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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

175. Boris Johnson Solitaire, Sturgeon Blackjack or Trident Poker?

IN short –four months of Boris Johnson playing with himself to entertain a lazy press or the SNP betting on the dealers hand to see if they can shortcut to another Scottish referendum or stuff that needs our attention now.

Cameron proclaims the EU referendum as the big decision of our lifetime because he thinks he’s found his legacy moment and he really got off on striding round Europe buoyed by reports of his late night/early morning meetings with other ‘important’ people. It will all sound good for his post-PM speaking engagements. And the Oligarch / tax-avoider owned press play ball. Mayor Bad Joke himself defaced all the front pages on Monday morning (one can only assume there was something in London’s water in 2008 apart from chemical waste and recycled hormones). 

You can bet your life it will be indolent two-tone journalism all the way to June 23rd. More interviews with immigrant-phobic Farage-ites - yum.

You know from blogs like 37 Oh Go on Scotland or 71. Scotland is a Strawberry Tart that I voted for OUT up here but bloody hell – what is the SNP leadership doing giving the dishonest non-too-subtle message that Scots can get a second referendum through Brexit? They think they are playing Blackjack and betting against the dealer but it looks like Russian Roulette to me.

Brexit or Brin (!) will make little difference to ordinary people other than an out vote would lead to the mother of all on-going administrative nightmares. It just is not the issue of the moment. It’s fiddling while the globe is engulfed in a towering inferno. For Britain, the Trident question (just for example) matters much more now and way into the future.
Renewal estimates for the big T now range from £30 billion to £50+ billion. We know – up here in Edinburgh with the recent tram fiasco - that whatever is quoted will in the end look like chicken feed. And it won’t do what they said it would…

(by the way - If someone can explain to me what a billion even is I’m open to a tutorial)

Even someone who seriously gets high on the whole war and shooting and killing people and destroying places thing must see that Trident is the ultimate poker game that no longer has workable rules. For a start you can’t bluff the new breed of nutters.

In our recent past those who spoke in favour of Trident said that Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD – yes indeed) kept the world ‘safe’ from the Most Assured Destruction we ever came up with. Even they must acknowledge that things have moved on just a wee bit.

Nukes are a poker game. Global Nuclear Poker was based on the vital similarity of the players round the table – despite how they portrayed each other for the benefit of a gullible public. Everyone knew that the other was not going to press the button. It was ultimate testosterone machismo stalemate (yes I know that’s Chess – gimme a break).

What Cameron has been at in Europe, for the benefit of the Right Wingers in his own party, is village football where the spiteful spoilt brat threatens – yet again – to puncture the ball if he doesn’t get special treatment. Boris is not playing any sort of team game. He is playing Solitaire.

Back to something that matters – does anyone really think that the new uber terrorists or psychopaths like Mr North Korea (I’ll have my uncle killed because he didn’t clap loudly enough) are playing by the same rules or any rules? They ARE the jokers they ARE the wild cards. There is no bluff which would work in a nuclear bake-off with them. Bay of Pigs played with little Kimmy would lead to a lotta over cooked bacon.

Meanwhile, conventional forces are downgraded and automated and phoney wars are played out on territories far far away for ever more convoluted ends and we cannot tell from one day to the next who the politicians have designated as the enemy.

The only thing to do with Trident is to point it squarely in the direction of a suitable tax haven and let it go (after warning the maids, gardeners and other servants to get-the-hell-out like they do in those silly action movies where bystanders don’t get hurt. Yeah right. It’s ALWAYS the bystanders who get hurt).

Then we look around and see how better to spend £50+ billion.

Now – you may not have a spare £50billion or even million or even £50 but if you go without about 2.5 cups of coffee this week you could afford to buy my humorous sortofautobiography and then with the proceeds I could go out for a coffee.
Maybe I’m not A Pigeon

Is (amazingly) still available… 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

174. Zero Hours is not a Contract it’s a Con-trap

I won’t bother with a new cartoon this week. Sadly the one I did in 2013 about this zero hours nastiness is still relevant (click on the orange Amanda Baker top right hand side and you’ll be pinged to the cartoon)

Everyone knows by now that a Zero Hours Contract is a fancy name for not-a-contract. It’s a sandwich with no filling, no butter and no bread. It’s Wimbledon with no tennis. It’s life with no life.

