Mike Vickers' Blog

October 25, 2019

Immigration

Filed under: Immigration, Mary Dejevsky, Politics — derryvickers @ 8:52 am
Mary Dejevsky

A View on Immigration

 

 

 

 

 

 

A seminal clip

What role does the UK have in taking in immigrants?

Mary Dejevsky argues there is a limit. Any country has a right to decide, up to a point.

I remember at a Nordic Horizons, the Swedish official responsible for handling immigrant refugees from the Middle East said that Sweden takes a limited number of immigrants from Africa but it is limited, and at some point he has to say ‘enough is enough’ and he recalled the heart-breaking task if saying No to a desperate mother and child who if accepted would exceed his Government’s quota.

I dislike Priti Patel ‘of the smirking face’ and I certainly do not like the implications of stopping the free movement to and from the EU to the UK, but I do recognise that controls and documentation are necessary if only to know who resides in the country.
And providing an effective system which was honoured fully would remove cash arising from the smuggling in backs of refrigerated lorries.
And should eliminate the need for forces repatriation.
I would not be against an Identity Card scheme, but this would have to be universal and applied to All including UK existing residents.

But a blanket points system is abhorrent; for instance, it should be bypassed where unaccompanied children are involved who should be given automatic right of entry.

 

 

September 1, 2019

Yes it’s a Coup

Filed under: Brexit, Dictatorship, George Orwell, Patrick Cockburn, Politics — derryvickers @ 8:44 am

 

Patrick Cockburn in Saturday’s Independent

Britain is experiencing a slow-moving coup d’etat in which a right-wing government progressively closes down or marginalises effective opposition to its rule. It concentrates power in its own hands by stifling parliament, denouncing its opponents as traitors to the nation, displacing critics in its own ranks, and purging non-partisan civil servants.

Some describe this as “a very British coup”, which gives the operation a warmer and fuzzier feeling than it deserves. It is, in fact, distinctly “un-British” in the sense that the coup makers ignore or manipulate the traditional unwritten rules of British politics over the past 400 years whereby no single faction or institution monopolises authority.

What we are seeing has nothing to do with the British past but a very modern coup in which a demagogic nationalist populist authoritarian leader vaults into power through quasi-democratic means and makes sure that he cannot be removed.

This new method of seizing power has largely replaced the old-fashioned military coup d’etat in which soldiers and tanks captured headquarters and hubs in the capital and took over the TV and radio stations. Likely opponents were rounded up or fled the country. The military leaders sought popular passivity rather than vocal support.

I first witnessed the new type of coup in action three years ago in Turkey when it took place in reaction to an old-fashioned military coup. Part of the Turkish army tried to stage a military putsch on 15 July 2016 and provided the then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with what appeared to him to be a heaven-sent opportunity to install an elective dictatorship in which subsequent elections and the real distribution of power could be pre-determined by control of the media, judiciary, civil service, security services and, if people still stubbornly voted against the government, by outright electoral fraud.

I spoke to plenty of people in Istanbul in the days after the abortive military coup who saw clearly that its failure meant that they might have escaped rule by the army, but only at the cost of being gripped ever more tightly by civilian authoritarian rule.

“Erdogan’s lust for power is too great for him to show restraint in stifling opposition in general,” predicted one intellectual who, like almost everybody I was interviewing at this time, would only speak anonymously. This was certainly wise: TV stations, radios, newspapers, critics of all sorts were being closed down by the minute. When one small-circulation satirical magazine dared to publish a cartoon mildly critical of the government, the police went from shop to shop confiscating copies.

Some Turks comforted themselves by quoting the saying that in government “the worst politician is better than the best general”. Three years later, those not forced into silence, in exile or in prison may not be so certain that the difference between a civilian and a military dictatorship is quite so great.

The PM worries about damaging trust in politics – but he is the damage

By the day of the referendum in 2017, some 145,000 people had been detained, 134,000 sacked, and 150 media outlets closed. No act of persecution was too petty or cruel: one opposition MP, who denounced the “yes” vote, found that his 88-year-old mother had been discharged by way of retaliation from a hospital where she had been under treatment for two-and-a-half years.

Less than a year after the failed military coup, Erdogan held a blatantly rigged referendum which marginalised parliament and gave him dictatorial powers. Despite the harassment and silencing of critics, it passed by only 51.4 per cent in favour of these constitutional changes as opposed to 48.6 per cent against. Even this narrow majority was only achieved late on election night when the head of the electoral board overseeing the election decided that votes not stamped as legally valid, numbering as many as 1.5 million, would be counted as valid, quite contrary to practice in previous Turkish elections.

