Mike Vickers' Blog

December 14, 2016

Aleppo – an abject failure of the West

Filed under: History in the making, Left Politics, Politics, USA, War — derryvickers @ 2:23 pm

It would have been quite possible to provide food and medicine to Aleppo using gps guided-parachutes. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/08/push-for-east-aleppo-aid-drops-using-gps-guided-parachutes

Even on Saturday Corbyn stood stony faced and silent why Peter Tarchell demonstrated for air drops. One expects such response from the Tories but not from Labour.

https://leftfootforward.org/2016/12/peter-tatchell-aleppo-is-todays-guernica-where-is-labour/

But I can remember the Berlin Air lift, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Blockade, and I note a comment in Wiki as to why the Soviets did not interfere: ‘ The Soviets did not disrupt the airlift for fear this might lead to open conflict’. It is likely to have been the case with Aleppo,

Of course it was far too late on Saturday but this is likely to be a further nail in Labour’s coffin.  It could certainly be the most serious indictment of Obama’s term of Office.

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November 24, 2016

‘You can say Yes but at some point you have to say No’. Heartbreaking

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, Nordic Horizons, Personal, Sustainability — derryvickers @ 3:18 pm

Mikael Ribbenvik (MR)

Valkommen till Sverige – Migration & Asylum in Europe’s Most Welcoming Country – A seminar at Nordic Horizons

I can do no better than start with Chris Smith’s eulogy on the Seminar

Last night was dazzling. Mikael Ribbenvik of the Swedish Migration Agency was funny, informative, challenging and thought provoking. We will be posting a recording of the live stream in the coming days and it is a ‘must view’. He makes sense of global migration in a way that will leave you angry and encouraged at the same time. In a world of post facts politics, the Swedes are using data to inform both policy and operations; using the correlation between Mediterranean wave heights and movement trends to plan for arrivals, as an example. There is a health warning before viewing, you may want to become a Swede after his presentation. I know I did.’

But perhaps a few more details of MR’s presentation:

1.       MR has been recently appointed Director General for the Swedish Migration Agency. He is a civil servant and a lawyer. Before that he was Director of Operations and travelled widely – more later

2.       He understands why Europeans consider migrants as a problem and in particular a problem to Europe but points out at the end of the 19th century many Swedes left for the US and are now greatly revered. Both are looking for a better life.

3.       The EU provides for free migration of its citizens and Sweden has accepted this even though many can be classed as Economic Migrants. However Asylum seeks from Syria and Afghanistan are less welcome and have very little chance of staying in Sweden.

4.       Nevertheless the law is that Sweden is formally obliged to accept all seekers that comes to it

5.       It takes 5 years of residency to become a Swedish citizen – there are exceptions, IT experts. Footballers and their new Queen

6.       I got the impression that priority is given to migrants with families already in Sweden and for unaccompanied migrations. This is leading a problem as to how old a migrant is, with various schemes being considered.

7.       Sweden now budgets for £6 billion a year for Migration yet only £5 billion for defence. MR admits that Swedish citizens are not happy.

8.       Immigration is only a start; migrations need to integrate and this takes longer with migrants naturally congregating in the own country groups and failing to learn the language – MR draws an analogy with Brits in Spain.

9.       MR points out that three agencies are linked: Migration > Work > Social. The key skills are Knowledge, Empathy, Intelligence.

10.   It is the Parliament that makes the laws; the agencies’ job is to implement them.

11.   But for MR the key question is ‘How many Immigrants can Sweden accept’ and this is not easy

12.   It is the Municipalities role to say how many migrants they are prepared to accept.     Municipalities vary in size from 4,000 up to city centres, Stockholm is one. Taxes are raised by municipalities and its costs around £165 pd to support a migrant

13.   At its peak in November 2015 Sweden was receiving 10,000 immigrants a week and it just couldn’t cope. MR said that he organised 24 buses ranging out across Sweden; the 4 heading north with the drivers given instructions to go slow and with no firm destination on departure.

14.   However since then Sweden has publicised that it has to reduce its migrant intake and numbers have dropped off significantly – in contrast to Germany where numbers continued to increase.

