Pardon the Idea

Donald Trump recently admitted that he believed, along with his lawyer, Rudy Guliani, that he had the power to pardon himself, in relation to the Russian Inquiry which is currently being carried out by former head of the FBI James Comey, this has brought up the idea, if not the question of a President pardoning themselves and avoiding or evading legal trouble, could it be done?

Could a President, Prime Minister or Head of State avoid scandal or controversy by simply pardoning themselves, by removing the process or suggestion of being treated by the processes of the nation that it occurs in, could a President, as is being suggested; side-step, stonewall or suspend (for want of a better word) the Justice System?

Looking to the current example, Donald Trump is considering the idea of pardoning himself from the Russia Inquiry, which is being run to answer the question of whether there was unwarranted and unacceptable involvement from the Russian authorities in the U.S Presidential Election, which would suggest that the process, which is supposed to be impartial and chaste, was corrupted by outside influence.

So far, the Inquiry has been making headway towards eventually cross-examining, investigating and checking whether or not the President was aware, never mind if he was involved, in the apparent attempts by the Russian authorities to nudge the votes or election in Trump’s favour, never mind the question of whether he knowingly allowed this practise to go on.

To be honest, as an outsider looking in, I consider the notion of a President, the head of a country’s democratic, judicial and executive configuration, willing to pardon himself/themselves (whether this is legal, or even possible), to be wholly unacceptable, the legal process, not only in America but in many countries across the world, relies on the idea of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

The meaning of this is that the judicial system goes into a case believing that a person has to be found to be culpable or responsible for criminal activity, not just that but rather essentially, that said belief has to be in such a way as to be considered beyond a reasonable doubt, so if a President were to pardon themselves, aren’t they really tearing apart the legal framework of the country they preside over.

What kind of a message does this idea, even the mere notion, never mind the thought process behind it, say to the citizens of the country, that the President is above suspicion and therefore the mere suggestion of it is unacceptable or inexcusable, that the Justice System, which in the case of America, has existed in one form or another, for over 300 years, should not or does not have any effect on the figure at the top of the Executive system?

If Donald Trump wishes to go down this road, there is only one example that exists, which wouldn’t really help his case in any way, that example is of course Richard Nixon, the President that resigned after the Watergate Scandal, however, this instance is really a precedent because of Gerald Ford, Nixon’s successor, who pardoned his predecessor, thereby failing the people of the country with the stroke of a pen.

For the notion of pardoning someone exists because they have either been proven to be falsely accused or wrongly convicted, not because the President is either desperate to move the subject and focus on (as it is believed Gerald Ford was) or because the President believes that they have this right, (as in the case of Donald Trump), to pardon yourself before the legal system has had its moment to shine a spotlight on you and determine whether or not an individual is guilty seems, to this spectator, to be inconceivable and rather irrational.

Consider for a moment what Pardoning would do in this instance, as it had done with Nixon, it prevents there being even the slightest suspicion either officially or even allegedly levelled at the

individual involved, allowing them to either be freed of any blame or to avoid liability for whatever the accusation or complaint is.

In the case of Nixon, it was to free him of blame for Watergate, in this current example, it would probably be to free Trump of any culpability with regards to Russian interference in the US Presidential Elections, though this would have two effects, both of which I will detail further into this essay, let me just say at this point, that the mere notion of pardoning before a crime is even suspected seems to be a little hasty.

In all honesty, to pardon an individual, especially if, (as Trump wishes to do), the person does this themselves, not only seems to cheat the Justice System of the country, in this case America, but it also seems to suggest that the President not only is beyond reproach but can also be made to seem like they are.

By simply signing a document which rips apart the idea of a fair trial, the President or the individual responsible seems to be remiss in their duty to serve the people, the electorate of their nation, moving the focus on might have been the reason for Ford’s decision but it did him no favours, as far as public opinion is concerned, so it can only be believed that such an act would cripple Trump’s popularity too.

Imagine if you were a person living in America, facing a criminal charge, you face the legal process, you are tried before a jury of your peers and you are then either found guilty or innocent, beyond a reasonable doubt, then say the jury finds you guilty and you go to prison.

Imagine then hearing that the President of the country, the figure that is sworn to uphold the freedoms of the country and to lead the nation into the future, then pardons themselves from facing a similar legal process, how would that make you feel, how would you feel about the President, better yet, how would you feel about the Presidency, or more specifically the idea of a Presidency, the office and responsibility that goes with this status?

To know that a person, someone you possibly voted for, is now able to dodge or to prevent the justice system that you were put through from trying them, how would that make you feel, then consider that the example I used before was not as, reportedly, straight forward as it appears.

For Nixon is believed to have been disturbed by the pardon that Ford granted him, because he wanted to face his peers, he wanted to fight his case, so really the example I used is not the greatest precedent as it not only wasn’t carried out by the sitting President at the time but it was also unwanted or unwelcome by the individual that received it.

Perhaps then there is no suitable or even discernible precedent for what Trump and his lawyer have suggested, making this external observer believe that perhaps it is unfounded and unthinkable for more than the reasons that I have stated previously, for when Nixon was granted the Pardon, whether or not he wanted it, the people, the citizens of the country didn’t feel it was the right thing to do and disliked not only Nixon but Ford for carrying out such an idea.

