The British S/he Post Mortem Crisis

 

New Crisis in British Prisons

by Mustang       (Our man on the beat in the UK)

 

From the Daily Mail, it has been reported that 20% of deaths inside women’s prisons were … wait for it … men.  Wow.  As far as problems go, it doesn’t get more complex than this.  My first unanswered question was, why are these people dying?  No, that isn’t what this article was all about.  It was all about understanding the “unique problems of transgender inmates.”  And then I learned that men dying inside women’s prisons is a statistician’s nightmare.  How on earth can any respectable prison statistician analyze data when no one is quite sure whether an inmate is a he, or a she?

The British prison system is grappling with the problem right this instant.  According to advocate Nicola Williams of Fairplay For Women (no, Peter, not foreplay for women), it’s impossible to tell what’s going on.  “Political correctness must not lead to women and transgender inmates having distinct needs ignored,” she said in an interview.

Right.

Between 2016 and 2018, there were 23 deaths of women in UK prisons.  Four of these women were men.  Personal note … and I’m not sure I can speak English any plainer than this: if four were men, then they weren’t women.  Two of these “women” were born men.  One of these had no previous diagnosis of gender confusion.  The last fellow must have been a very efficient scam-artist.

It is true that our world is becoming increasingly more complicated, and this problem within British prisons may be a truly complex.  On the other hand, it is also possible that prison managers are making the problem more difficult that it need be—as some things are actually quite simple.

Stephen Wood/ Karen White

Stephen Wood was convicted of raping women on two separate occasions; changing his name to Karen White doesn’t make him a female, but that’s what he did, and that’s how he ended up in a woman’s prison.  No matter, Stephen/Karen was found dead in his/her cell, so the problem now is a statistical one: how does the statistician classify Stephen/Karen in prison records?  It is true that Stephen pulled off a masterful trick in avoiding men’s prisons where rapists become butt-boys for other inmates; what we don’t know is whether Stephen/Karen “self-identified” as a lesbian.

Presently, the United Kingdom is holding 139 “transgender” prisoners … half of these are in prison for having committed sex crimes.

I know, I know.

 

Mustang has other great reads over at his two blogs – Thoughts from Afar

with Old West Tales and Fix Bayonets

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Prince Harry’s Wife Meghan Motivates ‘Sex Workers’

 

Thank Goodness

by Mustang    (Our man on the beat in the UK)

 

The Americans are not alone in the world of the bizarre.  True, we have Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AO-C), and one might conclude that, from a political perspective, we’ve reached the outer limits of the Twilight Zone.  But joining us there is our British cousins, led by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.  Well, she’s not actual royalty … only married to someone who is.  Meghan is (ugh) one of us —and someone who looks disturbingly similar to AO-C.

 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

 

Rachel Meghan Markle, aged 37-years, is a “retired American actress” who became a member of the British royal family upon her marriage to Prince Harry.  Until recently, Harry was one of my favorite characters in London.  I have no idea what he was thinking when he popped the question and now, he’ll spend the rest of his life waking up next to an AO-C look-a-like.  It will be hell on earth.

I won’t suggest that Meghan is a flake—only that she’s about two bubbles off plumb.  Markle-Mountbatten-Winsor recently demonstrated this when she dispatched personal messages to sex workers by writing notes on bananas.  It gives a whole new meaning to the term “mentioned in dispatches.”  She inscribed nothing deep, you understand —only motivating: such messages as “You are special,” adding little hearts on either side.  Well, she’s right about that.  Sex workers are special.

Duchess Meghan was inspired, she said, as a by-product of Michelle Obama’s school lunch program where an unidentified woman wrote empowering words to children … as if getting a free meal wasn’t enough.

 

Michelle Obama’s school lunch program

I honestly don’t know what more I can say about this … other than sending bananas (as opposed to oranges) along to sex workers has an odd ring to it.  I do not have personal knowledge of all Meghan’s messages, of course … but could concoct a few of my own —and I’m sure our readers could as well.  I was thinking, for example, [heart] Never negotiate [heart], or perhaps [heart] John Smyth-Jones, QC, 0800-740-2220 [heart].

 

Photo credit Toby Melville, AP

Well, at least we Americans aren’t standing alone anymore.

