Category Archives: Mike’s comments

EU Referendum decision is simple – and all about war

Possibly the single best reason for Britain’s continued membership of the European Union (EU) is that the EU prevents wars.
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Following war between France and Germany three times in 70 years (arguably four), the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC ) was founded shortly after World War 2 by six nations, making them industrially and economically inter-dependant. It was intended to make war “not only unthinkable but materially impossible” (see Note, below). This principle paved the way for the formation of the EEC and then the EU, and it has worked.

It is not the case that, because the last war amongst Western European nations was a long time ago, the EU has moved on and that purpose has ceased to have meaning. It is precisely because such a war is so distant in time that the EU is clearly working and still fulfilling the function of making it impossible.

If we are tempted to think that war between major economic powers or “modern” nations today is very unlikely and not a possibility we need to take seriously, who thought eastern/middle Europe would fall apart so violently and completely in the last two decades? And think of Japan, who fought on the same side as Britain in World War 1, but just 21 years later was a principal enemy and fought against Britain in World War 2.

We may appear to have comfortable, stable, safe lives; but look a little further and you will see the world is far more unstable and dangerous than it has ever been. Things can change dramatically and very quickly, and the direction from which war might come is unpredictable.

War has almost always been a facet of British life, not one year has passed since 1914 that Britain has not been involved in armed conflict somewhere. Including today.
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Concerns about migration or our current economic wellbeing seem pretty much irrelevant to a decision over our membership of the EU, compared to opening up the possibility of wars in Europe. We all know the EU has, over the last 20 years, turned into a body representing capital, thus promoting profiteering and privatisation, of which the secretive TTIP deal is just the latest manifestation. But these are things a socialist UK Government can fix, co-operating with others of like mind.

21 years from now puts my youngest Niece at about 40 years old, that’s plenty of time for war to return to Europe. It’s not such a distant possibility, if we pave the way by leaving the EU.

It is more important to me to avoid risking my Niece, her children and countless millions others facing the tragedy and horror of war than worrying about transitory issues that can be solved if there is a will.

Note – ECSC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Coal_and_Steel_Community

 

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Don’t vote to maim and kill Syrian children in my name

 

Bombing Syria will uselessly waste lives. I have written to my MP asking him not vote to maim and kill defenceless children in my name.

“Dear Mr Bebb

I am writing to tell you that, as a constituent, I do not want you to vote on my behalf to bomb Syria.

Air strikes alone will not beat Da’esh Ned there are no ground forces to finish the job. Those forces on the ground are fighting Assad and will not shift to fight Da’esh because we send a handful of aeroplanes. Most regional powers are now bombing Yemen, not Syria, and will not be redirect because we start bombing.

Sending the few ‘planes we can spare (your Government has reduced our forces drastically) will not impress anyone. Our allies will be disappointed and our enemies will be amused.

This is not a re-rub of the Iraq vote. This time everyone knows there is no hidden threat that needs urgent action. Everyone knows there is no coherent plan to defeat Da’esh. Everyone knows bombing will not make Britain safer. So to vote for British air strikes on Syria is to vote to knowingly kill civilians, for no rational purpose.

So please do not vote to maim and kill defenceless children in my name.”

 

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Your holiday snaps may not breach copyright after all – update

Update on my post about your holiday snaps possibly soon infringing EU copyright laws.

Labour MEP, Derek Vaughan has told me the EU committee vote that wanted to take away some of your rights to photograph buildings and monuments has no legal effect.

But the European Commission will propose a wide-ranging copyright reform by the end of this year, but the Labour Party will vote against any amendment which negatively affects the current UK provisions on Freedom of Panorama.

Derek says, “Labour MEPs are committed to ensuring that the Commission, when proposing its copyright reform, takes on board the views of creators, industry and consumers so that we can take forward a copyright system which works fairly for all.”

Any talk of Greece leaving the EU is vindictive and short sighted idiocy

The European Union started in 1951 to prevent more wars.

