Charities In Meltdown

The current Oxfam crisis comes as little surprise to me, to be honest. I gave up donating to such charities decades ago. I discovered that they were paying their executives six-figure salaries, and that much of the aid sent to desperate countries was either ending up in the hands of armed warlords, or being sold on by middlemen, described by various charities as ‘local entrepreneurs’. They tried to dress this up as ‘job creation’, but what it actually meant was more profit for a charity that had become little more than a business, its coffers swelled by huge government donations too.

Other charities will be exposed too, I have no doubt. Save The Children has already been mentioned, and many others will topple like dominoes, in the weeks to come. Sex for aid, the misuse of vehicles and funds, and the appalling spectre of children sexually abused in return for the basics in life. This with charities paying their executives well in excess of £100,000 a year, as well as supplying housing, company cars, and expense accounts to many as well. Make you feel warm inside, for doing that ‘fun run’? I doubt that.

And how about their luxury offices, in prime locations? I think it would be unlikely if even 10% of donations actually reached the underprivileged and starving they were intended for. Too much money equals big business, and we know how that ends up. Corruption, abuse, deprivation, and big rewards for those in charge. Sex, exploitation, child abuse, what a shameful catalogue of horrors. Abuse of resources and vehicles, and perhaps more tellingly, abuse of a position of trust. Not only do I feel sorry for those poverty-stricken people who deserved compassion and help, but also for the hard-working and unpaid volunteers who did it all for nothing.

And for those of you that doubted me, as long ago as the 1970s, I have four words.

I TOLD YOU SO.

Advertisements

The Nuclear Threat

Ever since I can remember, the world has lived in fear of one side or another using nuclear weapons. At school in the 1950s, we had air-raid drills; hiding under desks, facing away from the windows. As if that would have made any difference, if a nuclear bomb had actually struck central London, some two miles from where I was concealed under my old desk, in a school built during the Victorian era. We had seen the result of the American attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and these new bombs were many times more powerful.

At the time, there were few countries capable of using such weapons. The Soviet Union was the presumed enemy during the Cold War, and Britain had been given the means to retaliate too, by America. The French had also tested atomic bombs in the Pacific, so it was safe to assume that only four countries had these bombs in their possession. We are now in 2018, and that list of countries has not grown significantly. As well as Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel are all known to have the potential to launch nuclear weapons. And if you believe the propaganda by both sides, (I don’t) North Korea may well have a viable delivery system too.

Then there is the issue of ‘sharing’. That sounds very cosy, given what is being shared. The USA has ‘shared’ the option to launch nuclear weapons with Turkey, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and Germany. This basically consists of the USA siting weapons in those countries, then deciding whether or not to fire them. There are also countries that once had nuclear weapons, but apparently no longer have any; South Africa, Canada, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. One thing we can be sure of, there are a lot of nuclear bombs and missiles out there.

By using published figures, there are 14,900 nuclear missiles and bombs stored around the world. That’s more than enough to wipe out the human race, many times over. Probably enough to not only eradicate all life on Earth, but also to destroy the very fabric of the planet. When we read about the nuclear threat, it is generally in terms of a supposedly limited conflict. The US has hinted that it will use them against the DPRK, should their leader fire rockets at US bases, South Korea, or Japan. But the DPRK has a border with China, so involving the Chinese could not be avoided. India and Pakistan square up against each other all the time, and have been in conflict since 1947. But both sides know that using nuclear weapons would also be self-destructive, so have never launched any. For Israel to use them against their near-neighbours would also result in disaster for their own country, so they are almost certainly not going to launch any.

For almost sixty years, I have lived in the shadow of this Nuclear Threat. The Cold War, The Cuban Missile Crisis, and many other supposed ‘near misses’ over the decades. I have finally decided that nobody will use them. It doesn’t make economic sense, and money rules the world. I stopped living in fear of the Nuclear Threat, and concluded that it is just that. A threat.

Gender inequality in the workplace

There was a recent law passed here in Britain. It compels companies with more than 250 staff to divulge whether or not they pay people different rates of pay for the same or similar jobs, based on gender. Watching news reports today, I was interested to hear that some companies have started to comply with this law, rather than face prosecution for non-disclosure. Even to a cynical person like me, those results are shocking. Many well-known companies are apparently happy to report that they pay female employees up to 15% less than men on average, for doing the same or similar job, often working side by side.

Over 500 companies have so far declared their results. Large employers including Easyjet, Ladbrokes, Virgin, Rolls Royce, Premier Foods, the BBC, and the Co-Op Bank report quite staggering pay differentials. Up to 50% less in Easyjet, 30% less in the Co-Op Bank, and 11% less at the BBC. So far, only two employers, The British Museum, and the UK Armed Forces, have stated a zero difference in pay based on gender.

These companies need to check the calendar. It is 2018, not 1918. It is over 90 years since women properly got the vote in this country. Almost 50 years since the founding of the Women’s Liberation Movement here, and 39 years since we first had a female Prime Minister. This archaic and unacceptable practice of paying female employees a lesser salary has to stop. And not only should the government be compelling companies to publish these statistics, they should be forcing them to eliminate this pay difference, making it illegal not to do so.

