Putin: cleaning out the Augean stables in a single day? He’s too busy cleaning out the Russian oligarchs!


Putin slays Islamic terrorism

Putin slays Islamic terrorism

Russia’s latest assault on the sensibilities of the West comes in the form of an art exhibition in Moscow. You can tell that the press in Russia can’t be truly free because, were it to be so, headlines in Russian red-tops (no pun intended) would surely be inviting their readers to laugh themselves silly at the subject title alone: The Twelve Labours Of Putin. Yep, you got it, they have characterised Putin as Hercules.

Putin grapples with the multi-headed hydra - of Western sanctions!

Putin grapples with the multi-headed hydra – of Western sanctions!

Those who love the classics may well blanch at the very idea: Hercules is the Greek god and all-time hero Heracles, the son of Zeus. Facts aside, what is so hilarious about this is that the Russians are taking these ridiculously over-adulating images seriously. The only more amusing facet is the degree to which Putin appears to be able to inflate his ego without people falling about laughing: I mean, can you imagine Tony Blair in the guise of St. George impaling Wendy Deng as the dragon? Maybe in a cartoon caricature in The Guardian lampooning the horrible oddity of the two together, but as a compliment? I think Tony would have been media-savvy enough at least to have declined to lend his reputation to the freakish spectacle.

I have a suggestion to make. How about adding a 13th Labour of Putin, along the lines of ‘Vlad syphons more in assets from the Russian people than Bernie Madoff stole in his 40-year Ponzi scheme spree? Damn, Putin wins again!

Iran: After death to apostates and death to America comes death to secularists!


Rouhanis noose on dissidents

While the world’s media is focussed on the vile deeds of the Islamic State and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is at the UN asking for Iran to be allowed to enrich uranium, back in Iran the authorities are engaged in a spate of executions and mass-arrests.

In the midst of this there is one man who stands out from the crowd. There can be no question that  Ayatollah Hossein Boroujerdi is a brave man and one that deserves international support. Anxious that the heady cocktail of religious and political Islam continued to pose an enormous risk lead the Ayatollah to publicly call for the separation of religion from the political state. We have seen how dangerous this is with the religious fanatics of the Islamic State, who seemingly justify and excuse their heinous actions by religious doctrine. If you believe your next step leads you to eternal paradise, then there is little restraint on your actions.

Mohamad Mohavadi, Iran’s Prosecutor of the Special Court, has publicly condemned Boroujerdi, saying that the punishment for ‘sedition’ is execution. He also vowed that those who assisted Ayatollah Boroujerdi in publishing his papers about the separation of religion from state will also be sentenced to death. The threat to execute Ayatollah Boroujerdi came within 48 hours of his most recent letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

According to Boroujerdi’s family, he was placed in solitary-confinement cell with his wrists and ankles shackled, with his hands and feet shackled to the wall so he can not move. This is a procedural step towards imminent execution, possibly within 24 hours.

“Certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hand of madmen, who now spare no one,” Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. But he didn’t mention the mass executions that are taking place in Iran, nor the arrests of dissidents – and certainly not the fate of Ayatollah Boroujerdi.

Iran is demonstrating to the world that it can execute the Ayatollah without any protest from the western world. This is the country that is asking to be allowed to enrich uranium, a step in the process to developing nuclear weapons. Please retweet this article in support of Ayatollah Boroujerdi, a religious cleric and man of freedom, who is about to give his life simply to forward his belief that religion and state should not rest ultimately in the same hands, something atheists have been saying for decades. Atheists and those of faith who believe in peace should support the actions of such a courageous man.

Will the new Hadrian’s Wall be a steel immigration barrier?


The Scottish Referendum for independence

On the eve of the Scottish referendum, which, I have to confess, has driven me mad because of the childish behaviour exhibited by both sides, it seems right to explore what might go wrong if Scotland does take the brave step to go it alone – well almost alone because they are still insisting that they are intend to use the pound as currency.

EU membership – renegotiate or re-apply?

The biggest stumbling block must be Scotland’s EU membership. First Minister, Alex Salmond, continues in the belief that Scotland will be able to retain existing membership of the EU by negotiating ‘tweaks’ to current treaties to, in effect, step sideways and remain in the EU once independent. Scotland would also keep the pound and wouldn’t enter into the Schengen Agreement. It seems highly unlikely that the member countries are going to allow this, although the ‘Yes’  camp have justified their position by saying …

“There is no way that the EU won’t want to keep oil-rich, fishing-rich, renewable energy-rich Scotland. And we will keep the pound, because joining the euro is entirely voluntary – as the example of Sweden shows. We have no intention of joining the euro, and don’t even qualify for membership even if we did.”

