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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

Cameron’

Chemical Weapons: escaping Obama’s Trap

Chemical weapons use in Syria is Barrack Obama’s trap – the trap he laid for himself ever since he laid down their use as a red line which, if crossed, would oblige the United States to act. However, chemical weapons may also be his way out of the trap. We may not know for months – possibly years…possibly never! – who was responsible for the dreadful gas attack in the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus last Wednesday (21st). One argument, explored by the renowned philosopher Howard Bloom on Facebook, has it that, when the Syrian military is slowly but surely winning its vicious and dirty war and the “UN [chemical weapons] team had just entered Syria when the attack occurred. Would Assad really be so dumb?” The Syrian Government alleges that rebels used chemical weapons armaments stolen from military depots to try to stop the Syrian Army’s advance in Ghouta. Al-Arabiya, amongst others, has covered the Syrian TV networks’ reporting of the Army finding rebel tunnels in Ghouta stocked full of chemical weapon cannisters, gas masks, and other equipment for waging and surviving chemical warfare. Thus, the Syrian Government blames the rebels for the civilian deaths in Ghouta. A dark extension of this theory… Read More

Have David Cameron and George Osborne ruined Britain?

Of course, the rot set in well before David Cameron and Nick Clegg formed the Coalition Government in May 2010. As the Public Sector Net Borrowing chart shows, it was during Gordon Brown’s ill-fated premiership that the deficit increased massively. (The Public Sector Deficit is the difference between what the Government spends and what it takes in via taxes to fund that spending – the difference being borrowed.) To give them some credit, as the chart shows, the Coalition did bring the deficit down quite markedly in their first couple of years primarily via swingeing cuts in the public sector. However, there are significant signs that the rate of decrease in borrowing may be slowing down. In December’s Autumn statement Chancellor George Osborne predicted that borrowing would be £108B this year, and £99B next year and just £31B in 2017-18. In his Budget last week, just 3 months later, Osborne revised those figures to £114B this year, £108B next year and £61B in 2017-18. Hand in hand with this, Osborne was forced to revise December’s estimate of growth this year from 1.2% to O.6%. While it looks like the UK may just about avoid a triple-dip recession, the outlook for growth in… Read More

Austerity and the Euro – an Appalling Lack of Quality Leadership

Well, the Eurozone crisis has certainly dominated the news this past week or so – and the Greeks are once again at the centre of it. But this time it’s different. This time it’s not so much the ORANGE vMEME of the ultra-rich financial speculators effortlessly wrongfooting the BLUE-dominated fiscal technocrats in Brussels and Berlin which is causing the problem – though the speculators are still making plenty of money! Rather, it’s the people – the newly-poor, crushed and deprived by the austerity measures wreaking havoc with lives right across Europe – who are democratically electing populist politicians and extremist politicians promising them relief from the austerity. (21 of the Golden Dawn’s neo-Nazi candidates made it into the Greek parliament in the 6 May election.) New Greek elections in mid-June are tipped to give an outright victory to the leftist Syriza bloc which, if Syriza’s leaders stick to their guns, means forcing the European Union to renegotiate the second bailout deal agreed in March, so the austerity measures the Greek are forced to endure are that much less severe. That or Greece tears up the agreement and effectively leaves the euro. In trying to predict what will happen – or what should happen –… Read More

The Riots: who’s right – Cameron or Blair?

Today what appears to be the final battle to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya is rightly dominating the news – as it probably will for several days, as stories of valour, celebration, desperation and atrocity are told from the streets of Tripoli. There will also be much speculation about what kind of Libya will emerge from the civil war – even whether the rebels can hold off splintering into their own warring factions. And, inevitably, since the West invested so much in the NATO bombs that so potently aided the rebel victory, there will be speculation as to what the West can do to help build a new Libya that is friendly to the West and accepting of its interests in North Africa and the Middle East. In and amidst this focus on Libya, we also need continue the debate about what brought violent rioters and looters onto the streets of London and other cities just a fortnight back and what we should do about these issues. Both David Cameron and Tony Blair had key articles in this weekend’s Sunday newspapers, setting out their positions. Moral decline, moral panic and folk devils As you might expect for a piece in the Sunday… Read More

Is the Big Society in BIG Trouble?

So the day after David Cameron effectively relaunches the ‘Big Society’, with a new ‘white paper’, his key figure in charge of implementing the Big Society, Lord Wei of Shoreditch, resigns…. That could hardly be worse timing! Surely Cameron knew Wei was going?!? In which case it would have been much more politically astute to have rescheduled the launch of the white paper. As it is, Wei’s departure is a gift to Labour, with Shadow Cabinet Office minister Theresa Jowell saying, “….yet again”  the Big Society is “descending into farce. Only a day after Cameron told us all to take more responsibility, it appears that there will now be nobody in his government responsible for bringing the Big Society into reality.” If Cameron didn’t know Wei was going, then it says something about Wei that he could time his resignation to such negative effect or about either Cameron’s judgement in recruiting such a fickle ally or  Cameron’s treatment of Wei that he could undermine his boss in such a damaging way. Whatever the circumstances of Wei’s depearture, the effect is damaging both to Cameron personally and to the development of the Big Society concept. Whether you think Cameron is being honest when… Read More

Well, are the Arabs ready for Democracy?

