No ads? Contribute with BitCoins: 16hQid2ddoCwHDWN9NdSnARAfdXc2Shnoa
Mar 182018

I recently scanned a blog entry claiming that Russia’s nerve agent attack on two people in Britain (plus the innocent bystander) wasn’t that big a deal, and that the reaction to it has been excessive. Well, perhaps.

But that blog went on to claim that militarily Russia is a bit of a pushover :-

  1. It’s less than a third the size of the Soviet Red Army. Perhaps but it still has 1 million active personnel and 2.5 million reservists. Not a size you can discount!
  2. It’s weaponry is obsolete. I can’t point to anything other than Russia spending $70 billion a year on defence to say otherwise, but “modernisation” crops up regularly in an discussion of the Russian military. And not in the sense of something that is required, but in the sense of something that is happening.

Lastly there was a reference to something that makes any student of history stare in amazement, and students of military history fall about the floor laughing. That is that Russia’s territory is flat and indefensible – ideal territory for mass tank battles (and indeed previously mass cavalry battles).

The Russian military knows this.

The last successful invasion of Russia whose territory has always been “ripe for invasion” was in the 13th century by the Mongol hordes.

There have been four major invasion attempts that failed to a greater or lesser extent :-

The Swedish military genius Charles XII tried in 1707, and was sounded beaten by the Russians assisted by the Russian winter.

Napoleon gave it a go in 1812, and the Russians inflicted a military disaster on him, again aided by a Russian winter.

Germany fought Russia during WWI, and managed to capture a considerable amount of Russian territory aided by the Russian revolution. But no major Russian cities were lost.

Again Germany tried in WWII, and Russia inflicted a major military defeat on them, with the assistance of the Russian winter.

The notion that anyone will try invading Russia is a bit ridiculous anyway (at least whilst Trump is Putin’s puppet).

So the threat from Russia is supposed “only” from cyberwar; which could be a damp squib or far more exciting than we believed possible. The fact is, we haven’t seen a full scale cyber attack against the UK, and don’t know what the results might be. Given the example of attacks against the Ukraine, we could expect wide-spread power blackouts, but it could be a great deal worse.

To be fair, I think the term “cyberwar” is a bit deceptive; attacking a nation’s connected technology is a tactic in a more widespread scheme of disruption and even war. There again, calling it “cyberwar” is a legitimate means to get funding for defences against such attacks.

The Window

Mar 152018

One of the strangest things about the US is that one of the government’s most popular programmes is Medicare, which is in effect a socialist programme. As recently as 2015, 77% of US citizens approved of Medicare making it the second most popular US government programme (the most popular was Social Security which is even more socialist).

Yet tell most people from the US that socialism is alive and well in the US, and practised by US government, and you’re likely to be answered with astonishment. Of course the US isn’t tainted by that evil socialism!

Perhaps it would be better to call it “community-funded programmes for all”, although the “for all” would have to wait until Medicare is extended.

Audio Windmills

Mar 112018

Or did it just get a fresh coat of paint?

The news that a former Russian agent has been killed; almost certain by the Russian FSB. Think about it – who else would it be? Nobody else wanted him dead and Russian Today has been talking about how traitors in the UK will meet their end.

Russia has been subjected to secret police gangsters since the Tsarist era (the Okhrana). And yet whilst in the past, Russia’s leaders have supported the secret police, today’s leader (Vladimir Putin) is an old Chekist himself. Thus today’s FSB have less inclination to restrain themselves than any time in the past, and they didn’t show much restraint then!

Russia is today a rogue state prepared to resort to the kind of tactics that can lead to war, and it is not just their practice of killing traitors on foreign soil. Just look at their interference with the US election (we may not have a smoking gun, but plenty of Russian hands smell of cordite), the Ukrainian “adventures”, and suspicious activities in Syria.

In practice there is little we can do to change Russia; it has to come from within. All we can do is keep our defences up, try to avoid antagonising them, but not kowtow to their gangsterism either (a difficult line to balance).