In the last couple of days there has been much debate among high-level politicians in Europe about Scotland’s position and it should be remembered that EU membership must be unanimously agreed by the very politicians who are now voicing doubts about Mr. Salmond’s claims.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo is a Spanish politician and is also Spain’s Minister for European Affairs. This week he said: “It is crystal clear that any partner [of a] member-state that leaves the member state is out of the European Union. If they want to apply again, they would have to follow the procedure of article 49 of the treaties” noting that there were “more ifs than a poem by Kipling” as to the possibility and the terms on which Scotland would gain entry. Because of the need for unanimity amongst the member states he concluded that “it is a process that takes more or less five years”.

Sterlingisation – will the new state really abandon its debt to keep the pound?

Salmond appears to be under the illusion that independence will mean that he can almost do as he pleases. This is evidenced by his warning that an independent Scotland, failing an agreement with the remainder of the UK about currency sharing, can simply keep using the pound and walk away from their share of the UK national debt.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said in a damning report that action of this kind would see Scotland isolated from EU and international markets and would bring about “unprecedented austerity”. It noted that such a serious default on debt would mean that rating agencies would mark down Scotland’s current ‘Triple-A’ rating relegating it to below investment grade. The end result of this would mean that the newly independent Scottish government would be unable to raise new funds for up to a decade, according to the NIESR.

Mr Salmond’s explanation that Scotland could not be forced to use the Euro because it would not meet the economic conditions seems not to hold water. Mr Mendez de Vigo said: “There is an aim of all member states to share a common currency.” Sweden joined the European Union in 1995 and its accession treaty was signed in 1994. In the EU following the Euro crisis, it is highly unlikely that Scotland will be allowed to follow Sweden’s example. It would have to work towards ERM II, and this in itself would cause enormous difficulties to the Scottish economy.

The Scot’s Schengen problem

Finally, what of the Schengen agreement? Gianni Pitella, president of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, warned the newly created state of Scotland wouldn’t enjoy the UK’s existing rights to the UK’s opt-outs when it negotiates to join the EU. He said: “An independent Scotland would have no automatic right to the various special treatments that the UK has been granted over the last few decades, from the budget rebate to having no obligation to join the euro or participate in the Schengen area of travel without frontier controls. No new member has been accorded such special treatment.”

From this statement it would seem clear that the Scottish state would have to sign up to Schengen and this could be a really serious matter for England and Wales as, should Scotland be in the Schengen Area, it could seriously weaken the ability of England and Wales to enforce current immigration. We could end up with a frontier barrier like the one erected along the land border between Morocco and Ceuta as the Calais migrant camp moves to Gretna Green!

Shetland’s oil for Shetland?

A further problem will be Islands such as the Shetlands. There has been more than a murmur of dissatisfaction from the leading voices of the 22,000 islanders, with many saying that the Shetlands should follow the Scottish mainland and claim its own independence following a successful ‘Yes’ campaign.

Shetland, with its vast oil reserves, may consider taking steps to become a self-governing territory, similar to the Isle of Man, in preference to remaining within an independent Scotland after a yes vote, the Scotland secretary, Alistair Carmichael, has said.

In an interview with the Guardian, Carmichael said if Shetland were to vote strongly against independence but the Scottish national vote was narrowly in favour, then a “conversation about Shetland’s position and the options that might be open to it” would begin.

Tactical errors of the ‘Yes’ Campaign

It seems sad that Mr. Salmond has set about the referendum without thin king much of this through more carefully. There is considerable concern in Scotland regarding Mr. Salmond’s integrity. Fiona Scott, whose father John Ferguson taught Mr Salmond mathematics at Linlithgow Academy, West Lothian wrote in a newspaper that  “Mr Salmond has succeeded in creating divisions across Scotland that were not there before and that will still exist after the referendum, no matter which way the vote goes. Stories of intimidation, violence and vandalism are rife. Freedom of speech is under threat. Relationships between neighbours are now threatened if you indicate which way you are voting.”

Mr. Salmond has an uphill battle, whether he wins or loses the referendum that he was so keen to see take place.

Iran has held a woman in prison for THREE MONTHS for … watching a volleyball match!


Da due mesi in carcere, il web si mobilita per la 25enne che voleva vedere Iran-Italia di volley

Bring my sister home; #FreeGhonchehGhavami خواهرم را به خانه برگردانید

#FreeGhonchehGhavami خواهرم را به خانه برگردانید

Thrown in prison for going to a volleyball match

If anyone in the western world ever imagined that Islam is a tolerant religion, then the plight of a young British woman in Iran serves as a wakeup call to that utopian myth. She has spent three months in prison in Iran after trying to watch a men’s volleyball match, thereby challenging a ban on women attending all-male sports events.