Back in 2007 I bought a small cactus for my daughter from The Green Festival in Newcastle. (Stick with me its relevant). It was tiny. Today it’s hardly any bigger. The wee spiky thing has a hand written name tag – still visible. ‘Not-a-cactus Magnificus’. A zero hours contract is Not-a-contract bollockus.

The only point of a zero hours contract is for employers to circumvent employees’ rights, falsely inflating profits. It is shocking then to learn that here in Scotland even modest estimates suggest that as many as 80,000 workers may now be labouring under this non-contract. It’s a contract for zero security, zero dignity, zero ability to plan your life.

ZHC simply means zero obligations and a totally free ride for the employer. It’s the ultimate FCKYU arrangement.

But if these things are here to stay let us be imaginative.
As has been said before on this blog, it is often helpful to take an idea to its logical end. For example I did not throw up my hands in horror when it was suggested that Scottish MPs should be barred from votes on specifically English laws. I simply suggested that we embrace that idea fully and ensure that those with private healthcare do not vote on the NHS. Ditto those from private schools should keep their interfering lizard claws off state education. Surely the notion of Zero Hours Contracts could also be broadened. Let MPs keep their latest generous pay rise but put them on the FCKYU arrangement so they earn that wage on a pro-rata basis. We’ll just call them up when we want them!

And if the employers are so comfortable with FCKYU let them extend it too. Take for example a well-known high street fashion shop. I may go in (I wont) and buy a dress (I wont). Let’s say that a month later I have in fact only worn it twice. I should be allowed to get a partial refund. Oh and all shops using zero hours staff in any part of their supply or service chain must advertise that fact on their shiny smiley posters. Don’t be shy.

Is FCKYU even lawful? Under UK law parties to a contract must have some degree of parity. If one party is so powerless, so pressured by circumstance, so desperate then the terms of agreement between them cannot be regarded as binding. With FCKYU, the worker’s entire life is made vulnerable and random. It is the employer who enjoys zero commitment. In circumstances where there is inequality of bargaining power more sensible terms can be implied. Zero hours contracts should be abolished but if not standard terms of decent employment must be implied rather than leaving increasing tens of thousands of UK workers in long term, stressful, poor-pay limbo.

Zero hours contracts partly explain why – if 1.85 million people are unemployed (officially) The Trussel Trust estimate 13 million people in the UK live below the poverty line.

But as we learn that even the chancellor’s family firm manages to pay no tax in the UK we also see that zero hours contracts continue to rise and rise.

Some companies realise that the public find the notion of zero hours abhorrent. So they subcontract to companies they know use zero hours contracts and then claim ‘we don’t’. That’s like employing a hit man then claiming innocence because you didn’t pull the trigger…

Meanwhile zero hours contracts should be banned in all public sector institutions.
Not surprisingly the only people I’ve ever heard singing the praises of the zero hours contract are those who are comfortably off or nasty people or mad as loons or all of the above (Ian Duncan Smith)

Zero hours contracts are literally freezing families out of any chance of a decent life.

They must be banned.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

173. Cameron’s fake crusade is Euro-trashing us. My small, red, shiny thingy proves it…

My 3rd hand Toshiba was finally ‘obsoleted’ by Microsoft – boooo hiss. I was forced to retire the chunky, held-together-with-tape reliable grey friend. It supported me valiantly, most recently in writing ‘Maybe I’m not a Pigeon’ which as you know you can buy online.

Unlike tech giants I am a fan of the adage ‘If it aint broke don’t fix it’

However, amid my bleating and complaining, my partner got this small shiny red thingy for me. It weighs just a couple of pounds (1kg to you modern types). I was all pleased to get a pressie but also cross to have been cyber manipulated and also pre-hassled at all the re-adjusting I would have to do in order to be able to do the things I was doing quite happily before.