15.   There is a formal appeal procedure for a migrant faced when faced with expulsion, with ultimate appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

16.   However Sweden has for a long time recognised the value of establishing Resettlement Camps throughout the counties adjacent to where the major sources of migrants are coming from.

17.   In a heart rending example MR travelled to a Swedish Resettlement camp in Uganda boring on the Democratic Republic of Congo. Families were tented and had 4 sq yds to live in, surviving on a cup of maze a week; they were without hope. MR was allowed to take 200 migrants back to Sweden. And as he poignantly said, 200 and no more even though a mother and baby pleaded with him to be included above the 200 limit.

One of MR’s most memorable statements he made in his talk was ‘you can say Yes but at some point you have to say No’.

18.   Other points

a.       One lady who has spent time in Sweden complained that since bulk migration she feels unsafe surrounded by unemployed teenage migrants

b.      There are indirect benefits to Sweden. Its population is aging and migrants are younger and help with that distribution

c.       Japan doesn’t accept migrants and have turned to robots.

 
 
 

November 13, 2016

Trump as Machiavelli’s Prince

Filed under: A Point of View BBC Radio4, Europe, History in the making, Politics, USA, War — derryvickers @ 1:00 pm

From an article by Martin Kettle in Friday’s Guardian:

He is an anti-liberal president for post-liberal times. He embodies extreme hostility to social liberalism – in the form, to take a few examples, of his contempt for ethnic minorities, his hatred for Muslims, his indifference to due process, his dismissal of rights, his willingness to use torture, his mocking of the disabled, his dismissal of political correctness, and above all, perhaps, his attitude to women. He is not alone in these attitudes in his party. Indeed, in some respects, Trump is the culmination of the deep-rooted hatred for social liberalism,’

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/10/donald-trump-voters-liberal-order

Yes of course, Kettle is talking about Trump but could Kettle be equally talking about the Leader of ISIS.  I first thought, Yes; but on second thoughts No.
The Leader of ISIS, I would suspect, believes he is right: the West has polluted the world and its effects must be eradicated. 

Trump has no such high ideals for the USA; other than his self-aggrandisement: in this respect he is Machiavelli’s Prince.

From Wiki

‘The descriptions within The Prince have the general theme of accepting that the aims of princes—such as glory and survival—can justify the use of immoral means to achieve those ends:….He who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation’

Trump is no fool; he worked out that by speaking as he did he would appeal to enough floating voters to become President. This he has achieved.

But like the Prince he needs to hold on and that means winning another term.   In recent times there have been only two One Term Presidents: Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush and Trump doesn’t want to be a third; after all he has been trying long enough to become President. What’s going to stop Trump doing another Term and already he has started to change his tone . Using the same obnoxious techniques won’t work a second time; he needs to do something different and he has already decided that he needs to tap into broader group of voters; he has chosen that he needs to embrace the centre. He cosies up to Obama– they had ‘in Trump’s words’ a great meeting, lasting over an hour while only a ¼ hour was planned (thought why Obama puts up with Trump longer than the minimal ¼ hour is unclear – perhaps in the hope that ObamaCare will survive). Trump’s new song is that ObamaCare may not be that bad after all and putting Hilary in prison is not now top priority. Washington will be ‘a great lot of folks’ now they ‘understand’ Trump; and NATO may just be worth spending on.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/12/donald-trump-appears-to-soften-stance-on-range-of-pledges.

Of course Trump may do it ‘his way’ and fail miserably; but he’s probably astute enough to know at Presidential level you have to get more than 50% right and to achieve this level you do need a few right thinking people around you.

But at the next Presidential election there will be Elizabeth Warren to contend with; and the American women who voted for Trump may come to realise that then is the time to blow ‘the Glass Roof’.

