Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bankrupt Britain - The Next Third World Country

There are few today that would argue with the fact that Britain is bankrupt. The bankers are undoubtedly to blame for that, but in truth UK was bankrupt before the infamous credit crunch. Years of pillaging by a previous governments have left the next generation with a mountain of debt to bear.
When I first arrived on the fair shores of England it soon became evident to me that the country was living far beyond its means. Now I'm certainly no clairvoyant but it didn't take rocket science. Debt was dead easy to get. I was inundated with credit card offers, many who were earning well below my level were taking two holidays a year, new cars, home improvements; it was obscene. Now the chickens have come home to roost.
Five years ago I made the statement that Britain was in danger of becoming the next third world country. Needless to say it was not very well received. However the truth does not cease to be the truth simply because it's unpalatable.
Now I have had the dubious honour of having lived in a country with a thriving economy that was systematically wrecked until it became one of the poorest nations in the world. There is an established blue print that most of Africa has followed on the road from prosperous to treacherous, and I can see the same slow but certain degradation in UK.
The first thing newly independent African nations do, almost without exception is to build a huge sports stadium as a statement to the world of their new found independence. I look at the millions being poured into the 2012 Olympics and wonder whether the same mindset is driving the decision-making process. I have nothing against the Olympics, and I wish our athletes well, but after the event we will be left with under utilised high maintenance facilities that will drain the public coffers for decades to come. This at a time when long-established sports facilities country-wide are being forced to close due to lack of Government funding. These facilities serve the wider community, not only helping to fight the national scourge of obesity, but keeping kids off the streets who would otherwise be up to mischief.
The second milestone on the road to third world status is corruption. Human greed kicks in. We need only look at our esteemed politicians and the ongoing expense scandal to confirm we are well into this phase. They have put UK Plc. into administration. How previous prime ministers who have presided over the destruction of a nation can tour the world getting paid huge fees for imparting the self-same formula to other leaders is beyond me. Why would anyone want to listen to them?
Then there are of course the bankers; another bunch of scoundrels who have seriously endangered the continued existence of UK Plc. with their reckless incompetence by playing with our money and getting paid six figure bonuses for their efforts. Last night I watched some bank chairman smilingly admitting that bankers are paid far too much, that most are really quite mediocre, yet the powers that be shrug their shoulders.
We're now entering the third phase. After corruption comes the collapse of public services, notably health. Now I haven't been following the ins and outs of the new NHS reforms, but it appears evident that it's a huge gamble; too much too quick with too little planning. Time will tell how it pans out. However with or without the reforms we still have super bugs and high hospital mortality.
The fourth phase is high inflation. Inflation is now on the rise; 3.7% and rising, driven up by the high price of essential commodities like oil and food.
The fifth phase, currency devaluation, follows hot on the heels of inflation. The euro is currently under severe threat and Europe wants Britain to use the pound to prop it up. The US dollar as a world currency is under threat.
Finally comes rampant unemployment. Unemployment, especially amongst the youth is now 20%. Where to from here? This leads to a disenchanted electorate and change inevitably follows. At this point in Africa leaders abandon democracy and turn into dictatorships as the only method by which they can retain power.

Congressman Paul Ryan: Ready to Reply to State of the Union

Rising Star
One of the rising stars of the Republican Party is Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. He made a historical television appearance when he and other Republicans were invited to the White House for a discussion on the Health Care Bill. Ryan came prepared with the 2000 plus pages of the bill and notes about many of its policies. The interesting exchange between himself and the President fell just slightly short of confrontational.
Birth Order
If we look at his birth order we find he is a Four/Only Double birth order. Of his three older siblings the closest in age to him is five years older. His father died when he was 16 years old and he was the last child living at home with his mother. As he has said, "It was just the two of us, since my siblings were off in college." As the fourth born he is the true baby in the family but since he spent so many years home alone with his mother he added the power of the Only child to his birth order
Double Birth Order
He realized early in life that you have to work for whatever you want. As the baby in the family this is a very unusual position for the fourth born with no older siblings to help him. All the added power and characteristics of the Only child has been a great benefit. He is well liked and that goes along with his fourth born characteristics but he can also be in your face having no fear of those older or those in power. This is what he gets from the Only side of his Double Birth Order. Look for further confrontations as he can make those in power very uncomfortable. He may be one of the younger congressmen but don't be fooled by his age. We should be seeing a lot more of him in the future.
Reply to the State of the Union
As the Chairman of the House Budget committee he has been selected to respond to the President's 2011 State of the Union address. Don't expect him go easy on President Obama. He will be in your face as a number Four but polite like an only child.