Not only this but because Nixon received the pardon, he could not be tried, by any legal means, in relation to his possible involvement or knowledge of the Watergate Scandal and the other issues that arose from this, so the pardon didn’t really help his case either, for now people believe he is responsible, however the Frost and Nixon interviews probably helped settle this matter in one way at least, as David Frost managed to get to the truth and get the former President to admit he had done wrong.

So, if Trump were to go down the route of pardoning himself, it would probably be more damaging, not only to his presidency but his character if he were to do so, rather than face the Russia Inquiry, for at least then he could fight his case, stand his ground and look Comey and his peers in the eye, rather

than avoiding the issue in one regard but forever being tainted by this notion because of it, pardoning himself would probably lead to Trump losing out in the long run.

It is a rather fascinating idea though, beyond whether or not it is both conscionable and legal, though you have to consider if the idea did exist, would Nixon have pardoned himself, would Clinton, if the suggestion of Pardoning themselves exists, would future Presidents do so, then, the question has to be, what would the consequences of such actions be, not only for the individuals themselves but also for the country, it’s legal and judicial system, as well as its executive structure?

On top of this, what would the confidence be like in the Administrative and Constitutional structures of America, if such actions were to be carried out, if they were even possible, what would this do to the USA in the long term, what would this do to any democratic nation or country in their future, if a leader decided that, because they were the Head of State or because they were the executive at the top of the pyramid, they could pardon themselves and wipe the slate clean?

Perhaps in the end it is down to more learned and informed individuals to debate the issue, I simply feel that, in all honesty, it would do far more damage than good to simply evade the systems and processes of a country just because you happen to be the leader of that nation, it would do incredible harm to the standing of not only the office that the individual holds at the time but also to the idea of democracy as a whole.

For if a President or leader feels that they are above the law, then why are they leaders, democracy has it that the people, the electorate are in charge, but if a figure such as Trump were to go ahead and pardon himself it would cripple the idea of democracy, tarnish the Presidency for the future and leave us all questioning why the leader of a nation, especially one as egalitarian as America, would ignore the procedures that the country contains, in order to move the focus away from the suspicion?

This has been an essay on the notion of a President pardoning themselves and the effect this could possibly have on the country they govern, not only at the present time but in the future too.

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A Brexit Recipe

Brexit means Brexit, that is what we were told, okay, it was meant as a way of saying, we are doing what the electorate voted for us to do, yet when it comes to explaining what this will entail, many of us are left in the dark, in short, we don’t know what it will entail, cost or cause, for there will be an effect that this process will bring about.

The entire activity has been a sea of confusion and uncertainty, from the moment when David Cameron, the then Prime Minister, announced the referendum, all the way up to the present day, the vote and its effect has been nothing but a divisive, confusing and muddled mess.

The campaign may be famed for the statement on the side of the coach, though if you were to press anyone about this, they would say that there was no promise that the declaration, made in big, bold white lettering, was possible.

Not only this but the issues that the referendum would affect, were rather overshadowed by the presence and concern over one, giant matter; immigration, now, after the campaign and the dust has settled, the question of the Irish Border, whether it be left as it is or altered to resemble the changed relationship between the UK and the EU, has become a major topic, even how the change would be done has caused debate and uncertainty, whether it will be a Hard or Soft Border, get used to those kind of options, cause there are more of them.

Now however, in the wake of the referendum, there are more subjects beyond Brexit itself, for the NHS, which was believed to come out of the process with more funding, has been repeatedly detailed or declared as being ‘in crisis’, a point I will get to later, the cost of living is another issue that has become a rather uncontrolled mess, but all we hear is that Brexit will be a success, perhaps it will but unless something is done to steady the ship, we will all end up losing out.

Beyond the points above, there is also the matter of what control will be taken back, we were repeatedly told that the main reason to vote to leave the EU, was that we would regain control, we would ‘take back control’, yet now, as the powers of the EU are converted into UK law, the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales, are trying to become involved in the process to help determine what powers will be passed to them, though this is being slowed by the lack of progress being made at the Negotiating Table.

The confusion isn’t limited to the electorate, despite the fact we are being told of the countless types of Brexit we could be getting, Hard and Soft, which makes it sound like we’re boiling an egg, while the most recent one is Diluted, there is a concern that we will be getting a Diluted Brexit, this makes it sound like we’re making fruit juice

The politicians are not any clearer on Brexit either, there are cases of claim and counter claim, one Conservative MP, Jacob Rees Mogg, has even spoken of his fear that the PM is getting mixed information from her advisers and Cabinet, well, the best way to sort that out would be to talk to Theresa May directly, instead of making a big song and dance about it, for every debate, question and issue that springs up, is another step backwards.

In the end we will be leaving the EU, possibly in 2019 but more likely in 2022, we will have to sort out the trade matters with each individual member state of the Union, we will then have to make sure that we support the small businesses that will be walloped by the tariffs, where before they were able to freely trade, before we even consider trying to settle trade deals with the US, our Special Relationship doesn’t mean that we will be able to queue jump, but really, our focus should be at home, before we turn our gaze to whichever countries the government wish to start trading or settle a deal with.

The point that we won’t be paying the EU a vast sum of money every so often, may sound good to the people that voted for Brexit, but we have to consider that, if we now have a surplus of money available, we should give it to the parts of our country that need it, though we haven’t heard much about this mysterious amount of money, if it does exist all the better, if it doesn’t then someone lied somewhere.

