Archive for the ‘government’ Category

The book I read to research this post was Hidden Agendas by John Pilger which is an excellent book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. This book is around 610 pages so is a pretty decent length and was published in 1998 so is a bit dated but very interesting nonetheless. The book is a social commentary on the world politics of that time and much of it is still quite relevant. One of the things looked at is the First Gulf War where we were treated to footage of so called smartbombs and told not many Iraqis would die because they carefully selected targets. In fact 250,000 Iraqis died and I remember at that time Emma Thompson the actress made quite an apt quote that she didn’t know there was so much empty real estate in Baghdad. In many ways that war was even worse than the Vietnam War because the explosive power of these weapons was greater. Just one of these bombs could take out an entire village and we weren’t shown the effects of the extensive carpet bombing carried out by the B-52 bombers. Much of US foreign has been and still is centred around keeping labor prices in foreign countries low so this can be exploited by US companies. Even the sanctions against Iraqi oil were probably at least partly to keep the crude oil price artificially high which benefitted US companies and friendly countries like the Saudi’s. In Britain around this time we saw trade union power being diminished to the extent that nowadays  most workers don’t bother joining a trade union. This of course has benefitted big business where often workers who have worked for them can be offered flexible working practices like reduced wages without the need to make them redundant first thus saving the company a fortune. If you look at some of the conflicts around this time like Columbia where allegedly they were going after bigtime drug dealers but often they were left alone and it was a cover for going after nationalist guerillas who were just fighting for better conditions. If you look at the Mau Mau Emergency in Kenya in the 60’s many of the villagers forcibly moved were essentially put in concentration camps with food and water withheld from villagers who supposedly supported the Mau Mau. Death squads were used to hunt them down and despite them only killing 32 white settlers, 10,000 Kenyans were killed. As many of you probably know I like doing controversial history and this book certainly gives you food for thought. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and would definitely recommend it. On television in particular due to the need for ratings news programmes tend to focus on domestic news and that tends to centre around domestic politicians and often their personal affairs. This book takes a different perspective and I would definitely recommend it.

 

The book I read to research this post was Churchill by Ashley Jackson which is an excellent biography that I bought from kindle. This is a biography of Winston Churchill’s life that gives quite a balanced account and I think is well researched. Winston fought in the Boer War & World War 1 and had quite a distinguished military career. In the Boer War he was a news correspondent who also wrote books about his experiences and was taken prisoner but escaped. Much has been said about him being the only one to escape from the POW and how there should have been others also escape but didn’t. It looks like he seized the chance and the other prisoners were indecisive. He escaped in Portugese held Africa which was neutral. He became a bit of a celebrity as a result. He had a cabinet career which started around this time and would last on and off for over 50 years. In World War 1 he resigned from government and joined the army but soon afterwards rejoined the government as Minister of Munitions. He did such a good job he would later become prime minister during World War 2 with the hope he would bring some of the magic he had during World War 1 to the government and they wouldn’t be disappointed. He carried the same cigar around in a cigar case that would become an important symbol of his speaches. He believed passionately in free trade without tariffs which would lead to him changing party which did happen several times. He also very much believed in self government for Ireland but with in the Commonwealth and many people in Ireland were so fed up with British rule they did indeed leave the Commonwealth. He made many rousing and inspiring speaches during World War 2. After the war Labour under Atlee won the election by a huge majority but Winston remained leader of the Conservative Party despite that and by that time was an institution to many people in Britain. He won the election in 1951 and in his time in the cabinet served under 6 kings and queens. I really enjoyed this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it. It is quite a long book and does a lot to dispel the idea he was set in his ways and old fashioned. It’s interesting that one of his ancestors was the Duke of Wellington and both men saved their country in its hour of need.

 

The book I read to research this post was The Trouble With Markets by Roger Bootle which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. This book won the 2012 Wolfsson Prize For Economics Books & I think quite rightly. Many people think the current free market economy and the search for wealth is as old as mankind. This book addresses this and apparently the Pilgrim Fathers for example would have thought it was the work of the devil. In times past there was very limited opportunities for people to amass wealth. Generally the wealthy stayed wealthy and the poor remained poor. Many people thought becoming a merchant was against their religion and this book argues that we still haven’t got our economic model quite right. People gave more to charity in times past and thought we have a less satisfying experience in this life as a means of getting eventually to heaven. There is apparently a 60-80 year cycle where the economy repeats itself and currently we are coming out of a great recession. Many banks have over extended themselves and the euro currency in particular is in a crisis. Some banks like Lehmans it has been uneconomical to bail out and others like Northern Rock have been nationalized and then subsequently sold at huge losses. In the 30’s our last great recession the gold standard ended and in those days in the vast majority of countries there was no subsistence of any kind. According to this book inflation in the West will stay relatively stable despite increases in recent years. Many banks gave loans linked to inflation to borrowers the Americans call ninjas which stands for no income, no job & no assets. A few years earlier this loans wouldn’t have been allowed. Funnily enough the financial press did little to warn people and businesses of the dangers. Many of the so called Asian Tiger economies have huge surpluses where as many countries in the West have deficits. Most of these Tiger countries spend little on infrastructure and have minimal restrictions on business so attract lots of investment. This is a very interesting book written in an understandable way & I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

 

The book I read to research this post was British Politics for Dummies by Julian Knight which is an excellent book which I borrowed from the library. In Britain there are 3 major political parties which are the conservative, the labour & the liberal. Scotland has its own parliament which currently is controlled by the scottish nationalists. Wales has an assembly which means the welsh minister can veto laws. Northern Ireland governs itself but is subject to a power sharing arrangement with Britain & Ireland. In Britain we are currently governed by a coalition between the Liberals & the Conservatives. The last time the Liberals governed the country outright was around the time of the 1st World War & the prime minister was David Lloyd George. interestingly his first language was welsh. The Queen is the head of state hence we don’t have a president but in practise the prime minister pulls the strings. There is a trend for more and more media attention centred on the prime minister & he is getting more and more powerful. This is perhaps because uses whips more effectively. Whips are MPs whose job is to make other members of the party toe the line. If an MP rebels the party can withdraw the whip which means at the next election he won’t be able to campaign as a member of that party. Britain is also partly governed by the European Parliament & there was talk of turning the member states into one super state. It has to be said there is considerable opposition to it with in Britain. Also a lot of Eastern European States who have joined the European Union recently are opposed to it because they feel it’s a return to being ruled by outside & it isn’t long ago they were ruled by Russia. The European Union has introduced Euro currency which has been adopted by quite a few members although there has been problems with various member countries getting into debt & having to borrow money. I for one think Britain is better off sticking with the pound. For one thing if we adopted the Euro a lot of companies would take advantage by hiking there prices because very few people would understand the value of the Euro in relation to the pound.