Turkish elections are not a complete farce as in Egypt and Syria, as was shown by the election of an opposition candidate as mayor of Istanbul earlier this year. But the political process as a whole is now so skewed towards Erdogan that it will be extraordinarily difficult

 I spoke to plenty of people in Istanbul in the days after the abortive military coup who saw clearly that its failure meant that they might have escaped rule by the army, but only at the cost of being gripped ever more tightly by civilian authoritarian rule.

“Erdogan’s lust for power is too great for him to show restraint in stifling opposition in general,” predicted one intellectual who, like almost everybody I was interviewing at this time, would only speak anonymously. This was certainly wise: TV stations, radios, newspapers, critics of all sorts were being closed down by the minute. When one small-circulation satirical magazine dared to publish a cartoon mildly critical of the government, the police went from shop to shop confiscating copies.

Some Turks comforted themselves by quoting the saying that in government “the worst politician is better than the best general”. Three years later, those not forced into silence, in exile or in prison may not be so certain that the difference between a civilian and a military dictatorship is quite so great.

The PM worries about damaging trust in politics – but he is the damage

By the day of the referendum in 2017, some 145,000 people had been detained, 134,000 sacked, and 150 media outlets closed. No act of persecution was too petty or cruel: one opposition MP, who denounced the “yes” vote, found that his 88-year-old mother had been discharged by way of retaliation from a hospital where she had been under treatment for two-and-a-half years. Could the same thing happen here in Britain? This is one of the strengths of the Johnson coup: many people cannot believe that it has happened. British exceptionalism means that foreign experience is not relevant. Few knew or cared that Turkey had a strong tradition of parliamentary democracy as well as a grim record of military takeovers. But it is these slow-burn civilian coups which are such a feature of the modern world that we should be looking at – and trying to learn from – and nor what happened in Britain in the 1630s when Charles I sought to impose arbitrary government.  Opponents of the suspension of the parliament have a touching faith that the present government will stick by the historic rules of the political game when everything it has done so far shows a determination to manipulate and misuse these rules to gain and keep political power. Progressive Turks have been down this road and knew all too well what lay at the end of it. Revolutionaries on the left suddenly discover that the right also stages revolutions and that there is virtue in a fairly elected parliament. “So here I am, gone from post-structuralist anarchist to ballot-box monitor,” tweeted one Turkish convert to this view as he vainly tried to thwart fraudulent elections.

Many in Britain are now springing to the defence of parliament and elected representation, but they should have sprung a bit earlier. Those in the Labour Party who were neutral about Brexit – or even saw it as a welcome disruption of the status quo and an opportunity for radical reform – only now seem to be noticing that Brexit was always a vehicle whereby the hard right could take over the government.

Chants of ‘Boris out’ outside British embassy in Brussels

Turkish elections are not a complete farce as in Egypt and Syria, as was shown by the election of an opposition candidate as mayor of Istanbul earlier this year. But the political process as a whole is now so skewed towards Erdogan that it will be extraordinarily difficult to dislodge him. This is a feature of the 21st-century type coup: once in office, leaders are proving more difficult to evict than a junta of military officers a century earlier.

Less than a year after the failed military coup, Erdogan held a blatantly rigged referendum which marginalised parliament and gave him dictatorial powers. Despite the harassment and silencing of critics, it passed by only 51.4 per cent in favour of these constitutional changes as opposed to 48.6 per cent against. Even this narrow majority was only achieved late on election night when the head of the electoral board overseeing the election decided that votes not stamped as legally valid, numbering as many as 1.5 million, would be counted as valid, quite contrary to practice in previous Turkish elections.

A pro-democracy movement against Boris Johnson has been bornA weakness of such resistance is that its potential leaders, including supposed radicals like Jeremy Corbyn, really do look at Britain’s past as a guide. It is those who have been mocked for trying to recreate a fantasy England, such as Johnson and his chief lieutenants, who are much more in tune with the modern world and instinctively follow in the footsteps of Trump, Erdogan and their like from Washington to Sao Paolo and Budapest to Manila.Successful resistance to this toxic trend means learning from the fresh experience of other nations similarly blighted and not from British history.

