Category: Uncategorized

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.

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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.

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…

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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.

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Reblogged from my other blog, for those of you that might not see it there. Because I think it is important.

beetleypete

Children In Need.

For those of you who do not live in the UK, Children In Need is an annual BBC fundraiser, designed to raise money for local charities who would not otherwise get funding. The whole programming of BBC One, on a specific Friday evening, is given over to a telethon fundraiser, a night of varied entertainment, charity appeals, and live fundraising. It is presented by a group of popular celebrities, and traditionally features a host of well-known entertainers appearing in situations you would not usually associate them with. Like the stars of a drama series performing a dance routine, and so on.

During the build-up to this event, the UK is consumed with fund-raising events. Most of these are personal efforts, though many are corporate, involving well-known businesses and shops supporting the cause all over the country. Over the years it has been running, Children In Need has…

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America: Gun control, and mass shootings.

The recent mass murder in Nevada has once again brought the subject of gun control into the media spotlight. Debates about the Second Amendment, the availability of converted weapons to fire on fully automatic, and the laws that mean some people, in some states, can own as many guns as they can afford to buy. In many American towns and cities, carrying guns at all times is completely legal. These can be openly displayed, or concealed about a person, depending on where you live. Background checks are random, and gun shops are often laid out like superstores of lethal weaponry.

I have many blogging friends who live in the USA. At least three of them own guns, and defend their right to do so, for various reasons. The most prominent of these being the fear of home invasion, robbery, burglary, a random attack in the street, or whilst driving. Given the proliferation of firearms of all kinds in that country, I can understand why these are real fears. As I have said before, I don’t have to live there. Another side to gun ownership is the action by the police, when apprehending suspects or attending 911 calls. They tend to presume that any culprit will be armed, and this generates a fear that manifests itself on occasion by the ‘shoot first’ policy that has caused so much outrage in that country. But if you were an American policeman, approaching a scene you were unsure of, then what would you do? We cannot really answer that, unless we have been in that situation.

Despite the recent uproar, the archaic Second Amendment is unlikely to be repealed. We have all heard the old arguments about that ‘Right to Bear Arms’.
“If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.
And many more…

But the fact is that banning personal ownership of guns will eventually make it harder for criminals to get them, whatever the arguments by the NRA. It is also indisputable that criminals and robbers will tend to carry guns more often if they believe that their intended target or victim is armed. And it is worth noting that the worst shooting atrocities in the USA are not carried out by criminals, or those from ethnic minorities. Most of them, including the recent Nevada shooting, are the work of white men, with apparently ‘normal’ lives, allowed to buy and accumulate weapons and ammunition in large numbers.
Carrying your pistol to fight off a street robber wouldn’t have done you much good against that determined sniper in a Las Vegas hotel, after all.

In the UK, in 1996, gun club member, and self-confessed ‘gun nut’, Thomas Hamilton entered a school in the small town of Dunblane, Scotland. He was carrying four legally-owned handguns. Two Browning Hi-Power 9 mm pistols, and two .357 magnum revolvers. He also had almost 750 rounds of extra ammunition. In the school gymnasium, he shot and killed sixteen children under the age of eleven, and one adult teacher, before shooting himself dead. The reason why he did this remains unknown. Following this shooting, the gun laws in Britain were radically revised, making it almost impossible to legally own a handgun.

These statistics from the Internet give some indication of the differences in gun deaths in the UK and the USA. They include Police shootings of suspects.
“In the United Kingdom, in the most recent year for which I have data (2011), the gun death rate from all causes was 0.23 per 100,000. That works out to about 145 in 2011.

In the United States, for the year 2014, the gun death rate from all causes was 10.54 per 100,000. That works out to 33,612 in 2014.

The UK gun death rate is one of the lowest in the world for the very simple reason that few people have guns.”

In one year alone, 2014, 33, 612 people died in America, as a result of someone using a gun. Just one year, and that was three years ago. It doesn’t include so many shooting incidents that have happened since. What will it take, for you to give up your guns, America?