On 22 February David Cameron, in an address to the Kuwaiti parliament, hit out at suggestions the Middle East “can’t do democracy”, saying: “For me, that’s a prejudice that borders on racism.” Even at the time it was blatantly clear that such statements were part of his and French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign to persuade the United Nations to approve military action against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi viciously and bloodily repressing pro-Democracy rebels across Libya. A little over 6 weeks later, as NATO tries not to apologise for bombing the hell out of the first armoured column the hard-pressed Libyan rebels have been able to assemble in what is now a de facto civil war…as revolutionary Tunisia and revolutionary Egypt wonder what on earth to do next now they’ve gotten rid of their dictators…and Syrian security forces exterminate yet more pro-Democracy protestors on the streets of Deraa, I’d argue it could be construed as racist not to ask the question: “Can the Arabs do Democracy?” After all, thousands of Arabs have died over the past 3 months in the name of Democracy. If we’re not to devalue their lives, we have to ask whether their sacrifice for their cause is justified.… Read More

The Northampton ‘Supergran’ and the Issues She raises

The footage of ‘supergran’ Ann Timson belting hell out of a bunch of would-be ‘smash ‘n’ grab’ scooter boys at a jewellers in Northampton the other week (7 February, to be precise) has had me musing ever since it was first  broadcast. The fact it is has become a ‘viral phenomenon’, spreading right around the world, has only caused me to muse further. By pure coincidence, a camera man was over the road filming for a documentary and he managed to capture the entire event on film. The footage was aired on ITN News that evening. Within hours, it was on YouTube and received nearly 6,000 views over the next 24 hours. Now there are multiple versions all over YouTube, Daily Motion, etc, using Superman logos and music like Chris De Burgh’s ‘Lady in Red’, etc, etc, etc. Ann Timson’s onslaught has made news bulletins in the United States, Australia and many other countries. The event itself raises important questions – as does the fact it has become such a ‘viral phenomenon’. Just in case you haven’t seen it or you need a reminder, here’s a slight edit of the original footage…   Ann Timson So what made a 71-year-old grandmother with arthritis in… Read More

David Cameron’s right about Multiculturalism BUT…

This past weekend David Cameron pushed forward considerably ideas his predecessors Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had been moving progressively towards …. In essence, this is to say pretty explicitly that, if you want to be British, you need to buy into the British identity and British values. (Ironically, freed from the collective responsibility of Cabinet, Blair on these issues is almost certainly well to the right of Cameron these days – see: ‘Radical Islam’ and the Return of Tony Blair). Cameron criticised ‘state multiculturalism’ and argued the UK needs a stronger national identity to stop people turning to extremism. With MI6 warning last week that Britain faces an “‘unstoppable wave of home-grown suicide bombers”, Cameron could hardly have ignored the threat from radicalised young Muslims; and it seems logical to ascribe their lack of identification with ‘British values’ as one cause of their radicalisation. In his speech on Saturday (5 February) Cameron accused multiculturalism of leading to a Britain of ‘divided tribes’. The prime minister posited that the multiculturalist dogma, which increasingly dominated political and social thinking from the early 1970s on, had meant the majority had to accord each minority ethnic group respect and the freedom to pursue its… Read More

Can the Lib Dems get off the Torture Rack?

Can the Liberal Democrats get off the torture rack they’ve put themselves on before next Thursday’s (9 December) vote on the university tuition fees proposal…? One can only hope so. That this was a potential destroyer was recognised by the architects of May’s Coalition Agreement who gave Lib Dem MPs the right to abstain when this issue came up for the vote. Unfortunately, a number of Lib Dem MPs are threatening to vote against Government policy – including former Lib Dem leaders Charles Kennedy and Sir Menzies Campbell, both of whom still carry considerable influence amongst backbenchers. Understandably perhaps in the past week or so Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have tried to resolve the confusion and bitterness by getting the Lib Dems to block vote on the issue…for the proposal, of course. Clegg and Cable are, after all, senior ministers in the Coalition Government. But with the party now as low as something like 14% (Guardian/ICM, 22 November) in the opinion polls – though some pollsters believe that figure is artificially low – and with rioting students calling for Clegg and Cable to dare to meet them in person, it can hardly be surprising that Clegg and Cable are desperate for a… Read More

Could Bernard Jenkin and Iain Duncan Smith be 2nd Tier thinkers?

Maybe there is some hope of 2nd Tier thinking emerging amongst UK politicians….? I was greatly heartened yesterday to hear Bernard Jenkin, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme call for strategic thinking to create a “deep and sustained analysis of what kind of country we want to be in 10 or  20 years time.” Jenkin, Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC), was being interviewed about the Committee’s report, ‘Who does UK National Strategy?’, published mere hours before the first part of the Government’s Strategic & Security Defence Review. The Committee’s report suggested there was a tendency for Whitehall to “muddle through”. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were cited as examples where there had been a lack of over-arching strategy. The report also warned that the UK’s capacity to think strategically had been undermined by assumptions that its national interests are best served by its relationship with the US and economic links within the European Union – “Uncritical acceptance of these assumptions has led to a waning of our interests in, and ability to make, national strategy,” Unfortunately Foreign Secretary William Hague attempted to make political capital from the report, saying it showed a “chronic lack of strategic thinking in Britain’s… Read More