The European Coal and Steel Community tied industries together and made a common market amongst members, “to make another war was not only unthinkable but materially impossible.” [Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister, 1950]

Britain has maintained its own odd isolation, but most EU countries have continued this goal by forming an Economic Union, in the context of right wing political dominance.
And they decree Greece’s resistance to allowing the plundering of their nation by the profiteers – demanding “austerity” and “re-structuring” – has to be punished, probably by throwing them out of the Eurozone. OK, whatever.

But to even suggest Greece could be forced out of the EU entirely really is the path to disaster, even for the capitalists who run The West.

Look just a little further east and what do we see? An extremist Islamic organisation has already formed its own state in parts of Syria and Iraq, which neighbouring states cannot defeat nor even contain. All that stands between that and Greece is Turkey, an Islamic state that could one day fall to IS. And the EU’s dominant capitalist cadre will have delivered up to IS the eastern flank of Europe.

The EU’s right wing governments need to really think this through. They and the profiteers they represent care nothing for the people of the EU, they are just a source of profit.
But eventually retreat and safety could be impossible even for the very rich.

Labour’s Policy Process needs to be subject to binding votes

Labour’s National Policy Forum elections are due soon. That’s good, we need to be getting on with policy reformulation, so we can offer a real alternative to government by and for the rich.

But if all we do is start the same process again, we will lose again and let down the British people again. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Only one change is needed: to make the policy process subject to binding votes amongst members. We cannot again obediently receive meandering documents on subjects chosen for us behind closed doors, then submit comments that we all know are largely ignored, resulting in a programme bearing little resemblance to the wishes of Labour Party members.

Wanting to subject the Party’s policy process to binding votes will be condemned by the Right as risking showing damaging discord and disunity in public. That is a lie that the Right has successfully employed for decades to allow them to run the Party as a personal fiefdom. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being seen to work out policies by frank and open debate. Making policies in secret and acting as if we need the media’s permission to be elected clearly and emphatically failed.

Blairites, Progress will argue we need to move to the right to capture more Tory voters. That is clearly nonsense, acting like neo-Tories was a big part of our failure in the General Election. We should not again allow our leaders to treat the electorate as if they are fools.

I believe socialists in the Labour Party need to voice a collective demand that the policy process be democratised, so we can get on with the business of forming policies and a programme relevant to the people of Britain.

Don’t blame Scotland for the General Election, blame Labour’s arrogant leadership

There will be a lot of people in other parts of the UK who are very cross with Scotland this morning, and confused that in the independence referendum just months ago they decided to stay in the UK, then they send almost exclusively SNP MPs to Westminster.

It is wrong to be cross with Scotland and there is no need for confusion. Coming from a Welsh constituency probably helps me understand.

So let’s deal with those two points in reverse.

First, the referendum decision was decisive and I am sure the Scottish people did view that as the end of the matter for a generation. That is not the reason for the SNP’s success yesterday, it is not a “surge of nationalism”.

In Wales, we also have a nationalist party, Plaid Cymru (PC). For UK issues, the electorate trusts Labour to represent them. But for Welsh issues, I have repeatedly seen Labour voters voting for the determinedly “Welsh party”, as they see it – albeit mistakenly – which is why PC is so disproportionately strong in the Welsh Assembly.

Rather than trust loyal supporters to understand the socialist arguments for the UK, Labour aligned itself too closely with the Tories over the independence referendum, “talking down” to voters. Then, after the referendum, Labour in London foisted upon Scottish Labour an openly Blairite leader, the clear message being that he would simply march the electors on Westminster to win the General Election.

First a betrayal, then to be taken for granted and just used as pawns in the bigger fight, the Scottish people saw their decision to stay within the UK rewarded by no-one actually listening to their wants and needs.

So the Scottish people have done what I have seen people do in Wales many times, turn to the nationalists as a party which is at least determined to stand up for Scotland. The SNP’s prime objective is as irrelevant to the immediate question as it has been for many decades: they want someone to speak for the Scottish people NOW.