I am not one of those people that is suggesting we have a second referendum, yes, there are some who are backing such an idea, we have had the Referendum but that doesn’t mean that the Government has free rein over the decision making process, neither does it mean that we will settle with whatever deal can be cobbled together, for me, I want the talk about ‘getting the best deal possible’, to end and for the chosen few at the Negotiating Table to act on those words.

Enough statements, enough press-bytes, stop talking about what you want to see happen, stop nattering on about it, and act on your belief, more action, more working towards the goals that have been set, the press and the media wait with baited breath for every alteration possible, though it should be the major points that are covered, not the fact that a German newspaper claimed that Claude Juncker said this about Theresa May or spoke about that.

Keep the electorate informed, of course, I’m not saying that we should be kept in the dark until 2022, but don’t do it for every little step, this process already feels like the it is ceaseless, as the Forth Bridge was once known as the never-ending paint job, Brexit is going to continue for another two to three years, it may seem like there is no end in sight but that is only because it is taking forever to even decide when the next meeting will be, the majority voted to leave the EU and, whether or not that is the popular choice, it must be seen as an unalterable decision.

Who knows, in ten years’ time, we may vote to get back into the EU, things change, but as long as the people are kept informed and as long as the representatives in Westminster know what they are doing, then surely it will be for the best, I know, it sounds both cliché and rose-tinted but that’s only because I simply want to see this process come to its conclusion.

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Fake News In Focus

A few months ago, way back in the mists of time, the Daily Mail reported that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had banned the flying of the Union flag for the Queen’s birthday, which was proven to be misleading as, two days later they were forced into printing that they ‘apologise to Ms Sturgeon for the contrary impression given’.

This could be viewed as a latest example of “Fake News”, which has become a news story in itself, especially when we look at the narrative presented on both sides of the recent US Election.  Arguably, fake news has been around for much longer than the recent rise in reported news stories on Social Media. Misinformation and propaganda was an important part of World War II strategy between the Axis Powers and the Allies. Portrayal of the enemy, using words and imagery, were all designed to undermine the opposition.

In the 1980s, there are various examples of Fake News. Due to a lengthy public enquiry into the reporting of the Hillsborough Disaster, questions have been asked about the motives and reporting of the news surrounding this disaster. In 1989, 96 Liverpool supporters were tragically killed during an FA Cup Semi-final at the home ground of Sheffield Wednesday. The horrific events that day were misconstrued, miscomprehended and misreported by certain newspapers who claimed that the blame lay with the Liverpool fans themselves. This caused a huge amount of distress amongst the victim’s families and the ordinary people who had witnessed the tragic scenes on the day.  This is a striking example of “Fake News” and it raises some serious questions on the integrity of printed journalism and regulation of the media. Why do newspapers such as the Sun, The Daily Express and The Daily Mail amongst others keep on making these same mistakes?

The BBC news website also ran the story about Nicola Sturgeon and the Union Jack flag. The main difference here is that the BBC were reporting on the headlines that were being printed by the aforementioned newspapers. Arguably, perhaps we can see why there is some mistrust of the BBC amongst some people in Scotland. By publishing these stories on their website, they could be seen to fan the flames of the narrative that the First Minister of Scotland is so anti-union that she choose to ban the flying of the Union Jack on Public Buildings. Ms Sturgeon for her part claimed that this was “ridiculous”.

The BBC Charter details that the Corporation remain impartial at all times, especially with regards to news reports. In the main, the BBC continues to be viewed, by the majority at least, as an unbiased broadcaster. The same cannot be said of the printed press, for there is no overall Charter to regulate them. Like the broadcast platforms, there is a watchdog tasked with overseeing the output of the individual organisations, the Press Complaints Commission, however, according to the Leveson Report, published in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal in 2012, the P.C.C was ‘unfit for purpose’, the Independent Press Standards Organisation replaced this overseer in 2014.

So, beyond the IPSO, it seems that the main decision to publish a story is left with the Editor, and this exposes the main flaw with regards to the running of a story in a newspaper. Whether the bias is Left or Right, the outcome is arguably the same and if a “Fake News:” story suits the narrative of the Editor and the newspaper owner then it could be argued that “Fake News” will continue to the be the story in itself.

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Debating the Dead Donkey

Is it possible to have a political discussion without being divisive, insulting or insensitive, the art of open and fair conversation is something that I feel is being lost, there are guilty parties in this:

The Media: How things are reported can inform opinion and details subjects, the two recent major votes that this country experienced, both the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum and the recent Brexit Referendum, proved that reporting on a subject can affect the aftermath, it can have consequences and it can influence opinions.

A familiar example of this would be the found in the latter democratic process, for a headline: ‘Enemies of the People’ wouldn’t exactly be a nice, light or fluffy way of describing three judges that ruled on the case that Gina Miller brought against the government, their verdict that ‘Parliament must be consulted before the Government could trigger Article 50’ was received by the Daily Mail like they had just declared democracy as a dead process.

It smacked of overreaction, the judges had carried out their job, resolving to make a finding on the case, the result obviously wasn’t received well but the point is, they did what they were there to do, to reach a verdict on a court case that had been brought to them.

Gina Miller, the woman that had brought this suit to the High Court, also received hostile, aggressive and disheartening treatment, not only by certain sections of the media but by Trolls on the Social Networks, she had brought this case forward to ensure that Parliament was consulted, a point that the government wasn’t originally going to do, the result being that they were.

