Posts tagged politics

Left in the lurch, not lost in translation

During the United Kingdom’s involvement in Afghanistan, British forces were supported by some 3,000 civilian interpreters. These Afghan interpreters were often exposed to extremely dangerous situations.

Afghan interpreter in action for a British officer

An Afghan interpreter in action for a British officer

In its report Lost in Translation? Afghan Interpreters and Other Locally Employed Civilians, the House of Commons Defence Select Committee has now found that Government’s scheme to safeguard Afghan interpreters threatened with reprisals for working with the British Army “has dismally failed to give any meaningful assurance of protection” from the Taliban.

The committee’s report also calls for a more sympathetic approach to Afghan personnel seeking relocation to the UK after serving in front-line roles.

Earlier this month, Sajid Javid, a man who does Home Secretary impressions, bowed to pressure over 150 interpreters seeking indefinite leave to remain in the UK under the Relocation Scheme, including waiving a £2,389 application fee.

No such concessions have been made for many others who have made it to the UK or who are still in Afghanistan where they are targeted by the Taliban or Isis.

Besides the Relocation Scheme, the government also initiated the so-called Intimidation Scheme; this had the aim of relocating interpreters within Afghanistan if they faced threats from the Taliban or Islamic State, only offering them a place in the UK as a last resort.

However, not a single Afghan has been relocated as part of the intimidation scheme, which the Select Committee describes as an “utter failure”. It goes on to say that the scheme is perceived as unfair and miserly and that will continue until it “offers a genuine prospect that, when individuals face serious and verifiable threats to their lives, as a result of having helped UK armed forces, they will be allowed to come to the UK”.

Amongst its recommendations, the committee has called for a more sympathetic approach and looser application of the Intimidation Scheme.

Select Committee chairman Dr Julian Lewis said: “This is not only a matter of honour. How we treat our former interpreters and local employees, many of whom served with great bravery, will send a message to the people we would want to employ in future campaigns.”

Many members of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan go further than the Select Committee and believe that the UK has a debt of honour to resettle all former civilian interpreters in the UK and that their former colleagues are been caught up in the racist Home Office’s crackdown on immigration.

A fool and his money

Q: Pictured below are 2 men: Winston Churchill, who some would argue was the greatest UK Prime Minister ever; and Piers Morgan, a man of no discernible talent apart from sycophancy to those on the extreme right wing of politics. What links them?

Winston Churchill and Piers Moron composite image

A: A cigar butt.

One of Churchill’s discarded cigar butts, to be precise.

Earlier this week, Piers Morgan bought said cigar butt at auction, as reported by the Shropshire Star.

Piers (affectionately renamed Piers Moron by Private Eye. Ed.) was so pleased with his purchase, he also tweeted about it.

Tweet reads: I feel so patriotic today that I just bought Sir Winston Churchill’s half-smoked wartime cigar at an auction.

Auctioneers Travanion & Dean of Whitchurch in Shropshire had been expecting the half-smoked historical artefact to sell for about £1,000.

Piers paid £2,600 for it.

Needless to say, the final bill would have been rather more than that once the auctioneers’ commission had been added.

He may have considered his action patriotic, but Piers’ action reminded your ‘umble scribe of an old adage, i.e. a fool and his money are soon parted.

That bit of folksy wisdom in turn set me researching its origins.

The King James version of the Bible published in 1604 has something similar to this saying in Proverbs 21:20, which states:

There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.

However, for a rendition slightly closer to the wording in question, one has to look at 1573’s Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie by Thomas Tusser, reproduced below:

A foole & his money,
be soone at debate:
which after with sorow,
repents him to late.

The form of words commonly used in the present proverb were first just over a decade after Tusser. In 1587 Dr. John Bridges writes the sentence below in Defence of the Government of the Church of England:

If they pay a penie or two pence more for the reddinesse of them..let them looke to that, a foole and his money is soone parted.

The thoughts of Michael Gove

Today’s Graunaid reports on the establishment of a new Tory think tank, erroneously called “Onward“.

However, it is firmly denied that this anodyne moniker is meant in any way to be an echo of “En Marche!“, the movement that propelled the right-of-centre Emmanuel Macron to power in France (and Andorra; he’s also the ex-officio co-prince of the Pyrenean principality. Ed.).

