Most likely story. which we may never find out.
A bunch of rebel casuals gets their hands on the SAM kit their Russian friends had supplied them, for the purposes of shooting down Ukrainian government helicopters and troop planes.
Training was a little rushed, especially that bit about really checking the identity of the plane you were firing at.
But it wasn’t on an official flight path. Usually only troop planes here.
Airliner diverted to avoid turbulence/heavy weather.
Rebel commanders seriously pissed off with muppet who was only trying to score another troop plane.
We can blame the Ukrainian Government.
I would be excited by independence, lived I in Scotland. But I hope that I would not vote for it.
Keep the power to influence your own future -
If you vote for independence, it will be the last time you have the power to influence your future at all. As a small nation, you will be bound by the same international trade rules as the large ones, but you won’t be able to afford the lawyers to bend them.
Or cede it to multinational corporations
Instead of Westminster as your colonial master, you’ll have powerful global corporations deciding your laws in backroom deals with your local politicians.
You’ll still have to borrow money from the vampire squid of international finance, but they’ll have even fewer qualms about screwing you than they do about screwing us.
If you keep the pound, Threadneedle Street will still run your monetary system. If you’re not allowed Sterling, you’ll have to keep the Scots Pound at parity with it and the vampire squid will have a ball.
Scotland’s a great country with a great future if it realises that it doesn’t need to be a nation state or to assume the tiresome responsibilities that go with nationhood. If you vote for independence, you’re just giving a bigger trough to your local politicos.
Mr Gove’s declaration that schools will, henceforth, be required to teach British Values shows just how far he has lost the plot. He has always been a libertarian ideologue, and he has removed lots of the citizenship things that Labour put in to the curriculum.
Pundits have been having a lot of fun trying to work out what British Values are; of course, they are whatever you want them to be. If the conservative Muslims of Birmingham succeed, British Values will become Muslim values; and there is nothing wrong with that – if that is how society develops. I hope it doesn’t, because I don’t hold with conservative Muslim values although there are parts of Islamic morality that I like (as well as lot I really dislike).
As it happens, it’s much easier to make a case for French values or American values – because they’re encoded in their history. Freedom, equality and brotherhood – French values in a national motto. But British values? Not so very long ago, the answer would have been simple – British Values are Protestant values. Christian, but certainly not Catholic. Mr Gove is probably thinking a bit along those lines, but he can’t say it. The Protestant enlightenment allowed the free-thinking in which our society and economy developed.
Neither can Mr Gove say secular values, although he almost certainly does mean that. France is proud of laïcité; but secularism this side of the Channel is still seen as a little cranky. It shouldn’t; religious people in particular should embrace secularism as the best guarantee of religious freedom. The opposite of secularism is state-sponsored religion, which isn’t that far from theocracy. I don’t think we can directly compare today’s Church of England to Massachusetts Puritans or the Taleban; but the Church of England under Queen Elizabeth the First wasn’t a nice organisation if you were a Catholic. The difference is one of degree, not of nature, and it was the bad experiences of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that led America’s founding fathers to write the First Amendment. A secular state gives no faith any special privileges, and thus it guarantees all faiths the same treatment.
In a secular society, a woman may wear the hijab, should she choose to do so; but she may not be forced to do so – either by the State or by any other player. That’s a pretty good example of a modern British Value, which most of us would endorse (I’m very uneasy with secular France’s outlawing of the hijab – it strikes me as populist, Islamophobic and illiberal).
But from the punditry and the vox pops of the last few days, another British value has emerged: the idea of good manners. It’s been renamed “respect”, but that’s a horrid weasel word. Good manners matter; as William of Wykeham said, “manners makyth man”.
I will confess that I haven’t read Thomas Piketty’s notorious new book. It is on my long list of things to do. So my comments are based on what I have heard others say about it, rather than a direct read. Nevertheless, I do have things to say.
Certainly, I share with him a general concern about inequality; as I have said, I think too much inequality is bad because of its social effects and because it tends to restrict growth.
However, I disagree with Piketty’s diagnosis of the cause and hence his prescription (a global wealth tax). I don’t think it’s nearly as simple as he makes out and in particular I don’t agree that it’s about a difference between the rates of return on capital and labour. One of the features of twenty-first century capitalism is low capital rents as a result of very high asset prices. Capital assets generate returns for their owners not through income but through capital gains. For ordinary people, savings give a poor return.