So, why the astounding headline, it didn’t change the result, we are still working our way through the Negotiations, we are still going to be leaving the EU, which is probably what the Daily Mail want, so why did they throw the dummy out of the pram, ‘Enemies of the People’ a headline like that isn’t a mistake made in the press, it is a deliberate and gut attack on the three judges.

Though attacks are something that we are sadly used to nowadays, for in the former example, the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, the idea that, to quote V from ‘V for Vendetta’ – Words will always retain their power, was proven, quite spectacularly so, for during the campaign words were used, hurled almost, from one side to the other, insults, abuse and name-calling could be found online, whereas out in the real world, the BBC came in for criticism, the vanguard of the condemnation received was the (at the time) Political Editor: Nick Robinson.

The BBC was seen as being biased and unfair, as weighing the campaign and the entire period in favour of the Better Together Camp, this did not sit well with certain sections of the YES campaign, who believed that the BBC was showing its Unionist colours, protests, complaints and insults flew, though the Corporation wasn’t the only thing that received such treatment, it seemed that if a celebrity came out and declared their intentions, either For or Against Independence, they received criticism too, sometimes harshly so.

Words, the verbal weapons that they became, tainted the debates and corrupted the discussions, though the main words used, to describe the two campaigns either revolved around the words Unionist and Nationalist or Unionist and Separatist, even the word ‘Patriot’ came in for denigration.

Though this seemed to be just the start, for as the campaign ended and the result was declared, dissatisfaction rose; one of its major outlets were the Social Media platforms that were used in later votes, though a side effect of the result was the membership of the SNP sky-rocketed, it is now the third biggest party, by membership, in the UK.

So, what can be done, unfortunately, it seems that not a lot can be, for the idea that debate is a neutral and friendly way of getting your point across, for me, is dead, taking part in political discussion has now left some people unwilling, others exhausted by the recent onslaught of votes and the rest disinterested, when I watched the debates that were staged by Sky News, the BBC and STV during the examples I have used, all you heard were the same points used repeatedly (in 2014), representatives shouting over each other (both times) and claims that would later be found to be nothing more than wasted propaganda (the Brexit referendum).

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to the new political landscape, debate is dead, political discussion is a minefield and politics has become increasingly personal or intense, so where we go from here, well, its hard to say….but it shall be different from what we are used to.

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The Paradise The Taxman Forgot

The recent, actually so recent the papers’ ink is still wet, leak of the 13.4 million files that relate to a law firm and corporate services provider, who together operated in over 7 jurisdictions under a single name of Appleby, well, this is the bulk of the papers, though the others are relating to over 16 corporate registries, which are maintained by the governments within these locations.

The papers themselves cover a vast period of time, over 60 years, since the leak has been announced, the names of several well-known or high ranking figures have been floated around in connection with offshore accounting, here in Britain it seems that even the Queen’s Estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, has stored or invested money in the Cayman Islands.

Files within the leak show that Her Majesty’s Estate, let’s be clear about that, Her Majesty’s Estate, has held and still holds investments via funds that have financed a myriad of companies, including BrightHouse, which was recently in the news for reportedly exploiting thousands of poor families, the Duchy has admitted that it was clueless to the apparent investment it made to BrightHouse until these papers were leaked and the numerous media organisations approached the Duchy.

Critics are likely to ask why the money would be stored or even sent there in the first place, some even detailing that the Duchy has brought the Queen’s ‘Reputation into Disrepute’, this is an astounding turn of events but it is still developing, so, there could be more to come from this.

Beyond the Sovereign’s estate, others have been drawn into this web of intrigue, there is nothing to suggest investments or storing money in this way is illegal, however, it is probably more the shock of such a large swathe of figures, business owners and political individuals being caught up in this leak that has caused such a reaction.

Alongside Her Majesty’s Estate, the following companies and people have also been caught out by this leak (reference: The List of Others):

  • Tax Avoidance has been linked to massive companies like Nike and Apple.
  • Hundreds of Millions in investment have been traced back to online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, the source of this financial support, Russian State Financial Institutions.
  • Lord Michael Ashcroft, the former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.
  • Stephen Bronfman: Chief Fundraiser and Senior Adviser to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, which will probably leave him with a few awkward questions, but none more so than the last of this grouping.
  • U.S Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: He is said to have a stake in a company that receives substanial payments from Vladimir Putin’s Son in Law, a link to Russia at this divisive and difficult time could be the death knell for Mr Ross.

This leak comes only a year after the Panama Papers, a larger dump of files and documents which proved how some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful hid their money, legally, this is the thing that causes me a headache.

There is nothing to suggest that what the people mentioned in either the Panama or Paradise Papers have done is illegal or wrong but, try explaining that to people struggling to cope, striving to make a living and paying out more money than they are either earning or saving, its true that there is no law against what has occurred, so far, but it is rather more of a moral issue than it is a legal one.

People pay tax, this is a contribution to the country, a way of ensuring that when you say ‘I pay my way’ you actually do, so, if people who are struggling to pay, hear that the rich and successful are finding ways to save or store money in Tax Havens, thereby not paying the same amount of tax, then there would be questions that the majority would like to ask.

Why. This would probably be the highest up the list.