Yes that means conventional arms, and unconventional defences too – Internet warfare can be dangerous or at the very least disruptive. And yes the spooks in the old-fashioned trenchcoats also need to get tooled up.

It also means not expanding NATO any more than it has already been.

Walking The Beach

Feb 262018

So quite a while ago now, another mass shooting took place in a school in the USA; it’s gotten to the point where it is easy to get confused about which mass shooting is being talked about. Thus the “Film at 11” comment (which is hacker slang, for same old stuff).

The world is in a poor state when someone can get confused about which mass shooting is being discussed, or that implying that school children being killed is somehow boring.

US politicians did their usual thing – offering thoughts and prayers whilst assuring their NRA “supporters” (owners) that nothing would be done.

The difference this time, is that the victims have decided that they are not going to accept the status quo that nothing will be done about the rampant gun violence in the USA. They have set up a campaign organisation (NeverAgainMSD), and are actively campaigning for gun control.

Much to the consternation of the senile old farts in power.

It seems that these young people are not going to accept the status quo, or kow-tow to the inane stupidity of the US political elite when it comes to any “action” on gun control. Today gun control in the USA seems impossible; tomorrow it seems to be inevitable (much as us old farts hate it, the young will inherit the earth).

I have a certain level of sympathy with those who like playing with guns in a sensible way – and that is probably a majority of those who own guns. I would personally find it quite fun – I certainly enjoy putting arrows into a target. But a slim majority of people in the US want stronger gun control, and that level is increasing over time.

Rather than simply deny any possibility of gun control, it would probably make the most sense to look at forms of gun control that would leave the maximum amount of freedom (and perhaps even get additional freedom) whilst satisfying those who want to prevent mass shootings.

Obviously looking at mental health here is a good idea. Hell, it’s a good idea even ignoring the whole gun issue – people with untreated mental illnesses are likely to be more problematic to society that people with treated mental illnesses.

But in terms of gun control, what is wanted is a means to control the usage of guns; you want to make it difficult for a lone gun nut to take a gun into a crowded environment to carry out a mass shooting. One obvious way to do this is to make guns more difficult to obtain; and that’s a valid method.

Another way is to make it difficult to use guns without supervision. Imagine if you will that the only way to use a semi-automatic rifle is to go to a gun range, check it out of a locker, and use it at the gun range. Or if you want to take a high-powered rifle out hunting, you have to check it out of a community gun safe as part of a group (i.e. no hunting alone).

Sounds horrendous? It might just be better than not being able to play with your toys at all.

And yes I said toys. You could make a reasonable argument that reasonable hand-guns or reasonable shotguns can be used for self-defence in the home, but semi-automatic weapons are either toys or aimed at mass-shootings. And hunting is an entertainment too.

Crooked Church

Feb 062018

About 100 years ago (being somewhat pessimistic about how long it will take me to write this), the Representation of the People Act was passed. Understandably enough, there’s been a whole bunch of comments regarding women getting the vote; and it was certainly a significant reform because of that.

But you have to hunt long and hard to realise that it also enshrined the one man, at least one vote principle (some University graduates could vote twice). Due to the previous property qualification, before 1918 only 60% of men could vote.

Which is almost as significant as giving women the vote.

Women got the same rights as men 10 years later in the 1928 Representation of the People Act.

The Bare Family

Dec 242017

The behaviour of the US during the last week has been exceptionally dysfunctional and indeed puts it alongside rogue states. For those tuning in late, the US has recently announced that it is moving its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Now there are all sorts of reasons why this is a dumb move and incredibly provocative in a part of the world that does not need any more provocation.

But here we are looking at the US and the UN rather than the move itself (however dumb it was).

The UN decided to call for a resolution that in effect says “We think this is a dumb move.” and the US reaction has been more or less along the lines of what you would expect a spoiled brat and a bully to react like.