Michael Gove's official Defra photoThose at the centre of the launch in the Gruaniad’s eyes are Scottish Tory leader Ruth “tractor quotas” Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, and Michael Gove, the man with the most punchable face in British politics and alleged to be the UK’s current Secretary of State For Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

Leaving aside the sordid details of the think tank’s launch, which were given far too much attention for my mind by the Gruaniad, what struck your ‘umble scribe was the following phrase relating to the boy Michael:

Gove, the environment secretary, who has long been one of the party’s most influential thinkers,…

The plain truth is that thinking doesn’t come naturally to Michael. In a previous incarnation as Secretary of State for Education, he’s on record as not understanding what an average is or how it works in this oral reply to the House of Commons Education Committee in 2012:

…we expect schools not only to be judged on the level of raw attainment but also in terms of making sure that children are on track and are not falling back-and, indeed, do better than the average.

Meanwhile in his present post, he has in the past had difficulty in remembering which country he’s in, singing the praises of Welsh lamb in a press release for a visit to Northern Ireland (posts passim).

Furthermore, there are also times when Michael Gove doesn’t think at all. He didn’t think of his son when he and his wife thought it acceptable to leave the 11 year-old at a hotel to go to a party.

Thinking is a skill that can be taught and acquired, but your correspondent has yet to see that Gove has gained sufficient quantities thereof in his education at public school and thereafter at Oxford University.

Then again, lack of talent has never been an obstacle to achieving high office for the Blue Team…

The GOP and the English language*

On Saturday, a certain Melania Trump was discharged from hospital following surgery for a kidney problem.

Needless to say her husband. one Donald John Trump, who occasionally resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. in between golfing trips, was delighted.

So delighted he sent the tweet below to his followers.

tweet reads: Great to have our incredible First Lady back home in the White House. Melanie is feeling and doing really well. Thank you for all of your prayers and best wishes!

The reason why The Donald should misspell his wife’s name is unknown. Perhaps he had that pesky predictive text active on his tweeting device.

However, the 45th President of the United States is not the first Republican Party occupant of that office of state to experience problems with the use of the English language.

The 41st occupant of that office, one George Herbert Walker Bush, once quipped in an interview with Jim Lehrer on PBS: “They used to say English was my second language.”

George H.W.’s son, George W., who was affectionately known as “Dubya” and inaugurated as the USA’s 43rd president, was so inept with his alleged mother tongue that a term – Bushisms – was coined to denote his ability to engage both tongue and brain when speaking in public. Bushisms are defined as Dubya’s unconventional statements, phrases, pronunciations, malapropisms and semantic or linguistic errors in public speaking. Besides malapropisms, Bushism’s other common characteristics included the creation of neologisms, spoonerisms, stunt words and grammatically incorrect subject–verb agreement.

To conclude this brief excursion into members of the Grand Old Party’s difficulties with English, who can forget former Vice-President James Danforth Quayle’s erroneous correction of a school student’s correct rendition of “potato“? 😀

* = Apologies to the late George Orwell for the title.

More thoughts on monarchy and the royal family by Keir Hardie

Jame Keir Hardie photographed in 1905Today, 19th May 2018, uncelebrated blues artiste Mumblin’ Harry Wales (posts passim) weds US actor Meghan Markle in Windsor.

Whilst I have no particular axe to grind against anyone wishing to get married and wish Mr Wales and Ms Markle every happiness, I do have objections to the undemocratic nature monarchy and the idea that the heads of state of this country should come down the birth canals of one particular family and one family only.

Then there’s the whole concept of the so-called royal family being somehow special or better than the rest of humanity.

In these objections I’m in fine company.

One of those who share my republican ideals was James Keir Hardie (15 August 1856 – 26 September 1915), socialist, politician and trade unionist, who rose to become the first leader of the Labour Party.

In “Keir Hardie: His Writings and Speeches” edited by Emrys Hughes and published by Forward Printing and Publishing Company Ltd, Glasgow in 1928, Hardie is credited with writing the following on the occasion of Victoria von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha’s diamond jubilee in 1897. However, his remarks are still relevant today and reveal how far ahead Hardie was of the conventional establishment thinking of his time.