 

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/boris-johnson-prorogation-parliament-erdogan-democracy-turkey-a9086011.html

Also a shortened version at:

https://ffrancsais.blogspot.com/2019/09/britain-on-brink-of-coup.html

 

 

June 9, 2019

The Guardian

Filed under: Communications, Journalism, Personal, Sustainability, World Class — derryvickers @ 6:58 am

The Guardian Newspaper – why I read it

As child in WW2 I was introduced to the Guardian at home because the only paper available from the local newsagent Was The Manchester Guardian; may be because we lived in Congleton not more than 25 miles from Manchester.

Anyway, the Guardian stuck to me and I have read it ever since. Even when I was abroad as a consultant there was the Guardian Weekly on the newsstand or failing that I could get it by post; the postal version used to be printed on very thin but durable paper; lovely!

I still get the Guardian Weekly posted to me even though I am back in Scotland.

And I cheat, I read the Guardian online daily, for which I feel honour bound to pay a quarterly subscription.

For those who do not know the background and the Policy of the (Manchester) Guardian just get a flavour by reading Katharine Viner’s (the editor) history at

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/16/a-mission-for-journalism-in-a-time-of-crisis

April 15, 2019

The Strange Case of Julian Assange

Filed under: Assange, Europe, Jeremy Corbyn, Patrick Cockburn, Politics, Social, USA — derryvickers @ 2:15 pm

Assange had pleaded political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the last seven years.

He was eventually expelled last Thursday and arrested by the Met.

Since then many have come to his defence and an equal number have attacked him because

Julian Assange is wanted on two counts:

  1. Hacking and Leaking US military information principally on its war in Iraq
  2. Accused of rape in Sweden

You can read more about Hacking and Leaking in

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/julian-assange-wikileaks-chelsea-manning-war-democracy-a8867816.html

Cockburn believes that leaking / whistleblowing is essential in this increasingly authoritarian world and finishes his article with:

Assange is likely to pay a higher price than Ellsberg for his exposure of government secrets. The Pentagon Papers were published when the media was becoming freer across the world while now it is on the retreat as authoritarian governments replace democratic ones and democratic governments become more authoritarian.

The fate of Assange will be a good guide as to how far we are going down this road and the degree to which freedom of expression is threatened in Britain at a time of deepening political crisis.’

In his and Jeremy Corbyn’s view the UK Government should reject any US request to expatriate Assange to the US.

But to the Rape Charge, so far one case has been closed but the other is still open and the Swedish Government has yet to request expatriation. If the Swedish Government does ask for Assange to be repatriated to stand trial then the UK Government would find it difficult to refused, we are currently still part of the EU with Sweden.

Dani Garavelli in the Scotsman on Sunday:

https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/dani-garavelli-assange-apologists-make-light-rape-case-1-4906997

‘Labour backbenchers, including Diana Johnson, Stephen Kinnock, Stephanie Peacock and Stella Creasy, signed an open letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid seeking assurances that every assistance would be offered to Sweden should it make an extradition request.

Garavelli noted that:

‘In the end though, as so often, it was Emily Thornberry who nailed it. “Why weren’t the Swedish authorities told in advance of Assange’s ejection from the Ecuadorian Embassy as the US clearly was? Our priority should be the alleged two victims of sexual violence in Sweden and not a ruse to get him extradited to the US as a whistleblower,” she wrote.

And that sums up the main difference between the two potential charges: A clear court case as to whether Assange did or did not rape two ladies in contrast to the undoubted leak of US extremely dubious human rights violation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At present of course Assange is in UK custody and the UK government will have to decide whether to expedite Assange to Sweden if asked, or to the US. In my view the UK should expedite to Sweden, but I don’t know if the UK Government can successfully seek a clause in the agreement to so could prevent Assange there after being expedited to the US.

Just to finish for the time being; it looks clear that the Ecuadorian Embassy was pleased to get rid of their visitor after seven years

‘I think the first thing to say is Ecuador has been making some pretty outrageous allegations over the past few days to justify what was an unlawful and extraordinary act in allowing British police to come inside an embassy,” [Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer] said’

https://www.scotsman.com/news/assange-s-lawyer-claims-ecuador-made-smears-to-justify-arrest-1-4907277

Post Script:  I have now read a similar view to my collection above. See

https://labourlist.org/2019/04/labours-response-to-the-arrest-of-julian-assange-doesnt-cut-it/

April 1, 2019

No April Fools Day – the State of UK Politics

Filed under: Brexit, Ian Birrell, Journalism, Politics, Westminster — derryvickers @ 8:16 am

Ian Birrell says it so much better than I in my blog of yesterday.