My other quibble with Piketty as summarised by the pundits (which may not be borne out following a full reading) is that he hasn’t considered demographics. Globally, rather than regionally, we are coming to the end of a baby boom. Labour costs on a global scale are low because of the bulge in China’s working-age population which will start to contract rapidly over the coming decades as the little princes of the one-child generation leave the workforce. This will shift the balance of power towards labour. We will see a similar process in the West, sooner: our ageing population needs lots of local labour to care for it. We didn’t need local labour to supply our needs in a consumer society – cheap Chinese labour made the stuff we bought – but we will need local labour to empty our bed-pans.
A long way off-topic.
I am astounded at the self-evident incompetence of Western diplomacy here. Since the start of the Kiev protests, the West has not put a foot right.
It was far too loud a cheerleader for the protests to begin with. It has failed to condemn the nationalist ultras who led them. Like Russia, it has put all the West-Ukrainian people under the same heading; Russia describes them as Nazis, the West as democrats. They are probably mostly democratic, but many of the people on the front line were right-wing vigilantes. There is no place in the EU for a nation run by such people.
As soon as the old regime collapsed, the West should have started vocally to agitate for minorities, Russophones and Tartars especially. Self-determination is an important democratic principle, which trumps “territorial integrity”, so the West should have been vocal in pushing for a plebiscite in Crimea. That’s a “yes, but later”, rather than a “no, never” to Putin.
We know Putin was sore at losing his puppet in Kiev. He may well have encouraged the shooting; after all, it worked for him in Grozny. The West’s reaction to this wounded bear? Poke it with a stick!
Kerry, Hague and Ashton feebly echo the paranoia of the former Soviet satellite states who are now their allies. The West can tame the Russian bear, but we will only do so by championing our values rather than taking sides. Putin’s charge of hypocrisy is not without its validity.
Obviously, the present row between Ms Harman and the Mail is all politics.
Predictably, Ms Harman has failed to make the case she should be making about her past; political cowardice is rife.
So let me do it for her.
The Paedophile Information Exchange stood for repugnant views. But I will defend to the death its right to to express them, and that is what NCCL should have done and been doing. People like Hanson, Hose and O’Carroll were far more honest than, say, Stuart Hall or Jimmy Savile.
Paedophilia is now considered the most heinous of crimes. PIE may well, unwittingly, have helped us come to that position. It sought publicity, it made its case as in a free society it had every right to do. And it lost the argument on the merits of the argument. Paedophilia is a perversion and acting on it is criminal.
NCCL was right to support PIE’s right to make its case, and no apology is needed.
The title is in the imperative mood.
I was once a member of the SNP (in 1975, shortly after I first got the vote, and lived in Scotland). The English attitude, always conflating “England” and “Britain” was as condescending and irritating then as it is now.
These days I identify first and foremost as a Londoner with English heritage. I have family links to Scotland and love it dearly, and despite my youthful aspirations I now fervently hope that Scots will vote no in September.
But I’m still not sure that were I living in Scotland I would do so. Independence is an appealing prospect. A Nordic Scotland, fat on oil wealth, pursuing its own destiny free of the Tory lairds….
Let’s start with the non-arguments against independence, and dismiss them. First, the pound. If England doesn’t want a currency union, there’s no way Scotland can make it join one; and for lots of political reasons England doesn’t. But that doesn’t matter. Scotland could do what Ireland did from 1928 to 1979: shadow sterling with its own pound pegged at parity to sterling. It would constrain Scots fiscal policy just as tightly as a currency union and create no problems for the banks – who would behave as if there were a currency union. The only overhead is that Scotland would need actively to manage its currency, and its fiscal policy, and its balance of payments, to maintain parity. In a currency union, it would need to do the same, differently.
Second, the EU. Mr Barroso is in danger of sounding like a travelling Scot – which is to say, repetitive. He is almost certainly wrong.Whether Scotland could inherit its share of UK membership is an issue that will probably be decided by the European courts – and it seems to me that the arguments, which I won’t rehearse, favour Scotland. In any case, the EU needs a solution to the problem of secession by regions of its member states. Would Mr Barroso be making such a fuss if Czechoslovakia split after its accession rather than ten years earlier? Of course not; the EU would have bent over backwards to keep both the Czech Republic and Slovakia in. It is also, of course, just as arguable that the UK’s membership should also stop, because it will be a different nation (The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland) rather than The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland which joined in 1973. Barroso has his political agenda, but I think the law, practicality and the politics are against him.
So, two non-arguments filling the headlines dismissed.