Great Britain vs the European Union – The Troubles

 

This continues the post on the history of this unhappy union from yesterday –

Great Britain vs the European Union … The Background

 

by Mustang   (Our man on the beat in the UK)

 

Germany was happy to partner with France, either owing to its guilt about World War II, or its ability to game Charles De Gaulle for their own purposes.  Whatever the reasons, the EEC finally did extend the hand of friendship to the UK, and in 1973 British Prime Minister Edward Heath was happy to lead his people down the road of romantic idealism.

 

But, if there were differences of opinion among EEC members, it was nothing compared to differences among British people themselves.  On the one hand, pro-European Brits championed this notion of hands across the channel —though giving no thought to the long-term costs of such an arrangement, and on the other hand, anti-union Brits feared the loss of their national sovereignty.  Their (reasonable) fear of high taxation without adequate representation (in what would become the EU Parliament) was, as history shows us, well-founded.  Thoughtful Americans might recall a similar refrain from the days of the British colonies in 1774.

Nevertheless, conservative leaders led the UK into the EEC in 1975 when membership was put to the British people in a national referendum.  At that time, EEC membership enjoyed the support of all three political parties, all of the national newspapers, and 67% of the British people.  The debate was far from over, however, because membership offered no immediate economic benefit to Great Britain.

The UK was plagued with labor strikes, which required the government to cut power from its coal-dependent energy grid, and faced rising oil prices that resulted in double-digit inflation.  Membership in the EEC (soon called simply the European Community (EC) (headquartered in Brussels), not only became a toxic issue in British politics, it also created deep divisions within the political parties themselves.

One college professor observed, “Some might argue that the fundamental conflict in post-war Britain is not so much between the left and right, as between those who believe that Britain’s future lies with Europe, and those who believe it does not.

By 1984, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher recognized that Great Britain received much less in agricultural subsidies than did France.  She successfully negotiated a rebate on its EC contributions.

The 1980s was a period of power struggle between London and Brussels, when French socialist Jacques Delors became president of the EC.  His goal was to achieve a more federalized Europe and a single currency.  Thatcher, in rejecting the European super-state, was uncompromising —even though these positions fueled conservative inter-party warfare.

Eventually, Thatcher’s unwillingness to compromise national principles led to her political downfall.

In September 1992, Great Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Norman Lamont, withdrew the UK from the Exchange Rate Mechanism.  To some, “Black Wednesday” became one of the lowest points in Britain’s relationship with the European Union.  Although Thatcher was unable to stop Europe’s march toward political union, her successor, John Major did sign the Maastricht Treaty.  This treaty allowed for a massive transfer of power from Britain to the European Union.

The British did achieve “opt-outs” from the single currency mandate and European Social Charter, but the treaty undermined the British tradition of an sacrosanct sovereign parliament.  The British people were not happy, and this led to a landslide victory for Tony Blair in 1997.  Among the Brits, the greatest enemy of the UK resided within both political parties.  Blair signed his country up to the social chapter, which made the communist left happy, and conservative minded citizens wary of being eventually forced to accept the Euro as their nation’s currency.

In 1998, however, the British economy was doing well; there was no reason for any thinking Brit to support adoption of the Euro.  The plan to accept the Euro was placed on hold and, in time, the British people were proved right to distrust it.  The Euro Crisis put to rest any prospect of the British adopting the single currency rule, and, what’s more, fueled a sense of Euroscepticism that permeated both the conservative party and most British citizens.

Late in 2011, EU leaders attempted to establish new budget rules.  Prime Minister David Cameron demanded exemptions, and when he did not get them, he vetoed the pact.  His critics claimed that Cameron cut his country adrift from the EU, but the Eurosceptics were delighted —and wanted more of the same.

Accordingly, Cameron promised a referendum on continued British membership in the European Union.  Personally, Cameron wanted the UK to remain in the EU and when the British people (by a small margin) demanded withdrawal … Cameron resigned.  It then fell upon the shoulders of Prime Minister Theresa May to figure out how to do it.

Pro-British factions today blame the EU for everything that is found wrong with domestic policies.  This is probably unfair.  Most of what is wrong within the Home Office results from self-serving politicians who —much like our own— are only capable of operating on two cylinders.  Also —like ourselves— the British people are quite easily led by their politicians.