PS I commend readers to listen to Roger Scruton on ‘A Point of View’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b081tkmc#play

September 28, 2016

Casting Off – Susan Watkins – editor – New Left Review

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, History in the making, Left Politics — derryvickers @ 8:16 pm

More a history leading up to Brexit

But a couple of snippets from the end of the article:

‘The May government is faced with a vast project of legal disentanglement, with ramifying contractual implications, grinding against the inertial interests of Whitehall and entailing huge headaches and years of thankless work to produce an outcome probably not so very different to today’s. Trade negotiations are notoriously long drawn-out and bad tempered; no less so in a cartelized world economy, glutted with over-capacity and surplus labour, and sliding into a China-led slowdown. The UK has no unified strategy, no agreed negotiating priorities to help steer between the many, highly technical trade and immigration options—customs union, single market, EEA, à la carte—nor any fully legitimate constitutional process: government diktat, parliamentary sovereignty, second referendum?’

 ‘May has divided responsibilities for Brexit between three ministers—Johnson at the Foreign Office, Liam Fox for International Trade, David Davis to head a new department to engage with the Commission—which means that, in reality, she will decide herself. That also makes her the universal target.’

‘The City has lobbied behind closed doors and seems sanguine about the outlook for its big firms and banks.’

‘Whether or not Britain does finally leave the EU, the ironies of the referendum will remain. Culturally and ideologically, the victory of British (read: English) nationalism has revealed the emptiness of its symbols: Rule Britannia, Mother of Parliaments, Royal Navy, Going It Alone, Dunkirk Spirit—all that has gone. The UK has grown accustomed to serving as a semi-sovereign state, its foreign policy dispensed from Washington, its domestic regulations sketched in Brussels. Sub-national fissures have been deepened, with the wishes of Scotland and, most acutely, Northern Ireland, pitted against the course steered from London.’

 

You can find the whole article at

https://newleftreview.org/II/100/susan-watkins-casting-off

July 19, 2016

Back from walking on the Western Isles but it’s nothing like this

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, In Our Time, Politics, World Class — derryvickers @ 10:12 pm

https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2015/sep/10/we-walk-together-a-syrian-familys-journey-to-the-heart-of-europe-video?CMP=ema-3374

Surely these are the people who would rejuvenate this country?

April 16, 2016

Lesbos and the Refugees

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, Politics, Yeats — derryvickers @ 8:57 am

The Pope visits Lesbos today, The Archbishop of Athens attends, Tsipras has little choice, Bernie Saunders crosses the Atlantic

Lesbos was quoted to have a population in 2011 of 86,436

Since the Refugee crisis started:

Lesbos has borne the brunt of the refugee influx with over 850,000 of the 1.1 million Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis who streamed into Europe last year, coming through the island

How does it manage it

Well here is quote from a resident

“Outside my door the media has turned my home into a reality show while I struggle to make a living and face huge difficulties in supporting my family. People here are slowly falling apart attempting to survive. I don’t know if I can stay here.”

Things fall apart; Lesbos  cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Yeats 1920

From the Telegraph (of all papers)

David Cameron has rejected calls for Britain to take 3,000 orphaned child refugees who have made their way to Europe amid concerns that it could encourage more of them to make the dangerous journey

At the Conservative Party conference

Britain “would be overwhelmed” if it opened its door to every refugee, Prime Minister David Cameron has said as he defended his position on how he plans to deal with the growing crisis….Mr Cameron told …in his keynote speech that he found it “impossible to get the image of that poor Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi out of my mind”. 

And yet Greece is broke

While Cameron / Osborne continue to claim the UK is booming in Europe

Even if the UK took all the refugees its population would only increase by 2%

At least one bright light – Merkel puts HER own job on the line

Germany To Strip Job Protection From Citizens To Make Room For Refugees

April 4, 2016

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, Ireland, Poetry, Politics, USA, War — derryvickers @ 9:45 pm

With all the comment on the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin I felt a need to listen to a CD I have of WB Yeats’ poems including Easter 1916. Three of the four verses finish with the line A terrible beauty is born’. I then listened to next poem ‘The Second Coming’ and came across that well know stanza

‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;     Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,     The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere,     The ceremony of innocence is drowned;     The best lack all conviction, while the worst     Are full of passionate intensity.’

Well the poem’s well known to me since a guy I worked with in my first job harangued me that Yeats was the best of poets.