I don’t want to get into the whys and wherefores of such thinking, rather I would prefer to state what is, to those who understand the system, obvious, the difference between Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance.

Tax Evasion: This is the ILLEGAL way that people use to avoid paying taxes, this is done by not reporting income, reporting expenses that are not legally allowed or by simply not paying taxes owed.

It is most commonly associated with income tax evasion, however, businesses can practise this on all the taxes it owes.

Tax Avoidance: This is the legitimate way of minimizing taxes, this is by the use of methods, such as schemes or tax havens, that allow a person or company to pay a lesser amount of tax but still pay towards it, avoidance does not mean a complete dodge of the money that is needed to be paid, it just means that they pay a less amount.

Have we cleared that up, yep, okay, let me put my belief as bluntly as possible, I have explained the difference but really, to me, Avoidance is just finding fancy ways of dodging the Taxman, HMRC, IRS or whichever sector deals with this, depending on where you are, we all pay it, so why should some dodge this by paying a lesser amount.

It’s like going to a pub and you paying full price, while the next customer says that they have a scheme they can pay a part of the cost with, they get the drink and are morally bankrupt, while you are charged full price and are financially poorer.

That’s my way of looking at it, so, its my opinion and therefore it should not be taken seriously, as the disclaimer displays, an opinion such is this is just a viewpoint, a minor, ineffective and insignificant viewpoint, so, read this and take whichever opinion you wish, freedom is a wondrous thing.

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Democratic Snakes and Ladders

Recently, it seems that democracy itself has come in for a difficult time friends, it is the way that the majority of us live our lives, we are citizens, by and large of democratic states and with that come certain freedoms, the freedom of speech, the right to vote and the freedom of expression but one of these freedoms, for a certain region in Spain, was apparently and recently, undertaken illegally.

On October 1st of this year, the people of Catalonia were told that there would be a vote, a referendum on independence, a minority of them took this opportunity to carry out their democratic right, the vote obviously went the way of independence, which was later….nearly declared, for just hours after the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona made the decision clear, the Spanish government in Madrid approved new powers to take the Catalan region into its fold, direct rule was approved, though this was not the point that shocked me it was the parts before….

On the aforementioned date, the Spanish government, who for weeks beforehand had declared the vote ‘illegal‘, such an idea was astounding to me, a vote is illegal, a democratic right, a point that people have enjoyed for decades, lifetimes and generations, democracy itself has been around, in one form or another, since the Ancient Greeks.

So, how can a vote be illegal, well, that’s for others to debate and discuss, to me, to deny a population within a democratic nation the chance to vote is rather contradictory, though the Spanish government went one step further, they sent Spanish police into Catalonia, on the 1st of October, to stop the vote from going ahead, the images of which have been shown, repeated and displayed to audiences far from the nation that is currently struggling to recover and return to normality.

Since that point, the result has been denounced, the government in Catalonia has been disbanded and the police force in the region is now under the direct control of Spanish law enforcement, the way I talk about this, you would think that this was some kind of war, that Catalonia was a neighbouring country, though in a way, this would have been true if what has happened there, happened in the UK in 2014.

Imagine that for a second, Scotland, specifically, Holyrood declares that it will hold a Referendum on Independence on the 18th of September 2014 and Westminster replies by stating that this vote, this action is illegal, Holyrood continues, Westminster sends English police officers into Scotland to ensure that the vote doesn’t go ahead, a certain amount of the population does vote and the result is announced, Holyrood declares Scotland independent and Westminster dissolves Holyrood.

Now, obviously the scale is far greater than the situation currently happening in Spain but its a similar concept, this would be considered unthinkable, so why is Spain getting to do this, Catalonia may be a region but I fail to understand how a vote can be illegal, that would be the case in a dictatorship or a country that doesn’t consider itself democratic but Spain is, so, well now they have to reap the whirlwind of what they have done, the people of Catalonia are in limbo right now, they don’t know if Barcelona is in charge or Madrid.

Today is the first true day of Spain’s direct rule in Catalonia but it seems that the ousted Catalan government aren’t willing to leave their offices or positions, the Catalan Vice President, Oriol Junqueras, stated in a Catalan newspaper this weekend:

“We cannot recognise the coup d’etat against Catalonia, nor any of the anti-democratic decisions,”

So it would seem that the confusion and disarray will endure for a while to come, though it is the event itself that has caught this writer off-guard, I mean, a vote being declared illegal, the scenes on the 1st of October of clashes between Spanish police and civilians in Barcelona, the chaos that followed Spain’s decision to implant direct rule over the region and the uncertainty surrounding the future of this district of Spain.

It would be quite an amazing story if it wasn’t for the fact that it has actually happened, what occurs next however, well, that’s anyone’s guess, people with better understanding of the situation for one, as, like with the US Presidential Election, this writer is nothing more than a witness to the events in Spain.

Added Point: Hello friends, for the first time, I have to add points to a post I have made, mainly because this story, this situation is in flux and is changeable but also because what happened yesterday, the actual day I posted this, is quite striking, or maybe stunning is a better word to describe this.

Yesterday, (30/10/2017), the Spanish Prosecutor, Attorney General Jose Manuel Maza, declared that charges, including sedition and rebellion, were being brought against the former leadership of the Catalan government, now, I don’t want to make an obvious point here but when I heard this announcement on television, I was amazed, what century is this, the 21st or the 15th, Sedition, which is basically inciting others to rebel against lawful authority, though can also be the subversion of a constitution against the government.