Before the vote, the US spokesperson was grumbling about how its friends shouldn’t countenance such a resolution, that those who receive US aid should be careful, and how dare the UN put forward such a resolution when the US pays for the UN (hint: it doesn’t).

And afterwards, the US announces a party for its friends, and that nobody who voted in favour of the resolution was invited. So there!

Just like a spoiled child.

First of all, organisations like the UN need to be funded or they don’t exist. And the way that the UN is funded is based on every member’s ability to pay except that there is a ceiling on each individual’s level because the US threw a tantrum a while back. The US pays approximately 22% of the UN’s budget, so about $2 billion which is considerably less than the cumulative total of the countries that make up the EU (a roughly comparably sized block) which pays approximately 27% of the budget ($2.5 billion).

And a big chunk of that UN budget is spent within the US because the UN headquarters are in New York.

Frankly some of us are a little tired of hearing the US whinging about how much it pays.

Secondly the UN is there to do lots of things, but one of the most important is to allow countries collectively and formally tell another country that it is doing something dumb – and if a resolution passes with 129 countries voting for it, you can be pretty sure you’ve done something dumb. Sure that you are right despite that many votes against you? That’s a sign of overweening arrogance.

Threatening (“We’ll remember who are friends are”) people to vote in your favour is dangerous in the extreme. People remember bullies and the stench of it remains for a very long time.

Dec 072017

Roy Moore is a despicable piece of rancid scum from the surface of a putrid pool, and almost certainly a child sex offender too. There are those who say that he is the victim of some sort of conspiracy and that these accusations are false.

Bullshit! Not only are there the accusers but a considerable amount of supporting evidence that he’s a sexual predator of young girls. And let’s be honest here, Moore is a self-proclaimed politician so of course he’s lying – it’s a surprise when any politician tells the truth. The claims are so credible that his own political party (Republicans) are deserting him; at least the Republicans with more than a gram of self-respect. One has even donated money to his opponent’s campaign!

Yet it appears that people in Alabama are still keen on voting for him. Given the number of available choices – vote for the Democratic candidate (probably something a Republican supporter would find hard), vote for an independent, or not vote at all – it is inexcusable for anyone to vote for Roy Moore.

In fact anyone who does so, has an unusually high toleration of child sex abuse. Enough that they should be suspected of supporting child sex abuse and perhaps should be investigated for it. Or added to the child sex offenders list (in the “supports child sex abuse category”).

Of course it isn’t possible to identify Moore voters (except perhaps from the scrapes on the knuckles), so we’ll simply have to lump everyone from Alabama together and treat them all as suspected supporters of child sex abuse.

Alabama’s new state motto: “Home of the Child Sex Abuser”.

Unless of course sanity returns and the voters in Alabama vote for anybody other than Moore.

Through The Doorway

Nov 292017

According to some trustworthy sources, Donald Trump has been caught out re-tweeting three far-right videos by those well known reprobates that make up Britain First. This either makes Trump an imbecile or a member of the far-right; quite possibly both.

For those who don’t know, Britain First is one of those vile groups that shows up on Facebook from time-to-time usually re-posted by a contact who should (at this point) know better. They were well known for producing posts that on the surface seem reasonable until you look closer; until you got to know that Britain First is a bunch of fascists.

So it’s time that the US realised that Trump is an embarrassment and kicked him to the curb.

Nov 252017

The last few weeks has seen an explosion in the number of sexual abuse scandals amongst US politicians, and a somewhat bizarre difference in how the two parties treat them. The most serious accusations have been made about a US politician called Roy Moore, a particularly loathsome piece of work (even before the accusations) who is accused of molesting teenagers. Of course he has denied the charges, claiming amongst other things that he has never dated any girls without the permission of the mother (as if that makes a difference).

Now some Republican politicians have reacted appropriately and suggested that Moore should withdraw, but far too many have continued to support him arguing that either the accusers are making it up, or that it doesn’t matter – a child molester is preferable to a Democrat. Donald Trump (himself probably guilty of sexual harassment) has come down in favour of Roy Moore, in effect agreeing with both positions.