The Difference in the Political System Structure Between Nasser and Sadat

The Egyptian revolution of 1952, which was a coup d'├ętat made by young military soldiers who named themselves "The free officers", it was initially aiming to over throw King Farouk. However, thing ran more smoothly than the free officers thought, they made more political change that just overthrowing the king, they abolished the monarchy and established the republic, and ended the British occupation of Egypt. The free officers, who were headed and founded by colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, chose Mohamed Naguib to be the first president of the Egyptian Republic. However, his reign did not last long due to disagreements with Nasser which lead to his forced removal from office, and put in house arrest. Nasser took power in 1956, the people cherished Nasser, as they saw him as one of them; under his leadership he nationalized the Suez Canal, this even made him more charismatic and loved by the people.
After Nasser's death in 1970, his vice president, Anwar El Sadat took over the power and became the third president of Egypt. Most of the people were disappointed by Nasser's death, and did not think of anyone else who can rule them. So, in his first speech as a president, Sadat promised the people that he will continue what Nasser had started and that he will follow his path. However, later, Sadat took a different path than Nasser's. Sadat is well known for launching the 1973 war against Israel, and for signing a peace treaty with them after the war, which lead to the return of all Egypt's territories which were occupied by the Israelis under Nasser's era. Nasser's and Sadat's regimes are one of the most important in the modern Egyptian history. Their different characters played a great role in shaping the Egyptian political structure, as both of them had absolute powers as presidents. The base of the political structure did not change from Nasser to Sadat, the regime was still authoritarian with absolute power to the president, and however, each one of them used his absolute power in a different way that resulted in a big difference in the political structure of the country. In this essay I will illustrate Nasser's and Sadat's structure of the political system and to what degree they differed from each other.
Gamal Abdel Nasser was the leader who was almost worshiped by his people. He was incredibly charismatic and had a direct relationship with the Egyptian people. He used to always give public speeches that were very emotive and touching. He succeeded to build a common ground between him and the people, in his speeches he always referred to them as his "fellow citizens". Nasser managed to remove the gap between the ruler and the public; this improved his credibility and his legitimacy to the Egyptian nation. Moreover, Nasser was a down to earth, simple person. He did not live in a palace or in a luxurious villa; he had a modest small house. According to the movie Nasser 56, he refused to build a pool for his kids, as he declined to gain any benefits from his position. Nasser gave the low class jobs, houses, health insurance, free schools and land. In addition to, in the 1964 constitution he assigned half of the national assembly seats to peasants and workers. In his political decisions, Nasser used to consult and put into his consideration the opinions and comments of his cabinet; before taking the decision of nationalizing the Suez Canal, Nasser made numerous consults. The political system structure under Nasser was based on the socialist political ideology. Nasser was a socialist; he founded the country's sole political party: The Arab Socialist Union. He was a pan Arab nationalist; he made a short lived union with Syria.
Under his reign, he reformed the economy and made an agrarian reform by distributing land to the peasants. He initiated a centrally planned economy; he had a major nationalizing program that nationalized all the chief sources of income to the country, making the state the largest employer. Although the revolution promised a democratic rule, Nasser was an authoritarian dictator. He attempted to lay the groundwork for democracy, however, democracy is still absent in Egypt till our present day. Nasser owned a monopoly of power, when Nasser noticed the amount of control Abdel Hakim Amer; the chief of the armed force, Nasser striped Amer of his position and appointed himself the chief of the armed force. When Nasser became president, he aimed to put an end to all oppositions, he got rid of all the parties and abolished the Muslim brotherhood, and he established the only party The Arab Socialist Union.
As a result of having absolute power, there was no any legal legitimacy, the president can change the constitution whenever he likes, he changed the constitution 5 times, Nasser made a legal constitutional frame work to maintain and increase his powers. The coercive apparatus had a great role in Nasser's regime which was known for extreme torture for prisoners who might even be imprisoned for no charges. In his era, army soldiers were given the top policy management roles instead of politicians or diplomats. In 1956, after a lot of researches, reasoning and considering the risks, Nasser decided to nationalize the Suez Canal, this is one of the main decisions that people admire Nasser for. Nasser allied with the Soviet Union because he believed that in order to develop the country; it must have a proper army with good arms. Later in 1976, Israel attacked Egypt and took over territories, this incident led to the resignation of Gamal Abd El Nasser, soon after; people demonstrated and rejected the resignation, so Nasser decided to postpone his decision. Despite the Israeli victory in the 1976 war, Nasser succeeded to become a symbol of Arab victory and dignity, even though he could not do all what he promised but people were satisfied that he at least tried. In 1970 Nasser died in office and Anwar el Sadat became the President.