Interestingly I understand that Yeats ordered his published poems very carefully and he juxtaposed these two poems.

And when I look 100 years on from the Easter Rising I see that the Second Coming may be here and now. Whether we think of the Middle East, the US with the Donald, or here in the UK with Jeremy Corbyn at one extreme and the Right Ring Tories at the other with their passion to leave the EU. I am old enough to remember WWII and the thought of the EU breaking up appals me.

I am horrified that the young don’t vote; they see their vote as making no difference to what goes on in their name.

 

February 28, 2016

Western Civilisation and why we need to remain part of it

Filed under: economics, Europe, History in the making, Music, Painting, Politics, War — derryvickers @ 9:01 pm

Cameron’s deal with Brussels despite Martin Kettle writing in the Guardian was ‘Much Ado about Nothing’

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/05/david-cameron-eu-deal-brussels-media-reaction

Is the deal anyway legally binding – I don’t know – I’m not a constitutional lawyer. In any case like all laws they can be rescinded. I have no doubt that if the EU Referendum result is for Out then the new Tory incumbent of Number 10 would quickly rescind any such laws; indeed she would be commitment bound to Brexit.

By the real question is why are we in Europe anyway and the same question applies equally why is Scotland in the UK. Despite what one might think from the media, Scotland voted to join England to create the UK by the Act of Union; one could argue that some duress was brought to bear but nevertheless the Union was voted through, through the then Scottish Parliament. There is duress in most unions; but the UK joining Europe was not one of them. The UK applied three times to join the then EEC and succeeded on the third attempt under the Tory PM Edward Heath – no duress here.

Looking back to the end of WW2

‘The European Economic Community (EEC) was created against the backdrop of post World War II Europe, with the aim of never again allowing human rights atrocities such as those committed by Germany.  Three Communities were founded in the 1950s: the Coal and Steel Community, the Atomic Energy Community and the Economic Community, with their own law-making institutions and flag.’

One of the drivers to setting up the EEC was Churchill who was also an instigator of the European Court of Human Rights.

We cannot aim at anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole, and we look forward with confidence to the day when that Union will be achieved.’

OK Churchill was a somewhat left of centre Tory but a Tory no doubt.

And to me both the EU as successor to the EEC along with the European Court are rightful products of us as members of Western Civilisation.

Yes European Wars have been going on for 3 millennia, ever since Athens established the ground work for Western Civilisation, but since the EEC was set up there have, with the exception of the Bosnian wars, been no wars since – a real plus. I am not suggesting that should the UK Brexit we will automatically launch a war with our European neighbours; and I have little doubt that should another war take place in Europe we will go to the aid of one side. But why risk it.

An enduring memory, for me, was when lessons were stopped in my primary school days to listen to the war reporters provide on-line commentaries from the D Day landings. I prefer not to sit and listen to such reporting of this nature in my lifetime.

The EU if far from perfect; it does worry about setting up trivia rather than taking the high road; but whose fault is it that Brussels avoids the high road; certainly the UK objects to anything that smacks of central policy and direction. One of Cameron’s agreements,               that he considered key, was ’ever closer union’ is about trust and understanding, not political integration.

If ever there was a need for direction by the EU it is now with immigrants seeking asylum from the Middle East and Afghanistan, with a well structured fiscal policy rightly or wrongly based on the euro; a far better understand between Europe north and south and a mature and workable foreign policy not only with respect to Russia but with the Far East and with the US.  Why is the US pressing hard to keep the UK in Europe? It is hardly for financial reasons, for all its financial problem the US economy is far larger and stronger than the UK’s or for that matter Europe as a whole.

The UK boasts of its strong financial position with respect to Europe but ‘come the revolution’ that would evaporate; the UK has no fall back on manufacturing compared with the other states of Europe; Germany of course but France and Italy also. But it’s not the economy stupid it’s that the UK is integral to Europe, we play their music, act their plays and appreciate their art; and so does the US. The US is as bound to Europe is as the UK is; after all the US expelled its indigenous peoples and peopled it with Spanish, French, English and Scots. If the UK left Europe the US would lose its interlocutor with Europe and that’s why Obama seems so worried with a UK Out. The Marshall Plan wasn’t wholly altruistic.