The blame should be placed squarely where it belongs: with a Labour leadership that ignores its members in all parts of the UK when they tell the Party it needs to offer the British people an alternative to – not a watered down version of – the Tories, to stand up for people in the way they expect of Labour.

Blame the Labour leadership who think they have to have the media’s permission to govern, instead of trusting the electorate to embrace policies befitting the Labour Party.

When the people obviously are unhappy with energy, communications and transport companies ripping them off, almost completely unregulated, the answer is not a 15 month electricity prices freeze. When pay is driven down and people forced to accept whatever insecure employment they are offered, the answer is not to raise the minimum wage by 30p a year to 2020. When the NHS is being carved up for privateers, the answer is not to trim back some of the more obvious profiteering.

It is difficult to see how Labour can rebuild in Scotland, but a good start would be to begin to shape policies that offer a real alternative to government for the rich.

Secure web browsing using Hola VPN

There are a number of ways to access sites blocked by your ISP for whatever reason, but a “tunnel” connecting you directly to the site that your ISP cannot observe, by a Virtual Private Network (VPN) looks a more secure option than using a proxy.

Hola is the most straightforward Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution I have found. And Hola VPN also appears trustworthy – or I cannot find anyone who doesn’t trust their assertion that they do not keep logs – and the How-To-Geeks seem have accepted they do not bundle adware (https://discuss.howtogeek.com/t/warning-your-browser-extensions-are-spying-on-you/12394/40).

First, download Hola at http://hola.org/

To use once installed is easier on mobile devices like ‘phones or tablets than desktops, but none are difficult. These are the various steps:

iOS (e.g. your iPad):
Go to Settings/VPN and choose a national server to connect Hola

Android (e.g. ‘phones, tablets):
Use the Hola browser

PC/Laptop (Windows, I have not yet tried Linux):

  1. Click tiny icon (top right of FF screen)
  2. If turned off, click the blazing Smiley image in the small window to start
  3. Select a country
  4. When connected it will say, “Browsing From” and show the national flag
  5. Hover mouse above flag and a text entry box will appear between “Browsing” and “From”
  6. Type the blocked site’s URL in the box and click on the grey hatched globe icon to its right
  7. The site will be unblocked in the main browser window

One other issue:

“System Administrator has blocked this program”, just close the message, then a bit of arm wrestling is needed:

  • In Firefox, click Tools/Add-ons
  • Hola Better Internet will be in the ln the list of Add-ons, Disable and Enable the Add-on (possibly a few times)
  • Hola may spot you Disabling their Add-on and open a window offering to re-download, don’t worry, they don’t know you are about to Enable again!
  • Keep at it and your System Administrator should eventually be side-stepped.

You can test that it works by going to http://www.whatismyip.com/ whilst connected (it will show your location as that of the national server chosen), or just by unblocking sites blocked by your ISP.

Humanity Doomed by Artificial Intelligence?

If you think Terminator was a flight of fancy, think again. It is the future – we have almost certainly doomed ourselves.

We keep striving to develop smarter computers to do more things to make our lives better or to make more money.

The point of Artificial Intelligence is that it allows computers to learn. And there will come a point where they learn that they do not need humans to reproduce themselves and keep learning.

Bill Gates has said he doesn’t understand people who were not troubled by the possibility that AI could grow too strong to control.

Some Sci-fi stories fantasise about giving computers or robots a “harm no humans” fail safe. Advancing AI will probably conclude that is not logical, but how do we ensure control is even attempted?

The pace of advance means it just gets easier and cheaper to get involved in development, which seems very democratic, very inclusive. It also means uncontrolled. Someone, somewhere, will do pretty much anything for money, or because they are socially stupid.

Or controls may not work, or there may be unintended consequences. Imagine a hospital computer told, “humans must be protected from illness.” The best way logically to reduce numbers of humans getting ill might be to have no humans.

Two way time travel was just for entertainment, but apart from that Terminator looks horribly logical.

Professor Stephen Hawkins has said he felt that machines with AI could “spell the end of the human race”.