Even under a representative system of government it is possible to paralyse a nation by maintaining the fiction that a reigning family is a necessity of good government. Now, one of two things must be – either the British people are fit to govern themselves or they are not. If they are, an hereditary ruler who in legislation has more power than the whole nation is an insult. Despotism and monarchy are compatible; democracy and monarchy are an unthinkable connection.
If we are for the Queen we are not for her subjects. The throne represents the power of caste – class rule. Round the throne gather the unwholesome parasites who cling to the system which lends itself to their disordered condition. The toady who crawls through the mire of self-abasement to enable him to bask in the smile of royalty is the victim of a diseased organism. No healthy, well-developed people could for one moment tolerate an institution which belongs to the childhood of the race, and which in these latter days is the centre, if not the source, of the corrupting influences which constitute Society.
The great mind, the strong heart, the detestation of wrong, the love of truth whether in cot or palace will always command my respect. But to worship an empty form, to make pretence to believe a gilded mediocrity indispensable to the well-being of the nation – where is the man who will so far forget what is due to his manhood?
In this country loyalty to the Queen is used by the profit-mongers to blind the eyes of the people. We can have but one feeling in the matter – contempt for thrones and for all who bolster them up.

Leveson 2: why the government is reluctant

In the last 2 weeks there have been several attempts to block implementation of part 2 of the Leveson inquiry, judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal.

Part 2 of the Leveson inquiry (aka Leveson 2. Ed.) would investigate “the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International, other media organisations or other organisations. It will also consider the extent to which any relevant police force investigated allegations relating to News International, and whether the police received corrupt payments or were otherwise complicit in misconduct.”

The Conservative Party’s 2017 manifesto stated that Leveson 2 would be dropped entirely, a fact confirmed by Culture Secretary Matt Hancock on 1st March 2018.

However, the proponents of Leveson 2 have not given up. Yesterday the House of Lords voted in favour voted by 252 to 213 on Monday evening to back an amendment to the Data Protection Bill that called for Leveson 2 to be put back on the agenda, i.e. a full investigation into unlawful conduct by newspapers, misuse of data by social media companies and relations between the press and the police.

This overturns a decision made by MPs last week and has set up another showdown with the government.

At this point you may be wondering why the government is so keen to halt an inquiry into corporate criminality.

This is best answered in pictorial form, with no further comment being necessary.

Rupert Murdoch, Theresa May's puppeteer

Royal birth – a comment from the past

Yesterday a woman whose duty it is to produce occupants of the British throne gave birth to her third child and the right-leaning part of the British press has gone into overdrive churning out sycophantic drivel to mark the occasion, with several producing supplements.

While all this pap is being fawned over by the more gullible members of the public, there are no doubt civil servants, government ministers, local government officers and others in the establishment busy using a good day to bury bad news.

Jame Keir Hardie photographed in 1905In June 1894 a previous royal birth occurred, prompting as it did then – and still does – the House of Commons to debate an address of congratulation to the monarch, in this case Queen Victoria. However, on the day the birth occurred there had been a terrible mine explo­sion at Pontypridd and 251 working class men and boys had lost their lives. The Government gave no sign of expressing any sympathy for the stricken town and the mourning relatives, and socialist MP James Keir Hardie sought to repair the omission by adding to the congratulation to the Queen an assurance of sympathy with the sufferers from the disaster.

His motion was out of order, but he had the right to speak and he declared in a House tumultuous with anger that the tragedy in South Wales demanded far more of the attention of the House than the birth of any baby.

Perhaps the most famous part of Hardie’s performance in the House of Commons that day is quoted below.

“From his childhood onwards this boy will be surrounded by sycophants and flatterers by the score – [cries of “Oh!,oh!] – and will be taught to believe himself as of a superior creation [cries of “Oh,oh!]. A line will be drawn between him and the people whom he is to be called upon some day to reign over. …and the end of it all will be that the country will be called upon to pay the bill. [Cries of Divide!]”

