and, while it’s difficult to pick out a single strand from the fabric of that experience,  nothing can prepare you for the extent to which Kim Jong-il and his father, Kim Il-sung, dominate the lives of the people.

Read the rest of this entry »





Václav Havel

19 12 2011

Category; Politics

Two Political leaders have died within a few hours and the contrast between them could not be greater: Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il.

While I never quite met Havel, I got close to it and to adapt Cartier Bresson’s phrase about photography; it was a decisive moment. Read the rest of this entry »





Still At It

1 12 2011

Category; Finance, Politics, Bristol

It takes a throwaway remark by a part-time local politician in one of Britain’s smaller cities to illustrate that while the eurozone crumbles and the Western world’s economy  faces deep recession, no lessons have been learned.

They are still at it.

The councillor responsible for transport in Bristol was talking about a new scheme to charge visitors to park their cars where it currently is free. This is what he had to say to the local BBC:

“He hoped the move would raise some £200,000 per year – allowing £3m in capital to be raised.”

BBC News 26 November 2011 – click here for the report; Ashton Court Parking

So how does £200,000 turn into £3 million? I’ve already discussed how this works here and then here, and here it is in operation. Read the rest of this entry »