Author Archives: Steve Trevethan

On Policies, Perceptions and Potentials

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not. (Anon.)

“Lack of social mobility” and “austerity” confront us. Perhaps much of what we might, and might not do, depends upon information, perceptions and attitudes?

In 2019 our public spending is about 38% of GDP, with the USA at about 36%, Germany at 42%, France 56% and Italy 36%.

In 2010 our national debt to GDP ratio was 53%. In 2018 it was 87%. Equivalent 2017 figures are: France – 98.5%; Germany – 64.1%; Japan – 222.3%; USA – 103.8%.

Since 2010, more than £30 billion has been cut from welfare payments, housing subsidies and social services. About 66% of “poor” children are in families with at least one parent working. Between 2012 and 2019, the number of children fed from food banks has more than tripled. Since 2010 homelessness has increased by 169%. The slowdown ln UK life expectancy is one of the highest in the G20 countries.

The above data, our own experience of people begging and living on our streets, and reliable reports that needed, skilled workers (such as nurses) use foodbanks, indicate that “austerity” has done great social harm.

Ten years on, the “deficit” is far from being removed, £billions of welfare budget cuts are planned and “austerity” has resulted in the slowest UK economic recovery in a century.

Perhaps we now need to campaign for its cessation and, if possible, its rectification? (The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that “rectification” needs expenditure of at least £12.4 bn above current budgetary projections.)

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On Mr. Assange and Truth and Security?

“Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards”, and “Ha, ha, I hit them”, said the crew of a US helicopter as they machine-gunned Iraqi civilians, including a child, in Baghdad. (12/07/07)

That is part of what Chelsea Manning exposed and Julian Assange published, for which they are prosecuted and punished, apparently unlike that crew.

There appear to be two types of charge against Mr Assange. One relates to rape and one to accessing information about particular behaviours of a nation’s rulers. They are both to do with security – individual, group national and international.

Security matters to all of us and our descendants, for always.

Can citizens be secure when governments connive at atrocities such as that above, work to hide them, and prosecute the truth tellers?

Security needs equitable law, proportionate and accountable force, a well-educated and informed citizenry and a courageous independent main stream media.

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On austerity: Some questions and comments

“The person who proves me wrong is my friend”.

Austerity seems to involve a set of theories and practices whereby the financial and economic matters which resulted in the “crisis” of 2008 are addressed. This seems to involve reducing governmental expenditure on infrastructures so that such expenditure matches or approaches the taxation income. Any difference between infrastructure expenditure and tax revenue seems to be met by governmental borrowing. This facet of Economics seems to be based upon the premises and assumptions of current Economics theory and practice.

The precipitating factors in the crisis are to be found in the USA with its housing boom and the growth in Collateralised Debt obligations and Credit Default Swaps . The three biggest rating agencies gave erroneously optimistic assessments and lots of them. Some financial corporations went bankrupt, some were taken over by the government and some were bailed out. The global financial system became paralysed. Layoffs and foreclosures continued with unemployment rising to 10%. During this financial bubble, the financiers frittered money on the high life and when it burst the personal fortunes of the financial bosses remained intact.

We were affected by this because of our close connections with the USA and our similar circumstances of inappropriate financial regulation, banks being excessively concerned with prioritising profit and income above national economic welfare, weak corporate media analysis, and general public ignorance of economics made worse by the “misinformation spread by the economics profession”. We too have had a “leverage bubble that drove asset prices skyward whilst starving British industry of development capital. We do also have an excessive Private Debt to GDP ratio which is a foundation of the crisis – 70% in 1939: c.160%  in 2017. 

 Alas, Austerity has a net negative effect on the economy and underperformed in deficit reduction. In 2010 it was stated that the deficit would be eliminated by 2015. In 2017/18 the deficit was £40.7 billion, wages had the biggest collapse on record and the mega-rich have doubled their wealth. Might this affect the demand for support infrastructures and reduce tax returns?

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Some More Detailed Questions on the Border in Ireland

With the persistent possibility of a “No Deal Brexit” and a ”Hard Border” the following questions might be of relevance.

As most of the border runs through a country where Catholics greatly outnumber Protestants, how can a hard border be created and maintained without the agreement of its population?

Is it securely likely that Catholics will accept such a border?

How could an international border be created and maintained in the face of sustained protests?

If a “Hard Border” is put in place, will it have to be defended permanently by British troops?

If the “Hard Border” is in a hostile environment, how will the equipment required for a “Smart Border” be kept safe and maintained?