Clearly the UK could exist outside the EU just as Scotland could exist outside the UK. The UK would continue to trade with the rest of the world but the UK is a minnow compared with the US and China and increasingly India. But that is not the point, for good or ill and I believe because that’s where I was brought up, for good, we are part of the Western World; a world which largely recognises and abides by Human Rights and whose governments generally act civilly towards its citizens, and I would be loathed to be outside its main stream culturally and morally.

PS I believe in local government, which is missing in Scotland, but I see no contradictions in local government being within the umbrella of a regional council which is within Scottish/ UK Government which in turn is within the umbrella of a Europeans Commission responsible to the European Parliament.

June 3, 2015

On the Other Side of Sorrow

Filed under: History in the making, In Our Time, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 3:38 pm

I have just finished On the Other Side of Sorrow by Jim Hunter.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hunter_(historian)

It’s a lovely book about Nature and the People in the Scottish Highlands. I was for a time on Skye and it brings back many memories.

Much on the people and the clearances. Interesting to read the last chapter – to me this chapter sounds the right chord. I see first edition was published in 1995 and the latest last year and I wonder how much Jim Hunter has been changed the text of the latest edition?

I am a fan of Frazer Darling and I find plenty of his quotes in the book. One small criticism is that I didn’t find any quotes from Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain.

As I see it the Land Reform Bill is a necessary condition for repopulation of the Highlands but it is not a sufficient one: people have moved on since the Clearances and people will expect more to move back or just move to a more constructive life – broadband coverage is essential and better roads would help and it’s a pity that the Wick line wasn’t straightened at Dornoch Firth when they build the new road.

I am reeling today on the death of Charles Kennedy – not that I knew him – but he exemplified my ideal of liberalism.

There are of course many obituaries in today’s papers but the one that appeals most is in today’s Scotsman by Tavish Scott:

http://www.scotsman.com/news/tavish-scott-kennedy-a-man-never-underestimated-1-3790769

No doubt over the coming days he will come out On the Other Side of Sorrow.

PS Just caught up with

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2015/jun/02/steve-bell-on-charles-kennedy-cartoon

May 31, 2015

Maybe Hope for Cyprus at last

Filed under: Cyprus, Europe, History in the making, Politics, Travel — derryvickers @ 8:32 pm

An article in todays Observer brings back memories of my stay in Southern Cyprus. It was more than 10 years ago and I still communicate with a good friend I met as part of my job; I was the senior consultant with a consultancy on a project to completely rethink the IT systems of the Electricity Authority there.

The guys in the Electricity Authority were great – they joked that the Authority was drowning in red tape – tape left by the British.

But the key feature was the Green Line – the line that divided the Turkish North from the South. The island’s population is small and many friends bemoaned that they could no longer have an evening coffee in Kyrenia – the old city on the north coast – just 20 miles from Nicosia. The Green line is an International Dividing line set up in 1974 by the UN and in my time we could not cross it without piles of paper and no guarantee that you could get back.

Since 2003 the Cypriots do cross but there has been no break through in re-integration – till now; but hope may be on the way. There is a new Leader in the North, Mustafa Ankinci , and Nicos Anastasiades in the South is more amenable to talk. Here they are drinking coffee – you may know Turkish Coffee but you won’t find in the South – there it’s Cyprus Coffee but it tastes the same and you can take in withour sugar!

For the full article see

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/31/mustafa-ankinci-advocates-focus-future-for-splintered-cyprus.

If you enjoy a good travel read then you could do a lot worse than read Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons – a bit old now but setting out the problems that lead to the island dividing – Turkish North and Greek South

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitter_Lemons

And if you’ve not been to Cyprus , in February you can swim on the coast at Ayia Napa and drive 20 mile and ski on Mount Olympus at 6000ft.

And did you know the UK still has two sovereign bases in Cyprus – Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

Turkish or Cyprus the coffee is the same

Cyprus Leaders drink coffee together

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