This is Spain re-affirming its control over Catalonia, with charges now being brought against the ex-hierarchy, workers ignoring calls for civil disobedience and pro-independence parties agreeing to take part in an election scheduled for December, it would seem that the Independence that was announced has been renounced, that normal service, or at least a replacement government service is in operation and the country is continuing, though this event, this episode is far from over, the end of Catalan devolution, however temporary, means that the Spanish government have contained what was a secession from their rule, though they will have a bit of trouble getting the former Catalan leader, Carlos Puidgemont, who has apparently fled to Belgium, what he will do from there is anyone’s guess, there are rumours that he could set up a government in exile but what effect this could have is described as being minimal.

Independence is a concept that countries rarely achieve through democratic action, so to have two Independence Referendums in the space of three years, (Brexit isn’t technically independence.), the democratic act is rather surprisingly either rejected (like in 2014), or shut down from the overseeing Government (presently).

Democracy, it is a matter that many take for granted but when it leads to scenes like on October 1st and the sweeping reclamation of the Catalan region over the past few days, the question has to be, when does Democracy become illegal, when does voting become criminal, consider for a second the boycotted election in Kenya, which has seen a 90% return for the President of that country, (this being because his main rival asked his supporters to ignore or boycott the vote), then consider that, despite the minimal percentage in the Catalan vote, how lucky it is that we have that undeniable and chaste right.

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Are We There Yet?

Hello friends, today, with little surprise, I will be discussing the issues that have arisen from the Brexit negotiations, you can probably guess why I named this article what I did, cause it seems that we are getting no further forward or back, like walking in treacle, no real progress is being made, now, both sides will probably blame their opposite numbers but I fear that the truth of the matter is as follows.

Cast your minds back to when the Brexit vote, the referendum was about to occur, what subjects were talked about; was Trade important, how about our future relationship with Europe, even the individual, independent nations within this continent, for each will want different things, perhaps travel was discussed, what would happen when you went on your holiday, no, maybe export or import issues, not so much trade, actual movement of freight and items over borders…?

No, what was discussed, what was the Primary and Overwhelming subject of discussion, IMMIGRATION, more specifically, the movement of people, for there is a belief that if we leave the EU, then the flow of migrants into our country will miraculously and instantly stop, others feel that we will lessen the effect that immigration is apparently having on our country.

There is of course the famous, or should I say, infamous statement, one about the NHS and the fact that if people voted to leave the EU, that the Health Service will receive £350 Million because this is the amount we send to the European Union, well, not a day after, barely hours after the vote had been decided, the idea was rubbished and even rejected, despite there being a massive, multi-wheeled platform presenting this, the bus that had displayed this idea suddenly disappeared.

Now, with the Negotiations apparently underway, a bill has arisen, one that outshines the promise above, for there is a tab to pay before the UK leaves this particular pub, the EU would like us to pay 100 billion euros, which is £80 billion, before the departure will be accepted, so, let us do some basic maths, £350 million – £80 billion, oh look debt, how do you do debt, we weren’t told about you….

Theresa May has also said that we will be a part of the Single Market until at least 2021, maybe 2023, this is incredible, for a simple vote that Nigel Farage decreed should be remembered as the UK’s version of ‘Independence Day’ this is turning into ‘Groundhog Day’, the sheer volume of details and issues that are needing to be dealt with and I haven’t even gotten to the two most pressing issues, Democratically speaking, for there is a point that if the EU and the UK cannot agree at the end of this two year deadline, then, there is a feeling that No Deal is better than a tainted deal…

I am more of the feeling that a Deal, if it is beneficial to all and not favouring either, then this is better than walking away with no set guidelines or promises over future issues with the European Union and the numerous member states within it, in short, if there is a Deal at the end then there is a chance that it may be advantageous for both, though this is a small chance, even hope, there is still a glimmer.

However, the Deal/No Deal situation is rather stymied by the fact that the UK government has already said there will not be a vote on this ‘Deal’, why not, we entered into a democratic process, the Brexit vote is not the be all and end all, there should be further chances for the electorate to express their right to vote, especially considering, at the end of the day, it will affect people from all walks of life, no matter who you are.

Moving along the democratic issue, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devolved Parliaments, governments and administrations, yet there has been little chance for these countries to get their say on these issues, suffice to say, if there are any powers that should be devolved to the countries mentioned, then, there is simply no way of knowing if we are to receive these promptly or eventually, then we come to the cherry on this particular cake, not so much a democratic issue as a matter of contention, for the Irish border will be, when Brexit is completed or even confirmed, will be a crossing point between a member of the United Kingdom and a part of the European Union.

There are questions over whether or not a hard border should be placed there, I question the reason why, if there was to be a physical border between these two parts of the Emerald Isle, then this would allow flashbacks or bad memories of the ‘Troubles’, it may even stir up the issues that led to this time, though, there is a secondary point, the Irish border is not straight, it meanders, curving and snaking its way across the country, from Belleek in the West to Warrenpoint in the East, the border cuts through towns, runs near to others and seems to encircle one point close to Wattle Bridge.

The point I am trying to make is that if a hard border were the way to tell where Northern Ireland begins and Eire ends, then there would be difficulty in managing such a construction, towns would be sliced apart and, as mentioned, memories of the Troubles would be there for all to see.