In the 1970s, they followed their political pied-piper down the road to Shangri-La —the land of tariff-free, cross border, social justice happiness.  All that the British people really needed to do to achieve utopia is pay ever-increasing taxes for services enjoyed by the citizens of other countries.  In Spain, for example, extra-wide sidewalks have been divided into three lanes: one for pedestrians, one for bicyclists, and the other reserved for humans pushing baby carriages.

Did the British people understand that their tax dollars were funding such nonsense, or that under EU regulations, Europeans rather than the British would decide who is allowed to migrate to the United Kingdom?

I doubt it. 

Nor did British politicians ever admit to their constituents that a federalized Europe would make culturally incompatible demands upon the insular nature of the British people.  In this, De Gaulle was right —and it does make perfect sense that the European Union should offer legislation that suits the majority of its members, and/or that hardly any of these directly benefit the British people, even though they’re paying for them.

 

Conclusion

 

Brexit won’t be done with for many more years.  The British people were right to demand disentanglement from European politics, and I think that the United Kingdom will, in time, benefit from separation.  It won’t be an easy road, however —most divorces never are— but at least the British will have learned an important lesson: one cannot trust politicians further than you can toss them, and it doesn’t even matte what political party they belong to.  One day we Americans might learn this lesson, as well.

 

Mustang has other great reads over at his two blogs – Thoughts from Afar

with Old West Tales and Fix Bayonets

Great Britain vs the European Union … The Background

 

 

UK vs. EU … The Background

by Mustang   (Our man on the beat in the UK)

 

 

Coat of arms of the House of Mountbatten

The entire history of Great Britain is one involving conflict.  First among the early British tribes, and then with its many invaders, which history suggests began with Celts long before the Romans in 55 BC, and then continued with Germanic tribes, Vikings, Normans, the French, various combinations or alliances of these, and that all of these ended up becoming British.  The official language of the British sovereign was, for much of this history, either French or German.

Today’s royal family name is Mountbatten-Windsor, a derivative of two traditions: Battenberg, from Princess Alice of Battenberg, wife of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, who were the parents of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Windsor, which is the name of the royal dynasty established in 1917.

Coat of arms of the Duke of Edinburgh

Despite the roots of the royal family, hostilities have clouded Britain’s view of Europe throughout its long history, and there is little doubt that this favor has been returned in full measure by Europeans.  In modern politics, French and German interests appear to go out of their way to block British intentions at every turn.

Resentment, perhaps?  In World War II, Britain stood alone as the British people faced an overwhelming Nazi war machine and would not succumb.  This singular event, particularly following World War I, may have led to the British to conclude that the United Kingdom is its own best friend —that if anyone can be relied upon as an ally, it must be the United States of America.

The face-off between the United Kingdom and Europe continues.  Is this because Britain is an island nation, one that has over so many years developed an arms-length attitude toward Europe?  Given the amount of European tourism that originates in Great Britain, and the number of British citizens who now live in Europe (estimated at 1.5 million), the answer is probably not entirely.  But I do think the British enjoy their relative isolation and that most British do not wish to have close ties with the Europeans.  Maybe this attitude results from the days of the British Empire, when the British dictated the terms of relationships rather than considering the directives of others.

In any case, the British and most of Europe faced devastating rebuilding challenges after 1945.

European Coal and Steel Community Map 1952

The formation of the European Union had at its beginnings a desire to bind European nations so tightly together that another world war would be unlikely.  Then Prime Minister Winston Churchill agreed with this thinking.  He proposed for Europe “a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety, and in freedom … a kind of United States of Europe.”  The first step toward this goal was in the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, formed in 1951.  Although invited to join the six-member founding nations, Great Britain declined.

 

A few years later, under the financial stagnation of Harold Macmillan’s government, Britain’s parliament recognized that both France and Germany were experiencing the beginning of a strong post-war economy and had formed a strong political alliance.  Great Britain wanted in.  French President Charles De Gaulle vetoed two British applications for membership —De Gaulle having accused the British of having an abiding hostility toward Europe.  He must have forgotten the substantial contributions the British made to European liberty in two world wars.

Bonn- Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle

De Gaulle also did not like the fact that the British and Americans had formed a close relationship.  In any case, even if the British had selfish motivations for joining the EEC, this was the entire purpose of the EEC to begin with … which is to say, gaining mutual benefits from an economic alliance.  Besides, while true that the British and Europeans were at each other’s throats over a period of several hundred years, the British and Europeans have also found opportunities for political and economic agreement.