Anwar El Sadat, third president of the republic, was one of the free officers. Sadat's presidency was considered widely among the people that it is going to be short lived, and they assumed that he is merely a puppet of the former president Nasser who is controlled by Nasser supporters. Sadat surprised everyone by taking serious political actions that retained his powers as a president and enabled him to emerge as an independent leader. Sadat was a cunning and clever person, many incidents show that he had a decisive character by which he can reach unattainable goals, and two of these incidents are: his escape from political prison before the revolution, and the tactics of 1973 war that has depended on deceiving the enemy. Unlike Nasser, Sadat initiated a gap between him and the people, he didn't make public speeches, and he preferred talking to groups of people and especially the parliament.
Sadat didn't care to justify his actions, while some actions really needed justifications because they were refuted and considered bizarre, to the people; he can occasionally justify it to individuals who have the capability of seeing and asking him. Another notable difference between Sadat and Nasser, Sadat addressed the nation as his sons, he was playing the role of the god father and he believed that he is more knowing than anyone else. This can be noticed in his decision taking, he was a sole decision taker, and he rarely took advice or a consultant from his cabinet, even in the most serious decisions. For example, everyone was surprised when he stated that he was ready to go and negotiate with the Israelis in the Knesset. Sadat was so full of himself and arrogant, he gained tremendous self confidence after the 1973 war, and the nation considered him a hero. Sadat's ideologies were totally different than those of Nasser.
He was more western oriented he drifted away from the Nasserism by establishing a multiparty system and initiating a liberal economy and the open door policy (Infitah). He changed his political party from the Arab Socialist Union to the National Democratic Party. One of the focal differences between him and his Nasser is that Sadat is far less Arab Nationalist; he was more focused on the well being and the liberation of his own country that he signed a peace treaty with Israel after the 1973 war. Sadat was not in good terms with the Soviet Union, he expelled the soviet actors from Egypt before the 1973 war; however the soviet kept on equipping the Egyptian army with weapons and equipments throughout the war.
After the war Sadat was seen as a hero to the Arab world, but not for a long time, after he declared that he is ready to make peace with Israel, he was seen as a traitor by most Arab countries. Later, Sadat established relations between Egypt and the United States in order to negotiate for getting back Egypt's occupied territories, and he succeeded, and one of his famous quotes were " Russians can give you arms, but only the united states can give you a solution" (Simpsons Contemporary Quotations", p.14).
Nasser established a base political structure during his regime that Sadat inherited. Both regimes were authoritarian and shared the same policies that give the president absolute power and control over the country. What has not changed in both regimes are the monopoly of power to the president, the lack of legal legitimacy, the dependence on the coercive apparatus to eliminate opposition, manipulating the constitution to suite their practice of powers and the one dominant party, even though Sadat reinstituted the multiparty system, other parties acted like pressure groups. However, since the president has absolute power, then the personality of the president is a big deal in shaping the political structure.
As noticed, Sadat was really different in character than Nasser, thus the political system. As Sadat took over the presidency, he started his "Correctional Revolution", he started by purging Nasserites members in the government and security forces, and replaced them by professional diplomats and politicians. In addition to, changing the paths of foreign -domestic policies, economy and ideology; plus the imprisonment of many political forces including many Islamists. Nevertheless, there was more political freedom under Sadat; he took another step towards democracy. The multiparty system gave more space for opposition, which was extinct in Nasser's era. Sadat also gave the press more freedom, unlike Nasser who nationalized and controlled the press.
After 1973 when Sadat launched the Infitah, which is the open door for private investment which encouraged domestic and foreign investment in the private sector and ended the domination of the economy by the public sector, created a wealthier more successful upper class and a smaller middle class, however, negative and violent protests happened after Sadat decided to cut subsidies over basic food supplies, these protests forced Sadat to go back on his decision and reinitiate the subsidies. The Egyptian foreign policy witnessed a dramatic change under Sadat, from the expulsion of soviet actors, to the alliance with the United States. The most important point of change is that Sadat shifted Egypt from the policy of confrontation towards Israel, to a peaceful accommodation through the negotiations that took place after the war of 1973. This change in policy had three critical influences over the modern Egyptian history:
(i) Egypt got back all occupied territories that were overtaken in 1976
(ii) Egypt declared the country of Israel
(iii) Most Arab countries cut relations with Egypt, and Egypt was dismissed from the Arab league.
Finally, the last notable change in the structure of the political system is the long term alliance with the United States, which is still present until today. One of the main benefits of this alliance is that Egypt became one of the top recipients of American aid.
In conclusion, Nasser created a base political structure that has not changed, but it enables the person in power to have full control over the state. The strong base that Nasser built makes the person in power able to build his views and ideologies over it. And that is what happened, Sadat shifted Egypt's path, and we are still living the consequences, but what Sadat has fulfilled was founded on Nasser's base. And what can be concluded is that Nasser built the base of dictatorship in Egypt, and Sadat relied on it. So I can argue that the political system has changed under Sadat, but the form of government remained the same.