Brexit is going to be a massive issue for the coming years, which is why I was surprised to find that at the recent Labour Party Conference in Brighton, no time was given over to this matter, there were claims that it was discussed in other parts of the conference but to host a gathering of the party that is, according to Jeremy Corbyn, “Ready for government” and not discuss this pressing, vital issue, seems a bit foolish, it is ongoing and will be for the next few years but to not discuss it, is to suggest that it does not matter, it clearly does, though I will wait and see what the Conservatives do with Brexit as a topic of discussion at their party conference before I go into any more detail about how I feel about ‘Mainstream’, major parties avoiding the topics, points and matters that count, are significant and, beyond all else, will probably help secure their right to govern this country.

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Difficulty In Understanding

It is time my friends, time to discuss an issue that is close to my heart and, rather unlike the rest of the blogs I have been posting on this site, less politically motivated than the others, for this matter goes beyond simple persuasions, ideologies and beliefs, it is something that everyone will have experienced in some form through their lives, though most will probably accept it as part of life, there is a point when the point is less palatable.

I am talking dear friends of Division, not in the mathematical sense but rather in the consideration of human life, for we have simple ways of separating groups of people, gender, race, culture, but really there should only be one division visible, those that feel we need to be divided and kept apart against those that feel we should live the life we have been given, for however long, without feeling as though we should consistently be neatly pigeon-holed as one thing or another.

Now, the reason this particular issue is close to my heart, as well as being a point that is less palatable, is that I, like many others in this world, have a sibling that has learning difficulties and, although the majority treat my kin with the respect and consideration that people would expect, others, less thoughtful, don’t, they just see someone that is….in one divisive word…..’different‘.

Now, this is a very plain but ultimately blunt word, it is used as an insult when really it just describes obvious stuff, I mean, if you put a dandelion next to a daffodil you would say that they are dissimilar, however, that is not insulting because it is obvious that these two flowers were not the same, now, consider, growing up, as probably some of you already know to your experience, with someone that has learning or physical difficulty (I refuse to use the word disability as this attributes a lack of something when really there is no deficiency.) and you hear, from time to time, the word ‘different‘, I think you would be forgiven for developing a dislike for that word and the type of people that use it against your relative.

However, this will not help the long term issue, for if you develop a hatred for such a point, then this leaves the matter unresolved, these people, whoever they are, children or adult alike, will go on in life thinking that they can be this thoughtless and small-minded, they will not consider that what they are really doing is making them look like they have the difficulty, rather than the person they are targeting, though I am sure you will agree, dear friends, that the major point here is that if you simply single out someone for being different, then you are failing to understand that this is not important…in the grand scheme of things.

Consider, we are born, given a vague, even fleeting amount of time on this planet and have within that time to experience as much of life as we can, would you accept that being trapped in a bullish state of mind where you split people into groups or target someone for being different isn’t exactly the best way to spend your time on this planet, I would, hence why I am writing this, because I, like so many others, have had to grow up and watch negative and narrow minded individuals attack (physically or verbally), as well as target, isolate and set apart my relative not because of the colour of their skin, their religion or their culture but because of how they are….

Divisions come in many forms but here is a thought, there is one simple thing that defeats all of those points that are used to separate us, underneath the skin, beyond our individual divergences, consider, we have one heart, one life, one existence, so, with the idea of unity, there is one overriding and possibly overwhelming thought to consider, in lieu of the many different ways we can be separated, we can be united by the notion that we are here only once, we have this ONE chance to live a life, so to those that are fearful of being different or to those who have been targeted in the past for being different, live your life how you wish to, we all face a certain amount of opposition or criticism for being dissimilar, be yourself, whatever that means to you, be it and live your life as you want to, that’s what I have learned from my sibling because, no matter how negative the world seemed to be towards him, he never allowed it to affect him and in fact, I have learned to be more confident thanks to my relative’s determination, spirit and carefree attitude, so, follow the path you want to be on don’t let others tell you how to live your life or why you should live it a certain way, be as you want and do what you wish (within reason obviously, this isn’t condoning crime or anything like that), be yourself.

Simple as that really, be yourself.

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Brexit Breakdown

This madness dear friends, it is too much for this writer to bear any more, how, how can we not simply make this whole process, which we are repeatedly told ‘is happening’ easier, we seem to be going into this with our eyes closed, like we’re standing on the edge of the abyss, one foot hovering over the void below, eyes closed and the only thing we say before we fall is ‘Here goes’.

As you can probably tell, the lengthy break in writing that preceded this post is because I had had my fill of Brexit and its Negotiation shambles, I mean, both sides are niggling, there is no real action, no real progress happening, leaving the businesses, people and interested parties watching this debacle in limbo, it has been a few a struggle to get to even this point but the issues that will be affected by this situation, by and large, remain unanswered, for example, the Irish border, for when the EU and the UK become ‘divorced’ the country across the Irish Sea is threatened, once again, to be divided by this action.

‘Hard Brexit’ supporters want a hard border between the EU Ireland and the UK Ireland, basically between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, though critics have decried this idea as being a reminder of the times that the country went through, in recent history, where division led to bloodshed, the hard border therefore would simply be two steps away from the checkpoints that used to be positioned on the line between the two nations.