It would be an understatement to suggest that Charles De Gaulle was no friend of the British.  Among several foundations for his apparent animosity, he claimed that during his exile to England during World War II, the British treated him shabbily.  At a press conference in 1969, De Gaulle said:

 

 

England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her exchanges, her markets, her supply lines to the most diverse and often the most distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities, and only slight agricultural ones.  She has in her doings very marked and very original habits and traditions.  The question is, whether Great Britain can now place herself like the Continent and with it inside a tariff which is genuinely common, to renounce all Commonwealth preferences, to cease any pretense that her agriculture be privileged, and, more than that, to treat her engagements with other countries of the free trade area as null and void —that question is the whole question.”

 

Even though the British Commonwealth today isn’t what it was in 1969, De Gaulle’s attitude toward Britain prevails today within the European Community.  Thus, we able to see that even at the start of this relationship, the UK-EU were always going to have a rocky relationship.  In trying to understand the foundations for these difficulties, we must recognize that France (embarrassed as it should be over the loss of its Empire and dismal defense of its own country during World War II), found new opportunities for leadership (or what passes for leadership in France) within the European Economic Community.

Germany was happy to partner with France, either owing to its guilt about World War II, or its ability to game Charles De Gaulle for their own purposes.  Whatever the reasons, the EEC finally did extend the hand of friendship to the UK, and in 1973 British Prime Minister Edward Heath was happy to lead his people down the road of romantic idealism.

This concludes Part One. The conclusion tomorrow.

Mustang has other great reads over at his two blogs – Thoughts from Afar

with Old West Tales and Fix Bayonets

 


More Taxation Please

 

 

More Taxation Please

by Mustang   (Our man on the beat in the U.K.)

 

Taxes pay for the government (local, state, federal) and common use infrastructure, such as highways and bridges.  We all know this, of course, and can appreciate why these taxes must be paid.  Infrastructure supports commerce, and commerce fuels the economy.  So far, so good.  But there are other reasons for taxes that many of us find objectionable.  Here are a few of these:

  • Foreign aid, macro-organized welfare programs, and offering free education and medical care for illegal aliens might top the list, but then liberal politicians make no bones about the fact that taxation allows for the redistribution of income.  Robbery, some would say … stealing from Peter to pay Paul.
  • We must also pay the salaries of government employees.  There are literally millions of local, state, and federal employees, such that after a while, we might wonder … is government ever big enough to administer all government’s programs?  Apparently not, and depending on where these employees work, their salaries can be quite hefty.  How does any rational person justify the salaries of members of Congress (as high as $190,000.00 annually)?  Do they really earn this kind of money in terms of the services they provide?  And of course, the more employees there are, the more buildings we need to house them, the higher the cost of their benefits, and the longer-term retirement program obligations.

But there are other reasons to tax the crap out of people.  Enforcement of rules and regulations is one of these, and punishment for behaving in a certain way.  Sin taxes come to mind —and seat-belt laws that are less about public safety than they are about collecting revenues.

Here in England, one community has decided that punishment is a good reason for taxes … no, not fines, but an actual increase in taxes.

So, you own a home.  You want to sell it, but the market isn’t quite right.  Or perhaps, you might want to rent it out, but you need a minimum amount of rent in order to meet your mortgage payment obligations.  Maybe you inherited the property and it needs substantial repairs; you can’t afford that right now.  No matter.

The Wychavon (pronounced Witch Haven) district council has decided that if you are the owner of an unoccupied home, and if the property has been unoccupied for more than two years, your county taxes will be doubled.  Yes, that’s right —doubled.  If you happen not to like this arrangement, then either move into the property, sell it, or rent it … but until you do one of these two things, thou shalt bepunished.  The council complains that there are 148 homes in their district that have been unoccupied for more than two years; half of those for more than five years.  Something has to be done.

District council spokesperson Vic Allison explained: “The intention of this revised legislation is to encourage and bring back empty homes into use.  We have a shortage of housing and leaving properties empty is not helping that.”  He was joined by councilman Gerry O’Donnell, who said, “Anything that is a disincentive to having empty houses is to be welcomed in my view and this is one way of doing itthat has a bonus of income.”