Why You Need a Written Campaign Plan

We have all heard the quote "Failing to plan is planning to fail." There may be no other time when it is more true than in campaigns, and yet a large number of candidates never bother to put together a written campaign plan.
Studies indicate that most campaigns without an official campaign plan fail. When there is no written, concrete plan to refer to it sets the campaign up for failure. It becomes very easy to get sidetracked, and not follow through on essential products.
Campaign plans offer several benefits that are essential to keeping the proper focus. It will help create a timeline and benchmarks that will provide a check and balance system. It should answer the tough questions ahead of time so those situations are already dealt with before they arise. It will give structure and job descriptions to the campaign staff and volunteers. It will lay out the strategy, message, and tactics the campaign intends to utilize.
Make sure that you bring together a team of advisors to help you create the plan and brainstorm the creative portions. There should be at least one professional advisor on this team, and preferably that person would be able to steer you on what subjects need to be addressed.
You have to be ready to be very honest about your strengths and weaknesses as well those of your opponent (s). You have to be realistic about fundraising and budgeting expectations and goals. But most of all you should do it as soon as possible. Creating the plan early will help you to focus and start reaching for the milestones that much sooner.
Don't worry about the plan being perfect, it is certainly up for adjustments as circumstances change. Getting the plan written and committing to implementing that plan may be the most important step in your journey to the ballot box.