Though, like in Scotland, the border between one country and its neighbour is unclear, so placement of a Hard Border could stir up feelings of being fenced in, separated…this would only bring hostility and aggression, though the issue doesn’t stop there, for if there was no border, then movement would have to be regulated, as it will in Dover, Calais and every airport on either side of the English Channel, the free movement of people, one of the main pillars of the EU’s existence would be brought into question.

Beyond this, the question of power has arisen, for the EU oversaw different industries and sectors, from Agriculture to Fishing, these are major points for the devolved governments of the UK; Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, so issues are being raised about how and when the required powers would be given to the devolved administrations, a meeting is planned for today between UK and Scottish Ministers to try and answer the matters that have arisen from this, though this is yet another issue that threatens to cause a bumpy road ahead.

For, like with the ‘hard/soft border’ question in Ireland, the question of power being devolved to the administrations that would need these, has brought out arguments and criticism, mainly about the way that this issue has been handled, for a process that is supposed to take two years, it seems that the time-scale is becoming less accommodating and more asphyxiating, though this was pointed out that two years is quite a short amount of time, it is, its even less when the time is wasted throwing points to and from Brussels, the negotiating groups spend more time talking about discussions than they do at the negotiating table itself.

Time is running out, like watching an hourglass trickle its sand down the narrow gap, we are all watching the grains rush through and fall into a black void of uncertainty, for if the time runs out, when the country is no closer to a deal that suits both sides, then it’s like the Crystal Maze, when time runs out, the country will be locked out, trapped with whatever points it has.

For here is an issue beyond all of those that have arisen so far, beyond immigration and imports, beyond devolved powers and hard/soft borders, the point remains that making a deal with the EU rests on the negotiating group managing to appease the member states of the EU, there are 22 Member states of this alone, so the deal would have to be fitting enough for each state to agree to this, in the remaining time there is, this seems like an impossible task, so only time will tell, though the media will be waiting, the City of London will be poised, the businesses of this country, the devolved governments but above all else, those in the firing line of this deal will be watching, the people of this country, no matter if they voted to Remain or Exit the EU, it will affect all of us, which makes me feel, honestly, anxious….

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Public Sector Pay Thaw

Promises friends, that is what this topic will be focused on, mainly the promise by the Conservatives, who apparently won the past election, to increase or at least end the pay freeze for the Public Sector, now, for those who don’t know, the following fall under this heading.

Police, Fire and Ambulance Service, the NHS on the whole, Royal Mail, Local Governments, Government Agencies and of course, the military.

So, how long has this pay freeze lasted, well the 1% pay freeze has existed since 2013, now, here is the issue in microcosm, the majority of the jobs in the Public Sector, they are community based work, like the police, fire and Ambulance Service, even the Royal Mail could be considered to be community work, though for talking sake let’s stick to the emergency and security services.

Imagine, you are charged with protecting, saving or defending life, whether you are a police officer, paramedic or firefighter, yet you have, for the past four years, been paid at an increasingly ridiculous rate, for the job that you do, is this fair?

Well, as far as this commentator can see, no, if we expect our way of life to be protected from injury, fire or harm then we should not treat those that do these thankless jobs like they don’t matter, which is how it appears they are being seen.

I am not aiming this issue at just the ruling party, Labour would and will get the same treatment if they ever get back into power, this is not simply a problem for the majority party in Westminster, it is a cross party, cross benches issue, that these individuals, who go into fight fires, fight crime or fight for a person’s life, should be given a wage that allows them to have a life outside of their job.

I foresee this being an issue that will either be resolved quickly or continually passed off from one government to the next, though there is one thing that could bring this issue to the fore.

Northern Ireland, for, as I had believed back when I had written about the deal between the DUP and the Conservatives, the administration of Stormont continues to be empty, the gates locked and the two power sharing parties locking horns with each other, neither willing to give ground and each fighting for what they believe is the right way to rule.

This issue threatens to keep Stormont’s gates locked tightly for the foreseeable, though, as an outsider, I can only comment on the issue that I feel has caused this problem to become as tough as it is, simply, the deal, the £1 billion deal with the Conservatives, to keep them in power basically, will see the argument roll on for a long time to come.

In other news, with the world seemingly going to hell in a handbasket, the issue of immigration has been thrust into the headlines once more, despite the fact that it has been continuing, unabated, since the last major headline about it, refugees are once again risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean, being the victim of either smugglers, who abandon the boat, the flimsy and un-seaworthy rafts that they use, at the littlest hint of authority.

Leaving these people, who have risked EVERYTHING, in the hopes of a better life, to the kindness or cruelty of the sea, deaths have been reported, lives lost, though now, with the numbers increasing and with the amount of people apparently at its highest since this crisis first began, Italy is crying out for assistance, it has determined that it no longer can cope with the sheer volume of people trying to reach its shores.

The only problem is, who can step in to help, the Royal Navy are regularly involved there, so do they increase their presence, do other countries fall in and help out, what is to happen is anyone’s guess but the only thing that should be at the heart of this problem is the humanity, these are civilians, people who have abandoned all they knew, all they had and everyone close to them, in order to either survive, exist or simply endure somewhere else.

The problem of finding a new home, that is for more learned people to debate, for these civilians, they simply want to get away from whatever harm, threat or hazard forced them to run, whether it be famine, war or disease, the voluntary rush to find new hope, it is at its highest point ever, with no signs of the numbers abating….

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