As a Londoner, I desperately want Scotland to stay in the UK because of the electoral arithmetic; the reactionary conservatism of most of my countrymen isn’t shared by most of us in London. But that’s a good argument for Scottish independence, because Scots will never again be subject to English Tory laws like the poll tax. No, we few English progressives shouldn’t have to rely on Scots support; we must make our own case and win it.
So why would I, eventually, vote “No” – were I to live in Scotland? Because I think that there are better ways to build a better Scotland than creating a new nation state.
Nation states have had their day, and small nations are mice for big cat corporations to toy with . Ireland is in hock to Apple and Amazon; Scotland will be in hock to Donald Trump and BP, which will become its paymaster.
There are three politicians of the present generation who outshine the rest. They are Alex Salmond, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. Their talent and their appeal is obvious, but we should always beware the smooth-talking demagogues. Independence gives Salmond and his friends an even shinier new toy to play with. But these demagogues will quail against the corporations; to deal with these big cats of the modern world you need powerful nations with powerful legal systems and a strong civil service.
Scotland as a place, as an idea, as a nation, will fare better without the political constructs of independence. Independence can’t bring the freedom that Scots want and deserve; the liberty that goes with it is a chimaera. But a newly-confident Scotland, enjoying the fruits of devo-max which will be the inevitable result of a No, can forge a new nation without the bonds of statehood, and so can we Londoners. In fact we’re already doing it, but that’s another story.
Years ago, before there was such a thing as Liberal Democrats or the Poll Tax or Council Tax, the Liberal Party had a policy to replace the rates with something called Site Value Rating. SVR really didn’t get the pulse racing and was widely confused with STD (a way of ringing someone up in another town without going through the operator) and STV, a form of proportional representation.
But it was a good idea then and it’s a good idea now.
You are taxed for the value of the land you occupy, regardless of the value of any buildings on it. For the Liberals back in the day it dealt with the problem that if you put a bathroom, or an inside lavatory, in your house, your rateable value would go up and you’d pay more rates – which was one reason the rates were so unpopular.
Land value taxes, or Site Value Rates, are fair. Land value is created as much by the community around you as by your occupation of the site. If you get planning permission for a new whatever, the land value goes up. You are taxed for that increase, but not for the value you put in when you build the new whatever.
But they suffer from the same problem, subjective determination, that I outlined in my previous post about wealth taxes. However, it is manageable, because we are only dealing with one class of asset rather than anything from shares to thoroughbreds. There is an established land valuation profession, and a government agency, the Valuation Office Agency, that does it all the time for other tax purposes. So although it’s complicated, and will create something of an opportunity for tax advisers, it’s doable.
However, there is one thing that must be done with the new tax, and that’s that revaluations should be continuing, with values always indexed to a taxable date in any year. Rates revaluations were always politically contentious and they kept on being postponed until domestic rates were abolished. There’s still a big issue with business rates and the delayed business rates revaluation is having a bad effect on the high street. If revaluations are ad hoc, it will create all kinds of problems.
I follow, on Twitter, the so-called “Red Tory” Philip Blond.
He has tweeted a few times today about a wealth tax and a tax on land values (which the think tank ResPublica is working on, and which is a much better idea).
A wealth tax is a tax on net assets, that is, the value of what you own less what you owe. It’s usually levied at a few percent a year. Many countries have such a tax (in France, it’s called l’impot sur la fortune). It’s quite different to an income tax, which is a tax on what you earn. In theory, it’s a great idea. In practice….
The big problem with a wealth tax is determining the value of what’s being taxed. It’s a practical problem, not an economic problem. Values go up and down. It’s relatively easy to value liquid assets, like publicly-quoted stocks and shares, but what about the value of a private company? The old master on the wall of the mansion house? M’lady’s tiara? The contents of the cellar? Do you have to get a valuer in every year? Or do you value it, say, every five years and then apply an indexation figure for a particular class of asset?
Immediately you run into complications. And it immediately creates an opportunity for tax advisers, who will be all over your assets (if you are rich) working out how to minimise their taxable value. Much as they do with income and capital gains. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, after all, the tax profession is an important sector in our service economy…. but in my view it is a significant weakness in the proposal.
I think that objective determination of the tax base is very important to make taxes fair. It’s a weakness of income tax that income (specifically, the difference between income and capital gain) is subjectively determined, according to complicated rules which create an ecosystem in which tax professionals thrive. It’s this complexity that explains why the 50p top income tax rate will raise much less than it should and won’t solve the deficit problem.