Of course, the civic logic of this decision makes little sense: Punish people for having unoccupied properties?  Who leaves a property unoccupied just for the fun of it?  Perhaps Vic and Gerry aren’t making enough money as councilmen, and so to increase revenues, they’re happy to punish home-owners.  This conclusion may seem a bit disingenuous, but the increase in annual revenues will exceed £120,000.  Easily enough to be able to afford a new car for council members, maybe several suites of new office furniture, an upgrade to office computers —a more robust happy hour at the end of the month.

I suspect that council or board meetings here in England are much like those back home.  Have you ever attended one?  There are rules to be followed, of course, and not everyone is entitled to speak to council members unless certain requirement have been met.  These may include (but are not limited to) a demand that your stated concerns are pre-approved for public meetings, that your remarks are limited to a certain amount of time, and that you promise not to lose your temper or threaten council members.

 

Then, whenever speakers are allowed to address the council, such an address must take place after the regular business meeting.  People have actually died from boredom during these council meetings.  This is one of the reason people try NOT to attend them.  School board meetings are like this, too.  This is how boards and councils are able to pass so much idiotic rules and regulations without public outcry … no one wants to sit through these meetings.

This tirade won’t change the way things are done … neither here, nor back home.  It only underscores the arrogance of “elected officials,” illustrates how these minor despots are able to get away with so much, and points to how easily citizen’s rights are legally thwarted by bureaucrats and minor officials.  It is a world-wide phenomenon.  Government is a curse to humanity, but then I suspect it has always been thus.

I feel better now … sort of.

It’s the Economy, Stupid

 

It’s the Economy, Stupid

by Mustang- Our man on the beat in Great Britain

 

During the 1992 presidential campaign, where George H. W. Bush sought reelection against William Jefferson Clinton, the United States was in an economic recession.  The impact of this can be demonstrated by the fact that in March 1991, Bush had a 90% approval rating (following the ground invasion of Iraq[1]), but in August 1992, his approval rating was somewhere in the neighborhood of 36%.

James Carville, working for Clinton as his campaign manager, addressed his campaign staff on issues that might work for Clinton during the final run for the White House.  Carville thought the campaign should focus on three things: (1) Change vs. more of the same; (2) Don’t forget about healthcare, and (3) It’s the economy, stupid.

We’ve heard that phrase repeated frequently in subsequent elections.  The problem is that beyond its underlying truth, no one really knows how the economy works.  We do have a sense about the level of our disposable income, but most of us have no clear idea how political policies impact against our financial circumstances.  Not to worry, though … economists don’t know, either.

Here’s something else we do not know: recent history.

European Economic Community

In 1957, several European nations formed what was then called the European Economic Community (ECC).  Great Britain was not part of this effort, primarily because French President Charles de Gaulle refused to allow British membership.  The UK’s admission finally came in 1973, after de Gaulle stepped down as president.  But two years later, in 1975, Britain’s ruling Labor Party held a referendum on whether the UK should remain in the EEC.  Sixty-five percent of the British people answered with an overwhelming “yes”.

In 1983, the Labor Party was trying to win the national election on a platform of withdrawing from the EEC.  The attempt failed and Margaret Thatcher was reelected by a significant margin.

In 1997, fourteen years after the EEC became the European Union (EU) James Goldsmith formed a Referendum Party, pledging to hold a national referendum on the question of the UK remaining in the EU.  Goldsmith’s efforts garnered him less than 3% of the nation’s support and the referendum party failed to win even one seat in the Parliament.

In 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron rejected calls for a referendum on this issue, but a year later, he announced that a referendum would be held were he to be reelected in 2015.  Soon after his reelection, the European Referendum Act was introduced to initiate the process of national referendum.  In 2016, Cameron announced that the referendum would be held on 23 June.  Cameron was a staunch advocate for remaining in the EU; when the vote overwhelmingly demanded withdrawal, Cameron resigned.  Suddenly, the burden of creating an acceptable formula for Brexit fell upon Theresa May, who at the time was serving as Home Secretary … her political background was that of a “one nation conservative.”