Many evangelical religious leaders have also come down in favour of Roy Moore; you might think that religious leaders might demonstrate some level of moral leadership but in this case those who support Roy Moore show they are not entitled to claim any sort of moral leadership.

Other Republicans have pointed to disgraced Democrats who have recently been exposed as guilty of sexual harassment as if that is comparable with child molestation. There are two very clear distinctions; firstly the Democrats have generally resigned their position, have lacked support from within their own party, and lastly whilst sexual harassment is inexcusable, it is hardly comparable to child molestation.

To abuse an analogy, sexual harassment is comparable to holding up a service station with a toy pistol whereas child molestation is a full-on bank robbery where the robbers shoot the security guard dead just for trying to do her job.

It appears from this distance that a sizeable proportion of the Republican party is comprised of self-entitled arseholes who can do no wrong providing they support policies that support the ultra-rich; led by the buffoon Trump.

Nov 252017

The scariest predictions of robotics and artificial intelligence reveals a desolate future where almost everyone is unemployed because machines can do it better and faster than people. That will not happen simply because the economy would break down if that were the case – if people are unemployed they are too poor to be efficient consumers.

Of course the most rabid Tories will try to cling to the outdated economic model of capitalism beyond the point of sanity so they will try to bring a great deal of pain.

To give you a flavour of what Artificial Intelligence might bring, they are talking about machines replacing lawyers, solicitors, and barristers; which is not all bad. Legal fees are high enough that most people cannot bring civil suits beyond a point where only the simplest decisions can be made. Imagine a future where a civil suit can be automatically handled by machines battling it out at all levels from the County Court all the say up to the European Court in minutes and at a cost that almost anyone can access.

Of course if you work in the legal system, you might well disagree!

The most obvious way of dealing with a future where nearly everyone is ‘unemployed’ but still needs to be an efficient consumer is to use the basic income idea where everyone gets a reasonable income. The most immediate reaction to this is of course the belief that it is too expensive. Except that some basic maths shows that it is possible: the UK population today is around 65 million, and the UK economy is worth £2 trillion; a simple division shows that we could give everyone £30,000 per year.

Of course that would mean a few less amenities – the NHS, defence spending, etc. So in reality the basic income would be a great deal lower than this, but it is broadly feasible given some rather radical changes.

Does everyone deserve a basic income like this? No, of course not. But this is not about what the worst people in our society deserve, but making sure they function as efficient consumers. And as a bonus, by ensuring everyone has a basic income, you can be sure that nobody slips through the net.

This does not mean the end of jobs and industry, but it will radically change it. Imagine for instance that you do not get a salary, but a share of the profits – instantly the cost of labour is removed allowing a company to compete with low labour cost countries. But if that share is too low, people are likely to sit at home.

And of course work will have to be made worthwhile without (or at least minimising) the annoyances we find at work today. Get in the way of what people work to do, and they will disappear in the direction of somewhere else.

Essentially this is almost returning to pure capitalism – companies are free to get rid of workers at whim, and workers are free to leave at any time. That has always been one of the biggest problems with capitalism – workers are not free to leave work with many things keeping them at a potentially abusive work-place.

Those with more than half a brain will realise that housing costs are a big issue here; and a solution needs to be found or all of the above will only apply to those who get their housing costs for free (i.e. almost nobody). Any potential solution comes in two halves – what to do about those with mortgages and what to do with those who rent.

In the former case, the government can simply pick up mortgage payments when the house ‘owner’ cannot afford them. In return, the government gets a proportionate share of the freehold, so when the house is sold, they get their share back.

For those who rent, the government can also pick up the rent payments for those who cannot afford those payment and can decide what a reasonable rent is. Plus no landlord can kick out a resident for non-payment.

The Bench

Facebook Auto Publish Powered By :

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.