The royal grandson to whom Keir Hardie was referring grew up to be an unimpressive and irresponsible man with extreme right wing sympathies, notoriously visiting Hitler in 1937. In January 1936 he became Edward VIII. In December 1936 he abdicated before his coronation over his relationship with the American divorcee Wallis Simpson and during the Second World War was kept well away from Messrs Hitler and Mussolini by being appointed governor of the Bahamas in 1940.

German Federal government opts for open source cloud

Nextcloud logoWithin the scope of its own cloud computing environment, the German Federal administration has opted for Nextcloud, heise reports. The software will in future be running by the Federal administration’s central IT service provider, the Federal Information Technology Centre (ITZBund). Unlike services such as Google Drive or Dropbox, Nextcloud is an open source project which users can install in their own computer centres.

The project is targeted at some 300,000 users in various authorities and ministries. They will be able to share and synchronise files centrally using the service. Stuttgart-based Nextcloud GmbH is supporting the ITZBund based on an enterprise subscription for operation and support. However, individual licences per user or per system shall not be incurred.

ITZBund tested Nextcloud with some 5,000 users in a pilot project before making its decision in favour of open source.

Dortmund plots course for open source

The City of Dortmund wants to examine the potential of free software and open standards for the city council until the end of 2019, German IT news website heise reports.

Munich’s decision last year to abandon open source is not the final word in open source matters in German local authorities. Dortmund’s city council has decided to investigate the potential of free and open source software “systematically” in the field of municipal ICT.

Dortmund panorama

Dortmund panorama. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A free software working group has been established and will work together with the council’s personnel board and Do-FOSS citizens’ action group in developing a free software strategy which should be produced by the end of 2019. Dortmund is thus an open source pioneer in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). The NRW E-government Law stipulates that open and standardised file formats shall be used by public authorities for sending files to citizens and companies.

Less dependence, more flexibility

Amongst other things, efforts will be made to reduce reliance on suppliers and become more flexible in software use. The aspect of transparency and “Green IT” are also pre-requisites for the strategy. The German Federal Environment Office has determined that free software could save resources due to lower hardware requirements and longer life cycles. Moreover, a more flexible choice of suppliers could also improve local authorities’ negotiating position with proprietary software vendors.

Do-FOSS, which has been calling for years for a switch in public sector procurement towards free software and open standards, is hailing the decision as a “milestone“. In addition, a draft for the introduction of “Open Data Dortmund” is to be submitted to the local authority by next summer. DO-FOSS is now hoping that a comprehensive approach will now be developed within the council for the free and open source IT.

Back in January Mayor Ullrich Sierau and the personnel board signed the Digital Dortmund 2018-2030 Charter (PDF, German), in which the use of open standards was agreed for the council’s ICT.

A bridge renaming too far

Today I’ve written to my MP, Thangam Debbonaire, about Whitehall’s plans to rename the Second Severn Crossing and lumber it with the uninspiring and sycophantic moniker of the Prince of Wales Bridge.

Second Severn Crossing

Second Severn Crossing seen from Severn Beach. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This move went down really badly in Wales, particularly in view of the total lack of public consultation and many tens of thousands of people have signed a petition objecting to the move, as reported by Wales Online.

Besides the renaming being described variously as “pathetic“, “insulting” and “patronising” (and there is more than a hint of (neo-)colonialism about it. Ed.), many Welsh residents would like any change of name to be made in honour of someone who has actually done something for Wales, rather than sit around for decades waiting for his mum to die before he can take on her job.

It now looks to be turning out to be equally unpopular in the West Country as the comments on this Bristol Post report seem to suggest.

My email to Thangam is transcribed below.

May I draw your attention to the following piece on the Post’s website: https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/backlash-grows-30000-sign-petition-1436994

It’s not just the Welsh that object to it being renamed after Charles Windsor with no public consultation. I, one of your constituents and a long-term republican, also signed the petition. There are enough structures sycophantically named after the royals in any event.

Perhaps you would like to join your Welsh colleagues in campaigning against this arbitrary change dreamed up in Whitehall and now being imposed insensitively upon the Westminster Village’s colony over the Severn! 🙂

Regards, etc.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that most locals either side of the Severn estuary will still continue to refer to it as the Second Severn Crossing, no matter what the sycophants in London SW1 ultimately decide what to name it.

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