Ghoncheh Ghavami has been locked up for more than six weeks of her custody in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin Prison, the equivalent of a Category A prison in the UK. It is also where the Iranian government holds political dissidents and anecdotal evidence points to some torture at the facility. The prison is situated in north-west Tehran and is locally known as ‘Evin University’, because of the number of academics, intellectuals and journalists that have passed through its doors.

The twenty-five year old lives in London but went home to visit her parents. She had recently been thinking about returning permanently, now that the government is lead by the moderate President Hassan Rouhani. She was detained at the stadium where the peaceful protest took place and was briefly released from custody, but when she went to collect her belongings a few days afterwards she was again arrested and returned to jail.

“The authorities kept promising she would be released at the end of this week, every week: It never happened and the family has lost patience,” said her brother, Iman Ghavami “My parents are working tirelessly to get Ghoncheh out. They are desperate now. We cannot understand why they would treat her like this for something so innocuous.”

Amnesty International has been told that she is likely to be charged with “spreading propaganda against the state”.

“We are extremely worried about Ghoncheh’s predicament. Her lawyer has had no access to her or any documents about why she’s being held,” said an Amnesty spokesperson.

Sign the petition demanding her release at Change.org

Sillars undermines the Scottish ‘Yes’ campaign again …


Jim Sillars with Alex Salmond on the campaign trail. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

Alex Salmond (L) campaigning with Jim Sillars

Yeah, but No, but Yeah – oh I so can’t believe he just said that!

——————————————————-

Jim Sillars has no doubt initiated a probable exodus of big businesses from Scotland if the ‘Yes’ campaign wins the referendum by asserting that the newly independent Scotland would punish large commercial entities such as Standard Life and Royal Bank of Scotland by increasing the notice period for redundancy to two years. ‘The Scotsman’ reports that the former SNP deputy leader has threatened a day of reckoning” for major Scottish employers such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life after a Yes vote”. He continued “This referendum is about power, and when we get a Yes majority, we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks”.

It seems that shooting themselves in the foot is becoming a habit, with the ‘Yes’ campaign presenting themselves in the media as plainly naive. Sillars vowed that “oil giant BP would be nationalised in an independent Scotland”. This threat alone will scare potential investors in Scotland, who won’t feel particularly comfortable with their assets being prised off them at below market value.

The simple fact is that the ‘Yes’ Campaign need to try and understand the harsh realities of world economics. It does not serve their interests to threaten and intimidate the very commercial organisations that may well bring them prosperity with their nation’s independence.

It doesn’t take much rational thought to work out that the vast majority of RBS customers are south of the border. The ‘vast majority’ by the way, means something like 95% of personal and mortgage accounts held with RBS were taken out in England and Wales. Why wouldn’t they move south?

The above threats by Sillars – and no doubt many other Scots nationalists, will come back to haunt them in future years. Sillars continually refers to oil but the fact is that it really won’t last forever. A well-established, diversified economy is essential in the modern world to avoid the fate of states that have a dominant, mainly one-dimensional economy and then hit trouble when the going gets tough. Sure 40 years is a long time to diversify, but it won’t help if international companies and investors are wary of your methods towards companies that are seeking to protect their own interests. I think Sillars needs to abandon his ‘trades union soap-box’ mentality and try to think like a successful politician.

Ask yourself this question: How many divorced couples retain a joint bank account? The answer to this is really, why do the SNP really feel that they can continue with the pound? Do they not understand that HM Treasury (UK) underwrites the Bank of England, who in turn safeguard many investments by guarantee. Why would the UK government – less an independent Scotland – continue to provide protection to customers with personal accounts with banks if those customers were in a foreign country? Why would the Bank of England continue to support private commercial banks based in Scotland?

Back to the divorced couples: Legal separation means just that, in every respect, when it comes to the breakdown of marriage. So it is when states cease to be in the same united framework.

Fund raises almost £1.4m in donations but will the dogs’ home arsonist be hounded?


Manchester dogs blaze arson 60 dead over £1 million justgiving

The sum raised so far, with tax repayable on donations, is £1,707,414!

MDH logo

Rescue centre fire kills 60 dogs, but will the arsonist be safe?