This is the recent history of the Brexit novella.  Now, as to economists …

In the USA, there are somewhere around 15,000 non-academic economists.  They earn from around $83,000 to $150,000 annually.  They earn these remarkable salaries even when their predictions and analyses are completely wrong.  In fact, economics is such a lucrative vocation that American universities grant close to 1,000 PhDs every year.  We find these people employed by private corporations, followed by federal and state governments; at the lower end of the income scale we find college professors who earn their pay by spouting economic theory.

In contrast to the foregoing, the United Kingdom only hosts around 1,000 economists, most of whom work for the government in more than thirty different departments.  What this suggests to me is that there is less “noise” about economics in the UK than there is in the United States —which is not to suggest that we understand it any better than our British cousins, only that we’re exposed to more of it than they are.

Economists earn their robust salaries by “studying and analyzing” data in order to identify trends in various economic activities, predict confidence levels, and attitudes among consumers.  To accomplish this, they rely on mathematics and computer programming (normally referred to as models).  From these processes come recommendations about how to improve the economy or take advantage of developing trends.  In the United States, there are no legally required educational requirements or licensure for an economist.  All that’s needed in order to bill oneself as an economist is 21 semester hours of college study, bolstered by a few more hours of introductory statistics, accounting, or calculus.  There are numerous fields within which an economist could be employed, including banking, finance, accounting, marketing, lobbying, and political consulting.  In other words, an economist has about the same veracity in his field as a meteorologist has in his.

I’m no economist.  In fact, the more I know about such things, the less I understand.  Currently, I’m trying to understand the clamor in the United Kingdom regarding its impending exit from the European Union (called Brexit).  Should I rely on anything British politicians are saying about Brexit, I would end up with less understanding, not more.  In this, I join the ranks of most British citizens.  Unhappily, for the British people, their economists know even less than I do.

So —I’ve been searching for a single document that will tell me what “we” might expect to happen in the post-Brexit world.  I’ve sort of found the answer …

According to a paper created by Gemma Tetlow and Alex Stojanovic of the Institute for Government, the result of Brexit all depends on what your definition of the word is, is.  This rather lengthy paper underwhelming concluded, “Brexit will lead to a significant change in the UK’s relationship with other European countries.”

In essence:

1.     There are as many economic projections about the effects of Brexit as there are British economists

2.     Each projection depends on as many varying economic assumptions (otherwise known as guesses)

3.     None of these economic models will be accurate if any of their assumptions are wrong

 

Well, I suppose that economic relationships are at best difficult to understand.  As an example, two years ago, the United Kingdom was the tenth largest export economy in the world.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the UK imported from other countries far more than it exported.  We call this a negative trade balance.  In 2016, the UK had a negative trade balance of $235 billion.  Of course, the British trade imbalance is far less than ours, but as a measure of the British economy, comparing it to the trade imbalance in 1995, (using the current value of money) it came to only $52 billion.  The question then becomes, how has membership in the EU benefited the British economy or its people?

There is more that confuses me.  Why wouldn’t the United Kingdom prefer trade with the United States over the European Union?  The US and UK share a common language, a similar legal system, similar institutions, are culturally compatible, and, allowing for sophisticated marketing schemes, American consumers might prefer British goods over those made in China.  In both economies, the service sector is the largest percentage of the national economy.  Neither country produces as many goods as they did forty or fifty years ago … significant because the services sector simply sells things to people who earn their living by selling things to other people.  Wealth isn’t what you sell, it’s what you produce.

The European Union hosts a single market.  There are economists who argue that EU membership fails to serve the interests of the British people, particularly as it applies to agriculture.  EU regulations control the way farmers produce their goods, how much of it they are allowed to produce, and amazingly, how much they can charge.  This is not free-market capitalism—and agriculture is but one sector of several.  Even if we ignore such limitations as language, legal systems, enforcement mechanisms, there is hardly any convincing argument favoring EU membership.

Granted, there is much I don’t understand about the complexities of a national economy —but here is what I do know:  Great Britain is the third largest economy in Europe (after Germany and France).  The agricultural sector is intense, highly mechanized, and perhaps the most efficient in all of Europe.  The UK produces 60% of Europe’s food needs and does so with less than two percent of the total labor force.  The British control large sources of energy.  Financial services are key drivers of British GDP growth.  It’s weakest link: manufacturing.  Why, then, shouldn’t the UK capitalize on its strengths while working to improve its weakest sector?