If customs personnel are involved in running this border, how will they be confident enough of their safety unless there are police and British Army protection?

Such protection is highly likely to result in an international border incident involving injury and even death. How will this be dealt with in the immediate and the long term?

Posted in News and Op-eds | 46 Comments

Anyone for a Political Pre-Nuptial Assessment?

Perhaps, at this time of opportunity to work, in some form, with a new Parliamentary grouping, it is appropriate for us to review our policies, in their several forms?

This would enable us to make more sure that our words, actions and ways of communicating are what we want and to be reasonably sure that the degree of match and consonance between the TIGs and ourselves is appropriate for some form of working more closely. We might even find that we do not have policies in areas where it might be desirable to have them!

Although the TIGs may not yet have had time to develop policies as a group, the performances and behaviours of the individuals tell us what their policies are.

It might help to bear in mind that there are at least two parts to a policy. There is the stated policy and what is done in practice. One is the theory, and one is the practice.

“In theory, practice and theory are the same, in practice, they are not.”

Posted in News and Op-eds | 22 Comments

A Basis for a National Health and Well-Being Policy?

The Frome Model of Enhanced Care is a GP focussed, community serving and using way of creating, assessing and delivering comprehensive health and well-being skills, services and attitudes, in, with and for a community, at a low to negative net cost. Its administration is remarkably inclusive, heterarchical or flat.

It is so attractive that it merits awareness, analysis, adoption and adaption to spread its remarkable and measured attributes.

It has delivered 5 years of medical care with social cohesion. It saves money and is more enjoyable! Somerset CCG reckons some £2 …

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Wars are rackets – some more than others?

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. – – – It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

Smedley D. Butler

Major General Smedley knew what he was talking about. He achieved the highest rank possible in the US Marines and was the most decorated marine.
He said the only two reasons for armed conflict were the defence of our homes and of basic laws and rights. One is an external threat and the other is an internal threat. Currently we face the second.

The defence of one’s homes comes as a result of existential conflict. All other wars are optional.

Perhaps, there is more than one type of optional war.

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Does “Assume” Make an Ass out of U and Me?

Once upon a time our assumptions about interest rates were that they were always in plural digits. Now we accept near zero interest rates and some accept negative interest rates as normal as they have been around for about a decade.

What would happen if currently “normal” mortgage rates returned to their higher previous “normal” rates? What would happen to car sales and the like if we returned to the “old normal” interest rates? How can people and institutions save when interest rates are nominal and interest fruitful amounts of money are so vulnerable?

With near zero interest rates, is the stock market the only actual vehicle for investment income? Is it reliable for the many?

Another previous normal assumption was that massive money creation would result in inflation/excessive inflation. It hasn’t. (Assuming relevant data is accurate). Can we now assume that the massive use of money trees does not, in practice, affect inflation significantly?

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Indirect and Direct Messages…

It was only as I went out of the door of a local building society that I began to realise that I might have been given at least one powerful message through changes that had been made there!

The changes? Now there was a permanent mini-food bank, a collection bucket for the local food bank and a prominent collecting box for the “Samaritans.”

Previously, every banking place I had ever used only ever had items and notices, etc., to do with direct economics. For the first time, items to do with other aspects of life were there too. No longer was finance being kept separate from ordinary, everyday life, in practice if not in explicit theory. My “bank” was now dealing with socio-economics and so facilitating life-money questions and comments!

Does a bank collecting food and money for local people, in an area with high house prices, especially for sea views, suggests that something may be amiss with our policies for the circulation of money?

The growth of food banks is concrete evidence that some of us are starving.

Are starvation and malnutrition structural parts of current socio-economic policies and practices?

A “yes” answer leads us to question what could be done about it. Some might answer, “Nothing!” Others might answer, “Charity.”

A “no” answer results in the need to seek and apply ways to change our current economic policies so that we do not have starvation etc. as a permanent part of our society.

Answers may depend upon perceptions of “The Market”. Does it function efficiently with minimal to nil government involvement? For whom is it “efficient”?

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Where there’s a will, there may or may not be a way forward

In December 2017, a report entitled “The Million Dollar Be-Question” by Laura Gardiner was published by the Resolution Foundation . It is a report worth examining and heeding by both individual citizens and political parties.

Below is the site from which you can download this report which takes less than 25 pages of A4 paper. 10 sides will give you the introduction and “Executive Summary” from which all quotations are taken and paraphrases, questions and comments derived.

Posted in Op-eds | 14 Comments

Memorials?