The fund to help the fire-ravaged Manchester Dogs Home has now reached almost £1.5m – well over two million US dollars – a formidable sum when you consider that it happened less than 72 hours previously. With government gift aid, the repayment of tax on the donation, the sum is now over £1.7m – almost USD$2.8m

The fire is nothing short of a ghastly tragedy in a country where dog ownership in the population is extremely high and, not to put too fine a point on it, many animal lovers prefer their pet to humankind. I am sure that the seemingly unstoppable fund will help the animal rescue centre to rebuild the home and go from strength to strength, an admirably fitting memorial to the dogs that died, but what will happen to the person or persons responsible for this callous, inhumane behaviour?

A Manchester police spokesman confirmed yesterday evening that a 15-year-old boy had been detained on suspicion of arson following the fire. Whatever your opinion of the arsonist, and I’m sure the vast majority of people will have strong opinions about this, the likelihood is that the fire was set by a child. Hopefully, when due process is complete, we will have a guilty verdict on the person or persons responsible, but how will they be protected from the backlash from animal lovers who are already expressing outrage at this act?

Manchester Police need to think this one through: the person or persons responsible for the needless and wanton slaughter of so many dogs may need police protection when the dust settles. The resulting anger is completely understandable, but two wrongs don’t make a right and I could well imagine that this person’s life is at risk if he is identified and his whereabouts publicly known.

Manchester Dogs’ Home blaze kills dozens of animals

Russia’s ‘hybrid’ wars and China’s belligerent expansionism


A game about he Russian tactic of maskirovka, Moscow’s hybrid war

The Wikileaks revelations described the Russian Federation as a ‘Mafia state’, but is this really such startling news? It was obvious soon after a drunken Yeltsin virtually gifted the resource-rich state industries to highly-placed and cunning apparatchiks that Russia resembled the Wild West rather than developing a conventional system of government for the world’s largest state. Bloomberg’s article here details the the effect of hybrid wars on the Russian economy.

Yeltsin’s actions, and the failure of the political classes to stop him, robbed the extremely poor of the true value of the nation’s assets, running into hundreds of billions of pounds. The instability inherent in what amounts to an unsound economic policy brought about massive losses to these new super-rich a couple of years back because of the volatility of the Russian market. The last decade has also seen oligarchs being jailed or fleeing the country altogether, their underlings being murdered and press freedoms curbed – even to the extent of organised murder of journalists – to stifle debate and possible dissent. 

China is attempting to expand its territory and increase its natural resources, against the wish of smaller nearby states.. Artificial islands are under construction in the disputed South China Sea as the Chinese state makes relentless efforts to expand it’s geographical boundaries at the expense of its neighbours. In 2012 the Communist Party reclassified the South China Sea as a “core national interest”, placing it alongside such sensitive issues as Taiwan and Tibet. It means China is prepared to fight to defend it. 

Beijing’s claim includes the Spratly Islands, Scarborough Shoal and the Paracel Islands and the area it encompasses comprises an “expanse stretching right up to the coasts of the Philippines and Vietnam and even Borneo.” The vast majority of the South China Sea is claimed by the Chinese, in an area which is demarcated on maps by the ‘nine dash line’. 

This territorial ultimatum by China is yet another example of the Asian superstates flexing their muscles knowing that their surrounding neighbours are too small and weak to make a stand. To resolve this imbalance these countries are forced to align themselves with the US, or as in the case of Ukraine, the EU, in order to make the playing field more even. Of course, alignment with the US is deeply unpopular to the world at large, paradoxically because they see the US as ‘the bully’ or thinking of itself as ‘the world’s policeman’. Such arguments provide no resolution to the problem of the balance of power between smaller states and superstates, nor the possibility that China and Russia will almost inevitably seek to take advantage of the weaknesses of more democratic states and their unwillingness to stand up to them.

The most alarming aspect of this new world is that, in twenty-five, maybe fifty years, it will be Russia that will have the single largest economy – along with China – and they will probably be calling the shots (no pun intended). Many in Europe fear the spread of Islam, and their fear may be justified if it concerns those involved in terrorism. What the fundamentalists should fear – along with us – is the new world order that is about to emerge. The freedoms that we cherish and that the Islamic fundamentalists despise may be swept away by these countries as they expand, but the paradox will be that none of us will gain from a ‘Mafia’ overlord and fledgling democracy overseen by a proletariat in the coming generation. You only have to look at human rights in China, and the treatment of the Uighur Muslims in Urumqi, and what happened in Georgia and Azerbaijan to realise what the future may bring. These superstates are slowly expanding and will become larger as time goes on. We are feeding crocodiles here and weill will be on their menu in the future.