Eurovision Song Contest – With the odds for the UK winning in 2013 running at around 50 to 1 it’s clear that Bonnie will need a face-saving explanation as to why Believe in Me did not win. So the story has been put out that the BBC’s choice of song is too good to win at next month’s competition in Malmo … But isn’t that the same reason our home football teams use for not winning at the Word Cup?
I lost in Sweden
In the fields the birds were singing
I lost in Sweden
And the day was just beginning, ..
Thermo-nuclear War Is Imminent – The Dear Leader’s threats of mass destruction have evaporated without a shot being fired or even a rocket being launched. And it was interesting to see the reaction of a senior North Korean army officer when he was asked if the British tourists would be safe with all-out war just hours away. He smiled and told them they were at no risk. So just how many people in North Korea know that these threats are pure propaganda? On brighter note the Dear Leader’s pop CD has been a big hit – selling more copies than there are people in the country – surprising given that the average NK citizen has no way of playing it.
Scotland’s Currency – It’s only a couple of weeks since this was last raised on Grandad.me.uk but things have moved on. Last week Scotland’s Great Chieftain, Alex Salmond, backed keeping the British Pound when he told MSPs that Scotland was bankrolling the rest of the UK with its oil and gas resources, and the pound would face a gloomy future if it was withdrawn north of the Border after independence. He also rejected the possibility of a Euro-style set-up, after George Osborne dismissed a currency union in the Westminster report released a few days before. [The Scotsman]
But today pro-independence supporters called for Alex Salmond to switch horses and back an independent Scottish currency. Making the point that a separate national currency would be essential for any genuine sovereignty.
This continued diet of unresolved independence choices is having a growing effect – with fewer and fewer Scots supporting a Yes vote. And even pro-independence politicians are thinking that Devo Max is the best possible outcome that their supporters can now hope for.
European finance ministers are currently having a couple of days enjoying the delights of Dublin at our expense – but then they do have a growing portfolio of problems to consider between pints (or does that have to be litres?)
First it’s Cyprus where the money needed to stave off disaster has grown by some 5,500 million euros since our last posting just two weeks ago. With only 1.16 million people on the island that equates to thousands of euros of extra debt – per person – since the end of March! Even selling off national gold reserves will not make a significant dent in the 23,000 million euros total bailout identified so far. The expected jump in unemployment, fall in property values and closures of businesses will kill off chunks of the Cyprus Government’s income stream and make the situation worse.
Take, for example, Cyprus Airways. Here the plan, drafted by Air France, involves reducing the number of planes operated from just ten to six and firing 650 of the staff immediately. The remaining 350 staff having their salaries cut by 17%. This will, probably, save money short-term – but then finish off the business entirely soon after.
While all of this is disastrous for Cyprus there are bigger problems for the finance ministers to face. Portugal has already had 78,000 million euros in bailouts but new estimates say that it will need to borrow 14,000 million euros more in 2014 – then more again in 2015. Now in proportion to its 10 million population that’s not as bad as Cyprus – but with the Portuguese courts blocking the austerity plans the situation is getting worse. Having more people in a country doesn’t help unless they are employed and paying taxes.
In contrast the situation in Italy and Spain looks relatively calm – even though unemployment in Spain has gone over 25% and is now almost at the level of Greece (27.2% in January). While in Italy the calm may be due to the fact that there is still no government. A temporary prime minister being required to mark time until there is yet another general election.
Meanwhile the Cameron family are being entertained at Schloss Meseberg – a rare event at Angela Merkel’s official country retreat. Speculation in the media says that this signals Britain will get concessions from the EU – but more likely Germany wants to cool demands for reform by showing just how friendly our chums in the EU club can be.
So the financial summary for EUland seems to be a continued, slow decline overall – but that hides some big problems for the small economies. The worry is that some small nations are experiencing now what still lies ahead for some big ones. But if you want to be really worried look here …
North of the Border – in North Britain – time is slipping by and the approaching Independence Referendum is taking up increasing amounts of political time. It is also bringing out an array of reports, recommendations and pet schemes about anything that could make Scotland better than – or at least different to – life under those oppressive Westminster politicians. The trouble is that many of these plans for change contradict each other – and create some heated debates.