So I charged it, switched it on and did not recognise ANYTHING about its display.
I switched it off.

I turned it back on and STILL did not get even a whiff of familiarity. It wanted to connect to devices I don’t have. It kept mentioning things that meant nothing to me. It wanted to access games. Er – no, I’m not 15. I searched in vain for the familiar icon that would mean I could open a page and start typing.

In the end I took it with me for a little bus trip to the Virgin shop in town as I needed help with my phone and I hoped someone there might be able to speak to the small shiny red thingy. The young trendy (aren’t they always) guy could barely disguise his disdain at my pathetic non i-phone but did sort the sim out for me. I waved the small shiny red thingy at him (I wanted to know why there was no port for plugging in the internet cable) he had to go out back. For a laugh I think.

‘You don’t need to be attached with a wire’ said another nicer man
‘But I want a wire’ said I
‘It’s fine being wireless’ he said kindly
‘I like the yellow wire, it seems a more secure connection’ I sulked
‘Only hackers need a connection that secure’ he assured me
(How did he know I wasn’t a hacker?)

Then after more of the turning-it-on-and-hoping kind of activity an icon popped up asking me if I wanted to chat online for some help. Tada. After more than  90 minutes online and a couple of phone calls with a lovely woman in India the new shiny red thingy is doing things I want it to do and has icons on it that I recognise and it suddenly doesn’t seem so scary. And she was SO nice and SO clever and friendly and did NOT make me feel like a moron.

Now you may feel this next bit is a leap but – after we’d finished and while I was still dazed and confused – it occurred to me, again, how much of a load of old cobblers David Cameron’s phony posturing over Europe really is (and I already knew it was bollocks)

Stay with me you know I get there in the end…

Last week – prior to The Guardian publishing another of my Ms Angry letters (29th Jan – look up Amanda Baker Edinburgh) I got a Guardian HQ confirmation call from a youth. This young un clearly had practised his tone of studied boredom – possibly to give the impression he was just too good to be making mundane phone calls to nobodies like moi. Now if he is following the pattern of into-UK journalism in the 2000s he is possibly one of those fortunate enough to be able to afford to do an internship or shoe-horned in by a family contact. I don’t know. He didn’t sound like he was from the local comp.

The point I am making is that there are lots of things wrong with the UK - the economy and education and healthcare yada yada yada but it has NOTHING to do with belonging to the EU.

If India can produce young women of the calibre of the one who sorted out my shiny red thingy – intelligent, well educated, speaking great English – does Britain really think it can compete with the rest of the world if it is NOT part of Europe?

I mean seriously?

Plus, like other emerging economies – India is making things. Britain isn’t.
In emerging economies the brightest and best get on. Its ages since that ever happened in Britain as the upper echelons are chocked up and stagnated by the dual societal terminal illnesses, privilege and nepotism. Meritocracy is a past (short lived) dream. As I said a couple blogs ago, Tim rich but dim stamped out Trevor poor but clever before he got a foothold. And those who are thinking they should get out of Europe so that the scary immigrants don’t come and take their jobs. They don’t need to actually BE here to do that. WAKE UP.

And as the UK continues to be sold off to the highest bidder just what exactly is DC defending? It’s a mirage. It’s a fake. It’s a cartoon crusade.

If we want to compete globally we need to stop pretending the UKs problems are caused by immigrants or European membership or the disabled or those on benefits or any of the other bogey men the media and politicians scare us with. We need to fund talent and infrastructure and education with sturdy taxation and then protect it by chasing out the profiteering bastards who are bleeding the UK dry.

Now if you want to see this post as a (slightly rude) sketch click on the orange ‘Amanda Baker’ at the top right of the blog and you'll find my latest cartoon.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

172. Syrian Pogrom

Syria a Haiku

Olive saplings drowned.

Hothouse *lilies undisturbed

But I condemn you.

*lilies are the flowers on the Eton crest.