Peace In Our Lifetime? Maybe - Take a Look at the Data

Much to the chagrin of my end times religious friends who remind me that "wars and rumors of wars" is a sure sign of the apocalypse, there are fewer wars in the world. Not only are they fewer but since the bloody turn of the 19th/20th century, war as a tool to solve problems has been trending downward, rather dramatically.
Yep, it's true.
Make no mistake, there ARE wars in the world as we speak - the Afghanistan conflict, Iraq, Palestine, Sudan, Burundi, Somalia and let's not forget about Columbia. But the onetime regular tool of conflict resolution - fought between two, uniformed, state-sponsored armies - is on the way out. The news gets better. Not only are the big nasty fights that defined World War I and II are gone, but there has also been a significant decrease in the number of civil wars in countries around the world since the early 1990s. This is the news coming from a number of organizations that pay attention to these kinds of things, including the prestigious University of Uppsala Conflict Data Program in Sweden. What we have left are the vestiges of war-like behavior - guerrilla campaigns, insurgencies and terrorism. But then, even terrorism has been trending down, despite the popular media feeds that would make you believe just the opposite. Acts of terrorism have been trending downward since the height of bombings against people in the mid 1980s. During this period of time, the Jewish Defense League, Eco Terrorists and the Columbian Popular Liberation Army were active and deadly. While there were more people killed in the 9/11 tragedy, the trend of terrorist acts have been trending down significantly. These are the latest findings from the FBI National Counterterrorism Center.
Another clear sign that war doesn't have the same power in our lives that it used to: fewer people are dying. According to researcher Milton Leitenberg of the University of Maryland, from 1900 through 1950 over 3.8 million people were killed each year because of wars and conflicts. In 2008, 25,600 people were killed (both soldiers and civilians) total. Not only are there fewer conflicts, they kill fewer people.
Of course, all of this is cold comfort for those who have suffered under the cloud of armed conflict, but make no mistake - there is a change in the way humankind looks at armed conflict, and it bodes well for that dream of world peace that seemed virtually impossible just a few years ago.
How did this dramatic development escape us? Why are we not dancing in the streets?
I'm a J-School graduate, and my professor, Dr. Robert Brown, used to remind me of a basic truth about the human condition: we are instinctively wired to seek out and pay attention to threats to our survival. Call it a gift from our early days on the plains of Africa, but this survival technique helped us escape the saber-tooth tiger and all of the other dangers that threatened our very existence as a species. We still have that programming. So while there may be news about wonderful developments happening around the world, we only pay attention to the ones we perceive as a threat. There is a reason why the dooms day talk show hosts do so well --- as long as they wrap their rhetoric in threats to your survival and your way of life, your instinctive brain sees that information in the same way it sees a Saber tooth tiger, thus the guy who talks about your country going down hill in a handbasket is going to get more attention than the guy who talks about the great things that are happening. The dooms day people have a genetic advantage on their side, not necessarily their glittering personalities. In addition, it's been estimated that ½ of 1 percent of the world's population are doing terrible things. That means the remaining 6 billion people are doing the right thing, yet who commands all of the attention?
I travel extensively around the world, and I have friends that I maintain regular contact with in 15 different countries. The new social media is making it even easier for this to happen. My experience used to be considered exceptional, but now, more than ever, we are connecting with people who live thousands of miles away. Why would we ever want to go to war with someone we're sharing our personal photos and experiences with?
When peace activists, beauty pageant contestants and little children would talk about world peace, it always seemed more like a hope than a possibility. Now, the numbers show that possibility is within our reach.
I am not so naïve as to believe there will not be wars in our future. What I'm saying is that the data is giving us evidence to know that wars are not necessary. People have to choose war.
Chet W. Sisk is author of the new book "Think This, Not That: It's Time To Update Your Conventional Wisdom". He is also founder of the Quality Foods For Everyone program with Whole Foods to bring organic foods to homeless shelters across the US.