Take that most basic national element – currency. One group wants to keep the British pound under the control of the Bank of England, another wants to reintroduce the Scottish pound, another to go back to more ancient Scottish currency, such as the merk, while there some that still think that the euro would be the best solution. These competing groups cannot have a united way forward – since currency not an issue for compromises. Having euros on Mondays, Scottish pounds on Tuesday and Thursday, merks on Sundays and British pounds if nothing else available – just will not work. Whatever plan is chosen the backers of the alternatives are going to object.
The same scenario applies to many other independence issues – and it is starting to look like the SNP’s solution of “let’s leave that until after the vote” is making the situation worse. The lack of detail – or even outline – plans to cover the necessary changes mean that the independence issue is already suffering from that modern malaise – too much choice. Choices created out of lots of alternative solutions being proposed for lots of separate issues.
None of the current politicians can possibly remember the last time a part of Great Britain became independent – and the circumstances were very different then. But it is easy for anyone to visit the present day Irish Republic and note the differences. And these differences need to be tackled in an independent Scotland. Currency, taxation, transport, defence, communications, etc. all need to be covered by Scottish organisations with their supporting systems. Someone will have to register cars and drivers, collect VAT, income tax, national insurance, TV tax (sorry licence), etc. Few, if any, of these issues can be left to be run by the English (or Welsh) as they are at present. The alternative of scrapping some of these taxes and licences to avoid the costs of building new administrations would have popular appeal but seem unlikely – even with all the expected oil and gas revenue.
Given the complexities of 21st century society the question to ask is – are the politicians capable of handling all the issues that true separation requires? Those fans that think the answer is no may reluctantly conclude that it’s all too much hassle and risk. It may be easier to stay in the UK and just keep complaining how bad things are.
But south of the border that would be a major disappointment for many who were hoping that Scotland would vote yes – for all sorts of reasons …
Those with long memories may recall a Peter Sellers film about a tiny country that decided to improve its position by declaring war on the USA. In the 1959 movie “The Mouse that Roared” the plan was to attack America but loose immediately without any damage but then gain much needed US investment. An idea morphed from what happened to Germany and Japan after World War 2.
It seems that this old movie is still circulating amongst the North Korean leadership. And the central plot looks like the basis of the current, daily round of escalating threats from their suspiciously well-fed leader. The NK official announcements mainly claim that the basket-case country can, and will, destroy anything unfriendly that’s within rocket range.
Today’s claims are that the North Korean rockets are now “in their upright positions” and that “thermo-nuclear war is imminent”. All of this less and less believable hype seems to be aimed to peaking next week. Just in time for the national holiday celebrating the birth of Kim Il-Sung – the Day of the Sun – on 15th April. With nothing much to give the people cause for celebration one plan could to be to blame it all on those war mongering foreigners and call for even greater sacrifices by the people. Alternatively the Dear Leader could launch his new music video dancing to the sounds of mass destruction …
But let’s hope the celebrations don’t go off with too much of a bang – especially when some of those missiles are untested and could go anywhere …
“On February 4th, 2013, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, addressed the Duma (Russian Parliament). He gave a speech about the tensions with minorities in Russia: “In Russia live Russians. Any minority, from anywhere, if it wants to live in Russia, to work and eat in Russia, should speak Russian, and should respect the Russian laws … “
So starts a quotation that has appeared on many blogs and web sites over the past month or so. Some postings were followed by reader feedback – mostly supporting Putin’s firm stand on the issue. The same story was even on today’s Daily Mail as a reader’s comment on a different story. However there is one small problem here – the quote is totally false. And all of those web masters that posted it failed in that most basic journalism test – checking the accuracy of the story at source.
The Internet makes it very easy to fire off false stories and watch them circulate around the world. But it also makes it easy to look for proof. Not long ago it would have been impossible to check the Kremlin sources directly for this particular spoof. But now you can – and in English – so it’s easy to see that Putin did not make that speech on that date; or indeed any date.
However there are still plenty of cases where the key information is not in the public domain – meaning, for example, the true story about Plebgate cannot be found online – yet.
Hearing the truth can be upsetting – but overall it should always be better than being fed a diet of spin and propaganda. So remember it’s not just those e-mails from Nigeria that are lies – it’s stories on the Internet as well …