 

We may not have a monument to Margaret Thatcher but we do have a monument to “Thatcherism”. It is the Grenfell Tower.

The foundation of Thatcherism is the minimisation of the state. It plans and proceeds to reduce government regulation and suppress its spending. It does this without the guidance of long term consequence and human cost.

Tower blocks, like Grenfell, lack sprinkler systems, alarms and secondary exit routes which, before the “bonfire of red-tape”, were the norm. They have been mandatory in New York since 1967. Grenfell proves that they are necessary and yet HMG has not yet withdrawn a press release of 03/04/2016, entitled “Government going to further cut red tape by £10 billion”. It has not reviewed or withdrawn its doctrinaire and dangerously unspecific “One-in, Three-out policy” under which three regulations must be removed every time a new one is introduced.

As well as its economic and social consequences, Thatcherism has affected attitudes, behaviours, relationships and language.

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This election is about protecting our democracy

Remember the Brexit “Battle Bus” with this slogan, “We send the EU £350 million a week lets fund our NHS instead Vote Leave”? It was powerful and “misleading” according to the UK Statistics Authority. Mr Farage referred to it as a “mistake”.

No! “The number plastered on the side of the Brexit bus was a big fat lie.” 

It was not a mistake because it affected the “Brexit” result the way Mr Farage wanted.

In short, we were misled and those who subverted our democracy with this deception have gone unpunished. Therefore it will happen again to further diminish democracy.

Last month the CPS announced that there would be no criminal charges brought against 14 MPs over their expenses in the 2015 election. In March 2017, The Electoral Commission fined the Conservative Party a record £70,000 for “numerous failures” in reporting expenses for the 2015 General Election. For that election the Conservatives raised some £38, 000,000. 

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Idlib gas attack? Is “Not Proven” currently the least worst verdict?

 

Scottish juries have the choice of three verdicts – Guilty, Not Guilty and Not Proven. This multiple choice is much more real to life than the “English” binary or oppositional choice of guilty or not guilty.

In non-judicial or “everyday terms” the Scottish three-way choice when facing a decision is “yes”; “no”; “I don’t know.” The Scottish choice seems to be closer to real life and so is worth using when considering and possibly taking action on matters of and relating to armed conflict which deals in death, mutilation, madness, theft and profit as well as, if not always, bravery and altruism.

Here are some questions and comments which appear to indicate that a Not Proven verdict is currently the most accurate fit before, it is hoped, an accurate analysis of responsibilities for the gas attacks is made.

How do we know what we are told and shown is reasonably genuine?

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Will current NHS cuts raise prices and lower quality?

 

Most, if not all economic and political decisions have two prime factors – price and quality. And this includes national healthcare. Decision making involves information. Most, if not all information can be placed on a continuum between the verifiable and the fake. (Ditto “News”!) Here are some verifiable items of information relevant to our NHS.

PRICE: Some national average healthcare costs/prices per person per year:

  • The British pay $3,364
  • The Japanese pay $3,713
  • The French pay $4,361
  • The Germans pay$4,920
  • The Americans pay $9,086

Source: OECD Health data 2013

QUALITY: Some healthcare rankings:

  • United Kingdom 18
  • Canada                 30
  • Japan                    10
  • Germany              25
  • France                    1
  • USA                      37
  • Cambodia          174

Source: The Patient Factor

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Some Military Mathematics?

 

Mathematics seems to be the most objective, least easily manipulated form of human knowledge. Consequently it can be considered an essential tool for the assessment of political performance.

Here are some mathematical metrics applied to Mr Obama’s presidential performance in military aspects of what is usually labelled Foreign Policy.

However, it is always needful to bear in mind the inevitable effects of military Foreign Policy on domestic policies. Security and spending, including debt charges, are always affected.

Mr Obama has spent annual average of $653.6 billion on US military spending. This beats the previous post war record of Mr GW Bush by an average of $18.7 billion per annum in 2016 dollars.

Posted in Op-eds | 14 Comments

Is austerity working? And do all debts have to be paid?

 

These questions invite binary “Yes” or “No” responses. More considered approaches exist. We need to consider the economic consequences of debt repayment, structural and attitudinal causes and contributions, responsibility for debts both particular and general, beneficiaries and losers, and, how they may be prevented in the future. Also, can such enormous debts be paid?

This requires analysis and accurate, accessible language. In Economics and Finance, that which has different labels is sometimes not significantly different and that which is under one label has significant differences. For example, money consists mainly of credit creation since loans create deposits and loans are debts.