My guess is that British politicians, much like our own, rely too heavily on the advice of egg-head economists, and not enough on basic common sense.  High tax rates are harmful to every economy.  In Great Britain, social service expenditures are far too high.  Deficit spending is a major problem … one of the highest in the G-7 nations (3.6% of GDP).  Currently, the UK is attempting to lower its corporate tax rate from 20% to 17% … a good first step, but income taxation is a disaster of epic proportions.  British citizens are taxed at 20% of their income up to £46,350, and 40% of their income over that amount to £150,000.  This makes no sense to me; every £1 (or dollar) a citizen pays in taxes equates to £1 (or dollar) that is unavailable for consumer spending or saving.  Consumer spending benefits the national economy; saving money is in the long-term interest of individual citizens.

As Great Britain seeks to reestablish its economy, Brexit may indeed cause an economic slowdown, but in the long-term, the economy could grow substantially … but this depends entirely upon how well British politicians understand the impact of their all-too-often brainless policy decisions.

Maybe there is someone in reader-land who could sort this out for me.  I’d certainly welcome the education.


[1] In the United States, people always approve of ground invasions whenever they don’t have to participate in them.

Mustang has other great reads over at his two blogs – Thoughts from Afar

with Old West Tales and Fix Bayonets

British prisoners each to have a private land line telephone

All inmates, including killers and rapists, will be able to speak to friends and loved ones ‘in private’ any time, day or night.

No Rhyme, No Reason

by Mustang – our man on the beat in the UK.

There are 118 prisons in the United Kingdom and somewhere in the neighborhood of 83,000 prisoners.  As in America, there are problems inside these prisons.  One problem (among several) is that inmates have to queue in order to use a limited number of pay telephones.  The result of this is that there are incidents of conflict and violence as prisoners compete to use prison telephones.  Not only that, these long lines to use prison phones has led to illegally smuggled in mobile phones and sim cards —and these in turn have resulted in an increase of illicit activities, such as running gangs, unlawful drug deals, threatening or harassing witnesses, ordering terrorists attacks, and things of that sort.

Well, we can’t have that, so British Justice Secretary David Gauke had devised a new way of dealing with the paucity of phone services inside prisons: by March 2020, every British prisoner will have his or her own landline telephone, placed in their cells, sat nicely on modern and aesthetically pleasing desks.  In this way, Mr. Gauke assures us, prisoners will be prevented from returning to a life of crime.  Moreover, those who have bouts of depression, or who develop thoughts of self-mutilation or suicide, will be able to call psychiatric helplines, family members, or their mates back on the block to help them deal with the stress of incarceration.

No, seriously … that’s what Gauke said, which leads a normal person to conclude that prisons are no longer a place for punishment.  Of course, that’s been true for a few decades now —true in the UK and true as well in the United States.  There is far more crime committed inside prisons than outside, but that’s another issue.

And the cost to the British taxpayer is only £30-million, far less than Obama Phones in California, but still … the United Kingdom can no longer afford the cost of their National Health Service —but at least every prisoner will have a telephone.  Progress.

Still, I wonder if Mr. Gauke has overlooked the fact that while families can make a difference in the process of rehabilitating prisoners, wouldn’t this depend on whether family members aren’t themselves criminals, sitting at home waiting for their turn to be convicted of something horrible.  Gauke’s conclusions seem illogical to me, and ill-informed.  If there has been an upswing in criminal activities inside prisons from cell-phone use, how will the installation of landlines do anything but add to these problems?

For the moment, I’ll ignore the possibility (or likelihood) of a convicted rapist making contact with his victim via government provided telephones, although even the thought of that is mind-boggling.  Instead, let me share a few other facts that may have a bearing on the problem —something that Mr. Gauke has not considered: the reoffending rate in the United Kingdom.  Here are the numbers:

Overall recidivism rate, 29.4%

Adult recidivism rate, 28.6%

Juvenile reoffenders, 40.4%

Adults released from custody by court order, then reoffending, 38.2%

Adults early-released after less than twelve months incarceration, then reoffending, 64.5%.

It really is hard to imagine that government officials are this stupid, but then, I’m not making this up.  You can read about it for yourself in the Daily Mail December 28, 2018

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Government is not reason, it is not eloquence,—it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master … ~George Washington

 

Mustang’s blog Fix Bayonets has an interesting post entitled “Marine Security Guards” up now and well worth a visit.

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