NATO Intervention In 1999 In Kosovo Was The Right Thing To Do

The recent report by Dick Marty presented to the Council of Europe (CoE), in which he accuses the Kosovan Liberation Army (KLA) leaders of being involved in organized crime during and after the 1998-99 war, has acted as an impetus for a number of cover stories across international newspapers. The most damning accusations are related to alleged removal of organs from Serb prisoners captured during the war.
Despite the fact that the report presents no concrete evidence that supports the damning accusations, it seems that this is sufficient for certain diplomats to start questioning the morality of NATO intervention in 1999. The lack of evidence, the lack of plausibility, the anti-Albanian connotations and the fact that the accusation coming from Dick Marty seem like a 'copy & paste' job from the Serbian intelligence agency BIA and scandalous made up accusations coming from Serbian prosecution, are another matter that won't be treated in this article.
Even if the accusations regarding the organ removal and murder of prisoners are true, in no way should it bring into question the morality of NATO intervention in Kosovo. Let us not forget the crimes that the Serbian forces, under the command of Milosevic, were committing against the Albanian population at the time. It is an undisputed fact that the NATO intervention put a stop to the conflict which was beneficial for both sides, Serbs and Albanians. Had NATO not intervened, we would have had another ongoing 'Palestinian-Israeli' type conflict in the heart of Europe. Had NATO not intervened, Milosevic would have succeeded in completing his ethnic cleansing plans of getting rid of 2 million Albanian habitants in Kosovo who would probably still be living in camps in Albania, Macedonia and other countries in the region. No doubt this would have led to an ongoing armed struggle by Albanians to reclaim the lost land.
The effect of an ongoing armed conflict in Kosovo lasting for years, would have been felt across the volatile region and even the rest of Europe. For once, humanitarian military intervention was justified and the right thing to do.

Illogical Approach To Snow Removal

Why is it that some municipalities do such a far better job clearing away snow and ice after a storm than others do? We always hear that some areas are much more used to getting snow, so are better prepared. But, if we hear that every time there is snow, year after year, winter after winter, wouldn't it make sense that government agencies that do not do such a good job would learn something from those that do?
Keeping in mind that there are financial and space restrictions to snow removal, I have prepared a short list of items that all municipalities can and should do, if they really wanted to do a better job:
1. Equip all municipal vehicles that are capable, with plows.
2. Anytime there is more than a couple of inches of snow, make sure that "chains" be placed on the rear tires of all buses, trucks, etc., so that they will not get stuck, they will have a far less chance of skidding and slipping, and they can be a help rather than a hindrance to the snow removal process.
3. Have sand placed on as many roads as possible early on during a snowstorm, so that less sticks to the roads, and whatever sticks is easier to plow and remove.
4. Prioritize roads into primary, secondary, tertiary, etc. status, and clear the roads in that order. This does not mean ignoring those roads that are lower priority, but simply that the initial emphasis should be on the primary roads.
5. Declare a snow emergency, and require that, in as many cases as possible, there be no parking, so that the roads can be thoroughly cleaned and plowed. When this is not done, plowing becomes very limited, those cars then clean themselves out making the roads even more limited, and the situation becomes compounded. On primary roads, and on roads that have more than one lane in each direction, it is not okay to only clear one of the lanes. It is one thing to initially do that, but the plowing should be expanded. Tickets and towing should be used with any violators.
6. When the storm ends, plows should immediately be sent to widen roads. There is nothing as dangerous as lanes that all of a sudden disappear.
7. There should laws that are enforced that private plowing should not be permitted to obstruct public plowed roads. Violators should be stiffly fined.
8. Homeowners and storekeepers should be mandated to clear their sidewalks within a maximum of two hours after the end of the snow, when it occurs during business hours, or by the start of business the next day when it is not during that period. These rules must be enforced.
9. After plowing is done, and before it gets far colder overnight, roads should be sanded to prevent dangerous icing.
10. Municipalities must have detailed plans and contingency plans, and these must be made public.
These suggestions are simply the beginning of what could and should be done. Granted, snow removal is costly, but so is the cost of injury due to safety related injuries. How about the economic impacts of not sufficiently clearing roads, and the impacts on business, education, government, etc.
It is not a matter of how much money is spent. It is having a plan, doing a better job, having and enforcing codes and laws, and using some common sense. I guess that's why they say that common sense is often not very common!