“This is one more sign of the stupidity of holding that divisive Brexit ballot in 2016. Voters can only watch in horror at the failure of a dismal Prime Minister, a deadlocked Parliament and an outdated political system.”

And for good measure

“Or consider the terrifying fact that Boris Johnson, a poundshop Trump whose ambition is only matched by his deviousness and ineptitude, is favourite to become the next Tory prime minister.”

“Yet we must cling to hope. So look at Slovakia, where a liberal lawyer who had never before run for office has just been elected as its first female president by promising to restore decency to politics in the face of corruption and crass populism.

Newly elected Slovakia’s President elect Zuzana Caputova. (Photo by VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP) “Maybe we thought that justice and fairness in politics were signs of weakness”, said Zuzana Caputová after victory in a campaign that eschewed personal attacks on rivals.

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/opinion/dominic-grieve-conservative-party-hard-right/

March 24, 2019

Hannah Arendt – Thinking without a Bannister

Filed under: Europe, Hannah Arendt, Journalism, Politics, Writing — derryvickers @ 9:05 pm

Hannah Arendt Post Truth pioneer – Thinking without a Bannister

New Statesman 22-28 March 2010 by Lyndsey Stonebridge

https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2019/03/hannah-arendt-resurgence-philosophy-relevance

The Article starts with:

“It is true that Arendt loved the public space of politics for the robust clarity it gave to the business of living together. It is also true that she argued for a political republic based on common interest. These are both reasons why we should be reading her today. But her commitment to plurality is not an invitation to nationalism. Arendt wanted politics dragged into the light so that we might see each other for what we are. But that didn’t mean we had to accept what was evidently ruinous to politics itself, merely that we had to acknowledge that what we find most repellent actually exists – and then resist it.

And if there is one thing we have learned over the past two years it is that our political reality is not what we thought it was and still less what we would like it to be. Because the times she lived in were also dark, violent and unpredictable, and because she was smart, diligent and hardworking, Arendt was good at thinking quickly and accurately about the politically and morally unprecedented. She distrusted easy analogies, thought historical precedents were a poor way of grasping the unexpected, and practised instead what she called “thinking without a bannister””

 

A couple more quotes from the Article:

“Even before the full horror of the death camps became clear, Arendt had spotted that the world “found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human”. It still doesn’t.

This wasn’t just because people had become unempathetic and nasty due to mass propaganda, but was also a consequence of the organisation of the world into nation states. When a person is driven away from one country, she argued, he is expelled from all countries, “which means he is actually expelled from humanity”.”

“It happened again to the Palestinians in 1948. On Israel, Arendt was troubled but again clear-sighted. Like “virtually all other events of the 20th century,” she wrote, “the solution of the Jewish question merely produced a new category of refugees, the Arabs, thereby increasing the number of stateless and rightless by another 700,000 to 800,000 people.””

“The AfD is not wrong to say that power becomes dangerous at the point where there seems to be no public accountability any more. But it is precisely at such moments, Arendt teaches, that we most need to think politically, to resist populism: “When everybody is swept away unthinkingly by what everybody else does and believes in, those who think are drawn out of hiding because… [thinking] becomes a kind of action.””

And the article finishes with

“We cannot guess what she would think of our politics now, and she wouldn’t have respected us for trying. Think for yourself, she would have said. But Arendt left us with an important message: expect and prepare for the worst, but think and act for something better. The impossible is always possible.”

March 16, 2019

The worry of Social Media – Should Social Media Companies be forced to act

Filed under: Communications, Jo Cox, Journalism, Politics, Social Media — derryvickers @ 8:30 pm

From the Editor of “I”

Act againt Social Media companies.

“The problem is wider than this disgusting video: it is not hard to find far-right propanganda spreading violent ideologies notably on YouTube and there is little political pressure to remove it.”

Just perhaps Sajid Javid will act?
“Internet companies who allow the distribution of banned content “should be prepared to face the full force of the law”, Sajid Javid has said, as he called on people to stop watching and sharing the livestream broadcast by a gunman””

March 4, 2019

Stephen Jay Gould – a great loss as a humanist and science writer

Filed under: Journalism, NOMA, Politics, Stephen Jay Gould, World Class, Writing — derryvickers @ 7:29 pm

Cleaning the bookcase out, I came across my collection of Natural History books by Stephen Jay Gould; some 20 in all. The first one I bought was perhaps his first ‘Ever Since Darwin’ at a small book shop in Santa Barbara, a lovely town with glorious Bougainvillea. It was a Sunday and I had a Sunday break from a conference in LA.