Debt is a form of relationship: financial activity connects and affects people.

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Suggestions for constitutional changes after Brexit and Chilcot

The EU referendum was both democratic and dictatorial.

This form of democracy was, is and will be profoundly self-harming of our nation. It destroyed opportunities, such as negotiating for a more democratic and less finance controlled EU, and precipitated unnecessary difficulties, such as having to deal with a massive range of trade negotiations from a position of weakness.

It was imposed unilaterally by the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, in an inept and selfish attempt to cohere his party and keep in his job. It has cost us our powerful place in Europe and may cost the United Kingdom the kingdom of Scotland and lead to problems resulting from an intensified Anglo-Irish border.

The Chilcot Report proves that Great Britain was misled into a bloody war by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and an unaccountable clique of cronies and apparatchiks. Its dangerous and cruel consequences increase daily. The costs to our armed forces were, and are needless death, mutilation and mental damage.

Posted in News | 15 Comments

Post-Brexit questions on immigration and emigration

 

Migrations, big and small, have causes, so let’s start by looking at them.

War or military conflict, with and without “boots on the ground” is an all too frequent cause. The huddled masses trying to escape from the war torn and terrorised Middle East provide a pressing example.

“Real Estate” or land-grab forced migration is another category, of which the evictions of Native Americans by US governments provide examples. Not all examples are historic.

Politically purposed, forced migration was used in the Scottish Highland Clearances of the 1740s. The UK government forced Scots to emigrate to weaken and punish actual and potential Jacobite rebels. It is possible that the refugee precipitating conditions created in Iraq, Libya and Syria etc. may be similar. To wreck one country may be regarded as a misfortune: to wreck at least three looks like policy.

Religious and ethnic intolerance can be a people mover and divider, as the partition of India into India and Pakistan indicates. Managed bigotry is a powerful political tool.

The consequences of Global Warming are causing increasing numbers to move.

With sufficient perception, will and power all of these human-made migration-causing activities could, at least, be reduced. Prevention is better than cure.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 11 Comments

Cakeonomics and Free Trade

 

Crumbs!

Not heard of Cakeonomics?

Cakeonomics is a simplified, quick and sometimes fun approach to economics and its connections with everyday life. It uses the metaphor of cake in an effort to make Economics more accessible and attractive, so that more of us can ask better questions about it and be sharper at assessing any answers. We need stronger, more confident knowledge to better analyse and help address the problems of our times, which are also likely to be the problems of our children and theirs.

Your piece of cake depends on various factors. Two crucial factors are the size of your slice and the size of the cake from which your slice comes.

Here’s some data and information about the global economic cake:

The richest 1 per cent increased its income by 60 per cent in the last 20 years (1992-2012) with the financial crisis accelerating rather than slowing the process.

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Some TTIPQs

Puzzled of Lyme Regis writes:

Information and interpretation relating to the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) seems confusing/conflicting, despite coming from reputable sources. Can any Lib Dem Voice followers help with their information and interpretations?

Here are some particular statements and questions. Corrections/Improvements to the statements, answers and observations mightily appreciated!

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills opines that the TTIP will bring personal savings and general economic benefits etc (see Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) benefits and concerns  and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: What’s in IT for Me?). 38 Degrees opines that it …

Posted in Op-eds | 21 Comments

Value for Money and Power Education

No action can have a single consequence.

Can the stated purpose of an action distract us from considering its several unstated/understated consequences?

Can unstated consequences be unstated purposes?

Can/does the iceberg profundity of the governmental decision/action to academise all English schools have a single consequence/purpose?

Academisation of our schools involves more than education. It also involves money, property, power, politics, cartel-control, democratic freedom, governance and accountability, to name but some of the areas of our lives it affects/controls, now in the future.

Some questions:

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  • User Avatarnigel hunter 6th Dec - 6:13pm
    Yes . It has been a poor campaign. Sliding down in the polls means we are not newsworthy enough,we have been squeezed Johnson and his...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 6th Dec - 6:12pm
    @ Matthew Huntbach I agree, Matthew. AsCchair of Trustees of a Foodbank, I well know there are plenty of pockets of poverty in the areas...
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    A mole repellant that is proven to actually work. Must be approved by Which magazine and must not be unkind to animals.
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    I agree with much of the above, including the comment about the lack of spending by many EU countries. In some ways it is the...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 6th Dec - 5:28pm
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    David Raw My point is Lib Dems seem to have no interest or traction outside the leafy home counties. You think everyone is wealthy and...
Tue 10th Dec 2019