We currently have our second female Prime Minister. Does she get paid less than her male predecessor? Of course not. Do our law-makers in parliament receive less pay if they are women? They do not. But these same women in power, alongside their male colleagues on the same salaries, are happy to make the companies publish these figures, without appearing to be prepared to do anything about the results.

New Year, new politics

This is usually a quiet time on the world political scene. The lull between Christmas and New Year also seems to operate in international affairs. But look closely, and there is a lot going on.

Street protests and rioting in Iran. Not something we have seen much of since the days of the Ayatollahs, but strangely coincidental to recent murmurings regarding North Korea, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. One minute the US is condemning Iran for aiding North Korea, and the anti-Saudi forces in Yemen, the next they have a ‘popular uprising’ on the streets. Come on, pull the other one. Rarely have I seen such a blatantly obvious CIA/Mossad inspired operation. If they can’t get them by going through the front door, they go round the back. Treating Iran as if it is some kind of hopeless principality in the middle of nowhere is sure to backfire on those involved. That country has a population of more than 80 million, and a well-equipped military too. And it is 640,000 square miles in size, so not Grenada.

North Korea is having talks with the South Korean government for the first time in a long while. Mr Trump has claimed the credit for this happening. That’s worth a belly laugh. Anyone with the tiniest understanding of those countries will be aware that each side views the other as neighbours and relatives, and not as enemies. They have always wanted to talk, but outside pressures have constantly interfered.

If you believe the news, Europe is all about the Brexit issue, and the UK leaving. But behind the headlines, parts of Europe are very worried about elections of anti-EU politicians in their countries. The Czech Republic has elections this year, and in Italy, some right-wing parties are forecast to do very well too. The Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, is set to gain a second term in 2018, and that country also has its share of far-right, anti EU politicians. Even in peaceful Sweden, the right-wing Sweden Democrats look set to increase their influence in the coming year.The Polish government has been defying EU laws, and will no doubt continue to clash with them throughout 2018. The real truth is that the EU is on the verge of collapse, at least in its current form, as the stranglehold of France and Germany is resisted by more and more of the member nations. They have a lot more than Brexit to worry about, that’s for sure.

And let’s not forget Russia. Most of it may not be in Europe, but its influence is widespread, and Vladimir Putin looks like he will get another overwhelming majority in the elections this March.

So when the news reports ‘not much happening’, you can be sure that there is.

Sheep and true democracy.

A great argument for leaving the EU, from someone who lives where such decisions matter, and are not just liberal Europhile niceties.

Looking back in sadness

It is fair to say I will never be described as saintly; I have never mastered piety, my good works, such as they have been, are mundane, and  I too easily slip into my vices. I imagine, that the majority of us, I am better described as a sinner than as a saint. However, over the past year and a half I have developed a saintly aspect, rather small but perfectly formed, I have developed the patience of a saint and I have needed it.

I live and work in a rural, agricultural part of the country where the majority of my neighbours, mainly farmers, voted in favour of Brexit. I tend, like my friends, to have liberal views and to be welcoming of change. I also voted in favour of Brexit. Since the referendum there has been a steady barrage of complaint – “How did you come to…

View original post 1,170 more words

ISIS: What’s going on?

Recent reports might have you believing that ISIS had been eliminated as a force to be reckoned with. Their apparent defeat in Mosul and Raqqa led to claims that thousands of their fighters had been killed, and most of their leaders too. Less well-publicised reports hinted that many had been ‘allowed’ to leave to avoid further conflict, and that opposition forces, including US-backed Syrian militias and Iraqi army units, had stood by and watched, as many ISIS fighters left unhindered, with all their equipment and weapons.

Whatever you believe about the situation in those places, one fact remains. ISIS have not gone away. In fact, events over the past few days show that they have even decided to change tactics. The attack on an Egyptian mosque, resulting in the deaths of over 300 people, many of them children, signals something of a different path. This group have usually reserved their attacks for those westerners they despise, Christians they hate, and members of other sects that they do not consider to be sufficiently ‘Muslim’ for their liking. This recent attack was against a Sunni congregation, in a Mosque attended only by Muslims. ISIS are supposedly also Sunni Muslims, so this recent atrocity almost defies explanation.

It is interesting to note that they do not claim responsibility for it, despite the perpetrators carrying ISIS banners, and the attack bearing all the hallmarks of previous extremist outrages. Perhaps condemnation in the Muslim world has held them back on this occasion. So why did they do it? I can only speculate that this and other attacks in Egypt are concentrated on making that country unappealing to foreign tourists. These horrors do not have to happen in a Cairo museum, or in front of the Pyramids, to make outsiders fear to travel to the country. Egypt’s economy relies so heavily on tourism, that even a partial disruption to that industry can disrupt the economy, followed by the government, and leave the situation open for extremist groups to exploit the vacuum.

It also makes the rest of us realise that this evil organisation will go to any lengths to maintain the momentum of their perceived cause. We should take that recent example on board, no doubt as they hope we will. If they are prepared to do this to innocent people who follow exactly the same religion, then they are obviously prepared to do the same, or worse, to those they regard as infidels. Nobody should believe that ISIS is ‘finished’, whatever some world leaders would have us believe.