So who was Stephen Jay Gould; he died on 22 May 2002

From the obituary in Nature

“Palaeontologist and public face of evolutionary biology

Stephen Jay Gould, the world’s most renowned palaeontologist, died in New York on 20 May [2002]. His death robs the fields of palaeontology and evolution of one of their most provocative thinkers, and millions of readers of an entertaining and astonishingly productive commentator on biology.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/417706a

This describes him to me from his books completely. To me, he was the ultimate Humanist. He believed and publicized Darwin’s evolution and through his books (collections of essays over 20 years) the wonders of evolution are described, not as the progression of evolutary steps to man as the greatest, but as evolution by natural selection at all levels, unlike Dawkins solely through genes and Conway Morris as God directed. He saw evolution as moving forward in jumps, Punctuated Equilibrium, which if I look back in recorded history, is how civilisation has moved forward from Aristotle; he also invented ‘exaptation’, making use of features already there for one purpose to use for something different, he examples birds developed feathers to keep warm before they adapted feathers to fly. He was not popular with his colleagues, who followed Darwin precisely that evolution was gradual over many thousands / millions of years. He had numerous confrontations with Dawkins. He also battled with creationists who pumped out that Whites were superior to Blacks have in bigger brains; Gould successfully refuted this.

But Stephen Jay Gould is dead for almost 18 years and unfortunately, to me, he is gone from the bookshelves, replaced by Dawkins (thought even he is no longer so prevalent).

He was in his lifetime ‘canonised’ by the US Congress as one of America’s living legends.

Unsurprisingly he was not a Christian but he did come forward with NOMA, Non-Overlapping Magisteria

From Wiki
‘Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view that was advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion each represent different areas of inquiry, fact vs. values, so there is a difference between the “nets”[1] over which they have “a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority,” and the two domains do not overlap.[2]

I personally have difficulty in getting my head round NOMA but never the less it is one way forward in a very difficult area.

Stephen Jay Gould was, for me, a great and erudite writer and a formidable loss to mankind at this time. He will retain a prominent place on my bookshelf,

January 24, 2015

Nous Sommes Charlie – a Riddoch pod of two weeks past

Filed under: economics, Journalism, Lesley Riddoch, Politics, Scottish Independence, World Class — derryvickers @ 11:18 am

The pod can be found at:

http://www.lesleyriddoch.com/2015/01/no.html

Far too late to get anything on the web site so just a few thoughts.

The West is fighting militant Islam but this is nothing compared to what is being fought out between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

Yes we all take more note of what is going on around us and ignore, other than from a newsworthy point of view, as to what is going on in Africa.

And we in the West are far from squeaky clean – drones in Afghanistan – torture in Iraq.

No mention of the massacre in Norway by Breivik (BTW what has happened to him?) and how the Norwegian government has coped.

I am not a believer in total free speech in religion – the Pope is reported to have said (and of course he is not independent in this matter) that one should be careful of unlimited freedom in religious matters. Politicians are fair game but religion is not – it is far too sensitive and always has been and it ain’t going to change soon.

Sorry I did not listen to anymore of the pod except the comments on Jim Murphy and the interminable battle between Labour and SNP – just ignore the economy it is not newsworthy enough. As to the oil price – it will go but how quickly is anyone’s guess – the growth of economy in the West is far to sluggish – but that raises a separate question – why is the only measure of prosperity in a western capitalist society the rate of growth – and that takes us back to Charlie and Lesley’s point that Charlie is next door and what about the poor in India and Africa – don’t they deserve of a slice of the cake to catch up even if we stagnate a little. Incidentally we were skiing in the French Alps last week at Courchevel and while we were in a modestly priced chalet, the town is full of shops Chanel, Dior etc along with Estate Agents and up market ski shops and the prices were out of this world.

And I got to thinking – we here in the West are said to live in the Capitialist society. Increasingly this is getting further from the truth; we are increasingly living in a totalitarian society, only that the tyrants are now the global corporates rather than the national tyrants.

December 10, 2013

Mandela

Filed under: Communications, In Our Time, Journalism, USA, World Class — derryvickers @ 10:18 pm

From the high flying oratory of Obama that brings tears to my eyes

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/10/barack-obama-nelson-mandela-memorial-service

To the arch cynicism of Simon Jenkins and I can’t repress a chuckle

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/10/mandela-coverage-banality-of-goodness

And finally to the cold reality of Okwonga

http://www.okwonga.com/?p=869

What a day!

And all thanks to one man: Mandela

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